Showing posts with label Considering frugal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Considering frugal. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sustainable Faith

sustainable faith
Faith for When You Step Out of the Boat and Sink
Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and immediately cried out, "Lord, if it is you, command me to walk on the water too!" And so Jesus did and Peter stepped out of the boat, and walked on the water, but the storm distracted him, and he began to sink and Jesus replied, "Oh ye of little faith" as he reached down and pulled Peter to safety.
Matthew 14: 27-33

Faith means you have to step out of the boat at some point. Many of us are well acquainted with stepping out of the boat while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, but what about when you step out of the boat and the water is rougher than you anticipated? What about when you step out of the boat and the cancer returns, or the court doesn't put the baby up for adoption. What about when you are standing there on the water broken hearted and empty handed? What then?

Brokenness requires faith too. The faith to continue to trust God through the pain and darkness, knowing He still has a plan and purpose for calling you out of the boat, knowing that at some point His hand will reach down and pick you up. These are the times we build sustaining faith, it isn't mountain moving faith, it is faith that ties the anchor to the boat and secures it in the mud below. Faith that isn't going anywhere no matter what God, man or even the devil has in store. Sustaining faith is the kind of faith that we need for most battles in life.

When things don't go as planned, sustaining faith gets us through the grief. Sustaining faith needs to be in our spiritual storehouse, because life brings unexpected trials and hurricanes. But sustaining faith can only be grown through trials which means that we have to trust God to take us through trials. So then, for every season and trial there is indeed a purpose...it is building sustaining faith.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Duck Dynasty: Saving on Hot Tubs Without Going to the Junkyard

Duck Dynasty saving on hot tubs
Saving on Hot Tubs Without Going to the Junk Yard
If you are in the market for a hot tub and you don't want to got the junkyard like Godwin in a recent episode of Duck Dynasty, there are still great ways to save money.

Avoid the Salesman

Start by avoiding the salesman. You don't need to go to a pool or hot tub dealer to get a hot tub. In fact most local stores like Home Depot and Lowe's carry name brand quality hot tubs and they will hook you up with an installer if you need one. When you cut out the high pressure salesman you always save. It is especially important to avoid companies that refuse to post their prices or tell you the price up front. And by all means do not purchase your hot tub on a credit card, save up and pay cash.

Choose a Smaller Model

One of the most important money saving tips to consider when purchasing a hot tub is size. You need to consider how much hot water the unit will require and how much you might spend on electricity. If you purchase a unit at Home Depot or Lowe's it will be labeled as to how much electricity it will use each month. By choosing a smaller unit or one that uses less electricity you are going to save both at time of purchase and per month. When you purchase a hot tub it is so important to choose an energy efficient model, hot tubs can use upwards of $20 per month in electricity.



Avoid Installation

There are both portable and stand alone hot tub models that can save you on installation either by ease of installation for the installer or perhaps you can even install the hot tub your self. Ask about ease of installation at time of purchase.

Go Solar

Several retailers offer solar powered hot tubs as well as solar converters. By choosing a model that is solar powered you can save on your monthly electric bill. You may even want to consider installing a solar water heater.

You may also want to read Solar: Is it right for you? and Duck Dynasty: What the Robertson's Know About Green Living.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Best Duck Dynasty Posts

duck dynasty
Willie, Jase, Jep and Si (that is a tea glass in his left wing!)
Wednesday is Duck Dynasty Day at our house and last week when my son was working on the number four. He was sitting at the table just giggling and giggling. He finally brought me this work of art! I was so proud and he said, "You can put it on Facebook Mama!" I have been wanting to share it all week. So because it is Wednesday and I am racking up quite a few Duck Dynasty posts, I thought I would give you links to these four great ones. They range from Green Living topics to Childcare Advice to Vacations.
 
Duck Dynasty Vacation Ideas gives tips on saving money with vacation packages to Hawaii and other ideas.
 
My favorite is Duck Dynasty: What the Robertson's Know About Green Living because Green Living is Considering frugal.
 
 
Miss Kay's new cookbook comes out November 5th and I can't tell you how excited I am! I am hoping to review the best money saving recipes in it! Until then, enjoy these posts and don't forget to catch the new episode of Duck Dynasty on A&E tonight!!
 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Truth About My Life

bloggers block
Bloggers Block

There are a million truths I could share with you today. The truth about my life, is that my house is only clean for one hour on Monday afternoon, except for bank holidays, like today, at which point my house might be clean for a half hour on Tuesday, but more likely it won't be clean until next Monday at 2.

The truth is, I often let my children watch Sponge Bob Square pants, and they usually eat sugary cereal on Saturday. Sugar and Saturday almost rhyme, so it would seem that it is the order that God intended. Besides, that my neighbor next door who is "mature" and wise, says that I need to let my kids eat more sugar if I want them to like me, and I really think she must be right because my youngest son is asking for Dong Dongs and Happy Helper. Oh, and Meatless Monday, well that is usually on Tuesday night.

The truth is, I have blogger's block. I cannot call it writers block, because I have routinely spit out theses, and portions of my dissertation for the past week and a half. If you have read my About Me page, then you will note that I am working diligently on a fast paced PHD in Psychology, it is true, and it also makes for a shameless display of keywords. I don't think that is the only reason I am working on a degree however, on Tuesday at 5:30 I wonder. I also wonder when I am falling asleep at 7 p.m. on Thursday, if getting up at 4:30 every morning is really wise. Back to the point, the truth is, I cannot call this blog post "title block" either, because I have thought up a list of new topics and titles that you may want to check back on in the future. Great titles like, Supply and Demand and the Bible, Where to Find Starts for Your Garden, Solar Panels: Are They Right for You?, Seed and great recipes like Brown Rice Bake, Sustainable Bread Starter and Thousand Island Dressing. It doesn't take much to type a recipe eh? So then, the truth is, I have blogger's block.



