Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Garden Has Begun

Today was the day that the tiller was fixed and used.  Jacob tilled up three of my garden beds.  I was so excited because that allowed Seth and I to plant in them.  We filled the first bed with broccoli plants and Romaine lettuce plants.  The second bed was filled with cabbage plants, cauliflower plants, and more Romaine lettuce plants.  The third bed was filled with peas and Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and Heirloom Acres Spring Garden Mix Lettuce.  It was a full afternoon of fun and work. 

Missy spent a lot of her afternoon down at the garden with us.  However by this time in the day, she much preferred to sit in the shade on the deck and watch all the activity.  It must have been close to nap time!

grace and peace,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Coconut Cake Recipe

I told you I would post the recipe for my coconut cake.  I use the following Classic White Cake recipe, and then I frost it with a 7 minute frosting and pat coconut all over the cake.  This cake is a taste of my childhood, and I hope you enjoy it

Classic White Cake

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon slat
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease the bottom of two 9 inch round cake pans.  Line bottom with wax paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  Combine egg whites, milk, and vanilla extract.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture then add half the milk mixture.  Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Scrape the bowl and beater ofen.

Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth top with metal spatula.  Bake round cakes for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.    Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.  Remove paper and let cool completely.

Note:  This recipe can be turned into a yellow cake by substitute 3 large eggs and 1 yolk for the egg whites.

Seven Minute Frosting

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cold water
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

In the top of a double boiler, combine sugar, cold water, egg whites, corn syrup, and a dash of salt.  Beat 30 seconds on low speed of an electric mixer.  Place over boiling water (upper pan should not touch water).  Cook about 7 minutes while beating constantly on high speed of electric mixer or till frosting forms stiff peaks.  Remove from heat; add vanilla.  Beat 2 to 3 minutes or till spreading consistency. 

Frost in between the layers of the cake generously.  Sprinkle coconut all around the layer.  Stack the second layer on top.  Frost the sides and top of the cake.  Pat coconut all of the top and sides. This icing works best if made on a non rainy day.  It can get grainy if there is too much moisture in the air!  Enjoy!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shop Happenings

Today will find me and the "shop dog" repotting tomato plants.  This is a time consuming process so I am sure that I won't get it all finished in one day.  Missy won't mind though.  She likes being in the shop.  She has been down there lots lately.  My husband has been working on cabinet doors to complete our kitchen cabinets.  Our second son has been hired to build a large plant stand and install it in a woman's house.  He too has been hanging out in the shop getting ready to start the project.  This brings much excitement for me to know that at least one of our boys will be following in his Dad's footsteps! 

Off to plant I go...I think Missy has beat me out there and I already hear her chewing on something!!!!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Farm Life

I was out in the barn yesterday giving our little Stew Baby a bottle.   I was thinking about our farm and the changes that have occurred over the last few years.  We have greatly reduced the amount of animals that we keep.  We have become more focused on producing for our own needs instead of selling products to others.  I do miss the sheep, and I would enjoy having them back.  But do you know what I miss the most of anything?  I miss the chickens being around here on the farm.  I miss the eggs they produce and the beauty they bring to everyday life.  I love the clucking of a content hen, and I also love gathering eggs.  I am looking forward to having chickens back on our farm once again.  When you have hens laying eggs, it is a daily Easter egg hunt to find them all.  I loved Easter egg hunts when I was a child, and I still love them now that I am an adult!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March Madness

March is a strange month...probably not even close to one of my favorite months at all.  Take the last three days for example.  One day it was warm enough to wear shorts, and by the next day it was snowing!  I have issues when I see huge snowflakes falling down on beautiful new blades of kelly green grass!  Last night my husband built a nice warm fire in the fireplace.  I enjoyed a good book huddled under a quilt sitting by the fire.  What about that cries spring?

