Friday, March 17, 2017
You've heard me say it before, "More than grocery sales and re-sales shops, a frugal lifestyle encompasses avoiding waste in all it's forms". That's why today's Frugal Feasting Friday post is about using up something most will pour down the drain.
We consume fresh milk that is not pasteurized or homogenized. Non pasteurized milk only lasts about 10 days under refrigeration. Although we date the milk, my family does not always pay attention to the date sticker on the lid and will bring the gallon jars up from the basement out of order. Thus, sometimes I will find a gallon that has turned. That's exactly what happened this past week. There is no way I can bring myself to pouring an entire gallon of milk down the drain, even if it is soured. So, I decided to have a baking day. Yes, a baking day ... Soured milk is the perfect substitute for buttermilk in any baking recipe. Best of all, these baked goods freeze well and re-heat in a jiffy. With Farmer Boy's 6:30 AM Driver's Ed classes, these pre-prepared breakfast foods will be a blessed time saver.
Hotcakes, Blueberry & Apple Cinnamon Muffins, and Coffee Cake
Sour Milk Muffins
1 1/2 c. sour milk
1 c. vegetable oil
4 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
6 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms of muffin tins. Mix together sour milk, vegetable oil and eggs. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add liquid ingredients to dry. Mix until just combined. Evenly divide batter among muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.
Variations - Blueberry Muffins: Fold in 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberry to batter. Apple Cinnamon Muffins: Add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon to dry ingredients. Fold in 2 grated apples (including skins) to batter.
Makes 2 dozen muffins.
Sour Milk Coffee Cake
5 c. flour
2 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 c. sour milk
1 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 8"x8"x8" baking pans. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl mix together oil, eggs and sour milk. Add wet ingredients to dry; mix well. Evenly divide batter between baking pans. To prepare strudel topping, combine all ingredients cutting in butter. Sprinkle strudel topping evenly over each cake. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done.
Makes 3 8x8x8 cakes
Having a baking day utilized sour milk that many would simply pour down the drain. By freezing everything I will also save time over then next couple weeks. Time is often the most precious of resources for our busy lives. Remember to always cool your baked goods completely before freezing them.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Although much of the food our family consumes is home grown or wild harvested, there are some things we purchase from the local grocer. For instance, I love chicken breasts and thighs, but I'd have to butcher 2 dual purpose hens (and loose 2 egg layers) anytime I wanted to cook a recipe that utilizes only chicken breasts, or thighs. For this reason, I keep an eye out for one of those really good "three time per year" sales that is available in our area on chicken breasts and thighs. I also utilize the "reduced for quick sale" bins for convenience foods that are discounted by 60% - 90%.
Utilizing the 3 time per year chicken breasts & thighs sales, the "reduced for quick sale" bin, and homegrown broccoli and tomatoes, today's Frugal Feasting Friday menu comes in at only $1.49 per person.
On The Menu: Crockpot Smothered Chicken Breasts, Uncle Ben's Herb and Rice Blend, Broccoli in Browned Butter Sauce, Seasoned Roma Tomato Slices and Warm Potato Rolls. This company worthy meal serves 8 people and is a cinch to prepare.
Crockpot Smothered Chicken Breasts
4 large chicken breasts, halved butterfly style, makes 8 portions ($7.27)
1 prepared batch of Cream of Anything Soup ($0.20)
salt and pepper, to taste
Lightly grease the bottom of the crockpot. Lightly brown chicken breasts in some reserved bacon fat. Place 4 of chicken breasts halves in bottom of the crockpot. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 prepared soup over chicken breasts. Layer the remaining 4 chicken breast halves, season with salt and pepper, and pour remaining soup over chicken breasts. Cook on low 5-6 hours.
In addition to frugal shopping skills, portion control is also an important aspect of maintaining a frugal grocery budget. In this recipe the 4 large chicken breasts are halved, reducing the cooked portion size to 3-4 oz. each, roughly the size of a deck of cards. Nutritionists recommend our plate contain only a "deck of card" sized portion of animal protein, 25% of our plate should reflect grains or starches and the remaining 1/2 should be filled out with vegetables and/or fruits. Regarding fruit, I like to live by the old saying, "Fruit in the morning is gold, fruit in mid-day is silver, fruit in the evening is lead." Thus, our family usually consumes fruit prior to the evening meal.
