Top Frugal Tips for Busy Homemakers

Contest winners are identified below along with over 30 excellent comments from moms like you!

Here is my top frugal post from contest winner Jill Ferris:

Dear Marilyn,

Many years ago when I was worrying about how to eat healthily on a very very limited budget I met ayoung mother who was raised in a poor family (12 children) who told me what they ate growing up.

Basically, they ate cooked dried beans, cornbread and some sort of cooked greens (like turnip greens) for at least two meals a day all year long. She said they got ice cream once a year for Christmas or Fourth of July. That was it.

When she married and moved across the country she went to a doctor and dentist for the first time in her life and was told that she was the healthiest person they had ever seen. The dentist had never seen teeth as strong as hers!!

I thought about her parents and wondered if they worried all those years about not really “providing” for their family and wondered if they realized what wonderful health their children had because of growing up without refined foods!

Meeting her was reassuring to me. I realized that good nutrition can be very simple and very plain. It can be very very inexpensive. It, of course, must be balanced (the beans and the corn bread compliment each other and the greens are a wonderful food if not overcooked).

I realized that we could get very, very poor and still afford GOOD nutritious food!

So that’s my money saving tip! Relax, trust in God to provide what you need, ask Him to teach you simple ways to make nutritious foods (sprouting seeds is one of those ways; they are very cheap but highly nutritious!) and have the confidence to know that you are providing the BEST for your family!

I wrote a few weeks ago:
Let’s all share our tips and wisdom with each other so we can learn together to be better wives, mothers, and homemaker’s! This contest will end March 18, 2008.

Here are a few tips to get your started!

You can save a lot of money buy making your own easy to make cream soups with four ingredients instead of many unpronounceable ingredients.

Cream Soup Alternatives

For one can of cream of “whatever soup” use the following simple, four ingredient recipe:

Basic Cream Soup
3 T Butter
3 T Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chicken stock, water or milk

Instructions:

Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Blend flour and salt into saucepan while cooking and stirring until bubbly. using a wire whisk to prevent lumps, stir in liquid ingredient choice slowly. Medium thick sauce is comparable to undiluted condensed soups and makes approximately the same amount as a 10 oz can.

Variations:
Cheese Sauce: Add ½ C grated sharp cheese and ¼ tsp mustard

Tomato Sauce: Use tomato juice as liquid and add a dash each of garlic powder or garlic salt, onion powder or onion salt, basil and oregano.

Mushroom Sauce: Saute ¼ C finely chopped mushrooms and 1 Tbsp finely chopped onion in the butter before adding the flour.

Celery Sauce: Saute ½ Cup finely chopped celery and 1 Tbsp finely chopped onion in butter before adding flour

Chicken Sauce: Use chicken broth or bouillon as half the liquid. Add ¼ tsp poultry seasoning or sage, and diced cooked chicken if available.

CONTEST WINNERS

ED NOTE: What a challenge to pick five contest winners from all these great posts! Please read all the comments, but my prize winners of the two ebooks are:

Jody Courtney, Sharon Clark, Christine Jones, Jill Farris, Carly from AL

They are each winners of Fast and Healthy Menus for Busy Moms along with my ebook A Beginner’s Guide to Baking Bread. This is a $19.93 retail value! Congratulations to the winners. Your ideas have blessed me immensely.

Comments

  1. Ann Foutch says:

    One way I have helped my family eat better is to make homemade bread. I haven’t had a Bosch mixer to do it with, so I did the next best thing. I now own 3 bread machines I purchased at thrift stores/yard sales. I even keep 2 in the basement as our home is small, and 1 up on the main living level. I only use the dough cycle to mix the bread and let it rise. Then take it out and let it raise a second time in the bread pans. With this method I can make 3 loaves of bread at one time. It’s at least a start for better health by making bread with no preservatives!

  2. Ann From KY says:

    One thing I do to help our family save money is to eat the bargains I find. For example, last week I found a 50 pound bag of potatoes at our local grocery store for 10.99. the regular 10 lb. bag was 3.99. So, 50 pounds of potatoes in the regular 10 lb. bag would be 20.00.
    I bought the big bag and am thinking potatoe recipes this week. Besides the usual baked potatoes, I have made homemade potato soup and thick cut steak fries.
    I create menus around the bargain or sale items I find.

