a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Memories are Forever Gifts

Years ago when Dave would be on an occasional  long outing with one of the kids he would stop and buy a can of soda pop for them to share.  It was shared because that is what our budget allowed. That shared pop became a shared memory---a priceless memory.

There are many things you already do or can begin to do that bind the family together. Most of these things are very simple and quite inexpensive---even in the area of time commitment.

That was poignantly brought home to me with Jeremy's simple response to this past Monday's post.

Since this is the holiday season, I will talk about holiday things that have become priceless memories for our family. If you are in a financially comfortable position, that is terrific; money pressure is one less thing you have to worry about but...., and it is a very very important but---

In the overall scheme of things, no matter how well off you are financially, it is important to remember that, for the most part, the best things in life are not things.

  • Whenever possible we went as a family to cut our tree. When the kids were younger they played hide and seek amid the evergreens while we searched for what we felt was the perfect tree ---- then they showed up with their input. (One year, the owner of the tree farm cut off the misshapen top of a large evergreen and gave it to Heidi and Mike as financially-strapped newly married kids---a perfect Charlie Brown tree that I am sure they remember fondly.)
  • We decorated the tree as a family, and inadvertently developed traditions along the way ---- dad puts on the lights, the kids put on most of the ornaments  and mom puts on the birds and the bows. 
 My dad was born on an army post in 1910. For his first Christmas he was given a glass bugle ornament.          As I was growing up, he was the one who put that bugle on the tree. When it was damaged somehow, it was patched the best it could be. He was killed by a drunk driver 20 years ago and that Christmas my mom sent me that wonderful and still patched ornament.  I am now the one that hangs the bugle on the tree.
  •  Each year each kid received an ornament as their gift from an aunt and uncle. They were excited to have a gift to open early.  As they left home they had a memory-laden ornament collection to take with them. We adopted that gift idea for our nieces and nephews and later, for their kids.
  •  To ease financial strain, we have come up with various ways over the years to draw names for gift-giving limiting the amount that could be spent. Now, with most of them married, names are drawn (actually rotated) between the families. Lots of thought and creativity and fun...and sometimes weirdness goes into these gifts.
  • We try to have most of our shopping, sewing and creating done before December so we can enjoy the month without those pressures. We leave small things to buy and take each child out, one at a time, for a shopping trip with us. We window shop and get ideas on things they would like. They purchase their gift for the name they drew and help us select some of the things we need to buy. We end the trip with a treat of their choice.
  • We have never had a chimney so our kids' stockings are always placed by their beds with care. Contents always include mini-boxes of cereal and a banana, which they eat Christmas morning (often right there in their beds before Dave and I were even up!), and something to keep them busy so we could sleep a little longer----often a book.
  • On Christmas morning, the kids all lined up in reverse age order (see last Monday's post) to go in to see the tree. Dave was the traditional gift-retriever. He passed them out one at a time and we all watched while each opens their gift. It was fun to see reactions, it made the occasion more meaningful, and it spread out the gift-opening time---which is good when the number of gifts is limited!
Hopefully I have listed something that sparks a new idea for you. All of the above are simple things because . . .
         I am Simply, Gail

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#3 What If. . . Cheapest Emergency Survival Foods/Storage Plan

The author of  this plan set out to create the cheapest emergency food survival/storage plan possible with the following four objectives in mind:

  1. The food must all be nutritious
  2. It must all keep a long time without refrigeration
  3. You must be able to eat it uncooked if necessary
  4. It must all fit into a normal diet
Quite an undertaking --- 
The goal was met using only two foods + two more added to provide some variety
Quite an accomplishment!

No matter what your food plan is ----
It is essential that you have stored WATER and a MANUAL can opener!

If money is not a problem, acquiring a wide-variety emergency food supply is no problem. If you have a lot of food already on hand the following would probably not be something you'd rush into. But. . . if you don't have any stored food to speak of and a very limited budget, the plan presented below may be a jump start for you.

