Quick Tip: Save Money on Herbs & Spices

A while back I wrote a quick tip for you on growing your own herbs, but there are other ways you can save money on these delectable additions to meals. First, go through your pantry and see what you have. Make note of which herbs and spices you use the most of, and which you use very little of.

  • Decide what items you can grow organically on a windowsill.
  • Learn how to freeze and dry what you do grow.
  • Figure out exactly what you have to buy, and find out where you can buy the organic versions affordably.
  • Find others who also use only a little of the herbs and spices that you use little of. Are they willing to go in on the cost of those items with you and split them? Or maybe someone uses more than you do but would be willing to give you what you need at little cost.
  • Or maybe your mom will be awesome and give you just what is required of those particular items, for the recipes you will be making ❤

Growing your own and going in on the cost with others can be huge money savers.

If you find you haven’t even opened something in the last year give it away and don’t bother getting it again.

While we want to save money in this area – and possibly save huge – it is also important that you buy or grow organically. By doing so, you will get top nutritional benefits. And the organic versions taste so much better!

Shannon

 

Kitchen Craft: Holiday Herb Garland or Swag

The scent of fresh herbs will be evident for a while once these are put together, adding a homey feel to any room in the house. These are easy to make, and will not take too much time. These make great decorations for autumn the autumn and winter sabbats and holidays.

Items Needed:

Grapevine or pine imitation garland or swag.

Twine

Scissors

Craft wire

Fresh herbs

Holiday bows

Nails and hammer or tacks

  1. Tie the fresh herbs together in bundles with twine.
  2. Attach the herb bundles to the garland or swag using craft wire, in whatever arrangement you would like.
  3. Attach a couple of holiday bows with the craft wire.
  4. Hang the garland or swag and enjoy the aroma while the herbs are drying.

Here are some tips:

  • Hang and allow to dry to give as gifts.
  • When giving as gifts, find boxes that these will fit nicely into.
  • The herbs can later be removed from the swag or garland and crumbled into canning jars to use when cooking.

Shannon

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)

Homemade Food Gifts: Herbed Vinegars

Herbed vinegars are not difficult to make. They add flavor to salads and other recipes, such as meat marinades. These are best made during the herb harvesting seasons of summer and autumn, when the herbs can be used fresh.

NOTE: These vinegars will last up to a year if stored in a cool, dark place.

You’ll need jars or bottles to pour the vinegars and other ingredients into. These can be washed and saved throughout the year, and should be sterilized just before using.

The basic preparations work like this:

  1. Place three 2-inch sprigs of herbs/leaves into each jar or bottle, per each cup of vinegar that the container will hold.
  2. Put one garlic, shallot, or other ingredient into the necessary jars as well, per cup of vinegar that each jar will hold.
  3. Heat the vinegar; do not boil.
  4. Pour the vinegar 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 vinegar will last (once given as gift). Mention how each vinegar may be used.

Variations:

  • Rosemary, orange peel, garlic and white vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon honey, mint, cardamom seed, and white vinegar.
  • Blossoms from chives, savory, and cider vinegar.

Tips:

  • Keep marinade and other sauce type jars from purchased foods to save money. Or have friends and family save them for you.
  • Other cheaply purchased glass jars will work as well, including canning jars.
  • Purchase white and other vinegars in large bottles, on sale.
  • Purchase vinegars that don’t come in large bottles as cheaply as possible.
  • Purchase store or generic brands, if possible.
  • Experiment with your own variations.

What vinegar variations have you tried? Please share the results with us in the comments below.

Shannon

Reference:

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

Beef Stock

Making your own stocks saves money on your grocery bill. The bone of the roast are used, after it has been roasted and most of the meat removed. It is fine to leave small pieces of meat on the bone.

The finished product may be frozen in ice cube trays, and then placed in a freezer container and put back into the freezer. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water when cooking casseroles.

You might choose to pour the liquid directly into the containers and freeze like that. This can later be used when cooking soups and stews.

The process is simple, but will take some time. This is perfect to make when you will be home for a number of hours.

Ingredients

water

beef bone

vegetable odds and ends

herbs

greens

  1. Place the bone into a large pot.
  2. Feel free, at this point, to add any vegetable odds and ends to the pot, as well as herbs and a few fresh greens. This step is NOT necessary. I use peels and ends that I normally would discard.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way with water.
  4. Cook down to about half the liquid.
  5. Discard the bone and vegetable ends, straining the liquid so none of the solids remain.
  6. Reconstitute the liquid by half and cool.

That’s it! A simple task that does not take much hands on time.

Shannon

Homemade Vegetable Stock

By not having to purchase canned vegetable stocks, you’ll save money on your grocery bill.  Use the peels and ends of the vegetables from your cooking ventures, along with some pieces of whole vegetables, if necessary.  Herbs may also be used. Nothing has to go to waste completely.

