Simplifying Meals and the Budget (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #19)

I am learning a lot this summer.  I am learning to simplify my meal plan, my shopping list, and my budget in order to save time, energy, and a whole lot of money that will be used for other things.

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Making cookies is super easy and keeps Pa from buying packaged.

My meals are usually pretty elaborate affairs.  I would always have a long menu plan filled with delicious looking recipes from magazines and cookbooks.  Great if I happen to have all of those ingredients (not usually), and if I happen to want that particular meal on the night allotted.  No?  Then we were out at a restaurant.

When do you think restaurants skyrocketed in price?  It seems like overnight but yet, a few years later, I am still shocked that $40-$60 is the average ticket for two of us!  We noticed how we feel, the extra weight gain, the heartburn and pinned it down to when we go out.  I generally serve much smaller portions and the food is fresh and additive free at home.  We also took a look at the average we were spending on restaurants in a month.  Lord, have mercy.  That is money that could certainly be used elsewhere.

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Eggs, a little milk, chopped spinach and chives, sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean.  About 20 minutes.

I have found a few ways to make meals super easy.  First, choose a side or a main.  What do I have in the freezer?  Do I feel like wild rice?  What is growing in the garden?  Basically, what do I have?  Chicken, rice, frozen peas, carrots….I can make a homemade cream of celery sauce (milk, flour, salt, celery…you don’t need to buy those cans of cream soup), and fresh salad from the garden.  I plan that the day before so I can defrost as needed.  Things don’t get wasted, nothing languishes in the back of the fridge, and we eat clean and simply.  If I am short one ingredient, I go get it.

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I plan Doug’s lunch the day before as well.  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Do I need to make bread?

Hot cereal or homemade yogurt and granola start the day.

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By taking out elaborate and processed foods, I have saved time, money, and a lot of stress.

Now for simplifying the budget; this is important!  I needed to glean through and find lots of money.  Wedding, down payments….I have my reasons.  We usually do the envelope system.  I have $200 allotted for groceries for the week.  I would take two weeks worth of money and go to the store with my elaborate lists and spend the amount.  Until I noticed that I have tons of staples, frozen foods, and vegetables growing in the garden.  I was spending the money just to spend the money!  So instead I only get what I need.  A short list at the end of the weeks of things like flour, yeast, coffee, etc.  We are saving $400 a month on groceries.

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So then I’m on a roll, ’cause Mama wants a bigger farm.  Where else am I spending just to spend?  Well, let’s just say I am busy spending only what I absolutely need to.  No dwindling “extra” money in envelopes and using the dreaded budget buster- the debit card.  I am saving an average of $800 a month!

Try it!  Don’t use credit cards.  Rarely use the debit card.  Pull out a hundred bucks and make it last as looooong as possible.  Use what you have.  Cook simply with what you have.  Try to sell some things and earn a little more and see how quickly things add up.

Simple=Peace of Mind

Saving Money with Free Activities

Maybe you would like a cheese press, or a new hoe.  Maybe a few goats or maybe you realize that every hour of your life is valuable and perhaps you would like a few of them to not be working a job, but rather enjoying your homestead.  In everything, we save money so we can spend on something else, whether it be a new tree or time in a lawn chair with a good book.

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For us, our budget buster is entertaining ourselves.  In a weekend we can easily blow through a few hundred dollars just by visiting a fun strip of antique shops, a few restaurants- it goes fast!  So we try to entertain ourselves with as many free things to do as possible, so we can maybe save for a down payment on a farm in the country or pay the caterer for our child’s wedding!

We had a habit for a long time of meeting our growing family for a meal.  The kids live in all directions and it was just easier to find a central spot and enjoy dinner.  A few hundred dollars, a loud restaurant, and a bit of chaos later, we knew there had to be a better way.  Due to the screwy weather around here, we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday instead of last week.  We still donned winter hats and coats but the sky stayed clear and only a few rain drops threatened our merry band.

We all brought something to eat to share.  Andy and Bree brought chips and prickly pear soda.   Shyanne baked triple berry hand pies and poppy seed muffins.  Emily and Reed brought homemade mini quiches.  I made a mulberry coffee cake and brought along a few thermoses of coffee.  Andy also brought along his ukulele.  What a treat!

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We met at a glorious hidden park in the middle of Colorado Springs filled with hiking trails and trees, rock formations, and wildlife.  Acres and acres of breathtaking beauty, as only Colorado can dole out.

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Cost?  Free.  Priceless time together.

 

Some other ideas for free entertainment:

We have an antenna on our television set instead of cable.  We can see basic channels so we can watch The Voice and most Bronco games.  The rest of the time it stays unplugged behind a painting.

We get free movies from the library.  If it looks interesting, we grab it.  We have seen a lot of wonderful films this way.  We jot down movies from the previews of the films we like and the list goes on.  We particularly love clever British films, especially with Maggie Smith.  New movies are at the library as well.

We utilize the library for our reading.  Reading is free and perhaps the most wonderful entertainment of all, as you can travel the world, see sights, eat foods, meet characters, live different lives, laugh, cry, get inspired!  I do buy books that are not available at the library, but the vast majority of my reading is from the library shelves.  For free.

Museums and zoos all have free days.  Museums and zoos in small towns are a lot more affordable and often less crowded and more fun.

We take long, meandering walks.  It gives us time to talk without distractions and we get exercise.

Play an instrument.  Have fun with the piano, guitar, or ukulele!  The chickens love good music.

I wouldn’t venture to say hobbies are free but there are ways to make them affordable and are a wonderful use of time.  Crocheting, cooking, sewing, painting, wood working, and so many more activities are actually homesteading activities that sweeten life and lead to a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle,

Pull up a lawn chair and grab a drink and set up in the chicken yard.  There’s nothing better on cable television than that!

 

What activities do you do that are free to entertain yourselves?

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The Joyful, Simple Life of a Frugal Housewife

I have a little book that was written by Mrs. Child in 1832.  The American Frugal Housewife is surely just as useful today in many senses.  The author almost lost me when she noted that coffee was not economical and could be avoided.  Oh, she’s a strict one, that Mrs. Child.  Her prose is clear and concise and the book is ever fun to read.  Going on two hundred years old, it is a bit of history rolled into a gentle reminder that not that much has changed.

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If you make a dollar, only spend eighty cents.  If you make fifty cents, only spend forty.  The original Dave Ramsey.  Why do all the girls these days need the new bonnets from France when clean, proper dresses and a ribbon will do?  Girls have no home education these days!  In this book she covers everything from cuts of meat (she would wonder about me and my vegetarianism), to how to make custard, and Indian pudding.  She discusses herbs for cooking and all their medicinal values as well.  A new onion will take the pain out of a wasp sting.  Every housekeeping gem that we housewives- even in the twenty-first century- could ever need are in this book.  She would tisk-tisk me for sure.  But in this time and age, I am not too bad.  But there is always room for improvement.  A simple, frugal life is a life of peace.

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The gents installing the meters for the solar panels on our homestead were surprised at how little electricity we use.  Now it can all be generated from the sun.  When you walk through our gate, past the Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign, you will find yourself in a large yard.  Under snow, it looks ordinary, but this spring you will find dozens, upon dozens, and dozens of medicinal and culinary herbs.  This year, enough produce growing to last us eight+ months.

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When you come in there is a wood stove and nice wood floors that are easy to clean.  Plants and aloes and seed starts fill my home.  We read by candlelight and oil lamps.  Twinkly lights are the electric lights.  Piles of books to read, board games, and a tuned piano supply entertainment. We rarely watch television.  In the warmer months we will sit on the porch or go for a walk, all free things.  And blessed time together.

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In the kitchen, home cooked meals are made.  I am finally getting used to not cooking for  all the children.  Just me and Pa and some left for the puppy.  Our root cellar is dwindling but there are still over a hundred jars of produce put up.  There are fresh eggs from the coop.  Cups of herb tea steaming on the counter.

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You will almost always find me in an apron.  They are so practical and keep my long skirts clean.  I make all of our own medicine, prepare our meals, create much of what we need.  I can sew a quilt, make our own soap, brew some meade, put up green beans, bake sourdough bread, make antibiotics, save seeds, use the library, ride my bike, and if I make fifty cents then I shall save ten!  More likely five cents, but we’ll get there.

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Such a good life indeed.

Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)

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We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation.  You can paint your life however you wish.  We were desperately trying to manifest more income.  On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life.  Usually it’s more income.  Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job.  Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money.  I realized we have been spending more money!

Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it?  There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks.  When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead.  Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning.  I learned to make cheese.  I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer.  (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer.  Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.)  I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.

Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader.  Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it.  I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max.  My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal!  Debt is our jailor.

But it’s not just about money.  Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things.  Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own.  Same with cleaning products.  I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal.  Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer.  It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.

I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step.  Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place!  Free knowledge!  I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink.  As things run out I make the homemade version.  Her book is inspiring.  I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash).  I could have written this book four years ago.  I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track.  I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes.  She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.

We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self.  It’s good for the soul.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?

 

Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (now available on Amazon!)

Homestead 101 Cover

I never guessed back in 2012 what this would become.  I set out to chronicle our adventures in homesteading.  To create a template and how-to that we wish we had.  We weren’t able to find information on how to farm high altitude, or how to bottle feed a goat, or how to do any of the hundreds of things we did by trial and error on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.

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Those years on the homestead were some of the best times of our lives.  Re-reading the manuscript was like reading about an old friend.  I laughed and recollected.  I finished the book with a smile.  As if I had read it for the first time.

Our Lady of the Goats

This book is priceless, I tell you, it has everything a new homesteader could possibly need to get started on their journey.  Organic gardening, high altitude farming, canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, freezing produce, back yard chickens, bottle feeding goats, taking care of ducks, candle making, soap making, herbal remedies, recipes, homemade gifts….goodness, the list goes on.  The textbook we needed, but in a humorous storytelling method.

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I am so excited to see this book in print!  It is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/152077494X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

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Wishing you many blessings on your homesteading journey.  See you ’round the farm!

DIY and the Three R’s

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Homesteaders old and new must be so busy we had to find acronyms for everything!  DIY-Do It Yourself.  So, when our friend, Ingrid, said to look up videos on YouTube to see how to fix the fridge, we wondered why we didn’t think of that!  We are homesteaders after all!

Armed with a drill and some online videos, Doug set to work.  Back panel off, fought the shelving unit, removed the ice maker, tried to get the inside panel off.  I went and did yoga in the living room.  Too much for me.  Then I got the phone number for an appliance repair.  Here’s where the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse comes in!  We got ourselves a refurbished fridge.  It’s ugly as sin, shorter than me, and needs a paint job (can you paint refrigerators?), but it will do the trick.  They will take ours, fix it, and resell it.  We keep a small business busy, kept a fridge out of the landfill, saved money, and Thursday we will have cold food.  All in a day’s work!  We didn’t need new.  Just a little thinking through.

The Job to Make a Dream

After our farm dream temporarily came to a halt (which ended up being a very good thing as gigantic windmills were installed across the street looming over the farm, the propane tank accidentally blew up, and the distance and dream were just not quite right…hind sight…a very good thing indeed.  Sometimes we have to be assisted out of the wrong path and placed in the right path rather forcefully) Doug dutifully went back to work as I opened the shop so that we could get back on our feet.  There were no IT jobs to be had at the time and the company that returned his call and interviewed him was at a large corporate coffee shop.  He had experience working at our local coffee shop and it seemed a perfect job for him.  However living on just a bit over minimum wage was proving to be frustrating for the work involved.  He wasn’t happy.

A few weeks ago my cousin was rounding up our old pool team to start in the spring and Doug got on the phone with one of those friends, who I believe Doug has known since birth as their dads have played cards together for some odd fifty years.  He owns an IT company.  He has been wanting Doug to work for him forever but we couldn’t get a hold of him last year and he didn’t know what had happened with us, and the timing just wasn’t right.  Doug promised his company six months.  It is now six months, his notice is in, and Doug will be working back in the field he really knows and thrives in.

He will be making a decent wage and the dream of buying our own farm (the size of said farm…urban or rural is still questionable) is back in motion…save, save, save.  I love watching this saga unfold.

 

The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

Once a Farmgirl, Always a Farmgirl

Limbo.  A basement studio apartment graciously rented to us by our friend.  A shop trying to pick up steam.  A man working so hard.  What do we do now?

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We have always had plans.  Dreams.  Goals.  I need a homestead.  I don’t mind if it’s in town or not.  A goat, some chickens, a gardened front yard.  Clothes flicking in the wind on a clothes line.  The windows steamy from canning tomatoes.  Doug’s goal is financial security.  Once and for all.  When we spoke our wedding vows, for richer for poorer, we thought we’d get both!  Done with the poorer, he says.  His dream, his goal, his manifesting is security and to pay a light bill without wondering how to pay for groceries.  Mine is to do the same but in a little homestead.  With lace curtains in the windows, cats by the fire, fresh rolls baking in the oven.  Home sweet home.

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Homestead, here we come.