Saving Money and Weekly Update–July 23, 2017

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I got a big bag of very ripe bananas for $2 at the store and had my most excellent helpers cut and bag them for the freezer.  We will make smoothies from them.  Each day that Jake stays with me I have him do one “helpful” chore and one “fun” chore.  This was definitely the fun one–he loved cutting with the knife!  Because it was a table knife, it was low-stress for me, as well.  After all, there is no wrong way to cut a banana chunk as long as it’s safe!!

I worked a lot this week.  Most of my family was gone until Thursday so I had the time to devote.  I also tried to do a few fun things with Patsy alone after Jake went home, so one evening I looked on the internet and found a blueberry patch that wasn’t far away and we went blueberry picking.  We got 4 lbs., and they were only $1/lb.  Sadly, the crop was almost gone, or we would have picked more.  I did freeze a few of them, and several baggies from our bush.  I harvested and froze a few more raspberries and some more Marion berries from our bushes.

I canned green beans.

I kept my niece and nephew all night last Sunday, and took them and Patsy to the zoo Monday, using my zoo pass.  I took food for us to eat at lunch, and clearly announced ahead of time what I was planning to buy for them (a shaved ice or a soda) and declared that if anyone wanted more, they should bring their own money.  It worked well.

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They knew they were getting a treat, and could choose which they wanted, and it took away the anxiety for them.

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As part of the summer reading program, we attended a Lego party at the library.  Jake was given a baggie of Legos to build with.  There were also tables where wheels, baseplates or specialty pieces could be procured.   After the kids finished building their creation, there was a librarian with a microphone and the child could describe what they built, and place their item in a place of honor on a table.

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He enjoyed himself.

 

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Another day, I took a stale loaf of cheap white bread, and let them feed the ducks at a park.  Imagine our surprise when some nutria showed up for their share!

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There was 1 mama and 5 or 6 babies.

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There was also a trip to a park one day.  You can’t beat the swings!  I noticed a splash pad there.  We might do that another day, when we are prepared with bathing suits.

I bought several items of clothing and shoes for the girls.  I don’t buy a ton of things at the beginning of the school year. Instead, I buy them things all year long when they need them.  It had been a long, long time since I had purchased shoes for them, so I was delighted to get the shoes they needed  off of the clearance rack, which worked out to at least 1/2 price.   Patsy got 3 tops for 1/2 off the lowest marked clearance price (gotta love Fred Meyers), and Ja’Ana got shorts and capris for around $12 each.  I was also able to get them each a p.j. set.  We are heading out for a mission trip before too long, and I wanted them to have something that was decent, matched, no holes,  fit well, etc. for the trip.  We will be sleeping in churches part of the time and at the mission compound, the restrooms are across  a courtyard, so they may be seen in these p.j.’s if they have to take a “walk” during the night.  The sale was excellent, so that helped.  I got them each a $2 pair of flip flops for showers, etc.  Rob got J a couple of skirts for the trip at Goodwill.  I still have a few things to get Patsy before school starts, but I think I’m about ready for the upcoming trip.

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The garden is full of produce.  Early this morning, I slipped outside to pick a few beans for our family Sunday dinner, which I hosted today.  Well, one “bean” let to another, and I ended up with 2-1/2 gallon ziplock bags of yellow and green beans.  I gave 1 to my sister, we ate the 1/2, and my aunt and I quickly snapped, blanched and froze the other bag for her freezer.  Rob and I got 14 pints and  2 quarts frozen Thursday, so I didn’t need them.  She ended up with several one-cup portions.  It was great to find a use for them!  I also cut lettuce and picked a few cucumbers and snow peas.

It was a very busy week, but we got a lot done, which is awesome!

 

Canning Green Beans and a Garden Update

This morning, I got up early and started picking beans.  I got SO many, just like I was hoping to.  At 9, my mom and aunt showed up to help, with Jake and Michaela in tow.  While out in the garden, I took the opportunity to pick a few cucumbers, snow peas, zucchini.  Things are coming along nicely.

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The bucket is full of beans, and the other veggies are just resting on top.  I had no time today for anything else, but tomorrow I’m going to see if there are enough cukes for a couple jars of pickles.

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My pollination issue has been resolved:)  There are probably about 15-20 zucchinis forming!

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These are Carmen peppers.  They are a sweet pepper, and are the first to turn red at my house.  I usually grow them from seed, and was delighted to find a few plants of that variety that I could buy.  They’re not ready yet, but are coming along.

Some of the seeds I planted for the late summer garden are up.  The bush peas are up, and the snow peas are just starting to poke up.  Beets are up like crazy, but the pole peas are nonexistent.  The seeds may have been too old.  I will plant a few more things after these beans are done and pulled out, like yet another row of lettuce.  The little cabbage plants are starting to take off.   Right now the garden is full.

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Before he left for camp, Rob set up this camp stove for me to use in the outside covered porch and got me a full tank of propane.  This house came with a flat-top stove, which is not recommended for canning on.  So, I’m learning to can a different way–outside, and with propane instead of electricity.  There was a lot of juggling things around, scurrying in and out of the house setting up things, and generally figuring out the new way of doing things.

