Thursday, June 29, 2017

Solar Oven Success

I've been under the weather since the end of last week.  
I think I somehow ended up with the flu.
I'm slowly on the mend and today I feel 75% human.
A big improvement from Tuesday when I couldn't hold my head up.

I decided some passive cooking was in order today.

Solar Oven cooked Cajun Beans and Rice

I also cooked a batch of brownies, which I forgot to photograph before we cut into them.

They took a little longer than I was expecting, but that isn't saying much.
I think because I didn't truly have a point of reference I kept checking them too frequently.

Every 30 to 40 minutes I would make sure it was getting optimal sun, but beyond that it was pretty much a start and wait for them kind of deal.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Frugal Happenings Last Week

Last week was a weird mix of frugal and spending -- I actually feel like most of it was spent on the road.

 1.  On Sunday evening we attended a free symphony on the Town Common.  I packed us some water bottles.  The concert was late enough in the evening that I made sure we ate before we left.

 2.  Early Monday morning I had to run errands in the next town.  Again I packed our refillable water bottles, grabbed some apples, and we took off.  It was kind of an odd day, but I spent the rest of it doing things around the house.

 3.  Tuesday I had to run a quick errand.  Sadly the things that had to be done couldn't be combined with the day before.  However, on each day we drove the most fuel efficient vehicle and packed drinks/snacks.  The three hours of combined driving was great one on one time to just spend talking with my daughter.

 4.  Wednesday was a spend day.  However, I shopped sales and filled in several holes in our food storage.  I also added some pieces to our fall wardrobe.

 5.  Thursday I spent the morning canning and working on items for our food storage.  Because of hurricane activity, I try to can as many items as possible rather than freezing as much.  

 6.  Friday my husband was home.  We, once again, had errands to run, but they were here in town.  While we were out we went to the library.  I found a new to me Victorian mystery.  Friday evening the three of us spent time playing cards.  I forget how entertaining a deck of cards can be.  When we were children, pre-video game fads and VCR/DVD type stuff in every house, games were how you spent a lot of evenings.  We had a great time.

 7.  Saturday we drove the 4 hours (round trip) back to where we grew up.  We packed drinks. I carried a crocheting project pulled from my stash of yarn.  Before we left, I started hamburger steak in the crockpot so we would have a warm supper waiting.  When we made it back, I pulled together quick sides (rice and stringbeans).  I wasn't feeling well and I mostly slept on the couch while my family did their own things.    

 At some point during the week:
  • I hung the laundry to dry.
  • Made a point to use up some odd bits in the refrigerator.
  • Re-organized the pantry.
  • Used up some odd bits of things (raisins, etc) that were open
  • Started an embroidery project
  • Caught up some correspondence
  • Worked on my research project

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Canning No-No

I should confess up front that I am guilty of following rules and logic on various household things that have been around for a long time.  Sometime (I believe the mid 80s) it became unsafe to home can cabbage.  I'm not sure why it magically happened, but whatever.

 So this post shared with the warning -- this is what I do.  It is NOT sanctioned by the USDA or whatever organization....

 I pressure can my cabbage.   We've always enjoyed the results, and I do boil them for 10 minutes before serving them. My $3 worth of cabbage gave me 18 pints worth.  I kept two out for eating this weekend.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Day of Shopping

It's funny how the phrase "a day of shopping" varies so wildly in the images it conjures up.

 My day of shopping went something like this: Aldi --  cookies, saltines, a bag of baking potatoes, 6 dozen eggs, 2 cartons of soy milk, 2 cartons of lactose free milk, 4 containers of Greek yogurt, 12 cans of cream of ...soup for the pantry storage, 2 boxes of Stevia, 2 packages of pepperoni, 2 cans of refrigerator biscuits, 1 package of chicken sausage, 1 container of hummus, guacomole, 2 bags of frozen string beans, 2 bags of frozen limas, 3 bottles of BBQ sauce, 2 bottles of marinade, 1 bottle of steak sauce, apples, 6 pink roses, patriotic themed napkins/paper plates, 4 jars of whole dill pickles, 1 jar of sandwich sliced pickles, 2 packages of chocolate instant pudding, 4 packets of brown gravy mix, a carton of ale, and a loaf of garlic bread.  I spent $85.01.

 After Aldi, I went to the Farmer's Market.  I bought radishes, 3 large cabbage, 5 plums, 3 large peaches, cilantro, and 3 large bell peppers.  Total spent $8.00.

 From there I stopped at Fred's Club, which is a regional warehouse store.  It carries more of what I would call Southern hush puppy mix, cornmeal, etc.  Everything I bought was warehouse sized.  6 packages of cornbread mix, 1 large bag of flour, 38 pounds of cat litter, an outdoor mosquito repellant candle, 40 assorted ice cream sandwiches, and Country Time Lemonade mix.  Total spent $52.14.

 We put up all the food and went out to Goodwill.  I found 2 ankle length winter skirts and 1 midi (for my height is still long lol) wool plaid skirt.  I also bought 3 summer midi length skirts and 3 blouses for myself.  My daughter found 3 fall button down shirts and a nice black jacket.  Total spent was $47.17.

 So my big day of shopping pretty much centered around food.  More than 1/4 of what was spent at Aldi went into pantry storage, which I try to add to every month.  The cabbage from the Farmer's Market will also go into storage because I will be canning them tomorrow.  The same applies to a good portion of the items from Fred's Club.  Even the Goodwill shop was mostly for the upcoming fall and winter.  I'll have a couple of nice skirts and we got a head start on my daughter's fall wardrobe.  The jacket itself would have cost the $47 or more.

So that is us - the last of the big shoppers....or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where did a week go?

I can't believe it has been a week since I have posted anything.  Life has just been busy.  In no particular order....

I've had guests.
I've had doctors' appointments.
I've been working on research for a project.
I've done some dehydrating.
I've helped my daughter with a school project.
I've attended a symphony on the Town Commons.
I've kept up with the housework and done a tad of grocery shopping.
I've taken the kitten back and forth to the vet.
In there I've cooked meals, finished watching a series I was hooked on, and I've tried to get 8,000 steps in a day.

It doesn't look like much when I type it all out....but that has been the flow of life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Test Run

We tried our test run of the solar oven.

It is easy to set up, seems to heat well, and is pretty straight forward in function.

We baked brownies....unfortunately, we had to finish them in the oven for a little less than 10 minutes.

Not because of an error with the solar oven....truly operator error.

I didn't bother to check the weather to see that we would have an afternoon shower coming in.
I saw the sun and just said let's do this. 

So all in all, I am pleased with the test run.
I fully expected a bit of a learning curve and I want this now so if I ever have to use this in a time when it is a necessity I will have the kinks worked out.

Now that I have checked the weather, I see that we are looking at a week of cloudy, rainy weather.
It looks like it may be a bit before I try again.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Not All Canning

I love having the freezer full, but fully recognize that the loss of power can make it dangerous to keep all things in the freezer.  I love canning and having things on the shelf.  However, I grew up believing you shouldn't put all your eggs into one basket.  This weekend I took advantage of a sale on bell pepper.  

12 large bell pepper yielded me enough bell pepper pieces for a full quart jar

These will be easy to toss into soups, stews, casseroles, etc.
I can choose to rehydrate them first, or just let the cooking liquid do it.

Since I already had the dehydrator out and on the counter, I decided to dry some mushrooms, too.
Dried mushrooms are my preference over canned.
They seem to add a depth to dishes.
(However, I will eat either and keep both on hand.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Frugal Happenings Week 1 of June


 -- My husband had a shirt with slightly fraying cuffs....just enough to not be office worthy... but the rest of the shirt was in excellent shape. I carefully folded a very narrow edge under and hand stitched it down.  The shirt will be good for another season of wear.

 -- We packed snacks for an outing and incorporated leftovers into our meals.

 -- I washed and hung my daughter's beddind to dry.

 -- While not frugal up front, we have decided to invest in a solar oven.  I'm hoping to not only have it for emergency cooking, but to also learn to use it during the summer weeks to help decrease the household temperatures further and in turn decrease the electric bill.

 -- I peeled and cut up a watermelon rind to try my hand at making watermelon rind preserves.  I had all the supplies on hand.

-- I checked out 2 cookbooks, 1 research (history) book, and 2 novels from the library.  My husband checked out two books on CD to listen to during his commute.  My daughter checked out a book about cats that peaked her interest.


-- I washed and hung two quilts to dry.  (This included our picnic blanket, which we had used twice over the weekend.)

--  I made 5 jars of watermelon rind preserves.

-- I ordered some books for a research project.  After an exhaustive search, nowhere locally had these books for me to beg or borrow.  Through careful shopping I found 8 of the books I needed and spent a total of $55.35.  Finding them all used and with free shipping helped keep my costs down.


-- I cooked a double batch of blueberry pancakes.  Cooking once and eating twice is a wonderful way to cut down on heating the house up, save time, and allow for economy of scale.

-- Because blueberries and strawberries were on sale I picked up some to make jams.  These will go into our food storage.  The blueberries were on sale and couponed for $1 off each package.


-- Bought produce at the Farmer's Market...spent $10 for quite a good amount.

-- ordered an outdoor chair and utilized 10% off coupon.  Our summer (fold up and take to events chairs) were totally worn out an falling apart.

-- pulled together a meal for guests from our food supplies

-- tried a store brand version of one of our favorite coffees and actually prefer it

-- utilized the delay feature on the washer and had a load of clothes waiting when I got up...hung them to dry

--  My mama brought me a jar of home canned green beans.


-- We ended up doing a Sam's Club run.  However, I did pick up some items for our long term storage that were on sale, too.)

-- Friday and Saturday were a blur.  Even though my costs were higher for meals, we were feeding extra people. The meals had to be quick and convenience foods aren't cheap.  However, they are still less than eating out.

Meals from June 4th - June 10th

 Breakfast -- blueberry scones and coffee
 Lunch -- casserole using 6 crunchy taco shells, last of cajun beans and rice with added taco seasonings, and cheddar cheese
 Supper -- leftover mashed cauliflower, grilled burgers using leftover buttermilk bread slices for "buns,"
 Snacks -- musical event on the Town Commons so we packed snacks of popcorn and our individual water bottles

 Breakfast -- leftover bread, cheese, and spam for my daughter and an egg with cheese for me
Lunch --  sunbutter sandwiches on the last of the buttermilk bread
Supper -- taco salad with seasoned ground beef from my freezer stash
Snacks -- ice cream sandwiches

Breakfast:  blueberry pancakes (cooked a double batch)
Lunch:  Boca chicken patties on sandwich thins (both from freezer)
Supper -- baked potatoes with cheese and bacon
Snacks -- cheese crackers

Breakfast -- blueberry pancakes
Lunch (3 guests) -- turkey chili, crackers, shredded cheese (extra Boca chicken patty for my daughter), cornbread, garden salad
Supper -- leftover chili, crackers
Snacks -- cheese crackers, ice cream

Breakfast -- cereal with milk, oatmeal
Lunch -- leftover chili, protein bar (for daughter because she was on a tight schedule)
Supper --pork roast with potatoes, carrots, peas, etc., fresh blueberries/strawberries, garlic bread
Snacks -- variety of fruit

Breakfast -- Cinnamon rolls
Lunch -- ham sandwiches with Italian bread, veggie fixings, and broccoli cheese soup, fresh fruit
Supper -- leftover pork roast
Snacks -- cinnamon rolls, fruit, etc.

Breakfast -- Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Lunch -- help yourself to whatever was in the fridge (mostly sandwiches and soup)
Supper -- pizza
Snacks -- gold fish, fruit, etc.

As I mentioned our plans changed for the weekend and the meals kind of reflect that.  Also on Saturday we attended my husband's 40th class reunion.  I left the crowds to fend for

Friday, June 9, 2017

Filling the Pantry

Blueberries and strawberries are plentiful and on sale this week.
I made jam for the pantry.
(I also set aside a jar's worth of each for the refrigerator rather than using up a jar to can them.)

The jam came out to be less than $1 per jar for the blueberry lime jam.
The strawberry worked out to be even less at 75 cents a jar.

The bonuses are that I have them ready to go, I know the ingredients, I got to spend an afternoon doing something I enjoy, and homemade jam just tastes good.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Best Plans and All That Jazz

Life changes quickly.  Wednesday morning I went to the Farmer's Market and picked up veggies for $10.  I knew I needed cheese and milk to finish our meal plan out.   I was planning on homemade veggie pizzas, omelettes, a meal of cabbage/sausage, and of course frying the plantains.  All this was to go with our other supplies.  I also knew we would be gone for two days and I wouldn't need much extra on hand.

I was quite pleased with myself and it looked like I was going to come in at $25 instead of my alloted $50 for the week.
Fastforward to Wednesday night after 8:00....the phone rings.
My son and his family are making an emergency trip down...can they stay with us?
He knew the answer was yes, but felt like he should let us know they were coming.
My daughter in law's family has been called to her grandmother's bedside. 

After reassuring him that we would help in any way we could, I called my husband.
We've rearranged most of our thing we may do with our grandson with us.
However, I knew I didn't plan meals large enough for double our family size or more.
We decided to go ahead and do a quick foods stock up....things like sandwich meat, bread, snack items, and such.  We figure they will be coming and going at odd  hours.  She also has a large family and I wanted to be prepared to take some items over.  Just in case any of her siblings venture in with them I want to have extra food here.

I've placed an order with Sam's Club that I will be picking up tomorrow morning.
Please say a quick prayer and send up positive thoughts for her family.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Watermelon Rind Preserves

In an effort to be less wasteful, try new things, and continue to keep our pantry stocked, we decided to try watermelon rind preserves.  Since we had never had them I made a single batch. I decided that would be enough to try and to be fair, a few jars for a couple of people isn't bad.  

I used the recipe from the Ball Bluebook and I was suprised at how easy they are to make. 
I think the worst part was peeling the watermelon.

A basic recipe gave me 5 (8 ounce) jars.  I put one in the refrigerator for us to sample so I didn't bother canning it.

These will be great over the fall and winter months.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Renaissance Fair

Tryon Palace, located in New Bern, North Carolina, hosted a Renaissance Fair this past weekend.  We attended and had a great time. There were tons of time appropriate displays and we took far too many photos to share here.  These are a sampling of my favorites.

We attended several musical performances.
There were pirates, who demonstrated sword fighting.

There were farm animal displays and a pony ride.
(The turkey was my favorite, but there were lambs, ducks, chickens, and rabbits to name a few things.)

The drum and fife players also did a full performance.
I convinced this kind gentleman to pose for a photo with me.
It was a warm southern kind of day and I have great respect for anyone who could hang in all that wool.
I loved seeing so many men and women in period dress.

In addition to these:
A Shakespeare comedy group
A Celtic Bard
African Slave dances, drum ceremonies, and tent displays
Several military displays with supplies as they would have been.
A family cooking traditional (open fire) Swiss and German dishes
A spinning and weaving display
Various vendors selling local books, food, jewelry, wood working, and things of the sort
Open tours of the stables, the gardens, the Governor's Mansion, the kitchen, etc.

After the fair we headed down to the waterfront and settled under a tree for a picnic.

We had a wonderful time and I would encourage anyone who is traveling through our area to take a tour of Tryon Palace.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Blueberry Scones the Easy Way (Recipe)

One of the things we picked up on sale this week was blueberries.
We decided to make blueberry scones, but I wanted to simplify the process.
I made these in silicone muffin cups for easy prep and clean up.
They're delcious, not too sweet, and could easily be adapted into an all food storage recipe.

Preheat oven to 400F.
Grease or line a muffin tin.

In a food processor bowl with a dough hook:
3/4 cup of water
1/3 cup of powdered milk
1/2 cup of shortening (butter or coconut oil)
1 egg

Whiz until mixed.

Add in:
 2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of orange zest (I use dried)

Blend until just combined.  Do not overmix.

Remove dough blade and fold in 1 cup of blueberries.
(I used fresh, but I think any dried fruit would work, too.)

Divide in muffin cups and sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes (or until toothpick test is clean).

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Buttermilk Bread (Recipe Included)

The original recipe is from a food processor book.
The version I am sharing is my adaptation of it.

In a measuring cup, mix 3/4 cup of warm water (110F approximately), a scant 1/3 cup of powdered milk, and 2 teaspoons of vinegar.
Let sit while gathering rest of the ingredients.

In the food processor bowl (fitted with dough blade):
Add "buttermilk"
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 lightly beaten egg
1/4 cup of oil

Whiz a few seconds to blend.

Work in three cups of flour -- either all purpose, bread, or a mix of white/whole wheat.
(Sometimes I have to add either a tiny bit more flour or a tiny bit of water depending on how the dough works up.)
When a ball forms, knead dough with machine for about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for about an hour (or until doubled in size).
Punch down, shape into loaf, and put in a greased 9 x 5 pan.
Cover and let rise about 30 minutes....if using a pullman pan, put the lid on after the 30 minutes.
Begin oven preheating to 375F.
Put in oven when preheated and bake for about 25 minutes...remove lid and finish baking until done.
(30 minutes roughly in my oven.)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Easy Meals

In keeping with my June goals, I am aiming for meals that use up what we have on hand.
I didn't photograph everything we've had.
Forgive my wonky looking hot dog buns -- it was a new to me recipe and the texture of the dough was different.  I just wasn't sure how much working it would take without getting tough.
However, despite their look the taste was fabulous.
We used half the buns for BBQ sandwiches, which let me use up the last of the pork loin and some of my homemade sauce.
We ate the hot dog buns with chicken hot dogs.

I forgot to photograph it, but I made pressure cooker Cajun beans and rice for a meal and we had leftovers the next day for lunch.
I used rice from food storage, a pint of my home canned beef, a pint of my home canned beans, and seasonings from my supplies.

I went ahead and baked in preparation for our Saturday picnic -- buttermilk bread...I'll share the recipe soon.
I fried Spam for our sandwiches.  We don't want to have to drag the cooler along and the saltiness of Spam will let me make sandwiches in the morning and them keep well in a backpack.  I baked brownies for our dessert.  
We're carrying grapes and popcorn for snacking and a thermos cooler of tea.

Another easy meal was caulilfower mash -- cauliflower, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, a little chicken broth, and a tiny bit of crumbled bacon.  The rest of the buns were buttered and sprinkled with garlic powder for a quick "garlic toast."
The Italian chicken sausage was an Aldi special from a few weeks ago.

When we get back from our day trip, we will have leftovers and a salad.
Having the leftovers on hand means I won't have to rush in a prepare a meal, which makes it easier for me to make sure we don't stop and grab takeout.

Friday, June 2, 2017

June's Groceries -- Week One

My daughter had a dermatologist appointment, so I picked up groceries while we were out. 

 I have challenged myself to round out our meals for $50 a week.  I did pretty good.  I came home with lemons, limes, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, bagged garden salad, sandwich cheese, 2 cartons of soy milk, 2 cartons of lactose free milk, 5 lbs of red potatoes, yellow squash, ice cream sandwiches, 2 boxes of Stevia, a bottle of marinade to try, and a box of cereal to snack on.  Oh! I got a watermelon, too, but forgot to photograph it.

I spent $44.55 of my alloted $50.
I don't know that I will share photos of 3 meals a day, but I will try to share photos of the big meals.
We often eat leftovers for the next day's lunch.

The fruit is pretty much open to snacking on.
The citrus fruit is to flavor water with.
I've found myself opting for less nutritious drinks because I wanted flavor so I am hoping this will encourage me to drink more water.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June's Goals

June is shaping up to be a busy month.  

 We have two doctor's appointments scheduled, a vet appointment for our new kitten, and a meeting at the university my daughter will attend in the fall.  Every weekend has something planned as well.

We are also attending a Renaissance Fair, a Summer Festival, my husband's 40th class reunion, an orchestra event at the Town Commons, and Father's Day festivities.  

 So with this in mind my June goals are:

 1.  Continue to knit on the fall cardigan.  Ideally I'd like to at least finish the collar band.

 2.  Pack a picnic for the Renaissance Fair and pack snacks for all of the other road trips.

 3.  The freezer and pantry are full.  I'd like to try to keep grocery expenses down to $50 per week for things like milk, cheese, eggs, and incidentals.

 4.  Continue to hang laundry to dry and to work to keep the electric bill down.

 5.  Sew the dress I have cut out.

 6.  Finish my library book before it is due back.

YouTube Creator Tag

This just shares a little bit about me and how/why I set up my YouTube channel.