14 Essential Pantry Staples

My pantry is well stopantrycked because it’s a 30 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. You can hear me scream like a banshee if I ever run out of something.

Not only do I keep my cupboards full, I always make sure I have a backup package in reserve. Efficiency should be my middle name.

Unless you have special dietary needs I think you can get by on fourteen items to make pretty decent meals without leaving the house.

• canned tomatoes
Whether they’re whole, crushed, frozen, dried, or canned, tomatoes are useful in a wide variety of recipes.

• broth (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
I use broth a lot. Every time I boil chicken for the dogs I save the broth and freeze it for future meals. Great for soups, casseroles, gravies, and sauces. Making your own broth is far tastier than the high sodium store bought variety.

• beans
There are so many varieties and packaged in many different ways. Since I cook a lot of Mexican inspired meals, I like to pick up refried beans when they’re on sale. I could make them from scratch, but this is one convenience food that saves me a lot of time.

• pasta
This one is probably a given. We use both wheat and rice based pasta for a variety of dishes from spaghetti to stir-fry.

• rice
Another no brainer. I try to mix it up between basmati and sushi rice. I keep plain white rice too. It was our staple for years but Greg has gotten snooty about rice and now asks for variety. Neither of us like brown rice so we don’t keep that in stock.

• onions/garlic
Unless you can’t stand the taste of onion or garlic, you should always keep some handy. It’s a healthy way to flavor food. Thankfully, both of us are lovers of garlic and onions. It was a match made in heaven.

• potatoes
I always try to keep fresh potatoes handy, but just in case I run out, I also stock canned and dehydrated potatoes. They’re not as tasty as fresh, but in a pinch, they serve well.

• vinegars
I stock wine, cider, and white vinegar. I use the wine vinegar specifically for when I make salad dressings, the cider vinegar for marinating meat, and white vinegar for canning. Sometimes I buy other vinegars like sushi and malt vinegar, but they’re not essential.

• canned tuna or other meats
In a pinch, a can of tuna or chicken makes a quick meal with very little effort. Tuna fish salad sandwiches are regular meals at my house.

• oils
I stock canola, olive, and sesame oil. I rarely use the sesame oil but since I dabble in Asian cuisine, it’s often required in the recipe.

• jelly or fruit preserves
These are handy to have whether it’s for a jelly sandwich or filling for a puff pastry.

• cheese
Cheese is a staple in our house. Cheddar and cream cheese is always on hand. You never know when we’ll have a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich or a bagel shmear. We buy other cheeses too, but these two are staples.

• milk
We don’t drink milk, but I use it a lot for baking and cooking. I buy dry milk in the big box and ‘can’ it with my FoodSaver. Canning sucks all the air out of the container and it lasts for a very long time. I never know when I’ll need milk, but this way, I never have to make a special trip for milk.

• bread/tortillas
I envy those of you who bake bread. I just don’t have the knack for it. Greg makes a decent Italian loaf, but I leave all the other bread families to the grocery store. It’s the one thing I always buy regularly from the store.

Tortillas on the other hand are ridiculously easy to make, but I’m lazy and refuse to make them while there is a nearby store that has its own tortillaria. I buy them whenever they go on sale and freeze them.

That’s my list. These are the fourteen items I will always keep stocked in my pantry.

How about you? Is there one must-have ingredient you keep in your pantry?

 

 

This Week’s Menu, August 28, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of August 28, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy, a Southern tradition!
Lunch: Pastrami sandwiches and potato salad
Dinner: Stir fry

Monday
Breakfast: Cheese quesadilla
Lunch: Pastrami sandwiches
Dinner: Leftover stir fry

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with shmear
Lunch: BLT
Dinner: Shrimp pasta with pesto

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Bagels
Lunch: Soup
Dinner:  Samosas and tabouli

Thursday
Breakfast: English muffin toast with cheesy eggs
Lunch: Leftover samosas
Dinner:  Spaghetti and salad

Friday
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Egg rolls
Dinner: Steak and baked potato

Saturday
Breakfast: Breakfast out.  I’m hoping to make it out to Trade Days in Canton
Lunch: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Enchiladas

 

It took me all day just to do the bedroom ceiling. My neck felt like it was in a vice all week. I still have the kitchen and living room ceilings to do too.

