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Monday, January 31, 2011


Why is there a permanent press setting on most irons?
~ Kay Mosure~

Sorry if the title of this post made you think you were about to learn a titillating little secret about me.  Nope.  Just a little post about laundry.   Well, here's a secret.  I don't own a clothes dryer.  Haven't for about four years. I might have purchased one, except for the fact that there's no room for one in my little cottage and I'd rather wear dirty clothes than go down in the "silence of the lambs" basement.

  Everyone knows how thrifty it is to hang your laundry outside in the warm weather, but most resort to the dryer come winter.  I hang them on a little contraption called a drying rack (and the upstairs banister) in my pantry.  When my husband and I bought our first home, it came with an electric clothes dryer.  The first time we tried it, we looked at the electric meter spinning off it's axis (located conveniently   over the dryer) and unplugged it.  How did we survive with a house bulging at the seams with boys?  We ran clothes lines in our basement.  During the winter the air is so dry that it only took a day for them to dry.  Plus it added moisture to the air.

My friend  asked me what do I do when I have visitors.  I have a simple solution.  I shut the door.  If they are good enough friends to go poking about behind my closed doors, they are good enough friends to see my laundry.  As for the banister, everyone has too creaky of knees to venture up my little ship's ladder of a staircase, and besides all that is upstairs is bedrooms and they don't need to be there anyhow.

I couldn't even venture a guess at how much money we've saved by not running a dryer.  For a while we did abandon our thrifty ways and use one.  But you know what?  I kinda missed my hard towels.  I tell you, you don't need a loofah  or to exfoliate when you dry your towels inside!

PS:  Did you ever notice that brownies and bar cookies taste 100% better when you cut  and place them in a canister (preferable with a Currier and Ives scene) inside the refrigerator?

Friday, January 28, 2011


Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.
~Samuel Johnson~

Here are some simple rules that I hope that we've instilled in our children.

1. Live within your means.
    This one is pretty self-evident, but very few people practice it.  Always base your expenditures     upon  what your income is today, not what you expect to earn in the future.  Don't let realty agents or cars salesmen, or anyone else talk you into spending more than you know you can afford.

2. Plan ahead.
    This is a good rule for everything from planning a shopping list to eliminate extra trips to the grocery store, to saving for a big car repair when your car has 100,000 miles on it.  You know it's going to happen, so start preparing now.  I know an acquaintance that lives on a fixed income.  She is diabetic and knows that she must pay for medicine, but whenever she has a few extra pennies, she spends them on goodies at the thrift store,  fast foods, and she never economizes at the grocery store.  She even manages to go on a vacation.  But then asks to borrow money because she doesn't have the money for her medicine.  I know it isn't fun to go without little luxuries, but the medicine is an essential.  Which leads me to the next rule...

3.  Know the difference between a need and a want.
     Take care of your needs first.  Prepare for future needs and then and only then should you indulge in a luxury.  Of course differentiating from a want and a need is difficult for some people.  You have to question every purchase, even something as mundane as a box of Little Debbie snack cakes.

4.  Don't try to keep up with the Joneses.
     You can bet dollars to donuts that they are in debt up to their eyeballs  trying to keep up with someone too.  You  simply cannot afford a $250,000 home, a new SUV, a trip to Disneyland, and a walk-in closet full of clothes on the wages of the average American (around $40,000). Which leads to rule number five...

5.  Be happy with what you have.
      Sure John Smith down the road may have more than you have, but you've got plenty.  My grandmother always said if you have a home and a car, you were doing alright in life.  There are many who don't.  Be grateful.

6.  Never a borrower be.
     I know that the average American cannot afford to buy a car with cash, but if you buy a less expensive model or maybe a good used one, you can pocket the difference in prices between that and the latest, greatest model.  Save that money and maybe you can pay cash for your next car, or at least put down a large down payment.  Do you really need a McMansion with a bedroom and bathroom for each child?  A den, living room, and media room?  Buy a modest priced home that doesn't cause you to break into a cold sweat each month trying to make the mortgage payment.

7.  Set goals.
     Whether it's how much to spend for Christmas or when you would like to pay off your mortgage, if you don't know what your goal is, how are you going to work toward it? Budgets and goals keep you focused.

8. Plan for the worst case scenario.
    Life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench in the best plans.  An unexpected illness, a job loss, or world events.  Right now I'm listening to the news talk about all the unrest in the Middle East.  What will that do to the cost of oil?  Can your family's budget stretch if gas gets to $4 or $5 a gallon?  What will the cost of groceries be if it does?  Start thinking about how to stock up a pantry, grow a garden, alternate ways of getting around now.  Maybe now would be a good time to install a woodstove (as we did in the 1970s when we had an oil embargo) It's a lot easier to plan when you are not in a crisis mode. Become as independent as you possibly can.

