Friday, October 21, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/10 - 10/16

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 late and short post this week. It has been a crazy, busy week.

Gardening:
* I've been harvesting lots (for my garden) of peppers from the indoor and outdoor plants. I usually pick the peppers off of the plants immediately upon taking them indoors, but for this batch I'm letting them grow to size. I will pick off flowers before they produce.
* I harvested a basket full of herbs.

Cooking/Groceries:
* Trucker fried up a family-pack of chicken. We had fried chicken with salad and cheesy cauliflower for lunch one day. We saved the rest to use in other meals.
* We used some of the chicken to make tacos. I added peppers and onions to the meat mix, then topped the tacos with fresh tomato, lettuce, and more peppers, along with sour cream and homemade hot sauce. All of the produce came from the farm.
* A couple times I made pasta with sauteed mushrooms, onions, garlic and arugula in a mornay sauce. Simple and oh so good.

Food Preservation:
* I froze leeks.
* I dehydrated two dehydrators worth of eggplant, sliced, to use in place of some of the pasta in my lasagna.
* I dehydrated celery and peppers.
* I dehydrated oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage and basil.

Nature:
* We enjoyed a 2.5 mile hike at a park near us. The leaves were beautiful. We enjoyed going to the nature center to watch birds and look at the snacks, frogs and fish in aquariums and the scat, bone and feather displays.

House and Home:
* I got a Dalian melting clock! I've always wanted one, but they are kinda pricey, considering they are not a necessity. This one was at a thrift store for $2.

Work:
* I worked a little overtime.
* I took home some seconds: peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, beets, acorn squash, leeks, lettuce, scallions and some arugula.

Future:
* I went over to a friends house to talk with her husband about a new career idea. She made a fried chicken dinner with cornbread and mashed potatoes. We brought a bottle of her favorite wine and dessert. Cheap price to pay for all the fantastic information I got. I'm excited to explore further.
* I took a couple aptitude tests on a college website and got a solid score. I'm now taking a free course online.
* I worked a lot on Etsy since I've been making more sales. Holidays!

Health:
* I got my first eyeglasses. My near-vision is still 20-20, but my far-vision needed a  a weak prescription. I considered not getting them, but I'm glad I did. Now that I have them, I realize how pixelated my far-vision was. Now it feels like high-def. I'm so ready to do a commercial. haha
* I bought a hard glasses case for $.50 at a thrift store. I knew if I used the soft case they have me I'd break them.

How was your week?

Monday, October 10, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 10/3 - 10/9

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.
Gardening:
* I harvested peppers, tomatoes and a tiny amount of Swiss chard from the garden.
* The power company talked with me this week. They are updating the infrastructure in our neighborhood and one of the things getting replaced is the transformer at the back of our property. This is very exciting because it blows every year and leaves us without power for awhile. That's the great part. The less great part is that they are going to have to move some big equipment through the yard...right over my garden. There goes my un-compacted soil, so carefully protected through 4 years of hand digging and lasagna gardening. On the other hand, we are hoping to be moving to a new place within 3-4 years, so I'll live. I was also glad they talked with me beforehand so I had time to take out important plants.
* I uprooted my 4 best pepper plants from the garden. I potted them into a variety of medium-sized containers and brought them inside.
* I uprooted many herb plants and brought them inside: basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary. Hopefully these will be nice, productive little houseplants. I have a nice little plant on my desk now.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I made slow cooker beef stew to try to get more iron in our diet. I tossed in loads of different veggies from the farm: turnips, carrots, radishes, onions, leeks, garlic and celery (celery was a gift) and covered it with homemade stock. I added some homegrown seasonings from the garden. We let it cook all day while we were working at the booth. When we got home, it was rather thin since I had used all fresh veggies instead of some dehydrated ones. I added a quarter of a box of instant mashed potatoes from the salvage grocer ($.49) to thicken it up perfectly. This made for 8 meals.
* We had a couple meals of fried eggs with pickled peppers and toast.
* I made tomato soup (with tomatoes from the garden) and quesadillas for dinner one day.
* Trucker made French toast for breakfast on our day off together.
* I hit the salvage grocer. I got a variety of things but the best deals were: $4/10 oz beef jerky, $.10/whole wheat flatbread mixes, $.39/quart chai concentrate and $2.50 bags of coffee.
* I made grilled pizza for dinner. I used some whole wheat pizza crust mix ($.10, salvage grocer), tomato sauce ($.99, salvage grocer), sweet peppers (free farm seconds), olives ($.99, salvage grocer), pickled onions (free farm seconds), and mozzarella ($1.79/12 oz bag at Aldi). I pressed a little everything mix into the bottom crust. It was quite nice. However, we both were unable to finish our little pizzas (usually we finish and go back for some sort of side), and saved enough for Trucker's lunch the next day. The only difference was using a whole wheat crust.

Food Preservation:
* As the season draws to a close, I am working harder at preserving food. I'm not sure what the job situation will be, but I know that I will have a drop in income and I will not have access to free produce anymore. The plan for that time will be to eat predominantly from the pantry and only buy items to fill in gaps.
* I froze more scallions, simply snipped and put in a bag. So stupid easy.
* I pickled lots of peppers: Jimmy Nardellos, Hungarian Hot Wax (regular and black), Green Bell, Italian Sweet, Bangkok Thai and Jalapeno.
* I made hot vinegar with some Bangkok Thai peppers.
* I made a basic cowboy candy using Jalapenos and Hungarians.
* I dehydrated lots of over-sized okra. On a dehydrating group, I read that someone had powdered over-sized okra and used in place of cornstarch as a thickener for soups. I can't wait to try it. We had tons of too-big okra at the farm.
* I dehydrated green bell peppers, Sweet Italian peppers and eggplant. The eggplant is sliced long-ways. I will use this in place of some of the pasta in my slow cooker lasagna.

Fun:
* We went on a couple coffee dates at Panera. With my loyalty card, I earned $1/off a coffee and a free pastry. We are saving these for next month when my income likely drops significantly. This way we will have some cheap dates.
Scary find at the antique mall.
I just wanna know who cut out
his heart.
* We invited my family out for the day. We went hiking at my favorite spot in the Appalachian foothills. Usually this park is pretty secluded, but since this is peak leaf-viewing season, it was crowded. We still had a great time. It is a fairly strenuous climb at the beginning which is a great heart workout.We had great talks and laughed a lot. Afterwards we took the family out to eat for Mom's birthday (we always give the gift of a whole day out for her birthday since her response to "What do you want for your birthday?" is always "Just the love of my family"). We went to a Greek restaurant near our house. We ordered a Groupon for a $25 value for $15. I used a coupon code to get $4 off. I went through Swagbucks and earned 1% back, and paid with my points card earning another 1% off. When we got to the restaurant, we ordered a small meal for one sister (who is a really picky eater), a sack of 5 gyros (saving $1.50 each), an order of baba ghanoush for $4, and an order of Greek fries for $4 (the last two were on Happy Hour special). We drank water. All told, we spent $30 to feed 6 people until we couldn't eat any more.

Nature:
* We loved going out for a nice hike with my family to see the fall leaves. I love hiking in autumn as the weather is perfect and the trees are beautiful. Trucker pointed out that this year, he has been focusing more on how much he loves autumn rather than the fact that winter is coming. Once he mentioned that, I started being more mindful of it as well. We have thoroughly enjoyed our hot cocoa, hearty stews, fall colors, having the windows open and not using the air conditioning, and wearing thick socks.

Frugality:
* The farming season is drawing to an end. I have 2-4 weeks left with the farm before it is time to move on. As it stands now, if a position opens up at the foodbank that I qualify for, I have a good chance of staying on. If not, I'll move on elsewhere and HR said they will call me when a position comes through that looks like a good fit. I'm a little nervous, understandably, but not as scared to death as I would have been in this position last year. It was encouraging to see some personal growth and resilience coming back. As it is, I know that I can go back to the factory if I needed to. It is a hard job and long commute, but fantastic pay. That is my ultimate backup plan (and honestly, not too shabby a worst-case-scenario). I have a couple other backup plans with jobs that I left on good terms. All of this assumes I don't find another position before then. What we are working on now is to get our spending under control and I'm rereading some frugality books to get inspired with some new ideas to try out.
* I made an extra principal payment on my mortgage, as I have every month (except one) for the duration of the loan. Sometimes it is much higher than others, but I always try to put something on it. When you consider that you don't have to pay interest on that portion for years or decades, the savings are substantial. I still have 26 years left on my loan, so adding an extra dollar saves $195 over the course of the loan and pays it off 2 months early. This is a huge deal!
* I made an extra payment on my credit card.

