Thursday, October 23, 2014

Coffee Chat: October Blue and Gray

Coffee anyone?  Never fear...It's not quite cool enough yet to hide indoors.  We can take it on the porch again if you'd like. There  are spice cookies too. Tempt you much?  Have a seat and join me.

We're having a lovely October and I don't mean the weather.  That has been weather, which means it's been changeable as weather usually is, and is often one thing or another.  No, the lovely parts have been non-weather related.

John worked  Friday a week ago so I'm going to start there...He worked and I went off to buy two more blinds while the $10 off $50 purchase card was still good for Lowes.  I don't know about now but Lowe's has/had clearance prices on their drapes and some of them were pretty good (50%) and some were Amazing.  I couldn't find 2-6 of any one type of panel I liked to do any window/room in my house, so I looked for naught, but it was fun to imagine getting such a great buy on curtains.

It was stinking hot and the air was heavy and humid.  Ugh. I'd thought I'd do a bit of thrifting but it was so unpleasant that the idea of getting in and out of the car half a dozen times  and wandering about in humid buildings (why is the air con always on the blitz in these places?), then getting in car just long enough for the air conditioning to start cooling before the next stop was not appealing in the least.  Instead, I headed back home and stopped off at the flea market.

Well things hadn't changed much there.  I went in and the place was fairly busy, as it had been last week.  The woman who runs the place was out for a moment, but her husband was standing in for her.  He's a talky sort which is nice but I wanted to look about a bit.  I never made it much past six feet from the counter for the first twenty minutes I was in the store.  I found a curtain panel and three picture frames in the sizes I wanted for my guest room, so perhaps it's as well I didn't wander too far.

It was one of those small town things there in the store.  The man chattering away, running into an acquaintance who chatted, listening to gentle bartering, exchanging pleasantries with others...It was just nice, but stopping in to check on my booth took me roughly 35 minutes...that too is a small town thing.

Saturday morning, after John came in from work, we headed to Athens and a weekend long visit with the two youngest children.  It was still warm, quite warm, but beautifully sunny.  We sort of meander when we're heading up and honestly that is a nice way to travel. By meander I mean we aren't in a hurry and drive slowly.  Personally, I'd love to do a more or less loiter and stop at every interesting little old town and antique/thrift shop along the way, of which there is a plethora all along that route.   No one I know is ever interested in loitering, but at least John will usually savor the drive.

We stopped in the nearest town to us to drop off an item at the post office, stopped at the store to purchase a couple of items that were necessary.  I walked across the parking lot to buy boiled peanuts.  In the South, this is perfectly normal this time of year, just as roasted chili peppers abound in New Mexico.  Usually run by older men, generally small farmers who are retired, they set up shop with a big steel pot of water and a propane burner, green peanuts and boxes of salt.

I knew Katie and Sam loved boiled peanuts as much as I do, so I bought three bags, all warm and lovely from the pot.  I enjoyed talking with the man who told me the cost was $3 a bag but with three I'd save a dollar.  I told him how much I appreciated that dollar these days.  He informed me his wife was a coupon queen.  So our small talk was established and we shared our earnest concerns about the current economic situation, our great appreciation for the long years of thrifty living that help us get by now, and laughed comfortably together over our love for boiled green peanuts.  I suppose this man must have been in his late 70's and possibly even early 80's.  "I eat them all the time.  I eat them every day.  I don't ever tire of them."  And as I paid him, "Ah...Now Mama has a little more money for Christmas presents."

I'm not in the least surprised that the man eats his peanuts every day.  And he'd no doubt credit it with his longevity.  A friend's grandfather lived into his mid-90's.  He said his secret was eating a sweet potato every day.  Honestly?  I think working and resting and eating good plain foods are all helpful in living long.  Granny always said "All things in moderation," and she meant it.  Sweets, fats, greens, fruit, vegetable, meat...I think coffee was about the only thing she ignored keeping in moderation and had you asked her she'd have said it was moderate for her.

We stopped again outside of Watkinsville at a fruit stand, this time to buy apples, specifically Winesap apples.  Winesap are not such a popular variety in supermarkets but I do love them!  The apples are grown here in the northern part of Georgia (that's the apple region) and it's one of the bonuses of having the children live in Athens.  I bought an extra large basket of apples this time.  I planned to make an apple pie, wanted to give some to the children, wanted some to eat out of hand.  I chatted a bit with the ladies there as I made my purchase but it wasn't quite as easy as the chatter with the old farmer.  The apple stand was a good bit busier than the peanut stand had been.

I got to spend some time with that newest grandson that afternoon.  He smiled at me, dimpling his cheeks.  I was pretty pleased but then he needed to express himself a bit better so he spit out his pacifier and grinned from ear to ear at me.  Well, my heart pitter pattered an extra few beats.  Nothing like a little boy's grin is there?  The monkey actually laughed out loud at his grandpa.  John made up a song and sang it to him.  The hook was the exclamation of 'Grandpa!' and each time he said it, he'd bring Josh up close to his chest which made him chuckle and finally laugh out loud.  Well Grandpa wasn't giving up the little fella anytime soon after that!  I did have time to hold him a bit more and sought his smiles, which were sweetly given here and there.  He kept chewing on his tongue and I put my finger in his mouth and felt a swollen lump on his gum. He is apparently cutting an incisor first.

Samuel made dinner for us, individual pizzas of various types and Bess came in from work in time to eat, though she'd been meant to work all evening.  Seems more people went out of town than they'd expected, so work was light and workers in too plentiful supply.  It was a  pleasant and happy visit topped off with wonderful news of a very soon to be marriage, already booked with the local Justice of the Peace for Sam and Bess.  John and I were deeply joyful over this news.

We headed to our hotel which was downtown and did right well getting there.  The instructions insisted there was a fork in the road and a left hand turn that we never did come across.  We just shrugged our shoulders and were glad we found the hotel without any trouble.

I won't say much about the hotel.  It was neither the best nor the worst place we've stayed and it was neither the most restful or the least restful.  It was a hotel and it was conveniently located between both Sam and Kate's homes.  It was packed when we arrived and cleared out somewhat on Sunday.

We'd been informed of a change in time for the game John was to attend so he got to spend some time with Katie the next morning when she came to pick me up.  My girl looked lovely and was glad to see her parents.  We left to go to lunch with her mother- and sister-in-law.  The ride was lovely and Katie assured me I'd be even happier when I saw our destination.  It was well within view of the foothills of  the north part of the state and absolutely beautiful.  It was, at that time, cool and rainy.  We had brunch (at least her mother-in-law and I did, the girls ate proper dinners) in a lovely restaurant.  It was delicious and we enjoyed our visit.  I like Katie's in-laws quite well.  They are just nice people and the world has far too few of the sort of folks that are just plain nice.  Her mother-in-law and I are of the same age range and were quite comfortable chatting away while the two girls talked.  The food was delicious, perfectly prepared.  After dinner we opted for coffee.  I was much amused when I asked the girl for decaf and Lisha turned to her and said "And I'd like coffee."  I knew full well she meant caffienated by the inflection, which made me chuckle.

