Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 3/23 - 3/29

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.

* Tomatoes and peppers have germinated! Sweet!
* I repotted a bunch of aloe plants. A coworker from an old job gave me three aloe plants and they each had babies. :)
* Parsley is growing well; I have harvested a few times this week.
* Daily harvests of green onions. This is great!
* Harvested a few tablespoons of greens from that big planter. It didn't do much of anything all winter, but now it's starting to grow a bit. It is almost time to move the container outside.

* Made a cranberry apple crisp from apples in the frig (picked at a you-pick orchard in autumn) and some frozen cranberries from an after-holiday sale. I used leftover baked goods from Trucker's job as the crumb topping. Since the muffins and scones had sugar added, I didn't add any to the crisp mix so that we could use it as a breakfast item instead of a dessert item.
* The chips leftover from the restaurant last week weren't that great the next day, so I used them to make a simple side dish. I tossed them into a baking dish, poured over a can of turkey gravy ($.10 on an after holiday sale) and grated some cheddar on top. It was good enough, not something I'd plan to do, but I'd do it again to use up something.
* I made Trash Chili. I had several jars of "tomato sauce jar rinse water" in the freezer that I thawed out. I dumped it into the large slow cooker and added: dehydrated tomatoes (from the garden), dehydrated peppers (both hot and sweet, from the garden), garlic powder (free from an old job of Truckers, this is getting old and needs to be used up), fresh garlic from the garden, some bits of leftover meat and veg from the frig, okra (dehydrated from the garden, just because I want to use it up before gardening season), TVP ($2/lb, used about 1/3 lb), the last of a jar of salsa, the leftover enchilada sauce that was at the bottom of the pan of stuffed peppers from last week, a packet of chili seasoning (It was in a bag of seasoning packs we got from the salvage grocery). It was fantastic. We served it a second day as Cincinnati-style chili over spaghetti. Another day we had chili cheese dogs. I also used it for two work lunches.

* One evening we sat at home and listened to the Victrola. Fabulous!
* Coffee dates using our travel mugs for a discount (and environmental responsibility).

* We went for a walk around the neighborhood on a nice day. Perfect.

* Combined coupons and sales to buy hygiene items. I needed new deodorant that was okay for work and got it for $1/stick instead of $3. I bought 4 so that I could use the coupons and wouldn't have to buy any for awhile. I also bought 2 bottles of shampoo at $.75/bottle (down from $2).

Waste Reduction:
* Made Trash Chili to use up leftovers and the water from rinsing jars of tomato sauce.

* I packed lunch instead of buying a slice of pizza like I did last week. The pizza was okay, but I could have made an entire pizza for the two of us for the same cost. I've been bringing things such as: salad (lots of veggies with a little meat/cheese, with a small container of dressing on the side), clementines, granola/protein bars ($.10 from the salvage grocery), apple chips (dehydrated in autumn, from a you-pick orchard), scones or muffins from Trucker's job, trail mix samples I got in the mail, apple crisp and apples. I try to always make sure I get one high-protein item to get me through the day.
* Trucker brought home day-old goodies from his job: bagels, scones, muffins, cookies (the cookies were pretty hard so we pulverized them to use as sweet crumble for crisps, baked goods and milkshake mix-ins.
* I volunteered to come in on Saturday. It is making for another long week, but I'm really enjoying the job, so it's not too bad. I also get paid time and a half on Saturdays. I also worked over one day. Next week I'll work 2 extra days, then cut back to 2-3 days.

* Worked out for 1.5 hour 5 days with a trainer. We did yoga/stretching, core exercises, resistance training, hand work and cardio.
* Went for a walk around the neighborhood.
* Concentrated on eating more vegetables and drinking more water this week. I carry a water bottle with me at work and try to drink two full bottles during the work day. I've also been drinking water kefir.
* I've started wearing ear plugs at work. It's ridiculously loud, but this helps. I don't want to lose my hearing! I've also noticed a nice side effect of the ear plugs: I am less anxious. Since most of the noise pollution is at least dimmed, I'm less on edge.

* Our washing machine has started making a weird noise. I'm planning on opening it up this weekend to see if it is a simple fix or not. I've started shopping around online just in case we have to buy a new one. The frustrating part is that they lost the order for my uniform at work, so after waiting a week and a half with only one outfit, I now have to wait another week and a half until they come in. I've had to clean them nightly. I've been trying to find other whites/lights to wash with it, but the loads are still pretty small. I would go with every other day washings or hand wash, but the job leaves the uniform pretty dirty.

* I posted a sign on the community board at work asking for bartering opportunities. I offered water kefir grains, garden transplants, seeds, homemade apple chips and garden veg in season. Hopefully I'll get a few bites!

How was your week?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goldenrod Eggs, an Easter Favorite

Every year for Easter lunch, my grandma made the same meal: egg gravy and toast (also called, more favorably, Goldenrod Eggs). It was a simple meal, made of simple ingredients. Mainly it was just a way to use up a surplus of hard-boiled eggs that we had at that time of year. We only had it one day a year, and so, naturally, it was my favorite meal. All year long I pined for it and when Easter came, I ate until I could not eat more. Decades later, I still love it just as much. It's a very frugal meal and uses items that are in most pantries. It is a good meal for times when there's more week than paycheck. Use the surplus of Easter eggs or just leftover hard-boiled eggs. If a carton of eggs gets a little too much past the use-by date, hard boil them for this dish.
It's not pretty, but it's oh so good!

