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Sunday, October 3, 2010

I've been sick!

It's been about 3 weeks since I last blogged, because about 3 weeks ago, I got really sick! Unfortunately, I have a chronic health problem that flares up with a vengeance. Luckily, I'm finally recovering, so my blogging should be back to normal soon! I've got some awesome recipes and frugal ideas for cold weather just waiting to be written!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Dog Was Attacked!

I had to take my dog, Amber, to the vet this week, because she was attacked by another dog and hurt! Luckily, she wasn't hurt very bad, but she needed stitches, pain killers, and antiseptic cream. Unfortunately, she keeps licking off the antiseptic, so I don't know how much it's helping!

I hope she feels better soon. The other dog came into my yard to attack her, so now I'm scared to let her outside. I think the painkillers are making her sleepy, because she seems a lot more tired than usual. She has all of these missing tufts of hair, and she keeps licking her cuts and whining. At least she's current on her rabies vaccines!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Frugal School Lunches

I've had a lot of people ask me how to make school lunches frugal. I've been packing school lunches for 4 years now, so I've learned a few things about making them affordable! Here is what I've figured out along the way:


Individual bags of chips, packages of cookies, packages of crackers, packages of baby carrots, etc... may look appealing and convenient, but they are real budget busters, not to mention wasteful and bad for the environment. Instead of buying individual packages of baby carrots (for example), just buy a regular sized bag and send one serving every day. You don't even have to put baby carrots in a plastic bag. I wrap them up in a paper towel, and they keep just fine. If you want to send yogurt or applesauce, get a small Tupperware container and portion some out from a regular sized carton, or jar. I have sent applesauce many times this way.


If you want to send cookies to school with your child, make some yourself! If you're not a big baker, buy a bag of cookie mix or brownie mix and go to town! I even buy mixes sometimes, when they are on sale. With sales and coupons, you can get all kinds of mixes for really cheap. Buy some cake mix and make cupcakes! Even if you pay full price for the mix, it is SO much more economical to make your own semi homemade, rather than just buying a package of cookies, muffins, or brownies. Also, the other kids and teachers will think you're mother of the year!:P It literally takes like 20 minutes to whip up a batch of cookies or muffins, whether you're using a mix or not. Just try it and see how happy your child is!


Not only do lunchables contain enough sodium to cause an elephant to have a stroke, they are also a HUGE waste of money and resources. If you want to pack your child some crackers with toppings, just go out and buy some crackers, a few toppings, and call it a day. Better yet, send your child to school with a sandwich on some whole wheat bread! People are always telling me that their child won't eat whole wheat bread, or won't eat fruit, or won't eat vegetables. They WILL eat it if that's what they are offered. Parents have to set the example by eating it first (with enthusiasm!) and then your kids are sure to follow.

Here are my basic lunch plans

Lunch I
Peanut butter sandwich on homemade flax bread (You can buy bread, I just like to make my own!)
An apple, plum, or banana
Blueberries, blackberries, or baby carrots
1 or 2 homemade cookies (depending on the size)
A thermos of juice or soymilk (sometimes I send juice boxes if they were on sale)

Lunch II
Two homemade whole grain muffins, such as zucchini or banana nut
An apple, banana or plum
Berries or baby carrots
1 or 2 homemade cookies
Soymilk or juice

Lunch III
Homemade whole grain pita bread
a small container of homemade hummus
Grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and baby carrots in a baggie
1 or 2 homemade cookies
Soymilk or juice

I pretty much always send one of those three lunches to school with my kids, and in 4 years, they have never complained. They especially love the muffin version. Sometimes I will send leftover pumpkin or sweet potato pie if I have any, instead of the cookies.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweet bread recipe!

I got this awesome recipe from Kristen, who writes The Frugal Girl blog! I often make these bears for my kids when we have Family Home Evening. One time my friend Corey came over and ate like half of one bear all by himself! Once the bread is baked, it tastes great hot from the oven, slathered with butter and honey.

Sweet Bear Bread

4 1/2tsp yeast
2C milk
1/2C sugar
8Tbsp butter
2tsp salt
2 eggs
about 6 1/2C flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water. Heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt until warm, but not hot. Add to dissolved yeast along with eggs and 3 cups of flour. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed (or stir thoroughly by hand). Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Knead dough for an additional 5 minutes on medium speed, or by hand on a floured surface.

Punch dough down and divide into fourths. Shape 2 fourths into balls and place on two greased baking sheets to serve as the body of the bear. Divide 1 fourth in half, shape each piece into a ball, and place above the body piece to serve as the head. Divide remaining fourth into 14 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Use 4 balls for the paws, 2 balls for the ears, and 1 ball for the nose of each bear.

Cover the bears with a towel and let them rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reader Questions Post!

Here is another post where I answer reader questions!

Dear Liz,
Do you really think that making your own cleaning products and laundry detergent is a good use of your time? I can get a lot of that stuff practically for free by combining sales with coupons.

I don't make my own soaps and cleaning products just to be frugal. I also do it to avoid having harmful chemicals in my house! I actually started making my own laundry detergent as a way of reducing my allergies. After that, it just made sense to see what else I could make! And let's face it, making your own laundry soap and bathroom cleaner is fun!

Dear Liz,
Don't you worry that your homemade cleaning products aren't getting things clean? Maybe you should buy lysol or something, just for your toilet and kitchen sink!

This is a tough one, because I don't really know if there are tons of harmful bacteria living in my house. I guess if they are, they aren't doing anything. I've been making my own cleaning products for like 3 years, and we hardly ever get sick. I think the key is to just not let the microbes build up in the first place. I scour my kitchen every day, and my bathroom at least every week. Also, I don't prepare any meat anymore, so salmonella and other harmful diseases probably don't get a chance to multiply on my counters and sink.

Dear Liz,
I'm trying to be more frugal, but it seems like I'm always backsliding! How do you stay on track and stick to your budget?

Okay, first of all, everyone backslides! In fact, I backslid just this month! I don't even know where all of my money went. All I do know, is my budgeted cash ran out like 4 days ago. I had to go to the bank and take money out of savings to cover the deficit. The important thing is to make sure you have some savings, so that if you do overspend, you won't have to rely on credit cards, or just do without essentials. My plan next month is to try to be stricter with my budgeted money to hopefully make up what I overspent.
That being said, I do have a budget plan that I normally stick too. I stay within my budget by taking out a specific amount of cash every week and then dividing it up into different envelopes. I put $50 in the grocery envelope, $40 in the gas envelope, $10 in my babysitter envelope, $25 in my lawn care envelope, and $30 in my miscellaneous envelope. Once the money is gone, it's gone. Sticking to the cash system can be difficult, especially since I don't have a ton of cash to work with, but it's helped me to stay within my budget and not run through my savings, or go into debt during these lean times.

Monday, August 23, 2010

$19 per week for lunch??

My youngest daughter, Alia, recently started pre-kindergarten at a private preschool. It's free, because it's part of the Georgia pre-kindergarten program, but the school isn't the same as a public school. I was really bummed that she didn't get into her zoned school! Anyway, one crazy difference, is the private school has this CRAZY rule that you have to pay $19 per week for your 4 year old to eat lunch! I mean that they actually have a rule where you can't pack your child's lunch and you have to pay almost $4 per day for the school lunch! For a 4 year old!!

Luckily, my child is on a special diet, so I was able to get a WAIVER to pack her lunch. I actually had to produce a doctor's note to be eligible for this special privilege. Unbelievable!

Frugal After School Snacks!

In my experience, kids always come home from school hungry. This can be a real budget and health buster if you rely on packaged junk food as snacks. Here are some ideas for snacks that are both healthy AND frugal!

My friend Shannon gave me this awesome recipe!

4C flour (3C whole wheat, 1C white)
1C brown sugar
2Tbsp baking powder
1tsp salt
3 eggs
2C milk
2/3C oil
2C fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or any combination.

Mix together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix briefly. Add berries and mix until just combined. Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper liners. Bake @400 degrees for about 15 minutes! This recipe makes 24 muffins.

I got this recipe from The Frugal Girl!

2C quick cooking rolled oats
1C flour
1/2C wheat germ (optional)
1/4C brown sugar
1tsp salt
1/2C oil
1/2C maple syrup or honey
1 egg
1/2C chocolate chips

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whip together the wet ingredients with the egg, and then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir together until combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir again. Spread evenly in a greased, rimmed baking sheet. It will seem like this dough will never spread out! I use the back of a big spoon that I've dipped in water. Actually, I often just give up after a while and leave some unevenness. It all still turns out delicious! Bake @35-0 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy! I try not to make these too often, because I will just sit around eating them!:P

Some other frugal after school snacks are: smoothies, celery with peanut butter, almond "milkshakes," homemade bread with peanut butter, fresh fruit in season, carrot sticks...etc

Monday, August 16, 2010

One year since I became single

This month marks the one year anniversary of my ex-husband and I splitting up. There have been a lot of tough times during this first year, but all in all, I think the kids and I have come out better on the other side. I decided to list the top three ways that our lives have improved since the divorce, so here they are!

When my husband lived with us, the family only had one car. He pretty much had the car all of the time, so the kids and I were constantly just stuck in the house! I mean, we could walk around the neighborhood, but that was about it. He also never wanted any of us to have any friends, or to go anywhere without him. Since he left, the kids and I go to events at their school, to movies we want to see, we've joined a church and made lots of friends, we eat what we want for dinner, we can go visit my parents in Florida, we can have friends over for dinner...etc. It's wonderful, not having to deal with a huge fight everytime I want to go somewhere or make a friend.

