Friday, October 21, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/10 - 10/16

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.
Sorry for the late and short post this week. It has been a crazy, busy week.

* I've been harvesting lots (for my garden) of peppers from the indoor and outdoor plants. I usually pick the peppers off of the plants immediately upon taking them indoors, but for this batch I'm letting them grow to size. I will pick off flowers before they produce.
* I harvested a basket full of herbs.

* Trucker fried up a family-pack of chicken. We had fried chicken with salad and cheesy cauliflower for lunch one day. We saved the rest to use in other meals.
* We used some of the chicken to make tacos. I added peppers and onions to the meat mix, then topped the tacos with fresh tomato, lettuce, and more peppers, along with sour cream and homemade hot sauce. All of the produce came from the farm.
* A couple times I made pasta with sauteed mushrooms, onions, garlic and arugula in a mornay sauce. Simple and oh so good.

Food Preservation:
* I froze leeks.
* I dehydrated two dehydrators worth of eggplant, sliced, to use in place of some of the pasta in my lasagna.
* I dehydrated celery and peppers.
* I dehydrated oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage and basil.

* We enjoyed a 2.5 mile hike at a park near us. The leaves were beautiful. We enjoyed going to the nature center to watch birds and look at the snacks, frogs and fish in aquariums and the scat, bone and feather displays.

House and Home:
* I got a Dalian melting clock! I've always wanted one, but they are kinda pricey, considering they are not a necessity. This one was at a thrift store for $2.

* I worked a little overtime.
* I took home some seconds: peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, beets, acorn squash, leeks, lettuce, scallions and some arugula.

* I went over to a friends house to talk with her husband about a new career idea. She made a fried chicken dinner with cornbread and mashed potatoes. We brought a bottle of her favorite wine and dessert. Cheap price to pay for all the fantastic information I got. I'm excited to explore further.
* I took a couple aptitude tests on a college website and got a solid score. I'm now taking a free course online.
* I worked a lot on Etsy since I've been making more sales. Holidays!

* I got my first eyeglasses. My near-vision is still 20-20, but my far-vision needed a  a weak prescription. I considered not getting them, but I'm glad I did. Now that I have them, I realize how pixelated my far-vision was. Now it feels like high-def. I'm so ready to do a commercial. haha
* I bought a hard glasses case for $.50 at a thrift store. I knew if I used the soft case they have me I'd break them.

How was your week?

Monday, October 10, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/3 - 10/9

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.
* I harvested peppers, tomatoes and a tiny amount of Swiss chard from the garden.
* The power company talked with me this week. They are updating the infrastructure in our neighborhood and one of the things getting replaced is the transformer at the back of our property. This is very exciting because it blows every year and leaves us without power for awhile. That's the great part. The less great part is that they are going to have to move some big equipment through the yard...right over my garden. There goes my un-compacted soil, so carefully protected through 4 years of hand digging and lasagna gardening. On the other hand, we are hoping to be moving to a new place within 3-4 years, so I'll live. I was also glad they talked with me beforehand so I had time to take out important plants.
* I uprooted my 4 best pepper plants from the garden. I potted them into a variety of medium-sized containers and brought them inside.
* I uprooted many herb plants and brought them inside: basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary. Hopefully these will be nice, productive little houseplants. I have a nice little plant on my desk now.

* I made slow cooker beef stew to try to get more iron in our diet. I tossed in loads of different veggies from the farm: turnips, carrots, radishes, onions, leeks, garlic and celery (celery was a gift) and covered it with homemade stock. I added some homegrown seasonings from the garden. We let it cook all day while we were working at the booth. When we got home, it was rather thin since I had used all fresh veggies instead of some dehydrated ones. I added a quarter of a box of instant mashed potatoes from the salvage grocer ($.49) to thicken it up perfectly. This made for 8 meals.
* We had a couple meals of fried eggs with pickled peppers and toast.
* I made tomato soup (with tomatoes from the garden) and quesadillas for dinner one day.
* Trucker made French toast for breakfast on our day off together.
* I hit the salvage grocer. I got a variety of things but the best deals were: $4/10 oz beef jerky, $.10/whole wheat flatbread mixes, $.39/quart chai concentrate and $2.50 bags of coffee.
* I made grilled pizza for dinner. I used some whole wheat pizza crust mix ($.10, salvage grocer), tomato sauce ($.99, salvage grocer), sweet peppers (free farm seconds), olives ($.99, salvage grocer), pickled onions (free farm seconds), and mozzarella ($1.79/12 oz bag at Aldi). I pressed a little everything mix into the bottom crust. It was quite nice. However, we both were unable to finish our little pizzas (usually we finish and go back for some sort of side), and saved enough for Trucker's lunch the next day. The only difference was using a whole wheat crust.

