Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 24th through 30th

- I learned to make pie crusts from a friend.  That was one of the few things that I still bought because it was too intimidating.

- I took advantage of the pre-holiday sales and stocked up on canned vegetables.

- I pressure canned eight pints of chili for the first time.  It was so easy that I was able to do it while Mr. B was at work and both kids were awake.  I'll definitely do that again.

- I took the carcass from my mom's Thanksgiving turkey to make stock rather than let her throw it away.

- Since my birthday and Thanksgiving was this week, I didn't end up cooking very much at all.

- My mom bought me Christmas boxes from Joann's at 50% off as my birthday present.  We use them to give pajamas on Christmas Eve.  We had four last year, but given that we want four kids, I wanted to make sure we had six while I knew where to get them.

- We bought a humanely raised turkey after Thanksgiving for about $0.62 per pound after a $10 off deal.

- Mr. B made a beautiful wreath from the trimmings off the bottom of our Christmas tree.

- Though I rather would have gotten it from the local consignment store, we bought Miss F a Christmas dress last minute at 40% off.

- A woman I knew from college came over to take family Christmas pictures for us for a very low fee.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 17th through 23rd

- While I didn't start it this week, our apple cider vinegar is about ready to use.  It has developed two really fantastic mothers, one on top and one on bottom.
 
- I cooked a cinderella pumpkin that has been hanging around for a month.  I saved the seeds to grow for next year, and I put it in the cold oven to dry because I didn't have counterspace, but I forgot about it and preheated the oven with them in there.  They fused to the wax paper.  Oops.

- Mr. B made a pumpkin cheesecake for us using the pumpkin puree I cooked.  It was delicious and didn't last more than two days in our house.
 
 
 - I froze 16 cups of pumpkin in 1/3 cup servings using muffin pans.  One block makes 6 doughnuts with the scaled down one egg version of this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I made a pumpkin spice latte and one batch of doughnuts with the 1/2 cup that didn't fit in the muffin pans

- Mr. B's work gives their employees turkeys as a holiday bonus. Since we're not cooking this year and our freezer was too full for a whole bird, I cooked it a week and a half before Thanksgiving.  On an interesting note, it was a Butterball turkey, and it is American Certified Humane.  That's not the best certification, but something is better than nothing.

- We ate one leg/thigh of the turkey, then froze the other leg/thigh and all of the breast meat for later meals.
  

- I made two rounds of turkey stock from the carcass.  The first was combined with the dark meat package above to make a large amount of turkey soup. 

- The second round of stock was used for butternut squash soup.  This is soup I made with some of that stock for freezing.

- The last of the turkey stock was used to pressure can butternut squash.  We've never done this before, but in theory, I can reheat the jar on the stovetop, throw in some sage, onion, cayenne pepper, and salt, immersion blend it, and I'll have the same soup as above.

- I made vegetable stock with scraps I had kept in a gallon bag in the freezer.

- Mr. B made persimmon leather from some persimmons he found growing wild last week.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Big Rocks and the Art of Manliness

For the last few weeks, I've been rather distant from Mr. B.  I'm sure I could blame it on working three nights a week, or having a 3 month old, or Mr. B's work schedule (which I greatly dislike).  But I've been grumpy and distant, either way.  The other day, he was practically begging for attention.  I felt terrible for ignoring him.  We've been talking a lot lately about what makes us happy and what we do that takes up time but gives us no happiness at all.  We ended up stumbling upon this video from The Art of Manliness called Big Rocks. 
 

I'd always heard the story about filling a jar with rocks, and how much more you could fit in by putting the big rocks in first.  But for some reason, this video stuck with us.  We started a list of our rocks (priorities): big, gravel, sand, and water.

