Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Foaming Hand Soap

At our house, we go through a lot of hand soap.  Particulary, I love foaming hand soap, because I think the kids it doesn't make as much of a sticky mess when the kids get it all over the bathroom. So, I was quite happy to discover a way to save $$ on it.  If you've discovered Pinterest, you've probably aleady learned this, but I'm willing to risk being "so last week" for the sake of those of you who haven't yet discovered this money saver (the "money saver" being DIY foaming soap, not Pinterest -- defnitely not Pinterest.  If I followed through on even half the projects I've pinned on there, I'd be knee-deep in debt to Hobby Lobby). 

There's a little secret that you need to know about foaming hand soap.  Lean in, and I'll whisper it to you.  Ready? 

It's just watered down soap.  What makes it foam is the special pump.


So, when you run out of your watered down soap you paid $3.50 for at the store (I'm not mocking you. I did it, too), save that bottle!  Add 1-2 Tbs. of soap to the bottom of your empty bottle.   To keep it pure, try Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap and fill nearly to the top with water.  Gently turn the bottle to mix the soap with the water (don't shake or you'll just create a bubbly mess).

Now, you've just spent pennies on a bottle of hand soap, which I know from experience will make you less upset when you see that half the bottle has been squirted out all over the bathroom counter.  :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kids Sale Update

For those who read my blog about the Popsicles Kids Sale (and how great it is!), I thought I'd give an update on how it all turned out for us.  I was able to get most of the stuff missing from my kids' clothing inventory lists.  One big challenge is always finding the girls shorts and shirts that are okay for school (no more than 4 inches above the knee and straps at least 2 inches wide) as the sale is full of little tanktops and shortie shorts.  Overall, I did really well, though, and had a great time with my friend :) who was able to go with me.  I spent about $170 ($20 of which were on toys -- the kids have come to expect a surprise when they wake up the morning after a kids' sale-  it's like Christmas morning around here). 

After all my shopping, I was still missing a few pieces for the kids, so I got online and ordered the rest from Old Navy (who was having an online sale) and spent another $100.

The sale is now officially over, and I earned $336.25.  So . . .
  $336.25 Earned
-$170.00 spent at sale
-$100 spent at Old Navy= $66.25

Yep, I may have to fill in a few gaps in the months ahead as needs arise, but for now, I've basically wardrobed 3 kids for spring and summer and come out $66 ahead.  Not bad!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Garden Boxes Complete!

There's been some progress on our garden boxes!  Earlier in the week, we mulched between the garden boxes with a truckload of mulch.  Then, this morning, we mixed up some more of our special soil mix:  peat moss, rice hulls, and compost and got the boxes all filled.  Then, it was time to lay the grid.  The grid is what gives "square foot gardening" its name.  It breaks the box down into squares and gets you to thinking in terms of boxes rather than rows.  Of course, there's a whole book on this subject, so I'll spare you all the theory behind the grid.  If you're interested, check out our link to the Square Foot Gardening book and other similar titles on our Homesteading Resources tab.
I priced wood lattice pieces at good 'ole Home Depot but decided that it would be cheaper to go another route.  We waited until JCPenney put their 2" faux wood blinds on 50% off, then ordered 2 sets of 52"x64" white blinds.  This gave us all the slats we needed to make grids for  5  4'x8' boxes (with 3 slats leftover).

First, we disassembled the wood blinds.  Then, laid them out and used tack nails to hold them in place.

For the long pieces, we joined two pieces together using zip-ties and the holes that were already in the blind slats.

Here's a completed box.

And, the garden boxes all complete.  Now, we can go plant our spinach!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

More Love for Your CrockPot: Spicy Black Bean Soup

Mmmmm.  If you like beans and spicy flavorings, you're going to love this one.  My kids are not into spicy foods, so most of the time I steer clear of them in my kitchen.  However, this soup has made its way into our regular rotation despite that because it is just so dad-gum good! 

