Monday, February 23, 2009

Frugal Tips - Wow! This stuff works in the dishwasher too!

I sent my husband out to the store today to buy the ingredients for homemade laundry soap. Since I started reading about making my own, I couldn't resist giving it a try - especially if it works! According to the estimates, it can save a bundle over time and does just as good of a job.

Then while I was cleaning up from breakfast, I realized I forgot to put dishwasher liquid on the grocery list this week. Hmmmm! If it's not on the list, Dan won't get it.

So back to the computer I went. I found several ideas to try including a recipe on The New Homemaker. According to editor Lynn Siprelle, the main ingredient in her recipe is the same one I just sent my husband out to purchase - one cup of the 20 Mule Team Borax, along with one cup of plain old baking soda. This recipe can be found on many sites, but Lynn adds a common "secret" ingredient to hers for a great lemony smell.Click on her link for the full recipe.

The neat thing is that she stores that same powder in a metal shaker can and uses it to scour her sink. According to Lynn, it works like Bon Ami - a polishing cleanser powder and it smells good too.

Ok - my dishwasher has a compartment for Jet Dry rinse aid. So what can I put in there? Every site I checked out said the same thing - white vinegar. Once the Jet Dry is used up,I can fill that compartment up with white vinegar and let it do its thing. So easy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Help! I'm having a Frugal Friday!

It all started last summer when my sister-in-law brought me some little pears from a neighbor's yard. I promised the Lord, I would try to use them up because it was such a shame to waste them.

Well, I decided to make pear butter because they were tiny, hard and full of gritty spots. but they made the most wonderful pear butter. I washed, cut and cooked them in my crock pot over night, then put them through the food mill to remove the gritty spots, seeds and skins.

That left a wonderful sauce which I returned to the crock pot with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of ginger. It cooked all night long with the lid off to thicken it and then I canned it. I got about 2 pints from each crock pot load after it cooked down. Everyone has commented on how good it is!

Now each time I receive a food "blessing" the Lord challenges me to use it up!

Yesterday I cooked a turkey and of course, there were giblets in that little paper sack in the bird's neck. No one eats the liver, heart, neck and gizzard here at my house so I was set to throw them away.

"Why not try a recipe for dog cookies," the Lord suggested. "That way you won't waste them."

Groan. "Well, I did say I'd try not to waste things." So I put the giblets and neck into my little 1 quart crock pot and let them simmer away. By this morning, they were well done and cool enough to chop up. But I didn't want to heat the oven just to bake dog biscuits - that's not very frugal! So I decided to make my dessert for the meal we're having at church on Sunday afternoon. And, oh yes I almost forgot - I needed to make some cornbread for the soup I was supposed to make.

Ok! This was beginning to look like an all day affair. I got my recipes ready and put them in order - the chocolate zucchini bread first because the oven needs to be at 350 degrees.

This is a great Spark People recipe which has only 114 calories per slice so I know I can enjoy it on Sunday.


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups packed, grated zucchini (if you use frozen zucchini-thaw and drain well first)
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 loaf plans with nonstick spray.
In large bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, egg, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Stir in zucchini.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened. Fold in Chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pans.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on wire rack before serving.

Number of Servings: 24

Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user RAMZEE.
Number of Servings: 24

After the chocolate zucchini bread finished, I turned the oven up to 400 degrees and started on the doggie cookies. I couldn't find a recipe that matched my ingredients, so I improvised and created my own.

Turkey Giblet Treats

2 cups of flour
1 cup bran

Then mix in:

3 Tablespoons of oil
1 egg
The broth from the turkey neck and giblets (About 1/2 cup)

I chopped up the giblets and neck meat in my food processor which came to about a cup and added that to the rest of the ingredients. It made a stiff dough. I used a teaspoon for each biscuit and rolled it into a log shape, flattening it slightly, then baked it for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Oreo must have known they were for him because he plopped down in the kitchen and didn't move the whole time they were baking.

While the doggie cookies baked, I mixed up a double batch of cornbread using the recipe on the back of the package. The oven temp had to go up to 425 for the cornbread. Soon that was in the oven, making my mouth water!

Oh well - I might have been frugal, not wasting the giblets and about making several things in the oven at one time, but now I have a mound of dishes to finish up.

