Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How to Make Almond Milk

Do you like almond milk but the cost just seems like too much? You can make it yourself for less!

To make it, first get some raw almonds and roast them yourself because freshly roasted has more flavor. Just put a cup of raw almonds in a layer on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees, stirring two or three times, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Let them cool.


To that cup of roasted almonds, add four cups of water and put into a container with a lid. Put it in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Pour the whole thing into your blender or food processor and blend until it's smooth. Strain it through a cheesecloth, or do as I do and use a loosely woven cotton dish towel because it lasts longer.

Keep the pulp to add to hot cereal or bread.

Add a little honey or sugar to the almond milk, as much or as little as you like and there you have it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Before You Buy That Pumpkin

First, if you can, go to a farmer and buy a pumpkin or two for fall decorations and holiday pies and dishes. They're a lot cheaper to buy from a "pumpkin patch" than from the grocery store.

When you buy, look for brightly colored pumpkins because they will taste better and be more nutritious. Check to be sure there are no cuts or deep scars and look for the pumpkins that have at least an inch of stem where they have been cut. The longer the stem, the better it will keep. Pass by the pumpkins without stems unless you plan to cook them right away.

I am assuming you will cook the pumpkin and not waste it. Even jack o'lantern pumpkins can be salvaged for food. You can look for pie pumpkins, but field pumpkins make very good pumpkin pies if they are done right.

If you are planning on keeping the pumpkin indoors, you'll need to cure it first by leaving it outside for about a week, unless it's freezing weather. In that case, keep it cool until you can take it outside.

If you plan on displaying the pumpkin out doors, be sure to protect it if a heavy frost is predicted, but pumpkins can handle light frosts with no problem if they're cured properly.

When you cut into the pumpkin, take out the seeds, of course, and rinse them in a colander. Remove the strings and put them in a bowl of salted water to soak overnight. The next morning, drain them and put them in a shallow layer on a cookie sheet and roast them at 300 degrees for two to three hours, stirring now and then. You can tell when they're done by tasting one. If you have any left to store, put them in an airtight container.

Now make your jack o'lantern or arrange your display and enjoy.

Pumpkins will last deep into winter if they're stored in a cool place with plenty of air circulation, but you might want to work yours up all at one time and make pumpkin pie or soup or bread or any of the other delicious pumpkin dishes.

The easiest way to do this is to take the seeds out and clean the stringy part out of the pumpkin, put the "lid" back on and put it in the oven. Bake it at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size. When it's done, let it cool, then peel or pull the rind off of the flesh. You can process the flesh in food processor or blender or mash it up by hand.

You'll find that even a small pumpkin may yield more than you can reasonably use right away, so freeze the rest in one cup portions for future recipes. When you thaw it, you might have to drain off some liquid, but don't unless it's necessary for the recipe. Use it just like canned pumpkin in any recipe, but it's much cheaper and much better!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Barbecue Sauce Your Way

Let's have some fun today. It's easy to grab a can of that sloppy joe sauce and pour it over a pan of browned beef, but it's just as easy to make it with barbecue sauce and making your own barbecue sauce is simple. As long as you have some basic ingredients on hand, it's fun, too, because you make it to your own tastes.

It takes mustard, ketchup and honey or brown sugar. You can add steak sauce, "liquid" smoke flavoring, Worcestershire sauce or whatever else you like. You can put in more mustard than ketchup or more ketchup than mustard, eliminate the honey or brown sugar or substitute them with other sweeteners, from white granulated sugar to date sugar.

You can eliminate the mustard altogether, add horseradish or hot pepper sauce, substitute tomato sauce for the ketchup or do away with it entirely and use steak sauce for a base.

Didn't I say it would be fun? It can also be confusing. To make it easier,  you can start with equal amounts of mustard and ketchup and one of the sweeteners. Try the flavor and adjust it to suit yourself. When you're comfortable with that, you can add other flavors to create your own special, signature barbecue sauce to use everywhere you would use the store bought kind.

Simple and Delicious Potato Soup

This is Mom's recipe and it's one of the best recipes I know of for potato soup. The secret is the evaporated milk. it just doesn't taste the same if you substitute any other milk. The other ingredients are few and that's the best way to make anything.

The recipe has never been written down, so I've done the best I could. If you don't follow it exactly, it will be good anyway, as long as you add the evaporated milk!

  • Two to three medium potatoes, diced
  • A half onion, minced
  • Enough water to cover by a couple of inches. 
  • One can of evaporated milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat down then simmer gently until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and add the evaporated milk and salt and pepper to taste.

You can add other things, of course, cooked and crumbled bacon, tuna, minced sweet peppers or whatever you like, but it's fine without anything added.

A pan of cornbread goes really well with this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dumplings: Homemade, Cheap and Good

I just read an article where a woman was giving ideas for cheap meals. One of her ideas was to buy a can of biscuits and tear them into pieces and drop them into boiling soup or stock, also known as dumplings.

I have a cheaper way and you don't have to go to the store if you keep some basic items on hand. Homemade dumplings are very simple to make and taste better than the store bought kind, hands down.

2 cups of flour, unsifted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 to 1 cup of sour milk or buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients and add milk to make a soft dough that you can pat out on a floured board. Pinch or cut off small pieces and drop into a boiling pot of stock, soup or stew.

If you don't have sour or buttermilk, Check the Quick Cooking Tips and Substitutions Page

Store Brand Savings

Store brands have come a long way since the first plain black and white "generic" label that started it all. There are still generic brands, but they've decided that a more stylish colorful label doesn't cost that much to produce and individual stores have successfully taken up the banner.

Kroger's, Safeway and others have their own brands that often rival national brands in quality but are priced for less, and sometimes far less than national brands.

Krogers goes under the name of King Soopers here and sells the Kroger brand. They also sell their own organic brand, "Simple Truth" and another brand, called "Pssst" (how do you pronounce that?), which is very basic and very inexpensive. Some of it's good and some, not so much. For instance their saltine crackers are fine but their facial tissue is very rough.

Safeway has had its own brands for years and some of it is very good. I used to prefer Safeway's Edwards Coffee over Folger's, but I don't drink coffee now and I hear that the coffee has changed. Safeway also has its own organic line as well as several other brands.

Other stores have their own brands, but those are the two biggest chain groceries here. One other store that has an excellent store brand is located in only a few states. If you're lucky enough to have a Sprouts store near you, check out their store brands. I have yet to be disappointed, although their prices are overall slightly higher than bigger stores.

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and I'm sure you have your favorites. If there are some store brand products you have shied away from so far, give them a chance. You and your food budget might be pleasantly surprised.

We all have favorite name brand products and that's okay as long as we can afford it. Some name brands really do seem better, but they are few and far between, as the saying goes. We don't have to buy everything at a premium.

All in all, store brands can save up to 20%, or possibly more if we're careful. Some stores even have coupons on their own products and of course, they have sales, which means even more savings.

The next time you shop, why not make it a point to try one store brand product that you haven't tried before? Every time we switch to a less expensive version, we save another little bit and those little bits can add up to quite a bit!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Make Your Own Granola and Granola Bars

Do you buy granola? Did you know that you can make it for less money and make it  exactly the way you want it? Here is the basic recipe, and you can take it from there:

3 cups quick cooking oats1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup honey

That's it. Add whatever you like to make up another three cups: Raisins or any other dried fruit, cut in small pieces, chopped nuts of any kind, coconut, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, sesame seed and on and on. Add cinnamon or nutmeg if you like. Check your cupboards to see what you can put in it.

Mix everything but the oil and honey. Mix the oil and honey together, pour over the granola and mix very well. Spread it on a large cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Let it cool and store in an airtight container.

To make granola bars (yes, the same granola bars that you buy a half dozen at a time for at least 50 cents each), add 1/3 cup butter and an additional 1/3 cup of honey. Press into pan and bake the same as above.

Cut into bars or squares while it's still warm (but not hot). When they're cool, you can even wrap them individually for school lunches.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Fresh Apple Season

From late August through October, apples ripen and appear almost everywhere. If you've been lucky enough to come across a glut of fall apples, there are several ways you can use and keep them.

The easiest way is to put them in cold storage. Depending on how many you have, you might be able to imply fill a refrigerator crisper drawer with them. They will keep months in there. If you don't have room for that, find the coolest place in the house. Basements and rooms with outside walls are usually the coolest. Set up a cardboard box for them by insulating it with newspaper, bottom sides and top.

