Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frugal Tip: Make your own Broth

One of my favorite things to make is chicken broth. I think it is because it is so cheap and easy, and it has so many uses. You can add it in place of water in some recipes to add a richness. Or it can make instantly yummy soup. I use it in my white chicken chili, as the liquid in many chowders, or even to enrich my mashed potatoes when I'm doing them dairy free.

When you consider it from a frugal perspective, it's a huge win. If you order chicken broth in bulk from amazon it ranges from $2.67 (Swanson) to $3.75 (organic) per quart. I figure it costs me about $2 to $3 to make up a 5 quart batch, and less when I do big batches in my canning pot (3 gallons!). So that is about 40 to 60 cents per quart, a possible savings of $3.35 per quart or a total savings of $16.75 per 5qt. batch! Since the chicken bones are leftovers from cooking, they don't count, so my only cost is the celery, onions, and carrots I add.

So lets get going:

  • 1 chicken carcass, skins, bones and all. After you've had yummy roasted chicken for supper, or maybe raw after you've de-boned a whole chicken. either way. 
  • 1 bunch of celery ($1) all chopped up. Minus the bottom, which you could plant, or make art with...) You especially want to toss in the leaves, those add LOTS of flavor.
  • 1 pound of carrots, I use the baby carrots after they get old (a little dry looking) and the kids don't find them appealing.
  • 1 or 2 whole onions. The skins are FULL of good stuff, so don't peel, just chop coarsely and drop 'em in. 
  • Enough water to cover it all in a 6-qt pot or slow-cooker.

Let it all cook on low ALL night. I've recently discovered my 6-qt cooker cooks "low" at a much higher temp than my 4-qt that I got at my wedding 12 years ago, so use your discretion. In an older crockpot, you may want to go with "Medium" or even "High." We want this to get hot and stay hot.

In the morning, strain off the meat and veggies. I feed them to the chickens, but a friend told me you can snap the bones and do another batch!

Then bag for the freezer. This will fill one and a half gallon bags. I have found that the bags often get scratched or punctured in the freezer, and then leak upon thawing. So I started putting the bags in coffee cans, and filling and freezing that way. They stack great, and thawing is a breeze, since you can just set the can on the counter! If you want one cup portions, put one cup in a sandwich bag, and fill a gallon bag with the smaller bags, then freeze flat. :)


Proverbs 3:7-9
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;Fear the Lord and depart from evil.8 It will be health to your flesh,And strength to your bones.9 Honor the Lord with your possessions,And with the firstfruits of all your increase;

Originally Posted in April 2012, This continues to be one of our most pinned posts!

Linked today:

Frugal Family 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

One Thousand Gifts Study

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy. *
I'm very excited to be starting a study today with a few sweet friends through this book:

and this study guide:

Have you read it? What did you think? Do you keep a list? Please comment! I'd love to hear from you!

It was a great first session. Love my friends. :)
I really need to start my blessing journaling again.

It's just one of many on my To Be Read List. :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ice Fishing, a fun winter outing

A stretch of sub-zero temps transformed our local waters into a sea of glass. Now, a few milder days meant our children were able to experience a true miracle: walking on water!

Fun Facts:

  • Two inches of ice will generally support one adult of average size - on foot. Three inches of ice will support a small group of people, providing they walk single file and remain well spaced. Ice over twelve inches thick will usually support the weight of a car. (reference, and lots of other great facts)
  • The ice we were on was 8-10 inches thick, but we let our friend who was guiding, check that first before we ventured out.
  • The kids discovered that the fish hang around close to the bottom.
  • Everyone who was fishing caught several bluegills. 
  • Here is a page full of Ice Fishing themed MATH!
  • One of us asked how there can be enough oxygen in the water for the fish, if the surface is frozen and the water isn't moving. I found the answer here: "... algae continue to photosynthesize and produce oxygen as long as there is enough light, so oxygen is being created as it is being consumed." 
  • This was a fun way to add to some of the concepts we are currently studying in our Apologia Science.

