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Archive for November, 2008

This Christmas is going to be slim for lots of people, so I thought I’d post a few cheap but thoughtful gift ideas.  Many of these gifts focus on food because  a) I tend to be practical, and b) everybody’s gotta eat!  Customize them for the individual’s taste and be creative.

Caramel Apple Basket – Fill a basket (small to medium size) with an assortment of apples and include a tub of caramel sauce.  If you want to spend the extra money, you could also put an apple slicer/corer in the basket too.

Homemade Cookies – Who doesn’t like getting homemade cookies?  Sugar cookies are wonderful this time of year, but so are chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodles, peanut butter, etc.  Be sure to package different flavored cookies separately.  Softer cookies packaged with crisper ones will turn them all soft (ask me how I know!).

Homemade Candies – Along similar lines as the cookies.  I did this one year for my nieces and nephews – made many different kinds of candy and packaged them in a snowman tin from Walmart.  It was cheap (although time consuming), but they LOVED it!

Make an afghan or quilt – If you are interested in needlework, get busy and make a simple throw or lap blanket.

Make homemade Christmas ornaments – This could be anything from painted ornaments to satin balls covered with sequins and anything in between.  Get creative and use your imagination!  There are literally tons of patterns on the internet.

Jar of caramel corn – This is great packaged in a mason jar and tie the top with a pretty ribbon/bow.  I love to put either pecans or peanuts in my caramel corn.  Another idea would be to package the Popcorn Concoction recipe I have listed on the blog.

Canned Food – There are a lot of folks struggling to make ends meet, and many people would appreciate an old-fashioned “pounding” where you give them canned/boxed goods.  There are lots of sales going on at the moment, and it would be easy to load a box or basket with many different useful items.

Spaghetti Basket – Can your own spaghetti sauce, add it to a basket with a package of dry spaghetti, container of parmesan cheese, and maybe a loaf of homemade bread or storebought French bread.  Voila!  Supper in a basket!  I don’t know any woman with a family who wouldn’t appreciate an easy night in the kitchen.

Mixes in a Jar – Rather than use one on the internet, why not use a tried and true recipe from your own kitchen?   I’ve mixed up our favorite brownie recipe, included instructions, and given as gifts in the past.   Hot cocoa is another fantastic gift idea.

Stationary/Notepads – Most everyone could always use extra paper by the phone.  Fred’s and Dollar General normally carry cheap (but cute) notepads, many with a magnet on the back so it can hang on the fridge.  I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve gone through, but they make wonderful gifts.

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Found this today and thought it was worth passing along.  THIS is one reason everyone needs to have food stored and also learn how to garden:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/27/11143/168/114/667032

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This works with all turkeys – they don’t have to be the most expensive brand to get fabulous results.

Thaw your turkey in cold water – it may take a whole day or longer depending on the size.

Remove “innerds”, wash turkey thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 375.  (You bake the turkey for one hour at this temp, then lower it to 325.)

Here in the South, we normally don’t stuff our turkeys.  We make cornbread dressing and serve it on the side.  If you prefer to stuff your bird, I can’t help you with that unfortunately.     🙂

Slice one stick of butter and insert underneath the skin on the breast of the turkey.  If you have any butter left, insert it into the cavity of the bird.  Rub the turkey liberally with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (http://www.greekseasoning.com – it is locally available here, and it’s a staple in my kitchen).   You can also turn the bird upside down so that the breast is in the bottom of your roasting pan.  This keeps it from drying out and you won’t believe how moist it makes the meat.  (The only problem with this is that it’s hard to turn a bird back over when it’s fully cooked and falling apart.)

At this point, your turkey is ready to go into the oven.  You could stuff it with a chopped onion or garlic cloves if you’d like additional flavor, but it’s completely optional.

Bake the turkey for one hour at 375 degrees, then turn the oven down to 325 and bake until the internal thigh temperature reaches 180 degrees and the juices run clear.  This normally takes 3 or 4 hours (or longer depending on how large your turkey is). Baste the turkey periodically with juices from the bottom of the pan.

