Monday Q&A | Sweets, Energy, and Frugal Single Living

by Kristen on August 2, 2010 · 29 comments

in Q&A

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

You said that your kids are not big eaters – in fact no one in the house is. And now something sweet is what had gone bad (Frugal Girl’s note: I wasted a sliced of Blueberry Oatmeal bread). Do your kids just not particularly have a “thing” for sweets? How do you control, if that is at all needed, the eating when you make so much great food – especially the baking part? With four kids, how do you bake and not have it all gone in a heart beat?

-Patricia

Well, the problem in the case of this particular slice of bread is that it was in a cabinet, out of sight. If it had been out, it probably would have been eaten.

My kids definitely do have a “thing” for sweet foods, though, especially when it comes to desserts. I don’t set limits on things like muffins or quick breads, but I do on desserts. After each lunch and dinner meal, our kids are allowed to choose a small treat of some sort, provided they’ve eaten their main meal. This could be a cookie or a few Gummi Bears or a small candy bar. I know it’s considered to be healthier to never eat desserts, but I want my children to get used to eating desserts in moderation…I want them to know what it feels like to eat 1 or 2 cookies and to then stop, or to eat a small handful of Gummi Bears and then stop. If I never let them have sweets of any sort, I fear that they might go hog-wild when they do have the freedom to eat sweet foods.

I haven’t felt the need to set a limit on bread/muffin consumption because as I’ve mentioned before, when you have access to homemade baked goods on a regular basis, the urge to overeat is greatly reduced. After all, you know there will be more muffins and more rolls and more homemade bread coming! And though I sometimes make cinnamon rolls and other sweet breads, the majority of the baking I do consists of things like whole wheat bread or hamburger buns. Whole wheat bread is just not as tempting as cinnamon twists are, you know?

My children do not experience the temptation to gorge themselves on the main dish cooking that I do…they’d subsist entirely on side dishes if I let them! So, there’s definitely been no need to set limitations there. We do insist that they eat a child-sized serving of the main dish before having more side dishes, though.

I know that having lots of baked goods around the house wouldn’t work for everyone, but it’s been a happy thing for us, at least thus far. :)

I have wondered before how you have the ENERGY to do all you do. I am ready to nap by 2pm—sooner if I sit still trying to read or something. You are going from before 5am until bedtime. You do all the usual stuff to keep a family going plus refinish furniture, bake from scratch, sew, bless lots of people with photography, blog, homeschool, make freezer jam, devotional time, etc. When I go grocery shopping, I can’t imagine taking cute pictures of my groceries every week and then putting it up. I feel like it takes a long time to just put it away without that extra step. I am glad you do all this stuff but how do you have the energy—lots of protein? You secretly have a maid(ha ha)? Naps? I need a real secret here for tapping into your energy level if you have one.

-Sheila

Hee. No, I don’t have a maid (that wouldn’t be very frugal, would it??). ;) A maid is actually very, very, very far down on my list of wishes and desires because I honestly don’t mind cleaning. I know it’s a good case of mindful spending for some people, but not for me.

And I despise taking naps…even when I had newborn babies, I rarely napped. I just am not a fan, and I have trouble going to sleep at night if I nap. The only time I’ve really napped in my adulthood is during my pregnancies. I had hyperemesis all 4 times, and I was so miserable during the first half of my pregnancies that I tried to stay unconscious as much as possible, so I slept a LOT.

I think I tend to be a naturally energetic person, and I come from a family that is fairly hardworking and ambitious…so, there’s genetics and family culture at work in me. Also, I make sleep at night a very high priority. Mr. FG’s schedule has been all over the map in our 13 years of marriage, but we’ve always adjusted our schedules so that we can get 8 hours of sleep each night. (Right now, that means we go to bed at 8:30 because our alarm goes off at 4:40 and during a particularly lousy stage in his career, we went to bed at 6:30 pm!) I consider a good night’s sleep to be an investment in the next day…skipping that investment would result in lower productivity the next day, so burning the midnight oil would be a foolish choice for me.

