Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Date Night Calendar

I've been wanting to be more proactive about planning exciting dates for Trucker and I. It's far too easy to fall into the routine of Chinese food and a movie, or a favorite bar and pool. Often, these can provide relatively little pleasure for the money spent, since it is a routine thing. When we go on "new" dates, we end up having a lot more fun and we are creating new memories together. The problem is constantly coming up with new ideas, or remembering what is going on the particular day we want to go out. I've solved this with my date night calendar.

I use Google Calendar. As I find out date ideas, whether it is a concert in two months or a regular event in our price range, I add it to the calendar. If the event is a regular event, say every Thursday or the first Saturday of the month, I add the event, set it to repeat and make it never end. That way I don't forget about it and can see at a glance whatever is going on.

I am always looking out for fun dates and there is no shortage of them. I find fun date ideas in all sorts of places, some unexpected.

Some museums have a regular free day or at least one a year. If they are every week, I add it and set it to repeat weekly. If it's once a year, I'll try to look early in the year to find what date it will fall on, so don't forget about it until it is past. All year, our art museum is free on Sundays, and during the summer, they have free concerts as well.  As soon as the concerts are announced, I add them all to the calendar. If I hear that a city within a reasonable drive has a free day, I will add it as well, so we could make a day trip around it. Don't forget about hole-in-the-wall museums in small towns.

Zoos sometimes have free or discount days as well. One day a week county residents get a discount. Around the holidays, they put up holiday lights. This year, they had a benefit day for the local food bank. For that night, if you brought 5 non-perishable food items to donate, you got free admission and parking.

Two local fancy grocery stores have wine tastings once a week. It is 5 wine samples for $5 (the other is 7 wine samples for $8) and, of course, no tip necessary. Each of these also offer food tastings along with the wine, and lots of samples as well. Between it all, it would be a light meal. While not the best on ambiance, it could be a fun way to try some new wines. This would be particularly nice if there was a concert or other free event nearby that you could walk to after.

A couple of coffee houses offer free concerts. One has an open mic on Fridays and a jazz, blues or folk concert on Saturdays. We tried the open mic, but it was a bit too crowded with school-age kids for us. We occasionally go to the Saturday night concerts when a musician we enjoy is playing. At this coffee house, they offer one free refill, so our date night, with tip, will cost around $6. Also look out for poetry slams.

Wineries also offer free concerts, usually jazz or singer/songwriter. If you can keep it to one glass of wine, and perhaps an appetizer to share, it can be a relatively cheap date. Some of them have a happy hour that ends when the concert time starts, but there is no reason you couldn't get there twenty minutes early, order your drinks and appetizer and nurse it. Some bars also have free concerts, in all genres. The website will usually have a calendar, and you can add all the concerts that sound appealing.

I love the symphony, but $50 tickets is a bit steep for regular attendance. However, my local theatre has some bargains. They have a happy hour event a few times a year intended to introduce younger people to the symphony. An hour before, they have drink specials and free appetizers; admission is free. One concert series offers $10 tickets for basically the worst seats in the house; that being said, this theatre is so good that no seats are horrible. Another concert series designed to teach newbies about classical music offers $15 tickets for any seats.  When they release the new season's shows, I check for each type and add them all to my calendar.

In the summer, a local theatre troupe offers Shakespeare in the Park. It runs Thursday through Sunday. For any performances that interest me, I add it to each day that it is going on, so if I have something going on Friday, maybe I can make it Sunday.

Also, many parks departments put on concerts or drive-in movies in the park during the warm months. Add the event for any movie that interests you.

Add small town or city festivals, cruise-ins, or flea markets, as they interest you. Again, look within a reasonable driving distance so you could make a day trip out of one that is farther out.

Two movie theaters offer once-a-week discounts. One first-run theater sells $5 tickets that include a small popcorn. A second-run theater usually costs $2.25 each, but one day a week (a different day than the other theater) has $1.25 admission. Add it to repeat weekly, and if you want to see a movie, you can look up showtimes.

Now, whenever we want to have a date night, we just look at the calendar and pick whatever sounds best at the time. Or, if we've been slaving away at work and home, we might look for the next "fancy" date that we can go to to have something special to look forward to. Most of these dates are $20 or less (and many are much, much less), so by planning ahead, we get to enjoy our regular date without wrecking our budget.

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Wordless Wednesday Hop

This Week...Beyond Money 12/21 - 12/27

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 have cilantro, lettuce and kale growing indoors. Nothing is harvest-size or even close to it yet, but it's growing. The kale in particular is looking good.

* I made homemade mac n cheese. So much better than anything from a box.
* Trucker brought home a couple of small pizzas from his job. Since they would be closed on Christmas, at the end of the day on Christmas Eve, they told everyone to make some pizzas to take home. He brought home the raw pizzas. We used them for lunch on two different days.
* I roasted and ground all of the dandelion root "coffee". It's amazing how little a year's harvest ends up being. So labor intensive, but so good that I never stop doing it.

* Since I'm on break from work, a lot of the week revolved around having fun with friends since I rarely get to hang out when working 13 hour days.
My friend took me out for lunch one day. It was perfect getting to spend a couple hours catching up with one of my closest friends.
* Another good friend and I went out for coffee and crocheting one evening.
* I went thrifting with a couple of friends on Christmas Eve. One of my favorite stores was having a half off sale. I ruthlessly "unshopped" while we waited in line, so I didn't spend too much. We had a lot of fun.
* Trucker and I did our regular coffee date, $3.18.
* We went to a discount theater to watch a movie with our favorite actor. It was $4.50 total. We didn't buy snacks or drinks.

* We went for a walk at a local metro park. We went for a 1.8 mile loop.
* Another day we did a 2 mile hike at a different park.

* Trucker put plastic up to some of the windows to keep our drafts this winter. We are still having 60+ degree days, but soon it will get cold.

Waste Reduction:
* I used the last little bit of a bottle of shower gel as bubble bath.

* The first half of the week was optional, and work is closed through the end of the year. I worked 1 1/2 days this week.
* Trucker ate for free at his job. I packed lunch one day I worked; I did buy a lunch one day for $2.50.

* We cleared out all of the Christmas items from the booth. We are planning on redoing the entire booth next week.
* Trucker got a few more articles published. So proud.

* I ran three days.
* We went for a 1.8 mile hike one day and a 1.9 mile hike another.

 How was your week?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 12/14 - 12/20

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 some cilantro last week. It has germinated.
* The lettuce is doing okay, but is slow growing.

