Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

If you are like me, you impatiently wait for seed catalogs to arrive in the winter, and then eagerly immerse yourself in the colored photos of beautiful flowers and mouth-watering fruits and veggies.  (I also look at seeds online and I do my ordering online, but there’s just something so special about getting those catalogs!)

I browse all the seeds that interest me, including sales and clearance, loading up my virtual cart until it’s brimming.  Then I look at the total.  O_O

Sometimes, seeds can seem a little expensive.  However, I like to think of it in the long term.  If the seeds are not hybrid, I know I can save seeds from each planting and keep that initial “investment” going for years.  If we have some extra money, I’ll go ahead and order a few extra seeds.  I’ve used seeds that are 4 or 5 years old and gotten excellent crops, so I’m comfortable in getting ahead of myself and having a nice sized “stash”.

I also consider that starting my seeds and selling some plants can bring in extra money that can be “seed” money for the next year.  (Pun intended!)

Thinking of all the possibilities, seeds are really a bargain!

When I look at all my seeds, I see life; beautiful flowers, delicious veggies, nutrition for us and our animals, and the promise of food, in good times or bad.  🙂

Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

Investing in Seeds

BENEFITS:

  • Inexpensive, nutritious food
  • Stockpile of potential food
  • Flower seeds that can be grown and sold
  • Veggie seedlings that can be sold or bartered
  • Saving lots of money on groceries

MONEY SAVED:   I’m not sure how to quantify the savings on this.  The cost of the initial pack of seeds goes down each year you save seeds and replant.  If you sell enough plants to cover the cost of buying more seeds, your cost can go down to zero.  It is a self-sustaining venture!

🙂

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins

Recently, our local grocery store had a nice sale on strawberries; two pints for $3.00.  Heck of a deal!  A great time to make jam and freeze berries for later use.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t in need of jam or frozen strawberries, but I did need some fresh berries to compliment the rhubarb harvest I had in the freezer. 🙂

Fast forward to the kitchen and having everything ready for a delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, when I realize I have way too much filling.  I prefer fresh pie, so I don’t want to make an extra to put in the freezer.   What to do?

Make Strawberry-Rhubarb muffins, of course!

I had never made these before and just used another berry muffin recipe, that I tweaked a bit.  I think you’ll want to try them.  They were amazingly delicious!!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins

Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1 cup milk

3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

4 teas baking powder

berries

Beat egg.  Add oil and milk.  Beat well.  Add dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Fold in the berries.

(I tweaked this recipe by reducing the milk to 3/4 cup and adding 1/2 cup sour cream)

BENEFITS:

  • Buying something to compliment what you already have
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb yumminess
  • Homemade desserts
  • No preservatives
  • Saving money

We ended up with a pie, 6 jumbo muffins and a small loaf.   A pie would cost an average of $10.00, jumbo muffins are $1.40 each and a small loaf is about $4.00, for a total of $22.40.  My strawberries cost $3.00, I grew my own rhubarb, and the flour, sugar, etc cost about $2.00.

MONEY SAVED: $17.40!!

🙂

Reasons to Be Outside

So Many Reasons to Be Outside!

I try to get some fresh air every day.  Nature has a way of calming my senses and clearing my mind.

We have often been witness to spectacles of nature, just because we were outside.  Geese flying overhead that appear golden in autumn’s setting sun, shooting stars racing across the night sky, rabbits teaching their young how to find food.  I’m never bored being outside; I have Mother Nature’s symphony and theater to entertain me.

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Reasons to Be Outside

Connecting with nature is priceless.

🙂

Spiced Grape Syrup

Spiced Grape Syrup Recipe

Valiant grapes are delicious, small grapes that work well for jellies, jams and syrups.

As I was out taking propagation cuttings from my main plant, it reminded me that I wanted to share a wonderful recipe I use for pancake syrup!

When we harvest the grapes, I boil them for 15 minutes, in a large pot, with a small amount of water.  When they are soft, I put them through a canning sieve to remove seeds and skins.  From there, I either continue on to the recipe, or stick the juice in the freezer for later use.  (Sometimes, I do that just so I have something fun to can in the winter!)