I took a break by weeding the garden two days in a row. What was I thinking?!

Come hell or high water I need to finish the other two ceilings this week. Lots of furniture moving and climbing ladders. My legs felt like lead after the bedroom, and the living room/kitchen is three times as large.

If I can finish all the painting, I plan to take a well deserved break next week.

This week I’m attempting samosas. I’ve eaten them in restaurants but never made them. Greg said he’d be willing to try something new so I’m going to spring it on him this week.

Have you ever eaten a samosa? I’m fond of the vegetable samosas, but I’m going to do some with beef to satisfy my carnivore husband. If they turn out good, I’ll share the recipe.

 

Could You Cull a Pet

 

As an animal lover I found this article friko head, croppedom the BBC News shocking and painful. I had mentioned in an earlier post about British Farms that during WWII much of their livestock was culled because they couldn’t afford to feed such big animals.

What I didn’t know until now is that the government began a campaign before the start of the war urging people to destroy their pets because food was certain to be scarce. In the course of one week, Britain destroyed 750,000 pets.

I know Britain suffered greatly during WWII. Rationing barely kept body and soul alive. A very good friend of mine lived during the war and she often told me about the shortages they endured. She never mentioned the government had urged them to destroy their pets.

She was obsessive about her dogs in her adult years and now I wonder if that cull had anything to do with it. We worked at the same veterinary hospital.

I can’t put myself in their place because we deliberately created a situation where we could provide for ourselves and our pets. If the government started urging me to destroy Nana and Iko, they better hope they never tell me that in person.

There is very little I get worked up about, but when it comes to my dogs, that’s where the line is drawn.

In the US, we eat too much anyway. I can afford to eat a lot less if it means my dogs get to live.

I do want to give kudos to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, in operation since 1860. According to the article, with only four people on staff, they took in 175,000 dogs during the course of WWII.

I have no right to judge, never having experienced that kind of shortage of resources. I just know I would not, and could not comply to such a request. I have the luxury of living in the country and growing my own food. As long as Greg or I draw breath, our animals will be safe.

To be fair, I’m a little more suspect of the government for starting such a panic. Back then though, people were much more willing to do as they were told. Today we question everything, and we should. If history has taught me anything, it’s that governments are not infallible. They make mistakes and sometimes they’re whoppers.

How would you feel if the government warned you today that food would be scarce for the unforeseeable future and urged you to euthanize your pets?  How awful would life have to be to make such an painful decision?

 

Cut the Cord: Alternatives to Cable

 

It took me years to convince Greg to quit cable when he lived by himself in SE Texas. In the end, he only did it because he was nearly ready to move back with me. I had failed in my mission to get him to cut out that outrageous expense, but I did manage to convince him not to restart it at the new house.

We make do with other means to get our television fix.

Currently, we use Netflix and Amazon Prime. Although we don’t live in the best area for streaming, we still get reliable service. On nights when the internet refuses to cooperate we switch to our library of dvds.

I read a post on a frugal blog where the blogger shamed people for creating dvd libraries. The blogger thought this was most un-frugal behavior. Apparently, he doesn’t live in the boonies like us.

If we lived closer to a library, we’d borrow movies, but we’ve built up quite a collection from garage sales, each dvd costing a dollar or less. That’s less than the cost for streaming it, plus we get to keep it or resell it if we get tired of it.

There are many movies we re-watch regularly. Harry Potter movies, Lord of the Rings, any of the Marvel or DC movies, and the classics from the 40s and 50s.

If you’re willing to give it a try, you can save a LOT of money by cutting cable. Here are a few options to try.

• Amazon Prime  (under $100 a year) Plus it has free shipping and other perks. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
• Netflix  (under $100 a year)
• Hulu  (under $100 a year)
• your local library–FREE
• DVD collection from garage sales, or trade with your friends!
• Youtube: The picture quality isn’t very good but the videos are FREE.

What movies would you watch over and over again? Do you have a DVD library?

