Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October's Stock-up, Winter Storage & Frugal Mussings

I requested my RiteAid rebate yesterday, after making sure everything qualified. I always file online, so I know before hand if everything was correct. I have relied on the store's shelf postings in the past, and have found that they are not always accurate. Our grand total on the single check rebates this month is.... $144.22!! That does not include the $21.00 in coupons I used as well, so not only did I get $144.22 worth of items for free, but I was paid $21 to take them!!!! It still blows me away that I actually can end up with items we need and use for free or better than free.

I'm somewhat bummed, as we found our winter vegetable storage had been raided by vermin. Those critters had a great feast on my pumpkins and other veggies that I had put away. Those that weren't touched are now all over my kitchen waiting to be canned or frozen now. I had expected to be able to use fresh into the winter, but now, plans have changed. I have to figure out a better plan for storage for next year.

I've been using my crockpot quite a bit lately. We've been running to appointment after appointment this month, and the crockpot has been so convenient and has saved us a lot of money. We haven't had to eat out, and that has been wonderful! I don't like fast food, and it seems the kids don't like it much either. The other bonus is, according to the First Energy Corp. the crockpot only costs .02/hr. to use! They have a PDF that shows costs of using appliances, etc.
If the information is accurate, it only costs me 20 cents to cook a meal in the crockpot. I wonder how that would compare to our gas stove in cost of energy - especially when we paid $5.10/gal. of propane.

Today is the first day I've had to use the dryer since Mother's Day (May 11th). It's been raining a lot and hubby's clothes just can't hold out until our next nice sunny day. It's almost killing me to put the stuff in the dryer!! I'm still going to hang clothes out as much as possible, but I also know that I'm going to have to use the dryer more. That's going to put a spike in our electric bill. :(

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Candy Warning

Please be careful on what candies your children are getting and eating. This is just so scary...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Broccoil Soup

Baby What's Cooking?

Broccoli crowns are on sale at our local grocery store, so I decided to try the Broccoli Soup recipe in my Fagor "Home Canning Cookbook" to see if it would be something I'd like to stock on the shelves for this winter. I canned my first batch of 4 jars, let it stand for a few days, and then we ate it. The verdict: Everyone really liked it! In fact, the kids LOVED it and have asked for me to put up "tons" of it. LOL It's a really nice recipe, good alone, or if you want broccoli and cheese, just sprinkle some cheddar on it and let it melt - just yummy.

Broccoli Soup

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, whole
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons margarine or vegetable oil (I used butter)
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth (this came out to 3 cans 14.5 oz size)
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut broccoli florets from the stalks. Peel stalks and slice into 1-inch pieces. Saute broccoli, onions, and garlic, in butter. In a large saucepan, combine the sauteed vegetables with the rice and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently until vegetables are very soft. Puree soup in blender. (I used my Braun handheld and blended it in the pot). Return to stockpot and add the Tabasco, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Ladle into jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace. Cap and seal. Place in pressure canner with 2-3 inches of hot water (or amount recommended for your brand of pressure canner). Process for 40 minutes at 15 pounds (Fagor's HIGH setting).
Please note: There is no conversion for those at higher altitudes in this book. I'm just below 1000 ft. above sea level, so I don't have to worry about it. For those above 1000 ft. above sea level, please contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for advice on safe times and pressure settings.

I'm planning on doing a quadruple batch - possibly 5x. I'm getting 9 pounds of broccoli, so I will definately have enough plus some for eating fresh. Think the kids will be satisfied with a few pounds less than "tons"? LOL

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day!

