Category Archives: organization

The 400 Degree Oven Meal Experiment

I wrote about this idea here.

What I made: oven-fried lemon chicken and jacketed potatoes (400)  for dinner with a vanilla/apple dump cake (375) for dessert. I didn’t  make the Mexican peppers. I decided to only do the 3 recipes: oven-fried lemon chicken, jacketed potatoes, and apple dump cake.

What worked: Chicken and potatoes were done cooking at the same time and were as good as expected. Both recipes I’ve made before. The apple cake recipe was rather made up as I went. I had no presugared fruit like last time.  But it too was good.

What didn’t work or didn’t work as expected: This required a prep marathon, something I usually avoid.  I was very busy for a while!

  1. Because they cook the longest and take the least prep, I got the potatoes cleaned, cut and in the oven first. Set the timer for 1 hour.
  2. The chicken needs fats added to its cooking pan.
  3. Seasoned flour needs to be mixed up.
  4. The chicken is dredged and put in the fridge.
  5. I made up the lemon sauce for the chicken.
  6. When the potatoes had been in the oven 45 minutes or so, I rotated them.
  7. Then I added the pan with the fat for the chicken (the chicken crisps in the hot fat) on a second rack. This requires complete concentration so the fat gets hot but doesn’t catch fire. (It only takes a minute or so.)
  8. Put the chicken in pan with hot fat, re-set timer for 30 minutes.
  9. Wash apples. Butter cake pan. Chunk apples.
  10. Start water and sugar cooking for sauce. Make “pudding”. * Let cool slightly. Add butter and vanilla. Pour over apples to coat evenly.
  11. Put sauced apples in buttered cake pan.
  12. When timer goes, pull out chicken, turn it over, pour on lemon sauce. Reset timer for 15 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle cake mix on top of sauced apples. Push down to dampen most of the cake mix. Dot with butter.
  14. When timer goes off again, pull out rack– check potatoes and make sure chicken is 165 degrees or more. Turn off oven. Plate dinner. Turn oven back on to 375.
  15. Oven was hot just before I was ready to sit, of course. Put apple cake in oven. Set timer again for 30 minutes. (Cake actually took about 40 minutes to bake. )

Everything was yummy!

*The original dessert sauce recipe had it cooked in a double boiler. For a few years, I made cornstarch pudding 1 or 2 times a week. I don’t need to cook such things in a double boiler any more! That said? If you’ve never made cornstarch pudding or do so rarely, mix the cornstarch with some of the water in a small bowl beforehand to a smooth slurry, (If it becomes “concrete” keep stirring!) then add the slurry slowly to the rest of the hot water in a double boiler!


Takeaway:

I was surprised how long it took to get the oven back to 375. Next time I won’t turn it off, just reset the temperature!

I will do the static prep way in advance —

  • Wash the apples and potatoes, but not cut them.
  • Make up the seasoned flour and the lemon sauce.
  • Butter the cake pan.
  • Measure the fats into the chicken pan.
  • Pre-measure ingredients for the dessert.

I will do this again, even though it takes more planning than my usual, “toss everything together”.

.

Finding the Cheat

See the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about!

Here’s how I found all those “cheats” to use fewer supplies, whether they be lightbulbs, potting soil, toothpaste or frozen food.

What do you do automatically? If you become more aware of those choices, then you can try and change them. My frugal strategies apply:

  • Find a cheaper substitute.
  • Spend less for the same product.
  • Do without.

Figure out what you do automatically: How much oil or fat do you put in a pan — can you use less? Can you use a cheaper oil and have it work as well? Substituting margarine for butter in baked goods doesn’t work in my opinion. For me, it seems to be how much the fat determines the taste of the dish. YMMV!  How do you decide how much TP to use at once? Try delaminating 2-ply and see if it won’t cause you to use less? Worked for me! Pizza toppings: If you love a certain frozen pizza, but hate one topping (or your kid does) and automatically toss it? Can you find a way to use the tossed food? I’m not talking about allergies, of course you shouldn’t keep foods you or yours are allergic to, but preferences. You could use frozen bits of onion or peppers in soups or meatloaf, for example. Sausage pieces could be used in scrambled eggs.

