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Archive for May, 2012

Financial Housekeeping and Old House Stuff

May 31st, 2012 at 08:00 pm

Today I sat down with the last four books of checks and entered everything into my spreadsheets. I have been remarkably lax at doing this lately. Though I balance in the checkbooks themselves, I like to have a copy on the computer, too. I finished updating the information on the April Budget Spreadsheet and entered in everything on the May Budget Spreadsheet, then I set up the June Budget Spreadsheet. I still need to transfer everything medical off the budget spreadsheets to the HSA spreadsheet, but that should be relatively simple since it's now detailed on each month's spreadsheet. I really need to stay on top of that better.

I sent some money to ING, including things that are either paid for bimonthly or half yearly:

$100.00 to the Emergency Fund
_100.00 to the Vacation Fund
__72.00 to the Holding tank for Water/Sewer
_100.00 to the Holding tank for Property Tax
+_17.00 to the Holding Tank for HoA Dues
-----------
$389.00 total to ING

This is all out of last Friday's paycheck. Then I wrote down all of the bills that are due between now and the 15th, which will be our next payday after the one tomorrow. The one tomorrow is the small two day paycheck. How small it is depends on whether or not they take out June's medical. Usually they take that month's medical out of the first check earned that much, but for some reason, every once in a while they take it out of the first one paid of the month. So it could be anywhere from $800 to $1325.

I have $1200 left from last payday and the bills due between now and the 15th total $1006. I'll keep back about $300 for groceries and miscellaneous expenses. Whatever else it left over goes to the BoA VISA. It will at least be $500, but I am hoping this is the amount without medical, because then I could send a lot more to the VISA.

I know I said I would never do business with Chase again, but they keep sending DH these really good offers. This last one is a no-fee balance transfer and a 0% interest rate until August of 2013. It sure would be nice to get the interest off the BoA card and just be using it for the autopays and DH's travel expenses that we pay off every month. We would only use the Chase card for the balance transfer and then pay it off fast with no interest incurred.

When I thought we'd have it paid off by the end of this month and we would have had to pay a transfer fee, it wasn't going to be that big a deal, but now that we will likely have the balance until the end of the summer, it's worth it for three months without interest. And then we can cancel the card when it's paid off. I guess I'm okay with using Chase so long as they are not using me. And I can deal with their crappy customer service (or hopefully never have to) if it means no interest.

We had a cleaning service out to the house today. They will need a couple more days out there, but that will have to wait until the next time DH is home. I don't want to be making that drive twice in one day to unlock the house and turn off the alarm and then go back and reset it in the evening. But we will get it scheduled for the Thursday after DH gets back. Then we will need to get the carpet shampooed.

After that I'm not sure. We might be ready to sell it As is/Where is, as in "you take it as it comes and you fix anything that is wrong with it because we are done." Doesn't matter what they find on the inspection, doesn't matter if it needs to be painted or a new gutter put on or whatever. As is/where is, and it will be priced accordingly. I just want it gone, enough to pay off the mortgage, which will be just under $17K when I make the payment tomorrow, and have some money to go to a good downpayment.

We bought it for $65,000 in 1998 and it's assessed at around $110,000 and I'd honestly be happy at this point to get what we paid for it. Sure I'd like more, but you get what you get in this market. Once it's sold, it will free up each month:

$375.86 mortgage
__72.00 water/sewer
__41.25 house insurance
__20.00 power
_100.00 propane
+_44.89 phone for the security system
-----------
$654.00

and then when we move out of Mom's and into our own place we will have:

$154.00 from storage
$300.00 for the utilities we pay for here
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$454.00

$654.00
+454.00
---------
$1108.00

So $1108 freed up just by getting rid of that house and moving out of this one. I think that's worth a loss if we have to take one. And once the credit card is paid off there will be another $2000 a month free and clear. So $3108 will be available for house payments and running a household. And since we are looking at 1500 to 1600 square foot houses in the $219,000 to $250,000 range our house payment should only be around $1200 a month. More than enough to run a house and put some money in the EF. I really can't wait for that day to come. I am sick of throwing money away.

Oh, and our debt to income ratio is now under 45% so we will qualify for the really good mortgage loans when the time comes. Actually once that mortgage is gone and the credit card is gone we will be around 25% and that will put us in great standing.

Staying Away from the "It's Only" Mindset

May 31st, 2012 at 08:14 am

So last night I made bread again. I swear there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house. I had a minor disaster with one of the loaves. I had turned the oven on to preheat and apparently one of the loaves was too close to the vent that steam comes out of near the back of the stove. When I picked it up to put it in the oven I dropped that end, so of course the dough fell on that end pretty badly.

At first my thought was to just throw it out. One loaf was worth 25 cents worth of ingredients, but then I thought 25 cents is 25 cents, so instead I decided to just bake it anyway. If nothing else it could be made into croutons or breadcrumbs, and at the very worst fed to the ducks. They love it when you scatter bread on their little pond.

I'm glad I baked it though. What I ended up with was one light and fluffy, beautiful perfect loaf of bread and one denser, heavier, heartier type of bread. So the perfect loaf I cut up this morning (it's so much easier to cut thin slices with cold bread than with hot or even slightly warm bread) and we will use that one for sandwiches and toast, and the denser loaf, I cut into thicker pieces and that can be dinner bread. It's perfect for dipping in chili or putting garlic butter on or just smearing with jelly.

How often do you catch yourself thinking it's only 25 cents or it's only a dollar? When you do, what do you do about it? Do you throw the item out or do you tell yourself waste is waste and try to salvage it? I'm not talking about something moldy or icky, but just something usable if not in the way you previously intended.

I spent a lot of time trying to train myself out of the "it's only" mindset. If I had let that run rampant, I wouldn't have an emergency fund today. After all I mostly built it with ones and coins in the beginning and "only" $10 a month deposit. Now my montly deposit is $100, but at the start it wasn't. I had a lot of people who told me saving the little bits would never add up to something, but I've proven over and over again in my life that it does.

So yeah, maybe that 25 cent loaf of dough going into the garbage can instead of the oven wouldn't have been the end of the world, but I would have been wasting not only the cost of the ingredients used, but the time and effort to make the bread and also a place in the garbage can and eventually the landfill. Since I'm trying to lessen all of my household waste, not just food, that would have made me unhappy.

Speaking of lessening household waste, DH brought one of the compost bins in from the old house. We are going to try to get it reassembled today and then I can start on composting here. There are so many food scraps that the chickens won't eat and that the garbage disposal does not want to tackle, like onion skins, corn husks, cauliflower cores, cabbage cores, broccoli stems, pineapple skins, and long potato peelings. We probably throw out at least one kitchen-sized garbage sack full of that every two weeks (not that I save it, I'm estimating based on a little every day).

It'll be nice to turn those into compost. And with the straw that we clean out of the chicken coop and duck den (full of manure) each morning and the grass clippings from the untreated lawn, there will be plenty of brown and green waste to mix in with the scraps to have a healthy pile going in no time. And next spring we'll have a very big bin of compost for the garden. Now if I can just get DH to empty the other bin out at the old house and bring it in for my tomato garden, I'd be really happy.

Another Trip to Goodwill

May 30th, 2012 at 12:59 am

I went back to Goodwill today to buy canning jars. They were 20 cents a piece and I ended up with twelve really good quart size jars and three really pretty pint size jars. Last time I went I got 12, a mix of both. And I have a dozen new ones that I got a while back in an unopened box at a garage sale. I have both Ball and Kerr jars. I don't think it makes much difference as long as it is one of those two brands. So I think I am set for a while. New, this many jars would have cost me a fortune. I was lucky I got there when I did. After I picked out the jars I wanted a lady came through behind me and cleaned out the rest.

I also popped over to Kmart to buy lids and rings. Some, but not many, of the Goodwill bottles had rings (2 were rusty and had to be thrown out), but of course you don't know if the lids were used or not and since I mostly want to can with these, I need good lids.

I filled up the entire dish washer with all of my jars and rings and gave them a heavy duty wash. Tomorrow I hope to make grape jelly using this recipe I found at Owl Haven: http://www.owlhaven.net/2009/08/25/video-how-to-make-grape-j.... I can never find grape jelly without junk in it in the store. I can find literally every other kind of jelly known to man that is just fruit spread, or is just fruit, sugar, and pectin, but for grapes it's just impossible. With this recipe I can use pure organic grape juice and end up with exactly what I want in my jelly.