Here it is, almost the middle of October already. This is my last school year with my son home, and it's going by so quickly. Friday, he went to visit one of the universities he's interested in attending. He came home excited and so full of chatter. He has a couple more universities he wants to look at before he makes his final decision, but right now he's really leaning towards this one because of both the course of study they offer and the small college atmosphere. DH went to Penn State, and said he wished he would have more of the atmosphere they found at this university. I guess that means that DH approves of our son's choice :)

We buy our milk at a local dairy that uses no growth hormones and raises their cows as naturally as possible. When we go to the dairy, we pass by a few farm stands and a local produce stand, and up the road from the dairy is a nice Mennonite food and dried goods pantry where I buy such wonderful items as farina in bulk. This week, my husband and son went on the milk run, and on the way back, they stopped at the produce stand to get some apple cider. The carry the unpasteurized apple cider and will refill your jug for $1 less than shelf price. Then they stopped at one of the farms that I get pumpkins from. I asked them to pick up two, and told them they should run close to $1.50 for a nice sized pumpkin. Two is a decent amount for us, especially since I also put away squash for using like pumpkin. Well, they came home with 2 plus 3 additional ones since they were only $1 each! I guess they are hinting they want me to put up a little more this year :)

I have put the new pressure cooker/canner to work. I tried corned beef and cabbage in it. I liked the taste, but the meat texture was different than doing it the conventional way. The vegetables, on the other hand, had a nice flavor. I also canned some broccoli soup this weekend. Since the pressure cooker is only 10 quarts, I can only put in 4 jars. It's nice when I have just enough to do a batch, or to test a recipe to see if I really want to stock the shelves with a large canner full. Since broccoli is on sale this week, I'll be trying the soup tonight to see if the family likes it. It will work in nicely, as my daughter has her annual dr. check today, so we won't be home until almost dinner time. It will just be a quick heat and we'll have ham & swiss on homemade bread along with it.

I dug out the old sourdough pancake recipe that my mother had received with her first Herman. The people that gave Mom the starter introduced us to the world of sourdough when I was little. Sadly, there was no internet or any real sources for finding recipes that worked with Herman, so Mom got bored with the couple of recipes that we had, and found that Herman was not worth the work of keeping him going. I'm so much more fortunate, as I have the world's cookbook at our fingertips!

Mom's Sour Dough Pancakes

1 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup sour dough starter
1/2 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together. Cook on greased or buttered skillet.

Another sour dough recipe Mom made a lot was for cookies. I should pick up some peanuts and make these with the kids sometime.

Sour Dough Chocolate Chip Peanut Mounds

1 cup sour dough starter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup soft butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
2 cups salted peanuts
6 ounce package chocolate chips

Cream together sugar, shortening and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Comine with sour dough. Mix well. Sift together salt, baking soda, and flour. Add to sour dough mixture. Fold in peanuts and chocolate chips. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten dough with bottom of glass that has been greased and dipped in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gardening Season is Almost Over

Since my last post, all it seems we have done is run from appointment to appointment. I think about half my days of October are filled with one obligation or another. The children (or should I say teens) had their vaccinations yesterday, and they're a bit under the weather today. I decided to let them sleep in today, and will give them an easy day of it today. DS received 4 - 2 in each arm, and DD received 3. I hope DS is back in his game tomorrow, as he has an open house tomorrow at the college he is interested in attending. They have a whole day of tours and lectures planned.

After a long day of trying to get the doctor's visit and shopping done, we came home beat on Friday. I missed the weather report and never gave it another thought, and went to bed. We had a hard frost, and lost most of our garden. The only things left are cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and horseradish. My Egyptian onions (walking onions) have done well and I have quite a few babies sprouting. I can't wait to be able to have enough to finally use!!

Now, for some really great news.... My update about Macy's @ Amazon....

We spent many hours on the phone with Macy's to try to get our order straight. Actually, my sweet husband took over and spent most of the time on the phone with them. We were promised 3 different times that they were going to ship out the pressure cooker and there would be an email stating that it was coming. There was never an email, and when we'd call back, there would be the run around again that they never offered that item!! Well, DH had a screen shots of the ad that he sent to them.

Now, there was no more argument, because there was the whole add - including the seller's name of Macy's with the price. (Thanks Barbara for sending the link!! I had no idea that you could do a Google Cash look-up.) Well, this one actually convinced one of the supervisors that we weren't making it all up and she told hubby that she would see if she could find something that was comparable. On Thursday afternoon, she called back and said that she found something and would be shipped out and we'd get an email confirmation. We never got one. On Friday, I found that Amazon LLC. had the same set listed for $34.95 with free shipping, so I spoke to my husband and he said I should order it, as he wasn't expecting Macy's to hold up on their end of the bargain (again).

The same day that I ordered from Amazon, they shipped the package out and it was due here on Monday! YAY!! I patiently waited Monday afternoon for the package, and instead of getting one, I received 3!! There were 2 packages from Macy's plus the one I was expecting from Amazon. Macy's sent a beautiful Fagor double boiler with steamer, a cookbook, and a Fagor pressure cooker. These were a much nicer replacement than I ordered, so we called just to make sure the shipment was correct. YES!! I now have 2 pressure cookers, and 2 canning sets, plus so much more. It was difficult getting a correction to our order, but it did happen - but gosh... there was a lot of time and frustration doing it, however, my husband says it was well worth it. :)

The Big Grocery Trip

We don't shop like "normal people" or so I have been told. I take that as a big compliment :) Our shopping trips are well planned out, with the seasons, coupons, sales, and refunds/rebates. This week, we had to use a 15% discount on a grocery trip that came from using our grocery store shopper's club card. We paired up the sales with coupons, and took advantage of the 15% on top of it all. When we were finished shopping, we had $500 worth of groceries for $302, plus we got a couple of kickouts totalling $27 off our next shopping order. This was not $500 worth of prepackaged foods, but good staples, like meat, veggies, eggs, baking needs, etc.

One example of a good bargain for us was Classico Pasta Sauce. I don't grow enough tomatoes to make my own yet, so I buy spaghetti sauce (for now). The Classico was on sale for 2 for $4. If you purchased 12 of them, you received a kickout for $10 off your next grocery order. I had a $1.50 coupon plus we used the 15% off on top of it all, making the Classico 91 cents a jar! Mind you, I am counting the $10 off the next order in, because I wouldn't have gotten it, if I didn't buy the sauce. It's kind of like an instant rebate, if you know what I mean.

CVS & RiteAid

Last week we did great at CVS and RiteAid. In fact, everything that was free after rebates and kickouts was there (unlike this week!) and we actually had a few items that were money makers for us. No matter how many times I get things at these two stores, I'm still blown away by the fact that we now can get many of our health and beauty aids for free!

One promotion that CVS had that was neat was, if you purchased $20 worth of certain products, you'd get $10 off the purchase of an Iron Man DVD. I didn't pay too much attention to it, though, because my husband went to K-mart to get some tools and received a $5 coupon towards the purchase of an Iron Man DVD. We went to K-mart on Friday to get it. I had expected that to actually be cheaper than CVS, but the DVD was $24.99 AFTER the coupon! I went to CVS and spent $5 more and came home with some much needed items, including the batteries that we were going to get at K-mart on top of the cost of the DVD. Believe it or not, the batteries were the same price as those at K-mart.

Taste of Home Cooking School

I didn't make the 10 mile yard sale. sigh..... Instead, I stayed home on Saturday and waited to be able to call in for tickets to go to the Taste of Home Cooking School. Our local paper sponsors the show, and they have one day that you can call and get them - and only a few hours to do it. I so wish they would do it a different way, but I guess this works for them. This will be our third year going, and it's always a lot of fun. It does cost $10 but we get a nice tote bag filled with all kinds of samples, a Taste of Home Cooking School cookbook, plus lots of other goodies. Before the show, you can sample lots of yummy foods and there are vendors set up to visit. Usually my brother's girlfriend, my daughter and I go, but this year, our whole family is going. I'm really surprised that my huband and son want to tag along. I guess they are curious after hearing all all our talk and raves about the show. With 2 more bodies in our group, we will have that much better of a chance at winning one of the lovely prizes they draw for. (ok, so I'm being VERY optimistic!) If you have the chance to go to one, please consider it. They are worth the ticket price in just the things you bring home!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Homemade Mixes

Homemade or from scratch foods and mixes can normally be made for a fraction of the cost of the convenience foods you find at the grocery store. Not only are they cheaper, but they are better tasting and you know what ingredients are in them. Look at a cake recipe and you can easily pronounce the ingredients. Now pick up a cake mix. Can you pronounce the ingredients - let alone know exactly what they are?

