Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Garden Update ~ July 26, 2011

Boy was I pleasantly surprised to see how well our garden did while we were gone. The automatic watering system did a good job of keeping things alive. Everything is growing well, but I did find some signs of an INVADER in our garden! Here are some pictures of how our garden looks this week:

Acorn squash is growing well -- check out this monster (one of the first squash that set).

Not all the squash survived the week. Without hand pollination, we lost a few, as this one shriveled and will die due to lack of pollination.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen! Not too long and I will have a lot to process.

The peas are growing nicely. Looking forward to using them in some stir fry!

All the pepper plants have 3-5 peppers each. I love using peppers so I can't wait for these to ripen!

Finally, I found signs that we have an invader in our garden. See the droppings? This most likely means we have a tomato hornworm... somewhere. I looked for him for a long time today, to no avail. These guys are HARD to spot!

How is your garden growing this week?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Meal Planning ~ July 25th 2011

Welcome everyone! Well, last week was a crazy amount of driving, but I did get to visit my sister's family including their adorable little baby, as well as my husband's aunt who we had not seen in a long time. We also had lots of fun exploring some new areas doing the "tourist thing". At the end we were all tired but it was fun and memorable. I was mostly pleased with how our meal plan turned out... the boys didn't feel they were missing anything and it helped keep our trip cost down.

This week, my younger son is off to Boy Scout Camp and my husband will be back and forth to camp over the week, so it will be quieter here and I''ll need to cook less food (my younger son must be going through a growth spurt -- he's been hungry constantly lately!). I'm planning to cook a couple meals for the freezer as the school year starts in just a few weeks and it will be nice to have a little backup. So, here's my plan for this week!

Sunday: Cheese tortellini with garden vegetable sauce (kale, carrots, mushrooms and Italian sausage pasta sauce).

Monday: Leftovers from Sunday

Tuesday: Make your own Burrito Night. I'll be making a big batch of No Fry Refried Beans, putting most into the freezer.

Wednesday: Double batch Turkey Chili (most to the freezer)

Thursday: Shrimp and Black Bean Salad or Shrimp with Pesto Cream Sauce (I have to make sure I have enough Basil to make the pesto, and I haven't figured that out yet! If not, we'll have the salad)

Friday: Homemade Pizza Night

SaturdayChicken, Broccoli, Mushroom, and Red Pepper Stir Fry

That's my plan for the week -- with the makings for a couple meals saved for the future. What's your plan for this week? If you're looking for inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frugal Freebies ~ Audio Books and Free Samples

Hi everyone, We're back! I'll write more in tomorrow's post about our trip, but for now here are a few freebies I wanted to share with you.

Two Audio Books from Sync:  Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton and Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, available until July 27th.

5 Free Samples from Freeflys!
  1. Free sample of Purex® Complete with Zout
  2. Free sample of O.B.® tampons
  3. Free sample of Petes® Stir Fry Tofu
  4. Free sample of Garnier® Moisture Rescue
  5. Free pack of Oscar Mayer® hot dogs
Hope you're having a wonderful frugal weekend!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Menu Plan - July 18th - Road Trip Week

Hi everyone,

Well we did a good job of using things up in the refrigerator last week. This week we're planning a trip to visit my sister and her new baby, plus scope out an area where we are interested in buying property. It should be fun but a lot of driving. My goal is to reduce our dining out as much as possible, to keep the cost down.

Here's my plan for the week. I'm planning a bit more detail since we won't have the usual things available for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

Sunday: Stir Fry with broccoli, mushrooms, onions, chicken. Keeping it simple, using up the veggies we have left!

Monday: This is our packing day plus it's my class night, so I wanted something very easy! Taco Soup

Tuesday: Travel Day! Breakfast at home. We're making sandwiches in advance for lunch. Dinner will be on the Coleman stove [grilled cheese with roasted peppers] and pasta salad.

Snacks for the trip: Homemade hummus, carrots, crackers, tortilla chips, homemade trail mix with our own dried fruit (apples, apricots) and home roasted nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) plus some raisins and some M&Ms tossed in.

Wednesday: Visiting Day. Free breakfast at the hotel. Sandwiches for Lunch. I'll be cooking dinner with my sister -- not sure what that will be, but I'm sure it will be fabulous, she's a great cook!

