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

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July 2009 - Posts

  • Creative Stretching in the Kitchen: Beverages

    Water is one of the most reasonable beverages for a tight budget. We drink a LOT of it. We have a faucet filter and use glass or stainless steel bottles for carrying the water around with us. Bottled water is too expensive and not good for either our own health or the environment, so none of that plastic, bottled water for us. Filtered tap water, as good and cheap and pure as it can be, can still get.....BORING.....and sometimes you just need another flavor. With a little creativity and stretching you can add variety without breaking the budget.

    The following are some of the things that we use to keep the cost of beverages low and the variety selection high: 

     Tea: Herbal, Green or Black types, tea is one of the other most reasonable beverages to use.

    A tip to stretching it is to let the tea bags steep in the boiled water while still on the burner and then until it has completely cooled. This makes a stronger base to add water to, using less tea bags. Also for variety, you can buy some of the sugar free flavored tea mix or a flavored tea bag and add a little (not the whole amount) to your plain tea concentrate after the steeping process. We do this with peach teabags, raspberry teabags etc. Just use one instead of only that flavor. The rest is regular tea. 

    Coffee: I am a coffee addict. Yes it's true; I need my coffee in the morning. It really is the warmth more than the caffeine, so decaf works the same for me. Either way, it can get expensive to delve into the 'specialty' coffees and flavors and creamers and lattes and so on and so on. There is NO WAY I will regularly pay for a $5 coffee at the local (okay, hour away) Starbucks, but my tastes are still that high...so I've learned to improvise. 

    For regular morning coffee, I add half the amount of grounds the second day to the previous day's grounds and make as usual. So if I used 4 TBS on Monday, then Tuesday morning I use 2 TBS and make the same 4 cups.  This stretches the 'el-cheapo' grounds even further.

    For that special flavor I've been known to sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg or cocoa on top of the grounds before setting the coffee pot to 'on'. A little vanilla, maple or almond extract to the water makes a nice switch as well.

    At times, when the small samples of flavors I cannot make go on sale (for $.50 a pop) I use a TBS of that to my regular grounds. The flavor is actually just as strong.

    Flavored or regular, left-over cooled coffee (yeah, like that happens often) works great for home made frozen coffees and lattes! 

    Concentrated Frozen Juices: These are often a less expensive and healthier beverage choice than the bottled or powered mixes. Look at the ingredients and compare if there is high-fructose corn syrup and additives.

    We also tend to dilute the frozen OJ or other fruit juices to stretch them longer and the taste is just the same.

    Home-made Lemon-aid: This is a fast, cheap and healthy beverage that stretches any kitchen budget.

    Lemon juice is high in vitamin C. We make our own lemon-aid with two slivers of lemon (for looks and freshness) 1/3 C lemon juice, 1/4 C Organic Sugar and 20 drops of liquid stevia. Put all previous ingredients in a 2 quart pitcher and fill the rest to the top with filtered tap water. This is a great treat over those powdered mixes! It's lower in calories than most lemon-aides and still a great beverage for anyone!

    I hope you’ll give these creative budget stretching ideas a try and broaden your beverage variety without broadening your kitchen budget!

    Best Blessings! ~ Donna Miller


    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and entrepreneur. Her favorite roles are that of wife and mother to 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.

  • The dividing line of want vs. need: Where do I draw mine?

    We have so many conveniences and comforts now-a-days, compared to people in years past, that we, as a society on the whole, often delude ourselves into thinking that ‘such and such’ is a need when really it is a want.

    Let's look at what we have that are conveniences now that we may need to decide if they are wants or needs:
    • Each child has his/her own room?
    • Designer (or new) clothes/shoes?
    • The up-to-date fashion?
    • Meat at every meal?
    • Three meals a day?
    • A remote control?
    • A TV, Computer or Cell Phone?
    • Over 199 channels to choose from?
    • A plasma TV?
    • Central Air Conditioning?
    • Two income household?
    • A car for each driver in the house?
    • Fast Food?
    • Pre-made boxed foods, sliced veggies in the store?

    Where do I draw my dividing line between want and need? I'd like to say I don't need ANY of the list above....but the line gets blurry at times. Doesn't it for you? Truthfully most (if not all) of the above items are newly acquired 'needs' of the last 50 years.  Did my parents make it fine without them? Well, yes, they did.  Did their parents do fine with even less? I dare say they may have even been better-off than we are in many ways.

    Frankly, I almost want the clarity of a massive financial collapse that will force me to having to choose only to meet my needs over being confused that my wants are needed.  A good financial crunch might put the want/need dilemma into perspective for some of us. Other people may think that it's the end of the world as they know it.  Well, if it is, the end of the world as we know it then I'll feel fine.Smile

    If that were to happen, I could draw the line.

    The line is then drawn at: Food (any), Water (prefer clean), Shelter (any), Clothes (any) and Relationships (Love, trust, comrades). 

    Aside from the Spiritual needs, that short list is the end of all physical needs on earth.

    A want is not in the picture when you have to focus on the need only. Learning to decipher between want and need, when you have choices... is the discipline.  


    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and entrepreneur. Her favorite roles are that of wife and mother to 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.


  • A Vital Key: Reusing what could be 'trash'.

    One vital key to thinking like a homesteader is not so much 'pack-ratting' (although I stand guilty of that with glass jars), but looking at ways to reuse something that might otherwise be thrown away.  Today I want to share a pictorial tutorial of just what I'm talking about:

    A chewed up hose (thanks to our dog, Chewbacka [nicknamed 'Chewy'], when he was a puppy) has been coiled in our shed for months. I wouldn't throw it away because I just knew there was something I could do with it, eventually:
    Chewed Hose

    Low and behold, today, while going to dig up some purple potatoes, I found that someone had left our pitch fork (of 15 years) out under some bushes last fall and wow it's weathered:

    But it's still quite sturdy and, well we don't want to buy something if we already can use what we have (homesteading mindset key point #1), so my wheels in my head started turning and I grabbed the exacto-knife, scissors and some electrical tape:


    With the scissors, I cut four equal pices of hose, then with the exacto-knifesplit them in the center:

    chewyLook at that guilty party in the background....

    Opening them up I wrapped them around the weathered, rough handle of the pitch-fork:


    Then wrapped it with electrical tape:


    And if they meet exactly in the center, you could use less tape (saving more $) and make this nifty design:


    But, I like things to 'match' so I wrapped them both the same.


    The grips are cushioned and smooth. No splinters and less blisters now - time to get to work!

    Now my husband jokes that there's no room for being lazy and just working for 3 hours in the garden, with this 'cush-handle' I should be able to dig and pitch all day long!  Oh my! What have I done?? Indifferent

    Seriously though, reusing things that others (or at one time I) may have thought were trash or not worth the time is one of the vital keys to developing a homesteading mindset.

    By sharing these tips, I hope it inspires you to look outside the ordinary and challenge yourself to make the most of what you already have!

    Best Blessings!


    Donna Miller is an author, teacher and entrepreneur. Her favorite roles are that of wife and mother to 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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