Thursday, October 27, 2011

For the love of...baking soda!

Baking soda?

Yes! My new best friend!

Over the last several months I've started cleaning with baking soda and couldn't be more pleased with the results! My stovetop looks (almost) like it did when it was new. And that is saying something, because cleaning the stove was always that chore I put on the back burner ;-)

Now I sprinkle baking soda on the stovetop, focusing on the spots that are messy. I have a old salad dressing spritzer bottle that I filled with equal parts vinegar and water. I spray that on the baking soda, wait a minute, then use an old rag to clean it all up. The baking soda acts as a great abrasive and really helps to get up those messes that have been there for a while (cough cough)!

I recently tried Martha Stewart's Tub Scrub since I kept seeing tons of pins adoring how well it worked.

All you to is take a portion of baking soda (I used about half a cup) and mix with just enough water to form a paste. Add a teaspoon of dish soap and stir. I wiped it on the ring around my tub and then wiped it off with a was too easy. I was totally impressed! Goodbye Scrubbing Bubbles and Magic Eraser...baking soda has you beat!

I really like that this is natural and still works. I've tried several different "green" cleaners and never been impressed. The baking soda scrub really worked better on the tub than anything else I have ever used.

Do you clean with baking soda? I'd love to hear your favorite way to get things clean!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dishwasher detergent experiment

If you've been around Thrifty Living for any amount of time, you probably know that I'm a huge advocate of homemade laundry detergent. I especially love how it makes me less dependent on buying yet another product.

I've used homemade dishwasher detergent also, and while it worked pretty well, I found that the savings wasn't nearly as great as with laundry soap, and the product just didn't work quite as well either. So since I usually buy dishwasher detergent, I try to make sure I get the best bang for my buck.

These two Cascade products are priced the same: 20 count packs and 75 ounces of liquid gel.

The packs are so mess, no squeezing. But I was always pretty sure that they were overpriced compared to the gel. To confirm my suspicions, we kept a tally every time we used the gel. And the verdict? 45 washes!

I think I am completely cured of my desire to buy those cute little packs from here on out! And I think this little experiment helped me to be a more active consumer of the products that I am choosing to purchase.

I think I'm going to have to test the powdered dishwasher soap next and compare that to the gel

Read more of my thoughts on Active Consumerism.

Monday, October 24, 2011

On the days when I am weary of living thrifty

That is, weary of my thrifty lifestyle, not thus blog. Blog? I have a blog? Ok, maybe the blog too. But they go hand-in-hand, life and blogging.

When I'm enthusiastic about saving money and living wisely, I blog more and enjoy it immensely. But these days when I'm tired of my cooking, washing sheets everyday (overnight potty training fail), and wishing that cloth diapers cleaned messes out of themselves, blogging is much less of a priority.

Thrifty burnout. The more I think about it, the more firmly I believe that it is a good place to be, as long as I address it and move on.

A while back I wrote about yogurt burnout...I took a break from making yogurt and was fresh and ready to get back to it. That's living thrifty.

So I've got some store-bought frozen pizza in my freezer. It is more expensive than homemade but way cheaper than a meal out, even take-out pizza. That's living thrifty.

It's 8am and my daughter's clean sheets are in the dryer with last night's spinning in the wash. She will have sheets for nap without me having to scramble and neglect something else later. That's living thrifty.

And cloth diapers...well, we used a few disposables over the weekend. The dirty diapers are in the wet bag and my bathroom is freshly disinfected. Sometimes I hate the extra work of cloth diapers. But a few disposables later I'm reminded that they keep the mess in better, they are just as easy when there is only pee, and they are WAY cuter! That's living thrifty.

So I'm going to enjoy the fall weather with my kids, make soup and homemade bread for dinner, and be thankful for all the things I can do because we are living thrifty.

Saving money and living a thrifty lifestyle looks different for us all. That's what it looks like for me today. What about you?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Another of our favorite apple recipes is this one. I love how the house smells while this is baking in my oven! Its a simple recipe, and unlike many baked oatmeal recipes I've seen, it does not call for a ton of sugar. I also like the contrast between the sweetness of the oatmeal and the tart Granny Smith apples. Top it with almonds and dried cranberries too. You've got to try this recipe!

I doubled this recipe for the first time recently and it worked like a charm.

The original recipe is from Two Peas and Their Pod, though I've made a few alterations.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups skim milk (I cut it back by 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 egg whites (I use 1 whole egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored, and diced

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a second bowl, combine egg, milk, applesauce, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add apples and stir. Pour oatmeal into a greased 8 x 8 glass baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes. I always give the oatmeal a stir after 20 minutes and bake for an additional 10 minutes to firm up the oatmeal. Top it with chopped almonds or dried cranberries.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall Foods

 Doesn't Fall make you think of certain foods? I know the same is true with other seasons, but I think there is something about the cooler weather that bring certain foods to apples! And pumpkins!

I've jumped on the applesauce making bandwagon that is all over the blogosphere! I got some 69 cent apples last week (seconds from a U-pick farm) and used about 3 pounds worth to make homemade applesauce. I cored and peeled 6 apples, then put them in my crockpot with some water. I didn't add any cinnamon or brown sugar, but you could certainly add either!

