Friday, September 19, 2008

The Calculator: A Valuable Tool

I have been putting off getting into the mode of checking prices like I should at the grocery store. I have been doing figures in my head, but one tool that makes my life easier is a calculator. I take it to the store with me to find the real price per cup, pound, ounce, or other measurement.

I know that some stores have per unit pricing on the shelf label, but sometimes that label is missing or it's not broken down the way that's useful for me. So I take my own calculator and figure it out right there in the store aisle.

Yesterday I bought a calculator that will fit in my wallet and planner to make my life easier. I plan to start writing prices down into a price book. Since moving back about 5 weeks ago, I've realized that I need to get on the ball with this. I plan to write more about the price book soon.

Getting the "real" price with a calculator can be valuable to see if you are really saving money. It may not always seem like much, but it adds up over time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vegan Diet in a Nutshell

A reader asked this great question in a comment recently:

Q: You know, it occurs to me that I do not know all the ins and outs of what a vegan will eat. Can you tell us?

A: Yes, certainly. There are a few types of vegetarians. When people say vegetarian, often they are talking about someone who does not eat meat. Sometimes you will meet someone who considers themselves to be a vegetarian even though they eat fish or chicken on occasion. Here are some definitions you might find useful:

  1. Lacto-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and dairy
  2. Ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and eggs
  3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods plus both eggs and dairy (most common vegetarian)
  4. Vegan (pronounced "vee-guhn") vegetarian: eats only plant based products, abstains from all animal products including: eggs, dairy, gelatin, and sometimes bee "products" like honey

(Some people cannot eat eggs or dairy because of allergies or sensitivities to these foods. So although some people are lactose intolerant (cannot digest the sugars that are naturally occurring in milk), for example, they can use vegan recipes for dairy based products because vegans do not eat dairy either. Vegan Footprints recipes can still be useful for them for this reason.)

I consider myself to be a vegan. But considering lately what our diet has been like, right now it is lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Since we are not yet moved into our own place, we have diverted for a time because we are sharing a table with and cooking for non-vegetarians. So although we are still not eating meat, we are allowing ourselves some eggs and dairy on occasion. Since the eggs are from my brother's small farm and the dairy is not every day, we allow it on a temporary basis (if you'd like to read more about our philosophy on this, read this previous entry).

So when we move into our own place (we anticipate a few more weeks), we will return to preparing only vegan foods at our house again. Since I will be cooking for non-vegetarians some during the week (in their kitchen), that can be a challenge, but they have told me that they don't mind eating what we do when I make the meals, so that's nice.

In fact, we have been finding that they did not realize what was actually in the foods they have in their cupboards. They would rather not eat lard (animal fat) found in their canned refried beans, for example. Again, it comes down to learning about what is in your foods and reading labels before you buy (or at least before you eat).

There are many foods that can be vegan very easily. Some people call making vegan substitutions "vegan-izing." This is a good description for what I've been doing for years. Eating foods close to the way God intended. The way they occur in nature is best. I call it eating real food.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Tip - Do you know where things are?

One thing that I've realized since being back is how unorganized our storage was. Our move to Africa was very disorganized and I didn't have a good system on how to locate things (without going through everything). I guess I figured "it's all there somewhere."

One thing I should have done is to make a master list of what we do have. You think you'd remember, but two years later...not gonna happen! One fun thing (if there is one) - it feels like your birthday when you find something you love that you didn't remember you had. =)

What would be useful in the future? Keep my things organized and not buy duplicates of things I already own. Seriously, after two years, you will forget! We won't move to our own place for a few more weeks, so I need to resist buying anything right now, that I might already have in our storage. Bad part is our storage is in another state about 5 hours drive away. Ugh!

What's funny is that I really love being organized and when we settle into a new place, I'm usually a very organized person. In fact, I love helping others organize too. I will be helping my parents to organize their home so that it is more accessible for them both.

Finding things can never be overrated!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New (To Me) Appliances!

Since we've been back, I've acquired a couple of small kitchen appliances that I can't wait to use.

One is a used Excalibur (5 shelf) food dehydrator. I picked it up at a second hand store for $10. We have it in our storage until we move, but I'm excited to get it back in a few weeks to try it out. Can't wait to try out some raw food recipes that utilize this tool.

The other one is more of a special pan than a small appliance. It's a pressure cooker. This was a gift from a friend who is paring down her household items and wondered if I could use it. I told her that I've wanted to try one, just never have yet. It's a nice size (6 quart) stainless steel pot, barely used and it has a second lid made of clear glass too! Thankfully she had the instructions for it. I'll let you know how it works for us in the future.

And another friend has told me that I can have her air popcorn popper, since she doesn't use it. Ours gave out before we moved away, so I'm thankful she's willing to pass it our way.

So although it's good to know how to cook the "old fashioned" way, it's fun to have some tools for your hobby that help make it easier...and more fun!

Anybody have some good recipes for drying or pressure cooking, hmmm???

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Give Your Leftovers a New Look

Are you tired of seeing the same leftovers over and over? Why not change them a little or put them into a totally different dish to use them up?

I found that planning my meals so that any leftovers from meals the day or two before can be used. For example:
  • tacos one night (leftover toppings)...into the chili the next night
  • cut fruit for dessert one day...into smoothies the next morning
  • cooked hot cereal one morning...into smoothies/cookies/pancakes etc. the next day
  • too much soup?...put into the freezer to use in a couple weeks
  • leftover cooked vegetables...into a soup (classic)/casserole/make a "pot pie"

I have been working with a (non-vegan) stocked kitchen since we moved back. Since we are living here temporarily, I have been trying to make the best of it. So although it's a bit harder to eat what we normally would, I am thankful for the challenge to use up things creatively. If you have ideas about leftovers you can pass along, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear.

To read more great kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Please vote in the newest poll. Thanks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good Friends, Good Fellowship, and Great Hugs!

Since we've returned, we've been enjoying the company of family and friends we haven't seen for two years.

It's fun to laugh again with those in the same room with you. Maybe that doesn't make sense to everyone, but believe me, when the best we had was a phone call, email or written letter, it really does make a difference. It's great to experience fun times again and get (and give) real hugs in person.

Showing up to a church yesterday, where a couple of our friends attend, I got the best hugs in a long time! Thanks, Mistee & Andrea! =) We surprised them and it was great fun!

Hug someone today - you need it! (And they're free, so get busy!)