Tuesday, March 29, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 3/21 - 3/27 Announcement!

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 started some 2-year old okra seeds. I do not think they will germinate, but I had them, so I thought it didn't hurt to try. If they don't germinate, I'll start something else in those containers and won't grow okra this year. Since I'll be working at a farm this year, I won't need to grow as much as I'll have ready access to some good produce for free/cheap. I am planning on spending a little less time with the home garden and a little more time leisurely foraging.
* Some of my peppers and tomatoes have germinated. Still waiting on two sets.
* I planted more tomatoes.

* I made Colcannon again.
* I baked some cookies from the freezer. I'd bought a pack of Christmas cookies after the holiday for $.35 for a 36 pack.
* Trucker bought me some manager's special mushrooms and greek yogurt. I have been using the yogurt for breakfast. I sauteed the mushrooms and ate some of them for breakfast one morning with a fried egg. The others will be saved for other meals.
* I made two stops for grocery shopping. At Aldi, I got celery ($.69), potatoes ($1.49/10 lb bag), baby carrots ($.49/lb), asparagus ($1.29/lb), butter ($2.50/lb; it is over $4 here usually and rarely goes on sale for less than $3. I bought 4 pounds), and 2 dozen eggs ($.99/dozen! Yay Easter!). At Kroger later in the week, I got a pound of Brussels sprouts with red pepper strips (Manager's special for $3), a pound of sugar snap peas (Manager's special, $.99/lb), free range eggs (Manager's special, $.99/dozen; I bought 3 dozen), and some manager's special meat. We also got some fried chicken from the deli. It had been marked down to $3 for 2 pounds of meat. While it was a little more than we usually spend on chicken, it was a fair price and convenient. We paired it with fried cabbage and steamed asparagus for dinner. Over half was saved for another meal.
* I baked a peach pie using a bag of frozen peaches from the freezer. I had saved some crumbs from the bottom of a bag of Honey Smacks cereal. I mixed that in with the crumble I made for the top (I almost always make 1 crust pies because I want to stretch the batch of pie dough to a second or third dish).
* I had enough pie dough left to make two pie crusts that I popped in the freezer.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe and grapes from work.
* I noticed while freezing fruit that our meat stores were low. We've been avoiding spending much on groceries for awhile. We scoped out the manager's special rack and found some ground beef for $3/lb (the best I can usually get is $4/lb for beef and $3/lb for ground turkey which I hate) and some cheap steaks for $3/lb. I froze them for later.

* Trucker took me out for a celebratory ice cream cone (see announcement below!).
* We went on a coffee date for $3.18.
* On Easter we went with one of my BFFs for a half off day at our favorite thrift store. I got a couple of summer shirts ($.99 each) and a work hat ($1.50). Trucker got several pairs of jeans and some plain t-shirts to wear to his new job. My friend found a couple of belts for $3 each. I also found a short glass that matches our set.

* We went on a short hike at a local metropark.

* We used two produce baskets to store my shoes in the closet downstairs. We had bought the produce baskets to use at the antique mall booth, but they didn't really fit well. So it was basically free organizational systems. One holds my dressy shoes and the other my work/workout/chore shoes.
* Trucker won a pair of nice, new dress shoes for $5 at auction. He also won a huge cat tree for Ray. Regularly $400+; he spent $25. This thing is huge. Ray is going to love getting to watch the goings-on from way up by the ceiling. I think the best part of learning to pick/thrift is that we can have things we could never afford to buy at retail prices.
* In the middle of the night when I went to the bathroom, I accidentally knocked my sea shell soap dish off the counter and broke it. I decided to start looking out while we went picking. The very first time we went out, I found one at an estate sale that matches the bathroom better than the old one: $.50.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted weird things.
* I used plastic food containers to plant seedlings. When we went out for coffee, a couple of times I grabbed a small plastic cup of water. I brought those plastic cups home for planting seedlings.

* The pizza place Trucker was working at was working him later and later. He was getting home after midnight some nights, but no matter what, he wakes up by 4:30-5 every morning. The lack of sleep was starting to take a toll on him. He got a new job at an auction house. He works 2 days a week and makes what he used to make in 3 days. This auction house sells different things than we do, but he is learning a lot about auctions that may one day come in handy for us. Not only that, but he is getting a fantastic workout.
* I worked 1 full day at my regular job and half of a day where we were allowed to go home early with no penalty. Usually I would try to stay, but I wanted to go with Trucker to a doctor's appointment.
* I worked 2 days at my second part time job. One day I went home early because we had no business whatsoever. Some holidays are insane and others you just don't know what it will be. We had a lot of people on duty and finished our day's work in a couple hours, so they sent half of us home. Since it was Trucker's day off, I was happy to go home and hang out with him. The next day was crazy busy, so I worked over an hour and a half.
* I got some "garbage" to take home. I got a gallon container of fruit scraps (mainly melons and strawberries) and loads of packing materials since we got the truck in.