This "Anyway" Very Cheap System of Food Storage is made up of foods you are going to eat "anyway." Foods you eat as part of your regular diet. Foods that are most likely already found in your cupboards. Complete details of this plan can be found at http://sharonastyk.com/2008/10/17/friday-food-storage-not-quite-so-quickie-5-week-beginner-food-storage/

Four ounces of regular or quick cooking dry rolled oats has 434 calories and 18 grams of protein! And, if necessary, oats can be eaten without additional cooking or heating. Oats are not very versatile but they do meet the needs of a survival food --- high protein and substantial calories, lightweight to transport and cheap! Plus they will store for 30+ years!

If something disastrous happened and you had very little other food available, eight ounces (about one cup) of oats daily would provide 868 calories and 36 grams of protein, a very substantial part of daily caloric and protein requirements. This is definitely not an everyday recommendation but eight ounces of oats would sustain you in case of dire emergency.

Become Accustomed to Oats by Starting Now
Eating four ounces (about 1/2 cup) of oats for breakfast two or three times per week is healthy and economical. It can be eaten either cooked or uncooked. It can be combined with yogurt, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried or fresh fruits or any combination. They can be eaten dry if necessary or topped with milk, juice or even water. Mixing ahead with yogurt or liquid will soften the oats.

A entire can of black beans (about 15 ounces) has 315 calories and 24.5 grams of protein. They are already cooked and can be eaten right from the can if necessary.

Start Now to Make Beans a Part of Your Menu
 There are many kinds of plain canned beans----all with approximately the same food values and cost. It is easy to have beans in your regular menu rotation as they can be a healthy base for many dishes -- tacos, soups, refried beans, salads, beans and rice, etc. Having beans on your menu twice a week would be a good goal to work towards. Beans are not only a versatile food, they are a good-for-you-food.If you are concerned with salt intake, canned beans can be rinsed before using.

When there is not the need to consume them plain and right from the can there are hundreds, probably even thousands, of bean recipes available on the internet. RecipeSource.com is just one site.

In the case of an emergency if you ate a whole can of beans and the eight ounces of oatmeal you would be eating 1183 calories and 42 grams of protein. While this is less than the recommended daily value it would certainly keep you from becoming malnourished even if that was all you had to eat for a month.

Canned tomatoes are next on the list because they can add variety to your supply of beans, while adding some vitamins. They are perfectly safe to eat uncooked.

The fourth recommendation is canned fruit. Applesauce tops the list because of its popularity and its reasonable price. Applesauce is already found in most pantries. Other fruits can be chosen according to your tastes, just as with the bean varieties. Fruits packed in their own juice is preferable. Fruit also makes the oatmeal more palatable.

Again, it is essential to have stored water and a manual can opener!
It would be good to store a bottle of multi-vitamins also. The cheap over-the-counter kind are fine.

That's it! That's the bare bones survival basics.

This plan says 15 pounds of oats is needed for each person for one month. A 42-ounce container of regular oats states it has approximately 30 half-cup servings. Oats can also be purchased in large bags or one-gallon-size cans.

Each 42-ounce carton of oats will provide a little more than the one cup per day for two weeks.
Each can of beans = one day's food supply for one person
Each can of tomatoes and/or fruit increases the appeal and variety of the survival meal

Six 42-ounce containers of oats = 15-3/4 pounds (= 90+ cups or 90 days ration of oats for survival)

Rather than purchasing all the oats, then all the beans, etc. it would be best to buy some of each so you are acquiring the survival meals as you go.

Once you have these items, don't let them just sit on the shelf waiting for an extreme emergency. They are, or should become, part of your everyday diet, and as such, should be restocked regularly as you make your routine grocery purchases.

Even if I can't convince you of the importance of having non-perishable, no-cooking-needed foods on hand in case of an extended crisis, I implore you to have enough on hand for 72 hours.

Three days is the average length of time it takes for services to be restored and supplies to be brought in the time of disaster. 

This basic sustaining life survival plan can't get any simpler . . .
If that time comes, what price would you pay/what would you give to have three cups of oatmeal, three cans of beans and three quarts of water on hand for each member of your family? 

Peace of mind is priceless.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Being "Cheap" is Priceless!