Thursday: Visiting and travel day. We'll be leaving my sister's area and going to the area where we're interested in property. Free breakfast at the hotel room. Sandwiches for Lunch. Dinner possibly with a relative in the area we'll be staying the night. If not, we'll be eating out.

Friday: Visiting and Exploring. We've got some "touristy" things scoped out. Free breakfast at the hotel, lunch: out. Dinner: either out or with a relative (depends on what happens on Thursday).

Saturday: Travel Day. We'll be driving home this day! Free breakfast at hotel, make lunch along the way. Dinner: Eat out along the way.

Phew, that's quite a trip! I'll let you know how it turns out next week! How have you kept your meals frugal while traveling?

Need more ideas for your menu plan? Check out Menu Plan Monday hosted this week by Finding Joy in My Kitchen!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Frugal Friday Freebies: $5 Amazon Instant Video Credit plus 2 ebooks

Hi everyone, hope y'all had a wonderful Friday. Friday is not over yet... I still have some great freebies for you!

Two Audio Books from Sync:  Beowulf  by by Francis B. Gummere [Trans.] and Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney, available until July 20th.

Free $5 Amazon Instant Video Special Offer - ends July 19th

Here are the details direct from Amazon's web site.

Welcome! Please follow these steps to get your $5 credit.

At Amazon Instant Video, watch over 100,000 movies and TV shows, online or on your TV. Use your $5 credit to rent a new release movie, catch up on recent TV seasons, or even watch your favorite TV shows the day after they air.
Click the button below and you will:
  • Connect your Amazon.com and Twitter accounts. (If you are not already signed in, you will be prompted to do so).
  • Automatically follow @amazonvideo and @amazon_movies. The message "I just got a $5 credit for instant movies and TV shows @amazonvideo. Click http://amzn.to/oXQePf to get yours. #get5" will be automatically tweeted from your Twitter account.
Tweet and Get $5

After completing these steps successfully, browse for a movie or TV show at Amazon Instant Video, and click the "Buy" or "Rent" button.

Please Note:
• We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to terminate or modify this promotion at any time.
• Although the price shown on the "Buy" or "Rent" button will not change, your credit will automatically be applied to your purchase.
• After your purchase, you can confirm that the credit was applied by checking your order confirmation, which will be sent to you by e-mail.
• To receive this offer, you must click the button above to follow Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Movies & TV on Twitter and tweet the above message between July 15 at 2011, at 12:00 AM PST and July 19, 2011, at 11:59 PM PST.
• Offer limited to one promotional credit per Amazon.com customer.
• Other restrictions apply. See details below.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Entertainment Books Sale: 2 for $12

For this price, this is a GREAT opportunity for those who can use them. If you're planning a trip somewhere, know someone who is, or want to enjoy some local food or entertainment for less, you might consider picking up a couple of these. Entertainment Books have coupons for dining, shopping, attractions, movies, and more. Two books ( usually $35 each) are currently on sale for $12 with shipping (you must buy two!) and most cities are still available. Remember, these coupons expire NOVEMBER 1st. If you can use them (or know someone who can), enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DIY: Hand Pollinate Your Squash

Squash are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden. Given sun, water, good soil, and space, you can reap a bounty of summer or winter squashes. Some zucchini can be harvested in under two months, which makes them a great choice for almost any home garden.

When growing squash, the most disappointing part for me is watching one of them develop, then suddenly shrivel and die. In our garden, we focus on making every inch count, so if a plant isn't producing, we do what we can to help it along.  In the case of our squash, it's by doing hand pollination. Not only does this help insure each squash will develop, but it also helps reduce the possibility that our squashes might cross with another in the area. (We had a strange pumpkin/delicata mix last year!)

Hand pollinating is easy. All you need is one male flower, a female flower, and a way to get the pollen from the male to the female. At the end, I've got a tip! Let's get started. First, how to identify what you've got.

