Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Homestead Happenings! August 31, 2016

Every Wednesday I will  post what kept me busy during the week and share my pictures.  I admit, technically we do not live on a homestead but we have the mindset of one.  We endeavor to use our land and animals to sustain us and growing each year in faith, knowledge and developing a deeper, self-sustaining lifestyle.

This week was a hard work week!  The weather cleared and warmed up so we took the opportunity to bring in  our winter wood.  Each winter after the logging roads freeze, we haul a couple of trailer loads of wood  for the following year.  It's not free wood, but at a hundred dollars for all you can load on your trailer it's a frugal source of heat.
Wood trailer and splitter
There is about three cords of wood on the trailer.  The mechanic did the grunt work of unloading the logs and bucking it up.  I split the wood, hauled and piled it up in the woodshed.  We pile our wood because our wood heater works best with short blocks.  In it's former life our wood stove was a coal burning stove on a rail car.
All done!  
We were also able to bag up all the sawdust to use in the chicken coop this winter for their deep litter method.  We had a bit of spare so we tossed it into the run so they could scratch in it.
Stormy, sawdust and chickens
Stormy and I picked the last of the raspberries and rhubarb for the year.  It was just enough to make a pie.  Earlier this summer we transplanted some rhubarb to encourage new growth,.
New rhubarb shooting up

Last of the raspberries

I started pulling up the rest of my garden and adding new compost and fertilizer to the tires.  I covered the tires with black plastic to speed up the compost and kill the weeds.  Next spring it should be ready to go.  I am planting a lot more tires next year and a potato bed.  We live in a cool climate so using raised beds really helps to heat the soil.

We now have two broody hens.  Hopefully in ten days we will be blessed with chicks from the first one and the second hen should hatch her chicks about a week after.  This is my first experience with hatching chicks and hope we all survive the experience.
Cherry the chicken

Mama Vanilla
There is my week.  Now I just need to heal up these sore muscles by a warm fire.

Lovin' life!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Menu Monday - Week of August 29th

Here's is my menu ideas for the upcoming week.  I'm pretty terrible at following menu plans but I do like to start off the week with an idea of what is available, needs to be cooked and would please my family.  I have everything I need already purchased and in food storage.

Steel cut oats cooked in my wonderoven (upcoming post on that).
Yogurt - Homemade in the crockpot
Eggs and toast

Lunch and dinner:
Sloppy Lentils
Chicken Fried Tofu dipped in BBQ sauce

Snacks and desserts:
Fruit Crisp
Banana Bread with chocolate chips made in my bread machine

I did follow last weeks plan completely with the addition of a pizza I made but that was still made out of food storage.  Not sure if we are eating out of food storage again next month.  It all depends on a eBay case that we may have to refund.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monthly Goals Check In

Every month I make a to do list.  For some reason it really motivates me to accomplish the task just to mark it off the list.  Please don't ask me why but it does.

Here was my list for August

Cut Maisies Hair (our schnauzer dog)
Organize bins
List 10 items on eBay
Reconcile Paypal statement to spreadsheet
Wash Windows
Clean my Bronco (truck)
Make lotion
Pick Raspberries
Library Run
Take Stormy Biking
Clean up Woodshed
Clean up Storage Room
Can fish and beans
Start Blogging

Here's my results as of August 24th

Cut Maisies Hair (our schnauzer dog)
Organize bins
List 10 items on eBay
Reconcile Paypal to spreadsheet
Wash Windows
Clean my Bronco (truck)
Make lotion
Pick Raspberries
Library Run
Take Stormy Biking
Clean up Woodshed
Clean up Storage Room
Can fish and beans
Start Blogging

Rumor is that the sun may actually shine this weekend.  If so I will accomplish three things at once.  I can take Stormy bike riding, go to the library and pick raspberries all in the same afternoon.  Rain, rain go away!  That just leaves the storage room as the next big project.

