Jammin it up

What to do when someone gives you a flat of fresh picked strawberries. Make some jam! I love a good jam and strawberry is our favorite. But the hubby is a diabetic so I thought I’d would try some sugar free jam for him and regular for everyone else. The berries were large and really sweet and I hated to chop them all up for jam but we’ll enjoy the jam for longer than these berries will stay fresh. I kept the nicer berries out to slice for the dehydrator because we like those for snacking and cereal. I thought I had plenty to fill the dehydrator but turned out to only be 3 full trays. I hated to run the dehydrator with just three trays so I had some celery and carrots that were not the freshest but great for the dehydrator. So I grated the carrots for soups and sliced up all the celery for soups and celery salt. So now the dehydrator is full and I can start the jam.

I hulled all the berries this morning while I was watching the news. That takes the longest time when you have 12 quarts of berries to do. I smashed all the berries for the jam with my hamburger chopper from pampered chef and that worked great. I did run the stick blender through them quickly just to get the big chunks out, even though they don’t suggest that because it does something to the pectin. But once that was done I split the crushed berries into two pans. One for sugar free and one for regular jam. I followed the recipe in the pectin box because it is a great and easy recipe. Basically put the berries, lemon juice, tablespoon of butter and the pectin in the pan till it boils that you can’t stir it out. Then add the sugar or sugar substitute and return to boil for three minutes stirring constantly. I think I may have boiled it a little longer just because I had two pans going. Then I turned the both pans off and got my jars ready to fill. I had washed the jars earlier so I just kept them in the canner to keep them warm till jam was done. I filled all the jars with the sugar free jam first and then did the regular. I ended up with 5, 8 ouce jars and 1, 4 ounce jar. The regular jam I ended up with 12, 8 ounce jars. I put all the jars in my canner and put more water in to cover the jars. Boiled for 10 minutes. Turned off the canner and let it sit for 5 minutes and then took them out. For the most part they all popped as I was taking them out of the water. What didn’t popped within minutes of sitting. Of course, now the problem will be to keep everyone from eating it all before the summer is over.

Breakfast is done

The ongoing battle is what everyone is eating for breakfast at our house.  Between my hubby and my grandson, who is here for 2 hours before he gets on the bus. No one knows what they want for breakfast. My hubby goes in spurts of what he wants. For weeks he will want cereal and then when I have stockpiled boxes of cereal he no longer want it. Then he’ll switch to pop tarts for another few weeks and then on to something new. But recently I had a coupon for some frozen breakfast burritos and they were on sale at our Giant so I thought lets see if this will feed the starving in the morning. Well wouldn’t you know they both loved them. Unfortunately, without a coupon and sale they are not the cheapest things to buy.  Straight out of the freezer they run about $6 for 8 burritos. Not a great bargain. So I got to looking at these burritos and thought they would be super easy to make and freeze.  So today was the day. I went to the store to get the extras that I needed. I normally buy corn tortilla’s but they won’t work for freezing so I had to buy some flour tortilla’s.  They were on sale for $1.88 for 20 tortillas. Great deal. Both my hubby and my grandson prefer the sausage burritos so I wanted to get some of the loose sausage to put in them. The Bob Evans sausage was on sale for 2 for $4.  I only bought one because I didn’t want to make to many and then they not really like them. I’ll kick myself later for not buying both. The eggs I already have because a friend give me all the brown eggs I want. The only other thing I needed was some shredded cheese, wax paper and a plastic storage bag. All of which I keep on hand all the time.

