Friday, April 30, 2010

Freezing Strawberries and A Nifty Trick For Hulling Them

Strawberries are a favorite at our house, so I have been taking advantage of the great deals on strawberries this week. The only down side to strawberries is that they don't stay fresh for very long (even in the refrigerator). Even though my family has been happily trying to keep up with influx (strawberry jello, strawberry shortcake, strawberries on their cereal, strawberries after school, strawberries on ice cream, strawberry smoothies) I decided to freeze a bunch. That way we can enjoy them later in the season when they aren't so readily available (and cheap!). Freezing strawberries is very easy to do, and if you flash freeze them individually you can store them in gallon plastic freezer bags (using fewer plastic freezer bags). When you need strawberries you can take out only as many as you need. To freeze strawberries:

1. You will need a large cookie sheet covered with wax paper (make sure wax paper is 2-3 inches longer than the cookie sheet on both sides), a straw, and gallon plastic freezer bags.

2. Wash strawberries under cold running water. Place in a colander to drain.

3. Hull the strawberry. I read this method in a magazine several years ago, and it makes hulling strawberries so fast and easy (plus there is less waste) that I have been using it ever since.

A.Push non flexing side of the straw through the bottom of the strawberry.

B. Push up through the strawberry popping the stem out of the strawberry. If you don't get it all the first time, just pull back on the straw a little reposition and pop the rest out.

4. Place hulled strawberries on the cookie sheet.

5. Place cookie sheet on a flat area in the freezer. Let the strawberries "flash" freeze for about two hours. They should be firm, but not frozen to the cookie sheet. If you let your strawberries freeze over night, and they are frozen to the wax paper, let them sit on the counter for 15 minutes before removing them from the tray.

6. Remove from cookie sheet by lifting the corner of the wax paper and loosening the strawberries.

7. Place in a gallon plastic freezer bag. Write the date you froze the strawberries on the bag with a permanent marker. Place in the freezer for storage.

Now your strawberries are ready to enjoy. Use them to:
  • Make smoothies.
  • Make milkshakes
  • Use them in place of ice cubes in lemonade or punch.
  • Chop them up semi frozen and throw into pancakes, muffins, cake, or quick bread batter
  • Thaw them whole and make fresh strawberry pie
  • My kids like to eat them frozen like a popsicle. Just thread them onto a straw for a handy handle.
What are your favorite ways to eat strawberries?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cold Cereal Stretchers

Yesterday, I was downstairs in my storage room organizing my cereal stash. At last count I have 75 boxes of cereal (there have been some VERY good cereal sales lately!). I try to buy the healthiest option, but sometimes the only choices are pretty sugar laden (those of course are the favorites). The funny thing is that my family really doesn't eat it for breakfast! It is our after school, second dinner (I have teenagers; after all), late night, or I'm craving something sweet (and at least cereal is lower calorie and higher fiber than cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.). My family (and assorted neighbor children) can go through a regular size box of cereal in a day (my 17 year old son can do it in a sitting). To help cut down on the amount of super sweet cereal they consume, I have started combining a sugary cereal with a similar healthy option. For example:
  • Rice Krispies with Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Krispies
  • Kix with Cocoa Puffs
  • Plain( or Fruity) Cheerios with Fruit Loops
  • Plain(or Multi Grain) Cheerios with Lucky Charms
  • Corn Pops with Puffed Rice cereal
  • Corn Flakes with Frosted Flakes
  • Bran Flakes with Total

There was some scoffing at first (child #3 is a purest. Cereal intermingling is a sin in his book.), but after the initial shock; it has been business as usual.

