Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Alid's, arugula, beans, Cleaning Vinegar, frugal, Longkeeper Tomatoes
It’s been a rough week in my household..family members with health issues, middle of winter blahs, and nothing much to look forward to except spring. Even so, I feel blessed each and every day that I’m healthy and that I have ‘enough’. Enough money, food, clothes, love, stuff. I could use a few more homemade chocolate chip cookies in my life, but I’ll live.
Regardless of what goes on in our daily lives, learning to live well with less is a saving grace that will see you through good times and bad. Ask me how I know.
And so, this week was no different in terms of “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without.” The old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” is sooo 80’s! Malls are standing empty all over America, and I’m hoping that they’ll all eventually be converted into indoor garden spaces with all those glass ceilings and atriums being put to good use at long last. But that’s another topic for another day. Today’s topic is frugality, not malls.
Monday: I finally made it to our town’s new Aldi’s grocery store AND used the $5 off $30 coupon they offered. I forgot to take a picture of the coupon before I used it, so I went looking online for one. I didn’t find the actual coupon, but I like the pic I found instead:
“Truth #1: When deciding between eating well and saving money, always choose both”
Tuesday: I stopped by the ‘discount’ grocery store that’s about 8 miles away because I was in that area for other errands. I was hoping to find some more of the veggie burgers there that I’d gotten before. No luck with that, but I did find 3 boxes of Gulf Wax for $2.99 each! I use this mostly for making Buckeye candies for gift-giving at Christmas; just last month I’d run out and had to pay full price for a box, costing me $7.99. Ugh. I bought all 3 boxes they had on the shelf, saving $5 per box over the regular price. The last time I was able to stock up was years ago, when I’d found it for 25 cents a box at a yard sale, and had bought all 6 boxes the lady had, so this deal wasn’t ‘all that’, but the pain of paying full price for that one box made me certain this buy was about as good as I could hope for now. This is what I’m talking about when I advise you to “plan ahead” and to be on the lookout for your future needs. And in the case of this wax, it never goes out of date. I used to use it seal jars of jelly, until I started using reusable Tattler canning lids. Even then, I’d wash it once I opened the jars, and remelt it again for the next jars I filled. My Tattler supply is limited though, so I may go back to pouring that 1/8″ disk of melted wax again, now that I have ample supplies. Total Savings: $15.00.
Wednesday: After a brief hiatus of using antibiotic soaps and cleaners while Michael was going through chemo and radiation treatments, I’m back to using the natural cleaners I’ve used for over ten years. And this time, I found exactly what I was looking for… AND it was 74 cents cheaper per bottle than Heinz White Distilled Vinegar, while being 6% acidic vs 5% for the ‘regular’ white! The higher acidity cleans better too, in my opinion.
Thursday: We made a trip to the ‘Mennonite Bulk Food Store’. We only make it there about once a year, and we ended up spending $60.00. However, about half of that was spent on a 50 lb bag of rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning and never, ever tire of it for some reason. Not only do we not tire of it, we ENJOY it with cinnamon, raisins, apples, or honey added. We figure the bags last 6 months so the oatmeal costs us 15 to 20 cents a bowl, depending on what we add to it. Buying the extras at this bulk food store saves a lot if we shop carefully. We noticed that prices on many items today were higher than when we were last there. But the price of the oats remained exactly the same: $29.00!
Friday: I’m doing a lot of cooking from scratch this week, trying to use lots of fresh stuff like kale, cabbage and broccoli from the garden, mushrooms and avocados bought at Aldi’s for 49 cents, and storage crops like apples, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash. We’ve enjoyed a Monday stir fry, a spicy Tuesday Jambalaya, a Wednesday au gratin of potatoes/kale/mushrooms, and a Thursday Curry. Bowls of rice pudding made with added raisins and ‘storage’ apples, and sweet sweet tangelos that were a Christmas gift make good snacks for us.
Tonight, friends are coming over to play music with us, so we’ll have burritos made with refried pintos and rice, topped with grated cabbage and chunks of FRESH Longkeeper tomatoes (will they last until Valentine’s Day?) summer-canned salsa, and some black olives, grated cheese and sour cream that were left-over from a previous get-together we had. The flour tortillas were bought for $1.00 at the discount store, making them 10 cents each. (Heating them briefly in the microwave, with damp paper towels placed between each one, makes them taste completely fresh after I’ve frozen them.)
