Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mulberry Bonanza

It's that time of year, folks: Mulberry season!
For those of you not in the know, mulberries are where it's at. They are misunderstood and neglected, but you can totally use that to your advantage. Mulberries are considered a weed in a lot of the country and many homeowners despise them for the stains left on sidewalks, driveways, cars and bare feet, not to mention the blue-colored bird droppings that can stain everything else.

But the mulberry is so much more than that. Mulberries are a delightful delicate berry that would certainly sell like crazy at the farmers market if only it could handle the ride. Their hardiness is also a great boon for homesteaders and gardeners who want a dependable crop. They have a delicate flavor that can border on blandness depending on the variety (more on that later).

When I was young, my grandma would have me over to harvest mulberries. We would spend the entire day harvesting her many trees. I'm pretty sure I ate more than ended up in the buckets, but she was awesome and let me eat my fill. My hands would be stained purple for days and I loved it. I felt like I was in a different world. It was the essence of youth and summer and living forever. When Grandpa came home from work, we would gather in the living room and fill big bowls with mulberries, cover with milk and eat. It is still one of my favorite snacks. And just a hint, use milk, not cream as the heaviness of the cream seems to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the berries.

They are very nutritious and low in calories. They have a fair amount of potassium and iron (1 cup provides 14% of the recommended daily value). They also have a lot of vitamin C, some calcium and plenty of other nutrients.

Unripe berries that will turn purple.
If you want to harvest mulberries, first you need to find some trees/shrubs. If you are not so fortunate as to have them on your property (my house came with 7!), you can easily find them. Look for red/purple stains on sidewalks. If it is public property, harvest as you please. If it is on someone's property, technically you can harvest anything overhanging the sidewalk, but it is better to ask. I can almost guarantee that you'll never have someone say no; they'll just be happy to have less of a mess (hint: frame this as you being a kind-hearted person selflessly helping them avoid said mess). Check parks as well. In my neighborhood, I have dozens of trees, so I am never in want.

Now, a mulberry is not a mulberry is not a mulberry. In fact, there are a few kinds of mulberries and they are all slightly different. Red mulberries are native to North America. White mulberries were imported from Asia with the intent of creating a silk trade here. That didn't work out and now these are considered an invasive species (so really, by eating them so they don't grow new trees, you are doing a public service). This does not necessarily refer to the color of the berries when ripe, and they can also hybridize. Many mulberries start green, then ripen through white, pink, red and finally to a rich purple/black color. However, many varieties will be ripe at red, pink, lavender, or even white! The varieties that are red or purple when ripe tend to taste the best and have the most pronounced flavor. White and lavender varieties tend to be on the bland side. They are super sweet but lack the tartness that balances it out. I harvest whatever I can get. I prefer the red and purple ones for eating fresh, but the white ones are fine when mixed with others in baked goods and sauces. And honestly, I'll take whatever I can get. In my neighborhood, I've found that the tree that gives lavender berries has the largest berries, so I get more bulk by harvesting that tree.

The leaves are serrated and can be either heart shaped or lobed. Generally, the younger trees tend to have lobes. See photos.

So how do you tell if a mulberry is ripe? Basically, it's ripe if it is laying on the ground. Many people mistakenly think you pick mulberries, but this is guaranteed to leave you with fewer berries and most of them unripe. When mulberries are fully ripe, they drop off the tree at the slightest touch. If you go to pick one, 50 fully ripe berries will drop to the ground. If you have to pull at all, they aren't ripe yet.

When you have found your tree, watch it carefully. Once you see a few berries laying on the ground, grab a tarp or old sheet. Lay the tarp under the tree and shake the branches. You can use a hoe or stick to get higher branches if needed. All of the ripe berries will drop onto your sheet and you just pick it up at the corners and carry in your harvest. It's that simple. Not only will this give you the best berries, but you'll be able to harvest huge amounts in no time.

The berries don't all ripen at once, so you will need to go back a few times to get more. This is ideal though because you can get just what you need over a longer period of time.

