Category Archives: Saving Money

Garden Tomatoes in December

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I was very excited to have a garden tomato on my sandwich today for lunch!  This year, we tried (as we have before) to get some tomatoes to ripen in the garage for us to eat during the fall.  We are very excited, because, this year–it worked!

Here, where I live in Oregon, our garden has already succumbed to killing frost.  There is a little Swiss Chard still alive down there, but very little else.  A few herbs have survived in my herb planter box.

In late October, before the killing frost, I picked as many green tomatoes as I could.  I only saved the ones that did not have a bad spot, a bit of blight starting, or any other thing that might make them go bad quickly.

Rob and I tried 2 different methods.  The first method was to wrap each nice green tomato in a white napkin and place them single layer in a box.  We got several good tomatoes from that box over the last few weeks.

The second method was easier.  We simply placed a bunch of green and ripening tomatoes in a cardboard box.  They were mostly Romas and we grabbed the ones that were turning red out of the box as they turned or rotted.  Some were also placed on cookie sheets because we had so many.

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By now, on December 10, they are looking pretty sad.  All of the ones that are wrapped, and on cookie sheets are either eaten or rotten.  The quality of the tomatoes is going down.  I have to cut out little spots of the “good” ones, and the texture is a little mushier than when truly fresh.  Clearly, I need to clean out this box as well.  I will get the ones that still look good out of there and either compost the rest of feed them to the pigs.  If you look closely, there are still a few good ones in there as well.  I don’t think that the green ones in there are going to ripen, but I’ll give them a few more days.

In our opinion, our experiment was a huge success.  We have had tomatoes for tacos, sandwiches and salads galore, for about 6-8 weeks after  our garden was finished.  I noticed that the Romas are better keepers and that it didn’t seem to make a difference if we wrapped them or not.  This was a good garden year, and there wasn’t much disease on the tomatoes, which helped, I’m sure.  I know this experiment is pretty well finished, but I sure enjoyed my sandwich today, knowing that the tomato I was eating was from my own garden, and that I haven’t had to buy tomatoes for quite a few weeks into the fall.  It was definitely worth the effort.  Success, any way I look at it!

Saving Money–Week Ending December 6, 2015

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I am still enjoying my zinnias from last summer–just in pictures now.  This peppermint-stiped one makes me think of candy canes, with it’s beautiful stripes.

I was pretty sick for the first half of the week, and am still coughing a bit.  I had to skip work for the most part, and only ended up giving one lesson the entire week.  That made it even more important to be careful with my money for the rest of the week.  Being self-employed means that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

I soaked white navy beans last Sunday.  On Monday, I found I had soaked way too many!  I ended up making ham and beans, and white bean chicken chili.  We ate those for several days and I froze enough for 2 meals, at least.

I was able to get several of my hoped-for grocery items. At Fred Meyers,  I got mini chocolate chips for $2/bag, milk for 99c for 1/2 gallon, oj for the same price,  and some M & M’s for $2/bag, some spices from the bulk section, and a few other things I needed.  I did pay $1.25 for a few cream cheeses, and then, of course, it came on for 99c today!

At Safeway, I had a $10/off $50 that I used.  I got 2 large laundry soaps,  4 apple juices for $1.25 each, 2 puddings and 2 jellos and a free bag of sugar with those items.  The last jello lasted us about 4 years.  We don’t use it much, so it will be nice to have it if a recipe calls for it.  The best thing was 10 lb bags of frozen thighs and drumsticks for $5.  That is 50 cents a pound–by far the best price I’ve seen here for years!  I got 3 of those and a few other things. I thawed and cooked one right away. With the coupon, it came in around $50, so I got around $60 worth of groceries at that store.

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I watched a lot of Andy Griffith shows on library DVD’s.  I embroidered dish towels while I did that.  I used a LOT of  tissues someone gave us for free a while back.  I also drank a lot of fizzy seltzer water the same person gave us.  I just put a little bit of juice or lemonade in the glass with ice, and filled it with seltzer.  It is like fake pop to me, and kept me drinking all day long.

I made a roast, the bean soups, used the rest of the turkey from Thanksgiving in turkey salad for sandwiches or salads, served some hot dogs that have been around a while. I did not make pizza as our menu plan called for, as we had enough food without it.  I did made  lasagna from some ricotta I had hanging around and took it to my sister’s today.  I buy ricotta from Cash and Carry.  It is much less expensive, but you get a LOT.  There was a little left from the last container I bought  about 6 weeks ago.  It lasts a long time as long as I am careful to not get anything in it that would contaminate it.