We’ve just finished the third full week of January, and haven’t spent but about $100 on food this month, including the bulk items we purchased yesterday. But with just a little advance planning, we’re eating delicious, frugal and healthy meals every day in this ‘Winter of Wellness’. Savings? well, you know… priceless!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: arugula, barter, fermenting, food waste, gleaning, kvass, Paralytic Ileus, raw milk, rice cooker, Yard Art
I can’t believe it’s already Friday again! I’ve worked hard this week to get some of my fall ‘householding’ chores completed, while taking some time out to just chill after a couple of stressful weeks. I’ve nursed a cold this week too, so I took extra time for rest, relaxation and reflection as well. Living frugally and healthfully allows me to live fully, while using fewer resources and less money. Sweet.
Monday: I’m on a fermentation kick. After 2 weeks in the hospital, many tests, scans, and invasive procedures, Michael’s doctors came to the conclusion that his chemo and surgeries had left him with “Paralytic Ileus”, or simply put, a sleepy colon. In order to ‘wake it up’ he needs to eat probiotics. Read: pricey. His surgeon specifically told me to buy yogurt made with RAW milk, since pasteurization kills a lot of the ‘good bacteria’. Well, raw milk sales are illegal in TN but luckily, I have friends that have bartered jugs of their fresh, raw, goat’s and cow’s milk with me for some of my apple cider and homemade jams. My yogurt maker is working overtime, with delicious results. After doing some research on my own, I learned that yogurt only contains two types of gut-friendly bacteria, while there are several other types of the ‘good guys’ in some of the lesser-known fermented foods. Enter: sauerkraut, pickles, kumbocha tea, kefir, chow-chow and Kvass. What the hell is Kvass? A simple to make fermented drink made from beets…
Since I have a rather large supply of beets this time of year, it was an obvious choice. Peel and chop 2 large or 3 medium organic beets into a half gallon container. Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1/4 cup of whey (from that raw milk), and fill with filtered water. Stir to mix, then cover lightly and keep at room temp for 3 days, then refrigerate. When most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another two days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant instead of the whey. If you’re a Diet Coke freak you MAY not care for Kvass 😉 If you love beets like I do, this may be your new favorite beverage. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and the fermentation process kicks them into high gear. I drink 4 ozs, twice a day and am feeling renewed, especially after tending a head cold this week. My friend tells me she sautees the leftover beets in butter and they are yummy. I’ll try it when this jar of kvass is gone. If all else fails, the chickens will like the bottom of the jar beets I’m sure.
Tuesday: Speaking of beets…when I planted my fall beet bed, I transplanted the thinnings to a different bed, since I can’t bear to waste anything. They looked awful!
Savings? I saw organic beets for $3.99 a lb this week at the store. If all four of those little thinnings grow to the size of this half pound one, I figure I’ve saved $8.00 on something most folks throw away!
Wednesday: I have some ‘yard art’ that I bought at a junk store before yard art was even cool. About 5 years ago the top sphere broke off, so I took it to a local shop to have it welded back on. That cost me $16 then. But recently, the guy with the backhoe that dug up my bushes for free, accidentally knocked it over and broke it again…
Savings: $10-$15? I don’t know their value since they’re misshapen and different sizes, BUT there’s enough ‘taters here to make many meals in the months to come. Ain’t it a shame the food that’s wasted in this country? Not on my watch!
Friday: Recently, my beloved rice cooker quit working. Just quit, no power! I remember when I first bought it 6 years ago (on sale of course) that I liked it so much I took it on vacation and used it in the kitchen of the condo we stayed in to cook rice with steamed veggies in the top, oatmeal and soup. (Of course the others that were vacationing with us thought me strange…who cares?) For me, it’s a must-have appliance. The day after it quit working I went to a yard sale and there.it.was…
Good food, good health, good friends. That’s all there is folks, and that’s enough. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Community Gardens, fall gardening | Tags: arugula, Farmer's Market, growing food, Hoop House, plants, root crops
Yes, I KNOW you’re inundated with tomatoes and peppers right now, but it’s time to plant your fall garden if you want to keep enjoying all those fresh veggies for several more months. Experience has proven to me that it’s all about the soil, so if your summer garden didn’t do well this year (after all, we were lucky enough here in NE TN to enjoy lots of sunshine, moderate temps except for a one week heat wave, and ample rainfall) your fall garden won’t fare any better, and likely do worse, unless you improve your soil. Adding compost is the best way I’ve found to do that quickly. After spending ten years improving the soil faithfully at our prior home, we were growing tomatoes almost 8′ tall and pepper plants as big as a landscape bush. The soil was loose and rich-it was becoming a great experiment in gardening in hard times because it seemed as though everything was beginning to become a perennial because seeds would sprout as soon as they hit the ground! But that was then, and at our new home we’re starting over from square one. We’ve learned a lot about growing veggies and fruits over the years, and the soil is THE key to success. Every gardening book I’ve ever read tells me that insects will attack a weak plant first, and it’s true. Nutrient rich soil filled with lots of organic matter doesn’t grow weak plants.