The process is really easy. I made a whole dozen scrambled eggs. I mixed some green and red pepper that I had chopped up and in the freezer from last summer. Then I fried the sausage and chopped it up as it fried to make small pieces. Then it is just a matter of making an assembly line and get to work. Each burrito gets 2 heaping tablespoons of the scrambled eggs, 1 heaping tablespoon of the sausage and 1 teaspoon of grated cheese. Roll the tortilla as tight as you can while keeping all the ingredients to one end. Then roll in wax paper. Fold the ends in after rolling. When you have them all rolled. I mark the outside with a marker of what they are, “Sausage, Egg and Cheese”. I let them cool and then pack them in a plastic storage bag.  When they want to eat them I just take them out of the freezer and pop them on a plate, leave the wax paper on them. Microwave for 1 minute. My hubby likes them with some salsa on top. My grandson eats them just like that. Maybe a little more cheese on top for him.

So for $4 I made 20 burritos, that’s 20 cents a burrito. If you need to buy all the ingredients its probably like .40 cents a burrito. Still a lot cheaper than the frozen one from the store. Plus you know what is in your and you can make them to suit everyone in your family.

Hope you like this idea and you give it a try. Let me know how they turn out for you and what creative recipes you put in yours. I may want to try them.



Its been a long week

Sorry I haven’t updated this week. It has been a jam packed week of watching kiddos, cleaning, laundry and helping my son get his new store ready to open. Then a trip to New Jersey today for our newest grandsons baptism.  This is one tired Grandma. I guess I finally realized I’m not 29 anymore. My body is a hurting pup today but this too shall pass.

My son runs a online store, KindofOutdoorsy.com but has wanted to open a brick and mortar store for sometime.  He finally found an old building in a small town near our hometown but it needs a lot of repairs and renovations. A huge task when he lives in Long Island and the stores in Central PA. So last week he was on vacation and came down to start the work. I volunteered to do some painting so I spent Friday and Saturday painting the front of the store. The store is right on the Appalachian trail so it will have a lot of hiking, camping and fishing supplies. It was awesome to talk to some of the hikers as they passed by. We talked to hikers from as far away as England. They are all very friendly and helpful with suggestions of items they would purchase while hiking. The town in general has been very positive in the store coming to town. They have offered help in so many ways that we could not believe how helpful everyone is being.  The building has gone through a few floods so we had to tear down walls because we were afraid of black mold. Then we find out the roof leaked in and will need to be replaced. Talking to one of the adjoining store owner,s we found out there is community groups that will help and now we are getting a new roof. People are just so amazing and helpful.

When you are working on a budget to repair and renovate you take a lot of help when you can get it. My nephew helped tear out walls and brought us some rough lumber to use for walls and a stack of old metal roofing for the log house interior design we were trying to achieve. We won’t be open for a few months but its getting there and it looks better than it did at the beginning of the week.

I am set to start dehydrating all kinds of meals to sell at the store. Along with Jerky, granola and other whatever else we get ideas for. So I will be making good use of the dehydrator in the coming weeks.

Take care and I hope you have a great week.

Memorial Day

Today is a day to pay tribute to those that have served their country and paid the cost for our freedom. These soldiers are the true American Heroes. I hold the highest respect for all those that have served and continue to serve for no other purpose than to protect and serve.  In our family we have a lot of military members. From my father and step father who served in many battles including Korea.  My son served for many years. He was in Bosnia during the war and also Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan he was wounded with the rest of his patrol. He let all his men go for medical help before himself. He didn’t go out for help till the next day. He is my hero. He suffered traumatic brain concussions and a broken back. He stayed in VA hospital for several months but still suffered for months after. He is doing great today but still takes daily medication to help with all his pain. He was one of the lucky ones, he got to come home. I have friends that weren’t so lucky with their sons and daughters.

So today is in celebration of all the brave soldiers that didn’t make it home. We forget sometimes that its not just the soldier on the front line that suffers during conflicts. The spouses, children and parents of soldiers must endure and support their loved ones here and abroad. The military life isn’t for sissies. The pay is low, your move all over the world and a lot of times they are single parents while their loved one serves our country. They uproot their families and have to start over time and time again. The friends they make along the way are awesome but they have to leaves them behind as they move to a new base.

