Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to wash a dog (large stuffed animal version)

Many years ago, I found a large, stuffed dog by the side of the road, set out next to some garbage cans.  I won't make analogies to abandoned pets, but I did bring the animal home, and my sons immediately co-opted the dog as a wrestling buddy.

Over the years, Big Dog has moved into N-son's bedroom, and like any real live dog, Big Dog eventually got smelly and needed cleaning.  This stuffed mutt is so large that it would unbalance and break our washing machine if we tried to stick it in there.  So instead, I had N-son take the dog outside for a bath.  This was fantastic fun for N-son.

First, fill the tub up halfway.  Don't worry that the big tub isn't quite as big as Big Dog.  Add laundry detergent.

Next, mush Big Dog into the tub, spraying the dog as needed to soak it all the way through.  As the dog gets wet, it compacts even better.  Do not try this with live dogs!  Doesn't work!

Also, don't jump up and down on a live dog!  But Big Dog seemed to get cleaner and less smelly with a bit of large muscle work. This is a happy chore for a teenage boy, and Big Dog doesn't mind one bit.

See?? Big Dog is happy to be curled up in the tub.  I totally love this picture.

And afterwards, rinse Big Dog and then leave Big Dog out on a fence panel/pallet to dry for a couple of days, turning the dog over every once in a while to air out.

Here's Big Dog with a 5-gallon bucket, just to show size.

So clean!  So fluffy!  And not stinky any more.


What does this have to do with being a Miser Mom?  My husband, when he started worrying about the smelliness of Big Dog, suggested we get rid of the beast, since cleaning it in our washer just wasn't feasible.  Earlier, he'd suggested the same thing about a heavy cloth floor mat.  Both of these were fairly easy to clean outdoors in a giant tub, sunshine, and fresh air.

And for kids, hand washing (or even foot washing!) their stuffed animals during the summer might be another fun activity to keep kids busy and productive, as well as entertained.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

What's in a deposit?

J-son has been working off-and-on for his boxing coach lately. Because of this, he's been earning some big bucks; and because he's been earning big bucks, he's gotten more life lessons with his brand-new checking account.

He's had a savings account at our local credit union for a few years now, but we haven't really let him access the money there (except through me) because of a host of behavior issues, linked to impulse control issues.  The double good news is that (1) he's gotten a job and also (2) his behavior problems seem to be fading.  So he opened a checking account with the credit union last fall, and this spring he's getting chances to learn how to use it.

His job last fall was with an amusement park that deposited his salary. Now he's working with his boxing coach; he gets paid intermittently, and in cash. I'm sure it's breaking all kinds of tax regulations, but J-son is not getting paid enough to worry about taxes this year.  So I'll leave the tax lessons for later; I'm focused on more basic finance skills for now.

The first time J-son wanted to put his boxing money into his checking account, I gave him an ATM envelope, reminded him of the steps he needed to take, and sent him to the ATM alone. He begged me to go with him, but I reminded him that I had done that with him and in the fall. He was on his own this time. The worst that could happen (or so I told him) was that he wouldn't be able to figure it out and would just come back home with his money. All went well. Yay!  Lesson 1 complete.

A week or so later, he wanted to take out money to buy snacks. I reminded him that the ATM two blocks away from the convenient store is free, and that the ATM at the convenience store would charge him. He used the ATM at the convenience store, and was fairly horrified at the $1.75 fee he had to pay. Another good lesson!  (albeit a temporary one).

Last week, we got more practice. I was explaining to Y, our host daughter, that J-son wanted to deposit another $60. He responded, "No I want to put this money in my bank." I reminded him that "deposit" means put money in; "withdraw" means take the money out. Because the free machine was shut down temporarily, he went back to the convenience store.

The next day, pretty much on his own, he figured out how to set up electronic access so he could check his account online. That's how we discovered that instead of depositing his cash, he had instead transferred $60 from savings to his checking.  Somehow he also got the envelope with the $60 into the machine. We call the credit union right away, and they said they have to wait for the envelopes from the ATM to make their way through the system before they can figure out for sure what happened.  I figure that there's a really good chance that his $60 is lost.

