Category Archives: Stocking Up

Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop to Drink

“It’s easier to get free wi-fi than it is to get free water and people act like there’s nothing wrong with the world”. – Fidel Littlelight
Homeless - bottle of wather
Rick Wood gives food and water to a homeless man near his tent under an overpass near downtown Birmingham, Saturday, March 29, 2014. (abc3340.com)

Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store.  I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢.  That’s a heck of a margin huh?  

In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not.  Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by).  They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless.  Where do you get a drink of water?

I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree.  Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.

Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents.  My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping.  When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry.  When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him.  He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.

Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign.  There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark  – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.

16-oz-water

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water.  It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.

I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2.  While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help.  Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars? 

It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man.  Thanks for listening.  

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

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Ghee… Huh, wait, what?

Ghee

Ghee

Ghee [gee] – noun – a kind of liquid butter, used especially in the cooking of India, utilizing butter made from the milk of cows then clarified by boiling.

Ghee, funny name, oh believe me I know.  It’s pronounced with a “g” like gorgeous and that’s exactly what it is.  I originally learned about ghee while following a lightweight backpacking online group.  It’s utilized by backpackers because it is shelf-stable (no refrigeration needed) and so much more flavorful than oil for cooking.  All I knew at this point was that it was Indian butter.

My friend’s son is autistic and was put on “the diet” (gluten, casein, soy & corn free  – with great results I might add).  We were busy looking for new and creative recipes for the family so he wasn’t singled out when I once again saw ghee references. I started looking at you tube videos and recipes online.  Now I’m a very confident cook and always ready to try new things but this was different, Tyler could have ghee but not butter so if I made a mistake I could cause problems for him.  I finally worked up the nerve to make a batch with the help of my former boss, a wonderful woman and dear friend from India who walked me through the process better than a you tube video ever could (thanks again Paulomi!).  Once made, we passed it around and tasted it in absolute awe.  It’s like butter, but so so much better.  Unlike anything we’d ever tasted before.

EatingWell

How do you make ghee?

Truly, you boil the butter.  That’s it. Then you strain it.  (Seems too simple, I don’t get it..)

First you start by putting butter in a good solid bottomed pan.  My daughter gave me an enamel coated Lodge cast iron Dutch oven for Christmas several years ago which is now known as my ghee pot.

Next, the butter.  Well, here’s where it doesn’t matter too much because you’re removing the dairy, as well as the salt.  I am in an area where I can pick up Amish butter at a great price.  If you’re looking for grass-fed only, look for Kerry Gold.  To my knowledge it’s the only grass-fed that’s commercially available.  However, I have stocked up on butter at the grocery when it went on sale and made ghee with it and not noticed a difference in the end result.

When the butter starts to melt it will go from its normal pale yellowish white to a bright yellow and creamy.  Once it comes to a simmer/gentle boil, leave it.  Come back every once in a while (20 minutes or so) and stir it.  I use a plastic pancake turner with a straight edge because it allows me to scrape the bottom to keep the solids from sticking.  I have a wooden paddle but I noticed that it tends to absorb the salt as well as the oils.  You’ll find some people will refer to ghee as clarified butter but that is incorrect.  Clarified butter (or drawn butter) is made at this first stage when the butter first separates but is still that bright yellow.  (Think of what they serve at Red Lobster with your crab legs). As it continues to boil it will become more and more clear and more of an amber color and all the butter.  The batch I have in the picture was boiled for approximately 2 hours.

Time to strain.  I have wire strainer that I set over the bowl from my Kitchen-Aid mixer (in the picture).  I then took my cheesecloth and folded it in quarters and put it in the strainer.  I poured the finished ghee through the cheesecloth to strain out the carbonized dairy solids.  Once it all strained, I then picked up the cheesecloth by the corners (making a pouch) and kept twisting it tight to squeeze out any ghee that was left.  Believe me when I say this step is worth it.  Between the solids and the cheesecloth you should be able to squeeze out several ounces.  As you can see by the picture, there are a lot of dairy solids that come out.  This also contains the casein which is an allergen for some folks, as well as one of the offending items for autistic kids.

Here’s what’s removed from the butter when you turn it into ghee. The dairy is completely carbonized. I strained it through cheesecloth then squeezed out the excess.ghee 2I started with 6 pounds of butter (on sale $2 a pound). The finished result netted me 1 quart jar and 7 eight ounce jars. This lasted us for about 12 weeks.  Put the lids on and put it in the cabinet.  Treat it as you would any other oil.  Just so you’re aware, if your home is cool this may start to solidify and that’s okay, you haven’t done anything wrong making it.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Okay, I made it.  Now what do I do with it?

