Search This Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Hope you are having a sunshiny day where ever you are! One day this past week it was warm enough to go out with just a heavy sweater instead of a Winter coat.  We hung laundry out on the line.  Unfortunately, the warm weather didn't last, but it was nice to get a sneak peek of Spring.  But it can still be Spring inside, the amaryllis that my friend Mary gave us for Christmas is blooming.  I love how it looks like an Easter lily.
Can you believe it soon will be Lent?  BTW, see that quilt on the loveseat? Here's a better look:
Bought it for $3 at an estate sale this week!  I'm not much for Sring-like pastels, but wanted something more cheerful than my usual earthy colors for the coming season.  This fit the bill and I certainly couldn't argue with the price, plus in a few months I can sell it at my garage sale and recoup the cost.  At the same sale, I bought this big bin of thread for $7:
There were at least fifty spools of thread and a couple pairs of dressmaker's shears. These are the sort of things I look for at estate sales,  I go through a lot of thread, sewing those woolen quilts.  BTW, thank you Jen  for sending me the green wool for my current quilt, it was just the thing  to give me the incentive to finish it.  We've bought lightbulbs, cleaning and car washing supplies, house paint and wood stains, tools and candles for pennies on the dollar at them.  As a matter of fact I purchased two Yankee Candles that had never been used for $1 each.  How much do those things run in the store?  So I'd say it's a thrifty thing to check out the estate sales, when there's one in your area.  Estates sales have more than just antiques and dated furniture.

Another thing I've had pretty good luck finding at estate sales, is bed linens.  It seems a lot of people buy sheets and never take them out of the packages.  Speaking of which, we needed to buy a new mattress cover, so I suggested to Ran that we check out the Goodwill first, our local one gets a lot of new-in-the-package bed linens from Target.  Sure enough!  There was one for only $4.99.  A lot cheaper than Wal-Mart's price of $20.  I also found two skeins of Paton's wool yarn for $1.99 each.  It's my favorite yarn for knitting mittens and warm socks, so I was pleased to find that!  BTW, I finally finished these mitten:

Once I block them, I'll pack them away for Jamie for Christmas.  I also made a crazy quilt pillow from that that shawl I wrote about a while back.  I was getting overwhelmed by all the projects I had in progress, so I decided just to give up on the shawl and make a pillow from what I had finished.
Sometimes you just have to admit defeat and resign yourself to the fact there will never be enough time in the day to do all that you want.  I feel so much better getting these two projects out of the way. I'm going to forget about knitting for a while and do some quick projects like aprons and table runners, maybe a tote bag.  Things I can do in a day or two.

 Our local thrift store is holding their annual sale and everything is 85% off.  I bought a couple very large blouses with some cute prints  to make some sundresses for Violet, they were 50 cents each.  I also found a  Eddie Bauer skirt for 30 cents and a pair of  cute corduroy paisley Vera Bradley pajama bottoms for 50 cents that have enough fabric to make a pair of pull-on pants for Violet.  Good enough for play clothes.  Also snagged some more woolen goods for the quilts,  I want to make some lap-sized ones for gifts.

While we were in town,  we stopped by the local independently owned grocery store to see if they had any reduced-for-quick-sale milk for the strays.  They did, $1/gallon.  And they also had two 1.5 pound chunks of sharp Cheddar cheese for $2.99 ($2/lb) which I took home, grated and froze.  They also had dried garbanzo beans for 75 cents a one-pound bag, which I canned up.

It made up 7 pints for a little more than 20 cents a jar.  I know a can of garbanzo beans sells for more than $1 a can, so when people ask if canning pays, I can say it certainly does.  Plus my home-canned doesn't have any corn syrup, preservatives or artificial colors.

On another day, Ran took me to the Big City,  because we wanted to purchase some wooden posts from the Re-Use-It center,  that we spotted there earlier, for a project we will be working on, once the weather warms up.  They were still there, hurray!  And they lowered the price form $50 each to $40 each.  Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.  We stopped at the other  Re-Use-It center because they always have such good deals on china.  I wanted something Spring-ish for the next few months, but didn't want to pay too much for them. I found six pretty  brown transferware ones for 25 cents each and four Johnson Brothers Autumn Delight patterned ones that I'll tuck away for Fall teas, again at  25 cents each.
While I was there I rifled through their few racks of clothes, looking for more woolen pieces.  Didn't find any, but I did find this pretty jacket from Lands' End for 50 cents:

It has such a pretty lining and fits like a dream,  usually jackets and blazers have too short of a body for me.  BTW, Laurie said she would be interested in seeing some of my get-ups, as I talk about how I don't dress like the normal 60-ish woman. Well, I tried!  But to say that I am not a model, would be an understatement!  After standing there,  trying not to blink while Ran fiddled with the camera, I got several shots with my eyes closed, my mouth open, my hair sticking out in every direction.  The best shot was this one, which he snapped as I was walking off, I was so-over the whole modeling episode:
Christy Brinkley, I aint!  BTW, you can see how long my braid is, I really want your opinion.  Do you think I should cut my hair?  Been debating this for the past few months.


We planted some lettuce  in our cold frame this week.  We also stuck a pot of green onion starts in there.  Something I learned from my friend, Regina is to plant the root ends of your green onions in the dirt and they self-propagate.


We've been experimenting with making sourdough, after Miriam left a comment on last week's post,  it resparked an interest. Maybe you are familiar with Cracker Barrel's sourdough bread?  That's the flavor we are going for.  We did find a recipe for one of those copycat recipes, but it's not quite there yet, but getting close.  We really love how soft  Andrea's bread recipe is, so we combined those two. So we'll continue to experiment.  If we ever get it just right, I'll be sure to let you know.

