The Fantastic Five Foods for the Frugal Family

 

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Let’s not mess around. Let’s get down to making austerity healthful, and what the heck I suppose yummy too, just for the kids.

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(Mika’s hat shown above was made from two of our old sweaters. Her vintage dress was on a free rack at our local thrift store. Total cost for cuteness: $0)

Frugal Tip 1. Rerun Coffee. (Skip to Tip 2 if you don’t understand coffee people.)

We love coffee. We only love good coffee. We love dark organic freshly-brewed coffee. We love coffee. I love coffee. He loves coffee. Good coffee is expensive. We are not rich. We still want good coffee. Coffee matters more than any other food item.

Rerunning coffee works really well in a french press, but also can work in a coffee machine. Sure the best coffee is in the first run of it, but your second run is still pretty awesome. This can be acceptable for a second cup after you are already in a state of awesomeness from the first cup. To ensure the rerun is decent enough for true coffee-lover consumption, add a scoop or two of fresh grounds and make sure your water is very hot with the next press.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re going for a third run. Slow down, Bessy. Third run is just brown water and if you are at the point of foraging for your food and trapping squirrels this will work. But don’t think for a second this is considered acceptable for a civilized woman with a more delicate need in establishing a perfect coffeed state.

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Frugal Tip 2. Eggs Erroneous

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This name does make them seem disgusting and downright wrong, and I won’t deny it, sometimes eggs are that. But lots of times, and for the purpose of this post-they are not always erroneous. Don’t worry if you don’t have that fancy contraption from Ernest Goes to Camp that makes Eggs Erroneous seem so glorious. All you need to do is get crackin’. Hardy, har, har.

I probably don’t need to preach it, but eggs are nutrient dense goodness, yada, yada, with antioxidants and vitamins, and perhaps more than any other food, including Omega 3 fatty acids.

If you’re a homey like me, you could free range some hen ladies to lower your cost for a healthful egg. Feed is still purty pricey but they will require no gas to pick them up, just a child on a chore list.

These things are so versatile. Their texture can change so much between fried to baked, omelet to scrambled, boiled to custard. So you can change it up every day and it doesn’t feel like the same old breakfast and your family will not hate you.
You just need a good fat, say olive oil or butter, some salt-n-pepper, and your family’s tummies are good to go. You could add any vegetable in the fridge that needs to be eaten soon and any sort of cheese will pair very nicely. My favorite egg additions are from the garden. Fresh basil, zucchini, peppers, chives, and cherry tomatoes are my favorite. At times I combine all these garden vegetables with eggs and cheese into a baked buttered casserole for dinner meals, too.

Another option to incorporate more eggsaliciousness into your life is to add more than a recipe requires. (Yeah, break rules; that helps a ton for cheap eating.) Adding more eggs will make for a more hearty, and yes, eggy, pancake, waffle, or baked good. I learned this trick after making egg-rich Dutch pancakes.

Boil some eggs for a great lunch start for salads, deviled eggs, or sandwiches. Pack some for a road trip for cheap fast food. You don’t think you’d want to eat them when you leave the house, but down the road guess who wants an egg? You’re going to see them packaged up all smart at KWIK Trip and be like, “Dang dude, I could have saved me a whole buck or two.” And don’t be an amatuer and forget the salt for the top. And you’re going to want to pack some for everyone or they will blame you for stinking up the car.

Frugal Tip 3. Oatmeal. 

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Or better yet porridge. That’s more fun. Don’t call it gruel unless you are having your enemies over for breakfast, or your kids are acting like goblins and are your enemies.

These little gems contain complex carbohydrates and encourage slow digestion, so they will not spike your glucose levels and will help you to not get fat. Oatmeal is nutrient dense and contains B vitamins.

Plus, you will feel so historical eating these tasty morsels all snuggled beside a hearth with little spicy swirly-curls lifting into the cold autumn air with your awesome coffee cradled in your hands. Because don’t forget the coffee just because we are on the third point. Historical, because peeps have been eating these tasty oats for a long time. Probably because they were poor just like you.

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They are also very versatile. You can simply cook them on the stove with boring old water or any sort of milk: cow, goat, almond, human. I am kidding about that last one, but it would be a good idea for the nursing babe, and for those enemies to whom you are feeding gruel. Add some fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices. Top it off with butter, cream, or yogurt, and you are on your way to yummy town!

