A mess of beans.

th-1The temperature is about five below zero, which isn’t unusual for an Anchorage winter. Even though we’re hard by Cook Inlet, it still gets chilly in the winter.

This hasn’t been an ordinary winter, though. We’ve had hardly any snow and temperatures in the 30s and even the low 40s, which is just against God. When it finally started snowing the other day even non-skiers like me were greatly relieved.

But apparently my blood has thinned, because as the thermometer settled toward the zero mark I was unreasonably cold. Wool socks weren’t keeping my feet warm. A fleece layer was necessary even in the car. I considered pulling out the long johns and maybe even zipping my coat.

Clearly what was needed was a mess of beans.


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The bonus turkey.

thIf you’re still seeing good prices on Meleagris gallopavo in your local supermarket, buy an extra one. In fact, buy the biggest one your freezer can hold.

Here’s why.

Last month we bought a bonus 20-pounder, i.e., one not for Thanksgiving. After DF cooked it on the Weber we wound up with 18 pounds of meat and more than a quart of broth for future soup or gravy.

We gave ourselves extra Frugal Points for skimming the cooled fat off the top and freezing it for future sautéing purposes, and for picking tiny bits of meat off the boiled-down carcass. Hey, we got enough for three turkey salad sandwiches – and we ate them that week, because we weren’t sick of the bird yet.

That’s because it was the week before Thanksgiving and we hadn’t already undergone an unending series of turkey leftovers, hot turkey sandwiches, creamed turkey, turkey soup and turkey surprise. Those 18 pounds of bonus turkey went first into quart-sized canning jars and then into the pressure canner.


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The boiling bag.

thWe had a marvelous soup the other night, based on a friend’s recipe for sausage-potato-kale soup. Ours utilized some of the kale we dehydrated last year (boy, has that stuff hung on), some potatoes freshly dug from our garden and some sausage bought months ago at a deep discount. (I love my freezer.)

It was supposed to have been kielbasa but spicy Cajun links were what we had. I sliced two links into coins and sauteed them until slightly crisp in a cast-iron skillet in which onions had already caramelized. Decided that a finely diced carrot wouldn’t hurt a bit, either.

The base was the real star, however — a rich homemade stock the likes of which we will never taste again. No two of our stocks ever taste exactly the same. That’s because the contents of the boiling bag vary every time.

The boiling bag is a bag in the freezer that receives vegetable scraps, bones and sometimes even bits of fruit. This batch had several apple cores and there was a slight sweetness under the richness of the other ingredients — which this time included beet and turnip greens and stems, onion skins, carrot tops, and both pork and chicken bones. Put it all in the slow cooker overnight and you wake up to a lovely, intriguing aroma.


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thOver at Midlife Mom Musings, a blogger named Sharon wrote about an unpleasant surprise. The July food budget for her family of four was supposed to have been $700. Instead, they spent nearly $1,700 on groceries and meals away from home.

“I just don’t remember spending that much,” Sharon said.

(Few of us do.)

More than $400 of that was spent at places like Manhattan Bagel, McDonald’s, Tropical Smoothie, Chipotle, Texas Roadhouse and Ciros.

“Not even nice restaurants,” she lamented.

They ended the month with a $1,000 negative cash flow, which she freely admits could have been avoided if they’d just stayed within their food budget. To help make up for that loss, Sharon is boycotting all eateries in August.

A no-restaurants month is a common meme in the personal finance blogosphere. Just like “no-spend week” and “cash-only quarter,” it works if you work it – and if you do, you can learn a lot.

Like, say, how to cook with what’s on hand. How to pack a lunch. How to say “no,” whether that’s to kids who want to stop for a smoothie or to yourself when you really, really want a blueberry bagel.

Hey, I love a serving of McDonald’s fries as often as I can get away with it. But eating them every day would torpedo my budget and, maybe, my arteries.


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ImageProxyDon’t want to clip your own coupons? Let the Favado mobile savings app do it for you.

While you’re at it, enter to win the company’s Summer BBQ Savings sweepstakes. (More on that in a minute.)

Favado is a free app that tracks deals in more than 65,000 supermarkets and drugstores across the country. You make a shopping list right on your phone and then the app uses real-time data to match current deals, coupons and even “secret” sales (e.g., in-store promotions) with what you want to buy.

You’ll get automatic notifications when your favorite products go on sale at those stores – and the list includes markets like Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s and Kmart along with merchants like Safeway and Walgreens.

“Want to save on groceries…easily? Get this app,” advises Emily Weinberger of Good Housekeeping magazine.


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