Friday, November 30, 2007

My Last Gardening Day of The Year!

I actually worked in the garden today (ok it was for like 5 min, but still!!!)

Last week my grandma gave me some Horseradish from her garden. She swears it will be just fine to plant now (She's probably right as she has grown Horseradish for about 100 years now) Anyway, as I was getting ready to have my neighbors over for dinner tonight I came across it and ran out and popped it in the ground. I also quickly dug up the dahlias I have been neglecting! It was COLD!

And right now, as I look out the window, it is beginning to snow! (and blow!!!!)

So officially, today, my gardening season is over!

I love the idea of perennial food. Plant (and purchase) once and reap the benefits indefinitely. In my last home I had an asparagus patch! I also had a big herb garden with a bunch of perennial Herbs. I'm planning my new herb garden for next spring-I hated being without one this past year. I would also love berries and fruit trees but I don't know how that will work out with the deer. (and space required for those!)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grandma Ruth's Pie Crust

My grandma makes a great pie crust. Seriously, it tastes like pastry, It is that light and flaky! Recently I was talking to her about it and found out it's cheap and easy too. If you like to buy those pre-made crusts, you'll love this recipe. (well maybe you won't because maybe you're buying them because it's easy-Well this is easy too-I swear!) It makes 6-Count em', 6 crusts that can be frozen until you need them.

Pie Crust
5 Cups Flour ($.60)
2 1/2 cups of shortening-($2.39) I used the butter flavored one-Yeah I know, you don't want to use shortening, I didn't either. This is pie though, it's not a healthy food. (If you're using those pre-made shells you're eating something just as bad and probably worse-I found on another website that those crusts contain partially hydrogenated lard and wheat starch, rather than flour, is the main ingredient. It also contains sugar, rice flour, gums, preservatives, and food colors.)
pinch of salt
1 Egg
2 tsp vinegar
Mix water, egg and vinegar to make one cup.

Cream shortening and flour. Add liquid to combine. Divide into 6 patties (5 if you use a deep dish pie plate) It will feel a little greasy. Freeze. If you're going to use it right away, refrigerate for 30 min. You'll need a bunch of flour to roll this out. You can work this dough to death and it's very forgiving. I swear this is one of the easiest crusts I've ever made. Each crust ends up costing $.49! (I didn't account for the egg, vinegar or salt as you probably already have those!)

I used it for the first time yesterday to make an apple pie and it was delicious!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Split Pea Soup and Other Stuff

I'm feeling kinda compelled to post something this morning as it is Wed already and I haven't posted since Thanksgiving! And because I know Jacquie is out there waiting for her daily installment and hasn't had one all week.

I've been doing some Christmas shopping so I guess I'm not feeling all that frugal as of late. (With cash though so that's a good thing!)

Today I am house bound as the car is in the shop (NOT frugal, I know!) My girl is still sleeping but when she wakes up we will be doing some Christmas decorating and some crafts of some kind to keep her busy. Also, we will be making an apple pie to take to the in-laws for dinner with the remaining apples we have and also making my favorite frugal soup-Split Pea!

Split Pea Soup

1 Bag of dried Split peas-I like the yellow rather than the green as I think it makes the soup look a heck of a lot more appealing. ($.69)
1 Onion (I'll call this $.25 but it's probably cheaper)
1 Ham Bone-This is a necessity. Don't try and make pea soup without it. (You need to save this from when you make a ham or a least con your mother-in-law into saving hers for you-I do both. If you aren't feeling all soupy when you first get the bone then pop it in your freezer. I think I have 2 in there right now. No need to even thaw-Just throw it into the pot when you are ready for it)
1 Carrot- You can live without this if you don't have it. ($.22)
Olive oil

Rinse your split peas. Dice onion and carrot and sauté in oil until onion browns and starts to caramelize. Add peas and stir. Add ham bone and enough water to cover. Cook until ham is falling off the bone and soup cooks to the consistency you want it to be(1-1 1/2 hrs). Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can add a bay leaf when cooking if you like as well as a little thyme if you have it but a lot of times I don't do that. You can use chicken stock instead of water but only do that if you have it. This soup is great just as is. The whole pot costs $1.16 to make! Can you even stand it!

When you put it in the fridge it will solidify into a block (or whatever shape you put it in). No worries, just add a little water to thin the next time you want some. This soup freezes really well too!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day Decorating

What is going on here? It's 3:19 pm. My guests are coming at 4. The turkey is cooking. My side dishes are done. I'm showered, sprayed and lipsticked. My daughter is clean. My husband is watching football. There is a fire started. I'm totally stress free 40 min before guests arrive! It's like the Thanksgiving Fairy showed up here and helped out! (actually it was my mom who kept my daughter all day yesterday so we could get ready)

Anyway, I was looking at my dining room and thought I would share my cheap dining room decorating for Thanksgiving. Here goes. I got the swags on the valances for $2 after Thanksgiving last year. The valances themselves were $2 at Linens and Things. The Tablecloth is 1/2 of a valance that I got from the same clearance pile for $2. China on the table was a set that I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond like 10 years ago. It is white with embossed fruit. The whole set probably cost $50. The centerpiece of pumpkins and gourds is made of leftovers from Halloween and sitting on a cake stand that Leighanne's mom gave me for my wedding shower! The candles are from the Christmas tree shop. The votives in the window were$1. The bench at the back was from Ikea and I painted it. If you look closely in the far corner you can see the school desk my brother re-finished for me.

