Archive for Food Costs

Easy & Cheap Recipe: Basic Red Tomato Sauce

Mouth with red lips eating spaghetti

Years ago a friend gave me the following recipe. She said it was a family favorite that she had eaten growing up and was now feeding her own kids. After making the sauce a few times and seeing how versatile it can be, it quickly became a family favorite.

This is a basic red tomato sauce that can be used over pasta, fish, meat, chicken, vegetables, egg dishes, spaghetti squash, eggplant, or anything else you like to eat red sauce on. It’s easy to put together and good to eat!

The sauce is quick cooking, and can be ready to serve after a short 30 minute simmer time on the stove top. I’ve gotten into the habit of throwing all of the ingredients into my Crockpot and let that do the cooking for me. On the low setting, the sauce will be ready in 3-4 hours, depending on how your Crockpot cooks. On the high setting, the sauce can be ready in as little as 2 hours. When cooking this sauce in your Crockpot, stir every once in awhile to keep it from sticking to the sides around the top and burning.

A Versatile Sauce That Can Be Used Dozens of Ways

The sauce is very versatile and can be dressed up and changed in any number of ways by any number of additions. If I’m making this for a quick pasta dinner, I’ll add diced fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped sweet onion, and crumbled, cooked hamburger. Try adding any of the following for a complete change of pace:

  • Cooked, crumbled hamburger or sausage
  • Cooked hamburger or sausage meatballs
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Chopped red and green pepper
  • Fresh diced tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes
  • Cooked stew meat
  • Diced sweet onion
  • Sliced Italian sausage or Kielbasa (quickly brown to remove as much grease as possible)
  • Chunked or sliced zucchini or yellow squash
  • Green beans

On to the recipe:

 

Old Family Favorite:  Basic Red Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • 4 cans tomato sauce (15 oz. Each)
  • 4 cans tomato paste (6 oz. Each)
  • 4 cups of water (use the water to get all of the tomato sauce out of those cans!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Oregano (or to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons Basil (or to taste)
  • (or, 4 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder (I also use fresh or jarred chopped garlic, a couple of cloves worth)Bowl of tomato sauce with wooden spoon
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (or to taste, or use diced onion)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover.  (Add your alternate ingredient(s) of choice, if desired. Cooked ground beef, fresh mushrooms, cooked meatballs, chopped pepper, etc)

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20-30 minutes until flavors are well blended. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

Easy & Cheap!  Feed Everyone or Just The Two of You

This makes a large pot of sauce that will serve 10-12 in one sitting. When I make it and I’m not serving a large crowd, I’ll divide the sauce and freeze half of it for another meal.

You can also divide the recipe in half and make smaller batches if you’re feeding two or three. You can feed 3 at least 2 meals with half of this recipe. If I’m cooking this in a Crockpot, I’ll wait until the last hour of cooking time before adding any fresh alternate ingredients.

If you shop at CostCo or any other membership warehouse, buying canned tomato sauce and canned tomato paste by the case, and pasta in bulk will reduce your cost even more.

When you try this, let me know how you liked it!

Disclaimer:  This recipe was given to me years ago.  If a credit needs to be given, let me know!

Share Button
Comments (0)
Jan
18

A Different Kind of Birthday Present

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Chocolate birthday cake with candles

Last week was Mr.BP’s birthday. If I had asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he would have easily rattled off a long list that included everything from motorcycle parts to ski lift tickets.

As I sat at my desk paying bills the day before his solar return, it occurred to me to make charitable contributions in his name instead of buying a gift and wrapping it in pretty paper and a bow.

I have a short list of charities that I contribute to on a regular basis. Usually, every time bills are paid, I dash off a couple of checks to a few of the charities on my “favorites” list.

