Da Bomb | Old Farmer’s Hack

For as long as I can remember, the Arizona desert, where I grew up, was better at keeping plants alive that I was. To say I had a “black thumb” was an understatement. I’m pretty sure I actually killed a potted cactus when I was 14.

This began to change in my mid 20’s. By the time I was 25, I was able to keep an established pothos alive. You’ve seen a pothos even if you don’t know what it’s called….every house has at least one because they’re really hard to kill.

pothos

I was so proud of this milestone! Next, I bought an orchid at the grocery store and somehow kept it alive for a few years…..I was SHOCKED when I started hearing stories about how hard they are to keep alive! I officially had a “Grey thumb” at this point:

grey thumb

I’ve tried planting seeds many times over the past few years but every time they reach about an inch tall, they die. I’m not sure why or how, maybe I’m still having issues with my “grey thumb.”

Recently, I heard about a “guerrilla farming technique” called seed bombs and it’s been used by farmers for a very long time. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that it basically takes all of the hard work out of establishing a seedling! Foolproof farming? A girl can only hope ūüėČ

What is a seed bomb?:

According to the infinitely wise Wikipedia:Seed bombing or aerial reforestation[1] is a technique of introducing vegetation to land by throwing or dropping compressed bundles of soil containing live vegetation (seed balls). Often, seed bombing projects are done with arid or off-limits (for example, privately owned) land.”

How seed bombs work:

The mixture of compost and clay keep the seeds protected from birds and constantly moist as the plant germinates.  Some will sprout within a few weeks some will sprout next year, so be patient.

How to make a seed bomb:

There’s a lot of recipes out there…… but based on comments around the interwebs (from people who do this regularly and have shown great results), the secret is in the clay to compost mixture!

“We‚Äôve found the ratio that works best for us is 4 parts compost to 1 part powdered clay by weight(very important to do it by weight). The compost needs to be somewhat moist, but not wet by any means). Also, the quantity of seed depends on the type, a cup of poppy seeds can contain over 100,000 seeds, whereas a cup of sunflower seeds may only be 500-1000.”

 

Seed bombs work fantastic if you use them to plant your own garden (Vegetable & flowers) and I have yet to even attempt to bury them. Just lightly water each day and then once sprouted ‚Äď as you would for any seedlings you‚Äôve hand planted.

You should read this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masanobu_Fukuoka
He is the original creator of clay seed balls ‚Äď creating edible vegetation in areas that were bare and void, using only nature.

seed bomb

Step 1: blend 4 parts moist compost to 1 part dry clay powder

Step 2: Mix in 1 part seeds (use judgement here based on seed size to be careful not to overpopulate the seed bomb). Realize that probably 10-20% of the seeds will be duds but the rest will likely sprout and you don’t want to overpopulate the small space of earth they will grown in.

Step 3: Roll into a ball roughly 1.5″ in size.

Step 4: Let dry in the sun or in a window

Step 5: Store in an empty egg carton until ready to use

Step 6: Lightly moisten and lay on top of the soil where you intend for it to grow.

Let’s just think about the “cheap eating” potential here….. Should you have a good rate of success by planting this way, you could have an entire garden furnishing fruits and veggies all season long, saving you on groceries! The best part is that you can control the growing practices; you know definitively if it’s GMO, organic and it’s pesticide status.

Fancy Egg Sammich (as my 3 year old calls it)

As I stared into the fully-stocked refrigerator with hunger pains, my lazy side began to curse my husband for being so proactive on getting the grocery shopping done. I was starving but I just couldn’t muster the energy to summon my inner Betty Crocker and really didn’t have much of an excuse not to – This rainy weather is killin’ my mojo!

I quickly started naming off what our lunch options were and luckily my three year old locked onto one of the easiest to make: Egg, cheese, salami and avocado sandwich – or as she calls it, the fancy egg sammich. We often make a simpler version around here for breakfast, but this one, all dressed up in it’s layers of salami and avocado, was perfect for brunch or breakfast all day!

I certainly didn’t want a boring lunch meat sandwich so I was cool with this decision because it required minimal cooking skills and it was quick. Double win!

