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Friday, September 26, 2014

September Update

Whoa, where has the time gone? I feel like I just did an August update. Wait- maybe that was the last thing I did.

September has just flown by. The garden is pretty much finished, with some vegetable stragglers that missed the bus. And of course, I'm swimming in squash.

Apples and pears started coming in, so I've been working my little tail off making applesauce, dried apples, and canning pears. One morning I felt especially ambitious and made cider and donuts for breakfast- from scratch.

DIY Vitamix apple cider. Yum!

In addition to my own produce, I'm trying to keep an eye on fall foraging possibilities- mostly nuts and seeds. Hickory nuts, black walnuts, rose hips, curly dock, and the like. This year I want to try collecting lambsquarter seeds. They say it makes a good breakfast cereal.

It seems like our weekends have been packed full. Last weekend we took a trip with Hubs' family to Wisconsin, which included a ride on the S.S. Badger across Lake Michigan. That was an interesting experience! It was pretty funny to see people walking down the halls- that is, trying to walk down the halls- swaying from side to side, catching themselves on the left wall, then falling over into the right wall.

And because we were in Wisconsin, we had to get cheese curds. :)

The Best Parts of September:

1. I got to celebrate my BIRTHDAY! That is always a great thing. Yay for living one more year on this earth.

2. I finished up my meal planning book and it will officially launch on Amazon October 1st.

Whoop whoop! I mentioned last month that there will be some changes to this blog. In fact, I've decided to switch blogging platforms and re-brand my blog so I can be more focused. If you're wondering, yes I do still like cheese!

This will be my last post here on Bethany Likes Cheese. I will leave this site up for reference, but eventually I will be moving most of the content to my new website, The Renaissance Housewife.

I hope to focus my new content around the themes of industry and frugality in the home, writing on topics such as organization, productivity, education and finance. Obviously there will be a ton of articles on cooking, gardening, housekeeping and other things that housewives do, but with a Bethany-esque editorial/commentary twist that you will not find anywhere else on the web. Who knows, I might throw in a few Amish tips and tricks from my in-laws.

I look forward to more writing and getting to know my readers more. Please visit my new site, comment or otherwise get in touch with me. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see more of on the new blog.

And don't forget to check out my new book, Pizza Night; a Simple Meal Plan on Amazon when it comes out October 1st. Especially if you have problems forgetting to make dinner and eating peanut butter and saltines a lot.

If you forget, don't worry- I'll be promoting the pulp out of my new book for at least a few weeks. :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

August Update

Well hello there! I know it's already September, so here's an update some projects I started (and finished!).

Some New Friends

In early August, we acquired two Nigerian Dwarf goats. I never thought I would be a "goat person", but these little guys are so cute! Obi (short for Obadiah) is a wether- a castrated male- and Adi is a yearling doe. Currently she is at another farm being bred.

The wonderful thing about these goats is that they don't eat a whole lot, plus they are small and manageable. And the best part? Come March, I'll have a little bit of goat milk to play around with! I can't wait to start making cheese again.

8 First Year Garden Mistakes

My gardening duties are finally winding down a bit- August finished off my cucumbers, brought corn, watermelon, and winter squash, as well as more broccoli, green beans, and summer squash (the never-ending vegetable. Now I'm working on one last weed-pulling marathon to find what's left and prepare for next year. Some changes I'll be making:

1. Raised beds. I spent waaaaayyyyy to much time weeding this year. I don't like rototilling very much, so I put down plastic between the rows. This seemed like a good idea, but it was more work than rototilling and I still had weeds.

2. Lasagna gardening. This is something I've never tried before and I'm excited to see how it works. The basic concept is layering compost, "browns" (like dead leaves) and "greens" (like grass clippings) and letting it all rot over the winter into a nice rich soil.

3. Plant less squash. In my spring gardening zeal, I planted three different kinds of squash and two different kinds of cucumbers. The result? The tyrant squashes and cucurbits started taking over my garden and strangled my watermelon plants.

4. Pre-sprout sweet corn. I spent almost $10 on corn seeds this year trying to get a decent patch going. Finally on my 3rd or 4th seed packet, I tried sprouting the seeds in a little bit of water indoors before planting. Almost every single seed came up!

