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For CreditCardFree on Thrive Life

March 26th, 2018 at 03:55 pm

CreditCardFree asked me to talk about Thrive Life freeze-dried foods, what I like, what I don't, what I use, and whether or not it really saves money.

I think it would be easier for me to say what products I don't like than what I do like, since I have liked almost everything I have tried. I dislike their instant potatoes. I find the texture to be a little rubbery and unless you season the heck out of them they have no flavor. I don't like the asparagus, it reconstitutes to be very mushy. I don't like the Passionfruit yogurt bites. I don't care for the larger chicken slices and the larger beef slices, as I think it takes far too long for them to reconstitute, longer than claimed.

The small beef and small chicken I like a lot, as well as the ground beef crumbles and the sausage crumbles. I have not tried any of the vegetarian meat products.

What I use most are the onions, the bell peppers, the chili peppers, the potato dices, the celery, the carrots, the green onions and the sweet corn. The sweet corn tastes like candy and we often eat it right from the can like popcorn.

I use the sour cream powder a lot. I have wasted so much sour cream over the years, so to be able to make out the exact amount per recipe with none leftover to mold in the fridge has saved us quite a bit. I also like their instant milk, for those days when we run out and I need a cup for making potatoes or something. I love the butter powder, too, because we have also run out of butter on occasion. I can just make up as much as we need or put some in a recipe.

I also use their seasoning blends, sauce mixes, bouillons, and tomato powder (which is in place of using tomato paste). They have no MSG or other suspect ingredients in these, which is amazing for bouillon. Less occasionally I use the kale and spinach in soups. We love the yogurt bites in vanilla, cherry, strawberry, pomegranate, and blueberry. That's one of my favorite things, actually, as I hate the texture of regular yogurt and I can just eat these straight without adding water and the texture issue isn't there.

I do use the freeze-dried fruit, but I haven't quit buying regular fruit. My kids like the fruit a lot and eat it as is. I think it is great for putting into cereal or muffins, but I don't care to just snack on it.

Most of the veggies are good. I like the broccoli, green beans (though I prefer my home canned), zucchini, and cauliflower. My husband likes the mushrooms (I can't eat mushrooms). The sweet potatoes and butternut squash are pretty good. Nothing is going to be crisp with freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, so I usually use fresh veggies for stir-fries, and these go into casseroles and egg bakes. My MIL likes eating the cauliflower straight out of the can.

Their instant brown rice and instant white rice we use on occasion. They are good, but I'm not sure they are any better than minute rice. I do like the fact that they have some instant beans. My son raves about the multi-grain pancake mix.

I do see some money saving. Because I am not having to peel anything, I am not paying for the weight of the part of the food that gets peeled off and thrown away. It is already cut up into the right size, so I am not having to spend time cutting up onions or other veggies, which saves my hands. With the RA, my hands often hurt too much to peel and chop, so that is a meal saver on those days. It doesn't have the chance to rot in the fridge before I can use it, so I'm not then having to pay to throw it away.

I tend to buy the products that are more pricey when they go on sale. They have different products on sale each month and then they do two semi-annual sales a year that have almost everything discounted. They have one day flash sales once in a while as well. The meat and the yogurt are most expensive so I only buy those when they are on sale and the same with the more expensive fruits (raspberries, grapes, cherries, pears). The rest is pretty well-priced and if you buy more than $100 on the monthly delivery program the shipping is free.

I don't buy the Simple Plates, which are the pre-made meal kits. I think they are expensive for what they are. They are meant to compete with things like Blue Apron and Freshly. While I got several when I got my consultant starter kit, most of them have mushrooms mixed in with the rest of the veggies, so I can't eat them. The family has liked what they have tried, but I wouldn't purchase them myself.

They do have some starter packs called Chef Kits that come in a set for $105 and come with recipes and you can make several recipes from each kit. They have a Southwest Chicken Kit, a Ground Beef Kit, and a Pulled Pork Kit. A lot of people like to start off with those so they can make a few meals and see if they like them. Or they have variety packs of vegetables, fruits, yogurts, and cheese which brings the price down a bit.

