Mary Beth Writes

Cheap: Sometimes I’m as cheap, cheep, cheep as a chicken.

Mindful: I like to think about how to live the best life most simply, enjoying life on earth without assuming it’s all here for me. You know; like using ALL the water and never sharing and buying whatever is cheapest without regard to how it got to me and where it’s going when I’m done with it.

Which would be a good mascot for me and many of you, too. Mindful chickens.

This is what I did this morning.

ONE: I harvested most of our current mint crop. This would be the strip of dirt between the sidewalk and house by our side door. My mint currently resides in mint condition (hah) on my kitchen counter. Sometime before this day is over I will pull the leaves off and loosely tuck them into plastic bags in our freezer.

There are TWO seasons when you live with my Leonard. ‘Watermelon in the evening’ season will soon be over. That’s when ‘herbal tea in the evening’ season begins. Watermelon season is expensive; we easily eat two a week. We make up for it, I guess, by drinking homegrown mint tea the rest of the year.

In case you care, this is an easy way to turn the mint in your garden now to tea on your coffee table when the blizzards rage. Grab a small handful (a quarter cup or less) of frozen mint leaves from the bag. Put the leaves in a French press coffee pot (I bought ours at thrift shop a decade ago for a kid who later decided they didn’t want it.) Pour boiling water over the leaves; let it steep a couple minutes. Or if you are us, go to the computer room, get lost in something, and wander back out to the kitchen an hour later to tepid tea. Drink it anyway.

Whenever you finally get to the kitchen, press (with your pinky up in a French manner) the pot’s plunger … and Bob’s your uncle. Except, in our case, Bob’s our friend.

TWO: I actually googled this last night: “How does one wash exterior windows on a tall house without a ladder?” Because, boy, does this house have a dirty windows. Did I mention we live a half block from a major freight train railway? We have the dust and grit.

You can buy a Windex thingamabob that attaches to your garden house. It cost $9. This was the most fun I have EVER had washing windows, but don’t do it in your church clothes. I got SO wet when breezes would waft the spray back on me. It’s about 92% effective; which for old-fashioned windows that are too tall to reach safely, is effective enough.

Too bad I can’t do it inside. I had fun. And I didn't pay other guys to have this fun, then charge ME!

THREE: I got the window cleaning product at the hardware store. I walked there and back, which takes an hour. People were parking their cars and walking into a gym that is close to the hardware store. Hah, I got my exercise for free. The vitamin D was also free.

FOUR: I didn’t take a shower before doing all of the above, thus keeping myself down to one shower today.

FIVE: When buying groceries, as is usual, I bought mostly inexpensive ingredients. Except, sometimes I spend a LOT. Example: Last week I spend $7 for ONE pound of hamburger (for a giant pot of made-from scratch chili, some of which is in the freezer now for a days when I don’t want to cook.).

SEVEN dollars for a pound of hamburger? This is frugal?

Sometimes the chicken is mindful.

Do you want meat from animals raised by ranchers and farmers? Or do you want meat produced by corporations? Most of the meat we buy in grocery stores (often at remarkably cheap prices), is raised quickly on foods not normal for that animal, with significant doses of antibiotics and growth-producing hormones.

My three kids are grown-up, healthy, and on their own. I didn’t know in those years what I know now. I tried hard to feed them well as inexpensively as possible. It was not easy and it still isn’t. Many American families are living too tight to be able to make the choices I do now.

This is one of the reasons Len and I DO make these choices. Somebody ought to keep on raising chickens that walk around eating bugs and seeds, cows that graze fields, pigs that wander, grunt, and eat slops and grain and acorns. If we make it impossible (by squeezing consumer prices too much), for people to be traditional farmers with their learned, honed, and passed along skills – where will we be as a nation if we lose that wealth of knowledge? I do not know how to keep a chicken alive, nor do I want to learn. I will pay $4/week for the eggs of healthy, contented, (Mindful!) chickens. When I buy those eggs, I figure Len and I help keep American strong.

So if we only buy meat once a week, and it costs enough to make our eyebrows go up but the animal didn’t suffer and the farmer/rancher was able to make a living, and it was a healthy animal that won’t make me sick, either - then I am good with that choice.

We always buy $7-8/gallon Organic Valley milk. Do you see how there are no ads from Organic Valley on my website? No one is paying me. I just want to point out that this company, while certainly not perfect, buys from hundreds of real farmers in California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New York State. Maybe some other places, too. I’m not their PR team.

If you can make a choice, I’d suggest that as you can, try to buy some items that are from animals that are raised humanely by farmers in your area. As you can, buy from your local farmers markets and local produce stands.

For those who steadfastly believe in giving a certain amount of money to their church or other organizations, maybe consider moving some of that donation to your grocery store budget? Why make Monsanto richer, when with ten dollars more per month, you can buys eggs from someone in your own county?

I’m not in the mood to scold anyone. I am in the business of saying all that’s cheap is not, in the long run, frugal.

Here are three movies (of many that are out there) that helped me learn more about food, health, farming, and “How do you define what the American Way of living well means for your family?”

By the way, I watched all these movies the first time; borrowed from the Racine library!
“King Corn”
“Fresh – New Thinking about what We’re Eating”
“Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”

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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

10/31/2023

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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