Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/22 - 8/28

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.
* The scallions in water got some kind of worm in them. Into the compost they went.
* I harvested peppers, okra and basil from the garden.

* We made pulled pork tacos with tomatoes (farm seconds), lettuce (farm seconds), onions (farm seconds), peppers (farm seconds), sour cream (sale), and hot sauce (salvage grocery).
* I found popcorn at the dollar store, $1/20 oz bag. We usually buy when we find it on sale for $1//lb or less. I bought 5 bags.
* I made a quick, easy dinner of pasta and veggies one evening. I sauteed 4 sweet peppers, 3 mini eggplant, 1/2 an onion and 4 cloves of garlic (all free from farm seconds). I made a sauce of beef stock, greek yogurt for creaminess, some peppadew mustard and cheese (sounds weird, but it was nice). Served with pasta from the salvage grocer. It was filling and got lots of veggies in us.
* My water kefir is doing good. We finally got a batch that tastes good (it takes a bit for it to get settled after shipping). I used raspberry lemonade concentrate with the kefir. It was lovely.

Food Preservation:
* I chopped more sweet peppers and froze them, loads and loads of peppers.
* I made a small batch of tomato sauce and froze in meal-sized portions.
* I cooked down 4 bunches of Swiss Chard and froze them.
* I froze more caramelized onions.
* I froze a few bunches of leeks.

* We went on a couple coffee dates. Trucker got a free bagel one day using his rewards card.
* We went out to see the movie we skipped last week. Trucker got a BOGO coupon for the local independent theatre for completing the library's summer reading program (I misplaced my sheet until after the deadline). We went in the evening, so we did pay more than a matinee, but it was $10 total and the viewing was in a smaller, nice theatre room with big comfy recliners.
* We had a nice stay-at-home date. We popped popcorn and played Sorry. It was a lovely evening.

* We went out on a few hikes. On our day off together (unexpected, but very appreciated!), we went for a longer hike in the foothills. We went to this forest preserve for the first time this past winter. It is so gorgeous! This time in addition to doing the rim loop, we also walked into the hollow to the waterfall. It was so pretty.
* On one hike, Trucker spent most of the time hunting butterflies (shooting only with his camera...hehe).

* I forgot to mention that Trucker got me a chainsaw at auction for $40. Now to tackle that treeline!
* I paid an extra payment and a half on my car.
* I made an extra payment on the last credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots of things.

* I had my first week of a long Tuesday, short Wednesday shift. It was so wonderful to get out of work at noon and have time for a long evening with Trucker.
* I brought home eggplant, tomatoes, leeks, beets, Swiss chard, onions, and peppers from work (free seconds).
* Trucker worked two days at the auction house. His boss sent him home with some drink powder.
* Trucker brings breakfast on Sundays to his job. He had been stopping for Tim Hortons donuts, but since the cost was adding up and 3 of the 4 people were trying to watch their sweets intake, he decided to switch. Now he goes to the grocery store and looks for discount-rack items the night before. He saves about $3 doing this and they all get something a little less sugary.

* I put up a good amount of food this week.

* Trucker had his first audition through this agent. We are waiting to hear back!
* Then he got another audition!

* We have both been taking our multivitamin each day. We are also drinking more water. I've taken to guzzling a half a bottle whenever I go processing area at the farm, or whenever I finish a task. I'm trying to get in the habit of drinking adequate water. A couple of health issues that Trucker is facing can be caused by dehydration (or electrolyte imbalance from being dehydrated), so we are hoping that if we are better on those points he will improve.

* Someone at the farmers market gave me a free lemonade from his booth since it was so hot.

How was your week?

Monday, August 22, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/15 - 8/21

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 2 cherry tomatoes (Matt's Wild), 7 okra pods (Clemson spineless), 8 jalapenos/serrano tampequino peppers.
* The plants growing where the bunnies overwinter are doing great! They are very sturdy and lush. I harvested some peppers from those plants, whereas the pepper plants in untreated beds haven't flowered yet. I have been on the fence about keeping the bunnies, trying to breed them again, or just selling them, but this may be a good enough reason to keep them even if I don't decide to breed. I do need to be better about gathering weeds/farm scraps to cut back on their feed costs.

