Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergent

I just had a friend email me asking for my homemade laundry detergent recipe. I thought I would post it for those of you who might be interested. Although I have not made or bought laundry detergent for about 6 months now (due to freebies from coupons), I am coming to the end of my stockpile. So, I too will be using my food processor to grind bars of soap and make some detergent soon – unless of course, another coupon and sale combo brings more free detergent my way!

I have found the following recipe to be less expensive to make than the cheapest detergent I can purchase. An added bonus it that it cleans better than any of the less expensive detergents I have used. My husband being a chemist in his former life says it is the borx in the recipe which causes it to clean so thouroughly. Borax is a whitening agent which may be used to brighten your laundry.

It is tempting to use more than the 2 Tbs. per load of laundry which is called for in this recipe. In this case though more is not better, it is just a waste. I was skeptical and started with more but found that decreasing it with each load, 2 Tbs. really does clean our clothes very well.[Continue Reading]

Peanut Butter

fresh ground peanutbutter

Have you ever tasted homemade peanut butter? Ooooh, it is so good!

For homemade peanut butter you, of course, need peanuts (or any other nut you want to use). Sometimes you can get them farm fresh, at farmer’s markets or at your local health food store. When bought in bulk, the peanuts can be stored directly in a clean, re-sealable bucket or bagged and in your freezer. We usually start with full 5 gal. buckets and break down one bucket at a time into freezer bags to save space in our freezer. When we need peanut butter, I thaw and grind a bag.

The benefits of grinding your own peanuts are:
  • There are no preservatives
  • You can salt to taste – or not
  • There is no added oil
  • No added sugar – unless you want to
  • Fresh taste
  • Normally less expense for better quality

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Are We Thankful?

I know we should be thankful everyday, but are we? I am grateful for this time of year, set aside to specifically to give thanks. We all, no matter what the circumstances are, have much to be thankful for. As the old hymn says, “count your blessings”. I find it so true,that when I purposely think of what I have to be thankful for, the small irritations in life fade away. Here are a few of the things I am thankful for:

  • Eternal Life – my sins are forgiven through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection
  • My Family
  • Friends
  • Living in freedom in the USA
  • Our warm and comfortable home
  • Food – we have plenty of it
  • Health – we enjoy good health

This past Saturday we participated in our church sponsored, community wide Thanksgiving meal. The girls and I baked 9 pumpkin pies with homemade crust. Six pies went to the church dinner, we gave another to a neighbor and  I confess, we ate two of them. (Yes, we can eat two pies in one sitting very easily!) Our contribution seems so small, but it was such a blessing to give of ourselves even in a little way. It is so easy to become caught up in our daily lives and forget about others. Forget, especially those who are hurting (physical / emotional) or lacking in the necessities which we take for granted.

Let’s not forget all we have. It may be difficult to make a list of what you have to be thankful for and it can be. But, take the time…stop and contemplate…count your blessings.

Turkey Soup

Turkey

Turkey Soup – have you tried it?

This turkey soup recipe helps you use up leftovers and save money!

What do you do with your Thanksgiving turkey after you have carved as much meat off  as possible? You know there is still some on it. Do you give it to the dogs? Do you toss it? Before you do either – try this turkey soup recipe. Served with bread, rolls, or muffins, it is an after Thanksgiving tradition for our family.

For my turkey soup recipe, I normally put the turkey carcass in the stockpot and cover it with water. Turkey soup recipe is a recipe which takes very little preparation time. I usually simmer turkey soup most of the day – it helps warm the house and smells so good!

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Puppies!

I have not introduced you to Sophie yet. She was a bit embarrassed about her “condition”. But, that is all taken care of now and we have 3, beautiful tri-colored welsh pembroke corgi puppies. She had two males and one female last Saturday night very late. Needless to say, everyone here is so excited.

Corgis were originally bred to be cattle dogs for herding. We do not have enough cows to “herd” but she sure gets a workout with the children!

The proud papa (actually, he could care less) is Scruggs. He is a red and white corgi.

They were with us in Alabama and have made the transition to west Texas easily. In Alabama, they were completely inside dogs. Here in Texas, they love walking over to the vineyard anytime someone is going and will stay as long as we do! They are still our beloved family pets, they are just outside more with a greater amount of exercise.

Chocolate Cake – Lazy Woman’s

chocolate cake - lazy woman's

Chocolate  cake was easy to find when we lived in Switzerland. The problem was that most European cakes tend to be a bit drier than American cakes (like this rich and moinst Chocolate Candy Bar Cake recipe) – this held true for chocolate cake too!

