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Tuesday, January 16, 2024


 Hello dear friends!  Keeping warm?  Ha!  I guess April Fool's Day came early for me this year.  I decided to write  the last blog post because I discovered that more people were reading my blog the past few months then when I was posting regularly.  But you know what?  As soon as I posted the last post my readership flat-lined.  Oh dear!  But I don't care, because it was nice to reconnect with you.  So I will continue to blog, although irregularly if for no other reason that this blog acts as my own personal journal and it is fun to look back and see what I was thinking and doing at different stages of this old journey called life.  

I was going to write about what we were eating during our year of eating out of the pantry, but I don't think it would be helpful to others, because we have a rather unusual lifestyle (we only eat two meals a day), and because some of our pantry meals are not inexpensive unless you have someone in your family is an avid fisherman or you have such a well-stocked pantry that I have, which very few people besides some Amish have. Ha!  But here are some tips for stocking your pantry:


1.  GO SHOPPING.  So many people use those shopping services today, but you have to go to an actual store to discover the real bargains.  It really doesn't take that much time.  Ran and I go "bargain hunting" twice a month. We only shop the outer boundaries of the store; the dairy, produce and meat sections.  Things like flour, sugar and spices, we buy in bulk a couple of times a year.  We buy our coffee at the Amish scratch and dent store.  Sometimes we find coffee at the "reduced for quick sale" shelf which is usually tucked away  at a corner in the back of the store. We often find milk that is reaching its expiration date and thus the price is reduced, which we make into yogurt, which is then made into cheese.  Often there are unadvertised sales on meat. (We found a nice lamb roast for $4.99/lb. this past week!)  These bargains would have been missed if we weren't in the store to discover them.

2.  WHEN YOU FIND A BARGAIN, BUY A BUNCH  When you find an amazing bargain calculate how much you will need for a year.  We always reserve between $20-$30 a month for these sorts of purchases.  Most people can afford $20.  It might mean giving up some little luxury, like eating a PBJ instead of stopping at the fast food place because you are too tired to cook, or not buying that bag of chips and pop, or consolidating some errands and saving on a tank of gas, or doing your own nails instead of getting a manicure.  There's all sorts of ways to save $20 a month!

3.  BE OPEN-MINDED  The other day I was standing in the grocery store contemplating whether or not to buy some bags of frozen chicken leg quarters that were 39 cents a pound, when I overheard a woman say "oh gross!".  Now just why frozen leg quarters are gross and fresh aren't, is just not a concept I can grasp.  I guarantee that if I had bought 20 pounds for $7.98 and canned them up and made something and served it to her, she would have been none the wiser to whether they had started out with frozen or fresh meat to begin with.  And I would have had eight lovely pints of canned chicken and several pints of chicken broth in my pantry for a remarkable price.  BTW, if I would have bought forty pounds and canned it, that would have been enough chicken for an entire year and for less than twenty dollars.  A local thrift store gives out fruits and vegetables left over from their food pantry.  I like to leave those things for the truly needy, but the worker implored me to take them because they would just get thrown out at the end of the day otherwise.  You see, people are so privileged in this country that even those that are begging for free food, turn up their noses if it isn't exactly perfect.  So I gladly accepted the free oranges and made some lovely marmalade from it and the brown bananas were made into bread for breakfast, etc.  When eggs were so expensive, our friend Tyler started raising chickens and giving them out to friends and neighbors.  But being busy and a bachelor, he didn't wash them.  I was astounded at how many people complained and rejected his  free eggs just because they didn't look like they came from the grocery store, especially when eggs were were selling for over four dollars a dozen then.

4. LEARN TO COOK  So many of the recipes I see nowadays are not exactly cooking, it's more like assembling ingredients.  A can of this, a package of that. By just knowing a few basic cooking skills, you can eliminate the entire middle and frozen  sections (and most expensive) of the grocery store. Eliminating all those items, you'll have more money to stock up on the basics.  Learn to make a basic white sauce, which herbs and spice to use, with what,  what temperatures to roast, boil and bake at. (all posts I have written about in the past).  Learn how to make your own pasta, bread, baked goods from scratch by learning the ratio of fats, sugars and flours.  As I try to use up every last bit of things in the fridge that have been hanging around since the holidays, I have been baking with some unusual items.  I made oatmeal cookies last week using the last of the maple fudge for some of the sugar, pear sauce and a dab of sour cream  substituted for some of the fats, and diced up dried apricots instead of raisins.  Knowing that fat is fat and sugar is a sugar (except honey which you should use less and bake at lower temperatures), you can use every last drip and dab of food.  We come as close to zero waste as possible. BTW, the cookies were delicious.

5. USE IT ALL UP  Ran caught a lovely walleye last week so we had a our usual fish dinner with coleslaw and tartar sauce.  When  we were clearing the table there was about a tablespoon of tartar sauce and a quarter cup of coleslaw left over.  Now most people would probably have just tossed them, but then most people are not as parsimonious as me. Ha! I combined them with a the quarter cup of turkey I had leftover from the previous meal (turkey Reubens  made from canned turkey) and made enough sandwich filling for one sandwich, which I prepared, wrapped in waxed in paper and put in the refrigerator for someone to discover. BTW, aren't sandwiches tastier if they are cut corner to corner and wrapped in waxed paper? Mrs. Rachel Lynde, a character in Anne of Green Gables, always claimed you can tell a good homemaker by her bread management and would always check others breadbox to see if there was any stale bread in there.  Waste not, want not! 

