An evening of tightwaddery, or, working the second shift

Following a happy (and slightly obsessive) week of reading Amy Dacyzyn’s Complete Tightwad Gazette, I decided to have an evening of tightwaddery. As you will be able to see from the retro nature of my kitchen decor, I don’t live high off the hog by any means, but I figured it would be fun to give some new things a try. My cupboards were bare, so I focused on frugal food.

Oh, and before we embark on this timeline, you’ll find more on the “second shift” here. Sigh.

5:30. I got home from the first shift, my full time job. I tidied up from breakfast a little, got changed, grabbed my pannier bags and headed out on my bike to the grocery store. I brought along a notebook, half planning to see what it’s like to make a price book. The price book is the cornerstone of the Tightwad Gazette approach to buying groceries, which can be boiled down to:

1. The “pantry principle” – buy food only when it is cheapest to do so, and plan your meals based on what you already have in the pantry (pages 474-6)
2. Keep track of the cheapest grocery prices in a price book, which lists the prices for staples at all stores in your local area. Plan shopping trips accordingly (pages 33-34).
3. Avoid processed food and eat foods in season (sprinkled throughout the book).

5:30-6:15 – grocery shopping

I already practice #3 on the above list (being a good reader of Animal Vegetable Miracle and the daughter of a man obsessed with root vegetables), and I keep a fairly well-stocked pantry as well. On this trip, however, I paid a bit more attention to stocking the pantry rather than meal planning, and bought multiples of several canned items that were on sale, potatoes, plantains (cheap!) and little else.

This was cheap. And REALLY REALLY HEAVY.

6:15 – 6:30 – Make bread, Part 1

Even without the influence of the Tightwad Gazette, I tend to bake bread rather than buy it. I find that I can easily make a batch three loaves of bread every two weeks or so. The bread tastes way better, so I look forward to breakfast in the morning, and I prefer to bake rather than go to the bakery. Some people think I’m crazy for doing this, and I admit that I was stupid for doing it while going to grad school and working part time. But now, thanks to the joys of 9-5, I’ve gotten back into the habit. The Tightwad Gazette, of course, advocates baking your own bread, and even includes a detailed analysis of the cost-breakdown of the bread machine versus the old-school method (pages 455-458).

This week, however, I did things a bit differently, and supplemented my normal recipe with some cold cooked oatmeal leftovers that I had in my fridge. Following the basic recipe for whole wheat bread in the Joy of Cooking, I proofed the yeast, and then added the oatmeal to soak a little:

6:30-7 p.m.

While the bread dough was soaking, I made some breaded chicken thighs (making your own convenience food – pages 422-5) and put on a pot of potatoes (pages 187-88) to boil.

Then I added the flour to the oatmeal mixture:


and set the dough to rise:


It was a bit softer than normal, and seemed to rise more quickly.

7 to 7:30 – I finished cooking my chicken, mashed potatoes and asparagus, ate it, and put the rest away to eat for lunch at work the next day (of course, the Tightwad would approve – see pages 133-6). By this point, the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off, and I did two sinks’ worth of dishes (for an analysis of the cost savings of handwashing versus dishwashers, see pages 404-6).

7:30 – 8:30 – I punched down the bread and put it in loaf pans to rise. In light of the Tightwad Gazette approach to processed food (and feeling slightly self-punishing?), I had decided not to buy crackers at the grocery store. Instead, I decided to make homemade cream crackers, using some cream that I had in the fridge that was on the edge of going off. Since moving into an apartment with an extremely tiny fridge, I’ve found that I waste far less food than I used to. This article on food waste in the Toronto Star is pretty alarming.

I used the recipe for Cream Crackers in How to Cook Everything. The dough was easy to make, but pretty difficult to handle, and it was hard to roll the crackers out thin enough:


While the crackers were baking, I did another load of dishes and tidied up the living room.


In order to conserve the energy from heating up the oven (pages 206-7), I put the bread in to bake directly after the crackers. I did another load of dishes, cleaned the bathroom, put away the remainder of the groceries, and collapsed onto a chair to read for a half hour before going to bed.

Here’s the bread:


By the end of the evening I was feeling,
– utterly and completely exhausted, with legs shaking and a mild feeling of nausea
– totally sick of doing dishes
– mildly satisfied with the results of my baking, but annoyed by the crackers, which took at least twice as much labour as the bread, and didn’t even turn out very well
– reassured that I lived pretty frugally anyways, and didn’t need a book to tell me how to conserve energy, not waste food, and check the unit price when grocery shopping

and most interestingly, I think, I felt frustrated and angry by how tired I was for fairly little return, especially because I knew that I would just have to do all the same housework again soon enough (ok, except the crackers, which I will not be making again). I had just worked the second shift, and I wasn’t feeling very liberated.

and I was too tired to bother making a price book.