I was going to do another coffee chat but I don't have anything much to say that warrants a proper chat...so I thought I'd do one of my random thoughts posts instead. I'll try to have a decent chat with you next week.
We were sitting here this afternoon watching TV when the big platter on the wall fell. I'd noticed it was slightly askew yesterday and had decided then to ask John to straighten it for me since it was 10 feet up on the wall. We've examined the nail which is just fine and was actually in a stud (wonder of wonders on that!). The platter, in falling, smashed the little dogs figurine I'd picked up on a whim in the flea market because I found it oddly appealing.
When I recounted the incident later in the evening on facebook, a friend said "I'd have cried." I may have sounded a bit hard when I said I didn't cry over flea market and antique store items, but it's truth. I always feel I'm just a temporary keeper. I've chosen to share whatever history is in one of those pieces unlike the true family heirlooms.
I don't mind saying I shall sincerely miss the little dogs. I'm not usually one to buy dogs at all. I lean more towards birds but the dogs had a look of age about them that seemed to be greater than perhaps than they actually were. They were obviously oriental. And there was just something sweet about them, the way the puppy leaned towards the mother dog. I can easily replace the platter if I choose. After all there were dozens like it listed on eBay at the time I bought that. But the dogs will be irreplaceable, not unlike the real ones that came into my life and passed on.
In Part I, I shared food savings. In Part II I'd like to share how I hope to save money on the rest of the grocery budget.
#1. On a roll. Toilet paper, paper towels, aluminum foil, waxed paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap...If it's on a roll it's probably in our homes. I tried years ago to cut down on paper towel and it worked rather well, to the point that now a 2-3 roll package of paper towel might well last us 6 months unless we have a really big messy mess. I started weaning us away from paper towel by putting a big bowl (you could use a basket as well), on the counter, filled it with dishcloths and put the roll of paper towel under the counter. It worked very well and later when I found the vintage paper dispenser (it says paper towel, waxed paper and foil on the front of each holder) I removed the dish cloths and hung that. Again out of sight and mostly out of mind. I highly recommend hiding the roll and offering up dish cloths unless you are blessed to find one these handy vintage paper dispensers. (which abound on eBay though none are quite like mine...nor half as well priced as mine was either!).
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
A few years ago I had an awesome chocolate cookie recipe and somewhere along the way it got lost. I found this one on Pinterest. I think the link said it was a Martha Stewart recipe. Reading through it reminded me a great deal of that lost recipe, with the exception that the dough is rolled in a spicy sugar mixture.
The windows have been open each day and there is something about open windows that just connects one with nature. Here in the South this time of year, there is a soft continuous trill that goes on all afternoon long, so the day is never truly quiet. It's an aliveness of the air, perhaps a cricket or some insect that sings, but it's just part and parcel of Fall. A week of lovely autumn weather just behind me and frankly I am loathsome to see warm days return. But it is indeed returning, at least for a few days and then we'll go right back to being cool. I'll go back to AC on in the afternoons and grateful for it.
The freezer challenge continues. I've some breathing room after this past week. Some of the space will fill right back up when we shop for groceries this week. I'm thinking this whole freezer thing could go on quite a bit longer and I mean that sincerely. I've barely made a dint.
Saturday: John made breakfast this morning. I've determined that once a month I will splurge on a can of his favorite refrigerated biscuits. I make awesome biscuits from scratch but he considers these a real treat. He wanted to make biscuits this morning. I suggested he save three of the uncooked biscuits to use for our supper.
Easy dinner for today: leftover fried chicken, warm potato salad, sliced tomatoes. It was easy, tasty and there were no leftovers.
I boiled three eggs, 1 for the potato salad, 2 to use for salad later this week.
Coffee anyone? Never fear...It's not quite cool enough yet to hide indoors. We can take it on the porch again if you'd like. There are spice cookies too. Tempt you much? Have a seat and join me.
We're having a lovely October and I don't mean the weather. That has been weather, which means it's been changeable as weather usually is, and is often one thing or another. No, the lovely parts have been non-weather related.
