Shabat Thoughts: What's Really In the Package?

It started with the work we were having done upon our home.  My brother agreed to do two small extra jobs in addition to the big work on the porch: change out a ceiling fan and put in a new light fixture.  We told him we had the ceiling fan on hand, bought three or four years ago.  We really liked the fan.  42 inches wide for a good breeze, 3 lights to amp up the wattage in the room, classic look, oil rubbed bronze finish.

So when he was done we walked into the room  and there was a cheap white, one bulb, globe light shade, 22 inch fan.  What?!  "That's what was in the box," he said.  New, never been opened, right there in the box for three years or so.  We don't even remember where we bought it.  The only thing I am certain of is that we likely bought it at a clearance price, because that's how we normally look for upgrades for our home.  We were determined to look on the bright side.  Even this fan, though not what we thought it might be, is better than the old wobbly fan we took down.  And it is paid for.  That's the silver lining of that bit.

Meal and Job Plans - June 29 to July 5

It's summertime.  The hardest decisions I have to make each week are which of the fresh produce we should eat and which I won't have room for...Tough times, huh?   I did a pantry inventory last week and mean to do a freezer inventory this week and determine just how much I can put in the freezer of all this good food that's coming in right now.  It's this time of year I probably eat the most 'nostalgia' foods since I grew up eating fresh garden produce and I want to cook them the way Mama and Granny and Big Mama did.  Put a plate of Squash and onions, sliced tomatoes, green beans with potatoes and coleslaw made from a new head of cabbage before me and bring on the hot cornbread.  I cook differently from my family in that I don't toss in a bit of bacon or ham or fatback.  I will toss in a little piece of smoked turkey or a drop of liquid smoke to add that hint of flavor from my childhood without the additional fat.

For my own sake, I'm going to put down three meals for each day.  I have failed to plan breakfast and supper too often and am just weary of getting caught without a plan.  Nothing but a tiny bit of work to cure that bit of struggle.

Afternoon Refresher: Coming and Going

Hello dears...Come in.  The AC is nice and cool and there is iced tea.  I've just been sitting here trying to decide upon our dessert for the week.  Perhaps you can help me:  Lemon Meringue Cake?  And yes, I do mean cake.  It's a luscious yellow cake filled with lemon curd and topped with meringue.  Coca Cola Cake? German Chocolate?  Lemon Blueberry Cream?   I have no clue either, so let's just enjoy our iced tea.  I've boggled my mind long enough with the possibilities and it's getting late to even think of getting the stove going.

The days have been very pleasant of late.  The mornings are generally comfortable.  The afternoons all that summer afternoons should be:  Blue skies filled with huge cumulus clouds and the earth green as far as the eye can see, shimmering under the sun.  There have been temperamental showers here and there and that too is as it should be for summer in the South.

There's so much fresh produce coming into season all at once and I am just one person who longs to eat a little bit of it all.  What a lovely dilemma to have.  Local produce is coming in hot and fast.  Corn, squash, peas of all sorts, butter beans, peaches...oh wonderful peaches!  I can't eat it all, but I'm wanting to put up the goodness towards eating this winter, with just a bit here and there for us to have NOW.  It was last summer I worked so hard to put up creamed corn and realized at the end of the season that we'd never had a single bite of fresh cooked creamed corn in season.  I've had fresh cooked squash with Vidalia onions and in a casserole.  We've had corn on the cob.  I am frying green tomatoes and cooking field peas this weekend.  Oh and I've had fresh peaches and cantaloupe, blueberries and blackberries.  Summer is so good!

My Frugal Week - Less and More

Saturday:  Made pizza for supper using some of the french bread cut into lengthwise pieces, leftover tomato sauce from the fridge and odds and ends of cheeses.  I topped with cooked Italian sausage, onion(from fridge) and peppers (freezer).

Sunday:  Packed John's lunch, made him breakfast.

Washed a full load of clothes.

Went to work on the guest room once more.  I sorted through the flea market items and organized them.  I set aside several items to tag for the booth.