Spiced Grape Syrup

Spiced Grape Syrup

Measure juice and bring to a boil.  For each cup of juice, add 3/4 cup sugar.  Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves and 1/2 tsp ground allspice to every 3 cups or juice, or to taste.  Boil rapidly to syrup stage.  Pour into sterilized canning jars and continue with safe canning practices.

This recipe is a family favorite!  We pick the grapes together, can them together and enjoy the syrup together!  How much better can it get?

BENEFITS:

  • Growing your own fruit
  • Making home made syrup you won’t find in stores
  • Great items for gifts
  • Satisfaction of being involved in every step of the process

The plant originally cost me about $5.00.  (I have propagated many plants from it, which I have shared with family and used to expand my own crop.)  Specialty syrups in the stores are $8.00 for 8 ounces. (1/2 pint)   Every year we get at least 12 pints!

MONEY SAVED:  $192.00!!

🙂

Sewing and Crafting Items

Cheap Sewing and Crafting Supplies

If you enjoy making things yourself, you know the value of developing good sources for your materials.

Two words: THRIFT.  STORES.

While you may not find exactly what you’re looking for every time, you can certainly pick up items you know you’ll use at some point and develop a nice sized stash!

I’m always on the lookout for yarn, buttons, material and sewing notions.  My hubby looks for them, too! 🙂  Over time, I have amassed a very nice “inventory” of items that are ready to use for whatever project I may want to undertake.  From time to time, I divide my stash and share it with my daughter!

Sewing and Crafting Items

Buttons and fun things

Sewing and Crafting Items

Rickrack, bias tape, ribbons, lace, etc.

Sewing and Crafting Items

Threads

Sewing and Crafting Items

Fabrics

Sewing and Crafting Items

Embroidery floss

Sewing and Crafting Items

Yarn

Sewing and Crafting Items

Yarn

Sewing and Crafting Items

More yarn 😉

I probably have more than I can use, but darn it, I’m gonna try my best to work my way through it!

Looking at the photos above, my mind boggles at the amount of money I would have had to spend, buying these items new.  The truth is, I couldn’t have afforded it.

By buying a little at a time, in thrift stores, I have accumulated a nice variety of supplies that are on hand and ready to use, at a small fraction of the cost of new.

BENEFITS:

  • Low cost crafting supplies
  • Unique, vintage and hard to find supplies
  • Supplies for gifts at your fingertips
  • Enough extra to share

I have to give my best educated guess at the cost and savings, since this was an accumulation over time.  I didn’t take pictures of everything, but an estimate of my available supplies is around $900.00 and an estimate of my actual cost is around $250.00.

MONEY SAVED: $650.00!!

🙂

 

 

Re-using Glass and Plastic

Re-Using Glass and Plastic

Many of us understand the importance of recycling, re-purposing and re-using.  In fact, for some of us, it’s a lifestyle!

When I was growing up, we did a lot of re-purposing and re-using, mostly out of necessity.  Out on the homestead, we didn’t have any garbage collection, so we composted food scraps, re-used as much glass as we could and burned paper products in the “burning barrel”.  I remember being pretty excited when I was old enough to be trusted with that chore! 🙂

Now, of course, I do the Three-Rs out of concern for mother nature and to save money.  Plus, it’s a fun adventure to balance the practical side of re-using without crossing the line into being a hoarder. LOL

There used to be a time when food would come in decorative glass jars.  Of course, the intent was for the consumer to re-use the jar and have something of value besides the original contents.   Although most jars aren’t decorative any more, there is no reason not to re-use them and make the most of what you have.

Re-using Glass and Plastic

Some fun finds from thrift stores!  LOVE those old jars!

For food items, I like to keep a good supply of glass jars on hand.  I save jars that tea or other drinks come in and any jars that have interesting shapes or are just a “good size” for storing food in the fridge.  For instance, I brew Kombucha, so drink jars come in handy for that.  When I open a can of olives, I prefer to store the remainder in the fridge, in a glass container, etc.  If I can’t find a use for a jar, I recycle it.

Re-using Glass and Plastic

Another thrift store find.  An old glass sugar canister without the lid.  Works well for brewing Kombucha.

I do not re-use glass jars as canning jars.  I prefer to err on the side of caution and only use canning jars for canning.  I do, however, use canning jars for all sorts of things.  Can’t find the right jar?  Grab a canning jar!  I store dried herbs, buttons, dog treats, screws, nails, food, seeds, and you name it, in canning jars.   FYI…the uses for canning jars are infinite, therefore, the quantity of jars one should have, is also immeasurable.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently 😉

Plastic containers have a plethora of uses as well, and this is where the money savings comes into play.

Re-using Glass and Plastic

My favorite plastics that I save are large coffee and yogurt containers.   I do a lot of gardening, so these containers are like gold to me!  I can start seeds, propagate plants or sell plants using these containers.  I re-use them year after year by washing them out well after each plant.    Best part is, when they’ve out-lived their usefulness, I recycle them!  I used to recycle the lids too, until it dawned on me that the lids work great as planter saucers.

Re-using Glass and Plastic

According to your needs and hobbies, you can save a lot of money by re-using glass and plastic.

BENEFITS:

  • Keeping items out of the landfill
  • Using items until they need to be replaced
  • Saving money
  • Re-using what you already have

Here is a quick tally of my savings:

Plastic pots the size of yogurt containers are about $1.50 each.  I get a large container of yogurt every week, so,  52 weeks x $1.50 = $78.00.  Pots the size of coffee containers are $2.10 each x 12 = $25.20.

MONEY SAVED: $103.20!!

🙂

Christmas Cookie Recipes

Our Three Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

We make a bunch of different cookies and breads for Christmas, but there are three that seem to be all-time favorites:  Spritz, Neapolitan, and Gumdrop.

I wanted to share these recipes and a couple quick tips we’ve found helpful over the years.

SPRITZ

1 cup softened butter

2/3 cups sugar

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

2  ½ cups flour

Mix butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add egg yolks and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour and stir by hand.  Load dough into a cookie press and press cookies onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until very lightly browned on the bottom.

Christmas Cookie Recipes

We found a short-cut!  Instead of using a cookie press, we rolled the cookies into balls and pressed them with decorative bowls that have beautiful patterns!  We found these at a thrift store.  The bowls can also be used for dips, candy or nuts.

Christmas Cookie Recipes

 

Neapolitan Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

5 drops red food coloring

1 /2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 sq baking chocolate

Melt chocolate, then cool to room temperature.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl and set aside.  In medium bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat just until combined.  Slowly add flour mixture until combined.  Slowly add flour mixture, beating on medium speed until combined.  Line a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan with waxed paper, allowing ends to hang over the sides.  Divide dough in to three portions.  To 1 portion, add almond extract and red food coloring and mix well; pat into the bottom of the loaf pan.  To 2nd portion, add nut meats and mix well.  Pat on top of pink layer.  To 3rd portion, add melted chocolate and mix well.  Pat onto nut layer.  Cover and chill at least 4 hours or until dough is firm enough to slice.  Remove dough from pan by lifting the waxed paper.  Cut dough in half,lengthwise, then slice each half crosswise into 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick sliced.  Place cookies 1″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.  Leave cookies on the cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing to a cooling rack.

Christmas Cookie Recipes

This year we rolled the dough into long ropes instead of patting it into a loaf pan.  We were happy with the results!

 

Gumdrop Cookies

1 cup of butter

1 cup of powdered sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

2 cups spiced gum drops – cut

Cut gumdrops into fourths, using flour and a sharp knife. Creamer butter and sugar well.  Blend in egg and vanilla.  Add flour and mix well.  Stir in gumdrops.  Divide dough into thirds, roll into 10″ ropes and wrap in waxed paper.  Chill at least 3 hours.  Cut 1/8″ slices and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 12 minutes or  until delicately browned on the edges.

Christmas Cookie Recipes

As you may have noticed, we use old cookie tins to store and display our cookies for Christmas.  They are colorful, Christmas-y, and keep the cookies fresh and safe!  (Safe, as in the dogs can’t open them)  We find our old tins at thrift stores and rummage sales.

Hope you try the recipes and enjoy them!

