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Viewing the 'Cutting Expenses' Category

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.

Random Thoughts on the House

December 15th, 2013 at 05:50 pm

I keep thinking about paying off the mortgage. We are so close now at under $8K and I really think it would be a good thing to do, just to have it done with. It would mean one more thing to cross off our list. It would be one less payment we'd be making every month. It would mean between $400 and $1000 (which is where my payments generally are, depending on the month) that could go elsewhere.

I am also thinking about having the water turned off at the house. Because there is no need for it now that it is winter and nothing will need watering out there until summer. We have so many rains in the spring that it isn't necessary. It is $72 a month to keep the water turned on. While the workmen were there it was necessary, but now it isn't. Also, with the water turned off we won't risk the pipes freezing or anything like that.

Another thing I will have DH do the next time we go out there is to turn off the hot water heater. The electric isn't that high out there, but we could cut the bill from $30ish to $15ish by turning off the hot water heater. Between the two things that could give us $87 a month to throw into our down payment fund.

The house has been shown a half dozen times and while it has been in the running for at least two people, it has not been the house picked. I think it is probably priced too high, but I hate to lower the price before it has been on the market for 3 months. When I see houses reduce the price too quickly after coming on the market it always looks like desperation to me.

Our realtors are supposed to be finding out from the ones who showed it what the deal is. If the people looking are finding it too expensive or just don't like the area or don't like the school district. There is nothing we can do about the last two, but we can drop the price if that is the sticking point. I just don't want to have to drop it too much if that isn't even the issue. It could just be as simple as they found something they liked better or that had more land.

I just don't want to end up as one of those people who has the house sit on the market for years. But considering we bought it for $65,000, I don't want to see it drop anywhere close to that, either. We've done too many improvements to the lot and the house that to not get at least $100K for it would feel pretty lousy.

It's set at $129K for now, but I'm not sure that was ever a realistic number. I just thought people would haggle if they didn't like the number. I mean that is what we did when we bought it, we went back and forth several times until we settled on a number between what they wanted and our original offer. Sometimes I think people just don't want to be bothered with bargaining.

Processing Day

September 27th, 2013 at 01:05 am

We dispatched four of our meat rabbits today. From a live weight of 22 pounds, 11.7 ounces, we got 11 pounds, 6.3 ounces of rabbit meat and 12.3 ounces of livers, for a total of 12 pounds, 2.6 oz of food. They ate about $7 worth of feed, $1 worth of hay, and $4 worth of vegetables over their life, so it comes out to about $1 per pound. We could get a smidge more if we saved the hearts and kidneys, too, but we don't. They go to the wildlife center along with the heads and other offal.

I'd say the rabbits are paying for themselves and we are ending up with lots of good, low-fat, lean white meat in the freezer at a price that just can't be beat by anything but the cheapest chicken hindquarters and you can bet those chickens never saw daylight.

Phoebe gave birth this morning, another large litter with 8 healthy kits. We'll have a break from kindling for a while, as the next two rabbits to give birth are only one week pregnant, so have three weeks and four days to go. In another couple of months we should be able to have rabbit twice a week if we so desire.

I am going to can some rabbit meat this week and some rabbit broth for making soup later this winter, or possibly canning carrot, potato, celery, bits of meat, and onion right in the broth and can it as soup. I would also like to make up some rabbit nuggets for the freezer. And maybe some rabbit stir-fry kits, too.

That means I'll need to dig up some potatoes and get some organic carrots from the farmer's market or the no spray garden in town. I doubt anyone has grown celery here, it is kind of hit or miss in our zone, but I can get it from the store if needs must be. Organic though. It sucks up pesticides just like carrots.

It would be great to have enough soups done up to get through winter and spring, but that may not be possible yet.

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The repair around the skylights and the final application of stuff to make the floors look like shiny wood instead of dull wood, will get put on this weekend. We just need to find out how long it takes for the shiny stuff to dry. Then we'll go in with the realtor and see where things stand.

Odds and Ends

August 18th, 2013 at 10:37 pm

My daughter, son, and I made Korean pork dumplings (Mandu) today for the first time. It took all three of us as it is time intensive but less so with all of us working, (one person to separate the wrappers, one person to put the scoop of filling on the wrapper, and one person to seal the dumplings shut with egg white), but they were fantastic and well worth it. And it's a nicely balanced little meal with pork, mirin, dark sesame oil, bean sprouts, scallions, ginger, garlic, egg, and cabbage in a goyza wrapper. Protein, veggies, and carb in one neat little package. It should have had tofu, too, but I didn't want to dry tofu, so I left it out. I should have taken pictures. Ah, well, next time I make them I will take photos and post the recipe.

I liked them even better than the ones from the Korean restaurant in our town or the Hawaiian Barbecue franchise. I can make 100 dumplings for $10 (less if I'd not used free range organic pork from the ranch). They sell for $6 for 10, so quite the cost savings there.

I received a check from the food co-op, dividends for the year of $7.43 (I think) so I will deposit that into the Emergency Fund along with all the ones I have saved tomorrow.

I am hoping I can recreate my budget spreadsheets. I don't have a current copy saved outside my other computer, but I do have my 2012 budget and should be able to extrapolate from there. I think I can figure out what money was in which category of the Holding Tank from previous blog posts, too. From now on I am seriously backing up my spreadsheets onto a flash drive every week. I feel stupid for not doing that.

I think I can get through until payday Friday with only spending $30 on food. That should leave me with a bit of money to shunt into the Emergency Fund.

I've been having troubles with Swagbucks surveys. I get all the way to the end, hit submit, and then it goes Oops, we had a problem and it's lost along with all my time and points. Very irritating. I did get Swagbucks to credit me the 150 points for the one, but they said they'd only do it the once and only because I'd spent so much time on it. The survey companies they do business with really need to get their acts together. Fortunately I was able to make the daily goal without any surveys today. I didn't need the frustration.

Meal Planning for the Week

July 29th, 2013 at 01:20 pm

I am trying to get my grocery budget back under control again. Menus are based on foods currently in the fridge or freezer. I'd prefer not to go to the store for the rest of the week, except for milk.

Monday:
Teriyaki Pulled Pork in the crockpot
Homemade buns
Cherries
Cole slaw

Tuesday:
Fried chicken
Fried potatoes
Broccoli/cauliflower
Blueberries

Wednesday:
Waffles
Strawberries with whipping cream
Ham

Thursday:
Slow cooked rabbit in the crockpot with potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery
Cherries
Cole slaw

Friday:
Bacon cheeseburgers
Homemade French Fries
Leftover broccoli/cauliflower
Blueberries

Saturday:
Homemade pizza with pepperoni, ham, yellow onion and bell pepper strips
Cole slaw

Sunday:
Slow cooked beef chuck roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Blueberry cornbread muffins


That Works Out Well

June 4th, 2013 at 08:34 am

Yesterday when I went to the chiropractor who was finally back from his long vacation, I looked at my card and I don't have to pay the next month of the chirocare family plan until June 28th. He added 13 days to my card to replace the 13 days he was gone. Normally it's due around the fifteenth. Which means I don't have to pay it out of this month's cycle at all. It can wait until the next cycle starts up. And because the 28th is a Friday and they are closed on Friday's we won't have to start the next plan until July 1st. It will still come out of the 28th's paycheck, though.

Meanwhile, that gives me $225 to work with that I wouldn't have had this month. It'll go into the Wisconsin Fund. It comes out of the 6/14 paycheck.

I think I forgot to say what my last coin jar update was. It was $5.65. The way I organize my coin jar is that all loose coins go in the jar, but all bills go into an envelope that I keep in the dresser drawer beneath the coin jar. On occasion I'll get 50 cent piece or a dollar coin and they'll go into the envelope, too. Right now there is a 50 cent piece in with my ones. Anytime I get enough change together to roll coins, then the rolled coin roll goes into the envelope, too. Whenever the amount in the envelope hits $30 or more I make a deposit.

I hit my daily goal yesterday on Swagbucks. I am not sure how since it was 100. I guess I was on the computer a lot yesterday so had the SBTV running in the background. I didn't search much, but I did get the first LA collectors bill. I also cashed in for a $5 gift card from Amazon. I don't know if I'll hit my goal today or not. It's 80, but I don't know if I'll have as much time to spend on the computer today.

I have five things coming out of Friday's paycheck, $1000 to Mom, the car payment, the electric bill for the old house, the phone for the old house, and $1000 to the BoA VISA. Then for 6/14 paycheck I have $2000 to BoA VISA and vacation will be paid off, the internet bill, and $1000 to the EF. There might be a few middling expenses charged to the Visa as DH will be coming home right before I pay that, but there is plenty there to pay it in full. It'll be nice to get back to doing that each month again. I think we only had it paid off for 2 months before going on vacation. It might have only been for one.

The 6/21 paycheck will be the small one with just two day's wages on it. That will be split between groceries, miscellaneous, the sleep doctor, and a good portion of it to the Wisconsin Fund. It looks like FIL and MIL will be staying at their condo from their travel club when they go, so DH might be able to crash there with them. If he didn't have to pay for a hotel that would make things a lot easier.

