Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Feb. 4, 2023

This week, Rob dried 2 batches of apples. He removed all of the apples that were stored in the drawer of the camper and turned them into delicious dried apple slices. With all the apples we were blessed with all fall and into early winter, we decided to preserve some of them before they became shriveled or rotted. The ones in the fridges are still in good enough shape to peel and slice in the peeler. The ones in a box on the outside porch are starting to get too shriveled and soft for the gadget to work, but they still taste great and I plan to make more applesauce.

He had lots of willing help, especially for turning the handle and eating extra apples.

We had some frosty, cold mornings. We enjoyed both the gorgeous frost on the leaves of the ivy and the sunny skies later in the day. There was a beautiful sunrise one morning–I could have looked at that all day, if sunrises lasted that long!

We took our grandson, niece and nephew down to the carousel on day. It is very inexpensive, so we let the kids ride twice. Malcolm was brave enough to get out of the wagon, where he sat the first round, and onto a horse–one that did not go up and down, for the second time.

He finally got brave enough to wave at Papa.

Of course, the big kids are old pros at the carousel, and love it any day, any time. After that, we went to the park and they all played. We were having such a good time, it took quite a while before I finally noticed Malcolm still had sandals on because we had gone straight from the pool at the YMCA to the carousel! By that time, he was quite wet from the equipment, his toes were cold, and we took them all home for lunch, with him yelling and screaming to stay— all the way to the car. Clearly, I was the only one bothered by the lack of proper footwear and the wet pants. Thankfully, I had snacks, so it all ended well. All the kids had a blast. It was a fun day.

I continued cleaning small areas. One day, I worked for about 15 minutes in my room. I didn’t get very far, but the area I did clean looks great and I got a lot of dirt and dust cleaned up from that area, which was under a dresser and under some shoes. We did another couple of areas at other times.

We (mostly Rob) planted celery, more green onions, and a few other items. Some things are up already, which is encouraging. I hope to have him take photos and show you all progress there one day soon.

Beef, Beef, Beef–January, 2023

Last week, our local grocery store had beef roast for only $1.97/lb. We thought it might be of poor quality for that price. It wasn’t. When Rob went down to check it out, the kind butcher offered to cut him some and package it up, as they were out in the display case. He asked how much Rob wanted, and Rob replied, “As much as I’m allowed to have!.” So, the man loaded up the trays, and Rob happily brought it all home to deal with.

It came in large slabs. I’m not sure what kind of roast it was.

I wanted to can some of it, so it would be shelf stable. I’ve only canned beef once before when some friends gave us some, so I had to look up the directions in my canning book. I found I could just press the chunks into the jars, add salt, and can for 75 minutes on 11 pounds of pressure, for pint jars, at my altitude, with my canner. I put 1/2 teaspoon salt in, although they recommended a whole teaspoon. I can always add more later, if needed.

Rob chunked it up and I washed and filled jars and loaded the canner. I got it going and sent Rob out to the covered porch in the freezing temperature to watch it. What a guy! He had to come in once to warm up a bit, but he got it done. My nephew and grandson enjoyed breaking the ice on the buckets with sticks–it was that cold for the entire time.

We froze one package of stew meat and a couple of roasts. I cooked 2 large roasts with carrots for the college group, my sister, and us to eat.

There were a couple of jars that did not seal. I noticed that there was a little food that had siphoned out and under the seals, which did not allow them to seal properly. I took that meat and put it into the crock pot with carrots, potatoes, home-canned tomatoes, onion and celery, along with some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. After cooking all night on low, I added 3 of my basil-pesto cubes from the freezer and enjoyed delicious beef stew for breakfast.

I am very pleased with my beef project. The stew tasted great and the meat tasted just fine in there. The texture was about the same as if I had just put raw beef into a crockpot all night, so that was good. It was not stringy or mushy.

I had fun trying something relatively new to me and honing my food preservation skills. It is good to know that I was able to put something on my pantry shelves, as I decided I wanted to save freezer space for other things, other than the 2 roasts and small package of stew meat.

We buy beef from a farmer each fall, and have a great deal of it made up into steaks and hamburger. There are very few roasts each time. It’s great to have a couple of extra roasts to work with now.

I was amazed that beef was less expensive than chicken breast. We continue to feed quite a few people each week, and the Lord continues to provide all we need and more to do that. Getting this meat at this price was a true blessing. Although it was time-consuming, it was actually a very easy process. I’m glad we seized the moment!

