Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spruce your day up with Chopped Kick-the-Sickness Salad!

Dear reader with the Kleenex stuffed miserably up your nose,

I hear reports from my beloved, soggy Pacific Northwest that the traditional damp-weather sicknesses are plaguing and besetting them all.  Half my family contracted the dreaded strep throat in a wave of plague, and had to languish in quarantine separated from the other half which still had day jobs, school, and everyday interactions to be accomplished!

I wished I could whack up a big bowl of this refreshing, germ-sizzling salad for them ... Not only is it splendidly crunchy and delicious beyond all reason, but it packs a punch to whallop those wintery diseases in the red, chapped nose.  This recipe emerged triumphantly from a smattering of miscellaneous CSA-box produce and farmer's market leftovers that I had lying indulgently about in my fridge - Mr H enjoyed it with a hot lunch of fry bread with hasty dipping sauce, and the whole meal was speedily assembled by myself only minutes after he requested a mid-afternoon repast.

As a practicality, if you are staggering from the black plague yourself, this salad is deathly simple to prepare.

Chopped Kick-The-Sickness Salad
Mix and match what you have in the fridge - vary the amounts depending on your personal preference or availability! 

3 medium-small tomatoes
1 thick slice of yellow onion
2 thick slices of cheese
1 ripe avocado
Olive Oil
White or Cider Vinegar
Fresh-ground black pepper
Sea salt
Fresh ground cumin or taco seasoning

Coarsely chop the first four ingredients and put them in your lunch bowl.  Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil, and then a dash of vinegar.  Grind some pepper over the top (pre-ground won’t have the same effect) and sprinkle with sea salt and ground cumin or taco seasoning.  Stir together.  Eat immediately or let it marinade for a few hours in the fridge. 
Variation: Add coarsely chopped or pickled garlic for extra power.  Add minced cilantro.  
Vegans: Substitute your favorite vegan cheese or leave it off!  I recommend including a chewy ingredient, though, to balance out the texture. 

Life is short!  Enjoy every ... last ... morsel ... 

Mrs H

Friday, October 28, 2011

Super-Lunch Smoothie

Dear speed reader and full-day-keeper, 

This smoothie is my absolute favorite lunch.  I must have made it a hundred times by now, but I never get tired of it.  I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do - it is refreshing, delicious, creamy, and nutritious.  What else could we ask for?  

I use a few ingredients that you may not recognize right away: maca root and bee pollen.  I bought the maca powder in our local health store and the bee pollen from Azure.

Why these strange ingredients, you may ask?  Here are some notes from a wonderful cookbook I've mentioned to you before, Raw Food Real World:

Bee pollen is granulated pollen gathered by the bees and is one of nature’s most complete, nutritious foods.  About 40% protein, half of which is free amino acids, bee pollen supplies humans with almost every essential element we need to survive.  It is also markedly high in folic acid, vitamins, and nucleic acids, and is though to help cure chronic digestive and autoimmune diseases.  And women, listen up: not only has bee pollen been tapped to stimulate the production of eggs from ovaries, it also plays a role in preventing and treating such cancers as breast and uterine

Peruvian Maca is a powdered supplement that comes from the Peruvian maca root.  It contains amino acids, complex carbs, vitamins B1, B2, B12, C, and E and minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium and iron.  Among many other purported benefits, it is said to be excellent for balancing hormones, building muscle, enhancing stamina, and increasing fertility.  Maca tastes a bit funny, almost like powdered sweet potato. It goes best in shakes with plenty of banana or other strong flavors.  If you don’t love the taste, you can also find the powder in capsule form.  

I love the creamy, rich flavor the maca adds to my shakes (it is not overpowering in any way) so much so that I can't even stand a shake without it any more!  It's like a super-food version of malted milk powder.  Bee pollen can be tasted if you put in too much, but I put in so little that I can't taste it at all.  Once I dumped an overfull teaspoonful into a small bowl of oatmeal and it lent a very buttery flavor, and I wouldn't care to try that again! 

