Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Page 2 of 27

“Are you missing work yet?”

Poppy and Jeff curled up, asleep.
Poppy and Jeff, just chillin’.

This gem of a question was asked when I visited my old school a couple of weeks ago. Strangely, Mum also asks this on a regular basis. Don’t these people know me at all?

It’s been 8 months since I gave my farewell speech and exited the building. I expected that I’d do some CRT (emergency teaching) work but none has eventuated and, as it turns out, I’m pretty happy about that. I’m loving our leisurely mornings on the couch at The Best House in Melbourne. Often I find myself still in pjs making breakfast when my colleagues will be chirpily saying, “Good morning kids!” to their first Google Meets classes at 8:50 am. I raise a mug to them.

My days are contented, even during lockdowns. This last lockdown is number 6. It came only 9 days after the last one so for the first time, I didn’t get to Bunnings to buy paint, plants, or gardening supplies for a lockdown project. But that’s ok. I have plenty of other things to occupy my time.

Table with free books and jigsaws to get through lockdown6.
Seen at our Backyard Beach.

Having lots of little interests is the secret to succeeding at both lockdowns and retirements, I think.

When I began full-time work again after 10 years of being a stay-at-home Mum to the 4 boys, at first I did the regular teacherly thing of bringing home marking to be done after school and on the weekends. After a while, I noticed a pattern. Those essays and grammar tests would be brought home in a pile, dumped on the dining room table and then the next morning that same pile, untouched by human hands since the dumping, would be taken back to school.

A single parent of 4 small boys, three of them still in primary school, has little quiet, private time to be able to sit and work through marking. It was an optimistic waste of time to be bringing that work home with me. I learned to power through my marking at school by working through lunchtimes, by marking one class’s work while another class was quietly doing a test or writing an essay, or by staying back an hour or two and eating Caramello Koalas while doggedly working my way down to the bottom of the pile.

This meant that when I was at home, I was fully at home. The kids had my attention and I was also free to develop some skills in things that interested me.

Some, of course, were things that I’ve always been drawn to. I’ve been addicted to reading since I was 3. Knitting? My Gran taught me when I was 7. I can close my eyes and still see that bright red wool that she used. My dogs? I bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for 6 or 7 years before I had the boys and, thanks to the breeder who got me started, we always had dogs that she needed to rehouse.

Other interests came along the way.

I started growing our own food when one of the boys went on a downward spiral into depression, with all that comes with it, when he was in his mid-teens. Taking him to his appointments etc wasn’t enough – I needed to do something more concrete. Getting rid of preservatives and eating organic things was too expensive for me to do if I was buying it. But it was far cheaper (and ultimately, more satisfying) if I grew the veggies, fruit and eggs myself. Now, in the new house, I don’t have chooks anymore, but it was lovely when we did.

And for those who were wondering, after a rocky 2 or 3 years, my boy came out the other side and is doing really well. For anyone who may be currently going through this nightmare, there ARE success stories. But this one is not really mine to tell any further. 🙂

Quilt.

Quilting can either be a hellishly expensive hobby, or one that you can do pretty cheaply. Thirteen years ago, a quilting shop opened just around the corner and I borrowed a sewing machine from Blogless Sandy and gave it a crack. Quilting fabric can costs a lot, but if you look at the time spent vs the money spent, the hourly rate for entertainment becomes remarkably small. A few pieces of fabric, some batting, and some thread can keep me occupied for WEEKS!

I remember a conversation I had with Mum, many years ago. She said that HER Mum once said to her that it was important for women to have some form of handicraft that they could do. (Keep in mind that this was back in the days when most women stayed home after they married.) Most of the work that women did was ephemeral. The meals need cooking every day. Houses don’t stay clean. Weeds still grow. But an embroidered tablecloth or a quilt or a knitted tea cosy is permanent. It’s a record that you were here and you produced something that will last.

The quilt pictured above was the first one I ever made. It was for Evan12. A few months ago I went to his place to stay the night and there it was – and Evan 12 is now Evan24. Seeing that quilt on his bed brought a sense of satisfaction that was… well… very satisfying. Not only does that hobby bring endless hours of entertainment to me – but it also brings warmth and comfort to those I care about. I’ve made nearly 40 quilts. I’ve only kept 5.