John worked Friday a week ago so I'm going to start there...He worked and I went off to buy two more blinds while the $10 off $50 purchase card was still good for Lowes. I don't know about now but Lowe's has/had clearance prices on their drapes and some of them were pretty good (50%) and some were Amazing. I couldn't find 2-6 of any one type of panel I liked to do any window/room in my house, so I looked for naught, but it was fun to imagine getting such a great buy on curtains.
It was stinking hot and the air was heavy and humid. Ugh. I'd thought I'd do a bit of thrifting but it was so unpleasant that the idea of getting in and out of the car half a dozen times and wandering about in humid buildings (why is the air con always on the blitz in these places?), then getting in car just long enough for the air conditioning to start cooling before the next stop was not appealing in the least. Instead, I headed back home and stopped off at the flea market.
It's been two years of struggling and trimming and cutting back, but it finally paid off. The past two months I've spent less than $300 on groceries for each month. Honestly, now that I can see I've made headway, I'm more than ready to hit it all a little harder. I don't know about you but I'm about tired of being bossed around by my budget. I want some wiggle room!
I sat down this weekend and wrote a long list of steps to implement (some of which I've recently started doing and want to continue). I thought perhaps some of you might be interested to see where I'm planning to try to cut back a little more. There's nothing really new or earth shattering here, but perhaps it will be a good reminder of things you might do, can change, can adjust to suit your needs, etc. And for anyone new to trimming the budget, perhaps it will truly be a revelation and a help!
I'll start with grocery savings because that is the biggest variable area of our budget. There are other places to trim and cut and a few places to earn, and I'll share those with you as well over the next couple of weeks. In my home, the grocery budget includes food, pet foods, paper products, cleaning products and personal care items. It all falls into the area of spending that I am solely responsible for so I'll break the grocery category down into those areas.
The More Frugal Kitchen
I've been wracking my brain for menu ideas for the coming week. I'm just so undecided and admittedly a wee bit frustrated. You see, I cleared a bit of space in all three freezers this past week...and promptly refilled those spaces on Thursday and Friday...Uhm, this is not working quite the way that I planned it! My food multiplication is much appreciated, truly it is, but it does seem that I am forever trying to figure out where I'll store the leftovers. I shall not complain. It's a wonderful thing, truly it is to take stuff from the freezer and make more stuff to refill the freezer and all the while I'm cutting back on portions and this ingredient or that and the food just increases.
Sorry this is late this weekend. I tried to send it out several times Friday evening and Saturday but blogger just wasn't cooperating.
At one time I used my own photos to head these posts. I felt it was a good way to share how we save and live in our home. I love this little flower bed that is a good enough replica of one I much admired so I'm going to lead off with this photo this week.
Saturday: John worked his 24 hour shift, so I made a breakfast for us. I made Bagel Breakfast Sandwichs, which suited his need to have a heavier than usual breakfast and filled us up until well past dinner time.
Packed for a trip we'd planned for this weekend. We've gotten to be old hands at packing and generally know just what we need so it all comes together quickly. I keep a zippered plastic bag of trial sized items in the overnight bag as well as a single wash load of detergent, a dryer sheet, a mini sewing kit for repairs, a nightlight, and even a spare hair brush. All we generally have to gather is our colognes, toothbrush and whatever we feel we require extra. It's made packing a breeze in that department and we can pack a bag for travel in about 10 minutes flat.
Our hotel fees will be covered by a small fund we keep and use for travel. We usually put money in this account at Christmas and later when we get tax returns. We don't contribute monthly to this fund. So when the money in the account is gone we don't travel.
Well here we are in another new month...they do seem to come around regular don't they? I am not going to go on about how quickly time passes. It does and it doesn't, if you know what I mean. I like staying busy which makes time pass quickly, but I can be pretty relaxed at times and time seems to pass just as quickly. And the few incidents where time passed slowly, had little to do with boredom and a lot to do with awaiting news in illness or for test results and only occasionally did it slow down for good things...I'd much rather time passed at it's usual pace!
September ended being a pretty good month for me where projects and tasks were concerned. I feel it was a productive time overall and I am happy with the results.
Another happy thing has been the number of comments, especially from long time readers who said it was their first time posting...Thank you! Thank you all for making my ordinary day to day life appear to have some import to others. Thank you for taking time to comment. It means a great deal to me.
