June 2009 - Posts - Surviving on Shoestrings by Donna Miller
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Surviving on Shoestrings by Donna Miller

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June 2009 - Posts

  • Want recipes for budget friendly, healthy 'Eat-Out-Treats' ?

    While cutting the grocery budget and still trying to feed the family a healthy diet, it seemed that most of our 'temptations' were for the treats we would get when we had been used to eating out.  So I started a massive test kitchen effort to recreate them with a healthy and budget friendly twist.


    I've been doing a series of healthy & cheaper 'eat-out-treats' made at home and sending it out through my monthly newsletter.  Each recipe costs about 1/2 the price of eating out (not to mention gas money) and is a much healthier alternative to the traditional recipe!


    It started with a whole grain remake of Macaroni Grill's Rosemary Bread, then I remade a healthy version of Red Lobster's Cheddar Biscuits and now I've finally I have decided which recipe is next:.


    Hardees Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, complete with frosting!! (Plus some other variations)

    .  .

    When I come to an end of this series, I'm going to move on to some 'convenience foods' made healthy!


    If you would like the recipe - (it's going out July 1 afternoon Eastern Time) - go here to get the newsletter:  http://www.eatgrains.com There will be more to come....I promise! (o:


    Best Blessings!


  • The 'work' vs. 'fun' debate...

    I don't know about anyone who may read this, but my generation (by and large at least) was raised on conveniences. The remote control for the TV as invented when I was a child, the TV dinner was all the rage, boxed meals, hamburger helper and canned pasta came 'of age' along side of me.  Is it any wonder that *we* (my generation) struggles with raising kids with solid work ethics?


    All three of our children were in college at the same time. Much of the time they heard through their peer groups "I just want my work to be fun!" Now, I do understand this. Certainly work being 'fun' would be more on the positive side than work being 'grueling'.  I'm not a glutton for punishment. What about enjoyment.  I mean a real satisfaction type of enjoyment.


    One of my dearest friends has been a lady almost twice my age. She tells of the hard work in the garden, milking the cows and preserving the harvest as a young child. The fun came when the work was done and they'd run to the pond to cool off or play in the hay-barn after stacking hay bales. But there was enjoyment in each and every chore. Those memories for her are as dear as the 'fun'.  I admire that. I long for that attitude. I want my children to have that attitude as well as my grandchildren.


    Why must work equal bad and fun equal good?


    This morning my daughters and I picked blueberries (yes, AGAIN) as we have for the last 5 mornings (all but Saturday morning). We will do this for the next two weeks in the hot, wet, bug infested back yard. All the while, we are sweating and holding increasingly heavier containers of berries while we dig in the bush and fight off the bees and flies (and squeal at each buzz that comes toward our ears)...but I have looked forward to this each and every winter. As I would pass that bare and naked, knarled bush with no life to offer, I looked forward to working in it for weeks with my daughters as we have every year since living here.


    Fun seems to be something that finds you - whereas - enjoyment is something you have to look for, and that's just not a bad thing at all. The most precious gifts are usually something we have to search for rather than have dropped in our laps anyway!


    I hope you will enJOY the journey, the work and the challenges...don’t worry the fun will come too!

  • Frugal Decor ideas for the home.

    It truly is a homesteading mindset to look at things a little 'off' the set normal center. That's what I love about the pioneering spirit of homesteading. The truth is that mindset can be used everywhere!!


    Let's look at home decor and some ideas we use around the house here (on our homestead) and have used when in urban apartments as well:

    Dumpster or curb salvage: We got a great old wooden high-chair 20 years ago that was out by a dumpster in West Palm Beach (hardly a homestead area) - refinished it, fixed hardware and made a (washable) cushion and it made it through two more kids!  (o: Cost...FREE

    Sheets, they're not just for beds: We found some cheap 200 thread (too itchy to sleep on for me) sheets that we have turned into drapes, table clothes and more! The fabric to make these was triple the price Plus there is no hemming in many instances! Saving time is saving money too!

    Flower arrangements from weeds and wildflowers: Hey, don't knock it! Some of the 'weeds' around our house are really pretty, so I go cut them every few days and arrange a new set in the vases around the house. As I cut the flowering or delicate foliage, I also uproot the little sucker to keep our other things more weed-free. Why buy flowers for $8 that will be dead as fast as these weeds?

    Paint is our friend: A new color or fresh coat can do wonders for faded shutters, a kitchen that seems too tiny (no money for remodeling) or a creepy out-dated bathroom. The cost of a gallon and supplies (which are there for the next project, so not wasted) is minimal to the perk-up it can have for your whole home.

    Basement finds: One home we moved into 21 years ago had a lot of misc. furniture left in the basement. We refinished a beautiful oak table (we still have it), a mirror and some bookshelves. The owner didn't want to move them so they became ours. We still to this day have a table from our first home that all the kids grew up eating around and it had been left by the previous owner.

    Duve' Covers: If you read that and said - huh? Let me explain. You can make a pillow case like cover for your comforter to change colors or cover a ratty one for the time being. Just look into those sheets that I mentioned above and ‘tah-dah’, a new bedroom decor for much less than a new comforter set.  An oversized sheet can also make a great dust-ruffle. Just put it on your box spring and tuck or pin some corners.

    Bring the outside in: Plants help cozy up almost every room, but why stop there? We had lawn furniture for den furniture at one time. Why? Because it was cheaper, light and we needed something to sit on!  We also had a picnic table IN the house as our kitchen/dining table for several years until we were left the one that the kids grew up with (mentioned above). It worked great and was easy to fit into our simple country decor at the time!


