Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ category

Big Box Stores and Food Stamps Cooking Club

February 24th, 2012

Do big box stores have little price tags on their merchandise?

We have some food for thought and a treat from our blogger pal, Tawra Kellam today!  Tawra graciously offered a Guest Post, written by Jill Cooper, about saving money, which is what she is all about.  She gives us some really sound advice.  See what hits YOU like a brick…

Before I share her thoughts with you I want to remind you that 40 million of us are using food stamps or SNAP.  Many more have not applied for that sort of help, even though they might qualify. There are children in our own country who are going to bed with empty tummies.  Others who are living on a dime-or less-lean on food pantries, food commodities and whatever other help is out there.  Our purpose here is to help you stretch those food dollars to get the very most you can from your food budgets and feed your family well to keep them healthy.

Now let’s give Jill the floor: 

 Are Warehouse Stores Wearing Out Your Wallet?

 *Do they save you money or just create more work?

by Jill Cooper from Living On a Dime

It’s Saturday morning. With grocery list in hand, you drag a very unwilling family out to the car where you proceed to take them on a mega shopping spree at Sam’s or Costco.

Marching down each isle you tell your family members “We need 3 cases of corn, 4 cases of green beans and — Oh! That’s a good deal on peanut butter so let’s get 3 gallons. Of course Susie, your can get a bag of cookies. They are so cheap! …and Billy you can have a few bags of your favorite chips! Yum! Oh look — samples! These taste great. Let’s get some! What a great buy on chicken – we need 20…

At the dog food aisle the excitement mounts as each member of the family grabs a corner of the 50 lb. bag of dog food to stack on top of the basket. (We won’t mention you only have 1 toy poodle at home.) After waiting in line and waiting in line and waiting in line you push your agonizingly heavy and overloaded baskets out to the car. Getting everything into the trunk of the car makes putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle seem like a breeze but, finally, home you go.

After you lug everything into the house, it’s time to spend the next few hours repackaging things for the freezer. You double wrap your 20 chickens (they could be in that freezer for quite a while) and frantically try to find places for everything else in your cupboards and pantry. By the time you are done, you are so exhausted that you couldn’t begin to lift a finger to cook, so you all go out to eat.

A few weeks later you gingerly sniff the gallon of half used peanut butter as you try to decide if that strange taste is because it has gone rancid or simply because you are sick of peanut butter. You threw out that partially used gallon of maple syrup yesterday because it had sugared and was looking really strange. You still have ten of your chickens left but if you bathe them in some spicy sauce you are pretty sure your family won’t notice the freezer burned taste. In spite of having to throw out most of the 50 lbs. of dog food (after a growing family of mice had invaded it), you’re sure you saved money because “they” said you would.

People constantly ask me, “Can you really save more money at warehouse stores?” I usually answer, “Not any more so than at other stores.” I have checked prices at various stores on many different occasions and factoring everything in, I haven’t found any exceptional savings at warehouse stores.

Here are some tips to help you decide if a warehouse store is for you:


  1. Do your homework and compare prices. Buying in bulk is not always cheaper. You can really save by checking and comparing prices. I was at Costco one day where there was a display of two Clorox one gallon bottles for $1.98 AFTER rebate. I stood there amazed as people frantically grabbed this “great deal.” I knew I could get that same Clorox for $.98 a gallon at my regular discount store and I didn’t have to mess with a rebate, pay postage or lug two gallons of Clorox shrink wrapped together to my car.
  2. Don’t buy impulsively just because it sounds like a good deal. Say you can get 12 bottles of sunscreen for a great price. Think it through before you buy. If your family only uses one bottle of sunscreen a year, that means you will be storing sunscreen for 12 years, not to mention that most of the sunscreen will expire long before then.
  3. In most homes, one quarter of the food people buy gets thrown away. If your family of four eats pancakes once a week, that gallon of syrup is going to last you a VERY long time. You might also consider that unless dry goods and freezer items are very carefully stored, they will go bad or get bugs in them. Remember to buy the size that is appropriate for you.
  4. You need to be very well organized to buy in bulk. Finding places to store everything and then carefully keeping track of what you have is critical if you want to use it all before it spoils.
  5. Most people usually spend more than they originally planned on things they don’t need. This never saves money. We taste samples and so often end up buying. If this is you, be careful. Maybe sampling is a bad idea (unless you’re making lunch of it)!

If you have ten kids, run a day care or are buying for an organization then you almost have to buy in bulk. If you have a small or average sized family, you will probably save as much shopping for sales at your regular grocery store or discount store. The key is to do the math and evaluate your practical needs. You have to decide for yourself if buying at warehouse stores actually saves you money or just creates more work.

-Jill

Good info, Jill and Tawra!  Food Stamps Cooking Club Members, if you liked this article, you can find more of the same on their website Living On a DimeCruise on over and scope out “Dig Out of DebtThere is a plethora of good ideas there and Dig Out of Debt is one of their best offerings yet!

You  are all welcome to offer YOUR best ideas by contacting us at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.  WE LOVE MAIL.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Dumplings Are Everywhere at Food Stamps Cooking Club!

February 23rd, 2012

Dumplings ARE everywhere...and they are comfort food on the cheap!

