Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

A simple idea

But its so helpful for a forgetful mind.  I drink powdered milk.  I started drinking it long, long ago because it was more convenient than catching a city bus to pick up a gallon of milk.

There are various brands but some taste better than others.  I did a lot of research looking for a way to make it taste better to kids.  I found out that the difference in taste comes from the way the milk powder is made.  Instant milk is made in two ways.  One uses heat to cook the water out and the other uses air drying.  The air dry kind has a taste closer to fresh while the cooked kind takes on a different taste.  Not that either way is wrong, just that your own tastes may prefer one over the other.

I tried several brands before finally finding one that suits my taste buds.  Currently I buy the Meijer brand for drinking. It is an air dry type.  I also get instant milk from the senior commodity program.  It is the cooked to dry kind which is perfectly fine for cooking needs.  The two milks look different and mix differently.  The cooked kind is a fine powder (right) and the air dried kind looks more like grains (left).

The way the milk mixes is different too.  Cooked milk does better if mixed in hot water.  Not boiling hot.  Maybe coffee water hot.  The air dry kind mixes better using cold tap water.  I mix a quart at a time using just slightly less than the instructions say.  I mix only one cup per quart instead of the one and one third cup the mixing directions call for.  This is a personal preference for me.  You may find your tastes different.  Ok, maybe you just can’t find a brand that suits your taste buds for drinking.  You can still save some money by using instant milk for cooking.  Biscuits or loaf bread or cream soups won’t mind being made with instant milk.  I use the instant milk to make ice cream and to cook puddings for the grands.  Nobody has complained so far.  Ladybug prefers my milk over fresh milk for drinking too.

Now for my simple idea.  I had a problem keeping the two milks separated and recognizable without tasting.  Instant milk looks alike but it was a quick “yuck” whenever I poured the wrong kind and tasted it.  I didn’t like using the drinking milk for cooking by mistake either.  I pay for the drinking milk but cooking milk is free.  A few days ago I solved the problem by writing the type on the lids with permanent markers.

DUH.  So simple why didn’t I think of it long ago?  I tried various labels over the years but washing the jars always ruined them.  Those are quart canning jars.  Did you know the lids from peanut butter jars fit canning jars?  Much cheaper than paying for the Ball kind.

19 comments on “A simple idea

  1. T
    September 1, 2017

    Hope you are okay Anita?

    Just dropping by to say the storm ( Harvey ) was horrible, but since we did not lose power I was able to cook, used quite a bit of powdered mashed potato and used canned evaporated milk for coffee and tea. I used up all the meat in the freezer ( in case we did lose power ) and now I am using up much of the canned goods ahead of moving next month.

    Fresh milk was one thing the local store was out of, even after the signs said 2 per customer.

    100 000 homes lost across Texas, tens of thousands in shelters…really has been a nightmare for so many, I feel very fortunate.

    Our neighbors were lovely, helping each other, except for one woman who was trying to get someone’s car towed for parking in the wrong place the minute the flood water receded, so petty and unbelievable when there were helicopters flying overhead to assess damage and rescue people…God save us from the trouble makers.

    But many other people have been helping, and local restaurants churches et cetera giving free food and distributing clothing and toiletries and baby products.

    One of the supermarket chains gave away cases of bottled water, though a store was reported as selling bottled water $99 a case, which will get them a heavy fine here, ‘price gouging’ they call it.

    I went to a local gas station to buy iced tea and dropped two $20 bills, the owner told me and handed it back to me, I appreciate the good people, nice reminder most people are decent.

    • Anita
      September 1, 2017

      I’m very glad you are safe and didn’t loose power. If we have a power outage I’d still be able to cook because I have natural gas stove. I wouldn’t have anything else. I saw the thousands of people being rescued and those in shelters on the national news. There are some really sad stories being told.

      I heard about the price gouging of water and other stuff on the national news. We had that here too when we had our 100 year flood some years back. In times of trouble is when you see the worst and the best in people. Our gas prices here have gone up due to Harvey. The day Harvey hit land the price was $2.17 and the next day it was $2.45 and somewhere around $2.75 now. We are also told to expect higher food prices due to the higher gas prices and loss of crops in the flood. I wonder what type of crops are grown in Houston? I thought crops were grown in earth fields, not concrete fields. Maybe they think we are all just too dumb to think about that?

