Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Start Where you Are! Saving Money on Meals - BREAKFAST




Recently I saw a post on Facebook where a young mom asked for tips on saving money on meals.  At first, I resisted to comment, knowing that some posts are intended for an inner circle of friends and not from old moms of childhood friends LOL.

Later, I changed my mind.  I am passionate about saving money on meals.  I have walked this path myself when my own children were young and I am a blogger - so have lots of resources all in one place.

I asked this young mom to let me know if she was interested in some frugal blog links. I told her that for me, the places to start were cooking once to eat twice and cooking from scratch.  Those two things make a huge difference rather than buying prepackaged/shortcut meals which really drain the bank account fast.  My young friend told me she works on trying to cook more scratch meals.  It occurred to me that she may think I mean she should make "from scratch" things like baking bread, rolling noodles, or canning garden produce.  But that is NOT AT ALL what I meant.  We all need more time at home with our families and when I had young kids at home, I did not spend time baking bread and canning unless it was something I could do with my kids once they were older and if it was something they wanted to try.  I have posts about things like that but let's save those for another day.  I worked away from home and was gone from home to work 55 hours each week so I know all about being busy.  I had little time but the things I made took little time and worked well for my family.

Today, we are going to focus on GETTING STARTED and HOMEMADE BREAKFAST OPTIONS.

GETTING STARTED:

#1 - You are not alone is this game.

When I first started this journey, times were tough.  I needed more money AND more time.  I sought out frugal, homemaking blogs using key words like "frugal food", "cheapskate meals", etc.  I didn't even have Pinterest back then and using Pinterest will be a great platform to use in your search.

Some of my favorite resources are still these blogs:
  • Hillbilly Housewife - specifically this post w/ a bunch of frugal recipes.  If I need a basic recipe like making homemade chocolate syrup (easy and saves $$$ and tastes exactly the same as Hershey's), chocolate pudding, basic muffins - this is where I start.
  • Lynn's Kitchen Adventures - Lynn got me started with making Baked Oatmeal and Homemade Granola - two meal options that I use weekly to this day.  Lynn also posts weekly menu plans, has recipe links for the meals, and even gluten free meal plans and recipes.  She is a complete wealth of information.
  • The Prudent Homemaker - Brandy has nine kids.  She homeschools and her husband is a real estate broker.  She relies on stocking up her pantry when times are good and then eating from that pantry when real estate sales are down.  Brandy has beautiful pics, stages meals very elegantly and eats every single meal at home.  In addition to her weekly posts, the comments below each post provide lots of inspiration for ways to squeeze out an extra penny.  To Brandy, every penny adds up!  If I get discouraged, I can get lots of inspiration w/ The Prudent Homemaker.
  • www.Flylady.net - I used this website to get me organized.  It helped so much!  Even if you only use a few of these tips, just go there and take a look.  It's free and I still use many of them today to keep me organized. Love the launch pad, and small cleaning goals!

#2 - Write down things your family currently likes for BREAKFAST, for LUNCH, SUPPER, and SNACKS/DESSERTS and then try to find some simple, recipes that could replace those things, if they are processed/prepackaged.  Make them while you are making supper or on weekends, and fill that freezer or breakfast table with some easy homemade options.  Sometimes, I just got dry ingredients together for muffins in a mixing bowl and the pan for baking, plus the cooking spray- the night before so that I only had to add liquids, and mix together before my shower. 

BREAKFASTS: 

For my family, the girls ate breakfasts most often of cold cereal w/ milk; poptarts; or granola bars. Basically, they ate sugar covered carbs.  Let's be real here!  LOL.


I replaced cold cereal with homemade granola (as cold cereal with both Perfect Granola and Chocolate Granola), simple muffins for poptarts, homemade biscuits, or just cinnamon toast, peanut butter toast, or cheese toast.  Good stuff, I promise!

#3 - Start small!  Find a few things you will no longer buy but make from scratch.  Like start with those poptarts. Those things are so loaded in sugar and I'm hungry the minute I throw my wrapper away.  You can bake muffins and keep in the freezer for thawing in the micro almost as easy as toasting poptarts.  Muffins make great poptart replacements.

Let's get started with links to what worked for me.  Below are some options that my family loves for breakfast rather than processed sugar loaded carbs.  Here we go!  Ditch the Box!  

