Another week is almost behind us! Over the last few years, I’ve decided that one of the best ways to determine whether you’re living a life of significance is to pay attention to that. Do your days drag on in the seemingly endless pursuit of weekends that seem to melt through your fingers almost as soon as they arrive? Or do the weeks fly by to the point where you often forget what day it even is? Living in the latter category has been very satisfying for me while the former was often terrible.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my will lately – or rather,
my current lack of one. In addition to distributing my assets when I die, it
will need to unwind my business activities in a way that is as minimally
disruptive to my business partners as possible. I really need to get on this.
But this same line of thinking also leads me somewhere else. Somewhere most
finance blogs never quite seem to reach.
Saving and investing is all well and good, but what happens
if I die before I’m ever able to enjoy the fruits of any of that? Other people
have their own aspirations in life and while they may be happy to inherit my
money, it’s also quite possible that it may be disruptive to them in the long
run. After all, I firmly believe that struggle is what leads to personal growth
of all kinds. Money typically reduces the degree of struggle in life and I
would much rather help facilitate growth than stunt it. I have a lot of figuring
out to do in this area. But it is far from a foregone conclusion that my money
will do more good for people who didn’t earn it than it could for me while I’m
The people in life matter to me more than anything. This is
why I went to Austin this weekend to visit a friend who was there for a
conference. We go back about a decade at this point and it’s always a thrill to
see him. My career has taken me all over the United States since I met him,
while his has taken him all over the world. It’s a wonderful thing to bring all
of our experiences together against the backdrop of reminiscing about the past,
and usually in some novel new place.
This time, we had just enough time to get to an old favorite
– The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas – to
enjoy some of the best bbq on our planet along with the restaurant’s BYOB
policy. If you’re ever in the Austin area, I highly recommend you pick up a six
pack or three and give it a try. It’s a three to five hour undertaking once
wait time is considered, but that’s why you need to do it with good friends.
You drink in both the beer and some good company in their covered outside area
while you wait for your buzzer to go off, then go inside to enjoy some
incredible bbq when it does. It’s not a terribly cheap date, although the BYOB
policy balances things out a little since alcohol is usually marked up quite high
Is it economical to drive 150+ one way miles to see a friend
for an afternoon and then back in the same day? No, not particularly. But life
is about so much more than being economical. I’ll remember this particular
afternoon fondly for some time to come – maybe years. And that is worth so much
more than the money it cost me. So why am I writing this post? I just want to
remind the people like me, who may be a little too careful for their own good
at times, that you can’t take it with you. Don’t forget to drink in the moments
along the way. Most of the time, you can accomplish that without spending much
money. But don’t pass up truly special opportunities just because you can’t.
Happy July, everyone! This is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $500 per year on restaurant meals. A lot of people really blow it financially in this area. I’m in a particularly fortunate situation, which is why my restaurant spending is exceptionally low. A reasonable amount to spend on restaurants could certainly be higher in most cases – maybe $1-2k a year or even more if one has the resources. But on a minimum budget, you would spend $0.
Why is my restaurant spending so low? I eat at restaurants
for a living – often very nice ones. Wining and dining people is in the job
description. So psychologically, I’m usually pretty restaurant-ed out and
prefer to eat food I make at home – which is often as good or better than
restaurant food anyway in my humble opinion. I do go out on dates and what not
and in my imperfect system of recording spending, some of that winds up in this
category and some in the “fun” category. But as you will learn next week,
Monday, I don’t spend terribly excessively in that area either. Mostly, I live
a fairly quiet, low key lifestyle since I get that stuff out of my system on
someone else’s dime while I’m working.
But how would I keep restaurant spending reasonable if I
didn’t have the job I have? The underlying mindset is the same as everywhere
else; figure out what I actually enjoy about the experience, cut out the
superfluous stuff, and keep everything moderate overall.
I come from a lower class background and even after eating
hundreds of meals over the last few years at restaurants ranging from sandwich
shops all the way up to high end steakhouses and seafood restaurants where the
menu prices are in whole dollar amounts with many items sporting three figures,
I haven’t quite gotten comfortable with the idea of someone else serving me. So
that element is not primarily what I enjoy about restaurants, even though I can
certainly appreciate that rare waiter or waitress who has taken the craft to
the level of art. The parts I truly enjoy are delicious food and spending time
with other people.
