Category Archives: New Habits

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.


  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.


I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.

I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.

I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Clothing

Remember the French Dressing post, here? I decided I was going to reduce my clothing to a capsule wardrobe of 10 items per season, not counting underwear and outerwear.

It occurred to me the other day that I basically have reduced my day-to-day clothing use to a capsule, without thinking about it!

I have a basket which lives in our bathroom on a shelf. It contains the set of clothes I’m not wearing. At home, without company, I wear pj pants and a long-sleeved shirt, cheap plastic socks. When I go out I wear a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, long johns or leggings (when it’s cold), jeans, and washable wool socks.  During summer I’ll wear the leggings or the jeans but not both.

(I also wear sweaters.)

Company/going out rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 4 pairs of leggings
  • ? washable wool socks.

No company/staying home rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of PJ pants
  • 4 pairs o leggings
  • 6 pairs of cozy socks.

When I get home I undress in the bathroom, examining clothes as I remove them. If they can be reused? They’re rolled up and put into the bathroom basket. If dirty, they go into the laundry. I then put on the clothes in the basket and supplement, as needed, from dresser and closet.

This means that the only day-to-day clothes in my closet should be: the unworn long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and out of season/special event clothing. The clothes in my drawers should be unworn tank tops, leggings/long johns, and pants.

Given this, culling my clothes should be simple! I really like the feel and “flow” of this system. It evolved over time and works for me. YMMV.

Six shirts culled! 10:54 a.m. 3 more 11:12 a.m. 1 more 11:32


My “Things I Don’t Use, Have, or I’m Getting Rid of It” List (working)

If you look at frugality sites, many have these “things I gave up to be frugal” lists.  The same is true if you look at many minimalism sites. Since I am working at becoming more minimalist and frugal at the same time and I RARELY agree with the lists I find.

Here’s mine!

(Also please see the note at the end.)

Alcohol – We know people who drink daily. Others who drink with every celebration. Us? We use a bottle of table wine about every 2-3 years, and most of the time it’s cooked into food. Exceptions? Port: it’s drunk from tiny glasses. So is the Grand Marnier I got as a treat Christmas. So, no wine cellar here. We have a problem using up beer too. It’s just not our thing.

Basketry Supplies – I bought someone’s stash, years ago, at a thrift shop. I have NEVER used any of it, so why keep it? It’s bagged up to go to the flea market next month.

Beads – A friend is starting an online bead shop. I’ve been slowly sending what I don’t think I’ll use in the next 5 years. Third box is ready to go. The boxes are tiny. I figure I may do as many as 10 before I’m done?

Boot tray  – We use a piece of lino on the wood floor instead. If things are really wet? We use a towel.

Canning Jars – I decided that except for the small jelly jars I use to hold the last of shelf-stable foods that I’m not keeping small-mouthed canning jars. I’m also not keeping those with shoulders. The straight sided ones work for everything I need. The other types are being culled as I free them up.

Celebrations – The two of us decided we just weren’t going to fuss any more. We may buy a card, or give each other something when a birthday or anniversary or Christmas rolls around, but in general? I try to thank my husband for his work, which pays for everything, at least once a week. I tell him he’s loved daily. So, we do NOT go out for anniversary or birthday dinners most of the time. In fact, we hardly ever eat out fancy. It’s nice, but it’s an “experience.” Been there, done that. I’d rather use $100 to pay down debt than have a swanky dinner! This doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate at all, it just means we usually do it at home, we stopped buying into the idea that you had to spend a lot of money and get dressed up for it to count. Why?

Cookie sheets – I use pizza pans. Figured the pizza pans being round was a necessity. Cookie sheets can be any flat surface, so years ago I got rid of the cookie sheets. We have 2 pizza pans and use them for everything: roasting veggies, making pizza, baking, etc.

Dish sponges – I got tired of buying them. My grandmother used flannel rags. When my last sponge disintegrated, rather than buying a new one? I tore up an old nightgown. That was about a year ago. We have a sponge for washing the car and a sponge mop for the floor, but I don’t really miss my dish sponges! Yes, I have to wash rags more often.

Drawers – I had several sets of old retail storage drawers, originally from a card shop. I used them for years to store craft supplies. I’ve removed and gotten rid of one. The others are slated to go when my office gets cleared, hopefully this summer! As craft supplies are culled, other drawers will be emptied too.

Duplicate Books – When I know they’re dupes? I keep the best one and donate or sell the others.