I'll forego my list of thrifty things I did this week, as this post is basically just a long list of them.  So that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house.  I hope that this week will be a joyful and pleasant one for you!


Monday, February 20, 2017


Hello dear friends! TA-DA!  We've reached day seven of the big $20 experiment.  Honestly, it hasn't been too painful, although I will be glad to go back to having a bit of salad dressing on my salad.  BTW, since I had  about a tablespoon  of barbecue sauce left over, I stirred it into some mayo and thinned it with some buttermilk to make a dressing for tomorrow.  I did taste it, so shame on me if this is cheating, and it tasted pretty good.  I'd say this little bottle:
of barbecue sauce has been the hero of the week for this challenge.  Without it, food would have been pretty bland.  As I come to the end of this challenge I still have the oatmeal to carry over into next week, if I were to continue.  So, I'd say we did pretty well.  Ran and Jamie sure were  good sports for going along with me on this, they even said that everything tasted good, except for the oatmeal. :)

Another key to making it work was using everything up, from the fat skimmed off of the broth, to grinding the oatmeal for flour, to adding water to the barbecue sauce bottle and shaking it up, to get the last bit of flavoring from the bottle.  Every time I emptied a dish which stored the beans or vegetables, I would slosh some warm water around the container and add it to the soup broth.  I also used all the water from boiling the potatoes and carrots.  Cate, just a few minutes ago, left a comment, suggesting that I could have zested the orange rinds and froze them for flavoring muffins.  Good idea, Cate!  Probably would have helped the oatmeal, some.

What We Had For Lunch

I made a soup of the leftover bean and rice, the last carrot and kale. Thanks to Rhonda's hint about squeezing the air out of the package the kale lasted the entire week without going bad.
I will not try to convince you that this was tasty!  We ate pretty lightly of it and have about two more bowlfuls left.  That would be another meal to carry over into next week.  I wanted to toss it, now that the experiment is over, but Ran who is as thrifty or more so than I, suggested we keep it and tomorrow we could add more seasonings to it, along with more vegetables and make it into  something better tasting.   I might freeze it for a while and revisit it later.

What We Had For Dinner

For dinner we had a baked potato with cheese and the rest of the beans on top and the remaining lettuce.
at the beginning of the week, I picked out the three largest potatoes and set them aside for this meal.  Have to admit that these two meals today were not the most thrilling meals I have ever eaten, but if we had to live on $20 a week for three people, I suppose I would have to expect some meals would be just to get you filled up. I know I would be looking forward to the next day, and getting a new batch of ingredients to work with.

Thoughts On The Week

Beans, carrots, potatoes, all things everyone knows are cheap and filling are really going to be your staples.  People that insist on eating meat at least once a day are going to have to do so at the expense of getting vegetables into their bodies.  Mrs. Shoes,  commented that with all those beans, she probably wouldn't be able to sleep in the same room as her husband.  Ha! Mrs. Shoes is a card!  Surprisingly, we didn't find ourselves to be overly  eh, er, gassy.  To eliminate some of that problem,  we  soaked our beans overnight, changed the water  then prepared them (in a pressure cooker) then rinsed the beans again.  I saved the bean broth separately and refrigerate it overnight.  All the little gas bubbles expell, then I used the broth as needed to heat the beans or in soup.

The other thing is that you need to be a planner.  You have to plan that in three days I'm going to need a cup of those beans,  save the carrot water for the soup, don't throw out the potato peels, etc.

What I'd Buy For Next Week

I won't be doing this experiment next week, it is cheaper for us to eat from our pantry than the $20 challenge.  Usually I spend about $15 on groceries when eating from my pantry,  but then I have a very well-stocked pantry. I've already bought my groceries for next week; two heads of Romaine lettuce @ 99 cents each,  a quart of Brussels sprouts @ $2.99 and 3 pounds of bacon ends and pieces for $7.99 (actually it's about 3 1/2 pounds, I weighed the packages to get the most for the money) The bacon ends and pieces are not for any meals, but just to stock up for baked beans and soups.  So that's how I spent $13 this week.  Here's what I'd buy if the experiment were to continue:
 I'd use about 5 pound of those 29 cent chicken quarters for $1.50
 Carrots were 2lbs/ $1.50 in the store
 Another package of tortillas $1.50
 A bottle of salsa from the dollar store $1
A 1 pound box of brown sugar (for the oatmeal) $1.50
8 oz. of Cheddar cheese $2
5 lbs. potatoes $3
that box of Jiffy muffins that I paid 15 cents for
Another bunch of reduced for quick sale 33 cent bananas $1
a head of Romaine lettuce 99 cents
a bag of plain rice from the dollar store $1
a container of cinnamon from the dollar store $1
another bag of those reduced for quick sale oranges $1.50
a dozen eggs,I've seen prices range from 50 cents-$1 so I'll just say $1
That amounts to $18.64.  I'd use the remaining  $1.36 for whatever I could find on the reduced vegetable bin, maybe peppers)
Plus I'd use the free mayo I got from the thrift store last week.

So that concludes the $20 challenge. I'll now resume  my regular program. Ha! Hope to see you next Sunday!


