Tag Archives: Cooking

Advent Free Printables Week 3

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Hey all and welcome to week three! If you missed week 1 and week 2 of our Luke 2 Advent coloring pages, feel free to check them out!

This week was really my favorite to draw because this is where we get to the meat of the story, the angels telling the Shepherds, the Shepherds becoming the very first to not only see Jesus, but also to tell others about him. Their response isn’t just overwhelming personally, but something they can’t HELP sharing! Also, the response of those who hear the story. It doesn’t say whether they all immediately fall down and worship him, or acknowledge the truth of the story by passing it on, etc. This account simply states: “They wondered at what they had heard.” The hardest part of passing on what we know about God’s plan for mankind, and about a proper response to his Word, is knowing that we might only see wonder. Perhaps joyful wonder, maybe incredulous wonder, or perhaps, sneering wonder. We’ll see the wonder! But as Paul wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD gave the increase!”

Remember, as we get into the thick of this season, dear Mama, and as we have chances a plenty to not only tell our little ones about this precious story of incarnation, and the Word becoming flesh, but to tell others too, remember that we can’t always see what happens once that wonder wears off. We can’t guarantee that our declaration of Christ’s gift will end the way we imagine, and that that soul will come to know Christ, but we can know that God will accomplish his plan.

Enjoy!
free printables christmas banner

Music Content: Hymn study- O Come O Come Emmanuel

Art Content:
This painting is by Cima da Conegliano (1459-1517)
Cima Painting
The Coloring Pages:
Day 15- Dec 15,  Luke 2:13

Day 16- Dec 16, Luke 2:14

Day 17- Dec 17, Luke 2:15

Day 18- Dec 18, Luke 2:16

Day 19- Dec 19, Luke 2:17

Day 20- Dec 20, Luke 2:18

Day 21- Dec 21, Review: Luke 2:13-18

Craft:
As we get closer, and our time is filled with parties, wrapping gifts, last minute shopping, and lots of other fun, I’ll trim down the crafts. I’m including one recipe, and one craft this week.

This week’s craft is fun, but involved. I was able to do it with my 2 yo, 4 yo, and 6 yo, but there was a lot of supervision and obedience required. Everyone had to be careful of hot items, and obey limits, rules, and boundaries.
That being said, it was a wonderful exercise in trust, patience, and obedience. And, it makes a great gift for anyone.


Sand Candles:
Materials:
(Easily found at Hobby Lobby, A.C. Moore, or Michael’s. I bought all these materials using a coupon for less than $15. We made enough candles to give to all on our Christmas List.)

Wicks
Wax Block
Scent Oil
Glitter
Seashells

Instructions:
 Fill a deep box full of sand. Using a cup, press into the sand to make cup shaped indentations. Make them as deep as you wish your candle to be.  Press the wick down into the bottom of the indentations. Into the sand of the indentation, press seashells, or sprinkle glitter etc. Pour hot wax into the indentation. (melt wax using a double boiler, or if you don’t have one, use the redneck version: a metal mixing bowl placed on top of a pot of boiling water.) Allow to cool until wax is hard. Pull candles out of sand, dust sand off, and Voila!

Recipe:

Edible Glitter Berries

I found the original on an Australian website, but the measurements were ahem… Australian, and so I adapted the recipe to my American tastes, and measurements.

1 Clam Shell of Strawberries
1 pack of white chocolate melts
1 container of green sugar sprinkles (the sparkly crystal kind.)

Melt white chocolate in mocrowave. Using short increments, stir in between until chocolate is fully melted. Place sprinkles in bowl for dipping.

Dip berries in chocolate. Dip berries/white chocolate in crystal sprinkles. Place on wax paper in fridge to cool and harden.  (Approx. 15 minutes.)

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Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

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Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

With my little one at 7 months, and finally interested in food and eating, also, enjoying a bit of time in the height chair from time to time, I decided to get adventurous. This is the first baby I’ve seriously made my own baby food for, other than a try here and there. It is much easier than I thought, not to mention a sight healthier! We did delay introducing him to solids, since he was doing just fine, and quite interested in breast feeding alone up to 6 months. It is only in the past week or so that he’s begun reaching for our food.