To start, you will need the following:
1 lb. dry black beans, soaked overnight
4 tsp. diced jalapeno peppers
6 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce

Throw it all in your slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours before reducing the heat to low for the remaining 2 hours or until you're ready to eat.  If you can't pop in at lunch to reduce the heat, just put it on low from when you first get up in the morning, and you'll have soup ready when you get in from your long, harried day.  Be warned:  this soup is VERY hot!  Just check out all the seasonings.  You can, of course, reduce the heat by reducing the chili and cayenne powder and jalapenos.

John, who had to rush up to the school to volunteer in the concession stand after work, hadn't planned to eat with us, but one whiff of this in the slow cooker when he popped in to change clothes and guess what?  Yep, he was at the table with the rest of us!

Cost analysis?  I just served this up with cornbread, so this is an extremely cheap meal!  It made enough to feed us again, cutting the cost further.  My best approximation is that tonight's meal cost me $3.25 to put together, which is about $.65 a person.  Wow!  Thumbs up!  :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trial and Error

Meet my compost pail.  This little guy sits atop our kitchen counter, between the sink and the cutting board and holds all of our veggie scraps and other items destined for the outside compost pile.  As many of you know, we are learning this whole "homesteading" lifestyle as we go -- often from books and occasionally from conversations with others who have more experience.  However, "what type of compost pail do you recommend?" is not exactly a common soccer-field sideline topic and none of my books provided me much insight, so I'm offering you here a chance to learn from my own failure.

I bought a cannister from Wal-mart to gather our scraps.  It was cheap, holds about 3/4 gallon, and coordinates with our countertops, so I thought we were good to go.   The main problem can be seen in the top right photo (if you look very closely).  The screw in the middle of the underside of the lid is terribly rusted.  Why?  There's too much moisture in the pail.  Oh.  So, I guess it needs venitlation.  I tried leaving the lid off.  Oh.  It stinks and is a fruit fly breeding ground.

Also, how do you keep the pail from getting too nastified (is that even a real word?) in the bottom?  I tried the above method, lining the pail with a grocery store produce bag.  Suddenly, when I looked at my cute pail, carefully chosen for its coordination with my countertops, all I could see was a nasty plastic bag held in place by a rubberband.

Now, I'm doing this instead of using a bag liner, and it's working okay.  I put a handful of shredded newspaper in the bottom of the pail.  This absorbs some of the liquids and makes it easier to dump onto the pile.  I'm liking it, but there's still the rusty screw problem, so I'm still dreaming of the compost pail below.  (What?  You don't dream of compost pails?)

This little beauty (available at -- just click on the photo to see all the product info) holds 1.5 gallons, so I wouldn't have to dump everyday.  Also, it features a charcoal filter in the lid that allows for ventilaltion but prevents odor from seeping out.  Also, it has a handle.  And handles are just, um, handy.
So, if you're considering adding a compost pail to your kitchen countertop, I hope you may be able to learn from my mistakes.  :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

War with the Roses

When we first moved in to our house, I knew our front flower beds were bad, but I was at a complete loss as to what to do about it.  Having always rented, I was never expected to maintain a yard and didn't know the difference between a Marigold and a Mayflower (I actually still don't know what a Mayflower looks like, but you get the point).  Then, my mother (who has pretty much single-handedly taught me all I know about flora) stepped in and told me that I needed Knockout Roses.  And, my, was she right!  I started out with 2 bushes and now have bushes lining the entire front of the house.  And why not?  Look at these blooms!
So, what makes them different than, say, an azalea?  Whereas Azaleas (which prefer shade) may bloom once or twice, Knockouts will bloom continuously from spring to first frost.  And, they will be COVERED in blooms, as seen above!  They've become very popular, so more people know what they are now, but when I first put mine in 6 years ago, people would pull into our driveway and ask me what they were.  (I'm not exaggerating -- this really did happen on more than one occasion.)

Once a year, however, before they begin to get their new spring growth, it's time to go to war with the roses.  I have to cut them back because they grow like crazy and, if I didn't, they'd take over the house.  So, yesterday, as it was just another beautiful 75 degree February day (?), I got out my loppers and pruned away.  Actually, prune is not really the right word.  It sounds so precise, as if I carefully calculated each little snip.  What actually happens is much more like a massacre.  It's quite cathartic, I think -- good therapy.  I just go to town on those roses, chopping and chopping until there's hardly anything left.  I've done this every year; and every year, they come back in all their glory and never seem to hold a grudge.  Here's a before picture.