9. Be thrifty but not miserly.
    There's a big difference you now.  Being thrifty means not squandering your money foolishly.  Being miserly is to begrudge others and yourself when you can afford it.  I'll tell you the true story of one woman I knew who never would give her children anything in her house.  They had young  families and were struggling to make ends meet, but instead of giving them things they could have used when the needed them (and she didn't) she would always say "Put your name on it and when I die, you can have it."  The items would go into the basement and end up rusting or getting covered in mold. The children managed to establish their homes without her assistance.  Well, years passed and the woman grew old and feeble and had to be moved out of her home.  All those things that she had stored in the basement had to be thrown out.  The family now in their middle ages, had homes of their owns, bulging at the seams.  They no longer needed those things and they were unusable anyway.  The old lady was quite put out that no one wanted her old junk and it had all gone to waste.  The moral of this story is if that the time to give is when someone needs it.  If you can afford it, give when you are asked.  Even if you may need to sacrifice  to do so.

10.  Finally, enjoy life.
       Take up a hobby.  Learn something new everyday.  Be generous when you can.  Remember  what's important in life (and it aint things).

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary.  
~Mary Kurtz~

I've been knitting these little slippers since I was ten.  They really knit up quick, usually you can knit a pair in one evening. And they are a great beginner's project.  They can be made for a few dollars because you use a skein of that cheap kind of yarn that you can buy at Wal-Mart and crafts stores (you know the kind).  Sometimes I get frustrated with all the beautiful patterns out there because the require special (and expensive) yarns  that are hard to find in rural areas.   I found the pattern in an old 1940s knitting book.  I was so glad to get reacquainted with this simple pattern. An added plus is that they take no concentration whatsoever, so they make a great take-along project.

Easy Slippers

Instructions are for child's size.  Women's is in parentheses.

3 oz standard knitting yarn (use 2 strands)
Knitting needles : size 9

Cast on 27  (29)stitches.
Row 1: wrong side K9 (9), p1, k7 (9),p1, k9(9)
Row2: K all stitches
Repeat these 2 rows for 5 (6) inches or 2 inches less then desired finished length, allowing 2 (2 1/2) inches for toe.  End on wrong side.

Row 1:  P1*K1, p1: repeat from*to end.
Row2:  K1* p1, k1; repeat from* to the end.
Repeat these two rows of ribbing for 1 1/2 (2) inches, end on wrong side.

First dec. row:  Work ribbing for 7 (9) stitches.* slip1,knit 1 and pass, k1, k2 together*,work 3 (5) stitches in ribbing. Repeat between *s once, finish row in ribbing, 23 (25) stitches.

Next row:  Work ribbing for 7 (9) stitches, p3, work 3 (5) stitches in ribbing, p3, finish row.

2nd dec. row:  Work 6(6) stitches,*k2 together, k1, slip1,k1, pass slip stitch over*, work 1(3) stitches, repeat between *s once.  Finish row. 19 (21) stitches

Break off yarn, leaving an end.  Draw end through all the stitches twice; fasten off securely.


Fold cast-on edge in half and sew edges together for back of heel.  Gathering in the center stitches securely. Sew side edges of ribbing and foot together for 3 (4) inches from toe.

Trim with pom-poms, buckles, or buttons.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The kitchen's the coziest place that I know:
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me!
~Christopher Morley~

The experts are saying that in twenty years chocolate will be expensive as caviar due to higher demand and less supply.  Good old-fashioned cocoa is the cheapest way to get your chocolate "fix".  Now I know there are some true chocolate connoisseurs that would scoff at cocoa.   Only  fancy imported  chocolate is good enough for them. I once heard a chef describe eating a piece of chicken, describing as it hit his taste buds at the front of his mouth and how it changed as the food traveled toward the back of his mouth. Well!  If you get that much out of food, maybe cocoa isn't for you.  I'm talking about the average joes that don't expect food to do things for them except taste good (well and nourish us would be good too).  I use good old Hersheys or (gasp!) even cheaper brands.  And I can guarantee you that no one has ever turned down a mug of my cocoa.

With cocoa on your pantry shelf, you can eliminate cocoa , pudding and chocolate cake mixes from your pantry shelves.  It takes just a few minutes extra to make these goodies from scratch with what you have on hand.  And I swear, homemade hot cocoa is nothing like the stuff you get in the instant drinks aisles.  Oh my is it ever rich!  It will give you a buzz all day!  Here's the recipe:


2 Tbsp. cocoa
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 C. water
1 1/2 C.  milk

Blend cocoa and sugar in a saucepan.  Gradually add the water, whisking out the lumps.  Heat over medium heat for  a minute, stirring constantly.  Add the milk and heat.  Do not boil.

That's the basic recipe, but we always gild the lily. We might add a splash of eggnog or some of those wonderful flavored creamers that are out there.  Sometimes we add a bit of mint extract and sprinkle crushed peppermints over top.  This cup was made with Silk's pure coconut vanilla milk.  Has anyone tried that?  Yummy! and the same amount of calories as skimmed milk!

Here's another recipe using cocoa.  Plain old cornstarch pudding:

Chocolate Pudding

1/2 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1/4 C. cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 1/2 C. milk
2 Tbsp.  butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan, stir together the first four ingredients.  Gradually stir in the milk.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.  Cool slightly.  Serve warm or cold.

