Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fewer Coupons, Redemptions Up

Have you noticed that there are fewer coupons being offered these days? Not only are there not as many coupons circulating around, the dollar value of the coupons has dropped as well. This includes coupons for groceries, clothes and health items. Supermarket News states that the grocery segment is offering 13% fewer coupons, and 27% of offers require you to purchase multiple items. So, for example, your $1.00 off coupon may not be such a great deal when you have to buy 3 or 4 of the item. Also, more coupons are being redeemed than ever before.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that Fred Meyer (Kroger) now only has 6 coupons on the inside of their cover page when they used to have 8. Also, the deals aren't all that great. Tillamook  Ice Cream is 2 for $6 this week, but it is not even a full 1/2 gallon anymore, it's 56 oz.

At another grocery chain, they have one day sales, usually twice a month. There used to be a limit of, say 4, on an item. Now it is a limit of 1. One gallon of milk at $1.88 (used to go on sale for $1.68). One loaf of bread at .48 cents.  Unless you go in the store several times, or bring the whole family to make purchases, you can't stock up on anything at a great price, because you're limited to one item, which you will probably have used up before the end of the week.

With gas prices rising out of sight, it is no wonder that people are shopping with a list and coupons, and sticking to it. No more impulse shopping.  Our disposable income is dwindling, as is our standard of living. Our resources are disappearing . Have you noticed that when there is a  really good buy on basic food items, the shelves are empty? I have been asking for more Rain Checks these past few months than ever before. This decline in our ability to put food on our table,  gas in our cars, and pay our living expenses is crippling.

I have been really bad about using what is in our freezer to make space for fresh items. I think I am a closet grocery hoarder. When my freezer is full and my pantry shelves are lined, I feel more secure.  I don't like that food prices are up, good deals are down, and it looks like there is no end in sight. How is this going to affect everyone in the long haul? It is not looking good my friends. I have been using every coupon and deal I can lay my hands on. Hang in there and get those deals when you can.

Canning Bacon

 First,  ***I must also welcome my newest followers, Jennifer, Daddy Bear, and DFW. I hope you enjoy reading my blog. Please feel free to leave comments.

I first read about canning bacon at Enola Gay's blog, Paratus Familia. I was very intrigued and since I love to do more than just canning fruits, pickles and green beans, I took a venture at it. My first attempts were fine, except that I didn't have parchment paper between the slices, and they were difficult to separate. I've included anecdotal notes about my experiences.

Disclaimer: the USDA does not recommend home canning bacon, and if you do so, you do at your own risk. The food police do not like people like me, who prefer to take our own lives into our own hands. 

Last week Safeway had a sale on their thick cut bacon for $2.99/lb in 3 pound packages, so I bought four packages. First, of course you want to sterilize your jars and lids, and have parchment paper and scissors handy. I pulled about an 18" piece of parchment paper from the roll and lay it on the counter. Then I start laying bacon pieces, lining them up along the bottom edge. The bacon looks like it is really long in my picture, but you can see the normal size that it is by the remaining bacon that I haven't laid out yet.

 I have found that with the thick sliced bacon, which we prefer, it takes 10-12 slices per jar. When they are all laid out, I trim up the right edge of the parchment, and then trim off the top 3 inches or so, then lay the strip that I cut off, on top of the bottom portion of the bacon strips. This helps keep the bacon from adhering to itself when you are peeling off the parchment paper. 

Next, I fold over the pieces of bacon on top of that strip of parchment.

Then, I fold over the top half of the parchment paper. 

Start at one end and roll up tightly. I put the package in a wide mouth quart jar with the open end of my bacon package and the bottom, and the folded portion at the top. You do not need to add any water or salt.

Now you're ready to put your hot lids and bands on and process in your pressure canner for your altitude for 1 hour and 30 minutes. I have also slightly precooked the bacon prior to canning. In the picture below, the jar on the left is bacon that is canned raw according to the instructions that are given above. Notice that it has a thicker layer of fat at the bottom of the jar and some liquid, as compare to the jar on the right, which was precooked. I have found that both methods produce acceptable results. I am lazy and prefer not to have to dirty pans and spend the extra time cooking the bacon for 10 min.

In addition, I have also partially cooked up pieces of bacon, about 1 inch square size pieces and canned those in 1/2 pint jars. They fry up quickly and beautifully as well. They are nice to use for bacon bits to top salads or what not. I got this great idea from Kris Watson over at Simply Living. You have to read the comments to read how she cans her bacon.

I have also found that with the bacon that is packed raw, there is a tendency for it to pop and splatter. I suppose that is from water in the product, some of which is cooked out when precooked. But, overall, it is very good, fries up nicely,  and will satisfy that bacon craving the way nothing else can do.

I priced Yoder's canned bacon and it sells for about $14.00 for a 9 oz. can which has 50 (very thin) slices. My jar contains approximately 10-12 oz. of bacon (weight after canning), so it is very economical, at about $3.00 per jar. Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Liebster Award!

Martha over at  The Path to Frugality has awarded my simple little blog the Liebster Award. Martha said about my blog, " This blog is about simple living and self-reliance.  I love to read what Rose has posted, perhaps it is because I have a secret desire to live an Agrarian lifestyle." I am truly humbled that she has chosen my blog.Thank you, Martha.

I'm not even sure how I found Martha's blog, but she has given me great encouragement, frugal strategies, and prayers when I was laid off from my previous job and totally stressing about finding work last year. Martha is someone I go to for encouragement and great ideas. She has been a blessing.

The Liebster Award  is geared toward new bloggers or bloggers that have under 200 Followers.  The word liebster means favorite in German.  When accepting this award, there are several things the blogger must satisfy."  They are:   

1.  Choose five up-and-coming blogs (with fewer than 200 followers) to award the Liebster to.

The hard part for me now is to pick five deserving blogs that I read and would recommend to my readers.           
Here are my picks, in no particular order:

Mamma Bear over at Challenged Survival always has stories about the day to day life of living with chickens and goats. She always has lots of pictures and they even have a vertical strawberry garden. Go on over and check out her site.

 Living Prepared is exactly what Mike writes about at his blog. Mike lives and prepares to be as independent as possible, and not a dependent government  subject. He has great ideas for food, gardening, communications, and more.  Browse his blog, and you will surely find something of interest to you.

Krazo Acres  is written by Carolyn Renee. I love reading about her animals and her homestead goals. When you are reading her blog you feel like she's your friend sharing all her adventures with you with great detail and a  way with words.

The Simple Life  is what John shares about on his blog. He writes about his life, gardening, his chickens, he shares jokes, and shares his views about our country's state of affairs. I always like to read what he has been up to. I wish Johhnyb had a blog archive (hint, hint), so that I can look up his past postings.

Small Holding is Pioneer Preppy's blog where you'll find strong opinions about our nation, local events, and the craziness that is rapidly enveloping our country. He also shares about food storage, raising bees, and growing asparagus. He has already been given the Liebster Award, but I always read his blog, see here it is again.

The above blogs are ones that I enjoy and hope you will, too. They are worthy of this award and are written by people whom I consider friends.

2.  Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.  

3.  Post the award on your blog.  List the bloggers you are giving the award to with links to their sites.  Leave comments on their blogs so they know about the award.

4.  Share 5 random facts about yourself that people don't know about you.
Five facts you now know about me:
1. I met my husband at a bar while I was out with my singles group from my church. He wanted to know what religion I could possibly be.
2. I am not good at decorating and I think our house has that "kitsch" look to it. We still have some garage sale furniture from when we bought our first house.

3. Our property and house are paid for. 

4. I was adopted.

5. I help my husband with projects because it means I get to spend time with him, even though I am power-tool/backhoe/tractor challenged, and he usually  has to redo whatever it is I was "helping" with, but he never complains.

Thank you again to Martha over at The Path to Frugality for this award.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Soup Starter for Busy Nights

Yesterday afternoon DH and I decided we would go see the Hunger Games matinee, after all, who wants to pay full price at the movie theater? It is the second movie in a month we have gone to, the first being Valor. Prior to those two movies, it had been probably 2 years since we had seen a movie. The last one was The Book of Eli. I know, we don't get out much. Before that, I can't even remember. I can probably count all the movies we've ever been to in 23 years of marriage on one and a half hands.