And, after, from basically the same spot.  Now, don't go feeling sorry for the poor roses.  You should see my forearms.  Believe me, they got in a few blows as well.  But, after hauling three tarp-fulls of rose remains to the burn pile, it was obvious that I'd emerged from the battle as the victor.

Now, all this cutting back of roses, crape myrtles, and mums led to me to more fully appreciate a plant of a different variety.  Let's consider the hosta.  I do love my hostas for several reasons. 
1.  I transplanted them from my late mother-in-law's garden bed after she passed away.  She loved getting her hands dirty in the soil, and every time I see them come up in the spring, I am reminded of her.
2.  They love shade, which I happen to have a lot of in the back of the house.
3.  They keep on giving.  When one gets too big, I can simply cut it through the middle with my shovel and transplant half of it to a new location.

But, I only just yesterday realized a whole new reason to love a hosta.  They clean up after themselves (and as a mother, I realize that this is not a trait to be under-valued).  As I was pulling out all the other dead stuff in the flower bed to make way for spring's new growth, I found myself wondering where the hosta had run off to.  There were no spindly dead leaves to remove at all.  Very nice.  It just seems to appear and then disappear.  I love it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Preparing Sweet Potatoes for the Garden

Why are there no sweet potato seeds in my seed catalog?  Oh, because you grow sweet potatoes from other sweet potatoes!  What can I say?  I'm learning as I go here!  So here's what we're doing to prepare to grow sweet potatoes this year. 

First, start with an organic sweet potato from the grocery store.  Why organic?  Because a potato that's been treated with chemicals to make it last longer in your pantry may not sprout at all or may take a really long time. 
Next, cut your potato in half and suspend it in a mason jar using toothpicks so that you can fill the jar with water and cover half of the potato with water.  Place jar in a dim but warm location.  We put ours in our grow room which has a constant heater going but not under the grow lights.  Check often and be sure that the water doesn't get too low or murky.  Freshen water as needed.

Here's what the potato looks like 3 weeks later.  It's growing little plants out of the top and roots out of the bottom.  Today, I removed the tiny plants from the potato by carefully twisting.

I've placed those plants in a bowl of water so that the ends are underwater and placed the bowl back in the warm grow room.  Supposedly, each plant will grow its own set of roots and be ready to plant in soil within the week.

So, what to do with the weirdly sprouted 1/2 a potato that had been stripped of its sprouts?  Cocoa Puff and the chickens were both thankful.

Goats' Milk vs. Cows' Milk

If you've been following our blog, you know that we will soon be home to some adorable Nubian dairy goats.  In preparation, we've prepped a pen (which I finished painting just today), built a milking stand, and done lots and lots of reading.  A few months ago, I was oblivious to the health benefits of goats' milk.  We originally chose dairy goats over dairy cows for several reasons:
1.  goats are more easily managed (especially with young kids around)
2.  goats are fun and interactive (almost like dogs)
3.  cows produce much more milk than our family could possible consume
4.  goats can be milked either once or twice a day whereas cows must be milked twice daily

Notice that the amazing health benefits of goats' milk is nowhere on the list.  So, I was pleased to discover yet another reason that goats were probably a better option for us.

Goat milk is becoming a bit of a craze in the "Whole Foods" circle.  In fact, on a recent trip to the market, I priced a 1/2 gallon of goat milk at $7.69.  Yep, you read that right. . . and for a 1/2 gallon!  We opted for the 1/4 gallon ourselves, and the kids drank it all up happily.  I am a bit finicky about my milk, but I found that the goat milk had basically the same taste as cow milk.  The texture seemed a bit different to me, but that could just be that I'm accustomed to skim cows' milk.

Below are some excerpts from an article explaining some of the health benefits of goats' milk, for those of you who are not, just as I wasn't, already "in the know."