      When the Harvey rains were being predicted to get into Kentucky I realized I don’t live in a flood plane anymore. My new house is farther from the river and on higher ground. I should not have any problem with flooding unless we have a city wide problem with water drainage.

      Take care of yourself and thanks for checking in.


  2. T
    August 4, 2017

    I think I would try or Amazon for stuff like this, Walmart for the price and Amazon for the choices of brand.

    I only buy milk when my son is here, otherwise I use canned evaporated for hot drinks and occasionally making soup etc.

    My current project is to downsize as much as possible including food and other supplies, I stockpiled stuff we aren’t using so I am using it up or donating it and only buying and storing stuff I know I will use.

    Guess it’s all a learning curve!

    • Anita
      August 4, 2017

      I know the feeling. I’m doing pretty much the same thing. I’m thinking its my age that’s changed my stockpiling efforts. I’ve donated quite a bit of food lately. I seem to need less these days. I’ve stopped going to the mobile food bank too. It would be too difficult to take a baby plus a cart of food on a bus. But, I’m not missing the food at all. They aren’t giving any fresh veggies except potatoes and onions. Everything is highly processed stuff which I ended up giving away. Not worth the effort of standing in line two or three hours for a bag of potatoes.

      • T
        August 5, 2017

        I’m getting my home ready to sell ( going the opposite way to you for now- going back to renting ) and I needed to de-clutter even more, but I just don’t eat as much these days and eat a lot simpler if I want to keep diabetes away.

        Think I am going to make some category lists, what’s the minimum products for fridge, for freezer, for cleaning materials, for personal hygiene etc and just stock up on those in general.

        My fridge basics would look like- cream cheese, canned tuna, evaporated milk, eggs, mayonnaise, lime juice, pot of jam, since these are things I use a lot. Freezer I would probably vary seasonally with meat, frozen veggies, occasional treats. Cleaning materials I basically use laundry soap, scouring powder, dish soap, bleach and white vinegar.

        I usually like to keep a few cans of soup, nuts, jars of apple sauce, canned fruit, ketchup and mustard. And currently I pick up bread products as I need them but I eat less and less and could freeze some and substitute the dry scandinavian style crispbreads and plain crackers.

        I am trying to think what product substitutes multiple products, an example cooking oil, I have often had olive oil, canola, butter spread and butter in my pantry, but thinking about it just butter would answer all my needs. I don’t deep fry.

        My goal is to save time and space as well as straightforward saving money. After all can’t get back time, difficult to make more space; money really is the only thing more can sometimes be obtained!

        I’m semi-retired ie working now but I would ultimately like to not own a car, so not sure what that will entail; as you found even moving near to a store it could close or relocate.

        Thinking deeply about the kind of life I want to create for the last years of my life. It certainly isn’t the revolving door of doctors or a retirement home which are marketed to me at this point as ‘preparing for the future’.

        Glad you are well Anita. Enjoy your writing more than ever!

        • Anita
          August 5, 2017

          I guess a lot of us are thinking about the quality of life we want for our last years. I see commercial after commercial these days about nursing homes and assisted living. I get so sick of seeing them. They are almost as bad as political ones during election years. Keep your car. Having one doesn’t mean you “have” to drive it but it would be there should you need one. There are times when I really wish I didn’t have to ride a bus. Like when the temperature is 15 degrees but I have an appointment and I must walk the six and a half blocks to the bus stop. Or when I really want to go to a farmer’s market but its located a mile from the nearest bus stop.

          I’m trying to save time and space too. I like the way you worded it. I did my move backwards. Instead of getting rid of things before the move, I brought lots of STUFF with me knowing I’d want to get rid of it. That’s what I’m doing now. I believe by the end of the year I’ll have pared down to just my essentials along with a few family treasures.

          • T
            August 6, 2017

            The advertising really bothers me most is for pills and medical treatments, when so many people can’t get access to what they need-even basics- there’s something immoral about wasting resources on expensive advertising to the privileged few. Capitalism has gone too far in America. Someone said to me recently ‘but if we had “socialised” medicine we’d all pay more tax’. So pay less tax and end up with $6000 deductibles etc. is better?

            Running a car, even owned outright, will cost $1500 a year minimum. If I am organized I can use online ordering and an occasional taxi cab. If my son is here he can grocery shop, to be honest if he’s not I need very little.

