Simple Indoor Hobbies for Everyday Happiness

Written by Zak Andrews. 


Living a simpler life means you have to see the beauty in everyday things and activities. But in the midst of a hectic lifestyle, it’s sometimes hard to have spare time to sit back and relax. People are so busy with work and some even have extra jobs on the side. Others have businesses that require almost 24/7 attention. While being productive is great and necessary in the long term, there are times people forget the simpler things they have that can also bring them joy. emphasized the importance of hobbies. They not only serve as outlets to relieve stress; they also provide small pleasures and happiness. Here are some simple hobbies you can do in your home to have your everyday dose of happiness and relaxation.

Learn a craft or two

Photo: Pixabay

Picking up a craft or two will not only increase your knowledge, it will also give you a sense of fulfillment after each project you have completed. At times, the creations you make may even give you an extra source of income.

Immersing yourself in DIY tasks is an excellent hobby, due to the fact that you can choose any type of object you like to create. As such, you will be happy with what you are doing. There are furniture, decorations, gardening projects, etc. Blankets, cushions, vases and storage boxes are some of the daily house items which are easy to make.

Watch shows and play games

Photo: Pixabay

There are thousands of great TV shows out there. Shows like The Good Wife or The Walking Dead, which was conceptualized with our little town in mind, will appeal to audiences who want a dose of drama or suspense.

Meanwhile, the acclaimed fantasy title Game of Thrones may have paused after Season 6, but nevertheless lots of people are anticipating the next arc in the story and fans are temporarily getting their GoT fix through related media inspired by the sensational series. Video games based on the medieval show now attract global attention as well, thanks to the popularity of the show. The famous Telltale Games which created a version for The Walking Dead also has their own take on Game of Thrones as a decision-driven narrative game; while the popular slots game platform Spin Genie collaborated with the show to bring titles like Game of Thrones 15 Lines to GoT fans worldwide. Either way, whether watching an episode of your favorite TV series or playing its game iteration, the effect is the same: it can help you unwind after a hard day’s work.

This is not just a baseless claim either, given that the stress-reducing capabilities of these visual hobbies are backed up by science. For example, research shared by Men’s Health tackled interactive games in particular, which were found to “evoke a stronger sense of relaxation”. There’s an abundance of studies that correlate watching TV or playing video games with relaxation.

Indulge in cooking

Photo: Pixabay

Cooking is one of best hobbies you can partake in. Indulging in food is among the guilty pleasures we all succumb to from time to time. Considering that there are innumerable cuisines from various cultures, you will never run out of things to try out, not to mention that you can acquire kitchen techniques which are highly useful. In our Food section, we’ve shared topics like bread making and meat tenderizing, both of which can be utilized in everyday living.

Of course, it’s also recommended to balance the kinds of food you eat to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. Aside from regular meals and dishes, you can also check out healthier alternatives such as gluten-free recipes.

To sum it up, happiness is all around, even in the simple things that people have or do in their homes. What’s needed is to just appreciate everything around you and make the best of what you have. Don’t worry, be happy!

The Meditative Properties of Bread Making

Here’s a treat from way back during my Associated Content days. Enjoy!

It’s there.

Waiting in the darkness. When you turn out the light it comes.

Whispering, worrying, tormenting.

You toss, you turn – sleep eludes as you continue to be tortured by the thoughts swirling within your mind.

Oozing, shrieking, pulling at you, dragging you inexorably toward an abyss of fear.

Finally, you can’t take it anymore. This demon, this fear, this worry, this concern – you must purge it to have peace.

Walking to the kitchen, you pull out your tools. Two cups of flour, a package of yeast – stirred and set aside.

You take care of the liquids – 2 cups of milk, perhaps one cup milk with water for the rest instead. Perhaps all water, save the milk for the kids. A tablespoon of butter or shortening, two teaspoons of sugar, few shakes of salt, warmed on the stove just so – the butter hasn’t fully melted, but the mix is warm like a baby’s bottle.


Combining this with your flour and yeast, you mix with your wooden spoon, mixing, thinking, adding flour one splash at a time, working as much in as you can before sprinkling the table and kneading the dough.

