Homemade Food Gifts: Herbed Oils

Herbed oils can be made easily and used in small ratios (1/2 to 2 tablespoons) on salads and in stir fries. Experiment to find other ways these oils can be used.

Make these when the herbs are harvested from the garden, so they are at their freshest. The oils will store for up to one year.

The basic preparations work like this:

  1. Place three 2-inch sprigs of herbs/leaves into each, per each cup of oil that the jar will hold.
  2. Put one garlic, shallot, or other ingredient into the necessary jars, per cup of oil that each jar will hold.
  3. Heat oil over low-medium heat until warm with a good scent; about three to five minutes (longer if lots of oil). Do not boil.
  4. Pour oil into jars, over the other items.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Cover each jar.
  7. Tie a tag around each bottle, with raffia or twine, with its’ ingredient list and ‘From (Your Names’) Kitchen.’ Also note how long the oil will last once given as gift, or an expiration date. Mention how each oil may be used.

Try these combinations or experiment with your own:

  • Dill and chives
  • Garlic, oregano, and thyme
  • Rosemary and sage

Tips:

  • Purchase oils in bulk and/or on sale to save money. You can also use coupons to save money.
  • Find other oil and herb combinations, but stick with healthy, Paleo-friendly oils.
  • Try using larger quantities of herbs to see if you like the flavorings better.

 

References:

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (1987, Rodale Press)

Quick Tip: Now is the Time for Thanksgiving Savings

Gather the sales fliers and clip those coupons. It is time to be looking for deals on Thanksgiving and autumn related items such as foods, candles, and other kitchen needs.

Saving money on these items now is a great way to stock your pantry for the coming winter and next year. Look for cans of pumpkin, spices, paper plates, cups, and bowls. Table cloths, napkins, dish towels, platters, and more items will be found. Take advantage if you can. Anything on sale this time of year is fair game.

While many things can be put away to use while decorating the kitchen and table for Thanksgiving next year, the food items can be used throughout the winter.

First year doing this? Keep track of how many of each item you buy, what the regular price for each item was, the sale price, and the coupon discount. How much did you save overall?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shannon

Toaster Oven Pizza

I love homemade pizza, but I’m trying to eat healthier. My old way of making this delicious treat just wasn’t going to cut it. I had to come up with something different, not using white or wheat flour. Also, I no longer have an oven, because I rent this room, so I had to come up with something for a toaster oven I still don’t always use with great success. I was pleased with how this came out, though I think I need to play with the dough a little to get it just right.

(Update January 2017: I finally bought a new toaster oven and ditched the small ancient one, as well as the microwave. Don’t need those any more. This new one came with an owner’s manual, and I’m pretty darn good at the baking in a toaster oven thing now. Yay! Now, this pizza is even easier to make.)

I started with this dough from Ditch the Wheat, using just two pinches of the sea salt as well as 1/4 cup of parsley.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015After covering the toaster oven pan with aluminum foil, (I know! Please don’t judge!) I used a little EVOO to just cover the foil then pressed the dough into the pan to form a thin crust because the sides of my pan are not very high. Then I added my toppings.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014Stew beef is what I had on hand, left over from the previous days cooking. Use whatever meat you want, or different toppings all together. Experiment. See what you like best.

Ingredients

Almond flour pizza crust dough

EVOO

coconut oil, organic

stew beef, about 1/2 to 3/4 pound

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

garlic powder, to taste

1/2 can of crushed pineapple, drained

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

4 ounces shredded mild cheddar cheese

  1. Melt a little coconut oil in a pan.
  2. Add the stew beef, as well as the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
  3. Heat until almost cooked through.
  4. Spread a little EVOO over the pan.
  5. Smoosh the dough around until it covers the bottom of the pan, then bake for 10 minutes at 350*.
  6. Sprinkle the cheeses on the crust dough.
  7. Once the pineapple is drained, add it to the pizza covering the cheese.
  8. Spread the seasoned stew beef over the crushed pineapple.
  9. In my very old toaster oven, I baked this on medium dark and 300* for 30 minutes. This may be different for your toaster/regular oven, so watch the pizza. You want the cheese to melt, and the crust to cook through.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015Notes:

  • I think I should have waited a bit to remove the pizza from the pan. The first piece came out more crumbly than I would have liked, but the ones I removed after I was done eating (to place on a plate and into the refrigerator) came out nicely.
  • Pour the pineapple juice into a bowl, along with the other 1/2 can of crushed pineapple. Cover and freeze to use in a smoothie another day.
  • Use leftover ingredients from other meals as toppings to save money.
  • Almond flour is expensive, but I don’t use it every week or even every month. It is for a treat item, like pizza or muffins, not for every day use.
  • Save money on cheese, herbs, and spices by using coupons.
  • Try coupling coupons with sales for even more savings.
  • I don’t actually eat cheese often. It is also considered a treat. I am just too stubborn to give it up completely.

