Friday, January 12, 2007

Cheap Family Fun - Bowling?

When did bowling get so expensive? Granted, the last time I went bowling was in the dark ages (the late 70s) but it seems to me that it was a really cheap way to have some fun.

I decided that my family should go out this weekend and do something fun since we've done such a good job at paying off our debt and saving money. So, I'm sitting there trying to think of something that's cheap but might be fun for the family, and I remember going bowling as a teenager.

My memory is foggy (that happens once you pass 40), but I know we never had much spending money as teenagers, so it couldn't have cost more than a few dollars for an evening of bowling.

So, my partner calls the bowling alley to find out what times they have open bowling, and what the prices are. I couldn't believe it when she told me that it was going to cost us $15 to bowl one game!

How long does it take to bowl one game? An hour? Sheesh, $15 for one hour seems awfully high to me.

Well, we are going to try it, anyway. Hopefully it will be really fun and worth the money. I will let you all know how it turns out. (Maybe we will just bowl really slowly and make that one game last :-)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Voluntary Simplicity - My Definition

I’ve been reading about Voluntary Simplicity (VS) for a while now. I like the idea of living a simple life – a life with reduced stress, a life without all the “hurry-up-and-go”, a life where making a ton of money is not the goal, a life where the people matter more than the things.

But after reading scores of web sites, I’ve realized that what I am looking for isn’t a typical VS life. My goal is not to live off the grid, or learn to grow all of my own food, or learn to cook on a wood stove.

All of those goals are wonderful, and they can certainly lead to a reduction in needed money, but in my opinion, they do NOT lead to a simpler life. I’m looking to make my life easier, not more complicated. I have no interest in going backward when it comes to technological progress. I like having water, electricity, heat, A/C, and automatic appliances at my fingertips.

I’m not trying to be political or save the planet (although that is certainly a noble goal). I'm trying to make life better – for me and my family – while making as small an impact on the planet as I can.

So, what do I mean by living a simple life? A simple life to me means an unpretentious life – a life in which a fa├žade is unnecessary. I want to go back to the “good old days” when simple living meant frugality and non-consumerism were the norm, not something to be ashamed of because you were poor and couldn't do any better.

I want to have a simple house, and not be looked down upon because of it. I want to buy furniture that is good enough for us, whether new or used, and not feel anxious when I have company. I want to clothe and feed my family as decently as possible, based on what I think is important rather than on what advertisers tell me I must have.

I want to feel good about turning the heat down in the winter, and turning the air conditioning up in the summer. I want my old – but functional – appliances to be a testament to how well I am managing our money, rather than an embarrassment that we hope no one will comment on.

I want to be proud that I don’t have to work outside our home, and not have to feel that I am judged as lazy, nonproductive, and a drain on society’s resources. I want my lifestyle to be considered an acceptable alternative to consumerism, rather than a pitiable way to live.

Voluntary Simplicity has as many definitions as there are web sites about VS. I thought I’d add mine to the mix.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Frugal Gardening - in the Winter?

Ok, I'm not really gardening in the winter. But, I am still enjoying the tomatoes I grew in the summer. I've learned that tomatoes freeze just fine if you plan on cooking them.

Last year was the first year that I seriously grew a vegetable garden. I had planted a few vegetables before and even tried indoor sowing, but it wasn't a planned effort and none of it turned out very well.

But, last year I went at it full force. I planned, plotted, winter sowed (more on that in another article), staked, and watered and ended up with a large crop of Roma tomatoes to show for my efforts.

We ate our fill of tomatoes all summer then froze the rest. The great thing about freezing tomatoes is you don't need to do anything to prepare them for the freezer. Just rinse them in water, pop them into a freezer bag, and leave them till you need tomatoes in a recipe.

Frozen tomatoes are much easier to skin than fresh tomatoes. Just soak them in warm water for a few minutes, cut an opening in the top of the tomatoes, then just push them out of the skin. They usually pop right out.

I made Cabbage and Kielbasa with some of my frozen Roma's last night (instead of the can of tomatoes the recipe called for), and it was great. The tomatoes broke down quickly and tasted good in the soup. The meal was all the more satisfying knowing that I had grown those tomatoes myself.

In case you'd like to try the recipe, I'll add it here.

KIELBASA and CABBAGE
  • 1 large Onion, chopped
  • 1 T butter or Margarine
  • 1 lb Kielbasa sliced into 1/4" rounds
  • 1 head Cabbage, chopped
  • 1 - 28 oz can whole Tomatoes (or 4 cups frozen whole tomatoes, skinned)
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth
In a large stock pot, saute onion and Kielbasa in margarine until onions are transparent (OPTIONAL - you can just toss everything in the pot and simmer). Add cabbage, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Cover and simmer until cabbage is tender (1/2 to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.

This can be made in the crock pot, but the amount of cabbage will have to be reduced. Only half a head of cabbage will fit into my crock pot, so halve the recipe if your crock is a standard size.

Begin your garden dreaming now, so that you will have plenty of home-grown, freshly-frozen veggies for next winter.

Festival of Frugality

I have neglected to post a link to the sites that have hosted the Festival of Frugality carnivals and Carnival of Shopping in which one of my articles was included. I would like to take the time now to link back to those sites. Please forgive my oversight in not posting these links sooner.

  1. Savvy Steward
  2. Mom Advice
  3. Become's Pocket Change
  4. Frugal for Life