A Year of Savings: 2013

Dec 21:  Deeply grateful for the rest of Shabat.  Dinner was prepped yesterday. All I had to do today was prepare pie crust.  Savings: $2.50

Dec 22:  Just didn't feel like much of anything.  How lovely to have a ready made item in the freezer.  I put it in the oven to heat.  While the oven was on, I put in hamburgers to bake to use in John's work lunch.

I've often felt I had a limited repertoire where his lunch meats were concerned, but the other day I realized that we seldom buy any luncheon meats these days.  That good ground beef, made into hamburgers, is far less expensive than a small package of decent luncheon meats.  I'm going to stop looking at the beef and turkey and chicken as something I should 'save' for our bigger meals and use it more often for sandwiches.  It tastes so good and is far less costly.  Savings $4.99

Dinner was so easy, I thought I'd whip up a batch of brownies.  It only takes minutes and they are so tasty.  I made a half batch. No savings in making them from scratch over the cost of a boxed mix, at least not my recipe, but gosh are they good.

Coffee Chat - Past, Present, Future

Oh Hello!  Do come in...Isn't it nice to have a brief respite here during these holidays?  I think so, I do really.   Let's have some coffee...For us, the holidays are over and done.  We seldom do anything for New Year's Eve or Day either one.  Years ago, we had a big dinner on New Year's Day, all the traditional Southern foods that were meant to herald in a prosperous New Year ahead.  I don't mind not doing that and haven't noticed any great lag nor improvement in our usual  prosperity, lol.  John asked me years ago to do something different and have a big Submarine sandwich or something like that.  This year, I'll be going out with Mama on that day while he rests here at home, preparing for his first day back at work.  No celebration, just plain routine and I confess I look forward to it.

Truly Trudy

Sometime after 2000, Katie found herself being escorted from the bus each day by a bird dog.  For lack of knowing to whom she belonged, we called her Tilly.  She only came to the house in the afternoon, walking alongside Katie.  When school let out that year, we saw Tilly rarely.  Then my brother came to us one day and said "Your dog had puppies under my house...."  I was puzzled.  We had no dog.  When he described the dog I told him that she wasn't ours, that we'd only ever seen her in the afternoons, after the bus and never at any other time.

One morning we came out to find upon our front porch a fat puppy, obviously a bird dog, obviously Tilly's.  We later discovered that Tilly had been distributing her puppies to households in the neighborhood.  My brother, we, a house up the road all had puppies on their doorsteps.  John warned me we weren't keeping her, couldn't have a dog and by any means do not feed or pet her.  The puppy wailed and whined and wailed.  I ignored my husband's instructions and when he came in that evening, he found me on the front porch feeding the puppy milk soaked cat food and calling her Daisy.  Daisy wailed all through the night, keeping the household pretty much awake. I checked on her, fed her, petted her and attempted to do what I could of housework the next day.  About mid-morning she stopped crying. I went out to check on her and found that there were two fat puppies.  Daisy never whimpered or cried again.

Weekly Meal Plan - The Party's Over

I don't know what holidays were like in your home, but my menu plan flew right out the window this past week.  Between the back pain (better during the day and improving at night), the impromptu meals, unexpected leftovers, last minute plan changes, not feeling well, feeling too well to stay home one moment longer, company, etc....Well it's been quite a couple of weeks.  The grocery money was spent in a snap last week.  I expect I'm going to be coming up with a little extra to cover milk and bread in the coming week and things are going to be a little snug until next pay period.  Good time to say "Pantry Challenge!"

It's a good time to sort through the stuff in my fridge and figure out how to use the leftovers, the excess ingredients, the forgotten things and to dig into the freezers and pantry for those about to expire items.

Holiday Menu Plan - Fa La Lala la

I'm just this side of Bah Humbug...Pfffttt!  I don't feel well doggone it and it's making the coming holidays a thing of stress when they oughtn't be at all.  I don't dare try to drive even so far as town, as my right leg will go numb or cramp badly.  John has promised to take a bit of time Tuesday morning to drive me.  We'll do banking, stop by the local grocery, the dollar store where I'm desperate to find any sort of gift at all for at least two people on my list and the flea market, though that is more for appearance's sake than anything.  I'll try to take in a handful of items to fill any empty spaces, but I don't feel up to spending lots of time at it and that's a fact.  Bah Humbug!

A Year of Savings: 2013

Dec 14:  We stayed home today, the plan being to go to church tomorrow.  I did 'work ahead' yesterday to insure we had a meal to eat with minimal work on my part today.  As it happened, today has been very wet with heavy rain and thunderstorms.  I'm so glad we didn't make that long drive to synagogue!

My son used to be a barrista (he worked in a coffee shop).  He told me that the rate of the flow of water determines the strength of the coffee (as well as the type of grind you use.  Finer coffee makes a stronger coffee).  I have a feature on my coffee pot that allows me to change the rate of water flow.  I've discovered that I can use just 2 scoops of coffee (4 tablespoons) to six cups of water on the BOLD setting and make a very very good pot of coffee for afternoons.  At night I set the pot up with 8 cups of water, 3 scoops of coffee and the bold setting for good morning cups.  I am using 2-4 tablespoons coffee less with each pot.  I've noted that my decaf stash  has been extended by at least 1 bag a month.  Savings $5.99

Weekly Meal Plan

Well...Decorating is just about done. I have only to put out John's old light-up Santa and our stockings and that will be that.  The wreaths are on the door, the tree is fully done, without a purchase made, though I shall see if I can't find a much larger star to put on  top of the thing. 

