Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rice Pads are Back in Stock!

 Rice Pads are now back in stock at my country store.  


I use to sell them regularly and they were very popular.  My daughter Emily was the one who made them.  When her life got busy she did not have time for sewing them any more.   

Now, my youngest daughter Sierra and her friend Makayla have picked this project up.  They have been spending many evenings and weekends sewing up rice pads and are doing a great job! 

If you are interested in purchasing a rice pad you can read more information about them and see the current fabric choices here:



Friday, February 19, 2010

Trim the Budget: Cabbage!!

 When the prices of veggies start climbing higher during the winter months I turn to my best winter veggie choice, cabbage!  Cabbage is healthy and nutritious and can be used in so many ways.

Cabbage is high in vitamins K and C.  It is also high in dietary fiber.  You will also find some really good B vitamins such as, vitamins b6, b1, and b2 and vitamin A. 

It is also interesting to note that the vitamin C content in red cabbage is 6 to 8 times higher than that of white cabbage.  

Cabbage is chocked full of minerals: calcium, potassium, magnesium.  

And it even contains a little bit of protein and fat (the good omega 3 fatty acids).  

The best part of cabbage from a budget stand point is that it is so inexpensive this time of year.  I recently paid 45 cents a pound. I spent $1.15 for a head of cabbage that weighted around 2 ½ lbs.   

Ways to incorporate cabbage into your diet.. 

Eat it as a side dish.  I love to sauté chopped cabbage and onions in butter.  When it is soft, salt a little and enjoy with your meal. 

I also add red cabbage to my winter salads.  They are less expensive than tomatoes and add lots of color and nutrition to a salad.  

My all time favorite way to use cabbage is lacto fermented sauerkraut..  You can find my recipe and step by step instructions to make this delicious food here:

Yet another way I enjoy using cabbage is cabbage rolls. 

I made these yesterday for my family and they are always a big hit.  I made a double batch so the pictures show 2 pans of rolls, but the recipe will make one pan.   

Making cabbage rolls takes a little time, but is so yummy!  The first thing I do is prepare the cabbage.  I take a full head of cabbage and core it.  To do this I make cuts around the core until it is loose enough to be able to pull out.  Then I get a large pan and put about 2 inches of water in it and bring this to a boil.  I set the whole cored cabbage in the water, cover with a lid and bring it back to a boil.  I boil this for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove the head of cabbage and give it a few minutes to cool.  Once it is cool enough to touch you can begin removing the leaves.  If you find that the center of the cabbage is still to firm you can put it back in the boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften up.  I lay the leaves out on a towel while I prepare the filling.   

The Filling: 

1lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 t minced garlic
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 egg
1 t salt
1 t pepper 

Cook hamburger and chopped onion in a frying pan until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are soft.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine well.   

Now it is time to make your cabbage rolls.. 

Lay one leaf down in front of you and put a tablespoon or two of filling right in the middle.  How much filling you put in will depend on the size of the leaf.  Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the filling.  Fold the left side over and then fold the right side over.  Now take the top and bring it down.   

Lay the finished cabbage roll in a 9x13 pan (I spray mine with non stick cooking spray first).  Finish making rolls until you are out of leaves and filling. 

When the cabbage rolls are all made it is time to make the sauce.   

Cabbage Roll Sauce:

1- 8oz can tomato sauce
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
3 T cane juice crystals or sugar
2 T vinegar
½ cup water
2T cornstarch combined w/ ¼ cup cold water 

Combine all ingredients into a sauce pan.  Cook on medium high heat, stirring occasionally to begin with and then more frequently as it comes to a boil.  Boil and cook the sauce for about 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce thickens.  

Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.  Bake in a 350* oven for 40 to 45 minutes and enjoy!!


Cost Break Down: 

Hamburger: $2.79
Cabbage: $1.15
Brown Rice: $1.02
Eggs: .25
Tomato Sauce: .80
Diced Tomatoes:  $1.60 

Approx. Total: $7.75 (I rounded up from the actual total) 

I served my meal with slices of fresh baked whole wheat bread and green beans.  Everyone walked away stuffed and satisfied! 


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trim the Budget: Black Bean Sloppy Joes!


 Here is another meal that makes a large serving, tastes great, utilizes a low cost basic food (beans), and is delicious!!   

Black Bean Sloppy Joes


Usually sloppy joes are made with all hamburger.  That can be a lot of expense in meat.  The last time I looked at Costco hamburger was $2.79 a pound.  One way to still enjoy sloppy joes and save some money is to make Black Bean Sloppy Joes.  The black beans stretch the hamburger while giving you a delicious and nutritious meal!  You can find the recipe on my website here:  

Make sure to get your beans cooking in the morning so all you have to do come evening is assemble the rest of the recipe.  This will also give you the afternoon to make the rolls to serve the sloppy joes on.  