So I tried a new recipe today: Teething biscuits!  It is easy, cheap, and without all of the preservatives in the ones you buy at the store.

I got the original recipe here: As you can see, I have modified it a bit to suit the ingredients in my kitchen.

Teething Biscuit Recipes – Eggless Baby Cereal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup dry infant rice cereal/multi grain cereal
3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used olive oil)
Pureed fruit
ice water

Directions:
Preheat oven 425F
Mix flour and cereal.
Gradually stir in oil. Mix ice water and pureed fruit together, making roughly 1 cup of mixture. (1 part fruit 3 parts water.)
Then mix in ice water/pureed fruit mixture, a little at a time (start with 1/4 cup) until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from the bowl. You may need extra ice water on hand in case more than 1 cup is needed to get the right consistency.
Put dough into cookie press, and squeeze shapes onto cookie sheet.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 8-10 min. or until lightly brown. Cool completely.
(alternate: Roll out onto floured surface, cutting into desired shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes for thicker shapes.)

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Is Canning Cost Effective?

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2 years ago I was terrified to do canning. I thought it would be expensive, difficult, and that it would not be something I could do with 3 children under the age of 5 in tow. I managed.  But was it expensive? Is it cost effective? The answer is: no. Not conventionally, but my husband has a knack of making ANYTHING cost effective! Here are some of the ways we’ve made canning cost effective in our home:

  1. Never Buy Full Price.  First rule of all penny pinchers! We found a variety of ways to do this:
    Buy in bulk. Grocery stores are not the place to buy your produce, if you want to be cost effective. We buy ours at the produce auction, in bulk. (Last haul was $35 for 200lbs of produce, mostly peaches, nectarines, with some tomatoes, and green beans thrown in.)
    Work hard. Growing your own produce is another way to cut costs. Also, swap with friends, family, or neighbors. I cannot begin to count how many times we got free plants, or swapped produce with someone who had a prolific tomato plant. My husband has an arrangement with his Brother. Allen’s brother and his wife have 2 apple trees. They don’t want to harvest the whole lot every year. So Allen picks the apples, his brother’s wife picks out the ones she wants, and Allen brings the rest home. Didn’t cost a cent, but it did cost some work. The apples pictured are only SOME of what he brought home. I’d already made roughly 12 pints of apple butter and apple sauce.
    Shop around. Don’t just go to Wal Mart to get your canning supplies. Allen found out the Dollar General near our home was cheaper. This way we saved on gas AND canning supplies. Double win! Remember that your jars and rings are reusable. The first year might seem like quite an expense, but every year after, all you really need to buy are the lids, and those run $2-$3 for 12.
    Buy used. Allen found me two water bath canners for a song at an auction. Yes, they were used, but who cares? Its only water. Be careful though about buying used jars. Check for nicks, scratches, and imperfections in the glass, it could end up costing you in produce later, if the jar bursts in the canning bath.
  2. Skip the gadgets, doo dads, and tools. All you really need are the jars, the water bath canner,
    22240

    Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

    rack, a jar lifter, a knife/peeler and a few bowls and pots for cooking. In my experience the gadgets don’t ever work as well as you think they do, or process as fast as you think they will. They’re fun the first couple of gos, or can be good when your hands need a little bit of a break, but nothing can replace a knowledgeable person on the business end of a knife. It is faster for me to core, peel, and slice apples myself than to use this gadget. (pictured)

  3. Be humble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people up their calculation of the “cost” of canning by factoring in time spent. How much is your time worth? My time is worth whatever I want it to be worth, and it is worth it to me to have low sugar preservative free foods for my children to eat.
  4. Consider your habits. Do you only eat canned veggies? Or canned tomatoes? Those are cheap at the store, and so it might not be a better option to can them yourself, if that is all your family eats. But there is the other group of items to consider, do you eat a lot of pie filling? Canned fruit? Pickled items? Jams and Jellies? It may be more worth your while to can if your pantry is usually full of these more expensive items.
  5. Limit your expensive ingredients. It does not cost much to buy the produce, if you are careful about where, when, and how you buy/get it. But you can spend a lot on things like pectin or sugar. Try to make sugar free applesauce with apples, Don’t do a ton of Apple Butter or Pie Filling, if the cost will be prohibitive. Also, buy bottled lemon juice. It goes farther than the lemons themselves, and makes for a more stable acidity content. You know what you’re getting, and it costs less.
  6. Do big batches. It takes a LOT of energy to heat up the water bath canner. Try to manage your canning so that electric and energy is not wasted.

