Archive for the ‘Frugal Living’ Category
Ready or not, the holiday gift giving season is well on its way. But, instead of fighting the stores, dealing with overworked or angry salespeople why not give gifts from local farmers or crafts people? Farmers Markets and Farm Stands provide the gift giver with a wide array of fruits, meats, honey, flowers and farm items that can be made into attractive gift baskets. Local craft fairs showcase hand-made items from area artists and crafts people.
And, with LocalHarvest outlets and CSA’s you can give fresh made cheese and baked goods, homemade soaps and canned goods, or wool, yarn and spinning supplies. Check out the more than 10,000 farm products in the LocalHarvest store.
Better yet, give the gift that keeps on giving…give a chicken.
Rumor has it that an inflationary period is headed our way, sometime in 2011. That means higher prices on food and other necessary items. Early planning could smooth out some of the ripples, like cooking more from scratch, eating at home and buying fewer pre-packaged items.
Many food items that have become commonplace in our society claim convenience and portability as their selling point; but, what manufacturers don’t want you to know is that convenience is costing you big bucks. Not to mention the waste (in packaging) it produces. Check out our list of 15 commonly purchased items that could be dipping into your wallet and learn how you can make homemade substitutes for pennies on the dollar.
Not only will the homemade versions save you money they will taste better too, because they can be made with fresh organic ingredients, either homegrown or purchased from a Farmers’ Market.
1. Frozen ‘Gourmet’ vegetables.
Oh sure, it may be easier to buy a package of frozen corn in butter or broccoli in a cheese sauce, but why would you when you can make your own? Just cook the corn, add a tablespoon or so of butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The same goes for broccoli. Simply steam the florets, and while steaming, melt some butter, stir in flour, warm the milk, add cheese, salt and pepper to taste and there you have it – veggies everyone will devour.
2. Heat and Eat Sandwiches.
When you buy a pre-made sandwich, what you are really paying for is the elaborate packaging — plus a whole lot of salt, fat, and unnecessary additives. For the average cost of one of these babies ($2.50 to $3.00 per sandwich), you could make a bigger, better, and more nutritious version yourself.
3. Premium Frozen Fruit Bars.
At nearly $5 per box, frozen ‘all fruit’ or ‘fruit and juice’ bars may be low in calories, but they are certainly are not low in price. Using simple equipment like a blender, plastic reusable ice-pop molds (on sale at discount stores for about 99 cents each), or small paper cups and pop sticks or wooden skewers, you can make your own at home and get the flavors your family likes best.
Here’s a riddle for you: What flourishes without light, doesn’t use flowers or seeds to grow and is so diverse it can even be grown in your hall closet?
Its mushrooms of course!
Mushrooms are unique because they are not plants at all – they are fungi. They reproduce with spores not seeds and they don’t contain any chlorophyll or go through photosynthesis like regular plants. That’s why they can grow in cool, damp, dark places instead of warm, sunny ones.
The nutrients mushrooms need to grow come from a growing medium called substrate—usually a rotting log or a “brick” of straw, rice bran or sawdust in bags. A mushroom is really the fruit of the fungus; the actual “plant” if you will, is a network of root-like threads, called the mycelium. Mushrooms reach harvestable size in several weeks and can be picked for about 15 weeks.
To begin growing your own, first decide what type of mushroom you’d like to grow, as each variety likes a certain type of growing medium. It may be a good idea to start with an easy growing variety that can be found in a kit, like the shiitake or oyster, for first-timers. Kits will come complete with the right kind of substrate for the mushroom variety, mushroom spores and growing instructions.
If you decide to grow mushrooms without the aid of a kit you’ll need to do a bit more research. First, find the right kind of growing medium for the variety you want to grow-each mushroom variety has its own preferred growing conditions. While most favor logs, straw or sawdust, some will grow on used coffee grounds and even on corncobs. The medium will then need to be sterilized with heat, tightly compacted in a bag or on a tray and then inoculated with the spawn. A word of caution here: resist the temptation to use free spawn from wild mushrooms; purchase good healthy spawn from a reliable supplier.
Be sure to check out the growing habits of the variety you decide to grow so you know how and where to place your growing container. Some mushrooms grow vertically, as they would on a rotting log, and hanging them would be an ideal solution. Others grow horizontally in little clusters as they would on the floor of a dark, clammy forest. These can be grown in a tray placed in a dark closet.
Once your mini mushroom farm is set up all you have to do is water it, set it in a dark place and keep an eye on the conditions. In about a week you’ll see the beginnings of tiny little mushrooms. Depending on the variety you should have “ready to harvest” mushrooms in another 4 to 8 weeks.
How simple is that?
Before you know it you’ll have your very own ethereal fairy-garden of perky little mushrooms.
To read more about growing mushrooms, check out “Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms”, by Paul Stamets.
If growing mushrooms isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy them with these simple recipes. Read the rest of the story »
This beginning of a New Year is like a bend in a winding mountain road. It fades in my rearview as we move farther and farther from its starting point. I’ve been reflecting lately on all that can be accomplished on a small suburban homestead such as ours and feeling rather – well – contented and secure.
On just a third of an acre we are able to raise lambs and chickens to put meat in our freezer and eggs for breakfast and baking. An extra lamb we butchered is being parceled out to friends and neighbors who don’t want a whole or half lamb. And, at $9 to $15 per pound for organic lamb, I think this may turn out to be a very good thing.
