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Sunday, January 22, 2017


Hello dear friends! Hope you all are well this fine Sunday!  This week has been strange weather-wise, we've had dense fog ever day.  It makes me feel like I'm living on a cloud. Some may say this time of year is bleak,  but to me it has a serene beauty.  Being the plain brown wren that I am, I'm not one to go in for too much flashiness, so the soft silvered days of a January thaw suits me just fine.  There's a cozy feeling to it, as though we are all alone in the world.  The weather has been warm enough to go outside and study the lacy silhouettes of the branches against the skies.
Aren't they beautiful?  If only I could capture their true beauty!

A Few Thrifty Things I Thought of This Week

In my last post I wrote about grocery shopping on a budget, one of the things I forgot to mention is that when shopping for produce that has a single price per item, such as the head of  lettuce I bought this week, it pays to  take the time to weigh them and get the most for your money. I bought almost a pound more lettuce  for the same price as the smaller heads. 

I also wrote about keeping the menu simple.  A lot of recipes these days are just  silly,  they must think people have nothing better to do with their time than hunt down strange and obscure ingredients.  Or someone would spend $20 on ingredients for a batch of brownies (a recent recipe I saw).  When we  first set up housekeeping our beloved Gramps gave me an old cookbook printed in the 1930s.  Almost all the recipes were straight forward and most had fewer than ten ingredients.  If you want to find some simple  inexpensive recipes, hunt down an old cookbook, pre mid-1950s. Many  have menus, also.   You can find them at estate sales and at antique stores and often for less than a modern cookbook.  Old cookbooks put out by ladies' organizations are also a great resource for those that want to cook simply.

 You may or may not know this about me, but I have very long hair that most of the time I wear in a braid.  I was standing in the beauty aisle the other day, studying the options for  rubber bands.  They had these pretty ones made of elasticized ribbon, but the price!  Four little ribbons for $3!  So I went down the craft aisle, and there they had a better selection of the same type of ribbon in packages with about 50 times more ribbon for half the price.  So I'd say it pays to venture into other parts of the store.

 Menu For the Week

I promised dear anonymous that I would write about our weekly menu for the week, so here it goes:

I've already written about what we have breakfast in the previous post, and since we all get up at different times, it varies from person to person.  Since I have wait a half-hour after taking my thyroid medication before eating, I usually just skip breakfast all together or have a cup of coffee.

Lunch is our main meal of the day:

Monday: Bean burritos and a salad. Made from our own refried beans, home canned salsa and about 4 oz. of cheese.  The flour tortillas were bought from the reduced-for-quick-sale bin.

Tuesday:  The leftover burritos and a Big Mac salad.

Wednesday: Oven fried eggrolls and stir-fried vegetables.  We used cabbage, sprouts, carrots and a jar of our home-canned white chicken for the filling.  The vegetables were one of those frozen bags of vegetables.

Thursday:   Beef pot pie made from our own carrots, potatoes, peas, onions and home-canned beef.

Friday: The leftover pot pie and a hearty throw everything-in-it green salad.

Saturday:  We ate at Subway, because I had enough points for a free sub. Jamie got a footlong special that was $6 and Ran and I split the free one.  So for $6, the three of us ate out.

Today: We had a brunch of fried potatoes, sausages, eggs and a fruit compote.  The potatoes and onions were home-grown, the sausages were canned late last year when I ran into a deal on Jimmy Dean sausage for 99 cents/ lb.  Eggs are still cheap here.. And the compote consisted of our own fruit that I canned last Summer.

For dinner we either eat the leftovers, or make sandwiches (from the $1.49 deli ends and pieces or my homed-canned meat), or have homemade hummus with carrot and celery sticks and crackers, or have some cheese and crackers.  Most of the time I skip dinner because I am on a very restrictive diet because of my low-functioning  thyroid.

For dessert this week I made old-fashioned cornstarch pudding to use up the milk that we had bought when the grandchildren visited.  Ran's been watching his diet very closely this week in anticipation of his yearly exam  next week, so I haven't been cooking or baking much. And we had homemade granola bars:

Don't Buy It, Make It

Granola Bars

2 1/2 C. oatmeal
1/2 C. nuts
1/3 C. honey or cane syrup
1/4 C. butter
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
a dash of salt
1/2 C. dried fruit
1/4 C. chocolate chips
3 tbsp. peanut butter

Line an 8-inch pan with aluminum foil and butter well.
Toast the oatmeal and nuts in a 350 degree oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring half-way through, tasted as dark as you desire.
Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and peanut butter in a small saucepan.  Cook until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolves.  Pour over the oatmeal/nut mixture.  Stir in the dried fruits and chocolate chips.
Press into the prepared pan.  Refrigerate. Remove from pan and cut into bars.

You can experiment with this recipe to make it your own.  I used some cinnamon flavored chips instead of the chocolate ones and for the dried fruit, I used some Concord grape flavored dried cranberries (an impulse buy from Big Lots).  Since I try to eat at least two Brazil nuts a day for the selenium, I used those for the nuts. And different extracts too.  I'm thinking almond butter, almond extract, and dried cherries for February.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Knitted Ran a pair of mittens from some lovely tweed yarn that I found at the thrift store.

Ran helped a neighbor install hardwood floors in her bedroom and was rewarded with the leftover wood for firewood and woodworking.

