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Sunday, September 6, 2015


Hello dear friends!   So sorry to be away for so long, but have been busy doing this:
Not only the canning, but Ran and Jamie built  a pantry in our upstairs landing, which required a complete reorganization of the house.  The shelves are about ten feet long, five feet high and a foot and one half deep.  That's a lot of jars!  Ran calls it my grocery store.  When we put the last jar on the shelf, I held my breathe, lest all that weight cause the floor to give out.  So far, so good, these old houses are built like arks!  Finally, I can see what I have.  The little pantry under the stairs just wasn't doing a proper job.  Every time I went to get something off the shelf, jars would fall on my head.  One time, one conked me hard and I lost my sense of taste for about a month. (which is a easy way to diet, but I wouldn't recommend it) I guess that's better than going blind, though.  An old family friend, Lucille All, went blind when she bumped her head, so it's no laughing matter.  Anyway, as you can see, we won't want for food this year.  Just have to buy some milk, cheese, butter and coffee once in a great while.  We buy sugar, flour, shortening and oatmeal in bulk twice a year, just as the pioneers did.


Since I can finally get a good idea of what I have, I noticed that I have a lot of jams and jellies.  I just can't resist making them in the spring when the fruit ripens.  I also found my favorite recipe for jam bars while reorganizing, torn from my own handwritten receipt book and stuck to the back of a drawer.  It's an old-fashioned economical recipe that is simple to make and one of our favorites.
Frosted Jam Bars

1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. corn or cane syrup (we use Lyle's Golden Cane syrup)
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 C. jam (any flavor)

Stir in syrup into butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread half of the batter in a greased 8" square pan.  Spoon jam over batter.  Carefully cover jam with remaining batter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the top is set.  Frost while warm with powdered sugar icing. ( confectioners' sugar combined with a bit of milk to make a thin frosting)

Economical Soap Making

We made soap this week.  I won't explain how it's done, because there are many books and videos that can better explain it, than I,  but I will tell you ways that we cut the costs.  First, when I can meat, we cut off all the fat and render it outside our on rocket stove.  That keeps the grease and the heat out of the house.  This gives us several pints of fat. We feed the cracklins to the stray cats.  We supplement it with coconut oil that we buy at the bulk food store  at  $12.72 for 1 gallon.
Got to love the bulk food stores!  We set the fats inside of our car to melt, to save on some of the electricity.
Just have to use the stove long enough to heat the grease to the proper temperature.  All of our equipment comes from garage sales.  Ran made the mold from scrap lumber.
The fancy molds came from a thrift store.  We also use rain water that we collect in washtubs around the yard.  Just be sure to strain it before using.  At the end of the day, it cost about $15 for ten pounds of  pure non-paraban soap.  I priced non-paraban soap in the store recently and they were asking over three dollars for one bar, so I think it pays to make your own.  Now, my grandparents made their own lye from wood ashes.  I haven't become that adventurous yet, but who knows? maybe one day.  In their day, soap cost nothing to make because they rendered their own lard from the hogs they butchered and made their own lye.  We really need to study the old ways of days gone by, people didn't waste anything.

Start Small

People always tell me that they want to be thrifty and simplify their life, like we do, but I always caution them to start small.  Just as when you learn to cook, you don't start out making a seven course meal or when you learn to knit, you start with a dishcloth or a simple garter stitch scarf before moving on to socks and mittens, lest you become discouraged by the whole thing. Becoming frugal is best done in small steps.  I'm always reading about "no-spending" challenges on other blogs.  While the concept sounds good, what do you learn from it?  As soon as the challenge is over, the people go back to spending.  Hurrah!  We can spend again!  It's better to take baby steps and master them, then move on to the next lesson.  First set up a budget, a realistic budget, live within it a while, then cut back some more.  Become comfortable with less and cut back some more.  Learn a skill, such as soap making, master it, then move on to another skill that is needed for self-sufficiency. One day you'll discover that you are a maven of thrift.

