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.
* Trucker made an amazing Hawaiian rice dish. I pulled a tiny ham out of the freezer (it had been BOGO, so $1.50 each for about a half pound) overnight. He diced it with pineapple and some veggies from the frig and served over rice with sweet and sour sauce. So yummy.
* I made banana bread each Sunday for my work-day breakfasts and for Trucker to snack on. Whenever bananas get too dark for Trucker to eat (I don't like eating them fresh, so it's all him), I toss them into the freezer. Then I use them for baking, smoothies or chocolate peanut butter banana shakes (which are basically milkshakes that I get to pretend are healthy).
* I mentioned making lasagna last week, but I used it for lunches this week. I figured out the cost per meal and thought i would share this here. I like figuring out the cost per ingredient and per meal as it gives me a starting point to reduce the cost of the meal, often while improving nutritive benefits. To make, I layered into a slow cooker pot, tomato sauce (1 jar, $1, plus some leftover chili and the dregs of another jar of sauce ), 1/3 box of lasagna noodles uncooked ($.69/box, so $.23), eggplant noodles (I alternated layers of lasagna noodles and eggplant noodles. dehydrated slices of eggplant, free from the farm), cottage cheese (manager's special for $.75), TVP ($1.99/lb; about $.50 worth, if that), leeks (frozen, free from the farm), garlic (from the garden, free since I save my own seed), peppers (frozen, free from the farm), Italian seasoning mix (free, dehydrated from herbs I grow), and a sprinkling of mozzarella ($1.50/12 oz; so about $.25). All of this is cooked on high for 4-6 hours in the slow cooker. Total: $2.73 for 7 meals, for a per-meal price of $.39. Of course, this does not include energy costs for freezer, dehydrator or slow cooker. The biggest cost savers: using only a light layer of shredded cheese on top, using cottage cheese instead of ricotta and adding tons of bulk in the form of free produce (from the farm or garden; but you could also use produce preserved when you found an awesome sale at Aldi or on manager special), using dehydrated veg in place of noodles. Three of these tips also significantly improve the healthfulness of the dish, which is always top priority.
* Trucker made a quick dinner of grilled cheese (Mine with a jalapeno spread inside) and tinned soup on a night we had a lot of errands to run.
* We found chicken leg quarters on manager's special for $1/lb. We cooked half one day for dinner (with baked potatoes) and with the leftovers we made chicken salad sandwiches for another day. The other half was baked another day, then diced into a chicken pesto pasta dinner (pesto was free with basil from the farm, diced chicken, sauteed onions, peppers and leeks (free seconds from the farm; frozen) pasta from the salvage grocer and manager's special cheese).
* I made pasta salad for work lunches using a variety of items from the frig.
* We had BLTs one day. I saved half of the bacon for other uses (such as mixing into pasta salad to add some umph).
* I made a pineapple strawberry crisp with some fruit I got for free while temping at the restaurant for the holidays (I'd frozen it). I made a crumble topping out of some salvage-grocery hot cereal (Trucker didn't like the texture of it cooked, but it is fine in this), flour, a bit of sugar, cinnamon and butter. It was perfect for snacking and breakfasts.
* We went out on a couple coffee dates.
* One evening we were exhausted, so we popped popcorn, watched a movie and were asleep by 7:30.
* We took a day trip up north one day. Trucker had a class, but on the way, we sang to the radio, stopped at a local coffee shop, used bookstore (where Trucker found 3 items on his wishlist for $2.25 each!), and a thrift store. We used a gift card for a dinner out and split the meal.
* One day we want for a couple mile walk around the campus neighborhood, then got donuts from a fantastic little shop. The weather was perfect and we had a lovely time.
* We went on a winter hike at a park an hour or so away from home. They had a bean dinner with hot chocolate in the middle of the hike. It was a little crowded for us, so we likely won't go next year. However, it was 60+ degrees and lovely, so it was nice to get outside.
* We replaced my car battery. Trucker used two coupons to save $25 total. He helped me replace it so I didn't have to worry about my car on those frigid 4 AM starts.