The same things that apply to ‘women’s work’ that my Gran was referring to is also true of many jobs, particularly office jobs, today. People spend years going to an office and tapping away at a screen, with nothing concrete to hold in their hands at the end of it all. Any sort of craft or skill, be it handicrafts, art, music or sport, is something worth developing.

My hand on Jane Austen's writing table.

Before covid and Australia’s borders slamming shut, I would have counted travel as a huge thing I wanted to do in retirement. Look at this photo. It’s the actual table that Jane Austen wrote her novels on. I’ve actually touched it. Who wouldn’t want to gallivant around a world that has such treasures in it?

But until the borders open up again, all of us have had to find entertainment and pleasure close to home. If lockdowns are dragging, that’s a signal that you need to look around and start exploring the smaller possibilities that are around you.

I was lucky. The boys and I were so broke for so many years that I couldn’t have developed expensive hobbies, like skiing for example, even if I’d wanted to. (I took them up for a day to see snow at Lake Mountain. We took cardboard to toboggan with. It was a fun day and they got to see real snow.) Anything that I wanted to explore had to be close to home, cheap to do, and preferably useful.

Now, these skills are paying dividends. While the real dividends periodically roll into my bank accounts, I’m contentedly filling in my days with a mishmash of all these things and more.

There’s a quiet pleasure in picking a lemon from a tree you planted yourself or making a meal including ingredients from your own garden.

Looking down at the face of the prettiest Cavalier you’ve ever owned and knowing that in her pedigree are dogs that you’ve bred. Finding an author that you really like and working your way through her books. (Though the protagonist in the fifth book in the ‘Woody Creek’ series is the biggest drama queen ninny I’ve ever come across. Hopefully there’s less of her in books 6 and 7.)

Today is another day in lockdown. After I press ‘publish’ on this post, I’ll have a shower, get dressed and start listening to book 6 as I finish knitting the last of the bamboo washcloths. It’s raining at the moment so the little woofs will have to wait for their walk. Later, I’ll steam some sweet potato to make sweet potato gnocchi for dinner and make sure I grab tomatoes and zucchini from the freezer to use in the sauce. It’s a new recipe so that’ll be fun to see if it’s a keeper.

I only watch 2 reality tv shows and for the next couple of weeks they’re both playing on the same nights. Honestly, I didn’t retire so that my life could be this hard! I’m in the Survivor sweep at work and I’m in a Whatsapp chat with people from work (and Tom29) when Survivor is on, so I have to prioritise JLP. When lunchtime rolls around I’ll settle down in front of catch-up tv and watch last night’s episode of The Block. I love me some Block!

In the afternoon I’ll keep listening to my library audiobook as I either pull fabrics from my stash to make a boy baby quilt to test the pattern that Ryan26 has designed as a lockdown boredom buster, or I’ll start quilting a little girl’s baby quilt I made a couple of weeks ago. This audiobook will bring my ‘Earn Back my Rates’ challenge to a successful conclusion. This won’t happen today though. The book has 20 hours of listening time in it, so even listening at 1.5 X speed will still take a while.

In the next few days, I’ll be dragging my little greenhouse out of the back shed and starting some seeds to grow for summer crops. I want to buy some paint to (finally) finish off my ensuite and also paint my garden side gates bright yellow, though this will have to wait until lockdown ends. I’m making plans for pots and flowers for ‘Operation Beautify‘ to make this house pretty before I get real estate agents in to give me a valuation. Just for interest’s sake – I’m not moving anywhere!

There’s always something to do and to think about. Always a little challenge to set for myself or an experiment to do in the garden. No matter how small. When borders open up again I’ll go large, (such as Antarctica 2022), but for the moment, having lots of little interests is definitely the way to go.

Frugal Friday: Repurpose, reuse, recycle!

Scout on the back of the couch looking towards a table with balls of bamboo yarn.
Scout keeping an eye on what’s happening.

In 2010 I fell in love with a knitting pattern and made a top out of hellishly expensive bamboo knitting tape. It had a drape and sheen that was amazing. I’d made a trip to Camberwell to a tiny shop called Sunspun and they had a pink top on display. I loved it. But the pattern book was $40. Yikes!

