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Frugal Food Prep

With the advent of social networking, I’ve been able to keep in touch with some high school friends.  One friend, Mackenna, wanted to contribute some ideas to the frugal side of life.  Here are some tried-and-true tips she uses or has gathered from the wisdom of her parents and grandparents.  Visit her blog at http://deliberate28.wordpress.com.

  • Buy meat from local farmers.  You can get half a cow, etc. this way and many farms are organic nowadays.
  • When you have a turkey roast or ham roast or whole chicken, use the remainder of meat by making soup or stew with it.  I use the ham-bone and 4-6 red potatoes and a little milk, garlic, salt, pepper, minced onion and parsley (along with a few dashes of flour) to make a mean pot of ham & potato cream soup that will feed my family for 2 more meals than just tossing the bone. When I’m done with that I take the bone and give it to the dog. I do the same with chicken and add some egg noodles and canned carrots if I am out of fresh.  I make turkey soup with whatever veggies I have lying around or in the freezer (frozen veggies are great for soup).  Well, all of it but give to the dog. They can’t have poultry bones.
  • If you make dinner from 1.5 pounds of burger and only need >1 lb, cook up the rest separately, mark and freeze it, and use it later for a fast dinner.  Saves you on prep time when you only need enough meat for spaghetti sauce, etc.
  • Enter into a ‘food trade’ with friends or family occasionally.  You know that stuff that is in your pantry but seldom used?  I will clean it out every 3 months or so and swap food items with my mom.  “We just haven’t been eating x,y or z thing lately… want to trade it for anything you aren’t eating there?”
  • Use dried beans, legumes and barley to compliment your soups.  They cook up fresh and go a long way in filling up your family, so you can get farther for your buck.  Even adding 1 cup of dry barley into my soup makes it go so much farther.
  • Stir fries are a great way to throw everything into a pot and go.  You have lots of misc. leftover little baggies of frozen veggies, you can combine them all this way.
  • Create a list of every single thing you can cook that your family likes.  Then, make a menu plan for 2 weeks based on how frugal you need to be (some times are more strained than others), what you have in the house, what you have for coupons, etc.   I fed my entire family (WELL) for the last 2 weeks and I only spent $140 at the grocery store.  That included 2 cans of formula, a huge box of diapers, wipes, and baby food (I tried making my own but  my kid won’t eat most of it, so I have to supplement it with store-bought).  That included making a dish to pass at a family event and lunch and dinner on both sets of weekend days.
  • Make your own French fries with oil and potatoes.  If you can grow your potatoes, it’s even cheaper, but I can buy a huge bag of potatoes for $2.50.  I plan for them in my meals and separate them out over the 2 weeks and usually have some leftover at the end.  This time I made soup, fries, baked potatoes and still have 4 left.  I make my own French fries in a frying pan with a thin layer of oil and a dash of salt.  My family likes them better than the Ore-Ida kind anyway.
  • As I said before, canning is a limitless opportunity to save money.  While I haven’t’ canned in some time, I am going to get on that bandwagon this year without a doubt.  It means 3 busy weeks in the fall, but an entire year of lovingly cooked food for my family and a huge cost savings.
  • Refill your water bottles [use something sturdier than #1 plastic from the store for health reasons].  Many people buy distilled water jugs at the store.  The stores will let you refill them.  It costs less and it is more environmentally sound.  Also, with little to go bottles, do the same.  Refill them from your tap.  It’s just water – it’s not like you’re going to get Ecol-i from it or anything if you re-use them.  We can make a case of 12 waters last a month or more by just refilling them.

Check out my green guide for the next two weeks to see a day-at-a-time installment of some green cleaning tips, also from Mackenna.

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Heartless (Bay) City

Michigan Blue Sky
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Peter and I go back and forth with who gets irked about what news.  Last night on the news, he heard a story about the top ticketed vehicles.  He tracked the story, and then he realized that the news station got their facts wrong.  So, he began perusing their website and he found this article.  So, now it’s me who’s irked.

A 93-year old man, Marvin E. Schur, couldn’t afford to pay his electric bill.  The story doesn’t say, but we can speculate.  He’s living on a fixed income, rates are rising, and damn, It’s Cold Outside.  He ends up with $1,000 in unpaid electric bills.  So, in the middle of January, the City goes out and does its job.  They installed the required limiter on Mr. Schur’s home Jan 13th.  The limiter is designed to blow a fuse (turning all the power off) if the requested power exceeds where the limiter is set.  On Jan 17th, a neighbor found Mr. Schur dead.  The neighbor is quoted saying the windows inside the home were covered in ice.  The city’s chief medical examiner said Mr. Schur must have died a slow and painful death.  In a home with no power, in the middle of a freezing, Michigan winter, for FOUR days.

The City Manager‘s response is that he should have been responsible and paid his bill and the neighbors should have looked out for Mr. Schur.  Six days later, the city commissioners approved a 3% rate increase to the electric/heat bills.

Heartless.

If we really want to know what’s wrong with our society, it’s stories like these that epitomize the wrongness.  Where does the neighbor boundary end, Mr. Robert Belleman? Does it extend to the end of our street, to the next street?  How shall we define neighborhood?  Couldn’t the entire city be considered one large neighborhood?  And, if so, wouldn’t that make you, Mr. Belleman, Mr. Schur’s neighbor?  Why didn’t you check on him yourself?  Oh, you’re busy you say, you have a job to do, running the city (killing it’s fragile residents), looking after solely your immediate family.