My husband is horrified and feels really sorry for J-son. As for me, I'm glad to let my son learn from this experience. J-son has earned several hundred dollars in cash --- and spent almost as much on ephemera. If his earnings hadn't been so under the table, I would have enforced the rule that he should save up for future purchases. But instead J-son has blown most of the money on clothes and shoes, often while he's still at the boxing events where he'd earned the money.  Some these clothes, we have already taken to Goodwill because he no longer wants it. Blowing a few hundred dollars on fancy shoes hasn't taught him anything much about money. But losing $60 because he doesn't know the difference between "transfer" and "deposit" has been a lesson he'll remember.

I do think we're going to start enforcing savings and keeping track of income soon.  But one lesson at a time, and we now have the first set of lessons under our belt.  Phew!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Garden grave yards and yellow birds

Even before my sons could make forts and such in the new pile of mulch, the squirrels did their own excavation works.  They created this little trench running from the ladder of the tree house into the main part of the yard. When the squirrels aren't guarding their trench works, the rabbits run through.  It's adorable.

The tomato plants, started indoors in canning jars, have moved outdoors into their new home.

But much of the rest of the backyard looks like a graveyard.  We have the basil grave, the cucumber grave, the corn grave, the melon grave, and a cilantro grave.  Oh, and a grave for peas.

But fortunately, resurrection seems to be happening; there are little green stirrings in the basil pit, and I think a cucumber vine might have poked its little head through the mulch.  Yes!

Even better yet, I'm learning more and more about moving live plants around.  For example, look at this oregano that I planted two years ago, just taking over this section of the garden.  Oregano is such a garden bully!
I'm going to dig up a bunch of it and move it to an area where I want ground cover, an area that's now being taken over by weeds.  We'll have an oregano/weed battle to the death, with me cheating and helping the oregano gain the upper hand (upper land?).

Oohh!  And look who visited the window screen right by my peach tree!  A pair of bright yellow birds stopped by to look into my living room the other day.  

I love this transition to summer.  Ahhhhh!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

You are what you . . . drink?

"A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems."
--Alfréd Rényi

(Rényi actually said "device", not "machine", but this little saying of his has become part of the folk-wisdom of mathematics, and like many sayings, it has various forms; the version above is the version I "grew up" with, mathematically speaking).

I started drinking coffee the summer I was working on my doctoral dissertation.  My thesis advisor had gone to Oxford for a whole year, and I scraped together money to follow him there for just one summer.  "Summer" is a relative term in Oxford, especially in June, when it rained every day but one. The heat in the buildings was off (because, y'know, "summer"), but the outside June temperatures never rose above 60-some degrees.  I was miserably cold a lot of the time, and I turned to warm drinks to try to help me feel better.  British tea was an acquired taste that I couldn't manage to acquire, so I took up coffee.

Fortunately for me, July and August warmed up (AND I figured out the Sobolev inequality that helped me nail that compactness argument that I needed to finish my thesis--whoop!), but the rainy, cold June had made its mark on me:  by the time I left Old England to return to New England I was hooked both on mathematical theorem proving and on coffee.

Coffee, coffee, coffee . . .  I love it.  There are so many ways it has permeated my life.  Like Bach, I have sung (or rather, said) its praises: in our family game of "I like", my third or fourth offering has  often been, "I like . . . drinking coffee."

I've designed my bags so that they can carry my favorite insulated bottle (perfect for getting coffee on the go).

And I have come to love the coffee-making ritual in our marriage: my husband grinds the coffee beans at night, and I press the "start" button in the morning.  I make coffee and transfer it to a thermos for low-cost warmth preservation.

Coffee has been a part of my mathematical identity; it's been a part of my marriage; it's shaped the physical possessions that I own and the way I model gratitude with my children.

Can you sense there's a change coming?

There have been downsides to drinking coffee.  The expense . . . well, since we mostly brew coffee at home, coffee has been an affordable luxury, even to a Miser like me.  Even so, there's no getting around the fact that coffee is one of the more expensive ongoing pantry purchases we make in our home.  A larger downside is that I've been so addicted for so long, that even when I don't *want* to shape my life around coffee, I sort of *have* to.  In particular, when I'm traveling, locating early morning coffee (trash-free, where possible) has loomed large in my travel arrangements.

