Last night DH and I sat down and took another look at the health plan offered by the job recruiter company. They offer 4 different plans.
The gold plan has a $500 per person and a $1000 per family deductible. Prescriptions are $10 for generic and $50 for brand names. Co-pay is $35 whether it is a regular doctor or a specialist. Out of pocket max per person is $4500 and per family is $9000.
The silver plan has a $2000 per person and $4000 per family deductible. Prescriptions are $20 for generic and $80 for brand names. Co-pay is $45. Out of pocket max per person is $6850 and family is $13,700. It has an out of pocket max of $10,000 after the deductible has been met.
It offered 2 bronze plans. Plan 1 has a $5250 per person and a $10,500 family deductible. Prescriptions are $20/$80 and then they have a third tier and a fourth tier of 30% and 50% respectively for the really high priced drugs. Co-pay is $50. Out of pocket max is $7150 per person and $14,300 per family.
The second bronze plan is an HSA plan. It has a $7150 deductible per person and $14,300 per family. Prescriptions are $35/$100 with the other tiers again being 30% and 50%. Co-pay is $50. The out of pocket max is $6550 per person and $13,100 per family.
Based on our prescription costs and the fact that my daughter is going to need 2 surgeries in the next couple of months, we knew both bronze plans were out, so it really came down to which would save us more money this year, the gold or the silver.
DH ran the numbers and on the gold plan weekly take home pay will be approximately $1177. On the silver plan it will be $1232. This is without any overtime, his guaranteed 40 hours a week. If he gets ten hours of overtime a week the amounts would be $1523 and $1577.
They are currently on an overtime moratorium for this week and the next two weeks, though DH has been getting 50 hours up until now. But they put the freeze on because they have pushed the end date of the job out to mid-April instead of mid-March, so the rush to get the work done on time has slowed. It means DH will be employed for another month at least, though.
So not feeling we could count on the overtime at all, my numbers to budget with had to be $1177 and $1232. I sat down and figured out the budget with the lower amount to see if we could swing it and still be able to start the 401K contributions in March when he qualifies.
We can swing the more expensive plan and we are going to because in the long run it will be cheaper. I have 7 prescriptions, my daughter has 6, and my husband has 2. I know we might only be on this medical plan a few months and if DH gets hired on through the actual company it will be all different medical than this and a different 401K plan, too, but since I know what is coming up and how much we would be spending, the gold plan will be cheaper, especially since more of it will be in pretax dollars, which will also lower our taxable income.
I have determined we can at least contribute 2% of his income to a 401K which is $36 a week. If after the first month of that he is still working there we will try to bump it up to 4% or $78 a week and see if we can handle that. We will proceed forward with 1% bumps until we get to 6% to get all the matching funds.
I can make some cuts in the grocery budget and we can cut out eating out again. Not that we eat out much, but we do. I think the amount I have allotted for medical expenses will drop, too. I am not sure we will be able to contribute to the Emergency Fund or pay back my mother anything, though. I will try for at least $100 a month into the EF, though.
Our insurance will go up once the will finishes up whatever it is doing and the title of the truck gets transferred into our names and MIL is no longer paying the insurance on it. I reckon it will double, but it might not, since we ought to get a multiple vehicle discount. I am considering at that time dropping everything but what we need for if we are at fault since we will have two vehicles. When you only have one vehicle that is a chancier prospect. We'll see. DS is about to start learning to drive, which doesn't change anything yet, but will once he gets a license.
I hate the idea of having such a cramped budget, but we've lived on less before and I know we can do this with enough self-discipline. Once I can start growing food again that will help, too. The fruit and veggie portion of the food budget from May through October really goes way down.
At least with the turkeys and chickens gone I don't have any animals that are hemorrhaging money. The rabbits pay for their own feed as well as the ducks' feed. We don't get enough eggs for the ducks to be self-sufficient, but the rabbits make up for it. We are down to just 4 ducks and 1 drake now and they forage a lot. They also eat a lot of garden produce in the spring, summer, and fall.
