Monday, October 31, 2011

Still here.....

It is a frosty cool morning or as my mama would say "the frost in on the punkin!".  I am enjoying my second cup of coffee while Rubic reads his literature book.  Had a bit of a scare this past weekend on two fronts.  The first was waking up Saturday morning and finding the heater blowing like crazy but the house still 56 degrees.  Really thought the heater was broken.  Grrr, but wonderful hubby found out it was just on the wrong setting (fan)so relief there.  The second scare was wondering what the future held for me at my job this past weekend, but that has all been resolved and I worried for nothing.  WHEW!  I have always had a heart for home.  Always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but the best I could do was part time, but I am blessed.  There are many women not as fortunate as I .  My dh and I made a decision long ago to forgo monetary gains and focus on our family.  The time for making more money will come later.  Still we have always been comfortable.  I wouldn't trade the time I was able to be home for anything.  I can't get those years back.  So I am glad I was able to make the most of them.  I feel old and proud.  I have children that are now ages 18, 16, and 22.  Well they at least will be in a matter of weeks.  My 18 year old is officially 18, my 16 year old will be 16 in a week and my 22 year old will be official in Dec.   I am really getting in the Christmas/holiday frame of mind.  I looooove christmas.  Always have.  I am hopeful that I will be able to celebrate for years to come.  This year I am hoping will be extra homey in that I will be making many of my gifts.  Love making gifts.  Such fun!  Not really much to write about today.  Just some housekeeping and a doctors appt for Einstien.  I am hopful I will have more to write on tomorrow.  Maybe I can post some crafty pics soon.  You guys have a great day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blackbelt grocery savings part 4

S-T-R-E-T-C-H  what you have.  I was born in 1967 and so was old enough to remember the high inflation, prices, and misery index of the late seventies.  I remember bits and pieces of news reports about the oil embargo and pictures of cars lined up to get gas, the odd /even system in order to get gas, but I didn't have a concept of how that affected my parents until I was grown.  I have spoken to my mom about it over the years.  She once told me she was really scared at that time.  She was a SAHM to 5 children in ages from 17 o 4.  My dad worked for IBM but take that salary and spread it across 5 kids and it is thin indeed.  My mom tells me that grocery prices went up over night.  On day she says she could get ground beef for .25 (I think that was it) a lb and over night it went up to .99lb.  Now you and I might look longingly at .99lb for ground beef, but that was alot back then.  There were other things that jumped in price such as sugar, oil, etc.  As a result of a rise in price like that my mom, in order to make ends meet, mastered the creative art of stretching what they did have.  She used to make meat patties and gravy with chopped onion and slices of bread torn to bits.  I loved it when she would make those.  What I didn't know was it was a way to take a pound of ground beef and make enough to feed seven people.  She tells me now that ground beef had more bread and onion than beef.  That is one example of the type of things she did and we can do.  Research WWII recipies and you will see how families got by with certain items being rationed.  It is the same rational.  Now I know you want to do right by your family nutritionally, and that can still be done, but to save money in really tight times you need to stretch what you have.  Tonight the plan for our dinner is to make chicken pot pie, and I will stretch 1 chicken breast to make it.  When my dd and her family were living with us, I had to make dinners that fed 6 adults and 1 toddler well. Money was an objet though and so I had to get creative.  I learned to make a pot pie with very little chicken.  That night I took 2 4 oz chicken breasts and made 2 9X13 full pans of chicken pot pie.  I just doubled everything else; the potatoes, peas, carrots, onion, celery, broth/gravy.  I made a 2 crust pie crust recipe and put one on the top of each pie.  Now there were no left overs when I was done, mainly due to the fact that 4 of the adults in this conversation were full grown men.  However, each  ate their fill and I only used 8 oz of meat for 6.5 people.  Meat is always going to be your most expensive ingredient.  The great thing about meat though is it is easy to stretch.  I have also taken 3 chicken breasts, cut them in half, pounded them flat, and double breaded them for fried chicken.  Adding potatoes, green beans from the garden, and rolls and everyone had pleanty to eat and no one the wiser.  I rarely fry chicken, although it is popular here.  It is not the healthiest choice, but fine for a treat once in a while.  Soups, casseroles, stews, and spaggetti sauces are great things to make to try and stretch the amount of meat you put in it. 
Also along the lines of stretching what you have, is to not waste anything.  If I make french toast for example, I will take the leftover egg/milk mixture and make up a batch of muffins.  I may need to add a little extra milk, but usually not much and with the price of eggs being what they are, I get double duty out of that egg.  Once the muffins are finished I put them in a freezer bag for a quick breakfast item or to eat along with a soup for dinner.  Left over mashed potatoes are used to make potato soup.  I just add some chicken broth, celery, and onion, cook it til the veggies are soft and then blend it up.  Once blended up I will put it back in the pan and add some sour cream maybe, or chives, a little cheese  Maybe a combination.  Leftover veggies from dinners get put in a large container in the freeer to be made into veggies soup later.
As you can see there are ways to make each doller work its hardest for you at the grocery store.  Yes it takes some creative juices, and maybe some elbow grease, but it is well worth it especially if you are having to make the most of what you have on hand.  The past posts deal with ways to save when money is tight, and these do help, but these tips are good for when money isn't tight as well.  They are just good money/home management. I hope these have helped in some small way.  If I think of anything else I will certainly share.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blackbelt grocery savings part 3

