One of the best things about having this site is the ability to meet really special people.
Today’s post was written by Rachel Martin of FindingJoy.net
Once I decided to focus a bit on the kindness of people, I knew that Rachel was someone I wanted to share with you.
She touches my heart. I hope she touches yours, too.
A couple years ago during a very challenging financial time in my life when my cupboards were almost bare there was a knock at my door and sitting outside on my front step were four bags of groceries. I wept.
A couple months ago in a Fedex in Colorado a friend of mine paid for the resume copies for another patron. This stranger thanked us over and over and over for a gift that was under a couple of dollars. Then the manager at the store said he’d like to pay for it because he was blessed by our kindness.
A couple weeks ago I went through the drivethru line at Starbucks and when I pulled up to pay the barista told me that the car in front of me paid for my favorite grande caramel macchiato. As the car pulled away I was humbled by the gesture. So I paid for the car behind and slowly pulled away watching the barista tell them there $7.86 worth of hot coffee was gifted to them. By a stranger.
A couple days ago I opened up my facebook messenger and there was a sweet note from a friend out of the blue telling me that she was thinking of me and that she was proud of me. I was blessed.
A couple hours ago one of my children came up the stairs, looked me in my very tired mom face, and told me I was the best mom ever. That was on a day where I felt like I was the worst mom ever. I wept. Again.
These things matter.
Some of them – like the groceries – are an investment, a larger sum of money, given to others in need. And then others, others like the resume copies in Fedex or the note on facebook really involved very little or no monetary support. But there is a theme – and that theme is the giving of self and the blessing of others without the intent to receive back. It’s a very beautiful thing. It’s a way of looking at life where the paradigm is not simply about self, but is rather with the mindset that this world is more beautiful when we invest in the lives and hearts of others.
And now here we are, in the midst of the frenetic season also known as the holidays, and the thing that we’re talking about today is kindness. I want to challenge you to look at kindness through a different lens – it’s a lens about blessing others, slowing down for others, and giving of just a bit of self for someone else. On my site, Finding Joy, I celebrate the little things in life. Those little things can be hugs from our kids, a latte at noon, sitting in the doctor’s office with a friend, notes sent in the mail, a hug for the mom whose kids are crazy at preschool, or well, honestly, kindness and all of those moments are really limitless opportunities in life for each of us to give to others. They really are the moments, the little things that matter, that in our lives will get woven together to create our own unique and beautiful story. They are the things that when we reach the end of our days that we sit at the table and share with others with words of remember when and I couldn’t believe and I was so grateful as tears fill our remembering eyes.
So during the holidays how do we celebrate those little things and work on kindness? Honestly, it’s often an exercise in slowing down, in patience, in being loving even when you are late and want to race to the next thing, in being empathetic, in seeing the world outside of the lens of self, and really, in remembering that others matter. So look at the cashier at Target or Walmart or Trader Joe’s or Costco or wherever in the eyes and be grateful for them working there even if the prices get screwed up or if things are bagged in a way you don’t like or if you just spent 18 minutes in line. Getting things perfect or racing to the next thing at the expense of others is simply not worth it in the broad story of life.
I’m telling you – treat others with respect and love – or as I tell my children treat others how you would want to be treated. So say thank you and I appreciate you and smile and exercise grace. You simply do not know the story of others and honestly, the impact kindness makes on someone’s life ripples more than we sometimes know. Give back. Buy groceries for others if you can. Tell those you love that you love them. Write a friend a message. Watch their kids. Be there for others.
Being kind is the ultimate frugal gift that we can give and yet it is really a priceless gift.
Think back to your own story? What moments made impacts? Where were times where you were humbled by the kindness of others? That’s the ripple.
It may be frugal, but it’s one of the greatest gifts one can give.
Rachel Martin is the writer behind the FindingJoy.net a website focused on intentional living and seeking the joy in motherhood.
She has learned the value of living a life loving the little things – the moments – tucked in the fabric of the everyday. And in that is a quest to live joyfully and fully. Now. In this moment. No more waiting for things to get better, no lamenting the time lost, but rather finding joy in everyday – even when the everyday doesn’t look perfect. It’s in choosing to life today to it’s fullest, being thankful, and above all grateful. Gratitude is a choice and is something one must learn. And so on this site it’s a celebration of the little things, the moments in life, that matter.
Rachel is the author behind the successful “Dear Mom Letters” Ebook and is currently working to complete several other hard cover books based on the success of her site.
It seems that we are getting bombarded with commercial messages about the Holidays these days. It starts with all the “Black Friday” deals and continues on through Christmas with last minute shopping deals. It’s not an easy time to stay frugal, especially here in the US. I’ll do my best to help you stay on budget with tips and ideas for a frugal Christmas over the coming weeks.
Today though, I want to talk about something we should never be frugal about – Kindness to Others. It’s really what Christmas is all about and it doesn’t have to cost a dime.
