Tag Archives: frugal

Egg-less Banana Bread

First, if you’ve never been to this blog before, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I eat eggs. I raise chickens just so that I can have good, quality eggs at my disposal. However, we’re smack in the middle of winter. Even worse, we’re smack in the middle of some awful polar vortex that made its way here from the Arctic and won’t leave. If you’re not familiar with chickens, you probably don’t know that when the daylight starts to wane, so does their egg production. Add to that the fact the we’re down to three hens and Luna’s production has slowed anyway as she reaches her fourth spring. We haven’t had an egg here since October!!
So, I’ve been forced to go to the co-op or farmers’ market to keep eggs in the house. Which is fine, but um, we’re trying not to spend all our money on groceries and egg and sausage biscuit sandwiches are on this week’s dinner menu and I didn’t want to use them all up and have to buy more.

My pig!So, the bunch of bananas getting browner by the day was screaming at me. I could have peeled the bananas and put them into one of the freezers, but I’m trying to empty them enough to make space for the hog we’re getting from Quartz Farm as soon as he’s big enough.

Banana bread is the best way I know to use up sad, old bananas. All my recipes called for eggs. I Googled egg-less banana bread and got 2 or 3 different recipes that were all basically the same. I then searched for egg substitutes. My search returned the usual, “applesauce, banana, flax seed or oil”.

I ran through the options in my mind and decided against all of them because: I’m already putting 6 bananas in the recipe, I don’t think I should substitute one for the eggs; banana bread already has a lot of butter or oil, so I didn’t want to add any more; all my applesauce is flavored and I don’t want to add any more fruit to my bread; and finally, I don’t have any flax seed. But, there was another egg substitute that intrigued me, for each egg, mix:

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons baking powder

I have oil, water and baking powder in my house, so I decided to give it a go.

Banana bread recipes are essentially the same. Oh, of course you can add chocolate chips, or sprinkle some sort of topping on your loaves  but they all boil down to the same thing. Bananas, flour, sugar and a few other key  ingredients in similar proportions across the board. Well, except for that whole egg thing.

Have I mentioned that I’m a math geek? Sometimes when I can’t decide on which recipe to use, I like to play the game of averages. Do you remember averages from school? Or maybe, like me, you actually still use them in your adult life? Add up the values of a given thing and then divide by the number of given things you started with. It’s pretty easy actually, but the nerd in me loves it.

(If you’re screaming in your head, “Just get to the recipe already!” Click here for a printable version or scroll down to the pictures and please accept my apology for rambling.)

I start with a table. I list all the ingredients down the side and then across the rows I write in the volume of that ingredient in the various recipes. Once the table is complete, I calculate the average amount of each ingredient, round it to the nearest measurable amount and then use that number as the amount in my recipe.
For example, sugar. I had six recipes. The sugar called for in those six recipes was: 1 cup, 1 cup, 1 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup and 2/3 cup. I added all the sugar amounts together and divided by six to get 0.74 cups and then rounded it up to 3/4. Sound tedious? It actually brings me a great deal of joy that I can’t quite explain. Oooh! Oooh! Plus, I doubled the recipe; more math!

When I was all done with the math for my recipe, I added in a few ingredients of my own. One of my original recipes called for milk, one for sour cream, and one for cream cheese. When those ingredients were averaged in, they didn’t account for much of the total recipe, so they weren’t included. Except, I happened to have a half a container of sour cream in the fridge. I myself am not a fan of sour cream, but I needed it for a recipe so I decided to go ahead and add sour cream after all so that I could use it up before it spoiled. And, I added WAY more vanilla than the averages called for. Plus, cinnamon. It wasn’t in any of the recipes and I just felt like putting it in.

The batter was really thick and I thought I was going to end up with a dry bread (which I hate) but I’m quite pleased with how the loaf came out. It was very moist, had a nice flavor and if I have sour cream in the refrigerator again I could probably be persuaded to make another batch.

When everything was said and done, I ended up with this:Yummy homemade banana bread.

To make Egg-less Banana bread,
preheat your oven to 350°.

Add butter and brown sugar to the mixing bowl.

Butter and sugar

Cream butter and sugar together.Creamed together butter and sugar.