The protein powder that I use is called Spiru-Tein.  This as my protein powder of choice because it is vegetarian and so doesn't contain animal product, or whey, fructose, maltodextrin, genetically modified ingredients, or sucralose like many other protein powders do (including the popular Muscle Milk!).  You can read the ingredients of my favorite flavor, chocolate, here!  

Super-Lunch Smoothie 

10 - 13 ice cubes 
Protein powder of your choice (I use chocolate Spiru-Tein)
Pinch of bee pollen
1/2 teaspoon maca powder
Approximately one cup soy or almond milk, plain or vanilla flavored
1 large banana, peeled

Everything into the blender in the order listed.  You will need to vary the amount of milk and ice required based on the power of your blender, and how thick or thin you like your smoothie.  

Blend on high power until it is fully smooth, stopping occasionally to shake the blender if necessary or add more ice or milk.  Enjoy!

Variation: If you don't have milk, you can substitute water or coconut water, and add an additional banana to maintain the thick creaminess.  However, once you've had  the original smoothie with milk, you will know that this still-delicious runner-up is just that - a runner-up, not the real deal!  

Sipping daintily, 

Mrs H

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How My Mom Taught Me to be a Woman

Dear mature and affectionate readers, all of which had a mother, 

There's a lot I could say about my mom; not the least of which is that she taught me I don't need to capitalize nouns like "mom" or "dad" unless I am using them in a sentence where they replace a name, such as, "Good morning, Mom."  See, she's already teaching you, too! 

Musing back on my childhood, I can see more clearly than ever that she taught us kids by example more than anything else.  I don't recall ever hearing one single moralizing speech from her, I don't remember ever hearing her say anything that her own actions didn't agree with, and I don't remember her ever explicitly telling me things like, "You need to respect your husband," or, "A good wife takes care of her personal appearance."  

But she taught all of these things, implicitly.  Powerfully; in ways that stick with me and come to my mind almost every day.  I'll do something and think, "This is just what my mom would do."  Or if I am not sure what to do, I can think, "What would Mom do?"  

Like coming with my husband on this great Navy adventure - not sure what many other people would do, but I know Mom would do whatever she could to keep the family together.  Whatever it took to support her husband, my dad.  And, above all, she would not be deterred by what anybody said.  

Everything she did was with a quiet, firm dignity.  She did a lot of revolutionary things - she home-schooled her kids, she had eight of us instead of two and a half, she washed the dish towels separately from the rest of the laundry, she gave my sister rye crackers and carrots instead of ice cream for a snack when all my sister wanted was rye crackers and carrots and Mom's friends were appalled.  She delivered her babies naturally and kept a kitchen garden before it became vogue or "cool" to do so.  When she had her first few kids in the hospital, she got annoyed by the nurses taking them way to another room.  "But don't you want to get some rest?" the nurse asked with concern when she offered to take my newborn sister Melissa away for the night. "I'd rather have my baby with me, thanks."  I can hear Mom saying to herself, "I didn't go through all that work for nothing!"  In the end, she solved this irritating problem with efficiency as she always does, by simply having her children at home, where she could make all the rules.  Oh, and she let us stay up late sometimes.  Back in the early years, somebody once saw my older sister, who was very young at the time, playing happily at an event my parents were hosting in their home.  It must have been getting late, because they asked my mom, "Shouldn't she be in bed now?"  I can just see Mom smiling her secret smile.  That smile she gets when she knows what she's doing and she doesn't care that you disagree.  "She's having just as much fun as you," she said.  "Why should she be the one to go to bed?"

Her child-rearing was always contrary to popular opinion.  When two of us kids couldn't get along, for instance, instead of separating us she would have us rearrange all the bedrooms until the two fighters had to share a living space.  Then it was learn to get along, or die trying!  If us kids were in bed and supposed to be sleeping but instead talking on and on, she would come in and issue a warning to go to sleep.  If we kept talking (I know you don't believe it, but that did happen from time to time) she would come in, flick the light on, and rouse us out of bed.  Since we had so much energy, she would put us to work cleaning house until we were ready for bed!  (Recently, another mom put housework to good use here!)

