Tuesday, February 28, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/13 - 2/26

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 forgot to water my house plants for a bit and may have killed a basil plant. The rest seem to still be okay.
* I spent a good amount of time flipping through seed catalogs deciding what varieties to grow this year. I am not going to go as all out as usual, and may look for more lazy methods, but I am excited to grow. Trucker has said he will help me work it this year since I'm working so much more than usual.

Cooking/Groceries:
* Trucker found an online auction for a restaurant going out of business. He got a HUGE box of oyster crackers, another large box of saltines, and a box of 4 giant bags of decaf coffee. Each box was $1!
* I made a big pot of beans for the work week. I used the last of the ham, two pounds of beans (pinto and kidney), 1 large onion, sauteed, 1 little freezer bag's worth of leeks, and a mix of random spices and condiments (I had a bottle of BBQ sauce that was almost empty, so I added a little of the cooking liquid and shook it up). I plucked some fresh herbs from the indoor garden to top each serving. It was quite nice.
* Trucker made pork stir fry for dinner one night, using broccoli (on sale $.99/lb), celery (half a bunch, at $.69/each at Aldi), baby carrots (half a bag, $.69/1 lb bag at Aldi) and onion. He served it over white rice.
* We had popcorn a few times as our snack. I love the air popper! There are fewer widows and we use so much less oil!
* Trucker bought a loaf of rye sourdough bread on manager's special (large loaf for $1.50). We enjoyed big slices toasted with butter and fried eggs for dinner one day.
* Trucker made me French toast for breakfast one morning. It was amazing. He made extra and cut them into dippers for a work-day lunch.

Fun:
* We went out for a coffee date.
* We went out with a new friend. She taught a philosophy class Trucker took a few months ago. We had a wonderful time and have already been making plans for thrifting and biking.
* When we went out of town for an audition, we stopped at a local coffee house to read for awhile.
* We enjoyed cuddling and watching movies from the library on a couple of lazy evenings when I was exhausted after work. Trucker surprised me by checking out Fern Gully, one of my childhood favorites. It was great to watch it and seeing the origins of certain parts of my personality. The Lorax and Fern Gully were two of my favorites, and as an adult, I have always been conscious of environmental impacts of wanton consumerism.
* We found out about a health talk and free dinner in the suburbs at a restaurant I'd wanted to try. It was put on by a chiropractic practice. It was quite entertaining and informative. The dinner was good. We each had the Angus burger with blue cheese and jalapeno-pineapple glazed bacon on brioche bun with french fries and caesar salad. We got to meet some new people and had a really nice time.
* My parents called one day to say that they were in town with my aunt. The hospital had a ceremony for all the people who had died from cancer at their hospital in 2016. After the services, they met up with us for dinner. It was great to get to talk with them.

Nature:
* We went out for a walk at a park near our home. We did a 2-mile loop, with a few diversions to check out the river. It was perfect weather and we had a wonderful time. We didn't see any animals, but the wild garlic and onions were everywhere! I am always excited when I see that! Another day we did a mile loop on the other side of the park.
* We took a quick, 1 mile out and back late one evening. We may have gone out a little too late, as it was getting dark by the time we got back to the car, but we needed it. We got to see lots of deer along the tree line. It is so magical to watch them.
* One day it was 74 degrees which is terrifying, really, for late February in Ohio. However, we decided to get outside since it was so nice and sitting inside worrying about the future wouldn't change a thing. We went to another metropark near our house. This one is relatively new, so it was still fresh and interesting. We enjoyed walking through the woods along the river. We got in a good 3 miles.

Frugality:
* I needed new jeans, since all of the comfortable and nice pairs I had had been worn to death. I went to a decent thrift store. I got three pairs: $2.99, $1.99 and $1.25. They are all comfortable, fit with my current style and in good condition. I plan to get rid of a few pairs this week, particularly the ones I find uncomfortable or frumpy.

