Monday, May 30, 2011

Life Insurance

Mondays I try to talk about money matters or share ideas on saving money and living within your means. Today I want to share a few thoughts on the importance of life insurance.

If you are single you need to think about having enough life insurance to cover the cost of funeral expenses, possible high medical bills if your death is the result of an accident, and any other debts you may have such as student loans, car, or house debt.  You don't want to leave your parents or siblings responsible for these costs.

If you are married, you need to consider all the items above and also consider how much money your spouse and children would need to live on without you there to provide an income for them. In our case, my husband is the only income provider. We carry a lot more insurance on him for that reason. If he were to die, I want enough money to pay off the house and live 5-7 years at least without having to return to work so I can have all my children in school. If I were to die, he would need to have enough money to cover daycare expenses and possibly house cleaning, etc. Some money to replace his income for at least a few months would help him be available to help the kids through the mourning process. These were all things we tried to consider.

We were hit pretty hard with the reality of the need for life insurance with the birth of our last baby. Deliveries had always been the easy part of pregnancy for me. We went to the hospital thinking we were through the worst part and would just have to support a preemie baby in the NICU. Little did we realize that my body would struggle so much with the delivery that my life was seconds from slipping away. I endured some pretty horrific complications and thanks to wonderful doctors and a loving Heavenly Father,my life was spared.

James and I reconsidered the insurance we carried after all this though. You never know when someone will be called home. It can happen in an instant! So many families in Joplin, Missouri are struggling through this reality right now.

Check online to find calculators that can help you identify how much insurance you should carry. Usually term life insurance is the way to go. It is inexpensive and meets most everyone's needs. This is probably something you have considered doing, but may have pushed off. Don't push it off any longer. Begin researching today and set a date for when you will have completed applications and purchased your policy. If you already have a policy, review the amounts and decide if what you have is sufficient.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Motivation From Others

I have been feeling for a while that my best motivation comes from hearing other's stories and experiences. With that thought in mind, I was hoping that all you readers would share some thought or story that might work to motivate us all to keep working on becoming the provident people we hope to be. Maybe you have a personal experience or you have a good friend or family member that has lived through a particular challenge and you could share some insight with us about what was learned. If your story is long enough that you feel it won't fit as a comment, please feel free to send it as an email to me and I can post it as it's own blog page. My email is

Please  post a comment -

Friday, May 27, 2011

Breakfast Sandwiches

My husband leaves early enough for work each morning that he brings breakfast and lunch every day. This is one of his favorite grab and go meals. He even takes them for lunch some days.

Begin with 12-24 English Muffins. (Bagels work great also.) Start frying eggs. I can fit 8 in the bottom of my largest frying pan so I build the sandwiches in sets of 8. While the eggs are frying, cover muffins with slices of cheese.

Add a slice of Canadian Bacon or a precooked sausage pattie. Sometimes we skip this step and just do egg and cheese sandwiches.

Add the fried eggs.
Top with the other side of the muffin. Some English Muffins are more dry than others. If I have a dry batch, I spread one side with a little butter.

Allow sandwiches to cool so they don't steam up the plastic bag. The steam will just create extra ice when they are frozen and you don't want that. Wrap a napkin or piece of paper towel around the sandwiches and then package two to a bag. The paper towel with help absorb the extra moisture when you  thaw the sandwiches in the microwave. This will help keep your sandwiches from getting too soggy. 

My husband tells me his coworkers are jealous whenever he brings these in. I know my nephew who is in high school loves it when his mom stocks the freezer with these as well. Hopefully, you find them a quick and easy cost-cutting meal!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rotating Water Storage

It is recommended that you rotate your water storage once a year. This is something I wait to do until the kids can be involved. We store the bulk of our water in a 55 gallon blue drum. We also have a larger capacity water heater and a few gallons in gallon juice jugs for when we just need a little water.

After emptying the drum with a syphon hose, we rinse it out with fresh water. To do this we use the hose to fill it up just a bit and add a little bleach. 

At this point, the kids get to roll it around the backyard - their very favorite part of the night! We then empty it out by dumping.
Finally, we refill it using the hose. Because we are connected to city water at our house, it is not necessary to add any bleach. (I usually put in a couple of teaspoons just for good measure.) My kids filled it only partly before we moved it to the garage and stretched the hose to finish the process. The drum is too heavy to move once it is full! Now we are good to go for another year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Using Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is probably the easiest "food storage" item to begin incorporating into your daily routine since we are all so used to using milk on a regular basis. Some people have an aversion to drinking powdered milk because it tastes different than what they are used to. It always takes some time to adjust to a new flavor. I'm sure we would adjust quickly if it was truly all we had.