I let it simmer away for most of the day until the apples were soft and mashable. I just used my potato masher on the slices but didn't smooth it out entirely for a nice chunky texture. MMmmmm! So good!

Homemade applesauce is head and shoulders better than the store-bought stuff for sure. But don't expect it to save any money. Even with my 69 cent apples I only just broke even, but adding in the prep time homemade applesauce is a bit more expensive. This stuff is so good that I'm planning to make some more with the rest of my 69 cent apples, but I'll be buying applesauce from the store most of the time I'm sure!
I already posted several of our favorite pumpkin recipes last week. Over the weekend I made a batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies...

This has been one of our favorite fall treats the last few years. I got the recipe from a friend and so I'm unsure of the original source. The texture is cake-like and the spices and chocolate go so well together.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. 100% pumpkin
2 1/2 c. All-purpose flour
1 t. Baking soda
1 t. Baking powder
1 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Salt
1 1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 egg
1 t. Vanilla extract
2 c. Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat softened butter and sugar in mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Mix in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheets.

Bake 14-16 minutes until edges just turn brown and center is firm.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Braided Calzone Recipe

We love pizza! A major money saver for us is homemade pizza instead of ordering it out. Since pizza is on our menu plan each week, we like to mix it up and try lots of different types of pizza. It keeps things interesting and keeps us from wanting to order a pizza too!

I saw a picture of a braided calzone on Pinterest (I love Pinterest! Have I mentioned that before? Yeah, thought so!) and had to put it on the menu last week. I opted for making one of my more traditional pizza dough recipes, though I added a bit of whole wheat flour because I ran out of white flour.

Roll the pizza dough out into a rectangle, spread pizza sauce down the center, top with your favorite toppings (we used pepperoni) and then cheese. Cut slits (I used kitchen shears since my calzone was sitting on the pizza stone) down each side of the dough opposite the sauce, making sure to not cut all the way to the sauce (Don't want it to run out while baking!). Starting at one end alternate strips of dough from each side, pulling them across and down to cover the filling.

It is really easy to do and looks beautiful!

A peak inside...

Cheesy, pizza pocket amazingness!

This was sooo good...its back on the menu this week!

Pizza Dough (source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook Bridal Edition)
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used about 1 cup wheat)
2 1/2 teasp. yeast
1/4 teasp. salt
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. cooking oil or olive oil

Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl; add warm water and oil. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, kneeding in additional flour to make a pliable but stiff dough. 

Roll dough into a rectangle. Spread pizza sauce down the center, top with your favorite toppings (we used pepperoni) and then cheese. Cut slits (I used kitchen shears since my calzone was sitting on the pizza stone) down each side of the dough opposite the sauce, making sure to not cut all the way to the sauce (Don't want it to run out while baking!). Starting at one end alternate strips of dough from each side, pulling them across and down to cover the filling.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere!

The fall weather lately has been amazing! It is great to be able to bake without the house getting miserably hot. Today I tried a new recipe - Pumpkin Scones! They were oh, so good!

(Image from Shoe Box Kitchen)
The recipe I used is from The Shoe Box Kitchen. It was super easy, especially compared to several of the other pumpkin scones recipes I've looked at recently. Scones are not exactly the healthiest food...this recipe has a good bit of butter, but uses half and half instead of heavy cream. It was super moist and smelled amazing.

(Image from Joy the Baker)
Another favorite pumpkin recipe in our house is Pumpkin Pancakes. The recipe is from Joy the Baker and is really great also. We love the Pumpkin Pancake mix from Trader Joe's and this recipe is a great copycat!

Do you have any favorite pumpkin recipes?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Frugal Finds: Walmart this week

I make a trip to Walmart every few weeks or so when there are good coupon overage deals. Today I took my $8 off 2 Cover Girl Face products from yesterday's P&G insert and also found a few nice clearance deals.

The CG blush is priced at $3.74 at my Walmart, so I was able to get 2 for free, plus $.52 overage to use on the rest of my purchases. I took a quick look at the summer clearance isle and found a sheet of glow-in-the-dark 4th of July stickers for 25 cents, as well as a calendar for next year for $2. This is the calendar that I always use, so it was a bonus to find it marked down.

I also took a quick look at the bakery items and found a pack of four cheesy bagels marked down to $1.50 and 2 loaves of fresh made Texas Toast marked down to $2.13. I was going to make garlic bread later in the week to go with our lasagna dinner, so I decided to just switch up my menu plan and we'll do lasagna tonight. I'm going to freeze the second loaf of Texas Toast!

I was really pleased with myself and excited when I got home to take out my "spoils" which point I realized the cute birthday napkins for my son's first birthday party next week said "Sensational 60"!
The funny part is that I looked these over to make sure they didn't say something ridiculous. I saw the Sensational but somehow missed the giant 6-0 on the balloon. Whoops! I'll probably still use them for the will make for a good laugh!

So my $.52 overage paid for my 2 packs of 60th birthday napkins!

Do you have any recent frugal finds to share? How about a frugal "bust" like mine?
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