I am also going to attempt to make homemade yogurt following this method I found at The Frugal Girl: http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2009/10/how-to-make-homemade-yo.... I don't know if I will do that tomorrow or not, but I'd like to do it this week. I was actually looking into yogurt makers, but you still have to do all of the work involved with the process before putting it in there and then it just keeps it at the right temp. But this method uses stuff I already have, a cooler and hot water at 120 degrees. So why pay $25 to $50 for a machine that basically keeps the water warm and then beeps at you when it's done? And makes tiny little six ounce jars. I mean, one of the points of making your own yogurt is to have some fairly good sized jars of it to spoon out of and not to have a ton of little bottles to constantly wash out.

When I make it I am going to just do a half batch. I want to make sure my family will eat it, so using a half gallon instead of a whole gallon of milk makes more sense at the moment. If they don't particularly care for it I can use it up in fruit smoothies or try freezing it. It should be an interesting experience.

Mom gave me a space to use that gets a lot of heavy sun so I am going to pick up some more tomato plants. I really want to can tomatoes and tomato puree (for making sauce) this summer. Canned organic tomatoes are one of our biggest expenses and I want to see if I can cut that down by canning. Also with glass jars I can be assured of no BPA in the can liners.

I might even try my hand at canning some beef. There used to be a little old lady at the church I went to as a kid who canned beef and it was the tastiest stuff. I'd love to do that because sometimes it would be nice to just open a jar and heat and serve pot roast that way. On days when I am just far too tired to cook or something.

I am also thinking about canning green beans. I've not really liked green beans in canning jars in the past, but I think this might be because the beans were too mature, so if I pick them young it might make a difference. Also I may just attempt to freeze young green beans as they are great for stir-fry.

This June I will be going out to get a bunch of organic strawbrerries for freezing and jelly and then of course I will pick our own raspberries in July for jam, and our own blueberries in August for making blueberry jelly and frozen blueberries (we are still eating some from last summer!), and if we get enough blackberries, maybe I'll do jam for those, too. The brambles were pretty small last year, but they are over a bigger area this year, so I might have enough. Mom is also hoping her grapevines are old enough now to produce grapes. I'd love to have some frozen ones on hand, though I'd prefer not to make jelly from grapes, though we could juice them and make the jelly from the juice.

I am also considering making pickles. I've been wanting to grow cucumbers anyhow. At the very least I can make the ones you don't pressure can, but just keep in the fridge up to a month. I won't even get into how much junk is in commercial pickles. Yellow #5 is enough to turn me right away from them. If I want yellow pickles I can use tumeric, but I don't see the point in my pickles not being greenish white like the actual food it comes from.

I might not have enough jars for all I want to do! But then my mother has several jars herself and she seldom does much more than make freezer jam anymore. And she has the canner so I don't have to buy one, though they had those at Goodwill, too.

Coin Jar Update and Credit Card Musings

May 28th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I emptied out my purse and found $10.28 in ones and change to add to the coin jar. I am still debating on whether or not to send $100 to the emergency fund like I normally do every 4 weeks to build it back up again or send that $100 to the credit card. The whole point of taking the EF down to $1000 was to pay off the card sooner, but that habit is so ingrained in me now it's hard not to do it. I suppose I could use it as "save up for my new chest freezer" money, that could double as EF money in a true emergency.

What with all the last minute bumps in the road my dream of having the credit card paid off by the end of June seems unliklely. 2 crowns to pay for for DH and likely one root canal and a possible crown for me. Ugh. And I just can't put it off any longer because it hurts too much now. We shouldn't have to charge anything, but we will have to take the extra payoff money to take care of our teeth. *sighs*

I am still pretty sure we will get the credit card paid off this year though. We will be trying hard. If nothing else, part of the Christmas bonus will do it.

Meal Planning for the Week and Some Gardening

May 28th, 2012 at 01:43 pm

So I sat down and figured out the food for the week, based on what I already have in the house. Except the corn. I will need to buy more corn, but they have been having sales left and right. I also need to buy some bananas, but I think that is it, so my grocery spending should be minimal. I may need to buy milk mid-week, also, but otherwise I think I'm good. So maybe I will spend $25. Which is good as I am intending to spend $300 on sustainable beef, chicken, and pork on Saturday.

Oh, my lettuces are big enough for me to start harvesting leaves, so I think I am done with buying lettuce for the next month or so until the plants bolt. And my heirloom brandywine tomato plant shot up during the three day heatwave. It almost doubled in size. It's started setting blossoms. I need to plant a few more things now. Cucumbers, green onions, and green beans. Just need to do it.

I have pizza dough rising for dinner tonight, have shredded up a 2 pound block of mozzarella cheese, and have prepared garlic butter. I am feeling particularly domestic diva-ish this week with all of this baking and whatnot. Later tonight I am going to make up some homemade turkey corn dog. DS likes to eat a corndog after school to tide him over until dinner. Actually, I might make corn puppies instead, as I don't think we have any sticks. Anyway, here is the food plan for the week.

Monday:
Pizza with ham, pepperoni, yellow onions, red peppers, mozzarella cheese, a sprinkling of cheddar. I will also make my homemade pizza sauce, which basically consists of half a can of organic tomato sauce sprinkled with basil, oregano, marjoram, and thyme.
Homemade bread, toasted, with homemade garlic butter
Leftover organic broccoli/cauliflower
Organic strawberries

Tuesday:
Tropical Chicken Stir-Fry (carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts, celery)
Rice

Wednesday:
Spaghetti with homemade sauce (I have some in the freezer)
Three cheese garlic meatballs
Homemade bread, toasted, with homemade garlic butter
Organic salad

Thursday:
Organic, pasture raised roasted duck
Roasted potatoes and carrots
Green beans
Organic bananas

Friday:
Organic, pasture-raised beef Ribeye steaks
Homemade buns
Organic Broccoli/Cauliflower
Cantaloupe

Saturday:
Fried Chicken
Fried potaotes
Leftover organic broccoli/cauliflower
Pineapple

Sunday:
Organic, pasture-raised beef chuck roast
Organic mashed potatoes with beef gravy
Green beans
Whatever fruit needs to be eaten up

Today Has Been a Productive Baking Day

May 27th, 2012 at 04:17 pm

Well, I've gotten a lot done anyway. The kitchen continues to become better organized and it is so much easier to find things now. So far today I have made a batch of peanut butter cookies, a batch of cornbread blueberry muffins, a batch of hamburger and hot dog buns, and I have dough mixing in the bread machine right now for two loaves of bread. I will take it out and bake it in the oven.

Since I don't have a manual for this bread machine I am too chicken to make it in the bread machine without knowing the capacity. I have tried looking it up online but the model number doesn't seem to be available. I found one close that at least taught me how to operate Mom's machine. Besides, it is a round bucket and round bread is just weird for sandwiches and doesn't fit in sandwich baggies or square reusable containers, and there is always that hole in the bottom when you make bread machine bread from where the paddle is.

Anyway, I think making my own baked goods again is going to save me money. It certainly did before I'd gotten so lazy about it, and the kind of bread DS can eat costs $4 a loaf. Making it costs maybe 50 cents for two loaves. A bag of the additive free hamburger buns is $2.39. Ditto the hot dog buns. So this batch of both kinds of buns is 70 cents.

The seven cornbread blueberry muffins came to 79 cents. That is because I cheat and use Jiffy cornbread muffin mix (it doesn't have the stuff in it DS is allergic to) and then throw in a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries. We picked the blueberries from our own bushes last summer so those are free. It might be even cheaper if I made it from scratch, but I've never calculated it so I am not sure.

And the batch of peanut butter cookies...well that is a bit more expensive because I used a cup of all natural organic peanut butter, $3, a duck egg, $0.71, and a cup of sugar, $0.10. Still, $3.81 for a batch is less. Considering that a container of 12 peanut butter cookies from the grocery store bakery is $3.99 and I got 14 larger cookies (honestly it could be 2 dozen if I made them smaller like the grocery store ones) with what I made, I come out ahead. And there is no comparison in the flavor. Plus you only need to eat one, there is not that drive to eat several like you get buying processed cookies. And when I run out of the duck eggs I will start using the Camano Island pasture raised chicken eggs, which come out to 33 cents each or a free one from our own chickens (when there is one that wasn't eaten for breakfast). So then it will either be $3.43 or $3.10.

