Thrifty Thursday

I posted this photo earlier this week, but look a little closer...Notice all those glass jars?  All salvaged and all re-used multiple times now.  I like glass jars for storage for several reasons: but mostly I like that I can have varied sizes for varied uses and they are I can see through them and that means I'm less likely to forget what is IN them and will use up my leftovers in a timely manner.

Friday:  We traveled to see the kids.  I made my reservations earlier in the week using Priceline and saved a couple of dollars over the hotel's website prices.

Froze bottles of water, a bottle of milk and a bottle of grape juice.  These did double duty.  The frozen bottles kept our insulated bag nice and cold,, replacing the need of taking ice with us.  The milk and juice were a planned ahead savings.  Last trip we had to buy juice for our Shabat kiddush.  I thought it unnecessary when we had a big bottle at home.  I just refilled a well washed soda bottle.  Milk, ditto.  I like milk at night before bed.  Why go out and buy milk when I had to pour milk from the jug I was about to freeze?  I just poured into a well washed re-used soda bottle and froze.

Packed a lunch and snacks for the road trip.

We plotted a new route we hoped would save time if not miles.  I think we did very well, since the new route avoided the one big city we had to drive through with multiple red lights and turns.

Checked into hotel room when we arrived in town, planning to turn on AC and allow the room to cool.  I unpacked the insulated bag and put the water bottles in the room fridge.  Those frozen bottles remained frozen!

Our first trip to view the kid's home, we were down on a Friday evening.  I made up a portable Shabat kit: votive candles, a small box of matches, a sherry glass, and napkin to cover our bread.  It's all kept in a 3x5 box and easy to pack up.

Saturday:  Water bottles were still frozen.  We repacked the insulated bag with the same bottles, knowing they would thaw on the way home so we'd have ready water to drink.

My smart daughter in law sent home a portable highchair, and potty seat with us.  She picked them up at thrift stores.  I'm proud my family thinks the way we do. 

 We headed home after lunch.  Another alternate route was attempted.  I loved this one as it went across coastal waterways and marshland for the first part of the journey.  We made really good time and will likely use that route from now on.

John stopped for supper just before we arrived home.  We'd talked about getting pizza and opted for small ones from Subway. Did you know that you can choose whatever toppings you'd like?  I opted for chicken, spinach, bell peppers and red onions.  Cost of that personalized pizza was $5 each (we ordered two).

We ate only half the pizzas and stored leftovers right away.

When we left home we'd turned the AC up to 80F.

Sunday:   John washed a full load of clothes and hung to dry.

We bought fried chicken Thursday while we were out shopping.  Meal two was a mix of dark meat peices, potato salad, green peas and corn muffins.  I like to make potato salad at home rather than buy it from the deli.  I cooked all six of the potatoes I had in my produce basket, but set aside half for later use.

Washed by hand (using a shampoo I didn't find suitable for my hair) several bras and hung to dry in the guest bath shower.

Planned the month ahead, since August is fading fast.  This included setting up a calendar sheet of known events, personal and household goals.  I'll take time towards the end of the week to plan a month of menus.  I'm going to jot down some ideas for supper and breakfasts as well. 

Monday:  Errand day for us.  John wanted to clean the car after our trip.  We'd run into mating love bugs in the southern portion of the state and the front of the car looked fuzzy.  We used the same car wash with the free vacuum that we like so well.

John went for a hair cut and I went into the grocery next door.  We haven't visited this particular area in several weeks.  I like Honeysuckle White Turkey Breakfast Sausage.  Along about October it is nearly impossible to find.  That's because the holidays are coming up.  I bought ten rolls of sausage to store in the freezer.

Splurged on a $4 clearance bouquet.  Lovely pink and green combo that lifted my spirits mightily (due to the overcast skies).

Spent the last of my gift card on Starbucks coffee.  It's not a once a month treat any longer (more like once every two- three months lately) but I sure did enjoy that coffee.  

John had offered to take me by Aldi to finish my interrupted grocery shopping trip from last Thursday but I decided against that extra trip.  I bought dog food and fruit, cheese and sausage at the one grocery and felt that was sufficient spending.

We were out rather late that day.  However, after we bought gasoline, I looked at the checkbook balance and warned John we were done for the pay period.  We each checked our wallets and put ourselves on a self-imposed money diet.  We'll limit spending to gasoline.

Hungry as we were, late as it was, home we went.  It was tempting to stop for takeout but we didn't.

Watered the basil with saved water from hand washing and rinsing dishes.

Once home, I transformed a leftover into a meal.  

While I was occupied with preparing a meal, John was attempting to fix a problem with our car: he'd discovered while vacuuming that a plug was missing from the trunk.  We'd gone by the dealership to buy  a replacement but they would have had to special order.  A home grown fix that worked for us: a flat pop off cap from a gallon milk jug and a piece of foil tape.

Supper for this evening was leftover pizza.

Tuesday:  I was ready to work this morning.  I bought bell peppers last week on sale at the local grocery.  A half pound of ground beef, mixed with rice, onion, seasonings and tomato soup filled the four peppers nicely.  I made a divided pan from a foil pie pan and aluminum foil, put two peppers on each side and then slipped the whole thing into a freezer bag.  I put that into the freezer for two future meals.

The last piece of fried chicken (one very large breast half), half a jar of pizza sauce, a couple of other items from the fridge were used to make a meal for dinner

I put a bunch of fruit from the fridge on to boil with sugar for jam...and burnt it badly!  No savings there and my pan was horribly burned, too.  I put it to soak with dryer sheets.

Contemplated doing a load of dishes but there were two spots where I could put something else. I decided to wait until the dishwasher was completely full.

Fed the dogs a meal of food scraps and skipped dog food.

Wednesday:  John did a small load of laundry on a short cycle and hung clothes to dry.

Loaded and ran a full load of dishes.

Off to spend the day with Mama.  After stopping at a friend's home for Mama to get a free facial, we went out to eat at a favorite Mexican restaurant.  I knew I'd never eat all the food in my order so I made up three burritos using a portion of the foods and asked for a to go box before I started to eat.  That food served John and I supper this evening.

Mama had to go into the grocery.  I knew I was on a self-imposed money diet but...No, no big splurges but I did allow myself a $20 (what I had in my purse) 'spree'.  I picked up some things I like a lot but seldom indulge in: croissants, orange marmalade (store brand), plain yogurt (to use as starter) and a couple of sales items (one to put up for the twins when they visit next weekend.  Cabot's Vermont Seriously Sharp cheddar blocks for us).  My total was $21.  I think I did very well and I avoided the obvious impulse purchases (cookies, candies, junk foods and overpriced magazines).

Thanked Mama for the magazines she'd set aside for me.

Packed John a work supper of leftovers.

Thursday:  'Shopped the pantry' and brought out coffee, bread and milk from the pantry/freezer in the craft room closet.

Took a friend's advice and tried the baking soda and simmering water method of reviving my burnt pan.  It worked beautifully!  I was so pleased to not have to toss that pan.

Refilled washed soda bottles with water.

Although I baked two potatoes for our dinner, they were so very large that I felt one halved was more than enough for this meal.  I'll make twice baked potatoes with the other one.

Put a small roast into the oven to bake in a covered casserole.  Placed potatoes in oven alongside.  It is so much cooler that having the oven on was no hardship at all.

Made a salad and decided to warm the leftover Garden peas from Sunday's dinner to use in the salad.  I thought it would be a fun twist on peas and carrots to put them both in the salad.

Made homemade dressing to go on the salad.

With the potatoes and salad I found we only needed about 1/3 of that roast (about 1 1/4 pounds before cooking) each.  I'll make another meal from the leftover portion...Another leftover makeover to feature!

Fashioned a dessert from graham crackers, the lone banana, a box of vanilla pudding mix and some of the homemade chocolate fudge sauce.  I called it Banana Sundae pie.  It was very tasty and we've enough for two more servings tomorrow.

John showed me a trick this afternoon that made my task (cleaning out the broom/trash closet) easier.  At some point gum had gotten stuck to the floor and I'd ignored it forever, but couldn't stand it any longer.  John sprayed the hardened gum with WD40 and I let it sit for about a half hour.  Then I went back and used a putty knife to scrape it up.  Wonderful!  It saved a lot of labor on my part.

Just a quick glance as I walked past a kitchen counter and I saw the beginnings of an ant infestation.  I looked hard enough to note their point of entry and sprayed  the area down.  I find the natural stuff we bought requires a couple of applications to really work.  I went back about two hours later and sprayed it again and yes there were a few ants there again.  I'll check again before going to bed tonight.

Stripped the bed and flipped the mattress.  I marked my mattress with permanent marker when we got it so I'd know just which side was "UP" every three months.  I figure two days away from September is not a bad time to flip to the September position.

Washed the mattress pad.  Made sure to set the timer on the microwave so I wouldn't forget I'd put it in.  Why the microwave?  Because our timer broke on the dryer a long time ago...and because I can hear that microwave go off just about anywhere in the house, making doubly sure I don't forget I've got an item in the dryer.  I couldn't hang outdoors to dry due to the heavy humidity and occasional sprinkles this evening.  

