Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jack-O-Lanterns with a bigger purpose....FOOD!

Happy Halloween!!
Our family has an annual tradition of carving a pumpkin every Halloween.  Yet, every year I battle with the idea of “wasting” money when I could be using that pumpkin for some yummy food!!   

So…if you struggle with that “waste not, want not” feeling, consider harvesting the seeds from the pumpkin for snacks!! 

Instead of putting the pumpkin innards directly into the garbage can, place the seeds & pulp into a bowl.  (Truth be told…I like carving the pumpkin, NOT “gutting” the pumpkin….)  When the “carving” is done, put the seeds in a clean sink full of cold water.  Many will float, while the slimy stuff will sink.  You will still have to dislodge many of them…but in the cold water it is significantly easier.  My children like to be in charge of “fishing” out the seeds and placing them on a cookie sheet.  Let them dry overnight…or for a couple of days if you are too busy.   
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1.       Rinse the seeds to separate them from the stringy pulp. 
2.       Pat dry. 
3.       Toss lightly with olive oil and salt.
4.       Bake at 350 ˚F for 20-25 min. or until slightly puffed and golden.

 Happy Stretching Pennies…AND enjoyable holidays for less!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Dish Cloth is cheaper to use than Paper Towels!

It’s not very often that I use paper towels.  In fact, I think I only use 8-12 rolls a year!

Several years ago, we had a very good babysitter that we hired for the FEW occasions we went OUT for a date.  She was great with the kids, kept the house tidy, and did what I asked her to do.  My only complaint?  She used too many paper towels!!  I was always flabbergasted to see 1/3  - ½  of the roll GONE when I got home all in ONE evening!!  How could anyone use SO many??  After a while, I got in the habit of HIDING my paper towels when she came over.  I couldn’t afford to pay her AND supply the paper towels!!  ( I was secretly hoping she would learn the ease of using a "cloth paper towel”!)

Sooo…what do I use to clean up messes?  Dish cloths. 
I make a habit of changing them daily.  This way they don’t get gross AND I don’t spread germs.  My #1 rule is IF the dish cloth ends up cleaning a small spill on the floor—it IMMEDIATELY goes in the laundry and I get out a new one.  My #2 rule is the dish cloth MUST be rung out AND hung between uses to extend its serviceable NON-stinky life!

So IF you aren’t in the habit of using a reusable cloth for clean ups…give a dish cloth a try today!!
Happy Stretching Pennies….

PS  When I DO buy paper towels, I buy the half-sheet variety so I don't go through as many!

Monday, October 17, 2011

e-Cookbooks for FREE!

I generally like to cook.  I have many cookbooks....yet I continue to look for MORE recipes.  I like to joke that I have "ADHD" when it comes to food.  I DO have a tendency to get bored with doing the same recipe over and over. 

My cookbooks generally reflect WHO I am and the LIFESTYLE I lead.  That means INEXPENSIVE, but YUMMY...and many TIME SAVING yummy home cooked meals.  I usually find one that fits our lifestyle and tastes and get it on a discount at 

My Favorite Cookbooks:
  • Fabulous Freezer Meals by Jenny Stanger
  • I Can't Believe it's Food Storage! by Crystal Godfrey
  • Beyond Oatmeal by Carlene Duda (A breakfast book)
  • Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Bauer
Recently, I attended an Emergency Preparedness Fair at my church that was open to the public.  I was talking with many of the people about how they prepare and cook their food storage.  I was most intrigued with baking a loaf of bread on the grill.  I have grilled my pizza for years and it is fabulous--and FAST!  The idea of speeding up baking bread sounded to good too be true.  One of the ladies referred me to a website that has FREE cookbooks.  I signed up for their outdoor cooking book.  It was good.  It took a couple of hours for it to "instantly" send it to my inbox.  I don't know if this was because I was having internet problems...or if it was because the file was so large.  Needless to say their website and cookbooks are worth checking out.  (Be prepared...they ARE a business trying to sell you mixes and other baking products.  I have never purchased anything from them.  I have just enjoyed a few of their cookbooks.)

Here is what Prepared Pantry offers:

Free Baking Guides & e-Books




Lunch & Dinner

Holidays & Seasonal

Food Storage & Emergency Preparedness

Happy Stretching Pennies....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cutting down on your electric kilowatt at a time!

Using nature can sometimes make things cheaper!  Back in the "old days", before dishwashers, the dishes went into a drainer after being washed—where they could be hand dried with a towel OR left to air dry. 

That same concept can be done today with your dishwasher!  The convenience of the dishwasher is almost too good to pass up…but the extra electric usage to DRY the dishes doesn’t have to be used!  When your dishwasher gets to the “dry” cycle, just open up the dishwasher and let them air dry. 
 You’ll be surprised how fast those hot dishes dry in the plain old air—saving you money on your utilities!  Just make sure to shut the system OFF before you close the door, or the dishwasher will start drying again even though your dishes have already been air dried!  (If you have small children, who will not leave the open dishwasher alone, consider doing this “trick” while they are down for a nap OR when in bed.)
Happy Stretching Pennies…
TOO BUSY for that?????  If you aren’t around to pay attention for the “dry time”, consider using the “cool dry” option on your dishwasher where the heater on the bottom doesn’t turn on….though I think it is harder to “air dry” in an area that has no air circulation.  I have used this option many times.  It does work, but have a towel handy when  you put dishes away for those dishes that it doesn’t completely dry!  OR remember that you don't have to put away the dishes as soon as you open the door....consider letting them FINISH drying when you come home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cheaper Single Serving Oatmeal Packets....

Wandering down the "breakfast isle” at the grocery store reminds me how BUSY people are.  Most everything on that isle is a “grab-and-pour” OR  a “grab-and-go” meal….meaning little preparation and QUICK.  And “quick” or “instant” at the grocery store is usually synonymous with more pricey.  (Yes.  I think that breakfast-from-the-grocery-store could be considered one of the more expensive meals of the day.)

Now, I am a girl who LOVES to sleep in.  I would rather sleep in than wake up early for any reason.  However, I believe my children need a good breakfast for them to do their best work in school. 

Soooo…. Most times I roll out of bed and stagger around fixing them breakfast and packing their lunches.  On my more energetic days my children get pancakes, muffins, waffles OR scrambled eggs.  On my sluggish days, where I just can’t seem to get my brain awake and my body moving, they get oatmeal, leftover rice with cinnamon and sugar, a leftover pancake/waffle from the freezer—prepared “Ego”” style, wheat berries with cinnamon and sugar-prepared on another day and in the fridge, homemade granola—made on another day…..OR as last resort: cereal from a box (which rarely happens!)

Oatmeal is an inexpensive and quick breakfast PACKED with nutrients AND it helps you feel full longer!  It amazes me how companies can take a simply prepared inexpensive food—and make it expensive!!   I love the idea of the single serving oatmeal packets—but NOT at their prices!  About 5 years ago, I stumbled upon an “oatmeal mix” recipe and was surprised by how easy it was to make and have been disgusted with how much oatmeal companies want for their various products ever since!!

What’s in the “base” for each flavor of these packets?  Just dry milk, sugar and quick oats.  Anyone can enjoy the same time efficiency while paying significantly LESS for the same result!!!  The flavor need not be the same all the time either!  There are MANY “instant” flavorings!
How I do it:
This is what it looks like in my pantry...
I labeled an empty #10 can (or coffee style can) and filled it with my dry oatmeal mix base.  On the back, I put the “base recipe” followed by directions of how to cook it and a list of flavor options—so when my tired groggy brain can’t seem to think of any flavor option, it is right in front of me to choose from. 
Here's what I taped to the back of the can (with box tape)...
To make it even more convenient, I leave the needed ¼ c. measuring cup INSIDE the canister, designated just for the oatmeal “packets” to ensure a “quick breakfast”.  (NO searching for one in the drawer OR fishing one out of the dishwasher!)
The ULTIMATE convenience...the measuring cup is already inside!! 
Oatmeal Mix (Base)
4 c. quick oats
2 Tbsp. dry instant milk
2 Tbsp. sugar

Single serving directions: 
  1. Put ¼ c. dry oatmeal mix into a microwaveable bowl. 
  2. Add ½ c. water to bowl. 
  3. Microwave for 1 minute 20 seconds.

Optional flavors:
  • Cinnamon/Sugar with raisins
  • Apples with Cinnamon/Sugar (I use pre-cut dehydrated apples that crumple in.)
  • Diced pears (usually from a can)
  • Diced peaches (usually from a can)
  • Mandarin oranges (from a can)
  • Maple syrup and brown sugar
  • Blueberries (from the freezer...remember last post?  A little goes a LONG way!!)
  • “Chunky Monkey” (mashed ½ of a banana and 1 big squirt of Hershey’s syrup)
Happy Stretching pennies…

P.S.  Please feel free to leave any additional flavor ideas!!  I’m always on the lookout for more ways to expand our options!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The TRUTH about Blueberries....Smaller FEELS like more!!

When I was little, my mom bought Wild Blueberry Muffin Mixes (in a box).  In this box, it contained a tuna sized can filled with LITTLE wild blueberries—that was sufficient for 16-24 muffins.

As a teen, I saw lots of these cute LITTLE blueberries in the wild in Minnesota’s wilderness.  One of my favorite things to do was pick & eat these delectable berries while I was canoeing in the Boundary Waters National Park.  I just knew they were somewhere out there commercially!

When I moved out on my own, I reflected on these muffin mixes--with little wild blueberries….Wondering WHERE I might find the blueberry tin to add to my own muffin batter (therefore making it for cheaper and healthier!)

Years ago, I discovered that our local Natural Health food store, (aka. Trader Joe’s), carried frozen WILD blueberries.  Using my fingers I felt the bag to determine the size of the berry.  It was PERFECT!  Since that day, over 7 years ago, I have been buying these frozen LITTLE organic blueberries for my muffin batter, pancakes, or for a topping.  A little bit goes a LONG way!  It is amazing how much less you need, but feel like you are getting more!   I quickly learned that my bags of frozen blueberries were lasting more than 4 times as long…Therefore saving me money!!
Case Study:  1/4 c. BIG Blueberries VS. 1/4 c. LITTLE Blueberries
This is the 1/4 c. of blueberries dumped out for a TRUE visual comparison....
One of my favorite dishes to put little blueberries on is called Puffy Pancakes.  My children always enjoy eating many of them...and my daughter always appreciates the "fancy" atmosphere it brings.
Puffy Pancakes are one of our favorite breakfasts....and with using the SMALLER blueberries we get to have more individual berries than the big ones!!
Puffy Pancakes
1/2 c. Milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
Pinch Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 F
Spray pan with Pam and place on medium heat on stove.
Wisk together milk, flour, sugar eggs, and nutmeg in bowl.
Pour into skiller and cook 1 minute.
Place pan in oven and bake 12-15 minute until puffed and golden.
Serve with powdered sugar and fresh or frozen berries
Optional:  Spread  with cream cheese frosting, then berries topped with powdered sugar!!!

Lifestyle Tip: I save the BIG blueberries for things that would be mashed or blended...such as smoothies. 
Happy Stretching pennies!