I’ll be honest, canning isn’t all roses and Unicorns. Some downsides of canning:

  1. You’ll have no life. It really takes up a lot of time and energy to can. I spend most of that time on the couch, peeling apples, peaches, or whatever else. Helps me not to be bored, plus it is nice time with my kids, watching their favorite Disney movies together.
  2. Your house will be a wreck. Canning is messy. It makes a lot of dishes, and you have no time to do much more than take a few minutes to swish some clorox in the toilet, tidy the house a bit, and hope nobody comes over to see you, in your sweatpants, hair slapped back in a hair tie, and covered in apple sauce.
  3. You don’t come out unscathed. Nicks, burns, and blisters, Oh My! If you are like me, you’ll sustain an injury, or eight.
  4. Your muscles will be angry… Believe it or not, canning requires massive amounts of fine motor skills, and large motor skills. You’ll have achy muscles from head to toe, despite the fact that most of your canning hours will have been spent on your bum, peeling stuff.
  5. Your house will be a myriad of smells. From fabulous (Apple Pie Filling!) To dreadful (Apple pie filling mixed with pickled jalepenos? Ew.)

Canning is mostly a lot of hard work. So the question is, is it worth the work involved? If not, then it will never be any kind of effective, cost or otherwise. It takes a lot of time and effort to peel, cook, clean dishes, etc. If you are up for all the elbow grease required, then happy canning!

Repurposing… With a Twist!

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Repurposing is quite the buzz word these days. For a couple of reasons, I think. The current state of the economy is forcing many families to do more with less. So we repurpose all sorts of things we have, but do not use for their original purposes. A bookshelf as a shoe rack. An old sewing table for an end table. An entertainment center for a kid’s play kitchen… etc. We’re learning the value of working with what we’ve had, because even in our state of need, we are still very blessed.

So today, I’m going to tell you about repurposing… with a twist.
Ready?

Repurposing Food.
Sounds like a waste, or gross, or something like that, but it can be an oh so tasty way of not allowing food to spoil in your fridge when the price of groceries is skyrocketing higher and higher and higher!

Repurposing no. 1- Taco Meat to Chili

Tacos. Yum. For tacos you might eat: Shredded Taco Pork, Chips, tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc. In our house, we LOVE tacos! But so we don’t get tired of them, I take all the ingredients the next day, toss them in the crock pot with a bunch of kidney beans and some tomato paste and Voila! Chili! It is delicious, uses up the rest of the ingredients, and doesn’t overplay the leftovers!
Recipe for Taco Meat Chili
Ingredients:
Taco meat (whatever you got, this is more for flavor than weight.)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 diced fresh tomatoes (Whatever you have leftover from tacos!)
3-5 cans of kidney beans, depending on your crock pot size.
Leftover Salsa, whatever is left in the jar, 1/2 or 1/4 of the jar. The more you use, the more kick and flavor it will provide, and the less optional ingredients you will need. If you’ve got enough salsa, you won’t need/want any other ingredients.

Optional (to enhance flavor, if salsa is not plentiful):
2-4 cloves of garlic OR a good sized dash of garlic power
1 onion, diced
1/2 diced green pepper
A handful of rice,
1 cup of sweet corn
1-2 pickled jalepenos, plus juice from jar

Directions:
Put Taco meat with a little bit of water in the crock pot (don’t cover the meat with the water. Think of it as cereal and the water as milk. Use the water accordingly.)
Dump in tomatoes, Salsa, Tomato Paste, Chili beans, and Green Peppers. If you want chili with LOTS of flavor, cut up some onions and garlic cloves and add those in. For kick, use some leftover jalepeno juice from that jar of pickled jalepenos with one or two of the jalepenos. Cayenne Pepper will do in a pinch too.
Set crock pot on High, cook for 2-3 hours. Set to low, let simmer till dinnertime, for a total of roughly 6 hours. A little more or a little less isn’t a big deal. The point is to let the flavors marry. I like to add a little bit of rice or sweet corn during the last hour, just to add a few carbohydrates.

