October 2, 2011

Budgets, meal planning & the single woman

This post is a few days late as the wedding was yesterday so it is a few days late. All we have to get through now is my move.

Life has been busy around here. The last weekend has a packed one. My other sister and I threw the bride-to-be-sister a bachelorette party, I tried to get some packing complete (not successful at all) and attend "sibs day" festivities. Although exhausting, we had an absolute blast. The wedding is next week and then a few days later I am moving. So, I have a few more action packed days to go but then I will be situated in my new home and adjusting to living alone in a new city. Unlike my three months in Germany, this move has no expiration date. Although I am still nervous, I have been thinking beyond my first weeks of adjustment. My thoughts have lingered on decorating my place (I have a color pallet already picked out), wondering if I should get a small pet (such as a cat to keep to me company...turtles aren't big conversationalists), how to make friends in that city and budgeting.

When living at home, my thoughts on money and how to spend it was not really on my upper most thoughts most times. Now that I a moving, I think the best way to keep a track of my cash intake and outflow is to create and stick to a budget. Now, the problem with this is that I have never actually established or followed a budget in the past. I mean, I created a pretty random budget sheet a while ago but never really followed it but with bills having to be paid, I think it might be for the best.

I have some friends who swear and live vigilantly by budgets and have passed a few spreadsheets that works for them my way. I have chosen one that I think will work best for me and will sit down very soon (I hope this week but with the pending wedding and my move, time is not on my side) to plot my cash flows. I must admit, I am not looking forward to it. I am not a monies girl and do what I have to do automatically with little fuss and muss. My RRSP's are automatic. Savings are automatically withdrawn from my account. Same goes for employee savings plan, any memborships etc. This stuff is done blindly and with no real work from me once the initial set up is complete. Now, I will have to ensure to allocate cash for rent, bills, groceries, and incidentals. Ugh!

Although I hate dealing with money, it will be good for me. As a single woman, keeping a track of my money is important for my future. I have no one to rely on financially but myself so I have to make sure that part of my life is on point. So far, I am doing pretty good but like most things, my finances can be improved. Anyone have any good budgeting tips? Spreadsheet tips/ideas/templates?

Along with budgeting, I have decided to start menu planning. I am a woman that loves to cook and enjoys her own meals. I also adore and find baking meditative. I fear for my waistline but I do have co-workers who do not seem to mind in the least my baked treats (that are mostly whole grain, low sugar, low fat and vegan-ssshh) so I can continue enjoying this part of life and not have to adjust all recipes for one serving. Although, I look forward to doing this such thing a lot. Cooking for one will be a fun challenge I am really looking forward to.

As you all know, I do enjoy cooking as showcased on this blog. I am thinking of creating a cooking for one segment or something along those lines to show that yes, it is possible to eat well and deliciously as a single person. And, as this blog is all about how much I enjoy being single, it makes sense that cooking for one be shown here also.

In the meantime, I plan on shopping weekly or bi-weekly for my food. There are some great markets open in my new town year round and apparently one is approximately seven minutes walk away from my new home, so perfect for me. It is very important to support local and organic and I will be able to do both by shopping at my neighborhood markets. One thing I am unsure about is where I will be getting my other non perishable foods. I am used to grocers that offer lots of organic, vegan options and I am not that confident about the stores in my new city. I will have to do a local run when I move and chose a grocery store I want to frequent.

I have never used menu planning before but after reading a post from Iowa Girls post on this subject, I think it might be a good idea. The one minor issue I had when I lived with my sister was food waste. It didn't happen much but I really want to avoid it as much as I can when I move and the best way it seems is by planning what I will be eating weekly.

I know it might seem silly to plan menus on a weekly basis for a single person but I think it actually makes great sense. Having a plan on what I will be cooking weekly will reduce waste of food and money. Instead of buying a large bag of onions, for example, and struggling to cook them before they start to spoil, it would be best for me to buy one large onion and use it throughout the week. One medium purple onion is a lot cheaper than buying a small pack where half the bag will more than likely be thrown out. At least, this is the plan so I hope it all pans out.