Then off to do some shopping.  The area there is a little odd. You ride through long stretches of country and then you come upon a shopping center, a nice upscale sort of place, then lots of cookie cutter, look alike houses perched in a barren looking area and then more country roads before you come upon the next shopping area.   It is not at all like my area where you run across homes in the country but seldom a neighborhood and never a shopping center, but that is all considered more or less suburbs for Atlanta there and not at all like here.

Katie and I enjoyed our little bit of shopping, which was nothing much, then she said, "Mumsie I'm going to take you for a ride."  The skies cleared, the humidity lifted, and the temperatures dropped.  We let the windows down to blow through our hair, put on our sunglasses and off we went.  A rambling sort of  ride is something we both enjoy.  We drove little narrow paved roads with sharp "S" curves that meandered through proper small towns.  She pointed out the prettiest patches of goldenrod, and a becoming lake and slowed at a country store that was also a butcher shop and a gas station and a fishermans' supply.  Here and there we'd come across a clear space and there were the foothills before us.  That girl knows just what I like, all too well, and the ride was made that much more enjoyable by her happy chatter.

Along about evening she proclaimed herself tired.  We stopped at a grocery to pick up items for supper (mine was a frozen dinner and a handful of things for next morning's breakfast) and she dropped me off at the hotel where I spent several pleasant hours reading the paper, working on the puzzles, watching TV and such. I got along quite well by myself at first but as the evening dragged on, I began to worry.  I'd heard nothing from John since early afternoon and it was about 10pm.  I texted him but got no reply.  I waited twenty minutes and then called his phone and he assured me he was coming into the hotel parking lot at that moment.  Perhaps it was silly of me to get worried, but I did. He was in downtown Atlanta, you see, and I know nothing about Atlanta at all except that it is a big city and not a small hometown.  And then he was 2-3 hours from Athens, so there was a long road to travel and I wasn't sure how heavy traffic might be.  I should have known he was fine, since he was well prayed over and he was with Samuel who is all too familiar with all the roadways between Athens and Atlanta, courtesy of his job.

John and Sam attended a pro football game (Falcons versus Bears) and John was as excited to share all about his day.  He absolutely loved every moment even the not so pleasant bits (walking uphill and getting blisters on his feet after a heavy lunch) and then climbing into the sky for his seats.  He and Sam always have a load of things to talk over and they talked their fill on the ride to and from the stadium.  I shared all about my day with Katie and before we knew it, it was midnight.  I don't think John did more than lie down before falling fast asleep and he slept all night long.  I, on the other hand, lay awake.  Love mid-life.

But it was more than a little too much caffeine and humidity that kept me awake.  It was truly a lovely weekend from start to finish, even the not so nice bits (minor things).   I could hardly sleep for thinking about how nice it had been.  It was one of the first trips from home I've made without a mini crisis of my own in nearly three years.  That made it remarkable for me right there.  And everything was just so nice, from the moment we left home until the end of the day Sunday.  The game was courtesy of tickets given to Sam.  Lunch was a surprise treat from Katie's mother-in-law.  The children were so welcoming and so obviously glad to have us for more than a flying visit.  The weather changed from hot and humid to cool and lovely.  That was nice as well.  

We left early Monday morning.  It was a lovely ride home with lots of cool air and fog that slowly burnt off as the day warmed a little.  We rode with the windows down and I begged John to pull over and let me get my sweater from the trunk.  There's nothing cozier than a sweater when it's really really cool.  At one point we were driving down a forested roadway and a single tree of beautiful burnt orange showered leaves slowly down.  It was almost as though the world had slipped into slow motion speed, that's how they fell...and that moment as we both turned to look was slow motion, too.  It got clearer and warmer the closer we got to home and by the time we reached the house, the air conditioning was most welcome.  We had only minor things to do at home and spent the afternoon talking about how lovely the weekend had been.  And it was.

Tuesday was a memorable day, too.  I woke at 3 am to thunder and lightning and pounding rain and it kept it up all day long.  I meant to clear up the kitchen really well, which needed it, but somehow I found myself arm deep in making apple pie.  Not a bad thing to do on a very rainy Tuesday, but definitely not cleaning.  I find baking cathartic and I was a little tense,  awaiting news from Katie of a medical test result.

The apple pie recipe was not difficult, but not exactly as 'easy' as the title suggested either.  It involved making a sort of butterscotch sauce.  I think wet weather and overcooking just made mine a mess. Perhaps I should have left it as it was when it went slightly solid, because when I reheated it, the butter separated from the brown sugar.  I was supposed to top that with a pie crust, but mine fell in the pan when I got the much awaited text from Katie and was all catywampus and the hot butterscotch was not cooperating with straightening out the shell so I just left it.  Everything from that point went into the pan with tears so thick I was blinded.  I put the pie in the oven and sat down and boohooed hard for several minutes before texting back to Katie. Nope not crying over the silly pie.  I knew it would be edible no matter how bad it looked.  I cried over Katie's news. Katie's news was good...she's expecting a baby and after two miscarriages this pregnancy appears to be completely normal.  We saw the heartbeat and fetus via ultra sound.

I took a faith step a couple of weeks ago and bought a onesie and two changing pads and carried them to Katie this past weekend. My girl was afraid to accept that this was a viable pregnancy until the appointment this week but I just felt in my bones I needed to move ahead in utter faith...It wasn't a sense of relief that overwhelmed me to tears it was pure gratitude and joy.  Well I wasn't the only one to cry.  Bess told me she'd been changing the baby's stinky diaper and burst into tears over the text.  I'm afraid baby boy looked askance at her, thinking he certainly hadn't done anything worth tears.  Niece Ashley promptly replied that she too was mid-diaper change and was moved to tears.  I'm not really sure what these babies must think of Mama's who can't change a diaper without crying, but I know full well what my husband thought of this Mama who couldn't put the apple pie in the oven without weeping hard!

Well the week from there wasn't remarkable, just lovely as could be.  Friends came by while doing us a favor. We had a late Harvest day, we bought groceries, we exclaimed over the glorious weather, we watched deer.  John hung my new set of blinds.  We messed up and didn't change the really badly broken one in the living room window for the one better one in the dining room window and didn't discover what we'd done until we'd carried them to the dumpsters.  We had a sweet Shabat, a restful Saturday and a visit from my brother and then the week off was done.  We might not have had 'vacation' this October but it felt like a vacation.  It was more than we expected.  I think we smiled all week long and I mean that sincerely.

I didn't work hard on projects  last week but I did do a few things.  I switched a few pieces about in the living room and decorated for Fall in a small way.  Want to see?
I added a bit of blue this year.  I like it!
                                                  (I just noticed the books coordinate...)

                                         For all that my house is bright, some areas just                                                                                                           photograph dark

                             Acorn Salt and pepper from Target, bought weekend with Katie

                                               I moved the dogs and lamp to the mantel

It's not much but I like it as it is.  I used to be over the top decorating and even did a full blown thing for most all of the holidays but with no children at home (and it really was mostly for their benefit), I prefer something that nods at this season.  I confess that if we had more color in our part of the world I'd probably skip this, too, but I do like something that looks like autumn by the time October arrives, much as you will find fresh flowers in my home when March is nearing and Spring just around the corner, but nothing is blooming in the yard.