It could be because of this weeks hassles with technical difficulties that I am still trying to resolve, or sprouted wheat that didn't sprout and the bread maker that won't make sprouted wheat bread. Apparently the Whole Wheat setting on my bread maker is ill equipped for proper whole wheat baking. Whatever the case may be; I've been hit! Have you ever had blogger's block? Well, of coarse if you don't blog, you wouldn't have it. I had to tell you all the truth about my life. I imagine just spilling the truth on a blank page might end the madness.

I hope to post one of these great topics by tomorrow afternoon, but for now I have to go face two little faces, and the husband that is home from work on this bank holiday, before they notice that I have barricaded myself in the bedroom to write on my blog. Until then, you can peruse my blog or buy a copy of my book from Amazon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What is Servant Leadership and Can it Work?


Servant Leadership
Servant Leadership
Putting people first does not have to correlate positively with low profit margins.  Companies like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines have put people first in their business models with generous employee benefits and education and gained a remarkable profit margin.  Servant Leadership is a leadership model that can and should be deployed in all companies, large and small, for-profit and non.  Servant Leadership is socially responsible and promotes employee satisfaction.  Servant Leadership promotes a sustainable profit margin as well as community but the question remains can a for-profit organization put people first?  Servant Leadership can be applied to large for-profit companies in fact it can provide a sustainable profit margin. Servant leadership promotes stakeholder loyalty and stakeholder loyalty promotes community.  Businesses must be people focused to sustain for generations.  Large companies impact diverse people groups, the social structure of these communities as well as their environments.  Large companies are constantly shaping our world.  Servant Leadership can be applied to large companies such as the for-profit universities and is a topic that deserves further exploration.

Servant Leadership as a Business Model
Companies such as Starbucks and Southwest Airlines are deploying policies that are Servant Leadership friendly from the birth of the business with great success.  Southwest Airlines is creating a Servant Led culture that marks the organization as well as society.  Large non-profit companies such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Habitat for Humanity and the Southern Baptist Convention have run successfully on Servant Leadership for Generations.  Fuller Theological Seminary was founded in 1947 and has a rich history of servant leadership as well as a working community that functions on collaboration with social responsibility being a core value.  The business model of Fuller Theological Seminary will provide an example of what can be done when Servant Leadership is made the end goal of a large organizational model.  Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 and serves as an excellent example of how a company can grow and expand to all corners of the globe when a business is built on people rather than profits.  Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that has seen enormous growth from a small start in Georgia and now to over five continents.  Although large non-profit companies are different from the large for-profit companies in the goal of making a profit this is really where the contrast stops considering that all companies, both for-profit and non, do have a bottom line.  Large for-profit companies can indeed learn from large enduring non-profit companies in terms of sustainability.

Decentralization: The Key to a Servant Leadership Culture
An important component of the Servant Leadership Culture is the decentralized organizational model.  An excellent example of this can be found in Starbucks.  According to Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, a decentralized organizational model is prone to unethical behavior; however Starbucks is a model that can be used to argue against this theory as it uses its decentralization to encourage its managers as well as individual employees to look for ways in which they can exhibit ethical behavior.  I would argue that the decentralized organizational model, when used properly, encourages ethical behavior.  Not only does Starbucks give its managers freedom of philanthropy, it encourages employees both new and old to contribute suggestions to the company on a regular basis, publishing these suggestions, even the anonymous ones in the company newsletter.  This method of publishing the suggestions affords a form of corporate accountability that encourages ethical behavior.   

You may also enjoy reading Considering frugal Starbucks Ethical Pic or my whole list of Ethical Company Reviews.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raspberry Hibiscus Jam

Considering frugal
Raspberry Hibiscus Tea Jam
Tea jam is an excellent way to stretch your produce dollar. We experimented with making tea jam today with some mixed reviews. The experimental part was the thickener. We used a controversial ingredient...cornstarch. I looked all over the web to see if it would work and most places said no. The trick is that you have to cook the liquid long enough for the cornstarch to bind to the liquid.

Raspberry Hibiscus Jam
9-10 tbsp. Cornstarch
3c Sugar
3c Raspberries
2c Steeped Raspberry Hibiscus Tea
6 tsp Citric Acid
4c Water
Mix cornstarch, sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a bowl and set aside. Bring water, tea and citric acid to a boil, add raspberries and cornstarch mixture. Mixture will be cloudy and you will need to cook it forevvveerrr. The good news is that you will have milestones along the way. The first milestone is when the mixture goes from cloudy to transparent, the next milestone will be a coated spoon and finally you will have a think mixture. The thing is, just like with any jam are jelly, you can't be afraid to mess it up, because it is kind of 'no fail' so to speak. If it doesn't thicken enough, you can use it as a syrup. Pour it into jars and process in a water bath for 15 minutes. Yum!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Great Smelling Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener

Great Smelling Homemade Softener
Lovely Lavender Softener
We have been playing around with making our own laundry soap and fabric softeners this week. I have heard for years that this is an excellent way to go green and save money, however I am so picky about soaps and cosmetics that we have spent the better of a year just finding recipes that might work. So I have to tell you just how excited that I am that we have combined two kind of okay recipes and added another ingredient to come up with a great smelling homemade liquid fabric softener.