I do have a daily chore routine that I do and it almost never varies.  I like to start and finish it without distractions so it only takes me about an hour.  

My daily chores

Feed chickens, tidy up coop
Wash dishes (by hand no dishwasher here), sanitize stove, microwave and counters.  
Fill Woodbox
Scoop cat box
Start a load of laundry (only on sunny days so the clothes can dry on the line)
Tidy up bathroom
Sweep and spot mop floors
(Now onto the other half of the house)
Vacuum pet hair
Fold blankets and tidy up living room
Vacuum living room
Collect eggs and feed chickens any scraps we have from the house

After everything is in place I tackle homeschooling, blogging, outside chores and cooking.  There are times I need to scrub the bathroom and dust the living room.  That usually happens Saturday morning in case we have company come by.  On Sundays I do what I have to but try to  make it more of a fun rest day.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Frugal Friday - How I Started My Food Storage

When time are tight financially it's hard to think about starting or adding to a food storage plan.  I know it can be difficult just to bring in groceries for the day, never mind thinking a year from now.  Here's how I did it on my limited income and hopefully it can help you out as well.

I just started.  Even if it's one can of green beans, grab it and say this is for food storage.  It is wise to have your food storage or extended pantry set apart from your food that you are currently using or planning to use.  For years my storage was in my bedroom and stuffed in a bathroom we weren't using.  Not very romantic...

I'm not saying don't use it if you need it.  Of course, use it if you ran out but when you make out your next shopping list out, try to replace it and forget about it until another need arises.  Each time you go shopping, add another can.  Don't forget to save some containers for your storage.  I like to re purpose ice cream buckets and glass jars for my items.

Buy only what you will eat!  This is so important.  You know your family and buy what they will enjoy eating.  I made the mistake of buying a huge bag of split peas.  Turns out I only like split pea soup once every year or two and my family doesn't like it at all.  It would have been better to buy another bag of beans or lentils with that money.  I found it's best to make a list of what you regularly buy.  Work on an item until you have enough for a week, then a month and finally a year or more.  There are some spreadsheets available online to get you started but make sure you personalize it so you don't end up with unwanted split peas.

Pretty soon you will have a stockpile of your favorite foods and something magical happens.  You get to start shopping in your own pantry.  My pantry resembles a small store now and I freely use it BUT I replace each thing monthly and before it's completely gone so I can have the opportunity to replace it when the item goes on sale.  This will save you money to reinvest in the pantry.

Part of my pantry

Monday, August 22, 2016

Menu Monday - Eating Out of Food Storage

Here's is my menu ideas for the upcoming week.  I'm pretty terrible at following menu plans but i do like to start off the week with a loose idea of what is available, needs to be cooked and would please my fam.

I should start out by saying we do not eat like a traditional family.  I place that blame on the mechanic.  The man completely refuses to eat at set times of the day.   Typically he has a smoothie in the morning before work and will eat his next meal after he is finished for the day.  Sometimes that is at 5:00 p.m. or it may be 11:00 p.m.  

Stormy is a challenge as well.  She just hates to eat and would rather not be bothered by it.  Many a plate has been set before her just to remain untouched.  No amount of bribes, treats or threat of punishment will change her mind.  Therefore I simply feed her when she asks for it.  That being said, she really only likes  to eat about 4 different items at a time and they can change without notice.  I keep her favorites stocked up and ready to go.  Right now she is eating noodles with butter and cheese, white rice with butter, peanut butter and honey on toast, cheese, smoothies and this morning she shocked me by eating my french toast so there is a chance that may go in the rotation. 

What works for my family is to just to have food ready.  At all times I like to have in my fridge beans, noodles or rice, a side veggie and a main dish.  I also make sure we always have bread and a baked good made and smoothie ingredients.

Here is what I plan to have ready  this week for whoever is hungry at any given time. 

Breakfasts:  eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and smoothies

Main Dish for Lunch or dinner:  egg salad sandwiches, Sloppy Lentils, stir fried rice, beans and lasagna.

