Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's been a while.
I've been busy/sluggish. It didn't take much to keep me busy given the sluggishness.

ANYWHO, I'm at a hotel right now next to the Spokane Airport. Very classy. It's supposed to snow and freeze-thaw overnight and I have a flight in the morning so easier to drive today (and cheaper than getting a new car).

I continue my poo-paper research and will post the results of a survey soon.

I did want to update the pantry consumption/no groceries efforts.
Overall, it's going well. Boredom with delicious chilis and bean soups (featuring dehydrated peppers so much like chili except not as thick) has been broken up by the holiday meals offered everywhere and a few trips into town where someone said "can I buy you lunch" and I head for the nearest place offering a nice club sandwich and some SALAD!
I bought groceries to make spiced nuts for holiday giftery...nuts and spices. Other than what I tasted and an over-run on the curry powder and cinnamon, all went to gifts.
I DID buy groceries for the house before the holidays. I am getting a bit sick of having so little fresh food. I grew sprouts but forgot to eat most of them. Oh well. So I bought myself three bags of salad mix and some oranges and an apple. Surprising how good salad tastes after a few weeks without much fresh food.

My pantry food has been delicious. Black bean chili. Salmon with brown rice pilaf (that lasted 4 days...2 meals each day. I was actually sick of salmon). Fresh sourdough bread once or twice a week. Dried apples for snacks. Black bean soup with a tomato base from the tomato powder I made by pureeing tomatoes (all but the cores) and dehydrating the result in fruit leather trays. It turned out really well. There has also been lentil soup and veggie soup in chicken boullion broth. One failure was a veggie soup in a veggie bouillon broth. I knew the bouillon powder was kind of yucky and used it anyway thinking it just needed some spices to fix it up. Wrong. Ended up chucking a pot of soup. Lesson learned. That bouillon will go in the compost. Hope the bugs like it more than I do. I have chicken bouillon left and I'm sure I can make a broth mix from dried veggies too.

I still have 3 small squash and 1 big hubbard squash in the root cellar/front bedroom along with a head or two of elephant garlic (a little fried garlic makes a bean soup really good). Quince are still awaiting jamification but I'm counting on them to give off that gas that ripens things since the small squash are still under ripe. Today I had a pb&j sandwich for supper on homemade sourdough. The jam was strawberry from 2008 and was still excellent though a bit dark in color. On the side I had some butternut squash from the freezer heated up in the hotel's microwave. And 3 oranges (they are clementines, not very big). For lunch I had candy...not smart but delicious. One friend gave me a big bag of various candy and a box of ding dongs for christmas. I have been cutting back on candy and she must have thought it was through cheapness rather than fatness. I was going to share it all at work but the dove milk chocolate thingies filled with peanut butter are too good to share.

So was the ghirradelli bar (spelling?).

And the Ding Dongs.

Hence the appearance that I am wearing the hated jeggings. In fact, I'm just so fat and so bloated with water from the salty holiday dinners that my jeans look like jeggings. I've cleverly disguised my post holiday muffin top (it's more of a cake than a of those giant cakes strippers jump out of) with a baggy sweater. That paired with my aversion to bust-support has me looking like a refugee. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day and they do make bigger pants.

Back to the groceries. I also bought sea salt. I was going to muddle through with the regular table salt, but I can't use that in the neti pot unless I want my sinuses to feel like I just snorted battery acid. And it tastes better in soups and things.

(This hotel computer is next to the entrance to the lounge so the blog post has been previewed by traveling drunks who keep looking over my shoulder on their way into the bar.)

I'm almost out of high-gluten flour and may need to stock up on that in a few weeks. I have not been successful making sourdough with all whole wheat flour as my whole wheat is a lower gluten variety. I wish I had some all purpose flour as well since trying to make a cake or cookies with low-gluten whole wheat and/or high gluten white has not been going well. I've eaten the cakes and cookies, but the texture has not been good enough to share.

So far, eating out of the pantry along with using the freezer-soup-bucket has meant less waste than usual. When nothing is fresh to start with, not much goes bad before it is eaten.

I must say that the dehydrated onions are delicious and rehydrate very well this year. I dried them at 190degs Fahrenheit, much higher than recommended, and until they were very very crisp. They taste like toasted onions and make up a little bit for not getting to fry them for soup base.

OK, the spell check isn't working well on this so pardon bogus spellings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Toilet Paper Debates

FOR THE RECORD: I do not use cloths in lieu of toilet paper.
But, I'm not against it.

I'm putting this post up now because it's one of the extreme frugality tips that gets people worked up.
Check out this post where the tip to use cloths instead of constantly buying toilet paper to throw away, reuse small cloths.
The comment by James Coffey is pretty intense. He seems to think that we'll die of poo poisoning if we use washable cloths rather than toilet paper. Cloth diapers used for babies is OK because apparently, their poo doesn't stink. Well, it's not as toxic anyway. He states that he's a scientist. According to his contributor profile, he's an anthropologist. So am I. Thus our opinions are equal. Except mine isn't based on "ICK! POOP!" but instead uses logic.

OK, here's my point. Using cloth in place of toilet paper won't kill you.
1) Cloth diapers are an option for adults with continence (bladder and/or bowel) problems. If adult poo were as alarming toxic as J.C. believes, who would offer this service? (I do like J.C.'s comment that adult guts are crammed with rotting meat and that makes it more toxic than baby poo. Uh...try a little metamucil, or a salad, or a bran muffin, or an apple.)

2) Toilet paper is a recent invention. I'm not sure of the exact date, but not before paper production became automated. I can't imagine that in colonial America people were using the few scraps of paper they might have (mostly bible pages) for potty purposes. For that matter, people haven't always had cloth either and you are welcome to use leaves. Do remember "leaves of three, let it be" unless you want poison ivy of the nether regions.

3) There are pioneer and other records of folks using rags in the outhouse. Some washed them for re-use and some chucked them if they had enough extra cloth lying around. Other options were catalogs, corn cobs (hopefully before they dried into raspy round files).

4) Poop is pretty easy to wash out of stuff. Easier than blood.

5) If poop was that toxic, wouldn't many a wife have died from husband-undies-exposure? Many men, and a few women, stripe their undies from poor wipery or something and do not throw out their undies every time. Many of them are still alive.

6) Soap does amazing things. As does heat. You can adequately wash poo out of things (see adult cloth diapers above).

7) You can't die from cooties. You might think that using cloth is gross. That is just cooties. Cooties do not kill. If you find you have a cooties infestation, contact a 6 year old girl for a cootie shot or to have your home cootie sprayed. I think cooties (anthropological term: Ritual Impurity) are the main reason folks are resistant to this.

I know folks who will not use a cloth hanky because they fear the germs. I do use cloth and just wash them. When I have a nasty cold and need something more substantial than a small hanky, I use old dish towels or defunct t-shirts.

I know people who are creeped out by my cloth napkins (granted, some of them are pretty stained from wiping out frying pans when I don't have a dish rag handy) and think that those must be paper and disposed of. I recently brought dish towels to a community cooking event and was shortly quite popular. One person seemed grossed out when I used the old towel to clean squash and vegie scrapings from a counter, but when it was time to dry the dishes they came around. I had to round up the towels a few times before I left. When no one brings dish towels (which appears to be most of the time) they use PAPER TOWELS! to dry dishes. Can you imagine the waste?

Anyway, one part of frugality for me is not buying stuff that will simply be thrown, or flushed, away. I've managed that with most paper and plastic products. I DO still buy toilet paper and recognize that it is largely due to cooties. It is not a scientific logical reasoned action, it is cooties. The Eww-Factor is still there. I buy 100% recycled paper toilet paper wrapped in recycled paper and I recycle the wrap and the tubes. I hear that Sheryl Crow limits the number of toilet paper squares she uses so this concern with pooper paper isn't just mine. I wonder what Ed Begley Jr. does. I'll have to send him an email.

There is a modified version of toilet cloths. Using them only for number 1. This is more palatable to most folks and is often used as a starter place. Another option is the one used in much of the middle east, India, and other areas. Having a spigot or jug of water and a small pitcher near the terlet. This way one can clean the affected area with running water. Sort of a manual bidet. This works best with a squat toilet and I think we all know how I feel about squat toilets. I'm fine with their existence, but don't care to use them myself. Sort of like bread machines.

OK, there are my thoughts on cloth vs. TP. I think cloth is more noble, but I am weak and use TP.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Lunch Report

The local food coalition had a luncheon event yesterday and I helped. (please read that last bit like the kid on the shake-n-bake ads from the 1970s).

It was supposed to go all day, but we had a low (though appreciative turnout.

The menu was pretty impressive:

spinach dip with crackers and veggies as an appetizer
Beverages: water with lemons, coffee, tea.

