Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning Mix
For my favorite sloppy joes, I brown one pound of ground beef with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and onion powder (alternately you could cook chopped onion with your beef). Then I drain and add one 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, 1 t. sugar, 1 t. prepared mustard, and 1 t. Worcestershire (the mustard and Worcestershire sauce can be adjusted for taste). I cook this over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes uncovered until desired consistency is reached. I've always wanted to add green pepper or green chilies to the beef, but my family of eight would not agree! We used the canned sloppy joe sauce in the past and this one is just as delicious and itís cheaper.
editor's note: For more on homemade sloppy joes, please click here.
We have been participating in the Bountiful Baskets Co-Op fruit and vegetable opportunity for several months. Check out BountifulBaskets.org to see if there is one near you. Since it is a co-op, it is all volunteer driven. If there isn't one near you, you might be able to start a location in your area. Orders open on Monday at noon and close Tuesday at midnight or when they sell out at a location. Delivery is on Saturday most places. We can order every other week. We get great produce and breads. This week, we were even offered olive oil. For $15, we usually get about 12 different fruits and vegetables. We have to be flexible because we donít choose the items in the basket. We simply purchase a basket. We find it fun to try some new things or things we haven't had in a long time. There are locations in many states and many sites in each state. I can't wait for my pineapple to get ripe!
I found that putting used cat litter around my plants helps to keep the squirrels away. They seem to think a cat is lurking and that they had better move on.
Additional TDS Resource: More on keeping squirrels out of your garden
Recipes at the Ready
I used to be frustrated finding recipes I'd seen and wanted to try, but couldn't find them again. Now I take a picture of the recipe with my phone. That way, I can scroll through my photos to find it and have the recipe with me at the store for the ingredients. If I like it, I copy it to my recipe cards. Otherwise, I just delete it. It makes menu planning much easier too!
Nancy S. in Chicago (via iPhone)
I discovered that the day after it rains is the best time to pull weeds. The ground is moist, so the weeds pull out much easier.
Regarding summer cooling, we just had solar films installed on our windows that are facing the south and east. What a difference this has made! The day that the installer was here, the sun was shining bright, and our kitchen was becoming hot. The room cooled down dramatically within minutes after he installed the films! The films also keep the sunís harmful rays from fading and damaging furniture, wood trim, cabinets, etc.
editor's note: Applying solar film is an easy do-it-yourself job. If you can squeegee a window and use a single edged razor blade without cutting yourself, there's no reason not to try this job!
You Wouldn't Believe...
At the beginning of the month, I started to do something that has been a real eye-opener. In this age of iPhones and taking pictures of everything, I've been taking a quick photo of all the food we throw in the garbage. I take pictures of that half eaten bagel or banana, the milk that went bad before it got used, and the cookies that got stale because they weren't reclosed properly. We are a family of four and we try to live wisely and not waste food, but I am honestly astonished (and somewhat ashamed) by looking at almost a month's worth of pictures of the food we are wasting.
I have a few more days to go before I show my two kids, but I did show my husband. At first, he thought I was joking, but not for long. Seeing the waste in so many pictures has been a definite eye-opener for us and will be the same for my kids I think. We can definitely do a better job and stop throwing food (i.e. money) in the garbage!
When I buy grapes, I strip them off the stem, wash them, and put them into a resealable gallon plastic bag. Then I add water. This keeps the grapes so plump, crisp, juicy and easy use.
Chipmunks In Your Garden?
As a landscape designer in North Idaho, I deal with "wildlife pests" every day. The most effective chipmunk deterrent I've found is a combination of "red" or "cayenne" pepper and baby powder. Mix the ingredients one to one and spray or sprinkle around the problem areas and the critters scram. A dry atomizer works well for this or an empty can with lots of tiny holes poked in the bottom. You can sprinkle the mixture on flowers, veggies, or trees. Wildlife tends to chomp on things with mild odors and avoids stuff with strong odors.
Additional TDS Resource: More on removing chipmunks
Handy Kitchen Utensils
Hang a towel rack high on a wall and attach butchers' hooks to it. Use the rack to hang lightweight pots and pans or utensils, such as ladles and sieves.
The Free Table
My dad passed away recently. He lived in a trailer park and had many close friends there. While cleaning out his place, I found many items that I didn't want or need, but were too nice to throw away. I put a few of the more expensive things on Freecycle and set up a "Free" table in front of his house for the rest. This was a big hit with his friends, and it was a good way for me to meet his neighbors and friends.
Our local TV station surveyed costs of various wedding items. They concluded that many shops that cater exclusively to the bridal industry easily take advantage of the emotional state of young women and their mothers.
They pointed out that caterers charged a third more per plate for a wedding dinner than the exact same menu for a retirement dinner. I suggest brides explore the cost of both with the caterer of choice to ensure they are not being taken advantage of at this emotional time.
For those people who are sun-sensitive, please be aware that normal clothes will not protect you from the damaging rays of the sun. Even if your skin is not tanned, it still may be damaged. Summer clothes only have a SPF of 5-9 (less if they are wet). There are several companies making special material with a SPF of 30 or more. Please do yourself a favor and use sunscreen when appropriate.
Save on Fabric Softener
Vinegar is a natural fabric softener (1/2 cup per load usually works). We use this for our baby's cloth diapers because fabric softeners take away their absorbency, and it works great. The vinegar also helps to remove soap residue.
Additional TDS Resource: More on fabric softeners
I buy non-food items at the grocery store. Here is a trick that I use. I just put all the food items on first, place a "stop" bar at the end of the groceries, and then unload the non-food items. When the cashier gets close to the end of the groceries, I ask her to sub-total when she gets to the bar. They are always glad to do so. Then I just have them go on and add the rest of the items onto the ticket.
This way, I have a quick total of my food items. With a little subtraction, I also get a total of what I spent on non-food items. I don't have to spend time when I get home checking off the food items separately and adding them up one by one. Sometimes I get a real surprise at what I've spent on the other items, which is something that I didn't pay attention to until I started having my tickets tallied this way.
This is a tip for dog owners who marvel at the cost of rawhide bones! If your dog is like mine, he will chew a rawhide bone until one of the two knotted ends and most of the middle is gone. I end up with unused "ends" (the bottom knot on each) all over my house. The ends are too small for the dog to hold and chew on. So, he ignores them, and they just collect dust.
These bones get expensive, and throwing away a third of each is a big waste! I found that I can actually pull apart the "end" knot so that it resembles a big, flat chip. My dog loves them! He runs away with his "chip" as if it was a brand new bone and chews it until it is nearly gone. I no longer have to waste the ends!
Stores actually sell bags of these rawhide "chips" for quite a pretty penny, and they look just like my free, untied ends!
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