Friday, March 27, 2015

We Are Taking A Short Break

We are leaving tomorrow for Rochester, NY in response to a family crisis.  While I will try to blog occasionally, if I can, I may be absent for about 10 days to two weeks.  Please check back then.

Are We Suffering From Sulfated Batteries?

That is the question we are now exploring in our on going saga to solve our elusive battery charge mystery.

Here is a little of what I have learned, and take into consideration that I am even less skillful at science than at math. :)

Normally, a battery becomes sulfated as it discharges and the battery is termed completely discharged when there is no longer any lead active material remaining for the sulfate to react with.  You then need to recharge your battery by reconverting the lead sulfate into lead active material and returning the sulfate to the electrolyte so they can once again react with each other.

Now, here is what they now think happened to our new batteries.  In January, just after installing the new batteries, we took our trip to Wales for a week.  When we returned the batteries were totally discharged.  Obviously, we do not know how long they were in this condition but since the refrigerator and freezer were still cold/items still frozen it was not too long.

In February we were again away from the boat for a period of time and when we returned the batteries had again flat lined and we were not so lucky this time.  Everything in both our refrigerator and freezer had to be tossed.  Ergo, they had been flat for quite awhile.

When a battery is left in the discharged state for any length of time the lead sulfate becomes hard and develops a high electrical resistance:  it is a sulfated battery.  In this condition normal recharging will not break down the lead sulfate. 

And, if the battery has hard sulfate it will also show a false and higher voltage than it actually has when tested with a voltage regulator. 

To fix the situation and actually totally recharge the battery and get it back into working mode again it is necessary to recharge it with a low current to break down the hardened sulfate.  This is NOT a DIY job since the batteries can overheat internally and the specific gravity of the electrolyte in the battery needs to be monitored during this process.

So, on Monday all of our batteries will be removed and taken to an appropriate location where they can be slowly recharged and monitored.  During the week or so they will be gone we will be hooked up to shore power to keep all the systems on the boat functioning.

And, we will be keeping our fingers crossed that all of this will solve our problem.  (Please!)

Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Case of the Missing Battery Charge: Chapter 2

Tis still a puzzlement.

Yesterday's electrical engineer/mechanic retested the five new batteries and according to his tester one of the batteries was bad.

The theory he had was that while this battery was a part of the circuit it was draining the other good batteries of their charge in an attempt to stay charged itself.  Result:  five dead batteries and no one is happy.

Solution/test of hypothesis:  take the bad battery out of the cycle by bypassing it.  If the other four batteries hold their charge overnight (when they usually go flat) then we know we have found the problem.


When I got up at 6 this morning the battery power was almost flat and by 7 it was flat.  Another good hypothesis bites the dust.

The engineer/mechanic will be back around 11 and we will try again to solve THE CASE OF THE MISSING BATTERY CHARGE.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Barnoldswick's Lower Park Marina and the Case of the Missing Electrical Charge

Where, oh were has our battery charge gone?  Oh, where oh where can it be?

Yep, 5 new household batteries purchased recently and they are going flat faster than the five old ones of which only 3 worked.  Tis a puzzelment.

We had called ahead to this marina and made an "appointment" to see their resident electrical engineer.  Yesterday he and Mike crawled all around the boat checking things out trying to discover what gives.

The operative word being trying.

After over two hours and two different men looking at the system we are non the wiser as to what the problem actually is.

What we do know is:
  • all five of the new batteries that provide our household power are good
  • that the charging system is also good
  • that our draw on the system (power being used) has not increased
  • that the older batteries could handle this power draw and the new ones cannot
 The theory for now is:
  • that one or more of the batteries is discharging too quickly, but which one(s) and why we  do NOT know
So, today the boss of the marina, who was unavailable yesterday, will take a look see and hopefully we will get some answers.

If not, it might be time to call in Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys.  

Stay tuned for the next episode.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Almost Started A Life of Crime

When you are moored along the tow path and the big window in the kitchen is open you get to interact with a variety of people and animals. 

I have had swans, ducks and geese come up to the window to be fed (smart!).  I have had dogs try to come onto the boat because they smell something yummy cooking. But Sunday was a first:  I had a little girl who desperately wanted to come onto the boat. 

Sarah is a cute little curly haired three year old with killer blue eyes and the fairest of fair complexions.  Her little outfit of lilac and cream striped leggings and a cream sweater with lavender flowers embroidered on the bodice was just perfect for her.  She tugged at any and all grandma heart strings available. 

As she rode her scooter past the first time I said Hi to her and her family and she said Hi back.  But then she noticed where I was:  In a perfect little doll house where I was obviously playing house and she wanted to play, too. 

She came over to give me hugs and kisses and then asked if she could come in.  If only.

Unfortunately I had to say no and she continued with her Sunday constitutional with her family. 

On their way back they had to pass the boat again and she made a direct bee line for me and wanted more hugs and kisses and again wanted to come in and have fun playing house with me. 

I was so tempted to kidnap her and start my life of crime.  If only my get away vehicle went faster than 4MPH. 