Random Acts Of Kindness
I love the idea of random acts of kindness and while it’s wonderful to be able to do some monetary ones (like paying for someone’s groceries for example), you don’t have to spend any cash on them. A random act of kindness can be as simple as opening the door for someone or letting them get in line in front of you at the grocery store. Or it can be as involved as going over to someone’s house to clean it for them. As you go about your day, keep your eyes open for kindness opportunities. Spend a few minutes chatting with a lonely neighbor. Volunteer at the soup kitchen or animal shelter. Bring someone’s paper or mail to their door, or shovel snow for them. I’m sure once you start being more aware, you’ll find all sorts of ways to be kind to others. And don’t forget to pass it on to your kids as well…
Kindness In The Kitchen
We all love to cook and bake around here… why not take advantage of this to show some kindness from the kitchen. If you’re making a big pot of soup for dinner this week, take some of it to a bachelor friend who probably hasn’t had a home-cooked meal since Thanksgiving. If you’re baking cookies, fix a plate of them and share them with the neighbors. If you hear about a food drive, look through your pantry and share some canned goods or mixes. None of this will cost you much but is a wonderful way to show some kindness to others.
Spend Your Time
While spending money on loved ones isn’t always an option, you can generously spend your time. Often it’s a much more meaningful gift than anything you can buy. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately teaching my daughter to knit and we’re both having a blast.
Think about who you could spend some time with over the coming weeks. Maybe it is inviting some friends over for coffee or tea and some chatting. Maybe it’s taking an elderly neighbor out to help with Christmas shopping. Or how about winterizing someone’s yard for them. Put on your thinking cap and find a few extra hours this week to show someone kindness.
Useful Gifts That Won’t Cost You A Dime
Look through your house. I’m sure you can find all sorts of things you no longer need from outgrown clothing to school supplies that the kids didn’t use and more. Find a few things that someone else in your life could use. Stick them in the box and take them over there. If you don’t know anyone personally, find a local shelter or charity that can get those items into the hands of a family that needs them.
The turkey has been cooked and carved, everyone had too much food and the leftovers have been packed away. The big question now is what to do with them. Of course there’s the traditional turkey sandwich, but there’s so much more you can do with your Holiday leftovers.
Since I spent a lot of time and money on cooking a turkey with all the fixings, I want to get as many meals as possible out of my leftovers. If you are looking for some tips and some new recipes to try, download the Holiday Leftover report below.
Holiday Leftover Magic (pdf)
I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are ready to move into the rest of the Holiday Season.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, because it is all about family and spending quality time while cooking and sharing a nice meal. There are no presents and not too much commercialization of the event.
And since we’re just a few short days away from Thanksgiving Day here in the US, I thought I’d share a few of my recipes with you today. In the pdf below you’ll find detailed instructions and photographs for making the following:
• Cranberry Sauce From Scratch
• Simple Turkey Stuffing
• Brining A Turkey
• Roasting The Turkey
• Turkey Gravy
Why not try one or two of them this year?
Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes (PDF)
Enjoy and a very Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.
I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine today. Her name is Sheri Graham and she’s a homeschooling mom of five and a fellow Christian. One of the things that first grabbed my attention was her happiness and contentment. Life is often stressful, particularly around the Holidays and it’s important to focus on the good things and enjoy our time with loved ones.
Last night I started working through Sheri’s 30 Day Thanksgiving Journal and knew I had to share it with you. Take a look at it. It’s $5 for the ebook and I plan on making it a part of my November each year from here on out. I hope you will as well.
I also asked Sheri to share some thoughts on Gratitude and Happiness with us. Here’s what she’s come up with. I think it’s a wonderful inspirational message for this time of the year.
Choosing contentment is a battle that we all face each and every day. How do we go about choosing to be content when our work as a wife, mom, homeschool mom, never ends? When we find ourselves at the end of our strength and longing to be in another place, another time? How do we do it? Before I dig in, I want to begin with a quote on contentment from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl…
“Maybe this is the true secret to being fulfilled and content. Living in the moment with God, defined by His truth, and with no unrealistic expectations for others or things to fill me up. Not reaching back for what was lost in my yesterdays. And not reaching for what I hope will be in my tomorrow. But living fully with what is right in front of me. And truly seeing the gift of this moment.”
The gift of this moment…It seems that when I am discontent, I am not acknowledging “this” moment as a gift from God.
Another quote on contentment from Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart…
“Most of us base our contentment on our circumstances, on our feelings, or on other people. However, true contentment is separate from our circumstances. Contentment is a state of the heart, not a state of affairs.”
I want to share now something that the Lord laid on my heart a while back. While this article is on contentment, I feel that what I am about to share is closely tied to not choosing contentment…not choosing to acknowledge “this” moment as a gift from God…not choosing to be content in the “here and now”.