While cow’s milk remains one of America’s most common daily drinks, it is interesting to note that it may also be the reason why many Americans experience gas, bloating, mucous and other forms of indigestion.
Moreover, in a world where the common cow is pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics, GMO feed, vaccinations and exposed to toxic conditions, it is no wonder that many humans experience negative effects of consuming pasteurized cow milk.
Goat’s milk is a much healthier alternative, especially if it is consumed raw and from a good organic source. The most common form of milk used on a global scale, it is estimated that around three fourths of the milk consumed worldwide comes from goats, not cows. And most of the people drinking this milk are not fat and do not have allergies or digestive complaints.

The Benefits of Goat Milk

Goat’s milk offers a wide variety of health benefits, with very few of the negative side effects of drinking regular cow milk.
1. Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Some research suggests that one of the main benefits of goat milk is that it may hold anti-inflammatory capacities. Another reason why it is easier for people with bowel inflammation to drink goat’s milk, instead of cow’s milk.

2. Environmentally Friendly
Goats require far less space and food than cows. Typically, you can comfortably raise six goats on the same acreage as two cows.

3. Metabolic agent
Studies done at the USDA and Prairie View A&M University, link goat’s milk to an increased ability to metabolize iron and copper, especially amongst individuals with digestion and absorption limitations. Besides drinking goat’s milk, you can also take a digestive enzymes supplement to help with this also.

4. Bio-availability
Another main health benefit of goat milk, is that it is closer to human mother’s milk than cow’s milk is. Because it has a chemical make up that is much closer to human milk, it is easier to digest and assimilate in the human body.

5. Lower in Fat
Goat’s milk is a great option for people who want to lose weight. It has less fat, but still maintains the high levels of proteins and essential amino acids found in cow’s milk.

6. High in Fatty Acids
While cow’s milk has about seventeen percent fatty acids, goat’s milk averages thirty five percent fatty acids, making it more nutritionally wholesome. In fact, up to 50% of people with lactose intolerance to cow’s milk find that they can easily digest goat’s milk, especially if it is raw.

7. Calcium-rich
Many people worry that they need to drink cow’s milk for calcium intake and the prevention of bone loss. Goat’s milk also offers high amounts of calcium.

8. Anti-Mucousal
While drinking cow’s milk is a common reason for allergies and excess mucous, goat’s milk is not. Cow’s milk is high in fat, which may increase mucous build-up. Moreover, the fat globules in goat’s milk are one ninth the size of those found in cow’s milk, another possible reason why it does not produce irritation in the gut.

9. Ultra-nourishing
In Naturopathic medicine, goat’s are referred to as bioorganic sodium animals. They are also associated with vigour, flexibility and vitality. Cows are calcium animals known for stability and heaviness. Bioorganic sodium is an important element in keeping joints mobile and limber. Goat milk has traditionally been used in medicinal cultures to nourish and regenerate an over-taxed nervous system. Goat’s milk is also extremely nutrient dense. It has almost 35% of your daily needs for calcium in one cup. Extremely high in riboflavin, just one cup of goat’s milk offers 20.0% of our daily needs. Add to that high amounts of phosphorous, Vitamin B12, protein and potassium. In fact, Ghandi himself restored his own health after extremely long periods of fasting through drinking raw goat’s milk.

10. Less toxic than Cow’s Milk
Whereas most cow’s milk is pumped full of bovine growth hormones as well as a substance known as bovine somatotropin, a hormone specific for increasing milk production in an unnatural way, goat’s are rarely treated with these substances. Because of its use on the fringes of big agriculture, goat’s milk is not only more nutritious for you, but also less toxic.

11. May Boost Immune System
Goat’s milk has the trace mineral, selenium, a key essential mineral in keeping the immune system strong and functioning correctly.

For the full article, see The Global Healing Center: Natural Health and Organic Living

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Garden Boxes: A Work in Progress

I am quite ready for Daylight Savings Time!  Around here, we have so much work to be done outside.  Mostly, it's work that John and I need to do together, but he's rarely home in the daylight hours.  Thankfully, Sunday afternoon provided us some time to work.
Here are the 5 raised garden boxes we intend to use this year.  They're painted white to match the grids we'll be using (remember we're using the Square Foot Gardening Method).  Four of the boxes are 6 inches deep, while the one in the center of the photo is 12 inches deep to accommodate root crops.  We used cardboard boxes as weed block inside the boxes and lined the paths with traditional weed block (only because we ran out of cardboard).  The entire area has been separated from the yard and boxes joined together using 1x4.  We plan to fill the pathways with mulch.

