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.
We took a mini vacation and I didn't have time to get everything done, then after I finished writing the post, my computer crashed. Fortunately Trucker got me up and running again. I am including Monday June 6 in this post as it was the last day of our trip.
* One evening when we were in a hurry, we had quesadillas and canned soup. Not the most healthy, but at least it wasn't ordering out.
* I roasted a lot of seconds veggies: carrots, turnips, beets, sunchokes, radishes.
* Trucker fried some chicken one day. We used it in wraps for dinner that night. There was plenty leftover.
* We continue to eat a ton of greens each week. One morning for breakfast I served fried eggs with sauteed greens (cooked in oil leftover from cooking chicken the night before).
* I made stir fry with leftover chicken, carrots (seconds from farm), radishes (seconds), turnips (seconds), onion and water chestnuts. I had lots of extra rice to use in other dishes.
* We got some good grocery deals: milk for $.69/gallon, eggs for $1.20/dozen, corn on the cob for $.10/ear, hamburger for $1.99/lb and hot dogs for $.79/pack.
* When my family came over, we grilled out. Trucker made amazing burgers. He chopped up pickles, black olives, picked onions and pickled peppers, then added Worcestershire sauce and some chipotle mayo. Everyone was raving about them. We also served grilled corn in the cob, grilled asparagus ($1.99/lb), chips ($1 from Aldi), a two-litre of soda ($.88 on sale), coffee, and homemade iced tea (used about $.25 worth of sugar and 7 tea bags). Mom brought potato salad. She also brought her amazing Apple pie, which we served with a scoop of ice cream. We had a lot of good talks and we walked down to the farm so I could show them everything.
* We had leftover hamburger mix that I browned for later.
* We ate a lot of leftovers from the cookout. First night we had tacos to use up ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, corn and rice from a previous meal. Another night we crumbled leftover hamburgers and added BBQ sauce for sandwiches. Trucker ate some leftover hot dogs for lunch one day and I took leftover potato salad for lunch.
* We made taco dip one evening to use up the last of the leftover hamburger, as well as some leftover rice, and an assortment of veggies.
* I made some refrigerator pickles. At the farm kick-off, the chef from our organization's restaurant showed us his basic pickle recipe. He simply brought to a boil 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup sugar. He poured this over thinly sliced radishes and said to let them marinate ideally overnight, up to a couple weeks. I made double the brine amount, and made 5 jars: 2 pints radishes (a mix of white, pink, red and purple), 1 pint carrots (a mix of white, orange and purple), 1 pint of mixed veggies (carrots, radishes and turnips) and a cup of beets (a mix of bull's blood and chioggia beets). They were amazing and just get better with time. While they won't last as long as canned, it will increase the shelf life some.
* I froze some leftovers as burrito filling: leftover hamburger, leftover rice, leftover tomatoes, random veggies.
* I froze the half of a large can of refried beans leftover from taco dip.
* I steamed all of the greens I had in the refrigerator and froze then in one-bunch portions to use in winter.
* I froze the last of a container of milk before our trip so it didn't go bad.
* We went out for a couple $3.18 coffee dates.
* We had my family over for a cookout. We had a great time talking and laughing together. We all took a walk around the neighborhood and I showed my family the farm.
* Twice, Trucker came up to have lunch/dinner with me one afternoon that I worked late and would have had lunch alone. He brought sandwiches. It made my whole day.
* Panera is having a special (at least in our area) where if you buy a travel mug for $10, you get free coffee for a month. We bought our mugs and so far have gotten 3 free coffees. Three more and we will have about broken even. And at the end of the month, we will still have extra travel mugs to use. Panera used to do this every year, so that was how we got all of our travel mugs. However, this is the first time they have done it in a couple of years.
* We had a rare weekend were we got two and a half days off together. We have never had both the time and finances to take a trip more than overnight other than our honeymoon/anniversary trip my parents gave us. I haven't taken an overnight trip outside of my or Trucker's home state in 11 years. We decided to go a couple states away to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was amazing, lemme tell ya. I got off work at 1:15 on Saturday, and by 1:55, we were on the road. We ate lunch before we left. On the drive, we enjoyed listening to an audio book from the library. We brought a thermos of coffee, water bottles and snacks for the road so we only had to stop for one coffee refill ($.38 with a travel mug). We decided we would get one meal out per day, since a big part of travelling for me is the local food. The first day, we used a Groupon to get $20 worth of food for $10 at a tiny bbq joint in Kentucky. Since we drove a Honda, we got 30 miles to the gallon (entire trip was around 900 miles, so with gas prices as they were, we spent around $65 in gas). I had used a coupon code on Hotels.com to get 10 percent off, so the hotel was only $140 after taxes for two nights; this was the most expensive part of the trip.
* The first morning, we had a free breakfast at the hotel, then went hiking to Laurel Falls. It was supposed to rain all day, but didn't rain until 1, so we didn't get rained on while hiking. The views were amazing and we chatted with a friendly couple on the trail. Afterwards, we drove around the park as it rained. Sometimes it rained hard, but overall wasn't bad. We drove over to the Oconaluftee Cherokee Village. It was raining steadily when we got there, so I got out the umbrella and ventured out anyway. It was amazing. I loved seeing the 3 sisters planted. Afterwards, we went to a couple flea markets. I wanted bbq again (because it's basically all I want when I'm in the part of the country that does it right), so we looked to Yelp. I filtered by price range and then star ratings to get the best restaurant for the least money. We ended up at a place that had 1 stars for service, but 5 stars across the board for food. It was totally worth it. We waited an hour for our food, but when it got there, absolute perfection. Afterwards we got homemade ice cream next door for dessert.
