Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something For Nothing






This past weekend, our local Master Gardeners put on a clinic all about propagating plants and how best to grow tomatoes. For us, that's fun!

Propagation sounds like a big word, but I bet most of you have done something along the lines without even knowing it. If you've ever taken a fallen leaf off an African violet and put it in dirt and watched it grow into a brand new plant, that's propagation! It can be done in different ways for different plants and with different words; grafting, cuttings, layerings, plant division and others.



 We have several fruit trees, some grapes, 4 types of berries and lavender on our property and to be able to make more plants FROM them without any added expense is perfect when you are watching your budget.



Yesterday we went over to my daughter's house and took 8 cuttings off her Meyer lemon tree and I'm hoping they take. She is going to be moving soon and the lemons off this tree are DIVINE!! And you know.... it only takes 5 years until the cuttings produce fruit of their own. We are willing to wait!

Growing some or all of the fruit and vegetables you want to eat after you retire is thrifty and healthy. Fresh fruit and vegetables are probably one of the most expensive parts of a grocery trip and it doesn't matter where you live, you can grow something. Whether its in a pot by the front door, your patio, actual raised beds in your backyard, mixed in among your flowers or even on your windowsill indoors, growing food or herbs will save you money. Additionally, you can duplicate house plants, succulents and many bedding flowers FOR FREE!

We decided last year that it was worth it to pay a small fee to have a space in our local Community Garden two blocks away. In California, you can literally grow year round if you choose what you grow by its hardiness. Right now we have shelling peas, garlic, beets, spinach, brussels sprouts, kale, cilantro, carrots, turnips, potatoes, radishes and scallions there. And that is on a space about 15 ft by 30 ft. We lovingly call it our little Produce Stand. We are passionate about eating healthy food and we know how our food is grown.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your spending on groceries, give vegetable and fruit gardening a try. Your local community extension offices probably have Master Gardeners and programs too that can help you with anything from pests, to soil testing to what to grow in your area. And most of what you will learn is completely free.  I made a little VIDEO about our trip so you can see just how many people of all ages came to our propagation clinic.

Here are also some books if you are interested in getting started with propagating your own plants.

   

 



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Copycat Vanilla Soy Chai




One of my favorite drinks at Starbucks is the Grande size, Vanilla Soy Chai. But, wow, has it ever gotten expensive! I want to say when I started drinking this drink about 10 years ago it was $3.75, which was expensive but now it is $4.75! Probably a lot like you, I don't always think about the cost when I go in. I have a Starbucks card, I faithfully reload my card about twice a month and I spend what's on there and reload again. 

Now that we are trying to live on quite a bit less but not give up the "good life", I was determined to make the drink at home and make it taste like my favorite coffeehouse drink. To my surprise, it was very simple and economical! 

HERE'S the Video where I show you how simple it is to make!

I'll give you a little breakdown of the expense. 

  • Soymilk is $2.98 for a half gallon and I use 1/8 of the gallon for the drink, so .37 in milk
  • Vanilla syrup is 12.2 oz for $3.98 and I use a little under 1 oz. for a drink, .33 in syrup
  • Tazo Chai tea mix is $3.28 for 32 oz. and I use 1/4 in my drink,  .90 for Chai mix
That is a whopping $1.60 for a Grande size drink! Compare that to $4.75 for the same thing at Starbucks! A savings of $3.15 for doing it myself and it is a drink you can drink hot or over ice. 

YOU can do this YOURSELF with whatever drink you like. And if you don't get it right the first time, keep trying! Pretty soon you will and you'll be saving money just like us. 

Thanks for visiting today and come back soon!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Preservation Saturday

You'll never guess what we did this week! Went to our local supermarket and bought 50 lbs. of russet potatoes. Yup, the REALLY big bag. I have been getting the canning bug and wanted to make some canned potatoes for my pantry.


Canning is a really good way to save money if your already own your equipment. I've been doing this since 2010 and slowly building up my supplies over the years. Now my canning costs are mainly for jars, rings and lids. I keep the rings and use them over and over but the lids need to be replaced after each use. And the jars I can still pick up on Craigslist pretty cheaply. I also shop the "end of season" sales every year. 

So, I bet you are wondering just how many quart jars of potatoes you can get from 50 lbs of potatoes and the answer would be.... about 18 to 20 quarts. We're halfway through the bag and have done up 14 quarts leading me to believe it will be more like 28 quarts of potatoes in the end. That works out to .35 per jar. Now you are probably saying to yourself, "Why would I go through all that trouble to can potatoes when I could just buy them?" and that may be true for you. But... there are more potatoes in a quart jar than in a can that you buy at the store by double. Those cans are typically 16 oz. cans and a quartt jar is 32 oz. Again, a money savings. In addition, jars are reusable so less trash to put at the curb and landfills. And imagine how wonderful your pantry will look! Having preserved food available makes for meals in minutes. Imagine a stew with home canned meat, potatoes, carrots, celery and onion. All done up in less than half an hour and fork tender! Or maybe a great little chicken vegetable soup ready to come directly out of the jar into the pan. If you grow vegetables or fruits, you can pick the produce at the peak of their ripeness and make a lovely jar of jelly or jam, applesauce, dill pickles and even beans to put into chili. 

