What Happened to March? 2024

My life has been such a whirlwind that I blinked…..and March was gone! I cannot believe it is April, but the calendar says it truly is:). What have I been doing? So many things. Here are a few of them.

Easter was amazing. First we went to church and had a wonderful service. I was in the choir, and we had been practicing for weeks on a couple of very powerful songs, and I enjoyed singing them. After church, we had a house full of family and friends…probably around 26 or 27….and I mean a house full, because, as you know, we live in a house with about 1,100 square feet. The weather cooperated and it was nice, which took a lot of pressure off the house itself since people could go out into the yard.

I cooked and cooked and cooked for that. So did Rob. He bbq’d shrimp, the huge fish he caught last summer, ham, chicken and pork. I mashed 10 lbs of potatoes. I used green beans from the garden (5 quarts) and made a huge green bean casserole and boiled some home-canned corn. I made black-bottomed cupcakes, ice cream angel food cake and a white chocolate-raspberry cheesecake. People brought things like salad, some drinks, pie. etc. Still others slipped me some cash to help buy the ham, etc. We put tables and chairs in every crack and corner of our house…. even some in Malcolm’s bedroom and outside.

After we ate, and ate and ate (there was very little left over–just enough for people to take a few leftovers), a friend set up an Easter egg hunt for the kids out on the lawn. They had a great time.

We did so many other fun things in March, as well. Spring break was an especially busy week. We took our grandsons and nephew up to OMSI one day. We took one grandson and our nephew to the Oregon Coast Aquarium one day. There was an afternoon at the church where kids could come play in the gym, and Rob and I were in charge of the snacks, Of course, we took boys to that, as well. There were other times during that week that we helped out with some organizing and cleaning down at the church, to get ready for the return of the kids that are in the after-school program. Thankfully, there were many volunteers and we did a minimum amount of that job, but we still wanted to help.

During the month, our weekly commitments of teaching Sunday School, and cooking for the young adult group continued. We cooked things like tacos, pulled pork and chicken, soups, muffins, desserts, and more…all with gluten-free and dairy-free options. You never know if there are going to be 25 or 40 people, so we all make lots! There are 3 families on the main cooking team, so it’s nice that I don’t need to make it all alone. One night, a lady that is not on the team bought lots of pizzas at Costco for the group because she wanted to be supportive. She sure was! We have breakfast-for-dinner, ham (bought before Easter at 77c/lb), and chicken legs (bought on clearance for 50c/lb and frozen) planned for this upcoming month.

We have also been working an exceeding amount of hours lately, for various reasons.

Rob and I are trying to slip out and take a walk whenever we can. On this day, we were being silly and trying to take a selfie in front of the gorgeous tulips. I was having to stand on my tiptoes to get tall enough for the phone to catch both me and the flowers….

If all this wasn’t enough, we received some exciting news. Rob was asked to go to Kenya in MAY (yes–this May!) to help with VBS for around 300 kids, Sunday School for 150-twice, and some work with children in children’s homes. The team will also be working with some of the people who are in the agriculture program…looking at their efforts and I’m not exactly sure what else Rob could do other than admiring what they’ve done. (We do grow a huge garden and Rob has some agricultural experience in raising our own pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc. in the past, plus some other farming experience, but I think they have experts who help them with the actual farming practices in their area, but I don’t really know. Some others on the team may be doing more with that part–time will tell). This is the same mission organization that Rob went to Bangladesh with last year, and, when they needed more help for this trip, they thought of Rob because he has a lot of experience in working with children. After praying about it for a couple of days, he said “yes” and we are in a whirlwind of planning now. I’m so excited for him.

I will be holding down the fort here, as I did last year–working as much as I can while I help take care of Malcolm and try to be in two different places at the same time quite often….. I can’t tell you how many times Rob is picking someone up while I’m picking someone else up at the same time, but we will figure out a way. This is too good of an opportunity to pass up! The same God who laid it on people’s hearts to ask him to go, the same God who laid it on his heart to accept that invitation is the same God who will provide both the funds for the trip and the strength and ability for both Rob who is going, and me, who is trying to organize all the things at home. I’m excited because I love to see God do amazing things!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Feb. 28, 2024

The peppers in the greenhouse are up! Rob planted them a few weeks ago, but peppers are notorious for taking a long time and being a bit fussy in our greenhouse. I’m so glad they are up so strongly and we are almost ready to begin up-potting them when needed. The basil in the back certainly needs to be put into larger containers right now!