A very basic chocolate cookie that can be dressed up or down:

Chewy Brownie Cookies

2/3 C. shortening
1 1/2 C. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp.  vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 C. flour
1/3 C. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Beat shortening, brown sugar, water and vanilla together.  Add eggs and beat well.
Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture until just blended.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

I made these for Christmas, substituting coconut extract for the vanilla and frosting them with a thick white frosting sprinkled with coconut.  Also made them with peppermint extract and stirred in mint chips. Again I frosted them with peppermint frosting.  You could also stir in chocolate (or butterscotch or peanut butter) chips.  Or how about nuts?  Your only limited by your imagination.

Another recipe that lends itself to variations is your basic chocolate cake.  Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Cake

6 Tbsp. cocoa
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 C. hot water
1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. shortening
1/4 C. buttermilk (you can substitute regular milk with a splash of vinegar)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Blend together cocoa, oil and water.  Stir in sugar.  Beat in shortening, egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.  Bake in a greased 8 inch square pan at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

So you see, good things can come from even the most basic of pantries!

Monday, January 24, 2011


All we could do is sit, sit, sit, sit!  And we did not like it.  Not one little bit!
~Dr. Seuss~

Today the  mercury on the thermometer  has dipped below the zero mark.  No one with any sense is doing much unnecessary  traveling.  We are all hunkering down in our little abodes and just trying to "get through"  one of the worst winters we've seen in a long, long time.  This is the time of year that cabin fever sets in. 

I enjoy this solitude because I can make a big mess like sewing new dining room drapes without worrying about any unexpected visitors.  My dining room table is the only workspace large enough for those heavy contraptions.  Yards and yards of hand-embroidered crewel fabric that I bought for a song  from an antique  dealer who wasn't interested in "those old rags"!  With winter's permission to make a mess, I can also try out recipes that are destined to pile the sink high with dirty dishes.

This is also the time when my knitting can receive my full attention.  Time to try out a complicated lacy pattern.  The yarn was twenty-five cents at the thrift store.  If it doesn't work out, I won't be out of much money.

When the family was at home, winter was the time to break out a jigsaw puzzle.  Whenever anyone would stop by, they couldn't resist "trying" a few pieces.  It's good cheap entertainment for all ages.  I usually buy puzzles at garage sales during the summer.  It doesn't matter to me if a piece or two is missing because usually one or two pieces manages to fall upon the floor and consequentially chewed by Georgie our dog.

During a particularly stretch of boredom, I cleaned out my refrigerator and found a few tangerines that were drying out.  An afternoon was spent poking little cloves into the citrus  and was rewarded with some lovely pomanders.  I use those  cheap bottles of spices that can be bought at the dollar stores.  It's called Spice Time and I see that Wal-Mart carries that brand now.

A few years back I bid on and won a large box of vintage magazines.  Three generations of family had fun reading and sharing these.  Now whenever I'm near an antique store, I'll check to see if they have any old magazines.  They are usually cheaper than new ones at the bookstore and even the advertisements  give you enjoyment.  Plus, I've picked up many thrifty ideas from the depression era and war-rationed 1940s editions.

Winter is also a fun time to play cards and board games.  There's some really fun games made now days.  It really bridges the generation gap.  Anyone in the Port Austin area interested in a game of Rook?  A card party is an old-fashioned amusement that would be fun to revive.

Outside there's snowmen to be made , animal tracks to decipher and when was the last time you had a game of fox and geese?  For photographers brave enough to face the cold, this time of year offers so much beauty.

How can anyone be bored in winter?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
~John 14:27~
Not as the world giveth...  So why do so many of us try to "buy" happiness? Expect other's to make us happy?   True peace cannot be found in anything this world can produce or people can do, it comes from inside, in knowing that your Redeemer lives.   Let not your heart be troubled.  Blessed assurance from our loving Savior. It is His last legacy to His disciples and those who would follow Him. Peace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.
     ~Aesop proverb~

 During my Sunday conversation with my mother, she once again worried about the rising costs of groceries.  Like many elderly, she lives on a fixed income.  Because we grow about 75% of what we eat (I canned  and dried over 500 jars this year), I'm sort of oblivious to rising food costs.  For the rest, I use my price-book method and buy at the lowest price and stock up.  Like a mini commodities trader, I always buy  low.  Meat is usually the most expensive item on the shopping list, so it makes sense to find substitutions for it.  Here's some ideas:

First, use meat sparingly.  More like a flavoring, rather than the main focus of  the meal. It is a tradition in New England to have baked beans and brown bread for Saturday night dinner.  A few rashers of bacon that wouldn't satisfy  one becomes a rib-sticking meal for several, with plenty left over. Does anything smell more wonderful  and homey than to come in from the cold and smell the smoky aroma of a pot of beans?