More From East Marton

Image result for Images abbots harbour restaurant             

The inside of the Abbots Harbour Restaurant.  When the monks were here in the middle ages this would have been where the livestock lived and the monks would have lived above to take advantage of the warmth generated by the animals below.  The proportions of the building are shorter than modern buildings so some must duck to come inside and be careful not to knock their heads on the beams.  The ceilings are low and the walls are THICK:  about 3 feet thick.  Very cozy and a wonderful place for lunch.  We had the traditional Ploughman's Lunch with a side of homemade chips served wrapped in newspaper (and greaseproof on the inside for modern health regs probably).  If you get the chance, go and experience the atmosphere and the good ales.

This double arched bridge is on the path to the restaurant.  Rather than tear the structure down and start anew, when they were building the A59 they just built the second arch above the first to carry the traffic across the canal.  It is not the normal solution but I like it.

Another view of the double arch bridge.  The restaurant is not too far beyond.

St. Peter's Church  in East Marton with its short and wide Norman tower.


The Baptismal font of medieval or possible Normal times found in the church.  The inside, while attractive, is from the 19th century when the building was redone/restored.  This was a favorite Victorian pas time and a lot of history disappeared as a result.  But, their intentions were good.

Now, on up the canal we go.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bank Newton to East Marton

We have ventured on a few miles to East Marton.  This canal journey was different than most.  There were no locks but to accommodate that the canal wiggles its way across the distance.  When you look at a map of this section of the canal and you notice the part that resembles a bunny rabbit with his ears standing straight up you are looking at the area we traveled yesterday.  (Turn the page 90 degrees to see the image better.)

 North Yorkshire walk Gargrave to East Marton - skectch map

It may wiggle but since it does it through some of the most scenic places we have seen you really don't mind doubling back on yourself and be able to look back across the countryside to where you have just been. 

Above is a turning post found along the towpath that was used to help the horse pulled boats make the sharper turns (by wrapping the tow rope around the post to shorten it and pull the boat around the curve).

It can be disorienting, however.  Mike pointed out two boats that appeared to be running parallel to us in another canal.  Actually, they were traveling the same canal as we were and they were actually behind us!  Confusing to say the least.

Contour Canal

We are now high up in the British Dales and will soon start our way down towards Liverpool.  And although I seem to have opened and closed thousands of locks and swing bridges to get here, it was quite definitely worth the effort.  The area is so gorgeous it defies description and pictures do not at all do it justice.

the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Yorkshire   Newton Bridge #164   Canal Boat Leeds Liverpool Canal   Leeds Liverpool Canal Yorkshire

Old Hall Bridge #160    Towpath Treks      Contour Canal

Today we are off to lunch at Abbot's Harbour Restaurant which is well known for its traditional British menu and also for being housed in a 12th century building constructed by Cistercian monks.  More on that later but I am quite looking forward to it.

 Abbots Harbour Licensed Cafe/Restaurant

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gargrave to Bank Newton with Miles (the man, not the distance)

This lovely stone home, with a lean to added later, was built in 1791 by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Corporation and was used as a lock keeper's home at the bottom of the Bank Newton flight of locks.  It has been maintained beautifully over the centuries.  I, for one, wouldn't mind living in it today.

Image result for bank newton flight images    Image result for bank newton flight images

The locks from Gargrave to Bank Newton had what, for us, was an unusual way to open the ground paddles to allow water into and out of the locks.  One had to be strong enough to pick up the wooden "handle" to open the paddles and this was no small feet since you were working against the force of a large amount of water.  Once the lock had filled or emptied as needed you needed to remember to close the ground paddles before opening the lock gates or the gates would break the ground paddles.  Not good.

Image result for bank newton flight images   Image result for bank newton flight images

Image result for bank newton flight images   Image result for bank newton flight images

Image result for bank newton flight images      Image result for bank newton flight images

Above are some beautiful scenes of the area countryside that we passed through.  I dare you to look at such beautiful countryside and not feel the cares of the day slip from your shoulders.

We did nine locks yesterday through this idyllic countryside aided by Miles, a new employee of Canal and River Trust.  I have to say they made a wonderful choice in hiring him.  He is personable, friendly and very helpful.  He walked from Gargrave to Bank Newton to be there to help us (and others we met along the way) navigate the locks.  When we were done for the day he had to turn around and walk back to Gargrave.  It was now past 3:00 and his lunch was in Gargrave!  So, I sent him on his way with a couple cheese sandwiches and some fruit.  Can't have him passing out from malnourishment now can we?

Miles, along with Edward, were the two employees who supplied us with some firewood in Gargrave.  Miles also discovered a stash of some in the hedgerow yesterday.  We now have the top of the boat full of wood again thanks, in part, to these two nice and thoughtful men.  Whatever happens we will be warm. :-)

Today is a nice stretch of canal without locks.  I think I will just sit in the cockpit and crochet and be a lady of leisure.  What an appealing thought.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"You Weren't Hit by a Bus."

Yesterday I watched an oldie but a goodie movie, "Something to Talk About" with Dennis Quaid, Julia Roberts and Kira Sedgewick, among others.

In one scene the character portrayed by Julia Roberts was bemoaning her life and how it had gotten into the state it was in.  Kira Sedgewick, who played her smart talking sister came back with a line that I need to remember more often and maybe you do, too.

