Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Sad Update

Well, Tenderfoot Hearth is no more as of June this year.  Yup, we're in the middle of a divorce.  I had some health issues in the past that affected my abilities to handle stress.  Basically, I was having TIAs.  I eventually did end up having a stroke in July and also found out I have a blood clotting disorder.  Fortunately, meds will control the clotting issue and I had some minor {annoying} symptoms from the stoke.  Basically, it affected my short-term memory.  Long-term is fine and I have no physical problems.  I was very, very lucky,

But due to having to avoid stress, working was difficult and unfortunately, my ex just couldn't handle the financial or emotional repercussions.  Such is life.

I ended up moving and am now back with my family until things get settled.  I definitely plan on continuing the homesteading work but for now, it will be more about household skills like canning, etc.  Once I get reestablished, I'll get back to the gardening, animals, etc. 

So I'm still here.  Hang with me as I get a grip on life again.  I appreciate everyone who has been following my little page and can't wait to share my new adventures with you all!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekly Menu Using My Meal Planning

I figured since I posted a "how-to" the other day, I'd show you how I stretch my dollars this week.  Remember I said I was on a very tight budget right now?  Well, when I said tight, I mean tight.  My weekly food budget is $30.  Yup, you read that right.   I feed myself & Hubs breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on a mere $30 a week.  That averages to $1.42 per meal. 

Remember, I have a stocked pantry & freezer so I always start there. 

I had eggplant parmesan, hot dogs, hot dog buns, chili, onions, pizza sauce, pizza dough makings (flour/salt/yeast), pinto beans, rice, tomatoes, corn tortillas, baked potatoes along with various fresh, canned or frozen veggies & fruits. 

I used that as the start of my menu planning and filled in what was on sale at the local stores.  Again, Aldi's prices couldn't be beat. They had pork on sale but whole chicken was still cheaper so I got that instead and re-vamped my menu.

This week, I spent $29.68.  If I have money leftover,  I will either save it to add to next week's budget or I will buy extra things I normally use that are sale.

This is why looking at your weekly sales flyers is very important.  Homeland often offers pantry staples like ketchup, BBQ sauce, pasta, etc. at 10/$10.00.  You don't have to buy 10 so I can pick up one or two and stash them.  That is how to build your pantry. 
Dinner Menu
Saturday:  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches, French Fries
Sunday:   Roast Chicken, potatoes, carrots, onions, salad
Monday:  Breakfast for Dinner: Waffles, Sausage & fruit (Pot luck at work. Baking cookies)
Tuesday:  Daddy Date Night (aka Lisa's on her own)
Wednesday:  Chicken Enchiladas, rice, refried beans
Thursday:   Pizza  with black olives/onions/peppers & salad
Friday:  Chicken-n-Noodles

I always add some sort of veggie or fruit to my meals.  Lunches are leftovers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A New Opportunity!

Today, I start a new job.  I'll be a Medical Instructor at a local technical college!  WOOT!  Yes, back to my beloved teaching.

I cannot tell you how excited and happy I am to have this new opportunity.  It's been a long three years since I last taught.  I've gone through a few jobs and never found my niche.  THIS is my niche!

Stay tuned for more recipes, garden updates and news.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my little blog.  I'm always very surprised and thankful to see the activity.  I appreciate each and every one of you! :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Stretch Grocery Money with Menu Planning

As I've said before, I hate wasting food.  Tossing leftovers is just throwing money in the trash.  I don't know about you, but I cannot afford to do that.  My budget is pretty strict right now so it's even more important that I plan & shop wisely.

Here are a few things I do to stretch those dollars.

The most important thing you can do to save money is menu planning.  Yes, yes, I know.  It takes a little time but I promise, it will soon become second nature and you'll be amazed at how much money you save.

The first step in my weekly menu planning is to go shopping in my own pantry and freezer.  It's kind of fun to use up those weird items you bought and then never used.  You'll be amazed what is actually in there. Got chickpeas?  Try making hummus or falafel.  Both are easy, delicious and very nutritious. I had farro, which is a type of wheat, so I'm using it to make a delicious pilaf instead of rice. Be creative. Think outside your normal recipes and try something new.

I then shop the sales flyers and flesh out menus according to what's on sale that week. Yes, I go to a few different stores but they are all very close so I'm not wasting gas.

 I also price check against Aldi.  They are usually cheaper than most but you have to make sure.  Sometimes, the sales are less expensive.  They are also starting to carry organic produce and pantry items so I am very excited!  Just remember, they accept only cash and debit cards.  And don't forget your bags!  You have to bag things yourself.  If you happen to forget, they do sell bags.   

One weird place I go is Dollar Tree.  Yes, they have a lot of crap food there but sometimes, you can hit the jackpot.  I found organic butter, organic frozen spinach, & organic frozen berries for a buck each!  Yes. One pound of organic butter for one dollar!  Amazing!  They sometimes have organic pantry items as well.  I go often. 