My snapping crew kept snapping steadily while I washed jars, filled them, added 1/2 teaspoon salt, filled with water, put on lids and rings and began processing.  Then I put my mother on a chair in front of the canner to keep it at a steady 11 pounds of pressure.  She had to continually adjust the propane level to keep the pressure consistent for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.  We always watch it the entire time.   It’s the safest way.

Michaela and Patsy helped snap and then Michaela helped Grandma by timing the length of time needed with her phone.

Aunt Janet kept snapping.  All morning long.  Jake asked to go to the Dollar Store to get the prize he had earned by doing his daily activities.  All morning long.

By lunch time, we had them all snapped and into jars.   By 1 o’clock, we had 2 loads cooked and cooling.  After a quick lunch, we all dispersed to our respective errands and I finished canning them when I got back.  From the Dollar Store.  (We also did a library activity, and some other things, so I didn’t actually finish until about 8:30 pm)

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At the end of the day, I have 21 quarts and 17 pints, all cooling on a table outside.  I’ll let them cool all night and wash and put them away tomorrow.  I am very pleased with the amount we got.  I could not have done it without all my helpers.  I’m so thankful for their help.  It was a long, satisfying day.

 

Home-Canned Beef Broth

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I had a large block of time on Thursday morning.  I decided to use it to deal with some packages of beef soup bones that have been in my freezer for a while.  Every fall, we get beef from a farmer friend of my sister.  Every year, there are packages of beef soup bones.  They were stacking up.  I am determined to make room in my freezers and use things that have been there for a while.

I got out 5 packages marked “soup bones.”  They had varying amounts of meat on them.  Some were quite meaty, some were more bony.  I got out my largest pot and one of my every-day large soup pots.  The large pot stays in the garage, and I only use it when I have a lot of something to preserve.  It makes my normal soup pot look like a dwarf pot:)

I then divided the bones, and filled both pots with water.  I added salt and boiled, then simmered the broth for about 3-4 hours.  A scum rose on top of the broth and bone mixture.  I skimmed it off and fed it to the cats.  In the meanwhile, I washed my jars.

I partially filled the empty jars with extremely hot water, to avoid breaking them.   You do not ever want to put hot liquid into a cold jar.  Then, I put the broth in the jars, put on the lids and screw tops, and put into my pressure canner.  I pressured-canned the broth for 20 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure, following the directions in my brochure from the OSU Extension office.  When done, according to directions, I cooled them on a towel on the counter.

My yield was 7 quarts, and 15 pints of broth.  I also got a large bowl full of beef chunks that I froze for future meals.  Now my freezer is a little emptier, and the broth is in a form where I can use it quickly and easily.

Bananas Everywhere!

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I was delighted when we were given 40 pounds of bananas.  It was a whole box, and there were a lot of bananas in it.  They were in excellent condition.  They were even organic!  What a blessing.  There were also a few bunches in a bag that were not quite as nice, but could still be used.  So, I think I had about 50 or more pounds to work with.  Here’s what I did with them.

  1.  We have been eating bananas at every opportunity.
  2. I took some bunches to share with my family.
  3. I had the 4H dry some and they will use them at the next meeting.IMG_2022
  4. I tried another recipe that was suggested on The Prudent Homemaker blog.  I cut strips and sprinkled them with brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger and they are drying now.FullSizeRender.jpg
  5. Ja’Ana dipped some in chocolate and froze them for yummy snacks.FullSizeRender
  6. I froze quite a few gallon-sized bags.  I cut the bananas, put them in the bags, then squirted a squirt of lemon juice in the bag and worked it around with my hands to prevent browning.  We use those frozen chunks for smoothies, and they can also be used for baking, if desired.  They just need to be defrosted and smashed.FullSizeRender
  7. Last, but not least, I made banana pudding.  This was also a suggestion from The Prudent Homemaker Blog. I made a simple cornstarch vanilla pudding and added bananas.  We ate some, but I put too many bananas in it and it broke down and became runny.  So, I froze the rest for smoothies or milkshakes.FullSizeRender
  8. We still have 4-5 bunches left over for eating and further creativity. It took most of the day yesterday, but I’m delighted to say I’m fully stocked up on bananas right now.  What a blessing!

From Turkey to Burger

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On Monday morning, Rob loaded up the 18 turkeys he has been raising.  Their time had come.  With a pickup load of cages, he and Ja’Ana set off for the processing plant we use.  It is 1-1/2 hours from our home.  We use them because 1)They do an excellent job, 2)They are extremely reasonable in their pricing, 3)There aren’t many places around here that specialize in poultry.

It only took them about 1-1/2 hours to do the job.   He had 5 cut up for us to grind into turkey burger, 1 cut in 1/2 (for the 2 single people on our gift list), and the rest left whole. Rob and Ja’Ana killed the wait time in a little diner, eating breakfast and visiting.  It was good daddy-daughter time, for sure.