And as it turns out, neither of those requires going to a
restaurant at all. Instead, whenever I can, I enjoy both of those things at
home. That offers the bonuses of knowing exactly what is in my food and being
able to optimize everything for nutritional value, cost, and personal taste. I’ve
even learned to enjoy the process of preparing food; there is certainly a
creativity to it if you’re doing it right. And while not everyone sees things
this way, I take pride in my entertaining and I think cooking for a special
someone amounts to sharing much more of myself than what I would by going to a
restaurant with her.
Besides, the restaurant experience, like so many others in
our historically rich society, has become so routine that it has lost much of
what used to make it special. I believe eating in restaurants several times a
week is unhealthy for us on multiple levels. So I probably only go to
restaurants a handful of times a year outside of work. And when I do, it is
usually an event. Even if I didn’t have the job I do, I probably wouldn’t go
more than once or twice a month. So that’s my biggest tip to saving money at
restaurants – learn to enjoy cooking for yourself and in the process, keep
restaurant meals the special treat they really should be. And that doesn’t have
to cost you a minute either. My repertoire includes time consuming recipes but
also plenty that can be produced in no more time than would be spent waiting at
a restaurant anyway. Sometimes I take the scenic route but a lot of times I
take shortcuts. It gets easier with experience.
When you do go to a restaurant, there are certainly ways you
can minimize the expense. First, keep the drinks to a minimum. It’s very easy
to double a restaurant bill just by ordering a few drinks per person and in
most cases, you are drinking the exact same thing you could have at home for 10-20%
of the cost. Another technique is to be mindful of portion sizes. Most
restaurant meals contain over half the calories a typical person needs to consume
in an entire day. So appetizers really aren’t necessary and in fact, you should
probably eat half the food you are served, or even less than that, and then
save the rest to bring home and enjoy again later. If it’s a romantic evening,
you may want to share an overpriced dessert. Otherwise, you almost certainly don’t
need one at all.
I want to end with an important point. To a financially responsible person, restaurants are a luxury spending item. Please do not stiff the wait staff. Like it or not, here in the United States, the restaurant business model involves paying these people practically nothing – so they rely heavily on tips. If you can’t afford to tip (when and where appropriate, of course), you shouldn’t be eating at a restaurant at all in my opinion because in effect, you are not paying for the service portion of the experience. Imagine what it would be like if your employer left it up to customers to decide how much you got paid. I didn’t create the system, but I definitely don’t believe in screwing people over to save a buck, regardless of whether I agree with the way their employers operate. That is a great example of the difference between financially responsible (as I’ve mentioned, I hate the word “frugal”) and cheap.
Happy Monday, Everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $1700 per year on groceries and I believe I could spend a reasonable minimum of $1200 per year if I had to. This is one area that always blows me away when I read about what people typically spend on it. Supposedly the average is about $3000 per year, per person. Then again, the average American reportedly wastes about a pound of food per day, so that is part of the reason for such a high number. I do all I can to avoid EVER wasting food and probably throw away less than one item per month. But before I go any further, I do have to ‘fess up to one advantage. I eat three to five meals per week at restaurants in a typical week as part of my job, which saves me some food I would need to make at home. And actually, during 2017 I was traveling a lot more and probably ate twice that many meals. So admittedly, my spending would be higher if not for that. However, as a very physically active man, I also eat significantly more total calories than a typical person does and as a result, I believe things balance out to some degree.
As with most shopping, my grocery strategy begins at Costco.
Yes, I am only a household of one. But there are still plenty of foods I am
able to buy in bulk and consume quickly enough to avoid having them go bad. Some
of the many items I can think of off the top of my head that I buy regularly include
the mixed bags of organic spinach/kale/other stuff that tastes like grass
clippings, tortillas, eggs, butter, cheese, coffee, olive oil, spices, boneless
skinless chicken breasts, fish, and assorted frozen foods I can make once in a
while when I’m feeling lazy. Absolutely every item I just listed is a great
quality/price combination at Costco, with many of them being substantially
cheaper than any competitor’s offerings. I don’t buy much produce at Costco,
however. That doesn’t seem to be their strongest priced area.