Our mailbox is always fun.  We never know what we might find there.  Today I found a cutie named Polysammo who has a most interesting blog that shares NOT just about dumplings but that dumplings appear in every culture.  Polysammo explores all manner of “dumps”-a reference from yesterday’s post-because she reads a variety of cookbooks from every corner of the earth!

Polysammo graciously offers this easy, low cost “no recipe” way to comfort.  I can’t wait to try this for The Normanator and me:

EGGS POACHED IN VEGGIES

This is another comfort food non recipe. It is also a really easy quick recipe when you are too tired to think about what to eat.
You could serve this with buttered bread, tortillas, rice or pasta.  I like buttered bread.
I have made this for people who thought it sounded odd and then Loved it. I am craving it now and will see if I can get into the kitchen this week (with some help) and make it.    
Bonus is that is is so healthy and adjustable for food allergies/preferences.

Ingredients:
Veggies  (as many or few as you want : onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery, broccoli, beans, spinach )
Spices (depends on what style you want  Italian garlic, oregano, rosemary Mexican garlic, cumin, chili powder  )
1 Can diced tomatoes
Eggs
Cheese

In a large fry pan sauté the veggies & spices in a tiny bit of Oil.

When they are not quite soft, add the can of tomatoes and cook for 5 or so minutes on MEDIUM heat.  

When the tomato veggie mixture gets thick make little holes and break an egg into each hole (my pan holds 4 -6 eggs).

Cover & cook for a few minutes. Check the eggs when they are almost the way you want them sprinkle on the cheese and cover for another minute.

~Polysammo

Mother Connie here:  This sounds and looks to be so full of deliciousness that my mouth is watering and I’m tempted to cancel my dinner date with The Normanator just to try it!  Thank you so much, Polysammo.  We really appreciate it a lot.

Polysammo sent her message to us by using foodstampscookingclub@gmail.comYAY, Polysammo! And thank you once again!  Here’s hoping all our Club Members cruise by your cute site and scope out other great ideas!

We are also aware of a burgeoning list of Club Members.  There are a great many people using EBT cards from SNAP or WIC and many more depend on food pantries and food commodities for their daily sustenance.  It is our mission to help people, including those who are simply frugal, to s t r e t c h those food dollars and food budgets to the extreme while feeding your families good nutrition.  If you are living on a dime-or less-this is critical.  When our members offer helpful ideas to the whole community, everybody wins!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

 

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Cheap Comfort Food?

February 22nd, 2012
Dumplings!

 

When our kids were little tykes they introduced us to a whole new vocabulary; a new language, really.  We called it “Kidnese.”   One of the words they gave us was “dumps” –this was their gleeful acknowledgement that their grandma was making her famous dumplings!

One of our most faithful Club Members loves dumplings as much as we do.  They are oh, so easy to whip up; they cook quickly and they fill tummies even if you are living on a dime- or less!

Here is Rainy’s offering.  We present it here with our sincere thanks:

 

CHEAP COMFORT FOOD:  CHICKEN DUMPLINGS

During this time of year, money is tighter than normal for many folks…it is tax season, after all, and the cost of gas and groceries seems to climb higher with each shopping trip.  Knowing how to stretch what you already have in your pantry and fridge is a great way to help keep those higher costs at bay just a little while longer.  One of the best ways I know to fill up empty tummies with great tasting food is to make chicken and dumplings.

What if you don’t have chicken or it is a bit too pricey for your pocket book on any given day?  Do you skip this great tasting nutritious dish for some other option?  You don’t have to, IF you happen to have the fore-thought of freezing left over chicken bits from meals gone by…or you have some chicken stock on hand.  If that happens to be a stretch too, you can use canned chicken…or on those really lean times…use chicken bouillon to build the base of your broth.  The flavor will still be strong and wonderful.

Depending on the number of your dinner companions…pick a pan that will give you room to simmer your dumplings and goodies with room to spare.   Fill your pan will water and chicken bullion or chicken stock if you have it; add chicken if you happen to have some on hand.  Add to the pot some onions or onion flakes, some garlic, a little parsley and some salt and pepper. Bring this to a boil while you mix your batter for the dumplings.

Your batter will consist of flour, eggs water and salt if you desire it.   In a large bowl whip your eggs (the number is up to you).  Add a cup of water to this and your salt if you want it.   Blend it well…then start adding flour until your batter gets stiff and holds a shape.    Once that happens, drop it into your boiling broth by the fork or spoonful.   The dumplings will sink to the bottom and you will want to use a long slotted spoon to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  The dumplings will need to simmer for 20 minutes or so once you have dropped them into the broth.

If you have it on hand, you might like to add veggies to the pot to add extra nutrients.  I often add carrots, celery and sometimes corn…but you can add what you like and what you happen to have.  If you have fresh, add fresh…or  canned.   Frozen works just as well.

Spices add layers of flavor…you can add bay leaf, garlic, sun dried tomato flakes, basil, Italian blends…etc.  This dish is really about bringing flavor and comfort to your family meal.  Make it your own…but be prepared for the compliments.  This is a big family favorite. 

Add a side salad or crusty bread rolls and you have a complete meal.   Enjoy!

~Rainy

Mother Connie here:  That inspires me for tonight’s dinner, Rainy.  I have a bowl full of veggies I roasted and set aside to be morphed into another meal.  I love “dumps” as much as my children did when they were tiny and you said it all when you called it COMFORT FOOD!

