Know What Goes On The Dinner Table – Frugal Tip

I love getting emails from Hillbilly Housewife readers. It always makes my day to hear how what I’m sharing here on the blog and in my eBooks is helping others. It’s what keeps me going :)

Yesterday I got one such email from Anne. She writes:

I use a lot of your homemade convenience foods… I’m sure it saves money but the reason I started was because I wanted to know what was going onto the table at night.

Anne brings up a really good point here. So often when I talk about the “homemade” type recipes here on the blog, I focus on the fact that making your own convenience foods is a great way to save money. It’s not just a good way to save, it’s also a safer way to eat.

Take a look at just about any seasoning mix or convenience food you buy at the store. How many things are on the ingredient list that are hard to pronounce or you don’t really know what they are? These foods are made to last on the shelve at the store  and quite a few items are in there as preservatives. Plus old food just doesn’t taste as good as something freshly made, so flavor enhancing things need to be added.

If you want to know what exactly you’re feeding you family, make it from scratch. You’ll be surprised to find that it really doesn’t take much longer to measure out a few ingredients and store them in a jar.

Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

Do you know exactly what you're feeding your family?

Marinate Before You Grill – Frugal Tip

With summer on the way it’s time to clean of the grill. Sure it’s nice to grill up a nice steak, some chicken breast or put a chunk of salmon on a cedar plank. Expensive cuts of meat and fish make it easy to end up with a tender and flavorful grilled meal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little marinating, even less expensive cuts of meat can turn out mouthwateringly delicious.

Marinating Cheaper Cuts Of Meat - Frugal Tip

Here are a few cuts of meat that will benefit from a marinate before you throw them on the grill. Not only will it add lots of flavor, it will tenderize the meat and keep it from drying out.

Flank Steak – Try marinating this in a mixture of vegetable oil, spices and some onion and garlic. Lots of great flavor and if you marinate overnight, you’ll end up with some great tender steak.

Chuck Steaks – Again, marinate with oil and spices. Be sure not to overcook this cut of beef on the grill  and serve it right away.

Chicken Thighs – We love grilling chicken thighs. Brush on some barbecue sauce for extra flavor and you’re good to go.

Pork Chops – These are a weekday favorite around here. They are quick and easy to grill. Try brushing on some soy sauce and sesame oil for an asian flavor or brush them with a bit of mustard and honey for a yummy meal.

 

bbq-flat-cover-1000Grilling Basics To Grilling Greatness 

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http://hillbillyhousewife.com/ebooks/grilling.htm

 

Checking Yeast For Freshness – Frugal Tip

There’s nothing worse than having a nice loaf of bread starting to bake in the oven or the breadmaker, only to discover that it isn’t rising properly because your yeast is less than fresh.

There’s a simple test you can do to see if your yeast still rises properly. All you need is a 2 cup glass measuring up, some warm water, sugar and your dry yeast. This works for packets of yeast as well as that jar of breadmaker yeast you’ve had hanging out in the back of the fridge.

If you have it, a thermometer will come in handy too. Best of all, you can use the yeast from this taste in your baking right away. You’re just giving it a little head start with this simple test.

Yeast Freshness Test

  •  Pour 1/2 cup of warm water into your glass measuring cup. You want the water to be pretty warm, but not hot. If you have a thermometer handy, aim for 110F.
  • Add one tsp of sugar and stir until it’s dissolved.
  • Pour in one 1/4oz packet of dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp breadmaker yeast and stir until combined.
  • Allow the yeast to sit and proof for 10 minutes. It will start to bubble up.
  • Fresh yeast will bubble up to the 1 cup marking.

If your yeast bubbles up to the 1 cup level, go ahead and use it in your recipe, omitting the 1/2 cup of liquid from the original recipe.

If the yeast doesn’t bubble up to at least close to the 1 cup level, discard it and go get a fresh batch at the store.

Simple test to see how fresh your yeast is.

Natural Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Frugal Tip

I used to clean my toilet with plenty of harsh chemicals and bleach. If it didn’t smell toxic while scrubbing, I didn’t think it would get things clean. Then I stumbled across a simple and natural toilet bowl cleaner you can make yourself from two ingredients that are probably sitting in your kitchen pantry right now. All you need is some white vinegar and some baking soda. It gets the toilet bowls sparkly clean and doesn’t smell nearly as bad.

Best of all, it’s cheap and super simple to do.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 cup White Vinegar

Sprinkle the baking soda into your toilet bowl , doing your best to cover the entire inside. Pour the vinegar over the baking soda. It will start to bubble and fizz. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Take a toilet brush and give everything a good scrub. Flush the toilet and you’re done.

It couldn’t be easier. This is now my favorite frugal toilet cleaner.