So anyway, that is but a few ways I manage the grocery budget so I can stock my pantries.  Hope it helps!


Well, we are going through a cold spell lately.  As many of you dear readers know, we live in a very old house, at least one-hundred and fifty years old and probably older than that.  Although we did our best to insulate it, it is still a cold drafty little place.  The upstairs is unheated and the only heat is via little vents in the ceiling  from the room below, basically it works on the theory that hot air rises.  This morning the inside temperature was 52 degrees (Fahrenheit)! But we stay toasty while we sleep because we dress our bed warmly.  I made quilts from scraps of wool, with old down comforters for the batting and flannel sheets for the backing.  I then hand-tied the top to the bottom.  The reason these quilts keep us extra warm as opposed to a regular quilt is because of the baffling.  The layers of top, bottom and batting are not compacted like in a pretty quilted quilt.  This allows air to be trapped between layers or to be more precise, baffled. Here's a link on how to make your own woolen quilt:

I was too lazy to make all those little squares for the quilt on the bed so I just cut big squares and rectangles for the top and sewed and cut to fit the unusual sized bed.  It's a two-hundred year old rope bed and is shorter and narrower than standard beds.  Anyway, I find that woolen scarves from the thrift store (I wait until they have their winter clearance and buy them for less than ten cents) make quick work of this sort of quilt.  I was going to pretty the quilt up with some lace and hand-embroidery, but never got around to it. It works and gives me that primmy vibe I like.

I also use baffling to dress warmly.  As most of you know, I only wear skirts and people often ask me if I'm cold in winter.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I've tried wearing fleeced-lined pants when walking and frankly they don't work.  What does is wearing tights, a flannel petticoat and a skirt made from a natural material like wool or a heavy cotton. On top I wear a silk undershirt, a flannel or wool blouse and a wool cardigan.  The warmth from my body heat gets trapped within the layers. I'm warm.  Besides baffling, the other key is to use all natural materials.  Those blankets and clothes made from acrylics, won't keep you warm, so if you need to buy blankets, look for woolen ones and fortunately the thrift stores still have affordable ones.  BTW, don't waste your money getting used ones dry-cleaned, just wash as usual, if they shrink, you will have boiled wool, which is even warmer.


This is my first project I finished for 2024:

A wool work sewing roll. I dislike having clutter about the house and craft projects always create so much clutter, so I made this sewing roll so at the end of the day, I can just roll up my project and tuck it away. And it keeps everything together.


Besides the lamb I bought at a remarkable price ( I have another roast in the freezer so I might can them both up, we'll see) I spotted the store still had Christmas items for 90% off.  So I bought two packages of Hershey's kisses for 59 cents each, that I will chop up and use in chocolate chunk cookies sometimes in the future (cheaper than a bag of chocolate chips)  and one of those boxed  panetones  for a dollar.  Which I made into Skiers French Toast.

Skiers French Toast

2 tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 C. butter

1 C. brown sugar 

1 loaf of white bread (or in my case, 1 loaf of panentone)

5 eggs

1 1/2 C. milk

1 tsp. vanilla 1/4 tsp. salt

In a small saucepan, combine corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and simmer until syrupy.  Pour mixture over the bottom of a 9" X 13" pan.

Slice the bread in 12-16 slices and place over the sugar-butter mixture.

In a bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together.  Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve hot.

Makes a nice family breakfast for the weekend.


Rarely do I use objects for their intended purpose.  Linen tablecloths become skirts and pretty blouse become napkins.  Wool skirts become blankets and rugs and woolen blankets become woolen applique pieces.  So the other day I was perusing the thrift store on our "bargain hunt" excursion when I spotted the prettiest linen blouse (made in Italy. Oh-la-la).  I was asking Ran what I could make with it.  I didn't need any more pillows, and it was too nice to stain up for napkins and I am through with making quilts.  'What can I make with this pretty fabric Ran?'  "Well, you could just wear it as a blouse.' Duh!  Sometimes I'm so busy looking outside of the box, I forget to look at the box. Ha!


Well, this has not been a hardship for us at all and I now have room in my pantry for some of my jars of home canned goods that have been sitting under the tea table in the living room.  Hurray!  Just to settle your curiosity,  today for lunch we had grilled baked  bean and cheese sandwiches and canned asparagus.  The beans were made from our own dried Hopi Indian beans, home-canned bacon,  homemade cranberry catsup and I used some home-canned apple syrup to sweeten them.  The cheese was purchased earlier this year when our Amish bulk store was selling the ends and pieces of deli cheese for $1.89 a pound.  We bought about twenty pounds, made them into packages and vacuum  sealed the packages and froze them.  I have also canned cheese, but it's an awfully fiddly process and it's a chore to clean the jars.  I wouldn't recommend it to you canners. So that is that for this week's life at the old Zempel boarding house.  Hope you all have a lovely week and stay warm!