Thursday, September 14, 2023

Frugal Adventures for September so Far

 Well, I have had a gap in posting again, but I have been busy, so at least nothing catastrophic happened this time.  We have been having issues with my father-in-laws health, but after visiting a neurologist today, hopefully we'll know more and have a plan of action moving forward to improve his quality of life.  

My husband also went in for a CAT scan on his lungs as he just can't seem to shake his cough, but it came back good, so I was relieved when those results came back okay.

More on the immediate home front, I'm now down to a regular dose of Zyrtec every day until next Tuesday.  So far, so good *knock on wood*, so hopefully I'm going to be okay here.  The large doses of Zyrtec have definitely been getting to me the last month, so I'll be glad to see the end of this if I can.

We launched into fall with not much to show for it with changes in the weather.  It rained all summer and it doesn't show any signs of stopping now.  The amount of mold and pollen this year has been horrible.  I scheduled to get our septic pumped next month after dividends come in and my husband and I are both dreading what the report will say about the state of our leech field.  After constant rain the last two summers and then the masses of snow we had over last winter...I'm imagining that "saturated" is going to be a vast understatement.  Poor leech field.  I wish I could send all of you who are having weather on the opposing end of the spectrum some of our rain this year.  Prayers are with you all.

Quick garden update...there really isn't much to report.  The garden didn't do much this year.  We had rain all summer, which definitely impacted growing rates.  The chard I got about three harvests from, but they were small and then it did get hot enough, despite the rain, to bolt.  The lettuce was much the same...slow growing and then it bolted.  The only plant that has seemed to just love the weather and performed wildly beyond my expectations was the parsley.  It was amazing all summer long!  

I now have four pint jars jammed full of dehydrated parsley which will last me for quite a long while.  

The rosemary didn't do much, but I did get enough to dehydrate a tiny bit to add to my rosemary in the spice cabinet.  The basil just pretty much shriveled to the plant and did nothing all summer long.  It was just too cold and didn't like it.  I got one small harvest off of the two plants I got which was enough for dinner one night, and that was it.

The tomatoes finally developed green tomatoes...and stayed at that state for months.  I finally decided it was time to pull them as the tomatoes were starting to die off this last week and I found one ripe tomato, which thrilled me to no end.  I got a total of six ripe tomatoes off of the two plants all summer long, but they were yummy.  I harvested every single green tomato I could get off of the plants and then had to figure out what to do with green tomatoes.  I found that the tomatoes were not ripening on the counter, but were rotting instead just because they had gotten so much rain this summer I think and it was still so humid in the house.  

I went through a bunch of different thoughts on what to do with them, but decided to settle on Easy Green Tomato Chutney.  I had enough tomatoes for a half recipe, so I went with those portions, but ended up using apple cider vinegar instead of malt vinegar and I used craisins instead of raisins because that is what I had on hand.  I ended up adding some extra sugar when I tasted the final product because it was very sour still and then I cooked it down, put it in two pint jars and a half pint jar and threw them into the fridge to mellow out over the next month or so before I try to use it.  Hopefully it will be tasty when it comes time to use it.  I'll keep you informed.

After harvesting everything, I dumped out the soil into the old garden spot that I felt could use the additional soil, broke it down with a hoe and then stacked up the planters and furniture under the eves of the roof where it was protected from the weather.  After everything was dry, I put it all up into storage for the winter.  I feel accomplished a bit, I have to say, as this is the first year that I got the garden cleaned up before I was dumping out frozen hunks of soil into the woods to compost the following Spring or something and this is the first year with the container garden where I got all the containers put into the shed for safe keeping instead of putting them into a somewhat protected spot on the deck for the winter.  

In other news...

1.  I got my mending pile all caught up.  This is the first time in years where every button, every tear and such was finally gotten to and items returned to the respective family members.  I feel really good about getting that off of my plate :).

2.  I have been working really hard at getting the screens cleaned off in the windows, and getting the window frames themselves cleaned out as good as I can get them in preparation for winter.  Cottonwood pollen was awful this year (see above photo for evidence) and it got jammed into every little knook and cranny in the windows.  I got all windows done now, with the exception of the living room window and I'm hoping to get to that this weekend.  I even washed the windows on the ground floor as they needed it...they are right above ground level and get crud shot all over them from the weed whacker and the lawn mower and such.  They've needed a good cleaning for a while, but I finally got to them, which I was happy about.  I don't think people wash their windows much anymore as I got about five neighbors slowing down driving by who gave me odd looks *laugh*.

3.  I had ordered things from Amazon last month for a monthly subscribe and save order in a bid to save money.  It was a disaster.  I had damaged items, a big box of stuff got damaged in transit and returned to I said a mess.  I ended up having to call to get refunds and then I went and bought what I could locally at a higher price where I could.  Frugal attempt and fail.  

Inflation is getting so high that Amazon, I've found, isn't saving me much money on some items that I had been buying from them.  So, I guess the experience was able to highlight that for me.  

4.  I think I found Alvah a speech therapy place!  We go in for an eval next week, but this is the first speech therapy place I've found that lists LAMP in with their core abilities/skills, so I'm hopeful!  Here's hoping we can get Alvah communicating better!!!

5.  I rearranged our freezers and took inventory of what I had.  One of the main things I did was to make sure I streamlined the fridge freezer as all of my freezer shelves have broken from plastic fatigue with age, so I'm trying to nurse the fridge along for as long as I can before purchasing a new one.  I like how it is working out as with the shelves less cluttered I'm able to move meat that I need to use to the top shelf of the freezer so it is really easy to find for when I am making a menu plan for the week :).

6.  I had to use a ham hock from when we bought a pork pack a few years back.  I took some cans of baked beans and put them in the crock pot with the ham hock and just cooked it all day.  I then took the ham hock out and cut off the meat, cutting it into small pieces (as there isn't much meat on a ham hock) and added it back into the beans.  I then made corn bread to eat on the side.  The meal was tasty and the husband didn't even complain about eating leftovers along with me (turned out the meal made a lot of food) as he kept saying how surprisingly filling the meal was.  I might end up making the meal again as I have one more ham hock to use up in the freezer.

7.  We were trying to get Alvah out of the house and decided to take him to a local used store.  While there my daughter wanted to check out the books, so while she was looking at the fantasy books, I just happened to look over the DVD's and found a bunch of old Disney movies and they were only 2.00 a piece.  Since we only have Snow White and some of the really old Disney movies on VHS and our VCR's have long since stopped working, I picked up a bunch for the kids to enjoy and I had fun talking to my daughter how animation used to be done and how Walt Disney revolutionized how animation was done back in the day (I used to, back in the day, want to be a Disney animator more than anything...then I worked for the college program one year and came to really hate how the modern company was run and still am not fond of it...but the old animated movies are still enjoyable).

8.  We have been having a fun time, now that fall is officially here, watching Halloween cartoons on YouTube for free.  I'm working on a list of some things we watch and listen to to share with you all, so hopefully I'll be able to get that done in the coming days as I know we are all trying desperately to watch our budgets anymore.

9.  I got in contact with our care coordinator about TEFRA renewal and was happy I did as COVID screwed up our renewal schedule that we'd had for years and we were due to renew on the Federal end.  So, I got that paperwork filled out and sent off yesterday and will wait for the state paperwork to come in the mail before filling it out.