The table and chairs, I'm not gonna lie to you, those were not cheap at all. (same with the chandelier) I wish you could actually see the table better because it's a beauty! But I'm mentioning them because that is where I do spend money-On things that I love and will have forever. If you don't waste money on things that don't mean much to you, then you can splurge where it counts to you! Curtains come and go, I'm gonna be buried with this dining room table!

Well I'm off to wait for my guests! Happy Thanksgiving!
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I know it's only Tuesday but tomorrow I'll be working on Thanksgiving preparations for the
first Thanksgiving dinner to be served at our house!

The following is from an Ann Landers Column and I usually get it at least once a year via email. Every time I read it, it touches me. We so often fret about things in our life that aren't just so or about the things we don't have while ignoring the blessings we live with everyday.

Things to Be Thankful For

Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means you have
enough to eat.

Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party, because it means you have
been surrounded by friends.

Be thankful for the taxes you pay, because it means you're employed.

Be thankful that your lawn needs mowing and your windows need fixing, because it means you have a home.

Be thankful for your heating bill, because it means you are warm.

Be thankful for the laundry, because it means you have clothes to wear.

Be thankful for the space you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it
means you can walk.

Be thankful for the lady who sings off-key behind you in church, because it
means you can hear.

Be thankful when people complain about the government, because it means we
have freedom of speech.

Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it
means you're alive.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not as edgy as I think I am........

Apparently, even with all this talk about my knobs, my blog is still rated G!

Product Review: Reynolds Handi Vac

Ok, if there is one thing frugal people do, it's freeze things!

I love to buy stuff on sale and freeze it for later use. I love freezing leftovers and surplus garden produce. I love whipping out my farmers market fresh blueberries in the depths of winter when blueberries are $4 a cup at Wegmans!

I used to have a Vacuum sealer (one of those long ones with the plastic rolls) You would think I would love it! Well I did not. It was messy to use, there was a lot of wasted plastic, and it was a pain to operate. It's a good thing It was free from someone because I tossed it.

Last week at Garden Club the Reynolds Handi-Vac came up in conversation. No one had tried it. A lot of people were wondering about it. The very next day, I got a request to review it. Bingo!

I have to say, I LOVE this thing!!! It came with 3 bags to start. I sealed a steak in one and used 2 bags for diced apples. It was very easy to use, not messy at all, and used far less plastic than the old type sealer. The seal is tight!! It was so tight actually that I needed to back off a little on the apples because I could see it was squeezing some of the juice right out of the apples. (I got the hang of it after a minute.)

I checked at the store. It was $9.99! Compared to whatever that old one was (I know they were A LOT more than $9.99) that is a bargain! (even if you don't compare it, I still think it's pretty reasonable and it comes with the batteries!) Bags were a bit pricier than regular freezer bags. (about $0.22 for the quart size and $.33 for the gallon) this is about double the price. It says not to re-use them. (which I don't for any meat based product anyway) but I don't see how there would be any harm in re-using the fruit and veggie ones.

I already bought another box of bags today at the store anticipating Thanksgiving leftovers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crock Pot Hot Cereal

If you know me at all, then you know I'm not a morning person. The funny thing about kids, well, they all seem like morning people. (My girl is anyway) and also, kids tend to want breakfast. And like most people, don't want the same breakfast every day. So, in my attempt to provide nutritious, EASY, cheap, EASY and different meals, I stumbled upon this great crock pot hot cereal recipe:

Crock-Pot Cereal
1 c. Oatmeal
1 c. Barley
1/4 c. unflavored tvp (tvp is available in the health food section at the grocery store and is sold as texturized protein granules.) It's a pretty cheap protein and you won't even taste it.
2+ tsp. cinnamon (more or less)

In the evening, stir together dry ingredients in your crock-pot.
8 cups cold water
3+ tsp. vanilla

Stir gently, set slow-cooker to just under 3, or low on a crockpot. In the morning, stir and serve.

I usually half this recipe as it's usually just my daughter and I eating this. It's enough for 2 with a good bit leftover if you half it. This recipe is great because you can substitute any grain you have, it sneaks a great bit of protein into your breakfast, it's ready when you get up and you can serve it with any number of toppings. A few days ago I topped it with some applesauce I made and milk. It's also great with maple syrup.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Take a Look at My Knobs!