I'm so glad God loves to surprise us!We got an unexpected invitation to dinner tonight so I didn't have to cook after my baking marathon. I guess it does pay to listen when He suggeste we do something!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frugal Living - Wash Day Blues

I remember my mother-in-law doing wash every Monday morning with her old wringer washer. Rain, snow, sunshine - it didn't matter. If it was Monday, it was wash day!

Clothing was gathered on Sunday night and sorted so mom could begin washing at the crack of dawn on Monday morning. All of the children had to strip their beds and make sure their bedding was in the back porch mud room by the washer right after they got up.

Since she used her wringer washer, she washed from light to dark clothes, using the same water for several loads to conserve on water.(They had a shallow well which made conservation a necessity.)Dad's clothing from the coal mines was the last load of the day. She changed the water once during the process so she could add bleach and do whites, towels and bedding.

With my washer and dryer, it doesn't matter what day I do laundry; or even what time of day I do it, as long as it gets done. But I have found some frugal ideas to help me get it done.

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm considering it - making my own laundry detergent. I found a lot of resources with recipes for this including the book by the Duggars - The Duggars: 20 and counting I just can't imagine the mounds of laundry their family has to do each day! I've helped my daughter with her family laundry for a family of 7 and even that seemed endless!

Other homemade laundry soap recipes can be found on Tip Hero - these are all recipes submitted by readers.

Another great blog was one written by Trent at The Simple Dollar Trent gives his recipe, a cost breakdown for the product he makes and even a video of how it looks and the steps to make it! Great resource. According to his blog, he gets 312 cups of laundry soap for about $7 and in his own stain tests, it works as well as the brand name laundry detergent.

Ok - the wash is done and it's time to dry it. The most frugal way to dry clothes is on the wash line. I love blankets and sheets hung on the line on a spring day. The smell is so relaxing at bedtime. But practically speaking, I don't always have time for that.

But I have cut costs by making my own dryer sheets. Old towels can be cut into small squares and drizzled with liquid fabric softener. Old or mismatched white socks work well too. These can be tossed in with the rinse cycle of the washer if you're hanging your laundry outside, or tossed in the dryer with a load. I like to put the softener on the cloths and then let the air dry before using them so the fabric softener doesn't leave spots on my clothes in the dryer.

Of course, if dryer sheets and fabric softeners cause allergies or problems for you, vinegar is a safe alternative - just 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle will work as well as fabric softener - but don't mix use with bleach - since that may cause toxic fumes.

Tennis balls work well in the dryer too (rather than those pricier dryer balls) at helping to keep down static. Since static is produced by synthetics more than by cotton fabrics, you might want to air dry your synthetics.

I will say this - my mother in law had the right idea - when she did laundry, she did the whole process from start to finish - washing, drying, folding and putting it away. Sometimes I get too busy and the clean loads pile up for a few days before I can put them away. That makes extra work since they tend to get wrinkled and need pressing. If I can hang and put away each load as it comes out of the dryer or off the line, it is more frugal time-wise for me than if it piles up.

Who knew laundry could be so complicated??????

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Savoring Jesus

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
~Frederick Buechner~
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

If you popped a Hershey Kiss into your mouth right now, how would ou eat it? Would you chomp it down in one bite or would you let it melt slowly in your mouth?

Personally I'm a chomper from way back. I eat the Hershey Kiss quickly and go back to have half of the bag before I'm satisfied. Then I end up with a tummy ache and feeling guilty for eating so much chocolate.

But over the last few years, I've been consciously working to learn to savor the velvety chocolate flavor of the Hershey Kiss, though it's hard! I've found one Kiss that melts in your mouth is more satisfying than a dozen chomped ones - and I can even enjoy one Kiss occasionally on my diet with no guilt!

When I thought about today's quote, the Hershey Kiss illustration came to mind. I have moved so often as an adult, it was difficult to put down roots - difficult to form lasting deep friendships with those around me. It was like chomping on the Hershey Kiss - enjoying surface friendships briefly, then leaving empty, unsatisfied, wishing for something deeper.

Real lasting and deep friendships take time to develop and nurture. They are the kind that leave you satisfied, even when you are apart and pick back up almost as if no time elapsed when you are together again. Thankfully I do have several friends like that. Even when time passes, our relationship is still full and sweet. They are friends I can pour our my deepest heart to and they still care and accept me - warts wrinkles and all.

