My family's journey down the road less traveled....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls....

I love cinnamon rolls.  If marrying them was an option, I'd be Mrs. Cinnamon Roll.  Seriously.  However, my only experience with them comes from whacking that silly tube on the counter and taking the pre made little rolls out and squeezing the icing from the plastic packet.  I got brave this weekend and ventured into the world of homemade.  Uh, what in the world took me so long!?!?!

Ginger had a few friends over to celebrate her birthday early and I spent Saturday morning making batch after batch of pizza dough in my bread maker.  I found a recipe for rolls that could be made in the machine too and took a chance.  I assembled the rolls, cut them and placed the pans in the fridge till this morning.  All I had to do was pull them out when I turned on the oven to preheat and they had plenty of time to rise a little before baking.  Super easy.  Like ridiculously easy.

The only change I'll make next time is more cinnamon and I'll add in nutmeg.  I ♥ nutmeg.

1 cup milk (heated approximately 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
/2 cup granulated sugar

5 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast

Put ingredients, in order into bread machine.  Start dough cycle.  Mine mixes dough for approx. 12 minutes then goes into a rise period with heat to help dough along.  You can always remove dough right after mixing and allow to rise in a warm place.

Cinnamon Filling
1/2 cup butter, melted or softened
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar

4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Once dough has risen, roll and stretch into a rectangle (approx. 15in by 24in).  Brush with 1/2 cup melted/softened butter and sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture over dough.   Starting with long edge, roll up dough; pinch seams to seal. Cut dough into 1 1/2 in pieces and place in slightly greased baking dish.  Rolls should not touch.  I was able to get 18 rolls out of this recipe.  At this point you can either allow them to rise an additional 20 minutes or so then bake or cover and pop in the fridge.  I guess you could also freeze them too. 

Cream Cheese Frosting (double batch) **Can make day ahead too**

8ox softened cream cheese
1/2 c softened butter
3c confectioner sugar
3 tsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
Beat all ingredients with mixer until well blended

Pull rolls out and place in warm place to rise about 20 minutes prior to baking.  Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.  Immediately top with frosting.

Now to conquer orange rolls!!!!

In cinnamon roll heaven............Deborah

Friday, October 26, 2012

Orange Chicken

This recipe is a little labor intensive but well worth the effort!!

Tempura Chicken

  • 2lbs chicken in bite sized pieces
  • Tempura Batter (1/2c flour, 1/2c cornstarch, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 egg beaten, 2/3 c ICE water) Combine in bowl, mix well, then add chicken.

Heat frying oil to approx. 375 degrees and fry chicken pieces in batches until cooked.
Remove to paper towel lined tray and keep warm.

Orange Sauce

  • 1 1/2c water
  • 1/4c fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 c rice wine vinegar(can sub red wine vinegar)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1c brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredient in saucepan, mix well and bring to a boil.  Mix 3 tbsp cornstarch and 1/4c water then slowly add to sauce to thicken.  

At this point you'll have your cooked chicken pieces and sauce made.  It's time to combine all the goodness. Heat sesame oil (or whatever you have) in large skillet/wok and stir-fry veggies of your choosing.  I prefer broccoli, carrots, onion and on occasion water chestnuts.  Once the veggies are cooked dump in the chicken and sauce to heat through.  Can garnish with chopped green onions added at the last minute...they are a nice touch if you remember!!

Sauce can be made ahead of time and freezes well.  If I am organized and prep my veggies first, then my sauce and finish with the chicken the meal goes together smoothly. 

Yeah Baby...$114

It's Friday and ya'll know what that day!!  Today was a little different as I had Ginger with me instead of Boy Oompa.  All the kids got the day off school since my amazing mother-in-law was up visiting from Georgia and we only got one day to spend with her.  MeeMaw trumps school.

Kroger had a a few 10/$10 deals; generic pop tarts, Pepsi, cream cheese, sour cream and our favorite bbq sauce Sweet Baby Ray's.
Meijer's deals; Angel Soft 6 double rolls for $2.40, Thomas Bagels B1G1 working out to $1.90 per pack, chicken thighs $0.99/lb.

Weekly Menu
Orange Chicken and Rice
Pizza and Chips (for Ginger's B-day party)
Baked Potatoes
Chicken Pot Pie
Black Bean Burgers and Fries
Chicken Scampi

Grocery haul this week: $114 even!!

