Monday, February 27, 2012

$0 Pantry Organization

I reorganized our pantry.
And didn't spend any money.
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You can look in magazines and blogs and pinterest (oooh pinterest) and find incredible, gorgeous pantry spaces.  Pantry makeovers.  Gorgeous, drool-worthy paint jobs on the inside, full of matching glass containers and baskets and cute chalkboard labels.

This pantry has none of that.

This is the pantry re-do for the cheapskate/tightwad/broke/whateveryouwanttocallit.

before and after kitchen organization

So if you don't have a dollar to spend but want to tidy up the pantry, this is for you!

Here is what we were dealing with before.

Brace yourselves....

My mom came over to help me out one day and we set to work.

First, taking everything out.  Look at that MESS on the counter!

I threw out the old stuff, the stale boxes of cereal, and all that jazz.

Then I organized like items.  These blue rectangle boxes I already had.  Mom had bought them for me on clearance a few years ago.

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The clothespins I had (hint the dollar store had a bag of them) and the blue paper was just something I grabbed from my scrapbooking stash.  Someday I'll make prettier labels but these are functional and got the job done.

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My categories are:

  • Canned goods (2 boxes)
  • Snacks (Goldfish crackers, popcorn, granola bars)
  • Bags and Foils
  • Baking (candy molds, icing, baking mix pouches, sprinkles)
I brought in this basket from another room since it was the perfect size to hold my mix pouches. 
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The white lid containers behind it hold
  • flour
  • powdered sugar
  • regular sugar
The small glass jar I had leftover from my little guy's first birthday party.  I tossed the stale candy that was inside and discovered it was the perfect size for those little Crystal Light drink mixes for bottled water.

Cereal boxes (that survived the great purge) went on the top shelf, along with oats and a few misc boxes (you can see a rice mix and instant potatoes up there).

And the great, zero cost, after:

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before and after pantry, before and after kitchen organization

Sharing the transformation at these linky parties: Organizing With Sandy, Crafts Keep Me Sane, Keeping The Home, Everything but the Kitchen Sink, Serenity Now, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Thrifty Thursday, Organizing Made Fun

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giving on a budget: Swagbucks

Do you have swagger?

(image from pinterest via JoeyAndJessica)

No not that kind.

This kind:

It can be hard to buy gifts or things for people when you are on a strict budget yourself, but, if you use swagbucks you can earn amazon gift cards!

What ARE Swagbucks?

Swagbucks is a website you join, for free.  You can do internet searches on there and every so often when you search, you win "swag bucks."  I find that I can earn in the morning and in the afternoon.  There are more ways to get swagbucks too, such as voting in the daily poll, and so forth.  Once you have 450 bucks, you can trade it in for a $5 giftcard to amazon!
I currently have $10 to amazon and am working towards another $5 so that I can purchase one of my favorite books for a friend who lost a loved one.
50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light
We all know Amazon has a ton of stuff!  You could use your swag bucks to help others by using the giftcards to buy pillows or towels for a women's shelter, food for a food pantry, dog food for an animal shelter, a book for a teacher/neighbor/friend, school supplies for underprivileged kids, and so on!

You can use my link to join Swagbucks. And start earning your own bucks to use at Amazon for purchasing items to donate or give!

**this post contains my affiliate link for swagbucks.  SB is entirely free to you and me, I do get extra points if someone joins through my link though.

Monday, February 20, 2012

(MIS)adventures in tortilla making: The near death of a camera

Saw this recipe from a commenter named Vicky at Money Saving Mom's post about making your own flour tortillas.
My Tortilla Recipe (makes 8-12 depending on size)
3 cups flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup oil (butter, lard, coconut oil etc)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Mix everything but flour in a mixing bowl. Once that is stirred up add the flour and combine. Knead for a min or two to get dough to come together. Seperate into balls and then cover and let rest for 10-15 min.
Well, hey, that's easy enough, right?
I had the ingredients and decided to give it a whirl. On a Saturday with the oldest in and out of the house on his skateboard, the youngest standing at my feet, and a husband still recouping from outpatient surgery.  GREAT IDEA, SELF.
Mix the stuff together.