Those who live "high on the hog" often view with disdain those who are careful with their money. 

Ironically, and often, these same big spenders are the ones "low in the wallet."

We are in the season of being assailed from all sides to engage in spending frenzies.
Advertising 's purpose is to have us believe that the amount of stuff we give to others and the amount of money we spend on said stuff equates directly to how much we love others.

Pure hog wash!

I happened on an archived post yesterday from Trent of The Simple Dollar blog---- a "cents-able" source of (most often) simple ways to make the most of your money. It is timely and I am sharing parts of it.You may want to read the full post:  http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/02/07/accused-of-being-a-cheapskate/

      "A few days ago, I was giving a phone interview about The Simple Dollar and general frugality and personal finance topics when the interviewer threw me a bit of a curve ball. ...asking if he can be honest with me. He then tells me that from his perspective, the things that I do are cheap. He would view me as a cheapskate and he wouldn’t think of me as a fun person to hang out with.

      "I was caught off guard by this, because most interviews that I do are with people who are either genuinely interested in frugality and money management in a positive way, or are at least feigning positive interest.

      "First, people assume that since I write about frugality, I must be a complete cheapskate. Most of you who have read this site for a long time know that I struggle with balancing my desire to minimize my spending with my desire to, well, spend. Quite often, I come down on the side of spending more – we don’t eat as inexpensively as we could, I still hold on to some expensive hobbies (like video games), and I’m also quite willing to invest in expensive equipment in my home – like appliances and the like.
       "Another interesting conclusion I came to from this conversation was the immediate assumption that making frugal choices is a negative. The implication seems to be that I must have some sort of social stigma because I actively seek to spend less money. I must not be any fun to be around because I don’t spend money with reckless abandon, right?

      "If you believe that, you’re being sold an advertising myth. We’ve all grown up in a society in which advertising has constantly told us that spending money and buying products will bring us happiness and beauty and social success and career success.

      "Here’s the amazing part: if you truly believe this mythology, then you likely believe the reverse: not spending money and buying products will bring you sadness and ugliness and social failure and career failure.

      "Think about that statement for a moment. To me, it’s a conclusion that seems simultaneously like a reasonable conclusion and the most outrageous thing I’ve ever read. I can see clearly where the logic comes from, yet when you consider what the statement is actually saying, it sickens me to my stomach.

      "Yet, reflecting on my earlier life, I can honestly say that to some degree, I used to believe it. I had been trained over the years to look upon spending as a positive – and thus upon not spending as a negative. Looking at it so nakedly, though, makes it seem ugly and empty. Just as ugly and empty as any other broad negative generalization.

      "Part of the reason I write The Simple Dollar – and I’m so open with big parts of my life on it – is that I want to show to as many people as possible that such negative generalizations are completely false. 

      "Frugality is not boring. It’s not cheap. It’s not lonely. It’s not a sign of failure.

      "It simply means that I’m interested in working a little harder to find better solutions in my life, solutions that cause me to spend a lot less of the money that I earn. It doesn’t mean I spend all of my time living miserly without any fun at all – in fact, I look at it as a way of living that brings me substantially more fun. I don’t worry about bills. I have career freedom. I don’t sweat whether I can afford something I actually need.

      "In the end, I’ve come to feel that being called a “cheapskate” in a derisive fashion doesn’t really matter at all. It’s just another word people use to feel better about themselves by demeaning someone else. It may be ugly and empty, but in the end, the only person truly hurt by it is the person who is locked into the negative mindset."

Over 100 comments followed this post. I am including two of them. 

#4 Jeff    Frugality is not about being a cheapskate or being boring or a thousand other negative arrows shot our way. It is about freedom- freedom that brings peace of mind, nights filled with restful sleep instead of worry, and, as you said, career freedom. Those who denigrate being frugal are the ones losing out. I suspect this recession has affected “cheapskates” somewhat less than spendthrifts.

