Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New (to me) Serger

Can you believe at $34.99? HELL YEAH! I have been wanting one in like, forever, but couldn't justify spending $200+ for one. Came across this at my local Goodwill last week and took a chance on it after making sure the power cord made the needle run. From what I deduced from searching for a manual online, is that this is an 80's model. The manual was a free download.  Took me a while to figure out how to thread it (quite a bit more challenging than a regular sewing machine), but IT WORKS! Yay me! I think I can try my hand at sewing knits now. More to follow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

DIY Thermal Cooker

I don't know why thermal cookers are not more mainstream in the US... They are quite popular in Asia and other parts of the world. They conserve energy used in cooking by utilizing an insulated outer pot that holds an inner pot that you heated to boiling for a short time on top of the stove.  The insulation keeps the inner pot and its' contents hot for hours as the food continues to cook from the residual heat inside. Basically, it is a crock pot without having to keep it plugged in. But those sold online are quite expensive. A 1.5 gallon pot on Amazon will set you back a cool $200, such as this one. 

So I took matters into my own hands. I had been planning on making a fabric version, and even purchased some insulated fabric, but my first attempt was an epic fail. The problem was that I did not research it enough and sort of "winged" it. Let's suffice it to say that it was not going to work.  My mistake was that I was trying to reinvent the wheel, figuratively. Why waste time doing it when someone smarter than me has already done the work? I found this great tutorial here, and it was brilliant. Only two pattern pieces!  I already had the cotton fabric in my stash, so that was free. I did have to pay $15.00 for a bean bag chair at Walmart for the polystyrene beads inside to use as insulation. I still have enough beads left over for another thermal cooker. I think someone will get one for Christmas as a gift.  :) Basically, it is a beanbag with a dent in the middle to place your heated pot. Then you put an insulated lid on top (pictured on the right) and wait for the requisite time without touching it. (I hear that is the hardest part. NO peeking!)

Will test drive the cooker for dinner tonight.

P.S. The fabric from my first failed attempt did not go to waste. I made an outer shell to place the thermal cooker in for additional heat retention! 

Thursday, March 7, 2013


This post has been a LONG time coming. I have not been in the mood to post. A lot has been going on this last year or so, some good, some not so good. But rather than dwell on the negative, I want to congratulate my son who became a UNITED STATES MARINE this morning! 

He left for the Marine Corps boot camp on December 17, and has been participating in "The Crucible," a field exercise that lasts for 2 1/2 days and is the culmination of everything he has learned thus far. This photo was posted by someone with an inside connection who was there as they finished.

Here they are, listening to a motivational talk given by one of the Drill Sergeants. After this, they were supposed to have had a "Warriors' Breakfast" to make up for the lack of food they have endured (3 MREs for the duration of the exercise).

I will be flying out to San Diego next Wednesday to attend his graduation. Not so frugal, but I won't miss it for anything!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Library Update

It's been a while since my last update on the library redo. The bookcases were built by the last homeowners, but never quite finished off. I was not crazy about the stain finish, and the big empty spot between the shelves which is the return air intake for the AC really bothered me. I wanted to make it look more dressed up. So here is the large mirror purchased at the thrift store, installed all by me.

Since the mirror is very heavy, I first installed a temporary piece of wood on the bottom to use as a ledge while I was installing the mirror so it will not fall off and break into a million pieces. I used up a whole can of construction adhesive on the backside, then heaved it up onto the ledge with a lot of grunting on my part.  

Then I used my pneumatic nail gun to stabilize it into place, squishing the adhesive as best I could. After which I went to town installing about 20 screws through the frame into the wood wall underneath to make certain the whole thing will never fall off.  This thing is not going ANYWHERE!  I will give it a few days for the adhesive to dry completely, then I will fill in the holes for the screws that I drilled with a countersink bit. I still need to put some painter's caulk all the way around the frame because there is a gap between the wall and the mirror frame that's about a quarter inch wide.  Then I will get on with the painting. I can't wait! 

Oh, minor detail. . . I still need to finish doing the trim on the shelves. . . We need to have someone come in to finish off the upper portions because my husband has absolutely forbidden me to get up there to do it. He says I'm accident prone. . . But it WILL get done!