* Trucker made fajitas with some manager's special steak, onions (Aldi, $.20/lb) and red bell pepper (with asparagus in a manager's special package, $2/lb). We served on on-sale tortillas ($.91/12 pk), with on-sale store brand sour cream and hot sauce ($.50/bottle from the salvage grocer).
* I started reading James Beard's How to Eat Well on Less Money, the 1970 edition. I would highly recommend this book. Generally, cookbooks published after the 50s have convenience/packaged foods in them, or are overly "foodie" (In general, a lot of them that are scratch-based tend to use more expensive ingredients as opposed to more basic ones). This book is incredible. Very down to earth, very frugal and focused on skills building and reducing waste. Highly recommended (and it's currently a penny listing on Amazon, so there's no excuse!)
* I bought a ham at Aldi. They had a coupon for $3 off a ham with a $25 purchase. I purchased items such as cheese, produce and eggs that we needed for the week, then met the $25 minimum by buying non-perishables that we would need soon, like vanilla extract, cooking oil, and fruit juice concentrate. I dug around through the hams until I found a ~6 lb one for $6, which was $3 after the coupon, so a little less than $.50/lb.

How would you feel if you
unexpectedly saw this guy watching
you in the dark?
* We went out for pizza with our friends for our once-a-month pizza outing. We tried a place I've been wanting to try for a couple years. We got the $2 drinks that were on special and split a small pizza. It was one of the more expensive pizza places we've tried (thus why it's been years until we tried it). We got to hang out with 3 good friends and catch up. It was a lovely night.
* We went out for a coffee date. $3.18 with free refills.
* Trucker checked out an old TV series from the library. It was a classic that I'd never seen, so I enjoyed watching some of it while baking in the kitchen.
* I don't know really where to put this, but thought it needed to be shared. I'm a little....iffy...on clowns. Pennywise is pretty much the scariest thing ever to me. So, of course, I sell clown figurines at the antique booth as sort of a morbid obsession (and wonder of all wonders, they sell!). So Trucker bought some clowns at auction to sell, including a very horrible clown puppet. He propped it up so when I walked into the living room after work one day, I found that horrible face staring at me. When my sister came over, she thought it was horrible and said she could never live in a house that the clown was in (I've been sending her texts from him along with photos). Since then Trucker (or at least I hope it's him!) has been moving the clown doll around the house, like my own Elf on a Shelf, only it's a soul-eating clown. This has been one of the best uses of $2 ever. If we ever get bored of this joke, I'm sure we can sell him.

* I just finished the Tightwad Gazette trilogy for the year. I read them every year. It helps me renew my determination to be frugal, excites me about reaching our goals, and gets me thinking creatively about ways to trim expenses. At this point, relatively few of the tips apply to me that I do not at least occasionally implement (since we don't have kids, a good majority of the tips do not directly apply), but reading even those articles helps me think on expenses differently. While I don't have multiple children to clothe and stockpile yard sale items for their growing years, the tip still gets me thinking. Knowing that his feet will stay the same size, I am always shopping passively for great bargains on Trucker's tennis shoes, work shoes and hiking boots. I buy them whenever I find them for $15 or less for a decent pair. In this way, we never have to go out to buy $50 shoes. If he has a decent pair that he is wearing and one pair in storage, I will only buy shoes if I find them for $10 or less since the need is less pressing.

Waste Reduction:
* I messed up a batch of toffee by over-stirring after it boiled so it ended up really grainy. It wasn't good enough to give as a gift, but I couldn't stand the idea of wasting $8 worth of butter, brown sugar and chocolate. Instead, I tried an experiment. I broke up the grainy toffee and added a little water. I cooked it down until the sugar dissolved, then cooked it down into a syrup. I poured it over our ice cream where it solidified. It ended up being a mix of a toffee-like candy and a magic shell type thing. It was still slightly grainy, but not too bad and tasted great. While I wouldn't make this intentionally, it was good to make use of something that would otherwise get thrown away.

* I worked two extra days this week. We worked overtime one day.
* We had a pizza party at work one day. Management bought pizza for all of us to thank us for a good year.
* We had a potluck at work. I brought in my homemade pop tarts in Nutella (manager's special, $2.25/jar), mixed berry ($.99/jar preserves from the salvage grocer) and PBJ ($1.49/jar peanut butter with coconut oil from salvage grocer; $1/huge jar grape jelly in store brand on sale). Everyone loved them.
* Because of this, I only had to pack a lunch twice last week.
* Trucker got free meals from his job.
* We went to a Christmas party at Trucker's job. We brought his incredible taco dip (his mother's specialty). It was a fun afternoon and the food was good. There was a gift exchange. We brought a set of Ninja Bread Men cookie cutters and got a coffee house gift certificate (free dates!). We were also sent home with a large container of leftover sushi!

* I got my first publication on The Good Men Project. It is on how to reduce spending on the holidays.

* I was careful at the Christmas parties about what and how much I ate. At each, I chose one dessert and took a small portion.
* I went running one day and we went on a couple short walks around the neighborhood.

* We don't exchange gifts in our household, but if someone gives me a gift, I look for a way to do something sweet for them also. We each had a gift exchange we were a part of (his was at his new job and mine was with a group of online friends). We were very creative in how we sourced the items we gave, whether by making them from scratch (in the form of candy and baked goods), scouted items while picking or looking online for bargains.
I love this tan and blue bowl. Trucker and I have filled it
with pine cones, needles and milkweed pods that we
collect when we go for our walks.

How was your week?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 12/7 - 12/13

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 had two planters at the end of the driveway that I grew tomatoes, nasturtiums and lettuce in. I didn't harvest lettuce seed this year, but they seeded themselves all around the planters. We've had a really warm autumn and I now have lettuce growing in my yard. I went out and dug up some of the lettuce and transplanted it into a container inside. Hopefully it will survive well and I can harvest it throughout winter.
* The peppers are doing quite well. They put on a lot of flowers, but I pick them off to allow the plants to grow stronger for spring.

