Friday, October 16, 2020

FACING SILLY FEARS AND GETTING THINGS DONE

 Over the decades I have developed an aversion to the telephone phone.   We tend to get very few phone calls other than spam calls or calls from companies we deal with who annoy us about something.  I mean very few phone calls – less than 10 or maybe even 5, a month.  If the phone rings we freeze in place until we hear on the answering machine who is calling.  One problem is that I have learned if something is going on with my mom my sister will send a text unless it is a serious urgent matter – then she calls so that adds to the problem.  I also do not like making phone calls – needed ones or personal ones.  

I currently have a number of calls which have to be made.  I started earlier this week on Tuesday with a call I should have made in late September.  I telephoned our doctor's office and made an appointment for us to have flu shots.  Yes, we know one can go to a chain pharmacy and have the shots, but husband is needlephobic and the last time he had a shot (over 40 years ago) he passed out.  So he was worried about both the lack of privacy when getting a shot at a chain pharmacy and also if he passed out they might call an ambulance and he did not want that.  So the doctor's office it was.  Neither of us has had a flu shot before.  As always, he over read up about the shots making him more concerned. We are very concerned about going out in general, let alone a doctor's office due to Covid-19, but that was the very reason we decided to get the flu vaccine.  We went today.  We were told to wait in our car and telephone when we were there.  We presumed that we would wait in the car and then go into the doctor's office which would be empty of other patients – or perhaps one going in or out.  We were surprised that when we were called to come in there were about 15 people spaced out around the waiting room (it also serves a second doctor).  Luckily the shots went well.

I also have to call – since last month – the post office where our box is located.  I need to check with the very nice fellow I have been speaking with there about if our missing our bank statements were returned to the banks due to printed notations on them – related to letting the sender know if the address changed.  I also want to talk to him as we have now had 3 items returned to the senders – two items mailed to our businesses by our state tax department and one from a credit card company and figure out why these items were returned (and what else might also have been returned).  In addition we had actually gone to the post office late one Sunday night to see if the missing mail was in the box.  It was not, but 4 pieces of mail which should have been forwarded were.  I keep putting off this call, but I really have to get it done with.  

My embroidery chapter will be renewing its meeting room next month – though the rooms are closed and we do not know when they will reopen.  The chapter president who, unlike husband and me – has been going out – when to look at meeting room in a different park which she heard was larger.  Our room has been getting a bit tight and with the idea of maybe needing to social distance on our return (hopefully some time next year) to physical meetings, she had gone to look for other rooms from the same park system and found one.  She is not a resident of the area served by these parks and I am.  She and the woman in charge of the meeting rooms have been conversing by email and including me.  I suddenly realized that the form has to be notarized which means a trip, in person, to the bank - uh oh!  So I emailed the woman from the parks department and asked if there was going to be any allowance on the notarization this year, pointing out that they have my notarized signature from several past years and I was still residing in the same house.  (I am swearing that I am resident of the township.)  She sent an email back asking to talk to me on the phone.  I told her I would call tomorrow.  My stomach is turning over with dread, not over what she will say, but making the actual call.  (My neighbor works in real estate, if I do need the notarization, I will ask if she is notary, if not, I will have to deal with going to the bank for same.)

I have other papers on my desk that I need to make phone calls for, but forget what they are.

Plus Sunday nights I try to call my mom while I am cooking dinner.  I generally cook a frozen dinner on Sunday nights and do not need to do anything while it cooking.  Mom tends to call me at dinner time – generally just as I am about to start cooking on a night that I have to be active to cook the dinner and it is a problem.  So, I have taken to calling her either on Friday nights (I make a similar type of dinner then) or Sunday nights.  Mom either does not hear the phone, does not have enough time to get to the phone before it stops ringing. It rings 4 times and then either the voice mail from the assisted living residence or the answering machine put in by family for her answers.  I have taken to calling her several times in a time in a row to let it keep ringing longer, but even then she often does not answer.  I know she is okay because if she was not, my sister would have been contacted and she would called me.  

Now, I have been very good at calling banks to check that deposits (both mailed by me and automatic) have been received and also checking how much and when payments are due on credit cards and other bills as I currently mailing out payments sooner than normal and do not always have the bill in hand when I need to pay it – or since incoming mail is problematic these days since the corona virus stay at home started and we had to have the mail forwarded from our box to our house, to check that I am correct that nothing is due on the bill.  It seems to be the actual talking to someone that upsets me.  (I learned in the first months of stay at home to call about balances due and such late night as fewer people are calling then.  In early April one bill I kept calling about and the calls were not even  accepted to wait, I was able to reach the company (for a live person) at 12:15 am. )

I especially do not like make telephone calls when my husband is in the room.  He will tell me what to say and correct me (when I am not wrong) if he hears me making calls, so I have to make them when he is elsewhere in the house – which is not often these months.)

