Friday, February 29, 2008

Shopping at Goodwill Takes Patience

There are lots of great bargains to be had at Goodwill and other thrift stores - you just have to have the patience to find them. For instance, I have been "in the market" for some fabric to make curtains to cover the clutter on the shelves in my kitchen for months. I hadn't been able to find anything for $1.00/yd that I liked and I had to go to Goodwill several times over several weeks before I found some that would work for me, but eventually it paid off! I got the fabric during their 50% off day, too.

I often browse through Goodwill with my list of items I would like to have but can't afford new and have been rewarded several times. I got a pasta machine for $6.00!
I purchased two new tops for me for $5.00 total, my daughter got sandals for $2.00 and my husband recently got several pants and shirts for work for just a couple of dollars each. I have also purchase several set of napkins because the fabric was so nice - I will use them to make quilted wallets for much less than fabric would have cost.

So don't neglect an occasional trip to your local thrift store when there is something you would like to have but won't purchase new (whether you can't afford to or just don't want to spend the money). The patience and persistence can pay off big time!

Hop on over to Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday tips!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Make Your Own Cinnamon Vanilla Creamer

I only drink one cup of DECAF coffee per day (helps me wake up), but I like flavored creamer in my coffee. Since I have been making my husband's half and half with much success, HE suggested that I ought to be able to make my flavored creamer in a similar manner. Since we live in Mexico, we can only purchase this when we go across into the states, so it is a matter of convenience even more than frugality.

Well, guess what I found over at The Motherload? She had experimented and figured out a way to make flavored creamer using sweetened condensed milk (she even has a recipe for making that from scratch). So I decided to experiment myself and try it with Lechera (the Mexican version of sweetened condensed milk). I put one can of Lechera, 2 cups of milk (1 1/2 like she called for was still too thick), 2 teaspoons of vanilla (the real kind from Mexico) and about 1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon (I am sure a liquid would be better, but that is what I had). I mixed that all up in my blender and it came out really great! I had a tiny bit left from my previous purchase to taste test it against and it is awfully close. And, just for the frugal side of me, it only cost HALF of what I have been paying for creamer. So it is a big savings, too!! Don't you just love that?

I am sure you could make all different kinds of flavors with a little experimenting and some of those liquid flavorings like they use at Starbucks. I like mine simple - vanilla and cinnamon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Customizing" Recipes...Write it Down as You Go!

How many times have you substituted something in a recipe because you either didn't have the ingredient or wanted to use something healthier, then the recipe came out better than ever and the next time you can't remember what you did? I used to do that all the time. But now, I just write in pencil on the recipe what I am doing. If it is great, keep it! If it isn't so great, just erase for the next time. I have done this right in my cookbooks or on my printed out recipes and it sure saves the headaches when I am trying to duplicate that wonderful "experiment"!

So I say, don't be afraid to write in your books - at least your cookbooks! They can still be passed on, but now with personalization from you. And if you regularly double a recipe, write down the measurements doubled so that you can easily follow the recipe without having to constantly calculate measurements in your head - AND remember to double everything:-) I have forgotten to double just one ingredient in the past and ruined the whole thing!

Hope this helps someone, especially some of you who are just beginning to cook from scratch and use recipes.

It's Tuesday Again, So Check Out the Carnivals on the Blogosphere

For lots of great ideas, recipes, and tips, visit these carnivals and sites:

Make It From Scratch is over at Stop the Ride!

The Festival of Frugality is up at No Credit Needed

The Carnival of Homeschooling is over at The Daily Planet

And don't miss Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Frugal Meal with Baked BBQ Beef Ribs

A store near us had beef ribs on sale for $0.49/lb! So I bought two big packages for less than $5.00 total. I found this recipe online for Baked BBQ Beef Ribs and we sure did enjoy it! I made creamy mashed potatoes and broccoli as side dishes and we all tremendously enjoyed this meal. I will be returning to stock up on $0.49/lb ribs before they are all gone!

Ok, I fed them more than just bones! But look at all the great bones we now have for our dogs!!

Having Fun With Science

This wonderful book, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, is a wonderful story about Peter Rabbit and all the bird friends he meets and makes throughout the year. Through this story, and it's beautiful illustrations, children learn all about birds, the sounds they make, their habits, what they look like and more.
I happened upon this book at a library used book sale for $3.00! I had originally borrowed a newer copy from a friend in order to use it with my kids and they just loved the story! But in the newer version, the pictures are in black and white, not the lovely watercolor illustrations in the original. So when I came upon this old book, I was ecstatic! What a lovely treasure and a great keepsake for the kids!

