The little Clay Pot

Lots of things can go in a little Clay Pot

$100.00? Really? February 14, 2011

Filed under: Frugal Living,The forming of a little Clay Pot,Weekly Menus — littleclaypot @ 9:59 am

This is for the skeptics, and as a bit of reassurance for myself.  I do, usually, spend right around $100.00 per week on groceries.  That is an average.  This week, I am trying to live out of the pantry and make do with what we have.  Grocery $ spent so far…$0.00.  I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to help make this possible.  Now before you go thinking I’m all back woods mountain woman, feeding my children freshly trapped and skinned rabbit (which may be kinda cool…but we are so not that tricky… yet) read the following and see what you think.

  • Keep powdered milk on hand.  This is great to keep your milk supply going.  I will substitute powdered milk and water in recipes that call for milk and that leaves more milk for drinking.
  • Keep canned fruits & veggies on hand. When they are on sale stock up.  That way if you don’t make it to the grocery store you can still get some vit C in the kiddos.  I try to only get fruit in real fruit juice and not in syrup.  IF I were a real frugal woman, I would have canned my own peaches and pears this summer!
  • Save up, or spend a windfall, and buy 1/2 of a cow and 1/2 of a pig.  For us, it worked out to be right around $3.00 per lb. Not bad for local pasture raised meat!  We filled a large chest freezer.  For illustration purposes, we received about 57 lbs. of hamburger.  That is easily 1 hamburger meal a week, plus a few pot luck dinners and some summer cook outs!  Plus the roasts, ribs, etc.  The hard part is paying up front of course, AND remembering to take it OUT of the freezer to eat it…but I haven’t had to purchase beef since Fall and that is a huge weekly savings.  Now before you go saying “well yeah, but if you spend $100.00/wk and add the cost of the beef then the weekly average is way higher!”  REMEMBER…this week…so far….I’ve spent $0.  SO in the end I think it does about even out.
  • Don’t think that it is going to just pull itself together.  I don’t buy (a lot) of convenience items.  Yes, that means I mix up my own bisquick mix…but big deal, you do a large batch wen you need some, store it in a 1/2 gallon mason jar in the fridge and it’s there for the next 3 times you need it.   Get familiar with basic recipes and when you find things you like, that are easy…keep items on hand to be able to pull it together quickly.
  • Lastly, when plans change and you decide to cut back on grocery items…which means a change in the menu that you made the week before (hmmm not like this is a little close to home today) Do a quick inventory and think simple!  You can almost never go wrong with spaghetti– it may not be a Mediterranean feast with fresh salads…but it will taste good enough and fill your belly.

Now, if you have any ideas for what to do when the schedule change means that your husband begs for a crock pot meal, and you didn’t get to the store to buy cheddar cheese for the macaroni and cheese on the menu…and it’s 10:00am and you need to get something in the crock by 12:00….well then let me know. *GRIN*


The spirit of adventure June 15, 2010

Filed under: Frugal Living,I ain't Proverbs 31...yet.,Weekly Menus — littleclaypot @ 11:40 am

My husband and watched a movie last week called 180° South.  It was about a man who wanted to climb Corcovado in Patagonia, and how he traveled there to do it. It was an interesting watch, and it blew a little breath into our desires for our own quests and adventures.  But for now, we are tied to jobs, a mortgage, children…all the things that do not typically assist a free and adventurous spirit.  Some degree however, of our desire for frugality, is to help fund and make possible our own grand adventures.

I like to travel.  I have been all over the US and to Europe.  I like seeing new things and experiencing life in other places.  Of course one way I can bring those places to me is in the kitchen.  The currys of India, the soy of China, the BBQ of the south…I love taking mini world tours with my mouth.

Sometimes, adventures are planned and well thought out.  Sometimes they are quite accidental.

The menu for this week had “Hamburgers” on for Monday night. My husband loves hamburgers.  I can only think of one restaurant where he hasn’t ordered a hamburger and that was a Japanese steak house!  But, alas, amidst too many projects I neglected to buy hamburger from my in-laws for the meal,and when 5:00 came around I had a menu…and no ingredients!  So I turned to the trusty internet to come up with something.  Whenever I do this I think of superheros…going to their super computers and being told the exact time and location of the next big crime…I wish I could clean house in Wonder Woman’s boots!  Talk about adventure.

