Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 3/13 - 3/19

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 more herbs from the indoor garden. I really do love having instant access to fresh herbs whenever I want them. The oregano plant was looking pretty rough for awhile, but has exploded with new growth. The basil plants are barely growing, but I can harvest occasionally. The sage plant is pretty huge.
* Two pepper plants are alive and two are dead. One of the live ones put on a heavy load of flowers. I picked them off this time, but I think it will do well this season.

* Trucker made pasta for dinner one night. He added leftover sausage and onion to the sauce. Served with garlic toast made from bakery manager's special bread.
* We made popcorn for snacking.
* Trucker made BLTs one evening. He used bacon we got on manager's special for $1.29/12 oz, iceberg lettuce (aldi, $.99/head), tomatoes (aldi, $.99/lb) and jalapeno rolls (manager's special, $1/8 pack). While BLTs are best in summer, it was still a lovely treat. We saved half the bacon to use in other meals.
* I found eggs on sale at Aldi for $.69/dozen. I bought two dozen although I had two dozen at home already. When I got home, I used boiled the older two dozen. We used those for snacking and breakfast.
* One day I made goldenrod eggs and used about 8 eggs. This time, I sauteed half an onion in the bacon fat before making the roux so I could pretend the meal had some redeeming nutritive benefits.

* We stayed in and watched movies from the library and napped one evening. After everything that has been going on, it was perfect to get to finally relax.
* We went out and shot a couple games of pool one evening. I'm not very good, but want to learn. Trucker was patient in teaching me.
* We went out with my sister and her boyfriend for coffee at Panera. We brought our travel mugs to get a discount. We had such a good time. They are a lot of fun, and we have good conversations.
* We went to Half Price Books with half off coupons. We each got one book. Mine was Gene Logsdon's The Contrary Farmer. He got a philosophy book by an author he really enjoys.
* We took my parents out for ice cream. There is a local place with my parent's last name, so I thought it would be fun to take them there. We had two BOGO coupons, so we each paid for one of them. Total cost: $10. Not too bad for four people and we had a great time laughing with them.

* We stopped at Dollar Tree for a few essentials: a couple two-packs of toothbrushes since we have no more in storage, some pain-relieving patches ($1/20 vs. $9/60 at Kroger the day before) and some items to add to work lunches.

House and Home:
* Trucker decluttered a lot one day. He put some large items out to the curb and posted curb alerts online.
* Trucker fixed a slow drain in the bathroom sink.

* I worked some overtime to make up for lost hours.
* I packed my lunch each day.

Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 12
Me: 5

* While our car was being worked on, my parents let me borrow my dad's truck. On the way home from work a couple days later it broke down on me. I was able to get it into a parking lot and Trucker picked me up. My parents came out the next day and we fixed the truck with Dad. They brought mom's van out in case we couldn't get the truck running. While it was very cold and a bit frustrating (it was a broken serpentine belt), Trucker kept teasing my dad and we would laugh until we were almost in tears. It was kind of nice.
* We helped my sister and her boyfriend figure out some financial things to help them get ready for grown-up life. I am so insanely proud of those kids. They are being incredibly responsible to cover all their bases before moving out.

How was your week?

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/27 - 3/12

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 fresh herbs from the indoor garden.
* It looks like the two thyme plants in the outdoor planters are coming back. One held up well over winter, but the other had gone quite brown. However, they are both looking nice now. I am waiting to harvest them until the cold spells are through.

* We had an easy (to prepare and on the stomach) meal of tinned chicken soup (manager's special; large can for $.49) and toast (bakery clearance, $1.50/big loaf).
* I made popcorn for our snack one evening.
* I went to the salvage grocer when I was in town visiting family. I got some great deals: Kraft mac-n-cheese for $.25/box, instant flavored grits $.10/box, toilet paper $.99/4 pack, kombucha $1.99/24 pack, tortillas $.50/10 pack, chai tea concentrate $.50/quart, espresso $8.99/5 lbs, some nice dish soap $1.50/large bottle and organic cereal $.99/box.
* I made a giant batch of homemade hamburger helper. I used one pound of ground beef, 2lbs of elbow macaroni, a large onion, a bag of diced sweet peppers (frozen, free seconds from the farm), a bag of leeks (frozen, free seconds from the farm), half a bag of scallions (frozen, free seconds from the farm), the last of two bags of cheese, the last of the sour cream and milk. I made a lot extra to use for lunches during the week.

* We went on a couple coffee dates, using travel mugs.
* Trucker's 40th birthday was this week. I took him out for an adventure. We went to the Mansfield Reformatory, where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. Tickets were usually $12 each, but I got a Groupon for $11 for two. When we got there, we had the option of adding an audio wand for $5 (BOGO), making our cost $8/person. They said it was 25 degrees colder inside the cell block than outside, and it was 33 degrees outside. Fortunately, I had some work clothes in my car, so I grabbed my work shirt, an extra flannel, jacket, work hat and my cut sleeves from the trunk. We bundled up and were reasonably warm. We bought a pair of gloves since it was so cold ($5 well spent, and we are going to give them to my step-daughter as we like to send her little gifts from our adventures). We got to learn some interesting little facts about the prison's history. We had a great time exploring and taking loads of photos (1000 between us). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed. It was positively frigid, and I'm sure we would have spent another couple hours there if it had been warmer. I can't wait to go back!
* Afterwards, we went into town. We got pizza at a local spot ($11 for a very filling medium), walked around a book store and antique store, then got coffee at a local spot. It was a really lovely day.
* We enjoyed a couple evenings of movies from the library and popcorn.
* The day before his birthday, we went out to eat with a big group of our friends. We had a really great time.
* We went out for ice cream with a bit one get one free coupon he got in his email for his birthday.
* I took my grandpa and mom out for breakfast one day. It was great to spend a couple hours talking with them.
* We went to the gallery hop. The first Saturday of the month, an entire neighborhood becomes an art fest. The galleries offer refreshments, pop-up galleries show up in banks and street performers line the streets (as well as a group of people in raccoon and bear costumes...). It was a great, frugal night. There is something magical about walking around with other art lovers and checking out new talent.

