Frugal Breakfast Sandwiches

We live on a super tight budget and I am always looking for ways to save money. Earlier at Walmart I bought up some bread on the clearance rack. It was getting close to the expiration date which doesn’t bother me at all. I bought some sliced cheese to add to the eggs we had at home to make breakfast sandwiches. Each pack of bread had 6 ciabata rolls. I bought two packs so I could make a total of 12 sandwiches.
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I cooked the eggs (which were free because we bartered for them since our chickens are not laying yet) individually and let them cool. Then I assembled the bread and cheese. Each sandwich gets a roll, one slice of cheese and one cooked egg. I wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer.
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I was sure to get the plastic wrap that is microwaveable. I hate microwaving in plastic, but we don’t have paper towels in the house so I am not sure of a better way to microwave these babies. I am completely open to non plastic suggestions. We will try nuking them out of the plastic but I am afraid it wont work as well…
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Price wise, these sandwiches are super cheap. I got two bags of rolls for $1.79 each, which comes to 30 cents a roll. Cheese came out to 12 cents a slice. Considering how the eggs were free, the sandwiches only cost $.42 each. So if hubby eats two for breakfast its like our own personal dollar menu!
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Laundry by hand

Another way I am “practicing” some off grid living skills is by handwashing my laundry. I ordered a plunger washer from Amazon and love it! First I fill up a pot (I have been using my canning pots for now on my small loads) with water. I add a teaspoon of detergent and the clothes for that day. Using the “plunger” I agitate the clothes for 10-20 minutes.
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Secondly I wring them out by hand (to get most of the soapy water out) and place them in a second pot. I fill this pot with fresh clean water and have a go for another 5-10 minutes. At this point the clothes should be pretty clean. I wring them out and hang them to dry. We have some collapsible folding racks from ikea as well as a hanging octopus with clothespins, also from ikea. I will use the octopus for socks and small items and the racks for shirts and larger items. One day soon I hope to put up a real clothes line, but for now this works perfectly. Since my pots are on the small side, I have been doing smaller loads more often. I have some larger galvanized bins that currently hold dirt that I might clean out and use instead.

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Meet the Cast- The Meat Rabbits

We also brought with us a breeding trio of meet rabbits when we moved to Arkansas. A breeding trio consists of 2 females and a male, all unrelated. The male is an American Blue, along with one of the females. The other female is an American White. The American rabbits were on the critical list but have now been downgraded to “threatened”. They are a heritage breed an used for meat and fur. I am hoping to learn how to tan hides to be able to use everything from the rabbits.
The American Blue female was already named Mindy (and her name is tattooed in her ear so we won’t be changing it). The other two did not come with names. Hubby named them Deeks and Kenzi after two of our favorite characters in NCIS:LA. Mindy will be old enough to breed this month as Kensi still has a few months of growing left.IMG_8685 IMG_8691 IMG_8690

Using a Composting Toilet

It is our goal someday to live off grid. While right now we have the luxury of being hooked up to power and on a not too cold day, water, we are trying to “practice” some off grid living requirements. That said, we have also had trouble with our camper’s toilet from the day we bought it. We didn’t notice the issue at the rv sales lot because the black tank (the tank that holds the sewage) was empty and clean. Once we started using the toilet, there was a very obvious smell. I am talking overwhelming as soon as you walk in the door smell! We tried everything we could think of to get rid of the smell but it just wouldn’t go away.
Now that we are living on family land, we have a little more wiggle room. We decided to completely remove the rv toilet and instead go to a composting toilet. Now you can buy fancy composting toilets that look similar to a standard toilet. In my research I found that its very common for off grid rv’ers to put in composting toilets. Wanting to keep things inexpensive, we bought two 5 gallon buckets at Lowes. We found the toilet seat at Bass Pro in their camping section. The toilet seat snaps on a standard bucket and the lid closes flush with the seat.

