Monday, March 31, 2014

I OWNED This Quiz

So, I really like The Dollar Stretcher site:  I'm on the chat forums but not in my own name, obviously.

At the beginning of each week there are a new assortment of articles on the HuffPo for the CheaPo.    One link this week was this one:
"How Tightfisted Are You?"
Well, I'm more tight fisted than the quiz allows.

On question 1: I buy in bulk and have re-used the same container for years.  I actually have 2 containers and I switch back and forth so I'm never out.   I'm also considering using soap nuts...will keep you posted.   My annual cost is about 10$, I think. 

Question 2: I didn't have kids so no kid clothes to worry about...SCORE!

Question 3: All of the above AND I put them in an egg for breakfast or lunch.  For example, today's lunch was last night's cup of left over sausage, onion and cabbage (all on super sale except the onion...I can't seem to make it through a day without chopping an onion) with an added grated carrot (5lbs of organic carrots for $4.99...a dollar a pound is an unmissable deal so eating lots of carrots this week) with 2 eggs mixed in (I tried one egg but it just wouldn't make it through the whole mess of was quite a bit).    On the side:  An orange (on sale, organic, for $0.99/lb).  I kept the peel to scrub the tub with, after that it goes in the compost.  Will be using the microplane Diana gave me (Hi Diana) to take the orange peel off on the other oranges before I eat them.  I can dry that and  use in teas rice puddings and whatnot.  Also on the side was muffins made with whole wheat flour (because that is what I had), left over squash from the freezer (November...time to eat it), molasses...didn't remember buying it so using it up, failed pancake batter from breakfast (note to self: coconut flour is NOT a 1:1 substitution with regular wheat got heavy and thick and I was going for more of a crepe.  Rather than eat a crappy pancake, I put this mix in the fridge to use late in the day in muffins, and started over with the pancake batter using regular flour), and homemade apple butter.  Using up winter stores.  There was more but I'll stop now. 

Question 4:  Not my finest hour here.  I do sometimes break down and get the plastic bag even though they are so polluting.  I almost always remember my own bags when I go to the food co-op in Moscow, and they have loaner bags and reusable paper bags.  Sometimes I forget to put a bag in the car and shop in other towns or here in Plummer at lunch time (no car...ergo no bag) and forget to ask for the paper bag.   Paper bags get reused for recycling containers, and other things, then end up shredded for the worms or in the regular compost.  The plastic bags get reused and reused and reused as well and end their lives as trash bags.   Here is a link to an excellent "documentary" about the life of a plastic bag by Rahim Bahrani and narrated by Werner Herzog:

Question 5:  Mostly gifts.  I bought the couch (and hope to give it away soon) with gambling winnings.   I was at the casino with a friend and won about 400$ so I bought a couch...after a few months of looking.  It has served me well for many years, but time for it to move on.  The rest of the furniture is hand me downs, inherited, given.   A bit of the art is purchased on trips to Santa Fe and a few local artists I like to support.  One nice print from a thrift store.  So, all of the above AND gifts, handmedowns, etc.

Question 6: For the most part those options are in play right now.  I suppose the sprouts are home grown.   CSA provided some of the rest.  The apple butter is from bulk purchase at the farmers market (then I made the apples into butter), same with some of the dried fruit.  Much of it right now is purchased at the Moscow Food Co-op, a mix of local and organic as the main priorities along with that Dollar a Pound thing mentioned above.  

Question 7: I drink home brewed coffee, self-brewed tea (remember when it was ASSUMED that if you had tea you had made it and NOT bought it in a jar or can?), water and about once a week a Zevia ginger ale from a case purchase at the co-op last fall.  Still have 6 left! WOOHOO!  That stock up worked really well.  When I'm in a restaurant I do often order a hot tea.  It would be more frugal just to stick with the tap water.

Question 8: No sweetie so no one tells me what to do!  BURN.   If I do feel the need to cut back, I just do that.  I turn in my rolled coins, eat more of what's already in the pantry, and generally carry on like always.  I haven't had a financial crisis in years so this is hard to answer right now.   I guess we'll see what I do when the next one hits.

Question 9:   All of those...except I would NEVER pay for tupperware or similar items at a yard sale.  I have more food storage containers than I need and I reuse those I get from bulk purchases at the co-op (some items are already packaged in these plastic tubs (they are the best plastic they can find) but I bring my own jars and reused plastic containers and metal tins as much as possible).   A friend, Diana again, gives me her old yogurt tubs when she gives me back my jars.  Diana is the best.  I also have a Cuppow drink lid and bento-thingy to use with wide mouth jars.  Those are mostly for transport but also storage.  And I have jars of all sorts of sizes.  Canning jars and jars that food came in.  I'm actually more likely to buy a product, if it must have packaging, in reusable packaging for food storage and bulk buying.

Question 10:  Again:  no kids so no problem.   When I did have a kid around the system was he could do what he wanted with his money and obviously he knew that I really didn't care what everyone else had.  Neither did he.  So this didn't come up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cutting Back

Not on money, though you know I'm all in favor of that.