Knead, press, work, strain. Imagine your tormentor is in the dough as you beat and pull and knead it into submission. You breathe softly, regularly. Your worries and fears come under your control like the dough beneath your hands.

Feel the life beneath your fingers. Know you are participating in an ancient life-giving ritual. Think about your ancestors, standing, kneading just as you are at this very moment. Recall the peace they must have felt as they too worked their worries into the bread.

Finally you step back and give it a poke, smiling when the indentation disappears. It is ready.

You place it in your greased bowl, flipping it once to make sure it is evenly coated, inspecting it lovingly. Covering it with a cloth, you treat yourself to a gentle relaxing bath. Life is truly good.

Enjoy the heat; enjoy the warmth. Consider the life blossoming in the other room, rising as a result of your care. By the time you are finished, rest assured in the knowledge your loaf will be waiting for you.

Dress, dry your hair, and check upon your masterpiece. Perfect, beautiful, mounding within the bowl. Ancient, perfect peace.

Taking your fist, you gently punch it down. That air escaping is your problems, hissing away into the atmosphere. You are free!

Split your dough in half, shape and place in your pans. Or perhaps in your relief you wish to play, and braid your loaves instead? You are free now from your tormentors, enjoy yourself! Relax while you watch your life-giving creation rise again, breathing, just breathing in the knowledge that you are safe, and all is well

As your loaves bake, think about how delighted your family will be to awaken to the aroma of fresh-baked bread, as you stretch out on the couch with your favorite book, calmly glancing at the clock.

Pull the loaves out to cool, covering with a cloth, and go back to bed, knowing you have worked away your demons and can now truly rest, knowing that your family will have not only a fresh healthy treat in the morning, but knowing that everything is going to be okay.

It really is.

Don’t Throw Your Pickle Juice Away

Pickle juice is one thing in this house that never gets thrown away. In fact, we occasionally run out of pickle juice before we empty the pickles from the jar (we have to eat fast then!).

One of our main uses for pickle juice is to drink it as a dietary supplement. It helps with digestion and stomach upsets much better than the stuff you find in the store marketed for this purpose. Also, pickle juice provides potassium, which can help with muscle spasms and other things.

Did you know that pickles were used back in the Wild West days to help prevent scurvy? It contains Vitamin C; the lack of which causes this ailment.

In my experience, dill pickle juice works best. We try to always purchase the kosher versions because we believe it to be healthier. I’m not sure about that fact, however – it is simply a personal belief.

On the rare occasions we find ourselves with a surplus of pickle juice, we toss some hard boiled eggs into the brine to make pickled eggs. My dad taught me how to do this as a child. We always had pickled eggs in our refrigerator as a snack.

Because of the many uses of pickle juice I urge you to reconsider before you pour it down the drain. You can find some great uses for your leftover pickle juice on this site. It has some good tips.

How to Tenderize Meat Without a Gadget

This is one of the earlier posts that has been salvaged.  It was originally posted on September 24, 2009.

Meat tenderizer

If you have ever dealt with a tough piece of meat, you know it can be frustrating. The temptation is high to buy that hammer especially designed to tenderize that piece.

You don’t have to. In fact, you already have something in your kitchen that will tenderize that cut of meat just as well as a mallet. It’s called a plate.

Yes, the average run-of-the-mill ceramic plate. Turn it on it’s side and it becomes the perfect weapon against meat toughness!

I sprinkle my meat with a bit of tenderizer on each side before tapping it multiple times with the side of one of my plates. In the picture I use a saucer cause it’s smaller and easier for me to manage, but any type of plate or saucer will do, provided it’s solid and not plastic or paper. Then again, some of the more solid plastic plates may work as well!

Just whack on that tough piece of meat with the edge of a plate until you think it is good and tender all over. I enjoy taking out any frustrations so mine get beat up pretty bad, flipping mine over a couple of times just to make sure I’m done!

Remember whenever you think you need a new gadget – you may have something already at home that will already do the job, sometimes even better than that shiny new thingy at the store. One less thing cluttering up your drawers, and a bit more money in your pocket!


