November 26, 2011

Sick and won't be posting for a few days

I have been fighting a sinus infection for several days and went on some strong antibiotics yesterday.  The side effects are awful and I won't be posting for a few days. 

Should be back to posting, I hope by Tuesday, the 28th.

November 21, 2011

Christmas must wait -- it's Thanksgiving time

Each year the Christmas decorations go up sooner and sooner.  I was buying Halloween candy the day after Halloween when I realized that the music being played in the store was Christmas music.  I walked down the aisles and they had started to discount the Thanksgiving items.  I bought the candy and left the store a little upset.

Thanksgiving becomes more and more downplayed and diminished as the years go by.  It's kind of sad.  I have a lot of memories as a child when we would go visit relatives for Thanksgiving.  There would be a house full of people and many times we would up eating on chairs set up with t.v. trays nearby.  I thought that was really fun since my mom would never let us do this.  The food was abundant and very, very good. 

Time was spent watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and of course, football.  My uncles would go deer hunting during the day and come home in the evening cold and happy at their good fortune of getting a deer or two. 

Thanksgiving was a treasured holiday that seems to have become another day for Christmas shopping -- not in my home.  There was a time when you wouldn't even see a Christmas decoration going up until the first week in December.  In our town I have seen Christmas decorations not only going up before Thanksgiving, but being turned on. 

We cherish Thanksgiving and love the turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  We enjoy not doing anything except being with each other. 

As to the cost of the Thanksgiving meal, it has reportedly gone up but I feel it is still a good value.  I paid 49 cents a lb. for the turkey, 88 cents for a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, 38 cents lb. for yams, 2 bags of Pepperidge Farm stuffing for 50 cents each -- on clearance, 67 cents for canned pumpkin, 69 cents for frozen vegetables, 99 cents for Cool Whip, $1.28 for a bag of cranberries.  I have been buying the ingredients as they want on sale over the past few weeks.  Yes, in our area this meal is a good value and we look forward to sharing it with others.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family. 

November 16, 2011

Living on $250 Food Assistance

One of my followers sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago.  I think about this person daily and pray for her situation.  She is out of work due to an injury - she is in a lot of pain.  This lady supports 3 teenagers and they receive $250 per month in food assistance.    She has become an Aldi shopper.

Here is what I would like to do over the next day or so, let's come up with some menus and recipes to help this lady stretch that $250 to the maximum (she is doing this).  I just think it would be nice if we were supporting her and others like her with some new recipes that they can use and benefit from. 

Feeding teenagers on a frugal budget is definitely a challenge.  Fortunately her children are very supportive of her and her situation.  They are real troopers. 

November 12, 2011

Two Freezers????

Yes, that is what my husband said when I told him I wanted another freezer.  His response was that maybe if I used up what was in the other freezer I would have enough room and wouldn't need another freezer.

Men don't get it.

Right now we have a large upright freezer.  I think it is about 15 cubit feet.  It is full of meat, cheese and frozen veggies.  I would like a separate, small chest freezer for casseroles and such that I make ahead of time and also for day old bread that I get on sale.

First of all I'm not sure that I could plug in another freezer in the same outlet in our basement.  I should be able to, but I'm not sure and would have to have an electrician check this out for me.  

Second of all, he does have a point about using up what is in the first freezer to make room for more stuff.  However, the reason that this freezer is full is because I came across an in store deal on ground beef for only 80 cents a lb. and I bought as much as I could buy at the time. This is an example of how I shop for meat.  When I come across deals such as chicken hindquarters for only 39 cents a lb., turkey for 49 cents a lb., boneless pork loin for only $1.59 a lb. I buy a lot.  These prices don't come around very often and with prices increasing, I have to be able to buy in bulk when there is an exceptional deal. 

The bottom rack of my freezer is jammed with frozen vegetables that were on sale one week for only 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag. 

You may be wondering about the freezer above my fridge.  Yes, it is packed with day to day freezer items such as lunch meat, bread, ice cream and items I use for pizza. 

I am probably preaching to the choir here but I know that I would make good use of a second freezer and in no uncertain terms there is no way I would buy a third.  I believe wholeheartedly that our economy will never be the same again and that we need to go back to living like our grandparents - simply and frugally.  Grandma had a garden and canned and she helped to butcher and process her own meat.   I have the advantage of grocery stores that offer great deals that I can buy in bulk and freeze.

A small second freezer makes sense.  Convincing my husband of this will take a few months of hard work. 

How many freezers do you have?

November 11, 2011

Finding a Space

I have struggled for the past two years to come up with one spot in my house that I can call my own.  I wanted one room to be my office, sewing area, couponing, scrapbooking and craft area.  However taking over one room of the house isn't practical for our family. 

The den was going to be part office/part den, but my son uses that room to study.  He doesn't want me in there while he is studying and frankly, I can't work while he is in the room studying.  I like to listen to dvd's while I am working and he needs quiet. 

I decided that studying and getting good grades trumped my need to have an "office" in that room.   Before going further I need to explain what I mean by an office.  I need a spot where I can have a table and chair for when I need to type on my laptop and do my volunteer work, blog and a place where I can put things such as notes, papers and things for me to look over at a later date.

