Pressure canner plan

I’ve been talking about getting a pressure canner for probably a year now. I think it’s a valuable tool, I have the money for it, and I like the idea of being able to can a wide variety of foods and stock our pantry with healthy, home canned food.  For these reasons, I though I’d go out and buy one while I had the car.  There’s a somewhat local store that sells what I want, and although I can’t take the bus to get there, it is driveable.

But…I didn’t.  As much as I wanted to, I kept finding myself unwilling to actually go and pay the almost $400 for what I wanted.  Why?  My best guess is two things: the price and how much use I’ll get out of it.  Pressure canners are expensive, and while I know I could get one for under $150, I have my eye on the All American pressure canners, which are a great deal more expensive.  In general, I’m not good at spending money.  This is usually a good thing, and the reason why I now have savings.  It’s just no so handy when I wind up freezing when I try to make big, important purchases, even when they’re completely worthwhile.  And on top of all that, I’d already spent a pile of money this month, and it felt really, really difficult to put down another $300 to $400.

I’m also feeling unsure of how much use it will get.  I think it’s the kind of thing I’d like to have on hand anyway, because it can be a really important tool.  But I also want to feel like it will get a lot of use.  Truthfully, though, I still haven’t done a lot of canning.  My schedule this summer and fall hasn’t made anything other than work all that easy, and winter’s looking like it might be even worse.  Although I imagine I’ll get one eventually, I don’t want to buy something now just to have it languish around the apartment for months.

So, here’s the two step convince-myself-to-get-a-pressure-canner-by the end of April 2013 plan (code named Operation No Botulism).  First, I’ve opened a extra ING savings account just for a new canner.  Technically, I have the cash to buy one now.  Psychologically, that knowledge isn’t helping to convince me to just do it.  So I’m going to save actively and intentionally for this purchase.  And by that, I don’t just mean I’m going to put money away in the account every month.  I’ll likely put some money aside every month, although I haven’t decided quite how much yet.  But I really want to use this as a way to save in other areas and to put that money towards one big purchase.  So, every time I decide to not buy a book, soda, tea, bowl, vase, sweater, or anything else, I’m going to move that money into the pressure canner account.

Second, I’m making canning plans.  I haven’t done as much water bath canning as I’d like this year, and I’ve decided that before I get a pressure canner, I need to can eight things – this is less than two things per month.  This should do two things.  My big hope is that it’s going to remind me that I like canning, that it’s useful, and that I can actually make time for it if I work at it (this has been one of my biggest sticking points this year, and it doesn’t show many signs of improving soon).  I’m also going to use it build my savings.  Every time I can something, I’m going to put $25 into the account.  This should net me some more goodies in the pantry and $200 towards the actual purchase.

As much as I’d like to run out and get a canner tomorrow, I simply don’t spend money all that well, especially on bigger things.  Even knowing how important this is doesn’t seem to shake me from my “must save money” mindset.  Easing into it with extra savings and more of a plan for actually using the canner should help me to feel better about the whole thing, and I’m looking forward to treating it as a challenge.  And, with any luck, it will work well enough that I can also use it again down the road for that fantastic but really expensive grain mill that I’ve also had my eye on for over a year now…

Returning to routine

I’ll readily admit that when my friend goes out of town and leaves me her car, I tend to be delighted.  I still don’t want a car – not really, anyway, although there are certainly moments where the usefulness is striking – but having one for a week or two at a time raises all kinds of possibilities for taking care of all of the things that I’ve wanted or needed to do for awhile.

That said, I’ll also admit that the combination of convenience and working on my to-do list completely throws me off my routine because I feel pressure to get things done.  I gave the car back last night, and although I’m well stocked in terms of flour, toilet paper, root vegetables, gatorade, shampoo, cabbage, prescription medication, canned beans, rice, scrub brushes, eggs, used books, and a new computer battery, I’m rather behind on exercise, grading, job applications, and writing.  Most of the time I had free these last two weeks went to errands.  This probably saved me time in the long run – many of these trips are close to an hour each way on the bus, in very different directions – but crammed into the span of two weeks, they really add up.

Today, it just feels like a relief to slip quietly back into my routine.  I know that a lot of things have been taken care of, which is very good.  I know that we’re good for food and a whole bunch of other goodies.  I also know that any trip will now take me a good long time unless it’s in walking distance.  There’s now a lot less incentive to go very far afield, and a lot more focus on staying home and not going out on trips that take half a day at a time.

