Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Magic Tomato Soup Cake Recipe

 This is one of those recipes that I absolutely can NOT take credit for.   Tomato soup cake has been around since I believe the great depression and has managed to survive through the ages, especially popular during WWII with rationing.  This recipe is for the ORIGINAL tomato soup cake, which doesn't contain eggs, milk or butter and this particular version was given to me by my mom years ago with other hand written recipes she'd collected over the years (there are a LOT of different variations of tomato soup cake out there, trust me.  I tried to track down where this particular recipe came from originally and it was nuts how many different variations on this recipe there were out there).  With current world events, I think this is definitely a good recipe to share.  Yes, you're reading the recipe right.  It calls for a can of condensed tomato soup.  Good old Campbells.  It takes the place of the other ingredients that are omitted.  Trust me, it does not taste like tomato soup when done.

Since this recipe does not contain eggs, milk or butter it ends up with a dense and moist texture, so do not expect a light and airy cake with this recipe (if you want a light and airy version you can look those up online, but to me it kind of defeats the purpose of the recipe for one, as those recipes contain eggs and other originally omitted ingredients, and for two it wrecks the dense and moist texture that I like the cake to have).  But, it is super tasty!  Yes, it comes out a bit orange looking, but I really do like this cake and have liked it since I was a kid.  It ends up being a really tasty spice cake in the end.  I suggest topping with a good cream cheese frosting or a butter cream frosting, but you can also just sprinkle powdered sugar on top or just eat it as is without any topping at all.

Try it!  It may surprise you :).

Magic Tomato Soup Cake


  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (room temp)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup (standard sized can, 10.75 ounces), undiluted
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves (reduce down to 1/2 tsp unless you want your cake to taste like cloves, trust me)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
2.  Grease a loaf pan and set aside. 
3.  In a large mixing bowl cream together vegetable shortening and sugar.  Add tomato soup to mixture and combine well. 
4.  In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices (I use a whisk to make this job go quickly) 
5.  Add flour mixture into wet mixture 1/3 at a time, making sure to combine well after each edition. 
6.  Add batter to greased loaf pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Cool cake for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. 
7.  Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting (or other frosting of choice), powdered sugar or nothing at all.  My step-mom recommends a boiled frosting for this recipe as it tastes the best (tomato soup cake is her favorite cake of all time :).


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Dyeing Easter Eggs With Food Coloring (Making Do With What You Have)


First, I really want to say how much I appreciate all the e-mails and things offering to send me things to help my family out.  I really do.  At the moment, though, we are doing fine on that end.  Truly!  Honestly, I feel very blessed in that we are doing better than a lot of other people because I’ve always been big on keeping food storage around.  A husband working in construction where we went long periods of time without money coming in turned out to be good training for keeping ahead of inflation as well as I could see panic buying coming back in 2020 and I’ve just been trying to slowly stock up on things ever since.  We have also been blessed to receive food storage from others when they were moving and things, so yeah, we are doing okay.  But, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the thought!

 Also, thank you for the recommendations on quilting and sewing books.  I’ve been using credit card rewards toward food storage and things on Amazon, so I use some of those gift cards to purchase the books people recommended.  I can’t wait to get them in and start expanding my skill set!

 And Happy Easter, by the way!

 I know this post is kind of late, but the weekend was so busy with cleaning and trying to make Easter treats (we are going super simple this year, i.e. cheap, so we skipped the Easter basket and instead are just making some home made goodies instead to cut down on costs.  The kids are enjoying it :).  And so, I thought I’d share something that has saved me some money the last few years.  Dyeing eggs for Easter with food coloring instead of those Easter egg dyeing kits. 

 A shot of our finished eggs are up top.  We scaled back how many hard-boiled eggs we made this year because we are conserving fresh eggs due to the avian flu epidemic and to save money so we didn’t need to buy a whole new dozen eggs just for dyeing them.

 The process is really simple and really doesn’t use many resources.  If you have food coloring in the house and some vinegar (you can use lemon juice in a pinch, but just to warn you the boiled eggs in my experience get a lemony flavor to them, which we didn’t like). 


  •  Hard boiled eggs (obviously)
  • Tea cups, one for each color you want to make (you can use small bowls or other vessels, but I’ve found that shallow tea cups really work well to dye eggs in).

