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.
* Well, I never got around to seeding the garden to grass, and it is a good thing. If there is one consistency, it is change. We are not going to be moving this year, so I'll be gardening again. I will keep it as low-key as I can, but want to see what I can get out of it.
* I spread the ash from the fire pit and old, gross potting soil over the beds. I also emptied out all of the compost bins.
* I made BBQ pulled pork mac n cheese one evening. I used meal preps from the freezer so it was a breeze. I put the pasta on and while it cooked I started my roux. I thawed some ice cubes of caramelized onions and sauteed peppers. I added those to my bechamel along with half of a small portion of pulled pork from the freezer. I added the last of a bag of cheddar and the last bit of a cheesy dip. I added some BBQ seasoning from the Amish grocer, black pepper, seasoning salt and BBQ sauce. It was pretty epic comfort food and the whole affair took 10 minutes. Freezer meal prep is a life saver.
* I have been making hummus sandwiches regularly. I used to make my own hummus, but haven't had as much time lately as I used to. The all-night grocer near my job is in the process of marking things down when I go after work, so I get all sorts of fantastic manager's specials. I almost always find various types of hummus/hummus-like dips (edamame, white bean, cilantro, etc) for ~$2. I also find tzaziki for ~$1. I chop up whatever veggies I have on hand: sweet peppers, radishes, scallions, onions, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, etc. I add a sprinkling of cheese (feta is best, but I use whatever I have). I eat them open faced. It is a pretty frugal and filling meal. Best of all, it is incredibly quick so it is perfect when I get home at 3 AM.
* I went to my salvage grocer before work one day. The weather forecast said it wouldn't get below 31 degrees before I got off work, so I figured I was fine since the car would stay warmer than outdoors and then I would be in it with the heat on for the drive home. I got some amazing deals. It was one of my best shops yet; even the cashiers were impressed. I have been trying to have more variety in the drinks we keep at home. Coffee or water gets boring after awhile. I use our SodaStream a lot, and I will buy sodas, teas and other drinks as I find good prices. Generally speaking, I try to avoid individually packaged drinks as possible, but when I buy them at salvage grocers I find it acceptable since the items would be thrown away if people like me didn't buy them. My salvage store is perfect. The locals buy the "normal" stuff and don't know what to do with the "weird" stuff that we like, so I get the best prices. Here are some of my highlights: organic sodas most sweetened with stevia ($.10/can, so about 20% cheaper than using our soda stream), seltzer ($.05-.10/can, also much cheaper than using the SodaStream and allows me to enjoy some flavors that are harder to duplicate at home), organic cereal ($.50/box), various chai tea concentrates ($.50/qt, including "The Godfather", a chai, espresso and cocoa drink that is out of this world), ramen-type noodle packs ($.10/each; will use as quick meals with veggies from the freezer and stock), organic whey protein for $1.99/1 lb), coffee syrup ($.99 for a bottle that is $10-15 depending on where you get it), vinegar ($1.50/gallon), key lime pie kits for 2-4 people ($.10/each) and boxes of breakfast bars (box of 4 boxes of 6 for $.99). The best score was a high-end ginger beer that is dry and very flavorful for $.59/6 pk. Usually I buy Kroger brand for $2.50/6 pack and it isn't as spicy or dry as I like it. This stuff is fantastic and I can't believe I got it this cheap. I bought all 4 6-packs
* I made cheesy veggie pasta as a quick and easy meal.
* We made pad thai one afternoon using a salvage grocery kit and a can of mixed asian veggies, also from the salvage store. I used one pork chop from a package. I did add some onion, garlic and grated ginger (free from Trucker's job). It was amazing. There were enough leftovers for my lunch the next day.
* I used the other pork chop from the package to make Korean tacos. I had a flavor kit we got for a few cents at the salvage grocer. It was really good and a great change of pace. Trucker teases me that I can eat tacos every day, so maybe this variety will convince him to submit to more frequent taco meals.
* My parents stopped over one day. I made tacos (haha). I used pulled pork from the freezer, added refried beans, corn (from the freezer), sauteed onions and peppers (freezer), and the last of a container of sour cream. I made some rice beforehand so we could add a little bit to different meals. It was really good and quite filling.
* Trucker has been eating bran flakes for breakfast more often. He had been having bad heartburn and my dad said that he hasn't had any since he started eating bran flakes daily. I found family-sized boxes of store brand bran flakes on a clearance rack for $1/box. When I was checking out, I found a coupon for $1 off 4 boxes of store brand cereal. I got 6 boxes for $5.
* I stopped at Aldi one day and got some great after-holiday sales. They had Chocolate Chip or traditional Panettone for $2 and boxes of continental cookies for $1.50 each. I bought 1 panettone and 4 boxes of cookies.
* Trucker scores some high-end salmon on manager's special. Regular price: $7/each; he got them for $2.50! He made a lovely dinner for us one day that I was feeling under the weather and we just chilled at home all day. He loves to take care of me. He made me tea and made sure it had honey in it for my throat. He is so kind.
* We have been freezing meal-sized portions of leftovers to use later. This is handy and prevents waste.
* We went to the local comedy company for a show. We don't usually go unless we win free tickets, but this was a comedian we both loved. Tickets were $20/each, which hurt a little, but given how infrequently we do things like this, it was acceptable. We had a marvelous time. Our cheeks and sides hurt from laughing.