Big Rocks
Family Meals and Rituals
Exercise
Quality Time for Me and Mr. B
Garden
Mr. B’s Work

Gravel
Clean House
Tutoring
Time with Extended Family
Implementing Homesteading Projects

Sand
Researching Homesteading Projects
Blogging

Water
Brainstorming Homesteading Projects (i.e. randomly browsing the web for ideas)
Facebook
Television 

We also decided to start waking up earlier.  In Mr. B's case, he's already up and out early.  But I wake up between 6 and 8 am, the former if I don't sleep after nursing, the latter if I go back down for some more time.  I knew but never admitted that on days I woke up at 6, I was much happier and energetic.  So I'm committing to waking up at that last early morning feeding so that I can do the things I want to do without the kids around.  If I plan for the big rocks during the bulk of the day, I can get my gravel and sand out of the way in the early morning, and I'm a much happier mama for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making the Most Where You Are

We realized the other day that, even if we bought a house today, we'd be here at least until February.  We're fed up.  Miss F can't go nine months with no toys.  She's been driving us (mostly me) nuts.  She has two puzzles, a bag of blocks, and about six little toy cars.  To keep herself entertained, she's been getting into trouble.  She's been hanging on Miss C's swing (many times when she's in it), climbing up on chairs to rip stuff off of our hutch, and begging to watch shows.  We don't let her watch TV other than one family movie a week, but the time that she's spent with family has clued her into Cars, Winnie the Pooh, and Sesame Street.  She begs to watch them instead of having a good time playing pretend with her kitchen or driving her Tonka truck around because she's BORED.

Rather than just cleaning up for our Sunday open house like usual - an open house at which we didn't have any attendance - we first took a new look at our basement.  It's a finished basement, and we set it up as a bedroom to stage the house to sell it.  We're giving up an entire large room in our house to make it look like a bedroom that no one lives in to sell to someone who's not even showing up to see it.  So we rearranged the things we had and ended up gaining a TON of space without even moving out the bed.  We realized we were wasting much of the space in the laundry room and half bath side of the basement.  We took Mr. B's tools and moved them over.  We freed up an entire wall of the "bedroom".  We moved the books up the bookshelf and devoted two shelves to Miss F's things.

We brought back art supplies and trains.   I think Miss F has missed trains most of all.  We'll be bringing her kitchen back soon.  By then, it'll be Christmas, and I'm sure - despite our requests to tone down the presents - her grandparents will be filling the toy gap in no time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homeschooling Progress

This year started out ambitiously, then I settled into a routine, and that has now devolved into barely getting anything done. 
The last group of books that I was deliberate about noting.

By this point in the year, we should be on letter L.  The last letter I remember doing both a book and a song for was H, and the last letter I read a book about with Miss F was J.  So I spent Sunday going back into the H-I-J-K group of letters, then we start again fresh with L this week.

Part of the problem was that I have to request the books we use from the library and I hadn't gotten them for one reason or another.  The other problem was that once Miss F saw one or two videos, she didn't want to get off of the computer.  That led to ugly terrible two style tantrums, which I had neither the energy nor inclination to deal with after taking care of Miss C.  But we've brought home our art supplies that had been camping out at my dad's in preparation of an "impending move" that is appearing to be less and less likely.  I plan on making a good art project with the letters we're working on now.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - November 10th through 16th

This one's short since I haven't been keeping track so well, but I'll be keeping up starting tomorrow.

- Attended the Alpaca and Fleece festival (free admission).  We brought our own food, and we bought gloves and a hat for Miss F as a Christmas present, a hat for Mr. B, and gloves for me.

- An early snow on the 13th shocked the apple trees, so a local orchard was letting people pick your own apples for free.  We filled at least one grocery bag, and that was after it looked like people had raided the field.

- My mom has been storing a turkey that Mr. B got as a holiday bonus last year.  Since Mr. B just brought home this year's turkey, she offered to cook it for Thanksgiving and pay us for it.

- I made emergency bars with Miss F to prepare for the possibility of getting stranded in a car this winter.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Real Estate Treadmill

We've been running like crazy but getting very little accomplished. We've had no one - not one single person - come look at our house since we switched realtors. We're not the only ones, either. Our neighbors put their house on the market just before we switched agents, and they've had very few people come by.
We've dropped our price a lot, first by $4,000 and Thursday by another $5,000. We can only drop it $5,000 more before we start paying someone to take our house, which can't happen.

In the meantime, we've been looking at houses to buy. We found one that could be great. As we wrote the contract, we dreamed of pantries and using the acre and a half of land. We just found out that someone else outbid us.  This is the second contract we've lost. Not only are we unable to sell our house, we're incapable of buying one as well.

We have another open house today, and we're trying to see as many houses as possible in the month of November. I'm trying to be positive, but I'm quickly losing hope.  I feel like we've been running on a treadmill for the last six months, our legs are giving out, and we're starting to stumble.