Lovely Lavender Softener
4 Cups Vinegar (trust me the finished product smells great)
3 Teaspoons Dr. Bronners Liquid Lavender Soap (Check it out in my Amazon Store @ the bottom of the page or on my homepage )
1/2 Cup Baking Soda
3/4 Cup Warm Water
Mix vinegar and baking soda and let sit until bubbles stop. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Funnel into plastic jug and enjoy. You will need to shake the jug before each use, but it smells great!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Canning Red Enchilada Sauce/Oven Roasting Peppers

Hatch green chilis
Don't Forget to Wear Gloves!
We added a few items to our summer can and freeze this weekend. We found Hatch green chili's on sale for $.50 per pound so we oven roasted, peeled diced and froze four pounds. That is about a years worth of green chili's for us. Warning! Use rubber gloves! Although the green chili is one of the mildest peppers to use in a recipe, the pepper skin houses much of the pepper oil and it will attach itself to your hands! Ouch!

I roasted the peppers on a foil lined baking sheet under the broiler. Roast them for about 5 minutes on each side and then place them in a sealed plastic bag for 20 minutes to steam. Peal, seed and dice! Remember the rubber gloves!

rasberries
Sweet Berries Ready for Smoothies
We also froze four pints of fresh raspberries that we bought on sale for $.99 per pound. YUM!!! Wash, drain and freeze flat in a plastic freezer bag.

Red Enchilada Sauce

Finally, we canned Red Enchilada Sauce. My daughter loves this recipe so much that she eats it like soup. I tried to pass off a store bought sauce so she would leave the homemade stuff alone...she figured it out!! Seriously, blind tastes test...she chose this recipe. So here it is.

Red Enchilada Sauce
12 ounces of home canned tomatoes crushed and cooked down to a paste
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup red chili powder
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 tablespoon oil
Once you make a paste of your tomatoes then add the flour and oil and make a quick rue before adding the chicken broth and spices. Stir and simmer over medium heat for about an hour. We poured into canning jars and processed in water bath for 20 minutes.

You might also want to check out my Mushroom Enchilada Recipe.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Developing Sales Resistance

Sales Resistance
Can You Resist a Sale???


We visited the mall yesterday. It isn't a place we go often, filled with timeshare salesmen, lovely smells, windows of new clothes and As Seen on TV everything and anything you can imagine. We visit the mall maybe three times a year with one usually being Black Friday and that will come to an end if JCPenney's doesn't quickly return to the old marketing plan. The reason we visit the mall on Black Friday is usually to get a free Disney globe from JCPenney, which they did not give out last year and a $5 Build a Bear. Any other time of year, you might find us at Build a Bear for a birthday, or picking up a must have special item from a specialty store. It really has to be a special item too, because if we will go to the mall to get it then that means we have looked online and in every thrift or discount store to find it cheaper first. Sales resistance doesn't stop at the mall, in fact it starts with your mailbox.

Stop Junk Mailers

The first step to developing sales resistance is to control what is coming into your home. Visit the ftc.gov to stop both junk mail and phone solicitations. If you do receive a catalog or flyer review it once and then toss it in the trash. We do occasionally receive offers and coupons that we use, however if it is a catalog, I tear out the coupon and toss the rest. The principle here is the same with staying clear of the mall, if you sit around and look at those pictures in the catalog, you will eventually talk yourself into buying those products. So cut them off at the pass.

Avoid Salesmen and Parties

Okay, so this might not always be possible but for the most part we make it a rule of thumb not to attend sales parties and presentations. Lets face it, the point of the party or presentation is to sell you on something, so they are going to do everything they can to make you buy. If you must attend a party for your boss's wife's cousin, then by all means plan a spending budget and stick to it. If you choose to volunteer as a hostess, then make sure you plan a budget for that too.

Sleep On It

If it is an item you really want or need, then you need to shop around and you need to sleep on it. Sometimes the value is worth the dollar amount, but shop around first, it is so easy with the Internet and phone apps these days and then make sure you really want it before you spend the money. Often times when you sleep on it, you forget about it. Making a decision to avoid the designer trap falls into this category as well. I do love certain brands and certain brands are a better value, but many times we are paying for a designer label when there is a knock off that is just as good. Along with sleeping on it, you can watch for it to go on sale. Every item is over bought and over priced, don't just watch for a sale, watch for a markdown and a third sale.



Avoid Getting Upsold

Okay then, back to Build a Bear, we don't go into Build a Bear purchasing at random. Our children have a budget and they really think about the items they are going to get and how those items will work with what they have at home and we always take a coupon. They know that when we get to the register the sales person is going to ask if we need *** and we are going to say "no thank you." We adults need to have the same frame of mind. The sales people are trained to suggest more items and make you feel like you need them, just say "no." This usually includes those pay for warranties and insurances as well. If you are not shopping at a store that warranties their merchandise for free then you shouldn't be shopping there anyway, so don't pay extra for a warranty. In fact you may want to read my Fry's Electronics experience when I fell into the trap and did so. Train yourself to resist the sale and you will keep money in your pocket all year long.

Considering frugal Fry's Electronics Review

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Peanut Free Hoisin Sauce and Honey Walnut Sauce


Hoisin sauce is a mainstay in Chinese cooking however for someone with stomach problems or peanut allergy, hoisin sauce is usually a big no no. The following recipe is a great alternative hoisin sauce that I created while we were strictly using the No Burn Healing Menu. It is easy to store in the refrigerator and you can substitute it in any traditional recipe that calls for Hoisin or use it to create your own stir fry. We also came up with this inexpensive alternative to Panda's Honey Walnut Shrimp. Walnuts are also healing to the stomach so it was a great menu item for us.

