Monday, January 30, 2017

Dinner Menu - Week of January 30

The newest round of grocery sales offered some things we were pretty happy about!  Fresh pineapples are .98/each this week, and red bell peppers are 3/$1.  Organic celery is .98/bunch, broccoli is .98/lb, boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs) is 1.67/lb.  Romaine and leaf lettuces are also .99/head, and we have plenty of apples and oranges left from last week's sales.  At the end of this week, we will decide if we want to pick up additional produce at the tail-end of the sale.  We didn't buy broccoli, because we didn't use up what we have from last week.  There is enough to make the soup listed below, so it won't be wasted.  We also picked up a 12 lb. turkey this week - they had been marked down to .45/lb.  We just had room for one, but what a great price!

Husband has had an Ibotta deal that has repeated a few times for yogurt.  With the coupons he found at, they work out to less than .17/single serve carton.  Later, the deal and coupon got us some for less than 7 cents each!  We've been enjoying those with some granola for breakfast and/or snack.  

The weather is supposed to be pretty nice this week.  Husband has plans to smoke a pork shoulder and some turkey legs and wings.  We will package the meat into meal-size portions and freeze the extra.  It will make meal prep a lot more convenient for the next several weeks, plus we'll use some of the meat in this week's meals.  We have a $10 credit at Pizza Hut (they made a mistake when we ordered carryout a few weeks ago), and we plan to use that on Superbowl Sunday.  We have two meatless meals this week - wahoo!  Here is our dinner plan:

98 cents worth of fresh's a few layers deep.

M - English muffin pizzas, garden salad w/dressing, fresh apples w/caramel dip

T -  (smoked) kalua pork, rice, cucumber kimchee, marinated 3-bean salad, fresh pineapple

W - broccoli cheese soup, crackers, sliced apples

R - smoked turkey & vegetable alfredo, salad w/Italian dressing, fresh pineapple

F - chicken enchilada soup w/garnishes (shredded cheese, salsa, tortilla chips, cilantro, jalapeno relish), fresh pineapple

S- falafel, roasted potatoes/onions/peppers/carrots, chopped tomato, tzatziki, flatbreads, carrots, celery and sliced apples

Superbowl Sunday - pizza, vegetable tray, sliced fruit, popcorn, snacky stuff

We have homemade bran muffins baked up for breakfast, plus we have the yogurt.  There is cereal on hand for quick breakfasts, and I made some breakfast burritos on Sunday so we'd have several choices for our mornings.  Lunches are often leftovers or something quick like some soup or a sandwich.

What's on the menu at your home this week?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

This Week's Frugal Accomplishments

We spent part of last weekend cooking items for the week's menu, making it easier to stick to the plan with less prep on busy weekdays.  We made the Italian sausage 'chili' and the lentil taco filling.  I made some brownies from the last of a batch of homemade brownie mix, a partial recipe of frosting that was in the freezer and a partial bag of coconut.  They were a tasty way to use up some odds and ends.

We had family movie night with a movie we borrowed from the library and some snacks from the pantry.  We also borrowed library books!  Daughter attended 'Crafternoons' and made this necklace, along with a painting, a journal, and a decorated wooden egg.  She has spirited the other things away in her room, so I just have the necklace picture.

When we were in the grocery store picking up some Ibotta deals and sale items, we saw that there were turkeys on markdown for .45/lb.  We had room in the freezer for one, so we brought home a 12 pound turkey.

We went walking 4 days this week.  I took the camera with me on some walks and photographed wildlife along the way.  I used a library DVD to do a beginner's yoga program, but I had a lot of hip pain afterward, so I think I'll stick to walking for now.  Here are some photos from our walks...

Husband continued with his activity on Bing/Microsoft Rewards, Swagbucks and Ibotta.  Periodically, these add up and we get gift cards or rebates we can use to pay for groceries or other items we need.  I continued taking surveys (as offered) from Pinecone Research.

I sold two incubators that we no longer need.  We used to do more homestead activities than we do now.  I was able to recoup some of my investment and give someone else a less costly than new option to start their own homesteading adventures.

