The Groundskeeper

Jan 142018
 

Beans.

According to Answers.com:

There is no exact number, but the world gene banks set the count at about 40,000 different types of beans,

though only a very small number of these bean types are mass-produced for common consumption.

These little orbs of understatedness are great sources of fiber and protein.  They are easy to grow, can be dried and stored, and are light to transport.  They can be cooked, baked, roasted, or eaten raw.

They are also mushy. And have funny smells.  Did I mention they are mushy?

This past fall we had significant decrease in our income, with an unknown end in sight.  Therefore, even that extra $.10 at the store felt like $1,000.  The extra trip across town caused pain as I thought about the cost of gas to get us there, all while hoping no one would hit us.

Among other things I did to give some immediate relief was to take up couponing again.  I had never fully stopped, but had relaxed on it a bit.  Now I pulled out all the habits I used to do, while learning new ones.  New rebate apps were installed on my phone and new websites found which helped me find deals at my local stores.

We were very blessed that first month or two with a lot of “free after rebate” or “free with a coupon” items.  Between those items and our pantry we were doing okay in the food budget arena.  There was no steak on the menu, though ribs were in the freezer.

Then IT happened.  I saw a deal at a local grocery for another free item!  I quickly checked it out only to my horror to find myself torn.

“But…but…I don’t like those!” said my selfish side.

“They are good for you.  The kids don’t know you don’t like them. Mom would get quite the laugh.  And they are FREE!” said my more rational side.

“But I don’t like them!” I repeated.

Two nights later we were having (free) beans and cornbread for supper.  I was pleasantly surprised that the beans were actually good.  Though you would have heard this conversation at the dinner table:

“Come on, boys, eat up.  Your supper is better warm than cold.” (trust me I know, I wanted to add.)

“But…Mom, I don’t like these.” Boy 1 said.

“These are good for you.  If you eat them with the cornbread you can’t even taste them.”

“But, Mom.  I don’t like them.”

“Sorry, Sweetie.  This is what is for supper.  If you want dessert you need to eat what is in your bowl.” (Did I really just say that about beans????  Me!?!?!)

There was a lot of thought taking place in their brains as to whether it was worth it to eat the beans or not.  Eventually all kids ate their supper and earned dessert (i.e. choice of leftover Halloween candy).

Frugality won out over great dislike in this case.  While I did not run out immediately to buy a year’s supply of this item, I did realize that even I survived eating something I did not think I would like.  Our bank account thanked me that week.

We are now at a place where our income is back up.  However, at that time, we did not know if it would for 6 month, a year, or longer.  We gave great thanks for our safety net, for skills we have learned over the years, for a plan we formulated early in our marriage if such a thing ever happened, and for all the blessings we saw happen after this time.

And yes, I even gave thanks for the beans.

Jan 092018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during their January “Swago” promotion starting Monday, January 8th at 9am PT and running until Monday, January 15th! Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you’re filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online. If you’re thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster. Here are a few tips:

Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores!

Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.

You have until 12pm PT/3pm ET on Monday, January 15th to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.

Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.

Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you’ll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!

The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until 11:59pm PT on Monday, January 15th to use all your spins.

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points – if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus, which is enough for a $5 gift card from the retailer of your choice.

Click here right now and click “Join” to get started! If you don’t already have a Swagbucks account, you’ll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of January, you’ll get a bonus 300 SB!

Jan 072018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

“The third time is charm!”

As the upcoming gardening season planning commences, I hold out hope that this saying continues to ring true.

This will be my third garden in as many states. The prior two looked vastly different from each other, though taught me a lot about gardening. I have come to find I do better in a raised bed garden, fertilizing naturally with compost or lasagna gardening, and with some perennials included.

As I look at my mostly blank slate of a yard my brain is bombarded with plans, ideas, and to-do lists.  So much to do – if I took time to relearn some of the past lessons, the yard would take over a decade to get close to what I want. However, if I do it all at once it would cost a pretty penny. I may afraid at that point to change anything, knowing how much it cost to put in.

