Covid 19 Frugal Five

1) I’ve been eating meals on repeat so as to not waste anything. I don’t mind eating the same meal day after day. It’s actually nice not having to think about it.

2) I’ve been using up what I have, since going to the store isn’t an option. Today for lunch I had purple potatoes, broccoli and egg. Random, but it worked! And I didn’t waste those random bits of food.

3) Because I am driving so infrequently, I filled up my tank of gas this week for the first time in 5 weeks. While I typically don’t drive a ton, rarely does a tank last a month.

4) I baked blueberry muffins. My mom’s muffin recipe is amazeballs. And buying a dozen muffins anywhere would certainly cost more than the ingredients I used to make them (including frozen berries I picked last summer)

5) I traded with a friend. I offered up two quarts of chicken stock, plus a quart of chicken soup and half a dozen carrot cake cupcakes. She shared home made gnocchi and scones. It was such a lovely way to show that we care for one another, while still remaining apart. And let me tell you, that human knows what they are doing in the kitchen and I will now need to learn to make gnocchi.

What about you? What have you been up to lately?

The big elephant

Let’s just talk about what’s on all of our minds: the coronavirus which is currently taking over the world. How do we react? How are you handling it?

I’m sure you are following the news like the rest of us. Being bombarded by the media at every moment of the day. And I don’t want to add to your concern, your stress.

So I just want to say to you, we will be ok. We need to be careful, look after the ones we love. Be responsible. Look after your friends and neighbors. Make good decisions. (You probably don’t need 6 cases of toilet paper, but I’m not judging you.)

I know everyone is in a state of mild panic. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. But there are ways to stay connected and help out our communities without causing more concern. Drop off food to a neighbor who may be in need. Take surplus food to your local food bank. Wash your hands. Stay home if you aren’t feeling well. Buy a gift card to your favorite restaurant or boutique so that they could have the funds now, while you could stay away for the time being. We are in this together.

What concerns are on your radar? What are you thinking about this weekend?

Five Frugal Things

  1. Today I took my sweet pup to his follow up oncologist appointment. Though this may not seem frugal in and of itself, but by keeping up on his medication and his blood work I can plan for his medication without any unpleasant surprises. He gets his blood count checked regularly to be sure we are giving him the proper dosage of his medication, ultimately keeping our costs lower.
  2. Yesterday I bought a $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco. First I stripped all the meet off the bones, then I put the bones into the crock pot with some veggies I had hanging around in the freezer. (I keep a bag for any odds and ends like tops of carrots bits of celery and onion, etc.) The stock went into a huge pot and I made chicken soup with the meat. I added some potatoes I already had on hand, as well as some extra veggies. The whole thing cost only the cost of the chicken and made probably 10 to 12 servings of soup. I will freeze most of it for evenings when I’m not feeling like cooking or am under the weather (because no one wants to cook when they’re sick!)
  3. I borrowed a Harry Potter book from a friend/neighbor. I have been re-reading the books and loving every minute of it. My mom has the whole set, so I just swing by every weekend to grab the next one. This week however I was too quick and found myself finished with book 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) without a copy of book 4 (Goblet of Fire). Desperate, I thought of all the possible ways I could get my hand on the book in the next 12 hours. Then I realized that a friend who lives less than a hundred yards away ALSO has all the books. A quick text and he said of course I could borrow his copy. No money spent, and got to have a quick visit with a friend. Win Win!
  4. Speaking of Costco, I bought only exactly what I needed yesterday while I was there: one rotisserie chicken and one 40 pound bag of dog food (this will last my two dogs about a month). Costco has really reasonably priced dog food and it’s gentle on my boys’ sensitive stomachs.
  5. Tomorrow will be my first day in the office in a week (bonus points: working from home means no temptation to eat out or grab coffee because I’m bored) and I have my lunch/snacks packed, iced coffee ready to go in the thermos tomorrow morning. I will be at work from 12-8pm so I have enough food to cover two meals and a few snacks in between. I will have no reason to purchase any food or drinks.