People who depend on SNAP are doing all in their power to make those EBT cards work hard; WIC users are doing the same thing.   Many of our club members depend on food pantries and food commodities.  This idea will no doubt appeal to them and for cooks who are just plain old fashioned frugal–this is a true winner! 

We trust our mission to help the 40 million Food Stamp users is a real assistance.

Do YOU have a tasty, money saving menu item to share?  WE LOVE MAIL:  foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Grocery Shopping the Food Stamps Cooking Club Way

May 30th, 2011

 

Grocery shopping...it's gotta be done!

Since Mother Connie has been uh, away from the keyboard-alas-it was a delight to find Leanne Ely’s topic in my Inbox this morning!  Here is what she has to say about the never ending job of grocery shopping:

“Six Sneaky Supermarket Secrets

by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.

Can I beg and grovel? Just a little? Okay, here goes…please, I beg you, never go grocery shopping without a list and plan for what you’re going to buy. Not only will you spend way more than you budgeted for, you’ll most likely forget something that you’ll need to get dinner (or another meal) done during the week. How frustrating is that!

Keep in mind that supermarkets know how you operate and seek to exploit your vulnerability when you walk in the door!

Here is a list of how to avoid supermarket’s costly seductions:

1. Conquering the Entrance: Whenever you first walk into the store you’re always bombarded with holiday specials, seasonal knickknacks, DVDs, or select sale items. Before diving into that mess of temptation and “deals” – evaluate. Do you need it? Surviving the entrance is just the first step. Think of yourself as Indiana Jones escaping a maze of booby traps.

2. Oh – Sale! BUT WAIT: The sales and specials will go beyond the entrance. They extend throughout the entire store. Especially those that have their own frequent customer cards. If it’s not on the list, always ask yourself the same question: do you need it?

3. The Store’s Personal Brand is Always Cheaper… Or is It?: Not so fast! Examine all your options! And do you have coupons? Brand names have to constantly compete and lower prices to go against the store’s label, and more often than you might realize, brand names can be cheaper than the store! Check the price per ounce and do some comparison shopping. Phew, another close call!

4. Produce Doesn’t Need to be Bought in Bulk: What most shoppers don’t realize, is that produce brings in the highest profit margins for grocery stores. And that’s typically the first department you wander into inducing shoppers to buy more produce than they probably need. It’s good to eat your fruits and veggies, but buy what you need and leave the rest. If it’s cheaper to buy a pre-made bag of potatoes than the bulk potatoes, but you only need 2 taters, in the long run, it’s cheaper to pay for only what you need then to have those potatoes growing eyes in your pantry.

5. Let’s Make a Deal: It’s really easy and so rewarding! First, look for coupons and look out for double, even triple, coupon weeks! You will save an incredible amount and beat the system if you can manage coupons and be aware of sales before walking in. If you can buy an item you always need (say canned tomatoes) with coupons that are doubled or tripled, by all means, stock up! This is where penny pinching is fun.

6. Sale or No Sale: Sometimes a coupon and a store’s promise to double or triple it doesn’t mean you should buy it. Any junk food, even if it is only going to cost pennies on the dollar is not worth it. Don’t get caught up in saving for the sake of saving. The food you buy and bring home will end up in someone’s belly. Ask yourself if the food has quality nutrition before you buy. It’s not worth it otherwise.

Go test the grocery store waters and see how skillfully you can avoid those trap doors when you enter armed with your list!”

~Leanne Ely,  C.N.C.

Saving Dinner

Copyright (C) 2011 www.savingdinner.com Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

 

It is so great to have these tips, particularly if you are users of the EBT card for SNAP or WIC.  If you are users of Angel Food Ministries, you can avoid some of the pitfalls Leanne mentions.  Users of food commodities and food pantries as well as those who just want to rein in their food budgets can benefit from her list.

Even though the posts have not been so forthcoming you dear people are passing the word because there has been a surge in Club Membership!  YAY!  GOOD ON YOU!  I hope you are enjoying the series of cooking tips we send to our new members…the mail indicates you are quite pleased.

You can stuff our Inbox at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.  Please do; we love getting mail!

Not only was our Email fun; we had a package in the mail recently we cannot WAIT to tell you about!  Stay tuned!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Fast Food-Food Stamps Cooking Club Style

May 23rd, 2011

 

Better than resaurant food? YOU CAN BANK ON IT!

Another great gift from Mikemax appeared in our Inbox:

What you do when you don’t have time to cook, or aren’t feeling well, can have a huge impact on your grocery bill. At least 3 of our members TODAY are in exactly that boat.

Mother Connie and Carol M are both recovering from surgery. I have to be gone all day today, come home briefly, and leave again. Reasons like these—not to mention kids’ activities—are a prime reason we often succumb to takeout.

I’m not a fan of takeout. If I’m going to spend for restaurant food, I want to be served and have someone clean up afterward. And it’s expensive. Even a trip through a fast food drive-through will cost more, and take longer, than a steak dinner cooked at home. Which would you rather have?

I’m eating out of the bottom of my freezer this month. That means I’m eating the good stuff and the soup bones…there’s nothing left in between, LOL. Tonight, it’s the good stuff.

