Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Savings on the Homestead Weeks 4 and 5: Make Your Own Bread and Taco Seasoning!

Every Sunday I will be posting a Sunday Savings on the Homestead. This posts will concentrate on one money saving thing you and I can do to save money for the week. Some will be easy, some will be be a bit difficult, and all will concentrate on one way to save money for the week. Please join me in trying to live a frugal life in 2015!

So I missed posting this last week. I am not sure how as it was typed up and ready to go. Oh well.

This week's challenge is actually two challenges. Both are easy. 


The first challenge is to make your own bread. I actually prefer homemade bread to store bought. I also cheat when making bread! I use my bread maker and put the ingredients in, set it to the dough cycle, and walk away for 1.5 hours. I take the bread out, let rise in the pans, put it in the preheated oven, and let it bake. Easy!

Two of my most favorite recipes are here: 
Rich, Hearty Sandwich Bread
Honey Oatmeal Bread

If you make these and don't use your bread maker, that is great too. I don't always, but lately I haven't had the time to not use it.

The second challenge is to make your taco seasoning. So, so, so easy! So much better than store bought! I mix the ingredients together in a jar, shake, and use. I even made batches of taco seasoning for Christmas gifts a few years ago.

My favorite taco seasoning recipe is this one from Self-Reliance by Jamie. I use 1-2 Tablespoons of mix to one pound of ground beef. 

Taco Seasoning Mix
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/8 cup cumin
1-2 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon sea salt

This week's challenges are easy, peasy. You may already do them! You might have done them in the past and quit. Time to get back on the wagon and make these!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Savings on the Homestead Week 1: Clean Out The Food Storage

Every Sunday I will be posting a Sunday Savings on the Homestead. This posts will concentrate on one money saving thing you and I can do to save money for the week. Some will be easy, some will be be a bit difficult, and all will concentrate on one way to save money for the week. Please join me in trying to live a frugal life in 2015!

Now let us all be real here. We all have food in our food storage and pantries that are close to the expiration date or past the expiration date. I am fairly organized in my food storage and I know I do.

Our Sunday Savings mission for the week is grab those foods that are about to expire or have expired, bring them to the kitchen, and use them up in our meals this week. This may mean some creative meals, but that is better than wasting the food!

A note of safety: You are your own best decision maker. The decision to use out-dated, expired food is up to you. If the packaging looks compromised in any way, I would not use it. If you open the packaging and the food does not smell, look, or feel right, don't use it. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Make Your Own Face and Eye Cream

One of those areas I haven't given up my vanity on is my face. I don't wear a lot of cosmetics, just concealer and mascara. After I get out of the shower, I put on clear lip balm to keep them from chapping. Then I put on eye and face cream.

I ran out one morning and decided to go to the store to buy some more on my lunch break. What I saw just about made me lose my lunch! Eye cream was $12.00 for a little tube and face cream was $14.00 for a small bottle.

Are you kidding me?!?! I don't care how long they last! That is a lot of money!

Then I started reading the ingredients. I couldn't pronounce over half of the ingredients and this was suppose to be their healthy, all-natural line of face products. That is just ridiculous!

I still broke out with acne which has plagued me since I was pregnant with my first child. Nineteen years ago. Ack! I like looking younger, but I have no need to look like a teenager!

Time to start doing some research on how to make my own. I love how some people just had a few ingredients, but I didn't have those ingredients on hand. I didn't love recipes that called for emulsifying and reducing and letting the concoction sit for several days. I needed to find something by the morning or my face, mainly the cheeks, would crack from dryness!

I saw several people on different boards suggesting the use of coconut oil. Coconut oil is the miracle cream/oil of our household. I found out that coconut oil had antibacterial qualities and was great for sensitive skin.

Hot dang!

Then I started wondering if I could combine my face cream with my eye cream.  I am all about a simple morning routine. I like to be able to sleep longer!

After a successful six month trial, I can tell you this works. I haven't had a breakout since the first month. I do still have the occasional blackhead on my chin, but I can deal with that. I do wash my face with an olive oil based face cleanser, but that is all I do. I use this cream afterwards.

Face and Eye Cream

1/4 cup organic coconut oil
4 vitamin E softgels (optional)

Warm the coconut oil enough to make it soft, but not hot and melted. Clip the end of the vitamin E softgels and squeeze them into the coconut oil. Mix together. Put mixture into a small container, preferably glass, but plastic works too. 

I will tell you the vitamin E is optional, but I added it to the mixture to give a boost to my eyes. My skin gets extremely dry around my eyes in the winter and this helps. I hope it helps you too!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Monthly Frugal and Homesteading Update

This month has been a bit busy and my mind has been going in a different direction. July has been a no spend month. I was very unintentional about it, but the budget demanded it. The budget is going to demand it for August also so no spending unless necessary.