* I cooked stuffed peppers that I'd frozen in season. It was a great easy meal for a day were had a lot going on.
* I got some mushrooms on sale $.50/8 oz. For dinner one nights that Trucker works, I've just been sauteing them in butter. Sometimes I'll add them to pasta, sometimes not. Is there anything better than sauteed mushrooms?
* Okay, one thing better: Trucker's fried potatoes. Oh my. He gets just the perfect ratio of fluffy center and crispy edge. Absolutely amazing. He treated me to these one evening when we got home late and were wanting comfort food.
* I made a bean and pork soup one day that we were going to be gone for the morning and early afternoon. I pulled some frozen pork stock from the freezer as well as some frozen shredded pork. I soaked black beans overnight. I sauteed three hot peppers (manager's special; $1/20 peppers), an onion ($.33/lb), half a head of garlic (from the garden) and a couple of carrots (free with $10 purchase at Meijer) in chicken fat (leftover from roasting chicken). I tossed all of it in the slow cooker and added a generous sprinkling of my veggie powder jar (comprised of last year's green beans, zucchini, tomato and peppers) to thicken slightly and add more nutrients. I left it on low while we were gone. When we returned I seasoned with some soup seasoning cubes and added a can of diced tomatoes (from the salvage grocer).
* I made chicken alfredo one day with leftover chicken and sauteed onions, garlic and carrots. I served it over fettuccine and made garlic bread with some rolls we had on hand.

* I went out to my Grandpa's house to have dinner with him, my parents and sisters. We put up his Christmas tree and enjoyed good conversations and laughter.
* We used the library for our reading and watching materials. We listened to Spotify or CDs we bought secondhand years ago for music.
* We went out for a coffee date, using our travel mugs and getting free refills.
* We had purchased a groupon deal awhile back to celebrate Trucker's new job. It was $13 for 2 entrees and a $5 gift certificate. We still had the gift certificate, so we went out for a cheap date with that. We went during happy hour, so appetizers were half off and our drinks were $2 each. I got sweet potato fries and Trucker got a combination app platter ($1.50 and $3.50 after the discount). So before tip, our date was $4. Not too shabby!
* We went out for a free movie screening. We did not buy any snacks or drinks.
* My sister came over for the afternoon. We went thrifting together. She got 4 pairs of jeans, a jean skirt and a hat for $15 total (some of the jeans were $.99). I got 4 pairs of jeans and 2 dress shirts for $14). We went home and made toffee (so easy) while sipping chai tea lattes (made from $.39/quart concentrate from the salvage grocer). Very fun day without spending much at all.

* I got gas at work and saved $.30/gallon.
* I returned all of the dog items that I could for a refund.
* Trucker got a coupon for BOGO free shoes with free shipping. He ordered two pairs and paid a total of $20.
* I went to a free yard sale at one of my regular sales. I was able to find some decent items for us, such as a stadium chair for when we go to plays in the park and a bag of golf balls for my dad.

Waste Reduction:
* Composted weird things.
* I used some coffee grounds to revamp some potting soil in a planter.

* I worked one extra day at my regular job. We worked over, at least a little, each day.
* I packed my lunch each day I worked. Trucker got free meals from his job.

* I took out some items from the booth. I removed items that we placed when we first got started and had grossly overpriced for our market (we had priced much lower than online sources had them, but certain items go even lower in our mall), items that were out of season (I removed all summer and spring items, leaving room for winter items), or items that just aren't going to sell (We got some things when we first got started, but haven't sold anything of those types and no one has paid any attention to them. These will go into boxes for a flea market). I didn't bring any new items in. Instead, I spaced things out a bit more. Certain shelves had gotten somewhat clustered, so I wanted to give a little breathing room.
* With Trucker's encouragement, I submitted an article I wrote to a website I admire. Nervously awaiting a response.
* Trucker got 2 more articles accepted.

* I have been taking the loss of the dog harder than I anticipated. I was quite upset earlier in the week, but am starting to feel better. While I was at work one day, Trucker cleaned out the house of the dog stuff, swept up the dog hair, etc so when I came home I wasn't confronted with signs of him.

* My dad helped me fix the window in Trucker's car. It had fallen off track, so it wouldn't roll up all the way. It took us about twenty minutes to fix, but cost nothing. I worked with him and paid attention to what he did so next time it happens I can fix it myself.
* We had a lot of items for the dog that were opened/used, so we couldn't return them. I gave them to my parents for their dogs: dog food, treats, bones, toys and stuffed animals.
How was your week?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 11/30 - 12/6

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.
* The lettuce has germinated, but not really grown much.

* We used some of the shredded pork for fantastic tacos with lettuce (manager's special), sour cream (sale), cheese (store brand on sale), bell pepper (manager's special), and salsa (salvage grocer).
* I made a buffalo chicken casserole using a can of buffalo chicken ($.49/8 oz at the salvage grocer). I cooked penne al dente. I made a cheese sauce using dehydrated cheddar powder (Amish grocer), flour, butter and milk (used to rinse out the chicken can). I mixed in the chicken and pasta and packed in all in a casserole dish. I topped with a light coating of cheddar (on sale) and a heavy coating of seasoned breadcrumbs (made from leftover bread that would otherwise have gone to waste).
* One night while we were reminiscing about our early years together, Trucker reminded me of a snack we used to have. We had barely any money at that time; life was hard. We did our best to make a good life for ourselves regardless. One of our favorite snacks was not healthy by any means, but it was special for us. We would get Aldi brand Nutty Bars and spread some peanut butter or icing and maybe a few chocolate chips if we had them. It was such a cheap dessert, and more than a little trashy, but we loved it. So this week, we bought a box of store brand nutty bars (on sale) and I made a simple peanut butter cream cheese icing. It was amazing. While I won't put them in regular rotation, it was fun to relive an old memory. What were some of your favorite super cheap dishes that you made when first getting established? Feel free to share in the comments!
* We had my parents, sister and Grandpa over for dinner one evening. Trucker grilled out. I made English toffee for dessert.
* We ate popcorn as our snack. It's so easy to make on the stove top and super cheap.

* We've been playing board games at home lately and enjoying those quiet evenings.
* We went out for coffee at our regular place. Free refills, used our travel mugs and I'd earned $1 off a drink, so it was $2.18.

* I used last month's grocery store gas points before they expired to get $.10 off per gallon.
* I needed two new tires on the front of my car. I reserved two cheaper tires, but when I got there, they said they weren't in stock. So they ended up giving me better tires with the warranty on them, for just $15 more (instead of $37 more). Then I told them how recently I'd bought new tires. They were still under warranty, so that cut my price in half.
* We used a coupon for our oil change and saved $7.
*Got all new towels on sale/discount. I got 2 brown super fluffy towels at a thrift store for $4.99 each. At Kohl's I got 4 towels. Set of 2 cream colored ones were $2.99 each. Set of two tan ones were $4.99 each and much nicer than the cream ones. I used a $5 off coupon and a 15% off discount. So total, I paid $19.35 for 6 towels, 4 of them really nice ones. We had been using the same set of towels since we got married 9 years ago. We were down to 3 towels; 2 were frayed and one was tearing badly. Now the old towels will go for washing the dog or get made into toys for him.

