I hate to throw out food. It has just gotten too dear to fool around with!
Before Christmas and New Year's we purchase all kinds of groceries and goodies. We bake and cook - sometimes a little too much in anticipation of guests, and just in the spirit of abundance that Christmas represents. Hopefully, you have been freezing all your left-overs along the way - especially the best cuts of turkey!
I recommend taking a good look inside your fridge ... and now! Because that food is going to spoil if you don't get to it very soon. It's too easy to forget about something you bought and didn't use and that is now buried in the fridge, which is overly-stuffed with bits and pieces and left-overs. So do a proper clean-out to make sure you are saving as much of that food as possible.
What's in your fridge?
Do take a good look on each and every shelf. Push everything aside so you know what is really in there. Remove all spoiled food and compost it, wrap up for the "green bin" (if your city provides that kind of recycling service) or toss out. Don't forget to recycle all those plastic, glass or metal containers .... if you haven't been using your very own covered dishes that is!
Now take a look at what is left and prioritize. Do you have extra cheeses, vegetables and sauces? Make them part of the next few nights dinner plans so they don't go to waste, with these ideas.
~ Post-Christmas Dinner Plans ~
Various kinds of cheeses from cheese platters, sour cream left-over from home-made dips =
"Put-It-All-Together" Macaroni & Cheese
Try recipe here: february-when-theres-snow-on-the-snowdrops.html
Cherry tomatoes from finger food veg platters =
Use in salads or spaghetti sauce. Or preserve to use as a tomato sauce later on in the year.
Instructions here: january-make-even-more-of-the-food-you-buy-by-reincarnating-it.html
Left-over root vegetables like turnips, carrots and potatoes =
Roast and serve as a side dish with meatloaf or other meat dish.
Left-over vegetables like brussel sprouts, carrots, celery and peppers =
Make stir fries, soups, omelets or cut up for snacking with hummus.
Left-over tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream and cheeses =
Left-over (or soft) mandarin oranges = Orange Slush
This is the absolute best! DO NOT throw out soft or wrinkled mandarin oranges! Wash, cut in half and juice. Pour the juice into a blender, together with desired amount of sugar and some crushed ice. Blend and pour into glasses. Sooooo sweet!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
I LOVE buying vintage items ... or just plain used! It's a way of life for me - why pay more when you don't have to?
I belong to some local Swap groups, mostly for exchanging and selling used toys and kids' clothes. Recently a new mom posted her dismay at the price of toys for girls. (Someone had listed a trendy doll furniture set for $100 still sealed in the package.) As the mom of a newborn baby girl, she expressed the need to "start saving now" for this perceived inevitable downfall soon to be experienced! I think maybe she just needs to stay on the Swap a bit longer ... and see all the used doll furniture selling for a pittance!
"Buy everything used when you can,
and only buy new when you can't" V. Buchanan
Everyone is keen on saving the environment these days aren't they? Find some old vintage handkerchiefs for the boys. Wash and iron them. Even if he doesn't want to use them at work or at home, they're handy in the car for coffee spills or wiping a spot off the windshield. Indispensable in his pocket while working in the garden or the workshop for wiping the sweat off his hard-working brow!
Young children are the easiest. With usually boxes of toys to choose from, you can put together a nice little collection of toy cars, doll clothes, board games (check to make sure all the pieces are present) or some little stuffed animals. Take them home and give them a good clean. Plastic toys can be wiped down and the little crevices cleaned with a wet Q-tip. Stuffed animals can go right in your washing machine, with mild soap and cold water on the gentle cycle. Let them sit on a towel to dry. Barbie and doll clothes can be washed in the sink in a similar fashion. When dry, mend any little tears. Put them all together in zippered toiletry / cosmetic bags or small decorative boxes from the dollar store. Parents will appreciate that your gift comes with its own storage ... and not all that ridiculous plastic packaging that takes a hacksaw to get in to!! Seriously, this reduces frustration on Christmas morning when the little one has to wait for scissors to be found, packaging to be cut ... not to mention cutting or untwisting all those superfluous tie-downs. And then somehow removing the delicate plastic toy without breaking it!