I walked into the kitchen one evening last week and heard Maddie bark.  Curious, I looked out of the sitting area windows and there were deer standing in the corner of the wooded area that is nearest the house, peering curiously into the house.  Obviously we were both mutually curious.  Maddie barked some more and finally decided to lunge forward as though she was going to give chase.  They all turned on a dime, put up their white tails and bounded off, completely hidden by the trees in two leaps.

I had another encounter this week at dawn one morning.  I was opening the blinds and there were five deer on the opposite side of the fence between properties.  I watched as the four larger ones leaped effortlessly over the fence and the fifth, smaller one, decided that after all she could as easily step through.  This time they just strolled along.  John watched them yet another evening as they walked casually and easily up the driveway and it wasn't until they were nearly out of sight that Maddie decided after all she might chase them a bit.

Seeing the deer has been lovely.  We often do see them this time of year and all through the winter but seldom in summer when they are tending to fawns.  I was thinking that what I seldom see this time of year is rabbits.  I might see one or two but nothing like the dozen that visit the lawn morning and evening in summer months.  I have no idea where they all go. Rabbits are not migratory so they should still be here, but we won't see much of any of them until next summer when it's warm once more.

Nor do we see much of the turkey or quail.  In spring and summer we hear them call out to one another and there's something very peaceful about the shrill whistle "Bob White!" and the gentle gobbling sound.  But this time of year there is none of that.

I have been reading the loveliest book.  I spent quite a long spell reading over the weekend trip to Athens and then picked it up this week for a long day of waiting for John at a work meeting and later getting his hair cut.  It is Tamar Adler's book An Everlasting Meal with the subtitle, "Cooking with Economy and Grace".  I am definitely going to be looking for more of her books.  I love a good narrative type cook book but find them few and far between.  Adler waxes poetic over every thing related to cooking, preparing, and eating with an economical outlook.  No fancy unpronounceable and expensive foodstuffs, nor complicated cooking methods and terms, just plain good cooking.

There are proper recipes though it is not recipe heavy and there are narrated types of recipes where she describes dishes in such a way that you might as easily use it as a recipe.  The sound good sense of  her cookery is what is most striking.  Technical cookery is not her forte, it is instinctive cookery and she explains how she uses every last thing that comes into her kitchen from market to table to leftover, to scraps.   I highly recommend this book as reading. It shall have a spot on my bookshelf for quite a long time and be picked up frequently to be read again and again.

Earlier this past week, inspired by what I was reading in An Everlasting Meal, and at the same time inspired by my new all time low in the grocery budget struggle, (I spent less than $275 this past month and that is $100 less than I allotted.  I was so pleased and determined to make that happen again and again)  I sat down and made out a list of possible future savings to make.  I am also inspired by how close we are to repaying the amount we took for the back porch.  I can pay it off in full within the next 5 weeks, which is a full month earlier than I'd hoped I might and four months earlier than John expected we should.  We've already spoken with my brother about moving up the start date on the front porch renovation. I'm going to have a new series of posts based on the notes I made to amp up savings still more in my home.  I'm leading with savings from the kitchen, followed by savings in other areas...It's a work in progress at the moment but the first post is up with the title Retirement Remedies.

I'm slowly, slowly making progress in the guest/craft room.  I'm still looking hard for bedding, would like to get risers to lift the bed a bit and a bed topper to soften the mattress.  I have an appointment with the chatty disorganized husband of the antique market to look at a bed that's been on his front porch for months.  I'm not sure it's 'the' bed, or if his price is affordable, but having seen the bed on the porch all these months I do feel I have strong bargaining power to get the price in my range if indeed I do like it.

I bought a drop cloth to use as a table cover for the craft table.  The room is still a bit of a mess but I've got a date with a trip to the shed to store some of that stuff away.  I try to do some little thing every day or two to bring it a little further along.  This week my pictures, plates and shelf are ready to hang, and I wrote that down as a goal but I need picture hangers.  So instead,  I hope to get excess stuff put in the shed and the tablecover on the table.  I picked up lamps at the dollar store this week, pulled the shades from the shed last week, so that worked out very nicely and not too expensively.

I've already decided my next focus area of work when I'm all done with the guest/craft room will be the front porch.  I had planned to paint the porch this fall and I still want to do so, at least up to the point where the porch will remain as it is.  I figure if I buy enough paint I can have the extra needed to make the new boards match the older ones.   I also want to put fresh paint on the furniture and  make it pretty once again.  And I'm thinking of changing up my colors out there instead of leaning on the red/white/blue theme I started with...Lots of plans as you can see.

We didn't get to go to the fair this year.  It was the trip to Athens for the weekend or the fair but not both.  However, I was curious to read a local nutritionist's column about fair food this week.

Now John and I are not the sort that go to the fair to indulge in the food.  We pretty much stick to a burger from the VFW booth and perhaps a square of fudge and that's it.  I know many people however, who simply must eat all sorts of goodies.  This guy suggested that people go and indulge themselves.  What he had to say about it made good sense so I want to share it with you.  It might not be the fair but some other event where good food abounds (holidays are coming up!) and it is useful information I think.  First he said, plan what you will indulge in.  Skip a meal prior to going and eat those things you planned to eat.  Drink lots of water and take along some Benefiber or Metamucil or any one of the fiber supplements and drink that while at the fair.  He said it binds the fatty foods and will help to reduce bloating and tummy upset.  He said walk a LOT (we always do when we're at the fair).  Last he suggested that if you felt you really overindulged that you skip another meal or two and  then return to your most healthy habits for a week after.  You see?  Good sensible advice.  I thought it far better than listening to some stupid news program telling us how many HOURS we must exercise to rid our body of calories from one small bite of cotton candy.  I just think this guy has a sensible approach overall, don't you?  It's refreshing instead of hearing all this chatter and talk and such about doing things perfectly all of the time.

Tomorrow my youngest son and his lovely fiancee are getting married...It's sort of the topping on the cake for the past two weeks.   I shall like having Bess as one of my own family.

I referred to her at Katie's wedding as my daughter-in-law to be.  I couldn't think of "fiancee" to save myself that day.  Someone spoke up and asked "Is that even a phrase?  I just refer to my brother's girlfriend as my sister in law..."  I am a little old fashioned perhaps.  As it happened the brother did marry his girlfriend but I am hesitant to give someone the status of family right away as much as I might like them.  I feel it brings unfair pressure to bear upon a couple to too quickly absorb them into a family.  Much as I might like them, what if things don't work out?  What if they try to live up to my expectations and forgo what they know in their heart of hearts is not the relationship for them?  What if we all get terribly close and they break up and it doubles everyone's pain?  I liked Bess the moment I met her, but she and Sam did break up for a time.  I was saddened but I trusted God's wisdom in what was right for each of them.  As it happened, they did get back together.  And now there's a little boy with dimples to love on who will always be part of myself and tomorrow a lovely girl whom I'm glad will be family, as well.

Gracious!  It was good to sit down and catch up once again.  Time for me to get busy once more I'm afraid. There is much to be done, but with all this fresh air, a nap might be in order.  Wasn't it lovely?  I am so glad that you stopped by!  Talk to you again soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Retirement Remedies: Budget Battles

It's been two years of struggling and trimming and cutting back, but it finally paid off.  The past two months I've spent less than $300 on groceries for each month.   Honestly, now that I can see I've made headway, I'm more than ready to hit it all a little harder.  I don't know about you but I'm about tired of being bossed around by my budget.  I want some wiggle room!

I sat down this weekend and wrote a long list of steps to implement (some of which I've recently started doing and want to continue).  I thought perhaps some of you might be interested to see where I'm planning to try to cut back a little more. There's nothing really new or earth shattering here, but perhaps it will be a good reminder of things you might do, can change, can adjust to suit your needs, etc.  And for anyone new to trimming the budget, perhaps it will truly be a revelation and a help!

I'll start with grocery savings because that is the biggest variable area of our budget.  There are other places to trim and cut and a few places to earn, and I'll share those with you as well over the next couple of weeks. In my home, the grocery budget includes food, pet foods, paper products, cleaning products and personal care items.  It all falls into the area of spending that I am solely responsible for so I'll break the grocery category down into those areas.

The More Frugal Kitchen

#1.  Give.  I'm going to share this first because I truly believe it's made the biggest impact of all on my budget.  Back in the spring of the year, I decided to consistently give a small amount to a food bank or soup kitchen each month.  I set aside a little money from my grocery funds and send that off to a favorite soup kitchen.   I've watched in amazement as our foods have lasted longer, we've had less waste overall and our food supply often seems to multiply.

#2. Buy Whole Poultry.  Given the choice, I would much rather have chicken breasts or chicken wings.  I've come up against two things of late: breasts and wings are mighty high in price ($3.79 a pound for wings when I priced them this week!). Bone in breasts are as much when not on sale and we won't even discuss the boneless breasts costs.  Chicken leg quarters are mighty cheap because breast and wings are more in demand.  That has two drawbacks for me: I don't want to eat dark meat only.  Nine times out of ten I must buy ten pounds of leg quarters in order to get the best sale price.  I either don't have room or we're back to number one: I don't want to eat dark meat only.  So my next best option is to buy whole chickens.  I have two sources for whole chickens that are reasonably priced and carageenan free.

I learned in my early years how to cut up whole chicken into parts. There are dozens of videos on to watch and see how to do this if you'd like to learn.   Most store butchers will do it for you too, but I prefer my own way of cutting them up, as I get two extras from the chicken: the wishbone and the back. Too often the butcher quarters a chicken.  The few who cut pulley bones from the breasts generally do what is called 'restaurant' cut on the rest of the chicken which means there is no back.  It's split and becomes part of the thigh and breasts.  I prefer to have my backbone separate from those pieces.  Believe it or not the back has more meat than you might think and the meat is neither white or dark.  That's where all that good tender meat comes from when you boil the carcass of a whole chicken.

4 whole chickens, cut into parts will net me: 8 wings (enough for a meal of wings for the two of us), 8 legs (2 meals), 8 thighs (4 meals if decent sized, 2 if chickens are smaller), 8 breast halves (4 meals), 4 pulley bones (1 meal or 2 cups of cooked meat for casseroles) and 4 backs (at least 1 - 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken meat).  That's between 12 and 15 meals for us from 4 whole chickens depending on which recipes I choose to use.  And while I might not particularly like dark meat, I have found a few recipes that I prefer dark meat when I prepare them, so I'm learning to like it a little more and will not completely ignore the cost effectiveness of leg quarters if found in smaller than 10 pound packages.

I like to buy a turkey breast rather than a whole turkey but I'm going to seriously reconsider this and look at purchasing whole turkeys, too.  A few months back I found a great bargain on turkey thighs (turkey dark meat is far more tasty in my opinion than chicken) and used them to make turkey and dressing.  At holiday I often boil legs to make soup meat.   Even in non-holiday season whole turkey are less per pound than most meats.  In autumn/winter whole turkeys are the best buy around and may be purchased fresh and unfrozen.  I guess if I can cut up a whole chicken I can cut up a whole turkey just as well.

#3. Eat Less Meat.  I've been practicing this one for a number of years and I still find it worth repeating: reduce the meat in recipes.

I made a pasta dish this weekend that we really like.  It calls for 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef.  I make it exactly as the recipe states but I've never used more than 1/2 pound of meat in the recipe.  It was a mistake the first time.  I simply forgot that when we buy our ground beef we have it packaged in half pound portions. I realized when I was sharing the recipe that I'd cut the meat by 2/3...and we all loved the recipe as I'd made it.  I do the same with many other recipes that call for ground beef, even when making meatloaf.  I make an awesome meatloaf from one pound of ground beef.  We typically get two or three meals from it.

Poultry also can be reduced as long as a recipe calls for diced cooked poultry.  I seldom put four cups of chicken in a recipe where three or even two will do as well.

#4. Eat Less Meat, II.  I want to make more meatless meals.  I'm going to comb my recipe books and Pinterest and then test run meatless recipes.  I'd like the option of doing one or two meatless meals each week of good tasting foods that we enjoy.  John doesn't mind a meatless meal as long as it doesn't look meatless.  If I serve a vegetable plate for dinner his first response is always, "Soooo...we are eating vegetarian now?"  whereas if I serve a casserole or burritos or enchiladas that are vegetable based he eats happily and never comments on the meatless state.  I am often fumbling for ideas of meatless meals once a week and sometimes I just rely on leftovers of meat meals and skip the meatless option because it's hard to think of good options. I cannot deny the savings in skipping just one meal with meat.   I'm going to create a list of options to choose from.

#5. Get Creative with Salads.  I want to build a repertoire of salads that aren't lettuce based.  I have a few, a very few, ideas that we use now and then but I'd like more.  Lettuce gets kind of high cost when it's not in season.  I've discovered two things over this past year: a raw vegetable or fruit (usually in salad form in our house) helps make you feel full, is good for your digestion, teeth and gums.  I've had a struggle lately with John's desire for bagged salads and my aversion to them.  I really don't want to see even a portion of them go to waste since they cost as much or more than a head of lettuce,  but I really find the aroma and taste just off somehow.  It's gotten so I dread eating salad.  It oughtn't be that way!   I've also continued to buy the same amount of lettuce (2 heads per week) despite the fact that he has leftover salad each week to use up. Last week I tossed one head of iceberg and two hearts of romaine that had spoiled.  That's when I realized that I need to change tactics slightly.  HE can have his leftover salad, I'll have fresh.  I'll buy less lettuce so there's little chance of spoilage.   But I'm going to look for recipes that use other vegetables and fruits to compose a salad, too, because I don't always want to feel I must run to the store and buy more lettuce when we have other foods that might make an excellent salad.

#6. Eat Raw.  I want to up our raw food quotient to twice a day.  Again, it's filling, it's good for digestion, teeth and gums.  I don't care if we eat a second salad or a piece of fruit in it's natural state, anything that fills us up and isn't meat/fat/dairy based is a good buy!  Remember we're only talking half an apple or 20 grapes or 1 cup of salad (could also be vegetables on our supper sandwich).