This thinking started this past summer/fall as I mowed the grass. I would picture various plants, structures, etc. in different locations. I would work through pros and cons of said decisions. I would “try out” different garden strategies for various micro climates around our yard (about 0.25 acres).  I noted changes and challenges in the yard as seasons progressed. I also took time to see how our neighbors used their yards.

With all these thoughts in my head, I began to eliminate ideas, morph others to fit together, prioritize desires, and realize how we are living in our current home.  I came to the realization that I need to plan for future results (fruit, flower beds, arbor/swing support) while addressing some current, foundational needs (vegetable garden beds, compost, etc). Having an end goal in mind meant I could begin planning for now and later, allowing myself room to grow and add in the future.

Compost

One of the biggest lessons I learn from my Small Town garden was the importance of compost. Three ways I tried composting there were: vermiculture, composting in place/lasagna gardening, and an open compost pile.

My pile never got hot enough to fully compost, most breaking down of materials was due to time and insect/worm activity.

My bout with vermiculture led to my love and awe of worms. However I had trouble keeping their bed dry enough and free from castings. I finally added them to my raised beds, which gave much better results. Between the worms and a loose form of lasagna gardening, including addition of coffee grounds, I began to see improvement in my plants.

With the new garden there were a few things to keep in mind which would reqire a few changes in how I composted:

  • We no longer have 5 or 6 mature deciduous trees in our yard, dropping copious amounts of leaves every fall.
  • Fire ants. These little guys live loose soil and will come back to the same places over and over. I really do not want a colony of them living in a compost pile.
  • Bugs, as in insects, as in mosquitos. With warmer weather comes warmer winters. Fewer freezing temps mean less opportunity to kill off overwintering insects. Mosquitos need very little water to breed. I do not want to inadvertently create small pools of standing water around a compost pile. Nor attract gnats and flies.
  • Our neighbors are closer. Even if I wanted to put a compost pile at the back of our yard,  it would be at the side of our neighbor’s house. They spend a fair amount of time outside and would not appreciate extra smells or bugs.
  • I need compost. This year preferably. With new plants and beds being planned I can not wait years for compost. Nor do I want to go spend $$$ on bags of compost and sail from the store. One of the reasons I garden is to save money, not spend it.

With these thoughts in mind I searched for solutions, finally alighting on a compost tumbler.

With an enclosed container, insects and bugs should be at minimum. I would not have to turn the pile with a shovel, instead turning the container when I add items, or several times a week.  Fire ants would be unlikely to climb in. Results will be faster coming, perhaps as soon as a few weeks.

While I could have built a compost bin from free materials, it would have taken more time (to build and find the items, as well as turn the pile) and still have presented some of the challenges.  I believe a traditional compost pile or bin is beneficial, I no longer believe it is the answer for every situation.

Starting back in November, I began to save up my Swagbucks points, called SB.

By using my time to complete activities online rather than looking for materials, I saved effort, gas, and frustration (from listening to kids complain). I was able to watch videos while doing laundry and/or homeschooling, complete surveys while waiting for kids to fall asleep, and search for answers online, all while earning cents. It is amazing how the cents can grow.

At the beginning half of January I had earned enough to redeem my points for PayPal gift cards. With the money in PayPal I clicked through the Swagbucks website to purchase the tumbler via online shopping.  In this way I am able to earn back, in SB, a portion of what I spent. (Note: I did not purchase from Amazon, though I could have. If I was buying from Amazon I would have redeemed from Amazon gift cards instead of PayPal.)

I was able to take advantage of free shipping and save a trip to the store for pick-up.

Utilizing homemade compost via a tumbler should pay off in the first year or two, depending on how consistent I am in adding to the tumbler and mixing.  Not only am I reusing parts of food I had  already paid for, but also creating a product I need but no longer have to  purchase. This product will in turn help other plants grown, giving better results.

What a great way to Grow Your Cents!

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral during January. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 2/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

That’s it. It’s super easy.

Jan 052018
 

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this blog.

