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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Quickie update, gratuitous dinner pic and an announcement

First things first: I have reactivated my Etsy store, as of this writing I have a grand total of three items listed (impressive, no?), the link is here, in case you want to check out my handiwork. I'm still working on the picture taking thing, so I'm not real happy with that. Moving on.

That's what I have been working on, mostly.

I also boiled some potatoes, let them cool enough to peel them (this counts as a break around here because I do it while watching TV), then shredded them, mixed in some seasonings (chili powder and powdered onion, FANCY!) and some cheese sauce (about a cup of milk to three cups of shredded cheese, heated until pour-able), cut up some hot dogs (don't judge) and threw that concoction into the oven at 350 for a half hour.

There was a third pan...

I think that the whole shebang is giving us 24 portions for less than $10 ($3 for the potatoes, $1 for the hotdogs and $4 for the cheese, give or take a few), and it's my favourite kind of dish, the one dish meal :D

Here's what happened in my kitchen yesterday: Potatoes were cut up, blanched and then set to dehydrate for fries later, I'll finish that post when they come out of the dehydrator.
And I made this:

That's 6 lbs of ground beef, two quarts of beans, homecanned of course, about a half gallon of cut up onions, a bit of home baked bread turned breadcrumbs, and about 18 eggs. With the application of 350 degrees and about 30 minutes we are left with this, much more appetizing looking result:

There's actually 4 more pans of this. 72 servings. I'll take it for under $20 and about 2 hours of actual work, if I consider the cutting of the onions and the mixing of the meat and other ingredients. Pack that up with a side of salad of some sort and both the hubbin and I are quite happy for lunch. That reminds me, time to put the last lettuce seeds in the ground. Never done. ;)

The other non-homesteading thing I have been working on is my facebook page for this blog (is that circular reasoning?) and the Etsy store, It only took me 5 months to hit that button, so no procrastination here...

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Braindump post that is only marginally related to homesteading

I love to be creative. 
I sew, I experiment with how I cook (no, really?), I make things from scratch, I try to build things out of what I have on hand, rather than buy something (I always feel like I am taking the easy way out when I do that), I sometimes work with training my cats to do stupid cat tricks, in short, my inner science geek comes out to play and I do physics and math and psychology and physiology and geometry in my kitchen and sewing room and the back yard. And that's before I start to pull the ceiling panels out of the RV (ask me about how much I love the rain we've been having) and try to figure out what kind of engine is in that beast so I can fiddle with it and keep it running. 

But I digress.

I have been incredibly slackful about something that I really want to do for a while now. And every time I gear up for it something shiny comes along and I let it fall by the wayside and skip off into the newest and most improved sunset.

That thing is my etsy store. I have one. I have listed items in the past, I have made sales there. I have stuff ready to go. So why isn't it up and being maintained? Because I get sidetracked like a fruitfly with ADHD, that's why. Well, no more.

I will have inventory listed and items in the works by October 18, 2013. That is my pledge to myself. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pressure canning dry beans - My no-soak, no-pre-cook method

This is what a lot of my recipes look like. Thorough, no?

OK, it's that time of year, where I still refuse to turn on the furnace, still have the windows open all day and night and the thermostat reads in the low 60s for most of the day. I've taken out the sweaters and there's two comforters on the bed.


Only problem is, I went down to the basement and lo, there were no more canned beans. Only dry. A lot of dry. I hate cooking with dry beans, it takes forever and it's really rather tedious.

So while I was down there I grabbed a few jars of dry beans (I don't leave them in the bag they come in) and the pressure canner. OK, it actually took three trips, it's how I get my exercise.

WARNING: This is not the USDA recommended method, it is how *I* can dry beans. I find it to be easy, simple and effective. I can see no way in which it would be bad or not work if you follow these instructions, it produces what is to me a firmer and better end product than the recommended version of soak, cook, then can, which makes for (again, to me) soggy, mushy beans. If you do not feel comfortable canning beans this way or if you prefer your beans softer than this, please refer to the USDA guidelines, even with soaking, cooking and then canning beans you will save money and time and have a product that is healthier than commercial canned goods with additives you don't want or BPA in the can.

Here's the procedure:

Assemble: Beans (any kind of dry beans will work, in this instance I am using navy beans and chick peas), clean jars and lids and rings, pressure canner (you must not water bath can this, beans are a low acid food and will not be safe to eat if water bath canned), water, seasonings if you are so inclined, lid lifter, jar lifter, a few towels and a clean cloth.

Check your canner for functionality (nothing lodged in the vents, seal is supple, it's clean), this is different for every canner, so please follow manufacturers recommendations.

Put your jars into the dishwasher and run the drying cycle (I have mentioned that I am lazy, right?) or, if you don't have a dishwasher, put them into a sink of hot water. This is just to warm up your already clean jars.

Set your lids in a pot of water on the stove to simmer.

Sort and rinse beans (however many you are going to can,). I measure them before I rinse them and then again as I put them in the jars. Use a bit of vinegar in the rinse water if you are so inclined, I do to make sure they are clean.


sorting and rinsing the pre-measured beans

Let the beans drip dry while you line up however many jars you are planning on canning. Make sure jars are clean. It doesn't matter if you use wide mouth or regular mouth, I tend to use wide mouth because they are easier to get the beans out of when we use them, but as you can see, either works. Make sure to check your jars for cracks and chips, especially around the rim.