I've toyed around with the idea of giving up coffee for a while. I held back in part because it would be just another way to freak out my husband, who already thinks I live a life of hair-shirt-self-sacrifice, and worries about being dragged into the same. But then I came down with a health scare that turned out to be persistent heart burn (it's how I learned I'm beautiful on the inside).  And after taking mondo piles of medication day after day, I finally decided to say good-bye to . . . well, to a big part of my life.

Sigh-yay.  (!/?)

And so I've gone over to the herbal tea side of the world.  (Note: herbal teas -- cheaper than coffee and not addictive).  I get them from market (canning jars, no trash).  And just so I can inject a little of the happy side of me in here, I'll note that canning jar lids make great mug covers to keep the tea warm, and small canning jars are a great place to drop your tea ball when you take it out of the mug.

Friday, May 20, 2016

300 reasons to care about a single dollar

I don't know about you, but for me, high-cost items are something I buy once (maybe only a few times), whereas thing that cost a few dollars a piece are things I tend to buy over and over again.  Back in 2002, I spent something like $16K for the car we still have, but my few-bucks-at-a-time milk and yogurt purchases happen basically every week.

Which is why I tend to be fairly blasé about big purchases, and fairly obsessed about seemingly small, on-going trends.

Here's the way I think about these numbers in my head: one dollar per month is the same as three hundred dollars in a retirement fund.

It's a fairly standard rule of thumb to assume a 4% "safe withdrawal rate" during retirement.  The way retirement experts explain what this rule of thumb means is to say that people should aim to have about 25 times their annual expenses in retirement funds (after social security, pensions, etc). But I don't really think about my own expenses on an annual basis; I think about my expenses in monthly terms. I get paid monthly; the majority of our bills come once a month; I do our financial updates with my husband monthly, and my spreadsheets track our expenses monthly.  

So, the 4% rule translates to this:  for every dollar we want to spend each month in retirement, we need to have about $300 in our retirement funds.  And on the flip side: this means that if we can find ways to cut $1/month from our on-going expenses, I've just saved myself the burden of socking away $300 for the future.  That's a pretty big incentive to pay attention to small amounts.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Random bucket thoughts

My good friend dropped off two buckets of horse manure at my front door while I was out.  (Who'd have thought I'd ever write a sentence like that?  She lives near a horse owner who offers to fill buckets for people who need compost enrichment.  I'm really lucky to have friends with neighbors like that!)

Speaking of buckets, I think I want a canvas water bucket.  I have no idea what I'd do with one, but now that I know that such at thing exists, I am just sort of obsessing about it.

And my husband's military career finally "kicked the bucket" (that is, he mustered out).  His end of service coincided with a giant Aviation Ball at which many soldiers got awards of various kinds, and I got one, too:  a "Certificate of Appreciation", apparently given to every spouse who hasn't gotten divorced by the time the soldier leaves the army.

And finally, I got this in the mail, which just goes to show that targeted marketing goes only so far:
Because I have no problem getting my annual check-ups, but if they came with massages, make-up sessions, and "retail therapy", I'd consider skipping doctor visits!  I'm not sure how this fits in the bucket theme, but I think it's very funny.

And speaking of funny and buckets, here's one of my favorite clean limericks:

There was an old man from Nantucket
who hid all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, named Nan,
ran away with a man,
and as for the bucket, Nan tuck it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Where the money goes

Now that we're getting more money than I had budgeted for, where will it go?

Well, like any good consumers, we've bought ourselves a fancy new vehicle!  In fact, our new purchase cost us three times the value of our current lovely car.  Ooh, we are riding pretty!

Heh-heh.  The new vehicle is indeed fancy, but it's a bike.  And our car is a 2001 Prius with an ugly crunchy dent on the driver's side, so its Blue Book value is fairly pitifully low.  So, while this bike is still expensive by normal standards (it costs four times as much as my SPDM did, and I think I bought a super-expensive bike myself), the cost was still just a tad under $6K.

My husband's fancy new vehicle.
The blue book value of our car.  

When the SPDM got a flat,
we could switch wheels between our bikes
while we got my tire replaced. 
The reason for getting this bike is that my husband's other racing bikes are 15-20 years old.  And while they're still perfectly good bikes from a commuter/weekend rider point of view, they are getting too old for the racing circuit.  For example, a cyclist who has a flat often just trades wheels with the race support crew, but modern racing wheels don't fit on my husband's old bikes (just like newer Microsoft Word documents can't be read by old Microsoft software.  bleah.)