The great thing about having a no spend month in the summer is that my garden and everyone else's garden has been exploding with goodness! My garden was being a bit late, but now is producing nicely. I wish the tomatoes were a little more prolific, but I am happy to just have tomatoes turn red this year! My onions are actually growing too!

It's the little things that get me going...

The chickens are all alive and well. I decided to start free ranging them all day. They are usually in their coop by 8:30 pm all on their own. I let them out at 7:00 am to start roaming the yard. I am still feeding them some starter mash with cracked corn added to it, but they are eating less of that and more of the nature provided food. I am working on their nesting boxes and hope to have them up this week. I will do a post about that soon.

My clothes dryer quit. I am not in a hurry to replace it right now since it is summer and I hang clothes out most of the time anyway. I am determined to try to fix the dryer myself. Supposedly, clothes dryers are one of the easiest appliances to fix. Supposedly. I will find out!

I am working on small batch canning in an effort to not waste produce. We had a good raspberry turnout this year, but not enough made it into the house. I had enough, however, to make a small batch of raspberry jam. I made 2 - 8 oz. jars which will taste delightful this winter.

I was given ten pounds of blueberries and ten pounds of sweet cherries. I froze most of the blueberries, but canned four pint jars and one half-pint jar since I had never canned blueberries before. I canned almost all of the cherries and got thirteen pints out of those that I did not eat!

As you tell, I am really trying to cut down on the grocery bill. I am working hard to keep the grocery budget at $200. Some months are not going to be as easy as others, but I am trying. We have been making more from scratch. Paige made five batches of chocolate chip cookies to share on her Washington DC trip. I have been making bread and granola as always. I want to learn how to make good crackers next since I miss munching on those once in a while. I have also been taking vegie salads or leftovers to work every day. I only ate out once in the last month for lunch.

I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent. I had to fix my big wooden spoon before I started since one of my kids broke it trying to stir a batch of chicken feed. I fixed it with black electrical tape wrapped up and down the handle.

I refilled a lot of plastic water bottles and put them into the freezer. They will help keep the freezer running more efficiently since a full freezer runs better. They will also be great to keep school lunches cold when the kids decide they need a cold lunch. They are also great to have on hand if the power goes out and we need additional water or things to stay cold in the freezer.

I made candles with supplies I bought a year ago. I was really surprised at how easy they were. Since I have plenty of wick left over, I will be ordering more wax when space opens up in the budget. I used glasses for the candles that I had around the house and we did not use anymore.

That is the highlights for the month. Of course, we have still been making our own cleaners, mending clothes, and making do as much as possible!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How I Preserve Food: Vegetable Soup

One of the greatest things about preserving your food is making your own food to eat later on! You can control the ingredients, use up what you have on hand, and make delicious food such as this Vegetable Soup. I also like that I can make this recipe in pint jars for work lunches and quart jars for a quick supper.

Vegetable Soup
based from a recipe in Ball Blue Book of Preserving

2 quarts chopped, peeled cored tomatoes (about 12 large)
1.5 quarts cubed and peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)
1.5 quarts 3/4-inch sliced carrots (about 12 medium)
1 quart whole kernal corn, uncooked
2 cups 1-inch sliced celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
1/5 quarts water
Salt and pepper (optional, as you want)

Feel free to play around with the vegetables a bit. I would make sure to keep the tomatoes, but I think the other vegetables can be switched to taste. The original recipe called for 1 quart of lima beans which I did not add because I did not have any on hand. I also added 2 chopped medium-sized zucchini to mine since I had plenty to use up. In the past I have also added bell peppers, green beans, and peas.

I would also caution you on the use of the salt and pepper. I usually never add black pepper when I am canning, but I did the last time I made it. The black pepper made it very peppery and almost too much for my tastes.

1. Combine all vegetables in a large saucepot. Add water; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps.

3. Process pints 55 minutes, quarts 1 hour and 25 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner.

Yield: about 14 pints or 7 quarts

This post is a part of:

The Prepared Bloggers - How We Preserve Foods

Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips.

  Mom with a PREP - How to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder
  Preparedness Mama - Make Jam Without Pectin
  Mama Kautz - Dehydrating
  Busy B Homemaker - Freezer Jam
  Ed That Matters - Anyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage
  The Apartment Prepper - Easy Marinated Mushrooms
  The Homesteading Hippy - How to Use Your Pressure Canner
  Montana Homesteader - Making and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup
  Are We Crazy or What - How to Dehydrate Cherries
  Your Thrive Life - How I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar 
  Melissa K Norris - Re-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?
  Real Food Living - Preserve and Store Grains wiith Dry Ice
  Cooke's Frontier - Smoking
  Homestead Dreamer - Water Bath Canning
  Evergrowing Farm - How to Preserve Red Chile
  Survival Sherpa - Modern Mountain Man MRE's
  The Backyard Pioneer - Fermentation
  Trayer Wilderness - How We Preserve Food
  Living Life in Rural Iowa - Vegetable Soup
  The Organic PrepperHow to Make Jam without using added Pectin
  Homesteading Mom - How I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup
  A Matter of Preparedness - How I Preserve Using Mylar Bags


(This post does contain affiliate links. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Want To Save Money? Start Gleaning!

