Thursday, September 30, 2010

I'm so tight I squeak. No, really!

 "Market Day" by Will Moses

I fail at so many things.  Sooooo many.  Oh so many.  But one thing I'm good at is stretching my husband's dollar as far as it will go.  He works his tail off to support our family, goes out and slays dragons for us on a daily basis.  I feel like it's the very least I can do to show him respect for that hard work.

"She sees that her trading is profitable, 
 and her lamp does not go out at night."  
Proverbs 31:18

So what does that even mean? 

It means to make wise choices at the store or in the marketplace.  It means to seek out deals and stock up on them, so that when times are tough, your "lamp will not run out of oil" so to speak.  If our country went deeper into the hole it's currently in, could you feed your family for a year with what's in your pantry and freezer?  How about a month?  A week?  (I don't know where *I* am on that scale, just asking the question.)

I'm not saying we should worry about this, not at all.  It's not about worry. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow
for tomorrow will worry about itself. 
Each day has enough trouble 
of its own."  Matthew 6:34  

It's about wisdom, y'all.  It's about being prepared for any hardship that may come our way.  Our own, or someone else's!  If you have a bit of back stock, you'll be able to help that young single mother down the street when times are tough for her.  You'll be able to stretch out your hands to the needy like that Proverbs 31 woman did (see verse 20).

Remember the ten virgins from Matthew 24?  Yes, that parable is about way more than just keeping the oil stocked.  But there's also the very basic lesson of... well... keeping the oil stocked in anticipation of needing it later.

I thought I'd share some ways you can help bless your husband by stretching his dollar as far as it will go.

Canned goods  Find sales and stock up.  I mean, stock up in a big way.  Canned beans on sale at 3 for $1?  Diced tomatoes at 2 for $1?  Buy all you can.  If there's a limit, go back later and get more or send your adult children to buy them for you.  If that's a hardship, cut something else out of your budget that week and buy $20 worth of beans (if the expiration date isn't too soon). **  Then try not to use it unless you're in a rough patch.  If the expiration dates are coming on, use cans from the front of the stack, buy what you'd use that week at the grocery store, then stick the new cans at the back of the stack.  Basic stock rotation.

Bulk food section  Buy as much as you can from the bulk food section.  Things like pasta, rice, beans, salt, sugar, oatmeal, flour, spices, dried fruits, etc.  I filled a quart jar with ground cinnamon for $1.25 this week.  A small 2-ounce container of ground cinnamon costs twice that much.  Score!

Dried Beans  Did you know that you can make 7 batches of refried beans yourself, for the same price as two cans of already prepared beans?  There are tons of recipes out on the web.  Find one and try it, you'll never go back to canned.  Plus, you can make huge batches and freeze them for later.

Bean soup is a favorite around here, and an absolute staple in fall and winter.  Start with a chopped onion, brown it in olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot.  Add 3 cups of dried beans, some salt and pepper, and two or three smoked ham hocks, then fill to the top with water.  Put the lid on and bring it to a boil.  Let it simmer all day, checking periodically to see if you need to add water.  About an hour before dinner time, fish out the hocks and take the meat off the bones, adding it back to the pot.  Discard the fat, skin and bones.  Add 3 or 4 diced carrots.  Now make yourself some biscuits or Butter Dips (our favorite!) and have yourself a huge meal for less than $5.

You can substitute split peas or lentils (or a combination!) for the dried beans.  Don't add the peas or lentils until about an hour before dinner, when you're pulling the ham hock out.

Meat  Great meat sale?  Buy as much as you can afford, then freeze what you aren't going to use.  Just be sure to re-wrap it at home so it will survive the freezer for a while. **

You can brown your ground beef with a chopped onion and let it cool, then freeze it for later.  So handy on taco night!  You can double your recipe on meat loaf night, then freeze one for later. 

Prep chicken breasts in the way you use them in your recipes and freeze it for later.  Boiled and diced?  Boiled and shredded?  However you use it, prep it and freeze it.

