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Archive for June, 2006

Freak Soup

June 30th, 2006 at 01:49 am

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 29th, 2006 at 04:21 am

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 28th, 2006 at 03:19 am

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 28th, 2006 at 03:09 am

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.


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.

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.

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.

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

ēI never use liquid fabric softener.

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.

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 27th, 2006 at 04:01 am

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 26th, 2006 at 04:01 am

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 11:48 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 20th, 2006 at 01:05 am

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 19th, 2006 at 03:49 am

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 19th, 2006 at 03:43 am

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 07:55 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 18th, 2006 at 04:48 am

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.

Just in Bed

June 17th, 2006 at 02:22 am

The lack of posts mean nothing except a bad cold. Still on the Challenge, Month Four. The gas & electric bill is down even more. No spending other than the monthly utilities.

Other Saving Advice people have serious health issues, mine is just a cold that makes me sweat in bed so my poor bed smells. I get cold outside the covers then sweat in the covers. Grrr.

Iím cranky but nothing sleep and patience wonít fix.

No, Thank You.

June 14th, 2006 at 02:08 am

I went to Costco today, and it was a little overwhelming. I was so very grateful for The Challenge. There was so much stuff, and so much unnecessary stuff, it kind of stunned me. Huge cans of nuts, and sweets, and tasty gooey fatty rich stuff. There was some granola at $8.69 for a bag the same size as my homemade batch. Even if I bought a handful of dried cranberries and pecans, mine would cost less than $2. Bread at a "deal" for $2.50 a loaf! A lot of items I wouldnít have bought regardless, but on other items, I was glad to be able to say, "No, not on The Challenge."

It reminded me of when Iím invited out, and I donít really want to go, and I say ďI canít stay up that lateĒ, which is true, but Iím glad I have the excuse, Iím not upset about it. Declining a purchase due to The Challenge isnít a burden, itís freeing.

I also saw a large number of...large people. Iím overweight, Iím not trying to ding anyone, it was just that the excess was a tonic for my system, and made me less interested in the foods.

I think I might actually do a price book. Iíve been a Huge Amy D fan, fanatic, for years, and I donít have one. (Usually just levels in my head: tuna never more then 50 cents a can, pasta 50 cents a pound, canned veggies 3/$1). But there were some items, a very few, that were better prices, and Iíd like to be able to track that. I was able to get good cheddar for $1.85, where Iíve been fighting to get $2.25 cheese elsewhere, and in fact I got grated real cheddar for $1.78 a pound.

So in this place of mighty mounds of massive muchness, I bought: cheese, tortillas, spinach, carrots, and eggs.

My Guy used the new tortilla molds, and I ate a very pretty, very tasty tortilla shell bowl filled with beans and spinach, with some cheese and non-fat sour cream and salsa. The shell was great, and itís baked so itís low fat. And it really was pretty; not something I usually notice about my food, but pleasant.

A Good Monday is Definitely a Win

June 13th, 2006 at 03:05 am

Iím re-reading Tightwad Gazette, for the zillionth time. Every time Iím energized, and every time I take away a new idea. This time, Iím planning on making more gift items, food and craft, for birthdays and Christmas. If I get really together, I could do a weekend a month on craft things. Shhhhh...donít ell the people Iím trying to convince Iím lazy. I am lazy, but I find making bath salts and other gifts fun. Some people might not believe me.)

Making food items would be practice for Christmas and used for birthdays. Also, for those who have been generous with hand me down items. (Can the term hand me downs be used for non-clothes items?!?) Two ideas to start-the homemade toffee, four ingredients, and candied orange and grapefruit peels: uses ďwasteĒ and syrup can be used for waffles and pancakes. I know that when I have a large stash of jam, I like bringing jars to people for various reasons: they quit smoking, a birthday; theyíve had a rotten week, they helped me out at work. Itíd be nice to vary the little treats.

I walked to work today, and walked back, with a stop at the post office and a thrift store. I rode my free recumbent bike, and ate well. I have avoided ďbadĒ TV. So much clean living. I love reading the forms and blogs; I really feel like I have found a frugal home. I am surprised at how fond of or connected to people I can be, when Iíve never met them.

