Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Nature:
* We went on a few short hikes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How was your week?

Monday, August 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 7/4 - 7/10

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* I've slacked off on keeping the bunnies in greens every day. I always make sure they have a surplus of pellets, but they love the greens and it saves me money on store-bought feed.
* I harvested two small volunteer garlic bulbs.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I went home for lunch one day. Trucker had made an amazing lunch for me: pork chops and rice with gravy. So sweet of him.
* I made stir fry a couple of times with pork chops (one divided between the two of us), beets, spring garlic, carrots, radishes, turnips, and assorted greens over rice. All of the vegetables came from the farm.
* I've started doing shots of pickle juice after work. It is one of the most refreshing things after a hot, sweaty day. I'm not even concerned about not having brine for mock pickles because it is so good.
* I found lots of great sales at Aldi, most unadvertised: $.60/dozen eggs, $1.69/gallon milk, $.20/nectarines, $.14/lb bananas, $2.18/lb ground beef, and $.25/lb potatoes.
* I cooked down all of the baby beets and carrots I had so we can use them as ready-to-go sides or additions to other dishes with no prep.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more baggies of greens.
* I made more refrigerator pickles.

Fun:
* Trucker has wanted to go to a certain conference for several years, but it is out of our price range. This year, he arranged to drive several speakers to and from the airport. In exchange, he got free full admission and some meals. He also got to drive one of his favorite authors, who signed a book for him. He also got the courage to give him a copy of a book he published; the guy started reading it on the way to the hotel. Trucker was on cloud 9!
* My family came out one evening to go hiking (this week is the week they all get off work at the factory) and stopped by afterwards to go out for ice cream with us. We had a great time.
* My parents invited me to go biking with them after work one day. They got us lunch at a fried chicken place (using BOGO coupons from their coupon book and dropping the extra dinner off to my Grandpa). Afterwards we went up to the lake and biked around. Dad wanted to do putt-putt golf, so we stopped at a bait shop that has a course in back. He had a BOGO coupon, so it was 2/3 off. We had a good time and laughed a lot. At the last hole, Mom noticed that none of us had hit a hole-in-one yet. She hit her ball and it didn't go in. I step up, hit mine and knock hers in, effectively giving her a hole-in-one. We had a good long laugh at that until we counted the score. She and I had been tied, but that hole in one made her win by one stroke!

Nature:
* We went for a short hike at the metropark by our house. The mosquitoes were bad and we'd forgotten our bug spray, so we cut it short. It was a nice hike, however and we got to see a couple herons.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things, especially focused on non-glossy junk mail and other brown material.
* I put veggie scraps in the freezer to use for stock making.

Work:
* I took one day off of work to go to a funeral. I picked up several hours throughout the week to make up for the pay.
* Trucker's boss gave him a day off so he could go to the conference for an extra day. So kind of him.
* We had a potluck at work on Friday, otherwise I packed my food. Trucker ate for free the day he worked.

Future:
* I met someone who is putting on a men's health conference. We talked about the possibility of me speaking at the event. While I'm not getting my hopes up, I was proud of myself for having the courage to put myself out there. Trucker has been getting on me for years to get into speaking and generally not undervaluing myself, and I am trying to take his advice, no matter how scary.
* Trucker has a new position coming as a new chapter of an organization he is involved with is starting a branch in our city. The conference allowed him to meet a lot of important people for this new journey.

Health:
* I have been having really horrendous insomnia for a couple weeks now. As such, I have cut back on both the alcohol and caffeine I consume. The hardest part of this is the chocolate, honestly. Hopefully I can get back to the days when a tiny little chocolate seems the most decadent thing in the world. I'm hoping this will help on the weight loss front also. Growing older certainly happened fast; I always silently judged people who said they couldn't have coffee after 11 AM. Now here I am.

Setbacks:
* I have overstretched myself a bit. It's time to take a week or two to decompress, slow down, spend some quality time doing nothing. I have found that I have become my parents: always wanting to help everyone and having a hard time pronouncing that "no" word. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do need to recognize when I'm getting close to my breaking point. I think part of the issue this particular week was being away from Trucker for so many days and not wanting to be home alone, so I committed to too many things.

Community:
* My uncle passed away last week. The funeral was this week. It was a hard day, especially watching my aunt and cousins experience this much pain. Almost everyone in the family was there and comforting each other and I was grateful for the kind of family that is there for each other. I did learn one shocking thing about him that day, something I'd never could have suspected. Apparently, my 75-year-old uncle was really into Zumba! In hindsight, I should have known. My mom and I talked and in the coming weeks plan to go up to visit my aunt (3 hours away) and take her out for lunch/shopping.
* While Trucker was at his conference, he needed me to pick up something he won from the auction at his job. He usually takes them donuts every week, so I decided to bring them a little something. I found 4-packs of apple turnovers on sale for $1.79. They were really excited. Reminds me that it doesn't really take all that much to brighten someone's day.
* My dear friend and her children recently moved back from Egypt. Her husband is still there and once they are all settled, will follow. I spent the weekend helping her get settled. The first day, she had bought a really nice dining room table and chairs set ($700, on sale for $500, but was a return, so it was $275). We couldn't fit it in our car, and delivery would be $100, even though she lived .4 miles from the store. So after securing the permission of an employee, we made a mad dash down the street, barefoot (both of us had been wearing backless shoes so we kicked them off onto the cart), pushing the cart with dining set down a posh neighborhood street. We were laughing until we were crying. She was able to negotiate free delivery (phew). After that, my dad let me borrow his pickup truck and we were able to get her a coffee table, love seat, sofa, and random kitchenwares. We visited around 25 stores and checked our prices well. We had to take the door off the frame to fit the loveseat in, but we got it! She brought us some delicious treats from Egypt (this amazing shortbread like cookie with a honey filling that was the perfect amount of sweet, very rich, but just mildly sweet). She also treated me while we were out to some traditional drinks and cheeses we found at a couple of stores we stopped in. It was a lot of fun.

How was your week?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 6/27- 7/3

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
Gardening:
* I put scallion bottoms into water to regrow them.
* I fed the bunnies farm seconds and carrot tops. While I know the carrot tops are technically edible, I don't enjoy the texture (I don't mind the bitter taste so much). The bunnies adore them though.
* We had extra seedlings at work so the greenhouse manager said we could take what we wanted. I took (and planted in my own garden): sage, rosemary, zinnias, okra, lunchbox peppers, purple bell peppers, jalapenos, marjoram, parsley, oregano, Greek oregano and basil.
* I planted my large containers  (yes, quite late) with okra and a variety of herba and a couple zinnias.
*i spread out the rabbit manure where i had had the hutches to make a full bed. I planted this area to peppers. I'm not sure if it is composted well enough to grow in, but I figured it didn't hurt to try. Of course, I planted peppers rather than lettuce or root crops since I didnt want anything I'll eat directly coming into contact with the manure.
Cooking/Groceries:
* I made a blackberry crisp from some blackberries my parents had given me that had lived in the freezer too long. I used bread crumbs saved from heels of loaves, together with flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter to make the topping.
* We found a new salvage grocer that is, quite possibly, better than our other one. We got some great deals: $.10 seasoning packs, $.35 cans of beans, $.50 packs of tortillas, $.50 chocolate bars, 20 lbs of rice for $5, cat food $1/3 cans.

Food Preservation:
* I cut and froze a large bunch of scallions. I will transfer them to a baggie when frozen. Another day i froze another two bunches.
* I made a batch of pesto starter using 2 cups of basil (from the farm seconds), pine nuts (manager's special), garlic (from last year's harvest) and olive oil (salvage grocer). I poured it into an ice cube tray. When needed, I can thaw and add Parmesan, if desired.
* I steamed and froze three bags worth of beet greens and kale, with scallions and/or garlic scapes.

Fun:
* My parents had offered to let us borrow their kayaks whenever we wanted. We finally took them up on the offer, and are we ever glad we did! We went out in the late morning one day and kayaked through the canals at the state park that used to be my family's land (great grandfather sold it to the state). We enjoyed the herons, geese, ducks, fish and water beetles along the way. A dragonfly landed on the front of my boat and rode with me for awhile. Fortunately there were no snake sightings. We went to a hidden beach that few people know about. We didn't swim much but lay half on the sand, half in the water and talked for a good half hour or so before paddling back. It was a lovely day, although we forgot to apply sunscreen to our now-lobster-red thighs. Oops. Afterwards, we went to a McDonald's that had $1 ice cream cones. We sat on the pier and ate our treat while watching the ducks (and ducklings!) swim about. It was a perfect, frugal date.
* We went out for more free coffee dates using our Panera travel mugs. We used the mugs 15 times in June. This saved us $3.18 each visit, or $7.70. We paid $20 total for the mugs, so we saved $27.70 and ended up with free travel mugs to use when our others break.
* our friend had a bbq on Sunday. We brought crackers and a garlic herb spread (crackers on sale, spread on manager's special) and bread and spinach dip (both on sale). Total cost : $5.25.

Nature:
* While we kayaked, I was completely blissed out. Especially since we live in the city, there is something magical about being someplace where you can't hear cars, there's no pavement in sight and everything around you is vibrant and alive.
* Trucker hung up a couple more bird houses. The birds have already been checking them out.

Frugality:
* We got our tax refund. I put the entire balance to pay down the last credit card (over half the remaining balance). We do need to get some work done on the house as we are planning on putting it on the market within 2 years. I will use a portion of the refund for those repairs. However, I figured it made more sense to pay that money down on the credit card and then use the credit card for those purchases since the interest I'd pay on the credit card for a few weeks would be more than interest earned leaving it in a savings account. The repairs will only be about 1/4 of the refund amount.
* Trucker bought some car parts for his Civic at auction for around 80% off. These are parts he will likely need with 6-12 months.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things.

Work:
* I got tons of seconds produce: turnips, carrots, beets, kale, lettuce, scallions, spring onions.
* I packed lunches for work most days. One day I forgot lunch, so I texted Trucker saying I was on my way home. By the time I got there, he had lunch and fresh coffee waiting for me. He is so perfect.
* Trucker ate for free at his job one day.
* Trucker picked up an extra day at his job to help his boss out.

Community:
* Trucker's boss took us out to lunch after his extra shift. It was filling enough that it was all either of us ate the entire day.
* I gave my sister some of the herb seedlings for her garden. She was excited as she hasn't grown herbs before.

How was your week?
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