I'll be doing some minor holiday baking next week.  Nothing much, just sugar cookies and thumbprints, chocolate cookies,  stove top cookies and perhaps a cake of some sort, something festive like the Williamsburg Orange cake I so enjoyed  a few years ago.  Or a luscious Devil Food with peppermint filling?  Or the German Chocolate Cake I've been wanting to make for the past few months?  Or maybe I'll wait and do a cake for the New Year?  As always I am undecided when it comes to cake.  I think this next year I shall work on my resolution  anew and bake a cake once a month!  And maybe to balance cake, I'll bake a pie a month as well.

Shabat Thoughts: Expecting

A month or two ago, John had come in from work and stomped into the house.  He was agitated, that was clear.  I don't do agitation well first off in the morning, especially without warning, but I'd had my Bible study before he came in and was more at peace and better able to cope quietly that particular morning. 

A Year of Savings: 2013

Dec 7:  We stayed home today.  Cold, rainy, unpleasant weather for traveling long distance...So happy I had a meal prepared. I had only to warm and we ate.

Dec 8:  Still cold.  I got up in the very early morning hours and turned on the propane heater to offset the use of the defrost mode on our central heat pump.

John had plans today.  I didn't have food prepared ahead.  I used my allowance to buy dinner on our way back home.

Questions and Comments and Answers, Oh My!

I really meant to start this before the end of November and then post it closer to December 1...Good intentions and all that.  I should know better because even if you're not really doing anything for the holidays there are many things that come up and cause delays despite it all in November and December both.  I've been busy, evidenced by the lack of posts thus far these days.  So here I am at 10pm, yawning and trying to do what I'd meant to do two weeks ago.

Morning Coffee Chat - All or Nothin'?

Do come in and have coffee with me this morning, won't you?  I've been wanting to visit with you for the longest time now.  The tree, as you can see, is lit but undecorated.  There's not a wrapped gift to go under it, not a bit of baking done, not a bit of decorating in the house ... Oh never mind that,  have some cookies, have a seat. The cookies aren't homemade but they are good, crisp,  buttery, spicy cookies.  Really good, actually, so good, that I bought more when I went back to Aldi this week.

Weekly Meal Plan

Haven't decked the halls with  holly....haven't  finished shopping oh by golly... Fa la lala la la la la la la

That would be my Christmas carol at present.  The tree is up but not decorated, there are a few gifts sent some of which have arrived and some haven't, but not all of them are bought and none of them are wrapped.  The Christmas cards are still tucked in the desk drawer.  There are no wreaths yet upon the doors or any decorating of any sort.  My goal is to get these tasks accomplished this week.

A Year of Savings - 2013

Nov 30:  We skipped eating out on the way home from synagogue today.  Instead we came home and had leftover Turkey in sandwiches.  Savings $16.

Filled up my car for the first time since our trip down to Kingsland  two weeks ago.  I'd been especially careful and used only 1/2 tank. Savings $32.

Weekly Meal Plan - Post Turkey Week

I'm running a tad behind this week.  We had a full day Shabat at synagogue and then traveling.  It was so cold that we came in and put on our jammies for the afternoon/evening.  Personally I like this sort of weather.  I think I napped, I'm pretty sure John napped.  I didn't do menus...

Yesterday we visited with Katie and Sam.  Katie's boyfriend had a birthday yesterday and we had planned early in the past month to be there on his day.  It was a nice visit, and despite the overcast skies, it was a lovely drive.  What made it even lovelier was seeing all the cars with Christmas trees tied to the roof of the car.  I hazard a guess that nearly every other car had a tree on our way into Athens, and quite a few on the way out, when we headed home.  And by the time we were headed home I could peek in windows at all the trees that were already up and decorated.  John and I couldn't help but laugh as we got near home.  One house outside of Roberta had a 10foot tall Santa inflatable.  The yard was just filled with all sorts of lighted lawn ornaments and such.

Shabat Thoughts - An Open Heart Exam

We had a visitor the other day.  He's gruff and bristly at times and he's hurt our feelings on more than one occasion. He makes my introverted ways look positively social butterfly-ish.  He's refused many an invitation to stop by and made it plain he prefers to have no visitors.  He's also shown up to take care of an emergency repair or three and refused a penny or so much as a soda for his time.  I know him to be tender-hearted with animals and he's had quite an assortment of strays who were loved and cared for.  He is often harsh in his assessment of humans.  He plays well with children but anyone over 7 is likely to discover he's stern almost to the extreme. He's incredibly skilled with his hands and believes that his work reveals his integrity.   He often does kindnesses for others simply because he has the skills or the tools and materials to do them and he gets almost angry if you thank him.  He never tells what he's done for others but word gets around.  He has struggles.  Don't we all?  He is my brother and I love him.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Nov 23:  Electric bill came in. We saved $40 over last month's bill.

Forgot to mention last Wednesday(?) I got an email from MyCokeRewards that the special of the week was a FREE 12 pack of soda coupon for 30 MyCoke points. I grabbed the deal.  That is a savings of $4.99.

Earned $10 gift card with a survey group, earned 2 $5 cards from Swagbucks.  All are being added to my Amazon account for help in purchasing Christmas gifts.

Weekly Meal Plan - Thankful!

Well here it is Thanksgiving Week!  Have you been as busy as I've been?  I didn't get nearly as much accomplished last week as I'd have liked, since I missed my Monday Kitchen day.  I mean to remedy that this week and do a little extra in the kitchen on Sunday and Monday both.  Then come Thursday all I shall do is routine meal prep.  We've already got our traditional canned danish and cinnamon rolls in the fridge.  I just need to make sausage balls (note to self: thaw the turkey sausage).

We'll have a very small gathering of two at our table, but no regrets on my part.  As I shared in the thrift store on Friday with the chatty owner, holidays only come around a few times each year.  I'm not going to spoil anyone's by demanding they show up at my home EVER.  I'd LOVE to have them here, but when there are two of you and multiple family gatherings to go to it gets to be a struggle.  I daresay I've only had about two Thanksgiving or Christmas that weren't a pain in the rear for all the grief given me to come here and go there and why can't you be where I want you!  Nope, I hope every one of my children enjoys there holiday meal wherever they are having it and know full well that I love them regardless of where they eat their turkey.

