Saving Money–Week of November 30

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You may notice there is no dead tree in this picture.   It’s gone, and along with it, Rob’s worries  about it falling on our house, cars, and especially, Lovana’s bedroom!  It was a significant savings, too.  The loggers would not touch it, they said it was a  “widow-maker” and we should get a tree service to bring it down right away.  The first company wanted to charge us $1,200 to bring it down, and really weren’t very interested in the job–looked too dangerous.  On Wednesday, Rob drove by a tree service working in a neighbor’s yard.  He stopped and talked to them, and they drove right over and looked and quoted us $600.  They told him to call on Thanksgiving to finalize plans, so he did and they came Friday and took care of it!  What a blessing.  The pieces are laying on the ground, but that is no problem for us!  It was cheaper that way.

I planned menus for the week.

I did not shop for Thanksgiving.  Everything was from the freezer, pantry, etc. or other people brought it. I did spend about $50 on Saturday at Grocery Outlet to get a few things I needed, including gluten-free pretzels for an upcoming 4H community service project.  I will buy milk and butter if it comes on a good sale, otherwise, I’m done.

I made gluten-free stuffing with apples and water chestnuts.  I figure I saved about $15 by making my own stuffing croutons instead of buying 4 boxes for gluten-free stuffing mix for about $5 per box.IMG_1755 I got some flour sack dish towels to embroider at Walmart–10 towels for about $8.  I seldom go to Walmart as it is out of my way.  I was delighted that they were still very reasonable to buy there.  I love to embroider on them, compared to other towels,  since they wipe dishes so well.  They are pretty and very useful as gifts.

I got some good bargains at JoAnn’s, but did not over-do it.  I got a couple of craft kits/items to use as gifts for 50% off.  I was able to use several pieces of my fabric stash I already had at home for gifts, children’s projects, etc.  I still have quite a few gifts to work on.   I have a bad cold today, so stayed home from work.  I hope to sew a little in-between drinking tea and resting.  It’s just a cold, but it’s hard to teach piano when you are having trouble talking, since that’s all I do all day when I teach:)

I cooked another squash.  We were blessed with so many.

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Patsy’s Blanket

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Patsy has been wanting to make a tied fleece blanket in the same way that Michaela, her cousin, made her pillow.  I did not have time last week when the cousins were here to help her, and she was feeling left out, so we got busy last evening.  We used about 2-1/4 yards to make hers, but the amount can be larger or smaller.  Ours was determined by the amount of solid pink I had in my stash.  She bought the swirled fabric a while back and we paired it with the pink I already had.

We laid the pink on top of the swirled and I cut it off evenly.  Then, I helped her cut out 6″ squares from the corners and cut 1″ x 6″ strips all the way around, cutting through both layers.  Some were a little crooked, wobbly, not quite the same as the others, but it doesn’t matter in the end.  It turned out great!  We both cut and cut until we were done.  Then, she sat down on the floor in front of the t.v. and tied the strips together while she watched a movie.  She got it done last evening and immediately wrapped it around herself and wanted me to take a picture.

This would be a great last-minute Christmas or birthday gift for someone. Fleece often comes on sale at JoAnn’s for a good price, and that’s when I stock up.FullSizeRender

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

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Yesterday, I decided to make taco soup in the slow cooker.  It is heavy on the pinto beans, as my husband got a 50 pound bag last summer for only $22.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to burn a slash pile with the family, and we were all glad for a hot meal at the end of a long afternoon.  Sadly, it did not burn all the way up.  We got some of it burned, but not all.  Bummer.  The soup was still excellent.  This turned out quite thick and some family members chose to fish out the beans and turn it into nachos instead.

Taco Soup

2 quart-sized bags of cooked pinto beans (soaked, cooked and frozen previously)  Probably 4-15 ounce cans would work

1 onion, chopped

2 Anaheim peppers, diced

1 Jalepeno pepper, diced

1 quart home-canned tomatoes (a 32 ounce can would work)

2 cups beef broth (I had frozen I had made, but you could use 1 15-oz. can)

1/2 pound cooked, leftover turkey taco meat, seasoned with taco seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Extra taco seasoning, or cumin, if desired

Sour cream, cheese, and olives to garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients in crock pot.  Turn on “low” and leave for 6-8 hours. My slow cooker will automatically turn to “keep warm” when the time is up, and I left this on all day long, probably about 10 hours, until we were ready to eat.  Since everything is cooked, except the vegetables, there would be no danger if you needed to eat it sooner.  It also holds a long time  if your dinner time gets pushed off.  Makes 10-12 servings.  (Actually the 5 of us didn’t have much left last night, but we had been outside working hard for several hours and ate more than 1 serving each, I’m pretty sure!)

