The Price We Pay

Today, we had to make a trip to Tyler (about 30 minutes to our north) in the morning, so we decided to head on over to the IHOP for some breakfast.  I had already decided I wanted nothing with eggs, since there is absolutely no flavor in store bought eggs when compared to those we have here on the farm, so then I cracked open the menu and nearly passed out.  I solemnly swear I remember the 2 egg breakfast (used to be the cheapest thing) being  between 3-4 dollars.  It was almost 7 bucks!!! NOTHING was under 6.99, with one exception being 3 pancakes for 5.50!  My God!  It’s no wonder people go broke when they eat out all of the time.  I can go to my local cafe of choice and get coffee and an egg, toast, and meat for about 3 bucks.  I immediately lost my appetite and Jason didn’t want to order anything at all, so I decided to split a Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity breakfast with him for 6.99.  Our bill came to 14 bucks!!!!  FOURTEEN DOLLARS FOR BREAKFAST….ACK!!!  Well, I did not realize that the coffee was TWO WHOLE DOLLARS a cup, either.  Geez!  While this may not sound like much to some, being the Frugal McDougals that we have become, it was rather astronomical for a meal that I think should probably not be any more than ten bucks at the MOST.  I was looking around me, and the place was busy.  In the booth next to us, there was a woman and a young boy and I can guarantee you that they didn’t get out of there for any less than 25 dollars, judging by the items on their plate.  Jason was just commenting to me how IHOP’s breakfast is absolutely no comparison to what we cook here.

  If you do not cook your own meals, there’s never a better time to start than now, may I add.  Even if you aren’t a great cook, the Good Lord did provide us with Crock Pots, which could turn ordinary shoe leather into tenderloin, I am fairly certain.  I have been doing a LOT of baking/cooking lately, since I read about a cooking method called once a month cooking.  Essentially, you set a date, and cook/prepare a month’s worth of food. I did start small, making only breakfasts for the moment, because that is the meal that we are usually in a rush with.  I made muffins, pancakes, and breakfast burritos, all of which were frozen and can be ready to eat after a minute in the microwave.  I have been lurking on this site:  Once A Month Moms, which I find to be informative and FREE, and they have monthly menus in spreadsheet format.  Anyway, it’s something to think about!  I can tell you that this month, we spent about 80 dollars on eating out, which is more than I should have spent.  I hope to cut that way back with my prepared meals.

On my anti-debt kick, I would just like to say that it is not the easiest thing to try and stick to a budget, BY ANY MEANS.  I totaled up this month and found that I had spent WAAAAAY too much on Halloween crap that I don’t really need and WAAAAAY too much on clothes (I only buy at Goodwill, but still….) and miscellaneous crap.  It is a little heartwrenching to see that I overspent my month by about 75 bucks with money that I didn’t HAVE to spend.  I think the best thing/punishment is to tighten up my belt for next month (and the next, and the next) and make a vow to myself to not buy junk I do not need.  Christmas is coming up soon, too, and we have already decided that the grandparents can do the toy gifts.  My kids have too much, as do most kids, and in fact, I will be paring down their toy department really soon.  I either read or heard something the other day talking about children, and I can only paraphrase, but it was something about how it is not about the things that we give to them, but rather the time that we share with them that is the most important thing.  Kids are only kids for so long, after all.  We don’t have very much time to spend with them when they are small!  So, rather than go out and buy 500 dollars worth of junk for Christmas, I am looking forward to spending time with my family. As a side note, I simply don’t have the funds for all of that useless stuff anyway!  May I also say that since we have become the Frugal family, I do shop at Goodwill for my clothes (happily, they have GREAT music in there!), I do not choose whole dinners @ restaurants (almost always eat a la carte), and I avoid WalMart like the plague, or, H1N1, if you will.  I knew I had won over Jason with my frugalness when:  he hid a Chicken Express receipt from me because he figured I’d gripe at him about the price, and, one day when we went to Chili’s he refused to order anything because he said it was all too expensive.  I was a nice wife, though, and gave him my salad! Needless to say, we have not been back to Chili’s, and if he’s been back to Chicken Express, he must’ve figured out a better way to rid himself of the receipt!

So, we are coming into a new month tomorrow, my budget slate is clean, and I promise to do better!  I try to envision myself in two or three years when I will have the majority of my debts paid….that is always a great stimulus for me to stick with my plan. NO MORE PAYMENTS!!!  There is never a better time to start paying off debts than today! 

In farm life, we did stop by a feed store today to get some winter veggies (cabbages/onions/cauliflower), and the guy at the counter had the personality of a potted plant, I swear.  I am Chatty Cathy, just trying to strike up conversation about my chickens and my garden and I got shot down like three times.  He kind of acknowledged my presence and that was about it.  Very irritating to a Libran woman.  He must’ve been a Virgo. (sorry to Matt) I dunno.  I guess I was too intimidating!

And, nothing much else.  I am trying to come up with a good farm name so I can begin to think about marketing my jelly/produce/eggs.  I want to start designing labels, too.  Or, at least give it some preliminary thought. 

Well, off to bed for me!

The County Fair

Last Friday, we took the girls to the East Texas State Fair.  I have to admit I have not been there in more than 10 years or more, and I have never been during the day.  At night, the fair gets a lot ‘seedier’, if you will, in terms of the population, and since we don’t ride the rides anyway, we went in the morning.  We got to see a baby chicken hatch, quilts and handmade items, mostly bad art (lol), and lots of canned goods.  They also had a fruit and vegetable show and I am fairly sure I could have won in the okra division, had I entered.  Anyway, I had to have a fair corny dog, which was pretty good.  We also had some homemade root beer.  We went through the exhibitor’s booths and surprisingly, I didn’t pick up much of anything (I did get a free gun lock and a pen), because there were so few people that I would have had to They had a children’s show called the Ag Magic Show, which was funny and informative.  Naturally, even though my oldest was called upon twice as a volunteer (there were only about 7 kids in the crowd since it was early), she buried her head in the carpet and pretty much remained in a fetal position until she was sure no one was looking at her any more. 

Anyway, then we made our way to the Ag Barn, where the cattle show was taking place, and so we went up and down, down and up, and up and down again, the rows and rows of heifers and steers.  I was carrying my youngest and did not see a huge bucket of water on the walkway and somehow, by the grace of God, managed not to fall butt over teacups on the sidewalk.  I had about 5 little teenagers ask if I was OK, which in fact, I was NOT, because I fairly well bruised both shins in the accident, but fortunately did not do a face plant on the concrete, or better yet, a pile of cow poo.  But, you just can’t put such things past me.  So as we were traversing through the Treacherous Land of the Cows while juggling two weary and cranky children, I did notice that times sure have changed!  The girls (all high school) all wore the tightest and flashiest clothes I think I’ve ever seen.  It’s not that they didn’t look good, but they just looked so….suggestive!  Skin tight layered shirts and skin tight pants with rhinestone cocho belts!  Back in the day, at worst, we broke out with a ‘keyhole’ brushpopper type affair (now only to be found in only the most dedicated barflies) and our Rocky Mountain jeans, which, looking back, were the most hideously designed pants EVER.  Ok, maybe the exception would be the pleated-front, acid washed, TAPERED pants (shudder).  Anyway, with all of the evil in the world, I sure wouldn’t want to be advertising, if you will, to the wrong person.

So, all in all, we did have a really good time, even with the girls getting cranky towards the end.

Hello, Fall! I missed you…

Well, in keeping with true fall weather, we are drizzly/rainy and SIXTY degrees here at 10pm!  So, probably gonna drop in the mid-fifties tonight.  Yippee!  Soon as I’m done here, I’m off to brew up some hot cocoa (possibly)  I should have already been in bed by now…

Well, we had a chicken loss today, apparently.  Our neighbor called to tell us that one of our new hens wandered into their yard, and their dogs killed it.  Of course, that’s my own fault for letting them free-range today, so I am not really upset over it…plus, she was not laying yet, so at least I didn’t lose a layer.  In good news, I got 2 new white Silkies (LOVE them!), one barred rock and 4 new Rhode Island Red hens!  I need some serious laying birds..I can’t keep eggs in stock.

In other farm news….getting ready to plant some lettuce and broccoli.  Also time for cabbage and some other stuff!  We really need to finish up the beds here in the next few weeks, too.  We are putting a brick pathway in from each door through the garden; YEA!!!  I have no idea why there were no pathways to the house’s front doors; you had to walk through grass and sand and dew, etc. and then all of that promptly ends up in the house.  Beats me.  Oh well, that is being solved as we speak. 

I’m not really in a chatty mood tonight.  It’s probably because I’m tired and I know I have to get up early tomorrow. (I dread getting out of bed)  I’m also not in a very humorous mood, either, so I’m sorry that my last few posts are drags.  Well, off to bed for me now.  I will try to cheer up and think of something for next time!