New (To Me) Bread Machine

I've been wanting a bread machine for a while now. . . A loaf of whole wheat bread sells for between $$2.99 and $4.00 at my grocery stores. Regular purchases over time add up, you know? Our family is not big on breads, but still goes through a loaf a week. So I've been dreaming of a bread machine, especially since the reviews I've been reading were mostly raving about how easy it is to use and how delicious the bread turns out.  But the catch was that the machine I wanted cost almost $300! Not exactly frugal. . . So I've been holding out and keeping an eye out on Amazon in the hope that maybe it will show up as one of their daily deals. No such luck.

On Thursday, I had an errand to run across town, and hit some thrift stores I never go to, and got lucky. I found this Zojirushi bread machine for $15.00 (with tax). Zojirushi is the brand of bread machine I had been looking at. Granted, the one I was coveting was the most recent model, but I figured this older model can't be all that bad, can it? It had a small dent on the front, but otherwise looked as if it had been used only a few times, and came with the measuring cup and spoon and the recipe booklet. It was missing an owner's manual, but that was quickly found online after Googling the model number. What sealed the deal for me to purchase it was the sticker on front of the machine indicating that this model was fully capable of baking 100% whole wheat bread.

I baked three loaves so far, and still tweaking the recipe. The first loaf was baked following a recipe for a regular white loaf using all purpose flour, so the bread turned out a bit hard (but passsable).  The second loaf was baked with the same recipe with the addition of some vital wheat gluten and was given to a neighbor to try out. The third loaf was baked from a whole wheat recipe after I downloaded the owner's manual. The loaf used half a cup more flour than the other two loaves, and turned out too tall. The recipe needs to be tweaked a bit to get a loaf of bread slightly shorter so it doesn't overflow out of the baking pan, but the texture of the bread was superb! It was very fluffy, considering it was whole wheat. I'm sold! No more grocery store bread for me!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thrift Store Jackpot!

I fully intended to give up buying any more new dishes, but I had to get this lot of 10 Villeroy & Boch "French Garden" porcelain china for $10.99! I got an oval casserole, a round casserole/souffle bowl, two dinner plates two salad plates and two cups and saucers. From what I can discern, they have never been used (the oval dish still has the bar code sticker on it). A quick look on eBay leads me to believe I can resell them for a very conservative guesstimate of $150 or more.  Not sure if I will, I may just keep these because they are so pretty, but what a steal!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012


What are the chances? Two days after posting about my next project, that is, to finish our library, I found this mirror at Goodwill for $25.00. Made of oak, it is just wide enough and tall enough to mount on the wall in the style of a French Trumeau mirror.  I will paint it the same color as the shelving. I am hoping it will look like it was meant to be that way and not as an afterthought. I think I can pull this off!  There is enough detailing in the mirror for the dark wax finish to make it pop.

Considering some of the wood appliques I've been looking at online to dress up this area has been priced  upwards of several hundred dollars a piece, I think this was a lucky find! Now I need to persuade my sons to help me mount it because it is very, very heavy. I can't wait to get it mounted and painted!

P.S. Still having problems with the photo when uploaded from my phone. . . I don't always have time to post from my computer. . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A New DIY Project

As I mentioned elsewhere, my husband and I were crazy enough to purchase a foreclosed house 4 years ago. We did a down-to-the-studs remodel, mostly to blow in foam insulation into the outer walls (which we do NOT regret because we feel we made up the difference already in our home cooling costs (which is a biggie for us as we live in Houston, TX). But after we moved in, the pace of working on projects has slowed to a crawl, mainly due to the economy and the price of everything going through the roof.  That said, we are still working on the house, albeit at a snail pace. My next project: our library. 
A large fireplace to the left, the bookcase wraps around a window to the right.
The library shelving was already in place when we purchased the house. Obviously installed by the previous homeowners as a DIY project, and it showed. The stain color was dated, and it was not trimmed out properly, and had butt ugly doors to cover up a section where they housed their audio equipment and LP records.  That would be the section painted white in the photo above, when I was playing around with paint to see if I liked it painted an off-white color that I had used in my kitchen. I didn't. I also didn't like the trim around the shelf, which looked too bulky to me. So after this photo was taken, I knocked it right out using a rubber mallet.