If your house is like mine, and there are always several containers (or boxes) of cereal with a minuscule amount of cereal left in them. I have been dumping those remnants in a gallon plastic ziploc bag. When it is full I make "Krispie" treats with it (who wouldn't eat leftover cereal covered in butter and marshmallow goodness?). Other great ways to use up cereal:

  • Stir shredded Wheat crumbs into muffin or quick bread recipes.
  • Stir shredded Wheat crumbs into oatmeal before microwaving it.
  • Stir in crushed Shredded Wheat, Bran Flakes (or any flake cereal crumbs) into the dry ingredients when making bread.
  • Crush Rice Chex, or Corn Flakes and roll chicken pieces (dip the chicken in egg first) in them to make baked fried chicken or chicken nuggets.
  • Sprinkle crushed sugary cereal (like Capt'n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Krispie, or Fruit Loops) on top of cupcakes after you have frosted them, or over ice cream.
  • Crush slightly and stir into yogurt (or layer between yogurt in clear glasses and call it a "Parfait").
  • Mix crush cereal into cookie dough before baking. Also good in no bake cookies.
  • Mix odd and ends of different cereals together with raisins, dried fruit, pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate chips to make trail mix.
The sky is the limit really! This way you can stretch your cereal dollar a little further.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Hill Billy Clothesline

One of my favorite things about spring is that I can hang my laundry outside,again! I have had to get creative with a clothesline, though. We do not have any trees in our back yard to tie a rope between, and our lot is not huge, so I don't have a place to create a permanent clothes line. So, once again, I had to put on my thinking cap.

Because of the way our house sits on our lot, it is necessary to put a Quick Shade awning on our back deck to shade the French doors (which saves my poor family from roasting alive inside the house, and to keep the air conditioner from running 24/7). About every second year the canvas top on the awning begins to rip (requiring numerous duct tape repairs). By the third year the top is not salvageable. After some research I realized that it is more expensive to buy a replacement awning than to buy a whole new Quick Shade on sale. This leaves me with a supply of roofless awnings.

By now, you should know it causes me great stress to throw anything away that may have even a tiny bit of use left in it. So, I started thinking of ways I could reuse the awning frame. That's when I had my AH-HA moment!

I ran to the Dollar Store and grabbed some supplies:

Then I set the old Quick Shade frame up in the back yard:

Tied the clothesline in five sections across the frame (make sure you pull it tight and wrap it around several times. Then tie it with a triple square knot):

Add some laundry:

I made a quickie clothespin bag by sewing the bottom of one of the old kids cotton T shirts and hanging it on a hanger:

How's that for recycling? My family calls it my Hill Billy clothes line, but I call it pure genius. With the money that I save hanging laundry out to dry all summer (electric clothes dryers are one of the most expensive appliances to use); I can justify using our air conditioning (Bless modern appliances. I become very cranky when I am hot and sweaty!).

P.S. Here is a great POST from Living On A on the proper way to hang laundry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ridley's (Associated Foods) Deals 4/27 - 5/3

Wow! There are some great deals at RIDLEY'S this week (check out your local Associated Foods store for similar deals)! It's definitely worth a trip. Don't forget it is Cinco de Mayo next week (May 5th), so watch for deals on Hispanic food in the grocery ads this week and next. This weeks great deals are:

1/2 flat(5 pounds) of strawberries $4.88 (time to make freezer jam!)
1 pound containers of strawberries 4 for $5.00 (if a half flat is a little too much)
W.F. (4 oz) diced green chili's $.39 each
80% lean ground beef $1.68 pound
W.F. (16 oz) sour cream $.73 each
Pasta Lougi brand dry pasta (16 oz) 2 for $1.00(this is a great deal for pasta)
Don Julio (10 count) flour tortillas $.78 each
Seeded watermelon 3 pounds for $1.00
Boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.87 pound (in the super saver pack)
W.F.(8 oz) cream cheese $.85 each
W.F. re fried beans (15 oz. can) $.69 each
W.F. (2 pound loaf) medium cheddar cheese $3.99 each
W.F. 1 pound packages butter $1.69 each (this is a fairly good price)
W.F. paper towels 2 for $1.00
Lay's potato chips 2 for $3.00 (for your first 2)
Oscar Mayer bologna 4 for $5.00 ($1.25 each)
W.F. (32 oz) container of yogurt 2 for $3.00 ($.30 per 6 oz serving)
Dole (9 oz) package of salad $.99 each
Roma tomatoes $.98 pound
Fresh cilantro bunches 5 for $1.00 (HANDY TIP: Fresh herbs freeze well. Chopped them up in a food processor. Pack them into ice cube trays, and cover with water. Freeze. When you want fresh herbs defrost in microwave and drain.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fabulous Baking Tip