For now, our family drinks regular milk and I do all my baking and yogurt making with powdered milk to rotate it and also to stretch out my trips to the store for more milk. I save money per gallon by using the powdered milk and I also save money by not going to the store as often and grabbing those impulse buys. Research suggests that you can easily spend an extra $20 every time you go to the store.

I bake with non-instant powdered milk that I purchase from the LDS cannery. To mix one quart, combine 4 cups warm tap water with 3/4 cup milk powder in the blender. (I actually only add 3 cups of water to start with and add my final cup of water after mixing. If I use 4 cups from the beginning, my blender always overflows and I have a mess.)

If you won't be needing your blender for a while, you can just transfer it to the fridge to chill and then use in any recipe calling for milk. Usually, I allow the milk to sit just a few minutes for the foam to separate on the top. If I pour slowly, the milk will come out of the blender and the foam will stay in. I can then measure the warm milk into the recipe I am making right away and store any remaining milk in the fridge for later use.

By storing pre-mixed milk in the fridge, it is very easy to just grab it when you need a little for Macaroni and Cheese or Hamburger Helper even. Commit to yourself that you are going to change your habit and start using some of that milk you have been storing forever. (It stores for 20+ years.) If you don't have any powdered milk, pick some up soon. It is like having your own cow without any of the smells, mess, or 4 a.m. milkings!

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - a great resource!

Church leaders are not the only ones that have been encouraging us to prepare our families for possible disasters. Many government officials have seen the destruction firsthand that occurs when disaster strikes. There is a wonderful website that takes you through the steps of creating a family emergency plan and building an emergency or 72-hour kit. Check it out at the link below.

If you think you have a plan already and a 72-hour kit completed, you should still take a little time to review this website to double check and make sure you have considered all that is recommended.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coleslaw Mix

Not all of your 3 month supply needs to be dehydrated, frozen, or canned. Cabbage stores for quite a while in the fridge. It is also inexpensive per pound and provides the opportunity to serve something fresh for dinner that is full of vitamins and other nutrients. You can add chopped cabbage to stews or many Asian dishes. It is also delicious in coleslaw or other cabbage salads.
Sometimes the outer leaves of the cabbage begin to spoil when storing it in the fridge for a couple of months. Just peel those leaves off and use the the remaining head. I've never actually timed how many weeks my cabbages have stayed good in the fridge, but they always last longer then I think they should. Carrots also stay good for many weeks.

A food processor makes it quick and easy to chop cabbage. Use the slicing blade for best results. Shred a few carrots into the mix to add some color.

Here is one of our favorite salads. I always substitute regular onion for the green onions and I even use dehydrated onion if I need to. It is always good. I served this at a church luncheon for over 80 senior sisters and everyone loved it! I got many requests for the recipe. You can shred and chop everything a day or two ahead. Add the nuts and Ramen noodles just before serving and then toss with the dressing.

Chinese Cabbage Salad

1 package Ramen
noodles, crushed
1 ½ cups cashew pieces, almonds, or                             sunflower seeds
½ - 6 cups shredded cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
3-4 green onions, chopped
Cooked, shredded chicken (optional)

1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Ramen noodle seasoning packet


In a 350 degree oven, toast the crushed noodles and nuts until golden brown. When I use sunflower seeds, I only toast the crushed noodles since the seeds are toasted already.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots and green onions.  
Add toasted ramen noodles and nuts just before serving.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the sugar, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and ramen packet. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving. Canned chicken works great in this salad.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tamale Casserole

I flipped the order of the ingredients for this casserole to give it a prettier presentation. It is a family favorite regardless of the order of the ingredients! I had a good friend bring this over one of the times we had a new baby in the NICU. I knew that when my husband and all the kids liked it, I needed to get her recipe. When I read the ingredients, I was excited to see it was a "food storage" recipe and oh, so simple.

Begin by spreading out one can of chili in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Top with a layer of cooked rice and an additional can of chili.

Open two cans of tamales and remove the papers. (Usually found near the chili or on the Hispanic isle at our local grocery stores. I've only ever seen a Hormel brand.) Place the tamales in two rows across the top of the casserole.

Top with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake or heat in the microwave.
You can do a 1/2 size batch in an 8x8 pan. Since this freezes so well, I usually do two when I am making it. 

