A Mom's Guide to Saving on Groceries

 
 

Hey, guys, I know I mentioned that I am NOT a coupon clipper. This is not because I don't like coupons. You know I looooooove to save. No, it is because I lack some sort of coupon radar. I miss the good ones regularly. Or can't figure out how to tie them in with sales, or they expire... it's some sort of... coupon impairment.


Here is a great resource for people like me! Check this out- this is a site run by a pastor's wife, and a few other ladies who clip coupons for a living.  You can't buy a coupon, but you can pay them to clip.  They find the best deals, but also are tied into a network of other coupon aficionados who give them hot tips, like, which stores are doubling or tripling, and when.  

I spent $5 (a little less) for $36 in savings, which will be $72 when doubled at Bi-Lo.  Only get things you buy all the time...    http://www.thecouponclippers.com




I have the feeling this is the tip of the iceberg. Spread the word, and let's keep these ladies in business!



 
New Stuff! 04/14/2009
 

Whew!  For those of you who have been patient enough to check back in while I let this blog sit, thank you.  There was something that had to be completed, and it’s finally done.

In my everyday life, I am an artist and a photographer, not necessarily in that order.  I’m either/or, or a combination of the two, depending on the moment.  Added to that, I’m always a mom!  So it’s hectic around here.  As the photography business grew, it became necessary to create a separate site for it, away from the portraiture and paintings site.  They are linked by the blog, and I’m so pleased to announce that despite my utter lack of IT ability, it’s done!

You can see it here: MarlenaMontaneyPhotography      

There are galleries for each of my specialties, and more are coming.  I guess we’ll have to add food and cooking lifestyle photos, too!  I loooove to cook, and it would be great to now combine this passion with the photography.  So it’s coming! 

As  a quick nod to Show Me the Dough, I have to share a recent find:  Wooden clothes pins.  I buy them in packs of 50 for a buck or two, and they make the best closures for all kinds of things, food-related or otherwise.  They are quicker and much easier than a twisty, and WAY more cost-effective than a chip clip.  Also wonderful for arthritis sufferers.

Another one: hydrogen peroxide, the kind for medical purposes.  It is a:

·         Deodorizer:  potty-training?  Accident on the carpet?  Pour hydrogen peroxide on it, and it will disinfect it and remove the odor.  Also good on pet stains.  And under $1.00/bottle

·         Stain Remover:  To about ¼ cup of peroxide, add a few drops of dish detergent.  Use to remove stains, ALL stains.  I’ve even had it work on mildew, common in the South.

·         Dental Rinse:  Mix ½ and ½ with water and swish for one minute.  I swear it whitens teeth, too, though I’ll have to investigate for clinical evidence of such.  Kills germs, and prevents and treats gingivitis. 

·         Disinfectant:  Use on anything, to kill germs.  I like to put it into a spray bottle with a little “fresh linen” room scent (the stuff you put in reed diffusers that costs about $3.00 for a liter).  It works like the expensive stuff to freshen up a room and get rid of odors, or just make it smell wonderful.

 

 
 

Today I take aim at a certain germicidal spray that is safe to use on all surfaces called Anywhere Hard Surface Spray, put out by Clorox, in a blue bottle. Sounds like cool stuff, huh? It is! And it costs over $3, closer to $4, if I remember correctly.

I bought one quite a while back, but (because I was distracted by a screaming toddler) didn’t read the label. I was completely dismayed to learn upon doing so that the only active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite. Yup, it’s a 1% bleach solution. The other 99% is water, and some buffering agents, which you do not need. Good gravy!  I can't decide whether the person who came up with this spray should get a raise and a corner office or be indicted!


As consumers, we need to be educated, and read those labels, that's for sure.

Having been in the restaurant business, I can tell you that a solution of bleach and water is nothing new! Now, I use that bottle to make my own. A couple of tablespoons of bleach, a couple drops of detergent, and water. Poof! Nearly free, and even more effective, at more than a 1% solution.   Use on counters and cutting boards, and let set for a minute, then rinse.  I don't care what anyone says, bleach shouldn't be ingested and food won't taste good if it tastes like bleach.


