Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Be Thankful for Everything

We here in the U.S. are getting ourselves ready for Thanksgiving Day.  A day set aside to recognize ALL that we have to be thankful for, and a day celebrating the struggles and thankful lives of our ancestors.
I can not imagine what it was like for the Pilgrims when they came here, a land that was wild, untamed,  and scary. 

I am so thankful for all of our ancestors that came before us.  We are truly who we are and where we are today because of all they endured.  I have some very historic roots in this country, that started on this land way before it was a country.  I thank them all for their sacrifices.

I am so very thankful for all my family and friends, and for all my fur babies.  God has blessed us in so many ways I can not list them all.
We have a roof over our heads, food for our table, heat to keep us warm, decent health. water, electricity and tons of things we take for granted.  YES, we are blessed to have these things, as much of the world does not.
We are blessed with freedom!  True, we gripe about that sometimes (that things are being taken away) - but we still have the freedom to speak of it and write about it.

I am very thankful for YOU, all the friends that I have made around the world.  I just find that the most awesome thing ever.  That we can come together with ideas and thoughts that are so similar, from so many different places.
I do believe that there are no accidents in life - we were all suppose to come together for a reason.  I hope we continue to add to our little circle and grow in new ways.
We may all be from different regions - but we are still all the same.  We ALL want a good life and we want our time and monies to be used wisely and for the greater good.

God bless you all - no matter how near or far you are on this earth.
Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful and for being friends.  Thank you for sharing and being teachers to one another.  You are all PRICELESS GEMS!!!!!!!

*I will be back after the holiday.  However, I will try to respond to any comments.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Frugal Happenings 11/19

Good morning everyone!
Are you all ready for the events of the coming week?  Can you believe it is already Thanksgiving?  Just a few more weeks and Christmas and the year will be over.  WOW

We have had an eventful weather week for sure.  We had ONE really nice sunny day (busy day for me), but mostly it was gloomy and gray.  Yesterday was an epic weather day - basically 3 seasons in one day!  It started out in the mid 60's and rainy.  We had 20-30 mph winds and gusts of 40-50 mph.  Torrential rain at times and the temps started dropping.  My late evening it was in the low 30's.  Crazy!  There were libs down all over the yard, and pretty much the rest of the leaves are now off the trees.

My frugal week:
  • I colored my hair with supplies on hand (it was much needed - it had been 2 1/2 months!)
  • I did laundry in cold water and 'line' dried most of the items in the basement
  • I did get to do a bit of 'teenage' shopping this week - what a challenge that is!
  • On the one great day we had - I got to mow and mulch and rake leaves.  ALL leaves and mulch went out on the garden. However, now you can't tell I raked - I need to do it all again.
  • Emptied the rain barrels and got them put away for the winter.  I did save many gallons of rain water for house plants and hair care.
  • I received 2 more coupons for FREE items at Bath & Body Works.  I LOVE my postman - he leaves me coupons that would go to the empty houses!
  • I received a coupon for $5/$25 at Sav-A-Lot.  Good till the end of the month.
  • Turkey is out for thawing
  • Pulled together all my pantry items for Thanksgiving day and they are all out an waiting to be used.
  • Totally cleaned out and condensed items in frig.
  • G had his home doctor visit - good for another 3 months!
  • Been cleaning and de-cluttering
  • Made pudding with some milk that is in need of being used
  • Have FREE Cinemax and HBO this weekend, so we have been DVRing many movies for later viewing.
Meals this week:
Ground pork burgers and spicy mac n cheese
Taco soup
Reversed Shepherd Pie (mashed on bottom)
Homemade pizza
Tuna noodle casserole and salad
Pork chops and dirty rice
Chinese (not frugal - but have enough for dinner tonight as well)

I am ready for all the Thanksgiving festivities.  I have everything I need - most just came from the pantry.  I am not sure how many we will have for dinner - but a couple either way won't matter a bit.  There will be plenty of food to go around.  I do know we have a couple friends coming that day.  They really have no family to speak of, so that is what we are!  Family isn't always blood.

I do believe that I may go to Kroger this week and get another turkey for the future.  They now have them advertised in our paper for .38/lb. with $20 purchase (that isn't hard to do).  I may get supplies with that $20 for one of the friends that is coming.  She is in a real tight spot - so anything I get her would be appreciated.  I think I'll get a lot of basics - she is alone, so doesn't do a lot of cooking.

