According to those with their fingers on the economic pulse of the nation, the average working Joe needs to learn how to view their financial life with new eyes. Impulse buying needs to be left by the roadside, and thrift become a pattern of life for us to survive as we drift into old age. As I watch the price of gas accelerate again here in California rising fifteen cents in a 24 hour period on one day, and fork out $4.00 for a loaf of bread, I have abandoned the thrill of immediate gratification concentrating instead on buying what I need rather than what I want. It sucks.
Frequently I make the drive to the Bay Area. Both my mother and my son and his family reside there. On my last visit I made a side trip through San Francisco to visit a friend. Two toll bridges later my wallet was $10.00 lighter. With the mass of vehicles traversing these bridges every day it is surprising to find the roads pitted and trash littering the sides. Where do all these tax dollars go? I’d love to see the paperwork detailing how they put all the monies gathered at the toll gates to work.
Where or where has our water gone? Sadly the drought lingers on. Dwindling water supplies ensure prices for food will rise. Farmers are laying waste to fields they’d normally plant without access to ready water for irrigation. These days I peruse the ads in the paper for sales on veggies and fruit and clip coupons for staples such as peanut butter and toothpaste. I’d love to plant a garden, but then……….how to sustain it?
My son has two children approaching their teens. This year was their first year in public school, having gone to a private school to begin their education. The cost for private tutelege, $11,000 per child, per year before books. Last week while school was out his family hit the slopes before what little snow we have had disappeared. According to my son the price for a lift ticket runs around $100 a day for each member of your party. Dinner at the lodge, which included chicken strips and hamburgers was accompanied by a bill before tip for almost $70. Amazing.
Theme parks are on the rise as well. As a kid the first thing I wanted to do upon arriving in Southern California from Nova Scotia was to visit Disneyland. Back in the day the Matterhorn was the star attraction. Magic Mountain was not yet even a hint of an idea in a creative mind when I first tasted the magic there. At the entrance you purchased a book of tickets. Each ride had a letter assignation ranging from A-E, if memory serves. E designated the more popular rides, like the Jungle Ride, Haunted House or the newly constructed Submarine Ride. A book of tickets, lunch, and some Mickey Mouse ears might have come to around $70 for two. Today you will pay $90 per person for tickets at the gate, not to mention the high cost of feeding your face once inside. Wow. Also, the mass of humanity descending on the park has increased markedly. The writer of an article I was reading about the high cost of fun stated he waited four hours on his last trip there to get on his favorite ride. This after paying an extra charge entitling him to go to the front of the line. I guess my days of throwing up on the tea cups are behind me.
Other suggestions for living on a shoestring might include shopping at thrift stores. This is something I discovered years ago. Most of my summer tees come from thrift store racks. If you pair gently used items with new, it’s like doubling your wardrobe choices. I lived in Redondo Beach, a lovely Southern California community nestled on a gorgeous span of Pacific Ocean coastline. Shopping at the abundant second-hand stores populating the area was like Christmas every day. Wealthy inhabitants seemed to wear their lovely high-end clothes only once or twice before tossing them in the donation bin.
Another idea is to put away a set amount out of each check, say $20, in a separate account. This is not a new idea, certainly, but a viable old one. Actually they have an app that will deposit a certain amount in a reserve account each time to make a purchase with a credit card. All good ideas. We save our change in a huge jar, and every $1 bill I get I throw into another bit pot. Every six months or so we cash in our savings and take a mini-vacation or go out for a fabulous meal. Last time I had enough for two days at a very nice hotel plus meals for a weekend.
Make a list when you visit the grocery store. I know if I go without a list I tend to pick up this and that wandering the aisles ending up with far more than I need. Also, eat before you go or you’re liable to add another $20 or $30 in fiery Cheetos or sticky buns. Look for coupons before you shop or for local restaurants before going out to eat.
Keep your old car in good shape so it lasts longer. Not a problem for me. I’ve never been a car person really. If it runs and it gets me from Point A to Point B, I’m a happy camper. The only car I’ve ever had that I formed an attachment to was my 1985 300 ZX. That was a car. Bronze exterior, with butter leather seats. Equipped with a sun roof, 5 speed, and fabulous stereo. God I loved that vehicle. If you could have a crush on a car, that was mine. Unfortunately it was not the ideal transportation for two growing children and three dogs, so in the end I waved a sad goodbye to my beloved ZX. A tear perched on my lower lid I signed on the dotted line for a practical family sedan. Sigh.
Unless you find yourself in the 1% holding onto the big bucks most probably finances are on your mind on a regular basis. People are downsizing to teeny tiny houses and paring down their possessions to make ends meet. Maybe it’s a zen sort of existence we’re headed for. Possessions weighing in as less important. Quality over quantity. I don’t know. For me I keep clinking my change in the bottle and looking for deals. Luckily I have Rick on the premises who’s like a dog searching for his bone in the back yard when it comes to smelling out bargains.
This is a fairly easy soup to pull together with an absolutely delicious end result. I heat it up and cool it down by the amount of jalapeno I add. Our motto is adopted from a phrase I picked up from a friend while living in the southern states, “If it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eatin'”.
You’ll notice the absence of salt in this recipe. Certainly you may add some at the end but the ham hock should provide ample salty flavoring.
Black Bean Soup and Rice with Key Lime Crema
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (omit if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 large meaty ham hock
Red onions chopped and sliced avocado for garnish
Heat olive oil in stock pot over med. heat. Add onion, green pepper, and jalapeno to pot and cook until soft, about 8 mins. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Mix seasonings together in small bowl. Sprinkle over vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Add broth and ham hock. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook partially covered for 50 mins. stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Remove ham hock and take meat off bone.
Take 1/3 of soup and put in bowl and use emulsion blender or use food processor to puree. Return to pot with meat. Cook uncovered on low boil for 20 ins. stirring frequently. Serve over rice and topped with Key lime crema.
Key Lime Crema
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. key lime zest
Mix together and refrigerate for 1 hour.