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist the title!

When we moved into our house last year I made a slide show of about 100 pictures of the house (I only sent it to people who would appreciate that kind of detail or at least not tell me I was boring them to death!) When Deanna's husband saw it he said something like "Please tell Chrissy I loved looking at all of the pictures of her knobs!"

Anyway, here is another picture of my knobs. These are not the knobs from last year though-These are my new improved knobs! These are knobs that I trash picked today! (Can you even stand it!)

While Michael was over today cutting a piece of wood to fit the seat of a bench that I trash picked last week, I noticed a huge pile of stuff over at my neighbors house. On closer inspection I found 2 1/2 antique beds and a mirror and while I was making Michael help cart those over to the house my neighbor brought out a door with these beautiful knobs attached to it! Micheal pulled out a screwdriver and popped these babies off the door for me! (and then very nicely installed them on my closet and bathroom doors in the front foyer)

So now, not only do I have my own husband doing my dirty work and carting things off the street, I also have my friend's husband helping as well. I'm sure he's sorry he stopped by!

Holiday Spud Gift Tags

Last night at Garden Club we made these adorable holiday gift tags. If you live with a child who does arts and crafts at your house and plan on making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, then you probably have everything you need to make these cards.

All we did was take a potato, carve a shape into it (or whittle one out of it.) spread some paint onto it and then stamp it onto card stock. We cut the cards out with scrapbooking type scissors, punched a hole in them and then tied with a bit of raffia.

They are actually pretty cute and now I don't have to buy gift tags!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Apples, Apples, Apples!!!

Oh boy!

Today we took a drive along the lake to one of our favorite nearby small towns on the water. Once there, we stopped in an adorable little coffee/sandwich place that we love and had coffee and muffins. I mentioned that I would like to stop and get some apples on the way home as I had used all of the remaining apples we had to make applesauce!

Did I ever get apples!

We came upon a farm market that had bushels of apples for $10! What a deal. We even got to make our own bushel (which turned out to be a huge box) so we picked only nice apples and have a great mixed variety as well. When we got home I weighed them. We have 56 LBS OF APPLES! (for those of you not sitting next to your calculator that is $0.18 LB!!!) When was the last time I paid that much for apples. I'll tell you-NEVER!

Now, you have to make sure when you get a deal like this that you actually USE all of the apples so you realize your savings and don't waste food. I am planning on A LOT more applesauce, will give some apples to my parents, and will try and whip up some apple liqueur. I may also get out the dehydrator and make some apple chips. We will eat a lot of these and I plan to make some pies! Any other ideas would be well appreciated!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Homemade Applesauce

The other night Kristin and Michael had a dinner party with an apple theme. As a favor, Kristin made homemade applesauce. When my daughter got a hold of it, she ate the entire 6oz jar in one sitting! While she was eating it she kept saying "mmmmmmm...." and "mommy have some of this yummy applesauce."

So time to make applesauce I think!

I have an abundance of apples from Kelly's, so all I needed to do was go to the garage and get them! 9 apples and some water and I was good to go. I peeled the apples and took out the seeds. I cooked it until it was very mushy. While I was cooking it I added some cinnamon. Kristin had pureed it as well because her baby was going to eat it and I think that is why my girl liked it so much so I whirred it around with the hand blender for a minute or so.

It is so so good! I used about $2 worth of apples and go double what you would normally get for $2 of the Wegman's brand so this was not a huge savings. However, when I buy applesauce I always buy the natural to avoid the sugar( corn syrup) , and of course, the natural does not come with cinnamon or the smoother texture of the homemade! So I got exactly want I wanted which was also a better product for very little effort. (and less cash)

Kristin told me that you could also make applesauce in the microwave but I wanted to have all that apple cinnamon goodness bubbling away in the kitchen. It smelled heavenly as it was cooking!

Effortlessly Saving Money-Wash in Clold!

Well it's Friday again, and time for another edition of Effortlessly Saving Money.

Consider washing your clothes in cold water. Yes, they get clean! (I do wash all towels as well as undies in hot water and my girl's clothes in hot because she gets so much FOOD on them)

Sometimes I purchase the Tide Cold Water version and sometimes I don't (I think it's time for me to check out Consumer Reports and do another detergent comparison.) Depends on how much cash I feel like spending on the wash when I'm at the grocery store. Anyway, our clothes look fine and I believe conventional wisdom is that they last longer in cold.

At the very least, rinse in cold. Your clothes are already clean, they don't need additional hot water to finish the job. I have the wonderful Whirlpool front loader pictured at the top. (And I will wax poetic about front loaders in another post-17 gal of water vs 40 for a traditional machine for starters!) Anyway, that washer ONLY rinses in cold. You don't even get a choice. I figure all of Whirlpool can't be wrong. And if you are using a traditional washer the savings is even bigger!

Another tip that I would also like to add is good for the planet as well as your wallet!