Food Preservation:
* As the season draws to a close, I am working harder at preserving food. I'm not sure what the job situation will be, but I know that I will have a drop in income and I will not have access to free produce anymore. The plan for that time will be to eat predominantly from the pantry and only buy items to fill in gaps.
* I froze more scallions, simply snipped and put in a bag. So stupid easy.
* I pickled lots of peppers: Jimmy Nardellos, Hungarian Hot Wax (regular and black), Green Bell, Italian Sweet, Bangkok Thai and Jalapeno.
* I made hot vinegar with some Bangkok Thai peppers.
* I made a basic cowboy candy using Jalapenos and Hungarians.
* I dehydrated lots of over-sized okra. On a dehydrating group, I read that someone had powdered over-sized okra and used in place of cornstarch as a thickener for soups. I can't wait to try it. We had tons of too-big okra at the farm.
* I dehydrated green bell peppers, Sweet Italian peppers and eggplant. The eggplant is sliced long-ways. I will use this in place of some of the pasta in my slow cooker lasagna.

* We went on a couple coffee dates at Panera. With my loyalty card, I earned $1/off a coffee and a free pastry. We are saving these for next month when my income likely drops significantly. This way we will have some cheap dates.
Scary find at the antique mall.
I just wanna know who cut out
his heart.
* We invited my family out for the day. We went hiking at my favorite spot in the Appalachian foothills. Usually this park is pretty secluded, but since this is peak leaf-viewing season, it was crowded. We still had a great time. It is a fairly strenuous climb at the beginning which is a great heart workout.We had great talks and laughed a lot. Afterwards we took the family out to eat for Mom's birthday (we always give the gift of a whole day out for her birthday since her response to "What do you want for your birthday?" is always "Just the love of my family"). We went to a Greek restaurant near our house. We ordered a Groupon for a $25 value for $15. I used a coupon code to get $4 off. I went through Swagbucks and earned 1% back, and paid with my points card earning another 1% off. When we got to the restaurant, we ordered a small meal for one sister (who is a really picky eater), a sack of 5 gyros (saving $1.50 each), an order of baba ghanoush for $4, and an order of Greek fries for $4 (the last two were on Happy Hour special). We drank water. All told, we spent $30 to feed 6 people until we couldn't eat any more.

* We loved going out for a nice hike with my family to see the fall leaves. I love hiking in autumn as the weather is perfect and the trees are beautiful. Trucker pointed out that this year, he has been focusing more on how much he loves autumn rather than the fact that winter is coming. Once he mentioned that, I started being more mindful of it as well. We have thoroughly enjoyed our hot cocoa, hearty stews, fall colors, having the windows open and not using the air conditioning, and wearing thick socks.