Peanut Free Hoisin Sauce

4 Tablespoons Organic Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Organic local Honey
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seed Butter or Almond Butter

Stir Soy Sauce and corn starch together in a bowl and set aside. Put remaining ingredients to a sauce pan and then whisk in soy sauce mixture. Bring up to low boil over medium heat and cook until smooth. Pour into canning jar and refrigerate any unused portion.

Honey Walnut Sauce

4 Tablespoons Organic Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoon Organic local Honey
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon corn starch
3/4 cup split walnuts

Stir Soy Sauce and corn starch together in a bowl, add oil, garlic and ginger. Saute whatever you are adding the sauce to in a frying pan, chicken, shrimp or veggies and then add your walnuts, when stir fry is cooked to crisp add sauce and cook until it thickens. When you add the sauce to the walnuts it will bubble up like baking soda but it will cook down quickly. We use this sauce quite often, sometimes substituting sesame seeds for walnuts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Duck Dynasty Vacation Ideas

Hawaii Duck Dynasty Style
Do Hawaii Robertson Style

Have you signed up for the Duck Commander cruise? Well, if you haven't and you like to take cruises then you may want to get on the waiting list. If a cruise is not quite your style then let me give you a few other suggestions for a vacation in Duck Dynasty style.

Hawaii is beautiful all year around and I recently watched an older episode of Duck Dynasty that featured the whole family on a trip to Hawaii. What I noticed about the trip was that it appeared that the family traveled via a vacation package. Vacation packages are a great way to travel with a family. Not only can you save money by purchasing your tickets, transportation, accommodations, meals and even some souvenirs in a bundle, but it makes the vacation itself very relaxing. You can stay in the room like Phil and Kay or go out and enjoy the pool or other amenities. Resort packages usually include at least one meal per day and sometimes even a spa treatment and special meal like the luau featured at the end of Duck Dynasty. The other upside to a package is that you always have something to do and your money is budgeted. Everyone was making fun of Willie's itinerary in the Duck Dynasty episode but in reality an itinerary that has been planned for you is a great way to control your vacation budget.

If Hawaii is not your thing, then the obvious way to plan a Duck Dynasty get away is with a hunting and fishing camp out, however we city folk sometimes have trouble with that too. If you want the experience of camping but not the full experience of camping then a family resort like Bison Ranch in Overgaard, Arizona might be more your speed. Family resorts like Bison Ranch offer a backwoods experience with enough of the modern amenities to get by. A family cabin, fireplace, fishing and horseback riding are all part of the family camp experience.

If you are interested in booking a vacation package to Hawaii, Los Vegas, Disneyland, San Diego, Prescott or anywhere else in the Southwest then Get Away Today is the place to go. We have saved over 50% at times and some of the proceeds go to education. However you decide to vacation, remember that you can never replace the memories that will be made and the family bonding that will take place.

You may also enjoy reading Duck Dynasty: What the Roberson's Know About Green Living and Sustainability. Or Saving at Disneyland.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Home Canning Grape Juice



home canned grape juice
Home Canned Grape Juice
Black seedless grapes were on sale this week for $.89 a pound and while filing through Pinterest I saw a picture of home canned grape juice that took me back to my Tennessee grandma's kitchen. She had a grapevine outback and she canned grape juice all summer long. I just had to have some. The method we used leaves the juice a little cloudy with some pulp in it. That is what I grew up drinking, I think it had to do with the grapes she used too. Anyway, I love it this way but if you want a more clear juice then you will want to pick up some cheese cloth and give it an extra strain. If you ever have trouble finding cheesecloth in your area, try and auto parts store. This is a little tip I picked up from my hubby. Cheese cloth is used when painting cars so they sell it at most Auto Zones.

Okay, so we started with about 10 pounds of grapes, washed and pulled from the stems. I boiled the grapes in three times as much water, we used filtered water, until they began to fall apart. Then I spooned the grapes into a strainer and squeezed out the excess juice. I threw out the pulp feeling very guilty thinking that is probably what my grandma used to make jelly but I don't know and I'm going to have to find out. Moving on, once the grapes were strained I strained the remaining juice and put it all back in the pot. To the large stockpot I added 3/4 cup Florida Crystals evaporated cane sugar. This is something you do to taste depending on the sweetness of the grapes. Start small you can always add more but you can't take it out. Once the sugar was added I cooked it on low for a few more minutes and funneled the juice into large canning jars. I processed my cans in a water bath for 10 minutes and presto, grape juice just like Nannies.

strawberry preserves
Home Canned Preserves

We also did a few jars of strawberry preserves this week, a few more cans of pears, tomato sauce, a few cans of salsa and we tried a homemade enchilada sauce recipe that I will be canning next week so watch for that. Finally, we worked on filling the freezer some more with pre-made twice baked potatoes. I use Pioneer Woman's recipe and then instead of baking the potatoes the second time I wrapped them individually and stored them in a freezer Ziploc. I am so excited about these because about two years ago we paid $10 for a four pack of these at Costco. They were so great to have in the freezer and now I have eight of them ready to go and I saved $20 on my freezer stock to boot!

PS. My little boy took the pictures for this post. Didn't he do a great job?

Build an Ark

Build an Ark
Noah Was Prepared

A good friend of ours has a son who was on a beach in Thailand one morning about 10 years ago when God told him that it would be a great morning to hike the mountain behind him. He quickly obeyed the Lords prompting and began to hike the small mountain and not five minutes after he reached the top the Tsunami hit. God led him to safety and indeed placed him in Thailand with a plan to have him serve and comfort those in need.

