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!


  1. I hope you all get to be 100% health wise very quickly. Love the table and chairs!! You have a good garden start.

  2. We had a dehydrator that didn't work. turns out it was a special fuse called a therma fuse. Chuck bought a variety pack in different sizes and has used them on hair dryers, dehydrators , etc. Maybe it's an easy fix and you will now have a back up dehydrator!

  3. I love the patio set with your daughter's flowers on the table. On another note, Golden Harvest, Kerr, and Ball are all manufactured in the same plant now. My husband is a trucker and delivers and picks up there often. I do think they are made more cheaply than in the past, the lids, rings and jars. I wonder if the lids your mom found are from an older more sturdy batch?