The sweetest relationship of all is my relationship with Jesus. I have to admit, I often "chomp" in that relationship, failing to savor the time one-on-one with Him. When that happens, I find myself getting up off my knees feeling unsatisfied. That's when I succumb to the world's attractions and distractions because I haven't satisfied my need for the sweetness of His presence.

I have to consciously work at savoring Him, savoring His awesome presence. It takes time to be quiet before Him, touching Him with praise and listening to His voice and knowing His touch on my heart. After those precious times, I get up from my knees feeling loved, feeling joy and peace. I am full, whole and completely satisfied.

This week, Nina is hosting “In ‘Other’ Words” on her blog, Mama’s Little Treasures . Be sure to visit her site and the links to the other women who have shared on this quote.

If you'd like to play along, simply blog about the quote on your blog site and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky Box on Nina's site.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Frugal Convenience Mixes

When I was a young pastor's wife, I have to admit I was a little envious of other shoppers as I saw their carts piled high with all sorts of premade convenience foods while I had to stick to the basic staples to keep within my grocery budget.

I knew I could make things like pancakes, biscuits and cake cheaper from scratch since I already kept the basic ingredients on hand anyway. But it always seemed like a real chore at the time to get out all the ingredients, measure everything, and then clean up all the bowls and utensils at the end. Oh how wonderful it would be to just open a box of cake mix, dump it into one bowl, mix, bake and enjoy!

One day at the grocery store, I indulged and bought a cooking magazine put out by Family Circle called Easy Budget Meals. It was published sometime in 1979 or 1980 - I can't tell because I used it so much the cover got ripped. I found lots of great recipes I used for many years including recipes to make convenience food mixes like homemade cake mix, homemade cookie mix and an oven fried coating mix.

Pantry Shelf Cake Mix - makes 4 cakes
8 cups flour
5 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups shortening
Optional - 1 1/3 cups cocoa for chocolate cake mix

Stir the dry ingredients until well blended and then cut in shortening. Divide the mix into 4 parts (about 3 1/2 cups each) and store in quart size freezer bags in the freezer.

To use, add:
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat at low speed for one minute, then medium speed for 2 more minutes. Pour batter into greased and floured pans.

Bake at 350 degrees:
For 8" layers - 25 minutes
For 9 x 9 x 2" square pan - 35 minutes
For 24 cupcakes - 20 minutes

Pantry Shelf Cookie Mix - makes 3 batches of 3 dozen cookies
2 cups shortening
3 3/4 cups sugar
9 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon of salt

Cut shortening into sugar until crumbly, then add other dry ingredients and stir until mixed well. Divide mix into 3 parts (about 4 1/2 cups of mix) and store in zipper storage bags in the freezer.

To use, add:
4 1/2 cups mix
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
This makes a stiff dough

Optional additions:
1 cup pared apple
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter chips
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup peanut butter

For rolled cookies, shape in a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Then roll and cut with cookie cutters in desired shapes.

For dropped cookies, add 1/4 cup milk or 1/4 cup orange juice or 1 large mashed banana to the dough and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until golden brown.

For bar cookies, add 1 cup of fruit, flavored chips or nuts to dough. Spread in 9 x 13" pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack and cut into 36 bars.

Oven-Fried Coating Mix - Makes the equivalent of 4 packages
1 - 16 ounce can of bread crumbs (or 2 cups of homemade bread crumbs)
2 Tablespoons of Onion salt
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine dry ingredients, then drizzle on the oil and mix well. Divide into 4 portions and store in a zipper storage bag.
When ready to use, add any of the following:
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
or 2 Tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Place chicken pieces in the storage bag with the coating mix and shake to coat. Arrange chicken on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

For pork, try adding:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon thyme

For fish, try adding:
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried dill weed)
or 1 teaspoon savory

I've enjoyed making homemade biscuits and pancakes for years. Recently, I found a recipe from cdkitchen for Copycat Bisquick Pancake/Biscuit Mix. The recipe makes 8 cups of Mix
6 2/5 tablespoons baking powder
9 3/5 teaspoons sugar
7 1/5 cups flour
16 tablespoons canola oil

When ready to use, measure out 2 cups of mix, add 1 egg and 1 1/4 cups of milk to the batter for the desired consistency for pancakes.