A Budget Stretcher/ Leftover Makeovers

One area that can create a slow and steady leak in the budget is in the kitchen.  Our intent is good.  We buy good foods to feed us several meals and somewhere after the first and perhaps second day, we're faced with leftovers that sit there and spoil because no one will eat them, everyone groans when you announce that it is dinner, and you yourself groan thinking of eating them once more.  That's if you even eat leftovers.  I've talked to many people and I'd say that roughly 75% of those I spoke with tell me the same thing over and over again: "We don't eat leftovers. I just throw away whatever is left."  Seriously? 

I confess that I occasionally 'lose' a leftover in the fridge.  Just today I found a cup of cooked summer squash and a half cup of broccoli salad.  I don't like to toss foods but I don't PLAN to toss them!

This is where I hope I can help you to re-think leftovers.

The number one mistake people make about leftovers is thinking they  must serve the same meal repeatedly.  No!  You do not have to have the same meal over and over again, not if you plan meals rightly.  Always look at leftovers as pre-cooked ingredients for another meal (or two or three!).  Roast chicken is a prime example.  First meal: Roast Chicken with vegetables.  Second meal: Chicken salad in Tomato cups.  Third meal: Chicken pot pie.  And you still have the carcass to make a yummy broth, the bones to pick you might find you have enough basic ingredients to make a pot of Chicken Noodle soup! Would any one of the last three meals make you think you were eating leftovers?  I'd guess that answer would be 'No.'

Yesterday we were out and about running errands.  John needed a hair cut, we'd run into love bugs on our trip down to see the grandchildren and the car had to be washed once more, and I needed to go into the grocery to pick up the fruits and dog food I didn't get last week.  We filled the car up again... I looked at the checkbook balance after and told John "That's it.  No more spending for us this pay period."  "Remember I don't have overtime on the next check so it will be short," he replied.  We both checked our wallets for cash and realized we were on a self imposed budget diet until our next allowance.  It was 3pm and we hadn't eaten since breakfast.  We looked steadfastly AWAY from the fast food places and headed home.

Thankfully the night before I'd had a sudden inspiration for using the leftovers in the fridge and I wrote them down (key for memory for me).  We had one for our dinner last night and we're eating another for our dinner today.

Meal 1: Sweet and Sour Chicken Kebabs with Pineapple Rice and Corn Muffins

My leftover ingredients: 1 leftover BBQ chicken breast half
                                    4 slices juice packed canned pineapple
                                    1 1/4 cups cooked white rice
                                    3 corn muffins
                                    1/2 cup homemade BBQ sauce
Additional ingredients:   1/2 large red onion
                                     Stem end pieces of four green bell peppers (peppers to be used as stuffed peppers)

I cut the chicken into cubes, and cut large pieces of pepper, onion, and pineapple.  Since the vegetables were raw and the chicken wasn't, I knew that I needed the extra moisture of the pineapple to help the vegetables steam as they broiled.  I alternated the meat, vegetable and pineapple on the skewers then added a bit of the pineapple juice to the BBQ sauce to thin it a little and spread that over the skewers:

I put the kebabs under the broiler and then moistened the rice, using the last of the juice from the pineapple:
and heated that in the microwave.

In about ten minutes time we had this on our plates:

 and we were ready to eat.  It took about 20 minutes to assemble and cook.  It tasted very much like a Sweet and Sour Chicken.  Mmmmm mmmm!

Makeover II:  Chicken Parmigiana with Green salad and Croutons

My leftovers:  1 very large fried chicken breast half
                      1/4 jar of dried tomato pesto
                      1/2 jar Pizza sauce
                      4 slices ripe tomato
and from the fridge:
                     minced garlic
                     shredded mozzarella
                     Parmesan/Romano cheese
from the cupboard:
                    4 ounces Angel Hair pasta

I stripped the meat from the bone (and some of the excess skin and breading, too) then sliced the breast.
I diced the tomato and mixed that, garlic, dried tomato pesto and pizza sauce together.
After cooking the pasta, I drained well, put in a casserole dish and layered on chicken slices, pizza sauce and cheeses, then baked until bubbly.

I'm not sure John even realized it was leftover fried chicken.

Now that's just two meals from a handful of leftovers.  I could have left any of that to just sit in the fridge and regretted the 'loss' but instead I used my imagination and made  two entirely new meals from them.

I'll be posting ideas such as these periodically to help those of you who are Leftover challenged. I hope I inspire you to think of leftovers as more than just a meal to repeat.

Weekly Menu Plan  Some weeks I look back at the previous week's menus and wonder why I even bother to plan.  I used two meals from that week's menu.  Oh well.  Most of that food is still on hand and will eventually make it into rotation of meals once more.  Thankfully I used the items most likely to spoil (or froze) so no waste there.

The week ahead isn't too busy so meals should work out rather well this week.  We bought an 8pc fried chicken this past week at the grocery.  My only excuse is that we were shopping rather late, we were hungry and tired and wanted to be done and home and still had another store to go.  It was not a good way to shop and in future we'll skip it and wait as I'd thought I'd do in the first place.  I should have listened to myself!

We ate chicken for dinner that night, and today for dinner as well.  I have a huge chicken breast leftover and plan to make a meal from that for Monday.  I didn't get all the foods I'd planned last week.  Remember I said we were hungry and tired?  Well the second store was Aldi, where I do the bulk of my shopping and we grabbed lettuce, milk, eggs and headed home.  I had a long list for the day but we'll call it savings for now and I'll try hard to stay out of the store until next cycle.

Sunday:  Fried Chicken, Potato Salad, Green Peas, Corn Muffins with Honey
We had dark meat pieces today for our dinner and saved a very large breast to use for tomorrow's meal.  I made potato salad, cooking all the potatoes I had after finding one with a soft spot.  I'd rather USE than LOSE and have potatoes go to waste.  I have a plan for the remaining cooked potatoes. 

Monday:  Chicken Parmigiana over Pasta, Pan Roasted Eggplant, Tossed Salad
I'll use the remaining chicken breast sliced, layer over cooked pasta with sauce and bake while the eggplant roasts in the oven.  I'm pretty sure after today John will be ready to see some beef on the table, lol, but I want to be sure we EAT the food we buy.  I expect there may be some leftover eggplant, but I have an idea how to use it.

Tuesday:  Pan Broiled Steak, Armenian Potatoes and Eggplant, Lettuce Wedges with Bleu Cheese dressing
I bought Chuck Eye steak and had it marinated and vacuum sealed at the meat market.  I was promised this would help further tenderize the meat.  Normally the potatoes cook in the oven with tomatoes and garlic but I think it will do just as well to reheat the vegetables in the tomato garlic seasoning.

Wednesday:  BBQ'd Shredded Chicken on Buns, Chips, Pickles, Cabbage Slaw with Nectarines
More of my leftovers.  I cooked BBQ chicken last week instead of oven frying as planned.  I had two large breasts, cut them both in half.  Homemade BBQ sauce was poured over the shredded cooked meat that was leftover and put in the freezer. It's a perfect meal to pull out today when I'll have less time to cook and a meal I can easily leave for John to have on his own, while I eat later.

ThursdayRed Beans and Rice, Carrot and Raisin Salad with Pineapple, Cornbread
I have a piece of beef chorizo I will use to season the red beans. Leftover rice will reheat in the microwave.  Leftover pineapple slices will be diced and used in the salad.

Friday:  Stuffed Peppers, Whole Kernel Corn, Peach Salad, Leftover Cornbread
I bought green bell peppers pretty inexpensively last week at our local grocery.  I usually stuff with rice/ground beef mixture (just as I'd use to make porcupine meatballs) and then top with tomato soup and cheese.  My recipe makes enough to stuff four good sized peppers, so this will be a make one/freeze one dish.  I like having an entree I could simply pull from the freezer and bake and serve.

Saturday:  Marinated Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes with sour cream and chives, Green Beans, Sliced Tomatoes
I hope to go to an estate sale on this morning and since John will be at home, hopefully sleeping, I will try to prepare the meat the day before.  I'll prepare the vegetables (using instant potatoes since I'm out of fresh) when I return from my morning out. 

Bulk Buying and Warehouse Stores

Ella wrote:  I am curious what you think about warehouse stores like Sams Club. Perhaps you don't have those in your area, but given that you sometimes buy in bulk and try to have stock on hand, just wondered if you belong to one and what you think about it. 

I don't currently have a membership at Sam's Club (nearest to my location).

Mind you, when we had growing kids at home, we shopped routinely at Sam's.  It was more than worth my while to buy six heads of romaine at once when I knew full well we'd eat them in less than two weeks time.
In some ways I miss shopping there because invariably dairy products were an excellent buy, as were Over the Counter meds, minerals and vitamins and fresh seasonal produce (like blueberries or cherries) for canning or preserving. Flour, sugar, olive oil, seasonings were almost always good buys as well.  The meats at our Sam's were beautiful cuts, and fairly priced but buying two HUGE chuck roasts would eat up a chunk of the budget for just the two of  us.  And that's why I no longer have a membership, though I do visit about once a year as a guest.  I simply cannot use the volume of perishable bulk purchases I once did and it was in the perishables that I found the very best buys.

