Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Update - Mustard Greens, Baby Carrots and Spinach

The mustard greens didn't grow as big, or as much, as I thought they would but nevertheless they did good!  I pulled out all 3 of them today.  We tested out one of the carrots to see how big it was so far, they still have another week or two till they are ready to harvest.  It tasted so good!  I've found that our organic garden produce tastes better than anything I've ever tasted from the store.  We also got our final bowl of spinach before I pulled them up.

I have a lot of empty squares in my garden and we are thinking about planting a lot more carrots, leaf lettuce and then finally getting our tomato plants and maybe some summer plants like squash, peppers, etc.  The weather is just not as hot as I would like it to be for tomato plants but I may go ahead and get them and pray it warms up around here!

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Bev's Homemade Salsa for the Freezer

I've made salsa in the past with fresh garden tomatoes but I wanted an easier and cheaper way and then I came across something online that said Mexican restaurants use canned tomatoes.  Since my family doesn't like chunks in their salsa but likes it the way the Mexican restaurants usually make it (soupy), I decided to try it out and see how it would go.  It turned out SO good!

Bev's Mild Homemade Salsa

4 cups diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1/2 onion diced
1t dried cilantro
1/2t salt
1/4t pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce

Place all the ingredients in order as listed above in a blender, blend till smooth - for my Bosch blender, it only takes me a few pulses and its all done.

My family doesn't like hot or spicy salsa, so I make it mild as above.  If you want to liven it up a bit, throw in some jalapenos.  You can also use distilled vinegar and red pepper flakes in the place of the Tabasco.  I was going to add in lime but I didn't have any on hand.

If you want to thicken the salsa, add tomato paste to reach desired consistency.  To make it chunkier, pulse only once in the blender.  You can also add in some bell peppers.

So after my trial batch, I ended up making more until my huge can of diced tomatoes was gone.  I made 2 for the fridge and 3 for the freezer with 8 cups of diced tomatoes.  Since we buy organic salsa, this is WAY cheaper to make it organic at home.  My freezer is still able to fit all these sauces in there, thanks to the stackable freezer jars and ziploc bags!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Facebook - Opening Yourself Up To.........

Such a heartbreaking story but one we hear so much of lately.  I like how the lawyer stated that what you have online is in ink, not pencil - once you put certain things out there, its out there.  I know many women that are caught up in Facebook and live in filthy houses, have unsatisfied husbands and neglected children.  It's the height of selfishness - where its all about YOU.  Don't set the temptation before you would be wisdom speaking.........

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Garden Update - 7-8 weeks

It's been just barely over 7 weeks now since I planted seeds and we have had quite the success with gardening this year!  After trying out Mel's soil mix, I wouldn't go back - it is so great to see things actually grow and harvest them.  I suppose I have a green thumb or two now thanks to Mel and his book!  This has been the best year I've ever had gardening.  We have had a continuous supply of spinach to eat every week now for 3 weeks!  We harvested all of the broccoli today as it got really hot and one bolted slightly.

Now, to choose what I'm going to plant for summer and what will I put in the broccoli's place? I never did plant my potatoes as they just didn't look right for seed potatoes. Then my tomato plants never made it on the delivery truck and no one knows what happened, oh well - I will do some research and go shopping for summer crops seeing how summer actually came today! ;-)

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Friday, June 17, 2011

June-September Freezer Cooking Meal Plan

Last month was a trial month for freezer cooking bean meals, salmon, etc.  It went really well, except for the fact that hubby and I are burnt out on salmon!  Even though we only had it once a week, we just got tired of it, so I'm nixing it off the menu.  My 3-month freezer cooking cycles have gone very well over the past year, so I'm excited to get this summer's meals done!  The great part is, since we only eat meat on weekends, I don't have to buy much because we stocked up on beans for the year.  I can't wait to see how this all turns out this cycle!

Spaghetti x 13
Pizza x 12
Lasagna x 12
Chicken Divan x 12
Tofu Pie x 2
Tofu Nuggets
Israeli Couscous Lentil Dish x 12
BBQ Sloppy Lentils x 4
Chili & Cornbread x 3
Lentil Meatloaf x 4
Black Bean Burgers x 2
Marinara Garbanzos on Couscous x 2
Southwest Mac n' Cheese x 2
Black Bean Fajitas

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do my freezer cooking this past week as I was ill but I'm starting to feel better and hoping I will be well enough to do it this coming week starting on Monday.  I already planned all my meals and bought everything I need, so all that is left to do is the prep plan and cooking day plans and the actual cooking.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Calendar Planning for 3-month Freezer Cooking

I thought this might help someone by showing you how I plan with my calendar.  For this 3-month cycle, I need meals from June 13-September 12.  I have a yearly calendar at-a-glance that I printed off the internet that I use for this.  First, I delete any days that I will not need meals for.  This cycle, I have about a week I don't need to cook for because of vacation, so that eliminates 6 days.  I count the total days from June 13-Sept. 12 minus the 6 and I see that I need 86 meals.  Here is the math:

92 days between June 13-Sept. 12
- 6 days vacation
86 days of meals needed

Next, I count how many Tuesdays and Fridays there are between those dates and subtract those because we have spaghetti and pizza on those days and I pretty much have almost all the sauce made already.

