A Day in The Frugal Life: Still Locked Down

A lot of readers in the frugal community have asked me what has changed since lockdown for us frugal folk?

The answer is, not much, really. If anything, the pandemic and lockdown have made us even more frugal and mindful of not wasting. Thus I bring you a typical weekend day in a frugal life:

8:57 a.m.: It’s Sunday so I have defiantly been sleeping in. I love sleep. It’s free, it makes me feel wonderful and more is definitely better. I stretch, pat the slumbering dogs and get up to sort out coffee. I tend to alternate between cold brew and French Press. I happen to have some French Press I made last night so I heat it up, toss in a free little container of creamer and wake up.

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9:45 a.m.: Sunday is treat day for the dogs so I make them homemade pancakes. Don’t judge me, my dogs love carbs and this way I at least know what is going into them. It is also Slow Your Roll Day around our home so my partner gets his absolute favorite meal tonight, Gracious Sunday Pot Roast, recipe below. It is gracious (to me) because I sear off the chuck roast, a frankly tough cut of  meat while I mix up the seasonings and other ingredients in the slow cooker. Once the meat is seared off, it goes straight into the slow cooker along with all the other flavorings on low for about nine hours. I don’t have to touch it until it is falling apart tender and that is what makes for a gracious Sunday. While putting this together, I make my fail safe pancakes (recipe below) as well. I am really multi-tasking on just one  cup of coffee this morning. The pot roast calls for onion, carrots and celery and I think for a minute that I am out of celery until I realize I have a nice amount in my prepped veggie stash, the one I use for munching. I grab a few stalks from there and cut away, an trip to the grocery store adverted. I always use up chicken stock from my something from nothing stash for this recipe.

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11:00 a.m.: We head out to the local craft store. Armed with a coupon, I want to have a special gift framed. By the time this particular blog entry is published, my daughter will have the gift in hand so I can say what it is. I took my daughter’s favorite photo of all time and had it turned into a cartoon painting of sorts. That is what the vendor claims but in reality, it was clearly done digitally (likely in Photoshop) which is fine by me. The first one came back with everyone having brown eyes so I complained, pointing out to the vendor that the young girls in the photo clearly had blue eyes and the adult had green. They redid the picture for free which means I will use them again. I did ask for a digital comp so I could review it carefully and the second version came out perfectly. Won’t my daughter be surprised. After a few minutes of trying out multiple frame and matting samples (it always takes me about 30 minutes to get a frame and matting exactly the way I want it), the helpful clerk suggested something wild and we went with that. My daughter is going to love this. I loved the 70 percent off coupon.

After picking up some take out lunch (I never said we were perfect) we head back home. I had purchased a few canning jars at the craft store (I am running short due to a recent page of making jam and preserves) and needed to jar up my most recent frugal effort: oven dried tomatoes. It is the height of summer tomato harvesting and we have more than we can eat right now. I had purred and froze a large jar full already (for future pasta sauce) and still had plenty. I never waste a good tomato so I took the ripest ones, sliced them paper thin, sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper and drizzled olive oil over before placing them in a 200 degree oven for about four hours. The smell is lovely coming from my kitchen so I pack them in a clean, sterilized canning jar with peppercorns, a smashed garlic clove and a couple of slivers of lemon zest. Perfect. I notice the bag of bananas on the counter have gone brown and unused so I peel them and place them in a small freezer bag and into the freezer they go.

I pause from my errands and efforts just long enough to confirm that SpaceX astronauts have splashed down safely. I have been tracking our outworld explorers, our heroes, for some time now, anxiously watching the turbulent weather down in the Gulf Coast and lo and behold Elon Musk and NASA brought them back to earth safely. Welcome home gentlemen. I find myself in a fine mood. I love space.

1:04 p.m.: I start my blog for this entry while my partner and the girls take a nap. I don’t nap often myself (yesterday being an outstanding exception to that rule). After I get the blog going, I tip toe downstairs to the thrumming sounds of somebody (unsure if it is my partner or one of the dogs) snoring and I take the old version of the cartoon photo to try and touch up the eye color myself. The vendor said to keep the ‘wrong’ version so I take a paint marker and color the eyes blue and green best I can. It turns out surprisingly well despite my having near zero artistic skill. I then use one of the frames I bought at the craft store to frame it and place it in my guest room. There was a sale of buy one, get two free for frames that the nice clerk pointed out so I ended up with two additional frames to use for something else. I am thinking I may let my grandkids pick other photos and have them framed as gifts. I am going up to see them in a few weeks and we are clearing out, purging and reorganizing their rooms as a surprise for their mom. The frames could be a great way to showcase their photos of choice and they cost very little, a bargain in fact. It pays to be nice to clerks because I would never have noticed the sale had it not been for the very helpful clerk whom I praised and thanked for helping me come up with a cool matting/framing solution for a unique piece of art. Frugal rule of thumb: always be extra nice to clerks and salespeople, you never know when they will help save you money.

