Friday, February 18, 2011

What's for supper? Really cleaning out the fridge

(Groceries tomorrow)

4 bone-in chicken breasts, cooked in the slow cooker with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and leftover carrots--it tasted like roast chicken
Mashed potatoes
Leftover bean-pepper salad
Tightwad Gazette Cuban bread (a homemaking lesson from this morning)

Dessert: choice of pears cooked in apple juice (with yogurt or milk), canned pineapple, bran muffins, pumpkin cake  (I had a can to use up)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's for Supper? Wednesday and Thursday, Cleaning out the Fridge


Lotsa Leftovers.



Pressure-cooker soup made with dried white beans, a few canned tomatoes, a bit of pasta, celery, and the last onion
Sandwiches made with this and that


Graham crackers


Pork Meatballs
Frozen hash browns baked with homemade soy sauce-milk gravy--I baked the meatballs first, then added them to a casserole full of hash browns, poured the gravy over it, and baked the whole thing for awhile longer
Bean salad made with a can of mixed beans and some chopped green pepper
Canned pineapple, bran muffins

Photos by Ponytails

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tightwad Gazette Revisited: On Used Things and Hacks

In Tightwad Gazette III, Amy Dacyczyn wrote:
"Even frugal parents who bring home yard-sale toys for their kids still give them only new toys for Christmas.  The new merchandise is given with more honor and enthusiasm, even when the quality is the same.  Kids learn that new is better...."
In the same article ("A New Way to Look at Used Things"),  she wrote:
"Conversely, it's also wrong to assume that used is always a better value.  Each has benefits."
And on one of our Abundance posts a few years ago (linked below), Alison commented:
"This is one of my pet peeves as well. I'd love to be like my grandparents, using household items 40 and 60 years after purchase but as you all have pointed out, that's not easy to do these days even if you are well-intentioned and determined."
Has anything changed since Amy's mid-90's musings on the mystique of new stuff?

As far as we Squirrels are concerned, no.  In fact, I'd say we're even more likely to be spending our money on certain types of used things than we were back then, thanks to Ebay, online used booksellers, and so on. "Vintage" has become a funkier cousin of "used."  And in some ways it is easier now to hang on to older things we still have, because it's now easier to find parts to fix them. 

I think our family has even moved to a level of used-stuff-appreciation beyond what we might have considered normal fifteen years ago...particularly in the area of gift-giving to each other, or in acquiring what you might call more frivolous, optional, or hobby items.  That comes partly out of the fact that what's out there in new stuff (for instance, toys) in our price range is pretty junky.  If you have a lot of money to spend, there are things out there of higher quality; but if you have to choose, say, between one new $10 item from the discount department store, and $10 worth of nice thrift-shopped stuff,  the used stuff usually wins out, and not just because you can get more of it.  When we're buying gifts for people outside our own family, though, we almost always buy something new, unless we know them really well.

And that's the catch.  I don't think our way of looking at stuff is very well accepted outside of the circle of people like Frugal Hacks fans and Treehouse readers.  If you're reading this, the odds are that you're probably a bit out of the mainstream too.  If you go, for instance, onto a forum discussing the Tightwad Gazette books, you'll read a lot of "ughs" and "that's borderline child abuse" and so on, especially from parents who I think are a bit younger than I am.  When we talk to people starting families, they take it for granted that they'll be buying all-new baby gear. Ecology is big and all that, but at the same time, kids growing up in this century are more conditioned than ever to be entitled to all the new toys that they want.  And that includes toys for grownups--electronics, huge amounts of clothing and shoes, new furniture whenever the old stuff gets a bit tired, fancy sports and exercise equipment whenever we make a new fitness resolution, and so on.

