Burning questions - answered

Last week, I gave you all the opportunity to ask me anything your heart desired, with the promise that I'd answer them.  Ready?  Here we go!

1) From Jordan, a two parter:
A. Why are your in-laws moving in with you??
My in-laws are not moving in with us, but my parents are.  The long version of the story can be found here.  The short answer is that we live in my parent's rental home, and they're gimpy and it would be better for everyone if we were under one roof.

B. Do yall get to go on vacations much??
That would be a big fat NO.  With Troy's crazy schedule, we have been on exactly two family vacations in four years.  Both of those were to Ocean Shores, where my in-laws have a cute little beach house.

Every time we plan something, Troy's schedule gets changed and we end up having to cancel it.  Jack and I visit my friend Anne out of state once every summer for a few days.

2) From daydreamhouse: I have been dying to ask. I read your post "On the Path to Cheapness" all about how your family was forced into frugality. I was wondering how ugly was the transition? Were there any huge roadblocks like anyone getting really upset about having to give up a particular thing to make the budget work? 

Well, the answer to that takes a little history.  I had actually started a journey to a more sustainable life style in 2007, so by the time we had to get REALLY cheap in 2010. we were already on our way.  I had the luxury of taking baby steps for three years before I had take huge fat giant leaps.

It all started with a set of cloth napkins from Target.  Cloth napkins are a gateway drug.  After I didn't hear any complaining about that, I switched out light bulbs, got cloth grocery bags, changed our cleaning supplies, etc., etc.

Also, Jack was only one years old when the first layoff happened, so he didn't really have a voice or a choice about anything.  Troy knew what we had to do, so there wasn't too much complaining.  The hardest thing to actually do was cancelling cable.  Looking back, it turned out to be the best thing and freed up so much of my time to learn more scratch cooking, and to start this blog.  But, at the time, it was painful.

3) From MissyB_in_NJ: my question is, how do you spend so little at the grocery store? I do have two teenage boys, I'll give you that, but I spend about $150 a week. 

Teenage boys are like garbage disposals.  My MIL describes Troy and his friend coming to her house after school as "a plague of locusts descending on the kitchen".  Teenagers are no joke!

The short answer is I have a well-stocked pantry and I'm able to build on it for meals in a way that doesn't cost a ton of money.  In the summer, I turn $20 worth of tomato plants in to 40+ quarts of tomato soup, diced tomatoes, etc.  I am perfectly fine with having tomato soup, a salad, and grilled cheese for dinner.  Making homemade bread is super cheap, and since I make eight loaves at a time to freeze, I'm always ready for sandwiches.  I purchased a crap ton of wheatberries back in 2011 or 2012, and have been using those to grind for flour to make bread ever since.  The output a few years ago has resulted in me nothing having to buy bread or flour for a very long time.

And keep in mind, I "gleam" a TON of free fruit each summer to can or freeze.

We also have dinner with my in-laws on Thursdays, which means I don't have to cook.  And then we eat with my family on Sundays...again, I don't have to cook but always contribute a side, appetizer, or dessert.  Fridays we eat popcorn, cheese, fruit, and veg, and leftovers which is DIRT CHEAP.  I think being able to refine what dinner actually looks like has helped me save a ton of money.

When Troy is at work, the people on that shift make dinner together.  So at least two to three times a week, it's just Jack and I for dinner which saves on the old grocery bill.

4) From Anne: IF you could only eat five foods for the rest of your life (condiments are free so they don't count), what would they be??

1)  Fresh summer tomatoes from my garden.  If I can't have home grown ones, I would rather never have another tomato in my life!

2) Cheese.  Can I only pick one kind?  If I could have two, I'd love cheddar (Tillamook) and a really good creamy burrata mozzarella.

3) Grilled chicken.  Troy makes the best grilled chicken, and it would be so great to eat forever.

4) Fresh raspberries from the garden.  I wanted to pick strawberries, but they are so small in my garden, and raspberries yield a ton for little work.

5) Eggs.  So versatile, so much protein, and so delicious!

5) From 20 North Ora: Have you ever had a question you didn't answer? LOL That's mighty brave of you.
Hmmm,  yes and no.  I won't disclose anything that would put my family at risk, so for now, I don't share my last name, my home town, or the name of my employer.

6) From Kerrly: The frugal practices - were they practices you knew of because you watched parents/grandparents, or things you learned as an adult?
A combo of things.  My grandparents all grew up in the Depression, so some of their life practices were ingrained in them as a result. Both grandmas canned a ton and could sew.  Both grandpas were handy and could fix anything.

That being said, I think a lot of it is just my DNA.  My mom recalls a story where we were grocery shopping, and she was looking for canned beans.  I was probably six or seven.  She grabbed a can to  put in the basket, and I grabbed another can saying "these are $.07 cheaper mom".

The cheapness has always been there, but the skill hasn't.  I have spent a lot of time reading, studying, and learning how to do stuff to save us moola.

7) From Jan:
A) How in the world do you get everything done? Are you an incredible organized person. Or require very little sleep?
I am a very organized and efficient person!  Like I should teach a class on it.  But...I refuse to sacrifice sleep for the sake of getting stuff done.  I'm fine with walking away from a task or job when it is bed time.  I get up at 4:30 am, so I try to get in bed by 10 pm.