Is this a "frugal" purchase?  In some sense, of course, no:  nearly 6000 times no, you might say.   On the other hand, my husband regularly rides with people who spent $10K or more for their bikes, so in comparison to theirs, his is super cheap (!).   And the bike is hardly an impulse purchase:  he spends 2-3 hours a day riding.  We're really spending this money on something that is central to how he spends his time and how he creates his identity.  It's meaningful to us, even if it is a luxury item.

Okay, but it's not like we're about to shower ourselves in material goods.  We haven't felt particularly deprived this past year, so it's not like we think our lives will be better if we start spending large parts of our days in stores.  In fact, this past year of wide-open schedules has been so nice, that it makes even more sense to put our money aside to make wide-open schedules a permanent thing in a few more years.

In fact, we're highly influenced by the Your Money or Your Life argument that increasing spending on ourselves brings diminishing--and even possibly negative--returns on happiness.  We just spent a pile of money on a bike that takes us past comfort to luxury.  If we start buying more for ourselves, the result will be clutter.  At this point, the best way to use the money to make ourselves happier is by diverting it into places where there are true needs.

What happens if we spend more money on things
is that we have to clean and take care of those things.
If we share with other people,
the joy just bounces back on us.

So here's the priority for the extra incoming money.
  1. Bump up the charitable giving to pre-sabbatical levels (or maybe even higher).
  2. Max out my retirement accounts.
  3. Set aside money for home repair projects (there are a bathroom and the kitchen that work fine, but should probably be spiffed up before we sell, five or so years from now).
  4. If there's enough extra left over, establish a Donor Advised Fund.
(A couple of people have suggested adding money to college funds.  Fortunately, those are already fully stocked (in fact, probably a little over-stocked, because my sons are likely to go to a nearby, inexpensive Tech school rather than a pricey four-year college).  And we've already started a 529 plan for my grandchild.  If we didn't have future educational expenses already taken care of, these would be fairly high up on that list.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Miser Mom's Money Problems

A year ago,  our household saw a dramatic decrease in income: my husband retired (cutting his income to $0) and I went on sabbatical (reducing my income to three fourths of the usual).  Our pastor asked my husband if finances had me worried -- my pastor knows I'm a little on the fanatical side when it comes to frugality.  My husband just had to laugh.  "Are you kidding?  This is Miser Mom!  Being forced to figure out how to live on so much less is like heaven to her!"

And it was true.  I happily sat down with my spreadsheets.  I cut back on retirement investments for the year; I trimmed our charitable contributions a tad; I made sure our emergency funds were solid; I rallied the family members into monthly meetings about living within our earnings; and then we marched confidently into this financially lean year.  All was good.

And then, my husband came home a month or so ago to tell me about a change in our status.  He'd waded through the Rube-Goldberg-maze of Social Security regulations, and had decided that rather than wait until 70, it makes sense for him to start collecting Social Security now.  The logic--according to the officials he'd talked with--has three parts to it:  (1) something about benefits being based on average salary, so by not working now he's lowering benefits if he waits longer.  This doesn't mesh with what I've heard elsewhere, but my husband believes it and the deed is done, so I'm just saying this is the reason HE gave.  (2) Experts say that waiting makes financial sense if you expect to live a long while.  For some reason my husband has it in his head that he will go downhill quickly after 70 and so the money now makes more sense.  I'm dubious.  But, more convincingly, (3) we have adopted special-needs kids who are still under the age of 18.  And there's a social security bonus until they reach a certain age, meaning collecting social security now brings us extra money.

So all of a sudden, we now have a surprising influx of money to off-set the relative austerity measures.  Especially because of that adoption bonus, my husband will be "earning" twice as much as he did during his last year of work (when, admittedly, he worked part time).  It's raining dollars in the Miser Mom house suddenly.

My husband told me about the money we'd be getting, and he looked at my face, and he laughed again. "Yeah, I knew this would be a problem for you."

And I admit that I was feeling more than a little bit of angst.  Because, really, what are we going to DO with this money?