How to Eat Your Christmas Tree

Okay, folks, time to recycle that tall piece of greenery you have stuck in the corner of your living room. While most of us just toss it out with the trash, did you know that you could actually eat it?

I’m serious, you really can.

I’ve known for a while that you can actually eat pine trees. In fact, you should never starve if you are stuck in a forest with pine because seriously, the trees! Eat them!

From what I understand in ages past pine trees were called the feast of kings because when kings would go out with their armies to invade other lands they allegedly relied on these trees to feed themselves and their armies even when there was meat around (I guess to supplement the meat).

Now I’m not sure about the legend but if you’re hungry and you’ve got a tree that you’re about to toss in the trash, why not try it? Can’t hurt.

Here is the link to eating pine trees:

And last but not least here is a link specifically aimed at teaching you how to eat that Christmas tree instead of tossing it away:


I Fixed it All By Myself!

Yeah, I’m ranting.  Frankly I’m proud of myself!

See that cutting board in the picture there?  Well I’ve had that cutting board for several years now and some time back it split right in two!

For a while I just used it as two separate little cutting boards but for things like cutting meat or kneading bread I really missed my ole’ board.

I could have bought a new board, but frankly I did not want to spend the money—those things aren’t cheap ya know…. so I just fixed this one!  A little bit of wood glue, a giant rubber band as an overnight clamp and my faithful cutting board is back in service!

Alas, the flip side isn’t is as good of shape as it used to be, the accident chipped a little of the wood from where the two pieces meet on that side, but this side is perfect!  I can still use the other side if I’m careful what I’m cutting…

So here I am, thumbing my nose at Corporate Amerika—I fixed it myself! I didn’t need to toss it and buy new like we’re told we have to nowadays.

What have you managed to fix yourself?  Send me your story and I will feature you here on this blog!

Grocery Shopping

I went shopping with a friend today at Sam’s Club. Just a few things—you know how it is.I wanted a beef roast that I could cut up for stir fry and whatnot and found a nice big one for $2.48/lb. Nice pretty beef eye of round that set me back $13.66 for a chunk of meat that will last me at least a couple of months if not longer.

My friend needed several items and before I know it her cart is filled to the top with some stuffed in the bottom.  Her total was over $300.

I would like to say that it was wasted money but it was all stuff that she uses. Meat for her and her roommate, laundry detergent, dog food, paper towels, bathroom tissue—stuff like that.

I look at her overflowing cart and then back to my little chunk of meat. The saddest part was she had overspent her budget and had to borrow some money from me until she got home.


We sat there in the car calculating how much she owed me and she is looking over her receipt wondering how she spent so much, just staring at it in amazement.

I think of my little chunk of meat, which I didn’t really need because I have meat, but I wanted in order to have a variety of meats to choose from while eating. Officially I guess you could say it was a splurge, but it was a staple so I still consider it a need.

I think of the things she bought and I realize that a lot of people, including myself in the not so recent past spent that much money just to survive. 

That thought frightens me in this economy.  She is unemployed with no idea where her next check is coming from thanks to congressional dickering, a woman who has looked and looked for a job, who cannot take a minimum wage job because her bills are WAY too high but cannot find an open position for what she considers a living wage.

She looks at me like I’m an eccentric for my frugal ways, declaring that “normal” people can’t live like I can before going on with her life, juggling bills with a dexterity I have never before seen. I know if she would apply those skills to frugality she would blow me away but she refuses to even consider it—she is “cheap” enough.

I looked at her cart. The bathroom tissue and paper towels I would not have bought for I use cloth, so there was at least $25 off of her bill. The individually-packaged drinks would have been out as well, saving another $15. The volume of meat would not have been considered, but I eat a lot less meat then her and her roommate.

Instead of spending eight dollars on dishwashing liquid I spend $0.79 cents on a bar of Octagon soap, twice that if I want to stock up.

Instead of $19 on laundry detergent I spend maybe two bucks.


