Sunday, January 25, 2015

It's time to change the header on this thing. Oh, hey, look, first blog post since August... I slack.

And to change what I blog about.

Because I am pretty sure that just this month and just on Amazon, I blew through that 17,500. (no, not really, because I am not in fact suicidal).

In truth, it's because we don't have to. And there are some things that we have been talking about that will completely blow that.

Like the wrap around deck and hottub and the three season room and the next trip to Ikea and the home and garden show is coming up in February and I KNOW the hubbin wants him some steamy sauna-y goodness and we'll actually start that planning this year. And the geodesic dome greenhouse. And the natural swimming hole with the carps. And the replacement outbuilding because I don't actually want to fix and move the back barn, I want to get one that has a usable loft, a ramp, room to store more than one spade and a door that closes without herculean effort and opens without a crowbar and last, but not necessarily least, one that doesn't smell like the one we have.

Oh, yeah, and my barely suppressed desire to take a 3lb sledgehammer to the bathroom on a daily basis.

And because I am working a regular day job with office hours.

Yup, that's right, I are employee. Feels kinda weird. Still not sure what to make of it.

That's actually why I have been absent for a while. I forgot how much it messes with ones schedule to have to be away from home from 6:20 to usually 5-ish. No more shopping at noon on a Tuesday. No more weeding the front yard while on the phone. No more hanging a load of laundry before getting on the computer. Those little bits add up. A lot. Kinda like pennies pinched and definitely WAY more than I remembered. But I have so far not put fingers to keyboard at 3am for this gig, or gotten phonecalls at 4am, so I am quite happy with the choice we made (did I just hear faint laughter and someone saying DOOM?).

So I guess the thing is to re-direct. More recipes for getting foods prepped for the week for home cooked meals, more gardening tidbits, more sustainability, more frugal with a purpose, rather than to budget (yes, there's a difference, think up front cost and amortizations), because I will continue to pinch pennies 'til Lincolns little eyes pop out, and we'll see, maybe even some thoughts on maximizing saving for retirement (unless we win the lottery, then I'll start talking about his and hers yachts and tax havens) and sewing projects and such.

I guess what I am saying is that we've cocooned for a bit, made some changes, thought some thoughts (and set off the fire alarm), and I think I might be back. It's a journey, here's to the next leg :)

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm not dead yet... and an honesty check about finances.

Alright, my header reads that we live on $17,500 a year and I'm not changing that right now (yet?), because, well, that's how this started and how we could still be doing it.

Here's the rub, though: Hubbin wrecked his truck this last winter, and we bought a new, more fuel efficient car, which came with a car payment that bumped our annual budget up to $21,500.

Oddly enough, there was a negative change in our insurance cost ($5 less a month, WHAT?). The data geek in me now wants to know the algorithms that go into that calculation, when a 10 y/o full size truck with minimal insurance costs more than a new, full coverage insured tiny little bump in the road.

So obviously, it's not fuel efficient enough to offset the loan we took out for it, and trust me when I tell you that that was totally part of the 2 month long discussion here at Pinch Manor. It gets somewhere above 35 mpg on average, though, so I'll put that out there for our little zippy thing. It will be cheaper over the long haul than a used truck (other option we discussed) would have been, so we did still make the frugal choice. Because you know what else comes in blue and is a much sexier car, albeit without the cargo space? Convertible Mustangs:

Shamelessly stolen from this page:

Deep, longing SIGH.

I am a little ashamed to admit that the deciding factor as to whether we would just use the insurance payout (uninsured driver rider, thank you ever so much, if you don't have that insurance rider, do it, do it now!) and buy another used vehicle, or if we would use it as a down payment and get something new, was the colour of the car we got.

It came in my blue. I am a bad person and a shameless spendthrift. Did I mention it's a pretty, pretty blue that matches a lot of my wardrobe? A girl's gotta colour coordinate, don'tch know?

Our two vehicles, minutes after we signed on the dotted line.  Wonder what they are talking about?

The thing we can't decide is, did the van have a baby or is it dating a midget? 