In their habitual indifference of laissez faire, way people would comment on everything she did.  Snide remarks, predictions of doom.  "You can't home school your kids."  "You can't drive a motor home in downtown New Orleans."  "You can't let your kids play with each other and expect them to like each other."  I can remember countless times when a store clerk, a DOL employee, or some customer service representative would tell her something she needed was impossible, even when it was within the realm of their service.  She would reason with them and persist until they would get so sick of her, they'd finally do it.  "We don't have any in stock," a store clerk would report after disappearing behind a flapping plastic door too briefly to even look on the shelves.  "Really?" my mom would say.  "Why don't you look one more time?"  She bought my little sister a kids cooking book for the crock-pot, and they planned out some recipes my sister would make for school (handy how school can be so similar and applicable to real life).  But then the next day my little sister visited me at school with my mom, and somehow the book got lost.  What to do?  Mom did not despair - after they ripped the car apart and called the school and searched every possible place, she went to the store and bought a new book, copied the recipes, and returned the book.  

Once she went to the doctor to have some work done on her teeth.  They insisted that she be knocked flat out for the surgery, but she had already discussed with them the options for local anesthetic and decided that was the route she wanted to take.  The doctor cajoled and threatened, warning her that the pain could be significant.  "I delivered eight children by natural childbirth," she said calmly.  "I think I have a fairly high tolerance for pain."  (I question if she was referring to the pain of childbirth, or the pain of raising eight kids?)  Exasperated, the doctor continued to insist and as he talked on she realized it was simply more convenient for him to put her out - it fit his pattern, his usual modus operandi.  But she had already made her decision and there would be no budging her. Finally, she played her last hand.  "Listen," she said.  "You aren't going to put me out and that's that.  I ate breakfast right before I got here."  

She disagreed with a lot of common trends and she took flak for it all the time.  She tells the story that before any of us kids were born, people would harangue her: "When are you gonna have kids?  When you gonna start having kids?  Are you pregnant yet?  Why don't you have kids already?"  Then she started having kids, and people got tired of it pretty quickly.  "When you gonna stop having kids?  Don't you have enough kids?  Aren't you sick of kids?  Enough already!!"   As far as I ever saw, their comments rolled off her like water off a duck's back.  She knew her own reasons for what she did, and that was enough for her.  She was satisfied with her decisions and didn't need to explain, justify, or argue.  

People would stare at her and my dad when they took us kids places, when we would sit around listening to them and their adult conversation.  "Don't you want a little break?" they would say to my mom.  I never knew about this growing up, but people were shocked by the fact that she pretty much took us everywhere. "Don't you want to leave them at home?" they would say in hushed tones.  I am sure she smiled that secret smile again.  "I actually like my kids," she would tell them matter-of-factly.  "In fact, come to think of it, that's why I had kids.  I want to be around them.  They are people, too!"  Flattering words for me to hear, but I think this points to more virtue in my mother than to any quality us kids may have possessed.  Not that anything is wrong with calling in a babysitter, but to my mom's credit I don't remember her ever once bringing in a babysitter.  Occasionally my grandma would come over while Mom and Dad left for the weekend, but that was the extent of babysitters we experienced.  

She was an exemplary wife.  I've never heard her say an unkind word about my dad.  Plumb as I might the depths of my memory, I cannot remember once ever hearing one negative reference to him pass her lips - even when us kids were griping, or annoyed with him, or complaining about something he did.  None of my siblings can remember an instance, either (and between us all, that's 147 years of memory!).  She'd quietly explain the things we didn't understand - "Your dad is trying to close a really big deal.  He's been concerned about it for weeks now.  He hasn't had much time off because he's working overtime to get it done," - and even though we didn't always accept her explanation, we knew there was no way we'd get her to join our crowd of rebellion. 

Even though we must admit she was a bit of a rebel, herself!  She says she remembers growing up, one day she wanted a pie.  She went into the kitchen and made a pie.  Did anybody teach her?  Did anybody applaud her?  No, but she saw what she wanted and went after it until she achieved it.  Typical Mom!  

As any mother can testify, sometimes it can be hard to get motivated to hit the shower and spruce up for the day ahead.  Spit-up, slobber, puke, and dirty diapers can get ahead of the eau de toilette sometimes.  And of course there were days when life started out too quickly, when we would get up early and Mom would be working on the bills downstairs in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, and she'd charge straight ahead and finish the project without respite and take her shower after lunch.  Sure, those days happened.  Sometimes stopping to shower can break the momentum.  But overall, my memory is dominated by Mom taking the time every day to take a shower, put on her makeup, put on some perfume or scented lotion, and fix her hair.  She never told us, "A husband likes it when you dress for the day," or, "You feel better about yourself if you take a little pride in your appearance."  I didn't even realize that people existed in the world who didn't take a shower every morning regardless of the baby screaming angrily from his crib, or the phone ringing off the hook.  I just assumed that grown-ups were at the point in life where this was their job and the world would have to wait until the ablutions were complete.  I was always impressed with how perfect her make-up was and how soft her skin looked, and how good she always smelled.  These things, I learned years later, make the world go 'round! 

My mom was also a great one at finagling bills and accounts.  I always saw her with her little rack of bills - after we brought her the daily mail, she'd send us off with, "Here, go put this bill in the gold rack.  Put this in the black rack," - neatly sorted, filling out accounts in Quicken and hearing the "ca-ching!" of the little cash-register sound it makes whenever you enter data.  She and my dad would go over them together periodically - how often I don't really remember, because I was never involved in the process - and she kept everything in methodically sorted folders and filing cabinets.  My grandma tells me that Mom has been good with money ever since she was a little girl.  

My mom took great effort to create wonderful memories and experiences for us kids growing up.  My favorite tradition, I think, was that Christmas day was always spent at home, not rushing about to visit everybody.  I did not even know that such a possibility existed and assumed everybody spent Christmas day inside with family - I remember seeing cars driving outside and wondering where in the world they could possibly be going, since nobody goes anywhere on Christmas!  In our older years, we would go to my grandma's house, only a mile away, for a big carousing family dinner.  My parents jealously guarded the time they got to spend as a family together, and while my dad was in charge of "field trips" (read: camping, hiking, driving cross-country), my mom took care of making sure we had family experiences at home.  I can see that now - I don't think I realized it then.  She knew what she wanted: family time, no-stress holidays.  And no amount of poking, prodding, or snide remarks seemed to budge her.  My mom determined what was important for her family and then she stood firm in her decision.  

The other dominant memory I have of my mom growing up was that, pretty much every time I came downstairs in the morning, she would be sitting in her chair reading her Bible.  It was a quiet, unspoken commentary on her faith and her source of strength, but it had a big impact.  Our school started with Bible reading and study, and my favorite was the big maps of the Middle East that we hung on the walls and the salt-dough relief maps we made of the Red Sea and Egypt.  I don't remember her ever saying anything like, "You must read your Bible every day."  She never told us we had to be Christians.  She only told us everything she knew and loved about her faith, and we made the decision ourselves. 

Mom with her family at my wedding
She had a funny way of knowing what was important.  When we were just beginning to work with numbers, she taught us math with the old Eclectic Readers.  But she was clever in how she caught our attention.  Instead of saying, "Paul has five apples and Peter has four," she would say, "Rebecca has five apples and Andrea only has four!"  The stories became intriguing, mysterious, and entertaining.  Sometimes the talking bug would hit us girls and we would sit in the living room with mom and talk for hours.  The night would wear on into the wee hours, and I know there were plenty of times when she had to get up early, but the fact that she preferred to sit and chat with us rather than go to bed tells me now, years later, that she had already decided which was more important.  

Sometimes people would drop by and they could make comments - the laundry was stacked on the couch, the books were heaped across the floor, the dishes were still on the table.  But Mom took it all in stride.  The Invisible things, she knew, were being taken care of first - and that was more important to her.  She had priorities.  I've babysat and done housework in many a beautiful, pristine home, where unhappiness and discontent reign supreme.  It was always a relief to return home to a house that, although it was packed with people and busyness and floods of chaos, was also full of peace and satisfaction.  

