Friday, December 31, 2010

Using Coupons Effectively: Websites

I was going to write all of this information myself, but then I found a wonderful website that explains using  coupons and provides shopping strategies for each store.  The site is Southern Savers and its creator has set up a site that really does it all.

Southern Savers does provide links to coupon services, but the three big ones are, Redplum and Smart Source.  Just Google them, click on the coupons you want, then hit the print coupons button.  All of the coupons you selected will print at once, three coupons per page.

Each of these coupon services will ask to place a cookie on your computer.  You have to say yes for the coupons to print.  If you are not comfortable with this, then stick to the coupon inserts in the paper.

It helps to buy a small paper cutter for coupon cutting.  You can stack the pages of coupons you print from a site and cut them all at once; they line up beautifully.  Have your children help when you are clipping from paper inserts.

We'll talk about organizing coupons another time.

God bless,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hoarding vs. Stockpiling

After watching the Extreme Couponing show last night I was struck by the differences in the people on the show.  I think that I have just realized what sets stockpilers (preparedness) apart from hoarders.

The first coupon shopper they interviewed had filled two rooms of her house with groceries and dry goods.  These two rooms were organized and attractive.  But she loved the "rush" of shopping so much that she couldn't stop; she was beginning to fill her husband's den with bags of groceries and was just piling them anywhere.  This room was completely disorganized.

She went on to describe how she will miss family gatherings and time with her husband in order to go shopping.  You could see clearly that she had stepped over the line from stockpiling to benefit her family, to becoming a hoarder.

To me a stockpiler is a person that shops wisely and uses coupons to build a store of groceries and dry goods for their family's benefit.  If the economy causes loss of income or a natural disaster hits, this family would be prepared.  The family can easily find the items they are looking for because the stockpiled groceries are so well organized.  In this case the family is put first, before shopping.

A hoarder is someone that shops in a haphazard manner; often on impulse.  When they get their items home there is no designated place for storage.  Often the shopping bags are just piled on top of other shopping bags that have never been unloaded.  This family is not able to use their home effectively and comfortably.  They are not able to find an item they need because the stockpile is so disorganized.

Just look at these two photos; it is easy to see the difference between the stockpiler and the hoarder.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Show On Coupon Shopping

Tonight on the Learning Channel at 8:00 pm EST there is going to be a show called Extreme Couponing.  I have no idea if this is going to be an informative program on effectively shopping with coupons or some sort of sensationalized junk.  It's probably worth turning on, if only to see if there is something to be learned.

God bless,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Pantry: Storing Flour and Grain

One of the best seasonal sale items available in my local stores is Gold Medal flour.  Five pounds for $1.49 and they have a very nice bread flour.

The first thing I do when I bring home grains and flour intended for long term storage is treat the bags for insects by putting the bags in the freezer for 72 hours.  This kills off any eggs that may be hidden either in the product or in the folds of the bag.

Now it can be stored in the pantry, but not without being placed in a protective container.  I think that metal tins are the best.  You can pick up holiday themed, empty popcorn tins at thrift stores for a good price this time of the year.  Plastic bins may keep out insects, but any self respecting rodent can chew through plastic in no time.

Another good option are large glass jars.  These can also be found at thrift stores or if you ask at your local restaurant they may be willing to save some for you.  This is also a good source for five gallon buckets with lids.

If you are meticulous about treating and properly storing flour and grains insects should not be a problem for you.

God bless,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Frugal Christmas Shopping: Yes, We Are

Just when you think Christmas is over it is time to do some very frugal shopping.  Think about upcoming birthdays or, perhaps, something that will make your life easier, but the price put it out of your range.  Quite a few things are on sale immediately after Christmas.

I stopped by my local Ace Hardware to check out the Christmas decorations and cleaning items that they have on sale.  I've had my eye on a Shark steam mop and today I found one marked down to a nice low price; cheaper than I've seen them anywhere.  The only reason I could see for the markdown is that the boxes where a bit damaged; it works great.

Next dear daughter and I checked out their Christmas decorations.  Most of the stores around here have cleaned out all of their Christmas inventory and have Spring items on display.  Ace was one of the few stores with a decent stock of Christmas decorations left.  We found LED lights on sale, half price, which is very good for these types of lights.  I picked up two boxes each of straight runs of lights and ice cycle lights.

Then we went to the Hallmark store next door to pick up next years Christmas cards.  I always buy my cards a year in advance.  They were 40% off and some stores may have an even bigger discount.  It's just that I like my little locally owned Hallmark store and I want to support them.  I am thinking that I should have gotten an advent calendar while I was there.

Tomorrow is my birthday, but I am still planning on going by a couple of grocery stores, just to see what's on sale.  This can be a good time for discounted baking goods, canned pumpkin, cranberries and other "holiday" foods.

So, when dear husband asks me what I did today I can say, "I went Christmas shopping", (for 2011).

God bless,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Frugal Adventure

On Christmas Eve evening a large water main in our county burst.  We were faced with a trickle of water that needed to be boiled before drinking, but we did have water and now our pressure is better.  We will need to boil our drinking water until Tuesday.

You should hear the moaning, groaning and chest beating going on in the local news.  People are talking about what a horrible hardship this all is.  Really?  This is a hardship?  No it's not.  Living in an arid area of Africa where you are lucky to get 1/2 gallon of water a day; now that's hardship.