* We went out on a couple hikes. On one, we ended up walking through some flooded areas. We were over halfway through the loop and couldn't get through another way. It ended up being pretty incredible. We found four deer lying close to the trail. They watched us for a bit, then ran off, but walked just ahead of us for awhile. Later we found a freshly killed deer. It looked like a coyote got her. It was a quite interesting little hike.

* I bought Trucker's birthday gift on Etsy. Awhile back, I found a Friday the 13th clock. I wanted to get it for him then since it is one of his favorite movies, but it was quite expensive. I looked around at several different websites and found one that was much cheaper than the original find. It is also made to order, so I was able to chose the material, paint and clock hands. He loved it. I liked being able to support a small-scale artisan rather than a big chain.

House and Home:
* I bought a used laundry basket for the bedroom. We have plastic ones in the laundry room, but nothing upstairs. I wanted something nice and this is perfect. It will look nice and help me keep things looking organized.
* We spent a couple hours together organizing the store room. We consolidated a lot.
* We took more items to the consignment store.

* I took two bereavement days and had one sick day. The day I was supposed to be back from bereavement, there was a problem at the factory and we didn't run. I've missed 4 days in two weeks. We will have a couple weeks of small paychecks, but we will make it.
* I packed a lunch each day I was hungry and didn't buy a single meal at the cafeteria.

Gym visits this month:
     * Trucker - 8
     * Me - 2
* Welp, we got ourselves a bit of food poisoning. I had to call off of work (and thus lost my attendance bonus), but we are well on the mend. We felt pretty crummy for a couple days, but honestly, the 30+ hours straight we spent in bed was kinda nice. I mean, obviously, food poisoning is a pretty awful thing, but we survived! I was thinking that even though we were sick, we were able to spend a good amount of time just lying in bed talking, watching movies and cuddling. To be able to do that pleasantly, it means that we are fortunate to have such companionship with someone we like so much. We have a bed, with warm covers, and indoor plumbing! We are financially stable enough that, although it is frustrating, we can survive the loss of income. If that is one of our crummiest days, it is a good life.
* We were rather active, except when we were sick.

* Trucker's grandma died. She basically filled the role of mother after his mom died when he was 10, so it has been especially hard on him. She was an amazing woman and the best mother-in-law I could have asked for. I was granted bereavement given the situation and we were able to go out for two days. We packed food for the road and got free breakfast at the hotel, so we only had to pay for one meal. We got a hotel outside of the city for about half the rate if we had stayed closer.

* My coworkers were happy to see me back at work. They told me a few times over the next couple days how much they'd missed me. They all signed a card for us.
* My mom came with us on our trip out of state for the funeral. That meant a lot to all of us.
How was your week?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/13 - 2/26

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 forgot to water my house plants for a bit and may have killed a basil plant. The rest seem to still be okay.
* I spent a good amount of time flipping through seed catalogs deciding what varieties to grow this year. I am not going to go as all out as usual, and may look for more lazy methods, but I am excited to grow. Trucker has said he will help me work it this year since I'm working so much more than usual.

* Trucker found an online auction for a restaurant going out of business. He got a HUGE box of oyster crackers, another large box of saltines, and a box of 4 giant bags of decaf coffee. Each box was $1!
* I made a big pot of beans for the work week. I used the last of the ham, two pounds of beans (pinto and kidney), 1 large onion, sauteed, 1 little freezer bag's worth of leeks, and a mix of random spices and condiments (I had a bottle of BBQ sauce that was almost empty, so I added a little of the cooking liquid and shook it up). I plucked some fresh herbs from the indoor garden to top each serving. It was quite nice.
* Trucker made pork stir fry for dinner one night, using broccoli (on sale $.99/lb), celery (half a bunch, at $.69/each at Aldi), baby carrots (half a bag, $.69/1 lb bag at Aldi) and onion. He served it over white rice.
* We had popcorn a few times as our snack. I love the air popper! There are fewer widows and we use so much less oil!
* Trucker bought a loaf of rye sourdough bread on manager's special (large loaf for $1.50). We enjoyed big slices toasted with butter and fried eggs for dinner one day.
* Trucker made me French toast for breakfast one morning. It was amazing. He made extra and cut them into dippers for a work-day lunch.

