Frugal Accomplishments for this week–Nov. 9, 2015

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This week, we cooked up 2 of our huge Sweetmeat squash.  There are still a lot left, but I froze 10 bags and we’ve got lots to eat besides.  I also cut up a few Butternut squash into cubes and they have been used throughout the week for quick dinners.

We cooked quite a few things, including cauliflower, Swiss steak, lots of things from the 50 lbs. of potatoes I got for $10 a couple of weeks ago, and used several odds and ends that came out of the garden.  It frosted pretty hard so most things are dead now, so now my menu planning will focus on using all that we preserved.

Today, I cooked pinto beans with a little Anaheim pepper,  spaghetti sauce with 1/2 lb pork burger, stuffed peppers with the other 1/2 lb pork burger, and a huge batch of chili with pinto beans and hamburger.  This will be the basis of our meals for the next few days.

IMG_1665We got baby pigs to raise for meat and to sell.  If all goes well, we will be able to sell the others enough to pay for the cost of ours.  We have pre-sold most of them, so it’s a matter of them growing properly, and staying healthy.  We’ve only had trouble one time, ever, when a pig got tetnus and died, but that was very rare.  Most of the time, it goes as planned.

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I enjoyed watching a woodpecker that has decided to take up daily residence in a dead tree near our garage.  He just spends hours each day hammering and pecking on that tree.  It’s fun to watch.

We used the library and returned materials promptly and did not get fines this week.  When we couldn’t make it, we renewed our materials on-line.

We’ve done some extra cleaning and either used up the “surprise” items we found or donated them.

I’ve been sewing on Christmas presents.

Since Rob’s job loss in September, I have deliberately decided to focus on my blessings.  It’s easy to fall into feelings of self-pity, anxiety, fear of the future, anger or despair.  It’s harder to focus on the overabundance that we have been blessed with, the promises of Scripture-assuring me that God will take care of us, and the every-day beauty that surrounds me.  Worry will not change anything.  I might as well enjoy my time right now as much as possible and not ruin this season, this day, this time with worry.  Because in the end, probably at least a year from now, I will be able to look back and say, “Yes, it was hard.  It was unfair, it was awful.  We were blind sighted.  We cried a lot.  We felt betrayed by those we thought were our friends.  People who said they loved us, didn’t.  But, God was faithful, and we made it through!”  I firmly believe this with all my heart.  And, during this Thanksgiving season, I am truly blessed!

Lemon Loaf

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For the last couple of days, I have been drooling over the Simple Lemon Cake on the blog, Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing.  It looks so good.  I wanted to make it.  But, silly me, I did not know what SR flour was.  I am gluten-free, so maybe it was sweet rice flour?  I just didn’t know, but that loaf looked yummy!  After waiting patiently, I got the reply that it was self-rising flour.  That made sense.  Well, sweet rice flour would have fit into my gluten-free diet better, but that loaf still looked really, really good.  I still didn’t know what another ingredient was:  jelly crystals.  I wondered–pectin?  Who knew?  So, I asked again and it was…….Jello.  Sounded interesting, but I didn’t have any lemon jello on hand and I wanted to eat that cake tonight!!

Once that answer was received, Patsy and I set to work changing the recipe entirely to make it fit the ingredients in our pantry, and to make it gluten free.    If you want to make the original recipe, go to her blog.  Or, try this version.  It’s really good, too.  I save money every time I make my own gluten-free baked goods.  To buy one gluten-free muffin can cost a couple of dollars, minimum.   Even though gluten-free flour is expensive, it’s way less to make my own.  I also had a lemon languishing in the refrigerator drawer that needed to be used.

Mini Lemon Loaves

2 Cups 1-to-1 Flour (from Bob’s Red Mill)

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup melted butter

4 eggs

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup milk

Glaze:  1 cup powdered sugar

2-4 Tablespoons lemon juice (start with the 2 Tablespoons, and add more as needed to make a glaze)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, including the lemon zest.  Mix the butter, eggs, lemon juice and milk in another bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until well blended.  Spray 3 mini loaf pans (4″ x 2″) with non-stick spray.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly browned on top.     When the loaves are removed from the oven, set them on a cooling rack.  Pour the glaze onto the hot loaves, still in their pans.  Let set for 10 minutes.  Remove the loaves from the pans, and finish cooling on a wire rack.  The glaze will be cooled enough to stay on the loaves.  Makes 3 mini loaves.  Keep leftovers in freezer.