Rob has also planted several varieties of onions. We are doing Patterson (storage, yellow), Red Mountain (a new red one for us, supposed to be good for storage), Red Bull (leftover seeds from last year), white (don’t store well), and green onions. They are starting to come up.

He has planted some delphiniums and pansies and they are coming up, as well.

Today, we went out together and got cabbage (Quick Start, Pintree Mix, Red Acre) and celery (Tango) planted. We do need to get some broccoli started in the next few days, as well.

We did a few frugal fun things over the past couple of weeks. My niece and nephew stayed with us for a few days while their parents were out of town. On Sunday afternoon, we took them down to the carousel. Our grandson is still more comfortable in the wagon, vs. the horses that go up and down, but he had a great time playing on the playground equipment and riding a couple of times.

Our niece rode the entire time, as much as she was able. Because she is special needs, she can have 5 free rides per day, and she enjoyed every one of them.

There was also a day a couple of weeks ago, where a news station out of Portland did a feature on the adaptive horse riding organization my niece always rides at. Rob got to take her down there because she was asked to be a background rider. She got to have an extra ride that week as she was mounted on the horse and they took her through the arena, out for a ride on the trails outside and back in. She knew she wasn’t going to be interviewed, and didn’t care! She was just so happy for the extra ride! There was a time or two where the camera panned the arena as she and Rob were walking in, and you can see them standing in the entry, waiting for her turn. That was enough publicity for both of them, especially Rob:)

On President’s Day, we were not working and there was no preschool, so we loaded Malcolm and his bike up and drove down to the coast. We went to a paved trail at South Beach State Park and started at the rest area. We walked, and he pedaled over 2 miles. It was fun to get some exercise in a different place. We took a picnic lunch and drove over to a viewpoint where there is a great view of the ocean and ate it there. We were grateful that the morning was fairly sunny and pleasant, and that it waited to rain until we were safely in the car eating lunch.

I’m still working on using up things from the freezers and pantry. This batch of food I just pulled out includes frozen meatballs, frozen chili, berries, cauliflower, cookies, and a pound of hamburger. We will eat the chili and meatballs for lunches and I plan to make an “impossible pie” from the hamburger as I have some gf Bisquick I want to finish up.

I really haven’t needed to buy much at the grocery store in February until this past week, when it seemed as if I was going there every few days! I grabbed a lot of chicken legs for 89c/lb. We ate some and Rob barbecued a lot of them for the young adult group we cook for. We also bought produce for salads a few times, along with milk. Rob found a huge stack of super heavy duty foil pans on the clearance rack for $1.26/each. That only 1 penny more than the dollar store and the quality is SO much better. We use those a lot when we cook for the group.

I also used fruit from the freezer and pie filling from the cupboard to make crisps for the group and for a potluck we attended at church.

I fed my niece English muffins we got for free when we volunteered at the food bank. She loves them and ate a lot! We go again this upcoming Saturday to help out, and I will see if they have any available. If they do, I will grab a couple more packs and freeze them for the next time she’s hungry while over here.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Feb. 12, 2024

I got to do some fun baking this past week. First, they were doing some kind of birthday celebration at the Young Adult group, so I did a couple kinds of cupcakes for that.

We also celebrated a couple of family birthdays yesterday, so I made cake for that. To make things simpler, I made all the cake and cupcakes last Tuesday and froze the ones I needed for the family party. I frosted them Saturday, after I defrosted them.

I soaked a large amount of pinto beans.

I cooked some and made chili and froze a baggie for later.