  3. Ann From KY says:

    I know this may seem extreme to some, but one way we have saved money at the grocery is to raise some of our own. Currently, we have pork in our freezer. Our children raised 4-H hogs this year, so we as a family bought 2 for ourselves to raise along with them. Our homegrown pork is outstanding!! The best part is that we know exactly what these hogs were fed and more importantly what they were NOT FED. The pork I have to feed our family is something I can feel good about! Our sausage is so lean there is no fat to drain off!

  4. Ann From KY says:

    Another way we have saved money at the grocery store is we now own goats that we milk. I had never even tasted goat milk before we got these goats, but I thought we would take a chance on it.
    Goat milk is great! And milking doesn’t take as much time as I thought. Practice makes perfect! I use the things I have like a dishwasher to wash the stainless steel buckets, and funnels we use. I practice excellent hygiene which results in a wonderful fresh milk! I actually couldn’t tell a difference between the taste of goat and cow milk. I am careful as to what they eat as well. It takes about 20 minutes a milking.
    One of the benefits we have found from the goat milk is my 15 year old daughter’s chronic stomach issues have gone away. She has been plagued by stomach pain which the drs. can not find a cause. Goat milk has helped my daughter’s health, and saves us money at the grocery store. I haven’t got to try to make cheese, as the children drink every drop we get!

  5. What has brought me the most help is to plan ahead (make a menu & market lists) and to execute tedious tasks (such as chopping veggies) for the next few meals all at once. So, for example, if I’m chopping onions for breakfast why not chop some for tonight’s and tomorrow’s dinner too….it save time & I only have to clean up once. The key to that though is planning. If you don’t know what you’ll be cooking tonight or tomorrow you won’t be able to prepare.

  6. Lynne in NC says:

    Wow! this is a great contest! My tips have been gleaned from several sources so they may be ones you already know:

    1. Over the years I have learned that being a Homemaker requires that I actually BE at home. So, I schedule a ‘Home Day’ on my weekly calendar and stay home.

    On my Home Day I cook in bulk and catch up on home duties. It’s not a Once A Month Cooking day, it’s the day I double or triple one or two recipes I am fixing for the week so I will have something for my freezer for later or to share with another family.

    As an example, this past Monday was my Home Day and I baked two lasagnas, a pan of chicken breasts and 3 dozen cookies. All of this took less than three hours and will really help me in the coming week in my menu planning.

    2. A pantry tip — I try every shopping day to label canned goods with the month and date, (03/08) on the can lid so I can use them more efficiently. Using the older cans keeps the pantry in rotation.

    In addition, I really enjoy the UH telephone seminars and have downloaded them to my player and listen to them while I go about my chores. It’s a great tool for continuing my homemaking education.

    Peace,
    Lynne

  7. You are SO right about the Home Day. I haven’t gotten to the point of writing on the calendar, but that’s a great idea. I’ve only recently realized that the only days I feel like I’ve accomplished anything are days when I AM home. Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. Robin Mureiko says:

    I am looking forward to all the tips that these wonderful organized moms will be sharing.
    I am not the most organized mother around. I love to spend time with people, especially my children, so the number one thing that I do is to make sure that I combine my errands with having a date with a different child each week.
    If the budget is tight, we will have a small treat together first and sit and visit about whatever is on their hearts. If we have a little more money in the budget, we will have a lunch out.
    I wanted to share this because most of the moms that I have heard share the time out with children are often times talking about their daughters. I have three teenage sons! They love the time together just as much. Somtimes they even treat me! They say that they want to practice for when they have a wife of their own!

    For pantry ideas I try to organize my kitchen according to what will be done in that area. For example, if I bake in that particular spot, I will put all the ingredients that are usually used for baking in those cabinets. It keeps me from running around the kitchen like a crazy woman and makes cleanup a breeze. If your cabinet is deep, and you want to store all those necessary items for baking, you might use a large lazy susan so that you can get to everything easily.

  9. Marilyn,

    Baking tips:
    I bake large batches of bread, pizza crusts, muffins, cookies and freeze what we will not use immediately. This way I always have “fast food” for pop-in company or for those busy days when I don’t have time to bake.

