Friday, July 22, 2016

Cutting Back On Sugar

We all know too much sugar isn’t good for us.  So when looking back at last year's grocery purchases I have to tell you I was horrified at how much sugar I bought in 2015.  That didn't include the sugar that was already in the foods we eat.  One of the things we decided as a family was to dramatically lower the amount of sugar we consume in 2016.

The first thing we did was stop buying cereal.  Yes, it was cheap when I found it on sale and even cheaper when I used coupons with those sales, but holy guacamole there is a lot of sugar in that stuff.  So we decided to let it go.

Instead we replaced it with hot cereal, homemade granola, homemade yogurt, eggs, homemade waffles and pancakes.  Making everything from scratch meant we controlled the sugar.  I started making our granola recipe with twice the oats it called for and the same amount of everything else and we discovered it was actually tastier and certainly better for us.  Plus it lasted longer that way.

We are serious label readers.  Recently I bought cereal at the store but it seemed to take us forever to find ones with the least amount of sugar and no or limited preservatives.  We settled on shredded wheat, rice krispies, corn flakes and All-Bran.

I've even cut back the amount of sugar I put in my homemade yogurt

I really pay attention to how many grams of sugars are on the labels.  While I tend to steer clear of sugar substitutes and rarely eat diet anything I do occasionally use products like gelatin that contain it.

We seldom drink soda and if we do it is usually diet, however I personally don't think diet soda is any better for us than regular.  We are big time water drinkers and my oldest and I like to dabble with flavoring our water.  I like lemon or berries and she likes that too along with mint she grows herself.  Sliced cucumber in your water is nice too.

I have taken quite a few of our favorite cookie recipes and tweaked them to cut the amount of sugar, salt and fats as well as to add fiber.  So far we are enjoying the results.  I've posted a couple of those recipes on the blog and you can find one here, one here and one here.

Using less sugar saves us money, obviously, but consuming less is better for our bodies and our health.  Are you trying to cut back on your sugar consumption?  How are some of the ways you cut back?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Crazy Quilt Embellished Throw Pillow

I found the idea on Pinterest and although the ones I saw on there are much more elaborate I think for my first try it turned out pretty cute.

I liked that I was able to use up a bunch of odds and ends of things I had laying around after completing other projects.  I used up scraps leftover from the scrappy quilt squares I had made. 

I thought the sun looked pretty with the embroidered rays accented with clear beads
Little duckies bobbing along on embroidered waves

Lace and trim pieces, buttons from my button box and jars, beads I had forever in a little container, and lots of short pieces of floss I'd saved after I was done with some of the embroidered things I've made recently.

Little scrap of white eyelet leftover after I cut out a doily

It was super fun to put this together and I think it will make a nice addition to the other pretty pillows I've made lately.  I think it will make a lovely focal point on one of the beds in my future house.

I backed the pillow with a piece of pink gingham I had in my fabric stash and used this pretty eyelet trim I had used on the last set of pillowcases I made.  I used leftover batting I had to line the inside of the pillow before I stuffed it with polyfil that I also had on hand.

I've had these little duck buttons since my son was an infant.

Embroidered leaves & stems, french knot & button flowers,
and a cute little bunny button

Sweet little yellow flower button with embroidered leaves
I really like the fan shaped lace and tiny pink baby buttons

Can you believe something this sweet and cute is made up of all leftover stuff I had saved.  What a great way to use up those little bits and pieces.

I love it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Banana Walnut Oatmeal

The other day had an idea to make some banana walnut oatmeal.  You know kind of like banana walnut bread only cereal.

I made a small batch, but you could easily double it for larger portions or more servings.

1 3/4 cup water
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 ripe banana
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts
Maple syrup

In a medium pan bring water to a boil.  Add oatmeal and salt.  Cook one minute, remove from heat, cover with lid and let sit for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile mash banana with a fork.

Add banana and walnuts to cooked oatmeal and stir well.  Serve immediately.  Drizzle with maple syrup.

Top with milk, half & half or cream, if desired.

How easy is this?!  I think it would be great with pecans and dried fruit too.  I like my cereals lightly sweetened so the drizzle of maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness when paired with the ripe banana.

The kids loved this one too.

