My Not So Simple Life

by Katy on January 28, 2009 · 19 comments

romaine lettuce


I’ve noticed that there is a definite simple living paradox.

The simple living choices are often . . . well,  kind of a pain in the tuchus. 

A good example is how I buy lettuce for salads. The simplest solution would be to throw a bag-o-salad in the cart. Then I could enjoy lettuce instantly prepped and available.

No fuss, no muss and I’m sure to have a healthy salad to serve my family.

But is this really the simplest choice?

The 5 oz. bag of salad greens cost $1.98, which is enough for just one small salad. (My picky eating 13-year-old is oddly a salad eating machine.) 

The huge head of romaine lettuce is $1.69. Because it’s sold by the unit, rather than the pound, I always make sure to select the biggest one. It’s usually enough for four salads.

Once home, I chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces and double wash it in my handy-dandy salad spinner. I then store it in said salad spinner, which sits in the refrigerator, ready for a salad at a moment’s notice. (The inner basket makes it so when the fluid drains off, it’s away from the lettuce. This is an effective slime-preventer.) 

But here’s the thing. But I actually kind of hate this task. No, let me rephrase that. I really hate this task! I have to put my hands in the cold water to swish the lettuce around, which is so icy it hurts. My house is already set at 60 degrees, so stuff like this can push me over the edge. And I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve been known to scream a little bit.

So, should I just buy that bag of salad?


I get about four times the amount of lettuce when I buy it by the head. And I can be sure that it’s been washed properly and is free of questionable preservatives. I can also put it in a reusable bag, keeping one more plastic bag from the landfill.

When I spend less money, I don’t have to earn as much money. I don’t have to commute as much, and I’m  a much happier person. This simple living choice is more complicated in the short term, but much, much less so in the long term.

This simple living paradox will shift with warm weather, as I grow my own lettuce from seed in an old wheelbarrow in the side yard. (My backyard is a bastion of deep shade, so I have to get tricky.)

Have you noticed that your simple living choices complicate your life in the short term, while simplifying the long term? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

mindfulmama January 28, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Buying frugally means buying with less convenience. My kids love the little packages that snack foods come in. But buy that snack in a big bag, and it somehow tastes different and not so delicious. I pop my own popcorn because I hate paying the prices for already popped corn in a bag. Plus – how long ago was that really popped? So I use the air popper (no microwave at my house) and put toppings on it. It doesn’t last as long as the bagged variety, but I take that as a good thing rather than the necessity.


lala2074 January 29, 2009 at 1:49 am

There is a short term simpleness about convenience foods and pre-prepared foods. But is so true that in the longer term, our lives are made more complicated if we have to earn more money to purchase them.
One of the tradeoffs that I have found that I am doing in terms of being able to be at home rather than have to go out to work is that chores at home are taking a lot longer.
I cook most things from first principles rather than buy prepared foods or get takeaways.
I hang my washing on the line every day ( no longer using the clothes dryer every day)
I make my husband and daughter’s lunch every day to save money.
Food shopping takes me longer, because I am comparing prices to get the best quality for the best value.

So the tradeoff for me to be able to stay at home is that my chores take much longer, but on the other hand I don’t need to complicate my life by going out to earn the extra money to make these chores shorter!


Marianne January 29, 2009 at 4:13 am

i know when i used to buy salad (i now have an aerogarden and love the fresh salad!), i would wash the lettuce and then wrap the head in a papertowel. this would drain it but keep it fresh longer than anything else! i know katy doesnt use papertowels. maybe a handtowel in the fridge?
as for the pain in the butt part, i am currently trying to find a good yellow cake recipe from scratch. im trying really hard to avoid buying a box for 99cents and really trying my husbands patience. lol. what makes me the most angry is the amount of sugar, flour, shortening etc i have wasted in the progress. the recipes just dont come out fluffy and spongy like box cake!