The amazing thing is that by shopping this way, you actually will find you think more about the person you are buying for. What do they really like? Would they be able to use this item? What could I pair it with? You spend less, yes, but the result is actually more personalized ... and thoughtful, which is ultimately what gift-giving is all about!
~ Ending with a Heart-warming Story ~
My daughter was indoctrinated early into the thrill of the thrift store. Honestly, from the earliest days (when she was still in a carriage), I wheeled her in. She soon learned how quickly Mom would say yes, when a coveted toy was only $2, versus a brand-new toy in a "regular" store, complete with its copious packaging ... and retailing for $30. My sweetest recollection was when she was about 3 years old and playing with a Winnie-the-Pooh musical toy. It had a keyboard and Winnie, Tigger and Eeyore figures standing up at the top ... all ready to chime in when pulled. When it was time to leave, she reluctantly put the toy back on the shelf without even asking if she could have it (already she knew I had a limit on the "physical size" for toys). I told her to bring it along to the cashier and the look on her face was so dear - "We're getting it???" she breathed. That is the pleasure of second-hand shopping and that is the pleasure of being able to say yes, when a toy is only $3.99 ... with working batteries included!!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
May is such a magical month that the appearance of fairies in your garden should come as no surprise! Even the staunchest disbeliever must do a double take when ... apple, pear or cherry blossoms float and swirl though the air, fresh new leaves rustle in the wind or the sun shimmers and gleams in nooks and crannies in the garden. All these subtle happenings can be evidence of fairy activity ...
Here are 3 simple ways to attract fairies to your garden:
This is a biggie because fairies are like songbirds. They love trees as this gives them little branches to cling to, or big branches for swinging and leaves to hide behind. Not to mention that their older cousins, the Dryads, will often tell them stories at night about ancient times and places. Plant lots of perennial flowers that will magically sprout up in the Spring, year after year, without any extra work on your part - bluebells, tulips, daffodils, forget-me-nots, Jack Frost, Lily-of-the-Valley, foxgloves - your garden will be alive with colour and sweet scents that attract the birds, bees, butterflies ... and fairies!
And for some fun, blow some bubbles from a bubble wand! There is nothing more magical or gentle than bubbles floating on the breeze ... and the fairies will be sure to notice.
Accept the magical world around you and welcome it into your garden. It doesn't matter how big or small it is. Whether you are charmed with a "back 40", a fantastically witch-y cottage garden, a "postage stamp" city plot or a balcony; you can always add in a little bit of nature - usually more than you think once you get started! Prepare to be amazed at how special life becomes when your home becomes a safe haven for fairies to congregate and play.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
Sometimes life lands you literally "flat on your back" and out of commission for a few days or weeks. In such instances, you may need to rely almost exclusively on family, friends and caregivers. But what if your ability to move around is only partially affected? For me, an unexpected mid/upper back injury has temporarily left it difficult for me to bend down, carry heavy items or drive - though I can walk and putter around the house - or even complete short errands. This has caused certain things to jump into sharp focus. Beyond facing any personal assessment and conclusion of this incident; day-to-day life still carries on! I believe in being prepared, but hindsight is 20/20. Here's what I have learned, and a list of a few things that might help you to prepare in advance of a (knock on wood!), similar situation occurring:
Hindsight is 20 / 20 - A list of things to ALWAYS have on hand:
Own a button-up shirt
I prefer to wear shirts and sweaters that pull over my head. It never occurred to me what is involved in that simple action! Fortunately, I did have a couple of button-up shirts, way in the back of my closet and I guess I'll be living in those for the next little while!
Own a cap or hat
It's also useful to own a cap. Fortunately, I am fond of the Irish "newsboy" type of cap which is great for walking in light rain. I'll be using it a lot over the next little while since I can't carry an umbrella. Hoods are also out since they force you to turn your neck a lot further than is comfortable when crossing streets.