For biscuits, use 2 cups of the mix and about 2/3 cup of milk to make dough Roll out and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

I'd love to hear from you with other suggestions for making your own convenience foods at home!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Frugal Baby Food

Babies are wonderful! As I sat here this morning missing my new grand baby, I decided to do the next best thing - write about babies!

When my children were small, we pastored a small town church which couldn't pay my husband a large salary so it became an adventure in creativity to find ways to make ends meet. Around that time, I bought a cook book called "Feed Me, I'm Yours," by Vicki Lansky (first published in 1975, newly revised in 2004 so it's still available) with all sorts of healthy recipes and helpful hints on feeding my babies. That book became my child care"Bible" and by the time I passed it on to my daughter to use with her 5 little ones, the cover had fallen off and pages were oil stained.

One of Vicky's suggestions was to cook the family's vegetables without salt so they could be pureed for baby at the table using a baby food grinder. The baby food grinder I used (back in the good old days LOL!)was available in the baby section at the larger department stores for about $5. It was plastic tube with a hand cranked grinder mechanism on the top. Food was inserted into the tube and forced through the grinder. It was completely washable and easy to use.

Now the same manual food grinder costs $14.99 online. There are also electric baby food grinders available at $29.99, though you could probably purchase a small electric food processor or smaller containers for your regular electric blender for less that would do the same thing rather than buying a "baby" food grinder.

So EASY! My babies ate the same veggies and later meats as we did so it saved me the expense of buying jars of baby food.

After the meal, Vicki suggested pureeing leftover veggies and freezing them in a plastic ice cube tray. The tray created perfect baby-sized portions that could be popped out of the tray after freezing, labeled and stored in a freezer bag. When I needed a meal for my babies, I could pop out a variety of "cubes" and heat and serve.

Vicki Lansky also offered ideas for healthy finger foods and even recipes to make baby biscuits for teething. I found this recipe which was adapted from her cookbook at another online baby food site:

Teething Biscuit Recipes - Try These Banana Bread Sticks

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana
1 3/4 cups flour (white, whole wheat, or a combination)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine ingredients and stir only until smooth. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour or until firmly set.Cool, remove from pan, and cut into sticks. Spread sticks out on a cookie sheet and bake at 150 degrees F for 1 hour or longer until the sticks are hard and crunchy. Store in a tightly covered container.

Adapted from Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky **Freezes Well**

The folks at Wholesome Baby Foods also suggested making teething biscuits from your favorite healthy breads ( like carrot, pumpkin, zucchini or apple bread) by baking the bread as usual, then slicing, cutting the slices into sticks and returning them to the oven to bake until hard and crunchy. I wish I'd have known that trick when my children were small!

Even after my children grew up, I loved making the recipes in Vicki's book - especially the craft recipes for play dough, finger paint and other crafty recipes which I adapted for my children's ministry.

So what resources have you used to live "green" or frugally as you raise Baby? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Frugal Baby Wipes

Oh the joys of being a Grandma! I can hold 'em and spoil 'em and hand 'em back!

Honestly though, I just returned from my son's house where I was privileged to help out after the birth of their second child. Little Autumn was born on Groundhog Day and weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces.

So with a newborn granddaughter, my mind naturally turned to ideas for frugal living that involve babies. Recently I found a great frugal website called Tip Hero filled with all kinds of great tips for cutting costs. While looking through all the tips, I found this "recipe" for homemade baby wipes which was submitted by a reader.

1 tbsp. baby wash
1 tbsp. baby oil
1/2 roll of strong paper towels
1 3/4 - 2 cups of water

Cut the roll, including the cardboard tube, in half. Add all liquid ingredients to a plastic container (about 6 or 7 inches in diameter, and about 6 inches high - or reuse an empty baby wipes container). Put in the cut roll of paper towels, place top of the container on and turn the container upside down until the liquid absorbs. Remove the cardboard center, and pull wipes from the center.

Since you're only using a tablespoon at a time of the baby oil and baby wash, the bottles last a long time. If you wanted to, you could purchase soft terrycloth wash cloths for use at home with this solution and keep the paper towel wipes in the diaper bag. The cloth squares are washable and re-usable, a great green alternative.

One reader commented that she used a serrated edge knife or an electric knife to cut the roll of paper towels more easily since they are difficult to cut without shredding them.