Spent a grand total of $12.17 on groceries:  $2.50 for 8 oz. cheese, $1.50 for a quart of cream that was reduced for the strays, $1.42 for a head of cabbage, 79 cents for a head of iceburg lettuce, $1.25 for a package of Naan on the reduced bin, 72 cents for a bunch of green onions, $1.34 for some celery, $1.67  for packet of hummus seasoning, and 98 cents for a head of red leaf lettuce.

Ran made some kim-chee with the cabbage using a fermenting kit that we received for Christmas.

Watched the inauguration for free on YouTube.  No need for cable TV!

 Which reminds me, I've been biting my tongue through this entire post, trying not to write something that I'll regret later, so I'm going to cut this post short and wish you all a joyous week from the old Zempel boarding house!



Monday, January 16, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Bet you didn't expect to hear from me so soon.  Dear Anonymous asked how I keep my grocery bill so low, so I thought I'd write this post now, instead of waiting until next Sunday.

Shopping On A Budget

The first thing I do is to take inventory of what I have and what needs to be used up soon.  That way, when we go to the grocer's I have an idea of meals already in my mind.  I study the sales flyers and make a list of things I might buy dependent upon if I find better deals while shopping.  You'd be surprised at how many times once you get to the store you find the sales weren't the cheapest items. For example they will advertise a national brand of canned tomatoes on sale, but the store brand is cheaper than the sale item.  So be flexible. After I'm home, I then make out a menu for the week.

Secondly, we carry cash.  Just knowing that all you have to spend is a certain amount keeps you from overspending.  I mentally tally up the groceries as I go, but I'm sure the new phones have some sort of calculators on them or you can bring one of those cheap little ones.  If I go over the budget, I put something back. Once you give into the thought that it's only a dollar or two, the next thing you know you are way over budget.  It's a slippery slope.

We avoid the middle section of the store, that is, the processed  and convenience foods. Most of the food I buy is in it's natural state, i.e., a bag of potatoes as opposed to a box of dehydrated ones with fixings for scalloped potatoes, plain rice as opposed to rice pilaf, plain oatmeal instead of those packets of flavored ones, a head of lettuce instead of those bags of salad greens.  

We especially avoid the cereal aisle.  To me, paying $3 for what is essential  less than a pound of flour with some flavorings is ridiculous. For breakfast we either have oatmeal, rice (good when cooked with milk and a little cinnamon sugar on top), toast or English muffins with homemade jam, eggs when they are cheap, homemade pancakes on occasion, yogurt or fruit.

We buy in bulk those things that we use regularly, such as; flour, yeast, sugar, rice, dried beans, brown sugar and oatmeal. And certain spices such as; cinnamon, chili powder, turmeric (plus we grow and dry quite a few of our own). A bulk food store can be your best friend. We allow a certain amount of our budget each month for stocking up.

We have set limits on what I will pay for certain items.  I won't pay over $2.50 for butter or more than $2.50 for beef.  If the prices are above that, we do without. We love cheese, it's our little luxury, but when it becomes cost prohibitive, we go without.

We find substitutes for expensive items.  When butter prices are higher than my limit, I will resort to margarine, or not bake as much, or bake with recipes that use shortening.  When eggs get to high, I have a bag of flax seed in the freezer that I substitute for eggs in baking. I'll bake something with cocoa to get my chocolate fix, rather than buy expensive chocolate chips, etc.

At least half of our meals are meatless.  Today we are having bean burritos.

I always check out the reduced-for-quick- sale items.  I don't think I've paid full price for coffee in years or tea either.  The reduced produce is almost as good as the regularly priced fruits and vegetables.  You learn what stores have those sort of best deals after a while.  Why pay full price for bananas if you are going to use them in banana bread?  Apples, peaches and such that might have a bruise, can have the bruise cut away and be used to make crisps or stirred into yogurt.

We're not afraid of carbs.  Bread, pasta, oatmeal, etc, are filling.

We don't always follow recipes exactly.  Just because a casserole recipe calls for 8 oz. of cheese doesn't mean you can't use 6 or even 4 ounces.  I bake chocolate chip cookies with only half the bag, they're still good!  Often when a recipe calls for two eggs, I'll only use one. I'll substitute plain milk for cream in soups, etc.  Who says chili need 1 pound of ground beef? 1/2 a pound and more beans or no meat at all, is ok.

We make meals stretch by adding cheaper ingredients.  To make chili stretch I'll add more beans, I'll add extra breadcrumbs or oatmeal to meatloaf, more noodles to soup, etc. We sprout our own seeds to add to or salads (and to make eggrolls) to make our winter lettuce purchases go further.

We have very little waste.  In the evening I'm planning tomorrow's meals by taking stock of what we have left over, what we need to use up before it goes bad, etc.  All my vegetables scraps go into a bag in the freezer to be made into vegetable broth, once I gather enough.  This is used for a basis in soups.  One of the cheapest meals you can have is Have-Not-Waste-Not Soup.

We do a lot of prep work.  All our beans are dried, so we have to plan ahead.  We make our own bread, crackers, noodles, soup stock, pie crusts and tortillas.

I only bake once a week and we portion out the goodies throughout the week. We eat things like my home-canned peaches for dessert.