Morning Coffee - O.R. (Operation Recovery)

Hello dears, do come in.  There's a fresh pot of coffee ready and waiting.  What do you say to crisp cinnamon toast this morning to go with it?  It sort of suits the weather don't you think?  Many years ago when I worked, I used to leave my oldest daughter ( a teen at the time) a detailed list of how to go about preparing dinner which was ready to be warmed or cooked.  Bless her, she was always more interested in reading or music and failed more often than not at the whole supper business...BUT her redeeming gift on cold rainy days was that she'd make coffee or hot cocoa and cinnamon toast.  I cannot begin to tell you how much that little booster helped restore me after a hard day at work.  She might fail with dinner but she could make cinnamon toast that was perfection: crisp, buttery, with a slight crunch and a generous dusting of cinnamon.  So good!

A Year of Savings: 2013

Nov 16:  Shabbat for us. I know we'll be traveling tomorrow and wanted to reduce our expenses as much as possible before hand.  I left an easy to heat meal of homemade chili in the fridge.  Savings $10.

We took advantage of free time to rest well in preparation for the trip tomorrow.

Nov 17:  We packed our bags which included a bottle of milk I'd frozen last night (savings $1.49), several bottles of water (savings $10), and snacks (savings $5).

Weekly Meal Plan

I've been busy this past week, hence my low postings. The annual headlong rush into the holidays is upon me this coming week.  I'm going to try to keep up with at least meal plans, A Year of Savings, and Morning Coffee posts but the Home Ec series may well be put on hold until the end of the year.  I've got several postings I want to make in that series and several articles to scan for even more but I'm just not sure I'm going to have time to spare.

I'm going to try hard to keep meals as economical as possible.  Tis the season for spending you know and we've several things coming up in addition to the holidays.  I don't mind cutting down on grocery spending this time of year when we've the pleasure of holiday meals to look forward to.  I'll also be working on food inventory lists while I'm dividing myself among all the other tasks before me.  I want to start the New Year with a clear idea of what we have, what we're NOT using as I thought we would.  We all have those items we purchase because they seem a good buy or we think we'll save money and then we don't...I know there are a couple of such items in my freezers and perhaps on my shelves. I'm going to be diligent about figuring out how to use those items and careful to note which ones NOT to buy.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Nov 9:  Shabat dinner was easily prepared.  I mixed up a meatloaf yesterday, baked today.  No work at all.  I stacked dishes and waited until evening to load the dishwasher.

Nov 10:  Planned meals for week last night.  Had company for dinner today.  I meant to have meat balls and spaghetti.  Meatballs were in the freezer, sauce was a mixture using canned spaghetti sauce bought on sale, and additional vegetables.  I had leftovers for supper.

Discovered I was out of spaghetti.  I substituted bow tie pasta.  It worked every bit as well.

Washed a full load of dishes this evening.

I received an email coupon from JCP for $10 off a $25 purchase. I've been looking for new nightgowns for months now.  I like a certain brand and style that are difficult to find, but they LAST. I found the brand on the JCP site on sale.  Two nighties, ended up costing me about what ONE usually costs.  Even after adding in taxes and shipping I can count savings: $18.

Morning Coffee - Savoring November

Hello hello...No I didn't mean to skip our visit last week.  Come on in and I'll share all about it.  There are Magic Cookie Bars to go with our coffee.  I used to reserve these for just holidays but I noted I had an awful lot of chips in the cabinet: chocolate, caramel nibs, peanut butter.  This recipe is adaptable for any flavor of chip you might want to use up.  I really like the caramel flavor of the condensed milk in the cookie with my coffee.

Every now and then I don't want milk in my coffee.  I'll open a can of evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk and have that in my coffee instead.  I can't seem to find a half and half product very often any longer that doesn't have Carrageenan in it.  That is a seaweed extract and I am apparently allergic to it.  It's a sneaky thing, in that I can have a cup of coffee one day with half and half  and it's fine but after two or three days I develop the most irritating hoarseness and short cough. Ditto for ice cream, too, by the way. Even organic brands often have this ingredient.  I do buy Publix brand half and half when I'm in the store, but haven't been in quite a while.  Now I'm not in the habit of scaring anyone about ingredients in food.  I'm not a health nut per se, but when something upsets my system I want to know why.  If you click on the word you can see what Dr. Weil has to say about this particular ingredient.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Nov 1:  A long day.  Or so it felt with the early rising and early morning, as well.  We moved our usual grocery day since John had a meeting at work.  It was a bigger circle than usual that we made today!  However, combining errands is always the way to go.  We carried off trash, bagged up the aluminum cans I save for a man in John's work area (his granddaughter gets the cash earned from the aluminum as her college money!).  John got a haircut and I shopped for groceries.  We filled up the car with gasoline.  It's my goal to keep usage to about 1 tank per month for my car and even with the extra ride over to the mountain this past week, we still managed to keep to that goal.

I used a gift card to buy a Gingerbread Latte at the coffee shop.  Savings $3.48.

Weekly Meal Plan

I've been mulling over meal possibilities for tomorrow for the past twenty-four hours, ever since Sam texted to say he and Bess would be down to visit.  John kept asking me this afternoon if I meant to make 'a big meal' and the answer I kept giving him was "I mean to make dinner."  Not Thanksgiving or Occasion sized dinner, but a routine every day dinner.  I just want something tasty, good and that makes plenty.  I have three choices at present but I think I've made up my mind.