Now let's see what you had to say this past month...
This my dears, is a rutabaga as it is known in the U.S. or Swede, as our neighbors and friends from around the world call it. It is from the Brassica family (cabbage) and is a root vegetable. It takes far longer to mature than a turnip and the flesh is a pale yellow. Rutabagas are largely grown in Canada which exports them. You've likely seen them in the grocery store and thought they were rather ugly with their mottled and heavily waxed skin.
I've eaten rutabaga for all my life in the autumn and winter months. In my family they were a much looked forward to seasonal food. 40 odd years ago a rutabaga was a strong tasting, almost bitter root but not so much anymore. Katie, my most picky of all children, loved when I'd cut a rutabaga into sticks and make oven baked fries from them. I like them served mashed with butter and pepper. Look on your grocery shelves and you'll likely find cans of diced rutabaga which might be heated and served as they are.
I think, after this year, I should get a bumper sticker for my car: I SAW Georgia! lol We're just back from a weekend in Athens in which we traveled many miles further with our two children (John with Sam and I with Katie). It was a great weekend and as with every time we've traveled I've learned a thing a two that we might do differently to best suit our comfort and save a smidge of money. But that is another post for another day.
We arrived back home today and I immediately started a meal when we came in, using freezer items so I'll lead with that meal and we'll go from there.
Turkey, Dressing, Broccoli with Cheese, Cranberry Relish
Turkey and Dressing from the freezer. It took only about a half hour to thaw an dheat in the oven. I steamed the broccoli in the oven, too. I didn't leave it for the full half hour. And no salad. I was unpacking while dinner heated. We did eat ALL of the cranberry relish which was about 1/4 cup each. It counts as a fruit, really as there was no sugar just cranberries, orange and apple.
Beef Ravioli Bake, Italian Green Beans, Green Salad, Garlic Bread
I have beef, ravioli and green beans in the freezer as well as bread. That should help make somewhat of a dint in the freezer...And that's good as I bought an item while on our trip that I packed into the freezer, lol. It does seem that no matter how much I take out I put as much back in but I am truly seeing some room in both freezers, so I must be making headway.
Chicken Dumplings, Apple Pie
I'll use chicken and broth and mixed veg from the freezer. John likes the big fluffy type dumplings. I grew up with the flat noodle type dumplings that Granny taught me how to make...So if there's an extra lot of chicken stew left, I put in the freezer and then make my sort of dumplings a little later. The apple pie will be made from scratch. I bought the most beautiful Winesap apples in North Georgia this weekend. I shared some with the kids and brought home extras for making a lovely pie. I have my favorite Dutch apple Pie recipe, but I was thinking of trying this recipe.
Saturday: No cooking for me today, at least not until after sundown this evening. We are participating in Yom Kippur today. I have something out to make up quickly tonight into a hot meal.
I heard the breezes start this morning and ran to open the windows. The first really cold air of the season is coming in. We have all the windows open and are letting the cool fresh air blow through the house. John always says we're blowing out the germs. There's something to that theory. After years of pooh poohing the advice of our great grandmother's day, a recent study suggests that fresh air and sunshine are two of the greatest disinfectants for any household.
I got chilly as the morning progressed but I didn't close those windows! I went and put on a sweater and socks instead. I'm training myself for winter days when I get cold but the heat is really turned up quite high enough.
We were up especially early yesterday morning, somewhere between 4 and 5 and again around 6:15 for me, which is when John came to fetch me to watch the lunar eclipse with him this morning around 6:30. We were up at 5am peering out door and window looking at the moon but besides being huge and blindingly bright, nothing extraordinary about it. I went back to bed. It's dark and I don't do morning dark as well as I used to and the bed had felt pretty comfortable over all. I left the curtain at the window pulled back and was watching the moon but my eyes would drift shut...and I went to sleep and dreamed I was riding about with the two teen daughters from "Modern Family" and the youngest, Alex had just indicated I really needed to put on my seat belt...Weird dreams after going back to bed are standard form for me, so not at all surprising that something totally unrelated to anything I know would be in my dream. John came in and flung open the door and said "Come watch this. It's so cool already!"