Frugality isn’t necessarily huge things. It’s little things, day after day, that help us achieve other goals in life. What frugal things have you been up to lately?

Charleston, completely unrelated, but ridiculously adorable

How I am choosing to spend Cyber Monday

How was your Thanksgiving everyone? Mine was lovely: quiet, with family, chill. I didn’t have to travel out of town, I didn’t have to cook a whole big meal, so I would say it was a huge success. My mom did cook most of the meal, and I was responsible for the mashed potatoes (that I think I can handle.) It was tasty and fun and nothing major happened. Just the way I like it.

please enjoy this picture of the adorable Charleston, which has absolutely nothing to do with frugality

Skip ahead to black Friday and SHOCKER, I stayed in and addressed holiday cards. I am sure there were deals in abundance out in the world, but I chose to stay in. Even if something is 60% off, that’s still money I don’t need to be spending right now. Just because something is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it.

I, like many people, am working on paying off some pretty hefty bills at the moment (I was in a car accident recently, and my dog had major surgery) so I have lots of bills and not exactly a lot of additional money coming in. So while it would be easy to spend money on things that I don’t need just because they are on sale, I decided to stay home. And the same goes for today, Cyber Monday. I opted to simply go to work. I took the train. I picked up books at the library. I drank the coffee provided at work. I packed my lunch. Nothing terribly exciting. And yet, all things getting me ever so slightly closer to my goal.

I will admit that I spent a decent chunk of change this weekend on a 70th birthday gift for my mother, but it was purely coincidence that it happened the weekend after Thanksgiving. I had been searching for MONTHS for the perfect gift, and it impossible to find the right thing. My brothers and I decided to go in on the gift together, so that we could get her something nicer, that she would really appreciate and wear on a regular basis. So after visiting basically every local jewelry shop in Portland (support small businesses people!) I finally found the right necklace. It suits her personality, her style, and it’s timeless. I think she will love it. And because we split the cost three ways, none of us were really hurting with this purchase.

What about you? Are you going to shop today or stay home?

a follow up

Recently I wrote about how being chronically ill adds a line to my budget and creates cost where there otherwise wouldn’t be. I think I am going to try to view this in another light.

This morning I drove to work. This means tonight I will have to pay $18 to have parked for the day. I do not love this expense, but I am choosing to see it as unavoidable. I don’t park downtown everyday as that would definitely blow my budget. But I am going to make an allowance for an average of a day a week.

Here’s the thing, Crohn’s really doesn’t care if I need to be at work at a given time. I am going to feel crummy/get an upset tummy whenever it damn well decides to. So being able to drive and park myself is a comfort that I need to account for. Not always, but some days it’s just necessary.

Today was one of those days. I had drive the past two days to work because of doctor’s appointments and not feeling well due to a delayed reaction to my iron infusion. So I bit the bullet and just drove to work. Could I have survived the train ride? Probably. But did I want to risk an incident on public transportation when I really wasn’t feeling well? Definitely not. So I drove. And I paid to park. And I’ll do it again tonight.

It’s annoying but necessary. It is definitely NOT frugal. However, as someone with a chronic illness, there is really no way around it. I will continue to do my best and take the train to work as many days as possible. Some weeks I manage to take it every single day. Some weeks it’s just not going to happen, and this was one of those weeks.

So instead of beating myself up over it, I decided to account for it in my budget. That way, I know it’s coming, and I know I will have the money for it.

These little changes can go a long way towards a budget and goals. If I take into account that I may need to spend $18 a week or so on parking, I will be mindful of that extra spending and account for it elsewhere. It’s not perfect, but it’s what will work for me. Living with this illness is a constant struggle and learning curve. I am working on figuring out what is best for me, and this is just another piece of the puzzle.

These flowers have nothing to do with this post, but we could all use more flowers.

Reading: my favorite frugal activity

My dad will tell you that I am the most well read individual he knows. Personally I highly doubt this to be true. But I will admit to being a voracious reader. I have a list of to-read books a mile long, and a stack next to my bed to match. I read at lunch, before bed, on public transit. I read every single day.