* I made stock from 3 containers of bone and veggie scraps in the freezer.
* I got my water kefir grains. I ordered off of Amazon for $7 including shipping. I can't wait to get started. I already made some orange syrup (using dehydrated orange peels).
* We made crab rangoon for dinner one evening. We used wonton wrappers and imitation crab from the freezer (both manager's specials), cream cheese (Aldi), scallions from the freezer (free from the farm). Served with sweet chili sauce from the ethnic grocer (the 33 oz bottle there is cheaper than the 12 oz container at the chain grocer).
* We made stir fry (onions, garlic, peppers, eggplant and Swiss chard from the farm seconds), rice (cooked in homemade stock) and crab rangoon (to use up the leftover filling mixture). Delicious and so much cheaper than going out.
* We got a 4.5 lb pork butt for $8 on manager's special. I seared the edges, then tossed in the slow cooker while I did food preservation. I added some sauteed onions and peppers (farm seconds) and homemade BBQ sauce (ketchup, Worchestershire sauce, mustard, honey and the last of a jar of pepper spread). I served over hamburger buns (from the freezer, manager's special). We had enough for many, many meals.

Food Preservation:
* I froze leftover chili in one- and two-meal portions. I intend this for Trucker when I'm working so he can have quick meals.
* I took everything out of both freezers and quickly rearranged everything. Now the refrigerator unit has all of last year's produce stores and one shelf of heat-and-eat dishes for Trucker while I'm at work. One shelf on the bottom has meat. The other freezer has all of this year's fruit and veggie stores as well as a basket of meat (newer additions; older ones are in the other freezer). The chest freezer also has the supply of bread and tortillas.
* I cooked down 30 pounds (after cutting out bad spots) of tomatoes into sauce. I used all heirloom tomatoes, of whatever varieties we had around. Most were red, some purple and a few yellow or green. I considered keeping the light ones separate, but the color was unappetizing. Once I mixed it in, the darker purple ones more than offset the color and the sauce still had a great rich red color.
* I stumbled upon a nice trick that might be old-hat for some of you. I cut down all of the tomatoes to cook down, but didn't have time to cook it all (only so many large pots). I tossed the extra into the refrigerator overnight to cook the next day. The next morning, there was a lot of juice at the bottom of the bowl. I strained the tomatoes and froze the juice. The resulting sauce was cooked down in a half hour to be as thick as an unstrained batch was at 3 hours. I will definitely do this for now on.
* I froze another couple gallons of tomato juice (strained from tomato sauce to quicken the cooking time. I froze them in various sizes. Small ones will be perfect for lunches; large ones will be used as soup base.
* I made a quart jar and a pint jar of quick-pickled onions. I used brine leftover from some pickled carrots. I brought it to a boil, and poured it over the onions stuffed into the jars. They are really good, perfect for sandwiches. I also made a tiny batch of pickled peppers (8 little jalapenos/serranos) using the little bit of leftover brine from the onions.

* We went to a lecture with a group we are involved in. We go about once every 3 weeks or so. It is free, although when the hat goes around we toss in a couple dollars. This one was a dramatic reading of a piece written about the possible future of humankind.
* We went to a free Blues concert at a theatre in the arts district. It was one of the best shows I've been to in a long time. They had fantastic stage presence and the music was wonderful. The saxophone player was amazing. We parked about a mile away so we didn't have to feed a meter (or worry about the permit parking restrictions). It also gave us a nice walk to and from.
* Trucker took me to the comedy club for my birthday (a few weeks early) to see one of my favorite comics. It was a really nice evening. After the show, they sent him an email saying that we had two free tickets for a non-special show. The comedian Trucker was wanting to see is a "special" show, but we will enjoy whichever comedian we see.

* We went on a few short hikes.

* We were going to go out with our movie club, but they were seeing the 3D version on a Friday night. We were not going to spend $15 each to see a movie, so we decided to skip.
* I needed some new sneakers. I had been waiting for a good kohl's or Payless coupon, but kept missing them. Finally, I went to a thrift store when they had a half off sale on all shoes. I got two pairs of sneakers in very good condition (very little signs of use) for $2.25 and $4. I also got a pair of black pumps ($2) to replace 3 pairs of black dress shoes that are either worn or very uncomfortable. I have finally broken down and admitted it is time for (slightly) more practical shoes. I will no longer be buying any heels with very narrow toe box to prevent exacerbating my tailors bunion (ahh, aging). Honestly, I never really thought I'd get to the point where I would consider practicality in my shoe selection, but here I am. This new pair of pumps has a moderate heel and a more rounded shape to the toe box. They are still nice enough looking.
* I hung the clothesline up (finally) so I could hang lots of laundry one day I was working at home. Not only do I save money on gas (about $.35 a load), but I absolutely love the gentle work outside. Line drying also reduces wear and tear on the clothes, making them look nicer longer.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted lots. I have been better about getting more browns into the bins. I need to be better about it, however.
* I used veggie and bone scraps to make broth.
* When I prepped veggies throughout the week, I put more in the freezer for the next batch of stock. I also saved a pork bone.

