Wednesday, September 14, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 8/29 - 9/11

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.

Gardening:
* I harvested okra, peppers, tomatoes and basil from the garden.
* I fed the bunnies farm seconds.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I made taco soup and quesadillas one evening. I soaked a pound of pinto beans, then added to the slow cooker with homemade stock, dehydrated tomatoes, sauteed onions and sweet peppers, a pound of ground turkey (browned), and some seasoning. It cooked while I worked, and as soon as I got home from work, dinner was ready within 5 minutes.
* We stopped at a farm stand on the way to my parents' house. They were selling everything for $.25 each, but the sign said "If you can". I absolutely love seeing people take care of those in their community. I bought several items. I got some summer squash and zucchini since the farm didn't get much this year. Fortunately, I haven't had enough zucchini yet to be sick of it. I also got some big tomatoes and sweet peppers to bring with to my parents' house.
* We stopped at a salvage grocer. It wasn't as good as our regular salvage grocer, but the hours are much more convenient and it is closer to home. We got: instant mashed potatoes for $.50/box (these are not used regularly, but I like to keep some on hand for long-term storage. Once they are pretty well past their expiry date. I'll start adding them to soups to thicken them up.), Amish day-old bread ($.99/loaf; we served one at my parents' and froze 2), hamburger buns ($.50/pack; bought 3), Tabasco Worcestershire sauce ($.50/each; I had used half of my last bottle and had been wanting to stock up. I bought 8), a variety of bottled/canned drinks for $.25 or less (Iced tea, malta, seltzer water; we use these for road trips.), jerky for $.50 and some dessert mixes for $.25/box.
* I made homemade salsa using a flavor mix I got for $.10 at the salvage grocer. I used tomatoes, Hungarian wax peppers, Carmen sweet peppers, onion, and garlic from the farm (all free seconds).
* We grilled out one evening. We made hamburgers, Shishito peppers (the last for the year), zucchini, summer squash, onions, sweet peppers and leeks. We had leftovers for lunch the next day.
* I made homemade hamburger helper. It was really easy. I sauteed some peppers, onions, leeks and garlic (all from the farm), then added 1 1/2 cups of homemade stock, 2 cups of milk (manager's special for $1/gallon), 3 cups of egg noodles and cooked until the noodles were tender. I mixed in leftover crumbled burgers, 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp seasoning salt, 1/2 tsp pepper (I thought it was the perfect amount, Trucker requested less next time), 1/2 tsp chili powder, 3/4 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning. It was pretty good and I will likely make it again, mainly because Trucker really liked it.
* I got two big bunches of broccoli for $1 each at the farmers' market. I used them to make broccoli cheddar soup. I cut down the florets, then peeled the stems (the stems are my very favorite part and I ate 1/4 of them as I prepped). I tossed all of it, along with some chopped leeks, in a pot with 2 cups of homemade stock. I cooked until the broccoli was tender. I transferred most of the liquid and about 2/3 of the broccoli (mostly the stems) into a blender. I pureed it all, then returned it to the pot. I added a cup of cheddar and a good sprinkling of cheddar cheese powder, pepper and seasoning salt, along with some bouillon powder. It was quite nice. I usually like to add some shredded carrot, but didn't have any left in the refrigerator. I had enough for two meals.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more sweet peppers, diced. Probably between 10-15 pounds.
* I froze a pound of mini sweet peppers, stemmed and seeded but left whole. These will be used for stuffing.
* I froze a few pounds of hot peppers, stemmed and seeded but otherwise whole. I also did the same for 1.5 pounds of Padron peppers.
* I froze more caramelized onions.
* I froze a two-meal portion of taco soup for another week.
* I sliced and froze 15 leeks.
* I made hot sauce for the first time. I used 25 or so Hungarian Hot Wax peppers, a medium onion and 4 cloves of garlic. I chopped roughly in the blender, then sauteed for 7 minutes. I added 1 cup of water and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. I cooked it all for 20 minutes, then blended and ran through a food mill. It was pretty thick, so I added another 1/4 cup or so of vinegar. I ended up with a pint jar in the refrigerator and enough leftover to fill one ice cube tray. The website I got the recipe from says that the sauce will last 2-3 months in the refrigerator, and after that we can pop out an ice cube's worth here and there. It was pretty easy and tastes great. I will likely try to make some more soon.

