Monday, January 26, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 1/19 - 1/25

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.

* Harvested 1/4 cup of greens from the indoor garden twice.

* I went to the salvage grocery store. I spent $90, but stocked up on a lot for the next few months. I usually find that I save about 60% over what I would usually pay at a regular store. Our toilet paper was back in stock, so I bought ten packs ($.99/4 pk; it's been out of stock the last two times I've gone). I found cartons of soup for $.10-.39 (these are for Trucker when I'm at work; I make better soup, but I like to have these around for times when we get too busy to cook; these are $6 apiece at the store where I work). They had my chai concentrate for $.39/box (I bought 4). I found lots of pasta for $.59-.69/lb. I found large cans of Chock Full o Nuts coffee for $3.99 and a 3 lb bag of whole bean Eight O'Clock coffee for $6.99. I found a fancy brand of chocolate hazelnut spread for $1.49. At the grocery store it cost $12.99! While I would never pay that much, I love when I am able to get food that I'd usually never be able to afford. Other random items that were a better deal than at the grocery stores here. I combined this trip with visiting my mother who lives ten minutes away (it's over an hour drive to the store) to save gas.
* I had some leftover butternut squash and made soup. It was beautiful.
* I pulled a pork butt out of the freezer. I cooked it in the slow cooker and reserved the cooking water as a broth for soup making. We used the meat for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches (one of my favorite meals) with caramelized onions (I caramelized 3 large onions at once), pork tacos, and pizza. I made stock from the bones.
* Other than the salvage grocery store, I didn't buy any groceries. Since I work at a grocery store, it's easy to get in the habit of grabbing a couple things one day, then a couple things another day. Usually these things are a bit more costly than I'd usually spring for, but it's an easy mistake to make because "It's just $5 extra". However, just spending $5 more than I need to three times a week is $780 a year.

* We had an incredible date. We woke up early and I packed a breakfast: egg sandwiches, granola bars, mason jars of orange juice, and coffee. We drove to the airport and sat and watched planes take off/land while the sun rose. Absolutely perfect. This is a great date to do in winter because you can keep the car running for warmth, and the shorter days mean that you don't have to wake up crazy early.
* We had a coffee date ($3.18 total since we brought out refill mugs) and had a free bagel on our rewards card.
* I went to my mother's house one day that I was off work. She said if I wanted to stop and get subway for lunch, she'd split the cost with me. However, I try not to eat fast food ever, and even if we got a footlong for $6, it was still $3 for a meal I wasn't crazy about. Instead, I suggested we make a basic lunch. I had already hit the salvage grocery, so I brought in several types of soup and let her pick the one she liked best. Then we made a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. The cost was about $.40 each, and I was as satisfied with the meal as I would have with the fast food sandwiches. This also meant than instead of driving 15 minutes out of my way and waiting 5 minutes for the sandwich, I got an extra 20 minutes talking with her.
* We have used the library a lot lately. A few movies and lots of books. I've been checking out cookbooks instead of buying new-to-me ones.

* I got outside for little bits of time to get some fresh air and sunlight. It has been fairly chilly, so I didn't stay out long, but it was lovely.
* Trucker hung up one of the birdhouses we painted to match the house. The other needs another coat of paint, so we have to wait on that one. Hopefully having some houses up will keep them from breaking into our shake siding this year (like they did the last 2 winters). He put this one within view of the living room window for our and Ray-cat's viewing pleasure.