(If you are thinking about flaming me about that one, I'm talking about an inanimate object, not a person, grow a sense of humour, or buy one, I hear they are on sale this month at most local retailers)

So there it is, we broke budget because we took out a car loan. I'm not changing the header, because this is the only change to the budget and frankly, we could have done without it if we had to; or kept the payments significantly lower by putting a larger down payment up or changing the terms of the loan around a bit. Purely a luxury item that ended an argument. If we hadn't had the room in the budget, from pinching and saving and generally living below our means, this picture would have been of a used vehicle, bought from a private seller for under $3,500, which was the budget we had agreed on for a used car. 

Did I mention it's MY blue? Which is weird, because it's the car the hubbin drives most of the time :D

But seriously, I totally admit that I saw this car in a parking lot, went and got the hubbin and asked him why I don't have one of those. Yeah, I'm that kind of high maintenance.

That's one of the reasons why we live frugally, so we can look at each other, ask that question, walk into a dealership and fix that problem we are having.

And because we could both work minimum wage jobs and be fine. Which is how this whole thing sort of started, with someone telling me how it's not possible to live on the current minimum wage of $7.50 an hour (two almost full time (38 hrs) incomes, after taxes: $23,700, so that's what we had to stay below to prove it can be done, that, and groceries for no more than $1/meal, because that's less than food stamps would be for us). Best way to get me to do something: Tell me it can't be done.

There is another blog post brewing somewhere in my brain about closing that challenge (because I have proved the point to MY satisfaction and that's really all that counts at this point) and just focusing more on sustainability and crunchyness (did I just type that?), without going too granola (YUCK) and shifting the frugal aspect more toward the economics of what is my time worth. It's a journey and there is a change of direction brewing. It's all good :D

K, that's all I got for now, back under my rock for a while, because the garden is coming in nicely, and I am doing a lot of Lacto fermentation.

Happy Pinching :D

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blogging, Life and Gardening. Also, Priorities!

Alrighty then, it's been a while. 

I'm baaaaaack. Maybe. 

This post brought to you by my (very) occasional contributions to Lehmans, here's the link.

I'll put my original further down, because this post is actually about my realization how freaking awesome my editor is. 

When I submit something, I send it as a draft, with the understanding and expectation that things will be changed. And by that I mean the kind of change between the Lord of the Rings book and the movies. That's what I'm expecting when I send stuff over. 

What I get is something much, much better. 

When I see my contributions on the Lehman's Blog, I have caught myself thinking 'hey, that person sounds sort of like me, only better and funnier and she's writing about this thing I have done and that looks almost like my a bit further, check the tag line...hey, that's my article. AWESOME'. 

That's what a good editor does. They take the original voice and they amplify it and make it clearer, without distorting it. I have that editor. And she rocks :D

Here's what I originally wrote for the article linked above, make your own decisions:

May 19, 2014

For us this year so far has served as a reminder that we are not in charge of our garden and how things will work out.

Despite months of planning, re-arranging, re-planning and, let’s call it, dreaming about the perfection that will be this years garden, we are now officially 3 weeks behind, we have harvested a grand total of three (you read that right, 3) radishes, and they were minuscule, because everything is either languishing or bolting to seed before setting full roots.

Bolting Radishes

The peppers and tomatoes went in on May 19, 2014, the latest I have ever planted anything, and it’s because I didn't want the poor little plantiwuzels (totally a word) to freeze in the ground, but I had to get them in, because they were starting to not like being in pods. 

And don’t even get me started on the sunflowers just poking their little leaves out, because those are the support system for the cucumbers, so those JUST got seeded out. Slackers all around me. I NEED cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, fresh from the vine, for my continued happiness. Does Nature not understand my needs here? And no, buying them is not the same, I have been forever ruined for hothouse produce. Starting to get scurvy here and rapidly going through my last little stores of pickles from last year, this is completely unacceptable. Where do I lodge a complaint? Just kidding, this is actually what makes gardening fun, having to adjust and go with how things run, not really having control. And there is a core deep happiness and sense of thankfulness and accomplishment when I pull one of the canned jars from last year or the year before off the shelf. That is something that no one could ever have explained to me, that sense of ‘YEAH, we did this, despite torrential rains, despite season-long droughts, despite insect invasions that had me picking bugs for days. Nothing quite like it :D
Potatoes, lettuce, peas, carrots and radishes, cucumbers vining their way up an ornamental trellis: PRETTY. Delicious. Win-win.