5. Grow peas on a trellis. Might keep 'em a little more contained. I'll probably try to vertical-grow my melons and squashes too.

6. Plant lettuce in intervals. I made the common mistake this year of planting all of my lettuce (like 3 packs... I know, what was I thinking?) at one time. Considering the fact that salad is not even in our menu plan, I had WAY more lettuce than I could ever use. Next year it will be 3 or 4 heads every couple weeks.

7. Seed saving. I'm attempting to save some seeds this year to shave a few dollars off next year's gardening cost, but will do more next year.

8. Start tomatoes, peppers, and basil from seeds or cuttings. A majority of our garden cost this spring came from buying three pepper plants and a basil plant. We got married in March, so I was not exactly thinking about starting seeds at that time. :)

I want to consider the 80/20 principle here: which 20% of the vegetables are 80% of the work and cost? On the flip side, which 20% of my garden is giving out 80% of the return?

Some victories this year included growing basil from cuttings for the first time, figuring out that I can use a cake dome just like a greenhouse, and the ever-spoiling Hubs building me a little cold frame. I
have always wanted to make a cold frame, so that was pretty exciting for me.

Announcing... A Book!

On a whim, I decided to write a short ebook on meal planning. When I was growing up, my mom tried a lot of different planning programs, websites, and just winging it. I've come up with a fantastic plan that I think is the best! It allows for both consistency and variety, and utilizes both on-sale and in-season foods.

Tentative cover!

The book, Wednesday Is Pizza Night, is scheduled to be on Amazon in mid to late September. I've wanted to write an ebook for several years, and I've finally got around to making it happen.

In addition to publishing the book, I'll be making some exciting changes to the blog. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Penny Saved is Two Pennies Earned

Last week I wrote about housewives working for pennies. This week I'm going to look at that topic from a slightly different angle. I recently read an interesting article by Jonathon at My Money Blog about taxes and how much you really earn while working as an employee, or even self-employed.

Now what do taxes have to do with being frugal? When you, as a housewife, save $1, you're really saving one dollar. But when you as a working wife make $1, you're only making $0.70- .90. And what about the costs of commuting, dressing finely for the office, lunches out, daycare, etc.? That further reduces your "earnings".

Now What?

If you, like me, quit your job to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom (more tax savings with kids!), you have the wonderful privilege of getting out of this spending-earning cycle.

The question becomes, as 'just' a housewife, how much can you save? Could you actually save more than you were making at work? This has been my little experiment since I got married in March, and I really believe it is feasible. There are many ways to save, especially when you aren't working a job and have some extra time on your hands. What about the following areas:

Household supplies
Personal Care

I think there is a lot of room for savings there! Armed with a few (or many) skills, you could be spending pennies on the dollar for the above items AND no need to pay the 6% (Michigan) sales tax when you make things yourself. :)

*In certain situations (earning too little for the size of a family, for example) taxation can actually reverse itself and result in a tax credit instead of payment.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Working for Pennies

My Household Income
The other day I was snapping ends off of my garden-fresh green beans. Am I even saving any money at all? I asked myself. A bag of frozen beans at the store costs $1.50. My garden beans cost pennies on the dollar to plant, but how many hours had I spent planting, weeding, picking, snapping, blanching, and packaging for the freezer? I would be getting paid something like $1 an hour for growing beans. Depressing.

Before we married, I elected to quit my job as a secretary, so I could focus on helping/spending time with Hubs and also keeping house. On the surface, being a housewife is not as lucrative as being a married career woman. I mean, two salaries are better than one, right?

Maybe not.

Here's the huge, HUGE benefit to being a busy* housewife:

I don't have time to buy stuff!

I don't even give myself time to browse Pinterest for cute home decorating ideas. There's no time to watch funny cat videos on Youtube (I want a kitty...), buy Kindle ebooks on Amazon that I'll never have time to read, go to Hobby Lobby and buy craft supplies for projects I'll finish... someday.