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This is what it looked like as a nacho.  They did drain out the liquid from the beans before they dumped it on the chips.  We get the mega-bag of chips from Costco, divide into zip-topped bags, and can enjoy corn chips for a reasonable price, without them getting stale, for several weeks.

Menu Plan–Week of Nov. 29-Dec.5, 2015

IMG_4698This week is going to  be another busy one around here!  All of our weeks are busy, but this one has some things to do that are unusual and interesting.   On Monday, our 18 turkeys are going to be butchered.  We had 1 left from the last time we butchered that we used on Thanksgiving, so we were ok with waiting until after the big holiday for our appointment.  Rob and Ja’Ana will drive 1-1/2 hours to the butchering company we use, after her guitar lesson in the morning, and get that done.  We have freezers to rearrange this afternoon to make sure they will all fit in.  Several of these turkeys are gifts for people for Christmas, so he will deliver some tomorrow after they are processed so we have less to fit into our freezers.  We are talking about a LOT of turkey. We are borrowing a grinder, and will spend quite a bit of time Tuesday grinding turkey burger from the breasts and thighs, and making  broth, if we can possibly find enough energy.

I work Monday and Wednesday this week.  Ja’Ana has her homeschool to do.  I need to work with her quite a bit on Tuesday and Thursday on that. I set her up for independent work on the days I’m teaching piano, and then do more math explanations, etc. on the days when I’m not.  Patsy goes to school Monday-Thursday, as usual, and we have some appointments on Friday, as we often do.  Then, there is youth group, dance classes, and an extra choir practice for the girls as well, plus that fact that Lovana works 30 minutes from home and doesn’t drive, so some days we can combine trips, but often drive 2 extra hours a day to take her to and from work. To top it off, I have quite a few projects in the works that I need to make progress on for Christmas.

So, this week’s meals need to be quick, use lots of freezer ingredients to make space for turkeys, or cook in the slow cooker so the food is ready in a hurry each evening.  Although eggs are a choice each morning, everyone doesn’t always choose to eat them.  I actually let them choose leftovers, if they prefer.  I also have cereal; most of us don’t enjoy it, but it is a choice, if desired.

Sunday:  Fried potatoes, eggs, turkey bacon l.o. from 4H

Dinner with extended family after church

Leftovers from Thanksgiving

Monday:   eggs, muffins from freezer, canned fruit

Pack lunches:  salad or sandwiches topped with l.o. ham, cheese, turkey, etc., carrot sticks, etc.

Ham and beans in the crockpot from Thanksgiving ham bone

salad or green beans

Tuesday:  eggs, fried ham

leftover ham and beans (pack Patsy’s lunch)

roast beef in crock pot, carrots, potatoes, salad

Wednesday:  eggs, pumpkin muffins, fruit

Salad or sandwiches (pack lunch for Patsy)

leftovers

Thursday: eggs, oatmeal, toast or more pumpkin muffins

leftover soup (pack lunch for Patsy)

(dance night–home at 6:30):Turkey-rice soup in crock pot

Friday:  yogurt, cereal, egg (if desired)

leftovers, salad or sandwiches

pizza (make 2 so we have leftovers)

Saturday:  choice of eggs, cereal, toast or muffins

leftovers (pizza, roast, soups, ham and beans)

leftovers (more of the above, or make French dip with roast)

If there are not enough leftovers for Saturday, I might make a vegetable-beef soup with the rest of the roast.  I will also grind the leftover roast beef in the food processor, mix with mayonnaise and relish, and make sandwiches from it, so I’ll see how the week goes and what’s left by Saturday.  We have quite a few hot dogs I can pull out in case we are burning another pile next weekend and want to roast them.

I cook vegetables each night, sometimes 2 different ones.  I will pull from home-canned green beans, home frozen cauliflower, broccoli or corn, carrots from the garden (in fridge)and salad ingredients (boughten), which I have.  We still have a few tomatoes ripening in the garage from the green ones I picked a month ago, but they are mostly gone.

To make:  pumpkin muffins, using squash I cooked the day before Thanksgiving.

To buy:  If milk or butter comes on sale, I will buy that.  Otherwise, I have enough of everything for the week.

Gluten-Free Stuffing With Apples and Water Chestnuts

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I wanted to make stuffing for Thanksgiving.  I needed it to be gluten-free, but I didn’t want to pay the price for packages of gluten-free stuffing mix (I would have needed several boxes at around $5/package) and I didn’t want it to be either too dry or gummy.