“Instead of relishing each moment, each year, each opportunity, each step on the journey, I’m constantly overeager to get to the next thing, which always looks more enticing than what’s currently before me.” (excerpted from The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer)
It is this very attitude, this state of mind, that I struggle with at times, and what the Lord dealt with me about one morning a while back…
One morning when I was doing my reading, I came across some verses in John 6. Jesus had just finished teaching that He was the bread of life. That He was the Living Bread that would fill them and abide in them. Here are some verse quotes:
John 6:60 – “Many therefore of His disciple, when they had heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can hear it?’”
John 6:66 – “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”
John 6:67 – “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, ‘Will ye also go away?’”
Then Simon Peter answered Him:
John 6:68-69 – “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
When the teaching got too hard, some of the disciples left and followed Jesus no more. As parents, when what we hear the Lord teaching us (through His Word and His Spirit) gets too hard, do we bail out as well and not continue to follow Him for our lives and for our families? Will we also “go away?”
When the teaching gets hard (steps on our toes or is overwhelming) and others are turning away and not following Jesus any longer..will we follow suit? OR will we remain steadfast following Him because we KNOW that He is the Bread of Life..the ONLY ONE who can impart Life to us!
As parents, are we following Jesus because He is our Life or is it because we seek the benefits He brings us? What are we imparting to our children? We are to disciple them as the Lord disciples us. If we as parents are not truly being discipled by Jesus, then we cannot disciple our children as unto the Lord.
This phrase, “Will ye also go away?” has been running through my head a lot lately. This is what the Lord has been speaking to me . . .
- When my children come to me wanting to me to do something with them, and I would prefer to sit and read, work on the computer, etc. what will I choose? Then I hear, “Will ye also go away?”
- When the heart training times get so challenging and I don’t know if I can deal with one more battle . . . I hear “Will ye also go away?”
- When responsibilities at home, such as getting the house organized & cleaned, meals prepared, laundry done, etc. are needing attention, and I would prefer to just sit or leave the house to do something with the kids (to avoid my ministry at home) . . . I hear “Will ye also go away?”
- When my children are eager to tell me something and I am in the middle of doing something else. . . will I stop to “really” listen to them or . . . then I hear “Will ye also go away?”
- When the best thing for my children is to bring them alongside of me during the day to really disciple them and train them up in the Lord, BUT I don’t want to take the time – I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
- When I am feeling the Lord leading me to be a little more organized and intentional in educating my children at home, but I prefer to just “go with the flow” (and not get much done in the process because of lack of discipline and laziness) . . . I hear, “Will ye also go away?”
- When it is the Lord’s will for me to be a true helpmeet to my husband and support, honor, and submit to him in the Lord – but I would prefer to do things MY way – I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
- When dinner time comes and I haven’t been a good steward and planned ahead, I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
- When I sit down for my quiet time but then realize there is something else that needed done before the kids wake up, I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
- When I see sin in my children’s lives and realize that they are a reflection of me – will I choose to go to the Lord to allow Him to change me first OR . . . “Will ye also go away?”
I could go on and on with ways that the Lord has spoken these words to me. It has challenged me in so many areas of my life. Will I choose to also go away? When times get hard, the teaching gets tough, and those around you are choosing the wide path . . . Will I also go away or will I choose the narrow path (Jesus) that leads to Life?
As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and as we desire to be thankful and content, my prayer is that this has been a challenge to you. May these few simple words penetrate our hearts and spur us on to choose His way – His Life – in all we do each day, and choose contentment in the “here and now”…where God has us!
The Hillbilly Housewife Recommends:
Ready for more from Sheri? Take a look the 30 Day Thanksgiving Journal.
For each day of November there is a verse to copy, memorize, and/or journal about.
Many people don’t realize they can actually bake in their slow cooker. In fact, some recipes make baking in your slow cooker easier than baking in an oven. Also on the plus side, slow cooker baking uses less energy.
Here are some recipes and ideas for baking in your slow cooker.
1. Whole Wheat Bread
Yes, you can bake bread in your slow cooker! It avoids a hot kitchen for one thing, and also uses so much less energy than heating up the large oven for just one loaf. Here’s how to make a 12-serving loaf.
First, you’ll need a deep metal bowl or even a 1-lb coffee can that fits into your slow cooker. Grease the bowl well. Then, turn your empty slow cooker on High to preheat (cover on).
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Let it sit while you combine in a bowl:
* 1 cup warm milk or buttermilk
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 2 tablespoons oil
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup wheat germ
Mix these together, then add:
* 3 cups whole wheat flour
Knead dough until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes. Place dough in the greased metal bowl or coffee can, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. In your preheated slow cooker, pour 1/2 cup of water and place a trivet in the bottom. If you don’t have a trivet, you can use crumbled foil. Set the bowl or can on the trivet or foil, cover the slow cooker, and bake for 3 hours. The top of your bread may or may not brown, but it will taste good!
Variation: replace 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup rolled oats; add oats into milk mixture.