It really builds my confidence in myself that I've gotten through this first year, and even improved a few things! There have been a few hitches, but I definitely see an overall trend of improvement. The kids and I spend more time playing games together, we cook dinner together, and I think we're all happier together in general. My ex was not an easy man to live with, so him being gone means less day to day stress. The kids miss their dad in some ways, but my oldest daughter especially acts much less tense and nervous when he's not here. She told me the other day that I smile a lot more than I used to.

My ex was a REAL downer, because he's a very negative person. He never wanted the kids and I to decorate for holidays, or plant a garden, or go to the zoo, or do anything. Whenever we DID do something he didn't like, he would become very critical. Now the kids and I do all sorts of fun things, and everything is so much more enjoyable without his constant complaining! I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, because my mom is making all of us Fall themed dresses and I plan to decorate my whole house and cook a spectacular feast!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Almond pulp face scrub!

My face is REALLY sensitive. I use soap that is specially made for people with sensitive skin, and my face STILL peels from dryness. I also suffer from embarrassing breakouts. Recently, I was looking for a way to use up the pulp that is left when I strain almond milk, and I decided to use it on my face! I am so glad I did! The almond oil moisturizes and the slight roughness exfoliates! It's only been three days and my skin already feels a lot better. Here's how to get your own almond pulp:

4C water
1C raw almonds

Blend on high for 1-2 minutes. Strain through a clean dishtowel into a bowl. Gather up the edges of the dishtowel to make a bag. Squeeze the remaining milk out of the almond pulp. Reserve the milk for smoothies! The pulp will keep in the fridge in a covered container for at least a week. To use as a face scrub, wet face, gather up a small handful of pulp and smear it on your face. Gently rub all over to exfoliate. Rinse off with cool water and revel in your glowing skin!

Grocery and menu plan!

It's been a while, but I've finally written a menu for this week!

Mashed potatoes
Mushroom gravy
Tomato cucumber salad
Tofu sausage

Roasted vegetable hummus wraps
Corn chips
Avocado salad

Mango smoothie!

Black bean chili
corn chips

Asian stir fry

Bean burritos
Corn chips
Colorful beet salad

Carrot ginger soup
Baked egg rolls

Friday, August 13, 2010


Beets aren't in season yet, but they will be next month! I like having things to look forward to.:P Beets and dates are what help me get over the end of mango season.
In my opinion, beets are a really underrated vegetable. I meet so many people who don't eat them, just because they don't ever think of it! How they could not be thinking about beets nonstop during Fall and Winter is beyond me. Beets are like a diamond in a lump of coal. They are packaged in a fairly dull looking skin, but once they are peeled and you slice one in half...A beautiful, ruby red jewel is revealed. In my opinion, no fruit or vegetable is as visually stunning as the beet. I add them to all kinds of foods, just so they will make the dish look pretty! Luckily, beets taste great and are great for you as well. Beets are loaded with vitamins A, B, and C. They also contain calcium, iron, folic acid, potassium and fiber. Here is how I like to eat them:

Ruby Smoothie I
1C almond milk
a handful of fresh or frozen strawberries
1 slice of a small beet, peeled
1 banana
1 Tbsp maple syrup

Ruby Smoothie II
1C cucumber water (juice)
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 slice from a small beet, peeled
a handful of strawberries
1-2Tbsp maple syrup

Blend until smooth and enjoy! Another cool thing to do is to juice a few oranges and then juice 1/4 of a small beet. It turns the orange juice bright red! I tell my kids they are drinking Kool aid.:P

Roasted Beets!
1 beet, peeled and sliced into fairly thin matchsticks
2C carrot matchsticks
2C small potato chunks
Toss vegetables with about 2-3Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Roast at 500 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, shaking and stirring the pan every 10 minutes or so. Serve with crusty bread with honey butter and a big green salad! We ate this yesterday and my kids begged for me to make some more after it was all gone. How could I say no!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reader Questions Post!

I usually just answer reader questions via e-mail, but I thought this time I would make a post out of it! I've noticed that lots of other blogs do this, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon.:P

Dear Liz,
How can you afford to eat so many expensive ingredients, and eat so much fresh food on your $50 a week grocery budget? I budget $300 per month for my family of 4, and I could never afford to buy the things you buy, like maple syrup and tons of fresh fruit.

Well, one way I'm able to afford a lot of expensive ingredients, is my family doesn't eat meat or dairy products anymore. One day I realized that meat is really expensive, and my kids don't even like it! After I stopped buying meat, cheese, sour cream, and yogurt, I suddenly had a lot more money for fruits and vegetables. Another way I save is I buy a lot of staple items in bulk when I get some extra money. Every three months I get a few hundred dollars back in Pell Grant money, and I often will use it to buy rice, rolled oats, dried fruit, flour, beans, lentils, cereal on sale, almonds, pasta, yeast, and corn chips. With those staple items already bought, I have a lot more money to spend on perishables and extras, like maple syrup. I also make all of my own cleaning products, which helps me stay on track with my budget. I would advise you to look at what you buy from the store with a critical eye. Are you buying individual servings of chips? Soda? frozen meals? expensive breakfast cereals? All of those things can be real budget busters. I hope this helps!

Dear Liz,
Why don't you post your menu plan for the week anymore?

That is just sheer disorganization on my part! Sadly, I'm pretty much hopelessly scatterbrained.:P

Dear Liz,
I was wondering where you get the clothes that you wear in your profile pictures. Do you make them?

Actually, my mom makes them! She started sewing a while back and since then, my wardrobe has gotten really huge. She's making me a dress with witches and bats for Fall.:P

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hummus recipe amendment!

This afternoon, I discovered a delicious and unexpected addition to my hummus...Cauliflower! I had some steamed cauliflower left over from yesterday's cauliflower sandwich experiment, so I just threw it in the blender when I was making some hummus. The result was as delicious as it is unusual. The cauliflower doesn't add an assertive flavor. It mostly adds depth and complexity. Cauliflower basically takes a fairly one dimensional hummus and gives it three dimensions. Here's the updated recipe!

Liz's Red and White Hummus spread
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 ripe tomato
1C steamed cauliflower
3Tbsp tahini
1/4C lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. I ate this with a cucumber tomato sandwich and corn chips. So refreshing!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cauliflower sandwich!

In my quest to eat less meat, I discovered this tasty sandwich filling! Cauliflower isn't extremely frugal, but it's definitely less expensive than sandwich meat, or cheese. Cauliflower is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, and calcium. Here's the recipe!

1 cauliflower, cored, chopped and steamed until tender
1/4-1/2C mayonnaise
seasoned salt
2 tsp lemon juice

Mash the cauliflower in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt, mixing until well combined. Serve on a toasted sandwich with tomato, or on pita bread! I ate this sandwich with a simple cucumber tomato salad.

I know cauliflower might seem like a strange thing to eat in a sandwich, but it really turns out great! I am so glad I decided to try this, because it has become my favorite sandwich. A mashed cauliflower has a pleasing "meatiness" to it without being heavy. The tang of the lemon juice marries well with the slight sweetness of the mayonnaise, the earthiness of the cauliflower itself, and the smokiness of the seasoned salt. Pair that myriad of flavors with a hearty grain bread and a simple salad for deliciously deceptive frugal dining!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vegan Dinner Party!

Ever since my stomach condition has forced me to become a vegan, I have been worrying that I wouldn't be able to have friends over for dinner! All of my "company" recipes require meat and dairy products! Yesterday, though, I really wanted to have my friends Brittany and Michael and their daughter over, so I spent some time attempting to invent a frugal, vegan menu that they would actually want to eat! After some trial and error, here's the menu I came up with:

(I guess it's not technically vegan, because it uses butter, but I figure it's close enough!)
Double recipe shortening pie crust.(I use the shortening that doesn't contain trans fat.)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, minced
3C peeled potatoes
2C carrots (I used baby carrots)
3C broccoli florets (save the stems)
2C corn, cut from the cobb
1/2 tsp dried thyme or savory
sprinkling of seasoned salt
4Tbsp flour
2C cashew cream (recipe will follow!)
1 stick of butter

To make a shortening pie crust:
2 1/4C flour
14Tbsp shortening
1/2tsp salt
Ice water

In a food processor, pulse the shortening, flour and salt 4 or 5 times. Add the water 1Tbsp at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Remove from food processor and knead briefly to form a dough ball. Wrap the ball tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the filling:
Steam the potatoes and carrots in a vegetable steamer until fairly soft. Steam the broccoli for 5 minutes. I had to do this in batches, so it was kind of a hassle! Melt 1/4C butter in a large, heavy kettle. Cook the onion and celery until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Make sure you stir a lot, because the potatoes will stick! Add the broccoli, reduce heat to low, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the corn, thyme or savory, and seasoned salt. Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes while you prepare the cream sauce.

Cashew cream is non-dairy, so it is much easier to digest than traditional cream. I am lactose intolerant, so that's why I use it. Heavy whipping cream can be used instead, if you don't want to make the cashew cream.
1/2C cashews
1 1/2C water
Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, or until a smooth, thick cream forms. Use as you would heavy cream.

