Dinner on the Cheap

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My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and one thing people learned to do was to eat on the cheap. How do you turn an one egg, some sour milk and a bit of flour into a feast? Pancakes! 

So maybe you’re as rich as Gwenneth Paltrow and want to perform an experiment on how to feed a family on $100/ week, or you’re broke and clawing to make ends meet, or anywhere in the middle and trying to save some money, this post is for you! 

What would you do if you had $100 extra dollars? Send it to Haiti? Save it? Buy new shoes? Think about that over this tasty dinner:

Tonight I had a hankering for Chinese food but I really didn’t want to shell out for it (or pile the kids into the car to pick up the take-out). So, I looked around the kitchen and came up with a chow mien style dinner and it cost me almost nothing. Best of all? All four kids cleaned their plates. 

My ingredients:

Chinese noodles similar to spaghetti–1/2 package. Cost $0.75

Eggs purchased on sale for $0.79/doz 4 eggs. Cost $0.26

1/2 T Soy sauce (or a packet saved from take out). Cost $0.05

Vinegar, 1 tsp. $0.03

Small onion, $0.20

Swiss chard from my garden. Okay, I know what you’re thinking–not everyone has Swiss chard lying around. But, most people do have dandelion greens or plantain greens growing nearby. Wash ’em, chop them up, and fry them in a little oil-maybe $0.20 worth if you don’t have some left over fat lying around and they’re tasty! Cost $0.00 

Throw in a pinch of garlic powder or a bit of pepper or whatever spices float your boat, and voila! A lovely dinner for 5 under $2.00

First I sautéed the onions and chard in a little left over fat and then boiled the noodles for 5 minutes. Then, I drained the noodles and tossed them into the sauté pan and stirred in the eggs with the seasonings. It took about 15 from start to finish.

More ultra cheap dinner ideas coming soon! If you cook on the cheap long enough, pretty soon you’ll have a nice little cache of cash! 

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The Embodiment of Joie de Vivre

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It was spring or summer of 1981; I lived in a white, turn-of-the-century, two-story house on the corner of Rockwell and Linwood in Jackson, Michigan. I was playing on the sidewalk by my front yard when I saw another little girl–just my size–with brown pigtails, brown eyes, and a great big smile. Neither of us was allowed to cross the street on our own, so we shouted our introductions to each other. She swung around the smooth silver painted street sign pole and I did my best to swing around the uneven, slightly rusty STOP sign post.

The little girl’s name was Edwina; and she had recently moved in two doors down with her mama and baby sister. Her papa was a fine chef in a far-away place called Saudi Arabia, but he would come visit with them soon.

In the coming days and weeks, Edwina and I became great friends. And as her baby sister, Christine, got bigger, the three of us played together constantly. We did EVERYTHING together as much as we could. We became part of each other’s families. At that time, my four siblings had not yet been born–Edwina and Christine were my sisters.  We ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch on their little back porch. We watched Smurfs together on TV. We made forts out of couch cushions and took naps together in the afternoon. (Well, I wasn’t much of a nap-taker, but I TRIED to be quiet as we lay there in Edwina’s twin bed together, in the little room that Edwina and Christine shared.) When we had sleepovers, their mama, Trish, would give us Yoplait or slices of cheese before bed and read us the most wonderful bedtime stories.

As the days and weeks became months and years, our adventures and our love for each other grew. Their papa, Daniel, came to visit every few months until they all left for Saudi Arabia for about two years. Edwina sent me a postcard with camels on it. I read it over and over. When they came back, it was like they had never left; and then the adventures really took off.

We cross-country skied, we camped, we canoed, we fished and ate good food, enjoyed great music, talked and laughed. Daniel was from France and had a wonderful, thick French accent that made the most wonderful conversations even more memorable.

One time during dinner at their home when I couldn’t have been more than four or five, the conversation turned to God; and Daniel was trying to tell us about His Essence. He was explaining that God was like a Being, but not a human being. I couldn’t understand because the way he said Being sounded like “bean”.  I was so confused. Imagining God super-imposed onto a green bean was all that my young mind could picture: The Great Bean in the Sky. He saw my confusion and explained it away, but I’ll never forget that moment when I wondered what kind of religion could equate God with the food on my plate. It still makes me giggle to this day.

As we got older, he told us “Dad jokes” and they were sufficiently bawdy to throw us into fits of laughter. I wish I could insert a sound file of him telling this one, “Your breath smells so nice; what kind of teethpaste do you use?” Because it sounded just like, “Your breasts smell so nice, what kind of tits-paste do you use?” My other favorite was, “A woman does not need a man to bring her happiness.” Which came out as, “A woman does not need a man to bring her a penis.” We laughed so hard we nearly fell to the floor.