    Pizza crusts: I make these with my regular bread recipe, roll them out, and prebake them for about 10 minutes in a 425* oven. I cool them and freeze them so that we can have a quick pizza anytime. The kids like to make their own pizzas when Hubby and I have a date night.

    Cookie Balls: I make a large batch of our favorite cookie dough and then bake only a couple dozen to eat right away. The rest of the dough I roll into balls and quick freeze. After the cookie balls are stiff, I toss them into a freezer bag for another day when I want fresh, hot cookies from the oven.

    Cooking:
    Broths: When the veggies in my bin are beginning to be un-usable, I throw them into a pot of water along with herbs, soup bone (if I have it) and make broth. If I don’t use the broth immediately, I freeze it in quart containers for use later.

    I make stir-fry and pot pies and hash when I have a very little cooked meat left-over. Sure stretches the budget to add veggies.

    A favorite substitue for french fries are oven fries. I wash and slice potatoes into wedges, douse them with a few tablespoons of olive oil and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with seasoning of your choice and bake in a 450* oven for about 25 minutes or until potatoes begin to get golden. Serve with ketchup, Ranch dressing or favorite dipping sauce. These are much cheaper to make (and tastier) than frozen french fries. Kids love these. I have also made sweet potatoes this way. They won’t crisp up, but they’re delish.

    Thanks for all the good things you’ve shared with us over the years Marilyn. I enjoy your newsletter and your catalog and am constantly sending my friends to Urban Homemaker.

    Jody Courtney

  10. I have a little mini-size bulletin board posted in my Kitchen/Dining Room Area. On it I have 4 labeled catergories that have helped us tremendously over the last few years. One is labeled GROCERY LIST and I pin a piece of paper there each week. As I am cooking, if I use up the rest of the Baking Powder or see that it is running low, I immediately jot it down on the list. This way I am not sitting down to make a list later and saying to myself (what is it that we ran out of earlier today etc?) When it comes time to get groceries I add my list of staples (things we know we will need each week) to the list of things I have jotted down throughout the week.
    I also have a Label for Phone Messages. This is where we can jot down things for our kids or spouse to check at the end of the day. When the call is returned the note can be crossed out and then a new piece of paper pinned up.
    The 3rd Label is Task Lists. This is where I jot down things I want to achieve for the day, or things I need my husband to help me with. He likes this because he can glance at this list when he has a free minute and do a quick project from the list to use his time effectively.
    The last Label I have is for MEAL PLANS. This is where I have my menu posted for the week including breakfast dishes I want to make, any baking I want to complete and my supper menu. I refer to this often to know what things I can prepare in advance (such as setting out meat or a casserole to defrost etc)

    Another thing that has helped greatly in the organization department is a DRY ERASE BOARD posted on the wall by our DEEP FREEZER. We have a marker hung up next to it too. On the board we have listed all the things in our FREEZER. This helps a lot to know what we need more of, and so we do not forget about things that need to be used up. We cross out things as we use them and then we can keep tabs on what is being used and what needs to be replinished etc. WE had tried jotting it down on paper before but it was hard to keep track of the paper and to keep it updated. Having it on the wall right above the FREEZER made it handy enough to get in the habit of writing it down right when we were at the FREEZER and removing something.

    Hope these tips help make someone’s day easier!

    By His Grace, Tammy

  11. I freeze all my veggie edges as I prepare my daily meals. Then when the bag is full I make broth with all the parts that used to end up in the trash.

  12. I received a crock pot for Christmas, and I love it! I have been married for almost 13 years, but had never regularly used one. The one I had was too small for our family of ten, but now I have a 7 qt, a 6.5 qt and a 5 qt! I have found many websites devoted to crock cooking, and slowly added healthy recipes to our menu. You do have to wade through many “can-of-this” and “packet-of-that” ones to find the healthy ones, but it’s worth it to be able to work all day in the yard and have a hot, healthy dinner waiting!

    I also make most of our family’s seasonings and dressings. It’s really not hard, and the recipes are out there…thank God for the Internet! I make taco seasoning, seasoned salt, all sorts of salad dressings. We’ll skip the MSG and other chemicals, thank you very much!