Other than that, the organic, pasture-raised beef roast is in the crockpot and will be done in an hour and we will be having corn on the cob, organic broccoli/cauliflower, and a choice of one of the baked goods I made today. Plus, I am having a nectarine, which always makes me happy.

I am feeling much more myself again today if you hadn't noticed! Now I just need to sit down and figure out my meal plan for the week. I feel like I am better on track again, which is a good feeling.

I still need to finish off the budget. I may do that tomorrow. And then send off a few bills, too.

A Long Day

May 26th, 2012 at 11:04 pm

It's been a really long day, but here, as promised, is a photo of the ducks.



You can really see how much they have grown here. They tower over the chicks and they are not even fully grown, though they will be soon. They are so beautiful. It is hard to do them justice in photograph, because they don't let you get too close, but they are not just black. They have glittering dark green feathers mixed in.

We did not make it down to the farm store at Skagit River Ranch so that will go on the agenda for next Saturday. I've set the money aside. We did go to the Food Co-op and we became members. It costs $90 to buy a share (you can only buy one share) and that makes you a member. It is then $5 a year to keep your membership current. They do have a special program for senior citizens though where you can buy in at $3 a month until it is paid for. I thought that was great for people living on a fixed income. You can buy without a membership but it costs more.

We spent $156 on groceries there, but I should not have to buy too much else for the next while. Just milk and produce as needed. I bought a frozen duck. I've never made (or eaten) duck before, but I've been reading the Cook's Illustrated Poultry book (that's not quite the title), and it's got some great recipes in it so I will try it like one of those. It was a five pound duck for $20, free range, pasture-raised, and organic. So $4 a pound. Not bad. We also bought a locally produced chuck roast for dinner tomorrow. It was much less than the ones at the farm, so if it is really good we may just buy our roasts here and just get the other meats there. We'll see.

They also had ground elk, but I couldn't bring myself to spend $12 on one pound. I decided I didn't want to cultivate a taste for something that expensive. Though I was very curious to try it. If I knew someone who hunted it'd be on my list for sure.

I ground my own peanut butter. It was fun! Just peanuts and nothing else. I've never been someplace before that had a machine that wasn't broken. It smells so good and I love knowing exactly went into it. I will be making more peanut butter cookies with it this week.

I checked out all the flours and rices and many other things I didn't get to look at so closely when I went with the children. DH rapidly became a big fan of the place.

I need to plan my menu for this week still. It's half planned in my head, at least the protein dishes, but I still need to figure out the rest.

I spent a good part of the day cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen, but it's not done. It's not even that big a space, but there is a lot to do.

I need to bake tomorrow. I need to make hotdog and hamburger buns and also regular bread. DS uses the hotdog buns for his sandwiches to school. He likes them better than anything else. I also want to do another batch of peanut butter cookies and maybe some blueberry corn bread muffins. I found some great reusable BPA free bread bags at the store the other day and I think I will fill them all up with my baking this week. I want to make French bread mid-week for garlic bread, too. Busy busy I will be.

Stuff and Other Stuff--Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

May 26th, 2012 at 02:10 am

I'm still feeling off. Not quite sick, but not quite right. My allergies are really acting up and it was very hot today, 75 degrees (which is really hot here for May) after several yucky rainy days around 60. Weather swings like that always bother me. I still have the window open at 1:30 a.m. Yes, I know I should b sleeping. Insomnia.

So I didn't stick to my meal plan tonight, either. I made taco meat in the microwave instead and we had tacos and fruit and some lovely milk (the glass bottled organic stuff). I did feel up to making some easy peanut butter cookies, though. Well, I wanted them enough to make them, let's say.

They are so fast and so easy and this time I made them with organic peanut butter instead of Jif (only ingredient was peanuts). They were even better, and I thought the ones I made with Jif were fantastic. (And I'd still be using Jif if Costco hadn't decided to switch to Skippy which DS can't have due to his food allergies, but now we are out and I am not paying regular grocery store prices for Jif, sorry). Oh, and I made it with a duck egg instead of a chicken egg this time so that may have made a difference. (Not from our ducks, they are too young yet, but the food co-op had some and I wanted to try them).

I love my little three ingredient cookie recipe. Just one large egg, one cup of sugar, and one cup of peanut butter. Mix together sugar and egg, then mix in peanut butter, then roll into balls about an inch in diameter. Press down on them with a fork. If the fork sticks use a little water on it. I did not have a problem with sticking this time, though when I used the Jif I had to get the fork wet every fourth cookie or so. I think it was because Jif is creamier and has such a light texture and the organic stuff was denser with a heavier texture and more oil.

Anyway, bake for ten minutes in a 350 degree oven for softer cookies (they won't really look done but they are) or fifteen minutes for a bit harder (like if you were making ice cream cookie sandwiches). It makes about a dozen cookies. Well, I got 14. I guess it depends on the size of the balls you roll.

Today was payday and the money that DH never got paid in February was on this paycheck, so that was nice.

We've had an unexpected expense come up. We had to buy a new set of boxsprings for the bed. I wish to heaven we had never given away the old ones. They were solidly built and these junky ones that came with the new mattress are lousy. They've broken after not even five months use. They are just so incredibly flimsy. They are supposedly rated up to 750 pounds and DH and I are nowhere near that!

I am ticked because the only reason we bought the box springs is that the furniture store guy said it would void the mattress warranty if we didn't. Well...plbbbbtttt! Because without the support of proper box springs the mattress doesn't hold up, does it? The cross pieces in the box spring are made out of the thinnest, cheapest looking particle board. It might as well be cardboard. And of course the 90 day warranty is up.

So we bought an Eco-Lux box spring frame. We'll be out the $49 we spent on our Hollywood frame and of course the money we spent on the box springs. It had really good ratings and seems far sturider than anything else we looked at. Although anything is better than what we've got now. Since I don't trust regular box springs not to be junk now, this sort of thing seemed the way to go. I hope it works otherwise I'm not sure what we can do short of marching into a furniture store and demanding to see the guts of all their box springs.

Tomorrow DS is marching in the Ski to Sea parade and then I am hoping to make it down to Burlington to purchase some more meat at the Skagit River Ranch. I want to get 4 beef chuck pot roasts, 4 packs of bacon, 2 whole chickens, several pounds of hamburger, a pack of the spicier sausage, 4 ribeye steaks and some pork chops. I also want to ask them about how the pig thing works, if we'd have to buy a whole one or if you can do a half. They do have family boxes you can buy at certain times of the year that would be less than buying a whole pig, but I don't think we eat enough pork to make it worthwhile. Usually we have bacon, maybe sausages (though I prefer beef sausage) and hams. On occasion pork chops, but rarely pork roast (unless I'm making pulled pork for burritos). Of course this might taste so good it changes our minds. I do love the bacon and the polish sausages. I wish they made hot dogs. Ever since TJ's made a change in their hot dogs a few months ago I haven't liked theirs anymore.

If we don't get done with the parade in time to go down then we will go next Saturday. The farm store is only open on Saturdays.

Not much else going on. I did pay some bills, but I will try to detail them tomorrow (or technically today, being as it is past midnight).

This and That

May 24th, 2012 at 09:44 pm

I haven't been feeling great the last couple of days. Not sick, really, just...yucky. Today I didn't stick to my meal plan. I cooked, it's just that the idea of doing a complicated new recipe did not appeal. Plus, I realized I was out of soy sauce, so I couldn't really make the marinade. I ended up just doing bacon cheese burgers, corn on the cob, and nectarines. It worked well. We picked up soy sauce so we can make the Tropical Chicken Stir-fry tomorrow and bump the ribeye meal to next week. They are frozen so it's not that big a deal. Plus DS is doing a make up tae kwon do class tomorrow for when he was so sick, which means a stir-fry will just be easier than the other.