 If the weather wasn't enough to put me in a grouchy state, the basketball tournament could sure make that happen.  During March Madness, my house turns into one big basketball showdown complete with adult people talking to a t.v.!  At least this year, the men of this family are enjoying the tournament due to the fact that Kentucky is playing their best basketball in years.  I could go into great lengths to share the exact reason why Kentucky is so good this year.  I could give you scenario after scenario because the conversation even invades our dinner time.  However, I will keep my mouth shut.  This ain't my first rodeo, and I know that after this upcoming weekend my house will return to normal.  The tournament will be finished, the weather will be getting closer to stabilizing, and the month of March will soon give way to April.  Now April...that is a month that I have always loved.

grace and peace,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hardening Off Plants For the Garden

My garden is still growing in our shop area.  The tiller is in need of a new carburetor which will be purchased this week.  I have started hardening off my plants to prepare them for the big move to the garden area.  To harden off the plants, take them outside everyday.  As you can see from the above picture, my plants are drooping a bit.  They are not use to sun and a breeze.  I left them outside on this day for a couple of hours.  The next day I left them out a little more.  I increase their exposure everyday, and in about a week they will be ready to plant.  I used to think that it was only important to harden off plants if you were planting during the colder months.  Then I planted a bunch of plants in April and learned quickly that the sun will do damage to tender plants that have been grown indoors.  Now, I just make it part of my routine to harden off all plants that I grow under the lights. 
I have a tray of 200 tomato plants that are in desperate need of repotting.  I will work on it during this upcoming week.  It takes a good long while to transplant this many plants.  Ideally, my other plants would be in the garden by now, and I would have more space under the grow lights for all of these tomato plants.  200 plants in bigger containers take up a lot more space than one large tray!  That has been another reason that I have been holding these little ones off from being transplanted.  I have allowed my little tomato plants some outside time, but I have to be very  careful with such tender young plants. 

grace and peace,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cooking for Others

I am the person responsible for our church's luncheon tomorrow.  We will be feeding over 100 people, and I volunteered to head it all up.  Now, will someone please tell me why I got sick yesterday?  Surely the Lord knows I have to be at my best to make this shindig work!  I have enlisted the help of all my family, and everything should go off without a hitch...(I hope). (Just so you know, we all pitch in and share the work at our church.  It isn't like I am the only one cooking or anything)!  Everybody was asked to bring a side dish and a dessert to share.  I will be making my mom's coconut cake.  I wanted to take a dessert that would feed a lot of people, and I love this cake in spring.  The only problem is that most of my kids don't like coconut so I don't make this for my family very often.  I can take it to the church luncheon and share it with all the other coconut lovers out there.

So this afternoon, I will be rolling up my sleeves and pulling up my hair to bake a cake.  I love baking cakes.  I don't do it very often so when I do take the time to bake a homemade cake, it seems more like playing to me.  I am not a very good cake baker.  My cakes always look like they are going to fall any second while sittting there on the cake platter!  It makes everybody hold their breath whenever they walk by it!

I have another preplexing cooking question to ask.  Why is it that when you serve 9 people dinner, the only person who would be grossed out by a hair in their beans gets the hair in their beans?  Nobody else's dinner has a hair only the person that would be bothered by it!  (That is why I am going to pull my hair back this afternoon).  I made stuffed pork chops for our family and my brother's family.  There were about 15 pork chops, and I had used a toothpick to secure the stuffing in each one of them.  I removed all the toothpicks (so I thought).  My brother was enjoying his pork chop and then discovered that I had left a toothpick in his.  He accused me of trying to kill him.  None of the other pork chops had toothpicks.  If that wasn't bad eough, I assured him that he wouldn't find any more toothpicks in his meat.  Guess what he found just minutes after my proclamation?  Yes, he found another toothpick!  This was almost the undoing of wouldn't have bothered anybody else sitting around the dinner table that day so why did he choose the one pork chop with 2 toothpicks still hiding inside???!!! 