Soup: Roasted Butternut Squash (with roasted garlic, pears, and spiced with nutmeg and cloves) (I made this one...I split it and put walnut milk in part of it. It was good)

Meat: Elk roast

Veggies: roasted root veggies with a soy-vinegar-spice mix on them
AND green beans sauteed (or roasted) with garlic and creole spices.
AND mashed potatoes and cauliflower (just cook it all together and mash up) with roasted garlic

There appears to be a "roasted" them with an emphasis on garlic. Hmmm.

Anyway, also had some tart cranberry sauce to put on the roast or whatever you wanted it on.

It was all lovely.

For desserts:
Fudge (made with pinto beans...I SWEAR it is good, very fudge like)
Apple cake with caramel sauce.
Chocolate bread pudding with real whipped cream.

At least one person there had never had whipped cream, only cool whip. Wow.

The low turn out appeared to be due to multiple factors:
1) it's winter and folks would need to drive 6 miles. (though usually free food AND door prizes (I won't a cooking lite cook book) gets folks there)
2) it was payday friday and that afternoon tends to be thin on staff anyway
3) there was a competing fund raiser at the early childhood learning the kiddies' parents probably went there
4) Our advertising was not fabulous, but not bad either, certainly more than the kiddies' advertising.
5) the title was "enLITEned holiday cooking" and perhaps people prefer their holidays full fat
6) It was lunch and many of our folks who attend evening events would have been at work and may not have had time.

We had some food left, plenty, but it went home with folks and/or got donated to the fund raiser. I took some but gave it to a friend who couldn't get away from the office long enough to come to lunch.

The good parts were that 10 women and 3 kids cooked together in one kitchen (commercial size kitchen) with no conflict and in fact, with some fun. There is something very fundamental about food sharing (ask any critter...primates, lions, cats, dogs, vultures...). And something quite bonding about cooking sharing.
I was popular due to bringing actual sharp knives though I was fairly selfish with them. The organizer brought her own electric skillets (the lid of one got shattered), some pans, and some spices. The clinic's dietitian had brought examples of slightly healthier options (e.g. raw sugar, whole wheat flour) and shared them when we ran out of a couple of things. Another woman was willing to supervise kids running a stick blender (brave not due to the danger of getting cut, but rather due to the danger the kids would discover it is way more fun to run the blender at an angle and send mixture all over the kitchen. They did discover this and she did not kill them).

I was cool until I saw a little girl at our serving table sneeze. Fortunately I already had food from that table and double fortunately the cake had not yet been put out.

I think the best part of our food events is that we hand out the recipes. I've incorporated one from an earlier event into my frequent rotation (wheatberry salad), the squash soup from this one already was in my frequent rotation and I think the green beans with garlic and spices will be in there now (in green bean season anyway). I already do roasted veggies. Honestly, I'm going to try the fudge again. It was really surprisingly good. The texture was right and it still had 4 cups of powdered sugar, but almost no dairy. I usually can't have much fudge.

I think every thing but the elk had a good dose of fiber. That isn't just a hunch. I'm feeling pretty cleaned out today.

And a shoutout to my landlord/lady who I don't think read this. My hot water tank started throwing the breaker thursday night. As I roasted 12 lbs of squash and 5 heads of garlic. I told them Friday morning. It got diagnosed friday afternoon and fixed this morning. Not bad. I was able to get warmish water so managed an unsatisfying shower Friday to avoid stinking at the food event, but doing dishes in slightly warm water doesn't work well.

Speaking of food:
Today I made 2 loaves of bread (and ate was good), oven fries (at them all...oops) and ginger lime steelhead. The steelhead was so thick it took forever to cook. The fries were done first so I ended up eating way too many of those before the fish was done. I'll be eating that for a few days. There are worse things than extra steelhead.

As a bonus: here is the recipe for the fudge. I think I've already posted the squash soup. If not, I'll do that later.

Pinto Bean Fudge
1 and 2/3 cup cooked and cooled pinto beans (or 1 16oz can rinsed and drained)
1 c cocoa powder (NOT hot cocoa mix...we've had to tell people this)
2/3 c butter
1 T vanilla (yes, a BIG T, not a tsp. Also, almond extract would be a most excellent substitute)
4 c powdered sugar
Optional: chopped walnuts

Put beans in a blender or mixer and puree (or mash well). Add cocoa, butter, and vanilla. Mix. Combine powdered sugar with the bean mixture. Beat 3 minutes until thoroughly mixed. Add nuts if using. Spread into a greased 9X13 pan.

We used a variety of pan sizes rather than just the 9X13.

My biggest adventure at the food thingy: being a turd about keeping my stuff. People kept borrowing my paring knife. It's one that Gram gave me YEARS ago and I keep sharp. Unlike new knives, it holds an edge (hence everyone wanting to borrow it). I caught more than one woman eyeing the covered pans I brought the squash in (I had roasted it at home the day before as the ovens at the long house (that's rez-talk for "community center) are unreliable and I needed an hour of roasting time and an hour of simmering time). These pans are old and have sturdy slide on lids. I don't know if you can get them anymore and I've nearly had to punch people to give them back when they try to say "oh, these are mine." Really, did your Gramma ABBY put her name on medical tape with permanent marker there on the bottom too? Jeez. Actually, I may have stolen one of the pans from Sher. Sorry Sher, but tough honkers. It's mine now. The B-team pan is metal with a clip on metal lid. Still way better than the crappy modern plastic lids because you can put on a metal lide while the food is still hot if you don't mind the food steaming a bit. A plastic lid melts and/or puts a crap flavor in the food if you put it on while the food is hot. AND you can't use the plastic lids as cookie sheets. My pan lids are actually my main cookie sheets.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DAMN IT! and Possibly a New Project

So, tried to go camping this weekend.

I had made it to Missoula on wintery but not bad roads. I turned the phone on to check messages after fueling up and Jeanne called. She'd been in the ditch! Crap. And was headed home. Fortunately she and Sadie (the dog) were fine and claim to continue to be fine. But I don't blame her.
On my way out of Plummer 2 different people warned me a of a 'big storm' headed this way...8-11 inches of snow...yada Sunday. I figured I'd be headed home MONDAY so a storm that is over SUNDAY is just about right and also the weather stations I checked all said regular winter stuff, 1-2 inches of snow and warmer temps.

But, when it came to deciding whether to winter camp alone (albeit in a cabin with a stove) I figure IF the storm did materialize, I'd be 4000 feet higher up and alone within 1 mile of where they stop keeping a road open and what if I fell on the way to the crapper and broke an ankle. I'd end up in some crap movie of the week. The kind I hate. You know. Where someone takes a stupid risk and ends up getting hurt and other people, tax payers generally, have to spend a bunch of money helping the idiot out (e.g. the family who drove on back roads in the winter because the interstate and main highways were CLOSED and ended up lost and stuck. So they LEFT THEIR VEHICLE (apparently having never read or heard anything about winter safety). The woman and a nursing baby get stuffing in a snow cave by the husband as he walks around like a moron looking for help. They hadn't packed food, blankets etc. STILL he was heralded as a hero after they were rescued at great effort and expense and much emotional trauma to themselves and their families. What I thought was, "what an asshole" and that the wife was as stupid as him for agreeing to go. I just hoped stupid skipped a generation and the kid turned out alright. Same with the guy in the movie now. He goes hiking alone in back country and tells no one where he's going. Again. Has he not read or heard ANYTHING about safety? Days later he ends up cutting his arm of with a pen knife and he's heralded as a hero. No. Stupid. Possibly with a high pain threshold but it was that or die of thirst while contemplating his own stupidity. Why would I go see a movie. I did NOT want to be in a movie like that. If I ever head out to do something terminally stupid yet manage to survive, the polite thing to do is to not mention it.

So, I turned around and headed home. I thought of getting a hotel for a night but if that supposed storm was happening, I'd be stranded at a hotel, with the hamster (no hamster sitters available) waiting out a storm and watching a very expensive organic chicken thaw and go bad (I would rather watch it rot than try to cook it in the microwave and then throw it out...though possibly I could have made a passable soup in the coffeemaker...2 cups at a time).

I spent about 9 hours on the road to get to my own trailer. On the upside, if I fall down here on the way to the crapper and break and ankle, the cats will tear through the floor and eat me before I have to face the shame of a movie of the week.

The good news was I decided to pretend I was camping for at least 24 hours. I unplugged the phone, turned off the cell, left the computer and TV off and just relaxed and read books. I spoke to no one for a full 24 hours. It was lovely. I made the meal I had planned for the cabin which, while delicious, is not as fun to cook on a regular stove as the woodstove and since I doesn't take as much effort, I didn't appreciate it as much. Still, roast organic chicken with herbs de provence and giant cloves of garlic roasted in my dutch oven, wild rice, cherry pie from the last of the home canned cherries (Sally: hope the trees are back in service soon! I'm also on the final jar of cherry jam from 2007), sourdough rolls, and I started pumpkin soup but honestly I was too full to eat it so it's waiting in the fridge and may get moved to the freezer. The only disappointment was making broth out of the chicken carcass (after stripping it of all recognizable meat for soup or something). I put it back in the dutch oven since that is where the delicious spices, roasted garlics, and pan crusties were. I simmered it for a bit and checked it. It smells amazing, but the dutch oven turned it black. I've made broth in iron pans before and it's been dark, but this looks like gun metal. Smells great, probably high in iron, but ugly. It's in the fridge in a container while I try to think of something that won't be made inedible by the color. Maybe something with black beans as the main ingredient since that will be black anyway. I was going to put some in the pumpkin soup and save the rest for chicken noodle soup. But black chicken noodle soup and god knows what color pumpkin soup...ick. Any suggestions?
Anyway, some animal will enjoy the skin and bones that are going out in the trash. I'd like to compost them but I know something would just dig them out of there too.