Carefully sort through the apples, putting aside the ones that are bruised, cut or otherwise damaged. Only put the best in cold storage and sort through them regularly. The saying "One bad apple spoils the barrel" comes from real life.

The second way is to make and can applesauce. Home canned applesauce is so much better than store bought, so if your family likes it, it's well worth a little trouble. Follow instructions in the Ball Blue Book or from Pick Your Own

You can also can apple pie filling, which is really handy when you want a fresh apple pie! Again, Pick Your Own has easy instructions.

If you're not into applesauce or canning, you can simply make apple pies with the recipe there and put them in the freezer. Apple Pies Made to Freeze  tells you exactly how to do that.

More ideas? How about apple juice or jelly? Either one is easy to make. Don't let the harvest pass you by! If you know someone who has an apple tree, or can find one free for the picking, get out there and get them. Ask around; look around.

There are no doubt other ways to use and save apples. If you do something different or have another idea entirely, let us all know in the comments, please!

Redneck Stroganoff

Stroganoff is one of those things that's so good but a little expensive to make the "real way." This redneck version tastes just as good and it's faster and cheaper to make, too.

For a large pot of it; enough to feed 4 to 6 people and have leftovers, you'll need:

Brown the ground beef in a large pan; meanwhile, boil the noodles and leave them in the water to stay hot until the ground beef is ready. Then all you do is mix everything together, heat through, and serve. I like to cut the mushrooms into small pieces, but you don't have to do that.

Simple enough, isn't it?

Image: "Beef Stroganoff-01" by Pittaya Sroilong - originally posted to Flickr as Beef Stroganoff. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Three Ways You're Probably Wasting Food (and Money)

If you think the things below will save only small amounts of food and may not be worth the trouble, you might want to put a bigger plan into practice. The chances that you are wasting significant amounts of food is very high. As a matter of fact, the United States Department of Agriculture claims that "An average family of four leaves more than two million calories, worth nearly $1500, uneaten each year." That's a lot of food and that's a lot of money.

I seriously doubt that the readers of this blog are average. If you're looking for ways to save food and save money by saving food, you are probably a lot more aware of food waste than the average American family. Even at that, we can all find ways to cut back on wasting food.

Here are the most common ways we waste food:

1. We buy too much "fresh" produce that won't last long enough for us to eat. Things like fresh spinach, summer squash and tomatoes don't keep well. Know your vegetables and your eating habits and buy only enough at one time that you will use up.
If you find yourself with produce going bad, make a point of using it quickly. Most vegetables can be cooked and kept a few days longer if you can't eat it all right away.

2. We toss out perfectly good parts of food out of habit. Broccoli stems, radish leaves and green onion tops are among the most common, but there are others like bread heels that some people throw out. Have you ever bought broccoslaw? It's broccoli stems. Radish leaves are greens and green onion tops are... well, onions. Eat them.

3. You throw away small bits of leftover meat and vegetables. Save them in seperate containers until there is enough to make a meal, then toss them all in a pot with some spices if needed and make a stew or casserole. Add rice or barley if you like for a stew or layer the meat and vegetables with cheese or whatever you like, for a casserole. There's a "free" meal.

Food World News reports that the US wants to slash food waste by half in the next 15 years. That's a big project and I don't know how they plan to do it, but we will probably hear more about it in the future. In the meantime, we can do our part and be 'way ahead of the game before time they start telling us what to do to save it!

Why You Should Stock a Pantry

Most, but not all of us are within minutes of a grocery store, and don't think too much about keeping a great stock of basic groceries on hand. It used to be that every house had a pantry and every pantry was stocked, according to the season, as well as the lady of the house could stock it.

Even now, it pays in real dollars and cents to keep the pantry full. I gave a list of things to keep on hand, but you should adjust it to suit yourself. One person may not be able to survive without tomato sauce; another may be in bad shape without soy sauce. Make a list of those things you feel are basic to your food needs, then keep a sharp eye out  for inexpensive

There are many ways to stock your pantry, including salvage groceries, loss leaders, free food, gardening (and canning, etc.), and judicious use of coupons.

All the talking in the world won't help one bit when the time comes that you are without a vehicle or the weather is too bad to go to the store or you have had a financial crisis and you need to feed your family.