Ripe purple mulberries
When you plan to use them, you'll want to clean them well to get rid of dirt and the tiny bugs they often have. Just submerge in water and remove the bugs that float. A couple washes should be sufficient.

They won't keep long, just a few days in the refrigerator. If you need to keep them longer, either cook them and store the cooked berries in the refrigerator or toss into the freezer. They are delicate, so avoid manhandling them. Don't store in deep containers as the berries on the bottom will be crushed.

A lot of people recommend clipping off the tiny green stems before using. Honestly, I don't have time for that. I use the berry whole and have never felt that the final quality suffered for it. If you decide that you need to, use scissors or nail clippers to easily (although not quickly) remove them. And if you are going to use them for juice, jelly or syrup, leave them on and strain them out.

If you are not one to wear the purple hands as a badge of honor, there are two methods to remove the stains. Rub lemons/lemon juice on your hands or rub unripe fruit on your hands then wash them with soap.

Use them as you would other blackberries or raspberries. Use in muffins, cobblers, crisps or scones.

Toss a few into your morning smoothie. The flavor won't stand out much, but it is a good, nutritive filler and adds some nice color (if you use a darker berry).

Add to oatmeal or toss in with cold cereal such as bran flakes.

These make an excellent pie. In fact, it is my favorite berry pie. They would be lovely in little tarts or a cooked puree added to thumbprint cookies.

Add whole to cheesecake or swirl in a cooked puree.

Add to pancake batter. Double points if you serve with a syrup made of the berries (Cook them down in a little water and a healthy amount of sugar, then run through a strainer).

Make a berry sauce or ice cream topping.

Put them in parfaits, popsicles, slushies.

You can juice them, I suppose, although I've never tried. You could also make wine.

Use in tea.

Make ice cream or sorbet.

Mulberries are a fantastic fruit for the frugal foodie or aspiring homesteader. Free, low maintenance, great nutrition and a lovely flavor make this one of my favorite plants for growing my own food.

Give it a try! You'll love it!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 5/8 - 5/21

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.

There was another active shooter event in our metropolitan area again this week. I really don't have adequate words. All I can say is always be aware of your surroundings and if your city/county offers citizen response training, do it.

* I harvested several springs of oregano from the outdoor garden. The leaves are huge and so fragrant.
* I went out with mom to buy seedlings. Transplants were packs of three for $1.99 or a flat of 12 packs for $14.99 ($1.25 each). We each picked out what we definitely needed first. I had 11, so I grabbed an extra pepper pack. Mom had 7, so for $1 more, she ended up getting 5 more packs. She got one more pack of tomatoes, 2 more packs of peppers and two packs of flowers that she loved. Mom got three strawberry plants ($2.99 each) and 5 lbs of seed potatoes ($.99/lb). We had looked into buying seed potatoes from a catalog. It was going to cost $12/lb, plus $7 in shipping! Dad had only planned on getting 3 lbs at that price ($43). By buying locally, she got 37 seedlings (one of the tomato packs had a freebie), 3 strawberry plants and 5 lbs of seed potatoes for $28.91.
* I planted all of my tomatoes and peppers. I spaced them out a little more than usual and added some organic fertilizer (usually $8/bag, found on clearance at $2.29). Hopefully I'll get a decent yield this year.
* The forecast called for 3 days of rain, so I decided to get my seeds planted in the garden. I planted lettuce (Oakleaf, Thai Oakleaf, Red Sails and Black-Seeded Simpson), radishes (Cincinnati Red, Sparkler and an Easter Egg mix), carrots (Little Finger), New Zealand spinach, basil (both in the garden and a container) and dill.

