Friday, December 31, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Hello everyone!

I hope and pray everyone had a great Christmas holiday.  Around here, it was kind of depressing.  My husband started getting sick right about the time I started feeling better from whatever virus I had.  Honestly, I think my husband had been fighting it off for a while, but finally succumbed last week, probably because he knew subconsciously that he was getting really close to his week long vacation (talk about a crappy vacation, though).  It was rough.  He started getting sick on the 19th, had to take the 20th off from work because he went down with the cold HARD.  By Thursday he ended up going to the doctor because he was concerned he had pneumonia.  His lungs were horribly enflamed, tested negative (for the second time that week) for Covid and was sent home with some hefty steroids for his lungs as he was still in the viral stage of the bug.  He's since had to get an antibiotic onboard with his treatment as the steroids helped, but were not making him well, and being as sick as he was he definitely ended up with a secondary infection.  I'm thinking he might be in for a second round of antibiotics before it is all said and done.  The son came down with the virus the day before Christmas, so between the husband and son...Christmas wasn't that great, in all honesty.  By the time my birthday rolled around the daughter had succumbed as well,'s been kind of depressing and worrisome as holidays go for me.  Bright side, the kids are doing alright and getting through this okay.  So, hopefully the family will be better soon.

I'm really looking forward to our immune systems getting back to a normal level.  It seems like everyone around us, including us, is getting sick near constantly as with all of the lockdowns and things everyone's immune systems got compromised because they weren't exposed to germs.  My husband takes precautions at the airport, but it seems like every week there is some new bug making the rounds  at his work and unfortunately some of them have made their way back home.  It is just going to be one of those winters, I think.  I'm making sure to pop my vitamins and copious amounts of Vitamin D (with the polar dark we get up here, we are all deficient in vitamin D and need to take it all year long).  So far, if this is a new virus my husband brought home, I've managed to hold off getting it *knock on wood*, but I'm suspecting my family finally caught the bug I had.  I tried my hardest to make sure they didn't get exposed by me, but when you live in the same house and don't really get to go makes it difficult.  But yeah, let's hear it for vitamins!

On top of the family getting sick, our weather has not been great.  I spent a good couple of hours one day last week shoveling two plus feet of snow off of my deck as we were getting nailed with freezing rain for a few days and I was worried if we were going to get the amount of ice they were predicting I didn't want the weight of the ice accumulating on top of the weight of the snow we'd gotten for fear my deck might collapse from the weight.  We did end up getting a pretty good amount of freezing rain, so I am really glad I decided to do the job.  Our immediate roads are still nasty slippery (some roads are better than others, of course) and today we are getting more snow and then the temperature is set to tank again where we'll be having highs in the single digits.  Not great weather.  Our temps were 12 degrees colder on average this month compared to last year, which my electric (electric supplemental heating system in the house) and the gas bill definitely reflected that.  And honestly I'm grateful that is all we have had to deal with so far, as I've watched what has been going on all over (so many prayers to spread around all over the world right now it seems) and just locally know that a LOT of people (like those in Fairbanks/North Pole/Delta Junction) are WAY worse off than we are.  My prayers are with them as well.

Since we were home all week as I tried to nurse the family back into something resembling good health (lots of soups!!!), I did get some things accomplished, so let's get into those!

1.  I started going into all the nooks and crannies of the house and finding all of my empty mason jars so I have them to use and all in one place so I can find them when I need them (in theory anyway *laugh*).

2.  I emptied out our food storage areas, took inventory of our long term food storage and got everything put away in different areas as my husband needed the corner I had chosen to store my long term food storage for another project.  

3.  The kids got a lot of clothes and bed sheets and things for Christmas this year and, for a change, I was able to get all of the new clothing washed and ready to go within a day of Christmas (I normally have a huge pile of clothes to work through, so this was a real accomplishment for me :).

4.  I tried to fix my Food Saver, but nothing I tried worked, unfortunately.  The pump just will not engage no matter what I try.  My husband has added it to his pile of things to tear apart and try to fix, but in the meantime my sister was nice enough to get me a new food sealer for Christmas, so I won't be without one.  I really want to start using the vacuum sealer more to preserve foods longer, so I was happy to receive it.

5.  I made vegetable beef and barley soup for dinner one night, so I went through all the vegetables in my fridge and freezer and pulled out anything that needed to be used up and made a HUGE pot of soup.  I still have a few containers left in the fridge that I'll put into individual portions and freeze today so we have some ready made soup in the freezer to reheat when we want.  I also refrigerated and then cut and froze individual pieces of mincemeat pie (leftover from Christmas dinner) and cut up and froze what was left of our Christmas Eve lasagna as well.  I'm feeling pretty good that I'll have a few things all set up and ready to go in the freezer for later use AND I didn't have to throw out any left overs.

6.  I needed a few items for the kitchen, so when I had to put medical bills on the credit cards, I took the credit card rewards and redeemed them for Amazon gift cards.  I then used the gift cards to buy the things I needed for no money out of pocket.  

7.  I sat down and made a list of all the rooms in my house and what I wanted to do to get them all cleaned up and spick and span.  My goal is to do a deep clean to help welcome in the new year.  Kind of like wiping the slate clean and just making you feel like you are going into the new year with a clean and fresh spirit.  It just seems like a good idea after the past few years to do anything I can to help bring some happy energy into the house :).

8.  I clipped the cat's claws and brushed their teeth.  With how the cost on everything is going up, I have come to realize that preventative care for everything, including the pets, is going to be even more important, so I am making a point on keeping on top of things in that area.

9.  We took down the Christmas decorations a few days after Christmas and I have to say that while we do love the decorations and lights and everything I do really appreciate the open feeling the room gets when the tree is put away.  It is definitely easier to vacuum once the tree is put away *laugh*.

10.  I had some fuel rewards that were about to expire on my shopping card, so I redeemed them for some baking supplies that were available for December to redeem your points for.  I got a free bag of chocolate chips, a free bag of coconut, a free bag of sugar and a free bag of flour (which I need to pick up next time I'm at the store as I ended up doing seat of my pants shopping last week when I needed to go and pick up prescriptions for my husband at the pharmacy and I completely forgot my shopping list).

11.  My daughter and I sat down, planned out and were able to have her make gifts for everyone this year.  She really worked hard and put a lot of thought and effort into the gifts she made and I have to say that I'm really proud of her as she really GOT the whole concept of giving gifts.  She might not have spent much money on making the gifts she gave, but she put tons of thought and effort into them and that is what it is really about :).  So, yeah, mom brag moment here *laugh*.

12.  Just as a side note, the photo up top is of what we have for daylight this time of year.  I took the photo at about two in the afternoon the day after the solstice.  We DO have light this time of year, just nothing more than a twilight type of light.  It's kind of like the dawn can't get past the starting line this time of the year, but the dawn and dusk light I have to say is pretty when it isn't overcast and such.  All of Alaska is happy that we are past the solstice and are gaining a few minutes of light every day now.  We kind of have a little cheer as soon as the solstice is over.  

So, there you go folks.  Some of the things that have been going on around here.  I am off to clean!  I hope you all have a GREAT New Years and I'll be back with most posts then :).

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas 2021, Gift 2: Some Pretty Throw Pillows

Man, getting gifts done this year has been a constant battle!  I spent all of Saturday, a day I really wanted to make a bunch of gifts for the family, working on getting printers set up so that the daughter and husband could make some gifts.  After rebooting networks, finding and replacing ink cartridges, getting print heads aligned and cleaned and everything else, the day was pretty much shot.  Sunday, my son hadn't slept Saturday night, so I was not functioning so well, but I managed to get basics done, like housework.  So, being super productive and getting a bunch of gifts made hasn't really happened.

Bright side, I did find time to quickly get a gift finished for the daughter in the middle of all of the chaos, although it wasn't really a hard gift to do, so let's catalog that anyway!

A while back, I found a good deal on a couple of pretty slip covers for cheap and they have sat in my closet for months.  One of the main things my daughter asked for Christmas early this year was some new throw pillows as the ones I made her in the past are really on their last legs (like one of the pillows I made for her the actual material is starting to develop holes...usually a good indication that the pillow is at the end of its life cycle).  I did my best to mend her current throw pillows and told her I'd aim to get her new ones for Christmas.  So, when I saw these pillow covers, I had to get them for her and make her some replacement throw pillows.  

The pictures really don't do them justice.  The pillows have a pretty graduated pattern of purple to them that fade out into a really light purple grey.  It would have been better as pink (since that is the daughter's favorite color), but I was willing to settle on the color since it was so pretty.

So, I took some leftover unbleached muslin that I had from another project and some stuffing/filling I had and was able to make two pillow forms to fit the pillow covers in no time flat.  The pillow forms aren't perfect, but they are going to spend their lives stuffed into a pillow cover, so I was perfectly content with that *laugh*.  I couldn't really make the pictures pretty before taking the photos of the finished pillows, sorry to say, as I was in a tremendous hurry to stuff said pillows into a big box and get it wrapped before the daughter saw what I was doing, which was harder than I thought it was going to be.

So, two gifts down for the year.  I really don't know if I'll be able to do much more, honestly, as my husband came down with a cold last night and went down hard.  He's pretty miserable.  So, I'm not sure how much I'm going to get done in the gift department when I'm just trying to keep the son from going into my bedroom and waking my husband up.

So, two gifts down for this year.  Here's hoping I can get a few more done before the big day. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Making Much With Very Little: Stuffed Pepper Casserole

This is one of those recipes that was born out of necessity for me.  See, those of you who live in other climates might be able to go down and get cheap bell peppers, but in Alaska...I've never run into such a thing.  For the most part it seems like you can run into cheap peppers once in a long while, but for the most part you are looking at 1.00+ for a green bell pepper no matter the time of year up here.  So, stuffed peppers weren't really part of my budget.

So, I got a good deal on mini sweet peppers at the store one day recently and decided to try and stuff mini peppers to make stuffed peppers as the daughter wanted to try them.  Results?  Flat pepper halves that were incapable of holding any filling at all.  So, I punted.  I made a batch of stuffed pepper filling and then made the peppers work to make a casserole.  It worked well and the daughter enjoyed the new casserole.

Now, a quick note on stuffed peppers.  I remember my grandmother making stuffed peppers a bunch when I was a teenager and I once asked her why she thought someone had come up with the idea.  She smiled and talked about her mom stuffing every veggie she could think of with meats that were padded out with rice, or bread crumbs or oatmeal.  Anything to make meat stretch and give the family more filler and nutrition from the vegetables and the grains.

I have read a bunch of articles that are saying the produce is going to be going up in price due to a fertilizer shortage, so I wanted to mention a few alternatives here.  One, you can dice up the peppers like I do here and place them in the bottom of your casserole dish so you end up with a bit of a crunch to your peppers.  Or, you can use a bag of frozen onion and pepper mix and use that in with the stuffing to give you the pepper flavor, but yield you a softer pepper.  Or you could cook your peppers with your meat along with your onions if you are using fresh and yield softer peppers that way.  Sky's the limit here.  Go with what you prefer for flavor and texture.

Now, other flavor variations.  You can use diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce in this recipe, which will yield a different texture, but I think it would yield a drier casserole, and I prefer mine to be moist, so go with what you prefer.  If you like it spicy you could add a bit of red pepper flake to the meat, or add a can of sliced chilies...there's a lot of play here and the nice part is that since you are putting in your main casserole all cooked up you can taste your mixture as much as you need to before putting it in the oven :).

So, here you go folks.  Stuffed peppers without stuffing peppers.  Stuffed pepper casserole!

Stuffed Pepper Casserole


  • 1 Cup diced sweet pepper (colored or green, your choice.  I had mini sweet colored peppers so I used those).  This amount can be adjusted up if you want more pepper in your casserole :).
  • 1 cup cooked rice (great use for leftover rice)
  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine (I used a sweet onion)
  • 1 to 2 TBS butter or cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1 TBS Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (or more to make a moist mixture.  This may vary depend on what type of rice you are using)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, separated



1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2,  Clean, seed and dice peppers and place in bottom of an 8x8" baking dish.  Set aside.

3.  Place butter or cooking oil into a preheated skillet.  Add onion and turn heat to low.  Sweat onion until it is translucent.  Turn up heat to medium and add ground beef, garlic powder, Italian herb seasoning, salt and black pepper.  Stir constantly until mixture is heated through.

4.  Place rice into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add beef mixture on top of it.  Mix well.  Add tomato sauce.  Stir mixture again.  Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and mix one more time.  Taste and adjust flavorings or tomato sauce amounts accordingly (you want the mixture to be moist and kind of sticky).  

5.  Spoon rice and beef mixture on top of peppers in pan.  Place the other 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the mixture.  Cover and place in preheated oven.

6.  Bake 25 minutes.  Remove covering and place baking pan back in oven.  Cook an additional 10 minutes to brown up the cheese and the mixture is bubbly.

There you go folks.  Another use for ground meat.  And yes, I say meat.  I'm sure you could use ground chicken or pork and just do the flavorings to your liking.  Since you are dealing with already cooked meat, it should be pretty easy to tailor it to fit your family's individual tastes :).  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Christmas 2021, Gift One: Home Made Lip Balm

When it came to making gifts this year, I decided I would go in a different direction with a few gifts for the family.  So, this year I made lip balms/chap sticks in bulk for my husband and kids.  The main reason there are so many in the photo above is that my son has taken a liking to eating chap sticks over the last year.  I suspect it is because he won't he craves the fat in the chap sticks as he keeps growing every time I look at him.  I've been sourcing all natural options that contain coconut oil and things basically as a sneaky way to sneak "good" fats into his diet versus goodness knows WHAT that is in the good old chemical laden ones, but MAN that gets expensive fast.  So, I decided to dust off of my "I need to make everything because my child is allergic to everything" gloves and ordered the materials to make my own lip balms in bulk for this year's Christmas gift to my family.  And, bonus, this way I'll definitely know what the son is consuming whenever he eats one as there are three ingredients, basically.

I will link to the recipe that I used and to the materials I bought.  Mind you, I went as cheap as I could to source the materials and I wanted a good volume for my buck, so this would give you enough beeswax and coconut oil to probably make lip balms for an army, so just be aware of that when you purchase.  

Note:  The following posts contains NO Associate fee links.  I'm just sharing.  If you wish to support the blog via Amazon purchases, please feel free to hit up the link on the right side of the blog and order whatever you want through the link.  Amazon will give me a small commission for pointing the sale their way if you order through that link and it will cost you nothing extra to do.  If you support the blog in this way, thank you :).

For this Christmas gift I went and purchased the following materials (over like four or five months so as not to break the bank):

  • 105 Pack of Lip Balm Tubes (Assorted Colors)
  • I also got these:  Lip Balm Containers, but man they are TINY.  I won't be buying those again, I doubt.
  • BetterBody Foods Organic Naturally Refined Coconut Oil, 56 oz (I went with refined to avoid the coconut flavor as the son gets funky about these things and my husband prefers neutral flavors in chap stick). 
  • Howemon White Beeswax Pellets, 2 lb bag (Note on this:  Some people were complaining about a chemical smell with the pellets and said they weren't true beeswax.  I didn't have any of those problems.  Mine smelled like nothing offensive and melted just like the refined beeswax pellets I've used in the past, but with shortages your mileage may vary on quality with different sellers on Amazon and things.  I wanted white because I knew my son wouldn't even let me near him with a yellow lip balm.  Anyway, use your own judgement on this product).

I used flavoring oils I already had in the house to flavor different lip balms.  I have to say, if you have a choice, go with the essential oils as they are more powerful and I think work better.  I ended up using at least 20 drops of flavoring oil per batch and the lip balms STILL barely taste like anything.  

The recipe I used to make the lip balms is Coconut Mama's Recipe and I just made a recipe with each flavor.   I found I got 16 lip balms out of each batch versus the yields she shared on her blog, but it might have been variances in materials that caused that to happen (or I'll find huge air bubbles in my lip balms when we go to use them, which would make me feel awful, but I doubt it).   I used olive oil I already had in the house for the third oil :).

Overall, I made four flavors and got a ton of lip balms to put under the tree for the family this year and also have enough materials to make a ton more, so I'd say it was worth it :).

How about you?  Making any gifts so far this holiday season?  My family is going crazy with the home made gifts this year, which I'm loving.  My daughter is making gifts for everyone in the family and some extended family too and even my husband has gotten into making gifts this year.  It is cool :).

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times a lot)

First, I want to thank all those who checked in with me the last weeks to see how I was doing.  It has been a bit rough, so if you haven't heard back from me, I WILL try to get back to you and I'm sorry for the delay.

So, what has been going on?  Well, right about the time of my last blog post, I was starting to get sick.  I thought it was allergies, honestly, as the symptoms were kind of come and go like allergies.  But, it just kept going and slowly getting worse.  I had a headache for nearly a week straight, which then went into stomach upset for about a week (thankfully I was able to function while this was going on).  Somehow I held it together pretty well through Thanksgiving and then the weekend after Thanksgiving I went down hard.  I had full blown cold symptoms, lost my voice for three days straight, the whole shabang.  My husband even had to stay home from work one day because I honestly wasn't able to stay awake very well and desperately needed to lie down.  And boy did I sleep.  A lot.  After that it was just fighting horrible, and I mean HORRIBLE fatigue.  Standing up for more than a few minutes was really hard to do and I kept getting winded walking or just out of no where.  My mother-in-law was nice enough to pick me up a home COVID test because she was worried I had it.  It came up negative, so I just tell people I was down with "Not COVID" and leave it at that.  I honestly have no idea what I had, but I don't want it back again if I can help it for sure.  And to those out there who would be concerned, don't worry.  I went no where when I was sick.  Trust me, I wasn't up to going anywhere anyway.

The last week about I've finally gotten some energy and am feeling human again, so I have been working really hard to just get caught up on Christmas stuff around here.  I somehow managed to put up the Christmas tree and decorations the day after Thanksgiving, so at least I didn't have to try and do THAT while barely able to think straight when I was so sick.  But, yeah, Christmas cookie baking and decorating are definitely behind.  We managed to get the gingerbread house made and decorated, which I was happy to be able to do that with the kids, and we baked the cookies yesterday so today is making and putting on frosting and sprinkles.

So, yeah, it's been hectic now that I'm feeling better.  I have NOT forgotten about the different blog posts I have in the works, so stay tuned for that.  I also have a few gifts I'm desperately trying to get done and under the tree by Christmas, so stay tuned for that.  I'm honestly not sure if I'll get all of the gifts done this year as I'm just so far behind, but I figure I'll do what I can and forgive myself the rest.  Some years are like that. 

So, let's get to some money saving things we did the last bit.

1.  Well, this was an interesting frugal fail.  I went to the store before Thanksgiving to get regular groceries and a few last minute little things for Thanksgiving.  I knew I was going to spend enough to get a free turkey, so I figured I'd go and get next year's turkey like I always do and put it in the freezer for later.  Well, this is the sight that met me when I got to the meat section...

Now mind you this was actually a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so I was blown away when I saw that they were completely bare of turkeys.  

I found myself really, really grateful that I had a turkey in the freezer for Thanksgiving.  I feel for those who had to figure out something else maybe because they couldn't find a turkey :(.

Anyway, I knew I wasn't going to be back at the store before Thanksgiving, so as soon as I pulled out the turkey for Thanksgiving I just rearranged the freezer and decided to use the space freed up by the turkey to better store my frozen vegetables.  I decided I wasn't going to worry about not having a turkey for next Thanksgiving at this point.  I have a year.  I'll find something at some point.  And if I don't, we'll have something else next year and we'll be just fine.  Thanksgiving is being grateful for what you have and I was determined to keep that spirit this year.

2.  I took advantage of one Black Friday sale this year.  My daughter desperately needed a new winter coat as she's grown into a woman's size versus a kid's size now.  I HATE buying winter gear this time of year as you end up spending full price on it, but I knew it was necessary.  My mom sent us a check for Christmas (thanks, mom!) and I ended up using a good portion of it to get my daughter a new winter coat off of  They had 60% off plus free shipping (the free shipping is what I definitely go for as shipping up here isn't cheap and getting worse every day), so I spent a good couple of hours going through pretty much every winter coat they had to find one that was rated for low enough temperatures for up here and got it.  My daughter is dwarfed by the coat a bit, but she'll grow into it and she attests to the fact that it is warm and comfortable.

3.  I was able to load a coupon for a free bag of French fries onto my Carrs card one week and we definitely took advantage of it as my son actually likes that brand of French fries (I'm still working on getting him to eat home made French fries).  I also cashed out one fuel reward (before the month rolled over) and used it to get two free cans of green beans.  Since we were running a bit low on green beans, this was a good way to start to build up the supply.  This month I actually got five fuel rewards as a birthday gift from Carrs that were good all month, so I used those to get a free bag of frozen fruit (we got some raspberries) and another free bag of French fries for the freezer.  

4.  In previous years I've ended up throwing away the turkey giblets because I would just not have a use for them and would end up throwing them away from the freezer later.  This year I was determined that I would not waste them, so I called my mom and got her recipe for cooking giblets off of her as I remembered she used to cook the giblets and make giblet stuffing from them.  I made the giblet stuffing once after being married, but it made so much that once I wasn't feeding a crowd, I kind of moved onto other recipes for Thanksgiving.  I made a very delicious broth from simmering the neck and giblets (thanks for reminding me how to do it, mom!).  I ended up eating the meat off the turkey neck (I like it and have since I was a kid *laugh*) and then froze the stock and the giblets.  The giblets I'll use in home made stuffing later on (yum!) and the broth I am planning on adding to a big pot of turkey stock I'm going to make from the last of the Thanksgiving turkey parts and then I'm going to can it in pint jars.  I haven't done pressure canning in a long time, but I have decided it it is time to get back into doing it for the sake of being more self-sufficient.  I have other things I'm planning on water bath canning (frozen fruit), but honestly I'm waiting till after Christmas to even start canning things as I'm still recovering from being sick and I have other things to do before the holiday.  So, stay tuned for that.

5.  I mended another coat of my husband's.  I feel kind of bad that the mending pile has gotten so huge, so I'm trying to work my way through it and get things done.  

6.  I got a 5.00 check for doing some surveys online.  I turned around and immediately donated the funds to a tornado fund that the governor of Kentucky has set up.  I have managed to get together a couple of donations this season by doing surveys and other activities online.  It isn't much, but I am doing what I can.  I'm not mentioning this as a way to pat myself on the back or anything, please don't take it that way.   I'm bringing it up because you can do this too.  Like those who use apps like Ibotta or other money back sites for their normal shopping and things...maybe you could find a few dollars to take out of paypal and donate to your local food bank or other charity near and dear to your heart if you feel called in that direction.  

I was feeling really down this holiday season when I was sick and everything and looking at my budget getting tighter and tighter and more and more need from different places staring me in the face.  I really wanted to help, but didn't know how I could.  Using money back apps and things doesn't give much back to you, but it is a way to squeeze blood from a stone and let you help sometimes.  Just a thought :).

Oh also, you can sign up for Amazon Smile (not pushing it for Amazon's sake, but just mentioning it) and donate to a bunch of charities by just shopping through the Amazon Smile site.  Not sure if your chosen charity will be on there, but it is something to look into and it won't cost you a dime to do and will help out the charity you choose.

7.  I used a 15% off Michael's Rewards code to get a frame for my daughter for cheap so she could finish up a Christmas gift she's making.  

8.  When we ran out of blue baking sugar when making cookies, instead of running out and buying some, we just made some instead with some sugar and food coloring.  It worked perfectly and saved some money :).

9.  We really wanted to listen to Christmas music on the radio, but the radio reception at my house sucks.  So, I went and downloaded the IHeartMusic app and went and looked up their Christmas music station for free.  I then just blue tooth the music to my a little radio I have that doubles as a bluetooth speaker and it works fabulously.  My daughter loves it!

10.  I wanted something we could use for exercising this winter in the house, so instead of going out and buying something expensive, I went and dug around our storage van before the weather went super cold and found the stationary bike I had used when I was pregnant with both of my kids.  It a bit beat on, but still works perfectly well, so I hauled it up to the house (not easy, but I did it) and my husband managed to maneuver it through the garage and into the den, so we'll have it to work on this winter.  The kids are already getting on and using it for fun, so I'm doubly happy I did that :).

I'm sure there are more things that I'm forgetting, but I'll leave it there for now.  I'm just so grateful to be feeling somewhat human again :).  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Keep Calm and Stock for the Apocalypse: A Quick Pantry Tour

By the way, the subject line was meant to make you giggle.  If you can't laugh, you cry.  Better to laugh, in my experience.

Anyway, it has been a while since I gave a pantry tour, so I thought I'd do a quick one.  Now, for those of you just starting out when it comes to food storage, do NOT think that you will be able to put this type of food storage together overnight and I hope to put up a post in the next little bit to hopefully help out a bit to get you started.  Honestly, I've been stocking up pretty hard over the last three years, since I started from a not great position after a year of an awful earthquake, a mice infestation in my pantry that wiped out a ton of stuff and other things AND living in Alaska we have to prepare a lot harder for unforeseen circumstances than in other places, so there is that going for me as well.  So anyway, the last few years, I was already in "build up the pantry" mode when certain worldwide events hit and put it into overdrive when I realized that my cost of living was looking to go berserk very quickly.  So, yeah, I have truly been in a mode, especially the past year, to get that one year (at LEAST) of food storage and other household goods stocked up as much as possible.  My husband and I have always worked toward putting up a year's worth of certain things every year, like we do tend to stock a year's supply of toilet paper and paper towels every year (thank goodness we normally did THAT when certain events hit), but the last bit, with inflation raising prices every time I go to the stores, I have been working hard on keeping more and more on hand to keep life as normal as possible in the coming months as items aren't available or we just can't afford to get them in with our normal shopping trips.  

I do have a few things that aren't done yet for the pantry that are on my "to do" list (things I have to process), but I'm fighting allergies the last few days, so I am not getting those done this week by the looks of it.

By the way, this is not my entire shelf stable food storage.  I have my long term food storage (freeze dried cans and things) kind of stored anywhere I can find room throughout the house right now.  I have bread flour, more pasta, corn meal, rice and things in containers stacked up in a corner so I have them to fill the holes in the pantry as I need to in the coming months.  It ain't a pretty set up, but I am glad to have it. 

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  For one, you'll notice that I have a bunch of prepackaged mixes on the shelves by the door.  I did this quite on purpose.  For one, in some cases the deals were just too insane to ignore (like the 12 boxes of cake mix I ended up getting for 5.00), or I just wanted to make sure we had mixes that were peanut safe that I could stock up on for desserts and breakfasts (in the case of the muffin mixes).  The benefit of keeping the boxed mixes around is basically, in my mind, it helps to conserve my flour, sugar and other baking supplies for other things/projects and they have the side benefit of being easy to mix up so my daughter has definitely gotten into helping me make them when I make one up :).  And they were cheap enough, when I bought them, to make it worth my while to purchase them, so I am doubly happy to have them around.

So, some new things that you may notice that I'm keeping around and raise an eyebrow at.

I have started, the last few years, to stock shelf stable tofu.  I buy a 12 pack off of Amazon and it'll last me a year.  It is American made, a bonus for me an keeps quite well on the shelf.  I primarily use the tofu to make miso soup.  The miso is missing because I keep miso paste in the freezer and fridge to help it keep as I read on some Asian blogs that was the best way to preserve it.  I get organic miso off of Amazon as well, at least for now, in a two pack and that'll last me a year.  I do use the tofu in an occasional other dish, such as Pad Thai or other stir fry as well, so it really is nice to keep around the pantry.

I also ended up buying Japanese soy sauce in bulk off of Amazon earlier this year (we like the flavor a lot better) as a six pack was on sale cheap, so that'll definitely last me quite a while (seen in the top photo, but the close up one didn't turn out).  I've found myself cooking Japanese a lot more than I used to the last few years, so you'll notice that I actually have an "Asian" section in the pantry with Ramen and Soba noodles and stuff.  I got the noodles super cheap earlier in the year when they had a coupon code stacked on top of the Subscribe and Save discount, so I got 6 packs of noodles for like 8.00, which was cheap for specialty noodles.  And hey, more pasta is not a bad thing in my opinion.

You'll also notice in the above photo some containers of specialty coffee drinks.  I bought those as a back up plan in case milk gets scarce as I like milk in my coffee, so I bought those as a way to get my creamy coffee if I need to ration the milk for other purposes (like for the kids as milk is one of the few "real" food items my son will consume, so I consider it an absolute necessity around here :).  I got some marzipan super cheap at the beginning of the year on clearance, so you'll see some boxes of that.  I really love marzipan, so I admit I bought more than I probably should have (never shop hungry).   I've been slowly going through the boxes and making different desserts that call for marzipan (our favorite, so far, has actually just been chocolate covered marzipan *laugh*).

Okay, so let's move to the other side of the pantry entry.  Over here I have additional storage buckets of flour and some containers containing popcorn and other items.  New over on this side is a big bag of citric acid, food grade, that I bought from Amazon.  I've messed with citric acid in the past so I have had experience making my own bath bombs and other uses.  I mainly got this as a good cleaner to have around (like your dishwasher cleaner is just citric acid, so it's a great thing to put in your dishwasher to clean off the scum and things if you can't find your dishwasher cleaner tablets and things), but it is good that I can use it for making candy and things if I need/want to.  Over on this side is some bottled water (in the brown "Alaskan Grown" box and there is more under it) and I keep all of my freezer bags, my emergency box of trash bags, cling wrap...other plastic goods, etc.  In the box on top of the salt reservoir for the water softener I have all of my coffee filters, some plastic cups, some paper storage containers for ice cream and some other miscellaneous things.  On the other side of the water softener tank (where the vinegar container is) is where I keep my bulk jugs of vinegar.  I have white distilled, apple cider and rice vinegar at the moment in gallon jugs as I use vinegar quite a lot.  I also have a bulk container of salt (the red lidded container there) and some bags of potatoes that I can't quite fit in my fridge yet.

As you go deeper into the pantry you'll see some of the canned fruit and vegetables.  I'm doing pretty well on being stocked up on things, but believe it or not I'm a little light on green beans (shocking, I know *laugh*).  I am so relieved every time I look and see a variety of things that we can eat in this area, after the dreaded "year of the green beans" as I like to call it now.  

Next up is the shelf next to the canned goods shelf, so we have ketchup (we have a ton of it, but we are going through it), BBQ sauce, some pizza sauce that my daughter likes (under the Oreos that I'm hiding from my son at the moment), a bunch of cooking oil (which you can't really see in the pic unfortunately), honey (as it keeps forever and works great as a sweetener in a pinch) and some miscellaneous cooking sauces and things (in the wine caddy...I have cooking wine, but I found it is a great storage container for other things as well).  On the bottom shelf I have my home canned sauerkraut and applesauce as well as some store bought applesauce (in case we run out of home made) and things.  It actually is rather well organized, although you really can't tell from the photos.  The big dark jug on the floor is actually Worcestershire sauce that I got super cheap on Amazon when I needed to get some for the house  From what I read, since the sauce is fermented anyway, it doesn't really go bad, so I thought I'd give it a shot (since it was the same price as a small bottle of the stuff at my local store).   

And here is the big change I made to the pantry, that took me forever (which is sad), but makes the lights in the pantry work a LOT better and lets me actually see what I have a lot better as well.  I moved the condiment shelf from the other wall to this one, so the light actually illuminates everything on the shelf.  It turned out to be a real asset doing that as I found some things I needed to use up when I moved the shelf and things, so I've been going through those items and using them for meals.  I also went through the #10 cans that I used to construct the shelf and traded some of them out with other cans that were longer termed storage (like the wheat replaced a can of dehydrated apples I need to use and things), so that was a double good reason to move the shelf.  

So, yeah, that about wraps up the pantry tour.  I feel pretty good about the pantry at the moment, I have to say.  I've worked really hard, especially the last couple of years, to start buying items that we'll actually use versus items we might use or just getting something I want to try.  So far I'm doing pretty well as I've gone through and found that I've been doing a good job rotating through the food storage and using up everything before it goes too far past it's use by date.  That's usually, to me, a good indicator of how good of a purchase a certain item was for the pantry.  If you end up throwing it away, don't buy it again.

I have gotten a few e-mails asking about what I consider to be the most essential items in my pantry to help give people a place to start.  I've been working on the list and will hopefully get that up in the next few days, so please, for those of you who have been keeping a pantry for a while, jot down some notes as well to share as I'm sure I'm going to forget things in my list :).  Hopefully it will help some people to have a starting point to work from.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Making Much With Very Little: Stuffed Steak Casserole

 So, as I stated a few blog posts ago, I have been really racking my brain on how to help people out as much as I can during this...well...mess seems actually a rather nice way to put it...that we are all in.  So, I brainstormed and brainstormed some more and one of the things that I did come up with was that I could definitely find ways to stretch a meal and/or make money stretch and share some of those ideas to hopefully help people out in my little corner of the internet.

So, first up is I'm going to be sharing more recipes.  Like this one.  I ran into an article stating that people are turning back to buying ground meat instead of whole cuts because it is cheaper, which I definitely understand, so I started thinking on different recipes I could share that would use ground meat.  I didn't really want to do the usual meatloaf or tacos as those are things people can just find anywhere.  I sat down and came up with a goal to share a series of recipes using ground beef (and hopefully share recipes where you can sub ground pork or chicken if you need to) that are simple, cost effective and filling.  Note, I no where in that sentence mentioned "super healthy" as really anytime you go for simple, a lot of times you end up sacrificing the healthy a bit, although I WILL try to make some healthy recipes here.  

Right, so here's the neat part about this series of recipes dealing in ground meat.  I am purposefully making them so you can brown up a big pot of ground beef (or whatever) and then just set aside 1 lb portions of said meat to use in recipes later. So if you buy a big bulk package of hamburger, you can just brown all of it to use later...this is intended to make it easier for those who have to work, for example, and just need some help with cheap and easy meals.  

The first recipe I came up with is based on one of my mom's old stand by recipes.  When I was a kid, my mom would take a cheap cut of steak, pound it super thin to tenderize it, make up some stuffing mix, throw it on the steak, fold said steak in half (so the stuffing was sandwiched inside), throw some gravy or cream of soup on top of it and bake it.  She called it stuffed steak and it was cheap, relatively easy (okay, pounding the meat wasn't really easy I doubt, but my mom did seem to enjoy taking her frustrations out on the meat) and a decently filling meal.  Open up a can of green beans (or veggie of your choice) and you have a decent meal.

I subbed out the steak for ground meat, redid the process a bit and voila!  Stuffed Steak Casserole is born!


Stuffed Steak Casserole


  • 1 lb Ground Beef (or other ground meat), browned and drained
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup, undiluted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 package stuffing mix, made to package directions (I used Stove Top for this recipe, but feel free to sub what you have...I also added about two hamburger buns worth of left over squishy bread to the stuffing to help pad the stuffing out a bit).
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning
  • 1 TBS dehydrated onions (or 1/2 to 1 tsp. onion powder)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Mix ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, water, Italian Herb blend and onions in a saucepan, over low heat, and heat until well combined.  You can skip this step, but just be sure to whisk the cream of mushroom soup, your Italian Herb seasoning, the onions and the water really well before you add the beef if you are doing this cold, so you don't end up with weird chunks in your casserole.

3.  Pour mixture into an 8x8 Pyrex baking dish (or 2 quart casserole dish).  

4.  Spoon stuffing mix (after you fluff it up) over the top of the beef mixture, spreading it as evenly as you can.

5.  Cover and bake in 375F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and heated through to your liking.  If you like, bake for 20 to 25 minutes and then remove cover or aluminum foil and then bake the last ten minutes without a cover to crisp up the stuffing (depending how you like it).

6. Serve with vegetable of your choice (we obviously had green beans with ours).

Note:  This should freeze well.  Just let it cool well and then put a good layer of plastic wrap over the top and another layer of aluminum foil.  Before baking remove the aluminum foil, remove the plastic wrap (important!) and then place the aluminum foil back on the casserole.  You'll have to increase the baking time like 10 minutes I would say if you are baking from frozen.

I know I may catch some flack over the amount of sodium in this recipe and I get it, trust me.  But, you can definitely go with reduced sodium Cream of Mushroom soup if you want to cut down on the salt and you can also make home made stuffing to cut out the stuffing mix.  But, I was definitely gong for a quick and easy meal here.  Feel free to change it up as you see fit.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

 I know that this is a post that encompasses two weeks, again, but I am hoping to get onto a more even blogging keel here, now that I'm not running around like a mad woman trying to get everything buttoned up before winter officially reared it's head around here.  For instance, last week, I ended up spending most of the week running things from the house into our storage van as the weather was saying we were going to be going from the lower 40s to the 20s by the end of the week.  And I am SO glad I worked on getting things organized like that as the temperature did, indeed, tank at the end of that week and it was a LOT nicer doing those errands in warmer weather than in colder weather.  

Then, this week, I spent getting the pantry organization buttoned up (which, I think I finally got done yesterday, yay!!!), doing general household stuff, trying to get pre-winter cleaning done that I didn't get to earlier in the year since the weather was being so crazy and just generally trying to get chores done that I hadn't had an opportunity to get done of late.  So, I got the bathrooms scrubbed down really well, got all the of throw rugs in said bathrooms washed and dried and put back where they belonged, got SOME curtains washed and put back up, got screens pulled from a bunch of the windows (and put into storage for the winter) so I could really close our crank-out windows and seal them up tight.  Also with the freeze and thaw to outside, since the windows with the screens are only single pane versus double pane on the rest of the windows, it is a good way to stop mold from taking hold in the window frames by removing the screens so I can scrub the frames of the windows well throughout the winter as they ice up and thaw.  I made a list of what few things we would need for Thanksgiving shopping so we could get it done ahead of time, got the mounds of clean clothes folded and put away...things like that.  I also sat down the last few days and made a list of other things I want to get done between this month and next month.  So, in short, I'm feeling decently accomplished.

The last few days winter has officially started hard with a pretty substantial snowfall for the first big snowfall of the year.  We got hit with nearly two feet of snow between yesterday and this morning, so my husband ended up running the snow blower for the first time this year today.  Shot of the snow on the trees up top for your enjoyment :).

Anyway, let's get to other money saving things that have happened the last two weeks, shall we?

1.  We ended up staying home for Halloween this year and didn't do much other than make and decorate cookies, carve the Jack O Lantern, make Halloween chocolates and then we sat and watched our favorite Halloween specials while we waited for the icing to dry on the cookies.  It was fun, if quiet.  

For the cookies, we used food coloring and ingredients we already had and for the Halloween chocolates we ended up using chocolate chips out of the pantry to make them and put them in the fridge to keep them set.  The daughter especially is having fun raiding a chocolate out of the fridge on and off :).

2.  I mended another Carhart jacket of my husband's that had gotten torn badly.  He then helped me to get the zipper on said jacket unjammed and it seems to be working fine now.  Hopefully the mend I did will last a while as the tear was in a bad spot and I worry about it lasting.  We'll see how it goes.

3.  I am very proud of this one.  I fixed my food dehydrator!  I had asked my husband to maybe take it apart as the motor housing unit had cracked apart in the earthquake and it would no longer power on.  I decided to take it apart myself and see if I could fix whatever was wrong as I didn't have the money to buy a new food dehydrator and I had gotten two bags of lemons for really cheap (I had asked for know...individual lemons...from the Pick Up and Go folks, but supposedly they were out of stock on the individual lemons, so they gave me two bags of lemons instead?  I know...I'm confused too.  So, I got two bags of lemons for 1.50 after my personalized price on lemons had kicked in, which was a great price, but a LOT of lemons to go through).  

Anyway, I took the food dehydrator apart, fixed some alignment issues on the switch for the power, redid the cord attachment to the food dehydrator (a wire had popped off of it's housing), put everything back together and it actually worked!!!  I was able to dehydrate the lemons earlier in the week, which I have to say I don't think I've ever gotten that much of a thrill out of dehydrating something before *laugh*.  Now I just need to see if I can save my Food Saver so I can get a few oxy absorbers out of my big bag of them and still be able to vacuum seal the oxy absorbers again so they don't go bad on me.  I'm worried I'm going to be WAY over my head on that project, but I'm going to give it a shot if I think it is worth trying.

But, yeah, I got the lemons dehydrated too, which was a relief as I already had one bag's worth in the fridge as lemon honey pickles and REALLY didn't want to take up more fridge space with more of them.  

4.  We made some Thanksgiving decorations as part of homeschool using materials we already had around the house.  That was actually a lot of fun and I think both kids had a good time.

5.  We took advantage of a 5.00 Friday deal through Carrs last week to get some things we normally buy really cheap.  By asking my husband to stop off in Eagle River at their Carrs we were also able to find cranberries on sale for Thanksgiving, so I was really happy to get those as I didn't have any luck finding them nearby.  He even found some fresh herbs for Thanksgiving, which is REALLY hard to find this time of year up here.

6.  I mended a pair of shoes with Shoe Goo.

7.  I mended one of the comforters my son uses on a regular basis.

8.  I dug out my sewing table while cleaning out the den so I can make a few Christmas gifts (hopefully).

9.  I was offered an e-coupon for a free bag of shredded cheese from Carrs, which I took advantage of with our normal grocery shopping.  I used it in a few dishes over the last week and it's already gone (we used the remainder for tacos a few days ago), so I was really happy to get it as it came in really handy :).

And yeah, I'm going to call it good there as I still have a bunch of stuff to do before getting kids ready for bed.  I hope you all had a great and productive few weeks here.  Also, spoiler alert.  Stay tuned here as I've got a bunch of different posts planned the next bit, including some new recipes.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Making Much With Very Little: Pumpkin Spice Syrup (From Pumpkin Water)

 I have been wracking my brain of late and hitting the books, trying to work out what would be the best recipes to share during this mess of a world state we are all living in.  The Great Depression (in the US) recipes...well those don't REALLY work as well anymore as our living conditions HAVE changed since those days back in the 30s.  There are some that would be relevant, but I don't know about you guys, but hotdogs aren't really that cheap of a food stuff anymore (one of the big staples during the Great Depression).  World War II rationing recipes might come in handy, but really only if food starts being rationed.  And really, things that were actually readily available during the rationing days of the war, seem to be somewhat hard to come by right now, so that didn't really work.  

So, I wracked my brain on what resource I hadn't thought of.  

Then, talking to my mom one day it hit me like a brick.  My mom.  My mom was a resource I could tap.  

You see, my great-grandfather started a dairy back in the 1800's in the Appalachian foothills of Pennsylvania.  My family ran that dairy living in a one room shack with a dirt floor during the Great Depression (I really need to dig up some pictures if I can find them to show you the old homestead) and ran it straight through till my grandfather finally gave up when small dairy farms got harder and harder to run in Pennsylvania sometime in the early 80s.  Growing up on the farm my mom was pretty much raised by my great grandmother Lelia, (my mom was an only child and my grandmother had to help with farm work around the homestead) who taught her the ins and outs of living hand to mouth on a struggling dairy farm.  My mom grew up with electricity, but no running water.  I got to experience some of that when my parents got divorced and we moved back to the old homestead, hauling water for the first year before we could get a well put in and having to start a fire and shovel coal into the furnace every day in the cold months for years until we finally got gas plumbed in and got a gas furnace (oh the joy I had that day *laugh*).

Anyway, back to food stuff.  Out of curiosity, I started to pick my mom's brain about how she grew up and we got to talking about canning applesauce, picking rose hips and other wild foraging to help supplement the diet and such.  During the conversation I happened to look over at the two small pumpkins sitting on my counter that I had to process soon as they were starting to show signs of going over (basically the skin was starting to look mottled and I knew they were going to start to go bad soon) and I asked her what they used to do with pumpkins when she was growing up.  She talked of water bath canning pumpkin butter (no longer considered safe, at all, due to viscosity issues), canning pumpkin pickles, making pumpkin whiskey (which that was a new one on me) and making pumpkin molasses.  I had to stop her at that one and ask what the heck pumpkin molasses was as I had never heard of it before.  From what I gather the process involved boiling down the water left after boiling pumpkin for processing and you would boil it down like maple syrup for LONG periods of time until you ended up with a sweet syrup (my mom said it was like a mild sweet flavor that she could remember) that you could use on pancakes or as a sugar substitute when supplies got short.

I completely forgot about that conversation, honestly (it was a long week) until I went and boiled up my two small pumpkins to turn into pumpkin puree to freeze.  

I took a slotted spoon and removed the pumpkin from the water and then stared at the water for a minute and thought, "I don't want to throw the water out.  It can be used for something."  Honestly, I hate to throw food of any type away anymore, so I thought on what I could do with the water to use it up.  And then the conversation on pumpkin molasses hit me and I had a "eureeka" moment.

I mashed up my pumpkin in a bowl and dumped it into a wire mesh strainer above a 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup and then I just kind of stirred the pumpkin puree around (this is something I do anytime I mash pumpkin to get the extra water out and get the consistency to the point of canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie and such).  I then took the water that had drained, added it back with the rest of the pumpkin water and I put it on the boil until the water was boiled down to a little less than 1/2 of its original volume (this will take a while).  Once I was satisfied with the intensity of the flavor and the sweetness of the mix (very mildly sweet in my case as the white pumpkin wasn't really intensely flavored), I measured out 4 cups of pumpkin water and went to work.

Now, first a disclaimer.  I am not a pumpkin spice crazed addict like many this time of year.  Honestly, this is more me...

Normally this time of year I'm a crazed apple season person who jumps on the first really good sale of Honeycrisp apples she can and spends more than I should so that I can get a few apples to eat before my even MORE apple crazed daughter eats all of my beloved Honeycrisp *laugh*.  

But, in this case, I REALLY didn't want to throw pumpkin water down the drain when I could turn it into something useful.  So, pumpkin spice syrup it was.

Now, my plan for this is to pull it out of the freezer to use on pancakes and such...more a topping than in a drink type of application, but I am sure you could use this in your pumpkin spice lattes and such.  I went searching to see if I could find a recipe like this one, but didn't find any, so I came up with my own, but there were a bunch that called for pumpkin puree to be added if you want a more thick and viscous type of syrup.  I had plans for my pumpkin puree, though, so I just used the good old pumpkin water left overs.

Also, a quick note here.  Do NOT can this.  I know that it's the pumpkin water and not the pumpkin puree, so the viscosity issue is solved by doing it this way, BUT pumpkin is also a low acid food (pretty much zero acid actually) and so isn't safe to water bath can unless you up the acidity through the roof, go through lab tests and blah blah blah.  You can refrigerate this for two weeks, at least, before I'd worry about mold or crystallization of the sugars taking place, but you CAN put it in the freezer and it'll keep for at least a year.  The sugar content is high enough that the syrup will not freeze solid, but I called the cooperative extension service and ran it by them and they said it would be absolutely safe even if not frozen solid as the freezer would still keep the food below the danger zone for bacteria to be able to grow (I'm paranoid, what can I say).  

So, in short, store in the fridge or freezer.  No canning!!!  Okay, moving on!

So, after that intro that reminds me of food blogs that probably drive you nuts (sorry I don't have a "jump to recipe" function as I'm NOT one of those blogs), here is the recipe I came up with.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup (Made from Pumpkin Water)


    • 4 Cups Reduced Pumpkin Water (left over water from boiling pumpkin)
    • 1 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
    • 5 Cups white granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp to 1 TBS pumpkin pie spice of your preference (I went with 1 TBS because I wanted it to be heavily spiced when done, but go with your tastes)
    • 1 tsp salt (helps to kick up the pumpkin notes)



1.  Place all items into a large saucepan (it will bubble up when you stir it so make sure you use a big enough pot!) and whisk all ingredients together until well combined.

2.    Heat to a boil, stirring frequently and then reduce heat to low and boil gently until mixture thickens to a syrup consistency, 10 to 20 minutes (mine took somewhere around 15 to get it where I liked it, but just keep an eye on it).  During the reducing step switch to a wooden spoon as they are the best kitchen utensil for this job.  If you have a candy thermometer you are looking for a temperature of 223 F (106 C) to 230 F (110 C).  

If you don't have a candy thermometer, do like I did (because I couldn't find mine) and use the old fashioned way of testing sugar stages.  You are looking for the "thread" stage.

And most importantly be careful when making anything that involves hot sugar!  It is called culinary napalm for a reason.

3.  Remove syrup from heat and let cool a bit.  Transfer to straight sided canning jars (or other freezer safe containers) and store in the fridge or freezer.  In fridge will last at least two weeks and in the freezer will last at least a year.

Use to make pumpkin spice things, serve over pancakes or ice's the limit. 


Monday, October 25, 2021

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap (Times...uhh...some)

I have to say as time lapses have been on the blog, this one was actually one of the busiest.  It has been truly crazy around here.  So, let's get down to what has been going on around the homestead!

Well, first there was sickness that hit.  I got the kids their flu vaccine and immediately we all came down with colds (not flu, thank goodness, but a cold my husband probably brought home from work).  We came out better than my poor mother and father-in-law who both got taken out at the knees with Covid.  My mother-in-law is feeling better, thank goodness, but like a lot of older people I think full recovery is a ways off for both of them.

Then there was physical therapy, which I've been working hard at.  The stretches and exercises they have been giving me to do at home have been really helping my back and strengthening muscles I've not been able to strengthen in years (two C-Sections make it hard for me to get abdominal muscles to do much).  Despite medical bills giving me hives, the physical therapy really has been worth the money and I am glad that I gave it a shot (thank you to all the folks who encouraged me to go.  I appreciate it!).

I then spent a HUGE amount of time working on rearranging the pantry (still buttoning that up, but I'll share pictures when I'm finished), using up old items that needed to get used up and taking an inventory of things I needed to fill in what remained of the holes in our household supplies.  The way inflation is going it really is wise to stock up now if you can.  I've gotten somewhat addicted to researching the logistics sector of the economy (global and local) and everything going on in the world and I'm just not seeing much relief from our current economic woes anytime soon.

While going through my long term food storage, I did find a bunch of items that need to be used up within the next five years.  Since these are big cans I'm going to have to use up, I'm going to start trying to tackle these items gradually and probably trying to seal and store the left overs to gradually use them up over time.  

PFDs came in and pretty much immediately went out again.  I used some of the money to buy some groceries to add to what we had (which met with limited success as the stores were out of a bunch of stuff I'd put into my order and I ended up having to order some stuff through Amazon anyway...frugal fail) and the rest just immediately went to paying down bills.  Since 2500 dollars (at least) is going right back on the credit cards as soon as medical bills come in...I'm glad I was able to pay down bills and save myself some additional interest doing it that way, at any rate.

I also had to get the paperwork done for Alvah's TEFRA renewal, which is always a bunch of work.  Got that done (I hope) and submitted and hopefully we are good to go until the other 1/2 of the paperwork needs to be completed later on.  

I also at right about the same time as having to do that, I had to get the kids work samples into the home school for the first quarter of the school year.  That's another bunch of work to get done, so I am glad to have that submitted and off of my "to do" list.

So, let's get onto other things I've been up to!

1.  One night my Armina came running out of her room and told me I HAD to look at the sky as the Northern Lights were out and were truly spectacular!  I went and looked out the window and was absolutely blown away by the light show.  I even got my nearly asleep husband out of bed to check the lights out.  I was even able to stand out on my deck and watch the lights in a t-shirt as it was actually rather warm that night, which in itself was miraculous as normally the Northern Lights come out when it is clear in the winter, which usually translates to super cold temps.  I have never seen the lights that bright and dancing before.  It was amazing!  

I then learned that the reason for the lights was because the Earth got hit with a solar storm and it effected the magnetosphere.  If you weren't able to see the lights you can see some pictures and read more about it online in articles like this one.

2.  When I got my "Pick Up and Go" order from the store after dividends came in, I ended up getting a free sample of "Coke with Coffee" in with the order.  I decided to try it and I have to say that I really like Coke and do enjoy drinking it from time to time and I drink coffee every day, but this stuff I did NOT like.  I thought Coke with coffee added was going to be basically Coke hyped up with extra caffeine from green coffee bean extract or something, but no.  It was fizzy, which threw me first as I was expecting more of a flat beverage.  I also could not taste coffee in the drink and I sure could not taste Coke in the drink.  What I DID taste was fake caramel flavor.  Fizzy fake caramel flavor.  I took a few sips to give it a fair shake and ended up throwing it away.  It just was not my thing.

3.  I have found a few new YouTube channels that I thought you guys might want to check out.  First, I have become a bit obsessed by a YouTube channel based in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world.  I find it so funny that the town is much like an Alaskan town in the way it is set up and the way they do things up there.  Now mind you we obviously have trees down here where they are above the tree line (like Barrow and some other Northern Alaskan towns), but yeah it is a neat place.   The vlogger I follow is Cecilia Blomdahl and her vlog can be found here.  

Another vlog that is a great one to check out if you guys want to see a bit more of a more Northern town from here (they are near Fairbanks) is Somers in Alaska.  They are located in North Pole and try and run a very happy vlog, which in the current conditions of everything, I've really grown to appreciate.  If you are curious about Alaska pricing on things, as well, as they do Costco runs and things and show you what things are going for in their area, so if you are curious what Alaska pricing is like they are a good one to follow :).

4.  A while ago I bought some Red Robin seasoning salt on Amazon to go on French fries for the son to try and cut down on the amounts of times we'd have to eat out (he's going through puberty and as a result has some really bad mood days and things of late, probably because he's aching or hurting, but with him it is hard to say as he can't tell me what is wrong yet).  It worked out well, but I was running out of seasoning salt and the prices online shot through the roof and our local restaurant was out.  So, I decided to try my had at some copycat recipes and see if I could come close.  I ended up using this one and honestly?  It didn't turn out at ALL.  I was worried when I got done shaking it up as it was white from the onion and garlic powder in it and sure enough it TASTED like garlic powder and that was it.  I ended up adding a ton of McCormick seasoning salt to it and some more sugar until I got something that was at least palatable.  So far the son isn't impressed with the mixture, so I'm going to see if I can work with it to the point he'll tolerate it until the restaurant gets more salt in.  

Oh as a side note, thank you to the people who bought and sent me spices and things after the earthquake.  I have been using the containers as I empty them and I just refill them with herbs and spices I get in bulk or I'll buy them in envelope types of packages and refill the bottles that way (if you like good quality spices that ship up to Alaska with free shipping might I suggest The Spice House as they have "Flat Packs" that ship free, even up here, and it is a nice way to get fresh spices and herbs (the amounts are pretty decent too for a good spice outfit as well...not an affiliate or anything...I just like the product) that you can just dump into a container (or you could keep them in their flatpack envelopes I suppose).

5.  It took an old, holey sock of my husband's and repurposed it to use as a dusting mitt.  It worked out really well and I was able to clean out some hard to reach spaces with it.

6.  We took a small portion of dividends to buy the rum, brandy (we don't do the cognac, but just use very special brandy instead as it is a lot cheaper...sorry Alton Brown) and bourbon to make aged eggnog so it would be ready around the holidays (you are supposed to age it for a while to get the flavors to mellow and blend together and make it really good :).  Christmastime is the only time of the year my husband and I drink and this is what we drink, so we make a point to make it so we can enjoy our little 1/4 cup portions of eggnog through the holidays *laugh*.   

We ended up with a HUGE bottle of rum as my husband found it to be the best deal (he bought it from our local bulk store).  I looked at the bottle and knew that it would last us probably for the rest of our natural lives (I mean it is huge) and thought for a moment on what I could use rum to make.  I quickly came to the decision that I would have to use a portion of it to make rum raisin ice cream as I haven't even SEEN that flavor of ice cream since moving to Alaska and I used to like it.  I'm not sure if it is a East Coast flavor that just doesn't make it to the West Coast or it is something that just doesn't really sell well up here or what, but it just doesn't seem to be a thing up here.  I've never made it from scratch before, so it might be a fun thing to try out this winter.

7.  I made an appointment for later this week to get a yearly physical done.  Since it is covered by my insurance and such I knew I didn't have a good excuse to skip it.  And I found a good OB-GYN that is local and covered by my network, so hopefully it goes well.

8.  Instead of going out to eat, I told the family I would make fish and chips at home.  This has become a bit of a treat for the family and I really don't mind doing it as instead of 60.00 for us all to eat out, I can make fish and chips for less than 20.00 for the entire family by just buying some cod and making it myself.  

By the way, I was asked by a blog reader if I had a good recommendation for a deep fryer.  I bought this one  (no affiliate link or anything, just sharing) a while back (it is, of course, more expensive than when I bought it.  I got mine for about 50.00) and I absolutely LOVE it.  It is different from other fryers I've had in that it has a hidden cleaning tube that you can pull out to drain the oil from the fryer to strain or throw away.  After draining the oil and scraping out any big chunky things with some paper towels, I just put the plug back in the tube, fill the fryer with hot soapy water on the side of the sink and then wash it with some paper towels while it sits there and then drain out the soapy water through the drain tube, take my sink hose and rinse out the fryer one more time to get the soap out, plug the tube and put it away and then dry the sucker with some dry paper towels (I always use paper towels to avoid getting any residual oil onto my good towels and things).  Put the fryer basket into the dish washer and done.  Now, I always fry with the lid open, which some people complain of the oil leaking down the back of the device if you leave the lid shut.  I can't testify if that happens because I don't close the lid, but yeah I really like it.  I love that I can actually clean it without trying to rewrite the laws of physics to get the old oil out of it and things *laugh*.

9.  The weather here has been all over the place.  We went from pretty cold temps, to warmer temps, to snow and then back to like summer transitioning to fall weather.  It is just one of those falls.  I, at first, didn't get to cleaning the old plants off the deck in time for them to avoid freezing the old soil in the pots, but I waited until warmer weather strikes and then I'll take a few planters at a time and go and empty them down in the old garden bed.  

I'm down to just the big planter that is too heavy for me to do on my own (I might just empty the soil into a bucket a bit at a time to make my life easier and do it that way).  I stuffed the old planters into some of the old cinder blocks from the chimney (we use them to store the air conditioner on top of when it is not summertime) so they are protected from the wind and weather, put the remaining planters I have to clean out under the eave of the house and got the grill all nice and clean (and then I end up using the grill again as the weather it too nice not to grill, but I try *laugh*) and moved back over.  And voila!  Clean deck!

10.  I mended an old Carhart jacket of my husband's that had ripped out from the pockets upward (pretty typical as Carhart is a heavy canvas material).  I mended the rips as well as I could and knotted and sewed a bunch of points above where the material had torn.  I'm hoping it will act as a "rip stop" kind of like when you replace a zipper and have to sew a zipper stop into the zipper when you put it in the right spot.  Hopefully it works and the jacket can have some additional life put into it.

And yeah, I'm going to call it good there as I'm working on about 3 hours of sleep a night at the moment (the son isn't sleeping well) and I'm barely awake today.  Hope you all are well and I WILL try to get back to blogging regularly again here as things start to settle down a bit.