Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frugal Tip: Using Dry Beans

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy. *

When you look at ways to squeeze your grocery budget, there is hardly anything more rewarding than using dry beans. Here are some great reasons to give up on the canned stuff, and use dry beans: name a few. I also find that I can get away with half as much ground beef in many recipes if I add beans. Keep the protein and lose the fat! Yay! 

I may be biased because my dear sis-in-law works for a local dry bean producer.  Since we eat them all the time, it's handy to buy them in bulk at the local plant to save money. Plus it's a great way to support local food producers.  Last season we actually grew them ourselves! This is another reason dry beans are a good choice at our house. 

As for the money savings: using Pintos for an example: canned beans go for about 60 cents to $1 per can. One can has about 1.5 cups of beans. One pound of dry beans yields 6 cups cooked, so 1/4 a pound is the same as one can. Dry beans go for 80 cents (bulk price when I buy a 25lb bag) to $1.30 per pound at the grocery store. This means a 1/4 pound costs as little as 20 cents! Canned beans are 200% more expensive. (See, this is a homeschool post! How do you like my math?!)

Ok, on to the process. First, sort the beans. The best way to do this is to spill them on a clean counter-top, spread them out, and look them over. When they are harvested, tiny bean-sized pebbles can get into the mix. Some times you won't find any, sometimes there a several. But I will tell you, the first time you bite into one in a bowl of chili, you will wish you hadn't skipped this step!

sorting the beans into a colander

Then wash them. I put them in a bowl and cover with water, and agitate them with my hands. Pour through a strainer/colander, and we're done!

At this point I put them into the slow cooker and cover with water at least 3"-4" above the beans. I like to cook up 2+ pounds at a time in my 6 quart pot. This is for a few reasons, and none of them include me eating 12-15 cups of beans at one sitting. :)  I like the convenience of canned beans as much as the next gal, so I cook a LOT at one time and then freeze in "meal sized" portions, so they are ready to go, just as fast as canned.

I do all of this at night, and then put the pot on low and forget about them until morning.

~edit 3/11/13~ If you find they don't get done overnight, your slow cooker may by cooler on "low" than mine. I'm finding there is quite a variation. Try doing it on high if they don't turn out the first time. If your slow cooker was manufactured after 2007, it will cook at these higher temps. If it was manufactured before 2007, maybe you should buy one with all the money you're saving not buying canned beans!~

Also, as a commenter noted: if you are cooking Kidney Beans, be sure they do boil for at least 10 minutes to remove naturally occurring toxins. See this link for more information.

All that's left to do is strain them off...

Rinse well and bag them up....

and freeze!

Now wasn't that easy? I freeze them in quarts (about 3-4 cups) because my family is bigger and we like a lot of them. But you could freeze a can sized portion (1 and 1/2 cups) in a sandwich bag, fill a gallon freezer bag with those smaller bags, and freeze them that way. Another great way (sorry, no pics of this) is to spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually, then dump into gallon bags. Then you can use a cup measure to scoop out exactly what you need every time!

The Everything Beans Book
*affiliate link*
A note about, ummm, "the after-effects of beans":I am told it is the sugars in beans that produce the gas. The sugars in beans are water soluble, so many suggest soaking the beans before cooking, and draining off the water they soaked in. Cook in fresh water. To keep this a simple slow cooker routine you could soak (power off) overnight in your slow cooker.  In the morning, rinse and replace them there with fresh water, turn it on and cook on high for only a few hours. They should be done by lunch this way. Also, the fresher your beans, the less gassy they should be, so I'm told. We happened to grow these beans ourselves, so they were fresh!

Need a yummy recipe to use those beans? Try the Best Home-made Chili (scroll to end of post), that was demonstrated at our local farmer's market cooking demo. Also, our local bean producer puts out a cookbook! Be sure you try the Coffee Bean Brownies!

Here is my favorite chili recipe, using those beans:

Best Homemade Chili

(This recipe is a combination of two recipes from Taste of Home Country Ground Beef Cookbook: Three-step Chili from pg. 22 and Best Homemade Chili from pg. 23) I have adjusted it to be gluten free. 

2 lb. Grass-fed Ground Beef 
1 Large onion – diced
1 Tbs of chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 clove fresh pressed garlic
3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans drained)
One large can of tomato juice (46 oz)
(or 1 qt and 1 pt of home canned)
¼ cup cornmeal
2 Tbs vinegar 
Cayenne pepper to taste

In large pot or Dutch oven, brown beef with seasonings and onions, until fully cooked. Add tomato juice and bring to a boil. Mix cornmeal and vinegar into a paste, and add a ladle of the hot tomato juice to it and then mix back into the entire pot (to avoid clumps). Return to a boil and then cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until thickened.  Add cayenne pepper to taste. 

