Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saving Money in the Kitchen

One of the best places to consistently save money is in the kitchen.  Habits form quickly and have a tendency to endure, for better of worse. 

We naturally lean toward speed and ease, but with regards to our eating habits this has begun to reduce quality while increasing costs.  Obviously speed and ease are valuable, quite handy, and readily available.

I'm not going to preach to you about changing your lifestyle.  I rely on the quick'n easy myself at times.  I certainly don't think it's evil.  But it's not healthy, or even very tasty ... well, not usually. 

What if, just once in awhile, we made something from scratch?

Families are all over the map on this one.  For some, making three homemade meals each week may sound like a realistic goal.  For others, maybe putting together a couple of freezer meals a few times in a month is a stretch. 

You know your schedule, and yourself.  A little challenge is good, but you shouldn't stress out over this.  Simply aim for an increase of "made from scratch" in no particular amount. 

It's smart to plan meals.  Have your family pick out a couple recipes each, this increases the chances of their appreciating your effort.  Don't forget to write these ingredients on the grocery list.

Eat more beans.  I've said it before, they're a more economical protein than meat when paired with a grain, potato, or other carb.  Aim for once or twice each week.  That's one meal you spent less than you would have with a meat dish, and increased your fiber intake.  (I'll be bumping up my legume recipes in "Bless Our Vittles.")

Learn how to "stretch" your meals.  We can even do this with a can of Campbell's soup.  Add a cooked potato, sauteed onion and garlic, beans or lentils, pasta or rice.  Adding less expensive ingredients to "stretch" out your meals can also be a great way to increase your vegetable intake, or make a meal for one into a hearty meal for two.

Practice good storage.  Learn the best ways to store your produce and dry storage.  You can loose a lot of money in soggy produce and infested grains.  Composting is great, but feeding ourselves is our priority.  And if you've ever endured pantry moths, or other pest, you don't care to repeat such sickening wastefulness.

Yea, gross.  But if you've endured these nasty creatures you know that this is not the disgusting part.  No, it's their offspring you don't want to meet.  Unbeknownst to you, they catch a ride in your newly-purchased sunflower seeds, or other such provision.  Next thing you know your 4-year-old says, "Mom, my seeds are moving."  Using storage that offers a secure seal prevents their survival.  I use my chip clips for frozen veg in the freezer.

Rhubarb Custard Bars

For those of us living in the chillier climates, rhubarb is a wonderful, er, Rheum.  Well, that's what it is.  It is actually a vegetable that grows wild in the northwest provinces of China. 

Our word, rhubarb, comes ultimately from Medieval Latin reubarbarum, alteration of rha barbarum, literally, barbarian rhubarb, 15th century.  But we sure like it!

It's a good source of vitamin C, and high in dietary fiber.  It also happens to be incredibly easy to grow and so beautiful.  It's a large perennial that comes up early in springtime, the first for many gardeners and cooks.  It is very winter-hardy and resistant to drought.  The leaves, however, are poisonous. 

We don't use them in the hot months when they get woody and tasteless.  But the return of cooler weather brings another last harvest before the harsh winter months.

When your stalks get spindly and you can start to see the crown, you know it's time to divide your plants.

In the spirit of snow-melt anticipation, I'm sharing with you a particularly delicious rhubarb recipe.  I wish I could recall for you just where I happened upon this delectable dessert, it's just written down in my hurried scrawl on the back of another sheet.  I apparently thought it looked good and subsequently had to have it.

Rhubarb Custard Bars

1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, room temperature

1 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4-5 c rhubarb

Preheat your oven to 350°F
Grease a 9 x 13" pan

Directions For the Crust
Mix together flour and sugar
Cut in the butter
Press into the bottom of the pan
Bake 10-12 min.

Directions For the Filling
Mix together sugar, salt, and flour
Add the eggs, vanilla, and rhubarb
Pour this over your partially-baked crust
Continue baking for 30-35 min

Keep in the refrigerator

Spring is on it's way, my friends!  Soon we will have our rhubarb, and more recipes.

Thrifty Letter "C" with Vicki Lansky

1  Use in the fireplace during summertime.
2  Rub a white candle over the address label on a package to seal from moisture.
3  Candle stubs are good for sharpening pins.
4  The best for preventing tangles in thread while sewing.
5  Fill fragile figurines with wax to give them extra heft and resistance.

Cardboard Tubes
1  Stuff your plastic bags in them to keep things tidy.
2  Wrap table clothes and runners around them for wrinkle-free storage.
3  Slit lengthwise & slip onto hangers to keep trousers crease-free.
4  Re-roll wrapping paper.
5  Cram full of twigs for a sure-fire fire-starter.
6  Store accessory scarves wrinkle-free.
7  Trim short and use around tender seedlings that are susceptible to cutworm.

Carpet Scraps
1  Nail a small piece onto a block and use for cleaning window screens.
2  Glue under the chairs that slide on vinyl surfaces.
3  Muffle a noisy sewing machine while baby naps.
4  Use for Fido’s bed.

Cat Litter
1  Use to help clean vomit.
2  Helpful for vehicle spills on the driveway and in the garage.

1  Hide hairline cracks in plaster walls, using a matching color.
2  Rub onto stains to absorb the oils that hold dirt.
3  Absorb odors in closets & toolboxes.

1  Useful as a chip clip.
2  Clip your recipe cards at eye level for ease while cooking.
3  Clip to bottom of wet garments to help shape & prevent wrinkles.
4  Squeeze toothpaste.
5  Help little hands hold playing cards.
6  Hold objects together while gluing.

Coffee Can
1  Waterproof toilet paper dispenser while camping.
2  Punch holes in the sides, remove both ends and use as a charcoal fire starter.
3  Make stilts with two cans and some rope.

Coffee Filters
1  Make good disposable snack holders.
2  For easy cleanup, grease as usual and place inside small-sized bread pans then bake.
3  Cover dishes while cooking in microwave.
4  Use as a base on the kitchen scale when weighing ingredients.
5  Line a sieve when straining frying oil.
6  Use as separators between your good china.
7  Store inside your iron skillet to absorb moisture & prevent rust.
8  Clean windows and mirrors with them, they’re lint-free!
9  Line your nonstick pots and pans to prevent scratching.
10  Use these for polishing shoes.
11  Work well as a fabric stabilizer.

1  Prevents grease splatters.
2  Reheat cooked rice & pasta by placing inside a colander, then pouring very hot water over it.

1  Helps when you need to drill several holes to the same depth.
2  Attach to your keys when boating.
3  Attach to the tip of sharp knife blades.
4  Replace lost lid knobs for your pots and pans.  (My crockpot's missing one right now!)

Cotton Balls
1  Place at the end of a drawer runner to prevent from pinching little fingers.
2  Soak in bleach then let sit for a few hours on mildewed bathroom corners, rinse well.

Make a decent furniture scratch cover-up.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Frugal Apps for Droid and iPhone

It is cool to be frugal!  An article on the Frugal Dad blog written by Laurel Gray shares with us some apps that can help to save you a little money.

I'll share a few of them with you, and I've included his link.

Dinner Spinner
This iPhone app from allows you to enter an ingredient and see a list of recipes using that item.  Price: Free. (A pro version with enhanced features is available for $2.99.)

Groupon’s subscribers leverage the power of collective purchasing by signing up for daily deals in select cities. If the minimum number of purchasers signs up, then the coupon is activated and users receive a deep discount on a product, event or service. Available on iPhone and Android. Price: Free.

This carpooling app puts riders and drivers together to unclog the roads, take advantage of rideshare lanes, and reduce pollution. Lower your monthly gas bill! For iPhone. Price: Free.

Much more than a tip calculator, this app also helps you divide up restaurant bills among multiple diners, switch to different currencies, and even skip tipping on sales tax. Helpful if you have friends whose math-impairment leaves you with an unfair share of the bill at times. Available for iPhone and Android. Price $0.99.

Skype is a great resource for making free calls either computer to computer or device to device over WiFi or 3G. Skype is especially useful for avoiding steep international phone charges. Calls and text messaging to land lines are charged at reasonable prices. Available on Android and iPhone. Price: Free.

Coupon Sherpa
This coupon app allows you to take advantage of in-store merchant discounts without the hassle of clipping or printing out coupons. The location-based software uses your phone’s GPS to identify coupons for stores in your vicinity. To redeem, the cashier scans a bar code from your device or enters a numeric code. You can also customize the display to highlight your favorite merchants and filter out the duds. Special coupons for app users are available as well. Available on Android and iPhone. Price: Free.

Another simple, but popular app, GasBuddy, lists fuel prices based on the user’s location. Powered by a community of users who input data on local gas prices, this app will save you money at the pump (as long as you don’t drive across town for a one-penny-per-gallon discount). For iPhone and Android. Price: Free.

Thrifty Letter "B" with Vicki Lansky

Baby Food Jars
Reuse for dry cereal snacking, they'll last longer than that cute little plastic goldfish from the grocery isle.
Keep as an emergency cup in your car, great for rest stops during road trips.
Fill with Jell-O or pudding for the perfect kid-sized treat.

Organize your hardware; screw lids to underside of wood shelf, fill jars with nuts, bolts, etc then screw into place and out of the way.

Baby Oil
Removes oil-based paints.
Try it to remove white spots on wood furniture.
Conditions lashes and brittle nails.
Makes for “ouchless” bandage removal.
Shines your stainless steel sink, just dab a bit on a cloth.
Rids your shower door of scum.
Remove stains from your kitchen and bathroom chrome.

Baby Powder
Freshen Fido’s coat as well as sweaty, sandy summer kids.
Cover up a stain on a white shirt.
Refresh the insides of your rubber gloves.
Reduce that troublesome friction while wearing your favorite skirts.
Untangle a knot from that thin necklace chain.
Freshen the old “musty” book smell from your precious collection.
Fix a squeaky floor board with an application along the edge.
Freshen summer sheets.
Helps keep a deck of cards from sticking.
Good for removing gritty sand from sticky skin at the beach.
Can help remove grease spots from clothing; let sit overnight before brushing off and laundering.

Baby Wipes
Good while training toddler on the lavatory.
Gentle on mom’s tender sutures.
Freshen hands after fuel stops.


Bags, Brown Paper
Speeds ripening for your fruits & veg.
Store your mushrooms in a moist paper bag to keep longest.
To store onions long term, keep in fridge in a paper bag.
Drain fried foods & cool cookies on a paper bag.
Use for removing wax with warm iron.
Place over your windshield to save scraping.

Bags, Plastic
Cut up green bags into strips and tie onto child's belt for Hawaiian “grass” skirt.
Store over your heaters in the summer,  around your fans in winter.
Cover ceiling fans during remodeling.
Keep in kids’ closet for catching outgrown items.

Cover well-watered plants with transparent bag just before vacation, keeping out of direct light.

Dust covers for seldom-worn clothing.
Store extras in bottom of waste basket.

Wrap one up to the size of piece of gum, slip rubber band around it, drop in purse - never know when you’ll need it!

Spray paint small items inside of one.
For intense toilet cleaning, place hand in bag, scrub, then toss.
Cover shoes before packing to keep other garments clean.
Keep feet dry inside not-so-waterproof shoes or boots.
“Wear” when mixing meatloaf.
Set metal furniture legs into after carpet shampoo to prevent rust.
Funnel for liquids.
Waterproof a mattress by splitting and placing under sheet.
Indispensable for travel, auto, camping, picnic.


Bags, Zip-Loc
Protect your flashlight outdoors in damp weather.
Marinate meat, using less ingredients.
Mix your deviled egg filling, then clip off a corner and use to fill egg halves.
Bring to beach to keep cell phone & I-pod dry and safe from sand.

Keeps drains open: pour ½ box, followed by 1c vinegar - after bubbling subsides, flush with hot water (best way to use old fridge/freezer box.)

Use as a non-chemical facial scrub.
Use as toothpaste.
As mouthwash = 1teaspoon + glass water.
Works as antiperspirant.
Freshens your hampers.
Extinguish a small grease fire (not deep fat fryer fires).
Removes black scuff marks from your floor.
Absorbs grease stains from fabric.
Deodorizes your cutting boards.
Removes perspiration stains.
Cleans your fiberglass shower & tub.
Add to kitty's litter for freshness.
Soak sour smelling dish clothes for freshness.
Use as a bleach booster.
Makes a good cleaner for white shoes, dolls, and plastic high-chairs.
Good for blotting bed-wetting accidents.
Helps with absorbing vomit odor.
Cleans plush toys that cannot be laundered.


Bottle, Soda Liter
Top as a funnel, bottom keeps celery longer in a bit of water.
Use as a hot water bottle.
Use as an ice block for pet on hot days.

Bottle, Prescription
Holds bobbins.

Remove and save from retired old clothing.
Can make adorable décor when displayed in an old mason jar.
Use in place of lost markers on a board game.
Keep track of tiny pierced earing pairs.
Glue to the bottom of a short table leg to stop wobbling

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stash-Busting Snake

I had all these fun little balls of yarn...

