Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Micro Irrigation Start Up

I am still working on rehabbing the door yard garden.  Today I began dividing old plants that have become over grown.  Dear husband planted some basil in one corner for quick herb runs when cooking.

My main task, however, was to get the micro irrigation system back up and running.  After a winter of not being used the system was relatively easy to get running.  I love this method of irrigation for it's ease of use and water conservation.

Several years ago I attended a course on micro irrigation at the cooperative extension office.  Twenty dollars paid for the morning class and a micro irrigation starter kit.  After setting up the system in the door yard garden I was hooked.  It was so easy it only took me a morning to do everything.

Many people think of drip systems when they think of micro irrigation, but these systems can consist of drip emitters, spray emitters, bubblers, etc.  With micro irrigation you are delivering water to your plants efficiently and in multifaceted ways.

Starter Kit

Today I'd like to talk about the equipment you will need to set up a system in your own garden.  A starter kit will cover a small garden, but you may want to expand your set up or cover a larger garden.

From the faucet on out these are the parts you will need:  timer (optional), back flow preventer, pressure regulator, filter, 3/4 or 1 inch poly tubing, 1/4 inch vinyl tubing, risers (optional), emitters.  The only other tools I use are garden clippers and/or a heavy duty pair of scissors, a special hole punch and goof plugs to patch those errors.

There are many types of emitters:  spray emitters which are like mini sprinklers, drip emitters which deliver small amounts of water into pots or the roots of smaller plants and bubblers which deliver a larger amount of water directly to the roots of larger plants.  A riser can be used to lift the emitter over the top of the foliage to allow the spray to reach a greater number of plants.

By now you probably have a garden plan in place.  This plan will be used to decide how much tubing to purchase and the number and type of emitters you will need.

I will talk more about setting up a micro irrigation system in my next post.  This is a one person job and can easily be accomplished by someone with minimal upper body strength (like me!).

God bless,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shop, Save, Share For Kids

I firmly believe in the Shop, Save, Share philosophy that I described in an earlier post and I have the accompanying book listed in my favorites.  When dear daughter became old enough to receive a weekly allowance I didn't want her to develop the attitude that all money that came her way was for her spending pleasure.  So, we decided to teach her that we are all stewards of God's gift of money, that we needed to save for future needs and we need to share our money with our church and other organizations that help people/animals in need.

Dear husband and I did some research on children and how much allowance they should receive.  We decided that dear daughter would receive a weekly allowance in the same dollar amount as her age.  She currently receives $10 a week.

She gets to spend $6, $3 goes into savings and $1 is shared.  We needed a visual way for her to save this money; rather than having it put away for her, without her actually seeing where it is going.  The best bank I found for this is the Moonjar Moneybox.  It is divided into three compartments labeled with spend, save and share.  The one we have is metal with durable, removable plastic tops.  It fits nicely on dear daughter's headboard.

Recently dear daughter had accumulated $53 in share money.  She research charities and decided to donate it to Southeastern Guide Dogs.  Of course, we had taken a trip to the Southeastern Guide Dogs facility to pet the puppies, walk a guide dog in training and see where her money would be used.

This is a good way to teach young children about managing money, but let us not forget that the best way to teach is through example.

God bless,

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Poop About Animals

In my life I have owned big animals, dogs, birds, rats and now a hamster.  I love animals and find joy in their companionship and trust.  However, I have noticed that poop control is a dominate chord.

Yep, big poop and small poop.  Shoveling poop and scooping poop.  Where to put the poop?  How to control poop related smells?  Poop storage.

Manure Pile
(Aren't you glad I shared this with you?)

It's all about the poop.  But whether the animal is being raised for food or is a family pet it is all worth it.  They give of themselves and as their stewards we have a duty to clean up after provide them with a hygienic home.

So let's hold our breath, shovel and scoop, and put a smile on our faces.  It's sort of like life.

God bless,

Rising Gas Prices

In the last two days I watched the gas prices at my local gas station rise 20 cents a gallon.  Many people believe that prices are rising because of the station owner or gas company, but gas prices are usually affected by a prediction of future availability.

The Good Old Days

The recent price increase is due to the instability in Libya.  Libya is a major oil producer, so the possibility of losing this source is causing the price to rise.

Crude oil is exported from the Middle East to Europe, then exported from Europe to the United States.  In the U.S. it is refined and some of the resulting oil products are exported to Europe and Asia.  Sort of blows a hole in the buying local philosophy of shopping.