Add one egg or one “egg”.

egg substitute

2 T. water
1 t. oil
2 t. baking powder mixed together

Mix well and add sour cream and vanilla. Mix until combined and add bananas. My math said 5 1/2 but I had 6 so I used all of them. I also didn’t mash the bananas before I put them in; I broke chunks off into the mixer and then just beat the snot out of them until they looked like this.All mixed up

Measure the dry ingredients into a separate bowl or 1 quart measuring cup.Flour and spices

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in stages, mixing after each addition.

Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or two loaf pans. Spread the batter into your pan(s) and bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes. Bread is finished when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Click here for printable version.

Egg-less Banana Bread

Makes 2 loaves or a 9” x 13” pan

Preheat oven to 350°

  • 1 cup butter

  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar

  • 1 “egg” ~ whisk together:

    • 2 T. water

    • 1 t. oil

    • 2 t. baking powder

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 t. vanilla

  • 6 bananas, mashed

  • 3 1/3 cup flour

  • 1 t. baking powder

  • 1 t. baking soda

  • 1/3 t. salt

  • 1 T. cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg substitute or egg. Mix well. Add sour cream and vanilla and blend again. Add bananas and mix well.

In a separate container combine dry ingredients. Add a little at a time, mixing after each addition.

Grease a 9” x 13” casserole or two loaf pans.

Pour batter into pan(s). Batter will be quite thick and may require spreading with a spatula.

Bake in 350° oven 45-55 minutes.

Bread is finished when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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Hoppin’ John?

This all started with this:

Thirty-nine Cents?!?

Thirty-nine Cents?!?

Mr. Hippie and I were doing the shopping last week. As usual, we stopped by the bargain bin to see if anything interested us. Usually, there isn’t much but some banged cans or some really old, unpopular merchandise. Imagine my surprise when I found it chock-full of these cans of ORGANIC soybeans for only thirty-nine cents!

Since Gwen is a vegetarian, this could be a major score. But, I’ve never cooked with canned soybeans before so I didn’t want to overreach and buy up the cart. I bought a few cans so that I could experiment with them and make sure we would eat them. A deal is only a good deal if you’ll actually use it!

When I started researching recipes for soybeans, I didn’t come up with much so I decided to just substitute them for other beans in recipes. Hoppin’ John is a traditional New Year’s dish made with black-eyed peas, vegetables and ham and is usually served over rice.  Of course, Gwen won’t eat ham, so I had to modify more than the beans to make this dish family-friendly.

Start by adding about a tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy bottomed-pan or dutch oven. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped vegetables.

Mis en place

Celery, carrots, peppers and onion chopped and ready to cook.

Simmer the vegetables over medium heat until the onions begin to sweat. Add garlic and stir for a few more minutes.

Sweating the vegetables.

Mmm. Garlic

Chop a jalapeno finely and add it to the vegetable mix. Mine are all red because I picked them from the garden so long ago.

From the garden.

Red Jalapeno

Stir the jalapeno around for a minute and add a quart of chopped, canned tomatoes. Cook the mixture until the tomato juices simmer down and begins to thicken.

Simmah down now!

Simmah down now!

Sprinkle the blend liberally with Rustic Rub and cook for a few more minutes.

Spicy goodness.

Rustic Rub

This is where my cooking always gets tricky. Gwen doesn’t eat meat. Dylan won’t eat beans.  (And you thought Jack Sprat and his Wife had a rough time in the kitchen!) When I make dishes like this, I have to split the base and add ingredients in stages. Unless you have a vegetarian and a picky eater in your house like I do, you can just add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until it’s finished.

I took about 1/2 of the mix out of the big pan and put it into a smaller pan. Then I added 2 cups of water and the beans to the small pan and simmered it until it was cooked through and the liquid reduced.

Finished Veggie John!

Finished Veggie John!

Traditional Hoppin’ John calls for a ham bone to simmer for a while. I didn’t have one and I’ve been on a sausage kick so to the other pan I added a half pound of cooked, bulk sausage and 2 cups of homemade ham stock.

pot two

Simmer the meaty mix down until the sauce is thickened. Once the sauce was thick I scooped a serving out for Dylan and then added half the bean mixture back into the pot.

