Friday, November 22, 2013

Frugal Fridays: Meals and Snacks for Travelling (and games too!)

Lord willing, we plan to do a little travelling this upcoming week. As with any trip we take, my mind always goes to: "What are we going to eat?" In an effort to save money while going from place to place, we always try to bring along meals and snacks. Depending on the length of the trip, sometimes we manage to bring along ALL the meals and snacks. However other times we are only able to bring along SOME of the meals and snacks ... but that's ok! Something is certainly better than nothing. Subway with the 'five dollar footlongs' or Taco Bell with the dollar burritos sure come in handy for times when we are not able to bring all the meals.

We have a joke that I will not get too much in to, but we have a name we call our little 'travelling restaurant' and anyone who travels with us more than once in a while knows this said 'restaurant' will always have some sort of snack or meal or both planned for the road. I was thinking how this would be fun for a family with younger children - it would really give them something fun to do and responsibility too. Let them help plan the meals and snacks, pack the plates, cups, forks, spoons, etc. Don't forget extra napkins and a few bags for trash!! They could even make up a menu with 'prices'. Maybe surprise treats could be given 'here and there' to keep things interesting in a long ride?

On a side note ... we keep a box of 'car games' in the game closet that is ready to grab when we need to go. This box includes one-player games and puzzles (we like the ones from Thinkfun like brick by brick, shape by shape, etc.)
and magnetic games like travel checkers and backgammon. We also include educational cards - such as a pack of cards with animals on the front and information about that animal on the back or famous buildings on the front with info on the back. My daughter likes to quiz us, so she has a few quiz-type decks of cards on hand. We had a bible trivia game with all the questions on little cards. We found we all enjoyed answering the questions but could care less about playing the game, so I threw out the game board and put the cards in a zip baggie to keep in our 'car game' box. We did the same thing with a trivia game about the United States. We hardly ever played the game but we sure do like answering the questions! These kinds of things are really fun on car rides. And I cannot end this section without mentioning our all time favourite car trip game: one person draws one thing on a piece of paper and hands it to the next person. That person then draws something else and hands it to the next person. The paper gets passed around the car to each person and each person adds something to the picture. With different ages and personalities, it is so fun to watch the picture and the story come to life!! We have a lot of fond memories with this game.

Ok, back to meals and snacks ...

Before we go on a trip we always try to visit the discount stores to see what they have that travels easy. A few in our area will have granola-type bars, 4 or 5 for a dollar. Not just the junky ones either!! They have Lara Bars and Kind Bars :)
They also have all sorts of crackers and chips, some even organic. Dips and spreads too ... and once again, some even organic. If we are in a pinch and  unable to make homemade bread, the discount stores have whole wheat buns and bread for $1 or so a loaf. This is always nice when we are in a time crunch and it would be much more stressful to make bread than to just spend a few dollars on a few loaves.

So ... what's for lunch?
Any kind of wrap or sandwich travels well if wrapped up in foil individually. Not too long ago I was at a Trader Joe's in another state and saw they had hummus wraps - hummus with shredded raw veggies wrapped in a flour tortilla. YUM! I copied this and we all liked the results. Since hummus are thick, no mess was left behind in the vehicle.

Sometimes if we are going to eat soon I will make hot sandwiches - some kind of meat (shredded chicken from a whole chicken cooked at home is the cheapest and best in my opinion), mayo and/or cheese, wrapped in foil and warmed up in the oven.

We've also made 'pancake sandwiches' -- pancakes with nut butter, jam, fruit or any other appropriate thing in between make nice, handy meals.

I guess the possibilities are endless.

For snacks we like to bring homemade things like muffins or crackers, however we also bring along whatever we found at the discount store as well as other things from our pantry that need to be used up while we are gone.

Speaking of 'used up while we are gone' ... whenever you are going on a trip, it is best to plan a few snacks and meals around what needs to go. Clean out your fridge so nothing is left growing while you are gone and nothing gets wasted.

That's all the time I have for now because I must get ready for our trip!! Please share your car-ride ideas and tips.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Frugal Fridays: Eating In Season

It's pretty much a no-brainer by now, right? It's cheaper to eat in season. Not only that, it's healthier too.

Right now sweet potatoes and apples are in. Last night Brianna chopped up some sweet potatoes (from our garden - we had white and orange sweet potatoes this year) and apples (purchased for 20 cents a pound in bulk). She added about a tablespoon of butter, cinnamon, about a tablespoon of sweetener (rapadura) and raisins in a 9x13 baking dish, covered it and baked till tender. The result was very, very delicious, though the photo, in my opinion, does not do it justice :)

We have this quite often when sweet potatoes are in season. If you did not grow your own, pay attention to the store ads because RIGHT NOW is the time they begin to go on sale ... I've seen them as low as 19 cents a pound within the last 4 years. When they get that low we really stock up as they store quite a while in a cool, dry, dark place (not the refrigerator - it's too cold. For best results, keep them above 55 but not much more than that!!).

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to pressure can beans using an All American weighted-gauge canner AND an old dial-gauge canner

Here is a short demonstration video I did on canning beans using an All American weighted-gauge pressure canner and an old dial-gauge pressure canner; I pray it is useful for new canners!! I used to be so afraid of pressure canning until I finally saw someone else doing it ... and I quickly learned that it was not scary after all!

This post was featured on Heritage Homesteader's Blog Hop :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mockingbird Singing

Today we stopped a while to listen to a Mockingbird sing. After several minutes I realized I could record it. You cannot see the bird but you can hear him :) We see them quite frequently but I never think to get a recording usually until it's too late.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Frugal Fridays - Repurposing / Upcycling Clothes

It's good to have vision when visiting the thrift store.

