Friday, May 27, 2016

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap and Garden Update

The above is the first Johnny Jump Ups to appear this year and they grew right through a crack in the concrete.   Good life lesson there.  If you have enough will, skill and faith, you can find ways through things people never thought possible.

This week has been busy, we got news and it's all across the board on good and bad.

The worst news is that I got a phone call from the Health Insurance Marketplace earlier in the week informing me that my daughter was still on Medicaid so I had to drop her off of her current insurance since she can't be on both at once.  News to me that she still had Medicaid, so I ended up having to drop her off of our insurance when we got officially approved for Medicaid (we were in a "wait to be approved or not" holding pattern until someone would look at the application and after a few phone calls and jumping down people's throats we got it done as I wanted her dropped or approved pronto so I knew she had insurance one way or the other).  Now being on Medicaid was okay I figured as at least more was covered on it than on our insurance.  Au contraire mon fraire!

Nope, Alaska decided, in all of its infinite wisdom to use people as political pawns to get the multitudes of taxes passed and to grab our PFD...their way.  They made an announcement yesterday morning that Alaska State Medicaid was "broke" and would no longer be paying providers any money until further notice due to the "financial crisis" in Alaska.  So, this announcement doesn't just mean that my son's therapists aren't being paid by my son's insurance (since TEFRA runs through the state first) and are going to have a hard time making it, but this also means my children's pediatrician won't be paid by our insurance, our pediatric dentist won't be paid by our insurance, our pharmacy won't be paid...the list goes on.  Our local hospitals are panicking as their NICU units are pretty much funded by Medicaid and they don't know how to keep them open.  I am FURIOUS about this.  I spent the entire day pretty much e-mailing and calling every state rep I could get my fingers on to tell them what I thought of them.  I would have dealt with them doing co-pays for therapy or other medical services.  I would have dealt with them not covering certain prescriptions.  But, nope, they do this instead.  Right after they force me to drop my other insurance for Medicaid for my daughter on top of everything else. 

This is just plain USING people's need and desperation to get things passed that people didn't want (citizens wanted the government to cut spending across the board, or cut out wasteful spending of which we have TONS, but they stop paying this instead).  I notice that the state reps are still being paid and their benefits are still rolling just fine.  Primal scream therapy isn't even enough right now.  Just....grrrrrrrr!!!!!

 Anyway, let's work out of the dark abyss.  My son's eye appointment went okay and he was REALLY good waiting, which I was impressed by.  The eye doctor said he's progressed into actually being near sighted now, but still isn't so bad that we have to force glasses on him yet, so we'll wait another year and see.  I am not looking forward to that fight when we get there, let me tell you.

My husband was feeling funny again earlier in the week, so I got him into see the doctor.  Turns out the doctor said basically he's getting older and just needs to eat on a more regular schedule from what he could see, but he also is like 99.9% sure my husband has sleep apnea and they want to do a sleep study on him.  I have no idea what our insurance will cover when it comes to all of that, but if it helps my husband sleep better (he's always slept rotten) I'm for it.  Our new doctor is going to see what they can get insurance to cover, so we'll see what they find out.  At least with insurance our doctor visit only cost 80.00 compared to the near 300.00 it would have cost without it, so yay for that.

And yeah...I think that brings us pretty  much up to speed for the week so far.  Let's get onto frugal things for this week (I need the upper *laugh*).

1.  My son's OT asked if I'd like a baby rhubarb plant she had sitting outside.  I said "Me want!!!" (picture waving arms and everything...yes...this is actually how it happened *laugh*).  I talked to my husband as my one friend is going to give me her rhubarb plants later in the year and we're working on where to put a nice rhubarb patch.  I'm so excited!  I love rhubarb and am really looking forward to having a bunch of it :).  And I might very well be the only Alaskan to ever say that *laugh*.