Finished Hoppin' John

The finished Hoppin’ John ready to scoop onto rice!

In some homes, Hoppin’ John is a New Year’s tradition. I’ve never tried it before, and didn’t make it on New Year’s Day, but after trying this recipe, I might have to make it  a tradition around here!

Oh, and those beans? I went back and bought the 30 cans they had left over.

 

Hoppin’ John

1 tablespoon-ish olive oil
1 onion, diced finely
2 carrots, rustic-chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 a large or one small bell pepper (I used yellow because that’s what I had)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
a chopped fresh jalapeno, or chili powder to taste
1 quart canned, chopped tomatoes
2-3 Tablespoons rustic rub
1 can soybeans
1 quart stock or water
1/2 pound cooked sausage or ham

Add oil to a hot, large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add onion, celery, pepper and onion and saute until onions “sweat” and become translucent. Add garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes over medium heat stirring constantly. Add the jalapeno or chili powder and stir until blended. Add tomatoes and simmer until thickened. Add rustic rub to taste. Add sausage, beans and stock or water and simmer until thickened.

Serve over rice.

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Making the Most of What’s in the Fridge/Freezer~Sausage and White Bean Soup

In my last post I mentioned that I had gone back to planning dinner menus for the week. Planning the menu in advance saves me time and money. It also helps make sure that I don’t serve tacos twice a week. Which I would absolutely do if Mr. Hippie would let me get away with it. If I plan the menu on the weekend, or Mr. Hippie’s day off, we can get a bunch of prep done when we have more time.

This week’s menu looked like this:

  • Saturday: Taco Salad
  • Sunday: Sausage and White Bean Soup with cornbread
  • Monday: Mac ‘n’ Cheese
  • Tuesday: New Year’s! Potluck at a friend’s; we’re bringing dessert, so I’m off the hook for dinner.
  • Wednesday: Pulled Pork Tacos
  • Thursday: Hot Dogs and Tater Tots
  • Friday: Brined Chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans

Saturday was cooking day! I started by soaking white beans. Next I pulled the ground beef for the taco salad, pork roast for the pork tacos and the whole chicken out of the freezer so that they could thaw. After that I started making my chicken stock.

While the stock simmered, I made a vat (two, 1 lb. boxes worth) of macaroni and cheese. I filled 6, pint containers with plain mac ‘n’ cheese and then stirred the last of our leftover Crock Pot ham into the pan and filled 3, pint containers with ham mac ‘n’ cheese. There are 6 pints of pasta in the fridge ready for tonight’s dinner and the leftover ham is cleared out of the fridge. Plus I have three extra containers of mac ‘n’ cheese in the freezer for lunches later.

Once the macaroni was packed up, I started the Sausage and White Bean soup.

I love this soup because it utilizes leftovers if you have them, or it can be made without leftovers if you just want soup.

Sausage and White Bean Soup

1 tablespoon-ish olive oil
1 onion, diced finely
2 carrots, rustic-chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
3-5 leftover bratwurst or polish sausage chopped into bite-sized chunks, or 1 lb. bulk sausage
one whole chipotle in adobo, a chopped fresh jalapeno, or chili powder to taste
1 quart canned, chopped tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
3 cups soaked, cooked white beans (or canned white beans)~ I cook my beans while I’m prepping everything else.

White Bean and Sausage SoupAdd oil to a hot, large, heavy-bottomed pan.
Add onion and saute until onions “sweat” and become translucent.
Add carrots and celery and saute for 3-5 minutes over medium heat stirring constantly.
Add the chopped sausage or fresh bulk sausage. Cook until chopped sausage is heated through or bulk sausage is fully cooked.
Add chile and stir until well blended.
Add stock and tomatoes and simmer until soup reduces slightly and flavors have time to blend.
Add beans and cook until heated through.

At this point I jarred the soup up to serve the next day and started my taco salad, but you could serve the soup immediately if you preferred.

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Stone Soup

I’ve always been cheap frugal, but my frugality ebbs and flows with my mood, our finances and the needs of my family. I don’t buy myself new clothes except for the occasional pair of tights, knee-highs or other derby wear. We’ve been driving the same used car for as long as I can remember. We buy in bulk and make our own as often as possible.We shop resale.

