Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I know that I was supposed to write a practical post about making bulk and produce bags, but we happen to be at the beach with our friends, and I thought I’d do something a little more fun since I’m on vacation.  The kids didn't argue.

When I was a kid we had a Tupperware popsicle mold set that got put through the wringer every summer, alternating between juice pops and pudding pops.  Those sticks are chewed to pieces from so much love!  I don’t have a well loved popsicle mold because I have my eye on a stainless set I’ve been saving my swagbucks up for.  In the meantime, I just went to CVS here at Ocean Isle, NC and bought a great little set for $2!

You will need 

Popsicle molds ($2.00)

1 3.9oz box instant chocolate pudding ($.97)

2 cups organic milk ($5.99 per gallon, $5.99/16 cups = $.37 x 2cups = $.75)

Mix the milk and pudding mix with a whisk for 2 minutes.  Spoon into the molds and stick it in the freezer for a few hours till frozen.  To release them from the molds, run it under warm water.  It takes longer than you'd expect to get it out.  Be patient!

A project so easy I could do it with a baby in my arms the whole time!

In case you forgot what pudding looks like...

If you want, you can mix it up and layer in some vanilla pudding.  It looks cool, but it won’t be a fudgsicle, exactly.  These are as good as I remember from childhood, and they took all of 5 minutes of hands-on time.

Remember to leave a little bit of space at the top so it doesn't squish out the sides!
Try It

$1.72 for 8 popsicles, $3.72 including the mold, $.22 per pop without the mold, $.47 with it.

Buy It

$3.99 for 12 fudgsicles, or $.33 per pop.


The calorie count is higher, but they are so much better!  I was glad the mold made small popsicles, perfect for little hands.  I will Try It now that I have at least an interim mold. Happy summer, everybody, enjoy some frozen treats!  Next I think I'll try leftover smoothie pops...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Frozen Mocha

I was a barista for 7 years, and would gladly return to the profession if the chance arose.  As any former barista will tell you, you become very particular about your coffee after having free reign over a commercial espresso machine!  What really bothers me is splurging for an expensive drink and it not being up to par.  Because of this, I make most of my coffee at home (well, that and I’m cheap).  My husband got me an amazing espresso machine as a wedding gift 5 years ago, so it’s not a challenge, but even without it great iced drinks are well within your reach, even with something as simple as a French press.  

You will need

5 Tbsp plus 1 tsp strongly brewed organic pre-ground coffee ($7.99 per 12 oz, $7.99/12oz = $.67 x 2oz = 
$1.33 per pot.  $1.33 per 3 ½ cups, $1.33/56 Tbsp = $.02 x 5.33Tbsp = $.13)

½ cup organic milk ($6.35 per gallon, $6.35/16 cups = $.39 x .5cup = .19)

Ice (free)

3 Tbsp homemade chocolate syrup ($1.58 per 16fl.oz, $1.58/32Tbsp = $.05 x 3Tbsp = $.15)

(NOTE: I have a 4 cup French press.  If you’re using a drip coffee maker or any other apparatus, follow the manufacturer’s directions, but add a little more grounds than usual.  You can use whatever coffee you have in the cabinet, but I would recommend a darker roast such as espresso or French roast for this.) 

Coffee cubes on the way!
The next morning, cubes are ready for the blender.
 Put 8 heaping Tbsp of coffee grounds in the French press.  Pour boiling water to the top of the metal band.  Put the top on and let it sit for 3 minutes before pushing down the plunger.  Allow the coffee to cool a bit, then pour into an ice cube tray.  Freeze until solid.

Put a few coffee cubes in a glass (I used three).  Fill the glass the rest of the way with regular ice (I used 4 pieces of ice from the ice maker).  Fill milk almost to the top of the ice, about a ½ cup (less if you like the mocha thicker).  Throw everything in the glass into a blender, and add chocolate to taste.  I add 3 Tbsp, but add more if you like it crazy sweet like most of the coffee shop blender mochas.  This made a 12 fl.oz frozen mocha.

I eyeballed the milk, then measured what I had poured. 
Don't take your drink out of the blender till it's spinning smoothly and there's a nice whirlpool effect in the middle or it won't be smooth and you'll be crunching on your "drink". 

Ahh, summertime perfection!
At this point you could also add whipped cream and a drizzle of syrup if you feel like getting fancy.  That would add $.27 to the price (for 2 Tbsp organic whipping cream and 1 tsp homemade chocolate syrup).

