Friday, January 27, 2012

Not so frugal week

I have been so busy this week trying to get things done that I haven't had a lot of time to work on being frugal. As some of you know I am now caring 24/7 for my elderly uncle who has dementia. Anyway he has lost his apartment because they do not allow you to live there if you have to have 24 hour care like he does. So we been having to find room to place some of his stuff. Its been divided between my house and my brothers. I have given over two rooms of my house to my uncle. He is using my den as his bedroom and the enclosed porch right off the den is his sitting room. It was my sewing and craft room till he moved in and I have had to find some place to put all my sewing and craft supplies.

I haven't had much time for cooking this week between moving my stuff out of the rooms and putting his in but we did manage to only have to eat take out once this week. The other nights I cooked hamburgers at home or sausage, fried egg and cheese burgers. We have to have his apartment empty by this coming Monday and then I will be able to have more time to cook.

There is a frugal side to having more than one generation living in the same house but there are drawbacks as well. Two generations living in the same house can split the bills making it easier on both. Grandparents are close by to help with little ones and young adults are there to help the elderly. If you can come up with agreeable living arrangements it can make life better for all involved. If you can't agree on the arrangements then you should not try living together.

There are three generations living in my house right now. My uncle, my husband and I and our son. Our had his own apartment but only had a part time job and when winter came his hours got cut and he could no longer afford the apartment. It was taking his whole months wages just to pay the rent, electric and heat. The poor kid had no money for food. He wouldn't let us know about it and by the time we found out he had lost over 30 lbs and was down to eating food they threw away at closing time at work which was not always a lot. We let him move back home with us and now he pays room and board, has a little better paying part time job and is taking college courses online to get his degree.

There are times when all of us don't get along. It's hard dealing with an elderly person that has dementia and is going through the "sundowning" stage. He is up all night and wants to sleep all day. I have to fight to keep him awake during the day time which means I get cussed and yelled at. And some times he throws things at me. But I just keep plugging along making all the noise I can to keep him awake. Not even the sleeping pills the doctor put him on keep him asleep for more than an hour.

My son works second shift so he stays up all night and sleeps all day so when I need help from him and have to wake him up he is a grouch. Hey can I help it that on my last job I had to get up at 4am every morning for work. I am a day time person. I need sunlight to get me going. Not lamp light. LOL I am ready to crawl into bed by 9 pm not that I ever make it by then. I don't get to  bed much before midnight and then I am up with uncle 3-4 times a night and as soon as the clock strikes 5 am I am up and wide awake. I do not take naps unless I am sick because if I take a nap I can kiss going to sleep at night goodbye.

But like I said earlier. There are good points about more than one generation living under the same roof. In most cases there is a sharing of household chores, helping with caring for the little ones and less expense for all involved when there is only one house to pay for. It take the same amount of power to cook for 10 as it does two. So there is a savings there. It takes less to light one room in one house then one room in two houses and so on.

If you decide to let someone move in with you sit down and weigh all the pros and cons. Make sure everyone agrees on a price for room and board and make sure the household chores are split as evenly as possible so they are fair to all involved. Make sure everyone has a space to call their very own. And make sure everyone has a place or a time to watch what they want to on tv After doing all of that you should be able to have a peaceful living arrangement for all concerned.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thrift Store Shopping

I really need to get my camera set up to the computer I am using now so I can add pictures to my post. Until then I hope you can bear with me while I try to at least give a description of what I wish you could see.

My husband and I are both disable so we live on disability which of course means low income and with the way prices on everything is rising faster than our disability that means even lower income. Sigh.

In order for us to make it I shop thrift stores. I don't have a job where certain clothes are needed and we don't go out much so I only need a few really nice timeless outfits. Why go pay full price in the stores for things I may only wear a couple of times a year at most or at least only once a month?  So its thrift stores and consignment shop shopping for me. I make out pretty well doing it to even if I do say so myself. :)

Last summer I got a whole new wardrobe for under $100 by shopping that way. I got dress outfits and  casual outfits, two light weight jackets for casual wear and one nice light weight dress coat. I will try to describe the clothes and what each outfit cost the best I can so bear with me please.

