Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Summer Squash Foundation Plantings

The other day I was driving dear daughter to school when I saw a house with a really pretty, robust looking foundation planting.  I couldn't quite make out the type of plant, so I drove very slowly the next time I passed and was surprised to see that the entire front of the house's foundation is planted with summer squash.

Row Planting of Summer Squash
What a great idea!  This attractive plant, with it's beautiful yellow flowers,  grows to just the right height to disguise a concrete foundation.  And, of course, the plants will provide food for your family throughout the summer.

A Beautiful Plant
I have an unplanted raised planter that runs across the front of our house.  It was going to be planted with flowers, but now I see that summer squash would provide beauty and food.  Another frugal gardening plan!

God bless,

Friday, April 29, 2011

True Couponing Workshop

I am so looking forward to this evening. I am attending a True Couponing workshop at my daughter's school/church. It is a free workshop offered in church's around the country by a Christian group that advocates a Shop, Save, Share philosophy.

To see if a workshop is available near you or you're interested in sponsoring a workshop go to the True Couponing website at

I will be sure to share the couponing tips I pick up tonight.

God bless,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Flour Shakers

Don't we all do it?  When baking I will grease my pan, then throw in several tablespoons of flour and dust it around the inside of the pan.  I end up throwing most of the flour into the trash can.   Wasteful and definitely not frugal.

I remembered my grandma having a flour shaker to evenly shake flour into her pans or on the table before kneading bread dough.  No wasted tablespoons of flour for her.  Flour shakers were found in all mid-twentieth century American kitchens.  People had been through the Great Depression; they were not going to waste even the smallest bit of food.

Flour shakers came in many styles and sizes, but they all had fairly small holes in the top to control the amount of flour that came out.

Grandma had one with a handle that made it easy for her to grasp when her hands were wet or greasy.

Just like Grandma's

If you can't find an old flour shaker try making a simple one at home.  Take an empty spice jar with the shaker top still intact.  Fill with flour, save money and avoid wasting food.  Just like Grandma!

God bless,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hunsader Farms U-Pick Bargain On Tomatoes

For my readers that live in West Central Florida I have just heard that my favorite u-pick, Hunsader Farms, is having an incredible deal on their u-pick tomatoes. Until June 1st they are only charging $1 for 25 pounds of tomatoes!

This has come about because they can't find enough laborers to harvest the crop this year. Rather than have the tomatoes rot on the vine Hunsader is opening all their fields to u-pick.
They are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00-4:00.

For directions go to their website I have visions of quarts of tomatoes dancing in my head.

God bless,

The Frugal Garden: Let Tomatoes Sprawl

Several experienced gardeners I have met and the Master Gardeners at the local 4H garden, no longer stake or support their tomatoes.  The tomato plants are allowed to sprawl and don't seem to suffer negatively for it.

Tomato Plants Provide A Backdrop For Marigolds

Staking tomatoes came about in an attempt to use space in the garden more effectively, but their natural growth pattern is to sprawl.  Plant your tomato starts, then mulch heavily with straw or other natural mulches.  The mulch will keep the tomatoes from resting on the soil and rotting.

I have gotten very good yields using this method.  There are no costs for staking materials and it cuts down on labor time.  The tomatoes grown in this way can be tucked into the flower gardens as accent plants.  The natural growth pattern makes them less obtrusive than if they were staked.

Tomatoes Look Like A Ground Cover
Try this method in a flower garden.  You may find it so easy and productive that allowing tomatoes to sprawl will become your preferred method of growing them.

I'm Looking Forward To Eating These

God bless,

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Grow Tomatoes During The Hot Summer Months

Living in a hot climate can make it difficult to grow tomatoes in the summertime.  Most tomato plants will not set fruit unless the night time temperature is below 75 degrees.  However, cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes will set fruit throughout the hot months.

Grape Tomato Plant
I prefer to grow the grape tomatoes.  They have an intense tomato flavor and seem to produce more fruit than the cherry tomatoes I have grown.  The grape tomatoes are pretty in salads and dry well.

Pretty To Look At Good To Eat
So, don't give up growing tomatoes when it gets hot.  Grape tomatoes will give you plenty of good eating all summer long.

God bless,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Natural Easter Egg Dying

If you want to keep the kids busy on these days before Easter, think about dying Easter eggs using natural materials.  The children can harvest leaves and roots from plants outside in the yard and garden or they can rummage through the pantry and refrigerator.

Here are some well known colors and their sources:
pink - beet
yellow/brown - onion skin
blue or pink - sometimes from red cabbage
green - from many plant leaves
blue - blueberries

Onions, A Tried And True Dye Source
To make a dye bath place your plant materials in a pot with water.  Simmer gently until the water has taken on a strong color.  Add your eggs to simmer until they have taken on the color.

Onion Skins Simmering
You can get an interesting tie dye effect by wrapping your eggs in leaves, tying the leaves in place with string or rubber bands.  Place the wrapped eggs in simmering water for 1/2 hour.  Take out, cool, then unwrap.  This is always a fun process because you never know what the result will be.

