image credit: http://www.dreamstime.com/counting-money-image2785331
Howdy folks! It's time for the third installment in our third week of a six week series on Making Do Without Missing a Thing! Again, if you are just starting out with us and want to learn more about Master mixes, anticipating the grocery sales cycles, building up a pantry, buying in bulk, meal planning or the last four appliances listed that will save you money, it is best if you start out right at the BEGINNING. Intentional spending, planning ahead---all those great things we know we should do but most of us have no idea where to even start.
Neither did I eight years ago. I did what everyone else did--went to the store down the street up to three times a week, forgot to make a list, would call my husband who worked there to pick up this and that because I had forgotten it....you know the drill.
Until our circumstances changed, and financially I had to make the very most with what I had and was given so I could continue to stay home with my children and help my husband with the income he was bringing in. SO, in essence, you are reading about the tips and tricks and ways that took me eight years to understand, all in six weeks. I wish I had something like this when I first started out! Instead, God blessed me on my journey with determination to seek out the answers, and then brought different people alongside to show me how they did things, partner with me in teaching me how, and who still cheer me on today. I hope I can be that for you too!
ha ha!--couldn't resist--this is somewhere in Canada.
I think I need a sign like this to carry in my purse. That way I can warn people. :)
But enough rambling again....we have covered the use of our freezers, stand mixers, and grain mills....each intentional purchases that have added up to serious savings. I know it seems strange to think of having to spend some money to save some money, but we all know it is a principle that is relatively true. We intentionally choose the right car for our family and look at the gas mileage it gets....perhaps a very large portion of us would choose one car over the other if it got better gas mileage, right? I know I would, especially with my husband working at a town 20 minutes away and us on a tight budget. These items I am sharing with you this week are a true investment into saving time and money for our family. They have, each one, enabled me to shave more money off of our grocery budget and replace convenience items with homemade that cost me pennies compared to what I would spend at the store. Either that, or they save me so much time that they are worth the investment.
The fourth appliance I use just as much as the other four listed is my Crockpot.
Cost-wise, crock pots are the frugal fashionista's way of Making Do Without Missing a Thing. You can make some seriously fabulous meals in a crock pot. You can have breakfast ready for you and the kids when you get up in the morning before that rush out the door. You can make a killer dessert for those days you just dont have the gumption to go into the kitchen and pull out a bunch of pots and bowls, or even want to break out your stand mixer. You can make applesauce while you sleep from apples that the kids wouldn't touch, thanks to them being a little mushy. Or one of our favorites around here--you can slice up a bunch of onions, top with a couple pats of butter and let them cook down all night for some absolutely amazing carmelized onions on top of your burgers the next day.
Oh crock pot---how we love thee! :)
But still, my very favorite thing to use my crockpot for are those days when I am so so busy teaching piano that it does all my work for me. A little of this, a little of that and by the time my last piano kid walks out the door and my husband walks in, I can't get away from that smell and my stomach is growling so loud you can hear it.
Crockpots are not that expensive--we got a great deal on a Hamilton Beach one at a Kmart for right around $20. If you look around, they are found pretty often at garage sales and thrift stores, just like those bread machines we have already discussed. The difference is, people use their crock pots, so if you get one of them at either of those places, be sure to have them check that it is working and the heating element is not broken, or the ceramic insert cracked.
I have had four crock pots since Kurt and I married over 14 years ago. The first one made it until a fire we had when our oldest was 2 1/2 pretty much took all our household items. The second one was a metal insert that was coated with teflon, and once I began looking into information about health issues with teflon, the fact it was starting to peel off (after about 8 years) really brought me to the point of tossing it. Oh and then of trying really hard not to make my family eat raw lentils and dandelion greens in an effort to overcome all the nasty crud that had been leaking out of the pot into our food for that time. (I'm just kidding, I mean, who eats those...*ahem*)
And then...well then there was the best crockpot I have ever had or hope to have. It was beautiful. Hamilton Beach. Snazzy Black. Locking Lid (awesome invention by the way---makes trips to potlucks SO much better for the car and the person who has to drive it from home to wherever with a full crockpot slopping over every. single. turn.) I had it for just about a month, and it was sitting on the counter with a full insert of amazing smelling soup. I remember the day so clearly. It had been a horrible spring and early summer with water, water everywhere. For the first time anyone could remember, EVERYONE had wet basements, because there was just no place for anything to go. There were no outlets in the basement for the shop vac, so we had unplugged my crockpot and it was attached to a power strip on an extension cord. You can imagine what happened next. The basement door opens right into the kitchen. Dear Kurt comes up from the basement with a load of wet stuff, can't see the cord, and into the air goes the boxes of wet stuff, the crock pot, and an entire line of cookbooks that we had run the cord behind. Thank God Kurt was all right. The crockpot got the worst of it with the ceramic insert split into quite a few pieces, soup and ceramic shards littering the floor, the family standing around in awe at the tremendous mess, and me running around trying to get my cookbooks before the flood of soup claimed them. All we really needed was the dog in the middle of it. I can laugh now as I cried then.
Then came the fourth crockpot, my dear mother's, that was loaned to us to replace the broken one. We are waiting for the next good sale and she will get it back. It does the job, has taken a beating over the few months we have had it, but still cranks out meals for us once or twice a week.
And that is the end of my Crockpot Saga.