Sunday, February 19, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Another day, another dollar saved!  We're having beautiful Spring-like weather here today, hoping your weather is nice where you are at, too.  Well, I can see the light at the tunnel for this challenge, it's been fun.  Some part of me doesn't want to go back to my old habits; like having sweets in the house all the time.  I've also discovered that beans can be your best friend when you are a on a strict budget.  Many people grouse about them, but when prepared with the wonderful $1 bottle of barbecue sauce or maybe some salsa, they really are not as bland as people think.  They're probably the cheapest source of protein you'll ever find, that's for sure.  As an example, today we had a brunch of bean hash:
Which is just some parboiled potatoes and carrots fried with that fat  I skimmed off of the broth (which imparted a wonderful flavor), stirred in the beans (with the barbecue sauce) to heat them and topped with the cheese.  To be honest, it didn't taste much different than the corned beef hash I usually make. The portions were rather skimpy, as I'm holding back three of the largest potatoes for baked potatoes for tomorrow, so I was glad that we only had to split it two ways, as Ran hasn't returned home yet.  This actually would have been a very nice brunch with the addition of an egg and a piece of toast. We often get free eggs from my son, but for the sake of the challenge, we didn't have any.  One of my pet peeves about blogs is when people write about how inexpensively they do things and start out with "we were given" or "had this in my stash".  One lady wrote about how she feeds her family so cheaply and  started out by saying her neighbor had given her a roast!  Mighty nice neighbors!  I have wonderful neighbors, but none have them have ever given me a roast, but I can imagine that would be a real money-saver.  Only problem, how can we apply that to our situation unless we have the same generous neighbor?  What's the lesson to be learned from that? Another gal always writes about her inexpensive sewing projects and always says either she had the fabric in her stash or that her mother gave/bought the fabric.  Well yeah, I can see how that would make a project inexpensive if you are given the items to make it.  And somewhere along the line, you had to have spent the money for the things in your stash.  That's what I call fuzzy economics. 

Somebody I'd Like You To Meet

I think you'd enjoy this post about bartering by Sharon.  Sharon is one of those pull-yourself-up-by -your-own-bootstraps types.  Of all the types of people in the world, those are the kind I most admire.  With a bit of friendly bartering, she was able to fill her larder.  Bartering is a wonderful old-fashioned concept that has almost fallen by the wayside.  And I'd say a much more honorable  and dependable way to get what you want, then expecting things to be given to you.   Anyway, I thought you'd enjoy reading how she did it.  She's a wonderful writer too btw. Before our apples trees were mature, we always had a friendly barter between our neighbor Lori and us.  We gave her asparagus and produce from the garden and she let us pick her apples and pears.   As a matter of fact, we supply our entire neighborhood with asparagus and other vegetables that we have a glut of, and once in a while the return the favor with fresh-caught fish, plants, or free wood, not  that's the reason we do it, it's just part of being neighborly.  It's good to build up relationships.  Makes for a much more pleasant life.

What's For Dinner?

Tonight we'll have the remainder of the pot pie.  Ran will be home by then, and there's plenty to split three ways.  I'm discovering that I should be grateful for those little extras like a piece of biscuit to sop up the gravy, or an egg to top the hash, or brown sugar for the oatmeal.  It's the difference between getting by and getting pleasure.

This being Sunday, I'll sign off with my usually, so that's it for another week at the old Zempel boarding house.  I hope that you all have a pleasant evening and I hope to see you back here tomorrow with the final chapter of the $20 challenge!


Saturday, February 18, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Are you getting bored with these daily postings yet?  Only two more days, Yay!  Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm getting a tad bit reckless.  Today I used up almost all of my barbecue sauce, save about a tablespoon. I took the remaining sauce and the rest of my fire-roasted tomatoes and simmered the beans in them.  So from here on out we'll have barbecue flavored beans, whether we want them or not.  I also got a bit more generous with the cheese. I still have about a third of it left.  The phrase for today was use it up! Ran went downstate to help our son with some building projects, so it was just Jamie and me.  So for lunch:

We used up the last of the tortillas and made a burrito with the dreaded rice and beans, some cheese, and I used that gravy I held back from yesterday to give them some flavor.  I really overstuffed them; two for Jamie and one for me.  And I served them on a bed of lettuce that I swapped out the taco shells for.  It was a good filling lunch.


I used up those three little biscuits that I made yesterday from the leftover dough for the pot pie.  We put  a few tablespoons of the barbecued beans over the biscuits and Jamie suggested that if we put some of the beans on the lettuce and sprinkle cheese over it, we would have a kind of taco salad, so that is what we did.
If I were carrying this experiment on to next week, I'd buy some inexpensive salsa.  We don't mind eating the beans, we eat a lot of them anyhow.  I had an orange for breakfast, as always Jamie skipped breakfast and had his coffee, which I didn't include in the challenge.

So Far

We still have the leftover pot pie to eat, we're waiting for Ran to get back to eat it, about 1 3/4 C. of the beans, a couple carrots, a bit of lettuce and kale, one-third of the cheese, five potatoes, one orange, two bananas, and the beans and rice. Oh! and approximately one tablespoon of the barbecue sauce and almost all of the oatmeal.  Again, if I were carrying on for another week, I'd buy a small box of brown sugar so we could enjoy the oatmeal.

I've also discovered that this way of eating is very time efficient.  Make one kind of meat at the beginning of the week and you're through for the next six days.  Ditto for the beans.  The rest of the meals were just a matter of assembling the ingredients and a quick pop in the toaster oven or on the griddle. I t would be perfect for single working people, there wouldn't be any excuses for not having the time to cook, you could do all your prep work in one evening.

What Else?

Here's what approximately ten hours of my time the last two days has gone to:
Canning the leg quarters that I bought on sale for 29 cents a pound. To can them I first roast them, then cut the meat from the bone, toss all the bones and skin into a pot and boil that to make a broth. Then strain the broth, cull the meat from the bones, refrigerate the broth so the fat will rise to the top and harden. Defat it, saving the fat for soapmaking.  Next I heat the meat with the broth that I season with parsley, sage, rosemary thyme, paprika, salt and pepper.  Then pack them into sterilized jars with 1 inch headspace.  Put on the lids and caps and process for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  So you can call me lucky, or fortunate, or blessed, which I am all three,  but it is still a lot of work  on my end to fill my pantry!