Ingredients:

  • Bread, sliced
  • Cheese, we used Gouda….because its “good-ah”<—cheesy humor!
  • Eggs, 1-2 per sandwich depending on your hunger level, cooked over-medium
  • Salami slices, 2-4 depending on your taste
  • Avocado, we used 1/4-1/2 of an avocado per sandwich
  • Salt, to taste

What to do:

  1. Heat frying pan over low to medium heat with 1 tsp of butter. Add eggs. Cook for a few minutes. Flip and cook a few more to desired doneness. Add cheese and remove from heat while you prepare the other ingredients. I prefer to cook my eggs to over-medium in this recipe because it’s not overly messy when you eat it.
  2. Toast your bread slices in the toaster and butter while hot.
  3. Slice your avocado in half. Remove seed. Slice.
  4. Start with one slice of buttered toast, add eggs and cheese, top with salami and avocado as desired. Sprinkle a little salt on top and finish it off with the other slice of bread.
  5. Enjoy!

Easy, right? Easy, quick and yummy…. that’s the tired mom’s trifecta right there ūüėČ

Sorry, there’s no picture this time – we ate them too quickly to photograph, LOL!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can feed the entire family for less than $10!

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Coming soon: monthly budget-friendly meal plans complete with recipes!

Recipe: Apple Butter in the Crock Pot

Mmmmmmmm! Nothing says Fall like apples and everything apple spiced! I know the rest of the world goes gaga over anything pumpkin spice, but that fascination, for me, doesn’t begin until Thanksgiving and it ends around Christmas.¬† The period where the weather actually cools and leaves change will forever be ingrained in my brain as apple season – probably because I am originally from Southern California and I have fond memories of roadside stands overflowing with baskets of fresh picked apples and real apple cider!

My mom was big into the pre-packaged food revolution so I only ever had store bought apple butter growing up. while store bought apple butter is still yummy, homemade apple butter will put it to shame!¬† Homemade apple butter is just so much more vibrant tasting. You’ll have to try it to see what I mean ūüôā

Homemade Apple Butter (Small batch Recipe)

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t have a ton of storage space, so making 12 jars of anything just isn’t realistic for you.¬† A lot of recipes around the internet make large batches which 1- makes me hate peeling and coring apples by the time I’m done and 2- takes up way too much space.¬† Ain’t nobody got time for that! Making apple butter in smaller batches means only 1 or 2 jars at a time, which means less goes to waste!

For the cost of a few apples and using spices you already have on hand, you can enjoy that sweet apple-y goodness that every family should experience in Fall!

Ingredients:
  • 3-4 large apples. (Granny Smith = zingy flavor, Red Delicious = classic flavor)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, whole
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
Directions:
  1. Peel, core and slice apples thinly and evenly.¬† It’s important to remove the skin and seeds because they will make the apple butter bitter.
  2. Please apples in crock pot, sprinkle sugar, cloves and place cinnamon sticks on top. Stir.
  3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours (I usually just pop it in after dinner for the following morning’s breakfast).
  4. Texture: I like mine a little more textured so I don’t really give mine more than a few stirs during cooking time but some people prefer a smoother texture.¬† If you prefer a smoother texture, take a hand mixer or whisk to your apple butter before pouring to jars.
  5. If it appears a little runny after the allotted cook time, try cooking for 1 hour with the lid off, then cool slightly before putting into jars or freezer safe containers.

It’s important to note that homemade foods do not contain a ton of preservatives like the store-bought foods, so it will spoil relatively quickly.¬† Try to use or freeze the batch within a week to be safe.

There you have it, ladies & gents! It’s really that cheap and that easy ūüôā

Now go and enjoy…….

apple-butter-036

What No One Tells You About Being a SAHM | Eatin’ Cheap

Omigosh! My ebook is officially listed on Amazon and it’s available for pre-order! The release date is February 1st and it’s only $3.99. ¬†I can’t believe I am actually tempted to download my own book! *Squee!*


 

Okay, before I have a mini coronary, let me back the excitement train up……Sorry for the verbal vomit;¬†I’ve since¬†turned on¬†The Cure Radio station on iHeartRadio and I have regained my composure (for the moment).