Getting up early does allow me to get a lot stuff done without boys (Jack and/or Troy) underfoot.  Also, the life we live has been a seven plus year work in progress.  We started slowly, and added things piece by piece, so it never seemed overwhelming at the time. 

B) What do you do to relax just for you?
I always like to be busy...sitting on the couch and watching TV isn't relaxing for me, unless I'm writing, knitting, or doing something else.  Probably why yoga and I never got along. Troy says I'm like a shark; if I stop moving, I die.

A very happy day for me is getting a pedicure (I save up and get one every two ish months) while reading a book, and then grocery shopping ALONE.

C) How do I retrain my adult palate to like foods that are good for me but taste like monkey butt?
Can I be so bold as to suggest if something doesn't taste good to you, just don't eat.  It's not about training or anything, but rather preferences.  That being said, if you want to, I'd encourage you to try something in a form that you haven't yet consumed.  I always thought I hated Brussels sprouts, but I had some that were really crispy and it was amazing.  I always thought I hated asparagus, and then I had some roasted and tossed with soy sauce and sesame oil and I realized asparagus is the bomb.com!  Trying a previously hate veg in a non-traditional format helped changed my mind about things.

8) From NarbRunner: I really enjoy your blog and also wonder how you get everything accomplished when you work full-time and, it seems, long hours at your paying job. So my question is, what is your paying job? 

Ah, well this is a question I won't answer directly.  I work for a large medical non-profit, and in respect to my employer and my clients, I keep that info private.

9) From Martina Lively: How do you expect your home life to change once your parents move in? BTW, you are such an inspiration to me. How do you have the energy to work so hard, do so much at home, be a great wife and mother and keep your sense of humor?? Love you!

Love you too!

I think the biggest change for both my parent's and my little family will be an increase in quality of life.  For my parent's, it will be the food they'll be eating cause I'll be making it!  Right now, they need convenience, and as a result, eat a ton of processed food.  That will be persona non grata here.

For me, the quality of life will be all about a reduction of stress.  I know I'll have more food to cook, more laundry to do, and more house to clean, but knowing that they're safe will remove a huge load from my shoulders.  Every time I call them, if they don't pick up within a few rings, my head goes to the negative and I start to freak out that something has happened to one of them.

From an internal stand point, I think the word "patience" is going to be the theme for the first few months during the adjustment period.  Troy is crazy aggressive with locking doors (he'll even lock me out of the house if I'm in the front yard), and my dad loves to leave the door unlocked constantly.  Troy is going to either stroke out, or have to adapt.

I am used to living at an incredibly fast pace because I have to in order to get everything done.  Forcing myself to slow down and adapt to my parent's slower pace is going to cause me to pop my patience pills on the daily.

And from my parent's standpoint, they are going to have to adapt to being around a small kid again.  They haven't consistently been around a five year old in 28+ years, and a five year old boy never.  I some times think they forget what it is like to have little kids around, and their assumptions of how a five year old boy acts, are not always how Jack actually act.  Jack is very high energy, and always will be, but I think he has a really good heart that is often overlooked while he is bouncing off the walls like a methed up cheetah.  I too often find myself having to ask Troy "is this normal boy behavior", and to date, he has always said "yes".

I've always been high energy, and I don't like sitting still too much.  And I'm rarely both a good mom and wife at the same time, if ever!  At least a few times a week, I find myself laying in Jack's bed while he is asleep apologizing for not being patient, attentive, or nice enough.  I am quick to be terrible, but quicker to apologize.  Even if I am not successful, I always try to be better.

10) From deb: 
A) Does Troy read your blog?
Some times.  I'm not sure how regularly.

B) What does he think of the blog?
He is proud of me for sure, but doesn't always love how he is portrayed in my stories (even though they're true).  He thinks I make fun of him too much for being a sissy when he is sick (which he is).  I've tried to be more respectful/complimentary lately, but I also write EXACTLY like I speak, so what I type here is what I'd say to his face.

C)  Do you have any gnomes in your gardens?
Nope!  But I have a real life peacock.

11)  From Sara W: While out and about has a stranger ever approached you, recognizing you from your blog? Pretty sure if I ever met you in person I would geek out all intense like. 

Kinda, but I'm not sure it counts because it was actually Troy's distant cousin.  We're not close with that side of the family, so I had never met her before, but she did/does read my blog.  She said I look much different in person than I do online, but I'm not sure how so.

I'm pretty sure I'd be the one to geek out if anyone actually recognized me.

12) From Lauren: What town do you live in? I'm in Washington as well, and I'm not trying to stalk you or anything, but it helps me picture things better!

That is one I keep close to my (little sad) chest as well.  Just for the safety of my family, and out of respect for my employer, I don't divulge that.

13) From Mary E: How do make money blogging? 
Man, I wish I knew!!! I make a very nominal amount each month, but not enough to live on or even pay my car payment, that is for damned sure.  I'd like to think if this was my "job", I'd be more successful at it, but alas, it is not.  Here is how I make my "millions"
Thank you all for your questions; I had such a fun time reading and answering them.  And thanks as always for reading! I would write if no one read, but I swear it's way better that you do!