When you boil your chicken, why not make the most out of the electricity and water, and make chicken stock to be used later?  For a 3-pound package of chicken, I add 3 or 4 ribs of celery (just ripped in halves or thirds), 3 or 4 carrots (don't bother to peel, just break in halves or thirds), one medium onion (cut into wedges, don't bother to peel), 3 cloves of garlic (don't peel, just smash once with the side of your knife, about 12 peppercorns and salt to your taste. Fill to the top with water, lid on and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for at least 3 hours (more if you have the time), removing the chicken when it's done. When the stock tastes like you like it, turn the heat off and allow it to cool. Scoop off as much fat from the top as you can. Pour the whole lot through a strainer, then ladle into freezer containers. There! You've boiled your chicken, and you've got stock to use for later!

Potatoes  Great sale on potatoes, but you won't use them before they go bad?  No problem!  Buy those potatoes, then process them and freeze them for use later.  Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes for stews, blanch in boiling water for one minute, then remove from water and allow to drain.  Lay out flat on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and allow to cool, then place tray in freezer.  After potatoes are frozen, put them in freezer bags (Food Saver would be handy, or these ZipLoc Vacuum Bags, they work very well too), label them and keep them in the freezer.  When you make a stew later, add the potatoes about 20 minutes before serving time.  They don't take as long to cook and they taste just as fresh as the day you bought them. 

You can do the same with hash browns (just smaller dice, follow same procedure as with stew potatoes) and mashed potatoes.  Make huge batches of mashed potatoes, let them cool, then parcel them out into freezer bags.  Lay the bags flat while they freeze, then you can stack them, or stand them up file-like in the freezer.  Stand them on a towel so the edges don't crack open.  Just remember to pull the bag out in the morning for that night's dinner.

Corn  Last year I found a wicked deal on corn on the cob, 12 ears for $1.  I bought as much as I could, then blanched it all, sliced it off the cobs, and froze it.  We had summery fresh corn with Thanksgiving dinner!  What a huge treat, and so inexpensive.

Coffee  I'm a bit of a coffee snob m'self, so I won't tell you to buy cheap coffee.  If you told me you have a certain brand you'll drink, and you won't consider compromising?  I'd more likely bless you than curse you.  ;-)  I will say, though, that making your latte at home is a wise choice, and it's generally cheaper to buy beans in bulk and grind them at home.

Cereal  In short?  Skip it.  I thought I was saving money buying cheap cereals for breakfast, but the children were starving again an hour after they ate.  Add the cereal to the constant snacking, and I wasn't saving a dime.  We do oatmeal, wheat farina (Cream of Wheat), Zoom, homemade pancakes with jam, toast and eggs, anything but cereal.  We do still have some sort of awful-for-you sugary cereal on Saturdays.  The children love to pick out their Saturday Cereal, and that's not a hill I choose to die on.

Ditch the drinks  Stop buying juice, soda, bottled water (unless yours is unsafe), Kool-Aid, etc.  You don't need it, you'd be healthier without it, and it takes up so much room in the grocery budget.  We do occasionally splurge on soda, but it's rare.  We drink water with meals, rarely milk.  I have orange juice in the freezer right now, but only because it was ridiculously cheap.

Have a limit  Don't just fill your cart and let the chips fall where they may.  Decide how much you HAVE, and stick to that amount.  Keep a tally going while you're shopping so there will be no surprises at the checkout counter.  I hate having to tell the checker I have to put something back.  Ugh!

Craigslist  Don't forget to check your local orchards and farms.  There is free produce listed on my local Craigslist all the time.  Call around and ask about gleaning programs.  Sometimes an owner will be glad to have you come out and take the last of a crop for free, so he doesn't have to deal with it himself.  That happened to me last year with cherries, apricots, pumpkin, squash, pears and apples.  I canned enough of those items that I haven't had to buy them one time since last spring.  Except apples, that is.  We can never have enough apples on the counter.