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Something we heart is homemade granola. I always felt like I needed so many ingredients on hand to make granola, but necessity is the mother of invention. Also, I can’t believe at one time I was so commercialized that I thought I had to buy granola! All you really need is to bake rolled oats on a sheet so they are toasted. I usually split it up after baking and make half of it sweetened and the other half unsweetened. Our kids like it sweetened with honey and brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon. You can doll it up with dried coconut, toasted nuts, dried fruits. Oh man, I am hungry. That’s why I keep on elaborating.

You could bake them into a fruit crisp or throw them into your favorite muffin or bread recipes. If you are running short on flour, substitute a cup or two with these trusty oats. They will make any recipe more substantial and help keep your bellies full longer. My daughter, Mary, likes to whip up oatmeal cookies some afternoons for a sweet fix that could also be called healthy.

Bonus Tip: Remember to save some oats to grind into colloidal oats for soap making and oatmeal baths. Just use that coffee grinder to mill. And if the chickens or cows run out of feed, just share the oat love.

4. Stone Soup
20160919_165313I love soup. It is so forgiving a thing. Once you get the hang of a few different soups just improvise. I tend to head down a few different roads with soup. There’s the chicken stock route, the creamy route, the tomato route, the beef stew route and the bean route.

It can be thick or thin, low fat or good fat. You need more? Add a liquid: stock, milk, cream or just water. You need more? Add a grain: wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or bulgur. You need more? Add some more cozy carbohydrates: think pasta or dumplings. You need more? Thicken it. This can be as simple as a roux made of water and flour or make it rich with heavy cream, butter, cream cheese, or any cheese.

There’s just no right or wrong here if you didn’t notice. But I like these frugal vegetable staples for plenty of options: onions, garlic, celery, peppers, carrots and canned tomatoes.

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Super Duper Frugal Tip: Make your soup on a woodstove in a dutch oven. Soups turn out perfect and cook much faster and do not seem to burn. Plus you don’t run any electricity. Creamy Salmon Wild Rice and Cheesy Broccoli Potato are two of my favorite winter soups. Make stocks this way too while your heating your home.

5. Bag O’ Beans

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You knew they were coming and I saved one of the best for last. It kind of reminds me of another bean I know that topped this chart. Though coffee really isn’t really a bean, I just checked.

I constantly marvel over these bean things. They are so cheap, healthy, and tasty. And yes, so tooty. But it’s worth it. I guess soaking them overnight in water and discarding (the water that is) helps with the tooting business.

You can throw these magic beans into a crock pot with water in the morning and eat the beans. All day. All night. They just never stop. Sometimes, I start them in the morning, say a blend of black beans and pinto beans. We will eat them with some seasonings on top, maybe some cheese or sour cream. Then I keep the remaining beans in and add some vegetables and meat for a chili at dinner. Voila! Two for one deal. And there might be some for tomorrow because some kid won’t eat them. Don’t worry about him. Give him some bread and cheese.

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The options are endless but here are my favorites: black beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, small red beans, white beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, red lentils, brown lentils, and split peas. You can also blend these into a refried bean dish or make a hummus.

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Bonus Tip: You folks deserve a treat. Popcorn. This stuff is so cheap and great. Pop it up. Salt and pepper it up. You don’t have butter you say? That’s okay, try coconut oil or olive oil. You don’t have any fat around? That’s okay. Now it’s that expensive low-fat store brand. Sprinkle it with parmesan, seasoning salt, just whatever you like. Want it sweet? Do you got brown sugar and butter? Make a toffee. More sweet? Got chocolate, melt it. Pop this stuff up and put it in a paper bag for a handy snack on the road with those darn eggs. Every time I get our popcorn popper popping, it’s like a party around here. Popcorn confetti shooting left and right.

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Now that we have tightened our belts a bit and our pockets are full, maybe momma can buy some shiny, new boots? What do you say, baby?

p.s. New soap curing. It smells so delicious! Sweet Cardamom Kiss, listed on etsy but will not ship until early November until fully cured.

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Enjoy your weekend!