We have a tiny bedroom next to ours in the upstairs of our house.  And when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  We have lined the walls with bookshelves and technically it is more like a library than anything else.  Tonight I was able to rearrange book shelves so that I freed up enough space for a small desk (actually a rectangular shaped card table) and a file cabinet.  This is perfect for my needs.

Outside of this room is an alcove area where I have my sewing table with my sewing machine on it next to a file cabinet that contains notions and sewing supplies.  I also have plastic drawers that contain my fabric, patterns and my cross stitch supplies.  This area is perfect as a separate sewing space.

Around the corner from this is our bedroom and it contains another small alcove area.  Okay - perhaps I need to define alcove area - this is the area where the peaks meet in the gabled ceilings.  The ceilings are about 5 foot high in the center and then slope to a point where these areas have minimal use. 

In this area in our bedroom we have our old round diningroom table and I am making it my scrapbook, craft and couponing area.  Now when I want to leave my craft supplies or coupons out on a table, I can.  I don't have to move them when I need to do "office" type work.  I am hoping that over the next few days I can get all of my work areas pulled together. 

I am sooo tired of being disorganized and the frustration that comes with that.  It will be good to have a couple of areas where I can do my work and leave it undisturbed as needed.

Do you have any type of space in your home to call your own?  If not, seek a space.  I found mine in little places around my house.

November 07, 2011

Breakfast Casseroles - Another frugal meal

In our house we always seem to have a few slices of bread (usually the heels) left in a bread bag that end up drying out and no one wants to use them in a sandwich.  Now I use unwanted pieces of bread as seasoned bread crumbs, croutons and such, but my favorite thing to do with them is to use them in a breakfast casserole or Strata as some people call it.

I keep the ends of bread in a bag in the freezer and then when I have enough, it's time to make a breakfast casserole. 

Here is my original recipe that I got out of a church cookbook some 30 years ago. 

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

12 slices bread, cubed
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. cubed ham
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 stick margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Place 2/3 thirds of the bread cubes on the bottom of the pan.  Arrange the cheese and the ham over the top.  Pour the melted margarine over the remaining bread cubes.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.  Leave in refrigerator overnight.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Here is how I have made this casserole more versatile:

I reduce the amount of melted margarine to 1/4 cup and I also don't use near as much meat.  It's not necessary.

If I have no meat or cheese but a lot of bread, I make it into a French toast casserole.  Just sprinkle a bit of nutmeg and about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon into the egg batter.  Then sprinkle the top of the buttered cubes with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake as usual.  Serve with syrup.

I substitute sausage, bacon, even chicken for the ham.  I have used swiss cheese with the bacon, co-jack cheese, muenster and so on.  Basically I take any cheese I have on hand and use it.  Also, I tend to take the bits of cheese I may have left from another recipe and freeze it for this use.   

I love quiche because you can use up bits and pieces of meat and cheese but with this breakfast casserole you can also use up one more item and that is bread.

The only problem you may have is that when you start to tweak the recipe you may want to keep track of what you put in, because if it turns out really, really good you're family will want you to repeat it. 

November 02, 2011

What's for Dinner Tonight? Fried Rice

I love fried rice and so does my family.  It is a great way to use up a small amount of leftover meat that isn't enough for another meal. 

My recipe is one of those this and that kind of recipes.  The basic recipe is as follows:

1 small onion chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 eggs beaten

Cook and stir the onion in a little oil until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cooked rice and soy sauce.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in eggs; cook and stir until eggs are done, 4 to 5 minutes longer.

Okay, this is the basic recipe.  I have in my freezer about 1/2 cup of frozen peas and in my fridge I have a carrot that is getting a little limp.  I also have a piece of grilled chicken this about 1/2 size of my palm and about 2 slices of a pork loin roast from last night's meal. 

I will add the peas and carrot along with sliced pieces of the chicken and pork to the rice concoction.  You can of course use leftover rice - be it brown or white - both work well. 

Another alternative would be to make soup or a casserole.  Just be careful that whatever you make from leftovers serves one additional meal and that you don't end up making a meal from leftovers that becomes another leftover meal, unless you need to do this.  Plan for those leftovers but don't go overboard. 

November 01, 2011

Time for a Talk about Christmas

I think I struck a nerve with some readers about my article on Christmas gift giving.  It is November 1st so perhaps it is time to bring family members together and have a discussion. 

We are in year 3 of a global financial crisis and in our community we are experiencing new layoffs.   Just when you think it is going to get better, it doesn't. 

It's time to sit down and talk to your families about Christmas.  This could be the year that we end the madness and start to really feel the Christmas spirit.  If you were to start with spending half of the amount you normally spend and give the other half to charity (if you can afford it), that would be a great start.  I remember one year I received a note saying that a certain amount of money was given in my name to Heifer International.  I honestly thought that was pretty cool. 

So here's the challenge for this month - schedule a time to talk with family members about their expectations of Christmas and about how your family can get in the mindset of true giving this year at Christmas and each year hereafter.