Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 16 - 30: Buying and Eating

In September we had a total of $369.30 to spend for the month.  During the first half of the month we spent $185.40.  That left $183.90 for the second half of the month.

What we ate:

Cheese and crackers ( it was late and we were tired); grilled burgers from the freezer, fried green tomatoes, roasted acorn squash; leftover sandwiches from lunch; leftovers (burger, green tomatoes, cauliflower, Waldorf salad); meatloaf from the freezer, baked potato, corn on the cob;  Pork from the freezer, corn on the cob, squash;  sauerkraut casserole, peas, homemade English Muffin bread, brownies; Buffalo chicken casserole, mixed vegetables, tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar;  meatloaf from the freezer with roasted beets, radishes, zucchini and potatoes; leftover smorgasbord; pepperoni balls and taco balls with chips and fruit;  pasta with meat sauce ( made over meatloaf), salad and garlic bread;  tomato basil soup, sandwiches and chips

What we bought:

CSA:  corn, pears, tomatoes, grapes, raspberries, butternut squash, peppers, onions. $12

Tops:  rice side dishes (10),  pasta (5),  tomato soup (5),  wheat thins,  orange juice, celery, chicken breasts (6lb.)   $26.12

Walgreen's:  instant Maxwell House decaf coffee (3), olives (2), tuna. $13.95

Aldi:  mac and cheese (welcome home from hospital meal)  $0.89

Giant Eagle:  canned beans (8)  $4.72.
These are great for fast meals, although I like to work with dried beans when possible because they are cheaper.

Aldi:  eggs (2), macaroni and cheese (2),  butter (2)  $7.04
This butter is the first I have had to buy since last holiday season, almost a year.  Not bad.

Total spent on groceries:  $64.72

Meals Out:

Day out at Yankee Peddler.  $21.72

Lunch with Angela.  $12.50

Lunch with Ginger  $6.72

Total spent on meals out: $ 40.94

Grand Total:  $105.66

That left $78.24 out of this month's allocation to add to our cushion, which now stands at $480.19.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cuban Bread

This bread is my go to bread when I need a fast and easy yeast bread.  And, it tastes delicious.  Win-Win.

Plus, you don't need bread pans to make it.

Cuban Bread:

5-6 cups flour;  2 Tbs yeast;  2 cups water as hot as it gets from the tap; 2 Tbs sugar; 1Tbs salt

Mix the water, sugar and yeast;  let sit for five minutes to give the yeast time to start working;  work in the flour and salt;  cover and let sit for 20 minutes ;  Do Not Preheat the oven.  Form the dough into two rounds.  Score the top.  Place in Cold oven..on shelf underneath, place a pan of boiling water.  Bake about 45 minutes at 350 until brown and sounds hollow.

Great bread.  Great toast.
And, I have never had it fail.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thrifty Crocheting

I'm an avid crocheter.  I'm not all that talented at it, however.  My skill level seems to be stuck just past beginner.  Sad but true.

I make dish clothes, shopping bags, hats, scarves, afghans and such.

Yarn these days is expensive.  I hate the thought of buying $50 worth of yarn to make a project that might not turn out.  And even if it did, would be more expensive than buying the item.

So, what's a crocheter to do?

 Check out the local thrift stores.  They quite often have yarn at much reduced prices.

But there's a catch.  Usually you don't come across more than two, or occasionally three skeins of the same color.  ( Recently I did find nine skeins of the same color but that is an EXTREMELY rare occurrence.)

That's where your eye for color comes in.

Get out all your accumulated bits and pieces and figure out what harmonizes with what.  And pick your project based on what you have available.

It's fun and appeals to my not too talented artistic side.

And it's frugal and good for the planet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Pantry Principle: Rock Bottom Prices

When I was first married, decades ago, I bought a magazine that had an article about "The Pantry Principle".  It appealed to me and I have used it ever since.  I can't even begin to tell you how much it has saved me.

So what is the pantry principle?  Shop the sales to restock your pantry and then shop your pantry when making meals.  Create your menu every week from what you have on hand in your pantry, which includes your refrigerator and freezer, that you have filled with sale items.

 Try not to buy anything that isn't on sale.  The more you build up your pantry, the easier that will be.

