July 29, 2011

Adventures with a Church Youth Group

Adventures isn't quite the correct wording for what I went through yesterday - perhaps it was more like a quest or journey of hysterical fun with a bunch of teenagers. 

I am helping with our church youth group and yesterday I went with the group "tubing" down a river.  We drove to Boone, Iowa which was about a 2 hour drive from our town and went to Seven Oaks.  It is a wonderful place to go for skiing and water adventures as I am now calling it.  There were 17 teens and 3 adults on the trip.  We were driven to the Des Moines river in a school bus and were handed huge air tubes along with life jackets and we were ready to take off on the river. 

We sat down in our inner tubes and started our journey down the river - 7 miles to be exact.  It took 3 hours for all of us to float down the river.  We had an absolutely great time and I learned many things along the way.  First of all, kids take their cell phones everywhere including tubing on a river.  They put them in water proof cases so that they can text each other down the river.  Second, it is peaceful, except for the distant giggles of girls swimming and tubing along the way.  Third, watching nature as you go along drifting down the river can be awe inspiring.  I'm talking about beautiful birds (no snakes thankfully).  A hawk and other birds were diving around us and then underneath a train trestle.  Then there were the beautiful species of plants, flowers and trees.  Fourth, drifting down a river makes you look at the flow of the river and consider how it cuts it's way through the earth along the path the water flows.  Fifth, there was the struggle against the current if you tried to swim a little across the river or trying to slow your speed down in order for someone to catch up with you.

When the river "ride" was done, we dried off and changed our clothes and left for home on our church's little bus.  Everyone was a little tired and happy and chatting along the way until ...... the bus overheated and broke down 40 minutes from home.

A member of our church is a mechanic so he left work to come and help us.  In the meantime we called 4 parents and they were happy to get in their cars and vans to come and pick up the kids.  In the meantime while we were waiting by the side of the highway we played "Survivor".  We joked that just in case we were stranded for days, we had to pick which person we were going to eat first.  Everyone was laughing and of course texting.  Kids were counting cars going by and getting semi-trucks to honk their air horns.  Within an hour the kids were picked up and were on their way and the mechanic had arrived.

We got the bus going and then it broke down for a 2nd time only 8 miles from home.  We gave it our all that's for sure. 

So there are wonderful memories of yesterday and tubing down a river, surviving a bus breakdown and the memories that go with both events. 

I slept 10 hours last night and I awoke knowing that I am so lucky and happy to be a part of a wonderful church and that I am healthy and have enough energy to help with a youth group.

Tonight I baked some banana bread.  I love this recipe.  I am baking it to take to church on Sunday as I supply coffeetime treats for our Hispanic service.  So I am ending with a recipe and also this advice.  If you are lonely, find a church where you can grow and serve, even if serving means tubing down a river with a bunch of teens. 

Banana Bread

3 ripe bananas
1 egg
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan with butter or shortening, dust with flour.

Mix butter, bananas and egg together.  Add vanilla and blend with a hand mixer.  Sift flour, salt and baking soda together in a separate bowl. 

Blend flour mixture into wet ingredients a little at a time.  Stir in white sugar and beat on low.  Stir in brown sugar and nuts.  Pour batter in loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then check to see if the bread is done.  If not, lightly cover with foil and then bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, run a knife along the sides and remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

July 27, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Eight - Canning

Picture from naturesmom.com
We're back to Amy Dacyczyn and the great advice that she offers in our Tightwad Gazette Series.  In today's reading Amy talks about canning.  She gives some great information on canning cheaply and in encouraging people to give canning a try. 

Amy doesn’t get into the basics of canning, as there are a lot of sources out there. She recommends the “Ball Blue Book: The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing” which you can buy or borrow from the library. Instead Amy covers the Tightwad angle on canning. Specifically she’ll dispel some myths and pass along some time and money saving pointers.

First the myths:

1. Canning is difficult, tedious and time-consuming. People assume canning is difficult because they are unfamiliar with it. Amy says “If you can drive a car, you can learn to can.”

Canning can seem tedious and time consuming as you will be processing a great amount of food in one day, but as you use the food, you will notice a time savings. An example is canning your own homemade spaghetti sauce vs. making a new from scratch batch every time you want spaghetti.

2. Canning is not economical. This is usually based on buying your equipment new and not factoring in that you will be able to re-use the equipment year after year. The savings depends on what you’re canning and where you get the produce and fruit to can. Do you grow your own or are you given produce? Do you buy everything at a farmer’s market or at another store? Growing your own produce is economical and healthier as you know what you put on your plants.

3. Canning is unnecessary for people who have freezers. Many people who can also own freezers as they prefer some vegetables frozen and some canned. My mom canned green beans but she always froze corn. Canning is a flexible method for surplus. If your freezer gets full you can still process food for later use by canning. Also canned food is “immediate” in that it is ready to use versus having to be thawed out. Canned foods can make wonder gifts.

Now, here are some Tightwad tricks that Amy uses:

1. Get equipment cheaply. Put the word out for what you need and you may be quite surprised at what people are ready to give to you. Look for canning jars at yard sales and perhaps you can borrow a pressure canner from someone. Go to a thrift store and see if they have any canning supplies.

During the spring and early summer you will see the canning jar lids on sale and many times there will be coupons for these. When lids are on sale, stock up for as many as you think you will need. Also when canning spices, salts and sugar are on sale, stock up in anticipation of canning.

2. Use the right sized canning jar. Amy uses small mouth quart jars for all canning aside for pickles and jams. This fits the needs of her family.

3. Save on energy. For foods that can be either pressure canned or water bathed, Amy uses a pressure canner to save energy.

4. Cut small and pack tight. The more food you pack into a jar, the more efficient and economical the operation becomes.

5. Use the hot pack method when possible. Food shrinks during cooking, so filling jars with precooked foods instead of raw food saves space.

Canning also has a psychological value of providing for your family. For many people there is nothing like looking at a pantry full of home canned items. I have only canned things like jams, applesauce and apple pie filling.

Next year I have a goal of planting a garden and learning to can. A big part of it has to do with economics and another part has to do with knowing what I put on my plants and that it is organic.

I would love to hear any other ideas for canning or why you can.  My biggest fear with canning is using a pressure cooker.  I have never used one and the thought has always scared me.  But since I can drive a car, I need to get over my fear and learn to use one. 