Another great disinfectant: hydrogen peroxide, which costs about 50 cents, and can be sprayed the same way.

A bonus with the peroxide: Stain remover!

Put about a quarter cup in a non-reactive bowl. Add a couple drops of dish detergent. Swish. This is your new stain remover. Wear gloves, because it is strong enough to eat away at your hands after a while (like bleach, it is basic, the opposite of acid which works the same way, like lye). Nothing serious, but can be uncomfortable if you are doing more than one item.

Rub on stains with a cloth, and watch them disappear. Wine, blood, even mildew, and safe as can be. I’ve never bleached anything yet, and I’ve used it on everything: colors, heirlooms, the works. Wonderful for baby’s spit up, helps to preserve those special outfits.

Pet stains on carpet:


Pour peroxide/detergent directly on the stain, and it will kill the bacteria that cause odor, as well as remove the stain. Saturate the area well, and let it soak in overnight. Next morning, blot up, and you will be very happy with the results.  If you are worried about your carpet, test in a hidden small area.  But I've never had anything at all bleach out with this solution, so I feel pretty good recommending it.  Just test if you are at all worried.





 
 

Wow, it’s been a little while since I have posted anything new. Between family business and problems with connectivity, October just went “poof!” I am looking forward to posting more recipes for you, and will begin immediately.

Now, while I haven’t been posting, I have been experimenting, as usual. Inspired by my success with yogurt, I tried making cheese. I wish I could have filmed this. It was hysterical. And extremely time consuming. And terribly messy. Although it would have helped if I had more than two square feet of counter space and appropriate cheese-making equipment.

Suffice it to say that the experience was a disaster! Nonetheless, my enthusiasm remains. For reasons beyond logic I have always wanted to make cheese, and still do. But next time, I’ll need to be on vacation, in a commercial or at least larger kitchen, with proper materials. Which means it will be a while before I try this again!

Take it from me- making cheese is an art. I have newfound respect for those that make artisanal cheeses.

 
Sour Dough Bread 09/27/2008
 

Ok, so now that your starter is partying away on the counter, I figure I’d better get the sourdough bread recipe to you. Here is how I do it:

First thing:

Put 2 cups of starter in your mixing bowl (I use my stand mixer for this, like I do with all my bread dough).

Add 2 cups of water

2 cups of bread flour

3 tbsp. sugar or honey

Whisk this up into a thick batter. You just made more starter. Now let this set, and after a little while you should see lots of bubbling action happening. This means you are good to go! If you don’t see bubbles, that means you waited too long, or somehow killed your yeast. If this happens, just add a packet of yeast.

After an hour or so, it should get viscous, and be really bubbly (if you made yours like I do, with the quick-rise yeast). This is called a sponge, and I skip it a lot when I make regular bread, but it’s a good thing to do. It adds flavor and texture to bread. In this case, it’s absolutely necessary. Because with this, you will replenish your starter! It will last forever if you just keep feeding it.

Alright. First, we replenish the starter by taking 2 cups out of the bowl, and putting it back in with the starter you are now keeping in the refrigerator.

Now, you add the:

¼ oil

3 tsp salt

Enough flour to make a good, elastic bread dough.
I use my paddle until it gets so sticky I have to switch to the dough hook. Patience was never my strong suit, and this is just faster. At this point, you add your flour a little at a time, so you don’t overdo it. Um, if you do, add a few drops of water, and, poof! No problem. Let that sucker knead the dough for about 10 minutes.

I bake mine on parchment, as semolina flour is non-existent in the rural South. I guess I could order some online, but I like my parchment. So I form it into a ball by holding it and stretching the top down to the sides with my thumbs, towards the bottom. This forms a “skin” on top. I seal the bottom, and put the ball on the parchment on the baking sheet, slit the top so it can expand, and proof.

