Monday, April 6, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 03/30 - 4/5

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.

Creasy greens and flower buds
* Harvested green onions a few times this week.
* I smoothed out the garden beds a bit and broke up large pieces of partially composted material such as egg shells and corn cobs. I also spread wood ash from the old firepit area to the rest of the beds.
* Trucker brought home two more 5 gallon buckets of coffee grounds. We spread the grounds over the garden beds and put the filters either under the cardboard sheet mulch under cracks to keep weeds from coming through or put them in the compost bin. The soil is already looking better from all the additions. What a great feeling!
* Trucker took down a lot of the treeline to give us more sunlight for the garden. I'm excited! There's a lot more good growing space now.
Garlic mustard
* Planted the first of the outdoor garden: 1 row Red Sails lettuce, 1 row alternating French breakfast radishes and Red-Cored Chantennay carrots, 2 rows Rainbow Swiss Chard, 1 row Little Finger carrots, 3 rows Bull's Blood beets. I planned to plant on the last nice, dry day before several rainy days. I have a problem remembering to water seedlings as often as they need, so this saved me.
* I foraged one day for about 4 cups of mixed wild greens: garlic mustard and dandelion greens, mainly. Another day I harvested an entire tote bag full of creasy greens and wild garlic and onions.

* Saved bits of food, like a couple of sausage links or asparagus, to use in other meals.
* Ate a lot of egg dishes this week since they were so cheap: fried eggs and toast/bread-sliced bagels, scrambled, french toast, hard boiled eggs.
* When we had company over (details below), I made extra of everything so that we could have quick and easy meals on busy days. We had a few sausages, some asparagus and a ton of potato salad left.

* We went out for a couple coffee dates. On one, I used a free coffee I'd earned, so our date cost $1.38. On the next, I earned a free meal on my rewards card.
* Later in the week, we went hiking at a local park. Afterwards, we decided to go out to enjoy our free meal and have a coffee date. We ordered our coffees and wrote/read for awhile. Once we started to get hungry, we ordered the meal and stayed another hour or so after that. We split the meal. He ate the sandwich (steak and cheese) and I ate the salad (greek). It came with a side of bread and we ordered a second side for $.89, so our lunch out was less than $1.
* We had a couple of our friends over for dinner one night. I wanted to keep the spending low as we are still trying to figure out where exactly we are, but I wanted it to be nice. The only things I bought were: 2 lb bananas for $.88, 1 lb asparagus for $1.29, and 2 packs of hot dog buns (we used 1.5) for $.89 each. Everything else was something that needed to be used from the pantry/freezer or I had got at a fantastic bargain. I made stuffed, bacon-wrapped hot dogs. First, I cut a slit down the middle, not all the way through, not all the way to the ends, so it looked like a canoe. Then I stuffed it with cheddar cheese and sauteed onion ($.33/lb from Aldi) and banana pepper (manager's special). I wrapped a slice of raw bacon around each hot dog, and held it in place with a toothpick on each end. We grilled these and served with all the usual condiments. I made potato salad to use up the last of the potatoes ($.20/lb), mayo ($.20/jar from the salvage grocer), mustard (the last of three different bottles), India relish ($.69/bottle from the salvage grocer, about 1/4 container), homemade mock pickles made from leftover brine and dehydrated overgrown cukes from my parent's garden last year (free), green onions from the indoor garden (free), 5 hard boiled eggs ($.99/dozen), some of the onion left over from the hot dogs and the lonely leftover slice of bacon from the hot dogs. It was fantastic. I grilled asparagus tossed in oil with some grill-master's seasoning ($.05/salvage grocer, we've been using the same packet a bit at a time through several meals). For dessert I grilled bananas until they were caramelized, then drizzled with goat's milk caramel ($1/bottle from Kroger manager's special) and a sprinkling of cinnamon. They brought a bottle of port to share. I love getting together with people for dinner at home instead of going out. With the purchase of food and drink, it was about the price of 1 person's dinner (tip and drinks not included) if we'd gone out. We were able to sit and laugh together for longer than would have been appropriate if we were occupying a server's table and all told had a great time.
* For our friends birthday, we gave her a few things: a bouquet of flowers, a jar of homemade apple chips and some antique salt and pepper shakers. She mentioned over dinner one night that she collected them, so Trucker went out looking for some fun sets. He found some adorable bird ones on an antique auction site that she liked. We love giving vintage gifts because it allows us to be more creative and give personalized gifts.

