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.