Archive for April, 2009

Food Preparedness Ideas

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

The following is an email from a HBHW reader in response to my article on Emergency Preparedness. She shares some recipes and ideas that may come in very handy.  Thanks so much for sharing them Michelle. Enjoy! – Susanne

In your current issue, you had some ideas on being prepared. My church put out a booklet on food preparedness and there are a couple of recipes that I wanted to share. I have tried both and was amazed at how easy they were and how well they worked. NO ONE in my family knew the difference when I put them to the test.

Preserving Eggs:

Carefully crack each egg into an egg separater that has been placed over a small bowl. After the egg separates, place the whites into 2 sections of an ice cube tray, and place the yolk in another bowl. Repeat until you have 4 yolks in the bowl. Then, using a fork beat the 4 yolks together with either 1/8 tsp salt OR 1/2 tsp sugar. Pour the yolk mixture into 4 sections of the ice cube tray. (Your tray will have 8 whites and 4 yolks.) Place in freezer and freeze. After they are frozen, place the contents into a Ziploc freezer bag and store.
TO USE: Place the cubes in the fridge overnight to thaw. 2 whites and 1 yolk will equal one fresh egg.

NOTE: FREEZING THE YOLKS WITHOUT ADDING THE SALT OR SUGAR MAKES THEM TURN RUBBERY AND UNUSABLE!!

Canning Butter:

Heat pint jars (without bands) in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes. One pound of butter will slightly more than fill one pint jar, so if you melt 11 lbs of butter, heat 12 jars. While the jars are heating, melt the butter SLOWLY (in a large kettle) until it comes to a boil. Using a large spatula, stir the bottom of the pot often to prevent scorching. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Place the jar lids in a small pot and bring to a boil, leaving to simmer until needed.

Stir the melted butter from the bottom to the top with a ladle or measuring cup with a spout and handle. Carefully pour the melted butter into the heated jars through a canning funnel. (less mess) Leave 3/4″ head space in the jar.

Wipe the tops of the jars, then place the hot lids on and screw on the bands tightly. Lids will seal as the jars cool. The butter will separate into three layers: foam, oil, and milk solids. Once the lids “pop” and seal, shake the jars to mix your butter. Do this every 15 minutes or so, until the butter retains more consistency throughout the jar. (This may take up to an hour or longer.) When just slightly warm, move jars to the refrigerator. Check and shake every 10 minutes until they are hardened in the jar. Once hardened, leave in the frig for at least an hour.

Canned butter should store for 3 years or longer on a dark cool shelf. It does not need to be refrigerated once opened IF used within a reasonable amount of time.

NOTE: I bought unsalted butter for .99 lb and then added my own salt to it. Recommended amounts to add are 1/4 tsp per cube of butter. You can add more or less to suite individual tastes. When we used this, we used it on things such as toast or other items you could spread it on. You could also use this in place of butter-flavored shortening in your basic food storage

These recipes have been great for me and I hope that your readers will also find them useful.
Michelle T.

Reduce Your Monthly Fixed Expenses – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

You have a great deal of control over how much you spend at the grocery store, gas station, hair salon, and clothing store, but your monthly bills?  I know you’re thinking that your “fixed” expenses, like  housing, utilities, insurance, and the like, are set in stone.  Well, not so much.  Especially in this economic climate when everyone is competing for your hard-earned money.

Most folks have a handful of  bills that they receive regularly each month.  Some of these bills fluctuate a little, like the phone, power, and water bill.   The bills that typically stay the same month-after-month are the mortgage, rent, and insurance.  Whether you’re looking at your fluctuating or fixed monthly bills, it’s worth your time to investigate these expenses and see what can be done to reduce or even eliminate some of them.  This will take a bit of creativity, persistence, and perhaps a willingness to make some real changes in your lifestyle.

Your fluctuating monthly bills are usually easier to change than your other fixed expenses.  Investigate your options for utility companies.  If you have an opportunity to switch companies, get estimates from each company and do your homework.  If you can save money, and the service is reliable, switch.  Water, phone, electric, and gas companies are all vying for your business.