I'd planned to go to the grocery store today, but put it off.  I decided there was nothing I needed so badly it couldn't wait until grocery day.

My Frugal Week/Living Well

Saturday:  Up early.  Breakfasts are purposely kept simple on Saturday mornings.  Bagels and cream cheese this morning.  Most Saturdays we have some sort of bread (muffins, biscuits, etc) with a light protein.  Easy, inexpensive.

Our dinner today was leftovers from yesterday.

Dinner was big, so cheese, crackers and fruit for supper for me.

Tried out a few free genealogy sites a friend shared.  As I have time to check out her list a bit further, I'll share those that appear to be good.  The one or two that I've tried thus far appear to lead to paid sites.

Sunday:  We headed to church, taking off the trash and picking up mail as we went out.  We also dropped off our Netflix film in the post office in town.

We'd planned to stop at the grocery on our way back home.  This particular grocery has a Starbucks kiosk. John and I haven't stopped for a coffee in a couple of months but today we treated ourselves.  We still have a  balance on the card we were gifted at Christmas so this feels like a double treat to get good specialty coffee and get it for free.

I'd made out a short list of needed items before we left home.  I knew I needed to especially pick up waxed paper, an item I cannot buy at Aldi.  I might well keep my list short but it does pay to know what you need  when I go to a store that isn't my usual one.

John and I both wanted pizza.  We decided to pick up a frozen pizza there at the store.  Our favorite brand was on sale 3/$10.  Even though we usually only eat half a pizza, John encouraged me to pick up 3.  We put them in the freezer here at home (aside from the one we had at dinner).

Took time this afternoon to get the bill box in order.  The pre-work

We've had a little rain but not enough to really water our plants.  I've been refreshing our stored water supply.  I watered plants with the stored water and refill the containers with fresh water.

Monday:  Couldn't seem to get my day off the ground, though I was trying.  I was in the middle of very late dinner preparations when Mama called.  She'd locked herself out of her car at a store two towns over.  I put dinner prep on hold and went off to find Mama's spare key and take it to her.  It was nearly 2pm when I got home. I dug about in the fridge and pulled out all the leftovers.  I managed to put together a decent dinner that we could microwave and eat in under 5 minutes.  The lasagna I'd been prepping when I left?  I finished it up and put in the freezer.

Put the turkey breast carcass on to boil with the tops and tails of onions, carrots and celery. I was preparing broth and meat for the freezer.  It started raining and got almost chilly indoors.  Soup suddenly seemed a good idea. I used a portion of the broth and meat pickings to make  our supper of turkey noodle soup.  Yum.  It hit the spot.

Made egg salad for sandwich filling.

Washed a full load of dishes.

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

Technically today is Harvest day...but John has to work tomorrow.  We decided it was silly to drive down to pick up his check when he can get it just as well tomorrow.  We'll save the 2 gallons of gasoline that would have cost us.

Tuesday:  Paid bills after John deposited his check.  I made a trip to town to buy postage, mail off bills and to do my own banking.

I decided to make the trip count for good. I'd marked several items in the local sales papers as I looked them over.  I went back over them this morning and made out a list for three different stores.  All items bought at two of them were for pantry restock.  I purchased only personal care items at the third store.

Refilled water bottles for fridge.   I like to drink water but John will not drink it voluntarily unless it's cold from the fridge.  I find it worthwhile to fill bottles with water and keep them handy for him.  It works...he drinks water every day.

Do you know how I saved the most money today?  Stopping to THINK.  I put an item in my shopping cart online but decided to wait until afternoon to order.  By afternoon I'd reasoned that after all, I could watch the same series online for free.  I thought about running into the dollar store and bringing home a few shower curtains to use as drapes in the kitchen sitting area, but I realized it was one of those snow ball things.  If I got the curtains I was thinking of getting, I'd want to replace my rugs, etc.  I'll just wait a bit longer.

Home again, I turned on a fan to stir the air a bit further, rather than lower the AC thermostat.

Hash browns are so easy to make and inexpensive, too. I know I've already shared this but I had some for supper tonight and put some aside for tomorrow.

