$1 Meals: Lunch of Legends (on a budget)

 

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites”
William Ruckelshaus

My goal is to feed our entire family on buckmeal. What is buckmeal? Never eaten it? Im not surprised, but it is actually pretty easy to bring lunch to a plate for $1 (buckmeal….get it?…oh well). Here are a bunch of lunches that are delicious, nutritious, easy to make and cost less than 1 slide.

In writing this I’ve assumed that you will have to buy all of your ingredients, but of course if you have a garden and a little time to farm it your lunch might hit the plate for a lot less than $1!!

If you missed $1 breakfasts you can hit it here.

First off my staple midday meal.

Potato salad. Sometimes I get sad. Then I remember there are like 300 potato recipes! You could have a different potato salad recipe for a lot of years without repeating. My staple goes something like this: 2-3 medium potatoes roasted steamed, or microwaved. Allow them to cool. Cut them in to giant chunks. Mix in some red wine vinegar, some green onion or red onion and a teaspoon or two of whole grain mustard. Sometimes I add corn or leafy greens or whatever. You could live on the humble potato. It has almost every nutrient so don’t worry about vitamins, minerals or macro-nutrients. Just hit potato salad.

Potato wedges. Oven bake without oil. Dunk the cut spuds in water. Dry and bake. Serve with homemade salsa or my favourite Baba ganoush!

Sushi. Make it at home for under a dollar. I add a mix of veges. Truthfully sushi is a sometime for me and usually when I have seasonal vege to inject without having to buy them.

Frozen burrito. You read that right. See the dinner menu for the recipes, but I separate and freeze a few left overs from the 10 pack of tortillas. When I worked I’d whack them under a sandwich press, plonk them in the oven or worst microwave. If you need to do this option then put in a coffee mug with some water to stop them going soggy.

Rice bowl. Cook up some rice. While that is cooking dice vegetables and biff them in the pot. I like to add tumeric to make the rice yellow. I also prefer to use basmati rice because it separates out and doesn’t look like a clump of goo. For level up points and if budget allows add a little soy sauce, siracha, or pickled vegetables. I like to keep a jar of picked carrot or whatever in the fridge. To make that just use the peeler to make carrot wafers then put sugar, water and vinegar in a pot. Boil it up let it cool a little then tip it in a jar with carrots and seal it. A little pickled carrot or radish or whatever can really nail a simple rice dish.

Last is the humble sandwich. I don’t really dig sandwiches all so much, but you can easily deliver a couple of sangas (sammos or sandwichs) for $1. I don’t favour them because I feel like there are two foods that humans cant stop eating. Bread and chocolate. If you open a loaf or a bar of family sized chocolate it will almost always be eaten within an hour and leave you feeling hungry. My solution is that I biffed both out of my diet and I feel a lot better for it. Neither delivers much nutritional value.

Hope you got at least one useful lunch idea. If you missed that breakfast post you can check it out here.

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$1 Meals: The Breakfast’s of Champions (on a budget)


“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food”

Paul Prudhomme

 


If I had a million dollars to spend on a breakfast I’d probably eat some beans and save the money. I enjoy my breakfast everyday and I don’t really feel the need to vary too much. Just a little variation to keep life interesting, but flag having to come up with something new every morning. What a waste of mental energy.

A few posts ago I wrote about living on a $3 dollar meal budget. Even when I wrote it I thought that budget was somewhat exborbitant if I’m honest we actually live on a lot less. So look out for the next two editions in this series of posts on breakfast, lunch and dinner for under a dollar.

 

First up a bowl of oats with raisins and sunflower seeds. Soak the oats overnight and heat in the morning. Some days I add a date puree (just dates boiled in water and blended).

A can of beans or fresh beans. I flavor them savory, or in a tomato sauce. If you want to eat a can of beans everyday you are going to have to be smart with your shopping and buy a truckload when they are on sale. Equally you can avoid that capital outlay by buying dried beans and cooking them. Beans take time, but I have it and I enjoy them so it works for me.

