Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Foaming Soap

This super easy way to save money! I love Dawn Direct Foam dish soap so I went to my good friend Pinterest to find a way to keep my foaming dish soap while saving money and I found exactly what I was looking for!

So here is the deal:
You will have to buy the real thing once because you need the direct foam pump bottle. Then, instead of buying the refills buy whatever scent of regular dawn dish soap you like (actually, it doesn't have to be Dawn brand that is just what I did because I had some on hand). Fill the empty direct foam container about 1/3 of the way full with the soap, then fill to the fill line with water. Make sure that you do not have the water on pressure too high because you don't want to fill the bottle with bubbles. Use a knife to gently stir as to not create bubbles. Once you feel it is mixed well put the direct foam pump top back on and poof! No literally, push the pump and poof comes the foam!

I just tried this one out and was SUPER happy to see that I will be saving money!! 
Here is how much money:

30.9 fl oz for $5.64 at Walmart
This will refill the 13.5 oz Direct Foam pump bottle 2.28 times, that makes it about $2.47 per refill. Side note: Why 2.28 refills in a bottle, Dawn? Why not an even 2? Just curious...

56 fl oz for $5.64
This will make about 12 refills for the 13.5 oz  bottle. That makes it about .47 cents per refill! That saves $2 per refill! I know you probably only refill it 6-10 times a year (depending on how much you hand wash) but every dollar counts and if we find other ways to save, it WILL add up!

In other awesome foaming soap news:
According to The Frugal Girls, you can do the same thing to make foaming hand soap, which my kids seem to think makes hand washing much more fun. And stretches those refills to save cash! I am going to buy some hand soap foaming pump bottles tomorrow! ;)

One more random use for Dawn:

While I am on the subject of Dawn soap, I want to share a super cool trick my hubby found last year. If your dogs have fleas, bathe them with regular Dawn soap. The fleas will literally flee. The soap kills them on the spot. Start at your doggie's head/neck and work your way down because the fleas will try to run for "high ground". Maybe we are weird around my house, but we think it is fun to watch the fleas run and get all washed off. We were SHOCKED at how many there were! EWW! Dang Houston flea infestation!

Happy foamy cleaning! ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Homemade cream of anything!

This is so amazing! I have come across several things in my diy, save money, live healthy journey that have made me think "THIS is my favorite thing I have done so far!" My top 3 I think are the homemade baby wipes, soap scum cleaner, and this: Cream of ___________ substitute. I happened to see it on Pinterest and like most things, I had it pinned for a good month or two (or three...) before I got around to actually reading it.

I have several favorite recipes that call for cream of mushroom, cream of chicken or tomato soup. This pin claimed that it is better for you and "wayyyyyy cheaper" so I decided to be brave and go for it. My blog motto is "trial and error", if I never try it, I'll never know. So, over the past 2 weeks I have tried all 3.

It has been amazing!

So they all have the same basic recipe that you tweak for each. Here is the "basic" White Sauce:
First, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan (I have used salted, unsalted, & margarine; all have worked). When is is melted, add 3 tablespoons flour (I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a dash of pepper. Whisk and cook over medium heat until it bubbles. Then slowly add 1 1/4 cup of liquid (different for each). Add is slowly while whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Cook, while whisking, until it thickens.

Okay, so when I first read that I thought that it sounded like it might be hard and take a long time, but I was very wrong. It was SO easy! 

First I will cover the Cream of Chicken  I used it to make a family favorite: Chicken Pot Pie (recipe here). My husband said "this is better than the canned kind" That made me feel like I had won an Olympic medal. I almost gave a speech.

Make the basic white sauce but add 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning to the flour mixture. For your liquid use 1 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of milk. One thing to know about this one is that you can use all chicken broth and no milk (use 1 1/4cup). I just used the milk because I was worried it would not be creamy enough.

Next moving on to Cream of Mushroom OH MY GOSH! This was so good that I licked the saucepan! I used it to make another family favorite that I grew up calling Cattleclatterhash (recipe here).

While the butter is melting add 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms to saute. Add the flour mixture as usual and use milk as your liquid. One tip for this one: you can't buy just 1/4 mushrooms, but you can cut all of them up and freeze them to get out 1/4 cup each time you need them. :) I have tried this and it works just fine.

Now on to Tomato Soup. I originally made this for another family casserole we call One Dish Dinner (recipe here).  I later just made it as soup for me and my son to have with grilled cheese for lunch one day. Put to the husband test, it was good in the casserole but had a stronger tomato juice taste than canned tomato soup when eaten by itself.

This one is simple. Make the white sauce but use tomato juice as your liquid. You can buy those little 6 pack cans of juice and use 2 cans.

Health run down: well, there are 3 tablespoons of butter so you know there must be more calories than in the canned stuff (you would be right) but the good thing is, you know exactly what is in it, less processing and less sodium.