Okay, so the whole point of this was that the movie was going to get out after 6 p.m. and who wants to go home at that hour and conjure up something from the pantry? I could have put together a crock pot meal, but instead decided to heat up a batch of soup starter, which is so handy and versatile to have in your canning pantry. It has barley, beef bouillon, carrots, celery and potatoes. Just dump it in a pot and add a jar of beef or chicken, or whatever leftover meat and veggie scraps you have, add another cup of water and some bouillon if you like, and you have a very tasty, delicious meal that the whole family will eat. I love having this in my pantry and it costs pennies to make 7 quarts. To round the meal out, I made a batch of artisan bread. This is so simple to make. And you don't have to knead! The dough is just sitting in the fridge waiting for you to come and grab off a hunk, shape into a ball or loaf, let it rest for 30-40 min. and then bake. How easy is that? It is so good and has a nice crunchy crust.  This bread  goes perfect with soup starter, stew, or any meal.

I am using bread that was left over  from last night and breakfast (oh, by the way, it makes awesome toast) to make croutons. Just slice into cubes, sprinkle with olive oil and whatever seasoning you would like. I used garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. The bake in a slow oven (325) for about 1/2 and hour, stirring every 10 min. Store air tight when cool and they are great on salads, soups, or whatever. Who wants to pay $2 or more for a skimpy bag from the store that are loaded with chemicals when you can make better tasting ones at home for a fraction of the cost? Do you see a pattern here? I am cheap frugal and enjoy serving my family good food that tastes great and doesn't break the food budget.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Canning Jar Find

My mother canned a lot of food, mostly salmon, mincemeat, jam and jelly, and some other stuff that I can't remember. After she passed away, I got her pressure canner and all her jars. One of my favorite jars of hers were the Ball 1- 1/2 pint jars. She only had a case of 12, and I loved their size. Sometimes, one pint isn't quite enough, and a quart it too much. They have been precious to me over the years, and they have been continually filled with various goodies from peaches and pears to chili. I always process my food in these jars for the longer time required for quart jars, and have never had a problem.

I went shopping today and I couldn't believe my eyes! Ball 1-1/2 pint jars just sitting there staring at me. Well, I couldn't resist. No, they were not on sale and you only get 9 jars in a case. But I just had to buy one case. I will purchase more when they go on sale. As you can see from the picture, my original box on the right is old and well used. Give this size jar a try.  I think you will love these jars, too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Garden Planning

We usually sit down in February when seed catalogs come out and dream up our garden configuration and what we want to plant. Last year, our garden was not as successful. Our potato plants suffered from disease and/or insects, our lettuce did not grow, onions were few and far between, and our corn was not thinned so did poorly. The last two years we grew starts in our greenhouse but for some reason, I just wasn't on the ball, or it wasn't my year.I am hoping we are more successful with our gardening efforts this year.

This week we are cleaning out our greenhouse. It is about 12x12 and there are trees shading the southwest side. I want to get a thermometer and some planter boxes and try growing more in there and not transplanting everything. Does anyone have good suggestions for veggies that grow well in a greenhouse? Also, we need to board up some broken windows in it so it will heat up more. We will start some seeds as well. I think I will plant some lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and maybe some spinach. Oh, yeah, my spinach last year did not do well. Why do some veggies turn bitter before they have even bolted? At any rate, this is our big project this week. We need to prune some shrubs and other miscellaneous yard care, but it is also supposed to snow this week. We'll see how things pan out.

I have rhubarb coming up along with daffodils. The chickens have been gleaning around the strawberry plants and thatching under our tree in the front yard. I like them around to fertilize, but boy they can sure make a place look like a pig sty, as they scratch and throw rock and leaves around that I have swept numerous times. Our driveway is a landmine of rocks that they have thrown onto the cement as they glean for bugs in the rock that borders the driveway, not to mention the excrement they leave behind. DH is considering enlarging their pen so they stay put. I like having them around but they do create a mess.