Gleaning is one of my favorite ways to save money! Gleaning helps supply our food stores, gives me more to can, and helps food not go to waste. Gleaning is responsible and helps one to be sustainable as well as economical.

But what is gleaning? Gleaning is gathering and collecting food from a field or a garden after someone else has harvested what they wanted. Historically, people would go into the fields after farmers were done harvesting and collect any grain that may have been missed or had fallen to the ground. This would help feed their families and livestock for another year.

For me, gleaning would mean keeping my ears open, listening for people who have extra garden produce, and putting out the word that I will take any extra garden produce. When someone contacts me about having extra produce they cannot use, I gladly pick any leftover produce. I have gotten lots of tomatoes, yellow squash, and cucumbers that way!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for extra produce. I have seen ads for people looking to get rid of extra produce and I have customers who will mention they have some produce to get rid of. My friends and family might mention they are trying to get rid of produce. I will also put out the word if I am looking for more tomatoes, any kind of fruit, and vegetables that I can put up easily.

Be polite and respectful when picking it. I do offer to pay for what I have picked. No one has ever asked for money and usually refuse payment. I do try to drop off a jar of what I have canned or I will offer homemade goods in exchange. Some people will take it and some will not.

If you have produce you want to get rid, please put the word out. I hate to see good food go to waste! Someone will have need of it. Otherwise, put an ad on Craigslist or a local trading page (both are free in my area)! Someone will come glean it!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Do You Need To Start Canning Your Own Food?

Canning, by and far, is one of the easiest things I know how to do. That may be because I steer away from complicated recipes, but I find it so rewarding to pick food from my garden or trees and preserving it myself. Many people are overwhelmed by canning, but with a few good pieces of equipment, you can do it too.

Canning is not fancy if you choose it not to be, but some basic equipment is necessary. I got a lot of my canning equipment from my mom and garage sales. I got a lot of jars from my grandmas and friends. You do not have to drop a lot of money on canning unless you want to. The list below is what I consider the essentials of canning. This is all I use to can.

The Essentials:

1. Jars. I use half-pint, pint, and quart jars. The half-pints I use for all kinds of butter, jams, and jellies. The pints and quarts I use for just about everything else. I have a tendency to can using portion and meal size for my family.

2. Lids and Rings. You will need many more lids than rings. I started out buying a quite a few lid and rings kits. Now I buy mostly lids unless I have rings starting to rust.

3. Water Canner. You want one that will hold at least 6-7 quart jars. You also want one that has a canning rack to hold the jars still in the canner.

4. Pressure Canner. You will need a pressure canner to can low-acid foods to make them safe to eat later. There are many options out there, but like the water canner, you will want one that holds at least 6-7 quart jars and comes with a canning rack.

5. A Canning Kit. This kit includes a jar lifter, a lid lifter, an air bubble tool,  and a funnel. I went a few years without this kit and, trust me, this kit comes in handy. Very handy.

6. Canning Books. I highly recommend a good canning resource book. I use my Ball Blue Book all the time. I also use my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook a lot for recipes.

Another great resource is At Home Canning and Beyond by Kendra Lynne from A New Life on the Homestead! 

That is it! Canning doesn't look that intimidating now, doesn't it? You can do this!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Make Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup is one of my favorite things to make to sweeten beverages such as Sun Tea. It is very simple, very easy to make, but I am so surprised at how many people don't know how!

I prefer it because it is a syrup and blends into the beverage. Nothing against sugar being served, but sugar does not blend in well to cold drinks!

How to Make Simple Syrup

I use one to one proportions so I use 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. You can change that to preferences such as 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. I use a small pan to make my Simple Syrup in.

Add one cup of sugar. I used organic sugar which is brown, but if you want to use white sugar, that is fine.

Add one cup of water.

Over medium to medium high heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil. You need to watch your pan so the syrup does not boil over! I let mine boil for 2-3 minutes.

Take the syrup off of the burner and let cool. Feel free to add it to your beverages! What you don't use can be refrigerated for about a week.

Super simple!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

If You Want To Save Money on Your Groceries, Eat Less Meat

We ate twice as much meat as our families did in the 1950's. Meat prices have quadrupled since then if not more. Livestock raising has become less about quality and more about quantity. We are becoming more and more obese every day.

All those factors have led to our household eating less meat. The only way I buy meat (except chicken) anymore is straight from the farmer who delivers it to the butcher that I choose. I can get the cuts I want, soup bones for broth, and fat to make tallow or lard. I pay a bit less than buying at the grocery store. Even though I pay less, I treasure that meat more. Even though I have meat in my freezer, I do not serve meat every meal or night.

