Great questions! Thanks for asking. Now it’s my turn, and I’ll do my best to answer.
Emily asked “Kelly, what is your favorite uber-frugal recipe?” I’m glad she asked because I just posted about it on Almost Frugal Food! My favorite frugal meal is beans and rice, specifically black beans and rice. I love it for a whole slew of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s even more delicious than it is frugal.
Frank asked “Do you find the home technology in France more reliable than in the USA?” I don’t think there is a difference. I’ve lived in France for eight years now, about as long as I lived in the US as an adult. I’ve had pretty much the same experience here and there with home technology, the only difference being in price. My husband is a geek, music, technology and electronics wise. He is forever drooling about the prices in the States, and bemoaning the fact that he can’t buy anything.
I came here, to the city in which I still live, in 2000 as an exchange student in my university’s study abroad program. I was originally only supposed to be here January through June, but fell in love with the country in, oh, about two seconds. I quickly decided that five months wasn’t long enough, and prolonged my stay until December. I’m lucky I did, because I met my handsome French frog in early November. It was almost love at first sight; I remember telling a friend about two weeks after I had met him that I was going to marry him. We’ll celebrate our seven year anniversary in next week.
In some ways everything is the same here (France) as there (the United States). However, I also happen to live a very segregated existence in the English speaking community. I did not plan on this- in fact I have a hard time dealing with expats who refuse to accept the reality of living in a new country, but I speak English with my kids, they have an English nanny, a lot of our friends are English speaking, when I work it’s as an ESL teacher, my masters program is taught in English, we watch British TV. My husband jokes that opening our front door is like crossing a border from France into Seattle. Also, because of globalization, things here are very familiar to Americans: the same shops, fast food joints, music. I notice a difference even compared to eight years ago, and as much as I enjoy the luxury of being able to go to Subway for lunch, I miss how things used to be a little bit.
I do speak French, fluently but with a strong accent. French people pin me immediately as a native English speaker when they hear me speak. That’s OK, but I hate listening to recordings of myself, on the answering machine for example, butchering their lovely tongue. My oldest son is now old enough to correct my pronunciation, which is weird.
Betsy wanted to know about frugal stories from when I first moved here. I don’t really have any. I was an almost starving newlywed when I first got settled in France, and neither of us really had any idea how to handle money. And then the student loans kicked in and it slowly got worst. One of the things that did help was doing a price book of local grocery stores and buying fruits and veggies at the friendly local farmers’ market. But it took a long time to get bitten by the (almost) frugal bug, and I’m still not completely there. Here’s a post I wrote in January 2008 about money in France.
Betsy and Lucie also wanted to know about blogging and earning money. I do consider myself a professional blogger (Almost Frugal is on my CV and everything). But just because I’m earning money by blogging doesn’t mean I’m earning a lot of money from blogging. I estimated recently that I’ve earned $.012 per hour since January. Or, to put it another way, I still haven’t earned enough money for Google to cut me a check (their payout is $100). I also have several other sorts of ads (mostly referral) on my site, which have done more or less well on occasion. However, the gratifying thing is that the trend is moving upwards, and I can foresee a Google check arriving in my mailbox in the very near future.
On the other hand, I consider the process of blogging and the experience that I’ve gained from it, both personally and professionally, to be invaluable. And I’m not just saying that; writing and working on Almost Frugal, Almost Frugal Food and Pretty Your Blog is something that I really truly enjoy in a way that I wasn’t expecting when I first started blogging.
Crystal wants to know about achieving a balance between frugal menu planning and spending every waking moment in the kitchen. I wish I could tell you! There are a few things that I do, to keep the take out budget under control, but I’m by no means an expert. I make double servings sometimes, and freeze the other half. Or, when I’m prepping food for one meal I prep ingredients for another at the same time. Other than that we have try to keep ourselves in check by limiting eating out (or in, as the case may be) to weekends. But it’s hard, and like I’ve said many times before, I’m no expert!
Ann, Courtney and Lucie again would like to know how I manage my time, both for blogging and other responsibilities. It’s no secret that I have a lot on my plate. But, so far, I manage to keep things going. I have to say that the most crucial element to my being able to juggle it all is my husband: he rocks (in more ways than one) and is my rock as well. Without him taking care of a lot of the details of daily life, I’d have many more gray hairs on my head. I also take advantage of every spare moment to write or study; I’m writing this part of this post during a class break for example. And finally, the evenings, from when I get home to when my kids go to bed are family time- no work allowed. After that is a different story, however, and I often go to bed later than I would like.
As far as blogging goes, there are two things that have helped me stay on schedule. The first is auto-posting: I heart auto-posting. I have at least two weeks of posts scheduled at any one time. This allows me to write in advance, and not panic when my school or family obligations take precedence over my blogging. The second thing that has really helped me is automating the process- before school started I did a lot of work on the structure of my blog, advertising, setting up a posting schedule etc. Now I don’t really need to worry about the back-end aspects of blogging, which take much more time than the actual writing, if you ask me.
A couple of other random things about me: I’m culturally, secularly Jewish but my husband and father are not so our family also celebrates Christmas; I think of myself as fairly shy but others see me as an extrovert and lastly, I love Josh Lyman dearly. Finally, if you like music and you’re interested in hearing what kind of music I like, you can follow me on Last.FM (my user name is Kllycat).
And you, readers. Do you have any advice for Crystal as to how to keep your menu planning frugal without spending your life in the kitchen? Or maybe advice for Courtney and Ann on managing your schedule and ‘doing it all’. They’d love to hear it!