Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chicken Four Ways

I have been finding ways to make my grocery dollar go further, and so I thought I'd share a fairly simple one. The other day, I roasted a chicken. It cost about $5. It was enough meat for one meal for our family of four, with some left over for one more meal. I made a casserole later in the week with the leftovers. I took the drippings from the roast and made about 2 pints of gravy, which I saved in the freezer. I boiled the bones in water with onion, celery, carrot and crushed garlic, along with some vinegar and seasonings, for most of the day, and made a half gallon of rich delicious broth. This can be strained and used immediately for a soup, or frozen or canned. I used some for soup, and the rest for a delicious risotto later in the week. Altogether, I used the chicken as a main dish twice, I used the broth for two hearty side dishes, and I have a supply of gravy on hand for open faced sandwiches for a lunch or quick dinner.
Here's a quick cost comparison:

My cost for the chicken: $5.

Cost of a half gallon of broth in a box: at least $6.
Cost of two chicken dinners for a family of four: $30-$40.
Cost of 2 pints of gravy: $8.

Savings: about $49

Hope this inspires you to make that roast! It goes a long way!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mini Wheats, A Favorite Treat

One of my favorite treats is a healthy one I have every morning--Frosted Mini Wheats! As you heartily enjoy you can hear a nice crunch that puts a smile on everyone's face. You'll be singing in your head when you taste the pleasantly mild sweetness of the little wheat chunks. An inviting smell of pure whole wheat and sugar will seep into your nose as you pour in the milk. All of the cute little chunks are woven together in a neat little blown-up marshmallow shape which gets me all worked up just looking at it. Best of all, when you're all done with a small bowl of this good stuff you're completely satisfied; you'll stay full and focused until lunch.

by Josiah

Friday, October 30, 2009

Soupy Sales – A Pie in the Face, and A Place in our Hearts

Last week, we lost a friend. Many of us growing up in the Detroit area remember Soupy Sales--the silly, smiley, utterly hilarious comedian whose career took flight when entertaining thousands of school children in the 50’s, who would dash home during their lunch break to watch “Lunch With Soupy Sales.”

My parents both grew up watching the show, and regaled me in my youth with stories of White Fang, and the noisy kisses of Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion’s whistles, Onions Oregano, and Willie – The Sickest Worm in all of Deeetroit. All the worm ever did was sneeze when he came out of his apple. It must have been the Michigan weather. He didn’t survive the move to New York.

Appealing to children and adults alike, Soupy’s slapstick comedy with clever puns and asides put him not only in the annals of comic history but in the hearts of my family as well. I asked my parents to share their favorite memories from Soupy Sales. Here are their edited responses:
I was a card-carrying member of the Birdbath Club. I wish I had that card now! My parents took me to Edgewater Park to see Soupy Sales- but he was not there during the time we were. This had to be in the middle 50's. Edgewater Park was an amusement park - somewhere in the Detroit area, I've forgotten where, long since torn down. I used to walk home from school when I was in elementary school and eat lunch watching the Soupy Sales show. Imagine that. I can hardly even imagine walking home for lunch.... how much time did we have for all that?? Then later on Soupy had a late night show which my parents often watched (!) Ha. I can't remember much else. Your dad and I went to see Soupy in Livonia back in '99 before we moved away. I always got a kick out of him.
(Speaking of the puppets) They were very low tech - just stuck on a stage hand's arm (sometimes you could even see the arm!). White tooth was kind of gruff and angry and Black tooth was the sweet one that always grabbed Soupy and kissed him. "Don't kiss, Don't kiss" he would say, and the thing would still get him! There was a cork in the wall that Soupy would pull out and sometimes (often, I think) water would squirt out in his face. Then of course, there would be a delay until he got right in front of it. Sounds awfully corny, but something about Soupy Sales' personality was infectious and made it funny. He was always having a good time, himself. I think my two favorite--but silly--characters on the Soupy Sales show were Willy the worm and The Count (a Dracula puppet). I don't recall that we could actually see Willy the Worm. He was supposedly in a box that Soupy would go up to. He would say "Hah, Willy!" and Willy would sneeze loudly. Then Soup would say, "You're the sickest worm in all of Dee-troit!" After that he would get all the kiddies to take their "vitaminee" with him by saying, "Through the teeth and over the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!" As for the Count, he was a later addition, if I recall. Every time Soupy would go to the window and call out "Count!" The puppet would appear and say, "One, two, three, four." I have the fondest memory of when Soupy Sales came to Oxford Avenue Elementary School to do a performance for us. What a treat to see him in person and watch him to "The Soupy Shuffle". We saw him do an act (locally) before we moved away. He had some great jokes and was as energetic as ever.

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most entertaining, after all. I’d rather see that than the crude, off color excuse for humor we are handed these days.