Extra Plastic Food Storage – I haven’t done this yet, but it will be soon. We have one spot to store these and it’s getting full again as food comes out of the freezer. DH needed some last fall and we bought a different type. Most of those will be pulled from the kitchen and either go into the workshop or be filled with flea market merchandise. I also need to do another match it with the lid session. I don’t keep either extra lids or containers which don’t have them!

Extra Set of Towels – These days I have one set of bathroom towels, 4 black ones. There’s 3 hooks in the bathroom. I take one out about every 3 days and wash it and add the unused one. Works fine. The towels are cleaned on average about 3-4 times a month and it’s much less of a PITA than pulling them all out, replacing them with the other towels, washing/drying them and then swapping all the towels again. If I don’t get it done? There’s still 3 towels in the bathroom. Less stress, less stuff, works!

Filing  – Everything was removed from the fling cabinet. When it gets refilled, there will be a lot less stored there! This is in process.

Floor wax – These days what I do is wash the floor with Murphy’s soap and water (using up the end of the Murphy’s, when it’s gone I’ll just use dish soap, if I have to use soap). I rinse with plain water and lemon essential oil. I don’t think the oil does anything for the wood, but it makes it smell wonderful and I like it waaay better than the smell of Murphy’s!

If I’m in a real hurry or the floor doesn’t need soaping, I’ll sweep or vac the floor, then run the string mop over it with hot water. Then empty/rinse the bucket and use the sponge mop, more hot water, and the oil.

When I had lino floors to clean, I used “Once and Done” from Armstrong, it’s a no rinse floor cleaner with wax.

Glasses – I got tired of replacing them. We do use wine glasses, but everyday liquids are drunk from coffee mugs.

Hair conditioner – Well I didn’t give it up. Why? I use about 1 bottle every 2 years or so. I use a thick conditioner and comb it through my clean wet hair, using about a dime sized portion at a time and a wide toothed comb. I use it as a detangler. My hair goes about 2/3rds of the way down my back btw, I do NOT have short hair!

Instant Potatoes, etc. – I don’t mind them, but DH says “Ick!” about instant potatoes. However, I used to use jarred marinara, instant gravies, etc. These days I make sauces & gravies from scratch. It’s cheaper for one thing. I control what goes into it for another. Finally? It can be made to suit our tastes and the commercial stuff is usually “okay” but not “great” (acc. to no one but us).

Junk Drawer – I think one reason the house gets so untidy is that I “let” it. So, why allow myself to have a messy drawer in the kitchen? If I change the junk drawer into something actually useful rather than a catchall for misc. clutter, can I cut down the clutter? This is an experiment We’ll see how it works!


Linens – Much like the towels above, I used to have 4 sets of winter sheets and 4 sets of summer sheets. These days, I have 1/2 that. I have 2 sets of flannel for winter and 2 sets of cotton for summer. The only place I have more than that is pillow cases. I take the top sheet off midweek and throw it in the wash. I take the bottom sheet and pillow cases off over the weekend. I’ve gotten past the idea that this has to happen all at once. The scope of that job would make me put it off. Removing one sheet, replacing it with the other similar sheet and then washing the old one doesn’t seem as onerous. Works for me, YMMV.

Magazine Subscriptions – I used to subscribe to at least 2. The only magazine I get now is the one where I’m on the staff, and I’ve been giving them away to interested people as I can.

Make up Remover – When I was in college, for a bit I was a theater make up major. The actresses used shortening to remove their theater make up. No perfumes, cheap, easy to find, etc. I haven’t bought fancy make up remover since!

Muffin Tins – I didn’t make muffins regularly enough to justify keeping a muffin tin. I also don’t have silicon or paper liners.


Office Supplies – With some exceptions, we have enough of almost everything: pens, erasers, stickies, thumbtacks, etc. We run out of ink and paper because I hate proofreading anything large on screen. Most of the book projects I work on I end up printing at lease twice….

Ornament (and Stocking) Hangers – I decided a few years back that string or wire or ribbon would work for these. Why buy and store something else?

Pencil Cups  – I had 5: both offices, the living room, the kitchen, and workshop. I’ve eliminated 3 of them. Two should be enough!


Retail Supplies – Because I worked in retail, I have lots of retail supplies I likely won’t ever use: extra receipt books, stickers, tags, etc. either too old to be used or I know will still be unused in a few years. In some cases, this stuff has gone to the dump. I’ve given some away. I have a small cigar box of supplies, but most of it is removed when I run across it, ASAP.