MUFFINS:



  • Simple/basic muffins - I add-in chocolate chips, blueberries, a grated apple and some cinnamon to a simple plain muffin recipe.  These muffins are also good plain w/ butter or jam.  You can also substitute one cup of flour with oats.  I make these so often I no longer need the recipe.
  • Other muffin recipes found HERE on my blog, like pumpkin chocolate chip, chocolate zucchini muffins, banana oatmeal muffins (no eggs), cornbread muffins (like jiffy)  Sometimes, I add hot dog slices for "corndog muffins" and store them baked in the freezer for lunch), and I also make two recipes for surprise muffins (jelly inside).
  • Bake any pancake mix or homemade (Perfect Pancakes) in sprayed or lined muffin tins.  I prefer sprayed with no liners so they can be easily popped out and dipped in syrup or eaten on the run.  You could add some slices of sausage link to put these over the top.  For a shortcut, use "Self Rising Flour" and add 1.5 cups of self rising flour to 1.25 cups milk + 1 Tablespoon oil + 1 egg.  Tada!  Pancake batter!
*Remember, all muffins are great baked and stored in a big ziploc bag in your freezer for lots of options for everyone.  They reheat in about 10-20 seconds in the microwave or in lunchboxes by noon.  Muffins also make great snacks!

 Baked Oatmeal
  • I learned about Baked Oatmeal from Lynn @ Lynn's Kitchen Adventures.  Baked Oatmeal is not your mom's gray, runny bowl of oats.  It's baked and oats replace the flour so has the consistence of muffins or coffee cake.  Even my non oatmeal eaters love baked oatmeal.  This was a huge hit at my house and saves los of $$$.
  • Our favorites are:
  • There are lots of recipes at Lynn's site for Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal, Strawberries and Cream Baked Oatmeal.  You name it - its there!  
Freezer French Toast - I take the bread about to get moldy in my pantry and make it all up in french toast.  I place the french toast on a cookie sheet and freeze, then bag it up for reheating in the toaster.  Yummy stuff.  I love that it is crisp and not soggy like normal french toast.

Freezer Breakfast Burritos - Make a big batch for breakfast on the weekend and freeze the leftovers for later.  Let the kids help like an assembly line. Good stuff and you can tailor them to your family's favorite way to eat them.

Homemade Yogurt Parfaits - I love these!  I use my own homemade yogurt and homemade granola, but feel free to buy a quart of vanilla yogurt and some granola and put them together.  Great on the go and so good for you!  They will always be cheaper and better for you than fast food yogurt parfaits.


Bacon - I could not be married to a midwest man without knowing how to be makin' bacon! - Bacon keeps great after cooking in the fridge! Bacon sandwich anyone?

There are literally tons of ideas out there.  

Hope this has made the first step just a wee bit easier.

Enjoy!


Gina







Thursday, May 28, 2020

Start where you are! Container Gardening Success!



Early this spring, I decided I wanted to have a little garden again.  It's been a while for me in the garden, but this year I thought I would give it another try.  

I really wanted Doug to till a garden spot in our yard - or build me an amazing raised bed, but he had so many things on his honey-do list that I finally broke down and tried a container garden.  I wasn't sure how it would work.  

I follow Square Foot Gardening on Facebook and a few other gardening sites.  They really inspired me to give it a try and to start where I am!  

Someone told me recently that you really have to treat your plants like little babies.  That made sense and has stuck with me!  They need attention often and should be watched closely for anything they might need.  They can't talk to you so all you can do is keep a close eye on them and do your best to give them what they need to grow.

One blogger said she starts seeds in little trays so I tried that.  Even in our tiny house, we had room for two trays of seeds.  I got the trays at Walmart, bought organic potting soil and even starting in early April, I was able to get a good start on my plants.  

Inside gardening fed my hunger for spring!  It was fun and didn't cost very much.  I started seeds for lettuce, beets, okra, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and nasturtium (flowers).


  


Here's the tray of seeds just a week or so after planting. I placed my trays with lids in a sunny window on my kitchen table.  I made sure they had warm water to keep them moist.  The lids kept the seeds from drying out.




Once it warmed up a little (I live in mid-Missouri), I sat the trays outside, still with lids, until it warmed up.  Once the daytime temps were in the 60's, I removed the lids.  (They need water more often without the lids.)  I babied them, bringing inside at night since we still had chances for frost- and put the trays back outside when it was warm.




I re-used a few containers I already had, replacing the dirt with organic gardening soil, planted the baby plants, gave them a drink, and the growing began.  This old concrete pot has Butter and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce growing in it.





Each morning, I step outside with my coffee to breathe in some fresh air and check the baby plants.  So far they are all doing great!


I have been amazed at their growth.  I planted a tiny little tomato plant under these beets.  Maybe he will continue to grow after the beets are harvested?  Fingers crossed!  





