The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: When Too Much is Too Much

This post is part two in a four part blog series discussing how to eat well on only $30 a week.  For the first part discussing methods for feeling confident in the kitchen go here.

Once you get confident cooking a whole assortment of new things, you will initially feel proud and excited.  Everything tastes better homemade!  You can’t believe you used to buy bread at the store when it’s ridiculously easy to make at home!  Why on earth were you buying frozen bags of fries when they taste so much better fresh out of the oven?  How could the world allow you to grow up thinking that it was hard to make homemade cheese sauce?  The nerve!

During this period of initial excitement you will no doubt gleefully consume your new discoveries, push them on your friends and then devour the leftovers.  After all, they are the fruits of your labor.  But as time goes on and you get into a rotation of meals (just like you were before you started this adventure) you begin to realize something terrible.

You’ve been eating the same chicken soup for three days, there’s still another couple day’s worth in the fridge and you can’t freeze it because everyone has told you potatoes don’t freeze well.  Which brings us to the next step in eating on a budget: get comfortable eating the same meal three days in a row.

Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: When Too Much is Too Much

The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: Cooking as an Adventure

Before we got married one of the biggest things on our To Do List had nothing to do with the wedding or reception.  It had to do with how we would spend our money.  Working from the format of Matt’s already existing financial plan we discussed everything from rent and student loans to Netflix and spending money.  It was a long and detailed process that Matt could explain a lot better than I could, but the choice we made that day that still shocks lots of people we know was to budget only $120 for groceries every month, or $30 a week.

We did not pick the number 30 blindly or out of thin air.  We based it on our past experiences and plans.  Matt had been eating well for $15-20 a week for two years.  When I had my own apartment in Germany I lived on about the same (I was able to include brie, chocolate, smoked salmon and other unnecessary goodies and only spent 20 Euro a week).  Doubling that would have made no sense because the more people you have to feed the less each serving tends to cost (through buying bulk and so on–this is the “cheaper by the dozen” mentality that really does hold true in real life).  We thought we would try $30 and, with the flexibility built into the budget, figure it out from there.  With rare exceptions (upping the budget by $10 when my sister came to stay with us for a week, and paying an extra $15 a week for 3 months when we signed up for a local CSA) we have not wavered from that original commitment.  And we really haven’t struggled to do it.  Honestly, even as our time has been restricted by more hours at work and being involved in our community, it’s only gotten easier.

So here’s my advice for eating ridiculously well for ridiculously little: feel confident in the kitchen and be willing to experiment with homemade versions of things you might otherwise buy (like tortillas), get to know your local grocery stores’ prices and sales rhythms, write and stick to a carefully constructed list and get comfortable eating the same meal three days in a row.  In this post I’m going to talk about the first piece of advice: taking the time to feel confident in the kitchen.
Continue reading The Art of Eating a Lot for a Little: Cooking as an Adventure

The Beginning

Last week we closed on our new house, and started work. We’ve got a heck of a project list — the first step was to remove carpets.  If they smell like they’re made of dog hair, they go.  The next step is to switch over the utilities, then we have to get oil in the tank, and the myriad of little things that turn a property into a house, from a house into home.






Words of Wisdom From a Daughter In Law

Dear Ms. Patsy Soon-to-be-Frey-Davis,

Having been married to the other Davis boy for the past 4 years, and being as such somewhat learned in the Davis Family Way of Life, I am writing to you to offer some tips to make your transition that much smoother.  Granted, I have no doubts that you will fit right in.  But it never hurts to be prepared.

1) Dad is a great cook.  The stories I hear say, “be glad Dad cooks, because the last time Mom cooked….” I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks.  (However, there are rumors going around about some delicious chicken that Mom made, but that is a tale for another time).  But sometimes, Dad needs a little encouragement.  So compliment him on his cooking at least 80 percent of the time.  The other 20, be sure to agree with his assessment of the meal…so that you can be sure to dutifully sacrifice your palate for the sake of the family.

2) Mom is a great baker.  Especially cookies.  You, having the privileged status of “daughter-in-law” will be able to get cookies from her whenever you want.  You may even be able to get two cakes for your birthday (though I haven’t tried this one yet). Occasionally, you’ll have to bake cookies for her, but it’s a small price to pay to keep the mother-in-law happy.  PS – She likes her chocolate chip cookies on the crispy side.

3) Ice cream.  Learn how to pack it in.  Honestly, the way I wormed my way into the hearts and minds of the Davis family was not because of my kindness or charming personality or anything like that.  It’s because on Sunday afternoons after church, I would make the grocery/ice cream run.  Very simple.  I think that you and Matt may have already one-upped me by learning how to make ice cream cakes, so I have no doubt that you will excel in this department.

4) Sports.  The family is a bit divided here – not in terms of team loyalty, but in terms of actual interest.  Occasionally, Ben and Dad will drift off into their own little sports world, leaving everyone else behind.  Sometimes, the family will gather to watch a game together (but Mom will usually read a magazine or something).  Learn enough about the sport in question (basketball, football, or baseball), and enough about the team in question (Celtics, Patriots, or Red Sox) to mislead Mom when it comes to the rules.  It’s even fun to make up rules to tell her…but you have to balance it with telling her enough real rules to cover your bluff.