My canner takes 7 quart jars

Put about 3 inches of room temperature water into your pressure canner and set the bottom into it. Do not turn on the heat yet.

Fill each jar with either a half cup (for pints) or just slightly less than a cup (for quarts, seriously, like 3 beans less than a full cup) of rinsed beans. Add your seasonings (salt, onions, garlic, pepper, chili powder, up to you, I add a bit of salt, usually)

One tsp of salt per quart is all I add

Top off with room temperature water (I use filtered for this, because it will be what we eat) until there is an inch of headspace left.

Needs a bit more water (actually, the bottom of the ridge on the jar is an inch, but to make sure it's right I measure with the blue thingy that has a name I cannot recall right now)

Dip your clean cloth into the water you are simmering the lids in (careful, this is really hot) and wipe the rims of the jars clean with it.

It's a lid...uhm...magnet

Using your lid lifter, set your lids on the jars and finger tighten the rings. Finger tight means nicely tight, but not so tight that you are straining.

Place the jars in your pressure canner.

Once the canner is filled to capacity, close the lid and turn on the heat.

When you have vented steam for a solid ten minutes, put the weight on the vent and let the pressure build up.

This might be the best $10 I ever spent. It's an adjustable weight 5, 10 and 15lbs

When the pressure reads 10lbs*, start the timer (75 min for pints, 90 min for quarts)  and then keep the pressure at that level.

With the 10lb weight rocking and the pressure gauge reading at a solid 10lbs it's time to start the timer. 90 minutes for the quarts I'm doing 

Any adjustments you make to the temperature must be gradual, large drops in pressure will affect your product, you may lose moisture and the jars might not seal or even break.

When your timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the pressure normalize on its own. While that is going on,

Notice how the pop up button on the right is down, the pressure is down and the black safety valve is flat, that's what you wait for before taking the weight off and opening the canner. And be careful of the hot steam that is still in there.

Arrange a towel on your counter away from drafts, so that you can

set your jars on the towel when you lift them out of the canner to cool for about 24 hours.

The rings only look like they are on there sideways :) Also, I underfilled the jars a bit, not a big deal.

Wait for the ping.

In case you are wondering, YES, I'm a dork.

After a few hours you can check if the jars have sealed, tapping on the top is my preferred method, a sealed jar will sound a nice, high note, an unsealed jar will sound dull. Final test is trying to lift the jar by the lid if it sounded dull. And I tend to err on the side of caution and put the ones I am not sure about in the fridge for immediate consumption or the freezer for later (another reason to use wide mouth jars, they can be frozen).

Quick before they all seal:
Sound test of a different kind

Take the rings off for storage! Always take the ring off for storage of canned goods.
Crud accumulated under the ring can cause mold and rusting and if the ring is on and the jar didn't seal right it can hold the lid in place while the contents ferment and then re-seal, and that's the kind of thing that can (will and has) kill people. Don't eat canned goods that have the rings still on. Not worth it.

Voila, canned beans. With ingredients you can pronounce. And really quite easy to do.

Quick bit of math:

One pound of beans runs anywhere between $0.89 and $2.49 around here, I don't buy them at more than about a dollar on principle, but in the interest of fairness, let's say one pound costs $1.50.

That pound will fill 3 quart jars (plus a half pint), so that's less than $0.50 in beans

Throw in the $0.06 for the two gallons of water I will use to process and fill the jars and the $0.11 for the stove usage and we have a total of $1.67 for three quart jars of beans for a whopping $0.56 for a large can of beans. If you can beat that price, do it. Stock up. Bring me some.

Realistically, because I buy beans for less than a dollar a pound I don't spend more than $0.31 per quart jar or $0.15 per pint of home canned beans. It's completely worth it for us, especially if I consider that I mostly can in the colder months, so there is a marginal gain in frugality because I am heating up the house while doing it. More math than I care to do, but the thought sure makes me feel all virtuous ;) <snicker>

One last thought: This method lets me throw in a quart or a pint of beans at the last minute when I am processing something else and have room in the canner. That doesn't lower the price of the beans any, but it does mean I am not running a partial load, so to speak. An hour and a half of the gas stove running costs me about $0.11 whether there is something in the pot or not.

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching

*At sea level, if you live at a higher elevation, please adjust your pressure accordingly

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Conserving Water for fun and profit

This is a more in depth follow up to this post.

I mentioned that we spent about $100 on a low flow toilet and shower head.

The toilet was because the original one installed in our house was a custom made item, that after over 50 years of absolutely no maintenance whatsoever gave up the ghost and leaked. From everywhere. And getting custom seals to fix the pink abomination* would have been more expensive than buying the basic model at local home improvement warehouse for all of $80 plus taxes and installing it, which we did ourselves and it was EASY.

The new toilet is a low flow model that uses 1.4 gallons per flush. Our old model used 9 gallons per flush. We pay $0.02969 (that's 3 cent) per gallon of water, so that's a total savings of $0.225644 or 22cent per flush.

The new toilet saves us more than a dollar a day in water.

