Monday, March 31, 2008

Menu Plan Monday (with Costs!)

Oh the sugar!

Our local grocery store puts ripe bananas in 5lb bags for $1.49. I must have gotten there as soon as they did it last Thursday because the ones that were in there packaged up were just ready to eat and not at all over ripe. So I bought a bag. And we ate on them. And then I decided to make banana bread. A double recipe. And we ate on that. And there were still tons left so I made another double batch of banana bread (this will go in the freezer) and there is still bananas (3) left (that will have to go in the freezer whole. They win. I'm done.)

Yesterday was my sweet husbands birthday. He wanted a cake. I made it into 2 8 X 8 cakes and took one to our small group at church. They ate. We ate. People took some home. And there is still too much cake left.

All of this to say that my husband has asked that we lighten it up a bit here and I couldn't agree more.

What I'm working with this week:
Not much other than a head of cabbage and some regular and sweet potatoes in the way of fresh vegetables.

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 - Tuna Patties, baked sweet potatoes, homemade whole wheat bread. $9.50

Tuesday - Tuna pattie sandwiches, raw vegetable platter $2

Wednesday - Dinner at church. I'll bring what's needed. I have no idea yet. $10 (or less)

Thursday - My Family's Favorite Meatloaf, sauteed cabbage $14.25

Friday - Meatloaf sandwiches, vegetable platter $2

Total for the work week - $37.75

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


Friday, March 28, 2008

Frugal Friday Gardening

Being sick for a few weeks, I feel that I lost much of my garden prep time. When I started feeling more myself, it suddenly dawned on me that it was time to start planting early seeds and I had to hop to it!

This is our first year planting most things from seeds, so I didn't have any of the "equipment" ready to do so.

So I improvised. Using whatever little pot I'd kept from buying small plants in years past. But mine certainly doesn't looks very tidy, and it took a lot of dirt!

I wanted to give some seeds to a needy family that is starting in gardening this year, but they didn't have any little pots and absolutely no money to buy any.

I'd researched many different things that could be used, from egg cartons to toilet paper tubes, and then I found this:


You end up with these little newspaper cups that are so perfect for your seeds. It was exactly what I was looking for. If it would only work.

Looks simple! So I tried it. And guess what?

It's as simple as it looks!

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


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Homemade Frugal Delicious Stovetop Granola

My family loves granola. But granola is *expensive*. And it usually has some pretty weird ingredients. So I decided to learn to make my own. I found several recipes (this being the best one in my opinion), but as is par for the course here, I tend to combine them and make my own recipe out of it.

This recipe is, bar none, the best granola we've ever had. It makes a HUGE amount. But can be easily divided.

To make it more frugal, use what you have on hand or what is inexpensive or in season.

Printable recipe follows picture tutorial.

Heat 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil up in a HUGE pan.

When the oil is hot (medium high) add 8 cups of oats and a bag of coconut. Here I added a little bag because my sweet husband picked it up for me on the way home and paid a FORTUNE for it. If I'd had a cheaper bag, I would have added more.

Brown the oats and coconut in the skillet stirring constantly. It takes several minutes to get them good and toasty looking. Then pour this into a bow.

Heat a little more oil and add 1 cup of sliced almonds. Stir until they are toasted. You can also do this in the oven or even skip this step. But toasted almonds have a lot more flavor than untoasted almonds. When toasted put them aside.

In the same skillet melt 1 and 1/3 cups of butter.

Add 8 Tablespoons of honey.

And 1 1/3 cups of packed brown sugar. Stir constantly until it comes to a good bubble.

Then add back in your toasted oats and coconuts (not your almonds yet).

Now brown this mixture for several minutes. It gets all caramely and toasty. You'll know when it's done.

Have some parchment or waxed paper ready.

Dump the hot toasty mixture on the parchment or wax paper. Pack it together so that you have chunks instead of crumbles. With the toasted almonds spread on top and packed down.

I like to add another kind of nut just to keep it interesting. Here is about 1/2 cup chopped pecans. All the recipes say to wait until it's totally cool and bagged to add the nuts and fruit, I have no idea why. I add them right after I pack it down on the parchment paper.

Here I am packing the pecans into the granola mixture.

Add some dried fruit. Here is close to a cup of dried cranberries. And I don't show it (forgot to get the picture) but I also added half a cup or so of dried dates just cause I had them left from Christmas baking.

Pack the dried fruit down on the (still warm) granola mixture.

Once it's set for a while, start to break it up. If you wait until it's completely cool it may be harder to crumble. See the corner that's missing? That's where the family can't keep their little grubby fingers out of it. Yeah, it's that good.

Even after the family had eaten and eaten, we still had a huge gallon bag left that weighed right at 3 lbs.

Be sure not to put it in the bag until it's totally cool or condensation will occur and it will ruin the granola. This keeps for a long time on the shelf. I've not found out how long because the family gobbles it down within a few days at most.

Homemade Frugal Delicious Stovetop Granola

4 T Olive Oil

8 Cups Oats

A bag of coconut

1 1/3 Cup butter

8 T Honey

1 1/3 Cup packed brown sugar

Up to 2 cups Nuts (if desired) (toasted if desired)

Up to 1 1/3 cup dried fruit of your choice

Heat the oil in the biggest pot you've got over medium high. Add oats and coconut. Stirring constantly until browned. This will take several minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

Heat a bit more oil and toast any nuts you want to toast. Set them aside separately.

Melt butter. Add honey and then brown sugar. Stir constantly until you've got a good bubble.

Add toasted oats and coconut back to butter/sugar mixture and toast several minutes until the mixture gets all toasty and caramely.

Pour mixture on parchment or waxed paper. Pack down. Add nuts, pack down. Add dried fruits, pack down. Once it begins to harden, break up into big chunks.

When totally cool put into a huge zipper bag (or two).


For more "Works For Me Wednesday" Tips, be sure to visit!


My Homemaking Philosophy

I started this blog almost 2 years ago mainly to comment on other blogs. And then thought it was only fair to write a little too. That if I saw others lives, they should see a bit of mine.

But I've discovered something. Words can be powerful. And I never know who is listening here. So I've prayed that God would lead me in the things I should write about on this blog.

Homemaking is not necessarily the subject that I wanted to write about. I've thought for a while about writing about husband and wife relationships. I've formulated ideas in my mind and then sat down to type them out and....nothing. So I'd try again. With the same results. It's not that I thought I was an expert on husband/wife relationships. It's just that after 22 years of being with my husband I thought I had some things to share. And I still do think that. But now is not the time. I don't know why. I just know that I won't try to force it anymore.

As I went about my day yesterday it suddenly became clear to me that I needed to write about homemaking now. How I do it. Why I do it it the way I do it. My basic philosophy. I resisted the idea, because I'm certainly no expert. But the idea stayed with me all day. It just felt right.

And with that wordy preface, I give you my homemaking philosophy.

Treat homemaking like a job.

That's pretty much it.

If you worked outside the home, you'd more than likely have to be at work at a certain time. At home, we're given a little leeway. The fact is, it's easy to take advantage of that leeway. Don't.

If you worked outside the home, you'd have expectations placed on you. Place those expectations on yourself.

If you worked outside the home, you'd not resent most of the work that was placed on you. You'd realize that it was simply a part of the deal. Try to keep this same mindset when you work at home.

Realize that you'll have bad days. Just like if you worked outside the home.

Realize that you'll have days that you don't get everything done or that you just feel like you're spinning your wheels. Just like if you worked outside the home.

If you're lucky enough to be able to stay at home and care for your husband and family full time, then treat it like a job. A job that you love. And learn to love it if you don't.

How might you learn to love something that you don't?

First, pray. Ask God to change your heart so that you love and appreciate what you've been given a chance to do. I believe that God helps those that ask. So ask Him.

Secondly, learn to do it well. Very, very few things in life do we dislike doing that we do well. Think about it. What are you really good at? Do you like doing it?

So how do you learn to do something well? There might be areas that you have to research. You might have to get advice from someone. You might have to try different things to see what works best for you. But eventually if you persevere, you'll get good at it.

First you need a plan. I use a homemaking binder with chore charts. You might find something totally different that works for you. I make a menu on Sunday or Monday that we use for the whole week. When I know what we're having for dinner, I am almost never left at 5pm trying to scramble for something.

It's all about organization.

If you don't have your own system, feel free to use mine.

Brew yourself a nice pot of coffee or a cup of tea. Get a notebook or a piece of paper or an old envelope and a pencil. Start to make a list of all the things that need to be done in your home. Beside the chore, guesstimate the time that it takes you to do that chore. Like laundry might take me 5 hours a week. Paying bills may take me 2 hours every two weeks. Cooking (including cleaning up and organizing) may take me 2 hours a day. Grocery shopping may take me 2 hours a week. Scrubbing the tub may take me 20 minutes a week.

You get the idea. Include everything.

Ask your husband what he'd like to have done. There is no shame in this. Ask him what is important to him. You might be surprised at his answers. And don't bristle at his answers. You asked, didn't you?

This list may take you some time to complete. If you're like me, you'll find yourself adding to it for a few weeks as you get the whole thing organized.

Next, figure out how many hours you have in each individual day to get chores done. For example, on Monday and Friday I'm home all day (or can be). Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I'm obligated with driving the girls and church activities.

Get several sheets of paper, each with the individual days of the week written at the top. Divide each day into time slots and start to plug your list into these times slots.

If my husband leaves for work at 8am and gets home at 6pm, then technically I have 10hours that day to get my work done. Of course, I'm not going to work for 10 solid hours. But that is how many hours I have to plug my list into on any given day.

If I've got 10 hours to work with, I try to factor in 5 hours of housework. This includes cooking. This leaves me 5 hours to read my Bible, play with my children, exercise, work in my garden, walk the dog, go to the park or write a blog post (I don't watch TV without my husband, but if you like it, there is no reason you can't factor that in as well). What other job give you this kind of freedom?

The reason I "only" figure in 5 hours is because I have already worked before my husband leaves and I know I'll work a little after he comes home preparing meals and/or cleaning up. Plus, do you realize how much housework you can get done in 5 hours? It's a lot. Trust me.

Now on Wednesday I only have about 3 hours at home. So I figure my work load accordingly.

Once you figure out how much time you truly have in each day and have your scheduled work load for that day, you rarely feel overwhelmed. It's all laid out and easy to see what needs to be done each day. And you've scheduled plenty of time to do it!

I'd love to hear any thought on your routines and how you go about making homekeeping your career.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Menu-Plan-Monday with Costs!

We had a lovely sunrise service yesterday. Just so touching and meaningful. I feel so fortunate to have found my church. Mike and I were talking on the way home that it really does feel like family. Without all the bickering. Mostly. : )

It's been a while. Definitely time to get back in the saddle so to speak on my menu plan and on my home. Specifically cleaning and organizing. It's A M A Z I N G what being ill for just a little while can do to the my home! I'm not sure I'll ever get laundry caught totally up. And I've been buying bread instead of making it, and I hope to get back to making it this week (read: today).

But be that as it may, the brood here still wants to eat. So menu planning I'll do.

What I'm working with this week:
A ham the size of Nebraska. Really. Remember in the Grinch (the cartoon one) where the Grinch is sitting at the table toward the end carving the "Roast Beast"? And he keeps carving and carving and it stays exactly the same size? That is our ham.
We also have a lot of cabbage, some root vegetables, and odd "I've been sick and bought weird stuff" in the fridge that I'd like to use up.

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 ham, fried cabbage $1

Tuesday - Bean soup (with ham), cornbread $4

Wednesday - Dinner at the church. Mexican. I'll bring Alanna's Mexican Rice Bake and cornbread. I know, but I can't help it. I'm Southern. $11

Thursday - Leftover bean soup, homemade whole wheat bread $4

Friday - Leftover Mexican Rice bake (not really, but I'll make 2 on Wednesday because there is so much food at church that my family probably won't even touch what I bring there, so it's all new to them), salad $4

Total for the work week - $24 (but only because we have so many leftovers)

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


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Absence...the Mini-Series

A few weeks ago my family and I were walking into church on a Sunday morning. Everything was normal, down to the rushing to get ready and the drive to church. We got almost all the way inside (it's a pretty good walk because our church meets in an odd location at the moment) and suddenly I felt really, really weird. Like I was going to pass out, but not really. Like the world was closing in on me? I know how odd that sounds...but that's just how I felt. Odd.

I told Mike how I was feeling and asked him to stay close. I must have looked pretty bad because he got a weird look on his face. Which freaked me out a little. He sat me at the first chair we came to and got me a little cup of juice (I'd not eaten anything yet, it was an early we were thinking blood sugar). My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't hold it. We walked back outside and sat down to see if I would feel better after I drank the juice. I didn't. My heart was pounding and I was still shaking.

After 10 or so minutes we decided to leave and just head back home. I got into bed and after a (long) while slept for a couple of hours. When I got up, I felt better. But not normal. NO appetite. And just weird. My heart rate was still up (not scary up, but up) and I felt all out of whack.

So I figured I'd sleep it off and try to feel better the next day.

Well, that didn't work either. The next day I felt a bit better but still not back to normal. My heart rate was still up and I was jittery. One of Mike's friends is a doctor and he asked if my blood pressure was up. I checked and it was scary up. So the next day I called my OB. It's the only Dr. I've seen in a long while. He told me to come on in right then and I did. My heart rate was still 90-100 but my blood pressure freaked the nurse out. She basically threw me on my left side and turned out the lights in the room. (NOT comforting, if you can imagine.) I think it was 158/104? After about 10 minutes it had gone down a little (140something/98ish)so they drew gallons of blood and sent me home to lay on my left side until the results came back.

They were thinking it was probably my thyroid (overactive). And/or I was catching a really bad case of the flu?

A few days later all of the results came back totally normal. I was feeling better by this time and my bp was mostly down with occasional weird spikes for no apparent reason. But I still had NO appetite. I mean literally NONE. It was the weirdest thing ever. And no real energy. But that "out of my head" feeling was gone. And I did get a pretty bad head cold. But no flu.

And then the end of the following week, about 10 days after the Dr. visit, I had another weird thing happen. Whenever I would stand, my heart rate would go up. And it wouldn't go down until I sat down. It was like I was running, but I wasn't running. I was simply standing. So I called the Dr. back to tell him. This he didn't like at all and made me an appt with another Dr. to be checked out.

Skip forward a few days and this heart/standing/racing thing had mostly stopped. My bp was pretty normal most of the time. But the Dr. wanted to run some tests. So I go in for an EKG, Echo, and Holter Monitor (the 24 hour thing that you wear as you go about your business).

Yesterday, I find out that everything came back normal. The Holter Monitor showed that I was having some heart arrhythmia with eating, immediately after eating and when I'd not eaten for a long time (like in the morning). So it's assumed that I have reflux. Which who would have guessed that it could cause all of that? The Dr. said that it absolutely can and does cause arrhythmia. So now I have some medication that I'll be taking for a month, and then on an as needed basis.

But all of this is not really why I've not posted. At least not after the first couple of weeks (which were mainly spent supine).

The following Sunday morning after this happened the family went to church but I wasn't up to it so I was still in bed. My oldest daughter, Jessica, doesn't get to attend church much because she had to work on Sunday morning. So she was still at home getting ready for work. She didn't know that I was at home because I was still in bed. So my cell phone rings and she's hysterical and screaming something that I can't understand. She's 21, not really a child, and not prone to hysterical outbursts at all. She's telling me to come home, come home. I ran from my room with my heart pounding (of course) and she's in a fetal position on her bed sobbing.

Her best friend (a guy) was texting her late the night before, and suddenly stopped. She thought he had fallen asleep as he usually did when he was texting her at night and suddenly stopped. But it turns out that he was texting her while driving home. And 8 minutes after his last text (by police records) he went off the road, crashed his car into a culvert, the car flipped and exploded. It took them days to positively identify the body he was so burned.

He was a Christian, so we have faith that he is in a better place. But our hearts are so heavy. So, so heavy.

My daughter worked with him and has transferred because she just can't be there right now. Everyone is so sad. He was only 23.

I've thought to post a time or two, because I really need the organization of my Menu Plans and such, but it just didn't seem right. There had to be a period of morning and honoring this young man.

As I was typing this, my daughter (who is at college) was texting me. Telling me how hard all of this is and how it doesn't seem to be getting any better. She is in so much pain.

I pray for strength for her and all of the other people mourning. I pray that God speaks through me so that I might be a comfort to my daughter.