Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Easy Skillet Spaghetti: A Great Dinner for a Busy Night!


We are a busy household. A lot of nights we do not eat supper until 7:30 - 8:00 at night. Sometimes we need to make supper on the fly and have something on the table quickly. Sometimes we just want to make something quick and easy because we are tired. This Skillet Spaghetti fits the bill.

This recipe is easy. Very easy! It is a cheap meal to make. It is also made in one large skillet or dutch oven. One pot meals are my favorite meals. So just about anything made in one pot will get a chance at this household. I based this recipe off of one that I first made 12-15 years ago. I have since changed this recipe and completely lost the original recipe. 

Easy Skillet Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 people

1 pound ground beef
1 - 24 ounce jar of pasta (spaghetti) sauce
24 ounces water
12 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese for garnish



1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or dutch oven until done. You can drain the grease if you feel there is too much, but I generally do not drain the grease.



2. Add the spaghetti sauce to the ground beef. 



Fill the jar back up to the sauce level with water. Add the water to the skillet and stir. 



Bring to just a boil over medium high heat. 



3. Add the broken spaghetti noodles to the skillet and stir. You want the noodles covered with sauce. 



Cover the skillet and turn the temperature down to medium low heat. 



4. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The skillet spaghetti will be done when the noodles are cooked and most of the sauce is soaked up. 

5. You can sprinkle with mozzarella cheese to make this cheesy. The cheese will melt rather quickly on its own. I usually let people sprinkle their own parmesan cheese.

Serve with garlic bread and a salad if you so desire.

Notes:
* If the noodles do not seem cooked enough and the sauce is mostly soaked up, you can add 1/2 cup water at a time until the noodles are soft.
* If you use whole wheat spaghetti noodles, most of those boxes are 13-13.5 ounce boxes. You can add an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce to use the whole box. 

I know it is so simple, but I believe in giving all busy families the same tools to getting a filling dinner on the table. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 8, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

What happened this week? Rain. It rained, drizzled, and poured everyday except Wednesday this last week. Really, it was depressing. We have so much to do and that rain put a serious stop to it all.

I have a garden that needs to be weeded and cleared for next Spring. I want to get garlic planted pretty soon. I think I have almost all the tomatoes picked. Any tomatoes that are left will be for eating or fresh marinara. We still have zucchini and summer squash growing. The bell peppers are finally turning and I have been picking them for supper. I will probably freeze some peppers too. The potatoes are still not dug, but when the ground dries up a bit I will get those dug.

I am canning the last of the tomatoes as we speak. I have canned mild salsa, pizza sauce, chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and (today) pasta sauce. That is pretty good and should get us through most of the year except for the pasta sauce. We go through a lot of pasta sauce!

We are also getting 15-16 eggs a day. We have too many eggs, but I feel that is a good problem. I have been trying to sell the excess without a lot of luck. I was trying to sell a dozen eggs for $2.00 and 18 count for $2.50. Do you think that is too much for free range eggs? What would you pay for them?

We also still have a rooster to get rid of. Any takers?

We have been working on the kids' bedrooms in the meantime. We have purged a lot of clothes and sent a bag to Thred Up for consignment. We also have been making regular trips to the thrift store to get rid of more. We are working on cleaning and organizing now. Unfortunately, their rooms have gotten out of hand and this has been a long road. Frankly, they have too much stuff and we are working on that too.

Healthwise, I am feeling pretty good. My nose is healing and is still a little sore. I am starting to smell again which is weird. I have been working on developing some healthier habits like increasing my water intake and being more active. As of right now, I have lost 16 pounds. My clothes are starting to feel loose which I love!

What happened in Las Vegas this week has been weighing heavily on my mind. While I am concerned about the investigation and the actual facts, there is something that bothers me more. How can someone do that? Shoot into a crowd of people who were having a great time and just terrorize them like that? I don't get what twists someone's mind into thinking that shooting people like that is justifiable.

The blame game from this tragedy also bothers me. Instead of holding the individuals responsible for this shooting, people in general want to blame all gun owners or a political party or conservatives. Whatever. The problem with our country and society is the lack of personal responsibility. Granted, it is easier to blame a group of people rather than the individual. However, it is not right.