We take advantage of lost leaders to stock up. Lost leaders are bargains stores offer to get you into the store, so that once there, you'll buy more.  At Thanksgiving time, it's turkey at Easter there's eggs.  We use those sales to stock up. We can our turkey but there's always freezing.  If you don't have room for a turkey, you can always cook them and take the meat off.  Eggs can be frozen simply by whipping them up and pouring them into ice cube trays and freeze. After the holidays we stock up on corned beef (post St Patrick's Day), cranberries, chocolates (that can be chopped up and used as chocolate chips), etc.

We limit snacks. We only buy one bag of tortilla chips from Aldis per month.  We like them in chili as well with our home canned salsa.  Popcorn is the cheapest snack out there.  We also like cheese and (handmade) crackers, just a few ounces, sliced very thin. Or homemade hummus and carrot and celery sticks.  If someone gets hungry later in the day, there's always leftovers.

We pay attention to the "price per unit".  This is a common error I see people do all the time, people always assume that the largest package is always the cheapest, but it isn't always. They think they are getting bargains at the dollar store, but often the cake mixes and such are actually smaller-sized.  And the canned goods are most often cheaper in the regular grocery stores.

If a recipe calls for some exotic ingredient, that is costly or hard to find, we don't make it. We stick to basic ingredients and make simple meals.

We explore different shopping outlets.  Recently we found a discount grocery store.  We stop at farm stands in the summer and stores such a Big Lots are fun exploring.  Sometimes you really get some amazing deals there.

We shop less frequently.  We do a big main shop at the beginning of the month, then only shop once a week  for fruits and vegetables and staples that we run out of.  The less often you shop the less temptation to spend money.

AND finally, as everyone that reads this blog knows, I grow and preserve most of my own vegetables and fruits. I truly believe that owning your own piece of land and having a garden is one of the surest paths to self-sufficiency, and that self-sufficiency is the only path to true freedom.

Some other posts you might find helpful are: Of Pantries and Pricebooks, Grocery Shopping 101, More Pantry Talk , and Bare Bones Baking Pantry.

Hope this helps!




Sunday, January 15, 2017


Hello dear friends!  I hope that you are all doing well on this fine Sunday afternoon.  Yesterday my son and daughter-in-law brought the grands for a visit.  Such fun!  And I'm glad to announce that they took our little frozen foundling kitten back with them.  She was intended to be a barn cat, but something tells me that she'll never get there, as she is so adorable and playful.  They're already  spoiling her with toys and special bowls.  Erin, my daughter-in-law, even slept in the guest room with her last night so she wouldn't be scared being left alone in a strange house.  Barn cat? I think not!

Choose Your Own Adventure

As everyone knows that has read this blog for any amount of time, I am a bit of a frugal fanatic.  I have a very good reason to be one, you might say, it is a matter of life or death for someone very dear to me. But that is a tale for another day.  What I've noticed is that people tend to apologize to me whenever they spend money!  I guess they think I'm making a judgement on them.  I am not!  I'm glad there are people out there spending money on expensive clothes, or else I wouldn't have any to buy when I go thrifting.  I'm happy for those that take expensive vacations, my son worked in the hospitality industry for several years, there's people counting on them.   If you have the money and no reason to save, I say go for it!  I happen to have a very important reason for saving money.    Everyone has to choose their own adventure in life, wouldn't it be boring if we were all on the same path?   Trust me when I say, I really am not envious of your big houses, new clothes or cable TV, I love my life just as it is, and my heart is glad for those of you that have those sort of things if they make you happy.   

I love living within the constraints  of a strict budget.  I find it fun and challenging to figure out meals for a month on $150.  Sort of like doing real-life Sudoku.  I find it rewarding to take an old wreck of a house and making it into a home that people stop and take pictures of because it's so cute.  I enjoy designing  a flower garden from others cast off  plants.  I find it adventuresome to create my own unique style from thrift store clothes. I guess what I really love about my thrifty lifestyle is the creativity of it.  I never feel deprived by it.  In short, I love my life and would say it is pretty darn perfect, for me.

Conversely, there's always the thrifty ones that seem to need to apologize for their lifestyle. This past month,I've been watching a lot of YouTubers on their thrifty lives.  And it seems like they are forever feeling the need to explain  themselves.  There's one very sweet gal, that always starts her videos with "this is what works for me and my family".  And isn't that really what matters in life?  For me and my family it's more important to save the money than it is to be concerned with how ethically the chicken I eat was raised.  To my family, buying from Goodwill and saving money is more important than being concerned with how much the CEO earns, or that they don't pay their employees a good wage.  Isn't it just supposed to be a starting position anyhow,  so that you can gain experience to move on to other jobs?   They can always find a different job if they don't think they are being treated fairly.  I can't be concerned with WalMart's policies either, if it's the only store for miles around and it would mean traveling 140 miles to do my weekly grocery shopping otherwise.  We all have to make decisions in life in how we choose to spend our money and time. what we value and don't.  In other words, we have to choose our own adventures in life, what works for one person, might not be a fit  for another.  So don't let anyone make you feel guilty for the choices you make!


Last week. I wrote about Ran  fixing our refrigerator's crisper drawers that were beginning to crack.  The manufacture stopped making this model, so there weren't any replacements so Ran made some pulls out of wood

 He glued the crack with crazy glue, then attached the pulls to the top of the drawers, thus stabilizing them and keeping them from wracking, so the cracks won't get any bigger.


