Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Hack Test: Vegetable Storage

Right, so this hack test took a while, mainly because I wanted to test some longer term storage solutions/hacks for vegetables.

So, today the hacks/tricks that I tested out were...

1.  The Onion Pantyhose Trick

I put to the test a trick that my culinary mentor, Alton Brown, proposed on his old show "Good Eats", which was if you store onions in a pantyhose they'll last for months without spoiling.  Well, I had done this with much smaller amounts of onions in my old house, but they were out in the air and while they lasted okay, but I wanted to actually do the deed right, which meant storing the onions somewhere dry and dark while in the pantyhose. I took some old running pantyhose and put some precious sweet onions I'd gotten at Costco in the pantyhose and hung it up in my pantry to see how they'd fair.  For contrast I stored some onions (same type) at the same time in an open basket in my kitchen (exposed to light, etc) and waited to see what happened.

The Results?

Well, I quickly realized the disadvantage of the pantyhose trick/hack.  Once you put five big onions in a leg of pantyhose...it takes quite a meaty nail going into solid wood to hang those suckers or you are going to have onions falling very quickly.   And trying to find somewhere to hang them isn't easy if you have a pantry like mine which is located under the staircase.

Then you have this problem:

I had two onions sprout on me out of five and the one seen here was in pretty short order.  They were also in the middle of the onion "chain", so I had a problem on my hands.  I ended up having to cut the chain in half the first time to get the sprouting onion out and the second one I ended up having to take the onions down because it was just so far up the chain it wasn't worth trying to keep the chain in tact. The second onion is HUGE plant-wise, so I'm just going to plant it and see if I can at least get green onions during the summer out of it.  Here's hoping.

But, anyway, the onions in the kitchen actually fared pretty well in comparison.  I had one onion sprout and develop soft spots but it took a while.  Otherwise the onions did find just parked in a basket in the corner of my kitchen.  AND I actually saw them day in and day out, so I was much more likely to use them up in comparison to the pantyhose onions (which is exactly what happened actually...the kitchen onions have been gone for like a month now).

So, I can't really say if the pantyhose gave me an extra month of life on the onions or not, but considering how much you have to go through to do the pantyhose trick...honestly I don't think it's worth it.

Now mind you, I am in a relatively dry home in a pretty dry climate.  This trick might work fabulously in a high humid climate where you have to worry about rotting veggies more than I do up here in Alaska.  So, if you want, give it a try in your climate and see what happens.  Me?  I'll stick with the kitchen basket, and the freezer when the onions start sprouting.

Next up I tested a few more "storage solutions" for veggies.  I'm just going to give synopsis and if they worked or not.
1.  Carrots stored in sand in the fridge will last longer than storing them in your veggie drawer.
Nope.  Didn't work a lick for me compared to just storing them in the drawer.  But, I have a humidity control on my veggie drawer, so that might help.   This probably works better in root cellars and such with a more "earth" type of temp to it maybe, but I didn't notice any difference in lifespan of my carrots doing it.  And it was a huge pain in the keester finding room for a container with sand it in just for carrots in my fridge.
2.  An apple stored with potatoes will stop them from sprouting.
Totally didn't work for me.  At all.  I did the experiment with russets.  Didn't stop them from sprouting in about a week and if anything I think the apple helped some of them to actually go mushy.  Not doing that again.

So, there you are folks.  Some hacks I tested out and the results.  Do with them what you will.

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store AND Yard Sale Finds)

This week, I've got to be honest with you has been depressing for me.  Money has got me carrying around a paper bag as not to hyperventilate (exaggerating, but not by much), I'm worried about insurance renewal delays with my daughter (don't want to get holding THAT bag if something should go wrong with the renewal paperwork) and when it comes to just general life stuff...this week has just been...ugh.

But, looking at the bright side of things, I couldn't believe the things I scored over the weekend that were on my yard sale and thrift store list.  I even found a couple of the, "there is no way in Heck I'm ever going to find these, but..." list (and yes, that's actually how I have it written down *laugh*).

Above is the culmination of three yard sales we hit on Saturday (with the exception of the nutmeg grater...that was a thrift store find for .50).  Everything above cost me less than 10.00 total and made me very happy.

What did I get?  At the first yard sale I got...
A wooden planter (not shown).  
I plan to use it for planting some flowers or perhaps some of the herbs I got to plant as my daughter really wants to help me with gardening this year (yay!), so I figure giving her the planter to plant "her" plants, will help to cultivate some responsibility for her.
1 deep dish Pyrex pie dish
I've been looking for one of these for a while to have for home made apple pie and stuff.  I love my regular sized pie dishes, don't get me wrong, but it's hard to beat a pie dish that can also double as a round cake pan as well (which is great since my non-stick cake pans are pretty much gone the way of Elvis at this point and I desperately need new ones).
1 Tupperware pouring storage container
A lot of people use these things for lemonade and stuff.  I love them for storing pasta in the pantry as the wide mouth on the storage container helps the pasta pour out a LOT better.
1 Splatter Screen
Brand spanky new.  The gal running the yard sale said it was too awkward to store so it had never been used.  This was one of those things on the "never going to find it" list.  I've needed a new one of these for YEARS but was always too cheap to shell out for a new one, so this was a welcome find.
1 Silver Plated serving spoon
This was kind of an impulse, but it was so pretty and would be perfect for serving jello (the slots help the jello not just STICK to the spoon and makes it easier to serve).
1 really nice quality whisk (which isn't seen because I forgot it and had put it away).  
I am in kind of desperate need of new whisks too as I use them all the time and kind of *ahem* abuse them a bit (mixing muffin batter and stuff with a small whisk seems to somehow beat them up a bit...oops).  So, that was a cool find!

Total spent:  5.00

The second yard sale we hit that I got stuff at had a bunch of crafting supplies out and such.  I was able to get...
Knitting needles from size 1 to 5
I have knitting needles from like size seven up and have been meaning to fill in the gaps in my collection so I could do more things like knitting socks and such, but just didn't want to shell out the masses of money to get that done.  These were .10 per pair, so it was SO worth waiting!  These have been on my yard sale list for years, so it was cool to find them all in one day!

