Saturday, February 27, 2021

Don't Throw Out the Pickle Jar!

Uses for pickle jars: Make refrigerator pickles, save refrigerated leftovers, store grains, flours, sugars, etc., small ones can be used as drinking glasses, interesting ones (or not) can be flower vases, use one to hold buttons or craft supplies, make a candle in one, use one to hold gift goodies like homemade candy....

 Got a pickle jar? They're useful for so many things! One thing that might put you off though, is that pickle smell . The rubber gasket painted underneath the lid is the culprit. One way doesn't always work, so you may have to try several ways to remove the smell. 

The first thing to do is look for another lid. Maybe you'll be lucky and your jar will accept a used canning lid. You can sometimes put that inside the original lid and that does the trick. If that doesn't work, look for lids from other jars like peanut butter.

If that doesn't work , try wrapping the lid in newspaper and put it in a plastic bag for a day  or so. 

Or sprinkle it generously with baking soda and put it in a plastic bag. 

On a warm, sunny day, put the lid inside up so that the sun will strike it. Leave it there several hours. 

Again, time itself will remove the smell if you're patient enough. Leave the lid exposed to air in a safe place and forget about it for a week or so. 

Another thing that makes saving jars a problem is getting rid of the label. Some labels will soak off and some simply won't. That's because there are two kinds of glue. One is water soluble and one is fat soluble. Soaking a fat soluble glue wont do much other than take the top layer off. That will leave you with a sticky mess that won't wash off and makes a mess of any scrubber you try on it. 

The answer to that is to make sure the label is dry then apply fat or oil of any kind. The very best and fastest acting is lamp oil, or pure kerosene if you have it. Otherwise, try anything oily or fatty. Olive oil, vegetable oil, mineral oil and so on, will take a little while to absorb but once it does, you should be able to coax the label off. Be patient and let the oil do the work. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Sky is Falling!

 Or so they seem to keep saying. I opened my email this morning and it read like one of those tabloids I used to scan at the grocery store about who did what when and with whom and why. 

This governer did that, and Oh, my! That senator did that. She said that and he's in trouble about that. All while the poor people are struggling with COVID or paying back tuitions, or living rhough ice or storms or whatever. 

Not to diminish any of those things, but do you know what they're not talking about? They're not talking about prices going up and up and supplies still not stable. They're not talking about the weather affecting the crops or meat industries and they're not talking about how you and I are going to deal with those things. 

You have to dig around a little, then you could see someone talking about a 25% loss in wheat last year. You might read something about continuing drought conditions causing an effective drop in main crops across the west and midwest. You just might find something about how the last two to three years crop failures are catching up or a vague reference to an expected locust outbreak on the east coast. 

It's possible that someone out there is making some connections from crop failure to high prices and compounding it with COVID restrictions and mixing that with some politics. 

So, maybe the sky is looking a little gloomy, but if it really is falling, they're looking at the wrong pieces. 

You know what to do. Take advantage of sales, watch for those things that might be in short supply (higher prices) in the future, and watch your money carefully. It's your money, remember?


Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Real Grinch of Christmas

This grinch might have been a little... different from most.
He was almost pleasant and almost polite.
He hated the part of Christmas each year
And he wanted to stop the... political-incorrectness-of-it-all.

So he devised a clever and cunning agenda
To remove all the Christ from the people at large
Christmas surely would not survive on just 'mas(s)'
And he chuckled to think what a marvelous coup

He took away all the prayer in the schools
And he took down the crosses and stars
He found ways to get rid of the pictures and symbols
And he outlawed commandments and rules.

He duped the people so that they believed
That just any belief was ok (but this one).
He told them that Christians were intolerable fools
Because they believed their beliefs and no other.

He broke up the families -
Lost children and parents
He redefined courage,
And made them all 'victims'

He spread this propaganda so far and so wide
Of unreasonable reason and nonsensible logic
That the people were brainwashed by their own obeisance
(Voluntary stubbornness plus true ignorance evolves naturally to become bigotry.)

Ah, the gifts? No, he left them to fill in the void
Where the spirit of joy and peace once there was.
He even gave a 'gift' - of a credit card.

He had a few problems with too many good works -
But abortions increased and divorces, too
And pornography and drug use and child abuse rose
So he was happy, this grinch that hated Christmas.

And he thought he had finished it, done with it, through.
But when Christmas came around that year, he was blue...
Because, you see...
The Christians still sang and rejoiced and believed.

They never even once quit praying on their knees.
They celebrated without the stars and the shepherds
And any symbol-remotely-connected-with-the-Christian religion...
Because Christ was still there - within their hearts.

Christmas wasn't the nativity scenes he had banned.
It wasn't in the pictures and symbols destroyed.
Stopping prayer in the school hadn't fazed it at all.
Nor the Ten Commandments not hung on the wall.

It was still there! ...whatever it was.
In their hearts, in their eyes and their prayers!
Why, Christmas must mean something more than... a ceramic baby?
It must mean more than a shiny star on a tree.

He scratched his head and he watched from afar
And he saw all the hugs and the smiles and the joy.
He heard them singing and he heard them laughing...
And he thought. What had he missed? What hid from his eyes (and his heart)?

And that, dear Christian, is where you and I go to work.
Reveal the Christ within us and no matter what mean spirited and cunning perversion
of rational thought with which the grinch is deceived - Christ will never be defeated!
Christmas will always come.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I'm Not the Only One

 I subscribe to a newsletter called "homestead updates" from 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!