I like to read books recommended by friends or family, I read books mentioned in blogs or news articles, books by favorite authors, or simply books I happen upon. So ya, I read A LOT.

Most of the books I read come from the library. I update my “books on hold” list weekly, so that I have a constant supply of books available to me. Sometimes I have to wait months for a book I want to come in, but that’s part of the fun! It means I get to randomly read the new one by Murakami (one of my favorite authors) when I happen to be in picking up another book on my list.

You’ll see from the photo above it’s a “Lucky Day!” selection. These are books that typically have a waiting list a mile long. The library keeps a small number of them available so if you happen to be lucky and get to the library the day it’s available, you can check it out without the long wait! Needless to say I was VERY excited about this one.

There are still of course a few books I will always buy. Murakami tends to fall into that category. However, the last book of his to come out I was less than impressed with sadly. So I wanted to read it first to determine if I was willing to shell out the hefty price of a new hardback book. Even if I waited until it was out in paperback, it’s still close to 800 pages, so I knew it wouldn’t come cheap.

Any who, back to the library. For someone who reads as much as I do, it is a total game changer. I average anywhere from one to three books a week. Even buying used that would be a minimum of $5 a week, times 52 weeks a year. That’s a minimum of $260 a year. Even though that isn’t a huge expense, it certainly would impact anyone’s budget. If I bought a new hardback book weekly, they average close to $20! $1,040 a year! I definitely could put that money to good use elsewhere.

So I turn to the library. Our library system has branches all over town, including one just a few blocks from my parents’ house. I use this opportunity weekly to pick up my books and spend an hour or so catching up with my family. More often than not, my mom and I end up on the porch reading (I got it from my mama). And it is truly one of the best parts of my week. Sometimes I’ll also have it so that I can pick a book up from the location on my train route to work. It allows me to pick them up on my commute without having to drive anywhere. I call that a definitely win-win.

Reading calms me, centers me, reminds me of all the things that are good in this world. It allows me an escape from daily life and shows me all that life CAN be. The fact that I can get books for FREE from the library is one of my very favorite things in the world. And it happens to be super frugal to boot!

So tell me, read anything good lately?

Is it possible to be frugal with a chronic illness?

I have not always been practically frugal. I was definitely that kid who earned ten bucks and had spent it within the hour. Lip gloss, hair clips, you name it. I was not so great at saving up for something big. But I got better with practice, as is most things. I saved up for my spending money on a trip to Spain with classmates. Each summer in college I worked a full time job so I could have money during the year to eat out and buy clothes. But it takes practice.

I paint this picture as a way of saying that I’m not so great at being frugal. I have to really try and think about my actions, and try hard to see the big picture.

While I truly enjoy cooking at home and making meals from scratch, sometimes I just don’t plan well (as was the case yesterday when I left the house for an early doctor’s appointment before work, totally forgetting to take ANY food with me. I was away from home until 9pm). This meant that I had to pick up lunch AND dinner out if I had any interest in actually eating for the day. Oops. If I had really thought about it I would have packed double the food the night before so all I should have had to do was grab my lunch bag. But alas, that’s now how it went. And I ended up spending about $18 on food yesterday. Ugh.

All this brings me to my question: can you be frugal with a chronic illness? A chronic illness in and of itself is not frugal. Even with insurance, doctor’s visits, medication (over the counter and prescription), therapists for the inevitable feelings of isolation and depression, special diet, it all adds up, and fast!

This is not to say there aren’t ways to be frugal while living with chronic illness, but I certainly think it’s more difficult and takes additional planning.

Let’s take food, for instance. I have a very finicky diet and can’t eat a lot of things. This means I have to stick to a strict shopping list. And if I don’t have those foods on hand, I am far more likely to order out for something I can eat. Granted, this usually means I am ordering plain noodles, rice or soup. But this still comes with a delivery fee if nothing else. So that adds up. And if i’m out with friends I need to remember to take my own food with me lest I end up buying food out simply because I can’t find something to eat wherever we are.

