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Archive for February, 2010

Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns Recipe and General Update

February 27th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

A couple of you requested my hamburger and hot dog buns recipe so here you go.

2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 C. warm water
3/8 C. butter, soft or melted
1/4 C. sugar
1 egg, beaten well
4 1/4 C. flour
1 1/4 tsp salt

Add water and yeast into bread machine, let sit five minutes, add in egg and butter, then salt, sugar and flour. Set for dough feature of your bread machine.

When done remove from bread machine, punch down dough, and on a large greased cookie sheet shape into circles (for hamburger buns) half the size of what you want it to end up as, or oblongs for hotdogs (again half the size). Cover with a towel and let rise for an hour in a warm place. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees F. Brush tops with butter if desired on removal.

For cloverleaf rolls use the same dough, grease a muffin tin and into each muffin cup drop three equally sized balls. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes. Brush tops with butter if desired on removal.

Dough will keep about 3 to 4 days covered tightly in the fridge if you don't have time to make it and bake it on the same day.

***

We spent a good amount of time out at the house today packing, cleaning, and shredding old paperwork. I think I shredded for a solid hour. Fortunately we have two shredders so when one started heating up too much I'd switch to the other and give the first one a rest. And you know what? As much as we did, it still looks like we've barely even scratched the surface. Ugh. Packrattery is not something I would ever recommend.

I found $9.64 in change and ones laying around the house so brought that home and added it the change jar. I'm pretty sure there are still a lot of coins somewhere as well, because I haven't located one of the old change jars yet.

$34.09 beginning balance
+ 9.64 money added
-------
$43.73 ending balance

***

Things are going well here living with Mom. Chris and Mom get along very well so there are not really any problems adapting. Hopefully that will continue. I think if Mom is going to get on anyone's nerves it will be mine and since I've got a really high tolerance for Mom nonsense it'll probably not be too bad. Mom and I are very close and yeah, she drives me a little crazy, but I think every parent does that to their kids. I don't take it personally. Big Grin

Yesterday was payday, but because of how it falls we won't actually use most of this money until next week's bills except the autopays that come out the first of the month, a medical bill, and the $1000 for Mom. The rest will sit in savings for a week.

***

I had knee surgery on December 7 for a torn miniscus and a loose floating cyst thing under the same knee cap. The final bills after insurance have now come in. I owe the doctor $266.85 and the surgery center $892.80. I'll write a check for the doctor tomorrow.

The other one will have to wait for the income tax refund. It should come in about 1 to 3 more weeks. We sent it off at the end of January. It usually only takes 5 weeks or so before it is deposited in our account when we send it in so early. If it hasn't come by then, I'll just take the money back out of the emergency fund and the safety net and pay for it. But the bill is not due until the last week of March so I'm not too worried about it.

I think that about covers the last few days.

Hubby Back Home and Dripping Money

February 25th, 2010 at 07:40 pm

My husband flew home from Alaska this morning and as is his habit, he sort of empties his pockets as he goes through the house, trailing receipts and change. I followed the trail and ended up with $1.50 for the change jar.

$32.59 beginning balance
+ 1.50 amount added
-------
$34.09 ending balance

We also went grocery shopping this afternoon and spent $46.53 at Trader Joe's for two stuffed full bags of groceries, mostly veggies but 2 pounds of ground beef also. It always shocks me that a one pound package of organic hamburger there is cheaper than anywhere else around here for the non-organic type. I even remembered to bring my Trader Joe bags so got an entry into their grocery drawing. Now I just need to remember to put the bags back out in the car.

I made hamburger buns, hot dog buns, and rolls today. All from the same dough. It's pretty easy and they are far superior to anything I can buy for less money than it'd take to buy one bag of buns or rolls. I'll probably do up a big batch of soft pretzels over the weekend. They freeze well after baking and then can be nuked when ready to eat. I might also make up a batch of corndogs. T has been wanting them lately, but he can't have storebought and it would give us something to keep in the freezer that would be easy for him.

I think I finally found a recipe for making battered fish that I'm going to like. I hope so. We love fish and chips from restaurants and I have been trying for months to get a close approximation of it to make at home. I've had no problem making the chips but the battered fish has been more elusive. If the cod looks good at the fish market tomorrow I'll get some and try this latest recipe out. Making it at home will be so much cheaper than getting takeaway.