There is a similar faith story recorded in the book of Genesis when Noah build an ark. God told Noah to build an ark that rain was going to fall on the earth and although rain had never fallen before, Noah had faith that God would indeed do as He promised and flood the earth at some point in the near future. So Noah built an ark and he did it to God's specifications. While Noah and his son's were building, his wife and his son's wives were carefully storing up provisions. They had faith that they were going to survive this impending disaster designed by God and that they would need food and water for the journey. Okay, maybe I have used my imagination a little here, but it does say that God told them to take every kind of food with them and I am guessing that if they did what God said and built an ark that they must have also stored up provision.

Flash forward to 2013, have you built an ark yet? Jesus said that he would return but that until then, there would be trouble. Lots of trouble. Not just that but have you noticed that the weather isn't much different now then it was back in Noah's time? God promised that he would never flood the earth again, but tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes, forest fires, floods and enormous tidal waves are still a part of life. What about the possibility of terrorist attack or nuclear reactor leak? There is a leak in Japan right now. Planning for disaster is not something we do out of fear, it is something that we do from a position of faith. Trouble will come. If we are prepared to handle trouble then we are prepared to help those in need during the crisis. Noah was prepared to help his family and save the animal population from death. Our friends son in Thailand was prepared to serve in crisis.

Steps to Building Your Emergency Preparedness Ark

Assess Your Risk

Before you can build your ark you must assess your risk. We have been assessing risk at our house. You can go to Ready.gov and assess what types of disasters would be possible in your area and how to prepare for them.

Build a Supply

Once you have assessed your risk you can build a proper supply of food and resources. One of the highest risks in our area is lack of water or clean water, I am not going to stockpile a bunch of dried meals that I have to use water to rehydrate. It is important to know what the risk is and what types of previsions you will need. If building a supply seems overwhelming then start with three days/72 hours...the critical time frame for any disaster is the first 72 hours. Make sure you have enough supplies for your family for 72 hours. Then start working on a 3 month supply until you have worked up to a year.

Have a Game Plan

In addition to building a proper supply of food and resources you also need a game plan. Teach your children about safety and emergency planning. You don't need to scare them but likewise know how to handle a situation will empower them and help them feel more secure. Kids know that our world is full of disasters, they listen in when you are watching the news. They need to know what to do. Where would you go? Where are emergency supplies kept? Do you have an emergency code word?

We haven't had a code word in a while and I have been thinking that we need to do this again. We used to have a code word for impending danger. This is the kind of danger where you don't question you just follow mom or dad and do what we say. One afternoon we were in a local thrift store and a half dozen police cars showed up. As it turned out there was a gunman in the parking lot. It wasn't a bad neighborhood, just the fallen world we live in. Anyway, I said the code word to my daughter and reminded her to follow me. We coaxed my then three year old son toward the emergency exit where we calmly looked around some more. I kept an eye on the front door for the gunman, she kept track of the little boy. We were ready to dart out the backdoor to safety. As it turned out the police were able to apprehend the man in the parking lot. I am confident that we would have been out the backdoor before a shot was fired, however I am grateful that we never had to find out.

You may also want to read Water and Teaching Children About Safety.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Filling the Freezer/Saving on Groceries

saving on frozen foods
Frozen Foods Can Add Up
Avoiding the frozen food section of the super market is vital to saving money on groceries. We shop the frozen food section last, not just because we live in Arizona where everything melts fast but because frozen foods are convenience foods and they fill up the cart and empty the bank account. For every box of frozen foods you put in the cart you can count on adding another $5 to $10 to your bill. That doesn't mean that we don't buy an occasional pack of pizza rolls or a box of Breakfast on a Stick, but we have found that it is quite easy to make some of these foods ahead in bulk and save money.

Use Gallon Zip Locks

I like to use my Food Saver for packaging meats and a few other things but for convenience foods I buy gallon size Zip Lock freezer bags. Sometimes we will make chicken nuggets ahead and freeze them in these bulk re sealable bags and other times it might be fresh fruits. This week I am making a double recipe of egg rolls by request. They are healthy and ready to go for any night of the week and you can snatch the recipe below.

Plan Ahead

I also like to buy bulk berries and freeze them for smoothies. I can buy a case of strawberries for under $10 and usually get three gallon bags full for the freezer. These bags of fruit run $12 per gallon for organic frozen berries at the store so by taking a little extra time to do it myself I am saving approximately $26. If you can just knock a few things off your frozen foods list you can save quickly and you will be eating healthier to boot. Other ways we like to fill the freezer are by making double batches of pancakes or enchiladas.

Home Style Egg Rolls
 
1 package large Won ton Wrappers
1/2 head of cabbage
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 peeled carrots
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 stalks celery
oil
1 egg
 
The trick to a great egg roll is in chopping the vegetables evenly and preferable a good chop that will wrap well. I like to precook my mixture to control the moisture content but we actually had some egg rolls at the local Asian festival that were made with uncooked cabbage and they tasted great. My point is this is kind of a no fail recipe in that you can try it and it will taste good and then you can adjust it to taste for the next time. Once I have chopped my veggies I cook them down in a little oil and let them cool. In a small bowl I mix a little bit of water with the egg and set aside. As you stuff and roll each egg roll you will want to seal them shut with the egg mixture. I oil a cookie sheet and place the egg rolls about 2 inches apart as I get the rolled. Don't put them too close to each other or they will steam instead of crisp. Once you have a pan full, brush each egg roll with the egg mixture and then back until slightly crispy turning once; 375 degree oven. I freeze them in gallon Zip Locks in one row and then reheat in the oven at 375 for about 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes in the summer we will reheat on the grill and they are great that way too. If you would like a variation you can add cooked organic sausage or chicken and we have also tried them with shredded cheese and they were yummy.