While I can't answer any of my own cooking questions, I have learned to pull my hair back when cooking for other people, and NEVER NEVER use toothpicks when cooking for others.  There just isn't any telling what might could happen with that! 

grace and peace,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Glimpse Into My Heart

Our jersey cow ended up not making it.  Last night brought much hope, but it was evident today that she was beginning to suffer.  Michael and I both agreed that we would do our best to treat her unless she was suffering.  The minute he realized that was the case, he ended her battle.  I was thankful because it was taken care of while I was in town with my daughter for ballet.  Before I got home, he called to tell me that she was gone and he had cleaned up the barn.  He also fed the new baby calf so I wouldn't have to go back to the barn this evening.  I was thankful that I wasn't around for such an unpleasant task.  I  was also thankful that my husband tried his best to make it as easy on me as possible. 

This is the part of farm life that I really could live without.  However, you have to take the good as well as the bad in life.  As a child, I was always annoyed that roses came with thorns. I was also annoyed that blackberries came with thorns as well.  I quickly learned that if I wanted the beauty of the rose or the sweet taste of the blackberry, I would have to learn to deal with the thorns.  That too has become my conclusion of living  life on a farm. 

grace and peace,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Farm Life Sometimes Brings a Heavy Heart

Our jersey momma cow fell in the barn the other day.  She has done some damage to the nerves in her neck and is laying unable to move.  We have had the vet out, and he has assured us that she is capable of moving, but unwilling to do so.  The vet and Michael had her standing for a moment, but then back down she went.  It has been a very trying few days.  This is my sweetest most favorite cow here on our farm, and it is heart breaking for me.  We are having to flip her over on a daily basis which is no easy task.  We are using hay to prop her up, and carrying water and feed out to her.  We are lifting her head so she can drink and eat, and we are wondering if she will recover.  We have spoken to two vets, and we had another vet come out to the farm to check her over.  They all seem to think she will recover.  I am unsure.  It seems that the longer she lays, the less she can move in my humble opinion.  I pray I am wrong.

The accident has left us with a baby that for over a day and a half was unwilling to drink from a bottle.  Late last night, I finally had success.  He drank an entire bottle and I celebrated our accomplishment.  It was the only highlight of a very sad few days here on our farm.  The cows in the above picture are not happy about being thrown out of the barn.  They are unsure why Isabell won't move and they seem to be unsettled that we are spending so much time in the barn while they remain outside. 

My kids and I have learned some interesting facts over the last few days.  First, did you know that you can use a cow's tail to pick it up and move it?  Me either...I thought the tail was there only for decoration!  I could tell you more fun cow facts, but I need to get back out there and check on her again. 

grace and peace,

Monday, March 15, 2010

And Then She Grew

Yesterday was a typical Sunday afternoon.  I had planned on serving a large supper so everyone would be around to enjoy it.  Our oldest son had to work during the early afternoon time.  I wasn't in any hurry to start the Lentil doesn't take long to cook.  I took advantage of the basketball game that was on t.v. and I sat down in the clean living room with a book and a cup of coffee while everybody else was yelling loudly downstairs for their favorite team.    I had just finished the last sip of my coffee when the phone rang.  A friend had been in a car wreck.  She had just dropped her daughter off at our house to visit with our second son, and she was driving back to her house when the wreck occurred.   We loaded up into the suburban to head to the hospital to check on the hurt momma.  It took several hours of sitting at the hospital waiting to hear that she was fine.  The last leg of our wait ended with bellies growling out for that supper meal that wasn't even started.  I called home and told my daughter that she was the designated cook for the evening.  I walked her through browning the sausage and told her where to find the recipe for the soup.  She called once to ask me what a bay leaf was, but other than that she had it all under control.  When I got back home, she had taken the cake out of the oven and put the glaze on it, made the soup, and was getting ready to start the homemade cheese bread.  I walked her through that recipe just giving her a few directions here and there.  I have no doubt that she could have made the cheese bread without any guidance from me whatsoever, but I needed to feel useful in my own kitchen.  I quickly threw the caesar salad together and made some homemade croutons.  We packaged half of the meal up and sent our son to deliver dinner for the hurt friend and her family.  Did I mention that it was very good?

