Mary Beth Writes

1. Update: Only giving and receiving food items with our (adult) kids on Christmas was as fun as anything.  ( Receiving MY OWN PERSONAL BUTTERSCOTCH PIE was astounding!  In order to enjoy my whole pie without dying of Adult Onset Gluttony, I have made a pie chart (hah) which is on the counter next to the fridge. I am enjoying one piece of pie per day, which means I should be done next Monday. This is a crazy gift and I love it. 

The cutest gift of the morning was probably the one her uncle and new aunt gave our family’s one-year old. The theme was food so they bought her two plastic decanters of puffed lightly-fruited unsweetened cereal. Puffs are her favorite food - because she can feed herself with her chubby little hands. She knew exactly what was in those decanters and smiled so big and grabbed for them when her mom handed them to her. That was a really good Christmas Day moment. Our newest Foodie.

2. Len and I had canned apple pie filling from 30 lbs of Granny Smith apples. We gave the kids quarts of this and we still have several quarts left. Canning is a not hard but is a fair amount of work. Since all of our kids (and us, too) are city people living in small apartments and houses – we don’t have extra freezers. Canning is a handy way to have inexpensive fruit and veggies on hand for pies - or apple crisp - or in oatmeal - or yogurt. 

3.  Our grocery store receipts tell us we can get $.10 off per gallon of gas at certain stories. We are trying to pay more attention to using those points.

4. Baby, its cold outside.  We keep the house at one temp, with afghans on the furniture. In our office we use the electric oil-filled radiator.  (We are working on remembering to turn it off when we leave the office). It’s super comfortable in here.  And I am laughing because spell-check really wants me to say we are keeping Afghans on our couches.

5. We have many leftovers as well as those food and wine gifts. I made a not-complete list of time-sensitive things in the fridge so we know to eat them first.  Example; for lunch I just ate a stalk of raw broccoli and a slice of butterscotch pie.  

As much as we could, we put things in the small freezer under the fridge. It’s crowded, so that is not always easy, we had to unpack and reorganize the freezer. But since it is small, that’s a do-able project. And then I made another not-complete list of freezer things to jog our memory when one of us whines, “What shall we have for dinner?”  Now I can briskly reply, “We are going to have cranberries, mushed bananas, and lamb broth!” (Not really - we are pretty good cooks. And I see the looming banana cranberry bread in there, do you?)

Half of a red pepper, scallions, and some other vegetables were hiding in the fridge. I rescued, chopped, and then put them in our freezer bag of scallions and freezer bag of chopped peppers.  I acknowledge this seems awfully small, but I have enough time to notice and deal with it, so I do.  When we cook something new, we use already chopped things from those bags, which is convenient.

6. I read in some other blog that the writer has decided to buy no food items in plastic bags this year. Plastic bags are immediate trash; buried where they will never decompose or dumped in the ocean, which seems even worse. 

I see this guy’s response as logical. If we want to pass on a good earth to the next generations – what is our individual responsibility now? 

This is what I decided. I will buy bigger quantities of veggies, when possible; so 3 lbs. of carrots in a bag instead of one, or two lbs. of frozen veggies instead of one. (This is generally cheaper, too.) That’s slightly less plastic. I WILL reuse those flimsy plastic bags one grabs at the store. I can certainly take them back and use them several times. I know Farmer Markets are good, but not convenient if that’s the morning of the week when one is driving out of town to visit kids or friends.  And driving 20 miles to a Wednesday Farmer’s Market is not a good solution.

I will make more donations to environmental organizations - and try to motivate myself to read some of the (too many) emails they send back to you, once you give them $!

I guess what I am saying is that I will pay more attention to the plastic trash generated by me. Recycling is good. Not using it at all is better.

7. We think we can feed ourselves in January without buying any groceries other than dairy and some fresh fruit. We have so much really food around here.  Mindful Chickens or Lucky Ducks.

Mindful Chickens? We are frugal so that our retirement savings will last as long as we do. At the same time we try to consume responsibly so that our choices have the least negative impact on our fellow humans and on our earth and its creatures.  Cheep, Cheap!



Things like charitywatch are good for national organizations, but they don't have the resources to check out local groups. Like a local church, a political candidate whom you know*, or local conservation group. I'm throwing something at the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, because I know them. That's good, too. (*Of course, political contributions are not charities and they're not tax deductible, but if you don't itemize you probably can't deduct charitable contributions, anyway, and they might still reflect your values.)

That's a new one!

Enjoyed hearing all about your Christmas gifts. Laughed at the butterscotch pie. I do not have the self restraint you do. That pie would be gone in a week. Laughed again at ur lunch of broccoli and pie. You make me think. That is good. I definitely could be more frugal.

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Mindful Chickens 2/24/2018

1.  We did it!  We called, explained what we thought we needed to do, made appts, were home for the appts, rec’d the estimates about - fixing the gutters and getting the house painted.  I think one of the reasons we usually do it ourselves is because this process is so daunting and time consuming.

The gutter guy is coming next week; we are looking forward to no rivulets when it pours. 100-year old houses built on non-waterproofed rubble foundations, like George Washington, cannot lie about what’s happening outside your basement walls.

Mindful Chickens - The Snickerdoodle Edition

1. When we were sick in January (with flu and cold) Len used the CVS card that I had signed up for last year and then barely used.  He bought several OTC medicines plus a cool-mist vaporizer using that card, which saved us 20%. That was helpful.

2. While I was under the weather I signed up for Starz in order to binge-watch an Outlander season.  After I watched TV for two days I canceled the subscription, thus paying nothing.  This is the third year I have done this.  Why do they let me do this??

Frugal Stuff/ Flu edition 1/22/2018

1. I donated blood Friday morning. This is a free mini-checkup every two months; they take your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and check your hemoglobin levels (iron). They send your blood to be checked for various diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika.

DO NOT donate blood in order to determine if you have a disease or not. If you think you might be ill, go to a doctor or clinic and deal with it. 

But, if you (like me) need an extra reason to be generous, the screening to give blood is not a bad perk.

Two Piquant Recipes, No Waiting

This is not a recipe blog. You may sometimes wonder what kind of blog this is, but I bet you have figured out we’re not here to cook. Still, sometimes I come across amazing recipes and today I want to share two of them,by referring you to the sites where I found them.

How do I find these sites, you ask? 

Simple. Google the name of two or three ingredients you would like to use up. This takes you to recipes that use those foods; you decide if you want to try them.

Health Insurance when you are laid off

Pals, I was reading letters at a website I look at often. A woman wrote that her 62-year old husband had been unexpectedly laid-off from his job. She said she didn't know where to begin to think about health insurance (and a lot more).  I talked to Len.  Man, we have been here.
This is what Len wrote. This answer is too long to post on someone else's website so we are sharing it here. 
Says Len:
You are in a difficult situation.

Mindful Chickens - Frugal Stuff 1/11/2018

1. We bought a car!! We bought our (former) 2006 Mercury Milan and 2004 Ford Ranger around 2006-2007.  Len is a very good vehicle dad – they lasted this long. The truck is still reliably chugging along; we sold it to a neighbor. However it became apparent a few weeks ago that the Milan could no longer take care of itself. Sigh. 

We talked about what kind of car we wanted in the past few weeks. Len did on-line research, finding cars we might like to try.  We decided we would spend part of two days test-driving these several makes of cars.

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