If I don’t buy something at Costco, I go to HEB, a regional
chain here in Texas that has solid selection and an “every day low pricing”
model. When I lived in Wisconsin, there was a similarly excellent option called
Woodman’s. Either way, I take the lazy approach of shopping at stores that
offer the lowest prices most of the time rather than shopping at several
different ones looking for sale prices that are occasionally a little bit
lower. I know people who do things that way and there is certainly money to be
saved, but I simply don’t have the time available to be able to execute that
At the grocery store, my focus is on buying mostly “raw materials,” which tend to be both the cheapest and the healthiest versions of foods. I buy the most in the produce section. Flexibility is key here. Everything has a peak season when it is plentiful and cheap and I plan my cooking around that to some extent. For example, when pineapples are less than $2, I buy them more often and sweeten up my green smoothies with them. And since lately avocados are about double what they are normally, I’ve been using them much less or skipping them altogether. After the produce section, I typically go to the meat section the next most, followed by the frozen section where I buy lots of frozen vegetables. These are a great value because they’re flash frozen almost immediately after being harvested, meaning they’re both fresh/nutritious and benefit from the economy of scale pricing that results from mass production. I do occasionally venture into the middle aisles, where the most processed food lives, but only for particular items when I need them, usually for a particular recipe.
In practice, this usually ends up being a couple trips to
both Costco and HEB each week. If I’m just buying my regular stuff, I usually
end up spending about $10-15 total on groceries each of these trips and $20-30
per week. Every now and again I stock up or buy special items for recipes and
spend a little more. But I never feel like I have to deprive myself in any way
to spend what I do on groceries. I guess the only caveat is that since I buy
food mostly in raw, unprocessed form, I do spend a fair amount of time cooking.
But since I enjoy doing that, and enjoy the results even more, I don’t really
see that as a cost. That’s the advantage of learning to enjoy activities that
happen to help you to live a better, healthier life and save money in the
Anyway, hopefully this gives someone an idea or two. Have a
great Monday, Ya’ll!
We’ve just about made it through another week! Here are some random thoughts and ideas to celebrate.
Summer is finally upon us and for those in horrible
climates, that means golf season (it actually seems to be a down time for golf
here in Houston, probably because it is too hot for a lot of wusses fair
weather only golfers)! If you’re anything like many of my customers and I, you
don’t get as much time to play as you’d like. In my case, that means I’m
inconsistent and launch golf balls into the woods, water hazards, and who knows
where all else when I do get out. Spending $2, 3, 4, or even more per ball can
easily double the cost of a round with so many of them destined for such a
disappointing fate. But the world’s largest bookstore turned everything store
has your back.
You can find used golf balls on Amazon for fifty cents a
ball or even less. Many of them are sorted into specific brands and graded by
condition. I picked up a giant bag of Titleist balls for less than forty cents
each last year and guess what? They fly into the woods every bit as effectively
as brand new balls. I believe these particular balls were graded B/C but to be
honest, if it weren’t for many of them having companies’ promotional designs on
them, most of them would pass for having been hit only a couple of times. The
question becomes whether those first couple of times hitting each ball are
worth 75% or more of the cost. For someone who only plays a handful of times a
year, the answer is a resounding no. Definitely a winning find.
One part of my cooking hobby I find surprisingly satisfying
is buying different types of produce and figuring out how to use them in both
new and existing recipes. And in order to do that, sometimes I need to start by
figuring out how to separate said produce from its natural packaging in the
best way possible. I’ve found some awesome tricks on Youtube – a great place to
learn almost anything by watching (sometimes) experts demonstrate it. This week
I learned how to efficiently cut an acorn squash and it actually worked very
well on the first try. But easily my all time favorite discovered method has
been the mango pint glass trick. Want to give it a try? Type “mango pint glass”
into the search tab on Youtube and prepare to have your mind blown. The picture
above is a recent example of how incredibly effective this method is; literally
nothing but skin is left behind and it is so easy! If you’ve ever done this,
you’re probably nodding knowingly right now. If you never have, you’re welcome!
