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Category Archives: Beating the Squanderbug

Being Green (in the tub)

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A month or so ago, a friend of mine had to move suddenly from Prague, and left me with a nice bottle of bubble bath that she had used once.  We don’t use bubble bath around here, what with our uber-sensitive skin, but my penchant for procrastination meant that the bottle hung around for a week or two.  I couldn’t decide what to do with it, since it was nice stuff, but who can you give a bottle of partially used bubble bath to?  Except me, of course…

Then, I was cruising around a new to me blog, and swiped this idea for Monster Bubble Bath.  Actually, all I did was add neon green food colouring to the bubble bath and pour it into a new jar instead of making it from scratch, but hey, it will be perfect for my nephews.

Don't you love the color?

Don’t you love the color?

I love being able to repurpose stuff, and what little boy won’t enjoy bathing in monster green bubbles?


Frugal Silver Polish

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I’ve had some family heirloom baby cutlery languishing in my flatware drawer for longer that Daughter has been around, and I unfortunately never used it for her because it was so tarnished.  I’ve been decluttering a lot in the last year or so, and I finally decided to either keep that family heirloom stuff for use with visiting little ones and get rid of the natty plastic stuff or keep the natty plastic stuff and get rid of the silver.  This resolution coincided with me coming across this blog post, where Jen of My Make Do and Mend Year talks about polishing silver with a banana peel and some baking soda.  Needless to say, I felt compelled to try this before going out and buying silver polish (which, frankly, stinks and brings back some unpleasant childhood memories).


Before I polished the baby spoons, with decades of tarnish on them

Jen’s directions involve blending a banana peel with baking soda and water to make a paste, but I’m lazy efficient by nature and cheated by just dumping baking soda on the mushy inside of the peel and massaging the peel together until I got a paste.  Then I used the banana peel to rub the paste onto the spoons, mostly so that I would not have to clean a rag, and added more baking soda.  I’ll be darned if it didn’t work like a charm!  Afterwards, I just dumped the banana peels into the compost bucket and washed the cutlery normally.

After I polished them with banana peel and baking soda

After I polished them with banana peel and baking soda

Voila!  I’m still a little stunned, because not everything works out that comes off the internet, but it certainly worked well enough that I’ll never buy silver polish again.  Bananas, people, who knew?

Buy better and use less

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Granted, this may not always work out, but I have found that it holds true with food, at least in our family.  For instance, we use less butter than margarine, since the butter tastes better and you need less of it.  The same goes for cheese, chocolate, meat, coffee and just about anything else I can think of.  I now make it a point to buy the highest quality that I can reasonably afford, and then I stretch it through various ways. If I am buying cheddar cheese, for example, then I will buy the most mature available, since the flavor is much stronger.  I end up using less, and it saves me money in the end, even if I had to pay a little bit more in the beginning.  If I buy free range chicken from the farmer instead of one from the supermarket, we eat less and the resulting stock has a stronger flavour, so I can get more stock out of the same amount of bones.

Once in a while, this will backfire.  I might buy a jam that tastes so good that we gobble it up in one sitting (almost) or a cheese that disappears the minute I open the package.  However, I find that if I buy it a few more times, we get used to the flavor and eat it at a more reasonable pace.  Do you have similar experiences?

4 meals from one chicken

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For today’s Double Dip Monday, I want to share how I got four meals for three people from one whole roasting chicken.  I will be upfront and admit that Daughter and I don’t eat very much meat, so this might not work out to four meals for you, but the principles still apply.

To start, I roasted the chicken whole for our big Sunday meal, and served the meaty breast and legs with brown rice.  There was one breast left over, plus the meat that was on the rest of the bird, so I picked that off, shredded it, and put it in the fridge.  I saved all of the bones, plus the meat on the wings and back, and made cock-a-leekie on Monday by adding leeks and the leftover rice.  This gave me enough soup for two full meals for the three of us, if I added some rolls or scones and a few cut up fresh veggies.  On Tuesday, I took the leftover shredded meat, added in some random salad bits I had floating about the fridge and some actual leaf salad, and served up chicken salad with a balsamic dressing.  Then, on Wednesday, I served the leftover cock-a-leekie.

Given that I could get three to four meals out of the roasting chicken, I splurged and bought a free-range, organic bird (what I generally refer to as “happy hens”).  The upside was that the bird was so flavorful that none of us ate as much as we would have eaten if it had been a factory bird.  I plan to try this out several more times, just to see if it is one particular type of chicken or all happy chickens in general, but you can get several meals out of any bird if you’re clever about it…

Double Dip Monday – again

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Oh, I know it’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything, but things have been rattling around in my brain.  We’ve been ill off and on, plus the weather suddenly turned gorgeous, so we’ve been outside as much as possible.  On the other hand, I’ve gotten very serious about my grocery budget in this country, and have limited myself for the whole month by taking money out of the cash machine and using only that (otherwise known as the “envelope method”).  This means that I have been emptying my pantry and freezer of anything usable first, before going to the store, which leads to fewer trips to the store and more time in the park (ultimately).

Here was my menu for last week:

Breakfasts were either cheese and bread or eggs and bread, with some kind of mild coleslaw for a veg.  We’ve definitely entered the barren months between abundant winter storage and sprouting spring garden.

Lunches were always either leftovers or polenta/pasta.  Husband took either apples and pears or leftovers to work for lunch.

Dinners were such –

Monday was roasted root vegetables with rice, cabbage salad, and some bits of bacon and cheese.

Tuesday was red beans and rice (actually quite a good way to clear out the freezer).

Wednesday is the day when dinner has to be done early and has to be easy and reheatable, so it was hoppin’ John and cornbread (incidentally another good pantry meal).

Thursday is a day when I have time to cook, so I made vyprazeny karfiol with potatoes and parsnip soup.

Friday, oh Friday, you always sneak up on me, and despite my grand dinner plans, we end up staying too late in the park.  I had planned on lentils and rice with caramelized onions, but made it home only minutes before dinnertime.  To prevent us from going out for food, I made pancakes.  I foresee a lot of Friday pancakes in our future…

Saturday is a great day, because it is market day, and all of our meals are cobbled together from last week’s buys and this week’s buys.  For instance, we had cheese and bread for breakfast and lunch, with various leftover salad bits.  Then we spent all afternoon at the park with a bunch of other families, and I made a GF snack with pastry from the freezer and cheese and pesto from the market.  Dinner was another “we’ve been in the park too long and now what are we going to eat” creation of GF pasta, pesto and cheese.  (yes, it was close to the pastry, and no one complained because we were thrilled and tired from our long romp in the park.)

Sunday is another one of those days when meals always sneak up on me – all three yesterday, actually.  We woke up late because of the time change, fended for ourselves for breakfast, then came home late after mass, so I threw together a veggie Thai curry and rice (ok, basically I cooked rice in one pot, then dumped frozen veggies and a bottle of curry sauce in another).  The time change caught us again at dinner, so Husband and Daughter had toast with grilled onions, leftover salad bits, and some milk.  I had rice cakes and home-made Nutella.

I think I need to try a crockpot.  What do you think?

Another look at last week’s meals

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Wow, looking over my calendar, I can see that last week was complete and total chaos.  I must apologize to all you who are GF, because I didn’t eat much last week = ).  I had been away and came back late Saturday night, only to discover that Husband and Daughter had subsisted on bread and eggs for four days.  Anyway, here it goes…

Sunday was a monumental effort by me to use up the gluten stuff I had purchased but no one ate, like sachet soup and instant pasta.  So that was lunch and dinner, and breakfast was left over bread.  I couldn’t tell you what I ate, but it probably revolved around rice cakes.

Ditto for Monday.

Tuesday was a bit better, I think.  I made hush puppies and black bean soup for dinner, and lunch was GF noodles.

Wednesday was even better, since I forgot to go to the store, so breakfast was all eggs, lunch was more GF noodles, and dinner was instant Thai curry (from a jar that I picked up on sale and had in my pantry).

Thursday was more eggs and leftovers, and dinner was particular inspired – broccoli and rice. = )

Friday was a bit better, though we probably had oatmeal for lunch, and maybe breakfast.  Dinner was GF pizza, home-made, with love, out of some pantry items (pesto and olives).

Saturday was a pancake breakfast and hot dog lunch, as we had some little girls over for the day.  Dinner was (drumroll, please) real Mexican food!  They just opened up a taqueria around the corner from us, so we decided to check it out.  We stuffed ourselves.  It was amazing.

And that was our week in food.  Not very exciting, but still affordable (minus the Mexican).  Next week, we’re starting a diet, so things will be a bit pricier and a bit out of character for me.

Hope it helps!


A look at GF weekday lunch menus

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Or, in other words, a really boring list of what Daughter and I eat at home during the week.  Really, you are going to yawn.

I approach our weekday lunches with an if/then frame of mind.  If we have leftovers (and Husband hasn’t taken them), then we eat those first.  If we have soup left over, then we eat that as a first course.  If we have a certain friend coming over during the week, then we won’t eat porridge/oatmeal until that day, because we always eat porridge when she comes over.  But overall, leftovers aside, our lunch menu revolves around three items.  Ready?

In no particular order, we eat either polenta, porridge/oatmeal, or something called Kašička, which is like cream of rice/corn/buckwheat.  If you look very carefully, you will see a trend ; ).  If I can dump boiling water on it and cook in around five minutes, we eat it for lunch during the week.  I will sometimes add in rice cakes and cheese for a little variance, especially when it is warmer out, but in the cold winter months, lunch must be hot and stodgy.  I also serve either fresh or stewed fruit, and maybe some sliced veggies.  Since the grains are cooked with either milk or cheese, we also get protein and calcium, which keeps us full until dinner (or afternoon snack).  Add in some fruit tea or a glass of milk, and you have yourself a very easy to cook and inexpensive lunch.  It’s just not that glamourous…