The question now is what can’t you do with it?  It can be used in any recipe for oil or butter.  Here’s the best part IMO.  Ever get a pan too hot when you’re going to cook something with butter and it burns?  Not with ghee.  All the parts that would burn, you’ve already removed.  You can pan fry your eggs or fish, brush it on bread for a grilled cheese or as toast, drizzle it on broccoli or popcorn… you name it!.  My favorite is to sauté garlic in ghee for a few minutes.  It’ll taste like you roasted it in the oven for an hour!  Put that in some mashed potatoes or cauliflower and you will think you’re in heaven.

There’s benefits too?

Ghee has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and diet.  It’s believed to lubricate joints, help with mental function (not unlike newly discovered properties of coconut oil), stimulate digestion and even aid in the absorption of herbs and spices from dishes for medicinal benefit.

Try it out and tell me what you think.  I guarantee you’re going to keep it in the house all the time and convert your friends.  Be sure to share this with them too!

Maggie 

 

Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop to Drink

“It’s easier to get free wi-fi than it is to get free water and people act like there’s nothing wrong with the world”. – Fidel Littlelight
Homeless - bottle of wather
Rick Wood gives food and water to a homeless man near his tent under an overpass near downtown Birmingham, Saturday, March 29, 2014. (abc3340.com)

Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store.  I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢.  That’s a heck of a margin huh?  

In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not.  Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by).  They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless.  Where do you get a drink of water?

I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree.  Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.

Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents.  My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping.  When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry.  When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him.  He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.

Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign.  There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark  – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.

16-oz-water

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water.  It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.

I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2.  While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help.  Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars? 

It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man.  Thanks for listening.  

{{{hugs}}}

Maggie

Season to Taste

The best part about making your own seasoning blends is that you can truly season them to taste.

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Here’s one of my favorites!

Adobo seasoning:

  • 1 part garlic powder
  • 1 part onion powder
  • 1 part lemon pepper
  • 1 part dried parsley flakes
  • 1 part dried oregano
  • 1/3 part ground cumin
  • 1/2 part finely ground sea salt

Want it saltier?  Add more.  Want less cumin, cut back.  Want it spicy? Add some chili powder or ground dried chipotles.  It’s your taste buds, make them happy!

Try this with tablespoons at first, try it out and see how you like it.  Note the differences you want to make if any, then adjust it. When you get it perfect for you, get a bottle of each seasoning at the dollar store and mix them together and put them in a mason jar or an empty parmesan cheese container!

This is amazing on chicken and fish, works amazing as a dry rub on pork and is even great to put on the table next to the salt & pepper.

Let me know how you like it!

{{hugs}}

Maggie

Best Tool for the Job Can Save You Money

I am a kitchen gadget fanatic and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Having the right tools in hand can allow you to do many different things.  It’s not enough just to have them though, knowing how to use them properly can make you more efficient and do more tasks that can save you money.  Most people have one of these beauties on their counter these days, more often than not people use it for show and just grab the first thing their hand lands on.

Knife block

Knives are designed with a specific purpose in mind, the blade, the grip, etc are all with your hand in mind while you’re doing the task at hand while giving the right cutting surface for what you’re working on.  For example, a filet knife is thin and flexible for bending so that it can get as close to the fish skin as possible without leaving meat on the skin.  A chef’s knife is a great all-purpose knife with a sharp edge – perfect from slicing the most delicate tomato to chopping carrots.  A great test to check the sharp edge on a knife is to cut a tomato, it should take no pressure at all to pierce the skin.  If you have to saw back & forth it’s time to sharpen your knife.

A bread knife always has a serrated (or toothed edge) blade so it can dig into the crustiest of breads without having to press down or flatten the bread.  A smooth blade can slide across a denser crust forcing you to press down on the knife to begin the cutting.  On the rare occasion I go to a sandwich shop I’m always regretting not bringing a knife and a handy video to demonstrate this.  It never fails, they pull out this beautiful loaf from the oven and then mash it down when they cut it.  It kills me every time.

 

Knife ID

 

I have 5 knives that I use almost daily: a Chef’s knife, a vegetable cleaver/Chinese Chopper, a bread knife, a carving knife (it was my Mom’s and it’s amazingly sharp) and a paring knife.  That’s it.  I have my blade sharpener and I’m ready to go.

If you’re new in the kitchen or just want to see how your skills compare, here’s a video on basic knife skills.

If you watch the cooking shows, you’ll see a lot of great techniques in action.  I’m a huge fan of the ones that explain and educate the audience as they go.  You never know when you’ll pick up something new.  I learned a much better way to remove an avocado pit from Bobby Flay a while back (thanks Bobby!) by giving it a solid whack with my chef’s knife then turning it as if the knife was a screwdriver and the pit is a screw.  Comes right out, every time.

I know, I said about saving money and you’re wondering how, right?

If you’re unfamiliar or just normally don’t shop for these due to the cost, check out the prices of boneless pork chops the next time you go to your grocery store.  They’re sometimes called “America’s Cut” pork chops.

GetImage
“America’s Cut” pork chops

In my area those pork chops average around $5 a pound and rarely if ever go on sale.  Ever wonder where they come from?  Look for whole or half pork tenderloin.  Not those dinky, overpriced little pieces of marinated meat, but the ones that are the size of a baby to a toddler.  Literally.  If you’re unsure, ask the person at the meat counter to show you.  They’ll show you where they live in the meat case or bring one out from the back.

Here’s mine…

2014-05-19 16.53.30

 

Now, look what I paid for it…

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If you have a Sam’s Club membership, they almost always have full tenderloin around this price per pound.  I’ve never seen them higher than $2.23 a pound.  They’re generally as long as your leg and worth every penny.  Great for stocking your freezer at a great price.

2014-05-19 17.01.50

Out of this tenderloin, I cut 12 hearty 1/2-inch thick chops.  As you can see on the chops in the upper left corner, there is a bit more marbling at the end.  I saved the end, about 3/4 pound, which I’m going to mince up and use for fried rice later on.

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Because it is boneless you can do what you want… chops, roasts, fajita strips.  And you can cut your chops as thin or thick as you prefer or even butterfly them for stuffing.  I will usually alternate between chops and roasts so I have a good rotation of both.  Then put it in Ziploc freezer bags, date & freeze!  If you prefer, you can put marinade right in the bag with the meat saving you time later on (really awesome for fajitas).

Good quality meat, cheaper than what you’d pay for bone in chops and no waste.  This is a frugal win saving $3 per pound on meat and all for the low, low cost of 5 minutes of my time and a sharp knife.  You’re going to eat well and save hundreds of dollars on your annual grocery bill.

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Super Simple Stuffing

So quick and easy and it makes boxed stuffing into your own special recipe!

2014-03-18 17.16.46

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of stuffing mix (pick your favorite.. Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Herb & Mushroom)
  • 1/2 roll of breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced in 1/4″ pieces (It’s up to you whether you want to peel the apple or not.)
  • 2-3 tbsp diced onion (to taste)
  • 1 rib of celery, diced small
  • water
  • butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten (optional, I’ll explain in a sec)

 (Double if cooking ahead)

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Directions:

Follow the measurements on the package of stuffing for water & butter but reduce the butter by half.

In a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, cook the sausage.  You don’t want it to brown, you just want it cooked through and separated into small pieces.

When the sausage is about halfway cooked, add the celery and onion.  When the sausage is completely cooked through, add the diced apple and cook for another 2 minutes.

When the water/butter comes to a boil, add the sausage mixture, grease and all to the pot and stir.  Add the croutons and mix well.

If you like your stuffing fluffy: It’s ready to serve.

If you like your stuffing crunchy:  Spread it into a pan and put under the broiler until browned and crunchy.

If you like your stuffing crunchy and you’re serving a crowd or you’re cooking ahead:  Mix the beaten eggs into the stuffing mixture.  Use an ice cream scoop to portion into greased muffin pans and bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin pans).

Muffin-Tin-Stuffing2

Cooked in muffin tins makes it easy to grab on the buffet table at holiday dinners or pot lucks.  It’s also great for freezing and perfect for packing lunches.  For a quick weeknight dinner, just take what you need out of the freezer and heat them up.

For other muffin tin ideas, check out Work Smart, Save Money, Eat Great!  Remember, as always these ingredients are my suggestions.  Feel free to choose your own favorite flavors and make it your own.  Enjoy!

{{{hugs}}}
Maggie

Fill Your Pantry Without Emptying Your Wallet

A greenhouse doesn’t have to be big or expensive to produce great fruits and vegetable year round!

how-to-build-a-greenhouse-for-50-e1389930655318

Save money by growing your own organics simply and easily with these frugal greenhouse plans.   The taste (and nutrition) of home grown food is much better than what you’ll find at the grocery store and your cost is almost free. This hoop house green house is going to be 11 feet wide and 15 feet long, and will be about seven and a half feet tall in the center. You could make one of these as long or as short as you want, but using this design the width needs to be between 10-12 feet.

Get the full plans for free along with the simple building instructions HERE

Burpee Gardening

Gardening saves money over the high cost of produce in stores and you can even use kitchen scraps to get you started!  Things like the root end of carrots, romaine lettuce and celery can be used to start new plants.  The seeds from just a few tomatoes and peppers can keep your family in salsa and pasta sauce for a long time!  Composting your kitchen waste will not only reduce your trash output but will become fertilizer for your garden!

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Here are our tomato plants, all started from the seeds of the tomatoes we ate!

Check out my post on Quick & Easy Composting to get you started now so you’ll be ready to get started with the spring thaw!  Also know what else you can compost so you can get the most out of your composting from day one with this article.

With the added benefit of a greenhouse, your plants are safe from the elements and you’re safe from things like bunnies that want to eat your tomatoes and removing weeds!  Growing your own allows you to make it all organic and pesticide free at a minute fraction of grocery store prices!

Home gardening also allows you to stock up… make your own jellies & jams, chutneys, salsas, pasta sauces and more!  Fill your pantry without emptying your wallet.