I'm hoping to start posting more regularly again.  Don't give up on me yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - October 13th through 19th

- I made meringues and ginger syrup for a friend using ingredients we had on hand.  Miss F, Miss C, and I went over to her house for a playdate and had lunch there.  She sent us home with delicious, homemade watermelon rind pickles.

- I used leftover rice from one of our chicken meals to make rice pudding for Mr. B.  It's one of his favorite desserts.

- I finally got back around to making fresh bread.  We had been working with frozen bread for quite a while.

- I made pancakes for lunch (Miss F has been asking for them for a VERY long time), and froze a batch.


- I made oatmeal pancakes for the freezer.  They'll be a much heartier breakfast when it gets cold.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - October 6th through 12th

- We bought two firethorn bushes for the price of one.  Right under the front windows, they will lend both security and beauty to the front yard.



-Mr. B separated one solomon's seal plants into two to add symmetry to the bed.

- I repainted the bulkhead and one wall in the kitchen to make it look fresher for the pictures of our house online.

- Mr. B planted ornamental-but-edible purple kale in our garden to make it more appealing to buyers.

- I took two kids to the grocery store by myself.  Frugal?  Maybe, maybe not.  Accomplishment?  Certainly.

- We were gifted three boxes of warm winter clothing for Miss C, as well as a car seat cover.  Miss F was born two months earlier than Miss C, so her three month clothing was all summer related.

- I reserved homeschooling books for Miss F for the next three weeks through the library.

- I treated a rash/chemical burns on Miss F caused by a sensitivity to disposable diapers with coconut oil and neosporin with good results.

- We bought 10 very large onions (~11 lbs) at $1 a piece at the farmer's market.  This is a good price for local onions.

- We bought sustainably raised sardines on sale at Costco.  We had never tried them before but knew they were a healthy food.  We loved them and plan on stocking up.

- We bought windshield wipers at Costco at half of their normal price.  Mr B's wipers were so bad that half of the rubber was detached from the wiper on each side.

- Mr. B stripped, caulked, and repainted the front door's frame where the paint was badly peeling.

- I used OxiClean free to soak out the stains in some of the old baby clothes before they are to be put in storage.

- We donated some clothing that is out of season given our girls' birthdays.

- I made roast chicken and root veggies and broke down the bird for five days worth of meals.


What frugal accomplishments have you undertaken this week?

One Chicken, Five Dinners

A few days ago I got the bright idea to start up Sunday roasts again.  Though Mr. B works on Sundays, I'm free during naptime about three hours before dinner time, so it seems like a good time to cook solidly healthy food.  Whenever I moan and complain about the price of local, humanely raised chickens (about $20 per chicken), I think about all the meals that one bird's life gives us.  All food included, we can feed three people (two adults and one toddler) for five days for less than the cost of going to McDonald's twice.  I think that's pretty darn good.

Today, I made Ina Garten's perfect roast chicken.  We're not huge fennel fans, so instead, I threw in chopped parsnips.  As I was prepping the carrots, onions, parsnips, and garlic, I threw the peels into a ziploc that we keep in our freezer.

I made the chicken in my cast iron dutch oven.  I've never done that before (I always use a roasting pan), but it turned out really well.
 

Night One:  I pulled the chicken out onto a platter to cool while we ate the legs for dinner.  After the chicken was cool, I stripped every bit of meat off and portioned it out into pyrex bowls.  The breast meat is kept in two large pieces.  The thigh meat and various bits will be chopped up when we use it.
 

The carcass went back into the dutch oven with the veggie scraps from the freezer, a little apple cider vinegar, and enough water to cover it.  It'll simmer on the stove for the next few days.  Add water as necessary to keep the levels up.
 

Night Two:  Half of the breast meat will be panini for tomorrow night.  I use homemade bread, a little mustard, an apple sliced thinly, colby cheese, chicken slices, and whatever greens we can find in the yard.  I fry it up in a little butter in a #8 cast iron skillet.

Night Three:  The thigh meat will be made into chicken shepherd's pie.  Yes, it's a recipe from my old Weight Watchers days, but it's tasty nonetheless.  You can use the chicken broth that's been simmering on your stove and add back a little water to the pot.

Night Four:   The other half of the breast meat will be made into burrito bowls.  Even though it's already been cooked, you can season it with cumin, cilantro, and oregano, and it'll be just like it was cooked from fresh.  If you add a little broth in during reheating, it keeps it from drying out.