I’m looking forward to getting solidly back into my routine (yes, I probably could have kept up more of a routine while I had the car, but I didn’t for whatever reason).  It felt good to go for a run this morning, and then to sit down to meditate.  I followed that up with a day spent on the couch with a cup of tea, working on a lecture and some writing.  Tonight I’ll make dinner, write a bit more, and then read for a bit before heading off to bed.  Tomorrow, and probably the day after too, I’ll do much the same.  I’ll be home, reading, writing, cooking, working, and sleeping.  While I’ll go out occasionally, probably for a few walks, I’ll be spending a lot more time here, doing my regular, everyday things, and I’ll be grateful for it.



No spend month – update

This week, I was busy and used the car for primarily what I intended it for.  I did, however, spend quite a bit of money on stocking up, although this is on things that will last us for awhile and be used over the next four months, and possibly more.  My main expenses were focused on stocking up, especially on food.  From the grocery store, we got some canned foods that are difficult to carry home while walking.  From the far-away big box store, we got a whole lot of shampoo, gatorade (a fairly necessary thing for J.), and toilet paper.  From the farmer’s market, I picked up more squash, two kinds of cabbage, onions, and sweet potatoes.  I also drove the local mill (which delights me every time) and picked up 10 kilos of their flour and a flat of eggs.

Admittedly, the thrill and convenience of being able to drive to places and bring lots of stuff home with me still hasn’t worn off, and because the car is going back today, it’s prompted me to go out far more than I usually would in order to make sure that I’ve done almost everything that I want to do while I have it.  On top of that, I’ve also been going to the thrift stores a lot.  I love thrift store shopping, but I’ve been looking for a gift for my mom, who collects one particular type of dish.  When I have the car, I usually head out in search of her Christmas gift, and then often find stuff for me, too.

Happily, there wasn’t actually a lot of spending this past week, although there was certainly some. We eliminated the eating out.  I did spend $20 on a donation to a local charity which gained me entrance to an interactive showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which was completely fantastic).  I also spent $4 on two books that I’ve really been wanting to read and have never seen at the thrift store before.

  • Big box shopping: $102
  • Farmer’s market: $22
  • Flour and eggs: $22
  • Rocky Horror: $20
  • Book – Eating Animals: $2
  • Book – How to Read a Book: $2
  • Total: $170

On the up side, $146 of that was spending that I had pretty much planned for.  It’s things that we need and will use, and that we’d wind up buying anyway.  With the car, it’s just easier to get them home and to shop at places where there’s a sale or things are a bit less expensive, so I don’t really see this as much of a problem.  That leaves $24 that wasn’t really anticipated.  This isn’t ideal – more books aren’t exactly necessary, despite the fact that they’ve been on my wish list for awhile now.  Rocky Horror was pretty spur of the moment, but given how rarely I get out and how much I’ve been talking about doing more things with friends recently, I’m not totally upset, just focused on planning for social activities a bit better, and maybe making it a line in my budget.

No spend month – update

My No Spend Month has turned into a rather spendy month.  I probably should have expected it.  Having the car has made it so much easier to get out, and it turn out that there’s been a lot on my shopping list for a long time that it’s suddenly easy for me to take care of, and so that’s exactly what I do.  Of course, the question is whether or not I actually needed these things, given how long I’d waited for some of them, but most of it is stuff that I’d be picking up at some point anyway.  I’m wondering if it may make more sense for me to try a no spend month another month instead.

With the car, I’ve stocked up on food from the Asian grocery and the bulk food store.  I also picked up some sewing supplies for a hand sewing project that I’ve had on my mind for awhile now.  The craft store is right beside a thrift store, and since I was down there anyway I went in and left with two books on making soap for my stack of reference materials, a pair of shearling mittens, and a cookbook.  We also had a long-planned sushi dinner with friends (that I forgot about when planning for the month), which was another $50, and I put $40 of gas into the car since I didn’t fill it when I got it.

The other big sticking point was that this week was the library book sale.  No books (other than a few specially priced ones) are over $2.  I arguably don’t need more books.  But buying from the library sale is usually at least half the price (if not less) of buying from other used sources, and one trip will keep me in inexpensive reading material for some time.  I usually try to stick to authors that I’ve been looking for anyway, but it just so happened that this year they had a lot of stuff that had been my list.  $26 later I walked out with 13 books, one which I missed in the picture, but all of which I’m thrilled with.

This month’s total:

  • Asian grocery store – $32
  • Bulk store – $16
  • Craft thread – $10
  • Two books on making soap – $8
  • Shearling mittens – $3
  • Cookbook – $4
  • Sushi – $50
  • Gas – $40
  • Book sale – $26

Total: $189

So…not great.  The groceries are fine – I always stock up when I have the car.  I’m not so bothered by the books, either – I go every year, and it’s always nice to stock up on remarkable inexpensive reading materials.  I’m not driving very much, but keeping gas in the car is still necessary.  The craft supplies I likely would have bought next month, and by buying them when I did, I got a two-for-one deal.