* Since we moved to this city (5 years ago) we haven't been able to find anyone local we can trust to work on our car. My mother's cousin has a shop about an hour away and whenever we need work done, as long as the car can be driven, we take it to him. He charges us the family rate and has really taken care of all of us really well. This week the starter in our car went out. We couldn't get it to start just one more time so we could take it to him. He came out to replace it for us. It only took him a half hour, so he was only going to charge us $20, but we threw him $40 as a thank you.
* After we replaced the battery in our ancient pickup truck last month, we got a coupon emailed to us for $20 off a $40 purchase. When Trucker went to buy the starter, he couldn't find the coupon. He checked his email, but he had already deleted the email after he printed the coupon. However, they had sent him a reminder that he had a coupon to use within X number of days and he was able to print the coupon again. The starter was $150, but we got $20 off. When we returned the old part to be recycled, we got $10 off so it really only cost $120.
* I have been wanting a stand mixer for a long time, but would never break down and spend the big bucks to get one. Trucker found one for sale on a Facebook yard sale group. He got it for $25 with lots of goodies. I'm very excited to try it out! It was such a thoughtful gift and so practical. I love making souffle, but rarely do since my wrists would ache for days after making it (yes, I would beat the whites by hand!). Now I'll get to make it much more often!
* At an antique store I found a lovely pottery plate for $5; I bought it. It goes really well with my kitchen, and I'm trying to slowly build up a nice, beautiful kitchen filled with antiques and high-quality pieces, rather than cheap plastic stuff. Usually, I don't find any pieces I like for less than $20 (so I only had one piece, a large yellow bowl that I got for $1 because it had a chip out of the lip). I found a stack of Fiesta plates in my pattern for a $15, however upon closer inspection I realized that only the top plate was Fiesta and the rest were nameless pieces of the same color, but not the exact size. It would have been an incredible price for 8 Fiesta plates, but for 1, hardly. I'm glad I gave a closer look before I walked out with a bad deal. Reminder to check everything because not all dealers are ethical.

Waste Reduction:
* I had some bagels that got a little hard before we could eat them. Instead of throwing them away, I cut them into pieces to use as stuffing mix/croutons/bread crumbs/savory bread pudding. I also cut up the lone heel from a loaf of bread.
* I used lots of veggie scraps along with pork bones to make stock.

* Drank free coffee in the break room instead of bringing my own. I didn't eat lunches from home most days because freebies were put out daily in the break room. Since I eat a big breakfast, a small bit of nourishment gets me through the workday.
* Worked on a book during my lunch breaks each day.
* Trucker brought home a bag of goodies from his job.
* Someone left a Sunday newspaper in the break room. After I asked the attendant to make sure it didn't belong to anyone, I took out the coupon inserts.

* On one of our days off together we went out to do some research for this new business idea. I absolutely love working together towards a goal we're both excited about! We're still doing a lot of reading and online research. Trucker started designing a website.
* During one of our days off, we did a coffee date and worked on our books.

* We went for a couple of walks around the neighborhood together.
* I went running one day when it was chilly but not snowy.
* We've been concentrating on drinking extra water each day. I've also gotten away from drinking high-calorie drinks, so I've pretty much been sticking to black coffee (no sugar), water and mint tea.
* We've been paying extra attention to getting lots of veggies into our diet. We have a lot of dehydrated produce, so we're making sure to rehydrate some to throw in almost every meal.

* I helped my mom babysit a couple of her friend's children. She gave me some vitamin C supplements that they bought but didn't like (they didn't realize they were chewable; I don't have a preference).

What did you do this week?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Identify Gardening Goals for Seed Selection

Right now is a really fun time: it's seed selection time! These frigid days are perfect for curling up with a cup of hot chocolate or tea, a big stack of seed catalogs, and a highlighter. My big problem is succumbing to the siren call of full-color photos and poetic descriptions and buying way more seeds than I can fit into my small garden, or attempting to grow things that will never work for me.

If you also fall prey to this, identify your goals in gardening. That way you'll make sure you get just what you want out of your garden. There are lots of reasons to garden, and each one requires different things. Here are some common considerations or goals in gardening that can help you narrow down your seed selection.

Trying to grow as much food as possible; severely limited grocery budget. For many people, the constant rising of food prices has put a strain on the family budget. It's hard to buy high-quality, super-fresh produce when you are barely scraping by. If you are on a limited budget, your goal in gardening will be to grow as much food as possible to prevent buying as much as possible. When you are looking through seed catalogs, look for the following keywords: prolific, highly productive, grows fast, reliable, high yields, second harvest, long harvest. These words indicate that you should get good harvests. When looking for lettuce seeds, look for loose-leaf instead of butterhead or head lettuces. These ones can be picked over several weeks as needed, first as baby greens, then as full-sized leaves whereas other types are typically a one-harvest plant. Pick varieties that are well-suited for your zone. While you may get a harvest from something that does best in a different climate, you'll have lower yields. In some cases it may be worthwhile, but you are sacrificing a good harvest for a small one for the same space in your garden. If you see that something is an heirloom for your state and it says it gives high yields, your chances of a bumper crop are great. Chose indeterminate tomatoes rather than determinate (the former gives a larger harvest over a longer period) and pole or runner beans instead of bush beans (bush beans give one big harvest, whereas runner and pole beans give fair harvests, but over a long period so you get much more per plant). For things that give a harvest over a longer period, such as indeterminate tomatoes, peppers, okra, loose-leaf lettuce, or beans, look for the shortest days to maturity time-frame so you start getting a harvest as soon as possible and continue harvesting until frost.

