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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Happy frugal things in May

Giving away some vanilla beans!

Yes, this made me happy! And they weren't too expensive. When you find something really awesome, you just want to share. My personal income has grown a tiny bit, through blogging (ads on the page), and I am very happy to turn some of this around in the form of giveaways to you. I have something in mind for next month, too! (Yeah, I know, you're saying to yourself, "there are ads on the page? Where?" I never notice the ads either! So I'm amazed that they ever get clicks.)

Chive blossoms!

Sprinkled over salads, making chive blossom vinegar, and saving the seeds from the blossoms for adding to bread dough or topping rolls before baking

The family cook-out!

This is a summer tradition for our family. A few times per month, beginning in May, and running through September, we have a fire in the patio firepit and roast hot dogs and make s'mores. It gets us all out of the house, into the fresh air, and enjoying the sights and sounds as night begins to fall.

Freezing eggs!

I froze 3 dozen eggs in muffin pans, and froze 1 dozen eggs, 3 to a container, for making quiche later this spring and summer. These were eggs bought for 99 cents/dozen just before Easter, that's half what I would have to pay if not on sale. So for every dozen I buy and freeze, I saved $1! That makes me happy!

Brightening up the dining room!

Searched through  a pile of table linens to find something "springy". Not much there -- but did find this mint green table round, and square card/game table cutwork cloth from my grandmother. The round doesn't fit perfectly, but it's good enough. I added the spring basket that I made last year, plus these 25 cent canning jar candles for decor. Now I think that says spring.

I accidentally left the yogurt to culture overnight -- and loved how it turned out!

I had been incubating yogurt for 3 to 4 hours. Leaving it for 12-13 hours got me into researching long-incubation for yogurt-making. The yogurt was thicker and more tangy than 3-hour yogurt. And as a bonus, long-incubation reduces lactose even further, a boon for those of us lactose-intolerant. But, for batches since my goof, I've been most happy with 7 hours of incubation. In case you're needing some hints on making yogurt, I have a rather lengthy post here.

Experimenting with making mustard!

I've made 4 batches, so far. My first batch was super hot! My second batch was slightly sweet with the last of the honey added afterward. The third batch, I made to be a hot dog mustard, so added turmeric, and cooked the mixture to moderate the spiciness. And the fourth batch was an additional yellow hot dog mustard, as we seem to go through it quickly. (The day I made this last batch of hot dog mustard, I also made ketchup -- to have with bbq's this month.)

Homemade mustard can be tricky. An interesting thing, if you want mild mustard, then you heat the mixture. If you want hot mustard, then you use only cold ingredients. And either way, mustard needs to mature for at least 24 hours to get rid of the bitter taste.

Potting up the violas and pansies that I found on the clearance rack at Home Depot for 19 per plant!