One 2 piece blue & black sweater top with matching straight black skirt for $3.00
One 2 piece grey short sleeve sweater top with matching straight grey skirt for $3.00
One black ruffled skirt for $2.00
One red and black peasant blouse $1.00
One pair black casual dress pants that can be worn with the peasant top $1.00
One long denim jumper $2.00
One long denim jumper $1.00
One brown corduroy jumper $2.00
One long sleeve pull over ivory sweater to wear under the brown jumper $1.00
One pair grey casual dress slacks $1.00
One pair brown casual dress slacks $1.00
Two white casual V-neck tops 75 cents each
One autumn tones of color skirt 50 cents
One coral shirt 50 cents
One pair of woman's hiking boots with the store tag of $49.99 still on them, 49 cents
Two pairs of jeans $1.00 each
One red pull over sweater 75 cents
One light weight long black dress coat in really great condition 99 cents
One light weight black jacket $3.00
One light weight blue jacket $3.00
Four pair of casual pants $4.00
Two black purses 99 cents each
One brown purse 99 cents
Four casual tee's, one blue, one pink, one light green and one lilac, 99 cents each

With all of the above I have enough clothes that I could wear a different outfit every day for a month and not wear the same one twice. This was not all bought in one shopping trip. I spent a month scouring thrift stores and consignment shops. My best deals came from the Salvation Army's 49 cent sale on Saturdays or the 99 cent Thrift Store. My poor husband was in shock when I sat him down with all the receipts when I came home for the different shopping trips. He had thought I spent a couple of hundred at least. LOL

I love shopping the thrifty way. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Big Waste Part 3

You slave over a hot stove cooking a nice meal. You put it on the table and here comes the family. Plates are being loaded down because the food looks and smells so good! Everyone starts digging in. Then the next thing you know they are pushing their half empty plates away saying their are full. You sit there in dismay looking at all that wasted food sitting on their plates. You think about how all those poor children in starving countries would give anything to have half the food that your family just wasted. You might even think of telling your family about those poor starving children and how they would love to eat just half as well as your family does. But its just a waste of your time, energy and voice to tell them.

You can preach to your family 24/7 about those starving children but they are not really going to get it. How can they understand what its like to really being starving to death when you are setting nice filling meals on the table day after day or they can go to a restaurant and order anything they like? Only another starving person or one who has starved for days or weeks at a time can really know what its like for those who are starving in the poor countries. We can show them all kinds of new feeds or read them all kinds of article about it but face it. They are never going to understand fully the concept of starving.

Since you find that using the starving tactic doesn't work you want to try something else but what? The solution is easy. You run your kitchen like a restaurant! Set the dining table with everything but the dinner plates, drinking glasses and salad bowls. Appoint some one to act as the server or use a tray. You fill the plates at the stove with the amount of food you know each person will eat. Do the same with the drink glasses and the salad bowls. By doing this you will cut the amount of food wasted at every meal and you are also controlling serving sizes so some will not be tempted to over eat. Its a win/win!

There are other add benefits to running your kitchen like a restaurant. You will have less dishes to do because you will not be using serving dishes. The food can remain in the pan on the stove. You don't have to carry leftovers back to put away. But best of all is that you won't be throwing away enough food to make at least one more meal.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Big Waste Part 2

I use a lot of celery, carrots and onions in my cooking. The next day I clean them all and cut them up for the meals I plan on making for the week. I save the peeling from the carrots and onions and the leaves from the celery, toss them in a pan of water along with a little salt and parsley to make a nice veggie broth. If I plan on cooking potatoes that day I add the peelings from the potatoes to. I make sure to scrub all the veggies before peeling them to get the dirt off.  I then cool, strain and freeze the broth to use later in soups and stews.