10.  I kept getting e-mails from Shutterfly saying that if you don't make one purchase a year from them that they would stop storing your photos.  I finally had the brain bandwidth to go and look what was stored on the site and was amazed as photos I had thought were gone years ago from outfits like the Kodak Gallery were on there!  I guess Shutterfly has bought out like every online photo outfit there is, apparently, as I had photos from like four different sites that were now available from Shutterfly.  And the nice thing was that I could go on there and download the photos in the albums to my computer so that if something should happen to the site, I could still have the photos.  I then ordered a few photo prints and used a code for free shipping, just as a security measure so that I could keep the photos on the site.  

And there you go folks.  Some of the things I've been up to around here.  Now that the heat is kicking on with the colder weather and drying out the house a bit, I'm. hoping to get the painting done that I wanted to get done over the summer as I'd like to get the hallway and stair landing done.  It's been really getting to me that those parts are the only parts in the house paint-wise that haven't been done yet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

August Catch-Up and Preparing for September

 August is one of those months that will seriously go down in my own personal history as a month that I feel grateful that I survived.  Literally.

A ton of things happened during August, unfortunately none of them good.

It all started when I went to the doctor the last days of July.  I had gone out to talk to a Estonian exchange student about educational materials he was selling in my driveway.  It was a nice day (which was a nice change of pace) and I had worn a t-shirt.  Honestly, I didn't think much of it at the time.  Later I noticed bug bites popping up, but this isn't really a new thing to me.  It is a horrible year for mosquitos and no-see-ums, so when the bug bites popped up and started to welt, I wasn't alarmed.  The last few years I've noticed I'm swelling up a lot more with bug bites...figured it was the result of getting older and just dealt with it.  

Fast forward to the next day and I noticed that the back of my right hand was swelling up and I had a series of what looked like bug bites between my fingers on that hand.  I cleaned it up the best I could and let it go.  Until Saturday when I woke up with my hand really swollen on the back and the "bites" actively seeping fluid.  So, I went to the doctor.  He looked me over, decided that I did indeed have an allergic reaction the bug bites and he thought my hand was probably infected.  He gave me a small steroid shot to help with the welts and gave me a script for antibiotics and sent me on my way.

Everything was going great.  Until the steroid shot wore off.

What followed next was an absolute nightmare.

My body went completely bonkers. I became a big, itchy, hiving, human welt from the top of my scalp to the bottom of my feet.  I welted and swelled to the point my breathing got impacted in the middle of the night from my throat and face swelling that I ended up having to use my son's epi-pen on myself.  My arms and legs swelled up twice their normal size to the point I was having a hard time moving my wrists, elbows, ankles and knees.  Every morning I'd wake up and immediately get my husband (if home) or my daughter to check out my back and areas I couldn't see to see how bad I was going to be that day with how the welts were going already in the day.  My face swelled constantly.  My ears swelled and I had welts down into my ears so everything sounded like I was listening through a swimming pool.

Nearly two weeks, a visit to the ER, three Urgent Care visits and two visits to an allergist later (thank you to my mother-in-law and my husband for everything as they drove me everywhere and my mother-in-law kept the kids company a LOT), along with copious amounts of antihistamines and way more Prednisone than one person should ever consume, and the welts finally subsided.  I'm still on quadruple the dose of Zyrtec than a normal person normally takes and a double dose of Pepcid AC a day (turns out, it too, is a antihistamine...go figure), but today I am finally starting the long, very slow, process of weaning myself off of the antihistamines so that I can hopefully start to feel normal again.  If I swell up or welt up again during this time, my diagnosis changes from "freaky weird event that happened" to something more serious that will result in a lot of allergy testing and trying to figure out what I'm suddenly allergic to.  From what the allergist was telling me, once she assured me that the odds of dying from what was going on were extremely small and rare (which did a lot for my peace of mind, honestly), was that this type of event was usually caused by some type of infection.  

This whole period of time has been confusing and utterly terrifying for me.  I am used to my husband having allergies with his asthma, I am used to the kids having allergies and I can navigate eczema like a champ, but this entire *waves arms* ...thing that completely outside of anything I've ever dealt with in my life and I am hoping and praying that it does not come back.  I was going to show some of my wonderful reel of facial swellings and welts popping up first thing in the morning (I had to take pics for the allergist), but instead I just decided to take a shot of my instruction sheet.  Here's hoping weaning off the meds works and I can feel normal again.  I have to admit I'm worried.  My blood pressure has been running high through this entire thing.  The allergist assures me that while elevated, my blood pressure isn't bad for the amount of meds I'm on, but I still worry I might have to re-evaluate my health after this and make sure my heart and things are okay after this.  I was on a LOT more meds than a normal person should be on and I do worry about the long term impact of that.  

All I can do is pray and see what happens.

With medical bills, this has been so stressful on top of everything.  When I was sick, we ate out...we just didn't have an option with everything going on.  My husband picked up the grocery haul I had scheduled the first week I got sick, but a lot went to waste because I wasn't up to making anything and none of us were really hungry around here.  We didn't have an allergist in network out in the Valley, so I ended up basically having to cash them out.  I've paid half of it, but am still waiting for the other bill to come in from that (the first visit was 400.00 so I'm hoping the second will be cheaper).  And then there will be the ER visit, which I'm sure that bill(s) will cost me a bunch.  I put one Urgent Care visit I had onto the credit card as they bill fast and don't take payments, along with medications and other things.  I am scared to see what my balance is going to be next month.  I still have other medical bills to pay off that are on my credit card from other stuff earlier in the year with the family, my husband ended up having to go to the doctor's last weekend due to his lungs and he might end up having to get a CT scan on those to check and see if there is something the doctor isn't catching.  Medical bills never seem to end, do they?

And the fun didn't stop there, oh no.  When it rains, it monsoons, as well all know.

Our TV broke, so we had to get a new one in the middle of everything because Alvah was already not taking me being sick for so long very well, so we sure didn't want another upset to his normal environment going on.  My computer died (as you got from my last post, I'm sure) and we are still trying to get it to stop getting stuck in update mode, so I had to get a new computer and other things so it would work for what I needed it for.  Thank goodness I was finally able to get the sourcing for Alvah's ILP done and get reimbursement stuff into the home school so I can put the money back onto the credit card from where I ordered his school books (at least once they finally approve the reimbursements and cut me a check).  As soon as that happened, our old router died, so I had to replace that (thank goodness we were able to get one quickly so Alvah wasn't without the internet for very long...that would have been a VERY bad time for us as a major source of his sensory input comes from his I-Pad).  The daughter's phone, the battery suddenly swelled something terrible so the battery pops the case off and pops itself out of its housing.  The phone is old enough they don't make replacement batteries for it, so I had to order her a new phone so she has one for work, which wasn't cheap.  My husband had car trouble that took him a good two weeks to get figured out and fixed, but thank goodness he did as if he had taken it to a garage we could have been looking at thousands of dollars in repairs.  Then my tooth broke while eating cantaloupe last week so I ended up having to go in and get seated for another crown on Monday.  

Honestly, I was really feeling like I had won the anti-lottery.  My hair is even falling out as the scabs from the welts starts to heal, but at least a pony tail covers it.  When I watched the news coming out of Maui, I felt so awful for what those folks have gone through  and are going through (I do NOT want to even imagine what they are going through with so many missing, nor would I ever want to) that I somehow felt worse, but at the same time I felt like I should just be grateful that I'm alive and it helped me from getting too depressed.

It's been rough, but I'm hoping, at least, that things will improve and I'm hopefully better.  I'd appreciate any prayers people can send my way right now as the next three weeks are going to be pretty stressful for me still in weaning off of the antihistamines and praying that nothing bad happens.  Today was my first dose of three, versus four, pills of Zyrtec and so far, so good *knock on wood*, so hopefully this continues to go well. 