But I'm broke!  If your budget doesn't allow for stocking up in a big way, don't lament just yet.  You really can do it!  You can start slow by buying one extra of something you use on a regular basis and then putting that extra aside.  Meat, canned goods, staples, bathroom supplies, etc.

Prayer!  It's listed last, but it's the most important.  Pray!  Pray right there in the car, before you go into the store.  Have the children pray with you.  It will be a great way to show them just exactly Who provided the grocery money, and will teach them to show respect for their father by making wise choices with the money he worked so hard for.  If your budget is so tight that you'd rather cry than shop (you're not alone!), pray as you put each item in your cart.  "Lord, you know we're broke.  And *I* know you always provide for our needs.  Please help me see how this is a blessing.  Help me to be content with what I have, and show me how to use it wisely today.  Please bless my efforts as I endeavor to show my husband respect in this area.  I want to do everything as unto You, Father.  Please guide me in this area as well."

If I've forgotten anything, feel free to add your own wisdom in the comment section!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

OK. This? Is cool.

This family attached a video camera to a weather balloon and sent it to space.  Watch the video.  How fun is that?!

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"What kind of people are you going to be?"

I found this posted this morning on one of my favorite blogs, Like A Warm Cup of Coffee.  It's the most breathtaking thing I think I've ever heard. 

This woman's biological mother, who was 7 1/2 months along, was counseled by a Planned Parenthood employee to abort her child.  !!!!!!!  Even more horrifying than that is the fact that she went through with it.  But, glory to God, they failed.  She was born alive!

Listen to her powerful testimony, given to the parliament in Australia.  You'll never be the same.

Part two...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

There *is* no middle ground, y'all.

I just had to shout out a hearty "Amen!" to this post at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.  The same things can be said for Harry Potter.  I'm just amazed at the unbiblical and unholy things parents allow their children to be involved in.  Or participate in themselves!  Satan and his minions cheer at every inch of compromise, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Cocooned at home today

With two of my three children down with assorted bugs, we'll be spending the day cozied up at home.  We've got Wallace & Gromit going on the DVD player in the living room, and my favorite Chuck Missler sermon series going on Ashley's lap top in the kitchen while I putter around. 

I'm going to try and make some bread today.  We've been out for weeks without missing it, but a big fat piece of toast would have been perfect with my coffee this morning and there wasn't any bread.  I'm wondering if Dan and Ashley would have liked a slice of toast with their coffee, and feeling mighty bad that it wasn't on my radar until it inconvenienced me.  *sigh*  If I could, I'd scoop this selfish gene of mine out with a spoon.

I'm also making a batch of granola to stir into our yogurt.  Interested in the recipe?  Go here.  It's wicked easy and it makes a ton.  I'm leaving out all the dried fruit (dentist's orders) but adding in some pumpkin kernels.  I'm also looking for something to do with chicken for dinner tonight.  I'll check out this page at, there's always some great inspiration there.

There.  Now that I've bored you to tears with all manner of minutiae concerning my Thursday, excite me with the minutiae of yours!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

A note from Ashley, quickly and quietly scratched into the frost on a thawing bag of last year's pumpkin.  Life just doesn't get much better.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A refutation

Children in the kitchen?  What about the mess, you ask?  Here's a great way to take care of that.

No time like the present to learn how to clean up after yourself.  :-)

Have a blessed weekend!

It's not about the mercury...

... although that's reason enough to avoid compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), those fun little curly light bulbs our government would like us all to use.  Get this: they affect asthmatics, MS sufferers, diabetics, anyone with neurological problems.

Please watch this video and you'll be convinced.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A lazy blogger blogroll...

Good morning, I hope this is shaping up to be a fabulous Monday for you.  My morning has been cruising right along.  I decided to clean out the refrigerator this morning, so I can say that I've earned my computer time.  ;-)

I have lots to accomplish today in the clutter and laundry department, so no time for a real post from me.  I'll share a few links to some of my favorites out there in bloggy world instead.  Leave a comment and tell 'em who sent ya. 