My daughter and her husband are in the Air Force. My son in law is now serving and my daughter is now raising our grandsons. But they have moved 3 times in the past 10 years and will be moving once again in August. My son in law did two tours in Iraq. During those two tours my daughter maintained the household and had took care of my grandsons. It was never easy for her and she took it all in stride, because that is what military families do. They live with new orders, housing issues, school schedules and many other issues that only military families would understand. Military wives are really the glue that holds the families together.

While my son was serving in the Army National Guard, my daughter in law was that glue. It seemed each time he got deployed to a new place they were getting ready to have another child. Not sure how she did it with a new baby and the older children but she persevered and she took care of the family. She has put up with a lot of challenges with my sons military career because he was deployed so many times. But they survived it all and I must say I am so proud of not only the men  in our family but also the wives. They may not get the patches and the medals that their husbands do but they sure deserve them.

So thank a veteran today and everyday for the sacrifices that they must endure to help protect our freedom in this great country of ours.



You gotta go Prime

I do not like to pay for things that I can make myself, but there are somethings you just can’t make. Toilet paper for one. Well I guess you could but I still like to have my paper on a roll.  I have tried coupons and sales but I somehow don’t come out like these super couponers with a stock pile of toilet paper. Guess I just don’t understand their shopping rituals.  But I do belong to Amazon Prime and I love to do shopping that I don’t have to leave my house.  So I thought I would check out their deals on some of the things that I can’t do without. When I started searching I found that I could do better than couponing on some of my regular used items especially toilet paper.  I them found out if you join the subscribe and save I could even save more.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some things on Amazon that aren’t cheaper than buying local but when you shop once a month its easier to just have some things delivered on a schedule. The nice part of subscribe and save is that you can pick the date you want it shipped and how frequently.

There are two things on my subscribe and save that are basically a must, dish detergent and toilet paper. Two things that get used the most in my house. I have tried to make my own dish detergent but I just wasn’t happy with any of the recipes that I found.  In a conversation with my daughter she was talking about Mrs. Meyers products and how much she loved using the more natural cleaners. So I found them at our local Target store. I tried the dish detergent first, since that was one of the products my daughter loved the most.

I will tell you I have used most liquid dish detergents that you can buy but this stiff is just 100% better than all of them. I unfortunately do not have a dish washer in my house, unless you count me. I hand wash every dish that we use.  A good dish detergent is really important.  The bottle is half the size of your everyday dish detergent bottles but I am telling you, first hand it will last you at least 1 month. Think I’m crazy, well yeah I am, but I will tell you it will. They all say squirt a little in the sink and you can do a whole sink full of dishes.  We all know that is not the case. But with Mrs. Meyers is it. I even have hard water and rarely do I need to add more soap. I will tell you that I have given strict order that it not be used to wash hands, wash cars, etc.  But we also use the Mrs. Meyers liquid hand soap.

The other great thing about their products is they come in an amazing variety of scents. They offer different scents throughout the year for spring, summer, fall and winter. My favorite scent unfortunately is Mum that is only available in the fall. I have found that if you go to Target after the holidays they mark down all the holiday scents. I have quite the stock pile of the hand soap in the christmas scents for 1/3 of the price.  I also use the all purpose cleaning spray.  The smell is amazing and it cleans like a dream.  They have a great choice of products all available on Amazon as well.

The price for Amazon prime is not that great but they do offer free subscriptions for mom and students so you may qualify for that and take advantage of that if you can.  I think it is great deal and has paid for itself with all the discounts and free shipping that I have used over the past two years.  I hope you will give it a try. They do let you try it for a month and you can cancel if you don’t like it. So its win win.


