Saving Money–April 16, 2017

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I was able to buy 8 avocados for $2 at Grocery Outlet.  One of the kids “arranged” them, and I though it was kind of pretty!  I bought very few groceries this week.  Frankly, I didn’t have room for both groceries and Easter food in my fridge.  I used a ham that I got on a good sale after Christmas, potatoes I got a while back for 50c/5 lbs., home-canned green beans, mango lemonade I got for 99c/jar a while back…..things like that.  Plus, Patsy made Jello for the holiday.

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She colored a dozen eggs with a kit from the Dollar Store.

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One of the challenges for me this year was making Easter special.  Since so many of us get together every single Sunday, I wanted this to feel special.  First, a few more family members were able to join us, which was very meaningful to me.  I added a few decorations, and special foods, especially dessert.  We don’t always have any on normal Sundays.  It turned out very well.  Everyone had a good time, and we were able to visit more than normal.  The younger kids, especially Jake, enjoyed hiding and finding eggs.  Everyone enjoyed candy, chocolate cupcakes,  and cake.  People pitched in on the dishes, and I’m all ready to get back to normal tomorrow, which is nice, with no big mess left behind.

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We were able to teach 2 classes at a 4H workshop on Saturday, to a total of 21 kids.We had them make beef stew in a Dutch Oven, make fire starting kits, and roasted marshmallows.  We talked about fire starting and safety, how to care for cast iron, and a couple of ways to cook over the fire–open fire and charcoal.  We were able to use very inexpensive ingredients, and had some stew left over for our dinner that night.  It was a class where the kids that were 7th grade and up were encouraged to help teach classes to younger members at a county-wide event.  So, Rob and I had Patsy, Ja’Ana and Alissa help us with the classes, and they were wonderful help.

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We roasted Peeps in honor of Easter.

Then, we packed it all up, took it home, and put it all away.  Rob and I both enjoy doing this kind of thing, so we were both happy at the end of the day.

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The week ended up both frugal and fun, which is a great kind of week to have!  How about yours?

 

 

Make Ahead Easter Dinner

When Easter comes on Sunday, I plan to spend as much time with my family as I can.  First, we will attend church, then come home to dinner.  5 of my children will be here, along with some of their families, along with other extended family.  We are planning on 18 this year.  Because I want to spend time at church, then come home and visit, I am doing some things ahead of time so I will not be stuck in the kitchen for too long.

I am serving ham.  I will defrost one I got for a really good price after Christmas, and pop it into the Crockpot Sunday morning.  I may put some glaze on it, I haven’t decided yet.

Potatoes will be on the menu as well.  I will likely serve them mashed with ham gravy I make from the juice from the ham.  Or, I will make scalloped potatoes (what Alissa wants), twice-baked potatoes (which we all love), or ???  Both of those last 2 could be made tomorrow and just warmed up, so I’ve done both of them in the past as make-ahead alternatives.

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Vegetables will be plain green beans.  One of my daughters is allergic to many, many things and that’s what she would like and can eat.  They are already home-canned.  It doesn’t get easier than that.  I prepped them 2 summers ago:)  Sometimes we will have a veggie tray, or pickles on a tray.  I may do that if I’m in the mood or end up with extra time, but we are having salad, and no matter how big our eyes are, our stomachs can’t eat too much, and that kind of thing is often leftover.

Salad:  My mom is bringing it.  Now, that’s pre-preparation for me.  Just ask her to do it!

Fruit:  My sister is bringing it–either chunks, or salad, or whatever she wants.

Rolls:  I made gluten-free rolls this morning and froze them.  I used a recipe from the magazine, “Gluten Free & More.”  I got it from their website.  I will probably buy a package of wheat rolls.

Candy in Eggs:  My Easter bunny Aunt Janet will bring that as she has done for many, many years.  She fills the plastic eggs with candy.  The kids know that after we play “hide the eggs” a few times, they have to empty all the candy into a bowl and share it.  I also heard one solemnly explaining to someone recently that then they have to give back the eggs so she can fill them next year.  And she does.  Such a fun tradition.  They find and hide them multiple times, usually.