I bought 48 little plants. They bring cheer and color to the deck and entry of our home.

~~~ no photo here. Do you really want to see my socks? I think not!~~~

Socks! Socks! Socks!

I used 2 $10 coupons, one to Kohl's the other to JCPenney's, on socks! For a grand total of $2.63 I got 6 new pairs of socks for myself. I chose 1 package of Adidas, and 1 package of Nike socks. So far, I like them both. We'll see which ones last the longest.

Making Rhubarb Crumb Muffins and Lemon Balm-Mint iced tea!

A delicious springtime treat.

What frugal things made you happy this month?


  1. It's great seeing all the "little" savings here and there that add up to quite a bit over time. Some of mine this month were:

    Finding khaki pants and jeans at a thrift shop for my 4 YO son for .99 each. His older brother apparently skipped this size (nothing in the saved tote).

    Finding high top like new tennis shoes for the 6 YO son, also at thrift shop. We hike often and he has ankles that turn in, so these should do nicely as hiking boots for $33 less than the lowest-priced pair I could find.

    Saving about $25 on 6 weeks weeks of pet food because my parents took us to Costco while they were in Dallas bringing home our daughter who visited them (we drove down to pick her up from the airport and also went to some stores we don't have here).

    Called the camp my daughters will be attending and ended up being given a 10% discount code to use on both. :)

    Iced coffee drinks made at home. Savings and deliciousness.

    A great batch of homemade caramel.

    1. Hi Cat,
      it sounds like May was a happy month for you, too. Great score on the clothes, hiking shoes, pet food and camp discount! I haven't started on the iced coffee drinks, here, yet. Will keep those in mind for July and August (love me a frappuccino -- but I need to find a low-cal version).

      Was the caramel a caramel syrup or caramel candies? I've been trying to make caramel candies with little success.
      My 2 daughters have an end of school year "celebration" cake recipe they make every year. (This will be year number 4, I believe.) It's a vanilla cake, topped with fudge frosting, and then caramel syrup poured over all. It's decadent, to be sure. But a must-do, according to all 3 of my kids.

    2. It was a recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook (from America's Test Kitchen) that I have checked out from the library, meant to be used on some brownies. I didn't have the baking chocolate called for in the brownie recipe so made another recipe for brownies and used some of their caramel. I had a fair amount left and it got very firm in the container I stored it in, so I suppose it could be used as candies. I ate it as such, lol.

    3. Yum -- turtle brownies! A lady at church brought some a few weeks ago and they were amazing! I'll look for that cookbook at our library.

  2. This month has been a blur ... did I do anything frugal? Hmm, not sure I remember. My daughter and I made rhubarb muffins from the small amount of rhubarb we picked ... we pulled out our fire pit and made s'mores last weekend (we stayed home over the holiday weekend and that seemed fun and festive and, you're right, it gets us outdoors). I'm not sure it's frugal that I just bought yarn on sale ... but I plan on making a scarf out of it for my son and I can certainly knit one way cheaper than I can buy one! We have another family wedding on June 7 in southern IN--we plan on heading to my in-laws after that via St Louis so we will stay overnight in St Louis and take in a couple of free attractions (and I got a good deal on the hotel ... ) so if frugally planning a trip for June during the month of May counts, then yes, I've done a few frugal things! :)

    This is not a frappucino, but it's easy and quick and tasty--
    Coffee Granita
    2 cups hot espresso or very strong brewed coffee
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    pinch salt
    fat-free whipped topping, optional

    Combine coffee, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour. Pour the coffee mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan. Cover lightly with foil and freeze until frozen along the edges, about 1 hour. With a fork, scrape the ice at the edges in toward the center. Repeat every 30 minutes until the granita is semi-firm, about 2 hours. Use a fork to scrape across the surface of the granita, transferring the ice shards to 4 glass dishes. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons whipped topping and serve at once.
    Calories with whipped topping--129

    I bet you could try it with your stevia if you wanted to reduce the calories even more.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I hope your month was a happy blur and not a difficult one!
      Campfires with the family are the best, aren't they? We stayed home for Memorial weekend, too, and that seemed just right to me.

      Good luck with your knitting. I find lots of patterns that I want someone else to knit up for me, but have not been inspired since Christmas to do any more myself.

      The coffee granita sounds quite yummy! I'd definitely use some stevia or splenda, maybe as much as half. But this will have to wait a while -- it's freeeeezing here today! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. This is the recipe I use for Iced Coffee drinks. Not necessarily Lo-Cal (but I'm sure you can tweek it)

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      I checked their recipe out. I like the idea of keeping cold brewed coffee premade in the fridge. My version of iced coffee is to freeze leftover coffee in cubes, then pour fresh coffee and milk over the coffee cubes. But the cubes do melt quickly. I'll try making some cold-brew this summer. (And I have some whole espresso roast beans in the freezer, already!) Thanks for the link!

  4. OK... so tell me about freezing eggs. The ones in the muffin tins look pre-scrambled, yes? What about the other ones? Do you leave them in the shell or what?

    And I have to give you an enormous thanks because I'm sitting here enjoying coffee made with milk that I defrosted a few days ago. CatMan was incredulous... he simply couldn't believe that you could freeze milk and have it come out wonderfully like it did... but I told him that Lili wouldn't steer us wrong! Anyhow, I'm thrilled. This means that I can buy gallon milk when it's on sale and not waste a drop. Yippee! I also found lactase liquid online at Amazon - for some reason they don't carry it in the stores anymore, and it's much cheaper than either the pills or buying the Lactaid milk. Happy, Happy, Happy!

    1. Hi Cat,
      The eggs in the muffin tin are pre-beaten (but not cooked). When I do 3 eggs to a container, I run 3 eggs at a time through the blender, with 3/8 teaspoon salt, then pour into a freezer container. Those are perfect for making a quiche. The eggs frozen one at a time I tend to use in baking. Here's a post I wrote a while back on freezing eggs. It gives all the details, like how much sugar or salt to use, to stabilize the texture of the yolks (you can freeze whites just as is, but yolks need something for the texture).