          "You weren't hit by a bus!

Very few of us were.  Our lives didn't get to be the way they are due to forces out of our control.  We are where we are because of choices we have made or have declined to make.

And, if we don't like where we are we can get to a different and better place by making different and better decisions.  It is that simple and that hard.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Easy Come, Easy Go

Yesterday Mike and I walked into the little and beautiful village of Graves.  I just LOVE all the buildings made of local stone, both the older ones and the newer ones.  They make such a cohesive whole and are so pleasing to the eye how they all blend and don't jar on the senses.

While there we picked up a few items at the local Cooperative Grocery Store.  Here is most of what we bought (excluding the UHT milk that was normal priced but needed non the less):

  • OJ £1 each or 2 for £1.50        saved 50 pence
  • Biscuits (cookies) 55 pence each or 2 for £1.00 (these were a gift for the lock keepers who delivered a wheel barrow of wood to the boat from some trimming that had been done)       saved 10 pence
  • Beef Stock Pots were £1 each(4/pack) RTC to 2 for £1       saved £1
  • Carrots (one pound) was 45 pence RTC to 29 pence        saved 16pence
  • Bread from in store bakery was £1.39 RTC to £1         saved 39 pence
  • Small Hard Rolls from in store bakery were £1 RTC to 50 pence      saved 50 pence
  • Fresh Green Beans were £1.30 RTC to 69 pence         saved 61 pence
  • Romaine Lettuce was £1.40 RTC to 69 pence          saved 71 pence
  • Fresh Chinese pea pods were £1.85 RTC to 89 pence        saved 96 pence
Total saved:  £4.93 in less than 15 minutes, and in only about 5 minutes more than shopping without looking through the RTC items would have taken me.  Result:  EITHER I earned about £20 per hour if you use the 15 minutes the total shop took, or I earned £50 per hour by taking that extra 5 minutes.  EITHER WAY my budget wins.

Except, we then took that saved money (in effect) and went to a local coffee shop and bought a latte with it.  Oh well, easy come easy spent. :-)

Make Your Own: Easy, Fast, for Pennies

Natural Washing Up Liquid

The original of this recipe I found on a blog I read called Frugal Ain't Cheap.  However, since hers called for using either whole lemons or limes and grinding them up in a blender or food processor, neither of which I have, I had to make some changes.  My version is NOT thick and creamy like hers.  But, it is still good at cutting grease and anti-bacterial and I can make it so it works for me.  Also, it is super fast, super inexpensive and environmentally friendly.  That's a can't lose combination for me.

Using either lemon or lime juice combine:
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
Put into an old washing up liquid bottle.  Use about 1 T per load to wash your dishes by hand.  On a rag it is great for cleaning the top of the stove, counters, etc.

THIS WILL NOT PRODUCE SUDS.  If you must have bubbles add a little liquid soap to the mix.  Me, I'll do without the suds to help save the canal environment.
UPDATE:  It is a woman's right to change her mind, correct?  Well, after using this a few days I have.  I have added some liquid soap to my mix with some extra water.  It does not suds much but enough to :  let me know when the sink has just water or dish water in it and to cut the film that the other mixture was leaving on my glasses.  Much happier now.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

That Eureka Moment

Today as I was reading one of my favorite blogs "The Non-Consumer Advocate" as she was talking about taking her son to a local thrift store to get a new to him mouse (of the computer variety) since his had died.  And, I mentioned to Mike that I had not thought of doing that but it was timely since the computer mouse for his computer is dying a slow and painful death as we speak.

That "why didn't I think of that" moment is why I have been writing some of the posts recently.  No matter how good we are or aren't at saving money, reducing our carbon footprint, etc. we all need to learn new things , be reminded of things we knew once but forgot, or be made to look at things from a new angle so as to see new possibilities.  Or at least I do.

So, here are some things I have done recently to help keep the retirement coffers full since I don't want to stop traveling here and there anytime soon:
  • I bought inexpensive shower caps at the dollar/pound store and use them to cover bowls and plates of leftovers to go into the fridge.  This morning I washed one I had used and hung it to dry to be used again.  This is especially important since it is plastic and I want to thoroughly use it up before I throw it out.
  • The crumbs from a finished box of shredded wheat went into a container instead of into the garbage and will be saved to use in a recipe calling for bread crumbs.
  • The wax paper like cereal bag was rinsed out and hung to dry.  It will later be used to hold muffins or cookies or such. Or, I can use it when I want to pound meat into thinner and seemingly larger pieces.
  • While walking along the canal path yesterday I found several places where the people from canal and river trust had previously pruned trees that overhung the canal.  Several of the resulting stove sized logs continued down the path with me to be used in our stove to warm us up in the mornings.  Later, I went back to the closest pile and gathered some more.  Each log means less coal we might need to buy as our winter fuel supply dwindles.
  • One of the local canal and river trust staff observed my fuel gathering and later dropped off a bigger log to add to the pile.  Nice.
  • I crocheted myself a winter hat out of the bits and pieces of yarn leftover from other projects.  It was fun figuring out the free form "pattern" to blend them all and nice to see the bits find a useful home.
  • I didn't like last years summer slipcovers for the furniture cushions (too drab) so I re-donated the sheets and purchased some curtains from the charity shop (£8) to make new ones.  The new to me material has a creamy yellow background with a pale flower pattern that should be cheery.
  • Breakfast was cut up leftover pirogi casserole, some onions, mushrooms and sweet peppers all mixed with egg.  A tasty and frugal breakfast using up the last of a frugal dinner.
As my family used to kid me, all of these different things might have saved me a dime or so. :-)  But, slow and steady wins the race both for my budget and for Mother Earth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Skipton Castle: A Unique Castle in History