Despite my cheap ways, it seems like we never get ahead. Over the past 19 years, hubby and I have accrued debt. Mortgage debt, student debt and unfortunately, credit card debt. We’ve been working on paying things down, but life happens. Three years ago hubby got down-sized. He was unemployed for four months before he finally got a job cooking at the restaurant he left to work construction. The pay cut was significant. He’s had raises since, but he’s still not up to his construction salary and his hours fluctuate based on business. As a school teacher, I make a decent salary. My health insurance is very good and I get time off in the summer. This isn’t a rant about all the things teachers do in their “time off” or the current politics of education,  so I’ll spare you the details, but my salary has been frozen for several years while the costs of my healthcare and retirement have gone up. I’m taking home less now than I was three years ago.

So, with costs rising and our salaries stagnant, what do we do?

I’m working on some extra sources of income but I don’t have enough time for a steady part-time job during the school-year. I’m trying to find ways to get paid to do what I love.   Along with the required continuing education I  have to take to maintain my teaching certification, I’ve started learning new computer skills so that I can try some technology jobs from home. My etsy site is going to have some new items soon including some hand-knit & crocheted baby hats. None of these things will make me wealthy, but maybe they can make ends meet.

In the meantime, it’s time to tighten the belts again. We’re turning the heat down some more and wearing more layers. I’ve gone back to planning a menu for the week so that we’re not frantic at dinner time buying something to cook. We’re eating out of the freezer instead of filling it. We have a deposit on a whole hog from Quartz Farm to save money on our meat and we’re still raising rabbits. We’re trying new recipes, and eating lots of soup. Homemade soup is a super cost-effective way to eat. I can use up all the leftovers in the fridge along with a low-cost grain like rice, barley or pasta and make a healthy, cost-effective meal for my family. Tonight we had white bean and sausage with a side of cornbread.

Have you ever heard the story of Stone Soup? It’s an old folk story in which hungry strangers persuade local people of a town to give them food. If you check most any soup recipe, you’ll find that it starts with stock. Homemade stock isn’t exactly like Stone Soup, but basically you start with nothing, add a bunch of stuff you were going to throw away anyway and cook it util it’s useful. Stock doesn’t cost that much, but at $2 a quart, it adds up. Especially if you’re having soup more than once or twice a week. If you’re making a gallon of soup a week, homemade stock can save you $4 or more a week.  We’ve been making our own for years and we’re pretty efficient at it. Sometimes we make ham stock, but most often we make chicken stock. I keep a few old five-quart ice cream pails kicking around the cupboard for storage. Onion scrapsWhenever we cook chicken, we put the bones into a pail and keep them in the freezer until we get two-or three full pails. Usually, we cook whole chickens, and add the carcasses and all the drippings to the bucket but when we have chicken pieces, Mr. Hippie bones the chicken before it’s cooked and those bones go into the bucket as well. When I’m being really frugal, I save the ends of carrots, onions and celery in a freezer container too. Onion skins add a really nice color to your stocks.

Stock potHomemade Stock

  • 2-3 pails of chicken bones, saved in the freezer for as long as it takes you to collect that many bones.
  • 2 carrots, or an equivalent volume of carrot ends and peels saved from whatever other carrot dishes you have prepared recently.
  • The leafy parts of a head of celery along with any ends you want to trim off and throw in.
  • An onion or the tops, bottoms and skins of several onions.
  • Parsley stems or some fresh thyme if you have some handy.

Add all the bones and vegetable scraps to a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer all day or overnight.

Jars of stock

Finished Chicken Stock

Once the stock has a nice color and flavor, remove it from the heat and strain it into jars. Leave head-space so that the jars can be frozen until you are ready to make your own soup or gravy. Make sure to label and date the jars so you know what it is and which jars to use first.

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Foraging

Due to the bizarro weather we’ve had around here lately, Mother Nature is all out of whack. Estimates on crop losses from the orchards around here are around 90%. Other edibles that aren’t as sensitive to frosts are ahead of schedule. Take morels for example.