We are actually really upset that we didn't change it out years ago. (staves off descend into the shouldacouldawouldas by focusing on the fact that we have now done it and it's over)

The low flow showerhead (which I actually bought with points from the credit card, but I'll count the cost for this exercise) took us from 2.8 gallons per minute of shower to 1.5 gallons per minute of shower. That's a savings of $0.038597 per minute of shower time, which at Pinch Manor pretty much adds up to at least $1.16 a day. Hey, we drink cheap coffee, we get to take looooong showers.** Your luxury allowances may vary :D

So with those $100 we are saving probably to the tune of $2.25 on an average day, which means that that investment will amortize in 44.44 days, or in a little more than a month.

I'll take it.

The point of this little exercise? Those pennies add up. And up and up. An average savings of $2 a day means that we are at this point (it's been over a month since we installed these) saving about $60 dollars a month or about $720 a year, give or take a few dollars. That is something that will show itself over the next few months in our water/gas bill which I have already adjusted down a bit (we were at $115 for those two, $85 now).

And the new showerhead, while having a lower flow, means that neither hubbin nor I have run out of hot water (40 gallons last a lot longer now) while contemplating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the shower. This is a win for us.

Next water related projects we are saving up for: On demand water heater so we can pinch a few pennies out of the gas bill and a reverse osmosis water filtration system for our drinking water (not a savings in money, but in health)

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

*our bathroom is the kind of pink that always puts me in mind of someone who has kidney failure and a really bad sunburn, not a pretty colour.

**at least until we can afford a hot tub, which you will know, because there will be water stains on this page

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Looking forward and planning for saving

We got our water/gas bill today and it made me ecstatic (with one exception, but that's a rant that doesn't belong here).

Yup. Building up the cushion for Winter, when I know our bill will be higher than our self-calculated monthly budget of $85 a month.

In case you are thinking of putting yourself on a monthly budget that is administered by the company that delivers your utilities, DON'T. Our self calculated monthly budget (one years worth of bills added up and divided by 12, plus a little bit) is about 20% less than the company calculated budget and I have never had to pay extra, quite the contrary, I can usually skip a month, which comes in handy in the summer when we go on vacation.

Here's how I get to have utility bills that tell me to not pay them:

How the heck is there already cat fur on this bill?

See the CR? That means credit. and yes, I overpaid our budget last month by a whopping $15, because I anticipate a rather cold, harsh Winter and want to go in with a solid, cushiony, thick layer of credit, so I don't panic about the cost of turning the heat up to 67degrees and don't feel like an utter failure for not starting up the fireplace each and every day. I tend to do that in months where the hubbin gets three paychecks, and bank the rest of that 'extra' money. It's a great way to build up some savings without feeling it if you can budget like we do.

If you look at the comparison chart the company provides (and it's accurate, I keep the bills and have checked) you will see that our consumption is almost half of what it was. We installed a low flow toilet and a low flow shower head to match our HE washing machine and dishwasher. That is the part that I have been waiting for, a full month of using them. I LOVE IT. An investment of just under $100, $80 of which was the toilet we had to replace or dig an outhouse (not happening)  and according to this bill that will pay for itself in less than half a year. WOOT.

The Pinch Manor budget is based on part of the hubbins income alone, and on 24 pay-periods, rather than the 26 he actually gets. We have the luxury (and we know it's a luxury) to have access to more funds when we need them, because we both work and our income is more than we spend. That last part is really the key. Spend less than you make, bank the rest or pay down on debt or invest it somehow (more on that in a little bit).

What you see on this bill is what I do with all our utilities. I have figured out what our average consumption is and I overpay that by a little bit (basically I round up to the next $5 increment). It took us a while to get there, and I started with just one of the bills and slowly built up a cushion. Now we are at the point where we basically don't pay utilities for July and August, and that's an extra roughly $600 I get to play with over those two months. And it's not hurting us over the rest of the year. You may find different ways to build in cushions for yourself, this is working for us.

Here's our budget:

CC for items listed as incl., I use the points to buy stuff 362.00
fuel incl $90
Cell phones incl $40
Groc incl $180
Amazon Prime incl $7
Magic Jack incl $5
Pet expenses incl $40
gas/water 85.00
electric 85.00
Cable 96.00
Insurance 70.00
Mortgage 730.00
other stuff/squish factor 30.00
Total Bills 1,458.00
Yearly expenses 17,496.00

Yes, we have cable. And cell phones. And Amazon Prime. And pets that cost money that we account for in the budget. How frivolous ;)

The line items you are looking for that are not here are clothing, entertainment and travel. You're right, they are not there.

Clothing:  I work from home, so my clothing expenses are microscopic to begin with and both myself and the hubbin are perfectly content with mostly wearing second hand items, augmented by some nice, classic pieces that serve us for years so we can actually cover our clothing expenses by sticking them in with our budget. No need to buy a new pair of shoes every week to be at the top of the fashion pyramid. We invest (told you we'd get back there) in quality. Costs more up front, true, but $300 spent on a good pair of boots that last for a decade or more and can be repaired is so much better than the accumulation of $35 boots bought instead. And because I view shopping as a sport and am rather competitive, I find some of those classic pieces for a few bucks.

Entertainment: Actually, it's sort of in there, because we have cable and hubbin goes and sees movies at the theatre every now and then. What you are not seeing is a line item for the fun things we do, because if we don't have the money for it we don't do it. It's that simple. Where I squeeze most of the money for this is actually our grocery budget. I allocate $180, but I beat that budget on a regular basis (I did mention I am competitive, right) and squirrel the leftovers away to have fun with. I augment these funds with money I make from side jobs, so not our regular income, which is fully allocated, but little things like selling books on e-bay or doing a custom job for someone.

