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 end...no 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?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 09/28 -10/4

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.
Beautiful brass fan from the barn sale.
* When I went to the feed store, Manna Pro rabbit feed was on sale for cheaper than Purina. I needed MannaPro for the does. I'll start feeding them MannaPro and feed the rest of the regular feed to Frank. I'm hoping to breed them once before winter. Total cost for the bunnies so far: $162.
* I harvested a few dozen tiny carrots. None of them were that big, but most were Little Finger carrots anyway. It'll be enough for a mess of candied carrots. I save and air dry the carrot leaves every time I harvest them. In winter, I'll toss some in to the bunnies for some variety in their diet.
* I harvested a fair amount of snap beans for how cold it has been. I uprooted all of the dead and dying bean plants. I left them on the beds where I will bury them in compost and rabbit poo.
* I harvested a little over a cup of lettuce.

* I made a big pot of bean and bacon (leftover) soup. I added caramelized onions and sauteed onions leftover from grilling out last week.
* We ate leftover chicken noodle soup.
* Generally, with Trucker being sick all week, we ate soup for most meals, sometimes with toast, sometimes with grilled cheese or quesadillas.
* I made a hot taco dip. I crumbled 2 leftover hamburgers from the cookout and mixed with a can of refried beans and the last of a brick of cream cheese that was getting a little on the old side. I topped that layer with a couple diced peppers, some diced tomatoes, salsa, a layer of cheese, and black olives. I baked it until it was bubbly and the cheese golden. I topped with shredded lettuce and sour cream.

Yummy, unsweetened unflavored applesauce. I keep it basic
so I can use the sauce in any way I want later, adding spice
as necessary.
Food Preservation:
* I cooked down loads of apples into 13 quart freezer bags of applesauce. They are now in the freezer awaiting use in baking and as a snack or side dish this winter. Or as dessert, warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

* We invited my family out for the weekend. Friday night was the party at the antique mall (see below) and they came out to show support (as did our dear friends and their too-cute-for-words baby). The next morning, bright and early, was the barn sale (see below). I went to work for 3 hours as soon as the sale was over and they went swimming at the hotel they stayed at. When I got off work, they, Trucker and I got lunch at the market. We got hot chicken and talked and laughed together for awhile. It was so nice to hang out with them for a couple days. We rarely get that now that I live farther away.
* At the antique mall party (see below), I got a Salvador Dali puzzle for myself. I didn't spend my birthday money because I've been saving it for when I saw something awesome. Dali is my favorite painter and the puzzle was $45+ shipping on Amazon. I paid $8, minus my vendor's discount.

* I bought gas at work where it was cheaper than in the city.
* I paid extra on both credit cards.
* I made a double payment on my last medical debt.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of weird things.
* I used the last of a bottle of shower gel (too little to squirt out) as bubble bath.

* I worked 1.5 hours overtime.
* I worked an extra shift at the factory.
* We had a very busy weekend for the antiquing, so I wasn't able to work a full shift at the farmers market. I did come in for half a shift to help out my buddy who would have been working the whole shift alone otherwise.
* I got a free watermelon and butternut squash from the farm.
* We packed our lunches each day we worked.

This awesome score is a combination medicine tin and
expandable water cup!
* The mall where we sell was having a customer appreciation party on Friday. We cleaned up the booth and fully stocked it. It is advertised that vendors will be on sight to negotiate prices. I was a little nervous at first, but eventually got into the swing of things. I got comfortable talking with the customers and haggling a bit. I ended up selling a lot of items. The party was a great success. The line to check out was over an hour and a half! Lucky for me, the line went right in front of my booth! So while people waited in line, they window shopped and I offered to negotiate prices. I sold a lot of items this way. Towards the end of the night, people started to get a little irritable (the party ended at 10, but the I was the last to check out at 11:45), so I started making jokes and telling funny stories about our picking adventures. I handed out a lot of business cards with info about our other avenues of selling. It was a great night!
* We went to an epic sale. This business model is absolutely perfect. This family rents out dumpsters and the customers fill them and pay to have them taken to the landfill. But before the family takes them to the dump, they dig through them and remove anything that still has life in it. A few times a year they have a HUGE barn sale. It is epic. It is both absolutely thrilling to get such incredible scores and positively depressing to see what people were okay with throwing in the landfill, like vintage globes, 50s general electric box fans, tents, Wheaton bottles, toys from the 50-60s, and hobnail vases.  I once got a suitcase filled with toys, clothes and love letters from the Great Depression for $10! We got a lot of good scores for the booth. My entire family came with and they all found lots of items they wanted. When they had piled all of their stuff (for all five of them), with scores of items, everything from two tents to walking sticks to vases (for my mom and sister to fill with flowers to give as gifts) to glasses (for my sister who is prepping to move out on her own); it cost them $25. My dad was speechless.

These beautiful grains will reproduce
soon with enough grains to make giant
batches of kefir and to give to others.
* I went for a short walk/run one day and a couple of walks with Trucker.
* I got more water kefir grains. I'll do my darnedest not to kill these ones. I used to feel nauseous most of the time. Some time after I had been drinking water kefir daily, I realized I didn't anymore. A couple months after I killed the last batch, I started feeling queasy more often. Hopefully this helps. I paid $6 including shipping for the grains. Since they reproduce it is a great deal.
* Trucker got bronchitis. I tried to take care of him the best I could (95% of which was insisting that the most productive thing he could do was rest so he healed instead of getting worse). He is feeling better now (day 10).

* My friend gave me some seconds apples. They had a few bad spots but were overall good.
I was so excited when Trucker showed me this score! I haven't
seen one of these in years. We giggled and looked at all the
slides together. We sold it the same day we bought it.

How was your week?
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