Saturday, July 30, 2011

CSA Week 9

I love how colorful our CSA items are this week! We got quite a haul....this is the "abundant" season for harvesting, so we are seeing our shares be larger and larger.

We picked out a watermelon (yellow flesh inside), tomatillos, heirloom tomatoes, a Jenny Lind melon (green flesh inside), purple bell peppers, along with some hot pepper and green beans for our bonus items.

These heirloom tomatoes are so beautiful! We have four or five different varieties. And I am so excited to try the purple bell peppers. A great trip to the farm!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too! 

This was a rough week for my food waste fight! Not only did I find this rather mushy and fuzzy (and sadly mostly unused) but when we went to cook our corn ears from our CSA, they were way too far gone also. Corn has been pretty expensive around here, and I was so excited about our corn from the farm.

We have a few leftovers for the weekend, but other wise I think we are in pretty good shape for this coming week. I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Garden Update: July

We've had another hot and dry summer, which always makes it challenging for growing things. I did not plan things well at all when I put my DIY raised bed garden in full afternoon sun from about 11am onward! It has made gardening an extra challenge since these plants get so much direct sun. Despite all this, we've had a ton of fun with the garden, and we've gotten a nice crop too!

E loves to water and take care of the plants. She also loves tomatoes. As in, we picked 8 or 10 to have with dinner the other night and I let her carry the bowl inside...the bowl with 5 tomatoes!

These little guys are so cute! They are such tasty tomatoes and delicious right off the vine. It is hard for me to wait to put them on a salad too.

My poor cilantro was doing fantastic, then we forgot to have someone check on things while we were away for a week and it got rather scorched. Thankfully, a little has come back now that it is getting water again. I also found seeds on one shoot and stuck them in the soil. I have a few leftover seeds from the spring that I'm going to plant also, and hopefully we'll have lovely cilantro back soon!

I planted my four Impatiens in a small pot, three of which have survived and thrived! I also got a nice surprise...three tomato plants and two basil plants! I haven't used this pot in 2 years, so it was really a surprise that these came up. The tomatoes are just beginning to appear.

And this is the basil....or is it oregano? I'm not sure!

Even though we have a small space, we are making it work! I love having a garden, and maybe at some point in the future we'll have a larger space to add to our garden adventures!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade Cherry Limeade

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen over the weekend that we enjoyed homemade cherry limeades one evening! I love, love, love Sonic cherry limeades, but they are a rare treat that I get just a few times a year. IBC makes a bottled cherry limeade, and my husband often gets me a 6-pack for my birthday or Christmas, and while they are good, they are also a little heavy on the cherry side. You just can't bottle the taste of fresh lime!

I've been wanting to try making one myself for years now, and thanks to Pinterest, I found a few recipes for some inspiration (The Cooking Photographer and Your Little Birdie). In the end, I decided to basically wing it and make my own.

I had some limeade concentrate in the freezer and I mixed about a quart of it together. My other ingredients were lemon-lime seltzer water, grenadine, and of course, a fresh lime and maraschino cherries!

In a pint Mason jar I mixed about 1/3 limeade, 2/3 seltzer water, and then grenadine to taste (probably close to 1 Tablespoon). Then I poured in as much crushed ice as would fit in the glass, squeezed a slice of lime and added a cherry. Then I added a second cherry because really, you can never have too many in a cherry limeade!

It was deliciously amazing. Both Martin and I agreed that it was as close to Sonic cherry limeade as we had ever had. And if I hadn't made it myself, I probably would have thought it was from Sonic!

Homemade Cherry Limeade
  • limeade
  • lemon-lime seltzer water
  • grenadine
  • lime slices or wedges
  • maraschino cherries

Method: Mix 1 part limeade to 2 parts seltzer water. Add grenadine to taste (about 1 Tablespoon per pint of limeade). Add plenty of crushed ice to keep things cool. Garnish with lime and cherries.

You could probably simplify things by just using Sprite or another lemon-lime soda, but the limeade added such an amazing lime flavor, I think I will probably take the extra step to get it perfect.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

CSA Weeks 7 & 8

This is a look at most of what we got at our CSA for last week and this week. We took a bunch of tomatoes with us and used them during the week. Pictured here are sweet corn, onions, eggplant, loose lettuce mix, garlic, tomatillos, squash, and cucumbers.

I'm really excited to try my hand at making salsa with the tomatillos! And we are a little nervous about the eggplant. We'll see how it goes this week! I'm so thankful for the chance to build our meals around all this wonderful fresh produce.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Food Waste (Saturday)

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too! 

We were away visiting family all of last week, and in the flurry of packing I did not do food waste last Friday. Yesterday when we got home, I was pretty sure that we would have some milk that did not make it, along with lettuce from our CSA two weeks ago. Happily, both were still in excellent shape, making this a no waste week!