So I have been barely getting work done this week – too  busy putting off making the telephone calls.  Hence why this post is out a day late.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Everyone has something they REALLY hate to do.  We all know that we have to do them and get them done with or the problem will be even bigger.  What do you hate to do?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

COVID 19 # 24 FOOD - STORING IT, KEEPING TRACK OF IT, AND USING IT IN TIME

 Another week, another post.  I had an idea this morning for the post, but by tonight it is gone.  So let me tell you how we are dealing with food right now as we only go out once a month to a month and a half to food shop (and did not shop from mid March to Mid May at all).

Husband, as I have mentioned, is a panicker.  To allay his fears we  now have, since the start of the corona virus, more food, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, dish soap, laundry soap, denture adhesive than we can use in several years.  My dining room table is covered in unopened canned, jarred, and bottled food and packets in gallon sized plastic boxes.  I have two huge plastic boxes that we normally use for food storage under my side of the kitchen table.  We also use these same types of boxes in the house for other storage.  I donated one of my bear figure storage boxes and he donated two of his woven items storage boxes to “the cause” and they are in the dining room filled with food.  

As with anything organizing what is where is important.  In our case we also want to make sure that we do not attract ants or mice – both of which we have had problems with in the past, so any food that is not in sealed glass, hard plastic or metal container is put in a plastic box – whether a large package in the huge boxes or the individual packages in the gallon containers.  

I covered the dining room table with heavy towels to protect it from damage – I want to use it as nice looking table again one day.  Cans, bottles, and jars are arranged in lines by what they are – a line of each type of soup cans (and the different lines of soup are next to each other), a line of canned tomatoes, a line of canned beans... or sometimes small groupings – 4 cans of evaporated milk (was 6 cans originally) sitting in 2 rows of 2 cans, and so on.  There are also gallon sized plastic containers (recycled large ice cream containers) stacked 2 high in a grouping on the far corner of the table.  These have things such as packets of ramen noodles (husband has me has me add half a package to half a can of soup for lunch sometimes) in two of them (ordered online from Walmart – we got a LOT of ramen packages).  One has packages of husband's instant grits (my apologies to anyone from the South) and another has packets of my instant oatmeal.  ½ cup containers of applesauce in another.  Powered milk packets in one container and powdered mash potatoes packets in another.  A quick circle of the table – okay cannot actually fully circle the table as there is stuff from my family home to be sorted through and excess baking pans on the far side of the table on the floor – lets one see how much we have of various items and find what we are looking for.  

The three large boxes on the floor in the dining room (stacked to save room) contain items such as fresh(ish) bread that is currently being used (we buy several loaves, start use one loaf, then usually start the second before it has to frozen and any loaves past two are frozen right away when we bring them home.  This includes white bread, rye bread, hot dog rolls and burger rolls.  There are also some packages of snack cakes that we bought.  Items that come multiple in a package and are individually wrapped are removed from their outer package – so the individual snack cakes are in the box, the boxes that, say 8 of them, came in was tossed and never came into the house – chances are no one has touched the inner packages or at least not just before we bought them are in a plastic bag with the bread.  Cookies are also in this box and some other individual items.  The next box down holds things such as boxes of cake mix, stuffing mixes, dry cereal, and two largeish cardboard containers of raisins.  The bottom box holds macaroni – both the boxes of spaghetti , penne, elbows and bow ties and the packaged macaroni and cheese boxes.  (Husband ordered the first three from Bjs in his big order from them, he told me 4 boxes of each were coming – 8 boxes of each came – so they will take awhile to use up.)

In the pantry closet in the kitchen I keep started macaronis in glass canning jars and other started packages of food in either hard plastic locking boxes, old Chinese soup containers, or other glass canning jars.  (I used to can.)  

We have do not have a huge refrigerator  (18 cubic foot) or freezer.  We have the small freezer on the top of the refrigerator and a dorm fridge sized freezer in the basement (from when we used to grow vegetables in the back yard and froze them for the winter).  

Mostly I can see the items in the refrigerator but I try to deal in a way that makes sense and I can remember.  We got this refrigerator a year ago.  It does not have what is normally called “a snack drawer”.  I kept the bin for ice from the old refrigerator, which went from back to front of the old refrigerator's freezer so it is well sized.  I put it in the right side of the refrigerator's top shelf and we use it for smaller items – currently it is being used to hold cold cuts and cheeses so they are together – and I can take them all out for lunch if husband is not sure what he wants by just pulling the bin out of the refrigerator.  We may have to root through the bin a bit to find which item husband wants, but they are all in there (unless they were hanging around too long had to be frozen).  

Shortly after we bought the refrigerator I bought a largeish plastic bin that looks woven, so it has openings around the four sides, to use to store small items in the freezer.  This works well.  It may be heavy, but I can take it out and see all of the smaller items in it easily to keep track of them.  