I usually try to do these meal plans on Saturday evenings so that I can get out whatever might need to thaw for Sunday and let it thaw overnight...and so I can plan baking as well because Sunday is my baking day per the new schedule.  Well again, the new schedule slides a bit, lol.  I won't be baking tomorrow, I'll be visiting.  I think I can give the kitchen a decent cleaning prior to company's arrival and dinner can simmer on the stove while I clean.   Everything else can wait.  Gracious, I've never yet had any housework get up and leave simply because I hadn't tackled it!

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh My!

I didn't want to let a lot of time pass again before I acknowledge/answered comments, so I'm going to try to make this a once a month feature.  I get interesting mail, and I mean that sincerely.  Sometimes you ask questions that make me stop and really think or that inspire a post.  Sometimes you share a tip that helps me in my home.  Sometimes you're funny and sometimes you share your heart.  I enjoy these comments a great deal and I thank each of you who take time to leave a comment.

I wanted to start with this hint from Angela:  Sleep/ menopause- I have recently read and been trying the lavender oil on the soles of your feet at bedtime. Seems to be helping.  Now, I confess I haven't tried it on my feet...but I have been using lavender oil on my pillow and it does help. In the past, I've reserved the use of lavender oil for colds and migraines.  But yes, it does help most nights to soothe me to sleep, so give it a try!  note:  I did try the lavender oil on my feet.  I can't weigh in on this.  I had a horrid night that night but it might well have been the influence of a late afternoon Dr. Pepper...or the cheese and crackers snack we had close to bedtime.

The Modern Home Economist: How to Make a Checkerboard Cake

I don't know about you, but I've always loved to see checkerboard cakes rather than the old fashioned and more common marble cake layers.  There was just something special about seeing a cut cake reveal a checkerboard pattern.  

I've seen specialized pans, but I have a kitchen rule: If it serves only ONE purpose, it doesn't belong.  This rule began way back when I had extremely limited storage space.  It teaches you to be frugal in many ways when you've no place to store things.  Even after moving into a home with plenty of storage I've stuck to my old rules.  They made sense...but checkerboard cakes!

Weekly Meal Plan - Change of Plan

Here I am, late to be sure. And why?  Because after sitting down this morning and working out my menu for this week, I realized that I don't want a single thing on it.   It's boring.  It's just a repeat of what I've been making and I'm tired of it.  So I start again, from scratch.  I do have a few leftovers from today's meal to plan into the rest of the week's menu.

I've been working doubly hard on food waste over the last few months.  Here of late, I've slipped up a little more each week.  I can't afford to throw away food.  That's why I try to work so especially hard to remake leftovers into new meals.  Food tossed is money lost.  Here lately, my fridge has been so full I can't find all the foodstuffs in it.  I will be cleaning out the fridge this week, wiping down surfaces and such.  Here's hoping the losses are minimal!

A Year of Savings: 2013

Oct 26:  Every two weeks I make two loaves of Challah bread for Shabat.  At the end of every single week I throw away a small portion.  This week I was determined to use every last bit of Challah.  I started by using Challah as a base for our Turkey Sausage Gravy this morning.  It tasted as well as any biscuits would have and used up a large portion of the bread.    The leftovers became garlic bread to go with our Spaghetti Pie (freezer entree) dinner.  Bread used UP.  Nothing wasted.

Making Sausage Gravy may seem a splurge but it isn't really.  I use the gravy to stretch the meat.  Two slices of that good turkey sausage is just enough meat to flavor that gravy nicely.  Two slices is a single serving!  The sausage is not inexpensive at $.50 each patty, but it's considerably less expensive to use in this way.  Savings $1.

Our salad today was from our own little potted garden.

Morning Coffee Chat - Glad Farewell to October

Hello dears, do come in.  There's a lovely spicy applesauce cake to go with our coffee this morning.  I made a half recipe and forgot to halve the spices.  Oh it was a good mistake though, don't you think?  It made such a nice spice cake out of what is normally a very subtly flavored cake.  It was a happy mistake, too, because I really wanted a spice cake but thought John might prefer the applesauce cake best.  As it happens, every time he eats a piece he "mmmmms" his way through it.  That's the nicest sort of compliment to a cook!

For all that I normally look forward to October, it's been a very tough month this year.  I must say I shall be glad to see November come in!  Some months just tend to be more full of difficult things than others and this year I guess it was October's turn.  Just three more days and we'll be done with and yes, truly this year I shall be happy to see it go.  

Weekly Meal Plan

Good cold weather arrived this past week.  It was lovely!  Snuggling under covers, standing next to the heater and heating up one side and then the other, sitting in the morning sun and still feeling chilled.  It is the answer to a hot flashing woman's prayers!  I'm sorry to say that this week we'll likely end up turning on the AC at least a few afternoons as the temperatures creep back up but nights are going to remain cool-not frosty, but cool.  We take what we can get in this part of the South.

The week ahead is no busier nor less full than last week.  Plenty to do around here as always.  I hope to make a really productive week of it, too.  It's want to do as I did last week and spend a morning prepping foods for the week ahead.  It was a pleasure to know that dinner was ready to pop into the oven or crock pot and the majority of the clearing up was done as well.  I deviated from my menu only twice last week: I found I lacked three key ingredients for that new to me chicken casserole and so Friday I splurged with my allowance and bought fried chicken for dinner.  On Saturday I chose to use one of the frozen entrees from the freezer rather than make the Vegetable beef soup.

The Blessing Of Blessing

It's been a long day today, not without sorrow but  filled with blessings, as well.  Even such days as this bring with them blessings if we'll only look at the day rightly and acknowledge the good that balances the bad in this world, the joy that balances fear, the light that balances the dark.  That is one of the rules of this world God created.  There is always ORDER and that means there is always BALANCE.