It is all mind set.  A positive mindset makes most things bearable and, even, enjoyable (I'm not talking about severe shortages here).

The same positive mindset can be applied to going without and living frugally.  People that were children during the Great Depression will talk about how much fun they had during those bad times.  Yes, life was hard, but they found joy in life's simple pleasures.

Don't look at getting by on less as being a burden.  Instead let's turn being frugal into an adventure.  Let's take joy in feeding our family on less, finding bargains at the thrifts store and learning to repair our homes by ourselves.

Let's go on a frugal adventure.

God bless,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Norad Santa Tracker

Watch Santa travel around the world using the Norad Santa Tracker.  We've done this with dear daughter every Christmas Eve.  It's fun, plus helps to keep her excitement under control.  Fun for adults too.

God bless,

Christmas Countdown: Fifteen Minutes of Prayer

The majority of my Christmas preparations have been completed. Besides a few last minute home preps (linen changes, tidying) my work is done. Last night I finished the last cookies; a basic shortbread with one tablespoon of coarsely ground peppercorns added. We are happily having a restful morning, taking an hour to drink coffee and read the paper together.

The last thing I am going to dedicate myself to complete is this: both Christmas eve and day I will find fifteen uninterrupted minutes to pray and contemplate the meaning of Christmas. Whether I find fifteen quiet minutes early in the day or late at night after dear daughter is asleep my prayers will focus on the true meaning of Christmas, praising God and His Son.

God bless and happy holidays,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Cleaning and Last Minute Shopping

I've been doing one cleaning task each day, so tomorrow I will concentrate on the kitchen and bathroom.  Dear daughter will be put in charge of making her bedroom guest ready (I can hear the groans already).  Add quick dusting and vacuuming touchups and we will be done.

Our baking is just about done; the last bit of shortbread is coming out of the oven.  I have already given about a third of our cookies to a neighbor that has not been able to bake this year.  Like the loaves and fish there always seems to be plenty to go around.  The more I give away the less weight I gain.  It's a blessing!

Dear husband will be preparing the food for our Christmas eve gathering with family.  But if you have not done your shopping now is the time.  The crowds will be huge on Christmas eve, even at the grocery store.  Make your list and check it twice; you don't want to have to hunt for an open store Christmas morning.

Does your family attend services on Christmas eve or Christmas day?  Make sure everyone that will be in your home for the holidays understands your expectations for attending devotions and church services.  Younger children can become resentful if they see older relatives/friends staying home to watch TV while they are expected to attend church with the family.

Take a deep breath.  Only three days to go.

God bless,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prayer Journal

People that meditate describe a condition called "monkey brain" where the mind keeps interrupting their attempts to meditate with random thoughts. I have experienced "monkey brain" while trying to pray. Suddenly I'll find that my conversation with God has been interrupted by thoughts of work I need to do or a problem I'm dealing with.

I have found that I am able to stay focused while praying if I write my prayers down as I say them. A prayer journal lets me look back at earlier prayers and thank God for his answers. It also helps me avoid treating God like Santa Claus. "Dear God please give me...". I can see if I am giving God the glory.

A prayer journal would be a wonderful gift for Christmas. Attach a note explaining it's use and write a prayer in it for the recipient.

God bless,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Cookies and Candy

The trick to enjoying Christmas cookie and candy making is to plan and make detailed lists.  Yesterday Dear Daughter and I chose four cookie recipes to bake, two classic and two trendy.  We will be baking mouse shaped cookies with licorice tails and almond ears, classic shortbread, multi-colored pepper shortbread and ginger bread men.

All of these recipes have one big thing in common; the dough can be made in advance and refrigerated.  That means that we can do the mixing tonight, then bake/decorate later in the week.

Look through your pantry to see which ingredients you have on hand and which you need to purchase.  If your almond extract is three years old or your other spices are over one year old, please toss them and purchase new.  Making cookies that taste odd is not frugal, money or time wise.  Make detailed lists of ingredients you need to buy and go shopping.  This is not a task to put off until the last moment.

While you are at the store check out the great prices on baking goods.  We purchase flour on sale at a very good price.  This is a good time to stock up for your pantry.

Most of all, please enjoy yourself and let your children have fun.  The cookies don't need to be worthy of appearing in a Martha Stewart episode.  They can be odd and quirky as long as they nurture your family.

God bless,

P.S.  Here is a hint:  Roll your dough out on the parchment paper you will be baking it on.  Cut out your cookie shapes and remove excess dough.  Transfer the parchment paper and cookie shapes to your baking pan.  This keeps you from having your cookie dough shapes fall apart when transferring them to the cookie sheet.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Warm Inviting Kitchen Day

We have been having rare weather for Florida; days and days of freezing cold and drizzling rain.  Today I spent most of the day either cuddled in bed reading or cooking in my warm, cozy kitchen.  In fact, the only room in the house that was at all warm today is the kitchen.  This older Florida home is not designed for cold temperatures.

It started with a hankering for my grandmother's pot roast.  So, late in the morning, I began cooking and the more I cooked the warmer the room became.  I was transported to my grandma's kitchen with it's big kitchen table, large stove and a refrigerator that looked strangely just like my grandpa's green, highly chromed Buick.  The kitchen was the center of the household; everything of real importance took place there.  Everyone wanted to be there.