This month has been a rough one with the animals. We lost Annabeth the duck shortly after the new year started and last night Luna Blue died. Luna Blue was the rabbit I had to feed with a dropper full of raw goat milk because her mother died when she was 3 weeks old. Only 3 out of 7 of that litter survived without their mother. But she was the runt and she needed the most help. I adored that rabbit. She was the sweetest thing.
We had a vicious wind storm yesterday and all I can think is that the loud noises scared her and she flipped and broke her back. We've had that happen before with really loud noises and her back was definitely broken. I've lost rabbits when the Med-Evac helicopter has flown illegally low over our house on the way to the hospital on three occasions and twice now to wind storms. It is frustrating. We have more wind on the horizon as well and I hope I don't lose anyone else. I'm not particularly attached to the others like I was to Luna, but I do love them and it is always hard to lose animals.
Archive for January, 2018
Last night DH and I sat down and took another look at the health plan offered by the job recruiter company. They offer 4 different plans.
I've been working on a comprehensive list of what I am going to grow, can, dehydrate, freeze, and purchase this year for food. The freeze-dried list is for long-term food storage as we are working on building a 1 year supply for four people. It might take us more than one year to build that supply, though. Some people might think that is nuts, but you know, we did not need to worry about food at all for the ten months DH was unemployed and I really liked that. Of course, if DH's job doesn't last past mid-March, then buying all of the freeze-dried food will be put on hold.
The other is food for the year and in the case of green beans, some extra. We had a bad bean year last year all over the county because of the weather being irregular and I didn't plant any last year, either. Fortunately, I had canned enough in 2015 and 2016 to have plenty for 2017, but we are running low and it is one of my go-to veggies, so I plan to do extra.
What I plan to can:
Green beans--156 quarts (half cut, half French-style)
Yukon gold potatoes--104 quarts
Diced Tomatoes--52 pints
Italian Plums--14 quarts (more if tree produces more)
Strawberry Jelly--24 pints
Bumbleberry Jelly--6 half-pints
Dandelion Jelly--6 pints
Blueberry Pie Filling--14 quarts
Apple Pie Filling--7 quarts
Beef Chunks--52 quarts
Salmon--21 pints or 42 half-pints
Ground Beef--30 pints
Beef broth--21 quarts
Turkey/Chicken broth--52 quarts
Rabbit Broth--52 quarts
Onion Stock--21 quarts
What I plan to freeze:
Gold Rush Zucchini--40 packages
Onions--30 packages sliced
Bell Peppers--52 packages sliced
Poblanos--1 gallon, diced
Jalapenos--2 gallons, diced
Snow peas--25 packages
1/2 a beef
1 whole hog
1 whole lamb
30 whole chickens
2 whole turkeys
120 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
80 pounds ground turkey (1 lb packages)
200 pounds of rabbit meat
1 quart sweet basil
1 pint Thai basil
1 pint sage
1 quart powdered oregano
4 quarts diced garlic (will make powder as needed from this)
4 quarts diced ginger (will make powder as needed from this)
1/2 pint of thyme
1 pint of marjoram
1 pint of rosemary
1 quart Italian parsley
1 quart curly parsley
1 pint cilantro
2 quarts bee balm petals
2 quarts bee balm leaves
2 quarts calendula petals
2 quarts whole calendula flowers
2 quarts Echinacea
2 quarts yarrow
2 quarts comfrey
1 pint celery powder
2 quarts celery leaves
2 quarts raspberry leaves
Freeze Dried Food Plan:
6 #10 cans of sausage crumbles
6 #10 cans of ground beef crumbles
12 #10 cans of small diced beef
6 #10 cans of chicken dices
24 #10 cans of onion dices
6 #10 cans of mixed bell peppers
6 #10 cans of white flour
6 #10 cans of whole wheat flour
6 #10 cans of celery
6 #10 cans of carrot dices
6 #10 cans of yogurt bites (pomegranate and black cherry)
6 #10 cans of instant white rice
6 #10 cans of instant brown rice
6 #10 cans of pure cane sugar
6 #10 cans of brown sugar
2 pantry cans of Instant dry yeast
6 #10 cans of potato dices
I am debating on whether or not I will grow squash or not, other than zucchini. It takes up a lot of space and is very cheap to buy, so probably not.
