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.
* Harvested: 2 tomatoes, 6 cups of mixed salad fixins (lettuce, baby mustard, Milkmaid Nasturtium flowers), 5 peppers, a dozen small carrots, 2 c mixed green beans.
* I have been trying to reduce our grocery bill. It had gotten a bit out of hand and I'll admit, I'd gotten lazy with my cooking creativity. It's easy to make good meals if you don't consider cost, but when trying to do it on a budget, it takes more thought. I've been putting a bit more thought into it, and our bill has dropped significantly. Main considerations: Meat as flavoring, not as bulk. Snacks should be healthy homemade things like popcorn, apple chips and homemade baked goods when we want a real treat rather than ice cream, chips and candy. I can buy a 2 lb bag of bulk popcorn for $3 or I can buy a bag of chips for $2.50, but the popcorn is healthier (a few squirts of oil from my spray bottle and only a light sprinkling of salt) and has 25 servings or so per bag, versus scarfing down a bag of chips during a movie. Drinks are not purchased prepared: no soda, no bottled teas or juices, etc. We drink lots of water kefir, lots of coffee (purchased at bargain prices), or home-brewed tea. Plan meals around what we harvest from the garden or forage.
* Cooked 5 lbs of ground beef from the freezer. I'd found it marked down 50% to $2/lb and bought two 5 lb chubs (The other was used for a family reunion). We made tacos one night and the leftover tacos went into burritos later in the week (along with leftover refried beans and random taco fixins). Half of the ground beef was divided into 3 containers and put back in the freezer for pulling out for tacos, chili or other dishes later.
* I made pop tarts from scratch. Very easy to do and fun! (Article coming soon, I'll link it here when it's published) I made Blackberry (using jam my mom and sister made from foraged blackberries) and peach, using the last of a jar of peach preserves.
* Made a pasta dish using a bit of bowtie pasta leftover from another meal with leftover grilled grape tomatoes, zucchini from my parents' garden, and some leftover onion with the last of a jar of pasta sauce. I served it with rolls from the garden. The veg made up over half of the bulk, so it was a relatively healthy meal, at least for pasta.
* Made enchiladas for dinner one night. Used up lots of leftovers: taco meat, refried beans, the last of a jar of salsa, the last of the sour cream, the last of a bag of cheese, a can of enchilada sauce from the pantry (purchased for $.50 at the salvage grocer) and a bunch of random bits of stuff that needed used up.
* A local grocery store had a sale for $.49/lb gala apples. I bought 12 pounds to dehydrate into apple chips (yummy!) and will go back for more another day (There was a limit on how many pounds you could buy per transaction).
* Grilled out one night. I made pizza. I made the crust from scratch and topped with tomato sauce, the last of a jar of black olives, bell pepper (clearance for $.33), the last of an onion leftover from another meal, pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil from the garden. I also grilled bananas split in half for banana splits (if you haven't tried this, you must! Best. Dessert. Ever.).
* Made BBQ chicken one day. We saved half of the chicken to use in meals later in the week. We saved the bones and bits of meat we couldn't pick off to use in stock making (I''ll pick through the bones after making the stock to salvage those little shreds of meat to use in soups or chicken salad sandwiches). Always challenge yourself by asking how much meat you really need to eat. Since this is an expensive ingredient, reserving some of the meat from a meal to use in a later meal can significantly cut back on your grocery costs.
* Dehydrated: 3 large tomatoes, 2 okra pods, 1 eggplant, a grocery sack full of green beans, a cantaloupe and 4 peaches (purchased on clearance for $1 total).
* Made refrigerator pickled peppers to use a couple dozen small hot peppers from the garden. These aren't the best tasting peppers on their own, but will be fine when pickled. I reused pickle juice leftover from a jar of pickled pepperoncinis. Just heat, fill the jar with sliced peppers and pour the brine over the peppers. Once cool, put in the refrigerator for a week for the flavors to mingle before eating. They will be good for a couple months (they may last longer, but I've never had them last that long before I ate them all).
* One night that Trucker was at work all evening, I called everyone in my phone book to catch up as I walked home 6 miles from his job. It was wonderful getting to talk with relatives and hear their stories. I have unlimited minutes on my phone so it cost me nothing. Halfway through my walk, I stopped at a friends house and talked with her for an hour or so. We watched terrible (funny) videos on youtube and had a lovely time.
* I went for a 6 mile walk through the city and a couple parks. The weather was a perfect 78 and sunny, slight breeze, low humidity. Lovely.
* We went to a local park for a short, but strenuous hike. We took lots of fun pictures and wandered around the swamplands.
* We took a couple short walks through the neighborhood for exercise and talking. One was just after dusk and the clouds were wicked. I always feel happier after one of our walks, even if it's just 15-20 minutes.
* We avoided. We avoided going out to eat on busy nights by packing a meal to take with us. We avoided going to the grocery store. Instead of going out a couple of nights, we decided to stay in and relax at home. While there is nothing wrong with going out sometimes, we are trying to save up money for a new furnace, so we want to limit our expenses for the time being.
* Instead of turning on the heat or air conditioning (this week's weather has been fluctuating wildly), we regulated with extra or fewer blankets, tank tops or flannels as necessary.
* We planned errands around the park we visited to maximize our gas usage.
* We used the library for books to read and a few movies to watch.
* Instead of throwing away the leftover brine from a jar of pickled peppers, I reused it to make a second-run batch of pickled peppers. I used fresh peppers from the garden, but it is also great to use to rehydrate dried peppers in pickle juice for very quick pickles (not really pickled, but you get the flavor).
* I used the last of a jar of peach preserves for pop tarts. With the last bit that I couldn't scrape out, I added some milk and swished around, then added the flavored milk to my tea. I didn't have to add sweetener to the tea and got every last bit of the preserves.
* Made a plan to use leftovers and didn't waste any. Enchiladas for dinner one night was the perfect excuse to throw in a lot of random things.
* I composted as much as possible-dryer lint, junk mail (plastic windows cut out of envelopes), receipts, and all kitchen wastes.
* I packed lunches for each of us each day so we didn't have to buy anything for meals. I used items from the pantry or freezer. My job provides free soda, hot chocolate, hot tea and coffee in the break rooms, so I enjoy the free coffee every day instead of buying it at the coffee shop on site. I don't drink the free soda ever. I know how easily I get addicted to soda, and so even though it is free, I don't drink it so I don't start liking/craving it again. There's way too much sugar in that stuff, so I don't bother.
* Put 1 jar of dehydrated fruit and 1 jar of dehydrated vegetables into the pantry.
How was your week?