Waste Reduction:
* I went through my massive cookbook collection. I have way too many cookbooks. Like, hundreds. So I went through my collection and knocked it back by about 40%. This freed up some shelves. I may do another purge again soon, but this was good. I will sell these at the booth.

* I worked an extra shift at my regular job.
* I packed lunch each day I worked. Trucker ate for free at his jobs.

* Ran/walked 20 miles with the dog. Went on even more walks.
* I went to my medical office at work and made note of my weight (in my uniform for consistency in future measurements), blood pressure and heart rate.
* Unfortunately, the dog situation did not work out. He was very aggressive with my dad and Trucker, to the point where it wasn't safe. I'm heartbroken about the situation, but am not in a position to quit my job to rehabilitate the dog. Given his unknown history, we can't know what had happened to him before, but for some reason, he was wonderful with women and very aggressive towards men.

How was your week?

Monday, November 30, 2015

This Week....Beyond Money 11/23 -11/29

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.

* I harvested a large windowbox planter that was filled with parsley. I ended up with a huge pile of leaves.
* I revamped the window box soil with some coffee grounds and some fresh potting soil and planted lettuce. I used half a packet of Oak Leaf lettuce and all of the Speckled lettuce seed I'd saved from last year's garden.

* I have never made candy before, but I decided I wanted to try. I made toffee using a recipe I found in The Tightwad Gazette II.  I had a jar of almonds that was almost empty, so I chopped them all up. I placed them in the bottom of a greased baking dish. The toffee recipe was simply 3/4 cups packed brown sugar and 1/2 c butter, heated on the stovetop until it was darkened and just starting to smoke (recipe said about 7 minutes, but I cooked mine 8-9 before it smoked). I poured this mixture over the top of the almonds. The recipe said to immediately top with chocolate chips and cover with a cookie sheet so the chips would melt and could be smoothed with a knife. I didn't have chocolate chips but had unsweetened baking chocolate. So I shaved the baking chocolate and added some sugar and microwaved 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each go, until it was melted. I poured this over the top of the toffee. I should have run a knife through immediately to get nice even pieces, but instead just broke it into large pieces. This was incredible. I can't wait to try more variations.
* I got a 5.5 pound pork loin on manager's special for $5. I seared each edge in my cast iron skillet, then placed in the slow cooker, covered with water, and cooked on low for 5-6 hours. I strained off the cooking broth to use in soup making. The meat was falling apart as I took it out. We used it for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and tacos. I froze over half of it to use later.
* Butter was on sale 2 for $5 and you got back a coupon for $1 off a butter purchase if you bought two. I bought two and got my coupon. I immediately went back and bought another 2. So my cost was $2.25 a pound (this is the first time in months I've seen butter on sale for less than $3.99/lb).
* For the family Thanksgiving celebration, we brought bread (as we do every year). I found some take-and-bake loaves from the bakery for $1 each so I baked them at home to bring with. We brought basic Italian, roasted garlic and multi-grain.

Food Preservation:
* While I watched The Good Life on youtube, I picked off the leaves of parsley. I had enough to fill 4 trays on my dehydrator and set it for 100 degrees to dry. This will last us well into next year.

* Mum and my sister came over the day we bought Switch. We had a fun morning together. We'd planned on going out for lunch, but ended up bringing lunch home with us since we had him with us. Trucker was off work that day, so he joined us.
* We went on a couple coffee dates. One time the coffee was free. The other time we paid $3.18, but earned $1 off a beverage for next time.

* I've been enjoying my walks/runs with Switch. He is so curious about everything (especially since he's just now free from the shelter to explore a whole new world), so he gets me to stop and look at other things too.

* Trucker needed new tires on his car, badly. Our regular place had some promotions going on for the weekend, so I jumped on it. I got "better" tires rather than "good" tires for good handling in winter/rain. It cost $100 more to get "better" tires than the second cheapest "good" tires. However, the promotion was for $25 rebate on a set of 4 "good" tires or $75 rebate on a set of "good" tires, so that dropped the price to $50 more. Also, there was a promotion for $60 rebate if you used their credit card. I had the money, but applied for the credit card anyway so I could get the rebate. I will pay it off immediately and not pay interest. All of the rebates (which I filled out online to get quicker and that have already been approved) make it cheaper than the cheapest tires would have been without a sale. Also, it has a 65k mile warranty, so we are covered on tires for the life of this car (that will put it over 300k miles; which is about how long we plan to drive the Civic).
* I saved $500 on a treadmill by adopting a dog.
* I don't really know which section to put this in, so I'll do it here. We'd been looking for an affordable addition to the family for about a month (We didn't want to spend hundreds buying a dog; we'd rather spend the extra getting him all set up). A couple weeks ago someone at my job was selling white Husky pups for $600. We said we'd love to have a white Husky, but not for that price. Well, on Black Friday, the dog shelter had a special promotion because they were so full. It was $18 for the dog that was spayed/neutered, wormed, had its rabies shot, microchipped, tagged for the year, collar and leash. So, we go to the shelter to look at the dogs, and there's this beautiful, 2-year-old white Husky mix dog. He was so sad in the room, just standing still, staring at the wall. But once he got out to meet me, he was an explosion of energy. He is quite the social butterfly and loved exploring. He is keeping me sore from all the running he wants to do (and this is just a few days after his surgery!). I keep joking with Trucker that Switch is going to get me training for marathons soon! He's going to take some training and getting used to, but we are excited. My parents are helping us get him all set up, the shelter offers free training classes on Mondays, and there are vets that offer free first-visits for shelter dogs. While dogs are not cheap, we are looking for lots of ways to economize without neglecting. We are already looking out for frugal toy ideas made from scraps at home (say, a tug of war rope made from old socks) or purchased at a thrift store (We'll look not just for pet toys, but also for stuffed animals without beads/buttons that could be swallowed). My dad is building his crate and will help me put up the run this week.
* I wanted to get a hammock/cover for the backseat of the car to keep off (some of )the dog hair and slobber and keep the dog in place while we drive. It was $50 regular price, plus shipping and taxes. However, it was on sale for $25. I signed up for the mailing list and got a coupon for 20% off. I clicked through Swagbucks to shop so I earned 3 points per dollar (basically 3% cash back) and used my credit card to get 1% cash back.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of random things.
* I saved the cooking water from the pork to use as soup base.

* I picked up one extra day at work. I would have worked more days, but we were closed for the holidays.
* Trucker's job was closed on the holiday, so he only worked 2 days.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked.

* We got new tires before winter so that we are prepared for the snow (at least, as much as one can ever be).