That's why you should stock a pantry, even if it's a small one. If you don't have a pantry or room for one, look for other places to store food. A box under the bed will store canned food, while a closet shelf could hold dry foods like flour, beans or pasta.

If those places won't work, slip it behind the couch, under a cloth covered table or in a dresser drawer. Look for unconventional places.

Stocking a pantry when you find low prices will save you lots of money and just having food on hand will save you some panic time.

If you can only devote $5 a week (or a month) to stocking up, do it. There will come a time when you will be very glad that you did.
ways to accumulate them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

To Coupon or Not to Coupon (And How to Get the Ones You Want)

I admire those coupon queens who can go into a grocery store with a fistful of coupons and come out with a hundred dollars worth of groceries for twenty bucks. I sometimes think that would be nice, then I remember how scarce coupons are for store brand rice and generic salt.

Okay, I'm being extreme, but if you buy basic food and cook from scratch, many of those "money saving" coupons are worthless. Why buy a package of dried fruit "roll ups" with a coupon worth 50 cents off when you can make your own for free from found fruit? Or why buy three cans of cream of celery soup and save another 50 cents when you can make it for much, much less with the last bit of almost gone celery?

Sure, there are times when coupons are great. True confession: I will only use organic or raw milk. There are no coupons for raw milk since grocery stores aren't allowed to sell it here, but it's easy to find coupons for organic milk and other dairy products, and it really helps lower the cost of these items.

Go to the manufacturer's web site of whatever product you like to buy the brand name version. Many times the manufacturer will have coupons on their site. If they don't, sign up for their newsletter and you have a good chance of getting some through that. Another tactic is to simply email them and ask politely. If that doesn't produce a few coupons, email and praise their product (you do like it, don't you? Else why would you want to buy it?). That will often yield results. At the same time, put the word out that you are looking for those coupons and who knows? Maybe someone will remember you when they run across them.

Use the coupons that make sense, but really think about them before you use them. A
sk yourself if you could make the product cheaper than you could buy it with a coupon. You might be surprised at how often the answer is yes.

Easy, Good and Frugal Home Made Egg Noodles

You know those bags of egg noodles you find in the grocery store? They're not expensive, really, and they keep very well so it's nice to have them on hand. However, if you make your own, you can save more money and your noodles will be much better quality. It will seem as if you spent a lot more on them.

The recipe is very simple; just three ingredients that you should have on hand already.

If you'd like to try, here is the recipe for homemade egg noodles:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Put the flour in a bowl, then beat the egg with the salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour and put some of the beaten egg in it. Mix it in, then add the rest of the egg and mix well. The dough should be quite dry but stick together.

You can halve, double or triple this recipe as much as you like. If you double or triple it, you might find that one egg to each cup of flour isn't quite enough for it to stick together. In that case, add just a tiny bit of water. Not too much water, though. Measure it by the teaspoonful because it doesn't take much to make a sticky, gluey mess and that's not what you're after!

When you have it all mixed together and you have a dough that sticks together but still seems dry, it's just right. Knead it until it's smooth, then roll it out on a floured surface as thinly as you can. Once the dough it rolled out, cut it into strips with a knife or pastry cutter. You can cook these right away or dry them for later. Make a bigger batch than what you need right away and you'll save time later on.

To dry them, you can drape them over special noodle racks or you can just use tall glasses or a cake rack suspended between two glasses or a towel rack or a broomstick suspended between two chairs or the back of a chair, for heaven's sake. Just make sure whatever you use is clean.

When they're dry, store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They'll keep for about a month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Basic Cooking Ingredients You Need to Keep on Hand

Saving on food often means cooking from scratch, so there will be some things you use often. These basic things are generally inexpensive and store well.

Keeping a full pantry will save you money, but you may not want to run out and buy everything all at once. If you watch for sales, you can stock up and be ready to make many dishes whenever you like. You don't even have to plan ahead much if you keep certain things on hand.

Here is a list of the basics, but yours may be different, depending on what you use the most often.

  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Cornmeal
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Yeast
  • Powdered or canned milk
  • Powdered baking cocoa
  • Vanilla
  • Oil
  • Eggs or egg substitute
  • Spices
  • Garlic
  • Onions

You might also add dry beans, pasta, rice and various grains such as oatmeal and barley, depending on your preferences.