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I found this interesting booklet on meal planning: http://nchstd.documents.s3.amazonaws.com/More%20Month%20than.... It's kind of a crash course for people who don't really know what they are doing. It wasn't exactly news to me, but I think it would be very helpful for someone who hasn't tried meal planning before and wants to dive in. It does require time though. I think this is more for families with a stay at home parent (and not of very young children, but at least preschool age and up, because some of it would just be hard to do with a toddler clinging to your leg or wearing a baby) or maybe one parent who is only working part time. I'd find it hard if I was working full time. Not that it's not doable, but it's probably not practicle in that situation. Also didn't really care for the breakfasts, because I don't like oatmeal (unless it's in cookies or bread or granola or Joe's O's), but it's not hard to plan breakfasts. And I liked the shopping lists. It's a good teaching tool really.

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I added $6.98 cents to the coin jar. I picked up a prescription for $25. We filled up the gas tank on the van, $57.16. We did a major stock up run to Costco so I shouldn't have to go there for a couple of months, and picked up six LED lightbulbs there, batteries, toilet paper, and of course groceries.

I got really annoyed at a lady there. She was trying to squeeze between me and the shelves instead of going around DH and I. There was not room to do this and she was practically shoving her cart into me. I was probably less than gracious about it because I was having a bad pain day in my leg which always makes me walk slower. I walked even slower at that point. I get cranky when I hurt. She huffed loudly and finally just went around us. I wanted to tell her off, but I bit my tongue. People are rude enough at Costco without me adding to it.

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Spent $10 on two foam swords for the kids. I probably played with one of them more than was seemly for an adult, but it was fun to whack something today. Very stress relieving. This was actually an expense for school.

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Here, have a photo of the half grown chickens roosting in the coop. I will try to get a photo of the ducks up soon.



Oh, and here's a photo of the damage my mother "didn't" do to our older car. The suction cup dent remover does not work to pull it out, either. It cost $5.

My Favorite Price--Free

May 22nd, 2012 at 05:16 pm

As many of you here at SA know, gardening can be expensive. And as many of you here know, it doesn't have to be. I have been wanting to get a spider plant for the bathroom for a while now. They are good at preventing mold and mildew from developing and now that the bathroom remodel is over I'm all for anything that will prevent that from being a problem.

I've priced them and the nice, lovely, huge ones at the garden stores are very expensive. And they don't seem to carry little ones. But my chiropractor has a beautiful large plant sitting on his front counter and I am forever eyeing it. Today he saw me looking at it and offered to let me take a start off of it. It's a prolific beast and he gives the babies away on occasion to prevent it overrunning its pot.

So I dug one out of the middle (you can't even see where I took it from) and wrapped it in a paper towel and brought it home. My mother gave me a pot to use that my cousin had given her full of some coleus that she brought home from a recent trip across the mountains and she'd just transplanted that. I cleaned out the pot and she gave me some potting soil she had and I planted it. It's been grown completely free of chemicals since he purchased it years ago and the potting soil I planted the baby in is organic.

This is what my little baby spider plant looks like now:



But with proper care it will one day look like this:



And for no out of pocket cost to me. I have exactly what I wanted for free and in time it'll be a thriving, gorgeous plant. I love how gardeners, or even indoor ones, are so generous with their plants.

Cooking at Home--Breakfast Cost Analysis

May 22nd, 2012 at 10:56 am

So for the past two mornings I have had the most delicious homemade omelettes for breakfast. They are very simple, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp of sharp cheddar cheese, one green onion, 1 slice diced (by me) Canadian bacon, salt and pepper and butter for cooking them in.

I haven't done a price break down on breakfast in a long time, so thought I would. Since these eggs are pasture raised organic eggs from Camano Island they aren't the free ones from our chickens, they are $3.99 a dozen (I was shocked to find a price so low for these at the Food Co-op), which works out to 33 cents each. My batch of scallions was .39 and it had 12 in it which works out to 3 cents. The Canadian bacon was additive free and $5.99 for six slices (ouch) so was $1. I used maybe 2 cents worth of butter and 25 cents worth of cheese. The cost of the salt and pepper is negligible.

So:
$1.00 Canadian bacon
__.66 2 eggs
__.03 Green onion
__.25 Cheese
+_.10 Butter
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$2.04 total

Hey, that's not too bad considering the additive free meat. But once the new chicks start laying and there are enough eggs to not have to supplement with store bought, and when my green onions that I planted from seed are big enough to harvest, the cost of this meal will drop to $1.35. Pretty good for a meal rich in protein. Pancakes and eggs are still cheaper, but not by too much. Muffins and eggs are even cheaper, but still, it's not too bad.

The same omelette breakfast in our local Mom and Pop diner would come to $5.99 plus tax and would not have organic ingredients in it. So, not too shabby indeed.

Because Coin Jar Update Posts are Boring

May 21st, 2012 at 08:31 pm

This is growing on the back walk:



and to give you an idea of its size, here's one of it being held open by my fifteen-year-old daughter's hands:



And I put $9.46 in the coin jar today after cleaning out my purse.

Meal Planning for the Week

May 21st, 2012 at 10:30 am

I meant to post this yesterday, but the internet ate my entry and I really didn't feel like doing it all over again, even though the bulk of it was just copying and pasting from a Word document. I made up my menu plan, actually I made up three week's worth of menu plans yesterday. I also spent some time exploring new recipes. I found quite a few that sounded delcious at www.owlhaven.net.

Monday:
Cod fish
Baked sweet potato fries
Cole slaw
Cantaloupe

Tuesday:
Fried Chicken
Mashed Potatoes and gravy
Broccoli/cauliflower
Strawberries

Wednesday:
Ehtiopian Sloppy Joes http://youvegottotastethis.myrecipes.com/taste_this/2010/12/... (I may end up using stew beef in this instead of hamburger and making it more of a stew)
Naan bread
Green beans

Thursday:
Tropical Island Chicken Stir-Fry (the original recipe for this came from Taste of Home and then was adapted by Kristen at http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2010/04/easy-frugal-cooking-tro..., but I am further adapting it and changing it into a stir-fry. It was just a grilled meat dish before.

Friday:
Ribeye steaks
Corn
Cole Slaw
Leftover fruit (whatever needs using up)
Milk

Saturday:
DS is marching in the Ski to Sea parade and I don't know how long the day is going to be and we were hoping to slip down to Skagit County and get some more grass fed organic beef and bacon. So we might actually make our usual Sunday potroast today as we can stick it in in the morning and have it be done when we get home. Along with it we'll have canned corn and green beans.

Sunday:
If we have potroast on Saturday then we'll have bacon cheeseburgers, fried potatoes, and cole slaw.

Food Co-op

May 19th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I looked into the local food co-op today (or at least looked at their extensive website) and think I might join. There is less and less I want to get at Costco anymore now that we are moving more towards sustainable food and living, etc., and I think it might be the way to go. It's fairly large and it has a one time fee of $90 and then a $5 a year annual fee. Umm...yeah, better than Costco and it's 90% organic.

Plus, I was looking around on their website and they had a picture from their mercantile department and they had wooden spatulas and wooden flippers or turners or whatever you call them. The things you flip pancakes over with. I'm wanting to get away from plastics and their leaching effects as much as possible as I'm starting to suspect that may be where a majority of my health problems may be coming from. I have five different wooden spoons that came with my wok, but they don't help with everything. I also want to find wooden tongs.

They also have additive free roast beef and turkey in their deli. The one sandwich shop in town where we can buy that you have to buy a pound of each at a time and since it's $9.99 a pound, you then have to divide it up and freeze it because you don't want it to go to waste at that price (or at any price, but especially that price). If I can just purchase enough for that week's sandwiches it would be so much easier. Even if I will still have to freeze part of it because it only lasts about three days, that will still mean much less work on my part and fewer containers tied up in the freezer.

I do want to make a visit in person though, because if the prices are outrageous it may not be worth it. Still, I remember going there sometimes with my friend and her mom when I was little and I know that her mom always thought the prices there were reasonable and I know they didn't make as much in their family as my parents did and they were pinching pennies, so if it's still reasonable like that it could be a viable alternative and a less expensive source of organic foods. You don't have to join to shop there, but you can get case discounts and special prices on certain things if you do.

And A Couple More Things

May 18th, 2012 at 09:51 pm

Just a bit more in the financial housekeeping arena. I cleaned out my purse and found $2.35 in change so that went into the coin jar.

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I distributed weekly allowances to the kids, $12 and $7, and I put DH's monthly allowance into his envelope, $100. I ordered what I am spending my allowance on this month, Doctor Who stuff. I am being a fangirl nerd again, but I can't help it. I had the opportunity to get the Ninth Doctor's Complete Collected Comics, which are a collector's itme now, so I grabbed it up and I also got the first collection of the Tenth Doctor's Comics, which are not a collector's item, but I wanted everything with Rose in it, so it's been on the list for a while.

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Found a penny yesterday in the tae kwon do parking lot. I forgot to mention it.

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I spent some time doing research and I found that my county has not one but two dairies that bottle in glass. Dairy #1 has Jersey cows and practices sustainable farming, but is not certified organic. However they don't put the additives in their milk and they don't homogenize. They don't use GMO anything, they don't use growth hormones, and they only use antibiotics on the cows when they get sick. That milk is thrown away and all milk is tested for antibiotics in case some slips through. There milk is available at the store six blocks from my house, but I didn't know anything about it before now.

Dairy #2 is certified organic and sustainable and has Holstein cows. It carries its products in stores that are less convenient to me than Dairy #1, but not terribly hard to get to. One place is near where my son has tae kwon do. The other is near where I pick up my prescriptions and a block from the athletic club. A third is two blocks from my daughter's high school.

Dairy #1's bottles are returnable to the grocery store. I do not know if Dairy #2's bottles or returnable or just recycleable. I will ask. I am going to try both kinds of milk and see which one I have a taste preference for. I know that Dairy #1's milk is cheaper than Organic Valley milk, but more expensive than ordinary milk. I don't know about the price of Dairy #2's milk. But at least this gives me a jumping off place.

Bits and Pieces

May 18th, 2012 at 07:16 pm

I deposited my coin jar money into the safety net bank account. I added $61.55. This brought the total there to $1052.43. The grand total of the EF is now at $1097.53. It is weird building it back up again from a small amount, but worth it.

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I did a screener survey for ACOP today and got 25 points for 5 minutes. It was a qualifier for a 15 minute video watch and I tend to get those, so hopefully I'll hear later this week that I did. It's a 400 point survey with a 400 point follow up. It's a penny a point so that's a total of $8.00 which is a good one.

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I mostly stuck to my meal plan, but a small deviation was necessary. We had bacon cheeseburgers but not fried potatoes. Yesterday when I told DD to boil six potatoes I did not remember to tell her to take half of them out before mashing to save for tonight for frying. Leftover mashed potatoes just didn't seem to go with burgers so we will have them with our potroast on Sunday. I ended up making fresh corn on the cob instead. And also I had a bit of a craving so I made the easiest peanut butter cookies I have ever made. 3 ingredients (no flour) and about 3 minutes of hands on time. And they were delicious (or at least my cookie was).

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I paid $2000 to the Bank of America VISA and paid the car payment. I have a few other bills to do so I can mail them out tomorrow, but I am feeling like I've been put through the ringer today. I did do a bit of grocery shopping, but nothing to justify the way that I feel. It might be allergies partly as I am very stuffy. I remembered to take my bags into the two stores I visited today, so only one plastic bag came home with me and that was the produce bag wrapped around the green onions.

----------------------------

I wish I could find local organic milk in glass bottles. We do have a dairy that does milk in returnable glass bottles, but they are not organic and they do add the vitamin D to all their milk but whole milk and along with that vitamin D is the stuff used to suspend it in the milk that my son is allergic to. The kids only like non-fat milk and though I like the taste of whole, I can't handle that much lactose on a consistent basis. I will continue to look though. I know that milk jugs can be recycled, but I'd still rather have it in glass. One, things just taste better in glass, and two, I'd rather have a reusable container to return than recycle a container that cannot be reused. I will keep looking. With all the dairy farms in this county there must be someone who does.

I Found My Camera and Odds and Ends

May 17th, 2012 at 09:48 pm

This makes me so pleased. DH's camera is the one that won't take photos anymore and mine had gone missing, but it showed up today, rather mysteriously. I'm pretty sure it fell through a crack in the space/time continuum, because it was not there last night. Or this morning. Or maybe one of the kids snuck it back after finding it in their rooms or something and isn't saying. But I have it.

It is not as good as the other one, but I hate not being able to take pictures. There have been so many times in the past couple of days when there has been something I've wanted to snap and couldn't. I am still researching new cameras, as I do feel we need to get a good, high quality one soon, but I no longer feel so rushed to do so.

------------------

I almost blew it today on a credit card payment. I had accidentally charged something on one of the paid off cards and then forgot about it until the last minute. And I do mean last minute. As in it was 4:40 and I had to get home to a meal I had started making but left my daughter in charge of. Fortunately she was just finishing putting everything on the table as I walked in the door. I was able to eat in 20 minutes and had enough time to drive over to the one drive-thru branch of BoA that stays open until 6, so I got it paid. If I hadn't paid it today there would have been interest. No more cutting it that close for me!

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I also picked up a prescription because I was on that side of town, $3.35.

----------------------

I got gas today. The pump shut off at $50. I don't know why, I pre-paid with my AMEX card and I've never had it shut off before the tank was full except on really hot days and even then it was a gallon shy not this much. It was only 12 gallons and I have an 18 gallon tank and it was empty. It should not have clicked off at 3/4 of a tank, but I was in a hurry so I didn't try to do a second purchase or go in and see what was up. But I figure DH will be home when it runs out again and he can take it and get it all the way full.

Gas was $4.29 a gallon. Ouch. It's cheaper at Costco, $4.17, but not worth the time driving there and the time spent in the line. It works out to be cheaper to pay the 12 cents more a gallon. I actually save money that way, which tells you gas prices are ridiculously high.

-------------------------

Tomorrow is payday. I will be running around a fair bit to pay things and to do a small amount of grocery shopping. Produce mostly, but I also want to look for some BPA free storage containers. I'd like to replace all of my cheap plastic with either BPA free plastic containers or glass containers.

One of the hints I saw on doing this for cheaper was to buy things in glass containers that you could reuse, but most of what I buy either doesn't come in a container (fresh fruits and vegetables) or doesn't come in glass at all, only plastic or tin. Peanut butter and jelly come in glass, but they are small, so while I might be able to fit a serving or so of some food in one, I wouldn't be able to fit planned over leftovers for the next days meal into something like that. I also do get a glass bottle of mango nectar that my son can have but it has a narrow mouth so it would be hard to store anything in it, except maybe popcorn or rice (which comes in a cardboard box anyway, not plastic). Maybe small uncooked macaroni noodles or shells.

I did see some quart-sized and pint-sized Ball canning jars at Goodwill when I was there that I could use. I would have to buy lids and rings to use those for storage, plastic wrap on top defeats the purpose of using sustainable products, but that is certainly cheaper than Pyrex with lids, which is what I was looking for in that aisle of Goodwill. I found lots of Pyrex, but not any with lids. Something to think on as my reusable plastic wears out and we switch over to products that are better for the planet.

Leftover Spaghetti Pie--Using it Up to Prevent Throwing it Out

May 17th, 2012 at 02:04 pm

Well, I clearly made too much spaghetti on Monday because there is still a good batch of noodles and sauce sitting in the fridge. Normally the kids eat it after school for snacks but this time it just appears to be sitting there. So I got to thinking about it. My first thought was freeze the sauce and don't worry about the pasta, everything says pasta doesn't freeze well. But that thought doesn't go over well with me, because I am trying to use up all my food, not just throw it out because I don't know what to do with it.

Then I thought, wait a minute. Lasagna freezes great and it's pasta. And I see prepared frozen spaghetti and mac and cheese all the time when I go down the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. Maybe plain pasta by itself doesn't freeze well, but what about some kind of casserole. And then I remembered something I used to make back in our low income days after a huge pot of spaghetti was getting boring. Leftover Spaghetti Pie!

I don't think I ever really had a recipe for this, I kind of just threw it together. I'd grease a pie plate or a square glass baking dish with butter (because everything tastes better with butter) and I'd dump the leftover spaghetti in. I'd take a butter knife and kind of cut up the pasta into more manageable chunks. Then I'd mix in about a pound of cooked ground meat.

I used to be in the habit of making up five pounds of hamburger at a time and keeping some in the freezer in one pound bags for busy days, so I'd just grab one, give it a quick thaw in the microwave, and dump it in with the spaghetti. I'd then dump in the leftover spaghetti sauce (unless I'd mixed the sauce and pasta when we ate it). Usually about 2 cups worth (or if you don't have sauce made up 1 16 ounce jar's worth). I'd mix it around until it was all evenly distrubted and then I'd mix in some hard cheese like parmesan or romano, sometimes both. Maybe 1/2 a cup or so in total. Then I'd cover the top with mozzarella and then sprikle some extra sharp cheddar cheese on top of that.

I'd bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees and out would come a beautiful, browned, bubbly casserole. So that's what I'm going to do with my leftovers. Only without cooking it. I will cover it with aluminum foil instead and put it in the freezer, take it out one night next week to thaw and bake it for dinner the next night.

I Don't Think This is My Fault

May 16th, 2012 at 07:05 pm

I have to consider the sourdough starter a complete failure. Oh, I know that it could have succeeded quite well, it was getting frothy and bubbly and I was going to make sourdough bread today, but when I pulled back the towel I found a Miller moth drowning in it. I do not know how this happened as there were no gaps between the bowl and the towel for it get through, but there it was. Clearly I couldn't use it. I don't know if I have the patience to start it over again at the moment.

We are having quite a persistent problem with these little moths getting in the house right now. Short of never going outside again, I'm not sure what I can do about it. Actually I'm not even sure that would work as it's possible they are just hatching out since there have been so many over the last six weeks or so. All of the screens are tightly in the windows so they have to be coming in the doors with us.

I will probably attempt it again at some point, but right now I am feeling very "sit there like a lumpish" and this despite having actually made hamburger and hot dog buns with yeast today. And cleaning the sink. And doing laundry. I wish I knew why I felt so lumpish. My cold seems to be gone, but I just feel really tired. And I slept well last night, though maybe one night of good sleep after several nights of nowhere near enough doesn't count for much.

I am in the middle of reading An Unending Meal, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but the author's prose is putting me off a bit. It's subtitle is Cooking with Economy and Grace, but I'm not finding much in the way of economy. Well, she is keen on using it up and making do with all parts of each food, so I guess that part is economical, but it is not economical food. She goes for the expensive range of things. And I shouldn't mind that so much as I am all for the grass fed, free range, organic foods, but...I don't know. It's not what I think of when I hear the word economy. This could be a me thing.

But the cooking with grace part...I guess it's coming off more as being full of airs and graces than it is being graceful. More purple prose than anything else. Maybe I am just more accustomed to a more down homey style and straightforwardness in my cook books. I will continue on through it, but I really wish that this is one book I had not purchased but had gotten at the library. I had really high hopes for it and the reviews just raved about her writing style, but all it really does is rub me the wrong way. Not to say that the recipes don't look excellent, they do, it's just that so much of the book is in the delivery and I guess I just prefer UPS or FED EX to the hand delivered courier.

Best Laid Plans

May 16th, 2012 at 11:34 am

I had planned for dinner tonight to be meatball subs, but the kids were hungrier than I expected last night and ended up eating all but 2 of the meatballs. Which normally wouldn't be that big a deal, it takes exactly 7 minutes to make them, cooking time included since I make them in the microwave. I could easily have made up another batch of meatballs, but the buns I had been planning to use up had little mold spots on them this morning. They were perfectly fine when I looked at them last night, but not this morning. Well, I do have bread rising, but my afternoon is too full to make buns this afternoon. I will make them tonight after supper.

I am a little miffed at myself for not getting the buns used up in time. These ones happened to be store bought, and they were made in the bakery, not on the shelf. I did that to avoid as much of the junky stuff as I could, but that also meant few preservatives and I didn't even think to store the buns in the fridge like I do with my homemade ones. *sighs* When I throw out a bun or two that I make myself it is not nearly so expensive. I mean, I don't like wasting food, period, but if I have to, ten cents worth is much better than $1.50 worth (there were five buns left out of a twelve bun package), you know?

I looked at my menu plan to figure out what day would be best to swap with. Normally I would just do the next day's meal, but tomorrow's meal is much more labor intensive because there isn't a ton on the adgenda tomorrow and I can easily accomplish a more elaborate meal then. Tonight DS has tae kwon do so I need a meal that is faster to get on the table, which was why I had planned for leftovers. The easiest meal to swap out with will be Saturday's, which I planned to do beef tacos on. I can make a pizza on Saturday instead and make the tacos tonight. Technically I could make pizza tonight as I have dough in the freezer, but we just had it the other night and I really am not in the mood to have it again this soon. So tacos it is.

I found two super easy recipes the other day for fast lunches that I might do on the weekend with leftover chicken. Variations on a theme, really. One is a bacon, chicken and cheese quesadilla, and the other is a wrap with chicken, bacon, cheese, baby spinach and tortilla. DD said she would be interested in the wrap to take for lunches to school, so she might have that on Friday. I buy these mixed salad greens that I really like that have baby spinach in them. I am not a huge fan of baby spinach so I usually pick it out and have the kids eat it anyway. I mean I'll eat it if it's served to me in a restaurant or if there is a chance it will go to waste if I don't, but it's just kind of...eh to me. The kids love it. So it works pretty well most of the time.

My daughter mentioned last night while we were sitting at the dinner table how happy she was that we were eating real meals again and how much better the food is. We got a lot of takeout when we were sick, but we've gone many days now without getting any. Part of the takeout problem was that I just did not feel good enough to be cooking, but part of it was I had no meal plan and I basically could not even think one out. It's one thing to robotically follow something that was already planned out when you are ill and another to come up with it in the first place. It's like all common sense dribbles out your ear when you're sick with a head cold.

I think I should probably come up with some simple fixings to keep on hand for easy meals on days like that and have myself a list of them made up so I can just open a document and go, "Hey, I have that. That's easy. I can do that," instead of going what's the healthiest option I can get delivered through my car window? Or worse yet, the one that involves the least amount of driving.

I know my focus on eating cleaner, healthier, more humanely raised food gets very blurry when I am sick. I wonder if it's true of vegetarians or other people that eat a certain way as well. Most of the time you are good and you eat according to your ideals or whatever, but do you just say the heck with it and go for the cans of Chicken Noodle soup and toasted cheese sandwiches from your childhood when you just feel rotten? I need to get better at this, but part of it is still new to me.

Not too much else in the financial arena. I will make a small credit card payment today of $87.50. I accidentally charged something on the wrong card and need to get the balance back to zero.

Frugal Things I Did Today

May 15th, 2012 at 08:20 pm

1. Colored my hair with an old box of hair dye that has been kicking around for 2 years. It was bought back when it was $5.99 a box. It looks great by the way, though it is not the color it said on the box. I colored dark reddish brown hair with some grey something called Brazilian Bronze. No. Copper maybe, but definitely not bronze. So I've got a bit more red in my hair than usual, but it works.

2. I stuck to my meal plan and made spaghetti and meat balls with from scratch sauce, even though I wanted to get take out burgers from Boomers. I have enough sauce left for both the leftover noodles, meatball subs tomorrow and to make a lasagna later. And I immediately froze what will go for the lasagna as soon as it cooled. In the past I've left it in the fridge too long and ended up throwing it out. That was a while ago, but I am guarding against it in my effort not to waste good, organic, wholesome food.

3. Picked up two cook books from the library that I really wanted to buy. I did not see them at Goodwill when I went there on the weekend. They are The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and The Cook's Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry. One is a doorstop. The other is pretty hefty, too. Neither book has photos so I'm glad I did not buy them. I like photos with my recipes. To me the word illustrated means they should have photos. There are a few drawings, but they are a drop in the bucket. I am still going to read them as they came highly recommended, or at least the first one did, at a blog I have started reading in the last week.

4. I started reading a new (to me) blog at www.thefrugalgirl.com. I'm working my way through the backlog of posts (she has almost four years worth) and I really like it. She has similar values to mine and is homeschooling her kids. I don't homeschool anymore, but I did for several years and I still have the mindset, so I am really enjoying her and she is so cheerful and upbeat, which is nice. I was actually looking for frugal recipes with meat and she was one of the choices and then I was like, hey, what else has she got, and then I was totally sucked in. She has good ideas and reading her stuff is really encouraging me to stick to my meal plan.

