So far, summer has been crazy busy, and the red in my budget reflects that — especially when it comes to food. I’ve identified a few issues:
Problem: Wasted food. Fresh produce is suddenly available, but I need to work on my timing. I missed at least two meals’ worth of asparagus from our garden, for instance, because I forgot to harvest it in time. While home-grown vegetables are (arguably) free, letting them go to seed in the garden or wilt in the fridge means having to buy something else.
Solution: Use my food resources wisely. I’m making more of an effort to use fresh fruits and vegetables when they are available and save the non-perishable foods for another day.
Problem: Winter’s over and life is good! Getting through winter is cause for celebration (especially in Vermont), and right now I’m celebrating — frequently. For example, I was so happy about going to the garden center last week that I stopped at the bakery and got a bagel and coffee for the ride. We’ve gone out for ice cream several times, because we’ve been cooped up all winter. We order pizza and eat on the porch because, hey, it's summer.
Solution: Settle down, girl. It’s great that summer finally came. And while I’m giddy with the sunshine and flowers and long days, I don’t need to mark every butterfly sighting with a treat. The beautiful weather IS the treat.
Problem: I’m sooo busy. Work has been crazy lately. And at home, the vegetable gardens need all the attention I can give them. I just don’t have the time or energy to cook like I do in winter. Things I regularly do in January — such as plan for leftovers on weeknights so I don’t have to buy lunch the next day — have gone by the wayside. I stop at the store almost daily to grab last-minute dinner ingredients, and usually end up buying things I don’t need.
Solution: Plan ahead. This is a no-brainer. This past weekend I planned three meals (it’s a start), taking into account what the garden might yield. Five minutes spent on a Sunday jotting down meal ideas saves me time, money and trips to the store later in the week.
Problem: Waah, I don’t wanna worry about the food budget right now! I have a hard time reconciling my childhood memories of summer as lazy and carefree with the reality that these days, it’s anything but. I've identified ways to rein in the food budget. But can’t I just let things go for once?
Solution: Budget in some breathing room. Last year, I budgeted extra food money for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it made the holidays much less stressful. Maybe I’ll do the same for next summer. I don’t think I’ll ever call summers “lazy” again, but I could use a little bit of “carefree.”
Do you find your food budget harder to manage in the summer, or is it just me? Please share your struggles — and your solutions.