Tamale Casserole

2 cans of tamales
Grated cheese
2 cups rice, cooked
Sour cream or plain yogurt
2 cans chili

Empty the cans of tamales into a 9x13-inch pan or two 8x8-inch pans. Remove and discard papers then cut into bite sized pieces. Spread evenly in the pan. Cover evenly with cooked rice. Spread the 2 cans of chili over the rice and top with cheese. Bake at 375° F for 30–45 minutes or heat in the microwave. Top with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt when serving. This freezes very well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Snack Mixes

Snack mixes are a great snack, but they can be spendy per ounce. The kids and I make up a bunch of baggies every few months using things we have at the house. They are then in the pantry for them to grab for school lunch or a snack when they need one. I also love to store some in the van for when the kids get hungry when we are out and about. They also work great to take on trips. I don't have to worry about the entire box of crackers being dumped out as they pass it around in the car.

Go through your pantry or food storage areas and pick some items that would go good together.

Here we have pretzels and gold fish, pretzels and M&Ms, and small bags of cereal. Popcorn works great as a filler in snack mixes. Dried fruit and nuts are another good option. Get them in the bulk section to save money. 

With summer vacation coming, fill your pantry now so you can be ready to grab a snack and go to the park or zoo at a moment's notice.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Make Preparing for Emergencies a Family Affair

Putting together a 72-hour kit can be something that just doesn't make it to the to-do list. Here is a clever idea  suggested by a mom in Las Vegas on how to get everyone involved in the process. Many of us have most of what we need, it is just scattered throughout the house. By having everyone join together to gather it, the entire family learns a little about the need to be prepared. You can then make a list of the items you are missing as a family and work to collect those as your budget allows.

Emergency Preparedness Game

Often when I watch the news on television, I see reports of natural disasters. With each new report, I am reminded of the counsel given by Church leaders to be prepared. Since our family did not have an emergency supply kit and preparing one seemed overwhelming, I wanted to find a doable solution. As my husband and I counseled together, we realized that we didn’t have to accomplish the task alone—we could enlist our children’s help.
To involve everyone and make preparing for an emergency seem fun instead of daunting or upsetting, we decided to have a scavenger hunt as part of family home evening. Together we could gather items for an emergency preparedness kit. Considering family members’ individual needs, I made a list of supplies for our search. For starters, the baby would need a bottle, formula, and diapers, while my husband would need sturdy clothes and work gloves. I also found ideas from information I had saved from Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment lessons.
At the start of our family night, we discussed possible natural disaster situations and the importance of being prepared so we don’t have to be afraid. After our discussion, we divided our family into teams and gave each group an empty laundry basket and part of our list. Then we had our scavenger hunt throughout the house, collecting the needed supplies. The children had a great time gathering the items and choosing which clothing to include. Within an hour, we had items for a complete emergency kit—tailored for our family’s needs. What once had seemed an overwhelming task became a fun activity for our family, and we now feel better prepared should an emergency arise.Windy L. Hasson, Celeste Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Sandstone Stake

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers helpful suggestions for preparing emergency supplies in a booklet titled Essentials of Home Production and Storage (item no. 32288; U.S. $.75), available in distribution centers. Regarding emergency storage, the booklet advises everyone to have portable containers with the following: water; food requiring no refrigeration or cooking; medications and critical medical histories as needed; change of clothing, including sturdy shoes and two pairs of socks; sanitary supplies; first aid booklet and equipment; candles; waterproof matches; ax; shovel; can opener; and blankets (see p. 7). The booklet also recommends preparing a portable packet with valuable family documents, such as family history records.

Source: Sept 2002 Ensign

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fabulous Homemade Bread

Making your own bread is delicious and easier than you think. It will also save your family money since it costs less than $.50 a loaf to make 100% whole wheat bread. Plus, you have the added bonus of the amazing "feels like home" smell in your house all afternoon!

Fabulous Homemade Bread
This is my favorite recipe that we use on a regular basis. It also makes amazing French toast.

1 cup quick oats or flax meal
 cup brown sugar, packed
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ Tbsp yeast
3–4 cups white bread flour (or additional whole wheat flour)
¼ cup dry milk powder
1 Tbsp white vinegar
6 Tbsp gluten flour
 cup oil
2 tsp salt
3 ½ cups hot water

Mix according to basic bread making instructions (found here). Bake at 350° F for 30–35 minutes or until golden brown. Turn loaves out onto cooling rack. With the oatmeal and all whole wheat flour, each loaf has about 50 grams of fiber. With the flax meal, each loaf has about 60 grams of fiber. Makes 2 loaves.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Broccoli Slaw

I've seen the bags of broccoli slaw at the store and I thought I'd try making some of my own. I purchased a bunch of fresh broccoli when it was a great price and I wanted to freeze it to use later. After washing and trimming it all up, I was left with all the stalks. Because being provident is in my blood, I didn't want to just throw all the stalks away. That's when I thought about turning them into broccoli slaw.

First I shredded a few carrots in the food processor. And then I added all the broccoli stalks.

I ended up with this colorful mix. I turned some of it into coleslaw and froze the rest to use in wontons another night. Both dishes were delicious. I also think it would work great to add to stir-fry or fried rice. It would also make a yummy broccoli cheese soup. I won't be throwing broccoli stalks away any longer! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Save money by packing your lunch

I always begin to lose steam about this time of year when it comes to making my kids lunches. It seems like we are all out of creative ideas and it just seems easier to let them have hot lunch at school. I remind myself that although school lunches are better than they used to be what we send from home is usually healthier and actually costs less per lunch than what they could get at school. 

It really is a good way to help stretch the family budget. My husband goes into work early enough that he takes breakfast and lunch with him every day. He could easily spend $50-$75 dollars each week if he were to grab fast food or go out with one of his buddies from work. We've gotten quite creative over the years at figuring out recipes for breakfast and lunch that freeze well so he can have some quick options as he pulls out of here each morning. He is eating healthier and we are saving money. 

Here are some ideas to give you some inspiration for these final weeks of school.

Try a new kind of a sandwich. Tuna, chicken, or egg salad can be sent in a container to be placed on the bread just before eating so it isn't a soggy mess when the kids open their lunch box. You can also trade out the type of bread you are using. Try a bagel, English muffin, or tortilla in place of traditional bread.

Heat up leftovers and send them in a thermos. This is quick and easy. Warm your thermos up first by pouring boiling water into it. Let it sit a minute or two and then pour the water out. Quickly place your warm leftovers inside and close it up. This step will help the food stay warm until lunch. I send sloppy joe mix this way and they put it on the bun before eating. I also send taco filling this way and a bag of corn chips for dipping.

Think food groups and then be creative. Send pretzels from the grain group and peanut butter (or soy butter) as a protein. The kids seem to love anything they can dip. Add a fruit or veggie and some cheese squares and you've covered your food groups. We also make our own lunchables by sending crackers with slices of lunch meat and cheese for stacking. A muffin can replace the need for a sandwich and if you've made it with pumpkin or applesauce they get their fruit in that way too.

Hope these give you a few ideas for these final weeks of school - They work for summer time lunches at home as well.

When you are putting together your meal plan, don't forget to include the ingredients for making cold lunches. Your kids will still need a lunch if you are ever in a food storage time of your life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hooray for Moms!

Mother's Day is a day that turns our thoughts to those who have mothered us. We think of women who have been great examples for us. We also realize the HUGE task that is ours to "mother" the children around us whether they are our own or we "mother" other's children in some way. Many days it is overwhelming! It is difficult to see the big picture when we are "down in the trenches."

I think of my mother and grandmother who have been great examples of mothers. I realize they weren't perfect. They made plenty of mistakes that we laugh about now when we visit. But, I see the caliber of people they have for children which is a testament to the kind of mothers they were and still are. I know that as we do the best we can every day, Heavenly Father will fill in the gaps. He will place in our lives the women we need to learn from so we can do better.

As far as provident living goes, even though we know it is a family affair, it often falls on the shoulders of mothers to make sure the food storage is there and the teaching is happening with our children. So, as with every other area of our lives, pick ONE thing you are ready to learn or work on and start there. Our kids will be watching and soaking up more than we realize.

I have a friend who learned who my mother is and she said, "No wonder you are so good at provident living, you were trained by a master!" A little here and a little there, my mom taught me these important principles and you can do the same for your kids. And so today I say, "Hooray for moms. Hooray, hooray, hooray for moms!"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Storable Garlic

This is one of "my favorite things" when it comes to food storage. You can buy the dried minced garlic which I have and use also in my mixes. I love this bottled garlic that stays good in the fridge for well over 3 months though. It is so fast and easy to add minced garlic to any recipe without any work on my part. Using the dry, minced garlic would require that I rehydrate it all the time. This is ready to go whenever I need it and tastes as great as when you chop your own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chicken Bistro Twist

This looks fancy and tastes even better!

Mix filling ingredients like you would for a chicken salad. Canned chicken is great in this recipe.

Roll out bread dough into two recitangles.

Spread filling down the center of each rectangle.