* We went to the farm stand one day and got a bunch of radishes. The radishes are amazing. They have great texture and aren't as spicy as your typical store-bought ones. Trucker and I walked to the farm stand to save gas, get exercise and enjoy each other. While there, I got to see one of my old coworkers and talk for awhile. I miss her. I miss the farm. I will have to try to get out to volunteer at some time.
* The next time I went I got strawberries (The first of the year!), sugar snap peas (half of which I ate while driving home) and two bunches of radishes. I always donate a fair amount to support the farm and my community members who can't afford to pay, but considering what produce of this quality goes for, I feel I'm getting a good deal.
* I made grilled pizza one evening.
* Trucker made spaghetti with tomato sauce and polish sausage. It was so good.
* We got more fish for the freezer. The only cost was for the fishing license, which I basically consider an entertainment cost, so it was free. We caught 15 bluegills large enough to bother with. I buried the heads and guts in the garden.
* I pulled some pork from the freezer (leftover from our party) and used to make BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. I added BBQ sauce (store brand on sale), mustard (salvage grocery) and sauerkraut. I served on store-brand bread (on sale) and added a sprinkling of cheese and a heavy serving of kraut on mine.
* I made taco soup to use up the rest of the party leftovers. I added some seasoning to the containers from the freezer and cooked in some pork stock. Trucker said it was one of the best soups I've made.
* I went to Aldi and got some bargains: shredded cheddar ($1.99/lb; at Kroger the cheapest cheese ever goes on sale is $1.79/12 oz and this is rare), eggs ($.59/dozen!) and bread ($.49/loaf, manager's special).
* We went to the Amish grocer in my hometown. We were quite lucky. They were having a customer appreciation day and were giving away free homemade ice cream (A real serving size too!) and samples of their bakery's fry pies and brownies. They were also having a 10% off sale. We bought 2 packages of cheddar cheese powder, a package of BBQ seasoning, a package of honey mustard powder, some trail mix (a gift left for mom) and chocolate covered peanuts (a gift for Grandpa).
* Trucker made an amazing breakfast for us one morning. He made french toast (I sliced strawberries, banana and mango over mine) and ham and egg omelets. Perfect start to the day.
* I made beef stew with some beef from the freezer (manager's special). I used random veggies from the refrigerator and pantry: carrots, onions, scallions, radishes, celery (dehydrated) and beets (dehydrated). I also tossed in some leftover sauteed collards and seasoned with herbs from the indoor garden. I cooked it in the slow cooker while at work so it was ready when I got home. It turned out really good.
* We made a pesto pasta. I fried a couple pieces of bacon and sauteed onions in the grease. I tossed with cooked pasta, diced tomatoes (canned) and pesto from the freezer. It was amazing.

Food Preservation:
* I air-dried oregano, sage and basil.

* I met up with Doodles for coffee at a local diner. It was nice to catch up with her.
* I took Mom out one day. She drove out to the city and we went to a local nursery to get all of our gardening stuff. Then I took her out for Greek food at a local restaurant we love. We went shopping a little, but I didn't spend anything. It was a wonderful day. She is so sweet and fun.
* We went out on a couple coffee dates.
* We went on a date to a local restaurant. A couple of our friends had given us a gift certificate for our anniversary. We had a wonderful time. We split a burger and fries and a flat bread (happy hour special for $5) and drank water. We have a little left for a discounted second date. Afterwards, we took a stroll through a historic neighborhood and talked. We thought about going out for ice cream, but opted to buy some to take home. We got a gallon of ice cream for 2/3 the cost of going out.
*Our movie group went out to the discount theatre to see La La Land. Tickets were $1.50 each and we did not buy concessions.

* We enjoyed killing it. We went fishing one evening at a pond at a park near our house. We couldn't keep the fish off of our lines! We caught around 50, but only 15 were big enough to bother cleaning. It was a lovely evening. The humidity was low, it was warm enough to not need a jacket and the geese and ducks were everywhere. It was a quite peaceful way to spend an evening.
* A state park near us opened two new trails for the first time in 50 years! We went down for a late morning hike. It was a really pleasant day, although the return trip involved a lot of climbing! It was a great workout.

