5 Frugal Things I’ve Done This Month

5 Frugal Things I've Done This MonthLiving frugal is a lifestyle and I have been doing this a very long time. When I look back at things that I’ve done, it’s sometimes hard to remember frugal activities because they are so much a part of my everyday living. Here are just 5 of the things I’ve done this month.

1. New mixes for the pantry

Three mixing spoons

Mixing spoons

I love mixes. I love homemade mixes even more.

The first mix was for ranch dressing. Yum! It’s really good and so easy to do. I found this same recipe on several websites, so I can’t say for sure where I first located it.

Ranch Dressing Mix

Ingredients

1/2 cup dry buttermilk powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together until well combined. Store mix in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To use: Mix together 1/4 cup ranch dressing mix, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1/2 cup milk. Blend thoroughly.

The second mix I found Cooperative Extension Department at Utah State University. (This link will open a pdf file) I have used the SOS mix several times instead of canned soup and the recipes have come out very well. The cool thing is all the recipes that come with the basic mix. It really shows you how to use this mix.

Soup or Sauce Mix

Ingredients

2 cups powdered, non-fat milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)

Directions

Combine 1/3 cup of dry mx with 1 1/4 cup of cold water. Whisk until thoroughly blended.
Cook and stir until thickened. (Stovetop or microwave)
Add to recipes as you would a can of cream soup.

2. Remembered the dollar store

I started giving my daughter a Valentine card when she was a little girl. She’s well into her thirties now, and I still get her a Valentine. We all know how expensive greeting cards can be but not at the dollar store. The savings is worth the trip. Plus, there’s a lot of other cool things at that store worth investigation.

3. Made broth

Bowl of homemade broth

Homemade Broth

I’ve made chicken broth many times but not with any regularity. A few months ago, I bought and Instant Pot. Of course, I read all kinds of things online about using my new gadget and one of the things I found was making broth. Now, I purposely make broth. I buy whole chickens, roast them, pull the meat from the bones and make broth from the carcasses. The leftover rotisserie chicken can also be used for broth. Of course, beef, pork, or turkey all make excellent broth.

Also, I’ve started saving vegetables in a freezer bag for vegetable broth. I’ve made one batch so far, and I’m pleased with the results. I put leftover vegetables, peels from carrots and potatoes, and little bits and pieces that result from preparing vegetables for a meal. It all goes in the pot and comes out wonderful broth. I bought 2 cup freezer containers (at the dollar store) to store my broth. The Instant Pot makes it easy to use frozen. Just thaw enough to remove from the container.

How to Make Instant Pot Broth

Put chicken or turkey carcass, beef or pork bones, or 4 to 6 cups of vegetable scraps into the Instant Pot. Fill with water to the 2/3 line. Set time for 1 hour at low pressure. Use natural release. Refrigerate broth overnight and then skim off any fat before storing.

4. Started my garden seeds

Seed Starting in Newspaper pots

Starting seeds for spring

Garden plants have become expensive. Spending $3 or more on a plant for the garden makes it more difficult to save money by gardening. I will still buy a few, but some are so easily started that it doesn’t make sense not to do it.
I first posted about starting seeds in Fearless Gardening. Make these useful seed-starter pots with these instructions here and here.

5. Shared a no-cost solution

I’m including this even though I didn’t save money by doing it. Someone close to me was paying a subscription site for audio books to listen to while she was jogging. I pointed her to her local library which has audio books available to borrow. This is about a $10 per month saving for her and a warm and fuzzy feeling about helping someone for me.

How did you live frugally this month? Be sure to leave a comment.

Don’t Toss It – Eat It

Don't Toss It--Eat It

Stop feeding the landfill

You are standing in front of the open door of your refrigerator when you spy a container near the back and you pull it out. Inside is a hairy, foul-smelling mess that was once food but now doesn’t resemble anything edible. We’ve all been there.