I confess I've found warehouse shopping terribly, terribly tempting!  Books, appliances, dishes, jewelry, gorgeous gift baskets, were all too tempting for words and distracting, too. I do NOT miss the temptation to spend more than I have (and I so often did).  I don't miss the limited selection of brands which often led me to believe that I should buy 'x' brand even though I'd normally have opted for a less expensive or store brand, etc. I don't miss going because invariably someone else was along (Mama, Granny, sister in law, etc) and I was tempted to purchase things I'd normally bypass.   I don't miss the long treks through the store when I'd shop with Mama (she has always had stamina plus when it comes to being behind a buggy she can fill to the gills and beyond), that I started tossing things in just to be done and not have to go anywhere else later in the week. 

I think NOW I'd be far more disciplined than I was way back then.  For one thing, I have a better viewpoint and grasp of spending money overall and I think I'd go it all alone rather than tandem shopping.  But again, not having a family at home it hardly seems worthwhile.

I follow certain 'rules' when purchasing in bulk.

My Rules for Bulk Purchasing:

 #1. Know pricing.  Use a price book if you must.  For some reason, I've been blessed with a memory for numbers.  My price list is in my head.  I can tell you right now the lowest and average prices I've seen recently on hundreds of items but I'm weird like that and I admit it.  (And by the way that awesome memory only works for numbers.   It's unlikely I can tell you your name the day after we've been introduced.  Also highly unlikely I can tell you where my keys are if I haven't tucked them into my purse as I've trained myself to do... so don't envy me, lol).

Recently 40 ounce jars of Jiff peanut butter were Buy One Get One Free at Publix.  The cost worked out to about $3.99 a jar.  I knew the cost of a 40 ounce jar of Aldi brand peanut butter was $4.29. Two jars of Jiff went on our shelf that week.  The average cost of ketchup at present is $1/12 ounces.  If I see it for less than that price, I'll buy several bottles for the pantry stock.  A good sale/coupon combo price on bottles of mustard right now is about $.66 a bottle.  If I see it for less, I'm stocking up.

#2.  Buy at the lowest price available.  I learned this while working in central supply at a nursing home.  It was a given that we were going to use  certain items over and over again regardless of the special needs of patients.  Things like Ensure, Depends, syringes, etc that were used on a daily basis for most of the general population.    If a sale came up that had those items I stocked up, buying enough to carry us until the next sales cycle (it's universal, truly, that sales go in cycles no matter what you're shopping for) rolled around.  Initially, the corporate office thought we were spending too much money, but at the end of the quarter we were spending LESS money than the other nursing homes the same size.  Since they charged for these items at the same rate of markup their profit margin was higher, too.  

I am ashamed to admit it took me probably six years after that job to realize  that I could purchase my personal home's foods using the same principles.  I only wish I might have charged my family the same markup and earned a heaping big profit, lol.

#3  Know the average sales cycles of foods.  I'll grant you sales cycles have changed a bit in the 35 years I've been homemaking.  Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter used to generate great sales on baking items, while summer brought on sales on condiments.  Winters you could expect to find roasts and round steaks, short ribs and such on sale, while summers there were better prices on steaks and ground beef and ice cream. 

There are still cycles of sales, but it takes a little harder look at sales sheets to know which foods are considered seasonal sales.  The best way to learn is to look over multiple sales sheets (you can access most store ads online now.

Mayonnaise is generally a better buy in summer months, not so much throughout the rest of the year.  I realized this past winter how much less expensive it was to stock up on mayo in summer as compared to the prices throughout the winter months.  You can bet this summer I've watched for sales and mean to have 12-14 jars on hand by end of the season just for the great savings it will net me.

#4.  Don't be too hard and fast about what you will buy.  If you find an item on clearance that you can substitute for one you normally use (tomato sauce vs. pizza sauce for instance) then buy as much as you can reasonably use before the listed expiration date.

I've just used the last jar of pizza sauce I bought last October.  I found the jars of sauce on the clearance rack at Dollar General for something like $.50 each.  I knew I could easily make two large homemade pizzas with each jar (I think they were 12 ounce) and that price was less expensive than el cheapo store brand tomato sauce with my own seasonings added in which I'd been using.  I checked expiration dates (October 2012) and figured how often I'd likely make pizza (about every third week) and bought as many jars as I thought we'd use before they expired.  I think I ended up with 10 jars.    

#5 A monthly budget should allow room for stocking up and impulse buys.  I learned this one the hard way...I have a set number of dollars to spend each month. I think it's very reasonable to plan to spend at least 10% of the monthly budget on stocking up and higher if you can afford it and set a dollar limit on impulse items.  I personally average about 15% per pay period for stocking up and no more than $10 for impulse buys (which sometimes is also used for stocking up). 

#6 Ask two simple questions:  Can I make it myself cheaper?   I happen to like pancake mix from a box.  I've finally pinpointed why: it's a little sweeter than most recipes for pancakes   This week pancake mix was on sale for $2/box which is a good price and in the past I've picked up at least 2 boxes each time it was on sale.  BUT for $2.59 I can buy 5 pounds of flour and for another $2.59 a 4 pound bag of sugar at Aldi.  I can make a LOT of pancakes for $4 and have flour and sugar leftover to make breads, muffins, cakes,cookies, etc.  I like the pancake mix because I can just add water which is handy for those times when I may be out of eggs and milk.  I'll likely continue to keep a box on hand but I won't stock two-four boxes as I have in the past.  

 A few months ago I  purchased a dozen jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce at Publix.  It was buy one get one free, and I had coupons for $1 off two, which meant I was paying about $1 a jar for spaghetti sauce.  I bought a variety: traditional, three cheese, chunky garden vegetable and again I made sure we'd be likely to use them all before they expired (sometime in 2013, I have three left).  Can I make homemade spaghetti sauce for $1 a quart (more or less)?  Not buying raw ingredients I can't.  If I had a garden I'd still need to purchase certain things (like onions and tomato sauce) in order to make the sauce and so I'd be hard pressed to keep my costs as low as the Ragu came in.

 Question 2:  WILL I make it?  In the case of pancakes or cookies, I can safely answer "Yes, I will."  For a few other items the answer might be "No," because it's a degree of difficulty I haven't yet mastered, or because it's labor intensive and the end result not noticeably better than store bought.

#7  Know what you will USE.  I've fallen victim a time or two to purchasing an item in bulk because it was a great buy...only to end up tossing half of it in the trash.  If you cannot possibly eat six (or even three) heads of romaine before it will need to be tossed, then don't buy it.  If  your family don't really like pork and beans but you see a case for $.25/can, pass it up.  If you don't understand the idea that food tossed out is money in the trash, look at it this way.  It's better to have four cans of green beans at $1 each that your family will eat on the pantry shelf than a dozen cans of something you bought for $4 they won't.

On the other hand, I grossly underestimated how much mayo we use and so ran out about February.  It was quite a shock to have to pay full price for something I'd been buying for $2.25 a jar.

#8 Don't get tunnel vision.  The dollar store, the drugstore, a grocery, warehouse store, Target (we don't have a super Target) etc all have great sales on items at one time or another.  My last toilet paper purchase was made at Target when they had an awesome sale.  I bought a 36 roll pack of a name brand paper double roll for $16 including tax.  That's $.44/roll which is a good buy. I mentioned my pizza sauce purchase at the dollar store.  For about two years, I  stocked up on coffee at the drugstores in my area which had the best sales. 

#9 Check the expiration date.  I cannot repeat this often enough, check the expiration date.  If you have some stock of an item at home, and you know you plan to purchase more, know the expiration date of what you have at home first!  Recently I found a good sale on Mayonnaise (sale/coupon combo) which I took advantage of, buying four jars.  I checked the expiration date on the jars in the store before I purchased them.  The newer jars had the same expiration date as the jars I had at home (March 2013) which limited how many I would buy.  I decided I'd wait until I found jars with an expiration date beyond March 2013 to stock. If they had expired in October 2013, I'd have bought a dozen jars.

#10 Go for items meant for long term storage over short term.  Here's where you need to know two things: how often do you use any product and what is the expected life of the item?  I do not find it viable to stock up too heavily upon batteries, bread, soda or beef or chicken as a rule.  I might have several weeks worth in the house, but rarely do I have several months worth.  These things tend to expire long before I can use them up.  On the other hand, canned goods, light bulbs, whole turkeys, personal care items (but not gel type deodorants, they tend to solidify) have a longer storage life.  They are well worth stocking
up on and keeping a rotating stock on hand.  A frozen whole turkey is good for up to a year in the freezer.  Most meat cuts have a limited life of about 3-6 months at most in the freezer before losing a degree of taste and texture and overall quality.  Know this when you shop to help determine what is worth stocking more heavily. 

Menu Monday

I haven't thought too hard about meals since last week.  The roast chicken was made Saturday morning.  We had sandwiches from one of the breasts then, a light supper that included the legs (1 each) Saturday evening and then the other breast divided between the two of us for our dinner yesterday and I put the carcass on to boil last night.  With the thighs and wings, plus the pickings of meat from the bones, I have about 3 cups of chicken.  I'll be incorporating that into this week's meals.  I love how meals seem  to just naturally stretch and grow these days. I call it a blessing.