House and Home:
* At the auction, Trucker also got a newspaper stand. After cleaning it, we will use it as a place to store our sheets and pillowcases.
* We bought a really awesome gate at auction. We will likely eventually sell it, but for now it
* We painted the walls in my step-daughter's bedroom. It is a fantastic shade of blue (her favorite color) that is absolutely perfect. A common problem I see with smaller rooms is sticking to white or very light shades, so the room has no character. That is almost as bad a problem as having it too dark and seem smaller. This is a great in-between color and once the furniture and decorations are in, it will be perfect. I remember when we moved in, we didn't have time to paint the living room. It was a dark olive color that I thought looked bad, but once we got our stuff in, I realized that it made my favorite painting pop in a way that no other home had. I am so glad we didn't paint it, as we would have chosen a light color that would have lost that coziness I adore about our living room.
* We spent a whole evening at home working on organizing. We got something to sip on, played Spotify, cleaned and took frequent breaks to laugh, talk or hug. It was a really nice evening.

Work:
* I filled out my forms for background check and had my physical. Now comes the hard part...waiting for the phone call (it can take several months or longer).
* Trucker quit his job. He is so upset and hated to make things complicated for his boss since he liked him so much. However, given his spinal health state, he had no choice. Let the healing begin!

Preparedness:
* Trucker bought us a safe. It is a heavy duty one that is fire and water safe. The regular price was $100, he got it for $20 at auction. We have another that is not as good, but we can use the heavy duty one for the most important items and less important, but still valuable items can be kept in the other one.

Future:
* I am feeling really good about the new job. When my stepdaughter came into my life, it got me thinking about what exactly I really wanted for my future. Before, I'd always had this vague idea of simply wanting to be happy with Trucker. However, since that is such a vague concept, it is hard to grow. I started really thinking about the specifics. Basically, I came up with: enough money to not have to be scared all the time (although certainly a six figure income is not necessary), good health insurance as we age, freedom to explore, travel and try new things, and stability. Beyond that, a lot is still flexible and vaguely thought out. However, this job will provide a living wage, health insurance for both of us (some changes in the political world will likely make this cost more, but at least I won't be facing the loss of health coverage), 4 weeks of paid vacation and 15-17 paid holidays a year mean that I will still have time to travel and live, and while the job is less stable than it was when my dad started 35 years ago, it is still more stable than any job I've had previously.
* Trucker is going to be in his first movie! He is an extra, but this director often pulls out extras he likes to give them roles. He is really excited.
* He also auditioned for a commercial and said he felt it was his best audition yet. I am so proud of him.
* Trucker took an acting class at the art college. It cost more than any class he has taken before, but was an in-depth class put on by all of the big people in the industry in the state. There were a lot of casting agents in attendance as well. He said he took lots of notes.
* We went to the booth a couple times and reworked displays. We have noticed an increase in sales since Trucker has been able to go up more often.

Health:
* The doctor at my physical said I was in great shape and had an incredibly flexible spine (I stretch so much at work in any spare moment that my nickname is Stretch.) She also said that she was proud of all the changes I've made to prevent future ills. It is great to know I am on the right track.
* My resting heart rate was in the upper 80s years ago before I started running. At the physical, it was 74, so I'm doing something right.
* When we went out of town, Trucker insisted on driving (a total of 4 hours on the interstate) so he could make himself get comfortable behind the wheel again.
* Trucker ran with me in 3 or 4 short bursts while we were at the park. He said that by spring he wants us to be jogging together. I really hope this happens. I am always happier with myself when running regularly and I think that some light running would have a great benefit on Trucker's pulmonary and cardiovascular health. (Update: each time we go out for a walk/hike, at some point he takes off running and we go for a short jog).
* Trucker got a Planet Fitness gym membership. We looked into options and decided that this will be a good expense for us. Of course, you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, so it was something we delayed doing for awhile. Here is why we decided to do it: Trucker is at home alone all day while I'm at work. I'm gone for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week (soon, possibly 6). He is struggling some to adjust to being alone so much, but won't go out anywhere because he doesn't want to spend money. We are hoping that the gym membership will help by getting him out of the house and the exercise will help him with mood and motivation. The gym membership is $20/month (and a $40/year fee, so essentially $23.34/month). It is just 2 miles from home, so hopefully he will be able to go often to get out of the house. He has done so much in the past year to improve his health, despite some challenges and now that he isn't working at the auction house, he wants to make sure he doesn't lose fitness. Of course, he won't push himself past his limits. The perks to the membership are: unlimited gym use at any location (so he can use it when we travel as well), unlimited use of a massage chair (this will be nice as he continues to heal from the accident), and free hair cuts (at $12/month for a hair cut, this drops the effective price to $11.34/month. Also, he is able to take 1 guest a day for free, so I will basically get a free membership. My time is very limited these days, so I wouldn't go by myself anyway. We plan to meet up after work some days, and one day each weekend start our morning out with a brief workout. I am excited to be able to run without fear.
* Trucker is still going to the chiropractor. He was going 3 times a week for 3 weeks and will go twice a week for the next two weeks, then monthly after that. He seems to be improving physically, and it seems that is helping him emotionally.
* We learned a lot at the health lecture/sales pitch. I don't know that we would go to that practice, but we get a good amount of information to think on. Since then, I've been more conscious about my posture, and how it changes throughout the day (my posture is perfect the first quarter of the day, then diminishes as the day progresses) and have been stretching even more. We have had some discussions about when in particular we struggle with depression most. One thing we noticed was that we both tend to struggle more on days when we work at home on the computer, regardless of whether we are online and thus being exposed to the news. We talked about posture and whether hunching over as we work impacts us. I know if we go out for coffee and work on our computers, I don't struggle as much with the mood issues. However, when we are in public, I don't slouch as I do at home. These are very interesting things to consider.
Setbacks:
* I made a silly goof that had me incredibly stressed out for a bit. The day before my physical and drug test, I pulled an Elaine Benes. I ate a lemon poppy seed muffin for lunch. As I took the last bite, the scene flashed in my mind. I pulled up a government website that said that poppy seeds....can totally make you fail a drug test. Oh no! My boss ended up calling medical and they said I didn't have anything to worry about since I hadn't eaten enough. Phew, but sheesh.