We're doing pretty good on not eating out and on leftover management. I had to throw out part of a bell pepper this week and one moldy tortilla. Not bad considering how much food we used to toss. Slowly but surely we are finding our frugal feet again.

Spent Money

February 22nd, 2010 at 10:27 pm

My brother-in-law and my nephew stopped by today and I did not find out until dinner time that they'd eaten all of our leftovers that I was planning to use for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. At least they didn't drink the organic milk, probably since it was non-fat. They did down six cans of Mom's Sprite between them. They are used to coming over, going into the fridge, and eating whatever they want. Which was fine when my mom was the only one living here. My mother didn't care. But I do.

Aside from the fact that it was my grocery budget they were eating up, what really irks me is that they ate enough food in one sitting to provide two full meals to the four of us. No one needs to eat that much food at one time.

I ended up on the phone with my sister and from now on they've agreed to ask first before eating anything here. Sister was not happy because they arrived home an hour after leaving here and proceded to eat a full dinner. Since they are both very much overweight (both morbidly obese) and supposed to be watching their diets, it made her pretty mad that they were sneaking food.

I had planned to be able to just nuke up dinner in five minutes time and planned our day accordingly. Everyone was starving by the time we found out so I did what I would have done before the belt-tightening. I jumped in the car and went to McDonald's. Old habits die hard, I suppose. Still, I ordered off the dollar menu and we had drinks at home, so I wasn't completely out there. Ended up spending $6.46. Everyone got a double cheeseburger and small fries and we had oranges and canned green beans at home to round it out. Mom had decided to fend for herself and made chipped beef on toast.

I need to go back to making up our own tv dinner meals to keep in the freezer. I'll be making a big batch of burritos up later in the week, so if I freeze the extras in individual portions that'll be a start. We do have a fridge in our wing of the house, just no stove, so some things I keep up there because it's where I do the majority of the cooking, so I don't have to be schlepping stuff up there every time. I won't make that mistake again.

I think I'll put a pot roast in the crockpot before I go to bed so I'll have some meat to work with for tomorrow's meals when I get up. I think I'll also thaw and brown up a couple pounds of ground beef to have on hand. If I'd had some pre-cooked hamburger on hand tonight, I could have just quickly seasoned it and made tacos.

I added $3.54 to the coin jar, the change from the ten I used at McDonald's.

$29.05 beginning balance
+ 3.54 added
-------
$32.59 ending balance

My Mom Wants to Raise Chickens

February 22nd, 2010 at 03:21 pm

I think I've mentioned a bit ago that we've moved into town to live with my mother who has fallen a few times in the past couple of years and really needed to have someone closer to keep an eye on her, while we repair our old house and then sell it. Mom grew up on farms and has all of the knowledge and know-how to raise chickens and she's been wanting to do it for a couple of years, but this time it looks like she's serious.

She's been looking at chicken coops at various farms the last few weeks and at DIY plans in various homesteading and country living type magazines, and getting prices from various places, like co-ops and local farms where she can buy chicks. I think she's actually going to do it this time. The place is certainly large enough, though I don't think the neighbors will care much for the crowing of a rooster at sunrise. She wants to raise them for both meat and eggs, so a rooster is necessary to produce chicks.

I'm conflicted about it. I think having home raised eggs and meat is great, but I certainly don't want to have anything to do with the care of birds, since I have very bad allergies to feathers and down. I know that if she gets laid up again for any reason, the care of those chickens is going to fall to me. I also don't want to have anything to do with the slaughter or plucking off of feathers or gutting them. I had to pluck goose feathers for my grandpa when I was a kid (before we knew of my allergies) and it just makes me feel creeped out.

We've more or less come to the conclusion that if I buy the feed, help buy the initial batch of chicks, and help build the coop she'll do everything else and we'll all share in the eggs and meat. I think that's a good compromise. I wish I wasn't so creeped out by it all. I'm a city girl at heart, much as I love the concept of being a country girl my experience has always stopped at keeping a large garden.

I hope that buying chicken feed will end up being cheaper than buying organic eggs and meat at the store. I think it's got to be or how else would organic farmer's make any sort of a profit?

I think it'll probably be good for the kids, too. We've never kept pets because of allergies, so they've never been exposed to animals on a daily basis. Of course chickens aren't pets in this case and Mom says they aren't allowed to name them, but they can participate in their care. And they'll get a close up look at where part of their food comes from. Whether or not they want to participate in the slaughter or plucking is up to them. I certainly won't make them, but if they want to be less squeamish than me, more power to them.

Cooking and Utilizing Leftovers to Save Money on Food

February 21st, 2010 at 03:34 am

Today, well, techincally yesterday now, was a no spend day. I didn't go anywhere or do anything and didn't even have the urge to order take out. Controlling leftovers and food waste is one of the things I'm focusing on to save money, the grocery budget being one of the places where we probably waste the most money.

For lunch we made calzones out of one of the leftover pizza dough balls. We divided it into four portions and I mixed some tomato sauce and herbs with a 6 ounce can of tomato paste. Each small piece of dough was rolled into a circle and filled with leftover ground beef, diced ham, onions, bell peppers in my case, mozzarella cheese and the sauce. My mom made one with just ham and cheese in it. The dough was folded over to make a half circle and crimped with a fork to seal. I pierced each one with a fork in a few places to vent steam and laid them out on a cookie sheet, baking them for 20 minutes in a 425 degree gas oven. They were great, some leftovers got used up, and the kids were happy.

For dinner we made some of the on sale salmon, on sale broccoli, and potatoes from mom's garden (free). I did up a lot of the broccoli and extra potatoes. We have enough broccoli for two more meals and enough potatoes for three. I like making big batches because then you only use the electricity or gas once for the initial cooking and then can warm up the rest in the microwave in the future for just a short amount of time instead of going through the whole long process and the expense again of heating water and boiling food. In this case they are planned overs as opposed to leftovers. That's something I heard them called in a magazine once and it stuck.

I like having planned overs, because it gives me the incentive to use the food in the fridge instead of going out and grabbing burgers or pizza or chicken somewhere. Tomorrow all I have to do for dinner is pop some chicken legs in the oven for an hour and the rest of the meal is taken care of. Mom will probably make gravy out of the drippings because she seems to think that all meals that have meat need gravy, but that's her time and energy, not mine.

Lunch will be quesadillas made of shredded leftover pot roast, some cheese, and some tortillas that need to be used up quickly. They're additive and preservative free so I only have about five to six days from when I open the package to get them used before they go bad. Also we will have coleslaw made from the on sale cabbage I bought the other day and a carrot that needs to be used up.

Someone left the bread open this morning and it got kind of hard so breakfast tomorrow will be french toast and then I'll probably use the rest in meatloaf the day after.

I also got around to counting the money in the toy bank and scrounging up what was on the furniture to add into my coin jar counting. It's almost up to $30, so not bad at all.

$16.59 beginning balance
.38 found on dresser and nightstand
+12.08 amount in TARDIS bank
-------
$29.05 ending balance

Restarting the Coin Jar and No Take Out and Grocery Shopping

February 19th, 2010 at 06:58 pm

I didn't really feel like dumping out my bank today, so I don't know how much is in there at the moment, but I did empty my purse today and gathered up all the loose change and one dollar bills.

$ 8.00 in ones
+ 8.59 in coins
--------
$16.59 in the coin jar

Tomorrow I'll take the time to shake out the bank and see what's in there and add it to the total. I know there's some loose change floating around on my dresser and night stand, too, so when I declutter those I'll add that amount in as well.

The kids have been wanting pizza really badly the last couple of days and have been begging for Round Table pizza and I almost gave in to them today because it was payday and hey, it would be easy. Plus it's one of the few restaurants my son can eat at with his food allergies.

The thing was that there was plenty of time before dinner to start mixing dough in the bread machine and we had two unopened packages of pepperoni and Canadian bacon and a 2 pound brick of mozzarella. I had herbs and tomato sauce. The pizza pan was even clean. There was absolutely no reason to go out for pizza when I could make a perfectly good one that they would like better at home. The only thing stopping me was lazinesss. I got over it. *laughs* Just one of the things I need to do in readjusting my thinking back to a better way of doing things for financial gain.

So it was 3:45 and I popped the five ingredients I needed into the bread machine, set it on the dough cycle, which takes 63 minutes, and had enough time to run to the bank drive-thru and pay the credit card bill (take that evil empire!) then stop at the grocery store for milk.

They happened to have broccoli (crowns for 69 cents a pound!) and asparagus (for 99 cents a pound) and cauliflower (79 per pound) and a head of cabbage (33 per pound) on really good sales so I picked up those and glanced at the fruit. Nothing really looked good despite the prices and we still had apples and oranges and frozen bell peppers at home, so no need to buy anything even if the green bananas were 29 cents a pound.

