Tithing And The Budget

Tithing and The Budget
by Barbara M. Barthelette

Budget is always a constant in the lives of one-income families. And even though we are offering up the ‘freedom’ of the outside workplace, God still sees fit to send us crosses particular to our station in life.

We used have a sock basket of some sort. You know, the place we put the socks that come through the wash minus the mate they were made for! Our cross was that we never matched them all up, we never got to the bottom of the sock basket and we  often found socks we didn’t remember ever inviting into our homes. The size of the cross depends on the size of your sock basket!

Cooking can be a cross when it is days before payday and you have to be creative, not only in what you make but what you tell the children it is so they will eat it! That is why lids were invented for pots so family can’t come in and get preconceived notions about dinner.

Coupons for grocery shopping and special sales stretch the budget but can be a cross for the family. “Why do the fish still have their heads on?” They were on sale because they were cross-eyed. The store had to leave them on to make sure the customer knew this before buying. “How come you didn’t buy potato chips?” Go back to the Irish potato famine. Claim a shortage of potatoes. Check your history book.

Paper towels are a necessity in the kitchen. I usually ended up with an empty roll and find ‘used’ paper towels all over the house. There were once thirty paper towels, precisely separated and laid out on the floor from back door to bedroom. “We were pretending the floor was a deep river and the paper towels are stepping stones!” A sudden yell for help from the bathroom proclaimed a flood which quickly told me what they tried to use the rest of the paper towels for! They had used up the bathroom tissue to reenact The Mummy.

I kept trying to come up with time-saving, money-saving ideas to run my home happily yet frugally. I considered giving each person a sock basket of their own but quickly realized I would then probably have six or more baskets full of socks. I mean, what are the chances they would have ever compared the contents of their respective sock collections?

I tried starting a rumor that potato chips were made from creamed zucchini, carrots and turnips but my gang figure that if it is fried, it can’t be all bad.

I tried assigning each their own roll of bathroom tissue. I thought I had a system figured out. I would keep written records and the stuff under lock and key. I would check out a roll to each person, initial and date the inside of the tube and make note of the distribution in my notebook. When they brought me their empty cardboard roll, I would check the first date, the date returned and give counseling on waste not, want not as needed. It didn’t get off the ground, My husband wouldn’t cooperate on this one. He said that if we weren’t a one-income family with mismatched socks and on a budget, he would take me on a long, long restful vacation.

Budgets vs. Reality

Budgets vs. Reality
by Barbara M. Barthelette

I read cookbooks and find it hard to believe when I see recipes for ‘cooking gourmet on a budget’. What these people seem to have on hand in times of limited cash, sure doesn’t match up to what I find available in my cupboards between paydays.

One recipe states that a simple dish of angel hair pasta garnished with tiny shrimp, bits of leftover clams with a dash of olive oil and freshly ground pepper will elegantly nourish any family. I don’t know whether I should start feeling inferior now but I don’t have any shrimp on hand! And the days we have clam chowder, the whole can of clams goes into giving the boiled milk and potatoes at least a taste reminiscent of our hard-shelled friend. Being on a budget means being creative in times of need. However, the tuna, corn oil and elbow macaroni just didn’t seem destined to become anything that had the remotest possibility of being eaten by my children. Spaghetti with spiced up tomato soup stood a better chance of acceptance.

Or, as another would-be-helpful recipe stated, you can stretch your meat with the addition of mushrooms, tiny onions, baby carrots and tofu cubes. Forget the fungus! Even if they are on sale, how many children do you know that will eat anything that even touches a mushroom? One chopped onion equals a dozen tiny pearl onions and is much easier to hide in a gravy. The best I could do for baby carrots was to carve them down to the appropriate size. Since only threats can get carrots eaten around here anyway, it really doesn’t matter how big or small they are, right? And I won’t even eat tofu no matter how far it might stretch my budget.

When it comes to salad, the books always tell us to be fresh and creative. My favorite idea was empaling bits of vegetables and greenery on toothpicks and then piercing them artfully into the flesh of a grapefruit. We are promised that our family will rave about this and happily consume our healthy arrangement. Between paydays, my vegetable bin will yield, perhaps, a couple of tomatoes, a stalk of wilted celery, a carrot or two and a forgotten branch of broccoli. I suppose I could substitute an old Styrofoam ball from the craft cupboard for the grapefruit but the result would be rather pitiful. Limp celery chunks do not stand up well on a toothpick, pieces of tomatoes tend to drip and carrots are almost impossible to stick on a toothpick. Besides, if memory serves me, my children probably found some creative use for the toothpicks weeks ago, leaving me with just three.

Dessert was my absolute favorite. When you don’t have a lot of time, according to the easy-does-it gourmets, and want to make an impression, just bring on a variety of cheese, fruit and crackers. I imagine many of you sport cupboards very similar to mine. Can you picture a platter adorned with slices of processed cheese, a lone apple arranged so the bite doesn’t show snuggled up against a couple of teething biscuits?

I am afraid that there are budgets and then there are budgets! I, fortunately or unfortunately, fall into the budget of total reality! Whatever pasta shape is available in the pantry gets smothered in creative tomato soup. We stretch our meat budget by cutting smaller pieces. Carrot and celery sticks get revived in ice water. And the one who took the initial bite out of the apple gets to read Genesis after dinner.

Seamlessly Blending Carrots Into Meals

When my children were in their formative years, ur budget was such that getting ten pounds of carrots for under three dollars made them a fixture on my weekly shopping list. Unfortunately, my children didn’t sympathize with me on this aspect of saving money. I had several unsuccessful attempts in disguising carrots at mealtimes. My children had radar when it came to sensing a carrot in their vicinity. I am sharing my failures with you so you can avoid the same dinner-time pitfalls. For some reason, they just didn’t work.