Own an old bell
Meadow Sweet Grove currently has two charming brass bells. One is a goat perched atop the bell and the other is a little girl with a full skirt. The goat is an obvious bell, but the girl could simply be seen as a decorative brass figurine - but for the clapper under her skirt! How useful are these in a three-story house when you need to summon help from someone other than the fairies?
Keep the receiving room clean
I have a bad habit of letting the housework slide ... piles of laundry, vacuuming, stuff laying around that I've been meaning to swap, sell or donate ... and general clutter! But I used to have one good policy - always keep the "parlor" clean - if nothing else. For us, that's the first room guests enter and right off the front door. My logic was that even if the rest of the house was a disaster area, there was always one clean and tidy room that I could usher unexpected guests into ... and maintain some sense of pride.
Unfortunately, I let that wonderful practice slide and the front room has seen a few unexpected guests lately. My advice - ALWAYS keep the room nearest your front door, clean and tidy - you never know when you might not be able to - and that could also be when more people than usual will be showing up!
Stock up on heavy items
Lately, I have been quite good at stocking up on non-perishable food items and emergency items such as candles, matches, duplicate keys and the like. What I didn't think about was heavy items. While it might be easy to walk down to the local store and buy toilet tissue ... it is quite another to lug home a bag of cat litter!
Last, but not least, and most indispensable: cherish the loved ones who will care for you!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
Thrift Stores and Charity Shops
Many people make a New Year's Resolution to "clear the clutter" and get organized. When taking your clutter into your local thrift store / charity stop to donate - do make sure you check inside the store to see what's on offer.
Many people donate unwanted Christmas presents in January or donate the items those gifts replaced. Ironically, they often donate better quality items, than the new replacements they received!
For example, someone might donate their "out-dated" dishes that were "Made in England or Japan"; in exchange for a shiny new set from Home Outfitters, Pier 1 and the like. To each their own, but for the lover of antique, retro, quality or just plain eclectic dishware -- your local thrift store becomes a treasure trove!
Charity shops often have promotions too, like any other retailer, at this time of the year, to make up for low sales.
But January is also a time of year when many people are cutting back on their expenses. For some, there are more tax deductions taken off the pay cheque starting in January. Others overspent at Christmas or feel the need for a holiday somewhere warm. Whatever the reason for shortness of cash in January - there are still many thrifty ways to save money.
~ Reuse food containers in your kitchen ~
Isn't it silly that we buy containers to freeze or store our food in - when we throw perfectly good containers into the recycling bin every day? Containers that are already bought and paid for. Recent news has led me to believe that many of the items we faithfully recycle are not being recycled at all - but shipped to other countries for disposal. This, of course, defeats the purpose of recycling which is to keep the items out of Mother Nature's belly!
Here's a number of re-uses for those many containers that make their way into your home:
The best! Use for dry beans and lentils, pasta, popcorn and rice. Freeze homemade applesauce and crushed tomatoes (make sure you leave a good inch or so at the top for expansion). Use for non-food items like: nails, screws, tacks - you get the idea.
Yogurt, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and those funky plastic take-away/delivery containers - anything that is packaged in an opaque plastic tub can be re-used. Use them to freeze meal left-overs, extra tomato sauce and chicken broth. Keep them handy to send guests home with left-overs, children to school with cut veggies, cookies and cupcakes for school parties and numerous other non-food uses like: crayons, craft supplies, pet food - just don't get the two mixed up!
