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?

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