I save cookie crumbs from the bottom of the cookie jar to sprinkle on top of pudding or ice cream to get a little extra flavor for a treat. I use to do the same with leftover bits and pieces of cold cereal when the kids were still at home. Now that the kids are all grown I don't buy cold cereal very often.

Then end pieces of a loaf of bread that no one wants to eat I take out of the bags and place on a cookie rack on top of the counter to dry out over night. Then I run them though the food processor to make my own bread crumbs which I use to bread meats before cooking them. I buy day old bread cheap at the store and use it to make bread pudding. If a loaf of bread that I have bought fresh gets stale I use it to make bread pudding or croutons.

I keep a freezer container in my freezer and when ever I only have a spoon of veggies left over for a meal but is not enough for me to make my own tv dinners I put it in the freezer container. When the container is full I take it out and make soup.

When ever there is a little mustard, ketchup or barbecue sauce left in a bottle I open another bottle and once we have used some of it I put a funnel in the new bottle, turn the old bottle upside down and let sit to drain into the new one. If I am not opening a new bottle any time soon I just add some water to thin out the contents and then dump in a recipe calling for that item. I also do the same with spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce. By doing this I get almost every last drop out of a bottle.

If I happen to buy a tub of cake frosting and don't use it all I use the left over frosting on graham crackers for a snack.

Hubby and I are both diabetics. We love cake but know not to eat a lot of it. If I make a hm cake from scratch I divide the recipe in half. If I use a store bought mix, I mix up the whole cake mix, split the batter between 3 loaf pans, bake and cool. We use one and the other two I wrap in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze. This saves us from eating to much and yet we have no waste. I do not frost the cakes before freezing and since they won't use a whole can of frosting I either dust the pieces with a little powdered sugar before serving or put a little pie filling and cool whip on them before serving.

Well that's all I can think for now. I will try to post more later.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Big Waste Part 1

I watched a show on Food Network today that was called The Big Waste. I could not believe that the four chefs on there were so surprised over all the food that gets thrown away each day here in America. What have they been doing? Hiding their heads in the sand?? Have they never even stop think about the food that gets thrown in the trash ever time they record a new show? What about the food that gets thrown away in their restaurants every day of the week? Do you ever see them using bruised veggies and fruits or sub standard cuts of meat on their shows? I know I never have. I only see them using the best cuts of meat, the prettiest fruits and veggies. Oh but wait. They have to make sure their food looks perfect so that they can sell their shows, books and merchandise. Who is going to buy inferior foods cooked in fancy expensive dishes?

Have you ever noticed that most of tv chefs have a garbage bowl sitting close on the counter and as they are doing all their chopping they are throwing way parts of food that could be used and not wasted? How many of them ever talk about saving those discards from one meal to make a nice rich veggie broth to use in another meal? When they debone meat how many times do you see them take the bones and roast them to make a nice broth? Not often do you? It would be great if they actually put their money where their mouths are and talk about not wasting food when they are recording their shows. They could go a long way in cutting food waste in America just by showing inexperienced cooks what to do with the leftover by products of the foods they use in their shows.

While I commend them for trying to wake up America to the tons of food that get wasted in this country  every year, this one show is not going to make a real big difference in the amount of waste. If they want to make a big difference then talk about it on their shows. Do public service adds about it. Try to set up programs to help get the food to those who could really use it. There are children and adults going to sleep every night in this country because they don't have money for food. The food that is going to waste good help end their hunger.

And then look at all the food we are shipping overseas to other countries where the people are starving. If the American government would set up a program to gleam the food that thrown into compost piles of farms and those imperfect cut of meat, poultry and seafood by products look at all the food that could be processed and sent to help the starving countries.

A by product of setting up a program like that would be the generation of thousands of jobs for the people right here in America. From farmers workers, to food processing people to health inspectors to packaging and shipping. Wouldn't it be great to see more people getting the food they need so badly and jobs to go with that food?

Of course in this sue happy country things would have to be set up so the food could be gleaned. Years ago farmers would let people glean then fields after the harvest. But most have stopped doing that because people were trying to sue them over the least little thing. They figured just because a farmer might have a couple of hundred acres of land to grow food on then they must be rolling in money. They never stop to think of all the expense that goes in to owning a producing farm.