The rest, since it's in the sun is KIND of hard to see, but I was able to get a bunch of embroidery floss (.05 per skein), some quilt binding (always good to have), some leaf buttons and a bag of little baskets (not sure what I am going to do with those, but it was .05 and mini things always make good toy ideas later).

My husband also got me a set of novelty measuring spoons with things like "dash", "smidgen", etc on them for .50 out of his own pocket money.  Not shown because my son stole them before I could get the picture *laugh*.

Total spent:  They called it an even 2.00.

At the third yard sale I was able to get a free toy for my daughter (I always look in the "free" boxes!) and the above seen can of evaporated milk (no joke, it was in the free box).  It only expired this month, but should be good for a while anyway (it's canned, so I'm not too worried here).

I was also able to score the above two yellow Tupperware containers at that garage sale for 1.00 a piece.  I put my flour and sugar in them and put them on my counter to "change up" the kitchen a bit and to brighten things up (I have a small kitchen so every little bit helps).  They look really cute.

So total spent for all above:  9.00

Sunday we went out again just to get my son out of the house (he goes kind of bonkers if kept inside too much over  the weekend and LOVES car rides) and hit a bunch of yard sales.  We didn't find much, but what we did find was pretty cool!

I got a food mill at one yard sale for 3.00!!!  I seriously never thought in a million years I'd find one of these in working order and for such a cheap price at a yard sale.  This was definitely in the "no way in Heck am I ever going to find this" category.  This is going to make canning go a LOT smoother!  So, I was thrilled to say the least!

1 vintage aluminum ladle.  My husband convinced me to get it since it was .05.  I cleaned it up and put it in with my vintage kitchen stuff.

We got a BUNCH of VHS tapes for 100% free!  One yard sale we hit the woman was just trying to get rid of the VHS tapes and so all of them were free.  My son LOVES VHS tapes right now as a way to show preferences and ask for different things (important for his development), so I grabbed some.  My daughter is loving the Blue's Clues VHS we didn't have and the Bob the Builder tapes.  My son is much preferring the "Return of the King" VHS.  It's kind of cute, actually.

So, total spent for the entire weekend:  12.05

So, there you have it folks.  A good week on the getting things used front, which is good since I'm not going to be able to afford to hit the used stores and stuff here in the next little bit due to money strangulation issues, so at least I was able to get some good stuff in the meantime :).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Super Easy Chili


This is a recipe that my husband declared was the best chili he'd ever eaten.  Which made me feel awesome.  Doubly so because it is so darned easy to make!  I like to raid my pantry for this as I tend to forget chili is on the menu until sorting, rinsing and cooking beans before I even start the chili isn't really a viable idea.

Just to warn you, though, this makes a HUGE pot of chili, so if you have a smaller family, be prepared to freeze some of it when it's done.

Enjoy!!!


Super Easy Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (or, if you'd prefer, 3 cups of tomato sauce could be used)
  • 2 cans petite diced tomatoes with liquid (15 oz cans)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 can white kidney beans, with liquid
  • 3 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. chile powder (ground chiles not chili powder) or Cheyenne pepper, optional
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced 
  • 3 TBS dehydrated onion or 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • Olive oil

Procedure:
1.  Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a preheated 8 quart stock pot.  Once oil is hot, add beef, celery, garlic and onion (if using fresh). Cook until beef is browned.

2. Add everything else to pot (including dehydrated onion if using instead of fresh).  Return contents to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours). 

Serve with grated cheese on top and with corn bread (if you wish).

Serves a small army or (estimating) a typical teenage boy.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 4/27/15

Well, Monday is here again and that means a new menu plan!  My husband is going to be home again nights for a while, so this week's menu is going to be a bit more elaborate than it has been (mainly because, honestly, I was kind of tired of eating just Wow Butter and Jelly Sandwiches and such *laugh*).  So, here we go!!!

Menu Plan for Week of 4/27/15

Monday:  Easy Stuffed Roast with Country Gravy (recipe coming this week, hopefully)

Tuesday:  Crock Pot Chicken, rice, salad

Wednesday:   Creamy Gnocchi With Bacon and Peas

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Easy Chicken Parmesan

Saturday:  Shrimp Cocktail, salad, french fries

Sunday:  Chicken Pot Pie (this blog may become 1001 ways to cook chicken very quickly...it's one of the few things in my freezer right now *sigh*)
Desserts:  Jello salad with whipped topping, apple pie

Breakfasts (out of the ordinary):  Bran muffins, Migas (using broken taco shells)


And there you have it folks, our menu plan for the week.  Any interesting things on the menu at your house this week?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

It has been a roller coaster of a week around here.  Things were going pretty well on the money saving front and then my husband hit some construction yesterday on the commute into work, wiped out one of the tires my sister and brother-in-law had given us, and after two tires (one to replace the really in bad shape spare) we now have 325.00 on our Sears card...the most money we've had on that card in years.  Depressing.  But, at least my husband got tires and wasn't hurt.

But, there was some good thing that happened this week too, so let's focus on those, shall we?
1.  I was able to score the veggies and fruit seen up top for a little over 5.00.  My sister-in-law turned me onto a local discount outlet and one of the things they deep discount is fruits and veggies from local restaurants and such.  So, we were out in the area last Saturday and decided to stop by and see if we could find anything.  I was able to get...
  •  One HUGE bag of spinach (this cost me 1.00!)
  • 1 bag of baby carrots (a 2 lb bag at that)
  • 1 thing of grapes (2 and a half pounds worth by my kitchen scale)
  • 1 large bag of Yukon gold potatoes
 All for 5.00.  I got home and immediately processed the spinach by blanching and freezing it as some of it was going slimy (which is why it was 1.00 I'm sure).  I managed, after cleaning it thoroughly a few times and processing it, to get 8 side dish sized bags worth of spinach in the freezer to use for meals later.  A truly awesome find!

