Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money THREE WEEKS 7/1 - 7/23

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.
Thanks for your continued understanding as my hectic schedule keeps me from updating as often as I'd like.

* I harvested tons of herbs from the garden.
* I harvested 75 heads of garlic. Some weren't huge, but overall I'm happy with my harvest. I have it curing on the patio and will bring it in when it is to rain.
* I'm harvesting a lot of peppers, mainly banana and Hungarian hot wax, but also some padrons and serranos. No bell peppers yet, but I wasn't expecting those to do well (I do regret buying bell pepper starts since my garden doesn't seem to grow large peppers well).
* I've been harvesting cherry tomatoes almost daily, just a few, but enough to enjoy.

* We got more free sauerkraut. This time it was kimchi. I love this perk.
* I made shakshouka for dinner one day. I can't believe I waited to make this. It is basically just eggs poached in tomato sauce, but oh my goodness. I had some tomato sauce in the freezer from last year (free tomatoes from the farm, cooked down without seasoning and frozen) that I cooked down further with half a large onion, sliced thin and sauteed with a small head of garlic. I added Worcestershire, a healthy pinch of paprika, some chile powder, salt and pepper. Once it was cooked down enough, I added some oregano, thyme and marjoram from the garden and added the eggs. Once they were poached (I did overcook them a little, so the yolks were firm, but in my defense it was my first time poaching an egg), I added a healthy handful of basil from the garden. While it is traditionally served over toast, we had it over spaghetti since I didn't have any decent bread. It was phenomenal. It will definitely get into the regular rotation. I've been trying to use more seasoning in cooking and this well-seasoned tomato sauce explodes with flavor. The eggs provide plenty of protein for a great vegetarian meal that is cheap and hearty.
* I hit the motherload. Awhile back a coworker of mine told me about this wholesaler at the airport that sold to the public. The schedule didn't really line up with mine, so I just got around to hitting it and I'm so glad I did! In addition to a decent selection of produce, meat, cheese and imported goods, they also had a clearance section. These were items that were intended to sell to restaurants, but that were slightly past their prime. They were already cleaned and in some cases prepped. There were also less-pretty items at a steep discount. I got a half gallon of half and half ($1), a half gallon of heavy whipping cream ($1), several pounds of broccoli (cleaned and cut into florets) for $2, a giant bag (10-15 pounds) of green beans for $.99, local tomatoes at $1.49/lb, 4+ lbs of jalapenos for $1, and several pounds of celery (cleaned and cut into sticks). I also got jumbo brown eggs from a local Amish farm for $2.50/dozen. Some other goodies I saw but didn't purchase: a giant bag (probably close to 5 lbs) of cilantro for $.99, lemons for $.10, oranges for $.20, grapefruit for $.33, mangoes for $.50, giant butternut squash for $1, canner tomatoes $5/15 lbs, and onions $15/25 lbs. I do plan on going back for some onions to caramelize for the freezer.
* I made stock with produce scraps and some bones from the freezer. I used strained and frozen tomato juice from last year when I made tomato sauce. That added a lot of flavor and was perfect for beef stew. I used the bones in a second batch of stock with fresh veggie scraps. The second (and third and forth) batches of stock with bones aren't very flavorful, but there's still some nutritional value as the bones continue to break down. Often for later batches, I'll add some bouillon cubes for flavor.
* I used my first batch of stock to make a beef vegetable soup. I seared some beef with onions, then added garlic, garlic scapes, carrots, celery and patty pan squash. It cost around $3.50 and was enough for 6 meals.
* I made shrimp scampi. How have I not been doing this before? (This seems to be the question of the week). I didn't really use a recipe, but it turned out great. I found frozen shrimp for $4 at Aldi, added half a box of angel hair pasta (manager's special for $.50, so $.25 for the recipe), used half a stick of butter ($.65), half an onion ($.15), a small head of garlic (free from the garden; next time I'll use more), parsley (free from the garden). basil (free from the garden) and 1/3 bottle white wine. The wine was one we got on vacation. (Once you factor in the coupon, it cost $5. However, once we got home, it just didn't taste right. Slightly vinegary. Not unbearably bad, but not pleasant to drink. Rather than dump it down the drain, I used most of the bottle in stock making in place of vinegar.) It worked really well in the scampi, although using a Niagara wine in a Italian dish was far from authentic. So, since the wine would have been dumped if I didn't decide to use it in cooking, I'm not factoring the price in (I made scampi as a way to use the wine instead of throwing it away). The cost was a hair over $5 and was enough for 5 meals.
* We had popcorn as a snack.
* I made roasted chicken (manager's special) with roasted veggies (beets, carrots, potatoes, garlic and onion) for dinner one night. We pan seared shishito peppers  as our appetizer. It was amazing.
* On "National Ice Cream Day" we bought half gallons of ice cream for $.99.