If you like, serve it in a bread bowl!

Loved this post? Here are a few more things that you might love as well:

Here's a favorite recipe using dry beans:

Black Bean Chili!
Nothing can have a better start than bacon, can it? As you may know, I love cooking with beans, and I recently got a great deal on some dry black beans. So I cooked them up using my usual overnight method, and froze them in bags. Having that all done made this a quick and easy soup to assemble. My hubby declared it one of his new favorites. *score!*


[Originally posted in March 2012, this post has recently seen a lot of traffic thanks to Pinterest! I am joining with a few friends celebrating frugal tips, and this one is one of my favorites. I've brushed it up and added a great Chili recipe!]

Linked today:

Frugal Family 2013

For more great posts, be sure to "follow"! 


And if this helped you, leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you. :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

College Common Sense, never too early


This week, I am reviewing  College Common Sense , and I already know what you are thinking... Starting a bit early? eh? ;) Yes, my oldest student is only 5th grade, so I was surprised to be given this review, but here is why. Read on...

PhotobucketThis month I've been enrolled in an online subscription to "Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook"  Which retails for $25/year, or you can order the Book and DVD for $50 (plus $5 shipping), if you will be using it year after year.

While Tyler is only 5th grade, and Emma in 4th, this program had activities for them to consider to prepare for college funding.  The activities are for children ranging in age from elementary through college age, parents of any age student, and anyone thinking of going back to college.... basically anyone, of any age, can glean something from this program. 

When I was homeschooled (WAY back when... lol), I remember spending most of my junior and senior year of school driving myself in to the local high school guidance counselor's office, so I could research grants and scholarships. Even with all that time investment, I didn't get much guidence there, and didn't find much money. My plans to attend a lovely private Christian college, changed to a local community college that was more in my budget. While I know in hindsight, this was the path God had for me, I wish I knew then what I know now. Getting funding for college is a worthwhile "occupation", and it's never too early to begin. 

With the average private education costing $$$, for a 4 year degree, getting all those scholarships lined up is really more like bringing in another income... especially if you have 4 kids who may be college-bound, like we do. Kids graduate from college with massive debts that often influence all of their early adult life decisions. Things like having children or staying home to educate them become hardships. I don't want my kids to be in that position. So this was where my mind was before I even began this review. 

Here is what I found:

As I said above, I received the online subscription, which gave me a log in to the website. On the first page, you will see the workbook links and the videos. Don't rush, and be sure to read the Welcome and Instructions. I missed it the first time, and it really does lay the groundwork. In that section Denise Ames (the author) explains that the assignments in the workbook are broken down by age group:
A. Elementary Students' Parents
B. Middle School Students AND Parents
C. High School Students AND Parents
D. College Students AND Parents
Denise also explains that the videos and workbooks are written and directed to the student. Although we as parents must know it well to guide them, they must OWN this information if they want to be successful. 

After reading the first PDF file, "Welcome and Instructions" you will see a PDF links and a videos alternating down the page. There are 6 videos and 6 PDF files alternating down the page.  The first PDF should really be numbered with them, bring the total to 7 PDF and 6 videos.

I tried opening each file, reading it as I listened to the video. This did not work for me, and I had to take another run at it. I found that the video helps explain the information in the workbook (the PDF files), but that they don't necessarily break in the same places. This made it hard to follow, for example the first video covers the same info as the PDF linked next to it "The Big Picture". The second video covered the same as the second file. The third video covered more info from the second PDF, and then they didn't match up from there on out.. I found it to  be really beneficial to look at the material a little differently than the way it was laid out on the page. 

I opened all 7 PDF files, including the welcome, and read them all. You could save or print them too. I would highly recommend printing them and having them to page through as you watch the videos. This way the page breaks and section breaks are not so distracting from the AMAZING information. Then go ahead and watch the videos, making notes on  the pages. The videos are not word for word like the PDF files, so you really need to read and watch it all. 

It may sound overwhelming, but they were really not difficult. Each of the 7 PDF files ranged from 5-10 pages, and the first one was only 2 pages. This made printing it very simple. The videos were of reasonable length, although the material is a bit slow moving. I agree with the author that for elementary age it is really more for the parents at that point as a child might get bored or confused watching it. A high school student would get a lot of information though, and should watch it. A college student will be enthralled, and probably taking notes!