That night I wrote four checks and donated money in honor of the birthday boy to:

WAYSIDE WAIFS   This is a local no-kill shelter that places over 5000 animals in homes each year, and takes care of thousands more. Wayside Waifs has been around since 1940. Wayside Waifs is totally independent and non-profit, and does not receive any money from any local, state, or federal government. They do what they do entirely from donations and gifts. Almost 75% of their revenue is spent on shelter programs, with approximately 20% spent on fund-raising. Administrative expenses are nil.

SOLES 4 SOULS   This charity is trying to change the world one pair of shoes at a time. They collect new and gently worn shoes and distribute them to people in need in over 125 countries. Soles 4 Souls began in 2006, and as of the end of last year had given away over 19 million pairs of shoes. This is another charity with very small overhead – $69 million of the $70 million dollars they collected last year went to program services.

SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER  is a non-profit civil rights organization. The SPLC has brought the issues of hate and bigotry to national attention through the courts and the media. This is another one that spends the majority of its income on program services.

UNITY VILLAGE is a local religious organization. They have gorgeous rose gardens in season and beautiful fountains made for walking around when I want to wind down from my day. We take the dog over and romp through trails in their woods, so I send a few dollars now and then to help cut the grass.

These are just a few charities I donate to. PAWS is a local non-profit that provides free or reduced cost spay and neuter services for pet owners that can’t afford to have their pet fixed. PAWS is also independent, relying only on donations and taking no government money.

So many elderly seniors I know benefit from HARVESTERS that I give as often as I can to that organization. There are a few more local food pantries and rescue missions that are on my list, including a veterans charity or two.

Do you donate to charity? If you do, have you taken a look at how much your charity spends in administrative and fund-raising costs? Based on the money they take in, how much do they pay out in salaries to the highest paid employees?

You may be surprised to learn that the charity you are donating to spends very little on the cause they fund raise for. You do not want to donate to a charity that pays the CEO and other administrators huge salaries but spends very little on their program services.

It pays to check out your charity before you pay them any money. You can do that using Charity Navigator or GuideStar:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

or

http://www.guidestar.org/

Both of these sites are filled with information about many charities. You will have to sign up for a free account on each site in order to have access to all of the information available, but all you need is a name and an email address.

If your charity isn’t listed, try checking with the major Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area, or check the state corporate database. Charities have to file annual reports, and those should be on-line and/or available. Check with the Secretary of State if you can’t readily locate the state database on-line.

Don’t be afraid to contact a charity and ask questions about how much money they collect and how they spend it. The legitimate, transparent ones will gladly tell you how they spend your money.

After I signed the checks for the birthday contributions, I slipped them into envelopes. I handed the envelopes to Mr.BP and asked him to put stamps on them. He pulled out a check and looked at it, then glanced through the envelopes at the names, while giving me a puzzled look. I explained what his birthday present was this year. The wide grin on his face told me he liked his present very much.

Share Button
Comments (0)

Every season, all across the country, the weather can cause all kinds of problems.  Blizzards in the Plains, tornadoes in the Midwest, ice storms east and west of the Mississippi – the weather commands respect for the problems it can cause.

Hurricane Sandy, furiously barreling up the Eastern Seaboard this very minute, is a perfect example.  Weathermen are predicting Sandy will merge with a cold front coming from the west and turn into the Storm of the Century.  Sandy has the potential to wreck havoc on some of the most densely populated areas of the country, with power outages predicted to last weeks instead of days.

Are you ready if the power goes out?  Do you have enough food to feed everyone for at least 3 days, in case you can’t get out?  Clean drinking water is very important, and each person needs to have access to at least a gallon a day –  some people will need more.

It’s not too late to put together a basic disaster supplies kit, and if you can’t collect everything you need, collect as much as you can.

BASIC DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT
  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to rig shelter
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench and pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following:

  • Eye glasses
  • Prescription glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records;  store in a waterproof, portable container
  • First Aid book for emergency reference
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket(s) for each person. Consider the temperature and decide if you need extra
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. If the weather is cold, add coats, jackets, hats, and gloves
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – when diluted 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. In an emergency, you can use bleach to treat water by adding 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. (Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies, adult diapers, toilet paper, personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels, plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children
Don’t Forget Special Needs

Your family may have unique needs.  Take some time to think about each person in the family and what they require. Do you have a baby or very young child?  Does an elderly parent or grandparent live with you?  Are you responsible for a disabled family member dependent on certain medical equipment, or medications?  Do you have medications that require refrigeration?

A baby will need:

  • Formula
  • Diapers
  • Bottles
  • Powdered milk
  • Medications
  • Moist towelettes
  • Diaper rash ointment

An Senior in the family may need:

  • Denture supplies
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eye glasses
Someone Could Get Hurt

In any emergency a family member or you yourself may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt.

Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. You may consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection, and assist in cleaning a wound:

  • Two pairs of Latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to Latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/wound wash/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or for use as general wound wash
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers. If you are storing meds long term in anticipation of an emergency, you should periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

 

Emergency Supply Kit Printable Checklist

Track Hurricane Sandy at the National Hurricane Center

Track Hurricane Sandy on your Mobile Device

 

Share Button
Comments (0)
Oct
04

Free One-on-One Financial Planning Help

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Financial Planning Day What is Financial Planning?

What financial goals would you like to obtain?  What’s on your “Wish List” when it comes to money?

Do you want to buy a home?  Do you own your home, but dream about a vacation home in the mountains or a weekend home at the lake?

Do the kids want to go to Disney World next summer, but you’re not sure you can afford a local pool pass for the season?

Are you able to save today for college for the kids, or have you put that off until tomorrow? Tomorrow is already here, you know.

What about your retirement – how many retirement accounts do you have, and do you regularly fund those to the max?  Is your retirement diversified, or do you have all of your eggs in one basket?  Can you retire without Social Security and live in the manner to which you are now accustomed?  Have you thought about retirement very much, or is that something you’re going to do “tomorrow”?

Financial planning is a must, no matter who you are or what your circumstances are.  What is your financial plan right now?  What strategy do you have in place – right now – that will allow you to retire financially independent?  Do you know where to start to make your financial dreams your reality?  Do you know how to make your dreams your reality?  Are you lost when it comes to implementing changes to your money situation?

We all have money dreams, but most of us aren’t smart enough to know how to make our dreams come true.  We don’t have the time to do the research we need in order to know where to invest, or how, or how much.  We don’t know what goal to tackle first.  We aren’t sure of the quickest way to the goal line.  We’re lost when it comes to the math.  We need help.  During the month of October 2012, personal, one-on-one help is available in many cities across the country.

Financial Planning Days Initiative

During the month of October 2012, “Financial Planning Days Initiative” is taking place.  Four different non-profit organizations**  are bringing together highly qualified, professional, Certified Financial Planners to provide one-on-one counseling sessions to the public.  There will also be classroom style learning sessions held, and free packets of financial literature given away.  All of the work being done by the professionals is on a volunteer basis, and no payment is expected.  Services are free.  You can sit down with a financial planner and ask for personal advice – with no strings attached.  The volunteers will not try to sell you anything, they won’t even give you their business card.  No business will be promoted at all – the professionals are there to answer your questions and help – that’s it.  (If you are a professional, certified financial planner and would like to volunteer, you can find out how here)

Gather your questions about retirement planning, debt, credit issues, budget questions, taxes, college, mortgage loans, investments, estate planning, small business finance, and insurance together, and find out if the Initiative is available where you live:

Click here to find a Financial Planning Day in your area

A list of 2012 events can be found by clicking here

A list of participating states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virgina
  • Washington

Can’t go?  You Can Still Get the Same Information Packet Being Handed Out

If there is no Financial Planning Initiative in your state, the free information packet information is still available to you and can be found at the links below.  Take a look at the information available, and give yourself a quick education in the basics of financial planning.  Pick up tips and advice on everything from a college savings plan to long term care insurance.

You Can Organize & Simplify Your Financial Life:  A How To Guide

Saving and Investing:  A Roadmap to Your Financial Security Through Saving and Investing

Savings Fitness:  A Guide to Your Money & Your Financial Future

Smart Saving for College – 529 Plans & Other College Savings Options

Guide to Disability Income Insurance

Guide to Long Term Care Insurance

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense

 

** Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.®, Financial Planning Association®, the Foundation for Financial Planning, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors

 

 

Share Button
Sep
18

Helpful Hands

Posted by: | Comments (0)
Today’s post is my first guest blogger, a fellow writer I’ve known for many years. A. T. Weaver is the pen name of an elderly woman living in Eastern Kansas, author of 3 books and more than 1 blog.  A. T. Weaver – WriterAs I watch the elderly people in my life struggle with fixed incomes vs. rising expenses, I know all too well how every little bit helps. If you are able, donate to your local Harvester’s and food banks. When the Post Office has their food drive, hang a sack on the mailbox and put a couple of cans or boxes in it. Two cans of beans may not mean much to you, but it can be a meal for someone. I’ll never forget seeing an elderly gentleman ahead of me in the check-out lane, counting out pennies and nickles to buy two cans of pork & beans. He opened one of the cans and ate it while sitting on the curb. Your two cans of beans may keep someone from going hungry that day.

Two hands holding loaf of breadAs a senior citizen living on Social Security, sometimes it’s difficult to make ends meet. I live in a HUD subsidized facility so my rent is not as high as it would be otherwise, however it is still one-third of my income. There are several organizations that help seniors with financial problems.

Where I live we have two organizations that come in every week. One is the New Life Family Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Every Monday, they bring in bread and pastries that would otherwise be thrown out. Now that may not seem like a lot – a free loaf of bread – but if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you know the cost of bread can be over $2.00 a loaf. Most of the items are dated either ‘today’ or ‘yesterday’ but they are still edible. Of course there are those in my building who complain about the type of bread they bring. Today I went downstairs and there were at least ten or twelve baguettes left. Most of the seniors here don’t like baguettes or French bread. It makes good garlic toast or cheese bread.

Another organization is Village Church. Every Monday they come and pick up our ‘Senior Center Shopping List’. We can choose two canned vegetables, two soups/sauces, one canned meat, one staple (sugar, flour, rice, cake mix, etc.), one dairy, one snacks/chips, one fresh vegetable or fruit, and bread. One week a month they will bring peanut butter, fruit or juice, and personal & household items. i.e. dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, toothpaste, toilet paper. Now they only bring one roll of toilet paper which doesn’t last a whole month, but that’s a roll we don’t have to buy.

Then on Thursday, they deliver what we’ve asked for. They have a contract with Trader Joes and often bring fresh fruit and vegetables. They also bring bread and pastries from area grocery stores. Again, these items may be dated ‘today’ but they are still edible. Then we fill out a new list and send our bag back to be refilled.

Since my building has the Village Church delivery, we don’t have a Harvesters’ distribution. However, there is a distribution once a month at a location in Olathe where we can go and get fresh fruit and vegetables and again, bread and pastries. If you have a car or someone with whom you can get a ride, it’s a good deal. I usually take one other lady with me. I would take more, but by the time we get a walker and a cart and two boxes of food in the car, there is no more room.  Two hands holding pineapple

One other source of food is the Government Commodities. While the other distributions are for anyone in the building, you must qualify for Commodities. One other problem with them is the fact that so many seniors have problems with what they can eat. For example I am diabetic. There are a lot of foods I can’t eat in the Commodities bags so I quit taking them.

There are many months when these services mean whether or not seniors have a meal on the table. I for one am very grateful for these helpful hands.

 

 Helpful Resources:Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charityGovernment Emergency Food Assistance Program (Food Commodities)

Harvester’s

Find a local food bank (Feeding America)

Food Stamp & WIC Program Apply Online

Meals on Wheels

Find Free Food

Global Food Banking Network

 

 

Share Button