Another way is to add beans to stretch the quantities in soups and stews.  For instance, in chili, rather than using your usual amount of hamburger, halve it and add an additional can of beans.  We have always added kidney beans to our sloppy joes.  Makes it go from 6 skimpy portions to 8-10 servings.  Now days we completely eliminate the hamburg and make them with just the beans.  It is one of our favorite vegan junk foods.  You can add mashed beans to meatloaves.  Red beans and rice is a classic "poor mans" food.  Here's the recipe:

Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. dry red kidney beans
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp.  pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. cumin
1 quart water
1 lg. smoked ham hock (it's important it is smoked)
3 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C. chopped celery
1 1/2 C chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
cooked rice

Sort and rinse beans.  In a large Dutch oven, place all the ingredients except the rice.  Bring to a  boil, the simmer 3-4 hours or until beans are tender.  Stir occasionally, adding water as needed to make a thick gravy.  Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and ham hock.  Remove and chop the meat from the hock and return the meat to the pot.  Serve over rice.

Note: We like to serve this with cornbread and our home-canned corn relish.  To make this vegan, we substitute two  Morningstar Italian sausages (a soy product) for the ham hock.  It makes little difference in the taste and reduces the amount of fat and cholesterol.

Consider using beans as the main source of protein.  Because I have a thyroid condition I cannot eat very much soy (it interferes with the medicines effectiveness) so we make our own bean cakes.  They taste better than the store ones and  cost a lot less.  Here's the recipe:

Black Bean Cakes

1 1/2 C.  salsa (drained in a sieve)
2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)
1  (8.5 oz.) pkg. corn muffin mix (we use Jiffy)
2 1/2 tsp. chili powder

Mash the black beans.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and form into patties. (Hint:  put the patties into the freezer a while to firm them up)  Fry in a small amount  of olive oil until browned and heated through.

Dried beans are the thriftiest way to buy beans.  I recently stocked up on a 15# bag of  of pinto beans for $10.  That's 66 cents a pound.  I also bought some one pound bags of black beans from the Dollar General for 69 cents.  They were on the reduced for quick sale rack. Dried beans will last forever if they are kept dry.  I do admit that it is a pain to deal with the reconstituting of dried products, so when I'm bored I can up a batch.  (my pressure canner is never put away).  Here's how:

Canning  Dried Beans

Wash and pick over bean.  Cover them with water and set overnight.  Drain.  Cover the beans with a couple inches of water (at least two) and bring to a boil.  Boil for one half hour, stirring to keep them from sticking.  Pack the beans into hot sterilized pint jars.  Add 1/2 tsp. canning salt to the jars. Pour cooking liquid over the beans.  Remove air bubbles.  Allow 1 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims and place hot steralized lids on jars.  Screw down the rings.  Process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

I realize that not everyone has a pressure canner.  You can prepare a batch of beans and freeze them in quart sized containers.  One pound of dried beans is more or less equivilant to 3-4 cans of beans.  At  $1.50 a pound that's less then half the price of the canned ones. They last about 6 months in the freezer.

Here's what a 1 lb. bag of dried beans will yield:

6 C.  black beans
7 1/2 C.  garbanzo beans
5 C.  pinto beans or kidney beans
6 C.  white kidney beans (cannellini)

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I do not believe in coincidences or luck.  What I do believe is that God puts everything in our path whether it be triumph or tragedy, to mold us into the person He wants us to be.  Pre-destination.  So I had been thinking about praying.  My prayers are not the lofty platitudes of ministers, just quick little "e-mails" to God throughout the day of thanksgiving as something joyous or good happens, and prayers asking for courage and comfort for others  and myself, as I hear of sad news or tragedies, always ending in "if it is Your will Lord so be it".  But I always think I'm fumbling for words and have apologized to the Lord on many occasions when the words cannot be found to say exactly what I want.  I know He knows what is in my heart, but I'd would still like to be able to vocalize it.

So anyway to move this story along, I recently bought a large print Bible from the Goodwill store.  I guess I'm getting old because the print in my Bible was getting pretty small!  So struggling with my prayers, I decided to turn to the Book of Matthew to The Lord's Prayer.  I discovered an article written about the prayer, brittle with age sandwiched between the pages.  It was titled "The Prayer Jesus Taught"  and the author is Ernest O. Hauser.

As we all know, Christ improvised the prayer when one of his disciples requested that He teach them to pray.  It is comforting to know that one of God's disciples was struggling with this also.  The prayer Jesus taught was a revolutionary idea.  It was personal and brief.  Unlike the "vain repetitions" of the heathen prayers. 

But the fascinating part of the article for me was about the "Our Father" part of the prayer.  The translated  word "Father" is Abba  in Aramaic,  which was the language Jesus used.  Abba can best be translated as "Papa"!   We are not to approach God in our petitions as though we are fearful  people approaching a sovereign lord. We are to approach Him as children would approach their father to discuss family matters.  With love and respect yes, but knowing that God is a benevolent God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, he authorized them to approach God in this way. We are to recieve  the benefit of the same intimate relationship with the Father, that He has. 