What if you don’t have access to more than one utility company?  There are many simple techniques to reduce your usage in order to save you money.  Set your thermostat a few degrees warmer for air conditioning and a few degrees cooler for heating.  Insist that all family members wear seasonally appropriate clothing inside the house rather than adjusting the thermostat for comfort.  Is someone in the family still letting the water run as they brush their teeth?  Are there still thirty minute showers going on?  Find out if your power company offers a reduced rate during off-peak hours and, if they do, use those hours to do power-hungry things like drying clothes.  It all makes a difference in your bill.

One utility in particular is a troubling, and possibly unnecessary, expense.   When is the last time you actually used your home phone or “land line”?  If you’re paying even a minimal fee on your home phone, that adds up to several hundred dollars a year.  Put that money into better cell phone service if you need to, or use it to pay down credit card debt and you will see that money finally put to proper use.  Honestly examine the feasibility of disconnecting your land line and see if this might be an option for your family.

Car insurance, homeowners insurance, and typically every insurance policy should be reexamined once a year.  Many savvy folks switch insurance companies every year or so to take advantage of the new customer rates that some companies offer.  Of course, you can always give your old insurance a chance to give you a better “customer in good standing” rate.  If you have a personal relationship with your insurance agent, visit them first, but don’t be afraid to get into a bidding war with other companies.  This is the sort of thing that will save you big money.

When it comes to mortgage payments, you will  need to prepare for a possible battle.  Begin by arming yourself with knowledge.  Educate yourself about the details of your mortgage because it’s foolish to go into a negotiation without knowing what the terms of your mortgage are.  Then, call your mortgage company and ask for a meeting to discuss lowering your monthly payment.  It may be time to refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate.  The scenarios for lowering your monthly mortgage payment may seem overwhelming at first glance, but if you do the research thoroughly, you’ll be ready for the fight.

If you are renting a home, condo, or apartment, talk to your landlord.  A warning here; do this only if you are in a position to move and/or have a very good relationship with your landlord. Some landlords are willing to give monthly discounts for tenants who have consistently paid their rent on time, rather than risk losing them as tenants. If you are handy around the house, can do yard work, or painting, would your landlord reduce your rent if you did some simple maintenance or repairs?  Just be sure to write up a new rental agreement after your deal has been struck so there are no misunderstandings on either side.

If worse-comes-to-worse, and you cannot renegotiate your rent, you may want to consider downsizing and moving to save money.  That may seem harsh at first, but this is the reality in many family’s lives today.  Fortunately, there are many opportunities right now that may make moving a good decision.  Consider lower rent, plus any “moving in specials”, as it pertains to your family budget, aside from the emotional aspects, and this may be a good option for you to cut back on your fixed expenses.

These fixed expenses are perhaps the most difficult area of your budget to face.  But, you are on a crusade here – a crusade for your family’s financial freedom.  If you try even one of these cost-cutting methods, I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re starting to take control of your money.  And, taking control of your money is what a tight-fisted budget is all about!

Introducing The Hillbilly Housewife Club:
Come join me and over 100 other frugal-minded women in this new and exciting community. Share tips and recipes, learn new frugal skills and have fun with others just like you. Join us today at www.HillbillyHousewifeClub.com

Your Healthy Diet Comes First – Fuzzy Wuzzy Wednesday

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Cooking for a family requires that you become a relatively well-educated nutritionist.  You know what foods are good for you and what foods are not.  But, do you find yourself falling into bad eating habits because of what the rest of the family likes or needs to eat in order to maintain their level of activity?

When our children are very young, we often find ourselves cleaning up their plates and calling it dinner.  We know we all do it and we know it’s not a good habit to fall into.  When our children grow a bit older, we start cooking foods that they like and foods required for their growing bodies and active lives.  These foods are not always the same foods we need in our diet.  We often sacrifice our own dietary needs for that of our children.

That’s not to say that we’re feeding our children junk food, it’s more that we’re feeding our children food meant for producing a lot of energy;  foods typically packed with energy-producing carbohydrates and sugars.  And, our bodies don’t normally need the same “fuel” as our children’s bodies, nor can our bodies burn that fuel as efficiently.  So, we have a dilemma.

