Easy Way Out

I'm not crafty, creative, or a great cook. This blog is just going to be some simple, inexpensive ways to tackle different things. The motto of Easy Street 2: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without." I haven't always lived this way, but I've slowly changed over to cheap, recycling, and re-purposing. I love learning new ways to do things, so you're joining me on this journey! Failures, successes? I'll report them all!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cheap Chic Scarves

I love scarves.  I'm also big busted, so I have to use caution when wearing scarves because they can be unflattering.

On a recent shopping trip I saw a beautiful scarf and thought about buying it.  Then I checked the price:  $78.00.  Soooo not happening.

I love bargains, too.  Let's be honest, even the scarves at Target average about $14-16.  No offense, but when you can buy a shirt at Target for $18, that seems a little over priced.

So, here is a secret I have to share:  Dillons.  Not Dillards, the department store, but Dillons the grocery store.  Dillons, aka as Krogers, has had scarves for the last two seasons.  And the price:  $4.99.  I found them on a swivel rack close to the pharmacy area, and they have such a nice selection of colors that it was hard to choose.

The only drawback is that they are all the same fabric and style.  (Not unlike Target.)  But for $5 a scarf, it is hard to complain!
Six scarves for $30.  (I did not purchase these at the same time.  Three was my limit; three for the price of one Target scarf.)  And everything I buy at Dillons applies to my gas discount at their pumps- up to $1.00 discount a gallon.  

Sometimes bargains can be found in unusual places. It pays to keep your eyes open.

PS. Dillons/Krogers isn't paying me for this publicity.  Of course, if they choose to send me a check, I won't refuse it!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Super Easy Delicious Peach Cobbler

Back in the 60's, Mom used to make something called "Dump Cake."  She poured a can of pie filling in a square pan, sprinkled the top with a Jiffy Cake Mix straight from the package, and drizzled butter over the top of it.  She baked it for 20 minutes or so.  Super simple and quite yummy! 

I picked fresh peaches a few weeks ago.  When making peach cobbler, I decided to try a variation on Mom's Dump Cake for the crumb topping.

Again, I rarely measure anything, so I'm estimating!

Best Peach Cobbler

8-10 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup of sugar
1/4-1/2 cup of water
Cook this together on the stove, until it bubbles, then add:
1-2 Tablespoons of flour

Continue cooking and stirring until it thickens. (It will be like a pie filling consistency.)

Pour this mixture into an 8 X 8 greased pan.

1/2 box of Yellow Cake Mix  (I can't find the Jiffy Cake Mix at our store, so I just use half of the full size.)
2 cups of Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

Mix this together well and sprinkle over the peach mixture in the pan.  (I like the change in texture because of the oats!)

1 stick of butter-  cut into small pieces and dot over the top of the topping mixture.  (Mom used to melt the butter and drizzle it.  It melts either way, so I eliminate this step.)

Bake in the oven on 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Dish it up by the scoop and top with whipped topping, a splash of half and half, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It tastes great warm or cold.

If you're looking for a simple, quick peach cobbler recipe that tastes great--they don't come much better than this one. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mason or Ball Jars For Storage

I used to store leftovers in plastic containers in my fridge.  You know how it is.  You leave them in the fridge too long and the orange stains won't come out of the plastic container.  Ever.  Ewww...

The condition of the plastic deteriorates.  The smooth plastic turns rough. Ugh...

All the bad news on plastic drinking containers or microwaving plastic made me nervous.  Yes, it was time for a change.

If I had my way, I would buy those clear square glass containers that our grandparent's generation used.  They had clear glass lids, stacked neatly, and you could see what was in them.  Now, they are mainly available in antiques stores--and those things are crazy expensive.   I hear that some stores are starting to bring them back.  (And I'm not talking the ones with plastic lids.  I want the ones with glass lids.)  I knew I couldn't be the only person who wished they would make a comeback!

Until I find the glass storage that I'm looking for, I have started using Mason or Ball Canning jars.  They are glass: no staining and no deteriorating.  (Though breakage could be a problem, knock on wood--it hasn't happened yet.)  I put them through the dishwasher, and they come out sparkling clean and ready to go.

Jars make it easier to see what I am storing.  They are much clearer than the opaque plastic.
The most surprising perk:  these jars kind of seal themselves.  I have to work to pop off the sealing lid.  Grapes stay fresh much longer. (I take the grapes off the stem as soon as I get them home from the store.)  Celery and carrots keep their crispness.

These jars come in quite a few different sizes.  I primarily use the pint and quart jars.  If you are buying jars, choose the wide mouth variety for ease of use.  I have some narrow mouth jars that I use, but I prefer the wide mouth jar.  Jelly jars are perfect for storing small things like leftover sauces or small amounts.  I have a couple of jars that are larger than quart.  I think they might be half gallon, but I'm not sure.  I love those for storing soup or larger quantities.

