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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Hard Times in the KItchen

Hello dear friends!  Today I got quite a jolt of reality; on my drive to get gasoline, I noticed a very long line of cars.  What on Earth?  They were queuing up to pick up free food just outside of our city limits.  Firstly, I didn't even realize we had that many locals, and second of all, it's only been a few weeks of  being shut in, can there possibly be that many people in dire straits already?

Are you feeling the pinch?  Here's some ideas that have gotten me through many a rough patch.


Here's a post I wrote about this very functional and basic culinary skill, that everyone that wants to be frugal, should know.  A basic white sauce can turn anything into a casserole.  Today I made an egg casserole with it by adding a bit (about 1/2 C) of cheese to this sauce, sautéing up some onions and my home-dried peppers in some bacon grease and scrambling up six eggs.  All was combined, poured into a greased 8-inch pan, topped with some cracker crumbs and baked for 25 minutes.  Made a nice lunch for the three of us.  Last week I wanted to make some lasagna, but didn't have any ricotta cheese and had no desire to go to the store, so again the basic white sauce came to the rescue.  I added some garlic powder and parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in the canister, not the expensive cheese aisle type) to it for flavor.  Although the lasagna was a little runnier than with the ricotta cheese, we actually preferred it.


I know many prefer and some cannot eat carbs, but they are what fills you up.  Maybe you won't want to eat these meals, but when you are trying to feed children on a budget, there's no other way.  In this
post I write about potatoes and give two very basic recipes for potato pancakes and potato soup.  Two recipes that have gotten my family through some very dire straits of our own.  A baked potato with cheese sauce (again from the basic white sauce) and some broccoli makes a thrifty lunch. Hamburger or sausage gravy served over potatoes, rice,  or a slice of bread can stretch a pound of meat to feed several.  An egg by itself might not be very filling, but throw in a couple of slices of toast or a bagel and you've got something that will stick with you. Oatmeal has always been one of the most economical and healthy breakfasts known for centuries. Popcorn (the old-fashioned kind popped in pan with a dab of oil, not the microwave stuff) makes an inexpensive snack and is a good source of fiber.


Beans are an inexpensive source of protein and are easy to store. Besides being eaten on their own, you can stretch your meat by adding more beans in your chili, sloppy joes, mashed ones to meatloaf, etc. Here's a post on how we prepare our basic refried beans.  They are delicious.  And another with basics how to use beans and more meal ideas.


We try not to waste anything.  When we finish with our chicken we scrape the bones into a pot and with the potato and carrot peels, the leftover vegetables, etc. we always make broth, which I can, but can be frozen.  You can do this with just vegetables or other meats also.  I never buy broth.  I already mentioned that I use the leftover bacon grease to sauté onions and peppers for omelets.  Stale bread is always turned into bread puddings, breadcrumbs, French toast or garlic bread.  You get the picture. At the very least, scraps should be made into beautiful compost for you garden.

Well, my computer has already messed up this post several times, so I better get it posted. Hope this helps!  We'll see how it goes, if you'd like more posts, let me know.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

It's A Mad, Mad World

Hello dear friends!   Bet you thought you'd never hear from me again.  Today Ginger and Debra left comments, so I thought I'd put my two cents in about what's going on out there.  I won't waste any time about what precautions everyone should be taking, just to say, that if you feel in anyway ill, please be considerate and stay indoors.  Personally, I had a sore throat and cough for weeks before this whole thing started, and not knowing if it was "anything" I opted to stay at home and have my husband doing any necessary running.  BTW, all better now and have been for about ten days.  

What worries more than the pandemic, is what will happen to our economy if things remain closed for as long as some politicians are saying (up to 18 months!).  Our country will never recover from that.  The president wants the country open by Easter, but some of the  governors are saying longer, and since we have a federal government, there's really very little he can do about it. Whatever the case, we better get ready for some lean times.

I have faced lean times myself; as married students, after a major illness of both myself and my husband, when we had two sons in expensive colleges at the same time ($60,000 out of our $70,000 salary), and on a few occasions when he came home and told me that his lab was laying off everyone.  So yeah, I can empathize with everyone that is being laid off now. It seems in life you can only be certain of uncertainty.


The second I learned that I might not have any money coming in, I went around and turned off all the lights and unplugged everything.  This may seem silly, but when every penny counts, it's the sum total of all the little things that will save you.

The next thing I did was cancel all unnecessary things; the cable, the newspaper, the Culligan man.  I would say the cell phone, but most people are unwilling to do that. I manage without one, using a cheap Tracphone to carry in my car for emergencies and we use a MagicJack for a home phone, it costs us  $30 a year for phone service, all together my phone services  costs less than $10 a month.  I do have internet, but the cheapest I can get at $50 a month. This works as my entertainment in lieu of cable and as my phone service with the MagicJack.  I suppose that if I needed to, I could get rid of the cable and use the Tracphone as my only source of communication. But for now that's not necessary.  Just something to think about if you really are in dire straights.

The third step was to take inventory of our pantry.  It is reassuring to see that with a little ingenuity, you won't starve.  Never buy what you can make yourself!  Not only will it be cheaper, it will be better quality and probably healthier.  It's surprising how few things you need to buy when you make everything from scratch.  Crackers, tortillas, bread, pie crusts, rolls, noodles and dumplings are all just some sort of variation of flour, leavening, and fat.  I always buy shortening, yeast, baking soda and baking powder, sugar and flour in bulk and only about twice a year. Just like in the pioneer days. Ha! If times get tough, I dare say that people that do keto, are going to have to give it up or be prepared to pay the piper.  Protein, especially in the way of meat is ultra expensive.  Plain honest foods are and always will be the best.  As a matter of fact, there's a term for it, "whole Foods".  Had to laugh when I read that, because it's a supposed a new-fangled philosophy about eating, yet I, and most of the country folks I know, have been eating that way for centuries.  I guess one of the silver linings of hard times is that people will not be able to afford so much junk food.

The final step was to hold a family meeting.  In these days, we like to coddle our children, but I believe letting the older ones know the situation is character building.  They'll know not to complain and ask for things that cannot be afforded and they will also know not to add anymore stress on mom and pops.  Have them brainstorm for ways to save money and put them in charge of monitoring electrical use, gas consumption, etc.  Maybe than can think of ways to raise a little money by collecting bottle returns or selling some of the games on Ebay.  I truly believe that it times like these that draws families closer together.


And that is the silver lining to this whole mess.  I live in a tiny village.  The entire winter I've only seen a handful of people, but since this lockdown, I've seen families out walking, playing ball, raking their yards.  I was astounded.  I never even knew we had so many young families in the village. As I reflect back on my long life, I can say without a doubt some of the hardest times have also been the most enjoyable.  It strips away all the distractions of modern living and get it down to the brass tacks of life.   Tonight I am sitting here typing this by the light of a kerosene lamp, belly full of a make-do dinner in my cozy tiny living room completely furnished in second-hand goods and I truly feel like the most blessed person on earth. My hope for you all, is that you too can find solace in that fact that even in the hardest of times, there is a certain joy that comes from meeting difficulties head on and knowing that you are capable of overcoming them. And when you do, you will feel invincible!