Travel: This is something we love to do, and it's also something we don't budget for, on purpose. It's what we save for, part of why we pinch dead presidents and our joy in life. It's not part of the budget. It is, for us, the REASON for the budget. When we both generate and income, or when we have an influx of money, we do not adjust our budget upward, we put that 'extra' either toward paying off debts, retirement savings (if it's a long term thing) or we use it to go someplace or do something on our bucket list. In the last few years that's been our one summer vacation.

For some people the reason to budget is because they have to make ends meet, which is actually how we started down this path, for some it's to send their kids to college, or a myriad of other reasons that are all their own and that's how it should be. For us being able to do what we want is the reason we are sticking with a budget that I have been told over and over cannot work for anyone.

I might be slightly contrary, I love it when people tell me something I am doing ever day of my life is something that can't be done. ;) Actually, that is quite possibly the greatest motivator for me, the fairly constant reminder to stick to being frugal and to continually look for more ways to squeeze a few more bucks out somewhere. I get quotes for car insurance every 6 months, we switched our cell phone providers and refinanced the house twice in one year, we call the cable company every six months like clockwork to see if there is a deal to be had, and we watch our credit debt like a hawk with OCD. It's a lot of little things that keep us on track and I find satisfaction in being able to do it. And that's kind of the key to doing it long term. You have to have a passion for it.

And you have to work together and compromise... The wailing and gnashing of teeth when I cancelled cable was causing strife and so we got it back. It's completely worth the $1152 a year to have a happy hubbin. It would be a bargain at twice the price. Just not sure I would be able to stick to 'below US $17,500 at that point, though, there's probably not enough fat left to trim... mmmmh.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Friday, October 4, 2013

How do we eat well on a food budget that is less than a dollar per person, per meal

One of the things I try to keep in mind when going grocery shopping is to try to keep the cost of the raw materials of food I purchase under $1 per pound.

Now, that's not what I pay for the meats we eat (unless I find a really, really good deal), so I have to make up for it with other items.

There are still some things I don't grow for a variety of reasons (the cole crops hate our garden, except for kohlrabi, no clue why), so I buy them in season and put them up or only eat them when they are in season and available fresh and locally sourced. Nothing wrong with that. It REALLY makes a difference in both price and quality, so it's the ever elusive win-win I look for in all things.

I also buy my staples in bulk, so flour, rice, beans, rolled oats and barley in 25lb or 50lb bags, straight from the grainmill in some instances. 50lbs of rolled oats for $18 really stretches the budget a whole lot, 'cause that's half a years worth of weekday breakfasts with only the addition of fruit or cinnamon and a little bit of sweetener (homemade maple syrup from our own tree, usually, and that is free, because I cook it down over a fire in the back yard while holding off the neighbours with a pitchfork) thrown in.

Quick bit of math: 2 people, 5 breakfasts each every week, that's 260 (3 oz, which is about a cup dry measure) portions that cost just under $0.08 each. Even if I used Evian (which I don't, spell it backwards, do!) and with purchased flavourings , I'd still have a breakfast that gets us going for under $0.30 each. Not a bad start to the frugal day.

Now this hypothetical (actually, more typical here at Pinch Manor than one might think) day goes on to include a sandwich for lunch, call that another $0.80, because I am feeling generous and we are left with a whopping $1.90 each or $3.80 for the two of us for dinner.

3.80 won't buy you a whole chicken for dinner, but it will buy you a dozen eggs, some potatoes and other veggies, for a filling, protein rich meal with leftovers for another two meals (check here for what I'm talking about) and money to put toward tomorrow so you can buy a whole chicken and make a few meals out of that (I'll do a full on post about how to stretch a chicken later, promise).

The Swiss Chard plant that has been keeping us in leaves and stalks since May

one of our five 12x4 raised beds, Tomatoes, peppers, nasturtiums, watermelon (already harvested and YUMMY) and bunching onions. 

And it didn't take me all day in the kitchen to do it, either.

Rolled oats take a bit longer and are slightly more chewy if made with the boiling water we already have heated up for our morning coffee (under $0.20 for the whole carafe), but we both like it that way, so that's a few seconds extra, the sandwich takes minimal time (you knew that) and dinner ($0.42 per serving) took about a half hour to prep, time in the oven another hour and a half and we ate by 7:30. for a grand total of...

wait for it...

$3.24 for the two of us, out of a budget of $6.00, which leaves us with $2.76 to carry over to tomorrow to give us $8.76 for the day. $0.60 for breakfast, $0.20 for the coffee, $0.84 for lunch, which will be leftover dinner from last night and we have $7.12 for dinner. Now THAT will buy a whole chicken.

It's doable. It's not lobster, caviar (yick) and champagne (why would you?) every night, but it's good, wholesome, hearty food that tastes as good as you make it and has exactly the ingredients I put in it.

One more thing: I don't talk about our beverages much. It's because we drink water or tea or lemonade, the occasional soda is a treat and we mostly brew our own alcohol and recently we started making our own sodas, as well, so it's pennies. Especially when we glean an entire tree worth of pears, juice them, then use the leftovers to make compote and vinegar.

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching

Thursday, October 3, 2013

HEY, what smells good? Could that be nameless item of a food-type variety?

Looks good, too, and smells simply divine, but then I might be biased...