I made a huge crockpot of refried beans from many of them, along with peppers and onions from my freezer. I also pulled 8 lbs of hamburger from the freezers and made taco meat. Much of this I had gathered on super sales from Safeway and some was from the 1/4 beef we purchased last fall. When you volunteer at the food pantry, you can take whatever bread products you can use. I got quite a few packages of tortillas, even some gluten free ones when we were there last Saturday. That, plus cupcakes, was sent to the Young Adult meeting Tuesday. Other people brought taco toppings and sides. They had around 40 there this time….you just never know. There were still leftovers, which we ate. I also pulled out some refried beans and froze 3 cartons because I purposely made extra for that purpose. I was happy there was some left. When attendance ranges from 25-40, it’s hard to gauge what will be consumed on any given week. This was a week where I had volunteered to make extra because I had this burger I wanted to use up. This week, my part is much simpler since there are others helping out, too.

We used our membership to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and took our nephew and grandson.

As always, we all had a great time.

The play structure is very cool and both boys enjoyed playing for quite a while. Malcolm is too small to climb up the big slide, but Jake went up multiple times.

Malcolm had plenty to do on a smaller slide and a little fake mountain and these bouncy leaves. After we visited the aquarium, we took the boys out for lunch and to a candy store. It’s kind of a tradition to get a few pieces of taffy and let them choose candy and they really enjoy it when we do that.

We worked a lot of hours over the past couple of weeks, which kept us busy thinking up fun activities to keep everyone busy. We are always on the lookout for low-cost, but fun activities to do with the kids. Almost every night, when our nephew was here, we had a popcorn “party” which simply means I made popcorn and he ate it while he played his Switch. Easy-peasy. There was a free activity at a near-by center where he could play electronic games, do Legos, or play games, so we did that one day. Even a trip to Safeway where he could get a free cookie is a fun activity for him. Rob took him to the library one day and he chose books. They also went on a drive, searching for Pokemon on his phone. The aquarium was our “big wow” because our nephew didn’t have school one day and we wanted something that filled hours and hours and was fun.

I continued using things from the pantry and cupboards and had to go put away my basket of emptied jars more than once, which is always a good sign that I’m using things up the way I want to. I went through the potatoes I had in the garage and threw away the few that were spoiling and used a lot of what was left. We made Swiss Steak with mashed potatoes, potato salad, fried potatoes and threw some in soup. Rob made bacon-wrapped pork bites after we had them at our oldest daughter’s house when we went there for lunch last weekend. We also had some pretty lame meals because we were busy, such as pieces of lunchmeat on a plate with other odds and ends from the fridge, salad with the last of a head of lettuce and a jar of giardinera stirred in because I was out of toppings (actually pretty good), leftovers that did not go together AT ALL, the same leftovers 3 days in a row because it was easy…..what can I say? We all got fed. It all worked out:)

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Keep Using It up!–January 30, 2024

Although we had a somewhat stressful week, I continued to use things from the pantry, freezers and canning cupboard to continue my project of clearing out some of the items that need using. I also received an Azure Standard order and did a small Costco run. Even with those purchases, there are starting to be small spaces showing up on the shelves and in the freezers. That is good, because I need to do some cooking ahead and want some freezer space to put it in.

As people know that have been reading the blog for some time, I cook every Tuesday for the Young Adult Group from our church. Usually, this entails 5 servings of gluten-free, dairy-free food. Lately, though, I’ve been asked to just bring dessert for the entire group, including some for the allergy-friendly eaters. Last week, I made 2 tarts. I used cream cheese for the crust and for the layer of yummy goodness under the fruit. I purchased 10 before Christmas for 99c/each, and have slowly been working my way through them. They don’t expire until March. In those tarts, I also used some kiwis. My sister grows them, and gave us 2 big boxes in the fall. They have been slowly ripening on the porch and now a whole bunch are ripe. We cannot use them all, so I took a bunch of them down to the church and they were used for the after school program we run down there.

I took some gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes I had made previously and frozen, and baked a box of brownies that were also gf and df. There are around 25 people, typically, but it can be up to 30 or even 40, so lots of dessert is always welcome. We did get some leftover tart back, and it was delicious.