Thriving in My Thrifty Week-Jan. 29, 2023

Rob had a birthday this week. He wanted to drive down to the beach for the day to celebrate. We did that Friday, as we were working on his actual birthday. It rained a little, and the wind blew, but overall, it was gorgeous for a winter day at the beach.

Neither Papa or Malcolm cared at all if there was a little rain! Rob got Mac this super cute “fireman” rain coat at the Union Gospel Mission store for under $7. It seems like brand-new and kept him dry on this day. We took snacks and drinks, and Rob and Malcolm got chicken from a store and we all got French fries from a restaurant–I had a salad and Lovana had fish tacos. After we had gathered our food items from the various locations, we all had a blast eating our goodies and watching the ocean from a lookout point!

On the actual day of Rob’s birthday, I had some help with the cake. Malcolm and I made and frosted the cake. Jake supervised and consoled us, saying that Malcolm’s extra huge handful of mini chips there on the top looked just like a sideways heart and went with the cake just fine! We were trying to get the mini chips on the sides and the sprinkles on top, but such is life when you are two:). Most of this delicious cake is in the freezer, but we enjoyed it’s richness before I cut it up, layered it between waxed paper and froze the rest.

I experimented some more with my air fryer. I got it last Christmas and haven’t utilized it as much as I wish I had. This was parmesan chicken and was delicious with our home-canned pasta sauce and green beans. I used a fresh mozzarella log we got for 99c during our recent trip to the scratch and dent store, so it was affordable. Rob saw the same logs of cheese for around $7 elsewhere. This one was short dated, but I used it up right away.

I made egg flower soup twice. I slipped in some tofu for added protein. This is a new recipe to me and it was SO good. There was sesame oil, garlic powder, turmeric, seasoning salt and ginger in there, along with pepper. It was slightly thickened with cornstarch.

The first time, I used some chicken broth in a carton I had been given and the second time I used bone broth I boiled from some Costco chicken. I put in less egg the second time. I split the 99c tofu brick I got from the discount store and split one can of diced water chestnuts between the two batches. As I have previously mentioned, I am not a tofu fan, but Rob is. I have to say, I liked it in this soup. (I am not canning this. I just used a jar for storage in the fridge.)

I did can these, though.

We were blessed with more apples again this past week. It seems that no matter how fast we eat, we cannot use up all the good food we have been given this year. My sister had a large crop and generously shared. Rob’s sister works at an apple orchard each fall and gets free apples. Somehow, those apples keep ending up at our house over the past few months. Yum!

I decided to do some applesauce with some since they are still nice. Why wait until they aren’t to face the fact that we can’t eat them all fresh? So, I did 10 pints of applesauce Saturday. I picked out the worst looking ones to use up. It’s going to take off some stress during the canning rush next summer. Win-win! I also made a small batch of chunky applesauce this week we are eating fresh. Lovana made an apple crisp. Such a nice problem to have.

Last, but not least….I have a budding mechanic on my hands. He decided his lawn mower was broken and turned it over and proceeded to “fix” it with his toy hammer. This guy landscapes with his bubble mower, repairs equipment and works for applesauce. Now that’s the kind of help we all need!

Cleaning the Pantry and Garage–Part 3–January, 2023

I didn’t clean another area in the garage, per say, but did tidy up small places to keep the places I’ve cleaned so far from slipping back into chaos.

Instead, this past week was full of cooking up items that needed to be used from my pantry. I had several extra meals to cook, including food for 25 people that I was taking to the college group from church on Tuesday.

I started with a boxed mix for pumpkin bread I found when cleaning. It was a conventional, wheat-filled mix, so I had not used it. I used the rest of some squash I’d thawed and a mashed banana to finish up the cup I needed. I threw in some mini chocolate chips from the freezer and baked it up. I have no idea what it tasted like, as I could not taste it, but I’m sure it was delicious. What’s not to like about chocolate chips, right?

Rob marinated and grilled chicken legs and thighs for the group, us and my sister’s family. I did not use the new chicken I purchased on such a good sale last week. Instead, we pulled the frozen packages we already had, thawed and used them to keep things rotating properly in the freezers. They were purchased on sale, as well, not long ago.