Frugally yours.....Deborah 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oddities to make you laugh..or at least scratch your head in wonder

I need a chuckle today so here are a few odd photos I've taken over the past few months:
Tricked out van in the grocery store parking lot

This guy's a real pumpkin head!!!

Carnie making fun of the oldest Oompa on the Drop Tower

Mmmm, Lego McDonald's and Pizza Hut

Self-Portrait of Boy Oompa

Flat Mikey enjoying a little hiking in Georgia

My perplexed brother and his mustached stalker wife

Smell ya later...........Deborah

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Feeling blah, so I made taco seasoning!!!

I'm feeling a little punkish today.  It's been a roller coaster of emotions the past few days.  I'm trying to keep a little normalcy to my days which I'm hoping will help keep me and everyone in the house on an even keel.  I know the Oompas are stressing about the recent changes in employment status and I'm doing my best to keep their fears calmed without giving false hopes.  Fine line to walk.

Keeping in line with a little normalcy, I've decided to post a cost saving recipe that also tastes delicious.

Taco Seasoning-this makes about 4-5 packets worth but tastes sooo much better than that store bought crap!!

1/4 c flour
1/4 c chili powder
4 tsp cumin
4 tsp oregano
4 tsp cocoa powder
4 tsp salt
3 tsp dried minced onion
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients well, store in airtight container.  When you are ready to use: add 3-4 tablespoons of seasoning plus 1/4-1/3 cup water for 1lb of meat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Square One....We Meet Again!

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.  The end is where we start from- T.S. Eliot

In summary for those of you not intimately connected with my family and it's story;  Mr. Awesome© lost his job of 8 years back in the fall of 2010.  The job market for metal fabricators was saturated due to an overwhelming amount of laid off workers in that field. Jobs offers were few and far between and what did come his way were grossly underpaid given his almost 20 years of experience.  

Thanks to a good friend (who was in the same position) he got a lead on a job at a local car manufacturer's research and development facility.  Finally, he'd found a job he truly enjoyed going to everyday that paid him well....really well.  Of course, there was one glitch.  He was only a contract worker (read temp).  In spite of his status as a temp, the powers that be put him in a position to work in the robotic weld cell, which it was adamantly said a temp would never work.
Recently, this major car manufacturer found it necessary to cut their budget.  Not the budget cutting we're used to....240 million in cuts.  The build schedule for the rest of 2012 got pushed to early 2013 and contract workers dropped like flies.  Every Friday guys would leave the building not knowing who would receive "the call" over the weekend.  Mr. Awesome© was assured by many higher-ups that he was safe. Given the fact that he was in a position that had never been held my a contract workers, his job was secure.  He was given busy work to do to fill his days.  All seemed right with our world until Saturday.  He got "the call".

Honestly, I think I'm still a little stunned.  Serves me right for relying on the words of others as gospel.  No situation in this world is can change in a instant.  We're a little better prepared for this round of unemployment than the last, I think.  Seems ironic timing since I've just left my job!!  Not that the pennies I would be able to earn from now till mid-November's shutdown would actually make a significant difference, but you've gotta love the timing.

Looking forward, Mr. Awesome© is contemplating a few new ventures to get out of fabrication all together.  He's spent the past 20 years breaking his body down with manual labor and enough is enough.  We're looking into him going back to school for robotic welding then possibly on to a consulting firm.  He's even discussed working as a guitar teacher.  Who knows?  We've got a blank page in front of us.

Live from Square One......Deborah

Saturday, October 20, 2012

17 days and counting.....

17 days...that's when we'll turn the TV and radio back on in our house.  I hate campaign season almost as much as I hate bikini season.  All these words come from candidates mouths yet they never really say anything.  All the trash-talking commercials reminds me of playground antics.  I keep waiting for a commercial in which one candidate will profess about the other, "Yeah, well, he's a booger eating poo-poo head!!"

Obviously, I have strong opinions on who should lead our country and about what I feel should happen in the future.  I'm not going to try and persuade you to join my club because we all have to make up our own minds.  I think it's important for everyone to make their own decision not one based on what their spouse, parents, neighbors or friends think.  I strongly believe in the "agree to disagree" theory among friends.