Bread Bags & Cereal Boxes
Those many bread bags basically replace plastic wraps! Okay, they don't "cling" but many items you wrap don't need that feature. Use them to wrap extra portions of raw meat like ground beef and chicken for freezing. Cut them in half and use them to wrap sandwiches and snacks for lunches. Collect dry seed pods in the summer or fall - shake the bag and all the seeds will collect beautifully in the bottom of the bag (I learned this trick from a wonderful old Yorkshireman). Talk about thrifty. He also cut up his cereal boxes to make shopping lists!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018
~ Never throw food out ~
Save Vegetable Peelings/Cuttings & Leftover Bits of Chicken
Chicken broth is relatively inexpensive at the store and available in tins or tetra packs. But why pay for anything that is so easy to make and for which you already have the ingredients? You do have the time if you remember your freezer. Just keep a bread bag in the freezer closed with a twist tie. Next time you are chopping or peeling vegetables (especially carrots, onions, broccoli and celery), toss all the good bits that you would ordinarily throw away, into that bag and keep them frozen. Wrap up any leftover bits of cooked chicken and freeze separately. Now, and at your leisure, you may make up a batch of chicken stock whenever you choose. Simply tip the various little bags of frozen veg and chicken into a large pot. Add black pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer. When ready, pour over a strainer into ceramic bowls. Use immediately or transfer, when tepid, into plastic containers for freezing. And if you are lucky enough to have a left-over chicken carcass, you can immediately add the frozen veg directly into the pan to make your broth. Don't forget to check the bottom of your crisper bins in the fridge! Often there are some veg "on the way out" that can be easily added to the broth.
Save Soft Tomatoes
Tomatoes starting to soften in the refrigerator? Bad on one side? Put them in a large metal mixing bowl, boil a kettle and pour over top. When cool enough to touch, make a slight cut -- the skins should peel off easily. Slightly chop, discarding any spoiled pieces, and place the remainder in a medium pot. Reduce to mush over medium to low heat. Ladle into sterilized mason jars (just boil jars and lids rapidly for a couple of minutes in a large pot of water), add a small squirt of lemon and sprinkle of rock salt on top and seal jars. Freeze when they reach room temperature. Now you have some wonderful crushed tomatoes for your next spaghetti, lasagna or other pasta dish!
If you are in a hurry, simply wash the whole tomatoes in cool water, dry and freeze in a bread bag. You can then add the frozen tomatoes directly to any pasta sauce or soup you are making at a later date - just takes a little longer to break them down.
Save Bits & Pieces of Cheese / Odds & Ends of Bread
Cheese is so incredibly expensive ... at least in Meadow Sweet Grove. The fairies in Britain often come to visit their little cousins in the Grove and are shocked at the price of cheese! So, every time you slice cheese for snacking, or grate cheese for a meal, make sure you save the little leftover bits, wrapped up tight in the refrigerator. Start a bread bag in the fridge for left-over bread - that last slice no one seems to eat, the broken crust, etc. Also, don't throw out that last bit of sour cream, cottage cheese or unflavoured yogurt - unless it truly is off of course!
Banana Bread of course! A tasty snack anytime and perfect for kid's lunchboxes.
These are just a few ways to save food that you might otherwise have thrown out. Once you get used to the idea, you will discover many, many more ways to use up food that you thought had no life left in it, or was too small to save - and start saving lots on that shocking grocery bill!
Next week for you: Two recipes -
"Pull-It-All-Together Macaroni & Cheese" & Delicious Banana Bread
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017
The price of food keeps going up, up, up! Even the fairies
have discovered increases at their little local markets in the
Grove. With the price of food so high, it makes sense to cut
waste at every opportunity. One of the best ways to do this is
to save all your leftovers so you are truly eating most of the
food you buy.
~ Save your leftovers ~
The saving of leftover meals is of course thrifty in itself. The best way to save leftovers is to immediately freeze what you think you won't eat in the next few days. Almost everything can be frozen nicely although dishes containing potatoes and eggs don't freeze very well. While it's nice to have freezer containers that are purpose built in varying sizes, stacking ability, etc - you can also use old margarine or yogurt tubs and the like to save money. When money runs low - don't reach for the credit card at the grocery store - turn to your freezer to make up a supper.