Food Preservation:
* I froze some half and half in ice cube trays to use small amounts to add creaminess to soups, colcannon, mashed potatoes or other dishes.
* I froze all the remaining celery and garlic scapes. I sliced the celery and froze on cookie sheets before bagging. The scapes were simply chopped and bagged.
* I chopped too much basil for the scampi so I put it in a small container, covered with water and froze. That will get chucked into some soup at some point.

* Vacation week!!!
* We took a weekend trip to Niagara falls. We stayed on the American side because I didn't want to spend the extra money on passports. It was a wonderful time. We used to reserve our room and earned a free night to use later. I used the Entertainment book to save money on dinner and outings. We went to the Aquarium of Niagara using a BOGO coupon and got to see a sea lion show. We went on a lot of hikes and got up close and personal with the falls. We'd thought about going on the Cave of the Winds tour, but neither of us felt like getting wet. We explored the ruins of the Schoellkopf power station and rode the elevator down. We also went on the Niagara winery tour and sampled some yummy wines (Niagara is my favorite grape, so I was happy). Our entertainment book got us some BOGO coupons on tastings and bottles, which dropped the price considerably. We went cherry picking and paid about the same price as cherries cost at the store, but they were super fresh. On the way home we stopped at a farmers' market on the Seneca reservation. I got banana bread, a mini rhubarb pie and sour cherries. It was a nice little trip and short enough that I still got ample time to have fun at home as well.
* We went to a billiard hall and used a BOGO coupon to get two hours of play for $8. I'm terrible at pool, but determined to learn and Trucker is patient as he teaches me.
* We earned a bunch of coupons for participating in our library's summer reading program: BOGO movie theatre, BOGO burritos at Chipotle, free cookies, coupon for a local pizzeria and a bbq joint, and a free book from the Friends of the Library sale.
* I'll definitely continue to purchase entertainment books. Whether for a vacation destination or our home city, we get our money's worth every time.
* We had a beer tasting with a few friends one evening. Everyone brought a few beers that we all sampled and some snacks. We had a lovely evening of laughing and talking.
* We used one of the Chipotle coupons for dinner while out one day. We get the bowls and a tortilla on the side so we can make the size burrito we want (restaurant portions are way too much). We had enough leftover to make enchiladas the next day and that provided another 3 meals.
* My family was on vacation for longer than we were. My grandpa stayed home and we knew he would be lonely since he usually goes to my mom's house for dinner every night. We drove out and took him out for Bob Evans for dinner. Trucker had a BOGO coupon and Grandpa was excited to get a chicken pot pie. I just wanted a salad. Trucker ordered a meal and it cost $1 extra to get a second side and $.50 to upgrade it to a salad, so for $1.50 I got the $3 salad I wanted. We were all full and content. Afterwards, he took us on a tour around town to show us where he grew up and all the buildings he had built in the area (He was a brick mason for 50 years because he is amazing). It was a perfect evening. We brought him gifts: sauerkraut (free as a job perk; he LOVES sauerkraut), banana bread (from our trip) and a DVD set of 50 war movies that Trucker got for $.50 at a garage sale. Grandpa is a big history buff and was so excited about the set and kept exclaiming the titles of the movies and said he was going to put a disk in as soon as we left and have the banana bread with some milk. It just goes to show that you can make someone's whole day without spending much; thought and care is the important thing.
* We went fossil hunting, using a BOGO coupon, $9 total. We found a ton of crinoids, corals, brachiopods and trilobites. It was such a fun day and I checked something off my bucket list!
* We spent a day with my parents, sisters and bro-in-laws at the lake near my parents house. We had a wonderful picnic, fished and swam. It was marvelous.