How was your week?

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 1/30 - 2/12

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 found seeds at the dollar store and bought tons. They were $1/4! I got: radishes (4 types), basil, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, parsley, sage, eggplant, kale, spinach, mustard spinach, chives, scallions and several packs of flowers. Even if germination isn't great, at that price, it was worthwhile.

Cooking/Groceries:
* Trucker was having trouble sleeping one night and decided to get up around 2:30. At 4:00, he woke me up with breakfast in bed: scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. It was the absolutely perfect way to start the day before heading to work.
* One evening, Trucker made a quick dinner of pasta and tomato sauce with onion. Another, we ate slow cooker lasagna from the frig.
* I made popcorn for a snack. I flavored mine with a zesty dip mix that was really good ($.05/ pack at salvage grocery; I use about 1/8 the packet each time).
* I found some manager's specials: a huge ham for $14 (usually $18), cereal for $1, pasta for $.50.
* Trucker made me a lovely dinner one evening: leftover ham, green beans (from storage), baked potato and salad. It was so wonderful to walk in and get to eat a yummy dinner.
* Trucker bought some manager's special muffins for me to use as work breakfasts/lunches. It was such a sweet thing. I am constantly thankful for him.
* We stopped by a salvage grocer. We found some great bargains: $3/12 oz decaf coffee, $1.50 for 12 oz coffee or coffee/chicory blend (5), 10 packs of zesty dip seasoning for $1 (I use this for my popcorn), 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes for $.20 each, 3 cans of pigeon peas for $.20 each, 5 bottles of BBQ sauce at $.25 each, 1 bottle of tartar sauce for $.25, a 2-litre of Nicaraguan soda for $.79 (we don't often have soda at home, but when we do I like to try something different), 2 jars of caviar for $4.98 each (the price has gone up at this salvage grocer, but we still consider it an acceptable price for a luxury item we enjoy and stretch), 2 bottles of magic shell chocolate sauce for $.50 each, 4 jars of pasta sauce for $.99 each ($1.25 is the sale price of the thin, weird store-brand pasta sauce; this sauce was a moderately good brand), 3 jars of pickled peppers for $.79 each, 1 can olives for $1.19, meat tenderizer for $1.99, 2 jars of dijon mustard for $.50 each and 1 can corn for $.50. We have found that sometimes items are much higher than at regular stores, sometimes we can get nicer brands for the same price as cheaper items are Aldi, and sometimes we find outrageous deals. The important thing is to know our prices well enough to know whether to stock up, or even buy an item at all.