Friday, February 17, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Welcome to day four of my $20 food challenge.  Today was all about making decisions.  Do I use the soup to make another recipe or just reheat it?  Do I use the last of the kale?  Do I use some of the oatmeal to make a thickener?  Use the tortillas?  My supplies are dwindling and now hard decisions have to be made if the food will see us through three more days.

What We Had For Lunch

Pot pie!  Made the decision to use the last of the meat, because well, I don't know how long meat stays good in the fridge, but it was definitely time to use it up.  I strained the soup through a fine mesh sieve.  The meat and vegetables went into the pan for the basis of the pot pie. I also added the remainder of the meat and one more potato to stretch it further.  This ended up being a meatier pie then I usually make. The next question was how to make a gravy without any flour or cornstarch for a thickener.  To get around that I ground some of the oatmeal in my electric coffee grinder.
It made a nice flour if I do say so myself.  To make the gravy I heated the broth from the soup to boiling and stirred in the oat flour  combined with approximately 3/4 C. water.  Whisked it like mad until it began to thicken. I set aside about  1/2-3/4 C. to flavor another meal.
I prepared the remaining Jiffy biscuit mix and patted it out onto a piece of waxed paper since I didn't have any flour to roll the dough out onto.  I patted it fairly thinly and had enough dough left over to make three small
biscuits for a meal for another day.  Here's how it all turned out:
And we had enough left over for a meal on another day, so that's one less worry.

The guys both ate two servings, it was a good and surprisingly tasty meal.


Dinner was light fare, one of those quesadillas that I wrote about in the day 1 post, using 6 tortillas, a cup of beans, and a bit of cheese.  Since this is all of the fat I have left:
from defatting the soup, I opted not to use it to make the quesadillas this time.  I'll save it for making bean hash.
They burnt a little without greasing the pan, but tasted fine.

What I Have Left For The Remainder of The Experiment

I still have plenty of cheese, been using it very sparingly, like one swipe over the cheese grater for each time I use it. In the vegetable department I have about a pound of potatoes,  two carrots, about 1/3 of the can of fire-roasted tomatoes, 2-3 C. of the beans and about 3/4 C of the kale left.  We still have almost all of the oatmeal, no one wants to eat it,  we've just been skipping breakfast. There's also the three tortillas and three biscuits, 1/2 the bottle of barbecue sauce, two oranges and three bananas and two meals of leftovers; the pot pie and the dreaded beans and rice.  While trying to make room in my fridge for the chicken I'm canning I discovered that I had a head of Romaine lettuce I need to use soon, so I'm swapping out the taco shells for that, even in an experiment, I'm not going to waste good food.  The taco shells were 99 cents and the lettuce was 98 cents so it's a pretty even trade.  So it looks like I'm in a pretty good position to reach my goal of feeding our family of three adults on $20 for one wee with nothing from the pantry, I might add, except for salt and pepper, which I haven't even used very much and probably could have done without.

What I Learned So Far

I've learned that if you really follow portion sizes, a small bit of food can go a long way.  That I don't need sweets, I'm learning to love fruits.  That I'm glad I did this!  It's actually a very healthy way to eat (except for not having enough vegetables) , there's very little fat and sugar, and if I swapped out the tortillas for whole-grain ones, that would have been better too. There's also very little waste, just orange rinds and banana peels, which went into the compost, so it's good for the environment too.  So thank you Mrs. Shoes, for inspiring me with your comment to give it a try! 


Thursday, February 16, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Whew!  Having a busy day here today!  So far this little experiment is going pretty well.  Ran, Jamie and I were up early because we needed to drive a few villages over to take advantage of sale going on at a grocery store there.  Once a year they have a big meat sale.  We bought chicken leg quarters for 29 cents/lb. and their sirloin beef roast is $2.79/lb.  We bought about 12 pounds of the roast and I'm canning it up as we speak.  Here's the first batch:
Right now I'm sterilizing the jars for the second batch.  Been on my feet all day.  Which is why it irks me so much when people say how "lucky" we are to have such a big garden and a well-stocked pantry.  Luck had very little to do with it.  It was by the dint of the sweat on our brows that we have what we have.  When other men are out playing a round of golf, Ran is in the garden hoeing and weeding.  When ladies are sitting under the air conditioner in the Summer reading their novels, I'm sweating puddles in the kitchen canning up our harvest.  Luck has very little to do with it!

And of course, whenever you write about eating cheap, you'll get the inevitable response."Food is lot cheaper where you live!"  Which may or may not be true.  Yes, it's cheaper than in Europe and Canada, but I dare say that I could go into a grocery store in any of the states, except Alaska and Hawaii, and  find some deals.  I know!  I've traveled and one of the things I  like to do is check out groceries stores.  Some things may be higher but I wager some things will be lower.  And even in places where the food is expensive, you might have a longer growing season, so there's an availability of fresh veggies longer the five months we have here.  (Our frost date is May 31st and usually bu mid-October the our first frost hits.)  So when people tell me they "can't" I want to say, "Do you mean can't or won't?"   So there!  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest!

 BTW, the purpose of these posts isn't to show you what to buy, but to get you to think about how you eat and purchase food.  I don't expect you'll find the exact same things as I and at the exact same prices. But we can all learn how to maximize what we do have.  How to look at what we really need or what we want.

What We Had To Eat

We were out for all of the morning, so when we got back home we needed something that was quick so I heated up the soup for Ran and I.  Jamie treated himself to Burger King. (I was tempted to tell him to grab a few sugar packets while in there) Having  soup in your fridge keeps you from running to the fast food joints when you want to eat NOW.

