October 31, 2014

Nesting Skills – Make Your Own Brownie Mix

Here’s a really ridiculously easy brownie mix that you can make at home instead of buying a boxed brownie mix.  You can buy brownie mix really cheaply when it’s on sale but at least in a homemade version you know what’s in your mix and you can easily customize it to your taste!

Ridiculously easy homemade brownie mix: Never buy boxed brownie mix again! Not only frugal but better for you since it eliminates all those crazy unknown ingredients.  Makes a great gift too!

With the holidays right around the corner, this would also make a great gift that you can dress up with a cute tag/label & ribbon. Include some add-ins like chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, nuts, crushed peppermints or crushed cookies to really take it up a notch!

Homemade Brownie Mix -

1 C. sugar
½ C. flour
1/3 C. cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder

*Mix makes 1 pan of brownies.

Directions:

Combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To Make Brownies (write this on a tag or label if giving as a gift):

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×9 baking dish with non-stiock spray.

2. Combine the homemade brownie mix with 2 eggs, ½ C. vegetable oil and 1 tsp. of vanilla.

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick around 20 minutes and if it comes out clean, the brownies are done. Don’t over cook if you want moist brownies!

Thick chewy brownies made from scratch! Ridiculously easy brownie mix that so much better than boxed and would make a great gift!

My favorite way to have brownies is hot out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! What’s yours?

5.0 from 1 reviews
Nesting Skills - Homemade Brownie Mix
 
Ridiculously easy homemade brownie mix: Never buy boxed brownie mix again! Not just frugal but better for you since it eliminates all those crazy unknown ingredients. Makes a great gift too!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 1 C. sugar
  • ½ C. flour
  • ⅓ C. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
Instructions
  1. To Make Brownies (write this on a tag or label if giving as a gift)
  2. #1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x9 baking dish with non-stiock spray.
  3. #2. Combine the homemade brownie mix with 2 eggs, ½ C. vegetable oil and 1 tsp. of vanilla.
  4. #3. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick around 20 minutes and if it comes out clean, the brownies are done. Don't over cook if you want moist brownies!

You may also like these recipes from the Nesting Skills Series:

Homemade Cinnamon Syrup

Homemade Dry Onion Soup Mix & Cream of….Mix

Homemade Liquid Soap

Homemade Gardeners Orange Olive Oil Bar Soap

 

This is an original post from A Cultivated Nest.  If you are reading this anywhere other than A Cultivated Nest, this content has been stolen.

Linking to:  The HomeAcre Hop, Thrifty Couple

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Syrup

Last year I started a Homemade Solutions Series and somehow got sidetracked.  I’m going to start it back up since we’re going to be in our new home next week and I’ll finally have more time (Yay!) and making things from scratch is going to be a priority. So to start this series off (again) as Nesting Skills.  I’m sharing a easy homemade cinnamon coffee syrup (although you could also use this in place of store bought syrup on pancakes).

This homemade coffee syrup recipe is so easy to make (only 3 ingredients).  Just delicious in coffee or even on top of pancakes. Makes a wonderful gift too!

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Coffee Syrup

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Syrup
 
Very easy to make (only 3 ingredients) cinnamon syrup that's good in coffee and also on pancakes. This would make a great gift for a coffee lover.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ C. water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 C. + 2 tbs. of brown sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. (You're house will smell amazing btw)
  2. Add a cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick
  3. Store the cinnamon syrup in a mason jar or other air tight container in the fridge when not using. Will last about a week.
  4. Use in strong hot coffee along with steamed milk topped with whipped cream & a sprinkle of cinnamon for a yummy homemade Cinnamon Dolce Latte!

Ingredients:

1 ½ C. water
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 C. + 2 tbs. of brown sugar

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, heat the water, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. (Your house will smell amazing btw)

2. Add a cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick.

3. Store the cinnamon syrup in a mason jar or other air tight container in the fridge when not using. Lasts for about a week.

4. Use in strong hot coffee along with steamed milk topped with whipped cream & a sprinkle of cinnamon for a yummy homemade Cinnamon Dolce Latte!  How much depends on how sweet you like your coffee.

Treat yourself to some delicious coffee that tastes like a specialty flavor and give this recipe a try (or try it on pancakes/waffles).  It would also make a wonderful gift for a coffee lover (especially if you package it in a pretty glass bottle).

Make your own Cinnamon Dolce coffee with this easy to make coffee syrup. This would be a great gift for a coffee lover!Have you ever made a flavored syrup before?

