Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Economy, The Spenders and Kale Soup

It's a quandary, isn't it? On the one hand, we have an economy coming to a screeching halt. Many people have lost their jobs, and I don't know about you, but Victor and I know several people personally whose jobs face the very real possibility of being cut. Americans have been living beyond their means for decades -- and that's unhealthy on so many levels, I could fill volumes lecturing about it. Finally, with the economic downturn, there are some signs that people are cutting back! And then you run into that other hand . . . companies are waiting on the edges of their seats -- hoping against hope that people start spending again. Ugh.
The problem is that our economy has been built up, literally banking on people living off credit cards, home equity loans, and living in homes they can't afford for decades now. Forgive me, but it's not sustainable, it's not healthy, and it's not wise to hope that people regroup and continue to live beyond their means!
This brings me to my next point. STOP! Stop spending beyond what you take in and make sure to give some, and save some. For many of us, there is a very real possibility that you could have a lower income, or no income. Now is not the time to go spending everything you have. When I drop Ripley off at school in the mornings, I am blown away (this is in Rhode Island mind you, where the unemployment rate is over 9%) at the line of cars waiting to get their coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I'm sorry if I'm offending D&D owners right now, but this is such a simple way for people to save! And, bottled water, are people really still buying that stuff?? How about fake fingernails and manicures? Honestly.
The sad fact of the matter is that our economy is over inflated beyond what it's citizens can actually support. I'm not an economist, and I'm not even gifted in math, but this is simple algebra that even I can handle. To be perfectly honest, I do hope that our economy shakes down to a realistic, sustainable level. The only other way to keep it at the level it was is for people to live beyond their means. I don't know what that shake down looks like, and I'm sure it's not pretty, but really -- ultimately, it would be best.
It's certainly an issue that's on people's minds. When Ripley and I went to pick Benjamin up from school yesterday to take both boys to the dentist, we walked by two bus drivers talking. One bus driver, a woman in her 40's or so, was showing off a new pair of jeans proudly, twisting her hips around to show them off. Then the other bus driver exclaimed "I thought you weren't going to buy anything anymore!" "No!" the first bus driver corrected, "they were a gift!" The two ladies chuckled and patted each other on the shoulder in support. That made me happy. Really, this is what friends are for (back to that relationship thing I was talking about), supporting and encouraging each other. Holding each other accountable. Lifting each other up when we're struggling or have failed. That is the good and meaningful stuff in life.
For us, we have looked over our budget again. Looking to see, if things were to get worse, what else we could cut, and what else we should cut now -- to save, just in case. Sadly, we decided that our "date night" had to go. It's a pretty big weekly expense, so instead, we will just go out together occasionally. I've also reduced our weekly budget for food, home and kitchen needs to $125, including the milk and cream we get from the milkman. Keep in mind that we have a lot of things stockpiled, so we won't be eating rice and beans exclusively just yet.
One thing we are eating is kale from our garden. What an amazing plant! Here is what I picked yesterday for kale soup.

It's not that dark green, perky, plastic looking stuff you get from the grocery store, but HEY this kale has lived through several snow and ice storms. Here in Southeastern Massachusetts our snow usually doesn't stay long. We very commonly have rain in the winter -- the raw cold kind. So, although it's looking a little dilapidated, our kale is still holding it's own in our garden. Next year I'm going to plant a whole row of fall kale to last for as long as it will, through the winter. It really doesn't do a lot of growing, it just stays green -- and edible! How do we eat it, you ask?

Here's how:

Kale Soup:

  • Drizzle olive oil all over the bottom of a large pot, medium low heat.
  • Throw in 3-4 sliced onions and 4+ cloves of chopped garlic.
  • Add 1 T salt (for large soup pot) and several shakes of red pepper flakes and/or Portuguese Red Pepper Sauce "Pimento de Malaguera Moida" about 1 T.
  • Cook until translucent -- try not to brown.
  • Add in a chicken breast (with bone), a pork chop (with bone), a ham hock, or some other type of broth that you have on hand like chicken (I wouldn't use beef broth from the store, too strong a flavor) -- if you have it. Otherwise just plain water will do.
  • Fill up the pan with water -- but not so high that it bubbles over and splashes on your stove. Bring to a boil, then lower to a nice rolling boil. Cook until the meat is half way done, then . . .
  • Add in about 4 peeled potatoes -- cut them in half if you want them to cook faster.
  • When the meat is cooked - maybe 45 minutes?, pull the bones and meat out (they should pretty much be all in one piece). Discard the bones and reserve the meat, cutting it into small bite sized pieces.
  • With a hand held blender (or transfer to blender) puree all of the potatoes, onions and garlic into a creamy looking broth.
  • Don't forget the Portuguese Chourico pronounced "sure-eese" - of course I like the spicy variety. Chop into bite sized pieces. Add this at some point with the following ingredients. It's already cooked, but gives the broth and veggies a nice rich spicy flavor.
  • Then, add in the remaining ingredients in order of slowest to cook - to - fastest to cook -- all pleasantly bite sized :) -- 2-3 carrots, 1-2 potatoes, about 4 large leaves of kale (spine and stem removed) chopped thinly, about a cup or so of macaroni elbows or break of spaghetti into 1" long pieces into the pot, and throw in your reserved meat.
  • Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  • That's it! Eat with crusty bread. Yumola.


geisme said...

So I clicked on some of your links- a book/website that may help you save even more- - he wrote a book called "I was broke, now I'm not." Our small group did a study of it- & it has helped us.

Making your own bread- I have sourdough starter if you are interested, let me know.
Thanks, -Gail

Sandy said...

I'll check out the site, thanks Gail! I've been wanting to try sourdough bread, sure, I'd love some! :)

The Domestic Goddess said...

A good book about economics that is actually quite enjoyable to read is Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. I can vouch that the Joe Sangl study we did in our small group has really helped us too. Another good resource is Dave Ramsey. If you don't have any money, you should not buy anything! No, really!

Amy said...

Have you thought about going down to 1 cell phone? As a most of the time SAHM I found it was a good thing to cut out. Lately I'm thinking preschool would be a good thing to cut too!

Sandy said...

I'm not ready to give up my cell phone yet. This is all "just in case" things get worse. As it is, we are debt free (minus the mortgage :) ) in within our means, but if things take a turn for the worse we want to have things ready to "hit the matresses" as my dad used to say. But, that is a good thing to put on the table, as is the preschool, and it's on our list if need be! :) xo Sandy

Sandy said...

Now that I think about it, we'd probably get rid of the land line first. As it is, we only have local service. Any long distance is done on cell phones. xo Sandy