Heidi January 29, 2009 at 4:34 am

It’s all about trade-offs. I make lunches for my kids, hang my laundry, make my own bread, sort through Goodwill racks, and I take the time to painstakingly review the store circulars each week to compare the sales with my coupons, and get the very best prices. These things can be a nuisance. But the way I look at it, this is my part time job. By doing these sometimes tedious and not-so-simple chores, I need less money to run my household, which means I don’t need to leave the house to earn money. When I sometimes start to feel sick of hanging laundry or making bread, I ask myself, would I rather be out at some retail or office job, so that I can pay for a loaf of bread or dry cleaning? And my answer is Always No!!


Jessica January 29, 2009 at 6:07 am

I feel your pain my lettuce-washing-hating sister!! It is one of my least favorite chores.


Mandy January 29, 2009 at 6:58 am

I make my own yogurt in a crock pot – which takes a good 3/4 of the day to do. But I was eating so much of it that learning how to make it has saved me a lot of money.

I also hang my laundry to dry (which saves me a dollar for every load cause I have to go to a laundry mat).

I am learning to make bread and many other things from scratch. Which always take longer (and sadly until I find one that works – my room mates seem to humor me in eating my not so great loaves).

Like you you say, it would be incredibly easy to buy the prepackaged foods. But I see these skills as an investment for my future. For example, I make my own french fries. I can save the difference between the packaged ones and the homemade ones and put that into the bank. More money in the bank is always the safer route.


Kristen @TheFrugalGirl January 29, 2009 at 7:09 am

Oh yeah, I definitely see this playing out in my life. I spend a fair amount of time doing money-saving things, but I’m producing less trash, I’m saving money(so I only have to work very part-time), and usually the money saving things I do improve our lives(like cooking from scratch, buying really nice stuff second hand or on clearance, fixing up stuff from freecycle, etc).

Mandy, every Wednesday on my blog I post baking recipes/tips, etc. I’ve done several on yeast baking lately, and you might find them to be helpful.


Debi Cole January 29, 2009 at 7:14 am

Amen to the posts above!!! By doing things myself-I’m buying my freedom!!!! The chores are much more enjoyable than some of the stressful AND boring jobs I’ve had!!!!!


Aleeya January 29, 2009 at 7:24 am

This makes me think of the good old days my dad used to tell me about his grandparents. When they grew veggies in the garden, slaughtered their own hogs and chickens and made their own soap and stuff like that. Seems like simple living but it kept them busy all day, every day just like having a regular job. So, I guess simple living is not really so simple. But for those that really do enjoy it, it doesn’t really seem so bad. I guess. What do I know. We still buy lettuce in bags because when we buy it by the head we never get to it fast enough and it gets nasty. I need one of those salad spinners.


Magdalena January 29, 2009 at 7:28 am

One down side of convenience foods is getting rid of all the packaging, and somehow washing out little plastic cups seems more of a pain than doing the prep. It seems kind of stupid, using good water to wash recyclable trash. That’s the trade-off for me.

How do you make yogurt in the crockpot? I’d eat more of it if I could do that, because I hate buying the containers at the store.


Daphne January 29, 2009 at 7:44 am

I recently switched to buying large heads of romaine, leaf lettuce and big ole bunches of spinach for our salads, and love the cost savings AND the superior flavor, compared to the pricey but convenient pre-packaged varieties. Romaine actually tastes GOOD! I store salad greens in a draw-string bag made of terrycloth, which does a great job of keeping the greens crisp. I’ve learned to make a quick salad dressing from a little orange juice, oil, garlic and minced onion, and it tastes so much better than anything I can buy at the supermarket. And making bread with freshly ground wheat is certainly not convenient, but the smells and taste are simply delicious!


GLM January 29, 2009 at 8:01 am

I base my budget on my pay periods, which run thursday to wednesday. It’s absolutely a pain to realise that I need to do a bunch of prep cooking on a work night.

However, I’m now able to feed myself for a week on $40. There’s no way I can spend that little if I buy my lunches. I’m in the slow process of working myself out of debt, so reducing whatever spending I can is of great help for me.