A blog reader pointed me in the direction of the Rowan website, where I found it on their ‘Free Patterns’ page. I bought the bamboo tape and made the top.

A much younger Frogdancer in a pale blue knitted top.
One of the few times in my life where I’ve had long hair.

There I am in 2010 with the finished product.

Which, after only a couple of wears, languished in a drawer for the next 11 years.

It looked ok on its own … but it looked AWFUL if I wore anything with long sleeves under it and it was too heavy to wear in summer. Turns out, that beautiful top was a total white elephant.

“One day I’ll unpick it and use that bamboo for something else,” I thought. For 11 years.

Turns out that lockdown is a perfect opportunity to Get Things Done.

Close up of the balls of yarn.

The sheen on these balls of bamboo tape is beautiful. Turns out I wasn’t able to salvage all of it – apparently I’m very thorough when it comes to sewing things together and I had to cut some of the seams, resulting in lots of reject bits.

But now I’m happily knitting washcloths to be given with the home-made soap I make for presents. I like having things like this tucked away that I can give when people pop by. The bamboo is beautifully squashy and smoochy so I think people will really like using them.

I’m pleased that I’m not wasting Past Frogdancer’s money by continuing to ignore this top. In 2010 I still had 3 kids at secondary school, I was paying off the mortgage and life was still very pinched when it came to finances. Buying this yarn was an expensive decision. Although I won’t be enjoying it, I know that people dear to me will be using them for years.

And the best thing? Once the washcloths get worn, they’re able to be thrown into people’s worm farms, compost bins or even buried in their gardens. The yarn is organic and the worms will eat them and turn them into fertiliser for the garden.

Though that won’t be for a while. I knitted 5 or 6 cotton washcloths for this place when we moved in 5 years ago. I use them in the kitchen instead of buying sponges. Five years later after continuous use – still going strong. The worms in my worm farms will have to wait a little longer before they get those tasty treats!

Frugal Friday: A holiday every morning!

Look at this. What does it remind you of?

YES!!! Holidays! Teeny little shampoos, shower gels and conditioners. We all have them kicking around our bathroom cabinets.

In these dreary lockdown days, I’ve decided to use up all of these little bits and bobs. For a few minutes every morning when I jump into the shower – yeah babyyyyy!!! I’m on holidays!

I was amazed when I unearthed this one. I’m pretty sure that this was from when I took the boys to Thailand – back in 2007. (By the way – this is why I like blogging. I read through this blog post and there was so much detail that I’d forgotten. And yes; I still have and love the emerald ring.)

Once I get through all of the mini body washes I have quite a few little cakes of soap to enjoy. I’m currently on my last bar of homemade soap, so soon I’ll be mixing up a new batch for Christmas presents and working my way through the tourist ones.

But there’s also an over-abundance of hand lotion…

So many tubes of hand lotion. I’m ashamed to say that I always forget to use it, so gifts and motel ones have multiplied over the years. This one pictured above is the last of a pack of three that I bought in Pyongyang, North Korea, mainly to freak out the people in my staffroom. We used to have ‘Handcream Friday’ every week, so I thought they’d like a new and exciting option of Horse Oil.

Not all of them took up the challenge, especially the vegetarians.

Surprisingly, this is one of the nicest hand creams I’ve ever used. Its texture is lovely and the scent is beautiful. I’m going to go into mourning when my last ever Horse Oil moisturiser is gone.

After 3 weeks of consistently using hand lotion, my old, withered crone hands are looking youthful and dewy. I have tiny little scars on the backs of my hands from when I bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – puppy teeth are sharp – and now you can barely see them.

So if lockdown is getting you down and you have some little souvenirs like this, drag them out and start using them. It’s a little bit of fun. 🙂

Dad Joke of the Day:

Is it just me, or are nuts over-the-top expensive?

The last packet I bought cost me an almond a leg. 

Frugal Friday: Lockdown #6 edition.

Rose - apricot coloured blooms.

Oof. It’s hard when a state is only 9 days out of the last lockdown and then has 4 hour’s notice before being thrown back into the next one. I’m sure all 6.6 million Victorians would like to thank the family from Sydney who broke the rules and precipitated this for us all.

