Saturday, February 28, 2015

What I'm Reading in 2015, February: The 1940's House

Ahh, reading.  It puts wrinkles in your brain you know.  And unlike the fine lines that are slowly creeping into my face, these wrinkles will keep your brain sharp and help you expand your brain power.  That's a good kind of wrinkle if ever there was one!

I know people are just waiting with baited breath to see what book I'm reviewing this month ;).

Well,this month's selection is...

The 1940's House  by Juliet Gardiner.

The 1940's house is actually a companion book to the PBS special that aired back in, I think it was 2000 (actually mine is an ex-library copy which I thought was kind of neat).  A real life family was taken out of their modern lifestyle, planted in a house that had been recreated in the late 1930's down to every detail and then the family was thrown into the world of the outbreak of WWII through V-E Day.  They lived out everything in that period of time condensed down into a 9 week stay in the 1940's House.  That meant dealing with things like washing laundry by hand, dealing with rationing and dealing with being hungry, working and volunteering outside the home (as women were expected to do during those times), dealing with black out and all the while having to run out to a bomb shelter in the back yard when "air raid" sirens started blaring through the house.

Oddly enough I read the companion book to this series before I even saw it.  I ran across the book when researching rationing during WWI and WWII and ordered it, intrigued.  After I received the book I realized that it was actually a series and really wanted to see it after reading the book.

I found that the series isn't easy to find as it is so old now that it no longer exists on You Tube or obvious sources (my best guess, although things like the 1900 House you can still find easily...go figure), so it took a while to find a place where I could watch it.  I've now both seen the series in it's entirety and read the book and I have to say that I really enjoyed the book more.

Not that I didn't enjoy the series, but the book goes into so much more detail.  It goes into the history of what actually happened during WWII in the civilian world, especially in Britain (where the 1940's House was filmed) and also goes into way more detail about things the modern family in the series experienced and lived during their nine week stay in the past.

You really come away, after reading the book and watching the series, with a sense of gratitude for what we have today and that we haven't had a war like WWII since it occurred.  The amount of shortages worldwide, the loss of life involved, the sheer scope of what really hits home when you read something like this and really does make you realize how lucky we are today.  That we have a roof over our head that isn't in danger from bombs dropping 24/7.  That we haven't had to live hungry for five years straight during a war and that our food hasn't had to be rationed for longer than that (rationing in Britain wasn't over until the mid 50's).

I've really become kind of a social history nut for WWII and really have found a major sense of pride in my side of the species on what women did during those dark times to make the home fires continue burning.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is the least bit interested in this period in history.  Very good read and lots of great information.

How to Budget With a Variable Income Part 1: Tax Return or No Tax Return?

Image source:  Google images
First a disclaimer:  I am not a financial adviser.   Nor am I a CPA or other person who works in the financial end of anything.  So, please, don't take this article to mean that I am giving you financial advice.  Far from it.  I'm just sharing my experiences and what works for my family.  That is all.

Ages ago, so it seems, I used to coupon blog.  One of the biggest complaints I'd get from people about budgeting was,

"But, my husband (wife) is on a variable income.  That makes it impossible to budget!"

Au contraire mon fraire!

I used to think the same thing.  The entire time I've been married my husband has worked in construction and has worked in a family owned business.  That makes variable income an understatement.

Obviously (if you're reading this blog and are following along with what has happened to us) variable income inevitably also means periods of unemployment.  Which, yes, sucks.  But, I thought one of the things I could share on the blog is ways that I TRY to budget as well as I'm able on a variable income with an income that has no sick days, no personal days, no benefits of any kind and can go from my husband making nothing in a week (if he's sick or just doesn't have work that week) or to working high pay rates (such as working for federal or state union wages).

So, first part of the series is a big one I've seen on money saving sites for years where they extoll the values of no getting much of an income tax refund back in favor of being able to keep more of your money NOW.

I had a teacher in college who was a brilliant accountant say that no matter what you should never shoot for a large tax return as it will hurt your weekly income and it wasn't worth it.

I hate to be one to disagree with a man I heavily respected, but I not only PLAN for a tax refund at the end of the tax year, I also pray for it.

See, during the first year I was married, my husband got very sick with acid reflux.  The next year we were still dealing with medical bills, had to buy a truck because ours died and were trying to make ends meet.  And then my husband went through forced unemployment for a while.  I was working a minimum wage job and was making bills, but barely and I did the whole "take out what you're expected" on your taxes every week.

Well, due to illness, lack of work, SMALL paychecks on both our ends (which it turns out is what hurt us the most) and family problems, my husband made very VERY little that year and so did I.  We had both done the "married" allowances on our tax forms that year.  And we paid for it dearly.

In a year where we could barely keep our feet financially we ended up owing the IRS 214.00!  I cried, a lot, when I was scraping together that money to pay when we really didn't have the money for regular bills let alone money for the IRS.

Ever since that year we've made darned sure that something like that will never happen again.  This is how we do it.

No matter who was working. whether it just be my husband or my husband and myself (which since we've had kids it's just been my husband working) we kept our allowances at single and 0.  Period. 
And yes, we have kept it that way even after we've had children.  This has saved our bacon in years where jobs would result in small paychecks, many times multiple paychecks from different jobs (with federal work) where your gross income wouldn't really jive with what was being taken out for taxes.  In years where my husband's co-workers would be paying out sometimes thousands to the IRS at the end of the year due to this dilemma, we've always gotten money back.

For us the week to week loss of income is worth it.  No we don't do this for the "big tax refund" at the end of the year that a lot of sites act like is the only reason you work it so that you will get money back at the end of the year.  No, we do it so we don't end up paying OUT on a year where we just plain can't afford to do it.  We'd rather get money back, which we can put into savings, instead of worrying about having to write a check to the government.

But, that is us.  Every set of circumstances is different and I hope you can find a system that works for you!

Next up is how I tackle when we get a large sum of money in, such as a tax return.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rebuilding a Pantry on 25.00 a Week (Week 8)

So, this week's pantry rebuild went toward a few basics that I needed.  So here's where my 25.00 went.  This week was spent at Fred Meyer.
  • 4 Monster's Inc. battery powered tooth brushes, on clearance for 2.99 each.  
  • 2 Angry Bird's battery powered toothbrushes on clearance for 2.49 each
  • 1 thing of waxed paper 1.89 (I'm planning on using wax paper more around here)
  • 1 thing of bread crumbs 1.19
  • 1 thing of paper lunch bags (I use these for popping popcorn for the kids in the microwave) 1.69 on sale
  • 1 thing of facial tissue 1.25 on sale
Total spent:  22.96

Total left of 25.00 weekly allowance:  2.04

Easy Home Made Nooodles

I am famous for my home made chicken noodle soup.  So was my mom.  Well, we're more famous for our home made noodles that go IN the soup.  And *leans toward you with a motion like she's going to share a secret*...they are so easy to make you'll be amazed and they are cheap to make as well.  Nothing hits the spot when you have a bad cold than a bowl of soup with home made noodles in it.

