Saturday, November 7, 2020

I'm Not the Only One

 I subscribe to a newsletter called "homestead updates" from homestead.org and today there is an article that caught my eye. It's something I have touched on many times, but it's always good to see it from a different angle. 

Take a look: Lost Kitchen Skills: Zero-waste Cooking

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Using Basic, Cheap Ingredients: Cornmeal

If you don't have cornmeal at home, put it on your shopping list! It's versatile, inexpensive and very basic. Besides making cornbread or hush puppies, boiled cornmeal can be used in many ways to stretch your food dollars.

Put three cups of water into a deep pan and add one cup of cornmeal and a dash of salt. Put the pot on to boil and after it starts cooking, stir often until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Have a lid ready because when it gets thick, it will "plop!" all over the place. 

This will make three cups of "mush," a hot cereal good with butter, sugar and milk or with butter, a little extra salt and shredded cheese.

It's also the base for a very good chili pie. To make that, let the mush cool a little, then spoon about a third into a lightly greased casserole or baking pan. Add a half a can of chili or a cup of your own homemade chili, then another layer of mush, another layer of chili, then a layer of shredded cheese. Top it with the rest of the mush and heat through. 

Even with canned chili from the store, this makes a budget friendly meal. 

I checked to make sure I hadn't forgot anything and the recipes I found for scrapple are kind of over the top. Old fashioned scrapple is made from meat scraps and leftovers; you don't need to go and buy expensive sausage for it. You don't need flour or evaporated milk, either. 

Scrapple is made with mush, and, as I said, leftover meat, usually ham or sausage of some kind, but bacon can be used, too as wel as leftover meat drippings. If you have one sausage patty or link, tear or cut it into very small pieces, add pan drippings and any other cooked scraps you can find. Mix it all together and put it into a greased loaf pan. Refrigerate overnight, then slice and fry in the morning. Serve it the way it is, or with just butter or with syrup if you like.  

Make cornmeal dumplings to stretch a pot of soup. To make them, you'll need 1 1/2 cup cornmeal, a half cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of baking powder, an egg and some milk. Put all the dry ingredients together and mix, then beat the egg lightly, add that and enough water to make a thick, droppable batter.  Make sure you have two or three inches of liquid over the top of any ingredients in your soup and wait until it's boiling gently, then drop the dumplings in, a heaping tablespoon at a time. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, then cover and cook gently another 10 minutes. Test to see if they're done by cutting one in two. The center should look like cornbread (kind of).

Cornmeal is just a finer grind of corn than grits or what is more popularly called "polenta" (which is the same thing). You can make anything with corn meal that you use polenta for. It's easier to keep just one product on hand. 



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Dealing With Shortages

 Since the COVID pandemic started hitting us, the stores have had trouble keeping various things in stock and it looks like they still are. Some places are having more troubles than others, and it seems to be hit or miss and changing constantly. 

That said, there are still a few things that seem to be in short supply, or (dare I say it?) will be in short supply in the near future. Cleaning supplies seem to be hit particularly hard, as well as paper good. Canned goods are spotty, and I heard it was partly because metal cans were hard to come by right now. Some canning facilities were hit hard by COVID and had to stop production temporarily.

However we came to it, we now have to deal with it. 

You can limit your cleaning supplies to white vinegar, baking soda and any kind of liquid soap. Liquid soap will wash dishes, wash floors, clean your bathtub and anything else. Dish washing liquid, shampoo, liquid laundry detergent, even liquid hand soap can be used interchangeably when you have to. 

Use baking soda and liquid soap to scrub sinks, tubs and the like. Make a thick paste and scrub away. Baking soda can also remove black marks from floors, scrub away grease and burned on gunk on the stove, put out a grease fire and relieve indigestion.

Vinegar has so many uses there have been entire books written about it, but let me just mention a few. Add a splash to a quart of water and wash your windows and mirrors with it. Leave a couple of bowls setting out to freshen the air, especially in the kitchen and bathroom Use vinegar to remove soap scum and mineral deposits. Soak the area if you can but if it's in an awkward place, saturate a rag with vinegar and wrap or push against the area. Leave it there overnight.