Ribbon – I used to have a lot of it. Well, to be honest, it came home from the bookstore. I offered free wrapping and had supplies for it when asked. As a private individual, I sure didn’t need the 5 rolls of curly ribbon, etc.  I’ve been culling it for a long time now. When I make up our Christmas bread, I frequently try and use as much ribbon as I reasonably can. Still I cull it and keep culling it. . . .

Shredder – We had one, but don’t now. Many times the shreds wound up in the wood stove to start fires. When the old shredder died, I decided to use the shredder I was born with, my hands, and continue that practice. If it’s not wood-burning season or the wood stove’s paper bins are full, I put it in a used manila envelope and take it to Stapes. A pound of shredding (about 2-3 envelopes) costs around $2. For about $8 a year I don’t have to have a special use tool, storage for same, or figure out where to put it!

Suits – I haven’t worked in an office for some time. It is nice to not need to worry about having a suit for work anymore!

Soda Crates – Earlier I had stored my beads in plastic boxes in soda crates. These are the beads I’m culling. At some point, at least some of the crates will be empty and will be used elsewhere or culled.


(Of what’s shown? The big round containers are gone. The white plastic container in the upper left is gone. Most of the monofilament is gone. Some of the small round containers are gone too….)

Scrubbing Bubbles – and other “specialty” cleaners. These days I use bleach, cleanser, dish soap, laundry soap, bar soap, ammonia, salt, and such. Except for leather cleaners, which I still have a lot of and lemon oil furniture polish, I don’t buy them.

The leather cleaner gets used on the leather furniture and car seats and shoes. The  lemon oil get used on furniture, wood floors, and occasionally on appliances!

Snack foods – I know people who always have snacks around and soda. We don’t. The only cracker we buy regularly are whole wheat saltines and I have a recipe and may try and make them sometime soon. They aren’t all that expensive, but I just don’t see the point in buying all that packaging for something that is basically flour, water, salt and soda, when I have all those things in stock all the time?

I can’t drink soda and DH isn’t fond of it, so no sodas for us.

Spoon holder – The one you put next to your stove; I don’t. A while ago, I had a ceramic pot. The pot got broken and tossed, but the lid was fine. I kept it for I know not what reason? Then one day I had an Aha! moment and I turned the lid upside own and pushed the handle into one corner of the grid over my gas burners. It stayed. It works great, is fairly small, cost me nothing and keeps me from gooping up the burners, the space around them, or the counters!

Sponges – I gave up dish sponges last year. (See above.) The only sponge, except for the sponge mop, is in the carwash bucket.

Swifters or other fancy cleaning tools – What’s in my broom closet? A small vac, a broom, a wool dust mop and a sponge wet mop. That’s it. I also have buckets, dust pans, brushes, etc. but no swifter or carpet sweeper. I had both and didn’t use them.

Television – It had been turned on once in about 10 years. It took the space that an entire bookcase would occupy. Hm…We needed more bookshelving, right? It was an easy cull.

Tinsel – I gave it up a few years back. We have beaded icicles and some glass ones.

Umbrella stand – We keep one umbrella indoors and one in each car. Don’t need more. When they come in wet? They are put on the piece of lino which is our “boot tray.”

Vacations – We hardly ever take them. Every once in a while, we’ll take a “get the hell outta here” break and spend the night in a local motel just to get away from the place where we eat, sleep, live, and work 24/7. Part of adjusting to working at home was finding the relief valve in everyday living.

We take day trips. Go to a museum or bookstore or event. But we don’t need to experience every ride, national park, country, festival, etc. Some things I just want to see. The internet works for that and it’s a lot cheaper than air fare and hotels!

A question I found years ago made a lot of sense:

Why work so hard year ’round to pay for/decorate,

and make “ours” some place…

and when we get a break from work we leave that place?

Made me really reconsider vacations. If I’m not going to “experience” something or a place and not going “as a break” why don’t I use vacation time to enjoy the home I’ve spent all the time, effort and money to create?

Vases – I culled my collection, it was 2 shelves worth!  I now have 5,  3 were inherited and will be passed on.

Wood burning supplies – Since we’re not primarily heating with wood, I won’t restock fire starters, junk paper, matches, twig bins, etc. like I did. We still have enough for emergencies, but it’s just that, and the beginning of the season we were fully stocked, so I won’t need to restock much of it for some time!

X – Various Products I make myself – brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, garlic salt, window cleaner

Yarn – I decided when I quit knitting all the time that I’d get rid of any excess polyester yarn and use wool instead. I have given away the excess and the yarn I’m keeping is stored in a tin. There’s still too much of it, probably, but I have culled the collection quite a lot!