When will we act more presidential (Harry S. Truman in mind here) and stop passing the buck?  We are each others responsibility.  It’s our responsibility to ensure our neighbors are taken care of and healthy.  It’s our responsibility to ensure that the least of us are provided for.  We do this in many ways.  Some people work as case workers and advocates getting into the nitty-gritty dealing one-on-one with folks with serious problems (mental illness, dementia, unemployment). We have others who donate to causes that do this dirty work.  Others refer folks in need to agencies and organizations that can offer that help.

Bay City claims they are looking at reviewing their policies now that a lot of people are angry that an old man died.  I would suggest they put referral to outside agencies in their review.  If it takes $300 a month to heat a home to 68 degrees during the day so that a person can stay comfortable, and a person is having problems keeping up with their bills, how hard is it when that courtesy call is made that you’re overdue to say, “Call this number.” And, of course give the number.

Or, are we so heartless that we forget this recession is affecting everybody.

If this bugs you, call the City Manager’s office.

Robert Belleman
301 Washington Avenue
Bay City, MI 48708

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Singles

One of Levi's favorite games is to run and hide in his closet.  He even likes opening and closing the doors while we play elongated games of 'peek-a-boo!'.
One of Levi's favorite games is to run and hide in his closet. He even likes opening and closing the doors while we play elongated games of 'peek-a-boo!'.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Sex and the City series lately.  I’ve been getting the TV show from the library, I saw the movie, I’m reading the book.  I like to track origins, so reading the book is a next-best thing to tracking the original columns by Candace Bushnell.  I am reading a copy that was published recently, but includes an introduction from Bushnell written in 2001.  She concludes through all the crazy, freakish incidents she and her girlfriends encountered, the real reason they are all still single is because simply they want to be.

Continue reading Singles

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Local Harvest

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

This is a fabulous website that supplies information for many local producers of food across the U.S.  Siimply tell them where you are located, then search for a local CSA, farmer’s market, meat producer, farms, and restaurants.  This is a must-have for anyone interested in ensuring their food is locally produced.

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How to Live Frugally Part 2

So, now that you’ve established your plan (expenses, budget, the plan), you’re ready to really start trimming the fat in other areas.  From what I’ve read (gurus and everyday moms like me), one of the first places to tackle is the grocery budget.  A pattern I see evolving in our own circumstances is as follows:

  • Spring – plant
  • Summer – tend to the garden
  • Fall – harvest
  • Winter – hibernate

Continue reading How to Live Frugally Part 2

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How to Live Frugally

This seems to be a common search as of late, and it keeps popping on my blog “What does it mean to live frugally?” That blog was more of a rant on how we are treading the waters where we swim. I’m not sure I really know how to live frugally. I have learned a few things over the years and past few months, and those are:

  • Track your expenses (write everything down)
  • Create a budget
  • Use a Baby Step Method, I like the following:
  1. Create a $1,000 emergency fund
  2. Pay off debt (except house) with debt snowball
  3. Add to started emergency fund, finishing at 3-6 months of living expenses
  4. Retirement plan
  5. College fund for kids
  6. Pay off house
  7. Be charitable

Continue reading How to Live Frugally

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Butter

I made butter the other night.  I’ll have to make it again for pictures.  I read on Instructables how to make butter after seeing a presentation at the Keep Portland Weird Festival.  It was so easy, even with my Black & Decker food processor.  All I did was pour about 1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream into the blender and let it spin.  I thought I did it for about 10 or 15 minutes, my husband thinks it was only 8.  I checked it every few minutes for consistency to monitor progress.  I watched it go from soft cream, whipped cream, firm cream, and finally it separated and made butter.  We have a lot of the “Chinese Diapers” from when we tried to do cloth diapers that have now been relegated to face wipes for our son’s mealtimes.  As soon as the butter separated, I put one of those cloths over a large bowl in the sink, and then I dumped the contents of the food processor directly onto the cloth.  I pulled the ends up, and I squeezed.  What was left was a perfectly moldable, soft, very pliable, cylinder of butter!  Because it didn’t yield a lot, I used it for my garlic mashed potatoes.  I had even thrown in about 3/4 of a bulb of roasted garlic knowing at minimum I would use it for dinner.

Overall, the process was easy and fabulous.  However, for us, it is not cost effective.  It is nice knowing that I can make butter, though.

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You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

I’ve been watching too much T.V. lately, which is made sadder given the season.  It’s Christmas time, and boy does the T.V. let us know.  They have amped up ‘goods’ and the commercials for them since September!  Three months before the season even begins!  I am Catholic, grew up this way.  We always start celebrating Christmas with Advent, which begins right after Thanksgiving.  Usually the first weekend in December.  It began November 30th.  For three weeks, we prepare for the coming of Christ, readying ourselves with penance and ritual for the Holy Day of Christmas.  The day Jesus was born, a celebration of the New Covenant and a New Life in Christ.  Christmas isn’t about things, it’s about being a kinder, gentler person, someone with sound morals and ethics, in an attempt to be “Christ like.”

Continue reading You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods

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Thanksgiving – The Final Verdict

The Spread with all the Trimmings
The Spread with all the Trimmings

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving, which is what we wanted. Our food budget for November was $320, we actually spent $316.22, including Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey has been boiled, stock created, and the first batch of soup eaten with the rest frozen and all other leftovers consumed.

Roast turkey, brined in seasoned salt water, rosemary, oregano, and thyme
Roasted garlic mashed potatoes with butter and oregano
Dressing with homemade bread cubes, apples, and raisins
Green bean casserole
Cranberries cooked in orange juice and cane sugar

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

For dessert
Homemade apple pie
Homemade pumpkin pie with fresh (frozen) pureed sugar pumpkin from Sauvie Island Farms
Homemade whipped cream