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, July 26, 2013

Watch Your Savings Add Up With DIY Snacks ---

Dave read my "poem" and called it doggerel.
I had to look it up.

I know the poem is pretty corny but Dave was kind enough to tell me  there is actually  a real dictionary word for what I composed.

As I promised last post, if you take the simple step of packaging your own lunch box snacks the $avings will add up almost quicker than the time it takes you to do the packaging!

For even greater $avings, try one or more of the following recipes, and package them to fit your family's needs and appetites. With a little thought and imagination, or even (if you have to) some initial expense, you can acquire a variety of reusable containers that will satisfactorily do the job.

Notes: Heidi uses lidded yogurt cups --- over and over and over.
I bought one 24 pack of 8 ounce bottled water; they are perfect  for juices. You can even add a little powdered lemonade or other flavors to the original water when using them the first time.

$ Extend Commercial Mixes:

Gelatin Extender: Simply add three cups of water to a 3 ounce package of gelatin rather than the called for two cups. Portion as desired.  Refrigerate. Note: It takes a little longer to set up and is a little softer than regular gelatin.

Cooked Pudding Extender: Add 1 T. cornstarch and 1 additional cup of milk to a 3 ounce package of cook-type pudding mix. Cook as directed. Portion as desired. Refrigerate. Note: If you partially heat the milk before adding the pudding mix, you will save some stirring time.

Frozen Juice Concentrates:  Add some additional water, a little at a time until you find just how much you can dilute it without affecting the taste.

$$ Make Master Mixes from Scratch:

Vanilla Pudding Mix
Combine the following ingredients, blending well. Store in tightly-lidded container.
2-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups cornstarch
3/4 tsp. salt

To use: In medium saucepan combine 2/3 cup pudding mix and 2-3/4 cups milk. Stir constantly until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Cook and stir one minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in 2 T. butter or margarine and 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring. Portion as desired. Refrigerate.

Coconut Pudding:   Prepare as for vanilla pudding  but stir in  1/2 to 2/3 cup shredded coconut. You can replace vanilla extract with 1/2 tsp coconut extract if desired.

Chocolate Pudding Mix
Combine the following ingredients, blending well. Store in tightly-lidded container.
1-1/2 cups plus 2 tsp. cocoa powder
3-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1-1/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt

To use: Use 1 cup mix per recipe with 2-3/4 cups milk and following directions for vanilla pudding above.

"Krunch" Candy Bar
2-1/3 cups crisp rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
1/4 cup (1/2 cube) margarine or butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Put cereal in a sack and crush it to make about 1 cup. Set aside. In large saucepan, add margarine, chocolate chips, corn syrup and vanilla. Place over very low heat and stir continuously until contents are smooth and blended. Remove from heat. Use wire whisk to mix in powdered sugar. Stir in crushed cereal until thoroughly coated. Quickly press mixture evenly into buttered 9x9" pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars of desired size. Wrap in clear wrap and store at room temperature. 

Note: there are many recipes on the internet for making the marshmallow rice crispy bars that kids love.  They are quick, easy, much cheaper and, I think, better tasting than there commercial counterparts.

Soft Caramel Dip
27 caramels (if you buy them in bulk they are cheaper than in the package)
1/2 cup (1 cube) margarine
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or one recipe - below)

In microwaveable bowl, combine unwrapped caramels and margarine and heat for three minutes or until melted, checking and stirring often. Be careful not to overcook. Beat in condensed milk. Portion as desired. Serve with apple slices or pretzels.

Sweetened Condensed Milk 
1 to 1-1/2 cups dry powdered milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
4 T. (1/2 cube) margarine

Put sugar, boiling water and margarine in a blender. Process at low speed, adding dry powdered milk 1/4 cup at a time until the condensed milk is the right consistency (thick and creamy). Blend until smooth. Use in place of one can purchased "Eagle Brand" type condensed milk. Note: I have not used this in baking but it is good in non-baked items.

$$$ Do your kids like cookies that are sandwiched with frosting? Spread frosting between graham crackers for a great treat.  You can use canned frosting; for more savings, and better flavor, it is simple to make your own. The measurements don't need to be exact.  Basically, in a bowl add about half a cube of softened margarine, a sprinkle of salt, a little vanilla or other flavoring, and about 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar and a small amount of milk. Beat until smooth, adding sugar or milk a little at a time as needed to obtain consistency you want.  

It is simple to make your own Tuna, Chicken, Ham Salad Sandwich or Cracker Filling

1. Open a can of tuna, chicken or ham, drain if needed, place in a small bowl, and with a fork break into small chunks. 
2. Mix in mayonnaise or Miracle-Whip-type salad dressing to moisten. (I like to add a tiny amount of lemon juice or vinegar when I am using tuna)
3.  Add other ingredients as desired to taste: pickle relish, salt, pepper, powdered dill weed, chopped hard-boiled egg, etc. 
4. Store covered in refrigerator.

For egg salad, follow same directions, with the addition of a tiny bit of mustard, and any other additions you may like.

$$$ More . . .

For most of the commercial products you buy, you can find recipes or ways to Do It Yourself ---- almost always cheaper and almost always better tasting (and healthier)---- on the internet.  Even Twinkies!  With natural ingredients!!! Rather than the commercial Twinkies' 39 unnatural ingredients.*

If you are even tempted to buy little single serving packets of carrots, celery sticks, or whatever, look at the price and find great satisfaction in the savings of D-ing IY.

* Want to learn more about the amazing ingredients in a modern-day  Twinkie (and other manufactured food facts) check out


or simply type Twinkie in the small upper left search box. 

It will change the way you think of foods and quite possibly what you eat.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Save Big by Making Your Own "Individual Servings"

We are nearing the end of summer. Time to gear up for the start of another school year. 

If your kids bring their lunches from home, or if you do, and you want to cut down on the food budget the following will show you how to . . .

  spend a little time to save a LOT of money!

Every time we enter a grocery store we see more and more "individual serving" type products. 

Companies would have us believe they spend zillions of $$$ making things easier for us. In reality they spend those zillions trying to convince us we don't have the time nor the know-how to do things for ourselves ---luring us into dependency on pre-packaged, portion-sized this and that. 

I compared the price of food items that might be included in a "brown bag" lunch. 

The foods were identical in brand and quantity with the only difference being the type of packaging.

The lunch comprised of individual pre-packaged servings cost $3.88. 

The lunch made up from regular-sized packages re-packaged in per serving quantities at home cost $1.60

I'll do the math!

$3.88 - $1.60 = $2.28 SAVINGS per lunch
$2.28 X 5 days per week = $11.40 SAVINGS per week per lunch

Now you do the math

$11.40 X number of lunches you pack each week = $______________SAVINGS EACH WEEK!

If this sounds like a wise practice but you don't think you have the time

Find ways to make time!

  • Let the kids help ---- approach it with enthusiasm and they will be eager
  • Enlist the help of your spouse and make it a family activity
  • Take the required time away from your electronic attractions (or are they distractions?)
  • Consider what you could do with the savings
If you still don't feel you can find or make the time, do it once and time it so you can see how little time it actually takes ---- especially compared to the money savings.

If you are into the other kind of green savings (the environmental) think of the reduction in packaging waste.

At this point, consider again the motivating factors behind the pre-packaged items:  Is it for our convenience or for their greed?

If you want to save even more money and are willing to spend a little more time,  you can make some of these brown-bag items yourself and portion package them yourself --- providing the great additional benefit of eliminating  the additives and preservatives increasingly added to commercial food.

I'll give (or re-give) you some simple recipes in my next post.