Tuesday, October 25, 2016

60 Days and Counting Down

Today is exactly 60 days till Christmas.  Hard to believe - isn't it?
Have you started getting ready?
Buying gifts - making gifts - making menus - planning, planning, planning??????

Last week I went through the gifts I have accumulated over the past year  at various sales, clearance bins, yard sales and thrift stores.  I have all gift items in a very large tote.
I also have all kinds of containers to use in wrapping and presenting gifts in another tote.

Today let's talk about wrapping options.  I hate doing what everyone else does!  I like to be a little different (ask those who really know me!).
So begin thinking outside the "box"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I always keep a few individual water/pop bottles (people leave them when visiting).  I wash, de-label, and use for all sorts of things.  They make cute holders for M&M's, Skittles, etc..  Also for nuts or even birdseed.  You can add your own labels.
  • Jars from coffee mayo, etc. are great for jar recipes.  You can use Mason jars - but this way you don't have to worry about getting them back.  These are great for soup mixes, bean mixes, cookie/brownie mixes......
  • TP tubes - are great for very small gifts.  Stuff in the tube and wrap up like a stick candy or piece of taffy!
  • Confuse those people who ALWAYS seem to know what is in a box!  Use cereal, cracker, cookie boxes.  Any type of box will work and you are recycling.
  • Get a strainer/colander and fill with a jar of pasta sauce, pasta, and parm. cheese.  Maybe a cute dish towel in the bottom
  • Wrap homemade bread or sweet breads in a pretty kitchen towel (Dollar Tree)
  • Buy cute holiday or pretty china plates or dessert saucers at yard sales or thrift stores.  Use as trays for giving homemade cookies or candies.  They get to keep the dish and pass on the love to someone else
  • 2 liter bottles are great for gifting t-shirts or logo hats.  Cut the bottom off the bottle - stuff with tissue paper and gift - then use clear tape to put the bottom back on
  • Gallon or plastic jars are great for filling with all kinds of goodies for teens (then their moms can use when empty!)
  • Buy cute coffee mugs at Dollar Tree and add some flavored tea bags or a baggie of hot chocolate mix  
  • Baskets from thrift stores are great for giving home canned goods, or misc. goodie baskets for adults or kids
  • I love giving goodies in re-usable cloth bags - they can then be used all year
  • Flower pots (plastic or clay) can be filled with gloves, tools or seeds for the garden
  • A bait bucket with fishing lures, filet knife, or 6 pack of their favorite beer
  • Find a nice straight glass (bottom and top same diameter) and fill with homemade cookies.  Not only do they get cookies - but a nice milk glass to go with it.
  • Pringles cans are great for gifting cookies
  • I keep the plastic containers that I buy mushrooms in - wash and dry - and use to give fudge and other homemade candies
Hopefully this gives you a few new ideas.   You can start saving items to use now. 
Have fun with your packaging.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Frugal Happenings 10/23

Happy Sunday my friends.  I surely hope this finds you well.

We have had all types of weather this week.  Started out quite warm, then rain, and very chilly.  We are having normal fall weather finally.  I have had to run the furnace one cycle on two mornings to take the chill off.

I found out this week that my other next door neighbors are to be moving soon.  They have rented for 26 years!  The landlord (I call her a slumlord) will never fix anything.  I know she wants them out, as she has not raised the rent in all the time that they have been there, and she wants more money.  She is one of those nasty, greedy rich folks.  She IS wealthy - probably because she doesn't spend any money.  I can't imagine what kind of new people she will get to rent.  This really scares me - I DON'T LIKE CHANGE!

I got my Blazer back on Friday!  YAY!!!  While they were bleeding the brake line they fixed, another broke, and then another!  WOW did I get lucky.  They also fixed my 4-wheel drive, my driver's side window and the back window and hatch.  I feel like I have a new vehicle.  LOL
It all cost us less than one third of what we had saved back for vehicle repairs!!!

My frugal week:
  • Line dried laundry
  • Colored my hair with supplies I have on hand
  • Cut a bouquet of roses
  • Crushed up the remainder of a bag of stale tortilla chips and placed in a jar.  Will use as casserole toppings
  • Picked the last of the bell peppers, green tomatoes and one zucchini
  • Dried more mint
  • Made hankies out of an old t-shirt
  • I was gifted more canning jars!  I received 4 dozen pints, 2 dozen quarts, and 8 jelly jars.  ALL had rings with them.  Also got 5 boxes of lids and a turkey roaster.  WOOHOO!
  • I went through things in basement and got my gift tote all organized  - so I know what I already have for holiday gifts
  • I bought 5 - 1 lb. bags of 'crunchy' M & M's on clearance at Kroger for 1.59 bag.  They went in the gift tote!!  (Shoot I can't buy choc. chips that cheap)
  • I got 2 whole pork loins on clearance at Kroger as well.  I brought home and cut one into 14 thick chops and a bag of pieces for stir fry - and cut the other in half for 2 roasts.  Check out this savings! (Click on picture to enlarge)
  • Had enough points saved back to save .30/gallon on gasoline.  Paid 1.59/gallon!
  • Been working on organizing more daily use items in glass jars (in the kitchen)
  • Stayed home biggest part of the week
  • Made a library run - got an interesting cookbook to look at
Meals this week:
Homemade chicken gumbo (2X)
Chicken strips, mashed potatoes and side salad
Hamburger stew (2X)
Fried chicken and nice size salad (2X)
**We kept it simple this week

Snacks - a little of this and a little of that

HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?  Did you do anything interesting?  Did you find any great deals?
Give us a shout out - I know we all love reading about each other.

Take care of yourselves and your families.  May God bless you all with good health and safety this week.  Stay frugal my friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

More easy Homemade

We are having a very cool and rainy day today.  These are the kind of days that get me motivated to cook.  I have a nice big post of hamburger stew going at the moment.  YUM!

I thought I might list a couple more recipes that come straight from the pantry and that are quite simple.

4 C fruit juice - any flavor you prefer (I have also made this with flat  flavored soda pop)
2 envelopes (.5 ounce) unflavored gelatin
Optional:  2 C fresh fruit (frozen or canned is ok too)

Pour 3 cups fruit juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Pour remaining juice in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with gelatin.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, then pour the hot juice into the bowl and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

If you are adding fruit, lay it on the bottom of the pan, mold, or individual dishes.  Pour liquid over the fruit and refrigerate, uncovered till set.  6-8 hours

Just think of the neat flavor combos you can come up with!!!!!
Make unflavored gelatin a pantry staple.  It has many uses.


1 large egg yolk (it won't be cooked - so use freshest eggs you have)
1 C olive oil
fresh lemon juice to taste (I use bottled)
salt to taste
Optional:  1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp. water in a medium mixing bowl.
Using a measuring cup with  a spout - pour a few drops of oil into yolk mixture and whisk vigorously.  Add a few more and repeat.  Combine until you have a thick yellow sauce, then add greater amounts of oil at once.

Add a squeeze or dash of lemon and a pinch of salt and whisk again.  Add flavors to taste.
Store up to 4 days in covered container in frig.

**Don't over pour oil into egg - it can cause mixture to separate.  Just do a few drops at a time to start.  Be patient while you blend.
This is fresh tasting and keeps you from having to make a special shopping trip for a get together.

Hope you enjoy!  Have fun making homemade!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Homemade Cheese Goodies

Last week we talked about homemade vs. store bought.  Homemade is always better in my opinion.
I just love knowing what is in the food we are eating.

Here are a couple of easy cheese recipes that I think you will enjoy.  Simple ingredients and no artificial stuff added.

2 C shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 jar (4 oz.) diced pimentos (drained)

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix till thoroughly blended (use paddle if you have one).  Salt and pepper to taste.  I put mine in the Ninja (blender) and pulse 2 - 3times.  It makes it a little smoother blend (how we like it).  This is so yummy!!!!

1 1.2 C water - very hot
1/2 C instant  (dry) milk PLUS 1 Tablespoon
1//4 oz. envelope of unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 tsp.)
1 1/2 lbs. shredded cheddar cheese

Line a 8 x 4  loaf pan with plastic wrap.
In a blender mix 1/2 C very hot water - 3 Tbsp. of dry milk and 1/2 tsp. of gelatin.  Blend well.
Quickly add 1/2 pound of cheese and whip.  Pour into pan.

Repeat the above process 2 more times until all ingredients have been used.
Cover with plastic and refrigerate.  Keep refrigerated.
Makes 2 lbs.  So creamy!!
Better than store bought!!!

Both of these are easily made and use ingredients most people have on hand.  OK, maybe I am different, but I always keep plain gelatin on hand (use in suet too), and small jars of pimentos.

I hope you all give these a try. 
These would be fun gifts to make for Christmas as well.  Attached recipe and maybe a pack of fancy crackers!  It would sure be an original gift.  I would love to receive this!

ENJOY my friends.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Frugal Happenings 10/16

Hi there my friends.  I hope you have had a wonderful week blessed with good health and many savings.

We have continued to have great weather, which is really unusual for this time of the year.  The next couple  of days will be in the 80's and then the temps drop again to the upper 50's at the end of the week.  No frost in our area yet. 
The fact that we have had no frost, means that our trees have not really started to turn color yet.  There are a few changing (sugar maples), but for the most part there is a lot of green out there.

I was leaving to visit my brother this week, and got just up the road when my brake pedal went all the way to floor!  I guided myself slowly back home.  I had a brake line go, therefore no brakes to speak of!!  I was lucky to be so close to home.  I had to then clean out the Blazer (I store all kinds of stuff in it), and called a tow truck to come take it to the repair shop.
I have had a couple other issues with windows as well, so we are having them fix everything.
The GOOD NEWS is, we received $2,500 about 3 years ago for hail damage to Blazer (could hardly see it), and that money is still in the account just for the Blazer.  So it will not cost us any out of budget money!!!!!!   YAY!!
*I am just happy this happened now and not on ice in the winter.  God definitely had me in His hands.

My frugal week;
  • Laundry in cold and line dried
  • No AC.  Love having the windows open
  • I dug out blue jars and a couple old square jars I found in the canning jars I was gifted this summer.  I will use them for dry storage.

  • Have picked cherry tomatoes, 2 kinds of peppers, lettuce and green onions this week.  Have some small zucchini growing in the garden still
  • Aldi had squash on sale this week.  I got 2 spaghetti squash, 2 acorn, and 2 butternut for .99 EACH!  They are all firm and great size.  Great deal and they will last us through the end of the year.
  • I did a thorough scouring of the stove with vinegar and baking soda as cleaners.  I figured most of the canning is done - so get it ready for the holiday season!
  • Did a lot of yard work.  Bundled up a lot of refuse for yard waste pick-up.  I used strips of an old t-shirt to tie stuff up.  Much stronger and versatile than twine!
  • I went to the first craft bazaar of the season on Saturday.  Did a lot of looking and got a lot of cute ideas.  I did spend $5 (basically a donation to church) for a pineapple upside down cake!  My favorite.  My mom always made me one for my birthday - that is coming up at the end of the month - so I treated myself. (sweet memories).
  • Harvested some dried bean pods I found in garden to use for planting next spring.
Meals of the week:
All leftovers and some fried green tomatoes (yum)
Banana/pecan pancakes
Stuffed pepper skillet dinner
Flavored rice, sausage patties and salad
Soup and grilled sandwiches
Mexican baked potatoes (topped w/nacho cheese, jalapenos and sour cream)
Cajon rice with chicken chunks and brussel sprouts

Leftovers for lunches
Snacks:  cake, jerky, and Chex Mix

We have been enjoying watching all the nature in our backyard.  Seems they are all getting ready for winter.  We normally have 10-12 squirrels at any given time, birds of all sorts, "Chuck" the ground hog and "Opie" the little possum, and of course the 3 kitties are out there.  We have some very young squirrels, which I find unusual this time of the year.  One little guy has what appears to be a damaged tail (it's about 2" long), so it's name is "Bobbi".  I am crazy I know!!!!!!  I name everything.

Just at dawn - IF YOU CLICK ON PICTURE TO ENLARGE, you will see Chuck and Opie and in the back ground you will kitty eyes glowing.  Everyone gets along thank goodness.

I pray you all have a safe and healthy week.  Many your frugal finds and adventures be many!
Give us a shout out and let us know what you are up to!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Homemade Vs. Store Bought

We all know homemade tastes better than store bought - but I have to agree that store bought is often easier.  We all have those items that we buy, that in actuality we should be making at home.
I know - we just don't have the time.
This is something that I am working harder at.

We grow gardens and can and freeze our goodies because it tastes so much better than the stuff from the store.  It saves us money too.

Here are some things to think about.

1.  Homemade food is just better for you.  You know what is in it, that it's fresher, there are no       preservatives or chemicals from the packaging, and no  hidden stuff.

2.  It just tastes better.  I don't really care what you make - it will be better made from scratch.  You can make things richer, sweeter, chocolatier, more wholesome, less salty, etc.  You make it the exact way you and your family like it.