* We are trying very hard to get the house looking nice. We are starting some light remodelling/fixing up and working to declutter. I am hoping that posting here will keep me motivated.
* Trucker has been listing lots of items on OfferUp. We have moved ten or so items: a box of CDs, a large vintage chair that doesn't go with our decor (We got it years ago on a curb; sold for $20), a juicer in box, a small oven, etc.
* We went through some of Trucker's dress shirts. We put several in the donation box that were no longer his style.
* I am wearing clothes that have been in the closet for awhile. If at the end of the day, I don't love the item, it will be donated. So far this has worked for another couple shirts.
* We got the new screen door installed. We had to put a grate in front of it to keep Raycat from destroying the door again (she's a wild child). We bought a $20 grate that is intended to prevent robberies. For now, we haven't installed it onto the door, we just wedge it in. It is a little inconvenient to have to move it when we want to go outside, but this keeps her from destroying the door within a week. She not only tears through the screen, but scratches the door til it looks ragged. It's not just the cost of replacing screen, she recently broke through the screen and was missing for an hour before she came back. I think it's $20 well spent.

* I brought home a lot of seconds: tomatoes, fairy tale eggplant, okra, onions, Swiss chard, salad mix and peppers.
* We had a party at the farm for the teens as they summer program ended. It was a beautiful night and very exciting to meet parents and others in the community. We had a dinner, then an awards ceremony.
* I picked up extra hours at work this week.
* My work schedule changed for the better. As our youth program ends, and our interns go back to school, we are really short staffed for harvest days. I usually start late on harvest days since I do deliveries and farm stand afterwards. I offered to work early on harvest days to relieve some of the load. My boss said that would be wonderful and said I could leave after I do the morning farm stand on Wednesdays. Now Trucker and I will have the whole afternoon and evening together, perfect for going kayaking, swimming or hiking.
* We had a party on Friday. We had leftovers from the youth program finale the night before (lasagna, bread, salad, cookies) and tacos (boss brought shrimp, homemade mango salsa, lime, guacamole, and grilled veggies.
* I am working on getting a job lined up after the farming season ends. I missed out on a position I would have loved because I got caught up in taking care of everyone else. So to make sure I don't miss out on anymore, I have a couple resumes drafted and every time I see a new position, I am applying immediately.

* I got lots more food put up for winter, since I am still uncertain about the job situation. Also, since I definitely won't be with the farm (Farm manager said that if she had funding to keep me on over winter she would and that she would definitely hire me back for the next season if it worked for me. However, I do want to get a full-time permanent job so we can get health insurance outside of the exchange), I wont' have access to virtually unlimited free organic food. I am quite proud of how much I've managed to get put up. Lots of greens, tomato sauce and pesto so far.

* Trucker got his head shots this week. We had to go out and buy him a couple shirts to fit what the photographer requested, but he will be able to use these in the future. He got items on sale at the thrift store.
* We are really excited for him to try this new venture.

* A pane in our window fell out and broke. Trucker was able to tape it back together, so it is okay-ish in the short term, but we will need to replace it soon (as well as the matching window in the next room).

* I took home all of the tablecloths, gloves and rags from work to wash. The farm manager would otherwise have had to go to a laundromat. This saved her the time and money, and only cost me a bit of time and around $1.50 in detergent and water.

How was your week?

Monday, August 15, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 8/1 - 8/14 TWO WEEKS

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 basil and scallions from the garden.
* I fed the bunnies some greens from the farm.
* I harvested small amounts of herbs to use in cooking: oregano, parsley, marjoram, oregano.

* I made caprese salad with brandywine tomatoes and basil from the farm (free), fresh mozzarella ($2.50/half pound on manager's special), and reduced balsamic vinegar (from Salvage grocery).
* We got a foil-package of tilapia with seasonings on manager's special for $3 (about a pound). We used it the next day.
* I made trash chili. I used all the tomatoe rinse water from the freezer, a can of kidney beans ($.35 from salvage grocer), two jars of dehydrated tomatoes, half a jar or dehydrated peppers, a medium sized onion, a half a bulb of garlic and the leftover tomato sauce and meatballs.