Serving Suggestions

  • I had mine with a side of raw carrots, celery, broccoli, and peas.
  • Serve with a side salad of greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices.
  • If using vegetables on the pizza, and not fruit, then serve with a fruit salad.
  • Serve with raw broccoli and cherry tomatoes.

Enjoy!

Shannon

Try This to Save Money on Groceries

I don’t buy as many groceries as I used to and, when I do, I generally have a recipe in mind when I get to the store, as well as a shopping list and a menu planned. But, I’ve been wondering if there is a better way to shop that will allow me to save more money. After all, every penny counts these days.

My plan is to try a little something different during an upcoming shopping trip.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 1:

Start how what I normally do. Go through my coupons and the sales papers to see what sales I can match up with my money saving coupons. However, while I will make note of the item and the coupon value, I wont be making a main shopping list. I may not actually end up buying these items because there may be better deals.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 2:

Make a mental note other coupons I have, and be prepared to bring these to the store as well. I have an organizer for this.

Also note what my budget is. I will likely break this down by section. Ex: $12.00 for meats, $15.00 for fresh produce. But, maybe not. I might find it better, once I get to the store, not have a set amount per grocery store section. Maybe I will do two shopping trips, to see which is better.

Step 3:

Write down any foods I absolutely have to buy, whether I have a coupon or not. Non dairy milk and eggs are necessities most weeks, but I will not stick with my usual brand if another, more affordable brand costs less but offers the same needs nutritionally.

Spend a little time researching companies (I wont have to do this for every trip to the store) to determine which brands use BPA and other harmful toxins in their can/freezer bag linings. Note which companies do not, because I would rather buy from them.

Step 4:

Grab my coupons, make-shift list, reusable bags, and a pen, and calculator (I have one of these on my phone), and head to the grocery store.

Step 5:

Remember to look for in-store specials, which are not always advertised. Also try not to be brand loyal, and keep in mind that store brands are usually just as good as the name brand. In many cases, the store brand is the same exact product, with the label being the only difference.

Photogrpah by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Step 6:

Look around the store. Meat is essential, so I will check out what they have to offer. What are the cheapest cuts? Would a slightly more expensive cut be more affordable with a coupon? If not, go for the cheapest cuts and worry about what I will do with it when I get home.

Do the same in the produce section. Then with the eggs and the milk. Be sure my options are healthy ones, and I am not buying a lot of processed foods. Instead, I will use the money I save by not buying those foods to go toward more fresh, canned (packed in water), and frozen produce, or a little more meat. Or, I might use it to begin a stock of canned coconut milk or to buy some almond flour – a real treat.

Step 7:

Go home and put everything away, keeping my receipt handy to refer back to during a meal planning session.

It will be different, not having it all planned out by the time I get to the store, but I am hoping this method will save me a little more money on my grocery budget. I will keep you updated.

Do you have a similar method? Tell us about in the comments, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. What works for you? What does not?

Shannon

Getting Enough Vegetables Affordably

Vegetables are one of the most important meal and snack components to consume, providing your body with necessary vitamins, protein, minerals, and other nutrients that aid in keeping a body healthy. We should be eating mostly vegetables at each meal, being sure to mix it up for full benefit.

It can be expensive to eat so many vegetables, though, so we tend to go the way of eating cheaper, more processed, less healthy foods. We shouldn’t do this, if we really want to be healthy. Use the money you would have used for processed foods to buy more vegetables.

Even I sometimes, when money is truly tight, find myself eating the non healthy foods. However, I’m trying to prevent it as much as possible.

How?

By thinking ahead, and shopping well.

These tactics do not work 100% of the time, but I do try.

What are some steps to take to be sure we are able to get as many vegetables into our diet as possible?

  1. Always know what you already have on hand.
  2. Use store coupons to buy vegetables.
  3. Go online to the food companies you generally buy from to see if you can sign up for coupons, such as Marketside.
  4. When something is on sale, buy extras.
  5. Frozen and canned foods are fine if they are truly good deals, just be sure to choose versions where the manufacturer does not use BPA in the lining. These will come in handy when you don’t have fresh vegetables.
  6. Shop the discount racks and freeze stuff.
  7. When you can’t use the fresh vegetables, and you don’t want them to go bad, create freezer mix-ups. These are easy to make.
  8. Buy the vegetables that are the most affordable that week. Choose at least five varieties, and buy enough to last until your next shopping trip.
  9. Take advantage of roadside stands during the harvest season. Often, you can get the vegetables at an incredibly low rate. If you buy a lot, they may even knock off a dollar or two.
  10. Shop Farmer’s Markets toward the end of the day, when sellers are more likely to sell for less.
  11. Know how much a serving really is for each member of your family.
  12. Remember that if you’re eating non processed foods, mainly meats and vegetables, your body will regulate itself after a while and you may not need as big servings as you used to. This happened for me after about three weeks in on the Whole30 program, and is also the case when I’m eating Paleo. This helps me to save money in the long run.
  13. Be sure you’re getting in at least one or two greens each week. Buy a big bag of spinach and some cabbage or Romaine lettuce.