            We don’t have public transport where I live now. All these well-off master-planned communities being built here I guess no need was perceived for a public transport infrastructure, not even for environmental and traffic congestion reasons.

            • Anita
              August 6, 2017

              I see your point. I believe everyone should be allowed to sign up for Medicare. It works as it is and has worked all along. It should not be just for seniors. Well hmm… that might work but it could also be a way to eventually get rid of medicare by saying its too big.

              On line ordering is not something I’ve really considered yet except for an occasional amazon item I can’t find in a local store. A taxi ride to the store and back would be very expensive here. Its about $10 just to get into the taxi plus the meter charge as it ticks up. A city bus ride is eighty cents round trip. Or a dollar sixty if my shopping trip takes longer than four hours and the transfer expires.

  3. Jane
    August 3, 2017

    I’m a vegan, so I don’t use cow’s milk. I make my own soymilk for vegan cheese-making – very cheap. Almost all plant-based milks can be made at home: rice milk, nut milks, etc. Funny, I just looked at the word “milk;” it looks so strange! Have you ever caught yourself looking at an everyday word and questioned your spelling? Seems to happen to me quite often lately (I’m probably losing my mind, even more). 😉

    • Anita
      August 4, 2017

      Yes, it happens to me too. Although I have more problems with words that can have different spellings like fare and fair or where and wear. There are many who use alternative milks. Knowing how to make them would be good for those who use them.

  4. Jill
    August 3, 2017

    Years ago I always made yogurt with the bulk spray dried stuff, the heated type did not culture as effectively and was unpalatable.
    It was much more affordable compared to whole milk then, I could adjust for the thickness I wanted as well by adding more powder to a batch.
    I used to make tons of the stuff weekly along with fresh whole grain bread to trade with friends for things they made. So called “hippie” foods were harder to find outside of coops so we were always assured of a fresh inexpensive supply back then.

    I occasionally will use it now for yogurt and baking, but cost wise it’s a much, much less advantageous. Did try it with some long life milk and it was a disaster.,,,barely fermented and it tasted like over boiled stale milk. I think the ultra-high heat processing kills off anything live that might culture along with anything that might spoil in order to make it shelf stable.

    • Anita
      August 4, 2017

      That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of the difference the milk would make for the yogurt. The advantage for me is the convenience of having it here because I don’t have a car. I don’t drink as much as it might seem. A quart will last me a couple of weeks. I use much more of the cooking milk. Especially making bread and biscuits.

  5. captnmike
    August 3, 2017

    I don’t use much milk anymore of any type – keep a bit of canned condensed just in case I need some for soup or something.

    But way back when I was a kid, sees to me that someone told me that if the dried milk sat overnight or a bit longer it tasted better – I live within walking distance of two large grocery stores so running out of something is an inconvenience and not a disaster

    • Anita
      August 3, 2017

      Yes, it does taste better when it sets to get very cold. When I moved here last summer I could walk to the store. One or two months later that store closed which meant I had to start riding a bus again. Going for milk would take about an hour and a half to two hours providing I get in and get out quickly.

  6. Margie in Toronto
    August 2, 2017

    My mom used to make up a quart and then mix it half & half with the regular milk to stretch it. I do keep powdered milk for emergencies and for baking but honestly – it’s expensive! I like to keep UHT milk as backup since it keeps in the pantry until opened. Again, it’s more expensive than regular milk but I like to have it in case of storms, illness etc.

    • Anita
      August 3, 2017

      Yes, it is expensive. A necessary expense for me though. I’ve seen the UHT milk at the dollar tree store for a dollar a quart. $4 a gallon for milk is pretty high. But the price of milk, and dairy products, has steadily gone up on all types.

  7. Sandy
    August 2, 2017

    We have been using powdered milk for forty years. No last minute trips to the store and we make up what we need when we need it so no soured and wasted milk. I even make yogurt with it.

    • Anita
      August 2, 2017

      Hey, that’s a good idea Sandy. Which brand milk do you like best? Or does it make a difference?

      • Sandy
        August 2, 2017

        I tend to buy the cheapest one I can find since we don’t tend to drink it straight. When my kids were little I used to put a teaspoon of vanilla (I used the cheap stuff) in it to make the taste more appealing for them.

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