I sincerely doubt that I will go shopping on Black Friday - too many people.  (I will probably do yard work).  I may do some on-line shopping, and I will be scouring the adds that came in todays paper.  For those outside the U.S., Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is considered one of the biggest and best (price wise) shopping days of the year.  Supposedly it is the turning point for retailers to start making a profit!
I  try to make most of my gifts and to shop smaller mom and pop shops.  I hate making those giant retailers richer!

How was your week?  Are you ready for turkey day?  Did you add to your pantry or gift collection this week?
I will post again before Thanksgiving, but in case you don't visit before then, please know that G and I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

May the Lord bless you and your families.  Be kind, be thoughtful, and bless someone less fortunate this week.
Blessings from our home to yours!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Switched up Kitchen CAN BE Tasty!

We are now at that time of the year that we all cook and bake more than just about any other time.
I am not sure about you - but I love to jazz it up a bit and try new things sometimes.  It's fun and you just MAY find a new family favorite!

You all know I am huge on not going out to buy that one ingredient that I may be missing.  I SWITCH or IMPROVISE more than I care to admit!!!!  LOL
Recipe - hmmmm what is that?

Here are a few ideas I have tried over the years and generally they turned out great.

  • A recipe calls for vanilla.  Try a different flavor extract - there are no limits.  Use something else that goes with all the ingredients
  • Think about using alcohol if you have it.  Rum - flavored rum, Schnapps in flavors, Irish Cream (comes in many flavors), flavored vodkas, etc.
  • Recipe calls for milk or water - try buttermilk, coconut milk, eggnog, chocolate milk, etc.
  • When making sweet breads experiment with different flavors of fruit puree's. Breads aren't just banana and apple - how about strawberry, kiwi, mango, pineapple, etc.
  • Zucchini bread is yummy - but add fruit and nuts for more yumminess!  Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raisin, dates and/or any type of nut
  • Pumpkin or any kind of winter squash can be used instead of zucchini.
  • If making a squash 'type' bread, try adding dome different herbs and spices to come up with a sweet and savory loaf
  • Turn bread recipes into muffins or smaller loaves.  Don't have mini loaf pans?  Keep cans from fruits/veggies from the grocery store.  Remove labels and clean well - grease inside well and bake small loaves of breads.  If greased well enough the bread should just come right out and you can use the can over and over.  Sliced they are really pretty - little circles of homemade love!!!                                                                 Mom would cut the humped top off (we ate those!) and would 'wrap' up in plastic wrap and ribbon much like a Tootsie Roll!   CUTE
  • Add chocolate milk, eggnog, or even buttermilk to a French toast recipe - YUM
  • Need colored sugar sprinkles for cookies?  Use your regular sugar and add a few drops of food color and stir until blended.  Works perfect and you can make all types of colors.  I do this all the time.  Cover and keep until needed again.
  • Brown sugar gone?  Mix regular sugar with molasses - a little or a lot - depending on if wanting light or dark brown sugar
  • Out of powdered sugar?  No problem - blend regular sugar in blender till powdered!
  • Add coffee to chocolate baked goods to enhance the flavor.  You don't need a lot - but it really adds to a great chocolate flavor.
  • Tired of regular iced tea?  Add fruit juice of any type to your tea.  Very refreshing (I even keep juice from watermelon in the summer and freeze to add to tea)
  • Need some fancy toppings for your cookies?  Add chopped nuts, crushed candy canes, colored sugars, crumbs from bottom of cereal box, etc.
  • Re-cycle leftover Halloween candy into baked goods.  Chop up and add to cookies, brownies, layers of icing in cakes, etc.

  • Use jelly as  a glaze for ham, pork or lamb (even meatballs)
  • If you are like me, you have lots of jelly and jams that are homemade.  I like using it in thumb print cookies or molasses cookies  or by making jelly rolls.  Fun and different.    Make sandwich cookies  for the kiddies using peanut butter and jelly as the center.
  • Heat jelly or jam and add to pancakes or waffles to 'special' them up!
  • If you are using boxed cake/brownie mixes or packages of cookie mix - jazz them up.  Add chips, nuts, marshmallows, dates, fruit blends, dried berries, toffee or chopped candy - there is no limit to customize the flavors!  Think SEMI homemade! 
  • Remember pasta sauces aren't just for spaghetti - use in chicken dishes, with pork or beef.  It's a great way to make up a new meat dish to jazz up the menu.  (Salsa chicken is fave here)
  • Add salsa to rice for a version of Spanish rice - YUM

18 oz. box of yellow cake mix
3 1/2 oz. package of instant pistachio pudding
4 eggs
1/2 C oil
1/4 C water
1 C sour cream
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Combine cake and pudding mix, add eggs, oil, water and sour cream.  Pour into 2 - 9 x 5 loaf pans (I make in mini version).  Mix sugar and cinnamon together, and sprinkle over bread tops.
Bake at 350 for 40 minutes (adjust time for mini).
I make these each year and they are a hit!!