How much will these cost you?  You can usually get 9-12 jars with lids for about $12.  Hardware stores, grocery stores, Walmart, Target--they all carry them.  They are economical and smart.

Seeing the healthy items in jars in your fridge means you usually reach for them first.  (OK.  I might still be hunting Rocket Pops or Diet Pepsi, but sometimes I will grab the grapes or the pineapple!)

I use my jars in the fridge for fresh produce or leftovers, but now I really need to start using the jars in my pantry, too.  Rice, pasta, dried beans, raisins, and nuts would all keep neatly.  When I open a package and use part of it, I wouldn't have a container that is open but not tightly sealed like the boxes or bags they come in.  That is the next step.

Canning jars for storage? It just makes sense. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Easy Summer Beers

This is a family favorite summer drink.  There is a restaurant near here that serves the best summer beers, and we have come as close as we can in duplicating their signature drink.

So here goes:

Easy Summer Beers

1 can of frozen lemonade concentrate  (use the empty can for the next 2 ingredients)
1 can of water  (can add more if you want it a little weaker)
1 can of vodka
1 can or bottle of beer

Stir and serve over ice.  And that's it!  I told you:  simple!

You can make this in big batches for parties.  Just put them in the water jug and fill your cooler with some ice for the drink.  
These are best served on a patio with lots of close friends.

OK. True confessions.  After a summer beer afternoon, a crazy cousin led several other crazy cousins on a wild goose chase of a hike looking for hidden springs.  (They really weren't hidden, he just couldn't find them.)  Three hours later, they returned.  Thankfully, they all still speak!

Yeah.  Use caution when enjoying one of our favorite summer drinks!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home Charging Station for Cell Phones

Do you have cell phones charging on bathroom counters?  eReaders charging on nightstands?  Camera batteries charging on an end table?

Do you spend time hunting your phone charger because you can't remember where you left it after the last time you used it?

Well, that used to be our house.  AND I hated it!

So this was my solution.

We had this little piece of furniture just inside our front door.  With a few incredibly simple alterations, this little dresser became our charging station.  In fact, just one drawer in this unit became our charging station; the rest is still used for it's original purpose.  Does it look like an electronic charging station?  Nope!  It is all hidden neatly away and out of sight.

All you really need to create your own charging station is a piece of furniture with a drawer.  It could be a nightstand or an end table. And now you'll see why you need the drawer.

I had the husband remove the drawer on the left and drill a hole through both the back piece of the drawer and the back of the dresser. Well, several holes--we probably should have used the jigsaw once we had the hole started.  (If I had to do it again, I would do that, as I'm sure it would look a lot neater on the inside.)  Since the drawer is closed, it isn't a huge deal to me.  And...it serves the purpose I needed.

Once the holes were drilled, we had room to put a power strip through the holes and plug the cord into the outlet behind the dresser.  The power strip sits in the drawer, and when the drawer is closed--no one is the wiser that this is where everything in the house is charged.

This is a shot of the open charging drawer.  You could use an extension cord, but I like the fact that a power strip has a surge protector and an on/off switch.  It also allows you to charge more things at a time.  I added a cushy shelf liner in the bottom of the drawer to cushion the electronics while they are charging.

And that is it.  The whole thing took about ten minutes to do.

Now, there is no more searching for the chargers or cords!  They are all in one place, and there is no need to take them out of the drawer.  The drawer stores the cords when they aren't in use.  About the only time they are ever taken out is when we are traveling.

We have sometimes had four cell phones and a camera battery charging at the same time, but that was when the girls still lived at home.  Now, we are usually charging the Nook, a camera battery, and a phone or two.  We set them all in the drawer, close the drawer, and...

Voila!!  Just a small dresser/storage unit again. 

This is a super simple solution to keeping your house organized and clutter free!  Who knew a home charging station could be so easy?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Homemade Tartar Sauce

The son-in-law was frying fish.  L asked about Tartar Sauce.  Nope. We didn't have any.  I saw a small pout beginning.  OK.  How tough can tartar sauce be?  Come to find out, not hard at all.  And even picky L was happy!  

This comes with a warning.  I don't measure.  Yikes!!

These are the ingredients you need, and I bet you have most of them on hand:

Mayonnaise-  a cup or so (You can use light or nonfat.)
Pickle Relish-  (sweet)  a couple of tablespoons
Onions-  minced  a couple of tablespoons
Lemon Juice-  a couple of tablespoons

Mix it all together.  That's it.  Tastes just like what you buy.

A couple of things I've learned:
1.  Dill pickle relish doesn't taste as good.  (The Mr. bought dill by mistake, and I was trying to use it up. Ugh!) 
2.  The Mr. wanted hot tartar sauce.  I added hot sauce, but I never could get it to a hotness that made a difference.  Maybe jalapenos or jalapeno seeds?  Just guessing!  I haven't tried it yet.

I store it in a jelly jar or a canning jar, and it keeps for a week or so in the fridge.

I'll probably never buy tartar sauce again.