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Slow Cooker Swiss Steak

FullSizeRenderWhen I need dinner in a hurry, I turn to my slow cooker.  This happens several times a week, because I am always in a hurry!

Recently, someone gave us some round steak.  So, I decided to make Swiss Steak.  I cut the steak into cutlets and laid them in the bottom of the crock pot.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I chopped one small onion and 2 tomatoes onto the top.  I still have a few tomatoes left from the garden, so I used those.  When I don’t have any from the garden, I use canned.  I put a carton of cream of mushroom soup on top and turned it on to low for 8 hours.  My sister had ordered a case from Amazon, and shared several cartons with me.  I can’t tolerate any gluten, so the Pacific Foods brand is the one I use.

That evening, we had the Swiss Steak with cauliflower from the huge box a friend gave me a couple of weeks ago.   Tonight, I thickened the juices with sweet rice flour to make gravy and we had the rest of it with mashed potatoes and home-canned green beans.  I’m looking for ways to use the 50 pounds of red potatoes I bought for $10 a week ago.  I was delighted to get 2 dinners for almost free and they were really tasty, too.IMG_1651

Friday Project

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On Friday, Patsy finished the potholder she has been working on for a couple of weeks.  Aunt Janet came and worked with her.  The pattern was purchased at a quilt shop in Sister’s Oregon.  It was called Flutterby Pot Holders by Valori Wells.  She also chose a fat quarter to make her project with.  We purchased Insulbrite interfacing/batting elsewhere so that no one would get burned when they used this potholder.  Although the pattern showed exactly where to do the machine quilting, Patsy chose to make her own designs.  They turned out great!  Now she has her first Christmas project done.  Go Patsy!

Freezing Squash

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Today, we decided to cut up 2 of the large sweetmeat squash and process them for the freezer.  We have been blessed with so many this year and I want to get started using them.  It takes quite a bit of time to cook, mash and freeze these large squash, to I like to put some into the freezer.  Early this morning, Rob cut them up and scooped out the seeds.  I baked them on cookie sheets lined with foil.

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I baked them until they were soft at 350 degrees.    It took between 1-1/2 hours and 2 hours to get them to a place where a fork would easily slide into them.  I got 4 large cookie sheets full from the 2 squash and was able to fit them all into my double ovens.  When we remodeled this house a few years back, I put in the double oven because we run a large 4H club and it makes the cooking classes go better.  I’ve found so many ways to use both ovens during days like this, and also at holidays, that I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

I set them out on the counter to cool down while I took Patsy to an appointment.  I intended to put the squash through the food mill when I returned, but Ja’Ana surprised me by getting quite a bit of it done before I came back.  Her arm was tired by then, so Patsy took over.  Grinding the food mill is pretty fun, but I was very happy to have the help with that part of the job on such a busy day.

The end result was about 10 quart-sized zip-top bags and a sizable bowl for using fresh.  Some of the bags are stuffed as full as they could get for evenings when we want to use it as a vegetable for dinner and some have less in them for when I want to use it for cooking.  For meals, my kids like it warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  For cooking, I use it as pumpkin.  It is less watery and stringy as many pumpkins I have grown and we love using it in pie, muffins, pumpkin custard, etc.  I love having the frozen squash in my freezer to make my life easier on busy days!

Baby Pigs

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Today, we purchased 5 baby Hampshire/York cross pigs from a lady on Craig’s list.  They were $90 each, which is a good price around here.  1 is for our freezer, and the other 4 are for other people to buy.  All but one are pre-sold.  One year, Rob had a baby pig die from tetnus, which is rare, but from then on, he has always bought an extra one just in case.  He has never had trouble selling the extra pork.  The 4 pigs that are going to be purchased will bring in enough money to pay the expenses for the 5th pig, which we will keep.  So, for his time, (which is substantial), we will have a “free” pig for our freezer.

Rob put clean straw into the pen, which has not been used for about 2 years.  He checked the fences to make sure no holes had developed.  Baby pigs are very small and can get out easily, even through the smallest opening.  The little shed where he stores hog feed needed some work, too.  He re-fastened the tin roof, which had blown part way off in a windstorm since the last time he raised pigs.  Inside the little shed, half is an area where the dog can get in out of the elements.  The other half holds the pig food.  Rob removed all debris, trash, empty bags, etc. that had accumulated.  He bought a ton of natural hog feed from the local feed store, where they mill their own.  It is not organic food, which is wonderful, but raises the cost of the pigs to more than we can afford.  It is natural, and very competitive in price to other, less attractive feed.  He got a reduction in price because he bought a ton.  If he can figure out a way to bring his own containers another time, he will save even more.