I have a simple, short series on productivity in the works, so stay tuned. Hopefully I can be productive enough to finish it soon! ;)

I am such a fan of your blog! I admire your cause and ability to help your family and others through simple and frugal living. I try my best to live this lifestyle to but sometimes find it hard being single. I am a college girl supporting and living on my own. Do you have any posts related to this?

-Lira

I have exactly 0 years of experience living on my own…I lived with my family until I was 19, and then I married Mr. FG and moved into an apartment with him. So, I’ve never lived all by myself, and I am probably quite oblivious to the challenges faced by singles.

And it is true that a lot of frugal living blogs are written by people who are married and have children. However, I’m sure there are great frugal blogs out there written by single people…I’m just not aware of them. Readers, do you have some suggested blog reading for Lira? or do you have some good frugal-living-for-singles tips for her?

Leave a Comment

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa Gubbels August 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

One of my favorite frugal blogs from a single person is Counting My Pennies – http://www.countingmypennies.com/.

Another blog from a single person standpoint is World of Wealth – http://wealthisgood.blogspot.com/. It’s not always the most frugal, but I think she’s just more open about purchases than the rest of us.

The key to finding frugal blogs is to check out the links on a person’s blogroll. Click into each one, subscribe to their feed and filter out the ones that don’t appeal to you after reading for a couple weeks.

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2 Kristen August 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

I just remembered the http://www.saving4later.blogspot.com is written by a single person.

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3 magdalena August 2, 2010 at 9:50 am

I was single and frugal for years – widowed young. Eating out or buying take-out on the way home from work can be a big pitfall! I chose to live vegetarian because meat comes in big packages, and it would spoil or get freezer-burned before I used it. Having roommates can keep housing costs down, but can drive entertaining and leisure time spending up (think their friends dropping by and you doing the cooking, and recreational shopping with the girls). The most frugal thing you can do is not keep a car! Or at least, keep an older, paid-off car running, and drive very little (again, avoiding recreational shopping and traveling except for that one vacation a year.) The price of cars seems to be geared to a double income, and it can be a big drain on your resources. Depending on where you live, renting may be more frugal than buying a home because of maintenance costs. It at least needs to be carefully costed out.

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4 Sarah August 2, 2010 at 10:27 am

It has taken me years to figure out how to eat healthy and live frugally as a single gal. I’ve had to make a few investments and lifestyle adjustments. I’ve invested in several different sizes of the Rubbermaid Produce Saver tubs. Seriously, those things keep produce fresh for weeks. I had a hand held vacuum sealer that was great for buying meat. I could buy packages of multiples, freeze the extras, and pull them out later. Unfortunately, they stopped producing the bags so I’m going to have to buy something else.

Making a menu based on my daily schedule and once a week shopping has also cut my costs. Because my schedule is a little spastic there are days that I will write in a meal out. However, I don’t eat out unless it is on my schedule. Getting into the habit of eating home cooked meals has actually taken away much of my desire for fast food. There are only a few restaurants that I can think about with out getting the dry heaves anymore…

When I work I pack snacks, a meal, or the supplies to make a meal (depending on my shift). When I’m on the road I generally carry fruit, sliced veggies, and greek yogurt for dip. I have several different types of Fit and Fresh containers. These things are great! They have snap in ice-packs so the container is all you carry. No more lunch box or baggies.

Hope this helps!

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5 Elizabeth L. August 2, 2010 at 10:45 am

Lira,
I lived alone for two years during grad school and am currently saving up enough to move out of my parents house and into a big girl apartment. :) I spent the first year of grad school living pay check to pay check and having to occasionally ask my parents for money. I finally began to pinpoint my spending problems and came up with a list of things that helped me save money. They are:

-make a menu plan and a grocery list, buy only what you need off that list, and STICK TO IT!
-after a few weeks of menu planning and grocery shopping, you should have a reasonable idea of what you are spending. Set a grocery/toiletry budget based on that. For reference, I was spending about $25 per week, or a $100 per month.
-Buy only what you need at the store. Sometimes that means buying something more expensive and skipping the bulk packaging which seems cheaper, but really isn’t in the long run. As a single person, you can’t eat it all before it goes bad (this is especially true of produce) and you waste food which is really throwing away money. Kristen has blogged about this before and I totally agree. Buy only what you can eat.
-That said, things that can be frozen such as meat, some fruits, etc – buy in bulk. Chicken breasts go on sale around here for about $1.99 a pound and when it does, I buy lots (like $15 worth!) and freeze each chicken breast individually. If you wrap it up and store it well, you shouldn’t have freezer burn. Blueberries (really any berry) are easy to freeze and can be thawed out quickly or enjoyed frozen for breakfast, snacks, and in smoothies. A lot of people blog about freezing food and eating from the freezer; just adapt the recipes to suit you.
-Watch your utility bills. I live in the deep south, so my electric bill is enormous from about April to October. Just by raising the air conditioner a few degrees saved me tons of money last summer. I also kept it at about 85 when I wasn’t at home. That didn’t mean the air didn’t run, but it ran way less than it would if I kept it at 76 or 78. On that same note, only do laundry when you have full loads and line dry things as much as possible. I hung a clothes line from my balcony last summer; it felt weird, but I was able to save some money that way.

There aren’t that many (as far as I know) blogs about frugal single living, but most of the tips you get from people with families, like Kristen, can be applied to your own lifestyle. It just takes a little smart thinking on your part. Maybe you could start a blog of your own about how you are managing your finances and your goals of living frugally and simply. I know I would love to read it!

Sorry this is so long, but I hope this helps!

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6 Quiet Dreams August 2, 2010 at 10:47 am

I am not very involved in frugal blogs but I did discover “Poor Girl Eats Well” http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/ which is written by a single woman, but mainly focuses on food/cooking (as you can probably tell by the title).

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7 BarbS @ 1SentenceDiary August 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

In answer to the question about energy boosts:

I’ve been trying to follow the advice of Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. She suggests that we should “act the way you want to feel.” It seems counter-intuitive, but, surprisingly, it works! Her post on the topic:
http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2006/09/a_psychological.html

Of course there are specific things you can do to boost energy, as Kristen says. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a health diet, and make exercise a priority (again, it’s counter-intuitive, but excersising *boosts* energy, though perhaps not for the first two weeks).

But even doing those things seems to take energy. I know it sounds weird, but I swear, for me it works: acting (pretending) like I’m energetic makes me feel more energetic. Who wouldda thunk?

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8 Battra92 August 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

As a child my soda intake was severly limited. I was almost never allowed to have it. I had a taste for Pepsi and when I got old enough to buy it on my own, I drank it like it was water. So I agree on the moderation thing entirely.

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9 Sharon V. August 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Here’s a couple more single gals. They have all come to financial blogging through having been shopaholics though, so they may or may not be frugal at any given time, but they are entertaining. The first 2 are Canadian, the 3rd is Scottish.

http://www.givemebackmyfivebucks.com/
http://www.fabulouslybroke.com/
http://shopaholly.wordpress.com/

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10 Emily August 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I believe that the woman who writes this blog:

http://blog.timesunion.com/simplerliving/

may be single. I am pretty sure that she doesn’t have any kids at least.

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11 sara August 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I lived on my own for 6 years before getting married to my wonderful husband. My best piece of advice is to cook, cook, cook! I spent almost $900 in my first month of living alone on eating out! Holy cow!! ;-) (I didn’t cook before then, obviously!) I quickly realized after adding this up at the end of the month that I would not be able to live this way for long! So I learned how to cook. I didn’t like to do so very much at first, simply because it took too much time from my busy schedule between work and school, so I cooked caseroles and dishes that would go further and I’d freeze parts of them for later. And I’d have meals throughout the week simply by cooking a couple nights.

Also, I don’t watch much TV and the shows I did watch back then were available online. So I opted for internet only and watched my couple tv shows on my computer. I had to have internet for school so that was a must.