I did quite a bit of sewing.  I got Michaela’s pajamas done.  I sewed a pillowcase for a service project.  We tied a blanket for the service project, and Patsy made one for herself. I made a doll dress and a doll sleeping bag. I cut out pajamas for Lovana.  I have a lot left, but I will be working this week, so I’ll do my best.

Rob and the girls visited a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm and got ours for only $10.

Ja’Ana was able to sell a few pies for a fundraiser she participated in to start earning money for a retreat at church she wants to attend.  I’m still waiting to see how much she gets towards her trip.

I hope you were able to find some ways to save money this week, as well.  What did you do?

 

 

Saving Money–Week of November 30

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You may notice there is no dead tree in this picture.   It’s gone, and along with it, Rob’s worries  about it falling on our house, cars, and especially, Lovana’s bedroom!  It was a significant savings, too.  The loggers would not touch it, they said it was a  “widow-maker” and we should get a tree service to bring it down right away.  The first company wanted to charge us $1,200 to bring it down, and really weren’t very interested in the job–looked too dangerous.  On Wednesday, Rob drove by a tree service working in a neighbor’s yard.  He stopped and talked to them, and they drove right over and looked and quoted us $600.  They told him to call on Thanksgiving to finalize plans, so he did and they came Friday and took care of it!  What a blessing.  The pieces are laying on the ground, but that is no problem for us!  It was cheaper that way.

I planned menus for the week.

I did not shop for Thanksgiving.  Everything was from the freezer, pantry, etc. or other people brought it. I did spend about $50 on Saturday at Grocery Outlet to get a few things I needed, including gluten-free pretzels for an upcoming 4H community service project.  I will buy milk and butter if it comes on a good sale, otherwise, I’m done.

I made gluten-free stuffing with apples and water chestnuts.  I figure I saved about $15 by making my own stuffing croutons instead of buying 4 boxes for gluten-free stuffing mix for about $5 per box.IMG_1755 I got some flour sack dish towels to embroider at Walmart–10 towels for about $8.  I seldom go to Walmart as it is out of my way.  I was delighted that they were still very reasonable to buy there.  I love to embroider on them, compared to other towels,  since they wipe dishes so well.  They are pretty and very useful as gifts.

I got some good bargains at JoAnn’s, but did not over-do it.  I got a couple of craft kits/items to use as gifts for 50% off.  I was able to use several pieces of my fabric stash I already had at home for gifts, children’s projects, etc.  I still have quite a few gifts to work on.   I have a bad cold today, so stayed home from work.  I hope to sew a little in-between drinking tea and resting.  It’s just a cold, but it’s hard to teach piano when you are having trouble talking, since that’s all I do all day when I teach:)

I cooked another squash.  We were blessed with so many.

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Menu Plan–Week of Nov. 29-Dec.5, 2015

IMG_4698This week is going to  be another busy one around here!  All of our weeks are busy, but this one has some things to do that are unusual and interesting.   On Monday, our 18 turkeys are going to be butchered.  We had 1 left from the last time we butchered that we used on Thanksgiving, so we were ok with waiting until after the big holiday for our appointment.  Rob and Ja’Ana will drive 1-1/2 hours to the butchering company we use, after her guitar lesson in the morning, and get that done.  We have freezers to rearrange this afternoon to make sure they will all fit in.  Several of these turkeys are gifts for people for Christmas, so he will deliver some tomorrow after they are processed so we have less to fit into our freezers.  We are talking about a LOT of turkey. We are borrowing a grinder, and will spend quite a bit of time Tuesday grinding turkey burger from the breasts and thighs, and making  broth, if we can possibly find enough energy.

I work Monday and Wednesday this week.  Ja’Ana has her homeschool to do.  I need to work with her quite a bit on Tuesday and Thursday on that. I set her up for independent work on the days I’m teaching piano, and then do more math explanations, etc. on the days when I’m not.  Patsy goes to school Monday-Thursday, as usual, and we have some appointments on Friday, as we often do.  Then, there is youth group, dance classes, and an extra choir practice for the girls as well, plus that fact that Lovana works 30 minutes from home and doesn’t drive, so some days we can combine trips, but often drive 2 extra hours a day to take her to and from work. To top it off, I have quite a few projects in the works that I need to make progress on for Christmas.

So, this week’s meals need to be quick, use lots of freezer ingredients to make space for turkeys, or cook in the slow cooker so the food is ready in a hurry each evening.  Although eggs are a choice each morning, everyone doesn’t always choose to eat them.  I actually let them choose leftovers, if they prefer.  I also have cereal; most of us don’t enjoy it, but it is a choice, if desired.