This is not a finance blog and it will not turn into one but it is all about my experience being a single woman so I might chronicle some of my spending activity. I am mainly thinking grocery shopping excursions. As well as my grocery experiences, I will also be showcasing some other aspects of my life such as my sewing projects, decorating adventures and staycation excursions. Yes, I said sewing and no, I do not sew right now. My mother is a great seamstress and my sisters and I clothing were made by her when we were kids. But, no matter how she tried to cajole, none of us took to the sewing machine. I have very little patience in life and if something takes too long, I want nothing to do with it. So, when my mom tried to show me how to sew years ago, I watched on glazed eyed and snuck away once the phone rang. I HATED sewing.

Well, why am I venturing to start now? Well, mainly as something to do. Living alone and working at the part time job every other weekend will leave me with a lot of time on my hands me thinks, so I thought I might as well learn a craft. I already have a sewing machine (which I got for my birthday years ago but remains untouched) and have started to rev up some interest. Actually, my interest is really piqued. There are a few really simple projects I would like to start off with which I will be showing casing (this will either be good or really bad and embarrassing) here on this very blog.

That's all I have for now in terms of life updates but I am so looking forward to next Tuesday. Ok, I'm off to pack my room and be productive.


eleanore said...

This new life phase sounds very exciting. And there's certainly no downside to learning a new skill...especially one that can keep you looking stylish at a really low cost! :-)
-The Spinsterlicious Life

Jummy said...

I learned a lot from this post including the fact that you have (at least) two sisters! I always thought you had one.

I too have friends who are almost OCD with their budgets but despite them sharing their budgeting tricks with me, I've never adopted their methods (or any method; no surprise there!). Like you I have a lot of automatic withdrawal and stuff so I don't spend too much time thinking about that stuff.

Good point about waste. I'm lucky to have my family about 15 minutes away so I usually bring over what I know I won't use before it spoils, including onions, milk, and other things I find at a good deal and can't resist buying too much of.

Starting a section on cooking for one is a grand idea. I recently made a large batch of chili and split it into about six servings, kept two in the fridge then froze the rest. That "make a large batch and freeze the excess" is a plan that seems to work for me, especially since I'm not in love with cooking or being in the kitchen: this way I can cook enough meals to last a few days and minimize my time in the kitchen.

I came across a BlogHer blog entry talking about cooking for one...let's see if I can find it. Here's the link.

Oh I'm excited to see what you'll share from your sewing adventures! Hurray!

Hope your sister's wedding went off without a hitch!

Rhona said...

eleanore, thanks. i am excited also!
Jummy, thanks for the link. im going to check it out after i write this. i am sure i will be cooking things in large batches also such as chillis and sauces etc. yep, i have 2 sisters and an older brother.

Jane said...

This is something that is on my mind often. I'm a full time student as well as working mostly full time and as a part time performer. I try to make at least one big batch of something every week. I freeze half of it and then package up single servings of the rest of. It gives me something to fall back on those days when I just don't quite feel up to cooking.

I enjoy your blog very much!

Moonwaves said...

I set up my own spreadsheet a good few years ago and, taking some tweaking over the years into account, I still use the same one. That was my don't get into any more debt and get out of the debt I'm in budget though. Which to a certain extent involved my allocating money to all of my fixed expenses and then whatever was left over got divided by the number of weeks in the month and that's what I had to spend on food, birthdays, going out, holidays etc. Now that I'm nearly out of debt (finally!), I've realised that I need a different tack. Like you, I've seen various spreadsheets over the years from different sources. None of them really clicked with me though until I found the one in this blog post: http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2009/05/04/how-to-set-up-a-budget/ - I've been playing around with it for a while and will start using it in earnest soon.

The one linked to in this discussion is one I just found a few days ago but I quite liked it too: http://www.askaboutmoney.com/showthread.php?t=145557&highlight=budget+spreadsheet

First step for budgeting, as I'm sure you already know, is to keep a spending diary for a few weeks (a whole month if possible).