Fun:
* On Monday we went out to my parents' place for dinner. They supplied fish (from their last fishing trip) and shrimp. We brought side dishes: potato latkes (from a box: for shame. We got it for $.50 at a salvage grocer), tomatoes and sweet peppers (from a roadside farm stand down the road from their house; $.25 each), bread (from the salvage grocer), and pumpkin pie pudding (using manager's special pudding mix and pumpkin puree). After dinner, my parents, Trucker and I went to the lake for putt-putt golf. My dad had a BOGO coupon, so we only had to pay for 3 people. Turns out my mom is a bully and laughed hysterically whenever we goofed. :) We had a great time and laughed a lot.
* For the holiday, everyone got Monday off, but that is my usual day off. My boss told me to take Saturday off so I still got a long weekend. Trucker and I decided to go out to Chicagoland to visit his family. We headed out at 6 AM. We packed drinks and snacks to avoid costly stops. Along the way, we listened to an audio book together. Trucker's uncle took us all (Grandma, aunt, Trucker and me) out for dinner at a cute little restaurant I used to take his grandmother to when we lived nearby. We left tip. We had good talks and it was wonderful to see them again. Afterwards, we went into the city so I could go thrifting. I have had a really hard time in my current city finding good clothes and especially shoes. I was able to find a couple really nice pairs of shoes (one leather) for $2 and $4. We drove home that night, taking turns napping. It was a tiring trip, but it wasn't costly. We spent around $70 on gas, $10 on food and drinks, $15 tip and the items we purchased at the thrift were needed items, so the cost of the trip was only $95 or so.
* One afternoon, we went out with my friend and her 4 awesome kids. We met them at the Audubon park. She brought at amazing picnic for us. She is Egyptian and lemme tell ya, she has been feeding us some gourmet meals lately. Afterwards, we went walking through the wetlands, climbed the water tower, played on the playground, walked through the meadow and then relaxed at the observation deck over the river. We saw turtles, fish, snakes, frogs, ducks and deer. It was the kids' first time seeing a real live deer. It started to rain just about the time we were finished. We took them out for Frostys at Wendy's (on sale for $.50) and talked for another 45 minutes. They are the most amazing family and I love them dearly. Our entire afternoon cost less than $4.
* We went out on a couple coffee dates.
* My grandpa had a cookout for the holiday. We brought homemade salsa (all veggies from the farm), tortilla chips (from Aldi) and a sour cream dip (On sale $1). We had a great time. Trucker played volleyball with my dad, sisters and their boyfriends. I was going to play, but the ball fell in poison ivy. While none of them are much affected, I get deformed if I am exposed to it, so I bowed out as soon as the ball went into the thicket. I loved being able to sit under the maple trees and talk with Grandpa. He built this house a few years after he and Grandma got married. It was land just outside of town that his mother had always been in love with. He was a brick mason for 55 years, so of course, the house and garage are brick. It is an adorable 856 square foot house with three bedrooms. The garage, built a decade later, is almost as big as the house. After they got moved in, Grandma wanted a basement to store her canned foods in. Grandpa dug the basement out by hand and carried the dirt out by the bucket full. They were visiting my Grandmas' brother 50-some years ago, and he mentioned that they needed some trees. My great-uncle plucked a tiny maple seedling out of the ground and said "take care of it now". The tree is magnificent now. It was the climbing tree when I was a kid, the big one that I had to learn how to climb after I had mastered the other trees Grandpa had planted in later years.

Frugality:
* Trucker wanted to have our bedroom windows framed. He hated how boring it looked bare. He went to the hardware store and got some simple wood trim with
* I made an extra car payment.
* I paid extra on the mortgage.

Nature:
* For my birthday this week, we went to a lake about an hour away. We enjoyed sitting on the shore and watching the herons fishing. We also took a short walk through the woods.


Waste Reduction:
* I went through all of my clothes again, including items in storage. I put lots of items in the donation boxes and got everything else hung up in the closet and organized by type.
* I composted lots of weird things. I've been a lot better about getting dry/brown items in the compost. The bug problem is resolved in 2 of the 3 bins, and the smell is much better.

Work:
* I brought home some peppers and tomatoes on Tuesday, but not much because I wasn't going to have time to preserve them. On Friday I brought home: paste tomatoes, sweet peppers, leeks and eggplants.
* I packed lunch each day I stayed for lunch, except for Friday. On Friday the boss brought bacon and buns for BLTs with lettuce and tomatoes from the seconds bin. She also grilled shishito peppers (If you haven't tried these before, you must try them. They are like a Russian Roulette pepper. Overall, they are mild, but 1 in 10 is spicy!), onions and Carmen Italian sweet peppers. It was amazing.

Health:
* We have been exercising a lot more.
* Trucker joined a softball league to get some exercise, sunlight and make some friends.

Community:
* I brought a bag of farm leftovers to my friend.
* One farmer at the farmers market sent me home with a bouquet of flowers.
* My co-worker said she has had terrible luck getting watermelon this year. Her dad got one, but It was massively under-ripe. Then she bought one, but it was fermented. She said she didn't think she would get a watermelon all year. I told her, "I have a guy!" My oldest friend sells at the same farmers market I do and grows amazing melons. I went to buy one at the farmers market. I told him the story and he laughed. He ended up throwing in a free cantaloupe. She was thrilled.
* My friend also gave me a sunflower heavy with seeds. I hadn't eaten sunflower seeds fresh from the blossom since I was 5 (I remember when my friend's grandma cut one from her garden. My entire world was rocked).
How was your week?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/22 - 8/28

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* The scallions in water got some kind of worm in them. Into the compost they went.
* I harvested peppers, okra and basil from the garden.

Cooking/Groceries:
* We made pulled pork tacos with tomatoes (farm seconds), lettuce (farm seconds), onions (farm seconds), peppers (farm seconds), sour cream (sale), and hot sauce (salvage grocery).
* I found popcorn at the dollar store, $1/20 oz bag. We usually buy when we find it on sale for $1//lb or less. I bought 5 bags.
* I made a quick, easy dinner of pasta and veggies one evening. I sauteed 4 sweet peppers, 3 mini eggplant, 1/2 an onion and 4 cloves of garlic (all free from farm seconds). I made a sauce of beef stock, greek yogurt for creaminess, some peppadew mustard and cheese (sounds weird, but it was nice). Served with pasta from the salvage grocer. It was filling and got lots of veggies in us.
* My water kefir is doing good. We finally got a batch that tastes good (it takes a bit for it to get settled after shipping). I used raspberry lemonade concentrate with the kefir. It was lovely.