Grandma's recipe is simple and frugal. It is the first recipe I ever learned to make myself. This recipe makes around 2 servings. I often make extra so we can have leftovers the next day.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/4 c milk
~4 hard boiled eggs (you can add more or less, depending on what you have and how hungry you are)
2-4 slices of bread

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and allow it to cook for a few minutes. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking. Allow to cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken, stirring frequently. While it is cooking, separate the egg whites from the yolks. Chop the whites into small bite-sized pieces. Mash the yolks. Toast the bread. Once the gravy is almost as thick as you'd like it, remove from heat and mix in the whites. The gravy will thicken slightly as it cools. Pour the egg gravy over the toasted (and buttered, if you'd like) bread. Sprinkle a generous portion of yolks over the top. Salt and pepper to taste.

The gravy gets very thick when it cools. If you are reheating leftovers, add some milk and mix it in before microwaving so it thins out.

Now I play with the recipe quite a bit to alter the taste a bit, make it healthier or use up something from the refrigerator. Here are some ways I like to alter it:

* Use homemade stock in place of half of the milk when making the sauce. If you are using bones leftover from cooking (thus making the stock almost free), you will lower the cost significantly. This is especially important if you pay extra for raw, organic, pastured or lactose-free milk. I am always looking for ways to sneak more stock into our diets for it's joint-healing benefits. If you are trying to limit dairy consumption, this is also helpful.
* Serve over good bread, not cheap white bread. It's perfect over a strong sourdough bread, but I've used everything from asiago bread to rosemary bread to foccacia. I've served it over bread-sliced bagels, english muffins and biscuits. I've also used savory scones like the bacon cheddar chive ones Trucker brings home from his job. Serve over whole grain bread if you want maximum nutrition and fiber.
* Replace some of the white flour with whole grain flour. It won't be as silky a gravy, but it works.
* Use bacon, sausage or other fats left over from cooking in place of the butter. This adds flavor and reduces the cost of the dish.
* You could mix in crumbled bacon or sausage to amp it up a bit, although there's plenty of protein in the dish without it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 3/16 - 3/22

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 green onions almost daily. This is great!
* Still waiting for germination on the tomato and pepper plants. This is the worst part...waiting...waiting.
* Trucker is a peach. While I was at work one day, he cut down the three evil poison sumac trees. There's a foot-tall stump now that we need to work at cutting out. He's so incredibly sweet! Every year I've been breaking out terribly and it lasts all season long. I think I finally figured out that those three trees were poison sumac and planned to cut them down myself. I told him I was waiting until a bit after I started the new job because I didn't want to have a weird first impression (the allergic reaction I get leaves me disfigured). He instead took care of it because his reaction is much less severe than mine. He's a good partner.

* We made tacos one evening. Before we seasoned the ground beef, we put half of it in the refrigerator. We made tacos with the remaining beef, lettuce, dehydrated tomatoes, onion, sour cream and cheese.
* The next night, I made eggplant parmesan, using three mini Thai eggplants and the last of a box of whole-grain spaghetti. I cooked a whole head of garlic, minced before adding the store-brand sauce. This brand of sauce is decent, but a little on the thin side. So I crumbled in a large handful each of dehydrated peppers and tomatoes. As these rehydrate in the sauce, it thickens it while making for a good, chunky sauce (how we like it) and only adds nominally to the cost since we grew the veggies ourselves. I also crumbled in 1/3 of the beef we'd pulled aside. Served with a piece of garlic bread.
* The rest of the ground beef used for stuffed peppers. The stuffing was beef, a can of refried beans (I'm still nervous to try making them from my rehydrated bean powder), the last of a jar of salsa, a whole head of minced garlic, green onions from the indoor garden, some black olives, and a small handful each of dehydrated tomatoes, peppers (hot and sweet), and cukes (because I'd put up lots when my parents gave me their overgrown cukes and haven't been able to use them all). I also added some green powder (made from dehydrated radish and carrot leaves, as well as more traditional cooking greens). I poured enchilada sauce over the peppers and sprinkled a little cheese over it. I baked for about 45 minutes until the peppers were fork tender and the cheese was browned. We had some peppers leftover.
* We had bacon sandwiches one evening for dinner. I reserved half of the bacon to use the next day. I made bacon gravy like one would make sausage gravy. We served it over bacon cheddar chive scones from Trucker's job with a salad on the side.
* I had a big batch of chicken stock in the frig that needed to be used up. I made a very basic, non-flavored vegetable soup using up veggies that needed used up: a bell pepper, a few banana peppers, several small eggplants, a few summer squash, a head of garlic, and some onion. I cooked it until the veggies were tender. That night we added Italian seasoning and a bit of Italian dressing (it was tasty). The next night we added some stir-fry sauce (that one wasn't so spectacular). One night we added some hot sauce and salsa and served over torn corn tortillas (purchased at the salvage grocer for $.10/pack, but they were too crumbly to use for tacos). This was the best one. I like the idea of eating more soup to fill us up cheaply while getting more veggies and stock into our diet for health reasons. This works out well. As I start figuring out easy ways to flavor the soup, this will be great to make one day a week, then ladle out each night for dinner without getting bored of the exact same soup daily. During garden season, this will be a fantastic way to use up a surplus of veg.
* We regularly have stove-top popcorn as our snack. It's cheaper than almost any other snack, and we love it.