I had thought it was in Milwaukee, but it sounds like the hospital FIL will be going to is in Madison. I'm not sure if they've got a date yet, but the further out in summer or fall they get it, the easier it will be on our financials to find the money for this. I know you have to schedule quite a ways in advance for these things.

I think June is just going to be a very smoothly functioning money month, so long as I don't throw caution to the wind and decide to eat out a bunch. It is not on the agenda for this week, that is for sure. I have too much lovely food to cook that I am looking forward to making this week. And since I finally got a full night's sleep last night, I'm not going to be too tired to cook it.

OT

April 6th, 2013 at 01:33 am

Just got off the phone with DH. They couldn't find a bed for him to stay up there an extra two weeks, but they okayed him bringing the work home so he will be putting in 8 hours a day at $25 a day less than if he were putting in his full hours on the slope. Not bad, though. We'll net a little over $6000 for it. Considering how much we overspent on vacation that will be a very good thing.

Five Days and Counting

January 20th, 2013 at 05:37 pm

I can't believe how close I am to finally paying off the BoA VISA card. At the beginning of January it felt like it was going to take so long just to get to this point, but now it's almost here. It feels so good to be almost out from under it.

DH bought a one way plane ticket $457.40 and one of our autopays went through $105 (for some reason I thought this one was $120, but I guess not). So total BoA balance is now at $2562.40. We will still be able to pay that off on Friday and then we are starting over with this card, using it only for DH's plane tickets, hotel overnight in Anchorage, and travel food. Oh, and anything DH might need from the commissary, like cold medicine or cough drops No more miscellaneous purchases.

After this month DH can go back to buying round trip tickets, instead of one way tickets. That'll make it more convenient for him.

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I cashed out for another $5 gift card for Amazon from swagbucks. I think I'll be able to hit five of those this month. I have one that should hit my account in a day or two. I think I am going to save these gift cards for Christmas. My friend who was doing so bad didn't want me to use the Amazon cards for her, so I have a balance right now of $75 in my account.

If I can add $25 a month between now and Christmas I should have a total of $350 in gift cards. We spent about $600 on Christmas this year, so that covers over half of it. We ended up buying a lot of stuff on Amazon, too, so that will work out really well for us.

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I didn't end up driving down to the farm yesterday. I've just been too exhausted lately and a drive like that with two bickering kids (they have been nuts this week) was more than I thought I could handle. The money is still set aside though. We will go next Saturday when DH is here to do the driving.

Odds and Ends

December 23rd, 2012 at 07:20 am

I received another $5 gift card to Amazon from Swagbucks today. I should be getting another one in a day or so. Right now my gift card balance is at $60 and I've earned $70 worth for the year. Not bad when I've only been doing this for a few months. I might get another one before the year is up if I really push the SBTV for the next couple days whenever I am online. Assuming it works properly.

I forgot that we would be getting reimbursed from MIL for the gifts we bought for her to give to our kids and us. She can't get out of the house like she used to and internet shopping isn't really her thing. Anyway, she gave us a check for $313. That was on top of the $100 she gave to DH, so hopefully the credit union will be open on Monday. I know that one of our CU's is open until noon on Monday, but it's not the one we do the major banking at, it's the one we do the easily accessible portion of our EF at (the Safety Net).

If our main CU is open then I will deposit that money and be sending another payment to the credit card. So far this month I have sent $2500 to the BoA Visa. We will send the $313 to the BoA Visa and if DH is ammenable the $100 as well. Then I think we will have enough at the end of the month to send an additional $1000. I'm still debating about using the $1000 in the freezer fund to send to it. I can replenish that $1000 when our income tax return comes.

It is hard for me to spend saved money, but we really don't need the new freezer yet. And we do need to get out of debt. I set aside $2500 for first of month bills, but with AMEX now paid off the monthly $500 for that can go to the credit card as well. Any of the money I set aside for early January that doesn't go to bills or groceries will go to that Visa as well. If I do all of that then we should be able to have that card paid off by the end of January. I want it gone.

I don't think I'll need to do much in the way of grocery shopping between now and our next paycheck on January 11, other than picking up some milk, fish, and a few vegetables. Although if I have the chance to pick up some canned pineapple, oranges, and toilet paper from Costco, I'd like to swing that. I wouldn't go there until the 27th or 28th. No way am I going out on Boxing Day. It's almost as bad as going out on Black Friday. Dangerous. We have plenty of meat in the freezer so I shouldn't need to buy any protein.

I am anxious to push through to the next month. I also want to see what the higher income tax is really going to do to us. I'm thinking we'll lose about $200 a month out of our net take home pay. It would be nice if they renewed that lower tax rate, but I'm certainly not holding my breath that the..."gentlemen" in DC are going to get anything done. Except allowing the Fed to print more money backed by nothing but air.

Honestly, all that stuff going on in DC is making it more important to us than ever to pay off our consumer debt. It'll make their fingers in our wallets a little easier to cope with. Plus I've had a weird sort of paranoia about having debt on credit cards for the last year. Like there was something about the middle of 2014 that was going to happen that would make it very bad for us to be holding a lot of credit card debt. It's just a feeling in my gut and I'm pretty sure it's an irrational one, but it's there and it's driving me to finish getting this gone.

Food Stamp Challenge on Paper--Week 2 Menus

December 15th, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Food Stamps Challenge on Paper—Week Two Menus

The first thing to do on your second week is to get up a little early and take one container of pulled pork out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge. Then take your beef chuck pot roast and put it into the crockpot. Season it with your seasoned salt and some pepper and add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the pot. Make sure some of the seasoning and salt is in the water to flavor it as well as on the roast. Cook on low all day for eight to 10 hours while you are at work. Then start breakfast which will be just a little more complicated today, but certainly doable even for the novice cook. Put 2 eggs on to hard boil.

Day 8—
Breakfast—
One hard-boiled egg
Breakfast Apple Crumble
4 ounces of milk

To make the crumble you will need 1 apple peeled, cored and chopped, 1 biscuit, crumbled, 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp of water, 1 ½ tbsp. of sugar.

Combine apples, 1 tbsp of sugar and water in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile crumble your biscuit into very small pieces. Let apples sit for a couple of minutes and then remove plastic wrap very carefully to avoid steam burns. Melt your tbsp of butter. Stir the biscuit crumbs into the butter.
Pour out any liquid in the apples. Level the apples and then pour the biscuit crumbs on top in as even a layer as you can. Sprinkle the remaining ½ tbsp of sugar over the top.
Put the oven rack on its top rung and turn on the broiler. Be warned that in small homes the broiler can set off the smoke detector because of its intense heat. You probably won’t be using it long enough to set it off, but it could. Once the broiler is up to temp, bake the concoction for one minute. Turn the broiler off and allow to cool. Serves one.
Lunch—
2 slices leftover pizza
1 carrot
Water

Dinner—
4 ounces beef pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
1 cup of coleslaw
Water
Boil 6 potatoes. Divide beef pot roast into 8 servings in four containers. Freeze three. You will be eating one serving and refrigerating the other. When you drain the potatoes, save the potato water. Remove 4 potatoes worth of boiled potatoes from your pan and set aside. Mash the other two potatoes using 2 ounces of the potato water and 1 tbsp of butter. Take 2 tbsp of the beef drippings in the crockpot and 1 tbsp of flour. Stir together until there are no lumps and add two cups of potato water, whisking until well blended. Put in a frying pan and bring to a boil while stirring, then adjust heat to medium low. Add salt, pepper, or seasoned salt to taste to flavor the gravy further. Cook until gravy no longer tastes floury. You will eat half of your mashed potatoes and ½ cup of gravy on this night, leaving one serving of potatoes and 3 servings of gravy for later in the week. Refrigerate your 4 leftover boiled potatoes and your potato water. Refrigerate the beef juice from the crockpot for later use in the week.

Day 9—
Breakfast—
Breakfast Burrito
Hashbrowns
Water

Take one of your boiled potatoes and quickly grate it through a cheese grater and mix it with 2 tbsp of onion. Fry in a little oil on medium high for 3 minutes on one side and about 2 minutes on the other. Use some of your ketchup on top.

Beat one egg and mix with 2 ounces of pulled pork. Fry in a bit of oil until egg is cooked through. Scoop mixture onto a tortilla, lightly sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and roll up.

Lunch—
Chicken noodle soup
Orange
Water
Save your orange peels

Dinner—
Hot open-faced roast beef sandwich
Leftover mashed potatoes with 1/2 cup leftover gravy
1 cup of coleslaw
Water

Warm up mashed potatoes, gravy and 4 ounces of roast beef. Toast two slices of bread and spread with some of your garlic butter. Place roast beef on top of each slice, then mashed potatoes, then cover it with gravy.

Take out 1 container of chicken and one cup of chicken broth to thaw in the fridge and take out 2 pieces of bread to go stale overnight.

