Sunday, August 26, 2012

With a Purpose

I recently finished Paulo Coehlo's "Aleph". I'm a fan of Coehlo and subscribe to him on Facebook, so I receive a daily inspiring quote. Some people may find him too preachy or too "all iz vell". But I respect him and enjoy his writing.

"Aleph" was a surprise because unlike the magical realism of "The Alchemist," this was all his personal experience. I enjoyed it on one level because it was a glimpse into the life of a writer - dealing with global publishers and fan following.

This book addresses past life connections and how they intertwine into the current life. It was interesting how he said he realized he had transgressions against 7 women from a past life and he interacted with few of them already. He realized that he had to engage with them in this life to resolve the pain carried over from each cycle.

I found this interesting and actually quite helpful perspective. We have such a notion of "one soul mate". I know someone who had gone to a psychic who said her then-husband had been in her past lives too. However, it was a tumultuous connection and they would keep meeting, but they are not resolved. Unfortunately, the marriage dissolved very quickly and they've parted ways completely. He wasn't her absolute soul mate, but they were souls that pulled toward each other.

There's another person close to me who had a committed girlfriend for a few years. This was exciting because she had a positive influence on him. He didn't have a direction in his life, and she really encouraged him to travel independently, continue his studies and find his dreams. During that time, he learned more about himself and gained more momentum. It was a delight to see them together because she received strength from him as well. There was such peace around the two of them.

However, they broke up. They parted amicably as they chose their own paths in different directions. Geographically they did not belong together, but for those few years, they were in the same city. Now, they were being pulled in separate directions (literally, across the country). The romantics in us thought he should've chased her down and proposed, or they both should've at least compromised and looked for alternatives. They are still apart, but quite amicable. Actually, we were all hurt by the break up because it seemed so right.

After reading "Aleph", I feel they were soul mates, but that they had a temporary purpose. They were drawn to each other for a specific period. They needed to help each other and this relationship set the foundation for their future relationships. There isn't one soul mate, but multiple souls becoming entwined. I do feel better about the break up since I know they will both find someone else at a later time.

I think of others who came into my life at various periods, and then they disappeared. At the time, everything fell into place, but then the universe pulls them away just as quickly.

Tips on Saving Money on Groceries - Part 2

Here is the link to Part 1.

Here is your money saving tip - Clean your kitchen!

Recently, I've done some cleaning and reorganizing kitchen areas of friends and family members (who shall remain nameless for protection). We found expired bottles, multiple packages of cheese or oatmeal. The story with the oatmeal is a good one because they don't even eat oatmeal. They had bought it for visiting parents, who left months ago.

What happened to our poor victims happens to all of us - overwhelmed by clutter. When you organize everything, you know where to find things. For these tragic cases, had their space been organized, they may not have bought additional Parmesan cheese or salsa. They would've known there were 3 open already in the fridge.

I'm guilty of overbuying - "Didn't you say we needed ketchup?" and it's more due to confusion or miscommunication.

Growing up, I always cleaned the fridge while my mom went to buy groceries. If you don't have an underage housekeeper of your own, you will have to take that responsibility yourself.

1. Organize the space 
Everything has a purpose and a place. For example, we have 6 rows in our pantry. Starting at the bottom:
1. Potatoes, onions, extra bottles and cans (need to bend a little, but it's ok)
2. Canned food and juices and bottles (these are likely to be used so need to see them easily)
3. Chips, cookies, snacks (these are used daily and right at eye level for us)
4. cake mixes, pastas, spices (just right above eye level)
5. Indian spices, thai curries, coconut milk, packets of surprises (these I need to get the stool for)
6. Extra cereal boxes, boxes of chocolate (man, I need to really climb up on that stool!)

Each row should have a purpose. If you stick your salsa bottles behind cereal boxes and you're going to miss them. And keep buying more bottles, even though you have them.

It is through this exercise that one learns priorities.

2. Clean the fridge before you shop.
  • Leftovers need to be tossed or frozen. If you have a substantial quantity, go ahead and freeze it. Just get some masking tap for a quick label. However, do remember to clean your freezer occasionally. We freeze a lot of food and it's like a nice surprise not to cook on those days that exhaust you (e.g., coming home from a trip)
  • If you don't think you would serve something today (e.g., a piece of 2" square of Gouda from your last party), then throw it out. 
  • If you find you have food items that you bought for someone else, but don't need - Give it away! 
    • I've brought snacks to work (after my picky kid rejected them) or extra fruit that I won't be using, but it was such a good deal.
    • Look for the food banks. By the way, food banks do not just need canned soup. Donate extra boxes of cake mix and Jello.Contribute all those special items too!

Now that you've seen what you've thrown out and what you have kept, you can go shopping with a purpose.

3. Store food  properly
  • Downsize containers and packages. Actually fruit is supposed to be kept in airtight containers, so transfer from the plastic ones from the market. Don't let one serving of pasta in the serving dish take up valuable real estate in the fridge.
  • Don't leave food in tin cans or open bottles - transfer to a proper container with lid. 
  • If you're wrapping up with foil or clear wrap, do it right. Leaving gaps is the same as leaving it opened.
  • Speaking of wasted real estate space, throw out those bottles of expired condiments that line the refrigerator door! Don't confuse yourself into thinking you have dressing, when it's from 2005.

4. Keep a running shopping list. 
We write down whatever we need on a list on the fridge. It sounds mundane, but it really helps. The minute I'm looking for something and realize we don't have it, I scribble it down. I take it one step further and write down the store (e.g., Indian store, Grocery, Costco, etc) so it's ready whenever someone is out.

Disclaimer: our pantry and fridge is not 100% perfect. This is why I'm not attaching photos of our kitchen to this blog. We have our 3 open bags of  chips and crackers that no one seems to eat. However, I wanted to say that it's a constant process, not a one time event.

There is no Refrigerator Fairy. If there were, she would be replacing the moldy salad mix  in the drawer with fresh batch of brownies! Since that ain't happening, I have to clean it up.