Spending: The thrift store had a whole lotta nothing going on, but I did give my P.O. $1.21-three regular stamps and a couple two centers to use with old 37 cent stamps.

Upcoming spending: the Oyster Festival is next Saturday, and I love oysters, cooked and raw. I also want to go camping in the next few weekends; we have the gear and would use regular groceries, but extra gas and site fees would be expenses. Otherwise, I see no expenses in my near future that arenít them same old utility bills, groceries, etc.

Inspired by Ray

June 12th, 2006 at 02:17 am

Thrifty Ray bought a blender. As I commented on her blog that I like to make breakfast shakes, I also mentioned that Iíd been meaning to try and make pureed soups. So I stood up and made one, using some steamed broccoli I had the other night. Reconstituted dry powdered milk, broccoli, a tiny but of bouillon, and about a tablespoon of ranch-type dressing (left over bottle-I put a dash of water in it, swished, and poured it in the blender). I then blended, nuked, and had really good soup.

Usually I like my own concoctions, and sometimes Iím the only one that eats them. But this soup passed the My Guy test! So now I have a new simple recipe. I think Iíll play with variety-cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin puree. Try some spices. I love being able to control the ingredients-sometimes low-fat foods have a lot of gunk in them. Iíd be willing to serve this to guests, itís that good. I can also use the idea to make ďcream ofĒ soups used in casseroles and other recipes-I can make it thicker to have the condensed version.

I love finding a new little trick. This one, homemade soup in minutes from left over veggies, is definitely a keeper.

Muffins, Popsicles, and Granola

June 11th, 2006 at 10:01 pm

Using the recumbent exercise bike is becoming a habit. I think once it hits a month itíll be pretty routine. Also, watching less TV is becoming a habit. Iím using the time on the bike as my time to watch ďbadĒ TV without guilt. Otherwise, Iím watching mostly TV I deem decent, or even better, listening to more music.

Today repetition paid off; I was able top bust out a double batch of muffins and a batch of granola in minutes. Plus I made my first batch of homemade popsicles in my new ten-cent mold.

I used the big bag of quick oats I got from Freecycle, as part of the grain in the muffins, and for the granola. I took a cheapo can of papaya, drained part of the juice for popsicles, and blended the rest into a puree for the muffins. I put some of the puree back in the popsicles for texture and color. I used some homemade bread crumbs for the muffins too; we make them more quickly than we use them. I also use soy flour instead of eggs, and substitute apple sauce for half the fat. Since itís the second time I made the granola, I altered the recipe to make it cheaper, and lower-calorie. (I canít necessarily say healthier; Iím trying use up some corn syrup, which ainít the best, and I also used some Splenda, which some might object to.) The oven was used for both the muffins and the granola, and now I have snacks and breakfast galore.

The first time I made muffins it took a while. Now itís so familiar, and I can use what I have on hand.

Itís Amy Dacyczynís basic recipe, Tightwad Gazette II, page 164.
* 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour/grain (substitute oats, cornmeal, bran, etc. for part of the flour)
* Up to ľ cup fat (Oil, lard, butter, etc. Applesauce can be substituted for part-or all if you donít mind dryer muffins.)
* 1 cup milk (reconstituted dry powdered, or regular, or soy, or some juice)
* 1 egg (can substitute 1 heaping tablespoon soy flour and one tablespoon water)
* Up to Ĺ cup sweetener (sugar, corn syrup, brown sugar, Splenda, honey)
* 2 teaspoons Baking powder
* Ĺ teaspoons Salt
* Up to 1-1/2 cup additions (moist or dry. Raisins, shredded zucchini, mashed banana, sunflower seeds; the choices are endless)

Preheat to oven to 350. Bake 20 minutes at 350 in lightly greased muffin tins.

Homemade breadcrumbs: put bread bags with unused heels or broken pieces of bread in the freezer. Next time the oven is used, put all the miscellaneous pieces in a metal container in the oven after using it; let the left over heat dry the bread out. Put these pieces in a tub in the cupboard (I use a one gallon mayonnaise tub). When the tub is full get out the Universal grinder, and grind all the pieces. Store in an airtight container. Use as a topping on casseroles with butter or margarine; used as a breading for oven-fried fish; sneak into muffins. I only dry the bread every few months, and I grind the crumbs maybe once or twice a year, when Iím in a rare kitchen putter mood.