Day 10—
Breakfast—
Simple French Toast-
Apple
Water

2 slices of stale bread
2 ounces of milk
1 egg
1 tsp of sugar
½ tsp orange zest
We will be using orange zest instead of cinnamon in this French toast recipe. Rub some of the orange peel you saved from the day before, orange part only, against your cheese grater until you have ½ tsp of orange zest. Discard remaining orange peel. Beat egg, sugar, and milk together then add orange zest and beat until blended. Put into a shallow bowl or a plate with rounded edges. Dip bread into bowl to soak up mixture. Melt 1 tbsp of butter on medium heat in your skillet. Place bread into skillet. Fry for about two minutes. When bottom is browned flip it over and cook on second side, about two minutes. Remove to a plate. If you have any mixture left, scramble it quickly in your pan. No need to throw it away. Add 4 tbsp of syrup.

Lunch—
Chicken noodle soup
2 slices of honey bread
Water

Dinner—
Chicken stir-fry
Water

Take 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Clean and trim the celery, putting the trimmings into your freezer baggy. Peel and trim the carrots, putting the peels into the freezer baggy. Peel 2 cloves of garlic and put the skins in your freezer baggy. Smash and mince garlic. Cut carrots into quarter inch slices on the diagonal. Cut celery into quarter inch slices on the diagonal. Trim and peel onion. You know where the scraps go. Cut onion into strips and set aside half in a covered container and place in the fridge. Take1/4 cup of oil and mix it with half a cup of chicken broth, 2 tbsp of honey and ¼ tsp of your chili powder. Take out your container of chicken, remove half and return to fridge.

Heat a little bit of oil in your frying pan over high heat and sauté your carrots for 2 minutes. Add your onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes. Add your celery and sauté for 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables to plate and put in 8 ounces of chicken. Saute about one minute or until chicken is warmed through. Add your liquid ingredients and stir, then return vegetables to pan for 1 minute or until everything is hot. Half of this is your dinner and the other half is your lunch the next day.

Take out one slice of meatloaf to thaw in the fridge.

Day 11—
Breakfast—
2 pancakes with powdered sugar
1 egg scrambled with 2 ounces of pulled pork, 1 tbsp of diced onions (cut a few from the strips in your fridge) and 1 tbsp of diced bell peppers
4 ounces of milk

Lunch—
Leftover chicken stir-fry
Apple

Dinner—
Chicken noodle soup
1 slice of meatloaf
1 cup of coleslaw

Take out 2 containers of roast beef to thaw in the fridge. Take out 1 whole chicken to thaw in the fridge.

Day 12—
Breakfast—
2 scrambled eggs
2 Biscuits and gravy (use ¼ cup of your leftover beef gravy)

Lunch—
Pulled pork sandwich
1 cup of coleslaw

Dinner—
Chicken quesadilla
Orange
1 Carrot

Sauté ½ of your remaining ½ of an onion and 2 ounces of bell pepper strips in a little oil. Warm up 4 ounces of chicken in the microwave. Place tortilla on a frying pan and lay out onion, bell pepper strips, and chicken on top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and top with another tortilla.

Make some more orange zest with your orange peel.

Day 13—
Breakfast—
French toast with 4 tbsp of syrup
Apple

Lunch—
1 boiled egg
Chicken Sandwich
1 carrot

Dinner:
Roast beef hash
Cole slaw

2 cups cooked roast beef, cut into half inch cubes
½ cup leftover beef juice
1 onion, medium diced
2 leftover boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch cubes
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper

Melt 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté for four minutes or until onion is soft. Add cooked potatoes and brown. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Flip over potatoes and onions and brown. Remove to a plate. Turn meat up to medium high and melt 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in the pan. When hot and melted add cubed roast beef to the pan. Brown on all sides and return onions and potatoes to the pan. Cook for two more minutes. Pour in ¼ of beef juice. Cook for one more minute. Taste. Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Makes 8 servings. Divide into 4 containers containers. Freeze 3. Put 1 serving in the fridge and eat one for dinner. Freeze remaining beef juice.

Day 14—
Breakfast—
2 egg omelet with 1 tbsp diced ham and 1 tbsp cheddar cheese
1 biscuit with cheese

Begin a batch of bread dough and leave to rise in a warm place following the instructions in the post here: http://luckyrobin.savingadvice.com/2012/12/06/youve-done-the-shopping-now-what_99377/ Remove your pizza dough from the freezer and put into the fridge. After bread dough has doubled in size, punch down and knead for five minutes. Divide in half and put into two lightly oiled bread pans. Let rise until poking over the edge of the pans and then bake. Start lunch. Remove bread when done, remove from pans and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Lunch—
Spaghetti and Meatballs
2 slices garlic toast (2 bread ends)

Prepare spaghetti sauce as you did in week one. Boil 8 ounces of spaghetti noodles and warm up 3 meatballs from the freezer. Serve yourself half of the spaghetti with 4 ounces of the sauce and refrigerate the rest, spaghetti and sauce in separate containers.

After lunch it is time to deal with some veg and fruit and the second chicken you bought on grocery day. Wash your hands. First cut the wrapped half of cabbage from your fridge (removing the wrap of course!) and cut it into slivers or shreds, cutting away any part of the core still left. Set this aside. Peel 2 apples and cut them into pieces to remove the cores. Thinly slice and set aside. Trim and peel an onion putting the skins and cut off parts into your veggie bag in the freezer. Cut the onion into slivers and set aside. Wash your cutting board in hot soapy water and dry. If you have a separate cutting board for meats and for veggies, get out your other board, otherwise use the one you just washed (always do meat after vegetables, never first).

Remove the wrap and check for a packet of giblets. If there is a neck, remove it from the package and then do whatever you normally do with the rest of the organs. Mine go to the neighbor cat. Rinse the chicken inside and out.

Next we are going to cut up the chicken. Although many people think this is a complicated business, it’s a lot simpler than you’ve been led to believe. The internet is a great resource for showing you how to do this. There are videos on youtube or written instructions on many websites. Make sure you have a sharp knife, preferably a butcher knife. Get out two bowls.

The way I do it is to put it breast side up (that’s the meatier side without the ridge for those of you who have never done this before) and first pull the leg and thigh away from the body. I cut through the skin so that I can see the meat and then cut through the joint where the thigh connects to the body. You can feel where this joint is with your fingers. Once you have cut the hindquarters off, feel for the joint between thigh and leg. You can break it and then cut through. Repeat on the other side. Then remove the wings in the same fashion by pulling them from the body, slitting the skin to see where it joins, find the joint with your hands and cut through it. Put all of these pieces of chicken into one bowl.

Now you are left with the body of the chicken. I like to use kitchen shears for this next part but it can be done with a good knife. Cut down each side, you can look in and see where the bones don’t quite meet up, separating the back from the breast. Take the back and turn it bony side up. You can see where the bigger part joins to the smaller part. Cut this in half at that spot and put in the bowl with the other pieces. Then take the breast and turn it meaty side up. Remove the skin (on the breast only) and set aside. Feel for the breast bone and if your knife is sharp enough, cut directly down this bone. If your knife isn’t quite sharp enough, cut to just one side of this bone. You want two roughly equal pieces.

At this point watch this video to show you how to take out the bone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7Ut68Z3FUU I find it much easier to have someone show you than I do to try to describe how to remove the bone. Save the bones and the skin in a baggy in the freezer.

Set aside the chicken breast in your second bowl and wash your cutting board in hot soapy water and then put it into the dishwasher to be washed again. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In an oven safe dish (I used my square glass brownie pan) layer 1/3 of the cabbage, ½ the onion, and ½ of the apples. Then layer 1/3 more of the cabbage, the other ½ of the onion, and the rest of the apples. Finish with the final 1/3 of the cabbage. Cover and leave on the counter.

Mix four ounces of apple juice with 1 tbsp Italian herbs, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Pour over the chicken and cover aluminum foil (you will be using the foil in cooking) and place into fridge.

Take your 2 legs, 2 back pieces, 1 neck if you have it, 2 wings, and 2 thighs and rub them on both sides with oil. Place them skin side down into a baking dish and sprinkle with your seasoned salt, salt and pepper. Put them in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Turn over and cook for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven. Take out the legs and thighs and put onto a plate. Mix 2 tbsp of honey with 4 tbsp of ketchup. Brush over wings, backs and neck. Put back into oven for 5 minutes and then remove. While wings, backs, and necks are cooking, take the meat off the two thighs, and the two legs. Save the bones in a baggy in the freezer.

Check on your bread dough.

Remove your chicken breasts from the fridge and put them on top of your cabbage mixture. Pour the apple juice from the bowl into the oven-safe dish. Cover with aluminum foil and put into the oven. Cook for one hour.

While chicken and cabbage is cooking divide the barbecued chicken into two portions. Each bowl should have one each of a back and wing and the container with the smaller back piece should have the neck. Freeze. Remove the meat from the thighs and legs. You can eat the skin or add it to the freezer bag. Put the bones from the thighs and legs in the freezer baggy. Divide into two containers and freeze.

Prepare 4 potatoes, 4 carrots, and one onion. Put the carrot and onion peels into the freezer baggy. Cut vegetables into one inch cubes. Put into an oven safe dish and add 1 cup of water. . Remove chicken and cabbage from oven. Put vegetables into the oven to roast for an hour and a half. Divide the cabbage, onion, and apples into four portions and then divide the chicken breasts among them.