#7. Cut out Luncheon Meats.  I've been using this one for the past 8 months and it's been a huge help to lowering our grocery budget. It also allows me to control salt and fat content.  And honestly when you consider the costs of luncheon meats over all (and we're not even talking  the much better tasting deli meats!), it costs far more per pound than roast or turkey breast.  I'd rather cook a beef roast or turkey breast and make my own sliced meats.  I find they taste so much better.  But I can do better.  I want to work on being a little more creative with sandwich fillings.  When John wanted only sandwiches in his lunch I figured out pretty much our current core of sandwich fillings: pimento and cheese, peanut butter (with a variety of toppings), turkey, chicken salad, egg salad.  These are fine but I can get a few ideas reading my vintage Womans Day magazines and the cookbooks.  We can test a few new fillers and hopefully add to our menu.  I might indulge in the occasional purchase of beef bologna from a deli but it will be rare thing and well enjoyed when we do.

#8.Use it ALL.  I've dabbled in this area and then I ease off.  Reading the book An Everlasting Meal is a great reminder that we truly can use all of our foodstuffs.  I've saved onion tops and bottoms, the ends of celery stalks, tops and tails of carrots for making broth and I save bread end pieces...But as Adler points out, we can use the liquid we steamed or boiled vegetables in, save the shells of beans and peas to boil for a delicious vegetable broth, eat them raw as part of a salad, etc. Potato peels would make delicious snacks. How silly is it we'll pay a premium price for potato skins at a restaurant but turn up our nose at them and toss in the trash at home?  I mean seriously to think hard about what I'm throwing out.  At the very least, I should be able to compost the truly inedible things and that will still be netting me a benefit!  Just think of all the healthy plants I can grow with the addition of good compost.

#9. Ask the Right Questions:
Is the store brand comparable?
Can I make it myself?
Is it made from basic ingredients I already have on hand?
Will I need a pricey item that can be used in more than one way?
Will it cost less?
Will the flavor difference make it worth the extra cost?
Is it labor intensive?
Will the flavor difference be worth the extra effort?
Can I substitute something else for this item?
Does John (and do I) prefer the bought or homemade version?

I've been asking these questions a lot over the past few months.  It was really a purchase of bread that led to the gist of this for us.  We bought bread at our Publix store.  5 loaves.  We paid $22.  I told John then 'We have to do better than this.  That's $44 a month!"   I can make acceptable bread at home but it takes time. John asked that I continue to buy bread because he felt it was just one more thing for me to do.  I don't mind making bread but you must stay with it when it's rising and ready to bake.  There are no spontaneous trips away from home that take hours upon hours. I also had not found a bread recipe that held up well to sandwiches, so there was that to consider as well.

About four months ago, John pointed out some new loaves of bread at Aldi.  They are artisan breads and have all the flavor of homemade with a texture that is a little more suited to sandwiches.  I love the better flavor and texture compared to commercial loaf bread. These artisan loaves stretch to about two commercial loaves worth of bread and cost the same as one loaf, so well worth the exchange. We've lowered our bread costs to $22 a month.  Huge savings. I make Challah for Shabat evenings now and then because I can make it once a month in smaller loaves that are better suited to our small household. I store it in the freezer. One recipe will make 3-4 small loaves.  It's an additional small savings of about $3 a month. Not huge but it decreases our bread cost.

Here of late I've made cream of tomato soup substitute by combining a small can of tomato sauce with 1 tbsp of flour which thickens the sauce nicely.  Add in a 1/2 tsp of sugar and it tastes like condensed cream of tomato soup and suits any casserole that calls for a can of tomato soup!  The cost of a can of Campbell's tomato soup is $1on sale,  store brand is $.69 on sale. One can of tomato sauce is $.39 at Aldi.  I haven't tried eating it as a soup yet but just as an ingredient substitute.

The last question is really important. I can make homemade yogurt and I really like it.  BUT...John prefers blueberry yogurt and I've yet to find a recipe that suits his taste buds.  I learned to reduce the yogurt recipe so that it makes 1 quart and not 4 which means it's more viable now as an option for me.  I just find it easier and as cost effective to buy the yogurt he prefers.  By the same token there are some things he likes and I don't.  Life is too short to choke down foods you just don't care for so learning to strike the balance is the best and most cost effective way to go.

#10.  Homemade Snacks.  I have a doughnut pan that I've used once.  Doughnuts are one of John's favorite snack items.  You'd think I'd use that pan more often, wouldn't you?  Well I'm going to!  Homemade cakes and cookies are tastier.  I've made it my habit to make two cake layers and freeze one, rather than make a big 9X13 size pan.  I will say this has been one of the areas where I'm about 75% happy with where I am.  I just need to make that push to 100%.

And let's go back to those potato skins...why not make them for a snack.  I recently purchased a jar of regular popcorn.  No more microwave bags.  It pops on stove top in the same amount of time, costs less and allows me to determine how much butter (or not) that I want on it.

Back in the summer, I re-introduced Koolaid to our household.  It's less costly than soda and just as refreshing on a hot day.  I've always made it with less than half the sugar called for on the packet.  Iced tea is refreshing, too and can be enhanced with ginger root, orange, lemon or peach slices, or with mint leaves.

I'm not saying we'll stop buying soda...nor are we likely to give up potato chips or pretzels, but we can certainly stretch those things out with homemade snack foods that fill, taste good and satisfy cravings as well or better than bought snack foods.

#11.  Reduce the sausage.  I like sausage meat and while we now eat exclusively turkey sausage, it's much, much more pricey than pork sausage ever was.  I spend about $.50 per patty for the best tasting turkey sausage we've found.  Yep, pricey.  I'm going to change my thinking.  I'm going to only have turkey sausage once a week and we'll eat a smaller portion (1 patty instead of 2).  It's one of those blind spots in my budget.  I just never stopped until this week to figure out the real cost of the stuff and now I have.

I have tried making my own sausage, but it's none of it been very satisfactory. I will continue to try recipes for homemade sausage. There are less expensive options but it's not very good.  I'd rather have the good stuff in lesser quantity until I find my homemade recipe that suits us perfectly.

#12.  Shop at Aldi.  Aldi has been the boon that my grocery budget most needed.  I can't tell you how awesome a place it is.  I bought a huge bag of grapes the other day for $2.49.  We'd just been to Publix minutes before and the grapes were $2.99 a pound.  I am sure there were three pounds in the bag I bought at Aldi.  I have reduced the number of stores I visit and consistently come in around $100 every two weeks at the store.  There are only a few items we can't buy there or that we don't like.  I've learned to follow their sales cycles and stock up on those items they deem seasonal (baking powder and corn syrup, for instance). We do perhaps 85% of our shopping there and I think it's the best move we've ever made.

#13.  Better Pantry Control.  I need to have a monthly inventory of my pantry items.  I've opted to do quarterly inventories up until now.  Every quarter I find a few items that are expired, and that's not a great thing, although most are canned items and I feel perfectly safe using them right away.  Now and then something is long expired and I end up tossing it.  This is easily remedied by doing inventory more frequently, making it a point to use those items that are due to expire and just being more consistent in tracking usage of items and not over purchasing those we are slower to use.