🙂

How to Stock a Pantry

21 Pantry Staples To Always Have On Hand

How well is your pantry and fridge stocked?  Do you have enough basic ingredients to come up with a meal?

My daughter and I have fun with what we call “Pantry Mystery Meals”.  We look in our pantries and come up with a meal using whatever we have on hand.

In order to play this game, you need to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with some simple, basic ingredients that can be used in a variety of ways.

Everyone’s list will vary according to taste, but here is my “Staple Foods” list:

  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Potatoes
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Nuts
  • Spices
  • Salt
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Peanut Butter
  • Tortillas
  • Bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Chocolate Chips

With this list of ingredients, I can usually whip up a meal, plus a dessert.

Hope you try the Pantry Mystery Meal game!

BENEFITS:

  • Using what you have on hand
  • Saving money and gas by not running to the store as much
  • Homemade food is better than fast food or boxed food
  • Cooking from scratch is healthier

It depends on your store, the distance to your store, your taste, etc., but I know this saves me, on average, $200.00 per month!

MONEY SAVED:  $200.00!

🙂

 

How to Make Cayenne Powder

How to Make Cayenne Pepper Flakes

We love growing our own peppers.  This year we included Cayenne peppers, which are beautiful, very prolific plants.

We had fun going out to the garden and looking for the bright red peppers, picking them, then hanging them on the “pepper lines” to dry.  The pepper lines consisted of  two lengths of yarn stretching across my sewing room.  We would hang each pepper on the line with a clothespin, leaving them there until they felt dry and you could hear the seeds rattling inside.

How to Make Cayenne Powder

Towards the end of the season, we even picked the peppers that were still green, so we wouldn’t loose them to the frost.  They dried well, too.

How to Make Cayenne Powder

We had a coffee grinder that we use for grinding spices.  We broke the peppers so they would fit into the grinder

How to Make Cayenne Powder

and then ground them into fine flakes.  (Grind longer for a powder)

How to Make Cayenne Powder

We keep them in a canning jar (because we have a lot of them) and store them in the cupboard.

How to Make Cayenne Powder

Because there are no “anti-caking” chemicals added, I sometimes have to give it a quick shake before I use it.

Now we have LOTS of Cayenne pepper to use in our recipes!!

BENEFITS:

  • Satisfaction of growing your own spice
  • Depth of flavor you can’t get in the store
  • No chemical additive
  • Saving money

Cayenne pepper flakes are generally sold in 1.5 oz containers, for about $1.25.  I have approximately 12 oz for $2.00 worth of seed!

MONEY SAVED: $8.00!

🙂

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Fall makes me think of soup and what better way to make homemade soup, than to start with some homemade broth?

Vegetable broth can be used in soup, casserole, chili, or even as a broth over meat you’re doing in the crock pot to add a depth to the flavor.

Marie’s Vegetable Broth

3 medium onions

3 carrots

2 stalks of celery

3 medium russet potatoes

 

In a large pan, place 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Dice all vegetables and add to warm pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Saute all vegetables until onions are translucent.

Marie's Homemade Vegetable Broth

 

Transfer vegetables to a slow cooker.

Marie's Homemade Vegetable Broth

 

Add water to the rim.  Add more salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 24 hours.

Marie's Homemade Vegetable Broth

At the end of 24 hours, you should have a rich broth.  I like to either mash or emulsify the vegetables and leave them in the broth.  Why waste the nutrients?

Now you have some homemade vegetable broth to enjoy!   I freeze mine in 2-3 cup portions.  Sometimes, I will also use the large muffin tins to freeze broth.  They measure about 3/4 cup, but it’s easy to freeze them in the tins and then transfer them to a freezer bag.  This is especially helpful if you only need a small amount!

Hope you’ll make some veggie broth and please comment on how you make your own!

BENEFITS:

  • Homemade always tastes better than store bought
  • No preservatives
  • Fun using the veggies you’ve grown
  • Great way to make your veggies stretch a little farther

I made 4 quarts of broth with onions, potatoes, carrots and celery that cost me $3.75.  (If you grew your own, the cost would be minimal!)  Store bought vegetable broth is about $2.50 per quart or $10.00.

MONEY SAVED:  $6.25!!

🙂