Other allergy friendly food:  My daughter will bring some things she can eat, and we are all welcome to dig in, too.

Other things:  People can bring, or the kids can cook, whatever takes their fancy, so I’m never sure what is going to come, but it’s all good.  Patsy is making green Jello in fancy little dishes.  That can also be made ahead.  She will do it today, Friday, and they will wait in the camper fridge until Sunday.

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I hope I get around to Deviled Eggs.  We love them.  I boiled some eggs yesterday.  We will probably have Patsy color 1 dozen and I will make these from the other dozen.  They also will wait for Sunday in the camper.

Tables:  I got the table in the garage enlarged, tablecloth on, and put pansies along the middle.  I will sprinkle wrapped candy down, and that’s it.  The table is set up already.  The candy is not, or there won’t be any on Sunday!  Ja’Ana purposely picked pastel shades of pansies and Patsy put foil around the cartons to keep water from leaking through, and to make them look better.  We may add ribbon if we can find any.  We will bring a table for food in and put it in the dining area against the wall so people can move freely, while the food is served buffet style.  We will put the regular table in the living room, and many will eat there.  It may be nice, so I dug out an outside tablecloth for the table on the deck and several will eat out there, hopefully.  So, that’s almost all done, already.

My mom and I sent Rob shopping for paper plates and napkins, etc.  None of us wanted to wash all the dishes for 18 people by hand.  Neither did we want to drop our dinners.  He got really nice, sturdy plates and pretty Easter designs on the paper goods.  We will use regular silverware, and have plenty of other dishes to wash, but people will pitch in.

Dessert:  I made a gluten-free angel food cake from the Taste of Home website.  Then, using another idea from that website, I cut it into 3 layers and put rainbow sherbet in between the layers.  It’s in the freezer, waiting for me to “ice” it with whipped cream, and pop it back in there.  It will be waiting for Sunday, as well.  My oldest daughter is bringing some dessert, and we will all get candy.  We will not go hungry for sugar, or anything else.  I’ve never tried the sherbet/angel food cake before, but I wanted something make-ahead that looked special for the holiday.

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Drinks:  I will make lemon-water and serve some Mango Lemonade I got a while back.  I may serve soda, coffee, and tea, as people desire.

It’s shaping up to be a great day, with much of the work done ahead of time.  Do you have things you make ahead?  After all, we’ve still got most of 2 days left–there’s still time for ideas!

 

 

 

April, 2017, Low-Carb Food Challenge–Stuffed Dover Sole

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Recently, Dover Sole was on sale.  I remembered a simple recipe a woman at a fish counter had told me years ago, and I thought I’d try it again.  It’s very simple, but elegant.

I bought 1 lb Dover Sole, and laid it out flat.  I took my garlic-salt grinder and ground garlic/salt all over the fish.  Then, I sprinkled it with thawed salad shrimp, probably about 1/4 lb in all.  It was not a thick layer of shrimp.  I then took some habenaro cheese I’d gotten at Grocery Outlet a while back and sprinkled shreds sparingly over that.  The original recipe called for pepper jack cheese, and I think that would have been better.  Even the sparing layer I added made it pretty spicy!  I then rolled it up, placed it on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkled it all with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt.  The smaller rolls-ups took about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  The larger ones took about 17 minutes.  This made 7 roll-ups.  The yield would depend on the size of your fish fillets.

For our family, that was more fish than we needed for one meal.  Since only Ja’Ana likes fish , we were really only feeding 3 people with this, and I think I could have gotten by with 1/2 of a pound of fish.  Because it was so spicy, a little went a long way:)  Also, Dover Sole is a soft fish, and I was very careful to not over cook it, as the butcher warned me that it would be very easy to over-do.  It was a nice change from our usual fare.

 

April 2017 Low-Carb Challenge-Eggs In A Bag

 

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Eggs are a wonderful, nutrition-packed, inexpensive low-carb food.  I use a lot of them in my meals.  One way I love to eat them is hard boiled and dipped in salt and pepper, or made into egg salad sandwiches.  Another thing I like to do is make Deviled Eggs.