The large section without shelving is an air intake for the AC, and it was a sore spot for me. It is so big and ugly. I've been toying with the idea of making it look like a large Trumeau mirror by mounting a large piece of mirror trimmed out with some molding. Still not sure yet, because I'm not sure how sturdy that section is, as far as whether there are studs behind it. We shall see. I may have to come out with a plan B, whatever that may be.

As you can see, the shelving goes up, up, and up. Really most of the shelves are too high up to be of any use, and I'm going to have to get creative when finding things to fill them up.  I plan on leaving some empty space, but I want to fill most of them up with some funky, large stuff. Don't know what though. . .  You can see that I need to finish this project before we can get onto our next one, which will obviously be installing the flooring here. Right now, we have the ugly sub-floor after we ripped out some very old, tired looking carpet that had a funky smell.  Installing new floors is a project I've been dreaming of for a long, long time. When it does happen, we will be installing hardwood floors, as the whole family has allergy issues. The going is slow. It will happen.

My game plan is to use paint to transform these shelves to look very special. I've been trolling the blogs out there, and I think I will go with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint that is all the rage out there in blogland. What really attracts me to this particular paint is that it requires NO PREP other than to clean the surface to be painted. It is supposed to stick to just about any surface without priming. Undecided on the color still, because I have not actually seen the paint in person yet. But I will go with the dark wax finish to antique the painted surface to make it look as if the shelves always looked that way. I'm going for a French Country Estate look. . . One can dream, right? And this redo IS frugal because I'm doing the work myself. Well, that and using free labor by my sons for some of the work.  Shhhhhhh, They don't know that yet. Although I did not take photos, I am in the process of installing some 2 and 3 inch trim on the front of all the vertical edges. I may bang that up a bit to distress them before I get on with the painting. The dark wax finish is supposed to sink into the imperfections on the surface and make the paint finish look old.

When I can afford it, I also plan on adding some doors to the lower portion of the shelves to cover up some of the mess that is inevitable when you have open shelving . The doors will be as high as the portion I painted white as seen above. I think it will make this area look more serene. Stuff in shelves have a tendency to make a room chaotic, so this is something I plan on doing no matter WHAT. I figure I can make doors myself if I do some research, but I just may save the funds to order it online. Regardless, I plan on doing my homework and paying rock bottom prices, you can bet on that!

Another future project is to reupholster the chair in the photo. I have two of those and the fabric to do it that I purchased for another project years ago. One thing at a time though. So there you are. What are the chances that I can get it done before December??

Last, but not least, this being the anniversary of 9-11, I want to say that WE WILL NEVER FORGET! I am thankful that I live in a country, regardless of all the political and economic turmoil, I can still post an entry such as this, which does not mean much in the scheme of things. We owe the fragile peace to all the brave servicemen and women out there. Thank you!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is it Possible to Eat Healthy and be Frugal?

That depends, I think. One can run off to the nearest health food store and buy organic everything, paying top dollar. But I've always been apprehensive about these stores who charge an arm and a leg for food that's equally overpackaged as conventional food.  As long as one is cooking healthy recipes and eating in moderation, I feel we can balance the cost and the health benefits.

My husband has a family history of diabetes, and though he has not been diagnosed as such, he is conscientious about it and religiously monitors his blood glucose levels as it tends to hover on the higher side.  And as a result, he tries to avoid all carbs, but that gets really tedious and is really hard for him, as well as myself who tries to cook meals he can eat.

We both LOVE pasta, but can we still eat it and keep to the diet? I've learned recently that foods high in fiber will help lower the absorption rate of carbs, since the body tries to metabolize the fiber before it attacks the carbs.  As we are cooking show junkies,  we recently saw a blind taste test of whole wheat pasta available for sale in the US market.  The Bionaturae 100% Whole Wheat Pasta won hands down among the tasters, as its' taste and texture was closest to conventional pasta that we are all used to eating and does not have the grainy, bitter taste normally associated with whole wheat pasta.  My husband found it in a gourmet food section of a liquor store near his work, and we both liked it. A LOT.

The catch: It cost $3.59 for a one pound bag! Ouch. In comparison, I paid 38 cents for a 12 ounce package of spaghetti I purchased some time ago on sale to put in food storage (which makes it just around 50 cents a pound). What's a person who wants to eat healthy to do? I found that Amazon sold 6 packages per order of this pasta for around $3.00 per package. But wait. They also sold 11 pound bulk bags at $2.27 per pound! Now THAT'S more like it! That's almost a third off the price we paid for it!  Yes, the price is still considerably more than the 12 ounce packages I got on sale. And no, I will not get rid of the pasta I got on sale because I purchased that for food storage. But for everyday, we will now be eating the Bionaturae pasta purchased at the lowest price I could find so far. Good health is priceless, after all.