Night Five:  Chicken noodle soup of course!  Ours is really simplistic - strained broth, noodles, carrots, celery, and the last of the chicken - light, dark, or otherwise.

That will bring us round to Friday, which is already our traditional homemade pizza-and-a-movie night.  Next week, we'll make a beef roast, and see how many great recipes we can make out of that.

What do you do to make the most of your food budget?

Monday, October 6, 2014

A "Reel" Good Find

For weeks now, my dad's been telling us we should go to this massive outdoor flea market that he and his girlfriend like to go to in West Virginia. We kept agreeing that we'd go sometime, but we only finally got to go yesterday. It was absolutely huge, with a decidedly country feel to it. There were old tools, kitchenware, kids' toys, and military surplus among other things. My big draw was the cast iron. I'm in need of at least a chicken fryer lid and a dutch oven that go with my Wagner Ware collection. While I didn't find those, I did find a cast iron bundt pan, which is very difficult to find a good price. Mine cost $30, so I picked it up on the spot.
 
 

As we continued to walk around, the old tools started to catch Mr. B's eye. He found vices and hand drills, and other things that would be nice to have, but decided not to get them because we're trying to move. A couple of small gardening tools he couldn't put down - he bought a dandelion digger and a folding pruning saw. We assumed that we had each gotten something both practical and desired and that the day was a success.

In the last row, though, we found something that made us both giddy. It was an old reel mower that was in great condition. We've talked about getting a new one for a few years, but they're expensive and you can't try them out. This one was priced at $25 and as far as they cared, you could mow the grass near their stall all day if you wanted. It was surprisingly easy to push, and makes this great sound somewhere between the pull cord sound of an electric mower and an old sewing machine.

$22 later, and it was coming home with us.  As soon as we got home, Mr. B had to try it out. He got two rows into the yard and asked if I wanted to try. I found it so much fun that I finished the yard off for him.
 

I feel great pride in our new purchases. I don't usually shop much, but these directly contribute to our household productivity. They  make our home feel more like the 1930s lifestyle that we like to try to emulate. I'm excited for the day that we can find a house with a wood stove to cook with my cast iron on and come a little closer to living our dreams.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - September 29th through October 5th

-We made it through the month of September having spent only $5 on food consumed outside of home.  In August, we spent $214.

-I finished our accounting for the month of September and we discussed where we can make further cuts so
that we can continue for me to stay home.

-To clean out our fridge, I made "garbage soup" out of pot roast drippings, homemade beef stock, pasta, frozen leftover kidney beans, and leftover green peas.  Garbage soup is always random leftovers, but rarely tastes bad :o)

-Mr. B helped a local woman get rid of a pile of debris by bringing it to our house.  He got an 8 foot 2x4, six lawn refuse bags full of yard waste, and a large pile of wood to use for a fire in our chiminea.

-I picked up two more tutoring students to help pay bills.

-I made ketchup and Mr. B then made cocktail sauce to go with fish and chips for dinner.


-Mr. B made a pepper jack like cheese tonight.  Out of the whey, I made ricotta, then soaked some black beans in whey leftover from the ricotta.  $3.95 plus existing ingredients got us 12.5 oz cheese, about 1 cup of ricotta, and a ton of leftover whey.






-Mr. B's company had a catered lunch (Chipotle) with a lot left over, so he brought home a large bowl of carnitas and guacamole for us to eat for dinner.

-Mr. B gathered some wood from a local park to make borders in our garden to better define the beds.

-We helped an acquaintance dig out her sweet potatoes.  In return, we got 1/4 bushel of sweet potatoes, a massive amount of fresh parsley, a huge bunch of rosemary, and two grocery bags full of apples.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Letter D

Due to the family being ill, last week's activities for the letter D were mostly comprised of watching videos (Letter D Song and Letter D Song) and reading books (Dan's Darn Dog by Joanne Meier and Cecilia Minden.


By Friday, we were well enough to make some pumpkin spice doughnuts, but not well enough for me to remember to take pictures before they were eaten :o)

The Super-Long Saga of Real Estate Woes and New Hope

Our house has been on the market since May.  When we decided to sell it, we asked the agent who sold it to us to sell it for us, and she accepted.  Given that we've never sold a house before, we didn't know what to expect.  We knew that her commission was the standard rate, so we signed a contract.