Today, I just finished a huge batch of peanut butter cookies. They are gf and df. I was hoping this recipe would come out good that way, as peanut butter has a lot of fat so less other fat was needed. I used an alternate butter I had purchased B1, get 1 free a while back, but it is more expensive than butter and I don’t enjoy the taste as well. It worked in these, though. They taste great. I used peanut butter purchased long ago for $1. When we had our youngest daughter living here, she ate a tremendous amount of peanut butter because she really loves it. I guess the rest of us aren’t so fond of it because I found jars and jars out in the pantry, left over from she lived here. I used more than a jar in these peanut-butter, chocolate chip cookies. Trader Joe’s has gf/df chocolate chips, I recently found out, and they are much less expensive than other alternate kinds and taste great.

The group will also be munching on lemon (lime) bars and a few Krispie treats. I used up some lime juice I had frozen a while back and used a lemon bar recipe with gf flour in it instead of all-purpose.

I had quite a few meals to make for people, as well as the cooking for the family. As I often do, I made some soup. I’ve actually made, eaten and shared chicken-rice and vegetable-beef recently. I was able to pull lots of frozen things like onions, broth, and chicken to use. I was able to open jars of broth, use beef that was canned last summer but didn’t seal so was frozen,

The first kind of muffin I made was applesauce, using canned applesauce. That is another item that I have too much of, as the daughter who loves it is off doing her own thing. Even when she visited for a couple of weeks over the holidays, she didn’t make a dent in the applesauce supply! The second kind was lemon-poppyseed. I had one lonely carton of lemon yogurt that had been hanging around the fridge for ages, so it got targeted. Boy were those good. Makes me with there was another carton in there:). I do have some applesauce ones frozen for later, but the lemon ones….all gone!

My aunt gave me some thyme she couldn’t finish up, along with a couple other things. I put the thyme in a 250 degree oven for a little while and it dried quickly. I was almost out of thyme, except for a small amount I dried from the garden last summer, so I was happy to add it to my stash.

A chicken noodle casserole was made, using canned chicken from the pantry and peas frozen from our garden. I made about 1/4 of it with no peas for those who don’t like them or cannot have them. One person I shared with cannot have peas.

Enchilada casserole was also made. I used frozen(by me previously) whole-grain rice, a can of corn I had won at the grocery store in the past and never used because we preserve our own, home-canned enchilada sauce, canned beans, beef previously canned and frozen when the seal didn’t seal, corn tortillas I received for free when we volunteered at the food pantry (volunteers can have bread products when they help out), and cheese I had.

When we went to see my mom, she had this gorgeous amaryllis lily that is blooming. It was cheerful and encouraging in a pretty busy, stressful week. We’ve had 2 deaths in the extended family, one funeral so far, a family member who slipped and fell in the aftermath of the ice storm and is hurt pretty badly, a friend who’s wife has received a hard diagnosis, a couple of other hard things I won’t name, and many people who need a little extra care…all added to our normal busy, crazy life. Through it all, I can say, with assurance, that God has been with us every step of the way. On Sunday, one of my favorite hymns was sung at church. It’s an old one, and we rarely sing those, but this Sunday, we did. It was as if God knew I needed to hear it and I can truly say, it IS well with my soul. Because it is. Because of Him.

Thriving In My Thrifty (Frozen) Week–Continuing to Use-It-Up–Jan. 17, 2024

We had a rare snow event here in our part of the Pacific Northwest. Then, it turned into a freezing rain/ice event. Hopefully, it will be over tomorrow morning and things can go back to normal. The birds were really, really hungry. We were not! They weren’t either, once Rob and Malcolm fed them. They continued to do that every day, until this morning, when they used up the last bit of bird food, including the bag I gave them as a joint gift for Christmas. Thankfully, things are melting as I write, and Rob plans to buy another bag tomorrow.

This picture was from the first morning of snow–Saturday. It snowed more than this, but it still was so exciting on that first morning, that yes…he is out there in his Christmas pajamas…

We made the decision to stay home during this storm. Saturday was a day off work, church was cancelled, and so forth. I haven’t left the house since I got home from work Friday night and this is Wednesday night. Choir was supposed to start back up again tonight, but the ice is so bad in the church parking lot, they cancelled all activities.

We did not suffer a bit. I had gone to the grocery store last week, as I mentioned in my last post. I wanted to work on using things up, still, so I made out very well with the things I gathered from the store, plus the freezers, pantries, and canning cupboards. We are down to 3 carrots, but that’s the only thing I can think of that is running low.