* Trucker has finished editing another two books and is working on releasing them this week. He is starting to make good royalties on his other books. I'm so proud!
* We are continuing to get more items up to the booth. I took down the autumn display and set up the Christmas displays in time for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales.

* Now that I have a dog, I can safely exercise more often (and, really, have to because a Husky is not a lazy dog, especially this one!)
* Drank water kefir regularly.

* Someone stole a high priced item from our booth. It was frustrating, but to be expected when in retail. We amped up our security measures for similar items.

* My parents have been fantastic in helping us get Switch home. We couldn't have done it without them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 11/16 - 11/22

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.
* I weatherized the rabbit hutches simply. I rolled the foil-backed bubble wrap insulation up one side, across the top and down the other side, tucking the edges under the edge of the cage. I ran a length across the back and overlapped the sides. I didn't insulate the front so they can get some fresh air. I used duct tape to cover the seams. I took an old blanket and laid it over the top and covered the whole thing (all four sides) with a tarp to keep out rain/snow. I am thinking of getting some straw bales to pack around three sides. They would provide insulation and in spring, they would have started decomposing and will make a fine mulch for the garden.

* Beans and toast is a fine breakfast (although Trucker would disagree with me). Garlic toast with baked beans...I don't think it gets much better.
* I pulled a package of frozen first-baked biscotti from the freezer. Once thawed, I sliced and baked it to have for snacking and breakfasts in the coming week.
* I used a baked spaghetti casserole for dinner one night. I mixed together the leftover spaghetti, leftover grilled peppers and onions, the cherry tomatoes that have ripened on the counter and a package of 1/4 lb of ground beef and enough tomato sauce to thoroughly coat it all. I packed it into a baking dish, added more tomato sauce (it gets too dry otherwise), topped with the last of a bag of cheese and a thorough coating of bread crumbs (saved in my bread crumbs bowl of items that would go bad, so I dry and powder them). I seasoned liberally with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and black pepper and baked at 350 degrees until the top was golden. Delicious, easy and really cheap.
* I used leftover breakfast sausages to make sausage gravy, with pop and bake biscuits I got on sale for $.29/can.
* We had BLTs with some fantastic $8/lb bacon that I got marked down to $2.50 (we saved half for other uses), lettuce and tomatoes from the garden (harvested green and ripened on the counter).
* We made breakfast sandwiches one morning. I used two leftover biscuits and made two sandwiches from bread, used the leftover bacon from BLT night and 4 eggs.
* At a barn sale, I found breakfast cereal on sale for $1/box or 6 for $5. The guy through in an extra box for free since it was badly crushed (but the bag was still intact). I gave one box to my parents.
* While at a flea market with my parents, we found a store that had half off everything except the jars. I got gelatin for half the price I usually pay ($1.50/lb), $.25/can tomato soup, $1.50 for daiquiri mix, $.25 bars of chocolate and...get this 100 protein bars/power gels/packages of cookies/snack packs of nuts. The last items were all in a bin marked 10 for $1, but were also half off, so it was 20 for $1. This was half the price I usually pay at the salvage grocer and I got to choose what I wanted. I grabbed all of the power gels they had, and Dad and I split all of the power bars and snack packs of nuts (he ended up getting 40 or 60 items). Since we all work in a factory, these will be perfect for carrying in the lunch box for break time snacks. Dad said that he had started slipping and buying a soda on break because he needed something to get him through the second half of the day (he works in a much more strenuous department), so he'll use the power bars to give him a boost and just drink water instead. So for him, he saves $.80 over buying a soda (so saves over $100 a year).

* We went out for a couple $3.18 coffee dates at our place that has a discount for bringing travel mugs and free refills.
*  Our local zoo puts on a huge Christmas lights display. It costs the same price to go in from 5-10 for the lights as it does to get in any day ($15 each per person, plus $8 parking). Needless to say, we haven't gone in over 5 years. However, this year we heard about a special benefit day for the local food bank. Anyone bringing in 5 non-perishable items would get free admission, and if you showed a can on your way in, you got free parking. I had bought items to donate to an annual benefit for the food bank we go to every year, but this year we'd both been working and had to miss it, so I already had the food. So basically, we got in free ( I got spices, chocolate syrup and some baking mixes as well as the typical tuna/canned veg items to add some variety). I brought coffee from home so we didn't have to buy anything while we were there. It was a great night. We laughed and talked a lot and got to see a lot of animals (others were indoors for the season/time of day). We got to go to the reptile house, the aquarium, the manatee exhibit, see the polar bears, reindeer, and the nocturnal animal house. Since we got in for free, I decided to splurge and got us tickets to ride the carousel for $1 each. I hadn't ridden in 20 years. It was so fun!
3D wood carving at a homesteader's store
* We'd had a lot going on for awhile earlier this fall so I hadn't been able to do anything for my mom's birthday. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I took her and my dad to Amish country on Saturday. It ended up being a really fun and frugal day. I found apple fritters on sale at the grocery store the day before, 4 for $2.50. I left one for Trucker's breakfast and used the other three for my parents' and my breakfast. For lunch, I took them to my favorite restaurant in the area. We each drank water and ordered off of the Just Right menu (the regular meals are too big for two people!). It was $25 plus tip. We went thrifting, antiquing and stopped at roadside sellers (My mom got a beautiful handmade basket at a good price  bought from a guy selling in the parking lot of the restaurant). We got some great food at great prices at a flea market and a barn sale (see above). My parents got some of their Christmas shopping done and I got some items to sell at our booth. We were leaving a flea market at closing time and the pretzel shop called out that we could get BOGO on the pretzels that were left, then offered buy one get two free. So for $3 we each got a huge soft pretzel. We brought travel mugs to get discounts on our coffee/hot chocolate on the drive. Not including groceries, I spent around $50 and $35 of that was dinner. The only items I bought for myself were a pair of earrings ($.50), a pair of sunglasses ($.75) and a Fiestaware coffee mug in my color (cobalt, $1).

* We drove around Amish country and loved seeing the leaves, the livestock, the hills studded in corn shocks and hay stacks and the beautiful colors of the sunset.

* While I was thrifting, I found a fitted sheet that fits our bed. Since fitted sheets wear out much quicker than top sheets and pillowcases, I end up with partial sets. Stores don't seem to sell fitted sheets alone anymore (probably to force you to buy a whole new set). It is a white sheet and don't go with any of my sets. I'm going to look out for a dye kit on a good sale to dye it a color that compliments my current sets.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of weird things.

* I worked an extra shift at my regular job.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked.
* Trucker found out that his job gives him free food! Score! He can make whatever he wants (with the exception of a few very high priced items) to eat and can drink free soda/tea/coffee. We won't have to pack lunches for him anymore.