We had some cold weather, and used our wood stove to heat our home.  We get our firewood free for the taking, so this is a very affordable heat source for us.

We made more suet cakes for the birds.  There were some homemade rye breadcrumbs in our pantry.  Whenever we talk about using them, we worry that they will overpower whatever we are making, so I added them to the suet cakes. We also added fine-chopped apple, orange peel, and celery.  The birds seem to be enjoying all the different varieties we make for them.  This little downy woodpecker comes by pretty often for a snack.

We are on a bit of a mission to clean out excess.  Husband and I went through the board games and jigsaw puzzles and weeded out the ones that are for younger children.  I'll try to sell them on the local facebook pages, and we'll donate after that.  I went through the totes of 'clothes for Daughter to grow into' and reduced down to just one storage tote (a 2/3 reduction).  They were given to us a long time ago, and I have a better sense of her style than I did at the time, so I was able to weed out fairly efficiently.  We passed them along to others who can use them.

We have been getting individual servings of yogurt for less than 17 cents with a repeating Ibotta deal and some coupons Husband found.  Since we like a crunchy topping with yogurt, I made a batch of granola.  One container is the bigger chunks, for snacking, the other container is the bits for sprinking over yogurt.  This granola is flavored with honey, apple butter, and peanut butter.  It also has a few raisins and some cinnamon.  It's quite tasty!

While the oven was on, Husband also roasted some almonds and pecans.  We recieved a shipping box of shelled pecans from my family for our Christmas present, and we are enjoying them very much.

I refilled the soap dispensers in our bathrooms and kitchen with thinned-down shampoo that we got at a very deep disount a few months ago.

What did you do this week to spend less and save more?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Home-Made Suet Cakes for the Winter Season

Several years ago, the family Christmas present was a bird feeder, post, and some bird feed.  We have since added an old iron gate that was on the property when we bought our little homestead, along with some brackets for additional feeders, a home-made platform feeder and a water station.  We get year-round enjoyment watching the birds that visit our feeder.

If it's cold in the winter where you live, you can make these suet cakes for your birds.  I hesitate to recommend these for use in warmer weather, because I'm not sure about the melting temperature of the fat...but we use them in the cold weather with great success.

Suet cakes are not particularly expensive.  We are not necessarily saving a lot of money by making them.  We do it mostly because it's a fun thing to do for our feathered friends.

The library where I work has bird feeders, and patrons donate bird feed to help keep them filled.  Someone donated some suet cakes, and when I put those into the bird feeders, I saved the trays they came in.  Those trays are the molds we use to make our suet cakes at home.

There are two main components to a suet cake - the filler and the 'glue'.  Husband saves the excess fat when he cooks up ground beef.  He puts it into a bowl in the freezer, and that is the glue for our suet cakes.  Lots of the commercially made suet cakes have peanut butter in them - sometimes we add it to ours as well.  When we were cleaning out a cabinet at work, we found an open jar of peanut butter.  It was going to be thrown away, so I brought it home instead.  It gets used for the suet cakes and dog treats.

The fill is a mix of several things.  We use some bird feed - whatever blend we have on hand at the time - and some chicken scratch.  Daughter, who has a keen interest in ornithology, was hesitant to add chicken scratch at first, but conceded that the songbirds often eat it in the chicken run, so we add some to the suet cakes as well.  Sometimes we add in some dried mealworm treat, too.  You can also add bits of apple or orange peel, raisins, and other small pieces of dried fruits.

This batch has bird seed, chicken scratch, some sunflowers we grew,
dried mealworms, fine-chopped apple and chopped craisins.

I measure the filler by filling both molds, then pouring the filler into a mixing bowl.  This is the easiest way to make sure I have enough, but not too much.

It doesn't really take much of the fat/peanut butter mixture to hold it all together.  I melt a fair-size spoonful of fat, stir in peanut butter (this helps cool it some, too), then pour it over the filler.  You need enough to coat the filler well enough that it will hold it together.  For this batch 1/2 cup of beef fat and enough added peanut butter to make a total of 2/3 cup 'glue' was just right.