2.  I canned Taco Sauce this week using materials I already had on hand.

3.  While rearranging/organizing my pantry I pulled every single jar that I could find that was empty/not being used and washed them in the dishwasher.  I'll wash them again really well before I can in them, but I like to be careful.  I found quite a few though, which I was really thrilled with as those will definitely come in handy later.

4.  We took advantage of the nice weather the last couple of days to do something fun with the kids.  We ate out on our back deck last night.  My husband wanted to make sure we didn't have to worry about my son running up and down the stairs (the deck is on the second floor) so he screwed one of the free pallets he had to the opening at the top of the stairs on the deck.  It was the perfect "boy barrier" and allowed us all to sit and eat without worrying about a kid running loose, it can easily be taken down and it was easily made with materials we already had around the house.

5.  I spent a lot of time the last week watching things on You Tube (I started "Tudor Monastery Farm and then went back and started watching "Victorian Farm" again before I finished it.  Oops *laugh*).

6.  I have been searching a lot online and for a change actually had decent luck with Swagbucks as I searched, so I actually made some goals the last week on them.  Yay!!!

7.   Other than necessary appointments, we stayed home this week.  This conserved gas and stopped us from spending money we don't have.

8.  I took help that was offered this week.  It wasn't easy to do it, but sometimes you need to admit that you can't do it all by yourself.  I'm still learning that valuable life lesson.

9.  I woke up every morning this week and made a point to thank God that I had woken up that morning, that I have a roof over my head and that I had my husband and kids.  It really does help to root you down when you start out the day being thankful.

10.  I've been saving my coffee grounds and used them to compost the garden a bit earlier in the week. 

11.  I thinned my pea plants today and used the sprouts I had pulled to make myself a salad for lunch.  They were really tasty!

And here's an update on the garden, while I'm on the subject!

Things are finally starting to grow from sprouts to actual baby plants.  I'm am so thrilled each time I go out and check out what has grown up a bit overnight.  The only things that aren't really up to the point I'm comfortable as they are still looking straggly are the carrots and the bunching onions, but they are up and growing.just teeny still.
I am so so thrilled that the rat tailed radishes are growing so well and fast (the plants on the right...they are even bigger today).  I was nervous they weren't going to pop up and I was so looking forward to growing them once I read how many radish pods you could get per plant, which could mean a really good amount of pickles to can, so I am super happy to see them growing so well :).

The first bunch of lettuce is starting to really take off as well, so I was happy to see that growing as our salads this summer are dependent on that and the spinach growing as well.

Speaking of which the space saving hybrid spinach is doing great (seen up front there).  The swiss chard is finally starting to come up better (middle row, it's bigger now too) and the pea plants were ready to actually thin to the allocated four inches apart today.  I figured out some materials around here to make a trellis system for the peas out of and am planning on adding that in tomorrow (I'm just going to use some old vertical shelf brackets we don't use and some twine or yarn to make them...they'll be protected under the eaves of the roof so I won't have to worry about the rain rotting the yarn or anything, so I figure it'll be fine).

The herb planter.  The sage seeds I planted are finally coming up I hope, so that was a welcome site.

I fear that this is the last year for these good old wooden planters.  They have served me well and faithfully for eleven years now (and I inherited them, well used, when we moved into our last house so I have NO IDEA how old they actually are), but I noticed that not only have some carpenter ants started eating on the bottom of them, but once you move them you can see all the rotten wood come off the bottom of the planters.  They are just finally dying on me, but they have done their job many times over and so I will send them off with a grateful heart when they go.

I gave my daughter some flower seeds that were in with my given to me seeds and told her to plant some in this planter.  Well, she decided "some" meant "all" so I'm happy to see them coming up, although I might have some thinning to do later.

I didn't take pictures of the front bed, because the petunias are coated in cottonwood pollen right now and look like snow balls and past the chives growing well there's not a lot to report yet (the chocolate mint is still popping up here and there).

