Category Archives: saving money

Simplify

It just occurred to me that I need to do this with well everything, including the food I make!

Given the “menu plan” I came up with:

  • M Double Veg.
  • Tu Soup/Stew using bits & pieces LO
  • W Second Veg.
  • Th Egg
  • F Double Meat
  • Sa Sandwich
  • Su Second Meat

I’ve been looking at recipes.

Also given that we’re trying to save $, the farm is starting the beginning of June AND I’ve decided I need to set aside some HM instant meals, I’ve been looking at what I might make:

Casseroles and Loaves meat and veg both.

Seasoned Ground Beef Make up a batch of the meat I use for meat loaves and make a batch of meat balls at the same time. Can be used with pasta, or in Albondigas Soup, or smashed with mayo as a sandwich filling, or in a pita with veggies.

The soup/stew base I found last week which I intend to use this year. Making it before I freeze a bunch of it is a really good idea as we’ve never had it!

Salad mixes – like 3 bean salad, except I hate 3 bean salad. But these kinds of salads can be mixed ahead. I’ll have to think/research this idea.

Quiche Base or Mix? Given that I’m supposed to make 1 dinner a week with eggs, maybe this is an idea? Never looked at quiche recipes with that idea.

Those will make the double meals easier. What else can I do?

White Sauce Balls I did this years ago and it was a success. You mix flour, butter, a little milk, salt and if you’re a purist white pepper. (I only use white pepper when I already have it. I don’t care if my white sauce has black speckles or not! YMMV!) You measure this paste out into 1T balls and freeze. Need to make gravy? Grab one or three.

hermes-rivera-645990-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Other ideas:

  • “Tray bakes” or “one pan” meals for the double  meals.
  • Self-frosting cakes (also one pan cakes).
  • Preplanning enough to use all the bits. When I make stuffed tomatoes mid summer as an entree, I use the innards the next day. That’s something I’ve always done. I wonder what else I can set up that way?

Research! Think! Plan! Do!

 

Advertisements

Stair Rails, Minisplits, & Life Work

I told DH yesterday to add to the list I want to replace the stair rail at some point. It’s shiny brass. The house is going towards flat black or brushed zinc hardware. Flat black on incidental stuff and brushed zinc on things like faucets. (Not shiny brass!)

So I did a bit o’ research and so did he, it will cost $100+ these days to replace the railing.  We explored some DIY ideas, and they’d all cost about the same, so why bother?

It’s a detail and not on the urgent list. If we find a  used flat black or brushed chrome set of hardware, we now know where to buy the railing, prefinished or raw lumber. Info. is almost always nice to have.

I had found a fireplace set I didn’t hate for < $100 and sent him a link. He pointed out it has 2 tools more than we actually need and why buy them? The place where I found this I think has some tools a la carte. I’ll have to go look. The tongs from the current set wound up in the flea market pile because of this discussion too.

The minisplits got more discussion, as did the house design ideas we’ve explored. We talked about taking the home plan we now have to a big box store and talking about floor plans, changing the kitchen around, etc. with one of the free kitchen designers. Don’t know if they’ll actually talk to us without a monetary commitment, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

DH came up with a piece of hobby equipment for the flea market, prompted me to go find 4 bowls and a length of fabric to add to a new flea market box.

I found in the shed a few things I thought were long gone, but no, they were not sold long ago and far away… they’ll either be put in the booth or the new flea market box, after they’re cleaned. I have a silk pantsuit which needs to be ironed before it gets added too. The china and silk will fill up the end of the box — and another cubic foot o’ stuff goes outta here!

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But we’ve both been sick, for most of 6 weeks with 2 different colds. And the second one is a bitch and a half to kick, let me tell you!

3 rules of work

DH dismantled one of the 2 snowblowers last week. The motor is being kept for a project he has in mind. The rest of the bits and pieces went to the dump. The last of it today. Also, we’ve started hauling the accumulated leaves and bark piles to the dump too.

He resigned from the board he was on and I asked him what we could do to forward his avocation using his now free time? What he did shocked me!

He bought organization materials for the accumulated work, so we can label and catalog it. His heirs will be pleased and I’m relieved. I had this nightmare vision about going through the work and only having my best memory and no knowledge of the technical side of what he did, when and where. Hopefully, at some point, there will be (even self-published) a complete catalog.

We’re adulting here. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. All I have to do now is find some weird convoluted way to turn it into some $. That’s all?

More Frugality

Because the thing I want to save the $ for is a heating/energy unit, I went looking at our electric company’s website. So they kept referencing apparently an old, Obama-era site, which of course is no longer active, but there’s no other referral.

I am, can you tell, really impressed with our local electric company. Wonder why? See here for more info.

In their defense, I will say that the 3rd time they sent us the “You’re using more energy than your more energy efficient neighbors” letter, they did at least make some reference to what they were comparing us to, a typical home in our zip code. Of course, they never actually said what that was, so it was still meaningless, but less so than previously.

DH is set on getting at least one minisplit  this year and maybe another next year. Okay. The chimney cap we’re replacing this year is the last piece of the chimney/wood stove replacement project. The only piece other than that on the chimney which hasn’t been replaced is the veneer over the pipe, a box around it. I’d love to replace the box, but it’s mostly cosmetic, not structural.

If I win the lottery, we’re going to get the minisplits, solar panels AND a new fake riverrock box around the chimney pipe with a mantel to match. Just sayin’!

Barring that? We’re getting a new chimney cap and at least one minisplit.

My husband said to me, empathically emphatically this morning, that he didn’t want to haul wood or load it into the stove another year.

Okay!

I just have to find a way to make this happen! Squeeze those dollars!