* I got some mud on my jeans when we went hiking and fishing one day. After washing, they were still pretty stained up. Fortunately, we are line drying now so the stains weren't set. I used some stain remover and after some scrubbing was able to save them.
* I found an awesome purse at the thrift store. It is cyan and brown and goes perfectly with the rest of my clothes (all of my other purses are leftover from previous styles, but I won't get rid of them til then wear out). It only cost $1.50! There is a small scuff on the bottom, but I think it will be easy to remove. Even if not, it is barely noticeable.
* We returned a couple items that we didn't end up needing. We got $24 put back on our card.
* We sent away two rebate for items we would have purchased anyway.
* We went to a community yard sale in my home town. We did really well. I got a nice dolly for $4. It only needs to have the wheel tightened a bit. I also got a chippy coat rack for $1, a fish skinner for $.25 (I'd been thinking of getting one the last time we cleaned fish), cute produce baskets (a stack of 10 for $.25) and a pair of jeans in my size in a free box.
* The next weekend we went to a community yard sale in a neighborhood near us. I only bought one item: a lunch box with my company info on it. It was insulated and very cute. It cost a whopping $.25. I also grabbed two nice glass bottles in a free box. They were from a fancy juice place down the street, but will be great for bringing drinks with us when we go out to concerts, festivals and plays in the park.
* I got my hair cut when Great Clips was having a $5.99 sale. Even after tip, it was quite affordable and I am happy enough with it. I cut it a little on the short side so I can go longer between cuts.

House and Home:
* We continue to line dry clothes. I am enjoying it, honestly. I get an excuse to go out into the yard during perfect afternoons. It definitely takes more planning, but that is the only downside.

* Trucker picked up an extra shift at his job.
* Trucker gets an amazing job perk. He is able to take home sauerkraut on jarring days. He brought home two jars. They retail at $9 each. It is some of the most tasty kraut I've ever had. I am so delighted. I already crave it each day and plan to make sure we consume a little each day.
* I took a penalty-free day off. It is nice to get a little time to relax and take care of me. This was the day I took Mom out, so it was time well spent.
* I packed food each day.
* I worked a fair amount of overtime the days I did work. My department doesn't work a crazy amount compared to other departments, so any overtime I do get is welcome to compensate for my days off. The way I see it, each hour of overtime I work funds an hour and a half of time off.

* Trucker had another acting job. He is in a commercial for a local grocery store chain. I am so proud of him!
* Trucker had another audition and he thinks he did well. I'm proud of him.

* Trucker was still fighting his cold, so he didn't hit the gym hard the first week. The next week he went more often and we went a couple times together.
* I am finally running a little on the treadmill at the gym. I wore a different pair of sneakers and these slide a little less. I do not enjoy running on the treadmill, but I am just trying to get my endurance back. Once I get my endurance back and a little more strength, I hope to return to running outside, where I enjoy it.
* We are eating kraut every day. It will be interesting to see how we do getting daily probiotics. I've already told Trucker he is never allowed to quit this job.
* There were some pain relief patches that the dollar store sold for $1/20 pk. They worked well and were a great price. Then the local stores stopped selling them, although a different chain started carrying them at $4.50/20 pk. Trucker suggested I look online. I was able to order a case of them for $1/pk and will be set for a long time.

* My cousin got married this week. It was a beautiful wedding that fit them perfectly. They are both musical, and the ceremony involved her singing to him when walking down the aisle, her dad singing, the couple singing a song together at the end of the ceremony and her mom playing the trumpet as they walked back down the aisle. The location was at an opera house. It was great to get to talk with family.
How was your week?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grocery Shopping While Travelling

Coming from someone who values locality in food, this seems heresy to say, but sometimes my food travels. Or rather, when I travel, I look for local food to take home with me. I don't travel far away and I never fly. I do take day trips to see family an hour or so away, and I take weekend trips within the state or maybe the state over. When I do, I look for opportunities to enjoy local or "exotic" food at a good price, and bring it home. The gas consumption is minimal since I'd be taking the trip anyway, so perhaps a tiny bit extra for the extra weight (although I'm sure 10 pounds of food isn't adding to my gasoline consumption too much).
When I visit my parents an hour away, I visit a favorite grocery store. It's a scratch and dent grocery and it's phenomenal. I find organic cereal for $.33/box and whole grain pasta for $.59/lb. Every so often, I find ends-and-pieces of local jerky for $5.99 for a 5 lb bag. However, since it is an hour away, I don't make a special trip just for that store. It's only ten minutes from my parents, so I stop when I'm already out that way. The savings over buying those items at the grocery store is more than the cost of gas, meaning I essentially get paid to take the trip out there. Win.

