I’ve always been
cheap frugal, but my frugality ebbs and flows with my mood, our finances and the needs of my family. I don’t buy myself new clothes except for the occasional pair of tights, knee-highs or other derby wear. We’ve been driving the same used car for as long as I can remember. We buy in bulk and make our own as often as possible.We shop resale.
Despite my cheap ways, it seems like we never get ahead. Over the past 19 years, hubby and I have accrued debt. Mortgage debt, student debt and unfortunately, credit card debt. We’ve been working on paying things down, but life happens. Three years ago hubby got down-sized. He was unemployed for four months before he finally got a job cooking at the restaurant he left to work construction. The pay cut was significant. He’s had raises since, but he’s still not up to his construction salary and his hours fluctuate based on business. As a school teacher, I make a decent salary. My health insurance is very good and I get time off in the summer. This isn’t a rant about all the things teachers do in their “time off” or the current politics of education, so I’ll spare you the details, but my salary has been frozen for several years while the costs of my healthcare and retirement have gone up. I’m taking home less now than I was three years ago.
So, with costs rising and our salaries stagnant, what do we do?
I’m working on some extra sources of income but I don’t have enough time for a steady part-time job during the school-year. I’m trying to find ways to get paid to do what I love. Along with the required continuing education I have to take to maintain my teaching certification, I’ve started learning new computer skills so that I can try some technology jobs from home. My etsy site is going to have some new items soon including some hand-knit & crocheted baby hats. None of these things will make me wealthy, but maybe they can make ends meet.
In the meantime, it’s time to tighten the belts again. We’re turning the heat down some more and wearing more layers. I’ve gone back to planning a menu for the week so that we’re not frantic at dinner time buying something to cook. We’re eating out of the freezer instead of filling it. We have a deposit on a whole hog from Quartz Farm to save money on our meat and we’re still raising rabbits. We’re trying new recipes, and eating lots of soup. Homemade soup is a super cost-effective way to eat. I can use up all the leftovers in the fridge along with a low-cost grain like rice, barley or pasta and make a healthy, cost-effective meal for my family. Tonight we had white bean and sausage with a side of cornbread.
Have you ever heard the story of Stone Soup? It’s an old folk story in which hungry strangers persuade local people of a town to give them food. If you check most any soup recipe, you’ll find that it starts with stock. Homemade stock isn’t exactly like Stone Soup, but basically you start with nothing, add a bunch of stuff you were going to throw away anyway and cook it util it’s useful. Stock doesn’t cost that much, but at $2 a quart, it adds up. Especially if you’re having soup more than once or twice a week. If you’re making a gallon of soup a week, homemade stock can save you $4 or more a week. We’ve been making our own for years and we’re pretty efficient at it. Sometimes we make ham stock, but most often we make chicken stock. I keep a few old five-quart ice cream pails kicking around the cupboard for storage. Whenever we cook chicken, we put the bones into a pail and keep them in the freezer until we get two-or three full pails. Usually, we cook whole chickens, and add the carcasses and all the drippings to the bucket but when we have chicken pieces, Mr. Hippie bones the chicken before it’s cooked and those bones go into the bucket as well. When I’m being really frugal, I save the ends of carrots, onions and celery in a freezer container too. Onion skins add a really nice color to your stocks.
- 2-3 pails of chicken bones, saved in the freezer for as long as it takes you to collect that many bones.
- 2 carrots, or an equivalent volume of carrot ends and peels saved from whatever other carrot dishes you have prepared recently.
- The leafy parts of a head of celery along with any ends you want to trim off and throw in.
- An onion or the tops, bottoms and skins of several onions.
- Parsley stems or some fresh thyme if you have some handy.
Add all the bones and vegetable scraps to a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer all day or overnight.
Once the stock has a nice color and flavor, remove it from the heat and strain it into jars. Leave head-space so that the jars can be frozen until you are ready to make your own soup or gravy. Make sure to label and date the jars so you know what it is and which jars to use first.