* We woke up one weekend morning and told each other we had a date planned. Fortunately, mine was for brunch and his was for 2 PM, so the timing worked out. I took him to a comic-themed restaurant that I've wanted to take him to for quite awhile. The food was amazing (He got a burger with caramelized onions and bbq and bacon and I got the Aquamarine, a salmon and crab spread quesadilla). We had a BOGO coupon from my entertainment book, so the total cost was $20, including tip (30% before the coupon). He took me to a local theater that was doing a special screening of Rebel Without A Cause (Dean is one of my favorite actors). I had never seen it on the big screen before. It was an awesome date and cost $30 total.
* We did some cheap coffee dates.
* We went to the gallery hop. Beforehand, we went to a local BBQ place and used a BOGO coupon for dinner. It was really cold and I had an ear infection, so we didn't stay out long. It was still quite nice to have our evening out. My favorite gallery had a video of a glass artist making these amazing pieces. It was mesmerizing. We also picked up the mixed-media piece we purchased a couple months ago from the local art collective gallery.
* We used the library for music, movie and books.
* We got out into the woods! Twice! It was so wonderful. One day it was chilly and we just did a couple miles. The next was a 5 mile walk. We loved watching the river after the snow thawed and watching squirrels run around.
* We are throwing extra towards the credit cards.
House and Home:
* I climbed onto the roof to patch a couple places where shingles had torn off during a storm. When the weather is nice, Dad will help me fix it permanently. While I was up there, I noticed that the shake siding is getting really rough. We will call in contractors for quotes in a couple months. Ideally we would replace with vinyl, but depending on price may just repair and replace bad shake. Never again will I buy a house with shake siding.
* Work was cancelled once due to extreme winter weather. I had planned on spending the night in the locker room because I was scared to drive home. Earlier this week, someone that works for my company died when they lost control of their car on the way to work. So tragic to think that they were just going to work like normal. If you are in a snowy area, drive safely.
* I worked a little overtime.
* I got a $.75/hr raise.
* We are getting back to exercising more often.
* I have lost 14.5 lbs in the last 6 months. I am feeling great.
* I joined a weight loss class through my job's fitness center. It is a free class and offers gifts and rewards throughout. I am wanting to lose a little more and, most importantly, I want to make sure I am being smart about adjusting my diet as I age. I have realized that I can't eat nearly as much as I used to. The worst tragedy is that I get terrible indigestion from pizza. My world is over.
* Trucker got his annual physical.
* I had to wear the wrong kind of earplugs at work for two days. By the end of the second day, I could feel the ear infection starting. By the time I got home from work, my throat was raw, felt like I had a golf ball in my throat and my ear canals were aching. This is the first time I've been sick in a really long time. I took care of myself (and Trucker was darling) with lots of fluids, tea with honey and resting as much as possible.
* My car overheated on the way to work one day. Fortunately, I always leave with plenty of spare time just in case. Trucker was able to drive out and swap vehicles with me so I could get to work on time. He was able to get it home safely. It had blown a hose. Trucker said that he wanted to hit a particular location of the auto parts store because they are always more helpful. When the guy looked up the hose we needed, he thought the price was too high, so he gave us his discount. We got a $35 hose for $18.
* My mom really liked the brand of sprouted brown rice I used for tacos, so I sent her home with a bag. We had got the rice from an auction for $1/6 bags. It is usually $37 on Amazon for the 6-pack.
* My dad is retiring next month from his job of almost 35 years. I've been working with him to start thinking about how to manage his money now that he will be on a fixed income. My parents have always helped us so much when we were on a tiny income and I am glad that we are now in a place where we can help them with their transition. Per Mom's request, I'm emphasizing that he should look for ways to save money while enjoying life rather than working more (He is starting a business in retirement, as has been his dream for 20 years. Nothing wrong with that, as long as he doesn't keep up with his current work-a-holic status). I've told him that a penny saved is worth more than a penny earned because you have to pay taxes on the penny earned. Also, I've gotten him thinking about ways to save money doing things he enjoys as a way of enriching life while controlling spending. One of his ideas is to travel to take advantage of different fish runs in our state. He will enjoy a day out fishing and stock the freezer. Trucker has been learning to fish and plans to invite Dad out fishing with him. They will both get fish for the freezer and get some time together, which they both need.
* My sister is getting married this summer. We all went out this weekend to shop for bridesmaids dresses. My mom had planned on us going to the bridal shop, but I convinced her that we should start at the mall. We checked out several stores, and ended up at JC Penney's. We did well. I found a dusty rose 3/4 length sleeve lacey dress for $45, her half-sister (two of my sisters are adopted, and my parents and their half-sister's parents always made sure they were able to have a relationship) got a sleeveless dusty rose dress with lace top for $60 and Mom got a blue mother-of-the-bride dress for $29. We still need to get dresses for my two other sisters and future bro-in-law's sister, but we were quite happy with the prices we paid for these ones. Mom had a $10 reward on her card and some other discount for using her card, bringing the cost down to $124, including tax, for three dresses which is about the price of one dress at the bridal shop. She also earned another $20 reward with that purchase, so she can use that towards the other three dresses next time.
* I brought some of the cookies to work for my coworkers. They were whispering about how expensive they looked.
* My friend's daughter had some health issues over the weekend. I brought them a box of cookies. They liked them.
How was your week?