Let’s make a banana cream pie tonight and remember Soupy Sales, who like many great comedians, lived a long life, and showed us how to laugh at the simple things. And maybe do The Soupy Shuffle to work off the calories.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Weighty Issue of Taking Control

"Tell me, Baby, How'd we ever get this way..." Oh. Yeah, I'm talking about our waistlines. My husband and I recently decided it was time to take control, and we joined Weight Watchers. Since then, I have noticed a few things. For one thing, I am a lot hungrier than I used to be. Then I noticed that I was holding a carrot stick instead of a cheese stick. That's when it dawned on me. This is how I used to live! Somehow we let ourselves get out of control, and we had plenty of excuses to "explain" it away, but Weight Watchers is what we chose to put things right again. Since this is my first week, I am still dealing with occasional hunger, but it's settling down a bit. While I am tempted to complain about the program fee (I think of it as a fine for letting myself get fat), I have noticed that I am spending less for groceries now. While watching portions, and buying more fresh produce, my monthly food expenses may well end up half of what they were before. That makes me feel better about the program fee. After all, it will probably pay for itself in a few weeks by making me eat 3 oz portions of meat instead of a half pound.

I have more good news. I don't have to give up one food that I really love --polenta.
Maybe you've seen this in a specialty store, premade, and costing about $4 for a little roll. It might be good, but you don't have to be that proud of it. You can make it yourself by melting together 1 Tablespoon of Smart Balance (or other good-for-you fat), 1 cup of 1% milk, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Then gradually stir in 1/3 cup of cornmeal, and cook it until it's thick. Let it cool slightly before serving. Makes two servings, 3 Weight Watchers points each serving (about 155 calories). It's creamy, rich, and filling. It's a great baby and toddler food, too. You can experiment with other seasonings and flavors as well. Parmesan cheese is good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Thrifty Lifestyle as the Counter-Culture of Today

We live in an age when society has been spoiled by plenty, and many things which were considered “indulgent” during the Great Depression are now commonplace. There was a time when products were made to last. That was expected. People were more interested in value than in having the latest and greatest, and they lived within their means, not lines of credit. Presently, rather than developing the habits of saving, reusing, and fixing, we have become a “throw away” society. I contend that, for the majority of us, this ideology will no longer work. The secret to living on less is finding pure pleasure and contentment in what we have, and the enjoyment of taking care of it, preserving it, and needing nothing else. I have always said, “The more you have, the more you have to worry about.”

During this recession we have seen our grocery bills nearly double, our home values fall, and our investments in the stock market disappear, while many of us had become accustomed to using a large amount of consumables, the cost of which is now eating away at our household budgets like moths. Although I don’t consider toilet paper or facial tissue an indulgence to be eschewed, I am willing to challenge the use of disposable dust cloths, disposable toilet bowl scrubbers, disposable floor cleaning pads, disposable diapers and wipes (unless absolutely necessary, like when traveling) disposable disinfectant wipes, and disposable bibs; and I think much care could be taken to reduce or eliminate the need for zip top bags, paper napkins, paper towels, paper lunch bags, paper plates, tin foil, wax paper and plastic wrap.

The indulgent culture of today is also hidden under the guise of supplying nourishment. Many of us have fallen to the habit of eating too much, eating whatever we want, whenever we want. A person’s propensity toward this is well served in society. There are snack cafeterias in almost every grocery and department store. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous, as are the billboards for them. I was aghast when I saw a billboard sanctioning a “4th meal”, and appalled even further upon seeing a billboard stating “your stomach doesn’t know what time it is” advertising a 24-hour fast food restaurant. As our appetites for pleasure are stimulated by advertising and availability, our self control is challenged. Our health as well as our budgets will feel the impact of these choices.

Here are some money saving tips to wisely counter an indulgent, throw away society:

  1. Give yourself permission to ignore fast food. Just because it’s there, and you think you might be hungry, so what. Just ignore them. They can make a living without you.
  2. Eat a healthy snack or a meal before you go out shopping, and allow time to regularly eat at home.
  3. Plan a meal out every once in a while, and don’t eat out unless you’ve planned to.
  4. Don’t fall for the latest advertising campaign, the newest best product; let it stay on the market awhile. If it isn’t that great, it will disappear. If it stays, the price will probably go down. Let someone else’s money field test it.
  5. Pack lunches in lunch boxes and use Tupperware style containers for sandwiches and chopped fruit.
  6. Buy a big pack of dust cloths or microfiber cloths, or cut up old t-shirts, or old diapers. Use them with solvents for cleaning, and have them handy for spills.
  7. Try using cloth napkins, at least for one meal of the day.
  8. Remember that a little extra work is exercise. Go to the trouble. It will make you feel good.
  9. Make a goal never to throw away food.
  10. If it breaks, fix it. If you don’t know how, check the internet. Someone knows.

Finally, some families have tried a “30-days without buying anything” experiment. Of course, this excluded fresh food and gasoline. It has given people perspective on their own buying habits, and ways that they can do without certain things. Personally, I think this would be fun. I am get tired of trying to find a place to put things away…..but that will be my next blog.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

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