Roll into balls.  See my balls of dough?  
Okay now flatten them out.  People who are actually successful at this use a rolling pin or a tortilla press.  I, being a lazy and cheap cook, have neither.  I used my hands to smash the balls down.  They are not circular at all.
First one goes in the pan.
More go in the pan.
It was during ^THAT^ photo that I dropped my camera into the hot skillet.  
Let that sink in for a minute.  Super hot skillet, tortillas cooking, camera lands right on one.  About a dozen thoughts ran through my head within 2 seconds: "OHMYGOSH!"  "What just happened"  "Is my camera in the frying pan?"  "Will the batteries explode?"  "The plastic is going to melt and ruin my tortilla."  "How do I fix this, Mom never taught me what to do when your camera falls into the food."  "We're all going to DIE."
I just used my bare hand and plucked the camera out.  It was fine!  phew!
I recover and keep cooking.
They aren't exactly round...just try rolling this one into a burrito:
Finally all of the oddly shaped tortillas are done.

The verdict was:
store bought are way easier and what we'll use for burritos/tacos
homemade tastes completely different and we think, better.

Clean up time.  Who wants to come wash my dishes?

Sharing the adventure at these linky parties: Linda's Lunacy, Hope Studios, Mess Hall to Bistro 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oatmeal cookies: "Yeah. They tasted funny."

I made oatmeal cookies from scratch tonight.

How much vanilla do you think I was supposed to put in them anyway?

I had written it all down except THAT.  So like any lazy chef, I just took a shot in the dark (rather than go look up the recipe again.  That would take an entire three minutes you know!).  

I poured the vanilla into it's own cap (a small bottle) and tossed that in.  Then I may have added a SMIDGE more........

Pinned Image

So when we were getting ready to go to bed, I asked my husband, "Hey did you get a cookie?"*

To which the voice from the dark says "Yeah.  They tasted funny."

Whatever.  Clearly he doesn't know what he is talking about.  I had four of them already.  They do taste a wee bit heavy on the vanilla.  I could just call them "Vanilla Oatmeal Cookies" as if it were some gourmet thing I made up.

*I only really asked because he was in a bad mood.  My first attempt to make conversation about outdoorsy stuff was a flop.  So I went with cookie chat.  Which was apparently also a flop since he thinks they taste "funny."  I think he is still bitter that I got a case of the diarrheas on Valentines night.  I'VE SAID TOO MUCH. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Giving on a tight budget--serving others (food!)

Last week I was once again contributing at Livin On Love and Cents.  If you missed it, here is the full post!
Last time you heard from me here was my Mythbusters post.  We talked about not needing to make a lot of money to be able to give.
Today I'm sharing with you a practical way to do that!


On my blog I just did a post about the Top 5 things a post-partum mommy needs and food was on the list.  The readers all agreed, bring food!

Besides new moms, who else could use food? 
  • older neighbors or relatives
  • single moms
  • someone recovering from a surgery
  • someone who is ill, or the main cook of the family (usually mom!) is ill
  • families experiencing a loss
  • anyone just having a rough day/week/month/life

Why food?
We often don't know what to do to ease someone's pain.
We can't hire them and give them a job after they get laid off.
We can't bring their loved one back to life.
We are unable to heal their illness.
But we can feed them!  We can meet that most basic human need and in doing so, speak to their hearts, let them know they aren't alone.

What food?
We have had three children and been lucky to have friends bring us food after each. It was so nice to not have to try to think about cooking during that time.
Here were some of our favorite meals:
  • Enchiladas
  • Chicken and Noodles
  • Pork Chops
  • Chop Suey
  • Pizza (someone gave us a break from casseroles and gave us a pizza gift card and a pan of brownies!)
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Meatloaf
  • Ham/Potato Casserole

Sides and Desserts that travel/save well:
  • Hashbrown Casserole
  • Peach Pie
  • Strawberry Pie
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Dinner rolls
  • Chocolate chip cookies 

Food that I have taken to people:
  • Taco Soup with biscuits
  • Paula Dean's The Lady's Mac & Cheese
  • Tuna Noodle Casserole
  • Greenbean Casserole
  • Chicken Lasagna (a white sauce style)
  • Cheater Fudge (recipe here)
  • Baked Spaghetti and frozen veggies and brownies

What about my budget?
Ahh yes, the budget.  You can give a meal to someone without breaking the bank!  That is the beauty of it!  Many recipes can easily be doubled for very little extra cost.  What I usually do is make the recipe a double batch and give half to the family and keep half for my own family to have as dinner that night.
Remind yourself that this does not need to be a fancy gourmet meal!  No one really expects you to show up at their door with filet mignon.  A simple vegetable soup will be tasty, inexpensive, and very much appreciated!