However, sometimes it's hard to know which candidate is most in line with your way of thinking.  So to help, I would like to share this neat little quiz. is a website that allows you, the voter, to read through a series of issues and choose your stance on them.  It then matches you up with the candidate whose politics best matches. My only suggestion when taking the quiz is to click the option Choose another stance as it gives you a more in depth choice instead of just yes or no.   I would also suggest that you choose the additional questions too, as it gives a more accurate picture of where you stand on issues.

Since I love diversity among friends I would encourage you to share your results in the comment section.  One rule: NO HARASSMENT of each other!!  We have to remember, we're all Americans and in this together.  Each of us, through our own devices, wants the country to be prosperous.

Decidedly yours..........Deborah

Friday, October 19, 2012

Being Frugal is a HARD!!!!

All right boys and girls....I came in $18.02 over budget this week.  Boo!!  Hiss!!  Bah!!!  This just makes me want to plan better and re-adjust my menus.  I am going to incorporate at least one vegetarian meal per week and start making the Oompas snacks from scratch again.  Once upon a time, if the Oompas were hungry for an after school snack, I had frozen homemade mini pizzas in the freezer for them.  I have gotten away from that due to my work schedule but with my newfound free time*snickers and laughs* I can get snackies made that will last a few weeks.

Weekly Menu

  • Friday: Alfredo and Pesto (pulled out a little leftover chicken too)
  • Saturday: Beef Tacos with chips and guacamole
  • Sunday: Chicken Salad Sandwiches with  roasted potatoes
  • Monday: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup and fries (Oldest Oompa choir concert and Ginger has volleyball game...both at the same time!!)
  • Tuesday: Spaghetti with yeast rolls
  • Wednesday: Pork Burrito Bowls
  • Thursday: Leftovers
Total $138.02 with almost 15lbs of meat, Mr. Awesome's© Pepsi (Kroger 10/$10), a package of free lunchmeat and Aldi's new Hazelnut Spread(just like Nutella only $1.99!!!)
I was able to get a good deal on this bad mamba-jamba too!!  I had a $5 off any Rubbermaid product MPerks digital coupon which brought the price to $20.86 with tax.  I did not include this in my weekly budget, it gets categorized under household expenses.  I am actually excited to do a little cleaning tomorrow and try out my new toy!!

Looking over my receipts  I am proud of my savings.  If I had purchased all these items at regular price with no coupons my bill would have been $214.69.  That's a savings of $55.81.  Not shabby but I know it can be better.  Will research new menu ideas and try again next week!!  Send me your favorite low cost and/or vegetarian meal idea!!!

Frugally yours...........Deborah 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fire Cider Tonic

You're Invited!!!
What: Swimming Party 
Who: Raw apple cider vinegar, chopped onion, grated horseradish root, jalapeno pepper, 
cayenne pepper, garlic cloves, grated ginger root
Where: Clean glass jar
Ginger root not pictured because, well, I'm a dork and forgot!!
Mix everyone in a clean jar, put a lid on it and let it steep for 4-6 weeks.  I gave my last batch a swirl every few days when I passed through the pantry.  To use, strain liquid through cheesecloth or fine strainer.  I would drink 1-2 tablespoons 2-3 times per day when I had sinus congestion or a cough.  I am going to use it this year when I feel the symptoms coming on to see if it shortens or even thwarts an attack.

Fire Cider is an immune-boosting tonic with antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. It can be taken daily as a preventive and also at the onset of colds or flu. It’s an expectorant. It breaks up congestion and helps us ward off respiratory ailments and sinusitis. It also helps to stimulate sweating and moves toxins out of the body, which is beneficial in cases of colds, flu and mild fevers.
Fire Cider is also beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Several of the ingredients support optimal cardiovascular function and are used by many to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It increases circulation and warms the body, and thus is valuable in cold winter temperatures and for those who frequently experience cold extremities.
Additionally, as it warms the organs of the digestive system and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, Fire Cider is an excellent tonic for the digestive system.
Many of the ingredients in Fire Cider have anti-inflammatory properties, which prove useful in the relief of pain. It can be taken internally and applied topically to sore muscles and joints. Some have used it to successfully treat migraines.
Vinegar Rocks.....Deborah 


Like millions of other folks on the planet, I suffer from procrastination or will suffer from it.....later.