I came across this handy tip in a cook book I was reading this weekend (call me weird, but I like to read cook books at bedtime. They help put me to sleep!). It suggested that you place a shallow dish filled with warm water (a glass pie plate works great) on the rack underneath your muffin pan or loaf pans of quick bread when you place them in the oven to bake. Since I had my inevitable black bananas to use up; I thought I would give it a try. Wow! What a difference it made. My muffins came out taller with a nice rounded crown (just like the pictures in food magazines), and they were light and fluffy (not always the case when I make muffins or quick bread). I baked the first batch for the normal time called for in the recipe,and they were a little too brown. The second batch I baked for 3 minutes less, and they were perfect!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tightwad Mom's Frugal Book Pick Of The Month

Happy Earth Day! Baking soda is one of my most favorite things (strange I know). I consider it one of nature's wonder products! It is cheap, earth friendly, non toxic, and versatile! So,in keeping with my week of green tips, I thought I would review "Baking Soda" by Vicki Lansky (who is a contributing editor for Family Circle magazine). I checked this book out of our local library (in fact, I have checked it out so many times, the library should probably start charging me rent!). In the book is gives over 500 uses for baking soda. Everything from a kitchen deodorizer to a first aid staple! Did you know:

1. To ease sore throat pain dissolve a regular aspirin (crush it up)and 1 level teaspoon of baking soda to 1/2 cup very warm water, and gargle with it.
2. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into a new vacuum cleaner bag to help eliminate stale odors.
3. Make a paste of baking soda and water, and apply it to mosquito bites to relieve itching.
4. Sprinkle it on vomit on carpets. It will absorb the moisture and clump making it easier to clean up.
5. Add it to litter boxes to absorb odors.
6. Sprinkle it in stinky shoes. Shove the shoe full of wadded up newspaper and let sit for several days. It will absorb the smell (I swear by this one!).
7. Mix a teaspoon in cold cream to make a facial exfoliater.

Each chapter is categorized, for example, home maintenance, cooking tips, kitchen care, etc.; making it easy to find solutions for a particular problem. It's a fun and informative read. In fact, it would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift this year (Hint! Hint). Go grab a box of Arm and Hammer, and check out your local library A.S.A.P!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Go Green (It's Frugal)

Thursday (April 22nd) is Earth Day, and while I will admit I am not a totally "green" person I am trying. I do enjoy modern luxuries; like laundry soap, cosmetics, air conditioning, clothes dryers, and cars; just to name a few. I have come to realize, that we can use all of those things, we just need to use them conscientiously. I like being green, because it is also frugal. Gardening (even growing a few tomatoes in five gallon buckets, and some herbs in pots on the window sill) is healthier for both you and your grocery budget. Hanging clothes outside to dry, turning off lights when you leave a room, turning the thermostat down in winter and up in summer, watering flowers and lawns in the evening (or overnight if you have a sprinkler system) conserves resources, and saves on utility bills. Walking, biking, or carpooling to work saves on gasoline (which is suppose to increase in price as summer progresses), and the first two will make you healthier. Even categorizing errands according to area will help save you money and time. Washing out and reusing plastic storage bags,food and deli containers (check the underside of all containers if there is a #1,2,or 5 they are safe to reuse. Most food containers will fall into those categories)lessens the amount of trash that will end up in a landfill. Recycle items designated for the trash if at all possible. Hand down, mend, remodel, or repurpose clothing (check your local fabric stores they may offer sewing classes, and there are tons of tutorials on the Internet). This week I am going to gear my posts towards frugal ways to be green. With a little thought and effort we can be a littler kinder to our world, and our budgets.