Since it takes awhile to cook them, it's not a bad idea to have a few cans of cooked beans on hand, but it's less expensive to cook your own. They freeze very well, so when you do cook them, make enough to freeze in portions for future dishes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How to Make Your Own Cream Soups

Cream soups that you pay a good price for when you get them in cans from the store can be made for much less and it's not that hard to do.

First, gather your ingredients. Do you want to make cream of mushroom soup? Cream of chicken? Asparagus? You can make this basic dry mix ahead of time then it's almost as convenient as opening a can when you want it.

  • 2 cups of powdered milk
  • 3/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 tsps dried onion flakes or powder

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container. When you wan to make cream of whatever soup, use 1/3 cup of the mix and stir in 1 cup of cold water, then cook until thickened. Add whatever (cooked) you want to this: mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, celery, potato, tomato

You can also use this as the base for hearty meat and seafood soups, like crab, chicken or beef and noodle. Add spices like garlic or sage or even chili powder to make your own unique soup.

You can make a cream soup fresh, of course. You can use liquid milk and add chicken bouillon, onion and then enough cornstarch to thicken it. To a cup of milk, add a teaspoon or more of bouillon, a half teaspoon of onion flakes or powder, then put a tablespoon of cornstarch in a small amount of water, mix thoroughly and add to the milk mixture. Cook until thickened and add ingredients as above.

Whichever way you do it, you'll be money ahead and you won't have to find pantry room to store cans of pre made soup.

Image courtesy

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why You Should Save Apple Peelings

It's apple time! Fresh apples are coming into season and they're cheaper now than they will be in the future.

If you don't eat the apple peelings, or have a child who doesn't, do you toss them into the garbage? Don't. Be sure the apple is washed before you peel it, then save the peelings in a plastic bag in the freezer until you have enough. Here are a couple of ways to use them:

Apple Peel Tea

1 cup of frozen apple peelings
1 cup of water.

Put this in a jar or glass bowl and put it in the sun or in the oven on very low (150 to 175).  When it's warmed thoroughly, set it out on the counter to cool, the strain the peels out of it, pressing them to get all of the tea. Add in a tiny, tiny pinch of salt to bring out the flavor and there you have it. You can add sweetener if it needs it. Drink it hot or iced.

Apple jelly

Put apple peelings in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least a half hour, until the peels are soft and cooked. Strain the peels out, measure the liquid and return it to the pot.

To two cups of juice, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Bring this to a hard boil and boil until it sheets from a spoon. "Sheets from a spoon" means that when you take a tablespoon of it and hold it high over the pot and pour it back into the pot, the spoon will develop a sheet of it which won't fall back into the pot.

At this point, take it off the heat and immediately pour into sterilized jars. You can keep this in the refrigerator or seal it in a boiling water bath if you're familiar with that. (Boiling Water Bath Canning)

Related Ideas:
Fresh Apple Season
How to Find Free Fruit

Make Your Own Pancakes

Pancakes are fairly frugal and basic, even if you buy a mix, but why do that when they're so simple and cheaper to make from scratch? Flour can still be bought for less than $2 for five pounds, at least at this writing and five pounds of flour will make a lot of pancakes. I won't promise that price for tomorrow, but you can bet that if the price of flour goes up, so will the price of pancake mixes.

Here's the basic recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients together well and beat egg into milk, then add, stirring gently until almost smooth.

If you want buttermilk pancakes, substitute buttermilk for the milk and baking soda for the baking powder. 

You can add whatever you like to make them special, of course. Try blueberries, chopped apples or chocolate chips.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fried Yeast Bread

Fried yeast bread is a treat that goes with just about everything. It's good hot, cold, buttered, plain, fresh and leftover (as if!). And... it's frugal!

It takes the most basic of ingredients, adjusted to whatever you have

You can't really ruin this recipe because there are so many variations.

To start with, you'll need a table to knead the dough, and yes, knead it. Not with a bread machine - that takes the life out of bread. Kneading bread is sort of a ritual that gives life to those who eat it and those who knead it.