The pigs will be fed on a diet of natural pig feed, supplemented by vegetables and fruits.  Sometimes Rob buys bread that is too old for the store to sell.  He was able to get our van full for $20-$25, but that was a couple of years ago.  It will be interesting to see if that deal is still available.   Pigs are a wonderful way to raise meat in a few months because they grow quickly and taste wonderful. I’m already excited about getting some more pork into the freezer!

Garden Clean-Up

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The garden is winding down.  Yesterday afternoon and evening, Lovana helped me begin the clean-up job.  She pulled out the tomato cages.  I picked the last remaining vegetables off of dying bushes.  There is much more to do, but we got a good start before it became so dark we could not see any more.

I have several large raised beds.  I have a large portion of the garden that is able to be tilled.  About 1/3 of the fenced area is in berries, which are permanent.  I was able to get a start on cleaning out the raised beds last evening.  After I clean out the old plants, I will put compost on the emptied beds.  In one bed, I have some leeks, spinach, peas and chard, which I will leave in for the winter.  There are also 2-3 plants of overwintering broccoli.

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I was able to get butternut squash, a few zucchini, peppers, and cucumbers.  More tomatoes are ripening daily and there are many squashes that will be good for many months.  It was an extra-long growing season this year and I feel very blessed for all the wonderful produce we have harvested.

Frugal Accomplishments for the Week of November 2, 2015

There were many green tomatoes left in the garden to find a good use for!
There were many green tomatoes left in the garden to find a good use for!

I have the ability to work more around my home from Thursday-Saturday each week due to my homeschool schedule and my part-time job of teaching piano lessons.  This week I had the pleasure of sharing most of those days with a good friend who came to visit.  She lives about 8 hours away from me and her visits are treasured.

We both love to can and preserve food.  So, she picked green tomatoes from her garden, grabbed some jars, and drove over here to where gardens grow much better than where she lives, and we got to work.  She spent the time when I was busy with the children visiting her relatives and friends who live around here and shopping for items she cannot get in her remote town.

We made salsa verde, zucchini relish and chow-chow, which is a mixed vegetable relish.  I had quite a few green tomatoes, various peppers, cabbage, and onions from my garden.  I was given lots of cauliflower last Tuesday, which is also an ingredient of chow-chow. We experimented with agave nectar instead of sugar because my friend is super-allergic to many things and she tolerates agave better than other sweeteners.  The relish and the chow-chow both tasted good with that substitution.

I processed 30 quart bags of cauliflower Tuesday.  A friend gave it to me.  We saved out a bunch and used it for the chow-chow as well as having it for meals twice so far.

I walked on the treadmill most evenings.

I bought some netting and a ribbon for one daughter’s Halloween costume.   She used it to make an overskirt to tie on over a fancy dress I made a few years ago and it fits no one at this time.  It was pinned to make it work for this occasion.  The youngest was a detective with a trench coat, notebook, and magnifying glass (for a while until she lost it).   We didn’t want to spend much on costumes because, well, they are costumes!

I bought 50 pounds of red potatoes at Cash and Carry for a little under $10.  That’s 20 cents/lb.  I also chose to buy a gallon of gluten-free soy sauce for under $6.  One little jar of the SanJ brand is about that much!  I just keep filling my small bottle.  We use it to make marinade as well, and it keeps for a long time.  I got large bottles of salad dressing there as well along with a mega package of lettuce.   We have still been eating tomatoes from the garden.  I got 6 snap peas and put them into a stir-fry.

I started a new piano student.

We went to the library and checked out more books.  More importantly, we returned our old ones before we got fines:)

I washed eggs, put them in cartons, and began cooking with them.
I washed eggs, put them in cartons, and began cooking with them.

All in all, it was a frugal week on many levels.   Some weeks are about putting more food away when it is available.  There will be many other weeks where I rack my brains figuring out what exactly to cook from all of this marvelous preserved food. It’s always a project, but it is so worth it to me.  Being stocked up makes a tremendous difference.