After much research, we've decided to fill our boxes with 1/3 compost, 1/3 rice hulls, and 1/3 peat moss.  The above photo is of the rich compost we've harvested from our own compost pile. 

Because we are novice composters and don't have enough finished compost on hand, we are supplementing with this cow manure. 

Now, the Square Foot Gardening Method suggests using equal parts compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.  We did some shopping around and talking with suppliers and nursery owners and decided to go a different route.  Vermiculite is very expensive and difficult to procure in large quantities.  We've decided to go with these dried rice hulls in place of the vermiculite.  According to our sources, these should accomplish the same purpose (the regulation of water in the soil) for a fraction of the cost.

And, the final ingredient is the peat moss.  We were actually able to buy most of what we needed in large bales from a local nursery.

We poured one wheelbarrow-ful of each ingredient onto a big tarp and mixed it all up.  The girls were great help with this. All was going smoothly until John accidentally flung a shovel-ful onto Girl 1 during our mixing.  "I'm covered in cow poop!"  She was not happy.  However, she continued to work diligently until the job was finished, then put her foot down when it came time to eat dinner.  She WOULD be showering BEFORE she ate dinner.  Who can blame her?

We underestimated how much it would take to fill the boxes, so we've got to get some more before we can finish filling.  However, we were able to get some mix into each box so that the cardboard would be covered and not blow around in the wind.  I'd say it was good work for one afternoon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting Ready for Goats!

Our goats are expecting!  Right now, they reside on their farm in Missouri.  We plan to go meet them in March, then bring them home in April after they've had their kids.  In preparation, John has worked hard to prepare a pen for them in the backyard. 
This is our backyard shed, home to everything from yard tools to Christmas decor.  The lean-to portion on the right used to house the lawn mower but has now been incorporated into the goat pen to provide a covered milking area and shelter for the goats.

This is a view of the lean-to from the side.  The fence meets the lean-to in the center.  To the left (where the ladder is in the photo) is the milking area. This area can be cut off from the goats using the gate, so that we can keep this area clean.  The area to the right is the covered shelter area. I plan to paint those two wooden panels later this week to match the brown of the rest of the shed.

This is just another view of the gate in the milking area.

This is a view of the pen from the backside of the yard.  Yes, that's a firepit in the middle of the pen.  What?  You don't have a firepit in the middle of your backyard goat pen?  We will have to move it and find a new part of the yard to use for marshmallow roasts.  So, there's still a bit left to do to get everything ready, but we still have another month or so. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday: Hawaiian Chicken with Broiled Pineapple

Let me guess . . . I had you at the word pineapple.  Am I right?  As I've already stated, I love a sweetly flavored meat, and this recipe did not disappoint.  Plus, it's so easy.

Mix a bottle of Hawaiian barbecue sauce and a 15 oz. can of crushed pinapple.   Add 4-6 chicken breasts to the slow cooker and top with mixture.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Be sure internal temperature of chicken reaches at least 170. 

To make the broiled pineapple, begin with fresh sliced pineapple or use canned pineapple rings.  Mix 3 Tbs. honey, 1 Tbs. freshly-squeezed lime juice, and 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper.  Brush each slice with mixture and broil on low for 8 minutes.  Turn slices and brush other side with mixture.  Broil an additional 8 minutes or until slightly browned and fragrant. (These can also be done on a grill for about 5 minutes per side; but it is February, so we went for the broiling option.)

Cost analysis?  We served the chicken, sauce, and pineapple atop a bed of exotic mixed rice and with a dinner side salad.  Yum! This meal cost about $12.50 or $2.50 per person.  It's definitely a bit more expensive than some of the other meals this week.  But, I couldn't feed my family at any fast or slow food restaurant for less than $12.50!