The fat is warm enough to melt the peanut butter.  Simply stir until
both are well combined, then pour over the bowl of filler.  

See how it's clinging together?  That's a good texture for the suet to mold well.

Simply stir to coat, then place in molds and press down firmly.  I use a piece of plastic wrap so the seeds don't stick to my hands.  The molds are flimsy, so I put them on a tray before I fill them.

One the molds are filled, I set them to freeze.  If it's cold outside, I put them in our cold gas grill (where the dogs can't get to them).  If it's not cold enough for that, I simply put them in the freezer to set.

Once they are frozen, we store them in our freezer.  I leave them in the mold and wrap them in plastic wrap.  We unmold them just before putting them into the suet feeder.

Have fun feeding your birds!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cents-Able Menu - Week of January 23

We had some good produce sales this past cycle.  Broccoli was .98/lb, yellow squash, tomatoes and onions were all .50/lb, opal apples were .88/lb, and oranges were 6/$1.

Husband also picked up some bananas with an Ibotta rebate - he got three bananas for 4 cents after the rebate.  He also got a great Ibotta deal on yogurt (.17 per carton).  He was also paid 23 cents to get a box of Nature Valley oat clusters, thanks to the sale and the Ibotta rebate.  Daughter and I plan to have sliced banana (we would share one) with yogurt and some of the oat clusters as a breakfast - super affordable!  These offers all re-loaded for him, too, so we were able to use them again a few days later.

They don't show up on this week's menu, but Husband also picked up 6 boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese for 1.00 (total) with sale and the Ibotta rebate.  The rebate was just for 3, but the offer was re-loaded and he utilized it twice.  Annie's macaroni and cheese was free this week with the sale price and a coupon he had.  We don't eat mac and cheese often, so this will stock our pantry for quite a while.

We didn't buy any meat this week, so the meats listed below were bought on sale previously and stored in the freezer.  The chicken fajitas planned for last weekend were rolled to this week.  Daughter had her first sleepover, and Husband and I went out on a date!  Here is our dinner menu for the week:

M - Italian sausage 'chili' with crackers and parmesan cheese, sliced apples

T - chicken fajitas, Mexican rice, lettuce-tomato salad, sliced oranges

W -Asian lettuce wraps, sliced oranges

R - grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, cucumber kimchee, steamed rice, apples

F - vegetarian tacos (lentil filling), lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream, chips & salsa, oranges

S - chili-cheese dogs, homemade oven fries, carrots & celery, sliced apples

S - flatbreads with Turkish seasoned beef, zucchini, lettuce, tomato, onion and sour cream, hummus with za'atar and vegetables, sliced oranges

What's on the menu this week at your house?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This Week's Frugal Accomplishments

Monday was a day off from work for me.  I did some cooking ahead for the week, making tomato soup and a pan of brownies.  I also got out the tote with our Valentine decorations, and Daughter and I set out a few things.

I took eight bags (eight bags!) of clothing/toys/household stuff to Goodwill.  I had tried selling the items in the local buy-sell-trade groups, but nearly everything was clothing, which typically doesn't sell well on the pages here.  Our house is eight-bags-of-stuff bigger than it used to be.  Woohoo!  I was given a cold drink as a thank-you for my donation.

I went into Goodwill in search of a couple of cardigans I can wear for work.  I found a black-gray heather one, along with a rust-brown one, plus a nice gray tunic sweater, all for about $10.  The gray tunic is designed to have another shirt under it, so I can add color by wearing it with a tank top underneath, which makes it a little more versatile.  I also picked up a new sugar bowl, with roosters on it (the one we've had is chipped).

The day after my shopping trip to Goodwill, I went through my clothes and noted all the shirt colors.  Then, I went through my jewelry to see what I had that matched the clothing I wear to work.  Finally, I got out my jewelry making supplies and made some earrings to go with some outfits that didn't really have earrings that went with them.  I have my hair cut short these days, so my earrings really show.  It will be nice to have a few new ones...but I may have gone a bit overboard.  (It was too much fun!)  I have purchased most of my beads, findings, etc. at yard sales or on clearance, and some of the materials are from broken jewelry as well.  I used to work at a community college, and we were permitted to take one class per semester tuition free.  I took a jewelry and metalwork class one semester, and learned some things that are helpful to this day.  Pinterest is a great place for inspiration, too!  Daughter also designed and made this necklace, whose theme is 'nature'.