Cool way to proof: Turn the oven on to the lowest setting, warm it up and turn it off. Put boiling water into an aluminum pie pan on the bottom rack, then place your dough on the center rack. Just leave it there until it doubles, and then bake at 375 until crusty and golden, with the water still in there. It will sound hollow when it‘s done. Cool on a rack, not the pan, or you will have condensation on the bottom of your loaf.

We use ours for pizza, too! Really awesome.

 
 

Sour Dough Starter

 This is so easy, it’ll only take a minute.  But first, going back to the characteristics of yeast:  the only thing you need to keep in mind as you go on from here is that the yeast is alive.  Until you cook it, or at least it should be.  To keep it that way, you will need to feed the little guys.  More on that at the end of the recipe. 

 To start:

2 ½ cups bread flour (I like to put a little whole wheat in there)

2 ½ cups water

1 packet of yeast

3 tbsp. of sugar

 Okay, stir that up into a thick batter, and make sure you put into a really large container.  Keep in a warm part of the kitchen for 5 days, stirring every day.  When the liquid comes to the top, stir it in.  One whiff of that stuff told me it was alcohol, a by-product of yeast metabolizing the sugar.  I’m guessing this is how people must have discovered alcohol, but whatever possessed them to take a swig of it is beyond me. 

Anyway, after 5 days, it’s ready!  It should smell yeasty and sour, not BAD.  It should also contain bubbles. 

Here’s something interesting from the Mad Scientist’s Lab: 

When I made my starter, I used quick rise yeast because that’s what I had on hand.  The first thing that happened was that it quickly exceeded the boundaries of my smallish container.  Hence the admonition to use a LARGE one.  Big mess…. 

The second thing that happened was that the starter took on the qualities of the quick rise yeast!  In the past, I found that starter took forever to rise, but this one just goes to town.  Apparently, the quick rise yeast are a whole different strain, and they just make more of themselves.

Okay, care and feeding: When you use your starter, you will make a sponge.  It’s an extra step, but necessary to keep your starter going.  Otherwise, it’ll just get used up. I’ll put the recipe for sourdough bread up in a day or two, in time for you to use your starter. 

Meanwhile, if you do not use your starter right away once it’s done, add a little sugar and flour, stir it up, and keep it in the refrigerator.  Once your starter is done, you will always keep it there, in a jar.  It won’t rise much in there, all of the explosive action happens the first day.  Just feed it about every 5 days, and you are good to go.

 

 
 

This blog began as a book, which has remained as a project, and will be completed soon. Shortly, recipes will be available to you in a more easily printable format, regardless. They will be under a new tab at the top, labeled, surprisingly, “recipes.” In the meantime, you can copy and paste them into your own word processing software, if you’d like a printed copy!

Also, there is a source of mail order foods that I think you should know about: The San Francisco Herb Company. Here you will find bulk spices, teas, nuts, baking ingredients, and food items. Heaven on earth for foodies who like to save a lot! They even have powdered cheese!

This was an exciting find for me, because I can use it to pump up my macaroni and cheese just a bit. They have two kinds, Kraft, and Just Cheese, which is the simpler of the two, containing mainly, cheese. Regular cheese is full of saturated fat, and very expensive right now. While I do not intend to do away with real cheese (also full of vitamins and calcium!), I will be able to make my mac and cheese healthier and less expensive by incorporating this. I’ll just add a sprinkling of cheese powder to make it pop- maybe a ¼ cup.

Also, and this is KEY: The cheese powder will make the mac and cheese more orange. For some reason, in a kid’s mind (and this seems to be universal), mac and cheese is only good if it is florescent orange. You can also use annato, or pureed carrots in small amounts. If the kids detect the carrots, you are toast.

This company also has some remarkable products: honey powder, coconut milk powder, and bee pollen to name only a few. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Minimum order is $30, and shipping is extremely reasonable. In short, there’s no reason not to order. You’ll find things there you won’t find anywhere else, and what you do order will be shipped for less than you’d spend on gas. Cool.

 

 

 

 
Woman of Culture 09/06/2008
 

I have become a woman of culture… well, make that cultures! Specifically: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and L. casei.

