Monday, March 27, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 3/20 - 3/26

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.
The grape hyacinths are back! It's really spring!

Gardening:
* I (finally) placed my seed order. I go in with my dad and sister each year so we all save on shipping and split some packets. My varieties for this year: Sweet Pickle (peppers, also known as Christmas Tree), Salad Bowl (loose-leaf lettuce), Red Sails (loose-leaf lettuce), Thai Oakleaf (loose-leaf lettuce), Kentucky Wonder Pole (beans). Dad and sis got Cherry Belle (radishes), Bloomsdale (spinach), Silver Queen (sweet corn), Cherokee (popcorn), and Homemade Pickles (cucumber). I will buy some seedlings this year since I don't have a good setup for growing them this year. I also want to use up some of my old seeds as well as the outrageous surplus I bought at the dollar store a month ago.
* I cleared out all of the dead plant material from the front garden beds, being careful to avoid  spots that may still have poison ivy (I'm relieved to say, that after immediately coming in, tossing the clothes into the wash, showering and scrubbing my hands and arms excessively, I seem to have escaped unscathed).
* I took care of the compost for the year. Most of the material had broken down quite nicely, but not all. I dumped one of the bins directly onto the garden bed that has had the least amendments added. I put all of the dead plant material from the front into this bin. Since I couldn't compact it, it came to almost the top of the bin. I'd forgotten to drill holes in one of the bins last fall, so when I opened it, I found a soupy mess. I shoveled a lot of the soup into the bin with the the plant material. Once it was empty enough to move without sloshing onto myself, I moved it to another garden bed and dumped it out. The third bin was the one we were currently adding to. I shoveled the un-composted material into the first bin to continue cooking; as the compost breaks down, I'll have space for more material. I used the rest of the bin to cover the remainder of the two beds. Later, I'll spread out the rabbit droppings to cover that bed and possibly half of another. I was overall rather happy with the compost. It was rich and, with the exception of the soupy bin, had great texture. It got me excited again to compost.
* I loved being able to get out into the garden again and start working. I was delighted to see that two little rosemary plants appear to be alive still, although I don't know how they could have survived the sub-freezing temps we had a handful of times.

Cooking/Groceries:
* I made a massive batch of colcannon with potatoes from Aldi ($.20/lb), cabbage from Kroger for a St. Patrick's Day sale ($.25/lb), carrots from Aldi ($.99/lb), onion from Aldi ($.33/lb) and milk. Trucker fried up a batch of bacon. We used about 3 oz in the colcannon and saved the rest for other meals.
* Trucker made me breakfast one morning when he hadn't been able to sleep the night before. He made eggs and served with leftover colcannon and rye toast.
* I stopped at the store for a few items. One I needed was bulk popcorn. I always hit the clearance section first. Lo and behold: a 4 lb bag of popcorn for $1.99 (the best I usually find is $.99/lb). I also got a large can of clam chowder ($.79), some marrow bones (over 2 lbs for $1.39), ground hamburger for $2.39/lb and asparagus for $.99/lb.
* I made stock from the marrow bones.
* Trucker made tacos for us one evening. It was amazing. I could eat tacos every day. Trucker isn't as crazy about them as me, so I took the leftovers to work with me. I kept the container in the work frig and carried a bag of tortillas in my work bag! It was perfect and made my mornings easier since I didn't have to pack a lunch. I also couldn't be tempted by cafeteria pizza since I had a good meal (I'll chose tacos over pizza any day).
* I made vegetarian stir fry one day served over rice cooked in stock. The stir fry was a use-it-up type dish: onions, carrots, radishes, loads of cabbage, mushrooms (manager's special) and scallions (frozen, free seconds from the farm). I made extra to use for lunches.
* The next morning for breakfast I heated up some of the leftovers and served an over-easy egg on top for my breakfast. Trucker doesn't do leftovers for breakfast like I do. For him, I pan fried some colcannon and served with two over-easy eggs and a slice of bacon (leftover). Quick, easy and cheap.
* I made grilled pizza one day. We have some whole-grained, packaged mix ($.10 from the salvage grocery). It isn't amazing, to say the least. It is also incredibly filling since it is whole grain. This time, I made a batch, then used half as much dough for each pizza as usual. This ended up being perfect. The bland crust wasn't as much a distraction as usual and the texture was better. I pressed the crusts into cast iron skillets, then cooked til golden, flipped, and cooked the second side til golden. I assembled the pizzas (leftover sausage, leftover bacon, caramelized onions from the freezer and black olives) and placed them directly on the grill grates. This was amazing. I also grilled a pound of asparagus ($.99/lb from Kroger, around 1.75lbs). I am trying to make a more concerted effort to get a high level of vegetables in our diet (I've slipped since leaving the farm), so I check the sales prices at the grocery store and we eat a surplus of whatever is cheap.