July 25, 2011

From the Pantry - Hungry Boys' Casserole

This weekend we attended my husband's 35th class reunion and we had a great time.  By the time you are in your early 50's, no one at a reunion cares about what you drive, what kind of house you live in or what your income is.  They just care about your kids, pets and perhaps grandchildren and want to reminisce about the good ole days in high school.  It was a lot of fun. 

But now, on to another recipe from the pantry and it is another "bean" recipe.  This is one of my favorites but I wouldn't serve it back to back with other bean recipes if you know what I mean.  This recipe is a stand by and it is really delicious.  What I like about this recipe and the recipe for the Chili Beef Casserole is that both of them are different from a baked bean casserole recipe.   

Hungry Boys' Casserole

1 lb. hamburger
1 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or substitute dried minced garlic)
1 can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 - 1 lb. cans pork n beans, undrained
1 tomato paste can full of water

Brown the hamburger with the celery, onion and garlic til hamburger is cooked and vegetables are tender.  Drain.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together.  Pour into a casserole dish (I use an 11 x 7 inch rectangular pan).  Top with drop biscuits (recipe follows).


1 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup milk

Sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the margarine.  Add the milk and stir into a dough.  Drop by tablespoons on top of bean mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. 

This is a hearty recipe and I love the homemade drop biscuits on top of this casserole.  My family loves this recipe and we usually don't have enough leftovers for another meal. 

When celery goes on sale, I buy it and slice it and freeze it in 1/2 cup portions for casseroles.  Just thaw and saute and use in your recipe.

July 23, 2011

From the Pantry - Chili Beef Casserole

Here's a recipe that has ingredients straight from the pantry. If I don't have an onion on hand, I use dried minced onion or I add some onion powder.  It is a hearty casserole that is very good for home and for a pot luck at church.

1 lb. ground beef (or less)
1 small onion chopped
1 16 oz. can pork n beans, undrained
1 can corn, undrained
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cups corn chips OR cornbread batter
1/2 cup (or less) shredded cheese - can be optional

In skillet brown ground beef with onion, rinse or drain the fat.  Add the beans, corn, and chili powder.  Pour into a casserole dish and top with the corn chips OR make a cornbread batter from 1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix OR do as I do and make your own cornbread batter from scratch.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

This is one of those recipes that I always have the ingredients on hand.  When I first made this recipe about 20 years ago I topped it with the corn chips as the recipe directed.  One time I didn't have corn chips and didn't want to go to the store so I added cornbread batter and we liked it a lot better.  I also feel is is better for you without the corn chips.

You can make a lot of casseroles out of pork n beans and that is why I stock up on these during the summer when they are on sale really cheap.  I always buy a year's supply at this time. 

July 22, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Seven - The Pantry Principle Update

Before I get into the content of this post, I wanted to say something that has really gotten my attention this week. There are a few visitors to my blog that have recently faced unemployment in their families. As far as recent, I am talking about within the past month.

If you or anyone in your family have been unemployed, it would be great to hear from you about that experience and how you got through it. Or in the alternative, perhaps you are still unemployed and struggling to find work. I would definitely like to hear your comments on what it has been like and how you have or are coping.

Now onto the Tightwad Gazette III. Tonight’s reading is an update from Amy on the pantry principle.

The Pantry Principle Update

In an update from a prior article on the Pantry Principle, a reader had written to Amy and asked what does a “tightwad” pantry include?

This is indeed a wonderful question. However, because people have different needs, preferences and resources, there is no real must list for a pantry according to Amy. Instead Amy offered a list of what was in her pantry and you can revise it to meet your family’s needs.

1. Baking supplies: Baking powder, baking soda, yeast, salt, cocoa, coconut, sunflower seeds, soy flour, eggs, bulk purchased gelatin, cornstarch, vinegar, paste food coloring and colored sprinkles.

2. Breads: Whole wheat loaves, bagels, English muffins, saltine crackers. (They make other breads.)

3. Cheese: Parmesan, cream and hard cheeses when the price drops below $2.00 per lb. (Remember, these are 1996 prices.)

4. Cold cereal: Any cereal when price drops to 7 cents per ounce, frequently corn flakes, rarely presweetened cereal.

5. Condiments: Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard. (They make jams, pickles and relish.)

6. Fats: Corn oil, olive oil, margarine, shortening, no stick spray.

7. Fruits: Apples, bananas, raisins, and occasionally, other fresh fruits when on sale. Canned pineapple and other canned fruit as it turns up in “mystery cans” from the salvage store. (They grew strawberries and acquire blackberries, blueberries, and pears from a relative.)

8. Grains: White flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, rice, popcorn, wheat germ.

9. Juices: Orange, apple, grape and lemon.
10. Legumes: Peanut butter, dried beans, dried peas, lentils.

11. Meats: Chicken parts, ground beef, ground turkey, whole turkey, tuna, ham, pork shoulder, bologna, hot dogs, bacon, salami, kielbasa, and other meats when sale price is low enough.

12. Milk: Dry milk, whole milk.

13. Non-nutritious beverages: Tea, ground coffee.

14. Packaged dinners: Macaroni and cheese.

15. Pasta: Spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta when the price drops to 33 cents a lb.

16. Seasonings and flavorings: A large selection of herbs and spices, wine and sherry for cooking, bouillon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, artificial vanilla extract, maple extract.

17. Sweeteners: White sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, molasses, honey, corn syrup.

18. Vegetables: Onions, celery, potatoes, frozen French fries, instant mashed potatoes, tomato paste. (They grow a wide variety of items.)

So that is what is in Amy’s pantry and freezer. Mine is different and so is yours. For example, mine includes a lot of canned creamed soups, canned vegetables and fruits along with spaghetti sauce and canned tomato products.

When you keep a stocked pantry you can skip shopping for groceries when it is necessary, you rarely run out of an item and you save time by going to your pantry to make up your menus. It is a definite win win situation.

July 21, 2011

Pie Crust, Face Wash and Corn

First of all, it is raining! It is absolutely pouring and after a heat wave that has had a heat index of up to 128 degrees here in Iowa, it is so wonderful to see rain fall from the sky. I sat on the back porch for a while and I watched the birds flying through the rain. It is such a wonderful sight.

Today I am going to share three recipes for pie crust. The first is my mom’s no fail recipe.

Never Fail Pie Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
5 ½ tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix together egg, water and vinegar. Pour into flour all at once and blend with a fork until dough forms a ball. Do not over mix. Wrap with plastic and chill in refrigerator. Use as directed in recipe.