Waste Reduction:
* I got a lot of wormy turnips from the farm. They were far more blemished than we could possibly have sold or distributed. Once I got them home, I peeled them and found that I still had a good amount of flesh left. It got me thinking. Perhaps this was the reason we started peeling vegetables, that our great-grandmas were just getting rid of the buggy parts. Now with our pesticides or intensive pest management programs, we have unblemished produce that could be simply scrubbed clean, but we still peel because we've always seen things peeled. For other root crops, I try to get away with just scrubbing whenever possible. However, I'll cut away the blossom end rot from a Jimmy Nardello's pepper, cut out the bug holes from an eggplant or cut off little split roots on a carrot.
* I tore up lots of random papers and put them in the compost.

House and Home:
* I am working on cleaning out the closet in the kitchen. I want to get it all cleared out, then pack in some other items that are currently taking up a lot of space. I may be able to fit the bikes in, as well as our folding tables. Some items I threw away (the seed packets from last year that I intended to type up info on how different varieties grew, but never did), some I donated, and a couple items I was excited to use again.
* I forgot to post a couple weeks ago about a nice little hack I tried that worked great. We have those long skinny blinds on our patio door. They break ridiculously easily. I'd thought about punching a hole in the bottom and turning them upside down, but we thought they'd look bad. Instead, I used masking tape to cover the broken tab, cut a thin slit and used that to hang the blinds. I was able to fix 4 this way. You can only notice it if you are standing directly next to it and looking up. Trucker priced them at $13 for 2, so this saved me $26 for only about 10 minutes of work, for an hourly wage of $156/hour, tax free.

Work:
* I picked up an evening shift to help a co-worker with an injured foot. I got to leave at lunch the next day.
* I took home lots of seconds: sweet peppers, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, Swiss Chard, kale, watermelon and beets.
* I worked an hour overtime.

Preparedness:
* Trucker took his CRASE (Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event) training class this weekend. We try not to live in constant fear of attacks, but believe in being reasonably prepared for a variety of situations. No one expects to go out for a movie or to the club and die. The class teaches situational awareness, breathing techniques and a realistic (and evidence-based) plan of action in case of an event. Check with your local sheriff's department to see if they offer CRASE or other preparation classes. These are usually free of charge, but you may have to wait for awhile to get into a class. After I took the class, I asked Trucker to get on the waiting list and it took a year before there was an available slot.

Sorry for the blurry photo. We were
just so excited to meet Ike. At least, I
was. I'm not sure my sister and cousin
knew who he was!
Future:
* In preparation for the party, we spent one of our days off at the booth, rearranging, removing and adding items. It looks much nicer now.
* We had the annual Customer Appreciation party at the mall. It wasn't as busy as last year, but was busier than the spring event. I made several sales, but we spent more time walking around and socialising with other vendors. One of our friends stopped by and found some great items. My sister and cousin came into the city for the party. We had a great time walking around and laughing together. It was nice to get some family time in.
* I went picking at a barn sale I love. I got some good items: a keystone projector, toolboxes, gas cans and milk glass pieces.

Health:
* We went on a decently strenuous hike one day.
* We both took our multivitamins/supplements each day.

Community:
* A friend gave me some cauliflower and celery because she was given more than she could use.
* I gave my parents and sisters a bag filled with peppers and eggplant from the farm.
How was your week?

Monday, October 3, 2016

This Week...Beyond Money 9/26 - 10/2

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.
Gardening:
* I harvested peppers (Padron, jalapeno, Jimmy Nardello and serrano), okra, and tomatoes (cherry and some just slightly ripening larger tomatoes. I pick them early this time of year so the remaining ones have time to mature).


Cooking/Groceries:
* I made sausage gravy and biscuits one evening with a fried egg. Not the healthiest meal, but we enjoyed it.
* We have been eating a lot more farm veggies. Usually if I'm at a loss for what to make, I saute some greens and serve those with salt and pepper.
* Trucker has been cooking for me a lot lately. I come home on lunch break and he has something waiting for me. Once it was pasta with bacon, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, another time sandwiches, another time quesadillas and soup. He always goes all out, making sure I have a few sides, something cold to drink and a little something sweet.

Food Preservation:
* I froze more peppers and kale.
* I dehydrated more okra and sweet peppers.