I made 3 kinds of cookies or bars, to use items I wanted to target. This one is fudge toffee bars. It used a can of sweetened condensed milk that was close to date, the rest of the toffee chips from a recipe a few weeks ago, some coconut that had been lingering and some glittery “disco” chocolate chips I had gotten on a super bargain. They were normal Toll house chips, but with some kind of glitter on top….go figure:). I guess they weren’t super popular, as they were at the discount store. They were kind of pretty, to me, though.

I made raspberry jam oatmeal bars with oats and home-canned jam that was a couple of years old, but so, so yummy! I wanted to use some old-fashioned rolled oats I have and we liked the bars so much I’ll make them again.

The third kind was peanut butter chocolate chip. I sent a few of those on my cookie tray, but froze most of them in the shop freezer. I like to make a batch every couple of months and we eat them slowly. I used a jar of peanut butter I got for 97c.

Normally, I would not make so many kinds of cookies for the group. I just wanted to use these ingredients in a creative way. We had plenty of cookies to eat and share and have a large container in the freezer still to use.

We got a bag of romaine from the restaurant supply store and added a bag of spinach from Safeway, as I had a coupon to get it for $1.50, for a big salad. I added shredded cabbage from my garden, grated carrot and just a few cherry tomatoes on top for color.

To finish that meal, I soaked and cooked a large pot of pinto beans, as I still have quite a few from the 50 pound bag we got at the beginning of Covid. At that point, it was about $22 for the entire bag, and they were in short supply. It was either buy that or no beans at all, at the time, and we were out. They still cooked up beautifully. There were no issues getting them soft. I made Western beans with southwestern seasonings such as cumin, and froze the rest for later use.

I tried a recipe for egg flower soup from a cookbook I checked out from the library. I added tofu cubes at the last minute so they wouldn’t crumble. It tasted really good. The broth was given to us a while back and was almost at “Best used by” date and the tofu was a 97c bargain at the discount store. Rob loves tofu…I’m not as much of a fan, but it was good in this soup. It also used up some green onions that were starting to wilt.

One of our sons came over one day for lunch. I used hamburger buns that were lingering in the freezer and served burgers and extra salad from the big batch I made for the college group. I didn’t make much else, as he only wants hamburgers, hamburgers and more hamburgers:)

Last, but not least, I made some salmon patties and fries in my air-fryer. There were some cans of salmon on the shelf that needed to be used. I shared some, and we ate some. One thing Rob did was make a fish sandwich from them. He liked the patties that way. I tossed the potatoes in a tiny bit of oil and added parmesan, salt and pepper and they came out very tasty.

I can see some small spaces already forming on the pantry shelves, which I’m very pleased about as I just organized it to be full and straightened. Once another large space opens up, I want to reorganize all of my tea. The freezers are in good condition, but will need cleaning before too long.

Food management is a big job around here, and I have plans to continue my pantry project for a while longer before moving on to the freezers. Unfortunately, there are still a couple of areas to clean out there in the garage, and happily, there are still many, many delicious items to put on the top of the “use-it-up” list. Thankfully, most of the items that urgently needed to be dealt with have been used!

I really enjoy cooking, and like to be able to find what I want on my shelves, so it’s worth it to me. Also, organizing it allows me to buy several of each item when the price is low, and have plenty to use when the prices rise, without wasting! It really needed to be done and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Rob Cleaned and Repaired the Greenhouse and Started Seeds-Jan. 2023

It’s hard to see in this picture, but one of our planting shelves/benches in the greenhouse was super warped and was not working any more to keep trays flat. Rob said that it was made from plywood and warped from water over the years.

He discovered this after he spent several hours over a couple of days cleaning out all the things he stores in there during the fall and early winter. There were lots of empty pots, boxes of kindling and more he needed to deal with to make room to plant.

He used scavenged wood he had on hand to rebuild the planting bench.

It came out beautifully.

He put one of the heating mats on it. The greenhouse is very cool most of the time and heating mats are how we get seeds to germinate. The other bench is still fine, but the mat is being fussy….. It’s very old, and this one is newer. Things wear out. We are waiting a little bit tp see if mat #2 is worn out or if it will revive.

He trimmed and cleaned up the overwintered geraniums.

He decided to use the cuttings and try to root some new plants. It will be amazing if it works!

