Of course, one of the things that makes winter tolerable is that we have a nice wood stove to keep us toasty. This week we had to buy a two more cords of wood.
THRIFTY MEAL FROM THE PANTRY (ALMOST)
After the excitement of the holidays wanes, we enjoy eating more exotic foods just to keep us from being too bored. An added plus that most middle-eastern and eastern food use very little or no meat and are easy on the food budget so we can keep our resolution to spend less. Here's a soup we made today:
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 red pepper diced
1 clove garlic, minced fine
half a head of broccoli, minced fine
1 can vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted would be nice)
2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional, I don't think it added much to the flavor)
1 C. peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions, peppers, and garlic in oil until onions are tender. Add broth, seasonings and vegetables. Cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in the peanut butter and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For me, this was a meal from the pantry because we had our own dehydrated peppers and broccoli on the shelves, the carrots and onions came from our root cellar and the broth is home-canned as were the tomatoes. Even the chili powder is our own; having dried and ground our own peppers. The only thing we needed to purchase was peanut butter, which is a pantry staple in our house and the sweet chili sauce. We keep this on hand for dipping homemade egg rolls, so we had this on hand too. I bought the Chinese five-spice powder at Big Lots a while ago for making egg rolls, but I don't care for the flavor that much so I use it sparingly and often just leave it out. I also had some home canned salsa leftover in the fridge so I added that, about 1/4 cup.
All my recipes are just guidelines, basically, except for the baking ones. Don't be afraid to experiment. If you don't like an ingredient leave it out, if you think of something to add, add it. If you have something sitting in the fridge that needs to be used up, use it. Cooking should be a source of creativity, especially something like a soup. There's no right way or wrong way to make a soup. Just keep tasting and adding ingredients until you come up with something that satisfies your taste buds. We had some of the soup leftover, so one of the days this week, I'm going to make up some Thai noodles and serve it over them with some toasted coconut.
BAKING FROM THE PANTRY
Oh my! While I was busy doing other things, Ran made a batch of these peanut butter cinnamon rolls from this recipe. There goes the diet!
DON'T BUY IT, MAKE IT
Speaking of exotic spices, as many of you have read, I highly recommend taking turmeric as a supplement. You should take it with black pepper for it to do the most good. Recently I read that ginger is becoming the newest miracle spice. Well anyway, with all three of us plus the dog taking turmeric, it can become expensive, so we made our own "tablets". At the bulk food store we can buy turmeric for around five dollars a pound. (You really need to check into bulk food stores, if you haven't already) Also foreign food markets have great prices on it. To make the tablets, we combined about 1/2cup of turmeric with a tablespoon of ginger and 1 tsp pepper with just enough honey to make a consistency of play dough or clay. Then using about 1/4 tsp at a time, we rolled them into little balls and set them out on waxed paper to dry. They are a rather bitter pill to swallow, so once they were dry, we dusted them with some confectioners' sugar, but that isn't necessary if you
don't mind the bitterness, Georgie does.
Oh yes! Another great spice is cinnamon. It helps regulate your blood sugar. Every day I have a nice bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, topped with a teaspoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon for breakfast. Plus it keeps you filled up until lunch!
CHARITY ON A BUDGET
Last year due to all the misfortunes of all things mechanical, I wasn't able to give as much to charity as I would have liked, so this year I'm remedying the situation be doing some knitting for our local Girl Scout's mitten tree. My goal is to knit at least one pair of mittens each month, hopefully more. It's a win-win situation as the charity gets some nice warm mittens and I get to use up some of my yarn stash. I do hate wasting things, especially nice wool yarn. Here's my first pair:
The wool is Jiffy by Lion Brand Yarns and the colourway is Denim Spray. I'm trying to knit mainly for boys because I've found that when it comes to charity, they always get the short end of the stick. Guess it's more fun to buy and make for little girls. Besides, being the mother of all sons, I have a soft spot for little boys. I'm hoping that by posting a picture of each month's mittens, I'll keep myself accountable! So you all nag me if you haven't see any each month. Ha!
ALWAYS MEASURE THE COST
Ran and I have been debating whether or not to sell our home and move to a more rural locale and went so far as to start searching for land. We worry about how inflation will affect our already high water bill. By the way, the last two months we conserved one-thousand gallons of water, but because most of the bill is fixed, we only saved ten dollars! We always thought it would be fun to be completely self-sufficient and raise our own meat as well as vegetables, and have a nice wood lot and a sugar bush, but then we started to really take stock. While it would be nice to have our own meat, at the moment we are doing well bartering labor for it. Plus animals aren't free, they have to be housed and fed, whether they are producing or not. Hopefully one day our village will allow us to keep a few chickens, it would be fun, but in all considerations we only use about a half dozen eggs a month, so it wouldn't be very cost effective anyway.
None of us like the taste of goat milk or cheese, so it would just be another expense to keep them. I know that I would never be able to eat any sheep that I raised, and to raise enough for wool, would make for some very expensive yarn. Probably why hand spun yarn cost so much.
The cost of drilling a well, would probably be more expensive than a lifetime of even our high-priced water. As I watched Ran split wood the other day, I was reminded that while it is nice exercise for him at sixty, I seriously cannot see him lumbering, hauling, splitting and stacking wood when he's eighty. As Ran points out that all I have to do to fulfill my dream of living off the grid is to flip the master switch on the electrical box. As it is now, we only use about thirty dollars of electricity a month, but I have to admit I do like my computer and it is nice to come home to a warm house that doesn't have to have the fire stoked. Not to mention, indoor plumbing is a luxury I'm not willing to live without! Ha!
All in all, we love where we live; our orchard is finally producing lots of fruit (we even had some hazelnuts this year - 4!), we raise enough vegetables and fruits to see us through the year, our neighbors are friendly and then there's the intangibles such as like-minded citizens and a county sheriff that believes in the Constitution (he recently took the Federal government to task for flying drones over our county seat).
Mainly the downside is that we feel that we are not homesteaders because we do not live on acres of land and have animals. I read lots of homesteading blogs and watch many homesteading YouTube videos, and that seems to be the factor that determines if you are a homesteader or not. However, most of those people are working jobs outside of their homes to support their lifestyle. Tractors, barns, horse feed, and the taxes on a large chunk of land is expensive. Even then, most do not raise their own grains, or live completely off the land. Truly I believe that total self-sufficiency cannot be attained these days. Land is just too valuable. Machinery is too expensive. Plus now days we have so many regulations and zoning laws, the dream of living completely independently is just that, a dream. Long gone are the days when you could buy yourself a piece of land, lumber and mill the wood, erect a house, hunt when you need meat, and be completely self-sufficient without breaking or at least skirting some laws. But there are steps to living as cheaply and as economically as possible:
1) Grow a garden
2) Learn to can and preserve
3) Learn to bake your own bread
4) Use elecetricity, water, and natural gas as miserly as you can.
5) Keep a small footprint. How big of a house do you really need?
6) Live within your means and don't borrow money
7) Learn pioneer crafts, such as sewing, knitting, making soap etc.
8) Learn to barter
9) Keep records of how much you spend and why
11) Take care of your health
12) And most importantly, ignore what society is telling you that you "should" be doing. If we had a dollar for all the jokes and snide comments that we have received over the years about our thrifty ways, we would have enough money to buy a large tract of land and pay the taxes on it. We've been "urban homesteading" for almost forty years, long before the term became trendy.
THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK
There! I'm glad I talked that out. Hope I didn't bore you too much. Sometimes I find it helps to write out all the nice sensible reasons why a plan isn't feasible so that I'm not led by my heart.
Anyway, on to the thrifty things:
Made our own turmeric tablets
Sold 10 more things on Ebay.
Started to make a small patchwork quilt from the scrapbag.
Knitted mittens from the yarn stash for charity.
Made candles from the bits left in those jar candles and old teacups.
Bought a couple of shirts for Jamie from the 50% of sale at the thrift store.
Bought, split and stacked wood for heating.
Got our utilities bills, we were down 66% from last year's natural gas, 25% for electricity and saved 1000 gallons of water from last month.
Ate from the pantry.
Heated with wood.
Saved 50% of our paycheck.
Got paid for doing a couple of odd jobs.
Continued to use the old wringer washing machine and hang our laundry on racks to dry.
Watched old movies on YouTube.
Learned how to use a rocket stove to heat a water tank.
Walked and walked and walked.
Used some of our many candles for lighting in the evening.
So that's it for this week. Hope you all have a nice cozy week ahead of you!