I made a Plum Tart using this recipe:

Monday:  Corn and Bean Enchiladas with Cheese Sauce, Pineapple Salad, Pudding
I am not locked into the idea of a meatless Monday but I do try to serve meals that use no meat at least once a week and are very light (used more as flavor/seasoning) twice more.  These enchiladas do not come across as being meatless at all because they are well seasoned and the combination of rice mixed in with the corn and beans creates that 'perfect protein' that satisfies the appetite for meat.

Tuesday:  Chicken and Dumplings with vegetables, Coleslaw, Plum Tart
I need to use some flour tortillas that I've had in the fridge.  If cut into strips they cook up a little fluffy and tender much as homemade dumplings would.  I thought this would be a nice use of them.  I do find that well seasoned broth (plenty of salt to taste, pepper, garlic, onion) will make a better soup base for the dumplings.

I made the Plum Tart on Sunday.  It is really delicious but truly it is a bit tart.  My plums were not nearly as sweet as the last batch we'd bought, which explains why they were left behind no doubt.  Since I'll be running out today to pay bills, I'll pick up a pint of vanilla ice cream.  I think a scoop of that on slices of the warm tart will offset the tartness.

Wednesday:  dinner out
I don't know which day we'll be out shopping and running errands, but I am certain that a meal will be eaten out sometime this week.  No need to plan to cook.

Thursday:  Slow Oven Stew, Waldorf Salad, Corn Muffins
I may end using the slow cooker for this recipe.  It's a very good stew, with a tomato based sauce.  I'm craving autumn and the good hearty foods we'd eat in that season.  This stew should hit the spot.

Friday:  Oven Fried Chicken Breasts, Steamed Broccoli with Lemon Butter,  Mashed Potatoes
I suspect these breasts will be large and we'll get two meals off the two.

Saturday:  Eggplant Parmigiana, Pasta, Green Salad, Crusty Bread, Plum Tart
Mama gave me a medium sized eggplant the other day.  I'll use the half jar of pizza sauce mixed with a bit of tomato sauce for my Parmigiana.  We'll finish the Plum Tart

Sunday:  Grilled Marinated Chuck Eye Steak, Grilled Zucchini, Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, Crusty Bread
I've never tried a Chuck Eye Steak but I read about them recently in one of the magazines Mama gives me.  I asked the butchers about them when I bought meat last week.  One described them as a 'bit chewier' than Rib Eye, but honestly the rib eyes there are so tender that the Chuck Eye seemed worth the try.  At about 1/2 the price I figured I wasn't out much money.  The butchers assured me that marinating would  help tenderize the meat.
I expect to have leftover vegetables.  I'll serve next week over pasta or on a pizza.

Coffee Chat- Bucket List, Quilt, Guilt, and A Wake Up Call

 Come on in and have some coffee with me.  It's cooler outdoors and coffee seems just the sort of thing I want this time of day.  Decaf of course, or I'd have a harder time than usual sleeping.

"The Bucket List" was on this afternoon.  We didn't get to see it all, but we watched the last hour perhaps of it.  A good film and one of my favorites of the modern day sort.  Which made me think of something I found while clearing out files earlier this week.  I didn't feel well and that was just the sort of piddly job that allowed me to feel I was accomplishing something without expending any energy and feeling worse.  I found my Bucket List from 2005.  I'd crossed off several things in 2005 but I'd put it away, no doubt in January 2006 which is when I'd normally have set aside 2005 things from my notebook.  In the seven intervening  years, I'd only done two things on that list.  TWO.  In SEVEN years! I can't remember but one of the things I'd done now and that was 'Go to an estate sale.'  Two items on the list that I keep harping/repeating I'd like to do are: learn to make real fudge from scratch and make a quilt. 

A bit later in the week (perhaps Thursday) I still wasn't feeling well and so I settled at the computer to take an online survey (I earn points which take forever to wrack up but eventually I get enough to get a $5 Amazon card).  "How many hours a week do you spend on the computer?" was one of the questions and I guess I was feeling more under the weather than I thought because I answered it.  Honestly.  And the answer shocked me no end. It was the equivalent of a part time job!  Now mind you, I did not subtract the number of hours I spend writing the blog, and the two newsletters (not nearly enough to make a big dint), but the answer was a huge wake up call.  If I complain I don't have time to accomplish anything extra beyond housework?  It might be because I'm on the computer!  Owie, owie, owie.  The truth really does HURT.  Maybe I should stop using the excuse of no time for that quilt, huh?

Here I am with the quilt material on hand, the first block all laid out and NO quilt started! Or I should say there I WAS, because last night I went into the craft room after John left and I passed away two hours or so cutting fabric for the quilt.  I made mistakes.  I screwed up a few pieces.  I decided after it was all cut out that I didn't much like two of the fabrics and I'm not at all sure of my vision for the rest of the quilt beyond that appliqued square.  I cut the fusible interfacing for the appliques and have that pinned to the central block and cut a border for it.  But no matter how I lay out the remaining fabric, I can't get away from the fact that I like most of it but not all of it.  This evening I dug about in my stash and found a lettuce green gingham that might work for one of the fabrics.  But you can bet I will do something on that quilt every week until it's finished.  I may not have huge blocks of time to work on it, I may spend more time figuring out what I want to see when I look at it, but I will NOT waste any more time putting off something I've wanted to do for so very many years.

I may decide once this is done that I never want to quilt again, that I don't LIKE quilting at all, but I somehow don't think that will be the case.  I think I will spend a lot of time learning about quilting and will enjoy the planning of it perhaps more than the actual making, but I will be satisfied in the end.  At least that is what I hope will happen.  And if not?  Well I've tried it and I can scratch another item off that Bucket List of mine.

By the way, I threw the Bucket List in the trash.  Number one reason was that many of the things listed weren't things I wanted to do any longer.  I felt it was time for a new one, so I'll be playing with that over the next week or so.  Maybe come September I'll have a whole brand new list of things to look forward to trying.  Or I could just do what the friend of a friend did: go through her pinterest board and try all the recipes she'd pinned.  Since I don't pin recipes, I guess I could go through and do some of the crafts of try some of the thrifty tips I've saved.

I can't believe it's been two weeks since our last 'chat' post.  I really do not know how time can slip away so quickly.  August is half done.  If trees and golden rod are any indication at all, we'll be seeing autumn early this year.  I noted today on the way home that many trees are now sporting the beginning color changes.  And I've seen many stalks of goldenrod that is overly anxious blooming already while the rest is just beginning to get yellow tinged buds.

We went to synagogue this morning after John came in from work.  I'm not sure if we'll do that again.  He was tired and we slipped out before the service was fully over to come home.  I'd put in a chicken to roast this morning when I got up at 7am so it was done before we left home.  It was such a lovely golden chicken!  I've been craving roast chicken all week long, since reading the Pioneer Woman's post early last week about roast chicken.  I didn't butter mine, nor use lemon in the seasoning.  I chose to use rosemary and olive oil and garlic on my chicken, but it did the trick of turning it golden brown all the same.  I'd meant to have vegetables with it but I couldn't even think which I'd like to have.  Then John suggested sandwiches, so we had chicken sandwiches which was no doubt the better idea.  A much lighter meal and he went off to bed to sleep about an hour later.

I reckon we're having roast chicken for dinner tomorrow, too.  I'll just serve it with the vegetables we didn't have today.  I found some lovely little yellow summer squash, the small ones that are especially tender and good I'd like to cook and I've one last green tomato to fry.  I suppose I'll make some potato salad or cook green beans with potatoes.  That sounds nice doesn't it?   And I think I'll just go on and boil the bones and skin and broth that are left and make chicken dumplings for later in the week.  I have some flour tortilla that need to be used up and I can surely use a few to make dumplings.  All you do is slice them into strips and slip right into the boiling broth.

Talking over my living room wall arrangement with Katie last weekend, she suggested I get a green platter to hang in place of the blue and white metal platter I've had there for a long time now.  I could immediately see her suggestion and Monday I went on eBay and looked at green platters.  It took me about a half hour to come up with only a dozen options.  I could see any of them on the wall but wasn't sure which I'd like the best.   So I texted Katie to look them Green Platters on eBay and tell me what she thought.  She chose one of the ones on my list.  I ordered it and it was delivered on Wednesday!  That is service isn't it?  The platter is the right size, larger than the one I had before but not too big.  It's the perfect shades of green (the shading and highlighting makes it appear to be about three colors) picking up the greens in the prints below it.  And it has rabbits on it.  There are a pair of rabbits at the four compass points with two carrots in between.  I thought it the perfect play on the 'old home in the country' theme I was going for overall.

Looking at things on eBay only made me long to go into the local flea market.  I've not been in there since I bought my buffet back in May.  Friday we had been two days without soda and I knew I would have to go buy some.  The local grocery had a 20 pack on sale which was the best overall sales price I'd seen in weeks and so with that excuse I planned a trip into town Friday morning. 