I made a quick red beans and rice with the package of rice, 1 1/2 C. of the beans, 1/3 of the can of the fire roasted tomatoes and a squirt of that barbecue sauce.  I topped it witj a shave of the cheese.
This was not my most favorite meal I made this week, I have to admit.  The seasoned rice was very garlicky and it sure could have benefited from some sort of seasoning. But on the good side, there was plenty left over for making burritos with the remaining tortillas, if that's what I choose to do with them.  Got to say, I'd much rather have more of those quesadillas that I wrote about yesterday than use this on my tortillas.  At the end of the day, it was food and it filled us up.

Thoughts So Far

So far it's been pretty easy to live on the $20, but I'm worried that my green leafies will soon run out.  I think $5 more would make all the difference in living well, or just getting by.  For $5, I could have bought another head of lettuce, some eggs, maybe a few more oranges or sweet potatoes.  One of the things about living thriftily, is portion control.  What constitutes a serving and what we eat are often quite different.  Have a gander at the nutritional info on the side of a box once, you might be surprised.

  While we were out,we stopped at the salvage grocery store and here is something I found:

Jiffy blueberry muffin mix for 15 cents!  It was only two months past the expiration date, so I'm sure they will rise.  This had me thinking; if I were a single person, I wouldn't bother stocking up on baking supplies.  One of these little boxes of mix makes up six  muffins, that's six breakfasts for 15 cents!  Can't get much cheaper than that!  They can be made into pancakes too.  Even if you can't find these little mixes at your grocery store for this price, regularly they are 75 cents I believe.  At the store that had the meat sale, their boxes of cornbread muffin mix was 2/ 88 cents for their regular price.  So for 88 cents, you'd get enough bread to go with soup for two weeks.  Are Jiffy mixes a nationwide brand or is it just a Michigan thing?  Even if you don't have that brand, you can buy these sort of mixes for $1 at the dollar stores.  Bread is such a good filler.  BTW, I wanted you to see my other bargain at the grocery salvage store, pure maple syrup, in date for $2 for 12 oz!  It's a lower grade, but I like the flavor of it better, so it was fine with me.  Taste more mapley!

 Also, we stopped in at a thrift store and  found this beautiful lambswool LL Bean sweater for Ran for a grand total of 50 cents!
Just the thing to wear with a down vest when we are walking.  He looks very handsome in it.  Someone had given the charity a  bunch of mayonnaise that was reaching its expiration  date and they threw that in the bag for free.  I'm sure it will be fine, I haven't looked at the mayo in my fridge now, it's probably past its expiry date too.  So far we haven't died!   When people complain about the cost of living, I always say "You don't know where to shop"!  And I might add, "how to" also!

Until tomorrow!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Hello dear friends!  A comment left last week that it was impossible to live on $20 a week for groceries, was  like waving a red flag in front of a bull for me.  I had to step up and take the challenge.   When I wrote that a person could live on $20 a week last week, I meant $20 for one person, so the addition of two more adults is even more of a challenge, but for me, that means more fun.

My guidelines for the challenge were that I assumed we did not have anything at all in the house except running water.  As you all know, I have a massive pantry, do to canning and gardening, and we could probably live a year or more off of it if we needed to, but for the sake of this experiment, I didn't use anything on my pantry shelves or root cellar.  The only items I assumed I had in the house were salt and pepper.  I also didn't shop in any of my usual haunts, such as the salvage and bulk grocery store. Just my regular non-chain  grocery store and a local fruit market.  I didn't go out of my way to find any deals.  Just carefully shopped at these two stores.

Now, before I go any further, I want to say that these meals will not be the most exciting or perhaps they do not meet all of the daily requirements, but I must ask if all of your meals do?  Do you really get nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day?  This is strictly survival eating when money is really tight.  I would say that if this was your budget for a family of three adults for a prolonged amount of time, I would avail myself to some of the community food pantries and soup kitchens.  You would probably qualify for some sort of assistance such as food stamps.  This is just an experiment to see if it can be done.

So here's what I bought and their receipts:

I I measured out 1 pound of my oatmeal that I buy in bulk at 69 cents/lb.
I used my own carrots and potatoes from my root cellar but added the cost to my total.  I used a flyer from our local store for the basis for their prices:
Here's an itemized list of what I bought and how much I spent:

1 pkg. 12 tortillas $1.50
1 block (8 oz.) Cheddar cheese $1.88
3.54 lb. pork sirloin roast with the bone in for 99cents/lb  $3.50
1 pkg. dirt rice $1.69
1 container of organic kale mix (reduced for quick sale) $1.50
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted tomatoes 75 cents (reduced for quick sale)
1 lb. dry kidney beans 75 cents (reduced for quick sale)
bag of 6 oranges $1.29
bunch of bananas 33 cents/lb (reduced for quick sale)
box of 12 taco shells 99 cents
2 pkgs. Jiffy biscuit mix  $1.00
1 lb. carrots $1.50
5 lb. potatoes $3.00
11 oz bottle of barbecue sauce $1.00
1 lb. oatmeal 69 cents/ lb

OK. So I went $1.88 over. Sue me!  I know that the price quoted in the flyer is for the more expensive pre-cut carrots,  regular ones would be cheaper.  A bag of plain rice would have cost less and I would have had more, but I justified the cost  as something to give the bland foods some flavor.  Ditto for the barbecue sauce.  Also, I've seen pinto beans for 50 cents a pound in the dollar stores, but these were the cheapest  beans in this particular store.  So I could have made up that $1.88 if I had really tried.

