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Making a Price Book + Request for Lentils Recipes

May 26th, 2018 at 05:00 pm

One of the things Amy Dazcyzan recommends in the Tightwad Gazette books is to make a price book. I have never done this and I really never considered doing it before today, but it would have really come in handy these last two weeks when making up the grocery list, so today I sat down with as many receipts as I could still find and started making a spreadsheet with the prices of everything that would fall under either groceries or household expenses.

This way when I make up my grocery list I will know approximately how much everything costs so I can make sure I am coming in under budget, give or take a sale or two. I will also know which store has the better price on what, though I pretty much have that in my head already. It will also let me know if I need to bump a staples purchase to a different week or if I have enough in the household budget for whatever purchase I want to make that week.

I always thought it would be a tedious process, and it probably would be if I were doing it by hand, but typing it into a spreadsheet is easy enough. I put everything in alphabetical order, and then if I need to add anything new I can just insert a sheet row in the appropriate spot and still keep it in order. I do love modern technology.

I think it may be time for me to put the Tightwad Gazette books on hold again at the library. I am in a way different place than when I've read them each time before, much more heavily focused on the food budget and budgeting more tightly in general. I've learned something new with each read and I think that was because I was open to something different each time.

Oh, also, I am going to venture into cooking with lentils. I am looking for some good recipes that do not have beef, lamb, or pork in them. Most of them seem to be made with ham and she can't eat that much fat. Chicken or turkey or fish are okay and so is vegetarian. Lentils are a protein my daughter can eat (and likes) without fear of it upsetting her gall bladder, or in the aftermath of having it taken out. I just found out that Thrive Life has lentils, too, so I added a #10 can to my monthly order. If she likes those ones, then I'll get a bucket.

I Finally Opened the Door and In He Walks

May 15th, 2018 at 11:20 am

I don't usually buy books, but I made a book purchase on Saturday. Yes, my library does have this book, but I was 13th on the waiting list. High demand books mean that people can only keep them out 2 weeks instead of 3, but that was still looking at a possibility of 26 weeks before I could read it, assuming people turned it in on time. Most people don't.

So I handed over my cash, $27.51, to the young man at B&N, who tried to sell me a membership card, but no. I don't buy books often enough to earn back and then benefit from the savings. What book did I buy, you may be asking by now? Well, I finally gave in and decided to read Dave Ramsey. I bought The Total Money Makeover.

I have been avoiding Dave Ramsey for the last 12 years, to be honest. Yes, I did do a debt snowball, but I didn't know about it from reading him. I just figured doing it like that would make me feel like I was making progress faster. Yes, I did build and keep a $1000 emergency fund before doing it, but that was on advice from people here, not based on his method. Although it probably was, since a lot of you have read him. But I wasn't going to.

It wasn't that I thought he was bad or anything. I just didn't want to give up my paid off credit cards. Well, I did give up some of them, but we still have 5. We pay them off in full each month. But...oh, and here's the big but, I've been feeling for a while that we weren't using them responsibly enough, because they are just too easy to use.

But my chiropractor's office plays Dave Ramsey and I kept hearing him on my visits. And then he came up in my suggested videos on youtube. God has been putting things in my path right now that I have been struggling to deal with. Dave is just the last in a line.

First I was struggling with tithing while still in debt to my mother and my internet preacher answered a question on tithing. Then I was concerned that I lacked motivation, but in getting the spending back under control and in doing my five times a week Bible study. Then I was struggling with forgiveness for DH's sister and nieces over the stuff they pulled at Thanksgiving.

Forgiveness was in the next lesson and in such a way that it heals the person who forgives, not the one who holds on to the anger. Doesn't mean I'm willing to have holidays with them, but I might be able to at least see them now. So I asked for help about the budget and in walks Dave Ramsey, so to speak.

So I just finished reading the book last night. It took me 3 days. And I figured out how come I felt that way about credit cards. It's because we just buy what we need with no thought to it. And because I know we will pay it off each month in full, I haven't really been sticking to a budget when it comes to groceries and household expenses or clothing or eating out.

And with these bad habits getting out of hand, things felt tight every month and I didn't feel like I could possibly make payments on the loan to Mom, the only debt we have left. So I sat down and made up a better budget and if we actually stick to it, then yes, I can start paying Mom at least $500 a month.

DH's mother just gave us $1000. We had thought to put it in the Emergency Fund, but I think instead, we will use it to get current. The next two paydays will pay off what we have left on the credit cards before they are due and then we will go down to simply charging the auto pays, which total $407.50. It might be a little lower, but I am allowing $50 for Ting. We don't always go that high, some months we are lower, but we have never been above it, so that is what I put in the budget. But we won't use the credit card for anything else. Nothing but the auto pays. And we will use paypal from our bank account for online purchases, but not until we've had a moratorium on online purchases for six months or so.

I have also budgeted $1000 for groceries/household. I do think I can keep it lower than that, but I haven't been. Since I track my spending, more or less, I know I haven't. We are switching to cash for that. I will start with putting $250 in the groceries envelope. I figure $200 for groceries and $50 for household. Maybe I should break it down into two envelopes, except I usually buy household stuff when I go grocery shopping. We'll see. I know I need to get toilet paper, deodorant, and quart size Ziplocs, which will take up a good share of that $50.

I have transferred all the auto pays to one card, and as soon as the last little bit on the AMEX is paid off, I am going to cut it up and cancel it. I was just using it for Netflix and Hulu. I am also going to cancel my Best Buy card and no longer do any 18 or 12 month same as cash deals. I paid off the last one with part of our tax return. Instead I will be saving up money in a computer fund, though that won't start for a while.

I am not sure I am ready to cut the cord completely with credit cards, but I can't see having more than 3. One is the miles card, which DH will need if he starts working in Alaska again and has to fly all the time. He usually got 2 free flights a year, sometimes 3, so it definitely was worth it. Then there is the one my daughter is a signer on. Then there is the Costco Citi card, but I am not sure if that is going to be worth keeping yet. Without charging all of our groceries and gas, the amount of cash back will dramatically drop, and that was the only reason I got it in the first place.

My head knows that the best thing for us to do is to get rid of all but one card, but I am scared to do it. Mostly because the EF is not where I want it to be. I know you aren't supposed to use credit cards as a back up EF, but you know what 2016 and 2017 were like for us. If we had run out of money at least we would have had those cards to fall back on, which of course, is exactly that attitude I'm not supposed to have.

I knew Dave would let me have it over these ideas and I wasn't wrong. It sure has shown me what I need to work on and try to not rely so much on my security gland ruling what I do.

So next, I go back to an envelope, pay with cash system, except for those auto pays. I am looking into whether or not there are ways to pay them without paying by card. I think you can pay both Netflix and Hulu through paypal, but I'm not 100% sure. I think we can put storage on direct withdrawal, but I don't know about Ting. I haven't been able to find anything about Ting. But one of the reasons I really like doing auto pays on the credit card is so that I only have one due date to worry about, not an additional five. Right now I only have two to worry about and they come out on the same day.

So I will fund this coming payday's grocery/household envelope with $250.00 from the gift money, so all the money in the paycheck can go for the tithe and the Citi card.

I have already handed DH an envelope marked vending for the vending machines at work with $7 in ones that I had in my purse. He is to get $25 a month to use in the vending machines at work (he's been charging them). This gives him a little over $1 a day and the charge is 85 cents, so anything left at the end he can spend or set aside and save it for something he wants. Or he can save it all and quit using the vending machine altogether.

I will also have my own $25 envelope for something I want to do. I have no idea what I want to do with it, but sometimes just saving makes me happy.

I really would like to be able to squeeze out more than $500 a month to pay Mom. It might be $100, it might be $25, who knows? But whatever I can throw at it. She won't like getting weird amounts, but I don't care. It is not up to her how much I pay back at a time. It is up to DH and me.