For the first time, I was caught on the back foot and didn’t have a specific project lined up to do. I spent Thursday driving to Moorabbin to get my car serviced, then a went for a walk with Tom29, who is waiting to start his new job next week. He jumped jobs and earned a 40% increase in his wage, so I’m very proud of him.

Then I went into work. I owed Alice a bottla champagne on a bet we had in the series finale of ‘Celebrity Apprentice Australia.’ I also needed to give my $2 to the sweep organiser for ‘Survivor.’ WHAT a cracking season it’s been so far! We have a Whatsapp group going so every episode we’re chatting away.

(I distinguished myself by logging on to chat one night and not noticing that I was on the wrong chat. I was making remarks about the show and wondering where all the others were, until I realised that I was actually sending these weird messages to James, my Irish friend that I met when we went to North Korea 3 years ago. He thought it was hilarious…)

I spent a lovely couple of hours chatting with people and catching up on what’s been going on. So many people would walk into the Danger Zone, the area of staff room 2 where I always lived, glance at me, then do a double-take when they remembered that I don’t work here anymore.

People kept asking if I was still enjoying being away from work. My reply? Something along the lines of, “Retirement is fucking fantastic!!!!”

Still, the general atmosphere was pretty glum. It’s hard on both the teachers and the kids when remote learning comes into play and they’re all pretty sick of it. The announcement of the lockdown hadn’t yet been made when I was there but it seemed pretty obvious that it was going to happen.

On the way back to pick up my car, I received a phone call from Mum. She and Dad were having computer problems. Ugh! But as luck would have it, I was 5 minutes away from them so I dropped in after the car was done and worked out what was going on. Lucky – otherwise it’d be ages before we could clap eyes on each other again.

Even though I’m fully vaxxed, I kept my mask on the whole day. I don’t like the sound of Delta… both the virus and Goodrum. (Just a little joke.)

So it was after 5 when I eventually arrived home. Ryan26 met me at the front door after the little woofs had finished their hysterical greeting. Fair enough – I was gone the whole day. Clearly, I was never going to come back and they would be all alone with only Ryan26 to love…

“You’ve got a parcel. Live plants.”

I blinked. I thought all my plants from Diggers had been delivered…?

Look at the picture at the top of the post. Six years ago when I fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to the UK and Europe, a reader of the Frog blog contacted me and asked if I’d like to stay at their place for a few days and she’d show me around. I spent 3 beautiful days with Deana and her family, and she took me to Hever Castle, Jane Austen’s house and Canterbury.

In the Canterbury post I mentioned shopping at a quilt shop there. Last year one of my lockdown projects was to turn some of that fabric into a quilt for Deana as a surprise. Anyway – she got me back.

She sent me a bare-rooted rose bush called “Lady Gardener’, which is the rose in the photo. Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again! Now I have a project for lockdown #6 – I’ll be getting Ryan26 to dig another hole in the orchard and I’ll plant it beside the fence. The blooms will look lovely this summer in front of the dark grey.

It’s somehow fitting that an English rose has given me an English rose. 🙂

Dad Joke of the day:

I’ve accidentally swallowed some Scrabble tiles. My next crap could spell disaster. 

Frugal Friday: Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers.

Dorky guy dancing

When we moved here I brought with me a big bureau-type thing that used to live in the lounge room and had the tv on top. It has shelves and also drawers which were perfect for storing DVDs and CDs – remember those things?

Dog on a couch.

You can see how it used to look in this old photo. Look behind Jeff on the couch – the couch which now lives on the backyard verandah – and there it is.

Soon after we moved here I found a dining table and chairs that were on Gumtree. When I went to look at them, the people were also selling the strangest-looking bureau I’ve seen. It was all business on the top but it has the weirdest legs. I wasn’t sure if I liked it but I knew I’d probably regret walking away from it so I bought it.

Cabinet with long spindly legs

It’s in my lounge room with the tv on top of it. I’m still not sure if I like it but I’m used to it and in an odd way I’m fond of my strange-looking cabinet. If it ever came alive like in nightmares, those spider-like legs would be impossible to escape.