Although we buy meat like that, meat is still the most expensive item(s) on everyone's grocery list. A three pound roast easily costs $8-10 if not more. 85% ground beef is over $3 a pound and rarely on sale for less than $2.79 a pound. For a week's worth of groceries, one could easily spend $30-40 on meat. Yikes!

Even with a freezer full of meat, we eat 2-3 meals a week without meat. How?

We eat other sources of protein rich foods. We eat a lot of eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, yogurt, cheese, and drink a fair amount of milk. We eat spaghetti without meat, soup without meat, macaroni and cheese, a variety of pasta dishes, egg dishes, etc.

I know the kids still need a lot of protein for their ever-changing and growing bodies so I offer a lot of these options. While adults need a fair amount of protein, we also need to eat more fruits and vegetables than meat. If you burn a lot of calories in a day, you need a lot of protein. I look to other sources that are cheaper than meat while still serving meat a few times a week.

While trying to save money, I do not recommend giving up meat altogether. I consider it very important to our bodies and believe it necessary for good nutrition.

If you do not think you can give up serving meat each night for supper, try to cut back how much you serve at a meal. If you are accustomed to serving a five pound roast, try serving a 3-4 pound roast and serving more vegetables and potatoes. If you are making tacos, limit the amount of meat in the taco. Use more vegetables in your tacos or stretch the meat with lentils or beans. You can roast a 5-6 pound whole chicken and stretch that over 2-4 meals. If the recipe calls for two pounds ground beef, try 1-1/2 pounds or add oatmeal to stretch the meat more. Many things can be done to stretch the meat further while promoting healthy eating.

You should also shop the loss leaders and sales for meat. Stock up when the price is good and freeze in portions that are right you and your family. A food saver or freezer bags would be a good investment to help get that meat in portions you can use. Before I bought meat from the farmer, I would buy ten pound tubes of ground beef and divide them into portions that made sense for us. I would do one pound and one and one-half pound packages. I still buy 10-20 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and divide them into packages of 2-3 halves.

If you have the opportunity to raise your meat or hunt your own meat, even better! I do not know much about raising or hunting your own meat, but I hope to learn more soon!

With a little creativity, you can do a lot to cut your meat costs and eat less meat. How do you cut your meat costs?

Thanks for reading!

Thrifty Thursday Linky Party at!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frozen Berry Sauce

Last Saturday morning we decided to have breakfast for lunch. The kids wanted pancakes and Rob wanted French toast. Everyone wanted bacon. I had made a loaf of Golden Egg Bread in the bread maker which is absolutely delightful as French toast. I had some frozen bananas which I turned into Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes. I had some homemade Pancake Syrup already made up.

Rob really wanted some kind of berry syrup/sauce for the French toast. I couldn't find any at our local convenience store (I didn't expect they would have it). So I was determined to make something for him. I had some frozen strawberries, but no blueberries. However, I got started.

I started with a bag of  frozen whole unsweetened strawberries in a saucepan with two tablespoons of sugar. I let them thaw and soften over medium heat. In the meantime, I was still looking for frozen blueberries because I could have swore I had some! I didn't find any, but I found some blueberry freezer jam that I had not liked by itself and I couldn't just throw it out either.

In the saucepan, I was stirring the strawberries and they were starting to soften so I smashed them down some more. They were starting to form a sauce. I decided to add some honey because I like honey. I let it cook some more and then added a few good-sized spoonfuls of blueberry jam. The blueberry jam thickened up the strawberries quite a bit. I used a blueberry jam that was made of natural sugars and honey. I let the mixture cook on medium until it started boiling. Then I turned it down on low because I had to get the pancakes done and the French toast done. The sauce cooked on low for about 15 minutes until I was ready for it.

My sauce was still a bit chunky and I like it like that. I want to know that it still contains fruit.

I poured it into my gravy boat so it could be poured out onto the pancakes and French toast. Honestly, I thought the kids would not like it. They loved it!!! Rob loved it! Dane thought it tasted like something from Denny's which he is currently obsessed with eating at. I think he meant that as a compliment.

Frozen Berry Sauce

1 - 12 oz. bag whole unsweetened strawberries, frozen
2 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoon honey
1/2 -1 cup blueberry jam

1. Place the frozen strawberries in a saucepan with sugar. Turn the heat on the cooktop to medium. Let the strawberries thaw, softened to the point of easily smashed.

2. Add honey to the strawberry mixture. Stir and cook for two minutes to get incorporated.

3. Add blueberry jam to the strawberry mixture and bring to a boil.

4. Turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes or until thickened.

5. Take off the heat and pour into a container for serving. Enjoy!

Yield: 3-4 cups.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Corn Chowder

One of my very favorite soups has to be corn chowder. I have tried many versions before I created one on my own that had plenty of flavor and could easily become a comfort food. I wanted a corn chowder that could easily be made with ingredients I had on hand and were naturally good for us. I also wanted a corn chowder that I could add a protein to it because I need a lot of protein to curb my sugar cravings and keep my energy up.