Pie Crust Recipe 2

3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
About ½ cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add water. (When adding water to any recipe I don’t just dump it in. I pour it in slowly while I am stirring the dough with the fork. Sometimes you don’t need as much as you think.) Stir til mixed and form a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator.  Use as directed in recipe.  The key to a good pie crust is not to work the dough too much as this will toughen the crust.  

If you have never made a pie crust, you need to try it.  It may take a few attempts, but once you have mastered this, you will be able to turn out all kinds of pies.  Pie making is becoming a lost art these days.

No Roll Pie Crust

1 cup flour
½ cup margarine, softened
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut ingredients together. Pat into a 9 inch pie plate. Fill with filling and bake.

Now on to my face wash or soft soap recipe. As I get older I have taken on a more basic regimen as to my skin. Over the past few months I have become more and more disappointed with face washes. My skin never felt good. So I thought it was time to make my own.

I decided to use what grandma used and that was “Kirk’s Original CoCo Castile Soap.” It is a pure coconut oil soap and it doesn’t leave residue on the skin. Coconut oil is very moisturizing too. I am able to purchase it at a local grocery store for 99 cents a bar.  Dove bar soap is a great option also.

So I made a soft soap out of the bar and I had so much of it that I had to put the bulk of it in an old spaghetti sauce jar and the other is on a small dish detergent bottle.

Here is the “recipe” and my modifications.

Grate some soap bars and add 3 cups soap flakes to a bowl. Set it aside. Boil a pot of water and pour 3 cups over the soap flakes. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flakes are dissolved in the water. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and continue to mix all of the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Pour into containers and soap is ready to use after it has cooled.

I modified the recipe by using a stick blender to the melted concoction (after the olive oil has been added) and I emulsified it as the soap flakes didn’t totally melt and mix with the water. It turned out very, very creamy but still a little too thick for my personal preference so I added a little more boiling hot water until it was the perfect consistency.

I made this at the end of June and I can’t remember how many soap flakes I got from the one bar of soap. I think it was 1 ½ cups of flakes came from 1 bar of soap so I simply halved the recipe.

I use this for my face wash and I love it. I hate using a bar of soap to wash my hands or face as the bar gets a little messy over time. This recipe, especially when emulsified, makes a lot of “face wash” or “soft soap” and it will last a much longer time than simply using a bar of soap.

Using this also as a hand soap keeps your hands soft than a harsher store bought soft soap.

Now as to corn.

Corn is in a lot of food products and most of this is in the ingredient high fructose corn syrup. However, other corn products that we use quite a bit are cornmeal, grits, frozen corn and canned corn and, especially here in Iowa, gasoline with an ethanol blend. Here’s the problem, due to the floods and droughts, the corn crops have not been very good. This means higher prices for corn products for us and feed products for animals. Higher feed prices once again means higher prices for meat.

Perhaps to offset this is that many farmers have been selling off their animals early due to the severe heat. So, it may be that meat prices may or may not go up. It’s hard to say. But for now, let’s look at corn.

Cornmeal is something that I love to have as part of my pantry. Aside from cornbread it is good for breakfast as fried cornmeal mush and I also use it in some multi grain bread recipes. Cornmeal is a good food. I’m not sure how much we will be paying for cornmeal in the future, but I am not willing to take that gamble.

I purchased cornmeal on sale at Wal-mart recently and I froze it for 24 hours and then I have it in a container with bay leaves to keep any bugs away.

I was able to purchase about 18 cans of corn a couple of weeks ago for only 29 cents each. I like having canned or frozen corn on hand for casseroles and soups and I know that 29 cents is an incredibly low price that I may never see again.

Keeping my pantry stocked with basic foods that I can use in numerous ways is a priority for me. Storing them properly is equally important so no matter what, only buy what you can use in a reasonable amount of time. I have plenty of flour on hand – probably around 100 lbs. Yes, I know that is a lot of flour, but I do a lot of baking and I give a lot of my baked goods away. 50 lbs. of that flour was found on clearance at Wal-mart when they were having a clearance sale on their huge containers of food. I was able to buy 25 lb. bags of flour for only $5.00.

For some individuals having and maintaining a large stockpile of food is overwhelming. I understand that. If that is true for you I highly recommend at least maintaining a good quantity of basic baking items such as flour, sugars, cornmeal, oatmeal and other grains. You will save money and you will only concentrate on this area of your pantry.

Tomorrow we will look at some more tips from the Tightwad Gazette III.

July 20, 2011

Ode to Laundry and Cinnamon Rolls

Yesterday I washed clothes and hung everything on the clothesline in 115 degree heat.  I think it took about 10 minutes per load to dry. 

Today I washed bedding, quilts, comforters and towels.  I hung everything on the line.  I let the towels get almost dry and then I tossed them in the dryer for about 10 minutes to fluff and get soft.

It is now 10:15 p.m. and I have made 3 dozen cinnamon rolls.  One pan is in the oven and 2 more are in the rising phase and will be ready to bake soon. 

All of this to say that I am bone tired and will post tomorrow what I was going to post today.

Tomorrow I want to give you my recipe for making a soft soap or actually my own face cleanser using a bar of Castile soap.  Castile soap is made with coconut oil and it is very good for your skin.   Also, I want to talk about corn.  Yes, corn.  Not just corn, but cornmeal, corn products and yes even high fructose corn syrup.  And I will also add a couple of my recipes for pie crust that "Debs" requested.

July 19, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Six July 19th

Here is today's reading from the Tightwad Gazette III.  After typing this post, I was hungry for homemade pie.  But with the temps in the upper 90's and the heat index at 120 degrees, I am not heating up my oven today.


Amy advises that anyone can learn to make a great pie with a little practice. I totally agree with this. Pie crust takes practice but even if the top crust turns out less than “perfect looking”, it will still taste great. Even if you get the bottom shell in the dish and fill it, you can roll out the top crust, cut pieces out of it and lay them on the top of the filling. It works great and looks rustic. Polish it off with a little egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar and in the oven it goes. Give it a try. This rustic way is especially good with a meat casserole filling.

There are two rules to pie crust making: don’t overwork the dough and add ice cold water to the flour mixture. It should be just moist enough to hold it together.

I make several pie crust dough balls at a time.  I roll them into a ball and flatten them, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a Ziploc bag and put in the freezer. Then I just have to thaw the crust when I am ready to bake a pie.

Amy keeps a bag in her freezer to deposit the scraps of crust after making a pie. When she accumulates enough dough, she uses it for a quiche.