Plan on prices rising even more dramatically.  Unfortunately, gas prices don't just affect the cost of driving. Farmers pay more to produce food.  It costs more to transport food.  And it will cost more to buy electricity to store the food.  So, food prices rise even more.  The same is true of other consumer goods.

How do we handle this problem now?  Drive less.  Drive vehicles that get good gas mileage.  Stock up your pantry.  Buy used goods.  Repair rather than replace.  Basically, live frugally.

I remember buying gas for 25 cents per gallon when I was a teenager.  Boy, am I getting old!

God bless,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Elderly Hamster

Found out that our adopted elderly hamster, "Grandpa", is a girl. We would call her "Grandma", but I don't think my mom would be amused.

Grandpa is doing well, but my heart goes out to the little girl. Old age is hard.

God bless,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Starts

Being a southerner I just love sweet potatoes.  Not that super sweet, marshmallow covered casserole, but baked with a little good butter on top.  They are filled with vitamin A and high in protein.  Besides that they are easy to grow.

I used to order sweet potato starts from a seed company and I was always surprised at how puny looking they were.  Plus they didn't do all that well after being transplanted into the garden.  So, I decided to learn how to grow my own starts.  Easy and frugal.

Remember when you were a child and sprouted a sweet potato in a jar of water?  Well, that's what we are going to do.  Place the potato stem end up in a jar of water, suspended by tooth picks you have stuck in it's sides.  Keep jar filled with water and place in a sunny windowsill.  It will sprout fairly quickly.

Memories of Second Grade Science

When the sweet potato is filled with nice long, leafy sprouts it is time to proceed to step two.  Pull the sprouts off of the potato and place them into a jar fill with water.  Place this jar into the sunny windowsill.  Discard old potato.

Starts Developing Roots

Once the roots on your sweet potato starts are fully developed it is time to plant in the garden.  Sweet potatoes are easy to grow and are a good hot weather plant.  Just watch out for the bunnies; they love the leaves.

God bless,

Start Your Seeds: Seed Sprouting

For most people in the northern hemisphere it is time to start your seeds inside in order to have plants large enough to transplant into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.  People with short gardening seasons may need to start most of your plants indoors, while those of us in sub-tropical areas can plant many of our seeds directly into the garden.  However, even in Florida, we start our tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in seed trays to give them a head start.

All you need is a sunny windowsill, trays, pots, sterile seed starting mix and seeds.  I'm not getting into how to treat each individual type of seed;  just read a good gardening book for tips.

Observe your chosen seed starting area; it should get at least eight hours of sunlight each day.  If not, you may need to move your trays around the house to follow the sun or use grow lights.  Those of you with greenhouses don't have to worry about the amount of sun, but should make sure that you monitor the temperature to avoid overheating.

Fill your pots with sterile potting mix.  I use new mix each year, but some people like to bake their old mix or a self made mix in the oven.  I believe the temperature should be 350 degrees F for 1 hour.  If anyone does this please correct me if I am wrong.  I don't sterilize mix in my oven because the smell is intense.

Plant your seeds according to the seed packages directions in the pre-dampened potting mix.  Large thick seeds may need to be pricked with a knife and soaked overnight in water before planting.

Place the pots in your trays and cover them with a clear plastic cover.  The plastic should not touch the top of the pots at all.  This is your mini greenhouse, but watch carefully; as soon as the plants germinate you want to remove the covers.

Keep your soil mix damp, but not wet.  If the mix is kept too wet your plants may succumb to a fungal condition called "damping off".  If the stem of the plant narrows and rots at the soil level you have damping off disease.  Throw it away and don't reuse the planting mix until it is re-sterilized.

If your plants are growing, but are tall and spindly they are not getting enough sun.  I will take my trays outside if the day is warm so they get a nice steady source of sunlight.

Your plants do not want to move from their nice warm spots to a chilly garden and they will protest unless you take the time to harden them off.  Start out by putting them out in the yard in their trays for a short period of time and gradually increase the time for about a week.

Once the danger of frost has passed and your seed starts have a good root system you can transplant them to the garden.  Your hard work will pay off; your plants will have plenty of time to grow and produce fruit before winter freezes begin.

God bless,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Elderly Hamster Retirement Home

Yesterday my house became an elderly hamster retirement home.  An elderly hamster that has lost her fur, has eczema, and appears to be partially blind and deaf (maybe totally).  She was the class pet in the third grade at my daughters school, but didn't appear to be doing well, so she was removed from the classroom.

After much thought, and after explaining to dear daughter that this hamster was about 100 human years old, couldn't be handled and might die at any moment, I decided to take her.

First I researched and read what I could find on hamster care, elderly hamsters, hamsters with eczema and allergic hamsters.  I could see that I need to change her bedding (wood shavings baaaad), diet and environment.

She needs hypoallergenic bedding, hamster feed augmented with particular fruits and veggies, and a quiet, calm environment.  No stress allowed!!  Olive oil massages were also recommended, but I don't think so (the mental image of me massaging an old hamster with oil is haunting me).

Dear daughter and I have discovered that she loves a few paper towels to arrange into a nest and julienned carrots.  She has quite a stash of sunflower seeds that she breaks out when no one is looking.  And while she is quite feeble, she is still able to take care of her day to day basic needs.

Her name seems to be involving, but I am leaning towards "Grandpa".  Dear daughter pointed out to me that dear hamster looks remarkably like my father did during the last year of his life.  Sort of bald and wrinkled, but with a pleasant, serene expression.  My dad had a great sense of humor and would have loved this.

So Grandpa has settled into a happy routine of sleeping, bathing herself, eating, chewing and you know what.  I hope her last weeks or months of life are easy and pleasant.


God bless,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blessing Our Families

A contestant on the food competition/show I was watching last night made a comment about cooking that resonated with me.  He said that learning to cook and being able to cook was a way that he could bless his family!

Isn't that what we are all doing when being frugal homemakers?  We are working to bless our family.  Our  gardening and cooking blesses their bodies and general well being.  Our cleaning and home repairs blesses their bodies and their feeling of emotional (and actual) safety.  I could go on and on.

We work, often with few overt signs of appreciation, in our homes and on our land (such as it may be) because we want our families to be blessed with food, shelter, clothing, health, faith and emotional contentment.

During any moments of self doubt or when questioned by family and friends (out of jealousy?) feel free to tell them that your job is to be a blessing and to bless your family.

God bless,

Canning Dried Beans Update

I wanted to let you know that I have found another way to can dried beans that works better for me than the method I described in my earlier post.

Soak your dried beans overnight.  Drain.  Place in pot, well covered with water.  Bring to boil, then simmer for 1/2 hour.  Put the beans in hot, sterilized jars to 3/4 full, then fill with cooking liquid to 1/2 inch headroom.  Process at 10 lbs. pressure for 90 minutes.

This method leaves less empty space in your finished jars.

God bless,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Costco vs. Sam's Club

Dear husband and I are interested in buying organic products whenever possible, but prices for organic meat and dairy have been going through the roof (along with everything else).  We decided that it was time for us to compare the two warehouse, discount stores in our area, Sam's Club and Costco.

First we checked out a Consumer Reports comparison of these two stores.  Then we decided to visit each store to compare availability and prices on organic foods and office supplies.  Would we save enough to justify paying an enrollment fee?

After looking at the stock available, comparing prices and looking at humanitarian issues we decided that Costco would better fit our needs.  They had a good supply of reasonably priced organic foods and carried the office supplies that we need for our home office.  We figured that we would be saving 50% on organic foods alone.

Costco has a good reputation for paying their employees a good wage and supplying decent benefits.  This is extremely important to us.  We don't believe in saving money at the expense of peoples' well being.

We notice that some items may be packaged in too large of amounts for our storage areas.  I am sure that we can find a friend, neighbor or family member to split the packages with us.

God bless,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pantry: Pantry Moths

Yesterday I was one of the chaperones for dear daughter's class visit to the Florida State Fair.  We spent most of our time in the agricultural exhibits, including one on entomology.  The presentations on pantry moths and fruit flies were particularly interesting and certainly applied to our frugal pantries.

Pantry Moths

Who hasn't opened a pantry door or opened an apparently completely sealed package and had a moth fly out or seen larvae?  It's an awful realization and, unfortunately, by the time we see them the moths have probably infested much of our dried goods.

If it's dry pantry moths will eat it.  Flour, grains, spices, dried fruits/vegetables and, yes, even dried hot peppers are some of their favorite foods.  Once you have seen signs of infestation it is time for some laborious screening and cleaning.  It is recommended that you throw away all dried products not stored in air tight glass, heavy plastic or metal containers.

Any dried foods stored in heavy duty, air tight containers should be checked for infestation.  Look for grains clinging together or to the sides of the container, webs and actual pests.  Throw away any affected food product and sterilize the container before use.  Some people may want to treat their grain by freezing for 72 hours, if they only see a minor amount of clinging or webbing.

Newly purchased dried foods should be treated by freezing for 72 hours before being placed in storage.  Pantry moths can chew through packaging, so do not purchase any foods with pin holes in the plastic or paper.

After screening all of your stored food it is time for cleaning.  Remove everything from the cabinets and shelves.  Clean everything with a very wet rag soaked in a vinegar cleaning solution.  Pantry moths love to reproduce and hide in crevasses, door sliders, shelf coverings, and lazy susan bases.  Be sure to soak these areas with the vinegar solutions.

At this point you may want to add non toxic pantry moth traps to your storage area.  Boric acid pressed into the shelf and cabinet joints can be helpful.  Do not use moth balls or moth flakes; these are extremely toxic and should not be used around people, animals or food!

Safer Makes Non Toxic Products

You've screened your food and tossed affected products.  You've cleaned and treated your pantry areas.  Now you can re-store your food, hopefully repackaged in air tight containers, and watch carefully for re-infestation.  If you do see more signs of pantry moths it is time to throw away all of your dried foods and re-clean.  It's horrible, but necessary and I will be shedding some tears with you.

God bless,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Save Money On Gas

With gas prices going up and up on a regular basis I decided to research ways to reduce my gas usage during everyday driving.  I found a few tips that anyone can implement during their driving day.

Watch those brakes.  Slow down by taking your foot off of the accelerator, then gently brake to come to a stop.  This requires you to anticipate when a light will turn red and if something ahead will slow down traffic.

Get ride of that lead foot.  Slow down and accelerate gently.  Lower speeds mean less gas usage.

Turn off your air conditioner or don't cool your car to such a cold temperature.

Reduce drag.  Close your windows and sunroof.  Get ride of accessories such as bike racks and luggage holders.

Lower the weight you are carrying.  Cleaning out the trunk can make a difference.  Unless you are driving on ice, then add weight.

Keep your tires inflated to the correct psi for your car and tire type.

Unless you are driving a high performance car you can use the cheap gasoline with the lower octane.  Brand names do not mean better a better product.

Drive a manual transmission.  My first two cars had manual transmission and the gas savings were obvious.

Drive a smaller car or a hybrid.  The larger the engine equals more gas usage.

Plan your route.  Stay out of heavy traffic and avoid frequent traffic lights.  The shorter route may be less gas efficient than a longer route without stops and traffic congestion.

Try to save a gallon of gas a day.  At $3 a day you can save $1,095 a year.

God bless,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Frugal Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is one of the holidays that has morphed from a simple expression of love to a huge consumer event. I can't believe how my local stores had entire aisles devoted to Valentine kitsch. Do I need a $1 red, sparkly votive candle holder? Do I need 10 of them?

Let's let our actions express our love. When my daughter and her friends were little I would have Valentine tea parties for them. I would decorate the table with flowers, red napkins, and pretty, but sturdy silverware and china. I would make banana bread and serve a red zinger punch in tea cups. The punch is simple, mix cooled red zinger tea (Celestial Seasons) and apple juice. Equal amounts of each. This tea party is so simple, but it made the girls feel extra special. Oh, don't forget the candles.

How about making your family their favorite dinner? Set the table nicely, but it doesn't need to be elaborate unless your family enjoys a formal table. Make a simple, but fulfilling dinner. A burnt out, frazzled cook doesn't send out love vibes. Above all, enjoy yourselves.

Oh, a little self love is needed today. Let me get you started: you are doing a good job and are a loving, caring friend and family member. Thank you.

God bless,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Rehabbing The Door Yard Garden

My poor door yard garden has been seriously neglected in the last few years (health problems, now resolved) and has become horribly, and I mean horribly, overgrown.  This used to be the garden that people walking or biking by would stop to admire, so it's decline is hard to take.

The other problems I have with the door yard garden are a poor selection of plants and old, declining plants.  I mistakenly chose two types of flowering plants that ended up being invasive; spreading by underground roots.  The old plants were junipers that we planted, I kid you not, over twenty years ago.  Old and gnarly junipers looks good on mountain tops, not in flower gardens.

I wish I had a "before" photo, but imagine a garden with three feet of inter tangled roots, 1-2 inch diameter juniper branches intermingled with the invasives' leafy stems.  I have had to slowly dig and cut these things out of the garden.  Trim stems, try to dig up plant, oops juniper root in the way,  saw away juniper root and repeat.

Almost Done

I have learned that some plants that are manageable in the north due to the harsh winters are actually quite invasive in my sub tropical zone.  Once again, local gardening wisdom should have been relied upon instead of the plant suppliers information.

Need To Relay The Brick Edging Too

Some of the plants are going to be kept.  The iris will be divided and replanted; their leaves provide texture to the garden.  The lemon grass will be harvested for drying and one bunch divided for replanting and sharing with the neighbors.  Lemon grass grows about 3 feet tall and wide, but is a useful and attractive plant in the garden.  There is a Florida native, tickweed, that has lovely daisy like flowers and a basil that always reseeds itself.

The door yard garden will have compost and manure dug in, ph adjusted, and mulch added.  Before planting I will get the micro irrigation system back up and running.  Then I get to plant the vegies, herbs and flowers that will, hopefully, return the garden to it's former glory.

God bless,

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Surveying My Garden Spaces

I have been looking at my garden spaces trying to envision new ways to use them. You see, I don't have a large rectangle shaped garden, but I have several individual garden spaces of different shapes and sizes.

In the front is a raised planter that runs along the wall on one half of the house and a door yard garden by the front porch. In the back is a traditional rectangular raised bed (which I would like to enlarge) and a garden that dear daughter and I built that we call the sun garden.

The sun garden came about due to a storm knocking down one of our favorite old oaks. It was traumatic because the tree crushed part of our house, but also because we just loved that old tree. As part of our healing process dear daughter and I built three triangular raised beds positioned to represent the rays of the sun and a decorative stepping stone to represent the sun itself.

In the past the front gardens were for flowers and decorative herbs. This year I want to incorporate more vegetables in the front and even try some heat resistant blueberries in the door garden. Believe me, I would love to plow up the front yard to plant food, but the homeowners association would have a fit.

The back gardens have been devoted to vegetables and herbs and they are going to remain that way. I have one old garden that is totally overgrown. I think I will mow it down and use that space for container grown potatoes (they are another post).

The time to plan and design your spring garden spaces is now. Since I live in Florida I need to get cracking; our gardening season ends in June.

God bless,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Insurance Costs On 2011 Cars

You know you can afford the car, but can you afford the insurance for that car?  There is much more to the cost of a car than the initial purchase price.  The cost of parts, maintenance and insurance can bring the overall cost of a car way up.

Check out this list of insurance costs for 2011 cars.  It will help you make an informed purchase plus help you when comparing insurance companies.

God bless,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Micro-zones

Anyone that gardens has checked a zone map and knows which gardening zone they live in.  Most people don't realize the importance of knowing whether you live in a micro-zone.

My house is in zone 10, but I live one block from the Gulf intercoastal waterway up on top of a bluff.  As a result of the warming effects of the Gulf water my actual gardening conditions are more similar to zone 11.

Other geological features can affect your zone.  Living in a valley or  on a north facing slope can make your temperatures colder.

Many times we find out about our micro zone through trial and error.  It is much better to learn your gardening information from your neighbors; people that can give you the benefit of their years of experience.

Next, I would talk to a cooperative extension agent to see if there is a master gardener volunteer in your area.  Then I would see if one of your state universities has published books on gardening in your area.  One of my go to books is "Vegetable Gardening in Florida" by James Stephens of the University of Florida.

One zone can make a world of difference in whether the plant varieties you choose to plant in your garden thrive or die untimely deaths.  I learned the hard way and now I buy plants that can tolerate the heat of zone 11.

God bless,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Traditional Homemaking Skills

I love to learn the old skills that allowed households, up until the 1940's, to be production based, instead of consumer based.  Each family made or raised what they needed for their household to run successfully.  Any excess produced or unique skills were used to barter with neighbors for items they couldn't produce.

It may seem silly to learn to weave baskets or make soap, but what if there came a time or place where these things become unavailable?  Would you be able to keep your family clean, clothed and sheltered with what you are able to make?

I have learned to make and do many things because I may need to have those skills someday.  If I grow broom corn, process it and learn to make a broom from it (I did this with dear daughter), I will always know how to make a broom.  I may never need to make another broom in my entire life, but I will know how to do it.

Some of the skills I have learned I actually use on a regular basis.  I find that I prefer the soap that I make myself and that it is superior to store bought soap.  Besides, it is much less expensive.

In the next few months I will try to discuss and explain some of the old traditional skills and how to teach yourself to master these tasks.

God bless,

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Pantry: Powdered Foods

What are the most concentrated, space efficient, and versatile foods for you to store? Powdered foods.

Most of us are familiar with powdered milk, but how about powdered butter, sour cream, eggs, tomatoes, and cheese? These are just a few of the powdered foods available to us.

Powdered foods store well, if kept air tight, and they are easy to use. Need tomato sauce, just mix tomato powder and water. Oops, no, the recipe really calls for tomato paste; just add more powdered tomatoes. Add cheese flavor to a casserole with powdered cheese. Make a quick soup by using soup base. The ideas go on and on.

Research has found that during emergencies people have better morale and health if they are eating food that tastes familiar. So, buying powder butter and sour cream may not be just an indulgence, but a necessity.

Powdered foods often come in #10 cans, but you can purchase them in smaller sizes. Buy the smaller packages to see if the powdered food will work for your family.

God bless,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Canning Dried Beans

Why in the world would I can dried beans?  Because there are days when my menu planning has fallen apart and I need to grab a can of something that will cook quickly.  Dried beans are great, but sometimes I don't remember to soak them the night before.  Plus, dried beans become more difficult to cook soft the longer they are stored.

Once again I will say that I am not providing detailed canning instructions.  Any reliable book on canning should have good solid instructions for people new to canning.  But, even though I have been canning for years, I always have a book nearby to double check the canning times and pressure.

Dried beans must be canned in a pressure canner, so this is not a beginner canning project.  Get all of your equipment together in your impeccably clean kitchen.  Prepare your jars, canning liquid, lids, and canner in advance.  You should be getting a canning facial now because of the steam.

Ready To Can

I followed the directions in my "Putting Food By" book:  soaked the beans overnight, put 3/4 cup of beans in each jar, covered with water or broth to 1/2 inch headspace, processed at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes.  These instructions are for quart jars.  If I had added meat broth or ham/bacon it would need to be processed for 90 minutes. 

Rockin' and Rollin'

I can't show you a jar of the beans I canned today because I always leave the canner untouched until the next day to allow all pressure to be relieved and allow for complete cooling.  This prevents seal failures and steam burns.

You'll notice I am canning using a flat, glass topped stove top.  Many people recommend against this, but I have never had a problem.  BUT, I will never buy this type of stove top again.  I don't like the way it has aged and it's not very versatile.  Plus it costs a fortune to replace the glass top should it crack.

I own two pressure canners, an All American and a Presto.  The All American does not require rubber gaskets, so will be perfect for preserving foods in an environment where replacement parts are not available.  The Presto does use rubber gaskets, but it is much lighter and perfect for people that can't lift heavy weights.  Both will last forever with care.

Beans Canned Last Year

Why buy convenience foods when you can make your own and know exactly what you are feeding your family?  It's all about frugal living and love.

God bless,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stone Soup

When my daughter attended the local Waldorf school I would substitute as a kindergarten assistant. One of my duties was to prepare a snack for the children each day. In the wintertime the snack was always a hot porridge, soup, or fresh baked bread.

Every Friday I would prepare the children's favorite: stone soup. Each child would bring a vegetable from home; whatever they had in their pantry. This was wonderful as we would have vegetables from many different cultures that were unfamiliar to us. The children would be trying new foods in a fun way.

The recipe:

One well washed, smooth stone
Many different vegetables,
4 Tbs. Butter
Salt to taste
Herbs if desired

I would make this soup in a rice cooker, but you can do it on the stove in a heavy pot. Place stone in pot. Add vegetables that are diced in bite sized pieces, water to make the amount of soup you need, butter, and a small amount of dried herbs. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for two hours, add a small amount of salt to taste.

Serve soup carefully, scraping the bottom of the pot with your spoon to make sure somebody gets the stone. It's nice if who gets the stone is a surprise even for you.

We would have read the story "Stone Soup" to the children at the beginning of stone soup season. The child that found the stone in their soup would be all smiles.

At home Anna will ask for us to make stone soup. We make it with whatever we have at hand in the pantry or garden. It is different every time. It would be fun to host a stone soup party: Each guest brings a vegetable and helps in the preparation. Read the story before serving the meal.

God bless,

The Pantry: Dried Foods

One of the oldest ways to preserve foods is drying.  Drying is available to anyone and can be done with little expense for the frugal homemaker.  Dried food takes up little space and is light weight, making it easily portable for campers and hikers.

Some dried foods can be eaten out of hand while others need to be rehydrated and cooked.  A clean source of water and a heat source is all you need to make a meal for your family.

The equipment for drying can be made inexpensively or you can splurge and buy an electric dehydrator.  To make your own nail together a wood frame (no treated woods please), then staple screening to the bottom.  My wood frames were made small to fit my small oven and I wish I had them made with a finer mesh screen.  My electric dehydrator is an Excalibur.

Wooden Frames 

Choose the highest quality produce for preserving.  Any produce should be blanched for a minute in boiling water to destroy the enzymes that can cause discoloration during drying.  Slice or dice your produce to the desired sizes (smaller dries faster and takes up less storage space), then lay out on the dryer screens.  The wooden frames can be placed in a gas oven with just the pilot light burning or in an electric oven on "warm".  The oven door should be propped open; air circulation is a must.   Follow the manufacturers instructions for time and heat level when using the electric dehydrator.

Tomatoes in Electric Dehydrator

Some people like to lay their wooden frames outside in the summer when it is dry.  Be sure to protect the food from insects by covering it with netting or screening.  Once again, dry air circulation is key to preventing the food from molding before it is completely dry.  Drying outdoors may take several days, so be sure to take in your food at night.

Your drying is complete when the produce is dry to the point of being leathery, dry to the touch or crispy.  Any moisture left in the dried produce will cause it to spoil while it is in storage.  Experience will  teach you what to look for in your end product.  Try drying in small batches until you get comfortable with the drying process.

Try making fruit leather by pureeing fruit, then spreading it on a plastic (food grade) or silicon sheet.  Place on top of the frame screen and dry as you would produce.  A taffy like product can be made by using flavored yogurt in place of the pureed fruit.

I think that drying has a place in every home that wants to preserve their own food and keep a well stocked pantry.

God bless,

P.S.  For my asian friends and family, "Happy Lunar New Year"!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's On Sale In February

Finally merchants have realized that we really aren't going to pay those pre-Christmas prices on workout equipment, so they've put the treadmills and other equipment on sale.  Also, people's New Years resolutions have pooped out.  My advice is to forget about the expensive treadmill and just take a walk.  If you are trapped inside by snow try marching or dancing around the house or while watching T.V.  Give the kids a chuckle or embarrass them to death.

For some reason indoor furniture is marked down this month.  I have no idea why, unless the new designs come out soon.

Flu and cold season must be winding down because the last item for the month are humidifiers.  Nice to have if you live in a dry environment, but in Florida it just makes the room feel damp.  You are not only sick, but everything is clammy.  Ich!

February is not a great month for sales apparently.  But I have noticed that all of the Valentine's day candy and cards are on sale.  Or better yet, let's spend an afternoon with the kids making cards and candy.  That's the frugal ticket.

God bless,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Amish and Mennonite Book Stores

Pathway Reading Series

I have a couple of Amish and Mennonite Booksellers that I purchase from and I find them to be reasonably priced and to provide a good selection of christian books:

Rod & Staff Publishers, Inc., P.O. Box 3, 14193 Hwy. 172, Crockett, KY  41413-0003.  This Mennonite company is allowed to have phones, so you can call them at (606)522-4348.  Rod & Staff carries a large selection of christian home school teaching resources, story books and coloring books.  The shipping costs are low average.

Pathway Publishers, 2580 N - 250 W, LaGrange, IN  46761.  These are Old Order Amish, so no phone are allowed.   I just love this catalog; it is full of wonderful christian reading materials, fiction and non fiction.  They also have farming/gardening books, songbooks, cookbooks, children's books/activities and the popular Pathway Reading Series.  Shipping is free for orders over $25 and is $2 for orders under $25!  Their prices on books are also very reasonable.

God bless,