Broccoli in Browned Butter Sauce
2 lb. homegrown broccoli (free)
4 Tbsp. butter ($0.31)
salt, to taste
Steam broccoli until crisp tender. In a small sauce pan combine butter and salt. Over low heat melt butter, stirring occasionally, until it begins to lightly brown. As the butter melts, watch closely because once the butter begins to brown, it will burn very quickly. We are looking for browned butter not burned butter. Pour the salted browned butter over the broccoli and toss.
Seasoned Roma Tomato Slices
2 sliced homegrown Roma tomatoes (free)
1/4 tsp. dried basil ($0.02)
salt & pepper to taste
Arrange tomato slices on serving plate. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried basil.
Here's today's cost breakdown:
Crockpot Smothered Chicken Breasts ($7.47)
Broccoli in Browned Butter Sauce (homegrown $0.31 / store bought $2.29)
Seasoned Roma tomato slices (homegrown $0.02) / store bought $0.66)
2 "reduced for quick sale" boxes Uncle Ben's Herbed Rice Blend ($2.80)
8 "reduced for quick sale" potato rolls ($1.33)
Total cost for 8 people: using homegrown vegetables, $11.93 OR only $1.49 per person
If I were to purchase the broccoli & tomatoes, or other fresh vegetable(s), I would pay a maximum of $0.99 per pound. Thus, if the broccoli and tomatoes for this meal were store bought at $0.99 lb., the cost for 8 people would still be very frugal at $14.55 OR only $1.82 per person.
Friday, March 3, 2017
After a recent trip to Billings where Farmer Boy and I decided to eat at a national seafood restaurant, I decided a Frugal Feasting Friday post was long overdue. The total bill for the lunch portions, no desserts and water as our beverage, came in at a whopping $43.46, tip included. That's a total of $21.73 per person! By cooking a similar meal at home, you could see a savings of more than 85% per person.
So, on with a new Frugal Feasting Friday recipe for you and your family to try. Let me know if you like it.
Parmesan Crusted Fillet of Cod served with Asparagus Bundles and Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Most of you already have a favorite homemade mashed potato recipe. To "herb" them, simply stir in chopped fresh parsley and chives. The asparagus bundles (link) are Mrs. Trisha Yearwood's recipe from the Food Network website.
Parmesan Crusted Fillet of Cod
4 cod fillets, patted dry ($6.64 ea.)
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise ($.0.10)
1/2 tsp. mustard ($0.01)
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated ($0.60)
1/4 c. homemade seasoned bread crumbs ($0.11)
salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly sprinkle cod fillets with salt. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and mustard. Generously spread the mayonnaise mixture over the cod fillets. Combine the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Pat the breadcrumb mixture over the cod fillets. Bake at 350 degrees until top begins to lightly brown and fillets are flakey, about 18-20 minutes.
Here's the breakdown:
Homemade Herbed Mashed Potatoes: $0.95
Parmesan Crusted Fillet of Cod: $7.46
Grand Total: $11.81 OR $2.95 per person for a family of 4
This Frugal Friday Feast used store bought ingredients, only the parsley and chives were homegrown. But as always, the purchased ingredients were found at deeply discounted prices. When maintaining a frugal grocery budget, one has to be flexible and creative. For instance, if asparagus is not in season and on sale, substitute a fresh vegetable that is on sale (broccoli, yellow squash, sliced fresh tomatoes). If your grocer is charging more than 20 cents per pound for potatoes, substitute herbed rice. Since the fillet of cod was 40% off at the seafood counter it was prepared the same day it was purchased.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
One of my readers left a comment in the "Country Life" introduction post, "Country Living magazine doesn't mention all the dust and mud, all the wild critters that come visiting, all the crazy neighbors with no zoning laws to rein them in, ..." and she is so very CORRECT in that statement. Because of these, and many other realities, one needs to honestly assess the answers to questions like, "Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Am I an independent problem solver or quick to hire a professional? Am I a perfectionist or more laid back? Am I a clean freak or do I lean a little more toward the messy side? ...
Me? I lean toward the clean freak, perfectionist, hermit type extrovert, independent problem solver who has enough life experience to know when I need to hire a professional. How is that working out for me in an isolated rural setting? Honestly, I have my good days and my bad days ... just like when we lived in a more urban area.