Spaghetti Sauce Pizza
Ingredients:
Leftover Bread, stale is fine. (We’ve been known to use leftover garlic bread from spaghetti dinner the night before.)
1 cup or less of Spaghetti sauce. (We use whatever we’ve got from the night before.)
Cheese (One 8 oz. pack mozzarella.)
BONUS: if you used sausage with your spaghetti and saved a little for tonight’s pizza.
Directions
Cover each slice of bread (or half a roll, or bagel, whatever you’ve got!) with a shallow covering of sauce. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake at 425 for 16 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

This can apply in many ways, I’ve been known to use leftover beef broth from soup to make onion gravy the next day, or leftover roast chicken bones to make stock and chicken noodle soup. I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s pie. There are many ways you can “repurpose” food, you just have to think of your leftovers as ingredients, not meals.

Bon Appetit!

Eating Well on a Tight Budget

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Eating well on a tight budget isn’t as hard as it sounds. It just requires… creativity.

For instance, my husband bought one of these:
A Sweet Italian Sausage Round. It was roughly 2-3 lbs of meat. He bought it for $1.99 a lb.
I wanted to make this last for 3 meals.
pepperonion

Meal #1
I didn’t have money to get new ingredients, and some of my pantry staples were already claimed for two planned meals, one for a party, and one for my daughter’s birthday supper of choice. So I have to get more creative here. I made up my own recipe. Now that I’ve been cooking for nigh unto 6 years as a married Mama, I’m a bit better at this than I once was. Still learning though! But this one turned out fabulously:

I started  with the sausage. Before starting to use it for any meals, I cooked it for an hour at 350. It dries it out a bit, makes it crumbly and crunchy. JUST how I like it! If you like it more moist, cut your cooking time by 15-25 minutes, and ramp up the heat, maybe to 425, for 30 minutes.

Everything but The Kitchen Sink Summer Garden Pasta
Makes 8-10 servings. (Enough for our family for 2 meals. Dinner, and lunch the following day usually.)

1 LARGE freshly picked Zucchini, sliced as needed.ttar_zucchini_v
4-5 cloves fresh garlic (Finely diced)
3 LARGE garden tomatoes (coarsely diced)
2-3 tbspns Olive Oil

aprox. 1 lb (pre-cooked as mentioned) sausage, cut into medallions.
1 lb mini bowtie noodles
Salt/garlic salt to taste

Drizzle Olive Oil into large, deep skillet. Turn into medium/high. (remember, the sausages are already cooked through, so we’re just heating up and flavoring.) toss in medallions and diced garlic cloves. Stir to coat,
Add in Sliced zucchini, and diced tomatoes.  Add water (Enough to steam veggies and stew tomatoes a bit. Don’t stress over the skins,) Put lid on skillet, and cook on medium, for about 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and zucchini is clear. About the time it takes to boil the noodles in another pot.
Once noodles are boiled, drain. While draining noodles, remove lid from veggie skillet, allowing the water to boil off a bit, and the “sauce” to thicken. Salt to taste, using table salt OR Garlic salt. I did a mixture of both.
Add noodles. Toss. Serve with buttered bread and green veggie, such as broccoli or salad.

Meal #2

Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Need I say more? 🙂 Everyone had one “link” This used almost 1 lb. A bit less.

Meal #3

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
(I got this from Allrecipes, but I modified it a bit to suit our needs. Makes 2 large and 1 medium pizza crusts. Enough for one meal for our family, plus lunches the next day.)