So, yeah, that's how my August went.  I sat down today and made a list for September, so watch for me to post more in September, if everything goes well.  One thing I'm definitely going to have to address in the coming week is the garden.  I'll give full details on how it did in the next few blog posts, but I got plants that are dying back and the weather is switching to fall very quickly, so I want to make sure I get things put to bed before I'm trying to find space to dump frozen planters on the property (not that I'd know anything about that...ahem).  I've got a few more things to preserve up for later use and stuff, but the garden is definitely winding down for the year.  

So, yeah, now that I have a computer that works, I'll talk to you folks soon.  Take care and I certainly hope your month went better than mine (and prayers for those in the South with that new hurricane are definitely sent...I pray any of you that live there are doing okay).

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Quick note

 Hey all!

I’ve been getting worried e-mails, so wanted to drop a quick note about one of the things going on around here (yes, one…it’s been rough..I’ll fill you in later).  The one thing is that my computer died on me a week ago.  New computer came in, but I didn’t realize that it doesn’t have an SD card reader.  I ordered one and it should be in Friday, but in the meantime I’m computer-less essentially.  So, I’ll get back to blogging as soon as I can.  I am making this note on my phone, so I hope it posts okay.

See you all soon,


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Grocery Haul for the First Part of July and Menu Plan

So, I have had people e-mail me and ask if I had any advice on saving money at the grocery store.  

I find it funny, in an odd sort of way.  Back when the kids were still in diapers, I ended up running a coupon blog for my area of Alaska.  I and about three other people started blogs at the same time, realizing the need for bargain blogs in Alaska with how crazy things were going back then.  Back then I'd run to three stores in a day, with little kids in tow, to get whatever bargains I could with coupons.  It DID save me a bunch of money back then, I have to say that.  Coupons were a means to save money back then.  Unfortunately, coupons changed and getting good deals with came to a point that I gave up on paper coupons for the most part at the store because they just weren't save me money anymore.  

Then E-Coupons became a thing and those HAVE saved me money and I love the convenience of being able to load them to my shopping card every week to go shopping, so I haven't turned my back on coupons all together, but I just don't carry a coupon binder with me to the store anymore.  And yes, I said "store".  With the stage of life I am in, with two older kiddos and one who is over 6 ft tall and special needs, going to multiple stores anymore...I just don't have the energy, or the time, to do it.  Years ago, I settled on Carrs/Safeway to do my shopping as I got better deals there on the things we normally bought, and back then I loved the fact that I could ask for someone to come out and help me load the groceries into my car while I got the kids into their car seats and got them somewhat content for the ride home.

Things started to change over the years.  Amazon started shipping more grocery types of items to Alaska, so I was able to peruse it every day looking for those illusive deals (still do hit Amazon about twice a day to look), so I utilize Amazon for bulk shopping a lot around here.  Covid happened and Pick up and Go became popular amongst the stores.

And thus leads me to what I am doing today to do grocery shopping.

My husband and I sat down a while ago and decided that with his two week pay schedule and how crazy inflation was, that it was just going to be worth our time to just do a "Pick Up and Go" order with Carrs once every two weeks and on the off week we'd pick up milk and that would be about it.  We have made a change with milk and we started picking up locally sourced milk about a year ago.  It is more expensive than the Lucerne milk we were buying (like 8.49 a gallon expensive), but the milk is unhomogenized, so it has more fat than normal whole milk you buy at the store, so the milk goes further around here and I find it keeps a LOT longer than the stuff we were getting trucked into Carrs from the Lower 48, which I was running into a problem with store bought milk going bad even before the expiration date on the milk last year, which is why we ended up switching.  I got tired of throwing money away.

Anyway, I've found some really nice advantages to doing the every two week grocery pick ups.  For one, I can put in my order a few days early (I normally do it on Wednesday) and I have till midnight that night to put in any edits I need to my grocery order.  No more, "Oh shoot!  I forgot..." moments after I get home from the store.  I can add or delete items as I need to in the order that day to make sure I get everything I need, which is nice.  I can also comparison shop right from the comfort of my living room on what items are on sale, which of this item is the best deal, etc.  Second, if the store is out of this or that item, most times they will offer me substitutions on my order and a lot of times I get upgraded to a more expensive product without having to pay extra.  One thing I've found to be a major advantage to this, as well, is that when meat is on sale, they have been out of things I wanted to get and they will substitute other packages of meat and not charge me extra (like chicken thighs were on sale B1G1 a few weeks ago and they substituted me out meat counter thighs, which were bigger and better trimmed, for no extra money on my part) .  This, to me, is a great advantage to using the Pick Up and Go option as I can not relate how many times in the past years I've had to rush to the store at the first day of a sale to HOPEFULLY get that item before the store was sold out of it and I was out of luck.  The final advantage I've found is one my husband loves probably more than I do.  No more moments of me running into the store for "2 items" and coming out with 20 because they were marked down or I ran into a sale or something.  We don't have to worry about having to get Alvah McDonald's to keep him happy or things like that.  It has really simplified the shopping and with how I'm getting busier and busier, or so it seems to me, it really has helped to alleviate one more thing I'd have to go run and do.  No more waiting in line with Alvah getting cranky because the person ahead of me is taking too long because of a price check or other things.  Seriously, I love this new way of grocery shopping. 

Am I missing out on deals?  Oh, yes, I am sure I am.  Do I think it is worth it, to me, to miss those deals?  Absolutely!

So, in this post, I decided to show one of my big "every two week" hauls of groceries and what we have on the menu plan to use some of those groceries in the next couple of weeks.  

First a warning.  I am not showing all of the groceries I bought.  Things I am not including in the pictures is my son's staple food items (frozen French fries, junk food) because they take up a ton of room to photograph.  I'm also not including snack foods (popsicles, any chips I might get for my daughter's lunch, etc) as I don't really consider those to be important to the menu plans around here.

So, let's get into what I bought and you can compare it to prices in your area.  Enjoy!

First up is the stuff I ended up sticking into the freezer or pantry downstairs as soon as I was done shooting the shot with my phone, so excuse the poor lighting...I didn't feel like hauling it upstairs just to haul it back downstairs.

So, I got...

  • 2 Packages Green Giant corn on the cob "nibblers".  This was a substitution for a 12 pack of Signature Select mini corn on the cob that I had a coupon to get for free.  So, total for those was $0.00.
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach:  $2.75
  • 2 packages Petite Broccoli Florets.  These were steam in a bag florets, but were cheaper than just getting some bags of broccoli to eat with cheese sauce at dinner, so I got them instead.  $4.51.
  • 1 Corned Beef Brisket:  $21.30
  • 2 packages spaghetti (Alvah is blowing through pounds per week, so this is going to end up being a common item in my grocery hauls):  $3.53
I just shared the totals there and not cost per unit on the multiples.

And now onto the main, very full table of stuff.  You will notice that I'm buying the bowls of melon and berries a lot as I've found that I am getting decent quality items doing it this way and it saves me from having to throw away the fruit scraps and things, so to me, it is worth it.  

I will break this down by different parts of the table as it seems easier, so let's go!

First up is the meat.  The totals are going to be a bit off from the actual as I used some fuel rewards to get $7.00 off of meat and they tend to apply a bit to each package of meat you get in  your order.  So, the corned beef brisket had a bit off of it because of that too.  Anyway, I got...