How did it go over?  John, Boy, and I loved it.  Girl 1 wasn't home, so she's yet to try it.  Girl 2 was freaked out by the cooked pineapple, so her "stomach started to hurt."  It's really too bad, because I think she would've really liked it if she'd been a bit more open-minded.  Oh, well.  What is it the experts say?  Sometimes, we need to be exposed to a food up to 7 times before we will try and like it.  I do think Girl 2 will have another opportunity (or 7) to try this one because John and I were such big fans!

Well, this wraps up our series of slow cooker recipes. That does not mean, however, that the cooker is headed back into the dark recesses of the cabinet.  In fact,  it'll be put to work this upcoming week on both French Onion Soup and Spicy Black Bean Soup.  These are two of our favorites lately.  Who knows . . . maybe their recipes will find their way to the blog as well. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday: Not Your Momma's Pork Roast

This Pork Roast is just the right amount of tender and tangy!

Arrange one sliced onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Add your Pork Roast.  Mine was 3.5 lbs.

In a bowl, mix together the following, then pour over your pork:

1.5 c. hot water
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. red wine vinegar
3 T. soy sauce
2. T. ketchup
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
couple dashes of hot pepper sauce

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or so.  Be sure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees. 

Move pork to a serving platter, strain the sauce into a gravy boat, and serve both atop wide egg noodles. 

Cost analysis?  The giant 3.5 lb roast will reappear later in the week as barbecue pork sandwiches, so that cuts the cost a bit.  Our meal consisted of the roast, egg noodles, green beans, and a dinner salad for a total of $10.22 or $2.04 per person.

How did it go over?  I've got four beautiful words for you:  Clean Plates All Around!

How to Clothe 3 Kids on the Cheap

I have 3 kids -- Girl 1, Girl 2, and Boy.  You might think that Girl 1 can just pass her stuff down to Girl 2, so I'm only ever shopping for 2 kids.  Those who think that need to look again at how the two of them are built and reconsider.  Last year, I tried to put a pair of Girl 1's old jeans on Girl 2.  Sure, they were more than a little bit too long, but I'm resourceful enough to cut them off and re-hem.  The problem was that Girl 1 had worn holes in the knees (that's fashionable, right?), which hit Girl 2 about mid-shin.  They looked absolutely ridiculous.  So, while a few items can be passed down each year, we are still left with mounds of outgrown clothes and nearly bare closets as the new seasons roll around. 

Those who know me best know the following:
1.  I am an anti-hoarder.  In fact the show Hoarders is nearly enough to give me an anxiety attack.  I haven't always been this way.  I blame Hurricane Katrina, which taught me many things, one of which is that stuff is just stuff.  If I haven't got a good use for it, why would I keep it?  This is especially true if I can think of someone else who might be able to make use of it.
2.  I am cheap.  If it's not on sale, I'm usually not interested.  I make exceptions, of course.  But it is the exceptions that prove the rule.
3.  I have very few options when it comes to shopping for adorable kids' clothes.  We live 1.5 hours from a Children's Place, Old Navy, or GAP, for example, so the quick little jaunt out to grab a new outfit for a special occasion is usually not an option.
4.  I'm a planner.  I am borderline crazy when it comes to organization and planning. 

For all of the above reasons, I'm the perfect candidate for the Kids Consignment sale circuit.  If you haven't already discovered the beauty of these amazing sales, hear me out.  Based on conversations with countless others, I think the best sale close to me is the Popsicles Sale in Jonesboro.  This sale, held twice a year, provides me with the opportunity to sell my kids' outgrown things and score them entirely new wardrobes in the process.  I do all the sorting, washing, ironing, hanging, label creating, tagging, and hauling to Jonesboro.  In return, I sell my old, unwanted stuff, get 75% of the sale, and get an early shopping pass so that I can turn around and spend that money outfitting my crew for the upcoming season. 

I inventory my kids clothing needs before I go shop, so that I will stick with the plan and get just what's on the list (mostly).  Then, if the sale doesn't provide me with everything they need (usually, I still need shoes and pants for my hard to fit oldest), I can fill in the holes later.  Last season, I made enough money on the sale to cover everything I bought at the sale and a giant Old Navy order that filled in the rest of the wardrobe gaps.  Voila, 3 kids outfitted for the upcoming season, and it was all accomplished in the course of one (albeit intense) shopping trip and an online order. 