Today I wished that I had a big table and chairs or even one comfortable chair in my kitchen.  I would have cooked and rested; maybe taking a little nap while good smells filled the air. 

I understand why the kitchen hearth is always intimately discussed in the books I read about Colonial America (read anything by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) and is portrayed in quilts as a red or yellow central square surrounded by scraps of fabric depicting the logs of the cabin.  It was a place to nurture life.

Now for a more practical matter; grandma's pot roast recipe:  Salt, pepper and lightly flour a chuck roast.  Brown it in oil, then transfer it to a cast iron pot/dutch oven.  Brown a sliced onion, carrots and potatoes; place them around the roast.  Pour three cups of beef broth and one cup of red wine over the roast.  Bring to a boil on the stove top, cover with heavy lid, then place in a 250 degree F oven for four hours or longer.  When done take out of the oven, place meat and vegetables on a plate, cover to keep warm.  Bring juices in pot to a boil, then thicken with a rue (mixture of fat and flour).  Let the gravy boil until it is the right thickness and salt to taste.  Serve meat and vegetable in a deep bowl, covered with gravy.  Remember they didn't have or use garlic.  The only spices they used were for baking.  If you tasted spices on meat it meant that it must have been gamey before they cooked it.

Revel in your memories.  Perfect for cold days.

God Bless,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Menu Plan

Every year we go full out for Thanksgiving, cooking like maniacs. As a contrast I like to plan a simple Christmas Eve meal for family. To me Christmas is a day of celebration and relaxation in which families stay at home together. As adults, we tend to forget what it must be like for a child to be whisked away for visiting, when all they want is to stay at home to enjoy their new books and toys.

Why not have extended family and friends over for a buffet, most of which can be prepared in advance? Serve a large baked potato per person with an assortment of toppings, such as grated cheese, butter, sour cream, bacon, chives and fried onions. Or a salad and soup bar with two soups made earlier in the week.

Make one of your family's favorite casseroles in advance to heat for Christmas lunch/dinner/supper. Breakfast can be bagels and cream cheese, or something equally easy to prepare. With Christmas cookies and candy there should be plenty to eat.

Christmas is the celebration of our Lords birth and family, not a time to stress ourselves by trying to impress our relatives and friends. You should be able to enjoy the holiday too.

God bless,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Devotions

As busy as we become this time of year with our shopping and holiday preparations, it becomes even more essential for us to concentrate on family devotions.  Take extra time in the evenings to read the story of  the birth of Jesus from the Bible and share a night time prayer with your children.

Now that our children are out of school we need to capture their imaginations with something other than the Disney channel.  Gather them together for crafts, baking cookies, wrapping gifts and, weather allowing, some outdoor time.  Our local botanical gardens have a Christmas light display every evening with miles of walkways to wander down.  Check with your local newspapers and park system to see if there is something similar in your area.

How about an evening Christmas story after devotions.  We like to sit as a family and take turns reading from a book that we all enjoy.  This type of evening ritual allows children to calm down before bedtime and makes it easier for them to fall asleep.

God bless,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frugal Christmas Gifts: Batteries and Memory Cards

It is horribly disappointing to open a Christmas gift and not be able to use it because you do not have the batteries or memory card that it requires. Even worse when a child can't play with their new toys.

Be sure to buy these needed items and include them with the gifts. If you can do it without ruining the packaging, put the batteries and memory cards in the gifts. If not, they make a great stocking stuffer.

This is such a simple thing, but it is an act of consideration and makes for a joyful holiday.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fabric Gift Bags

Holiday themed fabric is on sale now and I like to buy a few yard to make reusable gift bags.  They are easy to make and you can adjust the difficulty to fit your sewing skills.  It is a good projects for children just learning to sew.

Cut your fabric to double the length that you want your finished bag to be, adding two inches to each end if you want to make a hemmed top.  Your width should be cut the same width you want for your bag plus an inch to account for 1/2 inch seam allowances.

Fold your fabric in half lengthwise (the fold is the bottom of the bag) with right sides facing each other.  Sew your side seams with a straight stitch, then zig zag stitch or pink (with pinking shears) your raw seam edges.  Turn right side out.  If you are not going to hem the top, finish it with a zig zag stitch or pink to prevent raveling.

To hem the top, iron 1/4 inch of the top edge under towards the wrong side.  Now iron another 1 3/4 inch under also towards the inside/ wrong side of the bag.  If you wish to add a button hole for the drawstring do it at this time on the right side of the fabric within the area of the hem.  With a straight stitch sew the hem in place.

You can gather the top of your bag and tie it off with decorative ribbon or, if you made the button hole, string the ribbon through the hem (you can see it in the picture).

I use these bags year after year.  The save on wrapping paper and make wrapping easy.  Just insert gift and tie.  I would not use these for inquisitive children that are too young to not peek.

God bless,

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Pam

After all of my big talk about being ready to scale down our Christmas preparations if faced with an emergency, don't you know it happened to me.  I was heading out to run errands and was driving my mother's van.  A very nice young man back ended me while I was stopped at a red light.  I sent a prayer of thanks to the Lord and we made a police report.

So, I had to slow down for the rest of the day and put some lower priority tasks on a back burner.  These things happen, perhaps to slow us down and make us thoughtful; we can only face these situations with prayer and preparation.