SO: I had all that lovely quiet time and I read a book. "Julie and Julia", like the movie. It's better than the movie! Most books are. This is more a memoir of one year, the one when the author turns 30, when she needs a new creative outlet. I think lots of people do this sort of thing, and now many put it on the web (e.g. No Impact Man, New Dress A Day, etc). Then I wondered what makes a few of these blogs take off and most just sit in the abyss. For Ms. Julie Powell (author of Julie and Julia) is that she's a funny writer and seems to be pretty honest, admitting the not so flattering bits (like meltdowns over failed eggs). No Impact Man was also pretty honest, or at least appeared so, but less funny. Both of these also talk quite a bit about how the projects they've chosen change their relationships with others and the rest of their lives. For New Dress A Day, she's gotten some fame, but hasn't talked much in the blog about specific folks. She is however a very amusing chatty-style writer.

My blog will never take off since it is an open ended project, I'm not documenting in the detail, and it is funny only intermittently. Oh well. Better keep the day job.

SO: I wanted a new project. But not for a year. I like projects and the book reminded me of that. I'm going to see how long I can go without getting groceries. The pantry list keeps reminding me of how much food I have in this house. To get ready for the thanksgiving cabin trip that never was, I needed to buy a small bag of noodles for the soup (which now won't happen), a few potatoes and an onion. I have lots of dry onion but I wanted to make potato soup (which I did Thursday night when I got home). It's easy and pretty much cooks itself so seemed a good thing to have the first night at the cabin. It was also good when I got home after the 9 hour drive to know where. It made me realize again that I have a TON of food in this house.
There are still 4 squash and now a box of quince (like an apple) in the root-cellar/front-bedroom along with some garlic. There were 5 squash but one went off and had to go in the compost. I think it froze.
ANYWAY: Given the nice variety of food and spices and oils and fats and whatnot, I'm going to see how long I can easily go without grocery shopping. I often do that at the beginning of winter and thought of it with the pantry inventory so now is the time. If people show up with elk jerky or invite me to lunch, obviously I'll accept. I'm not trying to set up some strange nazi rules that will limit my already limited social life. Just see how long that amount of food lasts in my regular life and see what I run out of first.

It was funny that as I left for the cabin, I thought of throwing in a bag of beans, bunch of rice, and some spices so that if we got stuck we'd be fine for a week. We'd stink ourselves out of the cabin, but we'd be fine. Oh well. Next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Well, That WASN'T Frugal!

So today I'm like totally at the radio show.
We (Sally P, Jill M, and I) start out in the production room and then 10 minutes before Peace Radio starts or so, we head into the studio, where the magic happens (or not). As usual, I wen tin early and used the wifi and got info for my movie reviews and something I wanted to report on. I had the report and another web page for the show pulled up on the laptop. When we move to the studio, I just unplug the computer from the wall outlet in one room and replug it in in the other. Well, apparently between production room and studio...separated by a thin wall, a trojan hit my computer. And I don't mean the condom.
A fake "disk scan" window popped up. The graphic was sort of "off" from the Windows defrag icon and the font was a bit off and "scanned" was spelled "scaned"....hmmm. And then, I got a warning that my hard drive was corrupted so I better click the open window and allow the defrag and that a hard drive couldn't be found and that I had no RAM. Hmmm...I checked the task manager thingy and all was well, but there was too much activity for the programs I had open. So I shut it off...and it wouldn't shut down. That's not good.
I tried again. Then I forced a shut down.

After the show I called Pam who recommended I take out the battery for a while to force the computer off and a restart. I did and more of the nonsense. I did manage to download a fresh antivirus freeware program and do a scan. This took over an hour. Then I did a scan and sure enough, trojan. That is now quarantined along with another suspicious program. I did a real defrag and another scan and so far, knock on wood, things are going OK.

Must remember to back everything up! Not clever. AND to make the "restore" disk like the computer has been trying to make me do for MONTHS. Okay... YEARS. If this goes bad before I get it backed up I'm going to have to pay for data recovery or lose my Europe photos and blog backups and all sorts of very important the black bean sweet potato chili recipe that I can find on the internet.

Anyway, I'm staying in Moscow tonight because I have an appointment tomorrow morning and we're expecting CRAP weather. First major winter driving of the year. That's not a time to be on the road. And it was already freezing rain by 4pm today. It's good to have a job. It may not seem frugal to take a hotel room for 50$ when I could drive the two ways for 20, and yet frugality is about spending money where there is value. The amount of stress this is saving me is HUGE.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Iowa Highlight Part 2

A few more photos from the MaidRite.
You can see Sher's technique of leaving the sandwich wrapped for tidiness. And Pam's balls-out-all-unwrapped-ultramessy method.

They had the chocolate pie, which is not visible in this photo. I was just shooting the classic pie display cabinet.

And below are a couple of photos of the decor and clientele.

And now for the rest of the show:
The pixie cut gal came up to us and asked if we'd tried their homemade ketchup. We said "no." She pulls a ketchup squeezy thing (see above photo) out from other the counter, whacks it down hard and a stream of ketchup shoots out at Pam! But it was really red yard stuffed in the bottle. Pam nearly jumped out of her skin.

One Iowa Highlight

I'm just back from Iowa. Called in "sick" to work today. More tired than sick and having caffeine withdrawal headache thanks Sher and her coffee guzzling friends (e.g. Diane Finley).

ANYWAY. I thought I'd report on one small highlight of the Iowa Trip. The sidetrip to Galena was great and all, as was going to Clayton with Gram. But we're starting with the simple joys: a good sandwich.

Mom, Pam and I went to MaidRite. I don't remember ever going before but Sher had.
It's a chain serving loose meat sandwiches with a side of entertainment.

There's a lovely view of the the rain.

And this is the classic prep table. Formerly, the meat was cooking in one side while served out of the other. There is a metal divider in the middle. BUT the bastard health and safety people said "oooo can't have uncooked meat touching cooked meat because someone with a weak system might get the poops."
So now,

the meat is cooked in different location (it might just be at the other end of the long counter but we don't know) then brought out in a metal tub (much like you would find silverware in after washing it but that's probably a coincidence) and dumped in the MaidRite steam table bin. The ingredients appear to be hamburger and chopped onion.

It is scooped onto the buns on, options include tomato, lettuce, onion. Ketchup and mustard provided. the white space in the bottom of the photo is the counter you sit at. No fancy booths or tables here. All counter seating at this location. AND there were 5 people working behind the counter. Two women of a certain age, shown above, a young guy who took our order, a young woman who probably doesn't work there anymore, and one old woman who had aquanet-helmet-hair. Everyone but the young guy had a butt two axe handles wide so the prep space was a bit crowded at hip-high.

Here's the older woman snacking on a raw sweet potato fry. Pam got those. They were DELICIOUS. Pam's were cooked of course. It was pretty clear that they were home sliced and frozen in a ziplock. I got the regular fries and having made the odd batch of fries during the 3 years (or was it eternity?) that I worked at McDonald's, can attest that to get fries from actual potatoes (not the mush formed into sticks that most fast food joints use) you have to have the oil/lard about 2 degrees below the temperature at which it bursts into flame.

As you can see, most of the cooking equipment appears to be original to the building. I like that. Very frugal. The three of us had 3 sandwiches, 2 versions of fries, a brownie and a piece of pie. The total was under 20$...and it came with a SHOW! The chick with the pixie cut threw our sandwiches to each of us from the prep table. The sandwiches come wrapped in paper which you sent on the counter. You also get a spoon as the loose meat tends to fall out. Sher used her paper as a sandwich diaper and managed to eat very tidily. Pam and I struggled and ended up eating most of the sandwich meat with the spoon.

I'll have to continue this in another entry as I'm on dial up and it's too hard to add more photos to this entry.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Exciting Garden Development

WORMS! Not in my composter (that's in the house...well trailer...not the garden). In the actual raised bed. This is exciting because it means that the garden is settling in and functioning well. I was planting a few garlic bulbs before I left for the Iowa trip today (it was that or compost them) and a HUGE night crawler was curled up in the garden. It was in the newer portion which has a carboard barrier between it and the ground. I don't know if it came in over the side or up through the bottom. Doesn't really matter.
If the worm has friends and family living in there, it means less work for me and that is always good. I won't need to dig up as much this fall. I'll just let them do their thing aerating and digesting things in the dirt. Woohoo! I like to be lazy. As long as they don't eat the garlic, walking onions, herbs, or kale that I'm still growing in there. I don't think they would.