To make the cream sauce:
Melt the remaining 1/4C butter in a medium saucepan. Add the 4Tbsp flour and whisk constantly until smooth. Slowly add the cream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking constantly until the cream sauce thickens. It is ready when it's thickened to the consistency of runny pancake batter.
Pour the cream sauce over the vegetable mixture and stir to mix well. At first, it might look like too much cream sauce, but the mixture will thicken an absorb the liquid upon standing. Allow the mixture to cool for another 30 minutes. If you add it to the crust when it's really hot, the crust will melt!

To assemble and bake the pie:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Remove the dough from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Cut the ball in half, and shape each half into a disk. Roll out one half to make the bottom crust. Carefully transfer the bottom crust into a deep dish pie pan. Carefully cut away the excess dough so that there is only about 1 inch of overhang. Spoon the cooled filling into the pie pan, spreading it around so that it is pretty even. Roll out the other disk to make the top crust. Carefully lift the dough over the filling. Trim the top crust so that there is about one inch of overhang. Seal the top and bottom crusts together and fold them under, so that the edge of the crust is even with the edge of the pie pan. Cut some steam vents in the top.
Bake the pie for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake the pie for another 35-40 minutes. After the pie is baked, remove it to a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!

4-5 broccoli stalks
1Tbsp oil
1Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1Tbsp lemon juice
Peel the broccoli stalks and cut them into slices. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp tender. Add the soy sauce and lemon juice and toss to combine. Remove from heat. This recipe is an awesome way to use up broccoli stalks.

2 ripe tomatoes
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
2Tbsp walnut or olive oil
1-2Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
Dice up the tomatoes and cucumber and place in a large bowl. Add the oil first and toss to combine. Add the vinegar and salt and toss again. Enjoy! Walnut oil makes this salad especially delicious, but walnut oil is also especially expensive! Olive oil works great, there just won't be a walnut flavor.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pink Hummus!

Today I was experimenting, and I came up with this tasty recipe!

2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4C tahini
1/3C lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tomato, cut up
salt to taste

Place beans, tahini, salt, garlic and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the tomato and blend again until smooth. We ate this with corn chips and minced orange bell pepper!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Frugal water!

Whether you're frugal or not, water is definitely what you should be drinking. 70% of our bodies are made of water, and even a slight amount of dehydration can have serious consequences. Most people (me included!) don't drink enough water during the day. The ironic thing is that other types of drinks, like soda and coffee, actually make you need to drink MORE water, but we drink them INSTEAD of water! Luckily, water is practically free, so drinking more of it will also improve our budgets, as well as how we feel. Here are three awesome ways I've started preparing water to make it more appealing:

I know that water with lemon is really common, but how many of us bother to do it at home? I started doing it recently, and you know, I drink a whole pitcher (10C of water!) in one day! Something about having "special" water waiting in the fridge makes me want to drink it. All I do to prepare it is I slice up a lemon and toss it into an iced tea pitcher. Then I add water and ice and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. After that I start hydrating my body! I re-use the lemon for one more pitcher of water, but after that, it starts to lose it's flavor.

I read that some people flavor their water with cucumber, so I thought I'd give it a try. Man am I glad I did! Cucumber water tastes really clean and refreshing. I just took two small slices of cucumber and added them to a glass of water. The cucumber flavor is subtle and crisp. It made me feel like I was at a fancy gourmet restaurant.:P I re-used the same cucumber all day with no loss of flavor. Talk about frugal!

Sometimes I need a lot of motivation to hydrate my body like I should. When those days strike I break out the big guns, which are ice cubes made out of juice, frozen into novelty shapes. I bought the ice cube trays on sale at Walmart last Summer to get my kids to drink more water, but then I thought, why should they have all of the fun?:P All I do is take any flavor juice (I prefer watermelon!), freeze it in the ice cube trays, and then pop out a couple juice cubes when I get some water. Even after a year, this treat hasn't lost it's extreme appeal.

I don't want to get on a soap box or sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to detail why soda and "juice drinks" are something we should never drink ourselves OR give to our kids. "Juice drinks" are sugar water, chemical dyes, and harmful preservatives. Some examples are: Hawaiian punch, which contains corn syrup as the SECOND ingredient, red dye, blue dye, two different preservatives, sucralose, and something called, "glycerol ester of wood rosin." Sunny Delight contains only 2% juice along with corn syrup, preservatives and yellow dye 5 AND 6. These drinks are not just some harmless thing to give your kids on a hot day! Red, blue and yellow dye have been linked to behavior problems, allergies, hyperactivity, brain tumors and cancer! Corn syrup has been linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders and obesity. Sucralose was originally discovered by scientists who were trying to develop an ant killing insecticide. These are not substances that ANYONE should be consuming!
Soda is even worse than a "fruit drink." Pepsi contains: corn syrup, sugar, phosphoric acid, caffeine and colorings. Diet Pepsi is even worse, because it contains aspartame. Aspartame causes fibromyalgia symptoms, headaches, nervousness, depression, anxiety, and of course, cancer. Phosphoric acid is commonly used as a rust remover. It also causes low bone density and kidney stones.

You don't have to believe me, read these facts for yourself!

In my experience, most kids prefer juice and milk to sugary "juice drinks" and soda. Also, if you don't have harmful beverages in the house, they won't drink them! Instead of giving your child bone destroying phosphoric acid, why not offer bone building milk? Instead of giving them obesity causing corn syrup, why not give them a glass of slimming water with colorful juice ice cubes? Instead of giving them a dye that causes cancer and hyperactivity, why not offer a glass of vitamin filled 100% juice? Or better yet, a smoothie! You and your kids deserve to be healthy and happy!
And before you think that it's too expensive, remember that my grocery budget is $50 per week for 4 people. If I can afford it, anyone can!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The mangoes I love are FINALLY in season! I know that mangoes are always around, but not all of them are created equal. There's the commonly available yellow and red skinned ones with the pale orange, stringy flesh, and then there's the dark green and red skinned ones with the dark orange, deliciously smooth flesh! As you can see, I love the latter kind. Unfortunately, they are only available July through September, so I have to gorge myself while I can!:P Mangoes are not only the best tasting food ever, they are also one of the most nutritious foods ever! Just one mango has 2 vitamin C servings, two yellow fruit servings and a ton of other vitamins and minerals, including folate!

Mangoes really are the perfect food. They are sweet and rich enough to be tastier than most baked desserts, they add richness and smoothness to every blended drink, AND if you are fortunate enough to get a lot of them, they make a fantastic pudding! Here are my favorite ways to eat these luscious fruits!

Pretty much nothing is more delicious than a sliced, raw mango. (Remember, though, you want the big mangoes with the dark green and red skin!) I often times will cut up like 4 mangoes to take with us to the bookstore, or to the movies. My kids will sit there quietly, as long as they are tasting that sweet mango nectar!:P

I drink smoothies pretty much constantly, and I can say hands down mangoes are the best smoothie ingredient ever. A strawberry banana smoothie is wonderful, but add a mango to it and you have a treat so sinfully delicious, you may never want to eat anything else again! A mango adds thickness and a smooth texture to smoothies that is just addictive. And the taste! I've tried on many occasions to imagine something else on Earth that tastes like a mango, but so far, I've never found anything. My kids beg me for mango banana strawberry smoothies every day. Here is my recipe:

(For 4 people)
4C almond milk
2 frozen bananas
2 peeled and diced mangoes
16 strawberries
2Tbsp maple syrup (I'm also addicted to maple syrup, so I add it to pretty much everything!)
Place all ingredients in the blender and blend on high until smooth. Sometimes I add a handful of baby carrots to the mix!

This pudding sounds strange, but it's actually really delicious! Mango pudding is a sensuous delight of taste and texture that I've never had replicated in any other food. Best of all, it's so fabulously good for your body, you can enjoy these delights every day! I know I do!

2 avocados, peeled and pitted (chilled)
2 ripe green skinned mangoes, peeled and pitted (chilled)
1/2C-1C maple syrup (chilled) (try the smaller amount and then add more if you want)
1/4C soaked and drained almonds (optional)
Blend until light and fluffy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Carrot Ginger Milkshake?!

I was experimenting today with my vitamix and I came up with this tasty treat to ward off my nausea. I get nauseated a lot, because I suffer from IBS. Luckily, you'll want to drink this even if you're feeling great. I sure felt great after I drank it!

Carrot Ginger Milkshake
1C almond milk
1 1/2C baby carrots, or 1C carrot juice
1Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 inch piece fresh peeled ginger
1 frozen banana

Place carrots, ginger and almond milk in a blender and blend on high until smooth (about a minute). Add the maple syrup and banana and blend for another 30 seconds or so. If you are using a fresh banana, I would recommend adding ice and blending again until smooth.
This shake really tastes great and has a nice thick texture. Almond milk is really easy to make (1C almonds and 4C water blended on high for 1 1/2 minutes when using a vitamix!), but you can buy it as well. This shake would probably taste great with cow milk or soymilk as well. By the way, my kids LOVE this shake! I tell them it's dessert.:P

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tomato Hornworm

The leaves were gone this morning
Devoured with roiling ecstasy.
The smooth bodied green
to the underside
Of the last full leafed branch.
The smooth bodied green
A fat belly dancer
All the time in the world
Nothing prods, no sense of time
No poisonous burning
The green belly alive and
Stretching to reach
Every leaf, every stem
Every spiked yellow bud.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Giant Flying Cockroaches!

If you live in the South, you know what I'm talking about when I say, "Giant Flying Cockroaches...Oh my!" If you live up north or out west, just be grateful for yourt ignorance.:P Unfortunately, I not only live in Georgia, I have a flying cockroach phobia! Much of my time in the Summer is spent trying to make sure I never have to see those creepy, gigantic nemises of mine. Here are the ways I try to combat them without poisoning myself, my kids, or my dog. As an added bonus, these methods are also frugal!

Being clean won't keep ALL of the roaches out, but it will certainly make it harder for them to hide and survive if they do choose to move in. Never ever leave food out, or dishes in the sink overnight. Don't leave food in the garbage disposal, or beverages (ESPECIALLY BEER) around. For some reason, beer attracts pretty much every bug and slug on the planet. Soda will also attract them, so beware. Sweep up all crumbs every night and wipe the counters. I never let my kids eat anywhere but the kitchen or the dining room. I figure containing the mess makes it a lot less likely that I'll overlook a pile of tasty crumbs and then walk in on a palmetto bug dinner party some night.
Don't let clutter accumulate around the house. Piles of papers, toys, and dirty laundry make excellent places for bugs to hide. Nothing is worse than picking up a pile of dirty clothes and then seeing a bug so huge you think it might actually be TWO buge that have somehow morphed together skittering away.
Keep your bathrooms clean and clutter free. Bugs really like to hang out in the bathroom, so the cleaner it is, the less likely it is that you won't see them and kill them. If they escape, they will go forth and multiply, and by multiply, I mean laying 26 eggs every eight days.

Boric acid is great, because you can use it to make laundry detergent, clean your house, and kill roaches! You can find it in the laundry section under the brand name, "Borax." To use it to kill roaches, just spread a thin layer along base boards, under appliances, in cabinets, and anywhere else you think a roach might like to hang out. Boric acid is not toxic to humans or pets, but it is very toxic to bugs. From what I've read, they walk on it, it gets on their hairy little legs, they groom themselves, eat the boric acid, and then die from an exploded stomach.

When I see a baby roach, I just spray it with soapy water to kill it. Soapy water won't kill the adult ones, though. For the adult ones, I spray them with a LOT of soapy water to soak their wings so they can't fly. I've also read that hairspray works. Then I chase them down and smash them several times with something heavy. I say several times, because they can take quite a pounding and not even seem injured. Then I pick up the roach with a big wad of toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. I don't use commercial bug sprays, because they are horribly poisonous to humans and pets as well as bugs. When you spray something like Raid, you breathe it in too.

Well that is my non-toxic and frugal method for preventing and killing bugs!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Taking a Greyhound Bus to Florida!

The kids and I are going to Florida in 5 days to visit my parents. Unfortunately, my car overheats if I run the AC, so we're taking a greyhound! It's going to be an extremely lengthy trip from 3:30pm-8:30am. I'm trying to come up with a plan to keep the kids happy so that I don't descend into total madness on the way. Here are my ideas so far.

One thing I've learned as a parent, is to ALWAYS pack a lot of food. I plan to pack sandwiches, trail mix, cookies, granola bars, juice boxes, water, apples, and yogurt covered raisins for a treat. Luckily, my kids are pretty easy to entertain. Even my four year old will sit quietly and read, or listen to music if she has a snack. All three of my kids especially like little sandwich bags full of trail mix.

I already bought 3 activity books and some glow in the dark bracelets from the dollar store. I also plan to bring a deck of cards, a few books, and the mp3 player and walkman. The mp3 player is mainly for me. (My sister got it for me as a birthday gift and I have to say that it is AWESOME! I just clip it onto my dress and listen to music while I clean the bathroom, make dinner, do the dishes, fold laundry...etc. It makes my chores so much more enjoyable.) I have a walkman that I'm going to bring for the kids.

My kids aren't too prone to whining and screaming, but then, they've never ridden on a bus for 18 hours! I plan to bring candy and a surprise activity for if they start freaking out. I wouldn't normally reward my kids for whining and throwing tantrums, but I figure the greyhound is an extenuating circumstance!

I think this trip will be pretty fun, at least in the beginning.:P I always have to be careful on long trips, because I get sick a lot. I have to eat really light, or I'll spend the entire trip with nausea and cramps. I'm hoping we can sleep since we'll be on the bus all night! Has anyone else taken a long bus trip with (or without) kids?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Food budget increase!

I have decided to increase my weekly food budget money from $40 to $50 per week. $40 just isn't enough money for me to buy all of the fresh, wholesome foods I want my kids and I to eat. I have also decided to start preparing a lot more meatless meals. My kids don't really even like meat all that much. Here is a dish I recently adapted to be frugal and meat free!

1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 carrots, shredded
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 can corn, drained, or 1C fresh or frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2C cottage cheese
2 eggs
12 corn tortillas
8 oz cheddar or colby cheese, shredded

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onion, carrots and bell peppers. Cook, stirring frequently until softened. Add the enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, spices, corn, and black beans. Simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese and eggs. Beat until combined.
Spray a 13X9 inch pan with cooking spray. Lay 6 tortillas on the bottom (they will overlap). Spoon 1/2 of the sauce mixture over the tortillas. Spoon the cottage cheese over the sauce. Place the remaining tortillas over the cottage cheese and cover with the remaining sauce. Bake @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes
Take lasagna out of the oven and sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake for a further 10 minutes. Enjoy! This recipe makes a lot. My kids and I ate this for dinner two nights in a row. We ate it with sour cream and corn chips.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My new favorite milkshake!

Right now I have a HUGE amount of soymilk to use up. Luckily, I have hit upon a most delicious way of making sure the plethora of milk won't go to waste! Here is my recipe:

Chocolate banana peanut butter milkshake!

2C milk
1 1/2-2 frozen bananas
1Tbsp cocoa powder
1Tbsp peanut butter

Blend on high until smooth and creamy. This milkshake has an awesome texture! Best of all, it's actually pretty good for you, and it's definitely frugal! I made this for dinner yesterday AND today. This recipe can easily be doubled, or halved. Yet another reason I am so glad I bought my wonderful vitamix...:P

Monday, May 24, 2010

Avocado season!

Avocado season is finally here! When Spring arrives, avocados go from being really expensive to being sort of frugal.:P I say they are sort of frugal, because the cheapest I've ever gotten them for is $.75 each. They are well worth the cost, however in taste and nutritional benefits.

There are several different varieties of avocado, but the one I most commonly see is the haas variety. Haas avocados are about the size and shape of a pear. They have a dark colored, bumpy skin that hides a beautiful green interior. Avocados have a mild taste and a smooth, creamy texture. As if all that wasn't enough reason to go out and eat one, they are awesome for your body as well! I read that if a person plans to only ever eat one fruit, that avocados should be the one they pick.

Avocados have been proven to actually search out and destroy cancer cells, but leave healthy cells untouched. Avocados also kill bad cholesterol, so they reduce heart attack and stroke risk. Just one avocado contains 23% of the recommended folate a person is supposed to eat in a day. The vitamin E in avocados will smooth wrinkles and help the collagen in your skin stay youthful and elastic. Best of all, avocados promote weight loss! Mashed avocado was the first baby food I gave all of my three children. They love it!

Here are some of the ways I use avocado in my everyday diet:

Diced up in a salad
Avocado adds bulk and delicious flavor to any salad. You can also mash it up and add diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and some salt to create a delicious dip for corn chips.

In a smoothie
If you have an avocado hater on your hands, just throw 1/4 of a haas avocado in a smoothie and watch them gulp it down. You can also create tasty raw soups with avocado. Just blend up 1C of carrot ginger juice with 1 tomato, one peeled cucumber, 1/2 a red bell pepper and one avocado. I like to garnish it with minced red pepper, cucumber and tomato. So tasty and so good for you!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekly Menu Plan!

This week I mostly shopped at Sams club, because I was almost completely out of fresh food! I'm happy to say, that I bought a lot of delicious fruits and vegetables, so we are no longer reduced to eating bean stew.:P Here's my menu for the week!

Turkey sausage

Roasted vegetables

Spaghetti with meatballs
Pull apart garlic bread

Avocado salad
Pita bread

Chicken casserole

Mexican lasagna
Corn chips

Roasted vegetables
Rice pilaf

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Garden!

This year I am growing a wonderful garden. I had always wanted to grow one, but my husband was so against it. This year it has finally happened! I'm growing corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, canteloupe, watermelons, bell peppers, tomatoes, sunflowers, zucchinni, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, basil, and peas. So far it's going great! The zuccinni and cucumbers are starting to fruit, the bell peppers, pumpkins, and canteloupes are flowering, and everything else is getting pretty big. The corn is already two feet high! Next year I plan to grow some more herbs. I didn't end up using all of the space I have available this year, so next year I plan to plant even more. I'm thinking I'll add some more herbs, some more corn, and maybe even some flowers.

Gardening is not only great fun, it can be economical too. My kids and I love to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but as we all know, fresh food is really expensive. I always feel bad when we can't eat as much as we want, or when it's the end of my grocery cycle and the only fresh food I have left is onions and a few stray apples. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a good option, nutritionally, and I never let myself run out of those, but fresh usually taste so much better! I'm hoping that my garden will not only allow us to eat as much fresh produce as we want, but that I will save money while we're doing it! I think this first year will not be as big of a harvest, but as I get better at gardening, I'm hoping to have bigger and bigger returns. My goal is to someday have enough to freeze and can for later in the year.

I think the thing I love most about my garden (aside from my plants!) is the fact that it makes me feel proactive. It can be really discouraging when I think about the next few years, and how small my budget will be during that time. Growing some of my own food to save money makes me feel like I'm taking action and not just being satisfied with an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Even if I only have a very small harvest and only save a few dollars, it's a step in the right direction.