Making your own high quality bread products is also a good way to cut costs.  White bread will always be dirt cheap, but with no nutritional value and not worth the cost.. no matter how cheap.  Making homemade bread is one way to ensure better quality bread products in your home for a very reasonable price.   

This was a new recipe I tried out for the dinner rolls.  They were delicious!!  I wanted a sub sandwich type bread that was soft and would make great sandwiches or could be used for recipes like sloppy joes.  I was very happy with this one!   

Sub Sandwich Rolls
Crystal Miller


1½ cups water
½ cup honey
6T butter
½ cup oats
2t salt
1T yeast
2 eggs
5½ to 7 cups whole wheat flour 

In a small sauce pan combine water, honey, butter and oats and heat over medium high until hot and butter has melted, do not boil.  Pour this mixture into your Bosch or Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. Allow the mixture to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.  When it is very warm, but not hot to the touch add the salt, yeast and eggs.  Now begin adding flour.  Add 5 ½ cups and then add a half cup at a time until the dough is no longer sticky, but still is a soft dough.  Knead 4 to 5 minutes in a Bosch or 7 to 10 in a Kitchen Aid or 12 to 15 minutes if you are doing this by hand.   

Let the dough rise for one hour.  Punch down and knead again for a few minutes to remove air bubbles. 

Divide dough into 10 pieces.  Roll each piece into an 8 inch log. Spray a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with non stick spray. Lay the bread dough pieces on the cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise until double in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.  

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  

To use for the Black Bean Sloppy Joe recipe I cut the rolls in half (lengthwise) and then sliced them in center (like you would if you were going to make a sandwich out of them).  You can toast the bread first before topping with the sloppy joe mix.  Serve the sloppy joes over the bread.  


This meal is filling!  It is big enough to easily serve 8 to 10 people.  So if your family is smaller, you can freeze half of this for another night.     

I fed the 7 of us (4 adults, a 16 year old, a 14 year old and an 11 year old) dinner and still had sandwich rolls and sloppy joes left over.  I will serve the last of the sloppy joes to the family that is home today for lunch and if there are any remaining sandwich rolls after today they will get used up with our lunch tomorrow.  This meal gave me a lot of mileage for my money!   

Now for the budget cost breakdown..  I determine costs of bulk type items using the method I described here:   I don’t calculate the costs of things like salt or a ½ of an onion.  After I determine the cost of the main ingredients in a recipe I then round up to get and idea of the costs of the small items I did not include.   

Here is what I figured for last night’s meal: 

Black Bean Sloppy Joes:
Hamburger: $2.79
Black Beans: .95
Ketchup: $1.08
6oz tomato paste: .90  

Approx. cost: $5.72 or rounded up to $6.00  

Dinner Rolls:
Honey: .91
Whole Wheat (I grind my own wheat so this is the cost of the actual wheat berries, not the cost of flour):  .80
Oats: .05
Butter: .33
Eggs: .25  

Approx. cost of rolls: $2.34 or rounded to $2.50  

In the end, $8.50 fed my family a delicious, nutritious dinner plus I have leftovers.  If I had wanted to stretch this meal out for two full dinner meals for my family I could have added another cup or two of cooked beans and a little of the bean broth to give it the right consistency.  That would have increased the cost by just a few cents, and I may do that the next time I make this meal. 

Salsa Questions Answered..



My last blog post generated a few salsa questions.. 

Kristi asked…I have a question on the salsa - first of all, could I use Romas that I froze (with the intention of canning more pizza sauce? and secondly, how long will a gallon of the salsa keep in your fridge?  

Kristi, I have never made the salsa from frozen tomatoes.  The salsa is basically a fresh type salsa.  I am thinking that frozen tomatoes would work better in a cooked type of salsa. 

As for how long it keeps in the fridge? We eat our salsa up pretty fast, typically.  This last summer when I had some extra tomatoes I made two gallons at a time.  Some of that salsa sat in the fridge for well over a month and it was just fine.  The salsa is fermented (like making cabbage into sauerkraut) and that is what gives it the long shelf life. 

Shell from Ohio also asked how long it would keep.. so that was answered above. 

Last Question: I have a question on the salsa. Could I substitute anything for the whey? 

Well, no, not really.. if you want the fermented salsa.  Whey is very easy to get.  I have instructions on making sauerkraut on my site and it shows how to get whey from a yogurt:   

I make feta cheese to get my whey.. that too is very easy and you get lots of whey from this.  You can freeze the whey too. Plus you get a jar of yummy feta cheese to enjoy as well!  Here is the recipe:



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Updates from the Homestead


Life on my homestead is humming right along.  I spent more days in town this last week than I like, but that is life sometimes. A trip to town takes about 45 minutes one way.  For starters, I had one day in town with Tobin.  We ran errands and bought some new tires for our van.  Another day I took Leanne to the community college so she could take her Biology CLEP..  and she passed!!!  She now has 40 credits towards her degree.    We are so very proud of her.   

