Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Back to Basics, Frugality | Tags: baking bread, black beans and rice, Farmer's Market, food waste, frugal, growing food, leftovers, oregano, Organic Food, pico de gallo, solar dryer
I consider having the time to hang my laundry on the line or bake my own bread as a luxury, not a drudgery.
I was hanging my laundry this morning and two of the three female attorneys that have their office next door came out on to their back porch as I was doing so, laughing and chatting. After a minute or so, I noticed it had gotten mighty quiet over there, so I glanced over towards them and almost with embarrassment they said they were “wistfully” watching me hang the sheets. These are both women much younger than me, but they said they “don’t have time to hang laundry” and wish they could because they love the smell of air dried clothes so much. They remembered their grandmothers doing it. (I guess that makes me old enough to be their grandmother). Anyway, I offered to let them hang up my wet laundry anytime they wanted, but I had no takers. However, when I offered them some just-dug oregano one of them jumped on the offer as though I’d offered her home made chocolate chip cookies! I was pleased to share a bit of my philosophy of simple living with these two hard working career women and hope we can have more conversations this summer over that clothesline.
It’s been a meaningful and productive week for me. And even though productive is really just a euphemism for ‘working my ass off’, it’s been pleasant. We enjoyed out of town company over the holiday weekend, but when they left Monday morning, they not only left us with some fond memories, they also left some fresh avocados, cherry tomatoes and a container of leftovers from a schwanky Asheville restaurant in the frig. So naturally, it was my civic duty to not let it go to waste.
Monday: We enjoyed those leftovers for lunch, and then for supper used one of the avocados and tomatoes to make guacamole, which we enjoyed with fresh corn tortillas and a Mexican Quinoa/Spinach salad, made with stuff I already had on hand and in the garden. We also took our car for a free deluxe car wash and vacuum job-they give them to all veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day! Su-weet deal, saving us $10 IF we’d had to pay for it. But of course, we normally wash and vacuum our own car so we didn’t really ‘save’ $10 but it really was a nice little gift to get it done for free on that hot day.
Tuesday: With the warming weather I could tell my spring-planted lettuce was going to bolt, so I harvested bags and bags of it, donated most of it to One Acre Cafe, and and then enjoyed a huge veggie salad Monday night, adding leftover red onion, beans, hard boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, carrots, green pepper strips and the rest of the avocado to it, again, using stuff I already had on hand or in the garden.
Wednesday: We enjoyed the monthly Wednesday Night Supper of veggie quiche, fresh salad, with strawberries and ice cream for dessert at our church for just five dollars each. This monthly dinner always has great food, is well worth the price and we really enjoy the chance to share some extra time with our church family, and of course, take a break from cooking!
Thursday: Earlier in the week a friend that Michael had played with at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning dropped by with a bag of 2 huge tomatoes, 2 lbs of new potatoes, a large sweet onion, 4 crisp apples and more as his share for playing that day. Our small market only pays a tiny cash stipend for playing, but all the vendors are then asked to contribute something for the musicians. We didn’t expect all that, but once again, enjoyed the windfall! I made curried potato salad which we enjoyed with veggie burgers topped with fresh lettuce and thick slices of sweet onion and tomato. Another day I used the other tomato to make fresh pico de gallo to scoop on top of cumin black beans and rice. Ad nauseum, all made with ingredients I already had on hand.
Friday: If you think all I’ve done this week is cook and eat, I’d say, “not quite”. I go through spurts when the garden is pumping out fresh food almost by the hour and I really do enjoy trying new recipes and making old favorites that take advantage of that bounty. So yeah, there’s been a lot of that this week. Once you get over food needing to be fast, easy and cheap, it makes a big difference in what you can produce. But one night we played a gig that was quite fun (and earned decent money as well as a great free meal), we’ve gotten both our gardens almost fully planted, we’ve taken some great walks and enjoyed the new public art that was installed at the nearby park, had time to savor a good book, watched a Netflix movie or two, and met a friend for coffee. Can you say “contented”?
I hope these occasional Frugal Friday posts inspire you to make space in your life so that you too can have time and money to enjoy the things in life that make you happy. As we transition to a lower energy lifestyle ( and YES I definitely believe we’ve passed “Peak Oil”) , we’ll all need to adapt to a smaller energy footprint. Whether that’s growing some of your own food, solar drying your laundry, riding your bike to the library, cooking from scratch or learning to use tools ‘like a man’, those activities will become necessary skills, rather than ‘romantic notions’. I hope these posts give you even a small inkling of how sweet that “lower energy” life can be!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: frugal, growing food, leftovers, organic gardening
The old adage that says “When It Rains It Pours” has proven to be true at my house lately. From the 15,000 mile check up and oil change on our car that cost us $400 (but is necessary to qualify for the 200,000 mile warranty that is ours if we do the required checkups), to replacing my eyeglasses that literally broke in two with no warning whatsoever last week, we’ve had our share of large expenses lately. We used internet coupons for both the car ($75) and the glasses ($30) which I printed on the backs of ‘old’ pages. Michael’s laptop had been having trouble for weeks, and finally became too unstable to use. It was tempting to purchase a new one, they’ve come down so much in price since he purchased the current one. Instead we walked it to a nearby repair shop that had been recommended by a friend, and for $100 the shop owner backed everything up, erased it completely, then reloaded all the software and files. He also CLEANED it, so now it performs and looks like it did when it was new.
I had to have a crown put on a molar, but insurance paid for half of that, leaving me with ONLY $350 to pay. My monthly dental insurance premiums through the hated-by-most but loved-by-me Obama Care is only $21.00, and covers 2 cleanings a year, plus xrays and 50% off most major dental work.
Luckily, we are able to cover all these larger than normal expenses without pulling out the credit cards by being frugal with all the smaller expenses in our daily lives. I am forever grateful for hard financial lessons learned earlier in life that allows us to have breathing room now that we’re retired. No amount is too small to consider saving. Like the quarter I found on the sidewalk while walking the dog on…
Monday: Would you pass up a quarter?
Tuesday: I received the refund check for expenses I had during my trip to Selma last month. Read about it here. Savings: $128.96!
Wednesday: I enjoyed going to the Environmental Film Festival held at the local university. Admission was free and the films were excellent! Free cookies and tea during the intermission, along with visiting a nice variety of environmentally-friendly exhibitor booths made this a really pleasant evening. Did I mention it was all free? I’m planning to ride my bike to events that I attend there this summer-it’s only a little over a mile away!. Parking is always a hassle, so that will solve the problem AND prolong that 25,000 mile ‘required’ checkup on the car.
Thursday: I harvested the last of the winter collards, spinach and kale, making space for the new plants that are replacing them in my home garden. I seasoned them with home grown garlics and mild ‘bunching onions’ that are still bunching and bunching. Fresh from the garden, organic produce is priceless. Literally. Did I tell you that a half pound of organic, locally grown kale was selling recently for $3.99? Yeah, a half pound; making the one pound bag you see in the front bag (below) comparatively worth $8.00. Just for the kale.
Friday: I did something today that my mom used to do… I put some stale crackers on a baking sheet and recrisped them by ‘baking’ them in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes. It works! (and I thought they were better than when new). We ate them with the scant two cups of leftover chipoltle black bean soup, and rounded out the impromptu meal with the last 2 slices of cantaloupe and the remaining apple juice mixed with the last dregs of cranberry juice, which also made a better-than-when-new drink. Lunch-of-leftovers was fabulous! No food waste=priceless!
Sometimes being frugal means more than ‘saving’ money and in my case, it often means not spending any to begin with. This week I downloaded a free sewing machine manual for my daughter’s ‘found’ machine, did some minor sewing repairs with my own machine, hung clothes on the line to dry instead of using the dryer, cooked all our meals using what we had on hand, DIDN’T go to Target just because I had a 30% off coupon, transplanted a bunch of veggie starts into my garden that we started from $2 or $3 worth of seed; when mature they should easily yield about $50-$75 worth of good organic food for us. It IS the little things that can add up to help us cover the big things when we need to. As mama used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!” Yes Mom, we know…
Filed under: Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: beans, food, frugal, leftovers
I really enjoyed the rainy weather here in NE Tennessee last weekend! It got me OUT of the garden and IN-to the kitchen. I finished canning the last of the green beans and cooked a pot for supper, along with those little, teeny, tiny Yukon gold potatoes that you just have to wash- the skins are so thin that no peeling or cutting is even necessary. Most people don’t bother to harvest those babies→ but I gather them all up when we dig our crop, right along with the big ones. I throw ’em right in the pot with the beans, chopped onions and a dash of bacon grease. The beans and baby taters, along with our very first ears of Kandy Korn from the corn plot down at the community garden, fat slices of heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes and grilled garlic bread along with a sliver or two of the leftover rotisserie chicken I splurged on earlier this week make a frugal, dee-li-shus supper with very little prep time.
