Save Those Pancakes!

pancaakes 2

The week before school started, the grand-kids were over and I decided to fry up some pancakes for them. But not just any pancakes – chocolate chip pancakes! I stirred up the pancake mix and dropped 4 small blobs of it into the large frying pan (about 1/4 cup for each). I quickly sprinkled chocolate chips into the batter.

pancakes 1

When the edges of the pancakes turned brown and air bubbles rose all over the pancakes, I flipped them over and cooked the other side. Then onto the plates went the piping hot pancakes, with syrup on the side for dipping. (These pancakes are so rich you don’t want to pour syrup over them.)

There was some left-over batter, so I just made up some more chocolate chip pancakes. After they cooled, I put pairs of them in sandwich baggies with folded wax paper between them to prevent them from sticking together. Today I pulled out one of the baggies and popped the frozen pair into the toaster. Just like pop-tarts, they were ready in under a minute. Instant breakfast at a fraction of the cost!

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Handbag Make-Over

handbag conversion 1

What do you do with a handbag that isn’t quite right? Instead of letting it languish in a closet or tossing it in the trash, try modifying it to suit you. Like the one above. On the back side of it, there is a roomy compartment.

handbag conversion 2

It looks to be just the right size for my Kindle Fire. But when you open up the compartment, this is what you see:

handbag conversion 3

Just a lot of useless sub-compartments. A zippered pouch for cosmetics (I take care of that at home, thank you). Slots for about a dozen credit cards (no one should be carrying around that many credit cards!). A space for a pack of cigarettes (nope, don’t use the smelly things). A slot with a clear window, presumably for a cell phone? And lastly, a place for a check book. Really – a check book? I haven’t toted around checks in years!

handbag conversion 4

If you don’t own a seam-ripper (the red-handled device in above picture), pick one up at Walmart; they are extremely handy. I carefully picked away at the stitches holding all those extra pouches in place, until it looked like this:

handbag conversion 5

After wiping away all the broken threads, I put my Kindle (which is covered by a very battered, wornout-looking cover), in the the pouch. Perfect fit!

handbag conversion 6

The next time you’re tempted to toss something out because it’s not quite right, consider giving it a re-do instead.

 

Potpourri Stew

2017-07-08 letting the stew stew for a while

The thing I love most about stew is that you don’t have to follow a recipe. Recipes often ask you to buy ingredients that you don’t normally use. You use a tiny bit, then the rest of it sits in your cupboard for years unused. At least this is how it tends to go for me.

The potpourri way is so much better.

1: Start heating up broth on the stove. It can be the dehydrated kind or the kind in a carton. Swanson makes some that is almost entirely salt-free, but still tastes good.

2017-07-08 Stew broth

2. Chop up some meat and throw it into the broth to simmer for a couple hours if it’s raw. If it’s last night’s leftover meat, just put it in at the same time as the veggies. Chicken, pork, and chuck-eye roast meat all work well. (Tip: don’t buy it already cut up, it’ll cost you way more.) Any kind of meat, any amount, depending on your taste – or none at all if you’re vegetarian.

3. Chop up any veggies you find languishing in your refrigerator and throw them in the stew pot. You can use any kind of vegetable. Today I used cabbage, carrots, spinach leaves, and a tomato.

2017-07-08 stew veggies

4. About an hour before supper, I usually throw in one more thing – a cup of barley, a little rice, or a can of Bush’s baked beans – to give it that finished taste.

That’s all there is to it. It’s simple and frugal, and helps clear out your refrigerator.

 

 

 

Getting Enough Groceries?

2017-06-02 week of groceries c

Over the years, I’ve had a variety of grocery-shopping styles. In the years with plenty of income, it was: no grocery list, just go to the store and throw into the cart whatever looked good. A lot of frozen prepared foods. Pizza delivery once a week for us and the kids. And dinner at a restaurant after church on Sunday. Looking back, I cringe at how much we spent on food.

Then came the lean years, when our income was quite limited. Feeding the family changed drastically. No eating out or pizza delivery, checking grocery store ads, re-discovering coupons, buying the least expensive foods, just eating less overall.

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about grocery-shopping over the years is this: buy enough groceries in one shot to last all week. It does no good to pat yourself on the back for how little you spent at the grocery story on Saturday if you have to make a second run a few days later, or if you go out to eat because you don’t have enough to prepare a full meal.

Consider the picture above, a snapshot of our grocery trip purchases a few weeks ago. Combined with what is in our cupboards and fridge, this is enough for a full week. We have what we need for every food category – meat, fruit, veggies, starches, dairy, desert – plus some non-food items (a graduation card, paper towels, band-aids, toothpaste, oxi-clean, and Drano for a slow sink). What did this cost me? $123.98 for the food items, and $13.20 for the non-food items, for a total bill of $137.18.