Below are some suggestions for what to keep on your pantry shelves:

Dried or canned beans;  I keep mainly dried because they are cheaper but I do have some canned for when I need them fast
Cider vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Spices;  garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, cayenne, oregano, basil, sage, etc.  Stock what your family likes and you use.
Condiments:  mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salsa, soy sauce
Peanut butter
Baking powder and soda
Lemon juice
Cocoa powder
Dried salad dressing packets
Corn meal
Oil;  vegetable and olive
Milk; powdered and evaporated
Sweeteners:  sugar, honey, molasses
Canned items:  Corn, green beans, tomato products, mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, creamed soup, tuna
Spaghetti sauce
Dried fruit:  raisins, cranberries
Coffee and Tea

In my freezer:  hamburger, chicken, pork chops and roast, turkey, ham, white fish, vegetables, fruit, butter, eggs, orange juice, leftovers

In my refrigerator:  eggs, butter, bread, milk, condiments, seasonal fruits and vegetables, leftovers that will be lunch or turned into a makeover

Your pantry doesn't have to be identical to mine.  It all depends on what you cook and what your family will eat.  There is no right answer.  There is only money savings.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Getting the Most from your Meat Purchase

If you read my previous post you know that I recently bought a nine pound ham for 99 cents per pound.  But that was only the start of our savings.

When we got home, Mike and I started to process it to make the most out of every cent we spent.

First, Mike removed the thin layer of fat that is always to be found on hams.  He then began to slice it for various uses:  ham steaks to grill, thin slices for sandwiches, chunks for casseroles, and small bits and pieces for ham salad, soup and ham loaf.

Meanwhile, I took the pieces of fat and began to render them down.  We eventually got half a jar of renderings that will now be used in cooking.

  I can hear that shocked intake of breath.  But let me just point out that my cholesterol is low; my good is high and my bad is low;  and, my triglycerides are fine.

At the end of all this work, the bone and the rendering remnants went into my soup pot and were covered with water to cook and become broth for future soup.  We got enough broth for five small pots of soup.

Once cooked, the bone is stripped of any remaining ham which is added back to the soup broth.  The broth is then chilled and the fat removed from the top and added to the rendering.

The result:  enough meat and broth for at least 36 meals for the two of us.  That comes out to 12 1/2 cents per serving.  The flavor added by the renderings to future meals is extra.

Granted, in lots of the meals the meat will be more of a condiment than the main focus, but the flavor will still excite our taste buds,  the reduction in meat consumption will be healthier, and our budget will thank us.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 1-15: Buying and Eating

September is a thirty day month with a budget of $ 369.30.       We also have a cushion of $ 401.95    for a total available of $ 771.25.       .

What we ate:
Homemade veggie soup with deli sandwiches; stacked enchiladas with rice and beans; macaroni and 4 cheeses, Asian peanut salad, broccoli, cheesy bread; cheesy brats on the grill, chips, corn on the cob; leftover Mexican; leftover sandwiches and popcorn; Welsh rarebit and sauteed beet greens and broccoli;  carrot and potato pancakes, corned beef hash, eggs and toast; meatloaf, roasted vegetables, potatoes; chilli spaghetti, sauteed corn; shrimp and pea Alfredo with Waldorf salad and Parmesan wine supper bread; ham steak, breaded cauliflower, Waldorf salad; leftover smorgasbord; makeovers of potato pancakes, ham, eggs and toast

What we bought:

Giant Eagle:  Pepperidge Farms onion buns.  $0.99

Salvage Grocery:  crushed tomatoes, dry navy beans, white whole wheat flour (20lbs.), self rising flour (10 lbs.), soy sauce (2), cream of onion soup, cilantro cooking base, dried cranberries (21 oz.), organic beef broth (64oz), poppy seeds, ground cloves, sesame seeds, baking powder, organic tomato sauce (2), Certo liquid pectin, to pop salted caramel popcorn (3 pouches), organic salsa, kosher salt (3lbs.), Starbucks ground coffee (6), Ghiradelli brownie mix, ginger snaps, pineapple (20 oz.), garlic croutons, walnuts (4.5 oz.), honey roasted sliced almonds.  $43.48.

I began my stock up of flour, as you might have noticed.  :)

I also purchased by Halloween candy at salvage but it isn't shown above because it comes out of the gift budget.

Tops:  pasta, Chobani yogurt, eggs, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, spaghetti sauce, dark kidney beans, flour tortillas, chili seasoning, lettuce, ground chuck (4.88 lbs), Italian bread, fresh cauliflower. $21.65.      They were having some great deals I couldn't pass up.

Save A Lot:  bacon (5.5 lbs), dry milk (2), cornstarch, bananas, radishes.  $28.89
I just had to have the Smithfield bacon at $2.29 a pound.

Aldi:  cheddar brats (2), powdered sugar, brown sugar, chibatta rolls, Pam, mayonnaise, cumin, chips (5)  $18.67

Our to date subtotal is $113.68.  I'm hoping the specials won't be too irresistible for the next week or two so that I can add some more to the cushion for November and December.  Fingers crossed.

CSA:  tomatoes, beets, beet greens, cauliflower, jalapenos, strawberries, raspberries, concord grapes, lettuce. $12
CSA:  grapes, Apple's, grape tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers, gypsy peppers, acorn squash, yellow beans, corn  $12

Giant Eagle:  Wishbone bleu cheese dressing. $0.98

Aldi:  pretzels, baby Bella mushrooms (2), olives.  $6.61

Save A Lot:  pork and beans (3)  $1.47

Price Rite:  baby Bella mushrooms (2), grated sharp cheddar (2.5 lbs), grated mozzarella (5 lbs)  $19.46

Whole Foods Co-Op:  molasses. $1.24

Save a Lot:  onions  (6lb)  $1.98

Tops:  Italian bread, cereal (3),  brownie mix, pasta shells, Kaiser rolls, canned vegetables (6), pasta sauce (2), cheese, hot dogs, ham (9 lb), bananas (4lb), apples (3lbs)        $28.80.   Plus $3.50 off a future purchase.
Again, they were having some specials I didn't want to miss out on.

Total:  $148.22

Meals Out:
Lunch with Jim and Robin. $18.42
Lunch on Saturday out.  $6.76
Ginger birthday lunch  $12
Total:  $37.18

Grand Total:  $185.40. Not bad considering that we have added quite a bit to our stockpile, too.

For the next 15 days we have $183.90 of the monthly allotment available plus the $401.95 cushion, should we need it.

I feel comfortable. Although, I am down to my last pound of butter out of the stockpile I bought last year during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.  Bring on the sales.  Soon, please.  :)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Salvaging our grocery budget

If you want to cut your grocery budget even more, you need to step outside the traditional grocery store box.  A salvage grocery store could be exactly what your budget needs.

Salvage groceries are often found in Amish communities.

 The one I shop is, unfortunately, an hour away.  But a friend and I make an outing of it once a month and find it to be well worth the trip.

First, rest assured that salvage grocery stores are safe to shop.  They are inspected and regulated just like the more "normal" grocery stores you are used to.

So, what do you find there?  :  items in seasonal packaging, items in torn outside packaging, items in old packaging once new packaging has been introduced, closeouts, overstocked items from stores, salvage from truck wrecks.

You never know what you might find since the store is receiving new stock all the time.  You have to be willing to be flexible.

But, you can easily save 50 percent or more.  Here are some of the bargains I took advantage of recently:

Dry navy beans at 50 cents a pound
Flour, 20 pounds for $2.00
Self-rising flour, 10 pounds for $1.00
Organic beef broth, 32 ounces for 75 cents
Organic tomato sauce, 15 ounces for 49 cents
Starbucks ground coffee, 12 ounces for $2.99
Ghirardelli brownie mix for 25 cents
Cornmeal, 2 pounds for 49 cents
Ritz crackers, 12.9 ounces for 99cents
Multi grain crackers, 12 ounces for 79 cents
Frosted Mini wheats, 15.5 ounces for 75 cents
Honey Nut O's, 13.5 ounces for 50 cents
Steel cut oatmeal, 25 ounces for 89 cents
Taco boats, 8 for 25 cents
Corn tortillas, a huge stack for 25 cents
Greek vinaigrette for 10 cents
And for your furry friends, Purina cat chow, 6 pounds 3ounces for $3.99

See, it really can be worth it.  It can really help keep your food budget in check.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Master Baking Mix

Master Baking Mix is your homemade biscuit/pancake mix.  Think of that mix that starts with a B.  :)  And, it can be used to create lots of other yummy dishes.  Keep some in your cupboard and you can always make a meal.

Homemade Master Mix:  makes 13 cups
9 cups flour,  1/3 cup baking powder, 1 Tbs salt, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 4 Tbs sugar, 2 cups dry milk, 2 cups shortening (work into dry ingredients thoroughly with a pastry cutter)  Make sure everything is mixed together well.  Does not require refrigeration.

Master Mix Biscuits:
3 cups mix ,  2/3 to 1 cup water
Blend and either drop onto baking sheet or roll out and cut.

Master Mix Pancakes:
3 cups mix, 2 Tbs sugar, 1 1/2 cup water, 1 egg
Blend and pour onto griddle

Pumpkin Pancakes:
1 3/4 cup mix,  1/2  each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 2 Tbs sugar,  1/4 cup oil, 1 cup milk

Master Mix Muffins:
3 cups mix, 2 Tbs sugar, 1 cup water, 1 egg
Mix, place in muffin tin and bake at 425 until done.  As an extra, add blueberries or cranberries or such.  A crumb topping is also good on top.

Master Mix Parmesan Wine Supper Bread:
1 1/2 cup mix, 1 Tbs dry minced onion,  1/4 c milk,  1/2 tsp dry oregano, 1 Tbs sugar,  1 egg,  1/4 cup white wine or apple juice,  1/2 cup Parmesan divided
Mix ingredients, including half the Parmesan. Put into an 8 by 8 prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the other half of the Parmesan on top.  Bake at 450 until done.