When I went to Goodwill, I stopped at King Soopers (our Kroger affiliate) to pick up the Free Friday Download items from the past two weeks - some organic tortilla chips (blue corn, my favorite!) and a can of refried beans.  Husband had loaded a $1 off coupon to the loyalty card for Goodness Knows snack bites.  They were on sale for $1, so I also got one of those for free.  They are a nice little treat for Daughter's lunch.

I tried a new recipe that is a definite keeper.  Have you ever heard of Olga's Restaurant?  I had not, but apparently, this recipe is a copycat for the flatbread that they serve.  Soft, slightly sweet pillows of deliciousness....yes, please!  I will likely make it with less honey in the future, and we will use it for gorditas, some Turkish sandwiches we like to make, and possibly even mini-pizzas.  It was really easy to make, and the only changes I made were to use butter instead of margarine, and I added 1/2 tablespoon of wheat gluten.

We have a lifetime warranty on the faucets in our home.  Husband called a while back about replacement parts, which arrived this week, so we replaced the parts and got things back in proper working order.  It is really nice to have the minor repairs taken care of.

We borrowed books and media from the library.  I listened to some free online podcasts as well.

I made some suet cakes.  I'll be posting the how-to soon.  We also tied out some millet and a sunflower head that we grew in the border of our garden last year.

Husband recently signed up for Ibotta.  He is liking it, especially all the new-comer incentives they have.  In addition to the new-user stuff, you can load offers to your account to get rebates on things you buy at the store.  For example, he loaded 50 cents off bananas, bought a pound of bananas, and then got the rebate so that they were only 6 cents.  If you have been thinking of trying Ibotta, here is his link (if you use his link, you still get all the benefits you would have gotten plus you can earn an extra $10, and he gets a bonus too - thanks!)

We are allowed to wear jeans sometimes at the library where I work.  I prefer to wear darker ones that look newer.  This pair has gotten a bit faded.  You cannot really tell from the photo, but this black and white sweater, which I've had for about 5 years now, has gotten...faded?  The black looks a little brown-ish in the sunlight.  It's not a pretty color.  I put both of them into the washer with hot water, on the small size load, with a cup of salt.  After a large load rinse, then a second rinse and time in the dryer, they look like this.

I took the 'before' photo at night and the 'after' photo with daylight...that is not helpful for seeing the actual difference, but hopefully you can tell that the jeans are more blue, and the sweater does not have that brown tinge it had before.  I'm happy with the outcome.  I don't usually use the dryer, but it does seem to help the dye 'set' into the fabric better.  For the rest of the week, we used drying racks in the basement to dry our clothing.

I mended a couple of stuffed animals.

Daughter earned enough piano practice points to get a raven mask (given to me by a co-worker after Halloween) from the awards basket.  She used some scrap fabric (with my permission) to make a no-sew 'costume' to go with the mask.  She is really happy with it, and I'm excited that she is taking more interest in artistic things, and in making things.

On that note, Daughter and I attended a free library program, "Watercolor Basics".  It was a lot of fun, and we got to practice several techniques.  We both did little mini paintings and had a really nice time.

I took lunch to work, and Daughter took lunch to school all week.

How did you do with frugal accomplishments this week?  What did you do to spend less, save more, and make do?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gift Giving

My daughter recently brought me a present.  I love presents!

She was at the library, saw this book, thought I would like it, so she got it for me.

I am almost done reading it, and it has been a HOOT!  I keep nodding whilst I'm reading.

When I'm done, I will take it back to the library, so someone else can have a turn.

The gift wasn't posession of the book.  It was my kidlet's thoughtfulness, seeing a book she thought I would enjoy, and sharing it to me.  I won't need this book anymore after I've read it - I will have enjoyed it, and then it can move along for someone else to enjoy.