* We had a coffee date at Trucker's job so we were able to use his discount.
* Had a coffee date at our regular spot. I earned a free coffee on my loyalty card.
* Checked out movies and books from the library for free entertainment. I checked out audiobooks to listen to while I commute to the new job.
* I mentioned in a previous post that I bought Trucker a Victrola for his birthday. We found the greatest score this week. He won in an online auction a box of records, including some 78s, most of them Decca records. He was thrilled. He paid $11 for 15-20 records that he is going to keep and quite a number to sell. There were even a couple that I wanted!

* Took a few walks on nice days.

* We sold our old tube TV for $25 to a kid who is going to use it as a monitor.
* We went to a moving sale to scoop up a few items for our new venture. There was a free section and we got: a psychology book that Trucker wanted to read, a hand saw, a Kate Spade eyeglasses case, a cord bike lock and 3 coat hangers.
* Ray needed a bed and I just haven't been able to get around to making one. She currently sleeps on an antique chair and gets hair all down in it. While we were at a thrift store, Trucker found a pet bed for $4 in great condition that matches the living room. Perfect! She was wary at first so we put it on the chair to encourage her to associate it with sleep. Still waiting to see if she takes to it; she's currently sniffing it.
* Line-dried clothes one day.
* My uncle worked on our new-to-us car. We got it tuned up, the brake line changed and an oil leak fixed. He charged us $90.
* My new job has a gas station for us to use. The prices don't usually line up with prices at regular gas stations; they can be lower or higher, depending on the price when they filled the tanks. This week they were $.40 lower so I filled up each of the vehicles (including my parent's as a thank-you for helping us out as our car was in the shop).
* I use swagbucks daily for searches and surveys to earn Amazon gift cards.

Waste Reduction:
* At my new job, they have restrictions on what hygiene items we can use due to interaction with some of our materials. Unfortunately, most of the items I'm using were on the banned list, but I didn't throw them away. I can use them on days off (since I'll only be working 2-3 days, there will be 4-5 days I can use those items) and Trucker can use some of them. I dug around in the stockpile and found that I had all the items I'd need in the stockpile (I buy whatever I can get at the cheapest price when combining sales and coupons), so I didn't have to buy anything else.
* Composted lots of random things.
* Saved clementine peels to use in syrup making.
* Made stock out of leftover chicken bones and vegetable scraps. Got about a half gallon.

* I started the new job. While it is really too early to know for sure that I love it, I think it will be a good fit. For one thing, I know my schedule. My two mandatory days are set in stone, so I know my schedule for the rest of the time I have this job. Saturdays are optional for me (but I get paid overtime), and I get the Saturdays schedule each quarter. So I have my schedule for the next three months. This is fantastic!
* The job is very physical, so for the first two weeks they pay me to work out with a trainer for 1.5 hours. While it is really exhausting (I hadn't realized just how atrophied my abs were!), I'm choosing to see the huge benefit of getting a good boost on getting shape after a winter where I slacked a little in that department. Can't get a better job benefit than getting your health back! Already my arms are more toned.
* While I'm looking forward to getting extra time off later, I'm working a lot for three weeks. There's some intense training to learn the job completely. There is a mandatory two weeks of full time for training. Since my position is for the hardest-to-learn department (and my two jobs are among the hardest in the department), they offered to let me work another week full-time if I would like. I said yes. Since it's only three weeks and then I never get a chance to work this many hours again at this job (if need be I may look for a one-day-a-week job), I thought I would take the opportunity and bank the extra money. I also volunteered to work a Saturday. Six days this week was a lot, but it isn't a bad place and I actually enjoyed it (and the day before I go back for another 5-6 days, I'm looking forward to it!). Two more weeks of full time and then I'll go to 2-3 days a week (and they are not able to make me work any more than  days; I can say no with no repercussions if they ask).
* Trucker brought home a bag with lots of yummy things, like my favorite: bacon cheddar chive scones.

* Got our cars tuned up and had some maintenance done. We are trying to be more on top of maintaining our vehicles to prolong their life, reduce risk of incidents and eliminate costly drastic repair bills.

* Working at the new home-business venture on a regular basis.

* Working out with a trainer for an hour and a half, 5 days a week. My abs have finally stopped burning quite so badly after the core workout days.
* Took a couple short walks around the neighborhood.

* We were going to go hiking with a friend, but it didn't work out, so we decided to go out to a restaurant. We had a coupon for 20% off, and we decided to order appetizers instead of meals. Holy moley! It still cost us $25 after tip! We did bring home two rolls, some flavored butter, half an order of house-made potato chips (this was an appetizer with a cheesy dip) and one potato skin. I can't believe it cost so much! We again reaffirmed to have our friends over for dinner/lunch/drinks/grilling/dessert instead of going out to eat. We also decided to stop our one time a week outing with friends at the pizza joint/bar. The friends we are closest to we'd feel fine having in our home, and we can do that much cheaper!