This morning I spent 5 minutes prepping a bone-in pork loin roast and figuring out how to set my oven so it will come on at 3:30 p.m. and automatically turn off at 5ish. I scrubbed some potatoes and put them into the oven to bake along with the roast.  I didn’t peel them so they wouldn’t turn black.   At dinnertime, I’ll heat up a canned or frozen veggie-or maybe make a salad, if I’ve got the stuff-and put the bowl of leftover applesauce on the table.

That roast, just under 3 lbs., was $1.98 lb. and cost $5.56. It will produce enough meat for two meals for my family of 3 adults. Dinner tomorrow—an equally busy day–will either be roast pork sandwiches or pork noodles made with Top Ramen, green onions and sliced hard boiled eggs—just like the Chinese restaurants used to make.

When I find a good deal on steak, I buy it and freeze it. Used to be, I could occasionally afford T-bones or rib steak on sale, and I’d keep around a few for nights when I couldn’t, or didn’t want, to cook. Prices have gone so high, I’m now buying boneless top sirloin, when I can find it for $4 lb. or less. With a baked potato and salad it’s cheaper than the dollar menu at the fast food joint. Faster, too…and nobody at my house ever complains about a steak dinner.

Now I’m going to turn this over to YOU. I’m curious what Connie is cooking as she recovers from cataract surgery this week. I already know what Carol fixed last night, because I read her blog, but maybe she will repeat here. She’s down to the use of one hand, and will be for awhile. What do YOU cook when cooking doesn’t seem to be an option? How do you handle nights when you’ve got to take 3 kids to a Little League game and there is no time to eat, let alone cook?

Nights like these can make or break your food budget. Let’s share ideas on how we handle them and help each other stay on track.

PS/You can find directions for the Timed Bake feature on your oven in the instruction book that came with your stove. With mine, I first set the length of time I want to cook, then I set what time I want it to come on, and finally I turn the oven dial to the desired temperature. Also, with a big piece of meat—like the pork roast—you can partially thaw it and let it finish thawing before the oven comes on. I’ve put completely frozen meatloaves in the oven in the morning and let them thaw until late afternoon, when the oven came on.  Much faster and safer, too.

~Mikemax

Good GRIEF, Mikemax!  You’ve got me drooling!  What have I been cooking?  Actually, when you live in a small town and your life has “issues”  food arrives at your doorstep!  *EG: instead of having eye surgery you wind up in an ER, making every effort to avoid having a stroke.  Or, if you have a paper route and your wife is in the hospital you have TEAMS of people delivering those papers.

So cooking has not been much of a priority for the past number of days.  When Mother Connie is back on top of her game, there will be recipes posted from the goodies that have been bestowed upon us!  We are so blessed.

We  also have been blessed recently to have an influx of  new Club Members, as well!  The newbies have found our opt in box in the upper right hand corner of the blog and the website so they have offered up their email addies in order to receive our series of cooking tips.  YAY!  And we have received lovely messages at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.  YIPPEE!

If you know of anyone who avails themselves of the EBT card supplied by SNAP or WIC or if you know folks who use Angel Food Ministries foodstuffs or food commodities or have things from a Food Pantry or use Farmers Market Coupons, feel free to share this blog with them.  They may have great ideas none of us has thought of yet and they might share!  Hector Pector!  They might just be like Mikemax and Carol and me-FRUGAL to the core!  They will love what we are doing here.

Let’s all cheer for Mikemax:  All together, now, boys n girls:  HIP HIP HOORAY for MIKEMAX!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

Spice Advice and Food Stamps Cooking Club

May 9th, 2011

 

Need Spice Advice? We have it here!

Greetings to all you precious Club Members and Guests!  A GINORMOUS magnifying glass has been pressed into service because your humble blogger has been aching to get back into the game.

Because we are gaining new club members in DROVES-thanks to all the new people who have submitted their names and email addies-it felt important to share with you the information we got today from Leanne Ely, The Dinner Diva from Saving Dinner.

As you  know, we are sending out a series of messages about cooking tips, including spices.  Because of that subject matter we want you to have THIS, too:

“The Ultimate Spice Cabinet Clean Out
by Leanne Ely, C.N.C

How many of us have professed to want to eat healthier, lose weight and get organized? It’s almost as if these three things are the ultimate trifecta! Believe it or not, one of the best ways to do all three of these things is to spice up your low calorie fare with herbs and spices.

But before you can organize your spices, you need to do a quick spice check. I’ve got this feeling we’ve got some OLD, ancient spices sitting in those cupboards! Let’s go on an archaeological dig and see what kind of fossils we can unearth. Here’s how you’re going to know you need some new spices–

You may need some new spices if:

*The date stamp on the bottom of the jar was from when you were in high school:

*The company who made the spice in the first place is out of business. Since 1980!

*The can is rusted and the label indistinguishable-you don’t know what’s in there.

*The label is missing so you smell it to identify it and can’t!

*The smell of the spice smells oddly like the garage on a rainy day.

*You mistakenly grab ground ginger for white pepper and it didn’t ruin what you were making because it had no flavor!

According to the website of McCormick Spice, if you still have spices in a tin can, you know the square and rectangular shaped cans with shaker and spoon out tops, they are seriously out of date-with the exception of black pepper-they have not manufactured the cans in over 15 years!!

The shelf life of spices is as follows:

Ground spices: 2 to 3 years

Whole spices: 3 to 4 years

Dried Herbs: 1 to 3 years

Great rule of thumb to figure out what to keep and what to pitch-if your spice is over a year old, it needs to be tossed. To keep your spices fresh and nice, you will want to buy only what you need and mark the bottom of the container with a Sharpie, indicating the date you purchased the spice.

I love buying my spices at the health food store (they are unbelievably fresh and cheap, because you buy what you need) and discount stores like Wal-Mart (2 for $1.00!). You can always have fresh spices when you get them this way.

Are you ready to spice up your life with some FRESH spices? Old Spice is cologne, not what should be hanging out in our spice drawers. Let’s get some fresh ones this week!

Now that you have all fresh and new spices, be sure and pick up a copy of our Ultimate Mix Ebook to create some spice, soup and sauce mixes of your own!

Copyright (C) 2011 www.savingdinner.com Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

This information will be helpful for everyone who has a kitchen.  It will be of particular interest to those who use SNAP or WIC; for those who get food from a food pantry or those who have food commodities.  Many of our Club Members are simply frugal and careful with their food budgets Users of Angel Food Ministries will benefit from this, too!

Your messages continue to delight the heart of your Webmaster…please keep them coming  at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com !

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

Pantry Project by MikeMax for Food Stamps Cooking Club

April 16th, 2011

 

Home pantries can provide security in lean times...

 

“*Please be advised that when the cat’s away the mice will play!

Unfortunately, Connie has not left me the Keys to the Kingdom-that is, her blog, so once this goes up, we’ll hear nothing from Connie herself for a week or so. She is having cataract surgery in May and has to give up her contacts next week. No contacts, in Connie’s own words = “No blogging; no email; no reading.  No cooking, NO DRIVING-have not been driving anyway-and whatever else.”

So, before Connie closes up shop here for a few days, let’s talk about my pantry.

Most people who see it have “pantry envy.”  It’s a walk-in closet off of my kitchen with shelves on three sides and room for my upright freezer. We built this house ourselves, and I insisted on it.

Generally, the pantry is full of food. I have a “thing” for food. I grew up in a home where my mother shopped every day for whatever we needed to eat that day. There was never any extra food. If we needed to bring a batch of cookies to Girl Scouts, for instance, we not only had to buy the chocolate chips and brown sugar, but often the vanilla or flour, too. Or butter. Or “all of the above.” Baking thus became very expensive!

I had been married for about 9 months when we moved to Eugene, OR, for my husband to attend graduate school. A few weeks after we arrived–while our cupboards were still all but bare–we had the snowstorm of the century–48 inches in 48 hours. In those days, before electronic cash registers, the stores stayed open during daylight hours, even without power. We had one near enough to walk, because we sure weren’t driving–the town where we lived didn’t even own a snowplow. We didn’t starve. But I swore I would never, ever be without food again.

It’s come in handy more than once. I live in a cold climate now and there are days each winter when I don’t–can’t–leave the house. Years ago-decades, actually!-my husband and I were both unemployed at the same time for about two months, and I was glad to have my cupboards full of food.  I didn’t have a freezer then. Money was tight for us last month so we lived out of the freezer and pantry.

Recently I noticed that my pantry was a mess. Because I have so much room, it can become a catch-all. Stuff like empty jars get piled in there, instead of put away in the garage. There were crushed-up crackers on the shelves. Overflowing plastic grocery bags had found their way to the floor. I even suspected I didn’t have much food left–by my standards, anyway. It was such a mess, who could tell?

Yesterday I started cleaning the pantry. To do the job right would take more time than I have to spare. But, I started straightening up shelves, recycling glass jars, picking up the plastic bags. Eventually, I’ll dust the tops of the packages, vacuum the floor and call it good. I’m about three-quarters done, and I’m shocked by how little food I actually have.

I also found a few things that had to go. Now, I was cooking long before there were dates printed on food packages, so I don’t get too hung up on them. Even I would not open a bulging can of tomato paste with a 2003 date on it! I also emptied some jars of homemade jam that were waaaaay past their prime.

As I sorted my containers, I checked the dates and put the oldest packages in front. I also made a mental note of stuff that was only slightly out of date, and I’ll be using those things in the next week or two. Obviously, if I see or smell anything odd when I open them, I’ll discard them without tasting–but I absolutely do not expect anything like that. Canned goods, stored properly, are good for about 5 years.

I found a few things we don’t really like that aren’t outdated. They are headed to the food bank.

If you are short on $$$ this month, be sure to neaten up your pantry and check what you do have. Chances are, you’ll find the makings for several meals.

I digress for a moment to mention one of my favorite blogs, The Frugal Queen. This one comes out of England, which seems to be a hotbed of frugality. This month she is trying to use up everything in her cupboards without shopping, and she turns out some mighty interesting-looking meals.  I intend to start using up my outdated goods in exactly this way…and if you are low on funds, you might want to, also.

I also need to start rebuilding my pantry. I’ll do it exactly the way I bought the stuff to begin with–by purchasing in quantity whatever I can get for cheap. Quantity might be a case of something. It might be “limit 2.” It’s whatever foods we typically eat and up to a one-year supply.

What kind of deals can YOU expect in the next few weeks?