So now everything has a home – but how do I remember what is where?  I have been writing up lists of what is in each freezer (don't do so for non- cold items or for refrigerator items, at least not so far).  There are 4 lists.  Two are for the downstairs freezer and two are for the upstairs/refrigerator freezer.  One of each list is called “meat”, but it actually should be entrees – I list what meats, frozen entrees, and things such as frozen ravioli and tortellini or leftovers on these lists.  The other two lists are the upstairs “other” and basement “other” list.  This is where I list foods such as frozen vegetables, breads, and so on.

Of course maintaining the lists is important.  Since we are shopping in large quantities (husband almost passes out when he sees the huge amount on the receipts) I redo the lists when I shop each time and try to make sure to cross off or change the count of used items as I take items out – or move them from up to down list or the reverse if items have to moved.  We shopped last week and I have not yet had a chance to go through the freezers and make new lists so I am still working off the old ones.  This allows me to know what I have downstairs without having to run down the stairs to see what there is and lets me know that somewhere in the refrigerator's freezer is 2 more hot dogs.  

I have two other lists on the refrigerator also.  One is the list of “meals”, sort of a home menu.  If I ask husband what he wants for dinner and he says “what do we have” I can read him the list (my hand writing is not always readable by me, so I won't make him try to read it).  The second one is a shopping list.  Any suggestions we come up with or see we are running out of I add to this list.  (I periodically copy the items into the spreadsheet program file I started in my laptop since being home for Covid-19.)

I should mention that there are sections of food – especially cans, jars, bottles, and packaged items – which we have not used up the items we bought months ago when the pandemic started or soon after it did.  It may be years before we can use up all that we have.  We try even harder than normal to keep track of the dates on packages so food does not go bad.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Buying food that you need to have in the house if you are not food shopping often these days is a good thing, but you have to keep track of what you have to figure out what you need to buy and you need to keep track of dates on packages and also of when you started using a package as food in opened packages often go bad faster than in still sealed packages.  (We learned that we really need to buy mozzerella and ricotta cheeses in smaller packages as they both go bad too quickly when the package is open.)    

Thursday, October 1, 2020

TODAY IS A START OF A NEW YEAR - DON'T WAIT FOR JANUARY 1

 It is time for my annual mention that a new year starts every day.  Everyone decides at the end of the common (Gregorian) calendar year  - December 31 – to make resolutions – to lose weight, to go back to school, and for most reading this list – to get organized, get rid of the clutter in the house and clean the house.  

But every day starts a new year and can be used the opening to make a resolution or attempt to make a permanent change in our lives.  Over the past week it was the start of the Jewish new year. The Jewish (religious) calendar starts with a holiday called Rosh Hashanah, which in literal translation means head of the year.  We eat sweet things to look forward to a sweet year to come.  It is followed 10 days later (which are called the Days of Awe) by another holiday called Yom Kippur (which means Day of Atonement).  It is a period in which Jewish people look back at the year which has passed and pray forgiveness for their “sins” – large and small and then fast on Yom Kippur and spend the day (in normal years) in the synagogue praying and asking forgiveness of God – having already spent the 10 days asking forgiveness of those around them for sins, slights, and related against those around them.  We also ask God to write us into the Book of Life for a good year to come (and boy do we all need that right now).  Understand that we are making resolutions to be better in the year to come – same as one makes resolutions to do so for December 31.  

The Chinese calendar's new year is between January 21 and February 20 – like the Jewish new year the day varies over different dates in the common calendar as the number of days in these calendars is not 365 as they are lunar calendar (12 months of 28 days each) with no annual adjustment for the difference between in the number of days between the lunar and solar calendars.  (We have leap months instead of leap days, an extra month added every so many years.)

Similarly the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar – in this case there is no adjustment for the difference between lunar and solar calendars so dates and holidays in the Islamic calendar as it rotates through it's 12 month cycle will annually fall at different times during the year.  

Okay, I know – you did not expect a class in calendars, but my point in this is that one does not have to wait for January 1 to decide that THIS is when you are going to make a change in your life – any day of the year can be your new year to make a resolution to change something about your life and start getting rid of clutter and getting organized  - and yes, even start doing better at the dreaded cleaning.  

Pick something to start with – it may not be what bothers you (or your loved about you) the most, but pick something and start doing it – today.  I won't say, as many do, that doing something on a regular basis makes it a habit, but instead each day deal with what you have picked to do.  When you get to the point where you think you have it control – it is another day and pick something else to do.

Right now – in the middle of writing this post I have to run down to the laundry (I heard it beep) and transfer the clothing to the dryer and throw in our Covid-19 face masks to wash in a separate load.  I will be right back, don't go away….  Okay, I am back.  