Also, yes, it is cheaper. The math is of course different for each one, depending on the ingredients. One box of stick butter will make this 10 times. I am feeling to lazy to figure out how many tablespoons my 5lb bag of flour is, but the cost of the flour needed is most likely pennies. For the mushrooms. I bought a little thing of fresh ones and chopped them up and froze them in in snack bags that had 1/4 cup in each so that I could get a package out when I needed it. I got 6 servings out of it and then used the rest for pizza toppings. :) For the tomato juice, I bought a 6 pack of juice which ended up being $1.32 per soup mix. I am sure there is a cheaper way to buy tomato juice so I am going to work on that one.

Anyway, I thought these were delicious. You can find instructions for cream of celery and chive soup in addition to these at this blog. It is the same as the the cream of mushroom except with celery or chives instead of mushrooms. Hope you enjoy!

Three Recipes

These recipes go with my Homemade Cream of Whatever post. They are all simple recipes that my family enjoys. I am not and do not claim to be a master chef. My goal is simply getting my kids to eat dinner without complaining! :)

Chicken Pot Pie
I have actually made this for other people and they all seem to love it. 
The secret is... it is SO easy.

1 can of chicken
1 can cream of chicken (or the alternative in this post)
1 bag of frozen mixed veggies
1 box of pie crust (comes with 2)

I am hoping to eventually master making whole wheat pie crust, but after 2 epic fails I am going to have to have someone actually SHOW me how. Anyway, mix all of the ingredients. Put the first pie crust down in the pie dish. Fill. Put the other crust on top and seal the sides. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes if thawed, longer if frozen. (Until it is golden brown) This is a great, simple "freezer meal" too. AND it gets my whole family to not only eat all of their veggies, but ask for seconds! It is magic!

This is one I ate growing up. My mom got the recipe from my grandfather (my dad's dad) who I did not get to meet because he passed away before I was born. We have had lots of fun with his "cattleclatterhash" though. My mom used to make us say it before we could eat it and now that I have kids I o the same thing sometimes. It is quite amusing! :)

1lb ground beef
1 cup dry macaroni noodles
1 can cream of mushroom (or the alternative in this post)
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon chili powder
onion or onion flakes (to taste)
shredded cheese

Brown the beef. Drain grease and add the onion, chili powder, and tomato sauce. Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes. If you prefer the stove you can just simmer it for a few minutes. Most of the recipes I have from my mom have been converted to how you make it in the microwave because she hates cooking and microwaves were all the rage in her early married days. ;) Love you mom! Okay, back to cooking....
Cook and drain the noodles and mix with the beef mixture. Top with cream of mushroom and then cheese. Put the lid on and microwave long enough to melt the cheese. Enjoy!

One Dish Dinner
This is another one that I got from, my mom and I only know how to make it in the microwave. This is one that not only I grew up eating, but my mom did too. The name "one dish dinner" is a bit deceiving though because unless you are a veggie hating bachelor, you are going to want a side dish or two.

1lb ground beef
8oz wide egg noodles
5 slices of sandwich cheese
onions or onion flakes to taste

Brown meat with onion. Drain. Place UNCOOKED noodles on top. Cover with the cheese so that you cannot see the noodles. You will have to do patchwork with the cheese. Pour the tomato soup on top then a can (or cup) of water on top. Pour the water slowly so that you don't wash away all of the soup. Cover microwave for 5 minutes. Now take it out and use a spoon to push the noodles down into the water a bit and microwave a few more minutes. Repeat until the noodles are soft. Then you will see why my sister and I referred to this as "the orange noodle stuff" when we were kids.

I hope that you and your family enjoy these. Don't forget to read my post on the alternatives to the soups!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Supermom. Why do we do this to ourselves?

"You are like Supermom."

That is a phrase that I never pictured someone saying to me. It even took me a minute to process. Did she really say that? But tonight at a MOPS dessert night I went to, it really did happen. After the surprise, I started thinking "wow, me? Supermom? What a dream come true! Someone thinks I am a Supermom!"  Shortly after this amazing phrase was said to me I had to hop in my car to head home in time to nurse my littlest before bed.

Sometimes when I get the chance to be in the car alone I like to turn the radio off and just be alone in the silence because let's be honest, silence is not a sound that moms hear very often. Suddenly, I am alone in my thoughts "Supermom. Wow. I used to think of Mary (I am going to make these names up) or Becky as supermom and be jealous and wish I could be like that. I remember even crying about it when I was feeling a  little postpartum after my 2nd baby was born and feeling like I was not a good enough mom." 

Then God came into the conversation...."And how did that make you feel?" 

Oh dear, there goes my "supermom" high. That did not make me feel great at all. In fact, I went through a really hard time thinking that God shouldn't have even given me a second child because I just couldn't do it, it was too hard. Too exhausting. She was too fussy and her big brother was into everything and I just was not patient enough. Then I would look at the supermoms I saw around me and think "I should be like that." 