Ridley's Ad 4/20 - 4/26

I noticed a few good deals at Ridley's this week. There are some fabulous in store coupons located in the ad ,too(ads can be found in the front of the store next to the grocery carts).

10 pounds W.F. granulated sugar $3.98
2 liter bottles of Shasta pop $.67 each
2 pound brick of W.F. medium cheddar $3.99 each
10 count Don Julio flour tortillas $.88 each
24 oz W.F. sour cream $1.28 each
Heads of iceberg lettuce $.89 each
Navel oranges $.59 pound
93% lean ground turkey $1.99 pound
50 oz.All 2x laundry detergent $2.88 each
Price Breaker's Coupon Deals (must use coupons located in grocery ad):
44-50 oz Malt o Meal cereal (asst. varieties) $2.38 each (limit 4)
Suave shampoo or conditioner $.88 each (limit 4)
64 oz. Langer's apple juice $.98 (limit 4)
Ragu pasta sauce $.98 each (limit 4)
10 pound bag of russet potatoes $.88 (limit 1)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Whipping Cream

If I have said it once, I will say it again, Desperation is the mother of invention! I was whipping heavy cream for Strawberry Shortcake yesterday (for yet another family birthday! Happy Birthday Dear Hubby!), and when I pulled out the sugar canister it was empty. Don't worry I have more downstairs in storage (in 25 pound bags), but I did not have time to run down and get it before the cream was beyond the point of being able to add sugar. I did have some powdered sugar so I started adding that a little at a time as the cream whipped. It actually worked better. And today when I pulled it out it was still light and fluffy. It had not separated; leaving a watery mess in the bottom of the bowl. The cornstarch in the powdered sugar help keep it stable. It was quite delicious. I added 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar for every 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream. Another disaster averted (until tomorrow)!!!!!

End Of The Waste Not Want Not Challenge

Well, I did it. For the last thirty days I have made a conscience effort to recycle and reuse where ever possible. I have realized that being Uber frugal can sometimes be a TON of work. Life also does not go according to plan, it likes to throw you curve balls at every opportunity. When you live a busy (okay, insanely crazy) lifestyle it is not always easy to take the time to be frugal. I had to become organized and creative to get it all done. I am pleased with my results, though. I have had very little food waste (and nobody died from eating leftover, leftover casserole or soup). I also tried to find a free or resourceful solution for lives ever day dramas. Are garbage can has been a little emptier each week, too. I have also started to really embrace the concept of being greener household (except for the big family Easter party. Then, I caved and used paper plates and plastic cutlery. I did wash the cutlery to use in the kids lunch boxes.). Being green is really being thrifty and frugal. It is better for the environment and my pocket book. I have even devised a mobile clothes line out of an old Quick Shade frame that I am going to use to hang our clothing out to dry (but that is another post!). It has been a very rewarding adventure! Thanks to everybody who joined me, and shared their frugal ideas. You are all a great friends!!!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hot Quaker Sale!!!!

Check the Albertson's and Smith's ad this week. There are great sales at both stores on Quaker cereal, instant oatmeal, and granola bars. Albertson's also has Aunt Jemima or Quaker oatmeal pancake mix included in the sale. Each item ends up being $1.00 each when bought in lots of 5. Also, I have added links to the sidebar for Albertsons, Smiths,and Ridley's weekly grocery ads (hope it helps!).

Spring Cleaning

The sun finally shone through my French doors today, and I saw a winter's worth of dirt spots, dog nose prints, and finger prints. Alas, the time has come to throw open the windows, shake out the rugs, and do a little (okay, a LOT of) spring cleaning. I don't really mind, though. After a through cleaning I feel organized and ready to face the looming thought of my children's pending summer vacation! There is something about working up a good soapy lather (and a little bit of sweat) that is very therapeutic (at least to me). As I posted earlier, I have started making my own cleaning supplies. Partially, because it is cheaper (and you don't have to run to the store when you run out - just make up another batch), but also because it seems that they are more environmentally friendly. Here are a few recipes for cleaner's that I have really liked.