We have a very nice thrift store a few blocks away and we try to visit it as much as possible (which ends up being a few times a month). There are several little girls in our church with busy mamas who do not really have the time or resources to make things like underskirts, aprons, and so on, so Brianna happily does this for some of them. Instead of starting 'from scratch' with new fabric though, we search the thrift store for anything that looks like it could be turned in to what we want. Skirts, jumpers, big shirts, sheets, curtains, etc., can all become something 'new' and needed with a few cuts and stitches 'here and there' ... maybe some elastic and/or buttons ... and some imagination or vision. I guess it helps to not be afraid to experiment; even if all you learn is what does NOT work, at least you learned something and are one step closer to what DOES work.

I made a video to share what we've been up to ... if for some reason pictures work better for you, please let me know and I will post pictures and the video from here on out when I have time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Homemade Pizza Rolls

Last Thursday morning I made pizza rolls for breakfast ... and they turned out VERY GOOD ... so I thought I would use this as my first "Tasty Tuesday" post. From here on out, I hope to have something to post each Tuesday that is worth making. I'm sure I'll miss a day 'here and there' but I will do my best to be consistent.

You will need a basic bread dough - nothing fancy, and any size to suit your family will do. I made enough dough for two loaves of bread; I did not measure things out but here is the approximate ingredients:

2c warm water
1T salt
2-3T olive oil
2-3T sweetener
~6c flour (I like to use half whole grain and half unbleached white)
a few large cloves of garlic, crushed
~1T Italian seasoning blend

I think that's it. Make the dough as usual, let it rise twice ... and while it is rising, be sure to have pizza sauce ready. You can use a store-bought jar of sauce or you can quickly make your own using a can or two of tomato paste, a little water (you'll want a pretty thick sauce so it does not run out all over the place!), some fresh garlic or garlic powder (a clove or two or a tsp or two of powder), salt (start with 1tsp), sugar (start with 1tsp) and oregano (start with a few teaspoons). The seasonings will depend on 1) how much sauce you are making and 2) your personal preferences. This is how I like MY sauce :) but you might like yours different. Just remember the key ingredients in pizza sauce are oregano, garlic and salt. The sugar takes the bite out of the paste, however you will not want to use as much as you would with a spaghetti sauce. Simmer the sauce gently a little while, covered. Remove from heat and set aside till needed.

During the rising time also you will want to get ready any other ingredients you wish to have in your pizza rolls. In my case, I put a bag of already cooked, frozen turkey sausage crumbles into the refrigerator the night before (I like to make up a larger batch of it every few weeks, portion it out and store in the freezer for a quick addition to various meals ... like biscuits and gravy ... or pizza rolls!). I sauteed diced onion in olive oil till soft and then I added the turkey sausage and cooked till heated through. 

I did a video for the rest; enjoy!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Frugal ... what is it?

I have been thinking of doing something a little bit different ... I would like to introduce "FRUGAL FRIDAYS". I will try to post a frugal tip or thought each friday, though I assume I will miss some fridays once in a while. Without further ado, here is my first official FRUGAL FRIDAYS post.

There are so many aspects to being frugal that I am not sure I can even mention or think of them all. Sometimes I believe we can even be caught in a false sort of 'frugality' and not even realize it. I am not sure where all this applies or even if it applies to everyone or even to every season of each of our lives ... but here is where the thought started.


When we first moved here to SW MO I was SO EXCITED to learn that there were wild blackberries, as many as we could pick, free for the taking. Very frugal, right? My mind immediately went back to our time living in the pacific NW. Big, juicy, sweet blackberries. We had a nice, mostly private place we could go pick berries and would get them by the gallon for not much effort. Yes, there were thorns, sometimes it was quite the tangled mess, and clothing would get snagged, however it was well worth the effort and time it took to pick them. So naturally I was excited when I found out we could have free blackberries again.

The first summer we were here we went with buckets in hand, heavy clothing on our bodies and high expectations in our minds ... but we soon learned it was nothing like our blackberry days in Washington. The berries were a bit smaller and not quite as sweet. The brambles were tighter, the thorns more plentiful. The weather was MUCH HOTTER and very humid. We all got sunburned even though we thought we were protected AND we were in the trees. The mosquitoes were a nightmare. Ticks. No end to them. We had to be alert for dangerous and deadly snakes and spiders. None of these things were an issue in Washington!! But, we pressed on for several hours and a few days and managed to get about 10 gallons or so [I forget exactly how much] that first year we were here.

The next year we set out again but did not get nearly as much. There was a drought and not much going on with the berries. Also, it was way too hot. The year after that I was not feeling well so we skipped it. And then this past summer I had a revelation.

10lbs of frozen blackberries could be purchased through our bulk food order (Azure Standard) for about $20.

Now, some might think that is not a very good deal nor is it very frugal. But let's think about this now. That's 10lbs of blackberries for $20!! No picking. No brambles. No snakes or spiders. No ticks. No unbearable heat or sunburns. No driving to our remote picking spot. No mosquitoes. No picking through the buckets of berries to get out the bad ones and the bugs. No washing or soaking. No spending hours upon hours harvesting, cleaning and processing. No labour spent. It's JUST 10lbs of berries for $20.

As time becomes more precious, we no longer have much of it to do things like spend  hours and a few days picking berries. Maybe some day we will, however at this season in our lives we simply do not have the time or desire to do all of that work for not much return. We must weigh all the sides. Sure, something might seem like a good deal on the surface, however once you really dig in to it you start to realize that maybe it was not such a good deal after all??

Do you get what I'm saying? Maybe there is something you have discovered in your life like this? If so, feel free to share - maybe it will help someone else?