I do plan my garden to basically give me a 2 week break in the middle of summer, because we go on vacation, completely non-negotiable and we are not in charge of when that happens. Having everything come into fruit just as one leaves for two weeks is frustrating at best and definitely heartbreaking, so after doing that for a few years I started checking the days to harvest and planning the garden around those dates. Apparently I learn by pain association <wink>. And note, that’s me planning, not how things actually work out, because never fear, nothing will go as planned :D

With this years spring showing me whose boss I will definitely have to do some serious juggling and shifting of plant dates and even some re-arranging of where things will be planted, because the radishes that were supposed to be gone by now are still in situ where some of the peppers were planned, so those guys have to move and that will create a ripple effect in my plan, because they have to go where the corn was scheduled to go, which will have to be bumped by a few weeks (thank goodness for long growing seasons), which means the beans will be bumped along with them. To give a concrete example of one that didn't work out for me: The buckwheat I put in as early as I could only poked their little baby leave up a little bit before they all drowned (and were immediately replaced by dandelions, grump).

The carrots are clinging to life with a ferociousness I never thought I’d see in a humble carrot, because they have now been drowned, parched, nearly frozen and munched on by slugs, the letti (lettuces? Oh, if only I’d paid better attention in English vocab) is pathetically small, but at least they haven’t drowned (I was worried there for a few days) and they are being little troopers about not bolting (see above about the slackweasel radishes), so I am actually really impressed with those little guys, can’t wait to eat them :D

Carrots, trust me

On to further happy news: Despite being broiled, frozen and drowned ourselves and see-sawing between fanning ourselves and lighting fires in the fireplace to warm up the house, the garden is ready. Broadforked and augmented with compost, weeded,  desluggified (it’s a word, trust me), because those little suckers will actually drink cheap beer (no, I’m not letting them drown in home brew), sprinkled with crushed eggshells and diatomaceous earth and now it’s all about the weather forecast. So here’s hoping that it’s accurate and I didn't just plant almost 200 seedlings, only to have them all die in a late frost. Pray with me :D

June 15, 2014
Done at last, done at last, goodness gracious, we are done at last.
With the spring/summer planting.
A whole month behind schedule.
My schedule that is, because as we all know, *I* am not in charge and there is simply nothing I can do about that and it’s sort of glorious, isn’t it?

Here’s where we are as of today:
Carrots(Dragon, and I simply can’t wait to see them in all their red glory :D)  going strong and being all bushy and looking inviting. Make you just want to nibble, don’t they? Grow, grow, we want to eat you!

Carrots, told you to trust me

Little Potato cucumbers, these guys are being sprinkled with diatomaceous earth regularly, so that nothing nibbles on them when I’m not looking (as are all the other plants, that’s the little whitish specks you see in all of my pics)

Three head lettuce, this is one of the last ones around, because we ate the rest already and only left a few to go ahead and bolt, so we can seed save them for the fall planting. And they are kind of pretty when they bloom, so I get double duty out of the deal. Can’t complain about that, now, can ya?

It is for that reason that I plant a lot of lettuce in the front of my house, where one would expect to see flower beds. I know that I get strange looks when I am out there, harvesting lettuce and herbs for dinner with a big ole colander, but I just can’t bring myself to waste all that space on things I can’t eat.

Note to self: Don’t plant corn in the front flower beds, it doesn’t look right.

Lazy Housewife beans, also pretty and can vine their way up an ornamental trellis. Or, as in this case, be in the garden and be purely functional. That is something that is on the list, pretty trellises for the garden, it just hasn’t happened yet. It just so happens that the beans really don’t care what they climb. I’ve used sunflowers, corn, sticks, a discarded porch swing frame, the side support of my clothes line, you name it, beans will climb it. Hooray.