Have you made similar choices with regards to food?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making a Quilt to Pass the Time

It has been HOT here in Texas day in and day out. My vegetable garden has been totally neglected for the last couple of months. Ever since seeing Frugal Queen's quilting posts, I've been itching to make one. It has been 19 years or so since I last made one.

Looked up some YouTube videos on jellyroll quilts, and here is the almost finished result. I've made assembly line quilts before, so once the fabric strips were cut out, the blocks and the quilt top went together relatively quickly. This one will be for my first grandson. His crib is green, so that's why I chose the colorway in this particular top.

The quilt was made frugally, sort of, since the fabric was in the stash in my closet these last 19 years! I don't plan on going out to purchase fabric at a quilt store anytime soon, if at all, because that would get very expensive.  BTW, the large green OLFA rotary cutting mat was purchased a while back at Goodwill for $2.99. I just couldn't pass it up. I had a smaller one I purchased years ago new, and I'm sure I paid close to $30! This one is a lot easier to use because I can cut a length of fabric folded in half, whereas with the other one, I had to fold it twice.

Anyhow, I know I've been scarce. Will try to get back into posting more often.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Buying New (to me) Furniture

I have been on a mission. A mission to furnish our library on the cheap. I have been really lucky of late and found two matching chairs, a camel back loveseat, and a leather armless chair, all for under $150. Since I had the seating taken care of, I have been looking for a smallish table/desk in case I wanted to do some paperwork or be on the computer.  I have been scouring Craigslist often, and almost purchased three different desks, but somehow, I never was able to go take a look. Then I found this table. L.O.V.E.

Looks pretty rough, but the size was perfect and I really liked the curved foot supports. The ad mentioned that it needed refinishing, but I wasn't concerned because I had specifically been looking for a desk/table to paint a custom color.

Isn't it gorgeous? This baby is built to last, and is very strong and sturdy. the tabletop looked pretty rough, but nothing a little paint could not take care of. When I got it home. I cleaned it with a damp rag then rubbed in some lemon oil treatment because I knew this had been in a storage building for God knows how long. The man I purchased it from was one of those people who bid on the contents of abandoned storage units to resell what they find inside.  Anyhow, the table was dying of thirst, because it sucked up the zig zag stream of oil so fast before I could rub it in, it "stained" the table top and I had to spend the next hour trying to even out the color of the table.

After I was done, it looked just so lovely, I decided against painting it.  Even the ink stains added some character, like the table has seen some things. If only it could talk! As a side not, this table in a prior life was owned by the State of Texas Department of Health.  Why do I know this? Because it has a small brass plaque with a serial number on it together with the words "Tex. Hea. Dept." stamped on it. Unless that's abbreviation for something else? Um. Highly unlikely. And here it is next to the $39.00 camelback loveseat I picked up at Goodwill for $39.00. What a steal!  It looks brand spanking new, like it had never been sat on. The lamp on the table was purchased many moons ago at a garage sale for two bucks? It is solid brass, but the finish was tarnished and I did not feel like polishing it (again). I wanted a more contemporary look, so I spray painted it in satin nickel, and I think it turned out great. Oh, I paid $100 for the table. I thought the price was fair, considering it is solid oak, is very solid and has a lot of details not found in a new-in the store-made-in China piece. They just don't make it like this anymore. I will never, ever, buy any new furniture again, EVER!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chugging Along

I'm still here, chugging along and surviving. 

My vegetable garden has started to produce, so my produce purchases have gone down significantly as I try to use what we grow.  Been eating a lot of summer squash in stir fries and sautes. My bush and pole beans do not seem to nearly produce as much as I would like to eat, so I will plant more next year. I'm still a newbie gardener, and do not have the art of planting down pat.  Planted a bunch of radishes only to realize that it was already too hot for them here in Texas. Most of them bolted, and the roots hardly developed. Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

I ordered some artichoke seeds, and planted 6 seeds in pots, and only one of them sprouted.  Still too small to transplant, but it would be neat if it took to the climate.  Here where I live, they are supposed to be a perennial and should last 4-5 years. I shall see. But seriously, it would be cool if I could produce my own chokes for consumption, since they tend to be rather pricey in the stores!

So my routine when I go to the grocery stores lately has been to look through the clearance section to see if there are any nonperishable items worth stocking up on that we can use now or later.  My recent purchase has been a bunch of imported French jams and jellies marked down from close to $5.00 to $0.88! I purchased the whole lot that they had. Black cherry jam, marmalade, currant jelly and four fruit spreads all made without additional sugar.  I'm sure I can find uses for them in cooking, baking and using just as is for toasts.  My guess is that they did not move quickly enough to the manager's liking due to their rather steep price and the store had to get rid of them to clear the shelf space for other items.  Thier loss, my gain.

My other routine is to look through the "Manager's Specials" in the meat department where they sell soon to expire "sell by date" meat pack. These meats are anywhere from 50% to 70% off the regular retail price! Lately, all the meats we have been consuming at home are these meats on clearance.  Since I have two freezers, all bargains cuts of meat I like are purchased in bulk for later use.  Recent purchases have been pork chops, Italian sausages, chicken tenders and thin sliced beef steaks which are wonderful for beef steak sandwiches and as stir fry meat.  Ever so often, they also have ready made shiish kabobs which are also marked down 50%. When I find those, I cook them up the same day, since I know I can't freeze them because they have alternating veggies and meat.

As I grab up the bargains, it often crosses my mind whether I should take them all, or leave some for others.  But it is a fleeting moment, I have to admit. Since it is not every trip to the store that I come across these values, I grab everything I can afford to buy and store.  My thought is that, with prices rising so quickly, the only way I can continue to feed my family without breaking the budget is to take advantage of these deals if and when I can find them.  Besides, the manager marks them down to move the products quickly, so I think of it as doing him a favor.  I've waited my turn for other shoppers to look through the items on sale, and it seems like most of the time, they pass them up anyway.  I guess that is the upside of living in a mostly affluent suburb.  Hey, I'm willing to take what others pass up!  I try my best to be a good steward of our income. I couldn't care less about the Joneses! How about you?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Running in Place

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 2)

Are you feeling a bit like Alice? I know I am. In more ways than I care to think about.  The price of EVERYTHING has been going up, with no end in sight. We're all working harder to stay afloat financially, and things are getting harder, not easier. My husband, who works for the federal government, has not had a salary increase in four years, and it looks like he will not for at least another several years.  We've been making do with less and less, just like everyone else out there. We certainly are not hurting as much as we could be, but finances are definitely tighter than they used to be.  I often wonder how families with less income than ours manage to feed and clothes their families.

What really makes the situation frustrating and makes my blood boil is the total disregard by the government to be good a steward of our tax dollars.  Oh no. It's as if they have a credit card with no credit limit, and they keep spending and spending like a drunk sailor. I just heard on the radio the other day that our President's deficit spending in real terms means the government has ALREADY spent all of the lifetime tax payments by our grandchildren! And he wants to spend more! It is obviously unsustainable, and it scares the CRAP out of me! 

As a general rule, I don't buy ANYTHING now unless it is on sale or clearance, except for vegetables at the grocery store. I hate going to the grocery store because you get so little for SO much! I remember when we first got married, we used to be able to fill up our grocery cart and spend less than $100. Now? I might have 6 or 7 items and pay close to $50! Insanity, I tell you. And the reason I avoid shopping as much as humanely possible.

We are fighting back by expanding our vegetable garden again this year. We will have twelve 4 x 8 beds when all's completed. I already planted 3 whole beds with tomato plants in the hope of canning the surplus so I will not have to buy canned tomatoes to use in recipes. The materials set us back $60, but we hope it will pay us back many times over in the future.

But as I work to get the garden prepared for more plants, I see a day in the not-so-distant future when the government will tax us for the pleasure of growing our own vegetables. Call me paranoid, if you will, but I have no doubt that this is something coming down the pipeline. Case in point: we have a well on our property, and we are certain we will get taxed to use it sooner than later. The city  already taxes commercial property owners with a well for the use of the water, regardless of the fact that the city does JACK to maintain the well and the pump. The government is getting too intrusive, too powerful, and too downright scary! And it really annoys the HELL out of me that too many people are ignorant about the dangers of an out of control government. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Frugal Landscaping Continued

Our home is on a septic system and has a dedicated septic tank off the kitchen sink right by the front door. It was a huge eyesore, covered up by some thick plastic pool liner to keep out the weeds from growing up around it. The previous owners had some small pebbles tossed over it, but I was trying to come up with a better solution that is easily removable if and when the concrete tank needed to be pumped out every few years.The solution eluded me for almost 4 years, but I finally had an "ah ha" moment! An ornamental foot bridge! It would span over the tank, not place any additional weight on it, and it would be easily removable, AND it would be pretty to look at.  One big problem. The cheapest mail order "assemble it yourself" foot bridge cost $299 plus shipping. Forget THAT.

So I decided to make it myself. I already had some 2 X 11's long enough to cut into the curved supports. I measured it to completely clear the top of the tank plus extra for the two supporting ends. Here, I had already cut out one and I'm working on the second with a jigsaw. It was quite a bit of work, even with the power tool because the wood was 2 inches thick. (Blogger still has not fixed the glitch in photo quality when uploaded from a smart phone. . . Drat!)

Next, I cut some 2 X 4's into 24 inch lengths and screwed one at each end to stabilize the structure before I figured out how many more I needed to cut out.

Then I started screwing in the rest of the 2 X 4's to complete the structure. The total cost of this project was a whopping $15.00, including some new blades for the jigsaw! Sure beats $299!  With a little bit of elbow grease, I saved a ton of money!

And here it is, placed on top of the aforementioned septic tank. The flowers were purchased last weekend for $4.99 and planted in pots I got for free from the dumpster when we lived in an apartment complex in between houses.  The lily plant ( the green mass of leaves on the right) is a transplant from our previous house. It blooms year after year in May without fail. After this photo was taken, I transplanted some in front of the bridge, so it should fill out nicely in a couple more years to soften the line where the bridge and the walkway meet.  I can't help it, but I'm awfully proud of myself!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Frugal Landscaping

This may not look like much, but it is a beautiful sight! We had a slight drainage problem in front of our house right by the front door.  For whatever reason, the ground was mounded higher than the door, and every time it rained hard, the water would come and pool almost right up to the door.  It would have been an easy fix if we rented some equipment, but I was too cheap for that.  I felt that money could have been better spent somewhere else.  So I started to dig the dirt up little by little using a shovel, but it was going to take a LONG time to get the job done, and that didn't even include the work that would have been involved getting rid of the dirt pile that was growing.  Then, an angel showed up at our house last Saturday in the form of our neighbor, who was getting a new roof installed on his house.  He had borrowed one of those front end loaders with a big bucket to do some work around his yard, and offered to dig up the dirt and even take the dirt off our hands! Who could refuse an offer like that?

So the next morning, he showed up and leveled our yard for us.  And then he took the dirt to fill up some low spots in his own yard. In return, my husband went over to his house after it was all finished to help him move the roofing shingles up onto the roof in preparation for the roofers (the neighbor had gotten a price break by agreeing to do that part of the job himself). A win win situation, wouldn't you say? After we figure out if we fixed the problem, all we have to do is put down some sod.

So the next morning, he showed up and leveled our yard for us.  And then he took the dirt to fill up some low spots in his own yard. In return, my husband went over to his house after it was all finished to help him move the roofing shingles up onto the roof in preparation for the roofers (the neighbor had gotten a price break by agreeing to do that part of the job himself). A win win situation, wouldn't you say? After we figure out if we fixed the problem, all we have to do is put down some sod.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Long Time, No See

As my friends and I used to say. . . Have not been in the mood to blog. Frugality went out the window for a while.  It's all good. We spent some, and saved some. Here's what we have been up to:

My husband had not been sleeping well, waking up with a sore shoulder almost every morning. Then we went away on a working weekend trip to New Braunfels, Texas and stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.  They had a Sleep Number Bed in the rooms, and my husband loved the bed. He woke up the next morning without having any pains.  When we got back, he kept talking about how comfortable that bed was, but these babies retail for upwards of $4,000+! NOT paying that kind of money!