Amy pointed out some of the benefits of used stuff, when you can find it:  that, as I said, you can simply get more of what you want (a big bucket of used Lego vs. a small new package), or that you can find an older, better-made item from a used source.  I've heard people complain about newer slow cookers, that they often cook too hot and burn food, and that older ones are actually better.  As the commenter to our post said, you might find something older and still working, and find that it keeps on going practically forever.  (In the case of our older cars, though, current legislation forced them off the road even though they were still running fine.)  Or you might find that you can solve a problem or have more fun without buying anything at all...or just choose to keep using something even if it's no longer shiny or perfect.  I've posted about some of Crayons' "toy hacks," such as the time she took her own toys and set up something similar to a widely-advertised dolls' winter cabin.  At Christmas time, she set up one of her dolls in a shoebox sleigh, tied to (yard-saled) plastic horses...Mama Squirrel contributed a dollar store "snow blanket" for the snow.

And as Amy says, there are times when we buy new because that makes sense.  We bought some homeschooling books new this year because they were what we needed, and because we chose to support a family-run homeschool store with our purchases.   We bought Crayons' new boots at the discount department store, because we didn't have any bigger ones that fit her and we didn't feel like fooling with used boots.  We bought brand-new heavy-duty plastic shelving for storage (on sale), because we were tired of restacking cardboard boxes and we had no source of comparable used shelving.  We bought a couple of new snow shovels (for obvious reasons).  

But we'll keep on buying as much as we can used...both for our own needs, and just to prove that, often, you can get more for less.

Related posts:
Second-Hand Pants Song (link to You-tube video)
Abundance Post: Make It Do
Abundance Post: Wear it Out
Postscript to Wearing it Out

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's for Supper? Pakistani Beef Curry and Blueberry Crisp

Tonight's dinner:

Pakistani Kima from The More with Less Cookbook, adapted to use cauliflower and other ingredients we had in the fridge
Brown rice
Homemade tortilla chips (flour tortillas cut in triangles and crisped in the oven) (taking the place of chapatis or pappadums)
Yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce
Blueberry crisp (incorporating the end of a box of bran flakes into the topping); yogurt or milk

Pakistani Kima (our adaptation)

1/2 chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt (much less than the recipe calls for)
dash pepper
dash each cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric
1 good cupful diced canned tomatoes
1 small head cauliflower, cut up (instead of potato)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
(The recipe calls for frozen peas, but we didn't have any)

Either saute the onion and garlic in some oil and then add the beef; or brown the meat until it is almost done (what we did) and then add the onion, garlic, and spices.  Either way, get everything in the pan up through the spices.  Then add in the tomatoes and whatever other vegetables you like.  Cover and simmer 25 minutes, checking to see if it needs more liquid.  Serve with rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What's for supper? St.Valentine's Day Dinner

Garlic bread rounds (cut from a submarine bun, spread with margarine and garlic powder, and broiled in the toaster oven)

Salad (lettuce, celery, apple,  homegrown sprouts, and dried cranberries for colour)

Chicken Cacciatore with fusilli (recipe below)

Cocoa Ricotta Cream in fancy dessert dishes, with star sprinkles (left over from a birthday)

Chicken Thighs Cacciatore

I put about eight partly-thawed boneless chicken thighs in the Crockpot, and added about a cupful of diced canned tomatoes, half a chopped onion, and a generous sprinkle (at least a tablespoonful) of tarragon dressing mix.  That cooked on high for about five hours, until the chicken was cooked through but not yet falling to pieces.  About an hour before dinner, I added a package of fresh mushrooms and a can of tomato paste...the tomato paste could have been added earlier, but I wasn't sure how much thickening the sauce would need.

We served sauce and pasta separately, but you could combine them for serving if you prefer.  We also had grated Mozzarella cheese  on the table for topping--no deals on Parmesan lately.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are you a curriculum junkie?

Are you looking for one magic product that's going to solve all your homeschooling problems?
Do you have a lot of stuff you thought you'd use and didn't but that you're still hanging onto?
Or, on the other hand--do you have the fullest table every year at the used curriculum swap?

Books and Bairns wants to know...and she has links to some other online discussion on this topic.

As for, not junkies here.  Book lovers, yes...but, if anything, I tend to be under-interested in more "packaged" homeschool materials.  Partly because I can't afford to jump onto any curriculum bandwagon that's going to require more than a few dollars' output...that may mean that we miss out on some great but pricey stuff, but that's just the way things are.  Also because you can come up with a lot of your own great ideas by using books such as Ruth Beechick's 4-8 guide...and that does save on bubblewrap.