Storing in the fridge
Put leftovers in the fridge that you know you will use in the next little while, but don't cover with that costly and wasteful plastic wrap or tin foil! The fairies, who simply don't have those type of factories in the Grove, use covered glass and ceramic dishes. Many Pyrex and Fire King-type dishes were intended to be used for preparation of the meal directly in the oven, and then provided a simple method for saving leftovers by adding a lid on top before placing in the fridge. Of course even if you didn't prepare the meal in the dish, you can use it for storing leftovers! Estimate the amount you pay each year for disposable food wrap. You will quickly see how a covered dish, that you use year after year, makes good economical sense. Mother Nature will love you too when you consider the waste involved in manufacturing those wraps, transporting them and finally disposing of them. Covered dishes are yet another way to work towards self-sufficiency and move away from the dependence on, and expense of, disposable products.
And remember - leftovers aren't just cooked meals!
Ever open a tin of crushed tomatoes or vegetables and only need half for your recipe? Freeze the rest immediately in a small tub. Freeze it, no matter how small the portion left-over, you can always add them all together to make up a full portion at a later date. Freeze the left-over portion before preparing - just use what you need and freeze the rest. Likewise wrap up bits of cooked chicken, turkey, ham etc. to later use for soups and broths. And make sure to wrap up any leftover (and very expensive) cheese when cutting or shredding! It makes a great pull-it-all-together macaroni and cheese at a later date.
Once you get started truly saving all your left-overs, you will be pleasantly surprised how much money you save, or how few ingredients you need to buy to make up some type of meal when money is tight ... not to mention saved preparation time on those nights when you just don't feel like cooking at all!
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2017
The merry Yule gatherings have been successful in chasing away the darkness! The fairies in the Grove have noticed the dazzling pink sunsets glittering on the snow have moved from the late afternoon to the early evening. We also find that the joyful winter celebrations around the tables have somewhat exhausted the fruits of harvest and it is time to take stock of our larders. January often marks a month for tightening our belts!
The fairies in Meadow Sweet Grove are an old-fashioned lot and they approach many of today's problems with yesterday's solutions. Disposable items are not too appealing to them and only used when absolutely necessary.
One disposable item that is easy to reduce in your household are throw-away paper tissues. The use of a cotton hankie is a great way to love Mother Nature and save money! And if you buy vintage, your footprint is even less, as the item was manufactured long ago and has already paid its due. If you buy just 1 box of Kleenex every month, your yearly outlay is probably between $12 and $36. Use that money to buy vintage hankies instead. They are usually available around $1-3 each, depending on the quality, and you then have a dozen hankies . . . all ready to use for many years to come. Every little bit helps and when you replace disposable items with reusable ones, you really do save $$$.
But what about germs? Sometimes the concern is valid, especially around vulnerable individuals, but in most cases the risk is low. If you are worried about germs - just don't use it when you have a cold but do use it in so many other ways. My father and grand-father always carried a cotton hankie about with them, but I rediscovered hankies when my child was born and was given lots of "baby washcloths". I wound up using them for everything - spills in coffee shops, wiping the corners of baby's mouth, wrapping up sticky pine cones and other nature treasures found on our walks, creating a make-shift tablecloth for eating at a park picnic bench - you name it! Long after my child grew out of this stage, I found I was still using them for everything, but switched to hankies because they are larger and thinner than terry washcloth material. I even tucked one at the back of my heel when a blister developed on a long walk to stop the rubbing! You will find countless uses once you start carrying one and wonder how you ever got along without it. Put one in your pocket, your purse and your car. And when it's dirty? Simply throw it in the wash along with everything else!
My husband's grandfather had a lot of very worn and well-used hankies in his possession - a man who lived to 101 years old! Clearly the germs weren't a hindrance in his case. Old ways sometimes really are best.
© Meadow Sweet Grove / V. Buchanan, 2016, edited 2019
(Oct 31/Nov 1)
the old Celtic end of
summertime and harvest