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Archive for October, 2006

Water with Gas, as Europeans Say

October 31st, 2006 at 04:57 am

I was going to try and reduce my club soda/seltzer consumption. When I quit boozing a while back I gave myself permission to drink anything I wanted. Iím not interested in drinking calories-I get plenty in my food-but I loves my bubbles. Then I decided during this Challenge that I should make bubbly water a treat. Well, flexibility is a good thing. The bubbles are back, Iím much more hydrated, and I am fine with cutting down on other treats in order to keep my seltzer. I get the cheap store brand cans for travel and two liter bottles for home. I just really love the stuff. It makes for a $10 to $15 a month hit on my Grocery budget, but I am at peace with that.

Two wrenches in my books this month:

One: a friend of mine picked me up some stuff at Trader Joeís in Oregon (grapefruit soda, Pirate Booty, something for my dad, shhhhh!) and I donít know how much it was. I had limited time with them and had to run to work and gave them a blank check. (Yeah, I know, blank check, Iím naÔve. Iíd really rather be naÔve and believe in people, though. I would be beyond shocked if anything went wrong.) Anyway, itís been a week or so and hasnít cleared, so I need to wait or consider it a November expense. Waiting is better but I am sometimes not patient.

Two: The $2.25 I spent on coffee was covered by a friend. I really donít carry cash. So I went to pay her back, and she wouldnít take it, really wouldnít. I tried to intimidate her: ďitís already been put in my challenge budget!Ē She was unmoved-said I needed to buy another one. Well, Iím stuck. I donít want to get another coffee! So that $2.25 will be spent on this friendÖ.just need to work out on what.

This Will Change My Life

October 29th, 2006 at 01:04 am

Oh my goodness Iím excited. When I made a big batch of combo oatmeal-cream of wheat-apricots the other day, I froze it in a large muffin tin. Now I have a large bag full of single serving breakfasts! I plan to steal the idea for stews and casseroles too, since I often run out of cottage cheese and salsa tubs. This way I know what the item is without marking a bunch of containers. Iíve done a variation of this with ice cubes trays for pasta sauce and apple sauce, but the size of an ice cube ice cube doesnít lend itself to as easy a meal-Iíd need multiple cubes. Also, my 12 cup muffin tin will hold a heck of a lot more than an ice cube tray.

Being a simple gal creates so many opportunities for happiness!

Random This and That

October 29th, 2006 at 12:29 am

Small changes I make sometimes make my life so much simpler. I used to put all sorts of frozen food in plastic tubs in the freezer. My Guy couldnít effectively decipher which tubs held concoctions, which tubs were leftover meals, and which tubs were prepared, seasoned meat/chicken for tortillas, etc. Frankly, I couldnít tell sometimes either. Well, I bought a bunch of small freezer bags; Iím putting my cooked meats in these bags, frozen and laid flat. (I got the idea from how I pack my cooked down plums for jam.) Now itís simple; if itís in a flat bag, itís an ingredient, if itís in a tub itís a meal for one. An added benefit is the bags take up much less space.

I notice that changes can be so little but so helpful. My tea stash was overwhelming and unattractive. Now I have three canisters: herb, black, and caffeine-free black. Iím not saying this would work for everyone, but it has really pleased me. Another: having a shelf in the fridge that holds lunch or snack items, like hard boiled eggs or slices of cheese wrapped in plastic wrap or pickles or fruit or sandwiches or whatever. Now I can grab 3 or 4 items and Iím good to go.

There are areas in my life where I still need to find a system that worksÖpaperwork flow isnít streamlined. Magazines in/magazines out system is in progress. How/where to store stuff for Goodwill where itís accessible but not obviously ugly is a tough one so far (we donít have much in the way of closets).

I organized our Presents Stash; I had two overflowing unorganized boxes-now I have three boxes, for co-worker gifts, friends and family gifts, and unspecified gifts, plus a list of all these items. This way I know which people I need to keep looking out for, and which folks I have great presents for. Shopping ahead has really been effective; not only have I gotten some very nice items at very low prices, I donít have the pressure of last minute shopping to dread.

I spent some survey points at a couple different sites; My Points for a larger gift certificate for a present, and another target $5 certificate with my Harris Poll Online points; that will give me $20 total for either presents or personal needs. I have only recently started to track these; a few minutes of organizing a few weeks ago have paid off.

I completed an online survey for five bucks; when I get the check Iíll count it as income, which will probably be December.