Today is my favorite type of weather.  The sky is crystal clear but for low clouds from yesterdays rain scurrying across the sky.  The wind is very breezy and the temps are in the 40s with a high today of just around 57 degrees.  I love love love this type of weather.  I will go and stand on the back deck and just feel the breeze on my face or take a walk.  Maybe I will do both!  I accomplished some of my final garden wrap up day before yesterday.  Basically I pulled up my tomato plants because I knew they weren't going to be producing anymore.  It is now just a matter of letting the ones on the vine ripen, so I pulled them up and hung them upside down to let the tomatoes ripen.  I also turned under some of the rows, pulled up some weeds, and also picked squash and beans for about the last time this season.  The tomato plants were covered with unripe roma tomatoes and I am hopeful if they ripen I will be able to cann up a few more jars of my spaggetti sauce.  Speaking of canning........

LEARN TO CAN- Okay, so you aren't to the point yet where you are willing to take on pressure canning.  I realize that.  It will come in time.  There are so many things you can put up in jars with just a deep pot, jars lids, rings, and water!  You can make jams, jellies, fruit butters, salsa, tomatoes, tomatoes sauces(without meats), pickles of many types, peppers, apples sauce, or canned fruit.  That is an awesome beginning.  The sound of the little "ping" as a jar seals successfully is music to my ears.  My kids laugh at me cause they can hear me through out the house as I count off each jar as it pings.  Canning frees up freezer space for other items like meats and dairy on sale.  If you grown your own tomatoes and peppers then salsa is cheap cheap to make.  It is also awesome.  I will include my recipe here:


10 CUPS CHOPPED, SEEDED ROMA TOMATOES about 6 lbs(I like Romas cause they have less water and seeds and are a little sweeter.  I also don't peel my tomatoes cause you lose alot of the nutrients that way)
5 CUPS CHOPPED ONIONS  about 1 1/2 lbs (use the food processor you will thank me)

*when chopping hot peppers be sure to wear gloves.  You will regret it if you don't especially if you touch your eyes.  Trust me on this.  I have had this happen before.  Fun!

So guys you will forgive me please if I use all caps to post my recipes.  I am lazy and hate to have to use my grammer tabs more than I have to.  My dh is worse than me he posts in all caps all the time.  At least I only do it when I am posting a recipe. Plus I find all caps helps me in reading a recipe cause my eyesite tends to be going.  Either that or my arms are shrinking.  Anybody get that joke?   Anyone, anyone? 

Anyway, back to canning.  I know to buy jars tends to be costly, but first of all you can look at it as an investment because you will use these jars every season.  In addition, there are ways of saving on jars.  1) buy at the end of the season if you find them on clearence.  This does happen periodically but not consistently. 2) whenever you are at a thrift store or yard sale,  look around for these.  You can usually find one or two.  I am always on the lookout for jars.  Estate sales are a great resource for canning jars.  I got jars for .25 a piece this summer at an estate sale; about 48 pint size jars. 3)  Let your needs be known.  Let people around you know you are wanting to start canning and need jars.  Someone who no longer can do it may have the jars you need.    Rings can be used more than once as well so save them when you remove them from a jar when you store it.  Lids however have to be bought each time.  I have tried to reuse lids, but only on items that are water bath canned.  I do not reuse lids that were previously on meat jars.  I do not reccommend reusing lids for anyone else.  I chose to try this for my own needs, but it is a personal decision.  Most county extension offices will tell you DO NOT REUSE LIDS.  Okay there is my disclaimer.  So there is my wrap up of part three in black belt grocery savings.  I hope this is helpful.  Have a great day guys!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Black belt grocery savings part 2