You might also like:

Homemade Onion Soup Mix & Dry Cream of…..Soup Mix

Homemade Liquid Soap

Why You Need to Set Up a Budget (and Stick to it)

There are many reasons why reigning in your spending and being responsible with your money by setting a budget is definitely a smart choice, although it may not be a “fun” choice at first. A budget will help you live within your means which believe me in the long haul will feel freeing rather than constraining!

Why you need to set a budget (and stick to it)

Why You Need to Set a Budget (and Stick to it)

 

A budget serves several purposes 

First of all, it helps you track where your money is going!  Spending with no set plan and no idea where your money has gone leads to an empty wallet as well as an empty savings account. If you know on paper what your grocery, fast food, or clothing allowance for the week is then you are less likely to overspend and be scrambling to pay utilities and other basic bills on time. Late fee’s add up quickly and can keep spiraling out of control.

Creating and reviewing your budget can help you identify where you are spending unnecessarily –  maybe it’s big things like grocery purchases that you didn’t plan on & cable package that you don’t really need, or small things like coffee and snacks out, manicures etc..  Sometimes we don’t even realize how much little purchases add up and eat away at what could be savings or used for paying down the principle on your credit card bills.

Sometimes a budget will show you that it’s not a spending problem but an income problem. In which case, you have to think of some ways to bring in more money.

Having a budget will help you in paying down debt- make a plan for paying off more than just the interest.  Once you are cutting out wasteful spending you can use that money to pay extra on credit cards, car loans, and the mortgage.

Setting and sticking to a budget can assure that you can financially handle emergencies that may pop up- a blown tire, a leaky roof, or insurance deductibles that catch you by surprise. If you have savings figured into your budget this acts as a safety net to get you through.

Budgeting your money helps you save and plan for the future. While it may seem a long way off college tuition’s, weddings, and retirement aren’t  as far away as you think. Don’t let it take you by surprise, and don’t rely on your social security-if it is even around when you retire-it is not usually enough for people to live on as a sole source of income.

Having security in your future, and even your day to day spending will also give you a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself, that alone is an invaluable reason to budget your money.

So take control of your financial future and make a budget!

Here are some other posts for additional budgeting help

Home Sweet Frugal Home – Making A Budget Binder & A List of Free Printable Financial Planning Pages

Getting Out of Debt by Using The Snowball Method

Printable Monthly Budget Worksheet

Why you need to make a budget (and stick to it)!

This is an original post from A Cultivated Nest. If you are reading this anywhere other than A Cultivated Nest (or have a subscription), this content has been stolen.

  About Jody: Jody is a Christian stay at home mom of 2 living in fun, and sunny Florida. She is passionate about: cooking, gardening, her backyard chickens, reading and scrapbooking. She loves taking all kinds of things apart and remaking it on her own.

Linking to: Thirfty Thursday

5 Ways I Reduce Food Waste & Save Money

A wise friend once told me that the most expensive item in my kitchen is the food that gets thrown out! Throwing away food is like throwing away money!  Here are 5 ways that I reduce food waste in my home and save money!

A wise friend once told me that the most expensive item in my kitchen is the food that gets thrown out! Throwing away food is like throwing away money!  It’s something that I’ve really been working on for the last few months. It’s so easy to throw out food that you forgot about that has gone bad at the back of the fridge. But you can save so much money by not wasting.  So I wanted to share some of my best tips for not wasting food and as a result, saving money.

Use Your Freezer

One of my biggest tips for not wasting money on food is to use your freezer.

I don’t know how many times, in the past, I have put meat in the fridge after grocery shopping only to forget about it. When I get home from the grocery store I automatically portion my meat into freezer bags and put it in the freezer, so I don’t even have a chance to forget about it.

Now if I have a little bit of an ingredient leftover from a recipe I put it in an appropriate container, mark what it is and the date on the outside and it goes into the freezer.  I use this a lot for tomato sauce.

Use your freezer to stop food waste

We eat our leftovers but sometimes there’s not enough leftover for a whole meal but enough that you don’t want to throw it away – I put that into the freezer also. Like sometimes I have one slice of pizza left so I wrap that up and into the freezer it goes. Every month I have a clean out the freezer lunch where we have a buffet of little leftover items.

I freeze the ends of bread or bread that we don’t get too before it goes stale. I have a post about what you can do with leftover bread here.

I freeze fresh fruit that needs to be used up and use it frozen in breakfast smoothies. I also do this with fruit that turns out to be not too tasty (you know, like that rock hard melon). It still has nutrients even though it doesn’t taste good.

You’d be amazed at all the things you can freeze!

Save money by using up your leftovers.