This corn chowder is so easy! You can easily add more ingredients to it to make it your own. I have added a small can of green chilies, some diced carrots, and some bell pepper (not at the same time!). I have experimented with different meats using bacon, ham, and chicken.

Corn Chowder

3 potatoes, diced (peeled or unpeeled)
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 or 1 onion, diced (Onion can be to your liking. One whole onion is too much for my kids.)
1 quart of chicken or turkey stock
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
2-3 Tbsp. flour
Bacon, cooked and crumbled or Ham, chopped

1. In a 5 quart pot, put the potatoes, celery, and onion. Add the chicken or turkey stock. This should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables. If not add a little water so the vegetables are covered in liquid. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender.

2. When vegetables are tender, add the corn, butter, salt and pepper.

3. Mix the milk and flour together until smooth using either a whisk or a fork. If you would like a bit thicker soup, use 3 Tablespoons of flour. I usually just use 2 Tablespoons of flour. Add this mixture to the soup and stir to incorporate.

4. Bring the soup to a boil. Take off the heat. You can add the meat in at this time if you would like. I usually just let my family add the meat to their bowl and ladle the corn chowder over top. If you don't want meat, you don't have to have it.

5. Serve! My kids think crackers are a necessity with this soup, but again it is all about preferences!

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Enjoy! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Grocery Spending

In light of my No Spend September Challenge and my goal to keep my grocery budget under $130, I thought I would share what I spent.

Please keep in mind a few things:
1. I have a fairly decent pantry and food storage area that is fairly well stocked.
2. We do have some dietary needs and try to be dairy-free as possible due to lactose intolerance. We also try to keep processed sugars to a minimum.
3. No meat is bought unless it is under $2.00 a pound and can be stretched over 2-3 meals.

On September 7th, at Sunshine Foods, Chatfield:
(We were having a cookout/campfire with the neighbors at Rob's house. This is not at all normal food for us to buy! I also know that their prices are higher than ours and what I would like to pay!)
1 pkg. Graham Crackers  $2.39
1 pkg. Fudge Striped Cookies  $1.70
1 jar Sweet Relish  $1.73
3 pkgs. Hot Dogs Buns  $4.47
2 pkgs. Hot Dogs  $1.98
4 pounds Peaches  $5.12
2 pounds Apples  $4.08
1 Yellow Onion  $1.13
Garlic Toast  $2.99
1 half-gallon Lactose-Free Milk  $4.55

Total: $30.43

On September 8th, at Aldis:
10 pound Potatoes  $2.99
3 pounds Sweet Potatoes  $1.49
2 pound Pinto Beans (dried)  $1.79
Ricotta Cheese  $1.79
Parmesan Cheese  $2.39
2.15 pounds Bananas  $.95
2 dozen Eggs  $2.90
4 half-gallons Lactose-free Milk  $11.16
1 half-gallon Whole Milk  $1.89
1 half-gallon 2% Milk  $1.79

Total: $29.14

On September 9th, my trip to Fareway included:
Boneless Pork Roast (on sale)  $5.04
10+ pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts   $19.99
3 pkgs. Shredded Cheese  $4.00
1 qt. Buttermilk  $1.25
1 Mac & Cheese  $.88
1 Lasagna Noodles  $1.89
Celery  $.99
1 pound Carrots  $.69
Cauliflower  $2.99
Garlic Cloves  $.50
1 bottle Soy Sauce  $.98
2 jars Spaghetti Sauce  $1.96
2 pkgs. Organic Sugar  $7.38
15 pounds Pears  $13.27

Coupon Savings: $2.75
Total: $60.07

On September 21st, at Fareway:
1 pkg. Shredded Mozzarella  $2.00
2 pkgs. Turkey Pepperoni (pillow packs)  $6.58

Total: $8.58

Combined Total: $128.22

I did spend an additional $15.00 in groceries that I paid cash for that was not included in the budget because it was extra earned cash. That included: watermelon for a family gathering, bananas, avocados, yogurt starter, and a few other things but I can't find the receipts. I did keep to my allotted monthly budget for September because I did discuss in my original No Spend post that extra earned money was not going to be included in the budget.

I have lowered my budget in October to $100 a month! Yikes! Hopefully, I can keep it!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 28, 2013

How to Dehydrate Your Own Blueberries

One day I had a crazy idea. I thought to myself that drying blueberries was a great idea. I mean, why not?

To buy dried blueberries in the store or online can cost $13-16 for 8 ounces. OUCH! That is an expensive addition to my granola! So I thought I would try to dehydrate my own blueberries. By doing this, I would have them ready to add to trail mix and granola.

I thought I was a genius. What followed proved I still have a lot to learn.

