Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Save on Groceries with Bulk Cooking

From walking in the door with groceries in hand to sitting down with a cold drink, while multiple meals prepare themselves, can take less than an hour...and will cut actual daily meal preparation to 30 minutes or less...and will cost much less than the frozen time-savers we buy.
1) Instead of purchasing for daily meals, buy what is needed for your "go-to" meal "basics" like roast beef, spaghetti sauce, bar-b-que, etc.
2) Use several cooking methods at once: stove top, oven, crock pot.

My shopping list for the day included a 5+ lb. Pork Roast (Boston Butt) which is in the crock pot, 14 lbs. of Chicken now stewing on the stove top, and 6 1/2 lbs of Beef Chuck roasting in the oven, 10 lbs of Ground Beef - half made into patties and frozen for hamburgers, the other half browned with salt, pepper, chopped onion and minced garlic (1/2 of which is cooling to be packaged for the freezer, enough for 24-36 servings of some future something), while the remainder is simmering spaghetti sauce, enough for 4 meals each serving 4-6.(If I had bought more ground beef, I could easily have put a Classic Southern Meat Loaf or two in the oven to cook along with the roast)
1)   I cut the fat from the huge pork roast and salted it heavily to make salt-pork before putting the lean roast in the 6 qt. crock pot. 
2)  I cooled and de-boned the chicken (using only boneless breasts and regular thighs made that a quick process), cubed some of the chicken & shredded some, and packaged for future use in Casseroles, Chicken Enchiladas - Our Way, or Tacos and added some back to the broth for soup. 
3)  I shaped 20 - 1/4lb. hamburger patties using a plastic, $3 kitchen scale.
4)  My total time in the kitchen was less than an hour getting things started and another 2 1/2 hours finishing up specific items and packaging for the freezer.
5)  The total spent for the items on my list, including tax, was $91.46. Of that, $51.09 was spent for meat, $40.37 for the other list items. 
6)  My yield for time and money spent was:
Chopped pork and pulled pork bar-b-que - 40 servings. 
Sliced roast beef w/ gravy - 20 servings. 
Cubed roast beef for stew - 6 servings. 
Cubed and sliced chicken - 24 servings. 
Spaghetti sauce - 16 servings. 
Prepared ground beef for 'helper' type meals - 20 servings. 
Hamburger patties - 18 servings. 
Chicken n' dumplings - 12 servings. 
Chicken vegetable/noodle soup - 12 servings. 
168 main dish servings for about $.30 per serving. Turning these frozen, prepared meats into full meals like casseroles, tacos, enchiladas, can be accomplished quickly and for very little additional cost.

Monday, April 21, 2014

9 Ways to Make Money FAST

Whether the need is to have extra money or to have enough money, getting our hands on it quickly can sometimes be a challenge. See if any of these methods would work for you.
  1. Have a GOOD Yard Sale* - (see below)
  2. Sell items on eBay - consider those gadgets you've had for years & don't use
  3. Sell larger items on Craig's List - baby things, exercise equipment, furniture you can do without
  4. Become a weekend "Honey Do-er"** - (see below)
  5. Cancel or reduce the package size of cable or satellite TV - pay yourself
  6. Cancel cell phone plan(s) & change to pre-paid service - pay yourself
  7. Brown-bag lunches - pay yourself
  8. Eliminate sodas & bottle your own water - pay yourself
  9. Increase insurance deductibles - pay yourself
* A GOOD Yard Sale begins with a GOOD newspaper ad. Highlight major items like "boat", "freezer" and major categories like "furniture", "guy stuff", & establish a "tone" for the sale, eg. "clearing out 20 years accumulation" or "decorator changing gears" or "empty-nester reclaiming space". Give date, hours, address, phone number. Make plenty of GOOD signs using 1/4 to 1/2 sheets of light colored poster board with large, black lettering and bold directional arrows. Pre price all items. Keep smaller items on tables if possible. Remember that items on the ground will appear to be of lesser value. The higher an item is placed, in elevation, the more prominence it is given and the better price it will bring. Make sure items are clean and well displayed. Be sure to collect your signs after the sale if finished.

** Make flyers headlined something like "Help Clearing Your TO-DO List" and distribute in your neighborhood and among your friends (especially to seniors), offering up to 2 hours of weekend assistance for a flat fee or $10 to $20 an hour. List a few examples of the things you would be able to help with like trimming shrubs, organizing the garage, washing cars, washing ceiling fans & light fixtures, changing linens, cleaning blinds, washing interior windows, etc. You'd be surprised how many people could use just a little help and if they think they can get it for a couple of hours on the weekend without breaking the bank, you might find yourself with some very steady customers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


In little more than 4 weeks, I've gone from the idea of a Hay Bale Garden to actually having one that is thriving.  It's the most space-conserving and easiest gardening I've ever done.
Step 1:  Apply weed-barrier cloth to the chosen area.  I also added chicken wire as a deterrent to the many moles who make regular visits to our yard.
 Step 2:  Position bales.  (Straw is best because it contains fewer seeds but I could only get Hay.)  I chose three bales and set them in a "T" because it suited my space and other limitations.  Unable to get definitive advice concerning hay "strand" direction, I'm trying both positions. 
Step 3:  Water the bales thoroughly and often for a day or two.
Step 4:  Fertilize the tops of the bales with a high nitrogen fertilizer and continue watering daily for another week to 10 days.  I actually fertilized a second time.
Step 5:  Mound on a few inches of good garden soil and water well.
Step 6:  Plant.  Using a trowel and fingers (and a knife when necessary to get through the hay strands), fashion holes for the plants.  Here is where I really noticed a difference in which way the hay strands were set.  The bale with the horizontal strands was MUCH easier to penetrate but it is collapsing more quickly and looking a bit ragged along its sides.  The two bales with the strands standing upward, were a challenge to penetrate...but the knife did the trick and the bales are standing neatly.
 Step 7:  Enjoy.  Remember to water regularly and keep an eye out for pests and watch your garden grow.
I've planted heavily in my 3 bales, perhaps more than might be recommended but so far so good. 
The Bush Beans are already making tiny beans.
The Tomato plants are already in blossom.
The Cabbages are healthy and beautiful.  
Also planted are Squash, Red Bell Peppers, Eggplant and Lettuce (and Marigolds - of course).
 I will post occasional updates and look forward to a good harvest.