I have a list as long as my arm of chores I need to get accomplished before the really cold weather and white death begin falling from the sky.  I'm an expert at making lists.  It's the whole seeing it through and being able to mark that particular job off the list where things get hazy.  I'm trying an experiment in psychology...if I post my list to the public will I feel the pressure and therefore be compelled to get 'er done??  Time shall tell.

Here is my list in no particular order.  As I finish each task, I'll come back and cross it off and give an update.

List of  things I don't want to do (because I'd rather be bundled up in my comfy chair watching Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife) but need to do:
  1. burn weeds in garden and plant garlic
  2. rake leaves and put in garden beds(free mulch/compost!!!)
  3. nag Mr. Awesome© till he fixes tractor 
  4. mow the yard one last time
  5. replace missing shingles on shed roof
  6. clean out deep freezer
  7. re-organize pantry/possibly put up new shelves??
  8. finish gourd birdhouses
  9. do something with psycho mean rooster (he's going on 3yrs old so the meat will be really tough)
  10. remove temporary fencing from around chicken coop
  11. buy and put up snow fence(with all the flat land we get massive drifts in the front of our house burying the cars and front porch)
  12. pick up straw bales and insulate chicken coop
  13. make cat house for Greaseball and Cousin Eddie to live in this winter
  14. help Boy Oompa clean out his rat cage and give the rodent a bath 
  15. Make batch of Fire Cider Tonic **stock up on tomato juice to make taking this awful but effective remedy a little more pleasant**
  16. Research herbal sleep tincture I saw over at Rosemary's Remedies *source herbs needed to make it*
  17. Make Elderberry Cough Syrup for upcoming cold season (" I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." )
  18. clean cabinet under the kitchen sink aka mouse hotel...blech.
  19. place mouse bait in crawl space of house (harvesting has begun and those little suckers are running to my house for cover)
  20. MOST IMPORTANT-Spray bug killer around foundation of house and in/on/under/around/near any crevice where those horrific Wolf spiders can make their way into my house.  
  21. get flea medicine from vet (*waiting on my last paycheck for the $$)
  22. take both dogs to groomers (big dog is too big for me to want to tackle and little dog needs his nails clipped but gets aggressive when I try) *research costs and make adjustments to budget for $$

That's what I can think of right now...may add a few more as they come to me.  Now comes the hard part.  Putting on my big girl panties and gonna knock 'em out!!!

Accountably yours.................Deborah 

Crusty Goodness...

No doubt there is something in every person's life they've avoided trying because of hearing horror stories of it's difficulty.  In this modern age there are so many short cuts one can take that it's possible to avoid this awful task for your entire life if not at least many years.  In the grand scheme of life some of these are relatively simple things while others rank on the side of monumental.  The amusing part is that once you suck it up and try this thing you've built up in your head as impossible,  it's usually way easier than you expected.

We need to remember that the human race exaggerates a million percent!!  Who wants to admit they had difficulty accomplishing a simple, mundane action.  I've totally been shown up by my kids while trying to do things on the computer and it makes me feel like a moron.  However, I'd feel worse if I had given up altogether but it's still takes you down a notch when you have to turn to your (then) 5 year old and ask for help with Photoshop.  Just like the fish your hubby caught last weekend grew in size each time he told the story, so does the arduousness of a task each time you retell the story and your inability to do it.  Confused yet?  I am, I think.

The whole point of my little diatribe is that I've heard for years how precarious it is to make a proper pie crust from scratch.  They're such a pain to roll out, they're either too wet or dry, you need a marble slab to roll it out on, etc..  Um, yeah...calling bull on this one!!  My menu this week called for chicken pot pie.  As we all know you can't have pie without crusts and I blanked while at the store and forgot to pick up pre-made pie crusts.  Seeing as I'd already blown my budget for the week I womaned up and made my own.  Holy puff pastries Batman, it was EASY, tasted fantastic and cost, literally, pennies to make!!!

 $2.50 for 2 refrigerated pie crusts vs.$0.77 for homemade ($0.15 in flour,$0.02 in salt & $0.60 in shortening)

Crustily your......Deborah

Pie Crust

Double Crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup chilled shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4-8 tsp ice water
Cut chilled shortening into flour and salt with pastry cutter until mixture is in course crumbles.  Add 4 tsp of ice water and mix with a fork.  Add additional water one tsp at a time until mixture hold together. 