Fun:
* We went on a few coffee dates.
* We met up with some of our friends one evening. We had a wonderful time talking with everyone. When I was at the farm, I worked every Tuesday evening, so we weren't able to go out with everyone. I'd forgotten just how refreshing these evenings are.
* We went out for sundaes McDonald's one day, $2.79 date.
* We took a day trip. I had to go out of town for a job interview. Trucker decided to come out with me. Sometimes part of the interview can happen in the morning, then more happens later in the day, so he didn't want to miss out on our entire day off together. He went to a Tim Horton's for the 3 hours I was in the interview and read a book. After I got back, we went to a small town that I'd been wanting to visit with him. We explored two antique stores and a thrift store. Trucker got a pair of pants for $2.50 and I got a bunch of cookbooks to read. We used our Entertainment book to get BOGO pizzas at a local shop ($10 for two). It was a frugal trip and we had a great time, as we always do.

Nature:
* One evening we went for a stroll in a historic neighborhood and oogled elaborate porches, stained glass and landscaping. It was ridiculously warm for February  (almost 60) and it had rained earlier so the air was fresh.
There really aren't words.

Frugality:
* Trucker bought some shorts at a thrift store for $2-3 each pair. He is now set for summer clothes. He also got a t-shirt for his daughter (as a gift later this year; new with tags $5). I got a flannel for $.75.
* I used the rewards balance from buying the furnace to pay down the credit card. The return was around $50 back.
* I bought a popcorn popper at a thrift store. Ours broke years ago, so I've just been making it on the stove top. That is all well and good, but we are concentrating on our health more now, and stove top popcorn uses a fair amount of oil to pop, and then we add butter so our flavorings of choice stick. I decided I wanted to get an air popper to save calories/fat. I found one for $2. The handle on the measuring cup is broken off, but it seems to work okay.

House and Home:
* Trucker painted the ceiling in my step-daughter's bedroom. Next step is the walls and trim. Then we can start setting it up!

Work:
* I packed a lunch each day I worked.
* We have some extra days off scheduled for the year. They are optional days off. If you chose to work, they have you do some pretty boring work, but you get paid. We talked about it and decided that i will take most of them off. It has been a rough adjustment to me being home for 60 hours a week after working a half mile from home, so this will give us somegood time together. Also, I am.earning more than I have in a very long time so even with a small loss of income, we wil be ok.  It really comes down to the whole 'whoever died regretting they didn't work more?' thing.
* I had a job interview for a better position at my company. It went well and I have a conditional offer. It can take up to a year before you get the position, or it can happen in two weeks. We will see. If I do get the job, it is more money, but I go to second shift. If I don't get it for awhile, I'll make less money, but get more time with Trucker and get to keep my team longer. Either way, I win.
* My dad and I helped Trucker out at his job (his boss was out of town and said he could hire other help if need be) since it was so overwhelming and he was hurting.

Preparedness:
* I took a free Krav Maga self defense class. My friend is training to be an instructor and he was helping with the class. It was a great way to get a little training and start building that muscle memory. The class happens every month, so I plan to go more often.

Health:
* Trucker is struggling a lot with being extremely sore from his job. His work load has tripled and at this point is far beyond his sustainable level. We will get him into a chiropractor. He also talked with his boss about the reality of how he feels after his accident. Hopefully the job situation improves.
* He has also started dealing with the emotional side of his accident.The first month after the accident, he was bed ridden. The next month he was struggling physically and trying to get back into life. Only in the last couple of weeks has he been really facing some of the mental aspects of the ordeal. He's struggling with driving (although he is driving now) and thoughts resulting from coming close to death. I am encouraged that he is working through things, even if it isn't easy.
This doll obviously has evil intentions.
* Updates...Trucker went to the chiropractor and got his x-rays and, well, things aren't too good. He apparently has a broken jaw (How? I don't know. They said it has healed wrong), his spine is a bit of a wreck, his hips are off, and he has arthritis in his neck and back. They don't want him to go back to work because of how messed up everything is after the accident, and now two months of extreme strain from the job. So, for now, we have him set up on a chiropractic schedule and I'm going to research arthritis care. We have more work to do, but I think we are at a good place. Trucker was having a really hard time, and seems to be better now. I think knowing the cause of the pain and knowing that there are things that can be done to help has to be encouraging after being afraid that he was always going to be feeling like this. My mom is awesome and is making phone calls to friends of hers with arthritis who have been able to recover their quality of life.

