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As I explained in yesterday’s post I’m trying to get canning down so when it comes time to make a ton of jams, chutney, pickles, and preserves in general I’ll be all set. I really want to get it right the first time so I don’t botch a ton of great produce from faulty methods. Yesterday I canned some pizza sauce and today I tried my hand at what I thought would be strawberry jam. Well, I wasn’t sure how much “2 quarts” was equal to in lbs while standing in the store so I just grabbed one lb of strawberries – it was about half the amount I needed to make the jam. Actually less than half! It was a total of 2 cups crushed. Thankfully my mom had loaded me up on raspberries from her garden and I still had a big bag left over. I thawed them out and added them to the mix… still not enough – how about 1 cup of blue berries too! Perfect.

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Here is how I made my jam
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This year I was so lucky that Jason and I’s friend Mike offered us a huge amount of space in his huge backyard for a garden. You see he wants to garden and has a yard, but has never really gardened before. I have gardened before – pretty much my whole life except for the last 3 years – and want to so badly! So he tilled up a 20 X 24 foot plot and is letting me do whatever I want to in it. All he asks is that there are lots of green beans, potatoes, carrots, and onions – easy! I want all those things too!

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After an average of 4 hour a day for the last 3 days (saturday, sunday and today) I finally have everything all set and planted. Just some twice a week weeding, daily watering, and more seeds in 3 weeks so we can get some staggered harvests.

So what did I plant? it’s a long list.

Herbs

Cilantro
Dill
Oregano
Chives
Basil
Sage
Parsley

Leafy Greens

Arugula
Lettuce – four seasons
Lettuce Romaine Cos
Lettuce Salad Bowl Red
Lettuce Tango
Lettuce Blackseeded Simpson
Lettuce Oakleaf
Lettuce Romaine Cimmaron
Lettuce Ruby
Spinach Bloomsdale
Tatsol
Swiss Chard Golden
Swiss Chard Magenta
Endive Broadleaf Batavia
Mustard Mizuna
Mustard Red Giant
(all the the above were in a great huge packet labeled Sassy Salad Mesclun)

I already kicked a bird out of the salad patch – he was eating up all my seeds! B@#%ARD!

Vegetables

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Tomatoes – beefsteak, large red cherry, celebrity, and rutgers select
Eggplant
Cucumbers
Jalapeno Peppers
California Wonder Orange
Poblano Peppers
Sugar Snap Peas
Carrots – danvers half long, little fingers, danneens
Table Queen Squash
Small Sweet Pumpkin
Black Beauty Zucchini
Cantaloupe
Black Diamond Watermelon
Beet – Detroit Dark Red
Peas – Early Frost
Okra
Radish blend
Green Pole Beans

Underground

Onions – yellow and white
Shallots
Garlic
Potatoes – red, russet, sweet potatoes, and some other potato I can’t remember the name of

Flowers

Cardinal Climber
Zinnia
Canterbury Bells
Aster
Bachelor Buttons
Candy Tuff
Four O Clocks
Sweet Peas
Black Eyed Susan Vine
California Orange Poppy
Columbines
Morning Glories
Moon Flowers
Lavender
Marigolds
Grandmother’s Cut Flower Garden (seed mix from botanical interests)
The flowers are mostly borders or fit in with the herb patches. I had a lot of really old seeds from 4+ years ago that I just spread around. So even though the list of flowers looks long, I’m expecting most of them will not be showing their pretty heads around the garden this year.

Today I did the final planting and built a compost bin. When I got home I did my frist test run of canning. The way I figure it I want to have everything all square and figured out by the time I start getting huge yeilds of tomatoes and basil (I planted so much basil so I could make a ton of pesto and can it for the winter). I’m going to do another test run of canning tomorrow and I’ll take pictures so I can post them and some general instructions and links to canning veggies.

Oh you can see how I built my compost bin on Craft Leftovers – like how I built up the pile and also how I made this “open” pile into a dog safe pile.
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I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about canning. I can’t wait to try my hand at strawberry jam – yum yum yum!

++Kristin++

Jason and I have both been working pretty hard to get into shape these past few months. He had a good jump start on me (consistently lifting weights for the last 6+ months). I’ve had a few false starts the last 2 months and am finally falling into a good routine for free weight exercises and cardio (cycling, running, walking). And we have come to realize that this is something we both value and enjoy and we are working to make it a lifestyle, to not stop working out once we get “fit”. Our friend actually made the comment that “you two are going to be that ‘fit’ couple aren’t you?” and we both decided that would be A-okay with us.

We both seem to be on the right track with exercise, but food is a different matter. I want eating Healthy on a budget to be a main component of Thrift Kitchen.  I’ve cooked from general healthy eating to vegan to organic to vegetarian to flexitarian, but some key things have always alluded me and that’s what I’m starting to work on this week. I honestly feel a little at a loss as far as how to cook when we are trying to both cut our fat and increase our muscle – something I’ve never done before.

First I did a lot of research to answer a few questions I really didn’t know the answers to and found a few great articles and sites on: eating healthy, loosing weight safely, and eating to compliment exercise over the long term:

Zen Habit’s 5 Step Weight Loss Plan – I really like this article and feel like it’s everything I’m trying to accomplish in my own life.

Losing weight safely – an interesting article by the fda.

Healthy Eating: Tips for a Healthy Diet – there is a lot of information here and I’m bookmarking it to refer back to it on a regular basis. The website in general seems to have a lot of great articles on healthy lifestyles instead of “dieting” which is really helpful.

10 Ways you can Stop Dieting and Change Your Lifesytle Eating Habits – an article with some really interesting points. I particularly like the part about “no cheating” and how you should focus on goals and rewards instead – like having a glass of wine with dinner on my rest day if I’ve followed each day’s routine that week.

These are just 3 of a few of the millions of articles on lifesytle eating habits, but were personally the most helpful that I found. Do you have a particularly good article or website that you have found helpful to you and your goals of healthy eating?

After reading all these I decided that I would focus on developing 3 new eating habits over the course of 6 weeks – focusing on a new habit each 2 weeks and building them on each other.

1) Weeks 1 & 2 -more water less caffeine – I hardly drink any water except when I’m cycling and even then I don’t drink nearly enough. My goal is to drink 4 glasses of water a day (not enough I know, but a start) – approx 48 oz. I will drink one glass with each meal and then one glass after working out (carido or weights).

2) Weeks 3 & 4 – Smaller portions . I’m going to really start cracking down on portion sizes – especially for things like pasta, rice, cereal, and bread. I just straight up eat to much at just about every meal.

3) Weeks 5 & 6. More veggies and fruits – in the third week I’m going to eat a larger portion of veggies with every meal and eat one fruit each day (i know, not enough, but a start in the right direction).

and even though I’m stating these over the course of 6 weeks, it will more likely just happen naturally as I start cooking for a more whole diet.

I read this great article on the simple dollar about establishing new habits and I think it applies across the board from eating to exercising to reading.

If you don’t exercise, well, you should! Read 4 Simple Steps to Start the Exercise Habit and How to Make Exercise a Daily Habit to help get you started. There is also an article on Beginning to Run and 10 Breakfast ideas that are worth a read too.

Some general things for me for this week and the next:

Keeping the junk out of the house. I know it’s hard sometimes and it feels like I’m denying myself, but just not buying that bag of chips really will keep me from eating it. If we have chips, we eat them. If we don’t have chips, we don’t. We just finished off our “junk food” and so I’m just not going to buy anymore. Looking at snacks – simple tips are to substitute healthier alternatives. For instance, if you are craving salty/crunchy try some popcorn with sea salt instead – if you are craving sweat and creamy, have yogurt blended with some fruit. I’ll be focusing on these kinds of quick snack recipes over the long term because I for one am a snacker.

More Water, Less Caffeine and alcohol. Now i’m not saying do without, but cutting back is a great way to save some money and feel better in general. I don’t feel deprived if I have my morning coffee, but I do if I try to cut it out all the way. Same thing with wine – if I say “no alcohol allowed” then I tend to just binge eventually and end up being realllly addicted to caffeine or having too much wine and feeling like garbage (or like I was hit with a garbage truck). Instead I’m going say coffee in the morning is fine, but in the afternoon it really does effect my sleep so no thanks. And with wine, I’m going to keep it to dinner on Sundays only if I’ve completed each day’s routine (so no skipping cardio because it’s raining or weight lifting because I’m tired). There is also just the fact that drinking a lot of coffee and wine is expensive and no longer fits into the budget, water on the other hand is free and makes you feel really good.

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I’m going to continue to post on this topic, I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing on my goals and new recipes I’m making to help stay on track with both our budget and our lifestyle.

In other news, we are doing pretty well on the food budget so far. And I feel like our frig is still stocked. Not eating out has really help cut back + not getting some of the more pricy items we “want” and replacing them with what we need. Oh and buying produce that is season or on sale really helps cut costs – like red onions were just 62 cents per pound last week! Perfect!

Well, i’m off to do today’s weight trainign and then post on Craft Leftovers. See you soon!
Kristin

I saw this today on “Hey, It’s Free”:

“Not to be outdone by Chick-fil-A, Oprah is giving away a coupon good for two free pieces of KFC chicken, two individual sides, and a biscuit! Plus, the terms say you’re limited to four prints of the coupon. Talk about an amazing offer – toss in a water and you’ve got yourself four free meals.