Camping was so much fun. Daniel, like my own dad, was an expert in “roughing it” and for the rest of my life, I will carry with me the lessons about the woods he taught us. He taught us, his girls, how to use the gifts of nature responsibly and with respect. He was quite good with a simple bow and arrow and amazing with a fishing rod. Trout and venison and rabbit really are delicious.  We would add foraged raspberries or vegetables and fungus to our meals–wild water cress and mushrooms made such delightful side dishes. Puffballs tasted amazing fried in a little oil–and morels–oh good Lord! One time up in Cheboygan, Michigan, we were mushroom hunting around some evergreen trees and the call went up as though he had just found El Dorado, “Trish, Trish! Zee Morels! Zee Morels!” Up until the time he gave me fried freshly foraged mushrooms, I thought they were disgusting. After that, I loved them for the amazing delicacies they are. He possessed such expertise (and a really good mushroom book) that I never worried about eating a toadstool as long as he was around.

As we girls entered into young adulthood (well, maybe late adolescence), Daniel taught us to appreciate good wine (French wine was the best, but Michigan wines were pretty good too) and even the simplest meals that he and Trish prepared were absolutely magnificent. Once I was old enough to purchase wine myself, I’d always stop by the St. Julian store he managed in Parma, Michigan and ask his impeccable advice. For my wedding, all the wine was St. Julian.

A year or two after I got married, Edwina called me up with the frightening news. Daniel had kidney cancer. The oncologist told him he had probably six months to live. It was a horrible shock; but Daniel seemed to take the news in stride, and he fought it valiantly for 10 years–ironically outliving his oncologist. In and out of remission, his spirit was always bright. He embodied joie de vivre as much as anyone else I’ve ever known.

When he and Trish moved to Florida, I was sad that I couldn’t pop in and see them anytime like I always had when I went home to Michigan, but we kept in touch periodically. This last June, when Edwina and Dean (a fantastic man!) celebrated their wedding reception at their home in New Jersey, it was wonderful to spend time with my other family. It felt just like old times.

At the wedding reception in New Jersey:  IMG_5454

A few weeks ago, I got another call from my dear friend. Daniel’s cancer had returned and had metastasized into his bones. He was in terrible pain. It was only a matter of time. I wanted to go down to Florida to say goodbye; but as soon as I was able, it was already too late. He was in hospice care and only his family could be there with him. And they were. They sat with him, and prayed with and for him. I said my goodbyes over the phone. I believe he heard me, though he could not speak. Two days later, Wednesday, January 20, 2016, he went home to be with the Great Bean in the Sky.

In the Orthodox Church, when someone dies, we pray, “May his memory be eternal.” Daniel lived life so fully, so richly, so well. He touched so many lives that there is no doubt that his memory could be anything but eternal.

Rest in Peace, dear Daniel, dear Papa. We will do our best to continue your legacy in loving each other, delighting in the natural world, and living life to the fullest.

 

Easiest beer bread recipe EVER

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Ahh, beer! There’s so much to love about beer: drinking it, making beer battered fish, beer can chicken, beer goggles (ok, those have a downside, I suppose), and one of my favorites, beer bread.

Have you ever been suckered into purchasing a beer bread package from one of those home tasting parties? Don’t get me wrong…I think they have good products, but I also think you should save your money for something they have that isn’t as simple as 1-2-3.

When I told my friend and fellow writer, Jeff Roush, that I thought beer might be my topic tonight because beer is just wonderful like that, he replied, “Good call! I agree: beer and its wonderful, versatile beerness” is a great topic. He has a delightful way of overstating the obvious.

Overstating the obvious can be fun and, since it’s free, a little excess won’t hurt–but paying extra for simplicity seems ridiculous to this down-to-earth Angel.

Here is my Grandma Tylutki’s recipe that she passed down to my mom to me. Ready? It’s unbelievably easy. Put some real butter on it while it’s still warm and pair it with a nice soup and you have simple, beautiful comfort food.

Beer Bread

3 c self-rising flour
3 T sugar
1 room temperature beer

Mix well. Use spatula to scrape into greased and floured bread pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Remove from oven, cool on wire rack. Slice. Serve. Serve with more beer if you like.

That’s it. Isn’t that amazingly easy? Do you really want to spend $6 PLUS shipping, PLUS around a dollar for a beer? No, you do not. You read http://www.downtoearthangel.com so that means you like doing some things the old-fashioned way AND you like being frugal. It also means you are too smart to ever pay $7 or more for a loaf of beer bread that you still have to bake yourself and then wash the dishes!