You laughed, you cried......it moved you, right? :)
Let's quickly talk about the cost of running your crock pot. Face it folks, its cheap. If you ran a crock pot, round the clock, every day for a full week, it would cost you right around $5. We use ours once a week, and I figure it costs me about .75 to run it for the meal each time. Maybe a little less, but somewhere around there. It costs a lot more for me to turn on the oven, heat it up, bake whatever and then finally turn it off. So that humble crock pot is economical as well.
One of my favorite things to make in my crockpot is yogurt, because I can (and do) make it a gallon of milk at a time. My family loves yogurt, and if you come back tomorrow for my next post, you are going to read about how to make yogurt into fruit taffy roll-ups for your kids (and you, of course). Forget those scary colored fruit roll-ups at the store---this is healthy, and just as attractive to your kids! Meanwhile, I can make yogurt here at home using my crock pot and we have yogurt for fresh eating, baking, and in substitution for sour cream, etc. I can even make greek yogurt for pennies, or turn it into a simple spreadable cheese just by draining it and then refrigerating it.
If you are interested in learning more about that, I will be doing a post eventually on how I do it, but I can also ship you over to someone who can show you right now. Her link is great because she shows you clearly how to take it from yogurt to cream cheese. For Greek yogurt you would only drain it in a colander for an hour or a little more until it is the thickness you are looking for. She uses a pan for the yogurt and then moves it to a storage container of water to make it--I just start and end with my crockpot, discussed here, which is one of the places I learned it from a couple years ago. I also like that the second link breaks the numbers down for you. I do not use a powdered starter, just a good brand of plain yogurt. Greek yogurt tends to have really good healthy bacteria in it, so that works well...and once you have yogurt made you will not need a starter again (unless you cant keep the kids out of it and they eat up every last drop) because you will just reserve a little bit from the batch you made before.
If you want to get serious about making crock pot meals, I would encourage you to purchase the book: Fix It And Forget It----because it contains a million and one meals you can make with that appliance, from appetizers to dessert. Between that book and the many websites on crock pot cooking, that is all I use. Just like yesterday, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you are going to find lots of recipes from me that I like to use my crock pot for. I am hoping by slowly giving you some of my recipes that on the last week of our series when I pull everything together for you, you can see how easy it is to plan meals for six weeks.
And love it.
2.Southern Crockpot Cooking
3.A Crock- Cook (this one makes me laugh, but its a good site)
4. Moms Who Think (nice title, right?)
So my next post we are going to be talking about the two best appliances I ever invested in or learned how to use. They are serious appliances for the person who is serious about saving, and I have been waiting all week to share them with you. Not only am I going to tell you what they are, but all next week I am going to be teaching you the basics on using them, and showing you how significant the savings are when you learn to use them. Are you curious yet? You should be! This is definitely a week of saving the best for last---hope you check back for our last post on week three of Making Do Without Missing A Thing!!
Many Blessings to You and Yours,
1. Elizabeth's Cheesy Rice Dish (a big thank you to my friend Liz Hoff for sharing this recipe years ago--it is a huge favorite with my family and is the ultimate in comfort food)
1 small bag frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups minute rice (check back tomorrow for MY recipe on this)
1/2 cup oil (we use coconut oil)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2-3/4 (1-1 1/2 cups) jar cheesy sauce (she uses cheese whiz--I make my own from my Magic Mix)
1 cup shredded chicken
* layer rice, chicken, vegetables, pour stock and oil over, mix well. Add cheesy sauce and garlic. Cook on low, stirring a couple times an hour for 3-4 hours.
2. CrockPot Hobo Stew (this is another family favorite. We serve it with homemade cornbread)
3/4 llb ground beef, browned in bottom of crockpot on high
1 bag frozen green beans, or 2 1/2 cups of green beans drained (2 cans)
1 bag frozen tater tots or hashbrowns
2 cups of magic mix and 2 cans of mushrooms--make the magic mix with the juice added from the can
shredded cheese to taste
salt, pepper and garlic powder, all to taste
*layer ingredients in crockpot: beef, beans, tatertots. Season each layer with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Layer twice. Top with cheese. Mix up Magic Mix Cream of Mushroom soup, pour over the ingredients in the crockpot. Stir 2-3 times while it is cooking 8 hours on low. Add more cheese right before you serve, it will melt on top in about 5-10 minutes. Cheesy goodness.
3. Heather's First-Prize Chili (yes, I toot my own horn occasionally, LOL)
3/4 lb ground beef or venison
1 onion, diced, olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder, chili powder, and cinnamon
(put these in the bottom of your crockpot and saute until beef/venison is no longer pink.
add one can dark red chili beans and one can black beans
Add in one can chili tomatoes, one jar chunky spaghetti sauce, and one jar salsa
then add one large jar's worth of beef stock.
*cover and let this simmer for 8 hours on low. If you like your chili thick, make sure your crockpot lid is tilted the last hour for it to thicken up, or you can use cornstarch by taking one cup of the juice out, adding 1 TBS of cornstarch and stirring it in, then adding it back into the pot.
4. Heather's Venison Stew (works just fine with beef, but is a great way to eat venison if you arent too fond of the taste)
1 lb stew meat
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion minced or 1/3 cup dried onion
6 cubed potatoes
5 sliced carrots
one small diced rutabega
1/4 cup worchestershire sauce
4 cups beef stock
1/4 cup barley, dry
* I season the stew with the following herbs: thyme, oregano and basil, about 1 tsp each. On this meal, I just throw everything in the morning we are going to eat it for dinner, make sure there is enough liquid to simmer everything for the day. I leave the crockpot on low for 10-12 hours, and it is great stew.
Now if my brother would just post his seriously amazing chicken soup, this list would be complete. :) How about it, Michael?