3  .25 oz. packages of yeast ($.79 at Aldi!)
3 tsp White Sugar
3 cups warm water pizza

Mix, let stand 10 minutes till frothy.
Add: 6 tablespoons oil
3 tsp Salt
7 1/2 c. flour

Mix til smooth. Let sit 10-20 minutes in bowl. 10 is fine.
Turn out onto floured surface. Knead. Separate into 3 rounded balls. We used 2 large pans and one medium, so I separated the dough accordingly.
Cover pans in light dusting of corn meal or flour. Spread dough into pans (Keep your hands well floured to prevent sticking and tearing of dough.)
Use desired toppings (we used sausage medallions, Pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. I like to throw in green peppers and onions for veggie power!) Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling. Aprox. 15-20 minutes.

Sauce for pizza:
Mix:
1 can Tomato paste
2 cans of water
1 tsp salt
1 tbspn sugar
spices as desired (I use an italian blend plus sweet basil and garlic powder.)

Put all ingredients in saucepan, heat and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread on Pizza dough, then add remaining toppings.

There you have it! 3 frugal easy meals that are delicious, nutritious, and just plain good eating! Enjoy!

 

 

 

How to: Save On Groceries

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I know, this is totally an exciting topic that everyone is dying to dive into. But seriously, my husband has made an art of this! On average we spend $60-$100 for two weeks worth of groceries for our family of 6. He has a lot of *trade* secrets that help us to make our budget, and eat fairly well. I have some as well, being the cook, on how to make food last throughout the week, while giving everyone plenty to eat.

First, a few qualifiers, our youngest, Isaiah, isn’t eating food yet, and our three daughters, Sarah, Emma, and Ava eat about the equivalent of 1 1/2 adults. Sometimes of 2 adults. Depends on what the meal is. (Emma generally can eat more than I do!) So we are pretty much paying for the food of 4-5 adults, depending on the appetites that week. Our budget does fluctuate because sometimes we just don’t find fabulous deals, and sometimes we do. On some weeks, we don’t buy any food because we do some modest stockpiling. No, we are *not* the family with scads of shelves in the basement and enough food to survive Armageddon, our pantry does get empty too! And no, we do *not* empty the sale shelf on a regular basis. We do try to leave some good deals for other folks too. But we do get more than one when there is a great deal. Our rule of thumb is this: If it won’t be used fast enough, if it would spoil before we could use it, we won’t buy it. We buy enough to last our family until the next time we go shopping, and then a little bit more for the nonperishable pantry stockers. This comes in handy for our own needs, or if someone else is in need, we have some to spare immediately.

For all of you folks out there who prefer organic items, and have special dietary needs, portions of this list may help you, but I will tell you, when someone in our home has a dietary issue (it has happened!) our entire grocery budget goes downhill fast. We aren’t picky, we just eat what is on sale, unless someone is sick and needs a particular type of food or foods to help recover.
Stomato and garlichopping tips: (This is my husband’s set of secrets! I love a man who can do a killer shopping trip! I don’t do any grocery shopping unless it is the emergency kind!)