* I actually went for a run one day. It was only a mile, and I have definitely lost some conditioning, but at least I got back out there! I also went on a couple short walks.
* I haven't been making stock lately because the meat we've found on sale has been boneless. So to get my supply of gelatin, I've been drinking hot gelatin. My grandma used to feed it to me when I had a tummy upset, and it's as lovely now as it was then.

* One day at work I was really tired. A coworker offered me a couple chocolate covered espresso beans to give me a little kick to get through the shift. It was so sweet of him. We got to talking and he mentioned how his wife buys them for him in the city when she goes shopping with her friends, but because of the road construction, she hasn't been able to get any lately and he's running low. Since I drive right by the store she gets them at, I offered to stop and get some for him. It didn't take much extra time since I was able to do some grocery shopping there anyway, and he was able to get some to last him until the construction is done. I love having community like this!
* Trucker made me a beautiful jewelry organizer for my necklaces. He made it out of some old wooden frames we had in the craft room. Is this not the best gift?
 How was your week?

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money ? - 11/15/15

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.

Sorry for the delays in writing. We had a couple things come up that required a lot of time away from the computer. As a result, this week's post will include items from the past week, and anything of note from the two weeks prior. I'll hopefully be writing more frequently in the coming weeks.
* A fair amount of the garlic has sprouted. I covered the garlic with a heavy mulch of leaves to help them overwinter well.
* I moved the rabbit hutches to the garden bed closest to the house for ease in taking care of the rabbits in winter. I actually am making a new bed directly under them. I laid down cardboard to smother the grass, then topped with leaves. As their waste falls to the ground, it will help to fertilize the area. In spring, I'll move the setup to a bed that needs refertilization. Twice a year, I'll move it around to different beds so eventually each bed will get this deep treatment.
* I shoveled the rabbit manure from the old site to the garden beds. It was enough to fertilize three beds. Fantastic! Also, the area where the beds were is ready to plant something nice in next year. Maybe some edible flowers.
* I bought materials for winterizing my rabbit hutches: foil backed bubble wrap insulation, new wing nuts and bolts for affixing the feeders that were hopelessly rusted (and a literal pain to remove so we could move the feeders to the front of the cages for enclosing the back), and wood to make nesting boxes. We found the bargain wood section and we compared the different offerings. Trucker found some boards that were half the price of the other discount boards that would do fine, so we saved $3.50 over buying the other option (I didn't check how much fresh, perfect boards would have cost). I spent $25. Total cost for the bunnies: $187.

* We made tacos with ground pork ($1.50/lb on manager's special), lettuce ($.50/head on manager's special), the last of the beefsteak tomatoes from the garden (ripened on the counter), sour cream (on sale), salsa (from salvage grocer), and cheddar cheese powder (purchased from an Amish grocer for $2 for a half pound. It's so much cheaper than buying fresh cheese considering how little goes a long way and it is shelf stable) sprinkled on top since we were out of cheese.
* We had popcorn as our snack. Trucker eats it traditionally, buttered and salted. I made taco popcorn with a sprinkling of taco seasoning powder and cheddar cheese powder.
* We went to the salvage grocery. We stocked up on granola bars (40 bars for $3.99), coffee (found some for $1/lb), pasta for $.59/lb, soap $.30/bar, toilet paper ($.99/4 pack 100% post consumer recycled material), some canned soups, laundry detergent ($6.50 bottle marked down to $2) and some salad dressing. I also got some nice socks for $.59 a pair!
* I made a big breakfast one morning before we headed out for a full day so we wouldn't be tempted to eat lunch out. I made fried eggs, sausage links (over half of the package was saved in the frig for another meal) and a batch of white chocolate chip yogurt pancakes (white chocolate chips needed used up; I had some manager's special yogurt that was getting a little on the old side, so we used this in place of milk or buttermilk as the calcium in our pancakes). I saved over half of the pancakes as a quick and easy breakfast during the week.
* We grilled out one evening. I grilled hot dogs, onions and peppers. We saved some of the leftover peppers and onions to add to a meal a few days later.
* One evening I made a favorite dish of mine: fried corn with jalapenos. So yummy.
* I made homemade poptarts using Nutella or orange curd.
* I made quiche one afternoon using leftover bacon, peppers, carmelized onions and the last of a container of mixed greens. It was really tasty. You'd never been able to guess it was a "clean out the frig now" kinda dish.

* Trucker had brought a Groupon deal awhile back for a local Thai restaurant, $10 for $20 gift certificate. We went out for a nice lunch today and only had to pay tip.
* We went out for Starbuck's BOGO holiday drinks. We hadn't been to a Starbuck's in 6 years. While it was fun to try something different, I doubt we'll be back.

* I've been spreading the mature milk weed seeds around the property like I do every year. Love it!
* We went for a couple miles walk at a local park. As we walked, we gathered pine cones for a display I'm making for the entrance way. It was a perfectly sunny day with a light breeze. I love walking and laughing with him.

* At a thrift store for their 70% off sale, I got some small travel and beauty soaps. They were regularly $.25, so they were $.06~ each. Not bad, especially for the fancy soaps I would never pay $2 for.
* We bought our set of towels almost 10 years ago when we got together. We'd bought extras for overnight guests, and as the years went by, we got rid of threadbare towels and moved on the the remaining nice ones. We were finally down to only a couple good towels and they were a color that clashed with the color I'd painted the bathroom. I started looking out for new towels. I finally found a very nice set of two brand new with tags towels at a thrift store. They were a great rich brown that perfectly compliments my walls and super soft. Best of all, they were only $5 each!
* I got gas for a discount at my job.

Waste Reduction:
* We saved cardboard and shipping materials to use when we sold items online.

* I worked three extra days at my regular job. We worked over every day, for a total of around 3 hours.
* I packed a lunch every day I worked.
* Trucker got a new job. He starts this coming week.

* Trucker has been a writing fool lately. He's been cranking out articles like crazy and has submitted several this week.
* Trucker also got a lot of items priced and ready to take up to the booth. He's been fantastic.

* I've slacked in this department significantly since I've been working so much. This past week I've been more mindful of my eating, but still haven't gotten out for a run in a bit.
How was your week?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 10/19 - 10/25

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 fed the bunnies tree trimmings. Nurse Ratched is still snorting up a storm when I give her fresh greens. It's really too cute and has made me forgive her for the scars she's left me.
* I planted some swiss chard, kale and lettuce in an indoor container. I don't know how much it'll do this year, but it can't hurt to try.
* The greens have germinated. They are still small, but hopefully I'll get something out of it.
* I planted "cat grass" for Ray-cat. Hopefully she'll nibble it when it's grown. Last time I tried to grow plants for her, she played with them but continued to eat my houseplants.

* I found some random small items on the manager's special cart at the grocery. $.10 for crackers and cheese (those little stick crackers and fake cheese that I loved as a kid) and a $.20 package of shortbread. While these items are not something I would usually buy, for that price they are great to have and throw into my lunch box. I found a bottle of hot sauce for $.29 and 6 cans of pop and bake biscuits (I use these for busy nights when we don't have much time for making dinner).
* I went to Aldi first thing in the morning (I was the first customer in the doors) and boy am I glad I did! In addition to my regular items ($1.89 eggs, $.99 bread, $5.49 coffee, 3-lb bag of onions for $.69 and snacks for a party coming up), I got some ridiculously good deals. Acorn squash were marked down to $.25 each and I bought four. I found a 2-lb sirloin steak regularly priced at $11.25, but with a $7 off sticker. Sirloin for just over $2/lb? Yes, please! As I was checked out, the manager brought up a huge box of bagels that she was going to mark down. I got 3 dozen small wheat bagels and 1 dozen small white bagels for a grand total of $1! I put three bags in the freezer and kept one out. These will be great for breakfast or as our bread for meals.
* I have been making milk from our powdered milk storage. It's getting a little old and I'll need to replace it soon and this keeps us from needing to pay for it now.
* One evening for dinner we fried up a package of pork chops, reserving half for another day. We mashed all of the potatoes we had that needed used up and made gravy. I also steamed all of the green beans we had left from the garden.
* We had very nontraditional colcannon for dinner one evening. We had leftover mashed potatoes and gravy from dinner a couple nights before. I sauteed turnip greens, onions, garlic, and a diced poblano pepper in bacon fat. I added the mashed potatoes and gravy. We also chopped in some sausage links for protein. It was weird, but oh so good.
* We used the leftover pork chops from earlier in the week to make pork tacos with sour cream, lettuce from the garden (the last of the last), salsa, black olives and cheese.
* Trucker made breakfast for us one morning. He made his incredible french toast with the leftover sausage links from dinner the night before.

* We went out for a coffee date at a local coffee house. They don't do free refills on coffee (and I don't like t abuse the free refill policy at local shops), so I got a hot tea and was able to just refill with hot water.
* We had a beer tasting party on Saturday night. We'd been saving a beer from each six-pack we got over the last few months to build up a nice variety. I bought some snacks from Aldi (crackers, chips, pretzels). I made a batch of Trash Chili (last little bits of tomato sauce in each jar, saved in the freezer until I had enough, bell peppers, dehydrated tomatoes and peppers, onion, garlic, TVP for my vegan friends, and two cans of kidney beans; total cost $2.50). It was a great evening.
* We went to the grand reopening of the local art museum. It was free to visit (as it is every Sunday) and there were musicians performing. It was a lovely afternoon.
Lots of carrot greens are drying in the kitchen
for the bunnies' winter snacking.
* We went out for our regular coffee date. We split the free meal I had available as our lunch.

* I got gas at work where it was $.25 cheaper than in my city.

Waste Reduction:
* There were 4 boxes of cereal we bought at the salvage grocery awhile back that had gotten stale before Trucker had gotten to them. Rather than throw them away, I tossed them into the dehydrator for 45 minutes on low. They came out better than fresh from the regular grocery. I put them in air-tight jars. Considering that it saved us from buying $2.50/box cereal at the regular store, I essentially saved $10.
* Trucker cut down cereal and other boxes to use in shipping items we sell online.

* I worked over an hour over the course of the week. I also picked up two extra shifts.
* I packed my lunch each day I worked.
* I  worked at the farmers market on Saturday. I was able to snag some trash produce: bell peppers with bad spots and a butternut squash with a crack.

* We took more items up to the booth. It is a fun hobby/job and there's always something new to learn.
* I've become a personal shopper for a coworker. She has given me a list of vintage items she wants. I look out for them while I'm picking. Once a week or so, I bring a personalized trunk sale to her. I show her everything I think she'll like. She buys what she likes and I take the rest to the booth. It's fun for both of. I make a quick sale, and I give her a generous discount over the prices I'd charge elsewhere. We both win!

* Trucker and I continue to go for daily walks together.
* I went on a couple short runs.
* One of my readers sent me a gift in the mail, all the way from Australia! She sent me a really nice note and a pair of earrings she thought I'd like. Aren't they adorable? Thanks, Vicki! I love them!

How was your week?

Monday, October 19, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 10/12 - 10/18

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.
* Still not having good luck with the bunnies. One of them clawed me when I tried to return her to her cage and I dropped her (1 foot) and she ran and hid in the poop pile...from which I had to dig her out. So much fun.
* I fed the bunnies more tree trimmings. This really helps me keep the invasive shrubs from overtaking the yard and cuts down on feed costs. The bunnies love them. After they eat the leaves, they knaw on the branches.
* I potted up 4 pepper plants to overwinter: 2 Jimmy Nardello's (1 1-yr, 1 2-yr), a serrano pepper (2 yr) and a jalapeno (1 yr).
* Because a frost was coming, I harvested all of the tomatoes, peppers, beans and basil from the garden. There was a ton of basil.
* I harvested some carrots I'd missed last week. They were also very small. Oh well.

* Trucker made a sausage and spaghetti dinner for me one day when I got home from work. Delicious!
* I made stir fry one evening. I used half of a portion of frozen chicken (usually we'd use this much for one meal) and lots of random veggies from the garden and frig: jalapenos, carrots (the entire year's meager supply), turnip greens (I chopped the stalks and cooked those with the hardier veggies and added the torn leaves towards the waste!), green beans (the last from the garden), a small onion, half a head of garlic, and a Hungarian Wax Pepper. I served it over rice and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds both for added protein and to use them up.
* We are generally working at eating from the pantry and freezer as much as possible. This is cutting our expenses and helping us clean out the pantry. Once we clean it out, we'll go back to refilling it. By using it up, we make sure nothing gets left in there until it gets too old to use and we significantly lower our costs in the short term. It also forces us to be more creative in our meal planning and get out of our ruts because we need to use items that we don't use as much.
* I had two portions of peach crisp in the freezer. I pulled them out, microwaved until warm, put a scoop of ice cream over each and dusted with cinnamon. We don't always have ice cream at home, but when we do, I try to stretch it out as much as possible. Plus, peaches are fruit. It's health food.
* We drank more hot tea and less coffee this week. We like coffee, but it costs more than tea. Also, I have been sleeping better since I started drinking tea at night instead of coffee.
* We grilled out one evening. I grilled hot dogs, potatoes, a zucchini, and a poblano pepper. I also threw the cast iron skillet on the grill and cooked up a mess of fried corn (with onions and poblano peppers, fried in bacon fat because of course it was).
* We've been having popcorn for our snack..