Divide dough in half (make one a little bigger than the other for bottom crust).  Flatten into 1/2 inch disc and wrap in plastic.  Chill at least 30 minutes or freeze for later use.  

Roll out dough on lightly floured counter or between 2 pieces of parchment or plastic.  

Fill crusts with whatever makes your skirts fly up and enjoy!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Free at last...

This past weekend marked my last working at the camp.  I pulled seriously long days last week preparing for the annual apple butter festival.  I baked, organized supplies, cooked and canned apple butter till I was ready to drop!!  I'll know on Wednesday when I go in to drop off my financial report, keys, credit cards and final time card whether all my hard work on the festival was worth it.  Despite my aggravations toward the camp's lack of communications, I really hope this fundraiser was a success.

I'll admit we called an audible on Sunday evening.  My plan had been to provide a hot, nutritious, home-cooked, cost cutting meal but I left the camp around 6pm and headed straight to the nearest Little Caesar's pizza to take advantage of their $5 deal.  I even got an extra pizza for lunches today!!!  I knew 5:30am would come too soon and I wouldn't have the energy to pack a decent lunch for Mr. Awesome© and the girl Oompas.  Looks like I've added another $19.40 to my weekly budget and it was worth every penny!!!

Today, the first day of this new chapter in my life, was spent tying up loose ends.  I had a pile of laundry the size of Mount Everest that needed tackled, I'd lost my kitchen counters to clutter and junk but most of all I needed a day to rest after 12 hours on my feet selling pies and making small talk to strangers!!  Around 2pm, I got two back to back calls from boy Oompa's Cub Scout leader and youngest girl Oompa's volleyball coach.  Looks like my evenings this week are filled with running kids to Pack meetings and practice.  Sure beats cooking for 50!!!

Off to volleyball practice....Deborah

P.S.-youngest girl Oompa will now be going my the moniker "Ginger" on account of her red hair and the fact that she more than likely is soul-less!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Grocery Haul....

We did well this past week on what groceries I bought last Friday, with the exception of Mr. Awesome's© Pepsi addiction.  He vowed to cut back after I showed him the cost of drinking one 2 Liter a day.  Yes, he's already aware of the nasty health consequence.  He tried to cut back, I think, but plowed through the five 2 liters I bought on sale and ended up purchasing another 2 for $3.00.  At least he's trying!!  I bought seven this week but will be hiding three in the pantry for emergency backup.

I went $11.90 over my $120 budget for this week which is a bummer but given the state I was in while shopping it could have been much worse.  Today was a rough day.

Meijer had a decent 10 for $10 get the 11th item free sale: Pepsi, hand soap, ziploc baggies, Rotel, and deodorant.  They were out of family pack of their pork ribs for $1.49/lb.

Most important items I picked up today:
 I spent two hours hunched over an open fire stirring 30 gallons of apple butter while listening to a crazy woman rant and rave.....this will help me forget...hopefully.

Weekly Menu:
Friday: Baked Potatoes (using up the last of the leftover chili as topping)
Saturday: Beef Au Jus sandwiches(was supposed to be BBQ Ribs) and Chipotle Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Sunday: Chicken Tacos (bought split breasts for $0.99lb and will cook Saturday and shred)
Monday: Black Bean Burgers and Fries
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie (realized as I typed this I forgot pie crusts...will be making them from scratch!!)
Wednesday: Smoked Sausage and Fried Potatoes
Thursday: Leftovers

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Cherry Coffeecake
Egg, Sausage and Cheese Burritos

Off to ease my aching back.....Deborah

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jack Frost nipping at my nose...

Farmer's Almanac long range weather forecast doesn't show any significant cold periods or snow until November 6th-8th.  Not sure Mr. Jack Frost got that memo....

Chilling out.........Deborah

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Move over Swiffer, there's a new mop in town...

My friend Dawn has been posting frugal tips over on Facebook for the past week or so and shared this little gem that I felt needed to be passed along.  Dawn is a tried and true Frugalista (yup, I'm making up words!!), raising three of the nicest kids, working side by side with her husband and just being an all around great person.