For breakfasts, we had omelets more than once, pancakes, oatmeal (for the oatmeal-loving boy), fruit (especially canned peaches), cereal, scrambles, fried potatoes, sausage from the freezer, and biscuits and gravy. Rob likes to make breakfast, so he does most days.

We had spaghetti pie using the rest of the spaghetti sauce and noodles from last week.

I cooked some quinoa that has been in the pantry for a long time. I used home-canned chicken broth and spices to make it more flavorful. I intended to make a salad or something, but instead, we ate it with a little butter on it, and in a chicken-taco bowl, using more of those frozen thighs I’ve been finishing up.

I pulled a roast from the freezer and cooked it in the crock pot with potatoes, carrots and frozen onions. The potatoes are some I got a few weeks ago and need to be used. I also made potato salad from them during the week. Rob has been frying them at breakfast as well.

We have eaten the beef in slices on a plate a couple of times. I also made a French dip sandwich with a home-made gluten-free bun, toasted in a frying pan with a slice of pepper jack cheese melted on it. I dipped it into some chicken bouillon I mixed up. Not traditional at all, but it’s what I had on hand and it was delicious!

We made some cut-out sugar cookies in the shape of snowflakes and hearts. I froze the hearts for closer to Valentine’s Day. We also made Krispie treats.

This is still the first day–we got even more after that!

The ice storm really got going yesterday afternoon. I really enjoyed the icicles that formed last night on the deck, as well as on the eves, birdhouses, and so forth. I also enjoyed the fact that we did not lost power, and it’s all melting already. Those ice storms can cause terrible damage around here.

We stayed as thrifty as we could during the storm. We used wood to heat our home most of the time, but did turn on the furnace at one point. The temperatures got very low.

Our nephew rode out part of the storm with us–schools were canceled, and our grandson had no preschool, so we spent each day planning fun things we could do here at home, such as reading aloud, listening to recorded (on Audible) Hardy Boys books, playing games, puzzles, cooking together, eating popcorn, watching t.v., and playing with Rob’s huge bins of Legos from the shop–the biggest hit of all. Rob played with them, and they had a blast. He just keeps those Legos out there for special occasions. They are some we’ve had for a long time so it’s nice to see them used.

Rob and I spent some time going through Malcolm’s toys and organizing them. We cleaned in his room a little. I cleaned the garage on 2 occasions. I did accomplish a goal of clearing out an area that needed organizing, making a place for my nephew to do puzzles and have a place to safely play his Pokemon cards, and for Rob to be able to more easily walk to the breaker box (his request!). There’s still lots to clean around here but I feel I made some progress.

We used no gas, as we did not drive anywhere and did all our cooking at home (obviously!). I was pretty tired on Saturday, and I think I slept 10 hours that night. I feel rested up now and ready for normal life to resume tomorrow, which it will. I’m glad I got some rest.

January 12-Use-It-UP! 2024

I am still on my mission to use many things from the pantry, freezers and canning shelves. Here are a few of the sides we had in the past few days.

I cooked home-canned green beans. We grow a Blue Lake variety for the green ones. This year, it will be a favorite–“Venture. ” The yellow ones are “Carson.” I usually grow both and mix them in the jars.

The potatoes are some red ones from a bag that showed up here ??? (someone bought them in the past–not me), and they were starting to sprout when I found them. I put some olive oil on them and some herbs and roasted them in the oven.

The macaroni and cheese is a box of Kraft from the pantry. My niece loves that kind, and that kind only, so I grabbed a few boxes when it is on sale. She and my grandson ate most of it yesterday.

I used up some lemons that were in the fridge drawer in lemon bars for the church young adult group. I still cook for them on Tuesdays, but things have changed slightly and sometimes all I need to bring is dessert, sometimes more things, depending on the need that day. This time, Rob barbecued 3 huge packs of drumsticks (we kept and ate part of the 3rd pack) and sent them with the gluten-free lemon bars. It was nice to get those drumsticks out of the freezer. I got 2 packs on super super markdown ($2.35/huge pack) and have been saving them for this purpose. The 3rd pack had been on sale as well, just not that great of a sales as that! Our food was put with other food from other people, to be enough to feed the group, which often runs 25-30 right now.