Squash as a snack
Sticking with the same theme, I’ve been experimenting with making squash as a snack. It’s fairly easy, cheap, tasty, and much more nutritious than chips or anything made primarily of the precious sugar I recently decided to try going mostly without for a while. I’ve been using basic “roasted squash” recipes and using nothing beyond salt, pepper, and olive oil for seasoning. Some types of squash definitely work better than others but in general, there is a natural sweetness that is really brought out well by those simple additions. One thing I’ve discovered is that I like the squash slightly darkened/crispy, which usually means leaving it in the oven a little longer than the recipe says and then doing a little extra broiling at the end. But your results may vary. I’ve been making a panful over the weekends and then snacking on it throughout the week. So far, I’m very pleased!
That’s all from me this week. Have a great Friday and
weekend and I’ll see you on Monday!
Holy cow are we in some suddenly dark days! I’m seeing some genuinely good people and businesses getting hurt and some being taken down altogether and it is all happening so quickly. And this, of course, only intensifies my problems. I’ve seen this recession coming on paper (or at least screens, the 2019 equivalent) for a couple of years now and while I may have made some early calls, I would much rather have been early than late. And more importantly, I believe we are now almost definitely in it. I see more real world signs of it every day and I hear similar reports from my contacts all over the country. If you haven’t started preparing yet, I strongly recommend doing so right now because you won’t get a better opportunity. Anyway, mercifully, another Friday is upon us and here are some random observations and anecdotes from the week.
Don’t Let Car Dealerships Take
Advantage of You Because You’re Lazy
In spite of
what I wrote above, I have been quietly watching the market for my next vehicle
for a while. I’m not saying I will pull the trigger any time soon, but as I
believe I’ve mentioned before, I typically watch the market for months before I
so much as set foot on a dealer’s lot. I don’t just want to take the internet’s
word for it; I want to know for a fact whether a price is good or not. Plus, I
predict some amazing recession discounts on cars this time around. Plus, I
enjoy the research. Yes, because I’m weird like that.
Anyway, I’ve noticed that these “no haggle” dealerships have gotten very popular. I’ve also noticed something else; their prices are absurdly high! I’m talking 10-15% higher than average in most cases! After doing a little googling and perusing some forum posts, I’ve confirmed that this is exactly what it appears to be – another example on the long and growing list of times American companies have had the balls to fairly openly exploit laziness for profit – and succeeded at it. Two quick notes on this.
One – and I
know this doesn’t apply to all of them, but only some of the very most millennial-ly
ones that may as well be throwing in a year’s supply of avocado toast with their
overpriced cars – but any dealership that will not let you inspect a car in
person first at a minimum, needs to be avoided at all costs. Cars, particularly
used ones, are not commodity items. If you aren’t going to test drive one
before you buy it, you deserve whatever you get. And if you’re not willing to
spend a hundred bucks or so to have a qualified mechanic check a used car out,
you’re taking an awfully huge risk. Sure, you may get lucky. But you could also
wind up out thousands and thousands of dollars. And sure, some of these “dealerships”
allow returns. But do you really want to stake that kind of money on these
policies being honored? Better you than me if you do. But then, I’m just a car
freak who has done extremely well with car purchases over the years. Not only
have I had to do almost zero repairs beyond preventative maintenance, I have
even pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of selling one car for a profit
after driving it over a year and another for exactly what I paid after driving
it for several months. But then, I don’t like to toot my own horn…
dealers literally believe they can overcharge people by thousands of dollars
because the average person either doesn’t even have the courage to sit and talk
to a salesman (or woman), or is too lazy to do so. Are you really willing to
validate that theory for them? For the sake of all of us, I hope not. But based
on the fact that some of these companies appear to be extraordinarily
successful, it would appear the mob has already spoken. In any case, at the
risk of sounding like your parents, do you want to get ripped off just because
a million other people have been?