Food Preservation:
* I chopped more sweet peppers and froze them, loads and loads of peppers.
* I made a small batch of tomato sauce and froze in meal-sized portions.
* I cooked down 4 bunches of Swiss Chard and froze them.
* I froze more caramelized onions.
* I froze a few bunches of leeks.

Fun:
* We went on a couple coffee dates. Trucker got a free bagel one day using his rewards card.
* We went out to see the movie we skipped last week. Trucker got a BOGO coupon for the local independent theatre for completing the library's summer reading program (I misplaced my sheet until after the deadline). We went in the evening, so we did pay more than a matinee, but it was $10 total and the viewing was in a smaller, nice theatre room with big comfy recliners.
* We had a nice stay-at-home date. We popped popcorn and played Sorry. It was a lovely evening.

Nature:
* We went out on a few hikes. On our day off together (unexpected, but very appreciated!), we went for a longer hike in the foothills. We went to this forest preserve for the first time this past winter. It is so gorgeous! This time in addition to doing the rim loop, we also walked into the hollow to the waterfall. It was so pretty.
* On one hike, Trucker spent most of the time hunting butterflies (shooting only with his camera...hehe).

Frugality:
* I forgot to mention that Trucker got me a chainsaw at auction for $40. Now to tackle that treeline!
* I paid an extra payment and a half on my car.
* I made an extra payment on the last credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of things.

Work:
* I had my first week of a long Tuesday, short Wednesday shift. It was so wonderful to get out of work at noon and have time for a long evening with Trucker.
* I brought home eggplant, tomatoes, leeks, beets, Swiss chard, onions, and peppers from work (free seconds).
* Trucker worked two days at the auction house. His boss sent him home with some drink powder.
* Trucker brings breakfast on Sundays to his job. He had been stopping for Tim Hortons donuts, but since the cost was adding up and 3 of the 4 people were trying to watch their sweets intake, he decided to switch. Now he goes to the grocery store and looks for discount-rack items the night before. He saves about $3 doing this and they all get something a little less sugary.

Preparedness:
* I put up a good amount of food this week.

Future:
* Trucker had his first audition through this agent. We are waiting to hear back!
* Then he got another audition!

Health:
* We have both been taking our multivitamin each day. We are also drinking more water. I've taken to guzzling a half a bottle whenever I go processing area at the farm, or whenever I finish a task. I'm trying to get in the habit of drinking adequate water. A couple of health issues that Trucker is facing can be caused by dehydration (or electrolyte imbalance from being dehydrated), so we are hoping that if we are better on those points he will improve.

Community:
* Someone at the farmers market gave me a free lemonade from his booth since it was so hot.

How was your week?

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/15 - 8/21

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* I harvested 2 cherry tomatoes (Matt's Wild), 7 okra pods (Clemson spineless), 8 jalapenos/serrano tampequino peppers.
* The plants growing where the bunnies overwinter are doing great! They are very sturdy and lush. I harvested some peppers from those plants, whereas the pepper plants in untreated beds haven't flowered yet. I have been on the fence about keeping the bunnies, trying to breed them again, or just selling them, but this may be a good enough reason to keep them even if I don't decide to breed. I do need to be better about gathering weeds/farm scraps to cut back on their feed costs.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I made stock from 3 containers of bone and veggie scraps in the freezer.
* I got my water kefir grains. I ordered off of Amazon for $7 including shipping. I can't wait to get started. I already made some orange syrup (using dehydrated orange peels).
* We made crab rangoon for dinner one evening. We used wonton wrappers and imitation crab from the freezer (both manager's specials), cream cheese (Aldi), scallions from the freezer (free from the farm). Served with sweet chili sauce from the ethnic grocer (the 33 oz bottle there is cheaper than the 12 oz container at the chain grocer).
* We made stir fry (onions, garlic, peppers, eggplant and Swiss chard from the farm seconds), rice (cooked in homemade stock) and crab rangoon (to use up the leftover filling mixture). Delicious and so much cheaper than going out.
* We got a 4.5 lb pork butt for $8 on manager's special. I seared the edges, then tossed in the slow cooker while I did food preservation. I added some sauteed onions and peppers (farm seconds) and homemade BBQ sauce (ketchup, Worchestershire sauce, mustard, honey and the last of a jar of pepper spread). I served over hamburger buns (from the freezer, manager's special). We had enough for many, many meals.

Food Preservation:
* I froze leftover chili in one- and two-meal portions. I intend this for Trucker when I'm working so he can have quick meals.
* I took everything out of both freezers and quickly rearranged everything. Now the refrigerator unit has all of last year's produce stores and one shelf of heat-and-eat dishes for Trucker while I'm at work. One shelf on the bottom has meat. The other freezer has all of this year's fruit and veggie stores as well as a basket of meat (newer additions; older ones are in the other freezer). The chest freezer also has the supply of bread and tortillas.
* I cooked down 30 pounds (after cutting out bad spots) of tomatoes into sauce. I used all heirloom tomatoes, of whatever varieties we had around. Most were red, some purple and a few yellow or green. I considered keeping the light ones separate, but the color was unappetizing. Once I mixed it in, the darker purple ones more than offset the color and the sauce still had a great rich red color.
* I stumbled upon a nice trick that might be old-hat for some of you. I cut down all of the tomatoes to cook down, but didn't have time to cook it all (only so many large pots). I tossed the extra into the refrigerator overnight to cook the next day. The next morning, there was a lot of juice at the bottom of the bowl. I strained the tomatoes and froze the juice. The resulting sauce was cooked down in a half hour to be as thick as an unstrained batch was at 3 hours. I will definitely do this for now on.
* I froze another couple gallons of tomato juice (strained from tomato sauce to quicken the cooking time. I froze them in various sizes. Small ones will be perfect for lunches; large ones will be used as soup base.
* I made a quart jar and a pint jar of quick-pickled onions. I used brine leftover from some pickled carrots. I brought it to a boil, and poured it over the onions stuffed into the jars. They are really good, perfect for sandwiches. I also made a tiny batch of pickled peppers (8 little jalapenos/serranos) using the little bit of leftover brine from the onions.