Finally, remember, you can bless someone without giving them an entire meal.
After our first son was born, a friend showed up with a container of assorted muffins.  They were delicious, I liked the variety, and it could not have cost more than a few dollars for the boxed mixes.  You can make a simple bread, just a pan of dinner rolls, homemade biscuits, put together a bowl of mixed fruit or a veggie tray, or send over a pan of your famous baked beans.  

Now, who can you bless this week with some food!?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why We Are Awesome Parents, Reason #453

Our son's school has been having Spirit Days.

You pay $1 and get to dress up.  The money goes to charity, you have fun.  Win/win.

Last week our son told us it was "Dress up like a famous person" Day.

*Mom vaguely remembers seeing a paper come home with dates on it.*

We dress our son up like Davy Crockett.  Special fringed pants, a leathery fringed vest/shirt, and big coonskin cap.

Guess what.


Let me repeat that so it sinks in.
Not. Dress up. Day.

So there was our child, in full Crockett regalia, sitting in a classroom all day long with normally dressed children.  This was part of the conversation on my facebook wall:

Lessons from the facebook interactions:

1. Red Friend offers to help write tell-all book.  Red Friend gets NO CHRISTMAS CARD this year!

2. Purple Friend made similar "oopsy" and turned out okay so there is still hope. 

I spent a good half an hour using Microsoft Paint to add the colors to the facebook picture.  Clearly time-management is a strong suit of mine.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Farmhouse Love---(Wordless Wednesday)

----P.S. These are all featured on my Pinterest board, "Farmhouse Love."  Come follow along for more farmhouse drools!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Goal Setting. A month late. So what.

I just read Money Saving Mom's update on her progress of goals for the year.  You can see it here: caution, she is ambitious and makes me look like a slouch.

Her categories are great though, so I'm going to set just a few goals in each category and do a monthly check-in here.  Then you all can yell and point fingers at me when I get off track.  :-)

  • Read through the New Testament this year. (currently in Matthew 20)
  • Take photos and upload to a snapfish photobook each month so at the end of the year I just have to "print", no more paper scrapbooking.
  • Continue keeping soda-drinking habit in check, one a week. (Doing good in January!)
  • Finish my next degree and again graduate with honors. (All A's in my classes this semester so far)
  • Plan summer homeschool curriculum for oldest
  • Actually DO the summer homeschooling.

Ministry/Community Involvement:
  • Continue volunteering in nursery
  • Volunteer again on Thanksgiving Day
  • Fill 6 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year
  • Volunteer at elementary school once a week
  • Participate in PTO
  • Remain active in my 2 blog buddy groups by sharing my new posts and commenting on theirs.
  • Get to 400 GFC followers (at 280 as of January)
  • Update Facebook at least once a week.
  • Post 2ce a week on the blog
  • Continue tithing to our church without missing any months. 
  • Pay cash for vehicle repairs (2 vehicles needed work within 2 weeks of each other. *tear*)
  • Agree with husband on Emergency Savings amount for the year and attain it.
  • Pay cash for all birthday/Christmas gifts
  • Send cash donation each month to one of the charities we value. (Done for January)
  • Save my spare change for one of the charities on the list. (.75 so far)
  • Sell the kids old clothes and donate the money
  • Give away some of the kids old clothes. (Did some in January)

Social Responsibility:
  • Buy Made in the USA products for my kids birthday party supplies and presents and Christmas presents at least 75% of the time.
  • Call or write my elected officials about matters that well, matter, to me.  (Done a bunch in January!)
  • Get the kids clothes we are saving organized and put away.
  • Sand and paint deck.
  • Organize pantry. (Please send help!)