Good morning!  So money is tight for you?  It is here.  This morning we had a surprise in that all of the sudden we are informed that it is time to buy cap and gown for my oldest son's graduation.  I was expecting that little surprise in the beginning of the year not now.  $60 deposit and the part remaining will be another $200.  YIKES!  It is bitter sweet though.  I am happy that my son is able to graduate.  He is my child on the autism spectrum.  For a while there we weren't sure he would be able to make it.  While my youngest is being homeschooled because he fell thru the cracks of the public school system, my oldest son had the benefit of an I.E.P and as such had co-taught classes, timely intervention, tutors, etc because the school system wanted to make sure his scores were high.  I hold his teachers in high regard.  The system not so much.  So I am proud that he will be able to graduate, but the timing of said payment is not good.  But if you think about no time is good to make a $250ish payment.  In addition to that surprise, I finally got my groceries Monday and I am sad to say I went about $80 over.  Had I not restocked my pantry I would have been right on target, but I am concerned that if I don't keep it restocked, then when  I do restock it will be so much more expensive.  What I added to my list were flour, sugar, tea, coffee, oil, canned fruit, and canned peas.  I was totally out of peas and the canned fruit is hopefully temporay until my fruit trees start to produce. While my grocery list did go over in order to keep my pantry stocked, the items I stocked were staple items.  In fact the vast majority of my grocery shopping is primarily staples.  Speaking of fruit trees, that brings me to my next blackbelt grocery tip:
Grow Your Own - Grass seems like such a waste of space.  LOL.  I am sure my dh would have no problem with me using the entire yard for my garden so he wouldn't need to cut grass.(smile) In my back yard I have blackberries(thornless yay), blueberries, peach and apple trees.  I also have my garden in my backyard.  In mygarden I grow tomatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, navy beans, squash, pumpkin, spinach, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, beets, and cucmbers.  I will not lie to you.  Forget the picture of the cute, clean, lady with her pretty gloves on, her floppy hat, long sleeved shirt, and unsoiled jeans.  Gardening is a hot sweaty dirty business, but satisfying ohhh so satisfying.  I live in Ga and we have the red clay in our dirt.  I have good dirt, and properly prepared isn't too hard to work with.  However I don't use hand gardening tools.  I use full size hoes, cultivators, shovels, tiller, etc.  I will go out to the garden wearing my sunscreen and a sleeveless top and shorts(I know don't try to think of it too hard).  I take my radio to listen too, and am out there for a few hours.  When I come in I am a hot sweaty mess. You haven't felt a better shower than when you have just come in from a garden.  Oh yea, there are bugs.  Yea I know ewwwww, but there are bugs.  Just remember you are bigger than they are.(smile).  SO I think I have portrayed the garden sufficiently.  Now for the good part.  There is nothing better han veggies or fruit fresh from the garden or tree.  The savings is awesome as well.  My blueberry bushes put out over 35lbs of blueberries just this year alone.  I have six bushes that cost me about $10 each years ago.  Each year the bushes put out blueberries, lots of blueberries.  Those bushes have paid for themselves over and over.   The same gy garden.  It makes the produce pennies on the dollar compared to  bought and might I remind you, the taste and nutrition is so much better.  Work hard in the garden and few hours and skip the gym membership.  For those who may not have a yard to plant, look into container gardening, or raise bed gardening.  It is so satisfying to be able to walk past the canned veggie  produce because I dont need anything.  So all things considered gardening is hard work, but well worth the effort.  Trrry it you'll like it! 
Okay so since you went thru all the hulabaloo of listening to me wax on interminably, I will reward you with another recipe:




3 1/2 CUPS MIX


Monday, October 17, 2011

Black belt grocery savings Part 1

I have been without a computer monitor since friday before last.  We finally got a monitor Friday, but I had to work this past weekend and  so was unable to post anything.  So finally it is monday, I have 2 loaves of bread rising and the dishes are somewhat done(can't wash my bread bowl yet) so I am on here catching up.  Not much to tell I guess.  Last week was grocery gettin week and so I spent a lot of time oranizing my fridge, pantry, and freezer.  I tried using up as much stuff as possible so nothing would be wasted and I believe I was successful.  I have to tell ya, I have sticker shock everythime I go to the store.  Even at Aldi I was rethinking just about every purchase.  I still need to go to Sams today, but even that I am having to pare down my list to stay in budget.  Pretty soon my tricks won't work as well and I will have to increase my grocery budget again.  While at Kroger Thursday I saw a lady with about 8 kroger all natural peanutbutter she had purchased.  I said something about she must like peanutbutter or something to that effect, and she said she had heard that peanutbutter and peanuts (and pretty much anything that has peanuts in it) is about to spike due to a bad harvest this past season so she thought she should get some extra.  Very prudent I must say.  I am thinking I might grab a few extra.  I use alot of peanutbutter and I also buy the all natural.  Not cause I am a food snob, but I have one child allergic to HFCS and another that is on the autisim spectrum.  I want to be careful with what they eat.  Can't do it all the time, but I can do it with what is feasible for us.  Can I share some money saving tips on groceries?  I hate those magazine articles that say they can cut $100 from your grocery bill.  I laugh at thier tips: buy generic, don't shop hungry, shop with a list, stuff like that.  Those are fine for someone that has never tried to save on their grocery budget ,but what do you do when you have done all you can and still the ends aren't meeting.  These are the blackbelt grocery saving tips.  These are tips for when you are willing to put the time and energy into saving money.  Your abilities and your willingness to put effort towards providing food for your family are free to you.  It is what you do when you have nothing left to spend. 

MAKE YOUR OWN-  Alot of the items we buy at the store we can make ourselves.  The resources to learn are abundant and easy to find.  It is much more cost effective to buy a 5 lb bag of flour at the grocery store, and a 1lb bag of yeast at a warehouse store (keep it in your fridge or freezer it lasts longer) to make about 6-8 loaves of bread per 5 lb bag of flour as opposed to spending the same amount of money for 1 loaf of bread.  The pay off is awesome tasting bread(storebought can't compare) for pennies, strong arms (from kneading), and you know what things are going into your families body.  Things like bread I understand are labor intensive and you need to aquire a knack for making bread.  If you are nervous about making your own bread, go to a thrift store and aquire a bread machine to start with.  I used to use mine for making pizza crust, but when it finally died I just went to making the crust by hand.  Breads I make are: sandwich, french, quick breads, dinner rolls(cinnamen, hamburger and hot dog, donuts, etc, ), as well as my pizza crusts.  The easiest way to begin making your own breads is to start with something easy like white bread and /or a pizza crust.  Here is my recipe for pizza crust:



You can put everything into a bread machine on the dough setting or you can do it like I do.  Take your water and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add your dry milk, sugar, oil, and salt.  Sprinkle your yeast over the top and let it bubble a second or two.  Add about 2 cups of flour and whick it really well, then stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a spoon.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead a couple of minutes using just enough flour to keep your dough from being sticky.  Pour a little bit of oil back into your mixing bowl.  Take you dough and put it back into the bowl turning a few times to make sure you cover the dough well with oil.  Let rise in the bowl for about 25 min.  It won't rise too much, but punch it down and knead it a little more.  Cut into two crusts.  Press the crusts into the pizza pans.  This will take a bit cause you will press a few minutes and then let it rest a few minutes, then press some more til the pan is covered with the crust.  Put your sauce and toppings on and bake at about 425 for about 10 minutes or util the cheese is good and bubbly.  This is even more economical if you use your own homemade tomato sauce.  I will include mine in the next post. 

Other items I make are pancake syrup, choc cyrup, granola, ready to bake biscuits, spaggetti sauce, salsa, wheat thin crackers, doggie treats, english muffins, as well as the normal things most people would make like pancake and biscuit mix, muffins, and white sauce mix (use it in place of cream soups).  Aside from the bread which I will say takes a litte more time, but I haven't noticed a problem on my end, these other items take literally seconds to minutes to make and I believe well worth my investment of time and energy.  It is because I do these things that I have been able to keep my grocery budget as low as I do and still  maintain a pantry; which is another tip I will go into at a later date. This is becomming a long post so I will continue this in my next post and include more recipes for those interested.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yay I finished it! and pics

Well here it is the baby blanket and hat I have been working on for a coworker. 

I am so glad to have finally finished it. It will be ready to give to her on Saturday.  I have also been working on the christmas jammies for the family.  I have both my ds and my grandsons pj pants ready to put in the waist band which is the last thing.  Then I will have the matching tops to sew.  Can I share a bit of advice for those wanting cheap fabirc to make sewing worthwhile?  Have I disclosed this before?  I might have, but look in thrift stores for solid color flat sheets.  From one king sized flat sheet I got 1 tablecloth for a decorative table round, 4 christmas napkins (at least they will be) and three cute little winter coats and matching hats for my doll clothes inventory.  In another king size sheet I got  3 pair of mes pajamma pants.  In a twin sized knit sheet I got a mans pajamma shirt and a toddler pajamma shirt.  The cost of the flat sheets was like 1-2 bucks.  Way cheaper than buying fabric by the yard.  Another advantage is that I used the hem of the sheets for the hem of the pants and or tops if possible.  Not the big hem at the top of the sheet, the smaller one on the bottom or sides of the sheet.  Yay saves me a step. 
While I am thinking about it I said earlier that I would post a more recent pic of my daughter.  Although this is more recent, it is still 3 years old.  I really need to get on her to get more pics made.