"I met a man the other day, sold all he had and headed west Said he found some richness there And he's going to make it his Smiling as he parted Saying something about buying a filed and now he's gone so long...~ What could be so grand, Seeds

I had seen recipes for Lentil burgers in my searches for other lentil recipes.  I always passed them over knowing of my husbands reverence for ground beef.  But this was an emergency, this was the beginning of an adventure.  I chose one, and set to work.  I delegated the shredding of the carrots to my daughter.  As I boiled,chopped, mixed and measured I had a quiet pit in my stomach that it was all for naught.  That dinner would be a struggle and that I should probably just have made nice, safe, unadventurous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

And then it happened…we ate.

And they liked it!  My husband even said he “really liked” it.  He had friends over to play music with, and 2 of them tried them out of curiosity…and THEY liked it!  In my humble opinion this was an adventure worth taking.  Now I have a cheap, yummy, healthful substitute for hamburgers although I will only make them occasionally…we couldn’t quite give up the beef around here) and I didn’t run to the store to buy hamburger and spend extra $ on other items that I would have inevitably bought.

Making a Lentil burger is not climbing a towering peak in Patagonia.  It isn’t even akin to walking up the hill behind my house.  But this little bit of willingness to venture into the unknown opened new possibilities and will help us prepare for some of those bigger adventures down the road.


Saving time with Bounty April 26, 2010

Filed under: Frugal Living,Health,Uncategorized — littleclaypot @ 3:57 am

First off, I am looking forward to the end of school, and getting into the full swing of summer and keeping on with my efforts to feed the family reasonably local, & reasonably healthy on a budget of $100.00 per week.

This is the bill for the bounty order that will be delivered on Thursday.  I Finally broke down and ordered some extras (for us).  Bagels, Tarrells and some beef snack sticks.  One of the biggest complaints (and truly, there haven’t been many) has been the lack of  “easy food” -things like boxed cereal, pretzels and chips.  I told myself that I would alleviate this complaint by making home made snacks.  But…I have yet to work that into the schedule.  So, just a few more weeks of classes, and for now, if some bagels and beef sticks will buy me a few more moments of brain time…I am aalllllll for it.

Product Producer Price Items Subtotal
Bagels – Plain Amazing Grains $4.29 1 $4.29
Taralles – Garlic Amazing Grains $3.32 1 $3.32
Milk – Whole – 1 Gal Evan’s Farmhouse Creamery $6.31 3 $18.92
Yogurt – Blackberry – Quart Evan’s Farmhouse Creamery $4.06 1 $4.06
1/2 and 1/2 – 1 qt Queensboro Farm Products $1.55 1 $1.55
Jerusalem Artichoke – lb Gardners Gladiolus $3.90 1 $3.90
Salad – Bouquet Finger Lakes Fresh $2.00 1 $2.00
Gourmet Medley sprout mix Mizrahi Manor $3.04 1 $3.04
Steak Prime Rib – Dexter Mizrahi Manor $11.21 2 $22.43
Snack Sticks – Beef Drover Hill Farm $5.77 1 $5.77
Pasta – Linguini The Pasta Shoppe $2.60 1 $2.60

Waste not Want not. April 6, 2010

An Italian friend of mine told me a few years ago about her grandmother visiting from Italy.  She described the way that her grandmother ate EVERYthing off a chicken bone and how it made her (my friend) feel very wasteful for throwing away food on her plate.

My husbands grandfather has a collection of empty match boxes.  I haven’t seen it myself, but every account likens it to a rather large collection.  Apparently there is no designated purpose for these match boxes, but they are kept…just because you never know when you might want to….what exactly would you want to do with 50 match boxes?

My mother-in-law taught me to wash my gently used baggies.  At first, I openly admit, I thought she was insane.  Then a girlfriend told me about someone who threw out a gallon baggy after a package of opened crackers had been kept in it for a few days.  Now, I tell myself I wash them sometimes–so that I don’t feel guilty for the times I don’t. *GRIN*

Let’s get to the point.  As I was working on the menu for next week, considering what I have, what I will need to get, recipes, schedules, the “sensitive” palates of my children and their extreme displeasure for casserole type food…it occurred to me…”Why am I planning a meal I am not going to want to fix, and that no one is going to want to eat?”  When this happens, there are left overs that no one wants to eat, and then they inevitably get thrown away.  Combine that with some exceptional circumstances that are going to seriously mess up our daily “schedules” over the next couple of weeks…and I decided to embrace the simple.  So the menu reflects just that: Sandwiches, pizza, &  hotdogs (Now stop your grimacing, I can actually get these through CNY Bounty and they are Delicious! No preservatives and made with local meat.)