So don't wait for January 1 – start now by doing one thing new or change how you do something now – today is the start of a new year (and of course you can instead start tomorrow if you need to plan – it is the start of a new year also).  After all, you are probably home due to the corona virus pandemic anyway – might as well get something organized and get some rid of some unneeded stuff.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Our lives are very different than they were last year at this time.  Take the gift (and yes, every day of life is a gift) of the time you have and do SOME THING with it.  Work on getting organized – or ignore organizing to spend quality time with those you love.  

As I posted last week, my husband has recently decided that we should take a walk at a local park.  I would much rather be home getting work done, but I understand his need to go out and do something, anything.  It is just the two of us (and all the others also out walking or fishing or sitting or playing) as walk – not briskly, but not just strolling around the park.  Of course I have things waiting for me to do, but being with him and doing something he feels he needs to do is more important at this time.  We have all been reminded of what a precious gift life is.  Let us not waste our time here and do something for or with and spend time with those we love.

 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

WORKING ON PAPEWORK EARLY TO SAVE MONEY ON REAL ESTATE TAXES - OOPS A WEEK LATE

My apologies - this post was written for and I thought I posted it on September 16.  While posting my September 23 post, I found this was still marked as draft -

  I am working on paperwork for a real estate credit that husband and I are entitled since we are over 65 and have an income on the low side.  This paperwork has to be filled in and filed annually.  Last year's filing ran something like 125 pages.  This is due to change they made last year.  We have to provide proof of all our business income and expenses.  The paperwork was crazy before this requirement, but with it….

At least this year I knew these extra records would be needed, so before I put away our financial records from 2019 I pulled out and scanned the needed paperwork into the computer – or at least I thought I did all of it.  I even made sure that the expenses for our two extremely small businesses added up to the tax return numbers which came from my computer software.  

The form to fill in and mail (or drop off) with the papers needed came and I started, slowly putting it all together.  I have combined various sections of what is needed with cover pages for each in my computer as pdf files.  It should not be hard, I had already scanned in the papers – right?  

General proof of income – 1099s and such, no problem.  Medical expenses (we can subtract this from our income in the calculation)  I had most of them ready – we have to have printouts, they do not accept paid bills or copies of checks that paid them as proof.  I had contacted and have this printouts from our medical insurance companies which is most of the expense.  In normal years we go into our pharmacy and they hand us printouts and we also bought eyeglasses last year and had planned to do same with the optician.  But this is not a normal year.  The optician is mailing the copies of our records, I still have to telephone our pharmacy about same.  

I had moved on to putting together the information from our businesses.  I thought I had it all – I had scanned them into the computer and just needed to finish assembling them.  But, neither business' receipts match the computer records of what they should be.  They are small amounts, but this process is so crazy – they may disallow the $1.90 here or the $20 there.  Hopefully if they do it will not affect the exemption amount by much.

Imagine having to put together all the expenses just from your car and having to make copies of all of them.  In this case I have to also give a breakdown of how much is from miles driven for husband's business and how many much for miles driven for mine and apportion the cost of each expense (which was already done for our income taxes).  How many small credit card receipts for gas do you end up with in a year?

While the cut off date to file this form and supporting paperwork is January 2, 2021, I don't like to wait until the last minute to deal with it.  Last year when we needed to go and bring in the paperwork to the county offices was when husband needed to get teeth added to his upper denture (also includeable as a medical expense for IRS and for this) and we ended up having the impression of his teeth taken and then driving to the county office – where he would have had to wait in the car anyway (no place to park), but in this case did not want to go in within without his teeth also.  So, since we are stuck in the house due to the corona virus pandemic anyway, I have been working on putting all this together and filing in the forms since August.  

We were discussing how we file the paperwork.  We used to mail to the county by certified mail.  In 2018 we mailed in the 2017 information for the 2019 taxes  (yes, it is terribly confusing) by mail as usual.  Then we received a month or so later a robo phone call from the county executive that we had not filed the papers!  I tried calling the office  - but the answering machine basically said “we are too busy to talk to you, don't bother us”  When I called again later in the day added to that message was “and don't try to come in here as there is no parking”.  This last part being true and has been decades, which was why husband dropped me off and waited in the car.   In a panic we reprinted and assembled everything to bring it to them.  In the interim a story on the news was that they were suppose to send the call to a few people who had filed in the past and had not yet filed, but they sent to every property owner in the county.  Unsure of if we were in the group whose paperwork had not been received, we drove to the office and I waited in their waiting room.  Luckily by the time we went there a couple of days after the call – the lines were no longer 5 hours long as they were the day after the mistaken calls.  They did have our paperwork.  

Last year we decided we go there (as we did) and turn in the paperwork in person and receive a receipt from them for it and did so.  We planned to continue to do so.  But we are now trying to decide since we are not going out due to Covid 19 – do we venture into the post office (that we don't go to, even overnight) to pick up our mail or do we go to the county office where I will wait my turn for what might be hours – but we will know for sure that they have our paperwork?  (Yes, the difference in what we pay in property taxes, especially the school taxes, with and without the exemption is enough to make it worthwhile.)  