I know that having more money isn't really a problem.  I do think it's funny that my first reaction to my husband's news was to squirm.  But I do squirm:  money is a powerful thing, and I don't want to spend it in a way that subverts my values.  I don't want to blindly succumb to lifestyle inflation.  I don't want to buy something now that obligates me to future expenses that I will regret.  This money gives our family more chances to do the things we want to do, but it also gives us more chances to do the wrong things.  So figuring out how to move this money back into our life takes just as much thought -- or maybe more -- than it took to cut it out of our lives.

By now, a month or two later, we've come up with a plan.  (I mean, it's me, so of course I have lists and plans for everything). The actual plan is the subject for other posts -- for now, all I want to say is that getting extra money isn't all whoop-de-doo.

Still, if you'll excuse me, our family has a little whoop-ing to do.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spending $915 on mathematics

Phew!  My computer is back.  I (well, my awesome Tech-Sters) managed to save almost everything, with the exception of random sets of photos.  So I'm going to quickly blitz through the post I wanted to put up last week.

The first week of May, I went to a kick-butt math workshop in San Jose.  I didn't snag funding to go, but I was fairly sure that the workshop would be good enough for me that I decided to pay out of pocket for this six-day trip.

doubles as a suitcase;
I left the milk/egg containers at home.
Not surprisingly, the biggest expense was cross-country airfare, to the tune of $565. I got to leave my discarded yard-sale books in Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago (but I wasn't done with books in the other three cities I spent time on the ground in); being willing to take multiple legs brings the airfare down somewhat.  I also packed everything for the week into my Market backpack, avoiding luggage fees.

Speaking of transportation, using the IRS rate, we spent another $50 on mileage to and from my home airport; also I spent another $25 on a four-mile taxi trip from the airport in San Jose to my lodgings.   Once I was in San Jose, I walked the 2 miles to and from the workshop daily.  (One mathematician said, rather wide-eyed, "but that will take 40 minutes!", and I didn't quite know how to respond.  "Um, yes, but it's actually good to spend that much time walking each day?").

Lodging was the next biggest expense.  San Jose is wickedly costly -- the nearby Holiday Inn was offering rates of $257 per night.  Clearly, I was not going to spend 5 nights at that price.  I tried hard to find friends in the area who might be happy to put me up, but when that proved unsuccessful (no local friends with guest rooms), one of my former students suggested AirBnB.  And so I spent $334 for the week -- plus, my host drove me back to the airport, saving me another $25 cab fare.  Awesome!

A former student (now mathematician)
and me, at a reception.  Yay food!
Another frugal win was spending only $16 on food.  I got lucky in that the workshop offered all participants (even me, who wasn't officially funded by them) a continental breakfast, lunch, and a late-afternoon reception.  So most days, I didn't eat any "dinner" but was still more than well-fed.  I bought $3 coffee in the airport, once each direction (can't take it through security, so that was the only way to get it), and on the way home I broke down and bought a $11 sandwich, because my trail mix and chickpeas had run out.

And the chickpeas -- that's what I really wanted to post about.  Because I've been bringing trail mix with me on many trips, and I *love* that I can eat it without standing in lines/generating trash/paying wads of money.  But it's dry, and sometimes I also want something with a chewier (meatier?) texture.
So, I don't have pictures (dang computer crash), but I just want to say:  roasted parmesan chickpeas!!!!  Here is a recipe from Michael Pollan.  Also, garlic and paprika roasted chickpeas!  Yum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Love/Hate the computer when it crashes

I worry about spending too much time on my computer.  So when my computer crashed, it was sort of a bit of a blessing.

Sort of.  I sent my computer into the tech-sters at my college, who shook their head. They were glad I'd regularly backed up my computer, as was I (in my grad school computer lab, there was a poster on the wall saying, "Jesus saves!  And then he makes back ups!").

For two days, without my computer, I did . . . um . . . I did noncomputer stuff.  I read through the pile o'books that's been sitting by my bed stand for three weeks.  I cleaned a bunch of stuff in my sewing/bill-paying room.  I read some more.  I visited my computer in the sick room, and tsked over it, and then I read some more.  It was sort of a good detox, not that I'd recommend a computer crash for fun and relaxation as a general principle.