Two and a half years ago my husband and I made the decision that I should quit my corporate job to stay home with the two children we now had together. As miserable as I was in the corporate world, I was glad to do so and agreed without a further thought. ¬†We were taking over a salon (he’s a hair stylist) and there was no doubt that it could fail because we are both so talented in what we do (his experience with hair and beauty, mine with marketing, management and photography).

According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn. We burned. With the dawn of the new year, we closed our little salon venture; we kept the doors open for 25 agonizing months.

We failed because we didn’t have enough capital, our target stylists had already rented independant suites and the bright shiney re-development of the area surrounding our salon didn’t happen. ¬†It wasn’t a lack of customers walking in the door. The city failed us¬†and we were not a fit for the market surrounding us because we planned for what was supposed to happen, not what was already there.

Most people think that salon owners are rolling in the dough and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. We struggled from day one and it only got harder as days wore on. ¬†Living from paycheck to paycheck would have been a blessing because we were literally living from day to day, wondering if we would have a roof over our head in the morning and if we would be able to eat the next meal.

I started shopping cheap.  Like spaghetti, ramen noodles or mac n cheese every night kind of cheap and we paid for it with our health.  We had to do something to eat better; there HAD to be some other way.

I started budgeting $50/week for groceries because that’s all we could afford. I spent more on groceries than that when I was single, but now I had to feed four hungry mouths with that meager budget! ¬†I had to scour the sale ads for multiple stores to find the best deals. I collected every coupon I could get my hands on and started compiling my list of secrets to make that $50 stretch until the next week. I made meal plans and I researched the cheapest meals and recipes out there to find some variation for our table because eating the same dishes every week gets to be boring; meals can’t be boring when you have a preschooler and a toddler!!!

When I started telling people what I was doing, their eyes lit up, especially when they could see it was working! So, I did what any self-respecting mama would do (no, not stripping!), I wrote a book.  The book contains the easy to replicate strategy, shopping list printables, a 1-week meal plan and recipes for each of the meals contained within the plan.  I will be releasing follow up meal plans to help supplement the rest of the month/year and keep you within budget.

So, my point about what no one tells you about being a SAHM:

  • While it’s amazing rewarding and fulfilling to my heart, sometimes mommy just needs a time out!
  • When I do finally get some time to myself, I immediately miss the craziness I wanted a time out from.
  • When away from my kids for any period of time, I feel like I left a limb at home, like I am functioning as an amputee. I feel awkward and can’t trump the feeling that something is missing. Just feels weird.
  • No one wants to hire you after a long period of self-employment or being a SAHM because of the unverifiable “employment” even though you’ve probably never worked harder in your life. Makes me want to smack someone! ¬†Yet, I am thankful for the opportunity to continue staying home with the kids. ¬†Fact is, most of us can’t afford to stay home, but we do it of love. ¬†If there’s anything the last few years have proven to me, its that you really can live in love (and just a little bit of money).

Book Cover - Black ipad

Recipe | Biscuits & Gravy

My favorite “go-to” recipe for days when the cabinets are bare and the wallet is empty is biscuits and gravy. You can say its a comfort food for me because my mom used to make it all the time when I was growing up; in fact, the gravy recipe is hers!

I tend to change up the biscuit recipe from time to time depending on what I have in the fridge. ¬†Our favorites¬†are¬†cream cheese biscuits, but for today we will talk about basic fluffy drop biscuits because they take minimal ingredients that I consider to be regular ol’ kitchen stock to me (I always have these items on hand pretty much all the time).

From start to finish, this takes about 30 minutes and makes about 8 biscuits, which is just the right amount to feed my little family.