Other readers suggested using the Viva brand because they are thicker and softer to use for the baby. Viva makes a "select-a-size" paper towel so you can tear off a smaller piece at a time, making them last longer.

Another reader makes her own moist towelettes by pouring a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide over squares of cloth which she cuts from old tee shirts or other cotton type fabric. She keeps them in an opaque container in her purse. She places the used ones in another container or baggie and washes them at home so they can be used again.

I plan on passing this suggestion along to my daughter in law ans my daughter who also has children still in diapers. What other helpful baby money-saving things have you tried? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frugal living - There's nothing like a big pot of soup!

Mmmmm! There's nothing like a big pot of soup or savory stew simmering on the stove on a cold winter day. Couple that with the aroma of fresh baked bread and my mouth starts watering right away.

The great thing about soups and stews is that they work well for big batch cooking - as a matter of fact, they even taste better when made in a big batch, simmering slowly to blend the flavors.

I have a large electric roaster to cook my soup and by the time I finish adding ingredients, it is usually 3/4 full of delicious soup bubbling away. We always eat some of the freshly made soup, keep enough for a second meal or a few lunches and freeze the rest. That way, I only have to cook once to make several meals which is a real time, money and energy saver.

One of my favorite frugal soups is Bean Soup.

1 package of dried beans, soaked and drained according to the package directions.
1 small chunk of ham or a ham bone
4 large carrots,
3 stalks of celery,
1 medium onion
Seasonings to taste.
Water to cover the vegetables and ham.

Throw all the ingredients in a large pot (I like to use my large crock pot so this soup doesn't scorch)After cooking on low for 6 hours, I add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and cook on high for several hours to blend the flavors. This usually makes 4 to 6 quarts of soup which freezes well.

Another frugal tip for soup making is to save all your leftover cooked vegetables from other meals - you know - that spoonful of peas which doesn't seem like enough to bother with? I put the leftover veggies in a freezer bag each day and when I make soup, just take it out of the freezer and toss it into the pot. That way, nothing goes to waste. You can do that with little bits of leftover meat too. Keep a separate zipper sandwich bag in the freezer with each kind of leftover meat and use it to help flavor your soups.

I freeze my soup in meal sized containers - our empty margarine containers hold about 2 cups of soup, just right for a single lunch meal.

For cream or milk based soups, you can make the soup and freeze your portions BEFORE adding the cream to it so it will keep better. Just thaw and reheat later, adding the cream at that point.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A frugal use of time

Hurry up and wait!

In the supermarket, the store manager had to cut back on cashiers due to the economy so now ten people are ahead of me. All of them are irritated, grumbling about the length of the line and how many "important" things they have to do after they leave the grocery store.

Meanwhile, the harried clerk tries everything she knows to do to ring up an item with a damaged bar code. After about five minutes, she gives up and calls the manager for a price check which takes another five minutes as the line grows longer.

Breathing a sigh of relief as the customer finally pays for her purchase and moves toward the exit, the poor cashier is faced with a red-faced, not-so-gentle-man whose clipped words and short manner let her know "she" is to blame for all the world's ills.

And so it goes as she muddles her way through the angry impatient line of customers. When I finally reach the register, the poor girl looks like she'd rather be anywhere else at the moment.

Standing in that line, I have a choice to make about the way I will spend my time. I could get angry, decide I really don't need the item in my hand and storm out of the store. I could join my fellow shoppers in complaining all the way to the register. Or I could redeem or "buy back" the time so it isn't wasted by a bad attitude or simple inactivity.

So what can I do during that waiting time?

1. Being a "fixer" I like to diffuse the growing tension in the line by chatting with my fellow customers. By observing those around me, I can usually find something that makes me smile or a compliment I can give. By turning the attention away from the "wait" to pleasanter topics, the people around me will often relax a bit, enough to prevent them from taking their irritation out on the cashier.

2. If you don't feel comfortable talking to others, you might carry a book with you or even a pocket Bible which you can pull out and read during the waiting time. It's also a great time to memorize a scripture verse. Not only does it get your mind off the wait, it will improve your attitude in general and help you keep spiritually "fit."