* One day we went to a local arboretum. We had a lovely time walking around the gardens. They had a canopy tour that was amazing. Afterwards we climbed an 8-story tower for some spectacular views.
* We were in awe at the falls and loved walking up and down river to see the multitude of smaller falls. It was great getting to see new flowers that don't grow in our state.
* Trucker has been loving the bird feeders by the office window.
* We enjoyed a walk at the audobon. We loved watching turtles by the river.

* We bought some allergen protection covers for our pillows, but once we opened the package they were really loud and uncomfortable. We returned them and had the money put back into our account. That saved us $9. We returned them when we were already going to be next door to the store.
* Trucker signed up for the loyalty program at Meijer. We already got $7 off purchases and have coupons for $1 off a future purchase and a free head of lettuce.

House and Home:
* I reorganized my clothes. I don't really have a good system (and never have found one that works since we moved in), so I'm trying again. Without a good system that works for me, my clothes live on a chair until I wear them again and the drawers/closet are just filled with the things I don't like as much. I took everything out of the dresser, got rid of a good 1/4 of those items and separated out the items that fit but are too worn to wear in general or to donate. I'll have a drawer dedicated to chore clothes and will wear them til they fall apart.
* Trucker tackled the scary tupperware cabinet. It was terrifying, really. He separated out each type of container and then I went through everything and threw out food containers we didn't need (I had a ton of large yogurt tubs that I used to save back when I didn't have a tupperware set that included large containers) and items without matches (I still had 3 containers from my old tupperware set, but 12 lids!).
* I put all of our fossils from our adventure and put them in a pretty bowl in the entrance. I had previously had a bunch of pine corns and acorns in the bowl, but I moved those into a little metal bucket that now sits on a shelf.

* It's summer break from work, so I have been enjoying some much needed time off. I go back for a couple days and then get another long weekend. We get a break in July and another for the winter holidays. So basically about the time you are burning out, you get a nice, long break to revive.
* The countdown is on for starting second shift. Two more weeks.
* Friday was my last day with my coworkers. It was a really sad day. They are really amazing, just some of the best people you could ever hope to know, let alone work with. I'll miss them a lot.However, I do know that I am making a smart choice and am looking forward to the new job next week.

* Next week I start my new job! I can't wait. This will give us security and a future, so I'm happy.

* We have gotten back in the habit of hitting the gym regularly. I'm mainly concentrating on my arms and cardio. Trucker didn't go while we were on vacation, and then got a cold, so he had to ease back into it.
* I got a cold the weekend before I start the new job! Oh no! While I usually try not to use medicine unnecessarily, I will definitely use something to make training tolerable (and me less gross to my new coworkers!).

* Daisy is an absolutely amazing friend. When we were out of town, she took care of all of the fur babies. It was comforting to know they were alright (and the house wasn't burned down!). I am continually thankful for her (and her hubby's!) friendship. Making friends as a grown-up is awkward and more than a little hard which makes it all the more special that we found them.
* I left her a few little goodies: sauerkraut, garlic scapes from the garden, some extra cukes from the farm stand, sriracha ketchup and a basil transplant. I potted up the basil into a little pot I already had. I also brought her a goody from our trip.
* Daisy left me a few little gifts for when I got back: a candle with a lovely quote about friendship, some teenage mutant ninja turtles stickers (Because she knows me well!) and a trash can for the bathroom. Daisy has one of the best eyes for decor and is my inspiration when it comes to crafts and decor. I've been decorating my main bathroom in a sunset on the beach theme. Everything was looking pretty nice and I considered it almost finished, other than wanting to replace bathtub knobs and the sink. The only problem was that I still had the terrible kokopelli trash can we got when we first moved in together. Daisy bought a basic white trash can at the dollar store and wrapped it in twine. It ends up being a beautiful, simple trash can that oozes beach charm. I love how she can take basic materials and make a fantastic piece that is exactly what you needed.
How was your week?


  1. I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and it is wonderful! Ive read all your archived posts and have learned a lot. With 6 children my goal has always been better quality & affordable food and ive learned several tips from u on not wasting anything in the kitchen. Thanks so much and God bless.

    1. Thank you so much! It is so encouraging to hear that you enjoyed it and found useful tips. :)


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