On the way home, they delivered turkeys to the relatives who were receiving them for Christmas. Last year, we did chickens and they were much appreciated.   Ja’Ana wisely used the time to sell pies to all the relatives–she’s earning money for a retreat she wants to go on in January, and that is the fund-raiser to help with the cost of that.  They picked Lovana up from work, and went to a friend’s house to borrow a meat grinder.  It was a long day.  They didn’t get home until around 6:30, where they got white bean chili or ham and beans from the crock pots.  (I soaked too many navy beans, so made 2 things and will freeze the extra).

The 5 whole turkeys we are keeping, plus the 1 undelivered one went into the emptied chest freezer in the garage.  The 5 cut-up ones went on ice in coolers until Tuesday morning.

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On Tuesday morning, Rob cut the bones out of the breasts and thighs of the 5 turkeys.  The drumsticks and wings were frozen in zip-top bags for future meals, 2 per package.  The bones that were cut off, plus the necks and backs were frozen for broth making another day.

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Then he ground it 2 times.  We had 3 of these large Tupperware bowls full of the first grind.  While he was grinding, he removed any tendons, stringy muscles, etc., whatever didn’t look like we wanted to eat it.  He ground it twice to get those undesirable things out, and also to get a good mix between the light and dark meat.

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During the second grind, Ja’Ana held the bags over the end of the grinder, and the finished burger was pushed into the bags by the machine.  I wrote on the bags, twist-tied them, and generally ran back and forth, fetching and carrying things for Rob.  I also took the finished bags, bones, meat pieces, etc. to the freezer and loaded it up.  There was a pretty big mess to clean up afterwards.

When we were done, we had 32 approximately 1-pound packages (we did not weigh, but filled to a marked line on the bag) and Rob made 2 pans of meatloaf.  We also have 5 whole turkeys, 10 drumsticks and 10 wings.  I will get a lot of broth one of these days, and I will pressure can it into both pints and quarts.  It was a very productive day and my 1 empty freezer is now full with the fruits of Rob’s labors.

Freezing Squash

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Today, we decided to cut up 2 of the large sweetmeat squash and process them for the freezer.  We have been blessed with so many this year and I want to get started using them.  It takes quite a bit of time to cook, mash and freeze these large squash, to I like to put some into the freezer.  Early this morning, Rob cut them up and scooped out the seeds.  I baked them on cookie sheets lined with foil.

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I baked them until they were soft at 350 degrees.    It took between 1-1/2 hours and 2 hours to get them to a place where a fork would easily slide into them.  I got 4 large cookie sheets full from the 2 squash and was able to fit them all into my double ovens.  When we remodeled this house a few years back, I put in the double oven because we run a large 4H club and it makes the cooking classes go better.  I’ve found so many ways to use both ovens during days like this, and also at holidays, that I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

I set them out on the counter to cool down while I took Patsy to an appointment.  I intended to put the squash through the food mill when I returned, but Ja’Ana surprised me by getting quite a bit of it done before I came back.  Her arm was tired by then, so Patsy took over.  Grinding the food mill is pretty fun, but I was very happy to have the help with that part of the job on such a busy day.

The end result was about 10 quart-sized zip-top bags and a sizable bowl for using fresh.  Some of the bags are stuffed as full as they could get for evenings when we want to use it as a vegetable for dinner and some have less in them for when I want to use it for cooking.  For meals, my kids like it warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  For cooking, I use it as pumpkin.  It is less watery and stringy as many pumpkins I have grown and we love using it in pie, muffins, pumpkin custard, etc.  I love having the frozen squash in my freezer to make my life easier on busy days!

Baby Pigs

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Today, we purchased 5 baby Hampshire/York cross pigs from a lady on Craig’s list.  They were $90 each, which is a good price around here.  1 is for our freezer, and the other 4 are for other people to buy.  All but one are pre-sold.  One year, Rob had a baby pig die from tetnus, which is rare, but from then on, he has always bought an extra one just in case.  He has never had trouble selling the extra pork.  The 4 pigs that are going to be purchased will bring in enough money to pay the expenses for the 5th pig, which we will keep.  So, for his time, (which is substantial), we will have a “free” pig for our freezer.

Rob put clean straw into the pen, which has not been used for about 2 years.  He checked the fences to make sure no holes had developed.  Baby pigs are very small and can get out easily, even through the smallest opening.  The little shed where he stores hog feed needed some work, too.  He re-fastened the tin roof, which had blown part way off in a windstorm since the last time he raised pigs.  Inside the little shed, half is an area where the dog can get in out of the elements.  The other half holds the pig food.  Rob removed all debris, trash, empty bags, etc. that had accumulated.  He bought a ton of natural hog feed from the local feed store, where they mill their own.  It is not organic food, which is wonderful, but raises the cost of the pigs to more than we can afford.  It is natural, and very competitive in price to other, less attractive feed.  He got a reduction in price because he bought a ton.  If he can figure out a way to bring his own containers another time, he will save even more.

The pigs will be fed on a diet of natural pig feed, supplemented by vegetables and fruits.  Sometimes Rob buys bread that is too old for the store to sell.  He was able to get our van full for $20-$25, but that was a couple of years ago.  It will be interesting to see if that deal is still available.   Pigs are a wonderful way to raise meat in a few months because they grow quickly and taste wonderful. I’m already excited about getting some more pork into the freezer!