I haven't bought a paper towel or a paper napkin in years. I hem pieces of old clothes or worn out towels and use those for everything a paper towel is used for. Real cloth rags can be more absorbent than any paper towel You can wash and reuse them over and over - no need to buy anything. 

I do the same for cloth napkins. I make them from worn out sheets or the backs of old shirts; wherever I can find a good piece of sturdy material. Cotton works best, in my opinion. I wash them with the kitchen linens and they last for a very long time. If you have a large family, you could assign each one a color or type of napkin so it can be used at least twice before laundering.

 What kind of shortages are you dealing with? Maybe we can get our heads together and find ways to handle them without stress.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

You Can Do it Better: Save the Planet and Your Money

I came across this article called "20 Planet Saving Items That Pay For Themselves Tenfold" and just had to respond. I totally agree with some of them, but some of them can be taken a lot farther and some of them just made this old frugal mind go "What??"

I will tackle them one at a time.

1. My daughter made some beeswax covers for me. I tried them on bowls and didn't care for them because they didn't seal very well. I use breadsacks instead. Eventually I wised up and started using beeswax covers to WRAP things in. Things like sandwiches, sliced tomatoes, cheese, etc. You CAN wash them in hot water, just make it quick and cool them as soon as you can.

2. I have used rechargeable batteries for years. Although they are expensive to buy at first, they do save money over time.  To be really frugal, get a solar battery charger and your costs go to practical zero.

3. I have a steel water bottle and use it almost all the time. It's well worth the cost.

4. I don't drink coffee but if I did, I would use a percolator or another system that doesn't use K cups anyway. I'm not sure but it may be cheaper.

5. LED light bulbs have really come down in price. I was leery of buying them because I didn't know what size to buy and whether they would really be bright enough, but our electric company (Xcel) gave away boxes of goodies, including an assortment of LED light bulbs and I'm sold on them. They do save money and they work.

6. I don't need this one because I'm an old woman. But if you're  a young one, take a serious look. It's not only cheaper, it can be safer to use.

7. This is silly. Why buy expensive bamboo towels to replace paper towels? Why use paper towels in the first place? Make your own cleanup towels from old clothing or household linens; hem them and wash them over and over and they will last as long or longer than pricey bamboo towels. Keep the polyester or heavy denim rags for throwaway rags.

8. I had to laugh out loud at this one. You're going to buy a set of glassware to store things in while you throw away perfectly good glass food jars? If you don't buy anything that comes in a glass jar, go the Goodwill or Salvation Army and pick up a few canning jars for around a half dollar each. Why not save money?

9. Are you one who throws away a plastic bag after one use? Then I guess you might need one of these "kid and adult friendly designs." I'd rather spend money on something more important.

10. Cloth diapers... people, they are not new! Disposable anything is expensive and not environmentally sensible. Diapers are one of the worst things to put in our soil.

11. Safety razors. Again, what was old has become new. If you can find a good one, get it and save a bundle.

12. I would never buy a mesh produce bag because produce of various kinds comes in a mesh bag. AND they are reuseable. Imagine that.

13. Wool dryer balls are quite popular among certain crowds, but if you can hang your clothes outside or even inside to dry, a dryer ball isn't very useful. Fact: Dryers soften material when you use them. The only reason you need dryer sheet or balls of any kind is to prevent static electricity, which is what makes your slacks eat your socks. A simple solution is to crunch up a piece of used (washed!) aluminum foil and make it into a ball, toss it into your dryer with your clothes.

14. The article is right on about cast iron skillets, griddles and pots. Don't be afraid to look at the non seasoned kind if they're cheaper, but the best place to buy cast iron cookware is at thrift stores or garage sales. They're already seasoned. If not, you can clean them up and do it yourself and save a LOT of money. They're not cheap new.

15. Silicone mats, yes. They make sense and outlast all others, especially the disposable kind!

16. I have used cloth napkins for years. When I first started using them, I bought them, but it slowly dawned on me that they were simply rectangles of cloth. I use old tablecloths, shirt backs, sheets, etc., and can easily make more napkins than I need in a couple of hours. Wash them with the kitchen linens or whites and you will save money.

17. Tea doesn't have to be in bags. You can make looseleaf tea in a teapot or an extra cup and strain it into your cup. It's that easy. But there are many, many tea strainers that are fun and practical to reuse for years.