Fun:
* We went to a lecture with a group we are involved in. We go about once every 3 weeks or so. It is free, although when the hat goes around we toss in a couple dollars. This one was a dramatic reading of a piece written about the possible future of humankind.
* We went to a free Blues concert at a theatre in the arts district. It was one of the best shows I've been to in a long time. They had fantastic stage presence and the music was wonderful. The saxophone player was amazing. We parked about a mile away so we didn't have to feed a meter (or worry about the permit parking restrictions). It also gave us a nice walk to and from.
* Trucker took me to the comedy club for my birthday (a few weeks early) to see one of my favorite comics. It was a really nice evening. After the show, they sent him an email saying that we had two free tickets for a non-special show. The comedian Trucker was wanting to see is a "special" show, but we will enjoy whichever comedian we see.

Nature:
* We went on a few short hikes.

Frugality:
* We were going to go out with our movie club, but they were seeing the 3D version on a Friday night. We were not going to spend $15 each to see a movie, so we decided to skip.
* I needed some new sneakers. I had been waiting for a good kohl's or Payless coupon, but kept missing them. Finally, I went to a thrift store when they had a half off sale on all shoes. I got two pairs of sneakers in very good condition (very little signs of use) for $2.25 and $4. I also got a pair of black pumps ($2) to replace 3 pairs of black dress shoes that are either worn or very uncomfortable. I have finally broken down and admitted it is time for (slightly) more practical shoes. I will no longer be buying any heels with very narrow toe box to prevent exacerbating my tailors bunion (ahh, aging). Honestly, I never really thought I'd get to the point where I would consider practicality in my shoe selection, but here I am. This new pair of pumps has a moderate heel and a more rounded shape to the toe box. They are still nice enough looking.
* I hung the clothesline up (finally) so I could hang lots of laundry one day I was working at home. Not only do I save money on gas (about $.35 a load), but I absolutely love the gentle work outside. Line drying also reduces wear and tear on the clothes, making them look nicer longer.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots. I have been better about getting more browns into the bins. I need to be better about it, however.
* I used veggie and bone scraps to make broth.
* When I prepped veggies throughout the week, I put more in the freezer for the next batch of stock. I also saved a pork bone.

Home/Decluttering:
* We are trying very hard to get the house looking nice. We are starting some light remodelling/fixing up and working to declutter. I am hoping that posting here will keep me motivated.
* Trucker has been listing lots of items on OfferUp. We have moved ten or so items: a box of CDs, a large vintage chair that doesn't go with our decor (We got it years ago on a curb; sold for $20), a juicer in box, a small oven, etc.
* We went through some of Trucker's dress shirts. We put several in the donation box that were no longer his style.
* I am wearing clothes that have been in the closet for awhile. If at the end of the day, I don't love the item, it will be donated. So far this has worked for another couple shirts.
* We got the new screen door installed. We had to put a grate in front of it to keep Raycat from destroying the door again (she's a wild child). We bought a $20 grate that is intended to prevent robberies. For now, we haven't installed it onto the door, we just wedge it in. It is a little inconvenient to have to move it when we want to go outside, but this keeps her from destroying the door within a week. She not only tears through the screen, but scratches the door til it looks ragged. It's not just the cost of replacing screen, she recently broke through the screen and was missing for an hour before she came back. I think it's $20 well spent.

Work:
* I brought home a lot of seconds: tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, okra, onions, Swiss chard, salad mix and peppers.
* We had a party at the farm for the teens as they summer program ended. It was a beautiful night and very exciting to meet parents and others in the community. We had a dinner, then an awards ceremony.
* I picked up extra hours at work this week.
* My work schedule changed for the better. As our youth program ends, and our interns go back to school, we are really short staffed for harvest days. I usually start late on harvest days since I do deliveries and farm stand afterwards. I offered to work early on harvest days to relieve some of the load. My boss said that would be wonderful and said I could leave after I do the morning farm stand on Wednesdays. Now Trucker and I will have the whole afternoon and evening together, perfect for going kayaking, swimming or hiking.
* We had a party on Friday. We had leftovers from the youth program finale the night before (lasagna, bread, salad, cookies) and tacos (boss brought shrimp, homemade mango salsa, lime, guacamole, and grilled veggies.
* I am working on getting a job lined up after the farming season ends. I missed out on a position I would have loved because I got caught up in taking care of everyone else. So to make sure I don't miss out on anymore, I have a couple resumes drafted and every time I see a new position, I am applying immediately.

Preparedness:
* I got lots more food put up for winter, since I am still uncertain about the job situation. Also, since I definitely won't be with the farm (Farm manager said that if she had funding to keep me on over winter she would and that she would definitely hire me back for the next season if it worked for me. However, I do want to get a full-time permanent job so we can get health insurance outside of the exchange), I wont' have access to virtually unlimited free organic food. I am quite proud of how much I've managed to get put up. Lots of greens, tomato sauce and pesto so far.

