What You Won’t See Me Buying at the Grocery Store Anymore

After sitting down and writing out a list of all the homemade items I’ve made instead of buying at the store, I was pretty amazed.  Not counting special baked items like cakes and muffins, the list includes the basic bread and dairy items as well as cleaners typically purchased every month for the family.  There are so many other ideas and recipes out there that I can’t wait to try!  In just the one month that I’ve been really trying to make more things from scratch at home, I’ve seen a definite change in my grocery expenditures. 

  • Yogurt
  • Keifer
  • Sour Cream
  • Buttermilk
  • Ricotta
  • Cream Cheese
  • Sandwich Bread
  • Hamburger Buns
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Bagels
  • Tortillas
  • Crescent Rolls
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Chili Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Jelly
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Laundry Softener
  • Dish Soap
  • Kitchen/Bathroom Sanitizer

 Here’s the recipe for the homemade ricotta….

Fresh Ricotta in Five Minutes or Less – by seriouseats.com


  • 2 C. whole milk
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 T. distilled white vinegar or lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:  Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth or 2 layers of food-safe paper towels and set over large bowl. Combine milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice in microwave-safe glass 1-quart liquid measure.  Microwave on high heat until lightly bubbling around edges, 2-4 minutes (milk should register about 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer).  Remove from microwave, and stir gently for 5 seconds.  Milk should separate into solid white curds and translucent liquid whey.  If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer.  Repeat until fully separated.  Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer curds to prepared colander, cover exposed top with plastic wrap, and allow to drain until desired texture is reached.  Store in covered container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Homemade Yogurt – $$ Saver

I am sooo excited about this new kitchen experiment!!!  After realizing that it is not only healthier but less expensive to use plain yogurt instead of sour cream in cooking, I started investigating the process of actually making my own yogurt.  The process alone is so easy and only takes up three chunks of time throughout the day (2 1/2 hours, 3 hours, 8 hours).  I’m just really excited to now be able to eliminate two items off my monthly grocery list – sour cream AND yogurt.  Isaac loves yogurt and typically consumes about 6-12 oz. a day.  I could easily spend around $20/month on flavored yogurt.  However, now I can make it from scratch for a fraction of the price and still have yummy flavored yogurt.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 8 C. (half-gallon) of whole milk – pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized. [I just used regular 2% because it’s what I had in the house.]
  • 1/2 C. store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (you need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter.)
  • 1/2 C. powdered milk
  • Thick towel
  • Slow cooker


Pour 8 C. milk into the slow cooker and heat on low setting for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug the crockpot, leave the cover on, and let sit for 3 hours.

After 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 C. of the warm milk and pour into a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 C. live/active culture plain yogurt along with the 1/2 C. powdered milk.  After combined, dump back into the crockpot and stir to combine with the rest of the milk.


Replace lid (leaving unplugged!) and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crockpot for insulation.

Let this sit for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, store in containers in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.  Set aside 1/2 C. in a separate container to use as your starter for your next batch of yogurt.

Blend with your favorite fruits or honey!






Easy Stromboli…VERY Easy!

The original recipe calls for one loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed.  However, I just made a batch of my mom’s homemade pizza dough instead since it was less expensive and faster.


  • 1 pkg. dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. warm water
  • 2 1/2 C. flour

Directions: Dissolve yeast in water.  Add sugar, oil, salt and 2 C. flour.  Blend two minutes on low with dough hook then add 1/2 C. flour.  Coat cookie sheet with non-stick spray or flour.  Spread out the dough to make a large rectangle.


  • 2 eggs, separated (don’t throw away the whites!!)
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4-oz. pkg. sliced pepperoni (or 1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked)
  • 8-oz. pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine egg yolks, oil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder and pepper together; spread over dough.  Arrange pepperoni (or cooled sausage) and mozzarella cheese on top; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.






Roll up; place seam-side down on a baking sheet.  Brush with egg whites and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.