What I propose is that today you plan your family’s meal around your own dietary needs.  If you are following an actual diet plan, cook the same meal for the whole family.  Chances are your family won’t even notice the difference.  If you are on a low-glycemic or limited carbohydrate diet, a grilled chicken dinner with a big salad will satisfy your whole family as long as you make sure to have large portions available.  No one will miss the mashed potatoes if the salad is gigantic!  Keep a big bowl of cleaned celery sticks with a spicy yogurt dip in the middle of the table so everyone can nibble all night if they wish.

Of course, your family will catch on after a few “Mom’s on a health kick” dinner nights.  But, by the time they do, you’ll have them in your corner and they’ll be happy to eat what you want to eat.  Turn-about is fair play though, so be prepared for your kids to have a night of their own.  I’m thinking pizza….

Get Ready For Grilling Season – Tidy Tuesday

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

grill weber amazonJudging by the aromas wafting through the evening air in my neighborhood, I’d say grilling season is here.

Our family grills out most of the year because our weather is temperate, but there are many folks who put their grill away during the colder months and wait patiently for that first sign of spring. And, when they finally get the chance to grill out again, some are so anxious for the grilling to begin that they don’t take the time to check and clean their grill.

Whether you use your grill year ’round or bring it out only when the weather is balmy, you need to treat your grill at least as well as you do your kitchen stove, if not better. Grills, both charcoal and gas, fall victim to harsh elements and neglect far too often, causing a host of problems, from irritating dilemmas like sticking food and smoking, to serious issues such as leaking or plugged gas lines. So, before you grill your first hamburger of the season, you need to do your chores.

Start by inspecting your grill for rust, clogged gas connections, loose parts, and any other issues that would cause concern. Repair the damage you find. If you have lost your manual, go online to the manufacturer’s website and you’ll find the information you need to maintain your grill.

Get out a big tub, fill it with dish soap and water, and start soaking your cooking grates. If you have a gas grill that uses metal “cooking bars”, go ahead and remove those and scrub them in soapy water, rinse, and be sure to dry them well. Do not allow them to drip dry as they may rust. If your grill uses briquettes or lava rock you may need to replace them. Brush and wipe off all the area around and underneath the heat source. Don’t forget that little “grease catcher” underneath. Wash or replace it regularly.

The same cleaning system goes for charcoal grills. Be sure to brush out and discard any remaining charcoal and residue from the insides. Go ahead and scrub the inside of the grill with hot, soapy water, rinse and dry well. If you have a little “ash catcher” underneath, give that a good scrub, too.

Now that your grill is sparkling clean inside and out, put your grill back together. Be sure you have rinsed and dried all your cooking grates thoroughly. If you have cast iron grates, you may need to re-season them. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how this should be done.

Cleaning a grill is relatively simple if, like most cleaning jobs, you do it routinely. After you cook, and when the grill is just warm to the touch, wipe down the cooking surface and lid, inside and out. Use a stiff brush to dislodge any burned-on food. It’s a whole lot easier to remove food from your grill when it’s still warm than after the grill has cooled down completely. Do this every time you grill and time spent maintaining your grill will be cut considerably. Don’t forget to take care of all your grilling accessories and tools in the same way. And, please get and use a cover!

Typically speaking, discarded grills are grills that were not taken care of properly. Your charcoal or gas grill should last a good, long time if you treat it well. Now, you can get out your favorite recipes and grill up a masterpiece!

p.s.  For some interesting grill cleaning tools, click on the links below:

p.p.s.  Click here for even more Spring Cleaning Tips for Mom and the whole family to get ready for the lazy days of summer!

Bargain Day At Bakery Means Strata Dinner Tonight – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I was shuffling through some of my most frugal recipes the other day and realized that many use stale bread as a main ingredient. These dishes are typically referred to as Strata, which is basically a bread and egg based casserole with anything you want mixed in.

The beauty about starting a dish with a basic Strata recipe is that, when the coffers are full, you can add lots of meat and cheese, and when you’re trying to stretch your food budget until next payday, you can feed a hungry family with Strata and anything you can find in your refrigerator by way of leftovers.

This got me thinking about planning a meal around a Strata-based dish once a week or more just to save money and use up leftovers. Since one of the components of any Strata dish is stale bread, and we don’t let bread get stale very often in our house, why not save money and buy stale bread?

And, where and when would you find more stale bread than anywhere else? In a bakery on Monday morning. The bakeries have been busy all weekend, cranking out fresh bread, rolls, and buns for their Saturday and Sunday crowd. When they don’t sell it all, they put their bread out in “day-old bakery” bins.

My challenge is to choose Monday as your Strata Dinner night. It works two ways. First, you can get your stale bread at the local bakery at a real steal. Second, you’ve been cooking up a storm all weekend because the kids are home all day, so you probably have a refrigerator chocked full of leftover meat, cheese, and vegetables. Your leftovers are now the makings of a filling, nutritious, delicious, and frugal dinner!

If you’ve got lots of veggies in your Strata, just a tall glass of milk and a piece of fruit will complete your meal. If your Strata is lacking in the vegetable department, a simple salad or bowl of peas on the side will round out your nutritious meal. Make a big enough Strata so there are leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch and you’ve just earned your title as Best Frugal Cook Ever!

Introducing The Hillbilly Housewife Club:

Come join me and over 100 other frugal-minded women in this new and exciting community. Share tips and recipes, learn new frugal skills and have fun with others just like you. Join us today at www.HillbillyHousewifeClub.com

What Happened HillbillyHousewife.com

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

I woke up this morning to a bunch of emails from shocked readers who went to the website and couldn’t find a particular recipe or article… Don’t Panik ! Nothing is being deleted, taken off the site etc. I’m just moving everything from an old and clunky way to build websites to a an easier way for me to manage everything. I’m working as fast as I can to move things, but it will take a little time to get everything into the new system.

I added a link to the Welcome area of the home page that will take you to the old version of the website. I’m also adding it right here for you – http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/indexold.htm

Here are a few things I really like about this new version of the website and those are the reasons why I decided to switch to this new system:

  • It’s much faster for me to add new recipes and articles…expect to see a lot more new stuff as a result.
  • You can leave comments and feedback on each recipe or article making the website a lot more interactive.
  • The print versions are automatically generated so each recipe will have a print version right away and there should be no more issues of the wrong recipe printing.
  • You can bookmark the recipes at your favorite social networking sites like delicious, digg etc. with the click of a button.
  • You can email a specific recipe to a friend with the click of your mouse.
  • The search function works better, making it easier for you to find the recipe or article you are looking for.

I’ll talk more about these improvements later… for now, I’m going to get back to moving more recipes over to the new area.

Start A Tiny Flower Garden – Frugal Fun Friday

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Normally, by the end of April I’m ready to get my hands dirty and dig around in the garden.  Unfortunately, the garden’s not ready for me yet.  Spring might be in the air, but the soil is a bit cold to start planting flower seeds.  But, that just means it’s time to get our “indoor flower garden” planted.

There are many ways to start a little flower garden inside.  Your method will depend on the available room you have, the sunlight, and your windowsills.  If you’re lucky enough to have extra wide windowsills to hold your containers, that’s where you want to begin.  Pick out the window or windows that have some good sunlight, but not scorching hot.  If your windowsills don’t offer the perfect solution, you may want to set a small table or two in front of the window, but not so close that the sunlight burns your plants.

Once you have a location picked out, decide on which type of container you want to use.  Egg cartons made from “natural” materials work well for me.  Tear off the top, put a sheet of plastic wrap over it,  and use it for a tray underneath.  We have an outdoor flower garden, so after the flowers are well established, we move them right outdoors and plant them just as they are, egg carton and all.  I just break out the bottom before I plant it.  If you use a styrofoam egg carton, you’ll just need to transfer your plants when they’re ready.

You may prefer small clay pots or other containers if your flowers will be moved to an outdoor patio or balcony.  Keep the containers small as this is part of the fun.  Kids like things that are miniature.  Tiny pots of tiny flowers that they planted are going to please a child more than a big pot that you had to handle.  Cluster your flower pots together for a pretty arrangement on a table outdoors.

Once you pick out your location and container, you’ll need to choose the flower seeds.  The simplest flower seeds to plant and grow, in my opinion, are marigolds.  The seeds are big enough for little hands to handle, there are a large variety to choose from, including miniature marigolds which are adorable, and they seem to grow without trying!

Buy a good sterile potting soil, have your child fill each spot in the egg carton or pot with soil, then have your child push a couple seeds into the soil just so they’re about halfway down.  Fill each spot or container in this fashion, set in your location, water very gently so the seeds don’t float up, and cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap. You may want to prop the plastic up a little with toothpicks just to let the air circulate.  Check the soil every day and water when it seems just damp instead of wet.  Don’t let the soil dry out completely.

When you see the first sign of sprouting, remove the plastic wrap from the top.  Keep the soil moist while the flower keeps sprouting.  This will go pretty fast now!  Within a week or so, your child will be able to see their flower go from the seed they pushed into the soil to a recognizable plant.  Once the plant stands up nice and tall and gets a solid footing in the soil, you can move it outside to a protected area.  Keep your plants out of the wind and direct sunlight.  They are still babies!  Remind your child to water their plants regularly, possibly every day now that they’re exposed to the weather.

Soon, your child’s plants will take hold and, before you know it, you and your child will be looking at a tiny bud or two waiting to blossom.  You’ll need to watch these buds closely;  flowers are known to surprise even the most vigilant among us.   Once your child sees the blossom they’ve helped to create, you may need to plan a second planting season.  Now, you don’t just have a budding garden… you may just have a budding gardener!

Things May Look A Little Weird

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Just a quick warning that the main hbhw website may look a little weird over the next day or so. We are moving everything to a new system that will make it easier to manage the increasingly bigger amount of content. As an added bonus, it will also make it easier for you to participate in the site. There will be options to comment on any of the articles and recipes for example.

Thank you for your patience.

Susanne – The Hillbilly Housewife

Cut 10% From Flexible Spending To Reduce Your Debt – Tight-Fisted Thursday

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

You’ve come a long way since you first created your family budget.  You are tracking your expenses and making sure that all your bills are getting paid on time.  You’ve even started an emergency savings plan.  But, you may need to dig a little deeper into your pockets to reduce, and eventually eliminate, your debt.

Your next step is to take another look at your flexible expense column.  Those are the “out of pocket” expenses that you estimate month after month; the expenses like food, clothing, and gas for your car, and other expenses for which you probably don’t receive monthly bills.

Here’s what I’m suggesting.  Going line by line, take the dollar amount you’ve allowed yourself for these items and take 10% right off the top.  Many of us over-estimate our flexible expenses because we’re basing our needs on past figures.  When instead, the prudent thing to do is look at your past spending habits and ask yourself if that’s been working for you.  The answer is “no” if you have credit card debt that is beyond your means to pay off monthly.

According to the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively, most families spend anywhere between about 10% to 13%, of their income on food, with estimates by others as high as 20%.  Do some quick math and figure out your food budget’s percentage of income as it stands right now.  Are you spending 10% of your family’s income on food? Are you spending more than that?

So, how does this work?  Say you came home today with $100 worth of groceries.  Could you cut that by $10?  If you came home with a $90 bag of groceries instead, and did that five times a month, that would be $50 towards your credit card debt.  Sounds like a great plan to me.

Other flexible expenses need the same hard look.  What about gas for your car?  Could you cut 10% off that expense if you car-pooled, walked, took public transportation, or rode your bike to work?  Do you have options for consolidating some trips?  When your family’s after-school activities overlap, can one child accompany you to your other child’s event, rather than driving him or her home before their next event?

Those are just a couple “out of pocket” items to review once again and give a 10% trim. Whatever flexible expenses are in your budget, you have an opportunity here to make a real difference in your family’s financial security.  A bit of relief should start to wash over you as you begin to see that you DO have control over your money!

Tea Time For Mom – Fuzzy Wuzzy Wednesday

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Do refreshments in your house revolve around what the kids like?  Is your refrigerator packed with fruit juice, milk, and kool-aid?  When you want to spend two minutes to yourself, sitting with your eyes closed, do any of those drinks appeal to you?  Me neither.

What ever happened to teacups and saucers?  For that matter, what ever happened to an afternoon tea?  In some parts of the world, women are still enjoying their afternoon tea… but not in my house.  I’m sliding right from my afternoon errands to my evening errands without a moment to reflect and enjoy a few sips of tea.  Seems a shame.

Here’s what I recommend.  Put on the top of your grocery list the word “tea.”  Then, when you are on your grocery errand, be sure to pick out a nice tea that you will enjoy.  This tea is not to be shared, so the type of tea you choose will be totally up to you.  If you like Earl Grey, buy Earl Grey.  If you like Green Tea, buy Green Tea.  And, if you like flowery or herbal tea, buy a flowery or herbal tea.  Just get something you think you will like.

Now, if you do not have a teacup and saucer at home, swing by your local antique shop or nice second-hand store.  You can find reasonably priced lovely teacups and saucers that will suit every taste and style.  Pick out something that’s special to you.

When you’re back home, pick a time during your afternoon, set an alarm if you have to, and plan your tea time.  Boil your water, pour it in your teacup, steep your tea for a minute, sit in a quiet corner, and sip your tea until you feel your body start to relax.  Repeat once every afternoon, more if needed.

Mom, don’t you think you deserve your own tea time?

Clean And Freshen Your Clothes Closet – Tidy Tuesday

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

No, we’re not going to do a wholesale purging and organizing job here, although this may be a good time.  Let’s just see if you can get your closet reasonably straight and fresh smelling.

First, remove everything from your closet, even the stacked up shoe boxes or other containers.  It all has to come out so you can give your walls, rods, and shelving a good scrubbing.  Once you have your clothing and other items piled high in your bedroom, get a old sheet or plastic tarp to protect the floor in your closet.  Get out your best step stool, being sure it’s safe.  Now, you’re ready to wipe everything down.

Get a gallon or more size bucket and fill it with warm water.  Pour about a cup of white vinegar into the bucket and swoosh it around.  Grab yourself a couple of good absorbent, clean rags and head back into the bedroom.

Set up your step stool in front of your closet, take one rag, soak it and wring it out, and beginning at the top of the closet, way in the back, start wiping down your walls.  Don’t leave your rag too sopping wet, but be sure to have enough vinegar and water on it to make a mark in the dust and dirt.  As you move down from the ceiling, rinse out your rag as needed and continue.  When you get down to the baseboard, be sure to wipe that off, too.  Don’t forget to turn around and do the trim on the back around the closet door.

Once the walls are all clean, go back and wipe down the shelves in the same fashion, starting at the top and working your way down.  Be sure to change out the water if you need to.  Don’t forget the clothes rods.  They get dirty, too.

Now, take a good look at your closet.  Are there any spots that need repainting or just a little touch up?  Are there any nails sticking out or other rough spots that need attention?  Are the shelves securely fastened or do they need some reinforcing?  Once you’ve decided that your closet is in good repair, it’s time to put your things back in.

Once your closet is good and dry, start hanging your clothes back on the rods, keeping in mind that now is a good time to eliminate re-hanging something that you know you don’t want.  Pay close attention to your shoes, making sure that they are not covered in dirt or dust.  You don’t want to put dirty items in your newly clean closet!  Keep a clean, damp rag handy to wipe off any storage boxes or dusty shoes before you replace them.

This may seem like a foolish chore to some, after all, how does dust and dirt get into your closet?  The same way it gets into any other area of your home… dust and dirt are sneaky!  All they need is a little tiny space at the bottom the door and in it goes.  Also, your clothes and shoes by nature will produce enough dust and dirt to accumulate and cause that stale smell in your closet.

Tomorrow, when you open up your clothes closet, I guarantee you’ll think to yourself, “My, that closet smells fresh.”  Good job!

Ready for more spring cleaning tips? Take a look at the following Hillbilly Housewife Ebook

Spring Cleaning Guide

Are You Part Of The Club Yet?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

A few days ago I mentioned that I’d tell you a little bit more about Hillbilly Housewife Club …but I don’t want to bore you with the details of what you get as a member etc. You can click on the link above to get that kind of information. Instead, I thought I’d share with you what kind of interaction we’re already having inside the club, what I am learning and what some of the other club members are saying.

We already have well over 100 members and are starting to get to know one another and chat in the HBHW Club forums. I’m enjoying “talking” with everyone and we are hard at work coming up with all kinds of new sections for the forums. So far we’ve started talking about gardening, making Christmas gifts and of course various recipes. One of my favorite discussions on the forum is one started by ange601 called “Dinner Tonight?” Members have been sharing what they are making for dinner. It already has over 20 replies on there and is a great starting place if you’re sitting down to make a menu. Who says you can’t copy what your neighbor (or in this case fellow club member ) is doing. It’s not like this is school :)

But to me the most exciting part so far is that members have really gotten me thinking about repurposing (yes, we have an entire section on the forum dedicated to that). With Earth Day just around the corner, it’s definitely a popular topic, but I’m sure we’ll enjoy it year around. So far we are talking about making various heating pads (made from beans and rice or cherry pits), using gallon pickle jars etc. All this talking about repurposing got me looking into other things I could reuse and lead me to discover crocheting with plastic grocery bags.. I’ll write more about that in a future blog post. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we are all learning from each other and are having a great time hanging out.

Here are some comments that I’ve pulled right out of the forum this morning:

“It feels very comfortable here, a nice supportive community, kind of feels like putting on my sweats and curling up a comfy couch after a long day!”.

“I’m thrilled that we now have a club and forum! It will be nice to chat with and meet the others who have embraced the Hillbilly Housewife site and newsletter.”

“Susanne’s recipes and tips along with the feedback from this community make this site a really warm and great place to be.”

I found Hillbilly Housewife quite a few years ago. I have always popped in there from time to time. I am excited to see this club! I can always use the input of other women!”

Ready to join us? We’d love to have you!  Head on over to Hillbilly Housewife Club and sign up. See you in the forum.

Save Those Vegetable Scraps For Homemade Broth – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 20th, 2009

You know that frugal cooking is one of my favorite topics and that I live what I preach.  Well, today, we finished picking the bones from the chicken we roasted the other day, so I immediately threw the bones in a pot of cold water with some salt and peppercorns.  As I’m bringing it up to a nice simmer, I looked for a yellow onion and came up empty handed.  There instead, was a lovely sweet onion.  Now, I’m planning on using that sweet onion in something more appropriate like tonight’s meatloaf sandwiches and tomorrow’s vegetable stir fry.  What to do, what to do…

What happened next is not something I can really take credit for.  You see, my grandmother and mother always had a “scrap bucket” in the refrigerator, ready and waiting with all those vegetable scrapings, peelings, and clippings that most people throw away.  The “ah ha” moment appeared.  I’ll just use the onion skin and trimmings from that sweet onion.

Now, there is a trick to this frugal cooking method.  You’ve got to get yourself a really good vegetable brush.  Scrubbing the onion top and roots under cold, running water is important so you don’t get any dirt in your broth.  Once you get it clean, trying not to lose all the skin in the process, just trim the onion up as you normally would.  But, this time saving the onion’s top, roots, and skin.  You’ve got a lot of flavor packed in what’s laying there.  Just go ahead and throw your trimmings in your broth, stir it up, and in a few minutes the aroma of the onion should start rising.  Mission accomplished!  I’ve flavored my broth and saved my sweet onion for two more meals.  Now that’s frugal!

This method for saving your vegetable scraps to flavor your homemade broth works well with lots of vegetables.  Just be sure to scrub the vegetables before you use them.  Wash up your entire bunch of celery and cut off the end to throw in your broth.  Wash your carrots before you peel them and throw in the peelings.

I challenge you to start your own “scrap bucket” in your refrigerator.  Start looking at your vegetable trimmings as you cook your family’s dinner each night, and you’ll start seeing all kinds of new uses for those worthy scraps!

Introducing The Hillbilly Housewife Club:
Come join me and over 100 other frugal-minded women in this new and exciting community. Share tips and recipes, learn new frugal skills and have fun with others just like you. Join us today at www.HillbillyHousewifeClub.com

Become a genuine hillbilly hoarder with a pressure canner

Friday, April 17th, 2009

by guest writer Tracy Falbe

Home canning can be addictive. Once you get hooked on preserving your own food, you’ll start thinking “What can I preserve next?” But the simple boiling water bath will only get you so far. Many types of food, like vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish can only be safely canned with a pressure canner. These are the foods that have a low-acid or non-acid chemical composition, which makes them susceptible to the bacterium that produces botulism toxin. This hazardous and sometimes lethal toxin can only be destroyed in the high temperatures achieved within a pressure canner.