* We went picking several times.
* Trucker's new job is going to give him a fantastic education about what goes in to these types of local online auctions. We don't know exactly where the future will take us, but this is a great education.

* We went for a couple of walks.
* Trucker's new job gives him a fantastic workout, and he is already noticing a difference in his breathing. I'm sure that over time, getting his heart rate up while doing extremely heavy lifting and moving will help to improve his lung capacity.

* Our internet was flakey for a couple of days. It was frustrating because I had the time and drive to do a lot of Etsy listings and was unable to. We (and by that I mean Trucker; I'm hopeless with technology) replaced a cord and it has worked fine since.

* The girls at work have been hoarding boxes and bubble wrap for me on my days off. I like to re-use materials for shipping online sales for cost savings and environmental reasons. They sent me home with something absurd like 50 boxes this week! I'm set for a bit. :) They are so sweet.


A couple of months ago, I hinted that I'd found out about something exciting, but I didn't want to talk about details until I knew whether or not it would work out. At that time, my hours at my regular part time job had been cut in half, since they no longer needed me to pick up extra days beyond my two. I'd asked about switching to a 5-day-a-week position, but was told I would have to leave for 90 days and reapply. I wasn't sure what to do and we spent a lot of time talking about it and weighing options. Then...

Three years ago an organic farm started .4 miles from my house. It's weird that I didn't know about it, because it is on a main road. However, if I was going to be going south on that road, I drove down one street, and couldn't see the farm from that road. If I was going north on that road, I would take a different route and couldn't see the farm that way either. Last year I finally saw it towards the end of the season, but as I was working 80+ hours a week, I didn't have time to stop. This winter, Trucker and I were taking a walk around the neighborhood and we walked by it. I said that I was going to stop by this spring and see if they needed help.

That same day, I went to the library. There was someone canvassing about the farm. We got to talking and, let me tell you, it is amazing. It is a sustainable, organic farm run by the local food bank on 5 acres of abandoned property. They've been growing greens in grow tunnels and selling those and winter squash at the produce stand all winter. They sell at two farmers markets, to some restaurants (including a project of theirs that is a pay-what-you-can or volunteer-for-free-food system), at a couple of small groceries and they are working at selling at area convenience stores. They have a pay-what-you-want produce stand where they sell a lot of produce in my neighborhood (which is a food desert with a large portion of the population being of retirement age). They will be hiring a team of teenagers to work there and learn about food and farming. It is basically everything I believe in for the future of food. I told her I would love to volunteer there.

Well, one thing led to another and I will be working there full time this growing season as a Farm Assistant! While I am sad to leave my current two jobs (jobs that I enjoy with bosses and coworkers I like and a perfect schedule), I am so excited to be a part of this.  I will be working in the fields, delivering produce and selling at two farmers markets (that I sold at last year). I'll also get to help with the local produce stand and community building.

This worked out so nicely. We have decided to move forward on a couple of our long-term goals, and this job perfectly aligns with that plan. Even if there isn't a job for me there come winter (which is realistically most likely), I will have been gone the 90 days necessary to go back to my old job for full-time hours. Best of all, I get to put all of my passion and food knowledge into a most important endeavor. I try to do what I can to help those in my life have more food security or better nutrition. I look out for ways to supply people I know with better food at a lower price and love to teach people to garden, cook or grocery shop. Food security is the issue I care most about and try to work to help as I can. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to literally make it my full time job.

How was your week?


  1. So excited for you and this new endeavor at the farm!! What a GREAT opportunity...good luck and I look forward to reading more about it. Our food system is just so wonky, I do not think many people (or enough people) realize how much stuff they put into their bodies - mind-lessly.

    1. Thanks, Beth! I'm really excited too! Like you, I am wary of the current food system. I am most excited that I get to be a part of something that pretty much envelopes what I believe to be the solution to our current food system issues. I love the idea of teaching teens about growing food, farming and healthy eating. I love making sure that everyone have access to quality nutrition regardless of their income level. I love the idea of getting healthy food into the convenience stores that are all some people can get to (plus just making it convenient!). This is just perfect!


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