Saving Time AND money!

Like everyone else in the world, I do not have enough time to do everything I want to right now. Add to that the fact that I am not able to go out much at the moment – bad back again! Sigh…and that money is tight and I start to feel deprived. Deprived is dangerous to living on a budget, it sneaks up on you and whispers in your ear, “You’ve got so much going on right now, why not have a cookie or ten?” To combat this and being unable and unwilling to pay for a $5 frappachino – seriously how do you spell that, am I close? – I decided to make up a batch of iced coffee. The inspiration came from Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman show but I have changed it up somewhat, I like my iced coffee sweetened so I add it to the pitcher. Saves me adding it later. If you are opposed to sugar just leave it out, if you like it stronger add more coffee, do what you want, it’s your coffee and this is America, damn it!

In a pitcher add half a packet (6 oz) of good quality coffee. This makes a big difference, don’t cheap out on coffee, not ever. I’d rather have no coffee than weak or tasteless coffee.

Top up the pitcher to the top with cold water – I use a 1 gallon pitcher. Actually I use two you’ll see why later. These pitchers cost $2 each from Walmart.

Then give the coffee a stir and leave it to steep for a good few hours, I usually leave it overnight.

In the morning – or 8 hours later or how ever long you can wait, start straining. Now this does take a while but just go about your day and let it do its thing.

At this point I make a simple syrup of one cup sugar and one cup water, put them in a saucepan and warm until the sugar dissolves completely, then put it in the pitcher.

When it’s all drained stick it in the fridge and let it chill down. This pitcher lasts my family a week or two and it’s never gone bad on me. I find that it feels super decadent but it’s not too bad for calories, especially if I avoid the extras which I usually do, using almond milk helps. You could omit the syrup and use a sweetener like Stevia if you wanted to. Like I said, it’s your coffee.

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Here’s my serving suggestion – ice cubes, almond milk and some whipped cream. I don’t always add the whipped cream, because I don’t always have it in the fridge. I have also blended it to make a frappachino and it’s ok but it does separate pretty quickly. I have also added caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or Toffee syrup which was delish but my teenager found it and the expensive bottle of syrup is now in the recycling having been drained in a couple of days! Kids, sometimes only the thought that one day my son will be a parent and all his stuff will be appropriated is all that keeps me going.

I’m going to have one right now.

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Saving Money in the Kitchen

I have never been much of a one for boxed or convenience food. I also don’t own a microwave, not because I have anything against them, I’m sure they have their uses, it’s just I never really got the hang of them. Food either came out desiccated and rubbery or desiccated and still frozen in the middle. Plus I have very limited counter space. I used to have a microwave until one weekend I put it on top of the fridge to make more room, and there it stayed totally unused for about two years until someone else needed a microwave and I gave it away. That was about ten years ago and only once or twice since have I thought it would be useful.

Going back to basics in the kitchen can be really useful. The first few times I tried to make mayonnaise it was a complete failure. I could not get the eggs and oil to emulsify, I tried a food processor, a blender and an immersion blender. After wasting so many eggs I was practically crying with frustration and as a last resort got out a balloon whisk and had one more try. It worked, I am now the queen of mayonnaise – but it struck me as interesting that the manual tool is where I had to begin. I can now make blender mayonnaise, I figured out what I was doing wrong while I was standing at the counter whisking a drop of oil into an egg yolk for twenty minutes, but I don’t think I would have figured it out without my trusty balloon whisk.

So I decided to go back to basics with something else – sugar. I use quite a bit of sugar, I bake every week and I usually have granulated, sometimes superfine, confectioners and light brown and brown sugars in my cupboards.

I have seen elsewhere tutorials on how to make brown sugar and I will go into that another day, but then I wondered if I could save money making my own sugars.

The first thing I realized is that buying superfine sugar (we call it castor sugar in the UK) is a complete waste of money. If you really feel you need it just plop the required amount of granulated sugar in the food processor and pulse a few times and hey presto! Superfine sugar. It doesn’t even require a recipe. Now, never buy that overpriced sugar again! Next up – confectioners/icing/powdered sugar. It is almost as easy except for each cup of granulated sugar you put in the food processor add a tablespoon of cornstarch. Then zap for a few minutes until you have confectioners/icing sugar. Ta-dah! You just saved some money. Again it’s not really a recipe but here are some pics:

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Yes, a tip – let it all settle after a few mins before you take the top off the food processor or you get confectioners sugar on the ceiling, walls, dogs, your own eager face, and the inside of your lungs. I speak from experience.

Here are the numbers:

On sale granulated sugar was $2.79 for 4lb. If you use a quarter of that bag to make a pound of powdered sugar it would cost you $0.70. Powdered sugar was $1.99 per one pound bag on the same day. Add on a few cents for cornstarch and I’d estimate I’m saving $1.24 per bag.

This is assuming that one pound of granulated sugar makes one pound of powdered sugar – the mushroom cloud will have thrown off my figures a little! I’m never buying powdered sugar again.

It’s even more for superfine sugar. Dominos sugar is listed at $2.17 a pound. Use the granulated that’s been processed in your food processor and you’d save $1.47 a pound.

Money in the bank!

As to quality I’d say it is not as fine as bought powdered sugar – I tried using my blender instead of food processor and it was much finer, less of a cloud too. I’ll be using the blender from now on!

Piggy Bank Cooking

So, in my efforts to save money I have coined a new phrase, well nothing is really new is it, but it’s new to me so that’s what counts. I call it Piggy Bank Cooking, because it saves us money to fatten up our piggy bank. Or we have to resort to using our piggy bank to have anything to eat. Either way works. Our local supermarket has a magical aisle, magical to someone like me who uses coupons, makes her own laundry detergent and would still be cutting her kid’s hair if she hadn’t been asked very nicely a few years ago to, “Get those clippery things awaaaaaay, aghhhhh!” as kid runs screaming from room with half a hair cut.

So, when I see a bargain I have to act. And I have been acting. The grocery store has an aisle, as I said, filled with the marked down items they want rid of. Bashed up boxes of cereal, odd brands of over priced pasta, six packs with only three bottles left, things like that. I don’t care what the box looks like so I’ll often pick up these offers and bring them home, gleefully to my pantry/garage. They have been accumulating somewhat and today seemed like a good day to get rid of some of them.

I should say that I cook everything (well almost) that my family eats. I cook breakfast for those who will eat it – mostly just me unless it is a weekend then everyone wants some! I make lunches for work and school and I make dinner every night. I also make all our bread, all our cookies/treats/ice cream/jam/pickles/mayo. OK, well mayo is kind of an issue because I love to make it fresh but as it only lasts a few days I only make it infrequently and the rest of the time I use the bought stuff. I cut myself some slack, I do plenty. I have the same philosophy with pasta, I love to make it and I make it fairly often but I am not making hand crafted pasta for my kid to have slathered in cheese sauce, the dried kind will be just fine for that. Now ravioli on the other hand… but I digress. 

So, being in a monumental hurry, as usual and having got my daily loaves rising I realized that the full tray of chocolate chunk cookies I had baked on Monday had all gone. Every one. I had eaten exactly two. As I always send my boys to work and school with a treat, I realized I had to make something but I have to head out to the school in about half an hour to pay the first installment of the mandatory fundraising my son needs to donate in order to do band this year. $700! I’m buying bashed up boxes of cereal, picking up pennies on the ground and working for about $4 an hour on mTurk and we have to pay $700?! Sigh…rant over. Rice Krispie treats it is, is there any cookie/bake/bar as quick to make in the world and as cheap as these little beauties? 

Two minutes later I had raided my pantry for marshmallows, rice krispies and found a mostly eaten box of cocoa puffs. I hate half eaten boxes of stuff. Like most Moms/Mums (I’m English remember so even though I insist on Mum I usually get called Mom) I have this recipe down. Six, one, one. Six cups of cereal, one small bag of marshmallows (minus the one or two I may have eaten between bag and saucepan while no one was looking) and one stick of butter. This time though I changed it up and made two of the cups of cereal cocoa puffs, I didn’t want them all huge so I zapped them in the food processor until they’d broken up some but not too powdery.

OK, so measure this, melt these and stir. It’s not much of a recipe but that’s why I like it.

One tip – when you come to mush it all down into the greased 8 x 8 inch pan? Use wet hands, otherwise you’ll get rice krispie strings and globs of cereal all over your hands/kitchen and possibly in your hair. That has absolutely never happened to me ever, at all, not even once. Yeah right. I once went out with rice krispie goo on my back, how that happened I do not know.

Let it cool, cut it up and the next time you look they will all be gone because school is out and, “What is there to eat? I am STARVING!”

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Oh and with all the ingredients ($0.59 for the marshmallows, $0.25 for the other cereal and $0.60 for the butter) this came to approx $1.44. I will cut them up into 12 pieces or so that comes to about $0.12 each. Way cheaper than buying them and I haven’t contributed to the trash crisis on the planet. Plus you can’t buy rice krispie treats with cocoa puffs, because they are Kelloggs and General Mills products respectively and they don’t talk anymore.  They’re sort of the Montagues and Capulets of the cereal world. Not bad for 15 minutes. Took me longer to type this post.

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