Easy whole wheat bread

easy homemade bread
Fresh out of the oven
Why bake your own bread?
1) eliminate preservatives
2) tastes great
3) can make it anytime and eliminate a run to the store
4) It’s satisfying to make something yourself
5) It’s cheap and can speed your path to getting FI

 

With a bread machine it doesn’t take much effort, but it does take some. It’s probably best to be honest with yourself and if you don’t see yourself making bread on the weekend or evening as a fun activity, then don’t spend the $ to go down this path. It’s not frugal to store an unused bread machine in your basement. Another consideration is it takes a bit of skill to cut bread slices, if that is not something you are into, again, maybe don’t go down this path.

How many ingredients do you need? Six plus water
Here’s a list of ingredients for my 50% whole wheat recipe:
home made bread ingredients
You probably have the some of the ingredients already
WATER (a mug, see below)
WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR (1.5 cups)
WHITE BREAD FLOUR (1.5 cups)
BROWN SUGAR (1.5 tablespoons)
SALT (1/8 teaspoon)
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (about 2 tablespoons)
BREAD MACHINE YEAST (a teaspoon)
Ingredients from a major bread manufacturer (18+water):
WATER
WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR
SUGAR
WHEAT GLUTEN
RAISIN JUICE CONCENTRATE
WHEAT BRAN
YEAST
MOLASSES
SOYBEAN OIL
SALT
CALCIUM PROPIONATE
SORBIC ACID
MONOGLYCERIDES
DATEM (diacetyl trataric ester of mono- and diglycerides)
CALCIUM SULFATE
GRAIN VINEGAR
SOY LECITHIN
SOY
WHEY
Bread maker

Bread machine

I don’t have any reason to like my machine over others on the market, but it has been going strong for 3+ years and works just fine. It’s a Rosewill R-BM-01 for 1.5 and 2 lb loaves. I paid $39.99 for it from Newegg.com in 2013. Here’s a similar machine.

Bread making approach

I prefer to make the 1.5 lb size (for two people). I leave the machine in a seldom-used room so we don’t have to listen to it, and just take the mixer bowl to the kitchen and back to the room when making bread. No moving the machine around. I clean the mixer bowl by hand with water. My bread machine makes loaves that have a small indentation in the middle of the bottom of the loaf from the mixer. To avoid this I tried moving the dough after mixing into a bread pan and baking in the oven. But I found this to be too much of a hassle, so now I just cook it in the bread machine and deal with the small hole in the bottom.

Ok let’s make bread:

  • Remove any remaining crusty bits from the mixer before you start and rinse it out with water to clean
  • Add ~¼ teaspoon of salt to the mixer
  • Add a tablespoon of brown sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
  • Pour water into a regular sized coffee mug up to ½ inch from the top.
    I use a coffee mug to measure water. 1/2 inch from the top

    Microwave the mug for ~30 seconds until the water is warm but not hot (don’t want to kill the yeast). Add the water to the mixer

    I pour in olive oil straight from the bottle till the slick is the size of a baseball
  • Add olive oil until it forms a circle the size of a baseball on top of the water, approximately two tablespoons (I don’t measure because I don’t want to clean the measuring cup)
  • Add 1.5 cups of whole grain flour and 1.5 cups of white bread flour. If you like less whole wheat you can also do 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat
  • Make an indentation in the middle of the flour when you add the last cup and add a teaspoon of bread machine yeast
  • Set bread maker to: 1.5 lb loaf, medium crust, basic bread setting (machine settings may vary). My machine takes 2h53min
  • When bread is done follow the bread machine instructions to safely remove the loaf and let the bread cool at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before cutting and eating. (DW has been known to cut a piece before 20 minutes). I set my phone timer so I remove the bread from the machine very soon after it is done cooking

Bread Storage

I use a Prep Solutions by Progressive Adjustable Bread Keeper. There are no preservatives so plan on eating it within 5 days.

Summary

That’s it. Great bread with minimal effort and minimal ingredients.

Buy quality clothing to get FI

Buy quality clothing to be frugal for financial independence
My go-to cool weather outfit on the farm. Fleece shirt with 1/4 zip and fleece pants.

What goes into choosing a shirt in the morning?