My usual “window” for foraging morels runs somewhere from the 21st of April to Memorial Day. This year, hubby and I started finding those elusive fungi the last week in March. These photos are actually from the first three weeks of April. We did pretty well for a while, and I did dry some to use throughout the winter, but the season that started three weeks early seems to have dried up three weeks early as well. When I went searching on Mother’s Day 2012, I found only one, and that was an accident. It had been kicked over by someone or something and dried out long before I stumbled upon it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t find any morels on this year’s hike, I didn’t come home empty-handed. Dylan and I ran into my friend Stephanie and her kids. They were looking for ramps, so we joined them. Dylan and I came home with a mesh produce bag filled with ramps (or wild leeks). I’ve used some of them in cooking since then, but my real goal was to can them. More precisely, to pickle them.

If you can find them, pickled ramps can be quite pricey. I’ve made them before and everyone that’s ever tried them loves them. However, I’ve become quite a hoarder. I dole them out sparingly to friends and family members that will appreciate them as much as I do. When we open a jar, it is hard not to eat the entire thing. Once all the delicious ramps have been devoured from the pickling brine, I add it to BBQ sauces, marinades and dressings; the flavor is exquisite.

From the bag Dylan and I brought home, I managed to can five half-pint jars. This isn’t enough for me to check #58 off of my 101 in 1001, but it is a good start. It also gets me 1.25 quarts closer to my pickle goal for #53!

For the recipe, check out my Jerked Onion recipe from the Can Jam and substitute whole ramps for the cut onions, or click here for a printable version: Jerk Pickled Ramps Printable Recipe

 

 

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Why Resale Shopping is Better Than Retail Shopping

I have shopped at resale stores for years. Goodwill is one of my “must stops” when I actually drive around, but there are a few others in town that I frequent and several others that I visit once in awhile.

There are lots of reasons I love resale shopping. First of all, it is much cheaper than retail shopping. Jean Jacket? $7. You can find all kinds of goodies for a fraction of their retail price. Sometimes resale shops even take “leftovers” from retail shops. I got a brand new, still-in-the-box deep fryer for $10.

But, “brand new, still-in-the-box” is not what I look for at resale stores. In fact, not having to deal with all the packaging that accompanies new merchandise is one of the things I love most about resale shopping. Have you seen all the plastic, styrofoam and even twist-ties that come on new stuff? The box is often twice the size of the coontents because of all the extra crap they cram in there. When you shop resale you don’t have to dispose of even more waste. Even though I recycle when I buy new, not everyone does. Resale reduces waste.

Haggling is acceptable. Now, you can’t get out of control with the haggling, but the staff at resale shops usually appreciates it when you let them know if a price is out of line. They want to sell their stuff and won’t if the price isn’t good. Most of my canning jars came from Goodwill. Sometimes when I go in there the jars are marked $.99 each. I won’t buy jars for that price; I can buy them new for less than that. But, if you tell the cashier what the jars retail for new, they’ll mark them down. I’ll buy quite a few jars at fifty cents apiece, but I’ll clean them out if they are a quarter each.

Lots of things that seem like a good idea but take up a lot of space can be found at resale shops for a reasonable price. I buy a LOT of housewares at resale shops. For example:

New pitcher for the ancient Osterizer blender that I dropped and broke.Blender jar (BTW, if you drop your favorite glass blender pitcher on the floor and it breaks, you can screw a standard-mouthed mason jar onto the base as a temporary fix. Screwing a canning jar to the blades also works if you want to make individual smoothies in different flavors or want to premix a bunch for storage.)
Ice cream maker
Bread machine for school
Fermenting crock
Super-deluxe, stainless-steel colander that I use for everything
Drinking glasses
Jelly/cheese straining bag (So, it’s really a cotton pillowcase, but whatever.)

Many resale shops offer you a discount on a future purchase when you donate your old stuff. Cleaned out your closet? Take the old stuff to a resale shop. Somebody will probably love your “old” outfits and you could get 10% off your next purchase.

Lots of thrift stores benefit charities. Women’s Resource Center benefits battered women and their children. Goodwill helps people find jobs. Shopping resale benefits people in your community.