I know that some of these sales either don't have enough inventory to  justify the trip or are loaded with items that are stained or terribly dated.  I think that Popsicles is great because it is HUGE, well-run, and having a consignor pass allows me to shop early before it's all picked over. 

Just for further explanation, because I don't want you to miss how great this is. . . Take a look at this cute little tank top. 

Sure.  I could've bought it at Old Navy for probably $10, but instead, I bought it at the Popsicles Sale a few years back for $6.  Girl 1 wore it through 2 summers then handed it down to Girl 2 (it happens sometimes) who wore it a year.  Now, 3 years later, it's going back into the sale to be sold for $6 (again).  I'll make 75% of that sale ($4.50), which means that I'm out $1.50 for 3 years of use.  Are you seeing the beauty of this?

I'd love to hear from other thrify moms.  What do you do to save on cute wardrobe items for your kiddos?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday: Canned Chili

Let's make some Canned Chili!  I call the recipe "canned" for obvious reasons.  So, first, let's establish what this recipe is NOT:  this chili is not made with wholesome, fresh tomatoes from my garden or beans that I soaked and prepared myself.  But let's get past all of that for a minute and look at what this recipe IS:  easy, fast, cheap, and delicious!  So, while I wouldn't want to feed my family with mass-produced, commercially canned vegetables every day of the week, it's not going to hurt us tremendously to take this shortcut now and then.

First, brown your 2 lbs. of ground beef or so.  I used 2.25 lbs. of extra lean ground beef.

Then, to the Pot go the following:
browned beef (with fat drained off)
Williams chili seasoning packet (I actually used the packet designed for 4 lbs. of beef because we like it extra bold but not necessarily too hot.  This seems to achieve the desired result.  It's a bold flavor but not too spicy for the kids.  And, yes, it must by Williams -- none of this McCormick nonsense. :)
15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
can of diced tomatoes with chopped green chilies
can of chili beans  (I actually used off-brand for all of the canned goods)

I just let it cook in the Pot all day on low, allowing the flavors meld. 

Cost analysis?  This pot made enough for me to freeze a bag for another dinner later on.  Also, Fritos were on sale this week at the grocery store, and we don't use shredded cheese, sour cream, or any other additions, so this is a super cheap meal for us.  This meal came out to $8.15 or $1.63 per person. 

How did it go over?  Um.  To say that my kids love chili is a bit of an understatement.  I served them first.  By the time, I got my bowl to the table, the kids were lining back up for more.  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday: Sweet Chops

I love sweetly flavored meats (that's why we'll be doing a Hawaiian Chicken in a few days), so I was intrigued by this Sweet Chops recipe as soon as I saw the brown sugar and honey in the recipe. 

Start by putting 4-6 pork chops (I used bone-in because that's what I already had, but I wouldn't think it matters.) in the bottom of your slow cooker.

Then, mix up the following and pour over the top of chops:
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. ketchup
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp. ground ginger
some freshly ground pepper
pinch of salt

Cook on low for 6 hours or so.  Be sure the internal temp of your chops reaches 160 degrees.

A few minutes before serving, remove the chops and thicken the remaining sauce with 2 tsp. cornstarch.  Serve chops atop rice, smothered in sauce.  Yum!

Cost analysis?  Besides having to send the hubby to the store for a last minute jar of ground ginger (what happened to all my ginger?), we didn't have to buy any of the other ingredients for the sauce as they are staples at our house, so estimating the cost is difficult.  But including rice and a dinner salad, my best guess is that the meal cost $10.44 -- $2.09 per person.

It was absolutely yummy!  I was a big fan, as was John.  Though they weren't turning somersaults, the kids ate it okay, which is not a complete failure in my book.  :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday: Jambalaya

I admit it.  This smelled so good cooking all day long.  Then, when I lifted the lid and took one look at this slop, I was ready to admit defeat.  I mean, it just looks like something I'd feed the hog (if we had a hog, that is).

We went ahead and ate it, and I decided that I wouldn't call it a complete flop. After all, it was quite tasty.