I seldom buy their cheese, but when their Parmesan or Monteray Jack goes on sale I will get some if I am out. Those we use so little of that it is not worth buying from the store because it'll go bad before we can use it all. But cheddar and mozzarella I still buy fresh as it is cheaper.

What it is great for is the shelf-life. Most products are one year after being opened, with three exceptions, the ham, the turkey, and the pulled pork. The ham is awful anyway. I forgot to say that I didn't like the ham. It didn't taste like ham to me, just pork and not well flavored. Unopened products have a shelf-life of 25 years, so there is that.

So like all things, you have to comparison shop and get some items on sale. But it has been worth it for me to save my hands a lot of work.

For everything you buy, you get points and after you get enough points you can cash them in for free product. As a consultant I also get a commission off of anyone's purchase from my website: https://www.thrivelife.com/luckyrobinshomestead. If anyone signs up for the monthly delivery (which requires a $25 purchase each month) I get a larger percentage commission and if people sign up to be consultants under me I get a percentage of their sales. It only goes four levels so it is not an unending pyramid. As a consultant I am required to spend $50 a month, which I more than spend anyway. I also have the expense of the website which is $10 a month. But I so far have been making about $60 each month. I don't really work the business, though. I have a couple people that purchase each month. I get a little business from my youtube channel, but I don't do parties or anything. If I did, I could make a lot more, but this is more passive for me.

Anyway, I hope that answered all of your questions and if not, let me know and I will try to answer any more you have.

Payday Report + Haircut + Mom + Murphy + Food Waste

March 10th, 2018 at 05:13 pm

Well, I did it. I got my hair cut to my collarbone. It was a foot or so of hair taken off. I had it thinned and layered and the curls are just crazy bouncy now. I am very happy with it. I can't remember being this happy with a haircut in a couple of decades. It is easy to care for and simple to style, though it takes more time than just braiding it or putting it up in pony tail. It just looks so nice that I don't care if it takes me an extra 10 minutes to curl it around my face.

Mom is home from the hospital and doing very well. She is only taking Tylenol for the pain and hasn't needed anything else. She is getting around very well and able to do much for herself. I am so happy. This is way easier than the shoulder surgery or the knee surgery.

We had quite a lot of overtime on the paycheck yesterday. As quickly as it comes in it is gone.

$255.00 Tithe
_474.36 AMEX (in full)
__56.61 Garbage (2 months)
_876.93 BoA Visa (in full)
_124.75 BoA MC (in full)
1000.00 Citi Visa (not in full, but not due until 4/3)
-----------
$2782.65 Total Money Out

This is over the amount of the paycheck. Mom and MIL both reimbursed us for stuff we bought for them so we had an extra $310 in checking from that.

As for Murphy, DH got a flat tire. He got a piece of metal in the tire. He's down at the shop now seeing about the repair. I don't know how much it will cost or if it will cost anything. Tire shops are weird that way. Sometimes they fix flats for free, depending on how bad the damage is. I am hoping we won't have to get new tires. This is on his father's truck that we technically have inherited, but we haven't taken the title to it yet. MIL is going to pay off the loan on it when the life insurance money comes in, but it hasn't yet. After that, we will take ownership of it.

If we have to buy new tires we will buy them from Costco. Still the cheapest place for tires I've ever found and good quality ones, too. I have loved the ones they put on the van. They drive very well. But I sure hope that expense is not one we have to shell out for right now.

DD's bed broke. The box spring and the frame collapsed. It's an old bed, a hand me down from my mother. We can't afford a new bed now. MIL has a bed we can take, but it has to be excavated first. She has so much junk in that room. The bed is covered with it and the path to the bed is covered with it. FIL was a real pack rat and MIL still is.

So after the tire is repaired, DH and DS will take the truck out to MIL's and try to get the bed out.

DD's surgery is scheduled for the 9th of April. We have to have $300 paid before then. Her deductible is $500. She's met some of it, and will meet some more with the pre-op appointment so $300 is what they reckon will be left to meet. The doctor's portion of the surgery itself costs $5449, but we won't have to pay all of that. The surgery center is supposed to get me a quote on their portion. I don't know about the doctor who administers the anesthesia. I believe our out of pocket is capped at $3000 per person. It might be $5000, though.