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Things Keep Falling Apart

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My poor husband has an extensive honey-do list. I do try to wait for the most opportune time to, “Honey? Can you? Do you? Think you? Could….?” Things just keep falling apart. <shoulders down> <get that chin up>

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We usually like to give things a good week or so to give them time to settle into a state of brokenness and to proclaim their changed status from functional to “are-you-ready-take-a crash-course-to-figure-out-how-I-work?” At that point we like to seriously consider if it is something we really need and should therefore fix. The absolute last resort is to replace. A microwave and toaster did not meet that last requirement.

Generally, a week is enough time for true brokenness to become established. Though some things tend to fluctuate. If you’re an optimist, like we are, you will give things ample chances to just fix themselves. I think it’s a bureaucratic thing.  The “doey” item is forwarded from department to department.  And only once its status is made “officially broken,” it is added to our list.

This list of ours is a sort of floating, jumping thing that travels willy-nilly around our house. I am not sure if everyone has one like this? It just came along with our marriage. Anyways, some tasks are able to catch the wispy in a tizzy thing as it travels haphazardly around the house. For instance, remembering to get coffee. Coffee almost always manages to get on the list when it’s almost gone. Other tasks can just fall flat on their face never to be heard of again. Like, I’ll tell the list, “Okay, I need to call the doctor about a toothache.” And then the whole day will go by only to be reminded to call the dentist when they are closed! This can go on a long time despite my discomfort.

It can be difficult and slippery to hitch a spot on the Do This Thing Express. Though sometimes tasks adhere really well and then there is no end to it staying aboard. This is especially true if it’s riding coach. They do tend to get really uppity when that happens. Nonetheless, the list seems to work well enough. Why, it helped us get where we are today.

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The list has glitches, quirks, and a temper, but overall its intentions are good. Sometimes it pretends to just have a few helpful suggestions only to turn on you the next minute and issue some arrogant decree with deadlines, added expenses, and a new slew of broken things to fix. But some days it follows you around to the hardware store and grocery store and throws in some pointers in a nice and polite fashion.

We prefer to hold off just a tad from its direct orders, so the list doesn’t think it has total domination over our jollity, frolicky, “Here we go round the mulberry bush,” lives. In rebellion, the list will go all anarchist on us and lists things upside down so we remember to purchase ice cream and forget toilet paper. Not very funny but we laugh along.

Sometimes the house likes to place little jokes on the list when it gets snippy and will fix things all by itself. We seriously have had this happen more than you’d think. We do a lot of praying when things break too, way before forking any cash over and taking orders from ruley lists!

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Today, that prodding list made me feel like pulling my hair out. Isn’t that a strange sensation to feel. Probably the list put hair pulling on there for fun. It was just the clothes dryer and nothing life threatening you mean ta doey.

I do like our dryer machine. It is a fancy front loader and it matches our washing machine and that makes me feel cool. I have been hanging our laundry outside for at least a month now while my husband tries new things to poke at it to make it work. We are usually waiting for some forlorn piece to come from China, or some tool that got lost in the tumultuous outpouring that is our laundry. It just keeps being broken and the clothes don’t mind at all. They just keep marching in.

But we don’t give up. We never give up! We are a sorry case for perseverance. We just work around it until it works again, and then we feel so happy it works again. This really is a fun thing. I suggest trying it with hot water. Try one month without hot water in the winter then take a hot bath. Amazing! And dishes, wow! Dishes are great!

For now we have sunshine and and a four row clothes line. And, I don’t want to, but I will, hang lines all over the house come winter. But, to be honest, the hanging laundry thing isn’t going so well. I get the clothes washed and then I send out the girls to hang them. They do pretty good. Pretty good, not complaining. Then when I call them dry (it’s a laundry game I made up), they take them off and put up some more. Sometimes I call it dry the next day. Sometimes I forget I am playing a laundry game. It’s a pretty simple and forgiving game. But sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night to thunder and rain, and sigh. Sometimes it rains for days, and sigh. There is nothing to do but let them dry out there and let the dirty ones ruminate. I guess I lost that time. We had a huge oak tree fall over in a storm this summer, but those trusty clothespins kept our cloth diapers a hanging safely on the line. I got extra points for that one.

I do also wonder what the neighbors think of our laundry game.

And, sigh.