* We went out for a coffee date.
* We went out with a new friend. She taught a philosophy class Trucker took a few months ago. We had a wonderful time and have already been making plans for thrifting and biking.
* When we went out of town for an audition, we stopped at a local coffee house to read for awhile.
* We enjoyed cuddling and watching movies from the library on a couple of lazy evenings when I was exhausted after work. Trucker surprised me by checking out Fern Gully, one of my childhood favorites. It was great to watch it and seeing the origins of certain parts of my personality. The Lorax and Fern Gully were two of my favorites, and as an adult, I have always been conscious of environmental impacts of wanton consumerism.
* We found out about a health talk and free dinner in the suburbs at a restaurant I'd wanted to try. It was put on by a chiropractic practice. It was quite entertaining and informative. The dinner was good. We each had the Angus burger with blue cheese and jalapeno-pineapple glazed bacon on brioche bun with french fries and caesar salad. We got to meet some new people and had a really nice time.
* My parents called one day to say that they were in town with my aunt. The hospital had a ceremony for all the people who had died from cancer at their hospital in 2016. After the services, they met up with us for dinner. It was great to get to talk with them.

* We went out for a walk at a park near our home. We did a 2-mile loop, with a few diversions to check out the river. It was perfect weather and we had a wonderful time. We didn't see any animals, but the wild garlic and onions were everywhere! I am always excited when I see that! Another day we did a mile loop on the other side of the park.
* We took a quick, 1 mile out and back late one evening. We may have gone out a little too late, as it was getting dark by the time we got back to the car, but we needed it. We got to see lots of deer along the tree line. It is so magical to watch them.
* One day it was 74 degrees which is terrifying, really, for late February in Ohio. However, we decided to get outside since it was so nice and sitting inside worrying about the future wouldn't change a thing. We went to another metropark near our house. This one is relatively new, so it was still fresh and interesting. We enjoyed walking through the woods along the river. We got in a good 3 miles.

* I needed new jeans, since all of the comfortable and nice pairs I had had been worn to death. I went to a decent thrift store. I got three pairs: $2.99, $1.99 and $1.25. They are all comfortable, fit with my current style and in good condition. I plan to get rid of a few pairs this week, particularly the ones I find uncomfortable or frumpy.

House and Home:
* At the auction, Trucker also got a newspaper stand. After cleaning it, we will use it as a place to store our sheets and pillowcases.
* We bought a really awesome gate at auction. We will likely eventually sell it, but for now it
* We painted the walls in my step-daughter's bedroom. It is a fantastic shade of blue (her favorite color) that is absolutely perfect. A common problem I see with smaller rooms is sticking to white or very light shades, so the room has no character. That is almost as bad a problem as having it too dark and seem smaller. This is a great in-between color and once the furniture and decorations are in, it will be perfect. I remember when we moved in, we didn't have time to paint the living room. It was a dark olive color that I thought looked bad, but once we got our stuff in, I realized that it made my favorite painting pop in a way that no other home had. I am so glad we didn't paint it, as we would have chosen a light color that would have lost that coziness I adore about our living room.
* We spent a whole evening at home working on organizing. We got something to sip on, played Spotify, cleaned and took frequent breaks to laugh, talk or hug. It was a really nice evening.

* I filled out my forms for background check and had my physical. Now comes the hard part...waiting for the phone call (it can take several months or longer).
* Trucker quit his job. He is so upset and hated to make things complicated for his boss since he liked him so much. However, given his spinal health state, he had no choice. Let the healing begin!

* Trucker bought us a safe. It is a heavy duty one that is fire and water safe. The regular price was $100, he got it for $20 at auction. We have another that is not as good, but we can use the heavy duty one for the most important items and less important, but still valuable items can be kept in the other one.

* I am feeling really good about the new job. When my stepdaughter came into my life, it got me thinking about what exactly I really wanted for my future. Before, I'd always had this vague idea of simply wanting to be happy with Trucker. However, since that is such a vague concept, it is hard to grow. I started really thinking about the specifics. Basically, I came up with: enough money to not have to be scared all the time (although certainly a six figure income is not necessary), good health insurance as we age, freedom to explore, travel and try new things, and stability. Beyond that, a lot is still flexible and vaguely thought out. However, this job will provide a living wage, health insurance for both of us (some changes in the political world will likely make this cost more, but at least I won't be facing the loss of health coverage), 4 weeks of paid vacation and 15-17 paid holidays a year mean that I will still have time to travel and live, and while the job is less stable than it was when my dad started 35 years ago, it is still more stable than any job I've had previously.
* Trucker is going to be in his first movie! He is an extra, but this director often pulls out extras he likes to give them roles. He is really excited.
* He also auditioned for a commercial and said he felt it was his best audition yet. I am so proud of him.
* Trucker took an acting class at the art college. It cost more than any class he has taken before, but was an in-depth class put on by all of the big people in the industry in the state. There were a lot of casting agents in attendance as well. He said he took lots of notes.
* We went to the booth a couple times and reworked displays. We have noticed an increase in sales since Trucker has been able to go up more often.