Enter the Lazy Woman’s Chocolate Cake recipe. I received not just any chocolate cake recipe but the Lazy Woman’s Chocolate Cake recipe from a good friend who was also an American living in Switzerland. And, as you have probably already guessed, the Lazy Woman’s Chocolate Cake recipe minimizes the mess made when mixing by using only one bowl! It is definitely for those of us who are not necessarily lazy (at least I will not admit publicly to it!) but who are efficient!

One day during our 4 year stay in Switzerland, I was complaining to my friend, Sue, that I could not find a cake mix for birthdays that was not dry. She gave me this easy peasy recipe.  Thanks again, Sue, I still enjoy using it!

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Cutting My Grocery Bill By Over 60%

notebook for culinary recipes on a cutting board early years of marriage when funds were so limited. Living off  John’s stipend while he was in graduate school was quite challenging. But as I shared, it helped me better understand the need for diligence in bookkeeping and frugal living.

During this time, my menu planning consisted of deciding which ONE casserole to cook for the week. With our family just starting, one large dish could last the whole week. These economical meals not only saved money but also my time! Variety was not so much an issue with my husband (provided it wasn’t bad), but each dish was nutritious and microwaveable!

My menu planning the “casserole of the week” cooking lasted up through the birth of four or five children in some form or another. But, as John’s salary increased, so I allowed our grocery budget to increase – except disproportionally. After several years of scrimping and saving, we were living debt free in our own house and driving debt free cars. Thus, I stopped writing down our expenses in my budget book. We had achieved our goals and consciously chose not to be misers – we even bought a ski boat!.

Yet, while we could have kept on without a problem, I wanted to see where our money was going and decided to dust off my budget book. Much to my surprise, I was spending $800 per month on food. Granted, we had 8 children at the time (from 0 to 18 yrs. old), but I thought $800 was excessive and wanted to reduce it.

I decided our frequent trips to the grocery store were primarily the problem (we shopped once a week while in the city for music lessons). This enabled poor (or no) plannning on my part. I could pick-up what I remembered but at the same time fell prey to impulsively buying more prepared foods. I had sacrificed healthy meals for convenience. I guess I should say something about our family meals. They are more than just pit-stops where we simultaneously feed, but rather times of reconnection and conversation as a family, not uncommonly lasting two hours. Even the young are encouraged to listen and take part as we grow together as a family. Maybe I will post more about family life later.

So to begin my menu planning, I made a list of the homemade meals we enjoyed. I then drew out a calender and filled in meals for the whole month. I placed it and others like it into a plastic sleeve and displayed it on my frig. So, at a glance, I would know what was for dinner. Now, for those of you who have entered the computer age, here is a free, downloadable weekly, 2-wk and monthly menu planner. I think it looks neat and one day I hope to try to use it!

Next, came a monthly shopping list. Checking my pantry first, I made a shopping list according to the recipes on my monthly menu. This was a bit overwhelming at first, but the results were well worth the effort. By simply planning meals for a month and shopping accordingly, I was able to lower our food  bill to $400. That was a 50% savings! And that was even before I was using coupons. I must also note that eating out at restaurants is not the norm, but a treat, less than once per month.

I further tweaked my menus by figuring out the cost per serving of each individual recipe. Yes, this took some more time and effort, but what else is a mother of eight to do? I found, by expanding my recipe collection to include additional, more economical meals (red beans and rice was added) I further cut expenses to $300. This was not as big a jump, but the result was less expense with a healthier variety.

Jumping to the present, this year we were blessed with a very productive garden. My menu planning now revolves around eating out of our three freezers (2-25 cu ft and 1-17 cu ft). Now, for a family with 8 children still at home (the oldest two have moved out but others just keep coming), I am spending less than $300 per month including the feed for our chickens and milk cow. The keys are planning, using what we have on hand (garden fresh and freezers) and shopping with coupons in conjunction with sales.

 

Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/Observer

Bisquick, Homemade

homemade bisquick and scoop

I have several recipes that call for Bisquick. But, since I have had such amazing results with the GAPS diet and have begun a more traditional diet, I now read labels. And yes, the Bisquick box, typical of most highly processed foods, is filled with chemicals and preservatives. So began my quest for a healthier, homemade Bisquick substitution.

Homemade Bisquick is made with minimal ingredients. In fact, there are only 4 – flour, baking powder, salt and tallow. Once mixed together, the homemade Bisquick will keep for 3 – 6 months especially if it is kept refrigerated.

If you family is like mine you might want to slowly increase the amount of tallow – I did 1/2 tallow and 1/2 shortening in the beginning – since tallow can have a different taste and smell than regular shortening. My family had to get used to it! You can render your own tallow very easily or if that is not possible, my affiliate, US Wellness Meats is a reliable source of quality, grass-fed products which include tallow. I have bought tallow from them myself and was very pleased!

In the following homemade Bisquick recipe, I normally use fresh ground whole wheat flour but I have also mixed unbleached white flour with equal portions of whole wheat. Either way, this homemade version of the popular Bisquick baking mix works great and is much healthier for you and your family!