Hopefully I will soon be done with the paperwork and we can decide which we will do and when.  I am guessing the early in the season for this, the fewer people who will be waiting, so I will try to finish as quickly as I can.  I did send an email to the head of the department and asked if they will have drive-up windows for this as they did for people to come in and pay the property taxes.  I don't figure they will or even that I will get an answer.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

Use the time you are stuck in the house to get work done.  I have been catching up all sorts of paperwork and household chores that I have put off, well, for years since I am home.  Our shower soon might be even clean enough to actually not worry about getting dirtier when one takes one.  :-)

My thoughts and prayers both to those in the United States west where there are terrible fires and those in the southeast who have been going through yet another major hurricane this week.


COVID 19 #23 TAKING TIME OFF - IT'S A WALK IN THE PARK

 Husband does not like being in the house all time and has been getting very antsy about it.  He saw a post online of friends (a married couple that we went to college with) walking in a local park.  It started him thinking.  

He decided that if went for a walk in a park in the afternoon (we don't do mornings, especially now) during the week while children are in school and people are ate work, there would not be a big crowd of people at the park.  

He at first talked about the park our friends had been in, then decided he wanted to go a nearby park that he went to as a teenager and in his 20s to fish – not that he planned to fish.  I have been to this park with him before and as it was so important to him we would go.  We took our masks and my bug band (I get bitten by bugs when I go out and this was a park) and set off.  

There were a number of people at the park – it is also sort of a boat marina – but not overcrowded.  The sky was very overcast which might have cut back on the number of people out that day.  We spent about an hour there walking around and it made him rather happy to be out and about.

We watched boats out on the water.  Some people were fishing off the pier – when he would fish here, he would fish off the beach – that is not longer allowed.  We walked the path through the park.  There were benches along the path (not that we would sit on one right now) and as we walked I noticed that they had small plaques on them – not large ones – the sort that makes me think the town “sold” the benches – meaning these plaques placed on them – as a fund raiser for the park.  We read a couple of them as walked along, on our way back we stopped read most of them.  A lot of them were placed there by people who must come and sit there and sit there often or in memory of someone who did so from what was written on them.  One of them had an Irish flag taped to it.  

There is a fitness trail along the path and we looked at the various things to do for it along the way.  Even if we might otherwise be tempted to try some of the exercises suggested, we were too concerned about Covid-19 to touch any of it.  One of the things to do involved two high parallel bars – not sure if to hang from and chin up or hang from and walk across with one's hands – but it would be impossible for either us to do either as there was no way, even with jumping up, either of us could reach the bars.  

There was a paved spot in the park and husband was curious what it was.  I looked and noticed a small hilly area adjacent to it and commented that it must be an amphitheater – not remembering one from when he was there before, he was not sure so we went there and he agreed that it must be one.  

People there mostly had masks had on and had them on properly covering their nose and mouth.  They also mostly kept their 6 feet distance – other than mom's with children in carriages who would walk next to each other and take up the entire width of the path with no way to pass them when one was behind them or when was one was approaching them from the front.  We ended up walking onto the grass to pass a few of these pairs.  

It was a nice quiet day out.  He feels he needs to get out and walk more – so tomorrow we are going to the park our friends went to and take a walk there.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -
Well, as much as I like to stay in, I guess we do need to get out and have some exercise.

Have others been getting out for exercise also?  What have you been doing?


Thursday, September 10, 2020

COVID 19 #22 STORING AND LISTING FOOD SO YOU CAN FIND IT IN THE FREEZER

 Last week I told you about our food shopping trip.  One thing I have to do at some point not too long after we go food shopping is write up new lists of what we have in the freezers so we use it all up and don't let anything go to waste by lack of memory.  

Everything that had to be was pushed into a freezer when we got home – other than a few items that were not frozen and could stay for a bit in the refrigerator, but needed to be frozen for longer time storage – such as fresh meat that will not be eaten for awhile.  I was not able when we got home to put a number of things in the freezer that makes more sense – meaning I try to keep packages that we pull out the items one or two at time in the upstairs freezer in the refrigerator – such as a package of hamburgers – so I have to run downstairs when we have same and pull out one burger for each of us – or just one for husband if I am eating something else.

Last Friday night I boiled the chicken we had bought.  Half of it was to be used for a Brunswick stew for Sunday night and the other half to be frozen for later use either in another of same or some other dish.  Since it takes quite awhile to cook the stew and the chicken meat has to cool down between being being cooked and being pulled off the bones for the stew, I often boil the chicken in advance so this is not unusual.  My plan was to make the actual stew Sunday afternoon.  I have to keep an eye on the stew while it is cooking so I also planned to do several chores downstairs at the same time so I would be nearby to check the stew and give it a stir every now and then.  