* The farming season is drawing to an end. I have 2-4 weeks left with the farm before it is time to move on. As it stands now, if a position opens up at the foodbank that I qualify for, I have a good chance of staying on. If not, I'll move on elsewhere and HR said they will call me when a position comes through that looks like a good fit. I'm a little nervous, understandably, but not as scared to death as I would have been in this position last year. It was encouraging to see some personal growth and resilience coming back. As it is, I know that I can go back to the factory if I needed to. It is a hard job and long commute, but fantastic pay. That is my ultimate backup plan (and honestly, not too shabby a worst-case-scenario). I have a couple other backup plans with jobs that I left on good terms. All of this assumes I don't find another position before then. What we are working on now is to get our spending under control and I'm rereading some frugality books to get inspired with some new ideas to try out.
* I made an extra principal payment on my mortgage, as I have every month (except one) for the duration of the loan. Sometimes it is much higher than others, but I always try to put something on it. When you consider that you don't have to pay interest on that portion for years or decades, the savings are substantial. I still have 26 years left on my loan, so adding an extra dollar saves $195 over the course of the loan and pays it off 2 months early. This is a huge deal!
* I made an extra payment on my credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I got a lot of wormy turnips from the farm. They were far more blemished than we could possibly have sold or distributed. Once I got them home, I peeled them and found that I still had a good amount of flesh left. It got me thinking. Perhaps this was the reason we started peeling vegetables, that our great-grandmas were just getting rid of the buggy parts. Now with our pesticides or intensive pest management programs, we have unblemished produce that could be simply scrubbed clean, but we still peel because we've always seen things peeled. For other root crops, I try to get away with just scrubbing whenever possible. However, I'll cut away the blossom end rot from a Jimmy Nardello's pepper, cut out the bug holes from an eggplant or cut off little split roots on a carrot.
* I tore up lots of random papers and put them in the compost.

House and Home:
* I am working on cleaning out the closet in the kitchen. I want to get it all cleared out, then pack in some other items that are currently taking up a lot of space. I may be able to fit the bikes in, as well as our folding tables. Some items I threw away (the seed packets from last year that I intended to type up info on how different varieties grew, but never did), some I donated, and a couple items I was excited to use again.
* I forgot to post a couple weeks ago about a nice little hack I tried that worked great. We have those long skinny blinds on our patio door. They break ridiculously easily. I'd thought about punching a hole in the bottom and turning them upside down, but we thought they'd look bad. Instead, I used masking tape to cover the broken tab, cut a thin slit and used that to hang the blinds. I was able to fix 4 this way. You can only notice it if you are standing directly next to it and looking up. Trucker priced them at $13 for 2, so this saved me $26 for only about 10 minutes of work, for an hourly wage of $156/hour, tax free.

* I picked up an evening shift to help a co-worker with an injured foot. I got to leave at lunch the next day.
* I took home lots of seconds: sweet peppers, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, Swiss Chard, kale, watermelon and beets.
* I worked an hour overtime.

* Trucker took his CRASE (Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event) training class this weekend. We try not to live in constant fear of attacks, but believe in being reasonably prepared for a variety of situations. No one expects to go out for a movie or to the club and die. The class teaches situational awareness, breathing techniques and a realistic (and evidence-based) plan of action in case of an event. Check with your local sheriff's department to see if they offer CRASE or other preparation classes. These are usually free of charge, but you may have to wait for awhile to get into a class. After I took the class, I asked Trucker to get on the waiting list and it took a year before there was an available slot.

Sorry for the blurry photo. We were
just so excited to meet Ike. At least, I
was. I'm not sure my sister and cousin
knew who he was!
* In preparation for the party, we spent one of our days off at the booth, rearranging, removing and adding items. It looks much nicer now.
* We had the annual Customer Appreciation party at the mall. It wasn't as busy as last year, but was busier than the spring event. I made several sales, but we spent more time walking around and socialising with other vendors. One of our friends stopped by and found some great items. My sister and cousin came into the city for the party. We had a great time walking around and laughing together. It was nice to get some family time in.
* I went picking at a barn sale I love. I got some good items: a keystone projector, toolboxes, gas cans and milk glass pieces.

* We went on a decently strenuous hike one day.
* We both took our multivitamins/supplements each day.

* A friend gave me some cauliflower and celery because she was given more than she could use.
* I gave my parents and sisters a bag filled with peppers and eggplant from the farm.
How was your week?

Monday, October 3, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 9/26 - 10/2

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.
* I harvested peppers (Padron, jalapeno, Jimmy Nardello and serrano), okra, and tomatoes (cherry and some just slightly ripening larger tomatoes. I pick them early this time of year so the remaining ones have time to mature).

