A Simple Life Doesn’t Have to Mean a Cheap Life

When you say the simple life, often an image arises of living on a farm, shopping only at garage sales and Goodwill, and buying food in bulk at a discount place. But, this is not the necessary path to take.

Personally I look to live a quality life.

Quality Food

berries

My mother is a fantastic cook and showed me the differences in food quality. Fresh, organic produce from the farmer’s market in season tastes much better than canned fruits and vegetables from the discount food store. European and quality cheeses tantalize the tongue more than processed cheese slices. A square of Ghiradelli or Droste chocolate delights me more than a candy bar from the checkout line. We rarely get bread from the bread section, but choose bakery bread or bake our own.  Organic milk and brown eggs taste more rich than their regular counterparts.

But, how do we afford the good food? By eliminating as much processed, convenience food as possible. We rarely buy cookies from the store. Homemade taste better anyway. And we don’t often buy chips (although sometimes those lime organic tortilla chips and salsa call my name). I’m trying to get away from boxed pastas and rices full of sodium.

It turns out it doesn’t take much time to make your own flavorful sauces. We grate our own cheese, create our own hamburgers and meatballs, shred our own potatoes for hash browns, and make our own yogurt all saving us money. 

We also don’t buy much meat. None of us have much of a taste for it so we only have meat 3-4 times a week. We don’t buy processed meats like hot dogs or lunch meat. Mainly because we don’t like it.

I didn’t used to cook much at all. We survived on ramen noodles, tuna sandwiches and mac & cheese. To my surprise cooking without convenience foods didn’t take that much time. Especially when you are cooking simple meals. Often our dinner is a piece of grilled meat or fish (on the George Foreman), sauteed vegetables, some kind of fruit, and a piece of bread, a bit of rice or pasta. Most of my meals take less than 30 minutes (usually less then that). I try to spend little time cooking. I didn’t get my mom’s cooking gene. But even I can make these simple, quality foods taste wonderful.

Quality Furniture & Appliances

furniture

After two bowing entertainment centers, a bookshelf that barely holds my books and an old laminate kitchen table, I understood why people save for quality furniture. It took a year of saving to get our bed, but it is so comfortable! I haven’t had any back problems since. It took us a year to save for our couch after our old one got threadbare. This couch should last much longer. Our new bookshelf and entertainment center have already outlasted our old ones.

Most of our appliances, when we got this house in ’99, were as old as we were. And they kept running until a few years ago. When everything broke. At once.

We researched to find the best appliances we could afford.  These are things we use every day and get lots of wear and tear. We want to be able to use them for years.

After our 4th electric can opener died since we’ve been married, we’ve gone back to a hand cranked opener that hasn’t broken once.

Maintenance is so important to making them last. My husband oils, washes, fixes, and replaces parts so our possessions can last longer.

Quality Shopping

clothes

I don’t shop for the fun of it, frankly, because I don’t find shopping fun. (Unless it’s a book store.) I only go shopping if I have something specific in mind. I rarely go to garage sales to browse because I don’t need more stuff. And it takes too much time to go to a bunch of garage sales to find what I specifically want.

I know people that love to shop at garage sales and talk with the people there. They find all sort of bargains. Especially on kid’s clothes. They enjoy it so I say go for it if you like it. I never find clothes that fit at them.

Being 4 ft 11 (almost) it’s very difficult to find clothing that fit even at most stores. There are only two stores in my area that have petite sizes so I only go there for clothes shopping and two places online that have styles I like. Shopping only at 4 clothing stores total saves a lot of shopping time.

I don’t have many clothes. We have a small 5 foot long closet I share with my husband. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I love everything in my closet. I used the 1 in 1 out rule to keep the amount of clothes reasonable for my space. And I learned what colors, lines and styles look best on me. (I love What Not to Wear 🙂 I try to get clothes that last so I don’t have to shop, unless it’s a ‘just this season’ item. I may buy one of those a season as inexpensively as possible. 

I pay more for green cleaners and makeup, for things grown or made locally, and handmade items which reflect my values of caring for the earth and supporting my local stores and artists. It feels good to spend money that line up with your values.

Quality Experiences

music

I think a quality life has many different experiences. So we do things like get a season pass to the cultural events at the college nearby. Or go to the film festival. We get a state park pass and see how many we can visit in a summer. We buy or find craft supplies so my daughter and I can make art together. And enjoy plays, books and music. If something comes along we haven’t done before, I jump at the chance if it will fit in the budget.

You can have free quality experience as well – getting out into nature, watching the street performers, going to art fairs or local galleries, getting together with friends, volunteering as a family, and saying yes when invited somewhere.

It turns out if you don’t buy a lot of stuff (we certainly don’t have the biggest house, the best decorations or the latest technology), you can buy experiences and memories. Living life instead of maintaining life.

Of course a quality life means different things to different people. That’s why a simpler life is so personal.

What does a quality life mean to you? What are you willing to let go of to get your quality life?

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Photo credits: Wandering Angel, M Baylor, Alicia Nijdam, Marg Nac
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