Future:
* Trucker got his head shots this week. We had to go out and buy him a couple shirts to fit what the photographer requested, but he will be able to use these in the future. He got items on sale at the thrift store.
* We are really excited for him to try this new venture.

Setbacks:
* A pane in our window fell out and broke. Trucker was able to tape it back together, so it is okay-ish in the short term, but we will need to replace it soon (as well as the matching window in the next room).

Community:
* I took home all of the tablecloths, gloves and rags from work to wash. The farm manager would otherwise have had to go to a laundromat. This saved her the time and money, and only cost me a bit of time and around $1.50 in detergent and water.

How was your week?

Monday, August 15, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/1 - 8/14 TWO WEEKS

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* I harvested basil and scallions from the garden.
* I fed the bunnies some greens from the farm.
* I harvested small amounts of herbs to use in cooking: oregano, parsley, marjoram, oregano.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I made caprese salad with brandywine tomatoes and basil from the farm (free), fresh mozzarella ($2.50/half pound on manager's special), and reduced balsamic vinegar (from Salvage grocery).
* We got a foil-package of tilapia with seasonings on manager's special for $3 (about a pound). We used it the next day.
* I made trash chili. I used all the tomatoe rinse water from the freezer, a can of kidney beans ($.35 from salvage grocer), two jars of dehydrated tomatoes, half a jar or dehydrated peppers, a medium sized onion, a half a bulb of garlic and the leftover tomato sauce and meatballs.

Food Preservation:
* I put up 2 meal-sized portions of tomato sauce. I had planned to learn to can this year, but it just isn't happening. So, since I do have access to free tomatoes, I am making a plain sauce and freezing to use as sauce or soup later. I will season as needed.
* To reduce cooking time on my tomato sauce (especially since most of the free tomatoes I get are not paste tomatoes), I have been straining off some of the juice. I have frozen around a gallon of tomato juice in pint or half-pint jars. I will use these as refreshing drinks. I know that this may make my resulting sauce a little less flavorful, but it so significantly saves on cooking gas that it is worthwhile (plus I get this lovely byproduct).
* I froze tons of banana and jalapeno peppers, whole except guts removed. These will be used for stuffed peppers and poppers later.
* I froze 4+ pounds of diced sweet peppers.
* I froze diced scallions and garlic scapes.
I found this at the art museum. I couldn't
believe people would pay so much for
fake records to use as placemats when
thrift stores have them for a quarter or less!

Fun:
* We took my parents out for dinner one evening. They towed Trucker's car when it broke down, and we wanted to show them how much we appreciated them. They don't usually eat out, except for fast food, so we took them to a nicer (although not outrageously priced) restaurant. We had a great time hanging out with them.
* My friend made us a huge Egyptian feast to say thank you for helping her get settled in. She served two roast ducks, two types of mashi, black-eyed peas, a delicious Orzo soup, salad and this fantastic semolina cake. She served an alcohol-free peach malt drink and iced water. Afterwards, we all sat out on the balcony and sipped mint tea and talked. We love the whole family and had a wonderful time. She sent us home with leftovers, so we got a second feast.
* I met up with my friend for lunch when I was working thefarmers market. She shared her lunch from work with me. I brought her a couple pluots and a bag of candy for her kids.
* we want our for a few coffee dates.
* I took Doodles out for her birthday breakfast (she was sick the day of). I had a groupon for a superhero themed restaurant. Afterwards, we walked around the art museum for an hour or so (it was free that day).

Nature:
* We went out for several 45 minute nature walks/hikes.

Work:
* I worked a little overtime.
* I came home for lunch a couple times to see Trucker and packed a lunch two days. One day the boss bought lunch.
* I brought home tons of seconds: tomatoes, peppers, okra, swiss chard, garlic, onions, potatoes, and more.

Future:
* Trucker had a big week. So last week he had his first paid acting gig. This week he had a meeting with an agent. He signed a one-year contract with them! I am so proud of him and so excited to see what he does in the next year.

Setbacks:
* Trucker's car broke down. My parents towed it back to my uncle's place. He fixed it for $30.

Community:
* We had a farm tour this weekend. Even though I wasn't required to be there, Trucker and I went for the first half. It was great getting to meet new people who were excited about what we are doing.
* I found some candles on sale for 90% off, making them $.30-1.70 each. I bought a few for me and three extras. I used these for a housewarming gift for my friend who just moved from Cairo last month and a birthday gift for a coworker. Trucker gave the last one to his boss' wife. His boss gives him a lot of useful items, so Trucker likes to do nice things for them too.
* I gave my uncle some tomatoes from the farm. I also gave my parents some tomatoes and a cucumber.
* My boss took all of us out for lunch to celebrate a coworker's birthday. She took us to this fantastic deli. It was so sweet of her and we all had a great time.
* Someone at the farmers market gave me a bag of granola.
* At the farmers market we sell at, there was a festival. I was a judge for a food contest.
How was your week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 7/25 - 7/31

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.

Gardening:
* I harvested some scallions from the windowsill. These were regrown from scraps.