Wednesday:  Made a frittata for breakfast this morning.  I used a green onion, the 1/2 cup of hash browns I I set aside last night and 3 well beaten eggs with a little bit of shredded cheese.  Yummy. Making a fritatta meant I used one less egg since the vegetables added bulk to this meal.

Heated the blueberry muffins I pulled from the freezer last night.

I vacuumed the fans.  Yes, that's right.  I vacuumed the fans.  The blades of the oscillating fans were dirty and I vacuumed them and dusted well then put them back together.  I think this is one reason our fans have been running for the past five years.  We use them a lot, even in winter, so they do get a work out in our home.

John brought home a reimbursement check.  This money will go back into savings now that he's been reimbursed.

John washed a full load of clothes and hung some of them to dry.

I had a rotten potato in my bin.  I wasn't happy when I discovered this.  I was just in that bag last night and never smelled a thing or noticed any soft potatoes either.  Ugh.  Tossed three and then washed the bin out.  I washed the potatoes and put them on a towel to dry thoroughly before putting them back up.

I used a dishpan to catch the hot water I used to rinse my dishes for dishwasher.  I then added soap to the dishpan and washed the rest of my dishes.  Then I took that water outdoors and poured over plants to water them.

Used up the last bits of John's bagged salad from his lunch.  I added in some fresh lettuce leaves.  We also emptied three, almost gone but not quite empty, bottles of salad dressing.

No grahams to make S'mores...I used vanilla wafers.

Made out my grocery list for tomorrow's shopping.

Thursday:  Grocery day. Made sure I had list and bags and water in a thermal glass.  We took off trash and picked up mail on our way out of town.

We spent a bit over usual this go round and we did last time, too.  I'm going to check over my most recent receipts to see just why. I can total in my head our impulse purchases.  Now it's time to check prices to see if something has gone up more than I'd taken notice of.  I am puzzled about the higher total...I spent a lot of time talking myself out of things not on my list reminding myself that I had staples and could make those items at home.

Made pimento and cheese for sandwich filling.

Did a pantry inventory before putting items on the shelf, then added those purchased today.  I've not noticed a sizable dint in much of my pantry or freezer stock.  I think that's because we've bought so much fresh produce and worked to eat that.  I'm going to use my pantry list to plan meals for the next week.

I am putting a halt on spending until I determine just what it is I NEED to fill gaps in the pantry and freezer. And in my home decor as well.  Officially declaring July a 'nothing extra' month.  Frankly, after repairs and fixes for several items and a month super heavy in birthdays we could use the break.

John bought lunch today using his allowance to pay for it.

I didn't get everything on my list.   I have quite a list but am thinking I will just skip those items for right now. I can easily make substitute items for those missing items until my next shopping trip for groceries.

Friday:  John had a class today.  His county pays him to attend his continuing education classes. This is a bonus amount for us, and much appreciated.

While taking some things out to the shed, I noted that the blackberries were ripe.  I picked about a pint this morning. I flash froze them after rinsing and then packed into a zippered bag.  I think more will be ripe Sunday.

I was deep in the midst of cleaning when John called to say he'd been released from class earlier than expected.  I didn't really have a hard and fast plan for dinner.  I did have leftovers.  I made a salad, sliced bread and made a fast dessert.

I asked John to bring home a couple of items from the store.  Those were paid for from my allowance.
I'm practicing for my Nothing Extra Month.  Ack.

Potted two plants I'd bought last week.

Took bread end pieces from freezer and made a breakfast casserole for tomorrow morning's meal. In the past I've put chopped mushrooms in to stretch the sausage but today I had no mushrooms.  What I found in the fridge was a half apple my husband apparently decided not to eat, so I dice that and added in with onion and sausage.

I decided to have a fruit salad to go with the casserole.  I used a few blackberries, some of the fruits and melon in the fridge.  Glad I decided to make this.  I discovered the strawberries were rapidly deteriorating. I immediately prepped them for the freezer.