* When we went picking for the business, I stumbled across a bin full of earrings....for $.05-.10 a pair! You can bet I bought a ton. 13 pairs of earrings, and 4 bracelets for $1.40. Can't be beat!
* When we went on our picking trip, we stopped for coffee at a local shop to relax and talk for a bit. I packed a lunch for us to eat on the way: salad, protein bars and apples. We didn't buy any food except our Americanos.
* We went out for dinner with our friends one evening for our once-a-month pizza lover's outing. We got the happy hour special for a pitcher and a large pizza for $20. Not too bad a price for dinner. We took home half the pizza to use for lunch the next day.
* My parents came over one evening and took us out for ice cream. It was a chilly night, but the ice cream was good, as was the company.
* We went out for a cheap coffee date using our travel mugs for a $3.18 date. I earned on my rewards card a free coffee and a free meal that is big enough to serve as a light lunch for the two of us. We will use the free coffee one day for a half-off date and the free meal another day when we want to work for a longer period of time at the coffee house.
* We had another coffee date and used the free coffee so our date only cost $1.59.

* We went for a mile walk around a local park. We didn't hike a trail, but walked around the outskirts of the park. It was really nice. The temperature and humidity was perfect, the sky clear, the air crisp, the leaves crunchy under our feet and again, the company was good.
* Another day we went to a local metropark and walked about 1.5 miles along the river. It is near the Audobon Society so there were lots of birds around. Beautiful!

* I took surveys on swagbucks to earn more points to redeem for Amazon gift cards.
* My job restricts what hygiene items I can use due to chemical interactions. Unfortunately, the brands that are okay to use are more expensive than the other brands. On days that I work at that job, I use the expensive brands. Days I don't work there, I use the cheaper brands. I'm not sure that it makes a huge difference, but every little bit adds up.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things.
* I used up the last little bit of a sample-sized tube of toothpaste.

* I worked over an hour one day I worked.
* I picked up an extra shift at the regular job.
* I packed lunch each day I worked.
* I have been rotating my older and newer steel toed shoes so that I can prolong the life of the new pair and prevent achy feet.
* I worked 1 day at the farmers market. I was able to take home some tomatoes that had bad spots.

* We went picking on our day off together.
* We spent one whole afternoon that I was off work pricing items for the booth and updating our files. It is a strange sort of fun to add sales data to our lists and run the numbers on profit margins and days-to-sale.

* We went on walks together most days.
* I have been scaling back on the meat portions in our meals and increasing the vegetable portions.

How was your week?

Monday, October 12, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 10/5 - 10/11

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 attempted to breed Nurse Ratched and Frank and had some problems due to their inexperience. After two days of trying, I gave up on her and bred Hazel-ra. We'll see if she got bred in a month.
* Only piddly harvests of a few cherry tomatoes, some basil and a couple green beans.
* I fed the bunnies tree trimmings.

* We had baked potatoes for dinner one evening. I made twice as many as we needed to use for planned leftovers.
* I made taco twice baked potatoes the next night. I scooped out the middles (I kept those!). I mixed together a cup of ground beef from the freezer (leftover from grilling out), a poblano pepper, the last of the caramelized onions (leftover from grilling out), salsa, taco seasoning and the last of the leftover taco dip from a few days earlier. I stuffed the potato shells with the mixture, drizzled with taco sauce and sprinkled with cheese. I baked at 400 degrees until it was heated through and the cheese golden.
* I made shepherd's pie for dinner one evening with leftover mashed potatoes, 2 carrots, some green beans from the garden, a Hungarian Hot Wax pepper, 4 oz of shredded chicken (from the freezer; half the container saved for another meal), a can of turkey gravy ($.10 on after Thanksgiving sale; I would never buy canned gravy...except this was cheaper than the butter I would have used to make my own gravy...and is for convenience on busy/tired days), some mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs saved from the heels of a loaf of bread.
* We had BLTs one day for lunch. I saved a bit of the bacon for another meal.
* I made a batch of 4 meal-sized salads on Sunday for the week's lunches. I cut up an entire head of manager's special lettuce, a couple carrots, a container of grape tomatoes, a cucumber, some pickles, the last of a can of olives, and an apple. For two salads, I tore up the last two slices of lunch-meat turkey and in the other two I crumbled two slices of bacon into each. I added a bit of cheese and some pumpkin seeds for more protein. I portioned out small containers of dressing so we can grab and go.
* I did not go grocery shopping this week and planned the week's meals out of items we had on hand.

Food Preservation:
* I had purchased a container of manager's special coffee creamer. I rarely do this, only occasionally for a change. The large container was cheaper than the small containers are, but it was still too much for me to go through. I froze half of the container in ice cube trays. These will be perfect for iced coffee/tea later.

* We went on a cheap coffee date at our regular spot. $3 with our travel mugs. I am three visits away from getting a free meal (and I only have to buy a coffee to count as a visit).
* We went to a free concert at a local coffee house. $5 date.

* We went for a 2.5 mile hike at a park near us. While it was a short one, it had some serious inclines so we still got a decent workout. It was so beautiful, especially with the leaves changing. We also went to the pond to watch the ducks and fish.

* I got gas at my job since it was a bit cheaper.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of weird things.
* I used newspaper to pack boxes of items I sold on Etsy. No point in paying for shipping materials when I have a limitless supply of materials that are free and would otherwise be thrown away (we get them from Trucker's job where they don't recycle the newspapers at the end of the night).

* I got out of work a couple minutes early each day I worked the regular job.
* I packed my lunch each day I worked.
* Trucker brought home a bag of goodies on the two evenings he closed. These items are great for breakfasts or snacks. Leftovers get cubed or crumbled to use as ingredients. Sweet items are used as an ice cream topping, milkshake mix in or apple crisp topping. Savory items become stuffing or bread crumbs in hamburgers, meat loaf, casserole, mac n cheese, etc.

* We got another paycheck from the booth. It was $2 more than the last one. Each paycheck has been larger than the previous.
* We are learning a lot about selling vintage items as we go along. We're learning what items sell like mad and which items we sit on. We have been building out client list and are scouting items for several individuals.

* I went running twice this week, but went farther than I usually do each day.
* Trucker and I went on a nice hike together.

How was your week?
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