How do you prepare for a car accident?  How do you make it any easier?  Buy a small plastic folder that will fit easily into your glove compartment.  In the very front of the folder put your insurance card, registration and a copy of your drivers license (in case you forget your purse like I did today).  In the back of the folder put emergency contact information for anyone you would want to have called to care for your children should you be injured.  Also, include medical histories, including medications, of people that routinely ride in the car.  The paramedics and emergency room will need this information.

Keep your car well maintained (are those brakes squeaking?), your information handy and a positive, kindly attitude; you will make in through just fine.

God bless,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Don't Panic Yet

I am looking at the calendar, realizing that there are 11 days until Christmas and only three more days until dear daughter starts her Christmas holiday from school.  Okay, deep breaths, this is no time to panic.

There is always everyday cleaning to be done, such as dishes and picking up.  Every day I pick one task to complete throughout the whole house.  Yesterday I dusted the whole house, today I will change the linens on all the beds, etc.  Some people advocate cleaning one room a day completely.  I only do this with the bathroom and kitchen, because if I completely clean one room a day that means that there is always one room that is a total disgrace.  So, in my house every room is presentable, but not perfect (except, on occasion dear daughter's room).

If you are mailing gifts it is time to use those wonderful, free Priority Mail boxes at the Post Office.  Most things ship for less than $5 and will be delivered in three days.

I am writing my Christmas cards in the evening and I fill them out according to recipient priority.  Relatives first, then close friends, then regular friends, and last, acquaintances I want to keep in touch with.  If I have to stop doing cards because of some emergency interruption I know that, at least, the people in the higher categories have received cards.

Our tree arrived last Friday and we decorated it on Sunday.  Yes, I mail order my tree from a small family owned farm in West Virginia.  They are no more expensive than a fresh tree bought locally and they stay fresh through the entire season.  A fresh tree that stays green and is delivered right to my front door; now that's frugal.

Well, I just managed to burn the dried blueberries I was rehydrating.  Not frugal!

This is the week to get dear daughter's presents wrapped.  With her on vacation after Friday, this will be my last chance.  I can wrap dear husband's and mom's gifts next week with DD's help.  Remember, prioritize, older children can wrap the younger one's presents and so on.

Tis the season to watch for sales on LED lights (burn cooler, use less electricity), wrapping supplies, holiday cards, ornaments, and holiday themed fabric.  I'll be sharing a holiday craft tomorrow that uses holiday fabric.

My evening treat is to have a cup of tea and read.  For dear daughter I like the books "Mary's Little Donkey" and "Corgyville Christmas" by Tasha Tudor.  I enjoy "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, but don't mistake it for "One Christmas" which is truly depressing.

God bless and take another deep breath,

P.S. I have no idea why one of my book recommendations bounced up to the top of this post and I have no idea how to remove it, so I apologize for the "in your face" advertising.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Frugal Christmas Gifts: Charity

We all know people that can truly say that they don't need to receive a gift at holiday time.  I remember cleaning out my grandmother's apartment after she died and finding box after box of unused gifts that we had sent her over the years.  Despite our good intentions, she just didn't need this stuff, but she was too frugal to get rid of it.

My answer to this has been to donate to charity in the gift recipient's name.  A card letting them know that you were thinking of them and made a donation in their name, plus information on the organization is a nice touch.

Some of my favorites are:  SevaHeifer InternationalHabitat for Humanity, and Southeastern Guide Dogs (check out their puppy cam).  I like to purchase gifts from an organization that sells free trade, handmade items:  Ten Thousand Villages. Give the gift of giving this year and save someone from clutter.

God bless,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Frugal Christmas Gifts: Food Dehydrator

It was a good day when I purchased my Excalibur food dehydrator.  I dry excess produce, fruit leather, yogurt leather (tastes like taffy) and plan on making my own soup mixes using my own dehydrated vegetables and beans.  Dehydrated food takes up very little space in the pantry, but reconstitutes into a flavor and nutrient rich food product.

Once again, I will emphasize the need for frugal people to begin to reduce our dependance on traditional food suppliers.  Having our food stored in our pantry protects us from store closures, loss of income and disasters.  Living in Florida I always think of hurricane preparedness, but the causes of food shortages are varied.

And of course there is the fun factor.  Drying your own food and trying new recipes using your dehydrator (I'm thinking grapenuts here) is just plain fun.  To make your fun and your dehydrator last a good long while, buy the best you can afford.  It is well worth it.

God bless,

Frugal Television: Rabbit Ears

Ahh, flashbacks to my childhood and the ubiquitous "rabbit ear" antennas on everyones TV.  There was interference from weather and you needed to adjust them frequently, but (the big BUT) it was free.

My cable costs are minimal in this area of Florida, approximately $21 for basic cable service, but for my brother in California basic cable is over $100.  Even at $21 a month my yearly cable costs are $252 about $100 over the cost of a good quality, digital antenna.

The New York Times had an informative article on the new popularity of digital antennas.  Free TV, now that's frugal.  The only thing more frugal is no TV, but that is another post.

God bless,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Frugal Grocery Shopping: Angel Food Ministries

I just love this ministry.  Angel Food Ministries makes reasonably priced groceries available to anyone , regardless of their income.  They also accept donations for military families in need.