Dinner:
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken and cabbage

Remove vegetables from the oven and divide into four portions. Refrigerate. Wash everything. Go collapse in a chair. Slice each loaf of bread into fourteen pieces. Wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze one and put the other in the fridge. Congratulations. You made it through week 2.

Odds and Ends

November 22nd, 2012 at 12:24 am

Not much of anything, but a little bit of everything. I added $1 to the coin jar. It was in what DH gave back to me before he headed to Alaska.

I balanced the checkbook to the penny again. I love it when it comes out perfectly. I have $419 left in checking until the 30th and no bills due until after that. I shouldn't have to buy anything between now and then except milk and oranges and if I do, I have $105 in cash. I am hoping to send the full $419 to the credit card. Any cash left from the $105 will hit the emergency fund.

I had to send DH to the grocery store with a list before he left Monday because I am extremely contagious. Let's just say he spent quite a bit more than I would have. Total was $115.92 We're over the allotted grocery budget for the month, but we aren't going to eat out between now and then anyway because I am trying to expose as few people as possible to this thing that never ends, so I just took it out of that money.

I received a check from ACOP for $14.05 for surveys and sent for another $5 gift card through Swagbucks.

I set up the budget spreadsheet for December and I updated the November one with all of the medical spending.

I ordered a box of checks. It was $16.86. They are getting more expensive but I am using them less and less. I still don't want a debit card. I feel like writing the check out makes me more mindful of what I'm spending. It's too easy just to swipe a card and forget about it.

My kids have decided they want to spend the entire weekend in their pajamas. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I may join them in that.

Mom is cooking dinner tomorrow. She's the only one not infected and she wants to stay that way. Eldest sister is coming over. I'm still not used to her wanting to be a part of our lives. It is weird. I never thought I'd see the day where I was actually looking forward to having her around again. I am hesitant to think I can rely on her to help out with Mom, but maybe she will.

The day won't be too hard on Mom. I had brought up just skipping it until I'm better (ha!) if she didn't feel like she could handle it, but she wanted to. Since we are only making Cornish game hens instead of a turkey and baking the potatoes and dressing at the same time she says it's easy. Mom has a double oven, which is helpful. Minimal fuss, minimal muss.

We will also have fresh broccoli from the garden. I still can't beleive that I am harvesting anything in late November! What a weird fall we are having.

Let's see, what else? Oh, the birds. Kyri has finished molting I think. Queen and Patricia are in full blown molt so not laying at all, and the pullets continue to lay pretty well, as does Lady who is still bunking with the chickens. There's been no luck on trying to find some ducks her age to keep her company. I think she's happy enough thinking she's a chicken.

There are now four chickens who are laying regularly in the little box on the back porch. Apparently it's the in thing to do. New to the box is a leghorn since those are the only white egg layers we have. Everyone else lays brown, pink, or blueish green eggs. Daily egg count is an average of six eggs. I am glad we haven't needed to put a light in with them at night. We might in December and January just for a heat source if the weather turns and it starts freezing, but it has been so mild so far we may luck out.

And...I think that about covers it. Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all of my American friends and happy Thursday to everyone else.

No, Not the Cable! Anything but the Cable!

November 20th, 2012 at 05:43 pm

I read a lot of frugality and debt-reducing blogs and message boards and one thing that comes up time and time again is the argument over cable TV. This is not pointed at anyone here. I read blogs in lots of places. These are just my general observations. Anyway, it tends to go something like this:

Person 1: I am desperate to make ends meet. I can barely meet my minimums. I'm thinking about bankruptcy because I don't possibly have any place in my budget that I can cut. Help me!

Person 2: Oh, look, there in your budget, $180 for cable and internet. That's a good place to cut.

Person 1: But I have to have internet. I need it for work. I need it to pay my bills. I need it to do my banking.

Person 2: Okay, but you can get high-speed internet access for $70 a month. Keep the internet, but ditch your cable and you will still be saving $100 a month.

Person 1: Ditch my cable? Are you crazy? I cannot survive without my cable, my precious. I have to have my cable. I NEEEEEEEED it.

Person 2: No you don't. You need food and shelter and clothes and to pay your debts. You don't need cable. I should know. I haven't had cable in 5 years.

Person 1: Well, I have to have it. It's my only source of entertainment.

Person 2: Really? Your only source of entertainment? So you can't read a book or borrow a free movie or a book on CD from the library? You can't watch programs for free on youtube? You can't surf the internet. You can't teach yourself to do something productive, like knit, while you are listening to the free radio?

Person 1: No, no, I must have cable. I must have my shows.

Person 2: So you can't watch them on the internet on the networks' websites?

Person 1: But they don't air on the same day as they do on TV. I would have to wait a whole 24 hours, or in some cases 8 days. I can't be that far behind on my shows! Everyone else is watching them as they air!

Person 2: So it's not really for entertainment then. Because if it were for entertainment, it wouldn't matter what day you watched it on as long as you had something to watch that day. Is it to keep up with everyone else? Like...the Joneses?

Person 1: Huh?

Person 2: If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?

Person 1: I would if it were on cable TV! And besides, I don't like watching my TV on an itty bitty TV screen. I like watching it on my 60 inch flat screen that I am still paying off.

Person 2: Because you couldn't get a cable to plug your laptop into your TV so you could watch the internet shows on the bigger screen?

Person 1: Why get a cable, when I can just keep cable?

Person 2: Because you can't afford it.

Person 1: But I NEEEEEEED it. You don't understand my situation. I can't give this up, find something else in my budget to help me cut.

Person 2: Fine, what about your grocery budget? $800 a month for one person, that seems like an awful lot, doesn't it?

Person 1: Well, yes, but I have to eat out. I don't know how to cook and anyway fast food is cheaper.

Person 2: No, not really. If you can read a cookbook, you can learn to cook. Or make a sandwich.

Person 1: But it takes so much time! I am too busy. I can't cook. I have 4 programs to watch tonight and I might miss one if I am cooking.

Person 2: Then you are seriously watching too much TV.

Person 1: But it's my only source of entertainment!

Person 2: Well, there is your cell phone bill...

Person 1: No, I just got locked into a two year contract. It was the only way I could get the super fancy phone.

Person 2: I give up.

Person 1: Why won't anyone help meeeeeee? I need to find some place to cut...

And so it goes, on and on. I guess I just don't get it. Is it like an addiction, the TV watching? Is it like giving up alcohol or cigarettes? Or is it like giving up the pretext that you are still part of the middle class you grew up in? Does giving up cable mean you have to face the truth of your situation?

I think maybe cable TV is the last bastion of entitlement. I think people feel like maybe they are still keeping up if they can keep their cable or their meals out. But if the cable goes then they have to face the fact that things are really serious and they can't always have what they want. They can't continue to hide their heads in the sand (of network TV).

The thing is, there is no easy rescue. Even bankruptcy is difficult to get these days and it doesn't always erase all of your debt anymore. When your debts are crushing you, there is only one thing you can do to climb out of the pit. You have to cut down to the bare essentials. You have to give up things you don't want to give up. You have to put your head down and plow through it. You can't have the kind of pride that gets in the way of your ultimate goal of getting out of debt. You have to work your tail off to keep your head above water.

So many people seem unwilling to do these things. It is the rare and much admired person that cuts everything to the bone and pieces together an income that allows her or him to survive and thrive despite enormous obstacles, and to do it with a positive attitude. Too many people say, "I could never do that," when what they really mean is, "I don't want to do that." And that's what makes the difference.

You can say you want to be out of debt all you want, but if what you really want is to keep your life the way it is without making any changes, then you really don't want to be out of debt. You just want the problem to go away. And problems ignored don't just go away. They tend to get bigger. And Bigger. And BIGGER. And then it's not going to be a choice of you cutting your cable so you have money to pay your debts, it's going to be the cable company's decision to cut you off. And the power company's. And the water/sewer. And the garbage collection. And it won't matter then how badly you need to watch your shows or heat your house, or get rid of your waste. It won't be an option.

Isn't it better to decide now, today, to do what you can to get into a situation where that will never happen? Isn't it worth giving up a few luxuries so that maybe one day you won't have to? I think so. I really do. The question is, do you?

The Garden--Final Outcome--Saved Over $1000

November 13th, 2012 at 07:30 pm

The weather this fall has just been the weirdest weather I remember having. It's been unseasonably warm. 2 nights ago we finally did have a frost overnight and a temp of 28, but it has bounced back up into the high 40's at night. The frost didn't do any damage at all that I can see. The kohlrabi is fine, the green onions are still green and of course the cold-loving broccoli is doing great. All I can think is that because it is next to the house, maybe that is a warmer area and somewhat protected.

I've almost finished the broccoli that I have harvested. I think I'll need to cut a couple of the plants by Friday, but the rest are fine to continue their slower growth. It is nice not to have to purchase broccoli, but harvest it as I need it. I really wish I'd gotten some more lettuce into the ground in late September because we'd be eating it now.

The potato outcome is 107 pounds. These potatoes were all volunteers, too. So I've topped $1000 worth of organic produce harvested this year. Remember this is after the cost of starts and seeds. Just goes to show you really can grow a lot of food in small places. And if all goes well, I will still have twelve heads of broccoli to harvest and possibly some side shoots.