So we moved the original bureau to the Man Cave, where it sits covered by family photos and, other than being dusted every now and then, hasn’t been touched by human hands since.

It has the family DVDs, the boys’ old games, computer cables and my CDs. We only have one device capable of playing CDs and I’ve packed it away somewhere. In the last few years, I’ve veered away from listening to music and am more a podcast girl. However, Ryan26 has an excellent Spotify account and he plays music a lot so I still get to hear some groovy tunes. If I want to hear something specific, Youtube is handy.

Boxes and tubs piled on top of each other.

I’m a lazy soul at heart, which is one of the reasons why retiring early appealed to me so much. A couple of months ago I spent a couple of days sorting through tubs of my fabric stash and putting them into colours. I put them, all sorted, into the tubs and piled them into the wardrobe of the guest/sewing room.

There! All together! All sorted! Nothing can stop me now!

Tangle of fabric strings

Except… ugh.

Who wants to go and lift all those tubs out if you want a colour from the bottom of the pile? Or worse – if you want to PUT AWAY a fabric that belongs in the bottom tub? Look at this pile of selvedges and strings. I’d have to lift out at least 3 tubs to put these away.

It’s such a hassle.

I didn’t retire just so my life can become so difficult.

I started looking at chests of drawers on the LKEA website, but we were in lockdown … then I remembered the old bureau. I mentioned to Ryan26 that I was thinking about taking it over for my fabric. He had a look in there and started dragging out all my old CDs.

“How about I make a Spotify list for you?” he asked. This is how ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ was born.

We had the best afternoon! He put all of my CDs on there – except Michelle Shock’s album ‘Short, Sharp Shocked’, which apparently isn’t on Spotify. Pity, because that whole album is a banger.

After a while, he started playing random tracks and I’d try and guess the title and artist before they started singing. It’s amazing how many songs I remember, though Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’ had me stumped.

Then he called me in, sat me down and said, “What are the other songs you want to put here?” Now that was a gloriously fun rabbit hole to go down. I think it was 3 hours and over 3,100 songs later that we decided it was time to stop and make dinner.

That was two days ago. One of today’s tasks is to swap over the fabric for the junk in that bureau. I’m happy for never-used boys’stuff to sit in the tubs, but this Frugal Friday win is to utilise the space we have in a far more user-friendly way, without racing out to buy more furniture. I’m far more likely to use the fabric I have if I can access it easily. Lazy at heart, remember?

The monetary loss is, of course, once Ryan26 started playing ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’, I realised that I wanted to be able to hear it whenever I wanted. It’s got some damned fine… well… bangers on it.

So we’ve splitting a Spotify account between us. $7/month each is a small price to pay for hearing songs like this again:

I haven’t heard this song for I don’t know how long. Just imagine how many other excellent songs are lurking on ‘Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers’ waiting for me to rediscover them?

(But apologies for all of the grammatical errors on this vid. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have retired – the world clearly needs English teachers to help the Youtubers.)

Speaking of English teaching – one of the things I miss about teaching is putting up Dad jokes on the board at the start of each lesson. So guess what? At the bottom of each post from now on, I’ll put a Dad joke.

I know it’s not in the Financial Independence vein, but hey. Don’t you try and repress me! My blog – my rules. Besides, I have a huge list of jokes saved. It isn’t frugal to let them moulder and go to waste.

Today’s Dad joke:

I dig.
You dig.
He digs.
She digs.
We dig.
They dig.

It’s not the most imaginative poem. But it’s quite deep.  

“So are you working?”

In between lockdowns is a fantastic time to catch up with old friends.

Recently, I’ve had 3 separate high school reunions with women I haven’t seen for 40 years or so. Each reunion has been so much fun – it’s odd how our lives have been so different in the little details, but have still been the same(ish) in terms of the broad-brush-stroke events.

But something I found myself pondering after the first couple of meetings – how do you ask what people are doing without assuming that they have a job? Many people have their self-image tied in up what they do for a living, but what if, like me, they’ve retired?

In my age group it’s not terribly uncommon for women to have dropped back to part-time work or full retirement, especially if they’ve stayed married. Decades of those two wages makes a difference after a while!