I stopped at the flea market first.  Best get that out of the way, I felt, since I knew I'd need to get milk, and a couple of other dairy products at the store and I didn't want them to sit in the hot car...Yes, that's what I'm saying, just forget the insulated bags, etc. I had with me!

I found right away a steamer basket with handles, large enough to fit into my Dutch oven and just perfect for holding a chicken carcass (or whole bird) if I chose.  I couldn't help but remember that tip I'd read and shared a good while back to use a pasta pot insert to hold the carcass and vegetables when you were making broth.  You'd lift out the insert leaving behind the broth and not have to strain it.  Well Tracy and I had discussed this between ourselves back then and decided that a colander might work just as well. Only mine wouldn't fit in my pot and when I bought that pretty little Robin Egg Blue enameled one it took about once of pouring hot pasta to drain in it and watching the finish crackle to make me wary of putting it in to boil.  So the steamer basket seemed to be a great compromise, especially since it's such a nice large one.

Then I found two pretty little cognac glasses.  I'm always looking for pretty little liqueur, sherry or cognac glasses to use for our Shabbat kiddish (communion) on Friday nights.  I have some lovely handblown glasses we're using just now, but I tend to break things.  I like to have a backup.  These were especially sweet looking so I got them.

I found an old fashioned soda shop straw dispenser the sort that you lift the lid which is attached to a little tray at the opposite end and it lifts the straws.  It really reminds me of a smaller version of those big jars that sit in Barber shops with the Barbisol and combs.  Same principle, lots smaller for straws.  I haven't seen one of these in years and I'd been wanting a nicer way to keep our straws handy.

A fat biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, signed by the author was my next item.  I can't resist a good promising book and I've been reading about Beecher Stowe for years. High time I learned all about her!  Then I found a metal John Deere tractor, which I figured could do double duty.  It can sit on my bookcase as part of my 'old country home' theme until the grandchildren come to visit and then it can just be the toy it was meant to be.  I was very happy with my purchases and even happier that my total was exactly $20 the amount I'd set as my spending limit.

Oh I looked at just loads of stuff.  I  found a solid wood, early American style 3 drawer chest from the 1950s I'm thinking I may go back and get.  If it won't fit by our bed as a bedside table (to replace the oak washstand that went to our son's home) then it will surely fit by the guest bed and provide much needed storage in there.  I really need to call next week when they reopen and get a price on it.  I know about what I'd like to spend.  The price wasn't marked.

I plundered through a whole lot of linens, no doubt overflow from someone's home.  There were silky smooth percale cotton pillowcases (the sort that we don't find anymore) and embroidered table runners, hand crocheted dishcloths, vintage table cloths.  I so love to look through that sort of thing.  I just thoroughly enjoyed myself that morning and I'm glad I took the time to go in.

The grocery shopping took less than ten minutes.  Funny how quickly that went and how long it took to wander over that flea market that is half the size, lol.  Spent more at the grocery, than I did at the flea market, sigh.  For all that I had my bit of fun, I still didn't feel well.  I opted for pizza crust in a can and shredded cheese (on sale) to make a quick pizza.  It was far less expensive to use what I had at home and those two purchased items than to buy the frozen rising crust pizza.

Oh sorry, lol, did you miss me for a  moment or two there?  I decided to shuck the chair I was sitting in!  I did a very amateur upholstery job on this chair a few years ago. I had a total of $12 in the chair.  $5 for the chair itself and $7 for the curtain panel I used to cover it.  But it had begun to look really shabby and what's more I've been looking for a new slipcover for it anyway.  I'd like a natural looking muslin/cotton canvas/duck cloth/denim type cover.  Something good and sturdy and washable.  In the meantime, I realized the original upholstery looked as well or better than the 'new' cover that was on it, so I decided to strip it off.  And then, since I was piddling about anyway, I thought I'd just run a load of dishes tonight.  It was one of those 'might as well as' moments and it all started because the cushion cover had slipped off one corner, lol.

It's gotten late and I ought to wind this up for tonight, I suppose.  I've been trying to keep as much as possible to my non-work week schedule.  Off to bed at 10:30 and up about 7 seems to be working very well for me.  Tomorrow is a new day and begins a new week in my home and my mind is already ticking along with the things I'd like to accomplish.  It's going to be a busy week...especially with my new found resolve to not let this computer eat so much of my time!  Good night...    

For the Purpose of Clarification...

Arden asked a very good question this past week when I posted my intent to return to more frequent postings on thrift.  Here's her comment:
Something you said stuck out a bit. You said the home is paid for but it is still taking all of a full time income to make it. That seems high to me. We have one income also but we have a large family to provide for (8 children, 2 adults), numerous pets, 2 cars, etc. Plus a dh that commutes almost an hour each way so our gasoline prices are almost equal to our food budget. My dh makes an average salary for our area but our family size is far from average. If it were just the two of us and no mortgage, I would think money wouldn't be a huge issue.

I did reply to this via email, but am not sure that when I reply in that manner you all get my retorts.  And I thought it well to address this.

It is true that our home is paid off.  Why is it still taking a full time income to make ends meet? 

My husband works as a paramedic in a small rural county.   He loves his work and he likes working where he does.  He and I have discussed his job many times.  Larger, less rural counties have a far better rate of pay overall than the county where John works but he likes where he is and what he's doing.  I could harp and whine and nag at him until he changed jobs but if he's not happy, what have I achieved?  I've worked in jobs I hated and in jobs I liked very well (homemaking...hello?) and who am I to demand that he be unhappy and bring in more?

He works at a tough profession.  The rate of suicide and burn out in his field is very high.  If he LIKES where he works despite the stuff he has to see and deal with on a daily basis, then I have no problem with it whatsoever.  That said, it is also my determination that he not work a lot of extra hours to make up for what he might get paid elsewhere.  Number 1: he's putting in a 7 day week of 12 hour shifts already with a week off in between shifts.  WHY ask him to work more than that?  At his own insistence he usually manages 1-2 days of extra work during those off weeks.  In the past, between his worship leadership and overtime, I felt he put in quite enough hours.  The worship leadership position was  a part time job in hours alone!

Here's how our budget/paychecks break down:

First we tithe. We don't consider that a payment or a bill.  It's what the Bible says do and it's what we do. We tithe on the gross amount of each check.  The government may take first lick at the with-holdings but we want God to know that we honor Him. We consider the gross amount the amount to tithe from to show that honor.

When we paid off our home, we automatically channeled that money into savings.  We didn't have a huge house payment but it was about 1/4 of our income.  We don't even count that money into our budget.  It is SAVINGS and while we use savings occasionally for things like major repairs or major upkeep issues we tend to forget about it.

We set aside about 15% of our pay each pay period in various categories that we use for annual bills, routine maintenance on the house, car, gifts for the grandchildren, annual renewal fees, taxes, tags.  In the long run this means that we are less likely to dip into savings to cover these things.  In essence it's an immediately accessible form of savings.  When the need arises, we write a check and we're done, no transfers necessary except to alter the balance of the appropriate sub-account. These three items: tithe, savings, and sub-accounts are not touched or even considered as part of the general account.  That said, we don't pay the sub-accounts until our bills are paid.  Then we budget groceries and gasoline from what remains.

Now I've accounted for  50% or so of our income.  That we live on  half of what John makes is a wonder to me.  We are paying off a loan we took from ourselves at a fairly aggressive rate (double and sometimes triple payments) when we bought our last car.  We have cell phones (John considers mine as a safety thing and uses his for work and no the county does not reimburse it ) and cable and internet.  We could live without all of those things as they are not necessities but nice to have.  I find that my children are far more prone to call or email me than otherwise, so I could almost move cell phone and internet over to the necessity part.  In our area we'll not pay less than we're paying now for our internet and that's fact.  Cell phones...well...we'll see what we do in the future when this contract has run its course.  As for cable that is under discussion.  We're locked into a contract that is more pricey to get out of than to stay in at present and football season approaches.  This is a BIG deal in my home for my husband and worth the current cable bill until we determine how we might manage otherwise.

Which leaves us with enough money to cover groceries, electricity, gasoline, and propane (winter use).  It has been my habit to pay for my own clothing with Christmas and Birthday monies or allowance and the occasional gift from John (usually money to buy some needed item).  I also tend to buy decorative things for the house with these monies and to pay for a 3 or 4 night off season stay at the beach. I  save all of my $1bills for the same and John usually matches my savings with his savings to help make the vacation each year.

John so seldom wants or needs new clothing that we tend to buy his from the general checking account as needed.   His uniforms are supplied by his job and that has included boots in the past, but may no longer.  He usually buys pricey items like boots from his birthday and Christmas gift monies and allowance and that's also where he gets his music equipment needs/wants as well.

We've never had an entertainment fund.  It's only in the past year that we've occasionally had a bit extra left at the end of the month and we've chosen to earmark it as entertainment, which is why we now eat out a little more often than we did in the past.  