So we spent the next month or so scouring the classifieds on Craigslist, and finally found one listed for $2,000, right in the area of town we live in, no less. Then watched it for a few weeks because there were no takers, the economy being what it is and all.  Finally, my husband said, "Why don't you send them an email and ask if they will take $1,500?" And that is what we purchased it for.  We were given the original invoice for the bed, and together with taxes, the grand total for the bed when purchased was close to $5,500!  Yes, it still was not a cheap purchase, but we saved $4,000 over the full retail value.  Since we are supposed to spend 1/3 of our lives in bed sleeping, we felt it was worth the money spent. The people who had it had kept the mattress in pristine condition, so we were OK purchasing a used mattress.  My husband has been really happy with the purchase, and that alone is priceless.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Know What You Use

I spent my morning shopping today, using coupons for each purchase.  I only purchased things that my family uses, and "saved" roughly $100.00 or so together with the sale price plus coupons.  I won't bore you with all the details, but I think it is important to know what items you use regularly.  That way, when something you use on a regular basis goes on sale for a fantastic price, you can grab that opportunity and purchase as much as you think you will use in a 2, 4, 6, or even a 12 months period.  We've all noticed the prices of just about everything keeps going up, so a savings today will pay you back in multiples in the future.

Today, I purchased 12 Starkist  tuna pouches for 65 cents each. I've been looking for tuna to go on sale, and while these were not on sale, I came across some "75 cents off 2" coupons, so I decided to stock up before they expired.  I also purchased 3 Abreva cold sore treatments for $11.00 each. I used a manufacturer's $3.00 off coupon plus a Walgreens in-store coupon for another $3.00 off.  Regularly, these sell for $22.00, but it was on sale for $16.99, so it was quite a savings in conjunction with the coupons. My husband buys about 3 or 4 of these a year, so I wanted to grab them when the price was marked down so that I would not have to run into the store when he needed one and have to pay full price for it.

I will not go through every item I purchased, but you get the point. Know what you use, and how much they normally are. Then, if it goes on sale, take that opportunity to stock up.  Buying things when you need it is the most expensive way to shop and is not a good use of one's limited resources.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Woo Hoo!

     I made my very first sale on Amazon today.  I've toyed with the idea of selling on eBay, but their fees always stopped me.  I found out that Amazon has no fees unless you make a sale, so I took the plunge. Listed a cookbook I received as a gift (but already had a copy of), and within a matter of hours, it sold!   And the thing is, I did not list it for the cheapest price out there! I made about $12.00, but hey, that's better than selling the same thing at a garage sale for about $1.00, or donating to Goodwill or Salvation Army for nothing so they can sell sell it for about $2.00!

     Granted, there is a place for eBay still. . . Selling on Amazon requires that the thing you are selling has a product code, but I'm going to get my feet wet on Amazon before I take the plunge on eBay. . .

Monday, January 9, 2012

Frugal Turkey Part II

I've posted about the value of turkey before. . . I purchase the frozen birds before Thanksgiving when they are practically giving them away and keep them in the freezer. I cook one every month or so. A 12 pound or so bird will feed our family for 3 or 4 meals, depending on what I make with the leftovers.  With the leftovers of the last bird I roasted just last week, I made mini turkey pot pies yesterday and cooked it halfway then froze it.  I have a quick meal to heat in the oven in the future when I don't feel like cooking.  

I always make stock with the leftover carcass, and this time was no different. I simmered it with water to cover for several hours, cooled the stock, and put about 5 ladle fulls of the gelatinous stock into zippered sandwich bags to freeze.  Just one bag added to a soup or any dish calling for canned stock adds a je ne sais quois flavor costing nothing but the price of electricity and pennies for the bag.

This time, I took frugality to the next step by tipping the used up carcass into a crock pot with some more water and simmering the bones a second time for 15 hours or so.  This makes all but the largest bones soft enough to blitz in a food processor. (If the bones snap easily in your hand, you can put them in the food processor.)  The resulting mush was given to my dogs as a special treat. I give them a big glob along with their regular dog food. They get so excited when they see me taking the container out of the fridge! It looks disgusting, but they LOVE it! And me. : )  Don't know what the nutritional values are, but at least they are getting their calcium!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Clearance and Pizza

Happy New Year! Been laying low the last few weeks because the family was on vacation and we were spending time together. Please excuse the grainy photo. Don't know WHY photos loaded from my Android phone always looks so funky.