Snip the dough with kitchen scissors, cutting from the outside in towards the middle.

Fold pieces over the filling alternating each side as you would for a braid.

Don't they look pretty?

Go ahead - WOW your family with this one! It is a great freezer meal which is why I always make two at a time.

Chicken Bistro Twist

Soft garlic breadstick dough
¼ cup chopped black olives
1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise
cup dehydrated peppers
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp dried basil
½ cup shredded cheese
1 tsp dried, minced garlic

Check out the bread section for the garlic breadstick dough recipe and make a double batch. After the first rise, punch it down and divide in half. While it is rising, rehydrate peppers and garlic. Make a chicken salad filling out of all the ingredients. On an oiled surface, roll each piece into a 14x10-inch rectangle. Spread half of the filling down each loaf. Cut 1-inch wide strips using kitchen scissors down either side of the dough, cutting from the outside edge of the dough into the edge of the filling. Braid the loaf by folding top strips together across the filling and continue alternating strips until you reach the bottom. (This will look similar to a Danish braid.) Spray the tops of each loaf with oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning or some of the bread dipping herb mix found in the bread section of this book. Bake at 350° F for 25–30 minutes. If browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil before baking the final 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. To freeze: Remove from oven after 25 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool. Wrap in a few layers of plastic wrap and freeze. To use frozen loaf: Thaw and wrap in foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350° F for 10–15 minutes or until heated through.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Garden Preparation

Planting a garden is a great way to save money and, more importantly, to teach principles of provident living to your children. The garden is always a family project at our house. The kids grumble and complain a little, but we know we are teaching them important principles about the law of the harvest - hard work eventually pays off and you can enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Here is a picture of how we spent a bit of our Spring Break - working compost into our raised beds. I am always amazed by the amount of produce we can get out of this little bit of garden space. We have followed much of the advice learned and shared by Mel Bartholomew in his books and website

A garden can be a bit of work, but it isn't hard. You can even plant in your flower beds or in large pots or buckets on your patio if that is the only space you have. There is something very exciting and satisfying about eating something you have grown yourself!

We figure it saves us $30 to $40 a week in the later summer and fall months. Because of what we freeze or store, it continues to save us money through the rest of the winter months as well.

It's the perfect time to get out and prepare your place for planting. Because so many nurseries sell starts, you can wait until early to mid June to plant in the Boise Area and still get a great harvest. That means you still have 5-6 weeks to do the preparation work. So if you've been debating doing it and dragging your feet a little, don't delay any longer - It is a great way to spend Family Night.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Frugal Food Storage

We really wanted to begin a food storage program, but as newly married full-time college students expecting our first baby, we wondered how we could possibly do it. Discouraged, I said, “Food storage must be one of those things you do after your children are grown up.”

My husband smiled at me and then dashed to our cupboard, opened it, and pulled out every box, package, and can. As he hummed a tune, he began arranging everything into groups. He looked at me, grinned, and pointed to a small stack of food.
Food storage!” he said. I looked at the stack: two cans of green beans, a bag of rice, a package of spaghetti, and one jar of apricots. “This is our food storage?” I asked.
“Sure,” he answered. “This is our frugal food storage.”
Since then we have followed his frugal food storage theory. Each week we bring home our groceries, go through each bag, and ask, “Can we do without this item this week?” If we can, we set it aside as a food storageitem.
This idea works so well that six years and three children later, we are still using it. Though we have more money now than we did during our first year of marriage, we are still on a budget. Following are a few other tips that help us add to our food storage when money is scarce:
  1. 1. 
    Store any storable food that comes from an unexpected source. For example, if friends or family invite you to dinner or bring in a meal to you, store the canned or packaged food items you would have used for that meal.
  2. 2. 
    Set aside a small amount of money each week to buy staples such as pasta, baking ingredients, and paper products. You may be surprised at how quickly you can build up a supply of these staples for only a few dollars a week.
  3. 3. 
    Learn how to bottle, freeze, and dry fresh foods. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can preserve small amounts of fresh fruits or vegetables when they are on sale at the grocery store.
  4. 4. 
    Set goals for your food storage supply. Work toward a one-month supply, then a three-month supply, and so on. Be realistic.
Try new ideas until you find the ones that work for you. The important thing is to start now; don’t wait until you have more money, or you may never start. Next family home evening, go through your cupboards and set some of your food aside for your food storage. You can have a food storage program, even on a modest income.Colleen Hansen, Marienville, Pennsylvania
Source: January 1993 Ensign