I know that for busy moms sometimes it is hard to slow down the pace and let the little ones help in the kitchen.  Sometimes they make mistakes...sometimes they make messes...and sometimes they do both at the same time!  I am thankful that I have allowed Hope to cook with me over the years.  She feels at home in the kitchen.  She knows the procedures because she has grown up watching me and helping me cook.  I am thankful that my mom allowed me to play in her kitchen.  If you know my mom, I am sure this was close to her undoing!  She is a neat freak to the core.  I remember the time I had made a homemade cheesecake.  I had just poured the batter into the pan.  I was using her stove top as a work station.  When I lifted the pan up to put it in the oven, the whole bottom fell out of the pan.  Cheesecake batter went all into her stove.  It is a wonder she didn't have "the big one" right then and there!  I also remember the time I made a beautiful pecan pie while my parents where gone.  I had gotten into her treasured pecan stash and cracked enough pecans to fill the pie.  I had never cracked pecans before, and it was apparent with only  one bite of pie!  I had not gotten all of the shells off the pecans, and my dad nearly broke his teeth!  I am sure that was a costly mistake, but I still wasn't discouraged from trying again.

The art of cooking is passed from one generation to the next, and I encourage you to bring your little ones by your side.  By the way, don't just pass it on to your girls.  Involve your sons too in this wonderful world.  My kitchen is filled with messes, dirty dishes, good food, and lots of laughter along with kids by my side learning to cook.  They may not be helping me cook each and every meal, but they are a part of it by chatting and watching what is being accomplished.  My kitchen is truly the heart of our home because it is where my family gathers the most!

grace and peace,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just a Reminder that Spring is on the Way

Remember these?

How about these little beauties?

I know that it seems as if Spring is playing Hide N Seek with us, but it won't be long and she will be here to stay! 

grace and peace,

Friday, March 12, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Here is our spring garden sitting on our makeshift greenhouse in Michael's shop.  The plants are doing fantastic!  They would be ready to be planted outside if the beds were ready for them.  We still have to till the beds, add more dirt, and repair the wood sides.  Our tiller isn't working well even though we took it to a mechanic.  Michael will need to tie into it and see if he can fix it.  That is our major hold up for now.  As you can see from the above picture, I keep my lights at different heights.  I still have small broccoli plants on the right end so those lights still hang low.  I move the lights as the plants grow.

My Romaine Lettuce plants are beautiful.  I see salads of all kinds in my near future!

My broccoli plants are also coming along nicely.  I need to either plant these in the garden soon or transplant them into bigger pots! Have you ever eaten fresh garden broccoli?  If not, you are in for a real treat with your first bite of fresh broccoli.

I have transplanted all of my cabbage plants into bigger pots.  They just got too big for the other pots. 

I am still waiting on all of my "bathtub tomatoes" to germinate.  I am ready to get my tub cleaned out and have a quick bubble bath!  It won't last for long because I will need to plant my pepper seeds in the next week.  Off to water plants....until next time

grace and peace,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And Now He is Six

Our little man turned 6 years old yesterday.  He planned out his birthday dinner about 2 months ago.  He enjoyed his choice of BBQ pork ribs, macaroni and cheese, along with baked beans.  He chose to skip a pretty bakery cake and he went for his favorite oreo ice cream cake.  He has come along way from his five year old birthday dinner request.  That year he wanted oatmeal for dinner!
While we were singing happy birthday, he put his arm around Matty to let him share in the blowing out of the candles.  By the way, Matt and Chelsea got him his favorite gift of all...a toy sniper rifle from Bass Pro Shops!
Matt and Chelsea and Jacob were enjoying the evening together!

Joshua helped Seth load his gun with the pops.  He took the first shot.  I think he enjoyed it!

We are thinking that Hope may be our next engineer!  She is the best at putting toys together for Seth.  She not only is good at, but she enjoys it!
Hope built Seth a cool army station on the fireplace to enjoy all of his new toys.  It was apparent by listening to his bedtime prayer last night that he was a very blessed boy!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Quick Thought

My day has gone by before I have even had half a chance to get much done!  While I was in town this morning, my husband called to let me know that our jersey cow delivered a new chocolate colored calf.  We weren't even for sure if she was going to have a calf so this was exciting news.  I will get pictures of the new little one later and share them with you.  There just aren't much sweeter things than newborn farm animals!  Do you know what else this means?  You guessed it...this means that we will be milking our own cow!!!  I am sure there will be many funny things to share as I go on this new journey of farm life.  I am also sure that  it is going to be an adventure!!!  I have always wanted to learn to make cheese!!  I hope you come along with me as I learn. 