The pressure canner works just like a pressure cooker, except that it is large enough to hold quart canning jars. Water is heated within the sealed canner and the pressure builds. The pressure causes the water molecules of the steam to continually collide, which produces temperatures of 240 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This is significantly higher than the 212 degrees Fahrenheit that is the top temperature of a boiling water bath.

What a pressure canner will do for you:

Provide the capability to can your own soups and stocks containing vegetables and meats. Some people like to preserve their leftovers after they make a big kettle of soup. When canning soups, you will have to keep a couple things in mind to be successful. Cream-based or milk-based soups are not recommended for home canning. I’ve read that the milk product will tend to separate during the canning process. I’m not saying it is impossible but I’ve read several warnings against trying it. What you can do is preserve the soup base and then add the cream or milk later when you heat up the soup to eat. For example, for cream of mushroom soup, you would can the mushroom broth and then add the cream when you open the jar and reheat the soup. This applies to any cream of vegetable soup. The same principle will be necessary for pasta and noodles. Do not can the soup with the noodles in it. They will likely break down and dissolve during processing. Simply add the noodles when you heat the soup before serving.

A pressure canner will allow you to can any vegetable safely. You CANNOT use a boiling water bath to preserve vegetables like corn, beans, peas, squash, carrots, beets, peppers, potatoes, and so forth. You must use a pressure canner unless you are using a pickling recipe. For some people, this could be a worthwhile endeavor. If you grow sweet corn, the crop comes in all at once. Sometimes you can’t eat it all, despite your family’s best efforts, so canning that corn would be a great idea. The book that came with my Presto pressure canner even explains how to can dried beans or peas. You soak and boil them and then can them. This is handy because dried beans or peas are extremely affordable, but — if you’re like me — it is easy to forget to soak them ahead of time when you need them for cooking. By cooking and canning them, they are ready to go off the shelf anytime.

With a pressure canner, you will be able to can all meats (including game), poultry, and fish. Some people like to do this when they see a good price on meat and they do not have freezer space. They will buy a bunch of the meat and can it. Then they have, for example, jars of cooked chicken or beef ready to go off the shelf as convenience food. And if you have a fisherman in your family who shows up once in a while with a big catch, that food can be canned as well. I was told by a lady who did this that the fish tasted wonderful.

Deciding to beef up your home canning beyond the boiling water bath will require an investment of approximately $100 for a pressure canner. Should you get a pressure canner, carefully follow the directions for set up, use, and maintenance. The book that comes with whatever model you buy should also include many recipes. Also be aware that the pressure canner can do double duty as a boiling water bath simply by not sealing it. Home canning with the pressure canner will be a long process because it takes time to pressurize the cooker and then to let it cool down (don’t run it under cold water).

Although it requires an investment and significant effort, the pressure canner remains a versatile piece of equipment that will help you take advantage of food deals and bountiful gardens. I personally use mine mostly for tomatoes. Although tomatoes and tomato sauce can be preserved in a boiling water bath, the results are superior when you use the pressure canner. I have done tomatoes both ways and really prefer them out of the pressure canner. Their color and flavor are better.

At my website Canning Local, I have information about determining which foods require pressure canning and how to use the equipment. http://canning.falbepublishing.com

Contest – Win A Copy Of Dining On A Dime

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

To help us celebrate the launch of the Hillbilly Housewife Club (more on that in another post), Tawra from Living On A Dime is giving away a hard copy of their popular Dining On A Dime book. Yep, she’s  going to ship an actual book to one lucky winner.

The rules are simple. To enter, simply post a comment below. One entry per person. No need to post your email address in the body of the comment, but be sure to use a valid email address in the email field when you post. You can post comments to enter from now through Monday April 20th at 11:59 pm. I will randomly select a winner from all entries on Tuesday.

By the way, you can also order a copy of Dining on a Dime for 50% off here… it’s part of the famous Living on a Dime Mother’s Day sale, and these books make a great gift for a mom, a new bride, a child going of to college or just about anyone that likes to cook. You can order print versions here.

Good luck!