As soon as we know what is going on in June with the job, I can decide what to do with the Emergency Fund. If I want to bump it down to $1000 and pay Mom with the rest or if we need to keep it there in case of possible job loss. It is scary to keep it at just $1000, but Dave says it keeps you more driven to pay off the debt so you can build the EF up to 3 to 6 months of expenses.

I get it. I get everything Dave says. I think I'm in the stage where I am not yet drinking the Kool-Aid, but I have read the ingredients and directions on the package and started preparing the beverage. He has his baby steps and I have mine. I do want to get there. And I want to get there fast, so time to put our heads down and start pushing that stone uphill.

Meal Planning for the Week

March 25th, 2018 at 06:26 pm

I have gotten away from meal planning lately and I do think it is a big factor on why we are getting too much take out, so I am going to get back to it. If I hadn't gotten my Power Pressure Cooker for my birthday I think we'd be getting even more take out. That thing makes it so easy to cook. I couldn't afford the Instant Pot that I wanted, but I could afford the 8 quart Power cooker that I got.

So far I've been quite happy with the decision and Instant Pot recipes are easily converted. I do want to get some of the inserts, though, so I'm saving up for those. I also do want to get the $400 Instant Pot one day, but that day is not going to be any time soon.

I think at least four meals a week are being cooked in the pressure cooker. Sometimes the full meal or sometimes I'll make baked potatoes or some other vegetable in the Nuwave oven. These two products alone have really simplified my life, not having an actual oven or stove to cook on. The electric skillet and the crock pot get some use as well, but the first two are my go to machines right now. Well, that and the microwave for steamer bags or canned veggies.

Discovering I can make spaghetti and other pastas in the pressure cooker has just simplified my life so much. Not to mention cooking a roast in less than an hour. Or a lava cake using Swerve instead of sugar. Anyway, I hope making a meal plan again will snap me out of some of the bad habits I have fallen back into.

Sunday:
Spaghetti and Meatballs (PC)
Salad

Monday:
Rabbit Stir-fry
Stir-fried Rice

Tuesday:
Enchiladas (Freezer Meal)
Cole Slaw

Wednesday:
Pork Roast (PC)
Fried Potatoes
Broccoli and Cauliflower

Thursday:
Chicken Fajitas (Crockpot Freezer Meal)

Friday:
Air-fried Duck Breast (NW)
Fried Potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower

Saturday:
BBQ Pork Chops (PC)
Baked Potatoes (NW)
Brussels Sprouts

Sunday:
Lamb Roast (PC)
Baked Potatoes (NW)
Green Beans

Frugal Breakfasts

March 20th, 2018 at 06:13 pm

Laura was asking about frugal meals. For breakfast we eat a lot of egg variations, because eggs are still the cheapest thing we can buy, really. Or get for free from our ducks.

Right now I'm on a baked omelet kick, where I just spray a mini-meatloaf tin and add two beaten eggs, 3 tbsp of vegetables, 1 to 3 tbsp of cheese and 2 tbsp of meat. I use up a lot of leftover veg this way. You can make them in large size muffin tins (not cupcake size) if you are making multiples.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. It really depends on your oven for the time. In my Nuwave it takes 20 minutes and in my gas oven it takes 30 minutes. I imagine an electric oven is somewhere in between. Stick a toothpick in the center and check that it comes out clean and that is when it is done.

My favorite variations:

2 eggs, 3 tbsp pico de gallo, 2 tbsp sausage, 1 tbsp sharp cheddar, salt and pepper

2 eggs, 3 tbsp chopped broccoli and cauliflower, 2 tbsp diced ham, 1 tbsp sharp cheddar, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 1 tbsp chopped tomato, 1 tbsp diced green bell pepper, 1 tbsp diced onion, 2 tbsp diced ham, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 1 diced green onion, 2 tbsp leftover or canned salmon or tuna, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper

2 eggs, 3 tbsp leftover taco meat, 2 tbsp Mexi-blend cheese

2 eggs, 2 tbsp ground beef seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, 1 tbsp diced Anaheim chili pepper, 1 tbsp diced red bell pepper, 1 tbsp diced red onion, salt and pepper

To make this easier on me, I will dice up a bunch of ham or cook a pound of sausage or ground beef and then flash freeze them flat on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours so they don't stick together, before bagging them up and leaving them in the freezer. That way I can easily measure out as much as I need the night before and it will be thawed by morning. I also have my containers of chopped veggies done up, so I can just mix and match in the morning. I am watching my carbs, so this is basically what I always eat, sometimes with additional veggies. For the rest of the family I have other options.

Another cheap breakfast we do is breakfast burritos. It is rather simple to do up a huge batch. It requires 24 eggs and 2 pounds of sausage. Brown the sausage, beat the eggs (I use my stand mixer because this is a lot of eggs), and pour the eggs over the sausage. Stir until done. If you don't have a large enough skillet for this, cut the recipe in half and do two batches.

Take a tortilla, spoon some filling in, add the cheese of your choice and roll once, fold one end up, finish the roll, and then wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze in gallon size ziplocs. This recipe will fill 4 bags. We keep one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. When we run out we take another bag out the night before. My husband likes to dip his in picante sauce or salsa. I did this one for my youtube channel so if you'd like to watch it done here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl9orZD6JR4

Scrambled egg sandwiches are another. You simply scramble your egg, butter a slice of bread, spoon the egg into it and fold the bread in half. It is simple, but amazingly good (even on cheap, ordinary bread).

Pancakes and waffles are something that can be made ahead and frozen individually so they don't stick together and then bagged up for the freezer. They can be warmed up from frozen or you can just take them out the night before and then warm them up. You can use mix, but they are simple and cheaper to make from scratch. Add some hard-boiled eggs and you have your protein as well. French toast also lends itself to make ahead and freeze and is very simple to large batch cook.

Breakfast is probably the easiest meal to save money on if you don't mind some repetition. I think lunches and dinners are more of a challenge, but I will go through my recipe binder and see what I come up with. Since we buy so much in bulk off of farms and raise some of our food ourselves, it is harder for me to figure what other people's costs are. But I do have some that I think will fit the bill.

Stretching Food

January 6th, 2018 at 09:25 am

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.

Chicken:

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.

Beef:

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.

Pork:

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.

Ham:

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?

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

December 27th, 2017 at 06:54 pm

I am joining some other youtubers in an eat from the pantry challenge for the month of December. My goal is to not go into the grocery store for the month of January except to buy dairy, greens, and bread. I think it is something we can accomplish quite easily based on our pantry and freezer stock. But just because we can doesn't mean it is something I want to do sometimes. However, we need to be saving up money for daughter's sinus surgery and taking a huge chunk out of the grocery budget to deposit into saving for that would be very helpful right now.

Of course this does not include the lamb we are getting at the end of January and which is mostly paid for anyway with the deposit we already put down. But that is December spending, not January spending.

I'd like to stay out of the stores as much as possible, but I know I will have to purchase prescriptions. I'll try to do that through drive-thru only. Though I may have to order some vitamins online. Still, if I can keep it to that I will be very happy. We have plenty of toiletries so I think it will go quite well.

I'll be detailing the challenge here on the blog as well as doing at least a weekly video for it on my channel. If anyone wants to join in with me for the month or even for a week or two, you are more than welcome to do so.

Did Some Looking

December 3rd, 2017 at 04:17 am

I did some looking and if we go with a facility that is about 15 minutes away, we can get a storage unit that is 12 x 30 for $200. At least if it is available. That means that we could drop to one unit. Right now we are paying $252 for the large unit that is 10 x 25 and $130 for the small unit which is 8 x 10, so a total of $382 a month. That would be a savings of $182 a month. Wow, I really wish I had got on the ball sooner.

Then we could work on winnowing down what we have and hopefully eventually get a 10 x 20 for $170 instead.

