Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Correction On Using Vicks Orally

I see that the Vicks jar specifically warns against taking their rub orally, so I need to warn you against it. I don't know if they have changed the formula or if no one in my family read the instructions, but we did use to melt a little in the back of our throats. Oh well, things change.

God bless,

The Frugal Mennonite Cold Remedies

I have written on this before, but since I woke up yesterday morning with a killer cold I thought I would readdress the subject.  You know:  Stuffy, sore throat, congestion, cough and sore stiff neck.  Just a warning; if a sore, stiff neck is accompanied by a headache call your doctor asap.  These are the symptoms of meningitis.

There are some basic remedies that have been my family for generations, going back to our country roots.  Country people didn't have doctors available to them and, often, couldn't afford one.  So, we cooked up remedies in our kitchens out of ingredients that were always on hand.

Onions, onions, onions.   Onions are a cure all.  Some people roast them, wrap in flannel and apply as a poultice to the chest.  Eating a raw onion each day was thought to keep illness away (and everyone else).  Onions are mixed with other healing ingredients to make onion syrups.

Always In The Kitchen

Honey is another basic for colds and coughs.  You can just swallow a spoonful to calm a cough (for children under two use another type of sugar syrup).  My favorite honey remedy is to finely dice one onion and several garlic cloves.  Mix these with honey in a sealable container.  Leave out on the counter and take a teaspoonful several times a day.

Local Honey Is Best

My grandfather would have added whiskey to the above honey mixture.  Many remedies rely on whiskey.  I don't know how it works, but I do know that we kids sure slept well when we took it.  Maybe that was the plan.

My great grand aunt would smear goose grease on my dad's chest and cover it with a red flannel cloth.  He said that it smelled awful.  I do think that Vicks smeared on a congested chest and covered with flannel provides relief.  If you don't want the mess just place a small amount under your nose.  You can also take a small amount orally; allow it to melt slowly at the back of your throat.

Sauerkraut juice has been used as a healthful drink.  It is believed that if you drink sauerkraut juice you will benefit from the vitamins and it will make you drink more water.  Save yourself from drinking the juice and just make sure you drink lots of water.

Warm salt water gargles are effective for fighting sore throats.  I like to use a neti pot for head congestion.  Basically, with a neti pot you are irrigating your sinuses with salt water.  It is very effective to use during allergy season to wash pollen out of your sinuses.

Neti Pot

I am going to rely on my honey, onion, garlic cough medicine, lots of water and my neti pot.  Oh, and rest, so after posting this I am going to relax in bed with a good book.

God bless,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Am At That Couponing "Good Place"

I began taking my couponing  and building my stockpile last April after attending a True Couponing workshop.  When I first started I was buying large amounts of items and the couponing took several hours a week.

Four months later my stockpile is complete and my shopping consists of one or two staple items that are on sale and a few basics (such as milk and eggs).  It only takes me about 1/2 hour to clip coupons for the week which includes shopping at one grocery store and one drug store.  Once a month I purchase organic meat at Costco.

So, I am at that "good place" where my shopping time and coupon clipping time are minimal.  My bills are running at least 50% less than before and sometimes I get items for free.  I am able to use my couponing skills to shop in order to donate to charity.

Don't give up because using coupons is time consuming in the beginning.  Very shortly you will be able to put minimal effort into maintaining your stockpile and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

God bless,

Friday, August 26, 2011

Don't Be Afraid To Ask

Today I spent the morning at Mom's house (actually 50% my house since she has passed) repairing and painting a door.  It is Florida.  It is hot.  And there were lots of mosquitoes buzzy about my ankles.

I was so hot and cranky when I got done that I could not stand the thought of food, but decided that a milk shake would be perfect.  By the time that I got to the fast food drive through I was fantasizing about that cold, frosty shake that would soon be mine.

Object Of Fantasy

As I pulled up to the second window to get my shake, having paid at the first window, I was asked the dreaded question:  would I please pull forward and park, someone will bring the shake out to me in three minutes.

I decided to check the clock in my car to see how long it actually took for me to get my shake.  Ten minutes later and no shake anywhere in sight,  I went into the restaurant, receipt in hand.  They apologized for completely forgetting me (which they admitted) and the manager asked me if I wanted some fries.  To which I replied, "No, but I would like to get this shake for free".  He said yes and gave me my $3.10 back and a nice large, vanilla shake.

The moral of this story is that you have got to ask for what you want.  People aren't mind readers.  As I used to tell my employees, "If you don't ask you know you aren't to to get what you want, but if you do ask at least you have a chance".  Go for it.

God bless,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Which Organic Fruits and Vegetables Should We Buy?

I want my family to eat the healthiest foods available, but I also want to keep my food bills under control.
Some fruits and vegetables absorb more chemicals than others and some are more frequently treated with chemicals than others.

To maximize your organic food dollar, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on the "dirty dozen" -- types of produce that are most susceptible to pesticide residue:

Sweet bell peppers
Grapes (imported)

And which organic produce is probably not worth the added expense? The group lists these 12 items as having the least pesticide residues:

Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet corn (frozen)

While it would be best to eat only organic food, many of us must pick and choose which organics are a priority for us.  Hopefully, this list will help us all make informed decisions at the grocery store.

God bless,

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Pork Tenderloin With Gravy

Pork tenderloin is such an easy meat to cook and so versatile, it was always a staple in our home as I was growing up.  It is lean so it must either be cooked quickly or very slowly to keep it tender and moist.  Only 122 calories for 3 ounces.

For this recipe I am cooking my tenderloins low and slow.  I seldom take meat out the night before to defrost.  My tried and true method of defrosting meat is to float it in a sink of cold water; it should defrost in about an hour for smaller cuts of meat.

Tenderloin In The Pool

Add some olive oil to the cast iron pan, heat to medium high, then brown all sides of the meat.  If the meat sticks when you try to turn it the meat is not completely browned.  Wait until the meat is free of the pan before you turn it.  Season meat well with salt and pepper.

Brown On Medium High

Now add large diced vegetables of your choice.  I added potatoes, onions and whole garlic cloves.  Almost completely cover with broth.  Sprinkle in any herbs that your family enjoys.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover.

I let this cook for two hours, then checked the meat.  It was fully cooked, but still moist.  Remove the meat and vegetables to a platter.  Cover and keep warm.

Make gravy by bringing broth in pan to a boil.  Mix two or three tablespoons of cornstarch with water.  Stir into boiling broth; it should thicken quickly.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Add Cornstarch

It's Gravy

Serve the tenderloin and vegetables with the gravy on the side.  The next day you can use the leftovers to make a pork open face sandwich.  Enjoy!

Enough Food For Two Or Three Meals

God bless,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home From Vacation

We arrived home from our vacation at Disney/Epcot this weekend much to the delight of our parakeet.  His name is Cookie, but we refer to him as Birdy Bird.  Even though he was well cared for by family, he is a social creature and missed sitting around the family room with us.

Birdy Bird Playing On His Swing
It was ridiculously hot in Central Florida and not a good time to be walking around theme parks, but it was dear daughter's birthday present and who am I to ruin her good time.  So I gamely suffered heat stroke for one day at Epcot, then we smartened up and spent the rest of the time at water parks and the resort spa.

Happy to be home, back to normal (?) and blogging.

God bless,

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vacation Time

Time for this frugal Mennonite to go on vacation.  We will be gone for a week and the resort where we are staying doesn't have wifi and I am too cheap to pay $10 a day for internet service.  So, unless I stumble into a Starbucks or Panera with wifi access, I will not be posting.

God bless,

Negotiating Better Prices

Negotiating and haggling over price is an accepted practice across the world.  People wouldn't dream of spending their hard earned money without first trying to get the price lowered.  In American society this skill has fallen out of practice since mid-twentieth century.  It has actually become looked down on by some people that believe it to be low class.

The last few years of economic recession has opened our eyes to our vulnerability.  Out of necessity we are saving every penny we can.  Now open your mind to negotiating prices.  Not just during small, local transactions, but with large "big box" vendors.

Is there a flaw on the product, but it is still usable for you?  Ask the store manager to reduce the price for you.  Many stores are now matching prices.  Just bring in an ad or print out from the other store and most stores will match the price.

Ask your pharmacy if they match prices.  Recently CVS matched Costco's price on a prescription for me.  It saved me 2/3 off of their original price.  CVS is much closer to my home and has a drive through, so I was thrilled to be able to get the lower price locally.

Negotiate Rx Prices
It is easy to compare prices without driving from store to store.  Just comparison shop online.  Most pharmacies list their drug prices in simple to navigate data bases.

So, let's start shopping like the Europeans, Latinos, Asians, Africans...well, like the rest of the world.

God bless,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Keeping Baby Safe In The Car

I thought long and hard about expressing myself on such a sensitive subject, but felt that I must. Every summer, especially here in Florida, we hear about parents that forget that they have their baby in the car with them, park the car and leave the baby to die in the heat.

The local media has explained away the parents responsibility by saying that the parent had been distracted and that the parent was now distraught. One woman, a doctor, had done this twice in one year (baby didn't die the first time). Research shows that these negligent accidents happen when the parent is stressed, distracted and their routine has been disrupted.

I can say that there was never a time when I forgot that DD was in the car with me. There are just a few steps to keep your awareness in the two places it needs to be: on driving and on baby. Turn off the radio, cell phone and any other noise making devices. We used to call it enjoying the Golden Silence. Interact with your child by talking and singing. Have a mirror rigged up so you can see baby without turning around.

And most important of all: focus your life around your child. They are God's gift to us and we are the stewards of their lives.

God bless,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cozi Family Organizer App Has Won My Heart

I don't think I have ever recommended an app before, but Cozi has so impressed me that I am recommending it to everyone.  First of all, you don't need to download the app, but can access the program at their website.  And...(drumroll)'s free!

Cozi includes a family calendar, shopping list and to do list.  Each family member is entered under their name, colored dot, e-mail, and phone number.   You have a family logon and each member is allowed to enter their own appointments, but the parents are the main keepers of the calendar.

Not only can you access your family calendar from your computer or iwhatever, but Cozi will send the entire family a weekly itinerary on Sundays via e-mail.  But, oh no, this is not all;  you have programmed Cozi to send a reminder at a time determined by you, so a text message will be sent to the person with the appointment.

We will still use our big master calendar outside the kitchen door, since we all walk by it repeatedly, but Cozi has made making appointments so easy.  No coming home to realize that there is a conflicting appointment on the calendar.

I am looking forward to entering all of Anna's school assignment due dates and test dates into Cozi.  Last year we (the parents) had a few last minute surprises which disrupted our schedules.  I think children will like to use Cozi since it is computer based and most kids (especially mine) love any opportunity (excuse) to log on.

Oh, and did I mention that it is free.  And, no, they aren't paying me to say this.  I just really, really like it.

God bless,

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hiring Workers For The House

Over the years I have hired people to do work that I or DH were unable to do ourselves.  But, recently, I have had many more experiences hiring handymen and landscapers as I got my mother's house ready to sell.  Actually, it is DB's and my house, but I always refer to it as mom's.

The biggest two problems I have had hiring workmen is:  Weeding out the people that just want to make a quick buck and have no intention of finishing the job or doing an adequate job, and miscommunication which results in the job not being done in a way that meets my expectations.

The first problem is fairly easy to fix:  references, references, references.  Talk to your neighbors, call your county Consumer Affairs Office, or check to see if your community has a list of recommended workers (condo or homeowner associations).  I will say that it is possible for the worker that did a wonderful job for your neighbors and relatives to suddenly hit a bad streak when you hire them.  That's where the remedy for the second problem comes into play.

The second problem is communication.  I remember walking around a home with a well recommended handyman telling him what I wanted done and how, while watching him take notes.  When he said the job was done I returned to pay him and found that about 30% of what I had asked for was not done.  This went on three times before I would pay him (big rule: don't pay in advance).  He was a nice man and I finally figured out that he was hard of hearing.  He only did part of the work because he only heard part of the instructions.

Before you hire someone to do a project write (print) or type out in detail what you want done.  Include a date for the job to be completed.  If the worker doesn't provide a written estimate, then include the cost.  Also include the condition the work area is to be kept in (clean up at end of day, sweep for nails at end of day, where to store supplies).

Have two copies for both of you to sign and date.  If the worker balks, then they may not be the person for the job.  When the work is "done" walk the site with them and check off the list.  Make the worker complete the entire list before you make payment.  This may sound harsh, but it provides a great incentive for them to finish the job correctly.  If they offer to write your entire list, as is, on their company's estimate sheet; fine, as long as everything is there and you get a copy.

Now you have a document (contract) that you can take to court should the worst happen and the worker has a list to refer to when doing the job.  Trust me, a little effort will save lots of heart ache.

God bless,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Soup Base

Walk into the kitchen at any diner or restaurant and you will find soup base.  It is used to enrich soups, stews and sauces with a more intense flavor than stock.  Often it is added in small amounts to add a depth and strength to stock.

I always keep four kinds of soup base in my pantry:  chicken, beef, ham and vegetable.  I add it when I feel that a recipe tastes good, but I want more flavor.  It is economical and is now available to the home cook at the grocery store.

The ham base tastes great in bean and vegetable dishes.  It tastes as if I have been cooking all day with a hamhock or piece of ham.  One tablespoon in the pot makes a huge difference.

For a few pennies you can take a meal from ho hum to great.  Frugal and it makes the cook's job easier!

God bless,