We still haven't been able to get the HSA to issue a corrected form. I think at this point we are just going to put the proper amount on the taxes and keep our fingers crossed that no on notices that proper form isn't there. And if we ever have an HSA again, it won't be there because they really don't know how to pull their heads out and do their jobs.

Otherwise, still muddling along. Still thinking I need to make up a meal plan, but still not doing it. I ended up throwing out a lot of veg and leftovers this week and so I really need to get back on top of the food waste issue. I kind of really let things go for a couple of weeks. I need to not do that, because is just wastes so much money. Some went to the ducks, some to the compost, and few things had to be binned.

I have been watching a show this week called Eat Well for Less. It is British. I found a couple of episodes on youtube and a few others elsewhere. It's a really good show. It focuses on fixing a family's food budget. It deals with brand addiction, food waste, picky eating, shopping without checking the pantry and fridge first, everyone eating different meals instead of the same meal, all of that stuff.

I found it very informative. And it gave me the incentive I needed to try to get my act back together again. I've got all my veggies that were left after cleaning the fridge prepped and ready to go so that it can get used up this week and not wasted. I am going to plan my meals around that when I finally sit down and make my meal plan tonight.

I don't need to buy any meat this week. I may need to buy salad greens and bananas, but I may hold off on the bananas because we have plenty of oranges and apples. I'd like some blackberries, though. Oh, I've got some freeze-dried ones. Those will do nicely. We have freeze-dried bananas, too, if it comes to that.

Meal Planning for the Week

November 27th, 2017 at 12:52 am

We've done a pretty good job of dealing with our Thanksgiving leftovers. Dinner Friday was simply a repeat of the day before. I made up 12 TV dinners for the freezer. I made a big batch of turkey noodle soup. Word of warning, if you use purple carrots in your soup, your soup will be purple. Tasted great, though. Then I diced up the remainder of the meat, which was about 2 cups worth, and froze it and will make stir-fried rice with it in a day or two.

I still have to deal with the bones. I froze them, but I plan to make turkey broth with them this week and then can it. Any remaining meat on the bones will fall off and then I can pick it out and freeze it, either for a casserole or more stir-fried rice. In the past I have made enchiladas with leftover turkey, too, but we had so much stuffing and so many potatoes that I thought it was wiser just to make up the TV dinners, since we are trying to get away from buying store bought emergency TV dinners completely. There was absolutely no wasted food from our Thanksgiving this year. I feel great about that.

Day One:
Slow Cooker BBQ Meatloaf
Fried Potatoes
Green Beans
Canned Pears

Day Two:
Chili Beef Noodle Skillet
Broccoli
Apples

Day Three:
Hearty Beef Casserole
Clementine Oranges

Day Four:
Sesame Chicken
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Turkey Fried Rice
Canned Pineapple

Day Five:
Brined Pork Chops
Fried Potatoes
Green Beans
Apples

Day Six:
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Garlic Bread
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Grapes

Day Seven:
Chicken and Veggie Stir-fry
Turkey Fried Rice
Canned Pineapple

Use it Up Dinner

November 4th, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Last night we had something of a build up of leftovers in the fridge. I had some leftover spaghetti sauce with sausage in it from spaghetti night. And I had half a can of tomato sauce left from meatloaf night, so I combined those together. There wasn't enough meat in it for 4 people so I grabbed a cup of my freeze-dried sausage and rehydrated it.

Meanwhile, I looked through my pasta and ended up deciding on some shells I had. The shells were left from some Annie Bunnies shells and cheese that I stole the cheese powder packet out of to make cheesy popcorn one night, since it is a clean cheese powder. I cooked the shells in the microwave and by the time they were done, the sausage was fully hydrated.

I combined all of the ingredients together and poured them into a greased baking dish. Then I used up the last bit of Parmesan cheese, the last bit of extra sharp cheddar, some mozzarella and some regular cheddar on top. So I have two less almost empty cheese containers in the fridge now. I baked it at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes covered in foil and then for 5 minutes with the foil off.

It was a really good dinner and about 10 times easier to make than lasagna, but tasted just like my lasagna. Everyone was well pleased with it and except for some gravy, there are now no leftovers in the fridge.