One of the things I planned to so was make new lists of what is in the freezers and see if I could switch anything around between the two so items I need to have in the kitchen are there and not down in the basement.  

I had cut a sheet of paper into 4 list shaped pieces across the width.  I used unused paper for this so there was nothing on the back of the lists to dirty the refrigerator door.  (I normally reuse paper that has been printed on and was an error, was something some website printed multiple pages when I only needed one part, and so forth- the back of the pages and often part of the front have no printing and it makes great scrap paper – full sheets or cut up.)

First I went to the basement to make a list for down there and see if I could juggle anything around to move some larger items (like second container of ice cream) to the basement freezer to have room in the upstairs freezer for the items I would prefer to keep up there for convenience.  This was not to be. I brought 2 pieces of the paper cut to make lists and a pencil – and a large towel that we have using to cover the kitchen table when we bring in new food items to let the alcohol they were rubbed with to kill any Covid 19 on the items.  I had to take things out of the freezer downstairs shelf by shelf to see what was there – there are 3 shelves and I put this on the floor so the food is not sitting on the floor itself.  I mark one list basement (or B) and “meat” on its top.  The second one is also marked on top for the basement and as “other”.  Technically not everything on the “meat” list is meat – it actually means main dish type item.  The “other” list is vegetables, bread, and so on that is not a main dish.  I rearranged the freezer so things fit it into better and listed the items on the papers.  

We have been buying what I call “frozen box meals” - by this I mean those meals intended for a family that are popped into the oven, cook an hour or so and are a main course and often also the vegetables and starch are mixed into the entree – examples of this is a prepared lasagna, turkey bake, and things such as small meatloaves or Salisbury steaks – these latter two need to have the side dishes cooked separately for them. We buy 2 each of a few kinds of each and have them Friday and Sunday nights when we used to go out for dinner in the normal days before the corona virus.  I stacked them so that the same dishes were together with the older ones on top of the newer ones so that when I take one – it is the older one.  

We have a few items which take up more room than they should for what they are.  Back in May husband ordered a 5 pound bag of frozen corn and a bag about the same size of french fries from BJs when we ordered from them.  I am maybe halfway through the bag of corn and it takes up a lot of room.  I just finally opened the bag of french fries – we also had 2 normal sized bags of french fries that we had to use up first before opening this one.  Add to that husband bought a bag of meatballs when we went to Walmart back in May and it was almost the size – and he does not like them.  So after one dinner from them, they were sitting in the freezer taking up space – possibly to do so long after the pandemic ends – so I decided I would eat them for dinner when he has something I do not particularly like.  Unfortunately one of the reasons he does not like them is that they have too much garlic.  So when I have them I have to go upstairs and rinse out my mouth with mouth wash after wards.  They are small meatballs and 6 are suppose to be a serving.  It will take at least a month and a half or longer to finish the bag, so last week I upped the serving size to 8 meatballs – every 3 weeks is one week less I will be eating them and one week faster that I get the space from them back in the freezer.  When these 3 items are finished and gone from the freezer and a normal bag of french fries and a normal size bag of corn are there instead the freezer will hold a lot more things.

As I am removing all these things from the freezer and rearranging them – periodically I run upstairs to check and stir the stew.

I then went upstairs and started on the freezer in the refrigerator.  I took out most of the items on the bottom shelf and put them on the kitchen table.  These 2 lists were the labeled the same way as downstairs except they were labeled as “upstairs” instead of “basement”.  I rearranged the items in this freezer as I listed them and then put them back.  Up here are things like leftover gravies and cranberry sauce. (Did you know can freeze these things?  We only use half a can of gravy and I froze ¾ of the can of cranberry sauce in ¼ of the can size in small plastic containers (pudding sized) when I opened the can and we had the first ¼ can with sliced (deli type) turkey.  Also on this shelf is frozen bread (none yet from this purchase) and frozen hot dog and hamburger rolls so they last longer as we are shopping much less often than normal.  I then took out the items on the top shelf and did the same.  Our top shelf is a lot taller than our bottom one and I had bought a good sized plastic “basket” that I put small items into to keep them together and also stand up bags in so it is easier to see them and I can take out the entire “basket” to check what it is in it.  I have frozen eggs in this basket, as well as frozen meats in portions to use.  Husband had ordered from BJs back in May 3 boxes of eggs (3 pounds) but they did not have them and he accepted a 5 pound restaurant pack of eggs instead.  We don't eat eggs early (or breakfast) and needed them to cook things.  We had worked our way through one of the two layers when the good by date came up and we froze the rest.  To freeze an egg one has to crack it open and mix the yolk and white so that the yolk is not intact.  (If left in the shell or the yolk intact they will expand too much and break the shell and/or the yolk.)  In the old days when I did this with maybe four or five eggs I would put them in plastic, lidded pudding cups – but I did not have dozens of cups.  I put a plastic sandwich in each of 5 cups at a time and put in some cups one egg and others two eggs – if we do eat eggs – a bag of 2 is used for each, if we need 3 (say for a cake mix) take a bag of two and a bag of one or 1 for something we take – we take a bag of one egg.  I have the 2 eggs in one plastic zip bag and the 1 eggs in another.  I list of all of the items up here the same way – main dishes on the
“upstairs meat” list and the rest on the “upstairs other” list.  To make dealing with and finding the frozen vegetables easier – when I open a bag of same I put the contents in a labeled quart zip bag which is labeled with the vegetable name and the date it is good until.  I reuse these bags when I use up the contents and change the good until date.  I have them – ready for this?  In alphabetical order in the lower shelf in the kitchen freezer door – easy to find.  