Food Preservation:
* I put up 2 meal-sized portions of tomato sauce. I had planned to learn to can this year, but it just isn't happening. So, since I do have access to free tomatoes, I am making a plain sauce and freezing to use as sauce or soup later. I will season as needed.
* To reduce cooking time on my tomato sauce (especially since most of the free tomatoes I get are not paste tomatoes), I have been straining off some of the juice. I have frozen around a gallon of tomato juice in pint or half-pint jars. I will use these as refreshing drinks. I know that this may make my resulting sauce a little less flavorful, but it so significantly saves on cooking gas that it is worthwhile (plus I get this lovely byproduct).
* I froze tons of banana and jalapeno peppers, whole except guts removed. These will be used for stuffed peppers and poppers later.
* I froze 4+ pounds of diced sweet peppers.
* I froze diced scallions and garlic scapes.
I found this at the art museum. I couldn't
believe people would pay so much for
fake records to use as placemats when
thrift stores have them for a quarter or less!

* We took my parents out for dinner one evening. They towed Trucker's car when it broke down, and we wanted to show them how much we appreciated them. They don't usually eat out, except for fast food, so we took them to a nicer (although not outrageously priced) restaurant. We had a great time hanging out with them.
* My friend made us a huge Egyptian feast to say thank you for helping her get settled in. She served two roast ducks, two types of mashi, black-eyed peas, a delicious Orzo soup, salad and this fantastic semolina cake. She served an alcohol-free peach malt drink and iced water. Afterwards, we all sat out on the balcony and sipped mint tea and talked. We love the whole family and had a wonderful time. She sent us home with leftovers, so we got a second feast.
* I met up with my friend for lunch when I was working thefarmers market. She shared her lunch from work with me. I brought her a couple pluots and a bag of candy for her kids.
* we want our for a few coffee dates.
* I took Doodles out for her birthday breakfast (she was sick the day of). I had a groupon for a superhero themed restaurant. Afterwards, we walked around the art museum for an hour or so (it was free that day).

* We went out for several 45 minute nature walks/hikes.

* I worked a little overtime.
* I came home for lunch a couple times to see Trucker and packed a lunch two days. One day the boss bought lunch.
* I brought home tons of seconds: tomatoes, peppers, okra, swiss chard, garlic, onions, potatoes, and more.

* Trucker had a big week. So last week he had his first paid acting gig. This week he had a meeting with an agent. He signed a one-year contract with them! I am so proud of him and so excited to see what he does in the next year.

* Trucker's car broke down. My parents towed it back to my uncle's place. He fixed it for $30.

* We had a farm tour this weekend. Even though I wasn't required to be there, Trucker and I went for the first half. It was great getting to meet new people who were excited about what we are doing.
* I found some candles on sale for 90% off, making them $.30-1.70 each. I bought a few for me and three extras. I used these for a housewarming gift for my friend who just moved from Cairo last month and a birthday gift for a coworker. Trucker gave the last one to his boss' wife. His boss gives him a lot of useful items, so Trucker likes to do nice things for them too.
* I gave my uncle some tomatoes from the farm. I also gave my parents some tomatoes and a cucumber.
* My boss took all of us out for lunch to celebrate a coworker's birthday. She took us to this fantastic deli. It was so sweet of her and we all had a great time.
* Someone at the farmers market gave me a bag of granola.
* At the farmers market we sell at, there was a festival. I was a judge for a food contest.
How was your week?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 7/25 - 7/31

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 some scallions from the windowsill. These were regrown from scraps.

* Daisy came over for dinner one evening. Since she is vegan, I made vegan tacos. My boss gave me this super simple recipe that was absolutely amazing. You put raw beets (You don't even have to peel them), carrots (optional, but I put some in since I had them), onion, and garlic into the blender (I also added sweet peppers since I had them on hand). Chop into small shreds (I had to do this in a few batches). Cook down in a little oil until the water evaporates and add taco seasoning (I also added the last of a bottle of salsa verde to use it up). Serve in tortillas with all the usual fixins. We had pickled radishes (homemade using farm seconds; my coworker has gotten me hooked on this), pickled peppers (salvage grocer), tomatoes (from the farm), lettuce (from the farm), hot sauce and sour cream (for me). I had leftovers to use for another meal.
* I put some chicken in the slow cooker one morning. We used a piece to make BBQ chicken sandwiches, served with homemade radish pickles (from farm seconds) and carmelized onions (farm seconds). On the side, I served colcannon (made with potatoes and beet greens from the farm) and candied carrots (also from the farm).
* We realized we were out of BBQ sauce, but Trucker made up a very basic sauce using ketchup, Worchestershire sauce and mustard. I don't plan on buying more unless I find it very cheap at the salvage grocer and will just make sure I have those 3 ingredients on hand.
* I made garden veggie soup. I used a jar of dehydrated tomatoes from last year and the last of a jar of zucchini. I covered them with water. While it came to a boil, I chopped up a half a leftover cucumber, a few mini eggplants, and a soft tomato and added it to the pot. Then I chopped up some onion, sweet peppers, jalapeno and the last of a bulb of spring garlic. I pureed the boiling mixture and put it through the Food mill. I sauteed the onion and pepper mixture, cooked a tablespoon of flour in the oil, then slowly mixed in the pureed mixture. It was fantastic. I plan to make this more often to freeze for winter.
* In general, I have been trying to use up items from the pantry, freezer and leftovers. Having a decent pantry-eat-down helps in a few ways. It saves money in the short term, since we don't have to buy as many items. It reduces waste because it items don't get shoved to the back of the pantry and forgotten until they are questionable. It clears clutter. It allows us to get more creative in our cooking because we have to try to find ways to use items that I bought on a deal, but don't use often or to combine random items for an edible, and ideally delicious meal.