On one of my favorite gardening Facebook pages, the gardener had some of these awesome Geopots with beautiful plants growing inside.  (I am not receiving any money for bragging here.  They are just that awesome!)  I messaged her and she shared the link for ordering.  I am SO HAPPY with these pots.  They are really grow bags (instead of pots) and the one in this picture is 15 gallons so has plenty of room for healthy plants.  I used garden soil in the bottom half (from a pile of leaves we add to every fall in our yard) and in the top half used bagged organic garden soil.  

These beets seem to like their digs just fine!  I've been cutting a few leaves, mixing with my other lettuce for salads and adding to my sandwiches - until the beet roots are ready.  

I plan to use these beets in my favorite raspberry beet jelly.  I am so thankful that I posted that recipe on this blog so that I can make some this summer.

Here's the link to my Raspberry Beet Jelly recipe.  (Shhh... I call it Raspberry-B at my house because if I say the word "beet", I know I will be the only one eating it!  LOL)  (Sorry - this picture was early on and it leaves a lot to be desired.)





Try a few pots of lettuce, radishes or beets!  Growing things makes your soul and TUMMY feel good! It's easy!  Start where you are, using whatever containers you have on hand.  Dollar Tree or Walmart may still have some cheap seeds (some of mine were 50 cents).  The key is to treat them like babies, making a routine of checking on them, watering them, and making sure they are happy.  The rewards are huge!






Happy Gardening, everyone!


Wishing you good health and 
happy days ahead!

Gina







Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Surprise Muffins - Another Pantry Friendly Recipe!



Surprise Muffins 
(Easy - Uses Pantry Ingredients)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • *Jam/jelly of your choice (optional)
  • *Colored sugars for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:

PREHEAT:  Oven to 350 degrees

COMBINE:  In a mixing bowl all of the dry ingredients. Stir well.

COMBINE:  In a separate dish from the dry ingredients- the egg, oil, and milk.  Stir so egg is thoroughly blended with other wet ingredients.

COMBINE: Wet and dry ingredients and STIR, just until blended.

PLACE: Muffin papers in 12 muffin cups/tin.  (I really prefer papers for these muffins.)

SCOOP:  Approximately one heaping Tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each muffin cup.

NEXT PLACE:  About 1 teaspoon of your favorite jam or jelly on top of that batter.

TOP: With another spoon of muffin batter.

SPRINKLE: With colored sugar, if you want - or not. (I used to make six w/ one jam and six w/ another, with color coordinated sugars to tell them apart.  Little kids just eat this stuff up, trust me LOL.

BAKE @ 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until browning.

COOL:  A few minutes before eating.  Insides may be hot.


Enjoy!

Gina


Back in the day when I had littles around, I used to make these Surprise Muffins a lot!  

It was about the time I had had a car wreck and was unable to work and finances were a little tight that I decided to cast off the prepackaged cereals, pop tarts, toaster strudels, and other pricey/packaged breakfast items and instead dug out a few, basic recipes for breakfast items.  Once I started, I never looked back.  Muffins were a reliable choice at my house.  Customizable recipes like this one were even more reliable!

In an effort to save money and yet offer something we all enjoyed, I sought out recipes that used common ingredients that I was likely to find in my pantry.  Occasionally I made recipes that were heavy on special ingredients, but really I rarely did that.  You can take a basic recipe and tweak it to make a very special dish rather than buying a bunch of expensive one-hit wonder ingredients.

I found this recipe in a treasured Betty Crocker basic cookbook.  I hadn't made this recipe much since my girls both flew the coop but in tough times, the tough get going, right!  I knew making these muffins would be both a little nostalgic and delicious so I went for it. 

Since I lost my treasured cookbook in the fire, I hoped I could find the recipe online.  Success.  It was there.  Here it is!  I made the muffins and they were every bit as delicious as I remembered.  They remind me more of a scone than a muffin (now that I have experienced such things).

For the "surprise" in my muffins back in the day, I used to use apple butter, strawberry jam, grape jelly (Doug's fav), homemade apricot or peach preserves.  Pretty much, whatever I had on hand, I used.  This time, I only had grape jelly on hand and red sugar so that's what I used.  Also, this time I made a few without anything inside and no sugar on top.  I enjoyed them with a little soft butter. So delicious! 

Prepackaged cereals and breakfast items may get harder and harder to find - so having a few, pantry friendly recipes might be something we all want to have in our bags of tricks.

Make these muffins!  I know your family will love them as much as we do!







Stay healthy out there, everyone!

Gina