Having finished dealing with the freezers and listing their contents  (while stirring the stew in between) I put all of the lists on the refrigerator door with magnets (no point to having the downstairs freezer list downstairs – then I would have to go downstairs to see what I have – if all the lists are upstairs it I can see everything while upstairs.

These lists would not work as well when we are shopping normally – they would have to updated instead of replaced  - they work now being replaced as there are major changes each time due to the length of time between shopping trips.  

Since the stew was still not finished (it cooks a LONG time), I then stored away my July Lucy and Me  figurines from the living room and put my September ones – the August ones never went out.  Again, I was close to the kitchen to keep checking the stew.  

When the stew was almost finished I made some biscuits from refrigerated biscuit dough (this is not the same as the frozen biscuits, although the same brand) to go with the stew.  Freezer contents listed, frozen food arranged a bit better and easier to use, Lucy and Me bears out for the month and dinner cooked – all at the same time.  A good day of organizing and a bit fun in changing the bears.

THOUGHTS OF THE WEEK -

1 – If you have do something to do that takes awhile, but must be watched – see if there are other things you can do in the same or nearby physical location so time waiting to stir or check on the pot is not wasted.

2 – List what you have in your freezer (and for some people – also what is in your refrigerator – so you know what you have.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

COVID 19 #21 - FOOD SHOPPING DURING THE TIME OF CORONA

 We went shopping for food this past Monday.  We almost made it through August without a full food run – just a small run to our local supermarket for Diet Coke (first time we have bought since before the stay at home – we had been drinking it only a half glass with Saturday night dinner, and then only since the start of May.  We also bought some other items which are not sold at the Walmart Neighborhood Market at which we have done our food shopping.  

I have been using a ¼ strip of a page of paper on the refrigerator for a shopping list and then when we start to talk about going shopping I have been copying the list into a spreadsheet file.   I try to sort by where I think the items are located in the store as I don't want to take out my pen and to cross items we have found off of the list and want to avoid having to double back for missed items also. This trip I did two related things – I brought a pencil stub to write with (if I felt it should not come home, I could toss it out when we left the store) and I also used the back of the shopping list (and the pencil stub) to list generally the items in the food aisles, especially those we buy.  I realized my shopping list was pretty close to where the items were located anyway – I did have 2 aisles reversed in the list.  Next trip I will try to list what is in which aisle of the non-food items.  

Before we went I had started making a master list of items we buy or might buy in the supermarket to make sure that when making future lists I don't forget anything.  (List is mostly made by husband saying or my realizing that we just took the last of something or have few enough of the item left to last beyond a week or so or one of us saying something like - “hmmm, wouldn't it be nice to have “Brunswick stew” (or something else) for dinner – do we have what we need to make it?”  After I returned home I resorted the master list by which aisles I had found the items to be in.  The master list is in 3 columns (so more of it can be seen at time while making up the shopping list – in a 4th column) – food, cold food, and non-food.  By looking down the list as I make up our shopping list for the upcoming supermarket trip I can make sure I don't miss anything.  Maybe we will continue to shop for more than a day or two at time, like we used to in the old years when I did the food shopping alone while husband was still working outside the house, it does work very well.

We found most of the items we were looking for – I could swear that supermarkets carry Chinese hard noodles – maybe it is just this store that does not.  It took him 10 minutes to decide which “I think want different cookies this time” he wanted.  He likes nicer than white bread when he has a sandwich, so he bought an Italian loaf baked in the store and wanted to buy rye bread.  The rye bread is small compared to the white bread and the what we call – the store bread so he decided to buy 2 loaves.  (We bought 4 loaves of white bread, use one and part of one fresh and freeze the rest as the expiration date approaches.)  In normal years we maybe buy one loaf of white or store bread and maybe don't have any bread in the house for long periods of time.  He could not decide between the “hard” and the “soft” rye breads from the same company – I told him to buy one of each and then decide which he liked better for next time, we did.