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I am kind of concerned how our clothes will be once the dryer is fixed. This method of washing and drying is hard on clothes. As I was folding clothes today, I noticed my eighteen year old son’s jeans were akin to sandpaper. I’d say, 220 grit. And sometimes the clothes are really not that dry when the girls take them down. I guess I called it too early. Little confession here, it takes me about a week to get to folding clothes and by that time smells can develop. Then it’s back to the dark abyss you stinky shirt. We keep the lights off during this time in our laundry room for dramatic affect. Okay, fine, it’s broken too.

It’s probably best not to wash things unless they are super dirty at this point. I have thrown the cloth on cloth diapering, and that’s been pretty nice. I consider it my mom vacation. If you want to try this, you just think I’m on vacation. Maybe say it three times, then get some disposable diapers and paper plates. It’s been a nice vacation from cloth diapers and from dishes. And a nice vacation from laundry, and a vacation from laundry….wait there is no such thing as a vacation from laundry in my life.

Those monstrous loathsome loads have begun to rear their natural and synthetic fibrous heads. Imagine how haggard my husband will look in his hot sauce graphic tees and sunken bottom pants. How our small children will be shirtless and sockless. How we will all wear winter clothes in summertime and it will always be winter. Then the nauseating pit will send forth its drake and henchmen for me whilst beating a horrid, putrid drum with an accompaniment of chant in cresendo:

“I don’t have any clothes.”

“Where’s a towel?”

“I need underwear.”

“I smell.”

“You smell.”

I will change all their clothing to sandpaper. Their towels, an exfoliation rub from a fine spa. Their shirts will smell of morning dew and their sheets of summer thunderstorms.

Go to the laundromat, you say? Never!

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Rocky Roccoco

Back about fifteen years ago I began to enter into “color” phases. At first it seemed I just liked colors and would probably always like them the same, but there have been developments. Serious developments.

It all started with burgundy. Yea, yea, nice color. A very easy go-to for any girly-girl progressing from a pink-painted universe. When pink grows-up it turns into burgundy. Enter the Burgundy Period. This may be a bit painful to discuss, so bear with me. Yards of fabric, gallons of paint, tassels and fringes, spicy candles and kitchen equipment, all in this intoxicating rougey bliss of a color. The kitchen walls were drenched in burgundy, carpets looked better in burgundy. There are still some remnants here and there of this period, but most was purged, over-painted, or just ruined during the long stage of domination. It was a good 5-7 year reign. It was my early to mid twenties.

Then a slightly daring move came to complement this bloody mess with candy pinks, lush purples and dabs of gold. Our dining room was smeared with the deepest purple. In fact, a wine-loving friend commented she wanted to lick our walls. These were such baby steps here that I can smell the amateur and feel sorry for her obvious attractions. All other colors were there only to praise the Burgundy Queen. Left to themselves, they would fail in their boring selves. Ornate curvy objects were hoarded and lauded atop tables and on walls. I wanted a home grand enough for King Louis XV. Pity me.

A slight progression was to fire engine red. I have some respect here as this was a bold move from burgundy and a big step away from fakey Rococo. The beginnings of an American revival, no?

Things started getting too loud and passionate everywhere. It felt as though I was suffocating from all that sensual business caked on the walls. Could it be that burgundy doesn’t equal beautiful? Now green, there’s a pretty color. Green. Green. Gareeeeeen.

Aww. I still have love for this period and I gladly still sit upon its greeny couches. The greens were mostly sage-like and never lime-like, the muted and dark greens. Golds were replaced with whites and creams. Ornate swirly things were replaced with straight, simple lines. Things should be natural and appetites should not be provoked. Yes, green was a good path and it was a long period where I developed into more sensible décor, much more pragmatic and logical. It was the stage that took me into my thirties.

If it would have been just these two periods, I would not have thought it so odd. But then something happened. Blue! Blue, I NEVER SAW YOU! I had no idea how lovely you were when you’re deep or royal, cobalt or chalky. Blue.

You can see I am still in this period. I see something blue and swoon. I am dazzled by its twinkle and its clarity. I have been in this Period for two years and there is much work to be done. Walls still need paint, couches need accents, dishes need accumulation, but yesterday something happened. A slight development from blue. A perfect accent perhaps? Surely I would never leave you, blue.

But yellow. Not your light safe yellow, but your bright yellow, mustard yellow, colonial yellow. Yes, I think it is just a complement to blue.

Do you have a color history?