The tomatoes wrapped in newspapers continue to ripen as do the ones on the kitchen table. There is enough ripe to add to my spaghetti sauce this week.

As for the chickens and duck, we continue to average six eggs a day. Lady continues to bunk with the chickens. She has resumed her egg laying so I think she is over the trauma of the racoons eating her nest mates, except she won't go anywhere near the new Fort Knox duck den.

Mom is talking about getting ducklings in early spring to put in Fort Knox when they are big enough, but even if she does, Lady may have nothing to do with them. It can be interesting introducing new flockmates, to say the least. As long as she puts herself in for the night with the chickens she is welcome to stay in the chicken coop. If we have to chase her down all bets are off, but I don't think that is going to happen. She's convinced herself she is a chicken and I won't disabuse her of that notion.

The Harvest Continues and the Adventures of Georgie

September 24th, 2012 at 09:38 pm

The garden seems like it really ought to be slowing down. The days are in the high 60's to low 70's and the nights have been in the high 50's. Still, things continue to grow and some things are just coming into their own. We are eating as much from the garden as possible right now. I am buying no produce this week. It is nice to keep the grocery budget lower by making use of the bounty, but not have to skimp on what I feed my family.

I will need to get on a ladder to get the prunes off the higher branches this week. I've pretty much picked the lower branches clean. So far my plan to can has been thwarted by the fact that everything is getting devoured fresh. Ah, well. Maybe once I get those tall ones down.

Here is today's harvest:



The kohlrabi will be eaten at breakfast and lunch tomorrow. I'm pretty sure the prunes are probably gone, consumed to the kids. The green onions will be used tomorrow in a lunchtime low-carb meatloaf and the green beans will be in tomorrow's dinner.

Over half of my table is taken up with produce ripening. I will be making pear sauce in a few days with these:



And I hope that these will be done ripening by the weekend so they can go into the crockpots for sauce and then to be canned.



I am hoping to harvest this broccoli by the end of the week:



And in the patch on the far side of the house I see that the Romanesco is finally heading up. It'll probably take more than a week for these to start to be ready, but at least they finally are producing.



I've never eaten this type of broccoli before. It's an heirloom variety I guess and supposed to be very tasty. Let's hope so because I have quite a few of them planted.

I still have quite a few tomatoes coming on. I pulled the blossoms off several of the plants so they could focus on sizing up and ripening the remaining green tomatoes between now and cold weather. Anything that is a blossom now would have no chance to become anything before first frost so it makes no sense for the plant to split its energy.

This lovely pink rose is growing up through the center of the blackberry brambles. It is a gorgeous spot of color.



There were only five chicken eggs today and 1 duck egg. The days are getting shorter, which means they may not lay as much, but they may be hiding their eggs again, too, since most of them can get out now.

Georgie has managed to get herself up on the roof of the house several times now. She flies to the top of the tall gate and then from there flies to the roof. It is so funny to see her walking along up there. Of course by the time anyone can get a camera she is back down. No one else seems to be following her example, not even Curious, the hen that is Georgie's twin and was always the adventure leader up until now. But then they are both mischief makers or they wouldn't be named after an adventurous monkey, now would they?

I Made More Applesauce

September 21st, 2012 at 02:14 pm

We have this really ancient apple tree in the backyard. It has Bramley apples on it, which are probably the sourest apples I've ever tasted. These are cooking apples, not eating apples. They do make a good applesauce, but you definitely have to adjust to taste. I thought I'd walk you through my process today, since making applesauce is one of the easiest things to make. You don't even have to can it if you think you can eat it up fast enough. But it's one of the simplest things to can, too.



Pick your apples (or pick them up if they are windfalls). For this batch I did as many as would fit in my eight quart crockpot, 14. Wash them well, particularly if you don't know where they came from. Peel them and cut them into pieces, cutting out the core. I end up with about six pieces. You can use one of those apple cutters that cores, but I've found that on oddly-shaped apples, or ones as large as Bramleys that it doesn't work well. It's faster just to cut them. Set aside your cores and peels. You should have a pretty large bowlful like this:



Fill the crock with your cut apples as you go. They'll discolor pretty fast but that doesn't matter as the cinnamon will make them brown anyway.



For sour apples start with a cup of sugar. You can adjust this later to taste if you need more. Sweet apples generally don't need sugar added at all.



Add the cinnamon. I use a TBSP.



I don't mix it around at this point, I just put the lid on and set it for four hours on low. After 2 hours I mix it up. The apples will be softening and it is easier to stir.

After 4 hours take a potato masher and mash the apples into sauce.



It'll be thick and goopy. Taste it and see if you need to add more sugar. We did to these super sour apples and ended up adding another 1 1/3 cups for a total of 2 and 2/3 cups. If there are still some hard apple pieces that can't get to mash you can let it go another hour or two until they do mash. If they all mash and you want it to be less chunky you can give it a quick spin in the blender. I just usually stir it after mashing it to get it to a better consistency.

Make sure your jars are hot and your lids and rings have been boiled for 10 minutes. Put sauce into jars making sure to run a knife through each jar to get rid of air bubbles. You want to have an inch of headspace from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim well to make sure there is no residue on it. Place on lids and tighten rings. Place in your boiling water bath canner and lower the rack down. Put on lid. Process for 15 minutes for half-pints or pints. Remove from the canner and place onto a towel on your counter and leave them alone for 24 hours. They will seal (usually in the first 30 minutes but it can take a big longer), sometimes even when you're taking them out.

I got 9 half-pint jars out of 14 apples. Your outcome will vary based on the size of your apples and the number. I've got 16 half-pints on the shelves now and 4 in the fridge. My shelves are looking nice.



I'll be making pear sauce later this week using the same method.

Now there are things you can do with that bowl of peels and cores. Making apple jelly comes to mind: http://voices.yahoo.com/how-homemade-apple-jelly-peels-cores... Or you can make homemade pectin (just search for pectin from apple cores and skins).

Now I didn't do either of those things because I didn't have time this week. I gave the cores to the chickens and put the skins in the compost (they don't like the skins of these apples), but at some future point I may try the apple jelly recipe and I'll let you know how it goes if I do.

Woo Hoo

September 19th, 2012 at 08:46 pm

I have broccoli! I know that is a silly thing to be excited about, but I really did not think it was ever going to produce heads and what do you know, it did. Or at least two of them have and I think the others can’t be too far behind them. They have been taunting me for ages with big, lush leaves and were well past the 90 days it should have taken. Maybe the weird weather in July messed with it or something, but at least it looks like I am going to have a harvest.

I need to make some space in the freezer for some of it just in case each plant does actually produce. I planted an awful lot of it and I’d like to have some in the freezer for December to June when it’s expensive. It’s super cheap right now, even the organic, because it’s in season summer to late fall, but once the price jacks up it will be nice to have some frozen the day it was picked broccoli for meals.

When I was out watering tonight, I spied 3 cucumbers growing, 2 slicers and 1 pickling. The 4th plant is a pickling cucumber that has never even flowered. It was nice to see some cukes because I adore them and there is nothing like them freshly picked. I’ve only gotten 1 cuke so far this summer so I was really happy to see them.

I’ve got some red tomatoes that need a couple more days on the vine and I picked another kohlrabi
today. I also filled the harvest basket with Italian prunes and picked a few more handfuls of green beans. This green bean teepee has the little plants that could, I tell you. It will be ready to pick again in two days.

I’ve had enough produce picked this week that I haven’t had to buy anything from the grocery store except milk and pure maple syrup. And my mom gave us some lovely sweet corn that was delicious.

I am gearing up to do another major tomato sauce canning session this weekend. I am hoping to buy enough to finish our sauce needs for the year, but that may take another weekend as well.

I’ve nearly filled two big shelves with home canned food this summer and I hope to still do green beans, of which I’d like to have 52 quarts, total. That might not be possible, but it sure would be nice not to have to worry about our major low carb vegetable for a whole year. Canned green beans have gotten quite expensive in the store, to the point where it’s much cheaper to buy them fresh in season and do it myself. And it would sure make my future grocery budgets that much lower.

I’d also like to do corn, but I can still get corn for .79 a can from Trader Joe’s and it’s a BPA free can liners so it’s pretty low on the agenda. Plus, I haven’t been able to source organic corn. Not that corn is on my list of things that should be organic. I just prefer them to be not GMO, and that can be pretty hard outside of places like TJ’s or food co-ops. One of these years I’ll start growing some heirloom Bantam corn, but that’s also pretty low on my list of priorities. I have potatoes for the starch gap so as much as we like corn, it’s such a space hog and needy feeder that so far it’s not been worth it to grow much of it.

We built a new duck den today. Mom and I recycled the box springs that broke (right after the warranty was up) from the new mattress set DH and I bought in January. We were able to expand their habitat quite a bit and they seem happier having more space. There were Bungie cords and zip ties involved, because we are women and don’t believe in “man tools” like drills and screws unless we have to use them, but so far it seems very serviceable. And I’ve never met a raccoon that can undo a zip tie, while I have seen the results of one that managed to unscrew a screw. Part of the fence still needs repair, but hopefully that will come soon.