I also wanted to share a link to Marci's blog.  Go here to read an excellent post on stocking up your pantry.  It was encouraging to me, and I am sure you too will enjoy it. 

grace and peace,

Monday, March 08, 2010

Snacking on a Budget

I am not a snack person.  I prefer meals over snacks.  It was the way I was raised.  However, these kids like both meals and snacks!  (The above picture was taken several summers ago when we had out of town friends staying with us.  The kids were having more fun than the picture conveys)!  When money is available for a larger grocery budget, I have many handy things stashed in the pantry to satisfy all snacking desires.  First, I kept a well stocked pantry of different types of nuts.  My kids love cashews, peanuts, and mixed nuts.  They also enjoy the trailmix from Walmart that is made up of mostly nuts.  I also keep yogurt in the refrigerator along with various choices of fresh fruit depending on the season.  I also almost always have a fresh salad waiting for a child in a large bowl.  (I will be able to do that again soon when our garden lettuce is once again in abundance)!  I also keep different kinds of cheeses and deli meat for the little people to enjoy.  A healthy box of cereal could almost always be found for a quick snack fix as well.

Now what do we snack on since the grocery budget has been slashed?  Again, this one takes time on my part to make it happen.  If you come into our home, you will almost always find a loaf of homemade bread waiting on the cutting board.  I leave my bread knife beside it to encourage kids to slice their own.  Jacob will come in after school and down half a loaf of whole wheat bread along with peanut butter.  Speaking of peanut butter, this is a staple at our home.  (Remember I am feeding 3 teenage boys who are all power lifting at the moment.  They want protein and more protein)!  We go through 1 large jar of peanut butter every week.  It is almost as important as milk in our house!  My daughter who isn't such a protein-aholic doesn't care for bread or peanut butter.  She much prefers to make popcorn for herself.  Sometimes she makes kettle corn, but her favorite is just plain.  You can usually also find a homemade goody in the cookie jar or in a 9x13 pan.  Yesterday, I made homemade Lemon Bars.  There are plenty left to snack on for the next few days.  Speaking of leftovers, this is were the bulk of snacking takes place for our kids.  They will rummage through the refrigerator and try to find something yummy from the leftovers.  Hope is much better about this than any of my other children.  She has learned the value of good leftovers!  Tonight I am making homemade pizza.  I could make 3 pizzas and have enough to feed everybody this evening.  Instead I chose to make 4 pizzas.  There will be plenty left for tomorrow's lunch and snacks for the kids after school.  I do that often, and it usually works out just fine.  Last night was a different story.  I grilled an extra pack of chicken so the kids could snack on it for the next few days.  My husband was the one actually grilling and he put all the meat on the platter and placed it in the middle of the dinner table.  We devoured it all at dinner, and I was left without any extras. 

We also eat breakfast leftovers for snacks.  One of the favorite leftover treasures for my kids is to find the extra pancakes!  I also like to keep corn chips and salsa as well as some cut up veggies and ranch dressing.  You can almost always find something to snack on in our house if you look hard enough.  I have to be honest, the kids prefer to open the pantry doors and have snacks falling out at them.  However when push comes to shove, they will always find something they like to eat!

grace and peace,

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sunday Scripture

"And the apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith."  Luke 17:5

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Happenings

The sun is shining bright today, and I am more than thankful.  Our 5 year old came upstairs yesterday  morning and sighed loudly.  With a big smile on his face, he exclaimed, "Now, this is what a REAL morning is suppose to look like!"  There were bright streams of sunshine floating into our windows, and it impressed him.