This lake came with a bonus: an outhouse with a "skylight" lol!

Bonus YouTube:

We discovered this fun ice fishing video to watch after we got home. The kids were just amazed at this, especially after we spent a day on top of the lake. When you get to the end, you'll figure out what's going on:

Some under ice views from beautiful lake Saarijärvi in Vaala, Finland

Video Credits: 
Fisherman: Eelis Rankka
Fisherman's friend: Tommi Salminen
Boy with the balloon: Jukka Pelttari
Camera and editing: Juuso Mettälä
Manuscript by Juuso Mettälä and Eelis Rankka
Safety divers: Esa Vuoppola and Juhana Heino
Music: Stefano Mocini: The end of the doubs

Join us for a winter Blog Cruise 
( goes live on 1/29/13) themed on:
"Winter Nature Study!" click below...


"T" is for Tortoise - Photo Post

During the week we studied  the letter "T" in My Father's World (see here for my review), we made this fun craft...

A paper plate turtle decorated with craft sticks and foam shapes.

So far this year, this has been Wyatt's favorite craft. :) We also attended a play based on Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare. It definitely re-enforced the concept of the slow but faithful tortoise. Such a fun lesson!


Blogging Through the Alphabet

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy 7th Birthday

Psalm 34:1-8

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. 

Read here, why I chose this Scripture.


Scripture and Snapshot

Friday, January 25, 2013

Job and Mayda

My dear sis recently shared this link, about what to say and what NOT to say to someone who has lost a child. It touched me profoundly.

A dear friend of mine, Anna, walked this road ahead of me... And I didn't know what to say. So I didn't. I avoided her, and I didn't call. I did everything wrong. And when the time came for me to walk that road, she did everything right. I am so thankful God gives his grace to us!

Here is my story, from the pages of my old blog, January 2005, when we were living in FL. Hang in there for the end, it's happy, I promise.

Posted: Monday, 31 January 2005
The day after I last posted [that we were expecting]... everything changed.
Short story: we aren't pregnant anymore.
Long story:
We are still without internet, but I wanted to get this posted to let everyone know what's up with us. Hopefully I'll be back online in a week or so, not too sure. I think I'll post a two week update today and then I'll be taking a couple weeks off from [blogging], until life settles down a bit. Once we get back online I'll try to catch up on my email and comments. :) Thanks for all your sweet thoughts...
January 16th: We [the kids and I] flew back to FL from PA, after a wonderful visit with my family. It was great to bring my friend, Anna, and her daughter K along with us on the plane. They came for a week long visit. Anna and I have been friends since we were 12. Having her come visit is like a week long slumber party. :)
Jan. 17th. - Unpack, do laundry, buy groceries... Scrapbook. :) Anna is as crazy about scrapbooking as I am. Some of our best creations went into K's baby book, I wish I had scanned them before she left.
Jan. 18th - Ben's birthday. Anna, K, Tyler, Emma and I went to MOPS in the morning, and then threw a little birthday party for Ben when he got home from work that night.
Jan. 19th - We stayed home and scrapbooked all day.
Jan. 20th - We went to the beach, it was kind of cool weather, but that didn't keep our toes out of the water:

Jan. 21st. Since it had been a week since I found out I was pregnant, I felt about to burst, so Ben and I started telling everyone  We were SO completely excited. I'd had the "baby itch" for a while, but we weren't trying to get pregnant... so it was a big surprise. Even so, we were just thrilled at the thought of another little one... especially after getting to enjoy Anna's baby, K, all week.
Jan. 22nd - I started spotting. After totally freaking out we cancelled our planned shopping trip and stayed in and scrapbooked all day.
Jan. 23rd. - Still spotting. more even. *more tears* Called my mom and she suggested taking it easy and going for less stress. Since Anna had to fly out in the morning, we did our best to enjoy her last day... and took her sightseeing. It was a good distraction...
Jan 24th. - Took Anna to the airport. It was so hard to hug her goodbye. She and I had grown so much closer this week (as if it were possible) and she had been a huge encouragement to me with the distress in this pregnancy. I started my 8th week of pregnancy, still spotting.
Jan 25th, - spotting changes to clotting, more bleeding, and cramps. Spent a lot of time on the phone with mom. Praying (and crying) in the shower. God, I want your will... oh but God, I WANT this baby!
Jan. 26th - more bleeding. cramps, and now a migraine headache. Ben comes home from work early. I love my sweet husband. My headache lifts by bedtime and I do a little of my Bible-in-a-year reading. I'm in Job now. I came across this verse:
"What? Shall we accept good at the hand of God, and shall we not accept calamity?" Job 2:10
How true, I was so quick to praise God for his choosing to give us a baby when we weren't trying for one... Praise Him even now, for He's knows best and whatever He sends, I will be thankful for  it, because it is from his hands.
Jan. 27th - less bleeding. Ben stays home and takes care of the kids and everything  so I can keep off my feet.
Jan. 28th - Ben stays home again. We finally decide to go ahead and fork out the money for an ultrasound so we can see what's been going on. The kids go to a friend's house and we go in about 2pm. Why is it when you tell someone at a doctor's office that you don't have insurance they look at you like you are nuts? All in all, we spent $400 in just one hour there. The doctor was really nice, and the ultrasound went quickly.
Suddenly there I was staring at an empty screen. He told me my womb was completely empty. I had completely miscarried  We had what we needed to know... Our baby was already in the arms of Jesus.

We walked out and sat in the truck... it's difficult to explain the peace that just overwhelms you when you have been praying so fervently for God to show you what He's doing, and He finally does. I'd been crying all week, and there were no more tears. God had spoken. And we were at peace. It was SO strange, I really thought I'd fall apart, but I didn't, and I wasn't even wanting to. It was peaceful.
We made some phone calls and broke the news. That was tougher. Ben went back to work yesterday, and life just went back to it's normal routines... Like waking up from a bad dream. We're still healing, and I'm still hoping God chooses to bless us again. But for now... healing.
Thank you to all of you who were encouraging us through this hard week. One very special moment was when our pastor from back home called up, having heard the news, and had a word of prayer with Ben over the phone. It was the only time during the whole thing that I saw Ben cry (not that he wasn't sad, but he's not much of the crying type). There were so many calls and prayers from friends far and near... So appreciated.
Hugs and prayers, Laura

It doesn't end there though...

We had thought we were done, but God had plans. He did not leave me with empty arms. The baby, whom I call Job, was with Jesus.

But the baby, called Mayda, who was born one year to the day from my miscarriage... she wouldn't be here if Job hadn't left. If God had answered my heart's prayer... We wouldn't be celebrating the 7th birthday of our precious little girl. Not a replacement, but a double blessing.

January 25, 2006
Mayda came into the world. When we saw our pastor the only words I could speak were "God is so faithful!"

Psalm 34:1-8, 15, 17-18

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. 

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Happy 7th Birthday to my dear sweet Mayda! You are my every-day-reminder of the faithfulness of my Father in heaven!

And Happy 8th Birthday to Job, celebrating with Jesus. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Frugal Tip: Meal Planning

Chicken & Dumplings

I have been meal planning for about 2 years now, and I will tell you, it has saved me almost 40% on my grocery bill, if not more. I currently spend $100 a week on groceries for our family of 6, which works out to about 80 cents per plate, assuming 3 meals a day. If any of you have a 10 year old son like mine, you know three meals a day is underestimated. :) Here's one of my favorite frugal blogs to read about how to stream-line your grocery budget. Please follow her blog, you'll be glad you did.

We get paid twice a month, so I do my meal planning in two-week chunks, and then I do all the shopping for those meals (since most things have at least a two week shelf life) in one day, and then I do not go back to the store for two weeks. This not only saves me on gas, and keeps me from extra impulse purchases on subsequent shopping trips, but it REALLY saves me on sanity. Planning the meals and planning the shopping goes hand-in-hand.