I decided to take a loaf of gluten-free bread I had in the freezer.  My daughter made multiple loaves during the summer because she was practicing for the fair, and we just froze them all.  It was unsliced, so I sliced and cubed it.  I divided the cubes between 2 cookie trays, drizzled a little butter over them and sprinkled on some seasoning.  I used poultry seasoning on one tray and Bragg’s mixed seasoning on the other.  My plan was to use one batch for croutons if it made more than I needed, but I ended up using it all.  Then, I baked those trays at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

The bread cubes were definitely dried out and crisp, but a little chewy in the middle.  I had 1/2 pan left of the gluten-free cornbread my mom had brought over.  I had some frozen broth from a time when Rob had cooked a chicken with apples and onions, so it was apple-flavored chicken broth.  Regular chicken broth would work well, also.

Thursday morning, I made the stuffing.

2 quarts homemade stuffing cubes

1/2 of a 9″ x 13″ pan of gluten free cornbread, crumbled

2 onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 can sliced water chestnuts

2 large apples, cubed

2 cups broth

2 Tablespoons poultry seasoning

1/4 cup melted butter

salt and pepper to taste

Salute the celery and onions until soft in a little vegetable oil.  Pour bread cubes, cornbread, the vegetables, apples and water chestnuts into a very large bowl.  Sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Drizzle with the melted butter.  Pour  1/2 of the broth over the mixture and stir.  Check to see how moist it is.  If it is still very dry, add the rest of the broth.  Check again.  Add more broth if needed.  Mine took about 2 cups of broth.  The cornbread I had was quite moist but the cubes were quite dry.  I did not want the cornbread to be gummy so I stopped adding broth when there was still some definition to the cubes–the stuffing was not all stuck together into 1 big ball when I mounded it on a spoon, but it did not just fall apart, either.    The cornbread broke down into little bits that kind of held the cubes together.  I poured it into a flat pan–mine is larger than 9″ x 13″ and baked it for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.  IMG_1755.JPG

It turned out amazing!  It had wonderful flavor from the apples, onions and celery and a nice crunch from the water chestnuts.  It was not gooey or too dry.  It was economical, too, when I used the homemade croutons.  I was very pleased with the results.

A Successful, Happy Thanksgiving 2015

IMG_1771I could ask myself what constitutes a “happy” Thanksgiving.  Is it the food? The decorations? The company?  In our family, I have to say it is all of that, plus more.  As I looked around the table and into the next room, which was overflowing with more company, I realized that there were people in those rooms with chronic diseases, job losses, dehibilitating special needs, schedules that were overwhelming to them, sick people, exhausted people, people with spouses missing for different reasons, lonely people and those who had suffered deep, grievious loss. And, that was only the ones who could come!  But, each and every one of those people had a hard time choosing which blessing they wanted to share when Rob asked them to share before the prayer.  There were so many choices!  Even the youngest had no problem choosing things, such as good water, food, a house, etc.

IMG_1752.We took the meat off the bones last evening and they were placed into our 2 crockpots. Then we filled them with water, salted them, and then put them on low for the night.  This morning, Abbie (my eldest) and I picked the meat off the bones and froze the broth into cartons.  I smell soup coming up!

After we ate, we cleaned up and everyone sat around eating dessert and visiting.  The 2 big cousins went and picked Lovana up from work and that was a great surprise for her, as one of her close cousins is just in from California for the weekend. Everyone enjoyed being with her for the day!

IMG_5007Patsy did a great job in her play at school on Tuesday afternoon.  It lasted 6-10 minutes so was just the right length for the young cousins to enjoy.  It was really cute and it really put us in the Thanksgiving mood!

Today,  after things were put away, and people had visited as long as they wanted to, they went home leaving me with a super-clean house.  Amazing.  To me, it was more than just  a happy day–it was a successful, happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you had a great day, too.

Michaela’s Pillow

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Michaela loves the Seattle Seahawks.  Recently, she and I made a plan for her to make a Seattle Seahawks pillow from fleece.  I got the fleece and saved it for when she was going to spend a few nights at my house.

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I cut it out for her.  She cut a couple of corners out, but felt like it was making her too nervous.  She was worried that she would wreck it, but she did a great job on the corners she did cut.  I started with a double layer of fleece, and cut it to about 29 inches square.  I then cut out 6 inch squares out of the corners, and cut strips approximately 1 inch by 6 inches around the pillow.  Then, I showed her how to tie.  She tied.  I tied.  Her sister tied.  At last it was done, except for a couple of stray ties that weren’t.  Oops!  So, while she was in the other room, Rob and I untied and retied one side, and it was done!

We had a 16 inch pillow form I had hoped to use.  After tying it part way, it became apparent we needed a bigger one.  Rob took Michaela to the fabric store and they got an 18 inch one instead.  Notice the clever use of the scraps–she made herself a headband/hat with them.

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Little brother had to have one, too.IMG_1745It was a great project.  It didn’t take too long, she could tie the ties with some help, and she loves it.  She is a girl who knows what she likes, that’s for sure, and she likes this pillow.