Serve with warmed garlic butter or spaghetti (pizza) sauce for dipping.

The Mighty Plastic Bag – $$ Saver

Okay, so back to the whole recycling business.  How many people actually remember to bring all their used shopping bags back to the store and place them in the bins by the entrance doors?  I know for me, remembering to bring those used bags is the LAST thing on my mind when trying to coral three boys, coupons, grocery lists, etc. in order to get the grocery shopping done.

Don’t feel guilty anymore about not returning your plastic sacks to the store.  There are so many great ways to re-use those little gems that will even save you money.

Since I’m really into baking lately, I’ll just show you a few of the ways I’ve found to incorporate the plastic sacks into the kitchen for saving money.

Instead of using expensive plastic wrap every time you need to cover your cookie sheets to freeze your dough, use two plastic sacks instead. (NOTE:  Please throw away the bags you use to carry raw meat as soon as you put away the contents so that you don’t inadvertently re-use the sack and contaminate any of your baking!)

The handles should fit perfectly over the end of your pan securing the first bag.







Cover the other half of the pan with the second bag and loop the handles over the end.

You now have a perfectly covered cookie sheet ready for freezing bread dough.





You can also use a plastic bag to cover your dough when it rises.  Some recipes specifically state to use plastic wrap instead of a tea towel to cover the dough.  I know the Artisan Bread recipe says to do this.





These are just two of the ways I’ve been able to use my grocery bags instead of throwing them in the trash.  They are also great to have on hand when you get a nasty diaper explosion from one of your children while out and about.  Use one to place soiled clothes inside and another to wrap the putrid smelling diaper in before chucking into the trash.  (Those who come behind you will greatly appreciate the fact that you didn’t just chunk the smelly bomb into the trash by itself!)  This saves from having to spend money on the pretty little baby diaper sacks you typically would use.

Also, for those of you out there with small children, keep a few sacks inside your vehicle for unexpected stomach revolts and to help keep a handle on the trash accumulation.  Tie the handles of a bag someplace inside your vehicle and train your children to place any garbage inside.  This really helps keep your vehicle more organized and clean.

Playdate/ Potluck

Always thankful to be able to spend time with other families just like my own.  I’m glad that Isaac has other little boys and girls to play with close in age to him with Down syndrome so he will never feel alone or isolated as he grows older.  Can’t say enough about the importance of having a strong support group around you as you head down that path in life.  It’s like taking a stroll in the park and every time you start to get turned around and nervous about which direction to go, you look up and see a familiar smiling face waiting to help point you in the right direction.  That smiling face and the knowledge that you are not alone on the path does so much to help calm your nerves and give you courage to continue on your journey.  Love, love, love fellowshiping with my fellow Down syndrome families!!! 🙂

Just a few snap shots of Isaac and Sam having fun together.  These guys had a blast taking turns going down the plastic slide!  Thanks again, Brent and Vonda, for bringing Sam!  What a great afternoon. 🙂

Mama Toni’s Meatballs

When most people were enjoying a ham or turkey dinner on Christmas Eve, my family was chowing down on homemade lasagna and meatballs.  Made with my mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, this was one of the highlights of our holiday season.  Some of my greatest family memories are of all of us sitting around the kitchen/dining room table laughing, eating, and sharing the day’s events with each other.  I miss those times and look forward to any opportunity I have to be back in my mom’s kitchen enjoying the craziness and fellowship always found there.

Since our family is attending a special Down syndrome playdate/ potluck Sunday afternoon with other families, I wanted to do something filling and easy.  I’m picky when it comes to bringing a dish to a potluck that was cooked several hours earlier and is then served cold.  Yuk!  So that means that my options are down to making something that can go into the crock pot Sunday morning or can be cooked on site in just a few minutes.

I decided to make mini meatball subs using my mom’s meatball know-how and the crescent roll recipe I experimented with a few days ago.  I baked the meatballs today, mixed with a jar of my homemade spaghetti sauce and placed inside the crockpot bowl in the frig.  Then I mixed up the crescent roll dough and finished rolling out the 32 rolls placing them on cookie sheets inside the freezer.  As soon as they are completely solid, I will transfer to a gallon-size ziplock.