For the outside of the bowl, I make a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar and spray it over the outside of the toilet, then wipe clean with a wet rag. I use the same water and vinegar spray to clean my counters, sink and shower.

Cleaning Your Toilet Naturally

Planting For Spring – Frugal Tips

We’ve started getting our garden beds and containers ready for spring gardening. This is our second year of “serious” gardening, meaning we’re working on growing a fair portion of our veggies in the garden, not just playing around with a few container plants. Last year we ended up spending a fair amount of money. This year our challenge is to keep it as frugal as possible and we have some great tips to share. I say “we”, because truth be told, my husband is the one with the green thumb who does most of the actual gardening.

Grow From Seeds

Buying plants, particularly tomato plants put a big dent in our gardening budget last year. This year we’re growing almost everything from seed. Look through seed catalogs and on Ebay for seeds. We were able to get a large lot of heirloom seeds for a few dollars and have grown most of our seedlings from those.

You can also find plenty of seed packets this time of the year in garden centers and even grocery stores. Don’t forget to save seeds from your favorite plants toward the end of this year’s gardening season. We dry them, wrap them in paper and store them in an old CD case.

Keep Planted Seeds Warm With  a Cooler and a Bottle Of Hot Water

Once the seeds are planted, the soil needs to be kept fairly warm (warmer than we keep our house during the cooler months). We looked at several different options (heating mats, heating lamps etc.), when I remembered my favorite yogurt making technique.

We got out our large cooler out and put the containers with soil and seed in there along with a bottle filled with very warm water. We monitored the temperature with a small thermometer that usually hangs in my kitchen and changed out the water bottle in the mornings and evenings.

Once the plants started to emerge, we moved the container to a sunny window spot and got the next batch of seeds started in the cooler.

Use The Soil You Have, Only Supplementing if Needed

Going out and buying potting soil for several large raised garden beds can get pretty expensive. Instead, use what you have and only supplement if needed. We kept all soil from last year and mixed it with what’s already in our yard and some compost.

We will supplement with a little peat moss and mushroom compost from the garden center if needed. Even if you have to buy soil, mix it with whatever you have in your yard. You’ll end up needing a lot less this way and save big.

Get Creative With Container Gardening

Since we don’t have a lot of space to garden in the soil at the moment, we do a lot of container gardening. Buying planters can get pricey as well. Instead we started looking at what we already had. There were a few larger pots, but also some buckets and the likes. We got some large plastic drums from a kind neighbor and cut them in half for two very large containers.

Last but not least we took a little trip to the dollar store and found some great buckets with handles that were meant for carrying drinks and the likes and used them as planters. Even large canvas bags from the store will work as planters.

Grow What You Eat

Last but not least, think about what you like to eat in the summer and fall. Focus on growing the veggies you end up eating the most. Yes, tomatoes are easy to grow, but if you’re not a fan, there’s no reason to invest a lot of time and effort into growing them.

 

Container garden with lots of spring vegetable plants.

 

How To Clean Your Shower Head With Vinegar

I got in the shower this morning and noticed that my shower head was starting to get pretty clogged. It happens every six months or and after much trial and error, I came up with a quick and easy way to get it cleaned. It’s very simple, doesn’t take a bunch of elbow grease and most importantly no expensive or harsh cleaners.

Here what you’ll need … and yes, I realize this list sounds a little MacGyver at first, but keep reading. I promise it will start to make sense in a minute.

  • plastic bag
  • rubber band
  • white vinegar
  • an old tooth brush

Make sure you pick a plastic bag that’s wide enough that you can easily slip it over your shower head.

The idea is to put the bag (filled with vinegar) around the shower head and secure it with the rubber band).

Fill your bag with enough white vinegar that the bottom of your shower head is completely immersed in the vinegar when you put the bag around it. I find it helps to put the rubber band on the shower head first, then a slip on the vinegar filled bag and pull the rubber band over the edge of the bag to keep it secure.

Or if your shower head is easily removed, take it off and pop it in a small bowl filled with the vinegar.

Allow it to soak for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the bag, pour out the vinegar and rise the shower head with clean water. Much of what’s clogging it should be coming off already.

Take your tooth brush and gently brush away any other build-up and clogs. Rinse with more water and you’re done.

How to clean a clogged shower head

DIY notepads

Submitted by a HBHW Reader:

I make my own notepads by cutting copy paper sheets into the desired sized and bind them together with a rubber band.
What’s more – I do quite a bit of printing for business purposes, and often get a bad copy of something (or those sheets the printer uses to align the printer heads), and I use all those bad “throw away” sheets to cut up into notepad paper.