I also used eggs from my friend’s backyard flock to make deviled eggs as well as bowls of potato salad and cole slaw that made good use of our home-grown cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red onions and herbs. We enjoyed the salads with our salmon/cucumber sandwiches for lunch today and have enough left for several more meals. Good golly Miss Molly, we’re eatin’ good these days!
So, what’s for supper at YOUR house? Do you find yourself eating more local and seasonal foods these days? Got any recipes you want to share? Comment below ↓
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, LED bulbs, leftovers, the good life, yogurt making
It’s been a lucrative week in my household, showing once again that frugality, in some cases, can be a decent substitute for a paycheck. The idea that making sure that we aren’t spending more than we bring in isn’t ‘a job’, but I do liken it to ‘a calling’. The first, and best, way to answer that calling is to track expenses. For 14 years, we have tried faithfully to track every single penny that comes into, and goes out of, our household. Doing this shows us exactly when we’re spending too much in one category or another and then allows us to make adjustments when needed. Food, gasoline, energy and entertainment are all examples of expense categories that allow for some flexibility and seeing what we’ve spent over the previous thirty days (or thirty months!) helps us make those adjustments with ease, both mentally and financially. The idea of tracking expenses came to us via “Your Money or Your Life”, a book we both happened to read at the beginning of our relationship. Both the tracking, and the relationship, have stood the test of time.
Monday: We needed a brighter bulb for a table lamp, and decided to pay a bit extra to get the better lighting quality of an LED bulb (instead of the ‘old’ compact fluorescent type we were replacing), so we bought one at Lowe’s while we were picking up some other home repair items we needed. Not a good shot, but here it is:
There were a few things on our shopping list that we couldn’t find at Lowe’s, so we went down the street to Home Depot. We found another bulb there with the same watts, lumens, and amperage as the one we’d just bought from Lowe’s- for $20.00! Cree bulbs have the highest ratings available for residential LED lighting by the way. So, we returned the Lowe’s bulb. Savings: $7.00. PS Save the receipts and package from these bulbs so that if they don’t meet the promised warranty period you can get a replacement.
Just an aside: while at Lowe’s we had priced an outdoor flag holder for $9.95, and rejected it as too expensive. While at Home Depot, we found a completely acceptable one for $2.50! Savings: $7.45. Has Lowe’s gone ‘upscale’ on us? It pays to shop around, whether it’s for lightbulbs or lawnmowers.
Tuesday: After months of eating ice cream during Michael’s chemo treatments, we’re trying to find healthier substitutes, so I’ve started making yogurt once again. Summer time is perfect for this since it produces very little heat in the kitchen and the availability of fresh fruits to add to it are at their peak. I like mine creamy and thick, with ‘real’ chunks of fruit, and local honey as a sweetener. A small container of Greek yogurt is about a dollar. I use powdered milk to make mine in a $10 yogurt maker I’ve had for many years. It holds 8 ‘cups’ and depending on the fruit I use, costs me about 50 cents a cup at most and is delicious. Savings: $4.00
Just heat the milk to 190 degrees, then let cool to 120 degrees…
then add a few Tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter, pour into cups, and let the magic happen!
Wednesday: My dentist, whom I trust completely, advised me to get the two ‘major’ repair jobs taken care of during this calendar year while I have dental insurance, then to drop the insurance at the end of the year. I take good care of my teeth, getting them cleaned by hygienist students at my local college for free, four times a year, and doing the recommended brushing and flossing daily. My new dental insurance paid for a full set of xrays and will pay 80% of the needed work, after which, I shouldn’t need any more expensive stuff done. (It doesn’t cover ‘false teeth’ should I need those in the future). So, I had the first procedure done this week and will have the next done next month, leaving me still with almost 6 months of coverage before I cancel. My annual premiums are $360, and since this is the first year in my life I’ve ever had dental insurance, maybe I’ll go the next 60 without it again! Savings: $360 a year
Thursday: Our toilets began having trouble flushing completely. After much plunging, I heard the man next door out in his yard, and, knowing he owns a lot of property around town, went outside to ask him if he could recommend a decent plumber. Turns out, he was in the side yard with his plumber-guess what? His toilets weren’t flushing either, so he had called Roto Rooter to clear his clog. Amazingly, our two houses connect in the side yard, then run out to the city’s sewer lines at the street! So, we agreed we’d split the bill. Of course, Roto Rooter couldn’t open the blockage with their ‘normal’ equipment and said they’d return with their BIG guns. Estimated cost: $350. So, I told the neighbor I’d split the cost with him. Roto Rooter guys returned, and in less than 5 or 10 minutes they’d uncovered the problem, rather smugly announcing that the problem was “feminine products”. I rather smugly pointed to my gray hair and told them then it wasn’t my fault since I’m the only female in my house and I haven’t used “feminine products” in almost ten years! I offered to pay $100 towards the final bill and neighbor man quickly agreed to that deal. Savings: $75.00! just for speaking up!
“Onion” may use feminine products…but I don’t! Color me happy 🙂
Saturday: That’s right, I didn’t do a damn thing frugal today but I did take some herbal teas and crossword puzzle books to a friend in the hospital, cut my own grass, and bought one of those rotisserie chickens on sale for $3.99 from Krogers to have for supper (with enough leftovers for 2 more meals). But tomorrow I’ll take my cat to the annual vaccination clinic at the nearby high school, where I’ll be able to get his rabies shot then for $10. Savings: $20 Simon is not any happier that he’ll get it for a third of the normal price, but I sure am! (picture above applies to Saturday too)
As always, frugality is not about being ‘cheap’ but smart. Living well on less keeps us long on time and lean on ‘stuff’, but absolutely FAT on all that matters! Please won’t you share your frugal matters too in the comments section below? I’m always inspired by what my readers are doing to stretch their incomes- hey, that means YOU!
Filed under: Eliminating Hunger | Tags: beans, Bread, frugal, growing food, leftovers, One Acre Cafe, plants, The Hungry Time, Waste reduction
If you or someone you know eats, you’re part of this conversation. Native Americans referred to this very time in our annual trip around the sun as ‘The Hungry Time’; that period between the last of the stored fall provisions and the beginnings of the new spring bounty. For all of wildlife this is that time. It is believed that many of the early Pilgrims, already sick and weak, finally starved during the Hungry Time in this strange, new land. Many beekeepers will often successfully see their hives make it through a long cold winter, only to have them succumb to starvation now since there is very little available for them to eat, and all of their stored honey from last fall has been eaten.
Gardening, canning and storing food in my pantry or root cellar increases the personal food security of my family and makes it easier for us to eat well year ’round. But for someone that tries to eat seasonally as often as I can, this can be a time of ho-hum meals made from the last of the butternuts and spaghetti squash that we enjoyed so much from November to March, the last of the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips and the over-wintered kale and spinach that we fought to keep alive in the garden rows throughout the deep freezes! Looked at from the perspective of a hungry bird or a starving Pilgrim though, I am rich indeed. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not hungry either. I’m thankful for that, as I know you are too.
But what about those that are hungry, and getting hungrier? Their growling bellies are loud, but their need is silent. The price of food and gasoline is creeping upwards while many of them are still struggling to pay those February and March heating bills that are overdue. Undeveloped areas for wild animals are being displaced by mega-malls and soccer fields, while farmers are spraying their fields to kill every living thing in them so they can plant their GMO crops of corn, soybeans and cotton yet again this summer. Is there any help or hope for the hungry ones? I know this problem up close and personal and have come up with a few ideas that might help all of us survive and thrive during ‘The Hungry Time’ and beyond.
1. Start at home: Vow to STOP, not just reduce, your food waste. It’s simple really: plan your menus before you shop (and then eat or share your leftovers). This one practice saves me more time, money and waste than any other single thing I do in my life.
2. Plant some milk weed, bee balm and sunflowers for the butterflies, birds and bees this summer. Your pretty petunias in a pot on the porch and the stale bread you throw out on the lawn don’t offer any nutrition for them. While you’re at it, put in a birdbath and feeder.
3. Plant a backyard (or a front yard!) garden, and in there, ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry‘.
4. Volunteer at One Acre Cafe, a local not-for-profit restaurant that is making big strides in our community to see that ‘everybody eats’. If you don’t live in NE TN, find a similar place where you live. A soup kitchen, a community garden, or food pantry would all welcome your help and help someone that’s hungry sleep better.
5. Consider a fast fast. That’s not a typo. This is simply done by eliminating one meal a week from our diets and instead, giving the food or money we would’ve spent on that meal to someone that’s hungry. And please know that even though Second Harvest and other pantries will lovingly accept your food donations, they have the purchasing power to feed 4.3 meals for EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE.
6. Give food as gifts. I suspect many people could use the food but are ashamed to make that known. In place of yet another can of car wax or tee shirt, consider restaurant or grocery store gift certificates. Cookbooks, kitchenware, cooking, canning or gardening lessons, bags of worm castings or organic compost, potted herbs or seeds would all make thoughtful gifts that can help with hunger. Such gifts also cut down on consumer waste and unwanted clutter.
Growing, planting, donating and fasting are all effective ways to reduce hunger, but of course they won’t eliminate the problem. What would? If I was Queen of the World, I’d start my reign by teaching every child how to grow some food and then cook what they grew. From scrambling an egg to cooking dried beans to grilling some veggies, if they know how to grow and cook it, it would open doors for them all their lives. Many people have never been taught, nor had the opportunity, to learn how. The unknown is scary. Those of us that are lucky enough to have these skills take it for granted that anyone can cook. Not. Make it less scary by teaching someone to do this. And did you know that folks that receive SNAP benefits can purchase food plants and seeds with SNAP? I don’t believe it’s so much a factor that they WON’T buy those things with their benefits, I believe most of them DON’T know what to do with a cabbage or tomato plant or seed once they get them home. And before I get dethroned? I’d require every school yard and park in the country to have community gardens. If they became as plentiful as grocery stores, it would become second nature. The last thing I’d do before they pried my tiara off? I’d outlaw GMO’s and Bayer’s famous neonic pesticides, making what foods we do have safer for all of life on this planet. But then again, that’s probably why I’m not the Queen. But at least my subjects wouldn’t be hungry!
Filed under: Frugality, Green Cleaners, Sustainability, Urban Hens | Tags: frugal, leftovers, vinegar, voting
It seems about once a month I have several little ideas I want to share with you, none of which could make a complete post by themselves. So I’ve decided to make ‘Just Sayin’ a regular feature of this blog so I’ll have a way to do just that. Many of you have told me you like it and it gives me a way to clear my head of what I wanted to tell you-any of you that know me well, know that my memory sucks, so it’s best if I do it this way.
I’ve come across an idea that is so simple, frugal and useful I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before now. You know those household cleaners that are orange based? If you’ll save your orange peels (minus the white, pithy part) in a jar covered with white vinegar, let it sit a few weeks, then strain it into a (repurposed) spray bottle, you can use it diluted or full strength for cleaning anything but wood and clear glass. It smells nice, uses up all those winter citrus peels, and is One.More.Thing. you don’t need to buy. Just sayin’…
Speaking of vinegar… did you know that if the vinegar you buy doesn’t say that it’s made from ‘whole grains’, ‘fruits’ or ‘wine’ that it’s made instead with a starter that comes from petroleum? How UNsustainable is that? Check the labels on off -brands of vinegars since I assume if you are eco-concious enough to be making and using your own homemade green cleaners, you care about such things. One of these days I’m going to make some vinegar from my own starter and when I do, I’ll write about it here. In the meantime, check out this new Heinz Cleaning Vinegar, with 6% acidity, compared to 4 or 5% for other brands. Just sayin’…
Another ‘a-ha!’ moment came to me recently. Years ago, when I first began using cloth bags for carrying my purchases, I’d forget to bring them to the store with me. That is, until I started keeping them in the car. I don’t eat out often, but I’ve noticed that many times, it’s more food than I can eat so I’d have to ask for a f-f-f-ffoam container to hold my leftovers. I solved the problem by keeping my own takeout container in my car too. Ditch the foam. Just sayin’…
I’ve attended a couple of city commissioner candidate forums recently and have narrowed my choices down to the two that I feel will best be able to guide my community during these transitional times of energy depletion, climate change and economic sequesters, fiscal cliffs and recessions. They also assure me they’re okay with backyard-hens, and that sounds good to me. Please find out where your candidates stand on issues that are important to you before you vote. Just sayin’…