Archive for August, 2008

Bread and Milk Or The Emergency Food Post

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Every time there is a Hurricane remotely headed our way, or there’s a chance of snow… really any time there could be some sort of severe weather heading our way, the stores run out of certain staples.

Everyone heads to the closest grocery store to buy bread and milk which of course results in the stores running out of these staples rather quickly. Thankfully being frugal homemakers keeps us from joining everyone else in a mad dash to the store. Here’s how:

Homemade Bread
Creative Commons License photo credit: inkswamp

1) Baking Our Own Bread

Even if you don’t always bake your own bread, just knowing how and having the ingredients sitting in your pantry (which by the way have a much longer shelf life than baked bread) is a good feeling. Instead of running out to buy bread, just make an extra loaf.

But what if the power goes out and we can’t run our oven or the breadmaker? No problem, we’ll just make flat bread in a skillet on the grill, a camping stove or even a fire.

2) Using Powdered Milk

I encourage you to ALWAYS have a pack of powdered milk in your pantry. Not only is it great for cooking and baking, but it will also come in really handy in the case of an emergency. When you’re running out of fresh milk and the power goes out, just reconstitute some powdered milk as needed. If the power is out, wrap your milk container in a wet towel to chill it.

You can also mix milk powder with peanut butter and use this nutritious spread on your homemade bread for a filling meal.

Check Out The Library

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Ready for some more frugal fun this beautiful Friday afternoon? How about a trip to your local library.

Obviously this is a great place to check out new books both for yourself and the kids. But the fun doesn’t end there….

quiet time
Creative Commons License photo credit: brooklyn

Check out Books – Take some time this weekend to check out some new books to read for both you and the kids. Look at some new picture books with them, or pick a chapter book you can read to them at night. Don’t forget to look for a good book for yourself as well.

While you’re there, browse through the movie and audio book section. It’s easy to forget, but the library is actually a great place to “rent” movies. Best of all, it won’t cost you a penny.

Browse through the arts and crafts or cookbook sections and look for some new ideas for activities you can do with the kids.

Last but not least, don’t forget to check out the library calendar, or check with your librarian about weekly activities and special events. Most libraries have preschool classes that meet weekly as well as events for older kids. Your kids may get to meet an author, watch a play or do a craft or activity.


Staying Frugal and Saving While You’re Sick

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I’m down with a cold and about to crawl back into bed, but when I read the following article that Tawra from Living on a Dime emailed me. What a timely coincidence. I’m going to take her advice to heart and modify my usual frugal lifestyle a bit until I’m feeling better.

Surviving and Saving When Your Sick
by Tawra Kellam

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/livingonadime.htm

My husband and I paid off $20,000 in debt and medical bills in five years on $22,000 per year averaged income, and I am disabled with Fibromyalgia and ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Here are some of the ways we lived frugally and made it work:

#1 Keep meals simple. Try any of these simple meals:
-Chicken, with a bottle of hot and sour sauce dumped over the top and served with rice.
-Taco salad made with bagged lettuce, hamburger browned with taco seasoning, sour cream, salsa and olives.
-Baked chicken with freezer rolls and sliced cucumbers, peppers, carrots, tomatoes and ranch dressing.

Most of our meals take under 20 minutes to prepare. Write down 10 quick meals that are family favorites. Keep the “quick favorites” list in a specific spot and always keep the ingredients for these favorite meals on hand. Then, when you are sick and can??”t spend a lot of time cooking, you can make something quick and easy.

Also, make as much of dinner as you can when you are feeling your best. Then if you aren’t feeling well come dinner time it will be almost all done and you won’t be tempted to send for take out.

#2 Get the kids to help with daily cleanup. Kids can help pick up most of the house with proper direction. Mine are 10, 9, and 5 and have been helping since they were 3. I ask each of them to pick up toys. Then I ask each of them to pick up four more things. Later, I might ask them to empty all the trash cans and the dishwasher. Let the kids help as much as possible. Mine spend about 10 minutes a day helping and it makes a world of difference!