When we drive out to the boonies to go for a day-hike, I like to stop at farm shops and roadside stands to get the local's garden surplus. Just outside my favorite state park, there is a little roadside stand. The offerings are just whatever the home-gardener has a surplus of, but it's fantastic produce and a great price. $1/lb for tomatoes, $.50/large squash, $.25/zucchini or small squash. I prefer my money to go to a real-life family, rather than some grocery store.

When we took our honeymoon to Amish country a few hours away, we really hit the food jackpot. There were several scratch n dent groceries. We bought pasta and canned veg at bargain prices. We drove by a grain mill that sold whole wheat flour at the same price per pound that white flour cost in our city. We bought a few bags, and tossed all in the freezer upon returning home. Our honeymoon package included a $150 gift certificate good at the inn's restaurant, bakery, gift shop, or general store. We ate our meals at the restaurant. On the last day, we had over $100 left. We went to the bakery and got a few loaves of bread (some for the freezer) and a few sweets. Then we went to the general store and spent the $90 left on jams, jellies, coffee, tea, pasta,spices and bags of trail mix.

When we go to Chicago to visit family, we have a few stops that we have to make, mainly to bakeries. One bakery sells cookies for $.20 each and sub rolls for $.33. A few ethnic bakeries offer some of our favorites that we can't find here, and don't (yet) know how to make. This provides a little splurge, but at a discounted price. We'll sometimes stop in Chinatown for our stockpile of herbal teas and other items, or we'll stop by a neighborhood with a fantastic selection of exotic produce at bargain prices.
By keeping our eyes open when we travel, we're able to get great scores on food. We often save money over buying more exotic selections in our town, and we get to try lots of new things without the cost of going to a trendy restaurant. Often, the grocery savings is close to the cost of gasoline, thus making our trip less expensive. Whenever you venture away from your neighborhood, keep your eyes peeled for some fun, new food adventures.

How I Threw A Frugal Anniversary Party

Last month was our ten year wedding anniversary. We had planned for years to have a big gathering to mark the occasion, but we didn't want to spend a fortune.

We thought about having the party at a metropark. Ultimately we decided against this as April (our anniversary month) is hardly a dry month and to plan sufficiently in advance we would be unable to know how the weather would be. We didn't want to have the expense of restaurant meals/drinks, especially given how frugally I can prepare a meal for a crowd.

I always try to prepare a good meal. I love good food and like to show off a little. I also want to keep the cost reasonable, since we are saving for our goals. The most important thing to accomplish both objectives is to have a clear plan, with the ability to be flexible. I decided I wanted to do a taco bar for this party. I had thought of having a grilled cheese bar, but didn't want to be tied to a griddle for the entire party.

From there, I brainstormed different dishes I could prepare. I made an extensive list of ingredients needed for different dishes and made my shopping list accordingly. A few days before the party, I headed online to check sales flyers for Aldi, Lucky's (a Trader Joe's type store), Meijer and Kroger. I had already hit the salvage grocer and got some hot sauce, salsa and horchata mix ($.10/bag!). For my shopping list, I listed the store, then each item on my previous list that was on sale. As I checked out other stores' ads, if I found an item for cheaper than I'd previously listed it, I'd cross it out and write it under the new store. For any items on my list that I didn't find on sale, I wrote on the back of the sheet and looked for unadvertised sales while shopping. I ended up getting a pretty good discount on everything.