I use a large enameled turkey roaster with a lid (and I do put the lid on it – it will brown beautifully).  By the end of the cook, the turkey is usually literally falling apart and the smell is awesome!

Enjoy!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I appreciate all of you who read our humble blog, and would like to wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving!

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I know all of us are pinching pennies nowdays, so I thought I’d do a sample of how you can add to your food storage/stockpile for about $20 a week using sale items.  Please note that Walmart rarely runs sales, but most grocery stores *do*.  Our local store puts a sale flyer in the paper each week, and I shop based on what’s cheapest.  Keep in mind that you want VARIETY in what you store.  You and your family would quickly grow tired of eating nothing but beans and rice every day.

Example using our current store sales:

10 cans veggies @ .50 cents/can = $5.00
2 cans PET milk @ $1.00/can = $2.00
2 – 5# bags flour @ $1.48/bag = $2.96
2 – 46oz cans tomato juice @ $1.18/can = $2.36
32oz dried pasta @ $2.00
2 cans fruit @ $1.00/can = $2.00
2 cans chili with beans @ .98 cents/can = $1.96
4# bag white sugar @ $2.00

All of this totals $20.28 plus tax and includes a variety from all food groups.

Or if you’d rather just stock up on canned vegetables while they’re .50 cents a can, $20.00 would net you 40 cans to add to your storage.  You will save money in the long run by purchasing this way, plus quickly add to your pantry each week without breaking your budget.

From the above list of items, you could easily make vegetable soup (which would provide more than one meal), a couple of pasta dishes (chili mac being one), fruit cobbler, chicken pot pie (just add some chicken to your list), several loaves of bread (as well as waffles, biscuits, pancakes), etc.  Your possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

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If you’ve watched the news lately,  you know the economic outlook isn’t good.  I hope I’m proven wrong, but I really think we’re in for some hard times ahead – worse than most of us living have ever had to go through.

The housing market in this country is nowhere near hitting bottom yet.  It can get a lot worse, and from what I’ve read lately by some leading economists, we’re not out of the woods by a long shot.  No one knows exactly what the outcome of this will be because what’s happening is unprecedented, and it’s on a global scale this time and not limited mostly to our country (as was the Great Depression in the ’30s).  I am not trying to cause a panic by saying that, but I do tend to be a realist.  After the stock market crash in 1929, the papers the next day were saying everything was fine and to keep investing as usual.  As Suze Orman says, “Focus on what you HAVE, not what you HAD.”  The stock market is not the safest place for your money to be, but that’s a whole other post.    😛

There are some things you can do to help get yourself and your family through this a little easier.  This is by no means a complete list, but some no-nonsense ideas that can serve as a buffer.  It’s time for everyone to get practical about their finances and way of life, and as Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.

1.  Pray. I mean that sincerely.  Ask the Lord to guide you and give you wisdom to make good decisions.  Whatever happens with our economy, I take comfort in knowing that God is still in control.  Nothing happens to us that does not go by His throne of grace.  If He says we can go through this, then we can.  That doesn’t mean it will be painless or easy.

2.  Pay off as much of your debt as possible. Consider downsizing to a smaller home if need be so you can more easily pay your bills.  If you have a two-income family, could you make it if one of you lost your job?  If the answer is no, then you need to reconsider some priorities.

PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARD DEBT.  Start with the smallest amount first, then when that card is paid for, take that payment and move to the next bill.  Eventually, you will get it paid off, but you need to KEEP it paid off.  It will also give you a huge sense of accomplishment as you pay off the bills, and have fewer payments to make each month.