Are Jeggings the Mark of the Beast?

Disclaimer: I know that as a product of the 1980s when jeans were worn so tight as to account for the dramatic rise in cesarean sections (pretty sure we deformed our pelvii) I'm on thin ice and in "pot-kettle-black" realms in criticizing the attire of the young.

Still though, pretty sure jeggings are the mark of the beast. In my on going quest for non-spandex pants I'm confronted by the spector of 19% spandex! Jesus. My swimsuit (an industrial age appropriate Lands End model that never gets worn because I prefer the Idaho Bikini (cut offs and a t-shirt)) doesn't have that much! Jeggings. The Rosemary's Baby of jeans and leggings that are all the rage now. I can only assume this means they are going out of style elsewhere in the country and being shipped to north Idaho as part of the move toward the final fashion graveyard...Ross Dress For Less (where I got my last pair of first-hand jeans).

I've even tried to pay retail for non-stretchy pants now. If nothing turns up, and I don't suddenly drop a stone (that's british talk for 14 pounds) and fit back into my skinny clothes, I'm going to have to try custom made jeans. There's a website where you put in your measurements, they go over the interwebs to India, and jeans appear in your mailbox some weeks later. It's 50$. I could normally get 20 pairs of jeans for that. But, if I hate them all and won't wear them, then it's not frugal to buy 20 pairs of jeans or jeggings. And really, on what planet would anyone want to see me in jeggings?

I was just manning a booth at a career fair at a high school. The jeggins were rampant. Even the boys were wearing jeans with stretch. While I'm all for clothing equality, I wish they'd gone for tube tops. Less obscene. They were wearing girl jeans with stretch and given that they did not have girl figures, it looked like each and everyone of them had dropped a load in their britches. I asked my teen-expert (an actual teen boy) what the deal was and whether they knew it looked like they'd poo'ed their drawers (after all, in the 1980s, we knew of the camel toe but we saw it as a necessary evil). He said that it might be ironic. Sort of a metaphoric dump on the establishment.

Does each pair of jeggings come with a free tube of gynelotromin because seriously, you're going to get an infection. Things need to breathe and that has got to chafe.

OK. I will try to make this my final pants rant. Either that or add it as a label for posts.

On the upside, I still have 2 pairs of pants that I can wear to work so it's not a total emergency yet. Maybe the thrift stores in Iowa will have a better selection of non-stretchy pants.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pantry Inventory: Results

Well, I must say, knowing what I have has helped. This is not a surprised to anyone.
I've already included a few things in meals that I forgot I had and started using up the items that were just a bit left in a package and consolidated a few other containers. Not bad. And I'm remembering to drink tea.

This is definitely a step in a frugal direction. The "use it up" part of frugality.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pantry Invetory: 10-28-2010

I wanted to know what I had on hand and what I needed to get from the co-op during the 5% off bulk sale this week (that means stuff from bulk bins was 5% off), and at the last farmer's market. A well stocked pantry is frugal, especially if you get much of it on sale. 5% isn't much, but why not take advantage?

I also thought it would be fun to see what I had and share the pantry with y'all. I'm not sure who reads. I think most folks are cooks so have a stocked pantry and I'm hoping you'll be willing to comment and share so I know how far I've strayed from "normal" (not that I ever was...I was making my own sourdough bread as a college undergrad while still having diet coke and ho-hos for breakfast and was once so broke that the "pantry" consisted of a bag of sugar, a bag of rice, and some can live on sweet cocoa rice for about a's pretty good!)

I decided to be honest so I included food that's gone off and needs to go ... I will chuck it but if I started doing that while doing the inventory, I'd never get done with the inventory. First I'd chuck the food, then start re-organizing and then something else would occur to me and I'd never get back to inventorying. So rest assured that I'm not eating 3 year old grape leather in a punctured plastic bag (even though it smells delicious!)...into the composter it goes.

The GOOD news:
1) I have a buttload of food and could happily --well 'healthily' anyway-- live for MONTHS without buying anything.
2) I have a good variety of food so I won't get scurvy
3) I have plenty plenty plenty of protein (and this is before the fridge-freezer inventory)
4) I did a great job stocking up on local products to get me through the winter

The less good news (trying to be non-judgemental):
1) It's not organized well.
This is not a surprise to anyone who knows me. I just heard the phrase "put like with like" as a way of organizing ( was on one of those hoarder shows I saw while at a hotel) and honestly, that had not occurred to me in a serious way, or at least had not stuck. I know to do it with receipts and tax stuff, but it hadn't occurred to me to try it with everything. Anyway, that's on the to-do list now for my pantry: organize by putting like with like (and then I'll keep one bit of each in the active cooking cupboard and kitchen shelf unit).

So, there are many places where I keep food. The kitchen is not exactly palatial and the cupboard space is made for someone who keeps bags of pasta sauce, a few cans of sauce or whatever, and maybe a handful of pans. Not much storage. I've supplemented with a shelving unit for food and a few plants called "blue shelves"...these were bought at a thrift store for 6$ a few years ago. They were already blue. Then there are 2 more shelves for cookware and dishes and whatnot. And a few milk crates for more pans that won't fit in the cupboards or on the other shelves.
Anyway, here goes:
pkg = package
pt = pint jar (ball or kerr usually)
qt = quart jar (ball or kerr usually)
large jar = a really BIG antique jar, like 1/2-1.5 gallons
med jar = smaller than a BIG jar, but bigger than a small jar
small jar = roughly a quart, but not a quart jar
note: all beans are dry and the majority of things are bought from the bulk bins so beans/lentils/peas/etc are dry, not canned. These will yield 2-4 times as much once soaked/cooked. In fact lentils just keep growing! Every time you reheat some lentil soup you add a bit of water and the lentils soak it up. I'm pretty sure it can become a perpetual pot of soup if you don't just break down one day and eat the whole pot at once.

Blue Shelves
The top of the unit is plants (including 2 carrot tops I cut off to grow more carrot greens...not a success yet, but hope springs eternal)

Top shelf:
-1/2 pkg seaweed wraps for sushi/sashimi/california rolls
-1/2 pkg kombu (different seaweed...a bit in a pot of beans makes them slightly less farty and adds what looks like a giant slug of green goosh)
-1 bottle, unopened, raspberry vinegar
-1/2 pt Raspberry jam from 2008 by M&E
-1 pt smashed plum g00sh 2008 from A&Y
-bit of sea salt
-bit of brown rice vinegar
-2 jars chicken broth powder
-1 jar vegetable broth powder
-1 small tin wasabi powder
-bit of cocoa
-salt and pepper shakers (Mount St. Helens set...awesome) with bit of pepper in there
-1 empty tin from crystallized ginger
-1 ginger tin with 3T corn meal
-sample of anti-gas supplement
-sample of Rhodida Ros.
-sample of chia fiber mix for smoothies
-3/4 pint almonds
-1/2 C popcorn kernels
-1lb bag coffee beans (organic, shade grown, free trade, dark roast...delicious)
-empty tea tin
-coffee grinder
-sample skin moisturizer
-1 box apple cinnamon tea bags
-1 tin gun powder tea (about 1.5 cups)
-few bags of lemon zinger tea
-1 tea bag of black tea.

2nd shelf down
-1 new and 1 old pkg crystallized ginger
-1 qt cocoa
-about 1.5 quarts nutritional yeast in a used rice protein powder jar.
-2 round cartons table salt
-3 and 1/4 2lb packages rock salt (for the sidewalk, but it is a foodstuff too)
-1lb gnocchi
-1pkg egg replacer
-1/2 bag wheat berries, about 2.5 lbs

3rd shelf
-1 qt canola oil
-1 qt olive oil (extra virgin but I don't think it's organic)
-8c lentils...local!
-1/2 c flax seeds
small bags of the following:
-mung beans
-cinnamon sticks
-cloves--2 bags of these
-garlic-herb mix
-oregano-2 bags
-coarse sea salt
-herbs de provence
-bit of teecino (coffee replacement product) in a tin (this has now been consumed...frees up a tin)

Bottom shelf
-2 qt sweet cherries in light syrup, 2007 canned by me
-1 pt pears, A&Y
-1 pt black beans
-1c soy protein powder
-1c lecithin (but I think it's gone off...must chuck that)
-4c brown rice
-5 qt honey (local! bought in large bucket noted below and repackaged some into quart jars for -easier use)
-3 tricycle maintenance items ... non toxic and clean but probably not categorized well

Under the Kitchen table:
-2g honey (1/2 full 4gal bucket, some has been decanted into the qts noted above)
-small tub of home-mi hamster food
-12.3lb butternut squash (yes 12 and one third POUNDs and it's one squash)

On Kitchen table:
-4boxes pectin
-4 apples
-1 lemon
-4 pears
-1 onion
-2 plums
-Medium hubbard squash (a "medium" hubbard squash is bigger than my head)
-3.25 heads garlic

In hanging vegetable basket (those wire tiered numbers you hang from the ceiling)
-4 cloves garlic
-1 hand of aging ginger (ooo...that would go well with some squash...)