House and Home:
* We had to replace our furnace since it was frequently not working for several hours straight, then would randomly turn on. We didn't consider repairing it because it was 40+ years old and wasn't up to code. We also had a 34 year old water year, that didn't work well, and again, wasn't up to code. We decided to see if we could get them both replaced. We will eventually be selling this place and were certain that with half-a-century-old appliances, no one would buy the house (or rent it for that matter). Trucker was amazing. He called in 6 places for estimates. He found one place that was cheaper than the others, but couldn't do the water heater. He found another place that could replace the water heater, but charged more for the furnace. Finally, he found someone that could do both and when he mentioned that he was getting estimates, the guy said he would match the lowest price we had on the furnace and charged less for the water heater than any other company. We researched them thoroughly online and they had fantastic reviews and not a single negative incident with the BBB (but 13 positive reviews). When they got there to replace it, they realized that they had quoted us for a larger water heater, but a smaller one costs more (30 gallon rather than a 40 gallon) and we didn't have room for the larger one. They replaced it with the more expensive heater at no extra cost to us. The service included: replacing the water heater and furnace and getting both up to code, a new thermostat (a really nice one), a carbon-monoxide detector (which had been on my list of items I needed to get for the house), a 10 year warranty for the units, 2 year warranty on labor and a 2 year service contract with spring and fall tune-ups. They both work great and we are much more comfortable. I also assume we will have cheaper energy costs. Also, one of the workers also does plumbing and told Trucker how to fix a couple problems we were having.
* Trucker was able to fix some water pressure issues we were having in the sink in the bathroom. He found a piece of metal that was blocking the water. It took him 5 minutes to take care of.
* He also replaced our leaky kitchen faucet. He bought a kit for $30 at Lowe's and it took him about an hour to replace.
* I love my new job. Everyone was really friendly and helpful. One woman was so excited to see me; she said she's been waiting a year for another woman to work in this department. The job is really exciting and I feel so tough doing it. Also, this area gets out a little early most days, so I'm pulling out of the parking lot before the other 4k people get out. I timed it and I get home in 30 fewer minutes since I miss the parking lot traffic, that means I miss rush hour in the city, so I'm home 40 minutes early. In my old department, rather than get out a couple minutes early, I'd work an hour overtime each day, so I would hit traffic badly and it would take an extra 45-75 minutes to get home, so I'd get home really late. This is great.
* I brought breakfast on the road and packed a lunch each day. I want to make sure I keep with this habit. One girl I talked with said she was spending $6 a day on breakfast and lunches are $7-12 (the $12 meal is what a salad from the salad bar usually rings up at!). So buying both meals would cost over $3k a year! I spend around $.25 on breakfast (usually it includes a lot of free, preserved items and homemade baked goods), and $.50/packed lunch including sides, so this is $184/year~.
* Trucker worked a lot of extra hours (and has for the last few weeks). He is pretty tired, but making good money.
* I think the most important thing about my job is that I have been asking advice and tips from everyone. Every single person has been great about sharing their tips to shave seconds off each job (which matters when repeating hundreds of times) and to avoid soreness and injury.
* (written a week later) I love this job. I have great conversations with people, including one guy that worked with my dad to start a new line at the factory 30 years ago. I am taking to it quite well and enjoy the work. I basically have no stress, plenty of time for pleasant contemplation, get a gentle workout (now that I've figured out a few things, such as the position of my body to avoid straining certain parts), and the day flies by. I can totally see myself being here in 10 years. 30 years.
* Trucker's acting class was this week. I am so proud of him. He also had a couple of auditions.
* We went to an event put on by an acting school Trucker hopes to attend this spring.
* I feel pretty good. In general, I have a nice tiredness to me that comes from getting a good workout. We alternate workouts each day: M-W-F is yoga and arms/weight lifting; T-T is calisthenics and hands. Each day, we walk for a half hour and do stretches for 15 minutes. It ends up being an 1 1/2+ workout. I did this each day for the first week. The second week I did this, then worked on the line for 6 hours.
* We, along with several friends, served dinner at a homeless shelter in our area.
How was your week?