86 days of meals needed
-13 Tuesdays of spaghetti
-12 Fridays of pizza
61 days of meals left

Now, I count how many weekends (Sat & Sun) I have and subtract those because we have a meat casserole on those days.  For instance, I will have a 9x13 lasagna and bake it on Saturday and we eat the leftovers on Sunday so I don't have to cook on Sundays.  So since I have 12 weekends, I will need 12 casseroles, which equal out to 24 meals or days.

61 days of meals left
-24 meals (12 casseroles)
37 days of meals left

Lastly, I don't really have to count how many Mon, Wed and Thursdays because I know there are going to be 37 due to my math above.  But to be accurate, I go ahead and see I have 13 Mondays, 12 Wednesdays and 12 Thursdays which equal 37 days.

This cycle, I decided I'm only going to do the weekend casseroles monthly since I only have 4 9x13 pans.  So I will make 4 and then when those are gone, I will shop and cook again for the casseroles.

All I need to make besides extra sauce for spaghetti and pizza 37 meals!  Those will be all meatless since we only eat meat on weekends and the casseroles are done monthly.  So the next step I do is recipe searching for some meatless meals to fill up those 37 days.

Here is how it looks weekly:

Monday - meatless
Tuesday - spaghetti
Wednesday - meatless
Thursday- meatless
Friday - pizza
Saturday - casserole
Sunday - casserole leftovers

So with weekends and Tuesdays and Fridays taken care of, I really only need to plan out Mon, Wed and Thursday meals, thus the 37.

Hope that helped show you how I brainstorm a bit more!

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Freezer Meal & Batch Cooking Recipe Reviews #5

This past month, we tried out several new recipes as we have ventured into more of Mediterranean diet.  We both really like having meat only on weekends, using only grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic-free beef and chicken.  If you think there is no difference in the taste of a grain-fed vs. grass-fed cow, then you haven't ever tried it!  We all were giving exclamations of yums with the first taste of the grass-fed beef!  It is amazing and so was the chicken.

  1. Curried Israeli Couscous & Lentil Pilaf - this is so good, hubby wants it every week now!  The cayenne pepper gave it a subtle spicy kick, and then the raisins gave it a sweet kick.  All the while the couscous and lentils gave it a soft feel but the almonds gave it a crunch.  Freezed really well - even when I didn't do the quick-thaw, it wasn't mushy!
  2. Crockpot Sloppy Lentils - Very good but hubby requests it be more bbq-y.  I loved it and it will probably be a staple now!  I doubled the recipe in the crockpot.  Freezed well after using quick-thaw.
  3. Salmon Bake - very good but we got tired of salmon fast.
  4. Salmon Noodle Casserole - it was ok but like I said above, we are a bit tired of salmon!
  5. Tofu Veggie Pie - surprisingly this was delicious and everyone liked it!  I served it with homemade cornbread and it went perfectly together.  I didn't freeze this because I don't "think" you can freeze tofu so I didn't try.  It lasted us 2 meals.

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Garden Update - 6 weeks

It is so amazing that every morning I go out to check the garden, most of the things are bigger!  I've really enjoyed gardening this year, although there is bad with the good - ants, slugs, etc.  I've learned to not get so scared of the pests and I need to get a net for our strawberries because the birds have been hanging out by the garden lately.

Notice the spinach and how much it has grown since I picked it off last week!  We have some empty squares in our garden because our 4 tomato plants never did make it on the truck order for some reason, so I still have to buy those and then decide on if I'm going to plant garlic and potatoes and then I'm also going to plant marigolds in each garden bed.  We have to get a wire cage for the sugar snap peas to grow up through as they are growing faster than I thought they would!  The broccoli head is getting bigger everyday as well and I'm amazed how well they did.  The kale and mustard greens are growing fast but the poor leaf lettuce is SO slow, although its just been 6 weeks since I planted seeds for most things - the spinach really is the fastest of them all.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

1st Harvest - Spinach!

Spinach is a spring and fall crop, so the cool weather we had the past 5 weeks really benefited the spinach!  I planted the seeds 5 weeks ago and today I have a bowl full!  We will probably have more by next week, seeing how its going to be rainy and cooler but when it reaches past 75 it will probably go to seed and then we will replant something else in its spot for summer - possibly peppers or garlic.  Then come fall, we will do spinach again.

FYI: You only clip the outer leaves - leaving the inner ones because it just keeps growing.  If you don't clip and wait for the entire spinach to grow, it might be bitter (the outer leaves).  The best thing from what I've read is to snip as soon as you can.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to Be Frugal Without Extreme Couponing

I got a lot of feedback for my post on "Extreme Couponing".  I also understand that some honestly do not know how to feed their families without coupons on a frugal budget.  Besides the most important step - praying and seeking God in decisions with your home management - I wanted to share a few basic tips on how I've done this over years without coupons.  I have already went over a lot of the stuff in the 5 years I've done this blog, but for those who may be new and not reviewed my over-1000-posts LOL, hopefully this can help you and your family.