The broilers we raised from day old chicks were butchered last week. Our original plan was to butcher before Christmas, but the bad weather and family obligations forced us to push back a few weeks. With the extra time on feed most of the birds were in the 7 to 8 pound range, with a few pushing over 9 pounds. At those weights the birds are too big for a family of two, so most were cut in half and a few quartered, giving us enough chicken for about 30 weeks, assuming we eat chicken once a week. Not bad, folks! Not bad at all!
The hens are laying 5 to 7 eggs a day now, not quite at full stride yet, but, that’s 3-1/2 dozen a week, enough to keep us in omelets with a few dozen left over to sell to cover feed costs.
Our berries and fruit trees are coming into their own and give us plenty of fresh seasonal fruit for eating and a little extra for freezing or canning or cooking; the garden gives us plenty of greens and root vegetables; tomatoes and cucumbers; squash and pumpkins, even with the occasional crop failure.
Thanks to some great sales in November and December our pantry is brimming with staple goods. And, the added savings from coupons meant most were “free” or nearly “free”. It’s so nice to be able to just walk over, open a cupboard and pull out what you need for an evening meal. No treks to the store after dark. No drives during inclement weather.
We picked up another load of firewood from the grandparents’ place, our second of the winter. With the colder temperatures we are burning more wood than in years past and it’s a blessing to have such a ready source. Loading split wood on a cool afternoon makes for a robust workout. I love it.
I think these reflections were brought on by a morning news story on the inflationary period coming our way. Read the rest of the story »
Over the last three years more than one in three honey bee colonies has died nationwide, posing a serious risk to our natural food supply. One cause for the losses is a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or “CCD.” When a hive experiences CCD, honey bees mysteriously abandon their hive and die. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes CCD, but believe some contributing factors may be viruses, mites, chemical exposure and poor nutrition.
Why is this a crisis? Because, honey bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of our country’s natural foods. Think about it…one out of every three bites of food an average American eats has been pollinated by a honey bee. These industrious workers are responsible for pollinating more than 100 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and they provide 80 percent of the country’s pollination services. The honey bee is responsible for $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crops each year because they fly up to 15 miles per hour and visit about 50 to 100 flowers on each pollination trip. It takes 2 million flower visits, covering 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey. When a honey bee returns to the hive after finding a good pollen source, it gives out samples of the flower’s nectar to its hive mates and performs a dance that details the distance, direction, quality and quantity of the food supply. The richer the food source, the longer and more vigorous the dance.
What can homesteaders do to preserve the hum of honey bees and thereby help sustain their own gardens and production? Plant a seed! It’s that simple. Read the rest of the story »
Our rainy season started the week before Christmas. Local weather reports predicted 7 days of rain, with 5 to 10 inches; an unusual storm system for our area. But, rather than lament the wet conditions and slippery roads homesteaders should rejoice in the ability to collect “free” water that can be used in the garden during times of limited rainfall. The collecting of rainwater is as old as time itself. Many ancient cultures collected and stored rainwater for use during drier months of the year.
Did you know a single 20′ X 30′ roof can yield over 13,000 gallons of rainwater from one 10-inch rainstorm? If homeowners capture only a fraction of that, it’ll go a long way toward preserving a rapidly diminishing fresh water supply. This has been particularly important to me because our municipal water rates have gone up another 10%, making this increase the fourth this year. A local paper reported that our town’s water rates have increased 67% in the last 5 years and over 109% in the past ten years. Forget gold, folks – water will soon be the bankable commodity everyone is clamoring for.
Several years ago I got serious about collecting rainwater. My system is simple yet very effective. A series of connected barrels line the north side of my house. A downspout is attached to the first barrel, which feeds all the others when it is full. When all barrels are full the downspout is moved, diverting the runoff away from the full barrels. I use recycled 55-gallon barrels that once held juice concentrate, which means they are food grade with no chance of having been exposed to chemicals or other harmful liquids. And, for the reasonable price of $35 each I can buy several for the same price as one expensive commercially sold system.
To set up your own rainwater collection system check out this helpful link www.wikihow.com
With the step-by-step instructions and great photos, you’ll be collecting rainwater (and saving money) in no time.
Now that’s what I call pennies from heaven.
It’s November and many have their eyes set on Christmas; the parties, the outings, the gift giving, the food. With the economy still so uncertain and many still without jobs this season may have the air of being a not so merry holiday.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With some careful planning and a few creative “outside-of-the-box” ideas you and your family won’t miss the hectic fast paced rush of previous years. In fact, you may come to treasure a slower paced holiday that allows you to reflect and appreciate the true meaning of the season. Check out our 17 ideas and choose a few to incorporate into your celebration this year, and make it through the holidays without breaking the bank or your spirit. Read the rest of the story »
With the year coming to a close it’s a great time to lay the groundwork for stocking your pantry and home with needed items. An effective way to shop for food storage and other household items is to know when they typically go on sale.
Some of this is common sense. Seasonal items like winter coats generally go on sale by the end of December while gardening supplies can be purchased for less in the fall. But, some great information can be found on the Consumer Reports website, websites on stocking up and store ads. The Calendar below is just a sample of the items you can stock up throughout the year, helping to build a well supplied pantry and save money on other purchases. Be patient. Watch store ads for items that are 50% off or more. Shop when items are on sale. As time goes by and your pantry grows you’ll be spending less time in the market and more time shopping from your own pantry!
(Keep in mind that this is just a generalized list. Every part of the country is different and sale times and items may vary) Read the rest of the story »