We've been eating a lot of cabbage this week.  It stores well and is one of the cheapest things you can buy, 29 cents/lb., here.  Plus it's good for you.  This week we had it in eggrolls, coleslaw, another batch of the cabbage rolls I wrote about in last week's post,and these Korean street sandwiches, that Ran discovered on YouTube.  Sorry I lost the link to the video, but here's how they're made.

Korean Street Sandwiches

 Toast 6 pieces of bread.  Butter them. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Set aside. Shred about 3-4 cups of cabbage to make 3 large sandwiches.  Shred some carrots. Just like a making coleslaw, or use that coleslaw mix you can buy in the store. Chop 1 small onion finely.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Combine  all with 2 eggs.
Heat a skillet with enough oil to coat the bottom of pan over medium heat.  Spread mixture into skillet.  Cook, compressing mixture with a spatula, while cooking.  Once one side is brown, flip mixture over and brown the other side.  Remove from heat and cut into sandwich-sized pieces. Place onto the toast and sprinkle with a bit more sugar. Spread with a mixture of mayo and ketchup.  Add a slice of cheese, top with the other piece of toast and enjoy!

Nothing cheaper than cabbage, carrots and bread!  And it was surprisingly tasty!


As a washed my little green and cream enamel pan that I use on almost a daily basis, I was reminded to write about the one spot most people don't think about when shopping on the cheap - the antique stores!  A lot of today's antique stores are just glorified thrift stores, most of the stuff sold in them are not true antiques,  They are a great place to buy inexpensive reading material, magazines usual sell for a dollar or two and I find the older issues of Victoria and Country Living much nicer than the newer ones,  the current issues are almost all advertising and pretty lightweight on the content, in my opinion.  Books are also priced pretty inexpensively, and the bindings on some of the older ones are works of art. I always try to replace paperback editions of books I love with prettily bound editions when I can find them for a few dollars.  Things like enameled pans usually are cheaper than those you can find in the stores, and they seem sturdier.  I bought a wonderful cast-iron griddle for a few dollars at one, that is a mainstay in my kitchen.  If you enjoy sewing things like vintage aprons, you can find yardage there for a lot less than the fabric store prices.  Jewelry is another thing you buy inexpensively at antique stores.  I've purchased turquoise earrings for as little as five dollars.  And I'll never understand why anyone would buy new imitations of vintage china, when you can buy the real McCoy for the same price or less. Oh well!  To each, their own, I guess!


Most of our thrift has been passive this week, as we haven't gone anywhere, thus not spending money.

I did spend around $20 on groceries; buying milk, bread, bananas, coffee creamer, yogurt, a head of cabbage and lettuce, and some decaf K-cups that were on the reduced-for-quick-sale at $3/12. And a few other items I can't recall off hand (and were probably unnecessary).

Started another wool quilt, like the one I made here.  My dear friend Mary, brings me the woolen fabric sample from an upholstery shop.  They are all Ralph Lauren and Brunschweig and Fils. Should be pretty la-dee-da!

Last week I happened upon some great deals at the thrift store.  They had skeins of handspun and hand-dyed wool for a few dollars each.  The original price on them  was over $20.  However I spent several hours one day just untangling and rolling up one skein.  After that, I lost interest in knitting for a while!

We've been eating a lot out of our freezer, as we try to clean it out.  Makes for some interesting meals.
In the evening we like to use our kerosene lamps and the many candles we purchase at garage sales, it  creates a cozy ambience and saves on electricity. 

We collected fallen branches in our neighborhood for firewood.

Picked up several free pallets for firewood.

I discovered a new-to-me classic movie on YouTube.  It's called Seventh Heaven and it stars Jimmy Stewart and Simone  Simon.  I love discovering these old gems, reminds me of when I was a kid and they had a Sunday afternoon matinee on the the television.  You never knew when you'd find an golden oldie.

 Well that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope that you all have fun on your own adventures this week. Until next!


Sunday, January 8, 2017


Hello dear friends!  I hope that all of you living in the northern hemisphere are keeping warm.  It's amusing to read that many living in the southern states have more snow than we do up here in the "winter wonderland".  It's been a strange winter so far, such swings in temperature!  Right now, it's in the single digits, but we're used to that, it wouldn't be so bad, except for the wind, which blows directly off of Lake Huron straight down our street.  Oh well! In the summer we appreciate it.  Can't have everything in life, nor would we want to.


The cold keeps us inside, so it's the perfect time for organizing and just getting rid of stuff.  Lori wanted to know how we downsized  from a 4000 square foot home to our current less than 1000 square foot one.  I always quote William Morris on this;

"Have nothing in your house that you do not find to be useful or beautiful."

The useful part is pretty easy, I don't think too many people hang on to non-working TVs or broken appliances, if you do, well, then you have more work to do before getting to decluttering and organizing! We always leave anything that has scrap metal potential out in front on garbage day for the man that collects such things to sell for scrap.  Don't know if he makes much money from it, but perhaps it is enough to keep the wolves from the door for him.  I like the scrap metal man, he's a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps sort of fella. 

