At the end of each week, I like to ask myself a few questions (The What’s?) on how my week went. I think asking myself (or yourself) a series of inquiring questions, helps keep me (or you) focused and appreciative. It certainly helps me see exactly how I am doing, where I am going and if I am achieving anything in my life!

  1. What’s doing in the garden? As I mentioned before, most of the veggies I planted from seeds, bombed out. I had to go to a local garden nursery and purchase already started vegetable plants. I have to say that they all are doing splendidly. We got off to a late start, so the harvest will be late (as in September). Thankfully the weather has been warm and will continue to be sunny, so everybody (including me) is happy! Next year, I’ll be doing the same thing. NOT starting from seeds but purchasing the seedlings I’d like to grow. I do not think that I am a failure here. I blame the lousy seeds (which BTW I bought from a renowned famous seed house. Oh well) I have plum tomatoes coming in as well as beefsteak tomatoes. It just rained this morning and I was able to take these photos as the sun was coming out. I have several eggplants producing, as well as the standard green beans. My peppers are starting to bud and will produce within the next week. I have 5 watermelons growing. My zinnias (check out the butterfly on them!) and marigolds have finally bloomed way above my expectations and have completely engulfed my apple tree (it’s in there somewhere!) My herbs (rosemary, parsley, oregano and basil) are all doing well (from seeds!). My bibb lettuce is continuing to produce, as we’ve been enjoying a fresh salad every single day.

2. What’s cooking? I had my daughter and granddaughter over this week, so there was a lot of marshmallow toasting as well as hot dogs and hamburgers served up. I did manage to get a fresh salad in every once in a while. One of our newest favorites is this Caesar Salad. Romaine lettuce, chopped cucumbers and minced red onions (all from the farm next door!) I made the croutons with left over whole wheat baguettes. The dressing is also freshly hand made. Click here for the recipe.

3. What’s happening (socially)? I self-invited my husband and I over to our best friends house to have lunch together, outdoors, in their backyard. This is the first time since March 1, 2020 that I have ventured outside my home and co-mingled with other human beings since the pandemic. My friends were very understanding. Hubby and I picked up lunch at a well-known. award-winning Italian deli we recently discovered. However, since the last time we ordered from them, about a month ago, the deli has upgraded their operations to address the dilemma most food/restaurants are facing during this pandemic. The deli streamlined their menu, installed a state-of-the-art online ordering service and coordinated it with hands-free pick up service. You order online, request the date and time you want to pick up your order and you pay for everything online. The new service is fantastic BUT the new service also came along with a 40% increase in food prices. Gulp. So, what would have cost us $40 for 4 sandwiches, now cost us $56.

These sandwiches cost $10 last month. Rossi increased their prices by 40%! Needless to say, we will NEVER be going back anytime soon.

4. What’s streaming? Thanks to my Prime Bucks (I coordinate Amazon shipping to a less busy shipping date and get dollars back in movie or eBook credits) I was able to view a fantastic movie, The Promise, on my Amazon Prime account for free. The movie is a sweeping, magnificent film about the Armenian genocide, starring Oscar Issac and Christian Bale. It will have you engrossed and mesmerized with stunning images of Constantinople as well as take you down into the horrors of a war, still not recognized by Turkey.

5. What music is playing? I still stream music into my home from dawn to dusk. The music helps keep a calm, quiet environment, which as we all know is very important for these times. This week I streamed in well known classical hits (through Amazon Prime Music, for free).

6. What are you most grateful for? As always, it is my family and my friends. I am also most grateful and thankful for our frugal ways throughout these years which has enabled us to have a savings account so that we can still pay our bills and keep a roof over our heads during these uncertain and dangerous times.

7. What did I do this week to stretch a dollar? This week seems to have been a week of constant price increases on most everything I touch. It has also been a week of again, being overcharged. Thankfully I read each and every bill that comes into this house before I pay them. This month I noticed a $77.79 increase on our mobile phone bill! Normally we pay $142 for two phone with a shared mobile account service. The bill includes my $33.34 installment payment plan for my iPhone 11 Max Pro. Apparently, last month I called the mobile company to inquire about upgrading my husband’s old, outdated (and fully paid for) iPhone. Apple has reduced their prices on new iPhones and I wanted to see if our mobile company will match the price. The sales rep could match the price but also asked me if I wanted to up my service. I said no and then the sales person went to inquire about the new iPhone. The salesperson left me on hold for over 12 minutes. So, I just hung up the phone. This month when I got the mobile phone bill, guess what? The creep charged my account for the upgrade, without my consent or written signature, to the tune of $219!! A full $77 MORE than the previous month!

I’m not going to go into the gory details, but after several hours on hold, being disconnected over 3 times and eventually turning the account over to my husband (because I was reduced to a stack of hysterical tears), he finally got through to a supervisor and got our bill adjusted, credited and returned back to its original plan. Hubby got us a refund of $112!! We filed a complaint against the salesperson but the lesson here is this: you can not call Customer Service and speak to any humans anymore. I wrote about this before here. The pandemic has shrunk human contact to a discernible level and that’s just a fact. We have to start utilizing robotics and computers. And as I have mentioned above, that’s going to cost us all money in the end.

To get my husband a new phone, I simply logged onto Apple.com, selected the iPhone he wanted (an SE for $399), paid for it with my Apple credit card, which automatically set up a 6 month interest free payment plan. Next day, when the new iPhone was delivered to my home, I simply removed the SIMM card from hubby’s old phone and inserted it into his new iPhone and voila’: service and purchase complete! Without a human involved.

Lastly, hubby and I have two main grocery stores that we will only shop at: Aldi’s and a local gourmet grocery, Adam’s Fairacre Farms (filled with all local goodies, meats, poultry, dairy, eggs and international specialties from all around the world, i.e Greece, Italy, France, Israel, Spain etc.) We go once a week each. Aldi’s to buy basics at extremely good prices. Adam’s to get those Italian gourmet treats we love AND to buy local poultry, sausages and in-season, local fruits and veggies (plus whatever is on sale!)

We did go to Shop Rite a few weeks ago to buy NY Strip Steaks and grated Romano cheese. Why? Because we thought the prices were good and we wanted to save money. To get to the end of the story, the steaks were tough and awful and when we opened up the grated cheese, it was full of mold and rancid. I may bring the cheese back but Shop Rite had the worst pandemic procedures NOT put into place. The store was crowded, no social distancing, not everyone wore a mask and none of the carts were being fumigated (as is done at Adams and Aldi). Needless to say, we won’t be back. If we have to pay more for our food, then so be it! We’re not eating cheap food anymore because in the end, we’re not saving any money at all. I’m debating whether to go back to the store and get my $9.98 refund on the 2 pounds of moldy grated cheese. Is it worth possibly jeopardizing my good health?

In the interim, here’s tonight’s (Saturday) dinner. I bought pappardelle pasta nests (@$3.79 for 8.8 oz at Adams). Hubby prepared a beef bolognese sauce (Omaha Hereford chopped beef @$2.99 per pound at Adams), click here for recipe (we made our’s all beef with wine. no milk or pork). I like mine served with a dollop of part-skim ricotta (@$2.49 at Aldi for 8 oz) and grated Parmesan cheese (@$1.99 for 8 oz at Aldi). A meal like this at a decent Italian restaurant would cost between $24 and $33 per dish. We had two, with enough left over for lunch tomorrow. That’s how we save money: by eating at home and using top notch ingredients!