Tomorrow all I will have to do is plug in my crockpot full of tasty meatballs during the morning worship service and place all the rolls on cookie sheets to thaw/ rise.  As soon as the service is over, I will be able to pop the rolls into the oven for 10 minutes (having pre-heated it during the service as well), brush with melted butter as soon as they finish baking and serve.  Yahoo!  Nice hot food for the potluck luncheon without all the stress. 🙂

Most meatball recipes say you need to fry the meatballs on top of the stove, but my mom assured me that baking them was not only easier but also healthier.  I placed all the meatballs on a wire rack which was resting in a cookie sheet lined with foil. (The foil is used simply for easier cleanup.)




Fresh out of the oven.  Oh boy!!  The smell summoned Eli and Isaac into the kitchen where they hung around my knees begging for something to eat.  Hahaha!  (Next time I won’t make these when it’s close to lunch or dinner.)

Love how all the extra fat and grease dripped off the meatballs into the pan below.  Way better than pan frying them in my opinion!



Getting my needed supplies ready to transfer the meatballs from the pan into the crockpot.  Love, love the fact that I am able to use homemade spaghetti sauce instead of the store-bought stuff.   Tastes soooo much better!!





After sauce and meatballs have been mixed together.  Placed the lid on top and put dish inside the refrigerator.






Now, as to the exact recipe for these meatballs….Not gonna happen.  No, I’m not being selfish or what I like to term a “Recipe Nazi.”  I just don’t have an exact recipe to give.  My mom has always had this terrible habit of never writing anything down while working in the kitchen.  She’s made the same dishes over and over again throughout her life that she works by feel (muscular memory – like a violinist!).  She just doesn’t think about what goes into a dish or the exact measurements.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw her making her meatballs from scratch and she tested the seasoning.  She actually placed a piece of the raw meat on her tongue for a few seconds them spit it out into the trash.  Blah!!!  Thankfully there is another way to test the seasoning – it’s called cook a small piece in a frying pan.

Anyhow, here is what I used to make these meatballs.

  • 1 pound hamburger (I used deer burger in mine)
  • 1 pound sausage (I used homemade Italian sausage)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Romano (or) Parmesan
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Garlic salt

Yields: approx. 32 meatballs

Since I used the Italian sausage in my meatballs, I didn’t use the oregano, basil or garlic salt because the sausage was already seasoned.  I did, however, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Use as much or as little of the bread crumbs you think necessary.  Remember to start out with less and add more as needed.  The meat fat does a great job of holding the meatballs together so you don’t need to add any other moist ingredients like egg or milk.

Recycled Cleaning Towels

I’m not a huge recycler, but when I do find something in my home that I am able to re-use instead of throwing away, I’m happy to comply.

Today Eli asked me if he could help with the dusting.  Well, YEAH!!  No way on earth I’m going to pass up on an offer to help me clean the house. 🙂 He went to get the dusting cloths but came back upset because he only found one left on the shelf.  Thankfully I had a stack of old hospital baby blankets that had just gotten shoved into a corner.  You know, the ones the hospital sends home with you to use but are so incredibly ugly you want to chunk them the moment you arrive home.  The problem was solved once we cut up our blankets and had a nice stack of dusting/cleaning cloths to use around the house.  A bonus was Eli learning how to fold a towel in the process.  Hehe!

For those of you who just had a baby and have a stack those blankets or those of you who just didn’t clean out your closets yet and have them lying around, DON’T throw them out!  They make great baking towels to use when making bread and cake rolls as well as cleaning towels.  Why spend more money on a pack of wash cloths that you are only going to get nasty cleaning with or on expensive baking towels.  Save yourself the time and money and just cut up your old blankets.  The ends don’t fray no matter how many times you wash them, and they are the perfect texture for different household projects.