We all know that the usual question when meeting anyone, either for the first time or after a large gap, is to ask, “So what do you do?” This implies that they have a job/career. Is there a different way to ask how they’re spending their days?

I decided to test-drive the question, “So, are you working?” Said with a smile… tone of voice is really important, of course. It seems a more neutral way of asking how they spend their time without the expectation of getting a job title in return.

If they’re working, you’ll get a “Yes, I’m a ………………” or something like,”Yes, I’m working 4 days a week as a …………….”

If they’re not, you’ll get a, “No, I’m retired… never worked… ” Whatever. The only risk I can see is that the person bursts into tears and says they just got laid off. That’d be awkward, but you run that risk anyway with the more usual question.

(Of course, it wouldn’t be so neutral if you added one word – imagine asking “So, are you STILL working?” OMG… can you imagine the expression on the other person’s face? )

So on my third reunion, I asked the question. I already knew what Robyn did for a living – we’d reconnected on BookFace and had had a long chat on Messenger – but I had no idea what Lisa was up to these days.

It worked really well. She smiled and told us that she worked 3 days a week as a district nurse, visiting Mums and young babies in high risk families. There were no weird looks and her reply led into a really interesting discussion about what she does in those three days, as well as how she spends the other 4 days a week.

We had a great talk. Robyn works fulltime as a teacher, Lisa part time and I’m retired, so we were spread along the whole line of possibilities. It was fun to compare the different lifestyles. We all chose the more traditional “caring” careers. Not sure if that’s a product of leaving school in the 1980’s as young, middle-class women or whether we’re just fantastically humanitarian people. We all enjoy/ed our careers though, regardless of the reasons why we entered them.

I know this isn’t a huge thing in the big scheme of life, but I found it an interesting thing to play with.

Has anyone else experimented with how to ask The Question?

I did some Maths!

HELP written on test

This morning I was noodling around on the Simple Savings forum when someone posted a comment about the cost of groceries. This made me wonder – how were we tracking this year compared to last?

David27 has moved out in all but name, so SURELY we’d be doing better?

Plus we have a VERY well-stocked Zombie Apocalypse cupboard that I beefed up when covid raised its ugly head. This means that we don’t go to the supermarket very often, especially when we’re in lockdowns. The plague is a very good reason to avoid people. It also means that you avoid impulse buys when you pop in for a litre of milk, for example.

Also, remember all of those pumpkins we grew? We’re just finishing the last one, months after we picked them all. That crop alone would have saved us something. We’ve eaten a lot of pumpkin over the last few months and I’ve even invented a pumpkin pasta bake, just to use up even more. We’re still eating other things from the garden, though far less in winter.

So how are we tracking?

I knew this would require some advanced Maths. Fortunately, my laptop has a calculator. I pulled up my ‘Yearly Expenses’ chart and had a look.

Chart of grocery spending.

oof.

Kids are expensive to feed, especially when they turn into men. You can see how the grocery bill drops as a couple of them left home. It used to be even more expensive when I had 4 adult men to feed, but Tom was already gone by the time I started tallying up figures.

Roughly speaking, I divided up 9K (2020’s number, rounded up) by 12. That gave me an average monthly figure.

Then I multiplied it by 7. We’re in July, the 7th month. (I know Maths people will say that we still have 6 days to go before July is done, but all I wanted was a rough idea.)

Roughly speaking, I’ve spent around $1,800 LESS than I did this time last year. I’m pretty pleased with that.

Hmmm… how much cheaper will it be when Ryan26 moves out? Maybe I should start dropping hints???

But then, maybe not. He’ll probably look at me like this:

Sad bear looking sad.

Well, I’m exhausted after all that intensive brain work. Time for a lime verbena tea!

Frugal Friday: Anyone for pizza?

Even without a thermomix, pizza dough is so easy and cheap to make. When the kids were really little, I used to cop out and use wraps as bases, but honestly… that’s a travesty. A good pizza needs a good base, so I love the pizza bases I make. Have a look at the ingredients – could it be cheaper?