God joins in again "And today? Were you supermom today?"

Hmmmm.... Well let's see... I started my day off struggling with a really bad attitude, having a pity party about a couple of things going on in my life right now. A commitment I made even though I didn't really want to, bills piling up with the car breaking down and family members needing dental work, etc. Whine, whine, whine. Then God reminded me that I have WAY too many blessings in my life to be whiny so I resolved to be more grateful and less whiny. 

Then I hear the kids fighting in their room. Sigh. Not a good way to start the day. I break that one up. Shortly after that, another fight ensues. And then I yell at them. UGH, I hate when I yell. That certainly doesn't feel very supermom-ly. What is the deal this morning they don't usually wake up this grumpy? Okay moving on...

We have 40 minutes to get ready and get out the door for my son's dentist appointment. He has to have a cavity drilled. Yes my 5 year old has a cavity. THAT makes me feel like a terrible mom. In the next 40 minutes I had to change the baby twice due to spit up and my 3 year old daughter twice due to spilled milk (don't worry I didn't cry) and a little bathroom situation that involved her not getting her skirt out of the way enough. I was very frustrated at her and I made sure she knew it. I hate mornings that require rushing. It never fails that I get stressed out and end up yelling or talking meanly to one or both of my older kids. Finally we get out the door and make it on time.

Fast forward though a mostly successful day of laundry, home school (where everyone had great attitudes today) to dinner time. I like to cook, but only when my hubby is home to watch the kids. Today he was not home. This resulted in the kids getting into things, me getting frustrated, me yelling (again, I hate that I yell) and finally everyone sitting down to dinner. Literally the second I sit down to eat, the baby wakes up screaming and my hubby is not home yet because he had a meeting on the other side of town so I got wrangle a baby while eating and watching my 3 year old daughter forgo the fork to eat with her hands. She actually dissected the green beans and only ate the little bean parts from the middle, but hey she technically ate green beans, so I decide to be satisfied, but I do give her a hard time about the mess that she makes every time she eats.

So, the parts of my day that are sticking out most to me right now are me getting frustrated and yelling, oh and the dishes piled in my sink and laundry piled in my living room. Not feeling so supermom anymore....

"But, but, she said..."

So what would make her say that? I do get a lot of things done. I work 15 hours a week from home. I home school. I try lots of home made cleaners and things. I cook. I blog. I have 3 kids, that has to count for something! Okay, so I am pretty good at time management with my obsessive compulsive Excel spreadsheet schedule (true story, people). Okay the women that I have looked at as supermoms in the past, what has made me think that? Well, one of them is always going and doing fun things with her kids. The zoo, parks, splash pads. Her kids have tons of fun. And the other mom, well, she is so creative coming up with these cool fun learning activities for her kids to do. Oh and this other friend, does these great bible studies with her kids and is SO good at showing them God in everything they do. 

Then it hit me. We all have different gifts or talents. None of us are Supermom. If we were, we wouldn't understand our need for God and his amazing grace. I yelled at my kids today because I was frustrated, but they forgave me and so did God. After all, He is the one that gently convicted me about it and lead me to apologize to my kids. I may get a lot done, but it is only because God gave me the gift of time management. I say that loosely because there are plenty of things I forget about and let slip through the cracks. We all fail, but we all have the same gift of forgiveness being offered to us by our Savior.

My first thought at being called "Supermom" may have been, "what a dream come true" but now my thought is "I have them fooled. I have to tell them the truth." 

I don't want anyone ever to look at me and think "I wish I were more like her" I have done that so many times when looking at some of the amazing women in my life and it is painful. Why do we do this to ourselves?

God does not call us to be someone that others call "Supermom". God does not call us to live so that others give us glory. I want to live in a way that gives HIM glory. When I succeed, it is because HE helped me. When I fail, HE forgives me. When I compare myself to the "Supermoms" I see, HE reminds me that it is not my peers that I am to strive to be like. It is Jesus. If there is one thing that I want people to look at me and see, it is a sinner saved by grace, doing my best to be the woman that God calls me to be. I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.

So now you know the truth. ;)

Thank you Lord, for not letting me become prideful. Thank you for gently reminding me that I need You everyday.

Cornflake Chicken, Potato Curls, and Green Beans

Here is a random food/recipe post for you! :)

In my mind there are 3 categories of dinners: Healthy, Cheap to cook, and Just Plain Yummy. When an item falls into all 3 of those categories it is really a favorite, but sometimes it only fits in one or two of these. Tonight's dinner has 3 items. Cornflake chicken, is pretty cheap to make (especially with store brand cornflakes), pretty healthy b/c it is baked not fried, and yummy. The green beans I make are all of the above too. The potatoes on the other hand, lean strongly into the just plain yummy category since they require a cup of cheese, bacon, and half a stick of butter, but let's live a little.

