Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eating right, exercise, and some other things

My last post was Sunday, but my second-to-last post was four weeks ago today. I want to explore the reason I dropped off the face of the earth, and then move into some idle musings.

The post was about killing my 401k loan. (It's dead now, by the way.) I did some pondering afterward and decided that the Toward Mustachianism pendulum had swung too far toward talking about money and debt, and not enough about frugality and spending. I made up my mind to go through all my spending since around May and do some analysis, maybe some descriptive statistics about spending per month across a few categories. I haven't been trusting Mint much for veracity — it feels like there are instances where Mint is mis-categorizing purchases, which may throw off my findings.

I went to the source of all my spending data: my credit card statements. Two cards (for my personal spending only, not counting joint expenses), and about six statements. I copied the tables into Excel and started doing some formatting. And after about 20 minutes I hit a mental block.

I kept those Excel documents open on my computer for weeks but I kept avoiding them. Something about the task was unappealing, I guess. And in avoiding the task of analyzing my spending, so too I avoided the task of writing consistently.

I don't like it when I'm not writing consistently. My goal going forward is to write at least something each week, even if I've got a mental block on the thing I ought to be writing about. And even if it's not perfectly on-topic.

Which brings me to my next point: I've started cooking lentils again. Meals over the past month have been characterized by a noticeable lack of planning. The monthly grocery spending numbers are still in the $200-$300 ball park, though I know we could be doing better if only we tried. Last week I started trying again.

I've made two batches of red lentils, 2 cups dry each time. The first time they were a bit mushy (which they say is common with red lentils). Here's the solution I found: 1.5c water per 1c lentils, season the water and bring to a boil (but don't add salt yet!), add lentils and bring to a boil again, but immediately turn the heat as low as possible after it boils again. And leave the cover on for the simmering. And keep your eye on them so they don't over-cook. Add salt at the end if you're into that sort of thing — I'm not sure what about the salt makes lentils mushy when cooking, but it does. That recipe is simple enough that I don't need to write it down to remember it, and that's the way I like recipes.

Those two batches of lentils made 6 lunches, if I recall; three included rice, from a 25lb bag from Costco. We've had the red lentils for months: a 5lb bag couldn't have cost more than $7 at our local international market. Including seasonings, each lunch couldn't have cost more than $0.50, though I'm totally guessing in case you can't tell. If I recall, the per-meal cost target is $1, so I've got a good safety margin for lunches at least.

I missed eating lentils. They're delicious, and the protein and fiber combination keeps me full longer than I'm used to. That cuts down on snacking on high-carb junk.

And I've gotten back into the swing of biking. I'm biking to work 2-3 times a week and I'm loving it. The weather has been even more beautiful, and avoiding the commute by car is becoming a bigger and bigger benefit in my mind. And I can't help but think of how much better I'm being to my heart by getting some moderate exercise a few times a week.

My company was awesome enough to host a CPR refresher course, which I took, and which got me thinking about cardiovascular health. Heart disease runs in my family and I think there's a reasonable chance I'll have a heart attack before I'm 60. Anything I can do to give me better odds is something I should be working on wholeheartedly, pun intended.

Just another bullet point to add to the "Reasons You Should Be Biking" column.


  1. Ahh, the wonders of cooking with salt. The lentils turn up mushy when cooked with salt because salt raises the boiling point of water. You seem to have solved the issue by adding salt afterwards, but you could also just cook it for a little less time.

    1. Tricky. I'll try it both ways as I experiment with cooking different kinds of lentils and beans. Now I'm thinking I can use salt to my advantage when cooking dry beans. I usually have trouble getting them as soft as the ones from a can. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the lentil recipe. I eat green lentils
    often. I will have to try the red lentils soon.

    Keep up the biking!

    1. I've only tried brown and red so far. I'll have to give green a shot.

  3. Great to see you posting again. I know your mind wasn't in the right place to post but I think it would've been bery interesting to read about your troubles in facing your Excel spreadsheet and what you hoped to get out of it.

    Welcome back, and congratulations on the EE bonds. 4% guaranteed return is awesome.

    1. It's good to be back. I'll get around to posting more spending numbers some day, hopefully soon.