Why I’m spending more on food, with no regrets

By: c_thylacine

My twenties have seen me become a lot more picky about food. I’m more concerned with taste and quality than price these days, even moreso after returning from our travels. Sorry to everyone who eats out with me – I know I’m a high maintenance nightmare these days…

Anyway, as a result my regular  grocery shopping habits  have definitely changed.

Healthier breakfasts

I’m a cereal fiend. But while I used to subsist off Cocoa Puffs, Chex and the occasional box of Nutri Grain, nowdays I buy more muesli-style cereal (the flakey type, not the oaty type). It’s a bit hard to swallow when these are often more than $5 a box, but it’s filling and healthy and I can usually find at least one variety on special in any given week.

Better bread

The so-called supermarket ‘bread wars’ have seen home brand bread loaves return to $1 a loaf, but I’m trying to stick to buying quality loaves for the most part. Better bread is way more expensive, but goes a longer way and is better for us. I’m talking brown, grainy and or seedy, rather than the cheap, super refined white stuff.

Fancier staples

I have a new pantry staple. It’s not as crucial as, say, flour or chicken stock or whatever, but it’s definitely a regular in the rotation. What am I talking about? Roasted peppers. A jar, as far as I can tell, doesn’t really work out much expensive than buying individual capsicums and then going through the trouble of roasting them. Having them on demand is amazing. (We once tried this with pre-minced garlic but weren’t really fans – fresh garlic definitely beats the convenience of the jar for us.)

Have you started eating better with age?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and brokeGIRLrich*

Where can you fly for $500? $1000? Or more?

Where can you fly for $500? $1000? Or more?

Occasionally, when I have nothing better to do, I like to torture myself dream a little.

Usually that involves looking at house listings; occasionally it starts with me looking at rental listings, but that gets depressing real quick so it never lasts long.

Occasionally I indulge in a bit of travel lust. A lot of that comes to me without me even lifting a finger. I get so many travel emails – Grabaseat alerts, Travelcafe deals, and lots of travel agency offers.

But if I’m so inclined, I head over to Kayak Explore. 

From this screen, I can see what it costs to fly basically anywhere in the world from my city.

So, where does my money get me from Auckland?

For $522, I can fly to Apia, Samoa. (Beaches! Turtles! Rainforests! Markets!)

For $1193, I can fly to Bangkok, Thailand. (Cheap drinks! Fantastic food! Temples!)

For $2,072, I can fly to Vienna, Austria. (The city where Before Sunrise is set!)

For $3,254, I can fly to Vladivostok, Russia. (I’m not sure why I would want to go there … but St Petersburg is still on my wishlist!)

And that is why people go on ‘the big OE’ – it’s just too darn expensive to travel regularly from little old New Zealand when it’s minimum $2k return to the likes of Europe or North American.

Where can you fly to for these dollar amounts?

(Not a sponsored post, but I’d be more than happy to accept compensation … just sayin’!)

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Oh, the irony.

When I was 16, I wanted to stay up late, have plans every Friday and Saturday night, drink booze. Now the mere thought of all of these three things exhausts me. Ten years on, here I am on a Friday night wanting nothing more than to read a few chapters of my book and be tucked in by 10pm. (I haven’t been sleeping well at all, so I desperately need to catch up this weekend!)

How things change with age.

This week’s links

This almost brought a tear to my eye: How Cho Chang does money (Personal finance fanfic – awesomer than it sounds)

When self-worth and happiness are at odds with each other, by the Broke and Beautiful Life

Neurotic Workaholic on the things that make her feel both old and young

Over at Jezebel: A conversation about friendly catcalling with my husband

Nerd’s Eye View offers a sharp take on the (un)economics of travel writing (the comments are also informed and spot on about the industry as a whole)

How to make your boss adore you, via Ask a Manager

Tales from the Auckland housing market – specifically, the auction room

Where do our earliest memories go? This makes me feel a lot better about my lack of childhood memories (I must have pretty bad childhood amnesia)

Michelle at Shop My Closet Project is over your economic pessimism

Digital decluttering with Blonde on a Budget

Budget and the Beach asks: When life is so uncertain, why do we wait?

Manda at Musical Poem ponders what it means to be mediocre

And at A Practical Wedding, some musings on what it means to ‘settle’ (What is the optimum level of happy?!)

Finally, I can’t believe I’m linking to Business Insider, but … here are 7 things people pretend to like – enjoy!

My top 3 money memories

nzmuse-money-memories

What purchases stand out most in your memory to you? A car? Wedding? A particular gift?

Running back through my memory banks, these are the three instances that jump out at me:

$6 fried rice Mondays

Back when I was in my first year at uni, Mondays were the day from hell. It was literally a 12-hour day, nonstop. I went to my first job in the morning, where I typed up documents and made photocopies. Then I’d rush down to Queen St and the underground International Food Court, where I’d buy a massive fried rice to get me through the rest of the day. After wolfing down lunch, it was off to classes, and then my second job from 4-8pm, loading newspaper content online.