    Think outside the Better Homes and Gardens magazines and have fun decorating your home with a homesteader's mindset!

    Best Blessings!




  • Watching the lessons learned come to life!

    Sometimes we wonder if this frugal lifestyle of homesteading has been worth all the hard work. It isn't easy and it isn't typical. However, the fruits of our labor may not always be measured in income vs. expense, but in lessons learned as we watch our own children coming into adulthood.


    Yesterday I had the joy of combining a business trip (an hour and a half away to pick up supplies which took all of 8 whole minutes) with a 'Girls Day Out' with our adult daughters. These are the two women in my life that I love to spend time with the most!


    We sat at Olive Garden and had a nice, calm lunch. We talked of ideas, crafts, and plans and of course, boys. That was a treat! They voluntarily, as they usually do, ordered water and split a meal. The whole thing cost less than $20.00 for the three of us.


    We then window shopped all the way home. We stopped at Pier One, Michaels, Target and more....just looking, oooing and aaahhing and loving being together. We went in all the shops that Daddy and brother would have said - "Uh, what? No WAY!" to... and browsed, dreamed and giggled (when I dropped little smelly bouncy balls all over the floor and had to scramble to pick them up).


    I watched them from afar, pointing and calling each other over, often taking pictures of things they wanted to have in their own homes some day (special plates, lamps, art work), cataloging what they 'liked' so they could find it at a yard sale or someplace used. They looked at items from all angles to see how they could make it themselves. They conversed as the best of friends with each other and with me, Mom......not just mother, but friend.. .


    Seeing how they choose to live and think as adults fills me with great respect for both of them. It gives me pause to realize that being frugal has not deprived them of anything, but in fact has empowered them to not feel the need to ‘fit’ into the status quo of consumerism and frivolous spending, just to find security in who they are. These two newly adult women are showing signs of lessons learned and better yet, lessons enjoyed and embraced!


    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and work-from-home wife and mother with three home-school graduates. The Millers own and operate Millers Grain House  which offers Organic and Chemical-free Whole Grains, Bosch Mixers, the NutriMill, instructional tutorials, recipes and more.

  • Revisiting the top 10 garage sale obsessions...how it fits for thrift!

    Although by the look of the dates on my blog, one would *think* the Miller Family had dropped off the planet! Sorry I've been otherwise engaged with two college graduations and a pending move! Phew....

    To finish up my last post and tie things in a nice little neat (obsessive compulsive) knot....the garage sale was a success!! Yes!! Enough money to pay for all the gas and food for a little graduation celebration trip!!

    After reviewing how it had done and the list of obsessions before having the sale, I realized that it's not really DONE after all. The money gave us a week's worth of memories while our kids were still under our roof and the 'left-over' items are actually still selling and my obsessing is actually paying off in a thrifty way!

    Let me explain by way of my top 10 obsession countdown again. Updates are in ALL CAPITALS....

  • Number 8: You've found almost all missing sock mates! (Doing that happy dance, because, uh, yeah, I hold on to the spares just in case!) (OH YES, STILL HAPPY ABOUT EVERYONE HAVING MORE SOCKS INSTEAD OF BUYING NEW ONES!)
  • Number 7: You look at a box of garlic that you harvested last fall and wonder...."Can I sell them for a quarter a piece?" (WE DID SELL QUITE A BIT OF IT ACTUALLY!)
  • Number 6: You could EAT off of my garage floor it's so clean now! (WELL, HALF OF IT AT LEAST WHICH SAVES ON HOW MANY TIMES I HAVE TO VACUUM THE DEN!)
  • Number 5: You re-do the 6 street signs because: "Well, they just aren't pretty enough to catch the eye." (SAVED THEM FOR THE NEXT GARAGE SALE! VERY EYE CATCHING NOW!)
  • Number 4: You boxed up clothes to sell but also boxed up the hangers to take out to the garage and then hang up the clothes...(wow) ( I GOT NOTHIN' - THAT WAS JUST PLAIN SILLY TO DO THAT)
  • Number 3: You look for plants to divide into smaller potted plants so you can sell one plant 4 times! (YES. THEY DID SELL! AND THE TWO LEFT ARE A NICE [FREE] ADDITION TO HE HOUSE!)
  • Number 2: You fabreeze (homemade of course) the GARAGE to make it smell more 'inviting' (what is up with that thought). (AGAIN, JUST PLAIN SILL THAT I DID THAT, BUT IT MADE A NICE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE CUSTOMERS!)
  • The Number 1 sign you're obsessing about your garage sale.....Your black lab comes in to take a nap, and wakes up walking away with a $10 sticker on his hind haunches!!  (ACTUALLY HAVE HAD OFFERS ON HIM, BUT HE'S WORTH MORE TO US AS A FRIEND THAN A CASH-OUT!)
  • Really the act of having that sale gave our family more than immediate cash. So, like a domino effect, we have reaped far more rewards for the hard work for one weekend garage sale. It cost us nothing to HAVE it but time (which we spent together and even made new neighborhood friends). It lost us nothing but some items we didn't need anyway. It has produced a 'freeing' feeling of less clutter and more productivity. It has been a blessing beyond the sales. Worth the time and effort....but...I still think I'll wait a while before another one!

    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and work-from-home wife and homesteading mother with three home-school graduates. The Millers own and operate Millers Grain House  which offers Organic and Chemical-free Whole Grains, Bosch Mixers, the NutriMill, instructional tutorials, recipes and more.

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