Bird feeders are an easy addition to any garden or balcony. They do not take up much space and can match any style you currently have going on.

Do not be discouraged if you do not get immediate results, it may take some time for our avian friends to find the new food source. Once they do, though, you will have regular visitors.

Whether you are considering a craft for kids, need a gift ASAP, are on a budget, or are wanting something different for your garden, here is a quick bird feeder you can make. The actual crafting time is mere minutes, or seconds in one case, though the glue may take longer to cure. (Mine was dry enough to move in about 2 hours, but took 24-48 hours to fully cure.)

Here is another bird feeder to use your creativity with, or follow along with some of the examples below if you are feeling a bit creatively challenged today.

BIRD FEEDER #2 – cup and saucer

Cost: $0-$8

Materials needed: tea or coffee cup, saucer or small plate, E6000 glue, chain or other hanging material, acetone, cotton swab

Step 1

Gather your materials. This can be random pieces from around your house, yard sale or thrift store finds, or even items from the Dollar Tree.

Keep in mind how they look together. My first try at this was purely a trial run with items from a thrift store. As I was short on time and had input from one of the kids, proportions were not necessarily top of the list of things to consider. Colors and price were the important things. Mainly colors. 🙂

Step 2

Clean the pieces. Glue sticks better if there is not a layer of dust in the way.

If there is a sticker, gum residue, or marker on any of your pieces, a cotton swab dipped in acetone (nail polish remover) makes quick work of removal.

Step 3

Decide how you want the pieces arranged. Use your imagination, try a few different ways. Keep in mind how you want to hang or mount your feeder – does the weight need to be centered, will it sit such that it needs to not top over, or any other needs?

Step 4

Glue pieces together. Use a strong glue which can endure the outside elements. I have had luck with E6000, though there are others you can use.

E6000 holds better than super glue (which does not stick to ceramics), though does not set up as quickly. Where super glue sticks within a few seconds, E6000 takes an hour or two to set, and 24-48 hours to cure. This can be a good thing, if you make a mistake, or a challenge, if you need to keep pieces in place while the glue dries.

(Several craft projects using E6000 have been outside in 0 degree weather and are holding up just fine. The two problems I had were in cases where not enough glue was used.)

Step 5

Decide how you want to hang your feeder. One of my feeders was light enough for me to use an old metal necklace. (This is the one I did not use enough glue on. The chain came off a few weeks after I hung it up.)

For yet another we hung it by the cup’s handle from a shepherds hook.

The majority of feeders were fitted with a smaller-linked chain. (A package purchased from the local hardware store.) While I did not measure them out, they ended up being about 9-12 inches long.

After some trial I also learned that crossing one chain over another, on the underside of the feeder, meant the glue does not hold well at all; it was too bulky.  I ended up separating the chain so I could glue the ends together at a common meeting point. A pair of pliers were used to open a link, slide it off its neighbor, then close the link up again. (See the photos above.)

An ‘S’ link was added at the top, where all the chain ends meet. Not only did this hold everything together, but also makes it easier to hang from a branch or other support.

Note: This step was done a few hours after the first ones, so pairs could be turned over and handled with little worry.

Step 6

Find a place to hang your feeder and fill with appropriate seed…or leftover, un-popped popcorn because your bird loving kid was too excited to wait for a trip to the store.

 

I would love to see your creations if you try this DIY project. Share a picture below and let us know how it went.

Jan 052018
 

Growing up, I was the kid in the house who loved when we had beans and cornbread for supper.  Loved it!

I was also the kid who was at the table two hours after supper was done because I still had the required 3 beans sitting, cold, on my plate.  Yes, I took only the exact number of beans I was told I was required to eat.

I HATED beans. (Though I did eat them when I was at other people’s homes because that was the polite thing to do.)

Yes, this meant I technically loved it when we had bean broth and cornbread for supper.  What can I say, apparently it was not the flavor which turned me off. (Yes, it was sort of a running joke as years went by and I never gave in to actually eating the beans.)

