Frugal Jackpot

Yesterday was a day filled with errands- mostly clothes shopping. Autumn has arrived here in the Mojave, bringing our daytime temperatures into the 70s and our nighttime temperatures into the high 40s. I’m scrambling to find warmer clothes in the right sizes for everyone.
I went into a Deseret Industries thrift store hoping to find a jacket for Samantha (#3), but didn’t have any luck. She’ll have to keep wearing lighter jackets until something turns up. I am absolutely not willing to spend $30 on a jacket she’ll only wear for one season!
My hunt for jackets was a bust, but the trip to the store wasn’t! I found leather dress shoes for $2 for one of the boys, and this gem for myself:

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It’s an ankle-length wool skirt in dark gray. It’s Eddie Bauer brand, and was only $5! I’m a happy girl. I also found a long-sleeved pink top to go with the skirt.

Next was a trip to the $0.99 store. There, I found socks for one of the girls (3 pairs/ $1), sunglasses, deodorant, and a lidded water cup to replace a cracked one at home.

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A good haul, if I do say so myself. And my grand total for both stores was only $17 – less than the price of JUST the shoes if they were new.

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Easy Chicken Green Chile Enchiladas

I’m afraid I don’t have many pictures for this post, but this recipe is so easy you won’t need them!

I love  enchiladas, but I really don’t like spending half and hour cooking corn tortillas before I can even start! This easy recipe uses flour tortillas and precooked rice and chicken to make a meal that is quick and easy to put together (and delicious, if I do say so myself).

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Easy Chicken Green Chile Enchiladas (Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

8 burrito-size flour tortillas

1 can green chile enchilada sauce

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken

1 8 oz package cream cheese

mozzerella and cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

1. Pour a small amount of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 backing dish. Spread the sauce to make a thin layer on the entire bottom of the pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix rice, cream cheese, shredded meat, and a large handful of cheddar cheese. If you like spicy enchiladas, you can also mix in some hot sauce or salsa.

3. Spread 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce down the center of each tortilla. Top with 1/3 cup of the rice mixture, then roll up burrito-style. Place each rolled enchilada in the pan.

4. Once all 8 enchiladas are rolled, pour more enchilada sauce over the top. Make sure there is at least a thin coating over all exposed tortilla so that it doesn’t dry out in the oven.

5. Sprinkle the top generously with mozzerella or cheddar (or both, like I did!).

6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until hot all the way through.

Enjoy!

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Three Day Potty Training

Yes, I’m serious.

No, it isn’t a gimmick.

No, you don’t have to give me any money to learn about how I potty train.

This is the third time I’ve potty trained. So far, I’ve consistently managed daytime potty training by 2 1/2 years old, and nighttime potty training by 3 years old.

Here’s what you need:

  • a toddler who is showing signs of being ready.
  • potty chair (I use the basic one from Wal-Mart)
  • a gated room with hard floors
  • drinks and salty snacks
  • a timer (I use a free app called Potty Baby)
  • washable toys in the gated room

Pick a room. When we lived in a different house, I used the kitchen because there was a bathroom attached and it was the only hard floor in the entire house. Here, it’s the dining room.

The potty chair and the toys go in the dining room, and a gate gets put across the doorway to keep the accidents on the hard floor. The toddler plays in this room all day for the three days while she is being potty trained.

IMG_20130924_102515Some of the washable toys in the potty-training room

IMG_20130924_102705And a happy little girl in a long shirt with no pants.

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So, here’s what you do.

  • On day 1, make a REALLY BIG DEAL out of not wearing/needing diapers anymore: “Since you’re such a big girl, you don’t need diapers anymore!”
  • Give the toddler lots to drink, and snacks like crackers and watermelon.I allow sweet tea and punch in larger quantities than usual.
  • Sit the toddler on the potty EVERY FIVE MINUTES until she goes once, then every fifteen minutes after that. (Yes, this is a very labor intensive 3 days).
  • You may have to build awareness of elimination. This is why you go COMPLETELY NAKED below the waist. She can directly see what she is doing, as it is happening.
  • If the toddler starts to have an accident, whisk her over to the potty chair before she finishes. Praise her for making it to the potty before finishing.
  • Get SUPER EXCITED every time she goes in the potty!

For the first little while, I give a small piece of candy every time she succeeds in using the potty. This time around, I’m using chocolate chips because I had them on hand. Two chocolate chips for #2, and one chocolate chip for pee.  Eventually the candy is phased out, but it really helps at first to build motivation.

I do still use diapers during naps and at night, until I start to see consistently dry diapers during these times. Then I put a waterproof pad on the bed and try a diaper-free nap!

Oh,  I should probably note that the poor kid isn’t by herself in one room for three days! Her siblings are with her a lot of the time, and I’m in there most of the time too. I sit at the table with my laptop, sewing machine, or a book.

You can read more about the three-day method here.

Litter Bucket Nest Boxes

My pullets are now about 16 weeks old. Time to install some nest boxes!

(Full Disclosure: The Mister did most of the cutting and assembly for me! I don’t have much skill with power tools.)