Now that's how it all divvies out.  There are times when we might well reduce a sub-account amount or grocery budget or watch the gasoline usage harder than usual if we have several pay periods that are tight.  We tend to be frugal and careful with our money but we're by no means broke or in dire need.  My biggest concern at present is merely that we've trimmed and cut and trimmed back on groceries and gasoline and we're getting less and less for the same amount of money spent.  I see what I have in the pantry and freezer is less than in the past and   I figured if we're feeling the pinch in our fairly easy budget then others probably  are, too. 

John has generously assured me that I am to go without nothing in the grocery department and to not be so concerned over the budget, but I do because keeping to a budget there means no reduction necessary in our savings.  If he can see savings grow, even by inches, at least he has some sense of financial serenity.  Occasionally we lose sight of how well we do on our income and complain but usually one of us is ready with all the blessings we have and remind ourselves that we are by no means broke, just temporarily strapped. 

I am amused however to note that John's current income, while low, is still about what we were making 20 years ago with BOTH of us working, lol!  Five kids, a mortgage, a car payment and a few other debts often left us weeping at the end of Harvest night.  Thankfully those days are behind us but the experiences we gained will live with us forever I think.  We do not take lightly the responsibility of paying our own way, living debt free and being determined to not burden our children as our retirement years come nearer.

The one thing that stands out when looking at your plans is the frequent desserts. If you are trying to stretch foods and budget, cutting out the unhealthy stuff definitely comes to mind

I grew up in a day and time and region where 'a little something sweet' after the main meal was a given. We usually do have that 'little something' most days though not necessarily a rich heavy dessert. Sometimes it's as simple as a single square of dark chocolate with our coffee.  I often include an idea for desserts in a week of menu's but that's not to say we always eat those items.  Just as I often use the menu plan more as an idea jumping off spot and then use ingredients in the same plan in different ways, so too with the desserts. 

This week we had one serving of pecan pie left after Sunday's dinner.  We had that Tuesday after our meal.  Mama sent home 1/4 of an 8" cake with me yesterday which served us two days.  Will I make dessert this week?  Likely not.  That said, I do still have a number of plums in the fridge (and some cherries) that are not being eaten otherwise.  Dessert is often a good way to 'dispose' of fruit that might otherwise go to waste, tempting diners to eat what was formerly seen as unpalatable or of which they had grown tired.  I'd rather EAT the food we buy than toss it in the trash.  In my body it has the opportunity to do some good.  In the trash?  Well I might as well just toss the cash in behind least that is the way I see it.

I also want to say this:  How we snack/eat dessert/etc could easily become a debatable thing.  We all make choices in where and how we spend our grocery budget. I try to make it a point to buy good fresh seasonal foods, lean meats and very little processed "stuff".  Do we buy 'junk foods'?  Oh yes.  We buy soda and often a bag of chips per pay period and John is fond of the fig bars from Aldi.  I purchase good old fashioned graham and saltine crackers which I consider basic snack items.  I buy a good natural ice cream but a half gallon(if there is such a thing anymore, lol)  typically lasts us a month.  I often keep cookies in the cookie jar, albeit homemade, but usually only bake cookies twice a month if that often. 

Unhealthy?  If eaten as a steady diet with no real food intake you are soooo right.  Eaten in moderation , not so much.  I'm pretty hardcore about portion sizes and I've no trouble whatsoever putting away or even banning a food that triggers a frenzy of munching.  That's why you'll almost never find certain items in my home and often in very very limited quantity if they are brought home.  Years of compulsive eating, binging and purging have left their mark on my psyche.  I tend to cut trigger foods a wide swath for that reason alone, we won't even mention the expense of giving in to a binge!  

I had two or three comments on this thread and Anonymous was the only way to identify readers.  I do ask if in future any of you leave a comment and don't have a blogger or google id that you include your name in the comment so that I might address you personally.  I think some felt this comment was a criticism and given the 'Anonymous' signature it can seem a bit like a pot shot.  I choose not to see it as being an aggressive criticism but simply as a reader remarking on what I've written.

Also, most comments are sent to my email address.  I sometimes reply to a question (I can't to Anonymous but do to those who have a user name) via my email but I do not know if the recipient ever receives those replies.  In future I'll try to address them on the blog to insure that you know I do read (and reply!) to the comments.

Thrifty Thursday

Our folding clothes drying rack doing it's job...We even carry this on vacation with us to hang clothes that need to dry.  It's very handy for damp towels or swimsuits.

Friday:  I was busy in the house this morning.  I followed my home-keeping routine yesterday but didn't quite finish the tasks.  Today I cleaned bathrooms and vacuumed, planned weekend meals and prepared food for today.

There was more leftover rice than I'd anticipated.  This changed my meal plan slightly.  Chicken Fried Rice seemed a nice way to use it up (with half the chicken I'd set aside last night after stripping the carcass).  I use what I have on hand for vegetables in the fried rice.  Today that was: julienned carrots, frozen Green peas, celery, onion, broccoli stems (and a few of the florets cut into small pieces).  I found that cooking my scrambled egg in the microwave took only 20 seconds and made it much easier on the cook.  One less pan to clean up (or if I'd used the same skillet as for the rice, the sticky residue left behind would have necessitated hard scrubbing).  I served simply with chilled orange wedges on the side.

I promised John I'd make cookies.  I decided to mix up peanut butter cookie dough. I rolled the dough balls in Turbinado sugar (makes them glittery looking) and then pressed with one of my old fashioned tumblers with a pretty design on the bottom.  Something so simple as plain old peanut butter cookies suddenly seems an extra special treat when given just a little extra effort to make it pretty as well as tasty.

I boiled the remainder of last pay period's eggs for egg salad.  I find that the older the egg, the easier they are to peel.  I saved the cooled cooking water for the geranium and orchids which seem to appreciate the added calcium. Roses like the egg shells, best.

I used the last bit of chicken, the broth and some noodles to make chicken noodle soup for our supper.

John mentioned possibly running an errand or two after synagogue tomorrow, while we were in the city.  I added onto the list with a stop I needed to make.  I also made plans to eat out after synagogue. Yes that's right, I PLANNED to eat out afterwards.  I knew we had the money to cover the expense, that synagoge would last until well past the hour John prefers to eat dinner and that the errands would push us into the late afternoon hours.  I also made a back-up plan just in case the plans changed!

Katie gave us a beautiful silvery gray tablecloth with Star of David woven all over it for Channukah this past year.  We always set the Shabat table with that cloth.  You might think it gets old but I've found the gray to be a very versatile neutral that blends well with various colors.  I used white and green accents with it two weeks ago and navy, emerald and silver this week.  In the past we've also paired it with white linen, acid green, lavender.  Deep pink, turquoise, spring green, and eggplant are other colors that would make a lovely table, too.

I smiled when the table was all set for Shabat evening.  My thrift store finds do make a lovely table!  The silver candlesticks, hand blown glasses, silver napkin rings, beautiful china plate for the bread , and the emerald green compote used for centerpiece were all from the thrift store. I don't think all those pieces together cost me $15.  (By the way John swears the napkin rings look like pipe strapping that has been formed into rings to him and I have seen a similar item in the plumbing section of the hardware store, though I believe these are manufactured pieces.)

Gave myself a manicure and pedicure after the chores were done and before we were ready to have Shabat evening.  I didn't have to leave home, sit in a fume laden room, expose myself unnecessarily to chemicals, use gasoline to travel anywhere...Gracious but that little task is getting less and less expensive as I think of it!

Saturday:  Our plans for today following Shabat changed.  And I got caught with a plan that had no follow through!  Remember that back-up plan just in case?  Forgot all about taking the meat from the freezer.  There we were with a deluge of rain ongoing which meant no errands or shopping after.  And no food ready to prepare at home...Thank you John!  He had a meal plan in mind already and stopped to pick up a Submarine sandwich on our way home.  Fortunately the weather let up long enough for him to go in and back out again.

Typically we do very little on Shabat and this was no different a day.  I think we both may have taken a brief nap.  Then we took advantage of having cable and found two good John Wayne films back to back to watch on one of the channels we pay extra for.  Always good to get your money's worth from something and since we discovered we have a 'new' contract (I changed our package and renewed a year ago) we figure we might as well use what we're getting.

It was chilly to me.  Heavy gray skies, pouring rain, humidity always makes the AC seem that much more chilling to me.  I wanted something hot and comforting for supper.  I had some leftover breakfast sausages in the fridge.  I decided to make a pan of biscuits with sausage gravy.  I made up a full recipe of biscuits but divided between two pans and put one in the freezer for future use (unbaked.  Just thaw and let come to room temperature before baking).

Some folks buy packaged gravy mix (or use a jar).  There's no need really.  Here's how simple making gravy can be: about a tablespoon or two of oil is needed.  I heat until warm then stir in flour (3-4 tbsps), salt and pepper. As the flour cooks and you stir you are making what is known as a roux.  It may all lump up together.  That 's okay.   Now slowly add 1-2 cups liquid (water, broth, or milk, which is what I used), stirring all the while until a smooth paste forms. The more liquid you add the 'thinner'(more liquid) your gravy will be. Continue adding liquid slowly, stirring all the while,  until the paste is dissolved  and there are no lumps.  Heat and stir until the consistency is thickened slightly, enough to coat the spoon when you remove it from the pan.  If you do use milk, you've not just made gravy, you have what is called 'white sauce', which is a basic ingredient in many sauces/soups.    I know the stuff from a jar tastes good but I really do not see the need to buy it when I can so easily make my own gravy.  And it surely takes no longer to mix up that packaged stuff than it does to make it from scratch!   For my sausage gravy, I added in a dash of Worcestershire sauce and the chopped cooked sausage. 