Some more planters.  One contains potatoes (which I'm figuring they won't really grow beyond new potato size since the container is smaller than I would normally plant a potato plant in), the green container contains a lettuce mix and the right container contains some kohlrabi, of which I've never tried before but am intrigued and a few Chinese cabbage seedlings (I plan for those to be salad fodder when they get big enough).

I have a couple of planters on my deck that I forgot to take pictures of.  One is a hanging basket that I planted more spinach and some basil in and the other is a old tree sized planter that I planted a couple of types of potatoes in and a couple of pea plants (I'm just going to let those trellis on my deck railing).  I'm hoping between the planters and the garden I can get a decent amount of potatoes and salad fixings.

So, there you are folks.  My frugal adventures and gardening adventures for the week.  How did you do?


  1. The garden looks great!!!! I was thrilled to see how everything is growing so rapidly. Thanks for all the pictures. I love watching a garden grow that I don't have to weed.
    No frugal accomplishments for this week, but I did achieve all my goals.
    1. Survive. I am still alive and that is what matters.
    2. Survive without killing anyone. Done. Did not kill one single person or family member.
    3. Survive the out-of-town-very fancy-expensive family wedding without getting in a fight. DONE!!!
    Shock upon shock was that I actually enjoyed myself at the wedding. I felt guilty for whining so much. The only hitch was a bad wreck on the interstate. We just parked and waited for a long time. We had left an hour and a half early just in case something like this happened. It is hard to get upset when you see three ambulances pass you plus the air-vac helicopter making multiple trips overhead. You breathe a prayer for those involved and send up thanks for your own family's safety.
    So sometimes you just survive and this past week was one of those times.
    Frugal fails:
    1. We purchased gas at the closest gas stations right off the interstate. Did not look for the cheapest.
    2. Ate snacks at the expensive gas stations. Did not pack anything.
    3. Bought an expensive card at Wal-mart and gave a large lump of cash to the bride and groom.
    4. Ate out at restaurants and ordered all the coffee I wanted. I ignored the prices.
    This week and next are the busiest weeks of the year at work. We have been putting in 15 to 18 hour days without a break. One more week to go and then it will suddenly be quiet. The following week, money saving will begin again.

    1. You know, despite not worrying over much about what was cheapest, you got through the entire experience and had a pretty good time. That's definitely a good thing :). Glad for the update on how it went!

      Good luck with work. I remember working 80 hours a week. Your brain turns to slush after a while. May the next couple of weeks go quickly for you!

  2. I have never had rubarb. What does it taste like?

    That is SO crummy that they've done that with medicaid. I'm furious myself, and I don't even live there. Insurance is a massive mess now, since about 3 years ago, and I really hope that more states don't have what happened that Alaska did. My husband was told at work basically the way it goes now, is expect no pay raises, but health insurance will go up a minimum of 10% each year for us because so many insurance companies are dropping out because they can't make money now. I think to myself, back when we had good, and affordable insurance, they were making money? Yet now, we pay 3 times as much, for less coverage and they are broke? It's all so messed up, and unfair, because it's the wives and children that get the short end on the insurance.

    Your garden looks awesome, mine is doing fairly well, though after so many weeks of rain, I feel like it's a bit stunted, but I've only been doing this three summers now, so I may be wrong!

    I'm not sure anything was frugal,this week for us. Tueday, my 3 year old tried to have work done at the dentist. Instead of doing his filling first, the sealed two teethm (which on the bright side, I guess don't have to worry about that) but then he was done. As in screaming and crying and done. The laughing gas had no effect on bim. 0. Then they said they didn't think the tooth sealing were covered anymore. When 3 weeks ago they were. What?! So he's got to go back for the one tooth, then another tooth, and two sealing and they said if he doesn't sit still longer, they want to put him under at a different place. Which I refuse to do.