1. I tried passing off steamed carrots as hot dogs. One attempt at the subterfuge and relish and ketchup were never applied after that until the children tested the contents of the bun on both the dog and cat.

2. I tried something trendy. I told them it was orange sherbert but the unsuccessfully pureed carrot bumps cued them in.

3. Mixed mashed carrots into their liver and they still wouldn’t eat it!

4. Told them it was actually hashed, orange rutabagas, not carrots. They threatened to call 911.

5. Painted red stripes on carrots and put them into their Christmas stockings. Told them Santa left the candy canes. You don’t want to know.

6. Tried honesty . . . told them carrots taste like chicken.

7. Found a recipe for ground carrots and cottage cheese that was suppose to fry up ‘just like a hamburger patty’. My children’s first question was, “Mom, why are you frying cottage cheese and carrots?”

8. Told them they couldn’t have dessert unless they ate all their carrots at dinner. Almost had a mutiny when they discovered dessert was Carrot Cake.

9. Told them they weren’t carrots but odd-colored zucchini. Actually refused to believe me!

10. Chopped up the carrots into cubes and told them it was tofu in their stir fry.

Bargain Baking . . . Sort Of!

In the pursuit for savings, we all know the less we frequent the grocery stores, the more we save! However, we often need that certain cake, cornbread or muffin mix. Now, not only are these boxed conveniences expensive when you are counting pennies, the temptations you pass in the aisles can put some items in your shopping cart you didn’t even know you needed.

I have found that premixing packages of baking mixes saves time in the long run and last-minute trips to the store. The concept is simple, you mix up the necessary dry ingredients for your recipe, seal it in a bag along with a stapled on note card with what you will need to finish it. Start simply. Make up one supply, try doing it a week later and see how it works into your schedule. You increase your supplies as you begin to include them into your family’s requirements.

A good, nutritious breakfast or lunch bread is easy to have on hand.

QUICK FRUIT-NUT BREAD

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt (Can be reduced if you are watching salt intake)
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups rolled oats
4 cups raisins (or a mixture of your favorite dried fruit, coarsely chopped)
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, your choice

Sift together the flour, salt and soda and divide into 4 strong plastic bags or air-tight containers. Add one cup of the oats, one cup of the fruit and ½ cup of the nuts to each container and shake well to mix. Store in refrigerator or freezer until needed.

Additional Ingredients required for baking one loaf:

½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Beat the sugar and egg until fluffy. Stir the lemon juice into the milk and set aside to sour. Add the soured milk to the sugar and egg and beat until smooth. Add the contents of one bag of your baking mix to the milk-sugar mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the oil. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake in 350 degree preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, slice and serve.

The best part of having a homemade baking mix on hand is your ability to whip up another loaf of bread immediately since your first one is sure to disappear within seconds of leaving the pan.

Many of the recipes we make from scratch can be broken down in the same manner as the above bread mix. The trick is combining the dry ingredients ahead of time and attaching a note of what you will need when you want to bake. Think about the cake mixes I know many of us use. We bring home a box of flour, baking powder, spices and flavoring at a cost of over a dollar. And when we come home, we have to add our eggs, water and oil. We can drop the fancy box and the brand name and start using the house brand—our own!

Frugality is a handsome income. (Erasmus: Colloquia 16th century)

Easy Cheesecake!

Although we always called this a holiday cheesecake, I think it appeared many times at dessert time on ordinary days of the week. Naturally, any time cheesecake showed up after dinner, could be declared a holiday!

EASY HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup melted butter or margarine

Combine above ingredients and press into a spring-form pan. The crust should come more than halfway to the top of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pan requirement: seven to nine-inch spring form pan.*

Cheesecake Recipe
3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups granulated sugar

Place softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until cream cheese is thoroughly creamed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well combined. Add vanilla. While running the mixer gradually add sugar, beating well. Mixture should be thick and smooth. Carefully spoon mixture into crust. smoothing evenly.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes. Top will brown and crack. Cool and refrigerate eight hours or overnight before serving.

You can strike a festive note by spooning a puree of strawberries over each serving and garnishing with a mint sprig. Crushed pineapple also compliments cheesecake. Prepare about an hour ahead, a cup and a half of crushed pineapple combined with the zest of a lemon. Spoon over individual slices just before serving.

*A spring form pan is pictured above. Walmart usually sells them, three to a set for a budget-friendly price considering how often you will be baking cheesecake now!

Salad Bites?

Vegetable Soup was simmering on the stove and cheese bread was baking in the oven. It seemed that the meal needed something a bit more to satisfy a hungry husband who would have had to fight the Friday night traffic coming home from work and a daughter who is always nibbling.

Then, I remember something on Facebook where someone peeled a cucumber, sliced it lengthwise, scrapped out the seeds and then filled one side with lunch meat, greens, etc. and topped it off with the other side of the prepared cucumber and sort of an instant gluten-free sandwich. The moment had come for me to try this!

I prepared my cucumber and lay in a half leaf of Romaine, layered tuna salad with tomatoes on top of that with an extra touch of freshly ground black pepper. I ‘closed’ my ‘sandwich’. To stabilize the whole thing, I stuck in toothpicks every half inch or so and sliced between them. They were now easy to access at dinner and kept their good looks until dinner!

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups apple; peeled, cored & finely diced (tart, green apples work best.)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Mix sugar and oil, add eggs and beat well. Combine flour, soda and salt. Add flour mixture to beaten egg mixture. Stir in vanilla, apples, spices, and walnuts. Mix well. Spoon batter into a greased tube pan. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before removing from pan.

*Some of the gluten-free flour blends are ‘cup-to-cup’ measurement meaning the same amount called for in wheat flour will work with the same amount gluten-free flour.