 

 

This Week’s Menu, August 21, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of August 21, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Bean soup
Dinner: Taco night (We missed last week’s taco night due to work.)

Monday
Breakfast: Bagel with shmear
Lunch: Tuna fish sandwiches
Dinner: Pork chops

Tuesday
Breakfast: Homemade egg mcmuffin
Lunch: Bean soup leftovers
Dinner:  Baked chicken thighs

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Cheese quesadillas
Lunch: Hummus with pita chips
Dinner:  Pork stir fry

Thursday
Breakfast: Breakfast burritos
Lunch: Leftover chicken
Dinner:  Mongolian beef

Friday
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch:  Pasta salad
Dinner: Fajitas

Saturday
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Pasta salad leftovers
Dinner: Mongolian beef leftovers

 

I’m getting ready to paint my ceilings. Michelangelo I’m not. I’m not looking forward to that inevitable crick in my neck, but the ceilings have to get done.

We’re prepping the kitchen for the new cabinet refacing too. For some reason the original kitchen design has a wine rack in one opening and a large drawer underneath it. It’s ridiculously inefficient. I talked to the consultant and he said they can move the drawer to the top if Greg removes the wine rack. They’re not supposed to do any interior work, but he said he can get the installers to relocate the drawer for no extra charge.

I had one major setback. The sunflower heads which we painstakingly cut down and dried were stolen the other night. I had them drying on my screened back porch. Something ate through the screens to get to the seeds. Sometimes I can’t win for trying.

How’s the weather by you? Any plans for the fall?

 

DIY Cloud Lamp

 

I could see doing this as a great party decoration. It looks pretty easy too.

• Plastic bottles, or paper lanterns
• Glue gun, glue
• Fishing line and hooks to hang them from the ceiling
• Cotton batting
• LED light strip with controller

Cheap or Frugal

 

There’s a running joke at our house. When Greg and I were first married, my mother warned him that I was cheap. She followed this cautionary advice with little chirping sounds. Cheep! Cheep!

Thanks to my mom, I never rid myself of that label. Thanks, mom.

I’m okay with it though. I know I’m not cheap, but I am frugal. There’s a difference.

Cheap is swiping sugar packets from the office coffee bar.

Frugal is buying sugar in bulk. The heck with those little packets! What a waste.

 

I’m patient. There is almost nothing I want that couldn’t wait until I could afford it. I can’t even remember the last time I paid full price for something.

Still, being called cheap has negative connotations. I don’t worry about it. Words only hurt if you let them. Besides, I’ve had forty years of Greg calling me cheap every time I wouldn’t let him buy some flashy new toy. I’m used to it!

It’s all semantics. Frugal, cheap, tightwad, skinflint, penny pincher. I’m good with any of those. Just don’t call me high maintenance or extravagant. Them are fightin’ words.

Do you consider yourself frugal? Does it bother you if someone calls you cheap?

*****

I posted this on Facebook but this was too cool not to share here too. There’s a personality test that seems surprisingly accurate. My personality profile is INTJ-the Architect. According to the test, I’m the rational, chess player kind of personality, more interested in the truth than being touchy-feely. It didn’t say anything about being frugal, but I imagine most practical people are inherent penny pinchers.

Take the test if you haven’t already and let me know if it profiled your personality correctly.

The Countdown Has Already Started

I don’t want you to panic, but as of today, you have roughly four months and ten days until Christmas.

I’m not a big Christmas shopper, but I am a big PRE Christmas shopper when it comes to gifts. I honestly do pay attention when friends and family mention what they love or what they’re missing. Obviously I can’t lavish big gifts on them, but I try to show them how much they’re loved in smaller ways.

My mother loves Elvis and cameo pendants. Elvis is easy to find, but a high quality cameo…not so easy. Still, I keep my radar up in case something good comes along. When I go to antique stores or estate sales, I’m always on the lookout for that elusive cameo.

The other big issue for people is where to find the money.

We just had a big garage sale. Not only did we make enough to buy two new goats, but a lot of other big ticket items we would’ve put off buying otherwise.