  13. Kim in AZ says:

    Thank you Marilyn! Each newsletter has such useful information and this week, the recipe for ‘Cream Soup Alternatives’ was such a surprise. I have been buying the can’s and never thought that I could make my own = easy! and just as convenient, less expensive and much healthier, too.

    Also, Jody Courtney … thank you so much for the wonderful ‘tips’ you submitted. I get so caught up in the easy of ‘pre-package’ that I forget the prep of homemade items: ready to bake cookies from the freezer and pre-made pizza crust is one’s that I plan to try soon. Thank you!

  14. Sharon Clark says:

    I find creating a menu helps save time and money. Also, I joined a co-op and I am able to in bulk. This saves a lot of money and I do not have to travel back and forth to the store now. Also, I started a natural beef co-op in order to get the beef without antibiotics and hormones. There is hardly anthing like this available locally and what is available is very expensive. Also, I try to shop at the local produce stand. I have been known to ask what 25 lbs of tomatos cost and buy as much as I can. Then we can the tomatos. Also, there is a blueberry farm down the road and we pick and freeze. Also, we make jams which are great presents at Christmas time. We try to grow some of our own vegetables but we need to learn more about gardening. We improve every year. Also, the beef co-op has soup bones and I have found this to be a great money saver to make our own broth. I just started making our own bread also. These are just a few things that we do.

  15. Menu planning. I have 6 menus I rotate, so I’m really good at cooking all the recipes (practice makes perfect) and I don’t have to do any planning. I keep it all on my computer. Just print my list and go to the store. It’s really easy to do. You just write out your menus once and re-use them. I did write out really detailed instructions on creating your own menus on my blog (click my name), but it’s too long to fit in this comment box! This is my best secret for eating healthy. A friend once told me if you plan the food, you won’t eat out as much. Not only was she right, but if you plan out healthy food, you won’t need to eat processed food either!

  16. I know this may seem silly, but to save time and energy in the kitchen, teach your kids! My 9 year old has been making bread for 4 months, now, and he’s gotten pretty good! He and his 7 year old sister do the dishes 2 or 3 times a day and aren’t the fastest, but it saves me to be doing something they can’t do, or they can get it cleaned up while I take care of the baby!

    Thanks for all your wisdom you share with us!

  17. Christine Jones says:

    We have learned to do the best where ever we are. When we were in an apartment with limited space and income I bought double of the pantry items I usually used only when they were on sale. I also bought frozen vegt when they were on sale since fresh organic was not available. In the summer my husband would drive us to the farmers market and we would buy what we could. I learned to cook with what was in the pantry NOT what sounded good. Instead of depending on sales I had a backbone of good food in my pantry and only needed to add things to stretch the meals. Sometime that meant adding fresh veg to our stirfry and on good months chicken or beef. When we moved to the country 5 years ago I started working right away on the garden. We made do with what we had by freezing our produce until we could get a pressure canner. Then we built a shelf to hold my produce that was canned from the garden. Next on the list is a dehydrater. I’ve been married 15 years and found an old shoppig list of things we wanted to purchase to keep our family healthy when we were only married 2 yrs. I have slowly found, bought, traded, etc and nearly completed our list now. It was good to see the old list and know that we were making progress albeit slowly.

  18. jill farris says:

    Many years ago when I was worrying about how to eat healthily on a very very limited budget I met a young mother who was raised in a poor family (12 children) who told me what they ate growing up. Basically, they ate cooked dried beans, cornbread and some sort of cooked greens (like turnip greens) for at least two meals a day all year long. She said they got ice cream once a year for Christmas or Fourth of July. That was it.

    When she married and moved across the country she went to a doctor and dentist for the first time in her life and was told that she was the healthiest person they had ever seen. The dentist had never seen teeth as strong as hers!!

    I thought about her parents and wondered if they worried all those years about not really “providing” for their family and wondered if they realized what wonderful health their children had because of growing up without refined foods!

    Meeting her was reassuring to me. I realized that good nutrition can be very simple and very plain. It can be very very inexpensive. It, of course, must be balanced (the beans and the corn bread compliment each other and the greens are a wonderful food if not overcooked).

    I realized that we could get very very poor and still afford GOOD nutritious food!