  • Land O' Frost Black Forest Ham (for my daughter's work sandwiches and also as a stand in for Canadian bacon on home made pizza):  $5.25 after 1.00/1 coupon (I won a 1.00 off lunchmeat coupon on the Flavor Adventure online game).
  • 2 Packages of Pork Chops on sale for $1.97 lb.  They substituted in pork chops that were $2.49 lb instead, but only charged me for the $1.97 lb.  $6.51 and $8.95 each.
  • Boneless, Skinless chicken thighs (I have started to buy these more as I've found them to be really versatile in my cooking and I don't end up throwing away anything at the end of dinner this way, so it is worth it to me to buy it this way):  13.05 for the value pack.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, two pack (I am going to butterfly them to make a pack of four when I go to cook them):  $8.87 after a $2.00/1 coupon (won 2.00 off boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the Flavor Adventure game).
  • Waterfront Bistro Imitation Crab meat:  $3.13.  Put this into the freezer until I'm ready to use it this week.

Next up, working our way around the table a bit, we run into the produce.  In the first round/picture, I got...

  • 2 Heads of cabbage:  $8.37
  • 1 Cucumber:  $1.47
  • 8 Roma Tomatoes:  $2.96
  • 1 Bell pepper:  $1.47
  • 1 bunch Cilantro:  $1.47
  • 1 large avocado:  $2.75
Next picture:

  • 1 Bag of spinach:  $2.95
  • 2 bunches green onions:  $2.94

  • 1 bag Fuji apples:  Free, from a coupon I redeemed last month for some fuel rewards that were going to expire.
  • Melon bowl, mixed:  $6.88 (this is for snacking)
  • Strawberry bowl:  $7.47, personalized price.
  • Cantaloupe bowl:  Free (the bowls are B2G1)
  • Lighthouse Poppyseed Dressing:  $5.90 (not the cheapest dressing, but it was cheaper than getting poppyseeds to make my own dressing).
  • Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  $8.84 after 1.00/1 coupon (this is for the son's pasta and Amazon was out of pretty much any olive oil for months when I went to see if I could order it, so this was the next best option).
  • 2 cans black olives:  $3.53
  • 5lbs of Unbleached All Purpose Flour:  $3.27 personalized price.
  • Buttermilk, 1/2 gallon:  $3.99 (it was only .49 more than a quart, so I just went with it)

Continuing here...
  • 1 box, quart sized freezer bags:  $3.19
  • 1 box, gallon sized freezer bags:  $3.93
  • 1, 4 pack, canned peaches:  $9.83
  • 2 packages Lucerne European style salted butter:  Free after a couple of won coupons from the Flavor Adventure game.
  • 2 packages Danish Creamery European Style butter:  $5.00 after a 2.00/2 coupon.
  • 1 bag shredded Mozzarella cheese:  $7.05 (I actually got this because Alvah has been on a kick where he wants to eat frozen cheese, and unlike the home grated stuff this stuff will separate and allow me to get him small bowls of cheese to eat straight from the freezer).
Okay, and now onto some things that aren't shown:

Ibuprofen and Tums (forgot to take pics before we put them away in the bathroom)
Alvah food and a bag of chips for the daughter's work lunches (she puts a big bag into small sandwich bags to give herself a treat to eat with her sandwiches).

So, all totaled I spent:

$311.61 after various coupons, discounts and other things were taken.
+$9.35 taxes and fees

$320.96 total spent.

That seems like a lot every time I spend it, but my grocery budget has just gone up the worse inflation has gotten (as I know everyone is in that boat), so really $160.00 a week for groceries for a family of four with a special needs teen who eats constantly...I don't think I'm doing too bad, honestly.  Sad, but true.

Okay, so it's more like 168.49 a week as we are spending 17.00 for two gallons of milk as well, so keep that in mind.

Anyway, let's move onto some of the meals I'm going to make with these groceries :).

1  For the following items, I'm going to be using them to make Farmhouse On Boone's Lacto Fermented Salsa.  I made some of this a few months ago and my husband and I loved it and just used up the final bits of it, so it was time to ferment a new batch.  So, for this recipe I'm going to be using...

  • 4 tomatoes (the rest of the tomatoes are slated for tomato sandwiches for my lunches)
  • The bell pepper
  • The Cilantro
The rest of the ingredients I already have on hand.

2.  For the corned beef and one of the heads of cabbage I'm going to be making slow cooked corned beef brisket with potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

3.  The spinach and strawberries will be combined with some crumbled feta I have in the fridge and some of the dehydrated pecans I have in the freezer to make a spinach strawberry salad.  I am going to put the poppyseed dressing on top of it to dress it.  This will be my second time making said salad and my husband and I love it.  

4.  The chicken breasts I'm going to slice in half butterfly wise and make four chicken breasts.  I'm then going to pound them flat and turn them into schnitzel and soak them in some buttermilk to give them a bit of tang.  I'm then going to bread them with some home ground sourdough breadcrumbs that I made.  I'm then going to take a stick of the European butter to make a yummy compound butter with some herbs and we'll have that on top of the chicken to make a lazy man's Chicken Kiev out of it.  

5.  Another half stick of butter is destined to make Easy Lemon Curd.  I got lemons last week on a good sale price and I used a couple to make this recipe.  I also got a really good deal on eggs a few weeks ago and bought five dozen to see us through for a while and so I used some of those in the recipe as well.  It turned out GREAT and I'm going to use the lemon curd to make lemon and strawberry cheesecake for dessert tonight (I made the lemon curd last night so it'd have time to sit).

6.  I will be using some of the buttermilk in lemon zucchini bread.  I bought a few zucchini with groceries last month and didn't get a chance to use it, so I grated it and threw it into the freezer.  Two tiny zucchini from the store netted me a cup of grated zucchini so I will pull that out of the freezer, ring it out and use it in the recipe as well.  And I will use another lemon from my bag-o-lemons I bought in this recipe as well :).

7.  The avocado, cucumber and imitation crab meat I'm going to use tomorrow to make sushi, along with some miso soup, for dinner.  I have some sushi nori (seaweed) to use up in the pantry, so I figured it would be a good time to use it.  I'll also use some of the green onions in the miso soup and the rest I will put in the freezer to use over the winter.

8.  The all purpose flour will be used to make sourdough items.  My two go-to recipes every week are Rustic Sourdough and Sourdough pizza crust...I double the pizza crust recipe and make breadsticks for the son out of the same dough.  Works great.  I'll also use some of the ham for pizza nights and we'll use a can of the black olives for pizza nights as well.  We tend to have pizza once a week around here, so we definitely keep stuff around to make it.

9.  The pork chops were gotten because they were cheap and will be used partially by marinating them in some type of marinade and grilling them later in the week (we are looking at the 70s and with how humid it has been this summer...that's not going to be a fun couple of days.  I might be grilling in the rain, but if I had to, so be it).

10.  The second head of cabbage may be made into coleslaw or some other cold cabbage dish or I might ferment it into fresh sauerkraut or make it into hot seasoned cabbage to go with sausages or something one night.  I'm still undecided, but I've found cabbage is a great versatile vegetable to have around.

11.  The melon bowls are for dessert or if my husband feels hungry after dinner at some point.  The chicken thighs will be used for sure, if in nothing else than in baked chicken as my daughter's favorite cooked meat is chicken, quickly followed by fish.

And there you go folks.  My grocery haul and how I plan to use it (God willing the produce keeps).  I'll probably be sharing grocery hauls more often to maybe give people some ideas.  Never hurts to get inspiration, I say.  


Quick Life Update: What's Been Going on Around Here

It's been nuts around here, per usual it seems.  I'd share Frugal Accomplishments, but I have to say that the last few weeks, there really hasn't been very many, other than I got the kids in for their dental visits and cleanings and they were cavity free and doing well (thank goodness) and I got Alvah into the eye doctor for the first time in a while and he's doing good...his nearsightedness got a wee bit worse, but he's not even close to really needing glasses, so that was a relief and a half to hear as trying to get him to wear glasses would be a challenge and then some.   