You're a foodie. If you consider yourself a foodie, then flavor and texture are highest priority, perhaps above yield and ease of growth. Look for keywords like: best flavor, delicate texture, high quality, slow to bolt. Homegrown tomatoes are a completely different thing than anything a grocery store sells, so this is a no-brainer. Other items are also worlds different than their store-bought counterparts: greens, carrots (The first time I tasted a homegrown carrot I realized that I'd never actually eaten a carrot, only orange cardboard impostors!), okra, peas and sweet corn (the second it's picked the sugars start converting to starch so even farmer's market sweet corn won't be as sweet as the stuff you pick while the water is already on to boil). Grow these vegetables that have the greatest difference over anything you can buy.

Milkmaid Nasturtiums are as delicious as they are edible.
Dodging the HOA restrictions. If you have a Home Owners Association that doesn't allow food gardens, or a city that doesn't allow front-yard gardens, but that is your only or best growing zone, you have to be sneaky. Your goal is to grow some edibles, but ones that are pretty enough to look like they were planted exclusively for decorative purposes. You'll do best looking in catalogs with full-color photos simply so you can plan the *cough cough* "flower beds" artistically. Look for frilly lettuces that are red, purple or speckled. Pick things with funky colors that match the overall theme, like Ruby Red Swiss Chard. Some root vegetables can be hidden in between other plants if the tops are pretty: beets, carrots (they really have lovely leaves), even radishes. You make not be able to grow many traditional vegetables like tomatoes, but maybe you can get away with some "ornamental" peppers. These are typically smaller plants with small, vibrantly colored peppers. In my experience, the peppers don't taste as good as uglier varieties, but they are edible, and in the right applications (mixed into chili or pickled in a flavorful brine) might be good enough. Look through the flower selections for "edible" or "medicinal" listed in the description. I grow lots of nasturtiums in my front garden. They are lovely beyond words and the flowers, leaves and seedpods are all edible. Scarlet Runner beans have elegant red flowers that attract hummingbirds; the green beans are really just a side benefit.
This speckled lettuce is pretty enough for the front garden.

Optimum Nutritional Benefits. If your soil is good, pretty much anything you grow will have better nutrition than the weeks old stuff you find at the grocery store. However, some items are going to be nutritional powerhouses compared to lightweights. For example, grow vibrant leafy vegetables like spinach, red lettuces, Rainbow Swiss chard and purple kale instead of iceberg. In fact, don't grow iceburg ever. It is low nutrition, low flavor and gives a smaller yield for the space. Try growing the new variety Indigo Rose tomato as it is rumored to be one of the most nutritious tomatoes in the world and I've never seen it for sale. In general, the most nutritious vegetables are cruciferous (broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnips), green leafy vegetables (in addition to the cruciferous greens: spinach, lettuce, parsley), alliums (especially garlic, leeks, scallions) and tomatoes. Low scores go to iceburg lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and celery.

Food preserving. If you are an avid food preservation artist, you likely want to grow a garden that you can put up into lovely pickles, jams, vegetable chips and other goodies. To be able to preserve food at the peak of freshness, you need to have enough of a harvest to put up a batch from one or maybe two day's harvest. Look for determinate tomatoes as these put on a larger harvest just once whereas indeterminates give several smaller harvests over a long period of time. Look for bush beans over pole or runner beans for the same reason. Look specifically for pickling cucumbers over slicers or salad cucumbers; these have lower moisture and hold up better for longer-term storage.