Aldi Now Accepts Credit Cards
This could be old news, I don’t know. I stopped going to these stores years ago because I didn’t like playing roulette with the possibility of getting stuck waiting in line for fifteen minutes because there was one employee in the entire store. Also because I don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t accept credit cards outside of incredibly rare, possibly life threatening circumstances. Anyway, I stopped in to an Aldi for the hell of it recently and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the company has joined the rest of the civilized world in accepting credit cards. Someone must have had a eureka moment and realized that not accepting by far the most popular payment method on earth to save a few nickels per order, which could easily be accounted for in the pricing of everything (again, like the rest of the civilized world does it), might not be quite the brilliant business tactic they had once thought it was. No, no sarcasm here at all. And by the way, speaking of spare change, I genuinely believe the quarter deposit thing they do with their carts is brilliant. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one freely roaming a parking lot en route to damaging someone’s several thousand dollar vehicle because someone else is a lazy, entitled asshole. My goodness, I’m in an interesting mood today. But I promise this is happy, if cynical. Remember, Friday.
line thing still happened. As it turned out, the only employee in the store was
in the bathroom. There was a line about half the length of the building when he
came out. I probably won’t repeat this experiment anytime soon. But if you’re
looking for absolute bottom line grocery prices, this store may be worth a
visit for you – especially now that you don’t lose out on 3% of the
purchase price (it’s actually 5% until the end of June with Chase Freedom)
because management doesn’t believe in pricing its products according to the
costs of doing business with the vast majority of all possible customers. Seriously,
charging credit card users extra is basically like installing pay toilets in
the bathrooms since a few people may have a phobia of using public bathrooms or
something. Or in the case of shady gas stations, who tend to discount their
cash prices by several times anything approaching a possible credit card
merchant rate, putting up a giant “IRS, please audit me!” sign outside one’s
place of business. And not accepting them at all? Well, it’s their business,
not mine. Yes, as old fashioned as I can be, I get incredibly irritated when
people fail to adapt to the overwhelming convention of the times in this
particular area. We are all hypocrites; the only difference is that some of us
are at least willing to admit it. Anyway…
Time to Make a Dietary Change
Sugar is the devil. We all know it deep within our sad little souls and just in case we’re intentionally ignorant anyway, there are about forty million studies rightly screaming it. Recently, I finally accepted that I’m weaker than I need to be at standing up to its cocaine-esque charms. So I’m cutting it out. No, not all of it. We all have to find a balance that works for us in life. In this case, I need to be somewhere between excessive, gluttonous consumption at will, where I have been for much of my life, and eating only what I grow on my isolated, non GMO (if that is even possible given the selective breeding that has gone on with just about all crops for hundreds, if not thousands of years – but I digress), 100% organic farm in the middle of some God forsaken backwater town no one ever visited, let alone lived in, on purpose.
The logical choice seems simple. I’m not going to try to police every gram of sugar out of my life. Cutting out only the stuff that is primarily sugar (cookies, my beloved Nutella, my even more beloved Freddy’s chocolate custard concrete mixers with various mix ins, etc) will amount to a major improvement for me. I recall reading somewhere that habits take seven weeks to form so I’m going to do two months for good measure. I started on Tuesday so that means I’m going until July 28. I’m hoping that by then I won’t even want the stuff anymore. But we’ll see how it goes.
There is no denying it; a good diet is key to both physical and mental health. For years I fought against that concept, insistent that if I worked long and hard enough in the gym, I could “have my cake and eat it too.” And while I was successful at staying in above average physical shape that way, I ran into two problems. First, I could never completely outwork an overindulgent diet. The only way I have ever gone from good shape to great is by being disciplined about what I eat and when. Second, as I’ve gotten older (I’m in my early thirties now), the degree of difficulty has increased. Dietary sins I could easily have shrugged off in my early to mid twenties result in significant punishment today – both in my appearance and in the way I feel.
In my experience, eating enough good stuff isn’t too
difficult. I love eating protein so getting enough of that is easy, although I
mostly stick to chicken and fish with beef being an occasional treat. I force
two to three servings of fruit and three or more servings of vegetables down my
throat each day in the form of green smoothies in the mornings and evenings.
