Monday, February 23, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 2/16 - 2/22

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.

* Harvested 1/2 cup of greens from the indoor garden.
* Had two onions that sprouted in the pantry. I used the good part of the bulb and put the sprouts with the other green onions to keep growing. I also used two green onions (I bought two bunches at $.25/each since my previous window growings had started to pucker out) and put the bottoms in the water as well. I harvested a small amount of green onions this week. Soon I'll have a lot to harvest.
The light green onion in the back is one that
has been harvested several times and is pretty
much ready for the compost bin. I added
more green onion stumps this week.

* I made a big batch of chicken tortilla soup. I used: 2 quarts of homemade chicken stock, 1 can Rotel tomatoes (sale+coupon=$.25/can), 1 can corn (we didn't get a chance to freeze any corn this past year), 1 container of frozen, pre-cooked beans, a container of frozen shredded chicken (from the roast chicken a couple weeks ago), half a jar of roasted peppers, some salsa and some diced onion. I wish I'd had some cilantro growing inside for this. I topped it with crumbled tortilla chips (from the bottom of the bag) and served with a quesadilla (sale-priced, store-brand cheddar with clearance-priced tortillas).
* I found some early-day manager's specials on meat.I found a 6-pack of pork chops for $5 (a little over a pound; $4.50 after my discount) and a pound of ground pork for $2 ($1.80 after my discount). I also found "salad seasoning" blend for $.25/container (usually $2.50). I bought four of them. Usually I only buy individual seasonings and mix them myself, but this was cheaper per ounce than any of the ingredients by themselves.
* I made one of our favorite country comfort meals: pan-friend pork chops. I used three of the pork chops (I cooked them all and will use the leftovers in other meals this week) pressed in bread crumbs and fried in bacon fat. I made a pan gravy using the leftover bread crumbs and a bit of skim milk (to make it richer I added some powdered milk. Mom's friend is on a weight loss program and they give her powdered milk that she doesn't use, so mom gets it and gave some to me). I made Colcannon with four potatoes, several leaves of kale, and two green onions (there are lots of leftovers). I rehydrated green beans and broccoli. I served with a thick slices of bread from our Amish country trip (this bread was marked down to $2 for a large loaf). Delicious meal. The leftover veggies will go in another meal this week.
* I made slow cooker lasagna. It's one of Trucker's favorite meals of mine. I browned the ground pork, then caramelized an onion and two heads of garlic in the remaining pork fat. I layered the ground pork, caramelized onion/garlic mix, arugula/cress/parsley from the indoor garden, cottage cheese (cheaper than ricotta) and uncooked lasagna noodles, pouring jarred tomato sauce over each layer. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Delicious! I served with some more Amish bread.

* Our work schedule has been pretty brutal lately, and we rarely get days off together. This week we got two whole days off together so we decided to make the most of it. We took a two-day trip out of town, back to the inn in Amish country where we stayed on our honeymoon. We planned it well. Because this four-star place was a bit more off the beaten track it was cheaper than staying in a three-star hotel in the city. We got a basic room instead of a deluxe room and got a discount since it was the off season. We ate at the restaurant the first day. Trucker had fried chicken, broccoli and steak fries. I had the roast beef and mashed potatoes plate with an epic salad bar. It cost $25 which is reasonable for the quality and we were so full from our late lunch that dinner was unnecessary. There was a mixup with our room and the front desk brought us a bottle of sparkling grape juice (the inn is alcohol-free). It was a small thing, but cute...and delicious! We swam at the pool and enjoyed the hot tub. The breakfast area had free coffee and hot tea. We went there to write and talk for a couple hours (we love our frequent coffee dates). We never turned on the television while we were there. There was a free breakfast in the morning that is better than any hotel breakfast I've had. We enjoyed waffles, doughnuts from the bakery on site, sausage and gravy from the restaurant, hard boiled eggs, and juice. We visited lots of thrift stores and antique stores while we were there and found lots of fun things. We stopped at a bakery for a loaf of delicious bread; it was marked down to $2. Trucker insisted that I needed cheese and we got a small hunk of smoked cheddar (cheese is my favorite indulgence, but I rarely let myself get some; the $4 I spent was better than any souvenir). It was a really fun trip and was a cheap way to get away.
* Enjoyed free entertainment via the library (books on tape, books, and video).
* We had a free pizza from a chain. We only order pizza when they have a really good promotion. Awhile back they'd had a promotion to buy a pizza and get a free one later. This was enjoyed on a night when we only had a few hours together and didn't want to spend time cooking.

* Does shoveling count?

* Before our trip, I used our fuel points from the grocery store to fill up the gas tank. That saved me $5 and was 2/3 of the gas we used for the entire trip. When we filled up the other vehicle, we used the $.03 discount for a savings of about $1. Not huge, but something.
* Generally, a lot of our frugality is about what we don't have: cable, fancy phones, new clothes, new cars, many restaurant meals (We like to eat out sometimes, but keep it infrequent and look for bargains as possible), gadgets, designer coffee that isn't free (we do get some from his job), meals purchased for work lunches (we pack our own), or wild nights partying. Our mortgage payment is very reasonable because we bought less house than we could afford. We turn our heat down  and bundle up. It even comes down to some weird random stuff. We have a cat, but are waiting to get a dog until we get the country property (so it can help with security for us and livestock) and are producing our own meat so that we can supplement its diet with scraps from our food (dogs are expensive to feed, so until it is possible to reduce this cost while getting more benefit from having a dog besides the pleasure of having one, we're waiting). It's not as fun to mention these things, but it adds up a lot.
* I bought a pack of four pretty clothespins for $.25. I'm always on the lookout for sturdy clothespins and I'm trying to get away from plastic, so I was happy. I also found a sheet set for $7.50. Whenever I buy new sheets, I'm nervous that they'll pill after the first wash. With these being used, I know they'll hold up okay for awhile longer. And yes, I washed in hot water before we used them. :)