But…I’m wondering if it’s not such a great thing that I have an excuse for pretty much every purchase that I want to make.  It makes it easy to justify anything I want, whether or not it’s truly necessary.  Books become cheap entertainment or future reference.  Dinner out is equated with being social and having a night off.  Thread is linked with learning a new skill and creating something by hand.  Sure, these are all good things that I want to cultivate, but I still don’t want to feel like I’m constantly using them to get stuff that I happen to want, especially when I already have so much.  I have books and thread and ingredients for making dinner.  New stuff isn’t truly necessary.

I suspect I’m still saving more than I normally would while having a car.  I’m aware of what I’m buying, and have stayed away from some things that I’d normally do or buy because driving suddenly makes them a lot more convenient.  I’m still likely spending more than I would in an ordinary month, though.  But if nothing else, being more aware of my spending and my apparent ability to justify purchases is a good thing, and hopefully I can use this knowledge to my advantage in cutting back a bit more in the coming months, especially now that I’m all stocked up on reading materials, cooking ingredients, and sewing supplies.

No spend month – update

This week, spending went really well until today, when things went awry. Early in the week I didn’t spend much – just $3 on some books that I was really pleased with.  On Thursday,  I had to put gas in my loaner car, so that was $30.  I actually forgot about putting gas in the budget, but given the use I’ll get out of it and the plans I have for picking up a bunch of groceries and other necessities, I don’t mind paying for that in the least.  But then, Friday hit…

Today did not start well.  For two days, I’ve been watching four animals: my friend’s dog, my friend’s cat, and her friends’ two cats that she was watching while they were out of town.  Her friends came to pick up their cats this morning and we couldn’t find one.  We searched for over an hour and, as sure as I was that I hadn’t accidentally let him out, the fact that we couldn’t find one cat in a small apartment had me questioning just how sure I was, and the thought that I had somehow lost someone’s pet – or even that this person thought I had lost their pet – was wretched.  Happily, once we cleared out and left his one of his people alone in the apartment he came out after 45 minutes, but oh, those 45 minutes…

After hearing that he’d been found, I went to the thrift store.  I was still feeling pretty shaken and, for whatever reason, I find browsing in the thrift store to be relaxing.  It gets me out, there’s cool stuff, and being able to get nice things for pennies on the dollar makes me feel far richer than I am.  But, for all of these reasons it’s also still more of a temptation than I’d like.  It was admittedly silly to go, given my state of mind, because it was almost inevitable that I’d leave with something.  I found a kitchen scale that was exactly what I’d been looking for – vintage, metal, with sliding weights, and in a great colour too – and in my relieved but still somewhat freaked out state, I bought it along with some nice yarn and a sun tea jar with a spout for kombucha.

Given that it’s another place that totally calms me down, I then went to the farmers’ market where I spent $27 – some on food to eat this week, and some to stockpile for winter. This I’m fine with, but I felt so lousy this afternoon (tension headache) that we also decided to go out for dinner.  We decided to try a new local restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients.  It turned out to be absolutely delicious, but still…this was not the best thing for the budget.

Here’s the total for the week:

  • Gas – $30
  • Kitchen scale – $10
  • Sun tea jar – $3
  • Three books – $3
  • Yarn – $5
  • Groceries – $27
  • Dinner – $17

Total – $95

Honestly, it’s possible this wasn’t the best month for me to do a no spend challenge. Since I have access to a car for two weeks, I’m out a lot more than I normally would be.  I’m trying to stock up on things that we need and use regularly, and I plan to pick up a few things that I’ve had my eye on for awhile now.  I don’t have a problem with the groceries – they’re in my budget, and I love supporting local farmers and getting great food.  I did spend more on extras than I wanted to, though, which was a lot easier to do with easy transportation.  It’s not that I can’t afford it, it’s just that I’d like to not spend so much on extras and put as much as I can in savings.

Or, perhaps I’m just looking at this all wrong and this is the ideal time for me to do a challenge.  Sure, I’m having some trouble with it now that I’m more mobile, but maybe that’s the point – try it out when it’s easy for me to spend and learn something.  If nothing else, I now know that making shopping more convenient means I spend more money, and that it’s maybe not in my best interests to browse when I’m feeling badly.  This is hardly earth shattering, but it’s a good thing to be aware of so that I can work on changing my behaviour, which is a big part of why I do this.