I wish I had a digital camera so I could share some pictures of my garden. Maybe if I save a lot of grocery money this Summer, I'll be able to buy one!:P

Thursday, May 6, 2010


As some of you may have guessed from my lack of blogging recently, I've been really busy! I'm taking 3 classes this quarter, and one of them is really tough. I've been having to study all of the time, because we have a really hard test pretty much every week. Then I have to find time to do the work for my other two classes! For anyone who's interested, I'm taking anatomy and physiology, biology, and a healthcare terms class. The anatomy class is the really hard one.

I did, however, want to write a blog about my new vitamix! For any of you who don't know, a vitamix is an AWESOME all purpose sort of kitchen appliance. It can be used to make anything blended, like a cream soup or a smoothie, ice cream, hot soup (the friction of the blades will make whatever you're blending get hot after about 4-5 minutes), juice (the high powered blending will liquefy fruits and vegetables after about 1 minute), and it can also be used as a food processor!

The only downside, is it costs between $400-$500. Luckily, I got mine on sale for $400, but that's still a lot of money. I had to save up for almost a year. I really wanted to buy a vitamix, because it makes it so easy for us to eat healthy! I've been making awesome smoothies, almond milkshakes, raw soups, healthy ice creams, and using the food processor feature to chop up vegetables really small to hide them in soups and sauces. Here are some of the recipes I've been making, so I can illustrate how easy it is!

(I always have made these, but in a regular blender it was a lengthy process to say the least.)
2C almond milk (To make almond milk take 2C water and 1/2C raw almonds and blend in the vitamix for about 90 seconds. Add ice and blend again if you're just going to drink it without making a milkshake. I also like to add maple syrup!)

2C cut up fruit of your choice. (I like to use strawberries, mangos, peaches, apples, alone or in any combination.)

2 frozen banannas (The banannas really should be frozen, or it won't have the delicious milkshake consistency!)

1-2Tbsp maple syrup
Place all ingredients in the vitamix and blend on high for 30-60 seconds. Enjoy!


1-2C grapes
1-2 peeled carrots
1C pineapple
1C strawberries
1/2 peeled cucumber
2C ice
Place all ingredients in the vitamix and blend on high for 60 seconds. Enjoy! I make this juice for my kids and I almost every day now as a snack before dinner. We love it!

1C soy milk, almond milk, or cow milk
3C frozen fruit of your choice
Place ingredients in the vitamix, milk first and blend on high for about 30 seconds, or until you see 4 mounds appear on top. If you blend too long, it will turn into a smoothie!

1 carrot, peeled
1 stalk celery
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper
a generous handful of spinach
1 large tomato, quartered
2C chicken or vegetable broth
salt to taste

Optional ingredients
1/2C corn
1/2C black beans
1C cooked, diced chicken
Corn chips

Place all ingredients except optional ingredients in the vitamix and blend on high for 5 minutes. Turn vitamix down to option one and add the optional ingredients. Pour into bowls and serve! This soup is really good for you, because it hasn't been boiled. All of the ingredients are fresh and brimming with vitamins!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So my $25 menu is going to have to be a $35 menu

I have tried and tried, but I just can't make $25 work! I could actually do it for my family, because we can shop at the commissary, but no other store around here even comes close to matching commissary prices. I've decided to make it a $35 emergency menu instead. I probably could make the $25 work, if I included a lot of ramen noodles and other junk food, but it's really important to me to create an actual viable meal, that won't cause harm. So now I have more to work with and I think the $35 menu plan should be up soon!:P This project has really turned out to be harder than I thought it would.

Recently I had a reader e-mail me with the question, "Liz, what is your favorite, frugal way to use up vegetable odds and ends in the fridge, so they don't get wasted? Just this week, I had 3 zuchinni, 1 leftover baked potato, a lone carrot, 1/2 of a cucumber, and half a pint of grape tomatoes go bad!" I have two words for her: ROASTED VEGETABLES! Roasting vegetables is so easy! Here is my favorite way to do it:

Zuchinni cut into big chunks
carrots, peeled and julienned
bell peppers, cut into big chunks
potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
any other vegetables you want! Leave quick cooking vegetables in big pieces and slower cooking vegetables should be cut up small, so that everything finishes cooking at the same time.
seasoned salt
olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees
Place all vegetables in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to mix well. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and nicely crisped and browned. Enjoy! Sometimes I like to eat the roasted vegetables with some raw tomato and cucumber, diced up small and sprinkled on top.

I like to serve these vegetables with rice or pasta!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The power of coupons...

Every Wednesday, Publix changes their sales, so I always check out their weekly ads to see if I want to buy anything. This week I scored big! Now the stuff I bought isn't exactly healthy, or necessary, so luckily, it was really cheap when I combined sales with coupons! Here's what I bought:

Betty Crocker brownie mix, 2 boxes
Total spent: $.90
The brownie mix was buy one get one free, and then I had two $.40 coupons which doubled to $.80 each, for a total of $1.60 in coupons! The brownie mix is usually $2.50 per box at Publix, so I saved a total of $4.10 by using sales and coupons together! That brownie mix will definitely be a big help when I am the "snack mom" at the preschool, or when I have people coming over and no time to cook!

Immaculate Baking Company cookie dough, 2 packages
Total Spent: $1.09
These were buy one get one free and I had two $1 coupons! Usually, each package of this cookie dough is $3.09, so I saved a total of $5.09 by using sales combined with coupons! I like this cookie dough, because it has no dyes, or additives, and the company uses all natural ingredients. Normally, I just make my own cookies, but I seriously can't make them from scratch as cheap as I bought the dough. Also, sometimes you're in a time crunch, so it's good to have a few backup plans!

Ragu pasta sauce, 2 jars
Total spent: $2.19
I didn't have a coupon for this pasta sauce, but it was also a buy one get one free sale, so I thought it was worth buying. I saved a total of $1.09, so it wasn't too bad of a buy! Normally I make my own sauce, but sometimes I'm just really tired, so it's good to have a few easier options. There have been many times where I was prevented from getting takeout, because I had some pasta and sauce in the pantry.

Cantaloupes, 2
Total spent: $4
These were on sale for two for $4. I saved $1.98 total. I bought these, because we really love cantaloupe, and we haven't eaten any since August at least. In fact, we were so happy to get them, that my kids and I ate cantaloupe, with cucumber tomato avocado salad for dinner!

I know using coupons and watching sales can be a hassle, but sometimes, it's definitely time well spent. If I hadn't used coupons and sales, I would've spent $22.02 today. Instead I spent $8.60.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekly grocery and menu plan!

It's been a while since I did one of these...This is because I've once again been lax about planning my menus! I went to Sams club for my shopping trip, and I spent $85 for two weeks. This is unfortunately $5 over budget.:( It's okay, though, because I bought lots of fruits and vegetables for juicing! Here's what we're eating for dinner this week:

Carrot apple cucumber juice
Cottage cheese plate with pineapple, tomatoes, and cucumbers
Garlic bread rolls

Homemade corn chips
Carrot sticks

Orange carrot juice
Chicken salad sandwiches
Cucumber salad

Apple celery juice
Roasted potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers

Spaghetti with meatballs
Garlic bread rolls
Cucumber salad

Orange carrot juice
Chicken salad sandwiches on homemade rolls
Oven fries
Apple slices

Chicken and vegetable soup with barley
Bran rolls

For breakfast and lunch, we will be having cereal, leftovers, eggs, grits, homemade bread, and smoothies!

I'm still working on that $25 menu.:P Someday it will be done to my satisfaction. I'm taking so much time on it, because my hope is that it could actually be a valuable tool to help a family in trouble.

I haven't been writing as many blogs recently, because I've been doing a lot of gardening! I'm really excited about growing a garden this year. I've planted zucchini, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, peas, and cucumbers. If any of my readers are successful gardeners in the South, please post your best gardening tips here!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pineapple upside down cake!

Recently, canned pineapple went on sale at Publix. It was a BOGO sale, so I bought up a bunch to use in various recipes. Canned pineapple is great, because it tastes almost as good as fresh, it can be used in a lot of recipes, and it's really good for you! Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, has fiber, and best of all, it's fat free and low calorie! Here is our favorite canned pineapple recipe.

Pineapple upsidedown cake!
3-4Tbsp butter
7 slices pineapple, drained on paper towels
3/4C brown sugar
1C flour
1Tbsp baking powder
8Tbsp buttermilk, divided
6Tbsp butter, softened
1/2C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

Place butter in an 8-10 inch cast iron skillet, and put the skillet in the oven while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the butter melts, remove the skillet and add the brown sugar, spreading it evenly over the butter. Place the pineapple slices over the sugar.
Place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Mix the flour and baking powder together with a pinch of salt and add them to the mixer. Add 6Tbsp of the buttermilk. Beat on medium for exactly 1 1/2 minutes. Combine the eggs and the remaining 2 Tbsp of buttermilk and the vanilla. Add to the batter and beat for 30 seconds longer. Scrape the batter over the pineapple and spread it around so that it is even. Bake for 40 minutes, or until cake is done. Let sit in the skillet for 10-15 minutes and then invert onto a plate. Enjoy! Sometimes I use whole wheat flour in this cake. It turns out heavier, but still pretty good! This is an easy dessert to make if you are pressed for time and have people coming over.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I'm still working on the $25 menu post, but it's taking me a lot longer to finish it than I thought it would! I'm hoping to finish it soon. I decided to do a different post in the interim about making juice!

Making juice requires some startup costs. The biggest cost is of course, the actual juicer. My juicer is a Champion Juicer, and it cost me $200 about 7 years ago. It's a great juicer, though. It can juice ANYTHING, make nut butters, and it can also be used to make awesome sorbet! There are other, cheaper juicers out there, but I would really go for better quality when buying a juicer. A lot of the cheaper models are very difficult to clean, and they don't juice softer fruits like strawberries and peaches.

Juicing is a lot of fun! I've tried a lot of different combinations of fruits and vegetables together, and I've never had anything turn out bad! Juicing also has a lot of health benefits. Fresh juice has a lot more vitamins than bottled and pasteurized juice. Also, you can control what fruits and vegetables go in the mix, so YOU can make your juice as healthy as you want! I like to have a big pitcher of juice in the fridge, especially in the Summer months. Nothing is more refreshing than a glass of fresh, ice cold pineapple strawberry juice, or watermelon juice in the Summer! Here are some of our favorite juice combinations by season! It's always better to juice seasonal produce, because juicing requires a LOT of it.

The only winter produce that's really good for juicing is citrus. Luckily, carrots are always inexpensive, so there are awesome juice combinations to be had! My favorites are:
Carrot orange: Take 8 peeled oranges and 5 peeled carrots and run them through the juicer. Place the juice in a pitcher and add about 10 ice cubes. Stir well before drinking and enjoy!

Carrot tangerine: Even more delicious than carrot orange! Juice 10 peeled tangerines and 5 carrots. Pour juice into a pitcher and add 10 ice cubes. Pour a tall glass and enjoy! Stir the juice in the pitcher before drinking.

Orange tangerine: Just juice half oranges and half tangerines! Add some carrots if you want.

Carrot orange strawberry: Take 5 carrots, 6 oranges and 10 strawberries and run them through the juicer. Delicious!

Watermelon juice: Just peel a watermelon, cut it into chunks, and run them through the juicer! One medium watermelon makes a TON of juice, so you might just want to juice half. Watermelon juice makes great Popsicles!

Cantaloupe honeydew: Just cut the melons into chunks and juice away! This juice turns into a very pretty color.

Strawberry mango peach: This juice is best blended with a banana into a smoothie. So delicious!

Pineapple strawberry: Just take 1 pineapple and about 20 strawberries and run them through the juicer. Tropical Heaven!

Apple carrot juice: Take 4 apples and 4 carrots and run them through the juicer. So good for you!

Apple celery: This neon green juice is crisp and refreshing. Use 1 part celery to 4 parts apples. If you use too much celery, it will be overpowering.

Carrot apple grape: It sounds unusual, but it turns out sublime! I just do the recipe for apple carrot juice and then add a handful of grapes to the mix.

These are just a few ideas for juice combinations. Definitely come up with your own and then e-mail them to me so I can try them! All juice should be consumed within 2 days, because it goes bad really fast.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What to do in a food money crisis situation

I've gotten a few e-mails from readers where they say they have run out of food and only have $20-$30 to buy groceries for their families for the next week, or even TWO weeks until payday. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the worst situation a reader asked me about, that I felt I could actually offer a viable solution to.. The reader lives in a family of four and she had only $25 to buy groceries for the next week. All of the food in her pantry was gone, except for some condiments in the fridge, two boxes of spaghetti noodles, and oddly enough, a can of sardines. Here is my advice to her, or anyone else in this situation:

There are many, many churches who will donate food to the needy. You will probably have to listen to some religious doctrine before you get the food, but they WILL eventually send you home with a decent amount of it.When you call the food bank, make sure to say that it is an EMERGENCY, meaning that your food supply is already gone, and that you have kids.

This won't work for everyone, but if you are pregnant and/or have children under 5 years old, you could be eligible for this program. The only problem with WIC, is that it can take a long time to get an appointment. Once you start getting the vouchers, expect to get: eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter or beans, bread, or rice, or whole grain tortillas, juice, $6 per month in fruits and vegetables, and 36 oz of cereal.

This option is harder to get than WIC, and unfortunately, can take up to three months to actually take effect. Once you get them, though, food stamps are great! I don't personally receive this benefit, but I have a friend who does. She gets $525 per month for her family of four. Seriously, with that much money for food, you can feast on steak every night! I know it is embarrassing to apply for welfare, but just try to remember that extraordinary circumstances have probably driven you to that option. Anyone can have a run of bad luck. It doesn't make someone less of a person if they need to ask for help for a while. What's bad is to not get the help when you need it!

Everyone has stuff in their house that they don't really want anymore, but that doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't want it! Maybe you have baby items, or baby clothes, books, movies, decorative items you're tired of, kitchen appliances you never use, an old TV that's just gathering dust somewhere. A yard sale won't make you rich, but it can certainly net you enough money to go food shopping!

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a constant reserve of food. Even just a supply of rice, beans, rolled oats, flour, yeast, dry milk and sugar can make it so you never have to actually go hungry. Add some canned fruits and vegetables, some dried fruits, and some canned meat to that and you have the makings of a feast! Never let it get to the point where you have no money and no food left again. No one should ever have to go hungry, not in a country with as much surplus food as the United States.

My next post will be about how to go shopping for a family of four for 2 weeks with only $25.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Barley: Better than rice, cheaper than pasta!

Barley is a great ingredient to add to soups and stews. It adds fiber and bulk, without adding a lot of calories or expense! I spend about $.65 for a pound of barley, which will make 4 big pots of soup. So far, soup is the only meal I use it in, but I'm going to start experimenting with other meals. I know some people make bread with it, and my friend Corey makes TEA out of it! Here is my recipe for barley soup.

1 1/2C chicken or beef, cut up. The meat can be cooked, or raw. If it is raw, brown the meat in a skillet before adding it to the soup.
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
4C chicken, or vegetable broth
1/2C uncooked barley

Heat 1Tbsp oil or butter in a heavy bottomed soup pan. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth, chicken and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables and barley are tender. Enjoy! I like to serve this with homemade bread! My kids literally go crazy over this soup.

This soup can also be made with leftover turkey, or pork, or even diced ham. Sometimes I will substitute leeks for the onions, or add a zucchini in the Summer. Adding a diced tomato is also good in the Summer! Corn makes this soup even more spectacular.

A meal of soup and bread is very frugal and satisfying. It's a way to get vegetables and whole grains into my kids, the soup is low fat, so it doesn't add any unwanted pudge to me, and best of all, it's really easy to make! Having a homemade soup and bread night once or twice a week is one of my most valuable tools for staying within my grocery budget.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My dinner party!

My friends from church came over this weekend for dinner, and it was a great success! It was socially awesome, and secretly frugal. Here's what I made!

Homemade pita bread is not only delicious, it is also very frugal! It takes a little time to make, but the results are well worth it. Here's my recipe!

Pita bread recipe
1 1/4C water
2Tbsp oil
2tsp yeast
1 1/2C white flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 475
Place the ingredients in the order given in a bread machine and set it to the dough cycle. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough to a floured counter and punch it down. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover them with damp paper towels. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Grease a second baking sheet and set it aside. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the rest covered, gently stretch each ball into a flat round about 6 inches across. Place 4 on each baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes. These pitas are best consumed right after baking.

Hummus is also easy and frugal to make. We like to spread it on the pita bread.

Delicious Hummus recipe
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1/4C tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice from 1 lemon
3Tbsp water
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread!

Cucumber Raita
This is a condiment/salad that goes great with pita bread and hummus. It works best with whole milk yogurt.

Cucumber raita recipe
1C whole milk yogurt
1/2 English cucumber peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1/4tsp cumin
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve right away.

Cucumber/tomato salad
This salad is very frugal and simple, especially if you buy tomatoes and cucumbers in bulk.

Cooling cucumber salad
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
salt to taste
2Tbsp olive oil
1-2Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Place cucumbers and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the salt, oil and vinegar and mix well together. Serve with pita bread and delicious hummus for an awesome dinner!

This cake was especially frugal, because I used jam that I had made and canned last Summer.
1 1/2C butter, softened
1 1/2C sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3C flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2C plain yogurt (whole milk)
2/3C preserves
1/2C walnuts
Preheat oven to 350
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add 1C of the flour and the baking powder and mix for 1 minute. Add 1C yogurt and mix again. 1C flour and the salt and mix for one minute. Add remaining 1/2C yogurt and mix again. Add remaining cup of flour and mix well until Incorporated, scraping the bowl if needed.
Stir together nuts and preserves. Grease a bundt pan. Spread 1/3 of the batter in the prepared bundt pan. Spoon 1/2 of the nut mixture over the batter, dropping it in dollops from a spoon. Spread another 1/3 of the batter over the dollops of nut mixture. Spoon remaining nut mixture over the batter. Spread remaining batter over the top. Bake for 60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a large plate. Drizzle glaze over the top (recipe follows) and let cool completely.

1/3C preserves
1 1/2C powdered sugar
1Tbsp water
Mix ingredients together until the mixture reaches drizzling consistency. Add more water, 1 tsp at a time if too thick.

In case anyone wants to know, I was in The Augusta Chronicle today! There was an article that talked about my frugal blog.:P If you go to The Augusta Chronicle website and click on Life, the article about me comes right up! There's even a picture of me. I'm the woman wearing the blue dress, cooking. My awesome friend, Corey, took the picture. He's the photojournalist who introduced me to my new church. The reporter, Lisa Kaylor, has also been very awesome. She interviewed me at Panera, where I had bought a decidedly un-frugal tea!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Busy Liz!

Sorry about my lax blogging this past week! It's getting down to crunch time in my classes, so I've been having to do a lot of last minute work and studying. Also, I've been trying to get my Spring cleaning done, so I won't have to spend Spring break doing it! After today, though, I should have some more time, so I'm hoping to get my blogging back on track. My next article is going to be about a (semi)frugal dinner party I had this past weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My goals update

I made several New Years resolutions this year, so I thought I'd do an update post. Here's how I've been doing!

I'm sorry to report that so far, this one is a dismal failure. I wish I could afford a gym membership, because if I actually had somewhere to go, I think I'd be a lot more motivated. Oh well, I just need to get on the ball and START. I think starting an exercise program is the hardest part, because once I get into a routine, I'm usually pretty good about sticking with it...At least, for a while.:P

I've decided to just visit my parents this Summer, because my sister is going to visit them at that time, and I haven't seen her in almost a year. Luckily, I don't need to save up nearly as much to go and see my parents, so I'm actually doing pretty good on that goal. I figure I'll need about $400, including gas, spending money, and paying for someone to watch my dog. So far, I've saved up $200, so I'm halfway there!

I've been doing pretty well with this one. One thing that has helped, is I've been really trying to stick with my menu plan. I have a tendency to make one, and then decide I don't want to make the meals I planned! Another thing I've been working on is trying not to waste so many leftovers. This requires me to make some unusual concoctions, but I think it really cuts down on my grocery spending. The average household wasts 12% of the food they buy...12%! I'm trying to stop being a member of that statistic.

I'm happy to report that this one is going well, too! My kids and I recently started going to a church, and the people there seem very friendly and nice. It's really difficult for me to reach out to people, because of bad experiences that I've had, so I'm hoping that this time I'm finally making the right decision.

Unfortunately, I haven't made much headway on this one. This weekend, though, I'm determined to at least organize my kitchen cabinets. Sadly, this has been my goal for the past 4 weekends!:P

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whole Wheat Recipes!

I've been experimenting with recipes this week, and I'm glad to say I've found some really delicious whole wheat treats! Here are some of the recipes we've enjoyed.

1C whole wheat flour
1/3C white flour
2 1/2tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3C wheat germ
5Tbsp cold butter
1/2C orange juice concentrate, plus enough water to make it 2/3C
1Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425

Mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the juice concentrate mixture and sugar and pulse a few times, until a rough dough has formed. Add more water if the dough is dry and not holding together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times. Roll or pat the dough out 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-13 minutes, or until golden brown.
These biscuits will not turn out as light and fluffy as other biscuits, but we still found them to be delicious! I served these with lentil soup.

3C all purpose flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
1/2C ground flax seed
1 1/4tsp yeast
2Tbsp honey or sugar
1 3/4C warm water
2tsp salt
In a large bowl, stir together the water, honey, flax seed and yeast. Add the flours and salt, stirring until all the flour is moistened. Knead in the bowl until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, adding some more flour to prevent sticking, if needed.
Place the dough in a large bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Turn the dough onto a floured counter and punch down. Shape into a loaf and transfer to a greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Bake @375 for40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and unmold bread onto a wire rack. Allow to cool before cutting. We like to eat this bread with peanut butter and blackberry preserves. It also makes a fair sandwich bread. I say fair, because it's hard to slice it thin enough to make really good sandwiches.

Pita bread recipe
1 1/4C water
2Tbsp oil
2tsp yeast
1 1/2C white flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 475
Place the dry ingredients, except for the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix briefly with the dough hook. Add the yeast and mix again. Add the water and oil, and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. Remove the dough to a floured counter and punch it down. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover them with damp paper towels. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Grease a second baking sheet and set it aside. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the rest covered, gently stretch each ball into a flat round about 6 inches across. Place 4 on each baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes. These pitas are best consumed right after baking. Serve the pita bread with hummus for an even bigger fiber punch!

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1/4C tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice from 1 lemon
3Tbsp water
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Diet!

My daughter, Alia, was very sick this weekend. In fact, I ended up taking her to the hospital, because she was having agonizing abdominal pain, she was extremely pale and lethargic, and she was very thirsty. It was very scary, because the doctors all thought she had appendicitis. Her pain was so severe, she had to have morphine...TWICE. My 4 year old! The only good part was that my ex-husband actually came through this time. He was there at the hospital the whole time, and he stayed with my other kids, so that I could be there when Alia had her extremely frightening and invasive tests. I think it really comforted her to have both of us there. When the tests came back negative, the doctors released her with a diagnosis of, "Non-specific gastritis/colitis."

Personally, I think her problem was that she was constipated. She has had a lot of problems with it in the past, and I thought it was a lot better, but I must've been wrong. I already talked to her, and I told her that from now on she has to follow a very high fiber diet with nothing in it that will clog her up. This is going to mean some real changes for her, because she can't have any dairy products, red meat, chicken, bananas, or refined grains. I used to put wheat germ in her yogurt to make it more healthful, but that was the wrong thing to put in there. I should have sprinkled the BRAN in there. Anyway, here's what I'm going to do.

This is of course, good for everyone, but I think it's going to take some getting used to! I'm going to have to amp mine up with flax and extra bran as well, which I'm sure will affect the taste and texture of what I make. I'm going to have to experiment a lot with different ratios of different grains. I'm sure we will all get used to it, though, and I'm hoping eating whole grains will positively impact the whole family.

I was letting her eat a LOT of yogurt, because a lot of times, she'd refuse to eat anything else! I thought it was healthy, but I think it really contributed to clogging her up so bad. I went to Publix yesterday, and luckily, they are having a BOGO sale on shredded wheat! I got 4 boxes for free (WIC) and last night, she ate shredded wheat with soymilk for dinner. I told her that from now on, if she doesn't want to eat dinner, she can have high fiber cereal, high fiber bread, dried fruit, or regular fruit instead, but NO YOGURT. She really took it better than I thought she would.

There are fiber "candies" that you can eat to supplement your diet, but I don't know if it's good to give them to small children who are already on a high fiber diet.

Beans and lentils have a lot of protein and fiber. Best of all, they are also frugal! There are a lot of recipes that use legumes instead of meat. I actually have a Middle Eastern cookbook that has a lot of awesome bean and lentil based recipes. I just need to start trying them! A lot of vegan cookbooks have good recipes featuring legumes as well.

Fish isn't generally constipating, unlike beef and chicken. The only bad part, is that fish is usually a lot more expensive! There are ways around the expense, though. Canned salmon is a great bet nutritionally, and it tastes pretty good! It's definitely not as tasty as fresh, but it definitely works in casseroles and on sandwiches. Canned tuna is also a good option. I'll post any good recipes I find!

It might be a little tough at first, but I think this new diet will be a positive change in the long run. For one thing, legumes are a lot more frugal, and less fattening than meat. Fish has great health benefits, along with not being constipating. I'm hoping this new diet will improve all of our health, especially poor Alia's.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Menu Plan

This week I bought a lot of seafood at sams club, so it will be prominently featured in my menus.

Shepherds pie
Leftover Garlic bread
Leftover crisp

Baked fish
Crock pot baked potatoes
Roasted corn

Seafood gumbo
Wheat germ rolls
Apple, mango, blueberry crisp

Creamy chicken and rice casserole
Roasted carrots
Wheat germ rolls


(We're going to my kids' school for an event, so I'm packing a picnic!)
Zucchini muffins
Apple slices with peanut butter
Juice boxes
Homemade rolls with butter

Shrimp stir fry

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes!

I had never cooked baked potatoes in the crock pot until today, now I sure do wish I had. It was so easy, and the potatoes turned out really good! My kids and I had them as a frugal main course for dinner last night. Here's how I baked them:

8 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and pricked lightly with a fork
1tsp garlic salt, or just plain salt
1Tbsp oil

Place the potatoes on end in the crock pot. Sprinkle the salt over the tops, and then drizzle on the oil. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Enjoy with your favorite toppings!

It really is that easy...I can't believe I ever bothered with the oven! Potatoes are great, because they are filling, versatile, and best of all...CHEAP. I bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes from sams club for $2.05 this past week. That means each pound of potatoes cost me about $.20. Here are a few of the ways I like to use baked potatoes:

One of my favorite meals is a humble baked potato with butter, sour cream, and salt, a cucumber tomato salad, and some roasted carrots. You can use whatever toppings you want, like cheese, bacon bits, green onion, avocado, bits of leftover vegetables...The possibilities are pretty much endless. I love this meal, because it is filling without being heavy, low fat, and really very delicious!

There are so very many ways to use leftover baked potatoes in a soup! You can mash them up to thicken the soup, dice them up to add bulk, shred them to add texture without being too noticeable, etc. I like to add mashed potatoes to soup instead of using a more traditional flour/butter thickener. Potatoes have WAY less calories, they are more convenient (if already cooked, anyway), and they thicken soups and stews very effectively and with a great texture. Using potatoes as a thickener is also much healthier than using butter, or eggs.

There are a ton of awesome potato breads to be made with leftover baked potatoes. Potato breads are heavier than a lot of other breads, but they make up for it by being so delicious! Potato pasta is also really good, and a lot easier to make than regular semolina pasta. I will post recipes for potato bread and pasta soon.