  • Buy reduced. We can’t say it enough! Reduced everything! The dented can? Still good. Buy it.
  • Note what pantry staple items are never on sale, buy those (2 at a time) every time you go to the store. This way you get quite a nice pile without spending a lot all of the sudden when you are out of these pantry staples. My husband does this with kidney beans (we eat them a lot, cheap and nutritious!) and tomato paste. (Same thing, I use it for everything from chili to veg. soup, to spaghetti sauce. One can at 30-something cents can make an entire meal tastier!)
  • Don’t do brand names. Coupons can save you a lot, but generally we have found it is cheaper to buy at Aldi than to coupon brand names at Wal-Mart. There are exceptions to this rule, but not always.
  • Buy local. You save more in fuel. Some staples cost the same no matter where you go. So buying milk up the street when you are getting low is a lot cheaper than going to Wal-Mart 20 minutes away and then buying a ton of food because you went hungry.
  • Don’t shop hungry. You buy more.
  • DO buy reduced fruits and veggies. Yes, the nutrition isn’t as fabulous, but they are great for soups and stews.
  • Have your own Garden. What you pick, you don’t have to buy.
  • Buy pantry staples on sale, get multiples. When he finds flour, or sugar on sale, he will buy 2-3 bags. I package them and keep them in the pantry. This usually gets us to the next sale for the same pantry items that are staples. This doesn’t mean he gets more than I can package, but he does get more than he would if I were out and needed enough to complete a recipe.freezer-bag
  • Skip the snacks! You don’t need them, they aren’t healthy for you. We rarely buy beverages, chips, pretzels, breakfast bars, or any kind of prepackaged food really. I cook a lot from scratch, so it isn’t necessary. We drink water, and if necessary, I make home made soda or Gatorade.
  • ALWAYS look in the pantry/fridge before you shop. You save a lot of money this way. It keeps you from buying things you don’t need, and then having them spoil.
  • Go (semi) vegetarian! Beans, Eggs, tuna etc are all an excellent protein cheaper than meat.
  • Don’t shop at big box stores, or specialty stores. Hunt the deals, then stick with them. We like Aldi, Produce Junction, etc. In your neighborhood it might be something else, Like Wegmans or Costco, I don’t know, but do sniff out the deals, and then keep shopping there.
  • Plan your shopping. Try to minimize trips to the store by going when you know there is a sale, with a list of items. try not to do mini trips when you need something. Do once every two weeks, and limit yourself to trips for staples in between if absolutely needed (like a gallon of milk.) This saves money by reducing unnecessary expenses. Example: You go every two weeks and buy a bag of apples, 10 pounds of meat, 2 gallons of milk, 1 5lb bag of onions, and a 10 lb bag of potatoes, 2 cans of kidney beans, and listed items going short/on sale, like flour, or sugar, or noodles.  This is cheaper than going on Monday to buy chicken breast, rice, and veggies (in small amounts) then on Tuesday for steak, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream, etc. When you buy your cravings, instead of sticking to staples, you spend more than if you buy your staples, and make food based on what is in your kitchen.

Prepari63933_179254385434638_120861161273961_594105_1792248_nng/Cooking tips: (This is MY set of secrets! Combined with my husband’s set, it makes for even more savings.)