Why my day was difficult is not mine to tell about, but some few of you who are dear friends do know, so allow me to say very sincerely, Thank you.  You blessed me mightily with your readiness to go into prayer when I sent you the message and you blessed me with your thoughtful messages and checking in and later in heartfelt consolations. I feel a deep sense of peace and I felt it in the prayer recipient's messages today, as well.  We are not certain of the outcome, but we know how it appears at present and we are okay with whatever it turns out to be.

This whole business has put me in mind of several things, because I am mightily blessed by you all, and because I've been in blogland which led me to read a blog post about a blessing and then another on another blog and it made me think long and hard.  So I'm going to ramble a bit but there is a point if you'll stick with me.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Oct. 19:  Synagogue for us this day.  We took a slight shortcut on our way to and shaved off about 8 minutes of time.  It won't save us bundles of money but all those 'little' sums add up to sizable portions.

On our way home, John wanted to stop at a music center to pick up some necessary items. He paid for these out of his pocket.  I'd told him our funds were 'done' for this pay period.  That's how we work things.  Necessities we'll purchase from our household accounts but only if we're out of allowance.

Came home to make dinner: savings $10.  I'm excluding the cost of the frozen pizza I purchased.  I 'dressed up' the pizza with leftover hamburger meat, some cooked onion and mushrooms.  

Got a call from the flea market in late afternoon.  I had a higher priced album in my booth and an offer was made for about half the price. I made a counter offer which was accepted and sold that item and one other.  It was welcome news after my disappointment Friday to find I'd sold nothing in three weeks time.  I didn't get full asking price for the item but I will have rent money paid for November and a bit over.  

Oct 20:  Made pancakes from scratch.  I made a half recipe but still had more batter than I needed.  I put the leftover batter in the fridge.  I'll add apples or pumpkin to it later in the week and have pancakes again.  Savings: $1.

Made a very nice dinner.  The Cornish Hens were larger than I realized.  We ate only 1/2 each, so I had a whole hen leftover. I packed up the leftover bird, pilaf and broccoli in a covered container and froze it for a future thaw and heat meal.  Savings $3.

After dinner, I decided the five oranges we had left just weren't going to get eaten.  I've been looking at them for a full week.  I  decided to pare, section and freeze.  There was enough orange segments for a family sized portion of Ambrosia.  I froze them in a quart yogurt container.  Savings $2.

No air conditioner all day long. Just wide open windows.  Lovely!  

Oct. 21:  One of 'those' days when nothing seems to suit me.  I realized a lot of what displeases me is well within my realm of control.

Clearing up is the best way to make things look better even if you haven't the money to do all you'd like to improve a space.  Clutter robs a space of beauty, whether it's indoors or out.  I cleared the front porch of a bunch of junk and gave it a good sweeping.  I straightened out a messy drawer that was frustrating me because it was too full, and for good measure I tackled a few other tasks I've postponed for too long.  Apparently the cure for one of 'those' days for me is productivity!  Costs me nothing and generates a feeling of well being.

While in the kitchen this morning, I made our dinner, cooked the chicken for sandwiches and a casserole, shredded cabbage for slaw, washed lettuce for salads,  and got a beef stew assembled for dinner for the week ahead.  I didn't spend a bit more time in the kitchen than I would have to prepare and clean up behind ONE meal, but I now have a savings of time.  That's like money in the bank, too when you're busy whether you work at home, in your home or outside your home!

Put a portion of the main dish in the freezer for a solitary supper serving one night.

Made a cake for desserts this week and caramel popcorn for snacks.  The caramel corn used up a jar of peanuts (Aldi brand, again the nuts had a raw taste, no more salted roasted nuts from Aldi for us!) we didn't feel like eating.  I halved the cake recipe and made just a single layer and after it was frosted and cooled cut that into twelve servings, enough for six days for the two of us.  The cake cost about $.75 to make from scratch.  A package of cookies that mightn't last half as long costs $2.75 at the dollar store.  I saved $2.00.  The caramel corn makes up a big 2 quart jar full.  A small box at the store runs about $1.59 for 4 ounces or less.  I saved $3.18, plus the cost of that jar of nuts $1.99 we weren't eating.

Oct. 22:  Today we decided to go on a day trip.  The weather didn't look cooperative in the least but we went on anyway.  I packed a picnic lunch: bottles of water, a big apple cut in half, 2 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, chicken and lettuce sandwiches, and slices of the Applesauce Cake I made yesterday.  I'm so glad we went ahead to the mountains because the weather did clear off nicely, the air was just cool enough to really be enjoyable and the picnic delightful at a lookout where a bunch of horseback riders stopped to rest their horses.  There's something rather nice about enjoying good views, cool air and the soft sounds of horses flapping their tails or knickering as they munch grass.  NOT eating out today saved $24.  And what a lovely time we'd have missed outdoors!

We explored a bit on the mountain this time and came across a beautiful two story stone lodge, which hosts the reservations center for FDR state park.  John sat on the front veranda while I went indoors to find a map.  I had the option of buying a map for $4.50 but the free handout had the information I wanted so why buy?  Savings $4.50.

That picnic at the lookout area was a compromise.  There were plenty of places to park with lovely picnic areas but they came with a fee of $5.  I don't mind paying that for an extended length of time, but to eat for 15-20 minutes at most?  I'd rather keep my money in my purse.   The lookout area had even better views, and those lovely horses, too.  Those were bonuses.  Savings $5.

We came home still a bit hungry.  We certainly had plenty of food.  I think it must have been the good fresh air.  I made a quick meal of canned soup and sandwiches.  We had coffee as well.  That was nice and warming.  I bought the soup last pay period at Aldi, a German brand that is ready to heat and eat.  It was good, not homemade good, but tasty enough.  I will keep a couple of cans on my pantry shelf I think for impromptu meals and light suppers.

