Sunday, March 30, 2014

End of March Notes

2 more weeks have passed since posting about our expenses, and my overbuy has paid off pretty well so far.  I didn't go shopping at all the week after my last post, but the wife and I shared a gyro from the restaurant next door - $4.35, though I found a dime on the ground just outside so it only cost $4.25.  I went shopping this week and spent $5.90 on a few essentials, including the first jug of milk I've bought since the challenge started.  It expires on may 6th, it seems almost wasteful to even buy something with such a short shelf life.  I did buy whole milk so that it would keep a little longer.  There is still a bit of sour cream and a whole lot of cheese I bought week 1, and it is all still fine. This brings our total spent to $274.03 out of $302.78, with 4 more shopping Thursdays to go.  I might spend $9.53 for the next 3 weeks and then try to 'power through' that final week on what we have left instead of $7.18 each week.

Why $302.78?  Well, let me mention that when I set my $300 for 3 months goal, I had a second part to that goal.  In addition to spending only $300, I wanted to earn that amount through atypical means.  I had a few ideas to start with - one was selling pierogies I made with challenge funds.  Another was gathering discarded things left at auctions or thrown in their dumpsters.  The third was patrolling the streets for scrap metal.

On the way to pick up one of our workers a few weeks ago I saw a stove on the curb. When he got in the car I told him if it was there when we went past again we'd go get the van and grab it.  It was there, so we swapped vehicles.  By the time we got back it was gone.  A dishwasher was in its place.  I had a parlay with the guys cleaning the house out, which had suffered from a fire recently.  I asked if they had any more appliances and they said they had 2 fridges and a freezer.  I told a friend of ours who scraps a lot and knows a place that takes refrigerators and recovers the freon from them.  Long story short, I found 97 pennies on the front porch, and earned $20 from scrap.  I still have the dishwasher to take to the scrap yard along with a few auction gatherings.

While hanging drywall at my mom's house this week, I spotted a large pile of trash on her street.  The people were still carting stuff out there.  I spied a great looking globe with stand I plan to sell, though I do have to make a small repair part.  It is missing a pin that holds one of the axis in place.I hope to make a big chunk towards the $300 earnings goal.

The 97 pennies combined with the $1.81 my sister gave me on my birthday, which was part of her 'change I found' stash, brings to total to $2.78, the overage I plan to spend per the challenge rules.

2 more notes - Todd came over last weekend with 6 roosters.  He had won 10 chicks at a fair last year and ended up with mostly males.  We spent the afternoon slaughtering and preparing them.  If you want details just ask, I don't mind sharing.  Suffice to say, it was far less gruesome than you'd imagine.  If you've ever gone fishing and actually ate the fish, those creatures probably go through a lot more suffering than Todd's poultry did.  he gave me one for helping him out.

Finally, I sugared another batch of sap from the boxelder.  There was 3 gallons of sap and I yielded 11oz of sugar.  This was a little lower yield than the previous batch but still better than the sugar maples by better than an ounce per gallon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Boxelder Sugaring

Last winter, our building was plagued by bugs.  They look a bit like lightning bugs, oblong and red and black, only they don't glow.  They were EVERYWHERE. Internet research told me they were boxelder bugs, an insect that winters over in buildings (non-destructively, I might add,) and then eat and breed on the female boxelder.
My Internet research also told me that it was related to the maple tree, and that you could sugar it.  But why would you? Sugar maples give the most sugar, everyone knows.  Well I am a curious creature, so I set about to sugaring one of the boxelder trees behind our building.
The insects only breed on the female tree, and last fall Todd and I cut down most of the females behind the building,  There is a male not far from our back door that I decided to tap.
Here is my operation, a bit less elaborate than the Lohman's farm.  I tapped the tree low enough that it was just a little over a 5 gallon bucket.  I tapped it March 15 (as this winter has been brutally cold up until now, for those reading in the future.)  Today is the 21st, and with light snow falling I collected the 2 gallons of sap that accumulated over the last week.  I didn't take any pictures of the boil, it went pretty much the same as previous ones.  You can click on the 'maple sugar' label at the bottom of the post if you want to see those previous posts.

Here is the yield, after about 3 hours of boiling on the stove and finish work in the oven.  The color is lighter, though I cannot say if that is because a smaller volume was boiled down.  The flavor is at least very similar to maple sugar, though I haven't done a side by side comparison yet.  The yield was...drum roll please...8oz of dry sugar!  From 2 gallons of sap!  Sugar maples have produced around 2oz of sugar per gallon in our previous trials, and Karen noted that they had just yielded 29 fl oz from 10 gallons this year.  The bucket is out there collecting sap again. I hope to get another batch done to confirm these early - and promising - results.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Challenge notes, 3/14

Well, I kind of spent a lot this week, the opportunity to get some cheap common goods (soda and chicken) was here.  I hope this will make future store trips smaller, which they need to be, now that I've spent a lot of my budget.  To date we've spent $263.88.  This leaves 6 shopping dates and $36.12 to spend.  That's only $6.02 per week!  As I've said though I stocked up, we have 10 more pounds of chicken and enough soda to last, hopefully, 4 of those 6 weeks.  I still have $1.81 in 'found change' to spend along the way too.

When we did our first challenge it only lasted a week.  It was constant tedious work, but it was only a week so I posted to the blog as much as possible.  The second challenge ran a little over a month.  Work was slow at the time (as it generally is for me in January.)  This challenge runs the length of 3 months.  I find it impossible to post daily, and apparently even weekly, on the current goings on.

What has happened during this challenge is a general lifestyle change.  Instead of going out in the field and grabbing whatever the nearest fast food restaurant or food trailer has to offer, I spend an hour or two the night before cooking in preparation.  I'll make a few pizzas, some cookies, chips, whatever is easy and comes to mind at the time.  Whatever won't be completely disgusting cold, as I am rarely within reach of a microwave.  I leave food and heating instructions behind so that everyone back here is fed too.

Our mechanic has a sign up in his lobby, it goes something like; 'Choose 2: Cheap, Fast, Good.  If it is cheap and fast, it won't be good.  If it is cheap and good, it won't be fast.  If it is fast and good, it won't be cheap.'  I am finding food to fit that analogy.  Everything I am making is cheap.  If it is fast its probably not very good, and if it is good its probably not very fast.  Ramen noodles=fast, not good.  Pierogies=good, not fast.  Tearing chicken legs apart takes FOR-EVER, but the end result is well worth the time invested (way better than eating drumsticks all the time.)

Final thoughts, on Sharon's clean fridge.  I have noticed myself that our refridgerator is much more empty and organized.  It didn't used to matter if the milk went bad, you throw it out on trash day and go get some more.  Now wasting $3 like that seems like a cardinal sin!  I've decided that cheese and sour cream are much better, much more stable sources of dairy anyways.  We still have sour cream and cheese from week 1 that is as fine as the day we bought it.  Beyond that I pay much more attention to what is left over in the fridge and make sure it is added to the meal plan.