Good luck in your frugal endeavors! ;-)
Sara

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12 Rachel August 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Advice on keeping it frugal when you live alone: search out free or close-to-free community events (summer concerts in the park, art shows, movie screenings at the library, etc.); avoid the temptation to buy large boxes of cereal or other bulk items that can go stale or bad (I remember eating stale Cheerios for 2 weeks because I didn’t want to waste food.) Also, if you are looking for kitchen or apartment stuff, ask your coworkers, church group, or other social network if they have any extra plates, towels, spatulas, chairs, etc. – my husband outfitted an entire apartment with donated or borrowed goods/furniture. I was fortunate to have a group of friends all in the same financial boat, so we did a lot of potlucks, and cheap or free get-togethers (go swimming, play Frisbee in the park, have bonfires.) My favorite piece of frugal-living advice I received when single was to buy 12-packs instead of 6-packs of adult beverages (Funny, but actually true! This also applies to many other types of products.)

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13 Molly August 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Hi, Kristen – love your site! I have a few questions about your family’s sleep schedules, as we’re working with conflicting/opposite schedules in my house (different work schedules, different body clocks, general busy-ness, trying to spend time together when one or all of us isn’t exhausted). I’m trying to figure out how to make it work better. First, for your husband’s schedule, does he get up for work so early because he has a) an early morning start time, but then gets home earlier in the afternoon, b) has a normal 8-to-5 shift but a long commute, c) works long hours, or d) other? Are either or both of you naturally a morning person or night owl? How late do your kids sleep, and how do you get up and about in the morning without waking them?

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14 Rebecca August 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I too have a hard time with fatigue. I have 3 kids all under age 6, 2 are autistic, non are fully toilet trained yet, and I have fibromyalgia. To keep going, I do a few things. I like having a general plan for my day, I usually think about it the day before. it isn’t written in stone, and can flex around the kids’ needs. Today is laundry, including changing sheets. Thurs is also a laundry day for me. i also want to clean my kitchen today. and do something with all the zuchinni in the garden. So that is what I need to do before I get to take a break for the night. It keeps me going, and I keep a list on the dry erase board on the fridge to view my progress. I love crossing things off. And the occasional diet coke helps too. But only one, in the early pm or I don’t sleep.

It can also help to have a semi set night time routine for adults too. It tells your body its time for bed. I try and get up at the same time in the am and jump right on the elliptical. I hate it, but am very awake when I am done.

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15 Clare August 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I’d like to second the idea that when you have homemade baked goods around the house (even cookies) often, the desire to binge on them really seems to go away.

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16 Jennifer Lorenzetti August 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm

My blog is from the perspective of married/no kids, but I was single until I was 31, and DH was single until he was in his late 30s, so a lot of my advice is from the perspective of a single or small family.

Basically, I advise figuring out the things that you most dislike paying for, then finding effective ways to reduce those costs, bearing in mind that some costs are more fixed than others. I hate paying rent, but it took years to buy my first house as a single. On the other hand, I also hate paying the heating bill, and there are tons of things you can do to painlessly reduce your heat consumption, from using passive solar (windows) effectively to making your own cozy bedding (look up fleece pillowcases on my blog) to make it easier to bump the heat down at night.

Good luck!

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17 Karen S. August 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Kristen
In reading your twitter updates, it reminds me of the “Lord give me the wisdom to change the things I can change…and not the things I can’t…and the wisdom to know the difference” or however that quote goes. In other words you can do what you can do…then, move on :)

Karen

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18 Deanna August 2, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I enjoy this blog:
http://eurochic.wordpress.com/

This is a blog by a single woman who enjoys cooking good, fresh food for herself, on a budget. It’s not a blog about frugality, per se, but the author has that mindset. The blog has followed her work to get out of debt, frustrations and successes with eating fresh, delicious food (with a European accent), experiments with using a CSA as a single woman, and sometimes focuses on her wardrobe choices, her apartment, her dating life or friendships, etc.

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19 WilliamB August 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Some suggstions to live cheaply as a single:
- live near public transportation or walking distance of where you want to go (no car necessary) (my ideal list is public transportation, grocery, drug store, hardware store, public library);
- live in apt surrounded by other apts; with only one side facing the elements your heat and AC costs will be much less;
- get a goodly supply of food containers you can freeze leftovers if you don’t feel like eating them that week; label well and eat later, frex for lunch at work; many things can be homemade and frozen including muffins and bagels.
- alcohol is expensive, most bars will refill a soda for free (please to tip for the refills, though, OK?);

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20 Frugal(er) August 2, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Lira, read my blog! I recently started findmefrugal.blogspot.com precisely because so many of the frugality blogs I was finding were directed to families with small children, and I am nowhere near that life yet. I haven’t been writing for that long, but hope to find my following soon :)

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21 Sara August 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Lira – I read a blog written by a single, college student:
http://www.kaylaksthriftyways.com/
I work with college students and know that it can be difficult to be frugal at this stage of life. Keep working on it!