Have a blessed day!

Teaching Boys Chivalry at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home
Bloomers for $10 at The Play Dress
Parlor and Kitchen Notes - Just found this blog this morning, looking forward to poking around.
Pleasant View Schoolhouse - She's back!!!  She'd said goodbye and closed up the blog, but she's back!
A Dress a Day - Just like it says... A dress... nearly every day.
Girls' dress patterns for those of us brand new to sewing - Found at The Handmade Dress, a fun blog!

Alrighty then, that should keep you buys for a good hour.  <3

Friday, September 10, 2010

French Fried Cheerios

Oh yes, you heard that right.  French. Fried. Cheerios. 

It was a gloriously chilly morning this morning.  The two youngest went outside to play baseball in the back yard after breakfast.  A few hours later they had earned a few pink noses and rosy cheeks.  I thought I'd surprise them with cocoa and French Fried Cheerios.  It was a hit!  I'm still thankful for the person who turned me on to them, though I don't remember who it was.  Ahem.

Curious?  Of course you are!

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the butter and stir well.  (Adjust both to your own taste, or leave them out entirely if you want.)  Add 6-8 cups of honey nut Cheerios and mix well to coat all the O's with butter.

Stir occasionally with a wide heat-resistant spatula or scraper, working to bring the O's from the bottom of the pan up to the top.  Once the O's start to brown, stir constantly.  The browning will happen quickly now and the O's will burn easily if you let them sit in one spot too long.

Once they're as browned as you'd like, remove them from the pan to a bowl and eat right away.  They'll keep in an airtight container, but I doubt they'll be around long enough for keeping. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Breakfast Club

It's clear that something needs to be done about the breakfast situation around here.

We usually have boring cereal during the week (corn flakes, rice krispies, Cheerios), with some kind of sugary cereal on Saturdays (they love to pick out The Saturday Cereal at the store).  But because breakfast cereal is, essentially, a bowlful of empty calories, they're hungry again and begging for snacks within an hour of finishing.  I can't afford to feed them all day every day, but if they're genuinely hungry I can't just say no.

I'm trying to make breakfast a bit more substantial, hoping to get them through to 10:00 before they're begging for a snack.  Oatmeal and sausage this morning, eggs and toast tomorrow.  I'd love some more suggestions!

If you haven't ever made oatmeal on your stove top, you really should try it.  It's easy and doesn't take much longer than instant.  You can buy old fashioned oats for much cheaper in the bulk foods section than buying a bucket of something off the cereal aisle shelf.

I add flax meal (so good for you!) and brown sugar, but you could do whatever you want.  Leave it plain and add your own strawberry jam or other favorite fruit preserve.  Or smash a few bananas into the pan with maple syrup and a few sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Today we had brown sugar and some chopped up breakfast sausage mixed in.  Yummmmm.

Oatmeal done on the stove top also freezes very well.  When Jonah was a baby, I'd make a big batch and freeze it in Jonah-sized portions.

Stove Top Oatmeal with flax and brown sugar

3 cups liquid (I usually do 1 cup milk and 2 cups water)
2 cups old fashioned oats (not the quick cooking kind)
3 Tablespoons flax meal
5 Tablespoons brown sugar

Bring liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan.  Add oats and stir.  Keep stirring occasionally until oats are almost done, about 5 minutes.  Add flax meal and brown sugar and stir until flax is well incorporated.  Serve hot. 


*  Smashed bananas with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar
*  Strawberry jam, or your other favorite preserves
*  Maple syrup and brown sugar with a few shakes of cinnamon
*  Honey and peaches

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mary-Beth's turn to cook

It's Tamale Pie tonight!  I got the recipe at my favorite recipe site, and adapted it for tonight because I forgot to put everything in the crock pot this afternoon.  Oh, and I forgot to boil the kidney beans this morning.  Ahem.