Cooking/Groceries:
* Daisy came over for dinner one evening. Since she is vegan, I made vegan tacos. My boss gave me this super simple recipe that was absolutely amazing. You put raw beets (You don't even have to peel them), carrots (optional, but I put some in since I had them), onion, and garlic into the blender (I also added sweet peppers since I had them on hand). Chop into small shreds (I had to do this in a few batches). Cook down in a little oil until the water evaporates and add taco seasoning (I also added the last of a bottle of salsa verde to use it up). Serve in tortillas with all the usual fixins. We had pickled radishes (homemade using farm seconds; my coworker has gotten me hooked on this), pickled peppers (salvage grocer), tomatoes (from the farm), lettuce (from the farm), hot sauce and sour cream (for me). I had leftovers to use for another meal.
* I put some chicken in the slow cooker one morning. We used a piece to make BBQ chicken sandwiches, served with homemade radish pickles (from farm seconds) and carmelized onions (farm seconds). On the side, I served colcannon (made with potatoes and beet greens from the farm) and candied carrots (also from the farm).
* We realized we were out of BBQ sauce, but Trucker made up a very basic sauce using ketchup, Worchestershire sauce and mustard. I don't plan on buying more unless I find it very cheap at the salvage grocer and will just make sure I have those 3 ingredients on hand.
* I made garden veggie soup. I used a jar of dehydrated tomatoes from last year and the last of a jar of zucchini. I covered them with water. While it came to a boil, I chopped up a half a leftover cucumber, a few mini eggplants, and a soft tomato and added it to the pot. Then I chopped up some onion, sweet peppers, jalapeno and the last of a bulb of spring garlic. I pureed the boiling mixture and put it through the Food mill. I sauteed the onion and pepper mixture, cooked a tablespoon of flour in the oil, then slowly mixed in the pureed mixture. It was fantastic. I plan to make this more often to freeze for winter.
* In general, I have been trying to use up items from the pantry, freezer and leftovers. Having a decent pantry-eat-down helps in a few ways. It saves money in the short term, since we don't have to buy as many items. It reduces waste because it items don't get shoved to the back of the pantry and forgotten until they are questionable. It clears clutter. It allows us to get more creative in our cooking because we have to try to find ways to use items that I bought on a deal, but don't use often or to combine random items for an edible, and ideally delicious meal.

Food Preservation:
* I hung up some basil to dry.
* I cooked a bunch of beet greens and froze them for winter.
* I dehydrated a bunch of oversized okra. I will use this for soups and stews this winter. I also dehydrated several pounds of tomatoes and 3 large sweet peppers.
* I froze more beets and carrots.
* All of the preserved produce was farm seconds, so they were free.

Fun:
* We went out for a cheap date. Trucker donated blood a few weeks ago and received a BOGO coupon for a local pizza place. We each got a small pizza (with enough leftover for lunch the next day) and got a soda to split for $8.50.
* Daisy came over for dinner one day. The meal for two was about the cost of coffee for just me if we had gone out.
* We went to another film at the summer film fest at the theatre downtown. This time we saw Blazing Saddles. We brought snacks from the dollar store and paid for 2 hours' parking, so the total cost of our date was $9.

Nature:
* We went for a 2.5 mile hike at a local metro park. I went barefoot, which was fine, until the .5 mile of gravel path!
* We went for a few miles another evening after it cooled down. We walked through a meadow and around a pond.

Frugality:
* I used swagbucks for all of my searches so I could earn points.
* I used my grocery store points to get $.10 off per gallon.

Waste Reduction:
* One of my tank tops's straps snapped in the dryer. I was debating whether or not to mend it, but decided not to since I didn't really like the tank, it didn't look good on me anymore and it looked a bit worn. Instead, I cut it into rags. Since it was jersey material, I didn't need to hem them.
* I composted lots of things.

Work:
* I got a good amount of farm seconds this week: tomatoes, okra, peppers beets and greens, carrots, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, and lettuce.
* I worked a bit of overtime.
* Trucker only worked one day at the auction house. However, he did get some other work.

Future:
* Trucker had filming for a television show this week. This was his first paid gig. He was in two scenes. He had a great time. He drove 3 1/2 hours to the next city, but even with his cost of gas, made a fair amount. He said the buffet lunch they provided was far more extravagant than any wedding he has been to. He is hoping to do this more in the future.

Health:
* Trucker has been having some indigestion problems, such as trouble swallowing. The doctor said it was indigestion and to take a pill. My dad had the same symptoms and said that once he started eating a bowl of bran flakes every day, they went away. I bought him some bran flakes; hopefully this will help. We figure that taking medication could cause other side effects, while eating a higher fiber diet would provide a good number of other health benefits. Of course, we will get some OTC medication if we don't see improvement with lifestyle and diet modifications. Generally, I believe that for us, lifestyle and nutritive changes are more effective and safer than just popping pills, at least, when it comes to chronic/low-risk issues (but if more serious issues arise, I'm the first to insist on a doctor or hospital visit). It is also much more affordable, which is of great importance for working class folks.
* Trucker has been tobacco-free for 5 months now. The effects on his health have been amazing. He doesn't need his emergency inhaler at all when outside of the house and only uses it occasionally when home (the cat dander is the culprit here). He used to need it nearly constantly. He is also able to exercise now without feeling like he is dying. His mood is much improved now that he has broken that nasty anxiety/nicotine/nic-fit cycle. He hasn't been getting sick as often (which means I haven't been getting sick as often). Then there are all those lovely long-term affects to come: reduced stroke, cancer and heart disease risk. And of course, the financial savings. Assuming $7/pack, a pack a day costs $2555/year. So assuming one would put that money in a retirement plan, after 20 years at let's say 3% interest, the balance would be $70,741. For those wanting some good motivation for quitting, check this out.