Quote of the Week

"The meaning of life is to find your gift.   The purpose of life is to give it away."
~William Shakespeare~

Don't Buy It, Make It

I've been canning a lot of chili this year from fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions from the garden.  If you have never tasted chili made with all fresh ingredients, you are missing out!  You can make our own chili powder, and it's especially economical because we dry and use our own herbs.  We make our own paprika by drying paprika peppers in the dehydrator, then grinding them into a powder, ditto for garlic  and onion powder.  Here's the recipe for homemade chili powder:

Chili Powder

1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp.  oregano
2 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder

Combine.  It's a matter of taste on how much you use, I'd say start with about a tablespoonful then add more if you like your chili spicier. Save the rest for another day.  I've found that add just a bit of sugar to chili really makes the flavors pop.  Canned chili can have a flat flavor, but is easily remedied by adding more chili powder or taco seasoning when you open the jars.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Canned apples.
Built a pantry in the upstairs landing.
Refinished a chair that we purchased at a garage sale for $5.
Bought the stripper to refinish the chair at the the thrift store for $1.50 a quart.
Ate out of the garden.
Mended a pair of Ran's jeans.
Dried tomatoes and peppers.
Harvested tomatoes, peppers, broccoli (we never cut them down, the offshoots have produced quite a bit of broccoli) and blackberries.
Worked on a penny rug with wool purchased from thrifted wool.
Got rid of our cable since the "free" offer ended.
Planted saved seeds from the hollyhocks.
Neighbor Sandy gave us four yucca plants that we will be passing along to our daughter-in-law.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead!


  1. Wow, love your new pantry! Just look at all those shelves. I love older houses because they have so much more character than modern ones. Ours was built in 50s so it's about 70 years old now. It's not a looker, but like yours, it was built tough.
    Those soap molds were a great thrift store find. I've been using mine for twenty years so some of them are cracking and useless now. I do like the individual bar molds best though.
    Hope you have a wonderful week!

    1. Hello! I advised my kids to buy older homes because they are made with real wood and plaster. Our garage roof was sheathed in walnut that someone had planed themselves! The roofers had quite a time nailing into it.
      Yeah those molds were a great find. We find lots of candle molds but rarely any soap ones. We use them for fancy "gift" soaps. We also use some old aluminum jello molds. They make cute little hand soaps. And they don't crack!


  2. Hi Jane! My comments have not been making it through on the last couple of posts. So I hope this one does. Beautiful jars of food! And your husband did a great job too. Your post was well worth waiting for! You have the best recipes! AndreaC

    1. Hi Andrea!! So good to hear from you! I couldn't wait to put the jars up, it was driving me crazy with jars stashed all over the place, so painting will have to wait until we eat down the canned goods. You have to try those jam bars. They're the best! How are you doing?


    2. I'm fine, thanks! We are having a hot end to summer here. And we need some rain.
      Not much else happening. Andrea

  3. The heat's miserable here too. But we are getting to much rain. Really been a bountiful year. Even the neighbors are starting to avoid us, for fear that we'll bombard them with sackful of tomatoes. Hope you are getting to spend lots of time with your granddaughter!


  4. You've inspired me to step up my thriftiness this week. Thank you.

    1. That's the best compliment you could give me, Laura. Thank you!

  5. Inspiring post ! thanks. This year I've been experimenting with fermentation. I am trying your sauerkraut recipe in my mothers old crock and so far so good 😀. Also have apple cider vinegar and kimchi on the go too. No cooking and doesn't heat up my kitchen.

    1. Glad your sauerkraut is working, Janet. I forgot about mine and ruined the entire batch. It was too hot in the house, anyway. Maybe if it cools off, I'll make another batch. Sounds like you won't want for probiotics!

  6. Hi Jane! I hope this posts as my last few haven't!

    Looks like a wonderful week! We have been driving our back roads watching the orphan apple trees for ripening apples. We are close to harvesting! I have this vision of us, picker in hand, one stealthily plucking apples while the other maintains watch for a possible car... which in itself is funny since we usually only have two=three cars through here daily....

    You won't laugh at me when I tell you that our dryer died this week and I have decided, at least for now, to not replace it. I am hoping to make it work as I am still working full-time AND carrying an overload this year to make a little extra cash for a well for the cows.... As you know, I have had the desire to live more off grid and this seemed the perfect time to move a little closer to that goal! If I could just get Mister more on board.... :) In time...

    Have a glorious week in the last, golden days of summer! <3 M

    1. Wish you lived closer, Matty. Our orchard is overflowing. We had to prop the pear tree up, it was tipping from the weight. Already had several apple crisps, my favorite pie apples are already ripening. Strange weather this year. I can envision you and the mister sneaking apples. We do the same thing when we gather rosehips, although no one ever goes out to that harbor, the grass is waist high.

      I never missed my dryer, that and the microwave were probably the two easiest devices to give up. Oh! and the cable box. With your big house, I'm sure there must be a room that you can hang clothes in and close off so no one notices. Maybe the Mister won't either!

      I wanted to move to live off the grid, but I've just discovered I can live pretty much off the grid by just not using any electricity. Still have outrageous water bills though!

      Enjoy your free time. Hope this school year will be rewarding for you!


    2. If I were closer, Jane, we would stay in trouble! I can see us now, sneaking rose hips, pilching apples, and looking for creek lettuce (I hope it grows there!). Your jam bars just came out of the oven. I made them with blackberry jam I made this summer. Oh My Goodness! They are fabulous! I had some cane syrup I picked up from a grower in Georgia that I have stopped to get pecans from for over 30 years... How do you think they would make up with molasses?? I have very ready access to that! :)

      Thanks for sharing!



    3. We would have fun! Never heard of creek lettuce but we have watercress in our streams, is it anything like that?

      I bet molasses would be good. I'm thinking maybe with apple butter for the jam and maybe flavoring the glaze with maple? If I can ever get through all these apples. I'm already tiring of them and it's only the first week of September!


  7. Hi Jane,
    Starting small sounds like good advice. We are planning to sell our home and have found a place not too far from where we live now. It is a mobile home with a large pole building as well as a very nice sunny property with a wonderful garden area...So the plan is to get a few chickens and garden (finally). I can't wait to restock my pantry with home canned foods once again! This place will be just a bit over half of our current house payment now. Living in the forest has had its benefits, but the biggest problem has been not being able to keep animals (not allowed to have farm animals)...and not being able to grow vegetables at home. I used to buy them and can them, but that is a rather arduous task that actually ended up costing more in the end.
    So, I am ready to make a huge leap forward in the frugal lifestyle, my friend...pray for me!
    Blessings~ Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa! First, I really like your picture. You look healthy and glowing. Hope all your health scares are behind you.

      How exciting to be moving!! All those nice organic vegetables will be wonderful for you. Remember to ease yourself back into gardening. Our garden was just too big this year, in the end we couldn't even give the vegetables away. It's such a shame to waste them. You'll be astounded by the money you'll save. This month our grocery bill was around $40. Hope you'll be back to blogging soon!


  8. hi Jane! I started a blog just to post my pictures of my gardens. After all, what else can one do with pictures?! No comment section though...AndreaC

    1. Hi Andrea! Beautiful pictures. You really have a green thumb! I'll put your blog up on my sidebar, so I won't miss any posts.


    2. Hi Jane! Thanks! hugs back!

  9. I love your shelves...they are amazing. Oh be careful not to bump your head. Your poor friend! You too... I had a conversation with Ahmad about building some for pickles and wine as I'm not sure where we will keep all ours.

    As always you inspire me to be more self sufficient.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. Wow! Love your pantry shelves as well as all the canning jars, I always think that looks so nice, and of course will be nice for the rest f the year! :) I know what you mean about pantry items falling, I have had some close calls as well, and as a teen I worked at a grocery store and had near misses while shelving products as well, it always makes me leery I now only stock boxed goods on my top shelf. How cool that you made your own soap as well, that has always been a project I wanted to try. That quote from Shakespeare is wonderful!! :)