Garlic scapes are delicious and fun!
Want to try new food. If you want to just try new foods that you can't find at the grocery store, the world is your oyster. Keep in mind your zone, space and soil, but have fun. Look through the catalogs looking for funky shapes, odd colors and vegetables you've never seen. Look through seed catalogs that offer heirloom varieties for the best selection. Some catalogs offer both hybrid and open pollinated varieties, and these will likely have selections that are very similar to what you'll find at your grocery store or have grown in the past. Some of my favorite catalogs for finding new varieties are: Southern Exposure, Seed Savers and Baker's Creek. Baker's Creek is by far the best place to start if your goal is to grow new vegetables and varieties. Their offerings are beyond comprehension.

Want to eat fancier than you can afford. If you are able to afford a healthy diet but of the most basic kind, but want to try exotic, fashionable items, you're in luck! A lot of fancy foods can be grown easily at home. When you are at the market (or just thinking back to when you were), look out for the really high-ticket items. Grow those. Don't grow items that are cheap to buy, even at high quality. For example, zucchini and summer squash are relatively cheap when in season, so don't bother growing those. Cucumbers are also cheap. Grow hardneck garlic (plant in autumn). Not only are there lots of beautiful and tasty varieties, but hardneck (opposed to softneck) varieties send up a scape in late spring or early summer. These exotic beauties sells for $6 for a bundle of 5 at my market. They are out of this world: mild garlicy flavor but crisp and perfect for quiche, stir fry or soups. Edible flowers are expensive, but can be grown easily; look for Nasturtiums, marigolds, chrysanthemum, carnations, sunflowers, day lily, and pansies. Baby carrots are costly per pound compared to larger carrots, but easier to grow than larger ones. Look for Little finger, Babette,  Romeo, Thumbelina, an parisienne. Any vegetables that you like as a "baby" version can be simply picked early: carrots, radishes, greens, and beets. You can even thin every other plant in rows and eat the thinnings while allowing the others to continue growing. When growing greens, whether salad or cooking, look for varieties that you've never seen at the grocery store: dinosaur kale instead of Curly, tatsoi or mizuna instead of bok choi, ruby streaks mustard instead of southern giant curled. Tomatoes are a few dollar a pound minimum. You can also get a large yield per square foot (especially if you grow an indeterminate variety). Grow cherry tomatoes or fun colored tomatoes for the greatest cost savings, rather than run of the mill Romas or beefstakes.
Watermelon radishes are striking and a
fun surprise to cut open.

Teach children about food/healthy eating. If your goal is to get children excited about growing (and eating!) real food, look for fun varieties. Instead of plain orange carrots, look for purple, red or yellow ones. Grow watermelon radishes for their lime green exteriors and hot pink interiors. Look for terms such as: reliable, grows in wide range of soils, predictable, disease resistant. These make it more likely that your child will experience encouraging success instead of defeat.  If you have kids (or partners) who are picky eaters, you can grow things that can help get around the objections. Perhaps kids would be okay with eating neon green tomatoes (for TMNT fans call the slimy interiors "mutagen ooze") or purple carrots or tiny lemon cucumbers when they would be squeamish about the traditional counterparts.

Crystal Apple cucumbers are perfect
mini-sized treats.
Small space/container/indoor. If you are severely limited in your space whether due to having a small garden or needing to plant in containers either on a patio or indoors, you need to look for different varieties than you would if space was not an issue. Look for the following keywords: mini, baby, patio, container, short, compact. Certain vegetables grow better in containers than others. For example, you can grow squash in a container, but not well. Greens on the other hand do fantastically. If you decide to grow carrots in a container, look for shorter ones and especially for mini or baby carrots. For containers, grow "patio" or at least "determinate" tomatoes as these are likely to do better than the massive, sprawling indeterminates (I've had some indeterminates get over 10 feet tall in the garden). If you have a small garden, look for pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes, and climbing cucumbers and put up cages, fences, lines and poles for them to climb up. A single pole bean plant will produce more beans than a bush bean, but it needs room to climb.