Mom managed to do a face plant at the end of the day, tripping over a windfall apple. She seems to be doing okay, though, but I imagine she’s going to be one big bruise in the morning. This is one of the reasons I am going to worry about her when we move out. She takes a lot of tumbles. She seems no worse for wear afterwards, but one of these days she’s going to break something. Well, once we’re going all I can do is make sure I check up on her every day so that I know she’s not laying out there helpless. And eldest sister might just move back in when we move out. She’s 11 years older than me, on her own, and she gets lonely. I would feel better if she did come stay with Mom. Mom’s 73 now and she needs someone around, but I have two other sisters and I can’t do it all myself forever.

Chickens and Blueberries Coming Out My Ears

August 2nd, 2012 at 07:45 pm

Well, not really, but it feels like it. I picked a lot of berries today and I still have one and a half trees left. I know berries grow on bushes, but you haven't seen the size of these ones. Most definitely trees! I packed up several quarts for the freezer and then a quart bag full to take to my friend tomorrow and she will also get an 8 ounce container of blueberry jam.

This is what I am seeing right now when I close my eyes:



I still think I would have a lot more berries in the freezer right now if it weren't for the demands of this bunch:



The tub there is what we used for a brooder when they were babies. The plan is to dig a hole and sink it as a pond for the ducks. Right now they use an old, plastic turtle sandbox for their mini-ponds. Both the lid and the bottom are filled with water. Recycling.

This is Ecru and PipSqueak. Pipsqueak (along with Half-pint) was the runt, but you can see she is now bigger than the Leghorn. She's a black australorpe.



We are not sure, but we think Ecru (whose twin is named Eggshell) might be a rooster. We are hoping not since we can't have roosters in town. Personally, I think Pipsqueak might be a rooster, but they don't have combs yet and though they are loud they aren't exactly crowing yet.

Over here, Half-pint (black australorpe) and Henrietta (auracana) are napping in the sun after eating their fill of berries and finishing their dirt baths.



We are getting little eggs in brownish pink and white which means that one of the Leghorns (Eggshell or Ecru) is laying (the white ones) and one of the golden sex linked (the pinkish one) is laying. Not sure if it's Curious or Georgie.

Today we had four eggs (2 littles and 2 bigs). Queen is hiding her nest again, but I'm sure she's laying somewhere. She's not broody, she just doesn't like to give them up. In another week or two everyone should be laying. Then it won't be just chickens and blueberries coming out my ears, but eggs, too. As it is, we are no longer having to purchase eggs for this household, so yay. One more thing we can supply for ourselves and take out of the grocery budget.

Oh, I almost forgot! Silver will pose for blueberries now. She's our silver lace wing wyandotte and she's always been shyest. Not if there are blueberries at stake, though.

Produce, Produce, Produce

July 31st, 2012 at 09:14 pm

I'm getting a little overwhelmed by trying to keep up with the fruit production right now. I picked a gallon of raspberries and 2 gallons of blueberries today. Actually, I probably picked at least another gallon of blueberries, but that went to the greedy chickens. I swear for every two handfuls I put in the bag I was throwing one to the chickens. With 12 chickens eating them it was a lot. I don't mind sharing, I just wish they could pick, too!

They are getting very friendly, coming right up to me and demanding berries. Some will even tap me on the foot with their beaks if they think it has been too long since I've dropped some berries for them, cheeky little birdies. I really should take out my camera when I pick because they get so close and I could get some great shots.

Anyway, I estimate I picked about $50 worth of berries today, not counting what I fed to the chickens. Everything is in the freezer. It's too hot in the house to process right now and picking is done either before eleven in the morning or after seven in the evening, when it is cool enough to do the work.

My biggest brandywine tomato is moving from orange to red now. It looks so good. I harvested a quart of green beans today, but I think that patch of beans is just about spent. Maybe another handful left that needs to size up a bit. I need to poke a few more seeds into the ground. There might be just enough time left to get a late harvest.

I have two kohlrabi the size of tennis balls and 2 about the size of golf balls. I think the two bigger ones should be ready in about a week. I am really looking forward to them as there is nothing like kohlrabi fresh from the garden. Some of the smaller ones are starting to swell now.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with the cauliflower. It got hot at the wrong time. I am going to tie the leaves over the small heads tomorrow, at least on the ones that the slugs have not eaten the leaves too far down on, to see if they will blanch. Cauliflower is not one of my favored veggies. I will eat it, but I only ever make it because DH and the kids like it, so if it doesn't survive, eh... The broccoli is coming along nicely though.

I harvested the last of the old lettuce today and pulled the plants. The chickens were happy to get those, too, the greedy guts.

The garden has paid for itself about three times over now, plus paid for all the canning supplies and sugar I have bought this summer. I am happy about that. I will be even happier when I start picking tomatoes.

I am thinking about getting some sweet corn to put up at the end of August. We did plant some, but just enough for fresh eating. I just need to decide between freezing or canning if I buy some. I would freeze if I had the freezer by then, but I don't know if I will. So it may be canning by default. It would be nice to buy local corn when it is 10/$10. I guess it will depend on how well my tomatoes do, because if they don't do well, I will spend my grocery money on organic tomatoes to put up.

I can at least buy good canned corn from TJ's at a decent price all year around, but I can't do that for tomatoes. And also, with the corn being killed in the middle of the nation from drought, there may be a higher demand for Washington state corn and I might not be able to get it so cheap, either. Well, a year without much corn won't kill me, if it comes to that. Now a year without potatoes, that would be hard. But those are growing in our garden just fine. I may not even have to buy potatoes at all from September to May if they are as productive as they look like they are going to be.

I don't think we are anywhere near being able to provide all of our produce needs for the year this year, but we'll have grown a good enough hunk of it to take a major bite out our grocery budget, which will make it easier to save up for the protein in bulk from sustainable sources. I would love to get my grocery budget down to $400 a month if averaged over the year, even if it means buying a large portion of it up front.

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I redeemed two $5 amazon gift cards from swagbucks today and will do the same tomorrow. I wish I had done it yesterday, so I could have gotten 4 this month. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Preserving More Food

July 28th, 2012 at 03:49 pm

This morning was nice and cool and the perfect morning for making jam without heating the house up terribly. I used my new food mill on the apricots and the blackberries, but the blueberries just went into the blender.

The results of my 3 hours of labor.



I ended up with six half pints of apricot jam, a value of $48 (organic jam has gone up, I priced it last week), minus the cost of sugar and apricots, so a net value of $40.

I did 4 pints of blackberry jam for a value of $56. The blackberries were free, so the cost of the sugar was $2. So a net value of $54.

Last I did 8 half pints of blueberry jelly. Again the berries were free from the yard so it was the cost of the sugar, $2. So $64 minus $2, a net value of $62.

Altogether I spent $12 on ingredients and profited $158 by putting up this jam and jelly today. I will likely do at least one more batch of blackberry jam, one more batch of raspberry jam, and one more batch of blueberry jelly this summer and any other berries will be frozen. I think I'll have enough jam for the year. I may actually already have enough jam for the year, but some will be gifts.

And another look at my expanded stash. We have used up one jar of strawberry and are in the process of eating a second and also on the first jar of apricot jam, but there are two more rows added as well.



I can't wait until I can fill a shelf full of tomato products. Another month and a half for that.

Homemade Salsa

July 27th, 2012 at 09:52 pm

Today I made homemade salsa. It turned out really well. I did the usual thing that I do when I want to make something that I either haven't made in a really long time or have never made before. I looked at a bunch of recipes on the internet and then made up my own. I don't think I could follow a cooking recipe line for line if you paid me. Baking, yes. That's a whole other animal, but not cooking.

Anyway, I started with the juice from one lime and threw it in the blender.



And diced half a yellow onion and 2 really enormous cloves of garlic (probably 4 smaller cloves would do from a non-mutant head).



I chopped up about a cup's worth of fresh cilantro.



And then diced 2 jalapeno peppers.



I took about 1/8 tsp of the seeds from the peppers and discarded the rest. You can use them all or more than I did, but I was trying to make a salsa my kids would eat.

I took 2 cans of organic diced tomatoes including the juice and added it to everything else in the blender.



I didn't want to pay the prices for off season organic tomatoes at the store, but I imagine about 2 pounds of tomatoes would substitute for the 2 cans.

I added in 1 tsp of freshly ground sea salt and 1 tsp of freshly ground pepper and blended the whole mess on low, level 4, for about 20 seconds because I wanted to keep some chunkiness to it. Now is the time to taste it and adjust your salt, pepper, and jalapeno seeds to taste.

And the tasty end result:



This made a little over a quart of salsa. Next time I will cut the recipe in half and just make around a pint, but I will definitely make it again. It's worth it in freshness, flavor, and I saved about $2 over the cost of buying the same amount of jarred salsa. That cost will drop once my own tomatoes are ripe.