    Wednesday, my 8 year old gets off the bus, skinned knees, elbows, limping and with a swollen wrist. They'd ridden bikes at school, and his had malfunctioned and he had fallen. The gym teacher fixed it, and he got back on. A few minutes later, it slipped the chajn, the seat dropped and went sideways, and he lost control. We iced it all niht, the pediatrician said watch and see, and it seems just a sprain, but wait! There's more lol! Late that niht he said how itchy his head was. I helped him shampoo, and brushed it out (he's got super curly hair to his shoulders, kind of like Thor, but curlier) and was all, what are these bits in your hair?! My husband checked, and yup...our first experience with lice. I nearly died I was so grossed out. But I got over it, and I've had to brush him out, and we all got,treated. Luckily, only 3 on him, but turns out, those were out bikes and helmets, and all this month was his schools turn to use them. And they don't clean them between kids using them. Smart, huh? I sent in a no bike riding note friday, and will send in another on his next PE day.

    Then! Yesterday he comes to me with a horrible rash all over his beck and chest. The on call pediatrician thinks it was heat rash, and it's better today after lots of benedryl, but I swear!! One of those weeks!

    I hope we both have better weeks starting tomorrow!

    1. I shuddered in sympathy when I read the word "lice". When I was in elementary school they were terrible about putting all of the coats on top of each other, so lice spread quickly around there. We had it once and that was enough for me. Just yuck!

      Your poor son, though. What an awful week. He must have felt really picked on by the time the week was over.

      Good luck with the dentist with your little one. My daughter was the same way just a few years ago with the sealants. She was a lot better with the fillings, so hopefully once they get the sealants done with your kiddo the rest will go smoother.

      And yes, I'll pray for a better week for both of us :).

    2. Oh and rhubarb. What does rhubarb taste like. Well, it's in stalks like celery and they can get huge (in case you don't know what they look like) and you snap the leaves off to harvest the stalks. Rhubarb has it's own flavor, but it's super tart (but to people like me who love the stuff it's just awesome tasting :). Kind of like lemons in puckering power. When you add sugar it mellows the tart out and you end up with a tart tasting flavor, but really good. And the great part of rhubarb is that it compliments fruit so well (since it's technically a veggie). I make it into BBQ sauce with other fruits for something different, it makes great pie and other desserts and I've even seen recipes to make it into ketchup and things.

      Some of the cool things about rhubarb is that you can actually use it for it's pectin content to make your own pectin (I was reading that online and a intrigued to say the least), it's got a super high natural calcium content and it's great if you need extra fiber in your diet.

      And you can tell I love the stuff that I know too much about it *laugh*.

    3. I just love rhubarb, it is so sad it's not growing here in Texas.
      I remember growing up rhubarb was growing like a weed anywhere and we always had to cut it back. I might be the only person who eats rhubarb raw.
      I read somewhere that rhubarb can be grown in the south from seeds like an annual, in the early spring, so I might try to do that next year.

    4. You're certainly not the only one who likes it raw. Both my step-mom and myself love the stuff raw too *laugh*.

  3. Your garden looks amazing so far, Erika. Mine is not too far behind. Can't wait to start harvesting some fresh veggies!

    So glad you received a free rhubarb plant too! By the way, I would check on your friend's rhubarb plant soon (if you haven't already). Some of the rhubarb plants at my work are ready for harvesting already. If you can catch it in time, cut the flower off before it blooms. Then you can continue to harvest from the plant all summer long.

    Not much frugal adventuring this week for me. We went to an auction and spent about $38 on a nice computer chair for my daughter, a set of brand new headphones that I will use as a Christmas gift for my daughter and new sunglasses for myself. I'm calling it frugal, but in reality it was money spent unnecessarily, so not really that frugal.

    Tomorrow I'm hoping to maybe bake some muffins to use in our lunches, using up some of the frozen pumpkin and/or shredded zucchini. I like to wrap the muffins individually with plastic wrap, put them in a container then freeze them. In the morning, when we make our lunches, we just grab a frozen muffin and pop it in the lunch bag. By lunch they are thawed and ready to eat! We still have frozen chocolate chip cookies as well to alternate with. Saves me from buying those expensive granola bars and packaged cookies.