The finished product may be frozen in ice cube trays, and then placed in freezer bag and put back into the freezer. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water when cooking rice and pasta, or even when making casseroles.

You might also choose to pour the liquid directly into the containers and freeze like that. This can later be used when cooking soups and stews.

The process is simple, but will take some time. This is perfect to make when you will be home for a number of hours.

  1. Place these odds and ends into a large pot.
  2. Add fresh herbs if you’d like.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way with water.
  4. Cook down to about half the liquid.
  5. Strain the liquid.
  6. Discard the non liquid ingredients at this point. (I add these to the stews that I make for my cats so that nothing goes to waste. Or you could compost them.)
  7. Reconstitute the liquid by 2/3 to 1/2 and cool.

That’s it! A simple task that does not take much hands on time.

Shannon

Homemade Chicken Stock

I use the skin and bones of the bird for this. After it has been roasted and most of the meat has been removed, I put what’s left into a large pot. (Leaving small pieces of meat on the bone is fine.)
The odds ends of vegetables can be used, including onion skins, celery and carrot tops, and beet ends. Parsley and other herb stems will also work.

The finished product may be frozen in ice cube trays, and then placed in freezer container and put back into the freezer. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water when cooking rice or pasta, or even casseroles. You can also freeze enough for soups in containers.

The process is simple, but will take some time. This is perfect to make when you will be home for a number of hours.

  1. Place the bones and skin into a large pot.
  2. Add any vegetable odds and ends to the pot.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way with water.
  4. Cook down to about half the liquid.
  5. Strain the liquid.
  6. Discard the bones. (I used to give the skin and little pieces of meat to my cats. You can discard these as well.)
  7. Compost the vegetable ends.
  8. Reconstitute the liquid by 2/3 to 1/2 and cool.

That’s it! A simple task that does not take much hands on time.

Shannon

Roasted Sweet Potato And Squash

The harvest was good this year, and netted quite a few squash from my parents’ garden. Of which, they ever so nicely shared. I’ve experimented with stuffed squash recipes, and used some squash in the recipe below. The outcome has been good on everything.

This recipe can be changed up by using different types of potatoes, and a variety of herbs. Or onion and/or garlic powder. See what you prefer.

By the way, this was one of the first things I tried making in my new toaster oven! Many of you know I rent a room, and I don’t have a stove and oven. I was using a very small ancient toaster oven with no manual. It was so old I couldn’t even find a manual online. Since I’d never used a toaster oven, I did not know how to use it very well.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

I needed a bigger one with a couple of racks, so I finally bought one and a few pans to go with it. This one also has a rotisserie setup which I have yet to try. I gave the old toaster oven to the man renting the room downstairs from me.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

Isn’t this new one pretty? I just love it, and the manual that tells me how to use it.

Also, I gave up the microwave. Honestly, I had one of my own for years and only used it a few times a week to warm something or make popcorn. Now that I’m renting the room, I find I’m using it almost daily. Often, a few times a day. I don’t honestly think it is good for anyone to use one of those contraptions regularly, so I decided to let it go. I gave it back to the landlord. This freed up some space in my room.

Ingredients

1 small sweet potato

1/2 of a small butternut squash

extra virgin olive oil

parsley, oregano, rosemary, or an herb of your choice

sea salt

  1. Scrub the sweet potato and cut out any bad spots, leaving as much of the peel on as possible while cutting off the ends.
  2. Peel the squash and slice about one-inch thick.
  3. Cut the sweet potato and the squash into bite size pieces and put them in a baking dish.
  4. Cover with a little oil, and grind some sea salt over the pieces.
  5. Add a sprinkling of your choice of herbs.
  6. Bake at 350 to 400 degrees about 25 minutes, then stir them around a bit.
  7. Bake again until a fork slides into the pieces easily. 10 to 20 minutes.

Tips

  • Use coupons when applicable, but only if doing so will save you money over another brand.
  • Purchase store brands.
  • Coupling a sale with a coupon might also help to save money.
  • And growing your own vegetables and herbs will save you even more.
  • Sweet potato and squash don’t take as long to cook as regular potatoes, so be sure to keep an eye on these while baking.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve alongside fresh sliced cucumbers and turkey breast.
  • Use to make a Harvest Salad.

Happy Autumn!

Shannon

Successful Harvests

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015My parents had a successful harvest this year, and they always seem to plant enough to share with my siblings and me. It started with the cucumbers that mom brought over, a couple of times. Once, because she knew I was visiting with my daughter, she sent some for me to take to her. There was zucchini and kohlrabi as well. Then tomatoes. Huge beefsteak tomatoes. And kale. All this food, tasting so much better than what I would have bought in the store. Delicious!

I gave a few cucumbers, zucchini, and a squash to friends as well. Everyone loves the fresh produce!

