Monthly Archives: January 2011

My Go-To Homemade Bread Recipe

My favorite bread recipe I found on Hillbilly Housewife.

I love the fact that I can do the mixing and kneading right in the bowl. It’s so much less messy. I usually let the bread rise on top of my oven. If the house is a tad cold I preheat the oven while the bread rises. Recently I’ve had some trouble because of how cold our house is in winter. (I keep the thermostat between 62 and 65 degrees F during the day). I tried a trick I read online. I heat a bowl of water in my microwave for two minutes and then put in the bowl of dough and close the  door. The steam seems to help the bread rise better when the house is cold.

It took a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but now I make it 3 or 4 times a month, sometimes more. I almost always double the recipe and pop one loaf in the freezer. I usually cut the loaves in half before I freeze them, since the bread doesn’t stay fresh as long as store bought bread. Usually it tastes fresh for two or three days and then it makes great toast. A half loaf works well because in our house it usually gets eaten before it gets too stale.

Categories: budget, Cooking | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Save by using time instead of money: Things that are worth making from scratch

As a stay a home mom I often find that time is easier to come by then money. Not that I have endless time, but since no one is paying me for my time, it seems easier to sacrifice. I have discovered that by putting in a little bit of time at home, I can save on our monthly expenses, which equals more money going into savings or paying down debt.

The less work that is done before you buy a product generally the less you pay for it. So if you buy ingredients and make things yourself, you will usually save money and almost always eat healthier.

Breakfast

I hardly ever buy breakfast cereal for myself or my daughter anymore. My husband is a creature of habit and has made many concessions to our frugal lifestyle, so I let him keep buying his store brand cereals, especially when he sticks to cheaper and healthier choices like raisin bran. But my daughter and I don’t usually eat boxed breakfast cereal. I will make oatmeal or we eat fruit and homemade toast. My daughter likes hers with cream cheese. If you like cereal bars or granola bars for a quick breakfast on the go, those can be made at home too. Check out recipes online like http://backtothecuttingboard.com/dessert/no-bake-chewy-granola-bars/. Depending on where you buy your ingredients and what you put in your cereal bars, you can save a lot by making them yourself. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve also considered making my own yogurt, though I’m not sure whether it would be a significant savings, since my husband is very brand loyal. But here is a helpful link about how to make your own yogurt in your crock pot. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html. I’ll likely try this once we have more children.

Bread

I started baking my own bread when I realized that by buying ingredients in bulk I could make a loaf for only $.33! It took a little bit of experimenting to find the right recipe, but now I make my husband’s sandwich bread for his lunches instead of paying almost $2 for his favorite store brand Italian sandwich bread. I also discovered that a loaf of homemade bread is the perfect side dish to a soup or stew. Right out of the oven, this bread rivals most high priced bakery bread. However, while I do use bread flour I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club, I don’t often use whole wheat flour. Partly because I have trouble making it rise properly and end up with very small dense loaves. They still taste OK, but don’t make very good sandwiches. Sometimes I compromise by using half store brand whole wheat flour and half bread flour. But that does mean that my loaves cost more, though still cheaper than good quality whole wheat bread without high fructose corn syrup or other additives.

“Convenience” Meals

Making things from scratch is especially frugal than when preparing your own meals instead of depending on convenience meals. There were many nights when we were both working full time that it seemed easier just to grab fast food or run out for a pizza instead of make dinner. Now I try to make sure that I have at least a few meals in the freezer ready to go. The best choices are usually stews or soups. Since we are only a family of three right now, and one of us is still eating very small portions, most soup and stew recipes yield at least two or three meals. But eating the same thing two or three times in a week can be a little dull. So I freeze at least half and keep it for a night when I’m tired, we’re busy or running late. It goes directly from freezer to soup pot and in just a few minutes we have a meal ready to go. Another great choice is pizzas or calzones. I make pizza dough in double batches and freeze half for later. Then I defrost in the freezer overnight and I can make a pizza in half an hour. Personally, we prefer making calzones. I have a hard time getting the dough stretched properly for pizza and calzones are generally less messy to make. That way I can make personal sized calzones and each family member can pick his or her own fillings.

Buy in bulk, portion for yourself

Buying in bulk can save you money on a couple of conditions. First, it has to be something that you already buy a lot of and consistently use up before it goes bad. Secondly, the bulk source has to be a significant cost savings. And third, you must be able to store the items properly. Flour for example, can be stored in the bag but is better stored in an airtight canister. But it’s hard to find a canister that will hold 25 pounds of flour. Fortunately, we generally use up the flour quickly from all the bread and calzone making, so I’ve never had a problem. But I’m still keeping my eyes open for a proper affordable storage container. We also buy cheese in bulk, in block form. We’ve discovered that we can cut the cheese into smaller blocks and then freeze them, defrosting as needed. We mostly use the cheese for cooking and baking so I personally don’t know how it would be for eating. But my daughter and husband both eat mozzarella cheese by the handful and seem to think it tastes fine. This has saved us a lot of money over buying cheese in pre-shredded 2 cup bags. Don’t buy single serving items, just portion them out yourself.

Categories: budget, Cooking, Finance, Stay at home mom, Stay at Home Mothering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I am Resolved to . . .

Why do we make New Year’s Resolutions? We resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, be better parents, be better spouses , be better employees, stop speeding, start reading more, listen more, interrupt less, be more kind, be less judgmental and the list goes on. Why do we wait until the New Year to try and improve ourselves? The other 364 days of the year (365 if it happens to be a leap year), are just as appropriate for groundbreaking new starts. What makes us wait, why don’t we simply start now?

Of course, many of those promises to better ourselves are recycled from the previous year. Mostly because the majority of these so called resolutions are abandoned by midway through February for lack of effort, lack of desire or lack of interest. Not that I’m against improving myself. Every year I have lists of things I want to do. Exercise more, be a better housekeeper, write more and yet rarely do I meet my goals. Or I do them for a while but never enough to become a permanent part of my life style.

Perhaps I should resolve not to make a resolution unless I mean to really stick with it. (Of course no one means to give up on a resolution otherwise we wouldn’t call them resolutions.) I perhaps it we could call them New Year’s intentions instead. Of course we all know where good intentions lead, don’t we? That’s right. (In case you don’t know where I’m headed, its rather warm, rather crowded and contrary to Billy Joel, not a place you’d like to spend all eternity.)

Maybe there is something about a new year that seems fresh, like a blank slate. As we turn another calendar page and add a new digit to the dates in our check books, we see the days and weeks that stretch out before us as days of opportunity; A second (third, fourth or umpteenth) chance to get it right this time. Even when we think we are happy with ourselves and our lives, if asked to make a New Year’s resolution, someone can almost always come up with one. As well as adjusted as we all claim to be, really we are all looking to improve in one way or another. So we resolve that we will improve upon our strengths, minimize our weaknesses and in the end be more tolerant of the inevitable failings that we know are coming, perhaps in just a few short weeks. So happy New Year’s resolving, everyone. Here’s hoping that this year’s intentions lead to some place better for all of us.

 

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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