Cornflake Chicken

  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 2 cups Cornflake crumbs
  • 1 T water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Paprika
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the chicken. Whisk together the eggs and tablespoon of water. Mix the cornflake crumbs, paprika and olive oil in a separate bowl. Now dip the chicken in the egg, then coat in the cornflake mixture. Next, put the chicken in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until done)

Potato Curls
This is a Celebrating Home Bean Pot Recipe

  • 4 Potatoes Peeled (optional) and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onions chopped
  • 4-5 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled OR 4 T real bacon pieces
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 stick melted butter

Place the potatoes in an oven safe dish with a lid (I use my stoneware bean pot or casserole dish). Mix all other ingredients and spread over potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Simple, Yummy Green Beans

I use frozen green beans. I am a big fan of frozen veggies b/c they are picked and flash frozen at the peak of their nutrition and they last much longer than fresh. When I start my garden this fall, I am hoping to have enough to freeze some veggie for later use. 

 Anyway, I just put them in a skillet with a lid, put a little olive oil (like a tablespoon and a half-ish) and seasoned salt on them and cook on medium heat, covered, stirring often until they are done. 

And there you have it, our yummy dinner!
 Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Drano Alternative

I don't know about you, but it seems we are constantly having to buy Drano. Part of the problem is that our shower/tub drains do not have the little grate to catch hair. You know how you lose a lot of hair right after having a baby? I swear we were using Drano every other week! We also have a couple of sinks that were draining slow lately so I decided to give a homemade option a try! 

It is SO simple! Here is what you need:
Baking Soda, Vinegar and a measuring cup

Here is what you do:
If your drain has a stopper like this, twist it until you get it off. If you don't it will be MUCH harder to get this stuff down the drain.

 Add 1/2 cup of baking soda. See how I poured it a little to fast so it didn't go down? Whoops. If that happens just do this:

You need to get as much of it as possible down the drain. I used tweezers the first time and a wooden skewer the second time to poke it down in there, but just use whatever you can find that fits to help work the baking soda down.
After you get as much down as possible replace the stopper so that you will be able to close the drain. Like this:

Now for the fun part :) Seriously, gather the children this is cool. It made me feel like a mad scientist...

 Pour in 1/2 cup of vinegar

It will fizz up like this. Unclogging your drain now qualifies as an entertaining science experiment for your kids! ;)

Close the drain when you pour it and wait for the fizzing to chill out a bit. This step basically eats up what bit of baking soda is in the sink so that the rest of the vinegar can go down easily to react to the vinegar in the pipes below instead of just what it in the sink. When the fizz looks more like a glass of sprite, open the drain allowing the vinegar to go down and when it is all down, close the drain.
Leave the drain closed for 15 minutes.

 Now flush it down with hot tap water. I will admit when the sink filled up with water from turning the faucet on high, I thought I had just wasted my time, my vinegar and my baking soda. Then I heard a bubble noise and the whole sink drained!
And now it is draining like a charm! WooHoo!

Price Comparison:
Drano: $3.98 at Walmart
Homemade: About 50 cents!!

If this does not work on the first try, you should consider using a plumbing snake to push or pull out the clog. We had to do this on our tub/shower because of the massive amount of my hair that was in it. I am hoping that now that it is clear I can just use my homemade drain solution at the first hint of slow flow to keep it that way. 

So, I wrote this after the first time that I did this but wanted to do it a couple more times before posting so that I could have more tips on how to do this best. Most important thing I have learn is that it is easiest to pour the baking soda down when the drain is dry and do it SLOWLY. Do not dump the whole 1/2 cup down at once. Dump a little, make sure it goes down, use a wooden skewer or something that shape to knock it down, then pour some more. 

Another thing, when you take the stopper part off, if you can see hair (or in my kids' tub hair and grass, ew) go ahead and pull it out if you can with a wooden skewer or screwdriver or whatever you can find. It will stay unclogged longer if you pull that stuff up instead or push it down. 

I have found that doing this is not only cheaper than the store bought solutions, it works better. We had gotten to the point in our shower that we were having to clean it out WAY too often. The pulling the hair out is gross but makes a massive difference no matter what you use. 

**Random tidbit***
I just saw on Pinterest that instead of getting helium balloons for birthday parties you can use baking soda and vinegar! Put baking soda in a bottle, pour vinegar in a balloon, then seal the balloon over the mouth of the bottle and stand it up pouring the vinegar from the balloon to the bottle and it blows up the balloon!! How cool is that?
**Update: really bummed to find out that this does NOT make balloons that float. Darn you Pinterest! I guess it turns out you CAN'T trust everything you read on the internet. ;) However if you want to blow a balloon up in a cool way, click here for instructions.