Forgot it was payday

June 10th, 2006 at 11:50 pm

Friday was payday. I hadn't known. I've been spending so little it wasn't a concern. It was a glorious feeling. I could see some wo-workers were a little surpised.

I transferred some money in to my ING account to celebrate. In fact, more than the paycheck was. The Challenge? It's Money in the bank, Baby!

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

June 10th, 2006 at 11:42 pm

Todayís Garage sale Haul:

Five smaller gifts $2.00

Manual chopper .10

Popsicle molds .10

Potholder (silicon) .25

Crazy light bulb .25

5 CDs 10.00

Colander .25

Tortilla shell molds 1.00

Raspberry Bar .50

Thatís $2 gifts, $11.95 household, and 50 cents entertainment.

The CDs were the big expense; otherwise it would have come under $5. However, I feel like a good used CD, in a case with inserts, is not a bad deal at $2 each (they were 2.50 each, 5 for $10). I got The Best of Eric Clapton, Tori Amos- Little Earthquakes, Rolling Stones-Stripped, Neil Young-Harvest, and Patsy Clineís Greatest Hits.

I tried to find a picture of the light bulb online and was unsuccessful searching for novelty bulbs. Itís an incandescent, regular bulb shape. But it has silicone ďspikesĒ on it, in a pattern, in three different colors. A little odd, but it spoke to me. Itís not exactly my style, but we have a bare bulb fixture in the laundry room so I put it in there.

The five smaller gifts include a nice bunch of candles for one of the women who periodically brings me gorgeous cardigans. My gifts stash, or either person specific or good general gifts, is growing nicely.

For the household items, My Guy was really excited by the Tortilla mold set; I figured heíd be which was why I was willing to spend a dollar. It came with instructions, and we hope to bake some molds soon. I love the idea of the tortilla shell for a salad being low-fat baked instead of fried. The chopper also excited him, as he plans to use it for onions. The colander is a nice sleek metal thing which will replace the battered melted plastic one we had. Iíd kept my eye out for months for one at a low enough price.

If you ever hold a garage sale, consider hanging the clothes. Iíll bet you sell at least three times as much. At a few places, since I donít need any clothes except fancier work stuff, Iíd take one look at a piled high table and pass. It was even worse when the stuff was piled on sheets or tarps on the ground. Maybe there were excellent items in those piles, but I wasnít up to looking, whereas Iíll always flip through any hung clothing.

The popsicle molds excited me; not sure how soon Iíll play with it yet. I have lots of ideas re: gelatin, yogurt, jams, iced tea, juice, canned fruit, canned fruit juices, etc.

I had a bunch of clothes that I took in to be exchanged. These were bought pre-Challenge, so I wasnít sure how to handle the money aspect of it. I could have gotten cash back but I certainly wouldnít have counted it as income. I exchanged for 3 items, and spent less than I exchanged for. (I used the rest of the credit to pants for My Guy for which heíll reimburse me). I got two $10.99 dresses and a $12.99 skirt. I wasnít going to count these an expense on The Challenge because I didnít put any money out, and if I didnít have exchange credit thereís no way I would have ever bought them. If anyone has an issue with this, I can reconsider posting it as an expense. I have some work events coming up that are going to require that I bump it up a tad; I know that to some an $11.99 dress is cheap, but to me it seemed quite high end.

I forgot to conclude the Clear Lake story (driving down to help my dadís wife with a piece of property a couple weeks ago). As far as gas (3 hour drive), D paid to fill up my tank, and I almost worried about it, except for two reasons. First, My Guy and I went down there to perform manual labor to help her. Second, sometimes when I feel generous and give someone something or treat them, it can be a small frustration when they say ďoh no, you shouldnít,Ē or act embarrassed, when I truly want to be generous. So I figured that itís good to learn to graciously receive if you want to give a lot. On that note I also accepted when she took us out to eat, at a nice little Mexican restaurant with very reasonable prices. As an extra bonus, I got a little travel kit that she wasnít using-a facial scrub, cleanser, lotions, etc. It was awfully nice seeing D, and I was a little jealous of My Guy who went later in the week to get some more done.