Side veggies:  frozen Normandy mix, pickled beets, and spicy carrots are ready to go

Baked good or snacks:  My "Kind" Bar (knock off recipe) with walnuts and dried cherries and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We also enjoy popcorn, hot buttered bread and peanut butter and jelly on bread
Part of my canning pantry

More of my pantry

I already have all the ingredients needed for the week.  I'm planning having two kitchen days where I cook and restock the fridge and the rest of the week will just be a manner of eating the leftovers.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Frugal Friday - Easy Crockpot Beans From Scratch

We love eating beans!  They are nutritious, delicious and cheap.  But that is only true if you cook your own beans.  The store bought canned  beans are expensive and not nearly as nutritious or delicious.  I'm pretty baffled about why more people do not cook their own beans because it's easy but it intimidates the best of cooks.

If you have a crockpot you are golden!  It's possible to cook beans easily without a crockpot but with one is the easiest way I have found.  I make at least two pots a week and we always have beans available to eat in the fridge.  So easy to make burritos, beans on toast, beans and rice or a quick pot of chili if they are ready to go.  My all time favorite way to eat them is folded in a corn tortilla with some rice and cheese and fried until the tortilla is crispy.  

Here's my easy, fast and cheap way to make a great pot of beans.

1.  The night before measure out the amount of beans (any type)  you want to cook.  I cook three cups at a time.  Sort the beans by picking out any stones or deformed beans.  Most bags of beans today are very clean without stones but if you are picking up commodity beans it may be a different story.
Sorting Beans
2.  Rinse the beans in a colander and put in a large bowl.  Cover beans with water, making sure you have twice the amount of water to beans because they will swell up.  I like to add a splash of apple cider vinegar in there.  Soaking your beans overnight helps them to become easier to digest (less gas for you), more nutritious and faster to cook.  If you forget this step you can still cook them.
Soaking beans with a splash of ACV
3.  The next morning, I drain off the water and place the beans in the crockpot.  I cover with fresh water and add my spices.  I typically use 1 1/2 tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp chili powder or cumin, onion and garlic (fresh or powder).  .  We do like it spicy so make sure you season according to your taste.  I set my crockpot on high and let it rip along all day.
In the crockpot with onions, garlic, salt, pepper and chili powder.
By dinner time I know I will have beans ready.  This pot will last us 3-4 days but if not eaten I will freeze the leftovers or feed to the chickens.  Tonight we will have these beans on toast with some fried eggs, cheddar cheese and hot sauce.  
Beans are ready to eat or use in recipes.
A lovely pot of pintos and black beans ready for the week.  Whole foods cooked straight from my food storage.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

But I Can't Afford to Buy Organic...Myth Busted!

I am here to dispel the myth that a family cannot feed their family whole, organic foods and keep on their limited budget.  I live in a very expensive state to buy food, especially organic and my budget is $500 for a family of three but I feed four (you know, the adult son that has moved out but shows up at mealtime...).

First, I will acknowledge that the organic label is just that a label.  I know that it can be manipulated and I also acknowledge that the well intentioned farmer may be growing a contaminated crop.  I have to leave that in the hands of the Lord and vote with my money to buy foods that are hopefully closer to what was created for us than the man made junk. 

(Confession:  We do occasionally buy junk food, especially on road trips and around birthdays and holidays but the goal is to not consume it as a daily part of our diet).

The past couple of days I have taken a picture of everything I ate and offered to my family.  It was cheap, healthy and fast.  I don't believe I have spent more than 45 minutes a day cooking and cleaning for us.

Breakfast- Homemade (in the crockpot) yogurt with chia seeds, sunflower seeds and rolled oats.  The only thing I bought for this meal in August was the milk.  This meal is delicious and packed full of probiotics and a great way to eat seeds and nuts that we should be eating everyday.
Eggs on toast and a smear of butter and a sprinkle of pepper flakes.  We raise chickens so we have unlimited, fresh eggs.  If at all possible I think everyone should raise their own chickens for the fresh eggs.  Eggs are so healthy for you and the better life the chickens have, the better eggs you get to eat.  Currently our small flock of 8 banty hens give us 6 eggs a day.  I also make my own bread in my trusty breadmaker.  Total cost of this meal for the month of August is the smear of butter.

Because we have an abundance of eggs, I often eat them for lunch as well.  Here is my cheap but satisfying version of a breakfast burrito.  Egg fried in butter or coconut oil, wrapped up in a flour tortilla with a sprinkle of cheese and placed back in the pan to brown and crisp up a bit.  I usually eat a side of veggies with it.  Impact on my budget was a bit more.  I did buy the tortillas and cheese earlier in the month to make my hubby smothered burritos for his birthday. I really would not consider the flour tortilla to be a whole food.

Beans on homemade corn tortillas.  I made these tortillas a bit thicker because I wanted a tamale taste to my meal.  Very easy to make, just some masa, baking soda and water.  We always have beans in the fridge and a bit of cheese and hot sauce satisfied my craving for mexican food.  Normally I would eat my beans over toast. The only item I bought for this meal was the cheese.


Leftover Pizza - I heart pizza.  Pizza is my favorite.  I made homemade pizza a couple days ago and saved up this slice for a quick dinner.  Again, I already had everything in my food storage and only purchased the cheese this month.
French Toast - I had every intention of eating a bowl of white chili and rice that I had made the day before for my husband but I was having a sweet tooth attack so I whipped up some french toast.  So easy to do when you have all the fresh eggs you can eat and homemade bread just sitting there.  I covered it with some homemade rhubarb syrup.  Please consider making your own syrup.  It is as easy as boiling water and sugar together.  If you want a flavored syrup, use fruit juice instead of water.  You can add your own flavors or extracts as well.  I use organic evaporated cane juice for my sugar.  The syrup will last for months on your pantry shelf.  This meal was essentially free for me to make this month and came entirely out of food storage.

I have been trying to limit my snacking.  This week I made an applesauce cake (flour, sugar, applesauce, eggs and spices) and helped to eat the rest of the ice cream, which is junk of course.  I don't plan on buying ice cream again until Thanksgiving.  I also enjoyed some fresh hot bread with butter.  No cost to me this month to snack, aside from the butter that I had to buy.


I am not so great at tracking everything that I drink throughout the day.  Typically its espresso, water, my vitamin mix, sparkling water and an occasional Zevia soda. I did buy our coffee this month via Amazon's Subscribe and Save.  It's a bit pricey but it is one of the places I will spend a few more dollars for a superior product.  The Zevia soda is also a treat and comes via Amazon but I don't believe that I will continue buying it.  I enjoy sparkling water just as much and it is cheaper.

So as you can see, I have eaten really well for just a few dollars.  It does help that I have a food storage plan.  Having food storage really helps on months that you need to save money on.  For us, this month we had to pay property taxes.  To take the sting out of that cost we simply eat out of our storage and only buy fresh foods such as dairy.  We are gathering fresh veggies from the garden but did buy some kale for smoothies.  We are also eating fresh berries and rhubarb this month instead of buying fruit.  Not much of a sacrifice at all.  At the end of the month I will post how much I spent on groceries and what I bought.  

If I can do this in the middle of Alaska, I know you can do it too.  Whole, organic foods do not have to be expensive but they may require a bit of extra work.  In my next post I will share how I cook from scratch for my family, spending as little time as possible in the kitchen and spending very little money.

Lovin life and eating well!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Frugal Reading List for August

I think sitting down and reading a book is becoming a lost skill. Personally I find myself falling into the easy habit of watching videos or listening to a book on tape.  Nothing at all wrong with that but nothing beats opening up a book and losing yourself in a story.