* The doctor at my physical said I was in great shape and had an incredibly flexible spine (I stretch so much at work in any spare moment that my nickname is Stretch.) She also said that she was proud of all the changes I've made to prevent future ills. It is great to know I am on the right track.
* My resting heart rate was in the upper 80s years ago before I started running. At the physical, it was 74, so I'm doing something right.
* When we went out of town, Trucker insisted on driving (a total of 4 hours on the interstate) so he could make himself get comfortable behind the wheel again.
* Trucker ran with me in 3 or 4 short bursts while we were at the park. He said that by spring he wants us to be jogging together. I really hope this happens. I am always happier with myself when running regularly and I think that some light running would have a great benefit on Trucker's pulmonary and cardiovascular health. (Update: each time we go out for a walk/hike, at some point he takes off running and we go for a short jog).
* Trucker got a Planet Fitness gym membership. We looked into options and decided that this will be a good expense for us. Of course, you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, so it was something we delayed doing for awhile. Here is why we decided to do it: Trucker is at home alone all day while I'm at work. I'm gone for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week (soon, possibly 6). He is struggling some to adjust to being alone so much, but won't go out anywhere because he doesn't want to spend money. We are hoping that the gym membership will help by getting him out of the house and the exercise will help him with mood and motivation. The gym membership is $20/month (and a $40/year fee, so essentially $23.34/month). It is just 2 miles from home, so hopefully he will be able to go often to get out of the house. He has done so much in the past year to improve his health, despite some challenges and now that he isn't working at the auction house, he wants to make sure he doesn't lose fitness. Of course, he won't push himself past his limits. The perks to the membership are: unlimited gym use at any location (so he can use it when we travel as well), unlimited use of a massage chair (this will be nice as he continues to heal from the accident), and free hair cuts (at $12/month for a hair cut, this drops the effective price to $11.34/month. Also, he is able to take 1 guest a day for free, so I will basically get a free membership. My time is very limited these days, so I wouldn't go by myself anyway. We plan to meet up after work some days, and one day each weekend start our morning out with a brief workout. I am excited to be able to run without fear.
* Trucker is still going to the chiropractor. He was going 3 times a week for 3 weeks and will go twice a week for the next two weeks, then monthly after that. He seems to be improving physically, and it seems that is helping him emotionally.
* We learned a lot at the health lecture/sales pitch. I don't know that we would go to that practice, but we get a good amount of information to think on. Since then, I've been more conscious about my posture, and how it changes throughout the day (my posture is perfect the first quarter of the day, then diminishes as the day progresses) and have been stretching even more. We have had some discussions about when in particular we struggle with depression most. One thing we noticed was that we both tend to struggle more on days when we work at home on the computer, regardless of whether we are online and thus being exposed to the news. We talked about posture and whether hunching over as we work impacts us. I know if we go out for coffee and work on our computers, I don't struggle as much with the mood issues. However, when we are in public, I don't slouch as I do at home. These are very interesting things to consider.
* I made a silly goof that had me incredibly stressed out for a bit. The day before my physical and drug test, I pulled an Elaine Benes. I ate a lemon poppy seed muffin for lunch. As I took the last bite, the scene flashed in my mind. I pulled up a government website that said that poppy seeds....can totally make you fail a drug test. Oh no! My boss ended up calling medical and they said I didn't have anything to worry about since I hadn't eaten enough. Phew, but sheesh.

How was your week?

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 1/30 - 2/12

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 found seeds at the dollar store and bought tons. They were $1/4! I got: radishes (4 types), basil, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, parsley, sage, eggplant, kale, spinach, mustard spinach, chives, scallions and several packs of flowers. Even if germination isn't great, at that price, it was worthwhile.

* Trucker was having trouble sleeping one night and decided to get up around 2:30. At 4:00, he woke me up with breakfast in bed: scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. It was the absolutely perfect way to start the day before heading to work.
* One evening, Trucker made a quick dinner of pasta and tomato sauce with onion. Another, we ate slow cooker lasagna from the frig.
* I made popcorn for a snack. I flavored mine with a zesty dip mix that was really good ($.05/ pack at salvage grocery; I use about 1/8 the packet each time).
* I found some manager's specials: a huge ham for $14 (usually $18), cereal for $1, pasta for $.50.
* Trucker made me a lovely dinner one evening: leftover ham, green beans (from storage), baked potato and salad. It was so wonderful to walk in and get to eat a yummy dinner.
* Trucker bought some manager's special muffins for me to use as work breakfasts/lunches. It was such a sweet thing. I am constantly thankful for him.
* We stopped by a salvage grocer. We found some great bargains: $3/12 oz decaf coffee, $1.50 for 12 oz coffee or coffee/chicory blend (5), 10 packs of zesty dip seasoning for $1 (I use this for my popcorn), 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes for $.20 each, 3 cans of pigeon peas for $.20 each, 5 bottles of BBQ sauce at $.25 each, 1 bottle of tartar sauce for $.25, a 2-litre of Nicaraguan soda for $.79 (we don't often have soda at home, but when we do I like to try something different), 2 jars of caviar for $4.98 each (the price has gone up at this salvage grocer, but we still consider it an acceptable price for a luxury item we enjoy and stretch), 2 bottles of magic shell chocolate sauce for $.50 each, 4 jars of pasta sauce for $.99 each ($1.25 is the sale price of the thin, weird store-brand pasta sauce; this sauce was a moderately good brand), 3 jars of pickled peppers for $.79 each, 1 can olives for $1.19, meat tenderizer for $1.99, 2 jars of dijon mustard for $.50 each and 1 can corn for $.50. We have found that sometimes items are much higher than at regular stores, sometimes we can get nicer brands for the same price as cheaper items are Aldi, and sometimes we find outrageous deals. The important thing is to know our prices well enough to know whether to stock up, or even buy an item at all.

* We went on a few coffee dates.
* We met up with some of our friends one evening. We had a wonderful time talking with everyone. When I was at the farm, I worked every Tuesday evening, so we weren't able to go out with everyone. I'd forgotten just how refreshing these evenings are.
* We went out for sundaes McDonald's one day, $2.79 date.
* We took a day trip. I had to go out of town for a job interview. Trucker decided to come out with me. Sometimes part of the interview can happen in the morning, then more happens later in the day, so he didn't want to miss out on our entire day off together. He went to a Tim Horton's for the 3 hours I was in the interview and read a book. After I got back, we went to a small town that I'd been wanting to visit with him. We explored two antique stores and a thrift store. Trucker got a pair of pants for $2.50 and I got a bunch of cookbooks to read. We used our Entertainment book to get BOGO pizzas at a local shop ($10 for two). It was a frugal trip and we had a great time, as we always do.

* One evening we went for a stroll in a historic neighborhood and oogled elaborate porches, stained glass and landscaping. It was ridiculously warm for February  (almost 60) and it had rained earlier so the air was fresh.
There really aren't words.

* Trucker bought some shorts at a thrift store for $2-3 each pair. He is now set for summer clothes. He also got a t-shirt for his daughter (as a gift later this year; new with tags $5). I got a flannel for $.75.
* I used the rewards balance from buying the furnace to pay down the credit card. The return was around $50 back.
* I bought a popcorn popper at a thrift store. Ours broke years ago, so I've just been making it on the stove top. That is all well and good, but we are concentrating on our health more now, and stove top popcorn uses a fair amount of oil to pop, and then we add butter so our flavorings of choice stick. I decided I wanted to get an air popper to save calories/fat. I found one for $2. The handle on the measuring cup is broken off, but it seems to work okay.

House and Home:
* Trucker painted the ceiling in my step-daughter's bedroom. Next step is the walls and trim. Then we can start setting it up!

* I packed a lunch each day I worked.
* We have some extra days off scheduled for the year. They are optional days off. If you chose to work, they have you do some pretty boring work, but you get paid. We talked about it and decided that i will take most of them off. It has been a rough adjustment to me being home for 60 hours a week after working a half mile from home, so this will give us somegood time together. Also, I am.earning more than I have in a very long time so even with a small loss of income, we wil be ok.  It really comes down to the whole 'whoever died regretting they didn't work more?' thing.
* I had a job interview for a better position at my company. It went well and I have a conditional offer. It can take up to a year before you get the position, or it can happen in two weeks. We will see. If I do get the job, it is more money, but I go to second shift. If I don't get it for awhile, I'll make less money, but get more time with Trucker and get to keep my team longer. Either way, I win.
* My dad and I helped Trucker out at his job (his boss was out of town and said he could hire other help if need be) since it was so overwhelming and he was hurting.

* I took a free Krav Maga self defense class. My friend is training to be an instructor and he was helping with the class. It was a great way to get a little training and start building that muscle memory. The class happens every month, so I plan to go more often.

* Trucker is struggling a lot with being extremely sore from his job. His work load has tripled and at this point is far beyond his sustainable level. We will get him into a chiropractor. He also talked with his boss about the reality of how he feels after his accident. Hopefully the job situation improves.
* He has also started dealing with the emotional side of his accident.The first month after the accident, he was bed ridden. The next month he was struggling physically and trying to get back into life. Only in the last couple of weeks has he been really facing some of the mental aspects of the ordeal. He's struggling with driving (although he is driving now) and thoughts resulting from coming close to death. I am encouraged that he is working through things, even if it isn't easy.
This doll obviously has evil intentions.
* Updates...Trucker went to the chiropractor and got his x-rays and, well, things aren't too good. He apparently has a broken jaw (How? I don't know. They said it has healed wrong), his spine is a bit of a wreck, his hips are off, and he has arthritis in his neck and back. They don't want him to go back to work because of how messed up everything is after the accident, and now two months of extreme strain from the job. So, for now, we have him set up on a chiropractic schedule and I'm going to research arthritis care. We have more work to do, but I think we are at a good place. Trucker was having a really hard time, and seems to be better now. I think knowing the cause of the pain and knowing that there are things that can be done to help has to be encouraging after being afraid that he was always going to be feeling like this. My mom is awesome and is making phone calls to friends of hers with arthritis who have been able to recover their quality of life.

* Obviously, we have some real changes coming financially due to Trucker's work situation. However, we have had a good talk about finances and frugal tactics to implement.  He will also work more at business things now that he has time and hopefully that will make up a good portion of the difference. I also have another job lined up for him if/when he recovers.

* My dad came out to help us at Trucker's job one day.

How was your week?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Veggie Snack Box

Trucker and I are both prone to rampant snacking. Generally this is when we are either bored or hungry but too lazy to cook anything. During those times, it is all too easy to grab chips, candy or cookies. And we all know how easy it is to snarf down a while tin of Pringles in one sitting (just me?).
Daikon and watermelon radishes,
celery, purple/orange carrots
As a preventative measure I've started prepping vegetables for easy snacking. This takes the effort out of prep during those lazy moments. Simply cut everything into an acceptable snack-sizes pieces. I like to do this while doing meal prep since I already have all the tools out and am in a groove. It takes an extra minute to wash a few extra stalks of celery or chop a couple extra carrots into coins.
Tiny French Breakfast radishes can be kept whole after trimming

