Category Archives: simple living

A Simple Christmas Workshop

cinnamon ornamentsA couple of years ago, I put together a short online workshop on how to simplify your holiday celebrations.  I thought for those of you who may have missed it, you might want the opportunity to work your way through the simple thoughtful practices.

You can find Day One at the following link:

A Simple Christmas Workshop – Day One

I hope you find these exercises helpful.

~Debi

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Funding a Frugal Holiday Season

santa-piggy-bank

With the holiday season upon us, we often hear the familiar refrains of our favorite Christmas carols and seasonal music. But too many of us tend to sing different words to the familiar tune of Jingle Bells: Continue reading

Simple Times is out! (August 18th, 2016)


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Photo Credit: Deborah Taylor-Hough © 2016

The latest issue of Simple Times is online now!

Lots of great information including recipes that actually use produce from the farmers’ market, eliminating mosquitoes, the high cost of convenience, confusing simplicity with frugality, and LOTS more!

Stop by and have a look (and subscribe to email updates while you’re there so you won’t miss any upcoming issues!).


“Help! My freezer’s too small!


by Deborah Taylor-Hough

One of the most common concerns I hear about preparing meals for the freezer is this: “I only have the small freezer above my refrigerator — how can I still do a full month of cooking ahead?”

For someone with only a fridge-top freezer, I usually recommend starting with twice-a-month cooking, or just doubling and tripling recipes as you go about your regular cooking during the week. As you get used to the method and learn ways to efficiently pack your freezer, you may eventually be able to store the entire month’s worth of entrees in your fridge-top freezer. When I first began cooking ahead, we only had a small refrigerator freezer. It was at least a year before I finally had a second larger freezer to store my Frozen Assets — so it can be done. It just takes careful planning.

Before you do a big day of freezer meal cooking, clear out all the various non- essentials from your freezer. Wait until the freezer empties later in the month before stocking up on frozen bread, ice cream, etc.

To save freezer space, use heavy-duty freezer bags for storing most of your frozen meals, rather than baking dishes or disposable foil pans. When using freezer bags, remove all excess air (suck the air out with a straw, or press the air gently out of the bag from the top of the food toward the opening of the bag); freeze the bags flat; and then pack them in the freezer carefully. To prevent a possible landslide of stacked freezer meals, store your frozen bags of food standing on edge—much as you’d stack old-fashioned record albums (I’m dating myself a bit, aren’t I?).

Another way to conserve freezer space is by preparing meals of sauces to pour over pasta or rice. Prepare the pasta or rice on serving day so it doesn’t take up precious space in your freezer.

If you’re in the market for a separate freezer but can’t afford to buy a new one, don’t despair.

  • Ask friends, relatives and neighbors to keep an eye out for people moving out of state or updating their kitchens. I’ve known many people who have found perfectly good freezers for FREE just by making a few phone calls.

  • Check your local newspaper’s classified ads under Appliances, and also look through Garage Sale listings for any that are selling appliances.

  • Keep a look out at yard sales, tag sales, appliance repair stores, and auctions of dented white goods.

~Debi


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Using Up Leftovers


Excerpted and adapted with permission from The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book by Deborah Taylor-Hough (Simple Pleasures Press, 2015).


Lfrgigieftovers. We all have them, don’t we? But what do we do with them? I don’t really like keeping them in my refrigerator until a science project on mold develops, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to use leftovers for without driving the family crazy. I don’t care to hear another chorus of that all-too-familiar song, “What?! Meatloaf… AGAIN?!” 

Probably the most important step with leftovers is making sure to keep them safe. We’re not really saving any money on our family budget if that frugal dinner of leftovers sends everyone to the hospital with food poisoning! To keep leftovers safe, cover and refrigerate within two hours of a meal, freeze to keep more than three days, and thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator. 

I try to plan one meal each week to use up leftovers. Often it’s during a lunchtime with just the kids and I, but sometimes there’s enough food to feed the entire family. A complete meal of food that’s been “found” in the refrigerator is like getting an extra meal each week for free. 

It’s a good idea to try and change the way the leftover is served from one meal to the next. Rather than serving leftover fried chicken, you could take the meat off the bone and prepare cold chicken sandwiches for a change of pace. 

Suggestions for Using Leftovers

  • Bread (loaf ends, slices starting to dry).  Use in bread pudding, French toast, meat loaf extender, croutons, stuffing, bread crumbs

  • Egg (hard-cooked).  Use in casseroles, salads, sandwiches.

  • Fruit (fresh, canned or frozen).  Use in smoothies, milk shakes, gelatin desserts, cobblers, fruit bread, muffins, jam, freezer pops.

  • Meat, poultry, or fish (cooked).  Use in soups, stew, salad, quiche, enchiladas, stir fry, sandwiches, pot pies.

  • Potatoes (cooked).  Use in meat pies, salads, soups, stew.

  • Rice or pasta (cooked).  Use in casseroles, soups.

  • Vegetables (cooked).  Use in casseroles, quiche, salads, soups, sprinkled over a baked potato, in pot pies.

Pancakes, French toast, or waffles can just be popped into a sealed bag in your freezer. When you have enough assorted breakfast leftovers to make a meal, each person can have a variety of different items. To reheat, toast in the toaster on the Pastry setting.

Coffee and tea can be frozen in ice cube trays, then transfer the frozen coffee/tea cubes to plastic freezer bags. These work well for iced coffee or tea, and won’t dilute the drink when the cubes melt.

Syrup drained from canned fruits can be mixed with a bit of milk and made into creamy freezer pops for a refreshing hot-weather treat. The leftover fruit syrup can also be frozen into cubes and used in cold summertime drinks.

If you make a lot of pie crusts, put the scraps into a plastic freezer bag. After collecting scraps for awhile, you’ll have enough for an extra crust. 

Party Tray 

One of the things our family does regularly with leftovers is to prepare a meal we call “Party Tray.” I’ll take all the collected leftovers out of the refrigerator and freezer, reheat them, and then divide the food items among our plates. Everyone gets a little dab of this and a little dab of that – maybe only a bite or two of each item, but after the plate is filled with bits and pieces from past meals, it takes on the look of a plate from a party buffet line. I usually add some sliced cheese and crackers, plus a few cut-up fresh veggies, to complete the party theme. 

My kids love this Party Tray meal idea. I hesitated for a long time to serve Party Tray to my husband, but one Saturday I just threw together a Party Tray meal for lunch. I was so surprised — my husband thought it was a great idea and wanted to know why I didn’t do this when he was around. So Party Tray has became a regular event, enjoyed by the whole family.  

Soup and Bread Night 

One night each week we have a Soup and Bread night. I’ll either bake a loaf of fresh bread, a bunch of hearty rolls, or a big pan of cornbread. I keep a covered bucket in the freezer for storing assorted leftovers (meats, vegetables, rice, beans, etc.) to make soup. One woman told me she drew a lady’s face on the soup bucket and called the lady the Freezer Fairy. Her children could hardly wait to feed their leftovers to the Freezer Fairy. 

Each week, they were excited to see what delicious soup she was going to make for their family (by the way, the Freezer Fairy’s magic doesn’t work well on fish, so don’t add leftover fish to your soup bucket in the freezer). 

Happy frugal eating!

~Debi

 


61ghrkhptflThis post is excerpted and adapted with permission from the book, The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book by Deborah Taylor-Hough, available in both paperback and Kindle ebook formats.  You’ll find more handy hints and simple ideas on topics such as frugal family entertainment, organizing your summer, avoiding mosquito bites, simplified party planning, and lots more!


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