I''m too busy washing dishes, snapping green beans, and doing other $1-per-hour tasks that actually are worth more than my $1 per hour because I'm not spending my husband's dollars-per-hour.

Forget how much you're making per hour- how much are you spending per hour??


*This does not include the stereotypical TV-watching, bon-bon stuffing lazy housewife.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mexican Truffles, Huitlacoche, or.... Corn Smut

Guess what I found the other day on my sweet corn? A bonus crop of nutritious mushroomy fungus that most people just throw away.

Infected ear (top) and normal ear (bottom)
This fungi can be cooked like any other mushroom- I've had it pan fried with cheese, and also thrown in with eggs and salsa for a delicious lunch. If you're not a mushroom fan, don't worry. Mexican truffles are quite bland. If mushroom-haters (like me) can get over the texture, it's all good.

Only eat the infected kernels (that's what they are- big, overinflated corn kernels) that haven't burst into powdery blossom, like the one below:

Not cool.

Anything you don't eat right away can be frozen. Some specialty stores carry canned Mexican Truffles, but I couldn't find any legit home-canning instructions. So, freeze or eat fresh.

I never buy mushrooms at the store, so these Mexican Truffles will probably serve as my year's supply of pizza mushrooms. I'm all for free food! :D

As with any mushroom, identify carefully and consume at your own risk.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Poor, Well-Off, or somewhere in between??

I've come to realize that people have different attitudes about money and being frugal. Note: "poor" means negative or zero net worth- "well-off" means positive net worth.

The (Frugal) Poor 
Make a little, spend a little
Some people are frugal because they really have to be. Maybe they've got a lot of debt to pay off, or they're a single-income household with lots of kids, or maybe they just don't make a lot of money. Some 'poor' people really enjoy being frugal, and other poor people see it as misery.

The (Non-Frugal) Poor
Make a little, spend what you can
These people might be poor, but ain't nobody gonna know it. They pretty much buy what they can afford. Money tends to run short, and when kids whine for new gadgets, they hear, "We can't afford it."

The (Frugal) Well-Off 
Make a lot, spend a little
These people don't really need to save money. They just get a kick out of saving, as opposed to the person who gets a kick out of buying. Money doesn't run short, even though they might drive an old beater car. When kids whine for new gadgets, they hear, "We don't need it."

The (Non-Frugal) Well-Off 
Make a lot, spend a lot
Some personality types are just big spenders. However, they also tend to MAKE a lot of money, which balances out the spending. They like flashing cash- via clothing, transportation, housing, gifts, etc. They don't understand why anyone would ever want to buy used ANYTHING. Let alone pick it out of a dumpster.


Obviously there are in-betweens and crossovers of these types; this is just a generalization. However, I think it's interesting that many Well-Offs are less interested in displaying wealth (think of the beater car), than Poors- many of whom like to display the little wealth they have plus a lot that they don't. Do you think there could be a correlation between being frugal and having wealth, or even a positive net worth? I wonder if the urge to display wealth keeps people from actually having any.

I fall under the Frugal categories. When I was single, I had a pathetic net worth. When I got married I upgraded a bit, as Hubs seems to be the better earner of the two of us. :/

Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Easy Cheesecake Fluff

This is what we served guests at our wedding in lieu of 'real' wedding cake. SO delish.

Easy Cheesecake Fluff

Cost per recipe: $2.44

1 1/2 c. crushed graham crackers (I use cheap cookies- who needs a whole box of graham crackers?)
1/3 c. sugar (if using cookies, it's okay to cut this down)
3 TB melted butter
3 oz. jello (1 box) + 1 cup boiling water
2 8oz. packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup (or more!) Cool Whip or other whipped topping

1. Combine first three ingredients for crust, saving some (1/4 cup or less) for topping. Press into bottom of the pan.

2. Mix jello and boiling water. Refrigerate until just set (ex. not like water).

3. Mix cream cheese, sugar, and whipped topping. My sister-in-law (who gave me the recipe) says it is better with more and more whipped topping.

4. Add jello to the cream cheese mixture. Pour over crust and refrigerate until set- a couple hours or so.

Enjoy! This is the best stuff ever.