Don’t buy a brand new vehicle – buy an older model or at least a program car only if you HAVE to.  If the vehicle you currently have runs great and is paid for, keep it.  You will save a bundle.  If you do have to buy a new car, consider gas mileage and maintenance costs.  A Hummer may look really cool, but how will it look sitting in your front yard on blocks because you can’t afford to put gas in it?  Gas will eventually go back up.  Learn from our recent $4 a gallon lesson – it should have been an eye-opener.

Don’t buy furniture (or any other large purchase for that matter, i.e. bass boat, 4 wheeler, or any other “toys”) unless you absolutely HAVE to.  If you can make do with what you have, then do it.  I’d dearly love to have new living room furniture, but I won’t spend the money on it because I have a feeling we may need that money to live on.  A new couch will not feed my family in a crisis.

3.  Cut up your credit cards. If you feel you have to have one card for emergency use, put it in a bowl of water and freeze it so you don’t have instant access to it.   If you can’t pay cash for it, then don’t buy it.

4.  Have some cash in reserve, preferably onhand. Fireproof safes are relatively inexpensive at Walmart for the smaller ones and are easier to hide within your home.   I’m not saying pull everything out of your bank, but I do think you need to consider that the FDIC has HALF the amount of money onhand to cover all of the deposits in the US at the current time.  People in the ’30s lost everything when their banks failed.  Now I know that since the FDIC (a private institution, btw – not gov’t owned) was instituted, no one has lost a dime on their deposits.  I’ll give them that.  But what if your bank went belly-up and you didn’t have access to your money (i.e. debit card, checks, savings, etc.) until a new bank took it over?  Could you still put gas in your car or food on your table in the short term?

5.  Stock your pantry deeply. I’ve posted several times here about stockpiling food.  You could have $50,000.00 in the stock market, but will that feed your family if you didn’t get a paycheck next month?  Canned goods will keep for a couple of years (check your expiration dates) and rice, beans, flour, etc. will keep for literally years if stored properly.  Buy what your family eats, rotate your stock so you eat the oldest first, and keep like items together so you can find them more easily.  Learn to cook if you don’t know how.  You’ll save a ton of money by not eating out as often.  Also don’t forget to stock things like toilet paper, medications, personal hygiene items, etc.  You know you’re going to need and use them – why not buy extra?

6.  Learn how to defend yourself personally and your home. If food gets scarce, people will do anything to feed their families.  Buy a firearm and learn how to use it.  Buy extra ammo.  Take a self-defense course.  Evaluate your home and see what security measures need to be taken to improve the safety of your family.  Could your front door be easily kicked down?  What areas of your home are vulnerable?

7.  Have backups to your backup plans. Don’t rely solely on grid-powered methods of cooking, heating, drinking water, etc. in the event of an emergency.  If the power goes out for an extended period of time (even a week or two), you must be able to heat your home, cook food, and have clean drinking water.  If you have electric heat, buy a gas or wood heater for backup.  If you are on public water, consider storing at least two weeks’ worth of bottled water for emergency use.  A gas-powered generator is also a good idea, but you must have extra gas onhand to run it.  Gas grills can be used (OUTSIDE ONLY) to cook food year round.  You can even heat water on them to take a bath if you had to.  Disregarding such fundamental necessities will leave you extremely vulnerable.  Think outside the box – most people are so complacent they never think of “what if” until it actually happens.

8.  Learn new skills. This includes baking bread, gardening, sewing, hunting, fishing, quilting, knitting, soapmaking – anything that is useful and practical in making your life more comfortable in the long run.  Skills require time and practice.  You don’t want to wait until an emergency to learn how to hunt and kill a deer, then skin and butcher it to feed your family.

9.  Get fit. Now I’m preaching to the choir on this one in particular, because it’s an area I’m still struggling with, especially with the holidays approaching.  Fit people are healthier, get sick less often, look better, feel better, and are usually happier.

10.  Live simply, love deeply. Spend time with your family, and take time to unwind.  The breakneck speed most of us live with is not healthy.  Learn to say “no” – you don’t have to be involved in every activity.  Don’t waste time or money on things that don’t really matter in the long run.

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