Setbacks:
* Obviously, we have some real changes coming financially due to Trucker's work situation. However, we have had a good talk about finances and frugal tactics to implement.  He will also work more at business things now that he has time and hopefully that will make up a good portion of the difference. I also have another job lined up for him if/when he recovers.

Community:
* My dad came out to help us at Trucker's job one day.

How was your week?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Veggie Snack Box

Trucker and I are both prone to rampant snacking. Generally this is when we are either bored or hungry but too lazy to cook anything. During those times, it is all too easy to grab chips, candy or cookies. And we all know how easy it is to snarf down a while tin of Pringles in one sitting (just me?).
Daikon and watermelon radishes,
celery, purple/orange carrots
As a preventative measure I've started prepping vegetables for easy snacking. This takes the effort out of prep during those lazy moments. Simply cut everything into an acceptable snack-sizes pieces. I like to do this while doing meal prep since I already have all the tools out and am in a groove. It takes an extra minute to wash a few extra stalks of celery or chop a couple extra carrots into coins.
Tiny French Breakfast radishes can be kept whole after trimming

I use whatever I grow or whatever I find cheap. At farmer's markets and farm stands, the best bet is to get whatever is in peak season. If everyone has it, the price will be lower than if it is an early harvest. Aldi often has great bargains on produce (I often find $.25 cukes). A "foodie" grocery in my area is kind of pricey, but they have outrageous produce bargains to get you in the door (things like $.50 bunches of radishes). Sales at the regular grocery store can yield good results. If your store has a manager's special produce rack, definitely check it out; just make sure the items aren't too far past their prime. Also check the prepped produce section. I often find fantastic prices this way and the work is already done! Buy items however they are cheapest. Sometimes I find that baby carrots are half the price per pound compared to full carrots; other times it is the opposite. Sometimes the cleaned, topped and bagged radishes are cheaper than the bunches with tops; other times I buy the bunches and use the tops in my cooking greens. The important thing is flexibility. Use whatever is cheapest that you like and get a good variety so you get a broad spectrum of nutrients.
Hakurei turnips, purple carrots
white radishes

We use a wide variety and the mix is always changing: radishes, celery, cherry/grape tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, hakurei turnips, cucumbers, certain summer squashes, sweet peas, young green beans (this was my favorite snack as a kid on the farm. My parents always planted the green beans next to the corn. My friend and I would hide in the cornrows and sneak the beans as soon as they were a few inches long. My parents never knew why all their beans did well except that one row, every year), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, mushrooms, baby corn, scallions, kohlrabi, winter squash (I still don't know why more people don't snack on this raw. It has great texture and incredible taste), parsnips, or even chioggia or touchstone beets (don't use the traditional red beets as they stain everything, including your fingers).

Cherry tomatoes, vine ripened, are the ultimate snack food.
I keep most items mixed together in a container in the refrigerator. The exception to this is tomatoes. I refuse to use tomatoes larger than a large cherry since those require refrigeration after cutting and refrigerated tomatoes are an abomination. Tomatoes are washed and then kept in a cute shallow bowl on the counter.

It is more convenient to grab one of these containers and head back to the desk rather than to get a bag of chips (which I conveniently keep at the very top shelf near the ceiling so it can barely be reached without fetching a step stool). If we are going to take a road trip, we grab a large container and will easily hit our 3-5 servings by the time we arrive at our destination. Sometimes we will pile a bunch of items on a plate and watch a movie, while munching on crunchy snacks that aren't loaded with salt and fat. It also helps if I am making dinner in a hurry. The veggies are all chopped to roughly the same size, so it is nothing to toss into a skillet to saute and  serve over rice or pasta, toss into stock for an easy soup, or toss with olive oil and seasoning for a quick side of roast veg.

Our epic date night snack while playing board games:
 lunchbox peppers, Hakurei turnips, purple carrots,
 pickled Jimmy Nardello peppers, watermelon radishes,
cheddar cheese,  some caviar we found for a whopping $1.99
at the salvage grocer and  some store brand crackers.
This has helped us get a lot more produce into our diet, while at the same time reducing the unhealthy snacks that are too easy to indulge in. I've also found that since we use items we grow or find cheaply, it is much cheaper than any other snack food. We love the convenience and knowing that we are actively creating a healthier future with lower medical bills.
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