Think Easter. I’ll pick up an extra dozen or two of eggs. I’m looking for a deal on canned pineapple: .80 to .90 for a 20 ounce tin and I’ll buy a case–maybe two. I’ll put an extra ham in the freezer. And one of the stores here has Del Monte veggies on sale this week for .50 can. That’s a killer deal for the only brand of green beans and corn that I’ll buy. I noticed that I’m going to run out of beans before the fall case-goods sales, so I’ll pick up half a case to see me through.

Cinco de Mayo–May 5–is a good time to stock up on salsa, tortillas and other Mexican foods. While you are in the ethnic foods aisle, look for cellophane packages of spices used in Mexican cooking. They’re fresh, they’re dirt cheap and you’ll be surprised what you find.

The next big opportunity to stock up will be Memorial Day. Think picnics!   Ground beef, buns, chips, condiments and soft drinks will be on sale. This is the time to stock up on ketchup, mustard and relish–and I will.  Pork and beans, too.   Ditto for the 4th of July.

During the summer, when people are canning, you’ll also find deals on sugar. The really good deals are usually “limit 1,” but you will see them often enough that, over the course of a few weeks, you can pick up enough to last all year.

The best grocery deals are in November and December…but I will write about them then.

I shop at a bread thrift store, too. Yesterday I bought 6 weeks’ worth of bread and rolls for a little over $15 and stashed them in my freezer. Note: hamburger and hotdog buns don’t freeze well, so never buy more than you’ll eat within a couple of weeks.

If you rely on food stamps or other benefits, I know it isn’t uncommon to run out of money before you run out of month. Even on a limited budget, you can usually pick up an extra bottle of ketchup, an extra dozen eggs, maybe even a ham–if it is cheap enough. Do this enough times, and you’ll build up a nice little pantry AND regularly eat at the lowest possible price. Try never to run out of anything–like those chocolate chip cookies, it will always cost you more.

Remember that coupons will make your EBT go farther. I mostly buy store brands, but I do use some coupons. If you aren’t currently couponing, give it a try…as long as it saves you money. If it tempts you to buy items you wouldn’t otherwise buy, or to pay more for a brand name, there is no saving.

There is good advice about coupons at Monroe On a Budget.  Too bad nobody around here doubles coupons.  BTW, I have coupons for Dole pineapple if it goes on sale! And if it doesn’t, I already know where I can get Del Monte for .88 can.  This week is probably the only time of year I will see it on sale.”

~MikeMax

What would Mother Connie DO without her helpers?  This world is a better place because of the community YOU PEOPLE have created.  Mikemax has been a major player in this community building.  Her wit, wisdom, and expertise are such valuable assets here.  So are the comments from all the Club Members.  We love the emails, too. As you know, emails can be directed to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com!

Next week will fly by and regular posts should be no problem so do stay tuned after you get your pantry or cupboards straightened up!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly

PS/Those who have goods from Angel Food Ministries; EBT cards from WIC or SNAP; those who frequent food pantries and people who have food commodities; even those folks who are happiest when they can practice frugality-whether they are living on a dime or not-can benefit from the ideas on this blog.  Please feel free to share the information with those who sit in your circle.  If you have not submitted your name and email address for our series of cooking tips and infrequent email messages, we invite you to do so.  And we thank you for your participation in the Club!

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Easter Ideas?

April 1st, 2011

 

The Easter Bunny will soon make his appearance...Tawra has some great ideas for getting ready for his arrival!

Tawra Kellam has been kind enough to provide us with a Guest Post today!

Users of SNAP or WIC, take note!  If you have food from Angel Food Ministries or Farmers Market coupons; food commodities or things from a food pantry…even if you just want to stretch every food dollar in your food budget…you can appreciate these clever ideas.  EVEN IF you do not have little people in your home any more, you will enjoy reading what Tawra has sent to us about observing the Easter Holiday:

“A reader asks:

Got any inexpensive ideas for Easter gifts for the kids? Also, do you have any ideas that would focus on the real meaning of Easter and not just bunnies and eggs?

Easter is a great time of the year to celebrate, especially if you have the hope that comes from Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Here are some ideas for Easter gifts. Try some of them and if the creative juices start flowing, make up some of your own!

If you don’t have Easter baskets, you can also use:

  • Plain wicker baskets
  • Baskets spray painted an Easter color
  • A cute straw hat
  • A pail for the sandbox
  • A bowl wrapped in tissue paper
  • Paper sacks that the kids decorate. Cut out pictures from magazines or use stickers. Glue or stick them on and then paint or color around them.
  • Any sort of plastic storage container. These often can be used later for storage.
  • For a “family” Easter basket, set a nice plate on the table with Easter grass and goodies arranged on the plate or platter. This is great when you have older kids.

Fillers for Easter Baskets:

  • Buy candy after Valentine’s Day at half price and keep to fill Easter baskets.
  • Make Easter cookies in the shapes of bunnies, eggs, crosses or any other Easter shape that comes to mind and decorate.
  • Popcorn Balls or Rice Krispie Treats colored in pastel colors.
  • String Froot Loops onto yarn and tie to make a necklace.
  • Don’t fill baskets. Instead put jelly beans and candy in plastic eggs so the kids can fill their own baskets. You can also put nickels, dimes, toy soldiers, bugs, stickers, barrettes or hair ribbons in the eggs. Hide them outside or in the house if you live in a climate where it’s usually cold on Easter.
  • Make coupons for getting out of chores, staying up late one night, having a friend over for a sleep over or a special dinner that they like.
  • Include like new books purchased at garage sales or thrift stores.

