I posted on A Life Beyond Money's Facebook page asking if readers would like a weekly recap of what we did here each week towards frugality, freedom, nature-based and simple living, cooking/gardening/food preservation and related topics. Since I just decided to do this yesterday, I know I'm going to forget to include certain things, so future weeks may be more inclusive. I'm still figuring out what format I want this to be in, what topics I want to discuss and tasks to include. If you have any questions or suggestions, comment below.
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 planted radishes in between the few kale, swiss chard, and carrot plants that had managed to germinate in summer. They are all still small, but I'm hopeful.
* I harvested loads of Dean's Purple podded pole beans, some tomatoes, a dozen jalapenos, several okra pods, a single squash, a few small cukes, several cups of lettuce/baby mustard greens, and lots of basil. I harvested some young dandelion leaves from plants that had popped up in the shade garden. I thinned the carrot bed and used the baby carrots in salad. Seriously, gardening is one of the best ways to improve your life. You can spend $2 on a head of terrible romaine lettuce at the grocer, or spend $1.20 to get a packet of seeds that will supply all of the greens you eat for the entire warm season. You can garden wherever you are, even if you don't have ideal conditions.
* I grow Milkmaid Nasturtiums in the front garden. They are very pretty and go well with the house. They are also edible and delicious. They have a delicate spiciness to them that is incredible in salads and sandwiches. Day lilies are also edible (although not in season now) and grow all over our property. In season, they make up 1/2 of our daily salads.
* For my birthday, my parents gave me a basket (the basket is beautiful and will be used for holding mail on my desk) and a box full of food (do they know me or what?): 3 lbs green beans, a dozen large tomatoes, a half dozen ears of corn, a large zucchini, 3 cucumbers, 2 large jars of jam, 2 quarts of tomato sauce, and 2 quarts of canned green beans. So exciting! I love practical gifts. The jam is from my favorite farm. I never justify spending a lot on jams and jellies even though I love them, and my mom knows this.
* I made tomato soup from scratch using several tomatoes from the garden and a few from my parents that had gotten damaged in transit. I added 5 jalapenos from the garden, some leftover onion and some tomato-infused olive oil I made earlier this year.
* I made stir fry using an assortment of veggies from the garden and a leftover pork chop. I cooked the rice in a container of homemade chicken stock. It was out of this world.
* We made good use of leftovers. Leftover mashed potatoes were mixed with flour and seasoning before being fried as a side dish. Leftover pork chop in the stir fry. Random veggies were tossed into stir fry or salads.
* Trucker and I use a few coupons here and there, but only rarely. We found that we aren't using them as much as we used to (it used to be our primary method of savings on groceries) because we are mainly eating from the garden now.
* I have been brewing water kefir for several months now. A coworker gave me some cherry syrup he made (I got him into home fermenting kefir and gave him his first kefir grains. He just gave me some extra milk kefir grains, so I'm getting started on that). It is absolutely fantastic. We've been drinking a glass or two each day. If you haven't heard of water kefir, check out this article on the basics. Water kefir is an incredibly refreshing fizzy drink and is fantastic for the digestive system. It is also really frugal. You buy the grains once, and as long as you don't kill them, they will produce kefir beverage indefinitely. They also reproduce, so you can ferment more, give them away, sell them, or dehydrate/freeze them in case you kill your grains later. Other than the initial purchase of grains and supplies, the only costs are a tablespoon + sugar per quart and something to flavor it with (dried/fresh/frozen fruit, syrups, extracts). Much cheaper and healthier than soda.
* My parents had given me 6 pounds of beans from their garden (separate occasion from birthday gift). Some were really big and tough, others were perfect. I cut up all of the decent sized ones into bite sized pieces, blanched and dehydrated them. For the larger tough ones, I popped them open and harvested the beans. The beans were of various sizes, but I'm drying them all together. All told, I got a cup and a half of dried beans. For the large pods, I cooked them a little longer and dehydrated them. I may make a green bean veggie powder out of them, or may try using them as a side dish or in stews.
* My parents also gave me some overripe cucumbers. They are a bit too bitter to eat as a snack or in salad, but they are fine when added to soups or casseroles. I seeded and sliced them and dehydrated 5 of them. I seriously love my dehydrator.
* I harvested basil leaves from all of the plants and dehydrated it at room temperature. Once fully dry, I packed it into a repurposed glass jar for storage.
* For my birthday, we met up with my parents and sisters halfway between their house and ours. We bought pizza from a local joint with a BOGO coupon from our entertainment book. Afterwards, we went for a hike through the woods. Total cost for dinner and an evening out for 7: $15.
* Trucker signed up awhile back for a text club for a local comedy club. They had a contest and he won 4 free tickets ($100 value). We invited two of our good friends to go with us. We each got a drink and with tip spent $12. Not too bad for a night out, and we don't do it often. It was a really fun night. We love finding frugal ways to hang out with friends.
* We had one of my childhood friends over for dinner on Saturday. He's a farmer and came by after the market and brought some veg with him for dinner. I made BLTs with bacon from the freezer (purchased when it was on sale for $2/lb), lettuce from the garden, bread from my job and tomatoes he brought with. We also grilled corn on the cob (he brought with), and kebabs with onions ($.33/lb at Aldi), orange bell pepper (clearance rack at the grocery), and zucchini from my parents. We had watermelon for dessert. We sat around and talked for 4-5 hours and had a great time. Total cost for dinner for three, $2.5
* We've been using the library a lot. We each have several books checked out and a few movies. We never rent movies anymore. Our library system is fantastic and has access to pretty much anything we could possibly want.
* Trucker has a basic kindle, and likes to read free ebooks on it.
* One of our favorite outings is to go out for coffee. We bring our laptops for writing or books to read. We sit for hours and talk, read and write. We bring our travel mugs and get $.50 off each drink, so it costs $3. 18 for our outing. We use the free wifi and there are free refills. On scorching days in summer, we go there to enjoy the air conditioning.
* I went for a couple short runs. Health and mood improving. No gym membership required. Gets me out for fresh air and sunlight. I run barefoot, so I don't even have the cost of shoes, so this is truly free.
* Trucker and I took a couple walks around the neighborhood for exercise and talking. That is always fun.
* We both spent a lot of time out in the garden this week. Weeding, watering as needed, and just enjoying it.
* For my birthday, Trucker gave me a bat house. I adore bats and hate mosquitoes, so I'm hoping this works itself out. :) We hung it up in a tree near the property line.
* I avoided shopping this week. I didn't walk around the market or go to any stores whatsoever. A lot of saving money comes from just avoiding walking into a place that would tempt me to spend. Menards had a sale on a few items I could have used, but they weren't dire needs, and I knew that I would be tempted to spend on other things, so I didn't go. I will continue to check out their sales papers however. There are a few projects we want to do around the house, and I have $60 in rebate checks to use there, so whenever I find a good price for materials for a project, I'll use those. This winter we plan to dedicate a lot of time to home improvements.
* A couple days that we had lots of errands to run as well as jobs, we planned the route to minimize our mileage.
* I paid extra onto two bills. We are close to paying off two debts and will use that freed up money to pay down other bills.
* I paid extra onto the mortgage. We specifically purchased a house that was less than we could afford and have paid extra onto the principle every single month. Each time we do this, we save a crazy amount of interest and cut the number of months we'll have to make a payment.
* We got out the comforter already. It's been getting into the lower 40s at night now. By piling on a comforter, we can avoid having to run the furnace quite yet. I have a blanket at my desk so if I'm chilly in the morning, I can wrap up in that instead of turning on the heat.
* While driving through a neighborhood near us, we found a beautiful desk sitting at the curb. We asked the woman sitting on the porch if it was free. She said it was. I fell absolutely in love with it. For now, it is in the kitchen and holding several bowls of herbs that are drying. Later, it will be moved up to the craft room to house my sewing machine. Currently, my sewing machine is on a card table (gift from Trucker's grandfather when we first got together), but the table is so large it takes up most of the room. We will store the card table behind a shelf for when company comes over.
* I composted some veggie scraps, corn cobs/husks, and a lot of junk mail. I tore out the plastic screens from envelopes before shredding. I want to compost everything that I possibly can so that I can reduce the amount of compost I'll need to buy in spring. Eventually, I'd like to not need to buy any compost, but my soil needs a lot of amendment.
* Trucker saves all coffee grounds and tea bags in a separate container. These can be worked straight into the garden without composting. I worked 3 gallons worth into the garden beds. I separated out the bags and coffee filters and put those into the compost bins.
last of a loaf of bread. I cut the heel up into bite-sized pieces and added it to my stuffing/bread pudding/bread crumbs container on the counter. I allow pieces of bread to dry and then use them in a variety of recipes.
* I thinned out the carrot beds again (I pick every other one as they grow, giving them more space as they need it). The leaves would usually be thrown away, but were dried at room temperature. They will be used as a parsley substitute in winter.
* When we made bacon, we saved the grease to use in cooking.
* I packed Trucker's lunch so he didn't have to buy it at work. I made him a deli meat sandwich on bread from my job with dehydrated tomatoes from the garden (TIP: Place slices of dehydrated tomato next to the mayo on a sandwich. They rehydrate and keep the sandwich from being soggy). I also sent him with home-dehydrated apple chips (working on the last gallon jar of them from last year) and a granola bar that we bought at the scratch-n-dent grocer for $.05. I have a variety of main dishes and side dishes for lunches that are frugal and healthier than eating out.
* I had orientation at a new job. They sent me home with a goody basket of pasta, pasta sauce and a few snacks. They also supplied a snack and beverages, which replaced my dinner than night.
* Two jars of dried food put up into the store room for winter/emergencies.
* Trucker put a set of tools in my truck and his car so if we have car issues while driving, we can fix it ourselves. This summer we had car troubles while out of town and were fortunate to have a friendly car parts store worker that let us borrow some tools, but it could have been bad. He shopped at thrift stores for the extra sets of tools to put into our cars.
What did you do this week to be frugal?