3. You can always use the time to pray. Since prayer is conversation with God, you can carry on a mental conversation with Him anywhere. Picture Him standing in line with you and begin talking to Him about any of the needs on your heart - both for yourself or others. Or pray for those in line. You may not know their needs, but He does.

4. Being a writer, I try to keep a pen and notepad with me. Waiting in a long line is a great place to jot down snippets of conversation I hear around me or ideas for a scene in a short story or novel. Who knows? The ire of the customers in line may spark an idea for a blog about anger management or things you can do while waiting in line. LOL!

5. Get organized. Waiting in a line is a great place to organize my life. I can make lists of things I need to do, develop plans to achieve goals, make a list of Christmas gifts I want to buy or make for the grandchildren, make a wish list of craft supplies I need and prioritize it - anything that might need to be organized.

Any of the suggestions above could end up fitting into category #1 as conversation starters or openings to witness about the love of Christ as you wait - definitely a great way to frugally "spend" your waiting time.

So as the lines increase all over town, how do you frugally spend your time? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't worry - be spiritually frugal

I received an e-mail today - one of those "forwards" - so I haven't got a clue who wrote it originally. But it was filled with wonderful advice on keeping yourself spiritually, mentally and emotionally fit.

One of the best pieces of advice in this e-mail dealt with learning to tell the difference between worries and concerns. Now, I'm an expert "worrier" with years of experience so I'm writing about this for my own benefit, though I know I'm not the only one out there. LOL!

Worry prevents creativity. It's like trying to fit an object into a box filled with Styrofoam peanuts. Until you take the peanuts out, the object just won't fit!

When I worry, the thing I am anxious about ruminates around and around in my brain. It becomes larger and larger until there's no room for any other thoughts. Like the Styrofoam peanuts, the thing that I'm worried about has little eternal weight, but takes up more space than it's worth.

It steals my time - time I could use to be praying, waging spiritual warfare against the situation or circumstances, or figuring out creative solutions. Worry wastes my physical energy as well as I pace and wring my hands. Because it is based in fear, worry raises my blood pressure and causes sleeplessness which affects my health. It uses up a lot of mental energy to remain focused on the object of my worry, keeping it at the forefront of my mind so I can continue to see it at all times, leaving me mentally drained.

I like how this anonymous author put it:
'Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.'

Since one of the most important principles of frugal living is not to go into debt, it makes a lot of sense not to go into spiritual debt by worrying about something that may happen tomorrow - something I have no control over. Simply put - worry "borrows" trouble - and that's not being very frugal!

Jesus understood the tendency of human beings to worry. In the Gospel of Matthew, He uses several illustrations to show the futility of worry. "Don't worry about food," He said, pointing out how God takes care of the simple house sparrows who don't plant gardens or gather food into barns. "You are more valuable than they are." (Matthew 6:26 paraphrased)

He continues on. "Don't worry about what you will wear. The wildflowers in the field are glorious to look at - I provided all their finery. Don't you think I will take care of your needs?" (Matthew 6: 28-29 paraphrased)

So the key is to learn the difference between worrying and being concerned. Concern is rooted in love. When we look at the world around us, our concern for the things we see should spur us to action - both heavy duty praying and doing what we know we can do. It means loving enough to be committed to obedience and trusting Him for the knowledge and strength to do His will.

It's like taking the object of our concern, packing it in an empty box and surrounding it with Jesus' love and compassion rather than those empty worries. Then we take that box and give it to Him , allowing Him do what He will. If He asks us to do something with our concern, we do it. Otherwise, we let Him handle it.

Matthew 6:34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (The Message)

Lord I give my empty worries to You. Show me the things I need to be concerned about - what things I need to act on and what things I need to leave in Your capable hands. Help me to become spiritually frugal for you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creative Opportunities Ahead!

Thanks to Amy over at In Pursuit of Proverbs 31 for supplying this week's quote for "In Other Words."

Caution: Road Slippery When Wet

Eleven years ago, my husband and I pastored in Northern New York. In January that year, the area was hit hard by one of the worst ice storms they had ever experienced. The Governor declared a state of emergency because the heavy ice toppled electrical poles in a domino effect, causing the area to lose power. Roadways were covered with ice, slush and downed trees. A nearby river flooded, affecting a low income and Senior Citizen complex.