A note on appliances: reassess what you really need.  I've never had a standing mixer, and I dare say, I've baked more than the average bear in my lifetime.  They take up a lot of counterspace.  A hand-held mixer works just as well, unless you are making pound cakes on a daily basis.  Find appliances that do double duty; our pressure cooker, which is necessary because we use so many dried beans, also has a setting for slow cooking, thus eliminating a crock pot.  I don't own a slow cooker, just use my Dutch oven on a low setting (300 degrees) in the oven to get the same results, although I'm sure they are nice for those of you that are away from home all day. A cast iron skillet does just as good job as one of those gadgets for deep frying.  My kitchen is tiny 13 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet, yet I manage to can enough food for a year, feed large  gatherings holiday meals, and cook everything from scratch, so if I can do it, anyone can do it.  As a matter of fact, a small kitchen makes life easier; less steps to make and everything must be organized. We have an old family friend that has what many would consider a dream kitchen; huge and so many cupboards and drawers, but every time she wants to cook something or find a gadget, she has to rummage through drawers and cupboards for the item.  It takes forever.  Plus a lot of times she just gives up and buys another, which is not thrifty. Which is another reason to be organized.  If you are replacing things because you can't find them, it's time to get organized.  Organization and thrift go hand-in-hand.


A lot of times we hold on to items for sentimental reasons. Trust me, having cleaned out my parent's home and helped clean out several other homes after the people have passed, no one appreciates those old birthday cards and photos of your new car circa 1967.  How often do you look at those things?  Probably never.  Even old family photos.   This past year, Ran and I went through all the family photos and chucked a bunch of them.  The kids are never going to look at old photos of scenery from trips, and pictures of people we don't remember, so how would they? We just kept a few photos of each child at each age, and tried to choose the ones that were the cutest.  Now all our family photographs fit in one shoe box. We never saved our children's art work either.  We displayed it on the refrigerator for a while then had no qualms about tossing it.  They were always making more. And I've never heard any of them say they regretted  that I didn't save any of these things. 

Many times we get "stuck" with furniture and such that family member pass down to us.  First, if it isn't to your taste, say "no thanks", and eliminate the problem to begin with.  Unless the treasure is a valuable antique, I have no regrets with donating it to a charity, and even then, if it's just going to be stuck in the attic, it is better to pass it on to a family member that would enjoy it, give it to a charity that could use it, or sell it to buy something that you need (or raise funds to buy down your mortgage).   After all, a 1970 Mediterranean dresser made from press board will never be valuable. In other words, you don't need to keep things to keep the memories. 

One of the reason I have no  misgivings about getting rid of furniture is that I never pay a lot for it to begin with, having purchased most at estate and garage sales and auctions.  When my tastes change it is of little consequence to get rid of things or to paint or re-purpose them.  Get rid of things that you don't like, it will just make you miserable looking at them day to day.


This past few months I got rid of all my DMC embroidery floss.  It was driving me crazy, thinking about organizing it, and I had to be honest with myself that I probably never would make a sampler anymore, and if I did, it doesn't cost that much to buy new floss, a small price to pay, to be rid of the anxiety and clutter.  I also had to be honest with myself and admit defeat when it comes to quilting; I'm never going to make one that I'd be satisfied with, so out went all those cotton scraps I've been saving and the quilting hoops. It was actually quite liberating to be done with those things.

I've gotten rid of lots of books over the years also.  I know I'm not going to re-read a lot of them, so out they went to the library book sale.  Many times we hold onto cookbooks for one recipe. Who buys cookbooks now days, with zillions of recipes available on the internet?  I just copy the recipe and donate the book.  My friend, Laurie, was appalled when  I told here this, but I cut up old decorating and craft books and just keep the pages I want.  The craft patterns go into sleeves that are in a three-leaf binder.  The decorating pages are glued into a notebook on decorating ideas. Bibliophiles may find this sacrilege, but nothing is sadder than old craft and decorating books, tastes are continually changing and after while they become so dated, that you can't even give them away.  At the end of each month I gather up all my magazines and catalogs and cut out what I want from them; fashion  and crafting ideas from the catalogs, articles from the magazines, etc. and glue them into notebooks.

Old DVDs are another thing to get rid of, are you really going to watch that movie a second time?  The movies that I love and want to hold onto, I remove from their cases, and put into those DVD/CD organizers.  Saves a lot of space.  I always enjoyed watching old movies and I thought it would be nice to have a large selections, since we don't have TV, but I find that I watch the same few shows over and over again, and rarely watch any of the movies.  I rarely watch any of the shows either, except for when it really is cold out and have the time.  I've discovered that there's quite a few old movies on YouTube, sometimes I discover a real treasure.  Veterans Hospitals and senior centers are often looking for donations of movies, so there's a good home for the unwanted ones.  Or you could donate them to the thrift stores.  BTW,  the series I watch in the winter are: Christy, Road to Avonlea, Newhart, and All Creatures Great and Small. There are plenty enough episodes to keep me busy.