Whew it is another crazy hot day here in Delaware! I've been using the Thrifty Living Facebook page for some summer meal ideas. If you are on Facebook, be sure to 'like' Thrifty Living!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Girls Crocs and eBay

Last summer I shared some thoughts about buying on eBay, along with a picture of these Crocs that I bought for my daughter for $6

This summer, I decided to sell the same Crocs on eBay. The soles were still in terrific shape, and there was just a little wear around the blue edges. They sold for just over $7, including the shipping cost...more than I originally paid!

I used eBay to purchase this summer's Crocs also. I paid $8 for this pair of Mary Jane style Crocs that were again in nearly new condition! I've noticed that there is a much larger selection of clothing and shoes on eBay for girls. Boys tend to wear things a little harder, and girls end up with more shoes, etc!

My 3 big tips for getting a great deal on eBay are
1) Look for something specific
2) Have a firm "top price" before you bid
3) Be ready to let "IT" go

Selling on eBay is simple, and though I mostly sell little things, I have had pretty decent success. Here are my top selling tips for eBay.

1) Take a good picture. Make sure that the lighting is good. The picture should show the best view of what you are selling, but it is also helpful to include any possible flaws. I wanted to make sure that you could see the wear on the shoes I was selling.

2) Use a strong title and accurate description. Include as many key words in your description as possible, especially brand names, sizes, and colors. Make sure your description is detailed about any flaws in the item, but is also brief and to the point. I like to include information about when payment is expected, as well as stipulating that I do not accept international bidders.

3) Low starting price. I start most auctions at $0.99, especially for little items like children's clothing. Research ahead of time to see what similar items are selling for so that you have an idea what to expect for yours.

4) Have your item ready to ship before you list. I fail miserably at this one! I should have everything ready to go, but I usually pick up packaging on my way to the Post Office. You can print out shipping labels from home, which is very nice, but has also thrown me off when I need to buy the packaging after printing. It is way better to have it all done before hand!

Have you had success buying and selling on eBay? Any items in particular that have been easy to sell or to find in excellent used condition?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hot Dog Challenge: BBQ and Peppers

This summer we're trying out different toppings for our hot dogs instead of the old standbys of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Its been a lot of fun so far!

This most recent hot dog was another simple one, but bursting with flavor. First, we layered yellow banana peppers into the bun, then added the hot dog, and topped with BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce was a thick and sweet version made with Guinness (by Bull's Eye) and complimented the zing of the banana peppers really well. We enjoyed this hot dog with a chicken caesar salad also. A perfect meal for a hot summer day!

Check out the rest of our Hot Dog Challenge specialty dogs!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Get Connected with Thrifty Living

I've been working on a few things lately. If you read Thrifty Living on a mobile device, you should be directed to my mobile site now. If you would prefer to view the full site, just scroll down to the bottom of the mobile site and click through. I hope that the mobile site will make everything easier to read on the go!
A while back I started the Thrifty Living Facebook page, but it never really got off the ground. I've had the time to fool around with it recently, so you should be seeing links to Thrifty Living posts as well as some more detail about our day to day activities. If you're on Facebook, be sure to 'like' Thrifty Living so we can connect!
I've been having a ton of fun with Pinterest! Its a great place to find ideas for decorating, get new recipes, and just browse interesting images from around the web. I usually don't think that I'm naturally creative, but I enjoy copying things that I see...Pinterest is great for that! See my pinboards here on Pinterest.
Are you a reader? I love a good book, and I try to read a nice mixture of different genres. I have been using Goodreads since the beginning of the year to keep track of what I'm reading and what I want to read next. Its a great way to get recommendations from friends about new book also. Here is my profile on Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: Super Porridge

I mentioned yesterday that I really like the book Super Baby Food. I use the recipe for homemade yogurt from this book, and lean heavily on it for my baby food making ideas. 

Super Porridge
One of the main "recipes" for baby in this book is for Super Porridge. Prior to 6 months, babies need single grain cereals (the store bought flakes that mix with milk or water), but after 6 months, multi-grain cereals can be made at home. Often this takes the form of oatmeal, but Super Baby Food gives instructions for making Super Porridge from a number of different grains and legumes. 

Basically, you grind up the ingredients (oatmeal for instance) using either a blender or food processor. I use a food processor, but Super Baby Food recommends a blender. Grind the oatmeal until it makes a fine powder. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Use 1 cup of water for every 1/4 cup of powder. Once the water is boiling, sprinkle the powder in to the saucepan. Use a whisk and stir rapidly to prevent a boil-over! 

Once the powder is stirred into the water, reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. It will thicken up considerably. 

Store in the refrigerator and use over the next 3 days.

How we do it!
I've kept my Super Porridge fairly simple; I usually just use oatmeal, though I have also used split peas and lentils. I make it a little thicker than the original recipe. Right now I use 2 cups of water and a cup of oatmeal powder. It makes a very thick oatmeal that I store in the fridge. I scoop out a portion into a bowl and give it a little mash before microwaving. The consistency after being in the fridge is very thick! After the oatmeal is warm (really, I just take off the chill) I add a little bit of pumped milk or formula, which brings it back to a more oatmeal-like thickness. Sometimes I add a little fruit or applesauce as well.

I grind more than I need each time I make the super porridge, and just store it in a glass jar to use later in the week. I have the oatmeal powder already measured when I put it into the storage container, so all I have to do is boil the water and cook!

The first time I made this for my daughter, she would not touch it! I ended up adding applesauce for a while, gradually reducing the amount, until she would eat it plain. My son is a totally different story....he eats everything! I also think that this is a great way to transition your children to eating regular oatmeal instead of toddler products that are overpriced and full of sugar.

As with anything new, it took a few times to get comfortable, but now I can mix up some oatmeal while I'm in the kitchen doing something else too.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with homemade oatmeal or any other baby food. I am always looking for something new to try!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: The Basics

Making baby food instead of buying commercial baby food is a huge way to save money. It can be a very simple, painless, and even quick process. Homemade baby food is not for everyone. I am thankful that I have the time to think about baby food and make it since I am home during the day, but I know that is not the case for everyone. I am a firm believer that you have time for what you make time for though, so if homemade baby food sounds like a great way to save money, I bet you can find the time to do it!

I've really enjoyed making baby food for both of my children. I keep things very simple, and I have learned a ton from Super Baby Food. I especially like the index in the back of the book that gives you instructions on how to cook and store pretty much any food for baby.

Commercial v. Homemade
Did you know that store-bought baby food is made up of a TON of water? When I puree something like sweet potatoes, I end up adding as much as a cup of water for one sweet potato. The more water you add, the smoother the consistency of the baby food will be, which also means that commercial baby food is very watered down. This is important, because early on babies need smooth food, but you are also paying a high markup for it. When you make your baby food at home, you have the luxury of using less water as your child grows. Now that I have a nine-month old, I've been gradually decreasing the amount of water as he is able to handle chunkier foods.

Freeze it!
I use the "ice cube tray" method for freezing and storing food, so all I have to do is grab something out of the freezer, defrost, and dinner (or breakfast or lunch) is served!

Here's a look at butternut squash puree on the left and carrot slices on the right.

One new thing I've done the second time around making baby food, is to freeze chunks of food in the ice cube trays. I open up a can of veggies, like carrots or peas, and divide them up in the ice cube trays. I use a knife to pop them out after they are frozen and keep the cubes in a storage container in my freezer. A few seconds in the microwave and I have finger food ready for a meal.

Using canned veggies is a big time saver for me. The food is already softer, which is perfect for a baby, and everything is already cooked and cut up for me. While not everyone is going to want to do it this way, it has really worked for our family.

Here's a look at a tray of green beans:

And a cube of green beans:

Think outside the box
I freeze everything! Especially when it comes to baby food, its not going to be changed by spending some time in the freezer. And this is a great way for me to cut down on wasted food!

Bananas get sliced and stuck in the freezer on wax paper. They peel off easily and are ready to go in a smoothie (they blend so much easier than a whole frozen banana!), get thawed and mashed for baby food, or be a cool snack for either of my kids. I just break the slice into a few pieces for the baby.

Avocados are great for babies, but do not keep well at all once they are sliced. I pureed them and froze using the ice cube trays early on, but now I chunk the pieces of avocado and put them in the trays like I would food from a can. After a few seconds in the microwave they are perfect (messy) baby finger food.

Be an Active Consumer
A big part of commercial baby food is the marketing that makes you feel like a good parent for buying a certain kind of baby food. I have made nearly 100% of both my kids' baby food, and yet I still enjoy picking out baby food when I have free coupons for it! I've written before about how I think it is important for us to be active consumers - people who do not just react to marketing, but are pro-actively thinking about how to spend time and money wisely. I don't do this perfectly, but I have found that the more I think about being an active consumer, the more purposeful I am with many different making baby food at home.

Do you have any favorite homemade baby food tips? I'll be writing some more about homemade baby food the rest of this week!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

CSA Week 6

The harvest is changing! This week at our CSA we picked up several different can tell its really summer as many of the early harvest foods are no longer available. We went with lettuce again this week. This loose leaf mixture is delicious and beautiful. We got to the farm early yesterday, so we had a nice variety of foods, including heirloom tomatoes! We also got carrots, royal burgundy beans, and cucumbers. The beans we also had last week - they are really cool! A purple color on the outside and yet green on the inside. They also turn green when you cook them!

I'm looking forward to enjoying these things this week!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too!

We've had quite an eventful week. After being out of town for the 4th of July weekend (the 4th is my mom's birthday, so we always get together for picnicking and fireworks), the rock hard peaches had turned ripe and over-ripe. I had to toss one that was molded the whole way through, but I was able to cut a spot off another and the rest were perfect and are happily gone! Not too shabby.

I found a fuzzy bit of squash, onion, and tomato leftovers from early last week. It was really good the night I made it, but the leftovers just never looked too appetizing, so they sat and sat. I had a helper this morning while I went through the fridge and she wanted to be in the picture this week too!

Don't you love those Christmas PJs?

If you're just stopping in for Food Waste, you may enjoy this week's posts about homemade laundry detergent and the Avocado and White Sauce from our hot dog challenge. I'll be back tomorrow with our CSA pick-up from Colchester Farm!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hot Dog Challenge: Avocado and White Sauce

This summer we're trying out different toppings for our hot dogs instead of the old standbys of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Its been a lot of fun so far!

Here's a look at our most recent specialty hot dog...topped with avocado and white sauce! This has been our favorite hot dog so far this summer. The white sauce recipe is detailed in this Fish Taco Recipe post - it is delicious! This Avocado and White Sauce dog was really simple to create, and yet so different than the normal ketchup and mustard we normally love.

We paired the meal with smashed potatoes, a new recipe, and lots of fresh fruit!

The inspiration for this hot dog came from a photo blog, What Kate Ate.

Check out the rest of our hot dog challenge specialty dogs!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

One of the first posts I ever did on this blog was about making my own laundry detergent. And while I still use my homemade stuff, the post was dated for a number of reasons, most notably that I use Yardley soap instead of Fels-Naptha now. And the original pictures were pretty horrible. I've recently updated the original homemade laundry detergent post to reflect those changes, but I also wanted start fresh with a new post.

Homemade Laundry Detergent?
I started making my own laundry detergent in the Spring of 2009, and our family uses it exclusively for all our clothing, sheets and towels, and even our cloth diapers! I was initially very nervous about putting a homemade "concoction" into our relatively new high efficiency washer. Since the homemade detergent does not suds up like commercial detergent, I've found that we do not have any build up in the washer or on our clothing.

We also use this detergent for our bum Genius cloth diapers and have not had any issues with the diapers getting coated and repelling, stinking, or having a nasty detergent build-up.
The Recipe
I have looked at tons of homemade laundry detergent recipes through the years, and consider this to be my own now, though it was heavily influenced by Frugal Upstate.

  • 1 bar of soap, chopped (I use Yardley Oatmeal &Almond)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda
Chop up the bar of soap and grind in your food processor until the soap is in fine pieces. Add borax and washing soda to the soap and grind again until everything is well blended. That's it! I use a large mayo for my detergent, and keep a tablespoon measure in with the powder. Unless you are washing really dirty things, you only need a tablespoon of this detergent for each load. Even though I wash cloth diapers, I only use a tablespoon per load!

Save Money
This homemade laundry detergent is a huge money saver for us! We wash all of our clothes and our cloth diapers for about 2 cents a load of detergent. The Borax and washing soda can be found in most grocery stores in the cleaning and detergent section, and cost $2-3. Since you are only using 1/2 cup per batch, these boxes last a long time! Yardley soap is priced at $1 at my Dollar Tree and 97 cents at Walmart. I usually wait and stock up on Yardley at Walgreens. About every 6-8 weeks they run a sale where Yardley is 69 cents a bar!

Making it Work for You

We've had a ton of success with homemade detergent, but its not for everyone. In fact, I would not still be using the homemade stuff if I had not switched bar soaps because I did not like the way it turned out with Fels-Naptha. The type of soap you use might make all the difference for your family.

Have you ever tried homemade laundry detergent and not liked it? Or have you tried it and loved it? Maybe now is the time to take the plunge and make a batch. I'd love to hear what you think!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too! 

Well, this week was actually a rough one for our battle against food waste...but they are bound to happen. I am especially bummed that I let some of our CSA lettuce get all slimy. Thankfully, after I picked through, it was just a handful:

Then I pulled this jar of sauce out of the fridge when I was making dinner one night and found little mold spots all over the inside of it...yuck! Thankfully, I had several more jars of homemade sauce in the freezer, so dinner was not a bust!

I also found about 4 ounces of moldy cheese today and it was too gross I tossed it without taking a photo. I also got peaches at the store yesterday, and when I cut the first one open it was a weird texture and the flavor was nasty too. I'm thinking about taking the rest back to the store, but we'll see. Whew! Well, the good thing about taking a look and the pictures of all I threw out is that it really motivates me to not waste so much next time!
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