The only limiting factor for me is what I want to have to look at in my yard all summer, so I strive for pretty. That garden is supposed to feed more than just our bellies, after all :D

Last, but definitely not least: Black Cherry Tomatoes.

 I’m informed by a reliable source that these are delicious and candylike (me, I am that source, I had them last year) and will not make it into the house. And since the hubbin flat out refuses to eat raw tomatoes of any kind, they will be mine, all mine. And there are 11 plants, so maybe, just maybe I will be able to dehydrate some or can them for the winter, because these things are sooooo jummy,  and dehydrated they are like tomato raisins (tomaisins?). I would show you a picture, but there aren’t any, because I used up all my self-control to put a handful into the dehydrator, there was none left for taking pics before devouring them.

I have limits. A lot of them. I embrace them and when it comes to delicious, homegrown foods without preservatives (OK, salt in some cases), I see no reason to restrain myself.

That’s all I have for now.
Happy Pinching.

P.S.: Tomatoes LOVE used coffee grounds, and eggshells, so don’t throw those out. And the coffee grounds and eggshells also act as a deterrent to some pests, so there’s another win-win.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

OK... here goes.

I love writing these posts. I really, really do. It's quite enjoyable to me to write these little blips about stuff I have learned.

What is not enjoyable is doing it and then finding out that people think I have copied from other blogs (if it looks like I have without crediting, that's just too bad, because I have not, that's too, too tacky for words)

So, I may or may not post things here, as I have time and inclination to do so, but the last five or six posts I started and then googled, because paranoid now, have already been done ad nauseam, so I abandoned them.

I feel no need to re-hash material that is already at my fingertips, unless I have something new to add.

In my sideline there are some fantastic blogs about a lot of the things I am doing to stay within budget.

This is not an end to my blogging, it's a change in how I go about it and a re-allocation of my time in accordance with priorities. (Read this as I want to spend more time with people, not computers).

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm sort of joking here. Sort of. A little. OK, maybe not joking, but showing range, YEAH, that's it, I'm showing range ;)

humor-site-deadspin-ranks-preppiest sports

Feeling under-represented here with only 5 mentions, where is Tennis and Womens Water Polo and Pheasant Hunting, not to mention cycling?

Only 5? Bah, Humbug.

I will now return you to your regularly scheduled penny pinching adventures ;)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm not dead yet... I feel HAPPY - and thoughts on food storage quantities :) with judicious use of the phrase A. LOT.

It's inspired by this post over at Lehman's:

I've been (and still am to some extend) finishing up the last (HAH!) of the harvest and stock up for Winter putting up chores and have consequently been buried in the kitchen and basement.

Our simply overwhelming apple harvest. Yup, that's all of it. It's a 3 year old tree, so We're actually quite thrilled.

One of the things that goes into preserving the harvest/ shopping frugally/ not running to the store every 5 seconds (or every week, which to me seems like every 5 seconds) is planning what you are going to have on hand.

I have tried doing the meal plan thing before and I failed miserably, because no matter how thick the writing on the meal plan saying it's bean casserole night is underlined, what we both really want tonight is pizza. And that's just for the two of us, I can't imagine what that sort of thing is like when there are more people involved in the 'but I'm really in the mood for X' discussion. And let's face it, just because we eat frugally doesn't mean that we want to (or should) feel deprived in any way. Feeling deprived (as opposed to depraved, which is the norm around here) is what leads to bingeing, which leads to feelings of guilt, which leads to austerity, which leads to bingeing and so on and so forth, ad nauseam.

Self-defeating is the word I was looking for there.

One of the pitfalls of starting to eat frugally is that one might be tempted to buy cheaply and in bulk, only to learn that what one (me, alright, it was me) has stocked up on a bunch of stuff noone wants to eat. That's known as 'Not a Bargain for Us'.