Fridays at my house are used to get the house in tip top shape in preparation for the weekend.  We usually have our two oldest boys' girlfriends around our dinner table.  I always look forward to spending time with them over the weekend. Tonight I am making a big Mexican feast.  I am going to practice making homemade tortillas without having one of those nice tortilla presses.  I am hoping to get a lot of extra things accomplished today.   I am always more motivated to clean when the sun is shining.  By the way, the above picture was taken last April.  No, we don't have beautiful wildflowers blooming yet!!!  I am looking forward to when the spring flowers do bloom!!!

grace and peace,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Breakfast on a Budget

I just saw a Yahoo story that was titled "Supermarkets Suffer in this Recession".  We have been laughing because Walmart's profit fell recently, and we figured that our not spending much grocery money there has made an impact!   They too must have felt our budget slashes!  I imagine we aren't the only ones cutting back on food spending.  We have never been huge convenience food eaters, but we usually have some in our house.  Take cereal for example.  My kids don't like it for breakfast, but they like it as an after school snack.  I have seen one of my kids go out the door hungry because he just couldn't stomach the cereal for breakfast, but then come back in the afternoon eating a large bowl of it.  We no longer buy cereal. That  was the first area I cut out to slash our budget. 

This lack of cereal eating puts a strain on me.  I hate cooking breakfast.  There I said it.   I don't even like to eat it, why would I want to cook it?  I have various reasons for not liking the making of this meal.  The state of the kitchen is at the top of the list.  If the kitchen is still messy from the previous night's dinner, I don't want to cook in a dirty kitchen.  If the kitchen is spotless clean, I don't want to cook in it first thing in the morning and mess it up!  Most of my kids have to be out the door by 7:30 a.m. which means I have to be in the kitchen and cooking by 6:30 a.m. to have them fed in time to walk out the door.  That is yet another reason that I don't like to cook this meal.

What do we eat for breakfast?  Well, oatmeal would be at the top of my list... you know, it is quick, cheap, hot, and QUICK.   It is a one bowl miracle.  Some of my kids won't eat it.  My husband doesn't even like it.  There goes that idea right out the window.   I have to feed him too!  We eat a lot of eggs.  Everybody likes eggs here.  Pancakes are another good standby.  I keep Self Rising flour and buttermilk in stock all the time.  This way I have the basic ingredients for homemade pancakes or biscuits.  If I make either of these for breakfast, we usually have leftovers that the kids snack on after school.  I make a lot of breakfast casseroles.  In keeping with the thought of saving money, I try to avoid recipes that require lots of extra special ingredients.  If the recipe calls for canned crescent rolls, I am not making it right now.  I make homemade muffins often.  I am always on the lookout for a good muffin recipe.  I keep homemade granola in the pantry.  My kids snack on this, and some of them will eat it with milk for breakfast.  I am no longer buying bagels.  I can make large biscuits to replace the bagel sandwiches, and my kids haven't complained at all.  One of their favorite breakfast items is a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich.  I also make breakfast burritos.  I use lots of my homemade bread from the previous night's dinner to round out the next morning's breakfast.  French toast or cinnamon toast can be made with a loaf of whole wheat or sourdough bread.  My family enjoys breakfast bowls...which is nothing more than fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, cheese, and some meat layered in a large bowl.  My kids have also discovered my mom's Egg Shakes.  These are simple and quick.  I started making these for my power lifter son when we had our own fresh eggs.  After we lost our chickens, he still drinks them with grocery store eggs.  All of my kids drink them with grocery store eggs which I know you aren't suppose to consume raw, but we do.  Crack two eggs into a large glass.  Add some good vanilla, some sugar to taste, and a little bit of milk.  Stir with an immersion blender (also known as a stick blender).  Add more milk and stir again.  Fill the rest of the way with milk and drink.  You can add bananas too if you like. 

All of these ideas require effort on my part.  I have to plan ahead.  Before I go to bed, I usually know what I am going to make the next morning.  Sometimes I will go ahead and set out the casserole pan that I will be using or measure out the dry ingredients for the recipe.   I might even brown the sausage the night before if I need crumbled sausage for a casserole.  Ideally, these are things that I would do every night to make breakfast cooking easier the next day.  The truth is that I am not an evening person.  I struggle just to make sure the kitchen is in order before going to bed. Sometimes I will bake a batch of muffins in the afternoon.  Of course, I have to hide them until the next morning!  Also please keep in mind that I save money by having farm raised meat in my freezer.  I have enough sausage to last awhile.   I don't buy much bacon any more.  We all miss it, but we can make do with all the sausage.   I also try to keep sweet breads and homemade biscuits stashed in the freezer.  The biscuits do lose something after they are frozen, but if we are in a time crunch they can be a life saver. 