I use whatever I grow or whatever I find cheap. At farmer's markets and farm stands, the best bet is to get whatever is in peak season. If everyone has it, the price will be lower than if it is an early harvest. Aldi often has great bargains on produce (I often find $.25 cukes). A "foodie" grocery in my area is kind of pricey, but they have outrageous produce bargains to get you in the door (things like $.50 bunches of radishes). Sales at the regular grocery store can yield good results. If your store has a manager's special produce rack, definitely check it out; just make sure the items aren't too far past their prime. Also check the prepped produce section. I often find fantastic prices this way and the work is already done! Buy items however they are cheapest. Sometimes I find that baby carrots are half the price per pound compared to full carrots; other times it is the opposite. Sometimes the cleaned, topped and bagged radishes are cheaper than the bunches with tops; other times I buy the bunches and use the tops in my cooking greens. The important thing is flexibility. Use whatever is cheapest that you like and get a good variety so you get a broad spectrum of nutrients.
Hakurei turnips, purple carrots
white radishes

We use a wide variety and the mix is always changing: radishes, celery, cherry/grape tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, hakurei turnips, cucumbers, certain summer squashes, sweet peas, young green beans (this was my favorite snack as a kid on the farm. My parents always planted the green beans next to the corn. My friend and I would hide in the cornrows and sneak the beans as soon as they were a few inches long. My parents never knew why all their beans did well except that one row, every year), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, mushrooms, baby corn, scallions, kohlrabi, winter squash (I still don't know why more people don't snack on this raw. It has great texture and incredible taste), parsnips, or even chioggia or touchstone beets (don't use the traditional red beets as they stain everything, including your fingers).

Cherry tomatoes, vine ripened, are the ultimate snack food.
I keep most items mixed together in a container in the refrigerator. The exception to this is tomatoes. I refuse to use tomatoes larger than a large cherry since those require refrigeration after cutting and refrigerated tomatoes are an abomination. Tomatoes are washed and then kept in a cute shallow bowl on the counter.

It is more convenient to grab one of these containers and head back to the desk rather than to get a bag of chips (which I conveniently keep at the very top shelf near the ceiling so it can barely be reached without fetching a step stool). If we are going to take a road trip, we grab a large container and will easily hit our 3-5 servings by the time we arrive at our destination. Sometimes we will pile a bunch of items on a plate and watch a movie, while munching on crunchy snacks that aren't loaded with salt and fat. It also helps if I am making dinner in a hurry. The veggies are all chopped to roughly the same size, so it is nothing to toss into a skillet to saute and  serve over rice or pasta, toss into stock for an easy soup, or toss with olive oil and seasoning for a quick side of roast veg.

Our epic date night snack while playing board games:
 lunchbox peppers, Hakurei turnips, purple carrots,
 pickled Jimmy Nardello peppers, watermelon radishes,
cheddar cheese,  some caviar we found for a whopping $1.99
at the salvage grocer and  some store brand crackers.
This has helped us get a lot more produce into our diet, while at the same time reducing the unhealthy snacks that are too easy to indulge in. I've also found that since we use items we grow or find cheaply, it is much cheaper than any other snack food. We love the convenience and knowing that we are actively creating a healthier future with lower medical bills.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 1/23 - 1/29

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.
* Trucker made sausage and spaghetti one night.
* I made tacos for dinner one evening. We used ground pork ($1.50/lb) and saved over half for another meal. I added sour cream (sale) and some pickled veggies (seconds from the farm).
* I made another slow cooker lasagna/eggplant parmesan hybrid for work lunches this week.
* Trucker bought me a couple packs of seasoned peanuts from the dollar store. They are great snacks for the drive home when my appetite is ravenous.

* A few weeks ago, I ordered an Entertainment book, $20 with free shipping. We have already used a BOGO coupon when we went out with my sister and her boyfriend (Saved $7). This is a great way to save money throughout the year. We keep it in the car so we don't forget about it. We
* I got off work a little early on Friday. We had decided we wanted to make it a special weekend since it has been exhausting for the last few weeks. We talked about getting out of town for a couple days, but decided to take a day trip on Saturday instead (thus saving hotel cost). Friday night we went out for dinner at a local pizzaria using BOGO coupons to save $15 and had enough leftover for another dinnner. Early Saturday morning, we ate breakfast then headed out of town. We ended up two states over and ran around Pittsburgh for a bit. We brought coffee and snacks. We went to Randyland, a magical art garden. Afterwards, it was to Bicycle Heaven to see the biggest collection of bikes and bike accessories, scattered with some random weird stuff. We didn't have cash to donate (free admission; donations accepted), but purchased a couple of items. I had been wanting to get a walking stick and had been passively shopping for awhile. I found one for $15 that was simple and funky (it has two faces carved into the handle). Trucker was entranced by the fern fossils, and had never had one, so I bought him a small one for $5. After that, we went next door to Johnny Angel's Ginchy Stuff and Music Museum. Afterwards, we went to a local sub shop. We spent around $15 for two subs. We ate at around 3, so had one meal out instead of two. It was quite a cheap trip and was almost as good as a long weekend.
* We went out for ice cream with BOGO coupons.
* We went on a couple of coffee dates, using our travel mugs.

Waste Reduction:
* I put bones and veggie scraps into a container in the freezer to use for making stock later.
* I composted random things.

It's the Hoppy trike! I squealed when I saw it.
House and Home:
* Trucker's boss gave him a stool that he wasn't able to sell. It needs to be assembled but will be a nice addition to the kitchen for now and will eventually end up in a work space at the next house.

* I worked a bit of overtime this week, but not an excessive amount. One thing I really like about this job is that I get paid overtime when I hit 8 hours in a day, not when I hit 40 hours. So we went home early two days, and worked over the other three days, but I got a fair amount of overtime.
* My boss and coworkers are all really great people. I've loved the discussions I've been able to have. I see a lot of people sharing coupons with each other, and some people have given me recommendations for service companies as we work to fix up the house. One of my coworkers is a pretty awesome single dad to two boys (one adopted). He mentioned that he realized that his boys were getting older and he decided to take them out for a special outing twice a month. I brought him coupons from the Entertainment book to use to save some money (There are lots of kid-friendly coupons that we weren't going to use, so I brought those, plus a few others for places in his neighborhood. Once it gets to be about 2 months until expiration, I'll pull out any I think we might use, and I'll bring the rest of the book to the break room for everyone). I love being part of this community. In general, for the last few years especially, I have found that I go into my jobs and expect to find a good situation, and gosh darn it, I always do. Reminds me, again, of that silly joke of my dad's and, again, makes me hopeful for my future.

I absolutely love this piece from
Bicycle Heaven. I would love to
some similar projects for the house.
* I have maintained my practice of stretching frequently-on the drive to work, during morning meeting, whenever there is a few seconds in between tasks, on the way home. When the health aids came to check up on me this week, I was happy to report that I had no real issues. There is some light soreness at the end of the day, but nothing like I was afraid of experiencing.
* I am continually so proud of Trucker quitting smoking. We are coming up to a year since he quit and he hasn't had so much as a drag. Kicking tobacco is such an overwhelming feat, and I am so proud of how hard he has worked.

* There is a cafeteria in between my and my sister's work departments. She works two days a week, so we have lunch together those days. It is a nice thing to look forward to and I enjoy getting some sister time. My sister and I also met after work one day to get hot chocolate and talk for a couple hours.
* For Valentine's day last year, Trucker got me a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle kids' Valentines and on each, wrote something he loved about me. He hid them around the house for me to find. It was by far the sweetest gift I've ever received. Especially as someone who struggles with depression (and all the lovely feelings that entails), they were so encouraging when I was having a rough day. Since it meant so much to me, I decided to do the same for him. He had had a really rough couple of days, so while he was at a meeting, I hid a few dozen post-its around the house with things I appreciated about him. He is still finding them. This is seriously the best frugal Valentine's/Anniversary gift. Costs little more than time, and creates a cherished keepsake.
* I found my gift for my stepdaughter for Valentine's Day. There were some buttons for "our" show that were $3-5 online. I found them for $1.25 and bought several, some of them matching for us.
How was your week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 1/9 - 1/22

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.

* Trucker made an amazing Hawaiian rice dish. I pulled a tiny ham out of the freezer (it had been BOGO, so $1.50 each for about a half pound) overnight. He diced it with pineapple and some veggies from the frig and served over rice with sweet and sour sauce. So yummy.
* I made banana bread each Sunday for my work-day breakfasts and for Trucker to snack on. Whenever bananas get too dark for Trucker to eat (I don't like eating them fresh, so it's all him), I toss them into the freezer. Then I use them for baking, smoothies or chocolate peanut butter banana shakes (which are basically milkshakes that I get to pretend are healthy).
* I mentioned making lasagna last week, but I used it for lunches this week. I figured out the cost per meal and thought i would share this here. I like figuring out the cost per ingredient and per meal as it gives me a starting point to reduce the cost of the meal, often while improving nutritive benefits. To make, I layered into a slow cooker pot, tomato sauce (1 jar, $1, plus some leftover chili and the dregs of another jar of sauce ), 1/3 box of lasagna noodles uncooked ($.69/box, so $.23), eggplant noodles (I alternated layers of lasagna noodles and eggplant noodles. dehydrated slices of eggplant, free from the farm), cottage cheese (manager's special for $.75), TVP ($1.99/lb; about $.50 worth, if that), leeks (frozen, free from the farm), garlic (from the garden, free since I save my own seed), peppers (frozen, free from the farm), Italian seasoning mix (free, dehydrated from herbs I grow), and a sprinkling of mozzarella ($1.50/12 oz; so about $.25). All of this is cooked on high for 4-6 hours in the slow cooker. Total: $2.73 for 7 meals, for a per-meal price of $.39. Of course, this does not include energy costs for freezer, dehydrator or slow cooker. The biggest cost savers: using only a light layer of shredded cheese on top, using cottage cheese instead of ricotta and adding tons of bulk in the form of free produce (from the farm or garden; but you could also use produce preserved when you found an awesome sale at Aldi or on manager special), using dehydrated veg in place of noodles. Three of these tips also significantly improve the healthfulness of the dish, which is always top priority.
* Trucker made a quick dinner of grilled cheese (Mine with a jalapeno spread inside) and tinned soup on a night we had a lot of errands to run.
* We found chicken leg quarters on manager's special for $1/lb. We cooked half one day for dinner (with baked potatoes) and with the leftovers we made chicken salad sandwiches for another day. The other half was baked another day, then diced into a chicken pesto pasta dinner (pesto was free with basil from the farm, diced chicken, sauteed onions, peppers and leeks (free seconds from the farm; frozen) pasta from the salvage grocer and manager's special cheese).
* I made pasta salad for work lunches using a variety of items from the frig.
* We had BLTs one day. I saved half of the bacon for other uses (such as mixing into pasta salad to add some umph).
* I made a pineapple strawberry crisp with some fruit I got for free while temping at the restaurant for the holidays (I'd frozen it). I made a crumble topping out of some salvage-grocery hot cereal (Trucker didn't like the texture of it cooked, but it is fine in this), flour, a bit of sugar, cinnamon and butter. It was perfect for snacking and breakfasts.

* We went out on a couple coffee dates.
* One evening we were exhausted, so we popped popcorn, watched a movie and were asleep by 7:30.
* We took a day trip up north one day. Trucker had a class, but on the way, we sang to the radio, stopped at a local coffee shop, used bookstore (where Trucker found 3 items on his wishlist for $2.25 each!), and a thrift store. We used a gift card for a dinner out and split the meal.
* One day we want for a couple mile walk around the campus neighborhood, then got donuts from a fantastic little shop. The weather was perfect and we had a lovely time.

* We went on a winter hike at a park an hour or so away from home. They had a bean dinner with hot chocolate in the middle of the hike. It was a little crowded for us, so we likely won't go next year. However, it was 60+ degrees and lovely, so it was nice to get outside.

* We replaced my car battery. Trucker used two coupons to save $25 total. He helped me replace it so I didn't have to worry about my car on those frigid 4 AM starts.

House and Home:
* We had to replace our furnace since it was frequently not working for several hours straight, then would randomly turn on. We didn't consider repairing it because it was 40+ years old and wasn't up to code. We also had a 34 year old water year, that didn't work well, and again, wasn't up to code. We decided to see if we could get them both replaced. We will eventually be selling this place and were certain that with half-a-century-old appliances, no one would buy the house (or rent it for that matter). Trucker was amazing. He called in 6 places for estimates. He found one place that was cheaper than the others, but couldn't do the water heater. He found another place that could replace the water heater, but charged more for the furnace. Finally, he found someone that could do both and when he mentioned that he was getting estimates, the guy said he would match the lowest price we had on the furnace and charged less for the water heater than any other company. We researched them thoroughly online and they had fantastic reviews and not a single negative incident with the BBB (but 13 positive reviews). When they got there to replace it, they realized that they had quoted us for a larger water heater, but a smaller one costs more (30 gallon rather than a 40 gallon) and we didn't have room for the larger one. They replaced it with the more expensive heater at no extra cost to us. The service included: replacing the water heater and furnace and getting both up to code, a new thermostat (a really nice one), a carbon-monoxide detector (which had been on my list of items I needed to get for the house), a 10 year warranty for the units, 2 year warranty on labor and a 2 year service contract with spring and fall tune-ups. They both work great and we are much more comfortable. I also assume we will have cheaper energy costs. Also, one of the workers also does plumbing and told Trucker how to fix a couple problems we were having.
* Trucker was able to fix some water pressure issues we were having in the sink in the bathroom. He found a piece of metal that was blocking the water. It took him 5 minutes to take care of.
* He also replaced our leaky kitchen faucet. He bought a kit for $30 at Lowe's and it took him about an hour to replace.

* I love my new job. Everyone was really friendly and helpful. One woman was so excited to see me; she said she's been waiting a year for another woman to work in this department. The job is really exciting and I feel so tough doing it. Also, this area gets out a little early most days, so I'm pulling out of the parking lot before the other 4k people get out. I timed it and I get home in 30 fewer minutes since I miss the parking lot traffic, that means I miss rush hour in the city, so I'm home 40 minutes early. In my old department, rather than get out a couple minutes early, I'd work an hour overtime each day, so I would hit traffic badly and it would take an extra 45-75 minutes to get home, so I'd get home really late. This is great.
* I brought breakfast on the road and packed a lunch each day. I want to make sure I keep with this habit. One girl I talked with said she was spending $6 a day on breakfast and lunches are $7-12 (the $12 meal is what a salad from the salad bar usually rings up at!). So buying both meals would cost over $3k a year! I spend around $.25 on breakfast (usually it includes a lot of free, preserved items and homemade baked goods), and $.50/packed lunch including sides, so this is $184/year~.
* Trucker worked a lot of extra hours (and has for the last few weeks). He is pretty tired, but making good money.
* I think the most important thing about my job is that I have been asking advice and tips from everyone. Every single person has been great about sharing their tips to shave seconds off each job (which matters when repeating hundreds of times) and to avoid soreness and injury.
* (written a week later) I love this job. I have great conversations with people, including one guy that worked with my dad to start a new line at the factory 30 years ago. I am taking to it quite well and enjoy the work. I basically have no stress, plenty of time for pleasant contemplation, get a gentle workout (now that I've figured out a few things, such as the position of my body to avoid straining certain parts), and the day flies by. I can totally see myself being here in 10 years. 30 years.

* Trucker's acting class was this week. I am so proud of him. He also had a couple of auditions.
* We went to an event put on by an acting school Trucker hopes to attend this spring.

* I feel pretty good. In general, I have a nice tiredness to me that comes from getting a good workout. We alternate workouts each day: M-W-F is yoga and arms/weight lifting; T-T is calisthenics and hands. Each day, we walk for a half hour and do stretches for 15 minutes. It ends up being an 1 1/2+ workout. I did this each day for the first week. The second week I did this, then worked on the line for 6 hours.

* We, along with several friends, served dinner at a homeless shelter in our area.

How was your week?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...