The next trip into town was to meet up with my oldest son and his wife and they took Jacob and Isaac to their home for the weekend (The big Halo party LOL ).  Then Leanne, Sierra and I went fabric shopping.  We bought fabric for Sierra’s bedroom curtains and some fabric for her to make a skirt out of a pair of jeans. After that we went home, had lunch, I made dinner, got hubby out the door to work and we turned around and went back to town to take Leanne to her dance class (she has been taking ballroom dancing lessons since last summer), or I should say she took me.  She is working on getting her license so I try and let her drive any chance we have. We were finally home after 11:pm.  

Finally my last trip to town I met up with one of my daughters for coffee and picked up Jacob and Isaac.  Life in the country often means a lot of driving LOL..  So far this week has only had one trip into town…  However, I really did not mind it considering it was with my super fantastic hubby for our weekly date.  We’ll see how the last part of this week goes!   

I was happy to have food in my freezer to make into quick meals for a busy week.  In between all that running around I did manage to get 8 loaves of bread baked and made a gallon of my lacto fermented salsa.  I have not made any of it since the summer months.  I canned a lot of salsa and we are just about out of that so I figured it was time to make some.  We had enchiladas the day the salsa was ready and everyone agreed..  there is “nothing”  better than the taste of fresh salsa!!   I have loved the convenience of my canned but I think we are all spoiled now by the lacto fermented salsa.   

The weather has been just beautiful here in the PNW; unseasonably warm and sunny.  I am enjoying this little look into spring!  It’s getting me excited to get the garden going.   

Today I have several things on my to-do list… orders to pack up, laundry to move through, vacuuming and dusting, a visit with my daughter and granddaughter, and if the sunny weather is still with us, Tobin and I were going to do a little work in the garden… we will see what the day holds!  

Hope you all have a great Wednesday on your homestead! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rolled Oats and Quick Oats Clarified


I have had a couple of people leave comments on my last blog post (on making instant oatmeal mix) that I wanted to clarify: 

Teresa asked:
Can you use rolled oats instead of quick cooking oats? 

Quick oats are rolled oats..  they are just rolled thinner.  There is nothing different about them other than the size they are rolled.  The reason I use them instead of the regular rolled oats is that because they are not cooked they would not get soft enough for most peoples tastes.   

And Stacey asked:
I'm also wondering if you can use rolled oats or traditional oats in place of the quick cooking oats... 

Same answer as above..  quick oats are rolled or traditional oats.. they have just been rolled thinner.   

Hope that clarifies any confusion!! 

Trim the Budget: Breakfast Bargain


 Breakfast is a great meal to incorporate those low cost basic foods..  Grains make a nutritious and filling meal.  I am always looking to simplify my weekday breakfast routine in my home. I like to get breakfast done and over with quickly so we can move onto the important issues of the day.  One food my children like me to have on hand is Instant Oatmeal.  I like to have it because I know they will get a good and filling breakfast quickly while making a minimal amount of mess in the kitchen while they are at it!  

Today’s post will be on how to make your own instant oatmeal and a cost comparison of making your own to buying the little packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal.   

Bulk Instant Oatmeal (the recipe can be found HERE ): Here is how you make it....

Gather together your ingredients

Take half the oats (10 cups) and run a few cups at a time through your food process or blender to make smaller

Combine them with the other 10 cups of oats and add the powdered milk, cinnamon and salt

Stir well and put in a gallon size jar

To make a serving combine ½ cup of the mix with 1 cup boiling water



Put something over the top of the bowl (I use a small plate) and let is sit for a few minutes

When it is done, stir  and it is ready to serve

You can add your sweetener of choice and a little milk for a yummy, quick, hot breakfast  

Now for the cost: 

Using the method of calculating costs of items that I posted in the last Trim the Budget blog post I came up with these numbers: 

$1.33 Powdered Milk
$2.09 Quick Oats (this was the price for the non organic oats) 

The cost was $3.42   

I did not calculate the cost of the cinnamon and salt but I don't believe it makes a significant change in the total amount.

At $3.42 I calculated this to cost 4 cents per ounce.   

Compared to buying a box of 10 instant oatmeal packets (Quaker Oats brand, regular, no flavoring or sugar added, total weight for one box was 11.8 oz) at: $3.84 per box (generic brands could be cheaper) brings the cost to 32.5 cents an ounce.  Even if you could find them cheaper the cost would still be very high compared to making it yourself.   

One last note of interest, the store bought instant oatmeal also has MSG added to it.  It is the second ingredient after oats.  The sweetened types also have sugar added, the second ingredient after oats with the MSG following in 3rd place.   

Homemade is not only way less expensive but much healthier as well!