Food Preservation:
* In looking at my stores, I have realized something. Now that I am crazy busy, I am much more likely to use frozen items than dehydrated items. My freezer stores are largely empty (there's some tomato sauce, greens, carrots, beets and some scallions), but my dehydrated stores are mostly intact. The main reason for this, I think, has been that Trucker makes meals for me when I'm working, and he is intimidated by dehydrated veg so he uses fresh. When I do cook, it is usually quick meals like stir-fry or pasta dishes for which I can simply dump frozen items into the pan. I had anticipated making more soups this year and I think I only did twice. I'd thought dehydrated items would be dumped in the slow cooker with stock and ready when I got home, but I'm too rushed in the morning to do so. This year, I will concentrate more efforts on freezing food as a convenience, given that I'm gone 60 hours a week for work.

Fun:
My sister's cat had kittens. It has taken unbelievable willpower
to resist bringing home a little brother or sister for Ray.
* We went out with our film club to see The Founder. We all went out to dinner first. We had a BOGO coupon and meals were $8. The movie theatre is a second-run theatre, so tickets were $1.25 each. Unfortunately, we were told that it will be converted into a first-run theatre next month.
* We watched movies and read books from the library.
* We did a number of coffee dates. Once, we got a free coffee with our rewards card.

Nature:
* We enjoyed a 3.8 mile walk at a local park. It wasn't the most thrilling park, but we had a good time. We enjoyed bird watching and watching an adorable squirrel with a nut in its mouth running around the trail like crazy.

Frugality:
* I picked up my car from my cousin. He replaced the belts, water pump, back rotors and brake pads. Parts cost $200; he charged $60 for labor.
* I picked up my earnings from the cancer thrift store/consignment. I've made $10 so far. It isn't much, but I would have otherwise donated the items anyway. Any items that don't sell become property of the thrift store. I love being able to support this cause while clearing out the house.
* We stopped at a thrift store that was having half off on sleeveless shirts. I tried on dozens, but found none that fit, were comfortable, fit with my overall style and were not too similar to items that I already have. I have become very picky about clothes, mainly because I have a really hard time getting rid of items once I own them so I am being preventative. I did, however, find two dresses, both half-off tags. One was a really nice asymmetrical dress that will be perfect for going to concerts. The other is a more fun, summer dress. I paid $5 and $2, respectively.

Waste Reduction:
* I used veggie scraps in my stock. I also tossed in some egg shells for a little calcium boost. I saved the marrow bones to use for a second batch. This batch won't be as tasty, but will still have a decent nutritive benefit. I'll use the less flavorful stock to cook rice rather than to make soup, where good flavor is more imperative. If I do decide to make soup, a few beef bouillon cubes will make a passable broth.
* We composted some things, mainly coffee grounds and the strained veggie scraps and egg shells from stock making.

House and Home:
* Trucker rearranged our bedroom. During the winter, we like to sleep on an inside wall away from the windows so we can keep the heat lower since we aren't exposed to drafts. Now the bed is right in front of one of the windows were we can enjoy that breeze and keep the air conditioning costs lower. Plus, it is always nice to have a fresh arrangement.
* I went through some of my clothes and set aside several pieces.
* Trucker sold some bulky items on OfferUp.
* Trucker found a toilet roll reserve holder on auction. It is made of metal star fish and perfectly matches the room. It was usually $20, he got it for $1.50.
* One day while I was at work Trucker did the first coat on the trim in my stepdaughter's room (hereto called Panda, because she isn't just some stepdaughter). On Sunday afternoon, we did the second coat of paint on the walls and worked on painting door frames and the window. It is starting to come together. When we went thrifting, he found a beautiful little shadowbox display that will go perfectly. I am so excited. What I want most is that when she sees the room, she knows how much we love her and want her in our lives.

Work:
* We were let go early each day this week.
* I packed a lunch each day, except one.
* This was my last week of small paychecks.

Future:
* Awhile back I shut down my Etsy store. It was taking too much time for the return. This week, I guess it became official. I started pricing my Etsy items for the antique booth. Clear em out.

Health:
Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 16
Me: 6
* I took a mental health evening. After I got home from work, I went straight up to bed, getting out only long enough to take a bubble bath. I felt much better the next day.
* Starting towards the end of last week, I've been pretty sore. Everyone says that when you start this job, you can barely walk for a couple months and I have been fit as a fiddle the entire time. Now it has hit me.
Community:
* Trucker was going through his comics and set aside a dozen or so to give my coworker. He is an amazing dad to two little boys and one of them loves comics.
* My sister wanted to do something special for Trucker for his one-year anniversary for quitting smoking. She got a calendar and put 365 stickers on it, one for each day he didn't smoke. She bought him some nice coffee and the ingredients for a chocolate cake, which my cook/baker sister made. It was so kind.
* My dad gave me some gym equipment to use at home to help with my soreness. It is a duplicate of a machine he uses that has helped him a lot for the last few years (this one was given to him by my brother-in-law). I'm excited to try it and see if it works for me too.