Darn Busy Day Off

October 28th, 2006 at 03:27 am

I did get all my errands done. I spent a lot of money and am a little exhausted, so it could have been better.

On recycling, I got $4.74 cash. I took some books in for trade; only two of many were accepted, so I added $4 to my ďcreditĒ at the bookstore. (I have over $39 in credit; I can get folks books as presents!) On the flip side, I spent over $87.18 in Grocery money at two grocery stores and the bread outlet doing a huge restock, after we emptied out cupboards and fridge. I spent $28.69 in Household Money (tp, detergents, etc.) at those stores, an office supply store, and the thrift store. (I was able to get gift jewelry boxes for the jewelry I bought in Europe for some folks for a dime a boxÖsome nice velvet ones!)

At the bank I deposited some checks Iíd been holding onto too long (September internet survey and a couple work reimbursements) as well as a bunch of rolled coins. I also went out to lunch and spent $6.25 on lunch with My GuyÖI suppose part of me wanted errand day to be pleasant, at the expense of my Entertainment budget.

Thatís over $122 spent in one day; over 10% of my monthly budget. Nine places. Four hours. I donít regret my purchases-all items were on the list or within the budget. I just am not built for errands and shopping. (Hence the undeposited checks I had stockpiled.) I am glad I still have two weekend days.

I was also able to make a batch of crockpot beans and chicken for future meals (two thighs and a breast made tortilla filling for nine meal servings, so I figure that's a pretty good use of meat). I prepped a bunch of plums to make jam. I did a lot of laundry and dishes.

My true treat? I did buy a bunch of club soda with my grocery money...I havenít been drinking enough water lately, and even though Iíve been making a lot of iced tea for home, I have admitted to myself that I love having cans of club soda in my car and at work and in my purse. Iíll be taking a hot bath and drinking my bubblies!

I Really Hate This Ad

October 27th, 2006 at 06:07 pm

I saw an ad on television that I hated with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. The commercial was for Home Depot; we see a woman putting her glass into a fridge door and commenting to her husband that the water dispenser is broken, and that the ice cube maker is broken too. The angle changes and then we see that it is a regular refrigerator with no dispensersÖ.sheís hinting to her husband that they need a new fridge.

Why do they need a new fridge when the old isnít broken? What is acceptable about rude sarcasm to hint to your spouse to buy something? Do they have all financial business taken care of, such as all debt paid and retirement planning, that they can make this a financial priority? Is using the tap and making ice cubes so very time consuming that an absolute luxury is perceived as a need? If people in other countries could see what we Americans have as priorities, as evidenced by this commercial, theyíd rightly think we were nutty.

I have a scheduled day off work, and if I do what I plan Iíll get a lot done. A trip to take books to the bookstore for exchange value, a grocery run, a bread thrift store run, some recycling, preparing frozen whole plums for making jam, laundry, housecleaning. I love days that feel productive like that.

Mother Hubbard

October 26th, 2006 at 03:28 am

Iím really cleaning out the cupboards. Last month I spent $77 on grocery, not much.* This month, so far only $32! That wasnít the original plan, but I got into a ďclean out the cupboardsĒ mode. Some combinations have been goodÖ.much used oatmeal cooked with sitting on the shelf cream of wheat. That had an unused can of apricots blended and stirred into it, for a batch of ďinstantĒ breakfasts. A can of beets and a can of corn with dressing: it made me wonder why they had been siting on the shelf! I love beets! Stockpiles of shelf stable tofu and sugar free gelatin back in rotation and being put to good use. The cupboards and fridge are empty in a good wayÖI feel like I really have a handle on what I have, what I need, and how creativity can turn ďthereís nothing in the house to eatĒ into three weeks plus of meals. Weíll do a big run in the next few days, but we donít have unused dusty food now.

*I didnít spend a low amount due to the trip; I used $45, half my ďnormalĒ grocery money, towards meals on my trip.

Didn't Have It, Can't Forget It

October 25th, 2006 at 04:22 am

The more I think about that $8.75 banana split I saw the other day, the more amazed I am. I suffer from sticker shock continually-a benefit of being an infrequent shopper who does frequent garage sales and thrift stores- but my goodness. I would have guessed maybe $4.95 for a banana split tops. Perhaps $6 or $7 in NYC or a fancy restaurant. Iíd have to work an hour and a half at minimum wage for the banana split. That seems wrong. It seems like a once or twice a year banana split should be a reasonable treat in the scheme of things. Sometimes I am surprised by how many people are in debt or not managing money too well. Well, part of it is that we arenít all equally skilled; Iím sure slimmer folks sometimes marvel at how chubbier folk can not eat right and exercise. But beyond the ďwhy donít we all have common senseĒ argument, so much out there to buy is so unnecessary or overpriced, and it surrounds folks. Made from scratch that banana split would be maybe seventy five cents. Iím almost curious to ask them how many they sell a year. Itís not a particularly fancy place; just a local ice cream shop.

