Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Wrench in the Cheap Grocery Plan

I just returned from the nearest town to take my mother to an urgent care for gall bladder related pain.  Now she's booked for a HIDA scan on Thursday. 

Cheap food is fatty food.  Hotdogritos, mac and cheese, kielbasa, chicken thighs--this diet is killing her.  It's not great for our waistlines either.  My mom and I have reached our peak heavy weights once more.  I'm too scared to weigh myself.  Her weigh-in at the doctor was not good.

So, that's it.  Time to take drastic measures and forget about the budget.  I'm thinking of trying the 'Personal Trainer Diet' again, or something similar.  We'll see.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Driving a Car into Palomas Mexico

This is loosely related to my low-cost grocery posts because I went into Mexico today to get 94 bottles of mineral water for $40.   This should give me water for 30 days (probably a little less).  Ordering carbonated water from Walmart.com was the cheapest option I'd found prior to this.  I could get a six pack of water for $2.99.  Going to Mexico saves me about $8. 

I live a few miles from the Mexican border now.  The town in Mexico has far more to offer than the small border village I currently live in.  There are dentists, pharmacies, a furniture/fixture store, a proper grocery store, restaurants including a Chinese one, and various other stores. 

We went into Mexico a few days ago to buy a bowl, because one of my bowls got broken and I only had two.  While there I went to the grocery store and got a mineral water.  Only $.40!  So I asked if I could get a few cases.  The manager said he'd have two cases for me on Friday if I wanted them.

I drove the car into the border so I could easily transport these cases of water back to the USA.  Driving into Mexico at the Palomas border is easy enough.  You go by a lot of uniformed officers, some with AK-47s who suss you out as you pass. 

There's a building to park at immediately on your left as you go in where you can get your vehicle papers and insurance or whatever.  I did not stop at this building since I was told you could drive within 20 miles of the border without insurance. 

I got to the first intersection.  There's no stop signs.  No lights.  You just have to proceed carefully.  Then I turned left and parked at the lot in front of the grocery store.  This is a market, not a super market, and has only 7 spaces in front.

As we park the peddlers descend on us, having seen our USA plate.  One guy is selling sunglasses.  Anther is selling swing chairs.  As we get out two men start cleaning our windows (without asking, but that's how it is).  My mom tells them in Spanish she'll tip them on the way out. 

In the store the manager recognizes me and I ask him in my weak Spanish if he has the water.  Yes.  They ordered 4 cases of water in the hope I would come back to buy them.  The manager tells one of the men hanging around the store to go into the back and get the four cases.  This man doesn't work there, it's just a guy like the window cleaners hoping for a chance to carry out people's groceries for a tip.

He carries our four cases to the car and the window cleaners help him load.  We give out $6 in tips and then head back to the USA after once again fending off the sunglasses and hanging chair vendors.  (They're not that aggressive, it was worse in Algodones.)

The Palomas port of entry is awesome.  There's hardly ever a line.  We drive through the speed bumps and hand our passports to the border agent.  Another agent takes a German Shepard around our car to sniff it. 

Do we have anything to declare?  Yes.  We declare the cases of mineral water.  The agent goes to the back of our car to look at the cases then waves us to continue into the USA without filling any paperwork or paying any import fees. 

And that's it.  We're back in the USA.  @-@

Monday, April 17, 2017

$400 a Month Groceries and Sundries Part 2

If you're new here start with the first post to understand what I'm trying to do:


So anyway, I'm still at the commune in a rented RV space.  On Sunday my mother and I will present ourselves to the community for official membership and they will have one month to consider us, and then on May 15 they will vote on whether or not we can become members. 

In the meantime I'm in stasis mode.  I've gotten a lot of work done, including a chance to write a pilot for a stop-motion animated program.  Hopefully that will pan out into new opportunities, because I really love writing for TV.

If we're accepted into the commune (and that's still a big 'if', the last two people to try didn't get in) we want to buy a 250sq ft building and make it our Tiny House.  The RV might be sold...though maybe not.  I like the option to get into it and take trips on occasion.  (I just owe so much money on it that it depresses me.) 

Once we have the Tiny House I want to try aquaponics again.  I did it on my homestead in Pahrump and was actually pretty successful.  I'll also be planting fig, pomegranite, and mulberry trees.  And I'll be buying chickens, meat chickens and layers.  I can get 50 pounds of chicken feed out here for $14.  Then...maybe sheep, since hay is cheap too.  These will be the last things if I do them.  I'd love to raise red meat, and there are locals here who will help me kill and butcher.   So, fish, chicken, eggs, lamb, vegetables, fruit--I'll get well on the way of self-sufficiency!!  :D

But, until then, I'm still beholden to the grocery store.  Here it means a 30 mile drive to the nearest populous town or crossing the border to Mexico (which is 3 miles away) and having to deal with customs on the way back.  Yesterday we went the 30 miles.

I'm still trying to do the $400 budget.  Yesterday I did my final grocery shopping trip.  Here is the 2nd half of the month grocery and sundries situation.  Remember, I make the same thing for lunch as dinner for me and my mother.  For breakfast my mom has cereal with prunes and bananas with shelf-stable boxed coconut milk.  I don't eat breakfast.