I am not dissing my friend:  I love her dearly and she has been there for me a lot over the years.  I watch her and I see myself just a few short years ago–spending, spending, spending.

I believe that seeing myself in her is what disturbed me the most, because I don’t like the free spender that I used to be.

It is so easy for us to become wrapped up in the world of buying stuff—just too easy. Now instead of working at a job where I’m constantly yelled at, in fear that I’ll feel the ax come the next layoff I make my own money here at home.

I want you, all of you to know that there is a better way of living.  You do NOT have to spend these obscene amounts of money to live and live well. Where is the enjoyment of a fancy house or car if you have to work all the time just to make the payments?

Would it not be soo much nicer to live a simpler life and have more time to do what YOU want to do?

It CAN be done, but the solution is not in a pill or a bottle or a book. 

The solution is within you.

Salad for Dinner

Breakfast this morning was half of the cantaloupe for the two of us, and dinner tonight was a salad. 

I grilled a chicken strip, added the salad mix, some of the cheese (grated), some black olives left over from last night, tossed in some croutons and added my dressing—it was heavenly! 

I am so stuffed however that is all I can think about—how good that meal was (and how cheap).

So that is officially three meals made from things I purchased last night—not bad for seven bucks!  There is still salad mix, cheese and cantaloupe left too!

The Subway Cheat

Yesterday ended up being an absolute dream. We did splurge on 2 ice cream cones from The Ice Cream Factory on 2nd street ($2.50 each but the portions were large and the quality was excellent).

The puppies even got a good long walk while Katie got to practice her skateboarding!

That was when we spied the Subway advertisement. 

We love Subway sandwiches because of the ability to get so many veggie toppings so easily. If you want extra they are happy to pile it on—a great treat for those of us who love lots of veggies!

Instead of giving in to the ad and visiting that veggie mecca we went to Wal-Mart and gathered a couple of things to make our OWN Hero sandwiches plus a little more.

Cantaloupe $1.50
Salad Mix $1.50
Chunk Colby/Jack $3.74
Budding Honey Ham $0.58
Budding Honey Ham $0.58
Subtotal $7.86
Total $7.86

So for less than the cost of a meal at Subway we got breakfast for 2 or more days (Cantaloupe), lettuce for our sandwich plus salad for the week (salad mix) and cheese to last for a week or so besides being used on our sandwiches!

We took this home and added some jalapeno slices, pickles, onion, black olives, mayo, bread and chips to make sandwiches that Katie declared were “better than Subway.” I know mine was—I used flour tortillas instead of bread for a different taste!

There used to be a time when we would have purchased a bigger pack of lunch meat instead of the individual packs because the price per ounce was less.  I have learned the hard way that this is a waste in our family—the remaining lunch meat goes bad before we think to eat it! Much better to pay a little more per unit (buying much less) and using all of it than paying less per unit but buying more of an item that will rot in your refrigerator! The packages of meat were over three dollars each, so we would have wasted around two bucks on one of those!

Some may say that buying the salad mix wasn’t “green.” Here’s the deal: I can buy a salad mix for $1.50 and it will all be eaten, or I can pay $1.68 for a head of lettuce that will turn brown before we use it all, because to have a salad we would have to purchase other veggies to go with it so it would have only gotten used for those single sandwiches. To me it makes more sense to pay for what I know will get used than to be “green” and buy things I know will not.

It is time to cut the cantaloupe for breakfast this morning so I had better head out.  Have a nice day!

Life Without a Refrigerator?

I stumbled upon an article about people living without a refrigerator. This is an interesting thought, and I have wondered if personally I should exchange my fridge for a small chest freezer and a cooler.

I don’t plan on making any drastic changes, but it makes sense when you freeze more than you actually chill.  Most of what is in my refrigerator currently is just filler that I wouldn’t refrigerate otherwise, but I needed a place to stick it.

What do you think?  Could you or do you already live without a refrigerator?

Grocery Shopping

I went to the Kroger today and spent $18.00.  This bought:

  • Gallon of milk
  • Gallon of ice cream
  • Box of generic grape nuts
  • Bag of almonds
  • Cole Slaw mix
  • 2 pot pies
  • Stauffer’s lasagna box

The ice cream was a treat since I’ve been craving it lately, and the little box of lasagna will make me 2 meals for a lot less than I can cook a big batch.  Same goes for the pot pies.