Giving thanks

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada today, and worth thinking through the many, many things for which I can give thanks. We’re now at the end of the harvest, a time when people would typically we take stock of the year, give thanks, and prepare for the winter.  More and more I find myself appreciating taking the time to reflect on life – where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to – and giving thanks is becoming an important part of that.

This isn’t just a Thanksgiving thing, of course, but this is certainly a nice time to stop and be reminded again of the important of gratitude.  Admittedly, I’m still pulling myself out of whatever rut I’ve got myself stuck in this year.  But the truth is, I’m lucky.  Hugely, incredibly, awesomely lucky, and I’d do well to remember that more often than I do.  Here’s why.

I have a wonderful, caring, and understanding husband who makes me laugh every single day.

I have a great, supportive family that just wants the best for me.

I have wonderful friends who make me laugh and help pick me up when I’m down.

I’m apparently quite healthy.

I have money in my pocket, and a reasonably steady job.

I have kind and helpful colleagues who are always happy to give advice and assistance.

I have food in the fridge (and in the cupboards, closets, and pantry).

I have a fine place to live with plenty of the extras that make life pleasant – tea, books, musical instruments, comfy furniture, cosy clothing, and warm blankets, just to name a few.

This, plain and simple, is a good life.  I hope I give back half as much as I receive, and that somehow, some way, I’m making some kind of difference for the better in my little corner of the world.  And I also hope that you have at least as much, if not more, to be thankful for in your lives as well.

Days off

This past month has seen virtually no days off for me.  I managed one, I think, but even that may have had some emails scattered through it.  I’ve been trying to take a bit more time off – after last weekend’s cleaning-on-my-day-off induced meltdown, it’s pretty clear that I need this.  This is especially true since next week is going to be a crazy one for me – in addition to my regular teaching, I have two sets of grading coming in, student reference letters to write, a whole other set of jobs to apply for, and two journal introductions to write.  My finely attuned radar tells me this might not be so fun.

Recently I’ve been swearing left, right, and centre that I was going to start taking a two day weekend every week.  With so much to do, though, I’d considered taking yesterday or today as a partial work day.  But…I’ve decided against it.  If I’m going to have a crazy week whether I take time off or not, I should probably take the two days, rest and recuperate, and then hit the ground running.  If I don’t do this, I expect my week will be largely shot before it’s even started.

I haven’t made a plan – seems a bit too rigid for an off day – but there are some things I’d really like to do. Yesterday, I slept in, went for a bike ride, visited the thrift store, went for a long walk with J., watched a TV show or two, and settled in on the couch to read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The Bloody Chamber, both of which I’m really enjoying. Today, I’ve been to the bookstore and spent some time reading.  For the rest of the day I have my sights sets on yet more reading, listening to the new Mumford and Sons album, making Thai shrimp curry for dinner, and watching a movie with J.  Maybe, if there’s time, I’ll get around to making red pepper jelly.

I’m still a bit anxious knowing the amount of work I have barreling towards me, but it feels wonderful to have a bit of time to sit, breathe, and take it easy for a little bit.  It’s also good to know that I’ll face the week more well-rested and in a better head space than I have been, which will hopefully make everything go a bit smoother all round.  I value work, and I enjoy feeling productive and like things are being accomplished, but I need to remember that there’s no substitute for time off to rest and recoup a bit before getting back to it once again.

No spend month update

With the start of No Spend Month, I’ve been thinking a lot more about spending.  My budget has always been important for me – with a somewhat low income, it helps to keep me on track and saving regularly. I set spending categories, track everything I spend, and at the start of every month I calculate out my net worth on my budget sheet (just an excel file that I set up).  It’s reassuring and motivating to see the numbers going up.

While I think budgets are important in general, especially as a tool for being aware of where money goes, it’s the keeping savings on track that’s so important to me now.  I have my eye on eventually buying a home on some land, and this is a big driving force behind my savings.  I’d also like to have more control over where and how I work, and the less money I can live on, the better.  Having a budget and using it to reduce my spending and increase my savings as much as possible has been really productive, and knowing that I need to writing things down and that spending money takes me away from these goals makes it easier to stay on track.

This week, I did spend a bit. I bought bus tickets for the month, although combined with walking and biking I don’t really use that many, so it’s not a huge expense.  I also went to the thrift store because I’ve been looking for a spice rack that I can hang on the wall.  I found one that was pretty much exactly what I wanted, but also wound up buying two pieces of clothing to wear for teaching, and a copy of The Joy of Cooking. 

