Archive for category Homemaking

Home Made Yogurt in the Crock Pot

I have been kicking around this idea for a long time. I want to make yogurt at home, but haven’t had the time time mess around with finding the right container and and heat source combo. I can’t believe i didn’t think of this.

The basic idea for making yogurt is:

  • Heat the milk to 160F.
  • Add yogurt cultures from live yogurt to the existing heated milk.
  • Maintain the heat for about 8 hours.

This seems like a great way to do it.

Check out Corrie Haffly’s video on doing just that. If you would like to see the entire story, see here.

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Chores you can do in 30 Seconds

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Photo Credit: chefranden

I found this earlier this week, and thought that while it is a departure from thinking about frugality in terms of dollars and cents, it brings up another facet of frugality that I often see overlooked: frugality with time. Yes, time is money.

Sometimes, it’s really easy to overlook how much you can squeeze out of just a few minutes. When looking at a task, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the surrounding tasks. Next time you walk by one of these tasks, give it a try. Focus on nothing else but the small task, and see how much easier the big picture is.


So, check out About.com ‘s take on 30 Second Chores.

I am mentally debating focusing a few more articles on frugality of time. Let me know if you think this is a good idea.

What’s on Sale Right Now?

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Photo: rakspassion

Some Background

This is just an idea that I have been kicking around. I think it might have legs. I actually searched for two whole minutes to see if it had already been done. I found one, but it wasn’t what I really liked. Rather than bore you all with a design spec, I will tell a little story.

I’ll Tell you a Story

This evening, I was cleaning up my office, and I realized that I needed some plastic storage totes. I see them all the time in sales circulars for dirt cheap at local stores. Unfortunately, I don’t remember when I saw them last. I don’t know which store. I do know that I can find the flyers online, and go through each of them. Although it’s totally awesome to be able to get all the flyers at once, this still seems like only half a solution.

After mulling this around, I decided to go ahead just buy them at the first place I hit tomorrow, and dream up a solution in the meantime.

A Possible Solution – In English


Wouldn’t it be great if there was a website that did the following?

  1. Pull all the sales flyers and circulars from the internet.
  2. Index them.
  3. Allow users to search those indices based on geographical location.

For instance, I need plastic containers. My profile would know where I live, and spit out a listing of all plastic containers in my area. I could also do the same search with “pork chops”, “oranges” or whatever.

That way, I could quickly find the best deal at the time on the items I am looking for. For things I buy all the time, like milk, I could set up an alert that would tell me where milk goes on sale each week.

While I am still in the “I’m thinking out loud” mode, I really think this could be done. Sadly, it would take more than just one guy (me) to do this. I could handle the coding, but not the design or the social engineering of the site. If you are interested in what I am talking about, read the next section.

A Possible Solution – In Dork

Just about everything about this site is simple. No one is going to bust a brain stem on this. There is, however, some work that would need to be done.

Without doing much homework, I am guessing that most store sites (CVS, Walgreen, and the like) do not have an RSS feed of their weekly sales. I don’t really have any interest in figuring out where the sites host their sales, then either scraping their site, or indexing their pdf (well, this might not be too bad.. yeah.. it will). Meanwhile, you would have to monitor each site for any changes in how the code their sites and where they store their info (yick!). It might be better to work out a deal with the store to get access to an RSS feed. I would imagine that the companies would be more than happy to sit down and hear out the pluses on them doing such a thing.

The other problem is that, once a deal is struck and the RSS feed is a reality, anyone else could step in and do the same thing. I also don’t know how I would feel about getting exclusive rights to an RSS feed. That just feels sleazy to me. Be that as it may, I still have bills to pay, and have to have some income coming in. On the other hand, the site could rely on ad revenue.

Anyway, I am still thinking out loud, but I would love to open a discussion on this, and possibly make it a reality with the help of one or two other people.

Let me know what you think.

Home Cooking – Does it pay?

Some Background

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photo: NuriKharah

Okay, over the past few weeks, I have been flooded with requests for my meatball recipe. To type this thing up, I have to find time to sit in front of my computer, open up a text editor, and bang away. I have decided that while I am at it, I might as well write an article I have been promising myself that I would write soon.

If all you’re looking for is the recipe, it’s at the bottom of this article. Feel free to scroll past the breakdown.

How Much to Dine Out?

The main reason I wanted to look into this is that I saw a story on TV stating that it was cheaper to eat out than to cook dinner. In all reality, they were eating at drive throughs and buying off the dollar menu, but it really did make me wonder how much it cost to feed my family a good nutritious meal. My test meal? Spaghetti, meatballs, and garlic bread.

Having had such a meal in restaurants infinity times, I let’s break this down for a family of four:

Entree$9.99
Drink$1.75
Total$11.74

For four: $46.96 + $9 (tip) = $55.96

This excludes dessert and grown up drinks. Add those, and your bill can really skyrocket.

How much to cook in?

Let’s price out the recipe below. Your mileage may vary, but I am gonna say you should have enough for dinner one night, and lunch for someone the next day (we cage match over the leftovers.. just sayin..).


Spaghetti – 1lb$1.09
Green Bell Pepper$0.50
Onion$0.30
Can of Sauce$1.20
Sausage$1.50
Ground Beef$1.50
Eggs$0.17
Tomato Paste$0.15
Parmesan$0.30
French Bread$0.63 *
Total$7.34

*I am making the assumption that you are making bread from scratch, according to an old post I wrote on baking. This also includes a whole full sized loaf of bread.