Just in case you need some numbers to convince you of the super-duper frugality of this recipe, let’s hash it out:

A 5 lb bag of self rising flour is going to cost you somewhere between $3.00 at Walmart and $8.00 for Bob’s Red Mill. Let’s call it $5 for simple math. That will give you about 15 cups of flour. That’s enough for 5 loaves of beer bread. Your 3 cups per loaf cost $1. A beer costs about $1. An extra beer to drink while making it is another $1. But make sure that one is cold. Warm beer is good for bread, not for drinking, in my opinion. And 3 T of sugar is practically free. You can even “borrow” 9 sugar packets from the coffee shop if you’re really, really cheap.

And let’s not forget how your friends will just gasp with delight when they hear that you’ve made the bread yourself–no, not with a mix–a friend’s old family recipe. Yes, that’s right, a friend’s old family recipe, from scratch. Yup. You just scored major kitchen points, my friend, and all for about TWO BUCKS! You can spend the rest of what you would have paid for the mix on, wait for it…BEER!

You’re welcome.

Eyes of Love

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if ever i beheld such eyes of love,
upon my life, i swear i see them now
my lover’s heart is purer than the dove
his kisses are like sweet wine o! and how

his touch upon my face as we alone
now dance beneath the stars that light the earth
delights me, truer love i have not known
and in him, i have realized new bright

for every love before this blessed night
had left regret and deepest sorrow sown
my new love dressed in heaven’s purest light
is sweeter than the fairest rose bloom grown

my love now hear my promise fair and pure
so shall our love forever more be true
and when the mountain fail to endure
my love will cover you like morning dew

This is a poem I wrote in 1998. I was so in love. But things got really ugly between us and we broke up after 3 years. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else then. Now, I’m much happier and have a stable, wonderful husband…Oh, how time changes us…

Saying Goodbye

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Saying goodbye is a hard thing to do
You once loved me, and you know I loved you
Although it hurts, it’s better this way.
It would only get worse if we decided to stay.

Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be
We only saw what we wanted to see
And we tried–but it just wasn’t right
What was there yesterday, is gone tonight

I, yes, I will always love you
But I, no, I cannot stay
The problems we hid so well for so long
Have surfaced, and we can’t hide them away, anymore

You will always hold a place in my heart
Our memories will never die
But love’s over; we now part our ways
Saying “I’m sorry” won’t make anything change

I wish that I could say to you
that it will all be the same again–me and you
But I can’t make that guarantee
Only what’s meant to be can be meant to be

I know someday down the line
I’ll find new love, forever in time
What the future might hold, I cannot see
But I promise I’ll never lose the memories

But sometimes, it’s just not meant to be
We only saw what we wanted to see
And we tried, but it just wasn’t right
What was there yesterday, is gone tonight.

This is a song I wrote in 1997 after a break-up with a boyfriend
Copyright 1997 Angel Stoner
renewed 2014 Angel Stoner Haggar

Every Blade of Grass

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Every blade of grass knows that something isn’t right
And every blade of grass knows I’m missing you tonight
The trees wave in their sympathy
The birds sing, but it seems so sad to me
The flowers are all in bloom, but my heart’s an empty room
Because I’m all alone. This place can’t be a home without you here.

Every spider’s web will show a veil of tears I’ve shed
When the morning sun rises above
As the river flows, silently it goes
And I speak a word and hope it reaches you.
As I look around me, the stars shine bright above,
If only you were here, I’d share this precious love

Every blade of grass knows that something isn’t right.
Every blade of grass knows I’m missing you tonight.

copyright 1997 Angel Stoner

 

I wish I had some wisdom to share about diligence and discipline. My grandparents had it. I lack it–terribly. I told myself I would write every day–or at least a few times a week for 3 months on this blog. After all, if I want to be a professional writer, I have to be able to meet deadlines and everything…and life has been crazy and I’ve been working a lot–and I let that stand in the way of going after my writing dreams. Well, here I am, saying I am going to make a better effort to post something several times a week if not every day. Even if it’s a song/poem I wrote in 1997, like this one. But I like it. Do you?

Waste Not, Want Not

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The “Greatest Generation,” those who lived through both the Great Depression and World War II, are dwindling in number and I fear there are many lessons they wanted to teach us that we refused to learn before it became too late. Boomers and Xers and Gen Y became too comfortable believing they would never see that kind of strife again and forgot how to do things as a society (and I’m using broad brush strokes–so please, don’t send me angry mail.) We don’t sew (although the knitting trend is cool) we barely cook, we don’t grow or raise food. Only a few know how to build a house or to fix even the simplest machines. Everything we want is either at our fingertips or a two-day wait from Amazon.

