Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Holidays

I have been wanting to share some of the gifts I made for the kids for Christmas, but I have had the hardest time uploading pictures to blogger.  I found out about this great site called Picnik (probably the last person to find out about it!) where you can resize your photos for free.  I learned how to knit a couple of months ago so I wanted to knit my daughter a doll.  This pattern is the reason I wanted to learn to knit, so I was really excited that it was much easier then I thought it would be.  It did take forever, since I am such a slow knitter.

It is such a cute little doll!  My husband calls her a "portly gal".  Lol!  My daughter really likes it.  I really wanted to focus on more simple gifts this year.  I will share some of the other things I made later today.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Makin stuff and savin money....

Is it just me or have grocery prices been outta control on some stuff?!  Even generic butter is $3.00.  I used to spend $30-$60 a week but lately it has been more like $70 or $80.  It is easier to lower bills in the summer when we have so much produce, but I still need to try and keep it around $50.  There are some things I want to try.  I spend too much during the week on things I don't need, so I started taking out $100 at the beginning of the week.  If I spend $50 on groceries, and maybe $20 or $30 on odds and ends (like the new mouse I needed for the computer today) that will give us a little extra spending money and a little left over for the savings.  I have been using a lot of dry beans lately.  We also started baking our own bread again.

I also made some carrot muffins from a recipe I found in Backwoods Home magazine, that contains 4 cups of carrots!  It is such a cheap and healthy recipe!  Some things at the store have been good, or even great priced so I have been trying to buy those.  I started this week by planning meals based on what we have, then read the ads so I could plan the rest by what was on sale.  Carrots were 3 lbs for $1!! (hence the carrot muffins ;) ).  I also found a great recipe for homemade ranch dressing on The Family Homestead.  It is soooo good and pretty cheap to make.  I figured a pint jar costs about .80.  I have heard that dressings are one of the worst things you can buy (due to preservatives, chemicals and what not), which I don't know much about it, but I figure if something has more then 20 ingredients (especially a condiment!), it is probably best to stay away from it!  If you haven't checked out The Family Homestead before I highly recommend it.  She is a mother of 8 and has amazing tips and recipes for the frugal homemaker. 

In other news, we ordered our seeds.  We got our first batch from the first company yesterday.  Eek!  I am always shocked to see all of those packets.  Did I order all of those?!  Lol!  We saved a lot of seeds but still needed to buy a lot to.  We just don't have the room to space plants out enough to save seeds.  I have been obsessed with reading all of the seed catalogs and can't wait to start planting again.  I am thinking about trying to grow some lettuce in unheated cold frames.  I am going to give it a shot when the ground thaws a bit.  I even started some basil, cilantro, and oregano on the shelves we have in the basement.  I also sprouted some seeds in this neat little sprouter my mom got me.  I would show you the picture I uploaded but blogger uploader isn't working again.  Pretty basic system, but there are a lot of ways to sprout with household stuff.  Here is a site about sprouting lentils.  I get mine from the store, which some people say you can't do because they are processed and won't sprout but i don't have a problem.  Plus I don't want to pay $4.00 for a 1/2 a pound like some places charge ;).  I am hoping that next year I will can enough stuff, and store enough veggies in the cellar, that our grocery bill will be even less. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Years!!

I have never been a big "go out and celebrate" kind of girl on New Years.  We have made a little ritual of getting out all of our seed catalogs and making lists of what we have and what we want.  I am so proud of how many seeds we have saved ourselves.  This should really save us some bucks.  Since yesterday was so nice, I had a chance to go outside and get some stuff done.  While I was out there I realized how many plants we have that will come back next year.   Here is a little list; kale, swiss chard, lavender, mint, money plant, jerusalem artichoke, ground cherries (should re-seed themselves), sage, and hopefully our mustard greens.  That is just the stuff we have at home.  We shouldn't have to do too much planting, and should have plenty of stuff to eat and sell in the spring.  Up at the farm we did a little experiment with our collards.  Since the ones we planted last year did so well again this year, we let them go to seed and dry out.  We took out the old plants and shook the dry plants over a 20'x5' area.  When the snow melted a couple of days ago we checked them and the little plants that grew in the fall and still alive and should provide us with a TON of collards.  This was one of my favorite things we grew last year so I am really excited to get so many.  We have a few restaurants in mind that we could try selling any surplus to.  I still have about a half a baby food jar of collard seeds left that I have nothing I can really do with them.  I also made a list of where we want to plant stuff.  We just spread some manure on the garden at the farm so we are hoping things will do much better there this year.  A lot of things will be planted here at home and at the farm.  That way if they fail at the farm we should still have some here for us.  That is another thing we need to work on, providing for ourselves first.  Also I want to drastically reduce our grocery bill next winter, so having a functional root cellar is really important to us.  I made a list of the storage veggies we want to grow, and how many bushels I think we will need.  We always struggle growing carrots, so this is something we really want to work on.  The problem is they need weeded so much, and we aren't at the farm enough to weed.  We don't have enough room here to grow too many.  Things like this make us realize how much we need to build our house at the farm.  We are going to see some companies next week to look at houses.  So many things to do, sometimes it seems so overwhelming.  All I know is I am so excited for this year!!  Last night we decided to pig out on Chinese food to bring in the New Year.  We have a great little Chinese place down the street, but since we are trying our hardest to save money, I have started to make it at home.  For some reason this always intimidated me, but I find it surprisingly easy.  I used this recipe for Egg Rolls,

and cashew chicken, which I just used this brown sauce recipe (I add ginger and garlic to mine), and added cashews, carrots, and chicken and served it over rice.

What a great way to start the new year!!