Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Make a Plan; Forget New Year's Resolutions

In the coming year, self discipline may be needed more than ever. It literally pays to make plans and stick to them. New Year Resolutions don't usually last much beyond the first week or two, but a yearly plan will keep you going all year.

A yearly plan could go something like this:

January: Finish paying off the credit card; get the tires rotated and check to see if you can lower your insurance premium.

February: Get all the taxes in order; stock up on chocolate (for baking) after Valentine's Day.

March: Buy extra corned beef; find new recipes for cabbage since it's cheap just before St Patrick's Day; start watching for sales on winter things you'll need next year.

And so on. Make your own to suit your situation, then put it where you will see it often. Make copies of it so you won't lose it. Stick to it. It only takes a few things each month to make your money go further all year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homemade cold cereal

Cereal grains are cooked as a general rule, so if you want a cold cereal you must cook it ahead of time. You'll have a hard time imitating "flakes" or sugar coated shapes, but you can make tasty cold cereal at home. And who's to say you can't add miniature marshmallows or chocolate chips?

If you need reasons to make your own cold cereal, how about taste? Health? Cost?

The easiest ingredient for homemade cold cereal is toasted oats. Just spread oats - any kind from steel cut to instant - on a cookie sheet and toast in a slow oven until they're very lightly browned. This can take a couple of hours. Alternately, toast them on the top of the stove in a heavy skillet over medium heat. You'll have to stir them often but they toast much faster.

Puff or pop whole grains by adding a few to a hot skillet and shaking it around or stirring until the grains pop. If grains are old or too dry, they won't pop, but most will. Grains to pop are amaranth, wheat, spelt, barley and brown rice. Sort through the grains first and remove any broken or malformed grains as these won't pop. Popping grains is an art rather than a science!

I've tried other things with various results. Some might work better for you.

Soak wheat or spelt in water over night, then blend it (adding more water if necessary) until you have a pulp. Cook this pulp until it's smooth, then spread very thinly on a cookie sheet or dehydrator trays and let dry. I didn't use heat to dehydrate it, but that might work well. Once it's dry, break it into small pieces for cereal.

Store your cereal in air tight containers so they're handy when you want them.

Once you have a good assortment of cold cereal ready to eat, you may never go back to the over priced, over sugared, over treated chemical concoctions they call breakfast food.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Adult Christmas Stockings

How many of you fill Christmas stockings for your kids? Or get them from your parents? I thought so! Getting or giving a Christmas stocking filled with small gifts is a grand tradition, but it can get as expensive as larger gifts if we're not careful.

Keeping an eye open year 'round for inexpensive stocking stuffers is a good way to cut costs, but if you haven't done that? The next best things to do:

  • Handmade bookmarks (crocheted, needlepoint, rubber stamped, cut from tissue boxes!)
  • A small, hand made notepad. Cut blank pages and "stitch" with an old, empty needle on your sewing machine a half inch from the top to make perforated lines. Staple the pages together above the perforation.
  • Small containers of home made bath salts
  • Knitted or crocheted cotton wash cloth
  • Handwritten poem or note
  • Personal "Gift Certificate" good for whatever you can do - shovel snow, bake bread, watch the kids...
  • Food! Home made is best, but packaged soup mixes or specialty pasta is good, too.
  • One special cookie, wrapped and tied with a bow
  • Print out stationary, recipe cards or grocery lists from the internet or your own design
  • Samples of fragrances, soaps, lotions, etc.
  • Special family recipe, hand written or typed.