    So that’s my money saving tip! Relax, trust in God to provide what you need, ask Him to teach you simple ways to make nutritious foods (sprouting seeds is one of those ways; they are very cheap but highly nutritious!) and have the confidence to know that you are providing the BEST for your family!

  19. Dianne Berube says:

    I think the thing that has helped me most is having a rotating 8 week menu plan. I sat down one day and made a list of everything I could think of that my family regularly ate. Then I divided the list into categories (crock meals, quick and easy, roasts, etc.) Then I looked at our schedule and decided which days we’d need which category (ie, thursday we have after school activities so crock meals work well because they are pretty much ready when we come home; other days when I have more prep time I’ll do a dish that takes more work, Saturday is a good day for me to do a roast, Sunday is always soup and sandwhich day because two church services doesn’t leave a lot of time for food prep). Then I placed all the recipes from the appropriate categories into the “matching” days; while doing this I kept in mind things like using leftovers, and it took a couple of hours and a bit of mix and match, but I finally ended up with 8 weeks of rotating menu plans that I keep in a binder. I will occasionally sub something out with a new recipe, but for the most part we stick to the eight week rotation. It’s long enough so no one says “not this again”, and it keeps me from getting into a rut. Because I used all recipes we usually eat, I know what to have on hand. The night before my weekly shopping, I just look over the menu, add anything I will need that isn’t on hand to my list, and I’m good to go for the week. I can’t count how many hours this saves me!

  20. Ann From KY says:

    A friend of mine has started a Produce Club. It’s really very easy. Each family gives her $15.00. there are about 15 families in the “Club”. She goes to a produce supply company that sells to grocery stores and restaurants. they take cash! She goes and buys a case of carrots, case of lettuce, etc. She has gotten to know the produce salemen, so she will ask them what’s a good deal, etc. She has come back with some real deals! How about a head of califlower for .50!! We usually end up with a banana box full of produce! It is a wonderful deal for the money, and the best part is it encourages you to eat better since you have all this produce in your home! It’s easy to set up, and we do it twice a month. I’m sure if you call around you might find a wholesale produce house in your town.

  21. Tracy Driver says:

    Making my own kefir has been my latest adventure in trying to eat healthier and save money at the same time. I had been made kefir from a starter, but a few months ago someone gave me some kefir “grains”. Now the only cost is the milk, which is cheaper than buying milk and starter packets, and much cheaper than buying pre-made kefir.

    Kefir is so easy to make. I just put the grains in milk, stir every 12 hours or so, and when it has semi-solidified it is done. I strain out the grains, rinse the grains with filtered water, and put them in fresh milk.

    I use the kefir for several things, from drinking it plain to adding it to our oatmeal when soaking overnight. I can use it in place of buttermilk or yogurt in many recipes.

    I think the most noticeable benefit is that we have something easy to drink first thing in the morning so that we can wait a bit while I cook a good healthy breakfast for us. (Many lactose intolerant people can tolerate it, and it doesn’t spike our blood sugar like juice.)

    We love to try different variations of smoothies, but our favorite is:
    4 cups kefir
    3 bananas
    cinnamon to taste
    (if not sweet enough add a bit of honey)

    For anyone interested in finding kefir grains, here is a website listing people who have grains to share:

    http://www.torontoadvisors.com/Kefir/kefir-list.php

    On that site you can find someone who lives in your area or someone who is willing to send them by mail for a few dollars. There are also several websites on the Internet with lots of information about getting started.

    Now my next challenge is to try to eliminate MSG from my diet. So thanks, Marilyn, for the cream soup recipe from scratch–I’m looking forward to trying it!

  22. A good thing to have in your pantry is a quart jar of Kefir fermenting! I have been making kefir for the past year and I think it is the best new food I have added to our diet. It is so easy to make and to keep going. I have used kefir grains, but I tend to have better luck with a starter made by Yogourmet. Once you have your initial batch made, just use a few tablespoons from that to get your next batch started. Last fall I was visiting relatives for a couple of weeks and I knew I would do so much better digestively if I had kefir on hand, so I brought a packet of kefir starter with me.