Once you see what's on sale, it's time to plan for the week.  Plan all meals for the week and weekend.  This is where you can really be creative and save as well by planning for leftovers.  Here is a good example. 

I buy whole chickens.  They are on sale a lot and always cheaper than buying pieces.  From one chicken, I get at least three meals.  I bake or Crockpot broast it for a delicious meal of chicken, a starch side and a veggie.  Next meal can be chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, or chicken pinwheels.  Then, I take the carcass and put it back into the Crockpot, add some celery, onion, carrots, seasoning and water and make delicious chicken broth.  This, plus the leftover chicken meat, can be made into various chicken soups (chicken noodle soup, chicken rice soup, etc.), chicken and dumplings, or chicken and noodles. 

Beef roast on sale?  How about traditional Yankee Pot Roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Leftover can make pot pies, stew, BBQ beef sandwiches, beef and noodles, and yes, vegetable beef soup. 

If you change up the meats enough, you won't get bored with the meat because it's so different than previous meals.  If you don't want to eat 3 meals in on week, you can always freeze the meat and use it again the next week.  Either way will save you a ton of money.

If you happen to have a little extra cash, buy extra items your family eats when they are one sale.  Like my $1 butter.  I bought 5 of them and in the freezer they went.  Just make sure to check expiration dates. 

You probably noticed I didn't mention coupons.  Too be honest, I don't use them very often.  I very seldom buy national brands and if I do, it's because they are on sale.  I've found that even with a coupon, local brands are usually cheaper.   I will clip a few though.  Hubs loves Pop Tarts (ick!) so I keep those handy.  I also clip any for organic foods.  If you pay attention, you can use the coupons when things are on sale and save even more green!

So there you have it.  Easy ways to save some serious cash.  I typically spend less than budgeted and I put what I saved aside.  At the end of the month, I usually have enough saved for a nice meal out.  I love to cook but sometimes, it's nice to let someone else handle things. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Spring Has Sprung-NOT!

OK, so that's not really true.  It's still winter and we've got a few more months until Spring is really here.  But THIS came today, so now I have Spring Fever!
Yes, I'm dreaming of my beautiful garden, filled with delicious & healthy veggies, fruits, & herbs.  I've got a lot of work to do. 
 Picture Source: Imgur
My plan is to convert 1/3 of my backyard to food production.  This year, I'll be establishing my basic raised beds.  I'm going for sometime like the picture above.  I love how neat & tidy it looks.  I've got several to build and fill but I'm up to the task.  Oklahoma soil isn't the greatest so raised beds are the best option.  Besides, they are beautiful to look at and help retain more moisture.  And believe me, in the middle of summer when the temps stay at 100+ for weeks on end, moisture retention is pretty darn important. 

There will be two herb garden boxes.  One will be culinary and the other medicinal. I plan on taking out some decorative tress that never have been very decorative and replacing them with fruit trees.  I have four spots so two will be fig tress.  I love figs so they are a must.  I haven't quite decided what the other two spots will be yet.  There will also be a spot for strawberries and I'm looking at planting blueberries.  This may wait until next year.
I'll be trying my hand a seasonal rotation and I want to build a couple cold frames to extend my garden as long as possible.  This looks exactly like what I have in mind.  I have an ideal South facing brick wall so this is perfect. Our early winters are pretty mild most years so I think I'll have some luck with cold-hearty plants like kale and Swiss chard. 
 And of course, there will be a place for zinnias.  They are just too perky to not plant!  They add a needed splash of color to an otherwise all green palate.  Beautiful!

So there you have it.  My garden plan for this year. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soft & Delicious White Bread

OK, my normal go-to for homemade bread is usually whole wheat based.  So what's a girl to do when she's out of whole wheat flour but needs some bread?  Well, I'll tell you what.  Use what you have and make white bread.

I know, I know.  White bread has a bad rap.  I feel OK about this one because I know every single ingredient in it and there are no preservatives or chemicals to gunk it up.  Just simple, real ingredients.  If you have organic ingredients, use that.  If not, making bread from scratch is still leaps and bounds above store-bought bread.  And if you have picky eaters, at least you know this bread is wholesome and healthy. 

This recipe delivered!  The bread was pillow soft and delicious.  It will definitely be a go-to for those times when wheat bread just isn't called for.  Sometimes you just want 'light bread' for things like old fashioned tuna salad or grilled cheese sandwiches.  As much as I love my whole wheat breads, it just doesn't work for some things. 
Soft White Bread
1 cup hot Water                                             
2 teaspoons Yeast (this is one 1/4 oz. package)                               
3 tablespoons Sugar                                       
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Salt                                             
3 cups White Flour                                
1.  Pour hot water into bread maker and add sugar.  Stir until sugar melts. 
2.  Evenly sprinkle with yeast.
3.  Let sit until yeast blooms and is foamy, about 10 minutes.
4  Pour in oil, salt and flour. DO NOT MIX!
5. Set to 1.5 lb. loaf and basic white cycle and bake.
This is what you end up with.
And if you're me, this is what you end up with!

Monday, January 6, 2014