 

  • Homemade slime, play dough, sidewalk chalk, bubbles or the ingredients for crystal gardens.
  • Wacky crayons- Crayon pieces melted together in a muffin tin to make a “big” crayon.
  • Flower seeds that the kids can grow
  • Mini-stuffed animals purchased at garage sales or on clearance the year before.
  • Paper dolls or coloring books. There are many available on the Internet that you can print yourself.
  • For teenagers, put these items in baskets: lotions, soaps, suntan lotions, fingernail polish, movie tickets, tickets for getting out of a chore, ticket for $5 worth of car gas, clothes purchased on clearance and of course lots of candy!
  • Leave a trail of jelly beans or candy kisses from their rooms to their Easter baskets.
  • Easter Kisses

Put some Hershey Kisses or chocolate chips in a plastic bag and attach the following poem:

This cute little bunny has hopped all day
Been delivering baskets for the holiday.
His paws are so tired and his little nose itches.
He left you something special-something to fill all your wishes.
These cute little hugs and Easter kisses.

  • Put 1 Pound Jelly Beans into a bag and attach this poem:RED is for the blood He gave.
    GREEN is for the grass He made.
    YELLOW is for the sun so bright.
    ORANGE is for the edge of night.
    BLACK is for the sins we made.
    WHITE is for the grace he gave.
    PURPLE is for His hour of sorrow.
    PINK is for our new tomorrow.
    A bag full of jelly beans colorful and sweet,
    Is a prayer, is a promise, is a special treat.
  • Easter Carrot TreatsBuy disposable plastic decorating bags and fill them with orange jellybeans or cheese balls. Then stick some green Easter grass in the top of the bag (leave some hanging out) and secure the bag with a rubber band and then ribbon so that it resembles a carrot.

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt, by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit Living on a Dime!”   ~Tawra Kellam

Many thanks to Tawra!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Is YOUR Breadbox Full?

March 25th, 2011

If your breadbox is full to overflowing, Rainy has some suggestions for you!

One of the best things about this Club are the generous, creative members who pop up with wonderful ideas for food prep!  Rainy has offered bits of wisdom, for which we are grateful:

“Got Bread Coming Out Of Your Ears?

At one time or another, we’ve all had bread piling up on the counter or in the bread box.  “What to do with it?” you may wonder.  Depending on your family composition…whether you have kids in the house, are a single person household…your bread needs may wax and wane day by day.  Still, most households have bread sitting around waiting to be used.

In my house, the heels of bread are rejected…left alone sitting in the bottom of the bread wrapper.  Now at certain times of the year, when it is more common for me to think of making stuffing; I will save them up in freezer bags to save up until I get enough to put together a nice sized dish of stuffing.

Those very same crusts of bread make great croutons for the tops of our salads when they are drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and dusted with some of my favorite spices and seasonings.  I love homemade croutons because I can flavor them the way that I want, without all of those preservatives that purchased croutons have in them.

There have been moments when I confess to having gotten overzealous in purchasing loaves of bread, when they were perhaps on sale, or I over-estimated how much my family would use for lunches and for toast to go along with their quick morning breakfasts.  This seems highly wasteful to have loaves of bread sitting in their wrappers going all stale and risking getting moldy.

Because of this…I have gotten very creative at saving loaves of forgotten bread.  I have to confess, when I first got married my mother in law tried to convince me of the wonders of bread pudding.  Can I just tell you that the way she described it to me turned me off right from the start? She said, “I just take all of the dried up OLD bread and the milk that is starting to turn bad and dump it into the bowl with some cinnamon, sugar and raisins.  It tastes great!”  That might be but, she needed to be a bit more creative in her descriptive skills.  lol

I had never had it.  She made it for me but I still wasn’t impressed.  Over the years I have come to love bread pudding…but I had to experiment with it.  For one thing, I love her dearly…but, her recipe seemed undone to me; it could have cooked a bit longer for my liking.  Another thing, I have discovered that bread pudding can be made with whatever fruits that you love that make your mouth water.   Bread pudding doesn’t HAVE to be made with raisins.  Just this morning I made two batches with varying fruits.  One of the dishes was made with blueberries and apples; the other was made with some left over canned peaches & pears.  Yummy.

Ok, so you may not have whole loaves of bread sitting there staring you in the face.  Maybe you only have a few slices.  Why can’t you just whip up some egg, milk & vanilla or cinnamon and fry up some french toast.  If you have extra…fry it up too and put it into freezer bags for those mornings when you don’t have time to cook.  Just heat it up for a quick breakfast on the run.

Still not feeling the love for that lonely loaf of bread?  How about a cheese strata?  In a large greased cake pan lay down a layer of bread across the width of the pan.  In a separate mixing bowl, whip eggs and milk.  Pour egg mixture over the bread, sprinkle some shredded cheese (either whatever flavor you prefer) and sprinkle some garlic powder, salt, onion powder and some tumeric.  Maybe you like some Italian spices or possibly some parsley…whatever seasonings you love sprinkle them over the egg mixture.  Then, layer another layer of bread over the egg, milk and cheese…pour the leftover egg mixture and pop it into the oven.  Bake until the Stratta is done when a knife is inserted in the bread and comes out clean…and the top of the strata is golden brown.