Preparing to shop, I first take stock of what I have, and make a list. I check the freezer for meat that needs used, or can be used to base a few meals. For example: there's a ham in there, which can be my plan for Sunday dinner, and then the leftovers will be the base for Tuesday's cubed ham and cheesy potatoes... I make sure my pantry staples have enough to go for two more weeks. If there's a lot of baking to do, I may even plan to add more to the supply. (This includes checking the shampoo, toilet paper, dishwasher soap, etc to make sure there's at least enough to make it to the next shopping trip). I also check on my dry food storage, such as dry beans, rice, coffee, pancake mix, etc.

After I know what I have, I begin my list of meals I can make, first: listing the meals I can make with what's on hand:

Ham and broccoli, with dinner rolls
cubed ham and potato casserole

Then I see what is on sale in the local grocery ads. As a rule, I try and plan my grocery spending around my locally owned grocer's specials. I live in a small rural Nebraska community, so all of the grocery stores, including Walmart, are in a 2 mile vicinity. So it is no sweat to hit both local stores and one big-box store in one shopping trip. And even if that was hard to do, it's only once every two weeks, right? What I've found is that by keeping track of prices I've noticed that the big box store is not always the cheapest, and the quality of my local butcher's meat is well worth any difference. Also, if you hit the local places first, then you can get anything that was on sale and sold out at the small stores while you're at Walmart for your last stop, since they do price match, so take the ads with you. :)

I plan the remaining meals I need to make my list by utilizing the best sales: Since it's nearly March, cabbage and corned beef brisket will likely be on sale, so this would be a good time to include cabbage burgers in the meal plan, and maybe a beef brisket, if I knew a good way to prepare one....

My goal is to list 14 main dish meals, with one third being "Meat and Potato" style and the remaining two-thirds being casseroles and soups. It usually adds up to 5 meat and starch meals, 6 casseroles, and 3 soups. I have found my kids will eat a good hearty soup if they help me cook it (so there's no mystery), and if they don't have soup every day. Soup is SUPER economical. :) Husbands tend to revolt if fed too many casseroles as well. Give the guy a steak or hamburger night. I have yet to meet a guy who didn't LOVE meatloaf.

Here's a list of my meal plan from January:

Pizza (home-made)
Beef Chili
Chicken & Dumplings (or Chicken noodle soup)
Shepherd's Pie
Taco Salad
Ham and baked potatoes
Cheesy Ham & potatoes with broccoli
Roast Chicken and veggies
White Chicken Chili
Cabbage Burgers
Meatloaf and Mashed potatoes
Enchilada Casserole
Chicken Alfredo w/Broccoli

 Even if your list looks nearly the same every two weeks, it's ok! Most families don't get tired of a meal they only see twice in a month. It is also perfectly acceptable to have one day marked "leftovers" if your family will eat them. If not, re-invent them. (see #8 on the fore-mentioned top-ten list; you did go read the whole thing, didn't you?)

After making a list of favorite family meals I insert them onto a blank printed calender. This can be made with a ruler and scrap paper, or you can print one you find online, just use google images and search for the month/year you want. I make sure to pencil in any major family activities that will affect meal-times or my preparation time. Like Farmer's Market Saturdays are days I plan on pulling something simple from the freezer, or having something in the crock-pot, so I'm not having to cook after a long busy farmer's market.

Once the calendar is complete, I use it to make the rest of my grocery list, adding in items for lunches and breakfasts as well. Be sure to pick up lots of fresh/seasonal fruit and veggies to fill it all in. Then I post the calender on the fridge and use it to keep track of what to pull out to thaw a day early. Since everything has to last 2 weeks, I put most things in the freezer until the day before they are dinner, including shredded cheese, loaves of bread, and all the meats. I also don't stick to my plan rigidly, sometimes the meal I'd planned is not a good fit for the day. In that case I make something from a different day. Just be sure to be crossing things off as you make them, so you know the ingredients are gone.

Happy Cooking!

