Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Vegan Toaster Waffles

I was talking with someone who said she didn't cook more things from scratch because she needed to have things on hand for convenience foods. My reply was that you can have convenience foods that you make from scratch! Here's something my kids love to eat for breakfast, afternoon snack, or those make-your-own-dinner nights.

Homemade Toaster Waffles

3 1/2 cups whole flour
2 TBS sugar
2 TBS baking powder
1 cup applesauce
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2-3 cups water or milk depending on how thick you like the batter (Most often I use water.)

Mix the ingredients up into a batter.

Add two large spoonfuls of batter to your waffle maker and cook until light comes on or waffle no longer separates when you open the lid.

My favorite way to eat them: PB and fresh strawberries!
I make a big batch of these about once a week when we're in the mood for them. They freeze really well without sticking together. When you pull them out of the freezer you can put them directly into the toaster on the high setting. Or you can eat them fresh off the waffle iron.

I'm working on a big stack. I usually freeze them in glass containers.

I have also frozen them in zip lock bags and it works just as well.
 My mom bought me a waffle iron a couple of years ago as a gift. This isn't something I would've bought myself, but I actually do use it quite a bit. If you don't have a waffle iron, I would think you could also make homemade toaster pancakes with the recipe. You will just have to be more aware of keeping the pancakes a size that will fit in the toaster.

What your best homemade convenience food? Do you make your own toaster waffles?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Write It Down Challenge

Last night I was talking with my friend who said she wanted to save more money and curb some of her spending. Whenever I want to change my behavior (which usually means eating less or spending less), I simply force myself to write it down. If I write down every thing I eat or spend, I will automatically change my behavior.

If you are having a hard time getting your spending under control I encourage you to try this. In June, I will taking my own Write it Down Challenge. At the end of the month I'll post everything I spent. Yes, every. single. thing. for the whole month.

Photo credit: Brendan DeBrincat

I'm a little nervous about this as I definitely make spending mistakes too. However, since I mostly blog about the ways I save money, I've probably given you the impression that I never overspend. Of course this isn't true. After all, I'm human too!

I do know this, though; writing down my expenses and sharing them with the world WILL make me spend less. In fact, I want to see how little I can actually get by with spending in the next month.

I invite you to join me. At the end of the month (June 2012) you can send me the results of your Write It Down Challenge via email, via blog comment, or via Facebook. Or you can just write it down and never show another living soul. Whatever you do, I encourage you to give the Write It Down Challenge a try! What do you have to lose except poor spending habits?

Will YOU take the Write it Down Challenge? Have you ever written down your spending before? Did it cause you modify your spending habits?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Am I gonna be on TV or what?

Those of you who follow Budgeting with the Bushmans on Facebook know that TLC was talking with me about being on their show Extreme Cheapskates. I had a lot of email correspondence with them and an initial interview on Skype, but then I heard nothing. Some of you have been asking, "Are you going to be on the show or what?" Frankly, I've been wondering that too.

Photo credit: Louis Bustamante, St. Petersburg

 I emailed the show and asked them what they had decided about having me on the show. Basically, I got the brush off. I think the reason is that my life simply wasn't drama filled enough for the producers. They asked me questions like, "Is your husband on board with your frugality?" and "What do your kids think about being so frugal?" I answered honestly that the whole family has seen the benefits of changing our lifestyle to a more frugal one and that we are all happily on board.

Also, during the interview, I stated that I really did not want my kids to be on TV. I also told many of you that I actually didn't want to be on TV. The only reason I would've agreed for only me (not the kids) to be on the show was because I'd like to make a career out of giving frugal advice to others. I saw the TLC show as a possible springboard for that.

However, upon realizing that it probably isn't going to happen I'm feeling pretty relieved. I wasn't really looking forward to looking like an idiot on TV. And, even though we haven't had a TV for a while, I've watched enough reality TV to know that it was inevitable that they would make me look like an idiot. Sensationalism is what reality TV is all about.

So, if I'm going to become a popular extreme frugality guru, its probably going to have to happen through this blog. TLC isn't going to do it for me. And that's okay.

Would you ever agree to be on reality TV? Do you think a reality TV would've helped or hurt my image? Do you have other ideas for ways I can get my message "out there" without looking like an idiot on reality TV?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baking soda and tooth sensitivity

I've had several readers ask me if my tooth sensitivity was getting better since my failed baking soda toothpaste ordeal.

The answer is yes . . .finally. It took a while, though. In fact, I would say it took a full month after I  went back to using a natural Xylitol toothpaste.