How was your week?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money 3/13 - 3/19

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 more herbs from the indoor garden. I really do love having instant access to fresh herbs whenever I want them. The oregano plant was looking pretty rough for awhile, but has exploded with new growth. The basil plants are barely growing, but I can harvest occasionally. The sage plant is pretty huge.
* Two pepper plants are alive and two are dead. One of the live ones put on a heavy load of flowers. I picked them off this time, but I think it will do well this season.

Cooking/Groceries:
* Trucker made pasta for dinner one night. He added leftover sausage and onion to the sauce. Served with garlic toast made from bakery manager's special bread.
* We made popcorn for snacking.
* Trucker made BLTs one evening. He used bacon we got on manager's special for $1.29/12 oz, iceberg lettuce (aldi, $.99/head), tomatoes (aldi, $.99/lb) and jalapeno rolls (manager's special, $1/8 pack). While BLTs are best in summer, it was still a lovely treat. We saved half the bacon to use in other meals.
* I found eggs on sale at Aldi for $.69/dozen. I bought two dozen although I had two dozen at home already. When I got home, I used boiled the older two dozen. We used those for snacking and breakfast.
* One day I made goldenrod eggs and used about 8 eggs. This time, I sauteed half an onion in the bacon fat before making the roux so I could pretend the meal had some redeeming nutritive benefits.

Fun:
* We stayed in and watched movies from the library and napped one evening. After everything that has been going on, it was perfect to get to finally relax.
* We went out and shot a couple games of pool one evening. I'm not very good, but want to learn. Trucker was patient in teaching me.
* We went out with my sister and her boyfriend for coffee at Panera. We brought our travel mugs to get a discount. We had such a good time. They are a lot of fun, and we have good conversations.
* We went to Half Price Books with half off coupons. We each got one book. Mine was Gene Logsdon's The Contrary Farmer. He got a philosophy book by an author he really enjoys.
* We took my parents out for ice cream. There is a local place with my parent's last name, so I thought it would be fun to take them there. We had two BOGO coupons, so we each paid for one of them. Total cost: $10. Not too bad for four people and we had a great time laughing with them.

Frugality:
* We stopped at Dollar Tree for a few essentials: a couple two-packs of toothbrushes since we have no more in storage, some pain-relieving patches ($1/20 vs. $9/60 at Kroger the day before) and some items to add to work lunches.

House and Home:
* Trucker decluttered a lot one day. He put some large items out to the curb and posted curb alerts online.
* Trucker fixed a slow drain in the bathroom sink.

Work:
* I worked some overtime to make up for lost hours.
* I packed my lunch each day.

Health:
Gym visits this month:
Trucker: 12
Me: 5

Community:
* While our car was being worked on, my parents let me borrow my dad's truck. On the way home from work a couple days later it broke down on me. I was able to get it into a parking lot and Trucker picked me up. My parents came out the next day and we fixed the truck with Dad. They brought mom's van out in case we couldn't get the truck running. While it was very cold and a bit frustrating (it was a broken serpentine belt), Trucker kept teasing my dad and we would laugh until we were almost in tears. It was kind of nice.
* We helped my sister and her boyfriend figure out some financial things to help them get ready for grown-up life. I am so insanely proud of those kids. They are being incredibly responsible to cover all their bases before moving out.

How was your week?

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Week...Beyond Money TWO WEEKS 2/27 - 3/12

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 harvested fresh herbs from the indoor garden.
* It looks like the two thyme plants in the outdoor planters are coming back. One held up well over winter, but the other had gone quite brown. However, they are both looking nice now. I am waiting to harvest them until the cold spells are through.

Cooking/Groceries:
* We had an easy (to prepare and on the stomach) meal of tinned chicken soup (manager's special; large can for $.49) and toast (bakery clearance, $1.50/big loaf).
* I made popcorn for our snack one evening.
* I went to the salvage grocer when I was in town visiting family. I got some great deals: Kraft mac-n-cheese for $.25/box, instant flavored grits $.10/box, toilet paper $.99/4 pack, kombucha $1.99/24 pack, tortillas $.50/10 pack, chai tea concentrate $.50/quart, espresso $8.99/5 lbs, some nice dish soap $1.50/large bottle and organic cereal $.99/box.
* I made a giant batch of homemade hamburger helper. I used one pound of ground beef, 2lbs of elbow macaroni, a large onion, a bag of diced sweet peppers (frozen, free seconds from the farm), a bag of leeks (frozen, free seconds from the farm), half a bag of scallions (frozen, free seconds from the farm), the last of two bags of cheese, the last of the sour cream and milk. I made a lot extra to use for lunches during the week.