Well, we got a ton accomplished today with the storage unit. We took five loads to the other storage place, but we also donated 15 more garbage bags of clothes. We have two bags of linens ready to be donated. There is enough for a dump load, which if the dump is open Sunday we will take out. There are also four desk top computers and 4 ancient laptops to be recycled. We have more laptops that need to be recycled, but two of them work and just need new cords so I want to make sure I get those pulled out. There are two more 13 inch TVs to be recycled and another computer monitor. Oh, we were such pack rats!
My ultimate goal is to reduce what we have in storage by 50%. There are boxes and boxes of toys and stuffed animals. And so many books. Now there are definitely some books I want to keep, but I think we can reduce what we have by 1/2, if not 2/3. I want to keep all the Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Moon, Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Little House books, Narnia, Sweet Valley High (over 100), Animorphs, and some of the best loved stand alone books, as well as the majority of the cookbooks, but there are a lot of books we just read and kept for no reason other than we'd bought it and we had trouble letting go of books.
We got rid of 2 sets of Encyclopedias that we owned before you could get them on CDs or as digital downloads. That was six boxes.
There is so much kitchen stuff. I think I used to buy every gadget there was. I've found 3 mandolin sets. So much plastic storage that isn't Tupperware. I want to keep the Tupperware, but get rid of the other plastic. I still haven't found the pasta maker, which is the one thing I want to find. Found the rotisserie, though. But I don't think we need it anymore since the Nuwave oven can do basically the same thing with less energy usage and is far easier to clean. So that can be donated.
I still haven't found our wedding album, but that actually could be in my closet. I still have two boxes in there I haven't gone through. I think I have found all the other photo albums, though. We also have a bunch of duplicate photos in two photo boxes. I got them because I was going to do scrapbooking, but then I had a second kid and lost all my free time so it got back burnered.
Ay, yi, yi, I was such a spendthrift at one time. You would never know it from the last several years, but before that, yeah. And I could kick myself because we don't need it and we have been paying to store it. We are very motivated now to get it gone, though, and stop paying so much to keep stuff we have no place for in our 1000 square feet of living space.
Alliecat's plan with the ham this week got me thinking on ways I stretch food as well. I do this a lot, it is pretty automatic these days. So I thought I'd list what we do to stretch meals.
I like to build dinners around a large, whole chicken, one that is five or six pounds. The first night I will roast the whole chicken and we eat the dark meat and wings for dinner with potatoes and green beans. The second night I will make enchiladas or quesadillas with some of the leftover white meat chicken and serve that with rice and salad. Then I will pick the bones clean and take a cup of diced chicken and make chicken-fried rice, and the fourth night I make broth with the bones all day, strain it, pick any remaining chicken off the bones, and then make chicken noodle soup or chicken and dumplings soup, adding in another cup of diced chicken that I'd saved from the carcass.
Another good one is a large pot roast where you eat regular roast the first night (save your juice from cooking) with potatoes and carrots, French dip sandwiches the second night with the juice you saved for dipping mixed with a little bouillion), then shred up half the remainder and mix it with teriyaki sauce and honey and serve over rice and then dice the rest and make roast beef hash the fourth night. I generally make extra potatoes the first night to be used in hash, so I'm only cooking them once.
With a pork roast you can eat a third of it the first night and pull the rest of it with some barbecue sauce to make pulled pork sandwiches and then bbq pork pizza, and pulled pork with cheese in tortillas wrapped like a burrito. You can even add a can of beans and a 4 oz can of diced green chile pepeprs to the last one to extend it further and change the flavor up some more if you like those things.
With ham, of course we eat off it one day, make warm ham sandwiches the next day, dice up the leftovers and use them in omelets, on pizzas, and in stir-fried rice. Anything we can't use in the first few days we freeze in dices. I've even made up TV dinners with ham, mashed potatoes and ham gravy, and green beans and frozen them for those nights when I don't feel like cooking.
What are ways you all stretch food to cut your grocery expenses?
As soon as DH wakes up and we eat breakfast we will be heading out to the storage unit we are getting rid of. I think we will have it cleaned out by the end of this weekend, but if not we have until the end of the month. We are taking enough time to label each box with a number and then make a key in a notebook, so in the future if we are looking for the contents of a certain box, we just need to find that number.