Sometimes gifts are physical things that we make or buy and give to someone for keeps.  Sometimes, though, gifts are a kindness - time spent with a friend,  doing a chore for a family member, or bringing your mom a book she is likely to enjoy.  It's not the money spent, or the size, or the status of the item.  It really, truly is the thought that counts.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cents-Able Menu - Week of January 16

Hello, Lovelies!  I hope your week is off to a good start!  Martin Luther King Day is a holiday for everyone in our family, so we have an extra day together to enjoy one another's company.  I especially love Monday holidays, because they are followed by a short work week!

As is typical, our menu showcases items from our pantry combined with fresh items that were on sale this week.  Fresh green beans were .88/lb, and we are having those.  We don't usually have fresh green beans out of season, but at that price, we decided we'd get some.  We also have red pepper (.88/ea), onion (.49/lb), and sour cream (1.10/16oz.)  Plain carrots (we peel them and make carrot sticks ourselves) are always a bargain, and celery was .98/bunch last week, so we got some at the end of the sale week.

Combined with other fresh produce purchased previously, along with items from our freezer and pantry, here is our dinner plan for this week.  There is an extra Sunday listed here, so that moving forward, I can post Monday-Sunday:

S - homemade chicken (turkey breast, actually) nuggets and oven fries, carrots and celery w/ranch, apple slices
M - sausage/potato/green bean bake (sheet pan meal), fruit salad
T - homemade tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, sliced apples
W - marinated grilled chicken, rainbow pasta with garlic-butter sauce, sauteed green beans, sliced oranges
R - pulled pork sandwiches, homemade slaw, sliced apples
F - homemade chili, rice or crackers, carrots and celery, sliced oranges
S - chicken fajitas, Mexican rice, lettuce-tomato salad
S - grilled hamburgers, oven fries, carrots and celery, fresh fruit

What's on your menu this week, and what are you finding on sale in your stores?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Frugal Accomplishments for the Week

We took the last home-made suet block from the freezer this week.  Now that both molds are free, I can make two more blocks.

We have been enjoying the birds at our feeder - this is a Downy Woodpecker.  There was some fruit in the back of the fridge at work that no one else wanted to take home (it is all a little shriveled).  I would make applesauce with it, but we already have a lot, so we are trying out our new-to-us thrift store bird feeder.  I am suspecting that if the birds don't make their move soon, the deer will enjoy the apple.

We are having wintery weather (which is fair...considering it is winter), so I have had more indoor time to work on various creative projects that I enjoy.  This week I made some more birthday cards to use at work, along with a few for at-home use.  I made cards for some other occasions as well, such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.  As I mentioned last week, I was recently given a great many paper crafting supplies, so these items were made from supplies I had on hand, with no new outlay of cash.  Pinterest is a great place to get ideas, then I adapt them to the supplies available.

Daughter and I also attended a free library program called "Open Art".  There are all sorts of supplies available to use, and you may create whatever you like from them.  (From the library side of things, it's a way for us to use the odds and ends left from various programs - things we dont' want to throw away, but there is not enough of the item left for another program.)  It was a fun way to spend some time together!  I used some fabric, some adhesive vinyl, and a sharpie to make this picture.  There was a girl at the program who really liked the bird, so with her mother's permission, we gave it to her.

We did some scratch cooking at home this week and tried a couple of new recipes.  Our dinner menu for the week is listed here.  I found wheat bran in a bulk bin at Sprouts for only .89 a pound, so this week I made a batch of bran muffins.  They are tasty, and keep us full for quite a while.  I also made a batch of blueberry muffins, because the bran muffins disappeared rather quickly.  A few days later, a second batch of bran muffins, with some alterations while I'm tweaking the recipe (first batch, a little too wet, this batch, a little too dry - we'll get there!)  It was muffin week, for sure!

I packed my lunch for work, with the exception of one day, when I used a coupon and some of my allowance to get a 6" sub from Subway.  I just got the sandwich, and provided my own side and drink from home.  Daughter took lunch from home all week!