Bright side for those who want money saving tips, I'm going to have to come up with some as I had some unexpected things happen that cost me money the last few weeks.  Let's get into some of that.

The first one was I ended up having to take Prince to the vet suddenly.  I went to pet him one day and he yelped when I got near his mouth.  I could tell he was in pain and kept an eye on him over the weekend and the pain wasn't going away and he wasn't eating much as I could tell it hurt him to chew.  So, I ended up taking him to the vet.  The vet didn't see any bad teeth or anything (which was what I suspected was going on, so I was happy to hear his teeth were okay) and that his teeth were in good shape and he couldn't really see anything really wrong (other than Prince is fat, which I already knew that one for sure).   He suspected that Prince might have strep, so he gave him a long lasting antibiotic shot to see if that would clear things up and get him acting his old rambunctious self (it did) and gave him an updated rabies vaccine.  That visit, while worth it, wasn't cheap, so I have that to pay off on top of the medical bills that I've been trying to pay down.

And then the next day (no joke) I was making bread and my mixer just stopped in its tracks and I barely got it shut off before it was going to start burning up on me.  I couldn't get it to work right afterwards, so my husband took a look at it when he came home and after troubleshooting it said that it was just time to retire the old girl as something major was going in it this time.  The actual loss of the mixer actually hit me kind of hard.  That mixer made every batch of Christmas cookies my kids have ever eaten, it had made many batches of bread over the years, many birthday cakes and other goodies,  and it had been a great mixer that I had used hard over the last 16 years.  It just got past the point that my husband could fix it.  Rest in peace old friend.

My husband took a look at the NutriMill I had bought after the earthquake and decided he didn't want  me to use it as my everyday mixer as it was underpowered compared to a normal Bosche mixer and with how hard I ran my mixers, he didn't think it would live very long.  So, we talked about what to do and how to replace the Viking as I am constantly using my mixer and really couldn't be without one around here.  We thought about buying an actual Bosche, but I finally decided that I didn't want to go with a mixer that I might not be able to find replacement parts for, so after some debate (and my husband looking around to see what would be the best to go with for the sake of repair and maintenance), we settled on getting a KitchenAid.  

Unfortunately, trying to FIND a decent sized KitchenAid for my needs wasn't easy, so my husband spent one afternoon canvasing Anchorage trying to find at least a 7 quart KitchenAid mixer for me (we didn't want to go smaller than my Viking mixer as I will sometimes max out a seven quart when doing big batches of things).  He finally found a restaurant supply house that services the residential market too and we ended up getting an 8 quart Commercial KitchenAid mixer.  We went with the commercial mixer because it was available (a BIG plus as it seems that most everything is at least a month out on order up here right now) and it was set up more simply then the Professional line of KitchenAid internally, which would make it easier to work on, all the attachments are stainless steel (so, able to be put through the dishwasher...which sometimes I put my bowl in the dishwasher multiple times a day, so that was a plus for me), and it has a nice, powerful motor that would do everything I wanted it to do over the next countless years.  It is also really easy to clean as they didn't put on a bunch of plastic trim pieces or anything, so you can really clean it well in no time flat. 

And so, I welcome Black Beauty to my kitchen.  I do love it, I have to admit.  

The only downside is the price.  It was NOT cheap.  Neither was the Viking when I bought it so many years ago, but it still hurts to buy a piece of equipment like this.  So, I am going to work hard over the next few months to hopefully get the mixer paid off as I feel terribly guilty that my husband bought me a mixer for our anniversary (just worked out that way for when the Viking died) instead of buying something cheaper, but at least it is practical I suppose and my husband was happy to get it for me, which was really sweet of him.  I have used said mixer NUMEROUS times over the last few weeks and it works beautifully.  A definite bright side compared to the Viking is that I can put some dough on to knead in the mixer and walk away to do other things instead of having to lean on the mixer so it doesn't try to skip off the countertop.  And it is so MUCH quieter than my old mixer.  I couldn't believe how quiet it is as it is doing its work.  May it last many, many years and serve me as well as my Viking did.

So, yeah, it's been interesting around here.  I didn't know where else to put the updates this time, so I decided to just do a quick post about what was going on and I'll get into money saving things, garden updates and some other (hopefully) more fun posts here in the next few posts.  

I hope your summer is going well and you are all getting things done that is on your lists.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Frugal Accomplishments the Last Three WeeksI

Wow, time slipped away from me this month.  It's been rough around here with trying to get my husband well (he's finally on the mend, thank goodness) and then after he started feeling better I finally came down with the cold that I'd managed to avoid for a good month.  I popped vitamins and worked really hard on getting well and thankfully this is the first time I've caught a cold in years where it did NOT go into a nasty cough for months that would finally land me at the doctor's, so yay for that!

I got a couple of e-mails the last couple of weeks and did not have time to reply to them, so wanted to apologize to those that were nice enough to write.  I'll try to reply to them as soon as I have time to breathe around here.  Between working on making up Alvah's learning plan for next school year (which, as any homeschooler will tell you, creating your own individual learning plan, or ILP for short, is a LOT of work), getting the daughter back and forth to work, driving practice with the daughter, getting the husband's car into the body shop to finally get repaired, Father's Day and other's been crazy busy on top of people being sick.

But, yeah, let's fill you in on stuff that has been happening around here.

Summer, if you can call it that, is flying by.  Where a bunch of people in the Lower 48 are dealing with hot weather and drought (prayers are with you all), we are dealing with cold weather and rain.  Like constant rain and lows in the 40s at night.   The mosquitos love it.  Humans, not so much.  Everyone I talk to is so tired of bad weather as we've had it constantly the last three years it seems.  So far this Spring/Summer we've had four days of nice weather.  Four.  The last couple of them were last week and the trees finally leafed out completely so it looks like summer outside, which is nice.  Unfortunately, Summer Solstice is now passed, so we are looking forward to the dark coming back, but we still haven't really had much sunny summer yet (Glen Allen even had snow just a bit ago...I mean geez!).  Up North it seems like they are getting more sun in North Pole and Fairbanks (I watch Somer's in Alaska on YouTube), but around here in South Central/The Valley, the weather hasn't been grand and it is wearing on people's moods.

I have worked hard to keep things like the furnace turned off as much as I can around here, which has reduced our gas bills compared to last year at this time.  Which, honestly, with how energy costs have gone up everywhere, I feel pretty good about that :).

Anyway, onto money saving matters around here...

1.  I have been asked to share any tips I've been personally using to save money on groceries.  I'll share a post about that, hopefully in the next few days.  I'm not sure how helpful people will find it, but I'll share what is working for me and my family.

2.  For Father's Day, instead of going out to eat, we stayed home and I made one of my husband's favorite meals, tempura cod and French fries (my version of fish and chips).  I made a lemon pound cake from a mix I had in the pantry for dessert.  The only purchase I ended up making that day was I bought the HBO mini-series "Chernobyl" off of Amazon (which I budgeted for :) for us to watch as my husband and I have really been wanting to see it (we've only watched two parts so far, but it is really good).  