Here is a list of the dishes/items I offered and the prices of ingredients:
Tacos: ground beef ($2.29/lb at Kroger; two other stores had it on sale, but not this low) with taco seasoning ($.39/Aldi), al pastor- pork butt ($1.29/lb at Meijer) with pineapple ($1/Kroger, but I only used some of it) and seasoned with a little enchilada sauce ($.49/can at the salvage grocer) and taco seasoning (Aldi), Mexican pinto beans- pinto beans ($1.29/2 lb bag at Aldi), salsa ($.49/jar at the salvage grocery), sauteed onion ($.33/lb on sale at Meijer) and peppers (free from the farm; frozen), cilantro lime rice - rice (bulk purchase from the ethnic grocer; I can't remember the price), cilantro ($.49/bunch at Lucky's; used 1/4 bunch), limes ($.25/each at Lucky's; I used 2). Other fillings: tomato ($.91/lb at Meijer on a buy 10 get one free sale), sweet peppers both sauteed and raw (free from the farm; frozen), onions both sauteed and raw ($.33/lb on sale at Meijer), cilantro ($.49/bunch at Lucky's , I used just a bit), scallions ($.50/bunch at Lucky's; I put the stubs in water to grow more), two kinds of lettuce ($1.99/lb at Kroger; we used around a pound), sour cream ($1/16 oz for regular; small container of fat-free for $.59/clearance), cheese ($2.29/lb at Aldi), salsa ($.91/jar at Meijer) and hot sauce ($.59/bottle at the salvage grocer).
Cheese dip- generic processed cheese...stuff ($4/Aldi, with some leftover), 1 jar salsa ($.49/salvage grocer), a can of drained tomatoes/chiles ($.25/salvage grocer; drained fluid went into a container in the freezer to make taco soup later), tortilla chips ($1.19/bag at Aldi) and corn chips ($.91/Meijer on a buy 10 at $1, get 1 free sale).
Stuffed pepper/poppers-A combination of jalapeno, padron and Hungarian peppers (free from the farm; seeded and frozen whole), stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese ($.99/Aldi), sour cream ($.99/Aldi), a drained can of tomatoes/chiles and cheddar ($1.99/12 oz at Aldi).
Pan-Fried Corn-sweet corn (frozen when it was on sale for $.10/ear), onion, jalapeno, sour cream, and cheddar cheese powder.
Horchata- horchata mix ($.10/bag), milk ($1.69/gallon) or walnut milk (for the vegans; $.59/quart).
Iced tea-made with store brand tea and white sugar
Coffee - just plain ol Folgers
Cookies - Maple Bacon (from a mix from the salvage grocer $.50 plus a stick of butter and an egg), confetti cake mix cookie (Cake mix was $.50 or less, with oil) and sugar cookie (from mix, $.50, plus egg and butter), cream cheese icing ($.50/jar, manager's special because it had a holiday print on the label). While I would have preferred to make something from scratch, there wasn't time or energy for that.
Churros- $.79 from Aldi

We had a couple folding tables around and threw lace curtains over them as tablecloths. These were curtains that I used to use for staging for my Etsy photos and were briefly used as tablecloths at the booth. We pulled out all the chairs from around the house-lawn chairs, desk chairs, whatever. I repaired a little foot rest to provide one extra seat.

My dad brought his corn hole and hillbilly golf games for us all to play.

I made a slideshow from all my favorite photos from the last ten years. I ended up having 450 photos. We made a playlist on Spotify with our favorite love songs that played in the background. I just set the laptop up on the chest freezer for people to watch. We got a lot of laughs.

There was no rhyme or reason to the event. People showed up when they wanted, left when they wanted. We enjoyed getting to talk with everyone.

All told, we spent around $65 to feed 25 people with so many leftovers we could barely stand it. So the cost per person was $2.60, not factoring leftovers. I have never heard of any caterer charging that price for an event! We used the leftovers as is for a week and the rest were made into soup a couple weeks later which served for another few days. All in, we got around 14 meals for two out of the leftovers, which effectively brings the price-per-meal down to $1.67. Also, when we go out to eat with friends, it is easy to spend $30, so the cost of our event was equivalent to two evenings out.