From there, I just make sure there is some sort of vegetable element included
with most meals and I have that covered. I make sure to get a moderate amount
of decent quality carbohydrates, which is easy since I enjoy them. Making
things as automatic as possible and minimizing the number of decisions I have
to make helps me to maintain a solid baseline diet.
But one area has always been a thorn in my side. I love junk
food. And I’m not one of those people who has only a sweet tooth or only likes
salty/savory snacks. I’m an all of the above kind of guy, and a gluttonous one
at that. So I want to talk about what I’ve done to combat that – what has worked,
what hasn’t, and what I’ve learned from it. It probably won’t all apply to you
but if any of it gives you an idea that helps, then I consider this post a
success. So in no particular order, here we go.
1. Some things have
I loved soda (that’s “cokes” for my native Texan friends) as
a kid. Thankfully, I wasn’t allowed to have it at home very often but when I
was out of the house – hanging out with friends, for example – I went to town!
I distinctly remember being “up north” (a Wisconsin term to describe “vacationing”
in an even colder, more economically challenged place than your actual home,
which is more than likely easily characterized by both of those already) as a
young lad with some relatives when I consumed five sodas in a single day and
wound up throwing up multiple times that night. I loved the stuff. But in my
early twenties, I learned that it’s basically poison and almost immediately, I simply
stopped drinking it. At no point have I felt any urge to “relapse” and as a
result, I haven’t had any soda in a very long time. I’m almost exclusively a
beer or wine guy when it comes to alcohol, so no, not even in mixed drinks. I
have absolutely no idea why this was so easy for me but sadly, that hasn’t been
the case with other forms of junk food.
2. Moderation has not
been a successful approach at home.
Over the years, no matter what I’ve told myself, I’ve
learned I simply can’t keep junk food at home. I’ve tried everything I can
think of and the result is always the same; I start with the best of intentions
(I will make this last two weeks…), then make little bargains with myself (I
will eat tomorrow’s allotment today, but then NONE tomorrow), then break them
in favor of other less restrictive ones (It’s football season – I’ll eat the
rest of this bag this weekend, but then I won’t open another until next
weekend), until finally, I simply accept reality and wolf down whatever is
left, swearing to never buy it again. The take away here is pretty simple; I
don’t keep junk food at home. Lack of access has proven very effective.
3. Associations can
I don’t believe in drinking milk. At all. I wish I had known
what I know now as a child when I guzzled it like water. Clearly my Mother hadn’t
done as much research on milk as she had on soda; or perhaps the science hadn’t
gotten as far with one as it had with the other. But live and learn. Anyway, at
one time, my ultimate junk food weakness was Oreo’s – a product (note, I didn’t
even use the word food) that requires milk in order to be enjoyed properly. It
was very rare for a package of those evil things to last three days. If I was
doing well, I could limit myself to a single ROW at a time. And I didn’t often
do well. Thankfully, when I stopped drinking milk, Oreo’s no longer did it for
me. I even tried once but without milk, it was like going to the beach without
it being warm outside. It just didn’t make sense. So in that case, cutting out
one bad thing made it much easier to cut out another. This is a concept that
could probably be useful elsewhere…
4. There are
definitely degrees of bad choices when it comes to lunch options and my body
knows the truth.
As an outside sales rep, restaurant lunches are a reality of
life. This was before my working days, but I went to a McDonald’s in 2010 for
the first time in many years. I was involved in a big group activity, we were
in a hurry for lunch, I was not in charge of the group’s decisions, apparently
there was no decent alternative anywhere in the vicinity, there was peer
pressure, etc. It happened, and I paid the price. Almost immediately, I felt
like my stomach was going to explode. And it lasted for the rest of the day
until I gave in, went to the bathroom, and threw up. I didn’t have to try to do
that so much as I just had to stop preventing it from happening. My body’s
tolerance for the purest form of garbage food had been gone for some time.
Today, all I can think of when I see those golden arches is that experience and
I have not repeated that mistake again.