3.  My daughter lost a button on her favorite shirt.  She loved the buttons on the shirt as they are a very stylized silver colored button.  I was pretty sure we were not going to be able to replace the button with one out of the button jar, but my husband, daughter and I went through all the buttons in our big button jar to try and find a button that she liked, would fit in the button holes on the shirt (they are smaller than a normal button hole and the shade of pink of the shirt is hard to match thread-wise, so I didn't want to expand a button hole if I could avoid it) and would go with the other buttons on said shirt.  We finally found a pearl colored button that she liked, would fit the holes on the shirt and I figured if I rearranged the remaining buttons and put the pearl button on the top hole it would just add a bit of flair to the shirt.  The daughter was happy with the results and I was happy that she was happy :).

4.  I mended a shoddy seam on one of my husband's work shirt pockets.

5.  I darned one of my son's favorite socks that he likes to wear over the bad eczema on his foot at night (the sock takes a lot of abuse because he itches his foot through it and then it gets pretty saturated with moisturizing lotion).  He really likes the sock as it fits over his eczema just right so I was careful with the darning to make sure the sock would hold it's shape well.  So far, he's been okay with the repair, so I'm happy.

6.  I took remnants from the fridge that needed to be used up and made a breakfast casserole for breakfasts this week.  I'm still new to the world of breakfast casseroles, so I over browned the cheese so it's kind of interesting to chew the exterior of the casserole, but the flavor is good.

7.  A while ago I decided not to do a CSA this summer like I had in the last few years.  I'm really glad I made the choice I did when I look at the weather, as I doubt the CSA members are going to be getting much produce this summer and goodness knows how delayed it would be in starting with the weather has gone.  And not doing it saved me money up front, so there was that savings too.

8.  I had bought a few new comforters, all the same size (Queen) to replace some that were falling apart (Alvah is hard on bedding as I end up having to wash comforters and things a LOT with him)  from Amazon and then I ordered comforter covers/duvet covers for each bedroom.  The comforters themselves were cheap (20.00 a pop), but were put together really cheap as well so I've had to re-sew a few of them on the edges as the seams are not great.  Sadly, I had bought that particular brand/type as I've had one comforter in that brand on my bed for a long time and it's held up nicely for a cheap comforter...but they have definitely gone down hill in quality (items at the used stores having gotten so expensive, it really isn't worth my time to look there for things like comforters, unfortunately).  Times like this I'm really glad to have basic sewing skills and a good store of thread.  I figure I'll have to repair a few more, I'm sure, but at least the comforter covers will help cover up any repair work I've had to do and my seams should last a lot longer than the shoddy ones they came with :).

9.  My son really scratched up one of his favorite Charlie and Lola discs.  I tried to repair it, but failed.  I was able to find a decent priced replacement on E-bay (the discs are getting harder and harder to come by and Amazon wanted a fortune for a used copy) and ordered it, but in the meantime I searched around and found that Roku has Charlie and Lola available to watch for free.  So, he was able to watch his favorite episodes of the show on his TV while waiting for his replacement disc to come in the mail.

10.  I gave my husband and son haircuts.

11.  My daughter's desk drawer broke and we realized that it had a very specific runner part for the drawer that was made of plastic.  I went searching around and actually found a bulk package of the part on Amazon for not much money at all on sale with a coupon.  I ordered them and the part worked perfectly.  My husband is also glad we have back up pieces for the drawer as we're not overly fond of plastic parts for longevity, so if it breaks again, at least we have back up repair parts.

12.  A while ago I had bought replacement Rubbermaid containers for lunches to replace ones I had bought a looonnnnnggg time ago.  We were down to not a lot of containers left as we had thrown them out over time as they got melted and things, so I ordered a big kit off of Amazon that was like 1/2 the asking price from the warehouse as the original packaging had gotten damaged (supposedly...I didn't find any damage to anything when it came in, so I was happy).  We started using the new containers and they were NOT holding up well, at all.  Combine that with me reading about micro-plastics and how they stick around in the human body and things and I just decided I didn't need my husband nuking his lunch in the plastic containers.  

I decided to purchase some glass lunch containers for him.  After much searching (I will readily admit I spend hours looking for a good bargain to save money...I'm cheap what can I say), I found these (note:  affiliate link) and ordered them. With the 10.00 off coupon (still active as of the posting of this post it looks like), the containers were only 19.99, they nest inside each other via shape (you get three sets of three; rectangles, squares and circular containers) for actually pretty convenient storage, the lids (so far) don't leak and they are working really well and my husband seems to really like them.  The only drawback I am finding to glass containers is that I have to put like a paper towel or something over the food if I am worried about it spitting over the microwave as I haven't found any glass containers where the lids are microwavable yet.  I am not worried about melting them in the dish washer as I don't use the drying function on my dishwasher, so I'm not sure how dishwasher safe they are (just a warning there).  Will I replace all of my plastic containers with glass?  Probably not.  But for my husband's lunches, this is working out well.

13.  I am always thinking of different ways to get nutrition into Alvah without him turning on food and things.  I finally, after much debate, broke down and bought a 9x13 cast iron baking dish (tip to local peeps:  If you want one, get it through Amazon.  It is at least 10.00 cheaper than trying to buy one locally...I looked).  The downside is trying to figure out how to store the sucker as it is heavy and bulky.  At the moment it is parked solidly on my stovetop pretty much 24/7 as I really don't have room to store it somewhere else.  

BUT, the upside to this thing is amazing!  I am using this to bake my son's French fries in, am using it to bake home made breadsticks in (I bake breadsticks in a sheet and then cut it into strips to make them like Pizza Hut was the best way to trick the son into eating home made breadsticks :), and using it for the intent I bought if or (to leach iron into his food).  BUT, I've found so many more awesome uses for it in the kitchen.  For one, I FINALLY have a roasting pan that can go from oven to stovetop and I was only out 30.00 versus the tons of money those things cost in stainless steel.  I have used it for a griddle pan for smaller things that I didn't want to pull out my big cast iron griddle for.  I'm even considering putting one of my bigger cast iron pieces on top of said pan in my oven and trying to make sourdough baguettes in the pan to get the oven rise/steam baking that only cast iron can give you.  I never thought one pan would be so darned useful, but I am so glad I purchased it!  I bought this one (once again, affiliate link there).  I love Lodge cast iron.  The only piece I've ever been kind of disappointed in is I bought the 10" two handled skillet with a Christmas gift card last year and it feels like it is cheaper quality than any piece of Lodge cookware I've ever bought before.  The handles, especially, are really thin compared to like my 12" pan.  

So, yeah, I'm going to call it good there for now.  I know there is more to this list, but I have a ton to do and can't find where I put my list (I'm sure it is somewhere safe...anyone else do that???).  So, before we go let's get to a garden update!

First the flowers have been very happy with the amount of rain we've been getting and when we don't get rain, I've been taking the opportunity to fertilize everything.  Petunias are heavy feeders, so every time I fertilize the plant, it goes nuts and produces more flowers.  We've really been enjoying the basket of pretty we have out on the deck :).  Also, enjoy the photo bombing cat.  We were both in a hurry to get inside as it started to pour as I was trying to take pictures.

Next up, the tomato plants haven't done much with how cold it has been, unfortunately.  The few sunny days we've had the tomato plants loved and put on some small teeny tiny tomatoes, but that's as far as they've gotten.  Sad, but with tomato plants up here it is always a gamble with the weather.  So far, this year, I'm losing.

The parsley planter is going well, which is great as I am nearly out of parsley and really want to dehydrate and put up a bunch this year :).

The second herb bed isn't doing great.  The basil I was able to get one harvest off of for dinner one night, but it hasn't grown much, as in any that I have seen, since then, with the cold and rain.  The rosemary has grown a teeny bit, but not much and even the parsley plant in that bed isn't doing much.  

The chard is growing and isn't minding the cold.  It hasn't grown as much as I'd like as I'd love to start harvesting the outer leaves at some point, but we are getting there.  

I am THRILLED that this week I'll be able to start harvesting lettuce, though as the planter has finally filled out to the point I think I can finally get a full salad out of the lettuce.  I've been waiting excitedly for this time as lettuce at the store is expensive, so I'm going to enjoy eating our lettuce as long as I can.  I mean look at how yummy this lettuce looks....


The empty planters where the cabbages had been, I did, indeed plant seeds in.  The seeds never germinated, probably due to the cold, and then the planters the ants found and decided to nest in (a new one on me for a container garden...I haven't had that problem since I left Pennsylvania years ago).  We are definitely having ant problems this year as the diatomaceous earth I normally spread around the house just gets washed away with how much rain we're getting.  We are looking into other means to eradicate them as carpenter ants are a real fear for us as we have a wooden foundation house, so yeah...a bit concerning on the ant front.

And there you go guys and gals.  A quick update on our lives around here.  I hope your summer is going okay (sorry to those effected by the smoke in Canada...we've been smoked out from wildfires a few times and it is horrible, so I really feel for you all) and you are able to have some fun and get things done as well.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Frugal Stuff from the Rest of May and The Garden for 2023

Hello everyone.

What a month.  Busy, hectic and a bunch of not great stuff happening around here.

I managed to get the kids through the rest of the school year and got final grades and work samples in.  The first couple of days of Summer Break went great.  We had a decent morning the first day, so I took the kids for a really pretty walk through different parts of Palmer, which was fun.  Then the second day was the year end picnic for the home school, so I took the kids to that with some help from my mother-in-law.  The kids had a good time, which was nice.  Then immediately after that the kids came down with some of the most horrible colds they've had in a long time and were sick for two weeks between the two of them.  Then, my husband skipped getting the actual cold part of the cold and went directly into getting a case of bronchitis that took him to the doctor.  He got antibiotics and things, but wasn't feeling any better this week.  In fact the cough keeps getting worse.  He went back to the doctor's yesterday and his lungs are clear by the chest X-rays and things, but his cough is awful.  I'm praying he doesn't end up in the hospital the way this is going :(.

Despite everything that has been happening around here, we did manage to get some stuff done. 

Please note before heading forward.  The following contains affiliate links.  If you order through these links, I will get a small commission from Amazon for shooting the sale their way.  This costs you nothing extra.  If you order through these links, thank you for supporting the blog :).

1.  Mother's Day weekend wasn't terrible weather-wise (we have been getting rain and unseasonably cold temps this year...this morning it was 44 degrees outside at 10am...not good) and the temps were staying above freezing at night, so I decided we should go and get plants for the garden (unfortunately they haven't gone up any, pretty much, since then, which stinks).  We ran into a problem I hadn't foreseen and that was that the horrible snow loads we had back in December...well a bunch of local green houses didn't make it.  Including our local Lowes.  So, seedlings were really tiny where we could find them, but I did find some, which was good and we were able to get some soil for the planters as well.  

So, let's break down what the garden is looking like so far (I took the pictures when we had a decent break up in the clouds...sadly the plants have done pretty much nothing since I took the picture last week, it has been that cold and nasty out).

The biggest change to the deck this year was a gift from my sister as a Mother's Day gift.  She got me a small wood bistro set I've had on my wish list for a long time on Amazon (this one).  My husband was even impressed with the quality when it came in.  I linked to it in case someone you know is looking for a decently inexpensive deck set as I looked a long time before I settled on that one.  I'm hoping to save up and get another one at some point so we have enough chairs for the entire family, but so far with the medical bills and things that are piling up, it is not high on my list of priorities.  But, even with the one bistro set, I have to say that is really pretties up the deck a lot :).  We've already sat out on the deck several times and the son really loves it, so that was definitely a nice bonus.

I did buy a few new planters this year as the make shift ones I had last year are literally breaking apart every time you touch them.  I felt bad as one woman who was standing next to me was in a mini-freak out about the cost of the planters and I had to explain to her what would raise the cost of plastics and she walked away swearing she was never going to throw anything away ever again.  Looking at the state of the used store and how little inventory they have...I'd say that she's not alone in her thinking.  

So, in the new planters I planted...

Lots of parsley.  After all this time I'm finally running out of parsley in my spice cabinet.  So, I want to grow enough to last me a long time after I dehydrate it.

In the next planter we have a few basil plants, which I planted to hopefully eat fresh more than dehydrating them as basil an herb I love, but traditionally I've been very good at killing without even trying.  So far the plants are hanging in there, so I'm happy about that.  I also have another parsley plant in this planter that came with a volunteer plant that I THINK might be dill?  I'm not sure at this point, so I'm waiting to see how the volunteer grows as I can always remove it later. Lastly I got a rosemary plant, which is tiny, but hanging in there.

I optimistically bought a few tomato plants as I love the Red Robin patio tomatoes, but so far they haven't died, but nor have they done anything since I planted them out in their planter homes.  They won't do much, in my experience, until it goes above 50 at night, which we haven't come close to hitting yet, so we'll see how it goes.  I am thinking about going and looking around in the storage van to see if I can find some heavy clear plastic that I could make some mini-greenhouses out of, but I haven't gotten a chance yet.  Here's hoping I can do something to help the tomatoes to produce as I love having fresh tomatoes in the summertime.  

Shot of tomato #2:

Right now onto the rest of the garden...

In the black planters next to the tomato we have a bunch of swiss chard growing.  These have grown a little bit so far, but not a huge amount.  In the green planter is my lettuce seedlings, which ARE growing okay all things considered so far.

On the table is my daughter's petunia basket, which is doing great.  I love how pretty it makes the deck look.  

And lastly, we have the cabbage graveyard.  This has never happened to me before in all of my years of gardening.  Normally I plant cabbages, do next to nothing with them and they grow and do great.  This year, I planted the cabbage seedlings I bought and they all died within the span of a week no matter what I did to try and save them (I even brought them all inside out of the cold for a few days and it did nothing for them :(.  I'm thinking that the seedlings came with a blight that just killed them, but I'm not sure.   I don't really have the time, energy or money to go and buy more seedlings, so as soon as the temps go up a bit I'm probably going to plant some seeds out of my already existing seed stores.

The way the weather is going, I doubt I'm going to have time to grow out the cabbage seeds, so I think I'm just going to grow out some arugula and some thyme as I couldn't get any thyme seedlings at the nurseries this year.  If they grow at least the soil doesn't go to waste and if they don't grow, I am not out anymore than I am right now, so I might as well gamble on it and see what happens.

Bright side, though is that the rhubarb is growing, so that's good!

So, yeah, that is where the garden stands at the moment.  Not terrible, but not super wonderful either.

2.  I got some good deals from Amazon, a couple of them like "holy crud I can't believe that worked" type of deals.  One was a set of white, organic cotton, queen sheets for my bed that after a super sale and a 20.00 off coupon ended up costing me a total of 1.99 for the ENTIRE SET!  I honestly ordered them and was convinced it was a rip off and wasn't going to work, but was super shocked when they came in, were really nice quality and was 100% legit!  I got these in case you want to add them to your cart and stock the price to see if it goes back down into the 20.00 range so you can then check for coupons and things.  Sorry I didn't share the deal on Facebook, but I honestly thought it was a scam and by the time I got the sheets it was all said and done.

I also got a decent deal on organic olive oil and was able to get a bottle of it for like 5.00 after a 40% off coupon and a subscribe and save discount.