    We have really benefited from homemade chicken and beef stock. During the cold New Hampshire winter we have chicken or beef soup as many as 3 times a week, many times having it for breakfast. Nothing starts the day off on a cold morning like a warm bowl of chicken soup with the nourishing stock and the meat and the vegys. To make it easier to keep soup ingredients on hand, I buy chicken pieces in big quantities: thighs,legs and wings (I don’t like white meat for chicken soup–too blah, for rich broth you really needs the dark meat and the bones) and I divvy up a variety of different pieces into freezer bags. Always have onions, carrots, and celery on hand to add to the pot, along with good quality apple cider vinegar and good sea salt. You are all set. A chicken stock kit! Don’t forget to add coconut oil at the end for the many benefits that it has. For beef stock and soup, use shank pieces, ox tails, what ever has bone and marrow. In Europe they call beef stock “beef tea”. It must be because of it’s nourishing and healing benefits!

  23. My best baking and cooking tip for busy moms is to cook in BULK! Freeze meals, snacks & desserts for latter use. I take the traditional bulk cooking one step further… I bulk cook with a friend for 2-3 months of food for each of us. We shop one day, pre-cook meats & dice veggies & label baggies another day and then cook a third day. We try to put most of the meals in 1-gallon baggies to save on space.

    A pantry tip that I do is put my wheat berries, oatmeal & other grains in mason jars in my pantry. It helps to not have to get out my BIG bins everytime I am cooking, esp if I only need to grind up one or two cups. One of our children has the task of keeping the jars filled. This has saved so much time! (I pull out the big bins of grain when bulk cooking!)

    I hope this doesn’t repeat anyone- I did read all of the comments… yet!
    Heather

  24. Hi Ladies,
    This is my first time sharing @ a blog . My tip is simple and to the point.
    Try using dried onions as a flavoring in place of the fresh for soups, meatloaf or where ever onions are called for. A little goes a long way. I purchase mine at my local natural food store. Those of you who are already dehydrating foods may add onions to your summers end “putting up”. I have not gotten to this point yet. It is just me and my husband and we are both retired. He from police work and me from teachin Home-Ec.
    I try to share my info. and wisdom with the moms @ my church and to whom ever has an ear to hear. Thanks UH for your online wisdom

    Doris

  25. Jemma Irish says:

    I have binders for many different things. One of my favorites is called “Holidays”, and I bought one of those 8 divider deals with labels and pockets (for when you don’t want to file right away). There’s a label for each holiday and one “titled” birthdays. I 3-hole punch healthy, whole food recipes (i.e. pumpkin recipes go in the Thanksgiving section), ideas for family traditions, things to read, websites to reference, cards I need to send (that I bought on sale after the holiday last year), kid activities and crafts, etc. About 6 weeks prior to the holiday, I pull this out and plan how our family will celebrate and make memories together.

  26. Lauri Plum says:

    There are 2 things that have not been mentioned yet that I do. First, I make my own homemade ice cream. I use the freshest, healthiest ingredients and it is so much better than store bought ice cream. It seems to last longer too. Secondly, we have a garden every summer. As the peppers come in (green, yellow, red and jalapenos), I clean them and freeze them in freezer bags. We also can tomatos and tomato sauce (from our garden) and then we have fresh garden ingredients to make chili all winter long…….. It is fantastic!!!!!

  27. Michelle says:

    Sheila, I was just going to come post about that. Seriously, get yourself a teenager. We plan out the menu before I go to the store. She has been looking for new recipes that she likes so I’m not always fixing stuff she doesnt want to eat.

    Then I have the younger girls organize the pantry. I dont know their method so I cant comment. But at least they help.

  28. I have several things I do that help me out.

    When I bring my fresh fruits and veggies home from the store, or the market, I always go ahead and clean them up and get them ready to use. That way, if I need carrots or potatoes, they are clean and ready for me to start chopping. There are a few exceptions like mushrooms and strawberries that do not do well cleaning up ahead of time.

    If we have leftover beans, corn, carrots, etc… after dinner, I drain the juice and dump them into a container I keep in my freezer. Every month or 2 when it is full, I make a huge pot of vegetable soup for dinner. This is a great way to save a little money by not wasting the leftovers.