So now I know that it is okay to fumble for words, or to have words completely fail me.  God is a loving Father and he understands.  Through a simple little article clipped and tucked away in a thrifted Bible, God has answered my prayer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The ordinary arts we practice every day
at home are of more importance to the
soul than their simplicity might suggest.
~Thomas More~

The other day my son called up to ask me how I make mac and cheese, so I had the  old conversation about your basic white sauce again.  He knew how to make one, as he is a wonderful cook and knows much more about classical cooking than I do, but it reminded me that before you can start to improvise in the kitchen you need to know the basics.  White sauce can be used in place of any of the "cream of" soups you have and because it is made from the very basic of ingredients you never have to worry about running out of it.  So here it is again:

White or Cream Sauce

2 C. milk, scalded (although I usual skip the scalding step)
2. tbsp butter
4 tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Stir in the flour until smooth.  (this is called a roux) .  Slowly stir in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick.  Salt and pepper to taste. All of this is done over a very low heat, of course, so not to scorch the mixture!

To make mac and cheese, I make this sauce times 1 1/2 for 1/2 pound of macaroni.  Add 1 tsp. dry mustard  and 1/2 tsp. paprika to the flour.  Stir in 2-3 cups cheese and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce,  to the sauce and stir until smooth.  Combine with the macaroni and put in a buttered 8 inch square pan.  Top with crushed Ritz (or Ritz-like wink, wink!) crackers.  Bake at a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

There are so many variations on the cream sauce.  You can substitute the milk for chicken broth and add some chicken compatible seasoning,  Stir in some leftover chicken (chopped of course) maybe some peppers, peas, celery, diced cooked carrots, or whatever you please.  Serve this over rice for Chicken A La King.  That same sauce would be a good gravy for a pot pie.

Substitute the butter for sausage grease and crumble a breakfast sausage into it an you have sausage gravy to serve over biscuits.  A bit of dry  mustard is good in this too.

Use more flour to make a thicker sauce and make croquettes.  An antiquated food that is a fun way to use up meat scraps or some mushrooms found on the '"reduced for quick sale" shelve in your produce market.

Use you imagination and experiment!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The other night as Jamie, Georgie and I set out for an evening stroll, a  gentle snow was falling.  This was not the snarling, snapping snow of an Alberta Clipper that we've being experiencing lately, but a hushed graceful snowfall. Special effects in Hollywood would not be able to duplicate its beauty.  The heavy dove grey clouds hung close to the Earth, cocooning and muffling the world.  The carillon bells  chimed  Lo How a Rose E're Blooming in the background.  I whispered to Jamie, not wanting to disturb the serenity, that it felt more like Christmas, than  the actual Christmas day .  It is hard not to believe in peace on Earth on a night like this.  Rich man or beggar man can both enjoy  such an evening.  The best things in life are free.

Monday, January 10, 2011


The butt'ry is a small room with a smell of good things to eat and a look of delicious plenty.
~Mary Mason Campbell~

Well, we had another big snowfall.  Traveling has been difficult lately.  I am so thankful for my well stocked pantry.  I do not have to drive on treacherous roads.  In the past, the pantry was a lifeline when unexpected expenses arose and our already stretched-to-the-limits paycheck couldn't accommodate groceries.   We could probably live for a year on what we have.  A well stocked pantry is better than money in the bank!  Maybe the foods wouldn't be the most inspiring and "fun", but they would be nutritious, and after all isn't that what food is supposed to be?    What's on my pantry shelves?  Here's a breakdown:

Various cans of vegetables (peas, carrots, beans, pumpkin, corn and lots of tomatoes)
Sugar (brown, white, and powdered)
Various pastas (although in a pinch I could make them from scratch)
Baking powder and soda
Condiments (ketchup, mustard, soy sauce,  interesting sauces from the foreign food aisle)
Rice (brown and white)
Dried beans (white northern, pinto, lentils, and black beans)
Jams and Jellies
Powdered milk
Evaporated milk
Canned fruits (pineapple,pears, peaches and applesauce)
Dried fruits (apples, dates, cranberries and raisins)
Cooking oil (we use olive oil and corn oil)
Coffee and tea
Spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, sage,thyme, rosemary, cumin, parsley, oregano, paprika, dry mustard)
Salt and Pepper
Cans of tuna and chicken
Peanut Butter
Vanilla (and any other extract you like)
Canned mushrooms (we dry some too)

In cold storage we store:
Squashes and pumpkins

In the freezer:
Soup bones
Bacon  (we buy ends and pieces. pre-vegan lifestyle of course, just a little adds a lot of flavor to  beans  and soups)
Butter (bought on sale)
Pre-cooked items (we make rice, pie crusts and dried beans up in large quantities and freeze for quick meals)
Whipped topping (hey, it makes a dessert out of a can of fruit and what is pie without it?)
Meat (when you find a sale stock up)
Nuts (again when on sale ...)

In the refrigerator:
Maple syrup
A bag of carrots
Orange juice
Fresh fruits depending on the price

With these ingredients, I can make soups, casseroles, baked beans, pancakes, granola,  bread, biscuits, cornbread, salad dressings  and desserts. Of course you can add and subtract  from the list as your tastes dictate.  For instance, I always have a bag of coconut in the freezer (stays fresher there) because it is my favorite flavor. I'm sure others would include chocolate chips!   You will notice, there are no cake mixes, salad dressings, breakfast cereals and such on my list.  You can make them from scratch from the pantry staples. There are no "cream of" soups either, variations on your basic white sauce will work for this.  In future posts, I'll explain how I use various ingredients.