2.  I made all of our meals at home, which saved us money.

3.  I had a 7.00 off of a 35.00 purchase to Fred Meyer's to use on their generic store lines (which is really rare to get coupons on generic store items period, let alone a high value coupon like that).  I had been holding onto it for months, waiting for the right time to use it, and since this was double rewards points week at Fred Meyer, I figured now was a good time to use it.  I was so happy with my purchases.  I was able to get eggs, milk, a 25 lb bag of flour, tea, snacks, some bacon and such and walked out spending 50.00 for a lot of shelf stable foods and things I actually needed.  I felt good about what I spent that day and got some shopping goals for the month accomplished while I was at it.

4.  Now that spring and summer are finally approaching, I figured now was the time to start making the kids clothes for summertime.  I made the following this week...

A summer dress with a flowing type of top to it.  This was a pattern that went awry on me due to poor directions that came with the pattern, but I was able to salvage the "shirt" pattern into a dress for my daughter.  I now know the shortcomings of the pattern, so I THINK I can make it into a decent dress and shirt pattern in future attempts, but we shall see.

Two skirts.  I used Simplicity 9611 Easy to Sew Girls Casual Wardrobe pattern for the skirts, although the original pattern called for a tie string waist and I went with a elastic waist instead.  It was more user friendly for my daughter and honestly, a lot less work for me.  I like how this pattern goes from a size 7 to a size 16 (at least the one I do does), so it'll come in handy over the next few years.  And the skirts were super quick to put together too, so that was a nice bonus.

The skirts came out super cute, too.  You can't really see it in the pictures, but I had some fabric I bought at a used store that had ballet slippers all over it.  It was an adorable fabric, but I didn't have much of it, so this ended up being the perfect project to use it on.  The other skirt I made from a sheet that I had gotten for free from a yard sale (it had been the last day and they just offered us stuff for free when we stopped to look at the end of the day).  I went to use the sheet for fabric to find a few holes in the sheet as well as some old mildew stains, but was able to work around it to make the skirt.  Sad as I was hoping to get a lot more workable fabric out of the sheet, but I might bleach the remainder and see if I can get rid of the mildew stains to the point I could use the fabric that is left.  Here's hoping anyway.

I also made her a pair of capris out of the same fabric as her dress, so she can wear the pants under it and use it like a tunic shirt if she doesn't want to wear leggings under the dress.  And I made her sleep shorts out of a lightweight sheet that I found at a used store a while back that had a cute butterfly pattern on it (they came out super cute too).

The pants and shorts I made using Simplicity Child's Pajama Pattern #5809 .  I have gotten quite the soft spot for Simplicity patterns the more I sew (very user friendly), but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this pattern!!!  Not only does it give you options for more traditional pajamas (which I plan to utilize for Christmas if my son is still in a size 8 *fingers crossed*), but they have a shirt pattern for a t-shirt, both summer and winter type of PJ's, a slipper pattern AND sleeping bags!  I got my pattern at a used store for .10 a while back and I'll tell  you what, I wouldn't trade it for the world!

To make capris I just hemmed the pants really high up.  It worked well.

I still have to make my son a couple of pairs of sleep pants for cooler weather, but I feel good with what I accomplished.

5.  I shopped sales and used coupons to get the most value for my dollars that I could.  

And there you have it folks.  My frugal adventures for the week.  How did you do?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store Finds)

It has been a while since I posted up things that I found at the thrift stores.  Main reason?  There really hasn't been money to GO thrift store shopping and I haven't found overly much to woohoo about the last little bit.  Until this week.  I managed to find my son a couple pairs of pants and a few t-shirts for summer (two of which were on sale for .50 a piece).

We (husband included here) also found some cool non-clothing things this week!

What we got last Saturday is seen above.

Way back when I was in high school (we'll just say a great many years ago and leave it at that) I used to as one of my jobs make jewelery.  I made a decent supplemental income into college doing the occasional piece for people, usually with bead work involved.  It's been a great many years since I got rid of my bead loom, but I am a now loyal blog follower of The Prudent Homemaker and seeing the jewelery she made for her children for birthdays and such really inspired me to get back on the jewelery making bandwagon (as it were ;).

I found beads really cheap at the used stores over the years and have picked them up with the intention of doing something with them.  Back in high school I used to do beadwork and such with just a pair of needle nose pliers and some really thick calluses on my fingers.  But, my husband, a tool guy, knows that you should have these things called "tools" to do jobs with (go figure) and picked me up the tools you see above.  One pair of jeweler pliers/crimpers that are definitely old, a pair of cutters and a pair of pliers.  All three cost him less than a dollar total at a pawn shop (he picked them up with a few other things and got a good price).

My biggest finds were some metal charms that I found for .50 a package and the best find of all, for me, were these...

I found a package of four napkin rings at my favorite used store.  There were a lot of different types of napkin rings there that day (I think someone collected them and were thinning their collection), but these caught my eye.  They were in a baggie for .50, but I couldn't really see much of them other than they were covered in tarnish.  Thinking that maybe they were pewter, I grabbed the package (that and I loved the idea of having snowflake napkin rings for wintertime).

When we got home my husband and I cleaned the napkin rings up with some tarnish remover.  My first surprise was realizing that each snowflake was different, just like real snowflakes!  And on closer inspection, we realized that the rings were hand made.  There were small imperfections in width of the metal, tool marks where someone had cut parts of the snowflakes out and even small mistakes where the person was able to save their design, but barely (where they cut things REALLY close)

They cleaned up to a high shine and were actually pretty hard, although they did bend, so my husband and I are relatively certain they aren't pewter like I originally thought.  They don't taste metallic if you put one in your mouth and they tarnish, so we're assuming they are some type of silver plated material.

Either way though they were .50 for all four of them and I absolutely adore them :).

I hope your adventures in bargain hunting went well this week!  We had fun with ours!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu Plan for Week 4/20/15



So, the menu plan is late this week primarily because of a severe migraine I had all day yesterday.  Somehow, planning meals for the week just didn't sound good when I felt like my head was going to come off my shoulders at any moment *laugh*.

So, here's the menu plan for this week.  There are some simple meals planned out as I'm really busy around the house this week trying to recover it from us not being home much this weekend (my son needed to get out) and trying to get some other things done.