    I use alot of chopped onions, garlic and celery when I cook. I like to use my food processor to chop these up in bulk. Then I put them on pans and freeze them. Once they are frozen, I can put them into large ziploc bags, and when I need them, I can just pull them from the freezer, measure out what I need, and throw them back in. This saves me quite a bit of time. It is so easy to chop them in large amounts with the processor.

    I have not had time to read all the other tips, so I hope I have not duplicated. I look forward though to reading the rest of them. I need all the time and money saving tips I can get.

    Jennifer

  29. Carly from AL says:

    Hello. I have two tips that I wanted to share. I have recently begun using my blender (a Bosch attachment to my Compact Series Bosch Kitchen Center) for chopping veggies. I found an old-fashioned cookbook for blender cooking and the author gives the idea of chopping veggies in the blender. She adds the veggies into the blender filling it 2/3 full and then covers them with water. She blends them for 15 seconds or so and then pours the veggies and water directly into the strainer (or even into the salad spinner if you need them dry.) This has been a wonderful time saver for my lacto-fermented veggies. I’ve made saurkraut and cortido so far and it is really much easier than SLOWLY feeding the cabbage into a food processor. This also works for soups or meals on the stove. When I make chicken stock I try to store it in the freezer in a condensed size and then for soups and things I add water. Well, instead of pouring the veggies into a strainer, pour it directly into your pot of soup on the stove with the water. This worked great for last night’s dinner of Chicken and Sausage Gumbo! I quickly chopped or quartered the bigger things like onions and green peppers before I put them in the blender. My veggies were chopped altogether and done in a flash.

    Also, my grandmother loves to freeze things for easier cooking and she shared the idea of freezing my plastic bags filled with chicken stock, cooked meals, or whatever on a flat cookie sheet or cutting board. Then once they have frozen solid – they stack completely and neatly flat!! After years of trying to fit my bags in flat and finding them later with freezer rack marks or one end sagging but frozen solid that way, it has been a great tip for me.

    I can’t wait to read some of the other tips!

  30. Stewart in Virginia says:

    One of the biggest hindrances I have for eating healthy is poor planning. Or planning that “falls through”, the day did not turn out the way I expected, we got home later than I thought, etc. One solution I have found is to have three or four meals that I ALWAYS have the ingredients to make. If the casserole I was planning doesn’t work out, takes longer than I have, etc, then I have a fall-back meal to choose from. Also instead of always comitting to a certain meal on a certain day, I make flexable menus that say I have the ingredients for these 5 meals and then I can choose the one I have time for that day.

  31. One of the best tips I ever read, for us working women, was this. Cook oatmeal/whole grain cereals/cream of wheat, etc. in a large batch on the weekend. After it has cooled some put in a loaf type pan, cover and put in the refrigerator. Then during the work week, just slice off what you need, heat in the microwave and breakfast is served. Frugal, tasty, and healthy.

  32. Where do I start?!! God is so good–even though officially our family of four is labeled “low-income”, we feel rich, and we eat like kings (according to my mom the last time she visited :)
    I keep thinking of more things we do… here are a few:
    1) GARDENING–lots of people have mentioned it. Don’t forget to see if any of your friends and neighbors might be interested in a seed swap. You can split a packet of zucchini seeds among a number of families and still have plenty!! You can save a lot of money and have a greater variety of veggies by coordinating at seed-buying time. And if you invest in non-hybrid types you may be able to gather and save most of your own seeds from year to year.
    Try something different, if you like. We grew fennel (really expensive or unavailable in the stores) and made delicious gourmet soups and stir-fries. We found we love rutabagas! (and the extras have kept well in a box of straw in the basement all winter and spring) Last year I grew horehound herb and made honey-horehound cough syrup.
    We also found by growing lots, we had plenty to be generous with friends and neighbors–we involve the kids (3 and 6) and they KNOW we are rich and blessed to overflowing. Also we have found many people willing to trade for our “premium” produce (no chemicals, fresh home-grown). We have traded for everything from local honey to chiropractic care to credit at the health food store.

    2) We make our own bread too, but I don’t buy yeast anymore except for a special holiday bread. Instead we use only sourdough starter with all our bread. Most of the time, I also add stevia powder to outweigh the sourdough taste unless I want a sour-tasting bread. In the oven with just the pilot light on, it rises in about 4-5 hours, and that’s with 4 cups whole wheat to one cup white flour, and no special dough conditioners or rising agents.