I figured while we were shopping we should buy some ant traps – generally need them on and off.  We could not find the bug spray section.  I asked an employee – he pointed at a rack hanging from the end of an aisle.  None there – I mentioned this and he sent me to Aisle 16 – made sense to me that was dog food and stuff for the house – only another rack hanging from the end cap – guess there is not much of a calling for bug killer stuff in the supermarket?  When/if we go to a regular Walmart I will check there and buy same.  

And now – the big disorganization happens.  In the trips we have taken to this Walmart for groceries – about 3 or 4 times since the stay at home started – there have been no lines at checkout other than at self checkout. This time it seemed there were big lines at all of the registers – and the lines ran up the aisles and people were close together.  Husband picked a line.  I was concerned that it was a small number of items or less checkout and went up to check.  I then saw that where we normally check out seemed now to be empty.  I went and checked and it was – problem – not going to take out cell phone with gloves I have on and he won't check – so I had to run back to him and then back to stand at register while he figured out how to get there.  (Umm, go to back of store and up the big aisle that comes forward – this took a lot of thinking? And he walked there so slowly.)

The system he has developed for food shopping is he wear gloves and pushes the cart. I wear gloves and select the items and put them in the cart.  (To his mind this keeps the cart and food unvirused.)  So I have to take the items out of the cart and put them on the belt for the cashier.  (Before the pandemic we only did self-checkout, now we always go to a cashier.)  I put the heavier cold items first and then the lighter cold items, followed by the heavier not cold items and finally the lighter not cold items.  We want the cold items bagged together so we can deal with them first when we get home before they warm up – both for wiping off with alcohol on paper towel piece and then figuring where to fit the items in the freezers (one is part of refrigerator and the other is a small dorm refrigerator sized one in our basement).  Fitting them in is not easy.  An example – we have been buying what I call frozen box dinners – these are the precooked, heat up, commercial company frozen meals in the freezer cases. I told him we had room for 7 of them (based on what we had used and the room I had for stacking them).  He picked out 6 of them – okay, that's better as more room for something else, right?  He then decides to buy a box of frozen fried chicken (which I reminded him he did not like last time and that there was much less in the box than it looks like it will have) – it almost the size of 2 of the boxed dinners.  I explained to him that we could buy that – but one of the box dinners has to go back due to space limitations.  He found a bag of fried chicken strips instead.  

I started putting the items on the belt to be rung up. It is again a huge order as we are buying for a month and hopefully beyond.  He is standing there watching me – remember, only I can touch the food.  I finally suggest he go to the other end and watch how the cashier is bagging the items.  He comes back.  The cashier is not bagging them – they do not have any bags!!  He starts to panic.  I unpack as quickly as I can and then start reloading the food she has rung up into the cart, thinking all the time what to do.  Oddly I had looked at the two reusable shopping bags we had gotten back at the end of February when the state was going to no disposable plastic bags and thought about about bringing them, but did not.  We had brought one disposable bag as he sprays the cart with Lysol before we start using it and I like to hide in the van as it is in such demand this days.  I figured we must have other bags in the van and told him we would be okay.  When I asked the cashier if this was something permanent – they had run out of bags at 2 pm.  (This was 5-6 pm.)  Not sure if it was a question of people doing extra food shopping as heavy rain was to come for the rest of the week (which is why we were shopping Monday), it was the last day of the month or what, but good to know it was not a change in policy.

In the car I had about 4 disposable plastic shopping bags, a paper shopping bag (bigger than a supermarket bag from some other store), and clean plastic garbage bags – I am guessing leftover from craft shows we have done and used them to carry woven items or such.  I put the breads in the paper shopping bag – just fit all of them (including a pack each of hot dog and hamburger rolls).  I put cold items into the 4 plastic bags which took most, but not all of them.  I then used one garbage bag for the rest of the cold items and a couple of garbage bags for the non-cold food.  

When we got home we dealt with the cold food in the shopping bags first and then I used the empty shopping bags to bring in the rest of the cold food.  After the cold food was put away, I started on the non-cold food, again using the shopping bags to bring them in – bread came in last.  

After all of this time and work – we came up short a rye bread!  We thought we lost it on the way on home after paying for it, but when we checked the receipt – we had never paid for it – either it fell out of the wagon, did not make it up the belt at the register – or a fairy took it out of the cart – and with how things are lately, I am so not sure it was not the last.  

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK -

It pays to make a shopping list before going shopping all the time – better than a trip back for a forgotten item.  Even more so now with the Corona virus about.  It helps one deal with a larger order quicker and with much fewer running back for items not remembered as one went through their aisle.  Today much more so than even before – one wants to go in, shop, and get out as quickly as possible to spend as little time out near people as possible.

A good Labor Day holiday to those in the U.S.