Read how to Make Your Own Organic Chicken Nuggets and how to make pizza crust.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Remodeling a House and Staying in Budget

Saving on Remodeling
Planning Ahead to Stay on Budget

My husband and I owned a home remodeling business for several years and we just finished remodeling our own personal home. We have remodeled two personal residences and while the first home was a money pit this second home has been a joy to buy, remodel and live in. I wanted to share what we have learned.

Get the Right Loan

If you can go with the first time FHA homebuyer loans, then that is by far the best way to go. In fact, I recommend waiting to buy until you qualify for one of these mortgage options. FHA has a special category for remodeling with a great rate. We were about to roll our remodel into our FHA mortgage and we still got a great rate that is assumable to boot. We still came out ahead on the value of our home because the FHA guidelines are in place to ensure it. I believe there might be a similar loan product for those of you who are looking at refinancing your home mortgage and rolling the remodel in. Of course you have to discuss this with a good mortgage officer. I recommend finding someone from a trusted friend.



On the Right Foot with the Contractor

FHA Financing makes it easy to get off on the right foot because you have to get approval from the mortgage company to uses the contractor. Once your contractor has been approved, make sure you get an itemized list of repairs that are going to be covered, this will help keep surprise costs to a minimum.

If It Isn't Broke Don't Fix It

Make a realistic list of what you are going to fix. With our first remodel we practically stripped the house to the bare bones to update cosmetics and still ended up with surprise repairs down the road. If something is a little outdated but working just fine then resist the temptation to change it. With our second remodel we were concerned with the age of the kitchen appliances but the bathrooms were in great condition. We cleaned up the caulk around the tub and accessorized the pink tile with grey and black and it looks vintage sheik.


Sell It On Ebay

One regret I do have is that we didn't try to sell our vintage appliances on Ebay. We bought and remodeled a 1966 ranch home with all the original fixtures. The light fixtures are so charming and in great repair, the doors are just beautiful, but we feared the oven would kick the bucket on Thanksgiving Day (I heard a story.). Anyway, imagine my surprise a month or so after move in when I discovered our old wall oven was selling on Ebay and the local refurbished appliance store for around $300! It could pay to check out the market before you take it to the landfill.

A Few Last Tips

At least for the first year, roll a home warranty into your purchase contract or purchase one yourself. These warranties usually start around $175 for the year and they cover major appliances, plumbing and air conditioner repair, even pest control. Until you live in your home you really don't know what is going on with it and lets face it, the owners are moving out for a reason. Of course you should have anything major replaced before purchase. We had our roof replaced, that saved us $7000 on our remodel. Consider rolling solar panels into the remodel, they raise the value of your home and lower your electric bill.

If your home is old enough to possibly have asbestos then you will want to hire a contractor to assess the possibility before you begin a remodel project. Asbestos can cause Mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer. Find out if your home could have asbestos before you begin the project so that you can include any removal in the price of the remodel.

You may also want to consider installing solar panels and or a solar water heater while your home is under construction. Installing Solar panels can give you thousands in tax credit and possibly eat the cost of the remodel. You can read more about solar in my post Solar: Is It Right for You?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coffee

Making Great Coffee
A Great Cup of Coffee

Coffee, if you are a coffee drinker then you probably reach for it first thing in the morning. If you are a coffee lover then making a great cup of coffee and choosing the right flavor is important to you. A clean coffee maker is essential to making great coffee as well as great coffee beans. 

About the Bean

Great coffee beans don't have to be expensive, but they do need to be fresh and well cared for. Coffee grows from a plant, which means it has an expiration date. You want to buy coffee in an airtight bag and check the freshness date on the package, the fresher the better. Check the freshness date even in a pricey coffee shop. I once paid fifteen dollars for a pound of specialty coffee only to find stale beans when I arrived home.  You can spot a stale bean very quickly, it will look dry and it won't smell fresh. Good coffee beans should look moist and shiny and smell amazing.

I've ordered directly from coffee roasters and purchased at specialty stores, and although these coffees were delicious, there are some really great brands on the store shelf as well.  Also, if you look at the package carefully it will tell you the boldness of the particular beans. For really great coffee it is important to grind the beans yourself. An inexpensive grinder can be purchased at a discount store, and then you can find a variety of beans at your local grocery.
Starbucks Flavor Breakdown

Espresso Roast:  Espresso Roast is a classic and it's the roast from which all lattes and fancy drinks are made.  Espresso Roast maintains strength of coffee character and goes down smooth every time.  Espresso Roast is not bitter nor is it sweet; it maintains the perfect balance between the two.                                                                                   
Italian Roast:  Italian Roast is the kissing cousin to Espresso Roast. Italian Roast is the extra bold version of Espresso Roast. They are so close in fact that, in a pinch, one can fashion a grand latte or macchiato from Italian Roast. Italian Roast is one of my personal favorites; it is very bold yet not bitter and very smooth.  

Gold Coast:  Gold Coast is an excellent blend that is roasted to extra bold.  It is smooth and balanced.  Gold Coast is a great morning cup of coffee.
Sulawesi:  Sulawesi is an extra bold roast with an exotic flavor.  It has a bite, but gives your taste buds a tang without the bitterness.  It still goes down smooth and is great with a flavored creamer.
CafĂ© Verona:  Verona is an extra bold flavor that is sweet and smooth.  It is understated and reminiscent yet leaves no memory on your taste buds.