I own about 50 shirts but I only regularly wear about 20 of them. So 30 just sit in my closet. They are all in good shape, close to new condition. But they all have something not quite right with them. So I wear my favorite shirts and the rest just hang there. It took me quite awhile for me to figure out that I have a long torso relative to my arm length. This means when I buy shirts I have to pay attention that they are long enough, or they just come untucked when I wear them. I also figured out that when I wear T-shirts I like the ones that are loose fitting. I am a large but different brands make larges at different sizes. So some fit a bit tighter than others. Those tight ones stay in the drawer because when I pick out a shirt I choose the ones that feel good. Now I buy XL depending on the brand.

I like high quality socks

I grew up in the era where white tube socks were cheap and everyone wore them. Later I migrated to darker poly-cotton socks and found a brand that was pretty good. But then I found Lorpen socks. Lorpen makes a bunch of different types with different materials like merino wool and coolmax, and they are not cheap. They have reinforced areas and feel solid. They also make socks that are anti-odor that are great for travel or camping. When I put them on I can’t go back to the thin cotton-poly socks. Lorpen socks last a long time. Now my other socks just sit in the back of the drawer.

Who cares about what shirts or socks Mr. Wheat wears?

Good question. My point is not to convince you to buy long shirts or Lorpen socks. My point is that it’s worth figuring out what works for you, and then putting some thought and effort into a wardrobe that you like to wear. Just because a piece of clothing is a good deal, doesn’t mean it works for you.

5 Strategies for getting value for your $ in clothing:

1. Spend some time shopping, from your favorite couch: Amazon has become the 800 pound gorilla of commerce for a reason. You can search a product and sort for the highest reviews. It’s like surveying a hundred people who have tested your product. I rarely buy a product with less than 4 star rating. And I actually read some of the ratings, it’s worth your time. You don’t have to buy from Amazon, I actually buy a fair amount of clothes from Sierra Trading Post. Continue reading “Buy quality clothing to get FI”

Staying fit on a budget; mountain biking, hiking and working out at home

On the path to FI, keeping fit is a good investment

Everyone wants to keep in good shape but it’s a challenge to find workouts that can keep us motivated and interested. Today I am going to share how I keep in shape while staying frugal towards getting FI.

Mountain biking has major advantages

If you enjoy cycling but don’t enjoy riding in traffic and do enjoy the woods, mountain biking may be for you. One of the big advantages over running is the lack of impact on your knees. Riding up 1000 feet elevation getting your aerobic workout can be followed with a thrilling descent on trails. This is one reason why I enjoy mt biking over hiking. Once I’ve put in the effort to get to the top of and see the view, I am usually only a fun 25 minute quick descent back to the car. The downhill is the reward for the climb up. And everyone can pick their chosen approach in terms of how to descend. Nowadays people tend to think of downhill mountain bikes that bomb down steep inclines. But there are plenty of winding, smooth, banked trails around that allow for fun but controlled descents.

mountain biking in the Palouse
Fast flowing downhill, the way I like it

Mountain biking can be a low expense sport

You can spend over $10,000 on a mountain bike, but you don’t have to. My mountain bike is over 10 years old and it still fits my needs. I do recommend getting a bike with quality components and I would recommend spending a minimum of about $1,500. I do plan to upgrade my bike in the next few years and will probably spend closer to $3,000. But I have kept my last two bikes for over 10 years each, and my original Specialized ‘Rockhopper Comp’ still gets used for rides on paved rail trails. So if you pay $3,000 and keep your bike for 10 years, it’s only $300 per year. Not a bad upfront cost for such a great sport.

Mountain bike maintenance

Mt bikes do require some maintenance and you can choose to have your local shop do it, or learn to do much of it yourself. The amount of maintenance does vary with your riding style, and also with the type of terrain and local conditions. When I used to ride in western Oregon where there was alot of rain and mud, I went through more components than I do now in dry eastern Washington State. The major maintenance I do myself includes changing tires and tubes, changing and adjusting disc brake pads, replacing brake and shifter cables and cleaning and lubricating the chain, chainrings and rear cassette.