Skipton Castle, the traditional seat of the Clifford family,  is a well preserved medieval castle that withstood three years of siege by the Cromwellian forces during the English Civil War.  It was the last Royalist stronghold in the north of England holding out for Charles I until, in December of 1645, an agreement of surrender was reached and the royalist troops marched out of the castle, not as prisoners but with full colors flying and trumpets playing.
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The castle dates from 1090 but significant strengthening was done to the castle in 1310 by Robert, the first Clifford Lord of Skipton.It was this reinforcement that allowed the castle to withstand three years of siege and bombardment.
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After the Castle was taken by the Parliamentarians Cromwell ordered the removal of the castle's flat and thick roofs so that cannon could no longer be placed there to defend the castle or fire on approaching troops.  When the roof was later replaced using oak timbers it was under the understanding that it would not be flat, would be much weaker than the original and would be unable to bear the weight of a cannon.  Cannon bearing flat roofs were summarily banned across the country as a result of how effective they were at Skipton Castle during the siege.
Image result for skipton castle   Image result for skipton castle

The walls of the castle, originally 6 feet deep, were also reduced to 1/2 that depth by the Parliamentarians so that they would no longer be able to withstand bombardment as well as they had during the Civil War.
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It was Lady Anne Clifford, herself born at Skipton Castle in January of 1590, who restored the castle after the Civil War. In 1650, when the threat of war had ended, large windows were put into the castle's thinner and newly restored outer walls.

Image result for grotto of skipton castle                            Image result for grotto of skipton castle

The castle's Renaissance Grotto was created by Henry, Lord Clifford between 1626-1629 and is one of two that survive in England today, the other being at Woburn Abbey.

Image result for dungeon of skipton castle                  Image result for dungeon of skipton castle

The dungeon of the castle secured prisoners behind bolted doors at both the top and the bottom of the stairs down.  Although leg irons were used on some prisoners of special importance it appears the Cliffords were benevolent to their prisoners in that torture was not used upon them.

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In the Conduit Court stand a famous yew tree planted by Lady Anne in 1659.  It is now over 9 feet in girth and a rare sight to behold.

 Image result for kitchens of skipton castle                                                                                             Image result for kitchens of skipton castle

In 1680 the castle's original kitchen was replaced by "the new kitchen" which remained in use until the 1840's.  I doubt the cooks of that time found it all that "new" by then.

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What To Do With All That £$£$£ Saved?

So, you have been stretching those pennies until poor old Abe is even taller and skinnier and begging for mercy.  Your food budget is lower than you thought possible just a little while ago.  You actually have "extra" money at the end of the week, pay period or month.

Now, what are you going to do with it?

I can't speak for you but when I stretched my food budget over the years what I did with the money I didn't have to spend on food went for different purposes at different times.

  • In graduate school it helped to keep a roof over our head and the wolf from the door
  • Later, it helped pay the Catholic school tuition for both girls
  • How about piano lessons and a year of dance lessons
  • Then it was the swim lessons and swim club
  • Can you say orthodontia?
  • Prom gowns, class rings, yearbooks and other school "necessities"
  • Along with all my salary, it paid college tuition for two girls in at the same time for three years (poor planning, I know)
  • Trips abroad to "broaden their horizons" for both girls
  • then it was time to sock as much as possible away for retirement
So you can see, what you can put this "found" money on is as varied as the people who save it and the circumstances of their lives.

One thing I know for SURE:  there is always someplace for it to go and you will always be glad you have it to go there. (OK, that's two things.)

Happy Saving!

Polly Want a Homemade Cracker?

This morning I had an excess of ambition so by 8:00 I was baking my first tray (of 3) of homemade multi grain crackers.  I adapted a recipe for wheat thin like crackers by adding some Greek yogurt that needed used up, some soy milk with the same characteristics and some cornmeal, flax, wheat bran, wheat gluten and protein powder tossed in for good measure.  Since adopting a vegetarian diet I am extra concerned about getting the amount of protein I need each day.  Ergo, the added gluten and protein powder under the auspices that every little bit will help.

All told the recipe, as adapted, made 38 ounces of yummy crackers (minus the couple that had to be taste tested for quality control purposes). 

I have been taxing my math midget mind to try and guesstimate what the ingredients cost me (flour, oatmeal,oil,salt,cornmeal,flax,wheat bran, wheat gluten, protein powder, yogurt and soy milk).  Since I bought a lot of this from approved foods or bought the store's value brand my guesstimate is that the crackers cost me less than $1.50.

Wheat Thins at Target, according to my computer, cost $2.54 for 9 ounces or 28 cents per ounce.  Therefore, if my math is correct, 38 ounces would cost me $10.64.    Counting in the cost of baking them, I still saved $9 this morning! 

Mixing up the crackers took about 10 minutes max.  Rolling them out maybe another 10.  Baking took the longest since I have a mini oven so had to do three batches at about a half an hour per batch.  In a bigger oven I could have baked them all at once and saved time and propane.  So for 20 minutes of effort and 50 minutes total I saved $9.

If I just take into account my actual "working" time of 20 minutes max, I earned an hourly "wage" of $27 this morning.  And the retirement fund gets to hold on to $9. :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Blessings on You

May your
troubles be Less,
And your Blessings
be more,
And nothing
but Happiness
come through your door

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Having company?  Don't panic.  Your budget doesn't have to be the victim.

Remember, people eat with their eyes.  Make something look fancier, bigger, or more expensive and people will believe that it is.  Use that to your advantage when company comes for a meal but the budget just doesn't have that much give.

First, buy some of those boneless, skinless chicken breasts for an average cost of $3.44/lb US ($6.36/lb UK).  Buy 1/4 to 1/3 pound per person.  No one wants to run out of food when they have guests and left overs can always be enjoyed again by your family.

Now, take those chicken breasts home and place each breast between two layers of cling film with enough space around the breast to allow them to "grow" because that is exactly what we are going to make them do.

If you have a food mallet use that or use something else to do the job.  Here on the boat I use the wooden handle of my rolling pin.  Start "beating" on the center of the piece of meat and work towards the edges.  Repeat, trying to get the meat uniformly thin all over but no so thin it gets holes in it.

When you are done, the meat should look at least twice as big.  And, as an added benefit, it will cook faster and be more tender than in its original form. 

Cut each breast into portion size.  The individual sizes of the breasts will determine how many you get.  Be generous.

Now, use the chicken in one of your favorite recipes. 

I like to make chicken picatta or chicken Marsala.  Both are easy and fast to do but they look and sound extra special.  Garlic oil pasta with Parmesan and peas added for color or pesto pasta with Parmesan is a nice side for both along with a Caesar salad or just a wonderful regular green salad with croutons to give it a little "sparkle".  Make your own salad dressings or just decant some tasty ones from the bottles to add a company touch. 

Some great bread, homemade or from a good bakery  and your meal is set except for the sweet course or cheese course or both.  A lovely pie or cake works as the sweet or some special brownies.

If you are pulling out all the stops and doing a cheese course remember that you don't need to provide a large amount of cheese.  Buy smaller portions of 3 cheeses and go for higher quality.  Add basic butter crackers and some grapes and you are set.

There you have it.  Much cheaper than taking everyone out and a menu you can survive making.  Promise.

Vegetarian? No way! WAY, At Least Some.

 I cannot begin to count how many people, especially men, loudly proclaim that they would never eat a vegetarian meal.   Real men need meat!   Budget or no budget.

But, let me let you in on a secret:  they do eat, and enjoy, vegetarian meals and they never even think about it.  So, if money is tight near the end of a pay cycle or if you need to rob Peter (the food budget) to pay Paul (fill in the blank) try serving one of these:

  • grilled cheese and tomato soup, that wonderful childhood staple
  • mac and cheese, homemade please or at least not the blue box kind
  • fried potatoes and eggs with toast and jam
  • egg salad sandwiches and soup
  • baked beans
  • spaghetti with marinara sauce and garlic bread
  • cheese ravioli
  • cheese and veg lasagna
  • polenta with red sauce
  • cheese pizza or cheese and veg pizza
  • potato pancakes or potato and root veg pancakes with apple sauce
  • pasta primavera Alfredo
  • eggplant Parmesan
  • cheese calzones
  • bean burritos with sour cream and guacamole
  • pancakes or french toast as breakfast for dinner (add cinnamon rolls for dessert and he'll never miss the meat)
  • welsh rarebit
  • hummus with crudites, Greek  salad and pitas

You get the idea.  Here are eighteen, more than half a month's worth of no meat meals that are easy on the budget.  If you put your mind to it you can probably think of more.  Try slipping one or two in a week when money is tight.

Ground Beef You Can Take a Bite From

OK, so earlier I wrote a post about how to use a pound of ground beef/mince to create a HUGE pot of chili that you then use in different ways to feed your family for a week.  The meals are tasty but you don't get a lot of meat to chew on.  So today I decided to do another ground beef post that included meals where you actually know you are eating the meat.

Remember, ground beef in the US averages $ 4.25   per pound and the equivalent of $6 per pound  in the UK.  Five pounds of ground beef will therefore cost you about $21.25.  So, to save money for things that are much more fun than weeknight dinners we want to stretch that  of ground beef as far as we can without causing family mutiny.