Since I didn't want to make any more tooth related mistakes, I began doing lots of researching. After finding Dr. Ellie's site and her book called, Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye. I became very intrigued. I contacted Dr. Ellie and asked if she would consider sending me a free copy of her book in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Today in the mail I received a package from her containing all this:

It was like opening a present because I'd only expected to receive the book, but instead she sent me everything I would need to complete her oral health program! I decided to go ahead and start her program today. I fully expect to have her book read within the next couple of days. However, I will hold off on giving you a complete review until I have tried her program for at least a full month.

Since I know some of you might be concerned about Dr. Ellie's use of fluoride, please read this quote from an email she sent me to further explain it. (As you may have guessed, I had some initial concerns about it as well.)

"50% of this improvement comes from the correct use of xylitol and 50% from the correct use of the mouth care regimen.
The hardest hurdle for me with "natural" folks is that I recommend a limited use of fluoride.
My chapter on fluoride explains that I am certainly an anti-fluoridationist when it comes to adding it to our water supplies- but I recommend TWO specific products that contain sodium fluoride for healing teeth.

Years ago Kevin Troudeau was promoting his book Natural Cures - and his publishers were interested in my book - provided I eliminated my suggestion to use fluoride rinse and Crest toothpaste.
I would not - because I do not believe that you can get this amazing natural healing of teeth without these two products.

With the limited use of these specific products ( as described in my book) you can stimulate natural repair of cavities, natural improvement in tooth color ( not bleaching and harmful whitening) and natural strengthening of enamel ( so teeth are more able to resist acidic assault and also they are more shiny to resist plaque build up). The outcome is sustainable oral health - year after year with minimal maintenance.
That, in my humble opinion, is what we need to consider the goal of oral health care!"
Do you believe in repairing your own teeth? Had you heard of Dr. Ellie or her book before? Would you ever consider a tooth care regimen that used fluoride?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to save on your water bill

When we first moved in, our bill was the minimum, which is $17/month as long as we used less than 1000 gallons of water. Lately, though the Bushman's water bill has been on the rise. I've taken several steps to reduce our bill and I'd thought I'd share some of them with you! Here are some money saving ideas you can apply to your own household water usage.

  • Fix any leaks. We have a leak in the bathtub that we weren't aware of until recently. We're in the process of fixing it. No doubt this will lower our water bill. During the time we had the leak, we were catching it in a bucket and using it to water the garden and do laundry.
Our current leak which is costing us big time!
  •  Use less water in the toilet. To do this put a brick, bottle, or something heavy in the toilet tank. (If you use a bottle, you must fill it with water or rocks.)

  •  Consider replacing your toilet. In our old house we bought a dual flush toilet when our toilet broke. The local utility company gave us a 50% rebate on its cost! In this house, we wanted to take water saving to the next level so we recently bought this waterless toilet. We got ours used for $300. It needs some work as it was sitting outside for a while. 
Our rough-looking used waterless toilet

  • Use less water for bathing. My grandmother drew a line in her bathtub with a magic marker and we grandkids were not allowed to fill the bath any fuller than that line.
  • Time yourself in the shower, purchase a low flow shower head, or both.
  • Use less water for washing dishes. Fill one side of your sink for washing and one for rinsing. Basically, don't let the water run down the drain without something there to catch it!
  • Put a bucket under your shower or reuse bath water for laundry, mopping, or watering plants. To reuse water for your laundry you simply set your washer dial to the point where it would be AFTER it filled up with its own water. You might even want to make a special mark on your washer so you know where this notch is. Warning: it is hard work to carry bucketfuls of water to the washer. However, it will give you a good appreciation for how much water goes into one load of laundry.
  • Bathe less often. Daily bathing is the habit of most Americans. Usually, though it isn't necessary to bathe daily. Spot cleaning/sponge bathing with a wash cloth will often do just as good a job.
  •  Install rain barrels. Why let all that free water run off your roof without catching it? Use rain water to water your plants. They will thrive on it!
  • Don't wash clothes unless they are really dirty. Many people wash clothes out of habit. They take them off, and throw them in the hamper or washer without thinking. If something is still clean, hang it back up! Don't wash already clean clothes.
How is your water bill? Have you tried any of these water and money saving tactics? Do you have any water conversation techniques of your own?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear Bobbie . . . answering your questions

I love getting mail from people who read my blog! Those of you who have written me know I will write you back and I will be excited to do so! Here are some reader questions I received recently:

Do you ever splurge on anything?

I would say that I'm most likely to splurge on homeschool materials for my kids, although I try to sell the homeschool items we are no longer using in order to finance the splurge. I'm also very good about keeping an eye out for books at thrift stores and then reselling them on Ebay at a profit to also help pay for homeschool curriculum splurges.