Where to ride

If you are fortunate there may be an area that allows mountain biking near your home. For me the availability of a mountain biking area is a major consideration in where to live. I have two main areas I ride, but there are several within a 1 hour drive. The first ride I do is right out my door. In the Palouse there are miles of gravel roads that are great, especially for training early in the year. Later on when the roads get drier and dustier and there is more farm machine traffic (and I am in better condition), I move onto my main area. My second area has a trail system especially for mountain bikes and has about 2000 ft of elevation. This is ideal, as when trails are shared use, (for example between horses and mountain bikes) they can get rutted. If you want to see what areas are available near you check out: MTB project.

mountain biking near home
Biking from the homestead, riding up 600 ft elevation total

Hiking

Hiking is obviously a cheap outdoor activity and I like to mix it up re: hiking and mountain biking. I don’t have much to say here except that I tend to choose hiking when the weather isn’t great, or the area does not allow biking. One tip is to identify a fun hike you can do from your front door. Even when we lived in Seattle we found a 3 mile urban hike that took us up a hill for a view and was a good workout. It wasn’t a known hike, just one that we identified by doing some walking around the neighborhood and picking a route with low traffic.

Palouse hiking
There are some nice hikes in the Palouse, but please don’t tell anyone

What about exercise in the winter?

In the Palouse we do get some snow, and even hiking is not feasible at times. My approach is a nice rowing machine. I own a Concept 2 rowing machine and it works great. The workout equipment is in the basement. So if you are considering a ‘tiny house’ keep in mind some of the limitations of said house. Another approach we have for the early Spring is to drive south about 45 minutes to a town called Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is on the Snake and Clearwater rivers and sits in a valley carved by these rivers about 1600 ft lower than where we live. It’s thus a few degrees warmer and melts out earlier in the year. This allows early year mt biking and hiking. Maybe there’s an ‘early year area’ near you?

Early season hike in Lewiston, Idaho in March

Weightlifting

I don’t consider myself a weightlifter, but I do workout regularly with weights. The Stronglifts 5×5 site has the workout I have used for the last 4 months. I love the simplicity of it, and the Mon-Wed-Fri schedule that gives me the weekends off.

Summary

Hopefully this will provide some ideas for how to integrate more fitness into your routine. I track my workouts, hikes and bike trips in excel. I also put together an excel file that has the drive times to hikes and bike trailheads within 2h of my house, determined by Google Maps. It’s not always obvious which trailheads are the closest in terms of driving times.

Frugal Living: 4 ways to reduce recurring expenses

Recurring expenses are the silent killer of Financial Independence

To get FI, the well known 25X rule says you must have saved 25 times your yearly expenses in order to be financially independent. But how many of your yearly expenses are collected on a monthly basis? If you pay a monthly fee then the rule becomes the 300X rule. 25X per year times 12 months = 300X. So if monthly, a couple has an $80 cable TV bill, a $100 cell phone bill, a $40 book bill, and a $80 coffee shop bill, that is a total of $300/month. Using the rule of 300X you need $90,000 in savings to sustain these expenses. What are your current expenses for these 4 items?

Reducing the cable TV bill

In 2010 I realized that our cable TV just wasn’t being used that often. We had a lot of channels, but rarely was there something worthwhile to watch. When we did use it, a lot of viewing was network TV. Another negative was our cable box (that we were renting) had begun to advertise to us. The solution was a home theater PC (HTPC) running windows 7 media center hooked up to an antenna. We are still using it today and even in our rural area of Eastern Washington State we get the following channels for free over the air (OTA): ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, Justice Network, Decades, SWX sports, This TV. We supplement this with Amazon prime video and Sling TV. Amazon prime was purchased on sale for $72. I value the Amazon 2 day free shipping at over $100 per year based on the fact that the speedy shipping allows me to avoid at least ten trips to hardware stores over the course of a year to keep the homestead running. So prime video I consider free. We’ve enjoyed several movies and series like Vikings using Amazon prime video. Sling TV is $13.99 per month with our T-mobile rural internet discount and gives us access to the cable shows we were missing. The full price is $20/month. Sling isn’t perfect and during heavy viewing hours it often freezes and we have to back it up ten seconds, but it is good enough (meets Dear Wife test). Setting up a HTPC is a significant project, but an alternative is a Tivo Roamio OTA that includes a channel guide service, currently $389 on Amazon. The choice of antenna is very location specific, but let’s allocate $120 for antenna, cable and installation supplies. If we assume the setup will be in use for at least 5 years (hopefully more) we can spread the cost over 60 months: $389 + $120 = $509 /60 months = $8.48/month. So it’s possible to reduce TV to $28.48 per month (20$ for Sling TV and $8.48 for the Tivo-antenna setup) and still have access to network and also many cable channels.