Normally I would not have purchased the pot pies or the lasagna (or even the ice cream) but some times you need to splurge at least a little. 

One thing I did NOT get was a 2-liter of soft drink.  I love soft drinks but the prices are getting stupid so I’ll drink water, iced tea or koolaid – I can even whip up some lemonade if I want, but I’m not giving them $1.75 for a bottle of sugar water when I can make that at home for pennies, I don’t care how much I like that stuff!

I’m low on eggs but the best deal they had was on the 2-1/2 dozen of the small eggs for 3-something.  I can go to Sam’s Club and spend about the same money and get 2 18-packs of large eggs instead.  Since I’ll be in the area over the weekend I plan to do just that.

I would normally go to Wal-Mart for this small amount but the price difference on ice cream was significant.  I can get a gallon of ice cream for less than $4 at Kroger or go across the street and spend almost $8. There wasn’t enough of a price difference on the other items to justify going to another store for these few things.

I wandered around the store a bit, just looking at the stuff they have for sale there.  All the selection of shampoos and cleaners… it really amazes me, especially the cleaner section.  Bottles and bottles of cleaners containing ammonia or bleach selling for over five dollars each, while their primary components sell nearby for only a dollar or two. Gizmos and gadgets galore, all ready and calling out to be purchased—it is just sad.

Sad indeed that we have to work so hard to fill the pockets of those stupid corporations!

I’m talking to my sister about featuring her on this blog.  She lives on a disability check of six hundred-something, out of which she pays rent on a house.  She still manages to pay her bills even with this small income so I have put her to work writing down some tips to share here.

When she gets done I’ll feature her income, expenses and frugal tips.  I want this blog to be an inspiration to those who are living on small incomes, to show that you CAN make it.  Even those who are not living on small incomes may benefit from the information.

I would like to set some pages aside for specific frugal tips, but I’m not exactly sure how to classify them.  Perhaps split them up by the rooms of a house?  Living room tips on this page, bathroom tips here, kitchen here… what do YOU think?

“Food Revolution” Makes Financial Sense

The talk of America seems to be Jamie Oliver’s quest to make America’s schoolchildren—even America itself—eat healthier.

He serves up chicken, foccacia, stir frys, and various exotic dishes that some have never heard of, and as a result meets criticism at every turn.

What foods did you grow up eating? I grew up eating homemade hamburgers topped with green onions out of the garden, pork chops with real mashed potatoes mixed in with corn dogs and bologna along with a variety of convenience foods my parents decided to try.

Today a staple of my diet is some variety of stir-fry mixed with rice fresh from the rice cooker.  That same rice is used to make breakfasts with milk and cinnamon—or even rice pudding when we have a lot of eggs!

Pancakes, biscuits and dinner rolls are from scratch these days as I discovered that the homemade varieties tasted better than the mixes and pre-made stuff you find at the store. Snacks range from splurging on inexpensive ice cream to homemade oatmeal muffins or cupcakes—even upside-down pudding cake whenever the craving hits!

My daughter loves vegetables as a result, frequently requesting her favorite food—broccoli. She loves home made chili and can eat a skillet full of corn bread in an afternoon if allowed!

It is easy to grab a pizza or nuke a burrito. It definitely makes for less dirty dishes! One thing I have noticed is that we spend a lot less on our simpler meals than we do when we eat out or hit the convenience section of the grocery.

The hard part is finding a cook book that actually has recipes from scratch inside.  I stumbled upon my first one, but now I tend to aim for older cookbooks if I’m in search of a new recipe.