We only have one closet in this old house and that is used to store our winter coats, my little black dress  (that I use for funerals and formal occasions) and Ran's suit, so maintaining a small and practical wardrobe is a necessity.  I have two wardrobes; one for warm weather and one for cold, when one is not in use, I pack it away in the attic for storage. The first thing I do when I get them out of storage is to lay everything out on the bed.  This way I can see the "clinkers" as I call it; you know the sweater that doesn't go with anything, the really dated looking skirt, etc. Into the charity box they go.  Next I get rid of everything that is uncomfortable, whether it's because it's too large, small or too immodest, or made of a material that I don't like.  Then out goes all the impracticals; the skirts that don't allow me to move freelyi.e. pencil skirts, the ones made from fabric that take too much care, such as linen and the ones that just don't mesh with my lifestyle.  I try to keep everything in a color scheme, for me it's cream, beige, gray and grayed down blue and green.  Then it comes to personal style.  For years I tried to "fit"  in with others.  I tried wearing the velour jogging suits of the mommy crowd in the 80s and the yoga pants and hoodies that seem to be the current style, even jeans and t-shirts, but I never felt comfortable in them. I'd wear those things for a while and then revert back to my old self.  I had to realize that although my personal style sometimes makes me stand out like a sore thumb, it is who I am.  After a while people get used to your eccentricities, and you just become part of the atmosphere, so go for it. 

To thine own self, be true.
~William Shakespeare~

 By the time you've narrowed your wardrobe down, to comfortable, well-fitting clothes that convey your personal style, you should have a much smaller wardrobe, but if you still have too much, go through  it a second time and keep just the very best; i.e., the very best example of a gray cardigan, the most flattering denim skirt, etc.  I usually end up with too many gray sweaters, I must confess.  As you well-know, I love to shop thrift stores, so I have a rule, every time I bring something new into the house I must get rid of something plus one.  


I hope by now, we all can agree that getting organized is a thrifty thing to do, but how do you get started at it?  People often get overwhelmed by a huge project, but as the saying goes, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." the same is true with organizing.  Pick one room per week or month and go through one drawer  or closet at a time and be ruthless about getting through with the things you don't need or want.  As soon as you have a box filled with things for charity, drop it off. Don't keep them around to second-guess it.  


I'm trying to make more meatless meals this year and try some of the many recipes that I've clipped throughout my thirty-eight years of being married.  This recipe met both criteria.  I'll give it to you the way it was written, then I'll illustrate how I will make it the next time to utilize pantry staples and my time.

Tropical Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

8 large cabbage leaves
1 can reduced-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 C. pineapple preserves
1 C. cooked orzo
1 can black beans drained
1 onion chopped
1/3 C. raisins
1/3 C. cashew pieces
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, cover cabbage leaves with boiling water.  Cover; let sit 10 minutes or until limp.

Meanwhile coat 3-4 qt. slow cooker with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, mix coconut milk and preserves. Spread 1/2 mixture in bottom of slow cooker; set aside remaining mixture.

Combine remaining ingredients, except cabbage.  Place 1/3 C. mixture at stem end of each leaf and form into cabbage rolls.Place as many cabbage rolls, seam side down as will fit in slow cooker. Cover with 1/3 C. of remaining  coconut mixture.Repeat with remaining rolls and pour the remaining mixture over the rolls.

Cover; cook on low heat setting 7-9 hours, or on high setting 3 1/2 - 4 hours.

Now for the thriftier version, I'd use plain white rice in place of the orzo, since that is not a pantry staple in our house.  I usually have a carton of coconut milk for making oatmeal, which I would replace with the canned stuff, or I'd use plain old milk and add some coconut from my baking pantry.  I happened to have some cashews left over from Christmas, but if I didn't I would just leave them out.  Instead of pineapple preserves, I would thicken a small can of crushed pineapple by combining the syrup and some cornstarch and simmering it with the pineapple until it thickens.  And of course, I would use reconstituted dried beans for the canned ones.  I also wouldn't bother with all the fuss of making the rolls, I'd just shred  the cabbage, stir everything in a pot and throw it into the oven to simmer at 350 degrees for an hour and a half.  I'd also add more beans and rice to make the meal stretch further.  Jamie said this would be excellent on our homemade flat bread.

There was one more thing that I wanted to write about; several people had suggested a certain book that I might like, so I went to Amazon to check it out.  Right off the bat, I could tell it wasn't a book for me, because in the description it had an entire chapter on boiling.  Boiling? Really?  There's not too many things I hate in this world, but those phony lifestyle books where people presume we are all so stupid that we didn't know it was cost-effective to re-use your leftovers, is one of them.  I'm always offended for all those that have come before and things like thrift are just a natural part of life, these writers always act as though they're the first to discover it.  It also makes me bristle when I see authors that write about "the simple life" in their new LL Bean clothes and their fancy chicken coops that cost more than our new car.  Or the pretentious ones that are always having sit-down dinners for an unusually attractive family in their million dollar decorated-to-the hilt homes.  No sir, give me a blog any day, where the people look like real people and aren't afraid to say, that today we ate at Taco Bell because I was just too tired to cook.  Just wanted to get that off my chest.


Our crisper drawers in the refrigerator were starting to crack and the manufacturer has discontinued our model, so Ran made wooden handles to keep them from cracking any further.  Funny story:  On another refrigerator the plastic parts that hold in the milk, etc. on the door cracked so Ran made some wooden ones.  Everyone thought they were so neat that we matched our cabinets, thinking that we had done it on purpose.

Started knitting a pair of mittens for next year's Christmas presents.

Spent a grand total of $7 and some change on groceries this week, for 2 heads of lettuce, a fresh pineapple and a small jug of milk.

Made banana pudding with some of the bananas that needed using up.  Saw a recipe for peanut butter banana pudding, but the ingredients were so ridiculous,  that I ended up making my regular banana pudding and stirred in a good dollop of peanut butter.  BTW, I hope that's the last time I need to type "banana" for a while, it's a challenge  for someone mildly dyslexic.