But even if something's cheap or free...well, I might try it out, and I have (otherwise I would never have signed on for the year of Review Crew), but generally I already know what has worked well for us and where we're headed, so I'm cautious about making big changes even with free stuff.  Knowing that Ambleside Online gives us year-by-year direction has been a huge blessing to us over the past decade--and has kept me out of many curriculum rabbit trails.  As for the subjects not directly covered by AO--math, languages, extra science--we've taken it year by year and switched mainly when we ran out of levels (Miquon Math).

What's your junkie status?

(Related post: Is there a homeschool store in your cupboard?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's for supper? Bratwurst and bits and pieces

Tonight's supper menu:

Bratwurst sausages, cooked in a skillet with enough water to steam
About a third of a bag of perogies, boiled and then added to the skillet
A bit of sauerkraut, added to the skillet at the end

Mixed sweet potatoes and black beans from last night, spread in a pan and breadcrumb topping added--an improvement on plain reheated leftovers
Applesauce, cottage cheese

Dessert:  whatever's around.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Thursday Homeschool Plans

9 a.m.: New hymn (see video), Tennyson's poems, and several pages from Marva Collins' Way, which we are reading parts of both for Black History Month and for some character building/academic inspiration.

9:20 a.m.: Crayons do math and Bible Geography with Mom. Ponytails work on independent math and other work.

9:50 a.m.: French: We are supposed to be reading from Les Insectes, but the book has temporarily disappeared so we may have to do something else. Also: French Bible copywork.

10:10 a.m.: Crayons take a break, Ponytails work with Mom.

10:30 a.m.: Ponytails take a break, Crayons do English with Mom. Review the parts of speech, and read two pages about how to make the most of watching educational "T.V. specials." Which shows how old that book is.

10:50 a.m.: "Educational T.V. Special." To be decided...we were going to watch a Christian dinosaur video that Mama Squirrel picked up from a freebie box, but after checking it out online it appears that there were quite a few issues with this movie, so we will choose something else.

Lunchtime: Ponytails work with Dad.

1 p.m.: Crayons do geometry (from Math Mammoth Grade 4) and finish a chapter from George Washington's World. Ponytails finish independent work and do any needed work with Mom.

2 p.m.: Group reading from Bulfinch's Age of Fable. Homemaking lesson: read several pages from the Food chapter in Hidden Art of Homemaking, and do some baking together.

3 p.m.: Teatime.

What's for supper? Fish and veggies

Tonight's supper:

Baked Alaskan pollock (frozen block of fish)
1 large sweet potato, sliced and baked
Canned black beans, baked along with the sweet potato
Reheated couscous
Cottage cheese
Banana mini-muffins

Monday, February 07, 2011

Food prices will be going up...again

One of Grandpa Squirrel's recent weekend papers (The Star) ran this article about projected rising food costs in Canada.

If you search Google News for related articles about higher food prices, you'll see similar articles in papers from the UK and Australia.

Actually I hadn't thought that prices around here had been that bad lately--it has seemed like we've been getting more groceries for the money, at least at the discount supermarket. We've found some very good deals on meat and day-old bread. But according to the article, we're in a bit of a safe bubble around here (check out this new-model upscale grocery)--and it could pop any time.

Not to spread black clouds around...but it's always good to be reminded. You never know when your saving skills may be what keeps your family going.

How homeschoolers do things: science at home

Check out the blog At Home Science for some very keen experiments and book ideas. Many of the recent posts are drawn from studies in one of Paul Fleisher's Secrets of the Universe volumes.

(Thanks to the Ambleside Online list member who pointed this blog out!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Quote for the day: the centre is poetry

"To try to teach literature by starting with the applied use of words, or 'effective communication', as it's often called, then gradually work into literature through the more documentary forms of prose fiction and finally into poetry, seems to me a futile procedure.  If literature is to be properly taught, we have to start at its centre, which is poetry, then work outwards to literary prose, then outwards from there to the applied languages of business and professions and ordinary life."--Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination