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.
* Aphids got into the house! Not sure how, exactly, but one day I found one container of peppers covered in them. This was the container of plants that I was going to continue harvesting all winter. I quickly took it outside and picked all of the little peppers on it and let the frost have it and kill the aphids (hopefully). I've watched the plants indoors and they seem fine.
* The indoor planting of lettuce looks fantastic. Very small still, but beautiful. Can't wait!
* I peaked outside at the shade garden. It has been frosting most nights and has been really cold a few days. Surprisingly, the volunteer pepper and tomato plants are still alive. Two of the pepper plants even have flowers that survived last night's frost! They are both filled with tiny peppers. Another tiny volunteer plant had a 1.5 inch pepper. One of the tomato plants had produced 2 small tomatoes. I picked them all and will leave them to see if anything else grows.
* Made an incredible leftovers pizza. We had a little leftover BBQ pork, but not enough for a meal of sandwiches. I spread the pizza with blue cheese dressing, then spread the BBQ pulled pork over the top, smothered the whole thing in caramelized onions, sprinkled with chopped mock pickled peppers from jalapenos from the garden, then topped with cheddar and a drizzle of BBQ sauce. Wow. Incredible.
* There is a local grocery store that is kind of expensive for most things. However, they always have really good produce sales as a way to lure you in, and occasionally have good prices on non-produce items. I do not shop here often, as it is on the other side of town, but whenever I see that there are fabulous deals, I'll make a trip and stock up. This time I got: parsley ($.50/bunch), cilantro ($.50/bunch), cabbage ($.50/lb), onions ($.50/lb), 7 lbs of bulk popcorn ($.99/lb, half the price at work), 8 lbs butter ($2.99/lb; $1 cheaper than the cheapest sale price for store brand I ever see elsewhere. My stash had gotten down to 1/2 lb so I was worried. I do not use margarine and like to make pop tarts from scratch, so butter is a necessity), 3 6oz packages of raspberries ($1.50/each, I rarely buy berries because they are so expensive, so I do indulge when I find them at a good price. They are usually $4 for the same sized container here), 1 6 oz package of blackberries ($1.50/each) and a large bunch of spinach ($1). This store sells really good ends and pieces bacon for $3/lb and is therefore cheaper than the cheapest store brand on sale. Unfortunately, there was none there this time. I still have a few packages in the freezer at home, but always try to stock up when I'm there since I don't know how soon I will return.
* I made an enchilada casserole. I had some tortillas that were crumbly and not good for using for tacos. I layered the pieces with ground beef (a small container from the freezer leftover from another meal), refried beans, a can of tomatoes (sale+coupon=$.25), and covered the whole thing with enchilada sauce and cheese.
* My homemade vinegar turned out wonderfully. I'm very excited. It smells and tastes great. Now I'm thinking about making apple wine...
* Trucker had bought a Living Social deal for a local miniature golf course. 4 rounds of mini golf and 70 pitches in the batting cages for $12 ($30 value). We weren't able to get there right away and it closed for the season three days before we got there. The owner was there cleaning up and said that we could go ahead and play so he got out the leaf blower and cleaned the courses for us. We had a fantastic time. It was the most beautifully landscaped course I've ever seen. Afterwards, we went to a local ice cream shop for sundaes. I had a coupon in my Entertainment book for buy one get one free, so it only cost $4.50. Our entire date cost $16.50 and it was incredible!
* We went to a benefit spaghetti dinner for the local food pantry. We each donated several items for the silent auction and raffle. Trucker donated some books he had duplicates of (purchased at thrift stores for less than $1 so we could give them away when someone said they wanted to read it, for gifts, etc) and I donated a hand crocheted scarf and two sets of washcloths. We also donated some canned goods that I had gotten really cheaply from combining sales and coupons. We paid $10 each for dinner but considered it worthwhile since it benefited the food bank. We had a wonderful time with our friends and enjoyed the music. At the end of the event, they auctioned off a couple items that hadn't gotten bids. One of the items was a $50 gift certificate for a nice Italian restaurant. No one else bid so I got it for $15. This will provide two dates for us.
* Went grocery shopping with a couple friends. Short, fun and didn't cost me anything (except for the groceries I was going to buy anyway).
* Coffee and writing/studying session with a good friend at a local coffee house.
* Every nice day we went out for a short walk through the neighborhood. Just a half hour, but we get a bit of exercise, a bit of sunlight.
* When I went out for coffee with my friend, I reused my coffee sleeve. It was my 10th time reusing it, so next time I get a free drink. I don't go to this coffee house often, but make sure I always have my sleeve when I do.
* When I went to a grocery store that was on the other side of town, to maximize the value of the gas used, I combined the trip with getting together for coffee with my friend that lives just down the road. We met another friend at the store. Whenever I have to go out of my way for something, I try to combine as many errands/experiences in that area as possible.
* Planned to use leftovers and random items instead of wasting them.
* Made vinegar out of apple cores.
* Some changes at work mean my work schedule will improve in the coming week. Very grateful as some changes (to cover vacations, plus a change in management, plus complete elimination of third shift work) had meant for weird scheduling for me. It's going to be better from here.
* Trucker got some free bagels and english muffins from his job that would otherwise have been thrown away since they had expired.
* I brought apples from the orchard for my lunch each day. It's cheap and just enough to get me through the day.
* Bought a couple cans of canned shrimp for the stockpile. I don't eat canned meats on a regular basis, but do like tuna or canned shrimp on occasion. I found it in a clearance bin for $1/can and bought a few.
* Rough start to National Novel Writing Month. I've had trouble hitting my word count as I'm still getting used to my work schedule completely changing the way I live. (This week I've had two hours when first waking up before heading off to work and an hour after work before getting ready for bed...hard to cram everything into those time frames). That being said, on one day off I wrote 2500 words.