Community:
* My parents got us a bike rack at a yard sale for $5.
How was your week?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 7/18 - 7/24

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* I bought a bag of rabbit feed for $10.
* I am contemplating getting rid of the rabbits. I made the mistake of "saving money" on breeding stock, which in hindsight was a bonehead move. Nurse Ratched has some defects that I'm really sure are cause to cull. Still debating whether to give it another few months. Everyone at the farm agrees that rabbits are one of the most troublesome ways to raise meat and opt for chickens. Has anyone successfully (or unsuccessfully) kept rabbits for meat? Thoughts?
* I got some leftover Swiss Chard and lettuce starts from the farm. I planted them where I had pulled garlic.

Cooking/Groceries:
* We had baked potatoes for dinner one night. Simple and it kept us from being tempted to eat out.
* Trucker made steak (manager's special) and potatoes one night.
* We had tacos a couple of times.

Food Preservation:
* I put up another 3 ice cube trays of pesto.

Fun:
* We went out to my parents' house for dinner one evening. We had a great time talking with them, my sisters and Grandpa.
* Trucker got us concert tickets to see Joan Jett, Heart and Cheap Trick (groupon; half off). We spent the night in a nearby town. It was a lovely historic hotel. They had elaborate gardens and a walking trail through the gardens into the woods. The breakfast was phenomenal. I booked the hotel through hotels.com to earn towards my free night's stay. We packed a lunch for the first day so we didn't have to eat out; the second day we ate a big breakfast and then got a late lunch.
* I took my sister out to see Giant (her first time) at the theatre downtown. I had bought a strip of 10 tickets for $25, and I bought us each a box of candy from the dollar store on the way (they are fine with outside snacks). Total cost for a girls afternoon out: $7.

Nature:
* We enjoyed a lovely stroll through the garden at the hotel.

Work:
* It has been a hot one at work. 90+ degree days, and there's still high tunnel work to be done. The boss has had us come in an hour early so we can work less in the heat. Very considerate of her. I LOVE the 6-2 shift because I feel like I have the whole day when I get off and I don't have to go to bed super early.
* I picked up some extra hours to cover my day off.
* A couple of months ago, Trucker had bought us concert tickets for a show out of town. We had planned on just heading out after work, and I'd try to sleep on the way home so I could go to work the next morning. When I asked the boss whether I could pick up greenhouse duty that week so I could leave early that day (On days we aren't working at the farm, one person gets greenhouse duty to tend to the seedlings and gets to leave early one day that week), she insisted that she would cover the farmers market so I could have a weekend away with Trucker.
* I took a few seconds home, but not a lot since we would be gone for the weekend.
* I packed my lunch each day, except Friday when the boss brought tacos.

Health:
* I finally went to the doctor for my annual physical. I figured after 14 years it was time.
* Trucker had a cyst on his eyelid removed. While two different doctors both said it was just a cyst and not dangerous, both a family friend and Trucker's uncles had had what they thought was a cyst that turned out to be cancer. It ended up costing a lot more than we expected. However, I have been paying down the credit cards significantly, so I put some of it on one credit card, that I am continuing to pay down aggressively. I will pay off that portion with my next paycheck.

Community:
* Dad let me borrow his chainsaw so I can tackle the unruly tree line.
How was your week?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 7/11 - 7/17

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Cooking/Groceries:
* It was an insanely busy week and we have both been feeling poorly, so we ate out a lot. I have to get back in the swing of prepping meals.
* I boiled a few grocery sacks full of beets and carrots.
* I stopped at Save-A-Lot, which I don't usually like, but it was on the way home. I found a couple decent sales: $.99/tortillas (bought 4), $.89 hamburger buns, and coffee ($5.99/35 oz decaf, $4.99/31 oz regular)
* I made a plum crisp, using some oatmeal/hot cereal packs that Trucker didn't like for breakfast as the crisp topping.
* We grilled out one afternoon. Trucker made his fantastic hamburgers (used 1/4 of a 5 lb chub I got for $6 at Aldi) and we also grilled corn on the cob ($1 from my farmer buddy), sweet peppers ($2 for 15 or so; we used about $1's worth), zucchini (free from farm), patty pan squash (free from farm), fairy tale eggplant (free from farm) and nectarines for dessert ($.58 from Aldi). We served the burgers with tomatoes and onions from the farm (free) and homemade refrigerator pickles (made from free veggies). So including condiments, we spent $5 and had enough leftover for lunch the next day.

Food Preservation:
* I made another batch of radish pickles.
* I dried bread heels to use for crumbs.
* I made a huge batch of pesto for the freezer.
* I froze some boiled beets and carrots.

Fun:
* We went hiking at a lovely state park about an hour away. It had been so long since we've been able to get out for a hike. We did a four-mile loop. It was a lovely park, with lots of waterfalls. Afterwards, we went to get ice cream at a agritourism mecca nearby. I also got to pet some goats and calves, so I was pretty happy. We ate well before we left, and brought drinks with, so the only cost was $8 for ice cream and $8 in gas to get there.

Nature:
* We loved getting to see all the waterfalls at the state park. It was a little too crowded to get to see much wildlife besides some squirrels. However, we did off-trail a bit to the river to watch fish and crawdads. Plus, it is always wonderful to get away from the city and get lost in the woods.