Pay attention as you go through the text for the letters "A" "B" "C" and "D" as they will show what kinds of hands on assignments the kids in each age group (mentioned in the Welcome and Intro) should be doing. 

Most assignments for young kids like mine were thinking and brainstorming, and documenting in a notebook of accomplishments and goals. It recommends they talk about what they want to do someday, and act out a presentation for the family.  There were great assignments and links in the lesson plan emails (which are a free subscription for anyone!) as well, and they really do help. For example one lesson plan recommended practicing timed tests, and recommended a site to do that with. My kids LOVED that assignment, as the recommended site was fun and easy to use.

Here's what I liked:

  • The this is timeless information, and you can buy a copy once and use it with all of your children. 
  • I liked that Denise was constantly encouraging the student to be pro-active and think positively.
  • The free online lesson plans (via email subscription)
  • The links she provided in the text and lesson plan emails were great outside sources for encouragement and enrichment. 
  • The fact that is written directly to the student, who needs to be proactive.

Here's what I didn't like:

  • The way the PDF files didn't quite match up with the videos.  But, as I shared above, this was remedied by printing all 7 and reading them together.
  • The layout of the first page after logging in, even with the "Welcome" PDF, as I struggled with how get going with this program. I think it would help if there were separate tabs for separate age groups. I also imagine this would not be an issue if you just purchased the physical book and DVD, which would be a wise investment if you will use this year after year.

The bottom line:
This has a lot of great information. Denise has a heart for students and you can see it everywhere on her product. It is overwhelming to try and get started, but just like cooking up an elephant, you just start carving the meat and eventually you can begin to understand college funding in bite sized pieces. It will just take time, which is why it is never to early to learn the ropes. I appreciate that about this product!

For more reviews of this product, be sure you check out the rest of the crew:

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text,
photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snow Ice Cream

As much of the Midwest is buried in a snow storm, here's a fun idea for fighting cabin fever. Scoop up some freshly fallen snow and make Snow Ice Cream!

It was a wonderful time to have snow here. The kids spent the day sledding outside. The first time they came in we had hot cocoa. The second time they came in to warm up, I surprised them with this project/recipe. There were amazed! I was amazed that I'd never heard of it before.  I was used to the usual routine of snow angels, sledding, and hot cocoa. Now we will add this treat to our list of must-do snow day fun!

Here's a few fun links:


Join us for more recipes on our Blog Cruise:



Monday, February 25, 2013

X is for X-Ray

Last weekend my grandma fell and broke her wrist. I watched as the doctor took x-rays while he was setting it. Ouch! With today's technology he was able to take so many quick little shots it was like having x-ray vision as he worked. I would covet your prayers for her recovery. After all that we are glad she doesn't glow in the dark!

It got me to thinking how I wish I had x-ray vision. How I wish that I could see if the work I'm doing to teach my kids was really making a difference on the inside, instantly. Are these principles and practices really getting to the heart of the matter? Is this going to work out?

The doctor then put on a splint to hold the bone, so it will grow and fuse in the right angle. If it doesn't, her wrist won't have full motion. In the same way, how can I tether my growing children's hearts to God... so that they bend toward him, and reach their full potential, as He designed?

1 Samuel 16:7 
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance,but the Lord looks at the heart."

And aren't we the most pliable for this kind of training when we are broken? I pray that  my children will incline their hearts to him without that kind of pain, but I know for myself, it is often what it has taken...

Psalm 51: 16-17 
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise."

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whiter than Snow

Psalm 51:7
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; 
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Scripture and Snapshot

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If you threaten a chicken,

So, I have one white chicken left from the "old" flock... the first chicks I got back in the spring of 2010. As she is nearly 3 years old, she is nearly to the end of her laying career. When my hens slow down in laying, I often give them away. The dual purpose breeds can make a good stew chicken, but we've just found they are too tough to eat. These white leghorns are not dual purpose at all, there isn't an ounce of meat on this bird, but she lays HUGE eggs!

Lately she hasn't laid a single egg. At first we thought it was a molt, but long past her feathers regrowing, not a one. We began discussing her retirement. The other morning at breakfast we were talking about how about two weeks ago I had mentioned it was "time" and that same day we found a white egg, but no more for two weeks.

I asked Tyler, "You suppose if we tell her she's about to retire she would lay another one?"

He laughed and headed out for his chores.

