Monday, March 12, 2018

My Cheap Food Haul and Other News

I know I've neglected this blog.  Sorry.

I'm still at the commune.  It was a blessing to end up here because I hit hard times financially and this is a cheap place to live in my RV.  It's $75 a month with $25 for my commune fee and $50/mo to pay off the lot we bought from the commune.   Electric is never under $100--which is outrageous for an RV, but is just the state of things in our village. 

Still, we save by being stationary here.  It's true that I can boondock for $200 a month in the RV, but with RV and SUV gas it's easily $400 to $500.  I'm staying put.

I hope to turn it all around soon with a new video game company I've started.  Check out the kickstarter for my computer game hereBe's that gay stuff I like to write--adults only.
What happened with my writing career?  Things went down for me on Amazon.  I was working so hard and only making $2000/mo.  I couldn't keep going on that trajectory.  Yes, maybe I could reinvent myself one more time, or figure out how to use Amazon ads to pick things up, but I decided to switch to video games instead. 

The income potential is much greater with video games than with ebooks for me.  I could never 'break out' as a six figure author.  I made $90k in 2016 but only $45k in 2017, and most of that was in the first half of the year.  I was going down, and down, and down.  I had to try something new.

So I'm in the commune in New Mexico.  We bought a tiny house, but are still living in our RV for now.  We might move into the adobe house 'casita' in the summer since it stays pretty cool in there. 

Anywho, I decided to make a post since I often write about cheap groceries here.  I'm copy and pasting my long Facebook post below for your enjoyment.  Disclaimer:  I swear sometimes.  I know other bloggers complain about it...but this is the real me.

:Ghoulish Groan: Here's today's adventure.

My mom and I canceled Nutrisystem because we got sick of it and weren't sticking to our diet with it anyway. Part of the reason we stayed on it for a year is because the food is cheap. $311.21/per person so $622.42 for both of us.

But add on AT LEAST another $200-$300 for side foods. You have to buy all your fruit, veg, beverages, condiments, and we cheated so a lot more as well. It's really not cheap at all. And we were sick of it. Eventually we were doing everything we could not to eat it, and that was making us waste money we don't have.

So I canceled my meal service in December and my mom (who still lives with me) just canceled last month.

So that means back to buying all our groceries. To say we live in a food desert is an understatement. The commune is in a village of 800 people. There's a Dollar General and one Mexican grocery store that's half the size of said Dollar General.

The grocery store is okay for dry goods, dairy, a few meats, and a tiny area of vegetables that frequently goes bad before people can buy it all. If you hit the store on the right day you can get a few good cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes. Anything fancier, like cilantro, spinach, or squash is never supplied. Most of the time you stock up on frozen broccoli and brussel sprouts. They have a small selection of frozen meat. Just burger patties and chicken. It's expensive.

Option 1 is go to the nearest town, Deming, which is 35 miles north of us. In Deming you have a Walmart and another grocery story of respectable size, with a modest deli and bakery. The grocery store tends to be cheaper than the Walmart, but it's all relative. You can't get chicken for less than $1.50/lb, and pork or steak are a pauper's fantasy.

(And I am a pauper right now while I wait for the video game company to start bringing in money. Things are tight. Scarily tight.)

Option 2 is to drive 90 miles to El Paso. I have a gas guzzling 8 cylinder suv, and a drive to Deming is $20 in gas. El Paso is $40.

But if I can get to El Paso the food desert vanishes into an embarrassment of selection. Living near Mexico gives you the ubiquitous El Super grocery store chain, where all the signage is in Spanish with small English text underneath.

El Super was legendary when I lived in Las Vegas for deals like 10 pounds of onions for a dollar. Or fourteen ears of corn for a dollar (shucking not included). Once the crazy deal got you inside you'd see all sorts of other less crazy but no less tempting deals, like 2 papayas for a dollar or 5 pounds of tomatoes for a dollar.

You could do all your produce and meat shopping at an El Super and make out reasonably well, and you'll find dry good deals on Mexican staples, like rice, beans, masa, and lard.

But if you try to buy any 'American' goods, the prices sky rocket. Popsicles you can get at Walmart for $3 are $7. A 12 pack of coke is $5. You have to look for the Mexican versions of American items to do well. Skip the coke for Tampico, and don't get Quaker Oats. Get 'Mom's Best'.

I will be DANGED if I go all the way to El Paso and only go to one store. Nah, son, while El Super had some major competition this week from Food For Less, which is a much better variation of the Food For Lesses I got in Yuma AZ or California.

Food For Less had El Super beat on lettuce. $.69/head. Are you shitting me? I'll take two. But friends...that's not even the tip of the save-berg.

Food For Less had chicken drumsticks for $.69 per pound.

You heard me.


I have never seen chicken that cheap outside of those gargantuan thrice frozen bags of quarter pieces with the gallon of liquid added.

I called the store this morning and I said, "I would like to come by today and pick up 100 pounds of drumsticks. Is that possible?" They said yes.

100 pounds of meat for $69. IDGAF. I will take it. That will keep us in meat for a month and a half. I can eat chicken every single day without getting sick of it. That's all I ate as a poor kid, that's all many poor kids eat.

Chicken drumsticks can be covered in Goya's Adobo and baked, served with a small salad and yellow rice with pigeon peas and eaten both for lunch and dinner. Bake it once. Eat it two meals.

Chicken drumsticks can be broken down for stir fry, fried rice, burritos, mofongo, egg foo young, chicken quesidillas, and coconut chicken curry. I could give you different dishes for a week with just chicken as my meat.

I get to the store and went to the back of the meat section. There's no butcher area here, just a swinging door. I said I was the one who called about the 100 pounds of drumsticks. We had a problem, because no one told anyone and the manager had to make the call. My mom and I pleaded that we had driven all the way from Columbus just for this deal. You told us over the phone we could have it. PLEASE!

Or else we will literally strip your meat section clean of every fucking chicken drumstick package you've put out there. There were 30 packs. I was going to take them all.

They took care of us. We got three boxes that had 60 pounds of drumsticks in each. All together in a sealed plastic bag. We grabbed four packages of gallon ziplock bags and said GIMME.

Now, in my experience when a store sells meat that cheap it's usually freezer burned. It's dark, hard, cracked, the skin is yellow, it might be freckled. That's what I expected and was ready to buy. I don't care how fugly it looked, I can make cheap meat taste great. (Thank you Goya!)

But NO. This was gorgeous, plump, never frozen, fresh af chicken. IT LOOKED BEAUTIFUL.

We took it home along with some pork for $1.56/lb and some stripped beef ribs for $2.07/lb. We're in cheap meat heaven!

We also snagged the stuff we need to keep us out of the store for a month and a half:

- Quick Oats
- Flour (5 pounds)
- Sugar (5 pounds)
- Rice (20 pounds)
- Creamer/Sweetener (we have enough coffee)
- Prunes
- Frozen Brocolli
- Cilantro
- Cat food/treats (we have enough litter)
- Cheese
- Toilet Paper
- A smattering of cheap fresh fruit (a cantaloupe for $1 e.g.)
- A small amount of sweets (we can buy more cheap at the Dollar General in the village if we need it)
- Sandwich Bread
- Hotdogs (two packs for $.99 and they WEREN'T Bar-S)
- Canned Beans
- Canned Corn
- Instant Ramen
- 60 Eggs for $4
- Water
- Soda

For the soda and the water I like to drink we went to Walmart, which is usually the best for deals on American dry goods and beverages. There are no Aldi's around here.

That was three stores and I was EXHAUSTED. I'm still exhausted now, after sorting and putting away everything. My mom processed all the chicken into ziplocked bags portioned out for a month and a half of meals. Our deep freeze in the casita is almost full. I love that.

The best news is, while at Walmart there was a Sams Club beside it. I discovered that you could buy the gas at Sams Club even if you're not a member, for only 2 cents more than members pay. It was $2.03/gallon!!! That's SUPER CHEAP for this area. I was able to fill up my tank for $25!!! So the drive was barely more expensive than if I'd gone to Deming!

Grand total spent: $448. That's more than $400 a month for two people, but I think we'll probably get to the end of April. Woohoo!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Commune Really Didn't Work Out

Hi guys, long time no post. 

As you know if you've been keeping up with the blog, we moved into a commune in June and have been in stasis mode ever since.  I joined a commune because I wanted a place were I'd have more interaction with people to help my depression.  I also was tired of driving the RV around due to all the close calls we had during the journey back and fourth to New Orleans.

Well, we've been here several months and we hate it.  We already put money into a lot and a structure so we're not leaving, but the commune has turned into a cheap place to park the RV and a permanent address.  Nothing more.

Although there are some great people here, the bad ones make this place terrible, and there's a lot of bad ones.  It started with people seeing us as rich marks to rip off when we first got here, and then as we stayed people showed their true colors, little by little.  Someone here tried to destroy another person's life by emailing their criminal record to the whole community just because they were on a vindictive power trip.  It's sickening.  I have other examples of how terrible some of the people are, but this one person is the only one I'm so disgusted with that I will expose.

I said in a previous post that cheap or free camp grounds are often where the people society has thrown away congregate.  I mostly saw it in the form of old men who had alienated their families and basically been thrown away to die alone.  They tend to be people so terrible they deserve their fate. 

At this commune there are good people, there are good people who are dealing with heartbreaking problems, and there are societies throw aways.  Except here I've found one or two women along with the men.  With several exceptions the commune is a gutter clogged with societies refuse. 

All the good people here tend to hide.  You meet them once or twice, but they don't befriend you.  They've been burnt too many times.  The people who reach out have been a mixed bag.  In the end it's left us becoming like the other 'good people,' and just hiding in our home, trying not to associate with anyone.

My mother and I agree that we both hate it here.  We see the advantages:  it's a paid for home.  It's a lot with RV connections.  It's a permanent address to get our cars registered and drivers licenses.  If we have money problems we can stay here cheaply.  However, we don't want to stay here most of the time.  We're going to continue traveling.

We're stuck here right now since we started renovations on the small house.  We want to make it liveable so that when we come home we have a home where we can come to.  I also canceled my Verizon mi-fi since we got Hughes Net here.  I have some things that need to happen before we can travel again.  We really had big plans about settling, raising animals, doing aquaponics.  This place is just not where we want to be.

I read online about how people say communes are a big bag of problems.  I thought it would be different for me because I was going to be kind and positive and win people over.  HA.  The honeymoon was short, and now we've found a cesspool.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hiya everyone.  It's hot in the deep bowels of New Mexico.  We are still living in the RV while slowly trying to get the building ready to move into (or even start on it).  We had our first electric bill and it was $160.  SERIOUSLY.  If you live full-time in an RV you know that's outrageous, even for June.  I can't believe how crazy expensive electricity is out here.

I'm building a shed and running into a lot of problems.  There was a stack of wood behind the building, so I bought a shed kit to try and used it.  We need the shed so we can clear all the stuff out of the building and plaster the walls and put in flooring.  Whatever this wood is, it's too hard for me to drill a screw into.  x_x  I had to order some drill bits so I can make guideholes.  Meanwhile my wood is under a tarp in our yard.

We're barely making progress, and have a HELL of a long way to go before we can move into the building and start renting out the RV.  And yet, I'm thinking ahead.  Ahead to when I have the animal shelter and canopy built and can get some sheep!  I went to my first livestock auction in nearby El Paso to scope out some sheep (not buy any, but see what they go for).  I'm so anxious to get these little beasties!

Here's a video I livestreamed at the auction.  I'm raring to go full farmgirl.

My mom and I need stuff to look forward to because we're both getting depressed.  The commune is miserable in the summer heat.  Not everyone here are people I want to be around, and I've gotten fed up with a few.  Still, we have a paid-for house and a place where we can live in our RV.  When the weather cools many nicer people will return and brighten things up.

I think the primary thing that bums me out is when I'm not making much money with my writing.  I got a REALLY low payday this month.  It bums me out so hard because I can't seem to break my slump.  I've been doing this for 10 years.  Why haven't I made it yet?

Oh well.  I think its' better to be stuck here rather than try to travel while I'm low on money.  (Though with this electric bill it might actually be cheaper to boondock.)  My mom is getting really itchy feet.  She wants to get back on the road where everything was new and exciting.  I think we just need to hang tight and try to weather this low period.

Anywho, if you want to help you can buy one of my books.  Here's the newer-ish one that I'm trying to reboot:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Life in a Commune

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  We got voted into the commune and bought a tiny house here.  It needs a lot of renovations before we can move in, so we're living beside it in our RV.  Thankfully we have water, sewer, and electric (one of the members set up an RV connection on our switch box) so there's no rush to move in.

Here's our little house.  It's 324 sq ft, so a little more space than the RV.  So far all we've been doing is using the shower.  Another commune member got that working for us in exchange for some chimney covers left in our yard.  There's A LOT of stuff piled around the house.

I'll be using what I can for various projects.  For those of you keeping score:

  • Our land, about a 4th of an acre, cost us $1,750.  Some lots are bigger, some smaller
  • The house cost $5,000.  Most lots are empty, but we wanted a structure to start with.
  • The monthly fee to live here is $25
  • Sewage is free.  We have a lagoon with Effective Microorganisms
  • Water is from the local village and very cheap
  • We have electricity here.  About 50 amps.  We pay that to the city also.  Half the commune is located off-grid, but it's so hot in summer I just can't imagine going without AC.
  • Dying is low-cost.  We have an organic cemetery where a body can be wrapped in a blanket and buried for just the price of digging the hole.  (My mom and I signed up for plots).
This is an adobe house, and it's got some major cracks inside and out.  I need to clear the creosote trees off the land so I can build a shed (I just bought the kit for it) then I can put all the stuff surrounding the house in the shed and empty the stuff in the house.  Then I'm going to replaster the entire outside and tape and plaster the cracks inside.  Until that's done there's nothing else I can do.

I have been struggling to find anyone who will come and tear up trees for me.  'Trees' is being generous.  This is just overgrown scrub brush, ugly and useless.  Also, roots from some trees close to the adobe are causing me more cracks.  I want it all gone.  After fighting on and on to try to get someone I'm buying a chain to attach to the back of my car to tear the stuff up myself.  People in the commune have offered to chop down trees, but unless the roots are gone this stuff will just keep coming back.

So, here's the plan:
  1. Clear the lot of trees, cactus, and scrub brush
  2. Build a large shed that will be a windbreak and storage (the winds from the east are insane here)
  3. Clear the outside and inside of the building, putting the stuff we want to keep in the shed and taking the rest to the dump or metal recycling.
  4. Plaster, plaster, plaster.  Stop the cracks from getting any worse.
  5. Clean clean clean.  So many spiders in that little house.
  6. I was thinking about putting down a floor since we have flooring, but I probably won't.
  7. Block all the cracks around the doors that are letting all these spiders in.
  8. Purchase beds, refrigerator, kitchen counters and storage, washing machine, and TV. (We have a window box AC unit in there now.
  9. Get Dish for TV (we already got Hughes Net for Internet)
  10. Move out of the RV.  Put everything in the house or the shed.
  11. Clean the RV, top to bottom.  Repair any broken items (our screen door handle for one), get air in the tires.
  12. Put the RV up for rent with pick ups in El Paso, Deming, and Columbus.  This thing is too expensive to just be a driveway decoration.  I want it to be making me money.
  13. Build fencing off and around the shed.  Eight feet of the shed is going to be walled off from the rest of the shed and left open to be a barn.  This is where my sheep and chickens are going to live.  I'll have a canopy partway coming off he shed for shade.
  14. Get meat chickens, layers, and sheep.  Brooders will go in the shed.  (I'll have to get electricity hooked up there)
  15. Build a greenhouse behind the house.  This is for my aquaponics.  I'll have carpenter bee nests all over it it for pollination (it will be open in summer and covered with plastic in winter.)
The aquaponics is the final task on my big list of projects.  I've already done aquaponics from when I lived in Pahrump and had a pretty good system with lots of plants and 26 tilapia.  I want to go big time with aquaponics here.  This is my design plan:

The three circles are towers.  These will hang above grow beds.  A hose will go up a shaft in the middle of the towers.  This is connected to the pump in the in-ground fish pond.  The water will flow down the towers, into the grow beds, which are above rubbermaid watering troughs that are made into growbeds for two trees each.  The trees are partway over the fish ponds and will drain into them.  So, pump to towers -> to grow beds -> to tree beds -> to pond.  One pump for three growing systems.

I will have tilapia and Australian crayfish in the ponds.  The crayfish will require a grate over the ponds, so I'll have to look into something for that.  I expect to get this going by September or so.


The commune is City of the Sun, in Columbus New Mexico.  The village of Columbus has about 700 people and very few businesses.  There's a small grocery store here and a Dollar Store.  For serious grocery shopping you have to go 30 miles north to Deming.

The commune is 3 miles from Palomas Mexico, an awesome safe town that I love to visit.  This is where I go for prescriptions or eating out.  There are only 3 restaurants in Columbus which aren't always open.  This is a sleepy town with an easy border crossing.  There's never a line.

I got involved briefly with the website, and am helping somewhat with a sick commune member.  I've also written a play for a theater in the small town owned by one of the commune members.  I'll be playing one of the principle parts with another woman.  :)  That will be in October.  I can't wait to get into acting again!!

So, that's my life here so far.  I'll keep you updated as I get things going. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tomorrow We Get In

Tomorrow is when the votes are due back for me and my mother to join the commune.  All indicators point to yes.  I will be paying for my membership and moving into 'the Casita' which is a small building we are purchasing here.

The casita will eventually be our main home.  I'm going to move out of the RV completely and might rent it out or put it for sale.  Part of me wants to keep it so we have the option of travel when we feel like it...or just a big bug out vehicle if the SHTF.'s so expensive.  I'll probably be better off selling it and grabbing a small trailer if I need one.

My to-do list after I get in is long.  I'm still in the RV space at the commune because I don't have a long enough electrical cord to get to the RV connection a friend here put on the building for us.  That comes Friday.  We'll be moving over then.

After that we have a bunch of priorities.  We're staying in the RV for the summer, probably, since it's too hot to do much work outside.  We want to use the shower in the casita, however, so number one is to clean out the shower there and fix a big gaping hole in the fiberglass.  I'm not sure how to do it.  I'll take a picture and bring it to a hardware store.

Next, we want to be able to do our laundry in the casita.  That means buying a washing machine and getting it hooked up somehow.  We basically have to do this kind of stuff ourselves or find a good handiman.  The village is too far for us to get installation type services from the stores (I think). 

Once we have a washer, we need a good set up to hang dry our clothes.  We can't get a dryer unless we upgrade the electric.  I think we're fine without one. 

All the brush has to get cleared out.  Some of the trees are really close to the Adobe building, and are making cracks in the walls as their roots infiltrate.  I had to get rid of one bush already that was blocking the area where we need to park the RV.  I soaked the roots and then tied a rope to the back of the SUV and yanked it out.  I'm guessing I'll just have to do this a few hundred more times. 

The bushes have annoying spines, and I need gloves before I can continue.  As for the cactus, of which there are many, those things will probably be allowed to live.  I don't know how I can get them out without getting impaled by a thousand thorns. 

Anywho...a list is probably a good idea:
  1. Pay for the membership
  2. Buy the Casita and deal with the things needed for transfer of ownership 
  3. Get extension cord for the RV electric so we can move the RV over there
  4. Get Hughes Net Internet
  5. Fix and clear out the shower so we can start using it.
  6. Rip up the shrubs and weeds
  7. Get a washing machine and hook it up
  8. Get a shed to store all the supplies piled around the building
  9. Clean out the building and start setting it up to be a dwelling for us
    1. Get rid of the spiders
    2. Fix broken windows
    3. Put down flooring
    4. Install light fixtures/ceiling fans
    5. Install AC window unit
    6. Fix the back door (which is not secure)
    7. Fix the adobe cracks and leaking areas
    8. Put in a kitchen
    9. Purchase furniture
    10. Set up TV with Dish or DirectTV (probably Dish)
  10. Move in
  11. Fence the back yard
  12. Paint the front of the building like a Mexican Easter Egg
  13. Build chicken coop.  Get chicks.
  14. Build a greehouse.  Start aquaponics
  15. Get a flatbed trailer to tow with the SUV
  16. Get a carport as shelter for sheep. 
  17. Get sheep
  18. Find someone who will kill the sheep when they're ready
Oh God, I'm overwhelmed.  I'll leave it at that for now.  The good thing is that we have all we need in the RV, so we can move in whenever we're ready.  No rush on anything.