I made my way over to the fish counter to see if they had anything on sale. They had wild Keta salmon $4 per pound if you buy the whole fish. They filet it for you right there and since the counter was devoid of customers I didn't feel guilty about taking the time to do it. I ended up with four pounds of usable fish for $20 which works out to $5 per pound after all the discards are taken out of the original five pound fish. Not bad for what will amount to six meals worth of salmon.

Nothing else was on sale and I have plenty of meat in the freezer so that was all I bought. Between the milk, veg (I bought a lot of veg, we eat a lot) and milk (organic), I spent $48.74.

I got back home to my mother saying the bread machine had just dinged (ha, timing!) So while my son and I divided the dough and put two balls in the fridge for later this week and started stretching out the other one, my daughter preheated the oven and shredded the cheese. We added the sauce to the dough, sprinkled on basil, oregano, and thyme, added cheese and the meats and by the time we were done the oven was warm.

With everyone pitching in it didn't feel like a huge production making it, we all had fun and instead of paying $30 for a large pizza, we'll end up with three pizzas for the same price of on hand ingredients we would have paid for the other. I used to do this all the time. I used to be good at it. It's coming back slowly but surely.

Restarting the Emergency Fund

February 18th, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Okay, so yes, I'm really still back. It's just that after the last time I posted we promptly all got a very nasty sickness that ran through all of us but managed to do it one at a time, so once I was done caring for one child and got him well, the next child went down. And then I got her well, and I went down. I'm finally on my way back up and my daughter went back down again, this time with an ear infection. She's got antibiotics now so hopefully we'll see the back door of all this soon. All this while trying to homeschool.

Anyway, one of the things that has really fallen by the wayside with me is having an emergency fund. With the last raise my husband got things got so much easier for us that I pretty much stopped worrying about having an emergency fund. I thought, hey, we can absorb it if something happens. And yeah, for the most part we can.

Only after our last vacation, which was in October, and was paid for in cash, we were pretty much running low on reserves. And that was the time that one of our car tires exploded. We're still not sure why but that puppy was shredded in ways the tire guy claimed he'd never seen before. Fortunately it happened in a very safe place and I have AAA so everything turned out fine.

Except one of the lovely, lovely things I never knew about is that if you have a car with all wheel drive and you have to replace the whole tire, not just repair it, that means you have to replace all four tires even if they're only a year and a half old. It doesn't matter how good your remaining tires are. They all have to have the same level of tread wear for all wheel drive to work right. The tire places won't even sell you just one in that case. Which, yeah, makes sense, but totally bites, because the $150 you expected to pay to replace the tire, suddenly becomes $600 and oh, great, no emergency fund because we can absorb it.

Um...yeah. Right before Christmas. Right after vacation. Well, we absorbed it all right but it wasn't much fun. So I knew it was time to get my act together and reestablish an emergency fund.

So last month I started with my safety net. My safety net is always an amount that is kept in a locally accessible credit union that I can drive to within a moment's notice and have cash in hand that day. It was a tighter month because my husband had had an extra week off over the holidays unpaid because they shut down to a skeleton crew. So I was only able to squeeze out $300 with which to fund the saftey net. It's not near what I'd like it to be, which is $1000, but still, a good start.

This month I've sent $500 to the actual emergency fund, which brings it to a whopping $520.26. This money I keep in an online bank where it's out of easy reach, but I can still get it transferred in 3 days time. The bank no longer generates much interest, but this is more about available money than earning with it so I don't mind too much. I haven't delved back into the "which online bank pays you the most stuff" yet. I've been sick and busy and just haven't got around to it.

I am hoping to contribute $500 a month directly to the emergency fund and $100 a month to the safety net. I want to eventually have about $15,000 in the emergency fund at which point I'll probably want a better interest bearing account.

I also am going to start up collecting all of my coins and one dollar bills again to add in to the EF. This amount will be above the $500. I've still got my trusty old salad dressing bottle for the dollars and I have a talking TARDIS money bank (yes, I can be a silly fangirl at times, but it was a Christmas present) for the coins. It's silly, but I like it and it works, and I love the way the little light flashes and it make the dematerialization noise. Plus, it holds as much in coins as the jar ever did.

Anyway, that is my current plan to rebuild things again. Hopefully I'll be able to stick to it.