Rundrand TulipToday the reason I love resale shopping is this beautiful Weck canning jar. I have been wanting to try Weck Jars for a while now, but they are quite pricey. This 1 Liter, BPA-free jar cost me $5. It was probably too much since it rivals the actual retail price of the jar and was most of the money I had left from my March allowance, but I can try it out and see how it works before I invest a fortune on more fancy-shmancy canning jars. If I don’t like it for canning, I can always store dried beans or coffee or something in it.

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Spending Diet; How’d the first month go?

When I decided to start the spending diet, I didn’t really discuss it, I just implemented it. So imagine Mr. Hippie’s surprise to learn that he had essentially been cut off.  He got paid on the second, so we went out, ran errands, and did a little grocery shopping.  We also withdrew enough cash to cover our “allowances” for the month.  He was excited to have cash in hand since that isn’t something we normally do. I think he was also working under the assumption that this allowance would be happening every time he got paid. This was particularly enticing since January is a three pay-period month for him. Now picture his shock and sadness when he realized that this money had to last him all month.  Despite his reluctance, the plan seems to be working so far.

The biggest part of the plan is to reduce extra spending, but another aspect is to try and find ways to increase your income.  One of the things I have been doing to raise a little extra money is make these cute skate-wheel bags.

You know you want one.
Storage bag for roller/skateboard skate wheels.

I’ve been selling them to other derby girls and hope to get some listed on etsy soon. Hubby assumed that I was doing it to raise extra “allowance” for myself.  He was a little surprised when he learned I plan to contribute the profits back to the general fund to pay down our debt but I think he was relieved that I wasn’t just trying to raise a whole bunch of extra money for myself.

How I spent my January allowance:

  • $35 ~ Derby dues.  This is an automatic withdrawl from my checking account, so I will only be taking $65 cash each month for my allowance.
  • $10 ~ 2012 wall calendar and a start on my Christmas shopping for next year.  Gifts are wants, not needs, so my gifting needs to come from my allowance.  However, both items were half off, so I felt the expense was worth it.
  • $15 ~ “gifted” to my husband.  He has been wanting a big ticket item for a while. He got some money for Christmas and had allowance money in hand, so decided the time to splurge was now.  He was a little short.  I was going to loan him the money until February but decided that since:
    A. The spending diet was my idea and
    B. He had no idea he was going on a diet, it would be nice of me to cover his overage.
    Besides, he sprung for his item the first week of January and still spent NO MORE MONEY all month.  It was worth $15 to me for him to buy-in to the plan; it will be a savings in the long run.
  • $4 ~ “Brunch” with my son.  I received a $10 gift certificate to a local restaurant for Christmas from one of my students. Adam was at work and Gwen was at a friend’s, so I decided to take Dylan to breakfast with the gift certificate.  There was a slight overage and I needed to leave a tip, so I sprung the four bucks to spend a nice morning with my son. I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t had the certificate, but the money was well spent; the breakfast sandwich was big enough to provide him with a lunch as well. Plus, we talked about the spending diet while we were out, so hopefully he is learning good financial habits.
  • $6 ~ Beer. One of the things my husband likes to spend his allowance on is beer. I myself will not spring for a case of beer because I can’t stomach the idea of spending that much of my allowance on it.  However, I do enjoy a beer from time to time so I pay him a dollar every time I take one of his. He is the clear winner here because the beers actually only cost about $0.75 each and he gets to keep all deposit money to use in the future but I do take free sips of his beers from time to time.
  • $5 ~Crafting Supplies. I needed some ribbon, velcro and a fat quarter to complete a project. If I sell the stuff on Etsy, I will repay myself for the expenses but for now, these items were a want.

Not bad. At the end of the month I still had $25 left even after “giving away” part of my money. I know I have some expenses coming up that will put me over some months allowances, so having a cushion feels good.

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Dairy Queen Part 3 (Or, How to Make Cultured Buttermilk)

I’ve been making yogurt for a long time now. It’s pretty easy and I have a system. So, every five or six days I start a new quart. I’ve also dabbled in cheeses, and even made my own butter. Until recently, however, I’ve had no need or desire to make butermilk.  Then hubby introduced me to chipotle ranch dressing and my love affair with buttermilk began. We had the buttermilk in the fridge for the dressing, but I started using it for other things: biscuits, pancakes, stroganoff and other cream sauces. What started out as a ranch dressing habit soon turned into an expensive butermilk addiction. I had to take action.