I hope this tactic works!  I even think that I am going to try to make pizza’s this weekend and freeze them so that they are all ready and I will not be tempted to order pizza for delivery…a luxury we pay an extra $10.00 for, living out here in the boonies!


ACK! I missed my Bounty Order! March 31, 2010

Unfortunately yesterday I was focused on other tasks that had to be done, and I forgot about placing my bounty order until after it was to late! I have not missed a bounty order in a month or two, so I am very disappointed.  I am also into “CRunCH” time with my school work, so I need to be organized over the next couple of weeks to make sure that I am not making these silly time/money wasting mistakes!

The first step is going to be a thorough inventory of the kitchen.  Please hold, this may take a few moments, and I will probably get detoured by the needs of a human under 4ft tall. …………….

OK, now that is done, to create a grocery list and a menu.  I have decided that I am going to try to get through to next Thursday with the bare necessities and a few pantry items.  I need to restock on oatmeal (if anyone knows of a place to purchase non-plastic large food containers I would love to know!) and I will need milk, and a few produce items as well as a few things for dinner next week.  I am going to try to get the milk from a local farmer, and the oats and most everything else I will get from Troyer’s.   The menu for next week is very budget friendly, and so I should be able to maintain my $100.00 mark.

I am still trying to figure out the best way to post a grocery list or a break down of what I have purchased–that is not labor intensive.  I have considered scanning my notebook that I take with me and use to keep track of prices, and I think I will try to play with that this week.  I am also looking at some other blog themes that may allow me to organize a bit differently.

Also please take the time to read Mama Beth’s comment on the Breakfast on a Budget post…she is the amazing woman who shared the oatmeal/granola recipe and I greatly respect her experience, expertise and energy!


Breakfast on a Budget. March 26, 2010

Personally, I am not a big breakfast person…unless it is a BIG breakfast: pancakes, eggs, bacon, oranges, fried potatoes, cinnamon rolls, coffee, Juice.  But let’s face it–the farm family breakfast is just not realistic on a daily basis–at least not in my house!  I think most Americans today have cold cereal, milk, perhaps a fruit, some juice and maybe some toast.  But I know that for us, for a looooong time the routine was–cold cereal–milk–and juice.   Except Saturday, Saturday is pancakes and I think my children would revolt if I tried to pull anything over on them in that department.  I missed a Saturday a few weeks ago and promised to make them on Sunday…there was no backing out on Sunday…they were ready to make a picket line in front of the bathroom if I started to recant!

So as I started this venture I immediately started noticing how much was being spent on cereal.  Even at Aldis a box of “Crisp Rice” is approx $1.49.  Even in Walmart you can expect to pay any where from $1.60- $3.00 (and I think I am being conservative here) for boxed cereal depending on the brand.  Then feed four children an average of 3/4-1 Cup of cereal each day…(Not to mention my husbands, “I’m ready to go to bed–it is time for a bowl of cereal.” habit.) I have to buy at least 2 boxes each week.  So even if it is Crisp Rice from Aldi’s (which is a smaller box and normally I would buy 3 boxes for a week) – that is $4.50 for breakfast not including a fruit or the milk.

Enter the Mighty OAT.  Am I dating myself if I refer to Wilford Brimley telling us all that eating oatmeal is “The right thing to do”?  Oatmeal is actually a very good breakfast food.  It is filling, but not fattening, it is warm or cold, and it is good for our cholesterol.  Amazingly it is also very cost effective.  I can buy rolled oats at my local Amish store for $.70/lb.  A 6.55 lb bag costs $4.59.  Now I have not figured out mow many cups are in 6.55 lbs of oat meal, but I only have to by a bag every few weeks. So figure it is about $1.50 a week?  OR I can buy STEEL CUT OATS (or Oat Grout) (the unrolled oat, some people say it is more filling because it is not processed) for $.62/lb.