We spent the month of May working on the house - new shutters, new paint in the first floor rooms, cleaning carpets, and packing up and moving our things to my dad's house.  We told ourselves it would only be for a few months, and we very quickly found a house we wanted to move into.

We soon had some reservations about the process.  The pictures that the realtor took (some with a cellphone) were blurry or at odd angles.  I retook the pictures with my camera and emailed them to her.  It would take a couple of days for her to email us back with any question or comment we had.  Our first open house had only two visitors.  One was immediately uninterested (they had severe cat allergies and would have to rip all of the carpeting out).  The other, we were told, was considering a contract!  We packed and moved MUCH more of our things anticipating leaving at any time!  But we had patchy communication from our agent, and two weeks later, found out the interested person chose to continue renting her house, which is fine.  Next one, right? 

We had two showings.  After each showing, we had to keep hounding our agent to give us any feedback at all from the showings.  What could we do to sell this house??  We were facing a very scary deadline - I was due in August.  We wanted certainty about where this baby would be born.

We scheduled another open house six weeks after the first, and no one came at all.  We had three more showings.  Again, no communication from our agent.  I've been asking since July - should we drop the price?  Put in new carpet?  Offer closing cost help?  She was very non-committal about all of it.  Mr. B and I put a lot of work into making flyers for his workplace (nearby with about 200 workers) and posting on Facebook about our house, but we couldn't do it often.  Was this what people usually have to do when they hire someone to sell their house?  All in all, we had five showings in four and a half months with no contracts and no real feedback.

The final straw came when our neighbors put their house on the market last week.  They put it on at $5,000 more than ours, but with an extra half bath, hardwood floors, and central air.  Over the fence, I saw their real estate company taking pictures - a real camera!  And I looked at their listing online.  Their house looked amazing.  I've been inside of it before, it's not *that* different from ours.  After all, we're in a townhouse.

I was despondent.  We'll never be able to lower our price enough to attract a buyer.  We started looking into refinancing, but that would add $10,000 back to our loan, and put us right back where we started with this house five years ago.  Not to mention, we only have two bedrooms and there are four of us now, with hopefully more in the future.  I asked our realtor to give specific steps that she has taken and will take to sell our house.  She posted the listing in a couple of little papers (though not the major papers in the area), and listed them online with places like Zillow and realtor.com.  She said she might considering taking different pictures to put the listing back up the top of the sales pages, and maybe dropping the price more.

I'd been avoiding looking at our listing, but I wanted to see what we had compared to the neighbors.  I looked at the pictures online, and I was appalled!  Those were not the pictures I sent her.  They were completely washed out, blurry, and cropped.  They only showed half of the front of our house (the bottom half). 

We solicited selling agent recommendations from friends, and one came over Monday night.  For the same commission, they have a staging service tell you what needs to be done, moved, painted, etc.  They have professional photographers come with lights and special lenses to accurately capture the room.  They use social media to promote the house and the events associated with it.  They call or email us at least once a week to check in and give a progress report.  The list goes on.

While I felt badly about letting our agent go, we had to do what was best for our family.  Monday night we asked to terminate our contract, and will be pursuing a new contract with a different agent.  While I have been stressed about this house for MONTHS now, I'm finally feeling hopeful.  Someone can guide us and tell us what needs to be done instead of me fumbling in the dark, always feeling inadequate and wondering "should we repaint that again?  Take more things out?  Replace carpet?"  Rather than thinking we might have to pay for someone to take our house, we might break even or - dare I say it - make just a little on it.  I don't need a lot, I just need out.  And, God willing, we might be able to stop living out of boxes at my dad's house and call a new place home before Miss C has her first birthday.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - September 22nd through 28th

That cold really took it out of me, so this is a couple of days late.  Sorry!

- Mr. B and Miss F made a cold frame out of our neighbor's old windows, pieces of a broken picnic table, and some wood found from the side of the road.



-Mr. B cut me some lovely sunchoke flowers from our yard.

 -I made cinnamon rolls out of some leftover pizza dough.

 -Mr. B harvested the rest of our carrots for the season.
 