Any piece of paper that is blank on one side (not stuff with personal information like bank statements, of course) can be cut up and and bound together by a rubber band to make a notepad

The Hillbilly Housewife:

That’s a great idea. I use all sorts of scrap paper but usually just keep it in a little basket on the counter. I love taking printer paper (and the flyers coming home from school on what seems a daily basis) , cutting them into fourth and turning them into a notepad with a rubber band.

Thanks so much for sharing this great recycling idea.

Make Notepads From Scrap Paper

Using Old Envelopes – Frugal Tip

No matter what we do, we get quite a bit of junk mail and of course there are bills coming in each week. It all adds up to quite a bit of paper, particularly from the envelopes. If you look at an envelope, there’s quite a bit of white paper to work with.

I used to take it all straight to recycling, but started to get one extra use out of it first (before the recycling bin). For the past few years, I’ve been using old envelopes as scratch paper. I open my mail and then stick the envelopes into a small basket on my kitchen counter. From there I use it as needed. I use it as scratch paper instead of the small notebooks I used to buy regularly.

Here are just a few things I use old envelopes for:

  • Daily to do list.
  • My weekly menu
  • Grocery lists
  • Notes to family members
  • Quick reminders for myself, my husband and my daughter.
  • Phone messages.
  • Keeping track of what row I’m on in a knitting pattern.
  • Bookmarks.

 

Frugal Tip - Using old envelopes as scratch paper

What do you use as scratch paper?

Microwaving Potatoes – Frugal Tip

Let’s talk about potatoes today. They are a great frugal staple. You can buy them inexpensively, or if you’re so inclined you can also easily grow them in your yard. I prefer to buy them and use my limited gardening space to grow more expensive foods (herbs, lettuce, tomatoes etc.).

I always have a bag of potatoes sitting in the pantry. I often pull them out to add some bulk to meals. My favorite way to add last minute potatoes to any meal is to microwave them.

Get out a microwave-safe plate. Wash your potatoes and lay them on the plate. Grab a fork and poke a few holes in each potato.

Microwave them for 5 minutes on high. Rotate the potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or so and check for doneness. Cook them longer if needed. This will depend on the size of your potatoes.

Serve them with a little butter as a “baked” potato to go along with the rest of your meal. Or take some leftover meat and veggies, chop it all up and top your cooked potato with it along with a little cheese for a complete meal.

I also like to chop up the cooked potatoes and use them along with some leftovers to make quick and filling burritos. Or use them at breakfast time along with some eggs in a breakfast burrito.

It’s quick, easy and makes some great frugal meals.

Cooking Potatoes In The Microwave for quick frugal meals

Extra Tip: Once your potatoes are done, the inside of your microwave will be full of steam. Grab a rag and give the inside a good wipe. Any splatters from previously heated food will come right off.

Getting Candle Wax Out of Carpet – Frugal Tip

I had a candle mishap a couple of days ago. I have a green candle in a tin that’s Christmas tree scented. I love to burn it this time of the year and had done just that. The smell was starting to get a little overwhelming though and it was time to blow it out.

Instead of  getting up from the couch, I grabbed for it and somehow managed to pour a fair amount of the melted wax on the carpet :(

Let’s just say I wasn’t too happy. I did some googleing and some experimenting and learned something interesting.

The Best Way To Get Candle Wax Out of Carpet

Hands-down the best way to get candle wax out of carpet is with an iron and plain white cloth or paper towels.

Get out your iron and set it to a low setting. You don’t want to burn or melt your carpet and you can crank up the heat during the process as needed.

Grab some paper towels or a plain white cloth or towel. Put it over the spilled wax and start to iron it. Keep the iron moving.

The wax will start to melt and absorb into the paper towel. Move the towel around and get a fresh one as needed. Keep going until the wax is completely gone.

You can increase the temperature on your iron if needed. Just be careful not to make it so hot that the carpet starts to melt.

Vaccume over the area when you’re done. It will fluff the ironed carpet back up.

How To Remove Candle Wax From Carpet

How To Make Candy On A Dime – Frugal Tip

I love baking and making sweet treats, especially around the holidays. They make great inexpensive gifts and candy making is actually a lot of fun. If you haven’t tried it, here are some great frugal tips from my friends Tawra and Jill at LivingonaDime.com. The tips can also be found (along with all sorts of other frugal tips and recipes) in their Dining On A Dime cookbook.

Candy Tips

Use the leftover syrup from the candied orange peels on your pancakes, waffles or French toast for a gourmet taste.
If you over cook chocolate, it becomes dull looking. To save it, put the pan on low heat and beat in 1 teaspoon shortening or oil at a time until you have restored the shiny, smooth consistency.

When you are melting chocolate, make sure that all utensils are completely dry. Even a little bit of water will make chocolate grainy and lumpy.
Buy fortune cookies in large bags from Chinese restaurants. They cost about five cents each when purchased in bulk. They also make great treats for lunch boxes.

