Little Steps, Big Changes

Starting something new is overwhelming. Have you ever tried to read something that is a new subject and it seemed like it was written in Klingon? Only through systematic chipping, taking small bites, can you finally unravel the mystery.

Developing a new lifestyle is the same process. Take small steps and soon you’re changes are habit and not torture.

It’s fun to read how people live frugally. Some of their ideas are workable and will fit into my life easily. Some are a bit out there, to be kind. I draw the line at eliminating toilet paper from our home. The work involved in washing and drying doesn’t outweigh the convenience of TP. There’s also the yuck factor. Just not gonna do it.

toilet-paper-150912_1280
I’ve been in a financially tough time when paper towels were a luxury and not a part of my kitchen supplies. I could go back to that again, but I haven’t. I guess times just aren’t tough enough right now.

There are things that I do now which make me wonder why I didn’t do them all along. I spent some time yesterday making jam. My husband spent part of his day making jerky. (He makes it because he eats it. I don’t) Am I saving a bunch making my own jam? Not really, because I buy the fruit. If I could go out a pick fruit to use, then the savings would be obvious. The jerky, on the other hand, is a fraction of the price of anything we can buy.

Jars of Jam
The benefit of making things at home is that I know what’s in it. I don’t use anything I can’t pronounce. To me, that’s a big benefit. The other, especially with jam, is the reduction in waste. I reuse the jars. An empty jar from the store isn’t reusable, usually.

These are just two small steps in my overall frugal-living plan. I’ve already posted some of the recipes I use to make staples and cleaning supplies.

DIY Laundry Detergent
The Dreaded Dusting Chore
The Baking Mix Scoop
No, Really? No Poo
DIY Liquid Hand Soap
DIY Yogurt
DIY Disinfecting Wipes
5 Favorite From Scratch Recipes
Orange is the New Clean

There are dozens more that I haven’t yet tried. I’ve also abandoned some things that I tried and found they didn’t work well for me. One was my own dishwasher soap. I’ve tried a couple of formulas and I felt they didn’t do the job that a commercial product does, so I no longer make my own soap. Frugal living is not only a step-by-step process, it’s a trial and error one, too.

It’s all about the little efforts and you don’t have to learn Klingon.

Orange is the New Clean

oranges

I ran across these recipes months ago and I started saving citrus peels. They languished in the freezer until I had the containers to make the mixes. Now, it’s a go. Confession time: I didn’t have any brown sugar, so I used regular, white sugar instead. I’m pretty sure that it will make no difference in the fermentation process.

Here are the two formulas that I’m trying. Since they take 2 weeks or more to complete, I’ll let you know my results later.

orangepeels

All_Purpose Citrus Cleaner

1-2 quart jar
White vinegar
Citrus peels, chopped (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit or a combination)

Place citrus peels into jar until it is, at least, half full.
Fill jar with vinegar.
Cover jar tightly and shake.
Steep for 2 weeks, shaking occasionally. Label the jar so that you can keep track.
Strain liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the peels.
Pour into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1, if desired.
Use on sinks, counter tops, bathtubs, floors, and toilets.

citrus-2791_1280

DIY Citrus Cleaner

2 liter bottle
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp yeast
Citrus peels (at lest 2 cups, chopped)
32 ounce spray bottle

Drop citrus peels into the bottle.
Add yeast and sugar.
Fill about half full with water. Shake bottle to dissolve sugar. (About 30 seconds)
Cap loosely to allow gases to escape.
Label bottle with date and allow to “brew” for about 2 weeks, shaking at least daily.
When the cleaner is ready, strain through a fine sieve. Discard peels.
Add 1/2 cup to spray bottle and fill with water for regular cleaning.

orangecleaner

The Fabric Reduction Challenge

I love buying fabric. I love having fabric. I love working with fabric. I have a mountain of fabric

For many years, I was working too many hours and didn’t have time to sew as much as I wanted. My buying overwhelmed my usage. Now, I fear that it’s out of control.

I’m trying to make up for it by sewing my way out of the avalanche.  While searching the Internet for ideas, I found these great coasters. They are a quick and easy project which can use up fabric and provide a useful item for my home.

Cut squares

Rotary cutting make fabric preparation simple.

Finished coasters

I made just four of this combination because that was all of the leaf print that I had.

Fabric

I’ll be looking for more fabric combinations from my stash.