I'm sure we've all been tempted or have actually caved and at one point in our cleaning lives bought and used a Swiffer.  I've owned one.  In the beginning it was extremely handy.  I bought mine when we lived in a house with a ton of exposed hardwood floors.  The duster pad made quick work of the floors and once I upgraded to the Wet Jet, I was able to (almost) seamlessly go from mopping linoleum in the kitchen to the hardwood.  Until that fateful day when the cleaning solution and pads ran out.  Oh, the horror!!!!

I've pulled out my trusty, rusty abacus and did a little ciphering...

Swiffer Wet Jet Starter Kit (1 bottle solution and 2 pads)- $18
Bottle of solution for wood floors- $4
Box of 12 refill pads-$8
Grand Total-$30
You'll get a total of 2 cleaning solutions and 14 mop pads which if you're anything like me will last a month, maybe 6 weeks if you try and stretch the use on the pads.  Add in another $4 if you want the pads for dry dusting.  I found those lasted a little longer than the wet ones.

Or, you can try this bad boy.  Yes, I'm excited about a's how I roll!!

Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop Kit-$31.49 (Amazon).  Comes with 2 refillable cleaning solution bottles and 2 washable wet mop heads.
Dry dusting head available for $6.39.
Grand Total-37.88 and it'll last you for years!!

I'm sold.  Whip up a batch of homemade vinegar cleaner and you'll save even more $$.

Mopping good times...........Deborah

Monday, October 08, 2012

Vinegar ROCKS....

Reader's Digest has complied a list of 150+ uses for vinegar.  This stuff is amazing I tell ya!  Studies have shown that 5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria.  The perfect choice (in my opinion) for wiping down kitchen counters before and after food prep.  Perfect for cleaning the bathroom.  Perfect for killing germs in my house with out the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

Here are a few of my favorite vinegar cleaning applications.  I have a great list of vinegar health applications I'll post some day soon!!

Laundry Softener

  • 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
  • 30-40 drops essential oil 
  • lavender oil is good for promoting calm mood and sleep, orange oil helps brighten whites, peppermint helps fight odors
Use 1/2 cup per load in your softener dispenser.  1 gallon of vinegar will last you 32 loads for a price around $2 with no chemicals or additives.

Weed Killer-especially good if you have free range chickens who eat everything in sight!!

  • 1 gallon 5% distilled white vinegar (some Ag stores carry higher percentage vinegar, sometimes under the name Acetic Acid, if you can find this, it will work quicker but use with caution as it is an acid and WILL burn)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
Mix together in a spray bottle and kill them weeds!!!

All Purpose Cleaner
  • 60%/40% vinegar/water solution in a spray bottle
  • tackles kitchen counters, stove top grease and foods, microwave explosions, bathroom counters, the nasty toilet, works amazing on soap scum in the tub, cleans windows, faucets, dirty floors, dirty walls, dirty everything!!!

My "Special" Meatloaf

If your kids and husband are like mine then vegetables are their Kryptonite.  Little do they know they eat them ore often than they realize!! Mwahahahahahhahaha.  Totally evil, right??

Meatloaf-Serves 6

1/2 lb of ground beef
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 cup (give or take) vegetables like carrots, corn, peppers, zucchini, broccoli chopped finely in food processor
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 cup Oatmeal, Bread Crumbs or my choice 1/2 cup each
1 egg
1/3 cup Favorite BBQ Sauce (our favorite right now is Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle....yum)

Mix beef, turkey, veggies, onion and oatmeal/bread crumb in a bowl.  Add in the egg and BBQ sauce.  Mix well; adding an additional egg if too dry or additional oatmeal/bread crumbs if too wet.  Form into loaf or put in loaf pan and top with an additional 1/4-1/3 cup BBQ sauce.  I bake mine in a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350°.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


All of this talk of how I'm making a choice to be frugal and save money got me to thinking about people and times when it wasn't a choice.  Depending on which source you quote,14%-16% of American families are at or below poverty levels.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sets the threshold for assistance for a family of five at $27,010.  That equates to working 40 hours a week for $13 an hour.  With the ever rising costs of food, utilities, housing and gas it's no wonder we're all feeling the pinch.