Multi Purpose Cleaner (I found this recipe off of Pinching Your Pennies; I have tweaked it a little bit so that it isn't so soapy):
2 cups of water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dish soap
1 tablespoon of Borax
Whisk the ingredients together in a measuring cup until Borax is dissolved. Pour into a spray bottle.
This cleaner is great for:
  • greasy kitchen messes (especially stove tops)
  • dirty refrigerators doors
  • cleaning kitchen counter tops
  • cleaning kitchen cabinets
  • dirty finger prints on doors and walls
  • cleaning bathroom counter tops and tubs. Your faucets will sparkle when you are done!
Disinfecting Cleaner
(This is my favorite. I found it on Living On A Dime, and I use it to clean everything)

2 tablespoons ammonia
1/2 cup alcohol
1/4 white vinegar
2 1/2 - 3 cups water

Pour first three ingredients in a spray bottle. Add in water. Screw spray nozzle on spray bottle tightly and shake to combine ingredients.

This cleaner is great for:
  • cleaning windows, mirrors, and glass ( it cleans streak free, and is great for getting hairspray off bathroom mirrors)
  • cleaning ceramic tile in showers (gets off soap scum and hard water)
  • cleaning bathroom and bedroom doors
  • shining surfaces
  • cleaning and disinfecting toilets
  • cleaning and disinfecting bathroom counter tops
  • spritzing micro fiber (or regular dust clothes) before dusting
  • use it to dampen a cleaning cloth or paper towel to wipe down computer keyboards
  • disinfect hard surfaces (door knobs, toilet handles, refrigerator door handles, etc.)
Baking soda is great for:
  • Cleaning toilets. Plunge excess water out of toilet bowl with a toilet brush. Sprinkle one cup baking soda around inside of the toilet bowl. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar over baking soda. Let it foam up and sit for 10 minutes. Use brush to scrub toilet bowl, and under the rim; flush. It will clean, disinfect the toilet, and prevent hard water rings.
  • Scrubbing grimy tubs and counter tops. Sprinkle on a damp sponge and scrub away. You can use baking soda with both of the cleaners listed above for a little more cleaning power.
  • Scour kitchen sinks.
  • Remove scorched food from cooking pans. Dampen scorched food and sprinkle with a thick layer of baking soda. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fill pan with three inches of water and bring to a boil on the stove. Boil until black bits begin to surface. Turn off heat and let pan sit until water has completely cooled. Pour out water. Wash pan as usual.
  • Sprinkle on carpet. Let it sit for 15 - 30 minutes. Vacuum up to remove stale odors and pet smells.
  • Sprinkle on counter top stains and dampen with lemon juice. Let sit for a 5 - 10 minutes and wipe up with a damp cloth to remove stains.
  • I keep old Parmesan Cheese containers filled with baking soda in both bathrooms and under the kitchen sink. Make sure you label the containers so somebody doesn't see it sitting on the kitchen counter and sprinkle it on their Spaghetti (this is a true story).

