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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Snow Day Perfect for Russian Tea

Thank you Christy, for this recipe! I haven't seen you for a while since we're far away, but you and your mom always have the best recipes, (except for that one cake, ha ha) and I have left your house so many times with a new recipe card in your or your mom's handwriting. And I think about you every time I make one!

I tweaked this recipe a tiny bit. 

I like to make a great big pot so I can put some in the fridge and heat it up later. This recipe makes about one gallon.

Russian Tea
12 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 large size tea bags
4 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 cloves in a tea ball

Bring water to a boil. Stir in sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat and add tea bags for five minutes.

Remove tea bags. Add orange juice, lemon juice, and cloves.

Tea balls are a little bit adorable.

Husband says "It's dope."

I hope you have a fun snow day!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Guide to Meal-Planning. But Without the Actual Planning of Meals.

Everyone has different ideas these days about what is healthy. You may not eat gluten, preservatives, dyes, GMO foods, meat, meat that was poorly treated, vaccinated, or had hormones added. And if any of these things are important to you, judging by facebook, they are VERY important to you. I try to feed my family healthy foods, but this is a guide to help you always have food in your house that you can put together to make a meal, so that you don't feel like you have to go to a restaurant. Naturally this list includes a lot of things that last longer, so some of them will have preservatives, and who knows what else. You have to pick your battles. And you can't do everything.
I didn't really want you to judge what was on my list.

The first step to always having food on hand is to keep a grocery list. Keep it in the same place and whenever you use up one of your staple foods, add it to the list. I've never written it down before, but this is my list of what I always like to keep on hand for dinners:

In the freezerIn the fridgeIn the pantryCanned goods
chicken*eggsspaghetti saucenavy beans
hamburgercanned croissantsalfredo saucepinto beans
sausagegreen pepperspastablack beans
peas and carrotstomatoescorn bread mixkidney beans
broccolifeta cheeseflour, sugar, spices,etc cream of mushroom soup
fish stickscheddar cheese***potatoesgreen beans
friessour creamonionscarrots
pizzasalsatortilla chipspineapple
stir fry vegetablesteriyaki saucericecorn
bread crumbs**soy saucegravy mix


cream cheesebread

canned biscuits


You will make up your own list according to what you like to cook.
These are not the only things that I buy, but these are things that I always keep on hand and I find that I can use them up before they go bad.

These are some of the meals that I can make with those ingredients:

taco salad
stir fry
rice: pick any meat, vegetable, and sauce
chicken alfredo
white chili
tuna casserole
sausage and gravy biscuits
eggs, bacon or sausage, biscuits or toast
egg burritos

Side dishes include:
fried potatoes
baked potatoes
mashed potatoes
rice and gravy
any vegetable

*I find it saves time to buy a big batch of chicken, cook it all at once in the crock pot, cut it up and put it the freezer. I make it as flat as possible to make it easier to break off the amount of chicken I need. Then I just warm it up in a pan.

I put my hand in the picture so you would know this is not a sandwich-sized bag of chicken.
**Whenever there is only one piece of bread left in the bag and it is the end that nobody loves, I put it in the freezer. When I have so much bread that it starts falling out of the freezer, I chop it up in the food processor and put it back in the freezer. Bread crumbs are useful for meatloaf and casserole toppings.

***I do try to stay away from food dyes at times, so I buy white cheddar cheese. At my store this does not come in the convenient pre-sliced packages. So my sweet husband bought me this cheese slicer from Amazon, which is really MUCH easier than using a knife to cut cheese. Even though it's not very big, it still cuts the largest size blocks of cheese.

I cut it all at one time, so it is ready to use. If I read all the scary food articles passed around on facebook, I'm sure I wouldn't eat anything that is processed, so I may stop reading those articles. But I did read the one about particles of wood in the packages of shredded cheese to keep it from sticking together, and I stopped buying that. (You can't find white cheddar that is already shredded anyway). I use my food processor to chop up a lot of cheese at one time. It is not shaped like shredded cheese, but it performs the same function. I don't have problems with it sticking together, even though I do not add any particles of wood. At all.

What are you doing to save time in the kitchen? What would you add to my list?

Monday, January 13, 2014

How much does a Keurig cost?

I love Keurigs. I kind of want one. But I've seen how much the coffee costs. And being the sort of person I am, I wanted to find out exactly how much more it would cost to have a Keurig. 

The cheapest K-cups I could find were at Sam's for 49 cents per cup. There might be cheaper ones somewhere, but they are mostly around 60 cents, with the Starbucks going up to 81 cents a cup. Cheaper than a coffee shop, I guess. 

In my house, we usually drink 32 ounces of coffee a day, which is four small cups or two big ones. I figured out that we spend about 34 cents a day for our four cups of coffee, plus one filter. That's about $124 a year.

If we were to get a Keurig, and knowing us, we would buy the cheapest coffee, we would spend $715 on coffee each year. There is an option of using a reusable filter and pouring your own coffee into it. But to me, that defeats the purpose of having a Keurig. If we liked Starbucks K-cups, we would spend $1,184 on coffee each year, not including the cost of the machine. That's almost $100 a month.

Here's a handy table so you know how nerdy I really am:

Amount spent on coffee in one year based on how many cups, and what type of coffee you drink.

Cups( 8 oz. each)Regular coffee maker JFGRegular coffee maker StarbucksKeurig FolgersKeurig mid-pricedKeurig Starbucks

7.5 cents/cup17 cents/cup49 cents/cup60 cents/cup81 cents/cup

(Add $16.42 for one filter/day)

Remember that you don't have to brew a whole pot of coffee if you don't plan to drink all of it.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't have a Keurig if you want one. I just want you to know ahead of time how much it is going to cost you.

And don't buy one as a Christmas present.

That would be like surprising someone with a puppy.

I don't think I'll discuss all those tiny plastic cups being added to the landfills, because this post is not about that. But you can discuss it if you want to.
Have you ever bought anything that cost you more in the long run than you expected?

How to Stop (Some) Money Arguments With Your Spouse

Do you ever look at your bank statements and wonder how your spouse could WASTE SO MUCH MONEY on ________. And then you might say "Sweetie, what'd you buy at BestBuy?" "We already have a Wii, do you really think that we needed a iGame, too?" (I don't even know the names of the new ones. Let's just call them Nintendos). And then he might be defensive, and ask what you bought at Banana Republic. After all, you already have pants. 

Yes, but new pants are new.

And they make me feel good.

And self-esteem is important.

But when we use the envelope system, we have decided ahead of time how much each of us gets to spend. We get it in cash. We can save up for something big, like a "Nintendo", or fritter it away on Starbucks, but it doesn't matter because we have already decided that it's okay to spend that much in whatever way we please. 

In one way, it is a limitation, but mostly it is freedom. Your spouse will never question your spending again if you stick to the envelope system.

 In our case, we each have $80 a month to spend, but you can make it whatever is appropriate for your family. It's easiest if you choose multiples of $20, since that is what you can get at the ATM. 

This is my envelope system wallet. I bought it at DaveRamsey.com, but they are no longer selling this exact version, which, in my opinion, was the best version. 

The point of the envelope system is that when your envelope is empty, you are supposed to stop spending money. That is the easiest way to stay within your budget.

We use cash envelopes for groceries, gifts, home improvements (paint, door knobs, etc), entertainment, and, of course, personal money.

Could you use a little more freedom to spend money?