Y'all can be thankful I'm back to yacking about frugality. However, on the rumination side of things, tonight tv has crud so I actually didn't watch the crud, and I listened to some music. So simple, but habits habits habits.....

I Did Something Last Week

October 24th, 2006 at 02:00 am

Admission: I spent $2 on a coffee last week; $2.25 including tip. Nothing really fancy, just a medium sized coffee with cream. Itís coming off my entertainment budget, and isnít too much, but somehow not ďadmittingĒ the purchase has been weighing on me. How weird is that?

On my ruminations: I thank you all for your encouragement, both to be kind to myself and to not let up up my goals (if reasonable). I took concrete steps today; that always makes me feel better. I canít say that I did Day One of Twenty One days to build a habit; tomorrow I leave the house at 4:30 in the morning to fly to Sacramento and arrive back at 10:30 at night. Thatís definitely not a normal day for me.

Ruminations on Another Year

October 22nd, 2006 at 11:21 pm

I feel good about growing older in general. I was very glad to leave my twenties. The way I look at it, the older one is the less they freak out.

Thatís what made me bummed that this was not my favorite Birthday. Now, I almost didnít want to mention it because it seemed like a pretty cheap way to get people to give me birthday greetings. Hence the lack of posts.

Most folks probably have a general idea of what they are doing in their lives that works for them, and a general idea of whatís not working for them. If they donít, well, I think these things are worth articulating for ourselves. One of my biggest pet peeves is people complaining about the same thing year after year without doing something to change it. It is just a sad thingÖif someone keeps complaining about the same job every time you see them, itís just funky. They either need to change their head or work environment so that work is better, or leave the job. It may not be a quick thing to fix, but after realizing they feel the way they do, they should start taking concrete steps to change. If the job is fine and they need to just stop complaining so much, thatís a step taken as well.

I have three things that I have been complaining about for a couple years now, and I havenít managed to change my life in these areas. The particular topics arenít important, especially in that they are not money or Challenge related. Iím just really disappointed in myself that in these areas I havenít either made peace or changed things or a combination.

Birthdays are a time of taking stock and right now Iím not so thrilled with what I see. Some things I do in my life Iím proud of. But most of these things are things that have been around a while, such as frugality or sobriety. Iíd like to have something newer to be proud of myself for and Iíd like to not be having the same baggage I had before; I want new baggage.

(A plain banana split at an ice cream place in town was $8.75. Isnít that crazy? No, I didnít have it.)

Habits, My Habits

October 19th, 2006 at 03:54 am

Habits are very hard for me to change. I have a lot of good habits. I have some habits that Iím not so fond of. Changing habits is almost more difficult that what the new task isÖ.and thatís frustrating. Persistence is the keyÖbut if persistence was freakiní easy, Iíd have new habits already. So is it patience thatís the key?

Tighten Up

October 15th, 2006 at 07:55 pm

Okay, things in general I want to tighten up and/or focus on:

Use the excercise bike and walk to work. This saves money and also helps with my health; I could stand to use 30 pounds (I lost 20 then gained four on vacation so Iím at 180). Concrete steps to do this: Offer use of my car to My Guy-he benefits, and I am forced to walk. Also, if I want to play a computer game, ďearnĒ it by using the exercise bike.

Continue to eat breakfast everyday and pack a good lunch and snacks. Iím mostly doing this; I could just get back in the pre-vacation habit of preparing more stuff, like hard boiling eggs or making more muffins and such.

Continue to de-clutter and organize. Iíve need the furniture I already mentioned, eventually. Weíve got the pantry under control and are using some stuff up. I need to take a bag of books to the bookstore for exchange credit, and just start some boxes for the thrift store.

I used to have a routine that worked for me kinda; I got home around 4:15, and between 4:15 and 5 Iíd putter, and from 5-6 Iíd watch Oprah and do the exercise bike and putter, then Iíd be ďoff the clockĒ at 6, still plenty early to enjoy the evening. Not only did going on vacation and then getting sick blow my developed habit, but they moved Oprah to a different time. Itís on two times a day instead of oneÖbut they are the wrong times! Believe me, I can see how sad it is to have a routine built around the Oprah show; I donít defend it and am not proud. However it was a routine that was productive for me. Itís a matter of developing a new one.