What we have here is

one dozen eggs, beaten into complete submission ($1.32 because I get them in bulk)

8 medium potatoes (free-ish, grown from ones I would have thrown out because they had gone all soft and sprouty, which is *SO* a word)

a few leaves of chard (definitely free, because I've been harvesting that one head of chard since May, so that one seed has DEFINITELY paid for itself)

some onion greens I cut off the bunching onions that are finally popping in the garden (slackers and let's call it free, the onion bulbs are still there, after all)

a few leaves of herby yumyum out of the garden, two kinds of Basil and some strawberry spinach that self seeded itself in a pot (Not entirely free, I did buy one of the Basils as a microscopic little plantling, so call it $0.05 for the 4 leaves I plucked off that one)

Spices and home made ranch mix (call it $0.50, even though it's probably closer to a few cent)
-a few pinches of black pepper, a few of ground fine oregano, a sprinkling or 5 of ground garlic, basically seasoned to taste and in our case to repel vampires, it is October...

an hour and a half in the oven, so maybe another half a buck? ($0.50 but it's probably much closer to the national average of $0.11)

at least 6 meals for $2.37, let's be fair and amortize the cast iron enameled crock and the miscellaneous items I am counting as practically free and call it an even $2.50, which is still only $0.42 per meal, and that's if we absolutely gorge ourselves. There's a lot of food in that pot, and it's really quite filling.

Calling it a win. Especially because those potatoes were in danger of following their 'parents' in becoming soft and sprouty (we've had this argument, it's completely a word, trust me), so this is actually mostly a braggathon about using something up that was in danger of going over to the dark side.

I don't have a name for this dish, because let's face it, not only did I make it with stuff I had laying around, I also probably will never re-create it exactly like this ever again. It's kind of how I cook.

The basic underlying principle here is that you take some eggs, season them up in a way that you know will appeal to your palate (if you've never done that, go easy, you can always add more, taking out is a bit more difficult), then beat them like they cut you off in traffic, add some cut up potatoes (the smaller the pieces the faster this will cook), some other veggies you have on hand (chard, peppers, onions, green beans, zucchini, asparagus, you get the idea), cut those up into manageable pieces and stir the whole thing, then pop in the oven at 350 for an hour and a half, or less, depending on how deep your dish is (mine is pretty deep and it's kinda full) until the potatoes are tender and the egg has set, a toothpick is rather helpful in determining this. No eggy goo and goes in nice and easy: It's ready to devour, which trust me, you will want to :)

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things found in the basement closet we didn't expect and couldn't immediately identify...

Can YOU???

How about now?

Yup. That's Potatoes.

Neither one of us wants to admit to sticking them in the closet, but between us we have definitely figured out that whoever put them there and then put a box of empty canning jars on top of them (finger pointing is still happening, but since it worked out in a weird, cool way I might take credit ;) ) did so in early fall of 2011.

I'm gonna let that sink in for a moment. It's OK, I'll wait.

Yes, your math is correct, that's about two years ago. We're pretty awed, actually. I mean holy macaroni, that's two years of sitting there.

I THOUGHT last year that I was missing some of my seed potatoes. I just figured that they had been eaten or something. I do know that this years seed potatoes are going straight into that closet.

To quote a movie I have liked since it first came out: Nature will find a way.

That's some staying power right there.

We're planting these babies tomorrow and we will be coddling and nurturing them through the winter (I'm thinking the window next to my desk with a grow lamp). I NEED those genes to perpetuate themselves in my garden, so I can eat their offspring for many, many years to come.

Two years of sitting in my basement in a closet, under another box, with no light, no water, limited airflow and these things are alive and going. Can you tell I'm pretty amazed?

Also, apparently we have a pretty good root cellar environment going on there. This makes me happy.

And not to be forgotten: Hubbin pulled out that box of quart sized canning jars, just in time for this years potato harvest (these guys second cousins? How does that work?), so what doesn't go into the (apparently magical and conceivably linked to Narnia) basement closet will be dried, then stored in jars. Want to know how, check here.

K, that's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beneficial insects

Found this gravid lady today

and because she was hanging out in the front of the house, in the potted purple peppers (say it fast, I dare you), and we have a cat that seems to think praying mantis are delicious, I picked her up

and moved her to the back yard garden area, into the asparagus ferns to lay her eggs and start me up on next years crop of alien looking little helpers :D

Will have to remember that there's at least one egg sack in there when we move the asparagus later this year :).

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Our seed order has been placed (and major braggathon on teh frugal me ;) )

This is year 4 of Gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big (because I'm already home, so all out of options ;) )

And by go big I don't mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don't, and don't intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate at times.

I mean that I spend WAY more money on organic, open pollinated and heirloom seeds in those first few years than we could afford. And it's now paying off with dividends.

Not dividends in the form of a check (but if you want to get some of my saved seeds, I wouldn't say no to a donation, contact me ;) ), but in the form of organic vegetables in the freezer, dehydrated and stored and in the cans of what we lovingly refer to as HCMREs (home cooked meals, ready to eat) that are on the shelves in the basement and looking like we'll eat this winter with only minimal dependence on the grocery store (nope, no pics of the basement, I don't need anyone to call one of those hoarders TV shows on me).