We bought an unsliced loaf of French bread at Aldi.  We used that for our Shabat loaf. I cut off the end pieces after we had our communion and put those in freezer.  I'll make croutons from those in future.  I sliced four pieces off to use for french toast next week and then put the remaining loaf in the freezer.  We'll slice and use when we need more loaf bread but haven't any.

Living Well

Sometimes it's not the money we save that makes the biggest impact in our life; it's the money we spend.  John  and I were discussing our finances this week.  We've had a small season of struggle.  The AC needed some maintenance work, the fridge required a repair, the lawn mower, too.  We hit a birthday heavy month.  We had two baby gifts, and a wedding gift to add to the birthdays.  John's work pants decided they had worked hard enough and shredded.  He had to renew his work license.  Am I talking about these expenses in enjoying life?

Nope.  I'm talking about the vacation we took end of last month.  I'm talking about the back porch we spent a good amount of money adding to the house this Spring.  Those are the things we mention most often in our money discussions.  Yes, the balance drooped and we had to prop it up a bit  as our sub accounts dwindled.  But we have no regrets at all about taking that vacation nor spending the money on that back porch.  In fact, just this week when the account drooped the hardest, we both made time to go sit on the back porch and do Bible study, decorate a little more with plants and items we already have on hand and discuss our plans to renovate our front porch sometime later this year.

You know what else I'm prone to do when things get a tiny bit snug in the budget?  Put on my diamond earrings and wear them about the house.  They aren't rocks by any means, they are not even pebbles.  John got me those beautiful little diamonds for our first anniversary when we were right in the midst of living po'...John tells folks that we had so little we couldn't afford to call it poor.  It was money he saved from his pocket change that bought those earrings and they made us both so happy.

Our kids still talk about the super budget vacation we took the summer our oldest son graduated high school.  We spent a week at the beach in a cut rate hotel right on the beach.  We cooked meals in the kitchenette and shared a single bathroom.  One night John took us all out to dinner.  We paid more for that single meal than we'd spent in a month for groceries at home.  When my children mention that vacation they start by describing  the fantastic meal at a big deal restaurant, the first time we'd had a nicer meal than take out pizza.

I am frugal because I have to be to some extent.  I'm frugal because I like and enjoy a challenge.  I'm frugal because I believe we should be a good steward of our resources.  I'm frugal because living debt free is a whole lot more than just not owing someone money.  But I never, ever regret the times we spend on what some might consider frivolous or unnecessary things.  As John is prone to say too often, "What are we saving for?"  To live well, that's what.

Shabat Thoughts: Just Today

Friday morning.  I couldn't seem to concentrate.  I sat down to read the Bible chapters for the day.  I read a line or two and then started to drift.  My eyes were moving along the page, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you what I'd been reading beyond a word here or there.  No, what I heard was "Gee I wonder if I can find curtains I'd like for the kitchen sitting area any time soon?  What should I have for dinner tomorrow?  I really need to run to the grocery...but maybe not.  I wonder how the baby is getting along?  Are Bess and Sam overwhelmed?  Amie must be feeling exhausted just now.  I wonder if I've made any sales at the booth?"  My mind ran on and on.  Not focused in any one spot, least of all the Bible.

That's just the inner distractions I heard...There were outward ones as well.  John called.  I  heard the newscast on TV in the next room and got caught up in the news stories. I  started a load of clothes and the machine finished it's run,  making  me immediately aware that I needed to do another task... In short, I was very aware of everything except what God might be saying to me.

This Week's Meal and Job Plan: June 22-28

Another week past in which few of the planned meals were made.  Some was due to unexpected spoilage of fresh produce.  Some was because I was too hot, too tired, feeling lazy, didn't want to bother...Summer doldrums, if you will.  I think I found a help.  I cooked dinner for Friday's company meal very early, well before 8am and then just reheated slightly at dinner time.  It worked beautifully, didn't heat up the house all afternoon long.  I'll be taking that into consideration for the remainder of these summer days and try to get the meal cooked early morning from here on out.  