2. Apple Cake
This serves 8 to 10, and you’ll need a bread or cake pan that fits in your slow cooker.
In a bowl, beat:
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup oil
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
Then stir in:
* 2 cups peeled, chopped apples
* 2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Add these dry ingredients to the apple mixture along with 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional). Stir well and pour into the greased and floured bread pan you chose. Grease a piece of tin foil and place over the top of the pan; place pan into slow cooker, cover, and bake on High 3 to 4 hours.
Let stand 5 minutes before you take the pan out of the slow cooker. Turn cake out onto a rack and allow to cool; then slice.
3. Chocolate Fudge Cake
Here’s a cake that you don’t need a separate bowl for – you bake it right in the crock of the slow cooker.
In a bowl, mix together:
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1 cup flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
Spread this mixture over the bottom of your slow cooker. Then, mix together:
* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Sprinkle this over the batter in the slow cooker. Next, boil 1 3/4 cups water and pour over the batter. Don’t stir; just cover and cook on High 2 to 3 hours. A toothpick inserted will come out clean when it’s done.
“I wonder if I could cook that in the slow cooker…” Have you asked yourself this before? Many of us with slow cookers have eyeballed them and wondered if we could cook our favorite recipe(s) in them. Often, you can. But before you just throw everything into the slow cooker and hope for the best, there are some general principles you should consider as you adapt your favorite recipes for the slow cooker.
In most slow cookers, “Low” is around 200 degrees F, and “High” is about 300. Cooking takes about twice as long on Low as it does on High.
If the recipe you want to convert calls for a quick baking time, then you can probably get away with a few hours on Low or one to two hours on High. If your recipe calls for long oven baking or stove top simmering, then you can probably get away with 8-10 hours on Low (a standard cook temperature and time for roasts and red meats).
Slow cookers produce very moist heat. This means your recipe will retain more moisture than it would if it were baked in the oven. So a good rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by about half. However, if you’re cooking rice or some other grain, then you should use an amount of liquid that is just shy of the standard amount.
3. Oven versus Slow Cooker
Here is a handy guide for oven times converted to slow cooker times:
Oven: 20-30 minutes
Slow cooker: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on High; 4 to 6 hours on Low
Oven: 35-45 minutes
Slow cooker: 2 to 3 hours on High; 6 to 8 hours on Low
Oven: 50 minutes to 3 hours
Slow cooker: 4 to 5 hours on High; 8 to 18 hours on Low
4. Know What Holds Up
Roasts, brisket, and flat steak stand up well to long cooking, usually requiring 10 to 12 hours on Low or 6 to 8 on High. But vegetables don’t usually hold up so well, especially ones like snow peas and broccoli.
If you want to adapt a meat recipe that has vegetables in it, you can add them toward the end of cooking time. However, if you combine meat and chopped vegetables that are more dense, like chunked carrots and potatoes, then you can usually cook the whole dish for 8 to 10 hours on Low.
Poultry cooks more quickly than red meat, and fish cooks faster than both.
Ready to adapt your own favorite recipe? Give it a try and let me know what you made and how it turned out.
Few decorations herald the season like carved pumpkins. You don’t have to do the traditional jack-o-lantern face; you can get really creative and carve all kinds of designs. Here are some tips for pumpkin carving.
1. The Perfect Pumpkin
The perfect pumpkin may not be what you think. Round and flawless may seem like the ideal shape, but think a moment about the more oddly-shaped ones. They can inspire interesting designs, and may result in a very unique pumpkin!
Regardless of shape, look for a firm pumpkin without any soft or rotten spots.
2. The Right Tools
This is one of the most important tips for pumpkin carving. Not only do you get more attractive results with the right tools; it’s also safer to have tools that are designed for the purpose. Here are some of the tools for pumpkin carving:
- Knives – First, you’ll need a large knife to cut the top off the pumpkin. A large carving knife or a serrated bread knife – both as sharp as possible – are good choices. You could also use a small saw, such as a coping saw or keyhole saw. For carving, a small paring knife with a thin, sharp, flexible blade is helpful. A box-cutter or X-acto knife can also work well.
- Spoon – A large spoon is essential for scooping out seeds and pulp. Some of the pulp can be stubborn, so a metal spoon is a better choice than a plastic or wooden one. If you have a fruit spoon with a serrated edge, that might come in handy for scraping out stubborn bits. Also, a small fruit spoon with a serrated edge can help if you want to scrape some of the pulp thin for a glowing effect without actually cutting through the flesh.
- Toothpicks – Having some toothpicks handy can help if you cut off a chunk you meant to leave in! For example, if you are carving teeth and cut one of them off, you can use a toothpick to re-attach the “tooth.”
3. Cutting Techniques
When you cut the top off of your pumpkin, think of a bathtub plug shape. These plugs are wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, so slant your large knife slightly inward so that the base of the cut-off top will be narrower than the top.