5) If you haven’t figured it out by now, politics and religion are acceptable topics at the dinner table.  But honestly, Mom, Dad, Ben, and I sometimes overdo it with church talk, with conversations about the job or about saving the church and the like.  Feel free to tell us to shut up. We have a bad habit of talking shop on our day off.

6) Cupcakes are welcome any time.  Not that you have to buy our love…

Please know that I am available at any time – day or night – to answer any questions you may have about your new place among us.  Welcome to the family!  I’m so glad to be gaining such a wonderful sister.


Melissa 🙂


P.S. Sometimes Dad’s jokes really are funny.  It’s OK to laugh…even though it does encourage him.


Two weeks ago, I set up an entire posting schedule for this blog.  It was going to be twice a week, and half a dozen topics were already written or outlined.  It was going to be easy.  A busy week later, and you can see my neglect, so the first post I saw queued this afternoon when I logged in was a “A Tale of Two Rings.”  Make fun of my literary illusions at your peril.

It is the little details that attract your attention after the fact: the lower left corner of the screen window frame that is busted, and the slight curve of the screen;  The glad assurance that you planned ahead, and kept a little extra cash around;  The happiness that your incipient bank-collapse paranoia a year ago led you to open a second account at a local bank.

The details do nothing to erase the memory of writing another narrative this morning, a new kind, a police report.  Before you panic, last night someone broke into our apartment and stole a handful of items from one room.  At least three other houses nearby experienced the same treatment.

I’m pretty ambivalent about my possessions and have been working on reducing what I own.  Patsy can tell you that most physical objects aren’t important to me.  The loss of the wallet didn’t bother me – I hope someone needs the $12 or so that was in it.  My cards will all be cancelled, but heck, they can always e-mail me — they have a few of my business cards.  A wallet was just a carrier, a container, a bulge in my pocket.  Patsy doesn’t feel quite the same way about her purse, but that also contained her passport, which is a pain to replace.

It was the loss of the precious little secrets that I had left work early to pick up from Williams Goldsmiths in Topsham.  They were the one thing we had planned on forever, the one place where we didn’t compromise, the one piece of real extravagance in our wedding.

Whoever broke into our apartment walked away with our wedding bands.
We’d only worn them long enough to try them on and to know they fit perfectly.

The best way I have to reconcile this is that whoever broke into our apartment must have really needed the cash to feed their family.  The bands will feed them this month.  Is this exactly true?  Probably not, but it is the world that I prefer until the police recover our rings and tell me differently.

As Patsy said as we were standing outside the apartment, waiting for the police to do their work, “First World Problems”.  Despite the loss I am blessed to be marrying Patsy, blessed to be safe, and blessed that I have so many loving people around me.  I don’t know what we’ll be doing about rings, but at this point, what matters is that I’m still getting married to the love of my life, Patricia Frey.

A Tale of Invitations

Most of you who would be reading this know that we’re having an informal wedding.  No tux for me, just shirt, tie and a beautiful woman next to me.  (Hint: The woman’s name is currently Patricia Frey.)  The invitations were a labor of love and crowd sourcing.  So, first, thank you to all of you who helped.

We wanted to go unconventional when making the invitations, to create something unique to us, to create something that represents us.  In the end, we created something uniquely tied to us: a Wordle based on love letters.

If you’re not familiar with a Wordle, it is a way of making a word cloud, where all the words from a body of text are arranged, with their size relating directly to how often they were written.  That with a few tweaks in Photoshop became the front of the invitation.Wedding Invitation Front Side



A Registry

When you get married, it is expected that you’ll be moving in together, and needing a laundry list of new things to set up your household.  You get the toasters, the silverware set, the china, and it all goes into immediate use.  That is the purpose of a registry.

For us though, we’re blessed.  Right before I started living on my own, my grandmother passed away, and with her characteristic generosity and good timing to furnish my entire apartment, from mixing bowls to the wonderful hand-me-down Kitchen-Aid Mixer.  In terms of material possessions, we’re all set.

Despite this, people kept sitting us down to ask about a registry.  What do you what?  What do you need?  My answer, while terribly romantic was less than helpful, since few stores let you list “the love of Patricia Frey” as an item.

After about the sixth person, we finally sat down over Afternoon Tea and developed up with a list.  These are a list of things we want, a dream list, but as long as we have each other, are happy.  We’re just glad that you’re coming, but those looking for the registry can find it here.

Since we’re doing the registry in a slightly irregular way, Jan Davis (my mom) is curating the registry.  If you get something off of it, or want further inspiration, e-mail her at

The Who, The What, The Where of the Blog

This blog is a natural outgrowth of the two of us. We’re abnormal people. Writers. Teachers. Frugal people who try to be creative. We want to invite you to join us in this adventure that we’re about to engage in, and in these steps leading up to a wedding. Until September 25th, this will resemble a wedding blog. You’ll hear about the dress, the party, the choices, the creative fun things we’re doing, mixed in with musing and thoughts. We’ll throw in information, handily tagged “news”. If you’re a geek (or a family member) who wants to stay up on the latest and greatest in Patsy and Matt Frey-Davis’ life, then this is your space.

For a while though, expect to mostly hear my voice, since Patsy is currently a Waterfront Director, Class Taker, Leadership Teamer extraordinaire. Since the non obligated time in my day is measured in hours, rather than in minutes as Patsy’s is, I’ll be writing here.
We look forward to hearing from you in the comments, in person, and every other way.