Sunday:  Fried potatoes, eggs, turkey bacon l.o. from 4H

Dinner with extended family after church

Leftovers from Thanksgiving

Monday:   eggs, muffins from freezer, canned fruit

Pack lunches:  salad or sandwiches topped with l.o. ham, cheese, turkey, etc., carrot sticks, etc.

Ham and beans in the crockpot from Thanksgiving ham bone

salad or green beans

Tuesday:  eggs, fried ham

leftover ham and beans (pack Patsy’s lunch)

roast beef in crock pot, carrots, potatoes, salad

Wednesday:  eggs, pumpkin muffins, fruit

Salad or sandwiches (pack lunch for Patsy)

leftovers

Thursday: eggs, oatmeal, toast or more pumpkin muffins

leftover soup (pack lunch for Patsy)

(dance night–home at 6:30):Turkey-rice soup in crock pot

Friday:  yogurt, cereal, egg (if desired)

leftovers, salad or sandwiches

pizza (make 2 so we have leftovers)

Saturday:  choice of eggs, cereal, toast or muffins

leftovers (pizza, roast, soups, ham and beans)

leftovers (more of the above, or make French dip with roast)

If there are not enough leftovers for Saturday, I might make a vegetable-beef soup with the rest of the roast.  I will also grind the leftover roast beef in the food processor, mix with mayonnaise and relish, and make sandwiches from it, so I’ll see how the week goes and what’s left by Saturday.  We have quite a few hot dogs I can pull out in case we are burning another pile next weekend and want to roast them.

I cook vegetables each night, sometimes 2 different ones.  I will pull from home-canned green beans, home frozen cauliflower, broccoli or corn, carrots from the garden (in fridge)and salad ingredients (boughten), which I have.  We still have a few tomatoes ripening in the garage from the green ones I picked a month ago, but they are mostly gone.

To make:  pumpkin muffins, using squash I cooked the day before Thanksgiving.

To buy:  If milk or butter comes on sale, I will buy that.  Otherwise, I have enough of everything for the week.

Saving money–week of Nov. 16

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One of the things we spent a lot of time doing is working on our slash piles.  Recently, we had some logging done, and the piles that remain are our responsibility.  We could pay someone to burn them, but that would cost us quite a lot of money so we are attempting to do it ourselves.  We are having a hard time.  Rob spent a good deal of time on Friday to no avail.  On Saturday, he was able to get one pile burning well, and by evening it was burned down pretty well.  Pile #2 was difficult.  We both worked for several hours but it would never catch.

On Sunday, we had a sick child, so stayed home from church.  Our oldest daughter and husband came over when they heard burning was an activity they could join in on and we had another try at the 2nd pile.  At times, we had 2 large blazes going, on 2 different parts of the pile, and we though it was going to take off.  Sadly, it began to pour rain, drenching the fires.  After about 4 hours, we gave up, went inside and cooked a great meal and enjoyed each others’ company.  (Rob took J to the doctor today and she is fine–just a bad cold.)

We have 15 piles.  There are still 14 unburned.  It keeps raining.  The wood is wet.  We must burn them soon, so we can replant in time to save the forest deferment we have on our taxes.  H-m-m-m-m.  I’ll keep you posted!  We have high hopes, though.  We will save thousands of dollars by burning, and by paying lower taxes on the forested land.

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I enjoyed watching leaves change and fall.  It won’t be long until they are all down on the ground.  I also loved watching the woodpecker that has now pecked out large portions of the dead tree in his search for insects.  In fact, it is a little worrisome how much he has dented that tree!

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We cooked many meals from scratch.  Rob made this ham on the grill.  It was really good.  We also made crock pot meals and many recipes at 4H club.  We are still eating leftovers from that!

I’ve been drinking more water instead of other drinks.

My husband found my daughter a formal dinner dress at Goodwill for $12.99.  It was brand new and fit her.  All we are going to have to do is choose which sweater/cape/shawl, etc. she will wear with it. There is the faux fur one I made her last year.  It might work.   It saved me hours and hours to not have to sew one, and quite a bit of money as well.  The last one I made cost me at least $50-$60 in materials alone (which is cheaper than buying one, but still…)

We used some hazelnuts we were given and roasted them.

IMG_1711We were given some crab  and totally enjoyed that as well. All in all, it was a pretty good week!

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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

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!

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.