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?
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