    3) We found a store which buys surplus restaurant supply including produce once a week. My favorite deal when they have it is duck–I can usually get one for under $5. Then, I use it 5 different ways! First, we roast it whole (like chicken but takes longer). There’s not a whole lot of meat but it’s rich so we always have leftovers. Second, use the leftover meat the next day for sandwiches, stir-fry or soup. Third, after roasting, pour off the duck fat and store in a jar in the fridge for frying. Fourth, pull off the skin after roasting, snip into small pieces, and fry till crisp in a frying pan (LOW heat). These are “duck cracklins” and are great sprinkled on a salad, or laid on a piece of bread with some cheese for an open-face melted sandwich. Finally, put whatever is left of the carcass and pan drippings into a pot with water and make broth.

    4) Another thing we buy at that discount store is out-of date heavy cream. It seems to keep just fine for at least a couple weeks past, and they sell it for $1.50 for a half gallon. We looked up on the internet how to make butter–with any jar, no churn needed. You shake it–it’s fun! This way, I can make butter for 75 cents a pound, not to mention you get the (uncultured) buttermilk left over. We also use it in making ice cream. We culture cream too with a Swedish buttermilk culture, making a wonderful sour cream substitute–use it plain, or make salad dressings, dips and sauces. (Our Ranch dressing is just this cultured cream, onion powder, small amount of garlic powder, oregano, sometimes basil or dill, and a little yogurt to thin it to the desired consistency.)
    If you culture the cream before you use it to make butter, you get cultured butter–which you might see at the health food store for $10 or more per pound! (This also turns into butter much faster than ordinary cream and tastes great.)

    5) At the right time of year, scout for fruit trees! We have made new friends by spotting a yard covered with dropping apples or plums, knocking on the door and offering to clean up. Often they then offer that we can pick some (or all!) from the tree. We try later to bring back a jar of apple butter or something from the garden in appreciation.

    I know this is getting too long, but I have to mention one more…
    6) Our freezer is stocked with loads of great “wild-caught” meat–we even had to pick up another used freezer! Here’s how: we talked to the local wildlife department and sure enough, they keep a list of people who will take deer or elk they have to put down or are hit by cars. We even got a bighorn sheep once–even better than lamb! They know what they are doing and will not distribute meat that is unfit for human consumption. Many counties have this service. With no prior experience, my husband and I learned how to butcher a deer! Also, although neither of us hunts, we know many people who do. We don’t ask them for meat they are able to use–but most hunters just throw away the liver, heart and other healthy organ meats. Now our friends save these for us–and bones for making broth. Note: To save freezer space, boil large quantities of finished broth with the lid off till reduced greatly, even down to a tenth or less, and freeze in ice cube trays–instant boullion cubes!!

    Some of these specifics may not be possible in your situation, but hopefully they will inspire you to think outside the box a bit. Ask God for ideas!

  33. What I found out saved me the most is the following. I have followed a system of envelopes in a shoe box where I collect all my coupons. I write on each envelope the category. For example Baking, Dairy, Cleaners etc.
    Then when I get coupons I clip them and put them each in their category envelope. When I get ads I look for bargains and combine those with the coupons. A lot of times I end up getting things free because the sale price is the same or less than the coupon. An example I had a coupon for a dollar off a box of cereal and the cereal was $2.00 (Honey bunches of oats) this made the box of cereal just $1 cheaper than even Aldi brand cereal.
    I also look in the meat isle for the managers specials (these are the must sell quickly because we are near the sell date). I vacuum seal the meat and put it in the freezer.
    I also double cook or triple cook recipes and freeze the other portions and keep a list of the inventory of my freezer on my freezer. When I take something out I adjust the number of items left. That way I always know what i have.
    My two favorite cookbooks Make a mix and frozen assets
    Nelleke

  34. THANK YOU THANK YOU for the cream of soup recipes! I have been SEARCHING high and low trying to find an alternative to the store bought varieties, which I refuse to use. We’ve been without cream soups for about a year now and I’m so happy to be able to put some of our favorite recipes back in the cycle!!

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