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Thursday, December 9, 2021

On Doing the Next Best Thing

Perfection is a master that will never be pleased. Often, doing the very best thing or saving the maximum amount of money just doesn't happen. Either we don't think of something in time, or our circumstances prevent that singular best move. Doing the next best thing is a strategy that may be more valuable than chasing after perfection.

Thursday afternoon I was busy with many tasks. In addition to doing a bunch of holiday stuff and making yogurt, I was also baking a batch of bread and making dinner. Our main dish for dinner was a meatloaf. I actually did think ahead in one area and prepared a double-batch of meatloaf for an easy dinner later this month. However, I didn't plan well enough in advance to get both the meatloaf and the loaves of bread into the oven at the same time, thereby saving electricity and about 10 cents total. I could have used baking pans that would all fit in the oven's small space and timed the rising loaves of bread to be ready when the meatloaf was assembled. But in my slapdash, trying to get everything done, I just didn't plan it all out thoroughly. I did however do the next best thing. I got the meatloaf into the oven as the bread was coming out. This meant that I didn't need to reheat the oven twice in the day. My oven takes about 10-12 minutes to preheat, so I estimate that I saved about 4 cents by doing the next best thing.

I think there's a tendency to devalue low amounts of savings. However, if I save 4 cents every day by doing "the next best thing," I save $14.60 over the course of a year. Again, we might assume $14 is small change. But in my area, that $14.60 will buy a lot of food, such as a 25 lb bag of rice. In my thinking, there's no such thing as small change. All change adds up.

The effort spent chasing after that absolute best, whether it's being the most frugal or seeking perfection in some other area of our lives is not only exhausting, but it can be defeating when we fall short. I may even give up on trying if I can't ever reach my admittedly lofty goals. Knowing that I can still have a small win when the big win is out of my reach is reassurance that I am still heading in the right direction. After all, a small win (or 4 cents) is still a win. As the saying goes -- life is a marathon.


  1. I rarely get the timing right when making a bunch of oven foods. But at least a warm oven warms the house so that counts for something.

    I need to make bread but I still have 3 slices from two loaves of bread that should be eaten first unless I make those into breadcrumbs for meatloaf. I also went shopping on my deep freezer and found some bagels that should be used so perhaps I'll put off making bread until all of those little bits are gone.

    As I read your post I wonder if this contributes to stress in your life, unnecessary stress to make sure you strive for perfection. Give yourself a break if you fall short. It's not worth it in the end. I would say that you are savvy in everything you do so don't add perfectionism as a goal. I value you too much.

    1. Hi Alice,
      Thank you.
      You're right, striving for perfection does create unneeded stress. I've allowed myself to be not quite perfect much more as I've gotten older. But I do try to do the next best thing when I can.
      It sounds like you have a good plan for using up those odds and ends of bread. I need to search our freezers for bread and do the same this next week. I'm sure there are some burger or hot dog buns lurking in there.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Alice!

  2. I found myself making a non-perfection choice this week. You know how sometimes everything seems to get suddenly busy? My Wednesday and Thursday were like that. Late Wednesday evening I remembered that I had signed up to provide cookies for the band concert to be sold as a fundraiser. I was very tired from everything I had been trying to accomplish and just couldn't face baking anything time consuming. I pushed the easy button and made my recipe that uses a yellow cake mix as a base. I always add chocolate chips to it and I also added Christmas sprinkles to make it look more festive. It was a case of"good enough" . The next day I had to place them in individual bags to sell, which was time consuming, but not as much as some of the other recipes that I was considering using. I felt like I had cheated a little bit, but my daughter said that mine were some of the first cookies to sell, so it accomplished the goal and minimized my stress level. Sometimes good enough really is good enough!

    1. Hi Kris,
      That's so nice to hear that yours were some of the first to sell! With the added chocolate chips, I bet they were delicious as well as festive.
      I agree, good enough really is good enough. Thank you for sharing your cookie fundraiser experience.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Kris! I hope it's not as busy as your week was.

  3. I decided this week to settle on just good enough in regards to combining errands. We live 30 miles from our nearest "shopping" town with the grocery stores so trying to get all the errands for the week into one trip is a savings on gas, driving time, and wear and tear on the vehicle. But I have found that the grocery shopping at ALDI and Walmart (our available stores) is very chaotic and stressful. I try to go when there are less people, but when I combine all the errands into one trip, then I can't always do the grocery shopping at the least busy time. So last week I gave myself grace and allowed for a separate shopping trip early one morning and then an errand day for everything else later that week. And it was lovely! I may allow myself this luxury of extra gas for that one extra trip every week:)

    1. Hi Jenny,
      I think avoiding excess stress is a really important goal, not just for the mind but also for health. Your choice to do errands separately from grocery shopping sounds like it worked really well for you and gave you a measure of calm that was appreciated. Thank you for sharing your choices and experience. It helps to hear from others how they're dealing with these sort of challenges in everyday life.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Jenny!

  4. When perfectionism is the goal, life can be very stressful. Good enough is really good enough. In fact, I think it is better. This all is being said from a recovering perfectionist for years now.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Wisdom gained through experience is very valuable. I agree with you that good enough is good enough is also better than perfection in most instances. (I wouldn't want a neurosurgeon who did a "good enough" job, however! Ha ha)
      have a wonderful weekend, Live and Learn!

    2. I was thinking the same thing. I want my surgeon to be a perfectionist, as well as my airplane pilot. :)

    3. Yep, my airplane pilot, too!


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