Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vacation Time!

I have been somewhat lax in my postings lately and I apologize. It has just been incredibly hectic around here.

My daughter has been at Arkansas Governor's School all summer and we finally got to retrieve her on Saturday, my mother had a heart attack last Thursday, the kitchen sink backed up on Sunday and we had to call a plumber, and we are trying to get everything ready to go on vacation. Just the laundry is a daunting task. But hopefully, when we get back from Florida things will have calmed down enough to get back in the grove before school starts.

We wouldn't be able to afford a vacation like this, but we had a bit of luck. We got suckered into buying a timeshare a few years and we have never used it. We kept rolling over the points hoping to find a good deal on somewhere we actually wanted to go but it never happened. It is just really hard for us to decide in October where we want to go the next summer. But the resort company we are with just opened a new resort in Panama City Beach FL last fall and they didn't have time to get the ad for it in the catalog for this summer so they were calling folks to see if they were interested. We didn't have enough points to book it outright( we had lost some due to expiration dates) but we could buy the extra points we needed for $350.00. That is a week in a brand new condo directly on the beach for $350. That is less than what 3 nights in a moderate hotel would cost. That is 6 nights for $350. And because it will have a kitchen, we will not have to eat every meal out like we would in a hotel.

Granted, i am sure we will eat out some, but every night for 4 people in a vacation area can get stinking expensive. But now we can go to the grocery store when we get there and buy a week's worth of food for less than what 1 day would cost us eating out. I am sure we will still eat out a few times but we won't "have to" if we don't want to.

I am sure we will be spending most of our time on the beach. We might try a deep sea fishing trip or a trip to the Gulfarium, but I figure most of our time will be in the water. Maybe a round or two of mini golf and a trip on the go-carts. But we are taking a couple of games like Trivial Pursuit and Pirates, and maybe some videos, but the biggest part of our time will just be chillin'.

We can vacation on the cheap a lot more than a lot of folks. We don't like having a tight schedule to abide by and having to be going and doing all the time. It isn't really relaxing if you spend all of your time running around. I am fine just floating in the surf on a boogie board or soaking up the rays. The kids have already started singing "Barracuda" in preparation.

It should be a good trip. And I am sooo ready for it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Canning Meat

Well, today I am trying my hand at canning some beef. I know that it can be done because it has a list of recipes in my canning bible. I also know because when we were cleaning out my great-aunt's house, we found a bunch of jars of canned meat in the basement. They had shed snake skins wrapped all around them so there is no telling how old they were, but they still looked edible. But we didn't. dumped it all out in the fire pit we had dug to burn all of the other trash. Saved the jars though.

But anyway...

I am running out of freezer space so I thought I would try the whole canning thing. I figured stew meat was going to be the best option and the easiest to do. Pressure canning it should make it really tender. We will see.

If it works out, I may try to do some chicken next. That would be very convenient for those nights this winter when I really don't feel like cooking. That would almost be instant soup or chicken salad. I probably won't can up a lot of meat. Can't really afford to, but when I can find a really good sale, it is an extra option. And it will be nice to have a few quick meals ready for those nights when I will be chasing kids after school.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The way I have always done it...

I started thinking about the things that I do every day without any conscious though. Cooking, canning, sewing, all of the things that my mom and grandma did everyday. It was always fun for me to help Mom sew a new dress or even a swim suit. I had a lot of home made swim suits.

I can do all of this stuff and do it without thought. But I guess most people really don't have a clue how to do alot of it. Most people can cook, at least enough to keep from starving, but it involves meal kits, boxes of prepared seasonings, and frozen meals. I find that those foods really just don't appeal to me. I like the taste of unpackaged gravy, home made biscuits, fresh jams and jellies, home made burritos, fresh from the oven bread, and freshly churned butter. I think that most people do. They just don't realize that it isn't hard to make a loaf of bread or a pan of biscuits.

Canning is another thing that just about anyone can do. It isn't difficult, but it is time consuming. If you have a garden, or access to one, canning is the perfect way to save summer goodness for winter. All it takes is a pressure canner, some jars, and the time to do it. My mother in law worked full time as a teacher for 30 years and still managed to put up a big garden every year. Jams and jellies can be done in less than an hour and don't even require a canner. If you don't have a freezer but do have a canner, you can even store meat in jars safely when it goes on sale. And the meat is already cooked when you get ready to use it for a fast meal. Spend the $4-$6 dollars for a "Ball Blue Book of Preserving". It is the canning Bible and will tell you processing times and recipes for preserving just about anything edible. Canning, Freezing and Drying are all in there. Great book for any one wanting to save grocery money.

