Mary Beth Writes

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.


I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

I didn’t always cut my own hair and Len’s hair - but in quarantine, it’s a solution that saves time, money, and drama. 

2. We mixed dried dill into a half block of cream cheese to make a better-than-average sandwich/cracker spread. A block of cream cheese equals half of a box of butter in case you want to do the math to see which one is cheaper. Mostly, it’s tasty.

3. Okay, this is my big kahuna.

I made cat food!

It had never occurred to me to do this before – and Yamiche and Weijia are our 14th and 15th cat! Long story short, the wet cat foods we prefer to buy are $4 - 6.40/pound which is definitely pricier than we pay for most of OUR meat.  Plus, there’s the relentlessness of it; two 5.5 oz cans of chicken per day is around $3.

For $1.79 to $4/pound we bought – mackerel, chicken breasts (a bag of frozen ones on sale), a pork tenderloin (we ate most of it first.)

In the spirit of “How hard can it be?” I looked online, watched a couple videos, and realized wet cat food is a concoction that is about 4/5’s meat and 1/5th boiled squash or sweet potato or carrots, with maybe parsley simmered in with the meat or veggies. Put the cooked meat and some boiled veggie in the Cuisinart or blender. Make sure to add enough water or broth so that the final product is the consistency of canned cat food.

The mackerel is already cooked and it’s so oily and smelly that it woke the cats from their naps to come into the kitchen to meow at me. That was cute. BOY do they love mackerel, which is the cheapest meat we bought.

I read that cats get most of their water from wet food. Even if they will drink from a water dish, chances are they aren’t drinking enough to stave off long term kidney damage. I don’t know where I read this, so ask your own vet.  Caught my attention though.

Weijia and Yamiche love their homemade food.  We put some is a plastic tub in the fridge and just dish it out when we feed them.  I also put some in tiny plastic containers in the freezer. 

This saves money plus a lot of single-use containers of cat food going into landfills. We will continue to buy bags of dry kibble for them as a side dose of vitamins.


What hacks, strategies, and ideas do you do to save money and/or live more thoughtfully?



Mary Beth, I think it is wonderful that you named your new cats after two of the most tenacious, smart reporters to ever cover the White House beat in DC. I admire your imagination both in naming your cats as well as in creating tasty meals for them from scratch. Bravo! Have you sent your Yamishe and Weijia out into the world to cover politics in Wisconsin?
Mary Beth's picture

Laughing! We need more than tenacious cats here in Wisconsin - I'm not even sure what can change our politics until we get Fair Maps. I read an article a few months ago that said if one looks at all the voting governments on earth, Wisconsin would come in at the bottom - it's so unrepresentative. Maybe we need barracudas.

I am trying to leave less of a carbon footprint on this Earth and I have found that living thoughtfully in this way often goes hand in hand with frugality. For instance, in the "good" weather which here in Massachusetts runs from about April through mid to late October, I hang laundry outside to dry. That causes my electric bill to go down. We also keep our heat down to 65 during the day and 60 at night. We keep the heat at 60 upstairs as we mainly sleep (or clean...sigh) up there. We wear thermal long johns, sweatshirts and wool socks around the house and at night curl up under comforters. Our oil bill reflects this in the monthly budget payment and the emissions are kept lower. There are many things but these are a couple that demonstrate that living green and frugally can go together.
Mary Beth's picture

It's so compelling that living more simply often, but not always, is better for the earth. Cheaply manufactured food being the exception. But hanging laundry, turning down the temps a degree or two, buying used, fixing what one has instead of trash n buy - it makes a big difference.

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"It's Good for You" Pizza

The Best Pizza Ever is in Madison 

Click here for their info:   “It’s Good For You”   

Last weekend, while out of town, we decided to stop for a pizza at the place where our son works one night per week. If you know my kid, you know he was manager of an artisanal pizza place for years. He doesn’t miss managing an entire restaurant. Apparently, he DOES miss making spectacular pies and then baking them at temps high enough to burn the hair off his arms.

What’s Scary & What’s Not Scary


Happy Halloween! I think because this is mostly a kid’s holiday, it tends to evoke a lot of sweet and funny memories from our childhoods and then of our kids.

Remember when we (who are now antique kids) collected candy in paper grocery bags that we had decorated with crayons? And then it would rain and one would have to carry the bag in both arms and run between houses while drenched and noisy and not even caring?

Obviously I remember that.

Frugality Hacks or how I saved $64,000,000, so far.

I read the ‘frugal things I did’ letters in other people’s huge and interesting frugality blogs. I figured I could list some of the ways I saved some money this week (this life). I’m pleased to say I saved about 64 Million.

Quarantine Diary #645 - Granola

Two recent tweets : Someone named Kate Harding tweeted; “What haunts me is that I am not just smart enough for so many people to be this much stupider than me.”

And from Di, Obstinate Hoper; “I’m starting to think of pandemic caution like labor: buckle down during peaks, relax a little between them. Hang in there, folks. It’s a damn long labor.”

Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

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