2019 Goal Check-In (Part 1 – The Fun Stuff)

As we are quickly approaching June – the midpoint of the year – I thought now would be a good time to check on where we are with the goals we set at the beginning of 2019. First for the fun stuff…

We are in week 21 of our 48 Really Great Dates project and so far, we’ve managed to go on 20 dates. You won’t find any expensive dinners or theater outings, no opera nights or wine tastings on our list. Hello, we’re frugal minimalists! Our dates were so cheap that some were even free. Book signings, berry picking, waterfall hikes, and sharing a free chocolate croissant…that’s what you’ll find on our list.

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Admittedly, we got off to a rocky start with dating. At first, I thought it was because we were out of sync – we’ve been together nearly a decade, after all – but I soon realized that wasn’t the case. We’re so used to doing what we want when we want that the concept of a structured weekly date was just so foreign to us that we almost failed. For the first few weeks, we found ourselves saving up the fun stuff so that we could execute one “epic” date. But the dates weren’t even that epic. In fact, a lot of the planned dates didn’t even go as planned and we ended up just doing something to “fill in the slot”. To fix it, we threw the rules out the window and started having fun again. A lot of our recent dates were planned on the fly and they, by far, have been the best ones yet.

Though it wasn’t one of our written goals for the year, we are always striving to be more frugal, self-sufficient, and minimalist. Though we failed at cutting our home internet service, we succeeded in not turning on the central heat at all this winter. We saved $91.12 (over the previous year) by operating only 2 electric heaters when necessary. February is our coldest month here. In 2018, our February electric bill was $177. This year, it was $102. I would love to say that we’re going without A/C this summer but that’s not happening. The dynamics that help make our home warm in the winter (east-facing windows and being the middle apartment in a 3-story building) also help make it hot in the summer.

Sadly, the farmer who has hosted our CSA for the past 3 years decided not to do a CSA this year. We thought about joining another CSA out of Kentucky. Though they are less than an hour away, we felt we weren’t really supporting our local farmers. We have so many wonderful folks who show up to sell at the Saturday market that it seemed a shame not to shop there first. Our previous CSA cost $25/week so we added that amount to our budget for the Saturday market. So far, we’ve enjoyed a variety of lettuces, onions, radishes, tomatoes and many, many delicious strawberries!

We also planted our “tiny” garden again this year. We have yellow squash, eggplant, okra, cow peas, onions, radishes, watermelon, sunflowers, and 3 different kinds of tomatoes. Inside our apartment, we’re even trying microgreens, along with a new crop of herbs. So far, things are looking good…well, except for the pesky mole that keeps running through the onions. We’ve already harvested a few radishes and our squash are in bloom.

Our other goal for 2019 was to work on defining our relationship with money so that we might peaceable coexist. When I first started writing this update, my intention was to talk about our progress here as well, but as I started typing (aka letting my thoughts ramble onto the page), I realized that this is a post all unto itself. Since we’re heading off on our first camping trip of the season today, I’ll save the money talk for next week. Until then, have a great week!

What goals did you set for 2019? Where are you with those goals?

3rd Quarter Progress to Goals

Before I dive right into a recap of our progress for this quarter, I wanted to catch everyone up on a few items (possibly) of interest. First, on Monday (10/1), our refrigerator finally arrived. We now have a complete set of matching appliances in our apartment. It only took 3 months to get them, but they are here now and that’s all that matters. The new fridge is huge (in comparison to the old one) so we should be able to make a few more meals ahead of time now. Yay!

Next up, my mom’s bathroom disaster is finally fixed. Angie and I decided to take charge of solving this problem and after much prayerful consideration, we opted to have the brand new floor replaced. We contacted some folks we met a few weeks earlier when we were looking for flooring. They were already aware of what was going on and gave us an estimate that fit within our budget. The new floor was installed in less than 2 hours, with no seams, no rips, and no pieces of missing plywood. In other words, they did the job right. Yay, again!

Not everything has been good news though. In the midst of all of this, my mom fractured her back again. She was opening the oven drawer and heard a pop in her lower back. An X-ray confirmed that she has 5 compression fractures of the lumbar and sacral regions. Needless to say, this has made her even more upset about not being able to do the things she wants to do. One of those things was a trip we had just planned to North Carolina to see her sister later this month. We have an appointment today that will determine whether she should travel. I’m hoping, for her sake, that the outcome is positive – even it means we have to postpone our trip for a few weeks.

With all of those things going on, you might think this has been a less than stellar quarter. In some ways, it has, but in other ways, we knocked it out of the park. I’m happy to report our progress toward our Better Me, Better World goals for this quarter.

Better Me

Goal: Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less. 

Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.

July was a true no-spend month. We didn’t exactly plan for this but we did decide ahead of time to only spend money what was already allocated to various spending categories and the result – we didn’t have any out of category spending. I can’t say the same for August or September though. We averaged $220 in extra spending for those months, most of which went toward padding to our grocery budget and purchasing few tools for our woodworking projects.

Buy used when possible.

We’ve been shopping a lot of yard sales lately. Not only is it a fun way to spend an hour or so on Saturday morning, we’ve found a lot of great bargains on things that we had on our “need to buy” list anyway. For example, we’ve had sun shirts on our list for more than a year. I’m not sure if that’s what they are called but they are the lightweight, quick dry, long-sleeved shirts with SPF protection that you wear when paddling or swimming. We priced them at $30+ each at Dick’s Sporting Goods and decided we didn’t need them that bad. We found 2 at a church rummage sale on Saturday for 50 cents each. Score! We also picked up several glass jars to help with our transition to a plastic-free kitchen and some puzzles and yarn for those days this winter when it will be too cold to play outside.

Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.

We had 82 completely meatless days (out of 92). Though we tried, it was hard to avoid meat completely during our Grit, Grace, and Grub tour of the town. In total 11% of our meals contained meat.

Do something active 3 times a week.

We walked/hiked a total of 28.9 miles. I would say that was pitiful, except that it doesn’t count all of our walks to the grocery store and dumpster, the countless miles we’ve walked at the various festivals we attended this summer, or the handful of letterboxes we’ve traipsed through the weeds to get. I blame this miscalculation on the untimely death of my fake Fitbit. God rest its soul! We also went on 3 kayaking trips, went swimming 4 times, tended the garden, and practiced our woodworking skills. Dead Fitbit aside, this category is still very much a work in progress.

Better World

Goal: Zero-food-waste. Prove that one couple can have an impact in reducing global food waste.

Plan meals.

My mom recently asked, after seeing our calendar, if we ever got bored with planning meals. My answer – nope. I love knowing what we are having for dinner every night. It saves hours of conversations that go like this: “What do you want for dinner? I don’t know, what do you want? I don’t know and I asked you first.” We did really well with this again and even started something new – pizza club. On lawn mowing day (usually Tuesdays) we have a pizza for dinner. The rules of pizza club are simple – it doesn’t matter where the pizza comes from (restaurant, store, or homemade) but it can’t be the same toppings as the week before. I would tell you more but what happens in pizza club stays in pizza club.

Continue food rescue.

Our dumpster diving efforts were stifled by the summer heat. Food tends to rot more quickly when it’s 100 degrees outside (and probably 110 degrees inside the metal dumpster).  We did manage to rescue 14.8 pounds of food from the dumpster and 46 pounds from the Farmer’s Market, which was donated to the Nashville Rescue Mission.

Shop reduced-to-clear/quick-sale items first when grocery shopping.

Still doing good here too. I would guesstimate that 75-80% of the fruit we buy comes from the reduced-to-clear bins at Kroger. We have also found that our favorite dairy-free So Delicious yogurts often get reduced for quick sale. Just last night we lucked up on 4 of them at half-price.

Buy local foods.

I’m happy to say that we shopped local all summer long. All of our fresh produce came from our CSA basket or the Farmer’s Market. Though our CSA is over for the year and the Farmer’s Market is winding down, we continue to try to source as much local food as possible to can or freeze for winter. We recently attended the Tennessee Honey Festival to stock up on our honey needs for the upcoming hot tea season. We also added a nice selection of local jams to our pantry and several dozen ears of corn, a 1/2 bushel of peppers, and a 1/4 bushel okra to the freezer.

Grow a garden.

For a small garden, we had a lot of produce this year. The 3 pepper plants we picked up for free yielded over 100 peppers – jalapenos and Sweetie Pies. Our yellow squash was still producing up until a week ago when the rains rotted the last of the blooms. The cow peas (another of our freebies) are in their second season. The first produced 2 1/2 quarts of dried peas and snaps. Our tomatoes did well and we actually had enough blackberries this year to freeze 3 pints. We still have radishes, peppers, and peas to pick this month. Another thing that did well in the garden was Angie’s flowers. She had sunflowers over 10 feet tall and some of the prettiest bi-color zinnias I’ve ever seen.

Compost year-round.

Our composting efforts are still going strong, though sadly, Angie’s worms all escaped from the worm bin. A few days ago, I saw a post from the Tennessee Environmental Council for a program called Come Post Your Compost. It’s a yearlong program aimed at reducing food waste in TN by encouraging people to compost. We joined and if you live in TN, you can too! It’s free and if saving the world isn’t prize enough, there are monthly drawings for gift cards. Check it out at https://www.tectn.org/comepostyourcompost.html.

How did you do this quarter? Did you reach your goals? We’re there any surprises or setbacks?