I have been pretty good. I did NO SHOPPING after Christmas, until yesterday.  I popped over to my local grocery store for a quick trip, and spotted a pile of cooking parchment paper. The store sells parchment paper year round, but these were clearanced along with the more mundane Christmas items. This particular brand is  one they don't normally carry, so I guess they had to get rid of it.  The regular price for one roll was a whopping $4.99, but it was on sale for $1.25. So for the price of 3 rolls, I purchased 12.

Now, you might think I went a bit nuts, but I regularly use parchment paper, and it has been a pet peeve of mine how expensive they are.  Even if they go "on sale," it is usually only marked down about 25 cents off the regular price, so you can see what a good deal this was.  I probably have enough here to last me at least 3-5 years, but I have a feeling in that amount of time, the regular price would have more than doubled.  I do believe in stocking up on non-perishable items if you have the space to store it.  The way I see it, the economy is not getting any better, and if you see deals like this, you better grab it.

Now, what do I do with this, you might ask?? Well, one good use is to make homemade pizza. I finally figured out, thanks to a good friend, that the best way to bake a pizza is on parchment paper right on the wire rack, without putting anything under it.  If you are making thin crust pizza, you can make a pizza start to finish in 30 minutes flat, no joke! You do not let the dough rest or rise, that is the trick to getting a crispy, thin crust. If you like breadier crust, then allow the dough to rise until it doubles before punching it down and shaping the dough into a pizza.The recipe I use is pretty basic:

Pizza Dough

1 package active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups flour

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of the water and allow yeast to dissolve and proof, about 15 minutes. When the yeast starts to bubble, add the rest of the water along with the salt and olive oil. Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor and drizzle the liquid mixture while you blitz the flour.  Mix until the mixture turns into a ball.

At this point you have two choices: 

Roll out the dough immediately onto a floured parchment paper as thin as you can (probably less than 1/4 inch) and top with some sauce, cheese and toppings, or

Allow the dough to rise in a covered, oiled bowl in a draft-free spot for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in bulk. Roll or stretch out the dough until it is about 10 inches in diameter on a piece of  floured parchment paper and top with your favorite sauce, cheese and toppings.

When your pizza is finished, slide the parchment paper onto a cookie sheet or even onto a flattened cardboard box to use as a pizza paddle to slide the pizza on top of the wire rack in the oven, paper and all.  The paper will brown but will not burn in the time it takes to bake the pizza.

Either way, the secret to a good pizza is to have no more than two different kinds of toppings, excluding the sauce and cheese.  Even if you choose the thin crust/no rise option, you still want the yeast in there for the yeasty aroma.  Otherwise, it will be like eating a cracker with cheese on top.

Bake the pizza for about 10 minutes at 500 degrees. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Smoking a Turkey

I did not roast a turkey for Thanksgiving this year because my brother-in-law offered to do it. So what we did was take a turkey out of the freezer on Thanksgiving day that I had purchased last year when it was on sale before the holiday. I let it defrost for 4 days, and then brined it in the orange cooler for 3 days in a solution of 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup Montreal Steak Seasoning. Boil the seasonings in enough water to dissolve into the water and add it to the cooler with enough additional water to submerge the bird and cool the solution down.  Then add ice on top of it all to keep it cooled down so the meat does not go bad.  You need to make sure it is iced during the three day process, but we only needed to add a little bit of additional ice once a day. 

After three days, we brought out our smoker that I got for FREE when we lived in an apartment complex for a short time in-between houses. Yes, that's right, this was left in the trash next to the dumpster after somebody moved out of the complex.  We fired up some charcoal briquettes, threw on  some Mesquite wood chips I purchased on clearance a couple of years ago. We put the turkey in the smoker at 11:00 a.m. and took it off at 4:30 p.m. We added additional charcoal and wood chips once during this process.

The finished bird awaiting consumption.  It was DELICIOUS!  The turkey was the BEST we had ever had, bar none. It was moist with just the right amount of smokiness. If you can get your hands on a smoker, I highly recommend it! Even if you don't have a smoker, the turkey tastes almost as good roasted in the oven after you brine it.  As I've mentioned previously in another post, turkeys are a great value for your money pound for pound. If you have room in your freezer, buy some extra birds and roast them once every couple of months. The meat can then be worked into other recipes like casseroles or the pot stickers I made the other day to enjoy another day when you are short on time.