Add to each tea cup and then stir:

  •  1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 20 drops or so of food coloring (depending how dark you want your colors to be)


1.  Just place your eggs one at a time into your colors (I wait for the water to cool down to warm so that I don't have to worry about anyone getting burned), wait about five minutes and voila!  Dyed Easter Eggs.

 If you want to make colors like pink and purple and such and don't have those colors of food coloring, McCormick has a really nice bunch of colors you can make with their food colorings online if you Google it.

I really like this method because you don’t need to go out and buy special materials to do it and really it is a good way to use up food coloring.  I try to buy food coloring once about every two years just so that something doesn’t go rancid in it and it throws off the taste of a recipe, so this is a good way to use up a bit more of the food coloring before it inevitably has to get thrown away.

 My family got a bit impatient with the process and pulled the eggs a bit early, so they got kind of a mottled look on the shells, but the kids seemed to really like how they turned out.  This is also one of those activities that Alvah will participate in, which I love as there is a lot he doesn’t show interest in when it comes to holidays.

 So, there you are folks.  A really simple method to dying eggs that you can do with materials you already have around the house.  I’ve even been known to dye eggs on other holidays if I am going to be using hard boiled eggs for something (like potato salad at Fourth of July) just because the kids enjoy it so much. 

Enjoy and I hope you all have a nice Easter holiday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Riding the Waves of the Changing World: A Blog Format Change

Man, the title of this post sounds like the blog is going to be completely different and sounds rather doom and gloom *laugh*.  Sorry about that.  I've been sitting here for like fifteen minutes, trying to figure out how to title the post, so I finally just threw something up.  It's better than the original blog post title I had typed which was, "Duhhhhhh...." to try and break the writer's block *laugh*.

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot the last few months.  A dangerous past time I know (Beauty and the Beast reference by the way).  And I've been praying a lot, which is always a good idea when you aren't sure how to move forward.  But, yeah, to put it simply something about the blog was bothering me and I had to work it out.

See, the Frugal Friday recaps are great and all, but of late they have been hard to put together and honestly they kind of felt wrong, like I should be focusing on something else.  Enter prayers to help me figure out what I was supposed to do.  Sharing frugal recipes and things seemed like it felt right compared to what I was writing, and after a lot of soul searching, I finally have decided to switch gears on the blog for a while.  I am going to keep sharing tips on how I live frugally and hopefully share them so others might be inspired or those tips themselves might help people, but when it comes to ways I've saved money...honestly I think most people, including me, are going more into frugal survival mode and being able to afford to eat and make bills instead of worrying about if you have saved money that week and honestly?  In the current economic environment, no we are not saving money as hard as I try.  At the moment I'm just trying to not slide backwards and I know a lot of other people are in the same boat.  I've gotten some really panicky e-mails from people, especially those who are just starting out in their own households and things asking me to share real life advice on what to store for food storage on a budget and how to live cheaply because from reading the blog people can quickly go back and realize that we've been penniless and lived off of our food storage and the kindness of others before.  And that is one thing I absolutely can do to hopefully help others.  And I'm hopeful that you all can help in the comments as well and chime in with experiences and other tips.  I've been really blown away by the cool comments on the recipes I've been sharing and everyone's different takes and tips on those recipes.  I've written down more than a few things to try in the future :).

Now I want to address some things I've gotten over e-mail and messages to clear a few things up on what our environment is like where I live in Alaska as a lot of people seemed to be curious about if we could grow a big garden up here, was keeping chickens and a homestead farm viable and other things.

We have a unique set of circumstances in Alaska that others don't have to deal with down south.  For one, I see all over YouTube people telling others to grow their own food and do it now.  Well, if you live up here you are dealing with snow on the ground still (at least in South Central and further North), so trying to put anything in the ground at the moment is ridiculous.  I normally plant at the beginning of June for the most part as the danger of snow is hopefully past by that point.  We have an exceptionally short growing season up here (about 88 days) and we have the problem of permafrost needing to break up before planting can take place, so a lot of things can only be grown in green houses OR things need to be started in green houses to have a shot of reaching maturity up here. We do have some crops that do well up here.  Potatoes, cabbage, carrots...cold weather crops do pretty well here.  We even have a local sweet onion that is grown at some Valley farms that are sweet like Vidalia onions because the soil lacks sulfur just like the soils in Vidalia.  Kind of neat, really.

 There is also the gamble of putting in a garden without a 12' electric fence guarding it as the moose are a problem (as I well know *grumble*).  

So taking all of that into account here is my personal situation right now.  I do not have a greenhouse and I don't see one going in anytime soon (unfortunately as I'd love to have one) nor do I have the money to put up a fence around a big garden, or pay the spike in the electric bill as a result of said fence.  Like many we are living paycheck to paycheck.  So, I'm just hoping I can afford seedlings this year.  With inflation going crazy that's a big question mark right now as I'm getting hives seeing some of the seedling prices coming out of the Lower 48 and I'm doubling that price in my mind for Alaska and getting a wee bit faint at the prospect.  If I can afford seedlings or get my own to grow enough (the son and the cats like to kill plants, but I am going to try),  I can do another container garden on my deck (it is on the second floor where moose and slugs don't go) and between it and the CSA box through our local farm I can hopefully put up as much food as possible for later use.  Past that I'm throwing potatoes into the ground in my yard and hopefully will have a potato crop come fall (moose won't eat potato plants as they are poisonous, so it seemed like a good plan).  Even buying seeds is getting harder this year.  Burpee came out with a notice saying they will not ship up here anymore due to rising shipping costs, so we are already down one seed company.  Stinks, but it is what it is.  Luckily I have some seeds that I bought a few years back that are still viable so hopefully I can get some seedlings going on my own in case I can't afford local ones.

I looked into possibly getting backyard chickens again, but the cost of chicken feed has gone berserk everywhere, bedding has gone up....everything has gone up and when you include shipping costs going up, you see that translate hard up here in the costs of goods.  Up here keeping poultry isn't cheap on a normal day (pre pandemic you could get a dozen local eggs for about 5.00 and that was the cheap end of things with the farmers not making a lot of profit), but now a days it is  definitely NOT cost effective for me to get a few hens again, so I gave up on that idea.  I am going to buy eggs as long as I can afford it and they are available, but otherwise I'm just going to cope.  Buying from local egg producers is an option, but due to rising costs a dozen local eggs is currently running about 9.00 and rising, which is out of my cost range.  Unfortunately, a bunch of local farmers I've seen on Facebook and things are actually starting to get rid of their livestock and things as they can't afford to feed them, which is heartbreaking to see as there is no more dedicated group to pushing and supporting local agriculture than our local farmers.  They have been working for years and years pushing Alaska Grown as a real viable concept and supporting each other in the hopes that we could really get farming to really kick off up here again.  Where farmers and ranchers are suffering in the Lower 48, it compounds up here as everything is just that much more expensive. 

So, yeah, back to more close to home matters, what can you expect from the blog?  I'll be sharing things I'm canning or things I'm doing just like normal, but I am just going to shift gears a bit on how I share things instead of putting them in a frugal recap post.  I'm attempting to get more organized moving forward.  I'll be sharing things as I learn new skills.  I'm currently working on expanding my sewing abilities more so I can cope with things better in the future.  Total aside here but if anyone can recommend some good books on learning to quilt and making your own clothing, I'd appreciate it as I'm not finding much in what I'm looking for.  In general, I'm hoping I can go into a bit more detail on things and how and why I found this or that useful to hopefully help more people in a practical sense.  I know it is clear as mud, right?  Well, just stick with me here.  Hopefully I'll work the kinks out and get down to brass tacks soon :).  I've already got a few posts coming up, hopefully by the end of the week, so stay tuned for that.  

In the meantime I hope everyone is well and that you are riding things out well so far.  Hang in there!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Please note:  This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.  If you order through these links Amazon will give me a small commission for sending sales their way.  Ordering through these links will not cost you any extra money.  If you do this, thank you for helping to support the blog :).

Doing frugal posts this last bit has become a bit challenging for me as it seems saving money is becoming harder and harder in our current world conditions.  I know I'm not alone, far from it, in feeling that way.  I went shopping on Friday and my daughter got to deal with me being in near tears in frustration as I was trying to get a list of like 14 items and only about 3 of them were available.  After about the 8th item not being in stock, an empty cat food isle, no asparagus that was supposed to be on sale (no asparagus period, actually), no peanut safe ice cream to be had, products still out of stock for over a month straight now, no allergy meds for the son on the shelf at all (thank goodness for Amazon in this case, or I don't know what I'd do), and things...it was really not fun.  The rest of the items I had on my list I just had to kind of figure out other solutions for (if there were any solutions available) and nothing was cheap that I could actually get.  It was so frustrating and depressing.  My grocery bill has just about tripled now and that is WITH shopping sales and being super careful.  At least I was able to find vegetable oil at Fred Meyer this week.

My natural gas bill went up this month when it should have gone down as the worst part of winter temperatures is over.  Putting a quarter of a tank of gas in my truck actually hurt to do this week and it's just going to get worse.  This inflation spiral we are in, combined with EVERYTHING else, and I know I speak for all here, sucks. 

One of the big things that happened this week for me and in the not good department was the deli drawer in our fridge decided to self destruct.  It broke a runner on one side a while ago (since the fridge is probably about 20 years old, it shouldn't surprise me when these things happen, but it does), so I was keeping as little weight in it as possible to help keep it together, but this last week it broke the other side and the deli drawer was barely hanging onto the shelf suddenly when I went to close it.  I grabbed it to stop it from collapsing onto the shelf beneath it and yelled for my daughter to bring me my tool bag as I worked on unloading the deli drawer shelf with one hand while holding up the drawer with the other so it wouldn't start breaking other things in the fridge.  It was an interesting afternoon.  I finally figured out how to get the drawer off of the shelf so I could still use the shelf it was on (yay) and I then spent the entirety of that afternoon reorganizing and deep cleaning my fridge.  Which, if there was a silver lining to losing the drawer it was that I was able to get the deep cleaning of the fridge done as that was on my Spring cleaning/to do list.  I put everything I could that had been in the deli drawer into Gladware like containers and stacked them on one shelf in the fridge.  Not ideal, but it works and we can find everything, so I'll go with it.

So, let's get onto other things we've been up to around here.

1.  I decided it was time to crack open a bucket of wheat and grind some wheat flour.  I wanted to see how the hand grinder by itself worked (no motor or anything) and I wanted to start getting into practice of how to make flour (putting it through different sifters to sift out bran and how fine I wanted to grind the flour, etc) and use it in baking so that we could still get a decent result in our baked goods.  So, what I found was this.  I really need my husband to up his game on getting a motor mount made for the wheat grinder (it is able to be motorized, which is one of the reasons I bought my particular wheat grinder).  We downloaded the specs on what type of motor we would need and what pully and belt system the manufacturer stated to use and the rest is up to my husband who knows what he's doing *laugh*.

I've found that once you are in a rhythm you can grind all day long with a hand grinder, really, if you wanted to, but the volume of flour to work...it would be ridiculous trying to grind a week's worth of flour at one time with a hand grinder.  I'm starting to see why the term "the DAILY grind" came into being as it would take so long just to grind a day's worth of flour, that basically that was all people had time for.  The daughter and I (mainly me) ground wheat for an hour straight and we ended up with roughly three cups of wheat flour by the end of the process (after sieving out the coarsest of the bran and so forth so that the final baked goods wouldn't be too dense).  I have done that the last couple of weeks and been using the three cups of flour I make to pad out my bread flour and all purpose flour so that they'll last longer and also add some better nutrition to our diets.  I grind it directly into the Rubbermaid container seen above and then after sieving it I put it back into the container, put the lid on and put it in the fridge so that the nutritional value won't deteriorate so quickly over the course of the week.

2.  My kids really needed new Spring/Fall jackets as they had both grown so much.  We went to the used stores over the weekend and found several jackets for the daughter and a new rain jacket for the son (the daughter will just use the son's old rain jacket, if needed, until we can find her one that is more to her tastes).  The daughter really wanted a pink jacket, but couldn't find one in her size.  I got home and checked the size on a pink jacket I had bought for myself last year at a good price and realized that it would probably fit the daughter (I'm now the smallest person in the family as the daughter and son have grown so much and/or have a different build than I do) as I am always cold so I bought a jacket that I could layer under.  She tried it on and it fit her perfectly, so I just gave it to her.  She's super happy with it and I just pulled out my old jacket (I replaced it so I could get a jacket with a hood on it, but it still works fine) for myself.  My husband found several old jackets of his that the son could have and fit him well, so it all worked out for now without a ton of money being spent.

3.  The daughter outgrew her jeans, so when we went to the used store I found several pairs that would fit her with her current build (she's at those awkward build teen years) and she's super happy as the new jeans are comfy, fit her well and were in brand new condition at the used store (two pairs even still had the original price tags on them).  When we got home I had her pull out the pairs of jeans she had outgrown and I realized that they were in my size and they fit me fine.  So, I inherited a few pairs of jeans for later use.

4.  We watched a few movies for free on YouTube.

5.  I did my yearly donation of 1.00 to Rifftrax to support their yearly Kickstarter campaign.  For just 1.00 and showing support it helps to unlock certain stretch goals in their campaign every year, so for a 1.00 investment I'll be getting 10 free shorts (a 10.00 value) and a few other goals they opened to all backers during the campaign.  I feel for a 1.00 investment it is worth it for the laughter, which in the current world, I think we could all use more of.

6.  I had a problem with a Tillamook product.  I wrote them to just report the issue so they could check their equipment to make sure it was sealing things correctly, but not really wanting anything in return for it.  But, they did send me coupons as a thank you for reporting the issue and providing the product code and things and so they sent me enough coupons to replace the product I had reported about.  I was touched that they did that, honestly, as I know how tough things are for everyone (including farmers and the farmer co-ops), so I gratefully went and got a free block of cheese this weekend.

7.  I started to pop open some of my food storage to use up things that were getting near their use by dates.  I tried the Augason Farms Creamy Potato Soup (affiliate link) mix with dinner one night and with a bit of tweaking with some seasonings it was really good!  I was happy as it won't be too painful to eat *laugh*.  I also opened a thing of quick oats to make homemade oatmeal packets, which has been kind of fun to put together.  I bought some Augason Farms banana chips (affiliate link.  I linked to them as they are currently 9.98 for a number 10 can, but that changes quickly, so if they are expensive wait a while and put them in your cart to save for later.  Eventually they do go down to about 10.00 and that is when I would buy them) as part of my food storage and used those to make some chocolate almond butter (I just got some powdered chocolate Barney butter a while ago and used that in the packet) banana oatmeal packets and those were actually kind of tasty :).  

8.  I'm continuing the deep cleaning and organizing that comes with the Spring Cleaning bug.  I am actually really pleased with myself the last few years as I'm determined that if I buy something that I HAVE to have a place to put it and a purpose for it before I commit to buy it.  This has included walking away from things that in the past I probably would have bought and tried to find space for later, which just opens the door for frustration and in a lot of cases eventually re-donating to the used store later on when you realize that the thing you really wanted just wasn't going to work in your house.  

For instance when we went to the used store over the weekend I found a set of three stainless steel mixing bowls for cheap.  They were lightweight, decently big and deep.  I have been wanting to get bowls like this to use during canning season and things as it always seems like you never have enough bowls when you start projects like that.  The two smaller bowls I happily grabbed, but the biggest bowl was a really good price, but I was worried it was too big to fit in my cabinets (which, when I tried to put it with my other mixing bowls, I was right, it is too big).  My husband came up with the idea to store it on top of the kitchen cabinets and after thinking about it for a moment I knew where I could put it on the cabinets where it would work well, so I bought it and that is where it sits ready for canning season.

Meanwhile I found a bunch of Corelle plates and bowls that were in patterns I loved.  My husband asked me if I wanted them and I immediately shook my head and said, "No.  I have plenty of dishes to eat off of.  I don't need any more."  I didn't need them.  Sure, part of me wanted them.  But, we did not NEED them.  So, I walked away with no regrets.

9.  We took our cardboard to the recycling center over the weekend, which saved us a lot of money compared to throwing it in the landfill.

10.  I fixed a couple of blankets of my son's that had failed in the seams.

11.  Carrs offered me a coupon for a free bag of cheese, so I had my husband pick it up when he stopped off to get milk one night after work.  I was thrilled to get a freebie like that.

And, I'm going to end the post here as I need to my son some lunch before we get back to school work for the day (he needed a break, so I gave him one...the benefits of homeschool :).

How about you guys?  Still hanging in there?