#14.  Have a 6-12 months pantry.  I've let our pantry get lower than I'd like.  I think there's a two months supply of food (including freezer contents) but it's not where I want to be.  I've said before that in my book, there's an emergency fund and there's an extension emergency fund: a full pantry.  It's like the difference between $200 and $2000 to cover an emergency.  2 months or 12 months?  Many and many a friend has weathered a storm of illness or unemployment and relied on their food stores to see them through and seldom was it a short period but a much longer one.  This of course means I need to be especially careful to follow #13.

I think I'll stop here this week.  I'll post part II, which mostly deals with the non-food portions of my grocery funds next.  In the meantime I hope I've given you 'food' for thought!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Menus and Work for This Week: October 19 - 24

                                                     The Freezer Challenge Continues...

I've been wracking my brain for menu ideas for the coming week.  I'm just so undecided and admittedly a wee bit frustrated.  You see, I cleared a bit of space in all three freezers this past week...and promptly refilled those spaces on Thursday and Friday...Uhm,  this is not working quite the way that I planned it!  My food multiplication is much appreciated, truly it is, but it does seem that I am forever trying to figure out where I'll store the leftovers.  I shall not complain.  It's a wonderful thing, truly it is to take stuff from the freezer and make more stuff to refill the freezer and all the while I'm cutting back on portions and this ingredient or that and the food just increases.

This past week we did very well following the menu up to a point.  I made the Beef Ravioli Bake and ended putting a pan in the freezer with enough for another meal.  I also ate leftovers today of the casserole dish...and I cut the beef by two thirds!  It calls for 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef.   I used just 1/2 pound and I still had more than enough to serve 5.   I made chicken and dumplings and that turned out to be a hearty meal.  I ate leftovers of that, too, earlier in the week for my supper.  But I still put two quarts of chicken/veg soup in the freezer.  Two quarts!  The pot roast was made Friday and is currently in the fridge.  We never even got round to eating that.  I will put that on the menu this week.  We stopped Thursday to buy Fried Chicken at the diner and we ate twice off that.  I cooked a small turkey breast  roast (boneless) for sandwiches, but haven't sliced it up yet.  Sure has been great eating turkey sandwiches.  Yum!

Okay, I'm planning meals from breakfast thru supper once more as it helps me stay focused and not use too much of my resources and at the same time to use ALL the foods available that might otherwise spoil.

Breakfasts:   Sausage Cheese Toast
                     Butterscotch Oatmeal, Peanut Butter Toast
                     Bagels with Cream Cheese, Cereal if wanted
                     Eggs with Cream Cheese and Chives, Buttered Toast
                     Pancakes, Bacon
                     Sausage and Hash brown Casserole, Muffins, Fruit Cups
                     Boiled Eggs, Buttered Toast, Juice

Suppers:       Yogurt Smoothie
                      Club Sandwich
                      Turkey Sandwich with Chips
                      Cereal and Toast
                      Beanie Weenies
                      Mini Pizzas with Vegetables  
                      Quesadillas with Tomato Soup

Leftovers for me
Beefy Ravioli bake...should have had a salad, but I did have crackers and cheese and grapes for an afternoon snack.  I'll have yogurt for supper tonight I think.

Roast Beef with Mashed potatoes, Green Peas, Broccoli Apple Salad, Muffins
My first planned meal with the roast beef.  I think I can stretch this to two meals and possibly sandwich meat.  We'll see.  If I do we'll likely have that instead of the Mini Pizzas.

Roast Beef Hash, Green Beans, Lettuce and Tomato Salad, Toasted Muffins
Round 2.  I have the diced cooked potatoes ready to mix with the gravy and meat, so a fuss free meal.

Burritos, Pico de Gallo Salad, Baked Apples
The burritos from the freezer.  They are huge things stuffed with rice and ground meat and cheese and beans and corn, all leftovers that I wanted to use up.  I think this will be a satisfactory meal.  I'll bring out the whipped cream for the baked apples...I may adjust this to Apple Brown Betty to use up more of the end pieces of bread in the freezer.  It's mighty good and could bake alongside the burritos.

Out with Mama

Whole Roasted Chicken with Apples and Root Vegetables,  Green Salad, Biscuits
If the roast doesn't stretch to sandwiches, I'll keep some biscuit dough out to make mini pizzas for our supper.

Kids Favorite Casserole, Fruit Salad, Biscuits, Snickerdoodles
It's really just an easy shepherd's pie.  I'll use just 1/2 pound ground beef for the base instead of a pound.

Work Plans 

I made no plans last week and said anything I got done was bonus work.  I managed to prune the roses way back, did some trimming around the Persimmon at the front porch, got my shed more or less sorted, and made another step of progress on the guest room.  Not bad for a 'vacation' week, huh?  Oh yeah, I sat down and worked out my Fourth Quarter budget sheet as well.  

This Week:

Get the pictures, sconces hung in guest room.

Take a load of stuff to the shed.

Tag and Sort items for booth.

Get Christmas stuff for booth gathered and tag it  so it's ready to place in November.

Plant Daffodil bulbs and iris.

Finish clearing empty pots off back porch.                  

Living Frugal Living Well

Sorry this is late this weekend.  I tried to send it out several times Friday evening and Saturday but blogger just wasn't cooperating.

At one time I used my own photos to head these posts.  I felt it was a good way to share how we save and live in our home.  I love this little flower bed that is a good enough replica of one I much admired so I'm going to lead off with this photo this week.

Saturday:  John worked his 24 hour shift, so I made a breakfast for us.  I made Bagel Breakfast Sandwichs, which suited his need to have a heavier than usual breakfast and filled us up until well past dinner time.

Packed for a trip we'd planned for this weekend.  We've gotten to be old hands at packing and generally know just what we need so it all comes together quickly.  I keep a zippered plastic bag of trial sized items in the overnight bag as well as a single wash load of detergent, a dryer sheet, a mini sewing kit for repairs, a nightlight, and even a spare hair brush.  All we generally have to gather is our colognes, toothbrush and whatever we feel we require extra.  It's made packing a breeze in that department and we can pack a bag for travel in about 10 minutes flat.

Our hotel fees will be covered by a small fund we keep and use for travel.  We usually put money in this account at Christmas and later when we get tax returns.  We don't contribute monthly to this fund.  So when the money in the account is gone we don't travel.

I packed a grocery sack with snack foods, paper plates and bowls, plastic utensils, a couple of coffee mugs, coffee pods, a box of cereal, jar of peanut butter, crackers.  We packed an insulated bag with water, soda, milk, cheese.  We stopped off to buy ice (and milk as it happened because my bargain gallon was starting to taste 'different'.)

Nope, didn't toss the bargain gallon.  It wasn't spoiled or out of date, just didn't taste as fresh as I'd prefer for drinking.  So I'll use it to make biscuits and breads and such.

John stopped in the town nearest the interstate to fill the car.  At this point we were over an hour from home and well past dinner time.  Next door was a burger place with a 'bargain menu' and he ordered burgers from that.  We spent less than $4.  We drank water brought from home.

We made two other stops: for boiled peanuts and for apples.  Those provided snacks for us all weekend long, as well as gifts to the kids.

Our son made supper for us after we arrived.  Good food and a grandbaby who chuckles at Grampa is a happy combination, lol.