Add all of the following to the CrockPot:
2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbs. Creole seasoning
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 large stalks celery, diced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced into half-moons
3/4 lb. skinless, boneless chicken, cut into cubes
1 c. uncooked regular long-grain white rice

Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.  Then, add 1/2 lb. fresh medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, and cook for 40 additional minutes. 

**Now, that is what the recipe said to do and that is what I did.  However, next time, I plan to add the rice at the end along with the shrimp.  It was just so overcooked, it had turned to mush at some point during the day.**

Cost analysis?  I expected this meal to be pretty expensive because of all the meat involved;  however, it made enough that we will be able to eat it again, so that cuts the cost.  It's really a one-pot meal, so all I added was a dinner salad and a few slices of rosemary bread, and we were ready to eat.  At $8.06 for the meal, we were looking at $1.61 per person for tonight. 

How did it go over?  Well, I flaked out and forgot to remove a helping for Girl 2 before I added the shrimp. So, my daughter with the serious seafood allergy got leftover macaroni and cheese and was honestly pretty pleased with Mommy's slip up.  Boy ate it up and earned himself a popsicle for dessert.  Girl 1 opted not to eat it and just to wait until breakfast for something that looked a bit more appetizing to make its way to her bowl.  But, she didn't want to be too rude about it.  "You know, Mom, your tastebuds change every 7 years, so I'd be happy to try it again when I'm 14."  John and I both ate it up.  I admit, the texture of the rice was unappetizing and made me think of something that Miss Hannigan would've served up to her little pig-droppings, but the flavoring was so good!  I'm not going to paste this one into my big scrapbook of favorite recipes just yet, but I'm also not going to send it to the trashcan until I've tried adding the rice in at the end. 

If anyone decides to give this one a try, please report back on how it turns out!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday: Guatemalan Juliana Soup

As I survey my kitchen counters, there area few stainless steel, sleek-looking appliances -- all very modern and attractive.  Then, there's this.

Isn't she a beauty?  It occurs to me as I note its interesting ivy vining around the white base, that perhaps love truly is blind.  Or perhaps this is just a case of function trumping form. 

So, for the first slow cooker meal of the week, I'd like to introduce you to Guatemalan Juliana Soup.  It's basically a vegetable soup in chicken broth.  Don't confuse Guatemalan food with Mexican food; this is not a spicy recipe.  Guatemalan food is rarely spicy.  Besides, my kiddos are not likely to eat something too spicy. 

We actually began the night before.  I took one look at all the veggies that needed to be chopped and decided this would be a good time to provide the girls a lesson in kitchen knife safety.  So, together we chopped the following veggies into small pieces:

1 turnip
4 medium carrots
2 small zucchini
1/4 head cabbage
6 red potatoes
1 onion (I actually already had chopped onion in the freezer, so the girls were spared from their first onion chopping experience for now.)

We threw all this into a giant bowl to await the next morning (and fed all our scrap veggie cuttings to the chickens and Cocoa Puff, of course). 

In the morning, we put our veggies into the CrockPot and added the following:
1 c. frozen corn (could be canned instead)
2 T. olive oil
Some freshly ground pepper
Pinch of turmeric
2  32 oz. boxes of chicken broth
1 c. diced chicken pieces (we actually opted to keep it vegetarian; the veggies are filling enough)

We allowed this to cook on high for a couple hours, then low for the rest of the day.  About an hour before dinner, I sampled the broth and added salt to taste. 

Cost analysis?  Well, the soup cost us $9.80 to make, but it made so much that I was able to freeze enough for 2 more dinners!  I served grilled cheesy fingers (which is just grilled cheese cut into strips, which somehow makes them more appealing to my kids) and a dinner salad alongside the soup.  When I consider that I'll get to serve the soup two more times, it brought the total spent on this meal to $8.40 or $1.68 per person. 

How did we like it?  The adults and Girl 1 gobbled it up.  Boy needed some prodding but eventually drained his bowl.  Girl 2, ironically, wouldn't touch it.  She took the mandatory bite, then called it quits.

During this week devoted to the beloved CrockPot, I'd love for you to comment and share with me your favorite slow cooker recipe.  Please. 

Also, check back again tomorrow for CrockPot meal #2!