Sewing does take a little bit of skill and a lot of patience. If you are new to sewing, study up on the terminology before you start cutting. It really does make a difference. But you can keep your entire family well dressed for a fraction of the cost of buying from the department stores. And if you shop at The Global Mass Marketer, they often sell fabric for $1-$2 dollars a yard. The average short sleeved mens button up shirt takes about 2 yards. So for $4 worth of fabric, some buttons, thread, and a pattern, you can make a shirt for your favorite man. Some children's clothes take less than a yard. A basic, knee length straight skirt for yourself can take as little as 1 yard, depending on the style and your size. A pair of shorts, or a pull over top are about a yard.

So I guess what it boils down to is that I do things to save money without even thinking about it. That was just how I was raised.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Canning

I am sorry that I haven't posted in a while but I have been busy canning. So far this week, I have put up:

55 ears of corn
17 jars of Purple Hull Peas
9 quarts of cranberry beans
3 pints of mango
3 pints of mushrooms
5 heads of cauliflower
4 quarts of cabbage
13 jars of apple butter
11 jars of plum jam

And I am not done yet. I still have to put up some more mangoes and make another batch of onion relish. I would like to get some more beans this weekend and get those canned.

A guy that my husband works with gave us the plums so I gave him some of the jam. I think he may give us some more plums so I will have to find something to do with them. We really don't need any more jam.

I still want to get some peaches and maybe some more peas.

I have discovered a problem though. I really don't have any place to put any of this stuff. My pantry is already full and I don't have a closet anywhere in the house with space enough for a single 1/2 pint jar. But if this plan works out, we will be eating good on the cheap this winter.

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 4th, economy, save cash

Dealing with the family is always fun, and this last weekend was no exception. My mother in law is always shocked that I know how to do anything around the house, including but not limited to, canning food.

There also doesn't seem to be any understanding at all about modern economics. All she understands is that gas prices are going up. But that shouldn't stop us from making the 3 hour trip to come see her at every opportunity. After all, what is $4.00 a gallon gas when she doesn't have to buy it.

I did get to spend some time with my niece over the holiday. She finally ditched the dead beat boyfriend that she had been supporting for the last couple of years and is learning how to be a person. She thinks it is just awesome that I can sew, can, bake bread, smoke meat, make butter, and all of that other "hippy" stuff. Personally, I don't think of it as hippy, I think of it as making as much as I can so that I don't have to buy it.

I tried to pick my dad's brain about how his grandparents did all of the daily living things, and he just looked at me like I was crazy. He went on to explain that where his house is now was a pasture for a milk cow and her calf and that the house only had a fire place and a cook stove for heat. Personally, I am fine with that. I grew up with wood heat.

We talked a little while about how we are over consumers and spoiled to the niceties that aren't really necessary. Like the AC. He said that he had heard the cost of electricity was probably going to double in the next year and if that happened, he would be in serious trouble. He is already paying $300 a month for his electric bill. And on a fixed income, he will just have to live in the dark if it goes up very much. He really doesn't have a problem with opening the windows instead of running the AC, but his wife is a city girl who never had to hang out clothes or grow her own food. And she is a neat freak, so the dust from the gravel road would just drive her over the edge.

I am always looking for ways to cut our costs and live a little healthier. My husband will not let me have any chickens or other livestock while we live in town though. It kinda sucks, but I can understand his point of view. I don't really care what the neighbors think of us, but I also don't want the cops called on us because our rooster can't tell the difference between morning and midnight.

So, we will just plod along as best as we can and hope that things don't go to pot too quickly and that we have the time to get ourselves into position before the world collapses in on us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Build your own home

I recently read an article about building a house without a mortgage. The family did most of the work, lived on site, and paid for supplies in bits and pieces, as they could. It actually was a very nice looking house.

That would probably be the best way to go on building a house for ourselves. That way we can get exactly what we want, without having to make due with what ever we can find. It would also allow us to use salvaged materials like windows and doors to save money. If I want a big laundry room, all I have to do is build it that way. We can dig a basement/ root cellar and build the house on top of it without having to worry too much about hitting a water pipe or a gas line.

Granted, that would also mean that we would have to do the work. I am convinced that we CAN do if we set our minds to it. We would probably have to hire out the plumbing and electric though. I really don't want to compromise on the safety on that sort of thing. Could we do it? Sure. Do we want to run the risk of burning down the house or having the plumbing back up into the kitchen? Nope. So that will be an expense we would have to deal with.

I really like the idea of building it ourself. Not only could we spend more money on the land, it would give us some quality family time together. And the kids might accidentally learn something useful.

Here is the link to the article I read.


I guess this will just have to be something to think about.

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