Plant and landscaping frugality: A 1 gallon potted perennial is $35 at Lowes, about $32 with a discount. If you buy them at garden club sales, they’re around $10-$20. Cheaper yet? Layer a 2nd one from one you’ve got, or plant the seeds, or divide it? — Free!

Mulch frugality: Garden centers at big box stores typically sell opened bags of mulch, etc. for 1/2 price. Cheaper yet? Use the pine needles, pine bark, leaves, what have you that you have in your yard already as mulch. Free!

The Celery Thing: I’ve run into this a couple of times, people talking about planting celery plants in their yard. I did this last fall, and the plants are gone this spring, again.

sole-d-alessandro-516633-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Sole D’Alessandro on Unsplash

I went looking for more information. The best I found is a woman who’s been using the same 7 celery plants for years. She lifts them in the fall and makes them houseplants during the winter (and uses them). You can find her write up about this here. (The site is full of interesting ideas too: choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com .)


Gawd I love spring.

And I hate it; I’m always overwhelmed with things to do, ideas to explore, etc. Too much!


Despite still being sick, I managed to spread one of the remaining bags of mulch this morning on the bulb bed. I also transplanted two daffs AND moved some rock, sand, etc. I was wiped out after about an hour, which is typical these days.


On Saturday: the plant sales were a success and not as cheap as I’d hoped. The library/town sale where I’d bought a 1 gallon pot for $10 last year, they were $15. (I got 2.)

The other plant sale where I stopped I got 2 6″ perennials for $5 each.

Sunday? Our next door neighbor took out 90% of a forsythia bush (what the 1 gallon pots held)  and gave me a branch which should get us the last two plants I think I need, for free. I wish I’d known the neighbor was going to whack up his 15 year old plant 1 day earlier, could have saved us $30!

Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

lobostudio-hamburg-33674-unsplash

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

More Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Home Improvement

There are things I definitely agree with in Aslett’s book, Make Your House Do the Housework. And things I don’t.

One of the main things I do agree with him is that the easiest way to make something easy to clean/not require cleaning at all, is to change the overall system/design of something to that end. He has some favorites:

  • Vinyl (which we won’t use because I’m allergic or sensitive to many kinds of plastics and petroleum products). I don’t disagree with him about the stuff being easy to clean but I don’t want easy to clean and makes me sick at the same time!
  • Medium tones in colors, as very light or very dark show stains and spots more easily.
  • Built-ins. Built-ins take away areas to clean (or should) as they frequently go from floor to ceiling. Last week I found someone making a “built-in” from Ikea bookcases and they left a 4-6″ gap at the top, so you have a weird looking top and an impossible to clean horizontal surface? I don’t know what’s up with that? Built-ins are just that, built in. And if they go up over my head, they’re going to go to the ceiling, not almost!
  • Suspended Furniture. Wall mounted tables, chairs mounted to the front of a counter, etc. All make the single biggest horizontal surface in a home, the floor, easier to clean.
  • Water filtration removing things like iron which cause staining.
  • Reduction of surfaces, like using mirrored glass doors instead of louvers.

Okay, I mostly agree with him. I’d love a whole-house vac, but there’s no way thats possible in our solid-wall log home, forget it. That means at least 2 pieces of clutter/tools, vacuums. Of course, being us, we have 3. [We had 5 — I’m doing better, don’t get on me about this!]

DH has one for the workshop. I have a small portable I can and do carry around. Finally, I have an upright for the large rugs. We use all of them, every week. The workshop one DH has can be connected to tools to clean as he goes. MUCH better than before, I’ll put up with the extra piece to store! Not to mention that it’s much stronger than the other 2 vacs, so if I have something really filthy I borrow it . . . . And he made it a place to be put away, so it isn’t part of the floating clutter. That’s 2 of the 3. The upright doesn’t really have a put away place, and it needs one. It IS a part of the floating clutter. . .

I need a list! (I’ll add to this as I come up with other items.)

FLOATING CLUTTER (Cull, find a place to put it away, and/or use them)

  • Upright vac
  • All 3 rakes
  • Empty kindling bins

Proud of myself! Just figured out a spring/summer use for these: taking leaves to the dump! I have been reluctant to bag up leaves, because I couldn’t figure a way to do it without getting my face right in it.

My neat-nick neighbors put their leaves down a slope on the edge of their yard or put them in a trash barrel and haul them to the dump. They have trucks. We don’t. Putting leaves in barrels isn’t a solution here!

seth-doyle-43138-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

I’ve had a cold for a month now. The idea of using the kindling bins for hauling the leaves to the dump means that 1) they now have an out of season use which is much better than storing them empty 2) I won’t need to use bags to haul leaves to the dump, which means we won’t need to buy them and 3) I can get leaves prepped to go to the dump without getting my face near them.

WIN!!!

Fruit & Herb Lists

I made up those as well, this morning rather than yesterday. One of my issues with doing things like this is that I tend to make melanges, stews, goulashes, etc. of whatever is to hand, rather than to a recipe. That means that I don’t save many pieces of specific recipes, I want things I can then mangle or change to suit us.

There are “zipper” songs where you include wording to suit whatever you’d like. These are sort of zipper recipes: I can go in many directions with them.

berries

smoothie/Rodale p 267

melons

berry-melon ice/Rodale 271

peaches

cobbler/Rodale 284

Here’s the herb/spice list

anise seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

basil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

bay leaves

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chervil, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

chives, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

cumin seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

dill

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

dill

Dill Cabbage Soup/Rodale 74

fennel seeds

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

garlic

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

marjoram

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

parsley, fresh

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

oregano

Herb Boullion Cubes/Rodale p79

paprika

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

rosemary

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

sage

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

scallions

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

thyme

Dill-Scallion Butter/Rodale p104

And I’ll add my normal recipes, like: HM garlic salt, onion salt, salt substitute and chive butter. Some of which I have recipes for, some I don’t.