The recipe:

    1 tablespoon lard, shortening, butter, margarine, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil or vegetable oil or any other fat.
    1 tablespoon sugar, molasses, brown sugar, powdered sugar or honey or anything other real sweetener.
    1 teaspoon table salt, sea salt, canning salt...
    1 heaping tablespoon or 1 package active dry yeast or 1/2 cup of sourdough starter.
    1 cup milk, half milk and half water, or half milk and half potato water, or half water and half potato water, or all potato water or all water.
    3 to 4 cups of white or whole wheat flour, or 2 cups white flour and 1 to 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Substitute oat, rice, barley or any other flour for up to a cup of wheat flour. Add flax seed, poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, minced onion, sun dried tomatoes...

Warm the liquid (don't let it get too hot to comfortably stick your finger in); add the fat. If you're using solid fat, let it melt.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt and yeast, then pour the liquid with the fat into it. Mix well and add a cup or so of flour, mix again and put it, covered, in a warm place. Go have a cup of coffee or sweep the floor while it begins to work.

In about a half hour (or longer if you're using sourdough starter), it should be bubbly and smell pleasantly yeasty or like your sourdough starter. If it's not yet, wait another half hour or so. Stir it down gently and begin adding flour (use a wooden spoon) until it becomes a soft dough, still a little sticky.

Flour a board or smooth table top generously and turn the dough onto it and knead it, adding flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and silky to the touch. This should take about 5 minutes, maybe more. If you enjoy kneading, it won't hurt it to knead a little more. Kneading not only smooths the dough, it develops the gluten which holds the mixture together, and allows it to rise.

Kneading is an important step in any bread, and you can laugh if you want to, but steel kneading appliances just don't give it life. The touch of a human hand is necessary. Bread making is an art, not a science, and one has to feel their way through from ingredients to finished product to appreciate it.

After kneading, let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes while you heat a skillet over medium heat with about a quarter inch of oil in the bottom.

Pinch off pieces of the dough, roll into a ball and flatten to a quarter to a half inch thickness, and plop them into the skillet. Fry until browned on both sides and brush with butter as soon as you take them out of the skillet.

Fried bread is a perfect compliment to a summer's backyard barbecue or a autumn tailgate party, Easter dinner, or a stew made for a blizzard!
on hand. Sugar can be in almost any form - but no faking it. It has to be real, but it can be molasses, brown sugar, white sugar, honey... you get the idea.

How to Find Free Fruit

Would you like to can a dozen jars of applesauce from free apples? How about eating free grapes, or making grape juice? Or picking pears just right for eating, although you don't have a pear tree?

If you have a fruit tree, you know how abundantly they can produce in some years. You may have had a problem keeping the falling fruit cleaned up or trying to process it for winter use. You're not the only one! People all across your town or city or rural neighborhood often have a glut of fruit and would love someone to come and pick it.

When you're out and about, driving or walking, keep a sharp eye out for trees or vines that look overloaded. It never hurts to ask if you could pick a few and if the homeowner says no, just say, "Thanks" and go on. The next will probably will be eager to have you pick some of the fruit.

Another way to find free fruit is by word of mouth, of course. Put out the word that you're looking for it and you might be surprised at the results. Freecycle and Craigslist are both good places to watch for free fruit. If you don't see anything, ask for it. Both sites are free to use.

Falling Fruit is one site that can help you find local free fruit and another, called Neighborhood Fruit started out  looking very promising, but it doesn't look very good now. Still it might be worth checking out.

Public lands sometimes have fruit trees, either wild or planted. As a rule these fruits are available to the public for the picking. We have picked wild plums, apples, chokecherries and raspberries on public lands and right of ways. Just watch for them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tenderize a Cheap Roast

That meat counter is scary any more! A decent roast can cost you an hour's work or more, so why not use a cheaper cut? Too tough, you say? Not if you do it this way. Guaranteed, the meat will be so tender it will fall apart. You won't be able to have it rare or medium rare; it will be well done. That's the only drawback for some of you.

Here we go:

Get a cheap chuck roast or other cut of beef (it doesn't have to be called a "roast"), put it in a roasting pan and pour about a half cup of apple cider vinegar over it. After that, pour a cup of strong black coffee over it. Then you can sprinkle on salt, pepper and any other spices you want.

