Bulk Ingredients (Frugal, Fresh & Good for the Environment)

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I think I must live under a rock sometimes. Seriously, as much as I enjoy variety, change, being spontaneous, the latest & greatest -you name it… I am always – ALWAYS – the last to person to be “in the … Continue reading

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Moderately Healthy Pizza Crust

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I have wanted to test out my new favorite Pizza Dough recipe substituting whole wheat flour for the white bread flour. However, I didn’t have any whole wheat “bread” flour (which has a higher gluten content vs. all-purpose flour)… and I … Continue reading

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Picking Oranges & Lemons

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I’ve been trying to get back to basics around here. In Fresh Food Can be Frugal I mentioned my pantry brigade. Another mission on my to-do list is my yard. I always forget about my orange & lemon trees until … Continue reading

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The Writing is on the Wall ~

Stop: Go collect ALL of the Sharpie Markers around you house. Right Now. Seriously, go now…while you are thinking about it. Then come back and read this ~ I’ll wait. I promise.

You know how Sharpie markers have such a strong, unique odor to them?

Maybe I should loan this child to the circus for their "freakishly" large, somewhat mis-shapen hand.

  … I think I figured out why.
Even tho’ my children have a 1,674 markers;  big, small, fat, skinny, bold, bright etc… they always go for the Sharpie markers first – and I think it must be the smell that attracts them to them. I think the smell brainwashes them into writing on all kinds of surfaces just to prove that, YES – Sharpie markers are indeed permanent. BTW, the area that looks a little rubbed off, was my attempt at using a Magic Eraser; obviously it didn’t work. note:  I LOVE magic erasers, they have saved my marriage!!

Each of my 4 children has done this – they write on something they aren’t supposed to – furniture, themselves, and walls. I think that walls are their preferred surface AND for some reason, which I find quite odd, they all write their name?

  In addition to being artistic (as evidenced by the mural pictured above), I consider my children blessed with some intelligence, but, writing their names? Hmmmm ~ maybe it’s some type of “mind game” that are playing with me? It amuses me that they write their name in this situation, a situation where receiving “credit” is a bad thing AND yet, complain about having to write their name on their schoolwork, which they DO want credit for? Then, being very brilliant children (I told you they were blessed with some intelligence) – they write the word NOT before their name. Oh and I should also mention that my children are also very gifted actors. It always amazes me that they are “shocked” when we target the guilty named child for the “Writing on the Wall”.

DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT amused at all when I discover writing on the walls etc. Thankfully they do outgrow this stage. A few of my children will be working on improving their artistic painting skills this summer 😉

This is a reminder to all of you that did not heed my warning at the beginning of this post, go hide the Sharpies. GO!!

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Fresh Food Can Be Frugal…

I recently shared my issues with “indecisiveness” and in a way this is another one of those moments. I’ve been looking for a way to plan weekly dinner menus while incorporating using sales/coupons to save money on food. (Btw, If you live near a Raley’s/BelAir/NobHill foods they have been offering great deals for the past several months and they have an “organic”/”bulk-food” section. Check-Out The Frugal Find for more information. I also like Trader Joe’s and found a fantastic price on Instant Yeast at Winco.)

I have also wanted to reduce the number of “boxed” foods that my family eats. Furthermore, while I often “prepare” meals for dinner I realized that I’m not always “cooking”.  I’m just not passionate about cooking, like I am about baking.  I’ve heard it said that people are either prone to be “bakers” or “cooks” – and I fall into the baking category… I know cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger etc.  Sage, rosemary, and thyme remind me of a song, not a meal.  However, I really – I mean REALLY enjoy eating gourmet food.  Who doesn’t enjoy fresh ingredients?? AND, I need to teach my children #1 How to Cook (not how to open a package & press buttons on a microwave) and #2 How to Meal Plan. — Mostly tho’ how to cook, not only to benefit themselves & their future families, but HELLO – out of the 6 people in my house, I’m the only one who cooks and that means less time for baking, relaxing, and blogging.