For my family, I take the scraps and roll them out, spread with butter and cinnamon and sugar and then roll up like a cinnamon roll. Slice the dough and bake for 10 minutes along with the pie.

Amy grows her own pumpkins and butternut squashes and then makes her own pumpkin and squash puree. She freezes this for pies. When she has room in her freezer, she will then set aside a day to bake pumpkin pies. A friend collected aluminum pie tins for her. She bakes the pies, allows them to cool and then she puts them in the freezer, unwrapped until they are frozen. She wraps them in plastic wrap and stacks them on top of each other. Then they just have to be thawed out and warmed in the oven. Fruit pies can be frozen unbaked.

If you can master making pie crust you will then be able to make your family all sorts of pies from items that perhaps some people give you. In our area we have mulberries growing all of the countryside. They taste like a blackberry. These berries make delicious pies (and jams). If anyone asks if I want some, I always take them.

Also, you can take leftover meats with some gravy and some vegetables and pour into a pie crust. Top with a lattice crust and you have a grand leftover supper pie. I use pie crust to make meat tarts out of browned hamburger seasoned with onions and some chopped carrots for a perfect meal for a winter evening.

Remember, when learning any new skill you will have some failures. Take those failures and make them into those little pastry cinnamon rolls for your family and they won’t even think it was a failure. They will love them.

Page 58 – WHAT TO DO WITH . . . .

1. Old baby gates. Use as a drying rack for sweaters that need to dry flat. Simply place the rack over the bathtub.

2. Mustard squeeze containers. Use for cake decorating. The tips can be cut with a sharp knife to make different designs. I have used this idea when I was “filling” cupcakes with a frosting/filling. It worked great.

3. Old T-shirts. Cut into a long strip 2 inches wide. (Start at the bottom and cut around and around into one long piece.) Stretch this so that it curls to make a cord. Crochet into hot mats, doormats and even baskets. Use colored shirts to create designs.

Here is a link with step by step instructions. I am definitely going to try this one. I think it would be a great idea to make a rug to put in front of my kitchen sink. I would have to put a rubber pad underneath to keep it from moving though. This would make a great gift and it is another way to recycle old t-shirts.

4. Holey rubber gloves. Cut into sections. These make great rubber bands which can be custom cut for specific uses. Fingers make small ones, cuffs make large ones.

5. Potato Peelings. Scrub your potatoes well and peel with a knife, trying to get large pieces. Place peels in a bowl and add salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Grease a cookie sheet and place the skins on it. Bake in a hot oven at about 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until done. Remove from oven, sprinkle with grated cheese, then return to the oven just until cheese melts. These sound good without the cheese too.

These were some great "use it up" tips.  We need to remind ourselves that we can sometimes be wasteful without thinking.  The next time I peel potatoes, I will dig into the potato to get a little more potato on the peel and I will make potato skins for a snack.  Of course that will have to wait until we are done with this incredible heat wave.  I'm starting to think I live in the Iowa "Sahara" Desert.

July 18, 2011

Let's Help Each Other Out

Tomorrow I will be posting from our Tightwad Gazette III reading. 

This afternoon I was reading some of the comments on my site.
Rose over at Simple Everyday Living posted some comments as to my pantry and the amount of meat I have in my freezer for a 6 month supply.  I will do my best this week to follow up with the answer to that question.  As many people know, I am a big believer of buying items on sale and stocking up. 

In the meantime, I know there are people that read my blog and have great ideas of their own on saving money.  Some are on my blog roll.  If you're not on my blogroll and you want to share some money saving tips, leave a comment with your blog link and I will put it on my blogroll.  Sometimes you think that no one will want to do some extreme things to save money, but I am here to tell you that even extreme ideas are welcome. 

Just use your imagination.  I really believe that people need to come to the realization that we need to view our money as a precious commodity, be better stewards of what God has given us and that it is okay to adopt a "Great Depression like" mentality of stretching our resources. 

Then I think it would be wonderful if you would challenge yourself to learn one new skill over the next few weeks.  It could be that you don't cook much and need to learn.   For me it will be gardening and canning.  It is too late to plant this year, but I can start to read and study the subject so I can be prepared to garden next year.  Perhaps I should be digging up some ground in my backyard this fall to prepare my garden for the spring.  I have no idea.

So post your blog links and let's help each other out.

July 16, 2011

The Economy is in Bad Shape - No News Here

Over the past several weeks, or should I really say months, Congress has been at odds regarding raising the debt ceiling. The economy is in bad shape and frankly I am quite worried. That is all I will say about that. I don’t want to talk politics, I just want to say that we are living in a very difficult economic time. The one thing that I have learned from this is that we have to depend on ourselves to take care of our own family, neighbors and friends. This is a philosophy that was common amongst our grandparents and great grandparents.

I have been listening to the news and reading the paper and here is what I have learned:

1. Crops are failing due to the weather – flooding, droughts, storms. Crops failing mean prices are going up on items such as food and clothing as two examples. Of all the problems with the weather one thing made me sit up and really take notice. There was a dust storm in Phoenix on July 5th and the pictures that were shown of that dust storm looked exactly like the Black Blizzards of the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.

2. Oil prices are fluctuating up and down and there is uncertainty as to when prices will drop and level off for good.

3. Our economy continues to struggle.

4. Unemployment remains high and lay offs continue.

5. The housing market is still in the toilet.

Forget Obama care and forget if you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Tea Party member or anything else – truth is we can point the blame at a lot of people which is easy to do when you are looking at anything in hindsight.

Back in 2009 I was optimistic about our economy as I felt that by the end of 2010 we would be working our way out of this economic mess. Now I truly believe that we have a few years ahead of us until we begin to recover. 

I have been reading a book entitled The Great Depression: A Diary. It was written by an attorney who lived in Youngstown, Ohio and as you can guess, he kept a diary from the crash and throughout the Great Depression. His diary mirrors a lot of what we are going through right now. There are so many comparisons but most of all he gives advice to anyone who reads his diary about how to be financially secure in your life such as simply not borrowing much and living way below your means so that you can put money away for hard economic times.

Ever since we got back from vacation I have become increasingly concerned about my family’s future.  Costs are up and lay offs continue and if you have a job it doesn't mean that you will keep your job.  So what is a person to do?

Sit down and take a piece of paper and ask yourself this question. If this continues for several years, what is my plan for my family’s financial future?