He planted peppers. They take a long time to grow in our cool greenhouse. There are Anaheim 64, Ancho, Jalafuego JalapeƱo, another kind of Jalepeno, Green Bell pepper, Mixed Bell pepper, Lola (a light green long sweet pepper that really produces a lot), Hungarian Wax Pepper (zippy), and Carmen. We have been growing Carmen peppers for years. They are long, sweet peppers and ripen in our climate every year. You get a lot of peppers from each plant and they are large. We are trying a couple of new ones–Jimmy Nardello is one. I hope to pickle that one, as it is slim, long and sweet, they say. Our daughter, Lovana, brought some seeds here that she hadn’t planted last year, and there are a couple of peppers in there, as well, including a striped one I’m excited to try. I need 2-4 Serrano peppers each summer for my salsa. (Peppers, not plants–it’s a very small amount). We use Dollar Store seeds for that, and I told Rob I only want 2 plants, total, just in case one fails.

Many of my peppers are used in salsa. We can use 75-100 jars of assorted sized jars in a year, most years. It’s not unusual for me to be unable to grow enough peppers for salsa, relish and other items and have to buy some anyway, despite my best efforts. We try to grow as many as we can, though. I freeze the sweet ones in baggies and we eat them all year in breakfast scrambles, chili, sweet and sour pork or chicken, pizza, and more.

On another day, I planted some parsley. Last year, we did not get enough to dehydrate. When I was cleaning my food pantry, I noticed I’ve used all I dried a couple of years ago except one small jar. I do have some I bought from the store, but I want to dry my own again this summer. It’s easy and another thing I can grow in my yard.

He even planted the ends of the romaine lettuce we recently bought. Some people have great success getting a crop from them. We will see if we are one of those people. It never hurts to try! I know garden lettuce will regrow if we cut it, so if it’s not too cold, it should work.

The onions are planted, too. We’ve planted Red Bull, Red Wing, Patterson, a white one and Guardsman green onions. I used to have overwintered green onions in my garden, but the seeds I planted in the late summer look terrible this year, and I want to get some new ones going as soon as possible, as I do not have much hope that those at the edge of the garden will do much of anything. The storage onions will be planted out as small plants and we hope to eat the green onions straight from the tray and plant more in the garden. We shall see if it works.

We planted a lettuce called “All Winter Long” in the greenhouse. It’s a hardy mix from Pinetree. We also planted Romaine. If we get little plants and it’s not too wet, we will plant them in the raised bed for a super early crop. Otherwise, we’d be happy to cut the little plants off and eat the baby lettuce plants straight out of the greenhouse.

Hopefully, in a few days, we will start to see little green shoots peeking up from those trays of dirt. It’s so encouraging during this time of year to know that spring is on its way, despite the promise of cold, cold nights coming up this next week. I’ve dug out a small space heater, and we may need to put it on in there for a couple of nights, just to keep it from freezing–it’s supposed to get COLD!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–Jan. 24, 2022

I finished tying up the raspberries this week. I have high hopes for them for this year, even though they are still in their dormant state and don’t look like much. I worked on cutting out the old canes and tying up this year’s fruit-bearing wood a week or two ago and was delighted to find a window of opportunity to finish. It’s a deceptive job. It looks like it would take about 10 minutes, but instead took at least 2-3 hours to do. I’m glad to be done. Now for the Marion (black) berries……

I pulled grass up from around their roots, but I can see I’m going to have a problem with that awful quack grass (or whatever its real name is) again this year. šŸ™

I will put coffee grounds around the base of their stems, as Rob read that they like them. We pick up grounds for gardeners from Starbucks in Safeway and anywhere else we find some. I will also fertilize a little later on so they can grow vigorously through the spring and hopefully give me lots of raspberries. I don’t want them to grow yet, it’s too cold and they would get nipped. Last year, we only got enough to eat as the summer before was so terribly hot the bushes did not do well. We still have a few packages in the freezer from 2 years ago, and I hope to finish those and fill more this upcoming summer.

Rob worked on the greenhouse for hours this week. I will make another post about what he did. He is getting ready to start seeds very soon.