Frugal gardening. If you have very little money to start your garden, look for basic varieties from cheaper sources. offers a smaller, but thorough selection of seeds at $1 a pack with $1 shipping. They are good quality, but not terribly exciting. That's okay if you're just trying to get started on the cheap. In most seed catalogs, the more common seeds sell a little cheaper than the fancier kinds. Don't diversify too much. While diversity is great, it can also be expensive. So while it would be fun to grow 10 varieties of tomatoes, it would also require buying ten packets only to use a few seeds from each. Instead, buy one or two packets and perhaps save the extras for next year (when you buy two more varieties). Get one or two lettuce varieties instead of a dozen. If you must have variety, it can be worthwhile to buy variety packs/salad mixes instead of several different packs. Do know, however, that these usually cost more and have fewer seeds, so if you are growing a lot, it can be more costly than buying a few different varieties. You can also split seed orders with family or friends to get more varieties while saving money on seeds and shipping. Chose open pollinated versus hybrid varieties and save your own seed so eventually you don't have to buy any seeds.

Before placing your order, do a search for "vegetable varieties" or "heirloom vegetable varieties" and your state to get an idea of what varieties grow best in your region. Identify the number of days in your growing season and make sure any varieties you chose not only will grow during that time-frame, but add a bit of a buffer just in case (my shady yard adds a good week or two til harvest for tomatoes).

By identifying you gardening goals before you place your seed order, you can ensure that you get what you want out of the garden. A little planning can be the difference between a disappointing chore and a fantastic, exciting adventure.

Daylilies are edible, pretty and grow easily.

Monday, January 19, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 1/12 - 1/18

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.


* Harvested 1/4 c greens from the indoor garden. They are growing nicely and I'm amazed by how much I get from three little containers (I need to plant more...maybe my next day off). For those with no yard, do strongly consider growing salad greens in a sunny window. You will not regret it.
* I pulled out my big box of seeds and sorted everything by vegetable/fruit and then by variety, then by age. I made a list of all of the seeds I have including a rough estimate on number and likely germination rates. I'll use this to figure out what seeds to buy this year. I realized that I do not need to buy any radish seeds (I have 20+ packs of 12 types, 2 of which are variety packs as it is). Maybe I'll just try one new radish variety. Or two. I like radishes. :)
* Lunch break means one thing now: Me + seed catalogs + highlighters. It is a beautiful thing.
* I put a five-gallon bucket of coffee grounds onto the garden bed. I'm desperately looking for any good organic matter to work into my soil for an optimum growing season.

* Leftover stuffed peppers were reheated, sliced and put into tortillas with greens from the indoor garden. Just putting it into tortillas switched it up so it wasn't "leftovers again".
* One day I had to go to work really early (woke up at 2:30) on Trucker's day off. When I'd gotten home, he'd made chili for lunch using lots of random things from the freezer/frig. It was fantastic.
* One nice evening, we grilled out: sausages and squash. We had half of the squash (2 small) leftover.
* I made a huge batch of pasta salad for the week's work lunches. I used: 1 lb jumbo elbows, the two leftover grilled squash, the last of a jar of pickles, a bell pepper from the frig (Manager's special: 5 bell peppers for $1), a can of black olives (salvage grocer, $.59), the last of a bag of shredded cheese, some canned roasted peppers (salvage grocer, $.99/jar; I used 1/10 the jar), and the last of a bottle of salad dressing.
* We rarely make hamburgers at home; we usually try to stretch a pound of ground meat into as many meals as is possible. However, Trucker loves a good hamburger and we've given up fast food, so he doesn't get a greasy hamburger fix anymore. So, every now and then I make them as a special treat. This time, I had half of a bacon cheddar scone leftover from breakfast that I crumbled up to use in place of crackers or bread crumbs along with an egg and the last of some "grill master" seasoning that I got for free with sale+coupon awhile back. I cooked them in bacon grease on the stovetop just to make them over-the-top fantastic. Topped with cheese and all the fixins (all purchased on manager's special or at the salvage grocer). I served it with roasted vegetables: 1 delicata squash, 1/2 a large butternut squash and half a bag of baby carrots (was $.50/lb). We had two hamburgers left and half of the roasted veggies. The other half of the butternut squash will be mashed and served as a side or soup later this week.
* For breakfast one morning I made one of my favorite comfort meals: grilled PBJ sandwiches. I used a cranberry blueberry bread (from my bakery), all-natural peanut butter (salvage grocer, $1.49), and blackberry jam from my mum (almost out of the last jar!). Fantastic.

* We haven't had a lot of free time this week, but made time for a few coffee dates for talking, laughing, reading and writing. For one of our dates, we used the last of our free $5 gift card (from buying $25 gift card during the holidays), so our date only cost $1.36. Most of our hobbies are outdoorsy, but we are both big babies when it comes to the cold. We need to find some new things to do in winter, but for now it's a lot of coffee dates.