It’s probably safe to assume most of us have too much stuff–stuff we don’t need and probably aren’t aware we have unless we trip over them. Start now and sell off your unwanted goods.

Electronics like cell phones and iPads
Gazelle
Swappa

College Textbooks
Valore

CDs, DVDs, and Electronics
Decluttr
SecondSpin.com

There’s always, Craigslist, Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay too. You still have time to host a yard sale too. Split the work by doing it with a friend.

Saving for a Christmas Fund
If you want to save money with a goal in mind, divide the total amount you need for gifts by 17. That’s the number of full weeks we have until Christmas–as of today.

If you set aside $30 a week, you’ll have $510 by Christmas; a pretty good chunk of change.

How do you save $30 a week?

Well, you can brown bag it to work for a while, or do without the lattes and morning muffins, or after work drinks. You can cancel subscriptions like cable, fancy cell phone packages, or gym memberships.

Do odd jobs and side jobs. Take a babysitting job or clean someone’s house. Mow some yards, or rake leaves. There are lots of jobs many of us can’t do or don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting a little ad on Craigslist or letting your friends know you’re available.

I find it easier to plan my Christmas shopping many months earlier. My Amazon Wish List is stocked with items I’m watching to see if the price fluctuates. If I start seeing some dramatic drops, I grab them there and then.

All our big bills tend to fall in January/February like real estate taxes, and house and car insurance, so I’m very careful not to add fuel to the fire. That’s the biggest reason I prefer to Christmas shop early.

When do you start thinking about Christmas shopping? Do you save up for it, or wait for the bills to roll in come January?

 

This Week’s Menu, August 14, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of August 14, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Pancakes, a late breakfast since it plans to rain all day
Lunch: Skipping lunch
Dinner: Roast turkey (It’s a small bird.)

Monday
Breakfast: Breakfast burrito
Lunch: Pasta salad
Dinner: Sausage and peppers with rice

Tuesday
Breakfast: Leftover pancakes
Lunch:  Tabouli
Dinner:  Turkey leftovers

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Bagels with schmear
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner:  Red beans and rice

Thursday
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch:  Turkey salad sandwiches (I’ll be freezing whatever meat is left and saving some for the dogs.)
Dinner:  Cheeseburgers

Friday
Breakfast: Cheese omelette
Lunch:  BLT
Dinner: Fried trout

Saturday
Breakfast:  Breakfast out (We almost always have breakfast out if we’re hunting garage sales.)
Lunch: Soup and salad
Dinner: Taco night

Our heat wave is on hiatus. There’s a good chance of rain every day for the next 10 days. I’m not complaining. It’ll still be in the mid 90s but that’s better than the 109 we had last Friday.

The constant chance of rain means most of my work will be indoors. On my to-do list is to finish refinishing a dvd cabinet we bought at a garage sale. I also want to repaint the ceilings in the main living areas of the house before the cabinet refinishers come in.

There are other jobs on my list, but those two have priority.

Yesterday, I spent HOURS doing one tedious task I had put off for a long time. I cleaned out my email boxes. I deleted more than 25,000 emails. The last time I cleaned them out that thoroughly was 4 years ago.

It made me sad and sometimes angry. Some of the people who had emailed me over the years had stopped corresponding with me all together. I have no idea why. I had even gone so far as to try to reconnect, but I never got a response.

Others (mostly authors) were hugely popular on social media and now I never hear about them. Did they switch careers? Burn out? Die?

A couple of people did die and that made me relive the fateful days I learned of their deaths.

There was one troubling trend in the deleted emails. I had a lot of people asking favors–sometimes big favors. I love being able to help when I can, but many of these people were nearly strangers. I have a hard time asking for favors, and here was a whole passel of strangers more or less demanding my time or my artwork. Maybe I look like a patsy for a sad story.

There were good memories in those emails too, but they seemed overshadowed by the many people who contacted me to get something for nothing. It’s a sad commentary.

Have you ever cleaned out your email box of old emails? Are there people on that list that no longer talk to you?

The Evolution of Raptors

You cannot tell me birds are not descendants of dinosaurs.

 

Behold, baby raptors–I mean, chicks–having a snack of scrambled eggs. I guess that makes them cannibals too.