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(the almighty throne)

Obviously the bucket with the seat is the toilet. The second bucket is for cover material. We bought a huge bag of sphagnum peat moss and I filled the bucket full. I keep a mason jar (man those jars are useful for just about everything!) to scoop the dry peat moss and dump on the toilet. The key to having a composting toilet it cover material. Cover material. COVER MATERIAL. I can’t stress it enough. You can use sphagnum peat moss, coconut fiber, sawdust, etc as your cover material. I read that you shouldn’t use wood ash because it neutralizes the compost and thus makes the compost take longer to do its thing.
The way the toilet works is pretty simple. do your business. cover. do your business. cover. repeat until bucket is full. as long as your business is completely covered (like a half inch to an inch of cover material each time) there will be no smell. whatsoever. You can get your nose right up in the toilet seat if you want and you wont smell a thing! its pretty awesome if i do say so myself.

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(Family cloths aka toilet paper hang on a shelf near the door. The small black trash can is for dirty cloths. We do have toilet paper available which can be added right into the bucket)

If an average toilet uses 7 gallons per flush, and the average person flushes 5 times a day, that means each person is wasting an average of 30 gallons of water each day! Our toilet uses no water. So between the two of us, we are conserving an average of 60 gallons of water each day. Hey, I do what I can to help the environment, especially if it helps my pocketbook too!

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(view into the outhouse)

We were going to just use the toilet in the camper, but having to have the two 5 gallon buckets took up too much room in the little bathroom. I was at Walmart and I saw this camping shower tent. It works perfectly as an outhouse! It has a window, a rain cover and “shelves” for our tp and reading material. It cost under $50 so it was super affordable. It might sound strange, but I really love the whole outhouse thing. Maybe not when its pitch black and 9 degrees outside, but a girl can hold it if she really has to…

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(The outhouse all zipped up)

My favorite thing about this toilet set up is that it is completely off grid. I don’t need running water or electricity to sustain it. Once set up, I only need to pay for the peat moss and a bag lasts practically forever! Technically I dont need to pay for toilet paper either. This would be ideal for going camping, using at a deer lease, the beach or anywhere where there is not usable plumbing. I will explain the composting side of it in a later post.

Meet the Cast- the Chickens

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We brought some chickens with us from Texas to Arkansas. We bought a small coop for starters and hubby built it along with help from my cousin. The coop is large enough to hold up to 4 chickens. Right now we have 2 ameraucanas. They should start laying as soon as there’s enough light. Chickens require 14 hours of sunlight. This coop is too small to hang a light so we will just have to wait out the winter.
The coop is light enough to move around the yard. Ideally down te road we will build a bigger coop and this one will be used for chicks or the sick. For now it works just fine!

The Camper is Home

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d7c/64190179/files/2015/01/img_8674.jpg Once the land was dried out enough to handle the weight of the camper and truck, we hooked everything back up. The “road” from my aunt and uncles house is narrow and curvy. It is fine for vehicles but incredibly tight for a truck and a 34 ft camper. We tried multiple times to back the camper up, but it just wasn’t going to work without either the truck or camper ending up in the ditch. I began questioning how we could get THIS far to not be able to park it. My uncle had the idea to hook up his Tahoe since it had a smaller wheel base and tighter turn radius. Lots of hand wringing and white knuckles later my uncle was finally able to wedge the camper into the rv pad. I can not explain the relief I felt at having my home where it needed to be. The pipes are froze but at this point I don’t even care. I have electricity to run heat. I can sleep in my own bed and be surrounded by my things again. We got the camper settled on Sunday. Monday morning I took hubby to his training academy. He will be at academy mon-fri for a few weeks with no communication. I will be taking this time to get things settled and take care of moving things like vehicle registration, changing my drivers license, etc. We left hubby’s motorcycle in Texas so we are a true one car family for now. We are missing most of our “stuff” and will have to make a couple more trips to Texas but that will come in time. Right now we need some down time to destress from the move!