White Vinegar is great for:
  • Removing hard water from faucets, and drains. Soak paper towels with vinegar and place around drain openings and on hard to reach faucet areas to dissolve hard water.
  • To remove sour smells from kitchen dishcloths, kitchen towels, and bathroom towels. Add 1 cup vinegar to wash water (1/2 cup for front load machines) as washing machine fills (with hot water). When machine is full agitate for a few minutes, turn off machine, and let towels sit in vinegar water overnight. In the morning drain the tub, and wash towels as usual.
  • Add to dish water to remove hard water on glass ware.
  • Use in place of Jet Dry in dishwashers (just add it into the dispenser cup, or place a plastic cup full of vinegar in the bottom rack of the dishwasher(just secure it so it won't flip over. I use a rubber band to secure it to the silverware dispenser).
Don't forget that old toothbrushes (perfect for cleaning grout, around faucets, and window tracks), cloth diapers (wonderful for cleaning windows and mirrors), cotton T shirts and socks (great for scrubbing and wiping) are all great (reusable) cleaning tools.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Since this the final week of the WNWN challenge. I thought I would focus on sharing frugal ideas.
Last month I taught a class on couponing and ways to save money on groceries. I put together an information packet to handout that night (I always like to take reference material home from a class). I thought I would share this page with ideas on stretching those last little bits of leftovers (after all, the most expensive food you buy is the food that you throw away!). Please click on it to see a larger version (the original met an untimely end when a Malware of biblical proportions infected our computer, destroying everything on our hard drive. So I have had to scan an extra copy). Hopefully, these ideas will help you creatively turn potential trash into a gourmet (or at least edible) delight!

Ridley's Ad 4/13 - 4/19

There are a few good deals this week at Ridley's. I thought the following grocery items were a great deal:

1 pound package of strawberries $1.38
80 oz. package Gold n Plump chicken leg quarters $3.99 ($.80 a pound)
Clover Club potato chips $1.65
W.F.(8oz)yogurt $.32 each
Harper's Homemade bread $.98 each(this is a fabulous deal. It freezes well; so be sure to stock up!)
Fresh broccoli $.79 pound
Lawry's marinades $.98 each
Country style (bone in) spare ribs $1.28 pound
Save $3.00 with the purchase of 5 participating Quaker products mix and match(with in ad coupon):
Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Life, or Captain Crunch $1.28(for first 5)
Quaker Instant Oatmeal $1.83(for first 5)
Quaker granola bars $1.40(for first 5)
W.F. frozen(16oz) peas or corn $.87 each
Red Barn fresh apple juice(64oz) 3 for $3.00 (excellent deal. It also freezes well.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

Isn't this picture great? I found it hanging on the wall in the bathroom of my favorite second hand shop, one day, when child #4 (then 3 years old couldn't hold it anymore). I instantly fell in love with it. Since, the shop had become a favorite haunt of mine (who doesn't love browsing through other peoples treasures) I had built a repoire with the owner. After commenting on how wonderful the picture was I asked her if she would be willing to sell it. At first I could tell she was reluctant, but after visiting for awhile she realized her treasured photo would go to a good home. She sold it to me for $5.00 (a bargain, I thought). The shop owner had discovered it in a box she had bought from an estate sale, she too had fallen in love with it. It reminded her of her mother!
It has had "pride of place" hanging above my washing machine ever since. I'm sure we have all "walked a mile" in her shoes more than once! Thank Heavens for modern appliances! Imagine hanging out a large families worth of undies (and everything else) on the clothesline every Monday morning!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Waste Not Want Not Challenge Day 24!

The month seems to be speeding by! I just realized it has been two weeks since I posted about the WNWN challenge. I have been at it for a little over three weeks now. I have been amazed at the differences even small changes make! I realize that I have become much more conscience about food waste, recycling our garbage, and reusing what we already own versus running out to buy something new. Most household items really are multipurpose. For the last two weeks I have been cooking out of my pantry and freezer. I have only gone to the grocery store for milk. It is very gratifying to know that I can actually feed my family with our food storage. You never know when the unexpected will happen (a.k.a. a fractured kneecap), and you will have to rely on your resources. So, in a nutshell, here is a list of some of the cost cutting measures I have implemented lately:

1. I have cut out most store bought cleaners. I have made my own with basic household items (vinegar, baking soda, borax, ammonia, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol). Amazingly they work just as well as commercial cleaners.
2. I washed out empty bread sacks, ziploc bags, and sturdy plastic bags that food items come in with soapy dishwater. When they are dry I have been storing them in an empty Kleenex box (which stack perfectly in my pantry) to reuse again (and again).
3. I have experimented with the amount of laundry detergent that I use. I have discovered that if I fill the measuring cup to just under the bottom line it cleans just as well (or better than when I use more soap). I also realized that if I fill my liquid fabric softener cup with half the amount it calls for and fill it the rest of the way up with vinegar, it softens and reduces static just as well.
4. I visited my local library to check out my favorite magazines rather than subscribe to them.
5. I now save all paper that still has a blank side in a file folder by our printer. We use it for the kid's to color on, scratch paper, or if it's a full 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet I print out my Internet coupons on the blank side.
6. I borrowed a Springform pan from the neighbor rather than buying a new one (she borrowed my 8 inch round cake pans; so it was an even trade).
7. My Aunt Vickey (who is a domestic genius) shared a great idea for stretching ground beef with me. She recommended mixing cooked brown lentils in with your cooked ground beef when you make sloppy joes, or tacos. It is the same color as the cooked beef, and it takes on the flavor of the hamburger. I gave it a try a nobody was the wiser (unless they read this post!). I also mixed some of the leftovers in chili the next day and it was delicious!
8. I patched and mended the kid's clothes to (hopefully) stretch their wardrobes until the end of school.
9. If you turn old clean white athletic socks inside out and spritz with a little window cleaner they make fabulous dust rags. Just slip your hand inside the sock, and dust away. These work especially well for kids.
10. I used duct tap to repair the broken handles on two plastic laundry baskets ( I hate it when the broken handles pinch you while you carry the laundry upstairs!).
11. I stretched the Easter ham for four meals ( first night - ham and mashed potatoes, second night - ham fried rice, third night - grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, fourth night - ham and bean soup).
12. I wrapped child #3's birthday gift in a brown paper grocery sack (that I had his younger brother decorate). I also saved the tissue paper and gift bags that his other gifts came in to reuse later.

Hang in there everyone! One more week to go! What amazing frugal ideas have you come up with?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another Baby's Birthday

Yesterday was my third child's (A.J.'s) 11th birthday. I knew he was growing up when he requested Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake for his birthday dessert; instead of the usual overly decorated birthday cake (Sniff! Sniff!). Cheesecake has been raised up on a pedestal at our house. It has become a much coveted dessert. The only time I make it is when I have been asked to bring dessert for a family of church activity, or I am taking a special birthday treat to a friend. Needless to say, my family rarely gets to imbibe (so to speak!). I tweaked a recipe I found in my Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. I am not a big New York Style Cheesecake fan (to dry and heavy for my tastes), but this recipe is light, fluffy, and moist. It is also very versatile! So today, I am going to share my secret family cheesecake recipe (Don't tell my hubby. He thinks I should keep it a secret!).

Heavenly Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Press unto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased Springform pan. Wrap two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides of the Springform pan. Make sure the foil is wrapped tightly around the pan to make a waterproof seal, and set aside.

3 (8oz) packages cream cheese; softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 vanilla
1/4 milk (or half and half)
3 eggs (slightly beaten)

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar and flour. Mix in vanilla and milk. Mix in eggs and beat until smooth. Pour into graham cracker crust. Place the Springform pan in a roasting pan (or cake pan several inches larger than the cheesecake pan). Pour enough water in the roasting pan to reach halfway up the Springform pan. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake at 375 for 45 to 55 minutes. The cheesecake is done when a 2 1/2 inch section around the outside edge of the cheesecake appear set when gently shaken. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes loosen the crust from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife. Let cool for 30 minutes more, then release the side of the Springform pan and remove from cheesecake. Let cool completely and then refrigerate.