Oct. 23:  Simmered stew all morning long on stove top.  I only had to add  sliced carrots and seasonings to the prepped foods today.  I put a quart of cooked stew in the freezer.  I'll either serve as stew a second time or, more likely, use as a base for vegetable soup.  The added warmth from the stove top didn't hurt at all.

John and I both cleaned out dresser drawers this week.  It was time to move out the clothes that were too stained and tatty to wear (kept one set for painting since I am paint magnet), or were not wearing.  

Oct. 24:  Chilly!  The quilt surely felt good last night.  There were no complaints when the heat went on this morning either.  I made oatmeal, Butterscotch oatmeal to be exact, for breakfast.  This is an especially creamy oatmeal, made with milk, an egg, and brown sugar.  You could really add a touch of vanilla if you wanted because it has a pudding type base really, just not as sweet.  It costs so much less than cold cereal even adding in the cost of the egg and milk.  I estimate it runs about $1 for two generous servings.  That's milk and everything.  Cold cereal runs that and milk runs about $1.25 per serving, so a savings of $.75.

I thought I'd be making a new recipe today but I found I lacked two of the very key ingredients.  Substitutions would have completely altered the casserole and since this is my first time making it, I hate to 'judge' a recipe based on iffy substitutions.  I will move it to my menu for a couple of weeks from now.  The cooked chicken I made will be great sandwich filler.  Savings $3.59 for luncheon meat.

Picked enough lettuce and spinach from my potted garden to make a big salad for tomorrow's dinner.  I estimate it was about a head's worth of lettuce.  Savings $1.69 for lettuce.

Oct. 25:  The shed is clean!  Yes, really it is decently cleared up.  I still need to finish sweeping and I could no doubt sort out a few more of those plastic plant pots I've held on to for who knows what reason, but it's 95% improved.  I know where things are and what's in them.  I really should write on each container what it is just for the sake of ease.  I found a few items I can put in my booth, as well.  That was a shopping trip without leaving home!  savings $20.

Typically in a two week period I eat out at least 3-4 times.  Mostly takeout  or fast food, and perhaps one restaurant meal.  I have not been out to eat at all in nearly 3 weeks.  I can't believe it myself.  The reason why I enjoy eating out is simple: I cook 38 meals on the weeks when I do eat out.  38.  That's a lot of planning, preparing, serving, clearing up after.  I have no shame in saying that I LOVE to cook, I like planning meals that have real interest to them, but I do get weary of something that is repeated that many times each week, even just for the two of us.  NOT eating out these three weeks has saved roughly $50.  About half that amount comes from our allowance.  The rest is truly savings!  I went out today and bought chicken at the local diner.  We'll get at least three meals from that usually.  It translates to about $1.50 per person, which isn't unreasonable.  I paid for it from my allowance, which was possible since I didn't have to make a thrift shop stop this week courtesy clearing the shed. Real savings: $25.
Mama stopped by briefly today and had coffee and cake with us.  That finished off the Applesauce cake.  And it means I will have to bake something which is fine.  I have cookie dough thawing now.  I've already counted that cookie dough as savings but for the record, I figure I'm saving about $2.25 making cookies at home.  I get to choose what goes into them, I am pleased to note no artificial ingredients or additives, high fructose corn syrup or strange unmentionable items are in my cookies.  Peanut butter, butter, flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Salt and baking soda.  That's it.  I like that.

Cleared the fridge of a few items that got lost or missed this past week.  All were perfectly edible but I honestly had no clue what to do with them.  Not enough to translate into a leftover makeover or just not appealing (soggy sandwich anyone? Nope, not me either).  The dogs are not nearly so picky as I.  They ate the foodstuffs, saving a portion of their usual dog food for future meals. Savings:  $1

This morning for breakfast, I used frozen waffles and french toast as our main course.  All I had to do was fry some turkey bacon to go alongside.  Notice the cook is attempting a vacation today?  Yep.  And liking it, too.  And I'm going to do the same tomorrow.  I have meal plans all worked out for the Sabbath.  Biscuits ready to bake for breakfast, an entree from the freezer, salad already prepared and awaiting dressing, sandwiches (non-soggy variety) set aside for tomorrow's work supper for John.  Savings: labor...priceless.

 Total Savings:  $105 

Years of Listening

Years of Listening

I like to see men leaning on  a fence,
Exchanging news of friends, some town affair;
Discussing rain and crops, or sale of mare,
The needed tractor, wages, and expense.
Their lips are firm and speak with common sense.
Hat-brims shoved down against the hot sun's glare,
They stand with easy grace, tough-thewed and spare,
And argue out the trend of world events.
They chew on thoughts and meditative straws,
While dusty pickups wait, hub-deep in clover.
The world is in good good hands when men still pause
To rest beside a fence and talk things over.
What wisdom must be stored in those old rails,
With years of listening in their weathered nails!

by Margaret Grahame Collins

Morning Coffee Chat -

Good Morning dears.  There's coffee, cookies and Angela has Banana Cake for us, too. 

Yes, I finally got busy in the baking area this past week. I made cookies for us and put several batches of dough in the freezer.  These should be powerful cookies because I stirred a lot of prayers into the dough as I made them on Monday.  It wasn't a good day.  Again we had frightening news.  It's so hard, so hard, at times to hold on to faith and not let fear ride roughshod over you.   I hung on only because we were waiting on a miracle and there were to be more test results on Thursday...With every ingredient I put in the bowl I spoke out my heart to God.  I mixed up four different cookie doughs that day.

If I'm a bit disturbed I usually work it out in one of two ways: I clean or I cook.  This week I cooked.  Sunday I made up a couple of makeover leftover dishes (gee, I hope I remember to take photos of them when I thaw them to cook!) and an extra entree for later this week.  Monday I spent all the morning mixing up cookie doughs and baking and preparing dinner.