Bits and Pieces--and Homemade Chicken/Turkey Noodle Soup

July 22nd, 2012 at 08:39 pm

We did some moving of stuff to storage today. We ended up emptying our 2nd unit at the one place. We got a bigger 2nd unit elsewhere for about $20 cheaper. I would like to change out our bigger unit, too, in time because we could save quite a bit on it at the new place. The only real difference between places is one is outside the city limits. So it's two miles further away, but that is worth it for that much less money. They also do not require extra insurance. Since our homeowners policy has a rider for storage items, this is a savings of $15 a month.

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The man who was supposed to come out and check the house for painting and estimate on the door repairs called to say his daughter had been hurt and rescheduled for Wednesday. *sighs* Will we ever get this done?

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I picked 2 pints of blackberries today. I have enough to make jam. Speaking of jam we finished off the first jar of strawberry jam and opened up the first jar of apricot jelly. It definitely is not jam like, but jelly like. It was so good. Everybody loves it. And it was perfect even without pectin.

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Those green onion bottoms that I planted have started sending up shoots. I count 3 so far. It worked!

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I did not make pot roast today as I had some food that needed using up so instead I made chicken/turkey noodle soup today for dinner. Well, yesterday before we went to the farm I threw 4 turkey legs and a bunch of chicken wings that were just starting to get freezer burn in the crockpot with 2 cups of water. I let it cook all day on low and last night I picked all the meat off the bones and returned it to the crockpot. I added all of the onion skins, carrot peels, garlic skins, bits of green onion that hadn't gone bad but no longer looked its best that I have saved in the freezer and the four chicken carcasses that I have saved in the freezer.

I chopped up half a bunch of fresh parsley, smashed five garlic cloves, chopped up one and a half onions (along with their skins), some celery leaves, and chopped two carrots. I added 1 tbsp of white peppercorns (what I had on hand) and 1 tsp of fresh sea salt. I filled up the crock to the top with water and let it go all night and until 5 o'clock tonight.

Then we put it through a collander, put the broth in a stock pot, and tossed the remains in the crock into the compost (we have a heavy duty rubbermaid plastic compost bin so the animals can't get into it. I usually don't compost bones but in this case I will). The broth was a rich brownish gold color (turkey makes it light brown).

I washed and peeled one onion and three carrots, saving the peels and skins in a new stock bag. I chopped them up and sauteed them in olive oil for about 15 minutes to make them soft. Meanwhile I boiled half a pound of egg noodles in the broth. After fifteen minutes I added the carrots and onions (I was out of celery or it would have been in there, too,) to the broth and then added 3 cups of the cooked chicken and turkey meat and let it warm through, about 3 minutes.

After that I adjusted the seasonings, adding about 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of sea salt, 1/4 tsp of ground celery seed, 1/4 tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp of thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. We also added salt and pepper to taste at the table. Some of us like a bit more pepper than others of us.

I ended up with enough soup to feed the five of us 7 big bowlfuls (DH and DD had seconds) and I have a quart and a half leftover in the fridge. I think I am going to do up the rest of the chicken wings over the next couple of days. The bag was originally 10 pounds and there are about 7 pounds left so I think I will do it in two batches and make up more stock and then just pressure can the stock in pint jars so we have it on hand. I'd really like to do that. I had planned on it before but plans fell through. I would net about 8 pints of broth this way, I think, and that's about a canner level full.

Most of the things I put into the soup were foods that were looking worse for wear, too, especially the carrots and onions, but you couldn't even tell in the finished product. I'd say the expensive of it was in the fresh parsley and the meat itself.

Altogether the cost to me was about $6 for 5 quarts of soup. That's 10 pints, which is equivalent to ten cans of a big-noodled, chunky-style soup in the 16 ounce can. One with all organic ingredients is $2.99 at the cheapest place. So for an equivalent amount of organic soup I would have paid $29.90. That's a cost savings of $23.90. My son will eat a can of soup a day and he is happy to eat this instead.

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I also made two loaves of bread today. We ate over half a loaf with our soup with strawberry jam and apricot jelly. So very good. I will have to make more bread tomorrow. My neice is spending Monday night as we are taking her with us to the science center on Tuesday to see the King Tut exhibit as her birthday present. We will be taking sandwiches down with us so will need plenty of bread, but we will also be making French toast for breakfast that morning for her, DS, and DH. We will also have sausage and bacon and eggs and cucumber slices for those of us who low carb at breakfast. They can have jam if they want it on the French toast.

I am really looking forward to seeing the exhibit. I saw it when it came through when I was a little kid in the 1970's, but I really want to see it again as an adult. This is part of our "vacation" this summer, since we aren't having a real one.

More Canning--A Savings of $76 for Doing it Myself

July 20th, 2012 at 01:14 pm

So last night and this morning I got quite a lot accomplished. This:



and this:



The first is apricot jam and I totally used the blender to liquify it (so it's probably more like jelly than jam. It is such a gorgeous color. I made this one without pectin. I really don't like working with pectin and much prefer doing it without if the fruit has enough natural pectin in it and this did. The recipe was supposed to make 4 pints but barely made 3. It is very labor intensive (until I get a food mill) because you have to peel the skins off, half and pit, then quarter each half and even with blanching for 2 minutes not all the skins want to come off. I ended up using a potato peeler. (The chickens, by the way, love apricot skins.) Next time I will make the kids help me.

I spent $5 for 2.5 pounds of organic pence apricots and used $4 worth of sugar, so $9 total for 3 pints. A half-pint jar of organic apricot preserves is $7, so $42 worth of jam for $9 or a savings of $33 over store-bought preserves.

Then I finally made raspberry jam. Much, much easier. I thawed the berries out in the microwave, which made a little juice, so it was easy for the blender to get going. I got 8 8 ounce containers (or 4 pints) of jam. I made them in smaller containers because I am going to give some away as gifts.

The raspberry jam is just the cost of the sugar, since the organic berries are free from the yard, so about $5 to make. 1 8 ounce container of raspberry organic jam runs at $6, so $48 worth of jam for $5 or a savings of $43. Not bad at all.

This is my home canned food stash so far minus the raspberry jam which is still cooling:



The yellow stuff up in the corner is my canned homemade mustard.

I also have 3.5 quarts of refrigerator pickles which are good until December and lots of frozen berries. Doing pretty well on that front. I will be making blueberry jelly and blackberry jam soon and then I'll have a real pallete of colors on the shelf.

Possible Chance to "Sell" the Old Car

July 5th, 2012 at 04:35 pm

My Mom's handyman is interested in our old car. The other people who had expressed an interest in it have been trying to "come up with" the money for months. The handyman, who is a painter by trade, but far more than that by knowledge and experience (knows construction and electrician stuff), is ammenable to painting the entire inside of our old house in exchange for the car. I don't know if anything will actually come of this or not, but I definitely think it is a fair trade and certainly better than waiting on someone to have money they might never have to buy it. There was never any deal made that we would wait on selling the car for the other people, just the interest was expressed and price given.

You hear about good barter situations like this, but I never expected one to fall in my lap. He still wants to check out a couple of things about the car first before committing, but I feel he is far more likely to carry through than these other people.

Harvesting Already

July 4th, 2012 at 04:44 pm

You know how I said I thought I'd have a week before having to make jam again? Umm... Today I picked these and there's a lot more ripening:



That's about 3.5 pints and that's after just 2 full days of sun. And the next 9 days are supposed to be just as sunny and in the 70's. Which will be great for my tomatoes, but the raspberries will explode. I think by Friday I'll have to pick again and will have enough to make jam by then. We have about 30 feet of raspberry canes so you can imagine how many berries that is going to be.

I froze 1 quart of what I picked since they will go bad fast just in the fridge, gave 1 pint to Mom for fresh eating, and DS is eating the rest. When I have 4 quarts I will make jam and then anything left after that I will just freeze for smoothies. When I make raspberry jam I will make it in half-pints as it doesn't get eaten as fast as the other jams. Plus they are a better size for giving away at Christmas time.

After picking I sat on the old swing for a while. The view over my head:



Those Italian prunes were just on one teeny tiny section of one branch (I zoomed in). That whole big branch easily held about 50 fruits.

And the view before me, Patricia, out for a stroll:



The chickens and ducks are not liking the firecrackers. They will be in the chicken coop and the duck den tonight before it gets really bad. We will be letting some off ourselves, as far from them as we can get on the property, but not until they are safely in for the night.

I hoed the weeds up in the garden and got rid of some of the straw mulch. I will water tonight from the rain barrels when it's a bit cooler and the water won't evaporate so fast. Most of the broccoli has survived. I lost two plants, one just didn't have enough roots, and the other I accidentally hacked through with the hoe when I was uprooting some tansy. The cauliflower the slugs were eating on is coming back. I found a very natural remedy for the slugs...feeding them to the ducks.

After that I harvested some lettuce. I picked about $6 worth of organic lettuce (enough for the week) so that brings my costs down to $37.06 left to break even on what I've spent on gardening this year. I suppose I could add in the cost of the berries which sell for around $5 for a half pint for the organic ones, which would put me on a $0 footing. But since I didn't pay for those plants (they originally came free from my Mom's sister who had too many about twenty years ago) and I wouldn't actually ever buy raspberries from the store except once in a while in the dead of winter if my kids begged hard enough, I don't think that counts.