* I made sausage gravy and biscuits one evening with a fried egg. Not the healthiest meal, but we enjoyed it.
* We have been eating a lot more farm veggies. Usually if I'm at a loss for what to make, I saute some greens and serve those with salt and pepper.
* Trucker has been cooking for me a lot lately. I come home on lunch break and he has something waiting for me. Once it was pasta with bacon, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, another time sandwiches, another time quesadillas and soup. He always goes all out, making sure I have a few sides, something cold to drink and a little something sweet.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more peppers and kale.
* I dehydrated more okra and sweet peppers.

* We went to my friend's wedding. We picked up Doodles (who also worked with her) and stopped by Target. I got her a rough-edged wooden serving tray she had on her registry (on sale for $17) since I wanted to get her something lovely that she might not buy for herself otherwise. We picked up cards at Dollar Tree ($.50). She got married at the historical society, which was the best idea ever. She got married in the little chapel in the historic village, then we walked over to the museum for the reception and dinner. It was so good to get to see her get married and her husband seems really nice. After dinner, the three of us walked around the museum a bit and played in the 50s era (a perfect little house filled with lots of vintage goodies) and in the comic book area (we all put on superman capes and flew around a bit...because of course we did).
* I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for coffee one afternoon. It was so good to talk with them and get to know him better. Somehow 2.5 hours just flew by!
* We went out with some friends that meet every week, but we are rarely able to see. Unfortunately, we spent more than we anticipated. We resolved to be better about keeping each other to our frugal standards.
* On our day off together, we took a day trip up north a bit. We enjoyed walking around antique malls, got coffee and visited a park. It was drizzling, but was still a pleasant day to walk.

* I put a couple hundred dollars into savings this week.
* I love having my car loan come out of my account automatically. Not only do I not have to worry about forgetting, but I set it up for 10 days early to be safe, which means that I pay interest on the money for 10 fewer days.

* We went on a couple walks. On one we saw 4 deer: 2 does and 2 fawns. They let us get pretty close. It was amazing.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted everything I could.

House and Home:
* We cleared out more stuff.
* Trucker bought a new lock for the back door
* Trucker got an edger for $2 at auction. He really does an amazing job. Householding is a lot easier with someone so skilled at getting what we need at such ridiculously low prices.

* Trucker worked a lot because the deliveries were late or no-show, so he worked extra hours and days.
* I worked a little overtime. The boss said I could flex some time if I wanted to this coming week.
* I went home for lunch each day.
* I got loads of free seconds produce: peppers, eggplants, kale, and leeks.
* My boss talked with me about extending my assignment by two weeks. It will only be 3-4 days a week, but it will be enough to survive and allows me two more weeks to find another position with the foodbank.

* Trucker had had some scary health issues earlier this summer and I wasn't getting any answers. After a couple months of late night Dr. Google inquiries (most of which told me he was dying...because of course), I narrowed it down to a handful of possible causes, some scary, some simple things like excessive caffeine and electrolyte or iron imbalances. He started exercising more, significantly reduced his coffee consumption and started taking a multivitamin. There was little change for awhile. I noticed that his multivitamin didn't contain iron, so I switched him to one that did. Well, after a few weeks, we noticed a difference. He saw his GP and the doctor said that he thought it was low iron and to double his iron supplement. Now there is drastic improvement. We are still going to a specialist in a couple weeks to rule out scary possibilities, but hopefully we are on the better side of things. Just a friendly reminder to make sure you are considering nutritional needs often. We had significantly cut back on our red meat consumption (for financial and heart-health reasons), I don't eat liver (yet...I do know that I'm a total hypocrite for not eating organ meats) and Trucker doesn't like a lot of the nonheme iron-rich foods. Plus, caffeine can make it harder for your body to assimilate iron. All of this meant that he wasn't getting adequate iron (I seem to be okay, but I do eat a lot more leafy greens than he does). It is so hard to balance all of the responsibilities in life, but pay attention to little health clues so you have time to make changes before things get bad and require more heroic measures. Also know that if you aren't getting answers and you know something is wrong, be your own (or your partner's) advocate and look for things to try at home to improve the situation.
* The main thing we considered when making lifestyle changes was that even if exercise, reducing alcohol and caffeine, taking a multivitamin, eating less sugar and eating more vegetables had no affect on this issue, they were good things to do that would have positive affects in other areas.
* Trucker had another two games with his softball league. I was able to come watch these games since they were earlier in the day than the last two weeks. He ran a little before the game!
* I went to the eye doctor for the first time in 15 years. My near vision is perfect, but I got a light prescription for far vision. I had a coupon to get it very cheaply.