Frugality:
* We looked at mattresses when we went out for household items with part of our tax money. I shopped around while shopping with my friend and knew the place that had the cheapest. Trucker was mortified when he saw the price (it's been a solid decade since we bought a mattress and that was at our salvage grocer, so it was cheap). One queen sized mattress was on sale for almost 50% since it was the floor model. It did show a fair amount of wear, more than I typically see on a floor model (I usually suggest buying display models. This may be the exception since so many people hop on it to try it out, while no one tries baking a cake in the display ovens). We decided not to buy it because it was a queen and we currently have a full. To buy that, we would still have had to spend $130 on a box spring and buy all new sheets (and I've just recently got us fully stocked with a variety of both summer and winter sets). Trucker looked around at some online auctions and found a really nice full-sized mattress for $50. He listed our mattress on OfferUp for $35 and sold it the next morning. So basically, we paid $15.
* I made a credit card payment on the last card that was 4x the minimum payment. This will not be my only payment this month.
* I did use this card to buy some household items that we had budgeted from our tax refund. I had planned to spend about $350 on household repairs/materials. I put that money on the balance as soon as I got the money so I wouldn't pay interest on that $350 for those few weeks. However, we ended up only spending $286. We shopped around to get the best prices. We bought 2 interior doors to replace crummy ones that have needed replaced for years. We bought a new screen door for the patio doors since Ray-cat tore down the last one. We paid an additional $10 to get the heavy-duty one that was reinforced at the handle; this was the exact area where the old screen was bent from the previous owners, warping the entire door and making it difficult to open. I also found a metal wire theft-prevention cover that is half the height of the door. We plan to put that in front of the screen to keep her from clawing at it. If that doesn't work, we will spend $10 to get special pet-resistant screen. Trucker has wanted to put window frames up in the master bedroom since we moved in. Admittedly, it is a boring looking room. He figured out what he wanted and we comparison shopped. Some of the stained oak pieces were on sale for just $1 more per 7-foot piece than the unstained pine ones. The 4 accent pieces were $1.50 more each, but we figured for a total of $9 extra, we don't have to buy any stain or mess with it. That was acceptable for us. We also got several tools that Trucker will need for these (and a few other) projects, and will then have for future projects. We also got a new mailbox since the one that came with the house was too small for the volume of mail we get, and part of it fell off on a near-daily basis. We got the cheapest one that suited our needs. We ended up buying a lot of small things that we hadn't planned on (small projects and tools), but since we had shopped around and found incredible deals on the doors, we still came out spending $64 less than we had budgeted for the three doors.
* When we first decided to buy a house, Trucker told me that he was fine with buying a home, as long as I understood that he was not handy and had no intention of becoming handy, so I would have to hire out all work. Turns out, he is quite handy. He is constantly doing minor repairs, maintaining the house, and adding lovely touches, such as the Mid-Century medicine cabinet he installed last month. He even learned how to fix our furnace and water heater! He is absolutely amazing and I am so thankful I have him as my partner.
* I used Swagbucks for searches to earn points. I'm saving these points because we have some big changes coming in the next year or two, and I want to have lots of things prepared. While this is a small earnings, but leaving it alone, I may have a couple hundred dollars worth by then (currently at $25).
* I am using my rewards credit card for almost all of my purchases. I earn 1-5% cash back. I am currently letting them sit in my rewards account because I am not sure that I wouldn't lose control of spending and use it for...something. I do need to set up a savings account at a bank that is ridiculously inconvenient so it makes it harder to spend savings.
* I got two month's worth of mileage reimbursement and put it towards my credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things.
* I used old newspapers, bubble wrap and boxes to ship packages.
* I have started a bin in the kitchen for non-glossy paper waste so that I get more browns in my compost and further reduce my household waste.

Work:
* My boss has been wonderful at letting me make up hours as needed to take care of my family. Trucker needed to go to the doctor and I needed to be present. My wonderful boss encouraged me to take whatever time I needed and they would make it work on their end. I made sure to get him in to the doctor on a slower day rather than the next day when it was a busier workday.  I was able to pick up a few hours throughout the week and made up for the lost hours. I am so thankful that I have found myself working with a team that treats everyone as a person. It certainly makes life more pleasant, and keeps morale high.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked except Friday. Every Friday we have a cookout. The boss made hamburgers, someone else brought chips and salsa and I brought some cookies. It was so much fun and so delicious.
* Trucker ate for free one day at work.
* Trucker got Sunday off work since it was a slow week. We enjoyed getting a day to spend together.

Preparedness:
* Our alarm clock started running fast. Trucker bought another one and made sure it took batteries so when the power goes out, we don't lose the time (especially important since I work early in the morning).
* I put up lots of food for winter.

Health:
* My insomnia got really bad this week and I ended up getting 15 minutes one day before going to work.
* Trucker started to have some scary side effects, so we had to go to the doctor to get things all fixed up. The doctor strongly encouraged him to cut back on the caffeine and increase the cardio. These are things both of us need to do, so it will be good to help each other. We bought some decaf coffee to cut in to the regular to reduce the caffeine in each pot (He usually drinks just shy of 2 pots a day).
* I have been better this week at drinking more water while at work.

Community:
* Both of our farm stands went fabulously well! We were super busy both days and I got to meet so many fantastic people. I am blown away by how lovely people are. Many of them are concerned with my personal safety, or watch over the farm while we are away. I got to talk with one fabulous woman for awhile this week after the farm stand.
* I met the moderator of a fantastic local Facebook group. She is a veteran who is passionate about food security. She started a page to let other vets know how to get access to healthy food and it just sort of grew from there. Locals that are interested in finding about getting affordable, healthy food can check her out: Free Food Soldier.
* I helped my friend another day to get all settled in.
How was your week?
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