Leftover potatoes can also be used in potato salad, shepherds pie, potato pancakes, fried potato cakes and even in crab cakes! Nothing will add frugal nutrition to your diet like potatoes.

So break out that crock pot and your vegetable brush and get cooking!

Valentines Day

I admit, I'm posting this kind of late.:P

Our Valentines Day was great this year! I thought it might not be, because my ex-husband claimed to be "working" and wouldn't come see his three little girls...And they really wanted to see him. I took them out to Panera for breakfast to cheer them up. My parents had sent me a $30 panera gift card, so we were able to get an awesome feast. After that, we went to Target to see if there was any holiday merchandise on sale (there wasn't), and then we went home and took a walk to see the last of the snow!

Later that afternoon we went to see, "The Princess and the Frog" at the $1.99 theatre. After that came the best part of the day! We went to the gourmet Chinese buffet in town! It was great fun, because we hadn't gone out for dinner in months. I'm sorry to say, I think I ate about three times my weight.:P

That night, we were so stuffed, we just kind of laid around and watched, "Little Women." I had bought it at Goodwill earlier in the week. The girls loved it. That was the end of our Valentines Day. The kids only asked about their dad a few times. It's sad, but a good thing that they have been asking for him less and less. It wasn't the future I imagined when I first got married and started having kids, but in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I live in Georgia, which is why I consider snow to be amazing! Yesterday afternoon, it started snowing at around 2:00. By about 6:00 there were about 5 inches of snow on the ground! The trees, houses, bushes, yards...Everything is just covered in a white blanket of snow. I swear my neighborhood looks like a New England winter photograph right now! My kids have been so excited. They had never seen snow on the ground before. We went outside and played in it all day yesterday, came inside to warm up and eat dinner, and then we went back out to play in it at night! I was very tired by about 9:00, from carrying firewood and chasing after my kids.:P

The amazing snowfall is still here this morning, so I think we're in for another long day of playing in it! The bad part is, the roads are all covered in ice, so no one can drive on them! We're pretty much stuck in the house until the snow and ice melt. I'm so glad my "Food Bank Account" is stocked up, because I don't know how long it will be until we can go to the store! Luckily, I bought two new movies at Goodwill, and a 20Lb bag of popping corn at Sams Club. One of the movies I got is called, "The Day After Tomorrow." I think it's about an ice age...Which seems pretty appropriate!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Apple Mango Cranberry Crisp Recipe!

One of my readers asked me to post my fruit crisp recipe, so here it is!

6C fruit, cut into bite sized pieces
1Tbsp corn starch
1Tbsp lemon juice
1/3C sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Make sure all traces of cornstarch have disappeared.

1 1/2C flour
1C rolled oats
1/4C granulated sugar
1/4C brown sugar
8Tbsp butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place all ingredients except butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times. Add the butter and pulse until butter is Incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Place the fruit mixture in a greased 9X13 pan. Sprinkle half of the topping over the fruit mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining topping. Return the crisp to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is juicy and bubbly, and the topping is browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10-15 minutes. ENJOY.

Baking half of the topping before adding the rest, makes it so the entire topping is crisp. A lot of times there is a gooey layer of topping near the fruit, if you try to bake all of the topping at the same time.

1. 3C apples, 2C mangoes, 1C cranberries. I like to use maple sugar in this one, but maple sugar is SUPER expensive. I only have it, because my parents bought me some as a Christmas present! When I don't have maple sugar, white, or brown sugar works great!
2. 6C apples! All apples makes a delicious Fall crisp! For this one, I add 1tsp cinnamon to the filling, and 1/2tsp to the topping. I also like to add 1/2C ground walnuts to the topping, if I have them. Brown sugar works sinfully well in this apple filling!
3. 4C peaches, 2C apples. Peaches and apples together make a great crisp. If you have a lot of peaches (Like in the Summer!) just use 6C of peaches and omit the apples!
4. 2C blueberries, 1C strawberries, 1C mango, 2C blackberries. This is one of my very favorite Summer crisps. I make it in July and August, when the berries are about as cheap as they will ever get. Sometimes, I splurge on frozen berries, just so I can make this! Mango adds a delicious tropical sweetness. It's better to just use white, granulated sugar in this filling.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly menu plan!

This week I had extra money to spend on groceries, so there will be some extra food in my menu plan!

Tuna salad sandwiches
Oven fries
Avocado, tomato, cucumber salad

Bean soup with turkey bacon
Beer bread
Chocolate chip cookies

Leftover bean soup
Leftover bread
Tomato, cucumber, avocado salad

Lentil chili
Homemade corn chips

Turkey bacon

Garlic bread
Cucumber, tomato salad
Apple, Mango, Cranberry crisp


Most of the extra food I bought was: Yogurt, chocolate chips, turkey bacon, and granola bars! I usually make my own granola bars, but I had 7 $1 off coupons, and the bars were on sale! I ended up only paying $.35 per box. I had 5 $1 off yogurt coupons that let me get 40 containers of Yoplait for $15. $15 is a lot of money to spend on yogurt, but those 40 yogurt containers will last us all month! I also bought 4 mangos and an 8 pound bag of oranges.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Having a Food Bank Account

Counting every penny you spend can be a very daunting, depressing task. I know I have so few of those pennies, that I kind of obsess over money. Every time I have to unexpectedly spend some, my stress level winds up a notch higher. I know there are a lot of people in my position. Single parents, people who have been laid off, people with crazy mortgages, medical debt, or people who just were never able to stay ahead, for whatever reason. Here is one of the main things I do to try and quell my obsessive tendencies, and compulsive worry about money:

What is a food bank account? It's a way for me to feel a small sense of security, even when my bank account balance has dwindled down farther than I ever thought possible. It's a partial antidote to the poisonous feelings of helplessness, and despair that a lack of money can cause. A food bank account is just a bunch of food that you've stocked up on! All you need to create your own food bank account is some storage space! My main pantry is in my laundry room. My dad set up some shelves for me in there, but really, you can store food pretty much anywhere you want. I know one woman who keeps non-perishables under her bed! Here is what I keep in my food bank account:

I keep a lot of non-perishables in my food bank account. The main ones I keep are, flour (25Lbs), sugar (10Lbs), rolled oats (10Lbs), grits (15Lbs), shelf stable soymilk (We're lactose intolerant!), cornmeal (5Lbs), dry beans, dry lentils, yeast, sugar, salt, dry milk, canned fruit, canned tuna, canned chicken, cereal,a 25Lb bag of rice, many, many boxes of pasta, preserves I canned last Summer, peanut butter, canned tomatoes (sauce, diced, stewed, crushed), canned corn, canned pumpkin, raisins, and chocolate chips.
With those ingredients, I can make a lot of meals for my family for a long time. I chose those particular items, because we like them, but also because they are all good for us (Okay, except for the sugar and chocolate chips!:P) That food would last us a long time, and it's not like we'd be dining on ramen. I think the only thing anywhere near as stressful as being too broke to buy food, would be having to feed your kids junk, and knowing how it would affect their growth and development for life.

I also stock up on some refrigerated and frozen items. The main frozen ones are: Frozen vegetables (broccoli, green beans, peas, soybeans), Eggo's (for those EXTREMELY lazy days.:P) ground beef, roasts. The refrigerated items are: Eggs, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, corn tortillas, avocados, apples, dates, celery, and carrots.

I buy other stuff too, but these are all of the foods I try to keep around in bulk. Stocking up can take some time. It takes a lot of planning for me to be able to afford everything I want to buy. I have to buy some items one week, and some the next, and then some the next. If I get an unexpected windfall, I'll often use some of it to buy extra food. I saved up $80 in gas money over Christmas break, and I used it to pad my normal grocery budget.

No one should ever have to be stressed out about having enough money to buy food. Unfortunately, many people are in that very predicament. A food bank account can really do a lot to ease stress during tight times. With a food bank account, at least you don't have to worry about being hungry.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Frugal Chicken Pie!

Yesterday I was REALLY in the mood for chicken pot pie, but I didn't want to use up half a pound of butter to make it! Luckily, I remembered an old shepherds pie recipe I used to make a lot, and I used it as a template to come up with something. Here's what I made:

1 can (13 oz) white meat chicken
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
ONE tsp dried minty herb, (like thyme, chervil, marjoram, savory)
1 bay leaf
1C sliced mushrooms, (optional)
1 can chicken broth
1/4C flour
4 or 5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
3Tbsp butter
2Tbsp milk
1/2C shredded cheese (I like cheddar!)

Heat the chicken broth up to boiling. Add the chicken, carrots, and celery. Return to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Reserve the broth in another bowl. Return the pan to the heat with 1Tbsp butter. Melt the butter, and then add the onions and optional mushrooms, the herbs, and 1/2tsp salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the reserved broth, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture and reserve. Wash out the saucepan.

Place the potatoes in the saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently until the potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2C cooking water. Return the potatoes to the pan, shaking until they look dry. Add the butter and a splash of cooking water. Mash with a potato masher until most of the lumps are gone. Add the milk, and 1/2tsp salt. Beat the potatoes with a wooden spoon, adding enough cooking water to achieve a smooth consistency.

Place the chicken/onion mixture in a greased, 2 quart baking pan. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the potatoes. Bake @425 for about 25 minutes.

I served this chicken pie with homemade wheat biscuits topped with mango preserves I canned last Summer. For dessert we ate an apple, mango, cranberry fruit crisp. YUM!