I filled the remaining space in the yard debris bin with rose clippings I cut and the remaining dead branches from the in-ground fuchsia I had not trimmed yet. I’m finding I never have enough time or dry weather to do big jobs outside lately, and am finding success by breaking the jobs up into more than one session and just feeling content with doing whatever part I can get done at that moment. Then, I get back to it whenever I can on another day. The key for me is to not start too many of these kind of projects, but instead try to keep one or two at the top of my list so they actually get finished. It’s a good theory anyway and works part of the time:)


I continue to work on using up every bit of food I can. These hard-boiled eggs got knocked out of the fridge and rolled around a bit before I could catch them. Rather than toss them, I peeled them, washed them, then smashed them up with some tuna and made tuna-egg salad sandwich filling for dinner last night. They didn’t take much effort to smash. Eggs are not as expensive here as elsewhere, but they are more than double the price they were last spring.

My pantry/garage-cleaning project continues. I have been putting food items that need to be targeted for immediate use in the kitchen on the counter. I have worked through so many odd items, along with some normal ones that add to meals. Tonight, there are only 2 items left there. Yea! Time to clean another area and find some more. Because I’m doing the job over several weeks, I’ve had time to use a lot of items as I find them without being overwhelmed.

Tomorrow night, we are cooking for the entire young adult/college group at church (25ish), rather than the 5-6 gluten-free that we usually do. I’m rejoicing in using so many targeted items making things for them. So far, I made pumpkin bread (with wheat since most can eat it) from a mix I found, some cookie bars with coconut, the last of the toffee bits from a couple of weeks ago, and more, and cookie bars with rolled oats and raspberry jam from 2020 I found. I will make some Western Beans from pintos I cooked today and of course, Rob will bbq chicken drumsticks. How awesome we got so many for such a reasonable price!

I shopped with my daughter, who was also shopping for her sister and items for both babies this week. We went to 4 stores to get what she wanted, her sister wanted and I wanted. It was quite an expedition. I was delighted to use a $20/off $100 coupon, plus a $10 reward coupon at Safeway. Even with items for all of us, I stilI had to run back for 2 more packages of chicken legs at the end, to get the $20 off. (At that point, it would have been like throwing away $20 of free food to me.). I ended up with 6 family packs of chicken legs. I had coupon for 99c/lb legs and can always use more at that price. I got things like powdered sugar, brown sugar, some paper products, produce, dairy products and more. Of course I downloaded digital coupons, as well. In the end, my part of that bill was only about $30 with all the coupons and the things that weren’t for me to pay for.

I found her a $10/off $40 at Fred Meyers (a Kroger) store, and let her use my store card and downloaded coupons right there in the store, as needed. Grocery Outlet was visited, but there are no downloads there. Still, we found some items on the list for good prices. Lastly, we hit Trader Joe’s for things she wanted. I got Rob a couple of treats, a birthday gift of flowers and a card for a friend, and some gluten-free bagels for myself.

At the end of the day, I was very happy with what I’d spent and with all the goodies the girls added to my fridge, freezer and pantry. Most holes are filled in the pantry already. Rob had picked up a few things like mushrooms and sliced olives the other day for a good price. I got a few more replacements Saturday. I’m still in budget and the pantry is already full again, even after all we’ve used up. I’m just not replacing a lot of those things, but instead making sure I have plenty of the things we actually use on a regular basis.

Rob and I went on a mini-date Sunday afternoon. We are easily amused, I know, but we wandered through Wheeler Dealer, a scratch and dent store, for entertainment. We found some amazing deals, although many of the prices are much higher there, as they are everywhere. We got cottage cheese for 50c/carton, fresh mozzarella balls for 50c/carton, jalapeƱos for 10c each, a head of boc choi for 33c, a can of sweetened condensed milk for 79c, applesauce pouches for the babies for 25c, and more. I was so glad to know exactly what I had in my pantry, and walked away from a lot of things that were cheap, but I absolutely didn’t need. I’ve already used a bunch of what we got in lasagnas, which used some targeted noodles and the rest of the sauce from last week.

Does anyone know if you can freeze those fresh mozzarella balls? The ones packed in water? I still have 2 cartons left, but they have a very short date on them…hence the 50c price tag. Please leave a comment if you have tried freezing them or something similar. Thanks!

Cleaning the Pantry and Garage–Part 2-Jan. 2023

Really, Becky?

When I say I’m cleaning the pantry, I really mean the entire garage needs desperate help. The kids used to play Wii on this t.v. No one has done that lately, for many reasons, so it’s become a dumping ground for empty containers. Then full ones. Then other stuff. And so on.

