Milestones and Soulmates

It's late. I just finished another half-ass attempt at cleaning up my perpetually messy, disgusting kitchen. I don't  cook half as much as I used to, but my kitchen is twice as messy on a regular basis. How the hell is that? If you figure it out, I promise I'll dust off my Kitchen Aid and whip up my famous chocolate ganache cake. I've been hankering for a piece of chocolate cake ever since I cut back on sweets two weeks ago. I'm as shocked as you are at my resolve.

Besides spending the night scrubbing old salmon off of a deep dish pan (I told you I was lazy), my thoughts wandered off to my coupon binder. I clipped a few hot coupons for a quick trip to Kroger tomorrow (free Colgate until next week on Sunday and .30 Ivory Body wash...), I found a coupon I thought had expired. Not just any coupon, it was an "ONYO" which is coupon speak for "Off Your Next Order", which further translates to free money. $6.50 worth of free money. I freaked when I saw the date was 3/28 and I debated over whether or not I could get away with wearing faux silk pajamas and a dirty north face jacket to GE at 11PM.

Much to my relief (and chagrin), today is only 3/27 and I have until tomorrow to pick up meat or whatever items I need that I don't have a coupon for. Seeing the almost-expired coupon lying neatly folded in my binder (which I'm still not quite caught up with yet) made me think about time in general.

In a few months (less than 2) I'll be celebrating my sixth 21st birthday. I keep turning 21 because it's a fantastic age. I love the age 21 because you can legally drink and still pull off wearing pink ballerina tutu over your black leggings. Well.. maybe not that last part, but you should get my drift by now.

When I was much younger than 21, I had a vision of my 26 going on.... 21+6 that is quite dissonant from who I really became to be. My plans weren't God's plans. That is the one thing I am certain of today. When I was young, I was pretty certain that by now I would finish law school (before that I was supposed to be a firefighter/mechanic... that's a martini and another blog post) and would be happily married to my soulmate. My younger self figured by 21+6, I would start planning a family or find myself invariably knocked up after an over celebration of my successful career at whatever the hell I was doing in the future. Children, a home, a husband,  and even a crazy spoiled canine. All of the above making the perfect amount of noise that you expect to hear when you've finally "arrived" at your destination. A spouse is a soulmate, your other half and your best friend. My pastor told us this past Sunday that a wife is a helpmate, not a servant. God never intended her existence to be one of a lowly chef/babymaker/taxi cab. God took Eve from Adam's rib. A rib is a body part that lies on either side of your body. A woman is a helpmate that is at the side of her man and vice versa. Even if they aren't "soulmates" per se, she's always there, by his side. Perhaps "side mates" is a better term.

Soulmates, sidemates, whatever. All I know is that life has a way of taking our plans and turning them upside down. I am not a dreamer, but I am certainly not disillusioned by the winding, undecipherable path life is taking me on. The milestones I want to reach aren't lost, but they have certainly changed. Love isn't always the noise of a baby, an old man in a chair, or toddlers spitting up green goo. Love can be the silence that rings in your ears when you come home from a long day at work and the dog has passed out on the couch next to you.

If I have learned or achieved anything in the short time I have been on this Earth, it is that our milestones might become boulders in the way of our true happiness. By moving them out of the way, we can either find treasure or terror. Either way, I can't sit on the sidelines and allow a childlike version of myself dictate what lies ahead. I also can't limit myself to the idea that there's only one soulmate out there. I do subscribe on some level to the idea that out there, there's someone who is very special and a good fit for our lives. I do not believe, however, that there's only one of that person. Can you imagine how depressing life could be if we had to shift through the billions of people who live and walk among us to find just one person? I could see single women my age jumping off the buildings now if that were the case.

What I do know is that some day, when you turn over and you're watching your "sidemate" sleeping, if the thought of losing that person from your side permanently terrifies you, chances are damn good that you're exactly where you should be. Regardless of whether you label that person wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, or in my case, dog friend, if the thought of losing them feels like a pain in your side, then hold them closer. Hold them close enough to make sure that you're not dreaming.

P. Manolos

Effortless Savings Part II: Frugal and Fruitful

Stupid title. I know, I know. Sooo if you think of something better, please feel free to let me know. I promised a while back I would write a series of articles dealing with ways to save without even lifting a pair of scissors to a P&G insert (I threw up in my mouth a little when I wrote that, but I know you're too busy to clip coupons and quarterback deals so I'll swallow my pride).

"Effortless" Savings. Saving without having to sacrifice movie night with your significant other or spending your Sundays waiting in line at CVS before the Coupon Nazi rolls in. Therefore, in the spirit of saving slothly, I now turn to the two areas that are the most difficult for even the most seasoned couponer to find a deal on, produce and meat.

Produce and meat are expensive items because of the costs to grow plants/raise cattles and the cost to transport them from their place of origin to your dinner plate without spoiling. Unlike canned goods, dry goods and cleaning items, produce has to be picked at just the right time to make sure it makes it from warm weather areas that grow the item (ex. California) to areas that demand it (CA to NY or OH for example). Therefore, the costs of any losses due to spoilage are born on the consumer.

Meat, on the other hand, is a different story. Meat in the USA is subsidized by the federal government, so we really never pay the true costs of raising a calf from a zygote to a rib eye. Many of you may feel like meat is expensive, but without government subsidizing meat production, we would probably pay a much heftier price for our burgers.