Reducing the cell phone bill

On July 29th, 2017 T-mobile shows $50 per line for a couple for $100/month. Verizon shows $70/line for $140/couple/month. I would like to have data for my phone, it would be convenient. But not at that price. Instead we have an AT&T prepaid that costs $100/year per person but has no data. $200/year for two people for 12 months is $16.66 per month. Most of the time I am at home or at work and my android phone connects to the internet through wireless. When I am on the road I can often connect to free wireless. I have to admit there are times I wish I had data when I am on the road, but not for an extra $83.33 a month. We don’t talk a lot on our cell phones and the plan we have is 10 cents per minute. Adding $100 gives us 1000 minutes and a year of use. We don’t even use ½ of the 1000 minutes per year. Unfortunately, AT&T no longer lists the 10 cents a minute prepaid plan (previously called gophone) as available for our zip code, even though we are still using it. Republic wireless advertises a $15/month plan with unlimited talk, text and wifi data for $15 /month per person. Using that service would be $30/month for a couple. In that case giving up data would save $70 /month per couple.

Reducing the $40 book bill
Free books from your county library, frugal living
Overdrive software on my android phone downloads audiobooks from the county library for free. The audio CD version is $34.92 or $16.99 for Kindle. My price, free.

If a couple each buy two $10 books per month that generates a $40/month book expense. To me that’s quite reasonable, but there’s a little known secret to reduce this… the library. I work at a university and can take a 10 minute break and walk over to the university library. I also have a county library card that gives me access to the county library electronic collection. These two services save us over $360 per year. The university library is great for harder to find nonfiction books the DW enjoys. It has a service called Summit that accesses other university libraries. Our university will allow local non-university-employed people to use its library. Our county library has an electronic collection that allows me to download audio books onto my android, or electronic books onto my Kindle… for free. We average about 3 free books per month. Most audiobooks are more than $10, so we save at least $30 /month. We still buy about 12 books per year for books that are either not available from the library, or we just prefer to own them. The great thing about the county library is after you make a trip to get your library card, there is no need to make a trip to the library to access the digital library. Just log in from home and download the titles. I haven’t been to the county library in over 8 years, but I’ve downloaded over a thousand dollars worth of audiobooks. Utilizing the library can easily save $30 /month.

Reducing the 80$ coffee bill
Starbucks coffee at home, frugal living
Psst, you can have Starbucks coffee at home.

This is the cliché money saving approach, but it is a simple one many people can use. One day driving by a Starbucks early in the morning I saw a line of 6 cars. I wondered, are those people’s coffee experience really worth it? Are they spending their money to get value? I can make a cup of good drip coffee at home for less than 30 cents, and I don’t have to wait for 5 cars ahead of me to order. While I enjoy a coffee out once in a while, I really don’t need it on an ongoing basis. I tend to go out for coffee twice a month, and DW almost never does. So we pay about $10 a month. Savings, about $70 a month over going out regularly.

Progress to FI

Using the above examples the monthly totals are: Cable TV $28, 2 cell phone plans $30, books $10, Coffee $10 for a total of $78 per month. Using the 300X rule you would now only need $23,400 to cover these expenses. You are now $66,600 closer to FI ($90,000 – $23,400).

The SURV (Sports Utility Recreational Vehicle)

Let’s not buy an RV

How great would it be to have a Mercedes Sprinter van? A beautiful one is listed on RV Trader for $134,500. During our working years we could use it for up to 3 weeks a year and store it the other 49 weeks. If we instead took that money and invested it for 30 years at 7% compounded return we would have $1,023,848.30. And that does not include maintenance, licensing, insurance, and … sales tax. Well I guess if one wanted to work an extra couple of years that would be fine… But we’re pretty focused on getting FI.

What about a camper for the truck?