It is also giving us a chance to look through each box and note what we need to do with it. If it is just continue to store or to go through and sort. We've already donated 10 full size garbage bags of clothes, mostly children's clothes, but some of it was stuff from high school and college. We have clothing donation boxes all over town so those are easy enough to get rid of.
So far I have one bag of linens to donate. That's more complicated because it will actually require dropping off at Goodwill in person, so we will wait until I have gone through all the boxes of linens. I know there are a few blankets that can go and there are some table cloths. All I want to keep on my table cloths are the sunflower one, the autumn one, and the Christmas plaid one. The others can go.
I have sorted through four big boxes of stuff so far that we brought home after last weekend. I got rid of two paper bags of old magazines I had stored with one recipe each. I tore out the recipes and put them in my recipe binder in page protectors and tossed the rest of mags to be recycled. I also put all of our photo albums and photo boxes on a book shelf here. That gave us three totes emptied to go back to storage and use to repack some of the damaged cardboard boxes with. The other box was a damaged cardboard box so it went to recycle.
Today I hope to get the furniture moved. There is not much in there, two large book cases, a couple cubicles, one of which will come home, an end table, two floor lamps, and a small TV stand. There might be a stand for holding DVDs as well.
There are 3 knickknack shelves that I want to bring home and put up. They would be perfect for holding my pint and quart size herbs and teas that I grew and dried this summer. They are all kind of spread out through the pantry and kitchen and it would be nice to have them all in one place.
Everything else is just boxes. I know some of it we will have to bring home to sort. We'll have to store them in the garage while we bring one in the house at a time. Mom will probably throw a huge hissy fit about that, she's prone to them these days, but they won't be there long. Just long enough to decide what stays and what gets tossed and what gets donated.
I am thinking about getting rid of our couch. It is a huge sectional and it takes up so much space. It rarely gets used. There are several recliner chairs that we could use instead and there would be a lot more space. I loved the couch at the time we bought it and it was perfect for our needs then, but most of us like to sit with our feet up now, so it doesn't make sense to keep the behemoth any longer. It is in really good shape except for one cushion cover with a broken zipper, but that can be pinned with safety pins to keep it closed. Plus, free is a price that most people will overlook flaws for.
The blisters have come off my garlic burns. I've got four fingers with peeling skin. On the bright side, it looks like I will have full finger prints on three of them and one with a scar running through it that won't be quite as large as I feared on the index finger. They are still sensitive in water, which makes scrubbing dishes hard. Wearing rubber gloves wears on them too much because they are fitted. I can type, though. Go figure.
All right, well, I think I hear DH stirring, so time to get the day moving.
The outgo was slightly higher than the intake this week, but I had money left from last week in anticipation of that. I also have some money left to pay the surgeon consult on Monday and get the cash discount.
DH didn't get any overtime last week because of the holiday. He at least got his 40 hours in, though, by working 4 ten hour days. That $300 of overtime pay sure makes a difference.
I am not sure if we will be able to put anything in the Emergency Fund this month. Or at least not the full $500 I budgeted. And nothing to the College Fund, either. Maybe not even a loan payment to Mom. I was not expecting an ER visit and surgeon consult. If I can manage to not take any money out of the EF, I'll be happy, but we'll have to wait and see. I am hoping the hospital does not bill us until the end of the month.
I am really dreading when they start taking medical out. We are going for the plan with the lowest deductible and most coverage due to the anticipated surgery after running the numbers, but that will mean a normal paycheck is a little over $1000 a week, and overtime might be $300. They may take out less in taxes, though with the tax cut, but I don't know when that goes into effect so I am not counting on it.
I really wish he had been hired on direct with the company and not through a recruiting service. They are talking about keeping him on after this job is up and I hope that pans out. The job he was hired for only goes mid-March. If he gets asked to stay, he will have to work through the recruiting service through May, though, unless they buy out the contract, which the recruiting company may go for after they see the medical bills we're going to generate. The actual company has much better benefits and medical shouldn't be anywhere near what it is through the recruiter company.