If you're using a slow cooker, go ahead and add cut up vegetables. If you are using an oven, let the roast cook about half way before adding vegetables. Put the lid on, turn the heat to high in a slow cooker, around 350 in an oven and walk off.

Easy enough? And cheap, too.

This method (vinegar and coffee) can be used on any tough cut of meat. The vinegar helps break down the connecting tissue while coffee brings out the rich, robust flavor of beef or similar meat. The caffeine in coffee doesn't seem to be a problem, but if you're feeding someone who doesn't tolerate caffeine, decaf works nicely, too. Instant coffee is great to have on hand for things like this.

Grocery Buying Tips and Tricks

You probably know that grocery stores stock their shelves with the freshest, newest of any food item toward the back of the shelf so the oldest will be sold first. It makes sense and works well most of the time. You can't even call it a trick, it's just good, common sense. 

There are those times, though, when the "use by" date is too short for your purposes. Don't feel bad about pushing aside the front cans or boxes or bags to find a fresher date if you need it. (Be sure to put everything back when you're through.)

If you're going to use the product right away, don't do it, though. Play fair. Groceries are generally guaranteed to be good through the date given, so you won't gain anything by digging out a newer product and leaving the older one on the shelf.

A little common sense goes a long way, but even if we have enough common sense, how are we supposed to know which loaf of bread is freshest? Or if that unmarked package of carrots is organic or genetically modified? There are a few more tricks about the food you buy that you should know.

When bread is delivered to a grocery store, it sports either a "twist'em tie" or a plastic tag closure. You may have noticed that they come in different colors, but did you know that those colors are codes for the day of the delivery?

If the bread was delivered on Monday, the fastener will be blue; if it's on Tuesday, it will be green. Bread isn't usually delivered on Wednesdays, so there isn't a color for that. A red fastener means the bread was delivered Thursday and a white fastener means Friday. Saturday deliveries sport yellow fasteners. Bread is usually not delivered on Sunday.

So if you go to the store Thursday morning and all you see is blue and green fasteners, you'll know that the bread is not as fresh as it could be. Go a little later in the day to find bread with red fasteners, a sure sign that it was delivered to the grocery store that day.

Another trick has to do with saving money. When you shop, your tend to see things in a general area from slightly above your eyes to just below your waist. Grocery stores know this and they display the most colorful, yummiest looking (and most expensive) packages of food within this area. The colors and styles have been developed just for you... because we react to those colors, styles and pictures by reaching for the product.

How to beat it? Look above your head, then bend down to the lowest shelf. Other brands of food may not be as showy, and they won't be as expensive. It's your choice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gleaning From a Farmer's Field

It took a long time to get up the courage to ask a farmer if we could glean his field! Today's big harvesting equipment leaves a lot of food in the field. Big isn't always inefficient but in this case, it is.

That's fine, because you and I can benefit from that inefficiency.

Onions, carrots, potatoes, beets and anything else that grows in large fields are usually harvested by machinery that is set at a certain height or depth and since nature is anything but consistent when it comes to how plants grow, the machinery often skips and misses the produce.

Are you ready?

Get some bags, several small ones work better than one large one. Get in the car and go looking for freshly harvested fields. Find the farmer and get permission to go and pick up "a few leftover carrots" or whatever.

That's it. Go and pick up the carrots. Or cabbage or potatoes or whatever. Take it home and take good care of it. Can it, dehydrate it, freeze it, eat it.

Just remember to use up the bruised or damaged ones first and don't try to keep them for more than a day or two without doing something with them.


Strange thought? Not really. Gleaning is a way of gathering food that's leftover or not harvested (and no one intends to harvest it; we're not talking about thievery here!).

Where do you find food to glean?

Farmer's fields after they've been harvested. It's amazing how much is left out there after the big machinery finishes. Be sure to ask permission first and don't be discouraged if you're told you can't. Just go on to the next farm.

Fruit trees, grape vines, etc., on empty lots or anywhere no one wants them. I saw a beautiful grape vine filled with grapes alongside a gas station. No one would go to the trouble of picking them. I have seen apple, peach and pear trees so loaded with fruit they were making a mess on the lawn. Go to the door and ask. It won't hurt!

Roadsides sometimes have escaped food growing. In farming country, corn might be growing alongside the road or a stray sugar beet could have found a home there. Watch for things like these.