Why, Of Course! DIY Disinfecting Wipes

Does anyone like cleaning the bathroom? We all know that doing a little each day makes the chore easier especially if there is a quick and easy way to do it. Disinfectant wipes are convenient, easy to use, but expensive. Naturally, DIY wipes are the way to go

I searched the Internet for what others were doing for homemade wipes. I found a lot of formulas. The assorted ingredients included vinegar, coconut oil, a multitude of essential oils, and pine cleaner.

Many years ago, in a Microbiology class in college, we tested some common household items for their germ-killing capabilities. A petri dish was prepared with three different bacteria. (I don’t remember what they were.) We all brought in different things to try. My lab partner brought Woolite. I brought pine cleaner. Two out the three areas on her dish were clear of bacteria after applying her Woolite. My pine cleaner killed NONE of the bacteria. So, it may not come as any surprise that I don’t use pine cleaner.

Knowing what I do about pine cleaner, I skipped any formulas that called for it. I wanted a disinfecting wipe and I have scientific evidence that this stuff wouldn’t disinfect its way out of a paper bag.

tshirt

The cloth to use for the wipes is a no-brainer. I’ve got several old T-shirts with stains that nothing on the planet will remove. They remain in the drawer until I make cleaning rags out of them. It was time to press one of those shirts into service.

Some folks used paper towels. Not only did they suggest using paper towels, they suggested sawing the roll in half. No. Not doing that.

So, in my search for a recipe, I landed on the Living on a Dime site. Unlike many of the other recipes, this one includes alcohol. It’s one thing that we know will disinfect; the jury is still out on many of the others.

WipesIngredients

Homemade Disinfecting Wipes

1 cup water
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
2 tablespoons Dawn dish soap
2 tablespoons ammonia (optional)

Mix the ingredients together. Pour over rags until sufficiently dampened.

Don’t Fear the Egg

 

My mother made cookies. At Christmas, there were plates full of cookies of all shapes and kinds. Throughout the year though, it was often chocolate chip cookies for dessert and after-school snacks. It’s still a favorite.

Sometimes I was around when she was baking, though I think that wasn’t her favorite time to bake. She knew I was waiting to eat the last bits of dough out of the bowl. I would beg her to leave a chocolate chip or two in the batter, but she rarely would.

eggs

We weren’t afraid back then. We ate raw eggs without worry. Then came the concern about Salmonella enteritidis, the scourge of bowl-lickers everywhere.

Food-borne illness are a fact of life. I have no data to support this, but I believe that everyone will be a victim sometime. Bacteria happens.

In the case of infected eggs, I think I’ll take the risk. According to a study done in the 1990s by the Center for Disease Control, only 1 egg in 20,000 was internally infected with Salmonella enteritidis. During the years of 2009-2010, the CDC reported that there were 2231 cases of illness caused by contaminated eggs. There are more than 316 million people in the US, so 7 people per million became ill from eating raw or undercooked eggs.

Fear of a raw egg would put the brakes on trying freshly made mayonnaise and nothing should prevent that. Once you have made your own, it will be hard to return to anything from a jar.

mayo3
It’s not difficult to make mayonnaise and it requires only a few ingredients. Here are a couple of basic recipes to try:
Basic Mayonnaise from Martha Stewart

Alton Brown’s Recipe

Yo, Yogurt

Being an adult requires that you do things you would rather not do. My father used to say that he ate his vegetables so the kids would eat theirs. He had a life-long dislike of most vegetables, but he also knew that his kids would mimic his disdain, even if we didn’t dislike vegetables.

For me, one of the things I do because I should is eat yogurt. I don’t really like it, but there are rewards that are hard to duplicate.
WebMD.com lists six yogurt benefits:

  • Yogurt with active cultures may help the gut
  • Some probiotic strains may boost the immune system
  • Yogurt with active cultures may discourage vaginal infections
  • Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis
  • Yogurt may reduce the risk of high blood pressure
  • Yogurt may help you feel fuller

When I started eating yogurt daily, I reached into the refrigerator for the individual cups that I bought each week. I made sure I had several flavors to keep it interesting. Once I tried Greek yogurt, I was hooked, but the cost of those little cups was a concern.
Making yogurt at home isn’t difficult but what about Greek yogurt? What is the secret to that? Not much of a secret really. Greek yogurt has been drained of whey. That’s it. No magical process. No special ingredients.
So, what does it take to make yogurt? There are a number of recipes to choose from online, but this is what I use:

yogurtingredients

  1. 1 quart milk
  2. ½ cup dry milk powder
  3. 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

I bought a large container of plain yogurt to use as the starter culture. I froze individual portions to save them. Now, when I make a batch of yogurt, I take one cube out and allow it to thaw while the milk is heating and cooling.
It doesn’t matter what kind of milk. Use skim, 2% or whole milk. All kinds will work. The milk powder adds more milk solids to the mix and produces a thicker yogurt.
When it’s done, flavor your yogurt in any way that suits you. I put in a spoonful of jam. Honey would be good, as well. Put in nothing, if you can stand it.
I have to admit, I like my home-made yogurt better than anything I can buy at the store.