To Sleep I Go

October 15th, 2006 at 06:33 am

Today I went to a couple of garage sales. A couple meaning two. Ended up spending $1.25; a quarter on a nice Rubbermaid pitcher, for chilled water or iced tea or whatnot; a gift for fifty cents; and, a tortilla press for My Guy to try tortillas again (hopefully successfully this time).

What I was really looking for was furniture; we have a couple needs in the house. They are actual needs instead of wants, but nothing critical that has to be bought right away. Iíd like a chest/shelves/armoire type thing to hold our gifts for others - right now they are in two boxes behind the couch; disorganized, overflowing, hard to get into. I have one bookcase about to die (it was a cheap pine thing when I bought it 20 years ago and itís listing to the side) as well as other bookcases that are overflowing. In our computer room, some shelving/coffee table/sideboard type thing might help with the piles of crud on the floor.

Iíve been postponing some of this, thinking that instead of getting stuff to put things on and in, I should just get rid of the stuff. Iím at the point that even with all the clutter control I do I have to admit I canít toss everything. Having the box of gifts is such a tension tamer; I have a lot of gifts bought for people specifically, as well as nice general gifts, and this prevents last minute worry and shopping and spending. No need to ruin a good thing by using an unworkable system for it, right?

Itíll take a while to get the right thing. With things like this I can be pretty patient.

I feel the need to re-energize myself and get cracking on being better with my body and taking on tasks, and also have more fun. Iíve been inspired by another blogger who did away with his computer games; I have one I play pretty often, and Iím making it a earned treat-doing the exercise bike earns me a game. Only for that day, though; I canít bank the games I earn. Iíll likely modify the rules, to make it work for me. Tomorrow Iím going to spell out for myself some specifics on how Iíd like to re-focus.

Unchained Medley

October 14th, 2006 at 01:34 am

I have concocted again.

A can of condensed cream of chicken soup, a couple pounds of chicken thighs, a half jar of tandoori paste, and a couple cups of pureed canned peaches. All in the crock pot. And it was really good. Not just edible, not ďokayĒ, but great - second helpings great! And you canít make out any cream base soup or fruit at allÖ.it tastes a little Indian, with the curry tandoori going on.

Now what was I thinking?? Well, itís hard to say sometimes. Not much could top my Freak Soup. I donít worry too much, because no one else has to eat what I concoct-but I usually like it so I forge ahead. So letís try to decipher the code.

ďOkay, I have lots of jars of marinades and pastes and sauces, so Iíll use some up. Less clutter, less spending, all that good stuff. What can I put sauce on? Iíll try the chicken thighs I bought, because they are a lot cheaper, and Iíll see if I can get over my fear of cooking meat. Okay, chicken thighs and ...what jar do I use? How about this tandoori thing, itís in front. There we go; thighs and paste in a pot. Looks dryÖsome water, good. Now itís too thin and runny looking, how to handle thisÖ.. What cans need to be used up? Beets? No, not beetsÖ.cream of chicken sounds better. Itíll add creaminess, smoothness. Good. Anything else? Well, chutney is sometimes used with curryÖshould I stick some fruit in here? Banana? No, not banana. I know, Iíll puree some canned peaches and dump that in. And the rest of the peaches Iíll throw in cream of wheat. Okay, lid is on, and Iím crossing my fingers.Ē

Now, with my oddball meals, what I do is, if all the ingredients separately are ones My Guy will eat, I make the concoction, taste it, if it tastes good ask him to taste it, and then if he likes it admit the ingredients. Last night he said, ďSmells like barbecue.Ē I said, ďOh, no, not even close. After you taste it tomorrow Iíll tell ya.Ē Today he pulled the meat off the bone and made rice. Then he tasted, liked, learned the ingredients, shrugged, and ate up. And had seconds. And said it was really good.

So not only did we have a great meal out of the pantry from odds and ends, we made progress on the fear of meat front. After the meat cooked, My Guy easily pulled the meat of the bones and stuck the meat back into he-knew-not-what; we hadnít been sure how that would work. Now I can stop using chicken breast and use thighs for any crockpot dish from now on. The meat was more flavorful, the fat was easy to skim, and thighs are so much cheaper than breasts.

Whoo hoo!