Moving to the country is much different than moving from one urban area to another. In urban areas the neighbors inquire about what brought you to the area, where you are from and follow up by sharing the same. Often, they invite you and your kids to the park for a play date. However, when we first moved to the Montana prairie many of the locals thought things like, "Here's another bunch of city folk who think their Mother Earth magazine has taught them how to garden, hunt, fish, and raise livestock. They also think they are gonna come out here and teach us some sophistication." Depending on one's character traits, this type of cautious, at best, welcome can be enough to cause one to pack up and run back to the city within a year.
It was late summer when we moved to our little place. Mr.B had enough sense to know that we would possibly need some sort of snow moving equipment for that coming winter and would need a small tractor for various other work come the next spring. In short order, he purchased our little orange tractor with a bucket. That little orange tractor and the ability to clear our own drive was enough for one or two folks, however, most remained skeptical. The following spring, I set up an improvised "chick brooder" in our basement and purchased chicks for the littles 4-H project. While most assumed all the chicks would die, one person stopped by for a look. When they saw our set up they were won over. Our first April the locals found me with my brand new walk behind tiller ripping up the ground just west of my kitchen. Many thought, they'll be gone by summer's end. But a couple more stopped by sometime around July and witnessed a thriving 40' ft. x 70' ft. garden filled with a grocers variety of produce and herbs. One said to the other, "Wow! Someone knows how to garden!" The following autumn, found my homemade pickles and other home canned produce on the buffet at a local pot luck prompting a hand full of others to re-evaluate their preconceived ideas about us. Our second summer found one of the local farmers asking us if he could rent a couple of our granaries to store his wheat seed. Since we only use a couple for storage, we offered to gift the remainder to him for the season. This tiny act of generosity, brought most around to thinking we might just make it out here. We've only lived out here six years but the locals have watched us make improvements on our place, become involved in a local church, witnessed our youngin's excel in 4-H, and be helpful to our neighbors and community when possible.
Ultimately, anyone who moves from an urban area to a rural area will have to have enough drive and stamina to "prove their salt". The locals are not going to teach urbanites how to live in the country. Folks who are new to a rural area must have enough gumption to take the initiative to become involved in the community. When doing so, they must also have enough humility to volunteer for the jobs no one wants, like cleaning the bathrooms and picking trash up out of the parking lot during the county fair. The locals will not invite a newcomer to join their church, sign up for local youth activities, sit on various local committees or participate in the fair parade. Relocated youngsters who excel in sports will have to patiently and consistently outperform "so and so's nephew" by leaps and bounds before he can ever "get off the bench" or "play the infield". Regardless of how many movies Hollywood produces about the outsider breaking down the genetic code of nepotism within rural communities, locals will never allow this to be accomplished in the real world. Relocated city folks must possess enough self assurance to be satisfied with earning the place of being only a peripheral part of the community and never becoming a full fledged member of the community. Locals have lived in rural areas for generations, which by birthright makes them a "big fish in a small pond", and they will not give up that power or influence by allowing outsiders to be thought of as "one of their own." If your family chooses to remain in the area for decades, your great-grandchildren may someday be considered "local". Because close relationships are hard for outsiders to develop, independence is a key character trait. Country folks are renowned gossips who enjoy the company of other gossips. Anyone within your family who is a gossip, will be privy to all the dirt on others in the county. But, remember, gossip is always quid quo pro within rural communities. Rural residents who enjoy privacy, are tight lipped and gossips have no boundaries. This often makes it difficult to form close relationships within rural areas. We've lived here six years and we have developed friendships but not what I consider, close friends. I doubt we will ever have friendships as close as we did when we lived down home.
In my opinion, one's character traits are far more important than personality when it comes to living in the country. My personal experience has taught me that perseverance, patience, humility, consistency, initiative, self assurance, and independence are some of the beneficial character traits that are required for the successful transition into a rural lifestyle. It will behoove anyone who is dreaming of a country lifestyle to seriously contemplate their character traits before making that big move.
If you decide the realistic transition to a country lifestyle may be too difficult for your family, remember, that's Okay. You can still have a bite of country living right where you are ... even if you are an apartment or townhouse dweller. Decades ago when I lived in an apartment, I raised rabbits on my patio and maintained a few containers of fresh herbs. More recently, our family has grown lettuces and spinach in plastic storage tubs under two fluorescent grow lights in our basement. We also use decorative containers to grow fresh herbs by the south facing windows in our mud room during the winter months. By utilizing the modern inventions of grow lights and container gardening, many urban residents are successfully enjoying tiny bites of country living even when they don't have any outside space.
Next time we will explore some of the financial realities of a rural lifestyle ... tootles!