We might get a discount on the first month as well. I know that most storage units seem to have a move in special where you get one month free if you sign a six month lease. I still need to do a bit more looking, though. There might be something else that has better prices.

Our one year of special internet pricing expired. No more $71.82. They bumped it up to $120, but DH went in and talked to someone and got it down to $90. I am not pleased, but it is better than $120. I hate living in a town where there is only one company for fast internet. The others are slow and cause constant buffering.

I have still been quite happy with Ting. We have had a very reasonable bill each month since switching. I am so glad we took the plunge.

I earned a $53 commission for November from Thrive Life. That is quite a step up from the $13 commission from October. I am not sure when that will be deposited in my account, though. I didn't realize until last week that they did not have my direct deposit information. So hopefully that will show up soon. It will go into savings with the rest of my earnings for this year. I want to open an IRA with what I earned this year and put in every cent. It is not much, but I think I will end up with around $500 between them and my youtube channel.

I am really so glad that I got involved with Thrive Life. It has made my life so much easier to not have to peel and chop things every day for dinner. I know freeze dried foods are not for everyone, but I have been so pleased with the quality of the products. And if I only ever could buy one thing from them and nothing else, it would be the diced onions. No more crying when I cut onions, no more dealing with onions that go bad or sprout before I can use them, no more pain in my hands all night after cutting up several cups worth of onions. So worth it.

I Like Ting So Far

September 9th, 2017 at 04:39 pm

DS and I got our new phones from Ting on Thursday. His is a Samsung J3 2017 and mine is a Motorola Moto G5 Plus. I decided to go with a phone that would take better photos and decent video. With Petunia's link I got a discount that brought that phone to $214. Since I will hold onto this phone for several years, I feel okay about spending a little more for it.

It was really easy to learn to use. I thought it would be tougher as my last phone was a flamingo red Samsung Intensity with the slide out keyboard. But it wasn't hard at all, I caught right on. I do use a stylus, though, as otherwise the touch screen keyboard drives me up the wall.

It is still such a weird concept to me to have to pay for a cell phone. Every other time in the past they gave you a free phone with a contract, but haven't in the last several years which is another reason I never upgraded. I couldn't handle spending hundreds of dollars on something like that.

It was a little hard spending the money right now with the future so uncertain, but it will help with the farm business as well as the youtube channel which also generates income, albeit not terribly much yet. I did have to have a reliable phone, though. There is too much going on with all the various medical doctors and tests scheduled for my daughter that I have to keep track of it and not have messages get lost by the wayside.

My son's phone was $139 on sale. He is very happy with it and glad I talked him out of saving up for an iPhone. He doesn't need 1000 bells and whistles when 50 or so will do. My daughter will be getting one soon, too, as she gets the money together. Then she will switch to Ting as well.

I would like to get DH to switch, too, but I don't know that Ting has service on the North Slope. As far as I know, only Verizon does and I don't think Ting uses Verizon lines. It uses Sprint and LG. Although that may not matter much longer, since his last day of work up there is 10/26. If he does switch we'd be under $45 a month for the bill.

Even if he has to stay on Verizon by himself, it will still be far less spent on the monthly phone bills. Verizon for one person is not horrible. Especially if the the rest of us will only be generating $32 to $35 a month total depending on whether or not we use a small amount of data. Right now we have data turned off on our phones so they won't try to use it. My town is so wired though, that wireless is everywhere, either through Xfinity, the city wireless that includes the library and civic buildings and post offices, and almost every store in town.

I'm thinking about looking into some of those grocery savings things you need a smart phone for now. And I can finally use digital coupons in Safeway if I forget to preload them on my loyalty card.

Honestly, I wish I had switched to Ting sooner. I'm going to include my referral link here in case anyone decides to make the switch as well.

https://z9003s69khl.ting.com/

Menu Planning Week Six

February 6th, 2017 at 03:53 pm

So I bought some oranges and some cabbage as it is cheaper than lettuce and will last a lot longer and we will be having cole slaw instead of salads when I want those at dinner time. I did get the purple cabbage so it will be pretty as well as have more vitamin content. Everything else is food we have on hand and I am going to try to be keeping to that as closely as possible.

I made Wednesday an easy crockpot day. I will make the Kaiser rolls the day before. They are easy.

Monday:
Beef Stew--All home canned beef potatoes, carrots, and parsnips
Home canned green beans
Home canned pears

Tuesday:
Leftover Casserole--Frozen turkey and stuffing from Christmas, sour cream, cheese, poultry seasoning, cream of chicken soup, tater tots
Frozen Broccoli
Home canned nectarines

Wednesday:
Pulled Pork Sandwiches--Pork roast from our pig share with homemade Garam Masala (nightshade free)
Homemade Kaiser rolls
Canned Pineapple
Cole slaw

Thursday:
Homemade Pizza--frozen ham, frozen sausage, pepperoni, onions, home canned sauce, cheeses
Cole slaw
Oranges

Friday:
Mild Curried Rabbit with homemade curry powder (nightshade free)
Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli
Frozen Plums

Saturday:
Picnic Ham
Sweet Potatoes
Home canned green beans
Home canned pears

Sunday:
Belgian Waffles
Leftover Ham
Oranges
Frozen Broccoli

End of Week Catch-Up

January 22nd, 2017 at 06:42 pm

I haven't posted in a couple of days as stuff has been somewhat busy here. I made a huge batch of Rabbit Stir-Fried Rice for the freezer. I usually make this once a week with whatever leftover meat I have. Right now I'm working with just an electric skillet and the microwave for the most part as I don't have access to the oven/stove top every day. So it's a stir-fry, but only sort of, since I'm not using a wok and I vary the temperature a lot.

I ended up with 5 bags for the freezer and a bowlful for my son. If we have rice as a side, quart baggy is good for the whole family. But generally my son eats the whole bag for lunch along with more eggs. It's cheap and it fills him up without him having to eat a bunch of bread, so I'm happy to do it. And it is way cheaper than buying the bags of chicken fried rice from Trader Joe's.

If any of you want to see how I make it, there's a vid on my youtube channel you are welcome to watch, but fair warning it is 22 minutes long. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObXQM1fufEk I also have one for making garlic powder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukXxytlFld8 and the one for making onion powder as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyd_bLDBaaA&t=24s I know a couple of you had expressed some interest in those.

I'm dehyrdating lots of garlic and ginger, but these ones I'll keep in pieces and vacuum seal. Then later on when I run out of powder I can grind them then. It will make them taste much fresher than making it all into powder now.

I determined the sexes of Ella's kits, 3 girls and 3 boys. One of the girls that is a broken black looks very promising in both spots and coloration, so I may keep her and breed her back to Zander. We'll see. Persephone's litter is doing well. They are adorable.

I have been trying to figure out what I am going to plant in the garden this year. I listed it all out earlier in the month, but now I'm trying to get down to the knitty gritty and figure out how much room I have versus my desires and expectations. I always have to scale down as I just don't have the space to grow all of what I need. I have to inventory my current seeds as well.

I reorganized the canning shelves so now all of the fruit is together, all of the meats are together, and more of the vegetables are together. We still have a lot of home canned food, not near as many gaps as I was expecting considering how heavily we have drawn from them. I am down to two shelves plus two jars of green beans, though. So that's definitely going to have to be a big grow this year. I was planning on doing some, but I know now that I'll need to triple what I had planned on growing.

My kids have learned how to make rice balls and are big batching them for the freezer. They are learning to make their own "convenience" foods since we are buying less and less. I am trying to get down to not buying any convenience foods at all, but I've been taking it gradually. Next up is pizza snacks, which should be very easy. I might make a big batch of pizza calzones as well. My son especially likes it when we have those on hand. Making a double or triple batch is not really that much more work when the Kitchen-Aid does all the dough kneading.