**I am thinking chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding or yellow cake with butterscotch pudding mix, chocolate or yellow cake and banana pudding mix, etc..  Add nuts or dried fruit and you have one special bread!  Jazz it up and customize to your own special bread!  You'll have everyone wanting the recipe!! 

Think outside the box this holiday season.  Switch things up and create some new tasty goodies.  You can have LOTS of fun meals and holiday sweets for little money.  Frugal can be fun!


Have fun, switch it up, and STAY FRUGAL my friends.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kitchen Gifts on a Dime

We are now on the downward side of preparing for Christmas.  Less than six weeks.  YIKES
Today I will list a few ideas for families or adults (and even teens), that come from your kitchen and will cost you only pennies for each gift.
I am a huge  giver of homemade goodies and that is probably my favorite gift to receive.  WE ALL HAVE TO EAT!!!!!

There are always the lovely gifts of homemade cookies and candy.  Homemade breads and jams and jellies are always a big hit too.  Any home canned item is a special treat.

1/3 C oil
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
2 1/3 C baking mix (homemade or something like Bisquick)
1 C sugar
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional - can use your favorite nuts)

Beat all the ingredients together for about 30 second.  Pour batter into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.  350* oven for 35 - 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  I like to make in mini foil pans (I use over and over).  If making smaller loaves, adjust baking time. (I usually get 4 small ones per one recipe)

2 C baking mix
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 C milk
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c butter, melted
Stir together biscuit mix, cheese and milk until a soft dough forms.  Drop by heaping spoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 450* for 10-12 minutes.  Combine basil, garlic powder and butter:  Brush over the tops of hot biscuits.

Wrap up in plastic wrap and a bow and set into a Dollar Tree basket, bowl, or colander - maybe add a jar of homemade pepper jelly or a jar of homemade butter.

(The cost of a bag of apples)
5 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 1/2 C sugar
1 C cornstarch
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
10 C water
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pack apples tightly into wide mouth jars.  In a large sauce pan cook sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and water over a med. heat until thick and bubbly, add lemon juice.  Cover apples in syrup, wipe jars, add lids.  Water bath for 20 minutes.  Makes 7 quarts.
This will make 7 gifts!  Maybe wrap in a Dollar Tree kitchen towel.

1.  Dip candy canes into melted chocolate or chocolate chips.  Dip about half way up the candy cane.  Let dry and wrap in plastic wrap with a ribbon or jute  (gift 5 or 6 each).  Gift in a pretty $1 mug.
2.  Dip the spoon end of plastic flatware into melted chocolate.  Let dry and package up as above (with candy canes).  Again gift with a $1 mug.
These are so simple to make - and they have always been appreciated and enjoyed when I have given them.
**You could also add a couple drops of peppermint extract to melted chocolate for a chocolate peppermint stirrer.

OTHER ideas:
**Make a batch of flavored croutons and gift with perhaps a jar of homemade dressing or attach a nice pair of salad tongs.

**Make up dressing bread, and gift with dehydrated celery and onions and a container of stock.

**Jar up any cookie, cake or brownie recipe (dry ingredients) with an attached card with instructions on wet ingredients needed and baking temp and time.  ** Remember to layer your ingredients to make for a pretty jar.  Attached a ribbon or jute tie to the top with recipe card.

**Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate (cover about 2/3 of pretzel).  Dry and package up for giving.  OR dip small pretzel rounds or squares in chocolate.  Sprinkles can be added while chocolate is still wet.  If using almond bark or white chocolate, you can also add food color to make them more festive.
I LOVE getting chocolate covered pretzels.  They are always a hit with young and old alike.

**Use tins (bought at thrift stores or Dollar Tree) or large glass jars and fill with homemade cookies or candies.  Maybe gift someone special that much loved cookie jar or family dish filled with goodies (2 gifts in one).

** Never forget homemade pickles, soups, sauces, jellies, jams, relishes, etc. or any home canned goodies.  Odds are, it something they won't already have!

Gifts don't have to cost a fortune.  The best gifts are the ones that contain LOVE!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Frugal Happenings 11/12

Good morning everyone.  I hope you are doing great on this fine Sunday.

Good news first:  I got a note from Jane this morning and Bluey is home and slowing gaining his strength back.  They still don't know exactly what happened (no stroke), but he passed out, aspirated, quit breathing, and was hospitalized -  ended up with pneumonia.  Scary stuff.  I let her know they are still in our prayers.