The jar in the background is full of chicken broth. We had a Costco chicken and I made broth from the bones. I either need to freeze it today or make some thing from it.

I made turkey meatloaf. I buy the ground turkey on sale and still have several in the freezer. Malcolm seems to love turkey meatloaf!

I also made some spaghetti sauce, using my home-canned marinara, plus some tomato sauce I had, hamburger, extra herbs, frozen onions, and cooked noodles from the pantry. In the end, there still wasn’t enough sauce and it wasn’t how I wanted it, so I added a jar of purchased sauce and that finished it off. I’m trying to slip some of that purchased sauce in when I can because we like the home-canned better and the few jars I have from the store are just sitting there getting older and older and older……

Rob made pancakes for breakfast. These are made from Pamela’s gluten-free pancake mix. The flecks you see in there are because there’s almond flour in that particular mix. We all love them. Since I am so sensitive to even the smallest bit of wheat/gluten, much of the time we all eat gluten-free around here. I do buy bread for them, and we are really careful about the crumbs. Occasionally, Grocery Outlet has the big bags of this mix for $13-$15. I just checked at the Natural Grocers store, and the same bag was $23. Because Grocery Outlet is hit and miss, when we see it, we buy 2 or 3 bags. Right now, they don’t have it, but I still have 2 bags left, so there’s time for them to get it in before I would have to pay full price for it. If they never get it again, it is what it is. Gluten free food is not inexpensive, but worth every penny to me.

As you can see, things are going well in the food department right now, here at my house. I did buy milk, 5 dozen eggs, produce, and a few pantry items a couple of days ago. My older daughter wanted to shop, so I took her and got what I needed at the same time. It’s hard to believe that I was out of anything–I keep such a large pantry–but a few things did run out. I did not stock up, but only got what I needed this time, as my goal is to force myself to use up a few items that have been there for a long time, while still giving myself the ability to cook at a moment’s notice without running to the store for basic ingredients. My niece and nephew are very specific as to what foods they will and will not eat, and are here frequently, so I do always keep “their” foods stocked. We are all in good shape for food now.

What Did We Eat This Week?–January 8, 2024

Every January, I like to go through cupboards, freezers and the pantry to really dig in and use up things that need using. I can’t really call it a pantry challenge, as so many on social media do, because I don’t plan to stop shopping. But, every year, I do reduce my grocery shopping in January and that’s what I plan to do this year, as well. At this point it is January 8 and I haven’t gone shopping since the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I will go soon, because I’m running low on eggs and milk.

I usually call it the “use-it-up” challenge, or something along those lines. The first thing I grabbed from the pantry was some bow-tie pasta that was getting near date. I cooked some and mixed it with some leftover cheese Alfredo sauce from Christmas Day. Some was eaten by one kid or the other and the rest went into this chicken noodle soup. The celery was some I froze from the garden, the carrots were some leftover baby carrots from the holidays and the broth was home-canned. The chicken was from a bag of thighs that seem to be getting a little freezer burned, but were still fine when I started getting into them.

I used some more of those thighs to make these taco bowls. I sautéed the thigh pieces and a bunch of onions from last summer’s garden in taco seasoning. I made brown rice for the base. There is a little more in the bottom of a gallon jar from a long-ago bulk purchase that I want to target for use in the next couple of weeks. I made guacamole from an avocado bought on sale, and added other toppings. We had the bowls twice. They were so good!

I dug out some ham broth from the freezer. I used more baby carrots from the holidays, a couple of potatoes, and some ham bits from the freezer with some lentils to make a soup.

We had home-made pizzas on the gf flatbread/pita bread I had made and frozen in December and had that twice.

I cooked a large batch of oatmeal with raisins for Malcolm to eat over a few days. He adores oatmeal.

I used home-canned corn, beans, broth, jams, fruits and more to add to meals. I also grabbed several frozen bits and pieces, such as frozen onions from 2018 (?really?-but they were fine), Anaheim pepper bits, a little baggie of pulled pork, hot dogs bought on sale, buns that were given to us a while back, and more. I threw away a couple of items that were beyond use.

