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19 September 2005

Channeling Martha


Maybe you've noticed that a gallon of gas still hovers around $3? We most certainly have. And because my "raise" at UAF/TVC amounts to only a mere $40 extra each paycheck, we knew we must take action.

We've come up with a plan to save even more money. Yes, this from the gals who already scrape by on $1000 a month. To stop eating organic food and going to yoga, of course, are the cuts most people would make, but to what end? These are the things that keep us healthy, and our health is one thing we still want to hang onto!

1. Sunday is no driving day. One day a week when we don't use any gas.
2. Being more conscious about lights getting turned off. If we leave a room, "click-click." Turn off the light. Yes, this only adds up to pennies, but it mentally gears us up to save, which is important.
3. Wood heat. We bough a 1/2 cord of wood for $100 on Saturday. Yes, Alaskan friends, that's what they charge here for a 1/2 cord of hard wood. Crazy, huh? But with heating oil expected to rise 71% from last winter, we had little choice!
4. We're going to winterize the apartment earlier this year - perhaps the first or 2nd week of October. Our heating bills last year were about $400/month for a 2 bedroom apartment. Even if we cut our heat use in half, we're going to pay about the same as last year, but we don't want to pay any more than that. One cold night without the windows winterized could cost us $15, we reckon.
5. Pasta! Pasta! Pasta! We're committed to making pasta for dinner 3 times a week. Not ramen, but pasta. Pasta is cheap and filling, and it doesn't have to get boring if we really mix it up. We might start making our own noodles, too, but right now we can get a bag of penne at the Italian grocer for $0.79. I'm sure we can beat that financially, but do we have the time?
6. Channeling Martha. The bread we buy 2 loaves of per week is from an organic bakery here in Portland. A loaf is about $3.39-$3.59, depending where we buy it. We've decided that Sundays (the no-drive day) is now baking day. We'll save about $6 a week this way.

Yesterday we made stone ground wheat bread. The ingredients were mostly organic, and we figured the cost of the 2 loaves was about $0.40. We also made Bavarian soft pretzles, some sourdough starter for next week, and 2 loaves of French bread.

We started at about 10am and we finished at 10pm. We took a break during one of the risings and took the dogs for a big walk down to the USM campus. It was great. We have quite the system. Because I so easily get tendonitis and because Rafaela is super strong and because I never have been allowed to get the Kitchen-Aid mixer of my dreams (in Alaska when we could afford it, Raf said, "No, we don't have running water. It will be such a pain to clean." Now we have running water but can't afford it!), Raf is the head kneader. I am the relief kneader. Raf is also the master measurer. I am the instruction-giver. I follow the recipe and announce what needs to be done next. I am also the rising cheerleader, meaning I perform cheers to encourage the dough as it rises. We share in the cleaning part and also in the tasting part. I am also the timer. Our oven doesn't have a timer, so it's up to me, the sole-owner of a wrist-watch, to announce when something should be done rising or is ready to come out of the oven.

At one point during the day, Raf, esconced in flour, mentioned that "this is how they kept women in the kitchen all the time, you know." Yes, I know. If a woman was baking bread for a family, she was probably doing this daily, and let's face it, baking a couple loaves of bread is about a 5 hour commitment with all the rising that happens. There are 3 different stages of rising before the dough goes in the oven, so the women could never get too far away from the kitchen. I guess that's why women were generally in charge of feeding the chickens and cleaning, too.
kitchen weary?

Raf suspects that the kitchen revolution was due to men wanting their wives to look great when they came home from a long day at work. If a man couldn't afford servants, allowing his wife to remain flour-free, he could buy electric servants so wifey would have time to get dolled-up by the time the mister gets home. The kitchen revloution wasn't about liberating women so that women have more free time, but about liberating women so they look great for their husbands. Does anyone watch Desperate Housewives, by the way?

Ok, off the soapbox, so to speak.

We've always been good about planning a menu, but b/c R is a European, we usually go to the grocery store 4 or 5 times a week. It's a social thing. We don't buy more than we need for a day or two. Also, we're really on top of what goes on sale and when. I really like that style of shopping. With gas at $3 a gallon, though, as close as the grocery is, we've had to make some changes. Once a week for groceries now. We stock our fridge and freezer with pasta from Micucci's, the Italian grocery on the east end, produce and meat from Wild Oats, and anything else we need but can't get organic (kitty litter, light bulbs, pads for the Swifter mop, etc.) at Hannaford. Also, the non-organic yeast is half the price of Fleischman's, so we've decided to buy yeast at Hannaford as well. Luckily, because I worked at Tom's of Maine all summer, I've got enough toothpaste and mouthwash to get us through the winter, so that will save us a few $$, too!

We learned an important lesson yesterday.

If you forget to leave the 1/2 cup of oil out of the mixture when making wheat bread, the dough will not fully rise, and you'll end up with rather dense, though delicious, peasant bread. We might need to look for a new recipe reader. Oh, wait! That's me. Never mind!


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