Menu Plan for Week 4/20/15

Monday:  French Dips  (use up left over home made bread)

Tuesday:  Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches (using ham from freezer from Easter Ham)

Wednesday:  Turkey and Vegetable soup, biscuits, parsley honey

Thursday:  Grilled Chicken, salad, super baked potatoes

Friday:  Sheppard's Pie

Saturday:  Home Made Ham and Pineapple Pizza (ham from freezer and pineapple from pantry)

Sunday:  Leftovers

Breakfasts (out of the ordinary):  Honey Bran Muffins

Desserts:  Apple crisp, Rosehip Jelly Thumbprint cookies

Friday, April 17, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

This was a week where I actually felt good about the money I saved, but in different ways.

And some of those ways were...

1.  Probably the most exciting "bonus" of the week was getting a flyer in the mail for a local car dealership promotion where if you got three cars scratched off you had a "winner" card (which we all know all of the flyers were winners).  You had a chance of winning up to 25,000.00 or a couple of gift cards to local shopping centers and stuff.  Everyone who showed up with a flyer, though, was assured at least a 5.00 giftcard to Wal-Mart.  So we went and dealt with the sales pitch.  And got a 5.00 giftcard (which we were expecting.  Our luck doesn't run big ;).

2.  I found .50 at a local parking lot and had been holding onto it for weeks (I know, isn't that sad?) hoping to find something cool maybe at a yard sale.  But, I found something very cool at the thrift store for .50.  A metal embroidery hoop.  I've had this on my yard sale and thrift store list for a few years now as they aren't made any longer, and this one was perfect.  It even had the cork lining in tact.  For .50.  So, after the money I'd found in the parking lot the embroidery hoop was free (people give me a hard time sometimes about looking down when I walk, until I find things ;).  Good day that was.

3.  One of the things I love to do is decorate the house with my kid's artwork.  My daughter had made some adorable portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln when she was in first grade, so I really wanted to frame them, but waited for a good price on frames.  I found some at a thrift store for .25 a piece, but the reason they were so cheap was that they were a REALLY bright shade of blue.  So, a couple of coats of black acrylic paint that I had around the house from various other projects and voila!  Nice new black frames to put the artwork in.  They look cute with the rest of the artwork.

4.  I cooked meals at home, which per usual saved us some money.

5.  Took parsley I had in the fridge and made Parsley Honey so now I have "honey" which I was running out of to eat with meals, so it was a cool experiment to be sure.

6.  I bought my kids a couple of things they needed at the used stores that I didn't feel confident making (like bathing suits).  10.00 later and both of my kids have two swim suits, I have a couple of sheets to turn into pajamas for summer, etc.

7.  I mended a couple of pairs of pants that I had, so I could use them for cleaning around the house (they are pretty beat, so they aren't really pants I wear out of the house unless I'm in a hurry).

8.  We went to my daughter's school for a function tonight where we got to see some museum exhibits (the Anchorage Museum came out with some cool stuff) and kids could get free ice cream and a book when it was over.  My son couldn't have the ice cream (peanuts), but both kids scored a book out of the deal and my daughter got an ice cream.  My mother and father-in-law came with as well to have some fun.  There were lots of experiments for the kids to do (my son liked the electromagnetic light globe thing) and lots of things to see.  And it was completely free through the school.  It was a pretty cool event!

9.  When I went to the used store today where I got the kids bathing suits and stuff, I decided to lock up my car afterwards and just take a walk.  It was windy, but beautiful out and it felt good to just walk without worrying about everything for a little bit.

10.  I have started to actively follow Freebie Friday on Fred Meyer/Kroger's coupon site and since I had to do shopping today anyway, I got a free iced tea out of the deal with my E-Coupon.  I drank it while on my walk.  

11.  I shopped sales, used coupons and such when I went shopping, which saved me some money as well.

So, there are some of the ways that I saved money this week.  How did you do?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Parsley Honey

I readily admit, with the exception of summer when I can pick my herbs all summer long at my leisure and use them a bit at at time as I need for cooking and baking, when it comes to buying herbs, more often than not I use the little bit I need for a recipe and then the next thing I know I have some slime in the fridge that used to be something resembling an herb.

So, when I came across an old British WWII rationing recipe for Parsley Honey, I got really intrigued.  All the recipe really consists of is parsley, sugar and lemon juice.  And it is supposed to taste like clover honey.  Well, I immediately looked at the recipe and thought, "Huh, herb infused water, sugar and acid.  Add pectin and you'd have jelly.  Add less pectin and...hey that's it!"  So, I came up with a slightly different variation of the original recipe to accommodate canning.

Just a word to the wise.  If in doubt, air on the side of liquidy.  It's better to can a liquid syrup and then just have to throw your jar into a pan and boil it for a few minutes to make honey than over boil your mixture and either end up with jelly.  Which, really, jelly is great and all, but not what we are shooting for here.

This recipe calls for pectin because I wanted to take out a bit of an insurance policy and stick as close to a traditional jelly recipe as possible, but I just wanted to make sure that it was a really really soft setting recipe (thus honey texture and one box of pectin instead of two).  If you don't want to can this recipe, just boil the mixture sans pectin until it is a thick syrup consistency (I'd go for 2 cups parsley water, 2 cups sugar and juice of 1 lemon.  That will give you a pint sized jar of honey about).  It will thicken as it sits in the fridge, so just be aware of that when you make it.

I was pleasantly surprised by parsley honey.  It really DOES taste like honey.  Kind of neat, actually and a great use for parsley.

So, here you are folks.  Yet another way to use up extra parsley from your garden.  Enjoy!


Parsley Honey (adapted from Original WWII recipe for Parsley Honey)

Ingredients:
  • 6 cups Parsley Water (recipe below)
  • 8 cups sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 box low sugar or no sugar pectin (this gives you a nice soft set)
Procedure:
Prepare canner, jar and lids by safe canning practices as stated in your canner instructions.

Place parsley water, lemon juice and pectin in a pan and whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Add sugar all at once and whisk to combine (this will take a few minutes to incorporate).