Two things: Buying in bulk requires an initial outlay of funds for the larger quantities one buys, so there is usually a 'saving up for it' period involved. Use that time to figure out not only what you actually consume (toilet paper is a relatively safe bet here) and, and this is kind of important, how much of it you consume over a given period of time.

I just accepted a delivery of 100lbs of flour, 50 lbs of whole wheat stone ground and 50 lbs of white all purpose, so I'll just go ahead and use that as an example.

I bake A LOT in the colder months. Think at least four loaves of bread, two loaves of banana nut bread*, at least one batch of cookies (it's the season, don't you know), a batch of garlic cheddar biscuits and pigs in a blanket, usually an apple coffee cake and sometimes a batch of English Muffins or tortillas if I am feeling adventurous. That's every week. Now some of that goes into the freezer for the summer months, when I not only don't want to heat up the house by baking, but also don't have the time to do anything other than deal with the garden, but on average, I go through about 8 lbs of flour a week during baking season.

So those 100lbs are going to last us until Early February or a little more than 3 months.

We may have some kind of carb addiction going on here...

I no longer know what non-bulk, non-bromated flour costs, but I got this stuff for $0.56 per lb including the shipping, which is slightly more than I could spend for bromated flour at GFS in the 50lb bag, but I'll go with the non-pesticide option for as long as the extra ~$0.005 per pound and the shipping can be absorbed into the budget.

Now, if you are not baking all of your own bread and cookies and cakes then buying 100lbs of flour might not be for you. Here's why: That stuff doesn't last forever. Actually, it'll last about 3 months in my constant temp and relatively stable humidity basement or 6 months in the freezer before it goes stale and/or rancid. And would you look at that, that's about as long as it'll take me to use that all up. How fortuitous. It's almost like I planned it that way...

Another good example for us is tomatoes. We use a lot of them. A. LOT.

Before I started growing and preserving my own we went through about four #10 cans of whole peeled tomatoes a month. In order to replace that level of consumption with organic, home grown, non-BPA canned tomatoes I would have to can roughly 200 quarts of tomatoes. That's not happening for several reasons:

  1. I'm lazy (remember this, it's sort of a theme here)
  2. That's 200 quart jars I have to buy just for the tomatoes, and while I probably will get there eventually, it's not an investment we are able to make up front.
  3. If I suggested to the hubbin that we need to can 200 quarts of tomatoes he would either have a coronary right then and there or seed the garden plot with grass seed, or both.
  4. That's a lot of room to dedicate in the pantry. More room than we can allow for it, in fact.
  5. Canning 200 quart jars would be 29 canner loads for me. I could probably pull it off during tomato season, but see #1 (told you to remember that one) and there are other things to take care of at that point in time. 
Dehydrating to the rescue :D

I can some tomatoes, because you just can't beat that taste and texture for some things.
I throw some of them into the freezer, because it's easy and we have a lot of them.
I dehydrate A. LOT. of them. Because when I make a sauce, stew or soup, having some dehydrated tomatoes to throw in there is wonderful. And a pint of dehydrated tomatoes is about equivalent to two #10 cans :) Look at all that room I am not using for tomatoes :D

I didn't one day decide that I would need 50 quarts of canned tomatoes and 100lbs of flour every three months, it took some watching what we actually eat, some math, some looking at grocery receipts and figuring out when we use what. And it took me a few years to figure out that that 50lb bag of flour I bought in December went a lot faster than the one I bought in August. It's a journey, and you have to pay attention to things you may not usually even think about.

Beans are a prime example of this for us. I used to not cook with beans that much, because I bought them dry and they are sort of a pain to deal with that way, but SOOOO much cheaper. Then I heard about a trick where you soak a whole bunch and then freeze them in portion sizes, so you just have to defrost them to have pre-soaked beans ready to go. Only that's a pain in the rear, too, because thawing that lump-o-frozen-beans takes forever without application of some heat, and you may recall that I am what is colloquially known as way too cheap to do that.