* Well, we had a big exciting week. My younger sister got married! She had been engaged for a little over a year without really making any plans. This week they decided to go for it and went to the courthouse. We are all helping to get them established; for now they are living with his parents. They are looking at a double-wide to move onto the slab at my parents' property. For their wedding gift, Ashley will come out to the city and I will take her shopping at thrift stores. I've set a certain budget that I'll spend to get as much as I can to help them get set up. She did buy a bedroom set of bed, dressers, nightstand, etc, but will need many things still, such as linens, cleaning supplies, pantry items and kitchen supplies. Trucker found a basic kitchen tool set on clearance for $6: a few knives, kitchen shears, spatula, spoon, and a couple other items in a storage block.
* We had our year-end party at the farm. My friends volunteered to do face painting and balloon animals. They were quite popular!
* Trucker's boss's wife sent me three large bags of vegetable rotini noodles.
How was your week?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 9/12 - 9/25

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.

* I harvested a pound or so of herbs from the garden: basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, greek oregano.
* I harvested peppers, tomatoes (harvested once they had a blush on them, then ripened on the counter), and okra.

* I made a huge batch of slow cooker caramelized onions.
* I made eggplant Parmesan using free Fairy Tale eggplants from the farm (bug-bitten bits cut out).
* I made slow cooker lasagna, but I wanted to make a healthier version. I basically eliminated the ricotta (and by that I mean I forgot to buy it and didn't realize until I was prepping the meal so I pretended it was for other reasons), trimmed back the pasta and mozzarella and drastically increased the amount of veg. So basically it wasn't anything like lasagna except it had lasagna noodles. It was still amazing. I layered in between the layers of noodles: caramelized onions, eggplant, sauteed peppers and onions with minced garlic, and a single layer of leftover ground sausage. I poured in 2 jars of tomato sauce and topped with a single layer of mozzarella cheese.
* We had popcorn as a snack a few times.
* I made sausage gravy and biscuits for dinner one evening.
* I made an ice cream pie one evening. I had a couple of premade Christmas cookie dough rounds left in the box (manager's special for around $.25) and not enough ice cream for us to each have a serving. I thawed the cookie dough and pressed it into the bottom of a small pie plate and baked until it was golden. Then I softened the ice cream and poured it over the cookie. I dropped in a couple spoonfuls of Nutella (manager's special) and swirled it in. I froze until it was solid. It was enough for 4 servings of dessert. I'd certainly make it again for a special occasion, but not frequently because it was way too much sugar.
* I went to Aldi and got some great deals: $.89/dozen eggs (bought 2), $1.59/gallon milk, $.44/lb banana, bran flakes ($1.69/box)
* Trucker made steak for dinner one evening. We also served sauteed kale with leeks and garlic and fresh sliced tomatoes.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more sweet and hot peppers.
* I froze more leeks.
* I dehydrated basil, parsley, marjoram and greek and regular oregano from the garden.
* I froze two more ice cube trays worth of caramelized onions.
* I made and froze another quart of tomato sauce.
* I dehydrated sweet Italian peppers, okra and eggplant.

* My mom came out to visit me for our birthdays (our birthdays are 11 days apart; my twin sisters share a birthday with her). I took her out for tacos at our favorite hole-in-the-wall taqueria. Afterwards, she took me to the zoo. She buys a family pass every year and gets to take 2 guests in each time. We had a wonderful time and laughed a lot. She is so much fun to be around and I'm so glad to get to make these memories with her.
* We went out for a few coffee dates.
* We stopped for Happy Hour at Diary Queen and got $2 frappes. We went hiking afterwards, so it's all good, right?
* We had Trucker's boss and his wife over for a cookout one evening. We made taco burgers with tomato, onion, jalapenos, black olives and hot pepper sauce mixed in. We also had grilled fairy tale eggplant, padron peppers, sweet peppers and onion. For dessert I served grilled banana splits with vanilla ice cream (on sale for $2.50/half gallon), goat's milk caramel (manager's special), whipped cream (from Aldi) and cinnamon. We had a great time.