Here is the list that I came up with:

1. Next year I will find a place in our small backyard to plant a garden and grow as many of our vegetables as possible.

2. Money comes with responsibility. I will look at all money that comes in our house as a precious commodity.

3. I will take better care of what we already have be it furniture, electronics, cars, clothing or food.

4. I will not waste anything and will find opportunities to save our resources.

5. I will make a list of financial goals for our family.

6. I will refer to the Tightwad Gazette books often for ideas.

During the spring when I was eating out of the pantry and freezer, my freezer and pantry didn’t get totally depleted, but both went down by about one-third. There weren’t a lot of sales on meat until about 3 weeks ago. I realized that from what I was reading in the paper about prices going up, that I really had to spend extra money in order to stock and really pack my freezer.

Right now I have a 6 month supply of meat, toiletries, baking items, laundry supplies and paper products. I have about a 4 month supply of canned goods and a 3 month supply of cereal.

My grocery budget for as long as possible will be $37.50 per week ($150 for a 4 week period). I want to leave a generous amount for fresh produce and to also pick up some sale items such as canned goods and cereal. Even though I over spent for a few weeks, I will save in the end. I have done this before but never have I ever felt like I must really take to heart what we have on hand to stretch into as many meals as possible.

With prices going up I may never see food, especially meat, at these prices again. I am really serious about doing this and about making good use of what we have on hand. That means that I will be stretching those foods and trying out new recipes.

I am going to put the kitchen makeover on hold except for the wainscoting and painting.  The rest can wait.

This isn’t a lark, this isn’t a challenge, this is life.  It's time to get serious and face the harsh reality that our economy may continnue to struggle for a few years.  We've been living in denial, looking for a quick fix to return us to prosperity.  But as the 1930's song said "Prosperity is just around the corner.  Which corner is it just around?"   

I'm not panicking but I don't want to sit here one year from now(when we could be in an economy that has slipped into another recession that is worse than the one we experienced 2 years ago)  and wish I had been more prepared financially for whatever we may face then. 

It's time to dig in and get serious for the sake of our families and future.

Where have I been?

Well I haven't blogged for a few days and it seems along the way I lost 2 followers.  But I don't blog just to see my followers list increase, I blog to see if there are like minded people out there like me and what I can learn from them and perhaps they can learn from me.

I have been in what I refer to as a little bit of a "funk" the past few days and have been so tired that I have spent most of my time resting.  I have been on Paxil since the end of December and it causes me to be tired the majority of the time but more so than ever.  

I take it in the morning so a few weeks ago I tried to take it before bedtime and I noticed no difference in being tired all day long.  Then I tried going to bed at 10:00 p.m. and not 11:00 p.m., sleeping in another hour to gain in total 2 hours of sleep per night.  I was still needing to lie down in the middle of the day for at least a 1 hour nap.

I decided that being sleepy outweighed having OCD and Depression so I called my doctor to see about being weaned off of it.  The nurse asked me twice if I was sure and I said yes.  Then I was doubtful especially when family members said that I appeared happier and better able to cope with life in general when I was taking an anti-depressant.  So, I changed my decision and I am sticking with Paxil.

This has led me to try different ways to get more rest.  Perhaps the problem is trying to experiment with my sleep cycle in order to find what best works for me.  In the end I made the decision that if I need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day in order to feel rested and get done what needs to me done, then so be it.  It is better to get more rest than to try to go through the day with not enough sleep, yawning and constantly tired and not feeling like I have the energy to do anything at all.

So my schedule is that I am in bed by 10:30 at night and I do my best to stay in bed until 7:30 in the morning.  Then I get up and eat my breakfast, read the paper and then take a 1 hour nap.  By that time it is 9:00 a.m. and I am ready to shower and such and be ready to face the day by 10:00 a.m.  Then I am good until bedtime. 

At first I could only see that it takes me to 10:00 in the morning to actually be ready for doing housework and such, but now I view it as being totally rested and able to get more done than being tired all day long as I was before. 

My family is right.  I am better able to cope with my life and being weaned off Paxil may not be the best for me right now especially when there is the fear that old behavior such as OCD could creep back into my life robbing me of my joy.

So, that's what has been going on in the past few days and I will be back to blogging tonight, after I get some cleaning done. 

We will continue looking at the Tightwad Gazette III and then I have some budget information to share with you that I have been working on over the past few weeks along with my feelings about the current economy and what I feel all of us need to not worry about, but be prepared for. 

So, there you have it.  Have a wonderful Saturday and I will be back this evening with more to share - how about a little teaser - my $37.50 per week food budget for the next few months and the need to prepare for the future more than ever. 

July 12, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Five - July 12th

Here are some great tips and ideas from the Tightwad Gazette III.


A reader wrote in to say that her family doesn’t care for cooked carrots, but she can often get carrots at a great price. So she uses cooked carrots in place of pumpkin for a pie. Her family loves it and it doesn’t take a lot of carrots – 4 large – for a pie.

TIP TWO – Tightwad Turnovers

Use the refrigerator dough to make turnovers. Simply roll a ¼ cup portion of dough into a circle. On one half of the dough place a savory or sweet combination, fold it over and pinch the ends of the dough. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. This is a great way to use up leftovers. I have taken seasoned ground hamburger along with chopped up leftover potatoes and some carrots and used it up this way. Also, leftover sloppy joe mixture is delicious and so is chicken or ham with some cheese. You can make up a few different ones with various leftovers for a “pot luck.”


Amy wasn’t one to brag about how she had influenced people’s lives. However she did receive several letters from readers detailing how she had changed their lives and after thinking about it she decided to pick one that seemed to represent all of the others.

The lady that wrote in “Karen” began her letter by pointing out that prior to reading Amy’s books she was a miserable spend thrift, in debt and was a working mother. Karen’s reading of Amy’s books inspired her to do the math and she discovered that her working outside the home caused her family to simply break even and sometimes lose money. So she quit her job and incorporated many basic lifestyle changes that produced immediate results.

1. Making school lunches every day.

2. Cooking from scratch.

3. Going to garage sales.

4. Reusing common household items, including Ziploc bags, foil and bread bags.

5. Using a price book

6. Using a freezer.

7. Buying in bulk.

8. Setting up and using a pantry under the basement stairs.

9. Using the library more.

10. Buying kids shoes used.

11. Being more creative with birthday parties.

12. Having her kids make economic choices. Karen and her husband provide the basics of life and her children figure out ways to come up with their own extras.

13. They entertain themselves with little or no money. Examples are free concerts, parks, garage sale board games and church activities.