My DIY Liquid Laundry Detergent

I have made both the liquid and the powder homemade laundry detergent and I must say I like the liquid a lot better.  Don’t ask me why because the are basically the same ingredients. For whatever reason the liquid cleans a whole lot better. You can make 10 gallons of liquid laundry detergent for the same price as one jug of store brand detergent. The only thing you will need is a clean 5 gallon bucket with a lid. If your lucky you might get for free at a bakery. If not you can buy one for less than $5 at Lowes or Home Depot. You will also need some empty store brand laundry soap containers or you can buy a cute drink dispenser at the dollar stores.

The ingredients are readily available at most grocery stores or super centers. The ingredients will last you for 5 or 6 batches of detergent. It takes little time to prepare. It does have to sit overnight to thicken up but I have already made it in the morning and its been thick before I went to bed.

4 Cups of Hot Water

1 Bar of Fels Naptha soap

1 Cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soap

1 Cup of Borax

1/4 cup of Purex crystals (optional)

Add 4 cups of water to a medium size sauce pan. Bring to boil. While waiting to boil grate the Fels Naptha soap. I use a pampered chef grater and it goes pretty quick. Add the soap to the boiling water. Turn down heat to low and stir till soap melts.  Stir to mix. (Will get bubbly)

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half way with additional hot water. Add the melted soap, borax, washing soda and purex crystals if using. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture thoroughly. I have also used my stick blender so I know its mixed well. Put the lid on and let sit overnight. I stir it a couple times during the day because it does tend to separate.

The next day, stir till all the lumps are remove. Again I get out the stick blender and beat till smooth. Now fill the laundry detergent bottles half way with the mixture and then fill the rest with warm water and shake.  I usually only use half of the bucket in jugs and once I empty one I refill from the bucket.  Shake it well before using.

This recipe yields 10 gallons of detergent. For HE washers use 1/4 cup of detergent. For regular washers use 1/2 cup.

For those with sensitive skin replace the Fels Naptha soap with Ivory soap. You can get two bars of Ivory Soap at the dollar tree for $1.

The Fels Naptha soap may be the hardest thing to find. I actually found it at my grocery store in two different places. The Weis Market keeps it near the regular bath soap, while Giant Stores keep in in the laundry aisle.

If you haven’t added the Purex crystals and you want a scent to your soap you can add essential oil to the finished soap.  Be sure to only use a few drops because the oil may leave stains if not stirred in thoroughly.

Hopefully you will find this helpful and a great budget stretcher. You save not only money on detergent but you also cut down on all those laundry detergent bottles in your trash.

If you have any questions pop me a message. Be glad to help you out.

What do you want for dinner?

The most hated word in my life are “What do you want for dinner? ”  I have been cooking all my life and I hate deciding what to make for dinner. No one wants to give you any ideas what they would like or what they don’t want.  I can ask my husband what he wants for dinner and he just say whatever you want to make. Now that is some great help, NOT! So now I just make what I want, well not really. We get in a pattern of making the same recipes over and over again and it gets old and boring. Since it is just my hubby and I now for meals it is a little easier but still you need to make a decision.

We are living now on a fixed budget so I usually grocery shop once a month with a large order and then just random stops for occasional things.  Meal planning on a monthly budget is a must.  So now I figure out basically,  how many meals I would need to prepare in that month. That is the first step. Take out date nights, evenings with friends, picnics, holidays, etc. I cook all my meals from scratch so planning is must. Lets take this month for example. There are 31 days in May, two holidays, Mothers Day and Memorial Day, four Friday date nights with hubby. That leaves 25 meals that I need to figure out what we are going to eat.  Out of those 25 days maybe 3 or 4 will be left over or take out. So now we need at least 21 or 22 meals for the month.

If your like me, I stock pile meat from sales and mark downs at the grocery store so I don’t always have to buy all my meat at the same time. I still like to check out the meat department every time I go to the store for more bargains. I try to find the large packs of meat that can be portioned out for many meals.  You will have a larger variety in your freezer if you do it your shopping this way.

Other parts of your meals you probably already have in your cupboard or you can add them to your monthly list. Most of us have a stock pile of vegetables, pasta, rice, etc already but there will always be things we need to pick up on our grocery visit.