First, I found 4 empty litter buckets like this:

credit: http://www.petflow.com

I took the lids off and had The Mister cut access holes. Then I screwed the 4 buckets into a 4×4.

IMG_20130920_122532A frame of 2x4s, a hinged plywood roof, and viola! Nest boxes! All the materials were on-hand, so this project didn’t cost a dime!

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After this picture was taken, I used the smaller pieces of the hinged lids to make a lip on the front, to keep the hens from kicking their nesting material out. I also put hay in the buckets, but the chickens ate it all pretty quickly… silly birds.

Now I can collect eggs without walking through the poop in the run!

How do YOU use repurposed materials around your property?

How to Mix Your Own Chicken Feed! (Feed Calculator file included)

I like to avoid soy in our family’s diet, so it makes sense that I would want to avoid soy when feeding my chickens as well. Most commercial chicken feeds use soybeans as the main protein source. There are soy-free blends out there, but they are MUCH more expensive and I like knowing exactly what’s going into the chickens’ food.

So I make my own. With ingredients from the grocery store!

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My regular feed consists of old-fashioned oats, split peas, cracked wheat, and flax seeds. And that’s all.

I also ferment the feed before giving it to the chickens. You can read about all the benefits of fermenting feed here.

This is what the feed looks like after fermenting and draining:

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There are SO many benefits to fermenting animal feeds. I highly recommend that you check it out!

Now, back to the feed composition…

This is my homemade feed calculator. It allows me to figure out what the protein content is with different combinations of ingredients.

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This spreadsheet is fully customizable – all you have to do is add rows to add other ingredients. You can find crude protein percentages for feed ingredients here. You could also do a Google search of “crude protein percentage (ingredient name)”

The total protein percentage is found by multiplying each ingredient’s protein content by the number of pounds being used in a 100 pound batch of feed. These totals are added up, and the total pounds of protein per 100 pounds is equal to the crude protein content in  your feed.

Keep in mind that this is NOT a complete layer/grower/starter feed.

Oyster shell is required for calcium (for hard egg shells).

My chickens also get a lot of greens in the form of weeds from the garden, extra fruits and veggies, and wheatgrass, which I grow hydroponically as fodder. The chickens get plenty of vitamins and minerals from all of our kitchen scraps as well.

This is a vegetarian formula, but I also give the chickens meal worms and calf liver for animal protein. When The Mister and I start raising catfish or Tilapia, we may use fishmeal as a protein source.

Here’s a link to a downloadable version of my feed calculator.

Happy feeding!

The Joys of Freezer Cooking

Before Rachael (#3) was born, I filled my freezer with casseroles and other one-pan meals I had found online. I never tried any of the recipes ahead of time to make sure we actually liked them (can you see where I’m going with this?).  We were lucky with most of the meals I made, but there were definitely a few that I’ve never made again. My freezer full of meals was also expensive. I used a lot of convenient ingredients, like boneless chicken breast tenders and frozen cooked potatoes. I decided that freezer cooking simply wasn’t for me!

Towards the end of my most recent pregnancy, I started thinking about freezer cooking again. I wanted convenience and ease after the baby was born, but I didn’t want to waste time and money on casserole-type meals that we wouldn’t enjoy. My prior experience taught me that we simply aren’t casserole people. I decided that instead of making full meals, I could make and freeze the most time-consuming portions of each meal — things like yeast breads and doughs and other quick breads. These were easy to make and I was able to use tried-and-true recipes that I already knew we liked.

By the time Michael (#4) was born, my freezer was packed with all kinds of goodies. My mother-in-law was able to stay with us for about 2 weeks, so I wanted to make sure that she had easy meal options to feed the other 3 kids while The Mister and I were at the hospital. A few of the things I made ahead of time included biscuits, cinnamon rolls, freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, sandwich bread, and pizza dough and sauce.

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Being the wonderful and kind woman that she is, my mother-in-law didn’t use ANY of my pre-made foods! She said they would be more useful after she went home and we were on our own again. And she was right. Going from three kids to four kids wasn’t as hard from the transition from two to three, but it was still certainly a challenge, especially since I now had two children in cloth diapers!

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The frozen foods lasted about a month, and I can’t even begin to say how much I enjoyed the convenience. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or energy to replace the frozen foods as I used them, and even as the baby grew I didn’t have the drive to spend that much time in the kitchen.

Today, a moment of inspiration hit me and I spent most of the day in the kitchen. I made 4 batches’ worth of homemade muffin mix, 2 breakfasts’ worth of freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, 2 batches of biscuits, 2 batches of pizza dough, and 4 batches of cinnamon rolls.

The biscuits were made in the food processor and cut using my shortcut, which saved a TON of time! I promise, square biscuits are just as tasty.

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These two are (unbaked) oven oatmeal. One will be used tomorrow, the other will be stashed in the freezer.

When I finished my work and pulled everything back out to take pictures, I realized that my pizza dough was put into containers that were much too small! Oops.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the fruits of today’s labor!