* On a particularly nice day, I spent a few hours outside-gardening and walking.

* One day it got up into the upper 40s so I turned off the furnace all day and opened the windows.
* Our favorite thrift store had their 50% Winter Clearance sale. We each bought a few items of clothing quite frugally. I found a few shirts that I had been hoping to find at a thrift store. One, I've been looking for for six years and had never found in my size so I was thrilled. I also found a metal mixing bowl for $.75. I want to get rid of all plastic mixing bowls and stick to glass and metal, so I was happy. It's an industrial bowl that I use in my work kitchens so I knew it was a great deal at that price.

Waste Reduction:
* I used the last of a jar of pickles in my pasta salad and had a half jar of brine leftover. I'd dehydrated some big, ugly cucumbers from my parents garden last year. I tossed in a handful of the cucumbers and am letting them rehydrate in the leftover brine for mock pickles. I've done this often with dehydrated peppers; hopefully the cucumber pickles will be just as good.
* I had just a tiny bit of bubble bath left in a container. I added water and shook it up to get one more bubble bath out of the container.
* When I cooked the squash, I saved the seeds. I roasted them with sea salt as a snack.
* I saved some veggie scraps from cooking for stock making. The rest, along with dryer lint, floor sweepings and other organic material went into the compost.

* Steve hasn't closed for a week or two, so we hadn't gotten his goody bags of leftover baked goods. This week he had a closing shift, so he brought home yummy things: 2 chocolate chip scones, 1 bacon cheddar scone, 1 blueberry muffin and 2 morning glory muffins (kind of a kitchen sink muffin). These are fabulous for snacks or breakfasts. On days that I'm running out the door in a hurry, sometimes it's lunch.
* On my day off, I packaged up several meals for our work lunches. Trucker has been opening more often and doesn't have time to make something to bring with him. Now he can just grab a container and run.
* Trucker brought home a 5 gallon bucket of coffee grounds from his job for me to put on my garden beds.

* We are discussing a new business venture. Trucker checked out 20 books from the library and we've both read a couple so far.
* One day Trucker had to work very early and I didn't go in until much later. I went to his job for free coffee and wrote on my book for a few hours.

* Trucker went to the new doctor. This doctor was a lot better (aka less mean and more professional) than the one we had to go to with the old insurance. We are very happy with the new plan.
* I went for a long walk one day. Unfortunately, it's been raining or snowing almost every day that I have time to get out, but as soon as a nice day presented itself, I made the most of it. I know I need to just kick myself in the butt, bundle up and go out in the snow...but...

What did you do this week?

Monday, January 12, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 1/ 5 - 1/11

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.

First real snow of the year this week. Got a nice workout clearing the driveway.

* Harvested a half cup of greens from the indoor garden. The green onions are puttering out.

* Fried up a pound of spicy sausage. Used 1/3 of it for tacos. I rehydrated about a half cup or so of Hungarian Wax peppers, Jalapenos and tomatoes. A small onion had sprouted in the pantry, so I cut the green sprouts to top the tacos and sauteed the bulb in the sausage fat. I also heated a bit of leftover rice and mixed it with the sausage and vegetables. We topped our tacos with sour cream, tomatoes from the garden (that had just ripened on the counter...two left!), green onion (from the sprouted onion), greens from the indoor garden and salsa (gift from my mum). Delicious. The next day, I used 1/3 lb of sausage to make sausage gravy (using a bit of buttermilk for added flavor) and biscuits (I just made those canned things I got for $.25/can. I judge myself, but they were cheap and it made dinner happen quick on a day I wasn't feeling like cooking).
* I used the remaining 1/3 lb later in the week for making homemade hot pockets (using the same method as my homemade pop tarts). I scrambled an egg, tossed in some Hungarian Wax peppers and the sausage. I spread a very thin layer of mayo on one half of the pie pastry, filled with the sausage/pepper/egg mixture, folded over the top half, crimped the edges with a fork and baked at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Wonderful!
* I stopped at a bargain grocery store and stocked up on a lot of things that I can't get affordably elsewhere: flour, sugar, baking cocoa, Trucker's cereal.
* Stuffed peppers one night. I had some bargain rack poblanos and bell peppers. I made a mix of: the last of a jar of salsa, the last of a container of buffalo sour cream dip (on clearance cheaper than sour cream), some leftover rice, leftover beans and rehydrated tomatoes. I stuffed the peppers, then covered them with enchilada sauce (purchased at the salvage grocer) and added a little shredded cheese. Perfect. We had enough leftovers to use later this coming week.

