Friday, January 27, 2017

What Do You Have In Your Hand?

 First I thought I would give you a quick update on my no-spend challenge and then I want to share a few ideas that I have had for helping me/you to be more content with what we already have and to see them in a new and exciting light.

First an update: I have not been in a store (since the 1st when I purchased pop for Aaron when he was sick) and so we are using what we have. There has been a bit of money spent however. Not by me exactly (Ken got out his wallet) but I was involved so I will share those with you.

  • Last Friday we went downhill skiing. I was of the mind to wait until January was over but it was truly a night with lovely warm weather and I was out voted. We had a fun time. This sort of experience over buying things is part of the reason I like to save money so I am not sorry we did it. I did however pack our supper and hot chocolate so we didn't have to pay for anything besides ski rental for the kids (Ken and I own ours - we bought them second hand several years ago and it was a good purchase) and lift tickets for all of us.
  • Mara needed Ethanol for her college chemistry course. I told her to ask Ken to pick some up on his way home and he did.
  • Aaron started up his 4-H shooting sports again which required a payment. Ken did that when he picked him up on Tuesday evening.
  • Ken has also been buying milk on his way home from work from time to time.
We have not gotten any groceries this month (since December 17th actually) but Ken has picked up milk and my mom has given us a cabbage (they grew a bunch in their garden) and some eggs (as their chickens are producing better than ours). That doesn't mean that we are lacking in the food department however. In fact things have finally started to get fun for me. I have found I actually enjoy cooking much more when I have a little bit of a challenge. If I can just buy stuff from the store it ends up feeling a little un-interesting.

  Mostly we have tons of food still. We put up oodles of food in the summer and fall and also buy our beef and grains in bulk at that time. Things like salt and cheese I also buy in bulk. I also had found sales on things like butter, coconut oil and olive oil and stocked up heavily. So we have a lot of food. I shouldn't have any trouble feeding my family. But we have started to run out of some things so I have to think a little more creatively and that is fun. We now our out of onions (a staple at my house), our produce drawer is empty except for the part of a cabbage from my mom, some garlic and an apple that is from my parents tree this fall and is getting a little squishy. I have some more apples down in the root cellar wrapped in paper that I still need to check on - I am not sure how they are holding out. I also have some potatoes from our garden down in the root cellar that are doing fine but a pretty small. I have however been growing sprouts and we have quite a lot of frozen and canned veggies (that I put up this fall).

  It has been a fun time to try some new recipes.

This corn polenta recipe turned out pretty good. You brought chicken broth and cream (canned milk for me) to a boil and then stirred in the cornmeal, corn, salt, pepper and thyme. After cooking and stirring it a little I put it in a greased cake pan and stuck it in the fridge to harden. Then after around an hour I took it out and cut it into pieces and fried them. I then garnished it with a combination of  sauted corn, onion, green pepper (before I ran out of onion and frozen green pepper) and dried hot pepper. It turned out pretty good.
 I still had everything I needed to make pies (though without any white sugar - that's fine I had honey and for the pecan pie I had corn syrup and brown sugar) and I made 9 of them yesterday. The pecan pie is the unhealthy one - most of them are pretty good for you and we will be having pumpkin and apple pie for breakfast today.
 Last night I tried out a new recipe for wild rice and zucchini pancakes. It wasn't wonderful but it wasn't bad either. It was a good way to use up some of our frozen zucchini.

Here are some other things that we have been eating lately:

For Breakfasts:

  • Rhubarb muffins
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Eggs (Fried or Scrambled)
  • Toast
  • Granola
  • "Sausage" made from heavily seasoned hamburger. That was enjoyed by all.
  • Crepes with a goat cheese, raspberry and honey filling.
  • French Toast made from homemade wholewheat bread.
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles both of those served with real maple syrup and butter/peanut butter.
  • Oatmeal with Rye flakes soaked overnight.
  • Cream of Wheat (made from ground wheat)
  • Grits/Cornmeal mush (made from freshly ground corn)
  • Sliced Cheese
  • Cinnamon Biscuits
  • Apple Crisp
For main meals:
  • Homemade Tomato Soup
  • Goat Cheese and Herb Quesadillas
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Fried Potatoes with Hamburger Gravy and Cheese over top
  • Runzas
  • Chicken noodle or dumpling soup
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Beef Tongue cooked with Potatoes, celery, onions and garlic
  • Steak fajitas
  • Cabbage and Sprout Salad
  • Corn
  • Green Beans
  • Apple sauce
  • Dal - a recipe I was prompted to try because of this challenge. It was delicious!!! and Easy!!!! And used inexpensive ingredients! I loved it. (I don't think I followed the recipe perfectly however but it was close.)
  • Fried Duck
  • Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf - another new recipe that I didn't follow perfectly (as I used what I had) but it turned out really good.
  • Homemade "Hamburger Helper". A pasta, cheese and hamburger dish that Mara made the was very much enjoyed.
  • Wild Rice and Zucchini pancakes
  • Homemade Bread
  • Chicken Salad Sandwiches
So obviously we are not going hungry. :-) There are many other things that we have made too but the list gets to long and I can't remember everything.

Here are a couple of other things we have done using "What we had in our hand".

 Decorating the mantle. I had taken off all the Christmas decorations and wanted something new. I had fun finding all of my milk glass vases and pairing them with a couple of lanterns and filling them with flowers and greenery. I did happen to have flowers because I had a booth at a Bridal Show this week and I had flowers leftover from that. Which by the way was some other money I spent but I didn't count that as it was a business expense and came out of that account.
 Even if you don't have flowers - greenery looks cool too. I really like the look of this vase with the evergreen branch in it that I just got off of our property.
 Last week I tried my hand at making shoe/leather polish. We were needing some and I also made some as a gift to my brother. I found basic instructions here, modifying it just a little to use what I had on hand. I tried tinting some brown with black walnut hull but that wasn't overly successful.
Another part of the gift for my brother was some homemade crackers (that Mara made), a cheese ball (made with cream cheese, Monterrey Jack cheese, herbs and spices and rolled in chopped walnuts) and some hot pepper jelly that I made this fall.

That is my no-spend report and how we have used what we had in our hand. Now for our newest ideas for doing that more.

This is a combination of my goal to simplify and also to use what we have while not spending any money. All of this while having fun and getting excited about using things that we already own.

It started with an idea that our game cupboard was too crowded. So I thought - why not on the family nights when I get to pick a game (we rotate through the family concerning who gets to choose), I pick a game we haven't played for a long time. That way we can either have fun playing something fresh and "new" or we can discover why we haven't been playing it (it isn't any fun) and get rid of it thus cleaning out our game cupboard. There might be some games that don't work for this exercise as they might be games for younger children (which we might want to save a couple of for guests and grand kids someday) or they may be ones we like but can't play as a whole family because 6 people can't play them together.

  Next I was thinking about our crowded bookshelves. We love books and I don't just discard them willy-nilly but we do need to either weed some out or build more shelves. We already have, I am quite sure, over 1,000 books. So I decided that I would make a plan to read through all of our books in the next few years. Instead of getting new books from the library or reading as many free books on my kindle I would read ours. Many of them I have read before but I wanted to re-read them (which I like to do anyway) and then really think about whether this was a good book to keep on our shelves. Is it truly a GOOD book? I told the kids about my plan which the boys thought sounded impossible but the girls thought it would be fun to do it too. So we decided to have a race. Who could read all the books first???

  We did set up a few exceptions....

  • We don't have to read books in other languages (we have a couple of Greek books that were given to Ken by his Greek professor and they have sentimental value and we have a Spanish Bible which is there for us to use should we study with someone who has Spanish as a first language - Mara may take it to the mission field in a couple of years).
  • We don't have to read books that are overtly textbooks - So we don't have to read through all of our math books which is nice!
  • We don't have to read books that we have more than one of (though potentially we may get rid of them).
  • If a book is one we decide we don't want we can get rid of it without finishing reading it.
  • We don't have to read all of the Bibles. We decided 5 different copies will be sufficient. I agreed to this exception after I realized that I didn't want somebody else taking my personal Bible away to read.
  • We don't have to read the dictionaries or the concordances.
  • We don't have to read the cookbooks (Aaron set that exception up as he was afraid I might go overboard with new weird recipes).
It has been fun that since we started this a couple of days ago Megan has been going to town with reading. She loves to read anyway but has often complained of not having anything to read. This is forcing her to find and enjoy what we already have. She read a book about Albinos that she wouldn't have normally been drawn too but it caused her to learn something new.

I happened to run across this video which I found pretty fun because it went along with what I was already thinking about in other areas. She challenges you to go through your closet/clothes systematically and wear everything once before you start re-wearing. This will cause you to wear things that might get neglected, get creative about clothes combinations (which can cause it to feel like a whole new outfit) and find clothes that really don't work for you because they don't fit or you just don't like them. Those can then be gotten rid of. If you struggle with figuring out what to wear each morning or have an overflowing closet or are in any way overwhelmed by clothes I encourage you to watch this video. Though I don't have a big issue in the clothes department I thought this would be fun to do as well.

Since I was doing all these other things I thought it would be good to clean out my messy cookbook cupboard and use at least one recipe from each cookbook. If I couldn't find one recipe that I wanted to use than I would get rid of the cookbook. 

So, those are some of my new challenges to make me use what I have, prompt me to go through stuff and get rid of things that are simply clutter. It will be fun because things that I haven't used much will feel new to me.

What have your been eating lately? Have you done any eating out of the pantry lately?

Would you do any of the challenges that I am working on? Why or why not?


Mrs. Chrissy T said...

Hey Dear Friend!

I love reading your challenges. You food ideas sounds great. What an awesome thing...not going to a store. That is the benefit of having well stocked pantry and freezer. Something I do not and I am planning on working on this year.

Skiing sounds wonderful!

Hope you have a wonderful day!!! And weekend.

P.S. I love the mantle and greenery.

Abbi said...

Thanks, Chrissy!
I do love not having to go to the store. I just don't really enjoy shopping that much and would much rather spend my time making something or doing something else instead.

Do you garden? I know that helps a ton for us to have a well stocked pantry. Also just buying things in bulk as it is cheaper that way in the long run.

Mrs Shoestring said...

Love all the new ideas, especially the cookbook one ! I have a rule that the cookbook must contain at least 10 recipes that we use and I have just sold a few that do not meet that rule ! It's great to bless others by letting your books go free ! Have fun trying out !

Abbi said...

I think that sounds like a great rule with cookbooks. I have weeded through mine before and got rid of ones that we really didn't use but since then we have been gifted with more and I think a go through is needed.

Greg and Donna said...

Love the book challenge, but I am with you...I don't want my Bible to disappear into someone elses room!I personally love to read cookbooks-especially historic ones or church cookbooks! Donna

Abbi said...

I actually enjoy reading a lot of cookbooks too. That exception was for the others sake - not mine. :-) I do have some really long wordy ones that are interesting but would take a good amount of time to get through. They are more like health books but they have recipes in them so they are up with the cookbooks.

JES said...

Great challenges! I have wanted to do the pantry challenge for awhile and do think it important to learn to cook from what we have in there! In the case of an emergency, we might have to rely on our reserves for a few days... Thanks for the encouragement and for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays :)

Abbi said...

Thank you, Jes!


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