 It may appear from this that we live a grim existence — not so! We like each other’s company, sense of humor, etc. We use the events in our daily lives for comic relief; we laugh a lot, hug and smile — daily.

Frugal Eating? Sat. & Sun. 2/29-3/1/20

Saturday we went to the natural food market. I bought a pound of their natural ground beef for $8.99/lb. I used 1/4 lb in a pot of chili, along with part of a pint of dry kidney beans I’d soaked and cooked. Also, 1/2 an onion, a pint container of HM tomato sauce, the last of the bell pepper I’d bought last week, cayenne, cilantro, cumin, broth, and chili powder. We had it with cornbread and cheese.

We’ll have cornbread and chili/cheese omlettes for dinner tonight. That will probably use up the end of the chili, the end of a block of cheddar, and the cornbread — or I hope so! If not, I’ll crumble the cornbread and freeze it to use on some future veggie. The chili if there’s a full serving left, will also get frozen, or I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow.

We have various older odds and ends to deal with too. The biggest is the other beans which need to be cooked (Cooked Sunday night.) and used. If I don’t have a whole serving of chili left? (I do.) I’ll probably buzz it and add it to the cooked beans — and we’ll have that, somehow.

Still to deal with? The rest of the left overs AND the other beans and meat. The beans I have plans for (see above), but the meat I do NOT.


btw, the cost of the meat in the chili is approx. $2.25. So far we’ve had 2 meals with it, or $1.12 each.  If we finish up the prepped chili tonight (We didn’t.) the cost will go down to .56 a meal. I’ll have to come up with 2 more portions if I’m going to get close to the .25 a meal for protein I talked about before! That will be difficult, I think. The only reason I didn’t “notice” how little meat was in the chili was that I used beef demiglace (what I use instead of bullion cubes) to flavor the broth. And, no I have no idea how much the chili I made actually cost!

The beans came from a bulk bin, somewhere. They had their bulk label on the jar, but no date or source or price. The tomato sauce I froze last summer. It had tomatoes, onion and bell pepper in it from the farm. I buy demiglace on sale or with a coupon. I have no idea when I bought the bottle I’m using. The onion came from extras I bought from the farm last fall. I don’t remember the price, I could figure it out, but haven’t. The spices were items I already had: the farm has cilantro and I dry some every year, cumin I bought a large bottle some time ago, exactly when or what I paid I don’t know, the chili powder came from the market, don’t know when/price, the peppers were the last 3 of a bag of mini peppers I bought last week. They were about $4.99 for 9 baby colored bell peppers, expensive but yummy, that makes them .54 each or $1.62 worth in the chili. Each portion already eaten is .81

.81+1.12 = 1.93

peppers + meat

If I assume that there’s at least $1 more worth of food in each meal, that makes it $2.93 each. Not outrageously expensive, but sure not all that cheap!

1.93+1.00= 2.93 each

peppers/meat + everything else (per person)

Well, I said I had a lot of work to do, right? I do! I thought this would be much better than it is, because I used 1/2 the meat I normally would. Obviously, I need to do more.

So, we didn’t use up the chili and there’s 1 portion or more remaining. The beans got cooked but not used otherwise. The obvious thing to do is to combine those two for a new batch of chili and put it in the freezer for future use! (Exactly what I did!)

This will successfully drive the price down to roughly $1.50 a meal per person. (half of the $2.93 above). I would like, as a target, to actually use about  .50 a meal, per person as my long-range goal.

And of course? If the (now frozen) food doesn’t get used, that is it gets wasted? Then the price per meal goes back up to the $2.93 per portion, as above! Wasting food has real costs!

Long-Term Storage Foods, Food Frugality, & Food Security

For a long while now, I’ve planned to make menus using more long-term storage foods. For one thing, long-term storage foods are usually available in bulk, or I can buy them in bulk, and the prices  aren’t as seasonally variable. I’m not talking about the canned goods available for preppers and Mormons. I’m talking about regular food available at the supermarket, although I may buy a caselot or large quantity! (Eventually, I might just buy those prepper or Mormon foods, although I never have.)

I’ve researched how long foods last and in what conditions. My plan has always been to take foods which are the most shelf-stable and incorporate those into our diet.

Very long-term storage foods, 2 years or more,  which don’t require any extra equipment to store include mostly unopened packages of: sugar,white rice, canned ham, canned coffee, chocolate syrup, instant tea,vanilla, vinegar, unpopped popcorn, condiment sauces: hot sauce, worcestershire, salsa, and hard liquor, according to one list.