Take beans, for instance.  Soak a cup of beans overnight in some water, drain the water and add fresh, then cook the next day until done. You can add meat if you like—we honestly prefer it without—a couple of pieces of onion, a little salt and pepper—viola!  You have cooked a big hearty meal for pennies!  Take a cup of corn meal (not the cornbread mix), add a cup of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 eggs, a cup of milk and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil or shortening—mix this together and pour into a greased pan like a skillet or a cake pan and bake in a 350F oven until done (about 30 minutes but look for the top to start cracking to be sure). A toothpick will come out clean when it is ready to serve.  Add a couple of teaspoons of sugar for a treat the kids will love, or leave it out for traditional corn bread.

A meal like that costs very little and is quite filling.  You can eat and eat on something like that and not worry about your hips spreading!

Of course, you can’t eat beans every day, so mix it up with other things, but if you just start with one meal a week you will start saving money and gradually begin to eat healthier and feel healthier.

Jamie was appalled at all of the junk food he saw in that ladies’ home—how much would he find in yours, and how much did you spend on that?

Busy Day

Today I stirred up the batch of liquid laundry soap I started yesterday and added more water. This bucket is pretty close to five gallon size, so when I dilute this in a 50:50 solution for the final product I should get close to 10 gallons from the mix. This batch of liquid is thicker than my last batch, I’m guessing cause this time I used Ivory soap instead of the Dial I had on hand for my last batch of liquid. Reminder: always use Ivory when you are making a mild laundry soap. The rest is just detergent.

I have also started an experiment: to make hand and dishwashing liquid. I grated a bar of Ivory to melt in water, stirring in a spoon of washing soda to soften the water and help with grease. This was poured into a gallon container and labeled. I plan to try it when I do dishes shortly. I am in hopes this mixture will not only do well for dishes but for those foaming hand soap containers as well–but I just filled them up today so it will be a while before I can test that theory. I also have a bit of antibacterial hand soap left that I need to use up.

Since I am down to 4 bars of cured Ivory soap I purchased a 10-pack at Wal Mart for $4.19. I unwrapped the bars, noticing as I did that the paper wrapping seems a touch thinner than what was on my last batch. They were definitely fresh, for the wax paper wrapping was almost damp and stuck to the bars in some places. I put some of the new bars in my sock holder and my pant basket to perfume them a bit with the curing soap. It will take a while for those bars to cure well and until then I have the four bars to use.

I also purchased a box of Arm And Hammer Washing Soda at the local Kroger. Price for a 3.5 pound box was $2.99. It is so nice to be near a big city! Last year when I started making laundry soap I had to go all over in the tiny town I was in and ended up paying nine dollars for swimming pool ph-increaser (sodium carbonate, a.k.a. washing soda). This greatly reduces the expense of the cleaners I make, though I must admit that 2 pound container of washing soda is still going strong. I want to take a picture of the box for an article I plan to write, and also wanted to vote with my money for the store to keep stocking that item.

I made a roast tonight with a piece of beef that had been marked down, adding a can of cream of mushroom soup (purchased last summer on sale), some vegetables, and a package of onion soup mix I got at one of those salvage groceries that sell damaged goods and stuff. It was soo good!

Anyhow, time to wash dishes and test out this liquid soap.

A Simple Breakfast

For those days you want something quick and simple, try a smoothie. The simplest versions are composed of simply a cup of milk and a cup of fruit tossed in a blender, while the more elaborate include a cup of ice as well.

This can be any type of fruit or a combination – just whatever you have available. This morning we took a can of pineapple, some ice, a cup of milk and a bit of powdered milk to make it richer and tossed it in the blender. In less than a minute my daughter and I are eating a fruity breakfast, and I didn’t have to beg her to try it!

We made ours as a late breakfast, but you can make this any time you need a quick pick-me-up. Make this with soymilk and it would be dairy-free, and it is naturally caffeine-free.

Do you have any favorite smoothie recipes to share? Post them in the comments for all of us to enjoy!

Homemade Donuts?

Good evening!

Katie came home in good spirits today, talking of Yu-Gi-Oh cards she trades with her friends. Surprisingly, she played at my feet and in the living room for most of the evening without even asking to get on the computer to check her Webkins or watch a show!

I finished a book entitled Affluenza, which was a wonderful companion to the movie they released a few years ago. If you ever stumble upon it at your local library check it out.