I’ve also discovered that fall gardening has become my favorite time to garden: the weather’s cooler, and insect pressure is much reduced. And the best thing is that with just a little protection, your cool season crops can often keep well right in the row until you’re ready to harvest them for supper. An important factor in fall gardening is to get your plants up and fully grown before the hardest frosts arrive because they’ll quit growing once the cold settles in for good. By planting ‘early’ and ‘cold tolerant’ varieties (no vining crops this time of year) of your favorite things, that’s possible-if you get them planted now. My new favorite interactive planting map is at plantmaps.com. Just plug in your zip code and it will give you all kinds of valuable planting info specific to it. My zip in Johnson City is now considered 6B and my first average frost date isn’t until Oct 21-31st! That’s 8-10 weeks away so I can grow a lot of food in that period of time, and we’ll eat fresh all winter, long after the Farmer’s Markets have closed down for the season. Root crops can be covered with shredded leaves or straw and above-ground plants will have a low-cost, temporary hoop house erected over them to keep them protected. The hoop house acts kind of like a solar refrigerator and is all that’s needed unless our winter is truly extremely cold for extended periods. And if you cut your plants without damaging the crown or inner part of the plant, in late winter they’ll begin to grow again, rewarding you with the earliest, sweetest greens you’ve ever eaten.
So, what should you plant? Plant what you like to eat, of course. Here’s my personal favorites:
Lots of different varieties of greens: my favorite is Kale, followed by Spinach, Swiss Chard, Collards and Turnip Greens
Root Crops: Carrots, Beets, Bunching Onions and Turnips (as well as Parsnips if you started them 8 weeks ago)
Lettuces: Many kinds of lettuces will produce clear through the winter, but not all will. Look for winter varieties like Tango, Winterbor, Outredgeous or Cold hardy Romaines. Miner’s lettuce, Arugula and Mezuna are considered ‘bitters’ that will also do well in cooler weather (even though I disagree with the name)
Garlic: Plant in October, harvest in late June
Brassicas: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts
PEAS-dwarf, fast maturing varieties only. Can harvest uncovered until first of December most years
I’ll be conducting a free hands-on workshop at Carver Peace Gardens on how to erect a low-cost hoop house in late September or early October. I don’t have a date for it yet, but will let you know in case you’d like to come.
Filed under: Frugality, Uncategorized | Tags: arugula, stupice tomatoes, the good life
My life is sweet. I have enough. Enough space, enough food, enough money, enough of all that I need, and lots that I don’t. A couple of weeks ago I shared with you that I’d recently reread “Living the Good Life”. Since I posted that, I have come to realize that I’m living the good life too. In the last two weeks alone, I’ve had a great trip to Nashville to visit daughter #2, played some fun gigs with our old-time string band, hiked in these beautiful Appalachians with my sweet hubs, had a nice time at the community garden on Earth Day, had friends over for soup and singing, spent quality time with my bees and chickens, won an online book giveaway and found a valid $50 gift card to Bed, Bath and Beyond inside a brand new, still in the box, long-wished-for Oxo salad spinner I’d purchased at a second-hand thrift store! Then today, I spotted this little beauty hiding under a leaf in the greenhouse:
This is a sure sign of all the abundance I enjoy in my life, with more to come soon! And even though EverybodyElse has set their tomatoes and peppers out already, we still don’t plan to for about another week, just in case we get any more chilly nights. The three Stupice plants you see here trellised on jute strings in the greenhouse, will provide us with plenty until the big heirlooms and romas begin ripening later in June.
The lettuce and arugula we’ve planted under the tomatoes are shaded by them, keeping it cool enough to give us salads and BLT’s in May, long after our outdoor lettuce has bolted. A big part of my good life depends on being frugal, and NOTHING makes my day like a good buy. Another bonus this week was finding Morning Star Farms Bacon Strips for 99 cents a box this week at the discount grocery. My freezer now has enough fakin’ bacon to see us through the whole BLT season. Life is good indeed.