To do that I have some tricks up my sleeve:
  • add grated veg such as carrot, onion and potato to the ground meat before making the recipe since these are much cheaper and disappear into the meat when cooked, honest
  • depending on the recipe add mashed and seasoned cooked legumes to the meat (about 1/3 beans to 2/3 meat) to cut cost and add protein
  • bulk the meat out with bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, oatmeal (dry) and eggs just like your mom and grandma used to do
 By doing one or all of these things your ground meat will go much farther for you and you will still have the satisfaction of chewing on that beef.
So, what to use all this good meat to make?
  1. For meal one stretch using one or more of the above ideas.  Add some extra Italian seasonings to the  mix to add flavor and then form into small meatballs.  I emphasize small because people eat with their eyes.  If they get 3 or 4 small meat balls they subconsciously feel they have gotten more than if they eat 1 meatball containing the same amount of meat.  So, save your budget and use this info to your advantage.  Serve the meatballs with sauce and pasta and sides.  I would include some great garlic bread if I was making it.  Use 1 pound.  If you have leftover meatballs and sauce they make great hoagies for lunch the next day or part of dinner on leftover night at the end of the week.  That is if you can stop your family from eating them all with the spaghetti. :-)
  2. Hamburgers, stretched using one or more of the above and add some Worcestershire sauce and french onion soup mix to the meat to make them very flavorful and yummy.  In our house these would demand good buns and homemade french fries with the skin still on.  As a bone to good eating we would add lettuce, onion and tomato to the burgers and cheese if it pleases you.  Use 1 pound.  You should be able to get more than 4 burgers if you have stretched the meat.  Either use the extra for lunch or save for a leftover night at the end of the week.
  3. Sloppy Joes made from scratch or using a commercial product.  To make these I would only stretch the meat using the first two options since the beans tend to burn when the meat mix is fried prior to adding the sauce.  I would just increase the amount of the first two to compensate for the lack of the third.  Use one pound.  This should make more than four good size sandwiches.  If you have any leftover do as discussed above.
  4. Ground beef "steaks" with onion gravy.  Stretch using the one or more of the above methods and add some Worcestershire and onion soup again for increased flavor.  Serve with very oniony beefy gravy made using either homemade stock or a stock cube and sauteed onions.  These are great with mashed potatoes or egg noodles and other sides of your choice.    Use one pound. Again you should get more than four so same drill as the above.
  5. Ground meat Greek style.  Stretch the meat and add onion soup mix, dill, oregano and garlic to the mix.  Form into long and thin pieces and brown.  Serve in pitas with feta, onion and tomato and a yogurt sauce.  Use one pound. Again, you should get more than four meat pieces so either use for lunch or save for a leftover dinner.
  6. Leftover Night, if you managed to save any.  Let people choose what strikes their fancy and make a big salad to round things off.
You just made five nights of meals (at least 20 servings ) and some lunches or a leftover dinner.  So, let's call it 24 servings for the purpose of math.  That would mean just about $.90 of meat per very enjoyable serving.  Good deal, I think.

And yes, I know this is only six nights and not seven.  Everyone needs a night off.  Can you say take out or tasking someone else to cook?  Now that is a good night. :-)


Your Easter Ham

Easter is just around the corner and to me that signals sale prices on hams.  However, this year the sales do not appear to be as good as in prior years.  I like to find the hams at under $1 per pound but this year the average US price is reported to be $1.28/lb and the UK price is about $3.50 per pound.  So, you buy a five pound ham and pay $6.40.  Now, to squeeze all the value from that money spent.

Boil the ham until heated through in water to cover.  Remove from the water and roast in the oven until the skin is crispy.  Pre-boiling means the ham won't be all dried out after roasting AND you get some broth to make soup.  Win,win.
  1. Serve the ham (1/4 pound per person) with all your wonderful sides for Easter.  Used 1 lb.
  2. Fried Potatoes with onion and ham served with sliced hard boiled eggs (Easter Bunny eggs) in a mustard cream sauce with a green veg.  Use 1/4 pound.
  3. Ham and Swiss sandwiches.  Use 1/2 pound
  4. Scalloped or Au gratin potatoes with ham and appropriate sides.  Use 1/2 pound.
  5. Ham and cheese quiche with sides.  Use 1/4 pound.
  6. Spaghett with ham and peas in a white cheese sauce.  Use 1/2 pound
  7. Cheesy cauliflower with ham.  Use 1/2 pound
  8. Ham and cheese omelettes  Use 1/4 pound
  9. Split pea or navybean and ham soup (or both) using the broth created from pre-boiling the ham before roasting.  Use 1/2 pound ham.
  10. Ham salad sandwiches  Use 1/2 pound ham. (If you are short on the ham cooked hotdogs can be ground up and added to the mix to stretch the ham and the taste is still good.)
Forty servings from a 5 pound ham at  about $.16 per serving for the meat.  Yep, some of it is there more for flavor than substance but we eat with our taste buds, remember.  And, from some of the above you might have a leftover or two for lunch for someone in the family.  A bonus.

Also, if you bought a ham with a bone in remember to use that bone, once all the easy meat has been removed, to make more stock for soup.  Also remember to pick the now loosened remaining meat from the bone to add to that soup.  You could have a few more lunches or dinners that way.  Waste not, want not.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Where's the Beef? On Your Plate, Maybe.

A beef roast, such as chuck or round, costs on the average $6 per pound in the US and about $9 per pound in the UK.  Five pounds of roast would be about $30 in the US.  Thirty dollars of meat should stretch for more than one meal for your family of four, right?  How about at least 8 meals?