Rummaged through my cabinets and found a can of pumpkin pie mix, so I found a simple pie crust recipe and made a pie. Katie was delighted, and ate all of her dinner in exchange for a piece of pie. Of course, my crust wasn’t as pretty as those in the store (the crust recipe didn’t quite make enough crust to do fancy edges on my 9.5-inch deep dish pan) but that’s okay. Next time I’ll know to make a double batch and use the leftover crust to make monkey bread!

My sister has stumbled upon what she considers a great inexpensive treat: home fried donuts using ready-made biscuit dough. She says she makes a hole in the center and fries them in a bit of hot oil and sprinkles them with powdered sugar, only frying what she will eat and saving the rest of the can of dough in the fridge. Considering that a can of biscuit dough costs about a dollar and makes 8 fresh donuts but a dozen of stale donuts costs $2.50 on the clearance rack, she does have a point.

I don’t feel like running to the store yet so I’m going to look in my cookbook to see if I have the ingredients to make some donuts from scratch without buying biscuit dough. If I could make a batch but only fry them as wanted, we would have a fresh treat on occasion without having to eat a large amount of donuts before they get hard…

Anyhow, the dishes are washed and I am beat. Goodnight for now!


Tonight I watched my daughter enjoy watching the season of The Saddle Club that she checked out from the library today. She watched every single episode, and one episode twice!

We went to Sam’s Club to purchase potatoes, yeast, baking soda, brown gravy mix, vinegar and some meat. Total bill was $36 and change. Not bad for what we got. Everything but the potatoes and meat will last for a long time, some of it over a year. That may seem strange to stock up like that while trying to simplify but I consider it that many less grocery trips we will have to make – and the items won’t go bad if stored properly. As for brown gravy mix, I cannot make that from scratch worth anything or I would – and four dollars for a container that will make several gallons is a whole lot better price to pay than a dollar for a little pack that only makes two cups!

I have kept to the goal I mentioned earlier, so in the morning I will awaken to a clean kitchen. I also managed to wrap the windows in the living room with the bubble wrap, sealing off a decent-sized air leak around the air conditioner. A quilt has been hung up over the door leading to the back room to seal it off better, and in a few days I will care for the windows in that back room. It isn’t that cold yet, so no point in stressing and getting in a big hurry to finish.

I have turned the thermostat down to below 60F for the evening, and am preparing to snuggle down for the night. The kid is already in bed and I am enjoying the silence. Shortly she will be back in school and life will be back to “normal.” – I will miss having her around, but will also be glad to have my quiet time back again.


Wants, Needs, and Urges

I want a vegetable peeler. I don’t NEED one. In fact, I haven’t owned one since I gave the one I inherited from my mother away years ago…

I never could figure out how to use it, so out of my home it went… but now I am thinking that perhaps one may be useful for the larger volume of vegetables I handle at this point in my life..

I currently use a knife for all of my peeling needs. Why can’t I just continue doing so? What is this sudden obsession for a new gadget? Is it just an obsession, or would it actually come in handy?

I honestly don’t know. I wish I did, for this is frustrating.

Until I get this urge under control I need to stay away from the stores. I do not like inpulsive purchases.

For now, I will get out my handy-dandy paring knife and peel some potatoes for breakfast. Ahh, potatoes and eggs.

Life doesn’t get any better than this!

How to Tenderize Meat Without a Gadget

If you have ever dealt with a tough piece of meat, you know it can be frustrating. The temptation is high to buy that hammer especially designed to tenderize that piece.

You don’t have to. In fact, you already have something in your kitchen that will tenderize that cut of meat just as well as a mallet. It’s called a plate.

Yes, the average run-of-the-mill ceramic plate. Turn it on it’s side and it becomes the perfect weapon against meat toughness!

I sprinkle my meat with a bit of tenderizer on each side before tapping it multiple times with the side of one of my plates. In the picture I use a saucer cause it’s smaller and easier for me to manage, but any type of plate or saucer will do, provided it’s solid and not plastic or paper. Then again, some of the more solid plastic plates may work as well!