Dehydrated delicious goodness

And in the bags and bottles of seeds that are in the freezer and drying on the kitchen sill and still waiting to be harvested on the vines out in the yard, that are now in some cases going into the 5th generation here at Pinch Manor. Let me just say that again: 5th generation.

That makes me smile in a goofy, happy way.

And dividends in the fact that I just clicked the 'order' button on this years order and the grand total for the seeds I needed to buy was, including shipping $65.

Here's a list of what those $65 bought us, not QUITE scored to the twelve days:

One kind of bean
Two types of herbs
Three kinds of beet
Four types of pepper
Two kinds of cucumber
Two types of kohlrabi
One type of lettuce
Four types of flowers (to interplant)
One type of pea
One type of spinach
Two types of squash
two types of sunflower
and some swiss chard for hubbin to eat...

That's $65 to feed us organic, local and fresher than anything else could possibly be vegetables for the larger part of the year in varieties that are in some cases obscure and not even available at the farmers market because they don't like to travel any further than from my garden to my kitchen. Bruised tomatoes are just not something one would want to buy.

So allow me to brag and do some simple math here:

Let's say that I include something homegrown in one and a half meals every day, so that's three portions a day (it's WAY more, since we have shifted to mostly home grown, but I am being conservative in my estimates, since I want to account for travel and splurges etc), so that's 1095 meals (there's two of us) over the next year.

Considering the $65 I spent on seeds and let's figure in the approximately $15 that we will likely spend on fertilizer (horse poop) and the $50 that we are throwing at the hoop houses ($150 total, and those are expected to amortize over three years minimum, but probably closer to 5-6 years, being conservative ;) ) that's about $130.

That's $130 to get organic vegetables for 1095 meals. Not considering that we are now growing some of our own grains.

Can I just scream that price-tag from the rooftops?

I spend $0.12 on organic vegetables for the two of us per meal.

Granted, I'm not paying myself for any of that labour, or Hubbin for the digging and hauling, or figuring in the fuel needed to haul the fertilizer or hoop house materials home or the energy and water needed to process and preserve, but I did round up to the $0.12, so I'll call that even.

We eat probably 5 to 6 vegetarian meals a week, and yes, I'm counting the PB&Js in that number, but not the egg containing meals, or the number would be much higher, but this is how we do it. This is how we eat healthy and sustainable on a grocery budget that allocates less than a dollar per serving.

Could I do it without the garden (the thing I am often accused of: "if you didn't have the room for a garden you wouldn't be able to do it")? Definitely. There'd probably be less organic foods, and more focus on the clean 15 vs the dirty dozen for veggies (not a bad thing to pay attention to, no matter what your budget is) and we would not be having as much meat as we do, but I could easily feed us on our budget (again, that's less than $1 per serving on average, we definitely eat more expensive meals, but balance them out with really, really cheap ones) without a garden.

The catnip harvest, yup, even the furballs are being more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Rice and beans are still very cheap. Even the brown rice I buy (nope, not even gonna try growing it, no matter how wet of a spring we are having). So are eggs and flour and potatoes and cabbage and pasta and actually most produce in season. Basing meals around those staples and then expanding with add-ons is how one can do it. That and my flat refusal to let foods go to waste. It pains me when I have let something sit until it's beyond its best and no longer something we would enjoy eating, so I try not to do that too often. Not throwing away 40-60% of the foods we buy (the average families waste) is part of the equation. It still happens, but much less often than it used to. Took conscious effort, though.

Cooking from scratch is another :). It's not as hard as you would think. Try making a big pot of rice on Saturday and then plan your meals around that for the week. Chicken on Sunday, Chicken Quesadillas on Monday, Rice and Beans on Tuesday, Chicken fried rice with veggies on Wednesday, Stuffed Peppers on Thursday, Tuna and Rice Casserole on Friday and Eggs and Rice scrambled together for Saturday Brunch. And then make a big ole pot of pasta or potatoes for the next go around ;) And if you made more than you can eat in a sitting, you have leftovers for lunch the next day or to freeze for those weeks you just can't be bothered, because we all have them and there's no need to beat yourself up over it ;).

One thing I will allow that would not be possible without the garden and that I don't talk about that much: When something is coming in in force and I am not sure what to do with the next basket of corn or the huge colander full of lettuce or the tomatoes that are not going to fit in the dehydrator, that's what we eat. It's free, it's there, it's fresh and we have more than we can shake a stick at, so it's what's on the menu. All day, every day. Until I've caught up.

Those months are the ones where the grocery budget is mostly spent on filling the freezer with meats that are otherwise not on the menu and on improvements to the garden that are not in the budget otherwise and on putting money aside to pay for the food we eat on vacation. It takes planning and pinching and sometimes eating salad for a week straight until the Hubbin thinks he's gonna turn green while I am considering making lettuce sandwiches for his lunch and how I can sneak some fresh cucumbers into his diet despite his refusal to eat them non-pickled and can I get him to eat peanut buttered swiss chard stalks one more day... but it's what works for us :)

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall quicky update, sorry, no pics and a shameless product promotion

I have been traveling for my new job so much that I am basically either on the road, unpacking, packing, doing laundry or trying to catch up to all the wonderful autumn bounty that my garden is producing and keeping the fridge stocked with home cooked MREs for the hubbin, so he doesn't resort to frozen pizza too often ;)

On the saving front: We have switched our cell phone provider to Ting and WE LOVE IT. Reliable signal and at this point our average bill is less than a third of what it was, with no loss of services that I can detect. For us (2 smartphones, both used for work and play) that's a savings of over $120 a month, so definitely not to be sneezed at. (and if you check it out via that link up there and decide it's for you, you get $25 toward Ting devices or services, if you can port your device, which seems likely from what I've seen ;) )

I promise that once things slow down a bit I will catch up and post about all the things that are bubbling, dehydrating, frozen, cooked, seedsaved, planted (peas and radishes and lettuce and colecrops oh, MY), root cellared and otherwise going on between trips.