  • Cook right away. My husband brings home meat they sold that day because it WAS the sell by date. Before you get squeamish, here is the secret. I cook it THAT day, or the day after. This prolongs the preservation of the meat. If he gets a LOT (once he brought home roughly 15 lbs of hamburger.) I cook it as plainly as possible (I fried it with onions) and then pack it into 1 and 2 lb baggies and freeze it. This makes for an easy “frozen” dinner later. Pop out a baggie of meat, fry it up in a pan, add spaghetti sauce and boil some noodles. VOILA! in 15 minutes you have a meal that costed pennies on the dollar. I love using these as prep for times when I know cooking will be hard. Like weeks I am canning, or when I’m coming up on a due date for a new baby. For hamburger you can use the meat for anything from tacos, to shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup starter, spaghetti, lasagna,  onion gravy starter, Beef Stroganoff, the list is endless.
  • Cook from scratch. It really is cheaper. Generally I find baking bread from scratch is comparable, and sometimes storebought bread on sale is cheaper, but literally 9.9 times out of ten, it is ALWAYS cheaper to make an entire meal from scratch, especially if a home garden is involved. There are other things too, which are cheaper to make from scratch, such as Home made Gatorade, Home cleaning products, etc.
  • Preserve right away. If you have meat or fruits or veggies which you can’t cook now (no time, or whatever) pack them up to freeze. My husband keeps freezer baggies on hand so I can package food however I need to to preserve it. I will take a pack of 8 chicken breasts, and separate it into 2 or 3 portions, and freeze them that way. The same goes for reduced fruits and veggies. clean them up same day or next day, and then freeze or can them. I like to freeze berries, and use them all year in scones and muffins, I also like to clean and freeze bell peppers, as they come in handy in all types of dishes.
  • Substitute. If you find that it is cheaper to make your own baking powder, then do it! I often will use milk in recipes, but I’ll half it with water to limit the calories and the cost. 1/2 c. of milk in cornbread? Nope! I do 1/4 c. of water, 1/4. c of milk. Most recipes it does not affect. Also, if you want to eat a particular thing, find a recipe that uses ingredients already in your pantry. I try to skip recipes that have expensive or exotic ingredients in them. Generally I can find a simpler version that tastes just as good, but doesn’t require a special trip to the store.
  • Stretch the meat. Using beans, peanut butter, eggs, etc, find ways to make meat go longer. Don’t make everyone two hamburgers, Make enough other foods that one will do. Baked beans, salad, potatoes, etc. Fill up on the other foods, preferably fruits and veggies. Don’t rely on a meat heavy diet. It isn’t the healthiest, or the cheapest. Be creative in finding ways to use your meat as a base, not a main food.
  • Reduce the sugar. IF you are making a recipe, easy way to make it cheaper AND healthier is to reduce the sugar. Eventually you find it DOES taste better that way anyway! canning
  • Find a cheaper, healthier, version. Like ice cream? Cool, buy a ton of bananas reduced. Peel them, freeze them, then when you want ice cream, toss those babies (still frozen!) in a blender with a smidge of yogurt or milk, and some chocolate syrup or fruit for flavoring. No sugar required. Cheap ice cream. Healthier too.
  • Portion control. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it? We have 3 meals a day, and 2-3 snack times. Snacks are generally fresh fruit or veggies. Can be a handful of frozen blueberries on a hot summer day, or a muffin on a cold winter day. But most of the time it is carrot sticks, or apple slices with PB or something like that.  This kind of self discipline is good for the waistline, AND the wallet.
  • Limit waste! Use all your leftovers (I try to use them up in lunches, this keeps them from languishing in the back of the fridge!) And re use what you can, or use all parts of a fruit or veggie. I know, it sounds crazy, but we try to use all parts of a food if we can. If we have lemons, we use the juice, and then use the rinds to make our cleaning vinegar smell nice! If we have an empty jar of pickles, we put a fresh cucumber in there for some crunchy no cook pickles! (I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than once though!)
  •  Limit your condiments. Keep it simple. Using ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish, white vinegar, and olive oil we can pretty much cover anything. We do get some salad dressings from time to time, but we do a lot of home made ones!
  • Keep a lot of fresh fruits and veggies handy, and always have a steady supply of onions, garlic, and salt to make broths and stews from scratch.
  • Don’t experiment without a recipe. No matter how much you think you know how to make something, taste, taste, and taste again. Follow the recipe, and make sure you know what you are doing! This reduces nasty food that nobody likes. Same with keeping on track with your baked goods. If you know you’ll be distracted, don’t bake, it isn’t worth a ruined panful of biscuits that burned!

My Disclaimer: This list is to help you better budget your money, and work with a little. As I’ve said in the past, we are far from rich, and live off of very little. If I had a nickel for every time someone squeals: “You guys work with THAT little?” We wouldn’t be so tightly budgeted! But we live this way because it enables me to stay home with the children. We buy what we can afford, no more, and very little less sometimes. We depend on God to provide our needs, knowing that any day, a disaster can, and has happened. We do not have a lot of “surplus” in the way of finances.
Every family, large or small, goes through tough financial times. We have had times of need, where we didn’t know where we would have enough money to buy the next bunch of groceries. It doesn’t happen all the time to us,  but it has happened in the past. Know that whether or not you have the money to buy that next meal, God will provide, somehow.  This doesn’t mean we should spend irresponsibily and assume God will give our children food. Scripture says it is worse to evade your responsibility to provide for your family, than it is to not believe in God. (I Timothy 5:8)

This does mean that if we are doing all we should, and can do to provide for our family, and yet some surprise happens (a totaled car, a roof to replace, a surprise expense.) that God has his hand on us. God WILL come through.

If you have all of your needs met, and you see a family in need, be the hands that help. Step up. Buy them a box of groceries, pass them the extra potatoes your family just can’t eat before they spoil. People have done that for us. We never got to a point of asking for help, because help came before we could ask. I know in the future, as we see families in need, when we have blessings to share, they will be passed on, not just because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end, but because it is what we ought to do.  BE the person who gives. This isn’t the responsibility of society, of our state, or our country. In other words, it isn’t *someone else’s* responsibility. It is OUR responsibility. WE should step forward to help the people we know and love in our own church and community.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.  Proverbs 19:17

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ … Matthew 25:35-40

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31