Baking, Breads, Recipes

Got Pumpkin?

PumpkinsPumpkin Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 C sugar
1/4 C oil
1/4 C melted butter
2 eggs
1 C pumpkin, cooked and mashed
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each cloves & nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C chopped nuts (opt.)

Preheat oven to 450°. Grease muffin tin, or line it with paper baking cups.

In a medium bowl, beat sugar, oil and butter. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Add to sugar mixture and stir just until mixed.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full, then bake for 20 minutes.

*Note: you can double this recipe to make three loaves of pumpkin bread, instead of muffins. Grease the loaf pans well, and bake for 60 minutes at 325°, or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.

frugal tips, penny pinching, Saving money

Electric Rates Shock – 10 Tips for Saving Electricity this Winter

We received word last week that our county will soon be raising it’s electricity rates by 8%.  Just in time for winter, thank you very much.

But I’m not going to complain.  (It wouldn’t do any good, or I might!)

Instead, I’m going to hold a family meeting to discuss ways we can save on electricity in our home.  If we work together, we might make enough of a difference to keep our monthly bill where it was, or maybe even lower it.

Here are a few ideas to get us started:

  1. Turn lights off. I’ve been nagging about this for years, and you probably have, too.  This time I’m going to brainstorm with the kids, or maybe have a contest to see how many times during the day I can catch them turning the lights off (with points deducted for turning off the bathroom light when someone’s in there!).  In our old house, we installed a timer switch in the kid’s bathroom so the light never stayed on for long.  It helped some, but also got them into the habit of thinking a light would turn itself off automatically.
  2. Keep closet doors closed. Why heat extra space unnecessarily? The clothing and linen won’t mind being cold. If they do, they can’t tell me, so who cares?
  3. Kill a Watt. My son has one of these nifty little gadgets that measures electricity usage.  I’m sure I can bribe him to use it throughout the house and make a chart so we can easily see where we can cut back.  (Note:  if you decide to buy one of these for yourself or a gift, don’t waste your money buying the more expensive power-strip style.  You can just plug the cheaper kind into a power strip and do the same thing!)
  4. Insulate Windows.  Mother Earth News has a great article about making your own thermal shades at a much lower cost than buying them, and it looks like an easy project.  A lot of heat can be lost through windows.  Even heavy curtains can help some.
  5. Plant trees.  I’m planting a couple of cherry trees on the south side of our house this week.  They won’t help with winter bills, but will hopefully give us enough shade in the summer to cut down on cooling bills.  And we’ll have some delicious cherries to boot!If you get a lot of wind at your house, you can plant a windbreak fairly inexpensively by buying trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.  I’ve ordered a beautiful pink dogwood from them that I will plant near the driveway to shade our cars.  (No, I don’t put our car in the garage.  What a silly question!)By the way, Fall is the best time to plant trees, as it gives them time to really put down roots before the warm spring weather causes them to put their energy into the top part.
  6. Using sleeping bags on the beds, at least for my youngest child. He always kicks off his blankets.  Then he gets cold at night, and is more likely to get sick.  If I have him in a sleeping bag, maybe he’ll stay warmer – and his bed will be easier for him to make.
  7. Go to bed a little earlier, so I can turn all the lights off sooner.  Got to be careful with this one.  As Amy Dacyczyn (author of The Tightwad Gazette) once pointed out, going to bed early won’t save you any money if you end up with twins!
  8. Use my slow cooker more often. I already think that the crock-pot is one of the best inventions for the kitchen ever, and use it for convenience.  Since it uses less electricity than the oven, using it regularly could also save us some money.  (BTW, did you know you can bake bread in a Crock-pot?   I don’t usually do it, since I bake 4-6 loaves at a time for my family, but it can be done.)
  9. Bake extra and freeze it. Speaking of baking, I can bake more than one item at a time or one after the other (such as bread and cinnamon rolls) , taking advantage of the already hot oven.   I might even go old school and designate a baking day every so often to bake as much as I can and freeze it for later use.
  10. Keep the freezer full. I usually try to do this anyway as it helps save  money on food.  I buy extra meat and other foods when it’s on sale and freeze it, so I rarely have to pay full price for these items.  It also helps cut down on the temptation to eat out, since I have my own convenience handy in the freezer.  But I haven’t kept it really full since the move, and a full freezer takes less electricity run.  Maybe a baking day would help with this as well!

What are some things you do to save on electricity?  I would love to hear your ideas!