The Camper’s Maiden Voyage Part Two

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We left early that morning and made the 7 hour trip back to Austin with no troubles. We hooked up the weight distribution hitch and bars to the camper and were so pleased to see that our problem was mostly solved. The hitch was no longer dragging on the ground but it was still super low. We figured it would be fine to just make this one trip to a neighboring state. It probably wouldn’t work for a cross country trip but we weren’t asking for that much. Once we were satisfied with the hookup we started pulling out of our spot at the rv park… Only to get stuck in the mud! Truck and camper were not going anywhere. The park manager thankfully had an old tractor and were able to pull us out. Sheesh, this was shaping up to be a super long and frustrating trip.
Once we were free of the mud, we stopped by the rv shop to get their approval on the connection. As soon as we had their thumbs up, we got on the road. We made it about five hours down the road before the weather got too bad to drive. We pulled over at a Walmart and spent the night in the parking lot. This is commonly called boondocking and generally acceptable for a night or two. We figured since it was already almost midnight and we were leaving at daybreak, we were fine. We parked near some other rvers with the same idea.
When we opened up the door to the camper the entire floor was wet! Apparently when our slide out is in for traveling, it doesn’t seal properly. There wasn’t much we could do at that point. We grabbed sandwiches at Walmart and had a picnic on our bed before turning in for the night. It was freezing and we ha no way of turning on the heat so we just slept in our clothes.
The next morning we fueled up at Starbucks and hit the road. We made it to Arkansas without any further troubles. However once we were at my grandparents property, it was way too wet to take the camper down to the pad. We had to park it in the yard until the land dried up enough to handle the weight. I was relieved to at least have it on the property. We stayed in my grandparents cabin until we could move the camper down.

The Camper’s Maiden Voyage Part One

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Our move to Arkansas was quite eventful. We planned on leaving on the 31st as soon as Tim had his exit interview at work. Everything was going smoothly until we hooked the truck up to the camper. The hitch was practically dragging on the ground. There was NO way we could tow the camper like that. We assumed the cause was weight in the camper since we have towed the camper before without any issues. We ran to the nearest storage unit facility and rented a space. We took out everything we thought would help lighten the load. After a few trips we decided there was nothing more we could take out of te camper that would help. We fully expected that lightening the load would fix our problem. It didn’t… The truck hitch was just as low as before and the whole front wheels looked like they were going to lift off the ground. We were told we need a weight distribution hitch, but the rv shop was closed for two days since it was New Years and all. We could wait until Friday to get the hitch but there was nothing they could do until then.

At this point I was starting to freak out. Hubby needed to be in Arkansas by Sunday to report to training for his new job. We decided to put the camper in storage there at the rv park, and drive up to Arkansas with all the animals. Then if we had time we could come back down and get the camper later. So we packed the truck with clothes, the computer, hubby’s needed items for training and the critters. Two dogs, two cats, four chickens, 3 rabbits and a cage full of finches. Talk about a full load! I felt like we belonged in a scene from the Grapes of Wrath or the Beverly Hillbillies.

We made it to Arkansas and unloaded everyone. My aunt and uncle have a friend who works at the Camping World in Little Rock and they were NOT closed for New Years. He was able to get us the hitch we needed. Te next day we turned right around and went back to Texas to get our camper.
Stay tuned for part two where we had even more issues!

Staying Warm When the Temps are in Single Digits

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We moved to Arkansas during a super cold spell. The water lines to the camper are frozen solid. I have the heater running but freeze as soon as I walk outside. Since we have no water in the camper I have to haul water from my grandparents cabin. I quickly realized I need something to keep my hands and head warm during the walks back and forth. How does the only knitter in the family not have a hat? I ended up knitting an extra wide headband- to cover my ears but still let me wear a ponytail. I had enough yarn left over to make a pair of fingerless mitts. Now my hands and head stay warm while I do the chores in this freezing weather!

Meet the Cast- The Dogs

IMG_6550IMG_6147IMG_5423 IMG_5779Our dogs are our oldest pets. Whiskey the boxer was my dog before Hubby and I got married. Jack the malamute was adopted right after we tied the knot. Whiskey was a rescue dog and has some skeletons in her closet, but we love her to death. Jack is a scaredy cat and watches everything from afar. These two are thick as theives and can not go a minute without each other. Whiskey is definitely an old lady (over 12 in human years) and she is showing her age. Jack acts like an oversized puppy even though he is 7.