Ever since I found this recipe on another site (listed below), I’ve been like a mad scientist in the kitchen, nurturing my little colonies of beneficial bacteria. Yes, that is how yogurt and cheese are made! Don’t worry about making a mistake and poisoning your family, because if something goes wrong, your effort will be smelly and obviously inedible.

For me, it worked the very first try, and I’ve really had a blast with this recipe. I’ve lost count as to how many jars I’ve made, but some surprising things have happened:

First, I seem to be losing weight. Maybe I’m eating so much yogurt that I’m not craving heavier foods? Dunno.

Second, I discovered by accident that having a glass of yogurt before bed really does make you sleepy. I’d heard that it works, but never had the urge to slurp dairy (other than ice cream) before bed. This, come to think of it, could possibly be a partial explanation of the weight loss.

Here’s the recipe:

1 qt milk (4 cups). I use 1 packet of nonfat milk plus 1/2 cup of Nido whole milk (or an additional 1.2 cup of nonfat dry milk) and boiling water. Use your magic bullet or blender, fill with with about 1 cup of the hot water, add a little cold to it (so it doesn't build pressure inside and splat you when you open it) add both powdered milks and blend. Put it all in a 4 cup measure, add enough boiling water to make 4 cups.  OR

heat 4 cups of milk to scald. But then you have to wash the pot.

I use a cooler, and put the hot milk in a jar inside. Wait an hour or so until it's about 110 degrees. Warm, not hot, same as for bread. Add 4 TBSP of store-bought yogurt with live cultures, shake it up and put back. Put two jars of very hot water in with it, and leave it alone for 8 hours. I actually like to make 2 quarts at a time. Can take 6-10 hours, so do it at night before you sleep. Resist the urge to keep checking it, because you will let the heat out. But you can refill the hot water jars as needed.

I make plain, then flavor later, but you could flavor it before it sets if you want. Use syrup, vanilla, jelly, preserves, what about cooked apples with cinnamon? When it's done, it's just about solid, but then if you stir it, it's like a luxurious milkshake. To make thicker, put coffee filters in a colander, and strain to remove some of the whey.  You can do that in your cooler to save space in the fridge, and put in two bottles of ice cold water, to keep cool.

Another way is to pour into several layers of cheesecloth, bring ends up and twist to secure the top. You'll have a "ball" of yogurt in there.  Put it in a jar, and put the lid on, leaving the ends of the cloth sticking out so it is suspended and the whey can drain into the jar in the fridge.  If it drains all the way, you have something very like cream cheese, less fattening.

I got this from
www.hillbillyhousewife.com, fun site.

Some ideas:

add a little whipped cream to make a mousse (great with lemon or chocolate). Try 3 parts yogurt to 1 part whipped cream (hey, mostly air!) to keep it healthy.

mix 1/2 an envelope of unflavored gelatin with 1 tbsp. hot water, let cool, strain (to catch any little globs) into yogurt and stir up. Put into custard cups.

Use some of that lemon syrup (recipe in the recipe section) and drizzle over cubed cantaloupe on a baking tray, and broil very close to flame to carmelize the fruit. You want it close, so it happens fast and doesn’t cook your cantaloupe (yuk). Drizzle with your favorite version of yogurt.

 
 

While I was surfing around recently, I found a mention of a site that has been around for years: www.hillbillyhousewife.com . At first, feminist that I am, I took a tiny bit of exception to the housewife part. And as a transplanted Southerner, I took exception to the hillbilly part, too. When did that happen? Well, anyway, it didn’t take long for me to ascertain that those acronyms were meant to be spoofs, and this lady had some good stuff indeed. You have to check it out.

My particular weakness for cheese has been mentioned before. And I’ve been wanting to make yogurt for a long time, too. So, what do I spy right away?

1. She uses powdered milk like I do! But she takes it to an art form.

2. The woman makes cheese (from powdered milk!). This means she must be great. I knew how to make yogurt cheese, but she makes it from homemade yogurt! And she makes cottage cheese. All I need now is a recipe for goat cheese… I think I might tackle mozerella, too. Looks like I’ve got some experimenting to do!