Biscuits:

  • 1-3/4 c All Purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 t ¬†Baking Powder
  • 1 t ¬†Salt
  • 6 T Butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 c Milk (+ a splash more depending on style of biscuit)

Note: this recipe will make flaky but firmer biscuits if rolled out and cut.  If you like fluffy biscuits, add a splash more milk and make drop biscuits, like I did.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (fahrenheit) and either butter the baking sheet or prepare with a silicone liner.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until all dry ingredients are distributed evenly.
  3. Cut butter into small squares. ¬†I typically take the portion I’m using off a new stick of butter, cut lengthwise, roll to the next side and cut lengthwise again so the stick of butter (see below) looks like a foursquare court. ¬†Then I will cut it like a small pad of butter and add to the bowl. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†butter2014-09-25 08.56.25
  4. Next, mix the butter into the dry ingredients and roll up your sleeves, because you’re about to get your hands dirty! ¬†Lightly roll the butter squares between your fingers into the flour. ¬†Don’t let the butter dissolve completely, this is just a quick incorporation.
  5. Next, add the milk. ¬†Be sure not to mix too much because the more you work the dough, the more the gluten bonds form and you’ll get a tough dough. ¬†If you notice the dough is starting to get tougher (like gum that’s been chewed too long), just let it rest and soak up the fluid naturally.
  6. Here’s where the directions will differ depending on which style biscuit you want to make.
    1. Firm biscuits: Roll out the dough on a flat, well floured surface to 1/2-3/4″ thick. ¬†Use round cookie cutter or a glass with the diameter you want (we use a beer glass in our house). Please on the pan about 2-3″ apart.
    2. Fluffy drop biscuits: add a couple of teaspoons of milk to the batter and drop gobs onto your pan about 2-3 inches apart.  I made my biscuits on the larger side, so I only had 7 biscuits this time, but it should yield 8.                                                                                         2014-09-25 09.08.15
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the tops appear light golden brown. Bread is a tricky beast, so if you take it out too early and try to return it to the oven a few minutes later, it¬†will not continue baking where it left off. ¬†I just look for a nice even light brown coloring on top with a firm dry finish (if it’s still wet looking, it’s likely not done yet). ¬†The best way to check, aside from cracking one open, is to stick a toothpick or fork through the middle and if it comes out clean, you’re in business!

While the biscuits are baking in the oven, it’s time to make gravy!

White Gravy:

  • 2T butter or lard. ¬†We save and use bacon grease (the old school way! Ask your Grandma about this.)
  • 1/4-1/3 c All Purpose Flour
  • 2 c Milk
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Break out your favorite skillet and scoop out some butter or bacon grease into the pan; set to medium heat.  As it melts into the pan, add the flour and mix together to form a paste. Try to do this quickly because browning at this step will change the flavor.                                                                                     2014-09-25 09.10.15                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 2014-09-25 09.11.34

Add milk and mix together slowly but thoroughly using your spatula. ¬†Don’t stop stirring or mixing because it will lump up on you! ¬†If it starts to simmer (see bubbles), turn the heat down slightly. ¬†Keep stirring and scraping the sides and bottom until it reaches the consistency you like. ¬†Typically, the gravy is done about the same time as the biscuits. ¬†When it reaches the right consistency, remove from heat and set aside.

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To make things easier for my family, I will put the biscuits in a basket lined with a clean dish towel and wrap the sides of the towel over to the top to keep them hot between servings.

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We don’t own a fancy gravy boat, but we do have a large mug that borders on soup bowl capacity, so we use this for the gravy. Here it is all lined up on the table and ready to enjoy!

2014-09-25 09.34.08

Getting The Most Out of Your Groceries

I think the biggest trick I have in stretching my grocery budget is to¬†never let things go to waste (or at least I try not to!). It’s like I’ve adopted the viewpoint of those from the Great Depression, but it works well for us, so no criticism please.

When planning and cooking my meals, it seems like there will invariably be a little extra leftover ingredients. ¬†Back in the days before my husband came along and I was entirely a recipe cook, I would just toss the little leftover bits from the packaging because I just wasn’t creative enough to incorporate them into another meal. ¬†My husband is the MacGyver of kitchen cooks; he taught me how to whip up a meal with random, seemingly unrelated ingredients into a tasty meal! ¬†Problem solved…..right?

Nope.