Dried fruits and veggies are in containers on the right. The box is full of empty cottage cheese, etc. cartons plus a few purchased ones. There are tin foil pans. I use these items for sending food to people so they don’t have to worry about returning anything. I also freeze items in the cartons if they are sturdy. The ice cream buckets are always full of things like extra flour, sugar, beans, etc. and I always keep extras there for when I need them.

Behind the t.v. are extra take-home cartons, plus empty gallon and other glass jars for re-filling with bulk items when necessary. You can see my fancy cake plates and swiffer sheets.

Every shelf has now been organized. The large bins/buckets below have been pulled out and the floor swept. There is a large bin of gluten-free flours and other items under the shelves you cannot see and that’s been gone through, sorted, and organized, as well.

There were a few things I was out of, believe it or not. There are a few things I’ve been using that I will not replace. I have already sent Rob searching for a good price and replaced some items, such as canned mushrooms. I will only keep a minimal amount of tomato sauce on the shelf anymore, as I have been able to make enough from the garden. The same goes for salsa. There are a few other things like that, as well, and some things we were given or bought in a moment of craziness…we just don’t like them. We have given away things we were given we can’t eat, such as Xylotol sweetener, and some other items.

There has been a LOT of yummy food coming out of my kitchen.

Here are some of the things I’ve used up this past few days:

Several cups of gluten-free old-fashioned oats. There was a 25 lb bag we got that was damaged, so it was only $5 or $10 at the time. It was a LOT of oats for us, so it has been around for long enough it needs specifically targeted. These bars used those oats and some raspberry-peach jam from 2020 I found in my canning. I also started cooking that kind for breakfasts. It just takes a little longer than the other kind.

I made 2 loaves of bread from some gf bread flour I found and added some flax meal that had been lurking in the back of the fridge for ages. It came out good and I froze most of it, as I don’t eat much bread.

I used 3 lonely gf lasagna noodles and a box of gf manicotti noodles along with 50c/carton cottage cheese we found at Wheeler Dealer, fresh mozzarella balls from the same place, same price, the rest of the pasta sauce I made last week, and some assorted odds ends of cheese that needed used. I froze one, gave one away and we are working on the other one.

Rob ate some sardines and smoked oysters from the shelf. He’s using the mango coffee syrup we found out there to put with seltzer for drinks, and in a marinade.

I used some honey powder–it came in a mix long ago and was basically dried honey in several things that needed sweetening until it was gone. I used tiny packets of spices and other things we had picked up here and there over time.

We had the cutest tiny little jars of ketchup and mustard. I used the ketchup in meatballs and the mustards in a marinade with rosemary on pork chops.

As always, we used our stored garden onions, jars of beans, carrots, assorted fruits, jams, pickles and relishes. I’ve also been taking things out of the freezers daily. In fact, we downed a huge container of peanut-butter chocolate chip cookies, with some help. I will make more soon, so I can clean out that item again:)

There is still more to do in the garage. There’s a table that still has things on it and I want it mostly empty. It’s 1/2 done. A messy corner is now clean, but there are books to go through. I have a cookbook shelf that is still awful. The sewing table needs a little spiffing up. I’m very encouraged, though. Real progress has been made.

As I mentioned before, I like to do this twice a year. Hopefully, I will get back to that schedule. I don’t like to waste food, so want to keep it rotated. Also, I actually want to bring my food storage down to a smaller amount. What was reasonable when we had so many children at home isn’t necessary even though we have people in and out all the time, along with the ones who live here. I’m well on my way to my goal.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Jan. 17, 2022

The weather has been very mild around here lately. We have been able to get out and take several walks. Yesterday, it felt like spring was coming when I saw this toadstool peeking up from that emerald green grass. It was such a nice feeling, to know that spring was on it’s way once again!

All of the seeds we ordered have arrived. Rob also snagged some packets from the Dollar Store. I sorted them all into categories, such as peppers, tomatoes, etc. and put them in their bin, ready to plant. Rob spent the evening last night writing out some tags in preparation for starting the peppers. Peppers and onions take a long time, so will need to be started soon. Cleaning and organizing the greenhouse is on his “to-do” list.

I use lots of mildly hot peppers such as Anaheim 64, Ancho, and Jalafuego JalapeƱo, in my salsa. We need quite a few plants of those started. I use about 6 Serrano peppers per year in that salsa, so one or two bushes will do. We are growing Jimmy Nardello Italian pepper this year as a new experiment. It’s supposed to be long and sweet. I’m hoping to get the right size for pickling and fresh eating. Carmen peppers have been a favorite for years and we need a long row of those. They are a fat, long pepper and turn red much sooner than other peppers and have a huge yield. Rob’s starting some green and mixed color bell peppers, as well. I freeze lots of chopped up peppers and we are working through the ones from last year at a pretty rapid rate, so we need lots more.

We will start Patterson onions as they are our main crop of yellow onion. They store really well. I believe I used the last of the stored ones in the early summer–June or July last year. Whenever it actually was, I already had new ones large enough to eat in the garden so I didn’t have to buy onions last year. We also start Red Bull and White onions. The Red Bulls store well, but the white ones always need to be used up right away. We have so many onions from this past summer’s garden and I hope that I don’t have to buy any again.

I used to have an area in my garden that self-seeded green onions and I always had a large patch which lasted all winter. The last couple of years they haven’t really done that and I’ve been buying green onions after the rows I plant are used. I hope to get a good solid area of those going again for next winter, but in the meanwhile, I’m going to start some of those in the greenhouse just so I can get some to use sooner, rather than later.

I saw a very ugly, slimy, but huge cabbage still standing in the garden, and wondered if there was any good left on it. There was! I peeled off the black part and aggressively cut off the bottom half, which contained slugs and potato bugs who wanted to feast and was left with 5 large, very good chunks from the top half. I’ve already used one of them.

I have been stretching times between grocery shopping again. Instead of going every week, I stretched it to about 12 days this past time. I will do that again. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been cleaning out the pantry area in the garage. The kitchen counter has an area with things that need to be targeted for use, so I’m shopping from there these days. Rob and my nephew went to the store for me yesterday and got dairy and produce and a few items to use with these targeted items so I can use them up.

We’ve been able to get back to the YMCA a few times with our grandson and nephew. They love the pool and our nephew likes to shoot hoops, as well. Malcolm is so proud of his “pack-pack” that my aunt sent over at Christmas, full of his new towel from my sister and the rest of his swimming things. He insists on carrying that bag himself, no matter how awkward or heavy. My sister gave him swim diapers for Christmas, as well, which was not so exciting to him as it was to me.

Last week, there were more events and meetings at church than we’ve had for years. Although we enjoyed every one, and felt the meetings were useful, it made for a very busy week. There were some days where I really scrambled to get dinners on the table. Rob was given dinner at one of his events for a nominal fee, and at another there was lunch provided. Because I’m gluten free, I took my own sandwich, but enjoyed the huge fresh salad very much. At yet another gathering, there was an entire table of desserts and snacks to enjoy. I was happy that I managed to feed everyone and stay out of the fast food line! This week, I noticed there is a women’s event featuring chocolate where everyone gets to eat chocolate…I think I could get used to that. Maybe that one should become a weekly event…..

Cleaning the Pantry–Part 1-January 2023

I spent quite a bit of time organizing in the garage. It has become a dumping ground for many things and it’s very unorganized. I keep many pantry items on shelves in there and that was all messed up, too. Normally, I go through all my canned and packaged food items in the spring, and then again in the fall. This fall, it just didn’t happen. I wanted to do it over the holiday break, but, nope….didn’t happen then either. I will blame it on Covid. Even though my case was the mildest one I’ve ever heard of. Covid. Right:).

Doing this is very important to me because when I sort it all, I check dates and make sure to move older things forward, or into the kitchen for immediate use, or throw them away if I’ve waited too long. Obviously, the goal is to use it, not toss it, so I normally keep on top of the project.

I have about 1/3 of the job done out there. I will continue to work out there whenever I have a bit of time this week. I’ve already found so many surprises. For instance, I’m almost out of brown sugar and canned mushrooms. I’ve apparently been buying refried beans for a day when I’m busy and don’t have time to make any for a long time. I have about 20 cans. They were up high, down low, and everywhere in-between, behind things, to the side…..Let’s blame that on Covid, too, shall we? Because there is absolutely no logical explanation for that one. At. All.

I cooked from the items I weeded out of the pantry, plus from the freezers and canning shelves. I did not shop at all this past week at the store, but instead ordered bulk items from Azure Standard. I needed some cleaning supplies as well as some items such as salt, pepper, Mexican seasoning, garlic powder, etc.