My magic numbers for rolled oats are 2 to 4.  Boil 4 cups water, add 2 cups oats.  This is the perfect amount for my 4 kids (for now.)  I am preferring the oat grout right now for 2 reasons:

  1. The magic numbers are 1 to 4.
  2. I can put it  in the crock over night and it is ready in the morning, with minimal clean up!  The recipe can be found here. If my husband want’s to eat some before he goes to work, this is good for that too, because I don’t have to get up at 3am to make him oatmeal before he goes!  I just change the 1 cup oats to 4 cups of water to 1 1/4 cups oats to 5 cups of water.

Now, my kids do get a little tired of oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. So we started experimenting.  We add Fruit (fresh or frozen), nuts and coconut, chocolate chips, maple syrup.  Anything really.  A favorite treat is to mix hot cocoa into it!  But if we really need something different we use this method suggested by a reader.  This is great as a “cold cereal” or on top of yogurt or even plain.  And there is no limit to what you can add  nuts, fruit…hmmm probably even some hot cocoa (will have to experiment with that!)

I do not buy much juice, a lot of cost for not a great nutrition (depending on the variety of course).  So we drink tea or milk or water and have an orange or mandarin with breakfast to get in that Vit. C.  These typically are not too expensive at Aldi’s and a large orange can be split between 2 kids.   I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but based on the USDA guidelines Children aged 2-8 only need 1- 1 1/2 cup of fruit per day.   And when you look at what counts as 1 cup, you don’t need to eat your whole serving at once.  A half an orange at breakfast, and 1/2 cup of pears or apple at lunch…and *POOF* you’ve done it!  Throw some plums or raisins in for a snack and now you have exceeded the need and gotten most of the recommended vitamins!   Apart of the $$ problem is that we just plain eat too much and waste too much.  When we put in perspective what our bodies really need to be healthy…suddenly we are able to spend a lot less money.

Happy eating!


You are what you eat… February 22, 2010

I am in the middle of a semester where I am working on a large project that has to do with the food we eat and our health.  As a RN I firmly believe that we are what we eat…or rather consume.

Consumption is the only word that really describes my feelings towards American Culture.  If you really stop and take a moment to think about it…What have you eaten today? How did you get to work?  What are you wearing?  How many lights are on in your house right now? How many major appliances?  What will you buy this week?  Look at the packaging of something you buy regularly…what happens to it when it you are done with it?  Even our higher-end items are touted as disposable…I recently had a conversation with a Dell employee about my Dell all in one printer…that we got in the spring of 2007.  Three years ago.  I was told that I really needed to consider a new printer because the average life of a printer is only 2 years!  Well then for crying out loud the one I have is like an ancient artifact!  And we havn’t even started to think about the extra’s–we really have only addressed aspects of daily living.  Consumption is an unavoidable fact…but what are the consequences?

The United States is in a crisis of Health…We eat too much of the wrong foods and we don’t exercise enough…our livers, pancreas’, hearts, and circulatory systems are forced into failure by our own habits…cirrhosis, diabetes, heat attacks, and strokes.  We demand the products and the ease of living that causes toxins to be dumped into our back yards that cause cancer and birth defects.  More and more we are finding that the things that were invented to make out lives easier are making our lives sicker.  And we all want to be healthy…so we go to the doctor or to the hospital and demand treatment…for a problem that we created…and by demanding that treatment we cause more problems…there are not enough nurses, the supplies all have to be made in a plant, shipped, wrapped in something disposable…even in our poor health we demand and consume.

The first place the Bible (KJV) uses the word Consume is in Genesis 41:30 “And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land.”  Now this is talking about a specific event…but isn’t it too poetically ironic that a Famine shall consume anything?  In my little understanding of agriculture a famine can be caused by natural disasters or my the mistakes of man.  Public education taught me that the dust bowl was the result of over use of the land, rendering it useless.  So if poor decisions and overuse (consumption again) lead to famine…what kind of a metaphorical/literal famine are we headed for!? And how do our consumptions stand posed…just waiting to consume us?

This little Clay Pot doesn’t have an answer for all the questions…but I do know that I want to stop consuming sooooo much.  I want to feed my family foods that fill their bellies and help them to be healthy…not with foods that wear out their body systems and pollute the earth that they play on.  I want to help others question why we demand the things we demand…and is it good for us?  I don’t want to tell anybody what to do, or that my way is the right way…but let’s all start asking the questions “Do I really need this,  and what does it really do for me?”