Sumatra:  Sumatra is an extra bold flavor that is dark and earthy and has nutty undertones.  It is not as exotic as the Sulawesi but goes down just as smooth. 
Komodo Dragon:  Komodo Dragon is extra bold and it is by far my all time favorite Starbucks flavor.  Komodo Dragon is tropical at first and then it hits you with a spicy undertone.  I love this flavor with the special coconut flavored creamers from the grocery.  It is really great over ice on a hot day; the ice really brings out the spicy flavors.


Ethiopia Sidamo:  Ethiopia Sidamo is an extra bold flavor that is smooth and almost has a thick quality to it.  Like the Sumatra it has an earthy tone to it but still goes down smooth enough for me.  Ethiopia Sidamo is enjoyable with creamer as well.

French Roast:  French Roast is extra bold.  It is my least favorite flavor, in fact I detest it.  If you like your coffee bitter and pungent, French Roast is the flavor for you.  It is so bitter you cannot detect any flavors and it goes down just as rough.  French Roast will leave a bitter taste on your buds long after you have finished the cup.

Kenya:  Kenya has to be my second favorite extra bold flavor next to Komodo Dragon.  Kenya is very tropical and smooth.  It is great with flavored creamers and also great over ice.  When you drink this coffee over ice you will detect the fruity undertones.  It is very smooth and yummy.  
Water
Another important ingredient, to a great cup of coffee, is filtered water.  The better the water tastes, the better your coffee will taste.  Filtered water not only tastes better, it keeps your machine cleaner and a clean machine is ingredient number one.

I have found that the ratio of coffee to water is much more of a personal preference.  Just like you have to try different preparation methods of eggs, you have to try different types and strengths of coffee.  Experimenting is part of the fun. Read the directions on the coffee bag for a starting point.

A final tip for those of you who enjoy espresso, when we purchased our first espresso machine, we stopped by that local Starbucks where they taught us how to use it even though we didn't buy it there. They also gave us a recipe for a fancy drink as well.  They didn’t mind doing this because they new that we would return to buy more coffee.  It never hurts to ask, many of the coffee retailers love to talk about their coffees.  Each shop manager or owner is the best one to describe the different tastes and flavors that the coffees have to offer.



A Clean Coffee Maker

If your coffee maker is dirty, your coffee will taste dirty. If your coffee maker is old, or you suspect that it is dirty, cleaning it is simple. A cup of white vinegar and a gallon of distilled water is all you need to spruce it right up.  Run the vinegar through the coffee maker first and follow it up with the distilled water.  You may want to run a couple of cycles of clear water before you attempt to put the coffee maker back in use.  The vinegar is going to break up the mineral deposits in your machine.

Coffee is something that is important to buy fair trade because much of it is grown in third world countries. Starbucks is an ethical company where you can often find fair trade labels. You can read more about Starbucks ethical practices in Considering frugal Starbucks Ethical Pic.

Magic Cheese Bread

Magic Cheese Bread
It's Magic Cheese Bread
 
This is a no fail bread recipe for the bread maker and the reason I named it Magic Cheese Bread is because, although it contains cheese and garlic, you cannot taste either. The cheese however gives it a light texture and yet it has a crusty European crack going on too. You will love it! I have a friend that eats it with blackberry jam, he has no clue their is cheese or garlic in it. If you are afraid of the garlic, just substitute plain salt but please don't leave out the cheese, it won't be the same. Oh, did I mention it is healthy too?

Magic Cheese Bread

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 cups white wheat four
1 1/2 teaspoons Florida Crystals
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Layer ingredients into your bread maker according to your type of bread makers instructions (mine loads liquid first, if yours loads dry goods first then reverse the order of ingredients). So I load, water, olive oil, flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cheese. Set your bread maker for a European two pound loaf.

I serve this bread with my Split Peas Soup and it is a big hit.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recipes that Heal


recipes that heal
Vegan Split Pea Soup
 
Last week I wrote a popular post on foods that heal and not long after my hubby had surprise surgery. So, we are in healing mode around here. I thought it would be great if I could share some of my best healing recipes with you today. These are two of our go to menu items. Split pea soup, is a food we eat when we are recovering from an illness and occasionally on a weeknight to prevent. We drink honey sweet tea flavored with herbal tea every day of the year to prevent allergies and stomach problems. I am posting the vegan version of my split pea soup but if you like you can add ham, it is popular both ways around here.

Vegan Split Pea Soup
 
2 peeled and sliced carrots (we like silver dollars)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 half medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bag split peas
6 cups water
 
In a large stockpot warm olive oil and sweat vegetables. Rinse split peas and set aside. Once vegetables are transparent, add water and peas stirring immediately. Bring to a low boil and reduce to simmer stirring occasionally. The soup will cook for about an hour or longer until it is a smooth texture and you will probably need to add a cup of water toward the end. Some people like to puree their split pea soup but we like it chunky. You can puree it in a blender if you like.

Healing Honey Sweet Tea
 

 Healing Honey Sweet Tea
 
4 Family Size Bags Decaffeinated Louisiana Tea
3 Regular Size Bags Celestial Seasonings Peach Chamomile or Blueberry, or any other flavor you choose. We like the blueberry blend because it supports lung health and the chamomile because it is calming.
1 cup organic local honey, honey balances the acid in the stomach and prevents allergies. You will need to adjust the amount of honey according to the moisture content of your honey. Thicker honey is sweeter.
 
Simmer the tea on the stove in water and add the honey to the bottom of a gallon pitcher. When the tea is strong like coffee, strain it into the pitcher to melt the honey, stir and add water to fill up the pitcher.
 