Sunday:  John walked to the convenience store next to our hotel to purchase a loaf of bread.  He came back with orange juice and a special donut I like very much but seldom can find.  We had cereal, donuts, and a piece of bread with peanut butter spread over it for breakfast.  The hotel provided a coffeemaker and coffee pods.  It was nice to have our mugs from home instead of the paper cups the hotel provided.

I spent the day with my daughter.  John was spending the day with our son.  Before I left the hotel John and I discussed money.  We'd both spent a portion of funds for the weekend as we set out on the trip.  We agreed to what we'd each take from the account to supplement if needed during the day.  Not a bad discussion to have.  No nasty surprises when the weekend is over and done.  As it happened, I got no more money, finding I still had a bit leftover at day's end and he did refresh his funds since he'd bought milk and bread and yesterday's lunch from his pocket.

I didn't buy any clothing at the first store we visited.  I'd forgotten to check to see what pieces I'd determined I'd needed and couldn't find the one item I'd knew I could use.  I wish I could list every single thing I did NOT buy, neat and useful as I thought they were.  It wasn't the cost that kept me from it either, but the idea that I had a perfectly workable substitute right at home, so why buy something I'd need to find storage place for, etc.

What I did buy: makeup.  I cut the end off the tube of primer three weeks ago.  The foundation tube screeched with air as I squirted out the last of it Saturday morning.  The blush was 'see through' to the bottom of the pan as was the brown shadow.  I really got my full use of these cosmetics but it was time to replenish so I did.  Katie has a better eye for shades of foundation than I do so I was glad to have her help.

At the second store we shopped, I did buy a beautiful shirt that was just $10.  I purchased the same shirt, different color a few weeks ago and it is so well made and so comfortable that I had no qualms about adding a second one to my wardrobe.  You can see I approach my wardrobe much as I approach my pantry and home: do I need it?  Is it useful?  Can I find it at a better price?  Will it keep until I do need it?  In this case, while I didn't need the shirt at the moment, I will most assuredly be glad to have it to extend my current wardrobe and since it's a quality item, I'll get good use from it.

The end of the day.  John was still away, so I asked Katie to take me some place to purchase food for my supper.  She suggested the grocery.  That actually turned out to be a terrific suggestion.  I purchased a frozen entree that had vegetables and protein included in the dish.  I also purchased some English Muffin breakfast sandwiches (also frozen).  I knew I had apples and other items to complete the meal at the hotel.  I spent just $20, (I also purchased a sale item I knew we were out of at home), paid for it all from my allowance.  My dinner entree was under $5.  I felt it was a very good value.

I heated my supper in the hotel room microwave.  It was very tasty but not quite enough.  I wished I'd bought a salad but opted to add an apple and crackers which made it all just enough.

John also purchased a newspaper while at the convenience store this morning.  I read the paper, worked on the puzzle, gathered sales sheets and coupons to take back home.  I caught up on a tv series I enjoy (Alaska, the Last Frontier), read...I enjoyed myself alone as much as I'd enjoyed my time with my children.

Monday:  We heated two of the English muffin sandwiches in the microwave for breakfast, drank coffee we prepared in the room with the courtesy coffee provided, drank the rest of our juice (we shared a bottle yesterday morning).  I figured the cost of our breakfast was about $.90 each which is far less than breakfast out would have been.

We packed up to head home.  John put ice in our insulated bag using the courtesy ice from the hotel ice machine.

Home looked so good!  I wasn't worried about dinner even though we arrived just at noon.  I had food in the freezer that I knew could be reheated easily: turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce.  I put the turkey and dressing in the oven.  I added a little water to a covered pan, put in a crown of broccoli and popped that in the oven, too.  It was all done in about 40 minutes, which gave us enough time to unpack, feed the pets, start a load of laundry and hang it to dry.  And just that quick everything was done.  We only had to eat, clear the dishes and the afternoon has been ours to relax and exult over our terrific weekend.

Tuesday:  Wasn't in the least sorry to hear the rain this morning.  It meant I didn't have to water the potted plants!

I didn't take anything out to thaw last night after planning menu for the week, and was a little late with it this there I was with frozen meats and dinner an hour or so away.  I opted to boil the chicken to make chicken and dumplings.  I used my larger steamer basket to hold the chicken pieces and the frozen onion tops and root ends, carrot pieces and half a root end of celery.  Made awesome broth and all was easily lifted from the pot when I was ready to make the dumplings.

I removed the last two  dumplings and set them aside for the dog tomorrow.  I had two quarts of chicken soup left over.  I put those in the freezer.

food waste:  Today I tossed two romaine hearts and 1head of ice berg lettuce.
Having leftover salads from John's work lunches to use up has made my usual purchases too much.  I think I'll limit myself to one head of lettuce per pay period rather than throw away any more foods.  As for John's leftover salads, I'll let him eat them.  I really do loathe the bagged mixes.  I'll eat the regular lettuce insuring that it does not go to waste.  I'd rather run out and buy more if needed than toss it in the trash.

I overfilled the coffee carafe this evening as I set up coffee pot for breakfast.  I used the excess to water violets rather than pour it down the drain.

I set aside chicken skin for Maddie's meal tomorrow.

Made pie crusts from scratch.

Made an apple pie.  I save apple peels and cores to use to make a future batch of jelly.

Made pimento and cheese for sandwich filling.

Wednesday:  I was up earlier than usual this morning.  I slept really well last night so the added hours to my day were most appreciated.

I sorted things in the shed.  Result: 1 bag of trash, 1 basket of stuff to come indoors to be placed in the booth and 1 basket of things to help along the fall decor for the house. 3 cardboard boxes for future use in mulching flower beds. Sorting things out meant I could find all my fall decor stuff.  I was about ready to go buy more floral picks!

We had a big breakfast this morning.  Nope, it wasn't a work night for John but we'd eaten very light meals the past few days and I was pretty sure my husband would appreciate a good breakfast.

Balancing a heavy breakfast with a smaller lunch is a saver as well.  I saved me time as well.

We had Harvest.  We are a little late.  John's check was supposed to be mailed to him.  We were waiting for mail delivery (mid-afternoon here) so were surprised by a phone call from John's partner saying he was bringing John's check to us on his way to do an errand.  Apparently it had mistakenly been sent to the office and missed being mailed twice.  We'd thought the delay was because of the holiday.  So glad that his partner realized it hadn't been mailed and brought it to us.

We made a trip into town to drop bills off at the post office, then on to the bank.  At the bank we got cash for groceries and allowances.

My morning's work did a number on my knee.  I put some lentils in a sock, heated in the microwave and put a heat pack on my knee.  It felt great and really reduced the pain.

Worked on my grocery list for tomorrow.  I looked over sales sheets and checked online ads for those stores for which I had no sales sheet.  I checked coupons as well this evening and clipped all the new coupons from the weekend.

Thursday:  I made breakfast, keeping in mind that we were shopping for groceries I opted to go a little heavier.

For one reason and another we were late leaving home, the morning nearly over before we ever made it to the first grocery.  While I waited about, I worked on organizing the coupons I'd clipped yesterday.

 I insisted on sticking hard to my list.  I had a set amount of money to spend and any overage was coming from my allowance...Well that allowance is sort of spoken for already.  I sure didn't want to have to give it up!