According to the Department of Agriculture (USDA), 30-40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. Astounding! Wasted food is also the single, largest component of our landfills. All of this waste costs approximately $165 billion each year. Imagine what we could do with that money.

According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit organization, the average American throws away 300 pounds of food each year which costs us about $2200. That is almost $200 per month of loss. Imagine what we could do with that money.

If food takes up 10-15 percent of our household budgets, it just doesn’t make sense to throw so much away. In the coming weeks, I’m going to offer some solutions I have used for taming the leftover monsters.

One of the ways to get started using leftovers is to notice what you always have left over. I know, obvious. In my effort to cook for two, I sometimes end up with a third serving. This usually is the result of using a whole can of something instead of a partial, which would just spoil in the refrigerator, I’m sure. One of the things I have done is to take that leftover serving to work as my lunch. Since I am now retired and I’m watching my calories, I don’t eat much for lunch anymore. So there the container sits.

To get started, here’s my recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup. It seems I always have a little bit of rice leftover and it’s not very good reheated. It does work very well in soup. This recipe is also a good use of a green pepper that is a little wrinkled and, instead of canned tomatoes, over ripe tomatoes peeled and diced would work very well.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: ”Easy”
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Ingredients


½ pound ground beef
½ cup diced onion
1 green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 ounce can beef broth
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/8 teaspoon Allspice
¾ cup cooked rice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Brown ground beef. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic. Sauté until tender. Stir in tomatoes and beef broth. Add seasonings. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until flavors have blended. If you have an Instant Pot, 5 minutes on high pressure is all you need for this soup. Add in rice. Cook another 1-2 minutes to heat and soften rice.

What’s your favorite way to use leftovers? Be sure to leave a comment.

Tomatoes: Are They Evil or Are They Fruit?

Tomatoes: Are They Evil or Are They Fruit?

Tomatoes: Are They Evil or Are They Fruit?

In 1521, the Aztec city of Tenochititlan came under the control of Hernan Cortez. It’s likely that the explorer was the first to bring tomato seeds back to Europe after the plant was found in what is now Mexico. The fruit we know as the tomato was called tomatl by the Aztecs and they were yellow rather than the classic red. Instead of using the newly arrived plants as a food source, many grew it in the garden as a spot of color.

The tomato was declared to be a poison apple in the 18th century. Someone made the observation that people who indulged in eating tomatoes died. Never mind that it was likely the lead poisoning caused by eating a highly acidic food from a pewter plate. Each bite of an 18th century Eggs in Purgatory delivered another dose of lead leached from their fine dinnerware.

Others were certain that the tomato had influence on human behavior. When the plant was classified as a mandrake, references from the Bible warned that the tomato could act as a love potion, triggering the nickname of love apple. I’m not at all sure why we should avoid something that brings us love. Being lumped into the Solanaceae family of plants didn’t bode well for the tomato. In that group, the tomato was also thought to be kin to Nightshade, which had hallucinogenic properties as well as an association with witchcraft.

Aside from its characteristics as an aphrodisiac and a hallucinogen, the humble tomato was also assigned supernatural powers. German folklore tells us that witches used the tomato to call werewolves. This practice of using the tomato to summon lycanthropes influenced the name of the plant species: Lycopersicon esculentum.

To top off its sullied reputation, the tomato was the subject of a Supreme Court case. In 1893, when the Court heard the case of Nix v Hedden, the fruit or vegetable argument was settled. It was to be considered a vegetable, even though it fit the definition of a fruit. Why, you might ask? Money. Vegetables were subject to tariffs and fruits were not.

In spite of its rocky past, Americans eat about 22 pounds of tomatoes every year. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of this consumption is the form of tomato sauce. All the ketchup and pasta sauce on our dinner table add up.

So, if you dare, indulge in pasta with a tomato-based sauce. Here’s hoping for the best!

Simple Tomato Pasta Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients


1 medium carrot
1 celery rib
1/2 medium onion
1 clove garlic
28 oz can tomato puree
1/4 cup olive oil
Basil or oregano to taste

Directions


Using a food processor, finely chop the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Mix all ingredients in saucepan and simmer until vegetables are tender. Allow to cool and return to food processor. Blend until sauce is smooth. (Optional) Add seasoning as desired.

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Bread Machine Hawaiian Rolls

Bread Machine Hawaiian Rolls

Bread Machine Hawaiian Rolls

 

There are never enough rolls, especially when they are fresh.

Bread Machine Hawaiian Rolls

  • Servings: 12-15 rolls
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

6 ounces pineapple juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
Additional butter, melted, for brushing tops of rolls (optional)

Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
Add ingredients to bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
Set machine to the dough cycle. When complete, remove dough from machine and divide into 12-15 rolls. Place into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover with a towel and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (about 1 hour)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted butter.

Driving Towards Goals

snowyroad

January is flying by and any resolutions that were promised at the beginning are becoming distant objects in the rear view mirror. Every year I promise myself that I’m not going to let that happen, but it still does. Again, I’m making the promise to get those things done that I want and to do it in this new year.

Something needs to change this time and I went looking for the solution. Other than a strong resolve, there isn’t a lot of innovative thinking when it comes to achieving goals.

Nearly everyone who pontificates about goal setting tells us to write them down. OK. Done that. Now, where did I put that list?

For me, it isn’t enough to just write the goal down. I need more help.

Of course, goals must be achievable. That hasn’t been my problem either. I think we all know that there are some things we can never achieve no matter how often we write it down. We can’t find talent we don’t have in the pages of a loose-leaf binder.

My problem is not thinking things through in detail. For instance, I want to do some redecorating in my home. What am I going to do to achieve “redecorating?” In the past, I would have some ideas in my head but they flitted in and out and, often, never made it into the real world.

The goal for goals this year is to write details. I found I need some detailed guidelines to stay on track, so that’s what I’m working on. I know I want to recover the throw pillows in the living room and repaint the front door. My redecorating goal is becoming itemized. I’ve already bought the perfect fabric for the pillows and I know what color paint to buy. (I had to convince my spouse that the color I wanted to use would look good. Thank goodness for pictures on the web.)

I will add things to my “redecorating” goal and I will get specific on all the other goals, too. Some will need just a list, like my decorating projects. Others will need a complete road map with the first step clearly spelled out. The amount of detail depends on the goal, of course. Think of how tedious it would be to do a step-by-step about recovering my throw pillows.

Step 1: Decide to recover
Step 2: Decide on a color or theme
Step 3: Decide to go to the fabric store
Etc, etc, etc…

This is my answer to keeping up with all those New Year’s goals. Yours may be different. The key concept is to find something that works for you. I’ll get back to you with a progress report later this year.

Here are a few more ideas to ponder. You can use one, two, all or none:

Rewrite your goals daily
Tell your goals to someone else
Align your goals with your dreams
Visualize
Use affirmations
Have only a few goals at a time
Take daily action
Track your progress
Celebrate milestones

Throw Out the Bucket List

Do we need to call a list of goals a bucket list? That has a desperate connotation to it and goals shouldn’t be pursued just because the end is near. Any list should be positive as well as useful.

Many years ago, I wrote out a list of 100 goals. My list of 100 was random, at best. I did it as part of a challenge from someone’s website, the name of which is lost to history. The point made in an article on that website was: Why stop at 1 goal or 5 goals? Why not create 100 goals to follow? I bit. Why not? I didn’t date it, but my earliest notation of reaching a goal was in 2002. I’ve completed about 40% of the list without really working at it.

Some of the remaining things on the list pertained to household projects that I wanted to do, such as landscaping and remodeling. We sold that house in early 2009 and our new house didn’t need those upgrades. Do I count those things in the undone column or the completed column? I was able to sell that house without everything that I had hoped to do, so does that count as anything?

Some things I will never complete because they are too vague. I was running out of ideas and put down “Be Happy” as one of my goals. There is no way to achieve that unless I define it. I guess it’s like pornography: I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.

It’s possible to have 100 goals but it was clear that I did not. In my frenzy to reach 100 entries, I wrote down “be happy” and “find meaningful work.” No wonder I still have so many outstanding goals because those goals would never really be achieved without a clearer definition.

I’m ready to create a new list of goals but I’m going to tame the chaos of my original list. What I should have done at that time was to separate my goals by category. Some I categories I could have used are:

Goals
Work/Career
Finances
Education
Relationships/Family
Artistic
Experiences
Health/Fitness
Pleasure
Community
Personal
Physical items
Spiritual

Rather than my shotgun approach, I will now take each category and determine if there is something I want to work towards in that area. Some of the categories won’t have anything to pursue while others may have many goals. It’s not permanent, either. As a human, I have the ability to change my mind and change directions.

I know that fluidity is sometimes detrimental to my success. It’s that ability to change my mind that forces me to write things down or I start to wander. I’ll admit that shiny objects distract me from my path but the written task keeps me focused. I explained one of the lists that I keep for myself here. It has always worked for me as long as I work the list. Writing my goals down keeps me on track, too, if I remember to look at the paper occasionally. That is really the secret to success with lists and written goals. Never put the paper away and forget about it. If it’s in front of my face, I remember. If it isn’t, that shiny object holds my eye.

A quick search online for the benefits of written goals brings up many, many sites referring to a 1953 study of the Yale graduating class. It’s bunk. Not the written goals part but the existence of the study part. It didn’t happen, yet even well-known gurus cite it as gospel. A study done at Dominican University does support concept that those who write down goals achieve more than those who don’t write them down. (This study actually exists.)

Personally, I find that my written list serves several purposes:

  1. It forces me to clarify what I truly want to achieve
  2. It provides motivation to take the action I need to achieve the goal
  3. It helps me resist the shiny objects by keeping my focus on my goal
  4. It allows the great satisfaction of crossing something off that I have completed

There are still plenty of things I want to accomplish in life. A bucket list screams that death is nigh. It might very well be just around the corner, but I want to focus on living instead. No bucket list for me. I’m calling it a life list.

The Boomer Generation: Not Gone Yet

The media is abuzz over the Millenial generation now exceeding Baby Boomers in number. My question to all of these reporters who wrote these stories with such obvious glee, so what? Are they hoping for a larger, left-leaning voting bloc? The Millenials would offer that to them. Millenials support socialism, fear climate change and want more government action in that area, but they don’t vote in the numbers needed to significantly change any of those things.

The trend in political current political discussion is to blame the Baby Boom generation for everything from the climate to the economy. It’s all our fault. If they think that they will guilt me into not voting, sorry. I’m not dead and the stakes are too high to give up now. As a generation, we have to be diligent in protecting what we have worked so long to achieve.

Yet, when politicians truly want votes, who do they address?  squirrels

The statistics from recent elections show that less than 50% of Millenials vote. Compare that with over 70% of Boomers. If you were in charge of the candidate’s advertising budget, how much would you spend on the two generations? I guess it would depend on the personal agenda of the candidate. Afterall, “global warming” has the potential to make a select den of thieves very rich. Millenials are fearful of change in the climate, no matter how often the information out there is found questionable, and they look to the government for solutions. We saw how the EPA solved environmental problems when someone turned a river in Colorado a unique color.

According to surveys done by Pew research, the Millenial generation favors socialism over capitalism. The supposedly well-educated are espousing the virtues of socialism while staring at their completely capitalist-produced cell phone. According to a study done in 2012, 59% of Baby Boomers were supporting their adult children. It’s easy to support socialism when someone else is paying for it.

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
-Ronald Reagan-

I would tell Millenials to be careful what you wish for. A federal government controlling even more of the US economy and our lives isn’t a good thing.

Boomers shouldn’t lose hope. We shouldn’t fear that we will be forced out onto the ice to wait for death. This generation needs to remember that we are still a force that the political class and advertisers, too, will still heed.