Cranberry Orange Bread:
2 1/2 cup mix, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 c milk, 3/4 cup chopped cranberries, I egg, 2 Tbs orange peel
Makes one loaf.

Master Mix Gingerbread:
2 cups mix, 4 Tbs sugar,  1/2 cup water,  1 egg,  1/2 cup molasses,  1/2 tsp cinnamon,  1/2 tsp ginger,  1/2 tsp cloves
Mix ingredients.  Bake at 350 until tests done.

Master Mix Oatmeal Cookies:
3 cups mix, 1 cup sugar,  1/3 cup water, 1 egg, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 cup oatmeal, raisins (optional)

Master Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies:
3cups mix, 1 cup sugar,  1/3 cup water, 1 egg,  1 tsp vanilla,  1/2 cup chocolate chips

Master Mix Yellow Cake:
3 cups mix, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1 c water, 2 eggs,  1 tsp vanilla

Master Mix Chocolate Cake:
Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to the above recipe

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stop Throwing Your Money Away, Literally

Disposables like napkins, paper towels, paper plates and more are money wasters.  You have to buy them over and over and soon you have nothing to show for the money you just spent except garbage that ends up in the landfill.

Why not try using cloth napkins, dish rags, kitchen towels, and  washable reusable dishes. These can be easily cleaned and reused countless times.

 I have been using some napkins over and over for the last twenty years.  Really.

Making napkins and rags or buying them cheaply can make this quite frugal.  Old bathroom wash clothes become dish rags, old bathroom hand towels become dish towels, old towels get cut up and become rags, old sheets, especially fitted , get cut and hemmed for napkins ( vets and pet shelters can always use your old flat sheets).

I also use newspaper squares for vegetable peelings and for cleaning up yucky messes that are just too bad for rags that you wash over and over again.  Newspaper is for those messes that need to go straight into the trash.

Not only will kicking the disposable habit help your budget's bottom line, it will also help you be nice to our environment.  Mother Nature will thank you.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Meatless Meats

 While living in England I discovered several ways to put meatless meats on the plate.  This was helpful because our refrigerator was very small and we had no freezer space.. So meals relied heavily on shelf stable items.

They can also be great money savers.  Give one or all of them a try.  My husband eats them so they can't be too bad.  :)

Yorkshire Meatless Sausages:
1 pound potatoes, mashed, 1 oz butter, 4 oz finely chopped mushrooms, 4 oz shredded cheese (use what you have), 3 oz bread crumbs
Fry mushrooms in butter; mix together the mushrooms, potatoes and cheese; form into sausages, roll in breadcrumbs;  chill until firm and fry

Glamorgan Sausages:
2 oz. grated cheddar, 2oz. fresh bread crumbs, 1 Tbs finely chopped onion, 1 tsp dry mustard, 2 eggs, separated, 4 tsp water
Mix cheese and half the bread crumbs, onion and mustard;  add the egg yolks and water;  stir until the mixture begins to form a large ball;  from portions into sausages;  dip the sausages into the. Lightly whipped egg whites;  roll in the remaining bread crumbs;  fry until lightly browned

Oatmeal and Herb Sausages:
1 c salted water;  1 c oatmeal;  1 finely chopped onion; 1 tsp mixed herbs (Italian, Mexican, French, mixed poultry seasoning, whatever sounds good); 1/4 c ketchup; 1 egg
Stir the oatmeal into the boiling salted water;  simmer the mixture on low heat for half an hour;  let cool slightly before adding the remaining ingredients;  form into desired shape and fry

Vegetable Meat:
1/4 c wheat germ; 1/4 c oatmeal; 1/4 c rye flakes (or add more oatmeal); 1/4 c wheat gluten; 2 eggs; 1 Tbs beef or chicken bouillon; 1 T dried onion; 1 tsp dried garlic; milk until it holds together
Form and fry or cook in a liquid like spaghetti sauce, chili, soup, etc.  Will absorb the flavor of what it is cooked in.

Meatless Breakfast Sausage:
2/3 c flour;  1/4 tsp sage;  1/2 tsp cayenne;  1/4 tsp celery salt;  1/8 tsp cumin; 15 oz can black beans; 2 Tbs chopped onion; 1egg
Mix ingredients together; let sit for at least 15 minutes;  from and fry

Eggplant Bacon:
Cut very thin but long slices of eggplant;  sprinkle with smoked paprika; fry

Mock Chicken:
2 2/3 c oatmeal;  1/4 c diced onion; 1 1/2 c chicken broth; 2 eggs; 2 tsp sage; 2 tsp poultry seasoning;
Works well in pot pie, chicken and dumplings, etc.

To make Mock Beef:
Season the above with beef broth, onion soup mix, black pepper, onion and some garlic