Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Time for an Overhaul

Even I don't believe in New Year's resolutions per say, a new year always suggests the opportunity to reset, and start afresh. Or maybe it's just that January can be so mind numblingly boring at times that even rearranging the spice drawer seem exciting. Whatever the reason, I've been seized with the urge to get my house in order and in between bouts of lethargy, I been having bursts of obsessive reorganization and along with that, some thoughts of things I like to improve on this year.

First up was the fridge- from the above photo you can see I have slight jar problem. (there are also the piles of empty jars taking up space elsewhere but that's a whole other issue). Now we already have the smallest of apartment sized fridges- it's ridiculously tiny. Then there are four adults currently living this house and we don't all eat or shop together so we end up with a lot of duplicates (6 jars of mustards-seriously guys?). So there really isn't room for all these jars but somehow their number seems to increase much faster than it decreases. Pickles and hot sauces have a high turnover but sweet preserves seem to take up residence for far too long. I have a difficult time throwing out food of any sort but when I decided to clean the fridge recently I got ruthless. Besides disposing of the obviously-past-their-prime stuff I also got rid of about half a dozen jars of half eaten jam. There was nothing really wrong with most of it but the truth is we don't eat jam! I know that sound almost like blasphemy from someone who is canning obsessed but when it comes to fridge real estate it's about time I admit the truth and deal with it. I really don't like jam. It's too sweet and unless I'm having fresh bakes scones, I have no use for it. No one else eats it either and we don't cook with it enough to make jam a must have ingredient. So after reclaiming all those jam jars (oh yay, more jars to figure out where to store) I've decided that is the year I stop making jam unless it's to sell or give away. There will be a few exceptions - red onion jam is a staple now, but for the most part I'm going to have to figure out something to do with fruit other than jam it.

Second up is my finances. Now I am extremely frugal and pretty good at living within my means for the most part. But occasionally even I fall off the rails and some how over the years I have managed to acquire 5 credit cards, which is about 4 too many. And on all 5 of those cards I carry a balance. None of them are a very large balance but added together they make up an amount higher than I am comfortable with, and of course they carry interest; in some cases an extremely high rate of interest. Now I know how I got myself in this situation and I know how to get out of it but my history of working mostly contract and piecemeal never gave me the opportunity to do much more than maintain my credit rating without actually addressing the principle. In other words I'm paying off the interest month after month but barely denting the debt. This is basically the equivilent of throwing money away every month and it adds up. I can think of so many things I'd rather be doing with that money and now that I have a job that pays me at regular intervals I can finally do something about it. To that end I sat down and made my first ever budget.( My dad will be so proud!). It's not a fancy budget; I just searched online for a basic template and tweaked it a bit to suit my needs. It allows me to see what regular expenses I have and where I can best use my money to get rid of these debts . First up HBC: this card carries only a $500 limit and should have been paid off long ago- I haven't even used it in over two years! But at almost 30%, pretty much 100% of every payment I make goes towards covering the interest. Right now the balance is at just over $300- if I can stick to my budget of $100/month I should rid myself of this albatross by spring! Then it will be onto my PC Mastercard which I got thinking I'd get points towards groceries. Well in the 5 years I've had this I haven't earned enough points for a carton of milk but at 24.9 % interest, I've paid for a years worth of milk in interest, every year. With any luck I should have the balance paid off on it before the end of this year and then that card too will be cut in many small pieces. I wish I could say I'll have rid myself of all of my cards by next year but I believe in setting realistic goals and even paying off two of them will save me about $70/ month which I can then apply to the remaining 3. So if nothing else I should be able to reduce the principle on the others. Fingers crossed that I stick to my plan!

The other things on my reorganization list are my library (which much as it pains me to say, needs culling, if only to make room for more books!), my seed boxes and the aforementioned jar collection. While I'm offering up confessions, here's another one: I didn't buy a single new canning seal last year, except for the box of Kilner seals which I have yet to open. Every jar I canned last year was done with a reused seal and I didn't have a single seal failure. Frugal yes but it also means I have a lot of seals that are definitely past their prime and I need to sort out the potential bad ones and dispose of them before canning season begins again. I really need a better organized storage system for canning supplies but I have yet to come up with one. I also need to find somewhere to store the new pressure canner which is still shiny and new because it's yet to be used. Can you guess what my next project will be?


  1. I'm intriguied by the thought of reusing seals - I've mostly been told not to so I use them for non-canning purposes (fermented foods, leftovers, pantry staples, etc). Maybe I need to sort through my stack and put the ones which are still in good shape aside.

    You may find that you can talk to a bank and have them consolidate the balances off of all of your credit cards at a lower interest rate (at least compared to the highest ones). It would save money in the long run assuming your total payments don't change (though I know some people like the gratification of fully paying one off at a time).

  2. Hi Callie

    What a good post, very interesting about the jam, I hear you, I used to pickle a number of things, but have stopped as it just does not get used enough, I have learned that relishes go better then chutney's, certain things better in fruit then in jam, and I have figure out how to use jelly in everything from hot tea, to meat glazes to salad dressings to baking.

    I hear you about the lids, I reuse them for different things but not for others, I am very unhappy with the costs in regards to replacement ones this year and figure it's only going to get worse, so I guess I need to order some tattlers and see if I like them or not!

  3. kaleftr, thanks for the reminder- I went to see my bank manager today to discuss some options and this is a possibility I'm considering if I can work on the numbers to something that's doable!

    I've always reused my seals- I check them over carefully for dents, scratches or rust first. FarmGal I don't know much about the Tattler seals but I'm really trying to avoid buying anything made of plastic, even if it is BPA free.