Pay attention to your automatic behavior and the waste it causes. Then try to use what you’ve wasted before.

Use the internet or other resources to help: Try different routes on googlemaps is there a shorter route? Use gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas locally. Find new ways to use up leftovers. Try to make your own foods: bake bread, grow herbs, make gravy.

“If I was broke, what would I do differently?” Many times this shows me what I’m wasting or suggests ideas. I made sauted greens last night for dinner. I took the stems off because DH hates “stringy” greens. Instead of tossing them, I put them in the freezer for smoothies or to be added to soup.

Ask a pro! People who do things for work quickly find the easiest and fastest way to do things. They frequently know the cheapest way too. I found out about the shampoo concentrates at beauty supply shops by asking a hair stylist where the salon bought their shampoo? Another example: my dad, when looking for a new home refrigerator went to the biology department at the college where he worked and asked which refrigerator they’d recommend?

If this works with one thing in 5, it still counts! The idea that it has to save dollars right away or it doesn’t count is EXPENSIVE!

Every little cost-savings idea you use counts.

Each dollar is

100 pennies after all!

 

 

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.

400:

  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.

Note:

I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.


I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.


I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Clothing

Remember the French Dressing post, here? I decided I was going to reduce my clothing to a capsule wardrobe of 10 items per season, not counting underwear and outerwear.

It occurred to me the other day that I basically have reduced my day-to-day clothing use to a capsule, without thinking about it!

I have a basket which lives in our bathroom on a shelf. It contains the set of clothes I’m not wearing. At home, without company, I wear pj pants and a long-sleeved shirt, cheap plastic socks. When I go out I wear a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, long johns or leggings (when it’s cold), jeans, and washable wool socks.  During summer I’ll wear the leggings or the jeans but not both.

(I also wear sweaters.)

Company/going out rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 4 pairs of leggings
  • ? washable wool socks.

No company/staying home rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of PJ pants
  • 4 pairs o leggings
  • 6 pairs of cozy socks.

When I get home I undress in the bathroom, examining clothes as I remove them. If they can be reused? They’re rolled up and put into the bathroom basket. If dirty, they go into the laundry. I then put on the clothes in the basket and supplement, as needed, from dresser and closet.

This means that the only day-to-day clothes in my closet should be: the unworn long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and out of season/special event clothing. The clothes in my drawers should be unworn tank tops, leggings/long johns, and pants.


Given this, culling my clothes should be simple! I really like the feel and “flow” of this system. It evolved over time and works for me. YMMV.


Six shirts culled! 10:54 a.m. 3 more 11:12 a.m. 1 more 11:32

 

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?


These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.


Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.


“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

New! Major Reorganization

With the memoir being scheduled for publication, the panic attacks at least partly under control, and the new ALPHABETICS idea in play? The original reason(s) I started this blog 10+ years ago have changed!

  • With more than 1,000 blogs here, the calendar was too long, so it’s been removed.
  • Archive and history page data (above) have been combined.
  • A frugality page has been added.
  • Another new page will be added, more on that later.
  • The what I did/why I quit page has been renamed Clean It Up!
  • Many previous blogs will be removed or recategorized.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Durable Goods (Spreadsheet)

The questions of Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? for Durable Goods is easier than that for supplies. (Not sure why I said that? See here.)

From an hour’s worth of work, I concluded that storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was an issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

Here’s the spreadsheet I created for Durable Goods;

Storage Limits?

Used all at once?

Perishable?

Lifecycle/ use rate?

Costly?

Fixable?

Used inside, outside, car?

Special storage?

Dry?

Semi- liquid?

Liquid?

Artwork: wall

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork: sculpture 

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork:  other

yes

yes

not likely

unknown

can be

maybe

depends on piece

likely not

?

?

?

Books

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Clothing

yes, closets for those hung

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

yes, dressers for those folded

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Computers

yes

yes

no

3 years or mroe

can be

maybe

inside most often

no

y

n

n

Dishes

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Furniture

yes, piece must fit in the room it’s for

yes

no

5 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Linens

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Pots & Pans

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Phones

yes

yes

no

3 years?

can be

maybe

inside most often

case

y

n

n

Obviously, this isn’t complete, but you get the idea!