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Archive for June, 2006

Freak Soup

June 29th, 2006 at 06:49 pm

My discovery of blender soups has led me down strange paths. I bought a ten pound bag of carrots because the price was right. I knew I could not eat them all as carrot sticks, so I steamed some for blender soup. When we grilled last Sunday I realized we were at the bottom of the ketchup and mustard containers (we bought more). So I took some water and put it in the ketchup and mustard bottles, shookíem up, and poured into the blender along with some dry milk powder and carrots, blended, and made Mustard Ketchup Carrot Soup.

I tasted it and Iím almost giddyÖÖit tastes great. Iíd serve it to guests as Cream of Carrot soup, though.

Sit down meal for $6

June 28th, 2006 at 09:21 pm

My Guy was in the mood to go out tonight. We decided on a little local Mexican place; weíve been going to it since it opened, and we quite like the owner. Since Iím trying to eat lighter, I ordered two incredible tacos instead of a meal. One adobada, one carne asada, both on tasty corn tortillas with cilantro and chopped onion. Wonderful. A glass of water, and chips and salsa. $4 plus tax and tip totaled $6. Itís great how my Credible Threat Challenge and Minimum Wage Challenge can come together like that. We had a great time, great service, great food, Iím not over stuffed, and Iím not out big bucks.

Sometimes I'm Less Lazy Than Others

June 27th, 2006 at 08:19 pm

I got a lot done today. Walked to work and back, powered though quite a few tasks at work, did six miles on my recumbent, at a good dinner, wrote a crazy freakin' long entry about laundry.

Now it's time to check some other blogs, nuke some popcorn (my daredevil living paper bag method), and sleep the sleep of the content.

LRJohnson's Dirty Laundry

June 27th, 2006 at 08:09 pm

That's a misleading title for an entry that really should be called:
Laundry: Washing and Hanging

I think my method of handling laundry is fairly easy and fairly cheap.

Quantity

ēI donít automatically toss clothes Iíve worn in the hamper. I certainly donít re-wear stinky or soiled clothing, but often Iím able to wear a shirt or pair of pants more than once.

ēI take off my work clothes as soon as I come home, most times. At first it was just because I liked being in my jammies, but then I realized that it was enabling me to get another wearing between washings.

ēSleep clothes especially can take a few wearings. I even re-wear my "sleep socks," since they havenít been walked around in.

ēI only wash full loads, without over-packing my washer.


Frequency
ēI used to wash once a week. Now that Iím doing almost all hang drying, I find it better to wash more frequently, so that I have enough room on my line and rack for all the clothes.

ēSince I wash more frequently, I can get by on fewer clothes. I seem to be wearing the underwear at the front of the drawer and not getting to the ones in the back, due to frequent laundry.


Detergent
ēI use to use the cheapest of the cheap powder. I then got a huge bottle of liquid as part of a product survey, and I kind of liked it. (Donít voluntarily upgradeÖ.you can become discontented with what used to be satisfactory.) Iím now back to my cheapie cheap powder, but I do have a bottle of the cheapest liquid if I feel like splurging. (What a splurge, huh?)

ēThe cheapest powder is actually not hard on my clothes, because I use a half measure. Our clothes arenít heavily soiled: we work in offices. In all my time using less detergent, Iíve been perfectly happy with the results.

ēWhen I use the liquid, I drop the cup in the washer so all the soap is used up.


Additives
ēI do sometimes use bleach on my whites, maybe once a month.

ēI never use liquid fabric softener.


Washing
ēA couple years ago, the hot water stopped feeding into the washer. It probably wouldnít take too much effort to fix it, but weíve been happy with just washing in cold. Cold wash, cold rinse on everything. If I fixed it, I might use warm on towels. I donít have any kids or immuno-suppressed people in the house, so Iím not worried about germs the way other people might need to be. Colors never bleed, either.

ēI use the short cycle almost always. Again, mostly light wear on the clothes, and Iíve been happy with the results.

ēIf I want to soak clothes, I leave the lid of the washer up and my washer stops part way though. I get to soak without using the soak cycle.

ēDoing the short wash and cold all the time, Iíve found that I donít need to sort laundry. I can wash a blouse with undies with a white towel with a pair of jeans. Itís a madhouse.


Drying
ēIíve just moved to line drying all the time, instead of just during the summer.

ēI re-spin clothes in the washer to get extra water out.

ēFor some shirts, work slacks, and blouses, I do use the dryer. This way I donít need to iron. I know I could hang them then use the dryer the last few minutes, but Iím okay drying one load a week.