My goal through the busy summer is to read a book each month.  Winters are made for reading and I like to read a book a week huddle under a warm blanket.  Here's what I've been reading this month.  I do like to have several books going at once including a classic, a fiction and non-fiction choice and a read aloud to Stormy.
The classic book I am reading right now is also my fiction choice. Dune by Frank Herbert.
It's been twenty years since my last attempt to read this book.  The movie just ruined it for me.  I must say that I am quite enjoying the read as long as I block out all images of the movie.  

My non-fiction choice is Trance-formation of America by Cathy O'Brien.  I have been wanting to read it since I watched her YouTube videos.  I snagged it up on my Kindle when it went on sale for $8.00  This book is not for the faint hearted.  It covers her tragic life as a MK Ultra slave.  You can read many of my earlier posts about my research into MK Ultra mind control and just how corrupt our government is.  In her book she tells all about her encounters with the Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush and Clinton as well as many entertainers especially in the country music realm.   Please know that this book contains material dealing with child sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse.  Be aware that it is explicit.

My read aloud with Stormy is Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Still a favorite of mine and always will be.

I've been very frugal lately with buying books.  With the exception of the Kindle book, I haven't bought a book for months and I don't plan to.  My next set of books are already on my shelf.  Go frugal me!

Lovin' Life with a good book in my hand.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Blog Name and Simple Foods

I believe a person should blog about what they are passionate about.  I am passionate about my faith, my family and being frugal.  I am a little less passionate about my pets, the chickens and homeschooling but they are up there as well.

I have several posts in the works.  For instance, does canning save you money?  Can raising chickens save you money?  Do I need to buy expensive homeschool materials?  All my answers based on my life long experience of living in Alaska.

Right now I am working on the goal of reducing my grocery costs.  I am doing this by simlifying our food choices.  We are very simple people with simple taste but if you could see in my pantry right now, it is anything but simple.  Why in the world do I have five different flours?  Two shelves full of spices?  I haven't counted but I think I have over five different sweeteners.

The answer is because I have been dieting for the past five years trying to lose weight.  In those five years I have tried at least three different diet plans that all come with their unique ingredients and all to no avail.  I ditched the diets and my budget and body are thanking me for it.

Now I am simply eating when I am hungry, I am eating only whole foods and not eating later in the evenings.  I feel fantastic and my clothes are fitting better.  Not sure about weight loss because I also ditched the scale.

Last month I spent under $400 for our food, including household items and pet food.  This is good news for us because some months I was spending almost $800.  Yikes!  It was a wake up call to quit buying expensive, processed diet foods for Trim Healthy Mama.

So what's on the simplified menu now?  Plenty of beans, eggs, smoothies, oatmeal, cakes, cookies, pizza, tacos and coffee.  All whole foods, all under $400 which is amazing for an Alaskan family.  

Stay tuned and I will give up the details!

I Am In Love With Life

Sitting here listening to my canner go jiggle, jiggle and watching my chickens scratch out in the yard, I had an incredible sense of peace settle over me and I know that I love my blessed life.

It's not that life is perfect by any means.  There are a few family dramas unfolding and I sold something on eBay and that's going south but hopefully it can be resolved without too much pain.  My mechanic hubby is so busy I hardly see him and summer is coming to an end.  So not a perfect life, but still so blessed.

There has been changes since the last time I blogged here.  We have adopted many animals including two dogs, two cats and ten chickens.  It has been so much fun watching these new critters meld themselves into our lives and it is amazing how much love can be exchanged between us.  The sad news would be that we did lose our beloved dog, Oddball but he did live an long life of sixteen years and developed lung cancer that just was too much to fight.

The summer has been amazing.  My son from Texas moved up with his family and now lives in the city only 200 miles away.  It's been great catching up with him and getting to know my grandchildren.  It is so comforting to know that all of my close family lives right here in Alaska!

I have decided to start up blogging again and I want to focus on frugal living here in Alaska, frugal homeschooling and more.  

Absolutely lovin' life!