A few months ago I stumbled across this little gem...the Great Depression Story Project.  It is a wonderful compilation of stories from Ohio residents about their experiences during the late 20's and 30's.  The topics range from food, holidays, entertainment to beautiful stories about helping strangers in need.   Helping each other is such a foreign concept these days.

I've been reading these little nuggets of history and I want to encourage all of you to do the same.  These folks aren't so different from you and I .  They were scared of the uncertainty but still managed to live and love and enjoy life.  In many of the stories the authors recall gifts they received or items they saved months to be able to afford, many of which they still had to this day.  An underlying theme in these stories is that in spite of their poverty or better yet, inspired by their poverty, they drew together as families and a community.

Inspired and Awed..........Deborah

"I wouldn't change any of these experiences even if I could. It was more enjoyable than you can ever imagine. I have come to appreciate what a wonderful opportunity my family had to grow up poor in the back woods of West Virginia deprived of nothing that was truly important, and blessed with everything we really needed." 

- Betty Banta, age 80, Columbus

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Grocery Bounty....

Before we begin, I'd like to explain the method to my maddess.  Yes, chaos can be organized!!!
I shop once a week on Friday mornings.  There may be some expert who can prove that shopping on Tuesday from 11am-1pm is the optimal shopping window, but like I've said and will continue to say, " I don't live to shop".  I work this annoying chore into my schedule and try to make it as easy as possible.

I start on Thursday but going through the ads online.  Yes, I get them in paper form but as I discovered this week, the ads for the Delaware stores (17 miles south) are different than the Marion stores(15 miles north). Seeing as I get ads for Marion and went to Delaware, it created a bit of a snafu.  Depending on what other errands I need to run determines which direction I go.  That's another cost saving idea...I "save" up my errands and try to knock them all out in one day to avoid multiple trips.  Gas prices have gotten too high to warrant needless driving.

Anywho...I check the ads for Aldi, Kroger and Meijer.  Both Kroger and Meijer offer digital coupons that you load on your MPerks (Meijer) or Kroger card.  This week they offered $5.00 off total bill over $50.  I also scored $2.00 off toilet paper and we all know how I'm never giving up my TP!!   I take this time to plan my weekly menu based on what's on sale.  Here is our menu for this week:

Friday: Family Dinner in Columbus (I provided salad and drinks)  Mr. Awesome© wasn't able to make it and ate out :-(
Saturday: Mongolian Beef and Rice (scored a nice package of thinly sliced sirloin from the Manager's Special section at Krogers)
Sunday: Chili (over spaghetti or plain)
Monday: My "Special" Meatloaf (link to recipe) and Roasted Potatoes (last week Meijer had potatoes 10/$10)
Tuesday: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup and French Fries
Wednesday: Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
Thursday: LEFTOVERS!!!

I will be making a huge casserole of baked french toast for the kiddies to eat all week for breakfast.  The girl Oompas get to buy lunch from school one day a week and we eat leftovers or sandwiches the other days. I pack Mr. Awesome© a bagel and lunch everyday as it's too far for him to go to get lunch and his smoke break in under 30 minutes.

Here is what $119.36 got me for this week
We're battling two major problems right now.  First is Mr. Awesome's© addition to Pepsi as well as his dependence on Paul Mitchell hair products.  He keeps saying he's going to cut off his golden locks which will end the need for $11.99 shampoo and conditioner.  As far as the Pepsi addition, if he can cut back from one 2 Liter per day I'll take it!

You'll notice I purchased a family pack of chicken, yet no chicken appears on the menu.  Well, at $1.69 per pound I didn't want to pass it up. I'll trim the fat off then re-bag it 2 pieces (1 whole breasts) per bag which  works out to three meals for our family at a whopping $2.52 per meal.  This is my last week of work before glorious freedom and it's busy, busy, busy.  I needed to make the menu easy to prepare since the girl Oompas will be doing the cooking on Monday thru Thursday nights.  Aldi's also had their chicken stock on sale for $0.99, so it made sense to grab a few since colder weather means more soups and such.

That's my strategy in a nutshell.  Will I ever be as good as Mavis from over at One Hundred Dollars a Month??  Not likely. Would it make military strategist proud??  Doubtful, but it works and I can always tweak my plan as new ideas pop up!!

Happy Budgeting and Planning......Deborah

Laundry Detergent Tutorial...