#3 Use paper plates. They are cheap, come from a renewable resource and can be composted ?? use them!  They cost about one cent each, so spending five cents for our family of five is way cheaper than the $40 take out!

#4 Give each person his own color of drinking glass. This way, you can prevent family members from getting confused about whose glass is whose and constantly getting out new glasses.

#5 Try to do at least one load of laundry a day. That way you won??”t get overwhelmed or behind.

#6 Let non-critical things go! Ignore the dust, the dirty windows, and other things like that. If you are lying sick on the couch where you look right out a dirty window, then ask your kids or hubby to clean it, but otherwise forget it until later!

By doing just these few things, you can keep yourself from going insane and save some money, even when your sick.

Tawra and her mother, Jill Cooper (who also has ME/CFS) are frugal living experts and the editors of http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/livingonadime.htm, a website filled with tips on how to save time, money, and energy ?? all of which are often in short supply for most of us!   They have helped thousands of people all over the world to save money and get out of debt.

My Great Great Grandmother’s Take on Leftovers

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

As a child, I spent quite a bit of time at my grandmother’s house. Like any good housewife of her generation, nothing was thrown out and it wasn’t uncommon to serve yesterday’s leftovers for lunch or dinner.

I remember complaining to her about having to eat the same thing twice in a row. I didn’t like the idea of having something that was just reheated.

Grandma had no problem with that…  “Just don’t eat” she said, “Or go and fix yourself a peanut butter sandwich”.

And while she fixed those same leftovers for herself, she quoted her own grandmother, ” I’ll just add an egg and eat it myself”.


Creative Commons License photo credit: gina pina

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that she would save these yummy leftovers of last night’s home-cooked meal for me.

To her (and any sane person … except apparently to a snotty 8 year old girl) these leftovers were treasured morsels of food…  much more tasty and satisfying than a plain sandwich.

Eventually I grew up and grew to appreciate leftovers.  I also learned something else from these smart women. You can easily take some leftovers, add something simple like an egg, some cheese or some chicken stock to them and turn them into a very different and very delicious meal.

Tidy Tuesday – What’s Hiding In Your Couch?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Back when I was in college, I used to dig around in the couch cushions for lunch money when cash was tight. Unfortunately it wasn’t always change that I found. My little “treasure hunt” often also uncovered some long lost hair clips, notes and various crumbs. Let’s just say it wasn’t a very pretty sight.

With kids and pets in the house (both of whom insist on sneaking food on the couch even though they are not supposed to), my couch often looks in just as bad a shape as during those college days.

kids on couch
Creative Commons License photo credit: normanack

Because I’m still bad about forgetting to clean under the cushions, I broke down and added it to my regular cleaning checklist. Slowly, but surely it’s becoming part of my usual vaccume routine to take off all the cushions, retrieve lost items of value and then giving the whole couch a good vaccuming.

It makes me feel better to know that everyone in the family is sitting, or laying down on a clean couch. And speaking of couches, my daughter drew a picture yesterday of her favorite thing to do with Mom… it’s us snuggling on the couch, reading books.

For more cleaning and home organization tips, take a look at the following Hillbilly Housewife Ebooks

Organize Your Kitchen and Pantry In A Weekend

Spring Cleaning Guide

Frugal Challenge – Pack Your Lunch

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Ready for another frugal challenge? I’m really impressed with the way you’ve been embracing these every week. Thanks for the comments and emails about them and of course all the tips to help you meet that challenge.

Living more frugally really isn’t something you just start doing one day. It’s a journey made up of a lot of little baby steps that all add up to a lot of savings in the end. But it really isn’t just about the money we save, is it?

Living a frugal lifestyle has quite a few other rewards as well. It feels great to be more self sufficient. I know I can live without my washer and dryer and if it came down to it, we would survive just fine without power. That’s a good feeling, because you just never know. A bad storm might knock out power for a few days and my family would be fine.

I also love the fact that through our frugal lifestyle we have less of a negative impact on our environment. We recycle and reuse almost everything, use less power etc.

I better get back to the point of this post… this week’s frugal challenge. Let’s start with a little math. If you (or hubby for that matter) work and go to lunch every workday, you’re probably spending around $6 for that meal each day.

Lunch $6 x 5 days a week = $30

Assuming you get 2 weeks off each year, we’re looking at:

$30 x 50 weeks = $1500

That’s $1500 a year spent just on lunch.

Now let’s compare that to an average homemade lunch, which could be a sandwich, some leftovers etc. And let’s highball the cost. You can easily make something for a dollar or two, but for this example, let’s go with $3. That should be plenty to cover a main dish, a side and a drink.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Creative Commons License photo credit: Island Spice

Since it’s half of what you would be spending out on lunch, you would cut your lunch cost for the year in half. That means at the end of the year you’d have an extra $750. Just by taking a little time each day to make and pack a lunch.

Of course that’s not the only benefit. A homemade lunch is almost always healthier and lower in sodium and calories than your typical fast food fare.

So that’s your challenge this week. Pack a lunch. If you stay at home, pack a lunch for your significant other and the kids. If you usually grab some Micky D’s for yourself and the kids on the way to or from the park, pack a picnic lunch instead.

Let me know how it goes and of course feel free to share your favorite lunch tips and recipes as a comment below.

Keeping Your Car Cool In The Hot Summer Months

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Don’t you just hate getting into a hot car during the summer months? The seats are hot, the steering wheel is just about to hot to hold and it takes forever to cool the car down. Not to mention the fact that you end up using more gas because you have to drive with the air conditioning cranked as high as it will go.

Richmond Green
Creative Commons License photo credit: markhillary

Since we live in the south and don’t have a garage or carport, we developed a few simple little habits that have made a bid difference in the temperature inside the car. I thought I’d share them with you this morning.

  • Use a sun-shield when you park your car. They are rather inexpensive and last for a long time if you take care and fold them back up in between uses. I find that the reflective ones work best in keeping the car cool.
  • When it’s safe to do so, leave two opposite windows cracked just a tiny bit to allow the hot air to escape. If you have a sunroof, you may want to leave it cracked open just a bit as well (weather permitting of course).
  • Park in the shade when possible. It’s worth walking a few extra steps to be able to get back in a cool car.
  • If you get back to your car and it is hot in there, open the doors and the trunk for a few minutes. I usually have it open while I get the kids settled in their car seats. It allows the air to blow through and gets a lot of the heat out quickly.

Create Your Own Water Park – Frugal Fun Friday

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

You don’t have to head to your local water park to have a lot of splashy fun. Instead, try some of the inexpensive ideas below to cool off right in your own backyard.

  1. Set up a pool for younger kids. You can buy a small one for a few dollars, or look around the house for anything that might work. We’ve splashed around in anything from a laundry basked with solid sides to a scrubbed out old pond liner.
  2. Grab a pack of inexpensive water guns or squirt toys and a bag of water balloons and let the water fight begin.
  3. Grab a large bucket and a variety of small cups, spoons, strainers and anything else you can think of. Young kids love to pour the water from one container to to the next. Older kids (and adults), will quickly use them for an impromptu water fight.
  4. Hold your own water races. Give every racer a cup filled to the brim with water and make them race through the yard or set up an obstacle course. The winner is the person who is fast and still has the most water in the cup.
  5. Use a tarp and your water hose to make your own slip and slide.
  6. Put the kids in bathing suits and turn on the sprinklers.

Oscar jumping from chair
Creative Commons License photo credit: Phil Scoville

Avoiding The Morning Chaos

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Summer is officially over and it’s time to get back into the regular “School Year Routine”. For us that means getting up a little earlier and at the same time each morning and going through our regular morning routine.

Over the years we’ve developed a system of sorts that helps us get going and ready in the morning in an orderly fashion and in the least time possible (since all of us like to sleep as long as possible). Quite a bit of this was developed when we were still both working outside our home and had to get us and our daughter ready to leave the house in the morning.

Here’s our routine… Read through it and see if you can’t adapt this for your family’s needs.

The Night Before

I used to be really bad about leaving the kitchen a mess at night thinking that I’d just clean it up in the morning. Then I realized that a lot of the chaos in the morning was a reflection of the way my kitchen looked (since that’s where we spent a good bit of time in the morning).

I have since made it a habit to do all the dishes and straighten up after dinner. Hubby’s job is to fix the coffee at night (without turning the coffee maker on of course). We lay out outfits for all of us before we go to bed and I make sure our daughter’s school things are in order and ready to use. I also prep as much as possible for breakfast.

If your kids are in school, make sure the book bag is ready to go and you have checked any homework and signed all permission slips.

If you are working outside your home, put everything you need to take with you (car keys, purse, briefcase etc.) in one spot so it’s ready to grab in the morning.

If you are packing a lunch, prepare as much of it as possible the night before. It helps to have a list of things that you need to finish and pack in the morning. I use a little white board that’s mounted on the fridge for this. I can’t think clearly until my second cup of coffee, so having a list as a reminder has helped a lot.

In The Morning

I’m usually the first one up and will turn on the coffee maker and then proceed to wake the rest of the family and get breakfast on the table. I help our daughter get dressed as needed, jump in the shower and of course dress myself. Hubby is great finishing up getting our little girl dressed and her hair fixed. We try to have breakfast together as much as possible, but when we were all working outside of our home and had to drop off our daughter, I’d be the first one jumping up form the table to make sure we had everything together and were ready to leave in time.

Since both hubby and I work from home now, things have gotten a little more relaxed but we have both found that we get a lot more done throughout the day if we continue to follow that morning routine.

To sum it up, the key is the preparation you do the night before. Do every single thing you can ahead of time, and yes, that includes ironing that blouse you need for work and signing your child’s field trip permission slip.

The Hillbilly Housewife Recommends:

Organize Your Kitchen and Pantry In A Weekend
This is an ebook I’ve written with my good friend Sherrie Le Masurier that will help you revamp your kitchen and make it easier to keep it clean.

A Quick Guide To Shopping At Aldi

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

100_4216
Creative Commons License photo credit: whgrad

I love shopping at Aldi. I am in and out of there faster than any other store (unless I make the mistake of going on a Saturday afternoon when everyone has also decided to visit this unique grocery store) and they have some of the best prices in town on every day groceries and household items.

How do they get away with selling anything from eggs and produce to bread, milk, beans and soda for less than the other grocery stores? Simple… they skipped all the frill and focus on only 1200 of the most popular products.

You won’t find any fancy displays in this store. Heck they don’t even have a lot of shelves. A lot of the items are simply stacked up on pallets on the floor (similar to what you might see in one of the big discounter stores).

All the various cost cutting strategies by this store of grocery stores has led to things being done a little differently than your regular neighborhood grocery store. Here’s what you need to know before your first trip to Aldi.

1) Bring a Quarter. Instead of having to hire a bunch of high school kids to retrieve abandoned shopping carts all over the parking lot, the carts are locked together. You insert a quarter to get your cart. When you return your cart, you get your coin back.

2) Bring some sturdy grocery bags or cartons. You can buy some nice sturdy plastic bags or paper bags at Aldi, but they will  not provide you with free bags. I bought a few of their plastic ones that I reuse for cold items and bring a few canvas bags I own for the rest of the stuff.

3) Don’t expect to see several different brands of items. There is usually just one brand (often an Aldi brand) of anything. I like the quality of everything but their flavored creamer. Try a few things, but if you are very set on a particular brand, try the Aldi version before you buy a bunch.

4) Don’t expect specialty items. While Aldi has a big variety of food items from canned to fresh produce and fresh and frozen meats, there’s a lot you won’t find in this store. It’s about 1/4 of the size of your traditional grocery store. I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Aldi and then pick up the rest at a different store.

5) Expect to bag your own stuff. When you get to the checkout line, you will be responsible of putting your stuff on the band (similar to the way Walmart does it). The Cashier will move everything in an empty shopping cart as she scans it, but she will not bag it for you. When everything’s in the cart, you take ownership of that cart and leave her your original cart to use with the next customer in line.

6) Not all payments are accepted. You can pay by debit card, cash or check. Sorry, no credit cards accepted and you will need to know the pin number of your debit card.

Tidy Tuesdays – Clean The Fridge

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Since these themes for certain days of the week are working out well, I thought I’d come up with another one. I’m calling it Tidy Tuesdays. On Tidy Tuesdays I will simply share some little tips about cleaning or tidying up one particular spot in your home. Feel free to use them as you see fit. Of course I would encourage you to take a look and see if that particular area in your home could use some straightening up.

This week, we’ll look at the Fridge and see if it could use some cleaning and reorganizing. I picked it because I brought home some groceries yesterday and noticed that mine is in dire need of some attention. So I’ll be tackling that cleaning task today.

Photogamer, Jan. 6
Creative Commons License photo credit: WxMom

I try to clean my fridge the day before our trash pick up so I don’t have too much expired food sitting in the trash can all week. I start at the top and work my way down.

I take every single item off the shelf and check it for expiration date or if it still looks ok. Everything that’s questionable goes straight into a trash bag, the rest sits in the floor next to the fridge. When everything is off the first shelf, I wipe it down with a water and vinegar mixture, followed by a dry dish towel. Then the items that are still fresh go back on the shelf and I move on to the next shelf.

When I get to the produce drawers in the bottom, I empty them completely and wash them out in the sink. While they dry I wipe down the bottom of the fridge.

Last is the side door. Again, I take everything out, and then wipe down the small shelves and the inside of the door.

When every thing is back in the fridge in an orderly fashion, I take a few minutes to clean the outside and the top of the fridge.

I don’t usually clean out the freezer part of my fridge at the same time, but I do peek in there to see if there’s anything that needs tossed and to throw out the old ice cubes and start a new batch.

For more cleaning and home organization tips, take a look at the following Hillbilly Housewife Ebooks

Organize Your Kitchen and Pantry In A Weekend

Spring Cleaning Guide

Frugal Challenge – Ditch The Dryer

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Ready for this week’s frugal challenge? Here it is…

Euskadi
Creative Commons License photo credit: Risager

A few days ago we talked about how much you can potentially save by not using a dryer. So here’s what I’d like you to do this week.

If you can don’t use your dryer at all this week. Take a few minutes to string a piece of line, rope or yarn between two trees or whatever you can come up with to dry your laundry.

It shouldn’t take you much (if any) more time to hang your laundry up then it does to stick it in the dryer, supervise it and then take it out.

If you don’t have the room, or simply aren’t home long enough during the day to keep your laundry out (and it might rain), find at least 3 loads of laundry that you can dry without your dryer.

Get creative. You can dry towels and sheets over your shower curtain in the bathroom. Hang shirts on hangers and hang them on a clothes rack, your shower curtain rod, or even on the trip of your door (while leaving the door open of course).

Smaller items like shorts, underwear and bras can be draped over chairs to dry. As can pants and jeans by the way.

Do what you can and report back on your experience. You might just find that living without a dryer isn’t as hard as you may have thought.

Iron Skillets – My Old Faithfuls

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I love my iron skillets (how very hillbilly of me:) ). I’ve had my favorite one for as long as I’ve been married and have since acquired a whole collection of them. While I don’t use them to cook everything, they are perfect for all kinds of things including frying bacon, shallow or deep frying anything from chicken to okra and of course for baked dishes and breads like corn bread.

Corn Bread!
Creative Commons License photo credit: kvanhorn

What I love about these and the reason I’m calling them Old Faithfuls is because with proper care you just can’t wear them out. They will literally last for generations. I should know… I’m lucky enough to have “inherited” a well worn skillet from my husband’s grandmother.

Caring for an iron skillet is a little different than you regular pans, but really pretty simple and straight forward. Wash your pan immediately after use with plenty of hot soapy water and dry it thoroughly. I usually wipe mine dry with a dish towel and then set it on the warm stove to dry.

The other thing that’s unique to cast iron cookware is that you need to season it. To season your pan simply coat it with vegetable shortening and then bake it in the oven at 300F for about an hour. Turn off the oven and let your skillet cool off a bit. When you take it out wipe off any excess oil / shortening before you store it.

Take a look at your skillet every once in a while, especially if you’ve given it a good scrubbing. Make sure all the seasoning (the dark coating that builds up on your pan) is still intact. If it isn’t, it may be time to re-season it.

Your Own Olympic Games – Frugal Fun Friday

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Quite a few of us have caught the “Olympic fever” , so I thought why not use it as a theme for our first ever Frugal Friday Fun. Seems to me that Friday is a great day to share some fun things to do with the family on the weekend. And since this is the Hillbilly Housewife blog, all of them are going to be low or no cost activities.

Sack Race
Creative Commons License photo credit: debbilytle

So let’s start with holding your own Olympic games. This could be a family event, or you could invite some other kids (and grown-ups of course) from your neighborhood, or friends, or extended family members to join in the fun.

Everyone participates in some simple challenges and events and the winners get a metal of course. Get the kids started the day before by having them make the medals. You can use cardboard packaging (like cereal boxes) to make the metals. Just have the kids decorate them with crayons, stickers, etc. We’ve even wrapped some with aluminum foil to make them look more medal like. Poke a whole through them and attach a piece of yarn, string or ribbon (whatever you have sitting around).

Here are some ideas for the types of events you may want to hold. This is by no means an extensive list. Use your imagination and think about all the fun games you played when you were a kid.

Egg Race:

Get some plastic eggs (or use hard boiled ones) and large spoons. Each racer has run with the egg balancing on the spoon. You can make this a simple race, turn it into a relay race or even have the participants run through a set of obstacles to make it more challenging.

Sack Race:

Get some old potato sacks or even some sturdy trash bags. Each participant gets in the bag and hops to move along the race track.

Long Jump:

Get out a measuring tape and see how far every one can jump.

Backwards Race:

Have everyone run backwards and see who can make it to the finish line the fastest.

Balloon Race:

Pair people up (preferably they should be about the same size) and hand each of them a blown up balloon. Place the balloon between their tummies and have them race to the finish line without dropping the balloon. No hands allowed of course.

Any other good ideas for games like this? Take a moment to share them as a comment below.

Tuna Fish Sandwich Recipe For The Lunchbox

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I got the following email a few days ago…

My daughter starts back to school next week and tells me she’d like tuna sandwiches in her lunch. I’m not so much worried about any mayo going bad but I do wonder about the sogginess level. I suggested I could send it in a container and she could put it on the bread herself but she doesn’t want to try that.

Do you find sogginess a problem with tuna? What if I packed it the night before…which is what I usually do to avoid the morning rush. Any input is appreciated.

Julie

Tuna Sandwich
Creative Commons License photo credit: RatRanch

My preferred way would also be to stick it in a small container and send the bread separately. You could try crackers and tuna in a container… maybe she’ll be open to that idea.

The other alternative would be to add something as a moisture barrier between the bread and the tuna. Washed and dried lettuce leaves should work.

I would make the tuna salad at night, then prepare the sandwich in the morning and pack it along with an ice pack. You could also freeze a water bottle or a juice box and stick it along with the sandwich in the lunch box. By the time lunch comes around the drink should be mostly defrosted but would still be plenty cool and will have kept the sandwich cool.