Yes, I’m aware of how many parenthesis there are in this post!  Since this is an item that everyone likes a little differently, and something I’ve been making by feel since I was 17, it was difficult to put precise measurements on the ingredients.  I did actually measure everything out, so if you make it the same way I did, you will taste what I taste.  Give my way a go, and tweak from there to get your perfect drink! 
If you would rather a frozen caramel or vanilla or whatever, just substitute that flavor for the chocolate.  Quality syrups can often be found at Target or the grocery store, or at World Market.  I prefer Da Vinci brand, myself.

Why coffee ice cubes?  Well, they can be made in advance without wasting the rest of the pot, and they can be used for other things, too.  I went to a shop in Michigan where if you ordered an iced coffee they gave you a cup full to the brim with coffee ice cubes, then told you to pour hot coffee over it.  I was initially skeptical, but that stuff was delicious and fresh tasting and never got watered down.

Try It

$.47 per 12 fl.oz mocha, or $.04/fl.oz

Buy It

$3.75 per 12 fl.oz, $3.65 if you remember your own cup at the Target Starbucks (where I was picking up my free birthday drink!), or $.31/fl.oz, $.30/fl.oz with your cup.


Unless the real treat for you is visiting the coffee shop (and I understand that completely!), Try It, it’s only 13% of the cost of a shop drink, not including tip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Before having a preschooler, we went through a bottle of ketchup every couple years.  Now we allow ketchup with all kinds of meals because the boy loves to dip everything in it, and if it means that he’ll eat a variety of foods, I’m okay with that.  I usually buy the Simply Heinz that is corn syrup free.  Our bottle is getting a little low after the last batch of baked beans, so I thought I’d give ketchup a shot.  I found all kinds of recipes online, and the ingredients were all over the place- some used fennel bulbs, some had cinnamon and cloves, and others had garlic and paprika.  I took the simplest path, using a recipe from allrecipes that I already had most of the ingredients for. 

You will need

2 6oz cans of organic tomato paste ($.99 per can, $.99 x 2 = $1.99)

½ cup frozen apple juice concentrate ($1.79 per 12fl.oz, $1.79/12fl.oz = $.15 x 4fl.oz = $.59)

1 Tbsp white vinegar ($3.69 per gallon, $3.69/128fl.oz = $.03 x .5fl.oz = $.01)

¾ cup water (free)

1 tsp paprika ($11.99 per lb, $11.99 x .00625lb = $.07)

½ tsp salt ($.47 per 26oz, $.47/30.69tsp = $.02 x .5 tsp = $.01)

¼ tsp thyme ($3.79 per .37oz, $3.79/12.75tsp = $.29 x .25tsp = $.07)  

¼ tsp garlic powder ($6.99 per lb, $6.99 x .00194 = $.01)

1/8 tsp onion powder ($3.99 per 2.62oz, $3.99/2.62oz = $1.52 x .01555oz = $.02)

1/8 tsp ground allspice ($4.25 per .9oz, $4.25/12.75tsp = $.33 x .125tsp = $.04)

1/8 tsp ground cumin ($4.65 per .9oz, $4.65/12.75tsp = $.36 x .125tsp = $.05)

All the ingredients.  We keep refilling the vinegar and some of the spice containers.
 Combine all liquid ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk in remaining ingredients, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

I actually ended up trying two versions of this recipe, but only made quarter batches.  The first one was the original recipe, and the second omitted the apple juice concentrate and white vinegar, and replaced them with 7 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp honey, and 4 tsp apple cider vinegar, as a commenter suggested.  Both sat in the fridge overnight before anyone tasted them.

Apple juice, vinegar, and tomato paste.
Taste test
Try It

$3.85 for about 22 fl.oz, or $.18/fl.oz.

Buy It

$3.25 for a 32oz bottle of Simply Heinz, or $.12/fl.oz.


I had a couple people taste them, and no one really liked the honey version.  It was too vinegary and not sweet enough.  Everyone liked the apple juice version better than the honey, my sister said it was more tomato-saucy than ketchup.  All of us sadly preferred the Heinz.  I guess since the Heinz is cheaper anyway it’s not too sad.  Next time I’ll give this lady’s recipe a try, and if I still don’t like it, I’ll have to say Buy It for good.  

NEXT WEEK: Frozen Mocha!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

Nothing rounds out a barbeque like baked beans.  Up until this spring I’d always bought the canned variety, which seemed pretty tasty.  We had a big barbeque in March and I decided to make some from scratch for the first time just for fun.  I found a slow cooker recipe on allrecipes to try (which means they technically are not baked).