I was reading back through some old blog posts this evening and I came across a post from 2008 which stated I'd been in need of fern stands and had found them in the form of two stools...and that led me to muse upon the story of Making Do.
When we moved here, we were in need of a small island to extend the work surface. Mama bought me this kitchen island that came with two stools. Not only did it serve as an island it was also our craft table, breakfast bar and the spot where we rolled out cookie dough at Christmas time. That island got a real work out for about 10 years. Then I decided it wasn't just what I needed anymore. I purchased a small rolling cart with cabinets underneath that served better for storage which was my main concern.
The tile table and stools went onto the front porch. The island was used as a potting table and the stools served as seating for cat or people, depending on who was more stubborn at the time. It worked well for me until we got our first computer. I lamented the need of a desk but the budget didn't stretch. Then one day as I was working on the porch, I turned and saw the island as a desk.
I'm sitting here with a cool breeze blowing through the windows, planning my meals and work week. The autumn air is intoxicating, prone to make me over plan my work but that's okay because heartier meals can also be eaten and they give the energy to get lots of work done! The weather reports for the coming week promise plenty of cool mornings, though the afternoons will be warmer. I don't care anymore...I'm going to plan seasonal eats! John is working two days this week. I'll be out with Mama one day and have plans to run errands one day, so only five main meals are planned.
Saturday: Washed a full load of dishes. I didn't think I had enough but I found after all that there were more than enough. It is recommended you run the water faucet until the water is quite hot, before starting the dishwasher. I use that water to rinse dishes or even do some handwashing until it is hot enough to begin the wash cycle.
I didn't prep dinner ahead this week for the weekend. I made good use of some leftovers and prepared a quick casserole dish, Corn Dog Casserole. It combines hot dogs, baked beans, and a cornbread topping. There's nothing to this, seriously. I had some canned baked beans, half a packet of hot dogs, and mixed up 1 cup of cormeal mix ( a packet would do too) with milk and egg and poured over. It takes about 20 minutes to bake. It's hearty and warming and really good on a cold cold day and not bad on a cloudy-sorta- kinda-cool-compared-to-summer autumn day
I prepped John's lunch (another task I didn't do on Friday) while dinner baked. I have to pack foods that are easy to eat in moments if necessary and enough for at least two meals since he is at work 24 hours. I've discovered that yogurt, cheese sticks, crackers, nuts are all good grab and go items that give John the protein and carbs needed to stave off hunger until he can take time to sit down and eat a salad or sandwich.
Shopped at home this morning in my pantry/freezer: 1 loaf of bread, 1 gallon of milk, 1 container of soup for my supper tomorrow night, 1 can of baked beans, 1 whole canned chicken that is about to expire.
Hello dear. Do come in and sit down for a bit. I've been trying to have a morning coffee chat all week long but the week just wouldn't fit the desire. How about some gingerbread and let's have an afternoon chat over coffee? We can sit on the back porch if you'd like and listen to the rain. It's not cool in the least but it's comfortable and dry and unless it's raining quite heavily it's nice to sit there and listen to the drops on the metal roof.
I went out this morning, in an attempt to have quiet time long before the rain began. Well, a squeaky storm door hinge ended those hopes mighty quick! Sqqquuueeeeaaaakkkk! Meow! And while Maddie didn't whine or bark there was the immediate sound of her running and diving over the steps and galloping across the porch. Sigh, lol. Between trying to guard my toe from Maddie's stepping upon it, there was also the cat who tried to jump into my lap from the porch rail at every angle possible and finally settled upon just stepping right down into the midst of the geranium and across into my lap from there, sigh.
Though the banner says Pantry Freezer Challenge, this is just a FREEZER Challenge only. My pantry is looking a little limp in spaces, but my freezers are burgeoning with food. I need to make a bit of room for turkeys when they go on sale (or at least turkey breast). We will only need three whole turkeys or about four whole breasts but I have to be able to put them somewhere and right now there's really no space to be had!
There are things we just plain need to use up and free the space. There are 12 quart jars of chicken broth, for instance. That takes up a bit of space. There's a big bag of bread slices and end pieces. I can use those for something. There are dibs and dabs and odds and ends, all saved for good reason and now's the time to use them up.
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