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Archive for May, 2012

Financial Housekeeping and Old House Stuff

May 31st, 2012 at 08:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Away from the "It's Only" Mindset

May 31st, 2012 at 08:14 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Trip to Goodwill

May 30th, 2012 at 12:59 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coin Jar Update and Credit Card Musings

May 28th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

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

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

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

Meal Planning for the Week and Some Gardening

May 28th, 2012 at 01:43 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today Has Been a Productive Baking Day

May 27th, 2012 at 04:17 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Long Day

May 26th, 2012 at 11:04 pm

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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