I cut this 'cheese' pumpkin in half, baked it and then puree'd the flesh.  We will use it for soup, muffins, pumpkin bread and pumpkin custard (the filling from a pumpkin pie, but without a crust).  This pumpkin, along with one more just like it (but larger) were given to me after we were done using them as decoration at the library where I work.

Husband made energy bites and incorporated  some odds and ends into them - they are quite tasty!

Last week I made a list of all the things I wanted to grow in the garden.  This week, I went through our seed stash, and this year, all I need to get is some seed potatoes.  I also found some saved seeds from my four-o-clocks and nasturtiums, so I added those to my flower seeds.  Our safe date to plant outdoors is end of May, so it's a little early yet to start seedlings.  I will spend the next couple weeks gathering supplies for seedling starts.

I finished a novel I checked out from the library.  I really, really enjoyed the story.  I will probably write a review/recommendation for the book to be posted to the library district's website.  I also borrowed some books on folk art design and tips for moving closer to a zero-waste kitchen, along with a book of vegan recipes.  While I don't think I will ever be vegan, I like to incorporate different types of cooking, and I've picked up some good ideas that we will try.

We checked out some nature documentaries and beginner's yoga videos from the library as well.

I made fruit punch this week, and used the drained syrup from some home-canned plums and a can of mandarin oranges as part of the sweetener.

Daughter will be attending a birthday party soon - we made a card and re-used a gift bag and tissue that we had saved.  (I also made two cards like this for my own card stash.)

What did you do this week that was Cents-Able?  Share your Frugal Accomplishments in the comments!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cents-Able Breakfasts - Blueberry Muffins

We really like muffins - they are a tasty, portable way to start the day.  They make a great after-school snack as well.  Muffins are not expensive to make, especially if ingredients are purchased on sale or in bulk...or even grown at home!  Here is one of our favorites.  You can click for the printable version of this recipe at the bottom of this posting.

Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins

Blueberries are generally expensive, and they do not grow well here.  I noticed this past summer that our Dollar Tree sells 10 oz. bags of USA-sourced frozen blueberries.  We tried them, liked them a lot, and now I keep some in the freezer for these muffins and a few other tasty treats.  One 10 oz. bag is enough for two batches of this muffin recipe, plus a few extra for snacking.  The photos in this post are of a batch I made with some whole wheat flour and coconut sugar, so they are darker in color.  See the "variations" at the bottom of this post for details.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil (if you use coconut oil, melt it before proceeding with recipe)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (we use frozen)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F/205 degrees C.  Line 12 standard-size muffin cups with paper liners or grease muffin cups thoroughly (we use paper liners).

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, whisk together until items are evenly mixed.  

Add vegetable oil to a measuring cup that holds 1 cup.  

Add egg and vanilla to oil...

...then add milk to the 1 cup measure line.  

Add wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine - do not over-mix.  Batter will be quite thick.  (Note:  The batter should be a thick batter, not a dough.  If it is too thick, stir in milk, a tablespoon at a time.)  

Gently fold blueberries into the batter.  

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter evently between the muffin cups.  

If you used fresh blueberries, these muffins will be baked in approximately 15 mintues.  If you used frozen blueberries, they will take approximately 20 minutes.  They should be lightly browned on top, and a toothpick inserted near the center of one of the muffins should come out clean.  

If you used paper liners, remove muffins from pan and cool on a rack.  If you greased the muffin cups, let the muffins cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing.  Enjoy!

If you would like a blueberry-lemon muffin, use lemon extract (not lemon juice) in place of the vanilla extract, and add a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest, if you have it.  

You can sprinkle the tops of the muffins (before baking) with a bit of sugar to make a crunchy topping.  This is great for muffins you plan to serve right away, but the sugar tends to draw moisture from the muffins (and this makes the sugar topping wet, instead of crunchy) if you store them.

Often, I substitute 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup, slightly rounded, of whole wheat pastry flour for the 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.  I have also used coconut sugar in place of the granulated sugar.  The muffins are darker in color, but more filling, and still quite good!

You can substitute another similarly-sized, moist berry for the blueberries, such as strawberries or raspberries that have been chopped to a smaller size.

Blueberry Muffins Recipe Printable