Basically, you find the pick up point closest to you, choose the food basket you wish to purchase, then pay for it in advance.  You are required to pick up the food on a particular day and time.  There are several baskets available, but the standard basket has enough food to feed a family of four suppers for seven days and costs $31.  You can buy as many baskets as you need.

This is a definite savings compared to the grocery store, but you do need to work your menus around their choices for that month.  Orders for December are due in by Sunday for pickup on the next Saturday.  Keep Angel Food Ministries in mind if you need help or wish to help a soldier's family.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frugal Christmas Gifts: Heirloom Seeds

Every gardener enjoys the time in the winter when the seed catalogs arrive.  It's great to relax and plan your spring garden.  It helps make the cold more endurable when you're dreaming of growing your own fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers.

I prefer to plant heirloom, open pollinated, non-gmo seeds.  The most frugal way to garden is to collect your own seeds to plant during the next gardening season and the only way you can do this is by growing open pollinated plants.  Because of the Gettles' strong commitment to being caretakers of this earth I prefer to shop at their company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

The link I've provided goes to the section of their web site where you can order a gift certificate.  Let your favorite gardener have the pleasure of designing their garden while knowing that they can certainly afford it due to your kind gift to them.

Take the time to browse the Baker Creek web site.  It is beautiful and inspiring.  Have fun!

God bless,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frugal Christmas Gifts: Canning Supplies

Home canning can be the most frugal way to preserve the bounty from your garden, sales from the grocery, or meat from hunting. It doesn't rely on electricity and you know exactly what you are eating because you processed it.

I'm not going to give instruction on how to can, but I can recommend some books with reliable, easy to understand instructions. When buying equipment get the best you can afford. This will save you money in the long term. Start with a water bath canner (for jams, tomatoes, fruit and pickles), then graduate to a pressure canner (for nonacid vegetables and meat). Adding a box or two of jars will allow the recipient to get started canning right away.

Here are some of my recommendations:

God bless,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Homemade Advent Wreath

It is a bit late for this post since yesterday was the second Sunday of Advent, but this is the first holiday decoration to be displayed in our home each year.  I thought you might be interested in making your own wreath with your family.  Decorations that family makes together will become precious heirlooms.

Gather these supplies:  Slice of tree trunk (you can cut your own or buy them in the wood working section of the craft store), wood or hot glue, wood candle holder cups, greenery (fresh or artificial), felt or rubber pads and candles.

Glue four felt or rubber pads to the bottom of the tree slice and let dry.  This will protect your table surfaces from becoming scratched.  Glue the candle holder cups (four or five depending on your preference) on the top of the tree slice.  Then glue the greenery between the candle holders keeping in mind that it is flammable and you don't want it to be too close to the candles.

The traditional candle colors are three purple, one pink and one white (if you wish).  You can see from the photo that I deviate from tradition.  I have had blue and pink, gold and silver, green and red and this year, pink and purple.  I do not have the fifth, white candle that is traditionally lit on Christmas Eve.  Not for any big reason, but just because I grew up with a four candle tradition.

My dear daughter attended a Waldorf preschool and kindergarten for several years.  Each year during the holiday faire the children would make a single candle holder from a slice of a smaller diameter tree branch or trunk.  One of the adults would have predrilled a hole for the candles in the center of the top of the wood slice.  The children would decorate them with shells, seeds and dried flowers.  Then the children would hand dip a bees wax candle for their candle holder.  A lovely tradition and, of course, I have all of the candles and holders made by my daughter decorating my home.

God bless,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advice Columnist Misses Point

Several days ago an advice column in my local newspaper published a letter from a young wife complaining that her husband wanted sex during the day when she is busy and tired. She complained that her husband was home all day because he was out of work, while she was only home because she worked at home. Their six month old baby was in daycare. All of the discussion centered on their sex life.

I had to ruminate on this for a few days before I vented, but here it goes: WHAT ABOUT THE BABY! Here are two able bodied parents at home and they have their infant in daycare. And this is seen as being so normal that it doesn't even deserve a comment by the columnist?

If we as a people don't start putting our children's needs before our own we will be raising a generation of narcissists. Why should they care for anyone beyond themselves when their parents couldn't do without in order to raise their children themselves. Their ability to empathize with others is compromised. In every major religion the teachings emphasize that children are a gift that we need to take very seriously.

Now don't get defensive if you are a single parent that works to support your children. Obviously, you must provide for essential needs first. But I am reminded of a single friend of mine that has always managed to be home for her son when he gets home by creatively arranging her work schedule. She works several jobs and works at home after her son goes to sleep. She is always involved in his life and there for him.

As for myself, when we were blessed with our dear daughter, we made the decision for me to stay at home and raise her in a Godly home. We do without, and live a frugal lifestyle and I have never regretted our decisions. Dear daughter is growing up with confidence and a sense of safety knowing that our loving presence is always with her.

God bless,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shopping With Coupons: Book Recommendation

My adventure into truly frugal shopping using coupons started when I read the book "Shop, Save, and Share" by Ellie Kay.  Her philosophy of saving, not only to benefit your family, but to benefit people in need was a real eye opener for me.  I like it so much that I have it listed in my link as one of my favorites.

Ellie describes the strategies of coupon and sale shopping in detail.  Learning how to stack coupons (using manufacturer and store coupons at the same time) while shopping a BOGO (buy one get one) actually got me to the point where I am able to buy items for free.

