Saturday, December 10, 2016

Skimming, Scooping, Rinsing, Slanting, Slamming and Other Ways to Stretch Your Budget

     We're dogsitting this weekend: Brody and his buddies are hanging out with Charley and Abs. One of the dogs is a little terrier, something we would call a "yipey dog," for obvious reasons. To my great amusement, 'Izzy' has taken a huge liking to the Brick. They've probably snuggled together right now, watching the Army/Navy game. Go Navy!

No doubt Brody feels the same way...

    The single-digit temps are gone, and with them, most of the snow. But we have a new storm moving in on Tuesday. 
     I have been hustling to finish up some final business before Christmas preparations really kick in. The tree is in the house -- but laying on the floor. (Brody munched off a few branches, then fell asleep underneath. No matter.)

     Now that Christmas is rapidly moving in, and your checking account is decreasing accordingly, there are a few easy ways to make the money -- and your supplies -- go further. They're surprisingly easy, too.

Skimming:  This is especially helpful with protein sources, like ground or diced meat, roast chicken, etc. While you're cooking  your regular meal, skim off a soup ladle or large spoon's worth of meat. Or pull off a wing or thigh from the chicken. (Try one or two less slices of deli meat in your sandwich -- you won't even miss it.)
     Package this "free" meat for flavoring your next bean and/or soup meal. Good, and good for you.

Scooping:  Friends of ours were allergic to butter and dairy products. They scooped off the extra fat from chicken, and used it instead to bake, make pancakes, etc. I don't do this -- but I do siphon off the extra fat from frying bacon. It adds incredible flavor not only to refried beans, but a little in a stirfry, instead of oil, is delicious. (I've heard of another blogger who uses it for biscuits and gravy.)
     Another scoop idea: never ever leave food on your plate in a restaurant. Even if it's just a spoonful or two, scoop it into a doggy bag. Then use as filling for an omelet, or mixed into scrambled eggs the next morning -- delicious. I try hard not to finish fast food sandwiches, for the same reason: they make convenient snacks the next day. (In fact, I was munching on half a chalupa from Taco Bell while writing this post.)

     One final one:  Add 1/4 cup extra flour, plus a bit of water, to your drop cookie recipe. You'll get a few more cookies out of the batch, for just the price of the flour. (You can also replace one egg with an eggshell of water, instead. Try it -- it really works.)

Rinsing:  Was a good bit of that Alfredo sauce left on the plate after you finished the pasta? What about the butter sauce still in the pan after the veggies were eaten? Rinse these off and store in a jar for your next soup or stew...or literally 'rinse' them in the pot of broth you've got going. You'll be amazed at how much flavor this adds.
     Another possibility: the juice or syrup from frozen or canned fruit makes an excellent foundation for dessert sauces or more. Add some ice cubes, a spoonful of sugar and a cup of milk, plus any leftover fruit (a banana too, if you've got it) -- and voila, a 'free' smoothie.
     And the final 'rinse.' Buy whole milk  -- then add 2-4 cups water to the gallon as the amount goes down. Tastes far better than skim or 2%.

Slanting:  Have a few bits and pieces leftover from your meal? Especially with veggies and meat: cut them slantwise for the best distribution of flavor. (Stirfries do this all the time.) Now add them quietly to your next soup or stew; they'll blend right in. Or top a tortilla with them, plus a bit of cheese, for a quick quesadilla. (Bake at 450 degrees, about 5 min., until bubbling.) You won't waste anything. 

     Our chickens generally get leftover bread and desserts --- but if you don't have cluckers, collect that cookie here, those breadcrumbs there, crumble them, and add to  streusel coffee cake.

Streusel...yumm. From (The recipe above is, too.)

    Works for topping Dutch apple pie, as well as bar cookies that call for a crumbly topping.  It really stretches any much-more-expensive nuts in the mixture.
     These posts on bits & pieces, as well as using up leftovers, should be useful, if you want more practice with these concepts.    This blog is helpful, too.

Soup is always a great way to recycle bits and pieces.

      One final 'slant:' Many times, you can make maximum use of a smaller piece of wrapping paper by putting your item on diagonally. (I learned this from Amy Dacyzyn at the Cheapskate Gazette.) Bring all four corners up, diaper-wise, and tape in place.

Now slamming:  Slam the car door shut -- let the bus doors close -- and don't go to the store, even if you 'need' something. People take advantage of this during January's Pantry Challenge, me included, but there's no reason why you couldn't start early, or do it for at least a few days. (Or even a week or two.) This clears your refrigerator and shelves, minimizes food waste -- and adds some bucks to the coffer, right when you need them.
     The concept applies to other things too, like last-minute Christmas presents, goodies for neighborhood open houses, church 'white elephant' parties. What can you scavenge up on short notice?
     It's called making do with what you have. What this does is force you to be creative.

          *Can you substitute in cooking and baking? (Often you can.  I just recently discovered a terrific way to make powdered sugar, for example.)

          *Can you re-gift? A favorite Christmas ornament or plate. (Particularly if it's vintage.) A book or video you've treasured, along with a few packets of hot chocolate or microwave popcorn. Some item your friend has admired in the past. These make wonderful presents, when swathed in tissue and presented nicely.

          *How about a gift basket, instead? A jar of jam goes well with a French loaf you can make up easily. This year, a dear friend will get an Italian basket:  imported pasta (69 cents, from a sale I lucked onto), a jar of sauce (homemade, if I get the time -- or scavenged from selections purchased at the Friday/Saturday store), and some of that bread, along with a dollar video of La Traviata found at the library's used book room. (She's an opera freak.)
          I know she'll love it.

If I really must buy something, I often refer to Meredith's list of no-bake, no-craft ideas for a dollar or less. These are especially handy for multiple presents: the lemon-dill rice mix is here, by the way. (Don't miss the readers' comments, either. )
      It takes a little extra effort to use these ideas-- but not that much. And the savings will add up. You'll feel even better about it when the January bills start coming in.

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