First, cook the roast, long and slowly to make the meat tender, with some carrots, onions, potatoes and then slice thinly and serve a few slices (about 1/4 pound per person) to your family and save the rest for meals later that week or month.  If there are any pan drippings you can use these to make gravy.  Used 1 pound.

On day two take some of that meat, slice it into thin strips and marinate it in an oriental mix and then stir fry with lots of veg and serve over rice.  Used 1/2 pound.

Chunk up some of the remaining roast into cubes and turn it into a quick beef stroganoff to serve over noodles.  Used 3/4 of a pound.

Cut some more of the meat into cubes and add root  ( if you have any left over from the original roast you can use them here) and beer and cook long and slow until all is tender.  Serve over mashed potatoes.  Used  1/2 pound.   Or, you could do the same thing only substituting red wine for the Guinness and serve over noodles.

Use some bits and pieces of meat, plus some vegetables to create some wonderful beef fried rice (if you have any left overs from the stir fry you can use them up here).  Used 1/4 of a pound.  To add to the beefy taste, cook the rice in beef stock either homemade or from stock cubes.

Use another portion of bits and pieces with some mushrooms, onions, peppers and cheese to make a Philly cheese steak pizza.  Used 1/4 pound.

Use some other chunks or pieces and some mixed veg and herbs, etc. to make beef vegetable soup.  Use a stock cube to enhance the flavor.  Used 1/2 pound.

If you have any gravy or meat pieces left over why not make some hot roast beef sandwiches to serve with mashed potatoes and a veg or two.

So there, at least 8 meals for four people, 32 servings (and maybe some lunches or an extra dinner) for an average meat cost of  $.93 per serving.  That's pretty affordable these days isn't it?

Magical Mince

One pound of mince, or what the Americans called ground beef averages $4.25  (in the UK the average is $6 per pound) these days.  I can remember when it was easy to buy it for under $1 per pound.  Wow!  I guess I really old if I can remember that far back.  What a difference.  Over four times as much and climbing!

So, what would I do with that pound of ground meat so that I could eat good meals for a week?

First, I would make a LARGE pot of chili with beans, lots of beans and my one pound of ground beef (I often add extra beef stock from the freezer if \I have it or create some with a stock cube or stock pot to give the chili a meatier taste).  That chili with cornbread would be my first meal.

Then, I would drain some of the meat and beans from the liquid of the chili and mash the beans and the meat together.  Add some onion, tomato, lettuce, cheese and sour cream and put in a tortilla and you have some good burritos for your second meal.  Or, you could make soft or crunchy tacos with the same mixture.  Any of them would be delicious.

Now, take some more of the meat and beans (sans the liquid) and spoon them over tortilla chips.  Top with cheese and sour cream and guacamole and you have wonderful nachos for your third meal.

More of the meat and beans can be used, with a little bit of the liquid, to make a mashed mixture to put on a pizza crust and top with onions, olives and cheese and create a taco pizza.  Meal four.

Now, some of that extra chili flavored liquid you have, put some into a dish and heat it until simmering.  Crack some eggs over the liquid and top with cheese.  Bake until the eggs are cooked and the cheese is melted.  Presto:  huevos rancheros for meal number five.

Some of the remaining beans and meat and liquid can be served over spaghetti with onions and cheese on top to make meal number six.  Or, if you prefer, you could use the beans and meat and a small amount of liquid to put over salad greens with cheese and taco chips to create a taco salad.  Either are yummy.

Whatever beans and meat and liquid remain can be mixed with some corn, onion, olives and broken up tortilla chips to make tortilla soup and you have meal seven.

Seven meals using $4.25 worth of meat.  Not bad, right?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Homemade Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Remember I said Mike and I were eating vegetarian for the remainder of lent?

Well, I have been looking for some new ways to get vegetarian protein into our diet.

So, tonight I am making some roasted garbanzo beans.  But not just beans.  But roasted taco flavored garbanzo beans, salt and vinegar flavored garbanzo beans and cinnamon flavored garbanzo beans.  Snacks for the next several days.  Protein rich snacks.  Yummy snacks.  Easy snacks.

For the taco beans put some cooked garbanzo beans onto a pan.  Sprinkle on cumin, chili powder, garlic, cayenne powder and salt.  Add some oil and mix the beans, spices and oil all together.  Then roast at 425 degrees until the beans are dry and starting to get crunchy.

For the salt and vinegar it is even easier.  Sprinkle on vinegar and salt and oil and bake as above until the vinegar evaporates and then the beans get crunchy.

For the sweet cinnamon beans melt together some butter and honey and pour over the beans.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg or mace.  Mix all together and bake.

For all of them remember to stir periodically while baking.

Oh, if you start with dry beans and cook them yourself it will be much less expensive than using canned beans.  But even canned beans make an inexpensive snack for you to enjoy.

Yummy snacks.  Much better than chips or cookies.  Promise.

Looking for a Rubber Chicken to Save Your Budget?

Buying meat these days almost requires going to the bank first to take out a loan.  So, once you have bought it, how can you make it stretch to as many meals as possible before you have to ask for another loan?

I am not saying it doesn't take some time and a little work and planning but you can get more meals out of that chicken that you bought than you might think.  You can make it stretch just like the proverbial rubber chicken.