Now add the concept of shopping in order to give to others to your frugal shopping mentality.  Ellie talks about purchasing hair care items that her family doesn't use, but that are desperately needed by homeless and domestic violence shelters.  Of using your new shopping knowledge to get food for free to donate to the food bank.  The ideas go on and on.

The book is clearly written, in a personable style.  It is a fun, easy and educational read.  Enjoy!

God bless,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Frugal Living: Kitchen Sponge

Now that dinner is cooking and I have a minute, I thought I'd share a quick tip to make your kitchen sponge last longer and be more sanitary. Every evening after the dishes have been washed just throw your wet sponge (never a dry one) into the microwave on high for a minute. You can also disinfect your sponge by putting it through a cycle in your dishwasher. But I haven't had a dishwasher for 27 years, so it's the microwave for me.

Your sponges won't get that sour smell caused by bacteria and will actually stay fresh long enough to wear out. May save just pennies, but every cent counts.

God bless,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pantry: Water and Other Supplies

People can live for days without food, but not without water.  It is essential to maintain life, so water storage should be one of your highest priorities when establishing a pantry.

Plan on at least a gallon a day per person to provide drinking and washing needs.  I am talking about dampening your face and brushing your teeth; not real bathing.

First things first, let's talk about containers.  They must be food grade, preferably opaque and not biodegradable.  Milk jugs and bottled water from the store are in containers that will begin to break down after a few months.  If I do purchase water before storm season I store it in an extra shower that we have, not near my food supplies.  I  found white, opaque, five gallon, food grade water containers at my hardware store.  Considering that a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, it would be difficult for me to maneuver anything larger.  There are also specialized containers available online, it depends on your individual needs and your budget.

When storing tap water it is important to treat it with household bleach.  Just plain bleach, not lemon scented or soapy.  Add 1/8 of a teaspoon per gallon of water.  Tap water is not sterile by any means, so be sure not to skip this step.  Your water should last for several years if treated this way.

Water that is stored for a long period of time can go "flat".  This means that it is no longer oxygenated, but it is still safe to drink.

It is always a good idea to stock up on toiletries and other essentials (to your family) that you cannot make for yourself.  Just figure out what your usage is per month, multiply by 12 and start shopping wisely.

When preparing your pantry for an emergency situation (eg. hurricane season)  it is always advisable to keep two extra weeks of medication on hand.  The emergency management departments suggest this every year, but good luck convincing your doctor and insurance company.  I always manage to stockpile a small amount of my medication by ordering two days early each month.  This way I am acquiring two extra pills each month and after seven months I have my emergency supply.

The subject of what to store in your pantry is endless.  Your supplies should be based on your personal preferences and needs.  Keeping your pantry supplies up to date is a constant process and should be a part of your weekly/monthly shopping trips.

God bless,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Pantry: Food

The pantry locations have been chosen and shelves built; now it is time to start stocking it with food.  First you need to think about a few things to help you with your choices:  How long do I want this food to last?  How many people do I need to feed?  What do they eat?

In my county our Emergency Management Dept. suggests that we keep a supply of food that will last several days.  This is in case of a hurricane, but after seeing the slow response to hurricane Katrina I think that several months supply is more prudent.  But what if dear husband were laid off or one of us became seriously ill and our money supply dried up?  In this case, a year of food in storage sounds much more reassuring to me.

Now you need to decide how many people you will be feeding.  What are their ages?  Will it just be immediate family or will some long lost relatives come knocking on your door?  How about the elderly neighbor across the street?  Look at this hard and fast.  Are you willing to turn people away?

The best way for me to figure out my family's year long food storage needs is to use a food calculator.  This takes away the guess work, but you may need to tweak the list to meet your individual needs.  If your family never eats rice, but loves noodles, make a substitution.  Does an elderly relative drink a nutritional supplement drink every day?  Add it.  You get the picture.

If you are one of those people that wants to spend thousands of dollars buying a years worth of dehydrated foods in #10 cans, then go for it.  Most of us will be building our pantry supplies slowly, but surely, buying extra during sales and canning what we can grow and hunt.  With steady, economical purchasing you will have a pantry grandma would have been proud of.

God bless,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I choose to not participate in the Black Friday feeding frenzy. Several people that I know love getting up at 3:oo in the morning to wait in line for their favorite big box store to open. Every year they tell their tale of woe about missing out on the "big" sales items.

Most stores list some big ticket items at half price, but they have a very limited number of them. Unless you are willing to camp out in front of the store all night, then race to the electronics department and physically grapple with other shoppers you aren't going to get in on the big deal.

I would rather research item ratings and compare prices on line, check the web site to see if it is available at my local store and print out coupons before I start shopping. Better yet, because so many merchants are offering free shipping and coupon code discounts most of my shopping is done sitting in front of my computer.

If you enjoy the Black Friday camaraderie of shopping with friends and it has become a fun tradition for you, then have at it. But excuse me while I spend my day with a good book and a cup of tea.

God bless,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: The Day Before

We have one day left for preparations.  The first thing I want you to do is check that turkey defrosting in the refrigerator.  Is it still rock solid?  I am going to recommend something that all the official "turkey" sites will say is anathema:  Take the turkey out of the refrigerator today for a few hours.  Don't completely defrost it, but it should be almost there before you put it back in the refrigerator.  If you do this make sure you roast your turkey until it is 165 degrees fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh.  If it is still partially frozen tomorrow put it to soak in a sink of cold water until defrosted.

Today I will make the cornbread stuffing/dressing using the cornbread I baked yesterday.  I will fry chopped onions and celery in butter and pour over diced cornbread.  Then I'll add some salt and poultry seasoning to taste.  Moisten it all with broth until very moist, but not soaking wet.  If you have excess milk from dairy animals you can substitute milk for the broth.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 1/2 hour.  You will want a light brown crust on top.

I will also make the pumpkin pie.  Super easy; just follow the directions on the can of pumpkin.  You can make your own crust, but the Pillsbury crusts are very good.  The pie will be served with cream whipped just before serving.  I don't use artificial whipped toppings and I don't sweeten the cream.  Let the pie provide the sweetness and the cream richness.

Dear daughter and I will finish cleaning floors, iron the turkey patterned tablecloth (delightfully tacky), set the table and wipe down the bathroom.  Provide fresh towels for your guests and put out a new bar of soap.  They will notice these considerate, hygienic touches.  Sweep the front porch and walk for a good first impression.

Let's talk about roasting the turkey.  If you've roasted a chicken you can roast a turkey.  Remove the giblets, rinse the bird in cold water, push softened butter under the skin and massage around, place cut up onions and citrus in the cavity, salt and roast according to the directions given by the processor or your favorite cookbook.  It is done when it registers 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh.  Make sure the thermometer is not touching bone when you take the temperature.  If it starts to get too brown before it is done cover with aluminum foil.  When done take the turkey out of the oven, cover with a tent of foil and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

My confession:  Because I will have so few meat eaters at my table this year I have decided not to cook a whole turkey.  I am roasting a half a breast and two thighs.  We will have turkey aplenty to eat and for leftovers.

Friday I will be at the grocery store bright and early to find those post Thanksgiving sales.  I hope I get a couple of fresh turkeys for canning and broth.  Cranberries to can as preserves and already canned pumpkin for the pantry.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: Cooking In Advance

I have a small oven and I need to make as many of our Thanksgiving dishes in advance.  Between my tiny oven and the microwave I manage to cook turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, dressing and cranberry relish.

Last night I made the cranberry relish.  Homemade is so much better than the canned relish and, please, don't serve that stuff that comes out shaped like the can.  In a sauce pan put the juice of one orange and two bags of fresh cranberries.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  When the berries have burst their skins add a cup of white sugar and the zest of one orange.  Simmer for a few more minutes, stirring frequently until thickened.  Store in the refrigerator.

Today I am making green bean casserole (all fresh ingredients), sweet potato casserole and cornbread for the dressing.  I am cleaning between bouts of cooking and getting my table ready.  We can eat in the Florida room for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, dear daughter is sick with a cold and I can feel one coming on.  The house won't be immaculate this holiday and we won't use the good silver, but I learned long ago that our expectations for celebrations in our home are much greater than those of our guests.  Most guests are just happy to be in your home with family and friends.  They don't care if the house and table are perfect.

Go easy on yourself.

God bless,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: The List

We are skipping over pantries for a few days to start preparing for Thanksgiving. The first step is to make lists. Lists about needed groceries, house cleaning and decorating. If you are one of those super organized people that made your lists a month ago, God love you, take these five minutes to relax and have some tea. I am not so organized so here I go!

House cleaning list: all the basics, with the addition of cleaning and pressing the turkey tablecloth (yes it has turkeys all over it) and napkins, washing the serving pieces (that haven't seen the light of day since last Christmas), polishing the silver (ditto) and crystal.

Decorating: Cleaning and displaying Fall decorations. Thank goodness I haven't added any turkey statues to the mix, but I do have some lovely gourds and I always use new beeswax candles for the holidays. Don't forget dried flowers which are wonderful for Fall and wonderfully economical since they can be reused.

Groceries: You must make this list and shop today. Why? Because your turkey needs to be in the refrigerator defrosting ASAP. Make a list of ALL ingredients you need for your recipes, check your supplies, then make a shopping list. Make sure your spices and baking powder are fresh. Organize your coupons and head out the door. This isn't a good time to have your spouse or children do the shopping for you; believe me, you will end up running back to the store if you do.

Put your kids to work cleaning. They will grumble, but let them. We are developing their character through meaningful work. Reward them by letting them enjoy doing some of the fun cooking activities (that involve sugar).

Let's get moving!

God bless,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pantry: Shelves

We've located our pantry spaces and now we need to construct shelving.  Don't be tempted to buy some inexpensive, steel shelves; they won't hold up.  Canned goods are extremely heavy.  Even the most sturdy metal shelves will begin to bow in the middle under the weight.  Thick wood shelves with plenty of extra support are the way to go.

In a perfect world you have a handy, woodworking spouse that would be thrilled to build you custom shelves for your pantry.  Most of us live in an imperfect world with little time or money for those custom made shelves.  My BFF's husband Lloyd came up with a shelving system that is sturdy, inexpensive, portable and easy for anyone to put together.