When you carve out your design, sources recommend going slowly, and making sure that the blade of the knife never comes out of the pumpkin flesh when you’re cutting with it. Starting with the center and working outward also tends to work better than going from the outside inward.
I love Fall… the cooler temperatures, the comfort food, the pretty leaves… My good friend Tracy Roberts from Moms In a Blog has come up with a fun idea. She’s challenging us to use our slow cookers more… for 30 days in fact and has come up with a cookbook to help us do just that. It’s called “Slow Cooking Recipes For the Busy Mom” and includes menus and shopping lists. I had a few questions for Tracy and thought I’d share those along with her answers today.
Tell me about the book and the 30 day challenge.
I wrote the book because most of us aren’t home all day or if we are the day is filled with taking care of the house, homeschooling the kids or working from home making it harder to recreate Grandma’s meals but I have a secret weapon and it’s called a crockpot (or slow cooker – what do YOU call it?)
I thought the 30 day challenge would help to bring us together as a community and share wholesome, homemade dinners made easily with a crockpot and I selfishly wanted to get recipes from other creative people.
What is your favorite thing about crockpot cooking?
It’s easy to do. There’s nothing easier than throwing ingredients in a slow cooker and, a couple hours later, putting something delicious on the table that everyone in the family loves.
As a work-at-home mom and home schooler, my days are filled with lots of activity, so making dinner preparation as easy as possible is what I prefer to do.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I sure do… a family favorite right now is Beef Tacos.
What kind of crockpot (or crockpots) do you have?
I have several, big ones, small ones, round ones & oval ones. Some with fancy push buttons and some with dials. Alas, I have a couple that have either a broken crock or a broken heater (I don’t know it’s real name ) so I think it’s time to do some crockpot shopping.
Any tips for cooking more crockpot meals and making it part of a weekly meal plan?
When I don’t have ingredients on hand for particular recipes, I make what’s lovingly called “Stuff in a Crockpot” made from the stuff I have on hand. It doesn’t take much to make a delicious meal if you have a few staples on hand. You can make a veggie meal or a meal with meat if you have some canned tomatoes, spices and seasonings and a starch.
Slow Cooking Recipes for the Busy Mom ebook gives you 30 days of recipes for your crockpot plus shopping lists to make sure you have everything you need on hand for quick & easy stress-free meal planning.
There’s even a private Facebook group where we’ll be challenging each other to create delicious meals (and share the recipes).
Click now and order your copy of Slow Cooking Recipes for the Busy Mom: Quick & Easy, Stress-Free Meal Options today!
Fall winds blow and leaves make their decent from tree limbs. It is the perfect time for fun autumn activities for kids. Here are some ways to have fun with your kids this fall:
Create an Autumn Yard Collage
This is a great way to get your kids involved in beautifying your front lawn for the fall season. Materials you will need to create your autumn yard collage include hay bales, pumpkins (all sizes), scarecrows, witches, cornucopias, etc. Anything related to fall will look wonderful. Stack your hay bales to create a backdrop. Next, place a huge scarecrow (or witch) on the center of the stack. Then add other complimentary fall accessories like cornucopias, corn stacks, ghosts, etc.
Make a Haunted Tree
Making a haunted tree is a fun activity for everyone. It is especially great to do right after raking leaves. First, pick the biggest, best tree in your front yard; preferably one with many long, crooked limbs. Next, take small white trash bags and stuff the top half with leaves from your yard. Twist and tie the bag into a knot, or use a twist-tie to close the end where the leaves stop. Turn upside down and you have a ghost! Make as many of these ghosts as you can, then tie them to tree limbs. As the fall winds blow, your ghosts will haunt your tree.
Happy Autumn Cards
Supply each child with markers, paper, glue, glitter, stickers, etc. Let them make several autumn cards and write a special message on the inside of each one. After any wet appliqués are dried, gather the cards and take them to your local nursing home to distribute among patients.
There are so many different types of apples, it makes it hard to choose. If you’re at the store, the farmers market or picking your own apples at an orchard, it’s good to have a basic idea of what apple works well for what. Not every kind is good for eating plain or baking into a pie. The list below has some of the most commonly found apples in the US. It is by no means an extensive list, but a great place to start.
This is a great baking apple with bright red skin and juice white flesh. They are slightly tart and don’t tend to discolor too quickly. Great addition to pies and cobblers.
These are large apples with a yellow-green skin. They are juicy and crisp with a sweet flavor that lends itself to baking and making apple sauce.
Empire apples are a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious. This is a great apple that works for just about anything including baking. They are also delicious for slicing and eating and even freeze well.
Glala apples are one of my favorite eating apples. They also make great apple sauce. I don’t recommend using them in baking. They tend to fall apart very quickly. They have a yellow skin with red striping.