Hello to all my frugal minded friends!!  Here are the step-by-step instructions to making your own laundry detergent.

You'll need the following items:
Borax: $1.99 (on sale a few months ago)
Washing Soda: $3.29 (regular price)
Color Safe Bleach: $2.89 (regular price)
Ivory: $1.58 ($0.79 each after 2 $0.50 coupons)  **see note at bottom regarding soap**
Total: $9.75

Yes, only $9.75

Next step is most time consuming and potentially dangerous.  Well, only dangerous if you're me and unable to handle a simple food grater without removing large chunks of your fingertips. However, if you're challenged like I am, your cost may go up slightly with the addition of a few bandaids!!
I digress...plop down in a comfy chair and grate up the soap.  Took me about 10 minutes and I got to catch a few minutes of a college football game and listen to Mr. Awesome© yell at the T.V.  Fun, right??

I like to grate the soap as fine as I possible can.  I think it helps the soap dissolve a little better in the wash.

I store my laundry detergent in a 5 gallon bucket.  You can pick one up super cheap at any hardware store.  I recommend you store it with a lid as I've noticed excess moisture results in clumping and well, no one likes clumps.

Last step is to pour all ingredients into your bucket or preferred storage device and mix them together.  Please note that these powders are chemicals and breathing them in is not the best for your health.  I either tie a bandanna over my mouth and nose or grab a mask before this step.  Needed to put that disclaimer out, however, you're all big girls (and boys) so proceed as you see fit!!

You are now ready to tackle that pesky, ever-growing laundry pile!!  1/8 cup per load, 1/4 if it's really, really, nasty.  This amount will last me close to 6 months as long as Mr. Awesome© sends his uniforms off to be cleaned at work.  In a typical week, I wash 3 loads of dark clothes, 1 load of whites and 2 of towel/linens for a family of 5 with 2 dogs who love to play in the muddy creek.

Soapy and bandaged........Deborah

**Soap note: Feel free to substitute for the Ivory soap.  Kirk's Castile, Fels Naptha and Dr. Bronner's would work well.  Personally, I have tried Fels Naptha and never liked the smell and noticed the clothes just didn't seem to smell as fresh.**

Friday, October 05, 2012

Stepping Up My Game...

So, I've been on the frugality wagon for years now and like everyone else had my slips.  Busy periods in life where dinner comes from take out bags, milk is bought at convenience stores for three times the regular price and shopping trips are more about speed than savings.  Today, I begin a challenge and as the blog post title implies, I am stepping up my game!

I've been cyber-stalking researching quite a few blogs on frugality, couponing and money saving in general.  Some good, some bad and some down right scary.  Let me state right now, toilet paper will ALWAYS be on my grocery list.  Always. Thankfully, most of the money saving tips are practical and will be something I can at least work with.

I'll admit I got caught up in the coupon craze and had a week or so where I was obsessively clipping coupons from the weekly paper plus printing them from online sources.  Not to mention the digital coupons on my Kroger card or MPerks account.  It only took a few days to realize, however, that most of the coupons were for items I never bought.  I try my best to feed my family with whole foods versus pre-packaged items, I uses vinegar for most most my cleaning, make my own laundry detergent, and buy generic whenever possible.  I've stood in the store and done the math...most of the time, generic is still cheaper than name brand with a coupon.  Now, if you have the time to hit the store on double coupon day (assuming your store doubles coupons) then I guess you'd be saving money but I have a life and grocery shopping is a chore that takes up no more than a few hours.  I do not live my life to bargain shop.

I'm looking ahead at the coming weeks and months with more free time to dedicate to my family.  While many of you may think I'm nuts (and I most definitely am in most regards) I'm looking forward to getting back to basics.  In order to keep myself honest and on track I'll be posting my grocery scores once a week.  I'll also be sharing any cost cutting ideas I think might be of use, after they have been tried, tested and have the Mrs. Awesome seal of approval.

I'm always open to new ideas, unless they involve skipping toilet paper, so please share your favorite money saving tip, idea or success story.

Frugally yours......................Deborah

***I want to make sure I give credit to my amazingly talented cousin (seriously, check out her photography) for writing her blog about her grocery saving adventures which gave me the idea to chronicle my own success....thanks Kelly!!***