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Container Gardening Successes and Failures

August 25th, 2016 at 09:02 pm

It's no secret that I am NOT a gardening whiz.
It's also no secret that I believe in focusing on both the big AND small things when it comes to my personal finances. Here's an update on a small thing - my attempts at container gardening.

The soil in my yard will NOT grow veggies. To amend the soil or build raised garden beds is, for me with my brown thumb and gardening laziness, an absurd thought.

In the spring I planted 4 items in containers. 2 were dismal failures. The containers were not nearly big enough to grow daikon (what was I thinking?) and the cherry tomato plants yielded only a handful of fruit.
But, the sweet basil starter plants have been a success (still yielding). My biggest success by far was green onions grown from seed. DH & I have been enjoying piles of fresh green onions, and I only planted half of the packet. Since we live in a hot climate (Texas), I will plant the second half of the packet in a week or two for fall / early winter harvesting.

Next spring I'll plant green onions again (they are so expensive at the grocery store and have proven so easy to grow - definitely worth it), and will try basil from seed instead of from starter plants so that I can (hopefully) get a lot more. I'll probably experiment and try one other item as well.I'm going to look through my "Healthy Mind Cookbook" to come up with some ideas. I want it to be something easy to grow in containers, expensive to buy in stores, and beneficial. Something that I can get 2 plantings out of would be nice too. Hey! Maybe I'll even try something new this fall. Why not?

I'm open to suggestions if anyone reading this has any.

45-cent-plus Breakfast of Champions

January 3rd, 2016 at 04:19 pm

This morning I made myself an open face sandwich: 1 slice of whole wheat bread + organic cheddar cheese + 1 sliced small avocado. 12-cents for the bread (regular price, store brand) + 0-cents for the cheese (had a cash register coupon for free cheese) + 33-cents for the avocado (they were on ad at 3/$1).

I had coffee with milk as well but am not able to calculate the cost of that very easily. I'm definitely under $1 even with the electricity & water costs for prep and cleanup.

Now that I am fueled up, I am going to start on my year-end and year-to-year review. I'm just getting around to it today because on the 1st we hit the Dillard's New Year's Day sale followed by 2 parties (with potluck prep for 1 of those parties), and yesterday I was job hunting and emotionally needed to just chill in the evening.

I'll check in later when the numbers have all been checked and run.

Gourmet Dinner Today

August 18th, 2015 at 11:44 pm

I splurged at the grocery store yesterday and purchased 2 prepared hatch chile salmon patties from the seafood case ($5 for 2). We will have those for dinner tonight with homemade cream of vegetable soup which contains five different vegetables including leeks, also a splurge at $2.97 a bunch!

The soup will last for several days, and is supposed to be good cold.





DIY Landscaping

March 14th, 2015 at 09:43 pm

Instead of hiring someone to re-landscape our yard, we are taking the DIY approach. This weekend we are cleaning out the backyard bed, pushing it out a bit (to reduce the amount of grass, something I really want to do to reduce our water consumption), and creating a border using free bricks left over from our home's construction. Next we'll put in a few low plants (or annuals or perennials, we haven't decided yet but there will definitely be some milkweed for the monarch butterflies) in the pushed out area and spread mulch.

Grapefruit Season

March 3rd, 2015 at 01:44 am

DH bought a 15-lb bag of Texas red grapefruit for $3.98 today. I love grapefruit season in Texas!

What are the current seasonal deals in your neck of the woods?

Lazy Lunch for Less Than $1.50

February 14th, 2015 at 08:24 pm

DH is out of town, which means lots of salads & sandwiches for me. I like them, and I LOVE the fact that they result in little cleanup work.

When he leaves, I buy a 6-pack of romaine hearts and other salad fixings (other veggies, tuna, dressing, etc) so that I know I can always throw together a quick salad even when I come home from work tired and not wanting to cook.

Today's lunch was salad (romaine heart + tomato + yogurt caesar dressing) plus a whole grain bread round with margarine & a nice dollop of Sarabeth's.

No protein (except for the teeny amount in the yogurt dressing) because I had a salmon patty for breakfast, I'll grab a handful of raw almonds for an afternoon snack, and I'll probably have sardines for dinner.

As you can see, I'm not a big meal planner other than to make sure I have things on hand that fit with my lazy home "cook" (or perhaps I should say little or NO cook) mindset.

Eating economical and healthy foods at home can be done without much work and with just a bit of advance planning, even if cooking is not your "thing"!

Home Cooking and Color

January 27th, 2015 at 12:56 am

Recently there was a post by a newer SA member who is trying to do more home cooking. It included some comments made by her children about the appearance of the food. Some of you suggested that adding fruits or veggies are a great way to brighten up a dish. I decided to post these photos of our dinner tonight as a form of encouragement to her.

There are a lot of gourmet cooks on this site (Lucky Robin, ceejay, Disney Steve, and Brooklyn Girl come immediately to mind.) I am NOT like them!

I have stated many times that I am a "lazy cook." I can do a big blow out fancy meal occasionally when the mood strikes me or I feel obligated, and I do know how to handle a knife and follow a recipe, but really I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.

But we eat at home all the time. (Thank goodness DH likes to cook.) In the last month, we went out to eat exactly once.

I decided to share some photos to show how a bit of color can perk up a dish prepared by a lazy, non-gourmet home cook like me.

This is one of our favorite winter dishes, called nikujaga. It's braised meat and potatoes with other veggies (in this case onions, carrots, and edamame ... the recipe I use calls for green peas but I had an open bag of edamame in the freezer I wanted to use up).

3 photos:
1. straight out of the pot
2. picked out the carrots & edamame (to show it without color), which messed up the bowl
3. sprinkled the carrots & edamame back on top (bowl is still messed up but it shows what it would look like with even more orange & green, or if the veggies were used as a garnish on top of a bland colored dish).

Doesn't a bit of color make a difference? Not only does it improve the nutrition of the dish, I think it looks so much more appetizing.

So, there you have it. Adding a bit of color to your home cooking, even if you're far from being a master chef, really can make a difference.

Don't give up on your efforts to cook at home!








Black Friday

November 29th, 2014 at 03:31 am

We got our Target gift cards at a 10% discount this morning. Smile

I thought that would be our only Black Friday shopping but DH went to Dick's and purchased a dozen golf balls for $5. Excellent deal on something he buys regularly! These balls aren't one of his preferred brands, but he'll save them for times when the odds of losing a ball to a water hazard is high.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014 at 02:21 am

Garlic bulbs have been roasted.
Cornbread has been baked.
Rice is cooking.

Tomorrow I'll prepare quick buttermilk whole wheat bread, Low Country Stuffing, and succotash and then we'll head over to the neighbors for dinner. I'm going to teach their son how to make homemade butter (shake whipping cream in a jar), and will take their sweet dog for a walk after dinner.

I have a big service project I'm working on that I hope to wrap up by the end of the day on Saturday. (I'll spend most of the day Friday & Saturday working on that, in addition to a couple hours tonight and tomorrow.)

I'll get up early on Friday to get the Target Black Friday gift cards, but that is the only shopping I plan to do.

Life is good.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Halloween Sure is Fun

November 1st, 2014 at 05:44 pm

We potlucked out on the sidewalk with neighbors. That has become an annual tradition. It's low-key with good but not fancy food, so no one spends any more than they normally would for dinner, and we really have fun.

I spent $22 on treats. We had about 120 kids come by. There is nothing left over. I ate exactly ONE treat. Big Grin



Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam (Book Review)

August 9th, 2014 at 09:32 pm

"Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School" by Andrew Hallam (2011)

This is an EXCELLENT beginner personal finance and investing book, written by a private school teacher who built a million dollar investment portfolio on a teacher's salary. His advice is down to earth and sensible (spend less than you earn, start investing early, invest in low-fee index funds, resist the sales pitches from financial planner salespeople, etc.) What I especially liked was the way concepts were explained intelligently, clearly (in plain English), and with humor. He uses an analogy that compares the stock market to a dog on a leash that helped me understand stocks even more clearly than before. Of special note for our non-American friends is a chapter devoted to investing if you live in Canada, Singapore, or Australia. This is my new favorite basic PF book. I wish my niece were old enough to read it, but at 13 she's probably still a little young. Big Grin

To give you some idea of just how credible this book is:
- The blurbs on the book jacket recommending the book include those written by Burton Malkiel, Scott Burns, William Bernstein, etc.
- The authors he quotes in his book include Thomas Stanley, John Bogle, Larry Swedroe, Burton Malkiel, Daniel Solin, etc.
He's in pretty good company.

This book is worth a read (check your local library, which is where I got the copy I read over 2 days) and would make an excellent gift for a college student or grad.

Scheduled a Weekend "Salon" Appointment

March 22nd, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Me: "Will you trim my hair this weekend?"
DH: "Sure!"

"Salon" appointment has been scheduled!

And this morning we went to the "gym" (dropped him off at the driving range and I took a 50-min walk along along a lovely tree-lined street while he hit golf balls) and then went to a couple "entertainment megaplexes" (the public library where we read the paper and I got some DVDs, and then to a meet & greet to visit some adoptable dogs).

Such a lovely, low-key yet fun & frugal start to the weekend. Perfect after a rather hectic week at work (busy season has begun).

I have never been able to understand when people say that they want to save but not at the expense of enjoying life now. I say it's possible to do both!

Green Onion Re-Growing Success

March 3rd, 2014 at 04:55 pm

I took another stab at re-growing green onions in a cup with water after reading the information again and figuring out what I had done wrong the first time. My mistake was treating them too delicately,like herbs (cutting off a green stalk here & there).

Instead, what I needed to do was just whack the entire thing off near the top of the white portion, and then place the root end in a cup with a bit of water. Voila - regrowth starts right away.

Where we live green onions are 68-cents a bunch which I think is really expensive for something that yields just a handful of garnish. Yes, they are tasty and have nutritional value, and there are some dishes (like noodle soup) that they really elevate, but you can get much more nutritional bang for your buck buying other veggies so we very rarely bought them. Now they are back on the menu! As you can see, all the space you need is enough for a glass or two. We decided to go with 2 bunches so we'd always have plenty grown out on hand.



P.S. - I've heard that they lose flavor after a couple re-growths, but still this is a way to stretch a bunch 2-3 times over.