You may also enjoy this oatmeal recipe as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Trip To The Franz Bakery

I usually bake our bread from scratch.  This summer, with the warm weather we've been having I hesitate to use the oven and heat up the house.  On top of that I have been a very busy girl lately.  So trying find enough time to bake bread, or anything, for that matter, has taken a backseat.

A couple weeks ago my oldest and I went to the Franz Bakery to check it out.  I had stopped at the store to buy bread one day and was amazed as I read the labels to see how much crap they put in their loaves of supposedly "healthy" bread.  Lots of preservatives, sugar, corn syrup and things I could not even begin to pronounce.

I looked up one of the ingredients listed on several loaves - calcium peroxide.  I hadn't seen it before and wanted to know what it was.  It turns out is a bleaching agent used for flour. but its original purpose is fertilizer.  I thought it strange too that this would even be necessary since the loaves were whole wheat.

One of the loaves I picked up however did not have any unusual crap in it but it was almost $3 a loaf.  I like Franz products but rarely buy them because they are so expensive in the store.  I bought it, but I also decided it was time to check out the bakery this loaf had come from and see if a few minutes spent there would pay off.  It did.

Their bread purchased direct at the bakery is half the price of the store.  I had hoped that would be the case.  But that is only half of the store.  The other half is the day old bakery which had a ton of markdown items and all very fresh.

I decided to stock up and for under $7 we left with enough bread and hamburger buns to see us through the summer plus a box of donuts.  My daughter loves donuts.  They were giving away free pastries too!  We happily accepted a package of cheese danishes.

Free pastries are always appreciated

The bread is really good and I will probably go back in the fall and stock up again.  Having some extra loaves in the freezer when I don't have time to bake will be nice for us when school starts back up and we find ourselves super busy again with all of the girl's activities.

Do you shop at any bakeries or bread outlets?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

We enjoyed a rather quiet and low-key week at our house.  As a result I was able to make some serious progress on a huge project I've been working on.  I'll be sharing that with all of you once it is completed.

I cooked all of our meals from our well stocked freezers and pantry.  We had plenty of leftovers to keep us in lunches all week as well.

I did not grocery shop this week, or do any other shopping for that matter.

We used up every last bit of shampoo in the bottle before tossing it into the recycle bin.

We enjoyed Family Movie Nite and watched DVDs from our collection.  My oldest made brownies from a mix we had in the pantry.  I made for a very nice evening.

The chickens gave us two dozen eggs this week and in turn we gave them plenty of kitchen scraps to enjoy.  The girls gathered up the apples that had fallen from the tree and gave those to the ladies as well.  They were in heaven.

The oldest passed down her school uniforms to her sister as she no longer needs them.  Three of the polo shirts are in really good condition but faded.  I had ordered a bottle of Rit dye from Amazon last month ($4) so on Saturday morning the youngest and I dyed all three of them and they look brand new!  These shirts retail for $14.99 each so in essence we saved $41 over replacing them.  I'd much rather recycle them anyway.  We are rather pleased with ourselves.

When we finished the shirts I dyed two of my faded dish towels with the leftover dye.  Why not since we had it? J  They look great as well.  Just like new.

My neighbor had a yard sale and I bought this cute little nightstand for $10.  It is really solid and sturdy but it has way too many coats of paint on it.  I plan to sand it down and repaint it.  I also plan to change out the knob.  I'm super excited.  Another sweet little item for my retirement house.

Remember the set of lace curtains I got last week at a yard sale for $2?  After running them through the washer and dryer I loosely folded and hung them on a hanger in the laundry room.  I left them there all week as I wanted to make sure they were completely dry with no trace of moisture that would cause them to mold.  On Saturday I pulled out from my stash a vinyl zippered case a set of sheets had come in and after folding up the curtains it was the perfect size to store them in.  I feel comfortable keeping them in there now all protected from dust and such after they hung all week.

I made a nice pot of navy been soup using the ham and ham broth from a big hambone I cooked up and defatted last month.  It made a delicious soup and there was plenty to put away in the freezer to enjoy later.

I finished the eyelet doily I had cut out last month.  Then I finished the embellished crazy quilt throw pillow I started a couple of months ago.  I can't wait to share that pillow with all of you in an upcoming post.

I had a scrap of muslin in my stash of leftovers so I hemmed the edges with a decorative stitch.  Now I have a new super soft and lint-free eyeglass cleaning cloth. J

How was your thrifty week?