Pancakes are an easy dollar meal. Just some flour, sugar, no egg powder. I have found I can buy $10 maple syrup and still make pancakes for less than a dollar. You can add seasonal berries and fruit if you have another  25 c to spare.

Hashbrowns are another favourite. Just grate potato pat dry with a cloth or paper towel and then bake in the oven. Serve with some salsa. You can buy or make the salsa since the potato probably only costs you about 30-40 cents. Best part is healthy browns with no oil dripping from them. Season the hashbrown mixture with some sage, or dill, or basil  for level up points.

A breakfast burrito. Grab a bag of flatbread or wraps. Usually a couple of dollars for a 10 pack. Add some chickpeas and lettuce and some Indian spices or try potato (or sweet potato) beans and vegetables. Wrap and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Delicious and less than one pinga per serve!

Smoothie. I use either coconut water or orange juice base. Buy a packet for $1 and use a 5th in each smoothie. Some days I add a celery, a carrot, an apple, some kale and the base with some extra water (maybe some lemon juice too!). Other days I’ll have apple, a banana and some mango or maybe apple, a banana, pear or peach and a couple of dates. Other days I’ll add blackberries or blueberries. My smoothie recipe varies a lot. We get carrots, apples, kale, pears, peaches, blackberries and grapefruit from our garden when it is seasonal, but even if we buy from a grocery store we can easily make a breakfast blend for under a buck with smart shopping skills.

I eat all the breakfasts on this list, but truth be told mostly have I beans or oats. I find they are good ways to start my day.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas to become excited about dollar dinners. If you want the exact recipes for any of these suggestions leave a comment and I’ll reply in the comments section.

Hakuna Matata.

 

Radically transform your experience in one week


“Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you”
Prince



For the next week (that’s 7 full days) click the off button on all of your digital devices from the time you arrive home from work until you wake up the next morning.

Turn off your mobile phone.

Turn off your PS4, your laptop, your Blu-ray player, your tablet, that ipod, the TV, and your sound system.

Instead of screen time fill the space with anything at all that doesn’t involve a digital screen or digital noise.

Make something. Write with a pen and paper. Read quietly. Sit and wonder at the stars. Talk to your spouse. Play with your children. Meditate. Think. Be.

Do something that doesn’t require a digital input.

At the end of your digital holiday take stock of the experience.
Is this something you would enjoy more regularly or periodically? Are there any changes that you need to make that could improve the quality of your life.

I have found when the noise dies down I am able to focus and put my efforts towards the 20% of things that will move the needle.

Why do we pay a massive amount of loot for things that are free?


“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor”

Sholom Aleichem

 

It occurred to me recently that everything in my life that I pay a lot for is actually a free resource sold to me at an outrageous price under an oligarchic system.

Start with energy. Energy is abundant and completely free. It falls from the sky everyday completely free. It warms our face and jostles our hair. There is abundant free renewable energy in the sun, the wind and the oceans but the very fact that it is free ensures we will never have the opportunity to enjoy completely free energy. Instead we are sold expensive utilities that burn dirty fuels or require massive thermal or hydro electricity infrastructure which we are charged royally for the privilege of using.

Think water. Clean water is an abundant free resource covering the majority of the planet. It falls from the sky. Instead of keeping our natural aquifers and streams clean we allow companies to tip toxins in and pollute our waterways to hell. Then we buy expensive chemicalized soup sold to us as clean water, but it really harbours all manner of toxic ingredients like flurorides, nitrates, arsenic, heavy metals… and again we pay royally for the privilege of drinking this crap.

Next food. It grows in the ground in abundance in most soils given access to a little clean water. In small communities we can easily produce the sparse number of calories we need to thrive on a plant based diet. Instead we buy all of our food from unethical mega markets that destroy environments for profit. This is compounded with the environmental devastation of animal agriculture. Yet again we pay an absolute fortune for something that is essentially free if you a prepared to put in a little effort and get a few of your fingernails dirty.