Still, at the rate I am going I think I will have met my costs by mid-August. Maybe sooner. The green beans are starting to climb the poles now. We might have some actual green beans before then, especially if this weather keeps up all month.

Yesterday's Post (in Regard to 7/2)

July 4th, 2012 at 08:51 am

Yesterday I canned 5 more pints of organic strawberry jam. We got an even better deal on the strawberries this time because we bought day old berries for jam making instead of fresh. So I spent $10 for all of the ingredients in 5 pints. Not bad.

Then I canned 9 12 ounce jars of organic grape jelly. Since it is nigh on impossible to find organic grape jelly anywhere, and it is completely impossible to find grape jelly without corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup in it, I am very pleased with myself. I won't make any more grape jelly this year, I don't think. I am the only one who eats it, so those 9 jars should last me about 2 years, since I eat other kinds like strawberry, blackberry, brambleberry, apricot, blueberry, and huckleberry, too. Grape is just my favorite.

In doing the math I figured that I paid $19.90 for the grape jelly ingredients, and since I can't compare it to what isn't actually made, I compared it to the average price of a half pint of organic jelly of any flavor which would be $6. So the same amount would be $84, so a savings of $64.10 over purchasing something similar.

I probably won't make too much raspberry jam. Maybe one batch. I don't like raspberries. I mean, I will eat them if they are mixed in with other berries, but I won't seek them out. Shame, too, since we have so many growing in the back yard. DH likes raspberries, but not raspberry jam, so a few jars for the kids and maybe a couple to give away at Christmas should suffice. I will save some though in the freezer though to make brambleberry jam, as the blackberries override the flavor of the raspberries, and that everyone likes.

So plans for future canning, one batch of raspberry jam, one batch of brambleberry jam, 3 batches of blackberry jam, 5 batches of blueberry jam (and lots and lots of frozen blueberries) and if the grape vines produce this year, I might actually make more grape jelly after all. They have blossoms on them so it is possible they might make enough for jam, but I have a feeling it will be just enough for table grapes. I also plan to make Italian prune jelly as well as canning and possibly drying Italian prunes. Nothing tastes like them and the tree is loaded for bear.

Somewhere during blueberry and prune season I should have a boatload of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, and green beans to can. I want to put up enough green beans for the year since my favorite brand has started using BPA in their can liners. Plus they have just gotten really expensive. $1 a jar, sometimes .75 on sale. If I grow enough to can what I want, it would be 104 quarts or 208 pints, since we eat them at least twice a week. I also am hoping that my tomato plants will produce enough to make sauce for the entire year. There I will need about 75 quarts of sauce or 150 pints and then also about 30 pints of diced tomatoes. I don't know if the weather is going to be good enough for me to grow that much this year. In the past Mom has grown tomatoes like that, but it was a hot sunny summer and that is not what we have been getting this year. I may have to purchase some from one of the sustainable, organic farms in our county that grows them, but it would still be worth it to do.

Then there will be a batch or two of applesauce in half-pint jars for DH who is the only one who eats it. DD and I don't like the texture and DS is allergic to apples. The apple tree at the old house is loaded. I haven't been into the back yard at the old house to check, but if we have pears I will put up pears as well and maybe some pear sauce, DS likes that, and definitely a couple of pear pies. And I'd like to can some nectarines, but only if I can find a not too expensive organic source. They spray stone fruit like crazy, so organic is a must. I need about 20 pounds to make it worth my effort.

I am really, really glad my mother has a ton of empty jars in her basement. I've already cleaned out Goodwill of canning jars and a couple of garage sales. There are three more thrift shops I want to check, too. Otherwise it's $10 for a set of 12 jars with lids and rings. I don't need anymore rings and lids you can easily buy on their own, so if I can find quality jars for .20 each, that's what I'm going to do. Canning shouldn't be expensive (except the lids, and even those are fairly reasonable). I need to keep an eye out for estate sales, too. You can often get boxes of jars there. I'm not picky, Ball, Kerr, Mason, I'll take them all.

Looking Forward--Since posting URLs is what apparently is making my blogs and comments not post, there is a website called Simply Canning that is really helpful for learning how to can. She gives a lot of good information and makes it less intimidating.

Chicken Wire is Up, the Garden Earns its Keep, and Cut DS's Hair

June 18th, 2012 at 08:02 pm

I came back from my appointment this afternoon and my mother had put chicken wire up on my garden fencing. I didn't even have to go buy any, because she had some left over. Some days my mother is awesome. LOL And the chickens didn't jump it, or if they did, they didn't dig anything up. I think Queen is still a bit disgruntled though. She thinks she can go anywhere and do anything (hence the name) and is a bit put out that she's not allowed in that particular playground anymore. Though I do think the cantaloupe made up for it somewhat. Big Grin

I harvested a bunch of lettuce leaves this afternoon. I think I lost one lettuce plant. It's hard to tell, but I think there might be some tiny leaves coming up from the center so it might still come back for me. It got partially uprooted somehow. My guess is that it happened during Saturday's major rainstorm and I just did not notice. I think I have enough lettuce for the next four days, which should be about when it needs to be picked again. I love leaf lettuce. In the right climate it can go all summer.

I'd say I've now harvested at least $10 worth of lettuce. I've spent $59.08 on gardening this year, so I've now just to harvest another $49.08 worth of produce to break even. I may buy a packet of lettuce seeds though if it gets hot and this stuff bolts. So far I seem to be getting 3 sunny days to 4 rainy cool days in a week this growing season though, and we have it where it only gets morning sun and afternoon shade, so it's possible it won't bolt. You just never know with cool season crops around here.

I cut DS's hair tonight. I think that clippers has paid for itself 100 times over. We've had it for many years now. I always cut DS's hair or DH's hair (unless he does it himself because he gets too impatient for me to find the time. During the school year I usually give DS a 3/4 inch haircut with whitewalls around the ears, but since we are going into summer this haircut is a 1/2 inch one. That is what I generally give DH all the time. He likes his a bit shorter. DS generally likes his a little longer, but he gets too hot in the summer for that. It looks very handsome on him either way. His sister can't stop rubbing his head though. It's all soft and fuzzy now. We put his hair in the compost bin. He laughed about that.

On occasion I will trim DD's bangs or her ends, but she is more finicky about her hair now that she is in high school and mostly only lets me do that in the summer. I used to cut it all the time when she was little. Sometimes I'd be snipping a stray bit here and there for days afterwards to even it out, but generally I did a pretty good job of it towards the end. The trick (besides having good haircutting scissors) is to put the hair up and only cut one layer at a time. Otherwise it is just going to be a jagged mess. When I have bangs I cut those to, but most of the time my hair is grown out and I don't bother with it. I just put it in a ponytail. I get it cut maybe once a year, sometimes twice.

I forgot to mention in the earlier post today about Food Rescue that I also brought some honey back to liquid form. I simply put the glass honey jar in a container of very hot water and the partially crystalized stuff on top returned to liquid form. I will have to do it again the next time I need honey I am sure, but it doesn't take very long, maybe 20 minutes and since I rarely use more than 2 tbsp at a time it works fine.

I really need to do a payday entry. I did all my bills on Friday and updated my spreadsheet and even balanced my checkbook, but I haven't gotten around to pulling together a post about it. Maybe because I'm just so tired and it's fun writing about the other things that I do, but sometimes the financial housekeeping just makes me yawn.

Plants in the Ground

June 11th, 2012 at 08:20 pm

I spent the morning at the doctor's office having my eye checked out. I have an infection of an eyelid gland, which explains why it is triple the size of the other one. I had to go to two different pharmacies to get both the antibiotic pills and the steroid/antibiotic eye drops. Well, I did if I wanted to start treatment today and it was hurting enough I didn't want to delay another day when I waited all weekend as it was. The drops are already helping. The swelling has gone down a little bit and the pain has gone down a lot. I spent a total of $20.39 on prescriptions.

This evening I got my plants out of their pots and into the ground. It seems like an awful lot of work for only having planted 7 things, but I still feel a good deal of satisfaction.

Here is a shot of the garden after it was weeded:



The entire area was covered in weeds and potato volunteers on Saturday.

Here are the three tomato plants and basil, oregano, and thyme:



The tall plants are the double pink poppies. One is about to open and bloom, maybe tomorrow or the next day.

The green thing, which you can see better in the first photo, is my compost bin. The white thing down by the chimney is a rain barrel that collects water off the roof via the drainpipe.

This is the zucchini, planted clear down by the rain barrel. It will sprawl into something huge in a few weeks' time so we gave it a lot of space off by itself.



Here are my window boxes full of green romaine and red sails leaf lettuces. These ones you can pick the outermost leaves of and they will continue to grow. I've been picking them about every other day.



And last, but not least, this perfect bit of loveliness is growing in the front yard next to the deck.



I hope to make it over to Joe's Garden tomorrow to buy some more starts. If I don't go tomorrow I probably won't make it until Friday. So far I have spent $15.23 on the garden. That includes some seed packets I have not planted yet. As long as we have a decent summer, that should pay me back within the first week of the tomato harvest. Even with more output for starts, I will still drastically cut my produce bill this summer.

Financial Housekeeping and Old House Stuff

May 31st, 2012 at 08:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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