Once we moved to Eastern Washington I thought about some boondock camping in Idaho and Montana. Having tent camped in grizzly country and heard sniffing outside the tent I don’t plan to be tent camping again in bear country. I initially looked at a Four Wheel Camper for our Toyota Tacoma, but those can run past $15,000 new. A better solution is a used one. I saw one that fits my truck for $7,500 on Craigslist. Still every time we want to go camping I will have to remove the bed insert and rack. I’ll have to load the camper and when we are on the road we will probably get less than 18 mpg highway. I’ll also have to store the camper when it’s not in use. Finally in Washington State I have to license a slide-in camper. Maybe if I get into some long trips I will go that route in the future.

What if we use what’s in the driveway?

How many people already own an SUV that is insured and gets decent mileage? Could it be fitted to allow comfortable camping? Let’s set some goals:

  • Should be very comfortable to sleep in
  • Minimum upfront cost, less than $250.00
  • Should have hard shell for camping in bear country
  • Good gas mileage to allow for long trips with minimal cost
  • The vehicle should already be in the driveway
The SURV

We own a 2004 Mazda Tribute. It’s the sister car to the Ford Escape of which there are many on the road. One of the nice things is the rear seat bottoms come out very easily and the rear seat backs fold down. Within 5 minutes there is a flat bed behind the two front seats. Will it fit me, I’m 6’1”? I take the tape measure and go out to the Tribute. It turns out that when the front seats are moved all the way forward and angled forward there is enough room. I look on the web and find examples of people who have modified their cars, even Priuses for sleeping in. I measure the rear compartment and decide that a Full size 6” thick memory foam mattress will work once it is trimmed to fit the rear compartment.

Sports utility recreational vehicle
Plastic boxes fit behind the front seats once they are slid all the way forward. They support the mattress and store camping gear
Outfitting the SURV
mattress for sports utility rcreational vehicle
foam mattress trimmed to fit wheel wells and center console. (Upside down)

I purchased a Full size Signature Sleep Memoir 6″ Memory Foam Mattress from Walmart. It was $160.62 shipped in 2015 and when it arrives I remove the outside cover and trim it using a kitchen knife. I take my time. Out in the Tribute I mark it and then cut. After an hour or so it fit perfectly around the rear wheel wells. I cut a small section out for the console and once it is cut to fit, the mattress cover is put back on.

Next I need a way to cover the windows. I don’t want people walking up and looking in while we are sleeping. The windows are all less than 20” x 30” so I buy Elmer’s Foam Board Multi-Pack, Black, 20×30 Inch, Pack of 10 from amazon (I pay $42.88 shipped). I cut pieces of cardboard to fit the Tribute windows. Once I get them right I the trace them onto the black foam boards and cut them. They then pop into the Tribute windows.

Foam boards for Sports Utility Recreational Vehicle window
Black foam boards ‘pop’ into the windows
sports utility recreational vehicle
Rear window

One reason I chose this over curtains is this maximizes room. No lost space to hanging curtains. For the front window I use a Jumbo X-Shade Jumbo Sun Shade for Car windshield 59 x 31.5 Inches $14.97. For the rear window I just use a small sheet hung up. I use two plastic containers we already have to fill the space in front of the rear seats to support the mattress. They fit perfectly. Estimated costs for containers: $20.00. Total cost for the SURV: $238.47

Sports Utility Recreational Vehicle with foamy mattress
Ready for a snooze
How comfy is the SURV?

Well DW says it’s just as comfortable as our bed. The 6” memory foam is incredible. When we sleep we roll down the two side windows and the black board rests on a light we hang from handles in the cabin. It takes 10 minutes to carry the foam sleeper out to the car and put on bed sheets. Our camping gear fits in the two plastic boxes we use to support the mattress and we use two coleman camp chairs. Our cooler sits in the passenger seat while we sleep.

Essential camping gear, two folding chairs, a folding table. The plastic box holds our cooking gear

When we drive we remove the two plastic boxes and just place them on top of the mattress. The front seats then go back and the mattress just bends down behind the seats. We get the same mileage we always do, about 23 mpg highway. Is it a Sprinter Van or Four Wheel Camper? Nope, but it’s just fine for rustic camping.

Summary
The SURV in action

It’s really worth thinking outside the box. With a little effort we made our current SUV into a SURV. Have a Subaru, Highlander or Explorer? Maybe you can do the same. Our first trip was a loop through Idaho and we had a blast. If you have done similar and have tips please comment.