So, let’s pretend we are being really tight, and we go through the drive through, and everyone gets one item. This would be a total of $3.96. In other words, for $3.38 cents more, the family could eat a great meal.

Let’s also pretend that instead of eating leftovers tomorrow, that one person bought another burger for lunch. That means it’s only $2.39 more. If, at any time two people want fries, the difference is now only 41 cents.

So, eating off the dollar menu doesn’t sound so good anymore does it?

Conclusion

while feeding everyone (1) one dollar hamburger might sound cheaper up front, it’s really only marginally cheaper, and horrifyingly less nutritious.

Post Conclusion – Is this doable?

The big question that people are going to ask: where do I get the three hours to cook? The quick answer would be to make a triple batch, split it into three parts, and freeze two of those parts. Then, at mealtime, all you have to do is thaw, boil some noodles, and eat!
There are more solutions, but we can hit them in a later article.

The Meatball Recipe

Okay, here goes. The first part is for the sauce, the second is for the meatballs. This is the base recipe. It will easily feed four people. You can multiply this recipe from here.

The Sauce

  • One half green bell pepper, chopped
  • One half white onion, chopped.
  • One clove of garlic.
  • Half a teaspoon of fennel seed
  • A sprinkle of cayenne.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1 15 oz can of your favorite sauce – I use Hunt’s.

Into a blop of olive oil, toss the fennel seeds. Heat until they start to sizzle. Toss in the peppers and onions. Enjoy the smell! As soon as the onions start to go translucent, toss in the garlic. Cook for about thirty seconds, stirring. Drop in your can of sauce. Lower the heat and cook covered, as this stuff will splatter on your kitchen and clothes and make a mess.

The Meatballs

While your sauce is heating, hit this:

  • Half Pound of Italian Sausage
  • Half Pound of Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 water
  • Half a small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 Parmesan. Get real parmesan and grate it. Not out of a can!!

Mix the sausage and the hamburger together. Mix it well. You can do it by hand, I use the paddle on my stand mixer. When mixed, add the rest of the ingredients. Mix only well enough to combine everything. Don’t mix the hell out of it. Just make sure everything is well combined.

Using wet hands, make egg sized (but round) meatballs, and place them into the sauce. Make sure they are all covered.

Simmer for about 45 minutes with NO STIRRING. This will allow the meatballs to form without getting mushy. Cook another hour and a half or so.

Enjoy!

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The Frugal Pantry – Kick the Can Game

Some Background

While watching the news the other day, I ran across a story of a woman who decided that, besides milk, she would not go to the grocery store for a month. Her family would eat everything that had accumulated in the refrigerator, pantry, and freezer for the month. The endgame was, she ended up saving $800 in grocery bills that month.

At first glance, it sounded like a neat idea, but I quickly remembered that I have been doing the frugal kitchen thing for quite some time, and did not have endless stockpiles of Hungry Man meals at my disposal. I let the idea drop.

Until.

Looking into my pantry, I realized that it was overflowing with purchases that I had made without really thinking. I also had things stuffed into corners of the pantry that were picked up by a more impulsive shopping partner. My whole kitchen could maybe make three meals, tops, but the accumulation of canned kitsch was impressive.

I decided that the herd of cans and packets needed to be thinned. Not like a lion casing the joint for a wobbly zebra, but a slower and more complex hunt. It was on.

Some Definitions

Fumbling through my dusty pile, I realized that there were only a few categories that these cans fit in:

  • I’d Hit That! – These are foods that I really would eat. I usually forget that I have them in the house, so I buy them again. And again. Cans of tomato paste, tomato sauce, italian sauce, green beans. You get the idea. Anything you would possibly eat (even if it’s at 2AM after last call) goes in this category.
  • No Way, Jose – These are the things no one in your house would touch. Some leftovers from out of town visitors, an ex flame who had this thing for cans of pickled hobbit knuckles, canned okra. That kind of food goes in this category.
  • Expired – Yes, even modern food preservation techniques can’t be stretched into eternity. Sooner or later, your pickled beets will be magically transformed into purple botulism death.

Armed with these definitions, the rules are simple.

Rules of the Game

Here’s where it gets interesting.

While you are making your artful frugal grocery list , each meal must address one of those mystery cans.

Take a good hard look at your shelves, and pick one can for each day. Once you do this for a week, you might even want to do two cans a day. Take that one can, and categorize it:

  • I’d Hit That! – This can goes into one of your meals. Craft your menu around using that can for a meal. Hit a few cans of soup for lunch, and you can save a pile of money!
  • No Way, Jose! – While canned smoked ox tongue may sound horrible to you, chances are that if they made a whole canning factory to put said tongues into said cans, someone out there thinks this is a delicacy. Put this in a box. This box is destined for charity. There are probably several charities in your town which would gladly take your cast offs.
  • Expired! – Well, do us all a favor and throw this out.

Do this for a few weeks, and watch your pantry become magically cleaner!

Endgame

Since I no longer stockpile my refrigerator or freezer with unnecessary purchases, they are both in good shape. If you are new to restraining from rote and impulse grocery shopping, you might want to play this same game with your refrigerator.

It beats the pants of cleaning everything all at once, and I think it encourages some actual thought before randomly pitching things.

Advanced Game

For those of you who think I am a little overboard in my descriptions about things you may find in your kitchen, take a look at one of my favorite blogs, Steve, Don’t Eat It! .

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