My week went nothing like I anticipated - NOTHING!  I went out Monday morning to run a couple errands, and as I started to back out of the drive, my brakes went out!   Totally out!  (Thank goodness I was not out on the roads).  We had the Blazer towed to the mechanics and thought it would be a fairly quick fix.  You know that saying about "the best laid plans"?  Each day found another problem in that area.  Oh my.
I didn't want to start anything that was involved - not knowing when they would call.  I had appointments and errands that couldn't be done.  Good deal was I was home all week - so no money spent!  Bad news - it was Friday, late afternoon, before I got the vehicle back and almost $500 gone!  YIKES!!
THIS my friends is exactly why we are frugal most of the time.  Problem solved - paid cash - no debt. Blessed!
Unexpected problems can be devastating if we are not somewhat prepared.

The weather turned very cold this week.  We had one day that the high was in the 30's!  Friday set a record for coldest temperatures for that date in 67 years!  All that after last Sunday being in the 70's with storms.  Crazy weather for sure.

I got most of my errands run and things caught up on Saturday.  I hustled for sure.  I was exhausted at the end of the day - but I am back on track for the most part.

My frugal week:
  • I made a big bowl of fruit salad with fresh and canned fruit. (home canned and store bought).  Made for nice and healthy desserts.
  • Dried more bread (.39 bread) for dressing
  • Made up a new bottle of shampoo (shampoo, water and a bit of Listerine) - a new bottle of dish soap (water, soap, and vinegar), and a new bottle of 'Febreeze' like spray (liquid fabric softener and water) .  Febreeze spray also works to cut static around the house.
  • Did some soggy yard work early in week.  Tried to get some leaves up - but it is a futile task at this point!  Tons more to fall.
  • Did quite a bit of mending
  • Froze some leftover enchilada sauce (used some on burritos).  Froze in cubes for easy use later.
  • Watched several older Holiday Baking Championship shows.  Love getting new ideas.
  • I got a turkey for .49/lb.  Found a 21 pounder!

  • Also got several cans of 'cream of' soup to have on hand for convenience (when I don't have home made mix available) for .49 a can.
  • Watched a few You Tube videos on being frugal and on off-grid living (so interesting)
  • I stopped at an annual craft bazaar I always go to.  Bought no crafts, but did buy a few things from the "grandma's closet" area.  I got 4 lovely NEW placemats, 3 Christmas (Coca Cola) tumblers and 2 picture frames - ALL for $2.70!!!

Meals this week:
Chicken tetrazinni (homemade)
Deconstructed cabbage roll skillet
Burgers and cheese nachos
Chicken/rice/bean burritos  - homemade
Fish sandwiches and oven fries
Jalapeno/pimento cheese sandwiches and chips
Loaded hot dogs

Remember that now is the time to add to the pantry - there are so many holiday specials, with some ridiculously low prices.  Shop those lost leaders and get deals for yourself or to help others.
ALSO REMEMBER 6 weeks from tomorrow is Christmas!!!!!!
How can that be?

What was your week like - any good deals?  Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  How is your gift shopping/crafting going?

May you all be blessed with health, safety, and happiness in the coming week.  God bless my friends.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

An Apple a Day............

It is now that time of the year, that apples are in abundance and cheaper.  Apples are very good for us - lot's of vitamins and nutrients.  Apples are ever so tasty.  Apples are very versatile.

I love crunching away on a fresh apple.  I love cider, apple butter, fried apples, apple pie/crisp, apple jelly, applesauce and ALL the many, many ways they can be prepared and enjoyed.
Apples or apple products can be added to sweet breads and muffins, in donuts, in cookies, cakes, etc.  Applesauce can replace oils in baking, to  make a healthier dish.
My favorite is fresh apples and peanut butter - I make many a lunch from that!

The following, are two charts that I have run across, that may help you in your purchases.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

I hope this you decide on the type of apple you may purchase and how many you need.

Fuji has become our new favorite.  I have always made sauce and canned apples with Granny Smith apples in the past.  I then went through a phase of loving Braeburn for fresh eating.  Fuji seems to be such a lovely combination of sweet, tart, juicy, and CRSIPINESS and is great for eating and canning!

Check out your local orchards and enjoy some fresh juicy apples.  Canning time doesn't have to be over yet!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away!!!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thanksgiving - Keep it Simple

Thanksgiving Day will be here in a bit over two weeks for those of us in the U.S.  It is traditional a day of family gatherings and EXCESS!
People tend to go really over board.  Perfection is strived for.  Lots of money is spent.