#12 Kat 
Reminds me of a story I read recently on the Early Retirment Forums. I’m not sure I could find it again, so I’ll paraphrase.
The poster said he knew full well that at work he was widely regarded as the “cheap ______” but just let it slide as he and his wife were saving to retire early (early 50s as I recall). One day the big kahuna called everyone into a meeting to outline the big next project, give assignments, etc. etc. The poster listened to all this and decided the time had come. He puts his hand up and says to the boss, “Before you give me my assignment, I just wanted to let you know that I’m retiring in 2 weeks.” Jaws dropped to the floor. He pulled the resignation letter from his pocket, signed and dated it, gave it to the boss. As he walked out the door, he turned to his co-workers and said, “You all confused cheap with frugal”.

We, "davengail",  believe having our priorities in proper order is the key to peace and happiness. We have been called cheap to our face more than once and wouldn't even hazard a guess as to many times behind our backs. We have no problem with that. We made the choice 49 years ago to live simply. And, those 49 years have been simply wonderful --- tough times and all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#2 What If. . . DRY MILK --- when the grocery shelves are empty!

This Tuesday and Thursday series of posts is to help you prepare for the time when the grocery store shelves may be empty---something that can happen quickly even if there is just the potential for some type of emergency. Please check out all the others under the "What If. . .?" heading, especially the post on water---the absolute essential for sustaining life.

Also, please consider making these "storage" items a part of your everyday life---giving you peace of mind while saving you money!

POWDERED MILK contains all the nutrients, except fat, found in fresh milk.

A United States government study on nutritional adequacy during periods of food shortage states that the equivalent to approximately one 8-ounce glass of milk per day per individual will maintain minimum health standards. Children and pregnant or nursing mothers will require more than the minimum amount of stored milk. 

One glass per day equals approximately 7-1/2 quarts of reconstituted dry milk per person per month (or 90 quarts per person per year). Check the labels of the various types and brands to determine the amount of product you would need to reconstitute to the needed liquid equivalent. 

Milk is probably the most expensive of the storage basics. 

Many turn up their noses at the thought of drinking powdered milk but I can assure you it has come a long, long way, taste-wise, over the past 45 years. Most of it is very good. 

There are 3 types of powdered milk: Non-Instant, Instant and Milk Alternatives 

Non-instant (also referred to as regular) powdered milk is made of fresh, pasteurized milk that has had the water and fat removed. Nutritionally it includes all the protein, calcium, and B vitamins found in fresh milk. It is generally less expensive than fresh milk but is not readily available in a regular grocery store. 

The non-instant variety is more compact and requires less storage space than the instant variety. The taste is usually also far superior to the instant but it requires more mixing to reconstitute.  (Put the powdered milk in a bowl or pitcher and add about half of the water needed. Stir, shake or beat with wire whip or  with an electric mixer on slow speed to disperse milk. Add in remaining water.) 

A spray-drying method is used in processing both instant and non-instant powdered milk.  However, the instant variety has been processed further so it will dissolve in water quicker and easier. (Simply combine the proper amounts of the instant powder to the water in a pitcher and stir with a spoon.) It has the same nutrient composition and is the most common variety of powdered milk found in the grocery stores. 

More air has been added into the instant variety, usually requiring double the amount of the instant milk to get the same results as non-instant.

Milk Alternatives 
These are commonly made from sweet dairy whey (the liquid by-product from cheese-making),  non-fat dry milk solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and vitamins A and D. A common brand is "Morning Moo," available in both regular and chocolate flavors---both surprisingly good. It can be used in place of milk or powdered milk in any recipe calling for milk. Morning Moo is reported to be great in breads, rolls, and soups, and makes biscuits very flaky!

Hints for Using Powdered Milk
  • Follow specific directions included on each container  because amounts to use differs between types and brands. 
  • If you are using the powdered milk for drinking, mix it the night before you use it to make sure it is well-chilled.
  • If you want to enhance the flavor, try adding a teaspoon of sugar or vanilla flavoring to the reconstituted milk.
If you are using powdered milk and/or powdered eggs in a recipe, add them dry with the other dry ingredients and then add the required water with the other liquid ingredients. 