14. Gardening

15. Cutting her family’s hair.

Karen also listed the benefits of these changes:

1. She doesn’t have to deal with the stress of working outside of the home and putting her kids in day care.

2. Her family eats better.

3. They are greatly reducing their consumer debt.

4. They enjoy family activities that they didn’t have the time for before.

5. She has learned how to cook at the age of 38.

6. Her kids have set new lunch trends at school. Other kids try to trade their store bought treats for their homemade treats.

7. Her kids have learned quickly about cost and value.

8. When she worked, her kids actually had to make an appointment to spend time with her because she was so busy.

9. Karen and her kids were able to drive to Florida to see her parents.

10. They are happier and life is fun.


Amy gleaned some information from a book she read that was recommended by the American Academy of Dermatologists and the book talked about what we need and don’t need. The book even addressed the fact that some homemade concoctions could actually irritate the skin.

So, what then “don’t” we need?

1. Scrubs. A simple washing and scrubbing with a wash cloth will do the trick.

2. Masks. Masks only make your skin feel better for a few hours at the most and the actual benefits are few.

3. Astringents. Also called toners, are to be applied after you wash your face to remove oil or between cleanings to refresh your face. Actually they irritate your skin so that the area around the pores swells temporarily making the pores appear to shrink. If your skin is oily you can use an astringent when you are not able to wash your face.

4. Wrinkle creams. There’s no proof that any nonprescription cream, lotion or gel will remove wrinkles.

Here is a list of products that are useful.

1. Cold creams and cleansing lotions. Great for removing makeup and useful for cleaning your skin if it is too dry for frequent washing with soap and water.

2. Soap and water. With the exception of the above uses for cold creams and cleansing lotions, soap and water are adequate for most cleaning. The choice of soap depends on skin type and personal preference. I got tired of spending a lot of money on a name brand cleansing lotion, so I started to wash my face with Dove soap and I love it. I think it works better than the cleansing lotion and is a whole lot cheaper.

3. Moisturizers. These make dry skin smoother and softer.

So in the end, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on your skin care regimen. Right now I use Dove soap to wash my face, scrubbing with a wash cloth, and Cetaphil moisturizer on my face after I wash it. That is all I do and I think my skin looks great.

July 11, 2011

No Money but I want a Kitchen Makeover

I want to redo my kitchen. We have no extra money at all for this type of a project. After all last week we received a bid to replace our roof - $13,500. The roof is in really bad shape and it must be done this year. So there is no money in the budget for a kitchen makeover - or is there?  I have been working up a plan over the past week for us to do the work ourselves, over time as we have the money.  Here is what I have come up with:

The cabinets are in really great shape and I love them, but they do need new knobs and handles. I could replace them or perhaps paint them with a bronze paint.

As you can see from the picture I have already started to peel off the border and the wallpaper.  The previous owner did this room in pink and navy blue, which I do not like.

The countertop is an ugly white with a navy blue band of color along the edge. Don't ever pick out a white countertop. I inherited this one from the prior owners along with the vinyl floor that has cracks in it and is yellowed.  Countertops will be expensive but maybe there is an alternative.

I have been researching painting the counter tops with Rust Oleum counter transformations. I like the Onynx granite look. I really think this would be a great choice and the best part is I can experiment on the counter in the master bathroom first. It is white along with maroon trim and a maroon sink and is ugly.  Again, it was inherited from the prior owners. In a few years we will be able to afford to replace both counter tops. 

A tile floor is something that I don't want to tackle now but I have found a vinyl floor in a black and white checkered style pattern. Perfect and classical and it is something that my husband and I can install ourselves.  Also vinyl is much cheaper and I am fine with it.

The sink is a navy blue and we can install a plain stainless steel sink with a new faucet. As to the backsplash I can either paint it (that's what it is now) or I could add steel adhesive squares as a backsplash that appears easy to install. These are also inexpensive.

I want good old fashioned wainscoting installed on the lower half of this wall, a little higher than a normal chair rail in heighth along with trim. Again we can do this ourselves. 

Then I want to have new light fixtures along with a new ceiling fan, but I may not necessarily have to purchase new ones.  Our electrician told me that I should first try to paint the metal portion of the fixture.  It is a bright gold and I want them to be black.  So, I am going to give this a try and if they don't look good, I will replace them. 

All that is left is to scrape off the "popcorn style" texture on the ceiling, prime and paint the room a pretty yellow (I already have the paint), and then spatter paint the upper portion of the walls in pretty reds, greens and cream colors (to go with my 1940's theme).   I also want to replace the fridge with a basic white fridge (ours is 22 years old) along with replacing the dishwasher with a basic white dishwasher. I already priced these.  Last but least I will purchase two retro dining chairs for my dinette formica table.  I am trying to decide on a red cracked ice pattern or yellow cracked ice pattern. 

Here is the link to my post with all of my inspiration piece and fabric for my kitchen.

What is the cost of all of this?

Counter Faux Finish - $150.00
Flooring - $200.00
Backsplash - $50.00
Sink - $50.00
Faucet - $45.00
Paint for Knobs and Handles - $5.00
Wainscoting & trim work - $75.00
Refrigerator - $519.00
Dishwasher - $350.00
Chairs - $250.00
Extra paint colors for spatter painting - $15.00
Light Fixtures - $10.00 for paint or for new $250.00

TOTAL - $1,719 to $1,959

The counters and floor need to be done at the same time as I will need to have the fridge and stove moved into the diningroom while I paint the countertops and get the sides that are next to the fridge and stove.  Then everything else can be done as we get the money.  Now, what does "as we get the money" mean.  It means to me that if I cut back and save money on groceries, I can apply it towards the kitchen faucet or whatever.  As I accumulate the money I am going out and buying the faucet.  Then as I accumulate money for the sink, I will buy the sink.  This also includes the paint.  As I save up the money, I will buy the paint.

It's hard to believe that it all started with some inspiration pieces.  Read about it here. 

July 08, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Four - July 8th

Here is today's reading from the Tightwad Gazette III.  Lot's of great advice in today's reading - especially the Create a Dinner Casserole recipe.  Enjoy this - it is classic Amy Dacyczyn.  Lots of great money saving ideas. 

If anyone tries the Create a Casserole Dinner recipe, let us know what you made.  I am always on the lookout for some interesting recipes. 


When you are shopping and you find a good deal on over ripe bananas let’s say 15 cents a lb. do you buy them? Okay in our area and 15 years after Amy wrote this book the price would be more like 29 cents per lb.

Of course, Amy says to go ahead and buy those bananas as there are a lot of recipes you can use them in. Also bananas can be frozen whole in their peels, sliced or mashed and frozen in a baggie. I freeze bananas mashed in ½ cup portions as they take up less freezer space. Also when I purchase a bag of over ripe bananas, there are usually a few that are not too over ripe to eat. If you do freeze the bananas whole, simply thaw them and then cut open the end and squeeze the liquidy banana out. No need to mash here.

So what do you do with these over ripe bananas? Make a banana shake or smoothie or take the smoothie mixture and freeze in a Popsicle mold. How about banana “ice cream?” Simply combine frozen bananas with enough orange juice to keep the mixture blending. Add some other fruits, freeze and top with some homemade granola.

What about banana French toast? Simply mash one banana and mix well with 2 eggs, a little milk and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour into a blender to “blenderize.” Dip bread slices into mixture and fry on both sides in oiled pan. Serve with fruit puree or syrup.

And then you can always make the standard banana bread to eat and give away. Think about it. Wouldn’t a neighbor or friend love a loaf of fresh baked banana bread as a treat? I also make banana cake by reducing the amount of liquid in my yellow cake recipe and adding mashed banana. I make banana icing by adding mashed banana to my favorite icing recipe and delete all other liquid from it.


Here’s a great idea for summer fun in the backyard, make your own bubbles. Mix 6 parts water, 2 parts Joy dishwashing liquid and ¾ part corn syrup. Mix this ahead of time for the best results. This is cheaper than the recipe that requires glycerin.


Make your own brown sugar by taking 1 cup of white sugar and mix in 2 tablespoons of molasses. This reader said that this homemade version of brown sugar is cheaper than buying a 2 lb. bag of store bought brown sugar. A lot of the brown sugar you buy is “beet” sugar mixed with molasses. However, you can buy actual brown sugar which is usually a name brand and is more expensive. I personally can’t tell the difference in baking so I buy whatever is cheapest. Since I stock up on “brown” sugar when it is on sale at $1.50 or less for a 2 lb. bag, I don’t need to mix the homemade version. But this is great to know that in a pinch you can make your own. I always have molasses or sorghum on hand so I can always use this as a backup if I am out of brown sugar.


In the spirit of Amy’s recipes for Create a Muffin and Create a Quiche, we now have Create a Dinner Casserole. It’s all about using up leftover bits of food and creating an interesting, delicious meal. Actually this recipe was given to Amy by a newsletter reader and quickly became a favorite.

Create a Dinner Casserole

1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1 to 2 cups starchy ingredient
1 ½ cups binder
¼ cup “goodie”

Main Ingredient suggestions: tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood.

Second ingredient suggestions: thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard cooked eggs.

Starchy ingredient suggestions: Thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice.

Binder suggestions: cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup.

Goodie suggestions: pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts.

Topping suggestions: potato chips, cheese, bread crumbs.

Thoroughly mix your combinations of the above ingredients. If it seems dry, add some milk or vegetable or meat stock. Place in a buttered casserole dish, top with the topping and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

One evening I was home alone and I looked in the fridge and found 2 hardboiled eggs. I made a cream sauce, added some grated cheddar cheese and the chopped hardboiled eggs. I poured the concoction over some toast and it was delicious. Now my family would never eat something like this, but this to me was true comfort food and was delicious.

The lesson here in this casserole recipe is that some of the best recipes are concoctions that you make up with what you have on hand. When you are making up your own recipe for a casserole you might want to keep track of what you put in the casserole in case you would ever want to replicate it.

Our next reading for the Tightwad Gazette gives some great tips from readers along with some Tightwad Transformations from Amy's readers, frugal skin care and making pies.  

What is Your Cost Per Day?

What does it cost you per day to run your household?  Have you ever thought about your household expenses this way?  We have budgeted amounts for food, gasoline, housing, utilities, debts, and so on and in the past I have worked hard to reduce our spending in each category.  But what if when we were trying to get motivated to cut back on expenses we looked at the whole picture and reduced our daily cost of running the household?

Does it cost you $50 a day, $100 a day, or $150.00 day to run your household?  Does it cost you less or more?  Simply add up your expenses for the month, multiply by 12 and then divide by 365 to get your cost per day.

Now start to set a goal of reducing that cost per day by doing all the little things that add up to big savings.  What should your goal be?  Perhaps try to reduce your expenses by $2 or $5 per day.  That means that all of those expense reductions must equal between $14 and $35 per week.  Can you do it?  Can you combine savings on food, clothing, gasoline and entertainment (as examples) in order to save that amount per week?  It will be a daily reminder of your goal to live on less, and perhaps get more money into savings.

Looking at something in a different way may be the impetus you need to start cutting back on expenses. 

July 05, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Three July 5th

Here are highlights from today's reading of the Tightwad Gazette III.  As always Amy doesn't let us down as she offers great advice along with some things for us to ponder.

How many of you would be willing to give up your dishwasher for a day, week or forever?  Something to think about.  Here we go.


Amy tackles the problem and expense of a woman who needs business clothing for work. A reader wrote in to say that she gets one month’s worth of clothing for her job out of the following items: 2 blazers, 3 tops and 4 bottoms. Make sure that the blazers and bottoms all coordinate and that you limit yourself to few patterns on the clothing. Mathematically these 9 articles of clothing can be combined to make 24 combinations.

If I were to go back into the workforce, and I have no desire to do so, I would definitely apply this principle of minimalism but I would probably have more than 9 articles of clothing for work. I would make it work with about 20 articles of clothing. However, if a woman does a lot of business travelling, having 9 items that coordinate into many outfits would be perfect.

Now that I am not working, I am trying to rid my closet of items I don’t wear so the same principle works for someone who does not work outside of the home. My goal over time is to come up with a small “stay at home” wardrobe that can be easily coordinated.


The average dishwasher lasts about 11.5 years, uses about 8 gallons of water for a normal wash and 14 gallons for the pots and pans cycle. Amy calculated the cost of water and energy usage, along with the average repair occurring around the 8th year of ownership, and she calculated that it would cost her family around $119.75 annually to maintain and operate a dishwasher.

Amy calculated that for her family it would be a timesaver to have a dishwasher. However Amy and her husband enjoy washing and drying the dishes together as they watch the news on the kitchen t.v. and they also talk during that time. They decided that for their family, they would continue to wash dishes by hand knowing that as their children grew the chore would become something her kids could do.