Fun:
* We went on a couple coffee dates, using travel mugs.
* Trucker's 40th birthday was this week. I took him out for an adventure. We went to the Mansfield Reformatory, where Shawshank Redemption was filmed. Tickets were usually $12 each, but I got a Groupon for $11 for two. When we got there, we had the option of adding an audio wand for $5 (BOGO), making our cost $8/person. They said it was 25 degrees colder inside the cell block than outside, and it was 33 degrees outside. Fortunately, I had some work clothes in my car, so I grabbed my work shirt, an extra flannel, jacket, work hat and my cut sleeves from the trunk. We bundled up and were reasonably warm. We bought a pair of gloves since it was so cold ($5 well spent, and we are going to give them to my step-daughter as we like to send her little gifts from our adventures). We got to learn some interesting little facts about the prison's history. We had a great time exploring and taking loads of photos (1000 between us). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed. It was positively frigid, and I'm sure we would have spent another couple hours there if it had been warmer. I can't wait to go back!
* Afterwards, we went into town. We got pizza at a local spot ($11 for a very filling medium), walked around a book store and antique store, then got coffee at a local spot. It was a really lovely day.
* We enjoyed a couple evenings of movies from the library and popcorn.
* The day before his birthday, we went out to eat with a big group of our friends. We had a really great time.
* We went out for ice cream with a bit one get one free coupon he got in his email for his birthday.
* I took my grandpa and mom out for breakfast one day. It was great to spend a couple hours talking with them.
* We went to the gallery hop. The first Saturday of the month, an entire neighborhood becomes an art fest. The galleries offer refreshments, pop-up galleries show up in banks and street performers line the streets (as well as a group of people in raccoon and bear costumes...). It was a great, frugal night. There is something magical about walking around with other art lovers and checking out new talent.

Nature:
* We went out on a couple hikes. On one, we ended up walking through some flooded areas. We were over halfway through the loop and couldn't get through another way. It ended up being pretty incredible. We found four deer lying close to the trail. They watched us for a bit, then ran off, but walked just ahead of us for awhile. Later we found a freshly killed deer. It looked like a coyote got her. It was a quite interesting little hike.

Frugality:
* I bought Trucker's birthday gift on Etsy. Awhile back, I found a Friday the 13th clock. I wanted to get it for him then since it is one of his favorite movies, but it was quite expensive. I looked around at several different websites and found one that was much cheaper than the original find. It is also made to order, so I was able to chose the material, paint and clock hands. He loved it. I liked being able to support a small-scale artisan rather than a big chain.

House and Home:
* I bought a used laundry basket for the bedroom. We have plastic ones in the laundry room, but nothing upstairs. I wanted something nice and this is perfect. It will look nice and help me keep things looking organized.
* We spent a couple hours together organizing the store room. We consolidated a lot.
* We took more items to the consignment store.

Work:
* I took two bereavement days and had one sick day. The day I was supposed to be back from bereavement, there was a problem at the factory and we didn't run. I've missed 4 days in two weeks. We will have a couple weeks of small paychecks, but we will make it.
* I packed a lunch each day I was hungry and didn't buy a single meal at the cafeteria.

Health:
Gym visits this month:
     * Trucker - 8
     * Me - 2
* Welp, we got ourselves a bit of food poisoning. I had to call off of work (and thus lost my attendance bonus), but we are well on the mend. We felt pretty crummy for a couple days, but honestly, the 30+ hours straight we spent in bed was kinda nice. I mean, obviously, food poisoning is a pretty awful thing, but we survived! I was thinking that even though we were sick, we were able to spend a good amount of time just lying in bed talking, watching movies and cuddling. To be able to do that pleasantly, it means that we are fortunate to have such companionship with someone we like so much. We have a bed, with warm covers, and indoor plumbing! We are financially stable enough that, although it is frustrating, we can survive the loss of income. If that is one of our crummiest days, it is a good life.
* We were rather active, except when we were sick.

Setbacks:
* Trucker's grandma died. She basically filled the role of mother after his mom died when he was 10, so it has been especially hard on him. She was an amazing woman and the best mother-in-law I could have asked for. I was granted bereavement given the situation and we were able to go out for two days. We packed food for the road and got free breakfast at the hotel, so we only had to pay for one meal. We got a hotel outside of the city for about half the rate if we had stayed closer.

Community:
* My coworkers were happy to see me back at work. They told me a few times over the next couple days how much they'd missed me. They all signed a card for us.
* My mom came with us on our trip out of state for the funeral. That meant a lot to all of us.
How was your week?
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