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Week Of Meals At Our House

It has been a little while since I have shared with you what a week of meals looks like at our house.  I know I promised to share more of these with you and I'm afraid I haven't quite lived up to that promise lately.  I decided I'd better get my act together.

I documented the meals I prepared each evening for my family.  Our lunches consisted of leftovers and breakfast, well breakfast was one of my very favorites.  I'll show you at the end of this post.

Sunday Dinner

Salmon, red potatoes with sour cream, steamed broccoli,
spinach salad w/ green apple and black olives, creamy Italian dressing

Salmon, Red Potatoes w/ Sour Cream, Steamed Broccoli, Spinach Salad w/ Homemade Dressing


This was my favorite meal of the week

Sirloin Steak, Shrimp, Leftover Red Potatoes w/ Sour Cream, Leftover Steamed Broccoli, Leftover Spinach Salad


Tomato Avocado Sandwiches, Italian Black Bean Soup (from our freezer)


Asparagus, yellow squash, carrot, onion, water chestnuts,
sliced pork sirloin, mushroom gravy, soy sauce

Pork Stir Fry, Steamed Rice


Peppered ham, lettuce, tomato, mayo, whole wheat bread

Ham Sandwiches, Garden Salad


Leftover Pork Stir Fry, Leftover Steamed Rice


We were all working on different projects that evening so everyone grabbed something out of the fridge to reheat and eat as there were plenty of leftovers.

Breakfast found us enjoying breakfast cereals mixed with fruit.  Homemade vanilla yogurt too.

Vanilla yogurt, almond granola, peach half, raspberries

Rice crispies, cornflakes, diced peaches, raspberries

It was a delicious culinary week for us.  What are some of the things you are serving your family this summer?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Being Thrifty Means To Me

I know that a thrifty lifestyle means many different things to many different people.  But today I thought I would share what living a thrifty lifestyle means to me.

Thrifty = using money or other resources carefully and not wastefully

Frugal = sparing or economical with regard to money or food.

Miserly = hoarding wealth while spending as little as possible

Spendthrift = one who spends money in an extravagant and irresponsible way

I chose to be thrifty.   I like the idea of being careful with my money and resources.  Conscious of my choices and the reasons behind why I make them.  I am not frugal.  I don't wish to be sparing in any facet of my life.  Miserly sounds like a terrible way to spend my time.  I threw in spendthrift just for a fun contrast.

It is not my goal in life to go without or deprive myself or my family of anything for the sake of saving money.  I don't feel thrifty people, or frugal people for that matter, should have to give up something that is important to them.

The reality for me is this.  I am a single woman raising two wonderful and beautiful daughters.  We are a single income family and therefore it is really important for me to manage my finances well and make sure we live within our means.

I'm not, by nature, an extravagant person, but I do like to have nice things.  I prefer quality over cheap and am willing to pay extra for something that will last longer and perform better.  I'm also patient, in most cases, and willing to wait until I can best afford things in order to have what I truly want.

Our home is small, but nice.  We keep it neat, tidy and well maintained.  Our home is filled with nice furnishings.  Nothing over the top but stylish and functional.  There are lots of little touches about our home that speak of us.  Our style, our interests, our accomplishments, our goals.  It is warm in the winter, cool in the summer and very comfortable.  It is also quite affordable.

Surprisingly, we are currently a three car family.  I drive a nice car and I own a truck.  I also own a second car that I plan to have my oldest daughter use when she gets her driver's license next year.  Two of our vehicles are paid for and have been for years and years.  My car is new and I'm making payments.  I wanted a new car, it fit well within our budget, I got a really good deal on it, so I bought it.

I work for a good company that treats its employees extremely well.  I make a decent wage but I am far from executive earnings.  In fact, after taking a wage survey recently, I was firmly planted in the lower class.  At the conclusion of the survey one of the descriptions of lower class included the words poverty level.  I certainly don't feel like I live a life of poverty.  Far from it, I'd say.

Thrifty simply means to me that I take care in how I choose to spend my money.  It doesn't mean I squeeze every penny until it screams PLEASE STOP!  It doesn't mean going without on a regular basis.

In my blog I will continue to share the various ways I make it all work out on a day to day basis.  Since I began my blog in 2011 it has been such a pleasure sharing what I do and hearing how you all are doing your thing.  We learn from each other.

I hope to continue with this blog for a long time to come.