3.  Scratch seems to cost less.  Prepared foods cost more as you are paying for packaging, advertising, utilities and pay of employees, shipping, and who knows what else.  Food made from scratch comes from a lot of raw ingredients.  Granted there are still things you have to buy - flour, sugar, some spices, meat in many cases, etc., but it still works out cheaper and less packaging.

4.  Scratch food eliminates unnecessary packaging.  How many wrappers, boxes, and containers do you throw away every week?  I am hoping to eliminate more and more packaging each week.

5.  Scratch food will make you think differently about food.  After you start making more from scratch, you will realize the flavors are so much better, and odds are you will start feeling better.  You won't be putting all the nasty chemicals in your body, and I bet you may even lose weight.
The next time you eat something that you created - then taste store bought - I bet you taste a huge difference!

I have always made much of our food from scratch, but there are still so many things I want to try.  I haven't baked bread in ages - that is something I want to get back to.  I would love to make my own pasta!  
We love homemade pizza, cookies and candies, stews, soups, you name it.

What do you make from scratch that most people buy at the store?
We all need new ideas - as winter is the best time to try making foods from scratch.  Homemade is comfort food in my book.

I believe we all need to shift the way we look at food, ourselves, and our world.
We need to get back to basics.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ground Meat Jerky 101

Ok, as promised I will tell you how super easy it is to make jerky out of ground beef.  You could use ground turkey, chicken, pork, venison, etc.  ANY ground meat will do.
My beef that I used was 80% lean.  I would think that you should use at least that lean if not more.

I will be showing several pictures along the way to help explain this easy procedure.
You can use either your oven or a dehydrator.  I used both, as I made 2 pounds.  They took the same amount of time - but we both agreed that the dehydrator jerky was the best consistency. (BOTH are great though).

Here is a picture of the seasoning that I used.  I bought it at Rural King, but I am sure you can find jerky seasoning/cure at many places.

This was approximately $6.  There are 6 seasoning and 6 cure packages per box.  You need one seasoning and one cure for each pound of ground meat.
My meat was on sale for $1.99/lb., therefore each pound of jerky cost less than $3. 
I see 2 oz. packages at the store for more money than that.

Preheat oven at 170*, if using oven.
Set aside one pound of meat in a mixing bowl.  Take on packet seasoning and one packet cure and dump into a small bowl.  Add approximately 1 tablespoon water to the mix.  Stir until well blended.  Add to ground meat - and mix thoroughly through the meat. (I used my hands).  Place the meat in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to blend flavors (over night is fine too).

You will need a sandwich bag or couple pieces of saran wrap.  Cut sandwich bag down each side, so it lays completely open.  You will also need something about 1/8" deep to use as guides.  I used a paint stirrer that I broke in two.  You need a rolling pin.

Make smalls balls of the ground meat - approx. walnut size (smaller than golf ball size).
Place on one side of plastic bag - mash a little - fold other side of bag over the top.  Place guides on each side and roll flat.  (The guides keep it from getting too thin)

Hopefully this picture helps explain what I said a little better.

Peel meat off plastic and set either on dehydrator rack or on a baking rack.  I added foil under my baking racks, as I didn't know how much grease I would lose.
I lost perhaps a 1/2 teaspoon of grease in the dehydrator (for 1 lb.) and less than that in the oven for 1 lb.    I thought that was amazing.

Seasoned, pre-cooked meat on dehydrator tray.

Seasoned, pre-cooked meat on baking racks in the oven.

I let both the oven and the dehydrator go for 2 1/2 hours.  Jerky was done.  I blotted it a bit with paper towels, and then placed in a sealed container in the frig.  Keep your jerky REFRIGERATED (it is meat).  It will be great in the frig for at least 2 weeks, or you can freeze for longer storage.

Cooked jerky.  As you can see there was very little shrinkage!  This stuff tastes so good.  We have even let others taste it, and they thought it was good too.

There are many flavors of seasoning available, so you can experiment and see what you like the best.  You can roll it into chips or strips - any shape you'd like.  Just keep it about 1/8" thick.

It doesn't get much easier than that.  This is my first time making jerky, and I will surely be doing it often.  G absolutely loves it.  We often buy jerky around the holidays as gifts, and a 2 lb. bag costs over $25! (Uncle Mike's). 
We have always liked jerky that really seemed like a piece of meat and not a piece of veneer!

I hope you give this a try.  It is super easy to make and so very tasty!!!!!