Many people with chronic illness find themselves home more often than their “healthy” counter parts. We may earn less simply because we can’t put in as many hours at work. So we are at a disadvantage to begin with.

Let’s also take into consideration last minute doctor’s appointments. I may run out the door to get to an appointment and realize my dogs are going to be left unattended now for 12 hours. So I’ll hop on an app and have to pay someone to walk my dogs during the day. (My roommate and I are on opposite schedules so that theoretically the dogs are only crated for about 4 hours a day.) Or I get to work only to realize that what I packed to eat that day simply isn’t going to work for my tummy that day (Crohnies, you know what I’m talking about). So I need to figure something else out. The frugal solution would be to keep rice and other shelf stable items in my desk. But honestly, I just forget sometimes!

Here’s the thing, I’m not perfect. No one is perfect. But I think there are definite barriers for those of us with chronic illnesses that make frugality even more challenging. I have friends with Celiac disease who struggle with their food budget because gluten free can be a challenge in today’s highly processed world. Even if they were to buy solely fresh produce, that adds up quickly!

Most importantly, let’s not judge anyone simply for not being “frugal enough” for some random standard. We are all trying our best to keep ourselves fed and healthy, and doing so as frugally as possible.

Exactly how much I spent on my new (foster) kitty

As you may or may not know, I love my cat of 21 years about two weeks ago. He was sincerely the love of my life, so to say I have been devastated is an understatement.

Some people handle such situations by saying they’ll never have another animal again. The pain is too much and they can’t imagine going through it again. I on the other hand, feel that having another animal in my home honors George in a very special way.

He gave me so much love and will always hold a special place in my heart. He would also want me to do that for another homeless kitty. So this brings me to WPC (Witness Protection Cat).

I worked for the ASPCA for 3 wonderful years. Our team rescued animals from all over the country. Animals who had been left behind, abandoned, and abused. They often come from backgrounds that leave them nervous, fearful, or untrusting of humans. So this leaves us with the special opportunity to foster. To show them that people really aren’t so scary.

So when the opportunity came for me to foster one of the rescued critters, I immediately said yes. I can’t tell you anything about them, just now that I am over the moon.

It also gives us the opportunity to look at what it really costs to bring a new animal into your home. So let’s break it down:

  • Litter box $17.99
  • Medium bag of food $21
  • Litter scoop $2.49
  • Cat bed $17
  • Assorted toys $25 total (this will undoubtedly go up once I figure out what they like best)
  • Scratching post $49
  • Feliway $15 (calming pheramones)

I already had litter, food and water bowls, a dish mat, and some treats. And I can of course get new things as needed. I got a new little box because kitties notoriously don’t like to share their boxes, so it needed to be fresh and new. My previous cat never liked beds so I didn’t have any, same goes for scratching posts. And toys, well, every foster kitty deserves some new toys.

This kitty will come with their own meds so I don’t need to purchase flea/tick medication yet. They will also be entirely indoors. Apparently they are harness trained so maybe there will be walks in our future, but I kind of doubt it! I’m too much of a worrier.

This is far from a comprehensive list of necessities. Most new critters require a vet visit, immunizations, and many other expenses. Mine is already vaccinated as well as being already altered. He sees a vet regularly, and will see one the day he travels to me.

Fostering an animal is an incredible opportunity, for you and the animal. And whether or not you intend to make it permanent, it will surely have a lasting impact on your life, as well as the animal’s. Consider fostering an animal in your community. It will give them a new chance at life, teach them about kindness again. Or perhaps it will allow them to recover from a procedure that might be difficult in a shelter setting.

I have had many fosters through my doors over the course of my life. Each one of them changed me for the better. It broke my heart each time I sent one of them off to be adopted, however it was a great pleasure to be broken for such a cause.

I can’t wait to meet our new friend tomorrow. When I can, I will share appropriate details.

Thoughts on a new job

I started a new job three weeks ago. I am helping people navigate the healthcare system and get the care they need.

I am bored to tears.

This is not the job I signed up for.

You see, animal welfare is HARD. It has a tendency to take the best of us and chew us up, then spit us out. Shells of our former selves. Tired and emotionally drained we look for a steady paycheck that won’t kill our souls. But I will wanted to help my community. That’s how I find myself on the third floor of a major healthcare company based here in Portland, surrounded by perfectly lovely people, bored to tears.

It’s one of those cool, fancy companies that has a fancy salad bar in the lobby, kombucha on tap, shuffle board on every floor, giant Jenga. It’s a beautiful building, clean working spaces, everyone seems to be friendly and kind. And yet, I feel like I don’t fit in. That I may never fit here.

When I get stressed out, I am used to going into the next room and curling up on the floor with a cat to calm my nerves. I am used to having an office dog. So, understandably, I feel a little out of sorts here. Not just because there aren’t critters running about the office, but that what we are doing has NOTHING to do with animals. And what I am doing is quite frankly dull. I am not cut out to be a concierge service (which is basically what we are doing).

See, I thought taking a job that I was simply ok with would be good for my mental state. I fear I was way off the mark. Not only is it not stimulating, but it’s boring! It isn’t something that I care about. And though I’m trying to find the joy, I just don’t know how I can continue to do this long-term.

Something I need to keep reminding myself, is that this is only temporary. It’s a 3 month contract. When that’s up we will discuss the potential for hiring me on full time with the company. Nothing is set in stone.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

I want to love my work. I have spent 15 years loving at least SOME part of my job. Loving my coworkers, our mission, the animals. The idea of doing a job simply for a paycheck is completely foreign to me. I am doing the job to the best of my ability, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m moving any mountains. I’m stuck. I am struggling.

I want to make a difference and change the world. It doesn’t have to be big and loud or in your face. I honestly prefer to fly under the radar. But I still want to DO something.

So where does this leave me? I’m not entirely sure honestly. I will continue to show up on time, do my job to the best of my ability, and just TRY. I will try to do what I can do be a positive in my community. I will do what I can. And I will receive a paycheck. A paycheck that will pay my rent, and for my dog food and groceries. And I will keep an eye out for something that will truly fulfill me. Because not everything is meant to last forever, and not every job is going to be your dream job. Sometimes, you just gotta do it.

Vegan Fried Rice

Ya’ll, this is way easier than you think. And came together with ingredients I had on hand. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight, but I didn’t want to do anything fancy, and I had a few ingredients in my fridge I wanted to use up.

Here’s what you will need:

  • extra firm tofu
  • frozen veggies
  • rice (can be a few days old or fresh, I used two cups uncooked and made fresh rice as there was none in the fridge already cooked
  • soy sauce, turmeric, salt and pepper, sesame oil, garlic powder, vegan butter or oil

First you have to mash up the block of tofu. I used a fork to break it into pieces, then used a potato masher to really get the job done. Think little tiny pieces. I dusted it with turmeric, salt and pepper and garlic powder, and mixed it all up. This makes the tofu LOOK like egg (that matters to some people) but doesn’t do a whole lot in regards to the taste.

Next, add the vegan butter to the pan along side the tofu. You want to give the tofu a few minutes to brown up in some spots. Move the tofu to one side of the pan and add the rice. Toss in any frozen or fresh veggies you want.

Next I added a SMALL drizzle of sesame oil (it has a strong taste so you really don’t need much) and a hearty addition of soy sauce. Mix it all up and let it sit while cooking for a few minutes, stir up and let sit again. This will allow little bits to get browned and yummy.

That’s literally it. It was so easy. And so stinking tasty. It makes enough to have a few meals now and store some in the freezer for another night when I don’t feel cooking. (I kinda got lax about making freezer dinners this winter. Normally by now my chest freezer is full of soups and stews and other things so that I don’t have to make them during the warm summer months. This year it looks like I’ll need to keep batch cooking thorough the spring to fill my freezer to where I’d like it to be.)