Enter: Homemade Buttermilk, a How-To

Warm about three cups of milk to 85°.

Stir about a cup of cultured butermilk into the warmed milk.

Let rest, covered, on the counter or other suitable warm-ish place overnight.

Once the buttermilk has cultured, store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (if it lasts that long).

Expensive!

Culturing buttermilk is super easy and saves a ton of money.  Good quality buttermilk costs $4.99 a quart while unhomogenized milk from the same dairy costs only $3.49 a half gallon. So, for $3.49 I can make what would cost me $10 to buy.

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The Spending Diet

A spending diet.  That’s what I’m going on for the new year.

Financially speaking, 2011 wasn’t the best year for us. We’ve never been wealthy, but most of the time we managed to get by on what we had.  If you read my post about modifying my 101, or this one, you know that as a Christmas gift from his boss, Mr. Hippie got laid off indefinitely for the Christmas 0f 2010.  He was unemployed until April of 2011 so finances were tight around here. Mr. Hippie did find a job last April, but his hourly rate is only 60% of his old rate.  Add to that the fact that he’s only working about 85% of his old hours and you start to see the big picture.

I took a second job from April-June of last year and then all summer, the kids and I added an extra child to our family which added some extra money to our budget, but made doing some “summer things” more difficult. When school resumed, the extra child no longer needed to spend her days with us, so my extra cash-flow dried up. Add to that a school-employee pay freeze and an increase in both our insurance premiums and our deductible amounts and things are tighter than they’ve ever been.

I have a bad habit of using credit cards to make ends meet when we can’t afford things.  Most of the time, the things are things we actually need like groceries, or gas for the car, but sometimes, they are wants.  Because of this habit and some poor choices we made years ago, Hubby and I have a lot of debt.  Add to that a mortgage that we can’t refinance because the market crashed and our house isn’t worth what we owe on it, and things are pretty grim.

Enter the spending diet. A couple of days ago I popped over to squirrels in wren’s nest and saw her post about resolutions. One of hers, like many peoples’ is to get rid of her credit card debt.   She referenced And Then She Saved.  I checked it out.  I decided right away that I wasn’t ready for a spending fast; primarily because of derby. A fast would mean NO spending which would mean no dues, no bus fare to away bouts, no equipment. . . No derby would make #62 a lot more difficult.  Running helps, but practice three nights a week is a commitment not only to myself and my health but to a whole army of other girls that depend on me; it keeps me accountable.

So, hubby and I started our diet on Monday.  He and I were both given our allowance for the month in cash.  I don’t expect him to keep track of his expenditures, but when he’s out of money, he’s out of money.  As for me, I actually think $100 a month is a lot.  I’ll let you know when it runs out and I change my mind. :)

The Spending Diet will probably change our lives.  Hopefully for the better.  I think it will be tough in the short-term, but in the long run we’ll all be happier.  Plus, #s 84, 85, 86 and 87 seem a lot more feasible now.

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Filed under 101 in 1001, frugality

Goodbye, 2011

2011 was a difficult year both for my family and for this blog.  If you are/were a regular reader, you noticed I wasn’t around much. I hope to change that this year.  Because I didn’t write many posts last year, I wasn’t surprised that most of the top posts last year were older posts.

As a farewell to the year gone by I present:

The Top Five Posts of 2011

  1. Brined Pork Roast
  2. Homemade Fabric Softener
  3. Homemade Laundry Detergent
  4. Building A Rabbit Hutch
  5. Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread

I am surprised that the Brined Pork Roast recipe was number one. Especially because in my opinion, this recipe is much tastier.

I get lots of searches for green cleaning recipes. Pinterest has been especially helpful in promoting them. I’m glad people are being greener and I’ll try to post some more green cleaning recipes this year.

I am excited to see the rabbit hutch plans make the list.  I wonder if that is because more people are interested in rabbits for meat, or if pet owners just need plans? Regardless, I hope to post more rabbit updates soon. Until then, if you’re looking for rabbit information, check out On Breeding Like Rabbits.

Happy New Year,

Angela

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Filed under Charcutepalooza, food, frugality, green cleaning, green living, meat rabbits, Miscellaneous