Here are the bills I paid today:
_500.00 To Mom for Utilities
_158.01 BoA MC
$1548.60 Total Money Out
I just discovered I didn't actually make a payment on the 30th. I recorded it in my check register, but I must have gotten distracted before I actually went online and paid it. Fortunately I had made a payment the week before, so there was no late fee, but that does mean we got charged interest for the $1400 balance. Ugh. I hate when that happens. I hate giving a single cent to the Evil Empire.
Okay, we were a bit distracted having to deal with DD's gall bladder attack, but still. I am usually so on the ball with paying the bills. Lesson learned, though. Don't enter it into the register until I've actually made the payment. I wish I'd realized this two days ago.
I was wondering why the balance was so high on that account. I couldn't find the payment there, so I checked my checking account online and couldn't find the payment there, either. I can't believe I did that. I know I haven't been feeling good and have been kind of spacey all week, but still. This is the second time I have done that in 4 months. *sighs*
I did finally catch all my budgets up to date on the spreadsheets. I finished up September, October, November and December, including entering all the medical bills into each month. I haven't added up the numbers yet, but I know as of August we'd already spent over $20K on medical bills for 2017. I'd say it is going to be around $27K from a guesstimate.
Can I just say again, the Affordable Care Act was badly misnamed? Burdonsomely Unaffordable Care Act would be a much better title. Or Bankrupting the Middle Class Care Act. That would be an acceptable title as well. I know it has helped the people that get it for free, but it has hurt just as many people, if not more so by driving up the cost of everything insurance related, making it more expensive for employers to offer plans, and shifting the expense directly to those who don't get any subsidies. And I'm not sure it is going to get any better any time soon, either. They like to talk about health care, but they don't like to do much, no matter what side they are on.
I am doing really well on the eat from the pantry challenge. So far we have not bought anything from the grocery store since I started the challenge. I really didn't feel like cooking tonight at all, so I pulled one of my pans of enchiladas and made it tonight instead of one of my planned meals. That's what they are in there for. I am down to 1 pan of enchiladas, 2 pans of chicken and broccoli bake, and 2 fajita kits. I try to keep them for the days when I feel like a house dropped on me.
I am in the middle of an RA flare. Part of it was because I ran out of medication and was off it for 3 doses. Part of it is because I've had to do all of my daughter's chores. Part of it is because I had to drive to Burlington and back. I don't do well with driving that long anymore and I've had to do it twice in two weeks. We had to go and pick up oats for our rabbits. I should not have had to go, but the order we got the two weeks before was contaminated. It had all kinds of other things in it besides oats, including lime dust, which can kill rabbits. They put lime dust in the goat feed, I guess. Anyway, we caught it before giving it to the rabbits.
Fortunately, that feed can also be fed to the ducks, so we are mixing it with corn and peas for them. We did not have to pay for the new round of 300 pounds of oats, either. We just had to send them photos of the contaminated feed. I guess if I look on the bright side of things, we got a bunch of free feed. But it wasn't much fun having to go to Winco to buy oats over the holidays because the mill was shut down. At least they have 25 pound bags of whole oats, though. I might have been able to get some at the farmer's co-op, but we've had trouble with contaminated oats there, too, with both brands they sell.
We've scheduled an appointment for DD with the surgeon for the 8th. She can't have surgery before February because we won't have insurance until then. The initial consult may cost $240. They gave a range, with $240 being the top of the range if we paid in cash. That is a 20% discount.
DD is doing okay with the low fat diet, though she had some major carb cravings yesterday and wanted bread really bad. She ended up having mashed potatoes with just salt and pepper on them to calm the craving down. It seemed to do the trick. We just have to think outside the box a little more now.
The Nuwave oven has been wonderful for cooking chicken and fish without fat for her. Well, other than the amount I spray on the rack to make it non-stick, but that is minimal. But I can steam vegetables in a foil packet as well with no oil at all, just a sprinkle of water and some herbs. I am getting the hang of this. Today I made boneless skinless chicken thighs in it. I just rubbed them with a combination of ground cloves, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, a little paprika, salt, and pepper. It was very mild and she loved the flavors.
So we are adapting. I think she is losing weight, too. I just hope her weight is not going to be a problem when it comes to surgery. We've run into that problem before. If it is, she will probably have to go to Seattle to see a surgeon and if she does, it means I will have to be the one to drive there since DH works a normal job now. Which will mean at least a week of recovery time for me each time. If not more.
So after a lot of rethinking and replanning, I've got a new meal plan based on my daughter's dietary restrictions and what I have in the house and garage. I will meet this challenge, but it is really turning my skills on their head because I'll be poaching, steaming, roasting, and boiling, when my preferred method is frying or deep fat frying. Well, maybe I will finally lose weight by being forced to do this. I am just glad I have zucchini both in the freezer and freeze-dried.
Spanish Paella-Style Shrimp and Rice (Has veggies in it)
Chicken Fajitas (no tortillas for DD)
Turkey Taco Salad (shells for those who can have them)
Herb Roasted Rabbit
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Codfish and Zucchini in foil packets
Middle Eastern Roasted Whole Chicken
Potatoes with onions and bell peppers in foil packets
Black Pepper Rabbit
Steamed Veggie Rice
I am so glad 2017 is over and 2018 is here. It can't possible be as big of a struggle as the last two years have been.
My daughter went to the emergency room Friday night at midnight in excruciating pain. They did an ultrasound and a CT scan and found out her gall bladder is full of stones. They did not need to do emergency surgery, but they think she needs to get it out soon. We don't have insurance until February.
So we will get her in to see a gastroenterologist ASAP and schedule the surgery for February. I can't even call until Tuesday and then I am sure it will be 2 to 3 weeks before we can even get in to see a specialist. I am glad that insurance still can't do squat about pre-existing conditions.
This visit is going to cost us roughly $2500, unless I miss my estimate of $1000 for the visit, $500 for the ultrasound, and $1000 for the CT, which is still less than paying COBRA. DH will have to work a lot of overtime to pay for that, but he is allowed 10 hours of OT a week without having to ask, and then if things get into a rush time, they will okay additional over that. Hopefully we can manage to get it paid without taking money out of the Emergency Fund, but we definitely won't be putting any money into the EF for a couple of months. *sighs*
I had to completely throw out my meal plan for the eat from the pantry challenge and start from scratch since DD can't have dairy, most fats, eggs, pork, only very lean beef, no refined white flour so no pasta (we don't have any whole wheat on hand) or bread or tortillas, no refined white sugar (she can have honey, molasses, and brown sugar), no fatty fish, and no brassicas. That means none of my go to vegetables of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, bok choy and the like.
So we will be eating more turkey, chicken, rabbit, white fish and shell fish. I do have that, but I don't know how long it will last. I will have to make some stuff for DH, because he can handle only so much poultry before he starts clucking about it and he is not the biggest fan of fish, though he does like white fish.
The hardest part for me is that I like to cook in butter and oil. I know it isn't terribly healthy, but it makes things taste good. I can use spray oil or lightly brush oil on things, but no frying. We have spray olive oil and we can brush on avocado oil. But I will be doing a lot of steaming in foil packets with lots of veggies and herbs and then putting fish on top so the veggie flavors rise up into the fish and the fish juices fall down to flavor the veggies.
DS and I have agreed to eat like this with DD as much as possible. The hardest part for me will be not eating pasta. I can take or leave bread, but I love spaghetti and Ziti and macaroni. I know DH won't eat like us, though he could stand to, but he will refrain from eating the junk she likes but can no longer have in front of her. He'll keep it at work or in the truck.
And speaking of the truck, DH has been using his dad's truck since before his dad died and DH will inherit it once the will is through whatever it has to go through. It doesn't actually have to go through probate here unless it is contested, but it does have to go through official filing and then I think there is a short waiting period. So we are basically a two car family now for the first time in five or six years. Which means our insurance will likely double. We did do our part of the filing, but we are waiting for the state to do its part.
There is a loan on the truck, but MIL will pay it off before we change ownership legally once the life insurance comes through. She has enough to pay off all debts, and because he was still actively employed when he died, though off on disability, she gets his full pension of $3000 a month and she gets social security based on his wages, so she will actually be sitting pretty. Not to mention there is some property in trust between her, her sister, and her brother, so we aren't going to have to worry about her after all.
I guess I will go back to worrying about us instead. *double sighs*