First, let's say you bought a whole chicken this week for what is said to be the US national average of $1.50/pound (in the UK it is the equivalent of $2.25 per pound).  For a five pound chicken you would pay $7.50.  If you take it home and roast it your family of four could probably demolish it at one seating.  Cost per serving for four servings equals $1.87 just for the meat.

There must be a better way.  And there is. 

Instead, go home and put that chicken into your biggest soup pot and cover it with water.  Put the lid on the pot and slowly stew the chicken until the meat is done and tender and juicy.  Remove the chicken from the pot, remove the skin and take off all the meat from the chicken carcass.  Try to keep the breast meat intact.   And, remember, there is meat in the wings, too.  Don't miss any. This meat will make a meal for your family this week or later in the month if you freeze it for later.

Now, skim any gray froth off the soon to be stock, return the bones  and skin to the pot and then continue to let it cook down some until it is quite rich and yummy.  Remove the bones from the broth and then refrigerate the stock so that the fat will rise to the top and you can skim it off leaving you with low fat chicken broth to use for the below meals. You can either freeze it to use later or keep it in the fridge if you are going to use it in a day or two or three.

Now, this is where we separate the women from the girls.  Slowly work your way through the bones removing whatever meat was still sticking to the bones.  You will be surprised how much you will find is still there.  If you get a cup full that can be turned into another meal for your family so do a good job.

Remember that meat you removed from the carcass at the beginning of all of this?  Let's see what we can do with that:
  1. Slice the chicken breast and serve it with gravy and mashed potatoes and green beans.  Slice the  meat thinly (easier when cool/cold) and give each just enough so they don't feel gypped.  Remember, they can fill up on the sides.  About a quarter pound each is all they need.  Use 1 pound of meat and about 1 cup of broth to make the gravy.
  2. Chicken divan with broccoli (use extra to stretch the serving size).  Add some sides to round out the meal.  Use 1/2 pound of chicken to make the recipe.
  3.  Chicken a la king.  Serve over biscuits and make the biscuits big to help fill them up.  Serve with peas and another side if you desire. Use 1/2 pound of meat and some of the broth.  *
  4. Chicken and dumplings served with corn.  You know the drill, use the dumplings to help fill them up. Use 1/2 pound of meat and some of the broth to make the gravy to cook the dumplings in.  If you have leftover gravy from meal number 1 use it here. *
  5. Chicken pot pie using whatever veg was left over from the above meals (green beans, broccoli, peas, corn) or with frozen mixed vegetables.  If you don't like to make a pie crust buy the pre-made ones in the dairy case.  If it is good enough for Southern Living Magazine it is good enough for us. Use 1/2 pound of meat and if you have leftover gravy from the chicken and dumplings you can use it here or you may have to make more using some of the broth you made. *
  6. Pizza with bits of chicken such as buffalo chicken pizza (marinate the chicken pieces in hot sauce) or chicken Alfredo pizza, or chicken taco pizza.  Let you imagination go. Use about 1/4 pound of meat here.
  7. Chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup. Use the "extra" meat you picked from the bones and the some or the rest of the broth.  Add onion, celery and carrots to the broth with the noodles.
*If you are worried about having enough broth to make the soup, where good stock is most necessary, these meals can be made with part homemade broth and part broth made with a stock cube or stock pot.  I prefer the stock pots since they are not nearly as salty.

You might even have enough left over from some of these to provide a lunch or two to serve the next day.  Wonderful!

There, one week of meals for your family from one five pound chicken.  That is at least 28 servings for $7.50 of meat or $.27 per serving of meat.

Remember, just because a recipe says use a pound of meat doesn't mean you HAVE to do so.  Cut the amount in half and augment with vegetables or such.  The food police will not end up knocking at your door because you didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I promise.


The fields are full of broad a beam ewes awaiting their time to give birth in what I like to think of as "the maternity ward."  

Their sides are just bulging with little lambs anxious to make their way into the world. 

The ewes are at that awkward stage of pregnancy where their gait has been affected and it is somewhat amusing to watch them walk around the fields.  But, not to them I am sure.

Here one little guy or gal has made her way into the world.  But it can be a scary place so we just stay close to mom. 

Today is a little windy and cold, Mom.  Can I snuggle with you and get warm?

Ahh, the milk bar.  Nothing like a nice drink of warm milk on a chilly day.

Now if only the rest of the little ones would get here.  Then the meadows are so much fun to look at.  Come on babies, we're waiting.

 From woolies to woodlands along the canal.  I love how you can see straight through them this time of year.

And the fields are sooo green for March.  Even though the trees are not yet in leaf the greenness of the grass gives the feeling of spring.

 And spring is what we need before we burn all our wood in the mornings and evenings to "get the chill off."

 Quite a bit of what you see has now turned into ash.

 See that big log?  That was from the tree branch we found down in a field at the top of the Bingley Five Rise.  It was a victim of LAST spring and winter's wind storms.  A large amount of the wood we have burned recently came from it.

Keep your fingers crossed we can keep part of this to give us a start for next year.  Yep, Mike says there will be a next year in case you were curious.