I did my research. Some people recommended poking a hole in them to dry them faster and a bit flatter. Some people recommended just drying them as they were. I choose option 2.

At the grocery store, I bought three pints of blueberries on sale for $1.99 (normally $3.99 a pint). Perfect. I am doing a project that will save me money and I am saving even more money with my initial purchase!

I filled the trays on my ancient dehydrator with the lovely blueberries after giving them a quick rinse.

I plugged in the dehydrator before bed and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning to barely wrinkled blueberries. That is okay because I knew from my research that this process could take at least 24 hours because blueberries hold a fair amount of juice.

I checked the dehydrator before going to bed and removed a few blueberries that had dried on the bottom rack. I switched racks because the bottom appeared to be drying faster. I put the dehydrator back together and went to bed.

I woke up the next morning to more blueberries being done and I removed those. I had a half tray left of blueberries that needed more drying time. However, I thought that running the dehydrator for only a half rack of blueberries was a waste of time and energy. I sliced up some apples to dry while the remaining blueberries dried.

By the time supper rolled around, the blueberries were done. Wow! That took a long time! If you try this, you will be looking at a 24-48 hour drying time. Is it worth it?

Take a look at the jar:

Three pints of fresh blueberries fills only one 1/2 of a pint jar. I got one cup of blueberries which is what I need for the granola recipe I like to use. However, I am not sure the time, cost, and effort is worth that.

I take that back, the cost is worth it. Remember $13 for 8-ounce bag. OUCH!

I did just receive a gift of a new-to-me dehydrator that has 5-6 trays and would do more at a time, but the cost of buying and/or picking them is still a factor until I get some blueberry bushes planted and established.

Overall I am glad I did take the time to dry blueberries. I have a new appreciation for the work and time that goes into the process. I am just not sure I will do it as a regular thing.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Muffins are a household favorite! The kids think I don't make these often enough or enough of them when I make them. I have gone to doubling the batch just to get through more than one day!

You can make this recipe as healthy as you want or not. I have changed a few things from the original recipe and I will give you the original ingredients and what I use to make them healthier. Do what you want or use what you have on hand; making your own food from scratch is the best way!

Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar (I have used organic pure cane sugar)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk (we have used almond milk with excellent results)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (any cooking oil will work here)
3/4 - 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil.  Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or paper line your muffin tin. Fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins. Cool on a wire rack.

This makes one dozen muffins. If you want any for breakfast the next day, double the batch. Trust me here, this will save your sanity!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Quick Chicken & Noodles

One of the many recipes my family enjoys is Quick Chicken & Noodles. The original recipe is from Gooseberry Patch Country Quick & Easy Cookbook. I have made some changes for my family and their preferences.

This dish is one of my go-to recipes when we need dinner in a hurry. All the kids love it!

Quick Chicken & Noodles

6 cups chicken broth or stock
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 stick butter
1/2 onion, diced or 1/2 Tablespoon dried onion
garlic powder to taste (we use about 1 1/2 tsp)
Italian seasoning to taste (we use about 1 Tbsp)
salt and pepper to taste
12-oz. pkg. extra wide egg noodles, uncooked

In a large pot, combine chicken broth, chicken, butter, onion, and seasonings. Bring to a slow boil over medium to medium high heat. Once boiling, add egg noodles. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until noodles are tender.

Yield 6-8 servings.

I typically serve this with a vegetable like green beans because they taste good together. I also serve this in bowls so the green beans also mix in well!

I use homemade broth and leftover chicken in this dish. If you use store bought, 1 49-oz. can chicken broth and 2 5-oz. cans chicken would be the store substitute.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash

During the summer, the grill is where it is at! Actually I grill year round, but I love summer grilling. I especially love grilling the fresh garden bounty!

This recipe is a super simple side dish or appetizer that can be used with a variety of vegetables. I actually learned this from Rob and was a little perturbed at myself for not thinking of it before. But he and I have two different ways of doing this. These are delicious and so, so easy!

Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash

2-3 firm zucchini and/or summer squash, unpeeled
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the zucchini/summer squash into 1/4" thick rounds. 

Rob's method: Place rounds on a wire vegetable rack. Brush olive oil on the zucchini/summer squash, season with salt and pepper, and flip the rounds. Brush olive oil on the other side and season again. Place on the grill.

My method: Place rounds in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss them with your clean hand until all are fairly coated. Place on wire vegetable rack and place on the grill.

Neat vs. Messy. Your choice.

Place on a preheated grill over low to medium low. When the first side starts to brown a little bit or char a little bit, flip the rounds. When the second side does the same, remove them from the grill, and eat.

You do need to keep an eye on them while grilling and check them fairly often. They can burn easy if the grill is too hot. You also might need two wire grill vegetable racks.

I have used this recipe for potatoes and bell peppers with excellent results. I think the possibilities would be endless!