* I got off work earlier than normal one day on a day Trucker had to work late. I went to his job for free coffee and wifi. It was really slow so I got to talk with him and his coworkers a little. I'm such a geek that this is my idea of fun.
* Free coffee date at a cafe nearby. During the holiday season, they had an offer: buy $25 in gift certificates, get a free $5 gift certificate. Since we go there often, I bought $25 worth for future dates. We bring travel mugs (and get a discount) for our regular coffee (instead of more expensive drinks and with free refills). Our coffee dates cost $3.18, so we got one free date and another date for a little over $1.
* Met with a good friend over coffee. Frugal and great conversation.
* We went out with friends one evening to a pizza place. I planned ahead and brought a packed dinner. That way we just had a couple drinks instead of a couple drinks and dinner (plus tip). We saved a good $20 by doing that.

* We came to a settlement from our car accident this past summer. We plan to put the money into savings to replace our half-century-old furnace.
* I used my fuel perks from my grocery store card to fill up the tank. I got $.40/per gallon, so it only cost $1.36/gallon. I saved $5.
* Still putting away tip money towards savings. We also save all of our change for an annual trip at the end of the summer. It adds up quickly.

Waste Reduction:
* When I rehydrated veggies, I saved the extra liquid in my Trash Chili containers. I also rinsed out jars of salsa, dipping oil and enchilada sauce to add to the container. Lots of "rinse water" makes for a thin chili, but I toss in loads of dehydrated tomatoes and peppers and it thickens perfectly with lots of extra flavor (instead of using plain water to rehydrate the veggies, plus more nutrition).
* I used up the last of a bottle of lotion and the last of a bottle of body spray. In the past, I had a bad habit about buying both frequently and amassing a collection of 1/2 full bottles. I decided I can't buy any more of either until I use all of the stuff I have.
* I used the last of a bottle of hand soap for a bubble bath.

* Sometimes at work, certain departments will have extras or something that is going out of date and will put it in the break room for everyone to enjoy. Twice this week I was able to get my lunch this way instead of eating my packed lunch (which I saved for the next day). Once it was a garlic white pizza (2 small slices). The other day it was stuffed chicken breasts, asparagus, mushrooms, and hot chocolate. I take my lunch really late in the day, and they are usually throwing away whatever is left by the end of my lunch break, so I'm not taking anything that anyone else would eat.

* Put three quarts of dehydrated foods into the pantry (I allow foods to sit on the counter for a few days after dehydrating to see if any condensation occurs in the jar. If it does, I can dry it further; if not it goes up into the stores).

* Still focusing my writing on the one particular project. This is working better for me than just choosing each day what to write, since then I would be a bit more flaky about it.

* I've started doing jumping jacks regularly throughout my day to burn calories and hopefully keep my metabolism higher for more of the day.
* Still doing well on my water and water kefir drinking. I'm not having constant low-grade headaches this week.

* My friend's daughter was getting rid of some clothing. My friend offered them to me to look through. I got a dress, a few shirts, a couple sweaters, a pair of skinny jeans and a scarf.  I was so thankful both for the clothes and her thoughtfulness. She also found me this incredible book of poetry at a thrift store. It's from 1904! I love gifts like this!

What did you do this week?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 12/29 - 1/4

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.

* Harvested 1/2 c baby greens from the indoor garden. Twice I was able to harvest green onions being regrown from scraps.
* The basil hasn't done much of anything. I think it's just too cold in that windowsill. There are only three little plants and they are still tiny. I planted parsley in the container, and left those three basil plants. If the parsley crowds out the basil, oh well.