First measure your space.  Now measure again.  Yep, it's that old saying, "Measure twice, cut once".  Measure the jars and boxes you will be storing for height and add an inch.  Now it's off to the hardware store to buy solid wood interior doors (unfinished) and four inch pvc pipes.  That's it.  The doors should be less expensive than wood of similar width.

Hopefully, we can construct  the shelves without cutting the wood, but if you've taken good measurements, have them cut them for you at the hardware store.  Make sure you have a hacksaw or a jig saw with a hacksaw blade at home (for the pipe).

Once we're back home it's time to cut the pipe into sections to match your shelf height measurements.  If your shelves are very long you will need to cut extra pieces to use as center braces.

Let's put it all together:  Put sections of pipe (vertically) at each end and one in the center if necessary.  Lay a section of door on the pipes.  Put more pipe sections on ends and center, then another piece of wood door.  Keep building until your shelves are the height you desire.

Now you have sturdy, portable shelves for your pantry spaces and are ready to begin storing food and other essentials.

God bless,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Pantry

Pantries used to be common in American homes. The shelves were filled with baking staples and home canned foods. Families were ready for hard times or being snowed in for weeks; they could survive because of their well stocked pantry.

Well, what if you or your spouse lose their jobs, bad weather strikes or "fill in this space with the disaster of your choice"? Could your family live on the food in your house? A pantry can be just as important for us as it was for our grandparents.

So, let's find a location for our pantry. It needs to be cool and dark. Light, heat and freezing will cause foods to degrade quickly.

Most of us don't have unique spaces for a pantry, but let's get creative. How about under the beds, under a staircase, in a closet behind the coats, in a corner of the basement. Any little space will do. Think of having many mini pantries instead of one large space.

Start searching now. It's never too early to start preparing for the worst.

God bless,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turkey Sale Time

Some people shop on Black Friday to save money on Christmas gifts. The day after Thanksgiving I rush to the grocery store to save money.

Look for baking goods, stuffing, broths, cranberries and turkeys. Last year fresh turkeys were marked down to 29 cents a pound. Oh happy day! I filled my cart with turkeys and rushed home to cook and can them.

My family got to enjoy our favorite turkey casseroles for a long time and I saved on our grocery budget.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Heavy Metal Poisoning (not talking about music)

Now that the words "alzheimers", "autism" and "Aspbergers" have become common words in our society I think it's time for us all to look at the causal factors in these diseases/conditions.  I think everyone has a friend, family member or acquaintance affected by one of these neurological conditions.

Several years ago I began reading heavily about heavy metal poisoning after my father was diagnosed with lead poisoning.  No one could tell where he came into contact with this metal, but he was treated by the Veterans' Administration (VA) and I believe he contracted it during his military career.

One of the main effects of heavy metal poisoning are neurological problems.  Aluminum has been associated with alzheimers and mercury with autism.  The number of people with alzheimers and autism has been skyrocketing since WWII.

During WWII aluminum and other metals were being used by the military and weren't available for everyday use.  Farmers were using manure to fertilize their fields.  Industrialization was limited to the large cities.

After WWII aluminum began to be used for cookware, became a component in fertilizer and is found in many topical cosmetic applications (antiperspirant).  Mercury began to be used as a preservative in medications and vaccines.  Lead affected drinking water far from the cities as industry ramped up with very few environmental considerations.

How can we protect ourselves?  In many ways we can't, but we can do the following:  Filter your water and have your well tested.  Use cast iron, granite ware or enamel covered cast iron for cooking.  Read labels and avoid personal products with metal based contents (look on line for all of the names used for these metals).  Buy as many organic products as you can afford and garden organically.  Educate yourself about this subject.  Take statements denying this heavy metal - neurological connection with a grain of salt.  The corporations producing these toxic products will certainly try to protect their bottom line and the government seems to be happily backing them up.  Make your own decisions.

Bless you,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lifestyle Choices

Thirteen years ago I became ill with a systemic infection, then three years ago I went through treatments for breast cancer and last, but not least, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  When faced with severe illness and possible death I was forced to slow down.  When my life was less hurried I began to reevaluate the life choices I had made.  Was I happy as a childless, middle aged career woman?  The answer was that I knew that I was missing some very important elements in my life.

I had wanted children, but put it off because I worked in public safety and I didn't want my children to be raised by someone else.  Age had also become a factor.

My work was all encompassing.  Even when I began working part time the weird hours and job stress put a strain on my home life.  When I was honest with myself, I felt most alive when I was at home caring for my house, garden and family.

Faith.  Gee, who had time for faith.  Religion had been pushed to a back burner.

So, what were my choices?  I chose to adopt my daughter when I was 43 (almost 44) years old.  I became a stay at home wife and mother.  Three years ago, after closely examining my religious beliefs and researching the philosophies of different religious groups, I became Mennonite.

Here I am, having penuried myself to live this lifestyle, and I am truly thankful that God led me to make these hard, but satisfying choices.  Not everyone is able to or wishes to live my lifestyle.  But we all need to take the time for self examination.  Let's make sure we are living the life we were meant to live.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Save Money On Toiletries

I love to find web sites that help me save money. For toiletries, vitamins, homeopathic remedies, cleaning supplies and much more I go to Deep discounts and a shipping cost of $4.99 no matter how large your order have made me a happy customer.

Now that I've looked at the above paragraph I feel the need to say that I am not paid to endorse this company. I just really like them.

God bless,