Now transport. Walking is good for your health, enjoyable and free. Instead of designing cities around walking we have built environments where we need signs that read ‘watch out for pedestrians’ like humans outside of a motor vehicle are some alien race that shouldn’t even exist. Once again we’ve been fooled into a lifestyle where we live miles from anything useful and have to spend hours of our lives and hundreds of our dollars in transit.

It perplexes me why we put up with this structural larceny. Mostly we have an eye for a deal and in the main enough courage to stand up to ripoff merchants and ask for our money back when a product or service fails to deliver fair value. Yet when it comes to the big stuff in our lives, the free stuff that we are charged through the teeth for, we whine about our utilities or expenses, but mostly we never question the validity of these gigantic lifestyle transactions. The reason for our apathy is that we are carefully programmed little robots. We are inculcated in cultist behaviour from birth. We are set upon at a very young age to expect to have to work to pay dearly for our lives. We are programmed to focus on hard work and increasing our income to pay for ever more exorbitant living costs. Quietly and meekly we go. We do as others do. We’re scared to stand out. Squeak. Squeak.

If your family is currently struggling to pay for the costs of life you need to seriously consider why you must rob your family for these resources that are free and should be shared freely. There are any number of possible actions, from protest to social reform to collective refusal to pay to attaining these resources much cheaper or completely for free. Any of these actions are positive and significantly better than paying your bills mindlessly.

Rent or buy? Is owning your own home a financial mistake?


“I figure if I have my health, can pay the rent and I have my friends,
I call it ‘content'”

Lauren Bacall

 

The shared narrative goes something like this.
Grow up.
Study.
Get a good job.
Find your soulmate.
Buy a house together.
Have kids.
Retire.

That’s a cool dream, but a reality check on that path is one must understand that the numbers rarely support buying your own home as a good financial decision. Basically, it’s almost always better to rent.

Why?

Let’s imagine you own a nice 3 bedroom house, in a good neighbourhood, in a good market. You plan on paying off that mortgage of $350,000 over 25 years. On 6% floating you will pay $676,124 for that place that is only worth $350k. Contrast that with renting the same house for 25 years. If you rented the same home for 25 years you will likely pay between $17,500 pa ($437,500 over 25 years) to $24,500 pa ($612,500 over 25 years). That is a straight up saving of at least an extra $100,000 in your account and we haven’t even factored in property tax or maintenance costs yet. Property tax is included in your rent, but we need to add it on top of the $676k you will gift to the bank to own that $350k house. Property tax where I live is around $3800 per year increasing annually faster than inflation. Ignoring inflation this expense will add another $100,000 to the bottom line bringing the total up to a whopping $771,124 over 25 years.

Now lets talk maintenance and renewal. Both are included in your rent. When the roof leaks in a rental it’s your landlord that has to fix it before you move somewhere better. When you own the home you have pay for the upkeep. We put aside around $4000 pa for each of our properties. $3000 is spend every year on basic day to day maintenance. This is simple do it yourself stuff like painting, replacing the odd bit of decking timber, fixing spouting and so on. The other $1000 we save for heavy maintenance and renewal. Over 10 years this allows a budget of around $10,000. It’s not quite sufficient if you need a new roof or a major structural replacement like repiling or reinstating a rotted wall cavity, but it covers most things and its generally enough of a cushion to softens the impact of the really big bills.

Unfortunately this $4000 per year adds another $100,000 to the bottom line so that house just cost you $871,000 compared to say $500,000 in rent over the same period.

About now you are probably thinking that once you have paid off your home it becomes a good financial decision.

Nope sorry it doesn’t.

