Category Archives: Frugal Living

Microwave Cleaner

I guess everyone probably knows this already, but after reheating some baked beans in the microwave this weekend, and forgetting to cover the bowl, resulting in a bean explosion, I thought I’d share this awesome tip on how to clean the microwave easily.

And this works on stuff that has been baked and caked on for decades too. You will be amazed at how easily everything comes off.

Not that any of us ever allow that to happen. Heh heh…

 

MICROWAVE CLEANER

1 C. vinegar in a bowl

Microwave for 5 mins.

Let sit 1 min.

Wipe out with damp cloth

 

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Homemade Produce Wash

Chinese scientists report that eating apples extended the lifespan of ...

 

I ran out of my fruit & veggie wash today and was surprised to find that I hadn’t posted it here….what a slacker, I am.

I decided a while back that we were going to go organic completely whenever possible.  Yes, it is more expensive but the bottom line for me is this:  If I’m going to splurge on something, shouldn’t this be the area?  I mean, it’s the food we are eating every day.  Anyway, I shop at Kroger and they have a nice selection of organics, probably the best among the local grocery stores.  I can’t get everything, but I can get pretty darn close.  When I can’t get organics, I especially want to get all that crud off of my fruits and veggies, so I give them a good dousing with my spray, swish ’em around, and even scrub them when possible.

I bought grapes the other day.  (Not organic because Kroger didn’t have them.)  I rinsed them with water, which basically does nothing.  Have you ever really looked at a grape?  They’re covered with a white powdery film.   I took one and just wiped it real good with a towel and you should have seen how shiny it was after I did that!

I think this wash does a pretty good job and definitely better than  just rinsing with water.  And way cheaper than the kind you can buy.  I’m sorry, I can’t remember where I got this recipe….I’ve been making it for years and I’ve been away from the blogging world for a while, but if I can come up with it, I’ll be sure to post a link.

Here’s the recipe:

Produce Wash

1 C. water
1 C. white vinegar
1 T. baking soda
1/2 lemon, juiced

Pour all into a large bowl or container (to allow for the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda).  Pour into a spray bottle, using a funnel.  Spray fruit and rinse well.  Use a scrub brush for firmer produce.

Homemade Caesar Dressing + One More

This post is for a couple of my FB buddies who were asking about those homemade dressings.  Without a doubt, every single time I’ve gone to the trouble to make homemade salad dressing, it has been received to rave reviews.  Yes, it does take a little bit of time.  And no, it won’t stay good in your fridge for months on end like the store bought kind does.  But if you think about it, why would we want to consume something that has such a long shelf life?

There have been times when I’ve taken this to the extreme, making everything myself from bread, buns, tortillas, pitas, sauces, ketchup, jellies & jams, etc.  When my girls were little I had a lot more time for this.  However, we don’t eat even remotely close now to how we did back then.  The bulk of our diet now is made up of lean meats, loads of fruits and veggies and brown rice….and bread occasionally makes an appearance at our dinner table, but not often anymore.

Now that I’m done with school and I’ve got a very small (by design) training business going, we’ve settled into a bit of a more normal schedule and I’m finding more time to get back to doing these things.  Yesterday, I made a delicious salad for supper and we enjoyed it with this homemade Caesar dressing that I found over at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I love her site.  I use it often for recipes and have never been disappointed.  She makes a lot of things herself vs. buying them at the store and I really like that.

You can pretty much find a homemade recipe for any dressing or sauce out there.  You can find my favorite BBQ sauce recipe here.

Today I will be making up a homemade batch of mayo to be used later in the week for potato salad.  So, I’m going to share that recipe today.  Homemade mayo is the bomb and nothing at all like what you get in the store.  I think once you try it, you’ll be hooked.  We don’t use it a lot, so I don’t mind making up a batch now and then.

Okay, so first the Caesar Dressing.  This stuff is so good.  My picky little Nanner Head will even eat it, which is really saying something.  I made up enough for us to all have some with our salad last night, Brian has some to take to work for his lunch and I have enough for my lunch today too, that will finish it off.  It literally takes 10 minutes to make.  I use my immersion blender and just mix it all up right in my handy dandy Ball plastic jars so I can put it right in the fridge.