ēIf I have to choose what to line dry as far as space or time limitations, I always line dry the big heavy items: jeans, towels.

ēI use a half dryer sheet sometimes when I think of it. The last cheapo off brand box we bought has lasted over a year. Sometimes I reuse them. Our clothes smell fine and donít cling without them, so I guess I could give them up. But hey, sometimes I like to live it up. With a dryer sheet.


Line drying
ēIíve been pleasantly surprised at how cool it can be outside and clothes can still dry. Iíve heard over 60 degrees is outdoor drying weather.

ēIíve been pleasantly surprised that clothes can dry in the house overnight.

ēHanging in the house for me means pinning even jeans to a hanger, so that everything is on a hanger, then finding places to hang the hangers. I could get an indoor clothesline; I haven't ruled it out, I'm just not unhappy with the status quo. Shorter items can go on door knobs. I found more things I could put a hanger on than I expected.

ēThe first time I hung clothes it took a while. I can now do it quickly. I worked at being patient with myself.

ēI bought 2 packs of clothes pins at the dollar store years ago, and they are still going strong. I also love them for other uses (closing food bags, etc.)

ēI use a small wooden folding drying rack that I bought at a garage sale years ago; I canít remember the price. This is what I use for socks, undies, dishtowels, and napkins. Line drying has made my underwear last longer-no fried elastic.

ēOutside I have a retractable line: on one side of the house permanently mounted, and can be pulled out and attached to a hook on the opposite side of the yard. Weíll take it with us if we move.

ēI hang t-shirts and knit shirts and nightgowns on hangers; this gives me more room. If I didnít have space considerations, I might hang them by pins upside down (under the arms seems to dry faster that way).

ēI donít mind stiff clothes. If I did, or had guests using the towels, I might throw them in the dryer for a minute to soften.

ēLine dried clothes smell fabulous.


Whew. Iíve mentioned my unmentionables.

I know there are other methods and strategies. This was not meant to be a comprehensive list. This is just what I do, a gal who has a decent income but who has chosen to live on CA Minimum Wage for a year. A lot of things I had already been doing. On The Challenge I have become much more consistent and paid much more attention.

Goal: Less Boring

June 26th, 2006 at 09:01 pm

Iím closing in on the end of Month Four of my (Modified) Minimum Wage Challenge, success in sight. June has been much easier than April and May, actually; Iím very comfortable with my new spending habits. I am more at peace with my money than ever before. Four months will be one third of the year Iím planning to be on the Challenge, which is also my $20 Challenge.

My trouble is that Iím spending very little, but not necessarily explaining how I am spending a little less than $1073 a month and still having a full rich life. I wouldnít be doing this otherwise; frankly my income would accommodate willy-nilly spending, and my belt-tightening is purely by choice.

Iím working on writing down my strategies specifically; thanks to Tightwad Kitty for the idea. Iíve got ideas for breaking down particular areas, such as food, entertainment, and the like, as well as general themes, such as ďBuying Less Means Clutter FreeĒ and ďLowered (Not Low) Expectations Mean Met Expectations.Ē

Not only do I not want to have a boring blog, I want to have a record for five, ten, thirty years from now to keep me grounded and have a base to build on. If I get in the company of spendthrifts Iíll need to remind myself how good it felt to be in control of my spending and be able to put a lot in savings while still feeling undeprived.

(Iím still going traveling in September. As stated pre-Challenge and pre-ticket purchase, the one thing I donít want to pass up is opportunities for world travel. So this is the one area I will spend outside the Challenge. We got a deal to London round trip for $450, so we are flying to Europe. Most of our time will be in Croatia and Serbia, with a little time in London. My friend and I did some planning yesterday, and I am getting pretty excited. I will be tracking all trip expenses, because another thing I do want to convey is that world travel can be done with moderate spending. As yet, the $450 is my only expense. Iíve had no luck searching for recent used Croatian guide books, so my next expense will be a new guide book. Iíll live.)

Full Pantry and a Good Day

June 25th, 2006 at 09:01 pm

We had folks over for grilled oysters and barbecue this evening. A great day in the yard, and a productive large grocery run.

Some one was posting about whether feeding guests would be considered entertainment or groceries. I do a little of both. If I buy something that would only ever be bought for a guest, maybe a dessert or a fancy cheese, I might call that entertainment. However if I feed guests the same thing Iíd eat, I call it groceries. Thatís even if itís a treat, because the truth is My Guy and I sometimes have small treats ourselves. We love grilling up oysters.

The house is clean, I am relaxed, did four miles on my stationary bike, and Iím ready for bed. Work promises to be jam-packed this week, and I want to go into it with a positive, solution-oriented attitude.

The grocery run was $109, split between the two of us. I was able to add a lot of items to my price book. We did quite a bit of stocking up on peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar, powdered milk, and the like. Itís very satisfying to have a full pantry.

I Do Not Like to Shop

June 24th, 2006 at 04:48 pm

I donít understand why people love shopping. I really donít. I was in Sacramento for three meetings in four days, and I was really surprised at how many people mentioned the shopping opportunities (Downtown mall with a Ėgasp-Macys, Arden fair Mall, etc.). I had time between my last meeting and my flight, and people were actually incredulous that I wasnít going to shop.

I mentioned to a couple that there wasnít anything I needed right now, and they suggested I window shop and try things on for fun. To me, thatís actually a very unpleasant way to spend time. I just canít see doing it voluntarily.

Iím glad Iím like this, I guess. My mother was a shopper but it never caught on. Iím kind of tomboy frugal hippie non-conformist nerd. Iím okay with that. It saves me money.

Now, if there was a series of great garage sales or thrift sores, maybe I could have gotten into that. Still need to do Christmas and other gift shopping. I really enjoy gift-giving. Since I had to fly, I decided not to try thrift store shopping since my bag was full. Perhaps next time, I can bring only carry on to Sacramento and check a bag on the way bag if I hit the thrift store.

Iím so very glad to be home. Usually travel is okay, but these meetings stressed me out a little-I had to be on my best behavior. Also, it seemed longer than usual.

The house is tidy and Iím having a low key day puttering, hanging laundry, tidying, and relaxing.

I did spend $3.49 on decaffeinated black tea, 60 bags, at Trader Joeís. At less than 6 cents a bag it was a great deal for decaf black. I was able to update my new price book. Other than that, no spending.

Happy Bins

June 19th, 2006 at 06:05 pm

I love my peanut butter tubs; I use them for bulk foods. I use Red Vines Licorice tubs, which are behind the PB tubs, for items I use more of, like milk and flour.

At my work, it seems like all sorts of people bring in licorice tubs. I love them, and also use them for my ďon its way to compostĒ bin.

I didnít label all my tubs at once. I know some of these were labeled years ago, some in the last month. I think overall I have made labels - used a Sharpie on Post Its and taped to tubs - three times. (Yes, I know the beans arenít black. Iím now on the pintos, but I kept the old label.)

I travel for work this week. Yes, again. I have a regular two day, one night trip a month, but it seems like there has been an extra trip or two every month lately. I leave tomorrow quite early and fly back Friday night. I may get in a trip to the fancy thrift store.

I spent money today: $10 at the cobbler shop, to get some shoes repaired. I needed my mary jane Danskoís fixed, because Iím wearing dresses (!) in Sacramento. The cobbler was adorable; three kids, all MDs, one just got her PhD, and he had the commencement announcement right on the counter. I am not usually into the proud papa deal-goes along with not being interested in kids, therefore not interested in parenting-but I loved this guy. He had no doubt I'd be into hearing about his kids. Two of his children came out of med school with no debt. This man just glowed. I think he might be a first generation American, and he was so very proud of his children. I could tell he worked very hard for them.

Twenty Five Cents of Excitement

June 18th, 2006 at 08:49 pm

Here's the bulb I bought at a garage sale, that I couldn't explain. It's in our one bare bulb fixure in the laundry room. It's not my usual style-I tend to like simple and plain-but this little bugger called to me.

Pretty Darn Dinner

June 18th, 2006 at 08:43 pm

Here is a picture of my pretty little dinner.

Arenít the shells nice? I use regular tortillas, in my new little molds, $1 at a garage sale. If someone was interested, Iíd recommend maybe just folding an aluminum pie pan into the right shape, or snagging a pot pie pan from a spendthrift bud. Bake at 375 after spraying with cooking spray. Or you could go old school and oil it.

Iím still using canned refried beans. I know I should be making my own from dried beans-Iím getting there. The shredded cheddar/jack was a nickel a pound less than the block; unusual, and good, since I have better luck freezing shredded than block cheese. Iím not interested in making my own tortillas yet, but someday I may.

My Guy set it up so I can download pictures from his digital camera to my computer. Itís a bit too exciting-watch out!

Freezer: Yea or Nay?

June 18th, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Iíve been thinking about buying a freezer for many years. Often with a big purchase I contemplate for a really long time, so that when I buy it Iím sure.

About a year and a half ago, I finally committed to the purchase. After three farcical attempts to buy it at Costco (Iíd call, theyíd have one, Iíd drive there, it was sold five minutes ago, etc.) I gave up. The message seemed to be "it is not the right time."

Now Iím having pangs again. Costco has a 7 cubic foot, dishwasher size, for $199.99. I donít know what the energy usage is. Sears has a 5 cubic foot for $169.99. The energy usage, on a scale of 166 to 245, is 242, which is disheartening.

We have really old wiring in the house; some might be original-we see the actual cloth wires on the outside of the wall. We havenít had big problems, but we have had minor problems, and My Guy has a valid concern that a freezer could strain the wiring.

I periodically see chest freezers for free on Freecycle, but they are older. I know that Amy Dacyczyn isnít the final word on everything, but freezers were one of the few new purchases she recommended, due to the significant increases in energy efficiency in newer models. I know I want a smaller one, so many of the free ones might be too big.

We arenít big meat eaters, so we wouldnít use a freezer for that much. I would use it for plums from our tree, because they all get ripe at once and I canít process that many for canning all at once. Iíd use it for thrift store bread. I want to make two serving dinners in big batches-lasagna, chili, stew, casseroles. Iíd use it for blackberries. (Lay on cookie sheet, freeze, then put in bags, to avoid clumps. That way you can have a handful at a time.)

Iíd put in par-baked pizza dough-Iím intimidated by baking, and if I could make 4 or 5 pizza bases at one time Iíd be more inclined to learn. Iíd freeze large batches of grains, like oatmeal and flour, for 24 hours to prevent bugginess.

I think that five cubit feet would be fine for me. I would be using my Minimum Wage Savings to buy this, so it would come out of my $39 a month, for $156 so far, and the rest Iíd have to just take out of other categories-I just canít see cheating on The Challenge.

My Guy suggests waiting until later in the summer, when I actually have fruit to put in it. Heís not really for the idea; he thinks it would take up too much space and strain the wiring, though heís not anywhere close to invoking a veto.

(We use the ďvetoĒ to judge how strongly someone thinks about something. ďDo you want to go on a grocery run?Ē ďNot reallyĒ means you could be talked into it. ďVetoĒ means end of discussion. We try not to overuse it; itís a really nice way of conveying firmness in the refusal without being argumentative.)

Iím thinking of watching Freecycle for a couple months, then taking a chance with a Sears or Costco freezer at the end of the summer. I am concerned about getting an old one, but maybe Amy Dís advice is outdated-a 1992 freezer may have been light years better for electric usage than a 1986, but a 2002 freezer might be as good as a 2006 freezer. Iím gonna call some local places to see if they have used, refurbished freezers. I looked at Targetís site, and the options were more expensive than Costco and Sears. I donít have a Home Depot or other building store, or any other department stores that I think would have freezers.

I welcome any opinions, from the grocery aspect to the electric usage to the old wiring to the cubic feet part. Also any other uses that freezers have that I didnít mention, and any other plusses or minuses on brands, etc.

Only Waited Ten Years or So

June 17th, 2006 at 09:48 pm

With my little bit of energy I organized today. Iíd never actually done a price book, despite my love of Amy Dacyczyn. I decided after a Costco visit that it was time-I knew from the prices that I keep in my head that the prices on a couple items were great, but other items were not good deals, to say the least. Itís time to give my memory a break, and let other items besides prices find room in my head. I feel good about my grocery expenditures-average of $103 over the last 17 months-but it will be nice be able to stock up confidently when I see a truly great deal.

I did already have a lot of prices in my head, and was able to make more entries in my spreadsheet Price Book than I thought. I have a Rule of Thumb column, for standard cutoffs that I use all the time at all stores (pasta 50 cents a pound or less, etc.). I have columns for the four other stores I shop at regularly, plus a column for ďotherĒ stores. Instead of one page per item, I did a list of items, so I will have two landscape pages total to start. By using just 2 grocery receipts and whatís in my head Iíve got a good head start. Itís surprising how many prices Iíve memorized, and then I just had to peek at the container to check the total weight.

I also put together a list of what I have in my Presents Stash. I have 16 person-specific gifts, and nine miscellaneous gifts that could go to anyone, and are good hostess gifts, or even ďitís been a bad week-feel betterĒ gifts. Making the list also helped me figure out where holes are, so I can look that much more carefully at garage sales and thrift stores for certain people.

Iím going to bed early tonight. Still not up to par, and just a whole lot of nothing on TV.