That stall sold fried rice for $6 in 2007; now in 2014 it costs $8.50.

$700 guitar package

I worked my ass off during that year of high school, pulling evening shifts at a call centre and weekend day shifts at a cafe. What I could save now in a few weeks took me months back then, but I was so proud of myself. My reward: a red Ibanez RG170 and a 20-watt amp.

$30,000 RTW trip

Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here… In the months leading up to our departure, I hustled into the nights and on the weekends bashing out freelance assignments to beef up the travel fund. The highlight was earning almost $1000 in a single day – a batch of five pieces I churned out in one sitting on a Sunday. But ultimately it all came down to one day last summer when I finally sat down and calculated the total we spent on the trip, and seeing that figure staring back at me. It’s an alarming number, for sure, but one with zero regrets attached to it. I know I’d much rather a $30k honeymoon than a $30k wedding.

Your favourite money memories … go!

Outlander-style time travel – Yay or nay?

With the TV series Outlander - based on Diana Gabaldon’s series – starting this month, I thought it was prime time to talk about time travel (as inspired by Steph on Twitter)!

The foundation of the story is that protagonist Claire accidentally falls back through time and finds herself in 1700s Jacobite Scotland. Not the most peaceful of times to be alive – but on the upside, there’s a strapping Scottish lad by her side.

(Minor spoilers follow)
It later turns out that Claire is one of a small group of people who can travel back and forth between their own time and certain periods in the past. They have to be at specific locations in order to do so, and the process is both painful and dangerous; there’s no guarantee it will go well. Yet after managing to return to her own, safer time period, she later decides to risk travelling back to the 1700s to look for Jamie.
(End spoilers)

So, specifically within the Outlander context – would I do the same if I faced the same choice today?

I’m kind of leaning towards no. Love is hunky dory, but I am a realist. I’d be unspeakably miserable in a more primitive time.

I love food. I’m also a rather picky eater. Potatoes may be my favourite single food item, but variety is the spice of life. No offence, Scotland of the past, but I would never willingly choose to subsist on your cuisine.

I do not like to rough it. I like indoor plumbing. Motorised vehicles. Modern communications technology.

I enjoy the miracles of modern medicine. Birth control. Painkillers. Healthcare.

I like gender equality – we’re not there yet but things have certainly been a lot worse in the past. I like voting and wearing what I want and cursing and working.

While modern society has its fair share of problems, the one thing I do appreciate is the rise of professional work. I was not made to do physical labour. I am great at sitting at a desk and doing things on the internet, and very little else. No way would I have done well even 100 years ago.

That aside, I’m looking forward to seeing how the TV series unfolds. I suspect the voiceover is going to drive me up the wall, but we’ll see…

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I spoke too soon! Winter ain’t over till it’s over, and I’m sick again so it definitely ain’t over yet. Really wishing we were back in Greece right now like last year.

I trust you are all in better health than I am.

This week’s links

A few of you had questions about building standards and insulation in NZ on my Generation Rent post, which I quite frankly couldn’t be bothered researching. But then lo and behold, this Reddit thread popped up, and sheds a little light on this

Every word in this post made me ache to return to Italy for a bit

A gem from Cash Cow Couple: Converting your spouse from spender to saver

Notes on life and such at Greatest Escapist, on the eve of turning 30

And the Broke and Beautiful Life on abandoning self-imposed deadlines

Finally, at Inc: Your life does not have to be your work

“One of the most critical choices you’ll need to make when you start out in your career is exactly what kind of person you want to be. I think it’s somewhat back in fashion these days to be a workaholic. For some of us it never went out of style. Almost everyone today wants to be an entrepreneur, build a business, and be a big honking overnight success. But that’s only part of the story. Ultimately it’s not about making money, it’s about making a difference. It’s also about more than making a living: It’s about making a life. And the “you” that you become is a big part of the life you build outside the office, as well as within your business.”

 

Five material things that (would) make me happy

material girl in a material world

As a general rule, I am all about experiences over stuff. Stuff wears out, breaks, gets stolen.

But as reported in the Atlantic this week, some material goods actually CAN make you happy. And I’m definitely not going to argue with that. Here are the material things that make my life better …

My guitar

After nearly two years being guitar-less, I picked one up for $100 secondhand last month. I can’t tell you how much joy it’s bringing me. I’m never going to be much more than a dabbler, but I didn’t realise how much I missed playing.

Unlike my old guitar, it’s not a name brand, though, and for the first time I am finding out first hand what difference that actually makes. (Occasional fret buzz, less than smooth-looking neck/body joint, and prone to paint surface cracks.) But since I’m never going to be a serious muso, it’ll do just fine for now – and possibly for a long time.

Good quality kitchen knife

I can never go back to the days of sawing away at vegetables/meat with the kind of knife that now feels so flimsy I could practically bend it with my bare hands. No siree.