You have until 9:59pm CDT 5/6/09 to print the coupon. You can then redeem it at any participating KFC location from 5/5/09 to 5/19/09, excluding Mother’s Day.”

I haven’t been to KFC in forever, it might be fun to go get a free meal that I don’t have to clean up 🙂

See you later!
Kristin

Yesterday we were having baked Salmon, so instead of just baking two pieces of Salmon I marinaded 4 chicken breasts and baked them along with the Salmon. I’m going to use the leftover chicken in meals for the next few days so I can whip up meals super quick and easy. Today I made Curry Walnut Chicken Wraps for lunch and it was delicious!

Curry Walnut Chicken Wrap

Here is how I marinaded the chicken and baked it, and then how I made today’s lunch.
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Getting Started Now: We have officially started eating from our $600 budget.

What’s included: groceries, eating out, cleaning supplies, bath and body.

What’s not included: protein powder, vitamins, food on vacations, utilities, rent, car, gardening costs, pet supplies (although an effort to keep cost low and apply saving techniques to them will be used).

Tracking Expenses: We haven’t yet made our joint checking account for this, so for now we are just keeping track of things in a google doc spreadsheet. We will both add receipts as we buy things so it will be updated every time a shopping trip is made. And to encourage both of us to keep up with it, I’ve made it public and you can see it here. I’m going to add a link in the sidebar called $600 for 6 Months.

I’ve decided that the easiest way for us to track expenses is just by receipts. When I post recipes, I’ll use the original cost of the item to figure out how much the meal cost per serving. It’s not just about keeping track of things for me, it’s about providing low cost delicious meals – and giving you information about how much those meals cost exactly. It’s also a good gauge for use to see how we are doing.

We are starting at $600 and deducting each item from the running current balance. See below how we are entering it? Per item and per item savings. So if we use a gift card or coupon that applies to the whole purchase, there really isn’t a way to account for it other than entering it in as a positive to the balance. So that is exactly what we will do.

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How we are Saving:

Coupons – check out Coupons.com, Hot Coupon World, Fat Wallet, Retail Me Not, Smart Source, Coupon Surfer

I haven’t quite gotten enough into Hot Coupon World, but I think that one can really save a lot of money if it’s used correctly – mainly coupon swapping.

Earning Gift Cards – Swagbucks.com (I actually already earned my first $5 amazon gift card just by using it as a search engine in my normal searches), MySurvey.com, Epoll.com. I personally like MySurvey better than Epoll so far – it takes awhile to get a gift card, but every little bit helps.

Goals for May: Continue being more frugal, pinpointing our staple items that are always a good buy, learning to match sales with coupons, developing recipes based on what’s on sale in the produce section – what’s in season. Start our garden and start going to the farmer’s market.

I’m semi doubtful we will stay under $100 this month, but the plan is to reduce our expenses each month so we will stay on target for $600 for the 6 month. We are also hoping to incorporate more house hold expenses as we go along. This is a 6 month project, but we are hoping to make it a life style change – at least until we have our cc paid off and student loans paid down and lots of savings built up. I’ll link up to this post in the sidebar too and add more details as we refine our process.

I also added $600 Budget to the categories, all my posts directly related to the project (progress updates for instance) I’ll add to it.

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Sorry I’ve been so wayward these past two weeks. The plan was more posting leading up to the big budget experiment, but wow, has the last 2 weeks flown by. I really didn’t think it had been that long since i posted! Wow! Well, I’m back on schedule and will be posting 3 times a week from now on, or maybe even more often than that depending on how often I cook/go shopping.

And just for fun, here is a great coupon for a free 12 oz drink at Border’s Seattle’s Best, no purchase necessary. Jason and I printed two out and got two drinks for free! It sure was a nice treat! And it’s valid until 5/6/9.

See you tomorrow with a yummy chicken wrap recipe!
Kristin

I was reading this article titled Tips for Cutting Your Food Bill when I came across this other great article on Cheap Heathly Good called Learning to Love Foods you Hate. They are both really good and think that you should all read them both.

The first article hits on pretty much every main point I’ve compiled over the last 2 weeks for frugal grocery shopping, so instead of reinventing the wheel I will direct you to this great article.  I tried to pick two to point out that were my favorites, but I think I would end up just requoting 2/3 of the article, haha. Just go read it!

The other article (which was linked to in the first) is really great if you are or you have a picky eater in your family. There are so many great ideas for getting yourself reconditioned to loving good foods that you hate. So go take a look at that too. I know I’ll use many of the tips for Jason. I already use the “make it unreconizable tip” where I mince things up and mix it into a sauce for him – eggplant, cabage, and zucchini especially.