The Meals

For breakfast, we are eating oatmeal.  Just plain oatmeal because we couldn't afford sugar on this budget.  Sometimes I mashed in half a banana to give it some sweetness.  Plain oatmeal is not my most favorite thing in the world.  I think if I had to eat it for every breakfast, I'd borrow a cup of sugar from my neighbor or give into some petty larceny and start swiping a few packets from the fast food joints. Ha!  When Ran and I were first starting out and desperately poor, my mother-in-law would save all those little packets of sugar, jam, creamers and butter that came from her restaurant meals and give them to us.  You'd be surprised at what a luxury a little jam on toast or creamer in your coffee feels like when you don't have any.  BTW, I did allow the guys to have their morning coffee but did not include it in the grand total.  I went without for the sake of the experiment, but didn't think the guys needed to do that much sacrificing for the sake of my blog.  If we were truly in such a dire situation, I'm sure they would give up their coffee.

February 14:

Pork roast with potatoes and carrots and a small salad.  Since it was Valentine's day I allowed the guys to eat as much as they wanted.  BTW, there were more vegetables then shown.  Normally, they'd only be allowed one serving of meat which is approximately the size of a deck of cards, but I know they both ate at least two servings and I think Jamie ate three.


We were pretty stuffed after our big lunch, so we each had one of these wraps consisting of a small handful of Kale, a bit of grated cheese, and some of the leftover pork cut into strips and simmered in about 1 tablespoon of the  barbecue sauce and 1/4 water, served on a warm tortilla.

Ran ate one of the oranges later in the day.

Prep for the next day:  I saved all of the pan drippings and the potato and carrot peels plus the bone from the roast to make a broth for a basis of soup for one of the days.  I gleaned all the meat from the bone. I had this much meat left on the bones!:

February 15:

Baked up one package of the biscuits and made some more of the barbecued pork which I served over the biscuits.  We also had a small amount of the kale, served with a drizzle of some orange juice and some carrots .  Ran and I ate the remainder of the orange for dessert.  Jamie had the leftover biscuit (he cheated and put some brown sugar and butter on it).

Extreme tightwaddery:

Since I didn't have any grease, I used a piece of a  bakery bag, to line the pan so the biscuits wouldn't stick to the bottom.  I also poured the water from boiling the carrots into the pan the barbecued pork had been heated in and swished it around and poured that water into my broth fixings. And I cut the biscuits with a smaller cutter so it looked like I had more. :)


I cooked up the beans.  I added about 1 tablespoon of the barbecue sauce and some of  the fire-roasted tomatoes along with salt and pepper to give them more taste. When they were through cooking, I drained the bean "broth" into a bowl and added it to my broth fixings.

Soup made from the broth, potatoes, carrots, some of the kale finely diced and about 1/3 C of the culled meat from the bones.  And we split a quesadilla made from a bit of the cheese, some beans with barbecue sauce on them.  Both Ran an Jamie had two bowls of soup.

Extreme Tightwaddery:

I didn't have any grease for the griddle to make the quesadilla, so I used some of the grease that I skimmed off the broth after it had sat in the fridge and the fat had solidified  on the top.  Necessity is the mother of invention!

So that's it for day 1 and day 2 of the great tightwad experiment.  Tomorrow Day 3.


Sunday, February 12, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Happy Valentine's Day a few days early!   Mother Nature is sending us a lacy valentine today, in the way of big fluffy snowflakes.
No gardening for a while! Since we hadn't  much snow this year, the snowplowers were out early to make a few dollars.  This is a view down our street.  Quiet isn't it? 
Oh, I love Valentines day!  Although I'm too long in the tooth for romance, I like to recollect about the "olden" days, when the day was met with much anticipation.  Would the cute boy that sat behind me, give me a valentine?  The delight in finding a trinket wrapped in pink tissue paper, placed in my locker from a secret admirer, or when I was older dozens of red roses delivered to my home. I like to think of the thrill of the young and hopeful love Ran and I shared in those days, and hope that somewhere in this vast world, another young couple are meeting and falling in love just as we did and  someday they will be looking back at forty plus years of love and devotion.  If you are interested in knowing how Ran and I met, here's the story. When people ask me what is the secret to our happy marriage, I always answer, "Choose wisely.".  But how could I not help but choose wisely when I had the Greatest Helper helping me make that choice?  My other great (and this one truly is great) bit of advice on marriage comes directly from the Bible:

  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 1 Corinthians  13:4-7

If you follow those guidelines, you marriage will be a happy one.

Love Your Life

OK, enough of the mushy stuff!  As many of you may have surmised from reading this blog, I am a tad bit peculiar.  If you think it's hard being thrifty and self-sufficient now days, you have no idea how much harder it was in the conspicuous consumption era of the early 80s.  It was really hard to be a stay-at-home mom when society was telling you you were of no value unless you had a career.  Phil Donahue, a popular talk show host back then, referred to us as "little Mary swinging on the garden gate", as if all we had to do was wait around all day for our husbands to get home from work.  His wife, Marlo Thomas, touted "free to be you and me" but that only applied to those that wanted to work outside the home.  And we had TV shows like Maud and All in the Family  preaching the feminist agenda, it's nice to see young woman are finally able to make choices these days without all the backlash,  life was hard back then!