5. Took a walk. Free exercise.

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In other news, we have a nesting pair of what I think are chickadees living in the bird house on our back porch. I moved our recycle bins to the other side of the porch so as not to disturb them. They built a nest all last week. It was fun to watch them being so industrious. I think they are either Boreal or Mountain chickadees. It's more likely they are Boreal as I don't know if the Mountain ones stray this close to sea level, though there are still a lot of foothills around us.

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On Saturday evening I found Navi dead. She was the white hen. I don't know what was wrong with her. There was no sign of trauma, she was just on her back, feet up in the air and stiff as a board. She hadn't laid in a week and we think she might have been backed up with the eggs still inside her. I hope not because that is a horrible way for a hen to die, but it does happen.

If one of them had to go though, she was the bully in the henhouse and it was better it was her than any of the others. The flock is much more harmonius now. We buried her and gave her a little funeral. The chickens and ducks are very much pets, albeit working pets.

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My diet and exercise are going well and I am losing weight again. I'm sure sticking to my meal planning helps with that a lot. I am generally feeling better, but my face has broken out like a teenager at the worst part of puberty. I think it's just the fact that I haven't slept well in a few nights. I know it's not sugar or high fructose corn syrup because I haven't had any in ages. I do not think it is fair for people to have wrinkles and zits. Like karmically unfair. I'm going to bed early tonight.

I Am Debating Cancelling My Costco Membership

May 14th, 2012 at 01:40 pm

Yeah, I know, me. I like Costco for a lot of reasons, but lately I don't even want to go there. The parking lot is always crammed, not just with Washingtonians, but also with Canadians coming across the border to get deals on food. And gas. For a long time Costco has been the cheapest gas station around, but the wait over the last year has gotten to be so ridiculous you can spend a half an hour in line waiting for gas and that's not even during peak time. In fact it takes less time to drive to the Costco in the next county and get gas then it does to go to the one in my hometown. Of course there's the return trip so it's not worth it, but that shouldn't be the case. It shouldn't be this bad. We aren't California.

I think it would help if they had county or state resident only hours of operation. It would be nice if there were an hour in the morning or an hour in the evening where if you were from out of state or country, you weren't allowed to buy then. Even if it was only one day a week.

Not even the handicapped parking spaces are vacant there. In the past year and a half that I've had my permit, I've parked in a handicapped slot there exactly twice. And after navigating the innards of this Costco and then waiting in the checkout line for 20 minutes or longer, my body is so messed up I need to have parked close.

We're not buying our meat there anymore since switching to grassfed beef and chicken, I can buy toilet paper and cashews somewhere else, but there are certain items I can't get anywhere else locally. 50 pound bags of flour, the organic tomato sauce, tomatoes, paste, and sauce. They have changed so many brands to their store brand, which is sometimes good but sometimes really, really not. They have stopped carrying the peanut butter my son can eat.

I don't know. We more than made back our money on our membership this year, and the thing renewed in January so I'm not in a rush to make up my mind, but the lengths at which I go to avoid going there (I usually send DH with a list) make me think maybe it's time to let it go. I think if before it expires I go and buy a year's worth of butter and freeze it and tomato products and store them, I could be perfectly happy without the membership at this point. With our new bed we could completely fill the underneath with tomato products and not have them sitting out in the way. Maybe that is the way to go.

I'll really have to watch my pattern of use for the rest of the year and if I'm avoiding it more than I'm going then there's not much point in keeping it any longer.

Meal Planning for the Week

May 13th, 2012 at 08:42 pm

Okay so breakfasts are pretty much the same around here for the kiddos. Usually pancakes and eggs for the boy and peanut butter toast or leftover something or other for the girl. She doesn't like to eat too much first thing in the morning.

Lunches for the kids during the school week are turkey and roast beef sandwiches for the boy and either ham or turkey wraps of some sort for the girl. They have their choice of taking yogurt and fruit (kiwis and pineapple chunks for either or an apple for the girl). DS usually gets hot lunch on Tuesdays (chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and some sort of fruit), which reminds me that I need to write a check for $18 for the rest of the year. I want the account bottomed out. I don't like to run it with a balance over the summer, even if I know he will just use it next September.

I am going to make myself a low carb meatloaf tomorrow for my lunches this week. I am only eating high carbs once a day right now at dinner time. It's just eggs, parmesan and romano cheese, ground beef, green onions and garlic. I'll probably post the actual recipe and amounts with photos tomorrow. The camera is fritzing still, so sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and I haven't made it to buy a new one yet. I will have a salad of mixed greens with the meatloaf.

I will probably do up a batch of taco meat, too. I often eat leftover taco meat on lettuce with cheese for breakfast when I am too tired to make myself eggs or sausage. I may also make and fry up some lamb sausage patties after lunch for breakfasts, too. I usually eat cucumber slices with my breakfast if it is not taco meat on lettuce.

So dinners:

Monday--Homemade pizza with prosciutto, hamburger (this will be the leftover hamburger patty I made yesterday crumbled up), onions, red peppers (at least on my portion), mozzarella cheese and a bit of cheddar, and pepperoni. Salad. Milk.

Tuesday--Spaghetti with meatballs. I am going to make my fancy from scratch sauce and make extra meatballs for the next day. Leftover broccoli and cauliflower will be the veggies unless I eat them for lunch, then they will be fresh instead. Milk.

Wednesday--Meatball sandwiches. I have some homemade hamburger buns to use up. I will save out some of the spaghetti sauce and use the leftover meatballs for this. Green beans. Milk.

Thursday--oven baked chicken, from scratch mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and cauliflower. Canteloupe. Milk. (I will save some of the boiled potatoes before I mash them for tomorrow).

Friday--Bacon cheeseburgers with fried potatoes using the saved boiled potatoes. Green beans. Milk.

Saturday--Beef Tacos, sweet potatoes and whatever leftover cut fruit we have left and if none I will open up something else or we will do bananas.

Sunday--Beef pot roast, from scratch mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans. Milk.

There. I feel much better having a plan for the week.

Making Lobster Tails at Home for Much Less Than You'd Pay in a Restaurant

May 13th, 2012 at 07:00 pm

I have had some serious food cravings this week. Yesterday it was a bacon cheeseburger, and today it was seafood. A good seafood dinner of lobster tails in a restaurant will set you back anywhere from $25.99 to $35.99 per person and that's assuming you're getting the regular 4 ounce one and not one of the fancier, larger ones, or a whole lobster at market price. Fortunately my favorite grocery store had an awesome seafood sale this week and they were selling 4 ounce lobster tails for $4.99. This is pretty much unheard of. I bought three of them. They were raw.

I have only made lobster tails a couple times in my life and that has been years and years ago and involved using the broiler. I wasn't really in the mood to heat the house up that high on such a hot day and the cookbook I used in the past was in storage, so I looked up how to cook them on the internet and I was very happy with how they turned out. It was also a surprisingly fast meal to get on the table, about 20 minutes from start to finish and that was without any help from the kids.

I started setting the oven to 450 and then I got out my lobster tails. They looked like this:



I took a good pair of poutry scissors and cut down the middle of the back of each tail.



You then have to open the cut and work the meat away from the shell and bringing it up on top of it, like how they serve it in restuarants. Remove the waste tube and throw it away and rinse the meat well. Put each tail in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil and dot the meat with butter. You can also season it now, but I like my lobster to taste like lobster and not meat seasoning so I didn't. I wrapped it loosely in the foil and then put each one in a metal cake pan.

I then started the water to boil for my broccoli and cauliflower and when the oven beeped I slipped the lobster tails inside and set the timer for 10 minutes. I quickly cut up my broccoli and cauliflower and rinsed it, then I took three leftover baked potatoes out of the fridge from a big batch I'd cooked earlier in the week and put them in the microwave to warm up (although 3 potatoes would have only taken 10 minutes of baking in the microwave and 5 minutes of steam time if they had been uncooked. When the water boiled I threw in the veggies and set them for 7 minutes.



I pulled out the lobster when it dinged and left it in the foil to stay warm, while I turned to my beautiful fresh pineapple and turned it into this:



I pulled the potatoes out of the microwave, split them and put butter on them.