Always try to find veggies and/or fruits to have as a side dish when you are using bread as a main ingredient for one of your meals.  The bread is great because it can be a wonderful filler for hungry tummies…but, the body needs its fruits and veggies too.

I hope I have given you some useful ideas.  Maybe you have a few ideas of your own to share with the readers…please do.  I love learning new ideas for dishes made with left over bread.  Just because a family is limited on funds, it doesn’t mean that meals have to be stuck in a rut or boring, right?  It is great learning from one another!”

~Rainy

Yes, of course those ideas are GRAND, me love.  Thanks again!  I do hope others will chime in with their great ideas, too.

Mother Connie Sez:

Here’s my two cents’ worth.  I throw the leftovers-although we ‘fight’ over the crusts around here-into the food processor and crumble them til they look the way I want them to look.  They go into a freezer bag and are laid flat.  Whenever I need bread crumbs for a particular dish they are at the ready!

I can remember my mother slicing home made bread and lining it up on cake racks to sit overnight on the counter, draped with a fresh dish towel.  She wanted it to be dried out so she could make French Toast the next morning!  Some chefs advocate letting the bread soak overnight in the refrigerator in an egg/milk mixture.  So go figure!

I have fabulous news to share!  We have received more new club members this month than any month since we “opened for business” and it is thrilling to see the list of names growing!  We are grateful to each one who has come by.  We are excited to get comments and email messages: foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.  Thanks, boys n girls!

If you hold an EBT card for SNAP or WIC; if you use food commodities or a food pantry; if you utilize Farmers Market Coupons, Angel Food Ministries foods or you simply watch your food budget like a hawk, this site was created for you.  We sincerely hope it is assisting you to S T R E T C H your food dollars!


Today’s post is sponsored by ToothSoap. Please cruise on over to their site and mention Mother Connie, won’t you?  Thanks!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly

Food Stamps Cooking Club: No-Pressure Cookery?

March 12th, 2011

 

If you are pressured about getting dinner on the table, you might like Mikemax's ideas for using a pressure cooker!

It makes no difference whether you have a trust fund for your grocery budget or you are living on a dime, staying within the parameters of  your EBT card for SNAP or WIC.  Even if you have goods from a food pantry, use food commodities or Angel Food Ministries…you still have to put a meal on the table night after night after night.  Most of us have to do it after a tough and tiring day at work; some of us have little people underfoot as we do so.

Being the faithful Club Member among MANY faithful club members that she is, Mikemax, formerly known as Maxine, has come to our rescue with just the remedy we are ready to have!  Here’s what Mikemax has to say in Part 2 of her latest generous offering:

 

A microwave isn’t the only way to cook fast. Pressure cookers were the original fast cookers, and they work as well today as they did 75 years ago. Better, in fact—now they come with pressure relief valves, which means you’d really have to work at it to blow one up.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”—Franklin D. Roosevelt.

That’s a line from his first inaugural address, but he could have been writing the instructions for Eleanor’s pressure cooker!


“Don’t worry—be happy”—Bobby McFerrin.

I inherited my first pressure cooker, a circa-1948 Presto Model 60, from my mother. After my husband lost it,- Don’t ask! -I bought a Mirro at Kmart about 10 years ago for $16. The cheapies only cook at 10 lbs. pressure, but that works fine for almost everything.

Within the last year, I found a Model 60 in pristine condition at a thrift store for $4.50. I couldn’t resist! It’s a little bigger than the Mirro and cooks at 5, 10 and 15 lbs. pressure. Woo-hoo!

With a pressure cooker, you can make many homemade soups in only 10 to 15 minutes. Chili and stews in 15 minutes. Chicken and dumplings in less than 30 minutes. Pot roast in 45 minutes. You can use it to cook meats, rice, vegetables and desserts. And, of course, dry beans cook best in a pressure cooker, and cook time is only 10-20 minutes (depends on variety) after soaking.

If you need an instruction booklet, go online. Don’t worry about the exact model—there isn’t much difference between brands and all cook the same way. Try the Presto website.

Whether you are cooking in a Crock Pot or a pressure cooker, the thing to remember is that meat and veggies don’t necessarily cook at the same rate. If you are making pot roast, for example, you’ll probably be happier if you cook the meat until it is tender, then add the veggies and cook until done.

Just a reminder–save time for tomorrow’s dinner by making at least twice as much salad as you intend to eat tonight. Add dressing and croutons only to the amount you are serving tonight. Cover the remaining salad, refrigerate and it’s all ready for another day.

The less I have to cook in the hour before dinner, the better we eat!

~mikemax, formerly known as Maxine”

*PS/If you need an instruction booklet, go online. Don’t worry about the exact model—there isn’t much difference between brands and all cook the same way.    Here’s a website with a lot of information, including cooking times:

http://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cookers/cooking_times_pressure_cooker.php

*Mother Connie here: NO ONE HERE benefits if you click on the above link and a purchase results.  We are more interested in your getting information than we are in taking money from you!


 

 

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.