    1. Huh. That's a really good idea putting them in frozen. It might help stop the muffins from being too fragile for my daughter's lunch box. I'll have to try that next school year. Thanks for the tip!

  4. I live in Oklahoma and our state is also having a budget crisis tizzy because the lower oil/gas revenues. Aggravates me so, I know there is so much waste but no department wants to cut any thing.
    The price of oil is creeping back up, maybe their coffers will improve soon.

    1. They will, I'm sure. The problem is while oil companies smartly plan for downturns in the market our dumb government thought that the price would remain high forever so when the market took a downturn they panicked, refused to cut spending (even with oil high only 80% of our budget was covered by our projected revenue...that's how brilliant the state is) and are now suddenly pushing through a state wide income tax, yanking the permanent fund dividend and are wanting other taxes as well. This is in a state where we already have a higher cost of living than other places. Some people consider the PFD to be "free money" up here, but it's not for people like us who depend on the PFD for supplemental income, even if just a couple thousand dollars for the entire family, to help us live here. The road Alaska is going down, I honestly don't know if we'll be living here in five years and my husband's family has been here for generations. His grandmother's family were homesteaders up here in the way early days. It's kind of sad that the state has gone down hill so badly.

  5. I lost my gardening clippers in the yard somewhere so I went to the hardware store to replace them. While there I checked out the clearance section and found annuals (marigolds, geraniums...) for 25 cents each. Yes please!! I bought 24 plants. They are very small but they will grow. I also found clippers at th dollar store so now I can return the $10 ones to the hardware store. I went to some yard sales with a friend and scored big time: a water cooler for work $5, 3 perennials (creeping Jenny, sweet woodruff) 25 cents each 5 planters 25cents each, a glider swing for our swing less swing set $5 ( those things are stinking expensive new!) books for my son and an electric pencil sharpener ( he loves coloring with colored pencils) a hose holder, some craft stuff, a sleeping bag $2, and other cool stuff I just can't remember! Plus the fun with a friend priceless!! On the home front I packed snacks and food for the guys trip to watch the Indy 500 this weekend. They will be gone 3 days. And I will be ALL ALONE!!! Which never happens. I'm quite giddy. I have several projects I want to get done before they get back so we are ready to start the summer. I plan to organize the basement, clean the third floor family room, work on the yard and clean rabbit cages. Sounds like fun but being able to do it uninterrupted is WONDERFUL and it goes so much quicker. Plus if I stay home I'm not spending any money.

    1. Wow!!! Holy cheap garden finds, Batman!!! Those are AWESOME prices you scored!!!

      I am avoiding yard sales, afraid I'll find good deals I can't afford right now and seeing the yard sale signs's so HARD to stop myself from checking them out *laugh*. I'll live vicariously through you guys when you find good deals instead this year ;).

  6. I also wants to comment on your Medicaid issue. My son is also on Medicaid since he has autism and I am also a provider who takes Medicaid clients where I work. We are in Pa so things are a bit different. But, all states receive Federal monies to help run the state Medicaid program, between 50-75% comes from the Feds, it differs from state to state, with the state making up the difference. Since the state receives Federal money for this program it is bound by certain federal regulations and laws. It seems to me that unless your state is refusing federal money, which is just plain stupid, that legally they can't just shut off the Medicaid program. States can petition the Feds to lower Medicaid payments to participting providers and we as providers can decide to stop taking Medicaid if the reimbursement rate isn't cost effective for us. We lost all our pediatric dentists for a 50 mile radius because of cuts to pediatric dental reimbursements. In Pa we have a Pa Health Law Project that has been very helpful over the years in navigating the system for our sion and my mother-in law, who is in the Medicaid Waiver Program. I couldn't find one specifically for your state but there is a National Health Law Project that I would suggest you contact if you haven't already. The contact info us in their website. It is a nonprofit group of lawyers who do advocacy work. Tell them what the situation is (you might need to leave a detailed message and in our state it takes a few days for them to get back to you with answers but they are wonderful!!) and they will research it and give you reall great options/answers. It might be that they already have filed a suit against the state or that they are aware of other insurance options.