I ate too much today.  There's no two ways about it, I overate and I was miserable.  Recently I noted that a major magazine offered the tip to sip baking soda (1/4 tsp) mixed with water (1/2 cup) to relieve bloating and gastric distress.  Ha.  Yet again the wisdom of my senior family members proves to be valid stuff!  Grandmama and Granny both swore by this little concoction to relieve indigestion and reduce acid.  Yet another home remedy with validity!  I sampled the concoction. It's salty tasting to be sure but it did help, far more than any of the over the counter relievers I've used in the past few years.  Guess what?  It's very inexpensive too!  And a natural remedy as well.

Took meat from freezer to thaw overnight (several packages) and put in a stainless bowl with a thick towel covering to keep the meat good and cold.

Sunday:  John scheduled Samuel to come down and change oil in two of our vehicles and in Katie's car as well. We provided the oil, filters, jugs to store the used oil and a meal.

John made up the menu plan earlier in the week (I had too but his was different than mine, lol).  He wanted to cook hot dogs and burgers on the grill.  I wanted a steak.  I compromised and we had the burgers and hot dogs for today's meal, but I figured while the coals were burning, we could cook the steak ahead and have as our dinner meat for Tuesday.

When I want to make burger patties of a consistent size, I use a plastic lid.  It can be from a container of cottage cheese or a coffee can.  I pat out the meat on the inside of the lid.  I can make it as thick or thin as I choose but keep a nice round shape and compact texture.  When I purchase meat in bulk I often will use several of these lids and not only form my burgers but to stack and keep the patties separated.  Works beautifully.

Put away that beautiful cloth Katie gave us and set the table with our day to day placemats, napkins, and such that I don't mind getting mustard or ketchup stains on.

My secret to good baked beans?  I take a can of vegetarian baked beans, drain and rinse.  Then I add in onion, ketchup, mustard and molasses and bake them until they are thickened and delicious.  These taste more like 'from scratch' baked beans...Speaking of beans: I've not seen a single sale on them this summer.  Last year they were frequently on sale.  I bought a big bag of navy beans and will make my own as we want them this winter.

By 10am the dinner was prepped for (just needed to grill meats and bake beans) and the house was clean...Nothing like having two or three hours to rest before your company arrives.  I highly recommend it for relaxed entertaining,lol!

John didn't buy a filter for one of the vehicles.  He dug about in his shop and found three unopened oil filters then looked up the numbers on each box online.  He found one for the mower, one for my car, and one for the car he didn't buy one for the other day.  Good deal!  Smart man took time to write which vehicle they each fit on the boxes in permanent marker.  That's the second time in the lasts few days he's discovered just what he needed in his shop.

I had far more food than we had people to eat it.  Leftovers are not a bad thing however.  Katie took a burger home with her, John ate supper from the leftovers.  I didn't eat anything more after our dinner.  No desire to feel as full as I did yesterday...

I didn't bake dessert but sort of wish I had.  Katie went into town and purchased a pecan pie (her request) which I paid for.  It was almost $10!  Gracious!  I have to say however that it would have cost me almost that to make one.  Pecans were very high this past year and haven't come down in price.

Monday:  John made breakfast this morning.  He used two leftover hot dogs and some leftover red onion to season a cheese omelet.  It was very tasty. 

I'm trying to make a meatless meal at least twice a week these days.  It's not always easy when you have a husband who really enjoys meat.  I find that if I have one meatless meal and one that is simply flavored with meat it works well.  Today's meal was meatless: Cheese Ravioli lasagna.  It was hearty enough John didn't miss the meat at all.  The secret is to have a good mix of carb/fat/protein so it FEELS like you've eaten well.  The Chicken Fried Rice and Chicken Noodle Soup are cases in point.  Two small chicken breasts made both meals and I had a leftover portion of the rice and enough soup for two leftover.

Washed a full (and I do mean FULL) load of dishes today.  I allowed them to air dry before unloading.

John washed a full load of clothes as well.  They were hung to dry.

Watered plants with water I'd saved the day before from bottles.

Refilled water bottles to put in the fridge.  Don't ask me why, but my family drinks more water if it's chilled in single serve bottles than if it's in a pitcher or jug to poured into a glass.  I want to encourage them to drink more water.  The bottles I use are PET rated soda bottles saved and washed in the dishwasher and reused.

Work all morning and...Granny used to do quiet work or light work in the afternoons after doing heavy stuff in the mornings.  I find the same method works well for me.  I was doing some necessary budget work (putting down my grocery money spent thus far,ow!) and planning tasks I want to do this week.  Then John and I settled to watch another good old movie on TV this one starring Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner and Jason Robards.

Took stock of the fridge and planned dinner meals for this week starting with leftovers first and then planning to remove items from the freezer.

Checking under the sink for any drips (I'm just a tiny bit paranoid after the previous week's mess) I discovered ants coming in the house, apparently via the drain pipe.  I quickly sprayed that area and hope that effectively blocks them from coming in at that entry point for a time.

As supper time drew near determined it would do me well, with John home to eat three meals a day, to plan breakfasts and suppers as well as main meals these days.  Will definitely have to sit down down and plot that out.

Tuesday:  I slept much later than I'd thought I might this morning.  Wish I'd had that breakfast/supper menu written out!  I scrambled about and made a simple, light breakfast.  I knew we'd be having a nice meal midday today and midday wasn't so very far away.

Made another pan of white sauce today.  I want to use a cheese sauce to top the enchiladas in the freezer and since I also wanted to make au gratin potatoes today, I figured I could easily double the recipe.  I layered plain white sauce with our potatoes/onions/ and shredded cheese then added in pepper jack cheese to the remaining sauce for the enchiladas.  I put that in the fridge in a jar.

Pre-baked the potatoes in the microwave for four minutes.  The potatoes were fairly small and this cooked them almost through.  It was really just a matter of heating long enough in the oven to melt the cheese and steam the onions tender instead of a long bake.

I set the steak out to come to room temperature.  Ten minutes in the oven with the potatoes heated it right through.

Made a salad of lettuce, drained 3 bean salad, leftover tomato that I chopped and Parmesan cheese.  We served it with French dressing and found it very good.  I used oyster crackers as our croutons.  This is something John really enjoys and oyster crackers are very inexpensive, much tastier and cheaper than any boxed croutons.  They are a nice substitute when I don't have the inclination or time to make fresh croutons.

Helping John very briefly outdoors this morning, I lifted the lid of the grill to discover the messy grill rack.  Ugh.  I brought it indoors, put in a plastic trash bag, sprayed with oven cleaner and closed the bag up tight.  An hour later it took only light scrubbing (and plenty of rinsing) to get that grill rack clean.

I forgot I'm to be out with Mama tomorrow.  I reviewed plans for meals and decided that John should have the leftover burger and baked beans along with chips for his dinner.  I had enough leftover potatoes that I think I'll slice those two hot dogs into the casserole, reheat and we can both have supper from that dish.  Not the original plan but a do-able plan to use up the same leftovers.

A few years ago John was given a gift card to a store with a great tool department.  He was supposedly looking for a tool box but came away instead with an air compressor.  I cannot name how many times that compressor has saved us the aggravation of flat tires!  Even if a tire was completely flat we generally could get air enough in it to get us into town for repairs.  This weekend he used it to fill Katie's tires.  Her gauge was broken and she didn't realize it, so she'd been getting an inaccurate reading.  Today he filled his car tires and my garden wagon's tires, too. I think he used it Thursday to add air to the mower tires.  I'm telling you that compressor was a good investment.

John took an extra shift tonight.  He works awfully hard and I appreciate that he boosts our income with these extra days.  My goal is to insure that he only does this twice a month at most and not make it a habit to count on anything but our regular pay.  That's where our teamwork comes in.  We each make our own sacrifices to insure we live well on one job and very little overtime.

Organized the bane of my life: the plastics bin...These days that bin is mostly glass jars and lids that I use to store stuff in the fridge.  I use glass or clear plastic containers because I've discovered I am a visual person.  If I see it I know what it is and remember that I should plan to use it which saves waste.  I matched lids to jars or containers.  For once I had no throw aways.  Now I can just choose a container or jar immediately to use instead of digging about.  This will only last about three weeks and I'll be right back to rooting about but for now I'll enjoy the time and aggravation that little task saves me.

Wednesday:  Maddie isn't so fond of the current brand dog food, sigh.  I've been adding a single 1/4 cup scoop of cat food to the pan (and reducing her dog food by as much) to entice her to eat some of the food.  Works well enough that I don't fret when she chooses to skip eating altogether every now and then.  Since she's not a people food eater at all, it makes it doubly hard when she's not happy about her food.