Aside from the canned ham and possibly the popcorn, if you could grind it into cornmeal, there’s not much there that will sustain life.

Another list adds ground herbs & spices, whole spices, bottled water, bullion, canned meat & vegetables, and wheat berries to the long-term storage list.

Foods which can be stored for up to a year are more plentiful. Add corn meal, grits, whole grain pasta, nonfat dry milk, vegetable oil, dry soup mixes, canned fruits,  canned juices & tomatoes, dried peas and beans, unshelled nuts, canned coffee, and tea.

Various sources disagree about how long foods can be stored, so do your own research. The disagreements are why I haven’t included links.

However, with the wheat, rice, beans, and herbs, ah now I can make more than just canned ham. Off the top of my head you can make rice & beans, bean burgers,  wheatberry salad, etc.

Part of this is retirement planning too. I figure we won’t be able to afford premium foods, unless we buy and use them only as condiments. Using meats that way is something we’ve already changed. When the price of ground beef got over $4 a pound, I stopped buying meat at full price. We’ve been eating only what I can find on sale, about 1/2 off in most cases since. Sometimes that’s sausage, sometimes it’s steak, sometimes, we just eat salad. We’re not feeling deprived and we have sufficient calories and nutrients, I think, so I’m not worried about not having meat every day. If you were raised in the era I was, meat was something you were taught you had to have every night for dinner.

Also, we’ve been baking bread, eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal, and we keep talking about learning to make our own crackers and such, as the price per pound for snackfood makes it almost obscene to buy anything, and we like munching just like everyone!


This post was started some time ago, as was the post “Life with Sugar” which I also published today. However, I haven’t changed my ideas. What has changed is that these days I would include more home-frozen foods.

Also, a neighbor has a successful root cellar. On my list today is to call her to see if I can go over and talk to her about how she stores veggies through winter. I can store beans, peas, flour, etc. but the veggies are more difficult!

What I’ve Learned

Well, it’s different, you see. Not panicking in a clean space means that I can just clean it and leave it that way.

That is new and different, so although these points may be obvious to you, they weren’t to me!

The reasons behind my decluttering now are:

  1. With less stuff, it’s easier to use the space.
  2. With less floating clutter, it’s easier to clean the space.
  3. Also with less floating clutter, it’s easier to maintain the cleanliness.

This has nothing to do with sparking joy or minimalism, but is a pragmatic reality. Intellectually, of course I already knew this.

What’s different is the impatience I have with the assorted piles and boxes of stuff. Instead of being something to doggedly plow through which is uncomfortable at best and traumatic at its worst!


Progress Report

Although I haven’t been reporting here OR keeping track explicitly of my progress, I will say that yes, I’m getting quite a lot done!

The living room got cleared out for DH to live in a bed there, while that was necessary. That bed has been gone since Christmas Day. When he started sleeping in our bed again, the living room was put together a lot closer to what I really wanted it to be. Sometime in here, the table we’d loaned out was returned and we took the round table we’d been using to the swap shop along with the base of the glass-topped table DH had used to take the cover photo for the memoir.

Three days after Christmas, we took more furniture out of here: a chair/ottoman, a small bookcase, the wrought iron table with the marble top, and 2 metal end tables. We rearranged what was left.

A few weekends back, we rented a van and removed the baker’s table from the living room and moved in a low dresser we bought.

Last week, the hall and kitchen were cleaned and culled.

Today, the dining room got cleaned and culled. I had no idea how much I’d stashed around the edges of the dining room until I took it all out this morning. It was a lot!

The only piece of furniture in the dining room which wasn’t moved was the table. When I remove the pieces from the living room and hall and kitchen again, they’ll be sorted: going away now, going away at a flea market, keeps (maybe), keeps (for sure), I’ll have more room. But so far, since these are all boxes I’ve been through recently, there’s not much that’s immediately being culled. That means the stuff needs to be boxed up, labeled, and then, oh yes, I need to find a place to stash the new box.

It will be neater and tidier, but there will still be WAY too much stuff.

Nightmares? No, thankfully; I’m not having nightmares! The only bad night I’ve had recently was Saturday. I returned the edited ms. of the memoir and talked to my publisher. Anything to do with the memoir is usually followed with a bad night, lots of anxiety, etc.

I sat bolt upright around 2 a.m., with a piercing scream in my head which I managed to NOT do, but I woke DH up anyway, because I made a sort of a loud gulp and I’d probably pulled the covers off of him.


Photo by Jian Xhin on Unsplash

I keep doing what’s needed for the book, but I will be very glad when all the steps are something I’ve done.