Wrapped In Onion Skin
You can explain to your children that this is the way our ancestors dyed their yarn and cloth.  Add a little science and history to the mix.

The results of dying with plant materials are subtle, but I think very beautiful and worth the time and effort.

God bless,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Buying ALL The Product: Gluttony?

I can see that my Wednesday viewing of Extreme Couponing is going to provide plenty of fodder for this blog on Thursdays.

Last night I watched this weeks Extreme Couponers taking every bit of product off of the stores shelves, leaving no deals for other shoppers. One woman even upended a display to dump all of the contents into her cart!

There has been a lot of discussion on coupon shopping sites about this type of behavior. Not only does it prevent other shoppers from benefiting from a deal, but stores are responding by limiting the number of products customers can buy. One man said that his grocery store is only allowing the purchase of two items if they are being purchased on sale and with coupons. Why ruin it for others by being greedy?

When I see two women buying over fifty bottles of over the counter medicine I know it's not from need. It's just good, old fashioned, biblical gluttony.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good Reads: The Worst Hard Time

I have been reading books about the Great Depression for years. I originally started to learn some of the money saving tips used during that time, but soon came to be fascinated by the history itself.

An environmental disaster, called the Dust Bowl, hit the High Plains of the United States during the Depression. This book describes the lives of the people that remained on the plains during the "dirty thirties"; their innovation and bravery.

So please pick up a copy of The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. It is definitely a good read.

God bless,

Monday, April 18, 2011

Handmade Pot Scrubber

We all get onions, potatoes and other foods in plastic mesh bags.  My grandma used to make pot scrubbers from them.  All you need is a plastic mesh bag, crochet hook and cotton yarn.

First cut the ends off of the bag and lay it flat.

Then fold it into a square.

Using a crochet hook and cotton yarn that will fit through the holes in the mesh, crochet a border.  Be sure to catch all the ends of the layers of bag.

If you can't crochet, you can thread the yarn on a crewel or embroidery needle and whip stitch the edges. Use coordinating colors; I just used these so they would photograph clearly.

There you go, a tough, hardworking and free pot scrubber.  A la my grandma Bosley.

God bless,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shrinking Packaging Deception

We've all done it:  we buy a favorite product, it doesn't last as long as usual and then, we realize that the manufacturer has decreased the amount of product in the packages.  Consumers tend to protest and stop buying products if the prices goes up, so manufacturers increase their profit by decreasing the amount of product while keeping the same price.

Changed Package Design
To hide this deception the package design is often changed, so that the consumer cannot visually see that the product amount is smaller.  You can see this in the above picture.  Another trick is to keep the same packaging design, but to make it smaller in a way that is not easy to recognize.

Same Package, But Smaller Amount
Take a look at Breyer's ice cream in the freezer section.  From the front it looks just the same, but from the side it is slimmer.  The manufacturer did this to give the shopper the same visual profile while the package is on the shelf and hoping that we are too busy or unobservant to see the narrowness of the package.

A half gallon of ice cream is not a half gallon anymore and a pound of coffee is a thing of the past, but frugal homemakers are smart enough to shop according to the price per ounce and not be deceived by packaging changes.

God bless,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are Large Sized Products Cheaper?

On Extreme Couponing last night one of the shoppers pointed out that in many instances it is cheaper to buy the smaller sizes of products rather than the larger. He was talking about a toothpaste purchase where the small size was only 2 ounces less than the large, but was over 50% less in cost.

Just a few years ago large sizes were usually less expensive per ounce, but manufacturers became aware that consumers were shopping for larger sizes to save money. So, in a bid to make more profit they began to charge more per ounce for their larger sizes, knowing that shoppers were conditioned to buy large.

Be sure to compare the per ounce cost when shopping. And please, don't emulate the man on Extreme Couponing and buy over a thousand tubes of toothpaste! Even if they're free!!

God bless,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Homemade Organic Fertilizer

I prefer to garden organically and I have found that it is much more frugal to make my own organic fertilizer.  It is easy to mix it in a big bucket and apply by hand several times during the growing season.

Organic Fertilizer

4 parts seed meal
1/4 part agricultural lime, finely ground
1/4 part gypsum
1/2 part dolomitic lime
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or guano
1/2 part kelp meal or 1 part basalt dust

This is a good all purpose fertilizer, but continue to apply compost to build your soil.  Fertilizer will not change the soil structure, so it is important for those of use with sandy or clay soils to regularly apply compost.

God bless,

Keep Adding Compost To The Garden

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Summer Canning Strategy

One of the best things we frugal homemakers can learn is how to zig when we had planned on zagging.  The unexpected happens in our lives and we need to be flexible and able to change our plans to achieve our frugal goals.

My mother has been very sick after breaking her hip.  Now I see that I will be kept busy moving her to a nursing home and spending as much time as possible with her.  So, my original plans to grow my own and harvest vegetables from u-pick farms for my summer canning need to be modified.

The new plan will be to shop for deals on produce at local stores to can.  An example is that last summer Target had twelve ears of corn for $1 which I canned for our family.  We are still eating that corn.  Tomatoes should be on sale soon and I can get them for an excellent price per case at our produce market.

We are still growing enough of our own vegies for our own fresh use, but canning purchased produce is still frugal.  I can still spend time with Mom and control the quality and cost of the produce my family eats.

Remember the flexible stick bends instead of breaking.

God bless,

The Frugal Kitchen: Marscarpone Pasta Sauce

I am all about staying out of a hot kitchen during the summer months (it's in the 80's already in Florida), so I look for recipes that use very little cooking time.  One creamy pasta recipe follows:

8 oz. marscarpone
5 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 handful basil leaves, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta according to the package directions.  In a fry pan on low heat melt together the marscarpone, lemon juice and zest.  Stir in the basil, salt and pepper.  Mix the sauce and pasta together.  You may want to save a few basil leaves for garnish (which, you will see by the photo, I didn't).

God bless,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do Extreme Couponers Eat Fresh Food?

One of the things that struck me last night while watching Extreme Couponing was that these families are eating an awful lot of processed food. I did see some dairy hitting the cart, but the rest was processed cereals and faux vegetables.

I certainly use coupons when shopping, but I try to feed my family the freshest foods possible. That's why I like to can fresh fruits and vegetables for storage rather than manufactured foods.

Also, I didn't see flour, baking powder and yeast being stored; just packaged baking mixes. But before I get on my soapbox, I do have to recognize that the view we saw of these families is the view the show's producers want us to see.

As a frugal homemaker I need to save money when I shop (or not shop), but not at the expense of my family's health. I am the CFO of the family, always monitoring our financial and actual well being.

I did like the one woman's monthly menu planning. She was an example that sales and available coupons should guide our menus, not just what we are craving to eat. I am looking forward to watching this show to learn new tips and what behaviors to avoid.

God bless,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Extreme Couponing Becomes A Series

The special called Extreme Coupon is becoming a series on the Learning Channel.  The first two shows will be shown on Wednesday, April 6th at 9pm and 9:30pm EST.  Then it moves to it's regular time of 9:30pm for the rest of the season.

This show highlights the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of coupon shopping.  You decide if any of their hints apply to you.

God bless

Dandelion Jelly

You've used the leaves of your dandelions, but did you know you can use the flowers?  The Amish make a jelly that they call dandelion honey.  It tastes quite similar to honey and is good used on biscuits and bread

Dandelion Honey
Start with one quart of dandelion blossoms without any stems attached.  Wash them and boil in one quart of water for three minutes.  Drain off three cups of liquid and discard the flowers.   Add one package sure-jell, one teaspoon lemon extract and four and a half cups of sugar.  Boil about three minutes, skimm off top, put in jars and process in a water bath canner (follow any jelly recipe for times).

Isn't it marvelous that we can make so many food products from a plant that most people consider a weed?

God bless,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fresh Dandelion Salad

If you have managed to gather young, tender dandelion greens it's time to make a dandelion salad.  Wash and chop four cups of greens.  Add crumbled, fried bacon and chopped hard boiled eggs.

For the dressing:  Start with the bacon drippings, then mix in 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch.  Add one beaten egg, 1/4 cup vinegar and one cup water.  Cook until thickened.  Serve warm.

Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving.  Don't overdress.  It is easy to overwhelm tender greens with too much dressing.

God bless,

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eating Dandelions

Spring is here, even though the northeast is being snowed in, and it's time to think of eating healthy spring greens.  One of the most common of these are dandelions.

Early settlers brought dandelions to America to grow in their gardens.  This prolific plant quickly spread to grow wild throughout the entire continent.  Organic gardeners are now growing dandelions and they have become easy to find at local farmer's markets and natural food stores.

My grandmas looked forward to harvesting dandelion greens in the spring to supplement the family diet with greens before the garden began producing.  We children were instructed to only pick the young leaves and to never pick leaves from dandelions that had begun blooming (these older leaves would be bitter).

Never pick dandelions from a yard or field where chemical insecticides, fungicides or fertilizers are used.  This is extremely important as you cannot wash all the chemicals off of plants.

I love to cook dandelion greens in the same way I would mustard or collard greens, but they don't need to be cooked quite as long.  Saute some diced bacon in a pot, add onion and garlic if you wish.  Or saute the onion and garlic in oil, then throw in a smoked hamhock or smoked turkey wing.  Put in greens and some water to barely cover.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Simmer until tender.

Our favorite way to serve greens is in a bowl with cornbreak.  Right before eating we sprinkle on pepper vinegar.  Dandelion greens can be served on rice, in an omlet or mixed into a stew.

Some people say that you can used the leaves after the flowers bloom if you soak them for a day in water with lemon juice and salt.  This supposedly removes the bitterness.  I think I'll stick with young greens.

Make Euell Gibbons proud, forage for some dandelions greens this spring.

God bless,

In Like A Lamb, Out Like A Lion

Yesterday was quite a day in my area, with severe storms all day long and tornadoes touching down.

Check it out at the St. Petersburg Times.

God bless,