Entertaining can be done frugally. With a little planning, you can put on a great party without ruining your budget.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 4/24 - 5/7

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 helped me in the garden for a bit. While I dug out some weeds that had popped up in one of the beds, he used the hand-tiller to work the soil up. I planted several things: Detroit Red beets, turnips, Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, White Icicle radishes, Cherry Belle radishes and a row of scallions. Immediately after planting, one of the stray cats started digging. I buried some plastic forks to hopefully deter him. This will be an interesting year for the garden.
* I planted some starts. I'm a little late, but I think it will be ok. I planted Sweet Banana peppers and Christmas Tree peppers, Detroit Red beets, scallions and chives. I had a couple broken seed trays from the farm that were going to be thrown away. A friend of mine gave me some display trays years ago. They were in my attic ever since. I used them for condiments at the party last week (condiments and veggies went in little bowls and I filled in around them with ice). I decided to see how the seed trays fit. They are perfect! They fit in my windowsill perfectly and will keep stray soil from getting everywhere.
* I harvested a lot of sage and some basil from the indoor garden to air dry.
* When I was passively weeding some garden beds, I discovered that a lot of herbs came back strong this year. The rosemary is doing well, a thyme plant is putting on some major growth and I found a massive oregano plant. I'll harvest some of the herbs to dry soon.

* We ate a lot of leftovers.
* We made taco dip to use up some leftovers. We layered mashed beans, shredded pork, fried corn, the last of the stuffed pepper filling mixed with sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, sauteed peppers, onion, cheddar cheese and black olives. We served with tortilla chips.
* I used some of the leftover pork to make BBQ pulled pork wraps. I served with the last of the fried corn and a few stuffed peppers.
* I made some more cilantro lime rice and served with pork and sauteed onions, peppers and scallions. It was a nice basic meal.
* I used the last of the cheese dip and vegetables to make a hamburger helper style dish, using some of the leftover pork (the rest went into the freezer).
* One evening we were both exhausted and I hadn't pulled any meat from the freezer. I was tempted to order out, but stopped at the grocery instead. I found pre-cooked stuffed chicken breasts on sale for $3.99 (for a pound). I went home and tossed that into the toaster oven to reheat, put some grits on the stove top ($.10/box from the salvage grocer) and put a can of green beans on. It all finished up around the same time. It was a simple meal, but satisfying and at $4.48 total (with leftovers!), it was cheaper than any take out option.
* I made sausage gravy and biscuits. I used store brand sausage and canned biscuits. I sauteed a healthy amount of onions and scallions in the grease before making the bechamel. It tastes amazing that way and I rationalize the meal since it has a good dose of veggies.
* The farm stand is open for the year. I stopped by and got some radishes, salad mix and some purple asparagus. I donated what I would have paid at the grocery store. I like getting fresh food (does it get more local than .4 miles from my door?)  and knowing that the money I donated goes to helping feed those in the neighborhood who can't afford to pay.
* I made breakfast one morning before we went out for coffee. I fried a couple of eggs and sliced sausage (1 sausage from a pack of 2 for $1, store brand on sale) and pan fried some grits with a light layer of cheese on the bottom to crisp up. We also had a slice of maple streusel bread ($1/loaf on manager's special) and coffee. It was really good. Several hours later, out of the blue, Trucker mentioned what a nice breakfast I'd made.
* I made stir fry one evening. We brought some pork on manager's special for $4. I cooked rice with a little bouillon since I didn't have any stock. I stir fried random veggies I had on hand: onions, scallions, cabbage, radishes, carrots, green beans and celery. We had enough leftover for two lunches.


* We did a couple of coffee dates, using our travel mugs.
* I booked a vacation for us for this summer. I can't wait! More details to come.
* Daisy and I went out one evening while Trucker was out of town.
* We used the library a lot. Since we got internet at home, we no longer use the library for internet. Our new city doesn't offer museum passes like our old one did and we listen to spotify instead of checking out CDs from the library. That being said, we still get around $9,000+ value from the library each year. The library is one of the most enriching frugal life hacks imaginable. When we lived in Chicago, we used museum passes, internet, magazines and CDs. Our annual use-value back then was over $30,000 (considering we made $15,000/yr, this was amazing).
* We had Daisy and her hubby over for a movie night. I grilled pizza using a boxed pizza crust mix (salvage grocer for $.10/box; used 1 1/3 box), pepperoni, sausage (leftover from breakfast), sauteed onions ($.33/lb from Aldi) and black olives. I par-cooked the crusts in a cast iron skillet on the stove top and let everyone assemble their pizzas as they liked. Then I grilled them with the asparagus from the farm. They brought chips and salsa which we devoured during the movie. We had a great time. I love them so much.
* The antique mall had a party. We spent 4 hours wandering the mall, laughing at weird finds and gasping at the amazing ones. We bought a few items that were useful and affordable.