So, here you go folks.  The easiest home made noodles and they really do give you a "wow" factor to home made chicken noodle soup.  Make these and you'll be happy you did.

Easy Home Made Noodles 
  • 1 Cup AP flour
  • 1 Egg
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little bit of water

Combine the flour, salt and egg in a bowl and using your hands mush it all together.  If the dough is still too dry to stick together, add water until a stiff dough is formed.

Lightly flour your counter top and using a good rolling pin roll the dough very thin (be sure to pick up the dough from time to time to make sure it's not sticking to the counter), using flour as needed to keep things from sticking.  Once you have the dough super thin, take a knife and slice the dough into thin strips (cut long strips in half unless you want REALLY long noodles).

Add the noodles to boiling soup in the last few minutes of cooking a few at a time (if you add them all at once you're going to have a mess.  Add a few and mix the soup and repeat).  Boil the noodles in the soup for a few minutes to cook them all the way through (they will puff up significantly, so don't be alarmed).
Serve and be prepared for people making yummy sounds.

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): Week ending 2/27/15

Man!  What a week!  It's been super busy around here between taking my kids to school and my son to therapy and doing meetings and dentist appointments and trying to juggle regular stuff as well.

But, I did it!  And I got some other things done that desperately needed TO BE done, even if I had a hard time finding energy to do them all.
1.  I processed a LOT of apples (seen above was part of the work in progress).  Nearly two bushels in fact.  I had planned on keeping the apples I got from our local bulk store super cheap (thanks again for the tip, Megan!) for a while in the pantry in cold storage (my pantry area is unheated), and normally during the winter it does get decently cold in there.  Unfortunately for me, however, we have had a warm spell (not complaining as my heating bill will love it *laugh*) and the area just got too warm to hold the apples from rotting.  When I went and took some out and they were getting wrinkly I knew it was time to process them before they went bad.  I was even able to give some apples to a friend who could use some and I have some left in the fridge for my daughter to eat.

And with what was left over I was still able to make:

Some of my processed apple haul
  • 7 quarts of apple pie filling (I just froze everything for the sake of not having to pull out my canner this late in the year)
  • 2 Whole and ready to go apple pies (I froze them both to bake later)
  • 20 pints of applesauce (yes, 20 pints!)
  • 2 9x13 baking dishes of Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal (I cut them into squares once I had cooled them, wrapped the pieces in plastic wrap and froze in freezer bags.  Now I have super fast meals at the ready and delicious at that)

2.  My husband and I found that my daughter likes oranges from time to time now, so we've been picking up more oranges than we should really (trying to get my kids to pick up new foods is hard).  We got a great price on a bag of mandarin oranges from Carrs in the middle of getting the daughter to try different types of oranges, too, so yeah...we ended up with a lot of oranges that were going soft.  So, I made orange juice out of them.  It seemed the best way to use them up.  It wasn't hard, but I was ever so grateful I didn't give myself any cuts when processing the apples when I was squeezing the juice out of those things (I have nothing even close to resembling a juicer or citrus juicing thing).  Tastes good if nothing else :).

3.  I made meals at home instead of getting take out, which trust me, when you are processing two bushels of apples?  It's not easy to resist the idea of take out.

4.  I baked a chicken  when I was processing the apples and we not only used it for left overs for sandwiches during the week, but we also made dinner out of it and now I have the carcass sitting in a pot on my stove being made into stock.  Nothing from the chicken went to waste.

5.  We watched things for free on You Tube and other places online instead of buying videos at the used store or buying new movies.

6.  I managed to save a BUNCH of money when it comes to gas and time by calling the local office of the business where we get our speech therapy and asking if they had any openings.  I've been driving my son for a 40 minute commute for speech (one way), which was a trek and took my son away from school about 2/3 of one school day a week, which was not an ideal situation.  I'd been on a waiting list for the local office for nearly 4 years and FINALLY got an opening.  It is wonderful and this was the first week we had speech locally.  So far so good :).
And there you have a few things I did to save money this week.  Hope your money saving endeavors went well this week as well!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store Finds)

The thrift stores have been very good to me lately, which I am thankful for.  This week I scored really big in the future Christmas gift front!

I got a combination of brand new gift sets, a pattern that I can make into shirts for my daughter and some skirts for both my daughter and I (my plans are to get my daughter and I going back to church come summertime).

I would say how much I spent on everything, but since I have family members that go to this page I'll leave it by saying I spent less than 20.00 for everything seen above.  It was a good week :).

Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Week of 2/23/15

This week's menu might as well be titled, "For love of hamburger"...cause yeah....we're going to be eating a lot of it (one of the few meats I can get cheap on reduced right now).

Menu Plan for Week 2/23/15
  • Monday:  Tacos
  • Tuesday:  Chicken and Biscuits (I ended up baking a chicken last night instead of following the original menu plan...I'll explain that later, but anyway, we have leftover chicken in the fridge to use up), green beans
  • Wednesday:  Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Thursday:  Slow Cooker Mustard Pork Roast, roasted carrots, cauliflower pickles, leftover biscuits
  • Friday:  Chili
  • Saturday:  Pizza
  • Sunday:  Hamburgers and oven fries

Breakfast (out of then norm):  Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal
Desserts (out of the norm):  Birthday cake (which we are currently drowning in.  Long story), Lemon icebox cookies (recipe coming along soon).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): Week Ending 2/21/15

Since Blogger is FINALLY working for more than two minutes at a time today, I figured I'd share this week's frugal accomplishments.

Here's some ways I saved money this week...

1.  My daughter wanted me to buy a store bought cake to bring to school for her birthday, but instead I made cookies for all of her classmates (and bonus she could carry them with her so I didn't have to disrupt class to bring in a treat).  Recipe for those coming soon.

2.  I finished work on another pot holder to replace my silicone lined one that started melting silicone onto my baking dishes (not too sure, but I'm relatively certain that is not a good thing).  I've decided to start replacing store bought with home made whenever possible and I have to say that these work great and don't burn my hands (instructions for those coming soon as well).  I started making these over the holidays for my daughter's teachers and kinda fell in love with them, so I've been making my own with the yarn I have left from projects over the years.

3.  My husband ran out of the foot cream I'd bought for him at Fred Meyer, which was not cheap (I know it was about 9.00), so instead of buying him more I took some herb infused oils I had around the house and made him a big vat of foot cream.  That should last him a while. I took my recipe from my old blog here and added a bit of shea butter.  It did not work as well with cheap coconut oil, so I had to add a bunch of extra beeswax to make it solid enough to work, but overall it works okay (and yes, I do have all of that stuff around, oddly enough *laugh*).

4.  I made all of our meals at home, with the exception of a birthday dinner for my daughter and for that we used gift cards given to us by a friend as a thank you to my husband for doing some work on his house.  We still have some money left on the gift cards and my daughter had a great birthday, so it worked out.

And there you have it folks.  Some of my frugal accomplishments this week.  How did you do?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chicken Fried "Steak" (Made With Hamburger)

Here's a recipe that came out of, literally, a want to have beef for dinner, but knowing that steak would cost the same price as a small car (I feel like the main character from "Trancers" these days, "Beef?!?  From a cow?!?").  I thought and thought of something other than tacos or hamburgers or the usual "stuff" to do with hamburger and I came up with this.

I really liked it, my husband thought I should have just made hamburgers I think (he's a big burger fan).  But, it was a different dinner anyway, and economical.  So, I thought I'd share.

If you are gluten free, by the way, just use your favorite gluten free AP flour for this or even brown rice flour (gives you a more light breading, but I've done it a lot myself).

Chicken Fried "Steak" (Made With Hamburger)
  • 1 Cup AP Flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (if using regular table salt, reduce to 1 TBS)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 Hamburger patties, pressed very thin if you can (I mix about 1 tsp salt and pepper into my hamburger meat before I form the patties too, so the seasoning goes throughout the meat).  For 4 hamburger patties I think I used about 1/4 pound of meat.

Mix flour (I honestly eyeball the amount, but I'd say 1 cup is pretty close) and seasonings in a container and then dump into a pie tin.  Dredge (carefully of course) both sides of the hamburger patties in the flour mixture.

Meanwhile heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a deep skillet (I use my 12 inch cast iron skillet for this) to about 375 degrees F (I just wait until I'm pretty sure it's nice and hot, honestly).

Place hamburgers carefully in the oil and cook until golden brown on both sides (the hamburgers are going to look dark, just as a warning, as the paprika browns dark) and hamburgers are done in the middle.  If you get your patties thin enough a couple of minutes per side will be enough, but if thicker it will take longer (obviously).  Either way, cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Serve with your favorite sawmill gravy recipe, or a brown gravy will work in a pinch as well (what I served here).

I like to serve my chicken fried "steak" with mashed potatoes and a salad (in this case it was fruit salad).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rebuilding a Pantry on 25.00 a Week (Week 7)

This week's 25.00 pantry rebuild was a bunch of awesome scores that I got at Carrs on clearance and on in-store sale.
  • 2 boxes of corn taco shells 50% off: .98
  • 1 box instant dry milk on clearance 50% off:  2.24
  • 1 Jar Classico Pasta Sauce on clearance 50% off:  .15 (I'll get into that in a minute)
  • 1 Can olives on clearance 50% off:  .49
  •  2 Jugs Welch's Grape Juice:  2.50 a piece on sale (in store sale on those)
The best score this time around was definitely the pasta sauce.  It was 50% off and the original price was 3.00 and something.  But, I was surprised to find the jar cost me .15 when I looked at my receipt, because I'd had a Just 4 U price of 1.00 and some change on the pasta sauce and I had a manufacturer coupon loaded on my card on top of it.  Once the discounts and coupons stacked I walked out with a .15 thing of pasta sauce.  Those are the types of things that make your day just that much brighter.

I had a personalized price on the olives for .99 (although I'm pretty sure the can said .99 on it anyway, so maybe it was on sale?) and so once the 50% off came into play it was .49.

And the taco shells were just an awesome find.  I got the only two boxes that they had on reduced for 50% off.  I had a personalized price loaded on my card for .99 a box for the corn shells, so once the 50% off was taken into account I got them for .49 a box!  The original price on them was only like 1.19 a box anyway, so it wasn't THAT big of a price difference for my Just 4 U price, but I was still over the moon about it.
So, all total for the pantry this week:  8.86

So, all totaled I had 16.14 left out of my 25.00 for the week.  
None too shabby I'd say!  I would have bought more to make up some of the difference, but honestly I've been shopping twice a week (milk run is the second trip for the most part), so what I find on my "small" shopping trip for milk or my big shopping trip for the week is how my 25.00 gets spent (or not spent) for that week.

I was also going to use some of the remainder to buy a 25 lb bag of AP flour, but found a 5 gallon bucket full of flour in with the last of my food storage (we were following a gluten free diet for a while, so I had put it away for safe keeping).  If you would want to buy a 25 lb bag of flour at Costco or another bulk store it really is not bad at all (8.00 and something was the price when we went to Costco last week).

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store Finds)

This Thrifty Thursday is brought to you by a very happy me!

As anyone who has been reading this blog may know, I broke one of my medium sized mixing bowls about a month ago (and I cried some tears over it...normally stuff is just that to me...stuff...but that bowl hurt when it broke).  I'd been searching the used stores for a replacement to no avail.  Until this week when I FINALLY had a chance to hit The Red Barn (a thrift store in Palmer, AK).  There I struck pay dirt!  I not only found a vintage medium sized Pyrex mixing bowl (which I found awesomely cool), but I also found a clear Pyrex small mixing bowl (perfect for steaming puddings and stuff in).  Total spent that day was 10.00 on the nose (not cheap, but I was happy anyway).

I then had to check out the newly renovated Wally World Thrift Store in Wasilla and was thrilled to find a 2/3 cup Tupperware measuring cup (which I'd never seen one of those before) and a vintage small tupperware container with a lid (sure, the colors didn't match, but I didn't care...I love those containers for left overs and other things :).

Total spent at Wally World was .70 between the two items.  Loved it!

So, total spent for the week was 10.70.  Amount saved?  A lot.  I love vintage Pyrex, Corelle and Corningware, so if I had purchased a bowl like that online and had it shipped that would have cost a lot more than the 7.00 I paid for it.  And the color goes with some of my vintage Corelle baking dishes, so it was just an awesome find for me.

And a new glass bowl that I don't know how much it would have cost.

So, it was definitely a good week on the thrift store front.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Money Saving Tip: Have You Checked Your Phone Lately?

One of the things I promised to share this month was how I saved 20.00 and met my monthly financial goal while doing it.  So, here's how I did it and hey, maybe it will help you save money too!

I've had the same phone package forever with my local phone company.  And every month I would just pay the bill when it came in and not think anything of it.  But, there was a problem with that method of doing things.

For one, my family lives a long distance away from me on the East Coast.  To stay in touch I would call them once every couple of weeks to see how everyone was doing.  Except my step-mom, I'd call her every day and she'd call me back as soon as she answered the phone because she was more than willing to take advantage of this wonderful thing she had which was "unlimited long distance".  Since long distance isn't exactly cheap, every month no matter how careful I was with phone usage (I mean even calling Anchorage costs money, or my son's speech therapist, or a bunch of other places) my long distance charges would always be 30.00 or more per month.  I just assumed it was an inevitable part of living in the state I do, cursed it, and moved on.

Until this last December.  See, I was checking our internet usage online (as our DSL package also sucked when it came to usage) and I noticed an ad to buy 500 gigs of internet usage for 50.00.  I was thrilled as our internet inevitably went over every month as well, which would cost us 5.00 per gig of overuse.  We were only allowed 25 gigs, and while that seemed like a huge amount when the gal at our local telephone company assured me that is what we would need when I upgraded our DSL two years ago, it always seemed to get eaten up and we'd go over.  Every single month.

So, I clicked on the link to check out what I had to do to buy the 500 gigs on our account and looked in shock when I read, "Unlimited long distance for 19.99 a month".  That was less than I was paying in long distance charges and I'd never seen THAT tidbit in my local telephone newsletter that came with my bill (grumble).  I called the phone company the next day to sign up for the unlimited long distance for 19.99 a month and found with my current phone package that they could upgrade it no problem and long distance would only cost me 6.97 a month!!!

Honestly, I was both thrilled and furious when I found out that had unlimited long distance for over a year and hadn't really bothered to inform their customers about it.

A couple of weeks later I was in for another surprise.  I was talking to my sister-in-law about her DSL and how I was unhappy and thinking about upgrading now that I had unlimited long distance and would be able to figure out what long distance charges would cost me every month.  She had just upgraded her internet a couple of months before and I found out that her internet was only 10.00 more per month than mine and she was getting 70 GIGS per month usage!  I went online and sure enough there it was staring me in the face.

Lesson learned.  Next time I need help upgrading my internet, I sure as heck am not calling my local telephone customer service agent for help.  I'll do my researching via the internet.

I also found out that they had a special going on where if you upgraded your internet package you would get a 50.00 credit, thus would pay for the 500 gigs I had bought back in December and would also cut my bill down to nothing for the month of February (I decided to wait till the beginning of Feb. to implement the new internet package, since I had over 470 gigs left of the 500 gigs I'd purchased in December left).

And that's exactly what I did.

I now have unlimited long distance and a BUNCH more bandwidth and all for at least 10.00 LESS per month than what I was paying before with crappy internet and "charge per" long distance.  And since they applied my 50.00 credit to my account this month my phone bill is miniscule, thus saving me the 20.00 (and more) I had cited to save this month.

So, next time you're looking to save money, try checking out your phone package and your internet.  You might be able to save more money than you thought!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: This Week's Menu (2/16/15)

This week's menu is about as boring as it gets *laugh*, although don't worry I do plan on sharing recipes from the last couple of weeks (like the chicken fried "steak" recipe should go up tomorrow or so).  Overall, though, I'm just trying to shop from my freezer and pantry for things that I've gotten on sale the last little bit.

Monday:  Lamb chops, kale (frozen from my garden over the summer), rice

Tuesday:  Pancakes, bacon, eggs

Wednesday:  BBQ chicken (BBQ sauce home made from pantry), mashed potatoes, KFC copycat coleslaw, biscuits

Thursday:  Tacos

Friday:  Broiled Pork Steaks (seasoned with All Alaskan Seasoning Blend), baked potatoes, salad

Saturday:  Brined Turkey Breast, Braised Carrots, corn bread

Sunday:  Italian Sausage Sandwiches with caramelized onions and peppers (onions and peppers from freezer), frozen vegetable medley with Montreal Steak Seasoning (still one of my favorite seasoning blends).

Desserts (outside of the normal):  Apple crumble pie, chocolate cake (for my daughter's birthday this week).

Breakfast (outside of the norm):  Victory Pudding (I really like this stuff)

The "Hack" Test: Banana Hacks

"30 Amazing Kitchen Hacks!"
"Amazing Life Hacks You Can't Do Without!"
"You'll Feel Stupid If You Don't Do These Hacks Right Now!"

We've all seen the articles popping up in our newsfeed or over our e-mails.  Way too often.  You read through them go, "Huh, I wonder if that works" and proceed to forget that you ever read the article or you keep meaning to try it and see if it works at some point but never get around to it.

Well, I decided one of the things I could do around here is to try some of these "hacks" and put them to the test to see if they actually work or are not worth the effort to do.  I mean if some of these things work, they'll definitely have the potential to save you money in the long run, so I wanted to put some of these to the test for me as much as for anyone else.

So, today, I'm putting to test a hack I saw online a few weeks ago and also one that I read about a while ago.  So, you get two hacks for the price of one!

The first hack is...

1.  If you wrap the ends of bananas tightly in plastic wrap they won't ripen as quickly.


2.  If you separate out bananas from the bunch they won't ripen as quickly.

So, I got some bananas at the store and figured I'd put those theories to the test (when bananas get over ripe I just make banana bread or something out of them, so no harm no foul).  The bananas, very ripe, are seen above.

The results?

I used part of my bunch of bananas as the "control" group to compare how other bananas did.  I put them in the same temp zones but in different locations so that ethylene gas wasn't going to interrupt their want to ripen too quickly.

The banana I separated out from the bunch and let sit solitary didn't seem to do much for it.  It seemed to ripen and over ripen right along with the regular bananas I had done nothing to.  So, if there is time gained from separating the bananas from the bunch, I didn't see it.  The banana seen above was actually near rotting by the time I took this picture.

Now, wrapping the ends in plastic wrap?  That actually did work.

Not as well as they promoted online.  I did not get an additional week out of my bananas.  More like two or three days, but the difference in the ripening rate was noticeable to me.  So, I would say that trick does work.  When I took this picture, while the solitary banana was near rotting, the bunch of bananas (while starting to look brown) were actually still firm and lasted three more days before I had to make them into banana bread.

But, there's a downside too.  Every time you go and get a banana off the bunch you have to re-wrap the ends in plastic wrap, so it can be a bit cumbersome.  But, if you are looking to get a couple more days out of your bananas, well it is probably worth the effort.

So, there you are folks.  As hack tests go:  Wrapping your banana ends in plastic wrap, win.  Removing bananas from bunch, fail.  Do with those results what you will.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Frugal Friday (Money Saving Weekly Recap): Week ending 2/13/15

So, one of the cool things I thought I'd introduce to the blog is some frugal accountability each week.  So, each week I'm going to post in what ways we saved money, large or small (most times small) around here and if you have something cool to share, feel free to!

This week, we were all recovering from being sick with a cold, so I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped.  But, here's a few things I did to save money this week.

1.  I made meals at home instead of going out to eat.

2.  I fixed a shirt my daughter had gotten from somewhere for free.  It was obvious from the get go that the shirt had some type of shell or some undershirt to it as it is WAY too low cut for a little kid.  My daughter, being young, keeps forgetting to wear an undershirt, which leads me to have to tell her to get an undershirt on or change her shirt way too much.  So, I decided it was time to fix it and make it more suitable for an 8 year old to wear.

Here's the before and after pics...

See, way too low cut for a little girl (especially my slight stature daughter).

And here's the after.  First I had her put it on, marked with a dry erase marker (on the inside of the collar so it wouldn't show) where I wanted the collar to actually hit.  I then hand sewed up the outside edge of the collar with white thread I had and so that it didn't look odd with a sewed up collar like that I used three buttons from one of my button jars to make a fake button up collar.

I thought it turned out pretty cute myself.

I darned a bunch of my husband's socks. I still have a lot to work through, but I got a good start (tutorial on that coming soon).

4.  Instead of going out to a fancy restaurant or something for Valentine's Day, my husband and I used some of our tax rebate and went to Costco to pick up some essentials.  It seemed a better use of our money.

5.  We watched some movies online for free instead of worrying about buying another movie we wanted to see.  We downloaded a few and burned them to disk as well that aren't available anywhere else.

6.  Used some veggies that were past their prime and made soup instead of letting them get thrown away.

And there you are folks.  My frugal adventures for the week.  How did you do?  Anyone save money this week in little ways?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Basic White Bread (makes two loaves) With Variations

Okay, this is a recipe I HAD to share.  My mom, when my kids were diagnosed with allergies years ago, wrote out some recipes and sent them to me from recipes collected from my family going back as far as my great grandma.

This is one of those recipes.

This recipe calls for all purpose flour.  No bread flour here.  It makes two loaves of bread at one time, came printed out with some variant ways to make the bread AND it makes a loaf that seriously comes out better than the recipes I always followed that called for bread flour.  My husband LOVES this bread and he's picky when it comes to bread :).

When we were required to go gluten free for quite a while, I was always trying to recreate this recipe with gluten free flour and it just didn't work very well.  Not quite sure why (usually I've had pretty good luck when a recipe calls for AP flour to redo it with gluten free flours), but it just turns out better with the all purpose flour (luckily we've been cleared to reintroduce gluten into my daughter's diet and she's doing well with it and my issues with gluten depends on how much stress I'm under.  Since starting a new system of meditation, my stomach has been doing wonders for me.  It's nice being able to tolerate gluten again).

Want to get off cheap on buying AP flour?  Go to your bulk stores.  Seriously it is SO much cheaper there.  I buy it by the 25 to 50 lb bag and store it in 5 gallon buckets in my pantry and just refill flour as needed from that.

This is seriously one recipe you are going to want to keep in your arsenal.

Basic 2 Loaf White Bread (With Variations)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 2 tbs shortening or butter (or a mix)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 packages (2 1/4 tsp each or 4 1/2 tsp total) active dry yeast
  • 6 to 6 1/2 cups unsifted all purpose flour.
1.  Heat milk in a saucepan with shortening, salt and sugar until bubbles form at the edge of the pan, the shortening is melted and the sugar is well dissolved.  Transfer to a large bowl (I use the bowl of my standing mixer) to cool to warm (105 degrees F or lower).

2.  I tend to use instant yeast (SAF instant yeast is well worth the investment, just store it in your freezer and you're golden) for this recipe, so if you are doing that just get your water as cold as you can from the tap and add it to your milk mixture in the standing mixer to cool it down faster.  If not, wait until the mixture in the stand mixer cools to warm and then add warm temp water to your active dry yeast, add 1 TBS sugar and set aside to proof or bloom for about 5 to 10 minutes (the mixture should get really foamy).

3.  When the yeast has proofed, add 6 cups of flour to the milk mixture and add the yeast mixture.  Use the paddle attachment on your mixer until everything is well incorporated (add as much of your last 1/2 cup of flour as it takes to get a manageable dough) and then switch to the dough hook.  Knead mixture until smooth (it only takes a couple of minutes on mine, but could take up to five, depending on your machine).  You can also do this by hand by add the yeast and flour mixture to the milk and then mixing it up with your hands to form a loose dough and then kneading it on a well floured surface for 5 minutes.

4.  Place dough in a greased bowl to rise and cover with a dish towel.  Put in a warm location and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5.  Grease two 8 inch loaf pans (I love cast iron bread pans for this).  Divide dough in half (okay, I actually use the zero out function on my kitchen scale, weigh a bowl and then actually weigh my dough to get exactly 1/2 of the dough in each pan, but I'm sure you can eyeball this).  Shape into two logs, fit into greased pans.  Set aside in a warm location until the dough has risen at least 1" above the sides of the pan, about 45 minutes.

6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees the last 15 minutes of rise time.  Bake breads 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped on the top.

Cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.


Cheese Bread:  Mix 1 cup grated cheddar cheese into the first 2 cups of flour you add to the milk mixture.  Sprinkle top of loaves with grated cheese, if desired, once risen and bake as directed.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread: (my favorite.  I take 1/2 of the recipe and make a loaf of white bread and take the other 1/2 and make a loaf of this.  If you do this, halve the cinnamon and sugar amounts to get 1 loaf worth.  Also worth noting is that the cinnamon swirl bread takes an additional 10 to 15 minutes to rise because you flatten the dough so much, so just be aware you might have to do a bit of time shuffling to figure out when to pull out what loaf).

Roll out each half of dough to 12 by 8 inch rectangle.  Combine 1/4 cup (2 TBS if making 1 loaf) sugar and 2 tsp ground cinnamon (1 tsp if making one loaf) in a small bowl.  Sprinkle half (or all if making one loaf) over each rectangle.  Roll up dough to make two 8 inch logs.  Rise and bake as directed above.

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store Finds)

Man, I've got back blogging to get done.  You guys might get kinda hammered the next little bit.  It's been kind of hectic around here as it's like every time I thought of blogging something happened.

1.  My husband finally got the cold that everyone else in the household is pretty much over.  As a result the poor man has been feeling pretty cruddy.

2.  Then, since he was sick my husband was spending a lot of time steaming in the shower in our bathroom and the drain clogged.  Bad.  So, my husband went and used his contractor knowledge to try and get the clog out.  Long story short it involved a snake, then cutting a hole in the wall on the opposite side of the wall from the tub, cleaning out a few sewer pipes, etc.  And it still wasn't fixed.

What finally fixed it?  ME!  Bwahahaha!  Sorry, I'm proud of myself on this one.  I just looked at the standing water in the tub, looked at the plunger next to the toilet and went, "What the Heck!"  Waited until my husband's back was turned and just plunged the heck out of the drain.  And it worked!  Now, I know logically that my husband probably worked the clog enough that the plunger was able to dislodge it and such, but I'm still taking credit for this one ;).

3.  My sister-in-law gave birth to my brand spanky new nephew over the weekend and I've been preoccupied looking at pictures.  Yes, babies are distracting, even in picture form *laugh*.

And suddenly, here we are with another Thrifty Thursday!  I have some other cool things planned for the blog that I'm hoping to launch in the next couple of days, but in the meantime, I'm super thrilled with this week's thrift store finds!

This week I was really thankful that our tax refund came in as when I went to my favorite thrift store, looking once again for a bowl to replace my beloved medium sized mixing bowl that broke, I realized that for the first time in a while they had fabric out!  And boy did I score big!

The biggest find was a bolt of material with 16 yards of flannel shirting fabric on it for 15.00!  I couldn't believe it as if I had bought a bolt with that much fabric on it new?  Yeah, don't even want to THINK how much that would have cost.  My plans for it are to make some shirts for my husband and son closer to Christmas and maybe a few pairs of lightweight sleep pants for my son come fall.

I also found some leather-like fabric that I plan on making into soles for home made slippers for the kids come Christmastime as well.

I found a flowery type of pattern full sized top sheet that was brand new looking so I grabbed that for 1.50 to use for maybe a cute summer skirt for my daughter or some other application.  And I picked up a cute construction themed top sheet to do something (maybe a shirt or something else) for my son.

I also found some different types of fabric in different patterns that I plan on using for things like handkerchiefs.  And I found, one of my biggest finds, a high loft queen sized thing of batting for 2.00!  Always nice to have extra batting for projects :).

So, total spent at the used store was 22.00.  Total saved?  Man, I can't even begin to imagine.  The bolt of fabric alone would be probably well over 50.00 on sale.  So, woohoo!

Did you score any good deals this week?  What did you get?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Layered Strawberry Fool

So, this is the time of year where strawberries seem to be going on special relatively cheap at Carrs/Safeway, so I thought I'd share some of what I'm doing with the little red jewels.

Here's a dessert that takes a bit of prep work (I usually make the custard in the morning to let sit in the fridge until dinnertime), but it is so worth it as it is super yummy!

Just remember to macerate your strawberries (just add clean cut strawberries to a bowl and add a liberal amount of sugar or honey over the top and just let sit for a few hours or overnight.  Yum!) beforehand and you're set to go with this recipe.

Layered Strawberry Fool

  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a dash of vanilla extract
  • Macerated strawberries (I usually make a pound or so for this recipe)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1.  The morning before, or at least a few hours before dinner, make the custard.  Whisk 2 tbs of the milk with the sugar, egg yolks and vanilla extract.  Whisk until the yolks have significantly lightened in color.

2.  Heat the remaining milk until just below the boiling point (bubbles should start breaking the surface of the mixture, but not tons of them).

3.  Stir milk SLOWLY into egg mixture, whisking constantly, until 1/2 of the milk is incorporated well and then you can add the rest of the milk all at once.  Whisk briskly to combine.

4.  Return mixture to pan and heat over medium low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (don't heat at too high of a heat or you'll scramble your eggs in the custard...not good eats!).  Let cool for 15 minutes and then transfer to a heat safe bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge to set.

To serve:  Place custard in bottom of some pretty glasses.  Spoon macerated strawberries on top and then finish off the layers with a good thick layer of whipped cream.

To eat:  Use a spoon and mix to combine all the layers and enjoy strawberry fool goodness!

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for week 2/9/15

There are several things to celebrate this week around here.

One:  Our tax return came in!  Which more on how I handle that soon, but it at least afforded us a bit of breathing room financially.  For me?  This is a big deal.

Two:  My friend Megan tuned me into a deal on apples (I posted about it on Facebook, so if you aren't following us on Facebook you might want to start.  I'll also be sharing any cool deals I find at the stores during the week and stuff on there) so I was able to get 2 cases of apples so cheap that I feel there must be a minor miracle involved.

Three:  Valentine's Day is this weekend.

Now, around here we don't "do" the normal Valentine's things, mainly because of my son's peanut allergy (kinda puts a downer on the holiday when every single Valentine's related treat contains peanuts).  So, I'll be making cookies and a new recipe for fudge for this weekend.  Here's hoping the kids enjoy it!

So, here's this week's menu plan.  There's a few shake ups to the norm, but nothing overly fancy.  By the way I do have some recipes from last week to share too.  Our power became possessed here, resulting in 1/2 of my house going through a strobe light effect all the time, the receptacles talking to us by making sputtering sounds, etc.  The other half of the house finally lost power, which resulted in my husband changing a main breaker for the house, that later turned out to be redundant since it wasn't on our end but our power company's end.  Turns out that a pole that directly feeds our main power pole for our block was shorting and since we were first in line of power for our road, we got to experience the wonders of it all.  It's fixed I guess that's four things to be excited about this week *laugh*.  So, I do have some back blogging to get done for last week too.

Menu Plan for Week 2/9/15
  • Monday:  Roast Chicken, Rice, Seasonal Salad (recipe coming soon)
  • Tuesday:  Chicken Noodle Soup (use carcass from roast chicken for stock.  Reserve 2 cups for Wednesday).  The husband has finally caught the cold we've been fighting around here.  Poor guy.  Recipe for super easy home made noodles coming soon too.
  • Wednesday:  Sausage "roll" with gravy (use reserved stock from Tuesday), steamed veggies and steamed pudding (this is a "one pot meal" concept that I was reading in an old cookbook and I'm intrigued to try it out).
  •  Thursday:  Shrimp Cocktail with salad (have some shrimp in the freezer I was getting decently cheap at Three Bears on sale a few weeks ago).
  • Friday:  Pancakes, bacon, eggs 
  • Saturday:  Fish and Chips (Cod was 5.00 per lb on 5.00 Friday last week, so I picked up a pack for 6.00 and some change).  This will be a rare treat as we haven't had fish and chips in a long time.
  • Sunday:  Yankee Style Beef Roast (recipe coming soon), roasted veggies, Never Fail Bread (recipe coming soon).
Breakfasts (outside of norm):

  • Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Crumb Fudge (Valentine's Day)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Rebuilding a Pantry on 25.00 per week: Week 6

So, this week's 25.00 toward my pantry rebuild project went toward:
  • 6 Pack Massel Beef Bouillon
  • 1 can Bird's Custard Powder
  • 1 container of wet wipes (5.00 on 5.00 Fridays at Carrs)
  • 1 package Fruitables juice boxes (free with Just 4 U coupon)
  • 1 box Nature Valley Breakfast Biscuits (free with Just 4 U coupon)
  • 1 package of Ortega Taco Shells 1.57 (Just 4 U personalized price).    
The boullion:  I got my six tins for 13.57.  It's a bit higher now, but still worth it.

Yes, I consider bouillon a pantry staple.  What do I use it for?  Well, a few of my favorites are adding it into water before you cook rice in it, which makes an excellent change up to plain old rice.  I also like to cook some noodles and then add the noodles to some bouillon when I'm not feeling well.  Kind of my own version of ramen noodles, but better for you (as the Massel brand of bouillon is low sodium and more allergy friendly than traditional bouillon).  If you don't want to buy tins of bouillon and don't have allergies to worry about (or aren't concerned about sodium intake), you can look for bouillon cubes or powder at your local store and such.

The Custard Powder:  I have recipes from some recipe books I love that call for custard powder, so I ordered it online.  I got a can for 5.00 with free shipping (course it shipped from Great Britain, so it took a while to get here).  I think something like this would be a great pantry staple as it doesn't take much powder to make the custard.

The Wet Wipes:  We go through a lot of wet wipes around here with the kids, so I always grab these when they are on 5.00 special.

The Fruitables and Nature Valley Breakfast Biscuits:  These were free with Just 4 U Coupons I loaded on my shopping card.  Since my daughter has slowly lost a corn allergy/sensitivity she had, I figure trying her on this juice for lunches is worth a shot (especially since the Honest Kids juice pouches I have been buying her forever are now up to 6.00 and some change...she only likes the orange flavor.  Just ugh.).  The Breakfast Biscuits are going to just be used by my husband when he needs a quick breakfast for the road as my son isn't allowed NEAR them with his allergies.  Really, these are NOT normally things I'd have in my pantry, but since they were free and they ARE going in the pantry, I thought I'd include them.

The Taco Shells:  I keep at least a couple of boxes of these in the pantry, normally, for taco nights.  So, one box down. 

Total spent: 25.14

So, I still have 4.05 left over in my "overage cushion" and got an okay amount of things to go in the pantry this week.  While I love the bulk items to resupply the pantry, it does eat into a 25.00 per week budget.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thrifty Thursday (Thrift Store Finds)

So, on Thursdays, I thought I'd share cool things I find at used stores or yard sales (if I find anything at all), just to show that saving money can be fun.

See, I LOVE thrift store shopping!  There is a thrill of the hunt type of vibe involved in used store shopping.  You never know what you are going to find when you walk through the door.  Sometimes you'll find nothing, sometimes you'll find something cool.

And, honestly, it's a "cheap date" for yourself if you go in with certain things you are looking for in mind, or with a budget in mind for what you want to spend.  I'll a lot of times walk in with whatever change I can gather up around the house (usually about 4.00 or so) and just see if I can find anything cool for that amount or less.  It's fun, it gets me out of the house, and in some cases like this week, it can save you a TON of money when you find the right things.

Case in point this week's finds.  My husband had gotten a pair of Wellington style boots from an old neighbor of ours a few years back and he loved them.  So much so that he plain wore them out.  When the seams split and the boots were barely holding together, I tried to repair them and quickly found that I am not a cobbler.  The boots are now super uncomfortable for him to wear.

So, we've been looking for over a year for a pair of Wellington boots for him and we were starting to think we were just plain going to have to spring for a new pair, which would cost well over 100.00, on sale.

I walked into the thrift stores this week actually seeking a new mixing bowl, as one of my two medium sized mixing bowls that I use ALL THE TIME got broken and made me cry a little as it was also one of two hand thrown bowls I had.  I'm making due without a second medium mixing bowl, but it does not work with the system I have going for baking.  And my bigger mixing bowl that I'm now using weighs a ton, which REALLY stinks when you are trying to scoop batter into a pan.

Anyway, so far I've not had a lot of luck on the mixing bowl front, but a pair of boots caught my eye as I was walking by a table.  Seeing they were in brand new shape almost, I flipped the boots over and was amazed to see that they would fit my husband.  So, I flagged down an employee as the boots were missing a price tag and he went and got them priced for me.  Honestly, I didn't hold out a lot of hope on the price because boots, especially good ones, tend to run expensive even at the used stores.

But, the boots came back with a 6.00 dollar price tag!  I was so thrilled I kept a death grip on those boots the entire time I was looking around the store *laugh*.
 I then discovered a couple of days later a few more finds.  My husband had a shaving mug that I'd found at, ironically enough, another used store ages ago and dropped it a few years back.  We've been looking for a replacement ever since.  And found one!  The shaving mug was 1.50, which from the Googling my husband did when we got home, we saved over 20.00 if we'd try to buy it new, and that was without shipping.  So woohoo!

I also found a Tupperware (I collect old Tupperware) container for crafts, which I've been using these for different sewing boxes and such when we run into them.  I'm going to turn this one into a segmented button box for different mending projects.  I scored this one for 2.00 and it's in nearly brand new shape.

So, there's our finds for this week.  Total spent:  9.50.  Total saved by buying used:  Probably close to 200.00, honestly.

Since I'd budgeted out 40.00 for new boots for my husband (as I knew he was going to need them sometime soon), I came out way ahead on that front this week.  Happy girl, am I!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Monthly Financial Goals (and Why They're Important)

One of the big things that people do NOT like to talk about with each other is money.  Heck, finances are linked as one of the leading causes of divorce.

Why is that?  Honestly, I think it's because we have this terrible habit of blaming the other party in a relationship for financial problems and it leads to resentment and in some cases the other party out and out lying about what they are doing financially so they don't have to get into a fight.

This, my friends, is destructive.  And counter productive if you are trying to get out of debt, recover from a financial pitfall or otherwise save money.

There MUST be financial accountability.  Otherwise, everything else you do?  It's going to be for naught.  Both parties, especially in a marriage NEED to know where that couple is standing finances wise or it's going to go badly at one point or another.  Least, that's my belief.

So, I make sure to give my husband a head's up, if nothing else, on where we are financially at all times.  And the last year I've tried really hard to schedule monthly financial "meetings" with him once the kids are in bed or on the weekend before the kids get up and can distract us.  I like mornings better, honestly, because then you don't go to bed with finances on the brain, which leads to, in my case a lot of times, anxiety attacks and not being able to sleep.

See, here's the big thing with finances.  They get away from you if you are not careful.  Especially credit cards (which we are down to two of them, one of which is a huge dental bill that we're getting taken care of for my husband slowly but surely and the other is a card we're paying off).  Sit down, pull out all your bills and list them for a few months.  Yes, it is probably going to be terrifying staring at your debt in plain black and white, but at the same time FACING it will also allow you to start to take control of it.  Before you can get yourself out of trouble, you need to realize you are in trouble to begin with.  The only way to do that is to track it and work out what you can do to get rid of it within your means.

Another thing I started doing was to sit down and start making mini "financial goals" that I want to accomplish that month.  For some odd reason I do better when I have things written down and can cross it off a list.  I mean even if your financial goal is, "Find a way to save five dollars.  Put five dollar bill in jar.  Repeat."  Keep doing that and then as you get better at it increase the amount.  You might be surprised how much money you can save that way.

So, here are my "financial goals" as they sit for this month.  I will get into more detail about some things later, maybe, but this is the "list" of things I want to check off this month.

February Financial Goals:

1.  Recharge cell phone. 

No, I do not have an I-Phone or other super smart phone.  Yup, I have a spiffy phone that needs to be recharged, usually due to my time running out, every three months.  Just to prove that it here you are...

Got it for 24.00 on Amazon (great place to purchase them) and got the case for like 4.00.  It works for what I need it for (mainly the multiple alarm function...I don't know what I'd do without that).   And yes, we're tight enough that I actually have to schedule a 30.00 recharge on my phone.  Sad, but true. 

2.  When tax refund comes in remove at least 80% and put in savings (more on that one later).

3.  Budget for gift and dinner for holidays.  

We have a birthday this month and Valentine's Day, so I'm figuring we're just going to do a "bulk" celebration for both.  It works :).

4.  Save at least 20.00 somewhere!

This one got accomplished already.  I'll share more on that later as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gingerbread (Victory) Pudding

This is a recipe that intrigued me when I ran across it in old cookbooks.  There were many different varieties of the pudding (some called for eggs, some not, some called for cinnamon, some not, etc), but what they all had in common seemed to be two things.  One:  It was always sweetened and flavored (primarily) with molasses and Two:  The recipe would call for rolled wheat (???).

What I loved about the recipe when I'd see it though is that it seemed like a really nutritious recipe for breakfast. So, seeing the word "rolled" with the wheat, I subbed out old fashioned rolled oats and while I'm not sure if it tastes like the original recipe, it does taste good!  The pudding comes out with a light pudding on top and a chewy almost toffee-like consistency toward the bottom (but easier to chew).  And the pudding tastes like gingerbread! 

I cut the molasses in the recipe with maple syrup, because while I usually have molasses around, I tend to keep dark molasses (go hard or go home I say ;), but most recipes called for light molasses and also molasses is expensive, so I figured I'd go half with the maple syrup to see how it would turn out.  And it comes out great!  If your family can "do" maple flavored pancake syrup (we can't due to food issues) I'm sure you could use that in replacement of the maple syrup.  If you want to be lazy with the sweeteners, just pour the molasses in first, eyeball halfway up a 1/3 of a cup and then fill the rest of the way with maple syrup.  It works fine.

The best thing about this recipe, though, is that it gets rolled oats into you and you'd never know you were eating oatmeal.  Seriously, give it a try!

I like to reheat mine in the mornings and put a little cream on top.   It is so yummy!

Gingerbread (Victory) Pudding
  • 2 Cups milk
  • 2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. molasses
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring milk to JUST a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat (if watching) or low heat (if not watching very closely), stirring frequently (if medium high heat) or occasionally (if not watching too closely).

Meanwhile, grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish (I like a casserole for this as the mixture does boil up a bit as it cooks in the oven).

Combine rolled oats, molasses, egg, ginger and salt in a heatproof bowl.  Take a ladle of milk and SLOWLY add to mixture while stirring hard (this will temper the egg in the mix so you don't end up with lumpy pudding).  Once the ladle of milk is added, grab the pot with the milk in it and CAREFULLY and slowly add the milk to the mixture, all the while stirring.  Once about 1/2 of the milk mixture is added to the oats, you can add the rest of the milk in all at once and stir well to combine.

Transfer mixture to casserole (it will be very liquidy, so don't worry about it). 
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set.  Cool for 20 to 30 minutes at least.  I like to make mine the night before, put it in the fridge overnight and then microwave portions for about 20 seconds in the microwave (barely warm consistency) and then add a little cream to the top. 

Super yummy.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: This Week's Menu (and a note on Menu Plans)

My Menu Plan Board
Okay, I know some out there are rolling their eyes and going, "Really?  Another menu plan blog?" because it seems that a LOT of blogs out there stress the importance of a menu plan.  And yes, I'm going to add my voice to the choir.  But, not for the reasons you might think.

See, some people stress the importance of shopping the sales and then figuring out your menu plan from that.  I'm not one of those people...well unless there's a fresh ingredient I get at the store on sale and need to use up (like prepare for some strawberry love this week as I have strawberries I got on sale at Carrs last week that will NOT go to waste).  Nor am I going to be one of those people who start showing you menu plans of lots of fresh produce and such and tell you how cheap it all is (I live in Alaska...yeah, produce is NOT cheap up here).  So, be prepared for pretty simple menu plans from me (not that I won't do new things every once in a while to "shake it up" as it were).

The main reason I do a menu plan?  Well, the honest to goodness reason?  Is because I got tired of me asking my husband, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" and him replying, "I don't know, what do you want?"  Fast forward fifteen minutes into the future and I'm going to the kitchen to make some mediocre fare and call it good before I throttle something.

So now, when my husband asks what is for dinner, I look over at the menu plan for the week and say, "We're having..." and voila!  No more indecisive nights.  Which also will lead to less eating out.  Which in turn saves money too.  Trust me, I know from experience.

So, here's our menu plan for this week.  Nothing too exciting, but I'm down to chicken (lots and LOTS of chicken) and hamburger in the freezer pretty much.  It's the countdown till tax refund comes in around here, so until then dinner excitement is in my court to make the mundane new again.

Menu plan for week 2/2/15
  • Monday:  Chicken Alfredo (I threw in a handful of frozen vegetable medley I had in the freezer too that was slightly freezer burned, so double bonus on that one!)
  • Tuesday:  Baked Fish (some slightly freezer burned pollock I found in the bottom of the freezer) in a some heavy type of sauce (to cover freezer burn), rice, salad (big things of salad were on sale 2 for 5.00 on Friday at Carrs, so I'm trying to use up the salad before it goes slimy)
  • Wednesday:  Fried Chicken (to appease the daughter unit), mashed potatoes, baked beans.  Note:  Strain and save oil.
  • Thursday:  Cheesburger Soup (tweaked to fit our needs, but it looks good)
  • Friday:  Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
  • Saturday:  Chicken Fried "Steak" (recipe coming soon if it turns out good).  Use strained oil from fried chicken.
  • Sunday:  Meatloaf (use leftover gravy from night before), leftover mashed potatoes (from Wednesday), some type of veggie.
Breakfast foods (non usual):
  • Gingerbread/Victory Pudding (recipe coming soon)
  • Strawberry something or other (imagination will be used)