I also use my Swagbucks to purchase splurge items on Amazon, which makes them free. To learn more about how I do that, read this.

Is there something you just don't want to live without?

Something I can't live without? Hmm, my family, of course! I'm assuming you mean material things though. This question is hard for me to answer because when I evaluate things, I tend to think, "Yes, of course I could live without that if I had to." Something I really wouldn't want to live without is a washer for doing laundry. I know some people who live a life of voluntary simplicity live without a washer and don't complain, but I REALLY wouldn't want to do laundry by hand on a regular basis. Other things I enjoy having are a dishwasher, a stand up mixer, and my Kindle. The dishwasher because I don't like to wash dishes much (except in the winter when I like to have my hands in the warm water because its cold outside). The stand up mixer because it makes making all our own bread SO much easier. My Kindle is something that I really enjoy because I'm an avid reader and I like carrying something to read with me at all times. I never buy books for my Kindle and only borrow them from the library. This saves money because I don't have to drive to the library when I run out of things to read--I simply download the library's newest e-book!

What do you feed your cats?  

As you know, we have two cats. One of our cats is an insane mouser so he supplements his diet very nicely making it more like we just have to buy food for one cat.We feed our cats the 20 pound bag of cat food that they sell at our local store. It costs about $12 and lasts all month.  In our town there is only one kind of cat food for sale, so we just buy that. :) I take the money out of our grocery budget.

Speaking of cats, I leave you with a cute picture of one of our kitties!

Do you have a burning question? What would you like to know? Send your questions to bobbie@budgetingwiththebushmans.com

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Make Tofu (or Soy Milk)

My friend Tom showed me how to make tofu and I must say, I couldn't believe how easy it was! Tofu is something we rarely buy because of its cost, but now that I know how to make it I feel more excited about eating it!

Here's how you make your own. (The same process also makes soy milk. To get soy milk you simply stop earlier in the process.)

To get started you will need:
2 tsp nigari or Epsom salts (Tom had nigari. I will probably use Epsom salts until I can get nigari. Nigari has lots of good-for-you stuff in it so many people prefer to use it.)
2 1/2 cup soaked soybeans (only soaked, NOT cooked)
cooking pot
 2 cheese cloths
something to use as a tofu press

1. Soak 2 1/2 cups of soybeans in 5 cups of water overnight.

2. Rinse and drain the soybeans.

3. Put one cup at a time of soybeans in the blender with 2 1/2 cups of hot water. Blend one minute. Continue until all soybeans are blended.

4. Pour the soybean and water mixture from the blender into a pot. Boil soybeans and then turn down to a medium heat for 20 minutes. When they are done cooking, they will start to have a foam on top like this:

5. Lay your cheesecloth inside a strainer and pour the mixture through it. (What you've caught in your cheese cloth is called the pulp and you can make things like soy sausage out of it.) The strained liquid is now soy milk. STOP if you want soy milk and not tofu.

Pulp. If you aren't going to use it for soy sausage right away, freeze it.
SOY MILK: If you are keeping the soy milk and not making tofu, add some salt, sweetener and possibly vanilla or cocoa for flavoring to your liquid. Refrigerate immediately.

OK, back to tofu:

6. Heat your soy milk until it is at least 185 degrees.

7. Add nigari or Epsom salt with 1/4 cup of hot water. Pour slowly into the mixture to begin curdling the milk.

Pour slowly as you might not need it all. If you need more, simply mix more up.
8. Stir as you add until curdled. When curdled, it will look like this:

9. Line your tofu press with cheese cloth. Start scooping out the curds and putting them on the cheese cloth.

10. Once you've scooped out all the curds and placed them in your tofu press, put the lid on top.

11. Put something heavy on top to properly press it.

A great balancing act!

12. After 30 minutes, remove tofu. You can use immediately or store in container with water in refrigerator.

To learn more about making and cooking with tofu, I highly recommend my favorite cookbook, The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook.

What do you think? Is tofu making easier than you thought it would be? Isn't it neat that the same process also makes soy milk?

I'm linking up to the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways blog hop!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to grow a garden cheaply

I'm no master gardener, but I've been using the raised bed approach for a couple of years and I've found it to be pretty effective. Even though this is my primary method, I also plant edibles anywhere there is room in my yard, whether I am working in a raised bed or not.

The Square Foot Gardener tells you to use a mix of peat moss, compost and vermiculite. Of course, I try to never buy anything that I can get for free, so I make up my own cheapskate garden mix. It contains top soil that I beg off people doing construction, compost I make myself, and manure that I get from nearby animal farmers. Without these measures, it would be very expensive to get a raised bed garden going!