Once I was off to college and had begun to grow even more in my frugalness, I didn’t want to spend extra money on the few meals I needed to eat outside of the dorm cafeteria.  Sometimes I would spring for a pudding cup and pack of peanut butter crackers from the vending machine, but not regularly. After all, that cost me a whole $1.50!

My favorite money saving ideas were:

  • take the extra piece of fruit we were allowed when leaving the cafeteria, resulting in my first attempts at shakes for breakfast
  • skip breakfast and eat lunch early at the cafeteria where you could go back for more.  That way I only needed two meals in a day
  • to make the most of what I could get from the to-go cafeteria when I did eat there

 

Hummus was a new food for me.  Well, sort of.  I had heard of it, but it was not on anyone’s meal plan in the rural, Midwestern county I was from.  Less you think there were no culturally significant food options growing up, we had lovely cuisine choices, such as:

  • turtle soup – preferably cooked in a big pot over a fire, in the fall, with a gathering of friends
  • burgoo – preferably cooked in a big pot over a fire, till you could not distinguish what anything really was, in the fall, with a gathering of friends. Hey, what can I say?  If you are going to be cleaning out your freezer, may as well enjoy it in the company of friends.
  • meatloaf, with ketchup on top
  • green bean casserole

But, back to hummus.  I knew hummus was good for you, that it was nutritious.   I also knew that I liked the flavor but NOT the texture.  I knew I could get a fair amount of it from the to-go cafeteria and add it to raw vegetables for a lunch/snack while between classes.  What I did not know was what it was made of.

Imagine my surprise when I learned it was made from…well, chickpeas of all things. Yuck! Those plump, squishy, horridly textured chickpeas.  BUT, I was cheap and looking to eat somewhat healthy.  So, I sucked it up and found a way to each hummus – by putting it on the top of the vegetables so it did not touch my tongue as I ate it.  And that is how I came to eat hummus.

After I graduate and got married, I had not fully gotten into trying new meals, or meal planning. Nor was I very educated in the use of coupons and shopping sales.  My idea of keeping the budget in-line was to find the 5 or so meals I liked and rotate them.

I was okay with having pretty much the same thing for lunch every day.  For weeks.  No worries, there was variety – I would change the fruit I had with my sandwich and the flavor of yogurt.  See, variety.  🙂

My husband, who did NOT grow up in the Midwest, but actually came from a place that used spices beyond salt, pepper, and ketchup, requested I learn some new recipes.  Apparently he did not like the same 5 basic meals over and over.  Hmm.

Over time we came to find that we both liked particular beans.  Usually the same ones – black beans, lentils, baked beans, and limited amounts of chickpeas.  I do buy green peas because I love my husband who loves early peas.  However, that does not mean I also need to eat them.  Now that I am a parent, I silently say nothing as I spoon them up on the kids’ plates, while leaving mine void of any green orbs.

As for other beans, well ….”Grandma makes great lima beans.  Perhaps you can ask her to make you some next time you go there.”

to be continued…

Jan 022018
 

This post may contain affiliate links.


Needing extra encouragement with your meal planning resolution? Looking for new ideas? Are you more of a visual learner? Then you do not want to miss this 3-hour live Meal-Plan-Along with 5 Food Bloggers on Wednesday January 3, 2018.

They’re dealing with the same responsibilities as you: laundry piles, bedtime stories, snow shoveling, bill paying, work stress…

And still they get delicious, wholesome (and even pretty) meals on the table? What gives?

Well, you’re about to find out by going behind-the-scenes, and right into their kitchens!

It’s called the Meal-Plan-Along, and here are all the can’t-miss details:

Five VIP bloggers are joining forces with Ultimate Bundles on January 3rd from 4-7 pm ET/1-4pm PT. 

You can curl up with a warm drink, and maybe a basket of clean laundry, and join us virtually through your computer or mobile device.

Wardee Harmon of Traditional Cooking Schoolwill be spilling her time-saving secrets using the slow cooker and pressure cooker to meal plan.

Does meal planning feel stressful? Get this: Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship will be talking about how meal planning can reduce your stress.