There are numerous mixes listed on the web, including some of my own favorites. Although there are lots out there, you really don't need to follow a mix recipe to make your own. Pull out your favorite cake recipe. You can mix all the dry ingredients together, put them in a baggie or other air tight container, label it, and put it away for the next time you want to make a cake. Now all you need to do is pull it out, add the wet ingredients, and your finished making a scratch cake with the ease of a mix! You can do the same with pancakes, brownies, etc. Just use your imagination.

Breakfast is usually the most rushed meal during the day, especially on weekdays. According to a report on Good Morning America this morning, store purchased cereals can contain up to 50% it's weight in sugar! It's so easy to make some wonderful homemade granola that you control the sugar and the ingredients to fit your family's needs and preferences. Maybe you like the ease of instant oatmeal. Did you know that you can just put one part quick oats to two parts milk in a bowl and microwave it - and it's done about as quickly as instant. If you like the flavors, add raisins and cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup, dried fruits, nuts.... the sky's the limit. Save some time by measuring out and putting a serving in a baggie with the dried fruits,nuts, & flavorings of your choice (no wet ingredients). Make enough for a week, and you'll have the ease of the packets for a fraction of the cost.

Maybe you love pancakes or waffles. On the weekend, you can cook up a batch, cool them, then stack them with a sheet of waxed paper between each one. (pancake, waxed paper, pancake, waxed paper...) then put in a container and freeze. During the week, you can pull out the amount of pancakes (or waffles) you want and just warm them up in the microwave. Waffles can be warmed in the toaster. If you have problems with the pancakes sticking together, put them single layer on a cookie sheet, then freeze for an hour or so, take them out and stack with waxed paper between each one, put in a container and freeze.

Start looking at the recipes you use most. Ask yourself if you can measure out and pack some of the ingredients ahead to save you time. Just by doing this, you'll be buying less convenience foods from the store, and making more from scratch in the same amount of time, with the wonderful taste of homemade. And the best part - you're saving money to use elsewhere!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Macy's Saga Continues

There are times when saving money isn't easy, and in this case it appears it much more of a pain than it's worth.

I stated in my past post, Macy's had agreed to send me the missing part of my 12-piece Fagor Cooker/Canner set, and that was the main part - the 10 quart Cooker/Canner! I had not received any type of confirmation in my email that they were sending it, just a note from customer service that the problem was resolved. The more I thought about it, and the more postings I saw on my canning list about how Macy's told those that had the same problem I did, that they wouldn't send the canner because it wasn't sold that way, the more I concerned I got. Amazon themselves now had the same set listed for $10 more, but with free shipping, I would have gotten it cheaper.

I decided to call to get my tracking number and make sure it was on it's way, since I didn't get any type of confirmation that the canner part of the set had been sent. I was told that they never sold them as a set and that they have marked on my account settled with a note that I was ok with the just the canning kit. HA!! Why in the world would I want a canning set that fits a Fagor if I don't have a Fagor? We went through all the songs and dances that it was a miscommunication from Amazon, blah, blah, blah, and they weren't sending anything else. I told them I would believe that, however I have their shipping confirmation saying they sent the 12 piece set and not the 7 piece that I received. She told me that the price way too low for both, and I shouldn't expect all that for under $30. We went round and round and I wasn't giving up, especially when she brought the item up on Amazon and it was at $89, which means I really lost out. I stood my ground as long as I could, then handed the phone off to my husband. He got no where with her, asked her position in the company, and then asked for her supervisior.

Well, to make a very long story short, after over a 1-1/2 hour phone call, we are supposed to be getting the canner set now. They requested the delivery confirmation emails forwarded to them as well as a few other things. After they got them, they finally agreed to send it. Oh they are sly ones too. At first they were only sending the canner. No glass lid or any of the things that it would be packed with - like they were going to open the box and just send that. Hubby caught that and made sure they were going to send all the items with the canner. Then, he has asked for confirmation, delivery tracking numbers, etc. and when we would expect them. So, we should be hearing from them today. If not, he will be back and breathing down their necks.

We are not out of the woods yet - not until I have the canner in my hands. I am just amazed at how they run their business. I have never in my life dealt with anything like this company. I'll tell you, I will be so glad when this is all over. Buying an item shouldn't be this painful! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!!!