A Year of Savings: 2013

I'm going to change things up just a wee bit.  I've typically been sending these out every 7 days with a variation of 9-10 days at the end of each month.  I'm going to begin sending these out every Friday, more like my old Frugal Friday posts starting this week.   This is in the interest of bringing back Frugal Friday posts at year's end.

Oct 8:  Our trip to Kingsland ended up just being an overnight thing due to cancellation of the appointment my daughter in law had for today.  Fortunately I packed water enough to last several days since their water is sulfurous, so I had water for the long ride home.  We also had snacks with us.  Our sole stop on the way home was  for a treat of a milkshake about 2 1/2 hours into the drive and a stop for a bag of boiled peanuts at a local peanut producer's farmstand.  Under $6 for both items.  

Weekly Meal Plan - Slow Cooking Days

It's cooler once more after a few days of humid too warm weather.  Here's hoping the cooler weather lasts because my cooking this coming week is meant to slow the cooking pace and take a bit of time to simmer, bake.  I like these cool days of cooking, I do truly.  We've planned to finally get the yard work tended to, last of the season for sure, as grass has not grown at all in the last two weeks.

My little garden is looking lovely.  The washtub of lettuce needs to be picked over, the spinach leaves are vibrant greed, the beets are tall and lovely with their red stems, the peas clambering, the cilantro is growing too.  Cilantro does not like the heated days.  It prefers the cool nights and shifting sun of autumn.

We've planned a day out one day this week. Not sure yet which day that will be, but I've got a picnic plan in mind, a couple of new recipes to try, projects galore to attend to, a new section of genealogy research that is puzzling, a good book started...I don't know if I can fit it all in but I'm going to try!

The Modern Home Economist: Cooking Lessons: Steak

 This past week after our visit to the meat market I cooked a steak.  Until I met John I'd never heard of the method of pan-frying a steak.  We'd only ever had it broiled or grilled in my childhood and that's what I did after I married as well.  John showed me how to pan fry a steak and I was pleased as could be because I loathe cleaning up the broiler pan.

I bought a Rib Eye as a special treat for us.  We've eaten mostly sirloins over the past year or so.  The Rib Eye was large enough for three servings.  If you're accustomed to purchasing the thin grocery store steaks you might not realize what a good buy a good large steak is.

Modern Home Economics: How To Bake A Cake

I've been cooking and baking far longer than the average woman my age...and that's a fact.  Mama began teaching me to cook when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  Just at first, she'd prepare a meal and when I came in from school I was to heat things up so they'd be warm when she came in from work. About a year later she would 'talk' me through basic recipes as she worked nearby.  By age 12, she merely informed me of the menu and I prepared the meal from scratch when I got in from school.  A little later, and I was planning the meals and preparing them, too, as well as doing a bit of the summer preserving, canning and freezing. Mama taught me a lot...but she did not teach me to bake and that skill remained woefully unattended until my marriage when I opened my second favorite cookbook ( Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook ca. 1970) and began to attempt various recipes. 

Weekly Meal Plan - Autumn Comes At Last

Despite the fact that we are now mid-October, the grass remains as green as it was all summer long.  The difference is seen in the fact that John hasn't mowed in 3 weeks time and the grass is only just beginning to look a little shaggy.  When he mows next week, it will be for the last time this year.  Because it's so very green yet outdoors, I haven't put up a lot of Fall decorations.  My centerpiece on the dining table is mostly greens and I find I like it very well.  I'll try to remember to get a photo posted of it this week.

Nights are cool and mornings are cooler.  The days heat up but this week the temperatures are meant to slide slowly down.  Today is supposed to be our last afternoon in the mid-80's.    I looked across the field and noted many trees are bare already and those which still hold on to their leaves are only just beginning to change color.  The golden rod and other yellow fall blooming flowers (mostly weeds) are blooming en masse and are gloriously, brilliantly, decidedly gold, as though to put an exclamation point on Autumn's glory.

Coffee Chat - Peanuts!

Good Morning!   Now doesn't that look cheerful and pretty and Autumn-ish?  I'll bring back one of my smiling images with a coffee cup after a bit, but in the meantime let's enjoy this lovely scene.

We have no cookies this morning.  I should get busy and make a batch.  About time, per my husband who has waited patiently, sighing occasionally as he's gazed at the empty jar.  Poor dear.  I've spoiled him utterly with homemade cookies.  He said to me last pay period as we stood before the display of cookies, "Let's just have the ones you bake."  Well I never did take time to bake. 

Ten Things I've Learned Watching "Chopped"

Chopped is a competitive program in which chefs compete against one another.  The goal is to make it through appetizer, main dish and dessert rounds, using special ingredients from a mystery basket and the contents of the very well stocked pantry and fridges in the Chopped kitchens.   The ingredients are sometimes exotic, sometimes just crazy and occasionally common ingredients that aren't typically restaurant quality fare.

As I watched this week I realized I've learned a great deal.  Here are a few of them:

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh My!

I realized the other morning that it has been quite a long while since I replied to comments or answered questions.  Pardon me for being rude! It's been at least two months.  I've been busy, it's true. August was a full month  and September simply flew away didn't it?  So I thought I'd try to catch up.

Starting way back in August, I have to share that after my comment on peaches in the August 2 Iced Tea chat that it's about 50/50 for eating peaches with the skin on, lol.

A Year of Savings: 2013

October 1:  A new month, a new opportunity to make the very best of savings.  I'm off to a good start so far.  We had Harvest Morning today.  I set aside money for savings, tagged an 'extra' amount that wasn't needed for a routine bill (three pay periods this month for us) and put it over on that car loan.  It wasn't a huge amount in either case but it was set aside anyway.  It's SAVINGS.  I won't share the amount, simply because I feel that is too personal, but I'm proud of it just the same.