I'm involved in a variety of community groups.  One in particular has become less and less interesting to me.  There seems to have been "mission creep,"  where the original mission has gotten slightly changed.   So...given that this group pretty much sucks me dry as far as personal energy and that the focus is not so much what it once was, it's time for me to drop out.

This is more about simplicity than frugality.  It's important to spend one's time as carefully as one spends one's money.  I don't want to spend my time on something that doesn't seem worth it anymore.  Others are happy with the current focus so rather than me fighting them, and them fighting me, why not remove myself and save us all the time and effort?  Seems more efficient.

I try to be very careful before joining groups and once in, to give them a fair run.  I've been in this group for 3 years.  That seems fair.  that was the original commitment.

Another group is still under debate.  It's less and less interesting to me as it gets bigger and bigger.  I don't mind the small focused groups so much, but when what was a task oriented infrequent gathering becomes a dinner party with chat and no task, that really doesn't interest me.  With too many people, less gets done, at least in this case.

I'd rather use my time and effort toward my land, the groups that are still interesting and seem beneficial, and perhaps one new community project that is just once a year.   Once a year will mean a nice break for the rest of the year.  Breaks are good.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Food Storage for Frugality

Given the expected (I mean really...isn't it always true?) increase in grocery prices, I plan to reduce my waste and do more preserving when things are available at a reasonable cost from local producers.  I like to prioritize local producers whenever possible because I believe that it is best to always have a community based food network.  I ALSO enjoy my coffee from ethiopia and sumatra (nothing like a dark roast sumatran espresso to start my day...) but I know that this is an extreme luxury in the long term and global scheme of foodstuffs.  So, I'm going to focus more on my local folks.

Here's what I've started doing to preserve local (and other) food when I can get it and I'd love to hear other food preservation methods folks use.  Since I'm hoping to live off grid soon, I'm focusing on things that don't require long-term energy use like freezing does.  More on the methods that allow for passive storage.

1) root cellaring.  Well, sort of.  I turned my north room into cold storage for the winter a few years ago.  A little regulating of the heat vent keeps it between 35 and 45 degrees.  This winter I only had a few potatoes sprout beyond what I consider worth eating (too much to cut around).  The rest (onions, garlic, apples, squash) stored well.  I just discovered 2 more onions in the corner of a box and they are fine.  After that the cold room is tapped out for this year.

2) fermenting:  I made extremely successful sauerkraut with red cabbage.  About 4 quarts of it (start small...).  It's beautiful and still crunchy and fresh tasting.  I did transfer it to the fridge for long term storage mainly because the north room, while cold enough, is carpeted and I rent.  One blown leaky jar of red cabbage ferment juice and I'd be buying new carpet for the landlord.  Also didn't know if i could ever get the smell out if a jar leaked in there.  I plan to have a root cellar with a fermented foods area someday so it won't be in the fridge.   Also made really successful fermented carrots.  Just grated them up with some sea salt (didn't have any whey or I would have thrown some in).  Just finished those.  I only made a quart.  It's really just a condiment.   I'm thinking of grabbing some cabbage that's on sale everywhere this week and makine another couple of quarts of kraut to get me into summer.

3) dry storage.   I got bulk seeds to sprout so I'd have fresh salad-y things all winter.  It's worked well.  dry seeds store much better than fresh greens!  I do a few mung beans in the mix to get some protein in there.  I've been sprouting about 6 tablespoons of seeds a week for a total of 4-6 cups of fresh sprouts.  I could do more if I had more counter space.  I use the rinse water on my plants and they seem to enjoy it.  And of course flour, rice, mustard seeds, etc.

4) dehydrating (this is sort of dry storage I supposed).  Once the inititial electric input (electric dehydrator) is finished the items go in quart, pint or half pint jars (or whatever I have around and not currently in use) with the lid screwed on tightly.   Dried down to crisp, rather than leathery, and in closed clean jars, I’ve had things last years and years.  No other inputs.  I don’t purposely keep the jars a stable temperature but I don’t think they’ve ever frozen.

5) canning.  Buckets of tomatoes, apple sauce, ketchup and pickled beets anyone?   I've got them.  It's been good.  I should probably can more next year.   This is water bath canning.  I've done plenty of jams too.

6)  canning redux.   Learning to pressure can.  By "learning" I mean "intending to learn.  I've helped one friend pressure can, watched another do EVERYTHING wrong (I totally did NOT eat that stuff) and gone to a pretty un-useful class in it.  Also watched some youtubes, read some books, and thought things through.  Without refrigeration, pressure canning will be the way to go with my non-acid veg and all meats.   Well, the ones that don't get dried.