* My parents let us borrow my dad's beat-around car while our car was in the shop. It was low on gas when we got it, but we made sure it was filled up before we returned it and we threw a little something to them as a thank you. I also extended an offer to help with a couple of remodeling projects they'd like to undertake this summer. Now that I will work fewer days, I'll have time to drive out for a few days to help. I like that. They've helped us a lot as we got established, and I'm glad to be in a part of my life where I can return the favor.
* My sister got the job at the new kitchen. I gave her my slip resistant shoes so she doesn't have to buy a pair right away. She's getting married this summer, so any savings she can build is good!
* Trucker sets up the coffee every night so I can just push the button in the morning. He wants to make sure I get a cup o joe before I leave since it's a long drive really early in the morning.
* Trucker mentioned awhile back that he really wanted a pour over coffee maker. However, even with his discount, the ones at his job were too expensive. I decided that I would buy him one at some point as a surprise gift. I found one at a thrift store for $4. He loved it!
 How was your week?

Monday, March 16, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 3/9 - 3/15

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.
* I planted my seedlings for the year! I planted Jimmy Nardello's Frying (sweet) pepper, Jalapeno pepper, San Marzano tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes and Mortgage Lifter tomatoes (my favorites!). Depending on my mood, I may plant some other varieties. I have leftover seeds from last year and it might be worthwhile to start one or two of some fun varieties like Black From Tula tomatoes or Sheepnose Pimento peppers.
* Harvesting lots of green onions daily. This has been a fantastic success. I'll continue to replant stubs. I'm planning on growing some perennial green onions outside this year; I'll likely bring a few inside and plant in soil to continue to the harvest through the winter.
* Flowers are popping up all over the flower garden. The crocuses have naturalized throughout the front yard. It rocks my world.

* I made eggplant parmesan for lunch with my sister one day.
* I had some leftover pasta that I combined with leftover stir-fried vegetables and the last of a jar of alfredo sauce. It wasn't fine cuisine, to be sure, but it was satisfying and quick for a day that Trucker and I were only home together for an hour.
* For breakfast one morning, I made pancakes and breakfast sausage. The pancakes used yogurt (that I've been buying at fantastic prices lately) instead of buttermilk (that I am out of; I only buy it when it is at a fantastically low price). They turned out good. Not as good as buttermilk pancakes, but better than standard. The sausages were from the freezer (purchased on sale for $1/package); we saved 1/4 of them for pizza later in the week.
* I used the last of the hard boiled eggs to make egg gravy and toast, a family favorite. I served it over a bacon cheddar chive scone and bread-sliced bagel (both free from Trucker's job).
* One day after I already had the toaster oven warmed up from roasting veggies, I popped in one of the chicken half fryers to roast to use through the week. I used some on salad, some on pizza and the rest of the meat in BBQ sandwiches. The carcass will be made into stock.
* For π day, I had pie at each meal. I woke up early and made mini cherry pies for our breakfast, but didn't let Trucker start eating it until 9:26:53 AM just because I'm a dork like that. Then we made grilled pizza (pie) for lunch. I used leftover chicken with banana peppers for a BBQ chicken pizza and leftover sausage with banana peppers and black olives for a traditional pizza. I also grilled cabbage for a basic salad. Then I had dinner with my parents and brought apple galettes for dessert.
* Apple galettes are super easy and delicious. I make pie dough and roll out into small, rough circles. I spread a little caramel or maple syrup over the bottom, then swirl apple slices around the center. I fold up the edges and sprinkle with cinnamon. Sometimes I use an egg or milk wash, sometimes I sprinkle a large-grain sugar over the top. This time I didn't do either. I baked at 375 degrees in the toaster oven until they were golden.
* Found clementine's on sale: bag of 20 for $1.40. I bought two bags of them. I've been eating them constantly. Seriously. One day I had 4. I'm saving the peels to make syrup.

Food Preservation:
* Preserved another several pounds of peppers (banana and poblano).

* My sister was in town one afternoon. I thought about taking her out for lunch, but we are working at being more frugal. Instead, she came over and I made lunch. I made a nice lunch of eggplant parmesan with bread-sliced bagels (entire meal cost around $.60) and served chai tea lattes, which she loves (using clearance-priced milk and chai concentrate that was $.39/quart). If we'd gone out, I would have spent at least $15, and wouldn't have been able to afford to buy each of us two large chai tea lattes, so my total cost of around $2
at home was a bargain.
* Trucker's birthday was this week. I made him a big breakfast that morning. He wanted to catch a movie, so we got a Living Social deal for to movie tickets and two small orders of popcorn for $11. He picked out a movie he'd really wanted to see. I took him out for ice cream. The ice cream shop had a "happy hour special" for $3 shakes (usually $4.79). The worker gave us a larger size for no extra charge. Trucker's one birthday gift from me was an antique store find of a Victrola so he could listen to some old blues music (he was absolutely beaming when we got it). Not including the gift, our birthday outing cost $17. More than we'd spend on a regular date, but he had a wonderful time and it was a pretty affordable date.
* My parents took us out for dinner for Trucker's birthday. It was really sweet and we enjoyed getting to spend time with them. We took them out for $1 sundaes afterwards.
* We went out for a coffee date one day. Trucker had a free coffee on his card and got a free pastry for his birthday.
* One evening I went out to my parents' house for dinner with them, all three of my sisters and my Grandpa. It was a nice evening.