Use Your Leftovers

I can’t tell you how many times we eat leftovers in our home. I see no point in wasting it. I’ve found that leftovers are key to helping us not waste food and save money. If your family isn’t a big fan of leftovers, stick to meals they love and won’t mind eating double doses of or reinvent your leftovers into a new dish.

Also storing leftovers in see through containers helps a lot! If you don’t have those types of containers you could put a piece of masking tape on the top and mark what they are and the date. If you really don’t think they’ll be eaten in a timely manner freeze them.

I’ve found that having  a designated shelf for leftovers so that I (and everyone else in this family) knows where to look for them works. That way they don’t get shoved into that black hole that is the back of the refrigerator!

Meal Planning

If you’re just going to the store and buying whatever you want, you’re wasting food and money. I always try to take the time to do a quick inventory & meal plan so that I’m not wasting our food budget. That way I see what I have and know what I have to use up. You know, I’m not perfect with this but I’ve found it very helpful to meal plan and make the most of the food that I do purchase.

“Everything But The Kitchen Sink” Recipes

Have a few “everything but the kitchen sink” type recipes in your repertoire.  These are recipes where you can just throw in all kinds of things that are in danger of going bad like soups, stews, stir fry and omelettes/frittata. Also smoothies are good for both fruit and leafy greens that you have to use up.

An organized refrigerator will save you money

Organized Fridge

It’s easy to “lose” food in the fridge isn’t it? I’ve found that having  a designated shelf for certain things helps me remember what I have. For example we have a shelf for leftovers that I plan on using for lunch or reworking into another meal. We have shelf for produce, a part of a shelf for milk, creamer, yogurt and so on. I have a storage container just for cheese. This way I (and everyone else in this family) knows where to look for certain items.

You could use a bin to hold food that you want eaten first and label it that. I use this method with fruit that I know is not going to last long (like berries or melons vs. apples & oranges).

When we get lazy about cooking and storing food, we lose money. I know I can’t be on my best game all the time, but I really try to work my hardest in the area of no-food-waste. I hope you’ve find my 5 tips helpful!

What do you do to help reduce food waste in your home?

Linking to: Thrifty Thursday

This is an original post from A Cultivated Nest.  If you are reading this anywhere other than  A Cultivated Nest, this content has been stolen.

DIY Orange Clove Gardener’s Soap

This is a heavenly scented bar soap for gardener’s soil stained hands, but it’s just as effective and wonderful for your mechanics work worn and grease slicked ones! The scents combine deliciously and leave your hands clean, lightly exfoliated, and moisturized.
DIY orange olive oil gardener's soap

Homemade soap is much simpler to make than you might think, and I prefer it as you can customize scents, colors, and shapes to suit you or as a gift for a loved one. Toss a couple of these yummy soaps in a basket with a new set of gardening tools, a sun hat and you have a lovely DIY gift for the gardener in your life.

Ingredients:

Soap base
2 Tbsp. ground Clove
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Shea butter
2 vitamin E capsules ( or 2 tsp.)
Grated peel from 3 oranges
Soap mold
witch hazel in a spray bottle

DIY orange olive oil gardener's soap ingredients

Directions:

1. To dry orange peel – grate oranges onto a paper towel using the larger grates, trying to just get peel not the white pith. Spread pieces out into a single layer and place in microwave for 20 second increments until dried and hard, sprinkle evenly into the bottom of molds.

grated orange peel for diy soap recipe
2. Cut soap base into 1”x1” cubes- the amount you use will vary depending on the size of your molds – my 4 mold container holds 6 liquid oz. each so for the purpose of this tutorial we will use my measurements. My 4 molds take about 9-10 pieces of soap base when combined with other ingredients- you may have to experiment a bit with your mold to determine exact amounts.
3. In a microwave safe bowl combine soap base cubes, olive oil, and shea butter- heat in 30 second increments, stirring each time. It takes about 1 ½ minutes to 2 minutes to liquefy.
4. Remove bowl from microwave carefully, stir in clove and pierce vitamin E capsule and disperse contents into mixture.
5. Pour into soap molds and spray lightly with witch hazel to cut down on bubbles.
6. Allow to harden overnight.

bar of orange olive oil soap
7. Remove from molds and keep in a dry, cool place to store.

Toss a couple of these yummy soaps in a basket with a new set of gardening tools, a sun hat and you have a lovely DIY gift for the gardener in your life.

Have you ever made soap?

Orange olive oil gardenern's soap
  About Jody: Jody is a Christian stay at home mom of 2 living in fun, and sunny Florida. She is passionate about: cooking, gardening, my backyard chickens, reading and scrapbooking. She loves taking all kinds of things apart and remaking it on her own.