Just around the corner…

Wow, and to think last time I wrote to y’all, days were in the 100 degree mark and HUMID.  Today, it’s misty and 72 degrees!  So, now we know fall is just around the corner.  This is my other favorite time of year, other than spring.  I always love the transitional times of the year the most.  The leaves are now beginning to turn; the sassafras is putting on its flame red foliage.  We should have a beautiful autumn this year for two reasons; we have received over a week of rain, and the fall’s first cool front is due next week, which is atypically early for us.  I’m excited!  Well, I may not be so excited when we are experiencing an extremely cold winter, but for now…

We have had a LOT going on in the past month, mainly illnesses in my little farm family.  Our youngest developed mesenteric lymphadenitis after a bout with gastroenteritis, and I have been on and off ill with a cold (flu? allergies?) for over a week now.  I do have much more energy now,  but I think that with all of this rain, I am reacting to the mold levels.  In other news, we adopted 2 kittens, a brother and a sister, about 3 weeks ago.  They are brother and sister, named Mr. Bobo and Ashley.  Aren’t kittens just about the cutest thing to watch?  Fran loves to chase them down and chew on their heads, but it’s all in good jest.

We also bought 2 white Plymouth Rock hens and we were graciously given 4 18 month old Leghorn hens, who are still laying big, white eggs.  I am planning on buying some MORE chickens very soon.  I also want to get some more Cayuga ducks.  The duck eggs are WONDERFUL.  I know most people balk at the mention of eating duck eggs, but I am telling you that the flavor and richness are unsurpassed by chicken eggs.  They do not taste “eggy”; it is a very complex and delicious taste.  Of course, our chicken eggs are also delicious.  There is NO comparison between ‘grocery store’ eggs and eggs from hens that are allowed a more natural diet.  I have the pictures to prove it!  Unfortunately, my camera is angry with my computer and refuses to share pictures with it, but I will get them on here ASAP. 

The newest additions are 4 guineas that I picked up at the feed store (and one that was hand-delivered…thanks, Rachel!). They are so funny to watch when they see a bug.  I told Jason it was like watching a pit bull in a chick suit.  They are extremely focused on movement and I have the feeling when I let them in my garden in a few weeks that they will do a great job of snapping up my pests. 

Well, Jason finally finished a log splitter that he built out of spare parts at his shop.  We already have about a 3/4 of a cord of wood from a fallen hickory in our woods.  It sure makes short work of chopping wood!  I can’t wait for more of our fireplace cookin’! 

I can’t believe we have already been here almost a year.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!  Still a LOT to do here…but we’re whipping things into shape slowly.  The kitchen garden is ever-expanding and Jason finished several of the raised beds.  Now I just need to fill them with compost.  It’s also time for me to plant my winter garden.  I did plant some winter squash, beans, and cucumbers. I am still harvesting lots of okra, tomatoes (Brandywines from spring), and tons of cherry tomatoes.  Oh, and I do finally have peppers, lol.  I didn’t do so great with my peppers this year.  I’m not sure what happened there, but with the cooler temps and tons of rain, they are finally ‘makin'”.

I have also been putting up LOTS of muscadine and scuppernong grape jelly.  We picked 32 pounds of muscadines at a farm, and I am slowly working on turning them into delicious jelly!  I hope that soon myself and my MIL will get together (with our new food processors….NO MORE CHOPPING) and put up some more tomatoes/tomato products.  You just can’t beat homegrown flavor…no doubt about it! I also got a lot of figs last month, and I’m planning on doing a strawberry-fig jam.  I do have to wonder how many people in my age group can things?  Hmmmm….I’m willing to  bet not many.  What a shame.  Here’s a great LINK for making muscadine jelly, juice, or jam.

Today’s favorite thing:

Well, I am still on a budgeting kick!  I had to update my ‘cash flow’ form last night and wanted to share this form with you.  The idea is that NO dollar is unaccounted for.  It is fairly self-explanatory, but it is also great to have the book, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, which is currently on sale for under 10 dollars.  Download this FORM.  It is in PDF format.  I use this form every month, and I also use 2 envelopes.  One holds my receipts for anything that comes out of my checking account, and one holds receipts for anything that I pay cash for (that is NOT deducted out of my checking account).  So, at the end of the month, I have a paper trail, and also keep up with where my cash goes.  I NEVER have to ask myself, “Where did my money go?” because I KNOW.  It is so liberating, trust me. This is a system that works wonders for me.  I have been doing this since May 18th of this year.  If you are in debt, I URGE (and beg and plead for) you to try this system and find freedom for yourself!!!!

Well, that is all that I have for today, plus my entire right arm is aching for some reason!   :0)