Though the storm crippled the area, some pretty amazing things began to happen. As a reporter for our local newspaper at the time, I wasn't housebound. There was no time for getting discouraged or sitting around waiting for the power to come back on. I had a wonderful job to keep me upbeat and encouraged - I was able to travel around and see firsthand how people were coping, giving and sharing with each other. Then I had the opportunity to encourage my community by writing those stories.

The temperature had dipped to -20 degrees Fahrenheit after all the rain, which forced those without power to seek other shelter. Several of the large local churches, the schools and even the local prison opened their doors as shelters for those without electricity and heat. Others who had alternative heat sources like fireplaces or wood stoves opened their doors to their neighbors. Families shared the contents of their refrigerators and freezers to avoid losing all their food to spoilage. I still chuckle when I remember how our neighbors "borrowed" our shower because we had hot running water.

For me, it was a unique lesson in giving out of our own need. We all faced the same circumstances, but everyone who was able, gave and shared with those who were in greater need. We all learned to get by without TV, without the things we once considered necessities. For me, it cemented the joy of giving firmly in my heart. Even when things were tight, it became an adventure to find creative ways to give and share what I had.

As I see the signs for slippery economic roads ahead, I remember those days of the ice storm and know in my heart that giving is a part of frugal living. I suffer from less stress when I stop focusing on my own needs and focus on the needs of those around me. I am energized as I look for creative ways to help meet those needs. As I found out during the ice storm, writing is an awesome gift God has given me which allows me to give encouragement as well as materially to those around me.

If I were to post a sign on this leg of my life's road, I think it would read:

"Rejoice: Creative Opportunities Ahead!"

If you'd like to share your thoughts on today's quote, simply blog about it on your site, then visit Amy at In Pursuit of Proverbs 31 and leave your URL in the Mr Linky Box! Then take a few minutes to read some of the other blogs and leave a comment.

Have a blessed day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Frugal Living - Bread Crumbs of Wisdom

Since I started eating healthier last June, I have probably eaten the equivalent of a whole produce aisle of dark leafy greens.

Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I have learned to like salad and I eat a large one almost every day. But I do have to confess, the greens are more palatable with 2 tablespoons of fat free salad dressing, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a few seasoned croutons sprinkled on top.
Without those additions, I doubt I could get the greens down.

So as I continue writing about living frugally, I thought it was time to share a few salad secrets to make a healthy and less expensive tasty green salad. And yes - I have done these!

With the rising cost at the grocery store, I make more things from scratch at home. But there are some things I really like - for instance Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing. I just wasn't sure I could duplicate the taste, especially the low fat or fat free variety. That's when I discovered there are sites with "copy cat" recipes where I can make my favorite taste-alike foods from ingredients I usually have on hand at home!

CDKitchen is one of these sites where I find a lot of my favorite recipes like this Kraft Catalina :

1 cup of sugar
2 tsp. salt
a dash of paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
grated onion to taste
1/2 cup vinegar
2/3 cup ketchup
1 cup oil

It's easy to make too - just put all ingredients in the blender, mix and store in the refrigerator. The recipe makes 3 cups.

Since this is not the "diet" version, I tweaked it a little and added Splenda instead of sugar and only 1/2 the oil with 1/2 cup water. It's really good!

Seasoned bread crumbs and those tasty croutons can also be made at home just as easily.

For years I've been storing my broiler pan in my oven. I just lay the crusts of each loaf of bread on that pan and leave them inside my oven until they dry out completely. The pan catches any extra crumbs and allows air to circulate around the bread. Once dry, I just chop them up in my food processor and add the desired spices to the mix. I store the crumbs in an air tight container and always have them on hand for breading my oven baked fish and chicken.

To make the croutons, I cube several slices of bread (it's a great way to use up older bread or sandwich buns that are starting to dry out.) I lay them on top of the broiler pan as well and allow them to dry thoroughly, usually a day or 2. I like to do this right after I get done cooking something else in the oven since a hot oven will speed the drying process.

When the cubes dry, I mix 2 Tbsp of olive oil and the desired spices (garlic powder, a pinch of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, etc) and drizzle it over the croutons on a baking sheet, tossing them lightly to coat them all. It goes back into the oven on the lowest heat for an hour or two until the cubes are thoroughly dried out. Then I store the croutons in a plastic container.
Just a few of these on my salad make all the difference. They taste every bit as good as their restaurant counterparts. Yummy!