They’re actually better behaved because it’s late in the day. Had they had their eggs mid morning, it would’ve been every man (and chick) for himself.

Pioneer Quest: Reality vs Reality Show

I was browsing through Amazon Prime’s movie list and came across Pioneer Quest. It’s an old documentary/reality show shot in Canada in 2000. The producers screened thousands of people who applied to live one year in the Canadian ‘wilderness’ as people would’ve lived in the 1870s. Two couples were chosen. If they could make it a year, each couple would receive $100,000 Can.

Pros and cons: They got off to a rocky start when one of the first couples chosen ended up being charged with sexual assault the day before they started shooting. I felt they did that couple a disservice by putting that information on national television. They should’ve just excused them and moved on to another couple. The charge had nothing to do with what they were trying to accomplish.

They eventually got another couple, the Treadways, but right from the start the new couple didn’t get along with the existing (younger) couple, the Logies. The younger couple wanted to stay true to the mission of living in the 1870s. The Treadways were a little more willing to bend the rules and accept help from outsiders.

I take nothing away from them. They endured horrific months of mosquitoes, ticks, and the worst aspects of each season. They had the coldest winter, the wettest spring, the driest summer…you get the picture. They suffered tremendously, but they stuck it out even while disliking each other.

According to the show’s producer, they chose couples that either had farming experience or hunted, but I feel they did a poor job preparing the couples. You can’t throw someone from the 21st century into the 1870s with only their 21st century knowledge on farming and hunting. At the very least, they should’ve given them a period book about farming, or given them some education before throwing them into the deep end.

On the other hand, these two couples scored low marks on frugality and animal husbandry. Throughout the series, their animals suffered from neglect or poor nutrition. The pregnant sow had to be shot when her pen caught fire and she was nearly burned alive.

The worst part though, is that instead of butchering it, and preserving the meat as much as possible, they buried it because they didn’t think they had enough salt to preserve it.

I get it. It was a traumatic experience. They were exhausted and depressed, but your personal problems play no part if you’re trying to eek a living in the wilderness. Nature will eat you alive and then swallow the bones had this been for real.

I would’ve had a ladder of poles set up over a fire and dried the meat, boiled down the fat for cooking oil, fried the skin-side fat into cracklings, and tanned the hide. I was so angry at the waste. That poor animal suffered for nothing.

Another time, one of them was tossing away the milk from the cow because they can’t drink it all. Had they had some education on 1870s living, they could’ve made butter or soft cheese. At the very least they could’ve fed the milk to the chickens. They had some starter plants with them too. Raw milk makes remarkable fertilizer.

There were other mistakes too like planting in soggy mud or trying to get unwilling animals into their pens. They were mad at the animals when it was entirely their fault for not planning ahead.

I’m not overly intelligent when it comes to farming. If mistakes were bricks, I could brick my entire house, and probably yours too. But I’ve found if you focus on the simplest components of a problem, you end up solving the bigger problem with a lot less grief.

Many pioneers died, some whose names we’ll never know, but they were the building blocks that made us who we are today. This is why I think it’s important not to forget the simple things. Not that you’ll have any reason to know how to butcher a pig, but your freezer might die on you one day and you could be left with hundreds of dollars worth of meat gone to rot for not knowing the most fundamental means to preserve it.

For the record this actually happened to us during Hurricane Rita, but the devastation was so tremendous we had to tackle bigger issues like restoring water and getting trees off the house. We had no outside help for 21 days.

 

Still, I learned a lot from the show. I realized just how much ‘stuff’ we have–a commentary of 21st century living. We don’t know how to be quiet either. Electronics, traffic, power tools, and overcrowding is constant, loud, and obnoxious.

The pioneers had none of that and I think the quiet is the one thing they missed most after the series was over. They did a final episode where they visited each couple back in the 21st century.

The show suffers from pacing, especially in the beginning but it does have better moments when they learned to plow with horses successfully and build their homes. The home building was especially well done. Tim Treadway was a contractor so he had some prior knowledge of construction.