If you are only going to keep one type of apple around, make it golden delicious. They have a mild but sweet flavor that tastes great if the apple is eaten fresh or baked. These apples also keep their shape well during baking, making them perfect for pies.
This is one of the most popular apples around and for good reason. They are bright green and have a nice sour flavor. They are perfect for eating raw and hold up well in pies and crisps. I recommend combining them with some other apples (like golden delicious) for baking pies.
This is a fairly new apple variety that’s crisp and juicy. I love the honey-sweet flavor and use them quite a bit in pies and apple sauce.
This is a very old apple variety. Ida Reds keep their shape during baking and even freeze well. I use them for baking and in apple sauce.
These apples are a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples. They are best eaten fresh or used in apple sauce.
These apples are perfect for baking pies and cakes. They hold their shape well and have a nice crisp flavor. They don’t tend to be very sweet so adjust sugar as needed in baking.
I have a bit of a hard time finding these apples at the grocery store. They are best eaten raw and have a pretty white flesh that pairs very well with sharp cheeses.
My favorite way to eat a good McIntosh apple is right from the tree. Since they break up easily when cooked, they are perfect for apple sauces but won’t hold up in a cake or pie.
Don’t try to cook or bake with these. They are meant for eating as is.
This is a firm but sweet apple that holds up well in baking and makes a great addition to your apple sauce as well.
Living frugally isn’t always easy. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. The key to living a frugal live is to not feel like you’re depriving yourself all the time. Instead it’s about figuring out ways to get what you need and want without spending a lot. My friend Carrie is a master at this. She’s a homeschooling mom with 7 kids who enjoys life on a budget. Today I’d like to share a guest post by her with you. Enjoy!
How I Spent $2.50 And Ditched My Starbucks Habit
In his classic personal finance book The Richest Man in Babylon, author George Clason tells the reader that “…like a bright light in a dark cave, thy budget shows up the leaks from thy purse.” After tracking my spending for months, I had to face an uncomfortable truth. Purse – I found thy leak. And her name is Starbucks.
Frugality isn’t about denying oneself all pleasures. Rather, it’s about using resourcefulness and creativity to get the things you need (and want), for less. Enjoying good coffee is one of the pleasures I’m not willing to forego, but I was spending far too much money on this line item in my budget. So I decided to do something about it. I learned to make awesome cafe au lait at home.
The trick? I bought a milk frother. It doesn’t look like much. It’s a small tool that looks roughly like a teeny tiny egg beater, with a battery attached. But it makes a beautiful head of foam on your steamed milk, which poured over double-strength coffee, makes an absolutely delicious, hot creamy cafe au lait (you can also use it to froth milk to top espresso for – voila! – cappuccino).
You can buy a milk frothing wand for about $2.50. I got mine at IKEA. And here’s a tip: warm your milk on the stove until it’s at hot as you want first, then froth it. That gives it a better, thicker foam. Here’s the kicker: I love my homemade cafe au lait better than what I get at a coffee shop. It’s hotter, a fraction of the price, and I like the taste more because I’m drinking it at home, with a mug instead of a paper and plastic cup, and usually with a book in hand. Sometimes I even drink cafe au lait while I practice my French (with the help of the free DuoLingo software, of course). Elle boit café au lait et parle français. Ooh la la!
What are some ways you can save money without reducing your enjoyment of life? One way might be to first discover areas in which you’re currently spending more than you’re comfortable with. Ask yourself if that spending is really in alignment with your personal goals and ideals. If not, what changes can you make? Really use your noodle. You might find that the frugal choice is actually preferable!
Carrie Willard is the author of the ebook Slash Your Grocery Budget and Eat a Whole Foods Diet with ALDI. She is also a wife, mom of 7, homeschooler, and blogger. Catch her sharing frugal tips and other aspects of large family living at http://www.NaturalMomsTalkRadio.com/blog
If you’re new to shopping at Aldi or just want some ideas for cooking entire weeks worth of food with what you’re finding there, grab this book by my friend Carrie. I can highly recommend it.
Shopping for school clothes can take a bite out of your pocket book if you’re not careful. For many parents, the very mention of the words ‘shopping for school clothes’ can bring on a headache. Buying new school shoes, backpacks, clothes and all the other necessities needed to dress your child for school can be overwhelming and expensive.
The good news is, you can get your children dressed and ready to go back to school without going into debt, while still keeping your kids happy. I’ve laid out my 5 best tips for you to stay within your budget when it comes to back to school shopping.
What’s in the Closet?
Don’t even think about shopping for school clothes until you’ve discovered what’s already in your child’s closet. This is something many parents don’t do when it comes to school shopping but if you assess what your child has that is school ready you can reuse, recycle and save money. Dig into your child’s closet first before you even think about shopping. Get everything out of that closet and start sorting. You’ll be surprised at the good stuff you forgot they even had that’s been buried in the back of the closet and stuffed into dresser drawers. Sort through every piece of clothing, remove anything that doesn’t fit, and set everything else aside. Now you have an idea of what clothing your child already has. Get it all washed, folded and hung in the closet. Now that you know what your child has you can move to the next step.
Create a Budget
Now that you know what your child has for clothing, it’s time to think about what is needed. One of the biggest mistakes people make about school shopping is not setting a budget. So, before you let your child get too excited about a whole new wardrobe, you’ll need to create a budget. Living within your means is one of the most important responsibilities you can teach your child. Remind your child that an expensive pair of designer jeans may mean that she only gets one new pair or instead of those fabulous shoes she was eyeing she may have to get a not so fantastic pair. There are trade offs that need to be made. There are choices to be made that fit within the budget and once the money is gone, the shopping is over. This is a tough lesson, but one that needs to be learned before you go on.
Make Your Shopping List
Now that you’ve discussed what the budget is, it’s time to learn how to work within the budget AND get the most out of the the dollars you spend. Start by laying out what is already in the closet. Look through what you have and see how you can mix and match. Toss in some earrings, bracelets and other accessories. Move tops and bottoms around until you have a variety of basics that would benefit from some new pieces. This is where you want to start building your list. Jot down what you have and don’t have, such as what bottoms are unmatched with tops, and vice versa. Be sure to check underclothes and socks too. The idea is to get down on paper what you are shopping for before you get into the store and are swayed by impulse buying.
It’s not as much fun I know, but shopping online can save you money and time. It may be hard to do all your back to school clothes shopping online, but doing whatever you can often benefits both you and your child. Shopping online for clothes can be done in comfort and slowly without pressure. Of course, you can’t try the items on so be sure to check the return policies on the websites. This way if it doesn’t fit properly you will be sure you can exchange it for the correct size. Also, be sure to give yourself enough time before school starts to get the exhanges done, if needed. Of course, you can get underwear, socks, backpacks and all sorts of accessories online without too much worry as to whether the stuff will fit. If time is money, then shopping at home on your computer is pure gold. Don’t discount this method as a real bonus.
Shop Off Season
As the seasons change the clothing that hasn’t been sold will get discounted for the new seasons items. This is great for budget shoppers because you could get deeply discounted merchandise that you can use the following season. Watch for cold weather gear like sweaters, gloves, coats, scarves, boots and hats when winter ends the year before. You’ll need them before you know it! Buy way ahead of time and you’ll find great savings on close-outs in the clothing departments. Depending on your child’s age, don’t buy too far ahead because you don’t want any growth spurts to ruin your plan. A winter coat, one size bigger, bought in March for the following winter, at 75% off an already discounted price just makes sense.
Starting a new year of school can punch a big hole in your family’s budget. But, these few tips will help you survive the shopping stress and will save your pocketbook as well as your sanity!
Shopping for school supplies can be nerve wracking to say the least but here are some simple tips to follow to stay sane during the back to school rush. Most schools offer a list of required school supplies that your child will need. If you can get your hands on a copy early enough you can hit the sales, avoid the crowds and save some money too.
Here’s my time and money saving tips for back to school shopping:
Make A Master List
When you have school shopping to do for more than one child and each has a separate list you can simplify by combining all the supplies into one master list for shopping purposes. Tally up the total number of notebooks needed. Do the same for calculators, pencils, rulers, and on down the line until you have every item listed and how many you will need. It’s always easier and usually cheaper to pick up a bundle of items than go back and forth filling each individual child’s list. After you get home, you can divide up the items to give to each child using their own list. This method will save you money since there are always back to school deals on packs of paper, folders, pencils, and other supplies. You can buy a pack of ten folders for less than you can buy a single folder.
Hit The Earlybird Sales
Shop early and often for the best sales. You can get supplies little by little instead of being stressed by fighting the crowds and wrangling kids to buy school supplies the week before school starts. Watch the weekly sales at all the stores in your community and purchase items as they are marked down. Be sure to check with your school (most have websites now) for a list of school supplies needed.
Yes, pencils with fun patterns and glitter pens are cool, but they usually cost a lot more than standard pencils and basic pens. You will save a ton of money buying the essentials rather than trendy styles. Double check your school’s list of supplies as some schools allow only plain colored notebooks, pens, folders, and pencils, anyway.
But, if your child’s school allows for some fun with school supplies, it’s way more practical to buy the plain supplies and dress them up yourself. You can use stickers, paint or markers to decorate your pencils and top them off with a silly eraser top. The same goes for folders and notebooks too. Use your imagination to jazz them up and your child will have a one of a kind! You can usually buy a package of embellishments to share between all the kids for a lot less money than buying decorative supplies.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk saves on just about anything you purchase and school supplies are not different. If you are going to save a bundle on pencils by purchasing 100 of them, then why not do it. You will always need them. Going in with friends, relatives or other parents when buying in bulk can help you all save plus you won’t have to store a ton of supplies.
Big box stores do well for a reason. They buy in mass quantities to offer their customers deep discounts on certain things. Take advantage of this. Purchase a card for yourself or better yet go in together with several friends or other parents to use throughout the year on clothes, school supplies, and whatever else you may need. Membership is usually pretty reasonable, especially if you can share it with a friend. Watch your savings throughout the year and you’ll see the value really adds up fast.
Don’t Forget the Dollar Store
The dollar stores are another amazing place to save money. They’ve become a sensation for a reason. There are certain items that just aren’t worth more than $1 no matter how anyone tries to sell it. Things like paper, notebooks, calculators, pencils, erasers and pens, just shouldn’t take a bite out of anyone’s budget. There’s no reason to spend $3 on a notebook when the very same item is available for $1.
You don’t want to be one of the weary faced parents standing in line at the checkout counter with their arms loaded with school supplies on the day before school starts. And, you won’t if follow these tips to save and have a calm start to school this year!
In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned that my friend Tracy from Moms in a Blog is working on a new kindle book on pantry cooking. She was kind enough to share a recipe from the book then and it was so well received that I asked her to come back and share another this week. I also took a few minutes last night to do a quick little interview with her.
You’re out with a new book on cooking from your pantry. Can you tell me a little bit about your process when it comes to getting dinner on the table?
I’m a pantser-I fly by the seat of my pants on most days. While I usually have a list of recipes in my head and the ingredients on hand to prepare it, I find myself thinking about dinner an hour or so before it’s time to eat. The kids are familiar with “The Menu” so I’ll ask for their input and we eat hat sounds good at the moment.
What’s typically in your pantry?
I always have things like dried beans, whole grain pasta, quinoa, canned tomatoes, canned peaches, canned pineapple, coconut milk, evaporated milk, coconut & almond flours, Hillbilly Housewife’s Biscuit Mix, potatoes & onions.
I also try to keep chicken, ground beef, pork chops, bacon and fish on hand. I round everything out with our favorite spices and condiments.
One of my favorite things about pantry cooking is that I don’t have to run to the store. Great for those busy days when I just don’t want to run to the store. What other big benefits do you see in pantry cooking?
With the pantry items I have on hand, I can make virtually anything and know it’s something my family will eat. If I decide I want something a little different I just experiments with what I have on hand.
In fact, just last night we had lettuce tacos (we’re trying some new recipes) and decided that a peanut sauce would taste great with it so my daughter and I grabbed the peanut butter, soy sauce, some thai red curry powder & rice vinegar and proceeded to create a pretty good tasting sauce to go over our beef strips.
What are some of your family’s favorite pantry meals? Maybe you could share a favorite recipe with us?
My family is happy with potato soup almost any night and my caribbean chicken recipe is a family favorite, too.
- 1-2 lbs ground beef
- 1-2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 can evaporated milk
- Hillbilly Housewife’s Homemade Biscuit Mix, to thicken
- salt, pepper or your favorite spices
- In a large pan, cook ground beef with onions until beef is browned and onions are soft. Add evaporated milk & spices. Add enough water to cover beef mixture. Add your Bisquick or corn starch – enough to thicken. Cook until warmed through and your gravy is as thick/thin as you desire.
- We eat this over mashed potatoes
Any tips for someone that’s very new to this approach to planning meals and making dinner? How do they get started?
Start with thinking about the things your family likes to eat and then notice the items that you always seem to have on your grocery list – those things that you just can’t do without.
Let your creative juices flow. I don’t think I ever make the same meal, the same way, more than once. I’m more of an experimenter so I’m not afraid to create a recipe from my heard.
In my ebook, I give you my personal grocery lists and the types of meals I create from it.
Last but on least and along the lines of the last question. What top 10 things would you recommend stocking the pantry with?
I think that must be a personal choice to some extent.
I’d say to keep
- Chicken, fish, ground beef in the freezer
- Hillbilly Housewife’s Homemade Biscuit Mix (I love this stuff! and you can do a ton of stuff with it)
- Your Favorite Canned fruits
- Your Favorite Canned Veggies
- Canned milk (evaporated & coconut)
- Canned tomatoes – you can do so many things with a tomato base
- Dried Beans
- Grains like quinoa & oats
Thanks so much for a wonderful Interview Tracy and of course for the recipe as well. I’m looking forward to trying it tonight.
Don’t forget to check out Tracy’s new Kindle book:
Tracy Roberts knows how that goes but she’s figured out a way to make delicious meals, in 30 minutes or less, that her family enjoys so much that they ask for more. She shares her strategy in her Kindle ebook, Cooking from the Pantry: The Busy Mom’s Guide to Creating Fabulous, No-Fuss Meals in 30 Minutes or Less.
Included inside are Tracy’s basic grocery list, a list of meals she creates from it and a few of her family’s favorite recipes. Click here to get your copy today www.hillbillyhousewife.com/pantrycookbook