Then of course there is the government who intervenes and pays farmers not to grow food so they can keep prices up and demand high. I could go on and on about the government but I am not going to. Enough said about them.

As for the food waste in America the American people have been conditioned to waste food. From restaurants who pile plates high to charge higher prices and in the process forcing people to over eat because they do not want to waste food. Tempting people to eat more because they think those over priced over filled plates are regular normal serving sizes. They tempt us not only with serving sizes but also appearance in the ads they use. Have you ever noticed that when you go to a restaurant that the food never looks quite as good as it does in the ads or the pictures on the menus?

Fast food places are the worse. They teach our kids that they must get a new toy with every meal they eat out. They tempt people into eating way more then they should by making super size meals and adding more salt and empty calories to those meals. Some of those meals have almost a whole days worth of calories that an average person needs each day in a single meal. Then they have all these ads with foods that have been doctored to look better than what they really are to brain wash people into believing that they must have that meal and children into believing that they can't be happy with out the toy.

Yes, we Americans need to wake up to the food waste in our country but so does the government and those who are in the food industry. The government needs to come up with programs to save the food that is wasted in the fields each and every year besides paying farmers not to grow food. The restaurants need to find away to save the food waste and donate it to food pantries, soup kitchens and so on. An the American people need to rethink how they buy, prepare and store the food they buy.

So far I have talked a little on this blog about how I reduce food waste in my own home. The next time I post I will talk about some more ways I cut food waste in my own home.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Saving money on food storage

Do you buy those plastic food storage dishes from Glad or Zip Loc? They are pretty cheap aren't they? Some are even easy to stack in the cabinets. Do you wind up with stacks of them in the refrigerator because they are not completely see through and some family members might be in to big of a hurry to open them to see what is in them? Have you ever sat and added up just how much money you have spent on them over the years? it could be quite a little bundle. Maybe even enough to buy that little special something that you have been wanting for a long time but couldn't afford to spend the money on.

Would you like to be able to get free containers for storing leftovers? Chances are you are throwing out free food storage containers just about ever week or two. The glass jars that spaghetti sauce, pickles, jams, jelly, beets and more make great food storage containers. They also conduct cold better then the plastics so they help keep food colder. They can be used for cold food storage or dry food storage in your pantry. You can store, dry beans, rice, cereal, dried fruits and veggies, noodles and more.

Family members can see what leftovers there is in the refrigerator easier so they are more willing to take a peek before opening some thing new thus adding more leftovers to the deep dark hole that seems to suck up leftovers until you dive in head first to pull them back out of it's endless dark depths.

Now please don't think I am completely against the plastic containers. They do have their uses. I use them for packing lunches and for freezing foods. Glass can break easy as we all know so are not good for lunch boxes or the freezer.

So the next time you go to throw out that spaghetti sauce or jelly jar take a close look and see if you can find a use for it. And remember the less glass you throw away and the less plastic you buy and eventually throw away the less quicker our nation's landfills become full.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cutting costs of buying meat

Do you cringe in horror each week when you get to the meat counter at the store? I know I do. Lately it seems like the price of meat is going up faster than the price of gas. Below is a few simple tips that I have either learned through the years or learned by watching my grandmother through the years of watching her cook when I was younger. A hour or less of time once a week can help save you tons of money when it comes to buying meat. They can also shorten your cooking time during the week. Another added bonus will be that you will be eating healthier to.

1. Most us eat a lot more meat at meal then is really good for us. Read up on the serving size of each type of meat you cook and package your meat for each meal to meet the number of serving sizes for your family. Less left overs, less money spent and less waste.