We have continued to go through boxes and weed out a lot of stuff. In another month I may have a usable living area again. I am tired of the mess and having to work around everything all the time. With having to do so much from scratch I could really use the extra space for big batch assembly line stuff. That's our biggest area where we can save money, so it's important for me to be able to do it easily. If it's hard I won't want to and it'll be hard to get help as well.

There has been some more job interest poking up, but nothing concrete yet. Hopefully we'll hear more soon. Continued prayers would be appreciated.

Leftover Management and Homemade Take-Out

January 12th, 2017 at 11:24 pm

One of the things I've been doing lately is taking any leftover meat and immediately chopping it up into a small dice. It's nice to think that it'll get eaten over the next couple of days, but too many times it doesn't. So I've taken to dicing and then freezing immediately. Or in the case of leftover hamburger patties or lamb patties, crumbling it up. We can't afford food waste and I'm opposed to it even in the best of times. Everything needs to get eaten.

I have had some good pizza toppings this way, with some lovely homemade sausage, picnic ham, taco meat, and lamb de provence. The ham and sausage is also great for putting in an egg scramble or omelette. We have had a few things that I don't really want to put on pizza, though.

The pork ribs with the apricot/honey/soy sauce glaze and the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey leftovers, to name two. Sometimes leftover rabbit or chicken as well, depending on the seasonings. That meat has been going into making stir-fried rice, which is also helping to use up the over abundance of eggs we've been getting now that the ducks are switching into high gear.

I used the leftover pork with the apricot/honey/soy glaze tonight and it was so good. It was better than Yangtze pork fried rice that you can get in just about any Chinese place out there. I did add some garlic and ginger to the meat as well as to the rice itself. I ended up with 5 quart baggies full for the freezer, enough sides for a family of four for five meals, and then 2 more cups that my son and husband were bargaining over for a late evening snack.

I am really happy with the amount of Chinese/Polynesian dishes I have learned to make. Besides the rice I can make chicken and broccoli, broccoli beef, black pepper chicken, subgum chicken chow mein, beef chow yuk, pineapple chicken, char sui pork, and then just a general stir-fry with whatever I have with Chinese flavors. I have mastered using oyster sauce, fish sauce, and hoison sauce without getting too much of any of them.

It is nice to be able to make our favorite Chinese dishes when we can't afford to get take out. I have learned a couple Korean dishes over the last couple years as well, mandu (pork and cabbage dumplings) and kimbap (rice, seaweed, vegetable, and shrimp roll up thingy cut into circles).

I have been running down recipes for Mexican foods that don't require tomato sauce or peppers. It's not quite authentic, but there are substitutes and I am going to try them so we can get it figured out. There are a few dishes that don't use those things anyway, like quesadillas, which are simple enough, but I want to make tacos, and chili, and enchiladas again.

With Sichuan peppercorns, long grain peppercorns, and grains of paradise and judicious use of some other herbs and spices that aren't nightshades, it is supposedly possible to do all three of those things. I'm just not terribly fond of the texture of the nomato sauce, though, which is the base for two of them. It tastes good enough, though. Maybe I need to puree it more or something.

All I can say is that I am glad I am a good cook to begin with, because it has been a challenge to replace half my spice palette with other things and half my recipes as well. But I am doing it and we are finding some new favorites in the process. I don't think I'll ever get over losing peppers, though. At least peppercorns are not the same botanical species. I'm not sure it would be possible for me to give up black pepper, too. It's underrated, but salt and pepper are the best seasonings there are, really. They enhance everything. It's just the amounts you have to watch.

I am trying to post more frequently than I have been. It's just hard sometimes to figure it out when there is no income coming in. There are no savings updates. There are no payday reports. We still have no debt. So pretty much it comes down to household management, stretching the food budget, and making sure nothing goes to waste. Well, enough rambling. It's getting late and I need to get some sleep.

Payday Report and Need to do Something about the Storage Units

April 9th, 2016 at 10:58 am

I really need to start doing the payday reports again. It keeps me super focused and on top of my spending, which I really need to be. We have had a lot of medical expenses already this month. Some of it we will get reimbursed for when everything is straightened out with our insurance company, but that could still take a month or two to shake out.

$400.00 Utilities
$150.00 Emergency Fund
$_80.82 Internet
$_47.86 Life Insurance DH
$_45.30 Life Insurance Me
$150.00 Laptop
$227.00 Storage (went up again, ouch)
$250.00 Chiropractic Monthly Family Plan
$140.52 Sleep Doctor
$_86.01 ENT Doctor
$369.00 Dentist (getting a partial reimbursement)
$_50.00 Allowances
$100.00 Garden/Household
-------------------------
$2096.51 Total

I have $167 and some change left in the checking account. $90 of that is allocated to physical therapy, but she's cancelled on my 2 weeks running, so that money may get dumped into the EF if I don't hear from her by next Friday.

DH and I are going to start going through our big storage unit when he comes home next time and seeing what we can get rid of/sell/donate. We really need to get down to having just one storage unit. The second one is $120 and it doesn't have too much in it, but the first one is jam packed. If we can free up about 8 square feet we can get everything into one unit and clear up the additional expense.

I know some of it is just stuff we didn't want to deal with when we moved, like boxes of papers, bags of outgrown clothes, little kid toys, and multiple outdated electronics. I know there are at least 3 VCR's and while keeping one to play all the old VHS tapes is fine, we certainly don't need 3. We used to have one for our bedroom, one for the living room, and one for the kid's playroom.

We could probably even sell one bundled with a bunch of old Blue's Clues, Dora the Explorer, Bear in the Big Blue House, and kiddie movie VHS tapes at a garage sale. I mean who really buys VHS tapes anymore, not many folks still have VCR's, but might with a big enough stash of tapes and a player with a working remote. Obviously not for a huge amount of money, but maybe $10 to $15.

And I know we have all the fairy Barbies and their forest, too. Which could go for another small lump sum. Complete Fisher Price Little people set-ups, both original and modern are kicking around. And a huge toddler train layout from Little Lionel, which would go for a bit more. Just a lot of stuff like that. Not that we'd make a fortune or anything at all, but we might be able to get a decent garage sale together for June.

I know that when the time comes to move, I don't want to be hauling a ton of useless stuff to our new home. And I certainly don't want to deal with boxes of old junk mail and statements then, either. Our car has an outlet in it, so we can even shred things right there, pack them into paper sacks, and take them to be recycled, without ever bringing them home.

It'll take a lot of work, but he is going to have 3 weeks off in a row and this is probably the best time to do it, before gardening season gets into full swing.

Life in Limbo

April 1st, 2016 at 09:29 pm

So we were supposed to know yesterday about whether or not DH's company got the contract. Well, we still don't know. Apparently they are taking 2 MORE weeks to decide. Something that should have been decided in January. I am not holding my breath about 2 weeks from now, either. Do they not understand that they are fooling around with people's lives here and their livelihoods?

I am just hoping that DH can get some overtime in. There appears to be the work for it. If he can get in enough OT to get the EF up to $20K, I might (probably not), just might relax a little bit.

I have decided to do an eat from the pantry challenge for the month of April. I want to cut our grocery spending all the way down to $400. If I can, it will go a long way towards easing the pain of the pay cut. I don't need to buy meat at all during this month. I don't need to buy potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pasta, tomato sauce, rice, or flour, or sugar.

I am allowing myself to buy fresh fruit, milk, and some greens and onions if I run out, but that is all. I will be baking all my bread, rolls, and buns. I've got plenty of food in the freezer and on the canning shelves. My Aerogarden is producing a couple of salads a week. I've got lettuce planted that will hopefully take off by the end of the month. This should be easy. It goes without saying that there will be no eating out.

If I can figure this out and stick to a much stricter grocery budget, and we can get used to not getting everything we want food-wise all the time, then if his pay does go back up, we can save the difference then, too. That would be nice. And if it doesn't, we'll know we can get by on much less.