The skills are not difficult to learn and most counties have an agricultural extension that offers lessons to the public. As a matter of fact, I went to one at my local county extension office on Introduction to Canning. The demo was on making a very simple applesauce that was water bath canned and was it ever delicious! We have a little apple tree in our backyard and when the apples come this year, I want to try out a BUNCH of apple things in my canner. ( And make some vinegar, but that's for another day!) 

Needless to say, I was so excited I came home and decided to put some corned beef into jars and give it a try. We needed to make room in our freezer for the new corned beef as it goes on sale this upcoming week. I cube up the corned beef, give it a quick little fry in some olive oil mainly so the cubes don't stick to each other in the jar, put them in the jar with some hot water and a little salt and seal them up. Process for 75 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure and voila! We will have something for our lunch and for quick dinners. It ended up making 5 pints from a pretty large brisket round. Cannot wait to eat it! It will be so tender after its little cook up! 

Why not think about getting together some supplies and developing a new skill. You can start with fruit. The tools required are pretty economical and you may even get lucky and find some of the canning items at garage sales or thrift shops. These are some of the items I would recommend a brand new canner to get: 
  1. Water Bath Canner
  2. Ball Utensil Set for Preserving Now this is great because you get all the most common tools, a jar lifter, bubble remover / headspace tool, magnetic lid lifter and a jar funnel
  3. The Ball Preserving Book. Pretty much the "Bible" of how to can complete with recipes, time tables, tips
  4. Big Pots, Canning jars, lids, rings, wooden spoons and a good supply of fruit along with the recipes.
Canning is a great thing to learn and fun! There are many "How-To" videos on YouTube as well. 

My process....

  • Buy the potatoes of course...

  • Wash, peel, cube the potatoes  



  •  The Potato Washing Area
A place to peel the 'taters.... no not into the garbage disposal.... you will regret it. Of course our compost LOVED the addition!

  • Put cubed potatoes in a large roaster of boiling water to boil for 10 min. This helps to reduce the starchy water.


  • Put cubed potatoes into jars using a slotted spoon so you leave the starchy water behind. Here is my stainless canning funnel.



  • I will top the quart jars with 1 tsp of salt now while I can still see it. Take it from me, you don't want to make a mistake here! Add boiling water to prescribed headspace, non-chlorinated is best. We pick up a couple bottles of drinking or spring water from the store. Wipe the rims clean with a towel that has been wetted with white vinegar and place lid and ring.  Pop the completed jar into the canner. When the canner is full, in my case, 7 quarts, we put the lid on and wait for the canner to vent for 10 minutes before putting the weight on the top. Then it processes for 40 minutes under pressure and is allowed to come down to pressure with the lid on. You will more than likely hear the pressure pin drop. Remove the lid and let them sit for another 10 minutes or so to acclimate to to the temperature of the room some. Remove the jars to a towel without tipping them from side to side at all. You will probably see boiling continuing in the jars and that is normal and you will hear the POP of the lids as they cool, proof that the vacuum sealing has occurred. Allow the jars to sit for 24 hours undisturbed. Then you can remove the rings and label and put on the shelf for up to 1 year safely and nutritiously.

Voila!! Beautiful jars of canned potatoes! I hope you will give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Thanks for joining me today in my little preserving venture. 

By the way you guys, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I'm hoping to get our YouTube channel up and running soon so the explanations, like today's, don't take so much reading. You can go over there now and subscribe and set up notifications so when we make our video,  you will be the first to know. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

DIY Tuesday - Teacup Bird Feeder







Gifts can be challenging when you retire. You want to give something nice that they would enjoy but things just seem so expensive these days. Well, have I got a fun little project for you today! You can make it with things you have or things you find at a garage sale or thrift shop. And it is ADORABLE!! I want these all over my yard in different colors and sizes! And you can even bring them indoors, put little succulent plants inside and enjoy them on counters, walls and coffee tables. 

I found this little idea on Pinterest so the idea didn't originate with me. BUT... oh my gosh you guys... they turn out so cute! Head on over to Pinterest and take a look at all the different ways this can be done. And while you are there, follow me! Here is what you are going to need to make one like my example. 


  • A teacup and saucer (the fancier the better!)


  • Masking tape

  • Bird seed, succulent plants or whatever you envision inside (candy might be good too!)


Here are a few of the combos I found:

The first is from a little thrift shop around the corner. Paid $1.91 for each item, plate and saucer. Oh, and we got a senior citizen markdown of 10% when we asked for it.







This set was from our local Goodwill and did come as a wrapped set for $2.99 again with another 10% off for being senior citizens. (Don't feel bad about asking if there is a way to discount the already low prices!) 




And last but not least, I found this set at our local Marshall's store for "full price" which was $6.99. It is my favorite by far because I'm really into the fancy little floral things. 


Now the how to's.....

After scanning a bunch of photos on Pinterest, I decided for my first try I would do the simple, "lay the teacup on its side on the saucer" kind. I put some E6000 glue right on the top rim of the cup opposite the handle side and a little more glue at the base where the cup would naturally touch. The tape was applied through the handle and wrapped down around the bottom tight enough to hold things in place until they dried, which I left for 24 hours to be on the safe side. 

Can you imagine a sweet little garden of roses and baby breath with little teacups scattered all about in it? I have a bunny yard for my rabbit, Jack, and I'm on the lookout for Beatrice Potter cups! You can use the small plate holders to hand them on a fence or wall with plants or birdseed in them. Imagine how Mom would feel getting a cute little flower or succulents plant on Mother's Day. They make such cute and inexpensive gifts and can be changed up for each season and setting.

I hope you try it today and if you do, shoot on over to our Facebook page and leave a photo. I'd love to see what you come up with!



Monday, March 6, 2017

MeatLESS Mondays - Spinach Tomato Tortellini Soup



Soup is so good! I could literally eat it at every meal. You can put in meat, veggies, herbs and spices, pasta, rice and the list goes on and on. For today's meal we are going to be making Spinach Tomato Tortellini Soup that I found over on the Damn Delicious website. As I've stated before, it is meatLESS NOT meat free. We do eat eggs and dairy on our meatLESS Mondays. 

What I like about this soup is how quick and easy it is. You buy the fresh pasta tortellini, or in our case this week, little mini cheese filled ravioli. You can used homemade chicken broth or buy that at the store too. And the vegetables and herbs; garlic, onion, spinach, basil, oregano and bay leaf, if you're lucky, can all be grown in a small home garden. The vegetables we use a lot of during the year, we buy in bulk cases from Costco as well as the broth and that helps to keep the overall price down. Also, since it is enough for 4 servings, we can save half the soup for another night this week with sandwiches. So without further ado... let's make some soup!

(Printable recipe in link above)



Spinach Tomato Tortellini Soup (serves 4)


1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Cloves of garlic, minced (I use 3 tsp. of the ready made from the store)
1 Onion, diced
4 Cups chicken broth
1 Cup water
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (9 oz.) package refrigerated three cheese tortellini
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Cups baby spinach, chopped
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese




  • Heat 1 Tbsp of live oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.



  • Whisk in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tortellini (or baby ravioli), basil, oregano, bay leaf and 1 cup of water; season with salt and pepper, to taste





  • Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tortellini is cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in spinach until it begins to wilt, about 2 minutes.







  • Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese.







We're having ours with the King Arthur Flour Bakealong #9 - Butterflake Herb Loaf. I LOVE making homemade bread and this one is interesting in appearance and taste. I also love challenging myself to make different kinds of bread (takes up all those hours I could be out shopping!!)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Growing Saturdays: The Produce Stand

We live in one of the most beautiful places around, the Central Coast of California. Mild winters, hardly any time during the year that you can't grow your own food. Our little town of Grover Beach is surrounded by fields of strawberries, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, blueberries... well you name it and it is probably being grown here!








On our home lot we grow blueberries, grapes, ollalieberries, blackberries, yellow raspberries, fuyu persimmons and apples. Not bad for an ordinary backyard that also has grass. Well, it has grass during some parts of the year. We also have chickens that do their "free ranging" out there so they deplete the grass by the end of summer. BUT, in return, we are given lovely, rich yellow yolk eggs so we don't mind. I also grow 2 beds of various herbs that we use to enhance the flavor of our cooking.





And best of all, we have a share in a community garden just down the street from us. It is a plot that is  12' wide by 20' long. We've put in some raised beds little by little and everyone of them is full of FOOD! Right now, we are finishing up the cold season with a box of garlic, a row of spinach, 2 cabbage plants and 6 Brussels sprouts plants. We also grow strawberries, kale, turnips, radishes, spring onions, carrots, beets, leaf lettuce, potatoes and sweet green peas.

Lately we've been calling our little garden space "The Produce Stand" because when we need something, we just walk over and harvest something nice for dinner or lunch. Do you know how much you can save growing food of your own? A LOT!









