Category Archives: Saving Money

Stocking up the freezer!

My lovely husband hauled home our new chest freezer late last month. It makes a wonderful addition to our downstairs bathroom, which had an awkward blank spot that is exactly freezer-shaped.

Having a freezer means I don’t have to worry so much about what will fit in the freezing compartment. It means I can buy fresh, local/in-season produce and save it up for when it’s no longer in-season.

I’m new to freezing, mostly, and my vegetable repertoire still isn’t fantastic, so what I’ve been up to probably doesn’t hold a candle to many people’s stocks. Freezing is kind of taking a back seat to making baby food, too, though it also goes hand-in-hand at times.

So far, in the freezer:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • A few peaches
  • Corn off the cob

Baby food:

  • Peaches
  • Green beans
  • Squash
  • Carrots and sweet potatoes are next

The freezer fruit will probably end up mostly as smoothies. Maybe it’s not saving me all that much money in the end, but it makes me feel really accomplished to have it done.

I haven’t tried my hand at any canning. The only thing I think I might use is tomatoes.

What do you freeze or can?

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Filed under Feeding Babies, Recipes, Saving Money

I Made A Whole Chicken!

Me! I did! I made a whole chicken!

And it was easy. Check out this simple slow-cooker recipe at 100 Days of Real Food. Throw in the chicken, rub it with some spices, cook. Mine went exactly four hours, and while the meat wasn’t actually falling off the bone, it was really tender. I think I’ll try adjusting the spices a little differently next time — a little more salt, for instance. But there will be a next time. There was enough from the 3.5 pound bird for a chicken dinner, quesadillas the second day, and enough to put in the freezer for something like more quesadillas.

The blog also follows up with simple directions for using your leftover carcass to make your own chicken stock. I now have 12 cups of it in my refrigerator! Now, where to put it…

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Portobello Mushroom Burgers, and Updates

Thanks to Emily for suggesting portobello mushrooms as an entree. I saw some at the store today and took a  shot at this recipe for Portobello Mushroom Burgers with herbed mayo, spinach and cheese. They were pretty good — maybe a B+. They would have been better on the suggested hard rolls — I had regular hamburger buns on hand.

Have freezer meal, on-the-go breakfasts, or granola bar recipes to share? I’d love to hear about them.

Some updates:

  • Took a stab at microwaving yesterday’s frozen Breakfast Casserole Bites. They reheated reasonably well — removing the foil liners was kind of annoying, though.
  • The lasagna never made it to the freezer…
  • On last week’s goals:
  • 1. Take the baby on at least two walks.

    2. Try out our cloth diapers, starting Monday afternoon after our newborn class.

    3. Serve a veggie with every supper this week.

    4. Make a batch of twice-baked potatoes to freeze.

    5. Clean out the fridge.

    6. Order a smaller garbage bin.

    7. Only two trips to the coffee shop this week!

    8. Research laundry detergent recipes.

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Filed under Links of Interest, Personal, Recipes, Saving Money

Results of the Three-Recipe Nap

My lovely baby — who last week wasn’t into napping — today slept from the start of our grocery foray, through the store, the unpacking, a load of dishes, a load of laundry,

baking a new snack recipe,

baking a new freezer-breakfast recipe,

making a new supper recipe,

and the eating of said supper. And unloading the aforementioned dishes.

This is the story of those three recipes.

First up, Chewy Granola Bars. I’d give them about a C+, which is partly my fault as I didn’t read any of the reviews. I made mine with full-size dark chocolate chips, but only one cup, and 1/3 cup of coconut. My goal was to make granola bars, a early-morning staple of this breastfeeding mom, for cheaper than I buy them. It was probably cheaper — I never really crunched the numbers. But this particular recipe led to fairly dry and crumbly bars. I’m not sure how portable they’ll be. They’ll probably all get eaten, but I’d try a different recipe next time.

Second was a recipe for Breakfast Casserole Bites from 100 Days of Real Food. Basically, they’re egg, bread, meat, and cheese baked in a muffin tin. The blog says you can freeze them  — I guess  I’ll know more tomorrow about how realistic that is. My hope was to make a cheap, on-the-go breakfast item for both my husband, who isn’t a big breakfast person, and me, whose previously noted baby often spends half the morning eating. We tried one fresh out of the oven, and  it was  pretty good. My husband’s adjective, which I don’t recall, was pretty favorable. I think I’d give it at least a B for now, but I’ll try to remember to report how well they freeze. (The recipe calls for natural and organic items; I used what I had on hand, which was non-natural/organic.)

Third but perhaps first in successfulness was Chicken Alfredo Stromboli from Taste of Home’s cooking-for-two magazine. Basically, it’s a baguette with a sour-cream parmesan mixture, chicken, mushrooms, and mozzarella. It isn’t a true stromboli, really more of an open-faced sandwich, but it was yummy. Quick, too — took me 22 minutes from start to finish with thawed chicken but a frozen baguette. My husband suggested of his own free will that it could go into our regular dinner rotation. I’d give it an A!

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To “Work” Or Not To Work?

My mom was a “stay-at-home-mom,” so it’s really hard for me to imagine handing my child over to someone else for 40 hours a week. It feels like someone else would be raising my child. And even if it were a close relative, something just doesn’t feel totally settled about it in my gut. Probably most moms feel that way.

Before my baby arrived almost two months ago now(!), I was not working. A contract job I was at ended a few months before she was due, and it didn’t seem like the best time in life to job hunt after that.

Now the standard “maternity leave” time is ending, so it’s time to more seriously consider whether to “work” or not to “work”?

I use the quotation marks because being a stay-at-home-mom — or homemaker, to refer to this lovely blog title — isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card from working. Watching children 24/7 requires special patience. Then there’s cleaning, laundry (washing, folding, and putting away thereof), meal-planning, grocery shopping, cooking, general penny-pinching, household maintenance…

We could really stand to be a two-income family again. But as we crunch the numbers of buying care for our new tiny human, the income we have left after paying a sitter leaves us wondering: Is it worth it? Would my time be better spent at home, trying to save us money? There are intangibles like my sanity to consider, but I’m still on the line.

  • Certainly, if the number of tiny humans we own increases, affording day care will pretty much be out of the question.
  • Someday we will be out of tiny humans, though, and I’ll want to have my skills sharp.
  • I could try to find what home-based work I can.
  • How realistic is that? — that I’ll find/create any, and that I’ll be able to manage it.
  • I have a bachelor’s degree, and am still paying for it. Shouldn’t I be using it?

Etc., etc.

For some moms, they love to work, and that’s that. I enjoy certain jobs, but I am a homebody. Other moms work solely for the health insurance. Like them all, I want what’s best for my family, but I’m not sure what that is.

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Upcoming Experiments

Special thanks to Natalie for her comment last week about making her own dishwasher detergent. It’s inspired me to try and do the same, and possibly a few other DIY projects.

First up, I’m going to try and make cloth diaper wipes. Some people I’ve mentioned this to seem turned off by it, but it’s not going to cost me much to give it a shot. I spent $5.50 on some flannel yesterday; I plan to cut it up, arrange rectangles wrong sides together, and surge the edges. Might as well make a few burp rags while I’m doing that.

Then, I’m going to try my hand at homemade dishwasher detergent. I haven’t settled on any particular recipe yet. Does anyone have suggestions to share?

(Side note: In the comments of the blog Natalie pointed me to, I found this link to a blog by a dishwasher repairman. He had some great points about how dishwashers work and mentioned one natural additive, LemiShine. I bought some and am going to try it out. He also mentioned that liquid detergents are bad for your dishwasher.)

If that’s not a total disaster, I’d like to try laundry detergent as well. Again, any suggestions?

And if neither of those are disasters (and knowing me, that could be a big if!), DIY stain remover and diaper detergent are next on the list. I’ve also read this week about DIY cheese and DIY shampoo, but I think those are out of my league.

All of these, of course, are baby willing…

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Coupons Hate Me

It is possible to waste — yes, waste — an entire afternoon trying to print coupons.

About a week ago, I found this great, long list of grocery coupons. It would be fantastic to save a bunch on groceries, especially as a one-income family at present. I’ve watched some of the “Extreme Couponing” episodes and been inspired by people who basically get their 17 carts-full for free — and though I am not interested in multiple-cart or multiple-transaction orders or a stockpile of hoarding proportions, I’d like to build a small pantry up. Small as in parts of a cupboard currently full of other junk.

So Sunday, I ran out to my parents’ house to print off some coupons — our printer was out of order. But when I went to start printing off my selected coupons, I found you have to download a program from most coupon sites. Decided I didn’t want to download a program onto my parents’ computer — not crazy about downloading one onto any computer!

I started putting some elbow grease into fixing our printer and, to make a long story slightly shorter, I tried twice unsuccessfully to install the printer software onto my computer and finally managed to get my husband’s to print a simple document.

Home printers are aggravating enough.

Coupon suppliers make printing coupons so complicated that you’ll probably never use their product. (You’ll have been a hit on their site and viewed the ads, which is where they make their real money.) I tried several times to download the coupon printing program onto my husband’s computer — each time it said cheerfully, “Your coupons are waiting on your printer.” Ha. I wish.

Why is it so difficult to display the coupon right on the site, so you can just print the page you’re looking at and be done with it? I just want to save 35 cents on a can of soup and $1 on two other things I might not have bought otherwise. At most, I thought I had contrived a way to use several coupons and get 10 Yoplait yogurts for half price — only if I bought 10.

For now I will have to appease myself with the thought of using my $5-off-your-bill coupon at Cub next week.

P.S. If the baby cooperates, my goal within the next week is to compare the prices of things I regularly buy at Cub to their prices next door at Target, when available. I know cereal is considerably cheaper — what other surprises are there, and how much could I save by shopping at more than one store each week? I know my mom has split her shopping up for as long as I can remember.

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