Counter by the sink:
-2 qt home-brewing apple vinegar
-12 small hot peppers

Country by the fridge:
-1/2c olive oil
-1 pt popcorn kernels
-2.3 qt dried apples
-2c dried pears
-1/2 pt strawberry jam, mine, 2007
-1 pt dried carrots
-1 tsp agave syrup (the bottle is draining upside down)
-Big jar whole wheat flour
-4 little tins of tea from London.

Stacked in jars in boxes by shelves holding pots/pans/radio
-4 qt dried tomatoes
-1 pt dried tomatoes
-1 pt tomato dust (I cored tomatoes, cut out blemishes (there were VERY few), chunked them up, threw them in the blender, and pureed them. Then poured into the "fruit leather" trays in the dehydrator and dried them down to brittle. I put it in jars and crunched it into dust. The theory is that I can use this to make tomato worked once!)
-1/2c dried onion
-1.5 pt dried plum leather
-2 pt dry plums
-1.75 pt dry peppers
-3 pts dry onion
-1/2 pt dry ancho chilis
-10.5 1/2 pt dry peppers, various kinds, mostly as sweet, medium or hot mixes

In the antique rice tin of spices and mixes:
-1 fiesta dip mix
-3 guacamole dip mix
-1 pueblo chicken rub
-1 lg bag chimayo powder
-1 mole mix (ooo...mole! My favorite mexican chocolate chili chicken treatment)
-1 bag of something labeled "Hot" (this was a gift and arrived that way...looks like oregano but then the "hot" doesn't make sense)
-1 "scorcher" salsa mix (I mixed up the other one and "scorcher is putting it mildly)
-1 med red chilis
-1 fajita marinade
-3 fajita mix
-1 small chili pepper

Dining room floor (in boxes, not just strewn about...things get tough during canning season and I actually have to clean the floors so I can store stuff in boxes! Jeez...I would kill for a root cellar)
-12 1/2pt plum jam, various mixes but all freestone/sweet plums and made with honey rather than sugar
-6 1/2 pt plum essence (I started with about 16 cups of plum puree, skins and all, and cooked it down to about 6 cups...mixed in a bit of lime juice for acidity for canning and that's it)
-2 pt pickled plums...from a few years ago and they are CRAP...must throw these out in the compost once rinsed
-7 1/2 pt 2008 cherry jam, sweet cherries from S&J.
-12 1/2 pt 2009 sour plum jam (I'll be keeping Diana on a slow drip of this as she claims she's become dependent on the sour plum jam and there were no sour plums available to me this year)

Cupboard by fridge (this is what I think of as the main "food" cupboard but I may have to rethink after this inventory)
Top shelf, from stoveward side to fridgeward side:
-1 big jar whole wheat flour (local, not organic but low till)
-1 big jar white high gluten flour (local, not organic but low till)
-1 c dry goji berries
-2 c raisins (thompson)
-2 c wheat bran
-1/2 tin baking powder
-3/4 pt rye berries
-1 c garbanzos
-1.5 c nutritional yeast
-1 c honey
-1.5 c high gluten flour (because it didn't all fit in the big jar)
-1 qt rye flour
-1 big jar (yes, another) whole wheat flour
-1 qt pumpernickel rye flour
-1 big jar rolled oats
-1 med/big jar black beans
-2 c black beans
-small jar split peas (I just wanted a few to try. I've never like pea soup but I've only had canned -so maybe dry peas are better...they are super cheap)
-small jar walnuts...out of shell

Bottom shelf (there's only the length under 3 feet each and structurally unsound)
-bit of corn starch in a box
-1 tin corn starch
-zip lock back of grape leather from god knows when!
-brown rice vinegar
-bromelain (supplement)
-2 c popcorn kernel
-1 qt apple cider vinegar (raw, unfiltered from bulk bins)
-1/2 c barley
-3 baking cups (like for cupcakes)
-3/4 c molasses
-1 bg jar turbinato sugar (I tried to quit buying sugar and just use this might be the last of the sugar for a long long time)
-1 tin baking powder
-1 c cous cous
-2 c cashews
-1/2 c sesame seed
-handful of almonds and craisins in a baggie
-1/2 dried tomatoes (not from this year...hmmm)
-2 c white rice
-Anise seeds
-1 qt jar of assorted pepper seeds (this should be with gardening stuff)
-1 c baking soda
-small shaker of table salt
-med jar oats
-1 qt oats
-3/4 c sea salt
-2T vanilla
-2 c corn meal
-2T toasted sesame oil
-bit of stevia
-1 pkg stevia
-1 c dried corn---couple of years old but this stuff lasts many years, it's one reason people got into growing corn (or any grain)
-1 c dried apples from 2009, questionable
-vitamin B supplement
-bit of cocoa
-2T black tea
-bromelain supplement
small spice jars of:
-red chili flakes
-lemon grass
-unknown yellow odor left, time to chuck it.

Spices on rack over stove (I KNOW that's not the best place to store them but I go through them fast enough that they keep fine)
-kelp powder (that's the third kind of seaweed...jeez)
-lecithin (gone off)
-bit of honey
-bit of paprika
-bit of cayenne
-hot cayenne
-spike (this is "Mrs. Dash" found in the bulk section...I tried it, it's not great)
-mustard (the dry powder...not just a yellow squarty thing of mustard)
-something that may or may not be chili powder...I write the names on the jars as I refill them and then the names rub off as I use them. Some are easy to ID like salt and rosemary, others are tougher.

Spices on the fridge (I got magnetic spice tins with windows on them at World Market..I LOVE can see when you run out...but again with the rub-off naming system)
-bay leaf
-lemon grass
-granulated garlic (this keeps better in a jar and will need to switch back)
-chili powder
-small pepper grinder (magnetic...there used to be a salt grinder on there too but it fell and busted)

on top of fridge:
-large pepper grinder (2$ at thrift) with multi-color gourmet pepper corn mix in it. Yummy AND pretty.

Bedroom closet (there is a file box in there with jarred goods)
-1 qt cherry leather 2007
-1 pt dried cherries 2007
-1/4c tomatoes...not this year
-1/2 pt dry celery
-1 pt dry celery leaves

Under the bed (in jars in a box...not just spread around like a compost heap!)
-1 small/med plastic jar with assorted bags of dry peppers, not this year but I dried them until they were brittle (maybe 5% moisture) so they are still good
-1 pt tomato dust (see above for explanation)
-5 1/2pt dried peppers, 2010 vintage
-1/2 pt mixed tomato and hot pepper dust (this is supposed to be instant arabiata sauce)
-3.5 qt dry tomato
-1 c dry red onion from the garden, 2009
-2 1/2pt dry tomato

Tea Bin (this is a very large tupperware type thingy with dried herbs for making tea)
bags of the following (the bags are about "sandwich" size). The Tea Bin needs a home.
-dandelion root
-juniper berry
-licorice root
-valerian (two partial bags)
-slippery elm bark
(man...I could use some little jars for these but all the jars are full of jam and dried veg)

This is a lot of food! I do like soups and chili from the dried beans, peppers and other veg.
I do wish I had some more apples, some canned apple sauce, and some dried potatoes. If there is a cheap bin at the co-op I'll get that.
This does not include the food in the fridge. That's another blog (partly because the fridge needs cleaned out...the soup bucket in the freezer has cut down on waste but a bag of greens and a bowl of rice and a few other things slipped by me)

Just with this, no fridge stuff, I could eat and be healthy easily through to February probably. That 12+ pound squash alone is a week's worth of soup. I'd be sick of it when I was done, but still. The plan for that is to roast some, soup some, eat for a few days and freeze the rest in 1-2 serving portions. I wonder if you can dry winter squash?

I used this to inform a trip to the co-op today for the last shot at the bulk sale. I can see that eating just this will make me want something "fresh" during the winter. Soup from dried veg and beans and so on is delicious, but sometimes you want fresh food. So I got seeds to sprout. Alfalfa, clover, broccoli, and radish. About 1/2 cup will make plenty of sprouts for a couple of months. I have 2 sprouting systems and will try to focus on eating them regularly.
I may also try to plant a bit of lettuce or greens under glass outside or in the window inside. The kale is soldiering on in the cold weather so who knows...a cold frame could grow kale all winter (if only I weren't so lazy).
Maybe a couple of pots of fresh herbs too. Of course I'll buy some fruit and veg in the winter but it's hard to get local stuff in winter.

I'm pleased to see I have some variety in jams due to back stock of older jars. These are NOT rusted, damaged, discolored or anything that would indicate a problem. Obviously I'll smell them before I open and other than supplying Diana with the sour plum from 2009, I don't give away old jam. It's one thing to accidentally poison me, but another to poison someone else.

If I keep making bread and things, I'll also need more flour but I didn't want to buy more than this for now. It can go buggy.
One reason for the rye flours is that my sourdough starter likes a variety of whole grain flours as food. If you feed one kind exclusively you lose the variety of yeasts in the starter and the flavor is less interesting and the leavening action less vigorous. And this starter is vigorous! I got it from the bread guy and it keeps growing when I put it in the fridge to "rest" it. It grew when the house was 45degrees. Even raised bread. The bread is much lighter than with my previous (and now deceased) starter. I even got a starter sitter for while I'm gone.
Right now the starter is working on bread with a mix of whole wheat, high gluten and rye flours. ...perhaps I should just do a separate sourdough post...

I also picked up more nuts at the co-op. It probably seems excessive to many of you that I have 3 kinds of nuts in those quantities. These are raw, not roasted/salted snacking nuts (heh heh...I keep typing "nuts"). I use them as a dairy substitute. 1 part nuts to 3 parts water in the blender makes a good "milk" and if you've read past entries, you know that unlike most folks who make nutmilk, I leave the nut bits (heh heh) in the final product. Sometimes I have to chew my Sunday morning mocha made with nutmilk, but I live alone so no one gets grossed out.
The nuts on sale were walnuts out of the shell. These won't last as long as those in the shell. Actually, walnuts in the shell apparently last forever as I'm too lazy to crack them and pick out the nutmeats to make walnut milk (which makes an AMAZING latte with a bit of honey or stevia)

Doing this makes me wonder what a "normal" American pantry looks like. Right now I don't have a single fruit or vegetable product in a commercially packed can. The baking powder is still in a tin, but will probably be bought in bulk from here on out.
Would any ready care to share their pantry inventory? I won't judge you any harsher than you've judged me (you know you thought "3 kinds of seaweed? Seriously? What kind of granola actually has 3 kinds of seaweed in the house?) (and you also probably thought that my house must always smell of flatulence given the amount of BEANS listed...well I blame all that on a dirty hamster pen...I mean "it does not")

And the exercise also points out that I need to get all my boxes of jars of dried and canned goods together and put like with like! Then I can just keep one box with one jar of each type in the kitchen cupboard...or on the shelves.
If I can get the second bedroom turned into a cool storage room for the winter, I usually keep it about 45 degrees in there, I can put the squash and canned goods in there.
I have Diana's old vacuum sealer so some nutmeats may get vacuum packed and put in cold storage to extend the shelf life. I don't think it would be good to freeze them as oil tends to coagulate and it could make the texture weird. I'll ask Gram.

OK, time to make supper. I've made it through everything so I get to make something from scratch. Woohoo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

25 Things I DON'T Do

that save money. I liked the line in one of the Tightwad Gazette issues ( have volumes I and II...looking for III or the Compleat Tightwad in thrift stores and the free book bin at recycling), that the author, Amy Dacyczyn was having trouble with news crews filming her since most of what it takes to save money is NOT doing things. See the family NOT stop at the drive thru. See them not buying popcorn and enormously expensive pop at the movies. There the pizza delivery guy doesn't go. Fascinating viewing. Obviously the time is filled with other things but they aren't things that made for good TV viewing. Hanging laundry seemed to be a hit for her (something I just did moments ago).

Anyway, below are 25 things I don't do that save money. And FYI as soon as I posted the list of 25 things I "do" in previous entry, I thought up many many more. Each as boring as the last...crock pot cooking, whatnot.

And now the list:
1 Buy clothes retail (except shoes, socks, undies)
2 Buy clothes at full price even if retail
3 Pay interest
4 Pay for that initial depreciation. Used is where it is at!
5 Eat out much (it happens...less and less...partly because I want things the way I want them and the best way to get that is to cook it myself. According to family lore my first words were "I'll do it myself")
6 Buy pricey coffee (yes, it does add up. I know people who spend 5-10$/work day which is 25-50$/week, 100-200/month, 1200-2400$ per year! The high end is my food budget for the year.)
7 Eat mostly processed food. Cook-n-save. I also end up with almost no trash. I just took out 2 grocery bags of "garbage" which are things I can't recycle here. It's about 2 months worth.
8 Buy everything that catches my eye
9 Browse through catalogs
10 Window shop when bored
11 Shop as a hobby or pastime (well...sometimes I am in thrift stores without a list so need to work on this one)
12 Drive around for entertainment. Actually, I miss this one. I like a nice drive in the boonies. But, alas between wasting gas, and wasting money, and putting polution out in the environment I gave it up. Back to walking and riding my tricycle.
13 Try to keep up with the neighbors / the Joneses. Partly because I don't give a crap and partly because I don't see them as role models
14 Accept upgrades rather than refunds or discounts. But if I can't get a refund I'll take the upgrade.
15 Buy bottled water. It's insanely expensive compared to the tap and may well be LESS healthy AND the bottles use more water to manufacture then most of them hold. That's just wrong. Fill a container at the tap. I almost passed out at an event recently when the hostess offered me a water to drink. I said "great" and she got a PLASTIC BOTTLE out of the fridge and POURED THE WATER IN A PLASTIC CUP! Nothing was recycled. I realized that that might be standard behavior and that maybe, just maybe, I'm the weird one. I don't get it. Why pay a huge amount for water (and based on the size of the package of bottles she DROVE somewhere to buy it which means gas money, wear and tear on the car, etc) and then pour it in a cup that is used ONCE!!!? At my house you'll get filtered tap water (it tastes rank without the filter and according to my free test kit has as much chlorine some days as a swimming pool should) in a glass or cup out of my cupboard. It will cost me almost nothing and your thirst will be equally quenched and frankly, the graniteware tumblers I have now (Thanks Sher) are pretty cool.
16 Buy cake. This probably seems odd. But for a year there (in Spokane...) I would just run out about once a week and buy a slice of cake from the store across the street. It wasn't going to bankrupt me, but it was wasteful in general. I can make an entire chocolate cake for about a dollar. I was paying 3 or 4$ for one slice with crap frosting. I do make quite a bit of cake. I like cake. I just had chocolate cake with my potato soup, dried venison, and ratatouille on quinoa dinner...and a cup of tea made with loose leaves.
17 Eat meat at every meal. I did "meatless Monday" this week (ratatouille on quinoa for lunch and supper, apple pancake for was really good). Meat is spendy and hard on the environment when raised industrially. Monday I was positively STUFFED and as far as I can tell, I ate maybe 1200 calories. 50 of those were honey in my tea. I love honey. I'm not a vegetarian and I eat extremely well (see "cake" above) and cutting back on meat has saved bunches of dollars in groceries as well as allowing me to upgrade to organic free range meats AND it will probably save me healthcare dollars in the long run.
18 Look for happiness in stuff/possessions. I have in the past. I was once pretty sure that having a mortgage would make me happy partly due to the promised tax savings. Turns out it was a crock. I didn't get a net savings. Only about 30percent of the interest came back in the taxes. The other 70% was a loss. Forget that. And I didn't like having the debt. It was a cool little house though and I liked having somewhere to paint and decorate (well..Sher did the painting) how I wanted. Hence the dream of buying for cash.
19 Expect to be rich. Letting go of the idea that I'll ever be wealthy, or even want to be wealthy has helped. I've settled on the level I wish to live at. I want a basic structure to live in with interesting cooking facilities. I was going to put in "hot shower" and "indoor toilet" but realized those are still negotiable. I can get a free shower at the gym and a bathtub with no shower would be fine. I prefer a toilet in the house, but I also really like camping in areas with pit toilets because they never break or back up and they don't stink up the house. Hmmm....
20 Pay for more degrees. I'm done now. If it's free, fine. But I've got 4 college degrees and one free one off the internet. I'm interested in many things and now I can just read up or audit a class or whatever, but I don't need or want to pay for any more degrees.
21 Immediately assume I have to pay someone to do a repair or maintenance task. Just yesterday I checked a book out of the library on wiring to see if I can fix a lamp. If that doesn't work I'll borrow a ouija board and try to contact Grampa Bush. He was an electrician (in fact, I think he rewired this lamp at some point). I may end up paying someone, but we'll see if I'm able first. I'll learn something too so fits in with the not paying for degrees/education bit above.
22 Pay for storage (sorry Pam!). I just learned on the radio show this weekend that the ministorage business is far larger than I ever suspected. That's insane. How much crap do we need? Our houses are larger than ever (some folks excepted...Sally, Rik, etc you know who you are), families are smaller and yet the houses are over flowing with crap to the point that folks rent temp storage for stuff they clearly aren't using. Wow. I've rented storage in the past when I had no housing and I've abused others' storage units when I had inadequate housing (chevy van, anyone? anyone?). I don't THINK I've rented storage when I had a reasonable size place to live. Later we'll talk about how two rooms in the trailer are basically storage...I could rent an even smaller place if I got rid of my crap here and in Pam's basement. And yet I think I'm at the bottom of the rental market. There might not be a cheaper rental. Still it would be good to get rid of and/or use up some of the crap.
23 Buy new (meaning "new to me") clothes if I can remotely possibly make an acceptable outfit out of clothes I have. i only really gave a crap about clothes in jr. high and even then, I didn't "get it" I just wanted to be invisible and sought to blend in with the other tight panted pre-teens. Given where I live and the profession I'm in, this is generally possible. Idaho formal is black jeans. I've got one pair I only wear for meetings. Bought them at thrift. Black jeans, a decent sweater or columbia shirt and reasonable shoes or boots will pretty much do it. I have one sort of blazer for real emergencies (came in handy for court a few, I wasn't charged with anything! I was there supporting others).
24 Throw crap out or donate it until I'm sure I don't need it. This results in a bit of a hoarding issues, but I've also saved some dollars. Recently I was going to donate a couple of travel mugs as I had 4 and really, 2 is plenty. Well, 2 died so I dug the others back out of the goodwill box. So, I'm still set for travel mugs.
25 Buy t-shirts. I'm not talking shells or the shirts to wear under button downs and v-necks to work but actual t-shirts. It's come to my attention that people give me enough free ones to keep me supplied. I just had to retire 2 shirts (rag bag...later to be composted) and ended up with 2 brand new t-shirts from events I attended. Freebies. Even found one in my mailbox at work Monday morning! I used to buy them to commemorate events, trips, whatnot. But now I've got so damn many I'll never wear them out. I wonder if I can make underpants out of them? Or re-weave the cotton into spandex free jeans.