Painted a piece of furniture to fit in better with the decor.

Made bread crumbs from some leftover hamburger buns.

Roasted up the remaining pumpkins, pureed them and put them in the freezer.

Well that's it for the old Zempel boarding house this week!  Hallelujah! My computer has been acting up since I started writing this and it's been a real challenge to my patience, which isn't the greatest under the best of times!  Hope you all have a wonderful week!





Sunday, January 1, 2017


Happy New Year, dear friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. 
The Dawn of a New Year
I love starting the new year with a clean slate, don't you? Just let go of all the mistakes of the past year and move forward.  After all, when you come to think of it, that is all we can do.  No good comes from obsessing over the should-ofs-could-ofs.  Some people say they don't make resolutions because they are just going to break them anyway.  What a defeatist attitude!  Everyone should have goals, otherwise you're going about life aimlessly.  One of the things people often ask me is  when did we start planning for Ran's retirement.  The answer often surprises them;  we started planning on the day we were married at age nineteen and twenty-one.  We had three goals for our marriage; to have lots of children, to put them through college without them incurring a lot of student loan debt, and for Ran to retire at age fifty-five.  Every decision we made in life, whether it was the homes or cars we bought or if we took a vacation, was based upon those goals.  So yes. having a plan is important in life.  As the saying goes, those that fail to plan, plan to fail.


My goals are just the usual to save money, lose weight, exercise more. I also have some for spiritual growth and some silly personal ones, such as, learn to do something with my hair.  How I approach my goals is to start a notebook or journal for each of them.  I keep a very precise notebook for expenditures that lists where every dollar goes.  I can already see that our pets are costing us a lot more money than expected.  We will have to find cheaper alternatives for their  food.  One year I discovered that we spent around $30 a month on postage, what with children and grandchildren living in other states, and mailing of Christmas packages.  That was an expense, that we hadn't even budgeted for, but there it was, equivalent to our heating bill!  We now cut down on sending little packages throughout the year, and we send a card with money in it in lieu of a present, which I suspect thrills them more anyhow.

To keep me on track for dieting I write out a week's menu with all the calorie counts for everything.  These days with the internet, it's easy enough to figure out the calories in food. Sometimes the menu needs to be juggled, as it did this week because we needed to use the mushrooms before they went bad, but overall having a plan helps to keep me on track. I also write down a daily checklist of exercise and my health regime.  Just having to write it down, keeps me more mindful of it.  I also make a chart for weight loss.  Seeing the graph slope down is all the incentive I need.  I'll do anything to keep it from going up! Although there  are some long flat lines on that chart! Ha!


Another goal for the year is to be more mindful of our grocery  expenditures.  I set a budget of $150 a month for us three adults.  Right of the bat, I'm going to say, that please do not compare your budget to my budget.  Everyone is different.  I happen to have a large garden and can all  year round, you may not.  On the other hand, you might live in an area where you can garden for a longer growing season, than I, so you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the Winter.  I am not opposed to using canned, dried, frozen and root cellared vegetables when the fresh ones run out at the end of the month, you might think a daily serving of nine fresh vegetables is a must.  You might have a special dietary needs or a husband that demands meat at every meal. :)  Or will morally only eat free-range meat and eggs. Just to say, comparing yourselves to others, when it comes to budgeting just results in feeling discouraged. The goal is to set a realistic budget and stick to it.  Here's my big haul for the month:
For a grand total of $103.34.
Which leaves me with approximately $15 a week for  final three weeks for green leafies.  BTW, during the winter, I stretch my green leafies by adding my own sprouts to the greens.  We have a lot of citrus  left over from Christmas and our own apples for fruit plus plenty of our own berries and peaches canned and frozen. 

Wise grocery shopping takes time and I allow myself a day for it. It is worthwhile for us to drive the forty-five miles to a bulk food store and the Amish discount.

BTW, a note on discount stores: not all the food is out of date, sometimes it's just unusual things that don't sell (like the tuna packed in it's own oil that had a 2019 expiration date) and sometimes it's because the package gets crushed, (I  do not buy any dented cans), and other times the expiration date makes little difference to us (I defy anyone to tell that the K-cups were one month past their freshness date).

 After I get back home, I prep the foods to make it convenient to use throughout the month, by browning the sausage and hamburg, separating larger quantities into smaller freezer bags, washing the fruits, etc. Obviously, if you look at the picture, you will see things that are unnecessary, after all, we really don't need those K-cups ($2.50/ dozen),  and the cookies were in lieu of a birthday cake. I always buy Jamie a small coconut cream pie for a special treat.  All in all, I'd say there were about $30 in purchases that weren't  really a necessity, but are bought just to make life nicer.  On the other hand, some of the meat purchases will be not only for this month but for the next one also.  The had a great sale on Hillshire smoked sausages at $2.99 for three one-pound rings.   We are not going to eat that much sausage in one month, but they will be used to make soup and baked beans for both January and February.  The bulk food store was having a sale on their deli meats, which meant  they had a good selection of deli ends and pieces , which they sell for $1.49/ lb.  I searched through the bags and found one with a good chunk of corned beef and other salami-type meats.  It ended up being over a pound of corned beef, which I cubed up and froze for hash or cream of Rueben soup. The salami was cut into cracker sized pieces for our Friday night card parties.  We make up a relish tray with sausages, cheese, dips and crudites on Friday and play card and board games.  It makes it more special, and it's a lot cheaper than going out.  All in all, I bought over twenty pounds of meat this month.  We have one of those vacuum sealers that we use for freezing  and storing.  An investment that I found to be worth the money if you shop the sales like I do. So there's some food for thought on grocery shopping!


