Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free of Credit Card Debt as of Today

As of today, March 3, 2011, we have paid off all credit card debt and closed the accounts.  We are free from credit card debt, and the feeling of freedom is still sinking in.  It has been so long, almost a decade, of oppressive credit card debt and interest.  Never again.

You do not need credit cards.  A debit card can do anything a credit card can.  You can save up money in an emergency fund and have a debit card associated with that account for emergencies. 

And now, to unleash all the money that went to credit card payments onto the student loan.  There's no way I'm going to volunteer interest payments to the government!

This is all still just sinking in, but it still feels incredible!

Friday, February 4, 2011

One Chicken, Three Meals- Chicken Soup

Meal #2- Chicken Soup

It is undeniable and beyond contestation: one of the best things for a cold is a hot bowl of nourishing, homemade chicken soup.  A week and a half ago, I roasted a chicken.  When we were done with that juicy bird and roasted veggies, I carved off the remaining meat and picked the carcass clean.  I put all the remaining meat in the freezer.  The carcass, on the other hand, had more cooking left to do.

I put the carcass and the contents of the bag of organs that were removed before roasting the chicken in a stock pot and filled the pot with about a gallon (16 cups) of filtered water.  Next, a 1/4 cup of white vinegar goes in to draw out the minerals from the bones.  The water was brought to a boil, then dropped to a simmer.  Any bits and pieces or foamy scum that floated to the surface was skimmed off and discarded. Once that was removed, my vegetables and seasonings went in.  

Each batch of stock is a little different, depending on what I have on hand that day. This time, it was an onion (quartered), 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 5-6 black peppercorns,3-4 cloves of garlic (smashed), two teaspoons salt, 2 bay leaves, a teaspoon each of sage and thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  I let the stock simmer on the stove all day for a total of 12 hours. It was left to cool off, then strained and stored in the refrigerator.  I took about half of the left over chicken out of the freezer and put it to defrost in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.  The next morning, the fat had risen to the top of the stock.  I skimmed the fat off and used it to cook potatoes (home fries) with breakfast.

The nicely-gelled, de-fatted chicken stock went back onto the stove top. In went a 1/2 cup of brown basmati rice.  I really don't care for brown rice, but this is pretty good- very similar texture to white rice.  I sliced up three carrots, two celery stalks, and chopped the defrosted chicken.  It all went into the pot with a tablespoon of parsley.

And here is a nice, hot cup of soup.  Perfect to chase away the common (if ever so stubborn) cold.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just a Phone Call

What happens when you are under the weather, coughing, achy, you have no strength for anything (cooking, cleaning, crafting- all too much), and you still need to do at least one thing to make your life better during the course of your day?  Pick up the phone and call your elected officials or a government agency about something important to you.

I know- it doesn't feel like they ever listen.  But silence is like giving your tacit approval; giving consent through non-objection.  Today, I called the USDA to voice my opinion about their decision to deregulate Monsanto's Round Up Ready alfalfa.

In a nutshell, this seed is guaranteed to increase the use of pesticides, specifically Monsanto's Round Up.  It is also guaranteed to contaminate all alfalfa in the surrounding area.  Alfalfa is a cover crop, and a food source for cows used in producing organic dairy.  This decision effectively makes true, non-GMO organic dairy and organic beef a thing of the past.  Consumer choice is eliminated by allowing this seed to infect US alfalfa through pollination.  There are no long-term safety studies to indicate how this will effect humans and livestock or the environment. In essence, we have been turned into lab rats and subjected to an experiment without the opportunity for informed consent.  For a more detailed analysis of the dangers of GMO seed, please click here.

Safe food is crucial to our health and ultimate survival.  I called the USDA and let them know what I think about this. I also told them that I would contact the dairies in my area to find out where they stand on this and whether or not they will use this frankenseed.  Those that do, I will name them and let my local area know about it and the potential dangers of it. 

And my second good deed for the day is passing the word on to you all and asking you to do the same thing.  Not bad for being stuck at home with a bronchial infection! Don't let a sick day keep you from doing something towards creating a better life for you and future generations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Chicken, Three Meals

Whew- it's after midnight and I'm only now getting a break to post!