You may also like these posts in the Nesting Skills Series:

Homemade Cinnamon Syrup

Homemade Liquid Soap

This is an original post from A Cultivated Nest.  If you are reading this anywhere other than  A Cultivated Nest, this content has been stolen.

The No Stess Way To Build A Stockpile

Having a well stocked pantry is so important! You never know what’s going to happen financially or even weather wise that might prevent you from being able to buy groceries. A well stocked pantry gives me a sense of security because I know I’ll be able to feed my family should something unfortunate happen. How long depends on how well stocked your pantry is (but something is better than nothing).

The No Stress Way To Build A Stockpile

The concept of stockpiling can be daunting (especially if you’re thinking of Extreme Couponing Stockpiling :) ). But it’s really not complicated at all to get started!  Mine is a more realistic approach to stockpiling.  Just take it nice and slow in the beginning and follow these steps. Remember everything new requires a learning period so give yourself some time to get the hang of building your stockpile.

1. What’s a stockpile?

To begin building a stockpile, you should probably understand what a stockpile is. A great way to explain stockpiling is that you’re building up a supply of items that your family normally eats or uses when you find those items extremely cheap. You may not need everything at the moment, but you’re prepping for the long haul.

2. Know What You Need

When it comes to stockpiling, you should know what you need product and food wise.  Take an inventory of your pantry and make a list of what you’d like to stockpile and go from there. That way you’ll know that you already have 10 cans of tomatoes and maybe you’ve determined that’s enough. Or maybe you’ve decided that 10 cans is not enough and you need 10 more! Figure out a quantity that will work for your family (and your budget).

3. Get Space Ready

You are going to need a place to put your stockpile. Find a place in your kitchen, basement, under the bed or in the garage that will house the extra items you’ll be buying.  Repurpose a linen closet or a utility closet like I did (My New Pantry & How I Organized It). Get creative!  It’s best to keep this area as organized as possible from the get go.

door to the pantry

4. Watch for Sales To Get Items for Your Stockpile

Here comes the most exciting part of stockpiling! The actual grocery store trips to get the items you have on your list. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when preparing for your trip.

1. Sales – Get your items at rock bottom prices! You’ll want to have an idea of when  sales happen in your area (usually every 6-12 weeks) and what your best price is. A price book is a great way to track that! Here’s my post on how to set up a price book. Or  to keep it super easy, you can just take advantage of  advertised weekly deals.

2. Coupons – You might want to use coupons when items are on sale to get the best price. For example: if you have a $1 coupon for a box of Macaroni & Cheese and the item goes on sale for $1, this is a great item to stock up on. I don’t use a lot of coupons but the ones I do use are organized in such a way that it’s easy for me to use them.  Here is my post on How I Organize My Coupons. Even if you don’t eat products that you usually find coupons for, most people still buy toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant etc. So use your coupons to stockpile these things.

3. Obtaining Coupons – There are several ways you can obtain coupons. Printing off coupons, downloading coupons onto frequent shopper cards and purchasing your local newspaper are the most common ways to get coupons. Of course, you can also ask family and friends if they are going to use the coupons they have. Collect as many coupons as you can for the things your family normally eats.

4. Price match in stores that have this policy.

5. Determine Your Budget for Stocking Up

Since you are still going to be doing your normal grocery shopping,  you’ll have to decide how much of your grocery budget you can set aside for the purpose of stocking up if you can’t add additional money.

Can you use $5-10 of your regular grocery budget just for stocking up? Or perhaps you can only buy 1 or 2 extra things each time you shop.

Maybe your grocery budget is already really tight – then you need to think about ways to make some wiggle room. Maybe you need to plan for more vegetarian meals  in order to squeeze some extra money out of the grocery budget for stocking up.  Perhaps do a no spend weekend or cut back in other areas.  Maybe you need to sell something to get a bit of extra stock up money.

Some people allocate a portion of their tax return or bonus for stocking up. However you decide to handle this, do set yourself a limit for stockpiling and don’t go over budget.

6. Maintaining Your Stockpile

1. Mark the expiration date on your item with a marker if you can’t easily see the expiration date stamped on the item.

2. Keep like items together

3.  Rotate your stock.  Since you will be buying several items of the same type, you’ll want to have a good rotation practice in place. Keep the oldest items towards the front and the newest items in the back. Part of rotating is paying attention to the expiration dates.

Having a stockpile of food and other products on hand will give you peace of mind!

Do you keep a stockpile of food and other items? 

The No Stress Way To Build A Stockpile

This is an original post from A Cultivated Nest.  If you are reading this anywhere other than  A Cultivated Nest, this content has been stolen.

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