If anyone wants to know how to cook pasta in the microwave, the trick is to heat the water first and then add the pasta for the regular amount of cooking time. Oh, and you need a plate over the top of the bowl you cook it in and to add a bit of oil and salt to the water. It works great for shells, macaroni, rotini, penne, and farfalle (bowties). Also, the wide egg noodles. I have not tried spaghetti, but I would imagine you'd need to break it in half or thirds and stir in the middle of the cook time.

What kind of leftover meals have you all made this week?

Leftover Management and Homemade Take-Out

January 12th, 2017 at 11:24 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Eating Out Challenge

October 6th, 2014 at 11:25 am

Two weeks down, 16 days to go. We are doing really well here. The kids have not been able to talk me into going out to eat in two weeks. There were a couple of days that I really wanted to, too. Having the meal plans firmly in place help a lot. Making meals in such a way as to have planned leftovers helps so much. This week I will be using my homemade spaghetti sauce in 3 recipes and my homemade meatballs in two. I will make the sauce and meatballs tonight and then use them in tonight's meal and in the meals the following two nights.

Last week I made baked potatoes with dinner one night. I threw in enough extra to make baked potato soup later in the week.

Sometimes I will make roast chicken, pick the leftovers off the bones, and made enchiladas and quesadillas as well as using the bones to make chicken stock for chicken noodle soup.

Those sorts of leftovers really help to have on hand so I can make one complicated meal followed by one or two easy ones. I always plan my complicated meal for a night when I have more time and the easier meals for the nights when I don't.

Doing this helps me save money because 1. I don't buy as much food to begin with, 2. I don't end up wasting the food I did buy, and 3. I am far less interested in eating out when I know I can put together a much better meal quickly.

Of course I am still tempted to eat out, but I'm not sure it would be worth the hit to the wallet, or the pain from ingredients I'm allergic to. Since I never know what food additives are used, cooking at home is safer for my stomach, too. And certainly safer for my son's.

No Eating Out Challenge

September 25th, 2014 at 02:14 pm

Things have gone great with the no eating out challenge so far. I've made all food at home for the past 3 days, and am on track for today as well. When we were at the grocery store yesterday, the kids wanted me to buy them a couple of premade soups from the salad bar, but I felt like that would be cheating on the intent if not the letter of the challenge.

Then there is the fact that each one of those soups costs $4, so $8 for soup when I can make a big pot of soup for a lot less money, that will feed us about 8 times the amount of that soup. And I'll be using the leftover potatoes from last night's meal to do it.

On tonight's menu is baked potato soup. So they only had to wait a day for soup. And while it is not savory pot roast soup, we just had beef stew on Monday with all the same ingredients, so I don't feel like I'm disappointing them any by making a different hearty soup. Plus its on the menu plan anyway. They can live with it. And they always like my soups and stews better anyhow.

I feel better when we eat this way. Even eating out once a week makes me feel cruddy afterwards and almost like I am hung over the next day from the excessive carbohydrate intake.

So far I feel if I continue to plan well for this, that I won't have any problems making it through the month.

The biggest thing I am noticing is how there isn't nearly the garbage without the eating out. And none of the food is getting wasted at all since I am making planned overs and those get eaten up in the next meal or the one after that. It's much more efficient, since I am using the oven less for long-term cooking, and then being much quicker on the stove top the next day by using leftover ingredients. Less waste will lead to saving more on the grocery budget since everything gets used up.

Hopefully I will stay this together and focused as we head into October, the second half of which is always my big cold season starting.

New Arrivals and Expenses Today

April 10th, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I spent $116.91 on Royal Palm heritage turkey poults and Barnevelder chicken pullets today. Barnevelders are a very old breed and lay a nice dark brown egg, similar to a black copper maran. These guys will pay me back with eggs in about 16 weeks.

I am hoping that I got at least one male and one female turkey, but since they were straight run, I won't know until they are quite a bit older. If I got at least one of each, they will remain as our breeders. Royal Palms are still capable of breeding naturally and don't need AI like the more commercial breeds you'd find at the grocery store that have been bred so heavy breasted they can't support their own body weight at maturity so can't breed. They just fall over if they try.

The Royal Palm poults can be sold for quite a premium so it will be well worth the investment eventually.