The list actually goes on and on and on but I'll stop here. There are probably more obvious things (e.g. don't buy a car until the one I'm driving dies or is murdered on the highway) but I can't be bothered right now. I need to get on that pantry inventory and wash some undies.

P.S. I did give up last night and turn the furnace on. The temperature in the house just would not maintain without it. I had put up storm windows and plastic, styrofoam in front of the backdoor with shrink plastic over it, plastic plate (which has been washed and reused many many times...) over the bathroom ceiling fan, plastic over the windows that don't have storms (the front bedroom/root celler/cold storage has not had all the windows done. It's next.) I even stuffed used wax paper into cracks in the west side jalousie window. But the wind was sailing through the trailer. It was pretty strong and there is only so much one can do. I thought about lighting the oil heater but it gives me a headache until I throwup so that can't be worth it. I made a new filter (it is a size that does not occur in nature so I buy what I can get and cut to size) and started it up. The temp was back over 50 degrees in 10 minutes. Central heating is a miracle.

Turning on the furnace has also made it possible to dry clothes. When it's too raining to hang them outside and I'm not heating the trailer, I can't do much laundry as the moisture just condenses on the walls and ceiling and makes mold. I've got enough clothes to get by for quite a while, but the outfits have been a bit creative.

Monday, October 25, 2010

25 Things

So, I was reading some thrifty blogs as I am wont to do.
One of them had solicited lists from other frugalers (that's people who actively do frugality...frugalees are the friends and families of frugalers. Frugalees suffer from crap gifts, handme down clothes, and chilly houses in the winter (yes, I have a blanket wrapped around my head right now and am considering giving up on my "wait until Nov. 1 to turn on the furnace" deal since with a 20+ mile per hour wind the trailer is FREAKING COLD...I can expect a 15 degree temperature drop between bedtime and getting up time without a wind. WITH a wind, it's going to be closer to 25 degrees and we're only at 55 now. The low tonight will be, assuming some serious temperature drop BEFORE bed, I'm going to FREEZE. Might be time to admit defeat)
Here are some things I actually "do" to save money (later there will be a list of the crap I DON'T do. There will be repeats here and these are not in a good order:

1 I save in a savings account, retirement account etc.
2 No longer pay interest (I've read some folks spend 12% of their income on interest! Wow)
3 Try to eat what I have on hand before it goes bad (need to do better on this...see upcoming pantry inventory). Also, on average Americans through out something like 30% of the food they buy. Wow. Trying to do better than that.
4 Cook from scratch. Ingredients are cheaper than processed food. Also, it has a creative element AND helps heat the house in the winter (though not enough today)
5 Maintain the car reasonable well. Keep the oil changed, but don't fix dents and things (I put insurance payouts for those into savings...other people's insurance, not mine)
6 Drive slower and smoother. In "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to True Riches" Mr. Yeager gave the example of putting a FULL to the brim glass of water in the cup holder and learning to drive so that didn't spill. I haven't done that yet but thought of him on Friday when I picked up a roaster full of runny (and delicious) soup and had to drive it 7 miles on a windy road going downhill. I drove REALLY REALLY smoothly and didn't spill any and probably saved gas. It made me aware that I have work to do on the "smooth" bit.
7 Wear out clothes. I appeared at book club yesterday with holes in the elbows of my sweater. The rest of the sweater, like 99% is perfectly good...and I will patch those.
8 Develop hobbies that save money or at least don't cost much. E.g. canning and gleaning.
9 Use the library (multiple libraries actually...I was surprised to find I was the only one at book club with a library copy of the book)
10 Netflix. I'm not recommending the company in particular, but apparently the cheap love it. I pay 17.99 or so a month and watch usually 6-12 movies per month. If the Plummer library had a better DVD selection, I'd cut back on that subscription.
11 Reuse stuff. I have rags made of worn out clothes. The garden is made largely of discarded wood and containers.
12 Compost. Two systems. This saves on trash and saves on fertilzers and whatnot for the garden.
13 Garden. I'm not sure it's saved that much money yet. I do count it as education, entertainment, and food.
14 Pay bills on time. I went through a phase earlier this year where I would forget to pay the city bill on time. Don't know what that was but it cost 5$ a shot. No more of that.
15 Go shopping in the closet (or in my case the big pile of laundry on the floor of the bedroom or on the couch). When I'm sick of the outfits in rotation, I dig through the closet/laundry pile and switch some things out.
16 Repair things. Like get shoes resoled. Darn socks. Sew on buttons. Replace my own car battery.
17 Walk. when the trip is under 1.5 miles or so, I generally walk. This is easy in Plummer as any trips in town are under the threshold and any trips out of town are longer.
18 Group errands. If I get the car out, I try to have at least 2 things to do. Unless it is a trip specifically for work (and sometimes even then) I do as much as I can where I'm at and park the car while in one town (no towns around here are too big to walk across).
19 Make coffee at home. Cheaper. And better.
20 Put left overs in the freezer if I don't eat them. In fact. I'm going to have to take out some of the freezy packs to get the latest soup ingredients in. It's the last hoo-rah for fresh veg this season so I've been making buckets of things like ratatouille and freezing the remains.
21 Buy staples when they are on sale. This has been serious this month as the Moscow Food Co-op is having a bulk-bins sale for members. I've bought enough oatmeal, flour, lentils, oil, spices, and etc for quite a while. I'll be doing a pantry inventory this week (before the sale ends next Sunday) to make sure I've got the basics. It will mean very little grocery shopping this winter which is always an odd adjustment.
22 Ask for discounts sometimes. I will be increasing this. It's another tip from Mr. Yeager. Sometimes there is a discount. Might as well ask. Since I don't shop much, and haven't had the nerve to ask for a discount at a thrift store, I don't do this much. I'm much better at getting the AAA discount at hotels/motels, asking about the government rate and etc. Motels generally have a better deal than the first price quoted.
23 Delay purchases. I hate it when people tell me to "just buy it" (yes you, Pam, and others). I KNOW I have the money. What I'm deciding is if I really want it.
24 Know my hourly net wage and the "real" wage minus the costs of having a job (see older posts on this) and decide if any purchase is worth the time I have to work to buy ANDstore and maintain the item.
25 Try to be grateful for what I have. That's not too hard since I live near some seriously poor people and have that radio show where we talk about people with much much less that the aforementioned seriously poor people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's been a while

Sorry for the delay between posts. I've been busy/lazy.

I'm having a very amusing time with the "Kill-A-Watt" meter I checked out from the library. I've even renewed it.
So far I've tested most appliances that can be tested and I'm down to comparing lamps and fans. The washing machine will be tested this weekend to see how much it costs me to do a large load vs a small load. I know it's more economical to always do large loads, but when one lives alone, it's hard to come up with a big load every time. I just don't have that many undies and you can't throw those in with the jeans unless you want the underoos torn to shreds which is also not economical.

