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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