th8 Should you boycott restaurants?Over at Midlife Mom Musings, a blogger named Sharon wrote about an unpleasant surprise. The July food budget for her family of four was supposed to have been $700. Instead, they spent nearly $1,700 on groceries and meals away from home.

“I just don’t remember spending that much,” Sharon said.

(Few of us do.)

More than $400 of that was on meals away from home. Manhattan Bagel. McDonald’s. Tropical Smoothie. Chipotle. Texas Roadhouse. Ciros.

“Not even nice restaurants,” she lamented.

They ended the month with a $1,000 negative cash flow — which she freely admits could have been avoided if they’d just stayed within their food budget. To help make up for that loss, Sharon is boycotting all eateries in August.

A no-restaurants month is a common meme in the personal finance blogosphere. Just like “no-spend week” and “cash-only quarter,” it works if you work it – and if you do, you can learn a lot.

Like, say, how to cook with what’s on hand. How to pack a lunch. How to say “no,” whether that’s to kids who want to stop for a smoothie or to yourself when you really, really want a blueberry bagel.

Hey, I love a serving of McDonald’s fries as often as I can get away with it. But eating them every day would torpedo my budget and, maybe, my arteries.


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th6 Junk food: Sometimes it just tastes good.It’s National Junk Food Day, apparently. And me without a single Moon Pie in the house.

In fact, I’ve eaten quite well today. Breakfast was oatmeal made with half yogurt whey and half water and flaxseed, plus half of the last banana in the bunch (shared with DF, because I’m kind like that).

For lunch I had rice topped with roasted vegetables – carrots, broccoli, Walla Walla onions and home-grown turnip, plus a dish of homemade yogurt mixed with a spoon of homemade orange marmalade and more of that flaxseed.

If only I’d known about the holiday. I might have gone to McDonald’s for breakfast and Burger King for lunch. Nothing says “bad for you” like a single meal that holds all calories needed for the entire day (with way too many in the form of grease).

On the other hand, I did eat white rice instead of brown. So am I junking out sufficient to the day?


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th9 The call of the Koolickle.Recently DF came into possession of a special report from the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Land of plenty: Will food save the Delta or be its death?” is beautifully photographed and contains fascinating articles about the foods commonly consumed in the Mississippi Delta.

These range from the expected (barbecue, greens, fried chicken) to the surprising (tamales, kibbeh, Italian, Asian, haute cuisine). A supermarket is the only one in the Kroger chain that grinds its own meat, because the kibbeh consumers demand fresh grind of a specific quality.

This isn’t just a travelogue, mind you. The writers focused on nutrition issues, food deserts and health problems. We also learn about prawn farming, soul food, family-run eateries, blues music, restaurants that turned dying cities into Saturday-night destinations.

And we learn about Koolickles, a Delta delicacy also known as Pickoolas: dill pickles marinated in brine, sugar and double-strength Kool-Aid.

This is the home of the fried pickle, so it’s no surprise that gherkins might receive unusual treatment. But Kool-Aid pickles struck me as both horrifying and fascinating. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

Reader, I made some.


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ImageProxy A coupon app and a $2,500 sweepstakes.Don’t want to clip your own coupons? Let the Favado mobile savings app do it for you.

While you’re at it, enter to win the company’s Summer BBQ Savings sweepstakes. (More on that in a minute.)

Favado is a free app that tracks deals in more than 65,000 supermarkets and drugstores across the country. You make a shopping list right on your phone and then the app uses real-time data to match current deals, coupons and even “secret” sales (e.g., in-store promotions) with what you want to buy.

You’ll get automatic notifications when your favorite products go on sale at those stores – and the list includes markets like Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s and Kmart along with merchants like Safeway and Walgreens.

“Want to save on groceries…easily? Get this app,” advises Emily Weinberger of Good Housekeeping magazine.


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th7 Yet another plastic bags blog post.Washing and re-using plastic bags is a frugality meme that won’t die. Although it saves money and is an eco-friendly thing to do, it’s often derided in a “get a life!” way: You waste all that time and energy just to save a few cents?

I have a few thoughts about that. Washing takes just a few seconds. These bags cost  more than a few pennies each. Finally, they’re made from petroleum or natural gas — a couple of non-renewable resources.

The Bargain Babe website recently resurrected the notion with a post called “21 reuses for freezer bags.” Some of Megan Thode’s ideas are clever but I disagree with some, such as using them to start seedlings, pipe frosting or transport used cooking oil to the trash.

To do those things would mean trashing a perfectly good Ziploc. Can’t play that way.

However, I do think that once bags spring pinhole leaks they can be used for some of her other suggestions, such as matching kids’ clothing or storing board-game pieces.


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