I do go to fast food restaurants sometimes, but only if they
serve some form of actual food. For example, I go to Chick Fil A and get just
about any of the entrees, a large superfood side salad, medium fries, and
water. That’s a pretty decent meal for a hungry, athletic man. If I want a
burger, I go to a place where they cost around ten bucks but you get actual
meat. Five Guys used to be a good example, although based on the last few times
I’ve visited, it seems like they’re going downhill. Also, Five Guys is
definitely a bulking phase only restaurant and even then I only order the small
versions of everything. I enjoy the abundance of quality fast casual options
here in Houston which, again, serve mostly real food. Or I go to any of a
handful of good sub shops – or if there are no good sub shops around, I resolve
to plan my day better, sigh, and go to Subway. Every now and again, I will go
to Freddy’s and splurge big time. If you’re not familiar with Freddy’s, you’re
both missing out and lucky at the same time. I fully prepare for a rough
afternoon on those days (although still not McDonald’s rough), but Freddy’s is
5. A balanced
approach works best for me – but again, not in the house!
Lately I’ve settled into a system that seems to work pretty well. I have a good “base” diet that covers the important things as I described in the second paragraph of this post. I eat in around a ten hour window, which is a relaxed version of an experiment I tried that was way too effective at weight management for a guy that looks and feels best carrying some extra muscle and is willing to sacrifice the exposed six pack look to do it. Seriously, if you want to maintain an extremely low fat/low weight build, this is almost definitely one way to accomplish it. From there, I enjoy life without letting things go off the rails. I get myself a coffee in the lobby of my apartment at least once a day (free and great quality – just one of the many perks of living where I do) and if I want to also indulge in one of the cookies they regularly have out, I do. Same goes for Costco samples. As long as it’s not IN my home, it doesn’t become excessive.
I generally eat nutritionally decent, but enjoyable food,
but I do allow myself a single cheat meal per week, complete with the happy
ending. No, I’m not talking massage parlors, you degenerates. I haven’t had to
pay for that stuff…yet. I’m talking dessert. For a guy in his early thirties
that spends a lot of time in the gym and wants to look like it, but also wants
a little of what Joe Rogan, a man I actually couldn’t stand as an MMA hype man
but love as a podcast host, regularly refers to as “mouth candy,” it works. For
now. But keep in mind that things are significantly more difficult for me today
than they were five years ago and five years from now, I will probably have to
re-balance what I’m doing to adapt to the continuation of that trend. Whatever
happens, I will try to maintain some food related enjoyment, even as it will
almost certainly dwindle closer and closer to none.
With this post we’ve reached a milestone on Health, Wealth, Power. By my count, this is post number 50. So far, readership has been going up steadily and that has been very exciting. To those of you who have been coming here for a while, I’m glad to have you along on this journey. To anyone who has started reading more recently, welcome. Today I want to highlight both some of my most viewed posts and some of my favorites that haven’t been seen as much – in many cases because I posted them before many people were reading the blog at all. Thank you to everyone for reading and here’s to the next 50 posts (and many more) to come!
A window into my raw thought process on a recent night when
I got some seemingly devastating news about my career. I wrote this almost
immediately when I got home so I would have a good record of my immediate
reaction to look back at later. I’m still in the midst of dealing with this
situation but I have a very exciting recent development that I’ll be sharing
This is one of my personal favorite posts so far. It is a
nostalgic look at the way the most difficult event of my life so far has
spawned so many wonderful changes. While I and my life will never be quite the
same as before it happened again, that is mostly a good thing.
Health and fitness is a topic that’s near and dear to my
heart. Medical science is keeping people alive longer and longer today. But
what is it worth? My argument is that we’ve long since passed the point where
quality is much more important (and elusive in many cases) than quantity. This
post is my attempt to lay out the basics for anyone who feels similarly and
wants to do something about it.
I’ve written a number of posts on this theme now – the value
of finding the positives in situations that don’t seem very positive at face
value. But this was one of the first. As someone who has put a ton of work into
thinking more positively and seen firsthand how dramatically that mentality
shift can change life in often unexpected ways, it is very important to me to
share my experiences in this area.
I wrote this post for people who struggle with depression or
have in the past. It’s not comprehensive and I’m no mental health professional,
but it’s a discussion of some tactics and information that have helped me in
the past when the weight of the world seemed to be crushing me with no sign of
relief. If it helps one person, it was worth far more than the time it took to
I’m trying to be less of a bastard in life. But I do tend to
temporarily suspend that effort when it comes to fighting back against what I
view as unethical tactics. In this post, I illustrate how I’ve been mostly
successful at keeping the shenanigans of those damn ISPs from succeeding in
robbing me blind.
