Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Alive


And will try to be back blogging next week. Missed you all and hope you all had a wonderful Holiday!


Monday, December 03, 2007

Menu Plan Monday (with costs!)

Well, we've all had mild colds here, one right after the other. Today it seems it's my turn. Stuffy head. Swollen face. Lovely.

Oh, and did I fail to mention here that on Friday evening my youngest banged heads (they were goofing off) with her sister and CHIPPED HER TWO FRONT TEETH. So in reality I was "sick" starting Friday night. She has a dentist appt. in just a little while.

My youngest has a Christmas play tomorrow morning, then a party. We're in charge of the cookies. The two youngest have a party on Wednesday and we must get gifts (and make more cookies). And then my middle daughter is in a play on Thursday night. We, of course, have our usual homeschool/co-op stuff this week. And Bible Study on Wednesday. Oh, and it's girlscouts tonight. Of course. My head is spinning.

Anyway, food. Yeah.

What I'm working with:

Again this week I have no leftovers. We didn't cookout yesterday because it was raining and 2 of the five of us were sniffly. I do have huge bags of organic root vegetables from Sam*s. Oh and literally pounds of roll-out cookie dough that I made up yesterday. Wonder if I could serve cookie dough and milk for supper one night? Hmmm... Better not.

On to the menu. Prices are rounded to the nearest 25¢. The total price of food is counted on the day that it is cooked. Leftovers are counted as $0. On any day that no vegetable is mentioned there is a raw vegetable platter served and $2 is added to the menu cost for that day for the cost of the vegetables with dressing. There are always homemade rolls. They cost me less than 35¢ to make and last for several days.

Monday - Chicken stirfry with root vegetables, brown rice $5.50

Tuesday - Leftover stirfry in burritos, salad $3.50

Wednesday - Bible Study. The "theme" is Beans and Greens (you did know we're in the South, right?). I'm bringing an incredible white bean and smoked ham soup. And some homemade rolls. $5.50

Thursday - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and leftover beans. $11.50

Friday - Meatloaf sandwiches, vegetable platter $2.50

Total for the work week - $28.50

For more menu inspiration, head over to Laura's Blog!


Friday, November 30, 2007

Frugal Friday Christmas Organization Tip

This time of year I find my "to do" list getting very long. On top of the normal household tasks that are common, I have the added responsibilities of shopping for gifts (and finding the best deals possible of course), wrapping too many gifts, extra cooking and cooking with ingredients that I don't use and stock routinely (which means more grocery shopping, and sometimes at different stores).

The girls have extra activities in which they must be carted back and forth, sometimes bearing gifts or platters of cookies. We have some charity events that are important to us that require both time and resources. The girls have friends that they want to be involved in little gift exchanges. There is usually at least one movie that comes out that we all want to see.

We also have many family traditions that require both time and planning (special ornaments for each girls representing something significant that's happened in the year comes to mind). We make a Christmas picture every year in the same spot of the house and have a little decorative album that contains them all, one right after the other.

And we have extra visits with family and friends (some from out of town) so through all of this, the house has to be kept in a presentable condition. And it's almost a tradition to clean out the computer/play room and get rid of stuff that the girls no longer want/need to make room for some new things. And we have to find a new "home" for those things.

And trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg so to speak.


Okay, what does this have to do with frugality and what is my organization tip?

Well, I've posted before about how we keep our lives organized with a Wall Calendar that actually sticks to the side of our refrigerator. Starting in October, we keep 3 months worth there.

But that is for our daily lives and routine outside activities. There is no way I could put all of our Christmas activities and more importantly, all of the things necessary to make these activities go off as planned, on that calendar.

So...this year I've started using Print Free.

I wrote my huge long "to do" list and then I went to Print Free and printed up a December calendar. I "assigned" different tasks to different days.

This way when the girls have cupcakes to take to class on Tuesday the 3rd, I have already shopped for any special ingredients (because it was on the calendar) and baked them the day before. I know ahead of time what all has to be done and it has a day (or a portion of a day) assigned to getting it done.

How does this save money? Because I never have to run to the market at the last minute and pay $12 for dry, stale cupcakes, I can make them myself for MUCH less. I've shopped for the girls co-op teachers WAY ahead of time and have their little gifts sitting in a special spot in the pantry AND have it marked on the calendar when to take them to the teachers. So I never have to run out and throw money around buying last minute, overpriced gifts.

The calendar organization has already been a huge help this year. It's still a lot to do, but it doesn't feel overwhelming. I feel like I'm in control of what needs to be done. And when I'm in control, I don't have to spend as much money.

For more frugal tips, be sure to check out Crystal's Blog!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday (with costs!)

I hope everyone here in the US had a great Thanksgiving. We certainly did. Too much food and just enough fellowship with family that we don't get to see that often. We then put the tree and Christmas decorations up on Friday! AND...I got most every gift wrapped!

It's been a busy few days.

What I'm working with this week:

Really nothing. We went through the leftovers by yesterday when we ordered pizza (it was raining ALL DAY so we didn't cook out as is the norm on Sundays.) So this week is more of a pantry week.

On to the menu. Prices are rounded to the nearest 25¢. The total price of food is counted on the day that it is cooked. Leftovers are counted as $0. On any day that no vegetable is mentioned there is a raw vegetable platter served and $2 is added to the menu cost for that day for the cost of the vegetables with dressing. There are always homemade rolls. They cost me less than 35¢ to make and last for several days.

Monday - Alanna's Mexican Rice Skillet $9

Tuesday - White bean soup with ham chunks and sliced onion $8

Wednesday - Bible Study Supper. I'm probably bringing dessert this week. Pumpkin Butter Cheesecake. $5

Thursday - Leftovers from Monday and Tuesday. $2

Friday - Linguine with marinara, salad $7

Total for the work week - $31

For more menu inspiration, head over to Laura's Blog!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - With Costs!

I first have to thank Alanna. She gave me a recipe (in the comment section of last weeks MPM)for my Bible study last week that will become yet another staple in our home. The people at church devoured it! There was barely a single grain of rice left. So thank you. Very much.

Well, this is going to be an off week because, like most Americans, we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. We, fortunately, still have my Great Aunt & Uncle who we love and adore to spend the holiday with and even though I'm 41, I'm still to bring only a dessert and maybe some deviled eggs. They (my aunt and uncle) really love to cook the whole meal. Which is nuts because they're really pretty old (mid 80's), but I've found over the years that they genuinely get upset if you bring more than they ask. So...there will be mandatory mooching off of them this Thursday.

What I'm working with this week:

Leftovers, Chinese and lots of it. We picked up some yesterday and I had a mild allergic reaction to my spicy vegetables. I have a shellfish allergy and it must have been cooked in the same oil that cooked shrimp, scallops or something. Anyway, so there is more than enough of that left over for a full meal for everyone except me.

I'll also be making a grocery run today for many of the little special items that I tend to pick up for the holidays, so there's no telling what I might end up with there.

On to the menu. Prices are rounded to the nearest 25¢. The total price of food is counted on the day that it is cooked. Leftovers are counted as $0. On any day that no vegetable is mentioned there is a raw vegetable platter served and $2 is added to the menu cost for that day for the cost of the vegetables with dressing. There are always homemade rolls. They cost me less than 35¢ to make and last for several days.

Monday - Leftover Chinese (I'll have some soup.) $1.25 (for my can of soup)

Tuesday - Linguine with homemade pesto (very last of the basil :(). $7

Wednesday - Let the feasting begin! Will be cooking this day for the next. We'll nibble off that. ~$20

Thursday - Huge meal at G. Aunts house. I'm to bring dessert and deviled eggs. $0 (Counted yesterday.)

Friday - Leftovers. $0

Total for the work(ish) week - $28.25

For more menu inspiration, head over to Laura's Blog!


Friday, November 16, 2007

Frugal Friday - Yogurt

I read a story a long time ago about a family that wanted to put a house somewhere, but they needed a source of water there. They immediately thought of a well. They went to considerable trouble and expense trying to get a well on their property. And then found out that they couldn't for whatever reason. It simply wasn't possible. They were devastated. And almost didn't build on the property at all. Then someone in the family realized that they didn't NEED a well. They needed water. And with that simple realization, they found an alternate way to get water there (which I don't remember...and I've probably butchered the story anyway, but you get the point)

This post today is specifically about how I make my own homemade, frugal yogurt. But it's generally about something more broad. I found a long time ago that many of the things I buy at the store are things that I can duplicate at home with little to no trouble. And usually for much less cost. It just takes some looking around.

As an example, I can remember a time when I made a special trip to the grocery store to buy a single pack of taco seasoning for dinner that night. I have always had a huge cabinet full of various spices, but never knew that you can throw a few together and make your own taco seasoning for pennies. What a waste!

The thing is, I didn't need a taco pack. I needed a seasoning on the meat that would taste similar to a taco pack.

Simple but profound difference.

So with that said, let's get to the yogurt. A few years back I would have never *thought* of making yogurt. But it's no secret that I like to have things well stocked, but with much variety. And I like paying the least I can pay for the quality I want. Like most of us do!

Homemade yogurt is really simple (even without a yogurt maker- this is actually the first time I'd ever used one!). I start with a quart of store bought, plain, whole fat, yogurt. (I like to get organic when possible, but it's really hard to find here most of the time.) I take out appr. 3 tablespoons and put that into a bowl. The rest I freeze in an old ice cube tray. Whenever I need to make homemade yogurt again, I can pop out 3 of the cubes and have the perfect amount of yogurt "starter".

Next I heat 4 cups of whole milk (this I *can* find organic) on the stove top. Using a candy thermometer, I heat to 180 degrees.

Once it reaches 180F, I pull it off the heat and allow it to cool to 115F. Here I was testing the new spoon thermometer that I got with the frugal yogurt maker and it worked perfectly!

When it reaches 115F, I skim off the top layer of "skin" that is on the milk and discard it. Then I take about half a cup of the milk and stir it into the 3 tablespoons of store bought yogurt (which is your "starter") to temper it.

Then this starter mixture goes back in the pot and is mixed well.

This I pour into the glasses that came with the yogurt maker.*
I incubate for 8 to 10 hours.

And this is what I end up with! (Which is to be refrigerated right away, of course.)
*As I mentioned earlier, this is the first time I'd ever used a yogurt maker. I made it many, many times before I found this yogurt maker at a terrific price. The goal is to simply keep the freshly mixed yogurt a pretty constant temperature of around 110-115F for several hours.

There are many different ways to do this, but the way that was the easiest to me was with a cooler and a heating pad. I put the heating pad on low** in the bottom of the cooler and laid a towel on top if it. Then I set the yogurt on top of the towel (I used a quart mason jar, with lid) and kinda wrapped the towel around the yogurt. The top of the cooler was then closed AND LEFT CLOSED for at least 5-6 hours. Sometimes it would take just 5 hours and sometimes up to 8 or 9. I would check by tilting the jar and once "soft set" it's done and I refrigerated right away.

**(Heating pad temperatures may vary. When I changed heating pads I had a batch of yogurt that took a long time to set up. I learned with any changes to always check the temperature of the cooler/heating pad "incubator" with a candy thermometer by laying it on the towel for several minutes and adjusting the heating pad to get the temperature at a pretty stable 115F)

***As an aside, I've read that you can make yogurt from any kind of milk (even reconstituted powdered), though I've never tried it.

A quart of organic yogurt here can run as much as $4 or more. One quart will make ten or more quarts of homemade yogurt. So at most I use 40¢ worth of organic yogurt as "starter". I can get a quart of organic milk for $1.50. Adding 10¢ for electricity, I can make my own whole fat, organic yogurt for half the price I can buy it at the store. Plus, I can have it without going to the store. Which is another huge bonus for me.

I am posting this for my own information, not as any how-to guide. Though I have made it for months now, I am no expert. There are many, many places on the web that you can find information on making yogurt at home. I suggest that you check out them out before trying to make yogurt on your own.

I got my recipe here.

For more frugal inspiration, be sure to check out Frugal Friday hosted by Biblical Womanhood.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Homemade Delicious Frugal Rolls

I've promised this recipe for a while. It consistently makes the lightest, fluffiest rolls imaginable. They're extremely cheap to make. My family loves them. And they have absolutely no redeeming nutritional value. At all.

Start with 1 ½ cups (minus 2 Tablespoons) water

Add 2 Tablespoons of milk to the water (this is what makes it really soft).

Next, add 2 Tablespoons of real butter to the water/milk.

Microwave to just knock chill off. I do it for 45 seconds. Your time may vary depending on the strength of your microwave. Then put it in the bottom of your breadmaker.**

Then add 4 cups of bread flour. I buy mine by the 25# sacks at Sam's for just over $5. I've learned in making bread that it's important to measure accurately. You need the type of measuring cups that you can scrape off the top. It's what makes the bread consistent.

Just dump the flour on top of the wet ingredients.

Sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of powdered milk on top of the flour.
Sprinkle 2½ Tablespoons of white sugar on top of the flour.
Sprinkle 1½ teaspoons of salt on top of the flour.

This is a big bag of yeast. I buy them in the bulk 2-pack containers at Sam's. Once I open one of the vacuum sealed bags, I pour it into a ziplock bag and freeze it. I use the yeast directly from the freezer. It takes me months and months to use 1 full bag and it still works fine at the very end. Please don't pay full price for those little packets. It's makes the price insane.

Make an indentation in the dry mixture and pour 2½ teaspoons of yeast into it.

Put the pan in the breadmaker and press the dough cycle.

It takes my dough cycle about an hour and a half. As it's getting ready to beep that it's done with the dough cycle, line a pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Then once the dough cycle is done, I pull out the wad of dough and put it on a zeroed out scale. Mine consistently is right at 1000 grams.

I cut off appr. 50*** grams of dough at a time and shape it into a roll. The reason I weigh it is because I'm not at all good with eyeballing it. And they will cook inconsistently if they're not close to the same size. This recipe makes a really big pan full. If this process looks tedious, let me assure you that I can now get it from big dough ball to "rolls ready to rise" in about 5-6 minutes, including clean up time.

Cover the rolls with a towel or a couple of paper towels and rise them for one hour. The absolute best place to rise rolls, imho, is in the oven with just the light on. This is an electric oven of course. After an hour, they've doubled in size.

Pull them out of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for appr. 10 minutes. Immediately remove to a cooking rack so the bottoms don't get soggy.

Can ya smell them? :)

**If your breadmaker instructs you to put the dry ingredients in first, then do it. My breadmaker instructions say to put the wet ingredients in first.

***This makes traditional dinner roll size rolls. This is also a good white hamburger bun recipe, but the size of the rolls needs to be doubled.


A Blog

I read almost everyone on my friends list at least once or twice a week. Frequently you'll say something that resonates with me.

Camilla's whole blog is devoted to the changes that God has made in her life. She is so open with her faults that it's startling at times. And her posts frequently amaze me and touch at exactly the things I need to hear.

Something she posted recently:

"Integrity means you are the same person when you are alone as you are when you are around others."


"If you focus on integrity, then you automatically build character in your weak spots: self-discipline, self-control, anger, and more."

If you've never read her, you may want to jump on over and see if her words resonate with you as well.


Menu Plan Monday (With Costs!)

Saturday afternoon our friend from Church came over for an impromptu cookout and we ended up having a great Bible study. It was so good in fact that we had him back over Sunday afternoon (for meatloaf this time) to continue.

So there is leftovers to work with this week. Potatoes. Carrots. Tons of celery. I also adapted a recipe that I found online that will become a staple here that I plan to post about soon. We're having it on Thursday. Today I'm making homemade yogurt (which I'll share probably Friday) and homemade rolls for the week (which I'll share sooner hopefully).

On to the menu. Prices are rounded to the nearest 25¢. The total price of food is counted on the day that it is cooked. Leftovers are counted as $0. On any day that no vegetable is mentioned there is a raw vegetable platter served and $2 is added to the menu cost for that day for the cost of the vegetables with dressing. There are always homemade rolls. They cost me less than 35¢ to make and last for several days.

Monday - Meatloaf sandwiches. Vegetable tray. $2

Tuesday - Crockpot roast with potatoes and carrots. Rolls. $10.75

Wednesday - Bible Study. This weeks theme is "Mexican". I have absolutely NO idea. So I'm counting high here for just bringing one dish. $10

Thursday - The recipe which has no name (using leftovers from the crockpot). I'll post it and hopefully you guys can help come up with a name for it? It's pretty nice. $2

Friday - White beansoup with ham chunks (I need to post this recipe soon too! Sooo good!). Corny/Oniony Cornbread. Vegetable platter. $9

Total for the work week - $33.75

For many, many menu ideas be sure to visit Laura's New Blog!


Friday, November 09, 2007

Frugal Friday - Patience

Several days ago some blog friends and I were discussing homemade yogurt. I've made my own yogurt for a year or so and my plan is to do a FF post on it next week with recipe and pictures of how I do it (everyone seems to do it a bit differently).

When I first heard about yogurt making, I immediately thought to go out and buy a yogurt maker. I mean, how on earth else can you make homemade yogurt? But even on eBay the cost was much more than I wanted to pay. So I put it in a search on eBay and I waited. While I was waiting I found a recipe (that I tweaked like I tend to do with everything I've ever made-I can't leave well enough alone) that said I could use a cooler with something in it to keep it warm. Hot jugs of water. A heating pad. Or that it's even possible to incubate it in a thermos!

So I found a way to make it without the costly machine. But I kept my search up on eBay, hoping I could find one at a reasonable price.

It had been almost a year and the costs, if anything, seemed to be going up on eBay. I pretty much resigned myself to making it with a cooler, but *never stopped looking* for the yogurt maker.

(You know where this is going, don't you?! :D)

So Tuesday my youngest and I passed a huge thrift store that we'd not been inside for quite some time. We had 30 minutes to kill so decided to go inside.

I'd felt convicted for a few weeks about a member of my family that needed help in the form of clothing they could wear to church. I found two articles of clothing (as a set) and the price tag said $1.48. I could NOT believe it. The other clothing around it was much higher. I could see no reason why these pieces would be so cheap. But that's what the tag said.

So I grabbed it up, feeling terribly blessed. My daughter wanted to look at the toy section, so we walked to the back of the store. I'd never even been back there before.

At the very end of the isle, there was this really dirty box sitting on a shelf with some really dirty looking contraption inside. I just happened to take a hard look at it. Imagine my delight when I saw that it was a yogurt maker!

I should have made a picture of it before I cleaned it up because IT WAS BAD. But I glanced at the price tag and this is what I saw:

Was that $19.85? Surely it wasn't $1.98? I didn't know. But I snatched it up and thought I would ask up front.

When our turn came at the register, I asked the woman if the clothing was really $1.48 and the yogurt maker was really $1.98? She immediately said, "Oh no...(and my heart sank a little ... until she continued), it's 10% off day. So the clothing is $1.33 and the yogurt maker is $1.78."


Now let me just say that this machine looked pretty gross. There was something (maybe a dead *really* old bug?) squished into one of the glasses and it had years of some type of greasy dust on it. But with a little elbow grease applied, this is what it ended up looking like:

It even came with the manual and the original receipt (from a store that has LONG since gone from here). Look at the date on the receipt!

In the bottom of this dusty box was the spoon with the thermometer (totally intact) that came with the machine originally. (I know this because I could see pieces of it on the dirty box.)

And the spoon has a little slot to tell you at what temperature to add the starter!

Now in all fairness, I've not made yogurt in it yet. I just got it cleaned up yesterday. But of course, I did plug it in to see that it heats up. And I'll picture document how my first yogurt making goes in it this week.

But really the point of this is not the yogurt maker. Or the clothing. Or even the fact that God provides for us even when we don't ask things of Him. Or that we should follow our convictions and the blessings that come our way when we do. This post could be about any one of these topics...but today, it's about frugality and patience.

If you'll just step back and wait for something that you want, many times you'll find it for a very reasonable price. How easy it would have been so long ago to just grab a yogurt maker off the shelf. I would have felt justified because I was doing something good for my family and saving money in the long run.

But instead I found a loophole to making the yogurt and was rewarded for my patience.

For many more Frugal Friday ideas, be sure to visit Crystal's Blog!


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Want to Know" Wednesday

I get most of my news online. I rarely have the TV turned on at all during the day in our home. So, because I doubt know you all are super curious as to where I spend my time online (when I'm not reading your blogs, of course), I'm gonna try to post some of the articles that I find online that are of interest to me.

My comments are in a different color.

Red Wine Headache
Chemists working with NASA-funded technology designed to find life on Mars have created a device they say can easily detect chemicals that many scientists believe can turn wine and other beloved indulgences into ingredients for agony.

The chemicals, called biogenic amines, occur naturally in a wide variety of aged, pickled and fermented foods prized by gourmet palates, including wine, chocolate, cheese, olives, nuts and cured meats.

I have always gotten headaches from even half a glass of red wine. So I don't drink it. Lately, I've had some of the symptoms with the food mentioned. So...I've given up these foods to see if it makes a difference. The only thing I can say for sure is that I'm dropping weight really well too fast. Over a pound a day for 3 days in a row. Now, I desperately need to lose 10-15lbs, so this isn't tragic by any stretch. But it is too fast. I'm trying to find ways to boost my caloric intake without increasing my sugar. And avoiding these foods (that are almost staples to me). That's why I've spent some time reading this article and researching others like it.

The US Dollar
New Record Low for Dollar
By MATT MOORE, AP Business Writer
FRANKFURT, Germany - The dollar slumped to another record low against the euro on Wednesday, while the British pound reached $2.10.

One day before the European Central Bank and the Bank of England decide on interest rates, the euro gained more than one cent amid speculation that China may shift more of its foreign currency stockpiles away from the dollar.

The 13-nation euro hit $1.4703 in morning European trading before slipping back to $1.4668 _ still well above the $1.4554 it bought in New York late Tuesday. The new record beat a previous high of $1.4571 set on Tuesday.

What? Did you think I was only interested in food, frugality and homeschooling? ;D In all seriousness, I think this should concern us all.

Planet Discovery
Record 5th planet found around nearby star

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations 06 November 2007

BERKELEY – A team of American astronomers announced today (Tuesday, Nov. 6) the discovery of a record-breaking fifth planet around the nearby star 55 Cancri, making it the only star aside from the sun known to have five planets.

We may get to see the space shuttle today.
Traveling on a southeast trajectory, the orbiter will be passing over northwestern Montana just a minute later (10:40 a.m. MST). Four minutes later (11:44 a.m. CST), Discovery will be streaking over southern Nebraska. After another two minutes have elapsed, it will be racing over Springfield, Missouri, and by 11:49 a.m. CST it will be over central Alabama. At 12:55:16 p.m. EST, the shuttle will decelerate to two and a half times the speed of sound (mach 2.5), dropping to an altitude of 80,000-feet just to the northwest of Cape Canaveral. Touchdown is scheduled for 1:01:50 p.m. EST.

There may be sonic booms as well.

Well, that's all the time I have for today. I've got Christmas shopping to get done. Girls to shuttle here and there. A casserole to prepare before Bible Study. And I really need to get a few groceries, do laundry, dust and vacuum. We'll see.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - With Costs!

We stuck to last weeks menu perfectly! A first for us I think.

What I'm working with this week: No leftovers to speak of. Cabbage. And a request for more greens.

As usual, if no vegetables are in the menu there is a raw vegetable platter served with dinner. And I add $2 onto the cost of the dinner for the platter (with dressing). And I always keep homemade rolls around. They cost me less than .35 to make the whole batch and it lasts for several days.

Monday - Linguini (low glycemic index) with homemade pesto and marinara. $8.50

Tuesday - Tenderloin end pieces (we got a great deal on a whole tenderloin a while back) cooked in the crockpot with carrots, onion and potatoes. $12

Wednesday - Dinner at Bible Study. Theme - "Casseroles" I'll make some type of (free from the garden) vegetable casserole because we live a good little drive from the church and I don't like trying to transport meat. ~$2

Thursday - Leftover beef and vegetables burritos with salad fixins. Sauteed cabbage. $4.25

Friday - Stir fry chicken with root vegetables. Turnip greens. $7.50

Total for the the work week - $34.25

For more great menu ideas, be sure to check out Laura's New Blog!


Friday, November 02, 2007

Food Saver - Take Two

A reader asked a great question about the food saver in the previous post. She said that she had one but they didn't use it much because if the food contains liquids, they get sucked out of the bag and the bag won't seal properly.


The solution is very simple, but it's a little more "work".

All that you do is freeze the food *before* you vacuum seal it.

And example, I make my own yogurt from store bought plain full fat yogurt quarts. But it only take a few tablespoons to make a whole quart of homemade yogurt, so to keep it from going bad, I freeze it in an ice cube tray. When it's frozen, I pop them out and then I can vacuum seal them, 3 to a pack. Which is exactly what I need to make the homemade yogurt.

For things like stews, chili, etc, just pre-freeze in some type of container that releases food easily. Silicone baking dishes come to mind. Or even an old butter container or a plastic bag. Once it's frozen, THEN you can pop it out of the first container and vacuum seal it.

Same with things like cookie dough. Just freeze it in the shape you want it on a cookie tray. Then vacuum seal it!

I hope this is helpful!


Frugal Friday - Food Saver

I know that there are many areas that can save us money on our frugal journey. But I keep coming back time and again to the grocery budget. It really does seem that this is one of the big areas that we can spend a lot...or save a lot

Something that I broke down and bought myself a few years ago was a food sealer. You know, the kind that sucks the air out of the special made bags so that we can keep our food fresher longer?

This is some zucchini that I have shredded and sealed. It was extra garden produce that I needed to do something with or let it go to waste. I also have squash from my Great Uncle's garden that would have went to waste but is going to make a lovely squash casserole for Thanksgiving at their house in just a few weeks (!!).

I never have to worry when I find a too good to pass up deal on produce (or most fruit) if we'll be able to eat it quickly. I almost never have to pass on garden excesses from generous friends and relatives. I can just vacuum seal it!

But the biggest saver, bar none, is that this product allows me to really stock up on meat when we find it at a great price. It also saves trips to the store, because I can keep my freezer as well stocked as my pantry without worrying that something is going to come out freezer burned. And I almost never pay full price for the meat we like to eat.

If you think how often meat is discounted $2 or more a lb. then you'll see how soon this could pay for itself.

There are all kinds of different food sealers from pretty cheap to crazy expensive. I can't find the one that I bought anymore, but it was a little over $100 at the time. And then of course, you have to factor in the cost of the bags, which are much more reasonable when bought in bulk (like at Sam's). I'll also reuse the bags that are used to store vegetables or fruit after a good washing. (The meat bags could probably be washed well and reused, but I've never done that.)

So if people are asking you what you'd like for Christmas this year, this is a gift that could help you save money all year long.

For more frugal ideas, be sure to visit Crystal's Blog!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

In An Attempt...

In an attempt to warn our girls about the dangers of candy over indulgence...









Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Crazy Daze


Things have been so busy here! We had our first "close to freezing" night Monday night so I had to get all my garden stuff inside. Which I think I'd posted that I was gonna do like a month ago, but the stuff looked so good and continued to grow so well, that I just left it alone. But freezing is where I draw the line.


Monday was the huge trip to Sam's that I'd talked about last week. Hopefully the last "must have" trip before the first of the year. It was insanely busy. For a nothing Monday afternoon (noonish) in October. No reason that anyone could ascertain. I asked the checkout women (yes, they had *2* at each register, plus those people that go through the line with their little cordless scan guns to help speed the lines (that were wrapped around and around, I kid you not)) what on earth was going on. They told me that it had been like that for about 3 weeks (which was why they had all the extra employees, it wasn't a fluke) and was expected to be that way through the new year.


Anyway, I was right on the cost. It was over $500. (It was actually over $600, but we're not going to talk about that.)

When I got home from that trip I had to make a grocery run with my mother. LLOOOOONNGG story. But it had to be done. Oh, and the girls had a study group somewhere thrown into that at their co-op.

I ended up getting home after 4pm. I still had supper to cook. I had the garden to get in (which I would have done earlier if I'd known that it was gonna be that cold, but that was a last minute thing). And processed (or at least cleaned and stored somewhere). Jillian had her math folder to get together and I'd promised to help her (but her big sister came to the rescue). Oh, and I had laundry mountain to climb. It had to be done.

So I was super busy until around 9pm.

Yesterday was much the same way. I drive a lot on Tuesday. One girl here, another here (an hour later), pick up girl one an hour later, pick up girl 2 two hours later. I spend over 2 hours in the car just driving them. I had errands to run as well in between. Then one of the moms at my last girl pick up called to say that she was going to be late. So I stayed with her girls until she got there. I got home around 4:30. Luckily the beans had been in the crock-pot cooking so all I had to do was throw some cornbread into the oven. Then help the girls study for a big science (and math for the youngest) test today. Oh, and bake and decorate over 50 Halloween cookies for the girls party today. And process a bit more of the garden produce/herbs.

And then Mike needed his hair cut (and he didn't get home until almost 8:30).

And he hadn't eaten. So he needed to eat and then I needed to clean up the kitchen where I had been keeping stuff warm for him.

And we still needed to cut the pumpkin.

We finally sat down close to 10pm and decided pretty soon to just call it a night.

And then of course tonight being Halloween, we have here and there to go. We will hopefully be home and settled and hopped up on sugar by 10:00.

And then it's November.


And btw, I just wanted to thank all of you women for your prayers. You touch me and humble me. Prayer works! I've seen it work so much in my life and soooo appreciate all of you that have taken the time to pray for me. Amazingly, our money situation has changed for the better this week almost immediately after I'd made the money-money-money post and had so many respond that I was in their prayers.

Again, thank you.

God is so good.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Since many of my friends here and I have been talking about saving money lately, I've decided to add prices to my menu here. I do not count leftovers as I count them in total on the day that I list the particular meal. And the produce from the garden isn't counted either. Prices rounded to the nearest quarter.

These meals feed a family of 5. Three adult age. One teenager. And one pre-teen. We also frequently (at least once or twice a week) have drop in guests.

I have teeny bits of really odd leftovers (kraut, baked beans, one hot sausage, curly fries) that I'm working with this week.

I also wanted to note that I will put out a raw vegetable platter when there is no vegetables mentioned and I add $2.00 to the menu price for that.

Monday - Smorgasbord. I'm gonna fry up some sliced hot dogs w/ the hot sausage and cook it with some steamed root vegetables and onion and peppers. I'll lay out tortillas if they want to wrap it up. Then I'll heat up the rest of the leftovers (to clean out the fridge) and people can have what they want. $2.75

Tuesday - Big pot of beans w/cornbread and chunked onion. $5.25

Wednesday - Halloween! Homemade chili. Of course. It's a tradition. (Using leftover beans.) $10.50

Thursday - Baked potatoes w/leftover chili and cheese (sour cream, etc) $5.00

Friday - Beef and bean burritos w/salad fixins; fried (leftover) potato rounds $6.75

Total for the (work) week: $30.25

For more great menu ideas be sure to check out Laura's New Blog!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Money - Money - Money


The girls had dental cleanings yesterday. I love their dentist. He's the only one the my youngest would go to without completely freaking out when she was little. His office is like a gameroom. He even has a softserve (self serve no less!) machine for the kids. Or the adults. But from now on we will make our appointments for the last ones before lunch. That's the only time they get the cleanings done timely.


We have no dental insurance. And the cleanings were over $400 (together. and in his defense they needed panoramic x-rays, but still). Ouch.

And then this:

has allergies. And needed an allergy shot. She was chewing a literal hole in her backside/tail area. And under her arm. And on one of her feet. And she was scratching all night long and keeping us up. And miserable and pitiful.

But that was another $60something.

Julia (13) is being set up for an ortho consult. We knew it was coming. She needs it (and so will Jillian soon). Oh, and please bring the almost $300 that it will take. And while you're there, lets go ahead and seal the 3 extra permanent teeth that she has gotten. For $40 each.

I also need to make my holiday trip to Sam's. Meaning the last one I will make until January. Meaning I'll be lucky to get out without spending over $500.

Again, ugh.

And then we have Christmas. Well, first we have Halloween (and yes, we dress - though not in anything "bad", and I could write a whole post on my thoughts on holidays and probably will in the future), then Thanksgiving (which costs only for food, but we do spend a little extra on food at that time). And then Christmas. Which is insane here.

I didn't vote in the polls at the left. But if I had voted it would be with the only category that got one vote on the money part. And it's in the high end of that.

I'm tightening the belt everywhere I can, but this is starting to stress me a lot little.

Oh well.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Frugal Food

Having stared at the computer for 15 literal minutes this morning trying to come up with a weekly menu, I know how daunting menu planning can be. Why is it sometimes it's as easy as breathing? Something I look forward to doing? And other times it's frustrating and nothing sounds good or right or like it goes together.

Back in a minute, I've forgotten (yes, really, forgotten) to start the homemade rolls for supper tonight. Ugh.

Okay, back. Anyway.

I've definitely felt the pinch with grocery shopping too. Times when I've needed to spend as little as possible at the store and yet still not compromise nutrition.

Andrea has asked for our help. She needs to feed her large family of hearty eaters for as little as possible. And that's something that a lot of us could benefit from, especially at this time of year. The problem is, she lives nowhere close to me and I'm not sure that the things that I can find cheaply here are the same things she can find cheaply there.

So the only thing I know to do is to post ideas instead of menu's and/or recipes.

My husband is a meat eater. He'll tolerate a meatless meal about once a week, and after that he just isn't happy if there is no meat for supper. But there are ways to work around that. My recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole only takes one can of chicken and it feeds our family for 2 nights. If I wanted to plump up the casserole with more stuff, I'd throw in an extra can of vegetables. I buy them at A*ldi's for 39¢. I get the chicken for less than $2 a can at Sam's. The whole dish costs me about $5.50. And that's for 2 suppers. My younger girls don't eat a lot, but even if you only got one meal and then lunch the next day...that's pretty good for a meat meal.

Tuna Patties is another good one. You feel like you've gotten a big piece of meat, but the reality is that it's pretty frugal. It cost me about $4 - $4.50 to make the huge pan of 12 patties depending on how cheaply I can get tuna (I found it on sale at Target last week for $1.58 for the huge family size pouches of 12oz). I don't know if you can tell, but these patties are bigger than the palm of your hand and about 3/4 or so inch thick. Now, of course you'll have to serve this with some side items. But for a meat dish, this is pretty reasonable.

Meatloaf is a family favorite here and fairly economical. It costs appr. $9 to make the big meatloaf. It feeds my family of 5 for 3 nights (2 of the nights being sandwiches). I can make a huge bowl of instant mashed potatoes for less than $1. Homemade rolls to eat the first night and use with the sandwiches the next 2 nights for less than 50¢. Throw in a green vegetable of choice (we used canned turnip greens...we're southern you know. :) Add more breadcrumbs and spices if you need to stretch it farther.

You can also use the meatloaf recipe to make about a gazillion meatballs. Cook them up and then freeze them. They're *fabulous* on cheap spaghetti.

Also, being from the south, we like beans and cornbread. And beans and rice. I try to have one bean only (meaning no meat) meal ever couple of weeks. I'll make a huge crockpot full of beans. Pintos. Small red beans are really good. Black beans. It doesn't matter. The first night we have either beans and (brown) rice or beans and cornbread. (Any leftover rice is eaten, sweetened and with a touch of milk/cream and dried fruit, for breakfast.)

The next night, I'll brown some ground beef with homemade taco seasoning and we'll have beef and bean burritos. All you have to add is cheese (though lettuce, onion, peppers, sour cream etc is good too). Then I freeze whatever is leftover (and there *will* be leftovers) in cup sized containers. The next I'm pushed for something quick for supper, bean burritos it is! The kids love it.

Another one of Andrea's readers suggested pasta, which is always a good idea. Another good idea is Rice a Roni. A couple of boxes of this is simple and easy. Top with a couple of meatballs or just a bit of chicken (pulled from a whole crockpot chicken or one breast sauteed in a bit of oil will feed my whole family with the rice a roni dish for less than $6)

Baked potatoes are really good and fairly cheap. They can be topped with just about any leftovers you have or even a can of cheap chili and a handful of cheese. Oven potatoes work the same way and are usually a crowd pleaser.

Whew! Okay, I'm gonna stop now. If I can find a way to make this more coherent, I will. And I'm sure I'll think up more stuff.

If you have any great frugal meal ideas, please share them. I know I get in a rut and it's great to have other ideas!


Menu Plan Monday

I don't have anything in particular to work with this week. No leftovers. The sales have been really blah lately so there is nothing new or really different in the pantry. We do have a lot of frozen meat that my thoughtful husband picked up a couple of weeks ago at a great price. But I do need to make a trip to the grocery store today.

Monday - Tuna Patties, steamed broccoli w/cheese, homemade rolls

Tuesday - Tuna Pattie Sandwiches, vegetable platter w/dip

Wednesday - Dinner at church. I'm not sure what I'm bringing yet. The theme is "beans and cornbread".

Thursday - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, greens

Friday - Meatloaf sandwiches, salad

For more great menu ideas, be sure to visit Laura's Blog !


Friday, October 19, 2007

Frugal Friday - Cloth v Paper

Today's tip is not earth shattering, but it does go to show how even little things can add up over time.

A couple of years ago I'd heard, yet again, about using cloth in the kitchen and doing away with paper towels. I happened to be at S*am's a day or so later and saw their pack of shop towels. I picked up 2 packs of 20 or so. When I got home I realized that they were big. So I cut all of them (except 5 or so) into fourths. This gave me a ton of towels. And we use them for everything. Every time we'd think to grab a paper towel, we grab one of these now. I keep a small stack (20ish) on my microwave. The rest are on a pantry shelf.

I keep a little basket right behind the trash can to throw these wipes and any other kitchen towel into.

They get washed with the regular towels so they create almost no extra laundry at all.

We still use paper towels for some things. An example is that we have an older dog and he gets sick sometimes. I'm not yet at the point of using kitchen towels for that. But now a roll of paper towels will last as much as 2 weeks. Where as before, we'd easily use a roll in a day or two.

Even figuring conservatively, with paper towels at .50 a roll and "only" using 10 less rolls a month, that's a savings of $100 over 2 years ($120. - the $20 investment in the towels.)

And they're still going strong.

For more Frugal Friday tips, be sure to check out Crystal's Blog!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Wednesday

I had planned to do a post on the Christmas Polls, but it's been a busy week. And my head just isn't where it needs to be. This is the stuff that's rolling around instead.

  • My oldest daughter (20) came home from work Sunday night with blisters in her throat.
  • She went to a doctor Monday to rule out strep.
  • It wasn't strep.
  • It is Mono.
  • She's pretty much in the bed for a week or two.
  • Very fatigued.
  • Wanting comfort food when she's awake.
  • I've been trying to keep the little(r) girls away from her as much as possible.
  • Mike's dad has had tongue cancer in the past.
  • He had a sore spot come up on his tongue last week and had a biopsy.
  • He's in surgery as I type this. It's cancerous.
  • They're hoping they can get it all.
  • If not, he'll go to Emory.
  • I'm waiting on Mike to call to know which.
  • He's only in his early sixties.
  • I still haven't gotten the full garden in.
  • My desk is a literal disaster zone.
  • I've got a lasagna to make for Bible Study tonight.
  • I'll post more when I have some time.

ETA - My father-in-law came out of surgery and they were able to get all the cancer! Praise God! It was the best possible outcome. We are blessed far beyond what we deserve.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

If the menu sounds odd, I'm working with a few ton of leftovers and some fabulous fruit/vegetable stand finds from this weekend.

Monday - Grilled NY Strip Salad, fried sweet potato slices.

Tuesday - Spicy re fried bean burritos (with salad fixin's)

Wednesday - Bible Study, meal at church. I'm bringing Lasagna and Cheddar/garlic biscuits.

Thursday - Chicken breast stir fry with root vegetables and green beans, brown rice

Friday - Broiled Tilapia Parmesan, sauteed garlic pole beans.

Also, Alanna asked for my crustless quiche recipe. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I really don't have one. I basically clean out the fridge/freezer of little bits of things I have extra. Season it with some salt and pepper (and whatever else I may feel like at the moment). Dump it all into a (sprayed) casserole dish. Throw some cheese on top. And pour over some whipped eggs (2-3) with a splash of cream. I bake this at about 400 for 30 - 45 or so minutes (until it's set and the edges start to brown). It's a great way to use up leftovers. :)

For some really great menu ideas, be sure to check out Laura's Blog!


Friday, October 12, 2007

Frugal Friday - Battery Edition

Have you ever bought a gift for someone that required batteries? And the packs of batteries at the checkout was almost as much as the gift?

There is a better way! I frequently find batteries on sale at C*VS or other places for great prices. Sometimes even free!

And when I get them I have the perfect place to store them.

I actually have two of these. This one is sitting on top of the other one. You can also hang them on a wall. I rotate them as we use the batteries so that the first ones bought get used first. The little black plastic square at the top actually lifts up and it has a battery indicator inside. Meaning before I substitute the batteries in something that I'm not sure has low batteries, I can stick the battery there and check.

A green light will indicate that the battery is OK. A yellow, that it's almost gone. And a red tells me that the battery is no longer good. (I was going to do pictures of this, but blogger is acting all wonky with my pictures today?)

It's also easy to check which batteries are running low with nothing more than a glance. We keep this in the Pantry.

For more frugal tips, be sure to check out Crystal's Blog!