    1. I heard back from some local representatives who said that the state can only legally hold out payments for 30 days before the federal government gets involved and can threaten to withhold funding if the state doesn't get its rear in gear. Which really backs up my belief that this is sheer propaganda on our Governor's part to get his pet taxes passed by making people think that Medicaid is gone for good unless the taxes get passed. This might happen a lot in the coming months as the budget fights progress. I know the taxes will get passed and the PFD will be gone when this is over. Politicians have been after the PFD for years, but were always stopped by the people, but this time they are playing truly dirty pool and will get their way because of it. Sucks, but that's the way of things.

    2. Yes, like you said, using people as political pawns. So sad. I will be praying that the insurance stays on track with no intruptions for you. You might just want to fill what meds you can ahead of time so you have what you need to get through the 30 wait if it happens.

  7. Your garden is looking great! I'm hoping it gives you as much pleasure as mine does. Just digging in the dirt makes me happy:)

    I'm sorry the insurance is not working for Alaska. Hopefully, they will get it figured out soon.

    1. You know, I started gardening as a means to an end more than anything, but the longer time goes on the more I enjoy it. Especially when something new I try actually works *laugh*.

  8. It's fun to see all that is happening in your garden! I hope things get straightened out very soon with the medical stuff - things like that really bother me as well.

    My daughter turned 16 on Tuesday, so let's say it wasn't frugal and leave it at that. :) As per our tradition, we went for her driving test and she got her license on her birthday. So awesome - she drove herself to school the next two days (then school ended) and I no longer have to leave work twice a day to take and pick her up! The only decent thing I did frugal wise was I started back to doing two week meal plans, so on the payday where I allocate grocery money, I buy all that I need for all our meals for two weeks, and then just buy the most perishable of things the second week. Otherwise I tend to overspend on week one, and go over budget on week two. I got hamburger meet for $2.38/pound AGAIN (marked down at Sam's), so I bought a package of that even though it wasn't in my plan. It's grilling season, so we can always do hamburgers and I bought sour cream to make my husband 7 layer dip and bought enough that I can make Pioneer Woman's bow tie pasta (uses hamburger and sour cream) with it, and have some for baked potatoes, too. But in any case, the hamburger is wrapped up in the freezer, and will definitely be eaten. I cooked a couple of pounds of dried beans and froze them in 2-3 cup portions in zip lock bags. They are IMO so much better than canned beans! I made red beans and rice with summer sausage this week (got 3 Hillshire Summer Sausages at Sam's for $7.98) and it was very good.

    I hope your Memorial Day is good. My husband and I will be doing Murph tomorrow (it's a crossfit hero WOD) to remember those who have sacrificed to allow us to be free.

    1. That's so cool that your daughter got her license on her birthday! Congrats to her :).

      I am envying your price on marked down hamburger. When I can get it for a little over 3.00 lb, I totally jump on it, so I can imagine how giddy you are over the cheap beef!

      Memorial Day plans include my husband going and getting his permanent caps put on (yup, his dentist is open on a holiday) and just working on stuff around here. We don't really have resources to do much else right now. It's awesome that you guys are doing your crossfit outing to contribute to an important holiday, though. Good for you!

  9. Okay, I am horrified over my typo. It's hamburger meat that I got, not meet! Ack! Prices of beef are really down here, overall, but I am still surprised they marked it down that low.

    I hope it goes well with the dental work! He will be tired when it's done, I am sure. I've had a lot of stuff done, so I empathize.