You'll need a male flower -- here's one on our acorn squash this year. No matter what kind of squash you've got, the male flowers will pretty much look like this inside - a single pointy part called the stamen. Usually squash plants make many of these, so there is never a shortage of pollen. The pollen is that powdery stuff on the stamen.
Next, find a female flower. These usually form after a few male flowers have opened, and often are only open in the morning. Looking into the female flower, you'll notice it looks very different. Instead of a pointy thing, there is a structure called the stigma. Also, these have a fruit forming behind them (the male flowers just have a stem).
Now, you need a way to transfer the pollen. The easiest way is to pick the male flower, pull back the flower petals, and using the stamen like a brush, gently brush it across the stigma on the female flower. I'm not comfortable picking the male flowers from my large squash, but if you're confident you'll have enough male flowers (especially with cucumbers, which have TONS of flowers) go for it.

Personally I like to use either a cotton swab or this paint brush from my art supplies. Cotton swabs are great because they are white, you can be sure you've got the pollen on them. It's easy to use a new one for each type of squash, so you don't have to worry about cross pollinating (unless you really want to!). My white paint brush (it's actually a fabric dye brush.. .but I had it and it washes easily so I'm using it) works well too -- it's easy to see that I've picked up the pollen and moved it to the female. Just brush it across the male stamen -- check you've got a bunch of pollen, then gently brush on to the female stigma. Congratulations, you've pollinated your flower!
My hand pollination tip: once you've pollinated a flower, mark it somehow. We make a little mark at the base of the fruit so we know which have been pollinated. In this picture below, you can see one of the squash stems is marked, and the other isn't -- that one still needs to be pollinated.
That's it! Have fun pollinating, and enjoy the rewards!

If you have tips you'd like to share, or are looking for more tips, check out Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Garden Update ~ July 12th

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by! I've got some great pictures of our garden to share, including tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, and more!

First, the amazing growth in our acorn squash plants. Remember last week? Well check out how much these have grown! Not to mention all the squash that have set! We've been hand pollinating these, just to be sure.

There are a LOT of squash forming on these plants. We're very excited about how this plant is doing this year. (Notice the mark on the one stem.. that means that we've already hand pollinated that one).

The tomatoes are coming along... none ready to harvest yet, but getting there day by day.

The cucumbers have reached the tops of their cages. I guess we'll just let them flop over the tops, we're out of trellising material! Lots of cucumbers forming. I'm not going to hand pollinate these... we had no problem with production of these lemon cucumbers last year -- I'm hoping for the same this year.

Lots of flowers on the peppers now!

Our "volunteer" potatoes have started to flower. Planning what we'll plant here when these are all done not long from now!

My hubby planted some snow peas.. and they are already coming up. These will use the last trellis that we have.

The eggplants are growing slowly....

You can't even tell I've harvested this parsley twice.

A frequent visitor to our garden -- a dark eyed junco.

Here's a pretty Calla that grew near the hose... we'll have to move it but for now it's an unexpected beauty.

How is your garden doing this week?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Meal Planning - July 11th

Happy Monday!

Last week's recipes turned out fabulous! The polenta lasagne was gobbled up by everyone. Hubby grilled some teriyaki pineapple chicken (he made his own teriyaki sauce!); and we had a tasty potato/sweet potato salad on the fourth. I didn't get to make the casserole I was planning as we ended up having a meal at our in-laws -- yummy whole salmon -- so I've definitely got to work in some kale from our garden this week!

Here's my plan for the week:

Sunday: Split pea soup

Monday: Kale, sausage and white bean soup

Tuesday: Chicken and Broccoli Lo Mein

Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas and Salad

Thursday: Grill Night - Grilled chicken, homemade coleslaw, baked sweet potatoes

Friday: Homemade Pizza Night

Saturday: Leftover night

What are you having this week? Are you using anything from your garden? If you need some ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Have a great week!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Frugal Friday Freebies: Star Wars and more ebooks, U.S. Army Brass Quintet Music, and Free Slurpee!

Happy Friday! I can't believe the first week of July is over already... this summer is going by FAST. I have some nice summer freebies for you.

Two Audio Books from Sync: Where the Streets Had a Name  by Randa Abdel-Fattah and A Passage to India by E. M. Forster, available until July 13th.

Free Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith ebooks for Kindle. (You can download Kindle software for FREE for your PC, Mac, iphone, iPad, Android, Windows 7 Phone, or Blackberry device here.)
I don't know how long Amazon will have these for free, so enjoy while you can! My young men love these Star Wars stories.

Free Slurpee at 7-11 on July 11th. This coming Monday is Free Slurpee Day at 7-11! Participating 7-11's will be giving away 7.11oz Slurpees. Check with your local 7-11 to see if they are participating. I know my teenagers will be enjoying this!

Photo from http://www.usarmyband.com

Free Music from the U.S. Army Brass Quintet. Enjoy this streaming music collection, or download to enjoy any time, including Clair de Lune, Flight of the Bumblebee, Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, as well as a wonderful version of America. With a couple brass players in our house, I've come to love and appreciate brass more and more; and I really enjoy listening to this U.S. Army band. From their web site, here's a little bit about this group:
Since its inception in 1972, The U.S. Army Brass Quintet has gained a reputation as one of the most highly respected and sought after groups its kind. The ensemble has appeared before audiences and dignitaries in 48 states and 14 foreign countries. An element of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, DC, The U.S. Army Brass Quintet has performed at the White House, presidential inaugurations, and official state ceremonies in the Nation’s Capital. They have been selected repeatedly as the first ensemble to honor new presidents with the traditional “Hail to the Chief” on live national broadcasts.
Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reusable Canning Lids Review and Giveaway

Several months ago, as I was assessing what canning resources we might need for our garden harvest this year, I spent some time researching reusable canning lids. It always bothered me how wasteful the one-time-use lids are. Plus, I am concerned about them having BPA in the seal. While doing some searching, I came across Tattler Reusable Canning Jar Lids web site, which offers reusable canning lids that fit the common standard and wide mouth sized canning jars. I liked that they were reusable, and in the long run would save money. I also liked that these are a healthier alternative to traditional disposable lids.

Photo by http://www.reusablecanninglids.com
I continued to read some reviews, but none quite convinced me to make the commitment to buy. And it is somewhat of an investment -- about $30 for 3 dozen regular canning lids with shipping to my address, or about 83 cents each. This is about 3 times the cost of disposable lids. I had concerns that they might be difficult to use or cause problems in the canning process. I vowed to do more research but not buy any for this year's harvest.

This morning, I read a review by another blogger about these reusable canning lids. My questions related to processing were answered, and the giveaway was a welcome bonus! I'm very excited to share her post with you. I hope that you read about this product (plus the rest of her great blog!) and I encourage you to enter the  giveaway! Note, the giveaway goes until July 14, 2011.

If you have experience with this product, I'd love to hear it. Finally, good luck to all!

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for this product, meaning I earn a very small amount from sales from links in this post and website. As always, my opinions are my own!

Make Any Recipe Frugal!

I love to look through recipes, though I didn't always enjoy it as I do now. I was intimidated by long ingredients lists and unusual components. Growing up, I was not exposed to many ingredients commonly used and available everywhere. So cooking has been (and still is!) a learning process for me. My advice: do NOT be intimidated! If something sounds yummy and wonderful, there is (almost) always a way to make it for yourself with less expensive ingredients. If you can find it in your grocery store, you can find an alternative!

Last night I made a wonderful meal based on this recipe. Looks tasty, right? But those ingredients... how could I make this frugally?

Photo by Food.com

In under 5 minutes, I had a plan. Here's the ingredients list I used:

Original Ingredient
Substitution plan
1 (18 ounce) package prepared polenta (in a tube)

I made my own corn meal “cake” using regular corn meal. I cooked it according to the “mush” recipe (1 cup cornmeal to 4 cups water total). When cooked, I poured it into a parchment-paper lined loaf pan and put it into the frig until ready to slice for the dish.
1 cup marinara sauce

If you’ve got any pasta sauce on hand, just use that. I used a can of tomato sauce and added oregano, basil, and pepper to make a basic sauce.
1 cup pecorino romano cheese, shredded
I substituted half shredded mozzarella and half parmesan.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Use your favorite oil!
1 1/4 cups feta cheese, mashed with fork

Feta can be VERY expensive. You could substitute ricotta or even cottage cheese.
Kale and other veggies
I used kale from our garden. You could use chard or even spinach. Also, as I had some mushrooms in the frig, so I used those instead of the carrot.

I followed the assembly and cooking as per the recipe. The assembly is easy and the results were wonderful -- not a scrap left by my teenagers (that's a winner in my book!). You can use this approach for any recipe you like. Experiment and have fun!