Two of the turkeys will be for Thanksgiving and Christmas regardless of whether they turn out to be male or female. It'll be cheaper to raise them ourselves than to buy heritage birds at the holidays.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8ZBsHvnB9E

I also spent $41.26 for a 50 pound bag of game bird starter feed, a waterer, and two feed troughs, since the ducklings are eating enough now to need a second trough.

Then I spent $59.19 on a tank of gas for the minivan and $210.63 on groceries. They had a huge sale on turkey legs so I stocked up on a lot since they are so easy to make. I also bought a lot of other staples and some fresh veggies.

I canned 3 quarts of pickles today. Unfortunately the bottom of one of the jars cracked off during the canning process. I lost about $3 worth of food. Still, it is rare that something like that happens. I've never had a jar crack before in two years of canning. It is still far cheaper to home can even with the occasional loss, than to buy them already made when you are working with organic foods. And I can make it exactly the way I like it and in the quantities I want them to be in, with no yellow #5 or MSG. Well worth it.

Long Day with Good Food at the End

November 13th, 2013 at 07:02 pm

I am glad I didn't get around to making the baked potato soup last night. I was definitely in need of comfort food tonight. And it turned out beautifully:



I had to make the roux twice, though. The first time I wasn't paying attention and didn't even look at the flour DD had brought up, just dumped it in. Well, there was a dead miller moth in it. Fortunately that was the end of a bag of flour. Unfortunately, I ,had to throw out 2/3 of a cup of butter. Ouch. With butter so expensive these days, losing over a stick of it does not feel good.

How is it possible to have such a long day on such a short day? Well, I suppose having to deal with DD's evil teacher is probably why it felt so long. I totally see what DD means. The woman is a master manipulator and it was one of the first things I called her on. Let's just say woman got schooled, hard. And we got the assignments that DD should have got in the first place.

I have to say the counselor and person from admin were top rate. Neither could understand why DD hadn't been given her assignments in the first place. Teacher really was falling all over herself. The VP wasn't there. No reason given, she was supposed to be. Oh, well. Evil teacher is now on notice that her crap won't fly with us. I do wish DH could have been there. I think his physical stature alone would have cowed her even if he is the kindest, most gentle soul, but I managed all on my own at my little 5 foot 5 inches to put her in her place. It did take a lot out of me though.

Today was a no spend day, but tomorrow won't be. I really should go to the store tonight, but I am just too tired. I know I will regret not having caffeine in the morning, but I will stop at the store after taking DD to school.

On Wasting Food

August 4th, 2012 at 01:49 pm

Even though I tend to keep an eagle eye on the fridge and know what's in there pretty much to the teaspoon, sometimes food does get wasted. Usually, but not always, this is the fault of my youngest child who likes to put his leftovers in the fridge and then shove them to the back, even though I have a policy on where leftovers go, which is up front and visible at all times.

With all of the fruit I have been harvesting this week I have not kept as sharp an eye on things and when I cleaned the fridge last night I had to throw out, courtesy of my son:

1/2 bowl of homemade organic chicken noodle soup
1 cup of leftover spaghetti
About a one inch by 4 inch strip of pork chop from the organic, sustainable farm (I would have eaten this had I known!)
2 tbsp of leftover hamburger (from the same farm) that went with the cup of spaghetti
8 ounces of organic milk

Courtesy of my daughter:
1 quart size baggy with broccoli and cauliflower that she said she was going to eat

Courtesy of myself (you didn't think I was completely innocent in this, did you?):
1/2 can of the really good, meat only chili

And of course, DH is in Alaska and even if he was home, he eats leftovers left and right. There's almost never anything that is his fault, unless you count that he didn't get to other people's leftovers fast enough, and I don't! LOL Actually, I think the last thing we threw out that was his fault was because he left it out of the fridge, not because he left it in there for too long.

So all in all, not the best week for not wasting food, we lost about $8 worth. Everything went into the compost bin or to the chickens. The meat smelled off, not spoiled so I let the chickens eat it. I'll keep a better eye on it all this week, blueberries or no blueberries. (Ha, of course there will be blueberries...all...week...long).

Well, I better go check on the chickens. Someone either just laid an egg or had a heart attack. My guess is one of the newbies laid her first egg and wants the whole world to know.