 I love the after-Christmas sales and budget for them.  I didn't need or want any wrapping paper, but usually I buy one roll that doesn't look too Christmasy  for wrapping birthday and other gifts.  The plain  metallic ones are good for that. I bought some Christmas candy at half-price.  They had cherry cordial Hershey's Kisses in pink wrappers that will be perfect for Valentines Day. We love to fill our candy dishes throughout the year (it's a grammy thing).  Did you know that hard candies can be put into vacuum sealed bags and they last indefinitely?  That's what we do.  I also buy beauty products that had been packaged in Christmas containers.  What do I care if my emery boards have snowflakes on them?  We buy nuts too.  The packaged tins of nuts are taken out of their packages, vacuumed sealed, and taken out as needed. Stored in a cool dry place they last quite a while this way.  And those special gourmet foods can be a deal at the half-off sales.  We bought a boxed set of four specialty  mustards for $3 and some fancy olives for a couple of dollars.  After we eat them, we put cheap canned  olives in the brine  and get another few month of  good olives from it. So be sure to check out the grocery stores too.  We also buy candles and books to be stored for gifts for next year.  I even buy myself a holidayesque t-shirt and a pair of Christmas socks at 75% off and pack them away for the following year's festivities.  It's always fun to rediscover the goodies come December.


Ran had a sweater that was looking kind of scruffy, but I loved the Fair Isle pattern, so I cut out the good pieces and made this wide headband.
It's really more like a headcovering.  Associating with so many Mennonites and Amish I am always sensitive to dress in a manner that isn't offensive to them, thus I wear skirts and headcoverings whenever I shop at their stores.  I'm becoming more and more convicted to dress even more modestly each passing wear.  Not that at my age, I'm worried about any fallen angel being attracted to my hair. HA! (How's that for a conspiracy theory, Sherri?)  But just part of my spiritual growth and understanding.  It's just one more piece in the puzzle for me.  Anyhoo, there was enough of the sweater  left over that Ran suggested that I make a dickie, which would work better than a scarf when out walking.  Very clever idea!  And here's a very good tutorial on how to make mittens from the sleeves, which is a popular re-purposing project.  You can get a lot of mileage from an old sweater.


I hadn't made tuna casserole in years, and I won't make it very often because I'm concerned about the radiation in the Pacific from Fukushima, but  every once in a great while I like to gamble with my health. Ha!  Tuna casserole used to be a menu staple when the boys were growing up, because most of the ingredients can be found right on the pantry shelf or fridge.  You can even substitute cans of evaporated milk and mushrooms if you don't normally have those things  fresh on hand.  Also, you can substitute cans of chicken for the tuna and use whatever crackers you have on hand for the topping.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 oz. noodles of your choice (I use seashells because they're cute)
3 tbsp. butter
1 C. chopped mushrooms
2 tbsp. chopped celery
2 tbsp. chopped onions
3 tbsp. flour
2 C. chicken broth
1 1/4 C. milk
2 6oz. cans tuna, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C crushed potato chips
1/2 C. grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 C. fine bread crumbs

Prepare noodle. Drain. Keep warm.
Heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2 qt. casserole dish.
Melt butter; add mushrooms, celery and onions and cook until tender.
Stir in flour. Gradually add broth and milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until thickened.
Pour into saucepan with noodle.  Add tuna,salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture into casserole.
Combine, chips, cheese and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over casserole.
Bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

After trying on every pair of frames at the eye doctors and not finding a single pair flattering, I tried on a pair at the thrift store and Ran said I looked cute in them (Jamie said I looked nice), so I had the eye doctor put my prescription in them.  It cost $90 for a new pair of lenses (I bought a special non-glare type that is supposedly good for astigmatisms) and they charge $10 for putting them into my frames.  The frames cost $1, so for $101, I got new glasses.

We used a gift certificate  combined with a rebate to purchase some luxuries for ourselves; gourmet olives, the chocolate chips that we love,  some fancy mustard (an after Christmas special) and some of Jamie's Maple Sleigh coffee. The store also had a 11% rebate on all purchases and a $3 rebate on the coffee.

Another thing we budget for, is the annual sales at the thrift stores.  The Salvation Army had all their clothes for 99 cents.  What I like about their sale is that you don't get the left overs.  They continuously bring out racks of new items throughout the sale. (more next week on how I manage and organize my wardrobe)

We gathered wood from the neighborhood to use in our wood stove.

We heated our home mainly with wood. Our heating bill  (which includes the gas for hot water) for December was $24.

Instead of going out to celebrate the New Year, we stayed home and played some board games.

Well, I'm sure there was plenty more thrifty things, but I have a bad memory!  My goal for this blog is always the same.  Just to be in some small way helpful and encouraging  in saving you  money.  If I've helped anyone save one dime this year, then I'm a success. Also, to encourage others to see that money doesn't buy happiness, the world is too wonderful  a place to let something like money keep you from enjoying it.  Happy New Year from the old Zempel boarding house, may it be the best one ever!