And I wasn't Even Tempted.

June 10th, 2006 at 02:52 am

I traveled for work again. For this trip I had 2 co-workers with me, and I went to a Department Store for the first time in quite a while. Idly browsing, as the others were the ones who had chosen this activity, I was just flabbergasted at the prices. I know we all gasp at $1,200 blouses and $3,000 dresses and the like. I can now be shocked at much less. I was looking at 50% off racks, and being just shocked that a skirt could be $120 reduced to $60. Some of the clothes were quite lovely, but I just canít see shopping like that. I suppose that I could conceivably want a high end work outfit at some point and buy a nice skirt and blouse, but it would be such a rare, thought out occasion. As in once every five years, perhaps.

The funny thing for me is that I could have bought clothes if I had wanted to. I have money. I thought to myself, ďMaybe if there is a deep clearance $10 skirt Iíll try it on.Ē I further thought, ďDo I actually want any of these? Am I not buying (or even seriously shopping) because of The Challenge?Ē I was very pleased to be able to answer that no, I wasnít interested. The Challenge is something I take quite seriously-Iím on Month Four and Iíve really worked very hard at not bending any rules at all-I mean I sweated whether recycling income was acceptable on The Challenge. (I decided it was.) But no, I wasnít longing, craving, desiring, or even kinda wanting. Challenge or No, I am not depriving myself when I choose not to buy clothes at this price level. I felt very free, actually. Light and unencumbered.

And the end of the story is, my workmate bought a purse and wallet, and she was going to toss her old wallet. Now I have a beautiful wallet in excellent shape to replace my current one that has had a broken clasp for months. Of course I will look for a way to repay her; she didnít want money, and even if I did have homemade jam in stock her family wouldnít eat it. However I firmly believe that to continue to be gifted with hand-me-downs, itís important to offer a tangible ďthank youĒ periodically to those who hand down. Perhaps the next time I make a batch of bath salts sheíll get a jar.

Amongst those on the forums I get so used to the frugality that I am surprised at the spending and consumerism ďout there.Ē Itís very heartening to come back and be re-grounded with the benefits of simplicity, frugality, and gratitude.

A Title is Elusive When the Post Rambles

June 6th, 2006 at 02:42 am

My Guy had a job fall in his lap; what a good day. Itís part time, so he can still be kind of a bum, which he defines as ďbeing incredibly involved in his own pursuits.Ē The job is for a non-profit, small and local, so heíll feel god about working there. A bonus is that itís decent money, so the part time will pay full bills. (He spends like I do, which is nice.) He wasnít even looking for work, which makes it all the better.

I used a huge chunk of this monthís entertainment budget and treated him to a big celebratory burrito, and even got him a SoBe drink he loves-it surely does takes a mighty celebration for me to pay for a beverage at a take out place. With my little burrito, I spent $13 out of entertainment, and I feel good about the expense.

My water aerobics buddy wants to take a ďsemesterĒ off too, so thatís good. I biked five miles today on the recumbent, and may do some more. Iím fitting in to some stuff I couldnít before, so another good thing. Saving on the workout budget will help with the medical bills Iím still working on.

Thereís nothing on TV tonight, and Iím glad. Iíll take a bath and blog and bike and putter. The end of the season has come at an excellent time for me, right when I wanted to cut out some bad TV. That will leave me with 6 regular shows next fall in primetime, many of which I tape (an hour becomes 40 minutes!). I do still watch some syndicated sitcoms and news and Oprah from 5 to 8. Since I have no kids, and my commute is 3 minutes, and my house is pretty clutter free, and Iíve admitted Iím lazy, this should come as no huge shock.

I figure if Iím cleaning house, hanging laundry, biking, washing dishes, etc., I shouldnít feel too guilty about watching. I would like to move more towards music though. When I was younger, boy I had no time for TV, it was music music music.

The coffee is pre-made for tomorrow and the smoothie is in the blender just waiting to be blended for breakfast. Nice.