When making candies like peanut brittle or truffles, you can set them outside on the patio table to cool if you’ve run out of room in the refrigerator. Remember, for most of the country there are no bugs this time of year!

Save chocolate bunnies and chocolates from Halloween to use for making Christmas candy or buy it on clearance after Halloween.
Candy cooking tests to use if you don’t have a candy thermometer:
When placed in a cold cup of water, candy will:

  • Soft Ball 234°?240°
    form a soft ball that can be flattened
  • Firm Ball 242°?248°
    form a firm ball that holds its shape until pressed
  • Hard Ball 250°?268°
    form a ball that is pliable and holds its shape
  • Soft Crack 270°?290°
    separates into hard but not brittle threads
  • Hard Crack 300°?310°
    cracks easily
  • Caramel 320°?350°
    mixture coats metal spoon and forms light caramel colored mass when poured onto a plate

For High Altitude? lower candy temperature 2° for each 1,000 feet of elevation.

Making Candy

Lower Your Food Bill With Food You Family Will Love!

Would you like to serve food that will lower your grocery bill and your family will love to eat?

Click here to get the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, with tasty recipes and great tips to make your life easier and save you money!

Candy Corn Covered Pumpkin – Frugal Tip

Here’s a cute little pumpkin idea that will have your pumpkin lasting longer. Instead of carving it, cover it in candy corn pieces. For an everlasting piece, glue the candy pieces to a plastic pumpkin and cover everything with modge podge.

Just use a glue gun to attach the pieces and leave the pumpkin blank to make the face shape, if you’d like.

I recommend you start with a small pumpkin to see if you like the results. And don’t buy the good candy corn for this… just get the cheap stuff. You can also get different types of candy corn (regular, chocolate etc) and create all sorts of fun designs.

Candy Corn Covered Pumpkin

Do you want some more fun ideas for fall? Check out the Homemaker’s Hutch Magazine.

How To Store Onions – Frugal Tip

Onions are something I almost always have around. They are so versatile and add a nice burst of flavor to soups, stews and sandwiches. The most economical way to buy onion is in a large bag, but how often do the last few start to rot before you get a chance to use them?

The problems start when one little part of one onion starts to rot because it’s sitting at the bottom of a bowl on your kitchen counter or in a basket in your pantry. Since we usually keep the onions together the rot will quickly spread and ruin all your onions.

Best way to store onions

Good air circulation is key when storing onions. Get an open mesh basket that hangs in your kitchen. Another great idea is to take some old pantyhose. Cut off the legs and use them for onion storage. Drop an onion in the foot of the pantyhose and tie a knot. Add another onion and knot again… keep going until all your onions are tied up or you run out of pantyhose. Suspend the string of onions from the pantry ceiling or tie it to the top shelf.

Another important tip is to never store your onions next to potatoes. Stored properly in a cool, dry place with plenty of air circulation, your onions will last for months.

How To Clean Your Dishwasher with Vinegar And Baking Soda

You regularly clean your fridge, your oven and even run some vinegar water through your coffee maker… but how often do you clean your dishwasher? If you have an older model like me, you’ll notice that your glasses aren’t getting quite as shiny and clean and there may even be a bit of a smell to your dishwasher (even after you clean the filter).

There’s a quick and easy way to give your dishwasher a deep cleaning and sanitize it. All you need is white vinegar, baking soda and a bit of time.

Start with your empty dish washer. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar in the bottom and run it on a long cycle. If you have a cleaning cycle, use that. Otherwise pick the pots and pans cycle or any other long one that uses plenty of hot water.

Once the dishwasher is done running, sprinkle about 1 cup of baking soda in the bottom of your dishwasher. Let it sit overnight. It will absorb any other funky smells. In the morning, do one more quick run without any dishes to clear out the baking soda and you’re done.

Pretty easy but very effective.

How To Clean Your Dishwasher with Baking Soda and Vinegar

 

Going Paperless In The Kitchen – More Than Just Ditching Paper Towels

I’ve long stopped using paper towels 99% of the time. I keep a roll around, sitting in a cabinet for really bad messes where I don’t want to have to deal with the cloth afterwards.

For the mots part, we’re using rags and towels to deal with spills, messes and use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.

This morning I came across a great post By Sarah from Early Bird Mom on KitchenStewardShip.com.

She has some great tips on:

  • Avoiding Disposable Dishes
  • Using Different Types Of Cloths for Different Chores
  • Tips On Washing Kitchen Cloths.
  • Dealing With Stains On Your Kitchen Rags

To read more head on over to the Good Bye Paper Towels post on KitchenStewardship.com to read more.

 

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