Is your head spining yet? Well, without further ado, here are some tips on saving on Produce & Meat.

1. Shop the Sales ONLY- Drop that recipe for Lobster Bisque. Gear your weekly dinners towards meat and produce that's on sale in your store ad you receive each week. Write down the prices for many of the common items you buy and then wait for a sale to hit. Stock up on the meat and place it in the freezer.

2. Produce in Season- I know many of you have heard about the sustainable food movement. Buying strawberries in December is expensive because they're not growing in subzero weather. Gear your tastebuds to crave pomegrantes in the fall and blueberries in the late spring/early summer. If you can't live without strawberries, freeze some the next time you encounter a good sale and then eat them in December.

3. Manager's Special Meat- A common misconception among many shoppers is that Manager's special meat is meat gone bad or not of very high quality. For the most part, this couldn't be further from the truth. Stores are mandated by law to sell meat during a certain window of time. This window doesn't mean the meat is bad, it just means they have to pitch it. Stores will often mark down the meat by 50% to get customers to buy it and mitigate losses. My advice to you is to be sure to either freeze the meat or eat it right after purchasing it.

4. Attend a Farmer's Market or join a Farmer's Co-Op- Even in the midwest, we have farmer's markets on the weekends where local farmers bring their produce. Produce brought into the market is often cheaper because you aren't incurring the costs to transport food. The farmer brings the produce directly to the market for you to purchase. Another benefit of purchasing from a farmer's market is the fact that the produce is often ripe and ready to eat. Farmer Co-Ops are also a great resource for produce.

5. Meatless Mondays- Recently released reports have shown a relationship between red meat consumption and adverse health risks (see "All read meat is bad for you"- LA TIMES ). This won't stop me from digging into a delicious skirt steak, but it does give me another reason to curb my meat spending. Try a vegetarian spin on a classic dish like beans only chili or substitute tofu for chicken in stir fry. Tofu is one of my favorite non-meat foods because it soaks up whatever flavors you add to your dish and has plenty of protein.

Well, I'm off to the gym to shake off my Dijon Salmon induced food coma (Mmmmm Salmon). Hope this helps! Happy Tofu Tuesday to you and your family :D!
P. Manolos

Spring Is Here!

Beautiful weather.


I spent the weekend on home projects that have been waiting on me ever since Mar 1, 2012. Cleaning the house, organizing the kitchen, and most importantly, organizing my stockpile.

A troop of ants spurred on my cleaning frenzy. The worst part of having a stock pile is protecting it from little insect intruders. So I marched my way down to Lowes and picked up a shelf for my basement stockpile.

I debated between using the basement or the garage and finally decided to use the basement because I didn't want to have to creep into a cold garage to grab a can of beans. I also like the basment because there are plenty of spiders down there to keep any ants at bay. I only store cans down there, so nothing short of an earthquake followed by a flood would cause any real damage.

Therefore, in light of my own dilemna, I thought I would write a few tips on how to protect your own household goods from damage.

1. Stay Organized- I can't emphasize enough how important it is to know exactly how much of any given item you have in your stockpile. I don't have a lot of time to make lists, so I like to make sure I can visually glance at a shelf and know what I have on hand. For example, I always have a Sharpie handy so I can write the expiration date in bold letters on the face of a box/can. I then organize all items by putting the foods that expire the soonest in front of the items I can hold on  to a bit longer.

2. Seal it Up- Try to keep your opened items separate from your closed items. A big problem with warmer weather is all of the intruders the weather brings with it- ants, flies, moths, etc. Keep your opened packages in one area and sealed in an airtight container.

3. When in Doubt, Throw it Out!- Don't take a chance eating expired food. It just isn't worth the trips to the bathroom. If you don't know when was the last time you ate those Christmas sugar cookies (maybe in Dec..?) then just throw it away. Saving a few bucks isn't worth risking your health.

4. Reassess your storage space- Do you have enough room for everything? For a few months I had dozens of cans falling on my head and only after a few good clunks to the head did I realize I needed to get another shelf pronto.

5. Donate Excess Items- I got rid of 15 boxes of cake mix for two reasons: 1) I don't use cake mix and 2) I needed more room in my pantry. Most food shelters take donations of food so long as the expiration date hasn't passed.  You'll also get a tax break if you get a receipt.

Well, I'm off to enjoy the beautiful weather we're having. I'm so tempted to skip the gym and drink a beer on the porch.

Spring Cleanin'

P. Manolos

Just A Lazy Sunday Post

Today the dog and I spent most of our Sunday lying miserably in bed suffering from various weather changing elements. I truly do believe there's some freak act of nature that happens when an owner and a dog become so close that they mimic every move the other one makes, including sickness.

Friday I went home to see my folks. They only live an hour away, but with my crappy driving skills and lack of time, I haven't seen them since early Feb. As soon as I walked in, my sinuses began to go haywire. I couldn't breathe out of any of my nostrils and I ended up missing two workouts in a row this weekend.

So that leads me to this morning, where I promptly woke up to Zimba's pacing across the floor and after I let him out, he came back to bed only to throw up in his cage.

Great. I'm sick and the dog is too. Might not have been a bad thing, I couldn't have dealth with high energy Zimba all day today while my nose was running and my body felt like a mack truck backed over it. I was grateful for my nearly free box of Zyrtec in the coupon closet.

God Bless Coupons. I wouldn't have survived my Sunday sickness without them.

P. Manolos

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