* We had a glorious day in the woods. We went to a lake down south a bit (the one we hiked around for a bit a couple weeks ago). Trucker spent the afternoon fishing. I brought a chair, blanket and book. It was perfect. I loved having the excuse to spend several hours curled up in nature reading. I loved watching insects scurrying around, listening to frogs splashing into the water and eavesdropping on a couple of birds fighting. It was one of the nicest days I can remember.
* I spent a little time worming. I went out after a rain and was able to catch a dozen or so.
* We had so much fun, that two days later we went back down to the lake to fish again. I packed a picnic and drinks. We froze the fish after cleaning.

* Trucker got a rebate from a website he signed up with. He put the $22 into savings.
I have a collection of dinosaur toys. I displayed them by
my Ray Bradbury books. I think he'd be pleased.
House and Home:
* We had our furnace tuned up. We get free spring and fall tune ups for two years as part of one package when we purchased the furnace.
* At the antique mall, I got a large metal school trash can for $7 and a rugged old feed bucket for $3. We will use the trash can to hold recycling, as our tiny trash cans aren't practical for that. The feed bucket will be hung in the utility room to hold rags.

* Trucker got a new job. I found a listing on a local homesteading and farming group. He is working in the kitchen for a local food business. They ferment and can a variety of vegetables that they get from local farms. He will learn how to can while he works there, so that will be a good skill for us to have. He makes the same pay rate he got at the old job, but this job won't destroy his body like the other one did. It is a set schedule for one day a week. This is perfect. All we need is something to act as a bit of cushion for months when his royalties are lower and to get him out of the house regularly. He doesn't do too well when he is alone 12 hours a day for 5 days a week. He seemed to get along well with his coworkers.
* I took a no pay/penalty day off of work. I'd worked an overtime shift a couple weeks ago and worked some overtime this weekend, so I basically don't lose any pay.
* I ate a packed lunch every day. I brought taco fixins and a bag of tortillas. I kept it in the cooler in the cafeteria (they clean it out every weekend, but it is fine to leave stuff overnight during the week) and heated up what I wanted each day. It makes it much less likely for me to succumb to the cafeteria food if I don't have to think about making lunch at 4 AM.
* Trucker picked up a short shift one day this week.

* Trucker had another audition.
* Trucker filmed this week for his first movie. The director liked him, so he is in a lot of scenes and has prominent placing. We can't wait to see it! He left at 2 in the morning, filmed from 6 AM til 10:30 PM, spent the night at a hotel, then drove 3 hours back and worked a full shift at his job before coming home. Phew!

* Trucker went to the gym fairly frequently and I went a couple of times (I lost track exactly).
* Trucker came down with a cold. He had just finished his round of antibiotics to get rid of a chronic ear infection. It had started to feel OK after several months and now he has an earache again from the cold. Sigh.
* We have both been watching how we eat and drink better.

* Our dryer is fried. We aren't sure what caused it yet (and I haven't had the time to investigate further). The electrician said that it may have been struck by lightning. We will replace it relatively soon, but for now we are line drying clothes. While it is frustrating, it is encouraging to see how far we have come. This won't kill us financially and we have the ability to line dry clothes so we aren't having to cart our clothes off to the laundromat.

* We picked up our piece from the gallery this week. It was so exciting to pick it up and we were glad to buy a piece from a local art student. The gallery framed it for us, which made it an even better bargain. I love this piece. Trucker hung it by the front entrance.

This picture doesn't do it justice. It is an amazingly vibrant piece.
How was your week?
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