If I was more organized, I’d list what I have on hand, and what I need to buy when it goes on sale next. As it is, I’m able to bu groceries and household supplies without too much of a problem.


Mandy January 29, 2009 at 8:40 am

Make sure you read all the tips before you do it. I make Fat Free Yogurt and I used a small container of fat free plain yogurt and a half gallon of skim milk to start.

I follow the directions just as it says, but I let mine sit for a total of 12 hours. Then I line a coliander with a tea towel (until I get some cheese cloth) and drain it to make it thick. It actually tastes better as it gets older.



Sharon January 29, 2009 at 9:11 am

Cold… so cold. Yes, I’m a squeaker when it comes to washing my lettuce but I much prefer the huge pile of crisp romaine that lasts and lasts than the bagged lettuce. Maybe it tastes better because I’ve suffered (a tiny bit) for my pile of romaine.

I work 40 hours a week in a job that I’m deeply passionate about and that gives something back to the community so I don’t feel like I’m losing anything by working full time. But it does make planning incredibly important if I’m removing the convenience part of food.

I make my own yogurt, buy bulk items, cook from scratch as much as possible, make my own lunches and feel kind of giddy when I only have a tiny bag of garbage for the week. I’ve been told by those who love me that this is a strange thing to be giddy about but I don’t let them rain on my giddy parade.

Stay strong in the lettuce struggle Katy!


Martha January 29, 2009 at 9:41 am

It is interesting that the frame of this discussion is simple living. That is not how I think of the choices I make. I am much more motivated by how my actions affect our planet, and how, as Americans (and other first worlders, but the US is the worst) use FAR more of the world’s resources than is our share. To me, we have to change our ways if we want to sustain ourselves and the earth. It is much more a matter of sustainable living than simple living.
As for ‘is it simple?’…well, I laugh at myself quite often about how I can never seem to be satisfied with the simplest option. We dry our clothes on a rack and hangers all winter long and it is usually dry by morning, even if it is below 0 outside, but it sure takes longer than the dryer, in terms of how long to hang it up etc. Those bags of salad are tempting, but we primarily eat grated carrots with dressing in the winter, as any greens we’d purchase at this time of year would be from, maybe 1500 miles away? Sometimes I feel like a nut but I dont seem to go for the convenience and packaging most times…


Connie Walsh January 29, 2009 at 10:29 am

I make trade offs. If there is a chore that I really dislike (really really) I will try and find a palatable alternative, if I do not find one then I will buy the convenience food. I know if I fixate on the yucky stuff, this simple life will have a short ride.

For the lettuce, why do you have to stick your fingers in there?? Is there not a tool you could use that would swish for you???


wendopolis January 29, 2009 at 10:39 am

I only have to look at the amount of trash my neighbors put out for pickup every week to know I’m doing something right. We have the biggest family on the block (7 of us) and I only put out one can (sometimes it’s not even full) and even our recycling bin is fairly empty. I make everything from scratch and buy no processed/convenience food. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, it’s inconvenient, but the savings allow me to stay home.


GLM January 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Good for you, Wendopolis, on all three counts! I am impressed that you don’t get any convenience stuff! That is a lot of prep work!


Meredith February 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm

So, so true. The choice that supports a simple living philosophy is seldom the “simplest”. I think about this while I’m scrubbing out a dirty cloth diaper, usually in our bathtub: I scrap the diaper off first, then I soak it, then I rub it with the natural laundry bar (the one I can buy for two dollars at the bulk store), then I wring it out, then I add it to the diaper pail. And all the while I find myself thinking: Why, why, why am I doing this? Up and down my street other parents are just grabbing another disposable out of the bag and tossing the old one out. I could be doing that too.

There are plenty of compelling reasons for all of us to do as we are doing. It may feel like our choices are more time-consuming, but I remind myself that every diaper washed is one less I have to buy, and that one less I have to buy is more money saved, and every dollar in the bank means less time working and more time with my children. In light of that, five minutes of scrubbing the diaper is time well spent.

Love your blog. Read it often for inspiration and commiseration.


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