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September 24, 2010

Well, I must apologize for lacking both a CSA meal plan post and a Food Waste Friday post.  I’ve been thrown for a major loop with nausea and some serious food aversions.  Right now, I am trying to figure out a plan that results in my family being fed, our food not being wasted, and me not tossing my cookies.

I think it will involve lots of leftovers for my husband and some really simple items at home during the day for me.  Complex flavors are just not doing it for me.

The tricky part is my son.  He’s at a stage where he wants to eat exactly what I’m eating.  How do I convince a sixteen month old to eat his fruit and vegetables when I’m sitting down with saltines and ginger ale?  I guess I have to start waiting until nap time to eat.

Well, I’m going to go lay down and think on this.  Hopefully, I’ll have a plan by the weekend.


Spicy Northern Cornbread.

September 22, 2010

I’m on a sort of unofficial mission to bake my way through Baking Illustrated.  So far I’ve been almost exclusively focused on the quick bread chapter and the spicy cornbread was no exception.  I went out and bought new cornmeal and put my red peppers to use.

I’ve roasted large sweet peppers before but never small spicy peppers.  The process was exactly the same.  I placed the peppers under the broiler until they started to char.  Then placed the hot peppers in a paper bag for twenty minutes.  This made the skin of the pepper easy to slide off.

Once they were skinned, I sliced them in half and removed the seeds.  Then it was just a matter of chopping them all up.  The finished product was quite small and I found myself wondering if it would really lend anything to the bread.

I mixed up my wet and dry ingredients.  When I was folding the batter to combine them, I added the chopped peppers halfway through.

Then it was just a matter of pouring the batter into a buttered baking dish.  The recipe called for a metal pan but my kitchen arsenal does not include a pan of that size.  Oh well.

When I took the cornbread out of the oven, it seemed relatively normal.  You could barely see the peppers.  But the taste?  Mildly spicy if you had a bite with no direct piece of pepper.  With the pepper, oh boy, there was a kick.  It caught my husband off guard.

It was light and fluffy and packed a punch.  We didn’t even put any butter on it.  I picked out the pieces of pepper and my fifteen month old enjoyed it, too.  We even had some left over to go with lunch the next day.

It was something different that’s for sure.  Given that I love both spicy food and bread, I enjoyed this opportunity to combine both and use up some of my peppers.  Now I can’t wait to try out the Southern Cornbread which is supposed to be much denser and richer, which is what I think of when I think cornbread.

Big News!

September 21, 2010

Well, it’s been confirmed, I have some very big news.

I’m pregnant with baby #2!  My chubster is going to be a big brother.  It’s still early, I’m still in my first trimester.  I just couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone.

I’ve been diligently saving my firstborn’s baby items.  I have clothes and blankets washed, folded and sorted by size in plastic bins in the basement.  The swing and bassinet are disassembled and stored safely away.

The only thing that needs to be replaced is the infant car seat/carrier.  Ours was a hand-me-down and by the time my son outgrew it, there were beginning to be signs of stress in the plastic.  Since we’ll only need to purchase this one item for our new baby, I’m looking forward to shopping for it.  Maybe I can find a great deal.

I must admit, I’m a little bit nervous about what this first trimester will mean for my frugal endeavors.  Last time, I had round-the-clock nausea that caused me to lose eight pounds.  I had strange food aversions that changed minute by minute.  In my fourth month of pregnancy, the doctor finally put me on medication to ease my suffering.  I hope that this time around, I’m a bit less useless.

At least I know that this baby will be born into a debt-free household.  And if I find that the only thing that sounds appealing is a cheeseburger and a big bag of pluots & gummi bears, we can make room in the budget.

No matter how it goes, something tells me that life is about to get just a little bit crazier.

45 Tactics to Save Money

September 20, 2010

Having recently paid off all of our consumer debt, I’ve been thinking about all the things we’ve done to save money and pay off our debt.  I thought I’d share a list of the first 45 things that come to mind.

  1. Cancel cable.
  2. Set a budget.
  3. Stop drinking bottled water.
  4. Learn to change motor oil at home.
  5. Clean with reusable cotton rags.
  6. Make my own household cleansers.
  7. Join a CSA.
  8. Purchase split quarter of beef.
  9. Switch to a bank with a higher interest rate.
  10. Purchased used clothing.
  11. Use a hand-me-down high chair.
  12. Grow food in the backyard.
  13. Program the thermostat.
  14. Sell off losing investments.
  15. Mend broken clothing.
  16. Pump gas in the morning.
  17. Pay insurance premiums annually.
  18. Negotiate a lower internet bill.
  19. Utilize the employee stock purchase program.
  20. Make my own baby wipes.
  21. Use cloth diapers.
  22. Water down store-bought detergents.
  23. Clip and print coupons.
  24. Use the debt snowball.
  25. Switch to free computer virus protection.
  26. Track every penny spent.
  27. Spend less than we earn.
  28. Switch to CFL bulbs.
  29. Keep car tires properly inflated.
  30. Borrow books from the library.
  31. Sell off old collectibles.
  32. Participate in Food Waste Fridays.
  33. Fill the gas tank at Costco.
  34. Reduce the household trash output.
  35. Apply every spare penny toward debt.
  36. Purchase pet’s flea medicine in bulk.
  37. Cancel Netflix.
  38. Cancel gym subscription.
  39. Make handmade gifts.
  40. Drive used vehicles.
  41. Make yogurt from scratch.
  42. Implement the one-in one-out rule.
  43. Bake bread from scratch.
  44. Purchase non-perishables in bulk.
  45. Tackle household repairs by hand.

Some of these things honestly did mean rather small savings.  Yet, combined they really added to our momentum.

Now that we’ve paid off our consumer debt, I’m hoping that we can keep our nose to the grindstone and start getting rid of our mortgage debt, too.  Hopefully, I’ll keep learning new and interesting ways to save money and keep sharing them along the way.

Food Waste Friday: A Pantry Item.

September 17, 2010

Well, I have a first since I started participating in Food Waste Friday.  A pantry item!

Remember that spicy cornbread I kept mentioning?  Well, I went to make it earlier this week.  I was reading through Baking Illustrated and they mentioned that cornmeal can spoil rather quickly.  Not good, considering I could not for the life of me remember how old my cornmeal was.

I poured some into the sink and examined it.  It seemed fine.  So I started measuring out ingredients.  I poured a cup of cornmeal into my mixing bowl and… ick!  There was a meal worm in my mixing bowl.  Gross!

So the whole box of cornmeal went into the garbage.  I suppose I could’ve looked into composting it, but it didn’t cross my mind at that point.  Unfortunately, I also wasted the flour that I had already poured into the mixing bowl and the two tablespoons of butter I had melted for use in the recipe.

Oh well, lesson learned.  I have to start keeping a better eye on my pantry as well!

CSA and Dinner Menu

September 16, 2010

I made it through week one of my new grocery routine!  And to top it all off, I only needed to purchase $20 worth of groceries on top of my CSA box.  I definitely feel encouraged to keep going.  Let’s look at this week’s bounty.

Apologies for the sloppy pile, my son and I were both starving when I brought these home.  In fact, I think leftovers were in the microwave as I frantically snapped a shot and stored these away.

Anyway, this week we have red leaf lettuce, red beets, cauliflower, carrots, parsley, summer squash, padron peppers, tomatoes and strawberries.  I was relieved to read that padron peppers are actually sweet, not spicy.  It seems rather convenient to have these small, seedless sweet peppers.

I have a couple of challenges this week.  Not only to use up all my veggies, but to start plowing through my freezer too.  My deep freeze is mostly empty in anticipation of the split quarter of beef I will soon be receiving.  The refrigerator freezer is another story.  It’s the kind of full where if you open it, things fall out.  Not good.

I’m hoping to use up some bread, fish, chicken and tomato puree from the freezer this week.

Thursday: Beans with Pesto Bulgur.  Side of roasted beet slices in mustard cream sauce.

Saturday: Pork and Veggie BBQ Skewers. Uses padron peppers & summer squash (plus store-bought onions, mushrooms and pineapple).

Sunday: Marinated Swordfish.  Side of steamed cauliflower and quinoa.

Monday: French Bread Pizza.  Side of buttered beet greens

Tue & Wed: Spicy Chicken Rice Bake.  Makes great leftovers because the rice & veggies taste better the second day.

Hopefully I can work some baking into the week as well.  I’m purchasing some buttermilk just so I have to motivation to use it up.  Maybe I’ll finally get to make that spicy corn bread that I was supposed to bake last week.  My red peppers are begging to be used.

We’re Debt Free!

September 15, 2010

It’s official, we have paid off our second mortgage!!!  Since January, we have paid down our second mortgage from $74,000 to zero.  With that, we have officially paid off $108,000 in consumer debt.  And we did it all in 18 months.

When we purchased our home, we put 5% down and took out two loans.  A first mortgage for 80% of the home price and our second mortgage was for the remaining 15%.  It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to purchase a home with so little down, but we were young.  Truth be told, our home was an impulse buy.

It doesn’t feel real yet.  When we first sat down and took an honest look at our debt load, it seemed like we had an impossible task ahead of us.  How could we possibly pay off this $108,000 worth of debt?

It took a ton of work.  We had to set a budget that balanced down to zero.  We had to mercilessly cut expenses.  And we had to apply every spare penny toward our debt.

We’re now down to just one mortgage, but the work doesn’t end here.  Our house is still under water by about $80,000.  Fortunately, between paying off the second mortgage and signing away the rental, we’ve freed up an extra $1150 per month.  We’re going to go the debt snowball route and use this money to pay down the first mortgage.

I’m going to let this sink in for a few days.  I’ll try to acclimate to the feeling of only owing on a single mortgage.  When we first sat down to figure out our budget, we were in the red, spending more than we were earning.  Now we are saving nearly 50% of our household’s net earnings.

I thought that paying off all of our debt would make me ecstatic with glee, but truth be told this feels more like relief.  It’s as though I’ve been holding my breath for the past year and a half and now I finally have the chance to breathe.  Exhale.  Wow, that feels good.