I went to help my mother with the harvest one day. We got all the squash in, and the tomatoes (sadly, most were lost to blight!), the last of the kohlrabi, and a few plants for me to bring home.

And chives. When the girls and I lived in the apartments, back when they were still my precious little girls <3, there were chives growing in our little garden from the previous tenant. When I moved us to the trailer park, I brought them with me and replanted near the Day Lilies. They thrived. I gave some to my mother, and missed them when I moved again – for I can’t have a garden where I am. I harvested a bunch when I was visiting with my mother that day, brought them home, and froze them in water making ice cubes for soups and other recipes I’ll make this fall.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015After this all-important harvest, for we did not want the frost to harm the produce, mom sent me home with quite a bit of stuff. Two beefsteak tomatoes, a couple of bunches of celery, two kohlrabi, two more zucchini, chives, and two of each type of squash.

In the front, notice the mini squashes. They aren’t good to eat, but are perfect for autumn decorating. And notice the four potted plants. Two chard and two kale. We harvested all this, and much more, on September 23rd – the Autumn Equinox – and these four plants are still growing in my room. They are so good!

The food in this picture is quite the harvest for a single lady such as myself; imagine what else my parents harvested! For themselves, and for my siblings. And we all share with others, at least somewhat. Plus what they gave me before our harvest day.

And just yesterday my mother and brother stopped by, bringing me two more of each type of squash and some carrots. I do so love carrots, and I have experimented with stuffed squash recipes this year.

All-in-all, I would say my parents had quite the successful harvest this year. What do you think?

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015All I have left are the frozen chives, the four plants, six squash, and the carrots. The food was delicious, and I loved every bit of it. Harvest time is my favorite time! And it is a great money saver for me.

Did you grow food this year to help lower your food budget? How was your harvest? Did you enjoy the experience?

Let us know in the comments, or email me privately at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I answer all emails.

Some of what I made with the harvested produce:

Harvest Salad

Four Meat Chili with Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash and Carrot Mash

You May Also Enjoy:Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

September Baking Day

Have a wonderful autumn!!!

Shannon

Making Soup with the Bestest: Missy’s Vegetable Soup

This post was supposed to have been published last winter, but I am horribly late.

I spent a few days with the bestest. She needed some healing time, and I went stay with her. It is difficult to watch your best friend go through some things. I ran errands with her, helped with the daily cleaning activities, and was just there for support when she needed it, when I wasn’t at work.

One night, she decided to make a soup with a bunch of different ingredients, and agreed that I could share the process with my readers. So many people had brought food during this time, that we needed to use up what we could so nothing went bad.

This is such a great recipe because you can use whatever you have on hand, even leftovers from other meals or a get-together. Or whatever you can find cheap at the grocery store. There is no set amount of any ingredient, because you are using up what you have on hand. The recipe can be changed up according to what is available.

Ingredients

olive oil

leftovers from a vegetable tray: Carrots and celery

red and yellow peppers

chicken/vegetable broth

water

grape or cherry tomatoes

corn

peas

thyme

basil

minced onion

  1. I heated some olive oil in a large pot while I chopped some baby carrots into thirds, and added the carrots to the pot as she collected the rest of the ingredients we would need.
  2. Then I cut celery into about 1/2 inch sections, sliced in half the long way, and added them to the pot, stirring everything together.
  3. Next I de-seeded and chopped a few each of the red and yellow peppers. I never cook with peppers because I do not like them, but the bestest said it is a good idea to get rid of the seeds. I took her word for it. I added the chopped peppers and stirred it all again, letting everything cook until I could get a fork into the carrots.
  4. Then we added a little broth to cover everything and continued to sauté. The main thing is to sauté the harder vegetables before adding the softer ones.
  5. We chopped the tomatoes into fourths, adding them to the pot, and heated everything for couple of minutes.
  6. Next she added the rest of the broth to the pot, as well as the peas and corn. Missy says to add some water if you want to stretch the liquid further, or if you want to lessen the broth taste.
  7. Then she added a little more olive oil.
  8. Cook this for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

9. Add the seasonings and heat for a few more minutes.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

Photograph by Melissa Ackley-Thompson copyright 2015.Missy does note that she tries to use organic and natural ingredients when she can. And that she will use fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables, whatever is available when she wants to make a soup. This soup can be different each time you make it, so be creative.

Once this soups starts to boil, it smells amazing!

Tips

  • To save money, use produce from your own garden.
  • Grow herbs in pots on a windowsill or on the porch to save more.
  • Shop sales or roadside stands.
  • If you have a store coupon, this recipe could end up costing next to nothing.
  • Make your own broth.

Serving Suggestions

  • It is important to have a protein source along with all the vegetables. Maybe a few slices of chicken, or even a couple of hard-boiled eggs on the side.

Enjoy! And please share with us the results of soups you try on your own.

Shannon