Do you have any favorite frugal recipe substitutions? Need tips on making things work for you? Check out Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday Garden Update - Trellis extension and herb preserving

With the weather cooperating (we've got summer, not spring weather!), our garden is doing very well. Tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries are all moving along nicely, with fruit maturing on each. This week we should have some nice strawberries to harvest, and hopefully we'll have tomatoes soon as well. I prefer peppers that are allowed to change from green, as they are much sweeter, so our pepper will be on the plant for a bit. Our challenge came with the acorn squash. It had outgrown it's trellis -- what to do?

My hubby came up with a creative solution using materials we had on hand. Using wood and some material left over from the tomato cages, he added an extension above the existing trellis. The upward supports overlap the existing trellis uprights, and are screwed in for strength. Good thing he is very tall, as I couldn't reach that high! I'm sure the neighbors are curious about what we've got peaking over our fence.

The cucumbers are looking good. I can already see flowers at the bottom of the plants. These are lemon cucumbers which we grew very successfully last year.

Although I've been using a little here and there, our basil was ready for it's first major harvest. Basil has a lot of water in it, so it's best to avoid any potential mold problems and dry it more quickly than the parsley we're currently air drying. I popped it into our dehydrator and it should be done in a few hours. The parsley is just about done, probably by Saturday it will be ready for my jar.

Check out this link for instructions on how to dry your own fresh basil (mint and tarragon too!).

How is your garden doing this week? Any challenges or surprises?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Meal Planning - Happy Independence Day!

A happy independence day to those who are celebrating in the U.S. I hope you have some fun plans for today. My goal this week is to use some of the garden produce. I've got kale and lettuce to use, some more parsley plus basil to preserve, and strawberries just about ripe. So here's my plan for this week!

Monday. Since it's July 4th, our plan is for a barbecue with marinated tri tip and italian sausages, coleslaw, and potato salad (with white and sweet potatoes). Not exactly our usual $5 dinner, but it's a holiday! We did find the best price we could for the meat, and bought in bulk, so there is some stashed in the freezer for another occasion. On top of this, we are making strawberry sorbet. Yummy!

Tuesday: Polenta with Feta and Kale. Please don't buy the premade polenta... this is not frugal, and it's so easy to make for yourself. Also, I will use a mix of mozzarella and parmesan in place of the romano.

WednesdayMake your own taco night. We'll be baking our own corn tortillas to keep the cost down.

Thursday: Black bean, Kale and Couscous casserole. I got the idea for this casserole from a vegetable side dish recipe. I want to make this a complete protein by using whole wheat couscous with black beans. I've still got lots of kale in the garden (you could also use chard or spinach), so put those all together with tomatoes (none from the garden yet!) and some spices, and I'm hoping it will turn out tasty! We'll see how the reviews come in when I make it!

Friday: Homemade pizza night!

Saturday: Leftovers

SundaySpaghetti with homemade pasta sauce.

What are you having this week? If you need some ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Have fun planning and cooking, and have a great week!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And the Winner is....

Acorn Squash Plant Number One! This plant made it to the top of our trellis first (closely followed by plants 2 and soon number 3!) They are obviously not done growing... so what to do with them? Last year's acorn squash (Table Queen) fit well on this trellis... these Royal Acorn squash plants definitely have a different growing habit. We're going to see if we can add on some trellising above them!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Frugal Friday Freebies: Outdoor Veggie Cookbook, Free Audio Books, Free Bowling, and more!

I've been planning what to make with my fabric scraps, thanks so much for the ideas! I think I just need to get over making it "perfect" and have fun :) Here are some freebies for you!

  • Free Cookbook: Cookouts Veggie Style! (Kindle edition). Download Kindle software here to read on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, or Windows 7 Phone . Thanks, The Thrifty Mama!  Make sure it's still available for free, as there is no indication when the price will go back up.
  • Two Audio Books from Sync: The Trial  by Franz Kafka and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, available until July 6th.
  • Remember you can bowl one game for free every day this weekend  (July 1st through the 4th) at Brunswick Bowling Centers!
  • Get a free jar of Patak's Authentic Indian Sauce by liking them on Facebook.
  • Finally, you can get a coupon for free Lactaid Milk ($2.99 value) by registering for their newsletter.

I hope you have a wonderful July 4th weekend, if you're celebrating! Enjoy!
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