Homemade Caesar Dressing (from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

1/4 C. mayo (I use homemade)
1/4 freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 T. fresh lemon juice (one large lemon, juiced)
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic
1/4 C. olive oil

Just put all into a mixer or you can put in a jar like I do and mix with an immersion blender.  Super easy!

And now for the mayo recipe.  My Mamaw makes the BEST potato salad and I have mastered that recipe.  The girls and Brian actually squeal with joy when I make her potato salad, and especially when I use the homemade mayo.  It’s so creamy and flavorful…and I say that even though I’m not a huge mayo fan.  But this stuff is GOOD.  It takes a bit more time than the Caesar, but if like me, you don’t use it often, it’s definitely worth the effort.

Homemade Mayo (from What’s Cooking America)

2 egg yolks, room temperature*
1 whole egg, room temperature*
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed**
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch freshly-ground white pepper
Up to 2 cups olive oil

*** For best results, the fresher the egg the better since you are using raw eggs in this recipe.  If you plan to refrigerate your mayonnaise, then choose a refined oil such as pure olive oil or sunflower oil. An unrefined oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, will solidify when chilled and cause separation later as it returns to room temperature.

Preparation:

Put the egg yolks, egg white, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and white pepper in the work bowl of the food processor or blender; process for 10 seconds or more, until creamy.

With the food processor or blender running continuously, pour in the oil very slowly in driblets at first, to start the emulsion process. Add 10 to 15% of the oil at this time. The first addition should be small and gradual. Wait about 30 second between additions.

When the sauce has definitely thickened, you may add the oil in a thin stream. Do not stop the machine at this point, but cease pouring every few seconds to be sure the oil is being absorbed. Add about 50% of the oil at this time.

Then continue until the remaining 1 1/2 cups of oil are incorporated. You may not need to use all the remaining oil at this time.

Stop the machine and check the mayonnaise for taste and consistency. Adjust the seasonings and, if the mayonnaise is very thick, process in additional drops of lemon juice or warm water to thin. The mayonnaise may be used at this point, or you can process in some of the remaining oil for a thicker sauce.

Transfer the finished mayonnaise to a bowl or jar and store in the refrigerator. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for a good week. The fresher the eggs used, the longer the mayonnaise will keep.

Makes approximately 2 to 2 1/4 cups.


Precautions for Preparing Mayonnaise:

IMPORTANT: All the ingredients must be at room temperature. If necessary, eggs may be immersed in warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to temperature before breaking them into the blender jar.

Since raw eggs are being use, only use the freshest eggs you can buy (the fresher, the better). As an egg ages, lecithin, a protein that acts as the central emulsifying agent, breaks down and the power of the egg yolk to stabilize the mayonnaise weakens. You may also use pasteurized eggs.

Eggs keep the fat (oil) and the liquid (vinegar or lemon juice) of the mayonnaise evenly blended together. If egg yolks weren’t used to emulsify the mayonnaise, the heavier liquid would sink and the lighter fat would float just as they do in vinegar and oil dressing.

Never use aluminum bowls or saucepans to prepare mayonnaise, as they will turn the mayonnaise gray. Stainless steel, enameled, plastic (food processor) or glass may be used.

Add the oil very slowly, especially at the beginning.

Since homemade mayonnaise has fresh eggs in it, the mayonnaise should not be left at room temperature for more than a couple hours, as food poisoning is always a concern.

Repairing “Turned” or “Broken” Mayonnaise:

Mayonnaise frequently breaks when stored overnight in the refrigerator and should be reconstituted before being used. If mayonnaise breaks at any point, it can be brought back together by beating the broken mixture bit by bit into a fresh egg yolk. As soon as this new mixture begins to thicken, the broken mayonnaise can be added more quickly.

Damage Control

We had an excellent Easter.  The girls got up and found their Easter baskets.  We went and enjoyed a wonderful service at church and then went to my MIL’s for a nice Easter lunch.  Later in the evening we went to my parents’ house for an Easter egg hunt.

I don’t know about you guys but I ate WAY too much yesterday.  We had lots of good food for lunch.  Ham, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, mac & cheese and strawberry shortcake for dessert!  Then, of course, an overload of chocolate.

I woke up today feeling very heavy and still full.  So, I decided to make Brian & I a nice healthy salad for lunch.  I like to call it the Damage Control Salad.  After all that heavy food yesterday, it was nice to eat something light and healthy.

I seasoned some diced chicken breast with cajun seasoning and red pepper flakes.  Then I chopped up some spinach & romaine lettuce.  I topped the salad with some diced red bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, hard-boiled egg, crumbled feta cheese, homemade whole wheat croutons (recipe at the end of this post) and a little bit of western dressing.  And a juicy, red apple on the side and a big ‘ol glass of ice water.  AAAHHHHH…damage control, baby!

HOMEMADE WHOLE WHEAT CROUTONS

4 slices bread (great way to use up old bread)
2 T. parmesan cheese
1/4 t. oregano
1/4 t. celery salt
1/4 t. garlic salt
2 T. olive oil

Stack bread on top of each other.  Cut into cubes.  Place in large ziplock bag.
Add rest of ingredients and shake to coat well.
Place on cookie sheet & bake at 300 until crisp.

*This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes or so depending on what kind of bread you use.  I use Health Nut bread by Brownbury and it tends to take 30 mins or more.  Just keep an eye on it.  Homemade croutons are delicious and a cheap way to add some flavor to your salad or soups.

Simplify Thyself

This is what greets anyone who walks inside our front door.  The sign hangs just above the coat rack in our entry way.  “Simplify” has been my battle cry for about the last 5 years.

5 years ago, we lived in an almost brand new house.  We had an outrageous car payment on a huge gas guzzling vehicle that we really couldn’t afford.  Keep in mind that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for close to 9 years now, so for the first four years, we were pretty much still mindlessly throwing money away.  It’s funny now when I look back at that time when.  It makes me laugh, really.  I had no idea what I was doing and I certainly wasn’t a frugal person in those days.  Ah well, live and learn, right?  Not that I am in any way an expert now, mind you, but seriously, I was such a moron.

I can’t remember how it all came down, but at some point I realized that we had to change things drastically.  We were going nowhere fast and not having any fun along the way.

I consider myself to be a pretty simple gal.  I think I always have been, but back then, I was pretty high maintenance in comparison to my standards now.  For example, we ate out a lot.  Like probably 3 or 4 times a week!  Madness for a family living on one income.  We ate NOTHING that was prepared from scratch, most things were frozen or out of a box.  No garden.  We blew money on lots of clothes and “things” and toys.    We had no budget to speak of.  And I wasn’t working.  So, on top of all that money we were blowing, we were doing it all on a very limited amount of money.  I would go every 2 weeks and get a manicure and pedicure and felt completely justified in doing so.  It was like in my mind, I was saying, how can a person not do this?  I need this and want it, so I’m going to have it. (Speaking of that, my MIL took me & the girls out for mani/pedis a couple of weeks ago for a wedding that we were going to.  I realized then that it had been years since I’d had that done.  It was so nice and I really enjoyed it.  But not enough to put it back into the budget.)  I’m not trying to say people shouldn’t get their nails done, people can do what they want with their own money, I’m just saying it’s not something that is important to me anymore.

Anyway, we finally came to our senses a little bit.  We needed to move to a cheaper house.  We needed to drive cheaper cars and I started investigating on ways to save money by simplifying our lives.

We sold the new house and moved into our crappy old house.  It needed (still needs) a lot of work, BUT it was cheaper, it was in a great location right in the middle of our sweet little town and the taxes were low.  Not to mention the excellent neighbors that we had no idea we were getting when we first moved in.

We got rid of the expensive vehicles.  We now have one car payment that is manageable and when it’s paid for I will drive the wheels off of good ol’ Nelly the Nissan!  Brian’s car was a gift from his mother, when she was ready to get into a new car, she gave us her old one.  It’s a nice car that she took excellent care of and best of all: NO CAR PAYMENT!

After that, we just started taking baby steps into making our life simpler.  And I can say from experience now that simpler = happier for us.  We started a vegetable and herb garden, which I look forward to every year.  I like to can things from the garden, which gives me such satisfaction (except for when beans explode in my kitchen, which by the way, there is still a stain on my ceiling from that!), knowing that I am able to feed my family from things that I’ve grown myself.  I also cook a lot of things from scratch.  Not only is it cheaper and tastier, but I can breathe easy knowing exactly what is in the food that I prepare. *Note – I don’t make everything from scratch.  I tried that once and it was about the complete opposite of simplified living.  I was totally stressed out and chained to the kitchen 24/7.  But we eat a pretty simple menu around here, which makes it very easy for us to avoid processed food most of the time.* And by the way, I have found that old cookbooks are filled with really SIMPLE and delicious recipes.  I used to think that if there were only a few ingredients in something, then it couldn’t taste that good, but now I know the opposite to be true a lot of the time.  I know that there are a lot of great recipes out there now, I thumb through cookbooks in the store every once in a while, most of which have ingredients I’ve never even heard of and fancy names that frighten me and make me feel very much like an unsophisticated doof.  If you get into things that you have to go running around to a bunch of different stores on the off chance that they might carry some obscure item, then that becomes very complicated.  I save the complicated recipes for special occasions or for just a fun experiment and stick with uncomplicated & yummy the rest of the time.

All four of us have adapted to our simpler lifestyle.  We have awesome times just being together.  We go for walks, bike rides, the library, the park, or just into the back yard to play ball.  All of which are simple and FREE!  Living a simple life lets you have time to see and experience in the moment just how beneficial quality time with your family is.  It also makes those times when you are going out for the evening to dinner and a movie or just to get ice cream seem so much more exciting.  It’s not just the same old thing you do every weekend.  We went to the root beer stand for supper the other night.  It has easily been a year or longer since we have done this very simple thing, in fact I don’t think either of the girls remembered going there before, so it may have been longer.  All four of us were excited.  You pull up, push a button, the guy asks for your order and then a few minutes later, a girl delivers it to your car, hangs your tray on your window and you eat your food and drink your root beer IN THE CAR!  Hannah was like, “We’re eating in the car?!” So, this was a real treat for them.  For all of us because we were doing something special.  Now, if every weekend consists of various drive-thru meals, something like this just falls into the mundane, every-day-routine kind of category.

Our most recent simplifying measure has been to get rid of our satellite.  My uncle made us an antennae.  Yes, he MADE it!  For FREE!  He’s so awesome.  So, that right there is saving us like $70 a month!  Never mind that when we were putting it up Brian started having back spasms and I was forced to go into the scary, hot, spidery, scary, dark, scary attic (this is an antenna that hangs in the attic) and almost kill myself trying to wade through the insulation and step only on the joists so as not to fall through into the dining room to get it all set up.  How convenient for those back spasms to come right at that particular moment!  (Just kidding, B!  Sorta.)  We get quite a few channels and even a couple of kids channels.  (We aren’t speaking of the fact that we no longer have ESPN.  We feel that if we don’t speak of it, maybe it won’t really be true.)

Personally, I have found that I really enjoy cheap and simple hobbies.  Reading (books that I’ve got on loan for free from the library or free from Amazon with my Swagbucks), crocheting, walking, and blogging.  I admit that I do love going to the movies, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times we go in a year.  I will go if it’s something I’m dying to see, but usually I will just wait for it to come out on video.

Another thing that has changed is that I’m no longer a”junk” collector.  I used to buy endless amounts of stuff that I didn’t need.  Things to decorate the house with, clothes, jewelry, etc.  Now, I have to really really want something to buy it and then I will usually only do it with birthday or Christmas money.  That is, things that I just “want” vs. need.  Things that we need get purchased, we do have two growing girls that can’t seem to stay in one size for very long.  But as for Brian & I, the clothing in our closet has been in there for years.  We will buy new clothes sometimes on Christmas or birthdays, but other than that, we just wear what we have.  My house is decorated, but not overly so and that seems to suit me better these days.  Right now, I have my eye on a composter.  I’ve wanted one for years and so this year for my birthday, which is right around the corner, I will be faced with deciding whether to spend my birthday money on the composter that I really want or biting the bullet and getting some new summer clothes as the ones I have are pretty much worn out.  That’s gonna be a tough one!

I’m not a minimalist by any means, not even close, but simplifying has been something that has given me so much peace as well as saving us some money in the process.  And I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy being able to spend money once in a while, I do, and we do.  I just have a totally different perspective now where money is concerned.  Posessions are just things.  They don’t make me happier to get them or sadder when I can’t have them.

Ugly Recycling

Do you recycle?

We do.  It causes quite an ugly eye sore in my kitchen, but it helps reduce the number of trash bags we haul off to the dump and it’s good for the earth.

I think it also helps teach the girls an important lesson about being kind to this beautiful planet that God gave to us.  Afterall, they (and their children and their children’s childeren…) will be the ones left to deal with the damage that has been done so far.

This is our ugly recycling station.  I wish there was a way to make it prettier…there probably is, but I’m not all that fancy.

We recycle plastic, cardboard, glass and paper.  The plastic tote houses the cardboard, glass and plastic.  The 3 brown paper bags hold newspaper, regular paper and magazines.

The big recycling container comes to town on the 2nd Satuday of every month and Brian gets the pleasure of hauling it all up to the utility company to get rid of it.

That big mess in our kitchen has to be emptied and taken to the basement once a month because we tend to get overloaded, so each month we send off roughly double what you see in the picture to be recycled.

It saves us about 1 or 2 trash bags a week.  Not too shabby. : )

Pillowcase Apron

I finished a Christmas gift today that is okay to share.  It’s for my niece, Madie, and as far as I know, she doesn’t read my blog.  She loves to cook and I found this pattern for a pillowcase apron and thought it would be perfect for her.

But before we get to the pictures, I have an ugly confession to make.  I hate having to get ugly, but I cannot proceed in good conscience without first coming clean about this.

I…don’t…like…

to sew.

THERE!  I said it.  I feel better.

Remember how excited I was last year when I got my sewing machine?  Well, I’ve tried to love sewing and I just…don’t.  This pillowcase apron pattern is super DUPER easy.  It would take a normal person probably 30 minutes to complete.  Do you know how long it took me?  Do you?  3 HOURS!

I was not kind to myself during those 3 hours.  I called myself lots of names and had out-loud arguments back and forth with myself for the entire duration.  I felt completely drained and exhausted at the end.  And then just when I finally finished the stinkin’ thing and I sat down to relax and take a deep breath and reflect on why I can’t seem to do the most basic of tasks, I realized that it was time to get supper ready.  Oh it was a bad, bad day.

I’m not exactly sure why I have a learning disability when it comes to sewing, but I just don’t get it.  I want to get it.  I really do.  But I just don’t.

I’m not getting rid of my sewing machine by any means.  I’ll keep it around for any super simple projects that seem worthwhile.  Or for when I get ambitious.  Or for when I forget that I am stupid.

Okay, now on to the photos, I say!

I bought this strawberry print pillowcase at a garage sale over the summer for a quarter.  I thought it was adorable and that I could surely find something to use it for at some point in the future.  Then when I saw the pattern for the apron, I knew it was a perfect fit!

Katie is modeling it for me.  Madie is a good foot and a half taller than Katie, so it won’t be as long on her.  The ribbon is a butter yellow gingham, but it seems to come across like stripes in the pics for some reason.

I wanted to sew a cute pocket out of the gingham too, but after 3 failed attempts (do you understand my affliction now?), I was out of fabric and had to opt for 2 buttons on the top instead.

I thought it turned out cute and I’m hopeful that Madie will like it too.

BEAST MODE MOM

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