But what I discovered from all that discouragement and belittling that went on, is that if you really want joy in your life, you just have to  follow your heart and don't look back and second-guess your decisions. I'm still peculiar.  Most people I come in contact with don't think like me.  I still draw a lot of attention  for the way I dress, even though most of it's complimentary, I'd really rather not have any attention at all,  but it is an expression of who I am, and I refuse to wear  what others are  just to fit in.  Those days are long gone.  I only wish I had the courage to be the "real" me sooner.  Unfortunately, I grew up in a very conformist era.  My mother was always saying, "What will the neighbors think?"  It was her mantra that she lived by, it guided her in everything in life; from the church she attended to the way she wore her hair.  Now as I reflect on her life, I have such pity for her, how horrible it must have been to be so rigid and confined all her ninety plus years.  Even on her deathbed, she was still concerned about what people were thinking of her.

And one more thing, I hate that expression "Bloom where you are planted".  Sometimes no matter how hard you try, where you are at, just isn't where you need to be.  I lived in two rather urban areas for two decades of my life, and even though I tried very hard to make the best of it, I never truly was happy there.  It takes courage make a move from a comfortable life to where you need to be, but boy! is it worth it!  To me, it was two decades of my life just surviving.  Thank goodness longevity runs in my family, so I might get those two decades back. Ha! Don't live your life just-getting-by, imagine what you want your life to be and go out and get it.

Urban Foraging

I love to watch YouTube videos of fellow thrift, simple life, prepper types.  Some of them are pure geniuses on how they figure out ways to make almost free energy.  One gal I happened upon recently, said she never buys clothes.  She lives in an urban area and people are always leaving their backpacks on benches and she takes them home and washes the clothes and wears them.  Would I do that?  Probably not.  It would be pretty poor pickings in my neck of the woods, but why not if you were needy enough?  I imagine if you lived in a more urbane upscale area, you might be able to find some pretty nice things. She looked well dressed, I never would have guessed.  She also said she never buys garden gloves because she's always finding lost ones on her walk.  It doesn't matter if they don't match for gardening.  Now that certainly is something I could do around here.  

We had a family friend that knew where the kids held their "parties" in the town we grew up in.  He would go the next morning and pick up all the beer and pop bottles and return them for the deposits.  He said he made around $20 a week that way.  Back in the 70s when he did it, that was enough to buy a week's worth of groceries.  Heck, you can still buy a week's  worth of groceries for that amount if you know how to shop. 

So this had me thinking all week, that I should keep my eyes more open while out for our walks.  Sure enough! I found a nice heavy-duty tarp that had blown into the vacant field behind our house, several pop bottles, and nice 1/2" socket. And let's not forget the nice haul of free lumber that we found last Christmas.  I'm enjoying my cozy mixed wood wall as I write this in front of a fire from tree fallen tree limbs and free pallets.  To quote Dr. Seuss "Oh the places you'll go and the things you will see, if you keep one eye open!"


The local thrift store is starting to have their big winter sell-off.  Everything was 75% off, so clothes were around $1.30.  It was time for me to start hunting for more wool for my quilts.  I found a garbage bag full for just over $8.  Here's the quilt so far:
I have six more rows to go, but need to find more green wool.  This time I'm using big 6-inch squares, but prefer the smaller squares as in this quilt, but this one will be nice and useful.  I'm also cutting some squares to make smaller stadium blanket sized ones for  Christmas presents.  They are nice to have in the car just in case you have an emergency. I also have a nice selection of wooden and leather buttons from all those tweed blazers.

I also purchased several garments made from stretch velour to make some Garlands of Grace type headcoverings.  They are simple enough to do, just cut out a six inch wide piece of fabric about 8 inches long.  Hem the long sides then gather the short ends and sew ties to the end.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Made a huge batch of refried beans.  Ate some and froze some.  We bought a 20 lb. bag of pinto beans a while back for 30 cents/ lb.  Lots of good meals have come from that bag!

Bought a garbage bag full of wool from the thrift store for $8.

Finished a pair of mittens for Christmas.

Sewed a velour headcovering from thrifted sale fabric.

Found a tarp, socket, firewood and returnable bottles on our walks.

 Got a rebate check from Ebates from the curtains we bought in December.

Watched several movies on YouTube and a really interesting documentary on Nantucket and whaling  for entertainment.

Bought $20 worth of groceries at the grocery outlet store.  They didn't have as many great buys as they usually do, but it was still worth the trip.

Cooked and baked entirely from the pantry this week. Although I will have to buy come cheese soon.

Well that's it for this week at the old Zempel boarding house.  I hope your Valentines Day will be filled with many hugs and great affection, and the other days of the week also! Here's one to get you started:


Sunday, February 5, 2017


Hello dear friends!  Well, we made it through January.  February is such a frigid month here, thank goodness it's a short one! It's a good month for staying inside and keeping house.
Unfortunately, it's seems this week we've practically been living in our car.  At the beginning of the week, we had our big monthly grocery shopping day, then on Thursday we had to go to the big city to have our taxes done, ever since the government instituted the Affordable Health Care Act, our taxes are more complex than ever.  It pays to have a professional do them for us, because I can guarantee you that getting a letter from the IRS, cuts years off of your life from all the stress, I can attest to this from personal experience.  Anyhow, then on Friday we had to go back to our tax man because he could save us $500 if we had a form that we didn't bring along.  So it was go-go-go all week.  I know some people like to wait until the last minute to do their taxes, but I hate having any debt hanging over my head, so I like to get them paid as quickly as possible.  Our bank has such low interest rates, it doesn't really matter to hold onto the money a few extra months, so off the money goes!


Wednesday was one of those perfect Winter days.  The wind was mild, the sun was shining, the snow sparkled like diamond dust, it was the perfect day for pruning in the orchard.  February is a great month for it, as the cold keeps the sap from running and the bare limbs make it possible to see the shape off the trees.  We prune away any branches that cross, those that have been damaged, and the ones that ruin the shape.