Now comes the part that can either be a pain or fun. For all the meals you need to make for the month you figure out what meat you have and what meat you will need to add to that. You can adjust your menu planning to suit the meat your family prefers. We eat approximately 1/3 of our meals with ground beef or ground turkey or a combination of the two, so 8 meals. Then we have around 9 chicken meals. The rest is  beef or pork based.  So now that you know what meats you have to work with its time to start planning the actual meal.

One of my favorite things to do is scope out recipes on Pinterest.  I use Pinterest almost everyday for a variety of things, recipes is just one. The nice thing about Pinterest is that you can search just chicken or chicken casserole or chicken and pasta. The choices are crazy.  I use my crock-pot a lot and there are so many crock-pot recipes on Pinterest I may never run out of choices.

Now just take your time and search away to find new recipes or use your tried and true recipes and put them in  your meal plan.  You know what you want to use for meat so just go to town on all kinds of recipes.  Below is an example of what my monthly menu looks like,

  1. Tatertot casserole with bbq
  2. Grilled chicken with quinoa
  3. Ham and fried potatoes
  4. Taco’s with Rice and black beans
  5. Spaghetti with salad
  6. Pork Chops and baked potatoes
  7. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes
  8. Pot Roast with potatoes and carrots
  9. BBQ Chicken with gluten free mac and cheese
  10. Sausage with peppers and onion and baked fries
  11. chicken enchiladas with rice
  12. chicken stir fry with rice
  13. Chili
  14. Breakfast for dinner, eggs, home fries, bacon
  15. Buffalo chicken pasta
  16. Corn flake coated chicken with Roasted potatoes
  17. Pork tenderloin with honey mustard dressing and fried rice
  18. burgers and oven baked fries
  19. sausage and cabbage
  20. Meatballs with Penna pasta
  21. Pork medallions with quinoa
  22. Dressed up Nachos with taco meat

As you can see we do eat gluten free because I have Celiac disease. My hubby still eat regular bread and things but our meals are gluten free for the most part.  I add a side to all these meals either a vegetable or salad for a more balanced meal but for the most part this is how I start out my month.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t say ” Now on May 8th we are having Buffalo chicken pasta”.  I use this only as a menu for the entire month. This way I can make sure I have all the things on hand to make all of these dishes but if I don’t feel like chicken tonight I have many other options to choose from.

You plan your meals to suit your families style of eating and choices. My hubby doesn’t like seafood so you won’t see that on our menu. Once in awhile I can sneak in some shrimp or crab but that doesn’t happen often. We are trying to cut down on starch so I do replace some potato dishes with quinoa.

I hope this helps you get a better grip on what to make for dinner. Or at least make those words not so hard to take.


My biggest bargain secret (shhhhh)

I love a great bargain. I am always on the look out for bargains and new ways to get them. About a year ago I did a google search on free products. Well did I find the mother load. With little to no payout I found the bargain shoppers dream. If you want to spend a little bit of time and money you too can get these bargains. It just takes an email address, an amazon account and your time. The best kept secret is a website called, Vipon.com. This site is connected with thousands of sellers and Amazon. You can find just about anything you are looking for at many different prices. To begin you need to go to Vipon website and sign up as a reviewer. They will in turn send you an email if they accept you as a reviewer, found most anyone can be. Then you just log onto their site, select go shopping and pick away. You need to request offers and then check back in a day or so to see if they approved your request.  Recently they have added a new feature, Instant deals, that everyone gets approved for. I have received some great items from cell phone cases, vitamins, essential oils to a food dehydrator.  I always sort from least to most price and go from there. You can also just choose a category to choose from. They have anything and everything to pick from. When I first started they required you to leave a review on amazon after you received your item and then state that you received the item in exchange for your review. But over the past year they had to change that rule. Now Amazon will not allow them to require you do a review. However, the seller will email you and ask you to please leave a review but you can’t state that you received it in exchange for review.