When I am eating mostly vegetables, meat, and a fruit a day, I notice big differences. My weight goes down, my skin is clear and looks amazing, my asthma does not bother me at all, and I sleep very well, among other things. I love feeling that good, so I strive to do my best to eat healthy.

How do you do things so you can afford to consume more vegetables?

Shannon

Patriotic Holiday Recipes: A Simple Food Platter Idea

What would a Fourth of July celebration be without a food representation of the US flag? This simple platter is placed out at the beginning of the party or picnic, for everyone to snack on until the main foods are brought out.

You are simply going to fill a rectangular food platter with red, white, and blue foods, in such a way that finished platter resembles the US flag.

Ingredients

1 pint blueberries

small watermelon

1 pound strawberries

2 pints raspberries, or another red berry

cheese cubes, enough to fill white lines – mozzarella/provolone/another type

  1. Cut the watermelon into slices. Chop into (about) 1 inch squares
  2. Rinse the berries, and use a towel to gently pat them dry.
  3. Hull the strawberries, and cut them in half.
  4. Place the blueberries into a square, white bowl, just big enough to hold them. Put this bowl in the upper left corner of the platter.
  5. Cut a few cheese cubes into quarters, to place on the berries to act as ‘stars’.
  6. Beginning next to the bowl, at the top of the platter, you are going to add lines – red and white stripes. Start with a line of watermelon for red, then a line of cheese cubes. End with a line of watermelon for red, and a line of cheese cubes above that. In between, use the strawberries as red lines, raspberries as red lines, and watermelon if you need to. Do these separately, so only one type of fruit is in each line. (The order does not really matter.) The white lines will all be cheese cubes.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Tips

  • Place on a table and let everyone enjoy while hanging out.
  • Cut expenses where possible. Look for coupons on cheese. If you notice a sale, most cheeses freeze. A sale combined with coupons will save a lot of money. Some fruits, such as watermelon, can also be bought when on sale and frozen.

You may also be interested in

Patriotic Holiday Recipes: Fruit Salad

Patriotic Holiday Recipes: Berries and Cream

Easy Burger Options

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Shannon

Patriotic Holiday Recipes: Berries and Cream

In trying to come up with some easy patriotic recipes, I find myself concentrating a lot on berries because of their brightness of color.

Fresh, they are the tastiest fruits to use. Try picking them on your own for the most affordable way to get them. Growing them is easy, or you can find them out in the wild. Picking them at farms is another way to go, though this time of the year (end of June) you may find they are just as affordable in the store.

This is a simple way to use berries. Find clear bowls, or even clear sundae cups (coupled with real tea spoons!), to chill and serve these in.

Ingredients

1 pint blueberries

1/2 to 1 pint strawberries

a fresh mint for each bowl or cup for garnish, + extra for chopping

coconut cream concentrate

1 tsp or more pure vanilla

  1. Rinse the berries, and blot dry carefully with a clean towel.
  2. Hull and slice the strawberries, and add them to a bowl with the blueberries.
  3. Rinse the sprigs of mint as well, again blotting dry with a towel.
  4. Peel the leaves of mint from a sprig, and chop roughly. Add this to the berries.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine coconut cream and vanilla, whisking or beating for a couple of minutes to combine well.
  6. Fold the cream into the bowl of berries and mint, carefully mixing until coated. Start with half the cream, then add more if needed. A light coating is all that is necessary.
  7. Spoon the berry mixture into clear bowls or cups, and add a sprig of mint to each.
  8. Chill until ready to serve.

Tips

  • Try different berry combinations. Use whatever is in season.
  • See if you can stock up on cream and vanilla while on sale, and look for coupons to save money.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Serve this as a side with a burger and side salad.
  2. Or, serve as a dessert after lunch or dinner.

You may also enjoy these patriotic holiday recipes

Watermelon Stars

A Simple Food Platter

Berries and Cream

Fruit Salad

Berry Parfait

Red, White, and Blue Parfait

Have a happy Fourth of July!!!

Shannon

 

Top 10 Frugal Cooking and Food Tips

We are all looking to save money where possible, and food is a good place to start. By getting our grocery bills under control, we can more easily distribute money where it has to go: On bills, clothing, and education, for instance. Here are some tips for saving money in the kitchen:

  1. Use your leftovers! Try not to throw anything out. If you wont use the leftovers right away, store them in the freezer so they don’t go bad.
  2. If you do not have enough money for food, check out the local food cupboards. They are very helpful resources.
  3. Pack affordable lunches for your children to take to school.
  4. Couple sales with coupons for ultimate savings when buying groceries.
  5. Learn how to eat healthier for less. Eating healthy foods means less doctor bills later.
  6. Cook frugal meals. Change recipes to suit your needs. What do you already have on hand? What can you buy that costs less than the required ingredient?
  7. Cheap roasts, combined with root vegetables, make a great affordable meal that will give leftovers for later use.
  8. Make homemade sauces when pears, apples or peaches go on sale.
  9. Grow your own food.

What are your best frugal cooking and food tips? Share them in the comments below, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. Remember to share this article with others who may find it useful.

These eCookBooks will be helpful:

Beverages on a Budget

Main Meal Magic

Very Frugal Vegetables: Recipes and Uses

Fabulously Frugal Fruits: Recipes and Uses

Shannon

Planned Leftovers for 1

When I used to make planned leftovers, it would be enough to feed 3 or more for an extra meal. Now that I’m cooking for 1, I am able to plan leftovers for a number of meals.

  • If I make one slow cooker meal (3 qt crock), I have enough food for three to five meals depending on the meal I’m making.
  • If I make two slow cooker meals (3 qt crocks), I have enough food for six to ten meals, depending.

Larger crocks would provide more food, but the 3 qt size is perfect for my needs. I downgraded from 1 larger crock to two 3 qt crocks  so I would be able to cook two different meals, for variety.

I’m considering a third, which would allow me to cook ahead three or four days for all three meals. My work schedule is what I cook around. I work a three day stretch, have a day off, then work a four day stretch. I do my cooking on my days off, along with my cleaning and other tasks.

So all I do, really, is:

  1. Decide on my meals. What do I want?
  2. Figure out what ingredients I’ll need? How much of each ingredient will be necessary?
  3. Look at what I have on hand.
  4. Look to see what I have coupons for items I need.
  5. Look at sales fliers, and decide if I want to switch out ingredients for anything that is on sale and/or I have a coupon for.
  6. Make a shopping list, with prices. Coupon items underlined.
  7. Place the list in an envelope with my coupons and a pen.
  8. Shop for the ingredients.
  9. Fill the crocks during the late morning or early afternoon.
  10. Let the meals cook on high 2-4 hours, or low 5-7 hours.
  11. Uncover and scoop out what I want for dinner.
  12. Leave uncovered and let sit until cooled enough to place in containers and refrigerate.

That’s it. Simple enough for anyone. I find I like easy-to-prepare meals. The meals do not go into the freezer, because they are eaten within a few days.

On a related note, I might broil enough bacon covered sweet potato or squash wedges to last a few days. Or make a large salad. Or even cook enough burger patties for three meals.

How do you plan for leftovers? What’s your shopping and cooking process? Your preparation habits? Let us know in the comments, or email me privately at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. Check out the eCookBook Main Meal Magic.

Shannon

 

Grocery Shopping for 1

Grocery shopping for one is different from grocery shopping for an entire family and daycare children. When I started shopping only for myself, I had no idea what I was doing. I would go into the grocery store and wonder, what do I want? and how much do I need just for me?

There are a number of things to take into consideration when you begin shopping just for yourself.

  1. What do you like to eat? Never mind what anyone else liked, it really is all about you now. So take some time before heading to the grocery store to decide what you want to eat this week.
  2. Make a note if you want to double or triple a recipe to have enough for leftovers, lunches, or freezer meals.
  3. Now decide how much of each food you’ll reasonably eat. You don’t need to buy for all those people, but you do need enough to feed yourself.
  4. Make a list of the ingredients you need to make what you like, adding those items you don’t already have on hand.
  5. Check the sales papers.
  6. Decide whether you want to stock up on pantry items.
  7. Search out coupons to use while shopping. Mark the items on your list that you have coupons for, so you remember when checking out.
  8. Grab your reusable shopping bags and head to the grocery store. Many stores give a small discount for each bag you reuse. Maybe .05 per bag.

Be aware that, on your first few trips out, you may find things you hadn’t realized you wanted. Decide that you’ll consider these for your next trip. Or, you could bring extra cash to cover one or two items.

How was your transaction to grocery shopping for 1? Let us know in the comments, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Shannon