The cut limbs are saved for kindling.  And some, such as the evergreens, are piled back in an area that we call the Fen.  It's a habitat for all sorts of creatures.  The birds love it,  and the cutest little gray fox has taken up residence there.  Wild grapes grow there, and I guess foxes love them.  I know the birds do! Next windless day (the wind has been wicked lately) we'll prune the grape and blackberry vines.


In between running, we have been cooking and baking more than usual.  This week I made Andrea's pagache with leftover mashed potatoes to serve with our meal of a hearty salad. Oh! speaking of salads, Rhonda, had the wonderful tip of squeezing out all the air of packaging that your lettuce comes in, to keep it fresher longer.  Works great and such a simple thing to do!  Now we won't have to make so many trips to the store for our green leafies. Sometimes something so obvious is the thing you never think of, it seems.
We had extra dough and it made excellent rolls.  Thank you Andrea for the wonderful recipe!
Less you think I'm starving the guys by feeding them all those salads, I did make this Cheesy Ham Chowder that's the sort of thing guys like. I kind of bristled at all the not-so-good-for-you ingredients, but every once in a while, you just have to let things go. We eat pretty healthily 90% of the time, so it doesn't do too much damage to let yourself go every once in a great while.
The only changes I made to the recipe, was to add a teaspoonful of dry mustard to the flour, because it brings out the flavor of both cheese and ham, and I added more corn and potatoes because we like our chowders chunky.  This was a very economical meal for us as all the ingredients came from the pantry or the root cellar, as I can bacon and ham. I used less cheese too.

Grocery Shopping

As old pensioners now, we get paid once a month, so the beginning of the month is a big grocery shopping day for us.  We spent just over $80, with plenty of money left over for fresh vegetables for the remainder of the month.  One thing we did was stock up on peanut butter, as our Mennards had all natural peanut butter on sale.  It's hard to find peanut butter without hydrogenated oil in it.  So $20 went to stocking up on peanut butter.  I don't think it helps to write about my shopping haul, because unless you live in my area, what good does it do for you to know that I bought ground round for $1.78/ lb. ?  But it is interesting to see what other people buy, I admit.  I love to watch grocery hauls on YouTube, I don't know why.  But one very educational grocery haul video I saw this week, was dear Marqueta's video. So much good information on healthy eating.  Thanks to her information, I'm now eating cilantro on a regular basis.


What is about being cooped up inside that makes you want to remodel your home?  Winter is a great time to do all those little projects that you never have time for when warm weather beckons you outside.  This week Ran painted the ceilings in the hallway and bathroom.  Next up the stairwell. The pantry was cleaned and organized.  I've been going through my wardrobe and getting rid of a lot of things and reorganizing our lone closet. I also re-arranged the living room, or as it is becoming, Ran's guitar room.  Finding a place for seven guitars is a challenge in a tiny house.  I donated all my VHS tapes, some of the titles were rare and hadn't been made into DVD format, but I don't watch them because I don't have a TV anymore (I do watch DVDs occasionally on a small portable DVD player).  That freed up two shelves on our bookcase.  Sometimes, it seems that our house is too small, but we discover that it's really just a matter of us having too many things.  I'd rather get rid of things than pay to heat a larger house, or pay the taxes on one,  so I can have those things. We have a rule, for every one thing that comes into this house,  two must go out.

On My Mind

I've been pondering lately, is it possible to be too frugal?  I think the answer is yes.  If being frugal means you comprise on safety by using old dangerous tools, or avoid getting health care that you need for the sake of saving a few bucks.  If your frugality saps you and your family of all the joy in life.  And if it compromises your dignity.  A while back I was standing behind an elderly lady in the store and when her total was tallied up, she began to make a scene about being old and not being able to afford food.  I might have felt sorry for her and paid for her items, but a quick peruse of her cart noted that she was buying cookies, cakes, chips, beer, etc., hardly a healthy thing in there.  I'm sorry, but if people don't want to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, I  don't feel bad for them.  She did make such a scene that  the man behind me did pay for her groceries.  Another time, when my son worked in a grocery store a woman came in a returned a can of deodorant because it didn't work. Now, spray cans of deodorant hadn't even been on the market for decades, but again, the woman made such a scene that the manager gave her a 50 cent refund.  I wonder if the 50 cents was worth losing her dignity over?   Another man in a village we used to live in was known by all the bank employees as the moocher that came in and indulged in the free coffee and doughnuts they had setting out for the customers every morning. Is dignity an outdated concept?  And I hate to say a lot of bloggers seem to take advantage of others with their sob stories. Reminds me of that old TV show Queen for a Day, where the contestants would try to outdo each other with tales of their hardships to win a prize.  Some of the people were probably truly desperate, but now days with so many social programs, why do people humiliate themselves in such a way in the times we live in?   I know pride goes before the fall, but sometimes I think society has lowered its standards too much.  What do you think?

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

I forgot to mention last week that Toni sent me a skein of the loveliest wool as a thank you for some gloves I sent her.  I got the better end of that deal!

Made some homemade imitation maple syrup.

Stocked up on peanut butter while on sale.

Bought ground round for $1.78 / lb.  Can you believe how cheap beef has gotten?  Proably should have bought more and canned some, but was being lazy.

Saved some money on our taxes by some  things our tax accountant did. It was well-worth the money to hire a professional.

Bought paint for our ceilings and stairwell, at  a hardware salvage store for $10/ gallon.

Ran cut Jamie's hair.

Wove some potholders to tuck away for Christmas.

Used up the last of the apples that we picked and root cellared last Fall.

Saved the limbs from pruning to use as kindling wood.

Picked up some more pallets for firewood.

So that's it for this week at the old Zempel board house.  I hope that February is treating you well.  Have a perfect week!