I'm still holding off on turning the furnace on. The olive oil on the counter gelled up the other day but re-melted into olive oil by afternoon when it was over 55 in there. The coldest it's been is 43 in the house. This morning it got down to 47 but I baked a loaf of bread before I left for work so the left over oven heat will warm things up quite a bit.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soup Bucket Soup Report

I mentioned before that I was keeping a container in the freezer for left overs that would make good soup.
Well, it also made me much more consciencious about eating what I fixed so I would not have to face it again in a soup pot.
SO, with only 2 forms of leftovers in the soup bucket, I dove in and made soup. I was out of other edible and prepared food in the house (not remotely out of inventory coming up soon) and decided to go for it.
I moved it from the freezer to the fridge a day before fixing. This is a cheaper way to thaw than using the stove (not much cheaper...but a bit as it saves electricity needed to cool the fridge and the electric to power the stove). Then, I put it all in a soup pot and added water. Since I had some kale in the garden that was well due to be picked, I did so and added about 6 smallish kale leaves, torn up, to the pot. I was going to add some pasta for noodles but with quinoa and potatoes featuring heavily, it didn't really need another starch-like product. I did throw in a few tomatoes that were in danger of going off.
And, fixed some biscuits while it was heating up.
It was delicious. The original dishes were some of the classic "that which has no name" (recipe appears in a past blog post) and a veggie hash over quinoa. Both featured quite a bit of garlic, fried onions, and various spices so I didn't feel that a broth addition was necessary.
As far as I could tell, the following were in the soup:
potatoes (red, yukon and blue), onion, garlic, carrot, beets, heritage zucchini, tomatoes, hot pepper, quinoa. I splashed on some lemon juice and fresh ground pepper to serve.

For dessert more biscuits with jam. I had too many biscuits but they go stale so I tend to eat the whole batch.

I'll be doing the soup bucket soup from now on. It was way better than trying to eat the left overs in their original format for too many days in a row.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Seriously. How much do I hate spandex in my jeans? I hate it to 11.
I am having a helluva time finding jeans, yes at thrift stores but still it's all the same brands, without freaking spandex. I do not want pants in the shape of me. I want pants in the shape of PANTS. If I wanted to wear tights, I WOULD BUY FREAKING TIGHTS.

Even Carhartt is putting spandex in some of their women's pants.
Why only in the women's? Have you not seen the men walking around these days?
Some of them have chunky thighs. Maybe THEY would like stretchy pants for "ease of movement".

Seriously. It's not just that I hate any form of clothing that clings ( are on notice!), I am trying not to buy synthetics. I'm hoping to have an entirely compostable wardrobe. One that does not feature petroleum products (bras...that's you again). Will I have to have my pants custom made? Wear boy pants? (see above "chunky thighs" and add "short waist" and "flat butt" to find out why I haven't tried this route too one wants to see old lady coin slot).

I just want jeans. Denim. Cotton. Straight leg (boot cut jeans give me wierd saddle bag thigh thingies with or without spandex....tapered legs are just not there). Low rise (see above short the 1980s my jeans literally hit my bra strap some days. I was the torso-free-gal).
Is that too much to ask of the world?

When I want "ease of movement" I'll buy pants that FIT. If you buy the right size, you will not have trouble sitting down with or without spandex.
One of my favorite effects of spandex pants is when they "hug" my butt curves, such as they are and gradually pull my underpants down throughout the day. Nice feature. Because next to old lady coin slot, who doesn't want to see a middle aged woman try to sneak her hand down the back of her pants to find her undies? When I'm working outside with no privacy or potty facilities in sight, I love making the choice between sticking my hand down the back of my pants or trying to figure out if everyone can see that my undies have bunched up around the bottom of my butt. Also, it chafes. If they don't get the spandex out of my pants, I'm going to have to invent undie-spenders which will be straightened out sock garters hooking my undies to my bra for an all day wedgie-chafe-fest that can't be beat. You think I'm a bitch now? Wait until I've got undies all up in my business while I'm trying to get a bulldozer to stop doing whatever it shouldn't be doing.

So, again:

Love Jill

Does anyone know where I can buy jeans without spandex, with low rise, straight legs, and sturdy cotton fabric?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ever More With The Thriftiness

Mr. Ultimate Cheapskate, Jeff Yeager, has a "Miser Adviser" system where one can lobby for status. Interesting. I'm composing my application and will post it here when I'm done.

Yesterday I got some more plums. They are past it now so here's hoping I get those quince a friend said might be available. I've got plum butter going in the crock pot. It's been cooking down for about 2 days (with the lid off when I'm home) and is down to less than 50% of the original volume so time to jar it up today. I may add some acid in the form of lime or lemon juice to be safe. It tastes amazing. I added no honey, sugar, spice or anything. It is the rendered essence of plums and as thick as wet cement (but prettier). I put the pitted plums, skin and all, in the blender. The flavor of these plums, and the good color, is in the skins.

I've also instituted a new practice recommended in all thrifty how-to books:
The Soup Bucket. This is a container in the freezer that accepts left overs. When full, put it in a pot and call it soup. So far I have 2 kinds of veggie hash, one with quinoa, in there. I'll report on the results when I make the soup. Some folks put each type of left over in a baggie, then put the baggies in a bigger bag. That seems like a lot of plastic to me so screw it. I have a divided tupperware (gotten when I left for COLLEGE in 1984 from one Sandy Bright) that I've put mine in . It holds quite a bit and is a dark color for less stainage.

And I got the best thrifty gift on Friday! I had talked to a local woman about being her CSA test run. At the beginning of the season she refused cash and said it looked like they wouldn't have much of a crop due to staff issues (her husband blew out a knee or something). So, I gave up and put more garden in (i.e. got more buckets from the free bin and planted things like carrots that grew into tomatoes). Friday we're all at a food event here in Plummer and she gives me a box with potatoes, tomoatoes, onions, and chard! Cool. Not a mass quantity which is good, but enough that had I not needed to go to Moscow for a few other errands, I could have skipped the farmers market and saved the trip. The food has all been good so far and I got supplies for BLTs to eat all week (bacon is cooking on the george foreman grill right now).

The plums from a week ago made the following:
37 jars of jam (with honey not sugar)
Plum crisp to serve 70!
And what will be some delicious plum essence.

I think I'll try drying at least some of the plums from this week.

And this may be the thriftiest move of all since I'm not saving any real cash by doing it: I left the canner full of water from canning last week. I didn't want to pour it out when I could just let it sit on the stove, covered, and use it this week. I pay one rate for some enormous amount of water that I never hit so it's not like it's costing ME to waste water, but it costs the planet to pour it down the drain so I kept it. I think I'll put it out on the yard or garden when I'm done canning this week.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This has gotten TOOO LOOOONNNNGGG so I broke it in two, which is why I should not write the blogs offline and then try to upload them (which is one way to make the most of my 20hours per month of free dial up service). I write too much when not under time pressure.

Here are a few of Mr. Yeager's suggestions that I already do (hence the whole "mirror" thing mentioned above) and thusly I think they are brilliant (re: mirror):

Fiscal Fasting: Going for specified periods of time spending NO money in any form. He recommends a week at a time and says it's fair to fill up the car before you start if you need to commute to work etc. Otherwise, leave all forms of cash at home. Best to schedule during a week when you don't have bills due or regular payments taken out of an account (thouse count!). I generally do a modified version of seeing how long I can go without spending. Then note what it was the broke me. Often I just really want a candy bar. Sad. For Mr. Yeager's version, keep a little notepad or pencil (or use your cellphone) and note when you break the rules. Don't get bent, just notice. Also notice how much food you have in the cupboards and where the gaps are. Right now I have what seems to be a good balance of beans and grains but may be low on veggies and fruits (other than dehydrated tomatoes).

Spending Autopsies (I may have the first word wrong but I can't be arsed to go through the whole set of 7 CDs and the book (which has no index) to find it). Take one or two months a year and write down EVERY transaction. All money in, remember to include interest, and all money out in every form. It's just a check up for those of us who don't always use a formal budget. I usually start with what seems like a reasonable budget and keep everything in a categorized list in a budget book I bought about 3 years ago (in a thrift store for like 50cents) and see how it goes. If it turns out I'm spending more or less in a category than I think I am, I check out where, why and whatfor. Sometimes it turns out it's because I want to and then I keep doing it. If not, I'm a bit more conscious and try to change. That usually works. I don't track every penny all the time but I did for about 6 months when I was trying to turn my spending habits around. I may have actually bored myself out of shopping.

Frugal Hobby Choices: Choose hobbies that save money or at least don't spend any or at least least cost very little. Hobbies that produce gifts are good. As are hobbie that save money (like learning to do home repairs, fix engines, change oil, biking rather than driving, you get the idea). My hobbies are generally free or cheap and often produce something of value or interest. Canning, dehydrating, cooking, beadwork (must remember to do that more...). there are some associated costs, but they all come up with an interesting product and cooking probably saves me the most. Cooking from scratch saves a bundle. Biking and walking save oodles in driving / gym memberships / healthcare costs.

Cooking from scratch: Duh. Even if you can buy a crap lunch for 2$, you can make one for less. You can make an elaborate lunch for less if you figure in the costs of damage to your health and well being into that 2$ lunch (probably costs 1-2$ in future or current healthcare). How many people do I see (including me) who take supplements to make up for a crap diet? (see "candy bar" above). If you cook in large batches, in a crock pot, from in season/on sale products and with basic ingredients (generally cheaper) you can eat for very little.

Put money in savings all the time: DUH! Of course, I didn't always do this. But, I do now. I like to go online and move money from checking into savings and look at my new totals. If you don't find that fun (admittedly, most won't) automating your payroll deposit to divide into checking and savings may help.