2:10 p.m.: Chores and projects accomplished, I head back upstairs. Well, it wasn’t the dogs snoring that’s for sure. I climb gingerly back into bed to continue to work on my blog. The Staffie, aka, Sophia, has taken up residence in the chair I had designed and specially built for my partner. We keep it covered in an inexpensive quilt for just such occasions. The pit bull puppy is slumbering as only puppies can, deeply and lovingly on the bed. I inch in next to her while she sleeps the untroubled sleep of a dog beloved. Everyone is sleeping hard which is a good thing since I have on the television Shark Fest which is from what I can tell, essentially the airing of every single scary documentary and shark show on the National Geographic channel running  for something like the next month or longer. I may never so much as get my ankles wet in the ocean again. I am particularly disturbed by all the stories they are telling about surfers in California, where I live, getting attacked. Sometimes they talk to the survivors, most of them clearly missing a limb. I decide I am going to have nightmares about this but like driving by the scene of a horrible accident on the side of the road, I cannot look away, I keep watching. It’s my day off after all.

5:07 p.m.: I toss in a single load of laundry. I try not to do laundry in the middle of the day, at least in the summer when power usage is peaking but normally after 5 is when electrical use starts to decline. I then putter in the backyard heeding the advice of Martha Stewart. The Queen of Homemaking has a new show called Martha Knows Best and the premise is to speak to people about homemaking issues, primarily gardening. Stewart is isolating with a small team on her farm which is very impressive given that she has some 150 acres to plow and plant. I will never view my little raised vegetable beds as a chore again. I fertilize and nourish the beds with chicken manure and vegetable fertilizer and water generously. I plant some additional radishes and arugula and decide to hold off on turnips and beets because it is still very warm. I need to wait for cooler and days and nights and, given that isolation may continue deep into fall, I have plans for a winter crop. Stewart claims that one in three Americans are now gardening; the pandemic having jump started countless gardens across America. I think back on history and draw parallels to the Victory gardens when Americans got the bulk of their produce from gardening during WWII. Victory gardens actually got their start around 1917 in Canada but really took off when American started rationing staples and we needed to feed our armies across the globe. I like to think of my little patch of produce as another sort of Victory. It keeps me doing in these uncertain times, gardening is very soothing, gardening is. I weed an tend my little patch, dreaming of the time that I will have an acre or more to tend. Martha, move on over.

6:01 p.m.: I decide that the pot roast needs something so I make my perfect southern biscuits from scratch. They cost mere pennies to make, take just minutes to pull together and they are the perfect foil for a Sunday pot roast. See recipe below.

7:49 p.m.: After dinner and tidying up, I fold and put away the single load of clothes and cast around for another way to save. I try to end each Sunday on a high note with something I saved or made do with. Call it a frugal habit. I find some mending that needs addressing and pick out an old embrodiery project that’s been languishing forever. That’s the ticket. I need to finish up that project. It seems like a nice little evening project; something to help stem the tide of uncertainly that sometimes washes over each and every one of us.

10:27 p.m.: Lights out. Like I said, I love my sleep and it is the perfect beauty tool. It does more from my health and my skin than anything else.

Gracious Sunday Pot Roast

Ingredients:

4 pounds  chuck roast or blade roast, boneless and trimmed of excess fat

2 onions chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 pound potatoes, cut into quarters if they are not small

3 large carrots, chopped fairly fine

2 stalks celery, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

 

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 Tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons of cold water

Method:

Sear off the chunk roast in the olive oil in a really hot skillet. Screaming hot. Get each side and be sure and season each side liberally with salt and pepper before searing. While the roast sears, mix the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker, whisking well. Once seared on every side, nestle the roast in the slow cooker mixture. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until falling apart tender. Take the liquid and whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch that has been mixed with cold water to thicken. Season with plenty of pepper, makes the perfect gravy.

Fail Safe Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

 1 teaspoon salt

 1 tablespoon white sugar

1 1/4 cups milk or buttermilk

 1 egg

 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Method:

Sift together all the dry ingredients, making a well in the middle. Whisk milk, egg and butter together and stir in to the dry ingredients. Fry each pancake in hot butter until bubbles appear in the middle of each cake. Flip and fry until the are crispy and browned. Serve with whipped butter and maple syrup.

Perfect Southern Biscuits

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking power

1 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 cup buttermilk (frugally made with milk and a teaspoon of white vinegar that you mixed together and let sit for five minutes)

1 stick of really cold butter, cut into little pieces

Method:

Sift all dry ingredients directly into a food processor if you have one. Add in the butter and pulse until fine bits form. Stream in the buttermilk while the processor is going and stop once the dough has come together. Turn out onto a floured board. Roll or pat into the shape of a rectangle. Cut into 2 to 3 inch rounds and place into a greased cast iron skillet. Brush with melted butter and bake at 425-deg F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with butter flavored with cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar.

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