-We chose to end our relationship with our real estate agent in order to work with an agent that can meet our needs more completely.  A post about this to follow...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giving a Cold the Cold Shoulder


We've been hit by a nasty little cold at our house.  It started (as it usually does) with Miss F.  When she gets sick, it never really diminishes her energy or enthusiasm, but the nasal effects are obvious.  She's been having a runny nose on and off for a while now, but it didn't seem like anything viral, really.  Then, Mr. B started feeling the effects a few days ago. 

I had been reading up on essential oils anyway, so I started casually using them when I could - specifically I put just a little medieval oil (generic brand thieves oil) into Miss F's bathwater.  The four of us would sit in the bathroom during bath time to get some secondhand effects.  Mr. B and I also rubbed a couple of drops into the soles of our feet one night.  It either didn't do whole lot of good (probably because I wasn't consistent with it) or it staved off what was coming down the pike a couple of days later.

Yesterday, I got hit hard.  As is the case when one has a one month old, I haven't been sleeping well.  The last two days, I've woken up earlier than usual for the day, too.  So yesterday, when the perpetually runny nose and sore throat started, I decided to do something about it.  The first thing I did was sanitze our handkerchiefs.  They always get washed, but I added tea tree oil to help kill off anything they might be harboring.  I assigned each of us certain colors so that we didn't accidentally cross contaminate anything.  Three of us (all but Miss F) sleep in one room, so we ran a cool mist vaporizer overnight. 

This morning, I woke up feeling terrible.  I'm the primary caretaker of two very needy people, so that just won't do.  I broke out every natural remedy I could think of.  I started with a thyme vinegar gargle.  Mr. B made thyme vinegar as a method of preserving thyme from our very prolific plant.  It's just thyme stems and leaves steeped in vinegar (with the mother) for a few weeks, then strained.  I added 1 T to about 6 oz of room temperature water.  Each sip, I gargled and then swallowed the drink.  When I started, I couldn't taste it at all, but by the time I was done, I noticed the very strong smell and flavor.  My sore throat felt significantly better already.

I decided ginger tea was going to be my next go-to remedy.  I cut up about 1/2 of ginger into thin slices and steeped it in 8 oz of hot water for about ten minutes.  I added 1 tsp of local honey for sweetening and its cold-soothing properties.  While I was waiting for the tea to steep, I was boiling some pumpkin seeds on the stove, so I breathed in the salt water steam using that standard chemistry technique - wafting.  By the time the seeds were done, the tea was done.  The longer the ginger tea sits, the spicier it gets, so I've been sipping it slowly. 

I had planned to drink some chicken broth for breakfast, but when I opened it (canned last year at some time - how did I forget to label those?!) it smelled funny.  I can't trust my nose, but I don't want to drink something potentially dangerous.  It looks like I'll be having soup for lunch, as I'll have to defrost some from the freezer to ensure it won't have gone off.

Right now I'm about two hours post-wake up, and I feel much better than I did right after I woke up.  Before, I was considering asking Mr. B to take a sick day, but now I feel like I can make it through the day.  Thursday is our Friday, so he'll be able to help with the kids tomorrow when I need it.  My plan of action going forward is bone broth for lunch, hot liquids throughout the day, more vinegar as needed, and some rest (if I can).

What's your go-to remedy for colds?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Putting Food Up

Preserving, for me, has become part hobby and part mission.  I enjoy canning food for my family for the winter months, but I also feel like it's how I earn my keep.  Mr. B and I try hard to improve skills that allow us to be self-sustainable.  If anything were ever to happen like a job loss or something worse, I feel like we know how to grow or hunt our food, preserve it, and cook it.  We're learning to identify plants in the wild that are edible or medicinal.

In years past, I've made some attempt at canning and preserving foods.  I think my first year was probably just canning applesauce and maybe peaches.  Last year, I stepped it up and preserved:

6 quarts beef broth
5 pints and 1 quart of chicken broth
6 quarts of green beans
16 quarts and 15 pints of peaches
16 half pints of strawberry jam
14 half pints of peach preserves
12.75 quarts of tomato sauce
6 half pints of tomato paste
41.5 half pints of apple butter
3 bags of peach pie filling (frozen)

This year, even though I've been pregnant and now have a newborn, I've been a preserving machine.  In the last couple of months, we've put up:

1 ½ pints honeysuckle syrup
2 pints elderflower syrup
7.5 half pints “hard” strawberry jam
9 half pints “soft” strawberry jam
5 12 oz jars “soft” strawberry jam
4 12 oz jars strawberry jam/syrup
3 lbs frozen blueberries
12 oz maraschino cherries
8 oz cherry pit liqueur (including pits)
4 cups frozen cherries
1 ½ gallons of frozen raspberries
½ gallon raspberry liqueur
1 ½ cups dried apricots
3.8 gal of sumac concentrate  
46 heads of garlic
2 quarts of sage leaves
1 cup of thyme leaves
1 cup of winter savory leaves
1 quart of oregano
9 pint jars of peaches
7 24 oz jars of peaches
35 quart jars of peaches
12 pint jars of spaghetti sauce
5 quart jars of spaghetti sauce
26 quart jars of tomato sauce
5 pint jars of tomato sauce
15 quarts of applesauce
5 pints Pumpkin and Sausage Soup

Some of that which we put up has already been consumed, like the honeysuckle syrup and most of the elderflower syrup.  We have a lot left to do before winter comes, too, so this list will change rather dramatically in the next few months.  Now that apples have come in, I'll be canning (hopefully) a total of 24 quarts of applesauce.  I'll be making and canning a ton of broth and cooked beans when it gets cooler and around the holidays.  I’ve just started experimenting with meats and soups, so hopefully I’ll be able to can more of that as well.  The only problem I'm running into at the moment is storage space, but that's a great problem to have.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - September 15th through 21st

-I saved gas by visiting my mom while in the area.  She gave us a home grown cantaloupe during our visit.

-We canned 15 quarts of applesauce from the apples we bought last week.  We kept the skins on to increase yield and nutrition.

-I made a sugar scrub from 1 part coconut oil and 2 parts sugar.  It's amazing.  It might actually get me to take another crack at the oil cleansing method.

-I made a gallon of water kefir and a gallon of ginger beer for an event we're hosting next week.
 
-I used onions to beef up some taco meat that I made when a friend and his daughter came over for dinner.

-Mr. B picked greens from the garden and made peach salsa from items on hand for burritos.

-I met a friend for coffee.  She just had her fourth child and I just had my second, so we spent some time reconnecting away from the kids.  It happened to be buy one get one free for fall flavored drinks, so the coffees were essentially half off.

-Mr. B made a greenhouse from some old sliding glass doors we had lying around.

-I saved seeds from our French Brocade marigold.

-We made 12.5 oz of mozzarella cheese from a gallon of milk and kept the whey for other applications.

-I froze 3/4 of a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough that we made in honor of the Letter C to be eaten another day.

-Mr. B picked up 2 bushels of #2 tomatoes for $40.  We canned 26 quarts and 5 pints of tomato sauce.

-Mr. B picked basil from the garden to make margarita pizzas.


-We went to the Rennaissance festival all day without buying any food or drinks.

-I was given a window that was being replaced by a neighbor for the lid of the coldframe.

-A friend brought me and Miss F lunch and spent time with the girls because she knew we were having a hard time adjusting.

-I baked a pumpkin that from a volunteer plant.  The puree became Sausage and Pumpkin Pasta, it was saved for doughnuts tomorrow, and I am toasting the seeds as snacks.

Friday, September 19, 2014

First Foray into Mozzarella Cheese

We've been meaning to try to make mozzarella cheese for a long time now, but we've always been a little nervous to try.  Our milk is really expensive at $7/gallon *cringe* and we didn't want to waste any on an unknown quantity like cheesemaking.  But I found some liquid rennet at the local organic grocery store and bought it a few weeks ago.  Last night, after stumbling on a quick how-to, we took the plunge.  

It was super easy!  All we had to do was heat the milk, add citric acid (which I keep on hand for canning anyway), heat the milk some more, add the rennet, then heat and let it separate.

  
When the curds stuck together and there was clear separation, it was ready.

 
 We strained the curds out, added some salt to the whey, and heated the leftover whey back up to almost boiling.

We cut the curds into four pieces.  We ladled hot whey into a Pyrex dish, then Mr. B kneaded the curds in the whey bath. 

 
When they were hot throughout and stretched nicely, he lightly salted it and formed them into balls.  We put them in a lidded Pyrex bowl in the fridge.  

Tonight, we used that mozzarella with homegrown basil, local tomatoes, and homemade pizza crust to make two amazingly delicious deep dish margarita pizzas in #8 and #10 cast iron pans.  Yum!!