2 tsps dry Yeast

220g lukewarm water

30g olive oil

1 tsp sugar (At the moment I’m using the sugar sachets I liberated from the motels I stayed in on my South Australian trip – SO EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!) heh heh…

420g bakers flour. (Though plain will do as well.)

1 tsp salt.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put garlic, chilli and some fresh rosemary in there as well. (I freeze whole peeled garlic cloves and whole chillis and grow rosemary in wicking boxes – SO NO WASTE!!! EVEN CHEAPER!!!!!!!) Ok, I’ll stop now.

How thrifty is this? It costs literally mere cents to make this dough – enough for 4 or 5 pizzas, depending on how large you like them.

I keep the yeast in the freezer in the blue insulated thermos-y thing. It’s the yeast I bought a few days before our very first lockdown back in March 2020. Still going strong.

Oh! Did you notice the olive oil container? I bought that in San Gimignano in Italy on my 2015 trip. Another frugal tip – buy souvenirs that you’ll USE, not ones you merely look at. Nearly every day when I reach for the olive oil, I think of that trip.

Here’s the dough, just before I wrap it up in a silicon mat and put it near a heating vent. (It’s the middle of winter here in Melbourne.)

After an unfortunate incident when Poppy was a puppy, many years ago, we’ve learned that we have to keep dough that we’re proving up high.

There is a very strict rule in this house, brought in when the kids were little, that EVERY pizza must have green on it. No matter what else is happening in the garden, I always have leaves growing and so they must go on.

Edited to add – in the background is a ceramic tea caddy that I bought in Beijing when my friends Helen, Rick and I went to North Korea. Another useful souvenir!

Ryan26 is the pizza maker in this household. The toppings vary, depending on what’s in the fridge and the garden. This was last night’s effort.

Of course, I forgot to take a photo when he pulled them from the oven. I was starving. But we fed 2 adults an incredibly cheap, yet incredibly delicious dinner for 2 or 3 dollars at most.

And here’s the answer to Toni’s question in the last post.

I have a side-by-side fridge and freezer in the kitchen and the lowest basket is devoted to ice-cube sized portions of home-made pesto – which always goes on our pizzas – and balls of frozen pizza dough.

Ryan26 just divides up the dough after it’s risen and put’s individual-sized balls into freezer bags. They’re so handy if someone, such as an adult son who lives away from home, drops in and is starving. He can whip up a meal very quickly.

I also like it when it gets to around 5PM and I’m not in the zone for cooking. I just throw 2 frozen pizza dough balls onto the kitchen counter and by the time Ryan26 is ready to start cooking, the dough is ready to roll.

Some people recommend freezing them in flat discs so they’ll defrost quicker, but I don’t like the sound of that. How many times have you gone to the freezer to get a sheet of puff pastry, only to find that it’s broken? It’s a PIA. I’d rather it take a little more time to defrost and then you can roll it to to the size that you want.

Thanks, Toni, for asking the question. I got to have the night off from cooking last night. Love pizza nights!

Frugality and FI is the gift that keeps on giving.

Pea soup in a bowl.
Not my soup – mine’s still cooking!

There’s a rumour that’s been circulating for a while now that Frogdancer Jones – that’s me – is frugal. Or maybe a tightarse… take your pick. I was told about a conversation that happened in the staff room at work where people were describing a continuum of spending. Apparently, I was on the thriftiest end, while the others spaced themselves along the rest of the line up to the biggest spender.

But hey, I like being frugal. I like the challenges of making material things last longer, enabling my money to go a little further and only shelling out for things I HAVE to have and things I WANT to have. Middle of the road ‘meh’ stuff doesn’t cut it in this household.

Being frugal means that I can cut down unnecessary spending, freeing up my cash for fun things. You know, things we’ve all wanted to buy… a mini dachshund puppy, a trip to North Korea, 6 more apple trees… Things that are by far more important to me than designer handbags and the like.

It’s fun for me to save dried peas from the garden and turn them into soup, using my slow cooker that I’ve had for over 20 years. It makes me smile to look down at my slippered feet and see the ‘Welcome to Nightvale’ patches. My ‘Earn back my council rates’ challenge costs me nothing, but because of it I’ve read 86 books so far this year for free. If you think getting lost in a good book doesn’t add to your quality of life, then I have news for you!