A whole chicken can be stretched over three meals for two adults and one child:
  • a roasted chicken (crockpot chicken in the summer) 
  • chicken soup (also done in a crockpot is the summer)
  • chicken pot pie or chicken salad
With our schedule, our big meal of the day is lunch.  Early this morning (1/20/11), I roasted a chicken for lunch.  I reserved the organs and neck for later, and rinsed and pat dry the chicken. The next step was to loosen the skin over the breasts, and I stuffed garlic cloves under the skin.  I sliced a lemon and stuffed the two halves into the cavity of the chicken with a few more garlic cloves.  The chicken went on a rack (I use the one from my toaster oven- perfect size for a chicken) breast side up, and then I sprinkled salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano onto the bird. Carrots, potatoes, and onions went into the roasting pan surrounding the bird.  375 degrees and two hours later, this is the delicious result:

After we ate our fill of the bird and the roasted veggies, then I removed all the remaining meat off of the bones.  The carcass, skin, the organs and neck that were reserved earlier, and pan drippings went into the stock pot with a tablespoon of vinegar to help extract the minerals from the bones, and then I filled the pot with filtered water.  It was set on the stove to simmer all day to make chicken stock.  It has been strained into containers and put into the refrigerator.  Tomorrow, I'll skim the fat off, reheat the stock, reserve two cups of stock for a pot pie, and add more a few more ingredients to make chicken soup.  The fat that rises to the top and is skimmed off the stock

Now, if you can raise your own chickens and grow your own vegetables and herbs, all the better. However, if you don't live somewhere that allows you to raise chickens, the next best option is to get them from someone local.  After that, the next best option that I've seen is to get chickens raised without hormones or antibiotics from a wholesale club (please avoid paying retail whenever possible- your just wasting money you do not have to spend).  Our wholesale club sells a two-pack of hormone and antibiotic free chickens for approximately $8.  If you can grow your own veggies and herbs, than the only cost for the roasted chicken dinner would be the chicken for $4 (half of the two-pack). 

Now, with two chickens, I can feed my husband, son, and myself six meals each week for an average of $5/meal- and that's if I buy everything from the store and had nothing in my pantry.  Otherwise, it works out to closer to $3 per meal for all three of us.  Now that is frugality at it's finest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect, But I'm Not Quite There Yet

Today was another day with the spinning wheel.  Today saw more spinning and less "figuring".  I ended up pulling the first attempt at wheel spinning off of the bobbin and starting all over again.  Something about seeing that lumpy, bumpy, twisty mess just irked me a little too much to leave it be.  I've placed an order for a book on spinning, "Spinning for Softness and Speed" by Paula Simmons.  It has been recommended to me twice now, and soon it will be part of my library.  In the meantime, I have a book on tablet weaving to read.

As I promised yesterday, here is a picture of my wheel.

And here is a picture of my beginner spinning efforts from today.  

It looks very similar to my first attempts with a drop spindle. Over time, it will get more even.  For now, it's not too pretty.  

Tomorrow, I've got some cooking to do. Frugality rules, and a simple chicken can easily be stretched over three meals.  I will post recipes and pictures.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spinning with a Wheel

Hello again!  Welcome to the first post of 2011.

A few weeks back, a very special Yule gift made its way to our home- a spinning wheel. While I had finally been getting the hang of spinning with a drop spindle, in order to reach our self-sufficiency goals, I will need the increased productivity that you can only get from a wheel.  The model I got is a Kromski Minstrel, a castle-style wheel and perfect for folks like me with limited floor space.   I was very surprised at just how little room this wheel requires, and it is a beautiful piece to look at.

My husband was kind enough to put the wheel together for me.  Gotta love a handy guy!  A free lesson does come with the wheel, but it has been rescheduled a couple of times now due to winter weather, and now I have another week and a half to wait.  Regardless, I've been playing with it, testing out the different mechanisms, trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing, attempting to trouble-shoot my own stumbling blocks, and even getting a good stride here and there.  Thanks to the Fiber-Arts Gods for Facebook and Ravelry which provided me several social connections far more knowledgeable about spinning than I do!  And a special thanks to the many kind folks who have given their time to make YouTube videos demonstrating spinning with a wheel. 

Tomorrow, I'll post a few pictures showing the wheel and my very beginner attempts at spinning yarn with a wheel.