18. Velcro plant ties? Does anyone buy these?? I use yarn or whatever I have on hand that won't hurt the plant. Green plastic tubing works great, but so does a plastic bag, twisted to make a "rope."

19. I don't use makeup, so this one is up to your imagination. I do think there was a time when these were not available. What did women use then? Bet it was cheaper.

20. Stainless steel straws might be nice, but do you use straws all the time? I keep a few plastic ones on hand that I clean with a straw brush, which is like a bottle brush except much smaller. It works and it's.... cheaper.

Why would you pay good money for products that you really don't need? I would honestly like to know. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

When Flour is in Short Supply

Flour might be in short supply right now, just when you need or want to bake more bread. There are ways to stretch the flour you have.

First, every time you empty a sack of commercial bread, empty the crumbs into a container and freeze. When you slice homemade bread there are usually more crumbs, so make sure to save those, too. When you have enough, put it your blender or food processor or work it with a fork until it's fine like flour and use it to replace up to a fourth of the flour in breads.

Other things than wheat flour can be used to stretch the wheat flour you have. Consider using a half cup of cornmeal, instant oats or hot cereal blend. If you have hot cereal like Wheatena, use that.

If you have a flour mill or a good food processor, so much the better. You can make flour from any grains, bought or wild (seed). Oats, rye and barley are the most common but don't overlook quinoa, millet and amaranth.

If you're a wild food enthusiast, you may have various wild grains or seeds that can be milled and added.

Don't be afraid to experiment, just keep a few things in mind:

Remember that it takes gluten for bread to rise and wheat is the best source for that, so you need wheat in some form after it has been milled.

Knead bread that has other grains in it a little more than with plain wheat flour. Whole grain flours absorb more liquid than processed white flour, so allow a little more liquid than your recipe calls for.



Saturday, April 4, 2020

3 Frugal Reminders for Times of Scarcity

It's no secret that some things are hard to find right now. If you find yourself wondering how to stretch what you have until you can find what you need, or if you are trying to stretch to keep from having to go hunting... or if you just want to be frugal and mindful of the situation, here are a few things we may have forgotten along the way.

1. Manufacturers nearly always recommend that we use more of a product than is necessary. Laundry detergent, shampoo and dish soap amounts can all be cut back and still do their job. For laundry detergent, cut back by a third of what you usually use and if your clothes get clean (they will), cut back a little more and a little more until you see a difference then increase until you are happy with it.

For shampoo, only lather once. There's no need to lather and rinse twice unless you have been mud wrestling, and even then, a good rinse before lathering does just as well.

If, when you do dishes by hand, your water is still quite sudsy by the time you're finished, you are using too much soap. The suds are not what cleans anyway but they are a measure of how much is "used up" in the water. That's assuming you know  how to wash dishes in a pan and not under running water. Using a sponge or cloth and reloading it constantly while washing dishes is very wasteful, both of soap and water.

2. Use less meat by cooking more  soup, stew and casseroles. You can cut down the amount of meat in those dishes and no one will even notice. Other sources of protein, like eggs, cheese and peanut butter may be in short supply also, so get used to stretching what you have. 

There are many eggless recipes online and just being a little less generous with peanut butter or cheese can help.

3. Use rags instead of paper towels. Cut up  old t-shirts or hem other material for tissues and napkins. Even think about "family cloth" to stretch the toilet paper. It wasn't all that long ago that we didn't use disposable anything and we don't need to do it now, when products are hard to find.

There are many other ways to cut back on our use of products. This blog and many other frugal living blogs can give you ideas that will make getting through this thing a lot easier!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Make Your Own Bread

It's hard to find bread in some places right now, so it makes sense to make your own. Flour seems a little easier to come by and you can use white or whole wheat, spelt or other wheat types of flour to make loaf bread.

There are ways to make gluten free bread with other grain flours but you'll have to go looking for recipes there because I have never made that.

However, if you're short of wheat type of flour or want to stretch what you have, you can substitute a fourth to a third of other grain flour and still make a decent loaf of "light bread." Oat flour, rice flour and barley flour are commonly used. Be aware that they will impart a slightly different flavor to your bread.

