Friday, August 21, 2009

Saving money and eating well...can it be done?

I know there are many, many people out there that believe that to save money in the grocery area they have to cut back to rice and beans or Ramen noodles. I shudder at that thinking. Not only is it wrong, but they'll pay for it with their health.

Now, I'm not a nutritionist or dietician. I'm a diabetic that HAS to eat healthy meals in order to feel well. Carbohydrate-heavy meals like rice and beans or Ramen noodles would have me in a coma very quickly. I NEED to have well-planned, well-rounded meals. Since I have a large family and often have friends over, I also need meals that please everyone, but ones that don't break my tight food budget of $200 or less each month. MY KEY TO THIS IS EFFICIENT MEAL PLANNING, and, yes, it CAN BE DONE. I've spent several years figuring out how to cut back our grocery budget.

Meal planning before shopping is a must, and I know it saves me money. I often plan meals for 3 to 4 weeks at a time.


Sit down and make a list on paper of everything your family likes to eat. I came up with at least 50 different meals that my family enjoys. Then go through your fridge, freezer and pantry and make a list of everything that is edible. Sit down and try to put together meals from that list. If you need one or two ingredients to finish out a meal, try to find it on sale in your store ads. Example: You have lasagna noodles and cottage cheese and ground meat, but you need tomato sauce (inexpensive) and mozzarella cheese to finish out the lasagna. You look in your local store ad, and it's on sale! Lasagna goes on your meal plan and list for shopping that week. If the cheese isn't on sale, then you may want to wait until it does to make the lasagna. (keep your list of meals for reference so that you remember what you planned! Mine is posted on the fridge door. Doesn't do any good to plan meals if you can't remember what you planned!)


Meat doesn't have to be the centerpiece of each meal. Casseroles or skillet meals are money savers! Round out the meal with biscuits, bread or rolls and a tossed salad if you want. Please, be sure to get a good variety of vegetables in your meal plan.


Fresh fruit and veggies are something that I buy only when they are in season or if I have a surplus of grocery money, with the exception of celery, carrots and onions. Canned or frozen work just as well. You can meet nutritional needs if you choose wisely. I've also found that most recipes requiring cheese can get by with 1/2 of what it calls for.


I make EVERYTHING from scratch except for pasta. Breads, buns, spaghetti sauces, salad dressings, seasoning mixes, etc. (I do cheat sometimes if I find bread or buns on sale.) I have recipes that are proven tasty; they have to please 7 people with different tastes. Part of the reason I started this blog was to pass along my recipes.


I also grow a huge garden every summer and freeze or can as much as possible. Tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, tomato juice, pickles, carrots, beans, corn, peas, squash, pumpkin, applesauce, apple butter, jams, grape juice, potatoes. That saves us hundreds of dollars on our grocery bill each year. If you can't garden, you could always try buying produce from local farmers or at a farmers market. You don't have to can all the produce, most things will freeze nicely and you'll have a good nutritional and money-saving start.


I rarely buy name brand items unless I've got a coupon that will get an item for less than store brand price. Store brand works great for us. I shop for pantry supplies at an Amish bulk food store, a salvage grocery store, and a dollar store. I will take advantage of loss leaders in store ads IF it is a good price, but I'm not into buying convenience or prepackaged foods because most of the time I can make them for less. I buy paper products, dishsoap and personal care items at the dollar store, milk from a gas station/convenience store (up to $1 less than at the grocery), and eggs from a tiny local dept. store for $1.25/doz. I shop our local butcher shop and have found that ground beef and other cuts are usually less expensive than the grocery and are trimmed better for less fat. I don't know what is available in your area, but it paid me to just stop and check around at the little stores to find the best deals. One week I spotted big 40 oz. jars of Jif peanut butter on CLEARANCE for $3.70 per jar! You bet I picked them up! I also make our own laundry soap (4 gallons for under $4, no need for fabric softener) and use vinegar and baking soda for a lot of spot cleaning.

During July/August of 2009 I participated in a Grocery Challenge by All You magazine. By following the way I usually do things (meal planning around what I have, buying only what I need) and really concentrating on couponing, I spent only $26.59 during the 4 weeks. We ate GREAT meals like wet burritos, chicken a la king, pork and beef roasts, baked ham, oven fried chicken, homemade pot pie and Swiss steak, to name a few.

Eating well on a tiny budget? IT CAN BE DONE.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Canning Season!!!!!!

My canning is just beginning. Every year I can green beans, carrots, pickles and relishes, fruit, jams, preserves, juices.....HUNDREDS of quarts of food! It's a lot of hot work during the hottest part of the summer, but eating our own preserved foods saves so much money! For those of you that can, here are some recipes:


4 to 5 lbs. beef stew meat

1 Tbsp. oil

3 quarts peeled and cubed potatoes

2 quarts sliced carrots

3 cups chopped celery

3 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cut meat into 1 1/2 inch cubes; brown in oil. Combine meat, vegetables and seasonings; cover with boiling water. Bring stew to a boil. Ladle hot stew into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour, quarts 1 hour and 15 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Yields 14 pints or 7 quarts.