Homemade Yogurt


1 quart milk
½ cup dry milk powder
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Mix powdered milk into the milk in a sauce pan. Using a candy thermometer, heat the milk mixture until the temperature reaches 180 degrees. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 115 degrees. Spoon out approximately ½ cup of the warm milk and whisk it with the yogurt starter. Add this mixture back into the milk and mix throughly. Incubate from 4 to 12 hours until thickened.

The yogurt can be left in the same pan to incubate or put into a jar or bowl. I leave mine in the same pan I used to heat the milk and it works just fine.
To incubate, I heat up the oven to the lowest setting and then turn it off.

yogurtoven

The pan is wrapped in a towel before I put it into the oven and I leave it in place for about 6 hours.

 

yogurtcheesecloth

When the yogurt is thick, I put the batch in a colander, lined with cheesecloth, to separate the whey. Now, it’s Greek!

What to do with the whey is a work in progress. I’ll get back to you on that.

 

Nary a Chocolate Bunny Was Found

marshmallows

This year’s Easter basket was filled with homemade marshmallows. No chocolate bunnies. No jelly beans. Just marshmallows.

It isn’t that I don’t like chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. I do but, like everything else at the store, the cost of candy is pretty steep and I thought I could save a little money by doing my own.

I’m not new to making candy. I’ve made peanut brittle every Christmas for more years than I can remember. I have also made caramels, peppermint bark, fudge, gum drops and more to round out the candy tray.

Most people bake for the holidays. Baking has never been my thing. I make too much of a mess because something always happens to the flour. Some mysterious force always flips the measuring cup over or poufs it out of the mixer bowl all over me. It isn’t IF I’m going to make a mess while baking, it’s WHEN.

Candy is a bit neater because there is no flour involved. It is, however, easier to burn and I’ve done that too often. Nothing smells quite like burnt sugar in the morning.

Making candy doesn’t need to be limited to the holidays. Someone somewhere has developed a recipe for just about any kind of candy you can think of. I used this recipe for peanut butter cups, substituting candy melts for the chocolate bar. They’re good.

peanutbuttercups

Some other interesting candies I intend to try soon:

Copycat Snickers® bars
Copycat Three Musketeers® bars
Copycat Heath® bars
Copycat Almond Joy® bars

I’ve never made a candy bar but I’m up for the challenge. What could possibly go wrong? There’s no flour.

DIY Liquid Hand Soap

handsoap2

I thought I had a big bottle of liquid soap to refill my dispensers. I knew just where it was, only it wasn’t there. Its location remains a mystery.

So, rather than buy another bottle, I decided to make some liquid soap. It really couldn’t be easier.

Liquid Hand Soap

4 ounces bar soap, grated
8 cups distilled water
1 tablespoon glycerin

Bring water to boil in a large, non-reactive pan. Remove from heat and add grated soap. Stir until soap is dissolved. Allow to cool for several hours or over-night. The mixture will have the consistency of slime.
When completely cool, mix in glycerin. Using an electric mixer makes this easier. Pour into pump dispensers.

Makes 1/2 gallon.

Next time, I’ll add a little fragrance into the mix. The scent from the bar soap is still discernible but it is diluted. Though, with 1/2 gallon on hand, it may be some time before I need to make any more.

The Garden Conspiracy

The garden is in. Spring has arrived. All is good. Not.

I think there is a conspiracy afoot that purposely sabotages my garden every year. I’ve had late freezes, droughts, heat waves and critters all wreaking havoc on my tender, little plants. This year the critters struck first. I put in my pepper plants with a handful of crushed eggshells in the hole. Something out there thought that egg shells would be a good treat. Four out of six peppers were dug up and destroyed. I found two upside down, but still in their newspaper pots. They’ve been replanted. They may not survive.zukeplant

The next thing to hit was the weather. We had a heavy downpour the day after I put in my plants. Most of them came through, but the rain hammered the little zucchinis. One didn’t make it. The others look pounded but are hanging in there. I put more seeds directly into the garden to replace the lost plant. I’ll hope for the best.

If I had to survive on the produce from my garden, I would be much, much thinner. I hope the day never comes that I have to turn my property into a working farm just to survive. I won’t give up on growing some of my own produce. It brings me joy.garden

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish: