Another Homemaking Tip I Should Have Thought Of

With four kids and eight nieces and nephews, we’ve wrapped a lot of Christmas and birthday gifts over the years. Wrapping big gifts and small ones leaves lots of odd-sized scraps of gift wrap, which eventually get wrinkled while stored and eventually thrown out.

So why didn’t I think of doing what home management expert and mom-of-five Deniece Schofield does? She cuts up some of her rolls of gift wrap! For instance, she cuts a 30” roll of gift wrap into two rolls, one 18” and one 12”. Then she stores them in empty aluminum foil boxes to keep them unwrinkled and to make them easy to use.

I can see using the 12” paper for wrapping DVDs, the 18” paper for books and puzzles, and saving the full-size rolls for the big gifts. Super idea!

Of course, I’m not surprised, because Deniece Schofield is one smart mom. I have one of her early books, but it looks like I need to get up to speed because I’m missing out on some great tips. Here are her top-selling books:

New Homemaking Tips

After so many years of reading homemaking tips in books and magazines, and later on at websites, I thought I’d read them all. But this week I stumbled onto two tips that I’ve never heard of, and now I wonder why I never thought to do them? They make so much sense!

The first tip is in this beautiful cookbook I’ve been reading called Organic and Chic: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets That Taste As Good As They Look. (Seriously, it’ll give you a sugar buzz just flipping through it.)

Author Sarah Magid shares this tip along with her brownie recipe:

I like to be resourceful and eco-friendly by covering the bottom of the brownie pan with butter wrappers, butter side up. (Save butter wrappers by placing them in a plastic freezer bag whenever you go through butter sticks. Simply defrost when you’re preparing your pan.)

Later in the book, she elaborates a bit:

They make the perfect coating because they’re already covered with a thin film of butter. Just fold each one in fours and snip the corner off in a rounded shape and place it in the pan, buttered side up. It will open up into a round that’s perfect for smaller pans.

Ever since I learned about what’s in margarine, I’ve used butter for all of my baking and cooking, so I know I could amass a nice little stack of butter stick wrappers fairly quickly. And using them in baking pans would save money on parchment paper. Again, why didn’t I think of that?

By the way, did I mention that this is one gorgeous cookbook? Her cakes are works of art. Those concerned about the sources of their food will appreciate the fact that she bakes with only organic ingredients, and shares her sources for them as well as for her equipment.

I’ll share the other great tip next time 🙂

Exercises in Frugality, Part 5

Homemade Baking Mix

I was raised on Bisquick baking mix. My mom was sick a lot, so when my dad came home and found four hungry little kids waiting for dinner, he’d whip up a batch of pancakes made from Bisquick.

I never knew you could use Bisquick for anything besides pancakes until I was married and started cooking every night. That’s when I learned that you can make dumplings, and Impossible Pies, and all sorts of good things. I even sent away for a Bisquick cookbook that I still use today.

But at some point along the way, I learned that General Mills, maker of Bisquick, donated money to Planned Parenthood (you know, #1 provider of abortions in this country), so I stopped buying Bisquick (or anything else from General Mills). Instead, I learned to make my own baking mix.

I don’t know if General Mills still supports Planned Parenthood, but I do know that homemade baking mix is cheaper than Bisquick and works just as well. I make baking mix in my food processor, but you can use a pastry blender in a bowl to do the same thing. A food processor does make it less lumpy, though.

Here’s the recipe I use for baking mix:

10 cups flour
1 T. salt
1/3 cup baking powder
2 cups shortening

Blend together dry ingredients; cut in shortening until it looks like flour. Store in a tightly closed container. Keep in refrigerator during the summer.

My food processor isn’t big enough to do the recipe all at once, so I make half at a time and dump it all in a big plastic container:

5 cups flour
1 ½ t. salt
2 ¾ T. baking powder
1 cup shortening

(BTW, I use Aldi flour and shortening; definitely less expensive than store brands.) I use this mix for oven-fried chicken, adding spices to it and shaking it with the chicken pieces in a plastic bag.

The other night I made dumplings to go with stewed chicken. How easy is this?


3 cups baking mix
2 t. dried parsley
1 cup milk

Mix together until soft dough forms. Drop dough into boiling stew, on top of meat and veggies. Cook on low 10 minutes uncovered, then 10 more minutes covered.

Want to Learn How to Sew?

Just had to share this cool new book with you! I’ve been sewing since I was a kid, so I don’t need a basic how-to-sew book. But the projects in this book, as easy as can be, are also so cute that I just couldn’t resist. 🙂

The book is called Pat Sloan’s I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing! It’s designed for people who’ve always wanted to learn to sew, but don’t know where to start. Unlike many sewing how-to books, this one includes ideas for finding a good used sewing machine, and inexpensive sources of fabric beyond what you can find at the store. Perfect for people trying to save some money, and aren’t we all these days?

The projects are easy and useful; the author features great new fabrics for an up-to-the-minute look. The table runner project is quick, easy, and a great way to highlight a few favorite fabrics. The scarf project is adorable, and the shower curtain is amazingly easy but will definitely perk up your bathroom.

As far as I’m concerned, no sewing book is complete without at least one quilt in it. This book has a couple of quilt patterns (very easy ones) plus pillows and pillowcases, so you can coordinate fabrics and make a matching set. Great simple gift ideas!

This book would also work well as the basis for a homeschool sewing course. My dd18 already knows how to sew, but couldn’t help picking up this book when she saw it on the table. She loved the projects in it!

Bottom line? Don’t miss this book; it’s a keeper.

Exercises in Frugality, Part 4

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’d been meaning to make my own laundry detergent for ages. Now that I’ve done it and seen how easy it is, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

Recipes for liquid laundry detergent are floating all over the Internet. Here’s the one I used. I bought a pot at Goodwill to keep just for making detergent; it cost a couple of dollars. I keep the detergent in a plastic wash tub with plastic wrap over it because the dishwasher detergent bucket I’d saved for it turned out to have a big crack in the side. (Don’t ask when I discovered this.)

The detergent was very easy to make. I’d bought a cheap grater at the dollar store to use for grating the bar soap, but we lost it in the move and my brilliant daughter suggested I use a peeler instead. And that worked. After that, it didn’t take long before I had my first batch of homemade liquid laundry detergent.

I was tickled to find that it really does get the clothes get clean. Plus, it’s cheap! Really cheap…..I just saw liquid Tide on sale for $6 for a bottle that cleans 25 loads of wash. That’s 24 cents a load. This homemade laundry detergent I’m using costs 2 cents per load. That is not a misprint! Plus it doesn’t contain all the weird chemicals in a bottle of Tide that we probably shouldn’t be breathing.

I won’t bother to spell out the recipe and ingredient costs as this site has already done so.  I did use essential oil (rosewood because the health food store was out of lavender) and it has a pleasant scent. Also, I doubled the amount of Borax and washing soda to make sure everything gets clean, a luxury that doubled the price from a penny a load to two cents. I know, big spender 🙂