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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Practical purchases


About a week ago, I got absolutely drenched, down to the skin, from torrential rain. Although wearing a 3/4 length coat, my legs from above the knee to the ankles were soaked through my gaberdine pants, and I even had water in my shoes. : (

Granted, this was an unusual, Nor'easter rain storm, but I decided as I drove home that this wouldn't happen again to me. While Hunter brand wellies are all the range, I simply can't see plunking down $150 or more for rubber boots! Nor do I want to invest in cheapo ones that disappoint. I want quality, my feet stopped growing a long time ago, so these may just end up lasting many, many years. I chanced a look at Target to see what boots they carry (using the Internet), and found what appear to be cousins to the pricier Hunter brand: Joules, a British company. Having read some excellent reviews, I went ahead and ordered them. I really wanted a plain, black pair which they were sold out of, so I ended up with a pair of Navy with a floral print.(|All|matchallpartial|all+categories) Naturally, there is now a 30% off promotion, so I will order a second set, and return my original ones, saving $21 in the process. I am often in the area of Target, so this won't cause any hardship on my part.

I do want to get some fleece liners for them, and naturally, Target is out of stock. I could order them from Joules but the shipping would make them very expensive, so I wait.

These fit well, are very well made, and should last me quite some time. I've been wanting a pair especially when I go over to the farm. The ease of simply washing off boots with a rubber hose certainly has it's appeal!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hitting the books!


The past few days, I've been hitting the books-my household accounting ledger that is simply a repurposed, 1/2 inch 3 ring binder filled with some 6 column, accounting ledger sheets. Every 6 months, minimally, I review where we are, what expenses are coming up, what expenses have gone up/done and assess where, if anywhere, I can tweak the budget.  This past year was a challenge: I lost one month's wages due to unpaid medical leave, I helped to fund a replacement car for DD, we've had out of pocket (exceeded our benefit) medical bills. It frustrates me that sometimes the kids will comment that I earn $X-meaning, we can afford X or Y. They don't understand that while my salary is $X, once taxes, insurance, HSA , union dues etc are taken out, that we live on take home pay-which is also a figure that I review come tax time as I have a personal $500 over/under tax obligation amount that I am comfortable with. I do not wish to have a large refund (not earning me what little interest the bank provides)nor do I want to have to absorb a large tax bill that may come due. I attempt to anticipate all upcoming expenditures and obligations.

My current ledger is divided into several categories:
-Home: rent
-Utility: electric, cable/Internet, cell phone, oil heat, Net flix, wood for stove, chimney sweep
-Insurance: renter's, auto, life (medical comes out of my pay at a pretax rate)
-personal care: clothes, hair care services
-Vet: bills, supplies/food
-Food: CSA, grocery store, restaurant
-School supplies
-Celebrations: Birthdays, Christmas
-Auto: gas, repair, taxes, car wash
-Msc: accountant, trash/sticker, plow service, lawn service, cleaning service, household goods, vacation, postage

I see some areas to focus further on. I see some wiggle room. I also note most importantly that we remain on track, with minimally 22% of my take home pay earmarked for savings for our next forever home. I keep this goal in mind as we live more frugally than some. I find myself in a most delicious state, since being 17 years old and heading off to college with loans helping to finance my secondary education, later followed by car loans and a mortgage: since divorcing 2 years ago, I am debt free. No loans, no CC debt, no mortgage-nothing. This gives me flexilblity.  I choose to live as we do, so as to attain my next goal.

Affording replacement household goods


When I discover a need, unless it's pressing such as a new tire, I try my best to obtain the item on the second hand market. My current Washington Forge "mardi gras" pattern flatware set is 30 years old, and is literally falling apart.It was combined with an identical set from Mom, including as well, a set of red handled, and another in brown. Having multiple colors didn't bother me. Of issue is that  several handles have come completely off the metal shaft of the flatware. While still serviceable, although odd looking, with my OT issues, I really do need a wider shaft handle on my flatware. I have been unable to find anything comparable to what I already have, at the thrifts. I've been looking for months. With 2 more having joined the family in August, our household went up to 6, and we are typically running out of flatware come supper time, depending upon what was eaten over the course of the day.

Today's mail brought these to my door: 2 sets of Cuisinart black handled flatware. I can't believe the cost of everyday flatware! Granted, it's been 30 years since I had to shop for any! I did combine several discounts: an extra 20% off, Kohl's cash, free shipping, etc. to make this replacement more affordable, so hopefully this will last me the next 30 years as well. I chose the black handled ones as they will match with any table setting.

I have a line item in my monthly budget for household goods. Although I did acquire some things since moving to this new rental (lamps, a couch/love seat set, 2 end tables, a rug for DD, a bathmat for the hall bath, one bath towel, 1 hanging Fall themed kitchen towel, thermal drapes (2 sets split between DD and the twin's rooms), I have kept the actual out of pocket costs as low as possible and kept our future needs in mind. These type of purchases can be viewed as household investments. I pick neutral colors and designs that are classic and will blend with what we currently have, which we will be reusing in our next housing situation-whether it be another rental or my nexxt forever home.

How do you address replacement of house hold goods? Do you budget for them? Seek alternative sources?

Eating seasonally this time of year in New England

 Eating fresh produce come November in New England is a real challenge. I was raised to and I continue to eat seasonally. Gardens are finished. So I turn to commercially and home canned as well as frozen alternatives. I am also known to add a spoonful of jam (homemade preserves) in lieu of fresh fruit, to my yogurt, in a pinch. My physical activity has been hampered due to an Achilles tendon injury in August, and I remain on restrictions. Finding that some clothes have started to get a bit snug, I am being proactive and limiting my consumption of carbs, in particular, bread. In lieu of my usual 2 slices of toast in the morning, I've been taking a cup of low fat, vanilla yogurt and some fruit instead. I have a cup of water and a cup of OJ every morning before leaving the house, and consume about 2 cups of coffee while I commute. I have my simple bfst once I get to work. I still have a few medium sized cans of juice pack fruit on the cellar shelves aka "my pantry." Other current options are Texas red grapefruits that I bought as a school fundraiser, some fresh apples, oranges, a cantaloupe (loss leader), bananas. In the fresh vegetable department: potatoes, garlic, onions, Winter squash, celery, carrots, cabbage, mixed baby salad greens, tomatoes, chard, kholrabi, collards.
 I did grab my last crash and burn can, however, this past week. Pineapple at 64 cents is unheard of! Knowing that affordable fruit/vegetable options will be few, I tend to get resourceful. Dried and frozen fruits/vegetables will replace where fresh have been served for the most part since June. Squash muffins? date muffins? cranberry bread? are what we'll see.
Luckily, this beautiful fruit basket was delivered as a Christmas gift yesterday. Besides grapefruit, oranges, apples, pears, kiwi, and a mango, we received coffee, water crackers, 3 types cheese, 3 types nuts. Very, very nice.

What's been cooking?

 Work/schhol night suppers so far this week:  Monday's fish dinner plan was scrapped as I still had some meatballs in sauce that had to be used. So, I cooked a package of fusilli to serve under them, opened and drained some French green beans, reheating them in the microwave

A tube of Grands biscuits were topped with a bit of soft margarine and some garlic-herb salt free seasoning sprinkled on top to make a garlic roll side.
 Tuesday's Crock Pot dinner: stuffed peppercups *(using fzn, multi colored peppercups I prepared this Fall/Summer)with brown rice/onion/ground beef/the rest of the meatballs smashed up/Italian cheese blend. I cook these still frozen and they come out perfect!Side vegetable was drained, canned corn-again turning to the microwave to reheat it. I did use a pint of home canned tomato sauce in the bottom of the pot, and found that this was really liquidy. I strained it, added the leftover bits of rice/meat that got lost in the CP and poured that over the one remaining peppercup that I had for lunch today. The remaining strained tomato sauce was saved for tonight.
I used the aforementioned tomato sauce along with the pan drippings from a recent roast beef, along with an aeseptic carton of beef stock, additional water, carrots/onion/celery, spices to make a tasty soup to which I added one pkg of dried tortellinis (mushroom variety) and some chopped, organic Swiss chard at the end.

 Yum! That will become my lunch for tomorrow.

So, we continue to make efforts to avoid food waste and to eat what's on hand.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A simple Sunday supper this week

 5 chicken leg quarters, purchased back in Sept and frozen became the centerpiece of tonight's Sunday supper, feeding 6, leaving 2 chicken thighs for lunch offerings this week, as well as creating 1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
 2 boxes of scallopped potatoe mix bought on sale around Thanksgiving, was an even sweeter deal with a coupon used on top of that
organic carrots from our CSA were steamed, then a 1/2 of a bag of Price Rite brand, frozen garden peas were added at the end.

Cranberry sauce and relish were offered as condiments.

Worked on receipts/my personal accounting ledger to determine where I stand financially as I get ready to close the month and the year, tax wise. All bills are paid with the exception of my CC which I will take care of electronically tomorrow, which will also be payday.

Today's freebie: our Christmas tree!


Today, I went over with my friend with a Suburban, and we picked out our Christmas tree at the tree farm where DS #1 is working. A nice employee perk, I saved $80 as a result.

Tree is now in the driveway, it was freshly cut, and DS should soon be home, to bring it inside, place it in the stand and let the branches fall into place overnight. I will ask him to put the lights on it tomorrow (He's on vacation from his other job this upcoming week) and then we can do the ornaments after supper on Monday.