Brown 2 pounds ground beef with 1 small chopped onion.  Drain and return to pan.

Add one 15-ounce can of red enchilada sauce and stir.  This was when I was supposed to add the kidney beans.  Ahem.  If you wanted to, you could add a drained can of corn or the equivalent of frozen corn.  If you use frozen corn, let the whole lot sit on the stove for a few minutes so the corn can thaw.  Otherwise it's alright to leave the heat off at this point.

Now mix together in a bowl the following:

One box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (or the equivalent of your homemade mix)...

One egg, lightly beaten...

Two tablespoons butter, melted...

1/3 cup milk...

One 4-ounce can of diced, fire-roasted green chiles and 1 cup shredded cheddar-jack cheese.

Mix it all up.

Pour meat mixture into the bottom of a 4-quart casserole dish.  Spoon corn bread mixture over top and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees until the corn bread is done and the sides are bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.  I forgot to set the timer so I have no clue how long it really took.

While dinner's in the oven, have the child clear the rest of the school day mess from the dining room table...

... and set the table.  That's sour cream and chopped green onions on the table there.

Instruct her about what *not* to do with the milk glasses when company's over.  Ahem.

Now have the child take a bowl of chips to the table, and call everyone to dinner.  It. was. Awesome.

It's a cloudy day

*5/11/10 Storm* from the Tri-Cities Area collection at

It's cloudy today.  I adore a cloudy day!  But today is the kind of cloudy day that isn't my favorite.  Gloomy but with no rain to refresh the green things in the neighborhood.  Not warm, but not chilly enough for a sweatshirt.  There's nothing spectacular about today.  We certainly aren't enjoying a fabulous storm like the one captured so beautifully in the photo above by Mr. John Clement.  If you get the chance, you should browse around his website.  I highly recommend his famous lightning collection.

So as I was saying, it's a blah kind of day.  Nothing remarkable, nothing noteworthy.  I usually love cloudy days, loving fall like I do, but I prefer my cloudy days to be windy and, if at all possible, blanketed in rain.  But man, today's blah is zapping me in the motivation department.  It's just so lukewarm!

Life is like that sometimes, isn't it.

It is so easy to kick it into autopilot and sail through unremarkable days like today.  Allowing my lukewarm surroundings to dull my senses and put me in a lukewarm mood, answering my children with a lukewarm voice, taking care of my home with a lukewarm attitude.  We all (well... I...) need days like today to give us respite from the dramatic up-and-down that can be the homeschooling lifestyle (super good days, super bad days), but I'm glad they don't happen very often.

We read Revelation 20, 21 and 22 today, trying to figure out what life will be like then.  Can you imagine a climate that allows fruit trees to produce an entire harvest each month?!  Yowza.  I can guess that the weather would have to be fairly constant, not given to extremes.  But really, who knows?  It's the new heavens and the new earth we're talking about here.  God can call the entire universe into existence with a single word, He can surely make trees bear fruit in any weather.  I have no idea how He's going to work it, but I'm excited to find out.

And I'll bet there'll be nothing lukewarm about the weather.

Friday, September 03, 2010

I never thought about it this way...

Christians, what would God have said to an Israelite who put their children on a bus and sent them to the Philistines every morning to be educated?  

(found at this blog, which is now at the top of my bookmark list)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A giveaway of the best kind

I'd never heard of Marie-Madeline Studio before, but now that I have?  Can't wait to poke around there.  The cutest aprons:

Look at these lovely skirts for women and girls!

There are six different bags to choose from:

Everything is made by hand by a woman and her four daughters.  And the fabrics!  Oh, such beautiful fabrics.

I found out about Marie-Madeline Studio via one of my favorite blogs, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.  Go there to enter for a chance to win the giveaway.  Yes, a giveaway!  A custom-made apron!  Besides the fact that it's a giveaway (read: free), it's aprons.  Aprons, man!
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