Menu Planning for the Week

February 4th, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I meant to get this up yesterday, but didn't. Here is my menu planning for the next week, starting yesterday. I am mostly planning based off of what is in the freezer or on the canning shelves, or in the case of fruit what I already have in the fridge or freezer. This is keeping my grocery budget well under while we are trying to save extra money for the down payment and to pay our medical bills.

Wednesday:
Braided Chili Loaf
Cantaloupe
Coleslaw

Thursday:
Sloppy Hoppies on Leftover Kaiser Rolls
Cantaloupe
Leftover Coleslaw

Friday:
BBQ and Teriyaki Honey Rabbit Wings
Broccoli
Leftover Coleslaw
Fried potatoes

Saturday:
Bacon Wrapped Pekin Duck
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans
Apples

Sunday:
Short ribs
Fried potatoes
Leftover green beans
Oranges

Monday:
Garlic Herbed Shrimp over Chicken Fried Rice
Onions and Bell Peppers
Canned Nectarines

Tuesday:
Beef pot roast
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Green Beans
Berries

Our Last Debt and Contract

February 1st, 2016 at 01:13 pm

Our only debt right now is the 0% interest loan from my mother for all the medical expenses she helped us cover when I had six surgeries in five years. I call it our Medical Mortgage for those new to the game. It currently sits at $45,000. For the last 10 months we were paying it back at a reduced rate, her idea, not ours, of $500 a month. This allowed us to save $5000 towards our down payment, but of course increased our pay off date.

Well, now we are going back to paying off $1000 per month. Mom needs to put a new roof on the addition of her house this summer and she just had to pay $10,200 so that the heating guys can come and fix her ducts under the house and put down new Visqueen. There were mice nests in most of her registers. Aw, fun. I told her she needs to get a cat (or three). Old houses have mice and this house is old.

While it was nice to put that money in savings, I was never thrilled about it increasing the payoff date. Well, now we are back to a better payoff schedule. We have 45 payments to go. That is 3 years and 10 months of payments, which gives us a payoff date of November of 2019.

She doesn't want it any faster as besides this money, social security is her only income (though she owns the house and cars in full and has no debt). She likes being guaranteed a certain amount each month. Though I may insist when we get closer to the end, just to be done with it.

Assuming all goes well with DH's contract at least, we'll be done with the payoff before 2020 which is good. He has guaranteed work through June. He was supposed to find out in the beginning of March whether or not his company got the new contract, but it has been extended a couple of weeks, so now we might not know until the end of March.

I passionately dislike living in limbo. In the past when his old company lost the contract he was able to slide into place with the new company and will likely be able to do that again. But we don't know. And not knowing drives me crazy.

On the bright side, we have almost $16K in the Emergency Fund and $38,500 in the down payment fund, so if it did take him a while to find a new job if things didn't go as planned, we will be fine. It will set our plans back a lot, but we will be fine.

I did a job loss budget and we could bring our living expenses down to $3000 a month if we had to for 18 months, cutting out physical therapy, cutting our grocery budget in half, cutting out all savings, cutting out the kids allowances, cutting out the chiropractor, but still paying back Mom. We would be going into garden season, so we might even be able to cut our grocery budget by more than half for a while.

I don't like the idea of it, but it is better for me to plan for contingencies so I don't have to panic later on.

Sticking to My Goal of Only Using Half the Grocery Budget

January 6th, 2016 at 11:01 am

It was so nice to get back in the pool yesterday after about 8 weeks away due to the cold/sinus infection/general yuck thing I was dealing with last year. The prednisone seems to have seen it most of the way out the door and I have energy to do things again beyond the minimum. I'm off the prednisone now and hoping it doesn't come back, but so far seem to be doing okay.

Anyway, I did a water aerobics class yesterday. It was a full hour and boy do I feel it today, but it felt great, I am happy to be back. I will go again tomorrow.

I have lost 7 pounds so far since the start of the year. I am sure part of that is my commitment to cooking at home right now. About six days a week are from scratch and one day a week is maybe a convenience type thing. Last night was mini chicken tacos from Trader Joe's, so the ingredients at least, are not suspect. More sodium, of course, than I would use, but as long as we keep that kind of meal to a minimum, not so bad.

So far I have spent $35 of the $80.06 I have left of the original $400 I am trying to keep this month's grocery spending to. I need to make the rest of the $55 last until the 22nd and I will have made it through the month on half my grocery budget. Not an easy feat, but it seems to be working okay so far.

I am being diligent with sticking to the meal plan this week. My only alteration was making the mini-tacos instead of actual tacos last night. And sometimes I switch the fruit around as I may not be in the mood for the fruit I planned, but all of the planned fruit still gets eaten in a week.

I have stayed on top of leftover management quite well, too. I haven't had to throw out anything this week, but have made sure it gets eaten for lunches or breakfasts, or rolled into later meals in the week. This makes a huge difference, as well.

I think all of the savings will get eaten up by medical expenses, though. I had hoped to put it in the down payment fund, but at least I shouldn't have to take the money I normally put in the down payment fund each month and use it for the medical expenses, so that is something.

Cutting Grocery Expenses

January 2nd, 2016 at 11:13 pm

I didn't have time to write about this when I started, but 12 days ago I did one big grocery shop with the intention of cutting my grocery spending for the month in half. I gave myself a budget of $400, and spent $319.94. That left me with $80.06 for things like milk, bread (if I don't bake it), lettuce, and fresh fruit.

Yesterday I spent $11.85 on 15 pounds of oranges, and $8.99 on a quart of fresh organic strawberries. So that is $20.84 and it leaves me with $59.22 to get through until the 22nd of January. $60 for 20 more days. I have 2 gallons of milk left so I am fine there, and I still have some greens growing under my little umbrella green houses, so I may not need to buy lettuce at all. I also have a loaf of bread left and plenty of ingredients to make more.

The $400 I am hoping to save (my usual budget is $800 a month) will go into the down payment fund. I have been successful in saving anywhere from around $200 to $250 for the past couple of months, but I really want to try to make this goal.

I do not have to buy any meat at all. The freezer is still packed with chicken, rabbit, beef, pork, and lamb. I have a ton of home canned food still on my canning shelves, and some frozen fruit and veg as well. So this is very doable as long as I don't get lazy. So far I have been sticking pretty well to the meal planning, though I've switched things up a couple times when I wasn't feeling as good. But it was all stuff we had available.

We also have not eaten out in that amount of time and I am hoping to make that go for the entire month long period as well. I am in full on savings mode. The faster I can save, the sooner we can move.

Meal Planning for the Week

December 30th, 2015 at 02:35 pm

Wednesday:
Pork chops
Fried potatoes
Green Beans
Apples/apple sauce

Thursday:
Baked chicken
Baked potatoes
Oranges
Salad

Friday:
Garlic Ginger Rabbit Stir-fry

Saturday:
Homemade pizza
Cole slaw

Sunday:
Crockpot roast beef with carrots, potatoes, and parsnips,
Cole slaw
Oranges

Monday:
Meatball subs
Cole slaw
Apples

Tuesday:
Tacos
Canned nectarines

Gas for $1.86 a Gallon and Rethinking Costco

October 22nd, 2015 at 03:45 pm

I just filled up my gas tank for $1.86 a gallon. I had 30 points on my Safeway card since I've spent $300 there this month. So that was 30 cents off per gallon, and then I used cash which made it an additional 10 cents off per gallon. So while Safeway's regular gas price won't beat Costco's regular gas price, with points and cash discount, it is 20 cents cheaper to get it at Safeway. Plus Safeway is only a mile from my house and not on the other side of town.

I am thinking hard about letting my Costco card go when it expires in March. I keep it mostly for buying organic olive oil, butter, toilet paper, organic brown rice, organic sugar, organic tomato sauce and paste, organic frozen broccoli, and organic chicken.