What have you been up to this last week? What are you planning for this week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In October


October is here and so is fall. This is a great time to work outside, take care of any projects you wanted to get done during the summer, and wrap up any loose ends before winter arrives. October is usually pretty mild in Iowa with an occasional snow storm thrown in the last part of the month. I try to get as much done as I can in October because November is fairly unpredictable here.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In October

1. Get the outside of the house, garage, and other outbuildings winterized. Home maintenance is an important part of prepping. Trim bushes away from the buildings. Compost and mulch any garden areas that need it. Seal up any cracks or holes. Get plastic over the windows that leak. Take care of any loose boards. Make sure the doors and windows seal up tight. You know what you need to do. October is a good time to get these things taken care of.

2. Stock up on pasta, rice, and potatoes. I know these are carbs, but they also provide calories and energy when you need it. I like to keep all forms of pasta on hand. I generally only keep brown rice on hand, but white rice does store longer if stored properly. I keep instant mashed potatoes and canned potatoes on hand as well as fresh potatoes. I also keep freeze dried potatoes on hand as well. Just store pasta, rice, and potatoes that yourself and your family will eat. I would like to remind you to keep extra water or broth on hand for cooking pasta and rice.

3. In light of recent events, I urge to add at least three more gallons of water per person in your household this month. If you have pets, add at least three more gallons of water for dogs, one more gallon of water for cats, and one more gallon of water for any other creatures besides livestock. One thing I have read from the recent natural disasters is that people did not have enough water and other liquids stored. Please add to your water storage this month!

4. Time to clean out your vehicles and switch over your emergency kits to winter supplies. Time to take out the sunscreen, insect repellent, and anything that can freeze. Time to add gloves, hats, scarves, and extra coats and blankets. There are several good lists about what to keep in your car during the winter, but this list is probably my favorite by The Homesteading Hippy.

5. Take stock of your own home winter emergency supplies and fill in the holes. We don't always realize how much stuff gets used throughout the year and what may need to be replaced. How is your unscented long lasting candle situation? I would check them to make sure you have enough and they didn't melt last summer. How are your C and D cell batteries? Most radios and heavy duty flashlights take them. How is your ready to eat food situation? Can you make it a week on just that food alone? How is your water storage? Do you have enough to drink, flush the toilets, and do any emergency washing?  There is a lot more things to think about, but these things would be at the top of my list in an emergency!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 1, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

In talking to some of my readers and good friends, I found out that while they liked my blog posts (thanks!) they wanted me to go back to doing something of a regular update about what we do around here. They also liked when I talked about what I thought of things and what I am interested in. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I was pretty sure no one really wanted to know what goes on inside my brain!

Well, this last week was more than just unproductive. I didn't get hardly anything done except run some errands on Friday, ship books, and go to some of the kids things Friday and Saturday. I finally had nose surgery on Monday morning and that knocked me out for a few days. Quite frankly, I am still not sure what I am going to get done to today because I don't want to jeopardize the surgery. I had bilateral inferior turbinate reduction surgery so I could breath through my nose again for the first time in 20+ years. The surgeon took a fair amount of tissue and membranes out so I have two clear nasal passages.

Let me tell you this, healing is not fun. I had the best care from Rob who has been wanting me to get this surgery done for a while. I am not a good patient because I am too used to doing stuff. I constantly got told "no, you aren't doing that". However, I got caught up on a few documentaries, some reading, a lot of sleep, and my DVR. I was allowed to put supper in the slow cooker two nights and to make bread because I used the bread maker to do the mixing and kneading.

This all goes back to something I have talked about before. Now is the time to take care of your health and any issues you may have. Tomorrow may be too late. I am working at losing weight (lost 15 pounds so far!), getting healthier, and having a better quality of life. Not being able to breath well or right was significantly impacting it. I am sleeping so much better now. I don't run out of breath because I can breath through my nose. I wasn't a natural mouth breather so this has been huge!

I will be canning tomatoes today and starting to wrap up the garden. Fall is definitely here in Iowa. While I expect we will have a warm-up again, the tomatoes are done. I have been letting them just ripen in the garden since I couldn't do anything with them. The potatoes need to be dug, but I need to get a new pitchfork. I broke the last one beyond repair. The peppers are still ripening and I will leave them alone a little while longer. The garden needs a good weeding and then putting to rest.

I doubt that will all happen this week, but the canning of tomatoes will happen this week if not today. I will probably turn them into crushed tomatoes because I can turn crushed tomatoes into chili or another sauce if I want to. Otherwise I can chunk them up and can them that way too. I try to keep the canning simple most of the time.