Fun:
* We went to my friend's wedding. We picked up Doodles (who also worked with her) and stopped by Target. I got her a rough-edged wooden serving tray she had on her registry (on sale for $17) since I wanted to get her something lovely that she might not buy for herself otherwise. We picked up cards at Dollar Tree ($.50). She got married at the historical society, which was the best idea ever. She got married in the little chapel in the historic village, then we walked over to the museum for the reception and dinner. It was so good to get to see her get married and her husband seems really nice. After dinner, the three of us walked around the museum a bit and played in the 50s era (a perfect little house filled with lots of vintage goodies) and in the comic book area (we all put on superman capes and flew around a bit...because of course we did).
* I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for coffee one afternoon. It was so good to talk with them and get to know him better. Somehow 2.5 hours just flew by!
* We went out with some friends that meet every week, but we are rarely able to see. Unfortunately, we spent more than we anticipated. We resolved to be better about keeping each other to our frugal standards.
* On our day off together, we took a day trip up north a bit. We enjoyed walking around antique malls, got coffee and visited a park. It was drizzling, but was still a pleasant day to walk.

Frugality:
* I put a couple hundred dollars into savings this week.
* I love having my car loan come out of my account automatically. Not only do I not have to worry about forgetting, but I set it up for 10 days early to be safe, which means that I pay interest on the money for 10 fewer days.

Nature:
* We went on a couple walks. On one we saw 4 deer: 2 does and 2 fawns. They let us get pretty close. It was amazing.

Waste Reduction:
* I composted everything I could.

House and Home:
* We cleared out more stuff.
* Trucker bought a new lock for the back door
* Trucker got an edger for $2 at auction. He really does an amazing job. Householding is a lot easier with someone so skilled at getting what we need at such ridiculously low prices.

Work:
* Trucker worked a lot because the deliveries were late or no-show, so he worked extra hours and days.
* I worked a little overtime. The boss said I could flex some time if I wanted to this coming week.
* I went home for lunch each day.
* I got loads of free seconds produce: peppers, eggplants, kale, and leeks.
* My boss talked with me about extending my assignment by two weeks. It will only be 3-4 days a week, but it will be enough to survive and allows me two more weeks to find another position with the foodbank.

Health:
* Trucker had had some scary health issues earlier this summer and I wasn't getting any answers. After a couple months of late night Dr. Google inquiries (most of which told me he was dying...because of course), I narrowed it down to a handful of possible causes, some scary, some simple things like excessive caffeine and electrolyte or iron imbalances. He started exercising more, significantly reduced his coffee consumption and started taking a multivitamin. There was little change for awhile. I noticed that his multivitamin didn't contain iron, so I switched him to one that did. Well, after a few weeks, we noticed a difference. He saw his GP and the doctor said that he thought it was low iron and to double his iron supplement. Now there is drastic improvement. We are still going to a specialist in a couple weeks to rule out scary possibilities, but hopefully we are on the better side of things. Just a friendly reminder to make sure you are considering nutritional needs often. We had significantly cut back on our red meat consumption (for financial and heart-health reasons), I don't eat liver (yet...I do know that I'm a total hypocrite for not eating organ meats) and Trucker doesn't like a lot of the nonheme iron-rich foods. Plus, caffeine can make it harder for your body to assimilate iron. All of this meant that he wasn't getting adequate iron (I seem to be okay, but I do eat a lot more leafy greens than he does). It is so hard to balance all of the responsibilities in life, but pay attention to little health clues so you have time to make changes before things get bad and require more heroic measures. Also know that if you aren't getting answers and you know something is wrong, be your own (or your partner's) advocate and look for things to try at home to improve the situation.
* The main thing we considered when making lifestyle changes was that even if exercise, reducing alcohol and caffeine, taking a multivitamin, eating less sugar and eating more vegetables had no affect on this issue, they were good things to do that would have positive affects in other areas.
* Trucker had another two games with his softball league. I was able to come watch these games since they were earlier in the day than the last two weeks. He ran a little before the game!
* I went to the eye doctor for the first time in 15 years. My near vision is perfect, but I got a light prescription for far vision. I had a coupon to get it very cheaply.

Community:
* Well, we had a big exciting week. My younger sister got married! She had been engaged for a little over a year without really making any plans. This week they decided to go for it and went to the courthouse. We are all helping to get them established; for now they are living with his parents. They are looking at a double-wide to move onto the slab at my parents' property. For their wedding gift, Ashley will come out to the city and I will take her shopping at thrift stores. I've set a certain budget that I'll spend to get as much as I can to help them get set up. She did buy a bedroom set of bed, dressers, nightstand, etc, but will need many things still, such as linens, cleaning supplies, pantry items and kitchen supplies. Trucker found a basic kitchen tool set on clearance for $6: a few knives, kitchen shears, spatula, spoon, and a couple other items in a storage block.
* We had our year-end party at the farm. My friends volunteered to do face painting and balloon animals. They were quite popular!
* Trucker's boss's wife sent me three large bags of vegetable rotini noodles.
How was your week?
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