But...we have a freezer full of chicken we grew this year. I now have enough spaghetti sauce canned for a year from my garden. I could stock up on a year's supply of olive oil, butter, tomato paste, brown rice, sugar and frozen broccoli right before it expires. I don't have to renew it and I can revisit the idea in a year of using the membership. Or my FIL and MIL have a membership so we could have them pick up what we need when we need it.

I used to buy cheese there, but Safeway's sales and often their regular prices are better than Costco's regular price. I am finding a lot of things that is true on. I know if I watch sales I can probably find Charmin for cheaper and find coupons for it. And when we run out of chicken, Trader Joe's does have less expensive organic chicken nowadays.

Another reason I am thinking of dropping Costco is that they will no longer be partnering with AMEX, which means I'd have to get another credit card and I don't want to.

It's just that the many things that used to be selling points for a Costco membership are now being chipped away at and as prices rise it just no longer seems the bargain it once was. The parking is atrocious and it's just getting to the point where it is not really worth it anymore.

Well, At Least That Will Cut Expenses

October 2nd, 2015 at 06:32 pm

I'm having to switch rabbit feed and I'm not happy about it. But I can't get it here without an exorbitant shipping cost. The only way for the shipping to even be reasonable would be to buy 29 fifty pound bags at once. I have the capacity to store 15 bags at the moment.

In order to store 29 I would have to purchase 5 more containers capable of storing 150 pounds in each. I can't leave them on a pallet in the garage because we'll get mice. They have to be in chew proof containers. And we don't have the space to store 5 more bins anyway. Even if I could, it would take too long to get through the feed. It would be very stale and have the possibility of going rancid by the time we went through so much feed.

With the buying club having gone under, I can't reasonably get the organic feed anymore. So we are switching back to the feed we were buying before, which is about 33% of the cost of the organic feed. I hate the idea of going back onto a feed that might have GMOs in it, but there is not much I can do at this point. I will investigate other options, but at least getting this type of feed will buy us time. They do, at least, attempt to get non-GMO ingredients for their feeds, they just can't guarantee it.

I do have to admit it will be nice to see the feed bill drop by so much.

Grocery Shopping and Food Preserving

August 10th, 2015 at 01:22 pm

Yesterday DH and I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. I am hoping not to have to shop again except for milk and bananas for about 3 weeks. It is pretty hard to do with the pain and fogginess from my broken nose and what actually probably is a mild concussion. Or else just a reaction to the pain medication. Hard to say, but I feel very out of it.

I spent $162.71. We got a few packaged meals and some other things that will make it easy to fill in around the produce coming in from the garden and the meat in the freezer.

We have canned a lot this week. My husband has done a lot of it under my supervision simply because I get dizzy a lot right now. But between the two of us we have canned:

7 quarts and 1 pint of beef
6 quarts and 1 pint of rabbit
6 quarts of zucchini and summer squash
3 pint and a half jars of green beans
13 pints of rabbit bone broth
6 pints of bread and butter pickles
6 quarts of garlic dill pickles

We also made a batch of rabbit jerky with the abdominal flaps that can be very chewy and basically are only good for being ground or making jerky. Some people make bacon with it, but I feel it is too chewy for bacon.

We plan to can hamburger and more beef chunks today and more rabbit tomorrow. I need to do another batch of garlic dill pickles as the cucumbers are getting ridiculous.

I have an order in with a local place for 20 pounds of no spray green beans. We are having issues with the pole bean crop so I wanted to make sure I had enough green beans canned for the year. I think between that and what we do get from our garden it will cover it. I will be buying some carrots soon, too. We are down to 4 quarts of canned carrots. The ones I am growing are more for fresh eating and a little dehydrating as they don't get very big.

We also have an order in for dill since the stores keep running out. They don't seem to be stocking very well for pickling season this year. They do have those super expensive little plastic packets, but one of those costs about as much as a huge bunch of fresh dill.

I bought a garlic braid since my garlic crop failed. It has about 40 heads of garlic on it, which will meet my needs for the year. I have 5 or 6 left on last year's braid so am going to slice up the cloves, dehydrate them, and grind into powder.

Fortunately a lot of this stuff I can do sitting down. I do have to be careful not to push too hard, but it is difficult when there is so much to do to get ready for winter.

I heard the other day that our beef share should be ready on August 28th or thereabouts. I am getting 1/4 of a grass fed, organic beef. It will work out to $4 per pound. We will can most of the roasts and some of the hamburger. I will also be getting 10 pounds of tallow to render for soap making and lotion making. Beef fat is very good for those things and very healthy for the body, as opposed to a lot of the chemically laden soaps and lotions.

Next month the meat chickens will be ready to butcher as well, so I'll be putting 30 chickens in the freezer. We'll also have 3 rabbits ready to butcher then, too. So lots of work coming up, but it will be so worth it to not buy much meat for a year at the store. And in the long run we save a lot of money buy buying in bulk and preserving or raising our own and preserving.

We will still have to buy sea food since DH's big fishing trip fell through. I was pretty disappointed as they were going to be fishing for King salmon and one of those would have been around 35 pounds, plenty for a year. But life happens and there is nothing we can do about it now.

Garden and Eat from the Pantry Challenge

June 9th, 2015 at 03:12 pm

I feel like I am starting to settle into a routine now between the garden and the farm chores and making all of my meals from what is available here and not by making a quick run to the store or getting take out. As the garden moves into heavier production more time needs to be spent there.

I have harvested a pound of snow peas from the garden this week, 2 bunches of kale, 1 head of lettuce, 2 bunches of green onions, and 3 kohlrabi. My broccoli is getting close to harvest size, which astounds me. It is all so early, but with this weather, I can't blame it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzII-hvqugA

I am enjoying the cooking this week more than I have in a long while. I don't know if it is just access to super fresh ingredients from the garden or knowing it is all food I grew and/or preserved myself, but it feels different. I haven't felt any resentment over cooking like I sometimes do. I mean I love cooking, but I am often irritated when it all falls on me. This last week I don't seem to care about that. It's like an attitude has shifted. Of course the children are helping far more than they ever have before so maybe that is why?

Some things were quite challenging since the hot water tank that feeds the main kitchen went out and had to be replaced. We couldn't use the dishwasher and every pot and pan that we cooked in had to be hauled down to the half-kitchen that had hot water. That went on for 5 days, but we got a new tank put in and had hot water again last night.

As promised here is the video of my meals for the first week of the challenge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEWnzVbQ7UA

I am looking forward to the rest of this challenge. It is good to be feeling so positive about it.

June Will Be Tight

May 25th, 2015 at 01:15 pm

DH forgot to arrange time off with his alternate for DD's graduation. Normally they switch weeks or go to a temporary 3 and 3 week schedule, but with waiting to the last minute the best he could get was for his alternate to just work the 4 days for him. It would be less days if there was a plane to the slope every day, but there isn't. So we will lose 4 days of pay in June.

I am going to try my best to not have to use the Emergency Fund to cover these lost wages. I think we can manage it, at least if no more major medical bills come in. It won't be this next cycle, but the one after that that will be missing 4 days. So if I am very careful and we don't eat out at all in the next 6 weeks and I don't put anything in the down payment fund except the $500 I'm obligated to put in there, I think it will be manageable.

If not, I guess I could take from the January Money Fund or the College Fund. DD is taking a gap year anyway, to try to get her health in order. I am hoping they will just let her get a hysterectomy. It is what she wants at this point just to have all this over with. She's never wanted to give birth to kids because of the high risks that run in our family, so that isn't an issue, though the doctors may make it out to be one. They generally do when you are young. But she's always been quite firm on wanting to adopt little girls from China. She's talked about that since she was 10.