Fresh produce can be one of the most expensive parts of an average grocery bill each week. And you cannot always be sure of the farming practices that bring that wonderful food to you. Is it grown organically? Did they use heirloom style plants? Spray or fumigate for pests and bugs? Wouldn't it be nice if you could control all of that? That's what we thought as well. We created a yard out back that our chickens couldn't get to to put most of our berries in. The chickens will "crop" the bottom berries of our ollallieberry bushes but thankfully, enough grow above that always have a good harvest for jam.





You may be thinking you don't have the space for a garden or maybe even the water. We have been in an almost 10 year drought here in California and we still found the water to sustain our plants even if it meant quick little 3 min. showers to keep ourselves clean so we had water to share with the plants. You can grow in containers, put in decorative plants that are edible in your front yard or grow kitchen sprouts. There are many ways to garden if you want to save money! 

It's only March and we have already harvested nearly 2 lbs of spinach, 25 turnips, several bunches of radishes and scallions, kale nearly every week, collard greens once a week and 6 giant purple cauliflowers. In another couple of weeks we will be harvesting beets, our Brussel sprouts and both a red and green cabbage, hopefully for St. Patty's Day! Because we garden, we are able to eat seasonally, locally and sustainably grown food. 




Grand-daughter Audrey enjoying the Produce from the PRODUCE STAND



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thrifty Thursday



Being thrifty has gone out of style I think. Things being so cheap for the most part it's just easier to replace them. Sad... and wasteful. When I was little, my mom used to tell me


“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Boyd K Packer

And boy we did! Our knees were patched our shoes had holes and were coming apart, I wore my older sister's hand-me-downs and when things were purchased, they were of good quality so they would last. 

Being thrifty is a state of mind. It's about using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully. Think how much money you can save if you aren't a clothing "slave" to style, color, brand, etc. I mean, who can really afford to change out their entire wardrobe, season after season, year after year. I'm lucky to have been a "stay at home" mom, now retired and I could literally wear what I want day after day. I've adopted a fairly simple "jeans and t-shirt" wardrobe. I can find good used t-shirts and jeans at Goodwill or even on sale at Walmart.


Are you wasting your money on food that you throw away each week because you didn't eat it? Are you buying a bunch of needless "stuff" that you have today and will sell or donate tomorrow? Are you in debt from trying to "Keep Up With The Joneses?" Think about where your dollar goes on a daily basis. What are you buying and why? Can you find a way to do it with less money? With NO money? 




Today I'm going to give you 5 thrifty ideas we use to save money....



  1. Unless your clothes are stinky, stained or really dirty.... wear them more than one time before you wash them. You will save on water from washing and have fuller and fewer loads of laundry to do each week. And think of this... the lint in your dryer lint trap? Yes, that is your clothes falling apart little by little. Washing less means your clothes will actually last longer.
  2. Food... look at your leftovers from the week. A bit of rice? Some mixed veggies? A couple of chicken tenders? How about your fresh veggies left at the end of the week that weren't made into salad? You could make a soup or even a casserole with leftovers making for a completely FREE dinner once a week. You may even want to think ahead while you are cooking and purposely save out a bit of food each night to make the 7th night supper.
  3. Composting.....Our leftover leftovers go to our chickens next. They get to go through and see if there is anything they would like to eat and that saves us on our chicken food bill. When they have had their fill, we scoop it up and put it into our compost bins. There it stays and rots and is turned a time or two by the chickens, eventually winding up on our gardens where we grow more food. Free fertilizer and rich compost complete with earthworms! 
  4. Once a week have a no spend day and once a year try an entire month! If you aren't really sure what that means, click on this YouTube link:  "No Spend Month"One of the hardest things my husband and I are having is what to do when you're not consuming. Doesn't that sound awful??!! But shopping takes time. You walk up and down the aisles, choose, stand in line to buy, drive from here to there and then unpack everything when you get home. What if one day you just decided to try on NOT BUYING anything? Now what do you fill your time with? You can tell from all the debt people have that there is something we've been programmed to do and that is BUYING! Human Beings LOVE Shopping and CONSUMING stuff... sometimes useful items and sometimes things just to make ourselves feel a certain way. It is really something to think about and come to terms with. 
  5. Keep an annual change jar. At the end of the day, empty the change from your pockets into the jar AND DON'T EVER REMOVE ANY OF IT for the entire year. You'd be surprised at how much money you can save over the course of the year. On average, we save approximately $150 a year doing this. This year I heard an idea to save every $5 bill you receive as change. Just put it away, out of sight, out of mind. (and don't get into that savings area for the whole year either!!) I'm going to try that one and I'll let you know.
There are literally hundreds of ways to save and be more frugal and thrifty. And Thrifty is NOT a bad thing to be. 

What kinds of advice would you give on being Thrifty? I'd love to hear your thoughts in comments below. I'll try to feature some in future Thrifty Thursday posts and thanks in advance!


Blessings.....

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