Breakfast from the freezer this morning: that extra pan of biscuits I put in the freezer on Saturday was our bread for the morning meal.

I was going to be out with Mama today.  John had a meal of leftovers left for him in the fridge to reheat in the microwave.

Stopped at the Mennonite Country Store to buy cocoa in bulk.  Less expensive than buying store brand and I purchased in greater quantity than I can at grocery. I filled a 2 quart and 1 quart jar when I got home with the cocoa.

Mama and I went to the good meat market.  I found my prices still average about $3 or less per meal at this meat market.  However we did hear from the butcher that prices will rise sharply (at least 25%) in the next few weeks most likely.  I'll cross that bridge when we arrive at it.  In the meantime I'll be extra careful to stretch where we can and to use all possible bits and pieces.

It was not my grocery day but mid-pay period. However, John and I talked about it when Mama told me this was how she wanted to spend her day.  John suggested I go ahead and make my purchases this week while taking Mama down in order to save the gasoline a second trip would cost us.

My supper this evening consisted of leftovers as well.

John did a full load of laundry and hung to dry this morning.

I washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.  I pre-heated the water so that I'd have hot water ready to run into the machine.  I rinsed dishes and did a few by hand while that water got good and hot.  I continue to use the shortest cycle possible on my washer and dishwasher.  The dishes were allowed to air dry.

Thursday:  My files were in a mess.  I spent a morning sorting through all but one really bulky folder and got them organized once more.  Keeping records is not an onerous task but it takes some organization.  John asked me a question the other day about one of our vehicles and the answer came from those files.  Today I also found we are due septic tank cleaning (it's been three years since our last) and found record of the battery bought for the truck (info John had also asked me about).

Our dinner was simple today.  Meat,salad, and the last of the potato au gratin I made for dinner on Tuesday.

Turned up AC as soon as I got up this morning.

Looked for a recipe I've had but have never made: Broccoli Raisin Salad.  John pronounced it a keeper.  I'm so happy.  Broccoli will be well priced during the next few months or so and I like the idea of eating some cooked and some raw. 

John needed a large bag to carry an item to work...My shopping bags all proved too small.  I remembered a big bag in our closet that he once used as luggage.  It's perfect for what he needed (to store bedding roll that he uses at work) and should keep his bedding nice and dry on rainy days as well as prevent it tumbling onto the ground and getting dirty.

Not feeling well today.  Fortunately I don't lose money when I feel under the weather, but I do feel obligated to push through at least a little and attend to my household.  Hence the quiet work of organizing files and utilizing leftovers for our dinner.

I have Gingerale and homemade chicken noodle soup on hand to help make me feel better today.  Homemade soup tastes so nice, agreed?

Katie and I agreed over the weekend that my plan to get a new larger platter for the living room wall arrangement was dead on.  She suggested I look for something in green.  I took time Monday afternoon to see what eBay had to offer and found a dozen!  I couldn't make up my mind so asked her to go to the page and choose.  She chose one of the ones I'd decided upon as well.  It arrived today and is just perfect.  The price was very good on it as well.  Hooray for eBay!

It's been a good week in my home.  Hope it's been a good week in yours as well.

Thrifty Thursday

Buying a new slipcover instead of a new chair...I saved us about $450 on the conservative side.  This chair was perfectly sound, but the old blue cover was worn, stained and torn.  My new slipcover covers those defects and matches the color of our other recliner perfectly.

 Saturday:  Planning ahead really paid off this past week.  I had a feeling...and I've learned to go with those feelings when I have them...that John would want to attend service somewhere this weekend.  So I planned a meal that might easily be reheated in the microwave.  I made a simple salad to go with it and when we left home this morning, I was assured of a quick and easy meal for us whenever we got back home.  As it happened, that was around 2:30 since John wanted to run to town for mower gas after we got back.  I had dinner on the table in about 9 minutes from start to finish.  Not bad!

Plenty of time to think about future savings today.  Hanging the clothes on the line meant our electric bill rose only about $9 over June, the month when we see summer 'jumps' due to higher cost of kilowatts.  I'm curious to see how our July bill does as we continued drying outdoors with all that extra washing I did.

John stopped to fill on my car on our way to synagogue this morning.  I had not put gasoline in it for two weeks and still had a  quarter of a tank of gasoline.  Truthfully we could have managed until next weekend on that amount if not all the way up to payday in the first week of August.

Sunday:  John and I spent the day just piddling about the house.  No Sunday paper.  No running to town to pick up anything extra.  I made dinner right here at home.  We didn't go into town or take a ride.  We didn't even wash a load of clothes!  I say this whole day was a 'savings' day all around.

Made a roast for dinner.  There are plenty of leftovers to make roast beef hash tomorrow for our dinner.

Used the crock pot to cook the roast, keeping the heat of the stove to a minimum.

Monday:  Monday routine housework for me and for John, mowing the lawn.  The bigger mower we bought two years ago has really paid off in gasoline savings and in time savings.  It typically takes John about 2 1/2 hours now to mow the entire lawn, where it used to take about 5-6 hours with the smaller one.  We use about 1/2 a tank of gasoline (about 2 gallons) compared to the previous 5 gallons.

Since John was mowing I knew he'd want a cool meal midday.  I am the stickler for having a hot meal daily, so I prepared the roast beef hash then let it cool.  That would do for supper.  For lunch I made sandwiches, chips, and chilled plums.

Off to jury duty.  It took just one hour for them to release us all.  I'm happy to do my civic duty but the check they gave us will go into the vacation fund, which makes me even happier.

It took just a little while to reheat the hash. I'd made the salad this morning as well.

Washed a full load of dishes about an hour before we went to bed.  I like using big appliances in off peak hours and in the cooler portions of the evening.  The dishes were allowed to air dry overnight.

Tuesday:  A morning to go vote, run errands and have fun.  We combined all these together to save on gasoline.

We dropped off trash, voted, then headed to the fun part of the day, a visit to the bookstore.  This was John's treat to me.  After the bookstore we went to our favorite pizzeria and ordered a sub sandwich.  Books and lunch came from our entertainment fund.

From there to the grocery where we cashed in coins (we save these to donate to favorite charities), picked up lettuce and ice cream.  John grabbed two boxes of crayons for $.50 each and I picked up a 4 ounce roll of goat cheese for $2.  We came out for under $15 for it all.

Then we took the car to the car wash.  John used an automated wash that does the washing work for you.  It cost just a little more than my usual car wash but not by enough to warrant complaining.  I did get a free spray of Rain X on the car and we could vacuum it for free as well.

Back home, I made a batch of hot fudge sauce to go on our vanilla ice cream.  The recipe made about 2 1/2 cups of hot fudge.  I daresay I made it for less than the $2.99 I would have paid at supermarket for 14 ounces.

We were pretty satisfied after our lunch and ice cream.  Supper was just cream cheese and bagels with sliced peaches.

Wednesday:  No day out with Mama today.  I thought we'd get used to the new work schedule before I made plans to do anything.  Besides, we were off together last Friday.  I like to keep my spending days to a minimum.

I worked about the house this morning doing routine housework.  Washed a load of clothes.  John hung one to dry and the load of sheets he divided and tossed into the dryer.  I think he cut down the drying time by about 10 minutes doing it that way.  If I 'd done them I'd have staggered loads and hung both to dry, but his was a good compromise and the task was done with in a shorter time frame.

Thawed several meats for use over the next few days.  I prefer to thaw several at once as they keep one another cold and slow down the thawing process.

The new shift means that John will take only snacks with him, what he'd normally eat in evenings here at home.  Are we saving money not packing two meals daily?  Probably not so much, but we'll save packing snacks which can be pricier than a meal, so it will balance out.

Very disappointed in some of the produce we purchased at Aldi this last time.  A bag of oranges had four that rotted immediately though we'd checked them over well before choosing the bag.  Tomatoes too rotted quickly.  It is however, good incentive to make me use up the remaining produce.  I worked these items into meal plans for this week.

Sat down this afternoon and planned August menus.

I forgot I turned up the AC until about 11pm.  I slid it down a few degrees for sleeping hours.

Thursday:  Up a little early this morning. Made a big breakfast for us.  I mused that breakfast is one of those meals that may be bought about as cheaply as I make it here at home at most hometown diners.  Big city restaurants charge a little more but it's still a good value meal.

Cleaning requires more effort than anything else.  I used an old toothbrush and plain old water to clean a few grungy areas in the bathroom.

Now I know what the cryptic message was on my chicken. lbls was what  I wrote...It meant one BIG and one small breast in the packet.  The size difference completely changed my meal plan (one was literally half the size of the other).  I baked both and managed to save enough of the larger breast to make two chicken sandwiches for John this afternoon/evening.

Put up peaches in the freezer that we were obviously not going to eat before they were too ripe.

"Shopped" the freezer and fridge while making dinner today.

Roasted vegetables, using up the last of the produce we'd purchased this past week.  

In the Good Ol' Summertime - Porches

I seriously cannot remember a summer with any of my grandparents where the porch didn't figure prominently in memory. Granny's f...