It’s always exciting to me to see the little things I’ve saved get used. It’s food I’ve bought and paid for, grown, or at the least–put the effort and energy into cooking. I love using home-preserved food because that’s what I saved it for–winter.

I will not be that person who takes their pantry/freezers/canning shelf down to a small amount of food. The fruits and veggies need to last until next summer when I can grow or source some more. We get more beef in the fall. We may be getting 1/2 pig next spring and I just buy chicken and fish when I see good sales. But, with the large amount of jars of canned foods, 3 full freezers and a big pantry, I have no worries that I will run out. Even with the traffic that went through this house during the holidays, I can hardly see a dent in the canning. Partly that is because I’m putting most of the empty jars away in boxes and taking spare jars from boxes where I stored them so it still looks very full although we’ve eaten quite a bit.

I do want to keep things fresh, and rotate things. We’ve gone through all the freezers in the past few months, and I inventoried and sorted all canning last summer. The pantry in the garage has been cleaned as well a few months ago. So things are good right now and I want to keep them that way. I’m excited about seeing how this project goes during the next month and plan to see evidence of my efforts in the form of some empty spots here and there.

How about you? Do you do a pantry challenge in January? Or some kind of modified one with your own rules? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments below!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week-Jan. 4, 2024

We take a lot of pleasure in feeding birds and looking at them. Much to our surprise, when we pulled the car over so someone could stretch, there was this woodpecker on a tree right outside the car window. It didn’t seem much bothered by us, so we stayed and watched it for a while. Finally, we got bold and Rob crept the car closer, and it scooted around to the other side of the tree–but still didn’t fly away.

Rob and Malcolm feed the birds in our yard on a regular basis. They got a joint Christmas gift of some bird food and suet, so are looking forward to doing that soon.

Malcolm enjoyed the age-old excitement of mud-puddle stomping while his cousin was in her horse lesson. Rob turned his head for one minute and …..let’s just say we had to change the pants once they got home. So fun!

Rob, my niece Alissa and my nephew, Jake, all celebrated their January birthdays at a family birthday party. We figured it out that Rob and Alissa have not missed one co-party for the past 23 years, since she was 1 year old. That’s so special to us all! We had a family dinner. My sister cooked delicious steak (Alissa and Rob’s favorite), chicken curry, mashed potatoes (because that’s Alissa’s favorite), and broccoli. I made the chocolate cake (Rob and Alissa’s choice) and Alissa made the vanilla cake with Pokemon decorations (Jake’s favorite). Everyone had a great time.

My Territorial seeds came. I wanted to order them before December 31 because I had saved a postcard from my last order (last spring) that gave me 10% off my order before that date. I had gift cards from this Christmas, some left on the ones from last year, and some cash that paid for it easily. The 10% paid for postage and a few packs of seeds. I was delighted that a couple of old favorites were back on the available list, but we are going to have to try a new kind of Roma tomato this year. I picked out 2, both with the most disease resistance I could find, as I had a lot of trouble with disease last summer.

I had ordered the ones I wanted from Pinetree earlier when I first got that catalog and they are here, as well. The bulk of my seeds are from Territorial, but there are a few things I really like from Pinetree, and now I have them all.

I plan to do a post on seed choices later on. I’m planning a lot of posts, actually. I am so excited to say that I have a new computer that WORKS!!!! I’m so excited. I was gifted a significant part of the money for that for Christmas, and we made up the difference. It wasn’t just my blog that was no longer working on our old one….but now a lot of things work very well. I’m hoping to get back into the habit of blogging once again. It was so tedious on my iPad, since I can’t type properly on it, that it killed some of the joy in the process. I guess one-fingered hunt and peck with do that to a person:).

Homemade Gluten-Free Tater Tots

I have been having a hard time finding tater tots at the store. When I do find them, they are very expensive and the last bag I purchased simply crumbled into little bits whenever we cooked them. However, I did find some bags of potatoes on a really good deal–20c/lb–and bought about 30 pounds. I have a couple of projects I wanted to do. One was making tater tots. I had done it one time before and we liked them, so it was time to try again.

I combined several recipes I found on the internet. I wanted plain ones, not including cheese or onions or many spices.

I parboiled peeled, whole potatoes–10-15 pounds–not sure because I used several partial bags, plus one full 5-lb one. Mine stayed in the hot water a little too long–about 8-10 plus minutes because I got distracted. I believe 4-6 minutes for small potatoes and 6-7 minutes for really big ones would be about right.

After cooling them enough to handle, I grated them and put them into a bowl. Sadly, some were so cooked it was more like pushing mashed potatoes through the grater–oops! I filled 2 of the largest Pyrex bowls I have with shreds. The following recipe is for one large bowl, which was about 5-7 pounds of shreds. Mix:

One large Pyrex bowl of parboiled potato shreds

1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

1 Tablespoon 1-1 Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (to taste–mine are not hot at all

I formed them into little logs with my hands and fried them in a little bit of canola oil until they were brown. Because I parboiled my potatoes too long, I confess some of mine are more like fried mashed potatoes. They still taste good, if I have to go with how many disappeared while I was frying them off. There were 5 of us here nipping on them, and yum! is all I have to say.

The only other time I made them, I didn’t cook my potatoes too long and there were distinct hash-brown like shreds in them, which finished cooking as they were pre-fried and also baked afterwards for serving. I will do that again next time.

I cooled them on paper towels and put them on a waxed-paper covered cookie sheet. That pan went into the freezer to flash freeze and I will transfer them to baggies once they cool. When I made these before, I simply warmed them up in the air fryer or oven when we wanted to eat them, just like I would do with the frozen ones from the store.

I’m excited to have tater tots in the freezer again. There were so many possibilities I saw on the internet, including adding cheddar cheese, onion powder, green onions or chives and more. There were also lots of different combinations of flours to use as binders, such as potato starch, regular wheat flour (for those it doesn’t bother), and other flours. I concluded that the main things were potatoes, salt, pepper and a little flour of some sort to bind it together. It did take quite a bit of time to form and pre-fry all these. I ended up with that huge pan full, plates and plates that people snacked on or ate for dinner, and a few extras that didn’t fit on the tray.

Thriving In My Thrifty Week—Dec. 27, 2023

We have spent the past few weeks working a tremendous number of hours, getting ready for Christmas and enjoying ourselves tremendously in the process!

Because we work with our niece and nephew, and because there was a school holiday, we searched for fun things to do together on the days they were with us. We had the added joy of having our daughter, Patsy, home for a couple of weeks. Of course, there were our grandsons and many other family members and friends to spend time with, as well, so we were never bored.

We snacked on popcorn many times. We did puzzles. We played games. I read aloud an entire advent story that is basically a chapter a day in a serial story leading up to Christmas. Rob and I had a really fun Christmas party with our Sunday School class.

We visited an attraction called Storybook Lane, where scenes from books and movies were set up with stuffed toys, lots of lights and other items, a model train, etc.

Malcolm liked Santa, but mostly the candy cane he got. My nephew and Patsy liked the churros and donuts they got at the concession stand. Other than food for a food drive and snacks we bought, this was free.

Other things we did was watch the movie “Elf” for free in a theater near us. Again, it was a food drive, so we just popped into Wilco and bought a bunch of cans of food. We got some snacks just because it made the exceedingly rare occasion even more fun. We did have a blast.

2 Costco gingerbread houses were decorated by different sets of kids. We attended a free ornament-making event and a simple gift making event, and a friend’s cookie decorating party with various kids.

The grandsons had a preschool Christmas program, where all the adorable kids got up and sang (or didn’t sing) for all of us. Zai crawled around the stage during his song. Malcolm sang a bit and then would randomly leap into the air. So cute.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent with various family members. Then we sat around like zombies all day yesterday, except for a trip to the dentist. We have one more small gathering on Saturday, after a few days of work this week. I’ve got to say the exciting activities seem to have dried up in our area, so we plan to do mundane, but fun, things like library, YMCA swimming pool, more popcorn, more puzzles and games, and perhaps a little cooking. We will see what we actually get done. It should be a good week, whatever we choose.





Making My Home A Haven

%d