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?

#5TF: Technology Time-Out

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 4 – July 15 – July 21, 2017

I missed 4 phone calls and I don’t know how many text messages this week – on purpose – and it was so nice!

Earlier this year I read a little book called How to Live a Good Life by Johnathan Fields. The book is chock full of practical exercises to help you fill your life buckets (and ultimately achieve a better quality of life). I remember thinking at the time how much fun it would be to do the exercises with a group and after listening to my mom philosophize for a solid week about the meaninglessness of life when you are over 65, I decided this was the perfect intervention. I also know my mom well enough to know that if I hand her a book, it will take up residence in her to-do basket, never to be looked at again. So I printed the introduction and first chapter of the Vitality Bucket (the area she scored least on in the Snapshot360™ Online Quiz) and we started on the Good Life Project together.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was being unplugged. The Good Life Project chapter we’re working on now is about being aware and intentional. One of my favorite quotes from the chapter says:

Everyone and everything else can wait. And if they cannot, which is almost never a reflection of true need, but rather an expectation you’ve trained into others, you process them quickly, without distraction, having made an intentional decision, then move back to your big thing…

I have trained a lot of people since moving back home. I’ve trained them to call/text me when they need answers from Google, when they need a few dollars for gas, when they are having a meltdown over something trivial, or when they need something done immediately but are too tired, bored, occupied, or ___ (you can insert almost anything here) to do it for themselves. I did all of that and I did it by simply picking up the phone every single time it beeped. Well not this week! When we were busy doing something for ourselves, including simply relaxing, I ignored the phone. Once I even realized that I had left it in the car all afternoon!

I am grateful for tomatoes! Okay, I suppose I should rephrase that to say that I am grateful for the wonderful crop that our garden has brought us this year (despite some problems with end-rot and pests). I had no idea that we’d have so many beautiful, healthy, delicious tomatoes and I’m overjoyed by the fact that we likely may not have to buy canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, or spaghetti sauce all winter long.

I need to let go of trying to change other people’s unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. This is always a work-in-progress but specifically this week it relates to the fact that my mom thinks a happy life is a busy life and by busy, she means constantly cleaning, maintaining, and sometimes even acquiring things. It’s sad because the meaninglessness she’s been feeling lately is directly related to not having the energy to take care of her stuff. Despite my best efforts to explain that 1) she has a sinus infection and is supposed to be resting and 2) it’s okay not to do something every day, she just plugs her ears (figuratively speaking) and refuses to hear me. Worse though, she expects everyone around her to want to be just as busy and if they aren’t there’s something wrong with society as a whole. It’s hard to talk to someone who won’t listen so I simply need to stop (and hope that she gleans some of this messaging from our Good Life Project endeavor).

We made progress on putting up veggies for winter. We cut 2 dozen ears of peaches and cream corn off the cob on Saturday, put away 7 quarts of squash, carrots, and okra, and are stewing a bushel of tomatoes for the freezer today. I’m beginning to think we need a bigger freezer! We also gave ourselves a haircut, earned $52 for our vacation fund from a random side hustle off Gigspot, and took a picnic lunch to the lake.

The funniest thing that happened this week is a toss up between our trip to the lake and Angie’s first encounter with a horn worm. On the latter, I’ve never seen anyone jump backwards as far as she did when I pulled the giant green globby worm off of our tomato plant, where it had successfully sheared the leaves off one stem and the faces off a half-dozen green cherry tomatoes. She probably would have screamed too if she hadn’t been struggling to regain her balance. As our appointed worm relocation agent, it’s Angie’s job to dispose of them. Up until now, this has meant tossing tiny cabbage worms in the creek and hoping they never return. When she saw the horn worm, she immediately shook her head and told me there was no way she was touching it much less tossing it anywhere. So I am now a worm murderer. My current body count stands at 2.

As for the lake, well…it definitely wasn’t the peaceful day we were anticipating. Picture instead what would happen if the TV shows Cops and Naked and Afraid ever made a crossover episode. Yes, we saw a “full moon” during the broad daylight (and it was not pretty!) and a man running around gangster style telling everyone he was going to “bust them in the head”. We should have known better than to even park the car when the attendant came flying over in his golf cart and said to us – complete strangers – in one run on sentence, with what looked like a grin on his face, “Metro PD is on the way, there’s a guy tripping out over there, threatening everyone, did you pay the fee? great day to be at the lake, have fun!” I believe this was the most excitement he’d seen in his entire post-retirement career as a volunteer park attendant. For us, it was just another day in the South.