We had a dishwasher for several years, but when it broke down, we didn’t replace it for almost 2 years. During that time my husband and I would clear the table and I would put the leftovers away while he washed the dishes. I also would wipe the countertops and the stove top, the table and straighten up the kitchen while he did the dishes. At the most this would take 20 minutes.

We replaced the dishwasher as when our oldest son would come home from college we had so many more dishes to wash and my husband got tired of it. He said he wasn’t going to go through another summer without a dishwasher.

This weekend we had some problems with an outlet in the kitchen so we had to turn off a breaker until an electrician would be able to come to the house today. The breaker affected the dishwasher so I hand washed dishes for 4 days. Now that there are just the 3 of us and in a few years, there will be just the 2 of us, I would be hard pressed to replace the dishwasher if it would break down and not be able to be repaired. I would rather have the cabinet space.

Because I am home I can keep up on the dishes as the day goes on and it doesn’t bother me to hand wash the dishes. Also, I don’t fill the sink full of water. I use only a few inches of water and add a little more hot water as needed. I know that I would not use over 8 gallons of water in a day.

Maybe we have just become accustomed to a dishwasher being a necessity as time has gone by. As to the hot water in the dishwasher sterilizing the dishes and so on, I put the hottest water I can stand in the sink to soak the washed dishes before I put them in the dish rack to dry. As soon as they are dry, I put the dishes away as I don’t like dishes in the dish drainer to look at all day long.

My grandmother would boil a teapot on the stove and then pour the boiling water over the rinsed dishes to “sterilize them.” It worked great.


A reader wrote in to say that to avoid her kids taking baths in quite a bit of water, she placed a piece of electrical tape in the bathtub to mark an appropriate level.

First of all, never let young children bathe alone. It is very dangerous and children can drown even in a small amount of water. Otherwise, I think this is a great idea for older children.

In our household showers are the norm and our youngest son can take a very long shower. I don’t think he realizes how long a shower he is taking as he listens to music while he is in the shower. I plan on putting a kitchen timer in the bathroom and having him set it for a reasonable amount of time.

In our community we are charged for water coming into our house along with the water going down the drain to the sewer. So any water than we can refrain from using, is a double savings.


A reader wrote in to say that her husband liked heavily starched shirts but the spray cans of starch could be expensive. Instead this reader bought powdered starch and mixed 4 tablespoons with 4 cups of hot water. Using a good spray bottle, she sprayed the starch (shaking it often) and irons the garment as usual. The cost of the powdered version was 10 cents versus 87 cents for the spray can.

I’m not sure if you can still get powdered starch in the stores or not, but I have seen the liquid starch. It is a liquid concentrate that you add water to get the appropriate amount of starch on your clothes such as heavy, normal or light. I’m sure it would be cheaper and the next time we are out of spray starch, I am going to buy the liquid starch. We starch the majority of my husband’s work shirts. When I say we, he does the majority of his own ironing but I use starch also on many of my cotton tops.

Our next reading will highlight the cost of raising a child, the trend of woman quitting their jobs to stay home, ideas for using up bananas and more. 

July 01, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Two - July 1st

Today’s reading profiles the USDA Food Plans which I like to use to compare to my own budget for food. Also there are some great tips from Readers and we end with Amy’s tip for using refrigerator yeast dough.


A reader sent Amy a copy of the USDA’s guidelines for food plans along with a cost per plan. These food plans are labeled as Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate and Liberal and as you may have guessed there is a specific amount of money set per plan. This money amount is a guideline. So as you may have guessed the Thrifty plan has the lowest amount of money and the Liberal has the most amount of money to spend on food. Amounts are given for children in a specific age range and adult male and females in different age ranges per the different plans.

Amy figured that her food budget for her family was below the amount allotted for the Thrifty plan.

Years ago I found the USDA food plans listed in a magazine. I was fascinated by the amounts given on these food plans and I have used it as a guideline ever since.

Here is the link to the 2011 USDA Food Plans. How does your budget compare to the plans?


When drains get sluggish, try this time tested remedy:

Pour 1 cup of baking soda in the drain. Follow the soda with 1 cup of vinegar. Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain and follow with a plunger.

In some cases boiling water will be enough.


Instead of purchasing a product such as Static Guard, make your own by mixing 1 part liquid fabric softener with 20 parts water. Pour into a clean spray bottle. When your clothes have static, spritz on a small amount.


Amy’s husband would stir up a batch of refrigerator yeast dough on a Saturday night. On Sunday mornings he made powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar doughnuts from some of the dough. Monday night Amy made homemade tomato soup and yeast rolls from a portion of the refrigerator dough. On Thursday her husband made 1 dozen cinnamon rolls from the balance of the refrigerator dough.

The point of this is that refrigerator yeast dough is very versatile and inexpensive. Amy didn’t give a recipe, but found hers in an old Betty Crocker cookbook. This recipe called for mashed potatoes so they used potato flakes for instant mashed potatoes. You can find a recipe on the internet. The dough can be used for just about any type of bread product and that can be a money saver and a great addition to any meal.

We will pick up our reading tomorrow, (I’m rested up – finally). Some of the interesting articles we will review are dressing for work on a budget, shopping and does a dishwasher save money.   And as always there will be a few reader tips.

Spending Money When You Know You Shouldn't

I have been so tired over the last few days and haven't posted updates on the Tightwad Gazette III, something that I will be doing later on today.  I think all that walking, driving and being in a different time zone wrecked havoc on me.  I refuse to say that it is because I am getting older, I think I am just a little more "sensitive."  Okay, I am getting older and somehow I don't quite adjust from a long road trip like I used to. 

But that's not the point of this post. 

Do you ever struggle with spending a lot of money on something when you know deep down, you probably shouldn't spend it?  I struggled with that when we wanted to go to Washington, D.C. as part of our son's graduation present.  The decision to go on that trip came from my belief that sometimes you just have to take an opportunity to do something with your family that you may never be able to do again.  This was a trip that meant a great deal to our son and to me too.  So we spent the money.

BUT ....

we knew our roof was in bad shape and would need to be replaced this year.  And this morning we had an electrical problem in our kitchen, so now we will need an electrician to come out to fix it. 

I know that we will be living on a super tight budget over the next year to pay for the roof and I would rather do that than have forfeited the trip to Washington, D.C.  I still get a giggle when I think about how much fun we had and how much we enjoyed that trip.  It will be well worth scrimping now to pay for a roof than to have stayed home from that trip.

Sometimes you have to go against what financial experts say and do what in your heart you know is the right thing to do.  I know we made the right choice.