Food Preservation:
* I hung up some basil to dry.
* I cooked a bunch of beet greens and froze them for winter.
* I dehydrated a bunch of oversized okra. I will use this for soups and stews this winter. I also dehydrated several pounds of tomatoes and 3 large sweet peppers.
* I froze more beets and carrots.
* All of the preserved produce was farm seconds, so they were free.

* We went out for a cheap date. Trucker donated blood a few weeks ago and received a BOGO coupon for a local pizza place. We each got a small pizza (with enough leftover for lunch the next day) and got a soda to split for $8.50.
* Daisy came over for dinner one day. The meal for two was about the cost of coffee for just me if we had gone out.
* We went to another film at the summer film fest at the theatre downtown. This time we saw Blazing Saddles. We brought snacks from the dollar store and paid for 2 hours' parking, so the total cost of our date was $9.

* We went for a 2.5 mile hike at a local metro park. I went barefoot, which was fine, until the .5 mile of gravel path!
* We went for a few miles another evening after it cooled down. We walked through a meadow and around a pond.

* I used swagbucks for all of my searches so I could earn points.
* I used my grocery store points to get $.10 off per gallon.

Waste Reduction:
* One of my tank tops's straps snapped in the dryer. I was debating whether or not to mend it, but decided not to since I didn't really like the tank, it didn't look good on me anymore and it looked a bit worn. Instead, I cut it into rags. Since it was jersey material, I didn't need to hem them.
* I composted lots of things.

* I got a good amount of farm seconds this week: tomatoes, okra, peppers beets and greens, carrots, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, and lettuce.
* I worked a bit of overtime.
* Trucker only worked one day at the auction house. However, he did get some other work.

* Trucker had filming for a television show this week. This was his first paid gig. He was in two scenes. He had a great time. He drove 3 1/2 hours to the next city, but even with his cost of gas, made a fair amount. He said the buffet lunch they provided was far more extravagant than any wedding he has been to. He is hoping to do this more in the future.

* Trucker has been having some indigestion problems, such as trouble swallowing. The doctor said it was indigestion and to take a pill. My dad had the same symptoms and said that once he started eating a bowl of bran flakes every day, they went away. I bought him some bran flakes; hopefully this will help. We figure that taking medication could cause other side effects, while eating a higher fiber diet would provide a good number of other health benefits. Of course, we will get some OTC medication if we don't see improvement with lifestyle and diet modifications. Generally, I believe that for us, lifestyle and nutritive changes are more effective and safer than just popping pills, at least, when it comes to chronic/low-risk issues (but if more serious issues arise, I'm the first to insist on a doctor or hospital visit). It is also much more affordable, which is of great importance for working class folks.
* Trucker has been tobacco-free for 5 months now. The effects on his health have been amazing. He doesn't need his emergency inhaler at all when outside of the house and only uses it occasionally when home (the cat dander is the culprit here). He used to need it nearly constantly. He is also able to exercise now without feeling like he is dying. His mood is much improved now that he has broken that nasty anxiety/nicotine/nic-fit cycle. He hasn't been getting sick as often (which means I haven't been getting sick as often). Then there are all those lovely long-term affects to come: reduced stroke, cancer and heart disease risk. And of course, the financial savings. Assuming $7/pack, a pack a day costs $2555/year. So assuming one would put that money in a retirement plan, after 20 years at let's say 3% interest, the balance would be $70,741. For those wanting some good motivation for quitting, check this out.

* My parents got us a bike rack at a yard sale for $5.
How was your week?
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