Have you been paying attention to what’s going on with the cost of food? I just read that the average cost of ground beef in the U.S. has once again hit an all-time high. I believe it, and not only beef. It is shocking how grocery prices are going up, which understandably is behind the soaring cost of restaurant food.
The way to fight back is two-fold: 1). Buy groceries when they’re on sale and 2) Eat at home. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be if you make sure your kitchen pantry is well-stocked. It’s annoying and expensive to not have basic items on hand. You don’t have what you need and don’t have time to go get it, which means of course you’ll just have to go out for dinner. Again.
Taking the time and effort to make sure your have the following handy items in your pantry will save a lot of money, provided you pick these items up as they go on sale. Think of this as a project.
Evaporated milk. I basically detest the stuff because I had to drink it as a kid. But used in cooking and baking, evaporated milk is fabulous! Keeping a few cans in your pantry insures you’ll always have milk on hand when the recipe calls for it.
Money is the most difficult subject to discuss between two people in love. Why? Several reasons:
It’s personal. We’re taught as children to never ask how much people earn, what things cost or how much money people have. It’s rude, it’s poor manners and it is just not done.
We spend the first two decades of our lives keeping anything related to money hush-hush. We learn to skirt the truth in the interest of personal decorum.
We grow up, enter a relationship and find that it’s not easy to suddenly talk about such personal information.
It’s not flattering. We wear clothes that flatter our good points and downplay our flaws. We snap a “selfie,” then retake as many times as necessary to get it just right.
We take great pains to present ourselves in the very best light. And when forced to talk about financial issues, well, we do the same thing. We bend the truth or we omit certain details that don’t make us look that great.
To me there’s something magical about the way homemade soup can warm the soul on a blustery autumn day. But what if you don’t have all day to make soup? Don’t sweat it. If all you have is 20 minutes, that’s all the time you need to make any of these three from-scratch soups. They’re so easy and so delicious (and cheap, but let that be our little secret), you’re going to want to make it “soup night” at least once a week until spring.
Homemade Chicken Soup
- 2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
- 2 cups baby carrots
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or fresh dill (optional)
As you might imagine, I get a lot of mail. And since I could never respond to all your messages, questions and comments personally, I love to reach into the mail bag once each week selecting some of your letters to answer right here.
Dear Mary: Is it cheaper to wash dishes by hand since I wash most of my pots and pans by hand anyway, or use the dishwasher? Thanks. Audrey
Dear Audrey: According to the folks at EnergyStar.gov, using a dishwasher versus hand washing can cut your utilities bills by $40 or more annually. That’s because washing by hand uses more hot water, which is both a waste of the water (it takes 5,000 more gallons in a year to wash by hand) plus the energy to heat it. That’s just how efficient dishwashers are these days.
But that’s not all. Using a dishwasher will save you about 230 hours of personal time in a year–nearly 10 days! And if your dishwasher boosts water temperatures to 140 F., (Energy Star rated machines do), you enjoy improved disinfection compared to hand washing. That means better health, fewer doctor visits.
Faithful readers know I’m crazy for a product, Nok-Out. I travel with it and live it with. Actually, I wouldn’t want to live without it.
Nok-Out is both an odor eliminator and germicide (bacterial and viral). The best thing: No fumes, no perfume—absolutely not toxic. It looks like water, safe for pets, home and even the kitchen. Nok-Out is not a room freshener that tries to cover up odors. It truly knocks them out.
As I would expect from something I use and suggest that you need to consider too, I get lots of feedback from readers and a question now and then.
“I’m traveling soon. so I eagerly followed your advice by ordering Nok-Out to take along. But I’m puzzled because the product makes none of the claims you mention. In fact there is no indication it has any disinfectant properties only instructs for use as a deodorizer. So what’s the deal with Nok-Out?” Ruth
Perhaps this has happened to you: You’ve lived with carpeting, then for one reason or another you live with hardwood or some other type of hard surface flooring that shows up every little bit of dust and dirt. You can’t believe it! You can sweep or vacuum one day and by the next morning, the dust and dirt have returned.
Of course we think that some new dirt- and dust-producing thing has mysteriously descended on our living space, but the truth is it’s the same dust and dirt that has always been present only now we can see it.
I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see what accumulated in such a short time on my wood floors. In my mind I multiplied by 7, 14 and even 21 days. Am I the only one who doesn’t vacuum like every day of her life? Yeah, I admit it. Imagining what had accumulated in the carpeting almost made me wretch. Seriously.
One of the toughest things I battle in my life is procrastination. My natural response is I’ll do it later. And there’s a part of me that despises that procrastinator and wages a daily war to defeat it. That’s how I’ve come to rely on the power of habits and routines. If I can avoid having to make a decision, I lose the choice to put it off until later.
Habits are those things we do so often, they become automatic. Take my MacBook computer. You’d be shocked to know just how many hours a day I am on this thing. The keyboard is part of me. My muscles have totally memorized every stroke, the location of every key. Until something changes.
Due to a series of complications (Mavericks plus multiple monitors), I was forced to move my dock from the bottom of my screen to the left side. We’re talking about a 90-degree relocation from horizontal to vertical. And I’m ready to be committed.
Everything in me wants that dock at the bottom. Every muscle recalls exactly where each tool should be. For nearly three weeks I have battled this annoying change and it is driving me to the brink of insanity. My routines are disrupted, my old habit is screaming in torment. My brain, muscles and fingers are trained to reach effortlessly to get what I need. It was so automatic I didn’t have to think about it.
Today we celebrate cucumbers which will soon be in the peak of their season and dirt cheap! Cucumbers are not only delicious when prepared well, they are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Home gardeners would do well to anticipate and plan for a big harvest because cucumbers, like zucchini, have a way to multiplying beyond expectations, and then producing even more. Farmers’ markets are always evident of this truth, where recently I saw a full box for just $5.
Personally, I love cucumbers so much, I would be happy eating them in salad, as pickles, in a sandwich or just straight up with a sprinkle of salt and I mean every day of my life.
One thing to know about cucumbers: When grown in extremely hot temperatures, the cucumber skin can get bitter. You can deal with this by either removing the skin prior to slicing, or soaking the cukes in salt water to remove the bitterness.
Today I have a recipe for you that may take you back to your childhood. It does for me because this is the way my grandmother made cucumber salad.