Let me show you some of the things I have growing. (We've only lived in our new place for about eight months so our gardens are not as developed as I envision them being in the future.)

Black currant bushes (8)

Strawberries (15 plants)

walking onions

garlic grass and garlic chives (among weeds)

cabbage, spinach, kale, swiss card, peas, carrots, turnips

lots of onions, broccoli, cauliflower

Some of these pictured plants are things I grew from seed, some I got from friends as plants, a couple I bought, and some I foraged for since they grow wild in my area. We also have wild mint, garlic, two apple trees, three lilac bushes and two honeysuckle bushes which are not pictured. Additionally,  I still have two more (currently empty) raised beds that I want to fill with peppers, tomatoes, melons, and squash!

Oh yeah! Indoors I have aloe vera, a banana tree, a tangerine tree, and shitake mushrooms growing. I will share more information on these indoor plants with you soon!

What about you? What's your favorite thing to grow? Are you a square foot gardener?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cheap homemade wine

I debated a bit about posting this because I didn't want to offend my readers who choose to never consume alcohol. If this is you, please just skip this post and read about my next adventure when I'm writing about something that applies more specifically to you.


As part of my offer to help anyone with their budget, I'm currently helping a reader evaluate her spending. One of the things she was spending money on was wine. She said she felt red wine was important for her health and wanted to continue drinking it, but she wasn't happy with spending the money.

My solution? The four dollar gallon of wine!

Here's what you need to make it:

 2 frozen concentrate juices
4 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp yeast
bowl/pot for mixing
gallon jug
rubber band
funnel (mine was missing, so I used a glass pitcher)

Mix together the ingredients in a bowl. Pour them into your gallon container with a funnel. Leave the lid off of the gallon container and put a balloon on in its place. Put a rubber band around the balloon to hold it on place on the rim.

Put your wine in a dark cupboard. The balloon will expand. Let it sit for about a week until the balloon is no longer expanding. Remove the balloon and rubber band an put the cap on it tightly. Now allow it to sit for another two weeks-one month.

Open and enjoy! My wine was SO good. It turned out quite sweet, so if you like a dry wine you may want to use less sugar in this recipe.

For this batch, I just used regular bread yeast. I learned later that its better to use wine or champagne yeast.  (If you do that, you might not need as much. You should check on your wine/champagne yeast packaging.)

In the summer, I plan to make this out of fresh fruit. I learned from a wine maker that if you do that, you must increase the sugar to 1-2 pounds per gallon! I will post more about my experiences with fresh fruit wine when I make some. We are currently growing black currents, apples, and strawberries so my wine will likely be from one of those things.

As for my missing funnel: No worries, I later found my funnel in the yard next to several "tools" the kids were using for their outdoor projects.

Have you made your own wine? Did you find it to be economical? Were you surprised at how easy balloon wine making seems?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegan biscuits and gravy

I love biscuits and gravy. I thought B&G was a meal with no room for improvement--until my friend introduced  me to this amazing vegan sage gravy recipe. Not only is it tastier than my old gravy recipe, its easier to make too!

My whole family loves it! My daughter previously disliked biscuits and gravy (if you can imagine!) but she gave this recipe a try and it made a fan of her. The taste is like a mix of turkey gravy and white gravy. It is SO good.

Don't let the color fool you. Best. gravy. ever.

Here's how you make the gravy:

(One of the best things about this gravy is you can add the ingredients in any order.)

1/4 white flour
2 TBS nutritional yeast
2 cups any kind of unsweetened milk
1 tsp sage
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbs butter or butter substitute

In a saucepan on medium-high heat, throw all the ingredients in and stir the gravy with a whisk until it thickens and is lump free. Isn't this an easy gravy recipe?

I have made this with several kinds of milk (including cow's) and also several kinds of butter and butter substitutes (including coconut oil). It is a great recipe and has been a crowd pleaser every single time.

For the biscuits, you can use any kind you like. If you don't already have a great biscuit recipe, we love these herbed whole wheat biscuits:

2 cups whole wheat flour
5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
5 TBS oil or butter
1 cup water

Bake at 450 degrees in a muffin tin for about 15 minutes or until brown on top. (If you've never made biscuits in a muffin tin, you are missing out! You won't ever roll them out and cut them again. Just drop the dough into each muffin spot and you'll be amazed with the results!)

I forgot to take a picture of my biscuits before putting the gravy on them, but here is a picture of someone else's muffin tin biscuits:

Photo credit: Chris Winters
Does your family eat biscuits and gravy? If so, what's your favorite B&G recipe? Do you eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

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