With 4 children and a busy schedule it’s not always convenient or even possible for me to go to the grocery store. So, I had gotten into the habit of purchasing fresh ingredients, throwing together hodge-podge healthy meals or trying to find recipes to match them, or forget about what I had purchased until it went bad… Well, those days are over (I hope) and I’ll tell you why. First, I started by making meals out of whatever foods I have in my pantry and freezer… to get our food down to the bare minimum/staples. Then, I re-organized my pantry and moved what was left of the processed foods to areas where I can use them up (or donate them). It’s one thing to “stockpile” healthy foods and it’s another to collect boxes & boxes of snacks/treats/etc. with little or no nutritional value.  I don’t have anything against processed foods, it’s just that fresh food tastes better and I’m not really teaching my children how to cook/bake when all they have to do is open a can/box; not to mention all those wrappers polluting the planet… just sayin’.  Of course if they were opening a jar of home-canned goodness harvested at the peak of ripeness during its growing season, that would be awesome…  AND if at all possible, I would prefer to feed my family food rather than chemicals, especially the ones that I can barely pronounce. After all, this is our home, not a fast-food joint. Okay, that’s not entirely true since I finally caved to family pressure and replaced our microwave after a year, but that’s enough fast-food in my own home. We use it for re-heating, thawing, melting chocolate, melting butter ~ I’m glad I caved, I missed my microwave, I LOVE all my appliances. In fact during my quest to re-arrange my pantry, I created an entire section devoted to my be-loved kitchen appliances. (Soon you’ll be able to read all about them in Appliances are My Friends section of this blog where I’ll be posting recipes that I’ve made using appliances such as a blender, ice cream maker and deep fryer.)

Anyway, by chance or perhaps it was divine intervention, I came across a dinner idea category on the web-site that I use for my free family calendar, a site that I learned about from a web-page that I’m using to help organize my life.

You may be familiar with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (making it easy & affordable for family’s to cook fresh/healthy food). I haven’t used his recipes yet, but recently I shopped for and stocked my pantry with most of his suggestions. Notice, I used the word most. Some items that I couldn’t think of a use for, I will purchase when I come across a recipe that requires the specified ingredient. You can find Jamie Oliver’s pantry list here. So, how am I saving money? – Well, first, my pantry is stocked with “ingredients” and if I don’t have a particular item on hand, I’m confident that I can find a way to substitute on-line, using the ingredients that I have on hand. Also, I won’t lose money by throwing away food that spoiled because I didn’t find a recipe to use it in, because, unless it’s something I know that we eat every week, I’m not going to buy it unless my weekly meal plan includes it as an ingredient. Also, while I plan to use fresh vegetables, I did stock my freezer with an assortment of a few frozen veggies (those go on sale w/coupons, btw). When meat/poultry/fish is on sale, I plan to stock-up as well. For example, a few months ago, a name brand ground turkey was on sale 3lbs. for $5. Stocking up on a few items is a good idea because you can double the quantity that you make for some dishes – eat 1/2 for dinner the day that you prepare the dish and freeze the other 1/2 for a future dinner. Saves prep. time, since it really doesn’t take much longer to double a recipe. Saves time spent washing dishes –AMEN to that sister!! -Saves future time, because the entree or meal can be popped right into the oven. In fact, when I made a turkey meat-loaf for dinner last week, I made two and popped one into my freezer. So now when I’m making meals, I ask myself if what I’m making will make a good-freezer meal. If so, I try to make extras (sometimes that’s difficult since I’m feeding 6 of us). For example, fajitas – not such a great freezer meal (although it would work), but flautas would be excellent re-heated in the oven. It’s easy if you think about what types of foods you would find in the freezer at the grocery store. You could also visit a web-site like Schwan’s

Which Jamie Oliver recipes have you tried?

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Getting Cozy with Cozi (tools to simplify & organize your life)

Online family calendar & tools to simplify and organize your life 🙂

I recently wrote about my mission to be organized one day at a time… and I am happy to report that I am on Day #7, you can follow my journey here. I haven’t been perfect, but I have made an effort EVERY day. My timing was perhaps not the best with my oldest graduating from the 8th grade & the various events leading up to this moment. Baseball season is climaxing with play-offs and rain delays here in sunny California. I have never experienced SO much rain, not to mention the cold, stormy weather. My kids have been cooped up inside for months it seems. Girl Scouts are finishing up and soccer practice has begun. End of year field trips have taken over my life – BUT – I am able to keep all of these events organized because of something else that I learned about from the FlyLady-“Cozi“; I signed up through this link on the FlyLady web-site. However, you can also sign-up directly at Cozi.