Expensive frypan

Likewise, I love my Circulon pan. Now I can actually make decent looking hotcakes, among other things!

A reliable car

Not something we’ve had the privilege of experiencing much, alas. Working on changing that.

A decent house

I dream of living in a house that’s properly insulated, warm and dry.  And hey, since dreams are free, let’s throw in a bonus heat pump. Still a way off…

Location, location, location: Renters just wanna live centrally (this one does, anyway)

It’s funny how different people’s priorities can be when house hunting.

The only negative about our current place, in my eyes, is how freezing cold it is. That and the fact it doesn’t have a full stove. The cold issue, however, is the one that might prompt me to move sooner rather than later. (It’s so cold I’ve actually been keeping half an eye on listings, but there just aren’t that many options out there, certainly none that are overall better than this.)

My MIL, however, seems to think it’s a bit of a dungeon, due to the small size and the fact all the windows have dark tints, for whatever reason. Apparently there’s a two-bedroom house available for rent she knows of and suggested to T, but I can tell you right now that we would not take it. Why?

That house is in Te Atatu, which is further out than where we currently live. That would increase the cost of my bus pass, and I can guarantee the commute would only be worse. Right now, we live literally a minute away from the bus stop, not to mention a few minutes from the local hub with mall, train station, multiple supermarkets, butchers, grocers, Asian stores and organics shop. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’d happily sacrifice a degree of convenience to live in Te Atatu if we were buying a house there, but not for a rental.

For me, as a renter, location is the first thing I look at. I know I won’t be able to afford to live as centrally when we buy, so I’m making the most of it. Even if I had a car of my own, I couldn’t/wouldn’t drive to work, so access to public transport is paramount.

I can’t do much about cold and damp because that’s the default for New Zealand rentals, so onto the next thing on the list…

Next, I stand my ground on mixer taps in the bathroom and kitchen. I will not live somewhere where hot and cold water pour out of separate taps (yes, this is still common in a lot of rentals). That is barbaric; it’s 2014 and any landlords who haven’t updated their plumbing need to get with the programme.

Having lots of space comes last for me. But I guess it comes first for my MIL, and if T was single I think it might be his top criteria, too. Me, I grew up in a fairly small house. I hate cleaning. And I’m not big on entertaining at home. Home is where I go to escape from the world.

What do you look for when choosing somewhere to live?

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Hullo! I quite like Cait’s weekly post where she mentions the highlights of her week, so I might copy her style today.

The low of my week was making a hard decision with T. Not an ideal outcome, but best of a bad situation. Nonetheless, we’re feeling good. Somehow, being in control makes it feel so much better than when it happens TO you. Not ready to discuss yet, though.

The high of my week was quite a few, actually! T’s watch that he accidentally left behind in Italy finally arrived (we made several attempts to get it back starting, well, as soon as we left Italy. But for various reasons all of those failed, and the fact T didn’t really endear himself to our host while we were there no doubt didn’t help). I just passed the 3-month mark at work – while I did not have a 90-day trial period, it’s still a milestone IMO. Still loving it and can’t believe I found a coworker who shares the exact same taste in music (and yes, we sit next to each other). Also went for the first/only run of July – feels like the coldest part of winter may be over – and the soles of my new Nike Flex make it feel like running on a springy cloud. Not so sure about the upper/side parts of the shoe. Full judgement reserved.

My plans this weekend include listening to awesome music on YouTube and playing some guitar (As if Toronto wasn’t already cool enough, I just learned that Motion Device, possibly the coolest ever kid band, is from there!)

This week’s links

What really matters in a relationship, via Musical Poem

L Bee shares her personal money nightmare

Feeling Michelle on this right now – letting money control my life 

One of the best things on feminism I’ve read in awhile, by the Bloggess

And a travel writer who’s become a travel writing sceptic

Friday Five: Take these things and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine

What’s been bugging me lately:

Rising prices

Now you can’t get a six-inch sub at Subway for under $5. Even the cheapest subs are now $5.70. DISLIKE.

Mexican food poseurs

You all know how passionately I feel about Mexican food (specifically, its absence here). I wish I could ban coworkers from uttering the names Mexican Cafe or Mexicali Fresh in my earshot.

Winter

I feel bad complaining, knowing most of you guys live places where it snows. But I don’t care. Given how cold our house is, I reckon it evens out (even T is wearing multiple layers indoors and complaining about the cold, and that, I can tell you, is a rarity). Who needs four seasons anyway? (Not that we really get four seasons in Auckland; it just starts getting colder and wetter around May or so.)

Technical debt

I was recently introduced to this term. You know how building anything involves choices and compromises – after all, you can’t get anything that’s good AND cheap AND fast? And how building, tweaking and fixing software creates a many-headed monster over a time? Yeah. I’m over it. Where’s our technical fairy godmother and her magic wand?

Humans being shitty to other humans

As we all know, there’s been a lot of spectacularly bad news happening this month. It makes me so, so sad. That’s about all I have to say on that front.