For now a quick rundown of what I have in my brain at this moment:

I had a missing cat, he came home after a week, tired, hungry and skinnier than I've ever seen him (YEAH!)

I lied, there's a picture of the prodigal furbaby

Corn harvest is in, 3 varieties eliminated for just not being all that, 9 will be re-planted next year. We will not be doing the 3 sisters, which while wonderful and interesting seems to not work all that well for us in our garden setting, so row planting it is.

Complete failure of the squashes. And I mean we have nothing, nada, zip out of well over 40 plants that all looked beautiful and were popping with flowers galore and set micro squashlings in droves, so it's most likely a pollination issues, which means a bee hive for next spring.

Next years pole beans will be climbing the over 10 foot tall sunflowers that we had this year, can't wait to try that, think that will be just breathtaking with the bright yellow sunflowers and the purple and pink bean flowers and purple pods I have in there (squigg)

Quinoa did beautiful for the first time this year, we harvested too early and I don't think we have viable seed, but that's OK, we will have some next year.

Had (had? HA! Still having) an amazing year for peppers. Some of the varieties I have been trying for a few years now have for the first time borne fruit. And the reward for not giving up on heirloom peppers: DEEEE-licious. White bullnose that are so creamy they taste like they are buttered fresh off the plant, chocolate peppers that are so sweet they are almost like candy (ask me about chocolate bell peppers and chocolate cherry tomatoes in a red leaf lettuce salad...)

And last, but certainly not least, I seem to have finally overcome my lifelong (and often poked at) propensity toward killing mint: All 8 varieties are doing well and spreading like wildfire in their designated and contained spots.

There's more, but lunch is over, so that's all I have for now.
Happy Pinching

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Job - which explains my lack of posting

That's why I've been missing. Missing in Action, one might say.

I will probably not talk about work here, since it has nothing to do with homesteading and being frugal, but I wanted to put out there that while you are not seeing any posts from me, I'm canning, preserving, gardening, planting, fermenting and learning about a brand new job that makes my heart sing.

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching :D

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why we need a bee hive

Market more, white wonder and sikkim cukes

I desperately need them to lick my plates clean. No, wait, that's what one gets dogs for. Or is that teenagers? I forget.

No, the reason is that between the roughly 40 cucumber plants, the 12 butternut squash plants, the 10 zucchini plants and the 14 acorn squash plants, all of whom are healthy, vigorous and producing scads of both male and female flowers, this is what I am harvesting. Note the shriveled, sad little nubs at the blossom end of the cucumbers? That's an indicator that they are not being completely pollinated. And what you are not seeing here are the tiny infant fruit that just wither up and fall off the vine, never to see the inside of a pickling crock or delight my tongue in other ways.

I see some bees flying in, I get to pet the bumble bees (mostly because it freaks the hubbin out), but it's looking like there is not enough pollination happening. And what I'm not seeing is the vast number of honey bees that I have seen in years past, swarming and almost obscuring the plants during the warm afternoons, adding their happy buzzing to the soundtrack of my back yard.

Even more worrisome is that this is not just our experience, I am hearing it from most people I speak to. No midnight drops of surplus zucchini, no cries for help on how to process the half ton of cucumbers that ripened over night, not seeing/ hearing/ feeling it at all.

So the plan for next year is to not only plant tons of pollinator attracting flowers, but to also have a hive in residence. Hubbin is allergic (think epi-pen) to bees, which has been the reason we have not done so yet and this will be something he cannot help me with and we will have to be very careful where we place the hive, but this year is the final straw. No bees means no harvest. No harvest means no food.

Have you hugged a bee (keeper) today?

On a (circuitously) related note: The chickens went to live elsewhere, there's a few posts in the making about lacto fermenting and it's been kinda crazy here, so my apologies. Look for more posts soon.

Happy Pinching

Sunday, July 21, 2013


As in, we are going on one. Because there is nothing quite like going away in the middle of the gardening season. Timing is not up to us, though, so here goes nothing.

Gratuitous Garbanzo bean (chick pea)

See y'all soon :D

Happy Pinching

Monday, July 15, 2013

On the economics of small economies, aka OMGosh, that's so not worth my time.

When you find yourself spending hours to save pennies it's time to look at your notion of what your time is worth.

Clearly, being awake is not worth his time :)

Now, I don't mean to say that you can't ever do anything that doesn't make or save you money, Goodness no, that's so not my point. What I'm talking about here are the small things we adopt that save us a few cents or fractions of cents that are tedious and time consuming and that we simply hate doing, yet we do them because we feel that we must because they save us some money.

We here at Pinch manor are in the early throes of seed saving, which is actually what made me think of this post: Cleaning radish seeds.

It's kind of boring, it's sort of time consuming (if you know of a quick, easy and free method, please, please, PLEASE let me know?) and the payoff is minimal, radish seeds are relatively cheap.