If you’re interested in 19th century living, it’s got some interesting aspects to glean. For a better perspective, I’d recommend the British productions of Victorian Farm or Edwardian Farm that I mentioned in this post.

It’s been several weeks since we’ve seen Pioneer Quest but it stays on my mind. The producer wanted to create a social experiment but he failed on so many levels. For a true social experiment the series should’ve lasted at least three years and preferably four. By the time these pioneers got three-quarters of the year behind them they weren’t bothering with anything anymore since they knew their stint was nearly up. What was the point?

Would you ever consider applying for a job like this? I think Greg and I are too old now, but it would’ve been interesting to test our mettle back in our youth.

Have you ever seen Pioneer Quest? Are there any other shows like this you’d recommend? Have you ever lost a freezer full of food?

 

This Week’s Menu, August 7, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of August 7, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Homemade egg mcmuffins
Lunch: Tabouli with pita wedges
Dinner: Ribeye steak with baked potato and salad

Monday
Breakfast: Bagel with schmear
Lunch: Sushi
Dinner: Pork fajitas

Tuesday
Breakfast: Leftover steak with egg
Lunch:  Corndogs (something quick because contractors are expected)
Dinner:  Pasta with pesto

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Breakfast burrito
Lunch: Grilled veggie pita pockets
Dinner:  Shrimp stir fry with fried rice

Thursday
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch:  Salad
Dinner:  Smoked chicken

Friday
Breakfast: Cheese omelette
Lunch:  Potluck (I expect leftovers from various days so we’ll eat whatever’s left in the fridge.)
Dinner: Burgers

Saturday
Breakfast:  Breakfast out (We almost always have breakfast out if we’re hunting garage sales.)
Lunch: Bean soup (frozen leftovers)
Dinner:  Smoked chicken quesadillas

It’s hot, people! Really hot! This past week has hit 104 nearly everyday. Right now we’re building a hay barn, but we can only work until 11am at the latest. After that we lose the shade and it’s too miserable to work.

This means we have to get up before dawn to feed animals and ourselves. Since I know we’ll be spending all morning in the heat I’ve been trying to only make light breakfasts. Much as I’d love to have pancakes, that’s too heavy a meal if we have to go right out.

The new schedule has been a boon to (re)discovering bagels and schmears. If you have an Einstein Bagel near you, you already know what a schmear is. I’ve been experimenting with different schmears. I’ve tried salmon, veggie, and strawberry schmears.

The other big news is that we’re about to spend a ginormous amount of money on a facelift for my existing kitchen cabinets. I had three choices: 1. Paint the cabinets and let them wear away again. 2. Beg Greg to build me new cabinets. 3. Spend big $$$$ on cabinet refacing.

I wore that poor consultant to the bone with questions, then made him come back a second time because I refused to make a decision until we’ve had a chance to discuss it at length. The estimate was way more than I was willing to spend, but I had to consider two things.

Painting is a cheap fix but it looks cheap too. Those cabinets have been repainted many times.

Or let Greg build me new cabinets. The plain truth is I have him scheduled for many other projects like new fencing, the water well he’s yet to dig, and a back patio I may never see in my lifetime.

Even though the kitchen remodel will be expensive I think it’ll be a good investment in the long run, especially when it comes time to sell. I need to refinish the floor too, but we’ll do that ourselves.

This is the fourth kitchen we’ve remodeled (five if you count my mother’s kitchen), but this is the first time we’ve ever hired outsiders to do the work for us. That proves we’re getting old now. LOL!

Have you ever done any remodeling? What was the worst part of it? For me it was how messy my house is until the work is done. It’s never fast enough.

 

Kinetic Typography Animation: Shop Vac

This has nothing to do with homesteading or saving money, but this touches my designer soul. It’s called kinetic typography.

Typography is awesomely complex, digging deep into the psyche. Seeing it animated just makes it come alive.

PS  If the melody seems familiar, it was written by Jonathan Coulter, the fantastic creator of Code Monkey (one of my all time favorite YouTube videos).

What do you think? Did you recognize any of the brands or imagery by the fonts alone?

Stretching a Meal

A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.