This week we have been studying volcanoes, so we built our own. The kids built a "volcano" of dirt (sand in our case) around a water bottle. We put 1 T of baking soda in the bottle, then poured about a cup of red-colored vinegar into the bottle and watched the volcano erupt! It was very fun!

Take the time to do some of the FUN science stuff with your kids! It will payoff big when their enthusiasm returns and you have fun together! They will also learn and retain better when projects are involved.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The other day, my daughter and I decided to make some sweet potato gnocchi. This is only our second time to make gnocchi, but you can be sure it won't be our last. It turned out wonderfully yummy and not very difficult at all. I have put together some photos so you can see the process. I think I may try spinach gnocchi next!

2 (8 oz.) sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 cups flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes or until soft to the touch. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
2. Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed (I used about 3 cups).

3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. You can run them over the back of a fork to make indentations to hold the sauce better.
Drop the pieces into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a serving dish.

Serve with butter or cream sauce. (I made a homemade Alfredo Sauce with cream cheese, milk, butter, parmesan cheese and sour cream).
This was really comfort food, even though it was the first time we had ever had it. Very delicious and fun to make together with your kids!

Old Cookbook Treasure...A World of Good Eating

I love to cook and I love cookbooks, in case you hadn't figured that out by reading this blog:-). A little while back, we were at a library used book sale and found a couple of wonderful treasures! Most of them were free on the discard table, including this quaint and nostalgic cookbook.

It has lovely pictures and is all handwritten (then copied , of course). There are recipes from around the world including the British Isles, China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Scandinavia and America. It was published in 1951 and I think it is missing some pages in the back (no back cover), but a treasure it is!I haven't yet tried any of these recipes, but now that I got if off the shelf, I think I will browse and see what looks good! Don't forsake checking out the free tables at your local library's book sale - you never know what treasure you may find!

And check out The Daily Planet for The Homesteading Carnival with lots more ideas for cooking, saving and just great living!

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Freebie Directory 2008 from The Old Schoolhouse

Here are some great homeschooling freebies from The Old Schoolhouse! Alot of them are samples of great products, curriculum, books, etc. Check it out! You don't have to subscribe to the magazine to get the Freebie Directory, but check out the magazine anyway - it is really great!

I Can't Believe I Am Saying This...Darning Socks?

Last night while I was folding clothes, I came upon several socks (mostly my son's) that had holes in them. After all this talk about frugal living and thrifty-ness, I couldn't just pitch them. So I got my thread and needle and sewed the holes shut. I didn't exactly darn them, as I was about to learn. I remember someone darning socks (grandmother, maybe?) and using something that looked like a maraca (Mexican instrument with seeds inside that you shake) inside the sock. So today I decided to find out exactly how to darn a sock. Well, it may be even a little more involved than I want to get, but it will be worth a try at the rate my son goes through socks. And if it works, maybe I won't feel compelled to always buy the cheapest socks.

Here is an article about a darning egg (that maraca-looking thing). And here is a "how-to" on darning socks.

I found another article about fixing holes in socks that seems very similar but has a few diagrams (I REALLY like pictures:-).

And then I found a site that gives LOTS of ideas about recycling those socks that just can't be saved (or if you choose not to darn your holey socks). At least they will have one more use before tossing:-).

So how about you? Have you ever darned socks? Is it worth it? Are you going to try it now?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where Do You Shop for Bargains?

I thought some of you might enjoy seeing where I shop for bargains. Remember, I live in Mexico, so this is pretty normal. Here is the spice aisle - great prices, you just need to save your old containers to store them in. Also I scoop from down deep so try to avoid the dust and stuff on top:-). These prices are in peso per kilo, so you have to do two conversions to compare to dollars per pound.

And here are the dried chiles. Do you see the pile of egg cartons in the back? No, they do NOT keep eggs refrigerated here. But they are usually fresher than in the states, too.
And here is some grain, dog food, bird seed, etc. Many things that they sell for bird food, we eat, like millet, white wheat, etc.
This is the same store where I buy my honey for about $12.00/gallon. Yummy and cheap! I don't have Aldi's or Trader Joe's, so I just go to Welton's and buy bulk to save money.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's On Your Refrigerator?

This is my first "tagging" and I want to do a good job! The meme question is , "What's on your refrigerator?" Well, because mine is stainless, I can't attach anything with magnets, so the front is clear.

On one side, I have some photos and magnets. I didn't plan on putting anything there, but my kids insisted.
On the other side, I have the Mexican Border U.S. Agriculture Quarantine Information so I can remember at a glance what I can and cannot bring across the border into the U.S. Very Important Info for me!
If you would like to join in, go to Heart of Wisdom to find the Meme and all the details.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Mom's Secret Pizza Burger Recipe

My mom made the best pizza burgers in the world! And now I do, too. My family LOVES these and begs me to make them. They are SO easy and now that I use my whole grain buns and ground turkey, even healthier. So here, for the first time on the internet, the secret recipe!