Don't pass by food because it's squished or split, either. For instance, onions are sometimes transported in open trucks here and a few fall off when an overloaded truck turns a corner. When they hit the ground, they ofte split or get smashed on one side. They are still food. You can take them home, cut off the damaged part and eat the rest.

If you're in the right area, food companies will have receiving decks or facilities where they sort the produce from farmers. Often the rejected produce is available to be picked over. Sometimes they require you to sign a waiver that it will only be used for livestock feed. Do horses eat cucumbers? I don't know...

Right now is the time to glean food, so take a look around and see what's out there. You might be really surprised.

Monday, September 7, 2015

About Those Seasoning Mixes...

Quick, look in your pantry or cabinets right now. What do you see? Do you see seasoning or sauce mixes? Cans of soup? Packages of cookies?

I won't tell you to throw them out, but do use them up. Then don't buy any more, if you want to save money. Instead, buy ingredients.

If you have a favorite mix on hand, like that for tacos or stroganoff, look at the ingredients. They will be listed in order of quantity. You can estimate how much of what (skip the stuff you can't pronounce) and you can experiment a little until you have the exact "recipe" for that mix. Make your own and keep it on hand, or just write down the recipe and use it each time.

Do that with every mix you have and those that you want to buy. I have even stood in the grocery store and written down the list of ingredients in a mix that I wanted to try.

It's easier than it sounds, because there is really no magic to these mixes. The only things you will miss are the preservatives, artificial colors and other chemicals they use to make their mixes last longer or look "better. You'll miss having to pay for them, too.


It took me a lot of years to learn how to make good biscuits. I tried every recipe I could find, and while some of them were edible, they weren't good... you know? (And some were downright inedible!)

I tried keeping the fat as cold as possible, using a knife to "cut it in" to the flour. I tried one recipe that used oil, dumped in all at one time. Another recipe said you had to use butter and not any other kind of fat. How much of what was another problem because every recipe was different!

Nothing worked for me, so in desperation, I called Mom one day and asked her how she cut the fat in. "Oh, I just use my hands," she said. Done. If Mom could, so could I, and I did.

"How much baking powder do you use to how much flour?" I asked.

"I don't know. I just dump it in until it seems right."

So with a deep breath, I plunged in. I dumped flour and salt and baking powder into a bowl until it "seemed right," then I cut in the fat and added enough milk to make a soft dough and turned it out onto the floured table top.

That was the first batch of biscuits I ever made that were good. If I can do it, so can you.

Start heating the oven to 450 degrees. Put enough fat to coat the bottom about an eighth of an inch thick into your baking pan and set it in the oven while it heats.

Use a large bowl to begin with, and I can tell you this much: For a standard 9 X 11 baking pan, use about two cups of unsifted flour. Add salt and pretend like you were going to eat the mixture, so you don't put in too much or too little. After that, put in a couple of heaping teaspoons of baking powder, then at least a little more than you think you'll need, then mix it all together.

Estimate about a quarter cup or less of fat. Use butter, shortening, lard, bacon grease or whatever you like, and mix it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it's like coarse cornmeal, just like they say.

Pour in the milk a little at a time until you have a soft dough, barely past the sticky point. Turn it out onto a floured surface and cut biscuits with a glass or biscuit cutter or a small empty can (Those small mushroom cans are great for this.)

Get the pan from the oven and set it on a heat safe pad or on top of the stove and begin putting the cut biscuits in by dipping them into the fat, then turning the dipped side up in the pan. By having the tops covered with fat, it will help them brown better.

Bake about 20 minutes.

Go ahead and try it!

Welcome to Basic Food Saving Ideas

Let's start off with a bang, shall we? Saving on food is probably the easiest or the hardest way to save money, depending on your circumstances, and how much you've been spending and how much you want to save. It's really up to you.

If you're already frugal with food and know how to cook a lot of things from scratch, the journey might be a little harder because the bites you can take out of the budget are smaller.

On the other hand, if you're used to stopping by somewhere and grabbing something for dinner on your way home from work, or filling your freezer and cabinets with meals ready to eat, you can shave a lot right off the top with the next grocery shopping trip.

Does that give you a clue as to where to start? Good, then, let's go.