  • 10 bus tickets – $19
  • The Joy of Cooking – $4
  • Jeans – $5
  • Sweater – $3
  • Spice rack – $4

Total – $35

This isn’t a lot of money, but I could do better.  I think I’m going to spend some time this weekend going through my wardrobe and planning out some more teaching outfits based on clothes that I already have, so I’m not tempted to buy more.  I’m also going to go through my cookbook shelf to pick out some new recipes to try, rather than adding to the collection.

Inexpensive – and lots of it – is probably my biggest stumbling block.  I love a good deal and thrift stores tend to be littered with them, so it’s pretty rare for me to leave with just what I came for.  I really like going through the shelves and racks and picking out a few low-priced gems from a sea of cheaply made castoffs, almost like a treasure hunt.  Of course, a lot of inexpensive purchases add up (and add to the clutter, but that’s another story for another time).  I could certainly be better about keeping even the smaller purchases to a minimum, doing a better job making do with what I’ve already got, and saving money.  That way, I can use what I’ve saved for the important things that I won’t be able to get at the local thrift store.



All summer, I’ve been tending a plot at the community garden at the apartments across the road from me.  Unfortunately, those buildings came under new management this summer.  Just this morning I learned that all plots need to be cleared by this Thursday, and rumor has it that won’t be a garden next year at all.

I want to say this makes me sad, but it goes well beyond sad.  Growing food is a wonderful thing, and something that I’d recommend to anyone.  It’s a powerful way to help assure food security and to teach a useful skill.  This particular garden was wonderful for helping to create community, especially among a group of people who were refugees from all parts of the world.  It saddens and distresses me deeply to see productive gardens being relegated to the status of “eyesore”, an attitude that I still seem to run into all too frequently these days.

But, distress aside for the moment, we’ve had some good food from that garden and today we went over and brought more bags of it home.  Lettuce, peppers, kale, peppers, radishes, beans, peppers, and a few baby zucchini.  I’m thrilled with the amount, and trying to figure what I can make with this sudden bounty that’s come home somewhat ahead of schedule.  I suspect there will be a lot of salad and soup in our future.

I’m also planning ways to avoid waste.  This is more food than we can eat before it goes bad, and I have no desire to waste anything, let alone food that we’ve tended over the course of a season.  I’m hoping for some red pepper jelly and dried beans for later use.  I’ve also started drying the radish and carrot tops, the kale, and the chives.  It turns out that the wire shelf I was planning to get rid of makes a passable drying rack.  I’ll need to move things around a bit more – I didn’t plan to have quite so much to deal with at once – but with any luck this will work well for now.

It’s not an enormous amount – my eventual goal is to grow as much of our yearly vegetable needs as I can, and this is a far cry – but it feels incredible to have grown and harvested this much this year.  I’ve loved growing it, eating it, and preserving it, and I’m hoping for the opportunity to do this again next year.  I’m in touch with the city about garden plots, and have my fingers crossed that something will open up.  And in the meantime, I have my many containers outside, which have produced a surprising amount of food this year.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I now seem to have will in spades.


October goals

October has always felt like a special month to me.  There’s something about the coming of autumn, the falling into a routine, and the inevitable hunkering down as the days grow colder and the nights grow longer that feels right – like slipping on an old sweater and settling in by a good fire for awhile.

It seems especially fitting that I’ve decided that October is the month where I get some more balance in my life.  I have two big projects that will be done soon, which should reduce the stress and free up some time (oh, for a whole two days off in a row!)  That said, I don’t want to just wait and hope that finishing projects will improve things.  I need to find better ways to build balance into my schedule even when – scratch that, especially when – things are whirling around me hurricane-style.

For October, I’m setting out some goals that I hope will help me to keep me a bit more on track.  Work is important, since it pays the bills and there are tasks that have to be done, but I also want to pay attention to health, sustainability, and rest and relaxation, three of the things that I think I’ve slipped the most on and that are very important to my overall wellbeing.


  • Apply to at least three jobs
  • Edit four papers
  • Write two journal introductions


  • Eat at least five veggies and two fruits daily
  • Drink eight glasses of water daily
  • Run or bike at least twice per week
  • Do yoga at least twice per week
  • Meditate at least four times per week


  • Turn peppers into red pepper jelly
  • Bring worm composters inside
  • Harvest beans, kale, and chard

Rest and relaxation:

  • Walk at least twice per week with J.
  • Read a half hour per day for pleasure
  • Cook one new meal per week
  • Make some time for playing the guitar

It seems like a long list, now that it’s all written out, and I’m not going to beat myself up too much if some of it doesn’t go to plan.  I think it’s important to have an ideal in mind, though, and some specific goals to achieve.  These are things I need to feel healthier and happier.  They’re important to do consistently, and this is the month I try to figure at least some of this balancing act out.  Welcome, October – I’ve been waiting for you.