When we left grocery one and headed to Aldi, I made sure John knew exactly how much money I had left to spend.  That helps him cut back on his little splurges.  He never put a thing in the buggy this week without asking if it was okay.  Result: I was over but not by much and he split the difference with me since the overage was extras.

Despite my little overage today, I pointed out to John that we had successfully cut our grocery budget to $260 this month.  That is down from $450/mo just a bit over a year ago.

He offered to buy fried chicken from the local diner, if I'd go in to get it.  I called ahead to order and here's a bit of small town living for you.  We arrived at 1:33 and the diner was closed. I thought they closed at 2pm but they close at 1:30.  However as we sat before the place, one of the employees opened the door and asked "Are you Miss Terri?  We still got your box fixed up for you, come on in!"  Love small town living!  We'll get two meals off that box of chicken.

Friday:  My rake fell apart this morning as I worked in the yard.  John fixed it for me by putting a screw in the thing.  The rake won't see another year I don't guess, since part of the problem is rotting wood,  but it's good enough to finish out this one.  I'll be sure to look for a sale over the next few months.

Busy kitchen day.  I started out by making french toast from the off cuts of the huge loaves of bread we buy.  The slices are too big for a sandwich but not enough to cut into three pieces so I essentially end up with two and a half pieces from the slices.  I used the half pieces to make french toast this morning.  It was really good too.  The bread is coarse and fresh and slightly dry and soaked up the batter really well, so the outside got crispy and the inside was creamy and nice.

Put a boneless turkey breast in the crockpot for sandwich meat.  I dressed it with the last bits of the cane and maple syrup (not enough for a breakfast serving) and dijon mustard.  That emptied both syrup bottles.

Browned a chuck roast in the frying pan then made gravy from the browned bits in the pan and put over it.  That went into a slow oven to bake in a covered casserole dish.

Used the same pan to brown ground beef and make sauce for a Tortellini casserole for dinner.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of beef.  I use only 1/2 pound.  It is plenty and there's protein galore with the cheese tortellini and the cheese called for in the recipe.  I split the recipe after cooking and put an equal amount into a pie pan for the freezer.

I baked the other casserole in the slow oven with the roast beef.  It took a little longer but the oven was already set.

We ate the last of the apple pie today.  I debated making another dessert but reasoned we've plenty of things in the freezer (poundcake and gingerbread) and could make do at least through the weekend.

We carried off trash and picked up mail this afternoon.  I don't normally run to take off trash unless we're going to town, but I had all those meat wrappers in the trash and didn't want them in the house over the weekend.

We had turkey sandwiches for supper.

Living Well

We had a lovely weekend and a lovely week, full of wonderful blessings and good things.  I'm going to do a gratitude list this week of things that moved me, inspired me, pleased me all through the week just past:

A 4 month old laughing at his Grampa

Surprised look on same 4 month old's face when Gramma let him slide down her lap, lol.  He wasn't in the least scared, but he definitely had an opinion about it!

Warm boiled green peanuts.

Conversations with vendors.

A rose garden in a tight little gas station parking lot.  Sometimes sacrificing a parking space truly is inspiring.  There must have been a dozen blooming roses and they were thriving.

An old fashioned cider apple.

A heart to heart conversation that clears the air.

A weekend worthy of comment even into the next weekend.

Leaves slowly drifting down.

A kind gesture.

The luxury of having breakfast made for me.

Rearranging things I have and finding I am inspired to stop and admire them because they are so fresh and lovely looking.

When making do, turns out better than I thought it might.

The realization that we're not solely dependent any longer on a paycheck.

A Shabat evening prayer that moves to tears as we speak our hearts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Questions, Answers, & Comments

Well here we are in another new month...they do seem to come around regular don't they?  I am not going to go on about how quickly time passes.  It does and it doesn't, if you know what I mean.  I like staying busy which makes time pass quickly, but I can be pretty relaxed at times and time seems to pass just as quickly. And the few incidents where time passed slowly, had little to do with boredom and a lot to do with awaiting news in illness or for test results and only occasionally did it slow down for good things...I'd much rather time passed at it's usual pace!

September ended being a pretty good month for me where projects and tasks were concerned.  I feel it was a productive time overall and I am happy with the results.

Another happy thing has been the number of comments, especially from long time readers who said it was their first time posting...Thank you!  Thank you all for making my ordinary day to day life appear to have some import to others.  Thank you for taking time to comment.  It means a great deal to me.

Now let's see what you had to say this past month...

Rutabagas or Swedes: An Autumn Bonus

This my dears, is a rutabaga as it is known in the U.S. or Swede, as our neighbors and friends from around the world call it.  It is from the Brassica family (cabbage) and is a root vegetable.  It takes far longer to mature than a turnip and the flesh is a pale yellow.  Rutabagas are largely grown in Canada which exports them.  You've likely seen them in the grocery store and thought they were rather ugly with their mottled and heavily waxed skin.

I've eaten rutabaga for all my life in the autumn and winter months.  In my family they were a much looked forward to seasonal food. 40 odd years ago a rutabaga was a strong tasting, almost bitter root but not so much anymore.  Katie, my most picky of all children, loved when I'd cut a rutabaga into sticks and make oven baked fries from them.  I like them served mashed with butter and pepper.  Look on your grocery shelves and you'll likely find cans of diced rutabaga which might be heated and served as they are.

Monday, October 13, 2014

This Week's Meal Plan and Jobs

I think, after this year, I should get a bumper sticker for my car: I SAW Georgia! lol  We're just back from a weekend in Athens in which we traveled many miles further with our two children (John with Sam and I with Katie).  It was a great weekend and as with every time we've traveled I've learned a thing a two that we might do differently to best suit our comfort and save a smidge of money.  But that is another post for another day.

We arrived back home today and I immediately started a meal when we came in, using freezer items so I'll lead with that meal and we'll go from there.

Turkey, Dressing, Broccoli with Cheese, Cranberry Relish
Turkey and Dressing from the freezer.  It took only about a half hour to thaw an dheat in the oven.  I steamed the broccoli in the oven, too.  I didn't leave it for the full half  hour.  And no salad.  I was unpacking while dinner heated.  We did eat ALL of the cranberry relish which was about 1/4 cup each.  It counts as a fruit, really as there was no sugar just cranberries, orange and apple.

Beef Ravioli Bake, Italian Green Beans, Green Salad, Garlic Bread
I have beef, ravioli and green beans in the freezer as well as bread.  That should help make somewhat of a dint in the freezer...And that's good as I bought an item while on our trip that I packed into the freezer, lol.  It does seem that no matter how much I take out I put as much back in but I am truly seeing some room in both freezers, so I must be making headway.

Chicken Dumplings, Apple Pie
I'll use chicken and broth and mixed veg from the freezer.  John likes the big fluffy type dumplings.  I grew up with the flat noodle type dumplings that Granny taught me how to make...So if there's an extra lot of chicken stew left, I put in the freezer and then make my sort of dumplings a little later. The apple pie will be made from scratch.  I bought the most beautiful Winesap apples in North Georgia this weekend.  I shared some with the kids and brought home extras for making a lovely pie. I have my favorite Dutch apple Pie recipe, but I was thinking of trying this recipe.