4 lbs. meaty beef bones

2 quarts water

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

1 bay leaf

salt to taste

beef boullion cubes or granules (optional)

Bring beef bones and water to a boil over high heat; skim foam; reduce heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and salt to taste. Cover; simmer 2 to 3 hours. If more lfavor is desired, simmer longer or add beef boullion cubes or granules to stock. Remove beef bones. Strain liquid; skim excess fat from top of stock. DO NOT ADD MEAT BACK TO STOCK. Ladle hot stock into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes, at 10 lbs. pressure. Yield: about 4 pints or 2 quarts.


4 quarts chicken stock

3 cups diced chicken

1 1/2 cups diced celery

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots

1 cup diced onion

salt and pepper to taste

3 chicken boullion cubes

Combine chicken stock, chicken and vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste. Add boullion cubes. Cook until boullion cubes are dissolved. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour and 15 minutes, quarts 1 hour and 30 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Yield about 8 pints or 4 quarts.


1 3 to 4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces

4 quarts water

2 stalks celery

2 medium onions, quartered

1 Tablespoon salt

10 peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Combine chicken and water; bring t oa boil. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat; simmer 2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove from heat; skim off foam. Remove chicken from stock, reserving chicken for another use. Strain stock through a sieve. Allow stock to cool until fat solidifies; skim off fat. Bring stock to a boil. Ladle hot stock into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Yield: about 8 pints or 4 quarts


2 quarts peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 quarts peeled and cubed potatoes

1 1/2 quarts 3/4-inch sliced carrots

1 quart lima beans

1 quart cut corn, uncooked

2 cups 1-inch sliced celery

2 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 quarts water

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all vegetables in a large saucepot. Add water; boil 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour, quarts 1 hour and 15 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Yield: about 14 pints or 7 quarts.


7 quarts water

1 pound carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces

6 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 medium onions, quarterd

2 sweet red peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 medium turnips, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

8 peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 2 hours. Uncover and continue cooking 2 hours. Strain stock through several layers of cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Discard vegetables and seasonings. Ladle hot stock into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 30 minutes, quarts 35 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure. Yield: about 8 pints or 4 quarts


WASH; cut up tomatoes. Chop onions, celery, parsley, bay leaves. Add to tomatoes; cook until celery is tender. Put through sieve. Rub flour and butter into smooth paste thinned with tomato juice. Add to boiling soup; stir to prevent scorching. Add salt, sugar and pepper. For smoother consistency put through sieve again or blender for a smoother consistency. Fill clean jars to within one inch of top of jar. Put on lid, screwing the band firmly tight. Process in water bath one hour and 25 minutes. I'm not sure on the yield on this recipe.

SALSA: makes a pretty mild salsa, add more peppers, chili peppers, or cayenne to suit your taste. My family LOVES this! I made 21 QUARTS of it last fall, and it was not NEARLY enough!
  • 8 quarts chopped ripe tomatoes (no need to peel)
  • 2 - 3 large onions, chopped
  • 5 large green peppers, chopped
  • 4 large red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 to 4 banana peppers, chopped
  • 3 6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. pickling salt
  • 2 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Combine in a large pot. Simmer for about 4 hours stirring occasionally until desired thickness. I have found that if I use Roma tomatoes, there is practically no simmering needed. Pour into hot sterile jars. Seal with lids. Process in a hot water bath, quarts or pints, 45 minutes.

Zucchini Pineapple: To use up those abundant zucchini, and it really does taste like pineapple! I use it for anything calling for crushed pineapple, and I've even gotten the kids to eat it over cottage cheese.

  • 18 cups peeled, seeded, chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 46 oz can pineapple juice
Bring juices and sugar to a boil. Add zucchini and simmer 20 minutes. Pack and seal in hot jars with hot lids. Process pints 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yields about 12 pints.

Spaghetti Sauce: My most requested recipe in the neighborhood!
  • 12 lbs. Roma or Beefmaster tomatoes, peeled & chopped, may be put through a food mill if a smoother sauce is desired.
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 48 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 c. dried oregano
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Cook onions in oil until tender. Add rest of ingredients except lemon juice. Mix well and cook to desired thickness over low/med heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add lemon juice. Pour into hot jars, leaving headspace 1 inch for quarts, 1/2 inch for pints. Process in pressure canner at 10 lbs pressure, 25 minutes for quarts, 20 minutes for pints.

Grape Juice: let sit for at least 6 weeks after canning to allow for full flavor

For each quart:
1 cup destemmed clean grapes (I use Concord)
1/4 c. to 1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
fill rest of jar with boiling water leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal with lids and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Sweet Pickle Relish: Personally, I find that I use 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. less sugar

  • 4 c. finely chopped unpeeled cucumbers
  • 1 c. finely chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 3 c. finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. celery seed
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
Combine chopped vegetables in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and cover with ice water. Let stand 4 hours. Drain thoroughly in a colander and press out all liquid. In a large pot, bring rest of ingredients to a boil Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in drained vegetables and simmer 10 minutes. Pack into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Yields 5 to 6 pints.