So now you have a good idea what should be in your pantry.  How do you go about stocking it? Amy Dacyczyn describes her price book method in her book The Tightwad Gazette.  Basically it is a notebook, where you write down the prices of your pantry staples and where they were purchased.  You break down each item into price per unit.  For instance cheese would be by the ounce, flour by the pound.  You will soon see which store has the best price.   For instance  Sav-A- Lot has an 11 oz can of corn for 69 cents, the other stores don't even come close, but every once in a while Meijers has buy-one-get-one free of Del Monte's Summer Crisp which equals  50 cents for an 11 ounce can.  When they go on sale, I stock up.  Now you will know when a sale is really a sale.  Sometimes you will be surprised,  as I was, to discover, that the shredded cheese at Walmart was actually cheaper than  a the cheapest chunk of cheese I could find.  I always assumed doing the work of shredding saved money.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless

James 2:17
New Living Translation (©2007)

.A while back, I read a story of a homeless man that had wandered into a church in a rather affluent area of the city.  As he searched for a seat, the wealthy parishioners recoiled in horror at the mere thought that this unkempt man would sit next to them. As he paused at each pew, he was rejected.  So he just sat on the floor in the middle of the aisle.  And elderly man that was serving as an usher (no one else was available, too busy I guess) approached the homeless man.  The parishioners watched.  How was this frail old man going to throw out the much larger man?  They were  shocked when this dignified, old man struggled to sit next to the other.  After the service, people approached him.  Why did you do that?  Why didn't you throw him out?  The man replied, "I may be the only Bible this man ever sees".

Is your church like the one I described above?  I know I have attended dead churches such as that.  The church of my childhood had one of the largest congregations in the state.  As soon as the last amen was said, the people would hurry out of the church as though they were schoolchildren being set free for summer vacation.  As they exited you could overhear remarks about  the long-winded minister, concerns about roasts drying out and just a lot of mumbling and grumbling.   And the way they jockeyed to get out of the parking lot!  Well, let me say, I've seen more considerate drivers on the Loop during rush hour. Recently I was reminded of this church, when my husband and I were caught at the crosswalk, just as church was letting out.  We waited for over ten minutes as car after car, ran through the stop sign.  No one cared about the traffic laws giving pedestrians have the right of way, let alone God's law.

Another time I remember distinctly,  was a Christmas Eve service when my little family was running late and we arrived at church just five minutes before the service was to begin.  The usher marched us up and down the aisle trying to shoehorn us in.  Many people looked in disdain.  No they couldn't hang their coats in the vestibule, no they were saving the seat for Aunt Martha, who may or may not show up.  At the front of the church, the patriarchs of the church sat.  Although there was usually only one or two people sitting in those pews, others couldn't sit  there.  It was their privilege as major contributors to the church funds to have a pew to themselves.  I was close to tears as the usher walked us  to the  back of the church and set up some folding chairs.  Guess the parishioners were absent when the sermon about "no room at the inn" was delivered.

When I moved to this little village, I was excited about joining the one and only little church here.  I hungered so for fellowship and I thought it would be a wonderful way to meet other Christians.  The church was having a pancake breakfast, and I thought I would go and introduce myself to the minister and a few of the ladies, so that some of the faces would be familiar when I attended Sunday service.  Besides, I had a few questions about the schedule, etc.  Anyway, when I entered the hall for the breakfast, you could hear a pin drop as everyone turned and stared.  Not a soul said welcome, nor even asked if they could help.  I was even confused about the pancake breakfast part.  No one seemed to being selling tickets or serving.  I asked about the breakfast, and some began to chuckle, it was getting very uncomfortable.  Didn't I know that they stopped serving half an hour ago?  I just quietly left, well as quietly as one can when all eyes are upon you.  Later I was telling my neighbor who never misses a Sunday about my experience.  "Oh!" she said, "You have to understand, the congregation can be a little stand-offish with strangers."

Stand-offish with strangers?  That is the antithesis of what a church should be.  When the Bible speaks of the Church, it doesn't mean a physical place, God is referring to a community of believers.  Believers that are there to support and love there fellow brethren.  I am firmly grounded in my faith, but just suppose that I  had come seeking to know the Lord.  Would I have found it in the churches I described?  To Christians everywhere, I implore you to open your arms and hearts to strangers, not just at church but everywhere.  Do not just shake their hands and say welcome, but show genuine interest and hospitality. Be loving and concerned for your neighbor. Remember you may be the only Bible that person ever sees.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


The other day I was watching the History Channel and they had  on a show  about different doomsday scenarios.  One was the fact that our country is running out of water.  As a resident of Michigan that is easy to believe.  One just has to look at the shoreline to see how far they have receded and the area isn't suffering from any droughts either.  As a gardener, I can tell you, no water, no food.

Less than two hundred years ago, water was an important factor in choosing where you lived.  When you have to lug water by the bucketfuls, nearness to water becomes a priority!  Our forefathers would never have dreamt of large populations living in the desert as they do now.  This generation has really taken our water for granted.  I know I'm guilty of letting the tap run and full force while I brush my teeth, and of lingering longer than necessary in the shower.

We can all take small steps to save water.  It might not make much of a difference in your water bill, but it is good for the Earth.  When waiting for the water to warm up in the kitchen, fill the dog's bowl, fill up a jug of water to put in the refrigerator, water the plants, fill up your watering can.  There's no reason to let that good water go down the drain.  Make sure you turn off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth and when you do have the tap on, do you really need to have it open all the way?  Instead of letting the water run while washing your face, fill the basin and use a washcloth.   (I'm guilty of this one.  Oh!  That's what the stopper is for!) When in the shower, get in and get out.  While you're at it, rethink how often you shower.  Maybe a sponge bath will suffice on some days?   When bathing  children do you need to fill and empty the tub with each child?  When my boys were young we dumped them all in the tub together.  Saved time as well as water. Rethink your landscaping.  Find plants that are suitable for your area. Do you really need to have the greenest grass on the block?  Watering a  field of grass that serves no purpose other than to look nice is a major waste of water.  I'm always surprised when an area has a drought, that they have to ban lawn watering.  I should think people could figure that out for themselves. As a sidebar to this, please reconsider the use of fertilizers to maintain your lawn.  All those chemicals leach down into your water source.

Now here are some ideas that may have an "ick" factor or are a bit "out there" for some but can help conserve water.  While waiting for the shower to get hot, put a bucket down to capture the water.  You can use the water on your garden or to flush your toilet.  Since we are on the subject of toilets, maybe if you are just making water (ahem!) it isn't necessary to flush.  I warned you about the "ick" factor!  If you are drinking enough water, your urine should be pretty clear anyway.  Of course this idea works best if you live alone and have few visitors!  Consider getting a rain barrel, but make sure it has a netting over the top so that it doesn't become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  I stretch a piece of cheesecloth over mine and secure it tightly with twine.   Just becoming aware of your water waste will help you conserve.

Friday, January 7, 2011


About six months ago my husband and I read a book called  The China Study.  Basically, it states and backs up with an astounding amount of data that a vegan lifestyle will stop and reverse heart disease.  So that fact combined with the realization that we could grow almost all the food we needed was enough to convince us to take up the vegan lifestyle.  Friends would grunt and say, "All you can eat is salads".  Not true!  Almost every nationality has what I call "peasant" foods, that incorporate beans and vegetables.  I soon found that you could substitute beans and mushrooms for meat in many of the thrifty recipes I already had.  Also soy meat and cheese substitutes are getting better all the time.  The Eastern nationalities have many exotic and  tempting recipes.  Here is a recipe from India:

 Chickpea, and Red Lentil Stew

1 lb. pumpkin, cubed (if you don't have pumpkin you can substitute any root vegetable, except beets)
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans
1 C. chopped onions
3 or 4 med. carrots, diced
1 C. red lentils (or regular lentils if you can't find the red)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste  ( I often substitute ketchup  for this)
1 tsp. groun ginger
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. bottled curry sauce (found in the foreign foods aisle or substitute curry powder to taste)
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 C. vegetable broth (more on this later)

Simply put everything in a pot and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender.  This would be served with naan, but we like it over cornbread.

This makes a huge pot with 8 very generous servings.  I would say more.  And it only has 275 calories per serving for the dieter.  When I did my calculations, I came up with 2 mg. of cholesterol,  but since this is completely plant based I don't know where the cholesterol came from.  Maybe the curry sauce?

Now for the vegetable broth.  You can make your own from vegetable scraps.  Just put all the leftover vegetables, salad greens that are looking a bit peaked, peels from your carrots, tops from the celery, and the tougher outer skin from your onions (you get the idea) and a clove or two of garlic into a large pot, cover with water and simmer on the back of the stove.  When it starts to look like broth, turn off the heat, cool and strain.  You can freeze for later use.

A word about freezing.  Those reusable freezer containers are a good investment.  Freezer bag prices are getting outrageous  and besides plastic is a petroleum based product and we all can make little changes to help out the enviroment and our pocketbooks at the same time. When storing things in the refrigerator you can reuse clean jars or buy some reusable plastic ware  (my husband has his friends save the containers from Chinese take-out) or if you don't want to use plastic, there are glass topped containers available.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Yesterday, when I entered the Dollar General store, the first display I saw was a rack of garden seeds.  I know, you're looking out the window and seeing nothing but snow and thinking I'm nuts to be bringing up the subject of gardening during one of the snowiest Winters we've seen in quite a while, but now is the perfect time to be planning a garden.

Many people are under the delusion that you must have acres of land for a garden, but in reality a garden can be as big or small as you want to make it.  If you live in an urban area, a garden might be a few pots of herbs on a windowsill.  Maybe you live in an apartment with a balcony, wouldn't a pot of tomatoes be nice?  When I was growing up many people had little postage stamp-sized yards.  They grew tomatoes along with the flowers.  Peas climbed up the trellises along with the roses. You know there are many pretty lettuces that can serve as a background just as well as lady's mantle, alyssum, or gypsophila.  My first garden was about four feet  by four feet.  I planted herbs, lettuce, radishes and a few tomato plants.  It was enough for some lovely salads for a few months.  The cost?  The seeds were three packets for one dollar.  I think it cost less than three dollars for the entire garden.  How much does it cost for a bag of lettuce at the grocers?  What does a salad cost at your favorite fast food joint?

Another thing people seem to assume is that it cost a lot of money to start a garden.  It is true, that if you went out and bought a rototiller and all the equipment that many gardening magazines and books steer you toward, you could have a lot of money spent before you plant your first seed.  But in truth, the only piece of equipment you need is a spade.  Not even a trowel (you can use and old tablespoon for that).  When I started my garden here at this little cottage, I was fat, unfit, and pushing fifty.  Some days I would take my spade and dig no more than half of a foot of land.  I kid you not, it was a lot of work, digging the sod and shaking out all of the dirt from the grass, but just by persevering, by the end of the month I had a lovely little plot, free of weeds and well-tilled and my body was much more fit and a little less fat.  Alas, there is no exercise for getting older!  And do you know that the little plot is still the sweetest one in my garden?  Maybe all the extra attention paid off, because I rarely have to weed it.  I now have a rototiller, because my garden has expanded to over a quarter of an acre, but those plots need a lot more care then that first little one that was so lovingly dug by hand.  As I mentioned, I have purchased seeds from the dollar stores for as little as ten for a dollar.  They might not have the varieties that a seed catalog have, but they work.  Lately, I have been growing heirloom varieties and saving the seeds.  Only non-hybrid seeds will reproduce.  It is an added bonus to eat a vegetable that someone living centuries ago may have eaten.  History on a plate!

The other thing I hear, is that a garden is very labor intensive.  Well that depends on how big it is.  A little plot will not take to much time, a few minutes in the evening to keep the weeds at bay is well worth it don't you think?  Less time than it takes to watch some silly TV show or have an aimless conversation on the cell phone.  If you have pre-teens  or teens you can teach them to care for your garden.  It is a good life skill and besides children should contribute to the household somehow. It teaches them responsibility, pride in a job well done, etc.

So why talk about a garden in January?   Because now is the time to be planning.  As you go about your day, observe which spot in the yard gets the most sun.  You can buy your seeds now while the selection is best.  Depending on where you live you can start your plants soon.  Start collecting up little paper cups and aluminum pans to start them in now.  No need to buy those little peat pots.  Go to the library and get some books on gardening or search the internet.  But don't get to bogged down by the information.  Goodness!  It's a wonder that anyone would plant anything if they followed all the advice that is out there!  A friend  that was new to gardening was explaining composting to me, going through calculations on the ratio of brown and green materials.  I just smiled to myself.  For years, I've been making lovely rich compost in nothing but a chicken wired enclosure, just throwing in any old vegetables or peelings.  My ancestors have been doing it for centuries, since the first came over on the Mayflower.  Remember that nature will plant its own garden if left alone.  You should see the lovely tomatoes and pumpkins that grew in the area that was my old compost pile.  All I did was not till the area.  And I have plenty of orphan herbs that have reseeded themselves.

Is a garden worth it?  You bet!  As I sit in my pantry/ study looking at the rows of home canned fruits  and vegetables, it is a blessed assurance that come what may, we will not starve.  It is also the privilege of experiencing that miracle that a single seed can be sown and grown into something that can nourish your body and soul.


A new year and a new beginning.  I used to have a fairly popular blog about a year ago, but I found that it was straying far from the original vision I had for it.  My  intention was  to help those that are struggling through hard times and at the same time  show them that there is joy in the ordinary things and times that make up our daily lives.  I'm also ashamed to admit, that a bit of my ego was tied up in seeing how many comments  and e-mails I received. I felt that I was being pulled in different directions from readers that were liberal and those that were conservative, not wanting to offend anyone.   I was even caught in the middle of a war of words  between two bloggers, one accusing the other of  plagiarism. In other words, all the joy had gone out of the little enterprise that was started with such high  hopes and good intentions.  So I pulled my blog out of the blogosphere and blithely went on with my life.  But something happened last November.  A dear friend died.  I remembered that he told my husband that he found reading my blog was comforting. A little seed was planted.  As more people started to share their tales of worry and strife as the economy spirals downward, a little voice in the back of my head kept telling me  that I could help.  I have decades of experience at being thrifty, you see.

So, here is my mission statement for this blog: The title says it all, yes, I will share information, tips, and encouragement about stretching a dollar, but I will also try introduce you to the simple little pleasures  that are found as one goes about their day.  Oh! by the way, I am a conservative and a Christian.  I do not intend to talk about politics or to use this blog as a pulpit (except on Sundays), but sometimes something is said that offends those that are of the liberal bent.  I believe that everyone needs to be self-reliant.  That is the only way to have true freedom.  As for my Christianity, it is the driving force behind this blog.  God has impressed upon my heart to begin again.  I do not believe in condemning others for their beliefs however, as I do not feel it is loving to judge others.  And God is love after all!  I hope this disclosure will aid you in deciding whether you wish to read this blog.  If you choose to do so, I pray  that I will be of service to you.