One of my sisters once asked me for advice on how I save money on groceries. We compared notes, and she knocked down every one of my ideas. She wasn’t being mean or belligerent. It was more about staying inside the box. There was comfort in what she knew her family (and dog) would eat. She prized convenience more than affordability.

For example she paid an exorbitant amount of money on ‘special’ dog food. The prices she quoted me were obscene. I countered with my own recipe for homemade dog food, but she felt it was too much work.

At the prices she paid, I’d make the time to make dog food. LOL! I’m serious. That was highway robbery.

The same goes for organic products. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, something has to give.  No one is going to die if you switch to less expensive commercial foods. It doesn’t have to be forever. You can always add one organic product back on the menu when times are less lean.

I have the advantage that I grow some of my food, so I know that not only is it organic, but safe. (That’s not always the same thing.)

Since I started menu planning (menus post on Sundays) my food bill has dropped dramatically. I’m making better choices, and I’ve learned to stretch a meal.

A regular rib eye steak can serve two meals, dinner and breakfast. Chicken can last at least three meals or more. Greg gets tired of it the second time around so I’ll freeze a part of it to make a quick chicken salad with the leftovers.

Because my grocery bill has gone down, I don’t feel guilty splurging on shrimp and expensive fish.

Legumes, quinoa, and rice are excellent fillers for lean wallets, and beans and quinoa are a great source of protein too.

Have you ever tried quinoa or barley? They are surprisingly good and filling. Not what I expected at all. And these are ancient grains which means the government has not tampered with them as yet.

Do you need more cheap protein sources? Try eggs, peanut butter, tuna, salmon, and Greek yogurt.

I don’t like peanut butter, but I’ll eat tuna or salmon any day of the week. Avocados are another staple in our house. When Greg wants a peanut butter sandwich, I make myself an avocado sandwich. That’s marital bliss.

There are ways to making things work without spending a fortune. I always recommend that people do a test and save every grocery receipt for a month to see where their money goes. I do it for myself even today because it’s good to have a frame of reference.

Sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve strayed from the path until you see the numbers in front of you. Other times we prefer to stick to what’s familiar instead of trying to find recipes that use less expensive ingredients.

The other side of the coin is not to beat yourself up if you buy a few convenience foods now and again. We buy those big egg rolls from Costco. Greg makes fantastic homemade egg rolls, but it’s something we have to plan ahead. The ready-made ones are quick and cost effective when you consider the time it takes to make them from scratch.

Do you know what you spend on groceries every month? What’s your favorite way to stretch a meal?

 

Only The Memories Remain

 

A friend of ours took a picture of our old homestead in SE Texas. (Thanks, Bob!)

Our old house has been demolished. The man who bought our property promised to build his wife a mansion.

Lumberton house, demolished

I was sad for only a split second. Had we stayed we would’ve demolished it too and built a newer, bigger house. But I won’t miss the high humidity and constant rain. Lumberton is semi-tropical. While it’s great for growing almost anything, the mosquitoes can drive you mad.

It was our first real homestead. 5.25 acres of 100 foot pines, and brush so thick I once got lost. We raised chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, rheas, and emus. Our dogs grew old and died there. A big chunk of our youth was there too.

Oddly enough, this is the second house we’ve owned that was demolished by the new owner. The other house that was demolished was a true shame. It was built in the early 1900s by an old sea captain.

It was a great house, complete with resident ghosts. Although I had never seen the ghosts, one of them was definitely feminine. She kept me company for all the years we lived there.

Many times when I’d be looking for a specific spoon or ingredient, I’d turn around and there it would be on the counter. I wasn’t as addled as I am now, so I know I didn’t put it there. 🙂

Another time I had raced down the stairs and slipped. Something held me up under my armpits until my feet could regain their footing. She was always looking after me.

She was a kind ghost, though there was a less pleasant ghost upstairs. I never liked being up there alone. I could feel it press down on me. Unlike the first floor ghost, this one didn’t like company.

My art studio was on the second floor. Now that I think back on it, I painted some very dark themes during those years. Hmm…I never made the connection until now.

I often wondered what happened to my ghosts when the house was torn down. I’ll never know now.