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In testing some recipes for an upcoming class Rob and I are teaching for 4-H (outdoor cooking),  I tried making eggs boiled in a bag.

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There were lots of recipes on the internet for these, and Rob had made them before.  So, I combined the recipes, and chose one to print for the hand-outs we are going to give the kids.  We will actually be making beef stew, a fire-starting kit, and roasting marshmallows with the remaining time.  I will give out recipes for additional things they can do when camping, and this will be one of them.

I put 2 eggs in a gallon-sized freezer Ziplock bag and squished them up.  Then I added 2 Tablespoons cheese, 1 Tablespoon chopped onion, 2 Tablespoons ham bits and about 2 teaspoons salsa.  I mixed by squishing the bag and dropped into the pan of boiling water.  I left them in there for 13 minutes, as instructed, but part of the eggs needed a little more time.  I ate the cooked ones and just left the uncooked eggs in the bags in the hot water with the burner turned off and they were cooked just fine when Rob got up and ate them.  Basically, you can add any mix-ins you want, such as peppers, green onions, mushrooms, etc.  They were good, and did not need any salt added, I think because my ham was pretty salty.

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I’m going to remember this for one of our camping trips.  It could be made outside on the outdoor stove our camper has, or over the fire, or on a camp stove on the picnic table.  I even saw that some people on the internet had pre-cracked the eggs and put them in a plastic bottle, then just poured some in the bag.  Then, you just throw everything away–no pans to wash.

 

 

Some Trouble with the Blog

I’m having some trouble getting my blog to update properly.  I’ve tried everything I’ve seen on the internet, and don’t have it figured out.  It continues to load the March 26 post first, all the time, with new ones after it.  Rest assured, the posts are there, they are just listed on the right hand side and I’ll keep working on it.

Thanks!

March 2017 Low Budget Grocery Challenge–End of Week 4

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I made the last week of the grocery challenge into a school assignment.  I gave the girls a list of what I needed, and told them they could spend $38 dollars, not including the soap.  I would pay for that since it wasn’t food.  I loaded coupons onto my Safeway card, and looked up the Fred Meyer ad on-line.  I gave them a list that included soda pop and goldfish crackers, as well as the needed items, and told them to get the most important things first.  Do you see that loaded cart?  I was amazed–they did so well.  They only spent $39 and a little change.  They bought milk, eggs, salad stuff, 2 cases water, 1/2 and 1/2, sour cream, 2 lbs cheese, and more.  I got dish soap and laundry soap.  They did not buy goldfish crackers or soda.  They had me drive over to Fred Meyers for the 99c eggs and got 2 cartons and one other thing I forgot.  I forget what that was now.  Hmmm…..  At home, I had them write up what they had learned, and what they would have done differently if it was their shopping trip.  One would have bought chicken instead of 1/2 and 1/2.   They both thought coupons were a great idea.  I plan to repeat this assignment later on and have them do more of the planning.

So, we ended the 4 week period of the challenge at $101.   We did not suffer at all.  I have almost $100 left over to do what I want to with.

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I can really see some spaces in the freezers and on the shelves in the garage.  I’m excited about that.  I’ve also been going through the camper and pulling items that were opened last summer and forgotten in the cupboards in the move.

I used:

Home-canned and frozen items:  Green beans, canned peaches, home-canned grape juice, jam, berry syrup, tomato products, salsa, frozen broth, hamburger, turkey burger, steak, ham bits I froze earlier, hazelnuts, lemon poppyseed muffins I made a while back (all gone now)

Pantry: Gluten-free pancake mix (1 bag emptied), syrup (gone), navy beans,  Hershey Kisses from Valentine’s Day, chocolate chips and all odds and ends of M and M’s and other white chocolate chips from camper, Rice Krispies (huge bag and box gone), marshmallows (used all I had in garage and camper–some pretty old), a box of gluten-free bread mix, random cookies and crackers and chips, gluten-free pasta, mushrooms, cream of rice cereal (all gone), cocoa powder, some peanut butter from the camper, baking supplies (all gluten-free), ho chocolate mix and tea, potatoes, onions,