But imagine a time when supplies become scarce or there is an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that wipes out all electronics and people can’t go to YouTube for how-to videos or ‘Google’ answers to their questions. Now, I’m hardly suggesting that we all vie for a space on the National Geographic show “Doomsday Preppers” but knowing how to take care of oneself and one’s family without an iPhone would be a good place to start. (Said the blogger who is now second-guessing the giveaway of an old printing press in the garage.)

We love Pinterest for all the great recycling of old stuff ideas, but how many of us actually are DOING something instead of just pinning the idea under a title that might as well read “cool stuff that I will never do because I am too crazy busy in my crazy busy life”?
I used to be a teacher. Now, I work part-time at a low wage job where my children can come with me and I don’t pay for daycare. And when I’m not at work, I can be home with them while they are little. Besides that, I’d be paying exorbitant rates for daycare if I was back to work full time before my kiddos are in school, anyway. What I’m trying to say is I understand being on a budget.

So, besides coupon cutting, one of the ways I can save cash is by taking to heart the old adage, “Waste not, want not.” The Greatest Generation did this all the time and we would be wise to take a page from their books. They were reducing reusing and recycling long before it was the “in thing” to do.

I remember visiting my paternal grandparents’ home on Kibby Road in Jackson, MI and learning from them about being frugal and living off the land. They would save their coffee cans and use them for all kinds of containers. They saved jars that could be re-used for canning. They had neatly organized little drawers with bits of string,rubber bands, paraffin and other random items. You don’t need to buy rubber bands. Save them off other things in a little bag or drawer! Straight nails and screws and nuts and bolts and yarn and just about anything can be re-used.

They had a big garden and some fruit trees and nut trees and Grandpa hunted in the woods behind the house. Grandma taught me a little about wild mushrooms. Why would you pay a high price for food if you can get it for a little work instead? Most of us like to think we’re in the position where gardening would cost more than it would save. But, if you plan ahead, gardening can be a real money saver! Start your seeds ahead of time under a sunlamp in the early spring instead of paying ridiculous prices for starter plants at the nursery or hardware store. Can tomatoes. Dehydrate the skins and make tomato powder from them. Save seeds for next year. Pull weeds. It builds muscles and character. Be outside. Grandma always stayed trim and never went to a gym! Learn to eat “weeds”. There is so much nutrition in the plants we overlook all the time.

Grandma sewed us dresses and did all her own alterations and mending. Have you ever paid for alterations? OH MY GOSH! Didn’t you wish you could do that? Buy a book or take a class on sewing and pick up an old sewing machine at a garage sale or on craigslist for cheap. You will thank me. I’ve learned how to take in my husband’s shirts since he lost weight. That’s saving me $20-30 PER SHIRT on alterations alone.
Learn to darn socks. Yes, socks. I know it sounds so old-fashioned, and it is, but it only takes a few minutes. Use an old Edison-style light bulb, stick in it your sock, and sew up the hole. Just try it. You’ll get it right eventually. And when you do, you’ll be saving yourself $6 a pair instead of going out and buying new socks. I know. $6 is not a lot of money. You can afford it. I can afford it. No big deal, but the sense of accomplishment is great and it’s a perfect place to start if you’re new at sewing. And, while we’re on good places to start, sew on your own buttons for Heaven’s sake! You do not need to be an expert tailor here. Just put thread into a needle, tie off one end and start sewing back and forth through the buttonholes. It takes less than five minutes. Save hiring a seamstress for the big jobs. And save the buttons off your old clothes that can’t be salvaged or donated. My elderly neighbor had a button box full of buttons that I found fascinating and beautiful as a young girl. If you don’t end up using them for clothes, use them for crafts and scrap booking. And for crying out loud, use scraps for scrap booking, not overpriced pieces of paper from a craft store. That’s why they call it SCRAP BOOKING!

I know you’re busy. I know you’re tired from long, crazy days. I know your bills are, at best, annoying. So, look at life with a critical eye. Where can you save? What can you cut? What can you learn to do on your own? Be creative! Don’t be afraid to learn new things. And be kind to yourself. Remember, practice makes perfect. You’ll get where you want to be with just a little practice and you’ll have that great sense of accomplishment that only comes from actually accomplishing something. 🙂

What would you like to learn to do on your own?
I can host classes or post YouTube videos if you are interested.