* We decided to head back in the morning and take our time so we could pick and explore along the drive home. We ate a free breakfast at the hotel, then went to Starbucks (the only place in town with free wi-fi that actually worked; our hotel's wi-fi didn't work the entire trip) so we could look up a couple places to hit. We hit a lot of antique malls and thrift stores. We had fun chatting with people. One lady gave us a coupon to use at a pizza place in her town (it had just opened the week before. It was closed that day, but the thought was so sweet!). We ended up going to a steakhouse for dinner. It was during their Happy Hour, so we each got an appetizer for half off ($5). The portions were so huge we still had leftovers. We enjoyed the drive home, especially when there were storms in the horizon in the east as the sun set in the west. Absolutely breathtaking. It was without a doubt the best trip Trucker and I have taken together.
* We went on a short walk at dusk at the metro park near our house. It wasn't terribly crowded, just some bicyclists. It was a scorching day, but was quite pleasant by evening, especially since we were in the woods (as a side note, one of my favorite frugal tips is to go hiking deep in the woods on scorching days as it is much cooler than sitting in the house, and you don't have to pay for air conditioning). While we were out, we spotted a deer about to cross the path. We stopped to watch for awhile, but then a bicyclist went by and scared her back into the woods. We slowly walked up and saw her and another doe standing just inside the tree line. We sat and stared at them for a few minutes. It was lovely!
* We went on two hikes in two different parks one. The first was a new metropark that recently opened. Then on the way home we drove by another and Trucker joked about going for round two. So we stopped and went for a longing hike that time. It was so beautiful and deep in the woods it was much cooler than at home.
* We took a hike at a park downtown one morning before I started work. The wildlife watching was phenomenal. The carp were splashing about, herons flying around, ducks and geese everywhere. We sat for a good long time and just watched. It was the perfect start to the morning.
* Trucker got cat litter and deodorant at online auction: 5 sticks for $1. He often gets outbid on such items, but every now and then he gets a fantastic deal. He once got a pack of 30 $1 bags of Sun Chips for a few dollars and brought them to the farm to share.
* I used a coupon to get a discount on an oil change.
* I composted weird things.
* I used some cardboard to smother out a garden bed.
* I packed a lunch each day I worked. Trucker ate for free one day; I sent him with snacks on his short day.
* I got lots of seconds from work: collards, kale, radishes, beets, carrots and turnips
*Trucker's boss gave him a wonderful bonus: a bag of nice coffee. It came in on the truck but he said he wasn't going to list it because I had a better use for it.
* Trucker's auction didn't go fantastic, but we cleared out some things and made a little. He also made a contact who ended up buying more from us.
* I went running 3 times. They were short runs, but still something.
* We have been exercising a lot lately. I've been working hard at the farm (and continuing to run as I can on the job), as well as running after work sometimes. Trucker has been riding his bike, and together we've been going on hikes and walks.
* I lost one of the rabbits. She got stuck in the cage and when she couldn't get free she started freaking out, screaming and thrashing about. By the time we got outside it was too late. Rabbits have notoriously weak backs, but that knowledge didn't make it any easier. The day it happened, we were both so upset, we talked about selling both of the remaining rabbits, but I will keep Nurse Ratched and Frank. The truly heartbreaking thing is that Frank is beside himself. He shook for hours afterwards, and every day since has broken into her cage. I've had to put rocks in the other cage to block him from pushing through the metal divider.
* When we had coffee one day, the cafe was giving away free pastries. We got a couple to take home for breakfast the next morning. So sweet.
* We had field trips at the farm one day. I got to give tours and tell the kids about all the fun vegetables we were growing. It was a blast. One kid was incredulous that there was such a thing as red lettuce and got really excited when I showed him the flashy, dark red lettuces. Another kid was skeptical when I told him about Dinosaur Kale. He looked at me quizzically and asked, "Is that what other people call it or just you?" Haha. Third graders.
* I brought some leftover produce to an elderly neighbor. She has had me over for coffee and is very sweet. Her son stops by ever week or so, but she doesn't drive. She used to garden, but now that she's older, she can't anymore. The next week I brought her some greens and strawberries.
* When I was working at the farm stand this week, I was so moved by the community. There is one lady that I love talking with. If I don't see her earlier in the morning, I run over to her house to make sure she gets some produce. I stopped over today since we sold out last week before she was able to get over so I knew it had been two weeks since she had gotten produce from us. We got to talking about houseplants and she offered to give me some baby spider plants she had. I told her I had been wanting to start some houseplants. Ten minutes after she left, she was back with a baggie of starts and a container with a spider plant. She wouldn't let me thank her, said it would cause both of our plants to die. :) Throughout the morning, several people stopped by that she had told about our farm stand. I've told the security guard at a nearby office about us, and when I was leaving, I saw him excitedly telling someone about what we do. It was just beautiful.