If you had asked me during the summer if my husband was in danger of losing his job, I would have laughed and said, “no way after 18 -1/2 years.”  But, sadly, it happened at the end of September.  I’m thankful for all we have.  It’s going to come in handy before this issue is resolved, I think!  He and I are still praying, thinking and wondering what the next step is.  Right now, we feel at peace with waiting until it comes clear to us.  He has gone to many people for advice and we’ve been advised to treat this as a death and allow ourselves enough time to work through the process of grief and mourning.  Because our personal lives as a family were so enmeshed with his job as a children’s and family pastor, it has tremendously affected the entire family.  The children are mourning the loss of their friends and the only place they have ever gone to church.  We are grieving the  loss of helping people we have cared about and helped for so many years. Because it was the decision of a very small handful of people, people are upset.  They are still calling, writing, and visiting to show their support, and to talk to Rob about things, as they have done for so many years.  This will taper off as they start to process this and move on with their lives.  It just takes time.

Grief and mourning are not a fun or popular time of life.  None of us want to do it.  I don’t want to do it.  I hate that I’m bursting into tears at the drop of a hat!  But, if we don’t, we won’t be able to come out on the other side as  healthy, whole people.  One prayer I frequently have prayed through this, and other extremely difficult situations, is that I will not turn into a bitter old woman.  We are praying that God will help us handle the unfair way that this was done with grace.  How we handle this will affect our children’s lives forever, as well as our own.  So far, we know that our actions and words have been appropriate to the best of our ability.  We want to be able to hold our heads high and not be ashamed of how we acted through this.  It’s not easy, but we have a great God who can help us each and every day!

Salsa Verde

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This week was fun!  My friend visited from out of town for 3 nights and we canned up quite a few things from the last remains of my bountiful garden.  It is looking pretty bedraggled by now, but we found a few items that we could still use. She brought a few green tomatoes and a few peppers from her garden as well. The recipe we used was from the Foods of the Pacific Northwest pamphlet, Salsa Recipes for Canning.   One thing we decided to make was Green Tomato Salsa, or Salsa Verde.  The recipe is also on the website for the National Center for Food Preservation.  It is called Tomatillo Salsa, but I always use green tomatoes for it.

We made a triple batch.  The onions I grew this year were very small.  We had to peel a LOT of them!  We both cried a couple of times while peeling and as we got a whiff of the aroma when we started to whirl them around in the food processor.  The rest was easy.  We just chopped everything up, measured it out into a big pot, and followed the directions in the recipe.  Then we canned it up.  We got about 22-24 jars of various sizes, but most were pints.  They all sealed and the next day, after they were cool, we put half in my basement and packed half for her to take home.  We had a wonderful time, visiting and canning and agreed:  We both have a strange sense of what fun is–but we both love to can and got a lot of pleasure from each other’s company and the rows of jars gleaming on the counter when we were done!

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

IMG_4686The garden is winding down, but I still got a few things this week.  I picked some zucchini, a few peas and pea pods, some strawberries, a few ripe tomatoes, peppers, and a lot of green tomatoes.  We harvested sweetmeat squash, and have plans to can salsa verde tomorrow.

IMG_1570I have gained so much pleasure from these zinnias this summer.  The seeds were purchased from the dollar store–4/packs for $1.  Since you don’t get very many seeds per package, I bought a handful.  I think I remember planting around 8 packs in my flowerbed.  They grew profusely.  We picked many bouquets and enjoyed looking at them outside my kitchen window.  I feel like I really got my $2 worth and will miss them when it frosts.

IMG_1522We had a wonderful vacation at Sunriver, Oregon.  My aunt kindly invited us to be her guest at her time share.  We took our 3 youngest children and a friend, filling our 6-person unit with fun and laughter.  Our children loved watching tv channels, as we don’t pay for cable at home.  We hiked around the paths, rode the bikes that came with the unit, and the kids swam in the pool.  We took sandwiches for the trip over, and cooked in the unit for the most part.  Each night for dinner, we ate together with my mom and aunt.  Sometimes they cooked, and sometimes we did.    We got the kids a few burritos at Taco Bell, and ate out on the way home, making the trip very affordable.  I took some projects with me and worked on them during my down time.

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A friend thought of us and gave me a banana box of cauliflower she gleaned.  We have several heads to eat fresh and froze 30 quart-sized zip-top bags full.  I wrote a post about how we did it here.

It was a good week.

Making My Home A Haven

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