Q:  So, what did I sign-up for? What is Cozi?

A:  Cozi is an on-line calendar and so much more.

Q:  How do I use my Cozi on-line calendar?

A:  When I receive an e-mail, or a note home from the school, or an invitation, or a sports schedule… I immediately input the information into my Cozi calendar. I find that entering information is easier on my lap-top at home, but it can be added from any smart phone. Which means that our family calendar can also be accessed from any smart phone or any computer. So, my husband can input his meetings or view the family schedule. All the information is in one place. Any family member can access/input information into our family calendar and check-out our family information by signing into our calendar.

To sign-up is free. The “app” for the phone is free. To use the service is FREE. One of the many functions that I use is the “text-reminders”. Any appointment that is input into the Cozi calendar can be set-up to send a reminder. You can also set up how far in advance you would like the reminder to be texted to you.

The calendar feature also provides more than just a calendar; there are things like to-do lists, shopping lists, and journal entries. The Cozi site also offers much more than just the calendar. There is a meal planning section that can be used to plan your weekly meals, recipes for those meals, and the ingredients for the recipes can be added automatically/directly to your shopping list (no more forgotten lists at home).  The meals can also be added automatically/directly* to your calendar on any day that you select. Other sections of the Cozi web-site include kids & family, home & garden, and savings/coupons. But, don’t take my word for it, you can check out 5 Reasons to use Cozi here.  **You don’t have to type the information. Cozi automatically fills in the information with a click of the keyboard.

If you sign-up for Cozi calendar through the FlyLady, then many of her applications can be added to your calendar which are explained by following The FlyLady Cozi Calendar link.  I use my Cozi calendar all the time.  I am continually finding new ways to make my life easier and more organized everyday with the use of this powerful FREE tool. Writing this post, I realized that I need to utilize the Cozi web-site more as well.

Have you gotten Cozy with Cozi?? If so, please share what you’ve learned/discovered in the comments below:

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Mom Obliterates 3rd Grader’s Science Project ~ (& homemade playdough tips)

Oil marks on the paper = pending disaster etc.  How do I know this?  Well – the story goes something like this…

I put effort into letting my children do things for themselves – like school projects. #1) because I have 4 kids and a) making the “same” themed projects year after year, gets kinda old  or b) I’m busy helping the younger ones, so the older kiddos are on their own AND #2) mostly because I’m a teacher and I believe “student” work should be “student” work… I could go on & on but that’s not really the point of this.

My 3rd grader’s recent science project was to create a solar system – using re-cycled items was highly encouraged. Re-cycled materials = free & doesn’t require a trip to the store/read: saves time & money spent on supplies & gas and is good for our environment. So, one day while my daughter & a friend that was visiting were playing with the play-dough they made, my son decided that it would be the perfect medium for his project. He could make the play-dough, play with it, then turn it into a science project. Of course, in keeping with my beliefs, I decided that he should make the play-dough himself. He measured the ingredients and mixed them together.  Apparently, I wasn’t paying that close of attention when he filled the measuring cup with oil. I knew some went over the sides, but it must have been more than some – because…. the dough was really oily. Playing with it caused our hands to become completely coated in oil. Meanwhile, my idea was to bake the play-dough (something that I have done many times) so as to “harden” the planets so that they kept their shape & could be easily glued down. Apparently, too much oil causes ~ THIS see the picture below –

I was too freaked out to take a photo of the disaster – instead I tried to salvage the project and smashed the planets into smithereens really, it just crumbled when I touched it… all of my son’s hard work, – completely obliterated 😦

The tray had started off with several half circles of dough (balls that had been cut in half, then baked flat side down), each planet made to scale (smallest to biggest) and each the correct mix of colors for each planet.

What I learned from this:

#1 – TOO much OIL is not good…

#2 Take photos of mistakes (before trying to fix them)

#3 Have a back-up (we sort of had a back-up, thank goodness – I’ve learned to have a backup as this is not my first OOPS)

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