I also think that there is so much to be learned from reading blogs on a topic that are from various perspectives. I have learned a lot from this blog even though my daily life is different from that of the author’s. I am a mother to one toddler and work outside of the home, but I still find myself having similar frugal goals. For example, we also plan to pay for our next vehicle in cash. Soon there will be no more car loans for us! Keep reading and learning :)

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22 Joy Clark August 3, 2010 at 3:32 am

Hi! I have a blog and live on my own, but it’s not really about single living. However, I do have a few ideas: most of them have already been said though.
A biggie for me is cooking. I love cooking. Recipes usually come as for 4 people. I make them up and then eat the one and freeze three in single portions. That way there’s always the main part of a meal ready and waiting in the freezer. I keep records of what’s in there too, plus the date. In fact I would say the single person’s biggest friend is his/her freezer.

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23 Brie Wallace August 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

I like the views you posted on moderating your children’s diet. Those are such important habits to learn, especially when moderate eating isn’t widely enforced outside the home. I definitely believe that good food in moderate amounts is the way to go!

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24 Lira August 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Wow! I’m so excited to come back from vacation and realize that one of my comments was answered! Thank you all for your wonderful posts and blog links. I must also second that baked goods like muffins and breads have become a staple of my diet…homemade french bread or banana chip muffins anyone? Thank you Kristen for sharing my comment!

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25 Allie August 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Lira, if you’re looking for frugal food tips, you’re welcome to check out my blog. I’ve spent the summer eating on a $10/week budget (and posting about it), and even outside of this summer I tend to focus on frugal eating.

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26 Loretta August 7, 2010 at 4:49 am

This girl is amazing:
http://www.notesfromthefrugaltrenches.com
PS She’s also a Christian.

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27 Amanda August 7, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I was wondering which curriculum you use with your kids. I was homeschooled as a child and my parents used an assortment for us, but I was wondering if you’ve found one curriculum you like for most every subject. Which did your parents use when you were a student?

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28 Lilypad August 12, 2010 at 1:14 am

As far as kids and sugar goes—I do the same thing as you, Kristen. My son has a small serving of something sweet every day with his allergy medicine and vitamins, and since he knows it’s coming, he doesn’t beg me for sweets all day. (It might be a homemade brownie or some pudding or some candy, whatever he’s in the mood for and is in the house.) If we’re out and have an ice cream for special or whatever, he knows that the sweet with his medicine will then be tiny. He recently discovered the “Sweet Factory” store in our local mall (after walking past it for 9 years of his life and never noticing it!) so we bought candy there for the first time. He ate a little bit for a few days and actually forgot about it! The bag is still in the kitchen somewhere—out of sight, out of mind. When I was a kid, I would have sat down and eaten every piece and gotten good and sick over it, and then done it again the next time…

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29 Sarah D February 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I just read in your answer to the young single woman supporting herself through college that you got married at 19!! I know you probably hear this a lot, and I already commented in your Un-Riveting story post about how parallel our lives seem—but I’m just continually amazed at the similarities. I too was married at 19. I was homeschooled, have 4 children who are also homeschooled, I love Aldi, and had a really ordinary (non) “conversion” experience and financial history.

I can say wholeheartedly that I love your blog. It is spurring me on to good deeds–good deeds that I’ve been weary with lately. I stumbled up on this place quite by accident as I was searching for ground beef prices at Aldi. I’ve been in a really low place these last few months, weary with my repetitive, and seemingly mundane tasks. I’ve found encouragement and inspiration here (among other places)–just enough spark to spur me on again. Just knowing that there are others in the trenches just like I am helps me.

Thank you!!

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