Chickens were moved to their new coop about six weeks ago and they are doing great. We have been letting them free range when we are home on the weekends and after work. We lost two hens to coyotes and I am not very happy about that. We have a young pack of coyotes around us right now, but I think they must be moving southward. I don't hear them at night as much. We still have a rooster though and I am looking for a home for him. I might have one for him, but if you are interested, please let me know!

We also have eggs taking over the fridge and back-up fridge so it is time to start selling! Additional income is always good!

I have been trying to find new ways to save money and have been going back to some of my old ways to save money. I have been trying to be more cognizant of the way money is being spent, but it is just being spent. I have gone back to couponing a little and using money savings I already possess in terms of value cards I have bought through the school. Some days, it seems like we live as frugal as we can, but it will never be enough. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am some bigger purchases I have to make.

I really need to buy two sets of tires this fall and have been looking for a good deal on barely used or new tires. Tires are just expensive though! So are car parts since Paige got into an accident last month. Most of that damage is cosmetic, but the whole drivers side panels and doors need to be replaced. Hopefully, the other driver's insurance will pay for it, but there is no guarantee since the claim is now in arbitration. (Long story for another day).

We are trying to get stuff done before winter comes or when we can't do anything after work because there is no daylight left. We really need to address the well room and get the top of that sealed. Our well room is attached to the basement of our house and has its own cement ceiling and cover. They are both cracked and water is leaking in. I have had a tarp over it for years, but the tarp is no longer doing the job. I just need to borrow the pressure washer from work, clean it, and get it sealed so the cracks are no longer a problem. I want to be able to store potatoes and other vegetables in the well room again without them spoiling.

You might notice the lack of discussion on prepping, but to me this is all prepping. Gardening, chickens, vehicles, health, and property maintenance/projects are all prepping. Almost everything we do is prepping. Every day, we just do what we can do and put the rest on tomorrow's list.

How has your week been going? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, September 22, 2017

To Prep or Not To Prep: You Always Have A Choice, But The Choice Is Yours!



I am fortunate to live in an area that doesn't have major natural disasters. Yes, we are at risk for tornadoes. Blizzards hit once in awhile during the winter. We are rarely without power and we are not down for long when bad weather hits. Droughts can be a problem, but never really for long. However, we have no major flooding (in my area), no earthquakes, and no hurricanes. Wildfires are a rarity.

In watching the hurricane coverage and listening/watching/reading first-hand accounts, my observations are all over the place. For my prepper friends, they learned a lot. They learned what they needed, what they were missing, and what they needed to stock up on. They learned what supplies they had were valuable and what was junk. Most would agree they were very happy to have their preps. Some of them were even able to help their neighbors, friends, and family with their preps.

Some people were not exactly prepared, but they got food, water, gas, and other supplies when they heard a hurricane could be coming their way. Some decided to smartly evacuate if they were in the worst of the path. Some did what they could to be prepared, but they were forced to evacuate anyway. I hope they had to-go bags ready and left when they saw the danger coming - either hurricane or the horrendous flooding that came afterwards in Texas.

However, I was shocked/surprised/baffled by the people who waited until the last minute to prepare for a hurricane. Some admitted to not preparing at all. For one thing, warnings were given for 7-10 days to get supplies and to get hunkered down. I understand a little of the "wait and see" attitude, but the forecasters were very positive a hurricane was heading in those directions. Even a Category 1 or 2 hurricane is a reason to get your supplies together, hunker down, and/or make immediate plans to leave the area. I understand jobs and school may hamper those plans, but you and your family's safety is a lot more important.

Secondly, if you live in a place where these kind of natural disasters can and do occur, why aren't people prepared?!?! You would bet I would have an area all ready to go in case of this happening. I would be sure to have a least two weeks of easy to eat food and a month's worth of food otherwise. I would have water stored and I would have extra gas on hand for vehicles and whatnot. I would have flashlights, lanterns, blankets, towels, sleeping bags, and more ready to be used in a closet.

You have a choice to be prepared. You always have a choice to be prepared. That choice is yours. If you are prepared, you greatly reduce your risk of being caught in a situation. If you aren't prepared, you have made the choice to be a victim. I know most people do not intentionally choose to be a victim, but they unconsciously do.

Some people choose to believe that some one or some government agency will come to save them. While many relief agencies try their best to get there to help, they are rarely there until after the disaster hits. Some of them are not able to reach people to many days after the disaster hits. In Texas and Florida, there are areas that have just seen help in the last day or so. Rarely does relying on outside help benefit the person waiting.

Puerto Rico just got hit by another hurricane and will need help for many months just for basic human needs. Puerto Ricans might have been ready for the first hurricane, but it is tough to be ready for another hurricane so soon. If you weren't ready well before this and had quite a bit of food and water stored, you would be waiting for help too. They have no real idea when power will be restored. The government is guessing in six months. While I am sure they will get water and food brought to them, six months is long time to be without power.

When making the decision to prepare, you always have a choice. I would rather err on the side of caution than to depend on outside help. I would rather have a lot of water and food in my home and not need it rather than be caught with a hungry family.

The choice is yours to prepare. It will always be your choice and your choice alone. With that said, you are then responsible for that decision. Lashing out on social media, YouTube, and mainstream media because help has not arrived yet is not being responsible for your decision. Saying you only had a couple days of food and water on hand when you knew you would probably be unable to access more for a week is your problem. Your choice and decisions should not be anyone else's problem.

Many people rode out the hurricanes with a few hardships, but nothing they were not expecting. They were prepared and ready to go. They might have done a little pre-hurricane stocking up just to be safe, but they were prepared for the hurricane. They were able to feed their family and even help out some of their neighbors. They might have been scared of what was coming, but they didn't let their fear rule them.

Some people choose to evacuate and get out of the city early. That was a smart decision too. They realized they were in a lot of danger and didn't want their family to experience that. They left with a good amount of time so that they were not caught in a lot of traffic. They had a safe place ready to go to and had already made prior arrangements. They had a plan in place to leave home if need be and I would bet they had a plan in place if they had to stay home for any reason. They still choose to prepare, but they choose to prepare by having a plan in place and executing that plan.

I don't pretend to understand what someone is going through unless I have experienced that situation myself. However, I know by being prepared, I would have the peace of mind to make a decision and stick with that decision because I had a plan. In cases of natural disasters, I would be having a Plan A, B, and C. I wouldn't want to be a victim and I wouldn't want to be waiting on outside help because of my lack of foresight and planning.

You always have a choice to be prepared or not, but the choice is yours. I know which one I have chosen. Hopefully, you will choose the same.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, September 18, 2017

Ten Prepping Habits You Should Be Working On!


Habits can be good or bad. They can be a wonderful thing or a curse. However, I believe in having good habits as a prepper. We need to be diligent in our personal growth as preppers and habits do this for us. Habits keep us accountable and help us to become better preppers.

Some of these habits may seem a little different, but I see prepping as a personal thing to improve us as well as make us better people in general.

Ten Prepping Habits You Should Be Working On!

1. Organization. Being organized is only for your advantage in prepping. In an emergency or crisis, you will know where everything is. That is key for good emergency management, good response time, and good decisions. You will be able to see what you have and what you need to replace. You won't have to guess where everything is. You can tell someone where to find a key item and get the item quickly. I can not stress being organized enough.

2. Being Proactive. You want to be a proactive prepper. You want to see problems before they occur. You want to take care of problems before they happen. Need more water in your storage? Buy it now instead of waiting until a crisis is looming. A window needs to be fixed? Take care of it now before a storm blows it out or a thief finds a way in. You can scale this down to simple everyday things. Dishes need to be done? Do them now before the power may go out or the well pump quits. Laundry piling up? Put a load in the washer every day so you don't have to worry about it later. Taking care of things now will save you a major headache later.


3. Good Health. Your health is key in prepping. If you are too unwell to respond to a crisis or emergency, you might end up dead. Every prepper should be working on good eating habits, being in good physical condition, living in moderation, and working on/quitting bad habits like smoking and chewing.

4. Skill Building. Always Be Learning. You are never done learning as a prepper. There are new skills to learn and to hone. There is always new information to learn, process, and/or implement. As a prepper, you need to keep up to date on the current news, new trends, new information, and new threats that may be on the horizon. You may need to learn new skills to adjust to the new information you have learned. As a tip, I know preppers that learn a new skill every month. They learn about that skill and start practicing the skill. This is something we all should be doing.

5. Good Communication. Being able to effectively communicate is key. You don't want to have misunderstandings in times of crisis. You need to be able to listen well and talk clearly.

6. Becoming Debt Free. Life is better when you are debt free. There are times in life where debt is unavoidable, but trying not to accrue more debts is key. If you are in debt, try to find ways to get out of debt. I personally like Dave Ramsey's system, but that may not be for everyone. However, you should be finding new ways to make extra money and putting in the overtime now so you can have financial peace later.


7. Establishing Routines. Do you have good routines? Do you check the house every night to make sure the doors are locked and windows are secured? Do you have your clothes laid out the night before so you can get dressed quickly in the morning or during the night if you need to? Doing the same thing every day and every night is good for you. You established routines so you stay proactive about what needs to be done, what gets done everyday, and what problems need to be addressed. Routines keep your mind calm and reassured that everything was done and checked. Establish routines now to keep the chaos in check later.


8. Practice. Always keep practicing. Whether that includes your skills, your routines, your talents, etc. Most things you learn should not be learned once and thought to be done with them. You should always make time to practice what you need to know.

9. Conservation and Sustainability. Recycling. Reusing. Live somewhat minimally. Reduce our wants and focus on our needs. We really need to learn to quit being wasteful. When times of crisis come, we need to learn to reuse what we have and focus on just what we need to survive.


10. Learning To Live Without. This may be the hardest habit for anyone, not just preppers. We rely on our comforts so much and can get really cranky without them. We expect instant access to information instead of having to look it up in a book. We expect to be entertained when we want to be entertained. We expect to have air conditioning at our fingertips. We really need to learn to live without. If you learn this now, that habit will serve you later when the power is out or you are stranded somewhere for any length of time.


I consider these the top ten prepping habits that every good prepper should be working on! I am curious, however. What habits would you add to the list?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, September 8, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In September


The end of August and beginning of September this year has taught us a few things. Being prepared is not only crucial, it is purely survival for those who have been or will be caught in the hurricanes and the wildfires. Living where I do, I get complacent about bug-out bags and having things together to be ready to evacuate.

Many people in Texas and now Florida are wishing they had listened to the warnings. They are wishing they had everything together in one place and ready to go. They are wishing they had food and water for a month. They are wishing they had their bug-out bags together and a secure place to go to.

This is why I do the Five Prepping Things To Accomplish each month. I want you all to be ready for the natural disasters as well as the life events that could change your life in a minute. While you get warnings to get ready most of the time, finding the supplies or the important documents at the last minute (or even week) could mean life or death for you and your family.

September is National Preparedness Month. Nothing is proving that more significantly that the natural disasters that are hitting the United States. While FEMA and the Red Cross encourage 3-10 days of food and water, I encourage you to make that a month or longer. The flood waters may recede and the fires may burn out, but who knows when you will be able to get gas and supplies again for awhile.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In September:

1. Stock up on fluids besides water. While you should have a plentiful supply of drinking water on hand, I encourage you to stock on other drinkable fluids as well. Broth, juice, pop, electrolyte drinks, and more not only help stretch the water longer, but they also help keep the spirits up and break up the water monotony. Broth is a great for cooking liquid as well. Rice and beans taste pretty good being cooked in chicken broth. It is also a great starter for soup.

2. Memorize and write down your emergency numbers. Having them on your phone is great and smart, but you need to memorize them or at least put them down on paper. You never know when your phone will die or be left behind. You will still need to know them. Taking this a step further, you should laminate that paper with the numbers and make 3-4 copies. You should have one in your wallet or purse, your bug-out bag,  and your important papers' binder or file.

3. Stock up on flashlights, lanterns, and solar lights. I would recommend a flashlight (or two) in every room. I have both oil-filled and battery operated lanterns. Please make sure you have extra oil and wicks for the oil-filled lanterns as well as have them filled and ready to go. Solar lights are great for walking around outside as well as inside the house. During the day, set them outside and be able to use them at night. I keep all of these light sources in my stash as well as around my house. Be sure to also have extra batteries and lighters for them too.

4. Solidify your bug-outs plans. Where will you go if you need to evacuate your home? Sleeping in your car or going to the woods is not really an answer. Will you go to a parents' or siblings' home? Will you choose a hotel 100 miles west of you? If you have a camper and can leave with it, where will you take the camper to? Don't pick just one place either. Have several options and prioritize those options. Plan A can be your parents 30 miles away. Plan B can be a friends house 45 miles away. Plan C can be the campgrounds 60 miles away. Plan D can be a hotel 90 miles away. Just have a plan, write it down, and memorize it.

5. Start accruing a cash stash. Having cash will help you in an natural disaster or emergency more than your cards or checks. I would have a lot of small bills that will not need to be broken by the store or another person. I would start with having $100 in small bills and increase that amount to $500 then to $1000. Having a fair amount of change will also help you too.

Check out these months:
1. Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in August
2. Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in July
3. Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in June

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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