Okay, I know real candy is fairly cheap. However dye/preservative free candy (which is what my kids require due to food allergies) is NOT cheap. My kids don’t get candy too often–maybe a package a month if I buy it–but that is still $5 for candy. So, instead I have done some research into candy making and have come up with some cheap alternatives. (Some of the linked recipes I adapt to suit our needs.)
I have had so many people email me about how to do this that I thought maybe I had better just post it here. You can read about our experience with it here. The “recipe” is as follows.
I fill a jar with baking soda and water–making a paste (I store the jar plus a squirt bottle full of vinegar in the shower). I use that to scrub my hair then rinse with water. Afterwards I pour vinegar over my head (upside down so it doesn’t get in my eyes) and rinse again.
I have super thick long hair and it takes about 2 Tbs regular shampoo for me to cover my hair. I have found that the same goes for the baking soda paste: 2 Tbs baking soda/water then a cup or so of vinegar.
I buy a huge bottle of white vinegar at Sam’s club and it lasts me 6 weeks or so. The thing is that you can wash it less often as well which is also better for your hair. With regular shampoo I have to wash every other day or so or it gets greasy–this way I can go as long as 5 days without a hint of grease, not to mention no longer needing styling products for my very frizzy wavy hair. I can now let my hair air dry –I comb it as soon as I get out of the shower and either braid it or pull it back in a low pig tail until it dries.
I know some people who have done this and have had time when their hair got dry or flaky. Someone mentioned using a bit of brown sugar in the mix to keep the flakiness away. I have also, in the past, used an egg mixed with some olive oil every 2 weeks or so which deep conditions your hair (leave it on for 3-5 minutes.) You can also use a fruit smoothie on your hair to condition and clarify (same ingredients you would put in a smoothie–fruit, yogurt, honey–awesome for your hair and also makes a great facial mask. One thing that I do is use mineral oil to keep my skin from drying out (I have it in an old Skin-so-soft bottle) –after I rub this into my skin I run my fingers through my hair which seems to keep my hair from being so static-y and lets it dry less frizzy.
You can find lots of recipes for homemade body care products on the Dollar Stretcher.
Update as of June 3, 2009: We are still using this and have made some changes for the better which you can read about here.
Update: I guess I should mention that our meals are mostly vegetarian. I do buy my husband lots of cheese and pepperoni but other than cheese, eggs, honey, and yogurt we don’t buy much in the way of animal products. It is just plain too expensive, plus I HATE cooking meat. Also my husband and I and one of the kids have a severe allergy to poultry and all of us can only eat hormone/antibiotic free–so unless someone gets us a deer we go without.
I don’t pre-plan meals, I make up a slew of things on Sunday and we all eat what we want of it when we want–especially since each has some things they can’t or won’t eat. That said they eat healthy foods because we don’t have junk in the house and they have seldom had junk food in the first place. So, I adapted this slightly to suit our family-instead of divided up into individual meals it is divided into parts, just like the list of foods the kids has of what they can have for each meal. Also I buy everything in bulk which makes figuring out individual things a bit iffy–for instance I buy organic oatmeal and flour in 25# bags and use organic dry milk for yogurt, organic noodles in 10# bags, and buy yeast in 5# bags–almost all of it is organic due to our eldest’s food issues. The following foods are what the kids and I will eat over a week (my husband eats when he is hungry–usually cheese and pretzels and pepperoni or calzones if I make them) , each Sunday I make some new bulk foods (last week it was calzones, cookies, muffins, and bread, this week it is pot pie, granola, granola bars, bread, and soup. and lots of yogurt and yogurt cheese–Regardless of how they mix and match things each meal comes in at about $1 a person, usually closer to $.60 a meal.) Some of the recipes I have already posted here or at my previous site, Gracedbychrist.com.
Breakfasts and snacks:
- Homemade granola with honey and flax seed— 1 cup –$.15
- homemade plain yogurt (the kids add jam sometimes)–1 cup $.16
- eggs — 3 $.50
- homemade bread –2 slices (total loaf is $.50 to make so I am estimating the two slices of bread would be $.10)
- homemade jam (I like the recipes linked here.)–1 T on this I am really not sure since I used what I had to make it–maybe $.10 since it used raw sugar and bought berries?
- soy milk (bought at Sam’s Club)–1 cup $.29
- homemade granola bars (see recipe below)–2 bars–$.34
- oatmeal–1/2 cup $.09 plus 1/2 cup soy milk $.15
- noodles with margarine or cheese–1 cup plus 2 slice cheese $.15
- noodles with veggies and sauce (I use Bragg’s, with some onion powder and garlic for flavor and whatever veggies I have on hand or I cook noodles in reheated homemade veggie soup which is essentially the same thing)–1 cup $.20
- salad with nuts and cheese–1 cup plus 1/4 c nuts and 1 slice cheese $.80 (this will be cheaper soon as we have lettuce coming up–this is my normal meal most days.)
- fruit salad (mango, banana, grapes, pears, plums) with nuts–1 cup $.70
- mini veggie pot pies–2 muffin tins worth $.10
- homemade vegetable soup (recipe below)–2 cups $.08
- peanut butter with homemade jelly sandwiches –1 sandwich $.60
- eggs– 3 $.50
- frozen veggies with sharp cheddar cheese–1 cup $.60
- mini cheese calzones (pictured below: all they are is some bread dough cut in a square with filling then fold up the sides to meet in the middle and bake)–2 for $.30
Recipes below the pictures.
Homemade Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese
To make the yogurt bring milk to almost a boil to kill bacteria or use warm water to reconstitute powdered milk, allow to cool, combine about1/2c yogurt to 1/2 gallon milk–allow to sit covered on top of stove in glass container for 6-8 hours. You can then make yogurt cream cheese by straining it in cheese cloth.
We just fill a pot with water and throw in all the veggies we have available–including but not limited to:
potatoes, carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, onion, pepper, plus kidney beans–occasionally I throw in texturized vegetable protein but not usually. To this I add garlic powder, onion powder, and Bragg’s Liquid Amino to taste. I cook it until all the veggies are softened but not squishy. I usually freeze half of it and put the other half to be cooked with noodles for a casserole type dish or as filling in pot pies.
For the pot pies I strain out most of the broth and use my grandmother’s pie crust recipe for the crust. I use muffin tins to form the potpies, bake them until just before they turn golden then freeze them in a container. I also make a few large pot pies to freeze in individual containers for quick takeout meals.
Homemade Granola Bars
Keep in mind this is to taste–everyone has different things they like in granola bars, I like mine slightly chewy with lots of nuts and raisins.
Combine equal parts granola +whatever dry ingredients you like with liquid sweetener and nut butter, For example I use almonds, raisins, peanuts, carob chips with granola and mix them with an equal amount wet ingredients: peanut butter, honey, and maple syrup. If it is too sticky add more dry ingredients. Mix well then flatten into a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Bake at a low temperature for several hours (I usually keep it at 200 degrees or so for a few hours then I cut them and refrigerate them in the pan.) This is not an exact science and some come out stickier than others but the kids and I like variety. 🙂 They are not quite equal to bought granola bars but the price makes it well worth it–especially since no matter how much I make the kids will eat them all before they go bad.
When I wrote about our attempts to stay home instead of going out to eat several people requested some of our recipes. As I mentioned most of the quick stay at home recipes are really convenience foods that I have found are cheaper than making from scratch (like Aldi’s Asian Style frozen veggies with sauce) but some of the foods, though worth it to avoid going out to eat still are expensive and with our eldest’s food allergies VERY expensive to get versions she can eat. Spring Rolls are one of those foods.
Aldi’s egg/spring rolls are roughly $3.50 a package of four making them nearly the same price as those at the restaurant. Problem is that they are kind of tricky to make and if you buy the wrappers to make them yourself they are still fairly expensive. Enter the spring roll wrapper recipe. It takes some practice but Rachel LOVES making them and then you can fill them with whatever your heart desires. (These take a lot of strength to roll to the right thinness–we have yet to get them there which means they are a bit to thick–you really need a pasta roller to make them thin enough.)
We use this recipe for the wrappers although we found that you don’t really need to refrigerate it to make it work (we don’t, it is hard enough to roll as it is without having it cold.) Because we can’t get them thin enough we make a quadruple batch to make 10 egg rolls, if you can get them thinner you can make a smaller batch and make many more.
For the filling:
because it had been yucky out. We threw a 1lb bag of regular carrots, two leeks, and an onion in the food processor to be sliced and threw that in the broth while it cooked. That was our filling. In the future I would throw in some sliced cabbage and some texturized soy protein (we don’t eat much meat but you could throw in some left over pork or chicken.)
Once everyone was done eating soup I put a strainer over a bowl and let the liquid drain out of the veggies.
We then followed the recipe for the spring roll wrappers, quadrupaling the recipe.
First we put the eggs, flour, and water in the food processor (I LOVE my Bosch), putting it on high for about 12 minutes–you want the gluten to do its work and the dough should be hard to the touch but very elastic. Once it prepared you will want to separate it into 1-2 inch balls. If you can roll it super thin or have a dough press/noodle press then go with the smaller balls. We were hand rolling and it took a lot to get them as thin as we did.
Grab a ball of dough (cover the rest because otherwise they dry out pretty quick) and smash it as flat as you can with your hands (this was Issac’s job.) I use a silicone baking mat for all rolling–it is one of the few things I have found that doesn’t make a sticky mess and require tons of flour. Once flattened roll dough out as thin as you can, flipping and rotating every few minutes. This is a great job for kids who love rolling dough–the dough is not sticky and doesn’t require tons of flour. Hold it up to the light every so often to find thicker areas. Ours were too thick –you want them to be only a little over a millimeter thick, if that.
Once you have it as thin as you want moisten the top of the wrapper then add the filling (make sure the filling is relatively dry). Cover the filling with the side closest to you, pull wrapping it tightly then fold the sides in (very similar to making a burrito) then roll it over itself until the whole thing is wrapped. It is best to have it super thin and have several layers although ours only had one layer–this makes for a thicker shell though the kids liked it as well.
Finally, fry the rolls until golden brown. It is better to deep fry them though if you rubbed oil over them you can put them in the oven. This is where a thin wrapper is best as frying a thicker wrapper means you have to cook it longer to get the inner wrapper cooked through.
Yeah it is more work to start but if you get the kids involved it is fun. Plus you can freeze a whole bunch and warm them when you are in the mood for a quick meal. We also make all kinds of perogie/calzone style dumplings along this same lines–I make a biscuit or pizza like crust (usually I just make extra dough when I am making biscuits/pie/pizza and freeze it for when I have filling ready) then add similar fillings, boil or fry them then freeze for a quick, easy to heat, and VERY filling meal.
It saves us a lot of money and if the kids are involved they learn a lot about how their favorite foods are made, not to mention how to prepare healthy alternatives to ready made junk food.