Then I started canning them without pre-soaking them (here) and suddenly we are eating more beans than you can shake a stick at. And I started running out of beans, so I started buying them whenever I saw them for my stock-up price (under $1.00/lb) anywhere...We have a lot of beans right now. Dried, and canned. 

A. LOT. 

There's actually more in the basement and I took this pic after I canned a bunch. I may have a problem.

It's OK, because they are not going to go bad before we use them up. But I will have to figure out how much we actually consume, so that I can then adjust my purchases to meet our actual demand without having a years worth of beans sitting around. Because having a few hundred bucks tied up in food that might go bad before we eat it is not frugal or smart. And it sort of ticks me off when I do it.

Quick aside: Rotate your food and your tires. In shuffling a bunch of jars in the basement I found some dried bell peppers from 2010. They are still good (Thank YOU) and are now actually ground into a fine powder and in the spice cabinet for use as paprika (YUMM). I just hate finding stuff like that because it means I didn't do due diligence. First in, first out and stock from the back, B. you know this :)

You know how when you were in school and you asked when you would ever need all this math stuff? My mall rat, colour guard, designer clothes wearing, snobby self would have laughed if someone had used this as an example.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

*I buy bananas when they go on sale in the summer and prep them for banana nut bread by putting 6 of them in a bag, adding cinnamon and freezing them as flat mush

Monday, October 21, 2013

Last of the summer harvest (frost advisory for tonight)

Clockwise and spiralwise (is that a word?), starting with the pile of three, upper left:
Green, ripening to a deep oxblood red sweet pepper, that has such a rich, flavour that it's simply indescribable. I keep opening the dehydrator and popping some chunks into my mouth. There's a reason you are not seeing a pile of them, I had to beat the hubbin off with a stick to be able to let them get ripe enough to seed save them. They are called Sweet Chocolate and it's kind of true.
Next up Ancho Pablomas, these babies are HOT HOT HOT and have a smoky flavour without having seen a smoker, which is a good thing, because I don't have one :( ...yet.
Black Hungarians, medium hot, with a sweet lead in that slowly builds up to a nice, warm crescendo with practically no burn. Probably my favourite hot pepper and not just because they are black, ripening to a deep, rich red :) on nice, compact plants and look lovely.
Black Hungarians, last years open pollination, it worked :).
Sweet little pepperlings, don't know what they are called, but they are really, really sweet, the candy of peppers, and simply adorable on the plant. Upright habit, and you can't really see it here, they go from a creamy white to purple to orange to deep red and are probably the most ornamental peppers I've ever planted.
I call the next set jalapeno looking sweet peppers, they are very flavourful, sweet and mild with no heat at all, very nice, they are from seeds I saved from a pack of sweet peppers from Sams Club if you would believe it. Experiment: successful, so far, let's see what happens next year :D
Then we have White Bullnose, they ripen from a creamy white through purple streaks to a deep red and the flavour changes from buttery to this very rich paprika flavour I've never experienced in a fresh pepper.
Purple peppers that are white on the inside, want to say they are purple beauty, but could be wrong, open pollination from last year, seed from one lone survivor of the drought, and the taste is completely worth the effort of nursing that one through :)
Basic green pepper, except these are a heirloom variety (Emerald Giant, didn't quite make it to red) as well, and I can tell the difference. The pepper flavour is complex, there is a sweetness to these that I have never tasted in a commercial pepper and they are more fragrant than anything I could buy at the store.
Then black jalapenos, they pack a punch and again, the complex flavour is worth dealing with the heirloom for this one, it was a new one for us this year and we'll be planting it again along with all of the varieties you see here. I will be trying a few other ones next year, just to add a bit more variety to the pepper game, but ultimately I want there to be 10 to 12 varieties.

I'm saving the seeds out of all of these, and for peppers that's easy to do: cut open the pepper, take out the seeds and dry them until a seed breaks when bent, then store them away, I keep my hoard in jars in the freezer :D. Make sure you lable your seeds well throughout the entire process, or you might wind up like me, calling your seed packs 'pretty little pepperlings' ;)

We've gone from this

 to this. Fall is well and truly here.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching