Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Squeezing out every last bit of use

I think one of the best weapons in your frugal arsenal is making the most of everything you have.   With every new use, the initial price goes down.  Granted the uses get smaller as more of the item is utilized, but you're still getting more bang for your buck.

Here's a good example.  A week ago I came across three organic whole chickens, marked down at my local grocery store.  They were marked down to $1,74 lb because they were nearing their expiration date.  Now that's about twice what I would normally pay for a whole chicken, but in my range when it came to buying organic.  I can't afford to buy organic very often, so when the opportunity arises, I try.  I bought all three and took them home.  Once home, I immediately removed them from their packaging and put them all in a crock pot to cook.  By using the crock pot, I didn't have to add additional water.  I was very please to see there was not a lot of additional juices added to these birds like when you by the standard birds.  I was also pleased to see the gizzards and organs were included.

***Dh fishes and the gizzards and organs make great bait for him.  These were immediately frozen for him to use when fishing time comes around.  It will keep him from having to buy bait separately.

Anyhoo, The chickens cooked, cooled and then I deboned them, putting about 8-12 oz in each freezer bag.

I then took all of the bones, 2 large carrots, the tops and bottom off of the celery in one package (including the leaves), the tops and bottoms of two large onions (skin included).I reserved the rest of the onions in the fridge for later use in other recipes, and the rest of the celery was chopped and frozen.  BTW, it goes without saying that I washed the veggies first!  I put all of this in the larger crock pot along with 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbs of vinegar, and water to cover all.  I turned the crock pot on low and it cooked for about a day to a day and a half.  I checked it periodically to make sure it wasn't boiling, or to see if the bones had softened.  The vinegar draws the minerals out of the bones and puts it into the stock.  Once the bones are soft, you can take up the stock.  Once the stock was finished, I strained out the veggies and other scraps.  The broth was allowed to cool and then frozen.  Once somewhat frozen, I removed the stock and removed the fat from the top.  I then reheated the stock to thaw it out and then divided it into 2 cup (pints) portions.

***I ended  up with 7 pints of stock in my freezer.

Not done yet, I took the fat I scrapped off the stock, and added it to my doggies "cookies" as she knows them.  I used the fat instead of the oil called for in the recipe.  You can find the recipe in my "recipe" page.  Oh. plu she got the leftover veggies from the broth.  A very happy dog.

*** The recipe made 16 large "cookies for her".  She was pretty comical.  She had no idea what I was making, I think, but as I started making them, she came out and laid on the kitchen floor watching my every move, until they were done.



Mona waiting for "cookie" dough.

So to sum up, from three whole birds I got

3 fishing trips
6-7 bags of chicken
7 pints of all natural, unfooled around with broth
16 large doggie treats.

Well worth the time and cost of three initial birds.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Homemade Graham Crackers

Yes!  She went there!  Yesterday I made homemade graham crackers.  I have to say the internet is a great tool when it comes to finding recipes or how to's.  Not a big techno geek, but I will give them that.  I found a recipe  for graham crackers.  I had tried it a week or so ago and found the recipe was much like snicker doodles, just flat.  They were good, but they weren't graham crackers.  They did, however, give me a base to make the recipe my own.  I have since tweaked the recipe more to my liking and decided to share it with you.  So here goes.

12 Tbs butter softened ( 1 1/2 sticks )
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (white wheat)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

In a small mixing bowl, place all your dry ingredients, except brown sugar, and mix well.  Set aside.  In medium mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and honey til fluffy.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients.  You may need to mix this with a large spoon or even your clean hands.  The dough will be dryer than cookie dough, but it will still stick together well.  Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350.  Using about 1/8th of the dough at a time, place dough onto a well floured (use all purpose) sheet of wax paper.  Mash hard with your hand to flatten some.  Dust the top of the dough well with more flour and cover the top with wax paper.  Roll the dough between the sheets of wax paper, turning periodically to kind of square things up.
*** Note, you may need to pull the top sheet of wax paper back and dust will more flour in order to keep the dough from sticking.

Once flat ( like 1/4 of an inch at most), you can be obsessive like me and cut it with a pizza cutter into nice neat squares, or you can just cut it into pieces in whatever shape it happens to be in.  Your choice.  Either way, it needs to be "Crackers".  Brush the top of the cracker with a little water.  This will also remove some of the flour.  Then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 6 minutes.  Cool on a wire rake.  I store ours in the freezer, using a few at a time.




Options:  You can add 1 ts cinnamon to the mix, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for the cinnamon graham crackers.

I take two of the homemade graham squares and put good spoonful of cool whip in between.  Then freeze for some really good ice cream sandwiches.

***  If you are so industrious, you can try this recipe, but I will say that graham crackers, especially if bought at Aldi , are really cheap when it comes right down to it.  I will also say the homemade crackers make the best ice cream sandwiches.  So, again, your choice.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tomato plants are curious things, and other ramblings

Yesterday was a glorious day and, of course, I was outside the vast majority of it.  I am about to wrap up getting every thing in.  The last thing to go in was a replant of green beans.  I've had a time getting them to germinate.  We had a warmer winter this year and, yet, I was able to get my beans in and growing a month earlier last year compared to this year.  It's a mystery.  The next try is in now so we will see.

Everything else is going gang busters.  My strawberry bed is COVERED with baby berries.  If I can keep the critters out of them, it should be a good harvest.  I'm also happy to report that the late hard freeze a month or so ago, didn't take out my entire blueberry harvest.  I found baby blue berries yesterday and still have blooms coming in.  It won't be my normal harvest, but if the blackberries and strawberries do well, it may not matter.

Funny thing, I planted a lot of corn seeds due to the lack of germination with the beans.  I wanted to make sure enough germinated.  Well they ALL did I think.  I finally got the last one transplanted into a new spot yesterday.  I try not to thin plants, but will give them a fighting chance to grow up in my garden should they choose to take it.  Ones that would normally be pulled to thin the rows, are, instead, transplanted to a new spot in the garden.  I ended up moving a lot of corn.  Final tally of corn stalks in my garden?  180.  That's a lot of corn.

Everything's getting mulched due to our current drought.  My original plan this year was to not have a garden because of the drought.  Then we started getting good amounts of rain and I thought "Okay garden time".  Now it seems we are getting a little dry again.  The gutters on my house have helped in water collection, but I have now used up my water stores.  We are supposed to get rain on Monday, so I hope that helps in replenishing them.

It was while I was mulching everything that I noticed the tomato plant I originally thought dead from wind or hail.  Apparently he was only "mostly dead" ( "Princess Bride" reference).  He was saying I'm sure "I'm not dead yet, I don't want to go in the cart!" (Monty Python "Holy Grail" reference).  He had just enough stem left in-tacked to allow him to still be kicken.  The top of the plant was lying on the ground.  Tomatoes will root  where ever the branch contacts the ground.  I covered the part of the branch at ground contact, and watered it well.  I then mulched the whole bed as planned.  We'll see what he does.  I have done all I can.  I have to give these 10 plants kudos.  They have withstood being tossed across a room, planted early, subjected to three days of temps below 40 (one night 38), high winds(very high), and hail.  They're still here.  Gotta give'em credit for perseverance.

This morning included another trip to collect cinder blocks for raised beds.  We gathered enough to finish one bed and create one more.  I have 4 blocks left, and plan to go back for more.  Thank you E and J.

After unloading the cinder blocks, Dh and I sat on the back porch steps and just enjoyed the morning for a bit before back to work.  I looked around at everything with immense satisfaction.  I have to smile to myself when I see everything and know how much I enjoy all of it.  My mom once told me of all her children I was the last one she ever thought would have a garden.  Now look at me.  I have a garden, chickens, fruit tress, fruit bushes, etc.  It makes me smile because I know the fact that I do all of this always tickled my dad.  I makes me sad because he would read about all my adventures and I want to share them with him again. Bitter sweet I guess is the term.  I like to think he still gets to see all my goings on.  I at least know he's told about them.

Sorry,didn't mean to get all sentimental. Comes with the territory I guess, but lest I leave you forlorn, here is what greeted me this morning as I woke up.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A side benefit of starting my tomato seeds early

A funny thing happened on the way to the garden.....by way of my tomato seedlings that is.

I started my seeds this year the last week in December in order to have larger plants for spring planting.  I had 50, then the great fall, then there were only ten.  9 still live.  We lost one last week to either hail or wind.  Not sure, but I digress.  About 2 months ago, I had 10 pretty large plants that needed a bigger pot and something to hold them up.  Being ever so clever, I thought "I know!  I'll use those branches from pruning my fruit trees!"(Weeks Before!).  Well I did.  Those branches have stayed with their companion tomato plant for a while now, even going with them to their spot in the garden until they could reach the fence on their own.  Last week we had a late cold snap and I needed to cover my plants.  While working on covering the little darlings, I noticed something on one of the "Stakes"....a bloom.  YEP!  A bloom.  I checked all of the stakes I used, four total, and they all have blooms and now leaves.  They are all apple.  You can see the bloom just to left of center in the picture.  I now have 4 new apple trees I can plant. It will be a while before they are even close to producing anything, but give me a few years and I could actually have apples!  Hah!  Who knew!

















Sunday, April 9, 2017

Recipe Time!

Good Morning all! Not to repeat myself from last week, as I am working on some other blog entries, but I thought to list again my frugal adventures and add a few new things.  For instance, a new recipe!  That's below at the end of my post.  I guess I will start out with the frugal stuff, but never fear, I have other things as well!

Frugal things this week

Collected Eggs - 21 for the week.  I think the ladies are starting to lay again with the longer days.  Yay!
Made bread.granola, sandwich buns, granola bars, graham crackers, brown sugar, ranch dressing, coffee creamer, and cookies
Made and listed 1 Etsy item
Sold 3 Etsy items
Cut out new scrubs for Dh
Cut out a new shirt for me
Hung out 5 loads of clothes
Created a new recipe using dried beans ( see below)
Picked spinach and lettuce out of the garden, multiple times!


Sausage and Blackeyed Peas ( would be Great at New Years!

Sausage

8 oz ground pork
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp salt

I toss everything into the freezer bag the now thawed ground pork resides, but you can toss everything into a bowl.  Mix everything together well (better to use your hands, hence the reason I use a freezer bag cause I can mix it and not get it on my hands).  Let sit in the fridge a while.  You could make this in the morning and let it sit in the fridge til the beans are ready.  This would also make great breakfast sausage.  FYI

The great thing about black eyed peas is they tend to cook faster than many other dried beans.  No need to soak.  Yay!

What you need:

8 oz ground sausage (you can use store bought) or the above recipe.
1 lb black-eyed peas  covered in water and cooked with 2 1/2 tsp salt.  Once finished cooking, don't drain!
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can of diced tomatoes (plain or with chilies if you like it spicy)

Saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the olive oil til the onion is soft.  Add the ground sausage and brown it along with the veggies.  Take the sausage/veggie mixture and add all of it to the un-drained cooked black-eyed peas.  Add your spices and the can of tomatoes. Simmer on low about a hour til the carrots are soft and the flavors have had time to meld. Serve with a crusty bread or cornbread.


Hope you enjoy!
Have a blessed day!





Saturday, April 1, 2017

Frugal things I've done this week....

There are everyday things we all do to save money. I thought, rather than just find one thing frugal to write about, I would throw out there a list of many of the frugal things I do.  Since we all watch our pennies, I would love to hear your tips and tricks too.  Maybe, just maybe, we can save even more pennies.  I'm starting this post at the beginning of the week and listing my things as I go.  Just be aware this spans many days.

SO LET'S GET STARTED!

1)  Canned carrots I needed to use.  In my love of roasted carrots, I bought a 25 lb bag for a good deal last month.  Unfortunately these types of carrots aren't as good roasted, but are plenty good in stews.  With the warmer weather coming on, soups and stew will be rare.  So they were canned to use next winter.  Waste not, want not.  Total canned, 9 pints, but I had 4 pints worth left that I used for part of my lunch Monday and Tuesday and Dinner Monday night.

2)  I began the process of making me some new spring clothes with fabric I already have on hand.  With my weight loss, I find I have nothing to wear (the burden I bare).  Well I have nothing to wear for church anyway.  I have jeans and t shirts.  I find I lack dressy casual clothes and pajamas (no, I do not wear pajamas to church).  Yesterday I began work on a pencil skirt.  I have ideas for some other things to make as well.  I'm keeping my eye out for patterns to go on sale for .99 somewhere for other spring summer things (and pj's). *** Edited to add:  Well Joann's did have patterns on sale, but the Simplicity patterns didn't have anything I liked.  The McCalls patterns (Which were NOT on sale) had a lot of things I liked.  So I am rephrasing to say I am keeping my eye out for McCalls patterns on sale.
 
3)  Made Bread.  Oh and I made bread again.  We go thru bread.

4) Made Dog Biscuits:  I used some bacon grease I had on hand instead of the oil called for in the recipe.  Needless to say, Mona is thrilled.  I put them in an already existing dog biscuit box.


5) Picked Spinach, and Asparagus from the garden and collected Eggs (10 by Friday).

6)  I ordered a Reel Mower sharpening kit from Amazon rather than pay to have the blades sharpened.  In case you don't know, a reel mower is a non-motorized push mower.  The old fashioned way of grass cutting.  Cuts grass, gives workout, uses no gas.  $10 is a small investment for the return.  And yes, I've used the reel mower (this season too), so this isn't a pipe dream.  *** Edited to add:  I attempted to do the sharpening yesterday, but am having some difficulty getting the screws turned that raise and lower the cutting bar.  We will see what happens.

7) Hung out 3 loads of clothes.

8)  Weeded the garden; planted Corn, Sage, and Marigolds.

9)  Sold 7 items on Etsy this week which added some extra dollars to our budget.  A budget, I might add, I'm following like a fanatic.  The only way I would've been able to benefit from the sale at Joann's is if I sold some items on Etsy.  Aside from the patterns I'll get for me, my purchases will be mostly fabric and notions to go back into my Etsy shop.  I was also able to add a work shirt for Einstein from Goodwill for $6.

So there are my frugal things for this week.  It was our anniversary this week, so I was unfrugal yesterday and today.  Eh!  It's only once a year and after 24 years, splurge  little!

What frugal things did you do this week?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Well It's a wait and see...

It seems every year I come up with a new garden experiment.  It's the process with everyone who gardens.  At the end of each season you analyze what you need to change and set about figuring a way to do it.  Last year my experiment was green beans.  Every year I had fought to control Mexican bean beetles, but was losing the battle.  Those little buggers would strip my plants clean.  There was no chance of succession planting working.  The new set of plants would pop out of the ground only to be eaten before they had a chance to grow much.  I really try to stay away from pesticides if possible, but it seemed the only way to control them even a little was to use Sevin, a common garden pesticide.  Last year I hypothesized that maybe if I planted my beans, all of my beans, early and all at one time, maybe they would have a chance to produce before the beetles could get to them.  So I did, and they did.  My plants had a chance to produce beautiful green beans before the beetles could get them.


Just as I was pulling the plants up, I noticed a few beetles starting to arrive.  The plants were pulled and tossed into the compost pile and any beetle scragglers were rounded up.  It was my best bean harvest in years.

This year I'm addressing another common problem I have.  We have some pretty hot summers here in the Georgia area.  Once the temp get above 95 degrees, my tomato plants stop blooming (so do I quite frankly), and begin to wilt.  By the time the "Dog Days of summer" end, my plants look dead.  If I leave them there, I've found, once the temps cool a little in August, I will begin to see new growth.  By October I have lush green tomato plants with huge green tomatoes that never have a chance to ripen before the first frost.   My experiment this year is to plant larger tomato plants in the early spring and see if I get a better harvest before it gets so hot.  I started seeds the end of December 2016.  I had 50 seedlings, but you guys remember the "Great fall of 2017" where I tripped carrying them out for some sun and plants flew everywhere.  Well 10 survived that ordeal.  They are my experimental group (cause that's all I have left).  I replanted more seedlings in the normal time frame for zone 7.  They are my control group.  See how scientific I sound?  My experimental plants are about 18 inches tall right now.  in fact one plant has the beginnings of blooms.  There really was no waiting longer to put them in the ground.  They were hard enough to get in the ground at the size they are now.  Yesterday was a cloudy day with the promise of rain overnight.  No better time.  I checked the 10 day forecast and saw no really cold temps, so I took the plunge.  Now it's a wait and see if they can make it thru any weird April chills, and if they produce a better harvest. I now have cucumbers, pumpkins, and yellow squash plants in the ground, and have planted my bean, zucchini seeds, and onion sets in the ground as well.  Now we wait.