Let’s have a show of hands. How many homes have you lived in as an adult? Ever had a ghost in any of them?

 

This Week’s Menu, July 31, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of July 31, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Bagels with made-from scratch cream cheese schmear. I’m doing one with salmon, and another with sun dried tomato.
Lunch: Egg rolls
Dinner: BBQ Ribs with tomatoes and okra

Monday
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs mixed with spicy ground meat
Lunch: Crab salad
Dinner: Meatball hoagies (enough for two meals)

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with schmears
Lunch:  Leftover rib meat in a sandwich
Dinner: Shrimp curry

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Spinach omelette
Lunch: BLT
Dinner:  Baked chicken thighs

Thursday
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch:  Salad
Dinner:  Burgers

Friday
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch:  Macaroni and cheese
Dinner: Leftover meatball hoagies with homemade coleslaw

Saturday
Breakfast:  Breakfast out (We almost always have breakfast out if we’re hunting garage sales.)
Lunch: Sushi
Dinner:  Taco night
We’ve had a busy week of contractors, and people coming to the house to look at the antique sideboards I have for sale. I’m uncomfortable with strangers in my house. In this day and age, you never know who to trust anymore.

I really need to put an ad on Craigslist for the chicks. I should’ve done it last week but we’ve had so much running around to do.

The contractor today should give me a price on refacing my old cabinets. I’m debating whether to strip and repaint the old ones or get new doors and facing. It all depends on the quote. Greg gave me a limit on how much we could afford. If it goes above that I’ll have to refinish them myself. That’ll be a big job no matter who does it.

I still haven’t gotten Nana to the vet for her teeth cleaning. They canceled on me last week because their technician was going to be out, so now it’ll be this week. They only do the procedure in the afternoons, so poor Nana gets no food or water all day. She will not be happy. Me neither.

Have you ever had cabinets replaced or refinished? Is it as expensive as it looks? How do you feel about strangers in your house?

 

 

 

How to Make a Soda Cap Container

I saw a DIY project for soda caps on Facebook, but when I went back I couldn’t find it again so I looked up something similar on YouTube. This is really easy to make and really useful.

I always keep a couple of small containers for aspirin or other meds in my purse. It’s also handy for trips when you don’t want to lug whole containers of pills for a short trip.

Mini-Review: Star Trek Beyond

Simon Pegg (aka, Scotty) co-wrote this script. You can sort of tell because Scotty got a meaty role out of it. Not that he wasn’t good at it. He definitely delivered.

The breakout star though was Sofia Boutella who plays Jayla. Her character was fresh and charming, and steals every scene. You might also know her as the villainous Gazelle from The Kingsman.

I was expecting more from Idris Elba but I thought the script limited him to stereotypical bad guy. That kind of talent deserved better.

If I had one qualm about Star Trek Beyond, it’s that I felt it was a little preachy. The Federation subscribes to unity and peace while Krall (Elba) believes war and struggle make us strong.

It’s a common trope, the life blood of Babylon Five if any of you remember that series. That might be fine in the early 1990s but in 2016 it comes off as a dull story line. I can argue philosophy all day long but when I go to the movies I want to be entertained.

Still, the characters we know and love are all there, made even more bittersweet by the touching and elegant tribute at the end of the movie to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.

The USS Enterprise flying through the universe, with the film's title "Beyond", and the film's billing below.The story revolves around the Enterprise getting tricked into a rescue mission by a ruthless soldier bent on retrieving an artifact that’s more than it seems. It’s up to Kirk to reunite his crew and save themselves and millions more.

There were so many instances when a simple beam out, or more logical steps should’ve been taken to reach a solution. Instead, they threw in a lot of contrivances to keep the story going.

It wasn’t a deal breaker because in the end it was an enjoyable movie, but as a writer, I can find plot holes in my sleep.

The plot didn’t have the headiness of the first two movies, but it’s still got all the Star Trek goodness and the camaraderie we love.

Once a Star Trek nerd, always a Star Trek nerd. It will go in my dvd collection when it comes out.

Recommended!

Have you seen Star Trek Beyond yet? Are you a Star Trek fan?