Just whack on that tough piece of meat with the edge of a plate until you think it is good and tender all over. I enjoy taking out any frustrations so mine get beat up pretty bad, flipping mine over a couple of times just to make sure I’m done!

Remember whenever you think you need a new gadget – you may have something already at home that will already do the job, sometimes even better than that shiny new thingy at the store. One less thing cluttering up your drawers, and a bit more money in your pocket!


The Vegetable Garden

In today’s world of mass-market food fluff there is a small blip on the radar. That blip is the vegetable garden. If done right, a small garden can provide a wonderful service to our budget as well as a fresh and healthy taste to our palette.

It isn’t an instant thing, however. A large number of us (myself included) grew up thinking that the only healthy food came from cans, boxes and restaurants. When confronted with plants covered in squash, tomatoes, peppers we wonder just how do we transform these things into the products we are accustomed to?

The fact is, in a lot of cases we can’t unless we want to spend more on specialized equipment and high-fructose corn syrup than the item is worth! Instead we have to learn other ways of eating our food.

I remember the first year my parents put out a garden. I helped plant, weed and harvest but when it came to the actual eating of the food I balked.

“Daad,” I whined. “I can’t eat that stuff. It’s not sanitary!“

My father was at a loss until he realized my dilemma: I had been taught that in order to make food safe it had to be processed just so by the manufacturers. He solved the issue by pulling up a carrot, dusting it off and taking a bite before offering it to me.

It still took well into adulthood for me to realize the whole world fresh vegetables could open.

If you have a grill, then you are ahead of the game. Instead of concentrating on meats when you grill out, why not add some vegetables to the mix?

Squash, zucchini, peppers and other vegetables can be grilled easily. Just slice, coat with olive oil and grill. The flavor experience is one you won’t forget.

Another simple way to grill vegetables is to slice whatever vegetables you have – squash, zucchini, onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes – just whatever and place them in an aluminum foil pouch with butter and a generous sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Close the pouch and grill for fifteen to 20 minutes depending upon the size of the pouch for a heavenly veggie treat. My picky ten year old loves when I fix vegetables in this manner! Experiment with different seasonings for a wonderful treat!

If you have tomatoes try a southern classic: fried green tomatoes. Slice some green tomatoes thin (1/4 inch or so thick), rinse and dip in some milk. Then take the slices and coat them with a half and half mixture of cornmeal and flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and fry in a skillet with oil (or a deep fryer if you have one) for a couple of minutes or until done.

If you have a surplus of vegetables, try dehydrating them to use in soups and stews during the winter. It doesn’t take a lot of preparation and they make for a real treat in the winter.

For more recipes, check out the following websites.

Here is a website that covers tomatoes from planting to harvest and beyond. It contains multiple recipes for use and preservation of this wonderful fruit.

This website gives one various recipes for the wonderful sweet or bell pepper.

Here also is a site covering summer squash and zucchini.

I hope these tips will help you to lead a simpler life by reducing the path food takes to reach your table.

Happy eating!

Grocery Dilemma

Today the need arose to restock some perishables, so off I went to the grocery.

Pork loin was $1.69 a pound, but only if you bought the mega family size packs. The next best price? $2.99 a pound.

Such a dilemma. Do I purchase several pounds of a food we don’t eat regularly? Package it, freeze it, hope to skate through any power outages and maybe eat all of it before it succumbs to freezer burn? Or do I pay over a dollar a pound more for a lot less – with no repackaging, no refreezing, no concerns about power outages and no fears it will go bad before it is gone?

When my two oldest children were home, it would have been a no-brainer, but with just myself and one little girl…

I chose the smaller pack. That pack has enough for two meals of pork chops, so one meal may get frozen after all. However, there is no danger of a single extra meal going bad before we eat it – our current refrigerator is a small one so there are no places for food to hide and be forgotten.

For us, that choice was the simpler one, despite the fact that the per-pound price was more. Simpler in that there is very little repackaging. Simpler in being less to store. Simpler in being less to worry about this winter when the power outages hit. For each one of us, there is a different path on the way to simplicity. Where has your path taken you?