* We went out hiking on a particularly nice day.
* We worked together in the garden and had a small fire with some of the trees Trucker had cut down.
* I went for several walks to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

* I called my insurance agent, told him I'd taken a pay cut and wanted to talk about ways to save money on my insurance. I updated my info, signed up for some programs and was able to knock my bill down $20/month. The phone call took fifteen minutes, and saved $240/year, so my hourly rate was $960. We got discounts for things like: switching from commuting 5 days a week to 2, Trucker  switching locations to the one that was 4 miles from home instead of 15 miles, updating our education level, raising my deductible slightly. I also asked about a discount for taking a defensive driving course, but he said that wasn't available in this state. It never hurts to call and ask. I plan to call other utilities later.
* Took surveys on Swagbucks for money.
* This is technically grocery, but I think it applies here. I struggle with controlling my grocery spending. I try to always get good deals, we try not to waste food, and we keep a full pantry. However, I've realized that no matter how often I go to the regular grocery store, I spend $70. Every time. No exceptions. So this week, I didn't go to the regular grocery store; I only went to Aldi (and spent $23). Not only that, but I decided that next week I will not go to the grocery store either. We have plenty of food stockpiled, but I think we need to eat through some of it. Also, as we make this job transition, I think this will be a good way to save some money.

Waste Reduction:
* I got to the end of a bottle of laundry detergent and no more would come out. I swished water out and dumped it into the washing machine so I got one more use out of it.
* Composted lots of weird stuff as well as yard waste.
* Trucker spread ashes from the fire pit over the garden beds to get worked in.

* Trucker brought home a few bagels and several scones from his job.
* Someone saved the coupon inserts from the Sunday paper for Trucker. We clipped those together while watching a movie.
* Most part-timers at my job only get two weeks of full-time training before switching to two days a week. However, my department requires refining your technique more than other departments, so they allowed me to work an extra full-time week. It was a holiday week, so they weren't operating on Friday, but I got an extra two days' pay. This also put me a little closer to getting a raise since all non-overtime hours count towards my next raise.
* I worked overtime 3 of the 4 days I worked, for a total of 2.5 hours overtime. I figure if I'm working only 2-3 days a week, I'll welcome the overtime.

* I spent a couple of afternoons working on a book.
* Made plans for a couple picking excursions for later this summer. We're currently waiting until we flip some more items before we buy more.
* Continue to research items that we are interested in selling.

* I worked out a lot more this week that I usually have been. I went for several walks, one hike and one 40 minute walk/run.

* One of my coworkers and his wife like to yard sale and I mentioned the World's Longest. They got really excited about it, so I wrote down all of the long-yard sales that cross through our area.

How was your week?


  1. What an awesome week. Very inspiring!
    My top 3 this week were:
    1. Going to Aldi ( next big town an hour away) and stocking up on items for the month. Groceries are super expensive in my town so this way even with gas it is still going to save us and I took our lunch and coffee which we ate in the car as it was raining and chatted.
    2. While on the Aldi trip I went into Woolworths with a $30 gift card I had earned from shopping there over weeks. I used a coupon for 15% off produce and spent the $30 on a few things I can get cheap there ( bulk chickpeas and lentils etc). While I am cruising the aisles I hear "come to the produce department and fill a shopping bag of select produce for $4" . Off I go and 2 bags later I have avocado, organic blueberries, potatoes, tomatoes and a gazillion other things, some slightly spoiled but either ready for use this week or into the freezer :)
    3. As it was Easter this week there were 12 yard sales in my town. Hubby and I picked up a barely used washing machine from and Estate Sale for $50. Our old one which we were given for free was OK but not great. We picked up the new one, put the old one online and sold it for $50 ( asked $40 but everyone wanted it so some bid higher). So pleased to get a fantastic washing machine for free!
    That was some of my week. Have a good one.

    1. Wow, Vicki! You did amazing this week!

      I love Aldi. And we also have a grocery store that we take a day trip to. Our salvage grocer is an hour away, but we save so much it's worth the drive. Good for you for packing a picnic and enjoying each other on the way.

      I love manager's specials on produce. In winter, it's the primary way I can afford to keep us in veg (other than our dehydrated veg).

      Great score on the washing machine! You did good!

  2. Hmmmm! I've never done that with hotdogs!! What a clever way to fix them! Super wonderful when you are out of bread or cannot eat bread. Thank you!

    1. It was incredible! We all ate too much. LOL

  3. I really enjoy your posts. Especially liked the way you dressed up your hot dogs for this dinner w/friends. Nice to have folks you can get together with and share a meal. I am a little more in the mid west and anxiously waiting to be able to get to the garden and get going! Have a great week and keep sharing your wonderful, frugal tips!

  4. I too like the way you made the hotdogs special for company. About your grocery trips costing $70 I noted that we spent a certain amount every time we walked into Walmart. I call it 'set point' spending. That's an amount of money you are comfortable spending and no matter what you pick up you're going to come in around that figure until you retrain your brain. Staying away is a good idea, as is making a list and sticking HARD to it with absolutely no impulse purchases etc. I went from $80 to $12 over a period of months. Currently I need to work on that set point at Aldi! True I get good foods for less and I'm not filling the buggywith stuff as I did at Walmart but I really need to be more aware of what I should be stocking up on and not just spending a set amount because I feel comfortable there. It's always a work in progress this frugal living!

    1. It's a very good point. I remember when $20 was my "comfortable" level. I'd love to get back to that again. Fortunately, gardening season is beginning; that always helps!


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