There's that pulled pork from the Dry Rub post last week, all cooked up and covered in delicious coleslaw.
You will need

3 cups organic dry navy beans ($1.99 per lb, $1.99 x .656lb = $1.31)

1 ½ cups ketchup ($3.25 per 32oz, $3.25/3.31 cups = $.98 x 1.5cups = $1.47)

1 ½ cups water (free)

¼ cup molasses ($3.45 per 12fl.oz, $3.45/12fl.oz = $.29 x 2fl.oz = $.58)

1 large organic onion, diced ($1.20)

1 Tbsp dry mustard ($7.49 per lb, $7.49 x .016lb = $.12)

1 Tbsp salt ($.47 per 26oz, $.47/30.69tsp = $.02 x 3 = $.05)

6 slices thick local bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces ($9.99 per lb, $9.99 x .375lb = $3.75)

1 cup brown sugar ($.99 per 16oz, $.99/2.35 cups = $.42)

Not so pretty in the beginning, but you can see the potential.

Soak the beans overnight.  Drain the soaking water, and cook the beans in fresh water until tender (Not cooking the beans in the soaking water makes them less likely to give you gas, definitely worth the extra step!).  Drain the beans again, and dump them in the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients.  Cook on low for at least 8 hours, stirring occasionally. 

By the way- the original recipe calls for soaking the beans and then throwing them in the slow cooker with everything else.  There were a lot of comments that the beans never turned soft, and someone mentioned that this was because the acid in the ketchup kept the beans from cooking, so I cook them all the way through before putting them in the Crock Pot, and this could be done the night before if you wanted.    

Now your entire house smells delicious, and you get to take the credit for a dish that had about 5 minutes of hands on time.

I LOVE these.  They are sweet and saucy and pair perfectly with pulled pork.

Try It

$8.90 for 11 cups, or $.81/cup.

Buy It

$2.29 for 28oz of Bush’s Original, about 3 cups, or $.76/cup.


These are a little more expensive to make, but the beans are organic, there is depth to the flavor of the sauce, and the bacon almost dissolves in the cooker, adding smoke and flavor as opposed to that gross fatty blob that floats in the canned stuff.  I will Try It from now on, they’re so good!

NEXT WEEK: Ketchup!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dry Rub

Happy 4th of July to those of you in the USA!  I know we'll have the grill fired up, but then again, we almost always do in the summer.  It's relatively quick and keeps the heat and smells out of the house.  We used to buy Lysander's rubs to spice up our meat, but then Harris Teeter stopped carrying it.  That was really for the best, because that's when we tried our hand at making our own, and it's fantastic!  It’s great on chicken or pork, and my husband uses it when he smokes a pork shoulder or beef brisket.  We use the Basic Barbecue Rub recipe from How to Grill by Steven Raichlen.  He calls for coarse salt, but I prefer kosher salt; I don’t like biting into giant salt chunks (plus we always have a giant box of kosher in the pantry).

You will need 

¼ cup brown sugar ($.99 per 16oz, $.99/2.35 cups = $.42 x .25 cup = $.11)

¼ cup sweet (or smoked if you like) paprika ($11.99 per lb, $11.99 x .075lb = $.80)

3 Tbsp black pepper ($9.99 per lb, $9.99 x .05lb = $.50)

¼ cup kosher salt ($2.99 per 48oz, $2.99/94.42 Tbsp = $.03 x 4Tbsp = $.12)

2 tsp garlic powder ($6.99 per lb, $6.99 x .01555 = $.11)

2 tsp onion powder ($3.99 per 2.62oz, $3.99/2.62oz = $1.52 x .24888oz = $.38)

2 tsp celery seeds ($5.65 per 1.62oz, $5.65/19.62tsp = $.29 x 2 tsp = $.58)

1 tsp cayenne pepper ($3.79 per oz, $3.79/12.75tsp = $.29)

Phasing in bulk spices.  Glass baby food jars make great spice containers!
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, breaking up brown sugar clumps as needed.  Rub onto meat before grilling, baking, or smoking.
Aren't they pretty?

Mixed and ready to rub.

I was convinced I could just throw everything in a jar and shake it up a bit, but that does not work.  The sugar will never mix in properly.  Instead, use a funnel (or roll up a piece of paper) to transfer the rub into a jar after you’re done mixing.  This keeps very well, so feel free to make a double or triple batch!

Pre-smoked pork shoulder from the Organic Butcher... Check next week to see a picture of the pulled pork.  Mmm, delicious.
Try It

$2.89 for 5oz, or $.58/oz.

Buy It

$5.71 for 3.8oz of Lysander's Pork Meat Rub, or $1.50/oz.


This is a very simple money saver that has a great flavor and is easily customized.  Try It!

NEXT WEEK: Baked Beans!