Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

My Attempt at Homemade Yogurt October 5, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 12:09 pm
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My kids and I really like yogurt.  We like flavored yogurt the best, with vanilla and strawberry as top universal flavors.  I’m getting tired of buying it though, because I don’t buy it unless it’s on sale and I have a great coupon too.  The hassle of watching the sale/finding the coupon is getting too much for me right now, so when I read The Frugal Girl’s post about making yogurt I thought I’d give it a try.

So, on Saturday, I tried.  Here’s the recipe from The Frugal Girls’s blog – How to Make Homemade Yogurt.  Blue helped me that day (reluctantly) since I wasn’t sure this baby belly would allow me to lift and pour pots and hold jars and get the cooler out of the barn/shed, etc.  So during nap time, we went to work.

I did boil/sterilize my jars and next time I will have 5 jars ready.  There was a lot of temperature watching.  I think since it was my first time making it, I was overly watchful of the temps.  They are important, but I wasn’t sure how fast the milk and water would reach the temperatures necessary.  We did make the vanilla yogurt (using a vanilla flavored “starter”) and I would suggest adding the full amount suggested, if not a little more. 

The biggest hassle was the pouring.  I forgot about the suggestion to pour from the pot into a pitcher and THEN into the jars.  Pouring from the pot into the jars was a mess – I spilled everywhere!  Had I not made such a mess, I think I would’ve needed a 5th jar anyway, so I guess it all worked out.  I just hated to have had the waste I did. 

After waiting the 3 hours and putting the jars in the refrigerator, we tried some with dinner.  It was still warm and a little too runny, so not the best.  After curing in the refrigerator for a day, the yogurt was MUCH better.  Sorry, I just don’t like warm yogurt.  The vanilla taste was slight, but there.  Today I had some with granola in it – YUMMY!  I also bought frozen strawberries at the grocery, so smoothies are on the menu at some point.

Overall, will I make it again?  I think so.  I want to try to up the vanilla flavor, use a pitcher to pour into the jars and heat the milk up a little higher then cool it a little lower.  I think the heating/cooling will help make it a little thicker.  After reading some of the comment and suggestions from other Frugal Girl readers, I also think I’ll use a different brand of starter. 

It is WAY cheaper to make it than buy it (especially since I used a gallon of milk purchased with WIC vouchers).  The taste is good, the time is no different for me that what I took to search for sale/coupon combinations to make it reasonably priced anyway.  Occasionally, I would catch a deal that made the yogurt free at the store, but my new grocery doesn’t double coupons, so those “free yogurt days” are gone. 

I shared about my yogurt adventure – your turn!  Have you ever attempted homemade yogurt?  If you have, what was your experience like?  If not, try it and tell me about your experience!


Friday Food Plan September 10, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 9:38 pm
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I went grocery shopping today.  Inspired by The Frugal Girl and my friend who twice this week asked what I was fixing for dinner (her hubby even asked), I thought I’d share my shopping adventures and a sketch of what we’ll be eating this week.  I have really found that planning my meals for the week around what is on sale SIGNIFICANTLY helps my family eat for less.  Also, I’ve just discovered Aldi’s and, after only 2 weeks of shopping there, think I’ll be saving quite a bit.  Feel free to let me know what you’ll be eating too!

Here’s what I got at the store today:


Aldi’s Total:  $40.38  Purchased:  laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, corn flakes, head of lettuce, 2 loaves of bread, bagged lettuce mix, 3 boxes crackers, 2 bags bananas, 8 oz block cheese, butter, ranch dressing, baby carrots, shredded cheese, tortillas, tomatoes, flour, jelly, mayonnaise, sour cream, powdered sugar, jar of peanuts, 2 dz. eggs

Food Lion Total:  $11.36  Purchased:  chicken leg quarters, 2 2-ltrs Coke, 2 jars spaghetti sauce, grapes, salsa  WIC:  4 gallons milk, 2 jugs juice, 1 loaf bread (added value of $19.70)

Here’s what I “think” I’ll be making this week for at least one meal of the day.  For breakfast and lunch, we usually have cereal, toast, leftovers, sandwiches and lighter stuff on hand.  I have several things on hand in the pantry/freezer, so not everything for the week was purchased today.  Also, in our “preschool at home,” we are learning about the letter Cc, so we will be making a LOT of cookies this week!

Chicken Quesadillas with fixings

Chicken Parmesan (of some sort), salad

Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon

Meatless spaghetti, salad, homemade bread sticks

Baked Chicken legs, corn, salad

Hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, grapes

Grilled chicken breasts, rice, ??? (can you tell chicken was on sale the last 2 weeks?)

I’ll probably end up making chicken salad for sandwiches at some point too.  I’ll also be using a gallon of the milk to try – for the first time – making homemade vanilla yogurt!  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Anyway, tell me what your plan is for next week!


Weird Eaters and Lentil Soup July 14, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 8:45 am
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My kids are weird eaters.  I don’t get it.  They LOVE chicken nuggets and all that unhealthy kids stuff that we parents feed them when we are busy and need something quick.  My youngest 3 are TOTAL bread eaters too.  Rolls, biscuits, bread sticks – they want to eat that and nothing else when we serve it.

When it comes to healthy stuff, they are picky as all get out.  No tomatoes, no corn with 2 of them, no peas with a different 2, fruit is a mixed bag (seriously, they end up exchanging mixed fruit pieces…).  Making a meal that is healthy and that EVERYONE like is a challenge (and that includes Racer, he is the most picky of them all)!

So tonight for dinner, I made Lentil Soup with dumplings.  I used this recipe with some modifications – Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Dumplings.  I didn’t have carrots or celery, so I left those out.  I only had dried onions, so I used those.  I used whole wheat flour.  I’m trying to save money, be frugal and clean out my pantry (since we will FINALLY be moving) and I’m using what I’ve got!

So I made it and the little kids LOVED IT!  Gorilla and Girlie – who typically love bread stuff – wouldn’t touch the dumplings, but had 2 bowls of lentil soup.  Blue said she like it – and that was after a hard day of weeding the flower bed.  I had 2 bowls with dumplings.  We put either parmesan or shredded colby-jack on it because we are a cheese loving family.

I’m not sure how Racer and Professor will react when I make it again.  I think both will like the dumplings (which turned out GREAT – far better than the last time I made them).  I guess we’ll just have to see.  Anyway, I have enough lentils left to make another batch before we move.  I’m glad to have found something healthy that most if not all will eat.  I’m sure if I put the carrots and celery in though, that will ruin it for several (what’s this stuff?), so I think I’ll just leave those out from now on.

Who knew cleaning out the pantry and lentil soup would be so good?

P.S.  As I was cleaning out the pantry, I also found multiple un-opened jars of baking powder, opened cans of spices and lots of things that I never use.  We all need to go through our cabinets like we are moving every once in a while.  You never know what you might find.


The Joy of Paint, Glitter and Glue February 10, 2010

It’s snow day #2 this week. Yesterday, as the snow was falling outside, Girlie, Professor and even Blue made Valentine Day boxes. You remember doing them as a kid… the shoe box with the hole in the top and decorated with an assortment of items (I was fond of aluminum foil and construction paper hearts). Since we were having a snow day, I decided I’d get out the paint. We had a glorious mess!! The boxes were covered in brown paper grocery sacks (when I forget my reusable bags, I like to ask for paper) and then on to the painting!

It’s interesting to watch kids paint whatever they feel like painting. No direction, no suggestions, just their creativity. Blue painted hers all orange and put yellow stars. Professor started with some kind of map (I think it involved the Sea of Galilee) but ended up with all grey.  Girlie simply painted. I just let them paint. There was paint on the table, paint on them and I know if Racer had been here (he’s home now… FINALLY), he’d have been having a fit. I, the organized one, don’t mind a mess when it involves creativity. Weird, I know. Afterall, it’s just a box to put some Valentine cards in (which probably won’t happen afterall because I’m sure school will be out the rest of this week). It’s not a beauty contest and who cares what they look like. If the kids are enjoying creating them, then that makes them and me happy.

And oh, they got to glitter and glue foam hearts on too. I think I still have glitter in my hair!

They also made Valentine card for family.  Girlie got to practice her name and for being not quite 3, I must say she writes her name incredibly well.  Professor made Venn diagrams of color and color blending for one of his cards (you see why he’s the professor?) and Blue made a wierd, sweet card for Racer.  I helped Gorilla make some hand print cards too.  He loved closing his hand into a fist when the paint was on it!  As we were doing this, I was wondering whatever happened to homemade cards?  My kids were having so much fun, but these days, it seems like we just go “let the kids pick out a card.”  We let the card companies write the sentiments of our hearts and serenade loved ones with “special” songs.

We are losing the art of writing and creating.  Sometimes I think we forget the joy in working to make something with our own hands and seeing the face of the recipient when they know it took time and effort to make the gift.  Instead, we keep a gift closet and pick up stuff on sale (or regift – both of which I readily admit I do).  We go and grab a gift card.  I realize, as adults it is hard to find the time to shop and always know what another wants.  I also know that I treasure a handwritten note with gratitude, a story or a prayer.  That is often much more meaningful than any gift that could be purchased.

So as we approach Valentine’s Day, let’s forget about spending money and buying cards, flowers or chocolate.  Instead, give the gift of time and sentiment.  Give and old-fashioned, hand-written card or letter to a loved one or friend.  Tell them what they mean to you.  Tell them how your life is better because they are in it.  Tell them a story about how they have touched your life or warmed your heart.  Tell them how you have seen them grow.  Tell them how beautiful their spirit is and how you are better because they are a part of your life.

Don’t we all need just a little love like that?


Another Coupon Game Win! February 5, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 2:20 pm
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I did it again!  This time I saved 71% – YEAH ME!!  So earlier this week, I shared my first real success at playing the coupon game well.  Today, I’ve been doing even better.  I’ve been reading other blogs about frugal living, saving money and couponing.  So I used what I learned and went to my main grocery store, armed with my printable coupons and other coupons loaded onto my store savers card (click here and here for more info).  So, here is what I bought:

12 roll pkg. of toilet paper, 4 bags chex mix snack, 1 pkg. steam veggies, 2 boxes granola bars, 4 bags of fish crackers

The grand total:  $10.22 

That’s right – I saved $25.99 – 71%!!!  This was almost all snack stuff that I wouldn’t usually buy, but it was on sale, I had coupons in hand, PLUS my new love – coupons that you “send” to your store saver card that automatically deduct. 

As for the not shopping and cooking with what I have…  so yeah, I went shopping.  Let me say, however, that I have meals planned out for the entire next week based on what we already had at home.  Nothing that I bought will be used for meals – just snacks. 

So today’s dinner menu – chili with drop biscuits.  I’ve got lots of stuff marked in my trusty, go to cookbook.  Now if the kids will just cooperate and let me cook… 

Maybe I’ll just let them help!


Coupon Game Success!! February 2, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 11:52 pm
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Today, I am claiming a small victory at the grocery store!!  I went in prepared and came out a victor.  I matched my coupons up with what was on sale – especially the buy 10 save $5 items.  Then ground beef was on sale (with my store saver card) and so was frozen chicken, both of which my family eats a lot of.  Then I had some coupons for cleaning products – buy 2 get this product free (one of the options was on sale too).  Then I had 2 coupons for a new product out – $1 off a package of toilet paper and a $1 off OR a free roll.  So here is the list of what I got:

2 boxes store brand corn flakes, 96 oz. bleach, 12 rolls toilet paper made from recycled paper, 1.5 pt. ice cream, 3 boxes fiber granola bars, 6 bags fish crackers, 2 containers of disinfectant cleaning wipes, 3 lbs. store brand frozen chicken pieces, 1 lb. polish sausage, 8 lbs. ground beef

The grand total before discounts and coupons was about $82.  I paid $33.27!!  Yeah for me!!  The store paid me $1 to take the toilet paper out of the store (they read the coupon wrong in my favor) and I got the bleach and cleaning wipes for $2.01.  I know there are people out there who do a far better job playing the coupon game, but this was the best success I’ve had yet, so I just had to share.  I’m learning and that’s what it’s all about!! 

Now, on to my challenge to cook from what I have for the next 2 weeks (minus milk, bread and lunch meat).  I have the menu planned and ready to go.  I’ll let you know how it goes…


January Rubber Turkey January 16, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 8:42 pm
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So today, I made a turkey.  I put it in after breakfast and it was ready for lunch.  And I learned that I am woefully inept at carving turkey.  The funny thing is, I made the turkey, not so much for lunch, but for the recipe I was making for dinner… or supper.  Whatever you call it – the last meal of the day.  I, by the way, call it either one.  We have breakfast, lunch and then dinner/supper.  Anyway, I needed the meat for dinner, but I didn’t want to just cook the turkey for that and then tear it apart…

So lunch was turkey and macaroni and cheese.  Well balanced huh!?  Then after lunch, I tore apart the rest of the turkey and saved the meat for my dinner recipe.  Then, in my proud frugal, “waste not want not,” cheapo moment, I put the carcass in a pot with water and set it to boil.

For dinner, I made this mexican casserole (with my turkey instead of chicken because I had a turkey in the freezer, not a chicken) with nacho cheese chips, LOTS of cheese, cream of chicken soup, diced tomatoes and onions.  It was YUMMY!!!  As the casserole was baking, I started putting my “turkey broth” in jars for later use.  I got 2 1/2 mason jars, well 2 mason and 1/2 spaghetti jar, full of turkey broth.  What’s great is that when I go to use it, I can totally scrape the fat that has “globbed” up on the top and get rid of it!

So, lunch was good, the casserole was good and the broth will be great for later.  I have some turkey meat left for a sandwich.  Some casserole left for lunch tomorrow and broth for another day.

I only share this because at times, I am proud of my cooking.  Not that I create anything original, but I’m proud of my planning.  I’m glad that I am able to use the resources I have and make them stretch further.  Sometimes I wish I lived in a place and time when we HAD to make everything stretch super far, so that I could better appreciate what it is that we do have.  I admit, we waste food.  There are times I throw out fresh veggies that I didn’t use in time.  Leftovers that molded because no one wanted to eat that again.  And then there are kids – families – in our own community that would love to have had the food that we allowed to go to waste.

Anyway, my challenge this year is to plan our food better so that we are using our food money the best we can and using the food we have the best we can.  One week in the near future, I’m going to have a pantry week and force myself to use what is in the pantry and not go the grocery.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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