Even now that my computer is back, I have been at sixes and sevens over it.  Documents have gotten lost, moved.  Reinstalling the hard-drive meant getting rid of math-specific programs like Geogebra and TexShop, which were easy or else hard to reinstall, for reasons completely mystifying to me.

Worse, I seem to have lost lots and lots of pictures.  When I wrote to the tech guy about my images disappearing from folders like it's the rapture and the images files been raised to heaven without the rest of the world, he wrote back,
CrashPlan does not back up images (like jpgs), so none of those would have been saved there. I pulled over everything that I could from the hard drive and backed it up. 
Wait, what!?!?  Every single one of my photos has been lost?  All the family photos I've spent this year scanning?  All of the math images I've spent this year creating?  Gone?  And no-one even told me that CrashPlan just happens to back up everything except jpgs?

Consider this a public service announcement: Crash Plan won't save your jpg images -- not the photos from your phone, not the jpgs that you got permission to download from museum websites, not any of them.  Sigh.

I'm going to get back to trying to recreate the photos somehow . . . I hope.  But at least you know now why I've been missing from the blogosphere this past week.  Sigh again.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day electrical work

What could be more fun on Mother's Day than a little mother-son electrical work?

I wanted a timer switch on the fan in the bathroom (most of my family hates the sound of the fan running, so we don't use the fan while we shower.  But if we could leave it on for 10 minutes after the shower is over, we'd save ourselves a lot of mold grief.  Hence, a timer switch seems like a prudent idea).

And of course, J-son loves to be the technical expert of the house.  So for Mother's day, he learned how to switch off circuit breakers.

Once we'd turned the power off, we removed the switch plate.  It's good to do this in daylight (since, of course, the electricity is off, so no lights, so sorry for the blurriness). It also helps to bring along a flashlight or lantern because those little electric boxes are tiny and dark).

Next, we removed the switch that controls the fan.

Here's the out-going electrical switch, pulled out of the box.

In some switches (like our out-going one), the wire is curled around the copper screw.  In some switches (like our ingoing one), the wire sticks straight into a slot. So J-son got to straighten the ends of the wires with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

He attached the wires to the new switch, and screwed the new switch in.

(Optional step:  Then realize that the new switch is so much bigger than the old one that the wires behind it take up so much space that you have to rearrange them.  Take out the new switch, rearrange the wires, and sigh with relief as everything slides correctly into place.  Screw in the new switch again).

From there, it was a simple matter to get the switch-plate back on and add the timer plate on top.  Voila!

For me, it was fun to watch J-son grow more adept -- learning to steady the screws with his thumb as he started them in, getting a sense of the tools he was using.  I also had fun anticipating what lay ahead.  "I'll get a lantern," I'd say, and he'd say "No, I'm good.  I can see!"  (But then a little bit later, he'd ask, "Could you hold that light up here?")  Or I'd say, "I'm going to get a smaller screwdriver," and he'd say, "No, this one works fine.  I don't need a smaller screwdriver!" (But then a little bit later, I was the nurse next to the surgeon, helping him alternate between the two screwdrivers and the pliers, handing him what he needed as he asked for it).

It was a 30-minute task, maybe 40 minutes when we included getting out and putting away the tools.  Just about perfect amount of time for a 17-year old boy to spend with his mom.  As he left, he showed me the picture of the girl he's been spending time with.  

Hmm . . . maybe she'd like to learn how to replace a leaky U-trap under a sink?  I should have him invite her over!

Monday, May 2, 2016

frugality vs. convenience

My friend Beth confided, a bit sheepishly, the difficulty she has living a low-trash life in this modern world.  She told me she sort of admires me from afar, but has a lot of trouble figuring out how she might reduce garbage in her own life.  She said, "I'd really like to make less trash, but it all comes down to convenience.  It's just, you go to the store, and there are so many other things you have to be doing, and . . . convenience wins".  She sounded kind of embarrassed about admitting this, like it's some kind of guilty secret.

But what she's saying, I understand: grabbing a single box of cereal (with its lovely plastic liner bag) and a carton of milk (whose carton goes into the recycling bin) seems a lot easier than wandering many aisles and buying the many ingredients that come with making your own breakfast in a low-trash way -- not to mention that you still have to actually spend time making breakfast.  How could frugality trump convenience?

To me, all of this "convenience" has a lot of hassle built in that has become invisible to most people.  Beth (and most other normal people I know) assume that going to grocery stores over and over again is convenient.  How do you give that up for frugal DIY-ness?  But for me, the more I get into my weird lifestyle, the more I see massive inconvenience of the grocery-store kind of life.  The parking lots of grocery stores are unkind expanses of asphalt and obstacles.  The stores themselves are full of glaring lights, insipid music, and advertisements.  The sheer quantity and variety of items for sale (do we really need 87 varieties of potato chips?) means that finding the few things you do actually want is slow and inefficient.   (Seriously, grocery store aisles are almost as bad as TSA lines in airports, as far as I'm concerned).  And the checkout lines can vary in speed so much that the comedian Emo Philips uses them as a metaphor for "eternity".

Here's a different version of "convenience".  Last year, I only went to a grocery store (the kind that Beth means) a dozen times, and four of those times were while I was traveling and used a grocery store instead of a restaurant.  So, in 2015 I only made eight trips from home to a grocery store.

Instead, I go about three times a year to Miller's Amish market,
Trash from my last trip to Miller's, several months ago,
next to a canning jar solar light (not trash).
each time stocking up: about 50 pounds of flour, 25 pounds of oats, sugar, dried beans, nuts, some dried fruit.  I buy giant blocks of local, organic cheese for half the price of industrial grocery store cheese.  All of these food things come either in plastic bags (which I reuse for other food storage) or in large brown paper bags, which I recycle with cardboard or use as garden liners; I store the dry goods in large cat litter bins or glass jars to protect them from bugs and moisture.  I cut the cheese (heh heh) into pound size blocks, wrap the blocks individually, and freeze them.  That way, when I want baking supplies in between my trips to Miller's, I go "shopping in the basement" on "in the chest freezer".

My market backpack, with the containers
I'll return to get refills.
I also do a weekly trip to our local farmer's market to get yogurt, eggs, and milk (all in reusable containers, so the only trash is the plastic seal on the yogurt lid and the milk lid).  Compared to the grocery store, our farmer's market is an amazingly human experience, and it's also faster:  from the time I take my bike down off the hook at home to the time I hang it back up again with my groceries in my backpack, is a half hour.  (I've discovered to my surprise that biking is even faster than driving, sitting in traffic, parking, etc).

And when I'm at home, how do I make breakfast quickly?  I've written elsewhere about making waffles and muffins quickly for our weekend breakfasts.  On weekdays, I tend to have homemade granola mixed with yogurt.  I make my granola in large batches (one to two gallons at a time), so the cooking part of that comes only about once a month, usually while I'm making something else.  A gallon jar of granola compared to a wimpy little box of cereal?  To me, the granola scores big on the convenience scale.

Granola is super easy to make.  The more I make it, the more I realize the main ingredients are oats and oil.  Powdered milk, cinnamon or ginger, and sugar add flavor and/or sweetness, but they're totally secondary.  (I get oil and powdered milk at the grocery store, but I'm hoping someday to find bulk versions elsewhere.   Cinnamon and ginger are MUCH cheaper at market than at the grocery store; plus you can bring your own container and refill it there instead of doing trash).
Great Jars of Granola!

The basic idea behind this kind of shopping comes from Amy Dacyzyn's "Pantry Principle"-- keeping a well-stocked pantry that allows me to make a variety of foods (bread/pretzels/granola/muffins/waffles/etc) can be cheaper and faster than choosing the menu first and the ingredients second.

The point of all this description isn't to say that Beth is wrong and I'm right:  I'm sure that Beth would find my version of shopping incredibly inconvenient if she tried to start it up right now.  "Convenience" is a psychological thing; it's much more convenient to rely on habit and routine than to keep trying new things.  I used to go the grocery store weekly or more, and back then I thought that side trips to our farmer's market were a painful extra excursion.  Reorganizing my life took a long time, a lot of experimenting (not always successful).  Now that I'm used to this new way of living, I realize that it has become easy for me (and, in fact, easier than my former habits).  I'm not saying it'd be the kind of life that everyone would like.

But it *is* a life that, now that I'm used to it, means that frugality and low-trash-ity has become *more* convenient, not *less* convenient, than buying packaged and processed food from the grocery store.