I'm feeling fully rested once more, after taking last week off from pushing to do projects and concentrating on just the usual day to day homemaking.  Ready to tackle new projects this week, and coming at the week with a fresh meal plan.  I will need to pick up produce items this week.  I have none left except a head of red cabbage  and a bunch of green onions in the fridge.  I have a grocery trip to make but I hope to also make time to get down to buy fresh corn to put in the freezer, as well.  'Tis the season, you know.

This Frugal Week/Living Well

Saturday:  Shabbat and not a whole lot going on in our home.  Truth is we are tired as can be anyway, from the two weeks of work we've put out.  We need this quiet restful, thoughtful sort of day to recuperate.

Breakfast was super simple: bagels and cream cheese.

I opened the container with the cream cheese and could tell it was soured.  That was waste.  Fortunately I had a new unopened package.  That's the third hint I've had my fridge isn't working just right.  John has promised to check it over tomorrow, but I think it's time to call a repairman in to fix it.

No time for meal prep for the day with traveling yesterday.  I pulled a steak from the freezer and put on an iron skillet on the counter to fast thaw.  I learned this trick a long time ago.  The skillet doesn't just get cold from the steak, it's constantly trying to adjust to the air around it and create a moderate balance between the cold and the warmth.  This means the steak thaws quicker, but remains temperature stable at the same time, so it's perfectly safe.  I'm sure there's a far more scientific explanation for it all.  If you're interested then look it up, but don't tell me all about it.  This is the gist of what I got from looking it up myself!

Afternoon Refresher - A Brand Spanking New World

It's been so hot and muggy that I've been looking for a cool drink mid-afternoon.  I think for the duration of summer, the Coffee Chat will be 'Afternoon Refresher' instead. Doesn't she look cool and crisp?  And doesn't that iced tea look refreshing?  Personally I like lots of ice, a glass FULL of ice,  and a bit of lemon or mint in a slightly sweetened glass of tea.  That makes me a bit of a traitor to the Southern Syrup that most serve as Iced Tea in our section of the states.  Mind you, Southern Syrup is how I drank it growing up, too, but I've given up a lot of Southernisms in favor of lighter fare in foods and drinks both.

It has been a tiring past three weeks or so.  For all that we relaxed and enjoyed our trip to the mountains, we have worked hard back home.  I took a car load of stuff to donate, I've listed quite a few books for sale (my Ebay and name is Hawksridge2).  I've got a stack of  books to list this week and am debating the viability of listing the Victoria magazines.  As Pam questioned, is it really worth it?  They aren't selling at flea market but I sure don't want to list anything for less than it will cost me to list it either.  So we shall see.

Menu and Job Plans

I do love the morning light on this little area I set up for baking!  It just pleases me no end when I see the sun hitting the canisters and highlighting the pictures.

Well...We've had some busy weeks just behind us.  One week away from  home, two weeks working hard and then we finished it off with that new grand baby.  I'm ready though, after this weekend of rest to get back on the work wagon and accomplish a few more tasks.  We were supposed to have company for the latter part of the week ahead but that was cancelled.  The twins are transitioning to toddler beds and their mom felt it was best not to interrupt the process.  A wise decision, no doubt, but I shall certainly miss seeing those kiddos and their older brother.   I was anxious to see how they had grown and what changes had taken place because they do change so very quickly.

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh My!

Well hello!  I thought I'd take spare moments to knock out this post so that I can send it out first thing this week.  Then I got busy doing more stuff in the house and forgot all about it. This is also known as procrastinating.  I find that as this day has progressed, I'm weary from rising so very early each morning.  I'll piddle the rest of the afternoon at tasks, because I really do want to accomplish a lot more than usual in this week.

I just love what Sarah said about my memory of eating peaches at Grandmama's in this Frugal Week post:
I was thinking about your peaches. Good food combined with sweet memories sure does increase the goodness doesn't it! :) I have several meals we like but remembering the people that taught me to make them or shared them with us adds to the mix for sure.

Meal and Job Plan for June 8-14

Wow.  I am sooo tired!  I worked hard this past week.  I'll do a bit of work this week as well if I can and then it will be a return to a more normal pace.  I've posted my week's worth of projects and such so you know what I've been up to.  All that and routine housework, too.  My big fail this week was reading.  I hadn't read a word, not once by Wednesday and then I decided I didn't really need that added pressure, so I read two or three magazines from my gently read stash and passed them on.  I was too tired at night to even think of reading and wouldn't stop during the day for it.

Each meal I made this past week used something from pantry or freezer.  I'm a long  way from being done.  I do need, at this moment, to go buy produce, dairy and bread.  We will also pick up one or two items for John's work lunches this week as well as get prepared for our needs when company comes in middle of next week.  However, I am still planning to use all I can from my pantry and freezer to provide meals for us.  I'll only purchase items I'm fully out of just now.

How the Week Went

I thought perhaps you might like to see how this week concentrating on home went both meal-wise and job-wise.  

Sunday: Planned: leftovers I ate leftovers.  I was so tempted to eat out while getting groceries since I left so much later than I'd meant to but you  know I just couldn't bring myself to spend the extra money.  It helped a lot that the credit card bill came in yesterday's mail  and while that money is already in the bank,  I felt I had to hang on to my money.  

Made 2 pie shells and a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough for the freezer. Baked a loaf of banana bread to use two leftover bananas. Found a jar of peanuts I'd saved in the freezer and  I'd just spied a single package of microwave popcorn in the cabinet, so I made caramel corn.  That went into the snack jar.  I'll skip making the peach shortcake I'd planned to make for the first part of this week.  Too many sweets on hand is not a good thing.  I also made up a batch of chocolate syrup.
My last job:  I chopped up 3 heads of garlic that I thought were near to sprouting and they were.  Those went into my fridge with the remaining portion of a jar of shelf stable garlic. My home smelled quite fragrant.

My Frugal Week(s)

May 24 - 30

Saturday:  I didn't plan ahead as well as I ought to have done.  I had no ready to serve meal for today...or did I?  I dug about in the freezer and found homemade spaghetti sauce.  I reheated the sauce, cooked the last of an open bag of specialty pasta.  I roasted asparagus and reheated cheese sauce that was in the fridge and needed to be used up. We had the last of bagged salad John left in his lunch bag.  I called it dinner. John called it good food.

I was careful to watch the thermostat and when the AC began to run on and on, I'd inch up the temperature so that it would shut off and take a rest.  This gives the compressor time to reset itself.

Sunday:  Our anniversary.  We didn't do anything much for each other, just small things.  I got a funny card for John that has a pet saying of his incorporated into the verse.  He went into grocery after church to pick up ice for a road trip we'd planned and bought me strawberries and a chunk of a specialty cheese and a big Hero sandwich for our dinner so I didn't have to cook.  The strawberries and cheese were special because I often look at both but seldom buy the berries because I'm the only one eats them and I never buy the cheeses as they are pricey and could be a mistake as I know little about them.  John did right well.  It's a pungent cheese that appears hard like Parmesan but is actually creamy in texture.

Meal and Job Plan- June 1 - 6

I said it and I meant it.  It is time for a pantry freezer challenge.  I've a number of things in my freezer that need to be used up.  Truthfully we tend to eat off the top and never make our way down to the bottom. There are no doubt all sorts of forgotten goodies in the bottom!  The pantry is looking leaner than it has in some time but there's plenty of foodstuffs there that haven't been touched over the past few months, like that 3 Bean Salad we ate yesterday (so good and refreshing in warmer weather).

I am off to the grocery store today.  We have very little fresh produce, the milk is down to just enough for coffee and there are five eggs, no where near enough to make it until next pay period.  I do plan to try to stick pretty hard to that short list though, since we are between pay periods

While we're in the pantry freezer challenge this month I will limit myself to purchasing those items and any outages of staples, but nothing more.  The point is to use what I HAVE and to SAVE a bit of money so that come end of month I can stock the holes in my pantry and freezer with more good staple foods.

In My Home This Week: All Routine