Bring mixture back to a rolling boil (a boil that can not be stirred down) for one full minute.

Pour mixture into hot, sterilized jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove lid of canner and let sit another five minutes.  Remove jars to a tea towel or other insulated surface to cool.

Let cool completely and check seals.  Any jar that does not seal should be placed in the fridge and used immediately.

Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year for optimum quality.  Makes approximately 8, 4 oz. jars.  Use as you would honey.

***************
  
Parsley Water:
  • 4 large bunches (approx. 8 oz) fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • water to cover
Place parsley in pan and add enough water to cover.  Boil for 1/2 hour.  Let cool.  Strain.  Add enough water to reach 6 cups liquid or pour out enough to reach 6 cups.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for the week of 4/13/15

Wow...I really need to post more.  Sorry for the lack thereof.  I've been super busy doing things like organizing my crafting/sewing space and getting ready for some projects I really want to get to work on.  And then today my Amazon.com order came in with all of my Subscribe and Save order, so reorganizing the pantry was definitely in the cards (and I've still got more to do tomorrow on that).

So, anyway, here is the menu plan for this week.  I'm trying to stick to a pretty simple menu this week as I have a lot to do and catch up on around here.

Menu Plan for Week of 4/13/15
Monday:  Steak, potato salad, coleslaw (using up some leftovers on the side dishes)

Tuesday:  Bratwurst with sauerkraut (home canned) and mustard.  Potato chips.

Wednesday:  BBQ chicken (crock pot), mashed potatoes, green beans

Thursday:  Cider pork roast (crock pot), leftover mashed potatoes, apple sauce (from freezer)

Friday:  Tacos

Saturday:  Hamburgers, french fries, cabbage salad

Sunday:  Corned beef, cabbage, carrots and turnips (crock pot)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (With a Laundry Remodel for Free!)

This will be explained.  Read on.
Wow!  What a week.  Had a sick kiddo home with allergies.  Had allergies myself.  Tried to get stuff done anyway (which, I proudly got a lot accomplished since the kiddo went back to school).  But, anyway, here we are and it's Friday again!  So, time to share how I saved money this week.

1.  The biggest way we saved money this week was doing stuff that needed to be done around here.  My husband built a lumber rack on the side of our "barn" (an old barn we inherited when we moved here...barn is used in a loose sense of the word...it's kind of like a big shed that is missing one side) with lumber and materials he already had around the house.

We also redid our laundry room for free.  This, proudly, was my idea.  We've had an old baby gate, that is a good solid piece of metal, that we moved from our old house three years ago.  It's been sitting in the space between my washer and the wall since then.  I've used it like a really pathetic drying rack for clothes since it was there and all (since only like four inches above the washer were useable and only about four inches in front of the washer were useable space), but I kept hoping we could do something better.  And then it came to me that why not wall mount the thing with eye bolts to act as hinges, hang it at a good level and then mount a few lengths of chain from the ceiling (solidly in studs mind you) with some type of "S" hook on the end of the chain so I could simply swing the drying rack up and let it hang from the ceiling.  That way when not in use I could just swing it back down to lay flat on the wall (where I could use it to hang minor things from if needed).

A couple of things worked in my favor with this idea.  One:  My husband thought it was a good idea (always good).  Two:  The baby gate in question already had hinges (my husband pointed this out to me while giving me a look like I should know that...and I should have since the baby gate was a swinging baby gate...oops), so that saved me having to find eye bolts that would work and taking apart baby gate in question, etc.  And three:  My husband found studs that lined up with the hinges so we have everything in good solid wood (woot!).

My husband then disappeared into the garage and found some chain and some heavy gauge wire to use and voila!  My dreams were realized.

Here's a pic of it all hung up and in use...



While we were mounting that I pulled out a over the door ironing board that I've had wrapped still in the original store wrapping, no joke, since 2005.  I had bought it for our old house when we moved into it thinking that it was a regular small ironing board, only to realize I'd gotten the wrong thing when I went to iron.  So, I sat on it, hoping my husband could figure out something to do with it.  When I was, once again, ironing on a towel sitting on top of my washer, I asked him if he could mount the ironing board somewhere.  We both decided above the washer and dryer would work well because it swings down to a few inches above the washer and dryer when down and otherwise it is out of the way when up.  Since I have a laundry room the size of a small closet that is half taken up by a freezer and a hot water heater and then one wall taken up by electrical panels...yeah...space is limited. 

Couple that with some Rubbermaid shoe boxes (we have tons of them around from our old house..no closets, so it was one way we could stay somewhat organized) to put bathroom supplies, sponges and other things in and some creative rearranging of laundry supplies and such (including using some cloth drawers I had around here from other projects that fell through) and I have a fully functional laundry room now!  So, yay for a free laundry room remodel :).

2.  I was able to add a bit to my Amazon.com order this month when I found 20 boxes of pasta on the cheap (with a coupon you could stack on top of it).  After coupon and the 15% off I was saving from ordering five items or more, I was able to get 20 boxes of pasta for 10.00 and some change.  I was thrilled as my kids have been blowing through the pasta around here.  Remember, stalking Amazon has it's upside.

3.  I opened our phone bill to find that our internet had been upgraded to 100 gigs a month vs. 70 for no additional money.  I am in awe at my phone company right now as it is so rare to get MORE for your money on anything anymore.  But, I was thrilled as I've started watching Sherlock on PBS.org while doing dishes or knitting (it's my "mom" time when the kids are at school ;).

4.  I've been drinking water more to save the more expensive beverages for the kids when possible and to conserve my tea and coffee more.

5.  I finally started going through my children's dressers and pulling clothes that are too small for them.  I also set aside their old too small winter coats and their old gym shoes (since they are in like new condition) to start getting yard sale materials together.  As soon as it gets warm (they are actually predicting snow this weekend...blech!!!!!) enough I'll start to go through our storage van and other things to see what else we can sell.  Even if we only make a couple hundred bucks during a yard sale at this point, it's money we didn't have before.

6.  I've been enjoying taking the kids out to play, when possible to enjoy the nice weather and save electricity.

7.  I cooked all of our meals at home which once again saved us money from eating out.

8.  I knitted a couple more pot holders to replace ones that had gotten ratty and worn over the years (I finally got the pattern down so I can share that tutorial soon).

And there you are folks.  My money saving accomplishments this week.  How did you do?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for week of 4/6/15


Another Monday is here and that means making up a new menu plan.  This week's menu has some shake up recipe and I think it will be kind of fun.
Monday:  Baked Chicken, Au Gratin potatoes, collard greens (using up some left overs from Easter on the side dishes)

Tuesday:  Ham salad sandwiches, home made potato chips

Wednesday: French Toast, fried ham, sliced hard boiled eggs

Thursday:  Mantay (using ground lamb)

Friday:  Chicken and gravy over biscuits

Saturday:  Brined pork roast, rice, cider glazed carrots (using home canned cider from the pantry)
Sunday:  Leftovers
 Desserts:  Iced Angel Food Cake, pudding/custard and canned fruit, ginger steamed pudding

Breakfasts (out of the ordinary):  Cranberry orange muffins

And there you have it folks.  Our menu for the week.  Hope it might inspire you to try something new! 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Frugal Fri...Er...Sunday: Money Saving Weekly Recap


First, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say "Happy Easter" everyone!

Frugal Friday is definitely late this week (oops).  We've been busy around here trying to get everything ready for Easter, working on the yard and other stuff (like Spring cleaning).  Then my kids decided to grow over the last week, so I had two kids in new sizes of shoes and both kids needing new pants (daughter) and new shirts (son).  Which meant hitting the thrift stores for some things and yard sales and such.

But, anyway, here another week is over with and it's time to recap ways I saved money this week.

So, this week:

1. I got free shampoo (seen above).  I had a 3.00/2 coupon for Suave that had printed off at the register one day.  I knew that Suave was normally pretty cheap, so I kept it.  This week Suave was on sale at Carrs, so I took the coupon in with me and found that the big bottles of Suave were on sale for 1.99 a bottle (I didn't want to get the smaller ones that were on sale for 1.25, because trying to explain to a cashier how to devalue a coupon down to where you get the item for free, but not get overage, can be a huge pain).  The coupon scanned no problem, but once I got out to my car I realized that I had a personalized price on the shampoo for 1.49.  And, for some odd reason, the coupon I'd loaded for Suave body wash got taken off as well.  So, I ended up getting two bottles of shampoo for free with .52 overage (inadvertent though it was).

2.  Instead of doing activities away from home, for the most part, we enjoyed playing outside around here.  The sun was shining all week and it was so nice to be able to play outside again.

3.  When we did go and do activities outside of the house, we went looking at yard sales to see if we could find some things on our lists of things we need/want to get this summer.  I didn't find much (although I did get some pants at the thrift store for my daughter), but my husband found a tool box for 5.00, so it was a pretty good weekend.

4.  I cooked all of our meals at home, so we saved money not eating out.

5.  Instead of spending money going to a car wash, my husband got my daughter to help him and they washed the family car and my husband's truck.  They came out looking really nice and we were able to save the 11.00 per car it would have cost to get them washed at the car wash (we don't have to pay for water currently).

6.  I've been battling a really nasty sinus cough (due to something in the air that is not agreeing with my sinuses this year) and I was taking a really expensive cough medicine to help combat it.  I was out so we went to the store yesterday and I carefully compared labels on the cough medicines and found one that was the same active ingredient as the cough medicine I was taking, but was about 1/5 of the price.  So, I spent 3.50 instead of 16.00.  The cough medicine works great, so I'm happy.

7.  I shopped sales to save money on groceries.  I got a couple of whole chickens for 5.00 at Carrs/Safeway on 5.00 Friday, got a spare ham for .30 less than the rest of the stores were charging, etc.

 8.  Turns out my husband's truck didn't need brakes like we thought.  Turns out he needed two new tires (this was not an improvement as when I learned the price of tires I got kind of ill).  Instead of trying to figure out how to pay for new and getting hives, I started calling and texting family members to see if anyone had spare tires we could have (my husband comes from a construction family...pretty much everyone in the family has multiple vehicles).  My sister-in-law, Jen, had two we could have (which was great since we had another two so we'll have two tires that match in the front and back of the truck).  When I offered to trade or pay them for the tires my sister and brother-in-law balked and told us not to worry about it.  I'm so making them something awesome for Christmas to thank them!
Also when I found out my kids needed new shoes (the son grew two sizes in shoes in two days...so keeping the next size up in shoes wasn't going to work) I called my mom who had offered to send the kids a care package for Easter.  I asked her if she'd be willing to order them shoes instead of candy and such and she said sure and ordered them some.  Just remember folks, when you need help, sometimes it just doesn't hurt to ask for help when you need it. 
9.  I fell in love with a Pottery Barn catalog product series on Peter Rabbit (I swear, Pottery Barn catalogs are great sources of inspiration).  I originally had thought to invite some of the cousins in the family over for a Peter Rabbit themed tea party, but all the females in the family were busy with other things (totally understandable).  I had originally thought to do some place mats and other little "Peter Rabbit" cute things for the tea party, but when that fell through I didn't see the point.  But, I still thought the catalog products were so cute and my kids LOVE Peter Rabbit and have been reading the books and watching the Peter Rabbit DVD's since they were born really.  So I figured, "Eh, why not" and made some Peter Rabbit themed cloth napkins anyway.  I used some unbleached muslin off of a big bolt I bought from JoAnns last year on a Black Friday special and then just made standard sized cloth napkins from it (I did 20 inch squares and then did a double fold hem on them, so I ended up with about 18 inch square napkins).  I made four of them and then embroidered different scenes from the story onto one corner of the napkins.  I did one a day the last four days in between therapies, school and doing household things.  I thought they turned out really cute (seen up top).  Total cost for making these was nothing as I already had all the materials around and my family loves them, so score there :).
So, yeah, that is what I've been up to this week on the money saving front.  How about you?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ways to Save Money on Easter Baskets



I thought I'd share a bit how the Easter Bunny visits my house to see if I can help others save a bit of money when they are doing them for their family (psst...make sure littles aren't around when you read this).

Above is the Easter basket my kids will be getting this year.  And thus, we lead to my first tip...

1.  Have a group Easter Basket.
Around here, the Easter Bunny doesn't deliver individual Easter baskets.  He grabs whatever basket is handy (in this case a large basket that I mainly use for holding large fruits when we buy them, such as pineapple) and fills it with his goodies.  And yes, he grabs ONE basket.  I don't feel a need for my kids to each have their own basket as it just takes more to fill it and honestly, the thought is there whether you fill individual baskets or not.

I have two children, a boy and a girl and a special needs boy at that.  So, it will be very obvious to my children which toys are theirs come Easter.  My son will grab his whether my daughter likes it or not and that will be that and she'll know that the other toys are hers.  If you have a few kids to worry about, you could just stick name tags on toys.  It'll still be easy, look good in the basket and save you money.

2. Try to make some of your own treats.
I do put some store bought candy (Starburst as they are safe for my son's peanut allergy) in a few Easter eggs into my kid's basket, mainly because for some odd reason my daughter loves the things...they don't last long without getting broken, but she loves playing with them none the less.  But, for the most part, I make my own Easter treats.

The chocolate rabbits in the basket above are from the same mold and actually didn't take many chocolate melts at all to make.  I have to special order chocolate from a nut free store online, so these save me tons of money instead of buying the pre-made allergy friendly bunnies instead.  The mold I picked up at a thrift store last year for .15, so it was definitely cost effective.


The wax paper wrapped treats (I ran out of cellophane bags a while ago, unless they are Christmas themed) are the above treats (with a shot of one of the Peter Rabbit themed napkins I'm embroidering for fun, each napkin has a different scene from the story...this one is Peter sneaking away to go to the garden instead of behaving himself :).  The treats are three marshmallows put on a lollipop stick.  I then dipped them in melted caramel, waited for that to set a bit and then dipped them in melted chocolate melts and covered them in sprinkles.  My husband tried one and immediately started making his own with spare supplies, so I think they'll be a hit.  I would love to take credit for the idea, but I stole the idea from a nut free candy catalog because I looked at what they were charging for the marshmallow treats and went, "Um, no."  Total cost to make these:  Nothing.  I had all the supplies around here.

Other years I've made chocolate truffles, or mini chocolate cupcakes.  Anything that you normally don't make that will make the holidays seem special, but with things you have around the house, will not only make your pocket book thank you, but will make your kids happy as well.

3.  I buy things I know my kids will use.
So many people buy things that are Easter themed, but things that the kids will love for a few days and that'll be that (saying the person who spent .99 on Easter eggs because her daughter will enjoy them for a week before they break *laugh*).  This year I got my son a wind up toy rabbit that jumps as he likes to watch things move (a dollar and some change on sale at the store), and a ball because he plays with balls constantly (.50 at a thrift store that I bought a while ago). 
For my daughter I bought her a mini kite  that she can drag around the yard to get to "fly" instead of her big one that she can't really get up in the air without help (1.49 at the store) and a stuffed bunny that I got at a thrift store, put through the washer for a bath and looks great (.50 at a used store because it had a minor stain on it, that I got out no problem just by washing it).  I know she'll pretend very quickly that the bunny is Rabbit's wife and that they have kids (probably stealing my son's wind up rabbit for a baby in the process) and she'll have fun with it for quite a while.  It works for me.  And I topped the entire basket off with a couple of bubble wands (on sale for .99 a piece at the store). 
The total cost for the basket tops out at about 5.00 total, but it looks like there is a LOT more money involved because it's all in one basket and I made home made treats to spruce up the interior.

The big thing is that the items will be used when it comes to the toys.  Sure, with the exception of the bunny, the items aren't really "Easter" but the kids won't care.

Some other ideas for home made treats/Easter things:
1.  Home made play dough.
2.  Home made "slime"
3.  Sugar cookies shaped like Easter objects.  Or if you don't have cookie cutters like that, cut out circular cookies and then decorate with some icing in a squeeze bottle to make them Easter themed.
4.  Treat "coupons"  (give them to your kids and let them be in charge of things you think they'll like.  For instance, "Choose a movie", "Choose the movie treat", "Dessert first", etc.  They are always a hit with kids).
5.  Home made paper dolls (there are LOTS of free online sites where you can print paper dolls for free, including Easter themed ones).
Use your imagination.  You might as well have fun with the holiday too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monthly Shopping Goals: April 2015

Well, another month is upon us and a new month of shopping goals are here.  I am DETERMINED that this month's goals will be met, but in the meantime, let's recap last month and see how I did with those.

1.  Get a couple #10 cans of tomato products.  Got that accomplished early last month and a good thing too.  I noticed the price on the #10 cans of tomato sauce at Three Bears had doubled when I went in yesterday (darn) and the other #10 cans of tomato products went up by about 1.00.  I REALLY need to make getting a Costco membership be a part of my financial goals one of these days.  And a Prime membership.  Yeah, I can dream.

2.  Get more cans of canned crap and canned shrimp.  I got one can of canned crab that was on sale at Carrs .10 cheaper than Three Bears normal price.  Better than nothing.

3.  Get more chicken stock.   Accomplished, but not by buying it.  I made my own instead.  It works.

4.  Get a big container of Hershey's cocoa was accomplished.  I was so tight on money, I decided to forgo buying 1/2 and 1/2 for my tea and using milk instead.  The money I saved from not buying the half and half I used to buy the cocoa.  Every little bit counts.

5.  Get more cheap Lysol, Windex and dish soap.

I accomplished the Lysol and the dish soap, but cheap Windex has been no where to be found lately.  Oh well.

Want a frugal fail?  I was buying the cheap dish soap assuming that it would be...you know...soap!  So, I finally ran out of the last of my expensive dish soap and went and used the cheap dish soap instead.  Man, cheap is right.  That soap SUCKS!  It does not create suds for more than three seconds and contains ammonia (wha?) so I can't combine it with anything containing bleach to do housework.

Yeah, never buying that soap again.  I was able to scrape together 2.49 and got myself a large bottle of Joy dishsoap that was on sale at Carrs last week.  It'll get me through for a while.  The cheap dish soap is now going to be used just for mopping floors if I can help it.

6.  I was able to get cooking oil (on sale 2/5.00 at Carrs on 5.00 Friday), Laundry soap (5.00 on 5.00 Friday plus a 1.00 E-manufacturer coupon so total cost 4.00), and cat litter (5.00 Friday plus 1.00 manufacturer coupon loaded on my card, total cost 4.00).

7.  The Amazon order didn't happen.  I was able to stretch the drinking chocolate (see Frugal Fridays for how I did that), bought oats cheap at the store.  The toilet paper I got some on sale at Carrs during 5.00 Friday to see us through.

And the butterscotch chips came in the mail and my son has been inhaling them ever since.

So, really I did accomplish all of my goals for last month, with the exception of getting a bulk order of toilet paper.

This month though, the toilet paper can definitely happen!  My step mom offered me a bunch of Amazon giftcards she hadn't used (thank you again, Rox!!!).  I was thrilled.  So, I put together a bulk order for Amazon this month.  Some of it (about 30.00 worth) I will be paying for out of pocket, but the rest is covered by giftcards.  I can make that 30.00 happen.  I'm determined.

So, what are my shopping goals for this month?

Amazon.com:
This is where the majority of non-perishable food items and such is coming into play this month.  I've got my order already in on Amazon and am planning on keeping it pretty much the way it is right now (unless something awesome pops up cheap).  What did I order?

Raspberry Jello (Pack of 6) :  I ordered 2 orders of this (it's out of stock from Amazon right now).  If you wait for this to get back in stock it's really cheap.  Since I ordered five or more items I got 15% off my order and I have a 20% off coupon that is going to be applied to the 2.55 I paid for each six pack (woot!)

Lime Jello (Pack of 6)

Royal Gelatin, Orange (Pack of 12)

Jello.  The ultimate in cheap desserts, salad fixings and all around culinary multi-tasker.

Dream Whip (Pack of 6) :  I know people are going to be like, "Dream Whip?  Really?" but I really do like this stuff as you can substitute it in with pretty much any recipe that calls for heavy cream in the mix and also it makes a pretty quick (and cheap) dessert topping.  And it's easier than keeping heavy cream in the fridge or trying to find decently PRICED heavy cream anyway.

Nestle Nido Dry Milk (12.6 oz container)  These are more expensive now.  I got two of the cans (wish I could have afforded more) when they were cheap one night for 3.00 per can.  Seriously.  3.00.  Per CAN!

Hormel Dark and White Meat Canned Turkey (Pack of 12)  This will be used for quick dinners of pot pie, turkey and biscuits, etc for when my husband isn't home or when I need just a bit more meat to make a meal's leftovers stretch (happens more often than you might think).

SureJell Fruit Pectin (Pack of 8)  Needed for canning season.

Quilted Northern Bath Tissue (48 Double Rolls)

Regular Grocery Stores:
This month is the month to buy things like potatoes and ham as they are on special for Easter.  My plan is to buy at least one ham (other than the Easter ham that is) and a big bag of russet potatoes, as my supply of potatoes is actually running kind of low.

Bulk Stores:
I want to try and get a flat of mandarin oranges to use in jello salads (because...well I'm going to have jello) and regular salads come summer (one of the main things I grow is always lettuce).  They are nice to have around for a quick throw in to meals like that.

Other than that, I need to get another 25 lb bag of AP flour.  I might do it at the bulk stores or at Fred Meyer (I have a coupon for 7.00 off a 35.00 purchase of generic store brand items from there that expires in May, so I might use it, while picking up a few other things, to purchase things like flour...we'll see).

And there you go.  My goals for this month.  What are yours?

Monthly Financial Goals (And Last Month's Financial Recap)


March is over.  Finally.  Thank God.

Although, now it's a new month of bills to make and somehow try and recoup from the mass financial losses of the last couple of months.  This is going to be fun.

But, anyway, here's the list of things I had wanted to do in March.
1.  Save 300.00 for car insurance payment.
2. Save as much toward 1000.00 for dental work as possible.
3.  Pay bills.
 Overall, I accomplished two of the three goals.  I was able to save the money from my grocery budget to make the car insurance payment two weeks early, which it was a relief to get that out of the way.  Although, that also ate into what little "cushion" I was able to save, so I'm stalking my checking account like an overzealous teenager who has just spotted her favorite rock star to make sure that the mortgage and a credit card payment (our only credit card left except for the dental card we're paying on) clear the bank with at least a little money to spare.

Saving as much toward the 1000.00 for the root canal my husband was getting just wasn't viable.  Between him suddenly needing an abscessed tooth removed, which cost us a lot and the car insurance getting paid, we were suddenly down 1200.00.  And that was BEFORE I was even THINKING about saving toward the 1000.00 for the root canal.  Of course, typical of medical bills, the 1000.00 is now nearly 4000.00 (ugh), on top of the dental bills we already owe.  It's going to be a long year.  Blah.

Anyway, despite all of that depression, things have to get accomplished around here, so I worked out what I want to get done in the way of financial goals this month.


April Financial Goals
1.  Continue to adhere as strictly as I can to the 50.00 per week grocery budget so that I can save as much as I can toward the dental bills.  This should save us about 300.00 at least per month to use toward bills (taking into account the monies I might have to grab to get some shopping goals accomplished).

2.  Start the Weekly Savings Challenge (back log it to the beginning of the year and play catch up). 
This might take a few months to get caught up, but I'm pretty sure I can do it.  I need to put SOMETHING into savings at this point...otherwise all of this scrimping and saving money is just going to get too darned depressing.

3.  Put 5.00 away into each child's savings accounts (because it's important).
4.  Pay bills.  Ahead of time if possible just to get them out of the way and decrease my anxiety levels.
So, there you have it folks.  My financial goals for this month.  Here's hoping for a really good month *fingers crossed* so I can get this stuff done!