(PS: please post a comment telling me how you plan meals at your house! I'd love tips and tricks from my friends!)
Originally Posted in Feb 2012, Meal Planning is still one of my best money saving tips!

Linked today:

Frugal Family 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Make a Bread Bowl

This is actually a combination of two of my favorite recipes:

Starting with the bread:

Cuban Bread

5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. yeast  [I used SAF Instant, worked wonderfully]
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 or 2 tbsp. potato flakes [for added starch, this was my addition, loved it]
2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
Mix 4 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar, potato flakes, and salt. Pour in hot water and beat 100 strokes, or 3 minutes with a mixer. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead 5 to 8 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let rise 15 minutes. Punch down. Shape into 4 round loaves, and place on a greased (or sprinkled with cornmeal) baking sheet. Cut an X 1/2 inch deep on top with a sharp knife. Place on the middle shelf of a cold oven. Place a cake pan of hot water on the lowest shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until deep golden brown. 

When cool, cut off the top of the loaves and pinch out some of the soft middle of the loaf, then use your fingers to squish the rest to the sides to make a firm edge. Fill with soup and enjoy! 

Southwest White Chicken Chili

From my dear mom-in-law, Debbie
3 Tbs Butter
2 lb. chicken (cooked and cubed)
1 small onion chopped
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano leaves
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 can (7oz) of green chili peppers
1 quart of chicken broth or 1 can cream of chicken soup, reconstituted
3 cups cooked white beans (great northern or white navy) or two cans, drained.
Green onion and Monterey Jack Cheese to garnish 
In large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown the chicken and onions in butter. Add all seasonings as well as the can of chilies.  Simmer on low heat to mix the flavors, about 5 minutes.  Add the beans and broth (less broth if you want it less soupy and more of a stew). Bring back to heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes to heat through. Serve with garnish as desired. 
I recently heard a friend's son won a chili cook-off with a recipe identical to this. So you know it's GOOD. Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

"S" is for Sunset

Summer 2011

 Something I love about living here: the sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking.

April 25, 2012

Psalm 65:8
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.

June 2012

March  2012

March 2012

Sept. 2012


Scripture and Snapshot

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Friday, January 18, 2013

40 is the Sweetest Number

My dear sweet Love turns 40 today. He didn't want anyone to know it was his birthday, OOPS! Well, now you all know, so I may as well share with you:

40 Reasons I Love My Husband:

  1. He's mine.
  2. He belongs to Jesus too.
  3. He's completely committed to our family, and to me.
  4. He's not perfect.
  5. He's ok with the fact that I'm not perfect either.
  6. He's handsome.
  7. He loves God, and all that God made.
  8. His eyes. 
  9. He's a good provider.
  10. He's strong.
  11. He will watch a sappy movie with me.
  12. He doesn't back down about his convictions.
  13. He encourages me to homeschool.
  14. He was homeschooled too.
  15. He is good at his hobbies, like hunting, and brings home the meat.
  16. He's not squeamish, like when his wife says, "Hey, lets butcher 110 chickens this year!"
  17. He takes his girls on dates.
  18. He takes his boys hunting.
  19. He loved me when I was down.
  20. He's ok when the plan changes.
  21. He loves camping and campfires as much as I do.
  22. He's taller than me. 
  23. He's a good listener.
  24. He likes to go on dates with me.
  25. He's a good bowler.
  26. He loves living here as much as I do.
  27. He loves my family, and my grandparents.
  28. He finally got a facebook.
  29. He's an AWESOME singer.
  30. He likes my cooking
  31. He's a good driver, even on bad roads.
  32. He's a good kisser. (not that anyone else will ever know)
  33. He's a good friend.
  34. He's smart.
  35. He's supportive of my crazy obsessions.
  36. He's a good cook.
  37. He's likes to smoke meat, and makes the best jerky.
  38. Thanks to him, our kids are REALLY adorable.
  39. He waited for me.
  40. While I've only gotten the last 13 years of this 40, I get to look forward to ALL of the next 40.

Love you Babe!


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