Mix together one pound of ground meat (I prefer turkey, but beef is classic), one small can of tomato paste and one cup of grated parmesan cheese. Then spread this VERY thinly onto your buns halves.

Pop these under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until just brown. The meat cooks very quickly because it is so thin. Remember, it is red because of the tomato paste.
While you are waiting, slice up some tomatoes and get your cheese slices ready.
When the meat is cooked and slightly browned (be very careful not to burn them),
top with a tomato slice and a slice of cheese on each one (unless you are like my son and don't like tomatoes, in which case he just gets cheese).
Pop these back under the broiler for just a minute or two (watch closely so they don't burn) until the cheese is just melted around the tomato slice.

My children never got to meet my mom, but through recipes like this, they get to share in the nostalgia and hopefully get to know her just a little.

Reprise on Saving Money with Milk

I saved over $6.00 with one gallon of milk and wanted to update you on the benefits! I was able to make half and half for less than 1/3 of the regular cost. I made 3 quarts of the best buttermilk you ever tasted and it will self-perpetuate (meaning I may NEVER have to buy buttermilk again - just some regular whole milk which costs much less). And even yogurt can now be self-perpetuating! What a bargain from a gallon of milk! Check it out and see how you can save money with milk. And, I have researched some of the health benefits of buttermilk for those of you interested.

Do You Love to Read Magazines?

Then check out these online magazines called Carnivals. They feature many different articles about topics near and dear to my heart - living frugally, making things from scratch, and homeshooling!

The Festival of Frugality is being hosted by the Mighty Bargain Hunter;

Make It From Scratch is over at This Wasn't in the Plan today;

The Carnival of Homeschooling can be found this week at The Homeschool Blog Awards;

and Kitchen Tip Tuesday is, as always, over at Tammy's Recipes.

Thanks to all you hardworking, wonderful folks who hosted these carnivals this week! I sure appreciate it!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Taming the Chaos!

Have you ever watched the show "Clean House"? Well, Neesy didn't come to my house, but my son helped me as my "to-to guy" and we were able to tame the chaos in one corner of my house that has been a problem for awhile. This is really a corner of my kitchen. I don't have hardly any cabinets, so I use bookshelves to hold dishes, craft stuff, books, etc. Here is the before:

And now for the much neater and cleaner after:
There is still alot of stuff, but it is organized. And I plan to make curtains to cover these shelves and hide the clutter in the next week or so. Hoping for a good find at Goodwill!

Thanks to Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood for the inspiration in "Making Your Home a Haven Monday".

The Carnival of Homesteading is up

If you wish you could live on a homestead and raise your own food, check out the Carnival of Homesteading over at Quiet Cajun. It's not just for those who do, but those who enjoy things made from scratch, grown at home, made by hand, etc. I have an entry in the carnival, too! And I certainly don't live on a homestead:-).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Some of my favorite homeschooling links

I decided I wanted to share some of my favorite homeschool links with you today. So check them out when you have the time. I hope this is a helpful resource for you.

Homeschool Math - online games and resources to help with math
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives - virtual help with all types of math and all levels
Living Math! - literature for learning math concepts
Figure This! - math challenges for families

Learning Through History - great history resources

Discovery School - great learning adventures and much more!
Cool Science for Curious Kids - great resource for exploring science topics
Plant Quests - great resource for studying plants
The Great Dinosaur Mystery - fun and educational site by Christian Answers
4 2 explore - great for unit studies or just researching a topic

Unit Studies for Homeschool - great list of topics and resources
Internet Directory of Unit Studies - by the Four Wheelers and another great resource

Free Homeschool Stuff - links to all kinds of freebies
Easy Fun School - tons of great resources

WebMonkey for Kids - teaches kids how to build a website

Well, that's just a sampling of some of my favorite resources for homeschooling. Let me know if you find something you like. I will post another list with more resources from time to time. If you are looking for something in particular, just let me know and I will post a link to help you find what you are looking for.

Health Benefits of Buttermilk

When I do something like make buttermilk, I get lots of questions about whether buttermilk is good for you. So here is Buttermilk Primer 101. You can find much more info online, if you are interested in researching for yourself.

Buttermilk is a Probiotic food. These contain living microorganisms, that can survive the passage through the stomach and become active in the intestines.

Healthy bacteria reside in everybody's colon, and in return for food and a warm place to live these resident bacteria contribute to your health. One of the most intestinal-friendly resident bacteria is the family of lactobacteria, so-called because they thrive on lactose sugars. The commonest form is L.acidophilus.