Fridge: carrots, celery, milk, eggs, 1/2 and 1/2, butter, sour cream,

Garden:  Swiss Chard.  I picked a large handful of leaves 2 times this week from what I planted last fall and stirred it into spaghetti sauce.  No one, even the pickiest eater around here, seems to care if there is some chard or spinach in the sauce.  I’ve been doing it for years, to add vitamins.  The plants are not very tall, so I’m very careful to take only from the outside of the plant and I take sparingly.  The leaves are young and tender, and wilt down nicely into the sauce.

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I served spaghetti, ham and bean soup, steak with baked potatoes, hamburgers, waffles, eggs, leftovers, chocolate cookies with assorted goodies in them, Rice Krispie treats (3x), chocolate chip cookies,

I wanted to make a few freezer meals.  When I made the spaghetti, there wasn’t enough left to freeze, so I made it again Saturday morning and froze that batch.  One time it was turkey and one time, beef.  Rob made a huge batch of waffles and we froze a bunch of those.  I cooked a soup bone in my Instant Pot and froze the broth and bits for a stew later on.  I also cooked taco meat and froze it, ready to go.

I will say that the natives got restless on Saturday.  I ended up getting completely spoiled when Lovana decided to take us out for lunch.  She’s been planning on it for a while now, and Saturday turned out to be a good day.  We went to a Chinese buffet where they focus on vegetables and seafood.  I was delighted to not get sick.  I chose carefully, but buffets are always a gamble for me.  I ate a lot of plain-looking sauted shrimp, sauted mushrooms, and stir-fried vegetables.  THEN, Ja’Ana talked her into ordering pizza for dinner.   So, with the large breakfast Rob cooked, the only food I cooked that day were the freezer meals.  We could have eaten at home, but that is what she wanted to do and we gratefully accepted.  We thought it was very sweet of her.  So, technically, this was 1 day short of a full week, but since I made freezer meals, it evened out in the end.

I learned:  We have a very well stocked food supply.  We can make good meals out of the things we have.  My garden (frozen and canned things at this time of year) saves me a lot of money.  It’s worth it to invest in large quantities of things like meat and pasta, as long as we have times like these where we use them up so they don’t go to waste.  My family will fork out their own money if they don’t like the offerings I serve, or just want a change.      That being said, they will eat Mexican food 5 times in one week without a single complaint, and also eat Swiss Chard in their spaghetti, happily.  There was a little bellyaching, but not much more than usual.  There’s always a little!   In the end, I was very proud of them.  We were 1/2 way done before the kids even figured out what we were doing.  Trust me, when I do spend the extra $100, they will all know what we buy, and I will make sure they like what we get, to encourage them to see a tangible benefit of saving.  In reality, it saved me more than $100, because I can easily spend over $200 in a month for the 5 of us.

Having a list of rules for my challenge that fits my family and situation keeps me less stressed.  If I had to only use $100 per month  without any little trips for fries or ice cream with the kids or my hubby, it would be very, very hard.  But, I could do it, because I did for years in the past.  I’ve just gotten softer in my middle age.   Also, having that extra $100 set aside that I could use if I needed to, worked well for me.  My life is really busy, and can be quite stressful, so it’s very important to me to keep things balanced.

I made more casseroles and desserts than normal and we also ate more carbs (i.e. potatoes, bread, cereal) and I’m afraid I gained a couple of pounds.  Yes, really.  Yikes!  It would be much easier in the summer when we had a producing garden to stay on the challenge and to eat more fresh veggies.

What’s next?  Rob and I agreed that we don’t want to think very hard during spring break, which is next week.  We both have the week off from work.  We have some fun things planned with the kids, and I envision home-cooked meals, some freezer meals I made this week, a picnic if it stops raining for 5 minutes, and probably eating out at least once.  I plan to go grocery shopping within the next couple of days and get a few things replaced, like  pancake syrup.  I may even spring for soda and goldfish crackers for spring break treats.