Towards the end of the week, there was always something trying to morph into a science experiment in the back of my refrigerator, so I started looking into crock pot freezer meals.  I was in love! I could spend an hour cutting and bagging meals and sit back for the rest of the week without having to slave over a hot stove (and let me tell you, my tiny kitchen has no airflow, its like a sauna!). Well, the charm wore off and I got tired of having crock pot meals every night.  I was back to cooking stove top again.

Eventually, I started reading up on how to make your own jelly and preserves at home.  This was perfect because I still had an entire case of Ball jars sitting around from our wedding (decor Рit was a backyard wedding). The homemade jellies were a hit and we have never turned back; store bought is just not appetizing anymore.

Back to how the jars saved my budget….. I started freezing leftovers in the jars or in freezer bags (depending on what it was). Chicken noodle soup, purees, bone broth, jelly, et cetera, would all end up stored in my freezer, neatly stacked in jars because I have a tiny freezer. ¬†This makes leftover day more enjoyable because you can choose when to enjoy them rather than being forced into it before they¬†grow hair. ¬†Just remember to look through the fridge every couple of days and toss a few items into the freezer for safe keeping!

Let’s Not Pretend: Eating Cheap

Now that I’ve published the first post to this blog with some words of hope for those who need it most, I bring you information that the rest of you came for…. saving money!

But first, let’s not pretend I’m perfect, because I’m far from it. ¬†I just want to be real and work on the understanding that all of us have great knowledge and shortcuts, but rarely does anyone know it all. If you walked into my place, you’d see that I am not the glamorous, well put together, know-it-all rockstar you’d think a mommy blogger would be. My laundry piles need their own zip codes, for crying out loud!

My knowledge on shopping with less than what most people would refer to as “a budget” was born from necessity, not frugality or cunning. ¬†My husband and I are artists; this means we often forego the cush realities of life that most people take for granted because we choose not to sacrifice our souls to the corporate devil….it also means we are required to feed our family of 4 on $50 a week because that’s all we can scrounge together sometimes.

Too proud to mooch off family, apply for assistance or beg off at a charity pantry, we have made it work. I don’t have the patience to become an extreme couponer like the hoarders on TV, I don’t have the time either. ¬†Here’s what I do in a nutshell:

  • Write out a meal plan for the week. ¬†I try to plan meals around the cheapest cuts of meats I can find that will yield leftovers that can parlay into the next night’s meal.
  • Shop according to the weekly sale ad. ¬†When I am planning my meals, I will only plan around what’s on sale. ¬†If it’s mexican food that week, then we eat mexican a few times because that’s what’s cheap.
  • We typically shop at King Soopers/Kroger. ¬†I will go online to their website and load their digital coupons onto my King Sooper’s Membership Card before heading to the store. ¬†These are additional deals not in the circular that often include manufacturer coupons.
  • www.coupons.com is awesome, but I only visit their site once a month or so since most coupons are good for a few weeks at a time.
  • Keep track of your spending before and during your shopping trip to avoid surprises at the register.
  • Keep treats to a minimum. We rarely keep sugary treats in the house and when they are present, they’re homemade….its cheaper and just as easy as the boxed stuff! I’ll share recipes in another post.

You’d think we would be eating Ramen noodles and hot dogs on a budget of $30-50/week but we are actually eating pretty well and I can say with good conscience that my kids are never hungry. ¬†Granted, it’s not as “clean” of a diet as I’d prefer, but we do keep processed foods to a minimum around here and my kids are learning good eating choices. ¬†Given the option of fruit or a cupcake, they’ll pick the fruit….all on their own.

I am working on downloadable meal plans complete with shopping lists that you’ll be able to purchase very soon for a very low price! There’s an entire series as each one is a meal plan for one week and I seriously doubt you want to eat the same thing every week. ¬†Please note that I am allergic to shellfish, so there will be no shellfish of any sort in the meal plans. ¬†If you’re interested in buying a meal plan, they should be available on the Amazon Kindle market very soon, which is also compatible with the iPhone market with the right app. I look forward to sharing the recipes and lists with you all!