And she has a funny way of defining patience.  People always look from her to us kids, and then to their two horrid children, and sigh heavily and say, "You must be the most patient person in the world.  You must be the most organized person in the world.  I could never home-school my kids."  
My mom always, always laughs at this.  She'll say, "I am the least patient, least organized person in the world!" Patience, she says, is being able to ignore the things that don't matter and only attend to the things that do.  

Believe me, with eight kids (and we were not always charmers although I am sure you think we were), that is probably what saved her life.  

My mom taught me a lot about being a real woman - about steadfast faith, unwavering devotion to your spouse, personal pride, dignity in the face of disagreement, firmly holding to what you know is right, and doing whatever it takes despite opposition.  She taught me that a woman is all this, and more.  She is strong, she is decided, she is powerful, and above all ... 

She doesn't have to say a thing - but everybody will know it

Mrs H

This is shared at Encourage One Another Wednesday with Deep Roots at Home

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hasty Dipping Sauce - magic in minutes!

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Dear hot-headed, spicy reader,

I accidentally came up with this sauce the other night when I was making some onions rings to go with dinner.  The sauce is exquisitely perfect and just punchy enough for kicking up fried onions or vegetables, french fries, and right now the current household favorite is crispy-hot tender-warm Indian Fry Bread with this sauce (and a pool of extra hot sauce alongside it!).  Mr H proclaimed he could eat that every night and never get tired of it - and so we did, until I ran out of flour!

Hasty Dipping Sauce
This condiment makes an excellent dip for onion rings or fried breads.  Spread it on sandwiches to upgrade an everyday meal to a well-flavored, satisfying treat, or serve alongside sizzling bratwursts and burgers to impress your barbecue guests!  If possible, use an olive-oil based or homemade mayonnaise.  Use any punchy Cajun seasoning; I used Penzeys Spices Cajun Seasoning.  The cooling effect of the dill contrasts splendidly with the fiery hints of Cajun.  Makes approximately one cup.  

1 cup mayonnaise
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill seed (I use both)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (for an accelerated kick, use two teaspoons)

Blend all ingredients together well.  Transfer to a container with a lid and keep refrigerated. 
Variation:  As it is, the spread is thick but still thin enough to use as a dip.  If you want it thinner, add buttermilk one teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.  

Pottering about in the kitchen,

Mrs H

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Quick, Oat Flour!

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Dear quaint reader,

When I stopped by our landlord's house to drop off our first rent, they invited me inside as they were baking cookies.  My stomach rumbled at the sight of hot, meltingly fresh chocolate chip cookies lined up along the counter.  While I ate one, the elderly husband told me he made them by replacing one half of the flour with oatmeal flour he purchased from a local organic grocery.  Chocolate chips and chopped walnuts were blended in and the flavor and texture was satisfyingly chewy and chunky.  Generously, they picked a bag of tomatoes and peppers from their garden and sent me away full-handed and rarin' to bake cookies!

Organic oatmeal flour can be pricey, but don't despair.  You can make your own oatmeal flour and quick oats at home from rolled oats - I find it is always cheaper to buy bulk rolled oats.

Simply dump a cupful at a time (toy around with it to see what your blender can handle) into a blender or food processor and let it whirl until it is the consistency you desire.  Just a few seconds for barely-chopped quick oats, and a bit longer for super-fine flour.

Adding oat flour to cookies in replacement of regular flour makes them very dense and chewy - just the way I like 'em!!

If your mom-in-law made you aprons like these, you'd be eager to bake, too! 
busily baking,

Mrs H

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Free Giveaway - Sparkles, Sparkles!!

This contest is now closed.  Thank you for participating! 

Dear fellow frugals who have followed so faithfully,

As a fair payment for following this series on frugality, I thought we'd give away some fun!

My sister Melissa heralded me into my new home with a handsome housewarming gift of Tranquil Waters sparkling body gel and a delightfully fluffy body scrubby!  She's offered to give one away to a fortunate reader as a part of her blossoming Mary Kay home business, and I was only too happy to agree.