Grr I hate it when the computer soed this to me.  I post a pic and all of the sudden I am writing in the middle
of the screen.  Very aggravating.  So I am gonna end this post and post more later. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ever been in "the zone"?

The zone in regards to any topic that is.  I get in the zone usually close to grocery day.  I am usually having to get creative, having to use up stuff and cook from scratch.  I actually love this time.  It becomes a challange for me to see how much I can accomplish while watching my refridgerator get emptier and emptier.  My mind works sharper.  I come up with great ideas for casseroles, soups, etc. Then when it is time to get groceries I can easily clean out my fridge.  I always defrost my freezer right before grocery day as well.  I am right now down to my last loaf of store bought bread.  As a family we don't like store bought bread as much as homemade, but last month Dh wanted to count calories so I bought store bought bread.  I think we are all in agreement that we are going back to homemade bread.  It just tastes better and really  is more substancial than store bought.  I am so tired of trying to make a PB and J and the bread keeps tearing.  Grrr.  I am looking forward to making more homemade bread.  Maybe tomorrow. 
I am happy to report that I finished the baby blanket and once I am done with the matching hat I will take a pic of both to show everyone.  I was also able to not only do some housecleaning yesterday, but I began to sew as well.  I started on a pair of pajamma pants for my grandson.  I will little by little knock out the pants first then turn to the tops.  I think that will go faster since I will be doing like seems for the pants.  You know kinda like assembly line style.  I will take a pic of the finished produst when the time comes. 
I am looking forward to tonight at church.  We are starting a new series by John Brevere called "the fear of the Lord".  I love to hear John Brevere preach.  The whole series deals with having a more intimate relationship with God.  That is something I need to hear.  It is something I have always wanted, a closer relationship with God, just haven't been sure of how to go about it. 
Well that is my update for today.  If I think of anything frugal I will surly post away.  You guys have a great day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'm a baking and i'm a thinking.....

Yep, I was wanting to be so productive yesterday.  I had plans to sew and crochet, teach, clean, and bake.  Well I taught, crochet, an baked.  I did a little house cleaning but not much to write home about.  Mainly dishes and a bit of straightening.  I also did no sewing.  This is a problem cause I have to get these jammies made.  I am hoping to get some done today.  What I did do was make butter toffee crunch.  Here is the recipe.  Believe me you want to make this!


1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

3 tbs water

1tbs corn syrup

1/2 cup chopped nuts

3/4 cup semi sweet choc chips

butter a 9X13 pan really well and sprinkle the nuts on the bottom. I tend to keep them clustered in the center of the pan some cause the toffee you put over them wont make it to the edges. Anyway, melt your butter in a pan (I use my iron skillett) and add the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stirring constantly bring to soft crack stage (290) keep careful watch after the temp get to 280 cause it will a)rise the rest of the way pretty quickly and b) could burn if you aren't careful. Once it reaches the soft crack stage, immediatly pour over the nuts in you 9X13 pan. Sprinkle the choc chips over all, wait a second then spread them out will a spoon or knife. let cool completly. Break into bite size pieces. This is the most wonderful stuff in the world! I usually make it for christmas, but made it yesterday I guess a little early. (smile)
I am also in use up mode and so I used up some leftover hamburger buns and roast beef for BBQ sandwiches and oven fries made from cut taters.  I used an eggplant I needed to use and made eggplant lasagna for my ds and my lunch, and today I am using up some fresh mushrooms for stuffed mushrooms.  I am hoping to get some sewing done as well as house keeping.  I won't do any baking except to make dinner. 
Okay, heres what I am thinking.  One day I am hoping to be able to open my own little store called "Time for Tea".  The whole premise is a little girls tea party.  In the back of the store I will sell coffee, tea, pastries etc, but the front of the store will house doll clothes made by me as well as other vendors of the same doll theme.  I already have the front window planned out with dolls at a tea party.  I will also do doll repairs of all types of dolls, new and antique.   In order to do this thing I need to get more training in doll repair.  That will cost me about $4000.  The class is two weeks long, cost $1750 and is in Ilinois.  The rest of the money is for living expenses for two weeks.  The advantage is once I complete the class I will know everything I need to know to open a doll hospital.  I am thinking of getting going on making the doll clothes and selling them online.  I can save up the money to eventually do this class .  I recognize it will be a few years before I am able to do this.  Any thoughts?  Anyone ever done any selling online not counting EBAY?  Tips would be very useful.  I already have some outfits cut out, I just need to make them.  Well, I guess that is my update for the day.