Dill Relish
  • 6 cups chopped cucumbers
  • 2 cups chopped green peppers
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2/3 cup pickling salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons dill seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 tsp. celery seeds
Combine vegetables, sprinkle with pickling salt and add 6 cups ice water. Let sit for 3 hours; drain and rinse once. Drain again, squeezing to remove as much water as possible. Combine rest of ingredients in a large pot, add vegetables and heat to boiling. Ladle into hot jars, add lids and rings and tighten. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Crock Pot Apple Butter:

  • 4 quarts sliced unpeeled apples
  • 2 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Place apples in crock pot. Top with mixture of sugar and spices. Let stand, covered, overnight. Cook covered, on high for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Put mixture through a food mill (we have a Squeezo). Ladle into 1/2 pint or pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal with lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Pickled Beets: family favorite

Any amount of beets, tops removed, rinsed. Put in large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until you can easily insert a fork into beets. Cool beets off in cold water, skins should slip off easily. Trim off root and top. Cut into 1 inch chunks or 1/2 inch slices. Pack into pint jars.

Syrup: be prepared to make multiple batches of syrup as needed
2 c. water
1 3/4 c. white vinegar
2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp pickling spices in clean nylon or cheesecloth bag or tea strainer
Bring all ingredients to a boil, remove pickling spices, and pour over beets to within 1/2 inch of top. Seal with lids. Process 30 minutes in boiling water bath.

ETA: Per a request for something I completely didn't think about.....

Water boils when its vapor pressure exceeds the atmospheric pressure, which reduces as the altitude increases. Water will boil and maintain a lower temperature at higher altitudes than at sea level. These lower boiling point temperatures increase the cooking times for any food, they increase the processing time for canning in a water bath and they increase the pressure required to process in a pressure canner.

The temperatures and processing times that we publish are from sea level up to an elevation of 1,000 feet. The charts below indicate the adjustments that should be made for each processing method at different elevations.

Boiling Temperature of Water:

Sea Level
1000 ft.
3000 ft.
6000 ft.
8000 feet

Water Bath Canner Processing Times in Minutes

Sea Level
1000 ft.
3000 ft.
6000 ft.
8000 feet

Adjustment for Pressure Canner, Dial Gauge
Sea Level
1000 ft.
3000 ft.
6000 ft.
8000 feet
5 lbs.
6 lbs.
7 lbs.
8 lbs.
9 lbs.
10 lbs.
11.5 lbs.
13 lbs.
14 lbs.
15 lbs.

Adjustment for Pressure Canner, Weighted Gauge
Sea Level
1000 ft.
3000 ft.
6000 ft.
8000 feet
5 lbs.
10 lbs.
10 lbs.
10 lbs.
10 lbs.
11 lbs.
15 lbs.
15 lbs.
15 lbs.
15 lbs.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pancakes, anyone?

....and it's not just your plain ol' pancake anymore!

Basic Pancakes

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. melted margarine or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup milk
Mix all ingredients together. Pour by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle over medium heat. When the outside edges look dry and bubbles form in the middle, flip carefully with spatula.

NOW, to make these pancakes different, you can add 1 cup fresh or thawed blueberries or 1 cup chocolate chips.

Fluffy Banana Pancakes
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. oat bran
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sift dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Combine bananas, milk, egg and vanilla in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir until just combined. Pour onto hot greased griddle using 1/4 cupfuls. Flip when the pancakes bubble and are browned on the bottom.

Harvest Grain & Nut Pancakes
  • 3/4 c. oatmeal
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped almonds
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts
If you choose, you can grind the oatmeal into a fine powder in a blender or food processor; I prefer to leave the oatmeal as is. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl combine milk, oil and egg and add to dry ingredients, stir until mixed. Stir in nuts. Ladle by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle. Flip when bottoms are browned and bubbles form in the middle.

Pumpkin Pancakes: these take a bit more work to prepare but are SO worth it!
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside. Add rest of ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Fold in egg whites. Ladle by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle. Flip when bottoms are brown and bubbles form in middle.

Peanut Butter Pancakes
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice)
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour out by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle. Flip when bottoms are browned and bubbles form in the middle.

Oatmeal Pancakes:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. wheat germ
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Add oats to the milk and set aside for 15 minutes. Mix flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. Add eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla along with oatmeal mixture and stir until mixed. Pour by the 1/4 cupfuls onto hot greased griddle and flip when bottoms are browned and bubbles form in the middle.

And, to top all of these.........

Homemade Pancake Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. maple extract flavoring
Pull all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil, boil for one minute. Let cool to warm or cool completely. I store mine in the fridge.