Growing up, she was always the sister we'd go to for make-up advice (okay, so I still do).  She was the only sister among the six of us girls who faithfully attended to her face wash and sunscreen and she has a lovely, silky complexion to show for it.  We used to say that decades into the future, when people looked at our family portrait in history books (we naturally assumed we'd just be that famous), they would look at her and say "Ah, the beautiful one!"

So who's down for a little free scrubbie and sparkly?  Ladies, you can win this for yourself or for a girlfriend or daughter, daughters you can win this for your mom or your grandma or yourself.  Guys, you can double your wife's chance of winning by entering, too - and then you can hold it hostage until some festive date if you wish!  The possibilities are endless ... and so very delightful!

I'm following along with another blog series where the author is challenging women to go from Frumps to Pumps (Mr H asked me, "What is frumps?"  I said it was when you slog around in pajamas or t-shirts and sweats all day!).  Whatever your reason to dress nicely on a regular basis - husband, job, feeling better about yourself - it always pays to feel and look your best, even when you spend the day at home.  And many moms and other work-from-homers do spend the day at home, and feel a little frumpy for it!  So in the interest of being a little more, well, interesting, this morning after my morning ablutions I rubbed the sparkles into my skin and now whenever I move, sweet-scented glittering happens all around!

Here is how you enter to win: post a comment below with a frugal tip or just a happy smiley face :).

Double your chances of winning by going to the brand-new Dotal Anecdotes Facebook page and "liking" it - leave another comment below (with just your name) to let me know you did so (if you've already "liked" the page, just leave a comment to tell me so).

Triple your chances of winning by visiting Melissa's Mary Kay site and leaving a third comment telling me what you'd like to see in the next drawing ... I might be able to talk her into doing another one!

So you can enter three times!  Be sure to leave a comment for each thing you do so your vote will be cast! 

The drawing will take place on November 5th with, as usual, the unbiased help of the ever-arbitrary!  You can enter any time from now until then - I will close the comments when the time is up.

No tricks here, and you might win a fun treat - cheers to winning free stuff!!

No, that's not my website ... but the name is appropriate, don't you think?! 
Sparkling and bubbling like carbonated apple cider,

Mrs H

This contest is now closed.  Thank you for participating! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saving Money: Part Four - Galvanized Action

Dear simple livers,

It was not my intent to refer to you as a blood-filtering organ, but that's how it came out!  With this propitious start let us continue on to the final and fourth part of our money-saving series.  

Part one covered the Guiding Principles, part two laid the Ground Rules, part three introduced some General Ideas to put in place in your kitchen, and part four will now put the rubber of idea to the pavement of Galvanized Action with some practical can-dos! 

Saving Money: Part Four - Put it into practice

Buy and serve Real Food, not empty calories ... a hunk of twelve-grain bread with a slab of cheese and a glass of hot tea is far more filling than three cheeseburgers!  You'll be satisfied for longer on real food, and you'll find you don't need to eat as much.  

Split bulk buysIf you want to buy a fifty pound bag of oatmeal because it's so much cheaper per pound but you have nowhere to store fifty pounds of oatmeal and you'd rather not spend that much all at once, ask a friend (or two) if she wants to split the purchase with you.

If you have gym access: take your shower at the gym, and skip the hot-water bill at home!  Truthfully, the entire eight weeks Mr H was in boot camp I only took three showers at home.

If you have to pay for laundry machines, give it a try and handwash a load or two (not really my favorite task, but it can be done).

If you also have to pay for dryers, dry things in the sun or with a fan.  You don't have to spend a lot on a clothes rack - I used a mop and a shower rod that were in the apartment when we moved in!

With the help of a fan, even on a cool day the clothes can be dry in about two hours (I sometimes go in and rotate them halfway through).

Save on dry cleaning: either check the labels when you buy and choose clothes that aren't dry clean, or use Dryel or another home dry-cleaning product (coupons here!).

