Thursday, February 11, 2016

Once A Month Shopping Challenge: Month 3 and 4 Update!


So...I am being a bit of slacker on keeping you all updated on this shopping challenge.

Probably because I didn't want to admit I was a complete failure.

Month 3 went smashingly. As I predicted, I made one small trip to the store right before Christmas for apples and Texas toast bread for our traditional apple fritters, French toast, and bacon on Christmas morning. What I took to my parent's house on Christmas Eve, I had all the ingredients for - cavatini and banana bread.

I was well pleased with myself about Month 3. Month 4 has proven to be more difficult.

I started out making my monthly trip to the grocery store and Walmart a few days early due to my schedule. I spent $200 between the two stores for groceries at Aldi's and pet food at Walmart. This was a little high in my opinion, but doable.



I also decided to take delivery of my Amazon Subscribe and Save for January because I had a lot of things on there that we needed. I had stuff on there for school lunches, pet treats, and some health and beauty items. I also placed a small order on Amazon for a few other needed things for the house.


Here is where the rest of the month went downhill quickly.

Did I explain what was going on in January? Rob was moving in. In fact, he did 2-1/2 weeks ago. He is not the reason or the excuse for my downfall. I had to adjust my food budget a little bit and prepare food for one more person which is not at all difficult. I did make another trip to the grocery store.

My downfall? I have been cleaning and purging, organizing and reorganizing, and generally tearing my house apart to make room for him. (I was not entirely successful.) The house also really needed an overhaul. There is a lot more work to do with bedrooms being moved and some repairs needing to be made. 

Taking on a whole house purge, organization, and reorganization is not conducive to a Once A Month shopping challenge. Not at all. I have been buying totes, baskets, small organization tools like hooks, and stuff to fix the broken things that I have finding. I have been trying to make do with what I have and have come up with good solutions that cost me nothing. 

I have no idea how much money I spent in month 4. I am pretty sure I busted my budget which is not okay, but life is goes on. I know I probably spent closer to $300-350 for the month. I try to keep the household expenses to under $300. 

In the process of this, I have lost my groove in meal planning and grocery shopping. I am hoping to get back on track in month five. At the very least, I want to keep the grocery trips down to twice a month. I haven't been buying a lot of personal items because we are pretty well stocked up on those things. I did only shop for pet food once and only had to buy one more bag of cat food ($70 for pet food). I did take my Subscribe and Save for this month also totaling $54. So month five is looking a bit more promising.

How are you doing in the Once A Month Shopping Challenge? My friend Daisy at The Organic Prepper gives her update here. I want to hear about yours!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime


The Great Depression was a time of lean years for many in the United States as well as all over the world. Many people learned valuable lessons on how to make food stretch and take advantage of cheaper processed food that came out during this time. Many people learned to survive on less and some people went hungry. 

When World War II came around, many of these lessons were needed to survive the war and stretch their rationing coupons. People were encouraged to garden during the Depression and were heavily encouraged to do during the war. Victory gardens appeared everywhere to help feed the people while more and more food was shipped to overseas. 

Many of these lessons learned during these eras have been lost. We as a people are incredibly wasteful now. Our grocery budgets would be better off if we learned these same lessons and kept them in our kitchens. Then if we have lean times, we would be better off.

10 Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

1. Fat was never wasted. Scraps of fat were kept from everything they could be and stored. Fat from meat was cut off to be used to fry and roast. Bacon grease was kept in a jar to be used to cook eggs and potatoes. Fat from cooking meat was reused in cooking other meat and cooking vegetables. Fat was too precious to waste especially when it became severely rationed during World War II.

2. Cooking liquids were never just thrown down the drain. That was wasteful! They were reused in cooking for vegetables. Rice and pasta could be cooked in water that was previously used in cooking vegetables. They also thought it gave the rice and pasta flavor. They would also use the cooking liquids in watering plants and feeding animals.

3. Leftover meat juices had so many more uses! Leftover meat juices were used for making soup, cooking rice and pasta, flavoring casseroles and skillets dishes. Meat juices were poured into a jar to be reused in the next meal.

4. If the food has to be imported into the country, chances are you would have to live without it. This was especially true in the United States and Britain during wartime when most of their food was imported into the country. Many things they could grow themselves, but items like sugar and coffee were severely rationed because they could not produce it themselves.

5. If people could, they raised their own chickens and planted gardens. Sometimes city dwellers could not have gardens, but many cities had garden allotments for people to use. Raising your food could mean the difference between living and starving for most people. Many people during the Depression and wartime sold the food they couldn't eat or preserve. Many women sold eggs from their chickens in order to bring a little more income into the home. Many people from these eras have said that having gardens and eggs are what got them through the lean years.

6. Leftovers were not wasted. Leftovers were generally incorporated into the next meal or the next day's meals. Leftover meat became chopped meat sandwiches. Leftover meat and vegetables became part of the soup. Cooking liquids and canned liquids were reused. Nothing was wasted. If, for some reason, the leftovers could not be or were not used, they were fed to the animals or put into a compost pile. 

7. If you did not raise or hunt your own meat, meat could be very expensive. Meals in the Depression and wartime were not heavy on meat like they are now. Meat cooked at one meal was stretched over 2-4 meals. They might roast a chicken for one meal, make chopped meat sandwiches for another meal, soup for lunch or supper, and use the rest of the chicken in a white sauce served over toast or pasta. The bones would be used to make broth for the soup before being thrown out to the chickens. Nothing was wasted.

8. Consider alternative ways of cooking food. In the 30's and 40's, cook stoves were popular. Electric and gas cook stoves were becoming increasingly available and were cheap to run. However, in the Depression, people could not afford to run the stoves. During the war, gas was rationed. Women used wood stoves and hay boxes to cook food and save money. 

9. Forging was very necessary during these eras. People looked for dandelion greens, dug up wild onions, and knew where to find blackberries in the brambles. Forging for anything edible helped at the supper table and, for some families, made the difference between a very meager meal and a decent meal. 

10. "Making Do" was the theme of the Depression and wartime. People didn't have a choice if they wanted to eat. Beans were eaten a lot because they were cheap and nutritious. Casseroles were made more and became popular because little bits of food could be mixed together to make a more filling meal. Bits of dried fruit and sweet vegetables were used to sweeten food when sugar wasn't available or heavily rationed. 

Food was never thrown out or wasted. People became very creative and resourceful to make a meal for their family. They had to. They didn't have a choice unless they wanted to starve. 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Monday, January 25, 2016

Do You Feel Like Prepping Now?


Anytime is a good time to start prepping. Yesterday is always a better time, but starting now is better than waiting until the actual SHTF happens. And a lot of events are going on right now. 

Winter is here. The East really knows winter is here now. I had a few friends post pictures of the almost empty grocery shelves. The snow fall made getting around difficult. And despite warnings to stay home and get ready, many people were caught in Snow Storm Jonas.

Stock markets around the world are really taking a dive. That is even happening in the United States. Please don't fool yourselves. We have big financial problems coming on the horizon that are not fixable. 

We have foreign problems by the loads. Iran is a huge worry. The Middle East is always a worry. Russia doesn't hesitate to let you know how they feel. Our president is not very well adept in dealing with any of this. One wrong move in the next year could send us into a world war. 

We have many potential natural disasters coming into play. Polar ice caps are melting. More earthquakes are happening every month. A couple of places in the US are poised to have the "big one" happen anytime when talking about earthquakes. Tornado season is around the corner. 

We have more people on welfare and government assistance now than at anytime in history. More and more people believe the government will save them if something happens. Unemployment is high (depending on whose numbers you believe) and climbing. What happens when the government money runs out?

I could go on and on, but you get it. The time to prep is now. 

Many people think that they can always start something new tomorrow or next week, but prepping doesn't work like that. You don't know what is going to happen tomorrow or next week. Heck, you don't know always know what is going to happen today. You might have your day planned out and get stuck in a snow drift on the way home. 

You just don't know.

Why wait to prep? Waiting just doesn't make sense! Do you want to be one of those people that has to scramble at the last minute to get what you need? Or worse yet, be helpless until help arrives? Do you want to put yourself and your family in danger because you didn't want to have worry about "that kind of stuff"? 

I am a prepper and I know the urge to prep more and prep smarter has been hitting me hard lately. Enough so that I have been reassessing my preps and getting holes filled. I am building even more food storage and water storage. I am making plans to beef up my gardens and increase my chicken flock this spring. I am figuring out more ways to heat without electricity. I am doing more reading and learning about new skills and practicing them.

I am doing what I can to make sure my family is not helpless. I can't handle seeing them hungry or hurt. There is no reason they should suffer more because of my lack of foresight. You and yours should not have to suffer either. 

What is the harm in having extra food and water in the house? What could it hurt for your family to take self-defense lessons? How cool would it be to grow some of your food? What could be a problem with having a good first-aid kit? 

All of it needs to happen. Today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today.

Do you feel like prepping now?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Egg and Spinach Open Faced Sandwiches



Things to know about me:

1. I am not a fancy cook. Not at all. I could be if I wanted to, but I really like making uncomplicated things. This sandwich is one of them.

2. I will eat cold sandwiches, but I really, really like hot sandwiches with crusty or toasted bread.

I make these Egg and Spinach Open Faced Sandwiches for breakfast or lunch. I like them that much and I will eat breakfast at any meal. Also, this is a good way to get in your greens!

Gather your ingredients. Since I was making this for lunch I used 3 eggs. Sometimes I only use 2 eggs. I stuffed a sandwich sized baggie full of spinach. I also used 2 pieces of bread, but I have also been known to use leftover baked potatoes instead of bread. I also used a liberal amount of butter and some salt, but you can also use coconut oil and whatever seasoning you love.


Start by getting your skillet hot and add butter to melt. Drop your 2 slices of bread in the toaster.


Add your spinach to the skillet. Put it all in there. If you are using a small skillet like I was, the spinach will still fit.


When the toaster is done, butter the toast. All toast should be buttered. Always. 

Add the spinach on top of the buttered toast.


Add more butter to the skillet and let it melt and get bubbly.


Add the eggs. You might want to use a bigger skillet than I did, but I was at work using what I had available to me.


When your eggs are done to your satisfaction (scrambled, fried, sunny side up, soft), put them on top of the spinach and eggs. I left my eggs soft with runny yolks. 


Dig in! This is not a dish best left cold! Salt or season them as you prefer and go to town on that sandwich. 

This is a relatively healthy sandwich that quick and easy to make! My favorite kind of dish!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead


Ahhh...winter. Love it or hate it, winter happens every year. Some of you have much milder winters than we do in Iowa and can still garden year round. That is not happening here! I can barely see where my garden should be at!

I don't know about you all, but I lose hope Spring is coming when Winter is here. Winter is just so cold and so harsh. We have had it easy this winter until January came. January brought some really cold temperatures, more snow, and the bone-chilling wind (that I wasn't missing!). 

Lacking in motivation lately, I decided to put together a list of thirty things you can do around the homestead! Even though the temperatures are hovering around zero with a foot of snow of the ground there is plenty to do!


30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead:


1. Search Craigslist and Facebook Sale Sites for heaters. Buy one that actually suits your needs. It is really hard to work in a barn with no heat!


2. Put an extra layer of bedding down in the chicken coop. Who wants to change the bedding when it is 10 degrees outside?!?!


3. Realize 30 degrees is actually balmy and change the bedding in the chicken coop.


4. Peruse seed catalogs. Realize there is hope that Spring will come!


5. Make garden plans. At least then you will have a plan!


6. Study different gardening techniques. Who knows - this might be the year you stick with one of those techniques!


7. Start seeds in February and March. Save yourself some money that way.


8. Buy grow lights for seed starting. Makes your life easier when you have very few south facing windows.


9. Buy heated water dishes for the cats, dogs, and chickens. At least the chickens will appreciate warm water because the dog will just eat snow anyway.


10. Get really excited when the poultry catalogs come in the mail. Spring means new chicks!


11. Clean up the barn shop. Time to go through the tools! Also, it is great to get out the house!


12. Go through the gardening tools and seeds. Fix what needs fixing and throw away the rest. 


13. Time to tackle the house projects. When Spring comes, you won't have time anyway.


14. Decide what animals you can add to your homestead. Maybe it is time for some feeder pigs or meat birds!


15. Decide where you are going to put the extra livestock. Just because you have extra buildings doesn't mean you can just add the animals. You need a plan!


16. Sharpen your knives and tools. No one likes a dull tool.


17. Buy more heat lamp bulbs. Those bulbs go out when you least expect them too!


18. Shovel out the outdoor area of the chicken coop and paths between the buildings. Better yet, send out your kids to do that. 


19. Take a field trip to the Tractor Supply Store and Fleet Farm. Get some ideas for your homestead for next Spring!


20. Buy a bunch of medicated lip balm and healing hand cream. Winter is really hard on both lips and hands. No one likes bleeding lips and cracked hands. Better yet, make your own!


21. Can all the produce you stuck in your freezer when you got tired of canning last summer. Now is a good time for making salsa and pizza sauce!


22. Check your buildings for drafts and leaks. No better time to check them than when the wind is blowing 30 miles per hour and you can feel the cold! Get them fixed!


23. Now is a good time to declutter and organize your home and homestead. You might then curse a lot less this coming year when you can actually find things. And maybe you will find some things you bought last Spring and Summer and can use this coming year! Like a garden trowel and fencing and wire...Ahem.


24. Winter is a good time to prune trees. Pick a less than cold day to get the saw out and have some chainsaw therapy!


25. Winter is also a great time to learn new skills or work on old skills like sewing, knitting, crocheting, wood working, and more. 


26. Work on alternative ways to heat your home. Whether you have electric, propane, natural gas, or wood heat, you can always find ways to lower those bills or use less wood. Make a small heater that only takes a candle. Anything to keep those heating bills a little lower!


27. Make a bunch of freezer meals. That way when you are too tired to cook in the Spring and Summer, you have meals ready to go!


28. Make a priority list for your projects and set your budget for those projects. Do your homework so you have a realistic budget. Because going over budget is no fun for anyone!


29. Set some mouse traps in the barns and coops. The cats can't catch them all. The mice are freeloading off your expensive feed. Time to end that problem. 


30. Make sure you have a good pair of warm boots. If not, buy some. This is an investment that will pay off when you have to go outside in zero degree temps, thirty below wind chill, and a couple feet of snow on the ground. Warm feet are important!


Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but mostly serious. Winter is a time of rest on the homestead, but so much still needs to be done! Tackle a few of these today and feel a sense of accomplishment!


Thanks for reading,
Erica




Friday, January 8, 2016

The LifeStack Storage Giveaway


Welcome to The Lifestack Storage Containers Giveaway! These containers are really wonderful. They stack well and give you more room for your preps. You can hold water, sugar, flour, salt, and other bulk items in these handy containers. 

Apartment Prepper did a wonderful review on The Lifestack Storage Containers that I want you to check out: http://apartmentprepper.com/lifestack-storage-containers-review/

Are you ready to enter for a chance to win? 

Three lucky winners will be chosen: each winner will get a set of five LifeStack Storage containers (1-gallon size).

Giveaway Terms and Conditions
This Lifestack Storage Containers Giveaway is open to any resident who is 18 years of age or older who lives in one of the 48 US Contiguous States. This giveaway starts on Friday, January 8th, 2016  at 5:00 am (MDT) and ends on January 15th, 2016 at 5:00 pm (MDT). The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If we do not hear back from said winner in the designated time period of 24 hours we will choose another winner and they will have 24 hours to respond from the time the notification email is sent. Please check your SPAM email folders. Good luck to everyone! Let's be prepared for the unexpected!

Below is a list of blogs participating in the giveaway - please stop by and visit!

Apartment Prepper        http://apartmentprepper.com
Food Storage Moms     http://www.foodstoragemoms.com/
Geek Prepper                 http://www.geekprepper.org
Backdoor Survival            http://www.backdoorsurvival.com
Homesteading Hippy       http://thehomesteadinghippy.com
Living Life in Rural Iowa  http://livinglifeinruraliowa.com/
MP Offgrid Living    http://madtownpreppers.blogspot.com/
Pasture Deficit Disorder    http://www.pasturedeficitdisorder.com/
Preparedness Mama   http://preparednessmama.com
Preppers Survive     http://www.prepperssurvive.com/
Blue Jean Mama   http://www.bluejeanmama.com/
The Things I Love Most    http://thethingsilovemost.com/

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Thanks for entering and visiting!
Erica

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Are You Ready For The New Year? My 2016 Goals!


Since my goals for 2015 pretty much didn't get accomplished, I figured I needed a new game plan.

What is that game plan?

1. Break them down into more manageable and easier to accomplish tasks.
2. Print them out. Maybe make the print out fancy or more eye catching.
3. Hang my goals in several places in my home. 

To be fair, my focus shifted last year especially in the last three months. The biggest change to my focus is that Rob and I are going to move in together at the end of January. I decided that meant I needed to get much more organized and declutter the whole house. 

Rational thinking, right?

I am still not done, but a lot of progress has been made. Much more needs to be made. 

However, I still enjoyed having goals last year so I will endeavor to have goals this year. Some of my goals are the same from last year with some new ones thrown in. Some of my goals will depend on others, but I am okay with that. I seek to encourage others and hope that happens on a regular basis. 

I am also splitting my goals up this year. I will not be posting my blogging goals because those are quite personal and I do not seek to burden you with that somewhat boring stuff. 

Home Goals:

1. To stop picking up after my kids and make them do it. This may not seem big, but I feel like I do this too often and because I am too lazy to make the kid who made the mess clean it up. Not anymore.

2.  Clean, de-clutter, paint, re-carpet, fix ceiling,  and organize Paige's room. This room is an unorganized disaster that needs some serious help. Plus she is at that age where she is growing out of everything: clothes, toys, books, etc. We actually made a lot of progress on this in 2015, but it just needs to get done!

3. Move the bedrooms from the basement to the upstairs and move the spare bedrooms to the basement. 

4. Paint the upstairs hallway/stairway.

Personal Goals: 

1. To check my bank account every week. No matter how scary it is. I have a budget, but I hate checking my bank account. It is really depressing and I don't like to it. However, that is cowardly and, to be able to track my spending better, I need to check it at least weekly.

2. Write a book or an e-book. Because I have always wanted to.

3. To read at least 25 pages every day. I have been slacking on my reading and I love to read! Time to get back to it.

Homesteading Goals:

1. To build a raised bed in the garden for my carrots and beets. My soil is too clay like to grow these things well. I want to build a raised bed with more sand and less dirt. I want to build a second one for my potatoes, but we will see how much material I have on hand to build a second one. 

2. To add more layer chickens to the flock. My chickens will be two years old in May and production will be declining. Time to start adding.

3. Plant 2-3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, and try again with plum trees. The farm needs more fruit and rejuvenation. 

4. Start a small flock of meat chickens and butcher them myself. Maybe 10-15 birds for my first time. 

Prepping Goals:

1. To become more comfortable with guns and learn to shoot well.

2. To practice with a bow more often and maybe hunt with it. 

3. To acquire more water storage. I want to add 75-100 gallons of water to my existing water supplies. 

4. To build up my food storage to at least a comfortable year or longer.

What are your goals for the new year?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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