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MYO Bagged Salad

One of the most frustrating things for me in grocery stores is bagged salads. I like to eat healthier because I feel better, but supermarkets certainly do not make it easier for me to do so. They sell bagged salads with some wacky ingredients, lettuce/greens with no beneficial nutrients, and they are so overpriced!

Yesterday, I had an idea hit me so suddenly that I was surprised! Why not make my own bagged salads?

Genius I tell ya!

Some of you, I know, are saying "duh". Some of you are wondering what kind of time and bother is involved. I don't blame you. With the schedule I have been keeping lately, I couldn't be making anything complicated or mind-boggling. I just can't do it.

The benefits of making your own bagged salad are:

1. You control the ingredients.

You can make them anyway you like them! You can have as many ingredients or as little ingredients as you like. I dislike red onions and nuts in my salads so to have a salad without those? Awesomeness!

2. You waste less. 

You control the potions. I made my salads up thinking individuals servings. They will wilt more slowly than if they were in one big bag. I also bought ingredients that I would use in other meals making even less waste.

3. The salads are healthier for you. 

Most bagged salads contain pesticides and preservatives to protect the quality of the salad as well as to slow down the wilting and browning of the ingredients. Nasty! Also, they include ingredients that are not so good for you to appeal to you a little more like candied nuts, heavy dressings, and croutons/crackers.

4. The costs involved are less. 

Less waste, less cost. You can buy the ingredients per potion for less than pre-bagged salads.You are getting ingredients you like and can be used for other dishes. The costs get even less if you have fresh garden produce that you can use instead of store bought.

5. This salad is portable.

This salad has travel options! You can take it to work with you. You can take it on picnics with you. You can take it to the ball game with you. You can pack it in the cooler for car trips. The options are endless!

Sounds great, right?

This is so easy you will wonder why you didn't think of it! Any ingredients you want, you put together. You know what you like!

Here is my first version of MYO Bagged Salad:

1 bag of organic raw spinach
1 - 1 lb. bag of snow peas
1 pint of grape tomatoes
1 pint of sliced mushrooms

I used a quart-sized plastic bag for my salad, but you can use a pint size bag depending on a potion size that works for you. You can also use jars if you do not like to use plastic bag.

I filled the bag halfway with the spinach (a good handful). I added about 10-12 snow peas, 6 grape tomatoes, and about 1/3 cup mushrooms. This is a rough guess because I just tossed the ingredients in. I wish I could be a bit more fancy and give exact measurements, but it is what it is.

Close the bag and you are done. If you like cheese on your salad, you can add that in the bagged salad or when you dump the salad out. If you are into salad dressing, you can put that into a little container to take with your salad.

Easy peasy! Even better, you can eat it in the bag if you want or dump it into a bowl/plate. You can eat it with your fingers if you don't care what others think! Although I wouldn't if you put salad dressing on it. That might get messy.

Use your garden produce in this recipe! Snapped green beans, chunks of kohlrabi, chopped carrots, and summer squash would taste wonderful as well as the ingredients listed!

Give this a try and let me know how it works for you! Let me know what combinations you used!

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Corn Casserole

This week's recipe is brought to you today from almost any cookbook my mom has made for family or me. This is a popular recipe with my kids, my family, those that eat it outside of the family, friends, etc. My kids absolutely love it!

Here is the disclaimer: if you are an organic, whole foods, all-natural person, be prepared to turn your head or revamp the recipe. Consumer and convenience food friendly is where this casserole is at! However, many adjustments can be made to this recipe to fit your particular lifestyle. 

This is also a one-dish recipe. Stand on your chairs and sing hallelujah! I love one-dish recipes! A dutch oven or large skillet works great!

Corn Casserole

1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
onion, salt, and pepper to taste 
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can creamed corn
2-2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

1. Brown the ground beef with the onion and seasonings. Drain the fat if you wish to. The leaner the ground beef, the better off you are. I use a 90% lean ground beef and don't drain the fat. I think it adds more flavor.

2. Add the cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and creamed corn. Mix well.

3. Add the elbow macaroni and mix well. 

4. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly and the macaroni is done. The top will get a bit crunchy sometimes. 

Serves 4-6. For my family, I just double it. They become very healthy eaters when this is on the table!

Now for the tips, suggestions, and substitutions:
1. You can substitute ground turkey in this. It tastes delicious.
2. I tend to use a seasoning salt that does not contain MSG in place of the salt and pepper. I like it better.
3. You can use dried onion or real onion. Your choice.
4. You can make your own cream soup of mushroom/chicken if you wish. It would really up the healthy/nutritional value.
5. We use veggie elbow macaroni and love it. The kids almost prefer it that way and the color helps it look prettier. I have also been known to use other kinds of pasta to use up ends of boxes. As long as it isn't egg noodles or a long noodle-y type pasta (spaghetti), you should be good.

Good luck with our family favorite! 