* We went hiking at metro parks several times. The weather has been absolutely perfect for getting outside and exercising.
* One harvest morning, a couple of my coworkers and I were harvesting kale and collards before the sun rose. After a bit, the first pink hues were flooding the sky with a peppering of little puffy clouds. One of my coworkers cried out, "Look at the sky!" and we all stood silent for a moment. It was magnificent. I wouldn't trade this summer for anything.

Waste Reduction:
* I made stock from bone and veggie scraps.
* I saved the stalks from dehydrated herbs to add to homemade stock (they were already dehydrated, so I just tossed them in a jar).
* I composted a lot of things, especially brown and dry items.

House and Home:
* I put another pair of shoes (too tight of a shoe box) and a jacket into the donation box.
* I took 4 boxes of items to the thrift store. This included some items that we'd bought for the antique booth when we first started, that frankly, were amateur mistakes.
* I bought a dry erase board for the kitchen. I've been wanting one for awhile, but hadn't found a decent one at a good price. This one is simple but nice. It was in the clearance section at Meijer since it was a "back-to-school" item: $5.59. I will use it for us to keep track of our ridiculous schedules and shopping lists.
* Trucker got a frame for a Punisher drawing I bought him as a gift. He loves the Punisher. Usually a drawing like this costs $50, but this one was on sale for $12 at this funky thrift/novelty/hunting shop we found in a small town. He had priced frames and the cheapest he had found for the size he needed was $20. We went shopping and found one on sale for $10.

* I brought home loads of freebies from the farm. I rescued some "seconds" onions from the compost pile. I had to cut out about half of them to get rid of soft parts, but still got loads of onions for caramelizing.
* Trucker brought breakfast for his coworkers each Sunday and also sent me with muffins for my coworkers one day.
* I took home a fair amount of seconds: leeks, kale (lacinato and green), beets, radishes, a couple small watermelons and loads of peppers.

* I worked hard at the booth to rearrange things and straighten up for the party.

* Trucker continues to play softball with his league every week. He has also started doing a little bit of running so he can play better. I'm thrilled and hoping that he falls in love with running so he can run with me. I miss running a lot. I still go running about every other week, but then something happens or someone harasses me. It's taken the fun out of it. I need a dog or a partner to run with now.
* One evening after work, I went home and just slept. I napped for a couple hours, woke up, ate dinner, and then went to bed for the night. I woke up feeling so refreshed.

* Trucker's boss invited me to have lunch with them at his job. His boss' wife brings in a lunch every day for the three of them plus her mother. They are so sweet to him and I had a wonderful time laughing and talking with them.
* I started a box of items to donate to the food pantry at my job. We conducted a survey and found that, while most people were very happy with our food selection, we needed to distribute items such as hygiene items and pet foods. These items can't be purchased with WIC or SNAP benefits, but are still basic needs. When I was talking with the pantry coordinator (for an upcoming post), she mentioned that some people might appreciate coloring books and crayons for the kids to enjoy while waiting. The box I have started so far includes: dozens of travel soaps (I got them from a thrift store. They were 3 for $.25 and then there was a 70% off sale, making them less than $.03 each), a few coloring books (purchased for $.25 or less at thrift stores; I checked to make sure no pages were colored in), crayons ($.25 on back to school sales) and some malta beverage ($.15 each; I purchased a bunch when I found a good price, but Trucker didn't like them). Once the box is full, I'll drop it off when I visit the office.
How was your week?

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.

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

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

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

* 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.
* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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).

* 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.

* 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.

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

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

* 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.

* 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.
* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* We went on a few short hikes.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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).

* 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?
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