We will be eating from the pantry and the garden as much as possible during this time period. I will buy some fruit and vegetables and probably some chocolate, but I will buy no meat (other than pepperoni and deli meat for school lunches) since we have plenty in the freezer and in the canning jars and I will make all of our bread.

What I won't have to buy at all is lettuce, kale, or chard. The kohlrabi will start being ready in a week or so. So basically the only veggies I will be buying are cabbage, zucchini, and broccoli. I will be buying some strawberries and blueberries, at least until my own strawberries are ripe. I will also be buying 2 basil plants. I have canned nectarines, applesauce, and pineapple. And I'll need to buy milk and yogurt. We have plenty of butter and oil. But I do need to pick up tomato sauce to make spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce with my own canned tomatoes. I think I can limit it to that, though.

If I can cut our grocery budget in half for the next 6 weeks, we should get by just fine without having to dip into anything. Including the money for DS's new bike.

Going for a No Spend Week

December 30th, 2014 at 05:49 pm

Aside from the auto deductions and the AMEX bill, which have money set aside for them, I am hoping for a no spend week starting tomorrow and going through next Tuesday. We have plenty of food, milk, and medication and toiletries in the house and no reason to spend any money on anything, so this week should be a breeze to get through. I won't have physical therapy again for 8 days, which I will have to pay, or I'd be trying to go no spend until January 9th, which is our next payday.

Today we spent $75 on rabbit feed and oats and I spent $90 on physical therapy.

The kids start back to school on Monday and normally I would buy lunch meat, but I am just going to make an extra pizza on Sunday and then they can take that for lunches. They both like cold pizza over sandwiches anyway and since I make it with lots of onions and peppers it is reasonably well balanced.

My husband taught my FIL and my mom how to butcher rabbits so they could help do it and DH could keep his injured finger out of them, so on Monday they butchered 10. These ones were a few weeks older than our norm, so it'll be close to 35 pounds of meat and about 2.5 pounds of livers. I will be working on cutting it all up tomorrow for grinding. We should get about 35 pounds of burger after the bones are taken out.

Then I will boil up the bones, pick off the remaining meat, and can the stock. I might even make up some ready made soups to can with the meat from the bones, although generally I save that for making enchiladas.

I am about ready to start cooking again, even though I'm not over this illness. My brain is starting to unfog, which is good. And since DH just left for Alaska and won't be able to help, I am glad I feel like I am capable to start at least making dinners again.

Garden Bounty Still--Hay Bale Garden

November 3rd, 2014 at 03:19 pm

Because we have not had a freeze yet, the garden has continued unabated. Yesterday I harvested 5 broccoli plants and 3 cauliflower plants. I had thought there were only 2 that were ready, but I found a 3rd that was so was very happy with that. The ducks, chickens, and turkeys were thrilled to get the spent plants. I've got 2 more broccoli and 2 more cauliflower that I am letting size up and then those will be done.

I will be drying parsley later in the week. There are no freezes predicted for the next 10 days, so I am just letting things continue to grow instead of pulling it all out.

I want the leeks to get a little more size before yanking them and using them to make rabbit and chicken stocks. They are useable now, but the bigger they get the more flavorful they will be.

The kale is still going strong. Sometimes kale makes it through the winter here, so I am going to let it try. I am leaving the sweet meat squash as long as I can, though the leaves are dying down so it is just what is left in the vines that is nourishing them. They are almost at 110 days now which is what they should be at for picking.

I haven't had much of a chance to do anything with the straw bale garden yet, except keep picking green beans. There are a couple of peppers that may be ripe and some kohlrabi. I think the zucchini is done. The tomatoes and cucumbers have been done for a while, though the plants are still alive. I will try to get out there and go through that garden in the next couple of days if there is a break in the weather.

Here's a vid of the hay bale garden, though:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU2pXbr2QJU&feature=youtu.be

You can really see how it is falling apart and definitely will not hold up for a second season. But it definitely served its purpose. It cut our grocery expenses and helped us put jars of veggies on the shelves and bags of veggies in the freezer, while providing a couple of months of fresh eating.

Bits and Pieces

October 31st, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I was able to transfer $1000 to my December Money Fund today. $400 of it was medical reimbursement and $500 was scrimped out of last month's budget. $100 I took off the top of today's paycheck.

This puts the fund total at $1947. I am hoping to be able to save $1500 out of the next 5 paychecks. It's not enough to cover 5 weeks with no pay, but it'll mean that much less out of the Emergency Fund. We can't rely on any kind of a company bonus this year to get through the shut down period.

Mom says we don't have to make a December payment on our loan to her, but I'd like to avoid skipping it. I absolutely hate owing her that money and any month we skip will be that much longer we have to be under that debt. We hit the halfway point today, $55,000 paid off, $55,000 to go. We have 4 years and 7 months left if we stay on track.

We have 2 years and 8 months left on the van loan at our current rate of payment. Maybe a little sooner since I pay a little extra each month, but it's hard to say how much sooner. Probably just a month, possibly two. It's not that much extra.

We will be butchering 2 of our turkeys on November 8th for the upcoming holidays and whichever rabbit kits have hit 5 pounds will be butchered the next day. That will cut the turkey feed bill in half. I'm not going to raise rabbit kits over the winter, so that will cut the rabbit feed bill way down, too, once all the current grow outs are butchered. The youngest kits will be 8 weeks old on Sunday.

The older kits will be 15 weeks old on Sunday. I think they will all be of butchering size by the time DH comes home. 4 out of 8 are now, and I think it is more likely that 6 out of 8 are, but I haven't weighed them in a couple of weeks. I hope they all will be because we need the cage space for the youngsters. I will weigh them tomorrow since we will be cleaning out cages.

I have about 50 pounds of rabbit meat in the freezer currently and after this next round we'll have an additional 20 pounds to either can or freeze since dress out weight is a little over 1/2 of live weight. And then the youngest coming up number 18, so that will be an additional 45 pounds if they all survive to butcher age. There will be plenty of meat without breeding again until late February.

I am also debating on sending the drakes to freezer camp. I don't need them for the ducks to lay eggs, and considering how little meat there is on a Welsh Harlequin, we won't be raising ducklings after all, so we don't need the males. Plus one of them is really beating up on one the girls when they mate. Her wing feathers are in pretty bad shape from it. If I do, that will cut that feed bill down, too, but not too much since they mostly eat what they forage and just fill in with feed when they are hungry.

I've been getting 5 duck eggs a day lately and 4 chicken eggs every 36 hours so the female birds are definitely paying for themselves. I need to make a bunch of meatloaf freezer meals so I can use up some of these eggs. I do sell a few dozen here and there and I give them away to family and friends, but even so, it is hard to keep up with what they produce.

I've still got to do up a payday report, but I haven't finished paying all the bills yet, so will likely do that tomorrow.

It's Been a Real Long Week

August 7th, 2014 at 03:00 pm

I will start with the good news. I have lost 9.4 pounds so far on my diet. It's been 17 days. Although I still have the urge to eat some junk food, it is going pretty well. My small amount of high carbs have been fruit, corn, and potatoes. It seems to keep the sugar cravings at bay pretty well. I can't remember the last time I had bread. I don't actually miss it at the moment.

I am so tired, but I have got a lot accomplished. We have had to hang out at home because of my daughter's condition so I've done a lot. This week I have canned 18.5 pints of corn, 20 pints and 2 1.5 pint jars of nectarines, and 11 quarts of Yukon Gold potatoes.

Tomorrow I will buy some more corn to can and some more potatoes. I'd like to get another 30 ears of corn for this batch, and 15 pounds of potatoes. That should give me equivalent to what I've already canned, doubling what I have of each vegetable. I have plenty of quart jars for the time being, but will need to buy some more pint jars for the corn. I also need to buy some half-pint jars for applesauce. Mom picked a bunch of apples today and they need to be processed tomorrow or the next day. I have plenty of sugar and cinnamon on hand. I also want to buy more peppers and onions for freezing while the peppers are super cheap.