Soon he was back in the house yelling for my attention... Guess what!?!?

In related news, we've been adding a game bird feed (30% protein) with a calcium supplement, to our regular layer pellets (16% protein). It's helped the last of the girls feather out of our longest molt yet, and green eggers are laying yet again. I'd about given up! After 3 months of no eggs, I'd actually tried selling my green egg hens, but the lady never showed up. They were going pretty cheap since I doubted they would lay much more... but that's her loss now. I knew they'd come out of it eventually. I had just gotten tired of waiting!

The Chicken ChickAlso, the chicken who was caught in the fence roll has made a complete recovery, and is one of my best brown egg layers. I can tell which one is hers as she always has a small blood spot on her egg, outside of the shell. Probably from the trauma her poor back end had endured!

The farm is a forever place of learning patience and faith!

James 1:2-4
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Valentine's Day Wrap Up

Last week we had a great time with our Gospel Valentines, and I wanted to share the finished product with you! This kids had a great time making and delivering over 180 valentines. Some with cookies, some with cards, some with glitter... all with the Gospel. (Well mostly, the cousins got cartoon ones...) <3

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fondant You Will Actually Eat

We've all been there, the birthday/graduation/wedding where the cake was SO beautiful... but to eat it you had to scrape off the disgusting fondant?

Well, no more! I tried out a fondant recipe I found on Allrecipes... and since I didn't have everything, I did a little subbing. And it turned out YUMMY! I was super glad some was left as I rolled it into little balls and ate it like candy. I kid you not. :) You want to know, don't you?

Original recipe makes 1 - 10 x 4 inch high cake (enough to cover)

 1 (.25 ounce) package unflavored gelatin, or if you buy in bulk, 1 1/2 tsp. (7.5ml)
 3 Tbs. cold water
 1/2 cup corn syrup
 1 tablespoon glycerin* (see note)
 2 tablespoons coconut oil (the good stuff, I use all organic)
 8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (as needed, not all at once)

  • Combine gelatin and cold water; let stand until thick. Place gelatin mixture in top of double boiler and heat until dissolved.
  • Add corn syrup and glycerin, mix well. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil. Mixture should cool until lukewarm.
  • Place 4 cups confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and using a wooden spoon, stir in the lukewarm gelatin mixture. Mix in sugar and add more a little at a time, until stickiness disappears. 
  • Knead on a surface that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar until the fondant is smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands. It may be easier to work on sprinkled wax paper. If fondant is too soft, add more sugar; if too stiff, add water (a drop at a time). 
  • Use fondant immediately or store in airtight container in fridge. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and knead again until soft.
*NOTE: I used Humco Glycerin USP 6 oz , which is sold in the pharmacy or at the above link on Amazon. It is edible and totally food grade, made from vegetables. I called the number on the bottle... the lady was very sweet and said she answers this question 100's of times a day. So I'm saving her another call by telling you. 

After covering Mayda's Hello Kitty Cake, we still had enough left over to cover about 2 dozen cupcakes with cat faces. I used a layer of regular frosting for the crumb coat on all the cakes, and then the fondant lay smoothly right over. 


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Sunday, February 17, 2013


Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.


Scripture and Snapshot

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Practical Grace for the Homeschooling Mom

Dear Friend,
You are tired today. It's been a battle. You made up a song for that spelling list, and your child just flunked the written test you gave. You explained fractions three different ways (You even made a pie chart!), and your child just asked you if a denominator is a part of a bomb.  Your child is so frustrated he is in tears, and you are so exhausted that you can't even offer a hug. You are three weeks behind in your assignment charts, but are desperately fighting the idea of doing school all summer. But, oh, how you had looked forward to a break!
This is for you...

{please join us here for the rest of this post, as we have been graciously invited to be guests on the TOS Crew Blog today}


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beignet or Fastnachts?

Yesterday was  "Fastnacht Day, also known as Fat Tuesday. Traditionally, fastnachts were made by Pennsylvania Dutch housewives on Fat Tuesday to use up all the fat in the house before Lent. "Fastnacht" is a German word meaning "night before the fast." The heavy yeast-raised doughnuts are as much a part of the central Pennsylvania food landscape as chicken and waffles and whoopie pies."

...according the the article linked above. It went on to say how good Pennsylvanians know to order their Fastnachts early from local bakeries and churches... :( unless you've left the PA Dutch country behind. In our area, the only Fat Tuesday tradition catching on is the baking of Mardi Gras King Cakes. Something I'm not really all that attached to. I like a good doughnut.