Coffee Morning Chat

Oh come on in!  I've got gingerbread this week.  Do you like it?  I love it dark and slightly sticky, so I always use dark molasses in mine.  Gingerbread is a wonderful treat in autumn to me.  That's when I enjoy most spice cakes the best.  In my school years, gingerbread came to the lunch table with a clear lemon sauce atop.  In my school years, you might also need to know we ate REAL food that was freshly cooked daily and was delicious.  Later years, when I married, Gingerbread was a common dessert.  I served it with homemade applesauce as often as not and the kids ate it up.  Now we're on our own here, just two adults and John prefers it with whipped cream.  I resort to my childhood taste combination and spoon over a little warm lemon curd.  Not quite the same but close enough.  Oh and for the record, this time of year I love a Gingerbread latte when I treat myself to coffee.

What a lovely day last Sunday was weather-wise.  It was quite cool in the morning, even at 10am.  Despite the need to do a lot of housework that morning I came indoors and opened the windows then sat down next to the window and just ENJOYED.  The breeze was downright cool blowing in the windows.  It was lovely.

I got a good bit of housework done prior to our eating dinner that day.  I made a yummy meal of Pot Roast and Apple Brown Betty.  Oh! how good the house smelled with the aroma of cinnamon and apples, and Pot Roast wafting on the breezes that were blowing through the house.  I cleared up the dishes and settled in my chair with a cup of coffee, planning to get back to housework but the fresh breezes, football game and John snoozing in the chair next to mine sort of just sent me off into a nap.

Weekly Meal Plan

The weather is cooperating with the idea that there's been a seasonal change.  I'm pulling out my cooler weather recipes even if it's not exactly as cool as I'd like it to be.  We've had a couple of afternoons on the porch and were quite comfortable.  I've had the AC off most nights and mornings until well past noon and then it cycles on.  And did I mention that the propane man came Friday was a week ago and filled up our tank?

I have my little potted garden on the patio where it can get plenty of sun.  The lettuces, carrots, peas, beets, and spinach are all coming up nicely and the tomato plants never looked so good as they do now.  I have high hopes we'll eat from those pots before the new month is over.

Arroz con Pollo, Pineapple Salad
A simple enough meal of chicken and rice. I cut up a whole chicken I bought and divided the pieces.  I roasted a few, cooked twice as much as we needed for this dish, so I could put a casserole of chicken and rice in the freezer for a future easy meal. There was plenty of onion and a home roasted red bell pepper in that dish to count as vegetables, as well as some peas.

Weekly Meal Plan

I was just looking over the weather forecast for the week ahead. The day time temps are remaining in the 'sunny and mild' zones but the night time temps are starting to slide down the thermometer.  Thursday morning it's supposed to be in the high '40's...and yes, that gets me excited!  I love the cooler months.  We just may manage open windows every day next week and that's welcome too.

The fair is in Perry this week.  I don't know if we'll get to go or not.  Our week has filled up with obligations.  Even if we don't go I'll manage to bring a bit of the fair to our week.  You'll see.

Brunswick Stew, Rice, Coleslaw, Corn Muffins
Mama made the brunswick stew.  I thought I'd serve it over rice both as an extender and to tone down the tomato-y taste of the stew.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Sept 21:  Shabat.  It's a day of rest for us and normally we eat out after synagogue.  This week we decided to head home.  John asked if I had anything to fix quickly.  As it happened I was able to offer up two suggestions.  We decided on hot dogs and baked beans as our meal.  Savings: $16  Yes that figure is higher than usual.  For some reason we've found it has been costing us about that much to eat out these days instead of the more usual $10-$11.  I suspect it's because we've tired of the hamburgers and are opting for chicken or another type of sandwich instead.

The Modern Home Economist - Cooking Lessons - Stretching a Roast

I've seen this type of thing often in older cookbooks and budget-wise books and so when I stumbled upon it in one of the September issues of my vintage magazines, I thought it worth copying and sharing. It's uncommon to buy as large a roast as they might have done back in the day (4-5 pounds).  In fact, good luck finding one this large unless you're shopping at one of the wholesale clubs or having it specially cut for you.

If you happen to be a small family of say just 2-4 this is still viable with the typical roast we might buy today of about 2 pounds in size.  In fact, John and I used this idea not too long ago.  I'd kept a roast whole, planning it as a 'The family is coming to visit, let's have roast' dinner but no one visited during that time frame.  We were hungry for steak but the budget just plain didn't allow any room for steak.  I used a sirloin roast we'd bought and it worked beautifully for shish kebab, a small roast and two steaks.  So be assured you can use another cut of meat.

Morning Coffee Chat

Good Morning!  Isn't the sun bright?  Isn't the sky blue?  You'll have to forgive my mess this morning and my current lack of goodies.  I haven't had time to make a thing this morning and as you can see I'm in the midst of housework, but it's time for a break.

The world has taken on a golden hue.  The mornings are cooler, and the nights chilly enough that I personally can sleep quite comfortably without a fan running. The sun comes up slowly and orange-y and dies at night in a pastel sort of splendor or a blazing of fire red. It's lovely.  Despite all this coolness the grass and leaves are still quite green.  Were it not for the goldenrod and that lovely slant of the sun, and the date on the calendar page of course, I'd never know the season had changed.

Autumn's A Lark...

Oh, Autumn's a frolicsome, rollicksome lark--
The season for football and mellow brown ale,
For hiking and biking and rides through  the park,
On a purple-and-golden, red-leafed bridle trail,
For cool, snappy mornings and crisp afternoons
That makes life a breezy, adventurous thing,
For fresh, frosty evenings with big orange moons
And sizzling log fires and crickets to sing!

--by Avery Giles

In My Home This Week: All Routine