I got the soaker hoses put onto the gardens last night. No more hand watering, except the gutter garden. That will save us a lot of work. I think I've got them arranged so they hit everything. It's a lot easier to place soaker hoses before you plant, but better late than never.

I harvested two more big zucchinis, a couple of tomatoes, one red bell pepper, another pint of yellow French beans, some sorrel, some cilantro,2 cucumbers, at least one bunch of kale, and 2 tomatoes. The grocery store equivalent for the same organic produce is $20.

$224.35 Previous Garden Tally
+_20.00 Harvest Amount this Week
--------------
$244.35 YTD Garden Tally

The green beans are coming along nicely. I think that if this continues, I will have plenty to can so I won't need to buy anymore. I am hoping that now that the tomatoes will have a more consistent source of water I will get enough from them to can as well.

Now that the soaker hoses are set up I might see about getting some more kohlrabi plugs to replace the ones that didn't survive the heat. I still need to get radishes and green onion seeds planted in the empty gutter garden. They take a month to grow and I'd like to have some more before the season ends. I might try to squeeze in a crop of peas, too, since they don't mind if it gets cold towards the end of their growing season.

I definitely know what I will do differently next year with the gardens and what I will do the same. I will do the bales again. I will do hay or straw, whatever is cheapest as I saw no real differences in the growing medium. I will have soaker hoses from the get-go and I will have a little bit of soil on top. I will have the bales set up earlier and I will condition them with organic fertilizer for a week longer than they say to. And I will fertilize monthly while growing.

Some vids I made earlier in the week of my garden progress:

Straw Bale 7

http://youtu.be/fRJ7l3HTDtQ

Hay Bale 7

[http://youtu.be/2vsHl5H3c98

Fruit Garden 7

http://youtu.be/3swwIzI-I2k

Freezer Inventory #1

June 7th, 2014 at 10:05 am

When we moved our stuff out of Mom's freezer and into our own new huge chest freezer, I took an inventory of what was in there to help me with future meal planning. I still need to go through what we have in the small chest freezer and move a portion of it out, and what we have in the above fridge freezer in the laundry room and move all of it out, and the below fridge freezer in our kitchen, but I figured this was a good start and I could put it here and then compile my spreadsheet later.

I've broken it down into categories, and then individual types within each category.

Rabbit--
15 whole cut-up
2 quart bags of liver
1 gallon bag of bones for making stock
7 bags of belly flaps for making jerky
1 container of soup
2 gallon size baggies of homemade sausage patties
1/2 a cut up rabbit

Beef--
2 skirt steaks
3 quart bags of stir-fry meat
4 pounds of ground beef
7 rib-eye thin cut steaks
1 chuck roast
2 packages hot dogs

Turkey--
1 package of 3 extra large turkey legs
1 turkey kielbasa

Chicken--
7 quart size baggies of boneless skinless
3 family size baggies of chicken legs

Pork--
4 ground
3 packages of sausages
3 packages of bacon
4 chops

Lamb--
1 ground

Elk--
1 ground

Fish--
1 package of cod
2 pounds of shrimp

Rice--
1 baggy of chicken fried rice
3 baggies of brown rice

Vegetables--
1 bag of fire roasted onions and peppers

I'm going to try to inventory the 2 fridge freezers today. The small chest freezer will probably wait until tomorrow.

I want to get through some of this meat before we buy a side of beef and a side of pork later this year. We've got the chicken way down, but only because we are going to be butchering some in a couple weeks. We also need to get moving on the rabbit as we will be butchering again in about 3 weeks and then pretty often during the summer.[

A lot of the rabbit meat needs to be ground, mixed with a little tomato sauce and seasonings, and pressed into patties. I will also do up some meatballs and cook them and freeze them for future use. The meat is packaged well, but it is from February of last year so it'll get used up faster in a more usable form. Because of how we've packaged it there has been no freezer burn or drop off in quality, but I'd still like to get the older stuff gone.

With this inventory at my fingertips I can keep it handy and we can get eaten what needs to be used up and do far less grocery shopping for protein because I will know at a glance what I have and plan around it.

Yesterday was Not a No Spend Day

January 19th, 2014 at 02:11 pm

I ended up buying some things after all that I hadn't planned on. I decided that I needed to get 2 new pairs of jeans. I have been wearing my jeans to do farm chores and they are becoming too shabby to wear off the property.

Then DS informed me he had outgrown all of his underwear but two, and DD informed me that she had outgrown all of her socks. I got DS 3 4 pks of underwear because they were cheaper that way and DD 2 6 pks. DD needed a cheap bottle of conditioner and both kids wanted a new brush because they didn't like the one I bought to replace the broken one. I do like it though. It is way better at getting out tangles. So DD wanted a round styling brush and DS just wanted one like the broken one. I also bought a hair dryer because ours shot out sparks and ceased to work.

Fortunately it was all at one store and I had over $13 in credits on my store card. I also ended up getting $5 credit for my next purchase. I was able to ignore any further suggestions from the kids, one of whom wanted yet another pair of PJ bottoms and the other wanted a new sweatshirt and a shirt. None of those things are needs, though.

Oh, and I did buy a set of headphones, but DD is paying me back out of her allowance. Total spent was $130, with DD owing me $20 of that back.

DD gave DS a haircut last night. Someone called him a young lady when he was out with his grandmother so he decided it was time. It wasn't that long, maybe 3 inches, but it was long enough that it was curling so it did give a little bit of a feminine style, but he was wearing boy clothes so not sure how he got mistaken for a girl. DD has gotten quite good with the clippers. I only had to trim up a bit around his ears. So that saved us $15. It's not quite a buzz cut, but no one will be mistaking him for a girl with it, that's for sure.

Something New for Us

January 3rd, 2014 at 09:23 am

Yesterday DH and I put 6.75 pounds of rabbit meat through our new electric meat grinder.



It worked great and the results were very nice. It looks sort of like ground pork, but not as fatty. DH cooked up some of it for cheeseburgers for dinner last night using his new 17 inch cast iron pan (which I can't even lift by myself). It was fantastic. I never dreamed rabbit burger would be so good. I guess I should have because it is great every other way we've tried it. So we now have a ground beef substitute. Although we will continue to use beef on occasion the organic, sustainably raised stuff has gotten to be $7 a pound.

We've got four more that need to be cut up. I am planning three of them for mostly grinding to burger and one to do up for stir-fry meat. We'll be boiling the bones for stock and canning up some soup with the meat that falls off the bones and the resulting broth.

We also have 8 more that have hit the 5 pound mark that need to be taken care of. We will probably do them this weekend, since it is supposed to be clear.

I've been learning to cook on cast iron. We pulled the 3 pans we were given as a wedding present out of storage and have seasoned them and started using them. We've had one pan too many flake their Teflon off. Even the nicer pans are looking worse for wear, except for the stainless steel ones. The cast iron is working great. It is truly non-stick. I love using it. I just wish it weren't so heavy. I need to eventually get a 12 inch skillet. I am already planning on getting the Dutch oven for my upcoming birthday in February. Maybe I'll get both.

I need to start posting my menu plans again. We have actually done very well. We've only gotten take out once as a family since DH came home on the 19th. DH and I did get Subway one day while we were picking up feed and didn't have the kids with us. Ouch. For the two of us it was just under $25. Although my sandwich gave me two meals, I did not realize they had gotten so pricey.

I can't eat the cheap stuff anymore though. The last time I had McD's I got sick. The last time I had Arby's (with a coupon) I got sick. I think it is because my diet is normally so free of high fructose corn syrup, which they both use in their buns, that I can't tolerate it anymore. In a way it's good I guess, because I'm not spending so much money on that kind of food and am more willing to cook at home. I have better uses for the money, too.


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