Here is a novel thought - KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Know your pantry and your freezer and SHOP it first!
Plan a nice yet simple menu.
Know how many people you are planning to serve.
If you shop - shop for loss leaders - those rock bottom deals!
Have others pitch-in something.  Maybe a dessert, rolls, drinks, a favorite side dish, a salad, etc.

Keep DRINKS simple.  Stick with water, tea, coffee, maybe lemonade, punch. or Kool-aid for the kids.  If people are expecting alcohol, supply one type, and let others bring what they want.  Wine and hard liquor can be very expensive.

Stick to basic and simple foods, and make plenty.  We all like those leftovers over the long (shopping) weekend.
The day should be more about savoring "the moments and the people" than the food.
Take lots of pictures, and sit back and listen and watch.  Pay attention to the expressions and laughter of others, enjoy their company - you don't know if you will ever have that experience again.

You can use basic ingredients from your pantry and jazz them up a bit if so desired.  Some people are just NOT happy with simple - so just get creative.
A pretty table can make simple things lovely!

CRANBERRIES - can be made into a salad by adding cut up oranges and walnuts (this is something I like - it really is good).
You can mix cranberries with apples and blend into a pie or crisp.  A taste of sweet and tart.

SQUASH - mix zucchini with eggs, cheese, and bread crumbs for a casserole/quiche.  Roast chunks of squash of various types. 
Stuffed squash is yummy and filling (could cut back on other dishes).

This could be used as a main dish, if you and your family are keeping it real simple and frugal.  YUM

VEGGIES - roast them.  Carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it.  Late garden crops make a lovely harvest dish.
You can also stretch veggies by mixing with rice or orzo and maybe adding some 'cream of' soup for a nice casserole.
Make VEGGIE pigs in a blanket!!  Instead of the standard sausage or hotdogs - use steamed asparagus or strips of steamed carrots in the center of your 'blanket'.  Fun, different and yummy.
GREEN BEANS - plain or with baby potatoes or mixed with corn.  Green bean casserole, scalloped, oh so many options.
CORN - plain or mixed with lima beans (succotash), or blend with cornbread mix into a casserole/pudding.

MEAT - traditionally we have turkey and/or ham.  Both are wonderful and provide a great deal of leftovers that can be utilized in many additional meals in various ways.
Perhaps  buy a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey and make lovely open face turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.  We like to make what we call Manhattan's after turkey day.  A warm turkey sandwich, cut in half and separated - mashed potatoes in the center the halves, all covered with gravy!  One of my favorite things.
A large ham steak will provide a nice dinner for 2 - 4 people.
Bake or roast a chicken.  Make a roast.  Make a special ethnic dish. 
Dinner doesn't have to be about turkey or ham.  Use what you HAVE and what you can AFFORD!
IF you can find a turkey for a great price - remember that it is healthy and cheaper than lunchmeat!!

DESSERTS - can be simple and frugal and still quite a treat.  Make a dump cake - quite easy.  Brownies or cookies are always good.  Fancy Jell-O salads are inexpensive.  We do like traditional desserts like pecan pie and cheesecake - but if I don't have the ingredients on hand - I will make something different (plus we really don't need to calories!).  Pumpkin pie is always a favorite at this time of year for many people - do it from scratch or go semi-homemade (canned filling all jazzed up).

DRESSING/STUFFING - I guess it depends on where you live as to what you call it!  Many people go simple with Stove Top stuffing.  You can add turkey broth and other ingredients to jazz it up.  I make my own - so simple and easy.  Dried bread, celery, onions, broth, seasoning and an egg or two.  Costs virtually nothing to make and tastes like heaven!!! 
**watch for mark downs on bread and dry ahead of time, get deals on celery and onions - super cheap this time of year.**

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING says you have to serve what everyone else is serving.  Step out of the 'holiday' box and do what you want and what you can afford.
Go and check your pantry this week!!   Set aside the items you can use for your Thanksgiving dinner.  Make your menu now!!  Shop sales IF you need additional ingredients.
Have fun and enjoy the holiday without going into debt or using money better spent on other things.
*Remember Christmas is just around the corner**

MY simple menu:
Turkey (.49/lb.) and ham - both will make lots of other meals
Green bean casserole
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Creamy Jell-O/fruit/nut salad

Apple/cranberry crisp
Cherry/pineapple dump cake

This is a simple menu - but not an everyday menu.  Everyone will be happy and full!  Very little money spent - most ingredients are in the pantry already!

I hope this gives you something to think about and some ideas that you can use.
Keep it simple, keep it frugal, and most of all - ENJOY FAMILY AND FRIENDS!