3.  I thought I had gotten a really good deal on pecans through Amazon.  It was supposedly 5 lbs of pecans that were safe from peanut cross contamination, were farmed in the US and were on sale for 28.00.  I LOVE pecans, so I was really happy to spend the money on the pecans for future salads and baking projects.

Then the pecans came in.  Instead of 5 lbs of pecans, there were only 2.5 lbs.  The pecans were not even the pecans I had ordered, so they were not free from cross contamination.  I was not a happy camper especially when I saw that the pecans I HAD ordered were now up to 60.00 almost and Amazon wouldn't send me a replacement order.  After getting off the phone with Amazon and a refund, I looked at the nuts and tried to figure out what in the heck to do with them as I didn't want to throw them out as I love pecans, but I was kind of afraid to use them for the sake of Alvah's safety.  I remembered a conversation I had with someone earlier who had mentioned the process of soaking and then dehydrating nuts to up their digestibility, nutritional content and (best of all) since you rinsed and soaked the nuts beforehand you could remove the potential cross contamination of the peanuts.  So, I looked up how to do it and pulled out my dehydrator to get to work.  Unfortunately, my dehydrator, my cheapy Nesco that had served me well over the years, had finally kicked the bucket.  My husband is going to try and fix it, again, but in the meantime I ended up having to buy another dehydrator as I wanted to have one for dehydrating herbs if nothing else.  

I looked online and holy crap guys have you SEEN the price on dehydrators???  It is NUTS (no pun intended, but hey still funny)!  I started to figure out EXACTLY what would fit my needs.  I finally settled on this one as it had five trays, seemed like it would hold quite a bit for its size, had metal trays (which I figured was better than dehydrating on plastic, really) and had variable temperature controls.  It also had a flat top, so I could put some light weight plastic storage containers on it before I got around to putting them away when not in use.  And it was the right size to fit right next to the microwave.  The biggest sell point to it, though, was that after using credit card rewards and some Amazon gift cards on top of a really nice coupon (20.00 off) it ended up costing me 45.00 out of pocket, which was about what I was hoping to spend on a dehydrator (well, really, I was hoping to spend nothing and have my old one work, but we do what we can).  

So, I took the pecans and got to work.  I soaked them for about 24 hours in the fridge (I wasn't sure if you should leave them at room temperature for that long, so I soaked them on the counter for 10 and then popped them in the fridge over night).

The next morning I put them in the dehydrator and ended up dehydrating them at 130 F for 12 hours and they were nice and dry by that point.  The biggest thing I found with this dehydrator is how QUIET it is!  I barely noticed it was on at all the entire time it was running, which was a definite advantage over my old Nesco as that thing was so loud your ears would end up ringing after a while.

I put the dried and cooled nuts into some jars and put them in the freezer for storage and I've already used some in salads this summer, which is great and they really do come out tasty and easy to digest :).

4.  You might notice, as a side note, that lately I've been getting into healthier eating (well I guess more traditional ways of preparing food would be a better way to put that).  Part of that stems from the son and trying to get as much nutrition into his diet as possible (per usual) and I discovered the benefits of sourdough and fermented foods and such.  Another is that I got the results of my physical back and found that my bad cholesterol was high but everything else was great, which threw me and I tried to figure out what to do about that.  When I followed doctor's advice on how to lower my bad cholesterol, I ended up getting sick for pretty much all of February, which led me to researching things more and I discovered things about cholesterol, diet and things.  It really has led me to get us to eat better around here and I've found that doing things like sourdough baking, soaking and dehydrating nuts and such, that it not only has helped my husband's acid reflux a LOT, has helped me digestive condition as well and it has also helped my daughter's digestive problems too.  So, it has been totally worth trying these things.  So, yeah, I hope you don't mind coming along for the ride as I'm learning new skills around here as I'm learning more and more every day :).

A quick update on the pantry, speaking of food.  I am so thoroughly disgusted by Ball lids I could spit.  I have lost way too many jars to seal failures this year with the Ball lids.  Like one jar of sauerkraut a week bad.  I have been working really hard on using as much things out of the pantry as possible that have the Ball lids on them.  While trying to figure out a way around canning foods (as honestly I'm really ticked that so much work has gone down the drain this last winter), in the meantime I ran into the many health benefits of fresh fermenting foods as well and how long they would stay good (up to a year in the fridge in some cases), once fermented.  So, I decided to take a couple of heads of cabbage I had in the fridge, that I had gotten a really good personalized price on, and decided to make fresh sauerkraut (which was WAY easier than I thought it would be and I love the way you can control how tangy it gets by how long you ferment it for!).  This I'm using as kind of a topper on other dishes (like sauerkraut and sausages/brats) to up the nutritional content (oh and I made a really good sauerkraut coleslaw with it too...I'll look up the recipe and share it later :), while also using up the things I have sealed with Ball lids.  I had planned on my canned goods that I made last year lasting me two years, but anything with a ball lid I'm plain not trusting now, so yeah that is where that is at.  Anything I put up with Denali canning lids, by the way, have been just fine and the seals are very solid when I go to use the food contained within.  The same with the Golden Harvest lids my mom sent me from the Dollar Store, which I find ironic as Ball lids are expensive on top of everything.

5.  I harvested a small handful of chives from the front yard to use on baked potatoes one night.  So far they haven't really gotten big enough to get a decent harvest, but once they do I'm going to harvest them and freeze the chives for future use.  I did that last year and the baggy of chives lasted us through baked potatoes up until a few weeks ago!

6.  I mended a few holes in some comforters and some holes in some shirts around here.  

7.  I worked really hard on rearranging our den to make it easier for my husband to work on putting in the rest of the wood stove and at the same time making it easier for me to access the old exercise bike so I could get exercise in the morning as well.  It has been nice to use the bike without feeling like I was completely closed in by everything that used to be in the laundry room.  W are still working on getting a better washing machine installed in there as the old one is now overflowing at odd times and we end up with a big puddle of water in going down into the drain in the laundry room floor, so while I'm waiting on that getting done, I don't want to move anything back into the laundry room that would get in the way in the future, so the den is in a perpetual state of chaos anymore.  

8.  My daughter likes to take a ham sandwich to work for lunch every week, but if I buy a big thing of ham it goes bad before we can use it all (my husband and I don't eat much deli meat for the most part), so I took the package of ham we had just opened for the daughter's sandwich and separated it out into individual portions in sandwich bags.  I then put the sandwich bags into a freezer bag and every night before the daughter is set to work we just pull out one of the sandwich bags with the individual serving of ham it for her sandwich the next day and put it overnight in the fridge to defrost.  She loves it this way as she can pull out ham as she wants to for sandwiches, but doesn't get tired of eating them every day so the ham doesn't go bad and I love it because I don't have to worry about the lunch meat going bad when you aren't looking :).

9.  I ended up picking up organic sour cream instead of non-organic as it turned out it was on sale cheaper than the non-organic type.  Inflation is getting so bad that I have noticed that in a lot of cases organic foods are either cheaper, are the same price or not very much more money at all compared to non-organic options.  So, for those who always thought, "I can't afford to eat organic" be sure to keep your eyes out for deals as it seems like they are out there.  I am not one of those people who have an opinion of organic versus non organic foods, but if it is cheaper or the same price as the other, I have been opting to try the organic, I'll be the first to admit :).

10.  Due to the rising cost of living, I am definitely to the point of making most of everything we eat at home.  It is saving us money in one area of the budget so that we can spend that money in others (like on gas or other essentials).

And I'm going to call it good there as the son is getting grumpy.  I hope everyone had a good May and hopefully I can get more blogging (and other things) done in June.  Here's hoping!