From a purely financial standing I have so far spent at least 8 hours cleaning seeds that I could buy for about $5. And I'm far from done. That's an hourly wage of about $0.625. I went to college for that?

Here's the question, then: WHY do I do it?

Well, I actually do this while watching TV and I have a hard time sitting still, simply letting entertainment rain down on me passively, so this actually makes it more enjoyable for me.

I know that these seeds are organic, even if the USDA doesn't stamp them.

It's a small thing, but it is a way for us to be more sustainable. And it means that I can use those $5 for some other, new seed that we don't have yet. Very limited seed budget, I pinch those pennies HARD.

Would I do this if there was something more profitable I could do during that time instead? Maybe. It's boring, mindless occupation, kind of relaxing, so I wouldn't be able to directly switch it to writing or crunching numbers and I can't cook while sitting on the couch, so that's out. I do peel cooked potatoes there, but I do that less than once every other month and to my eternal shame I watch more TV than that.

I could make jewellery while couchpotatoing, but that is a creative process, so it's something I can't do all the time or on command, it is however something that I do in preference of gleaning seeds. I enjoy it more and it has the potential to garner me a higher hourly wage. Win-win :)

One thing is sure, though: If I really hated doing this task, I would not do it. Things I don't like doing have to 'make' me significantly more money than $0.625.

Crocheting is a prime example of OMGosh, that's so not worth my time. I know how to do it. I've done it. I've crocheted our dish rags. I hate it and I think it saved us just a few bucks. It's also not happening again. partly because I knit faster, I enjoy knitting more and it works just as well, and partly because if I had to crochet them I'd buy or trade for them instead from/with someone who enjoys that particular task, while chanting OMGosh, that's so not worth my time.

Cleaning my house is another one. If there ever comes a day where we reach an equilibrium and the 4 hours it takes me to clean my kitchen to my standards can be bought cheaper than what I can 'make' in those same 4 hours I'm hiring someone to do it for me so fast I'm likely to get whiplash.

And that's what I mean by what is your time worth. I know people who LOVE cleaning. Poor, sick individuals. I just love having a clean house.

If I can make $25 an hour doing something I enjoy, and pay someone else $20 an hour to do something for me that I despise, I think of that as making $5. And that's more than I make grubbing through radish seed.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not about numbers, but in a way it is. And they are YOUR numbers.

You could not pay me enough money to change a dirty diaper, it's just not possible. But I'd do it if someone in my life really needed me to (and I could not find a way to weasel out of it). In other words, you can't have it for money, but you can have it for love.

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mosquitoes and Catnip

We have both in abundance. Only one of them on purpose.

Catmint/Catnip flower, purdy, ain't it?

We also have quite a few vanilla beans on hand at all times (hey, vanilla, how can one go wrong?) because we like to throw them in when brewing...

So, here's a little recipe I use to fend off the mosquitoes when I do a half hour of yard work. That's about as long as this concoction is effective and I do small increments of work to break up the larger tasks, it all works out.

Catnip (also known as Catmint for reasons that elude only those who have never seen the plant next to spearmint), a few handfuls of mostly leaves.

Vanilla bean if you have it, vanilla extract if you have it, has to be the real thing and probably shouldn't be sweetened. (Don't use the vanilla flavoured coffee sweetener you have in the cabinet, it doesn't work. At all.) This is optional and smells good, the main thing is the catnip. Also, for the vanilla, a little bit goes a long way, think drops for a quart of infusion.

Alcohol. You can use cheap vodka or other cheap, clear, unflavoured distilled alcohol that is at least 50proof/100%, but I personally consider this alcohol abuse, so I use rubbing alcohol of the 91% variety. Significantly cheaper and since noone will be imbibing this it's all good.

Cut the catnip and vanilla beans (if you have them, if you are using extract you would add that to the final infusion) into small pieces, you want to get a lot of surface contact without creating mush. Put the whole shebang into a container, add the alcohol and shake it up.

Every day or so. We keep it on the kitchen counter by the coffee, so we don't miss it ;).

For at least two weeks, but longer is better.

catnip infusion, better late than never, right?

Mix this infusion 50/50 with water in a spraybottle and apply just before exposure to mosquito infested areas (Amazon jungle, Mekong delta, Michigan/Florida, my back yard). You'll be good for about 30 minutes, after that you will want to re-apply or go back inside and eat ice cream while the bloodsuckers bang on your back door, pretending to sell girl-scout cookies.

For the price of rubbing alcohol and a spraybottle and if you so chose a bit of vanilla you have all natural mosquito repellent that actually works. How cool is that?

That's all I got for now,
Happy Pinching :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Follow up to dehydrating potatoes

This is a follow up to this post, to clarify something and answer a question:

The question was why do I peel the potatoes before I rice them, rather than let the ricer do that work for me?

I peel potatoes before I run them through the ricer because I do batches of 20 to 40 lbs at a time in order to maximize my savings. Running 2 trays on the dehydrator is only marginally less energy intensive than running 12 trays, so I load that baby up.
At that point it becomes more work intensive and time consuming to pull the peel out of the ricer after each half potato than it is to sit in front of the TV and peel them en masse, then rice them ditto.

If I was ricing four potatoes I would not peel them first, as this does add an extra step.

It's all in the application and what works best for you ;)

K, back to work here at Pinch Manor.