Have a great day! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Baked Rigatoni

This week I am labeling Thursday with a theme! I hope to keep this up the whole year because this is a theme I can get with. Every Thursday I will be sharing a recipe with you all that comes from my ever-growing cookbook collection. In the challenge of trying to eat healthier while still retaining the simple cooking methods that I love (one-dish meals rock!), I will be sharing recipes that I find family pleasing and good for you too.

To credit where credit is due, I got this idea from Stacy Makes Cents. Please check out her blog because it is the real deal! I love it!

Today's recipe is from the cookbook, Saving Dinner: The Menu, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table by Leanne Ely. The cookbook has been a lifesaver and I have a tendency to buy copies of it for those people I think need it.

This recipe is one of my family's favorites from it, but they never remember me making it because they always ask what I am making. I tell them. They don't remember. They eat and they remember. They love it. Silly kids.

Baked Rigatoni

1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 cup oats
1 jar or 4 cups spaghetti/pasta sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
3 cups rigatoni, cooked
1/2-1 cup shredded mozzarella or pizza blend cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

If you haven't started already, get your water boiling for the rigatoni. When the water is boiling, dump the rigatoni in. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then start the meat.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, brown ground beef. When browned, drain any grease and, if you would like, use a paper towel to blot the meat to get more fat out. I personally like the flavor and with the beef I have from the local farmer, I rarely have to drain the fat.

Add the oats to the meat and mix well. Mix in the spaghetti/pasta sauce and cottage cheese. Mix well. Add in the cooked rigatoni and mix well again.

Here is where I take the fork in the road. If I have company over, I will put the mixture in a 11"x7" greased pan. If I am feeding the hungry minions, I mean kids, I will leave the mixture in the skillet. Sprinkle both cheeses on the top of the mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and melted. Serve!

This feeds 6 people, but might be wise to have some bread and a green salad to go with it. Especially if you have growing kids.

Some substitutions and additions:
Italian sausage for ground beef
Marinara sauce for spaghetti/pasta sauce
Romano or Pecorino cheese for Parmesan cheese
Additions: cooked spinach, mushrooms, garlic, onions

I rarely mess with this recipe because I have kids who are not found of unknown things in their food. They like it when I stick to the recipe and do not make many additions, but they do make exceptions for garlic. Good kids.

Some of you might also be wondering about the oats. The oats are an odd ingredient in this recipe, however, they add fiber and replace some of the bulk from the meat. You will hardly know they are in there. I use quick-cooking oats or rolled oats depending of what I have on hand at the moment. The quick-cooking oats cook up faster and are much less noticeable. I prefer the rolled oats because they are better for us as a grain.

Please let me know what you think of this! We love it and I hope you do too!

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dehydrating Onions

Let me help you save some money and make you think you are a frugal genius! I used to be one of those that bought dried chopped onions in the grocery stores paying anywhere from $.99 to $3.99 for a container of that stuff. Then I got my mom's old dehydrator. I played around with the dehydrator and put it away not realizing its invaluable contribution to our household. Silly, silly me. 

One day I ran out of dried chopped onion which I use frequently, especially when I need to hide the onion used in the dish from my kids. I knew they would know I used real, un-dried onion and practically refuse to eat the delicious casserole I had prepared. I need a solution. 

Voila! Dry my own onions! 


This is easy, peasy! First of all, you want to chop up an onion to the size pieces that work for you. I leave a few bigger pieces, but I like small pieces. Remember the pieces will shrink!

 (Sorry about the scuzzy cutting board. I did remedy that problem already!)

 Then, depending on your dehydrator screens, you might need parchment paper or something to keep the onions from falling through the holes. Especially when they dry.

Lay out the onions so you can fit as much as possible while keeping them in a single layer. My dehydrator will do one onion chopped. I know it doesn't seem like much, but one onion takes up a lot of room chopped.

Load up the screens into the dehydrator. (I will spare you the picture of my ancient dehydrator.) Depending on your dehydrator, the drying process can take from 12-24 hours. 

**Very important** Unless you truly, truly love the smell of onions, place your dehydrator in the garage, shed, outside somewhere, or anywhere that is not your house. Not that I have done it in the house, but it will give your house a "lovely" onion-y smell for quite awhile if you do dry them in the house!

Now find an old jar or a pretty jar that you kept because it was pretty *ahem*, and fill it with the dried onion. It is actually pretty in the jar! Use when needed!

Finally, I get to give you a hint: a little of this goes a long way. If you are used to using the store-bought stuff, you will find that you need less of the homemade dried onions. They are a bit more potent than the store-bought stuff and give better flavor to the dish than store-bought.

The cost-savings on this is pretty decent. If you have your own homegrown onions, this will cost little to nothing for you. If your onions did not grow this year (yeah, me), I have been able to buy 3 pounds bags of onions on sale for $1.49. Those bags usually hold 7-9 onions and I use one for drying, this will cost me about $.18. Pretty good savings!

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!


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