Make tortillas, breads, muffins, buns, rolls, and other baked goods at home from inexpensive dry goods, instead of running to the store for tortillas so we can make quesadillas for dinner!

Have fun with what you can make at home, and give yourself grace if it doesn't turn out quite as you (or everyone else) expected! 

Make imitation maple syrup at home.  Some syrup comes in handy glass jars, and can be refilled with the homemade version as I did here.  I would not recommend reusing plastic bottles, however.

Use empty or old (too scratched to can with) jars for candle holders.  As illustrated in the picture below with the Classico spaghetti sauce jar, you can also use old glass jars for handily capped water bottles, gatorade bottles, or non-insulated coffee thermoses.

Learn to use your crock-pot - make it your best friend!  Crock pot dinners are surprisingly simple and shockingly inexpensive, but above all perfectly delicious.  Reference a cookbook for ideas, but don't be glued to the recipes - use them as a baseline for inspiration, and avoid a trip to the store!

If you are in the mood for new recipes, do an online search for a few excellent cooking blogs, websites or recipes, or check out cookbooks from the library instead of buying new books.  Do a cookbook swap with a friend who has a different library than your own!

Bike or walk as much as possible to save gas and - burn calories!

Hit estate sales over garage sales - owners are usually very eager to get rid of items very quickly, and often don't have the anxiety of "But I paid twenty dollars for that when it was new!"

When you go to a garage or estate sale to shop for your house, make a pile of things and then bid an offer on the lump as a whole - you can get items cheaper this way than by haggling for them one by one.

Save money and space by learning (practice and YouTube videos will be your friends here) how to chop, mince, dice, julienne, and prepare foods by hand that would otherwise need a food processor.  Food processors are convenient and wonderful but if it's not in the budget, don't sweat it - sharpen it!  Buy your chicken whole and learn how to piece or bone it by hand (again, YouTube!) - and use the bones for broth so that not an ounce goes to waste!

Keep a jar of cookies ready at all times to stave off hungry hands that wander into the kitchen.  I like to bake large batches and freeze a few bags at a time so that I am well supplied with a variety of cookies on hand.

Have four kids at once instead of one at a time!  Just kidding ...

Scour clearance racks regularly for items you may need.  And the key is regularly (my favorite is Bed Bath and Beyond) because they don't keep things in stock there.  I keep a running list of items we need in our house (coffee grinder, bowls, curtains, to name a few!) and when I get the chance, I peruse the sale shelves for any of said items.  The worst way to save money is to go out hunting for a specific item, so I try to keep my eyes peeled all the time.  I bought this shower curtain ($50), liner ($3), hooks ($5), and a soap dispenser ($4) for all around $20, just by keeping my eye on the sale racks and saving coupons!  (And I used store credit from returning a previous item to pay, so I didn't actually spend any money at all!)

As I mentioned in part three, this loaf of bread cost less than a dollar to make, and it was fragrant and delicious!  Keep hearty artisan breads on hand for dipping, sopping, spreading, and crumbling into dinners.  A loaf of bread can dress up a simple stew most marvelously, and take dinner from mediocre to rustic-heaven in no time!  And cooks since the early years of the world have known that grains fill up the belly so that everybody doesn't need to fill up on the more expensive items, like meat dishes.

Buy loose tea leaves or grow mint and dry your own herbal tea.  Replace expensive store-bought drinks with homemade teas and sweet tea.

Be patient when you want or need something.  I was looking for long, floor-length curtains.  But I only wanted to spend a few bucks!  So I waited for a month, hitting the clearance shelves whenever I passed them and skimming through garage sales.  I finally found these four panels in a garage sale, still packaged.  She asked for eight, I offered six, and the deal was made.  Mr H helped me hang them and now ... we have curtains!

Whenever you visit garage sales, if you like candles, look for them in and out of season and pay pennies on the dollar!  I paid $0.30 apiece for these brand new babies and I am quite content with them.  Candles can be pricey to buy new but if you like them as an accent, it's worth it to stock up at sales (and people are almost always selling them).  We don't have any lamps yet, so these candles come in especially handy!

Wear socks or a fuzzy cap or a sweater if the house is chilly - don't laugh, sometimes we just don't think about it! But this really will warm you up, no duh, and you won't have to fire up the furnace as much.

If you're desperate in the kitchen, you can make a baking pan out of foil!

Research long and hard before you buy an appliance, tool, or kitchen gadget. Use the time to it takes to research the product instead of going back to return, replace, and retry.  I like to read the reviews at Amazon, and look online for other comments, reviews, and Consumer Reports.  And when you are narrowing down your list of options, it is usually better to invest in the more expensive, well-made model (this is not always the rule).  Paying a few extra dollars for a longer-lasting better-rated item is more satisfying than buying five cheap editions over the years.

Buy dried beans instead of canned -  As some examples, at Costco you can buy seven pounds of dried pinto beans for $7.29, or 5 pounds of dried organic black beans from Azure for $7.  While already eliminating the troublesome problem of where to store many space-consuming cans of beans, you also save a lot of money: a 16 oz can of black beans can cost anywhere from $1 to $3, and using rough guesstimates of weight (different brands have different amounts of liquid in the can), if you were to buy the beans dried you can assume you'd be spending between $0.25 to $0.45 for the same amount (and that is being generous!).  Buying canned beans, no matter how much they are on sale, is never really a bargain - be sure to check the ingredients list for added sodium, too.  And the can for insidious chemicals that leach into the beans!  (This is where our general ideas of "make your own ingredients" and "plan ahead when you can" come into play!)  You can quickly cook a pan of pinto beans by boiling them for two hours, and black beans can be cooked in even less time; watch the blog for a pending recipe on canning beans at home, too (so you can have the pre-cooked convenience and none of the wasted money!).

Beans on standby: since they are such a handy ingredient for just about any evening casserole, I usually keep a quart jar of cooked beans in my fridge (when I am cooking up a batch for some specific meal during the week, I throw in an extra cup to set aside) so that on those days that I don't have time to can ahead or start cooking them earlier in the day, I have some nearby.  Toss in a few chunky vegetables and you have filling, nutritious stew!  I frequently use beans instead of meat because they are significantly cheaper!

And our final and probably most pointed Useful Tip comes from the whimsical Mamakawa, my cousin.  This one will, I know, cut every Home Cook to the core with guilt (I hang my head in shame!).  Do not, she says, suffer from food waste!  "I occasionally forget that I have something and remember a few days past any possible redemption.  *sniff*  Goodbye, pluots.  You looked delicious."  Women, women, above all we must be masters (mistresses?) of our kitchens.  I have been guilty far too many times of putting off re-calibrating some leftovers or using up a sprig of this or that, and finally shoving it down the drain - or horror of horrors even discarding whole boxes of produce that I neglected to tend to.  SIN!  You'll have to come up with your own system, but do whatever it takes to make sure nothing is forgotten and rotten! (Keeping the fridge clean helps - here's a handy-dandy household download that might help.)

When you have little brothers
as big as this, you have to be
ready with Big Food all the
Hopefully some of these tips come in handy for you, and I know you have many, many more to share - so include your additional ideas and improvements in the comments below!

Mrs H

Free Internet Resources! 

Money Saving Mom
Group-Buy Girl
Coupon Mom
Simple Living Media
Simple Mom (hosted by Simple Living Media network)
Simple Organic (hosted by Simple Living Media network)
American Family
Azure Standard
Azure Almanac
LocalHarvest (find farms & CSAs)
Reusable Canning Lids (my review)
Dryel (coupons are on their site)

More on breadmaking, baking, and cooking... 

King Arthur Flour's blog
Food in Jars
Mennonite Girls Can Cook
Thai Food by SheSimmers
The Fresh Loaf
The Pioneer Woman
Pioneer Woman's recommended sites
Northwest Sourdough
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day (This is a book but it is the best so I am including it here!)

Extras (not the kind they have on a movie set)
The Handy-Dandy Household Download (monthly chore chart)
"Menu"-Keeping Idea (one way to cook according to your cupboard!)
Time and Kitchen Management Idea



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