I will also share soon about some of the ways we handle snacks in our house now that the budget is so tight. 

grace and peace,

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Simple Things

The snow is still falling here.  It isn't that luscious snow that produces mounds of sledding fun.  Instead, it is just that cold bitter stuff that gets in the way.  Things have been a bit stressful around here with the grey skies and a few major decisions that need to be made.  Sometimes without the sunshine, the hard things of life seem bigger than what they really are.  Sunshine makes everything look better! 

Last night I stepped into the shop to get a package of meat out of the freezer.  While I was there I looked at my plants.  Then without thought, I started tending to them.  I spent several hours out there immersing myself in the dark life giving dirt.  When I was finished, not only had I transplanted all of my cabbage plants, planted 50 more broccoli plants, and added extra dirt to the other plants, but I also had taken the time to gather my thoughts and relax.  It was therapeutic for me as well as my plants.  I had no agenda so I was free to stop when I was ready.  Sometimes we need to step away from all the things that overwhelm us and just take a moment to enjoy the simple things of life.  Did I mention I am ready to enjoy some sunshine again?

grace and peace,

Monday, March 01, 2010

An Introduction to Slashing the Grocery Budget

Feeding a large family can get expensive.  Ask me how I know.  We have cut our grocery budget in half over the last few months.  My grocery budget is generally based on the amount of my husband's salary.  When his salary is high, we have the luxury of spending more money on food.  We will enjoy more variety and things that are higher priced.  It is still cheaper to eat that way than taking the whole family out to nice restaurants or even fast food places.  When Michael's salary is lower and things are tight, I can adjust the way I cook to accomodate our checkbook. 

The first thing I look at when cutting the grocery budget is the stuff that we choose not to live without.  Milk and dairy is at the top of that list for us.  In times past, meat has been at the top of the list.  However, now since we have our own meat tucked away in the freezer we don't have to worry about that. The other items that are high on the list are fresh vegetables and fruit.  We try to buy our fruit in season.  It tastes so much better that way, and it is a lot cheaper!  In the summer months, I go to the roadside stands or the farmer market to purchase our fruit.  The best way to purchase it is to go to a U-pick farm and gather the bounty.  We have a farm here that sells blueberries for $7 a gallon if you pick them.  The last thing on my list would be the items found in the baking aisle at your grocery store.  If you have flour, sugar, oil, and eggs, you can make a lot of things that will help stretch your grocery budget.  If you look at the sidebar where my daily dinner menu is located, you will notice that I almost always have homemade bread as part of the menu.  I don't even really like bread that much so I don't do this for me.  I do this because it helps stretch my main dish.  It saves money, and it is good for my family especially if it is whole wheat bread.  My kids also snack on the bread that I make.  If they want something sweet, they can toast it and add homemade jam or honey.  If they want something savory, they can add butter and garlic or fresh herbs and have garlic bread. 

Before I ever step foot into the grocery store, I take time to plan my meals.  If there are no convenience foods sitting around the house, I must plan for the fact that my kids are going to want to eat three meals plus snacks.  That means I have to cook three meals and have snacks readily available for them.  I try to keep things tucked away in the freezer so that they can have a homemade snack when needed.  We also keep popcorn kernels that can be made quickly for a good snack.  I also try to have leftovers in the refrigerator for the kids to eat when they get hungry.  That one doesn't always work, but I try. 

Over the next few weeks, I am going to write some posts sharing some specific things that I have cut from our grocery shopping to save money.  I am also going to share some things that our family keeps on hand for snacks, and some ideas for breakfast.  Did I mention that I hate to cook breakfast?  Until then...

grace and peace,