Yes, I could have spent less, but if you get too chintzy with grocery-shopping, you find yourself feeling deprived and end up splurging at Starbucks or an ice cream shop. Instead, I got our feel-good desert at the store, on sale. So there you have it – not too little and not too much, just the right amount of groceries!

For more tips on keeping your food expenses down, check out some of my previous posts:
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/a-budget-you-can-live-with-groceries-part1/

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/a-budget-you-can-live-with-groceries-part-2/

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/is-food-eating-up-your-money/

 

Tapestry and Nail Polish

2017-05-29 footrest and pillow

About a month ago, I found this sweet little footrest for $20 in one of my favorite thrift stores. As a bonus, there was a piece of extra tapestry fabric that came with it. Ah, I thought, just right for making a matching pillow. Then I put the fabric in the closet and forgot about it.

When I cleaned out the closet last weekend, there was the piece of tapestry, beckoning me to transform it into a pillow. So I fired up the sewing machine, and proceeded to sew the edges. Hmm, it was fraying badly. Even reinforcing the edge with a zigzag stitch was not going to keep it from coming apart, as you can see:

2017-05-29 badly frayed fabric for pillow

Then inspiration struck: if clear fingernail polish could stop runs in pantyhose years ago, couldn’t it stop cloth from fraying? I brought the cloth out to the deck, applied the clear polish to the edges of the tapestry, and let it dry.

2017-05-29 fabric and clear nail polish on deck

After it had thoroughly dried and the funny smell had dissipated, I turned the fabric right side out, put stuffing in it, and sewed the last side shut. Now we have a great little pillow that can either be put behind the back or on top of the footrest for extra softness. I love it when something is so easily fixed. Now if only all life’s problems were that easy to solve…

Pay It Forward In Allergy Season

Zyrtec

Last week our family’s allergies were kicking in massively (it’s those darn flowering trees), so I added Zyrtec to the grocery list. I grimaced at the cost – $35.99, then noticed that some kind person had put a $10.00 off coupon next to it. I carefully checked to make sure the coupon wasn’t expired, and that it was for the right pill count. Yup, it was, so I saved ten dollars!

Yesterday I got the mail out of the box, rummaged through the free coupon handout, and found a $10.00 coupon for Zyrtec. It would expire in less than a month. Since someone had done me a favor in leaving the coupon last week, I decided to pay it forward. During this morning’s grocery run, I carefully put the coupon next to the 70-count Zyrtec. (I had also written with marker on it “70-ct” so the recipient wouldn’t get to the counter with the 24-count bottle.

I was blessed last week, and someone else will be blessed today. It feels great to pay it forward, even if it’s something small.

Comcast vs. Over-The-Air Television

TV compare 5

This week I stopped into my local Comcast office to try to negotiate a better price for our family internet service. For the past four years, I have been quite successful, talking the customer service rep into a much better deal (usually about half the price). This year’s negotiation did not go as well. I have apparently used up every advertised deal, as well as every individualized special deal. I was only able to bring our internet bill down by 25%. But we’ll have the same internet speed for the next 12 months, and we now have a small package of TV channels.

I have resisting their sales pitch for TV service for the past four years. We don’t need TV, I always told them. We just watch Netflix online. Who needs cable TV? But now we have it, about 40 channels, mostly channels that we were already getting OTA (over-the-air) with our wonderful outdoor Clearstream 4 roof antenna.

After my son set up the Comcast TV box, we fired up the TV. Hmm, not impressed. I hauled out the spare TV and set it next to the Comcast TV for comparison. We noticed three things:

1.Comcast TV lagged behind the OTA TV signal by about five seconds. That made it hard to compare the exact picture quality since the scene was always changing.

2.The Comcast TV channels were broadcasting in a lower resolution. High definition was now standard definition, and even standard definition was degraded.  In the picture above, Robert DeNiro is seen on the low-resolution channel Bounce, and he definitely looks sharper on the TV using the roof antenna.

3.The color on the Comcast channels was off, veering into red and purplish tones. The OTA TV needed no picture adjustment, as every color was perfect.

So there you have it. The free over-the-air TV looks way better than Comcast’s watered-down TV service. I imagine if we coughed up money for a high-definition TV box, the picture would look better, but we’re not doing that. We’ll just keep enjoying our high-speed internet and Netflix, watch over-the-air tv with our roof antenna, and occasionally turn on the Comcast TV. Oh well…