April 17th - Baked Whole Chicken, Salad
April 18th - Chicken Stir fry on Rice (canned bamboo and frozen broccoli for stir fry veg)
April 19th - Macoroni & Cheese with Canned Tuna and Broccoli
April 20th - Rice and Beans with broccoli and Kielbasa

April 21 - Chicken Mofongo with canned green beans (I was making this wrong, I'll update the recipe)
April 22 - Chicken Curry with Cauliflower and Coconut Milk
April 23 - Penne Pasta with Broccoli and Kielbasa
April 24 - Chicken Fried Rice with chopped Onion and Canned Peas (maybe some carrot too)
April 25 -  Macoroni & Cheese with Canned Tuna and Broccoli
April 26 -  Rice and Beans with broccoli and Kielbasa
April 27 -  Chicken Mofongo with canned green beans
April 28 -  "Golden" (Japanese Style) Chicken Curry with Carrots and Broccoli on Rice
April 29 -  Hotdogritos with canned green beans
April 30 -  Chicken Curry with Cauliflower and Coconut Milk

Why so much broccoli?  The Dollar General in the small village where the commune is has frozen broccoli for $1 a bag.  

Why so much chicken?  Every other protein is too expensive.  I can get a 10 pound bag of chicken quarters for $.87/pound.  Beef and pork are outrageous right now.  Kielbasa can still be bought for $2.50, and canned tuna is crazy cheap.  So that's what I work with.

The baked chicken - If you've ever been intimidated about baking a whole chicken on a weekday, it's easy.  Just cover it with Goya Adobo seasoning powder, leave the giblets inside, and bake for an hour at 400 degrees.  (350 if your at a lower altitude).  Dark meat for lunch.  White meat for dinner. 

Chicken Stir Fry -  I've gotten a new stir fry sauce.  The yellow Sunbird stir fry seasoning packets are LOUSY.  It will make an edible meal, but it's just not that good.  So here's what I got from Walmart.com


Hopefully the bottle will give me two stir frys.

For the Macoroni and Cheese I could have gotten the Kraft boxes for $1 each, but I would need two boxes to make a days worth of food, and the whole grain pasta I like is even more expensive.  By buying a big old box of whole grain shells for $1 and then getting a huge thing of powdered cheese I might do better.  Or not...the cheese was pretty expensive.


Add to the cooked macoroni and cheese three or four cans of tuna and a bag of broccoli or brussel sprouts.  Food for two for a day.

The Chicken Mofongo was wrong last time.  So, here is my new recipe.  Boil potatoes and smash them with chicken broth and Adobo seasoning.  Get a small cup worth and put in a bowl.  Add chicken broth so that you can get a soup with each bit of potatoes.  Season chicken pieces with Adobo and put on top of the potatoes.

The Chicken/Cauliflower curry is a Thai curry and was a big hit when I made it for dinner with some friends at the commune. 
1 pound of chicken, cubed,
1 bag of frozen cauliflower,
1 can of coconut milk,
1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped with the stems discarded,
one table spoon diced garlic,
two table spoons curry powder,
1 cup chicken stock
1 chopped onion,
1 cup chopped carrots
salt and pepper

Cook the chicken with the garlic,  onions and chicken stock in a wok.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the carrots are soft.  To thicken the sauce dissolve two heaping table spoons of corn starch in a small amount of water and stir it in.  Add more if it doesn't thicken enough.

The Golden Curry is using these curry cubes and following the directions on the box.  Serve over rice.


I don't know if this one is going to work out.  I read the ingredients after I bought it and it's a lot of crap I don't like.  I'll still give it a try.

The other recipes are in my last post.

So how am I doing?  Well...not as good as I'd like, but I've certainly cut down on grocery spending a lot more than I usually do.

What got me off track was my need for constant sweets.  I'm trying to fight this people, seriously.  A lot of people with serotonin deficiencies like me self-medicate with candy , since non-fruit derived sugar releases serotonin in the brain.  (Seriously, look it up.)  I crave candy at night when my serotonin dips and end up binging.  Lately I'm trying to have sweets I don't really like, such as marshmallows, so I can get my serotonin boost without wanting to keep eating the junk.

So...what have I actually spent this month, presuming I don't go shopping again?  (And I technically don't need to, but...) 


Ugh...I suck so hard.  However, last month it was $944 total, so I'm sure I'll still make progress.  Here's what threw me off:

EVERYTHING IS BLOOMING HERE.  OMG, my allergies are horrific!  I've had to buy 4 bottles of generic Allegra for me and my mom.  That was $44 I didn't account for.

Greek yogurt will not work as a yogurt maker culture.  I had to buy actual yogurt culture because I couldn't find any plain yogurt locally that would work.  That's $11.

Dollar General Candy and other stuff.  In the tiny village there is a grocery store the size of a 7/11 that closes at 6pm every day, and a Dollar General that stays open until 9pm.  When I get my nightly candy cravings the Dollar General is the only game in town, unless I drive 30 miles to the 24 hour Walmart.  So... I spent $91 at the Dollar General.  x_x  Though not all was candy.  They have stuff like little throw rugs and pajama pants, and when my mom comes with me she'll throw stuff like that in the basket.  So...anyway...that's the major part of my failure.

The rest was just going over budget.  But Rome wasn't built in a day!  Next month I shall do better, and shall keep to $400 for EVERYTHING!!