This picture is vegetarian spaghetti sauce made from aging tomato sauce and tomatoes from the shelves. I added celery, frozen peppers from our garden, onion bits and spices. The truth is, I make and use so many tomato products from our garden tomatoes that those cans were just languishing out there. I will use some of this right away, and freeze some in recycled cottage cheese cartons.

I used up 3 old cans of soup, a box of lemon pudding mix, those above mentioned tomato products, some pancake mix, partial boxes of cereal, a Chex Party Mix seasoning packet, and more. I refilled all my little spice jars in the kitchen from my bulk bags which emptied a couple of those in the garage, used a packet of pre-cooked rice, the bottom of several bottles of this and that from the fridge, and threw away a few items that were either old, or I figured we were never going to eat.

I am often given food. I find a use for almost all of it. But, occasionally, I never do finish it up. Sometimes, it is almost expired before it comes to me and we just can’t use it fast enough (a big bag of corn grits), and sometimes we just can’t stand it so never bring ourselves to use it up. I gave a few items away (all the baby food and snacks Malcolm doesn’t eat anymore).

I read quite a few blogs or listened to U-Tube vlogs about various pantries. I got some great ideas I’d love to implement at a future date.

I also listened to or read about various pantry challenges. It was amazing. Several people are doing these challenges this time of year. In the few I watched or read, people ranged from buying nothing for several weeks or even months while eating only their stored food, to cutting back to “only” $100 per week. The first one has even more preserved than I do! The second one’s grocery budget is obviously much higher than mine to start with. I did see that they only had 4 people in their family, as I wondered if they had 10 kids or something. I decided from all my reading/listening that I didn’t want to do a formal pantry challenge with any rules, but instead just do what I always do: clean the pantry out and use up anything I can find that needs using while putting it into good shape so I can easily find everything I need. And quit buying refried beans:)

I gained tremendous respect for some of the people who are so self disciplined and creative that they can go so long without visiting a store. I found a few new recipes or ways to use my home-preserved food, and that’s always welcome! I’m always happy to get new ideas.

I’m hoping to get a long ways on this project this week. We had a lot of meetings at church last week, including a 6-hour one all day Saturday, so was gone a lot. This week is much quieter, and I hope to have more time to focus on this, and other projects.

Sewing-1st Week of January, 2022

I was able to sew a warm, cute outfit for my grandson last week.

I used Simplicity 9652.

It fits him well, except for being a little long. That’s fine. He does nothing but eat and grow these days. I just turn up the cuffs for now.

The dark green is a sweatshirt knit with a slight bit of fuzziness on the inside. It was in a bag of fabric that was given to me. Part of the fabric was not good, as it was faded, but there was enough good for this part of the outfit. I had the camo fleece in my stash from an after-Thanksgiving sale several years ago. I was happy to find the time to sort through a couple of my bins of fabric and to find it there.

The hardest part of this pattern was the placket at the neckline. I haven’t done one of those for so long I didn’t remember when, and certainly not how. I read and re-read the directions and followed them step-by-step and finally got a result I could live with. I’ll confess a seam ripper was used a couple of times. :(. I used some slightly thicker than normal interfacing under the buttonholes as I was worried that the knit would stretch when I tried to make them. It held fine and did the job.

The rest of the outfit was pretty easy. I will say that it really helped to be working with knit fabric, especially for the cuffs of contrasting fabric. There were times where I had to stretch a bit here and there to get them to fit on and it would have been very hard with a firmer woven fabric. Also, I was able to use the serger quite a bit and it finishes the seams so nicely.

It was fun to have some time to sew. It was a nice “January” activity to dig through fabric bins and make an outfit.

Cost: Olive green fabric-free, Fleece fabric–likely around $4 several years ago, pattern–$1-$2 some time in the past, buttons–in my stash for years so….?, thread–in my thread container for years, and elastic for the waist–$1 at the most. No matter how generously I count past purchases, the outfit cost less than $10, and all of it was spent some time ago.

I did send Rob to JoAnn’s to purchase more elastic and another roll of thread for future projects as I had some really good coupons, and hope to sew some more. I found lots of great fabric in those bins. I’d love to use some more of it this winter before the gardening season starts up again!

Making My Home A Haven

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