June 4th, 2006 at 07:15 pm

I think Iíve decided not to do the water aerobics for one session. I have the recumbent bike (24 miles so far), and $3.88 a class is a lot, especially since I miss some due to work travel. Iím bummed at leaving my friend, but maybe I can save in that category and go in August for the next session. Iíll be able to walk to work most days if I skip water aerobics, which is a definite plus.

Iíve spent $504.02 this month. That includes rent, and sadly enough a couple of May expenses. One was on purpose; I had so many medical bills in May post-dated a check and mailed two payments in one envelope. The other was accidental; My Guy bought stuff at Staples that I needed to pay Ĺ of, for $18.76.

Iím in such a cranky mood today; another headache. Iím going to watch movies on the couch.

Spending Less results in More Treats

June 3rd, 2006 at 08:56 pm

When I was little, weíd get to pick one item each time we went to the grocery store. The item was usually on the cheaper side; maybe grapes, or a can of smoked oysters. I still sometimes treat myself to one item. Itís usually no more than three dollars, and is still usually fruit or smoked oysters. The idea that shopping always involved a treat probably wasnít the best lesson; however learning that treats can be little is something that I still benefit from.

I have a case of popsicles in the freezer that I got for a dime apiece in the winter. They are the fancy all fruit kind, very tasty. They are a treat. Itís not the cost that makes them a treat; itís that they are a sweet and that I have no more than one every couple of weeks.

If I live simply, and without too many frills, little things can feel like such treats. The less I spend the more bang I get for my treat buck. I spent ten times more dining out in two months, January and February, than I have spent in the last three months. I am enjoying the recent meals out so much more.

Cheap(er) treats (the more infrequent, the better):
Sticking a load of laundry in the dryer instead of hanging it.
ďBlowingĒ $5 in a thrift store or at a garage sale.
Having one can of soda.
Getting a burrito from the local place (less than $5)
Making a day a no chores day, even if I have to do a little more the night before.
ďBlowingĒ three dollars at the dollar store.
Sharing a fancy $2 can of soup and not cooking.
Having a fancy three dollar coffee or smoothie from a store
Getting a couple items off the dollar or value menu at a fast food place.
Pulling out the dusty paper plates to avoid dishes.

Iím not talking about having these be treats because I canít afford more. Heck, I could do all these things at least once a week if I wanted to. But why would I want to start taking something for granted, when I can really appreciate it as a luxury?

Treat items can be things that were previously taken for granted. Iím working my way off of club soda and seltzer, and am drinking tap water. Bubbles are now a treat. (Originally when I quit drinking years ago, I gave myself permission to spend as much as I wanted on non-alcoholic beverages. Now I'm trying to get over being spoiled.) If I got a mocha every day, it wouldnít be a treat, but since I always make my coffee at home, a store-bought cup once every six months can be pretty special. Forget the ski trips, the Nordstrom trip, the daily Starbucks trip, the luxury car Ė Iím easy, give me a popsicle.

Reality Check

June 2nd, 2006 at 03:44 am

Iím not sentimental, yet Garrison Keillor made tears rolls down my cheeks, with a simple prayer.

Iíve read Lake Wobegon Days numerous times and always love it. I just now picked up Leaving Home, a Collection of Lake Wobegon Stories. The stories are funny and poignant. You may have heard some of the stories on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. I see Keillorís books all the time at yard sales and library sales.

At the end of the first tale, a man lies in bed and thinks, ďThank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.Ē

I need to print that for myself, for when I forget to be grateful.

No Bath Needed-Blogs Fixed Me Up

June 2nd, 2006 at 02:58 am

Well, I am a major goob. I was moping like a big baby, then I looked at a few blogs and Hot Diggity, there is a mighty amount of success going on. So many goals reached and exceeded. Ignore the fuss in this corner-some people are total rock stars right now!

A Bath Will Solve This

June 2nd, 2006 at 02:51 am

I felt like Taylor Hicks, doing the full three months of spending less than half my net, and I'm dancing around on top of the world, and I got only one (cherished) kudos. I guess need more validation than I thought. My savings account is full, but clearly I have issues than money can not solve. It's funny, I'm a grown woman but sometimes I'm just like a little kid.

I love the recumbent bike. I earned 9 miles of cruddy TV tonight.

And I'm weaning myself off of club soda. I miss the bubbles, but I'm hanging on.