Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal Stretcher Monday - Cranberry Sauce

Way back during November and December, the store flyers all had typical holiday season fare front and center. Turkey, cranberry sauce, ham, potatoes, pies, etc. were all being highly promoted. We loaded up - like most families.

There's always one item in that list that just leaves me somewhere between angry and disappointed.

No, not the meats. The "cranberry sauce".

The problem is that they are promoting that freaky, gelatinous goo in a can.


Trust me.

Here's what to do instead. Get this stuff.

It's one bag of cranberries ($1.50), one cup of orange juice, and one cup of sugar (these cost me nothing as they were in my fridge and cupboard already).

Get a saucepan, and put in on the stove on medium heat.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saving the Mugs

A friend of mine was crowing about the great deal she got on new dishes - under $50 to replace all of them. (Deals are always a topic that gets my attention). Unfortunately she said that she really liked her old dishes but the plates and mugs were too stained to keep.

Hold on.

We have a cleaning problem.

I didn't want to tell her this, but she just wasted her cash.

There is a magic trick that I do for under a penny that saves my dishes and mugs from stains.

Behold: one of my befouled mugs.

To be clear, this mug was CLEAN in that I scrubbed it for several minutes with the scrubby side of a sponge and some water, then ran it through the dishwasher. These were true, honest stains that had no plans of budging.

Here's what you do: get a washcloth, and grab your baking soda.

Wet the cup, sprinkle some baking soda in, then give it a little scrub.

(I have no idea why this image is sideways on my preview. I think iPhoto and Blogger are trying to teach me patience.)

See how the stain is already coming up onto the baking soda paste? Maaaaagic!

After about a minute, I rinsed the mug and took my 'after' picture.


It was so clean and white and shiny, that I couldn't take a flash picture like I did with the 'before' shot. After turning the flash off...

So pretty! Now I want to fill it up with something dark and delicious that will probably stain it.

I do this with the mugs and plates every couple of weeks as needed. It costs me a couple of cents of baking soda, and saves me $50 of new dishes.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Some Visual Changes

Thank you all for bearing with me while I'm trying to decide on a better layout for this site. I have been trying a few different ones, but have been happy with none of them so far. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments for me!

Happy MLK day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meal Stretcher Monday: Brownie Bites

My Husband has a weakness for pre-packed desserts. His ideal grocery trip likely involves buying his weight in PopTarts. For the sake of convenience, he picked up some Little Bites Brownie Bites to throw into lunch boxes or keep kids quiet in the car (okay, that actually wasn't a bad idea).

The problem is that this little box here contains 5 envelopes of 3 brownie bites each, and costs around $3.50.

Nope. I can do better.

Thankfully, I have this pan here:

The wells are the same size as the Little Bites, but there are 24 of them instead of 15. Already we're on a roll.

You can use a mix (usually about $1.50), or if you have the ingredients, make them from scratch with a recipe like the Best Brownies recipe from Hershey's.
Fill your wells, and bake!

(Pardon the mess along the sides of the wells. There was a toddler attached to my leg chanting "browniebrowniebrowniebrowniebrownie".)

Note: these wells are small! You'll need a MUCH shorter cooking time (mine took 8 minutes). Had I tried to leave them for the 25 minutes in the original recipe I would have had charcoal briquettes.


It's a messy picture. I planned to take a better one with them all stacked nicely on a plate, maybe with a glass of milk in the background.... Too late. I was overruled and the brownies were gone way too fast.

Let's look at the savings here. Assuming that 3 brownies is a serving...

Little Bites: 5 servings for $3.50. That's $0.70 per serving.

Mix: 8 servings for $1.50. That's under $0.19 per serving.

Mine were from scratch and since I had all of the materials, they cost me nothing.

I know what's going into our lunch boxes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cleaning the Microwave

Until recently we had a really ancient microwave that was probably slowly irradiating us to death. This summer one of our chip-away-at-home-improvement projects involved saving up for a new one.

Now we have a lovely over-the-stove microwave that heats things quickly and thoroughly, without making that jet-engine noise or risking bursting into flames.

I had cleaned our previous microwave with Clorox. Since I'm trying to avoid using bleach, I've been checking the internet for a better way to clean a microwave easily.

Vinegar to the rescue!

Quite a few people on Pinterest advocate mixing water and vinegar and microwaving it. The philosophy is that the steam and vinegar fumes will soften any grime. Sources disagree as to the exact mixture so I pretty much just chucked some vinegar into a bowl and added water.

Before: (It's not easy to tell from this picture, but there was an apocalyptic soup event).

And after:

The door didn't come as clean at first:

So I hit it with some spray cleaner and a damp wash cloth any left over schmutz came right off.