I’m a big fan of finding experiences and activities that entertain and inspire you without having to necessarily cost a whole lot. This automatically leaves money that you can put towards something else.

Being frugal doesn’t mean that you never lash out on expensive items.

Which is why I’m really excited about my latest purchase.

Big box with Poppy ( a cavalier) sniffing it.

This is a gift for David27 and Izzy. It’s an engagement + wedding gift because it’d be an extraordinarily generous engagement gift and I’m not that rich! It was delivered here in the middle of lockdown #5 so it’ll be a while until I can drive over there with it to give it to them.

It’s a product that I hold very dear to my heart. I have 2 of them and I can’t possibly do without them. Just this morning I used one to make bread dough, pizza dough and gratin sauce for cauliflower cheese for lunch. We now have 8 bread rolls and 4 balls of pizza dough in the freezer for literally mere cents. And absolutely no artificial ingredients. Izzy and David27 both have health issues and she’s also lactose intolerant, so this will be perfect for them to eat cleanly and with fresh ingredients, while being able to produce gourmet meals. They’re both foodies.

I’m so excited to be able to provide this for them.

Just to make it fair for the rest of the boys – because 2 have already bought their own thermomixes, while Evan24’s housemate owns one – I’ve decided to give a little less towards the wedding. I’ve always thought that I’d give 5K per boy per FIRST wedding – (any subsequent weddings and they’re on their own!!) – so I’ll give 4K towards this one.

Come to think of it, I also gave them the diamond for Izzy’s engagement ring. There are definite advantages to being the first cab off the rank when weddings come along! This is a product of the practical thinking that frugality brings. I had a very good quality diamond in a ring sitting in the jewellery box, back from when I was in my twenties. I’m never going to wear it again. It makes no sense for it to sit there for decades when Izzy could have it put into a setting she loves and then get to enjoy looking at it every day.

By doing this, I release something that was useless to me and David27 gets to put the money that he would’ve spent on a diamond towards the wedding. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Being frugal and FI is almost like a superpower. When I think back to the days when the boys were small, when I could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads, I feel so very lucky to be able to buy a gift like this now. Back then, I would never have believed it would ever be possible.

All I have to do now is wait for this current lockdown to be over. The box can sit in the hallway, just like the boxes of my customers used to do when I sold thermomixes as a second job. Once we’re free to drive further than 5 km from our homes, I’ll look forward to driving over to Izzy’s parents’ place to deliver it, just as I used to do back in the day for my customers. It’ll be fun.

But if you know them in real life.. sssshhhh!

Don’t spoil the surprise!

Frugal Friday: Support the Arts and save some uggs all at the same time.

I’ve noticed that it’s been nippier in the mornings lately. It’s not just that we’re in the middle of winter, though that’s a factor – it’s also that BOTH my ugg boots have a hole right where my big toes are. It’s surprising how much colder you feel when a little breeze is whipping across your toes first thing in the morning.

The easiest thing to do would be to chuck these out and buy another pair, but I didn’t want to do this. My son, Ryan26, bought these for me 2 Christmases ago for over $100. That’s a lot of money for a student. And apart from the toe holes, the rest of the boots were in tiptop condition.

Then came an email from one of my favourite podcasts, ‘Welcome to Nightvale.’

This poddie has been going for 9 years and it has quite a bit of merch. Including cloth patches…

Hmmmm…

I could send away for 2 patches for $24, or spend $100+ on a new pair of uggs. But gee – do I have the time required to actually sew the patches on?

Well yes. Yes I do. I’m retired, after all.

I LOVE THEM!

When the patches arrived I put on a podcast that I wanted to listen to, brought a cup of lime verbena tea from the garden over to the couch and started sewing. It was a pleasant way to spend some time and I knocked over both the repair job and a couple of podcast eps. Now that’s being productive!

My uggs are now snug again and I have a totally individual pair. I’ve respected my son’s gift and now they’re even more special to me than before. Plus I’ve stopped 2 boots from disappearing into landfill.

I’ve also supported a podcast that has given me YEARS of entertainment and I’ve saved a chunk of cash as well.

Who says that frugality has to be drudgery?

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