      Freezing eggs not only helps someone like me save money, by buying in bulk, but is also something really great for singles or households who don't use many eggs, and find themselves with half a carton left when the sell-by date rolls around. Near the sell-by date, I'll freeze whatever we haven't used yet. Then as I need them, I thaw and mix as usual with whatever I'm making.

      I'm glad that you like how the frozen milk worked out. The gallons are so much less expensive than the half-gallons or quarts, and over a year's time that savings can really add up.

      I really prefer the drops, myself. I haven't been able to get the dose right on the pills. I'm glad you found some drops online!

  5. Oh I love mint ice tea, any flavor of mint ice tea. In my herb garden I have 4 varieties of mint growing, lemon balm, peppermint, chocolate mint, and spearmint, and what's so nice is they're perennial and come up every spring. Nothing is so refreshing as freshly brewed mint ice tea. I grew up drinking it and cannot imagine a summer without it! Fortunately mint is practically a weed which means it can last through the harshest summer weather. Your picture looks as refreshing as the mint tea tastes!

    1. Hi Linda,
      You have a good selection of mint, there. I have wanted to try growing chocolate mint for some time now. I may have to check the garden center for some. I've got lemon balm, peppermint and pineapple mint. On a hot, hot day, mint tea is so refreshing! Plus, once it's planted, its free! (My favorite price!)

  6. Hi Lili,
    i have 4 lemon balm and 3 peppermint in my garden.i have made lemonbalm-syrup.the elderberry are blooms ....i picked a few elderberries-flower and made
    elderberry-syrup.I made chives-blossom vinegar,herb-butterand freeze chives.
    but the best was a great sale on winter-wool.i ordered enough ball of wool,for making scarves,thick socks,mittens and cups and maybe a jumper for my husband.
    greetings from a cold germany,
    love and warm hugs,

    1. How did you make the lemon balm syrup? That sounds very interesting! Germany...I love Germany. We lived there for 3 years back in the late 70's when my husband was stationed in Augsburg. Our dd was born there. Memories! LOL

    2. Hi Regina,
      That all sounds wonderful! What do you use the lemon balm and elderberry syrups for?
      I just love chive blossom vinegar! I use it for salads, marinating chicken and adding flavor to soup.
      Enjoy knitting with your new yarn.

    3. hi linda,
      i will made a post about lemon balm syrup in a few days.
      augsburg is a nice city. i live in the near from frankfurt.

    4. hi lili,
      i use the both syrup with water or sekt. it taste really good.
      have a nice sunday,
      warm hugs regina

    5. Thank you, Regina. I'm going to try this with the water ( I don't have the sparkling wine or sekt). Sounds like it would make a very nice beverage. Many thanks.

  7. Please share how you make the iced tea?

    Sourdough on day 7 and still going well. Pancakes were nice.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      For the tea, I just take a couple of handfuls (about 3 large sprigs lemon balm, 1 or 2 of mint) of lemon balm and pineapple mint, plus 1 black tea bag (you could skip the black tea, if you want), place in a large tea pot and pour boiling water over all. Allow to steep about 30 minutes, then remove the herbs. Lemon balm becomes too "green" tasting to me when it's allowed to remain in the tea too long. Then, since I like lemon, I add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, and sweetening (I mix splenda with sugar) to taste. This amount of herbs and tea make about 4 cups iced tea.

      Since I drink a lot of iced tea in warm weather, I cut the herbs several batches at a time, wash and keep wrapped in plastic in the fridge (the fresh herbs keep about 5 days). Then I can quickly make a batch whenever I'm almost out.

      I'm so glad the sourdough starter is working for you! My current batch of starter is from 2 years ago, and still doing well, despite some neglect each winter when I find myself too busy to use it. If you like English muffins (skillet biscuits), there's a sourdough recipe

  8. I love reading about happy, frugal accomplishments!

    While I do many happy, frugal things, I'm kind of drawing a blank at the moment. For the month of May, one thing comes to mind: I washed the living room rugs and then hung them over the railing of my back deck to dry in the sun. This saved both the cost of electricity to run the dryer, as well as wear and tear on my rugs. This made me very happy. So happy that I shared my sense of accomplishment with my husband and he got a good laugh out of it. Now, he's planning to fashion some sort of clothesline for me so I can have many more happy, frugal laundry drying moments.

    We have a fire ring in our back yard and also enjoy roasting hot dogs and making s'mores. Last Saturday night, we were tired and didn't feel like cooking. My husband was talking about splurging and ordering pizza. Then I remembered we had everything on hand to cook out. Keeping those supplies around have saved us the money of ordering pizza many times. And provided many fun family memories!

    Oh, we have been watching a lot of dvds from the library for free. That is also a happy, frugal thing. We enjoy our family movies nights on the weekend.


    1. Hi Angie,
      I totally understand your happy moment with drying the living room rugs in the sun! That is exactly the sort of thing that makes me smile, too! It's funny how when you try to relate the moment to someone else, they just don't "get" the excitement. That happens with me all the time. A clothesline will be really great to have this summer. I am hoping to put up a line outdoors, too. Right now I have portable racks, but a line would give me so much more hanging space.

      Your cookout is a great example of keeping a simple menu in mind, just for busy or tiring days. It's so tempting to just order a pizza, but if you do, as you did on Saturday, and just come up with a simple plan, you can save so much money over time. Good job!

      I hope you have a great movie all lined up for this weekend! Have a good one, Angie!

  9. I have never made mustard before so I found it interesting to hear about all of the different kinds you make. Where do you get your mustard seeds? The small cans they sell with the spices have to be too expensive to use for that purpose.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I bought one of those large canisters from the restaurant supply, same size as you might find at Costco or Sam's Club. It was a 10 oz. canister for $3.39. My best guess is making hot dog mustard only saves a few cents per jar (I can find yellow mustard at Dollar Tree), but making a specialty mustard, like honey-mustard, hot mustard, dijon, lavender or any other unusual mustard is where the savings are.
      It's easy and fun. There are a ton of recipes online. If you decide to try making mustard, read a bunch of recipes first (some recipes fail to mention how the bitterness subsides after a few days), then try a small batch to get an idea of how mild/hot you like it.


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