* For New Year's Eve, we stayed in and made dinner. Our splurge was a $6 package of smoked salmon. We made a flavored cream cheese with green onions from the indoor garden and some homemade everything mix (sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, salt), slathered it on some good bread and put a bit of salmon on each slice. There was enough leftover for our lunch the next day, spread on bagels from Trucker's job. While this was much more expensive per pound than we'd usually pay, it ended up costing $3/meal for two. This is not much higher than we'd spend on pork or beef. While we will keep it a special meal, it isn't wantonly expensive.
* I used my $5 gift certificate for customer service to buy: 3 quarts of buttermilk (marked down to $1) and a loaf of English toasting bread.
* I made a wintery stir fry one evening: carrots, winter squash, turnip greens, onions, and garlic with a can of tiny shrimp that I got on a clearance rack at the grocer. Served over rice cooked in stock.
* For dinner another evening, I made a bacon and turnip greens quiche. I made the pie dough from scratch. The greens needed to be used up, so I wilted the whole batch. The bacon was purchased as ends and pieces for a fantastic price and I only used half of the 1/2lb~ package. The eggs were on sale for $1/dozen and I used buttermilk ($1/quart) in place of milk since I was out. The side was mashed butternut squash (from the garden) with a sprinkling of cinnamon and brown sugar and a pat of butter. Dessert was individual caramel apple pies.
* Another day I made breakfast sandwiches to use up the last of a loaf of bread, the leftover bacon, and some random veggies from the frig.

Food Preservation:
* Dehydrated two pineapples (on sale for $1/each), 4 apples (from the pick-your-own orchard; stored in frig),  and 2 medium squash (manager's special; 12 small and medium squashes for $1).
* I cooked 6 lbs of cranberries in simple syrup until they were soft and sugary. I strained the excess syrup off and ended up with 3 cups of syrup. I'll use this syrup for sweetening teas and for water kefir. The cranberries were very soft. I was able to fit them all onto two leather sheets. Once dry, I will roll them up and can tear off bits for water kefir, break them into pieces for baking or snacking, or powder for baking, drinks, and sneaking into dessert.

* Trucker and I went antiquing on our day off together. We didn't spend much at all, but had a fun time wandering around for 3 hours. We saw lots of things that were high priced at the antique store that we see at really low prices at thrift stores. We also saw a lot of weird an infant scale that explicitly said that it wasn't to be used in legal trade. Eek!

* Did a bit of yard work as an excuse to get outside before it gets nasty.

* Instead of going out for New Year's Eve, we stayed in, made dinner together and watched a movie. Even with our splurge on smoked salmon ($6), it was still a bargain night compared to going out. (The entire dinner, drinks and all was $15).

Waste Reduction:
* A bunch of turnip greens accidentally got put in the cold spot of the frig and froze. Instead of waste them, I just wilted the whole lot. I used half for a quiche and the other half will go in colcannon later this week or next.
* I roasted the seeds from the butternut squash in the cast iron skillet and seasoned with salt. Perfect, free snack.

* Trucker is working a bit of overtime until they hire someone new. We are banking more of his check along with tip money.
* I got my check from Christmas. I have now been with the company over 90 days, I got holiday pay. Since I still worked 5 days that week, my paycheck was 20% larger. That went into savings.

* Put more dehydrated food into storage.

* I've been having a hard time making any leeway on any particular writing project (I'm really, really hard on myself). Trucker encouraged me to make a plan of action to finish one of the books so I can self-publish it online. During my break one day, I sat down and fleshed out an outline, came up with my goal word count, figured out words per section, then plotted out my days off for the coming week and the word count I need to hit each day. Sunday was my first day off and I hit my word goal. I will focus all of my non-blog writing onto this project until it's finished.

* I read a few articles on dehydration. I have had it in the back of my mind for awhile that I was likely dehydrated. I work in a bakery for crying out loud. It's always hot and I'm in and out of ovens all day. I started focusing on drinking more water about 10 days ago. Already I'm noticing that my skin looks better and I have fewer headaches (although I have had a couple, I usually have a constant low-grade headache). Could be placebo effect. However, to an extent, it can't hurt to be drinking more water.
* Since it is so cold out, I've been trying to focus on being more active in general to make up for less frequent hiking and running. Things like doing toe lifts while at my work station, wall sits while waiting the 2 minutes until I'm able to clock in, jump roping for short spurts during the evening at home, finding excuses to run up and down the stairs, vigorous house cleaning.

What did you do this week?

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