Then the veggies were done so I drained them, and then put everything on the table. We unwrapped the lobster tails and they looked like this:



Although this meal might be pricier than most, I still came in at under $25 for the three of us (including milk), a savings of at least $50 if we'd eaten this food in the restaurant, more than that if we'd had drinks and not water. And that's with all the items I made being organic and the lobster being wild caught. Not bad if I do say so myself and everything tasted wonderful.

I will return to making meals that are much more frugal for the rest of the week, but sometimes it's nice to treat yourself, without going to the expense of a restaurant meal and this was my Mother's Day gift to myself!

Homemade is Better Than Takeout...

May 12th, 2012 at 06:56 pm

...or at least it is if you can cook. And cheaper, too. I was majorly craving fast food today, but I absolutely had no inclination to leave the house or yard and even less inclination to spend money. So what to do when you absolutely must have that most evil of burgers (the one with bacon)? Why make it yourself. If you're lucky you'll end up with something that looks like this:



And maybe even tastes like it. I tell you that grass fed organic hamburger cooked in the fat from the bacon from the free range pigs, sprinkled with onion salt and meat seasoning on a homemade bun with organic sheep's cheddar cannot be beat. Not even by the best burger joint in town.

Of course you must have fries with that, right? So I took three leftover organic baked potatoes, peeled them and cut them up, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and fried them in e.v. olive oil (not organic, even I can't justify that price!).

And again, if you're lucky they'll turn out looking a bit like this:



And then add some of these:



and a couple of these:



in the blender with some all natural french vanilla ice cream to make one of these:



Total cost? About $15. Amount I would have spent getting the same amounts and types of food of lesser quality for the three of us? About $30 (milkshakes are expensive!). And there's one leftover burger patty for someone's lunch tomorrow or to crumble up as a pizza topping.

Sourdough Starter

May 11th, 2012 at 08:36 pm

I decided to make sourdough starter tonight. I haven't made sourdough bread (or starter) in several years, mostly because I didn't want to tie up my biggest glass bowl at the time. Starter has to be made in a glass, ceramic, or crock container and can only be mixed with a wooden or plastic spoon as it reacts badly with metal and you can easily kill it. Now I have a gigantic glass bowl (that came as part of a set one Christmas) and it is a pain in the butt, quite frankly. It's heavy and takes up way too much space in the fridge, but it is just perfect for setting on the counter for ages and holding starter.

I love making bread (and not having to buy expensive additive free store loaves!) but I haven't done it much of late and I really want to get back into it again. As I am getting low on yeast and want to save it for when I make rolls and buns, starter is a good way to go. It only takes 2 1/4 teaspoons and then you never need to use yeast again unless you kill your starter off. It's the ultimate in frugality if you bake every day. I end up spending somewhere around 50 cents a loaf and I love that when similar bread would cost me $4. And there is nothing like the smell of fresh sourdough bread permeating the house.

If anyone else is interested in making a sourdough starter, there are some great directions on this page: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/SourdoughStarter.htm. It's pretty much foolproof if you follow the directions exactly. I am really looking forward to my first loaf, even if it won't be for several days.

I Planted Things

May 11th, 2012 at 01:21 pm

Today was such a beautiful day that I finally got around to planting my lettuce. I am now the proud owner of two long window boxes full of romaine and red leaf lettuces. The starts have been sitting around in their little boxes for two weeks now and it almost seemed like they were very happy to stretch their feet (er, roots) in their new habitat.

I also commandeered one of my mother's large pots and planted an heirloom brandywine tomato plant that I bought at the organic food store today. I don't know if the chickens will bother a tomato plant or not, but I really didn't feel like tempting them by putting it into the ground. The older hens are trained not to go up on the front deck though they pretty much have free range of the rest of the property and the half grown chicks and the not so little ducks can't fly well enough to get out of their very large fenced area so they won't be going up there either.

I may end up transplanting the tomato plant again when it gets bigger. They don't tend to pick on plants that are bigger than themselves. I'd like to do some cucumbers, green beans, broccoli and kohlrabi this season, too, but I am not sure I have the stamina to weed that much ground. I haven't gardened in about 3 years and I still can't sit on my knees since the surgery. I could do cucumbers in a pot, I suppose and maybe some bush beans that way, too. Maybe I can talk DS into clearing some ground for me for some extra cash. He's willing to do extra work for a dollar an hour. LOL He's a real bargain.

An Idea that Never Occurred to Me

May 10th, 2012 at 03:19 pm

I found these today: http://www.bagthehabit.com/shop_bags and I thought that was one of the niftiest and most frugal ideas I've seen in a long time. I mean, I've been using reusable grocery bags for years, but I never even thought about reusable produce bags. We buy a lot of produce and I end up bringing a lot of plastic into the house that way.

I mean, I avoid it where I can. You'll never see me put bananas or onions in a plastic bag. Garlic goes bagless. If I'm only buying one fruit, like a canteloupe, I don't put it in a bag. But other things will get damaged if not protected, like lettuce, and some things are too difficult to manage. It's one thing if you have two onions to not bag them. Twelve potatoes on the other hand can be an issue and will irritate the heck out of the checkers, I'm sure!

So with part of my June allowance I am going to send for some of these and try them out. I've found several different companies that make them, I just liked these ones because they came in pretty colors and not just white.

Camera Questions

May 10th, 2012 at 09:52 am

I'm looking to get a new camera soon, within the next month or so, as DH's good free one that he got from work several years ago has inexplicably stopped working. The button you push to take pictures will no longer fully depress. I will take it into the camera store to see if there is anything that can be done. My own camera is so old that it can only do very short vid clips and the clarity of the photos, while state of the art at the time, are not nearly as crisp as even the cheapest digital cameras today.

So I was curious as to what the folks here on the blogs use? I just want to be able to take nice, clear photos and one minute vid clips. I don't need fancy lenses though I want the ability to zoom in or zoom out. Point and shoot is about where my abilities lie, so something simpler is better than something complicated. I don't want to spend a ton of money on it either, but I don't want to cheap out and not get a decent one either.

Right now I am pretty much confined to having DS take photos with his DSI and filching his memory card. That's okay for some things, but the aren't quite as clear as I'd like them to be.

I do like the idea of the slim cameras that you can fit in your pocket, but I've had no experience with whether those are a good camera or not. Thoughts?

Food Rescue

May 9th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I did a bit of food rescue tonight. In our effort to eat more organic produce (or just more produce), I sometimes find that I have overbought a bit (or even a lot). Tonight I went through the two produce drawers in the fridge to make sure everything was still edible. The strawberries were starting to look a tad past their prime so I pulled off the stems, cut them up, and put a little organic cane sugar on them. The sugar will act as a preservative and keep them edible for a couple more days. There is less than a cup, though, so I will encourage someone to eat them tomorrow.

I also found half a bunch of celery that was wilted. I cleaned and cut up the remaining stalks, putting the center most ones aside for the chickens. I find those ones flavorless (except the leaves which are great in stock). The other ones I put into a container with water. That will rehydrate them and they will be crispy and crunchy in less than an hour.

I performed the same trick with some limp carrots, peeling and cutting them up into finger length sections, and putting them into water. By morning they will be crisp again.

I had some rather sad looking oranges that have been in the frigde for...well, I don't remember the last time I bought oranges, but I know it was in the winter. I cut them in half. The wooden looking ones I set aside to give to the chickens and the ones that still looked like they were juicy I put on my citrus press and squeezed the juice out, so there is a quart of fresh squeezed orange juice now sitting in my fridge. We will taste it tomorrow and if it isn't quite sweet enough to be drinkable I will freeze it in ice cube trays to add to smoothies. I don't think I'll be buying a case of oranges from Costco again any time soon.

There was a canteloupe half that had gotten put into the drawer, which I figure DH did because no one else would. We (the rest of us) all know that cut melons don't go in the drawer because they can seep juice all over everything else. It was just beyond saving, not moldy but getting that tight look that changes the texture, so it will go to the chickens.

Sadly I found 2 cucumbers and a jalapeno pepper that could not be salvaged in any way, not even to give to the chickens.

On the bright side I didn't throw out any lettuce or meat. I've been staying on top of that much better. I'd like to get my food waste down to about 2%. I think it's at around 5% now.


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