 Waste Reduction:
* My dry bread container had gotten pretty full, so I processed them all into crumbs. They filled two pint jars. I'll use that for pan frying meat and veggies, topping casseroles, bulking up stuffed pepper filling and topping baked goods.
* I used a mix of bread crumbs and crumbled baked goods (leftovers from Trucker's job) as the topping for an apple crisp.
* Composted lots of weird stuff.
* Turned trash into cat toys. That makes it sound a lot fancier than it is. Our cat likes to play fetch with paper or tin foil balls. She, like all cats, loves cardboard boxes, especially when we modify them by cutting a hole from the top to jump into or adding a tent made out of an old blanket. She's a cheap friend. We don't have to buy her toys often because she's never gotten tired of playing with our trash.

* Trucker brought home a goodies bag: 4 bagels, 3 scones. I'll likely end up cutting up a couple of the bagels for stuffing mix/bread crumbs.
* One day Trucker brought home the coupon books from the newspaper. While we don't use coupons as often as we used to, we do still use some and this is a great way to have lots of coupons to stock up on a great score.
* I started working third shift. This is only supposed to be for two weeks so I can be trained in how to do the overnight jobs, but is not supposed to be my regular shift after this (being trained in every position in my department will earn me a $3/hr raise).
* Packed our lunches for work and drank free coffee from our jobs.
* While we were thrifting in Amish country, I found a pair of like new slip resistant shoes for work. I've been in desperate need as my current pair had several holes and the bottoms were falling off (I hate buying new slip resistant shoes. They cost $40 and often start falling apart within a couple weeks). These were $2 since they were "tennis shoes".

* Early in the week we put money into savings. This came in handy.

* Continue to research and build inventory.
* Both of us have been writing a lot.
* I'm considering a big life change that may allow me to put more time and effort into building a home-based business. I will update when I make my decision.

Bubbly, happy water kefir. I use egg shells as a
supplement for the kefir grains. It looks gross,
but they love it!
* I bought a second-hand scale. I haven't had a scale for years. I plateaued on my weight loss and want to lose another ten pounds (I've lost 30 pounds and maintained it since this time last year). I'm finally in the "healthy" weight range for my height. I have found that being 5-10 lbs lighter than I am now is my sweet spot (until 4 years ago, I'd maintained that weight for 6 years). Any heavier and I feel sluggish and unattractive, any lower and I have trouble stopping. I've been eating (and especially drinking) healthier and training my sweet tooth to feel satisfied on more natural, healthy sweets (Mulberries, water kefir, a piece of dark chocolate, etc). I've been exercising a lot more. I run when the weather is nice (I don't enjoy running outside in winter, so this will remain a warm weather activity), walk when the weather is tolerable, and do jumping jacks and lift hand weights indoors when it's bone-crushing cold outside. I drink more water. A year later, I don't feel like I spend that much time exercising (I pretty much feel that I don't do it enough, although I do much more than before), or feel that I give up any foods that I want to eat. I think making very small changes and then maintaining them until it's normal has been the key to not feeling deprived.

* One day I knew Trucker was going to have a rough day at work, so I stopped by with a doughnut from the grocery. I was already at the grocery store to get a few things, and it only cost $.65. His job was on the way home, so it cost nothing in gas.

Setbacks: Sometimes life is frustrating. Sometimes we mess up. Sometimes bad things happen that are outside our control. I decided to include this section to show that is possible, and important, to live frugally even when life gets in the way. Being prepared and living frugally doesn't fix everything, but sometimes it helps!
* On the way to a friend's birthday party, our tire went flat. Unfortunately, when we'd had the tires realigned, they'd put the lug nuts on so tight we couldn't get them off. We had to wait for 2 hours for the insurance to send someone over to put the spare on. When he got there, he said that the spare was too rusted to be safe, but he couldn't fit the flat, so he put it on. He said not to drive it except straight to get the tire fixed. By this time, all of the tire shops nearby had closed (the last one had closed four minutes before). I had to miss my friend's birthday party which was really frustrating. We made an appointment online. The next morning I went in and found out that we'd selected the wrong sized tires and the correct size would be $30 more. The sales guy said he noticed that our spare was really rusted and said that one of our tires was still pretty good. He offered me a deal on a very basic wheel to put that tire on as our spare. It was $15 off, so it cost $45 and the labor was included. We'd planned to have my uncle pick us up a spare the next time he was at the junk yard. However, this cost us about the same amount (less if we gave him something for his trouble) and we have a full-sized spare that will be safer to drive if it takes us a few days to have time to get a flat fixed/replaced next time, and it spares us the hassle of getting a new spare. We got our four tires at a place that we've used before. They have a 40k mile warranty where they will fix or replace a damaged tire and offers lifetime free rotations and inflations. When we bought tires for our last car, we got a screw in it a week later. They replaced it with no issues. So while this was a bit frustrating, we'd had money in savings for it, so it doesn't hurt us financially. We also had done our research a while back to find the best place to get new tires in our area, so we knew right where to go. Life is frustrating sometimes, but planning ahead definitely helped us this time.

How was your week?

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