Thursday, January 7, 2010

Saving money, Decluttering and Focaccia Recipe

After our trip to Japan, I feel a desperate need to save a little money to make up for the expense of the trip! It's also a New Year and we all have been programmed to try to do something better at the beginning of each year. I never ever have kept a New Year's resolution, so therefore I don't make them, that way I don't have to fail every year when I get lazy and don't finish it!

Right now I feel compelled to try to save a little money by using what I already have and not buying anything new! The one area in our house that seems to be overflowing is the pantry. We have a nice walk-in pantry that I am sure I would like even more if it was nicely cleaned and organized! I am constantly having to push things aside every time I put groceries away. Why is that? If I already have food in there, why am I buying more?

The pantry "before" picture!

So in order to combat my messy pantry and save money, I am going to see how long I can go without buying groceries besides for the staples like milk, cereal, cheese, and what ever else I feel is a true essential. We are blessed and fortunate to have our own beef, chicken and eggs, so I already save money there.

I'm going to look to my pantry everyday for our meals. I am also going to clean and organize a shelf everyday. Did I just say that? Writing it down in this blog makes me feel accountable now. Oh well, that's what I need is to feel accountable for my actions in order to accomplish this task. I've been wanting to declutter my kitchen for a long time so maybe this will blossom into a whole kitchen cleaning and organizing thing. Don't get me wrong, my kitchen really isn't a pigsty, but the older I get, the less stuff I want. Who needs all those lunch boxes I have stashed clear in the back of my cupboard? And who needs 10 different mixing bowls! Do you see what I am talking about? The only problem I foresee is what do I do with all this perfectly good stuff? I could take it to Goodwill, won't sell it on Ebay because there isn't a demand for it there, besides the shipping would kill any good deal.

I read in a magazine this month that you can have a "swap party" with your friends. You all go through your house and find things that you no longer need or use that are in good condition. Then you bring them all to some one's house and display them. Everyone looks at the stuff and decides if they need any of it. If you want it, you can put a clothespin with your name on it. If two or more people want one item, you draw a clothespin to see who gets it. You can even do themed "get rid of your stuff" parties like kitchen ones, clothes ones, Christmas decoration ones, etc. Then at the end of the party you gather all the unwanted stuff and take it to a charity like Goodwill. Sounds like fun to me, but I'm afraid I would take stuff I don't really need and would be in the same situation that I am in now. I guess I could always tell my self that I was not allowed to chose anything! LOL

I started my pantry digging yesterday and for dinner we had a ham and bean soup and homemade focaccia. I made up the ham and bean soup recipe as I went along. I feel blessed to be the kind of cook who doesn't need a recipe to cook a meal. Due to my many years of restaurant work and love of cooking in general, I think I'm pretty handy in the kitchen. You can be too if you just learn a few basics. I had a bag of "soup mix beans," carrots, celery, onion and left over ham from a roast (thanks Jen, the roast was wonderful). That was the ingredients for the soup along with some spices. Easy and cheap! I made the focaccia dough in my bread machines and then baked it in the oven. It also made enough for two meals, so there is more savings!

Focaccia is an Italian flatbread. It's easy to make and makes any meal special. When I make something I'm not sure how is going to turnout, I usually bake fresh bread to go along with the meal. As long as we have fresh bread, everyone is happy, even if the meal is not so good! LOL Now there's a tip for you!

Here's my recipe for focaccia:

Italian Flatbread

7 1/2 oz warm water (80 degrees)
3 cups flour
2 Tbs dry milk
3 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs, cut into 6 pieces, butter
2 tsp active dry yeast

Olive Oil

Grated Parmesan Cheese


Garlic Powder

Put the first 7 ingredients in your bread pan in the order that they are given. Place the butter around the edges of the pan. Make a slight well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Mix using your bread machine's "DOUGH" setting. When the dough is done, take it out of the pan and place it on a floured surface and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead dough on floured surface for about 1 minute. Roll dough into a rectangle to fit large cookie sheet. Place onto greased pan and press dough evenly into pan forming an edge. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes until slightly risen. With the handle of a wooden spoon, make indentations in dough at every inch. Brush dough with olive oil, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and spices. You can use any spices that sound good to you! Bake for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Cool slightly and cut into squares for serving. Yummy!!

Wish me luck with my endeavor! Better yet, why not join me?!? Let me know if you are jumping on board with the "cut back on groceries" thing, using what we already have and cleaning and decluttering our kitchen! Leave me comments and let me know your ideas, accomplishments and whatever. I look forward to hearing from you.

For those of you who are following the "Tokyo for Christmas" part of the blog, I will finish it shortly. I just needed a break from it and wanted to post this!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good to me. I decluttered drawers and cupboards in my kitchen and all the stuff(except what Carla chose to give to Paul for his apartment) is now in the shop! Bob is having a fit. There are a lot of brand new "to a good cook" Corkle Christmas tools out there so let me know if you do the swap!

    I made cream of potato soup by adding milk to leftover scalloped potatoes, heating it up and blendering it. Very tasty.