* Went for lots of walks. One evening Trucker had to go to a meeting later in the evening. I didn't want to stay home so I took a 5+ mile walk in the rain around the neighborhoods surrounding his job and he gave me a ride home afterwards.

* We needed to buy fluids for the new-to-us car. We found a sale for "buy one get the second for 50% off" on store-brand oil and transmission fluid.
* I bought thick socks to wear under my new work shoes. They were on sale for "buy one get the second for 50% off" and I found two packages that had two extra pairs of socks in each.
* We found change on the ground every time we went for a walk.
* We received two coupons in the mail for $6.99 haircuts. Trucker needed to get his hair cut, but I decided not to get mine cut because I'm still growing it out and I just got a trim last month. He got his hair cut for $5.99 instead of $13. He threw the stylist a couple extra dollars tip, so he saved money and she got a good tip. Whenever we use coupons, we like to tip extra well so we don't hurt the workers who depend on tips for their livelihood.
* We sold our truck to my uncle. I needed to get the title notarized, so I went to the bank to get it done for free (since I was an account holder) instead of paying someone.
* A couple of tiles fell out of the shower wall. I re-adhered them to the wall and regrouted the area. I am waiting for it to dry completely so I can seal the grout.
* When we had coffee out one day, we found newspaper coupon inserts lying by the recycling so we took them.
* My uncle replaced our brake pads and rotors for $20 labor.

Waste Reduction:
* Used up all leftovers by carefully planning to implement them into new meals.
* Composted weird stuff.
* Dried clementine peels to use to make syrup or add to teas or baked goods.

* At a meeting I had to attend at work, I got a goodie bag of: pasta, pasta sauce and a package of cookies. I also got a few pieces of candy for answering questions (yes, it was one of those meetings). They served breakfast and snacks. Most of the offerings were donuts, muffins, candy, soda etc, but I picked the healthy items like a couple of clementines.
* I packed my lunch every day.
* We both drank free coffee from our jobs.
* Trucker brought home a goodies bag of bagels and scones. I've been crumbling leftover pastries that we can't get to to use as crumb toppings for the baked goods I'm planning on making more frequently. The bagels that aren't eaten before they get hard are cut into cubes or processed into crumbs.
* I am switching jobs. After a lot of talking, planning, and math, we decided that we were in a position where I could quit my full time job to take a very good part time job. It is for the same company that my dad has worked for 30 years, and that two of my sisters work at (one is full time, one is part time, and the other just put in an application this week). I'll be working half the number of days I was previously working, but getting more than half the pay. I got to chose my schedule for two days a week and that schedule is now set so I can plan ahead. Also, I have the option to work some Saturdays and can decide each week. If I do work those days, I get paid time and a half. If I do work every other Saturday, I would make about the same amount I made at my last job working 5 days a week. There is a regular pay rate increase that means that I'll be getting a raise every 12 weeks (and my sisters can vouch for the fact that pay increases do happen on schedule). Although it is a bit scary, we decided it was time for this change. I have not been content with my life while working full-time, and want to pursue more home business opportunities. I also want time to dedicate to frugality and our food (production, preservation and cooking).

* Now that I have more free time, I have started helping Trucker with our business start-up. I listed items online, made phone calls to get replacement pieces to be able to sell some items for more, and did some more research.

* I have exercised regularly this week. Lots of walks. The weather is fantastic so I'm happy for an excuse to get outside.

* Job transitions are scary for me, so that has been rough. However, I do think I'm making a smart choice. I have used my extra time to get a lot of projects done, both around the house and with business.

* When my sister was over for lunch, I sent her home with a box of clothes from my closet clean-out and some of the clothes that my friend had given me when her daughter cleaned out her closet (there were a couple of t-shirts for a football team two of my sisters like).
* My sister had a spare pair of steel-toed shoes that fit with the uniform requirements for my new job (She bought a new pair that was more comfortable for her). She sent them along with my parents so that I wouldn't have to drop $150 right away as I transition jobs. So sweet.
* My other sister has a job interview for a new job; this one would require the use of slip-resistant shoes. I just quit my job that required the use of slip-resistant shoes, but had just bought a new pair a few weeks ago ($2 at a thrift store). I'm going to give her these shoes if she gets the job so she can save the $40+ on a new pair.
* While Trucker was getting his hair cut, an older man came in and asked about the $5.99 haircut sale. The stylist told him that was last week and no, she didn't know if they'd ever have the sale again. He was disappointed and left. I ran out after him to offer him the $6.99 coupon that I didn't use. He was so happy. The coupon would have expired before I could have used it, and he was able to get his hair cut at a price he could afford.

How was your week?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Weird Uses for the Dehydrator

I adore my dehydrator and use it extensively for dehydrating garden produce and bargains from the grocery. However, it is not useful just for making apple chips and jerky. There are lots of fun things to use your dehydrator for. Here are some of my favorites.

* Revive stale chips, croutons, crackers, cereal etc. When these items go stale, you can give them a second chance by popping them in the dehydrator for 20-30 minutes. They will crisp back up and taste just as good, or better than they did when you bought/made them.

* If it is too humid to air dry bread crumbs or stuffing mix without molding, use the dehydrator set on low to dry them up quickly.

* Make veggie powder out of whatever you have a surplus of. Simply chop and dehydrate vegetables. Once fully dry, powder them in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder. I sift mine and run the larger pieces through the blender a second time. This is perfect for adding to all manner of recipes: stata, omelets, casseroles, enchiladas, breads, stuffing, meatloaves, etc. Good veggies to include: tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, sweet peppers, greens, onions, garlic. This is also a perfect use for commonly wasted produce such as radish or carrot leaves, beet stems and leaves, etc.

*Make green powder. In a similar vein, make a veggie powder of just greens. Use surplus greens from the garden, the CSA box or if you buy too many greens at the market to eat before they go bad. Dehydrate, then crumble and store, either as a mix or individually. Add these to recipes to pack a nutrient punch, or add a few heaping spoonfuls to smoothies. This could also be a great way to use wild greens such as dandelion, plantain, nettles, etc.

* Dry flowers for displays.

* Make potpourri. Dry orange peels, flowers, and apple slices or peels for a nice potpourri mix. You can personalize your mix, or just use whatever you have around that smells nice.

* Make teas. Whenever you have a surplus of an herb that would make a good tea, toss it into the dehydrator to save for later. Mints, lavendar, rose hips, lemon balm and chamomile from the garden, or red clovers or red raspberry leaves that you forage are all great for teas.

* Dehydrate citrus peels for use in syrup making or adding to tea blends. They can also be candied or rehydrated and used in baking. The candied peels can be dipped in chocolate.

* Make medicine. If you are interested in herbal medicine, you can make your own herbal supplements or teas. Dry herbs that you grow in your garden, or that you can forage. Dandelion roots are something wonderful that grows profusely in pretty much every yard, and are best harvested in early spring. Harvest a year's worth, dehydrate, crumble lightly and store in glass jars til you need it.

* Use to dehydrate extra water kefir grains to store in case you kill your current batch (or want to give some to someone else later).

* Use as a humidifer in winter when the air is dry. Just place a bowl of water in the dehydrator and turn it on. It'll blow warm moisture into the air. If you have a Nesco, you can't fit a bowl in it, but you could put your leather trays onto the tray and pour water to fill.

Do you have any non-traditional uses for your dehydrator?

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The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Monday, March 9, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 03/02 - 03 /08

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.

* Put a lot more green onions in the windowsill to grow. The others are continuing nicely. I've been harvesting green onions 1-2x a day, so this is definitely a frugal way to grow a little something indoors in winter.
* Harvested 1/4 c greens from the indoor garden early in the week.
* Later in the week the cress and arugula had started to bolt, so I harvested every good leaf from the pots. I got about 3 cups of greens. Memo for next year: stick to the lettuces and leave the other greens for outdoor gardening. The yields on the mustard, arugula, parsley and cress are lackluster and I'm pining for more homegrown salad than it's giving me. I actually had to buy a head of lettuce this week!
* I still have the overwintered peppers, some kale (that I've never harvested as it's been slow growing in the shaded/cold area it stays), parsley and green onions growing in the indoor garden.

* We made taco dip for dinner one night. It's not the healthiest meal ever, but we only have it occasionally and it is fantastic. Spread refried beans on the bottom of the dish (My last experiment with making mock refried beans made from powdered dehydrated cooked beans didn't turn out perfectly. More experimenting to do!), then a layer of sour cream mixed with cream cheese.  Topped that layer with some of the leftover rice from last week's stir fry (it's not usually a part of the dip, but we had it to use up and it made it more filling). Then I layered lettuce (I did have to break down and buy lettuce since my potted containers aren't giving a huge amount right now), salsa ($.79 from the grocery outlet, half jar), cheddar cheese (store brand, on sale), black olives ($.59/can, used 1/5 of the can) and sweet peppers (manager's special). We dipped store-brand tortilla chips ($2/bag). This basic dish was Trucker's mother's go-to for potlucks when he was growing up, so it is nice and nostalgic.
* While running errands out of town, I stopped by a grocery store that has better sales than I find in the city (this is the same one that I was at last week when I met up with Mum). Yuban coffee was on sale for $2.50/13 oz can, making it about the same price as Aldi brand coffee, but we like it better. I bought 6 cans to be able to get the discount. I got a huge bag of sweet peppers marked down from $5 to $.99. There were three more bags and I would have liked to buy that many to dehydrate, but there was only one bag that wasn't leaking and full of lots of squishy peppers. Even though I'm sure there were enough good peppers in each bag to be worth $.99, I didn't want to mess with that, especially since I still have a fair amount of dehydrating to do soon. I bought more yogurt, 3 1-quart tubs for $1 each. I put these three in the freezer. I know that kills some beneficial bacteria, but we are anticipating a severe limit to our spending soon, and I want to have some good food stockpiled to make it easier. I like having frozen yogurt not just to thaw and eat as is or as a parfait, but also to blend with frozen bananas (whenever they get black before we can eat them, I toss them as-is into the freezer) and homemade chocolate syrup for a mock milkshake. It's healthy but feels indulgent. I want to plan to be able to indulge in a yummy dessert when we are trying to reduce our spending.
* For dinner one night we had eggplant parmesan. While I'm not a vegetarian, I do try to eat vegetarian meals regularly and this is by far my favorite. I dipped slices of eggplant ($.20/lb) in milk (made from free powdered milk someone gave us because they didn't like it) and then into breadcrumbs made from bagels that Trucker brought home from his job) and fried them. I served with tomato sauce (with added dehydrated tomatoes from the garden last year) and angel hair pasta. We served with a bagel (bread sliced) from Trucker's job instead of regular bread. It was filling, delicious and pretty cheap, too.
* Made sausage gravy and biscuits for dinner one evening using sausage I'd got for $2/lb (sale + coupon), milk made from powder (free from my mother's friend) and biscuits that we got during the after-holidays sales for $.25/can (while I know these are not ideal, they were cheap enough to justify buying for busy days to make it easier to pull together dinner than to order a pizza). I made the gravy from the pan drippings and don't use those packets. I had a dozen eggs that were well past their use-by date. I did the float test; 1 floated so I disposed of it. The others sank, so I hard boiled them. We each had one hard boiled egg with dinner. We had leftover: 9 hard boiled eggs for meals/snacks later in the week, enough sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast a couple days later.
* I found seasoned half fryers on sale for $1.40/lb. I bought 3 packs of them. I also found pork chops on sale for $2/lb and bought a pack of those. I froze all except one pack of chicken. I baked the buffalo-seasoned fryers, tossed in bread crumbs for a crispier skin. I served it with roasted squash from the manager's special cart.

Food Preservation:
* I dehydrated one of the bags of mini eggplants from the manager's special cart. I just sliced them and dried. These will be added to soups/stews. I may try rehydrating them and using to make baba ganoush. I have no idea if it will work or not, but it can't hurt to try. I'm always trying new things with dehydrated veg to make it more practical to dehydrate the vast quantities I do.
* I dehydrated several pounds of bell peppers, cut into slices. These are great for adding as is to soups or rehydrating to use in omelets, tacos, enchiladas, and casseroles. I also like to throw dehydrated peppers of any sort into leftover pickle brine for mock pickles. Delicious and practically free.

* Met my mother again for coffee. I was out of town running some errands, and she happened to be in that town to visit a friend in the hospital. We met up at a Tim Hortons for coffee. Only cost a couple bucks, but it was nice to see her. Work scheduling usually has kept me from being able to get together with her as much as I'd like, so now that I'm getting out super early (while I work third shift), I'm taking full advantage of the opportunity.
* Trucker and I had a couple $3 coffee dates. On one, we split our free bagel from the rewards program so we could work longer before needing to go home to eat.

* The temperature has been rising a bit, so we went out for a few walks through the neighborhood. They haven't been terribly long, but it's been wonderful to get out into the sunlight and fresh air.

* Used Swagbucks for all of my searching when researching for writing or projects or just general curiosity. It doesn't bring in much, but it's something. It doesn't take any extra effort to search there instead of google and I'm saving the Amazon gift cards I get to use for beekeeping supplies.
* Got my temp tags so I could pick up our new-to-us car from my parents (scheduling conflicts meant that they got the title to me but I wasn't able to get out to their house to pick up the car. Our current car needed some brake work done. So one day I drove the car out to my uncle's house so he could fix it for us, and my mother picked me up. I drove the new-to-us car home. Once the other car is fixed, we'll have my uncle fix a couple minor issues with this car (has a minor oil leak). We charges us the family rate, plus parts; for the oil leak he charged us $35 including parts. He gets a wage he's happy about, we get a deal and we can trust our mechanic (and these benefits are why we're okay with the inconvenience of having to take the car 1 hr away). Another uncle needed a cheap car, so we are selling him the pickup truck at a good price (fair to us, affordable to him).

Waste Reduction:
* Used the last little bit of a bottle of hand soap as a bubble bath.
* We used the last of a bottle of pancake syrup. It wasn't enough to pour any out. I added a little milk and shook it up. I then heated the milk, added my morning coffee and had a little sweet treat. I drink my coffee black most of the time, but every now and then switch it up.
* I saved the bones from the fryer and added the vegetable scraps I'd been saving in the freezer. I had a half gallon of stock in the slow cooker.

* Trucker brought home a goodie bag.
* We packed our lunches and had free coffee.

* Stockpiled some pasta and pasta sauce I found on a good sale. In general, I try to always have several months worth of food stockpiled (rotating everything). I try to keep a variety of foods for a variety of nutrients and flavor, only foods we like to eat, and things we use regularly so it is easy to keep the items rotated. I also only stockpile foods when I find them at a fantastic price. In this case, the pasta was a store brand on sale for $.88/lb and the sauce was on sale for $1 instead of $2 (store brand).
* Added more dehydrated veg to the stockpiles.

* Trucker checked out several books from the library for me. They are written by one of my favorite personal finance authors (there was a book that Trucker bought be when we first got together that has been a life-changer for us). I'm really excited to read them. He also checked out an audio book from the same author for me to listen to while I drive to and from work.
* Took more steps for a new path.

* Snow shoveling burns about 300 calories an hour. The weather is ensuring I get a good workout.
* Took a few walks around the neighborhood.

* Third shift. We've been trying to make the most of our afternoons. I'm losing some sleep, but making up some of it on my days off.

* Trucker set up the coffee every night so all I had to do at 1:30 in the morning was push the button. Definitely made my mornings easier.

What did you do this week?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This Week...Beyond Money 2/23 - 3/1

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.

* I'd used another onion that had sprouted in the pantry. There were two sprouts and they went into the windowsill garden. I'm harvesting green onions daily and enjoying using them a lot. I may start planting them in soil in the hopes that they last longer. This year my dad and I decided to buy green onion seeds for a variety that is perennial in our zone. This will be my first perennial vegetable.
* One pepper plant is looking pretty good. The others are likely dead. It's okay though, because I have this serrano pepper plant that kicked butt last year. I can't wait to see how it does this year!

* Made stir fry with the leftover pork from last week. I added: carrots, kale (I diced the ribs and added with the sturdier veggies then added the shredded leaves towards the end), an onion, 2 ribs celery, the last quarter of a cucumber (sounds weird...is delicious) and the leftover broccoli and green beans from last week. I served over rice cooked in chicken stock. I have lots of rice leftover to use this week.
* One day we ran out of milk and Trucker wanted to have cereal for breakfast the next morning. Instead of running out to grab some, I mixed up some nonfat powdered milk from the pantry (Was free from my mom's friend who gets it from her weight loss program, but doesn't like it). I chilled it overnight and he said that it was just fine. I'll definitely use this in the future to prolong the time between grocery trips.
* I went grocery shopping with my mum. We found the produce clearance cart to end all. I got: 3 packages of key limes for $.25 (usually $1.80), 3 lbs of thai eggplant ($.99 total), 5 lb mini purple eggplants ($.99 total), 2.5 lbs mixed hot peppers ($.99 total), 6 orange bell peppers ($.99 total, usually $1.25 each), 6 yellow bell peppers ($.99 total, usually $1.25 each), 2 lbs banana peppers ($.99 total), 6 lbs summer squash ($.99, so 16.5 cents a pound!), pint of kumquats (splurge item, I suppose, but I'd never had them before. Wow! $.99). I also got a quart container of greek yogurt for $.39 (usually $3.59), and a half gallon of milk for $1.20 (milk is usually $3.29/gallon here). The store was having a sale 10 for $10 and get the 11th item for free. My mom was wanting to buy sandwich baggies which were on the sale, so I bought 2 packages for her and got 9 packages of tortillas ($.91 each, usually $1.50).
* Trucker made french toast one morning. Perfect way to start the day.

* Coffee date=$3.18. I got a reward for a free bagel. We'll use that on a day we want to stay and work for a long time.
* After work one day, my mom and I met in the middle between our houses. We got lunch together. We ordered a sandwich that we had them cut in half and substituted two salads for the fries and coleslaw. It was a filling, delicious meal, lower in calories than each getting our own meal, and cost us $4 each. It was a sweltering day...darn near 30 degrees...so we took a walk around the downtown of the small town we were in. It was a fun day.
* Two of our good friends took us out for dinner one night! They bought a groupon for dinner for 4 at a Japanese steakhouse. It was fantastic. They are incredible people that we love hanging out with and the food was delicious.

* Got outside for a short walk with Mom. It was nice to be outdoors, even just for a little bit.

* Did not go shopping for "pleasure".
* Avoided grocery shopping at my job after work for "just one or two things" because that inevitably leads to buying more than that, and the prices are significantly higher than elsewhere.
* Cold week. Kept the thermostat set low, bundled up and cuddled under blankets.

Waste Reduction:
* Saving veggie scraps in the freezer until I have enough to make some broth. I don't anticipate having enough bones to make stock, but I will make some vegetable broth to use until we eat more meat.
* Composted lots of random things.

* I'm working third shift this week. Getting closer to that raise. Also get a little extra on my paycheck for shift differential.
* I packed my lunch, although I have trouble eating on overnight shifts. I've been eating half a power bar as my lunch.
* Trucker brought home a goodie bag of day-old baked goods.

* Took steps for a new path. Will announce soon, depending on whether it works out or not.
* Got some items listed for online sale.

* I'd slipped away from drinking water regularly throughout the day, so I was more mindful of that this week. I've started keeping a reusable water bottle in my locker at work so I can run out and down some frequently.
* I've been better about avoiding nibbling during the work day. It's a tough temptation when you work in a bakery, but I keep reminding myself that I want to stay healthy. Also, I remind myself that it doesn't really taste that great (I don't like super-sweet things), and if I wait I can enjoy something better later (and that something better is usually much healthier).
* We've been more mindful of eating more vegetables and less meat. As our finances have improved over the years, we'd drifted into eating more meat. While I don't think meat is wrong or unhealthy necessarily, I do think moderation is important.

* My mom and I both bought some bags of produce from the clearance rack at the grocery store when we shopped together. When we got back to the car, we opened our bags and swapped some produce so we each got a larger variety of produce and didn't have too much of one particular item. I traded her one yellow and one orange bell pepper, a few squash and a few eggplants for a few green bell peppers.

* Third shift work...I can't understand how people do this forever.

How was your week?

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