Simply put, the methods I described in this post have saved
me five figures by this point in my life. One of the many benefits of living in
the richest country in the history of the world, particularly at a time when
technological advancement has been unprecedented as well, is that extremely
marginal compromises can result in enormous savings. There is an almost constant
chorus in the media about the retirement crisis in the United States. That
means that for most of us, there is no excuse for not taking advantage of
opportunities like this to get so much in return for so little.
Happy Friday! There is no denying it; we’re living in an incredibly prosperous time. Just over a century ago, nearly 50% of a typical household budget, and I’ll wager a huge amount of its labor as well, was spent on food alone. Today, that number is just over 10% and time saving options abound. However, far too many people are still struggling financially and while it isn’t nearly the concern it was at one time, food can still be a big expense. We’ve all seen articles with lists of suggestions on the topic, which obviously all begin with some permutation of “stop paying $20 at restaurants for meals that would be $4 and nutritionally better at home,” and rightfully so. Today I want to show you an example of something I do from time to time. I’m very grateful to be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want to, wherever I want to, and completely ignore the cost. However, I rarely take advantage of that privileged position because I’m not comfortable living that way and because I don’t have to in order to have meals I enjoy.
Today’s exercise starts with Costco’s absolute refusal to raise the price of rotisserie chickens, which it sells for a ridiculous, no way this can be profitable, $5. I can’t remember the last time I saw a rotisserie chicken (or even an unprepared one) for that price in a grocery store, but it was probably a decade ago. Every now and again if I’m in a hurry, I grab one of these gloriously underpriced chickens on my way home. In this case, I paired my delicious $5 fowl with mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and some crescent rolls Costco has been practically giving away (yes, I know they are garbage but at about $.80 per tube of doughy goodness, they are a very cheap treat when I’ve been working hard in the gym and have no qualms about eating some extra carbs anyway). This meal took no more than fifteen minutes to put together and most of that was just waiting for things to happen. My total cost was maybe $8. No, it wasn’t art, but it was cheap, it tasted good, it was healthier than most restaurant meals, and its preparation took less time than most restaurant meals take to order, wait for, eat, wait for the bill, etc.
I eat my favorite parts of the chicken, the breasts and the legs (yes, we’re still talking about chicken, you filthy degenerates – and yes, it takes one to know one) along with the side dishes for about three meals. But that’s when the real magic starts. While the side dishes are gone, there is still a ton of meat left on the chicken. So I put it in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours and spend about another fifteen minutes getting it all off the bones. I make that meat into soup – this time I tried the chicken tortilla from the Vitamix recipe book. I will note that this was a somewhat odd recipe but it had a ton of vegetables in it and while a little different from most tortilla soups I’ve made, and not necessarily something I’d make again, the resulting soup was more than edible.
Soup can take about a half hour of actual prep time but with
the Vitamix recipe, it only took about half that. Combined with around $5 of
additional ingredients, the remains of my original $5 chicken had turned into
about five more meals. For those keeping score at home, that’s an investment of
roughly $13 and an hour of my time (I added a little for reheating) for a
return of eight meals – or about the cost of a single fairly low end restaurant
meal in both money and time.
If you’re a single guy like me, it can get a little repetitive eating all those servings. But I intersperse a few other menu items in and it works out just fine. By itself, this isn’t going to solve anyone’s food budget problems. But articles dedicated to that purpose have already been written many times over. Instead of reiterating what has already been said many times before, I wanted to give you an example of a way to enjoy good, nutritious food at an extremely low cost. Hopefully it will inspire you to come up with ideas of your own. Consequently, if you have any, I would love to hear about them in the comments below or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I don’t always do things this way but I like to every now
and again because I think it’s important to remind myself that I can. No matter
what happens in my life, no matter what my net worth or bank account balance
is, I will always be able to afford to eat this way. Maybe that’s why they call
it comfort food.