I also got my daughter hooked on Vipon and between the two of us we are both star reviewers. We have found ourselves checking Vipon prior to buying things on other sites or even locally. I purchased many items for christmas, birthdays, etc to keep my budget down. They carry such a wide variety of items that you can find something for anyone for gifts.  I have bought clothing, appliances, shoes, baby items and toys. The prices range considerably through the site but as I said I always start with lowest price first. There are oftem a wide variety of items for no money but most are one dollar or more. Truly a fractions of the original cost.

Once you are approved for an item, the seller will place it in your deal request file with an approval code. The approval code is needed to buy it on Amazon. When you get the approval code you simply copy it and click on buy which takes you right to the Amazon page and at checkout you put the code in the coupon, discount box and the price change is reflected. Since I am an Amazon Prime member I rarely pay for shipping on these items.  One thing to remember that some of the sellers are from China, Hong Kong, etc so shipping on those items does take quite a bit longer to receive. For the most part, I do have most items in a few days.

So take it from me this is the best bargain shoppers website. You can acquire some wonderful deals and not break the bank. Take the time to check out the website and see what they have to offer. Hopefully you will become a reviewer and enjoy all the thrills that I have.

Below is a picture of the dehydrator that I got from Vipon. The original cost was over $100. I paid $45 with free shipping. I love using it and plan to do a lot more dehydrating with my garden and farmers market finds.



Yard sale finds ie: my new summer wardrobe

So I am back from our yard sale excursion. We had a little rain but not enough to stop us.  My daughter and I hit up the army base sale, the salvation army sale and a few others that were packed full of bargains. I stuck to my $20 budget and found enough to safely get me through most of the summer. My treasures include 6 books, 2 pairs of capri’s, 1 pair of shorts, 5 t shirts for the hubby, a jean jacket, a spring/fall jacket, 1 dressy tank, a t shirt, 2 pair of old navy jeans, a pair of american eagle jeans, 2 pair adidas capris and one pair of adidas sweat pants. Not bad for $20. We found lots of bargains for my grandson that my daughter picked up and she got quite a few things for herself including a new Pink (victorias secret brand) jacket and a northface fleece.   Needless to say the trunk and back seat were very full.  So don’t think you can’t get some nice things for not a lot of money because we sure found our share and then some.


Saturday, time to hit the yard sales

Its a dreary cold day here but that ok I am off to do some yard sales. One of my favorite weekend things to do is go to yard sales and flea markets. You can find some great items that others haven’t got a use for anymore.  I have set myself to not spend more than $20 today but if I happen to find a bargain that I can’t pass up I may delve into my hidden stash.  In my town today, the local military base is having their community yard sale and it is always a great sale. They are getting ready to move bases and they need to get rid of stuff before they move.  If you are looking for household items, furniture and kids stuff you will find lots of great stuff for not a lot of money. So we are going to hit that one up first and then head to some of the charity yard sales that benefit the local fire departments.

I had a rude awakening yesterday. I know that I put on some weight over the past year but didn’t realize till I tried to get dressed to go on date night just how much.  We have had a little heat wave here for a couple days so I had to dig out the summer clothes from last year. Oh boy, what a depressing day. Nothing and I mean nothing fit. So today I am in search for some shorts, capri’s and anything I can get on me for the summer.  As I was trying on clothes the hubby said just go buy something! Uh, have you not just spent 25 years of your life with me? I am not about to spend $25-40 for one pair of shorts when I can get a whole summer wardrobe for that. So that will be my quest today at the yard sales. Rebuild my wardrobe on my $20 budget.

Lets see what I can find and I will post my findings when I return.  Don’t forget that yard sales are also a great place to stock up on craft items for a fraction of the price. Hope you all have a great day and get out there and find some bargains. Let me know what you find or just couldn’t pass up.