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The Early Years

receipt and coins

While in high school, I started to learn the value of earned money. The desire to be a good steward (rather than necessity) resulted in a tendancy towards being frugal. For example, I wanted and learned to sew because fabric was so much cheaper than clothes.

When we were first married, John was in graduate school and I was working as an R.N.  A few months into marriage, we had a change of heart and chose to start having a family instead of building a nest egg. We were soon blessed with our first pregnancy. With that exciting news, I became a stay-at-home mom.

Being at home with our growing family was more important to me than the salary from my job. It did, however, require creativity in budgeting. Part of John’s schooling included a modest stipen of $9000 per year. This was not much money, even in 1984, to live on in the city. Remaining debt free required being frugal and then taking it to a higher level. We also had no health insurance, so the stipen not only had to cover living expenses, but also had to stretch to cover the doctor and hospital bills for the birth of a child. We paid cash – up front!

To facilitate these changes, I began my budget book in which I wrote down EACH AND EVERY expense. Limited funds required our knowing exactly where each penny was going. I also had to learn to keep a running total of my purchases while shopping. Decisions had to be made as to which purchase was more of a necessity, sometimes at the cash register. These early years helped me learn to distinguish between “needs” and “wants”.

I quickly realized that even for our small family (“small” that moment in history anyway) buying in bulk was usually the most economical. Living in a big city had an advantage here because we were able to buy from a large food co-op and the largest Asian “farmer’s market” in the country. I can remember running over to get the “we bag it specials” as they were announced over the loud speakers a half hour before they closed. The only problem was that we sometimes had to eat 3 lbs. of mushrooms in a couple of days! Obviously, not everything could be consumed in a timely manner. If it spoiled, I was not saving money! But 50 lb. bags of wheat berries (to grind for whole wheat flour), popcorn (for corn meal), noodles, rice and oats were bought and stored in 5 gallon paint buckets. These normally protected the contents until they were finished. But to protect further against bugs, John was able to get dry ice to de-oxygenate the buckets. Now we use oxygen absorbing packets for long term storage. (Buying in bulk is not always cheaper. When using some coupons, smaller quantities can be cheaper as you can read about here.)

In our first year of marriage, we had acquired a bread mixer (Bosch) and grain mill (Kitchenetics). These items remain two of the most used appliances in my kitchen. Now, 25 years and 10 children later, we are on our third grain mill and third bread mixer! These not only provided a very economical alternative to store bought bread, but a much healthier one as well.

The biggest monthly expenditure for most people is housing. We chose to rent smaller, older houses in the country for much less than their city counterparts. Our heating and air-conditioning were not equal to our friends the Jones, but then neither were our utility bills! The country houses had enough area around that we were able to garden in some way. These gardens and deals with farmer friends led us to buying our first 25 cu. ft. freezer (which is still running and now full again 20 yrs later – PTL).

Little did I know, the lessons learned during those early, lean years would be so valuable throughout life. With a large (or any size) family, remaining debt free can be challenging in our society. As John’s salary grew, we remained frugal which enabled us to live debt free and save while living comfortably. Our saving was not miserly though. We saved to finance the plans for our future: house, cars, college…without involving the bank. Ultimately, all that saving has enabled us to venture out of the “secure” corporate world into real farm life and our vineyard.

 

Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/anaken2012

Books in Review

Family Activities are an important aspect of building relationships. One of our favorite family activities is reading a book together in the evening. You might envision Little House on the Prairie as I describe the following scene. Our baby is normally already asleep. Everyone is sitting in the living room in their jammies. The younger children may be playing with toys while listening or all may be helping shell pecans (in season) or everyone just quietly listening.  Their Dad begins reading. I know, the only thing missing is a roaring fire but we have no fireplace! Finishing one chapter, all eagerly beg for another. Whether it is out of sincere enjoyment or postponing bedtime…who knows? I would like to think that is purely sincere enjoyment of the book. But, after all, they are still children and what child normally likes to go to bed when the option to stay up is available!

Currently, we are reading (from my affiliate partner) Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. The story takes place after World War II. It details the struggles of a family regaining their relationships after the father’s return from war. The family moves to the country to live in the grandmother’s house. They hope the hard work of country living and fresh country air will accomplish the needed healing. The book tries to promote traditional family values in snippets over a year of their new country life. Sibling rivalry (meanness) is a bit too prominant in the book. But these scenes lead us into meaningful discussions as to what Christian family relationships really should be. Respect for the parents is developed throughout the plot.

If you have never tried family activities, try reading together as a family, I would highly recommend it. Quality time spent interacting together helps produce lasting, valuable relationships. It is one of the things that we do together as a family which helps bond us together as well as teaching the children to be attentive.