If the whole idea is a bit daunting, fear not… Kresha Faber from Nourishing Joy will be sharing meal planning techniques for beginners.

One big reason for meal planning is to save you money! Susan Heid from The Confident Mom will be dishing out her tips for meal planning on a budget.

If any member of your family has allergies, don’t worry! Elise New from Frugal Farm Wife is going to drop some knowledge bombs on how to meal plan around food allergies.

And to finish it out, Stephanie Langford from Ultimate Bundles will be hosting the whole event and will be chiming in with some ninja batching and freezer cooking secrets (when you’ve got five kids who want to eat every day, you find shortcuts).

Follow along to see how six different women feed their families using simple strategies to stay more organized, make meals come together more easily, spend less time cooking, and ensure healthy meals make it to the table even in the busy times.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year of food waste, sky-high grocery bills, unhealthy meals, and last-minute takeout. You can do this, and we can’t wait to show you how to make it all easier and more doable!

Register for the FREE live event on January 3rd right here.

Dec 312017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

What if there was just one thing standing between you and a healthier life?

I know it seems hard to believe but hear me out…

Healthy meals don’t just happen.

(Wouldn’t that be nice!)

You have to decide what you are going to eat, make your list, buy the ingredients, and then prepare everything.

And the domino that starts it all is knowing what you’re going to eat.

In other words, the path to health begins with a plan.

Today, you can get your hands on ready-made meal plans for just the way you eat – complete with shopping lists and fresh recipes – for a ridiculously low price.

It’s called the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle and here’s how it works:

It’s a complete meal planning solution made up of 10 mini-bundles.

Each bundle contains digital cookbooks, fresh meal ideas, and ready-made plans (and even grocery lists!). No matter how you eat, there’s a mini-bundle that’s perfect for you and there are two buying options:

Option 1: find a mini-bundle that works best for your life right now – quick & healthy, budget-friendly, Instant Pot & slow cooker OR diet-specific options like vegan, real food, paleo, keto, gluten-free… there’s one that’s right for you.

Option 2: For less than the price of two mini-bundles, get the ENTIRE package with over 3,000 recipes and 100 weeks of made-for-you meal plans, so you’ve got total control no matter how your food needs change.

You really can get healthier, starting today.


Not sure which mini-bundle might be right for you? Each mini-bundle is linked to a full description of what it contains:

Budget Meal

Freezer / Batch Cooking

Gluten Free

Instant Pot & Slow Cooker

Keto

Paleo / Primal

Quick Meals

Real Food / Clean Eating

Vegan

Meal Planning

Make those dominos fall and start your New Year right by picking up your copy of the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle (or any of the mini-bundles) right here.  This offer disappears after Friday, January 5th @ 11:59 p.m. EST. 

Healthy Meal Planning

Dec 312017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Goodbye 2017. Hello Big Savings.

Looking to restock your craft supplies for the upcoming year? Then you are in luck, you don’t even need to venture out into the cold. Through 11:59pm MST tonight you can save up to 70% off supplies at Craftsy.

Which crafts do you have planned for the upcoming year?

Dec 272017
 

mason jars

After spending all the time canning produce from your garden or elsewhere, the last thing you want to happen is to have jar go bad and not realize it till you “smell something funky” when you go to your pantry.

Take a few minutes to look over the jars you have.

Are they all still sealed?

Do any need to be wiped down?  If so, do it now before you forget.

If any have gone bad, dump the contents and sanitize the jars.  Check for chips before storing them till they are needed again.

Dec 262017
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas, but are unsure how to use it?

Looking to help your school-aged kids learn more life skills?  (Maybe it is you who is looking to add new life skills you missed learning.)

Do you learn better by watching than by reading?

Then here is a resource that may help:

“These 5 videos will help your kids MASTER our favorite time-saving appliances. Even before they are proficient at the knife skills taught in the original course, they can do dinner, start to finish, no mess, no fuss, no failure.”

Kids Cook Real Food is an encouraging site, showing it really can be done – kids really can cook!