 Here is a link to the original article Cooking with Foods That Heal.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Finding Foods to Home Can

home canning
Canning Rescued Produce
 
Now that I am getting a little more versed at home canning I don't know if I can wait until January. January is citrus season in Arizona and my neighbors and husbands coworkers shower us with lemons, grapefruit and oranges. I had no idea that there were so many things that you could do with citrus. I am just dying to make lemon curd, it looks just like the lemon pudding that my mom used to send in my lunchbox. I am also wondering why I never thought of home canning grapefruit juice.

Can in Season

Start with seasonal fruits and vegetables and research recipes that appeal to your taste buds. If your neighbor has an olive, fig or orange tree, don't be afraid to ask if you can pick. Most homeowners will be more than happy to share, as it saves them the trouble of landscapers. You may also find that someone at church or school is willing to make a trade, perhaps you have lemons and they have grapefruit? Make a trade.

Find a You Pick Orchard

We had the most fun at a local you pick apple orchard and I can't wait to go again. There are farms and orchards in every part of the country that are set up for open picking. You sometimes pay a picking fee and other times you pay per pound for what you pick, either way they are a better deal over the grocery store and the produce is better too.

rescued pears
Find a Wholesaler

Rescued Produce

We have a local coop in town that offers boarder rescued produce for a fraction of the cost. This produce is often a little over ripe and very unsightly however it makes great canned goods. The last time I purchased rescued produce I bought 60 pounds of tomatoes and zucchini for $10. I was able to can that produce right away and we had enough tomato sauce for a year. It was a great deal.

Some other ways I have found great produce for canning are by shopping wholesalers, coops and watching the local farmer's market ads. Local farmers markets and grocery stores will usually have one produce item marked down to a ridiculous price every week and that is the item I can that week. If it is a screaming deal and I have cans, you can bet I'm going to buy extra and put it back. I also found a local wholesaler that will sell to the public through word of mouth. I have to buy by the case but when I can afford it it is a great deal. Finally, I have had some good experiences with coops but lately I have found them to be a hassle. When I used them, they were a good deal usually offering a laundry bucket of produce for $15 to $25 dollars.

You may also like Rescued Produce Makes Great Canned Goods or Getting Started Home Canning.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Canning Pears

slow cooker pear butter
Slow Cooker Spiced Pear Butter
I spent my morning canning pears that I bought on sale at Sprouts this weekend. Canning pears is incredibly simple. I make pear butter and apple butter in my Crock pot to ensure the best flavor. Here is the recipe.

Slow Cooker Spiced Pear Butter
 
Fresh Pears (Enough to fill the Crock pot)
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Cup Florida Crystals
 
Peel and quarter pears and put them in the Crock pot; add spices and sugar and give a good stir. Cook on low for about a day. I cook the pears until I can easily mash them and then I cook them until the butter is thick like butter. Next I sterilize my canning jars in water and fill the jars with the pear butter. I process the filled jars for 10 minutes. This butter makes the house smell so yummy we can hardly stand it.
 
canned pears
Home Canned Pears
 
Canned sliced pears are also very popular at our house. They take a bit more preparation but they are worth the work. I start by sterilizing my jars and making my syrup on the stove. For my syrup I mix three cups water with three teaspoons Fruit Fresh and 1/2 cup Florida Crystals. You will want to judge the Florida Crystals by taste, we like light syrup and for a more natural alternative you can use fresh lemon juice instead of Fruit Fresh. I bring the liquid to a boil and cook it until the sugar is dissolved. Now working with a few pears at a time I peel and quarter the pears and stuff them in the jars making sure to fill each jar with the hot syrup in a timely manner so the fruit doesn't turn brown. Finally I process the filled jars in a hot water bath of boiling water for 20 minutes.

You may also want to read Getting Started with Home Canning.

How I became Considering frugal

Fueled by the growing list of pollution related allergies my family suffered from each day and inspired by my 97 year old grandmother who could recycle ANYTHING before recycling was cool, back in 2011, I decided (in the spirit of the Julie/Julia Project...) to embark on a journey to see just how much one family could do to change our planet. I did not consult any other parties before I launched this idea. Thankfully my husband, daughter and son are usually my biggest supporters. Here is the catch; as I am normally very thrifty (you can note from early blog posts), I was looking for ways that I could reduce our carbon footprint and make socially responsible purchases without increasing our spending. Mmmmmm. I did succeed in changing our habits a bit and finding ways to reduce our footprint. There were lots of fun epic fails alone the way too! But the biggest change we have made over the course of the last six years, was to move from the mega city of Phoenix to Wyoming where we are about to take an even bigger step and move out on a dirt road in the country where we can expand our hobby bees and more! You can read my full bio on my About Me page.

Legal Disclaimer

While it is true that I am working on a PHD in Psychology and very smart and frugal, I am not a medical doctor, criminal, personal or accident lawyer. I do not sell insurance nor am I an accountant or mortgage advisor. While some of my posts may offer good ideas on home, health and business solutions, I am not personally responsible nor is Considering frugal for any advice, ideas, recipes or menu plans that you decide to use. This blog is intended to be helpful and fun. Any products you purchase from my Amazon store or any other retailer advertised on my blog must be returned to them. I may sometimes endorse a product that I love. This is simply my opinion, you must try all products at your own risk. While I personally do not use tracking cookies or share information, my affiliates are third parties and they may do so. Please click, travel and purchase at your own risk.

frugal advice

"...for your Father knows what you need before you ask." Matthew 6:8