As you can see, none of them alone were enough for a project, but put a bunch of them together and you've got yourself a bright, stripey little snake for an excited little boy (or girl).  He's so cute that any youngster would just love to have him snuggled around their neck in chilly weather.

I knit this one using double point needles, but that doesn't mean you have to.  Go ahead and knit yours in-the-round with a circular needle, only be sure to use a shorter 9-in.

Knit yours flat and stitch him together right side in, then turning him out to bind the ends.

Perhaps you don't knit.  You can crochet one with even less effort!

Try a smaller-sized Knifty Knitter loom from Provo Craft.  It's only a matter of wrapping your yarn around the pegs, then lifting the lower loop over the upper loop.  What's more, you get perfect stitches every time!

I didn't use a pattern.  I started small, increasing a little at a time.  When I found the size I liked, I just kept going until I was out of yarn.  I tied on red yarn for his tongue, and sewed on a couple of small, shiny black buttons (quite secure).  Et voilà!

What to do With All This Crafty Stuff?!

We want to keep everything in one room.  Preferably the room where they'll be used, as this makes for faster and easier clean-up.  However, most of us are not able to have a craft, hobby, or art room.  Aim for storing your supplies in one place.  You want to avoid the hunt for materials.

Claim for yourself a small closet, a space under the stairs, or just a designated area in a room.  You can arrange your furniture to facilitate this new arrangement rather nicely with a little effort, essentially separated from the rest of the room.

You may need to invest in some storage, or use what you have and collect good storage slowly over time.  The key is to label your storage very clearly.  This is where you make it easier for yourself!  Both for location and for cleanup.

Consider putting some shelves up on the wall.  This increases usable storage space while keeping things accessible.

Finally, try to adopt a regimen that includes cleanup time.  As aggravating and difficult as it is to interrupt yourself when your on a creative roll, you'll be glad the next time it's craft time!

Thrifty Letter "A" with Vicki Lansky

I really enjoy these kinds of books.  They always offer something useful and often surprising.  I found so many useful things from Vicki Lansky's books that I can't cover them all in one post. 
You'll find some notable, some far-fetched, some you'll be ready to incorporate into your household routine.  I don't give everything from the book, just what seemed useful to me.  You'll find this, and several like it at your local library.

Address Labels
Stick one with your phone number inside your eyeglasses case, I wish I would've.  I might have gotten my favorite pair returned. 
Place them on school supplies, especially the more valuable ones. 
It's a great way to mark your books.
Address rebates with these.
Place one on the inside of your gas cap, not a bad idea!  We've lost one of these before, too!
Carry a few with you in your purse.


Airline Bags
Keep a couple of these in your car for motion-sensitive tummies.
(We ended up filling our with roadside berries on an impromptu stop.)

Alcohol (rubbing)
Can clean your paint brushes.
May remove grass & dye stains, and sticky hairspray from your curling iron.
Makes your chrome shiny again.
Kills aphids and mealy bugs on plants (dilute first)

Aluminum Foil
Crunch up a wad and polish the chrome on your old playpen or stroller.
Wrap the door knobs when painting.
Make a substitute funnel or place mat
Wrap heavy-duty foil around panel of insulation board & tuck behind radiators & baseboard heaters to reflect heat into room.
A wedge of foil makes a quick fix for loose batteries.
Remove rust spots with crumpled foil dipped in cola.
Wrap matches to keep dry.
Pot scrubber.
Cat toy.
Place inside garment when ironing on patch to prevent adhesive from spreading.
Line fireplace 4-5 in high for easier clean-up.

Tie a soaked rag onto your trash can to keep Fido away, maybe it works on raccoons, too. Removes scorch spots on pots & pans.
Cleans combs & brushes with solution 1:1 water to ammonia.
Window cleaner = 1/2c ammonia + 1qt water + 2 Tbsp vinegar.
 1:1 Turpentine & ammonia takes paint out of clothes; saturate several times, then wash with warm soap suds.  Rinse

About Me

My photo
As long as I'm on this journey, rambling through life's exhilarating highs and trudging heavily amongst it's incapacitating lows, I might as well share whatever may be gleaned from my little bits of wisdom and my many missteps. No room for judgment from this broken mama. I'm writing from my heart: raw, open, messy, but saved. And I'm still thanking God!