3. She uses margarine! Well, turns out her husband is diabetic, which explains the difference between our philosophies regarding fake “anything.” Diabetics need a low fat, low cholesterol diet due to the heart disease and circulatory complications associated with diabetes (really, we should all eat that way). She uses artificial sweeteners, too. For the margarine, she uses a heart-smart variety. As for me, I stick with butter, but sometimes I make a butter blend: 50/50, or 2/3 butter to 1/3 canola. The latter tastes better, but the former is better for you (keep cold, or it liquefies).

4. I don’t buy Kool-Aid, or soda, for the most part. What I want is a way to make carbonated water! When I can justify buying the afore-mentioned soda machine, I may do it. Probably I’ll just get a restaurant-quality soda siphon with CO2 cartridges. I love the idea of making carbonated juice drinks, and using my flavored syrups and essential oils to make awesome drinks with less sugar.

5. I think I’ve innovated some processes to make them faster, and I’m really proud to share those with you. But she makes yogurt. Do you know anyone that makes yogurt? I’m going to try it tonight! Take a look at what she’s doing and see what works for you. I really enjoyed this site personally.

 
The Whole Lemon 08/30/2008
 

When I’m using a lemon, I use the whole lemon. I keep a bag of them in the refrigerator, in their mesh bag, with a grocery bag around them to keep them from getting dried out. Unless I can get them locally grown, or when my Meyer lemon tree is producing. Meyer lemons… they are in a class of their own. The skin is thinner, the fruit is much sweeter. They are hands-down my favorite.

First thing that should be done is to wash the lemon in warm sudsy water, with a clean washcloth. This will remove any wax, or pesticide residue that might be on it.

Next, I roll the lemon. Eventually I will want that juice, and this makes it easier to squeeze. Meyer lemons are softer, and even if you have arthritis you will be able to squeeze them with one hand, no rolling necessary. If you roll them after the yellow zest is removed, sometimes they split, and you lose a bunch of juice.

Either I grate the zest on a microplane (SO worth the money, which isn’t much, really) or regular grater, or I slice off the skin with my knife, leaving the white part. That white “pith” is bitter, and should not be used. Right then, I take the strips and using my knife like a filet knife, I turn it to a 45-60 degree angle and filet any remaining white pith off. Then I put them into a bag in the freezer, where they will sit happily until I need them.

If all I want is the zest (rarely) I put the lemon into a bag in the refrigerator. Usually I use the juice right away. There are always lemons in that bag, and I use them in water, or to make lemonade in individual servings. Or “lemon soda.” Both of these uses require a lemon syrup, recipe to follow:

Remember those strips in the freezer? Take them and put enough for 2 lemons (of course this is an approximate measurement, but it will be fine, don’t worry.) and 1 ½ C. of sugar into a pot. Add 1 C. water. Don’t stir. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer like that for about ½ hour. The water will reduce, and the syrup will be thick and yellow. The strips of peel will be translucent.

You can add 1 tbsp of corn syrup or a little honey to the pot, as well, to keep the sugar from being able to crystalize when stored. Different molecules have trouble clumping together to form crystals- problem solved.

When the syrup cools, I strain the syrup through a small strainer into a bottle with a pour spout. Any jar will work fine, too. Sometimes I add a little vanilla to the cooled syrup, or a little mint. KEEP THE PEEL.

After the peel have drained out, I roll them in sugar, let them dry for a bit on a pan, and then keep them in a jar so they stay moist. This is CANDY, which your grandmother will fondly remember from girlhood. Nobody makes this anymore, but it is delicious. On the off-chance you’ve tried it and didn’t like it, there was probably some of the white pith left on, making it bitter. Try it again… you might be pleasantly surprised! Makes a great garnish, too.

If you want to candy whole slices of lemon, I suggest using Meyers, because there is much less of the pith. Continue in the same manner.

Both the syrup and the candied peel make great hostess, housewarming and Christmas gifts. You can use oranges in the same way, and Clementines are the tangerine’s answer to Meyer lemons. An added bonus: they are seedless.