2. No one eats the bones that come with meat right? So why cook the meat with the bones on them then throw the bones? When you are throwing bones away from cooked pieces of meat you are throwing out some wonderful flavoring and small amounts of meat that can be used for another meal. Debone the meat (but don't throw away those bones just yet ) and wrap the right amount of serving sizes for your family and either refrigerate or freeze till you are ready to use it. Put the bones in a gallon freezer bag, lable with the kind of meat and place in the freezer. When you have enough bones saved up put them in a roasting pan with a couple of stalks of celery, a couple of carrots and a onion and roast till done. When the bones are done place them drippings and all into a stock pot, add some water and simmer till you have a nice rich broth. Take out the bones and pull off what ever meat might remain on them, set aside. Strain the broth. place back in the stock pot along with the bits of meat. add some veggies of your choice and some potatoes. Add some spices of your choice and let simmer till the veggies are done. You wind up with a rich soup for very little cost. Then you can give the bones to your dog if that is what you normally do with them. Another added bonus of deboning your meat before cooking is that the meat cooks faster there by reducing the time you spend cooking. Deboned meat also thaws faster then bone in meat in most cases. A win/win if you ask me. :)

3. When a cut of meat is on sale for a really good price buy enough to last a few months or until the next sale if it comes on sale fairly regular in your area. When whole boneless pork loins goes on sale here for $1.49 a lb I will buy 4 of them and cut them up to suit our needs. I get thin boneless chops, thick boneless chops for stuffing and pork roast loin out of them. That way for the next 6 months I have my pork chops that I paid a $1.49 a lb for instead of having to pay the $4.49 a lb that the chops are going for at other times.

4. Beef stew meat is going for $3.89 or more a lb in my area right now. So instead of buying it I will wait until a nice beef roast goes on sale for under $2.79 a lb and buy 4 of them. I will cut two of them into smaller roasts and the last two I up into stew meat. I have been able to have stew meat that is costing me $1.99 a lb while others are buying the store cut stew meat for $3.89 or more a lb.

5. Whole chickens are always a better buy then cut chicken. I buy at least 4 whole chickens when they are sale really cheap and them cut them up and package them the way I want. I debone the breasts and take the skin off. I packaged them in meal size protions. For my family of 4, two breast from one chicken makes a meal for us. I cut each breast in half and then pound them flat, flour and fry them and use like chicken fried steak or patties on a bun. I have even stuffed them with HM stuffing and baked them with some gravy over top. I use the backs, first tips from the wings and the bones and skin from the chicken breast to make chicken stock thus giving me a couple of extra meals free from the cost of meat. I save the meat I pick off the backs after making stock to use in soups.

I hope my little tips above will help you on your frugal walk through life and makes things easier for you like they have me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fast Food Nation

Or should we say Fat Food Nation? Have you ever stopped to think of the serving sizes fast food restaurants try to sell us each and every day, 24 hours a day? Take a look at the recommended serving sizes of food and you will see that the restaurants are trying to tempt you to eat double or even triple the amounts that you should eat. And to tempt you even further they load their foods with way to much salt, sugar and fats thus helping more and more Americans eat their way to diabetes and high blood pressure among other health issues. Is it any wonder why Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are on the rise?

And then there is the cost of eating a meal out. Yes its nice not to have to cook and do the dishes but what about all the money that you spend eating out? Could you find something better to use it for if you didn't spend it at restaurants?

Let take a look at the cost of a breakfast bought and a restaurant versus the cost of making it at home. I am going to use prices from my neck of the woods and the ones in your area may be higher or lower than in mine.

Take a typical breakfast of 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns and 2 pancakes. Around here a breakfast like that is going to set you back about $7-8 depending on the restaurant. Now lets break down the cost of what it would cost me to make the same exact meal at home.

Bacon $4.50 a lb, 16 slices to a lb breaks down to about 56 cents for two slices if my math is right.
A dozen large eggs is running $1.49 a dozen which breaks down to 25 cents for two eggs.
Homemade pancake mix will cost you pennies to make per serving size but to you need to add in the cost of an egg, oil and milk so we will say 25 cents of two pancakes.
Potatoes are kind of expensive in my area but still a serving of hash browns should only cost you about 35 cents. So for a grand total of about a $1.50 just for the cost of the food you would save around $6 if you cooked the same meal at home. And if 4 people ate that same meal it would cost you about $28-$30 plus the cost of drinks and a tip so that would bring you up to around $40 and you could fix the same meal at home for 4 people including the cost of the cooking and cleaning up for less than $15. If you cooked that one meal at home once a month of 12 months you would save a total of around $180. That could make small dent in a bill or buy gifts for some of the family members or even be a nice start to a small nest egg. If spent carefully it could even buy about a month's worth of groceries for a family of 4.

One other good thing about preparing meals at home verses eating out is the fact that you can control the amounts of fats, salt and sugar that you and your family are eating. Thus helping yourself and your family live in better health.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One way to use up leftovers

Does a single piece of meat or a serving of vegetables left over from a meal ever get lost in the depths of you refrigerator only to be tossed out when you do your weekly clean out because no one could figure out what to do with it?

Well here is an idea that will help you use them up so you won't be tossing money in the trash. I asked my family members who buy frozen dinners to save me the containers that the food comes in so I could make my own frozen dinners from left overs. After each meal I take the left overs and divide into meal size portions into the containers, cover them with plastic wrap and foil then label and date them. I place them in my refrigerator freezer and if I am gone the guys in my family can grab one to heat and eat. My son even grabs them to take to work with him. This has cut down dramatically on our food waste.

Even if I only have one piece of meat left or just serving of mashed potatoes I place them in one of the containers and freeze. I add to the container each day until I have enough in there for one meal. Then I label it and date it.

I have meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in my freezer. My hubby and son love having these easy to grab meals at the ready in case I am not around to cook. Some times we even use them on the days when I just don't feel like cooking or I am to busy to cook. It has helped to cut down on buying fast foods and has save us money on our food bill.

I few examples of the types of frozen meals I make are as follows:


Pancakes w/sausage, ham or bacon
French toast w/sausage, ham or bacon
Scrambled eggs w/ sausage, ham or bacon, hash browns and a biscuit

Lunch or Dinner:

Meatloaf w/ mashed potatoes and a veggie ( whatever is left over from a meal )
Lasagna with garlic toast
Beef stew w/biscuit
Chicken stew w/biscuit
Plain Hamburger w/ french frys ( buns are kept in the bread box )
Breaded Porkchop w/mashed potatoes and a left over veggie
Baked Chicken and rice w/ left over veggie
Beef Vegetable Soup
Cooked dry beans w/ a piece of cornbread
HM pizza

The list is pretty much endless. Just look at the frozen dinners you can buy in the stores. If food makers can freeze it so can you.

Another food that gets wasted in my home is a cake made from a boxed cake mix. If I make a 13 x 9 cake two thirds of it winds up getting throwed away. To stop that from happening I started dividing a cake mix batter between 3 loaf pans and baking them. After they cooled I would wrap two of the cakes in plastic wrap and then freezer paper and freeze them. I do not frost them as most frosting do not hold up well to freezing. When I go to use the frozen cakes I either make a small amount of hm made frosting or I make a hm fruit pie filling and spoon some over each slice of cake when I serve it and top with a dap of whipped topping. Works great for us and there is nothing left to throw in the trash. A win/win for us and our wallets. :)

What are your creative uses for dealing with leftovers?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fancy store bought cleaners

I have been trying for months to get some of the lime build up and rust streaks from our hard water off the shower surround. I tried Lime Away, CLR, Dows Scrubbing Bubbles and even that sprayer that you hang on the shower head and it sprays the whole shower once a day. Nothing was working. I saw on another blog (forget which one) a post about Bar Keepers Friend so I went and bought a can the other day for $1.49 and also got a pack of the scrubbers for Teflon pans. With in a hour the shower was clean there was no rust or lime any where. Just goes to show that cheaper some times is better. :) I had spent close to $30 trying to get rid of all that build up and I really needed to spend was just under $3. From now on I will stick to Bar Keepers Friend for shower clean up.