Now you have $350,000 of your cash tied up in an illiquid expense. Notice I didn’t say asset. An asset makes money. If your home was a rental giving you income then that’s a different deal, but its not. Your home is still going to cost you $8000 every year you own it. Maintenance and property tax. The money tied up in it is also an opportunity cost. If you saved $350,000 and had it in a investment making a paltry 6% you could draw a living cost at a safe withdrawal rate (5%) which works out to an income of $17,500 per year. Put another way that is about what you’d be paying in renting a house. Now all you’d need to earn each week is a little living and fun money. Probably so little that you don’t need the office anymore. If you have managed your life around simple living principles then chances are you could nab this loot working part-time, in a casual gig like singing in a pub band or from a small hobby business.

Hello freedom. Bonjour laziness!

Key takeaway message: It will take you 25 years of work to pay $800k for a house only slightly over a quarter of that value, but you could have saved $350,000 in 1/3 of the time. That’s 8 years or less to leave the office permanently. Just by making one lifestyle choice. Level up points if you are already thinking that perhaps you don’t need to live somewhere that rent is expensive if you didn’t need to go to the office everyday.

I hope this article helped. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

If you’ve read this far you may also enjoy:
A nifty way to buy that house
Right size your residence: How to build a thermonuclear money bomb
Critical Advice for anyone buying a house

How to start a profitable business without a good idea


 

“If you have one good idea, people will lend you twenty”
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

 

Sitting in a bland corporate office, usually bored beyond belief, I often daydreamed about starting my own business. Work is almost always boring so I fantasized about this a lot.  Sometimes when work was completely soul destroying I’d get more serious about finding a start-up venture so I’d spend entire weekends hunkered over a battered notebook racking my brain for that 1 good idea.  Over a long period I scribbled enough ideas in dog eared pages to fully fill the journal. For all that effort I still wasn’t in business. I didn’t come up with a single idea that I could actively pursue to completely change my life.

I want to warn you not to waste your time trying to find a great idea. Truthfully your ideas probably aren’t all that good (how’s that for honesty?). The good news is that you don’t even need a good idea to be in business. I discovered that there really was only 1 thing I needed  to be in business and it wasn’t a great idea.

The only thing we need to be in business is 1 paying customer. If you have a customer paying you then you are in business. It’s really that simple. Focus on finding just one paying customer and you will discover that great idea quite simply.

The great idea comes out of addressing a need of a potential customer. That’s where the best ideas come from and the bonus is that you will have some certainty that this is an idea you can really make some money off of. If you are stuck in the great idea loop try shifting your focus from that 1 great idea to finding that 1 paying customer. For me it was the difference between getting into business for myself and forever being stuck on the sidelines waiting for a revelation to bowl me over.

 

Is socially responsible investing impossible?


“Successful people have a social responsibility to make the world a better place and not just take from it”
Carrie Underwood



I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it’s possible to invest ethically.

If you have a portfoliio you may want to invest in companies that are good to people or good to animals or good for the environment or all three. Trouble is socially responsible investing is much harder than you think. In practice my experience has been that it’s virtually impossible.

When you are investing you need a good return. That return has got to be better than the interest rates of a term deposit or why bother taking the risk? Then how ethical are we talking?

Most companies are a mixed bag. They make planes that help you to get around, but they pollute and another arm of the company makes military planes. Some are sold for peace keeping to one group while another group buys them for genocide. All from the same company. Meanwhile the commercial plane plant is taken off shore to the lowest bidder. People work hard for very little money and there are a lot of people out of work in the town where the plant used to be. Conditions of work in the new factory might be terrible and child laborers might be a major part of the workforce.

My view is that ethical investing is noble, but impossible without compromise. No company is the perfect mix of profitable and socially responsible. However, the act of simply considering who you are going into business with is a massive step forward from where we are now. Caring is key. Investing with a completely decoupled view solely focused on making money is never going to help change the world for the better.

What are your thoughts? Is it possible to invest in a socially responsible way?