Here's a good recipe. I changed it up a bit - mostly I'm not one for many risings, so I mixed it all up and let it rise once. You can also make them as Beignets, which is pretty much the same recipe, just a different shape. Either way, add Fat Tuesday to the week of Valentine's Day... and you might just call me one fat momma!

Here's the reworked version:


  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup margarine, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a small bowl, proof yeast with first three ingredients. 
  2. scald the milk and let cool, add melted butter.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the teaspoon of sugar and 3 cups of the flour. Stir in milk and butter until smooth. Add proofed yeast and mix well. Stir in beaten eggs, one cup of sugar, salt, and enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Cover and let rise ina warm place until doubled.
  4. Punch down dough and divide into 2 portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough with a canning jar band (or biscuit cutter). poke a hold in each one and stretch a little. Let rise again for 20 minutes.
  5. Deep fat fry in small batches in canola oil flipping once to make sure each side is lightly browned. If you do this in a large skillet with about 1.5" of oil in i t, you should be able to fry 5 at a time... it goes quite fast. 
  6. Drain on brown paper bags. Toss in confectioners sugar while still warm.

who needs a biscuit cutter when you have scads of jar rings?
We tested the theory, and they really do fry best with a hole in the middle. Just poke one with your fingers and stretch it some.
Hubby also joined in the fun and helped with the frying. He's very talented at such things. :) 
I tend to burn myself.
After the cooled a few seconds, we tossed some in a bag with cinnamon sugar, the rest we glazed with a butter glaze. (Hubby made it, VERY yummy!)

It was well worth the work, and they are almost completely gone.

Originally posted 2/22/12

What do you do to celebrate the beginning of Lent? Do you celebrate Lent? Do you give anything up?

A Holy ExperienceAt our house, we don't give anything up for Lent, but I don't think it's a bad idea. I do believe in fasting, in giving things up for a time to focus on prayer. I believe whenever we remove a distraction, we are more able to hear the still small voice that we often drown out...

Here's a post from yesterday by Ann Voskamp regarding Lent. Be sure you pop over there and snap up the free Lent and Easter Tree devotional she is offering. Don't miss it. :)

And while this post is a day late, I'm joining here too:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bible: my favorite subject to teach!

Because of how well the Bible fits into every area of our learning, it is the subject I find I am always teaching, and I love it... because I'm the one who learns the most!

Bible Reading Plans

We use several different curriculum, but the best, of course is the Bible itself. All of the kids have been using the app on my smartphone to do different reading programs. We love using the audio feature, and listen to it when we are driving. Some of the plans we are using, or have finished already:

Studying God's Word, from Christian Liberty Press

I had originally not used this curriculum with my older two, because it seemed dry. But recently I've been using it with my third child, and have enjoyed it much more than I had thought. The catechism style text really apeals to her, and she loves doing the daily reading. Read here how one lesson led to blessing for both her and myself!


Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, taken from 2 Timothy 2:15:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

I want my kids to have a good base knowledge of Bible application in every day life... this is why I LOVE AWANA! Having two kids in the Truth & Training program, one in Sparks, and one in Cubbies... I get to memorize a LOT of Scripture with them.

The best part of the Awana format is that it teaches Biblical truths with Scripture memorization to back it up.  In Cubbies they do it with a story and a simple verse to go along with it. Since this is geared for ages 3-4, it's pretty simple. In Sparks (K-2nd grade) they memorize a verse that backs up a Biblical statement. I want my kids to know what they believe, and the Biblical basis for "WHY?" as well.

Here is an entire post about Awana, and more about why we love it. 

Family Devotions

We have also used the book by Clay Clarkson, Our 24 Family Ways.  We are loving the conversational style and have already learned a lot, and discussed a lot of Scripture. This fits well with our AWANA studies. I have truly enjoyed many of the Clarksons' books, and this one was no exception.

We have not finished it, but a blogger friend recently reviewed it. Go here to read her entire review. She did a fantastic job describing every part of this book.

Personal Devotions and Study

For myself, I have been reading through the Bible in a year, and it really is all the reference I need! I am also midway through several other great books with spiritual application to all parts of life.  Here is my To Be Read Pile. :)

I've also started a study with a few friends, going through One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. If you've been reading my blog for any time, you know I enjoy counting the everyday blessings.

So that's it for us, What do you use for Bible curriculum? And what other subjects do you love to teach? Join us on a blog cruise?


Note: Images are provided via the Amazon Affiliates Program. 

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. 


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