1. To make Strawberry (Raspberry) swirl cheesecake drop six heaping tablespoons of freezer jam on the top of the batter and swirl into it with a butter knife (bake an extra 5 - 7 minutes).
2.To make Chocolate swirl cheesecake stir 1/2 cup melted semi sweet chocolate chips into half of the cheesecake batter. Pour the plain batter into graham cracker crust (use chocolate graham crackers instead of honey graham crackers). Pour chocolate batter over plain batter and swirl fillings together with a butter knife.
3. Squirt strawberry, caramel, or chocolate ice cream toppings over individual slices of cheesecake. Top with a few raspberries, or sliced strawberries.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Smith's Case Lot Sale

Smith's has some great case lot deals for the next two weeks. They have items that were not available on the Ridley's case lot sale. Check out the SMITH'S AD here. I noticed that everything is a good deal, but in particular:

Skippy Peanut Butter is $15.60 for a(12 ct.) case ($1.30 each)
24 pack of Kroger water is 4 for $10.00
Geisha Pineapple is $18.96 for a(24 ct.) case ($.79 each)
Kroger tuna is $23.99 for a(48 ct.) case (2 for $1.00)
Mandarin Oranges are $7.99 for a (24 count) case (3 for $1.00)
Kroger canned Beans or Tomatoes are $11.99 for a(24 ct.) case (2 for $1.00)
Smith's Evaporated Milk is $15.60 for a (24 ct.) case ($.65 each). This is an exceptional deal! I haven't seen it this cheap since last November.

Happy shopping!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Help! It's Snowing .... Popcorn?

Last night the kids wanted popcorn. I stopped buying microwave popcorn awhile ago because:
1. Our new microwave burns microwave popcorn (even if you hover over the microwave and push the stop button the second the popping slows down).
2. Child #3 delights in licking the butter of the inside of the bag when it is empty (which is disgusting all by itself), and leaving the licked remnants all over the kitchen and/ or family room. (House rule #2 - no eating in any area besides the kitchen/dining room. House rule #3 - Throw your garbage away when you are done eating. Yep! That's working out well)!
3. It is cheaper to buy popcorn in bulk and pop your own.
4. I am trying to serve healthier options to replace junk food (which, by the way, is not being well received here in Barrettpotamia), and I can monitor the butter to salt to popcorn ratio better with air popped corn.
Imagine my chagrin, when I pulled the air popper out of the lazy Susan to discover that someone had lost the the little butter cup (see picture above) that plugs the large hole in the top of the lid! I knew that if I popped corn with it in this condition, we would have quite a snow(popcorn) storm in our kitchen. At this point there was much wailing from the troops, thinking of something to cover the hole that wouldn't melt or explode from the heat; I grabbed a ceramic mug that one of the kids received for Christmas ( child #4 is very attached to his Santa Claus mug, and keeps digging it out of the thrift store box! Drat, foiled again!). The mug actually fit just right in the hole, and the heat from the popper melted the butter I had placed in the mug just before I started popping popcorn (a little experiment). Success, the troops were placated (for now)! Quick thinking has bought me some time! Now I can scour the thrift stores to find a replacement for the missing portion of the popcorn popper. I guess, desperation truly is the mother of invention!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!

I wanted to wish all of my friends in blogdom a very HAPPY EASTER! I hope your holiday is a joyful one. Thank you for supporting my site. It has been a treat to get to know all of you better!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Flavored Cream Cheese

I thought I would share a quick hint tonight. My kids love flavored cream cheese on bagels, English muffins, or toast, but with four children one small container of store bought flavored cream cheese last about one maybe two breakfasts (or snacks). I got a great deal on bricks of cream cheese a while ago, and I thought, why couldn't I make my own flavored cream cheese? I blended together 1/2 cup of strawberry freezer jam and 1 (8oz) brick of softened cream cheese. It worked great! My kids liked it even better than the store bought kind. I tried it with raspberry freezer jam, strawberry (store bought and freezer) jam, peach jam, and blackberry jam. You can be as creative as you want. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks ( it never lasts that long at our house, though). Your own homemade flavored cream cheese would be a delicious addition to your Easter breakfast or brunch.


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