Life has been filled with change these days. Life coming, life going. We took on a little pup that wasn’t wanted and later that week I put my cat to rest. I didn’t think I’d be so sad but I did mourn her for a couple days, still haven’t disposed of her kitty dishes and haven’t been as motivated to feed the strays out in the front yard. Life slowed down for two days and bugs gathered in the water bowl on the porch where she used to hang out.
Then we have this new little life, Molly. She is a part dachshund and who knows what else, blond and small and all yumminess. We adore her, the boys play with her every day and haven’t tired of her yet. Sam loves holding her in his arms, it’s all he ever wanted. Arjan takes her out to the garden. The three of them can spend hours outside digging and playing. She chases them, they chase her and everyone sleeps well at night.
I know that it was destiny we should have her. We have been bestowed with so many blessings since folding her into our family. The first blessing was getting an appointment at the SPCA the next morning to spay and vaccinate instead of the usual two month wait. The next gift was when a secret fairy godmother (or father) sent us a $300 Winco card. It is some generous soul from my YouTube channel community, but they never put a name or address. Then the last gift to date was a big box of Starbucks coffee that arrived yesterday. About five bags of wonderful caffeine elixir which will ensure my survival.
We just started a summer of no spending (no extra spending beyond the mortgage, utilities, and food) so Bali could quit his second job but we could still save money. I had just started an envelope in my dresser drawer for extra cash and had just enough to fix and vaccinate little Molly. The Winco card enabled me to do my monthly groceries so I could use this cash. What a delightful thing!
So, I was so very grateful for the card and used it as wisely as I could. I used all the tricks and learned tips I could pull from my frugal files and made that card stretch till it could be stretched no more.
Besides a few extras like a little dog bed for $8 dollars, dog chews and three dog toys (we all got to choose something for the new furry child), the money was all spent on bulk and frozen foods. I loaded up on all the bulk foods and seasonings that I use for scratch cooking, organic and grass-fed meats, and frozen vegetables that we can’t grow. I now have a full pantry and freezer and groceries for the month.
The trick to making the grocery budget stretch is scratch cooking. Plain and simple. Very few convenience foods are cheap (boxed mac and cheese is one off the top of my head). I have been thumbing through my Complete Tightwad Gazette and am reminded of this with all the math Amy Dyczycn does with comparing packaged vs. homemade. Buying in bulk isn’t always cheaper so you have to price that out. I love bulk. I have bulk ranch dressing mix that turned out delicious and a cheese sauce powder we will try soon. We even ground our own peanut butter and I noticed that grinding it there was cheaper than buying peanuts in bulk and grinding at home. I do all my seasoning in bulk so I don’t buy too much and have it go old on me.
I also stay in the produce and meat aisle. I rarely venture into other aisles except for tomato sauce.
The other trick is to become a master gardener. I have two kitchen gardens as most of you know. Last year I had lots of foliage and little to eat. Even my zucchini was a flop. But it takes a good two to three years to get a garden producing well. It takes years and years for fruit trees. Start now and learn all you can from gardening books, YouTube Channels like The Indian Gardener, Nancy and Hollis’ Homestead, Growing Your Greens, The Rusted Gardener and many more. Find a horse farm and see about free manure, get to the coffee houses and ask for buckets of grounds, and start a compost pile off to the corner of your backyard.
It isn’t until you start gardening that you really learn what the heck you are doing.
We are enjoying potatoes and onions this year, tons of zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I just harvested my mustard greens and spinach and replanted with kale and corn. I’m not buying much produce and just creating dishes around what my gardens are giving me.
This weekend we may take our first trip to the U Pick part of Davis Ranch and load up on produce for .30 cents a pound. This is where I will get enough tomatoes to can with and corn, pickling cucumbers, and a few watermelons to gorge ourselves on these hot days. Watermelon is known as “living water” it is so filled with nutrients and so hydrating.
Off I go now to shower after an early morning of pruning and harvesting my tomato plants and watering the corn patch. I’ll be making a delicious pot of Simply Sara’s Kitchen Minestrone for our brunch and throw in a batch of ingredient in the bread maker so we have fresh french bread to compliment the meal.
I’ll also be making some granola from page 27 in The Complete Tightwad Gazette.
I spend many hours in the kitchen these days with all the cooking, trying new recipes, washing dishes and sweeping the floor. With the radio and my homemade lattes, this is my happy place.