Monday, March 29, 2010

Once a Month Cooking

(aka Freezer Cooking)

I just read about this and I love the idea. Basically you cook a bunch of food in one day, freeze it, then eat it throughout the month. This should save you time and money.

Save time: Instead of spending an hour or two every evening preparing supper, you set aside a day (or two) to do LOTS of cooking, assembling, and freezing. (It's just as easy to cook two chickens as it is to cook one. The same principle applies to hamburger meat, pork chops, and many other things.) Then you can just grab a meal from your freezer, thaw it, and pop it in the oven. This should free up some time each evening for you to play with your kids, talk with your husband, or read a book.

Save money: Almost always the unit price is cheaper when you buy in bulk. But if you throw half of the food out because it went bad before you could eat it all, you haven't saved any money by buying the economy-size package. With OAMC (once a month cooking), you can buy that 10-lb package of hamburger meat, knowing it'll be used to make meatballs, meatloaf, and spaghetti. You also won't have to order pizza or swing by the drive-thru for supper when you know you've got supper thawing in the fridge.

Even if I never get to the point where I have 30 meals in my freezer, I can use these ideas on a small scale to make my life a little easier. I can make a double batch of lasagne (or soup or chicken casserole, etc.) and freeze half of it. I think I'll try cooking and freezing a week's worth of meals and work my way up to a month. I'll have to see how many freezer-friendly recipes I have. I'm sure I'll have to add some new ones to my collection. I'll share them with you if I find some good ones.

In the meantime, here are a few websites to help you get started.
Once a Month Cooking World
Freezer Cooking

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reusing and Recycling in the Garden

Spring is here! (Although you couldn't tell it yesterday when it was snowing.) It's time to be gardening. I've been doing a little, but I hope to do more. I did get my tomato and pepper plants put in last week. I had to cover them up before the snow came, but they all survived. I use plastic milk jugs that have had their bottoms cut off to protect them. The plants are small enough that these work perfectly. I had these left from last year and will store them in case I need them next year. If they get crushed or ruined I can recycle them. I read about cutting them into strips to use as plant labels, but I haven't actually done it. I usually just plant my seeds, try to remember what I put where, and get a surprise when they sprout.

I use livestock panels to support my tomato plants. I've been using them for years and will be able to use them for years to come. I also use them for cucumbers, beans, and peas. I've also used cane poles that I cut beside the road to our property. I've used pantyhose with runs in them to tie the tomato plants to the panels, but I don't wear pantyhose much anymore so I usually use plain ol' twine.

I read about using egg shells to start seeds that dislike transplanting. I haven't tried this - I toss all my egg shells into my "compost bucket" - but I love the idea. I've used the peat pellets, but they didn't decompose as quickly as I expected. When you get ready to transplant your seedlings, you crush the egg shell a little (so the roots can grow), then plant the whole thing. What I don't know is how you water the seeds and seedlings while they're in the shells without drowning the little fellas.

Of course composting is a great way to recycle kitchen scraps. I keep a "compost bucket" on the counter by the sink. It's just a plastic bowl with a lid. I throw apple cores, egg shells, orange peels, etc. into the bowl, then dump the contents on my compost pile when it starts to get full.

How do you reuse and recycle in your garden?

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Love Homeschool

Some people weigh the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling before making their decision. In a previous post, I mentioned that my husband and I had always planned to homeschool our children. We didn't even discuss it. We simply both agreed that it would be best for us and our kids. That being the case, we didn't make a list of all the pros and cons. This is only our first year to homeschool, but I'm already noticing advantages I hadn't thought of before.

My cousin homeschools her two children. Her husband is currently traveling a lot for his job. They don't have to enroll their kids in school, pull them out a few weeks later, then repeat the process elsewhere. They just take their school supplies when they move. As soon as they unpack, they're ready to pick up where they left off.

Last week I took the kids to my parents' house for a couple of days. Mama, Olivia, and I went to "The Phantom of the Opera" in Dallas. We saw it on Thursday at 2:00 pm. It's about a 3.5-hour drive from our house. If Olivia were in public school, I'm sure she would have gotten an unexcused absence that day.

I'm enjoying the flexibility homeschooling allows. I'll probably discover other perks as we continue this journey.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rip Van Winkle

There's a homeschooling group in my area that gets together for various activities. I found out that they were meeting at the park last Friday, so I made a point to be there. I wanted to meet some of the mothers and let Olivia meet some of the kids. The catch: they were meeting from 1:00 to 3:00 and Jesse usually has a nap around 2:00.

We left the house right after lunch and got to the park at 1:00. A few of the homeschoolers were there. Some others trickled in later. Olivia had a great time swinging, sliding, climbing, and running. Jesse also had a great time swinging, sliding, climbing, and running. I talked to one mother. She wasn't even with the homeschooling group! She does homeschool, after all, but just happened to pick that day to go to the park. Jesse, at 21 months, wants to play with the big kids, but doesn't understand gravity. So I spent the hour we were there chasing him around, making sure he didn't kill himself. He almost fell down the steps to the slide. If he had, he would've hit his head on 4 or 5 steps. (Sometimes I wonder whether he'll make it to his 2nd birthday!)

We left the park at 2:00, ran a couple of errands, and got home around 3:30. Of course, Jesse fell asleep in the car. When we got home, I woke him up getting him out of his car seat. I hoped he'd finish his nap because he'd been up since about 7:30. That little rascal didn't go to sleep until 4:30 or 4:45. I wondered whether I should just let him stay up until bedtime, but we were planning to go back to town that evening and he really needed a nap. As it turned out, we didn't go back to town. Suppertime came and Jesse was still sawing logs. Olivia's bedtime came and Jesse was still out. (He was breathing - I checked.) I began to worry he'd get up around midnight and want to play. Finally, hubby and I went to bed. I didn't hear a peep from my little boy until 7:30 in the morning. I couldn't believe he'd slept for over 14 hours!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gearing Up for Gardening

This weekend I spent some time preparing my raised beds. I had mulched them with leaves after last year's garden withered, but I still had some weeds get through. So I worked on eradicating the weeds and loosening up the soil. My next task will be mixing in some composted chicken litter and/or composted kitchen scraps.

I also need to make some notes on my calendar as to when to plant my seeds and transplants. I have a hard time remembering what gets planted when, so I did a little internet research. Below are a couple of websites you might find useful. You can also check with your county extension office. They probably have a planting guide for your area.

Another thing I need to do is make a shopping list. I've got some seeds left over from last year, so I need to go through them and see what I've got. Then I'll know what I need. I didn't start any tomato or pepper seeds, so I'll have to buy transplants in a few weeks. I know I need some new gloves because mine have holes in them. I don't mind getting my hands dirty, but some of my weeds are blackberry vines and stinging nettle. I hate stinging nettle. If I can't fix my rake I need to get one of those, too. Otherwise, I think I'm in good shape.

I'm considering trying square foot gardening. One of my friends mentioned this and I had never heard of it. I already use raised beds, so SFG would be an easy adaptation. I've included a couple of links in case you've never heard of it, either.

Spring Planting Guide for Vegeteble Crops (Texas)

When to Plant What (This site contains a link to help you find the average last spring frost date for your area. This will help you determine when to start your seeds.)

Square Foot Gardening

The Square Foot Gardening Foundation