Here are some healthy things these bacteria do to your body:

> Manufacture vitamins
> Improve digestion
> Boost Immunity
> Manufacture nutrients
> Protect against cardiovascular diseases
> Protect against carcinogens

Buttermilk is lower in fat than regular milk, because the fat has been removed to make butter. It is also high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus.

Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly digested. Buttermilk has more lactic acid than skim milk.

One cup of buttermilk has 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat, whereas whole milk has 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat. Do check the labels as some brands of buttermilk are higher in fat than others.

Decades ago, buttermilk was made from the liquid that separated from butter during the churning process. Left to ferment naturally the result was old-fashioned buttermilk, a thinner, sweeter beverage than what's in dairy cases today Now buttermilk is made by adding cultured bacteria to low-fat or fat-free milk, just like yogurt. The live cultures provide its distinctive rich, creamy texture--and a host of health benefits.

So drink up for your health! And enjoy that smooth, slightly tart, creamy texture (I like mine with some black pepper sprinkled in).

By the way, my homemade buttermilk came out FANTASTIC!! For pennies compared to store-bought.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to Save Money with a Gallon of Milk

I have decided to try a couple of things that I have heard about in the last couple of weeks - homemade buttermilk, yogurt and half & half. So I started with one gallon of whole milk for $2.89, one quart of buttermilk for $1.89, a cup of heavy cream for $.50 and 3/4 cup of plain natural yogurt for about $.50 (total $5.78).

Following this recipe for buttermilk, I made 3 quarts. And with this recipe for yogurt, I made 2 quarts. I found on the internet that if you mix 1 cup heavy cream with 3 cups milk, you will get an equivalent to half & half (my husband's preferred coffee creamer). So I made a quart of half & half, too.

Normally, this quantity would cost:
3 quarts buttermilk $5.67
2 quarts yogurt $4.18
1 quart half & half $2.19
TOTAL $12.04!!!

That equals a savings of $6.26 for only about 10 minutes of work!! And how good and homemade the products are! To me, that is what frugality is all about:-).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stocking Up on Basics When the Price is Right

Since I live in Mexico, I have been able to find some staples for a lower price than in the states. But it has taken time to search the different stores and find these gems. For instance, I have found Saf-Instant yeast for $1.25/125grams which comes out to about $5.00/lb. Also, there is still one brand of pure vanilla available here (the rest are all imitation now) for about $1.50/pint. And I have just found a place that sells honey for $1.50/pint which comes out to $12.00/gallon. I use ALOT of honey for bread and other baking, so that is wonderful!

So here is what I have done. First, I made sure I could take all of these items across the border. Then I sent out an email to my homeschool group across the border in the states and offered to bring any of these to them at our bi-monthly park day. That way I can also help my friends with their grocery staples budget. If you find a frugal source for some staples that you will always use, stock up and save. And now I am thinking about stocking up on wheat since I am hearing all this talk about rising wheat prices. That will take some more searching!

For more Frugal Fridays ideas, check out Biblical Womanhood.

Introducing The Homeschool Lounge

I just learned about this great new place for homeschool moms to connect online and wanted to share it with you.

The Homeschool Lounge is a FREE online social network community for Homeschool Moms; the very first of its kind! The vision of The Homeschool Lounge is to connect Homeschool Moms from all corners of the web; get advice, give advice, share, learn and laugh with those who truly understand you. There is something for everyone inside the many pages of this pioneer website so go check it out!

Site Features Include:
  • Create your own space
  • Start or join discussions in our Forum
  • Start or join a group
  • Start a Blog or Promote an existing Blog
  • Create a slide show widget of your pictures for your blog
  • Photo Gallery
  • Video Gallery
  • Live Chat
  • Invite other Homeschool Moms, friends and family
  • Members only community ~ All members, all videos and pictures must be approved and only the front page of our site can be viewed by the public for the safety and comfort of our homeschool moms.
Please spread the word and go check out the site! Looks like a tremendous place for all of us to learn, share and grow together!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Frugal Valentine Ideas...Yummy Valentine Treats

LinkWorks for Me Wednesday is being hosted today over at Don't Try This at Home while Shannon is in Uganda.

For Valentine's Day, I have been thinking and planning easy homemade ideas that won't hurt the budget. Here is what I have come up with:

Heart-shaped Microwave Fudge - I will add marshmallows to my daughters. I am also going to try it with peanut butter for my son.

Coconut Clusters and Peanut Clusters for my hubby.

For breakfast, we will have Eggs-in-the-Basket (with cutouts heart-shaped).

And I am going to leave pink and red heart-shaped "love notes" all over the house and in my hubby's lunch and backpack. I am up late after everyone is in bed anyway, so this will be a nice surprise when they wake up.

That's all - enough for me! Just want to express how much I love them!