No sugar? No milk? No oil? No problem. Bread: Frugal Staff of Life shows you what to substitute and how to do it. And if you don't have yeast, you can get sourdough started. Making sourdough bread is pretty much the same as making yeast bread, it just takes a little longer to raise.

Even if the shelves are empty you can still have bread - and better bread than you can buy anyway! 



Sunday, March 22, 2020

All things in moderation

Were you stocked up before this virus hit? Have you bought more than one product when a good sale was on? Kept a few weeks' worth of meals in your pantry and/or freezer? Used coupons to add to your stock?

I hope you have been doing this all along and not rushing to the store now and panic buying in multiples like so many are. It's cheating and very selfish to grab more food and paper goods than you need right now. That puts an incredible strain on the delivery system and it hurts others who need products, too.

I'm not saying you shouldn't get a little extra of things that may be hard to find. Maybe an extra dozen eggs or a box of tissue, but not an entire cart load! Leave some for someone else, for heaven's sake.

If we would all do that and quit panicking, there would be enough for all, just like there always have been. I'm not naive enough to believe that people will actually come to their sense any time soon, so for those of you reading this, please do your part.

Don't panic. Be careful but don't live in fear. This isn't the only pandemic the world has seen and it won't be the last. "All things in moderation" is a very good thought to go by all the time and times like these remind us why.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What to do if you run out of toilet paper

First of all, don't call 911. Really. Some people have done that.
Secondly, take stock of what you do have.

Things you can use include:

Paper napkins
Facial tissue
Paper towels
Baby wipes
Adult wipes
Face wipes
Any other soft paper product you might have

Except - don't use cleaning wipes! And never, never flush these other paper products. Only real toilet paper should be flushed. We are having local problems because people are flushing other things down the toilet.

Put container with a lid near the stool and put used paper products in that. 

Now is the time to bring out those old t-shirts or rag material. You don't have to use them for your bum if you use them instead of paper napkins, facial tissue, etc. You can wash and reuse after using as a substitute for those things while you may not want to wash "toilet paper." (That's another post and if you do it, more power to you.)


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Newspaper Hacks

I have never used that word before. A "hack" sounds to me like suspicious behavior, but it's trendy now!

Newspaper isn't as common as it once was when everyone subscribed to the local paper. There always seemed to be piles of newspaper to be recycled or got rid of somehow. Even if you don't subscribe to a newspaper, there are flyers and sales sheets printed on it. Get your hands on some and try some of these.

Papier mache. Remember? You tear newspaper into strips and soak in water, then add white paste and use it as a sort of modeling clay. When it dries, it hardens and holds its shape.

Fire starter. It's basic. Just crumple a few sheets of newspaper tightly, put some kindling over the top and touch the paper with a lit match. Add wood as needed.

Insulation. Newspaper is an excellent insulation, although not approved for housing because of its flammability. Use it in your shoes, under your mattress in a cold bedroom, under throw rugs or anywhere a little warmth will be appreciated. 8 to 10 layers will make a big difference.

Keep your feet warm. Not only by using newspaper as insoles. You can make toasty warm houseshoes by starting with several layers of newspaper. Put them on the floor, then put your toe toward one corner with your heel toward the opposite one. Push your foot closer to the heel corner, then bring up both side corners over the top of your foot and secure with tape or string or yarn. Bring the front corner up over your toes and the back corner up over your heel. Gather the newspaper together at the ankle and tape or tie. You can cover this with cloth or burlap or whatever you have and you will never have such warm houseshoes.

Use newspaper to create or copy patterns. Whether you're sewing, knitting or doing other crafts, newspaper is perfect for making patterns. If it doesn't work out, toss it and grab another sheet. Use a marker to write without the words getting lost in the print.

Use newspaper to make a template before attempting to cut flooring to fit around door jams or other uneven areas like pipes and fancy work.

Newspaper makes a great, disposable mat for muddy, wet boots and shoes. Keep one by the door when the weather is bad. It's a good mat for the kids' craft projects, too (adults', too!).

Newspaper is a good mulch for between rows of vegetables. You can sprinkle a little dirt over it if you don't like the looks. It will keep a lot of weeds from growing.

Of course, you can dry windows and mirrors with it. You can also use it to polish bathroom fixtures and the trim on your vehicle.

What else? Do you use it for other things? Let us know!