Baking with Powdered Milk
In cooking, powdered milk can be substituted for fresh milk in just about any recipe with excellent results. (You may want to work towards cooking with powdered milk exclusively!) When baking with powdered milk, reconstituting is not necessary---just add the dry milk to the dry ingredients, and the water to the wet ingredients. 

Cooking with Powdered Milk
If you keep a container of reconstituted milk in your refrigerator you can use it whenever a recipe calls for fresh milk. You can add extra nutritive value to your cooked foods by using powdered milk in its dry form as follows:
Ground Meats: Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup instant dry milk powder to each pound of meat.
Cooked Cereals: Before cooking, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup instant dry milk powder to each cup of cereal.
Mashed Vegetables: 6 to 8 Tablespoons instant dry milk may be beaten into each two cups of mashed cooked vegetables such as potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips or rutabagas. Add enough cooking liquid or water to make them light and fluffy.
Sauces, Gravies, Soups, Custards: Add 4 T. instant dry milk to each cup of milk or add 1/2 cup to each cup of water or broth.

The following recipe is from allrecipes.com, where it received a 5 out of 5 rating by 54 respondents and only three that were rated less than 5. What you add to this base is your choice, but you can find 75 great ideas, additions and suggestions by searching for Cream Soup Base at http://allrecipes.com/ and reading the reader's comments below the recipe. 

Cream Soup Base
1/2 cup butter or margarine
6 T. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cubes chicken bouillon
black pepper to taste

'til we eat again,
           Simply, Gail

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas: Counting the Days --- Making the Days Count

Christmas 1978
When the first one woke up and managed to wake up all the others
our kids had to line up in reverse-age-order before they could see what Santa had brought.
One year it was 4 a.m. and we were finished and all of us back in bed before there were any other lights on in the neighborhood!

Our Christmas calendar activity started 12 years before this photo was taken. I included it here because it shows another one of our traditions.

When we were first married I didn't know how traditions started and later discovered they just happen, along the way, all by themselves!

We made our first Christmas calendar for basically selfish reasons. Our first two children were very young, but old enough to know that the big even was coming up, and . . . we were getting tired of them asking "how many more days until. . .?"

As with so many things, over time it evolved into much more. It kept us on track during this hectic time of year, and it committed us to doing what we had said we would do-----at times when it is so easy to let things just slip by, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Our December activities actually began the last couple of days of November. With a black marking pen, one of the parents would make a December calendar on a full sheet of poster board. We would all gather around our big table. A stack of November and December "women's" magazines (mainly old issues we reused for several years, along with one or two new ones), pairs of scissors, clear tape, and glue were all piled in the center.

The first order of business would be to compile a master list of all the things we wanted to do/needed to do in December. It was a long list----getting the tree, decorating the tree, putting up outside lights, baking cookies, etc.

Only Child Outings!
There was one evening allotted for each child, all by themselves. They went gift shopping with us, ending with a stop at an eating place of their choice for a treat of their choice.

Alongside the activities that had specific dates---arrival time of family members or relatives, church and school programs, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, etc., we noted the dates. Those would be penciled in on the calendar first.

Each family member chose an event and began to search the magazines for a picture that would represent it, cut it out and fasten it on the appropriate day.

Next we decided on dates for each of the remaining activities and again began searching, cutting and pasting.

We ended the evening with another traditional treat: egg nog.

The calendar was hung at kid level, usually in the hall. A quick glance told each of us what lay ahead. Every evening, just before bedtime, we would gather at the calendar. Taking turns, a big X marked off the day just closing, and in unison we would count off the days remaining until Christmas.

Nothing ever Remains Simple
As seemingly simple as this activity appears, the kids still managed to try my patience as they got older. They had to get creative. Picture-wise and other-wise! You can only imagine how many elaborate ways they could find to cross through a simple square---or the speed and variety of ways they could count. They loved it ---- and really loved watching me try to control my exasperation!!

Traditions Happen!!!
Our Christmas calendar became a must-do tradition that carried on until the last ones left home (although some of the event representations became quite humorous and abstract).

And it carries on in their homes. . .

Actually, our calender didn't end at December 31st. We had (and still have) three very important New Year's Day traditions. But that's for another time.