I'm open to suggestions.  Perhaps I'll try smoking but I'm not sure that's a super long term method.  I'll look into it.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

They Just Don't Get It.....Seriously

OK, so apparently people think I'm denying myself something, many things, possibly "important" things.   What the hell?     I'm one of the only people I know who has everything they want.   There are more things I wouldn't mind having (like if anyone has a spare Johnny Depp lying around going unused....that would be fine).

So, here's how this came up today:

I got a call from a colleague this morning asking if I was coming to a group work event. I said that I was stranded on the wrong side of the mountains by weather, 6 hours from home, so nope. She asked if that was a problem and I said, thinking she knew me well, that nope, I had a plenty of savings at this point in my life for these sorts of little "emergencies" so it was no hardship to find a budget hotel and spend a night in Portland Oregon ('s really fun with the cheap efficient public transit and the Powell's bookstore and the amazing food).

She said something like, "but you deny yourself so much to get those savings"
.......I am still sort of stunned. I have everything I need! And most of what I want. In my mind I don't deny myself anything.   I wanted to say, "But I'm talking to you from a one bedroom apartment in Seattle (that I rent instead of a hotel room because it's cheap and private and I enjoy having a kitchen when I travel), and I'm on my way to Portland to wait out a storm while I find books on my list (resource material for things I WANT to do on MY land) and eat delicious food (just because I WANT to...).  I mean for cripes sake, I went to Paris for Christmas (thanks Unca Pat for the room!) because I wanted to.  Then I went to Amsterdam for New Years because what the hell, I was already in Paris.....oh the denial of not staying in Plummer...boohoo.

This woman has been connecting me with inexpensive resources and whatnot since I've bought land so I sort of thought we were on the same page, but I guess not.

Part of it is that long ago I started sorting my wants from my real "needs" and setting priorities for both. Once that was sorted, the rest started fall in place financially.   For example, I "need" somewhere to live. I want privacy so I have lived alone in low cost housing. Decor and fashion and large amounts of space are not things I want, so not having them isn't "denial" to me, it's cool. I didn't want or need debt the last several years so I paid it off. That's not denial...that's awesome for my financial goals. I want savings. I have some. I need clothes...don't car about I get 2nd hand clothes. Back to the savings and debt pay off priorities with the left overs. I wanted to ask her if she understood that I wasn't denying myself anything that interests me.   I wonder if people who buy into the mainstream wants, or who maybe just don't get that we all want different stuff, will never get that for those of us who are outliers from the norm.  I have friends and relatives who have much more gracious and spacious homes.  My assumption was that that was what THEY want, not what EVERYONE wants.  Some people really enjoy fine art.  I think it's great.  What I choose to spend my money on and get the most enjoyment out of is art by someone I have a personal connection with.  Some day I'd like to own a Jim Denommie.   I already own a Carly Bordeaux,  a Gerald Nailor Jr (thanks Marcie!), an Erika Greenwell (hi Erika!).   Sometimes something grabs me like the handmade plate I saw in New Mexico...I do know the potter now so in that case the art came before the personal connection.  But you get the theme.  These aren't all high dollar items but I really like them.  I LOVE my original Bree (Hi Bree) and my Jon Hostager (Hi Jon!) and my Annnnnggggela (Hi Ange!) and my Laurie Koenigs (Hi Laurie!).   I have several Pamela's  (Hi Pam).   Where's the denial?

I wanted to go on a canal boat trip. So I did. I wanted to see ancient Roman and Druid ruins. Saw both on the way too and from the canal boat in Wales. Wanted to see Paris again. So I did. Wanted to spend the night in Portland rather than make a long and dangerous drive through ice and snow and freezing rain. So I did. Wanted to buy land for cash. So I did. I want to live in a home of my own design. So I'm working on a design. I want to learn to build things so I've taken classes and now that I bought land, I can start putting those things into practice. I want to know if I can build a home without debt. So I am giving it a shot. I want to live with a low impact on the environment, so I bought a composting toilet and started thinking about how to implement it's use.   I wanted to learn about gardening so I built a couple of raised beds.

Perhaps my loyal readers could clue me in on what I'm denying myself.  I can't think of a thing  (as I sit in my hotel, typing on my new computer, eating organic dark chocolate covered edamame beans from Trader Joe's and drinking delicious homemade chai from my purple stainless steel designer French press travel mug (hot water from my teal stainless steel Stanley thermos) wearing my organic cotton jammie pants and t-shirt (all of the things were bought at thrift) and wearing a lovely silver ring a friend just gave me after a giveaway/funeral on the reservation   For breakfast I've got an assortment of organic goodies to supplement the complimentary breakfast.

Seriously, where is the huge gap in my life I should feel bad about?  The part where I don't worry about whether I can pay my bills?   The part where I pay some giant corporations huge amounts of interest for credit?  The part where I stress about losing my job because of the crushing debt hanging over my head?  The part where I would lose my home and car if I lost my job? The part where I'm 1 paycheck from desperation? The part where if an opportunity comes up I can't afford to take advantage of it?  The part where I can't help people because I have no savings?  The part where ...I got nothing.