  1. Pray & Have Faith!  - you have not because you ask not really sums it all up doesn't it?  Since when is praying to God for wisdom and help in our budgets and meal planning not important?  Since women thought they could do a better job than God with their own abilities.  Realizing that you need the Lord in this area will open the door for the Almighty to show you wondrous things!  I've watched my flour bin keep lasting when it was supposed to be empty.  I just kept scooping and another scoop would come out and I knew it had to be God.  Then there was our maple syrup jar that miraculous filled itself back up about 1/4 of the way!  Don't tell me that God still doesn't things like this today because you came too late!!
  2. Plan for the Month - planning for the month will bring success in your meal planning.  Not only are you prepared, but you save money overall and you go to the store less, which in turn, saves money because you aren't tempted to buy things you don't need!  If you don't have a plan, you have no idea what you are doing or need and you will spend more money and time!
  3. Stock up on Staple Items - having 6-months to a year of a stockpile of items that you always need/use can be beneficial because you usually get a deal when you buy in bulk and you don't have to buy these items but once or twice a year and that opens up more money each month in your budget!  We stock up through Azure Organic Farm on things like: flours, rice, oats, beans, canned tomato products, lemon juice, mustard, spices/seasonings, etc.  You can also stockpile non-grocery items that you know you buy every month like: deodorant, hair products, toilet paper, teeth products, cleaning products, etc.  Once you have a good pantry going, you only need to purchase perishable items each month like meat, cheese, eggs, fruits and vegetables, etc.  I explain more about how I do this at the bottom of this post.
  4. Keep a Price Book - I normally keep a price list from various stores and update it each month, that way I know where I can get items I buy cheapest.  I shop from 3 grocery stores and sometimes 4 but remember, this is only ONCE a month for my big grocery trip!  I shop from the butcher once every 3 months for my meats for freezer-cooking, so I'm not running around town every week (unless of course I want to for fun lol).  I do go weekly to get bananas and milk or food-craving items or items for fellowships.
  5. Make Your Own - this is probably one of the biggest areas you will see savings in, just make your own!  Especially if you buy only organic, making your own will save you a lot of money, but even if you don't eat organic - most things are cheaper homemade, also healthier!  Getting away from processed/packaged food will also benefit you because homemade tastes better and you won't be so hungry because its usually more filling as well.  Years ago, I started making my own products, bit by bit and today I make my own: bread, tortillas, spaghetti and pizza sauces, salsa, hummus, pizza, ketchup, BBQ sauce, granola bars, desserts, and on and on.  I actually just added in salsa and hummus homemade this month - I used to make fresh salsa from my garden a few years ago but haven't since then and this month I'm making it in bulk and freezing it!
  6. Choose Frugal Recipes - this is one area that most people don't think about.  Choosing recipes is just as important as all the other steps.  If you are using a recipe that calls for all these exotic, hard-to-find items, then how much are you spending to make that one meal?  I like simple, easy recipes that taste good.  I bypass most recipes that have hard-to-pronounce ingredients most of the time lol - although, sometimes I do venture out and try one but simplicity is something I go for.

We just got our most recent Azure Farm order and some from Amazon:

You will notice we have a LOT of tomato products lol - that is because I make my own spaghetti and pizza sauces for 3 months at a time and then this month, doing the salsa as well and the leftovers from the cans go in recipes that call for those items.  We are eating more beans now since we changed our diet to a more Mediterranean style (which we are loving by the way!), so I stocked up on the beans we are using.  I stocked up on Masa, which is the corn flour that is used to make corn tortillas and more as you can see.  The 2 cans of oil are organic olive oil from Spain and this is our first time trying it out after hearing good things about it.

I use food-grade, BPA-free plastic 5-gallon buckets to store our food with gamma-sealed lids that make it air-tight.  I've NEVER had a bug in my food in these buckets!  I'm not going to spend my money to have my food go bad and go to the bugs, so to speak lol.  We now have 11 buckets and can you believe we use them all? They are easy to store as well - they stack!

I also wanted to tell you guys about the great program that Amazon offers.  It is called "Subscribe & Save."  You find an item your family uses regularly, and you get 15% off by subscribing.  You can subscribe to receive that item every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months.  They only charge you when it ships and you can cancel your subscription to an item at any time.  We are using it more and more and finding it is very cheap for most things and I'm saving a lot since using their program!

Hope some of that helps you and your family, happy savings!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garden Update - Spinach, Lettuce, Carrots and Onions

The spinach is really growing and we will most likely have enough to clip off for a salad next week! The leaf lettuce is growing finally.  The carrots are doing well and flowering and then the onions are still growing and looking good, although a few didn't make it.

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