Mason Christmas gift jars

Simple Gifts in Mason Jars – great last-minute Christmas gift idea

Mason Christmas gift jars

Today I’m wondering…..do you have any last-minute gifts to give?

Perhaps you’re going to someone’s home for the holidays and need a small token of your appreciation. Maybe you are looking for just the right “something” for your child’s teacher. Or do you have some close friends or church small group members to whom you’d like to present with a little gift of love and appreciation?

Well, you’re in luck, even at the last minute, especially if you have a supply of mason or other decorative jars at your disposal. While last-minute Christmas shopping is less than appealing to most people, and DIY gifts are too time consuming at this point in the season, this simple make-it-yourself gift is an exception.

By the way, if you like jars like some of us do, I highly recommend stocking up on them when you see a good price or sale, find a great deal on Amazon (like these colored mason jars or these fun, whimsical jars), or come across nice jars from products you use and yard or other sales.

I have purchased several different colors of mason jars (mostly pints), from stores like Target and Christmas Tree Shops. I keep nice-looking jelly-jars and other interesting jars from products I buy or receive. Even dollar stores offer either mason or other interesting jars. And if your family and friends know you love and use jars, they may even offer you some they have hanging around.

If this is truly last minute and you don’t have any appropriate jars, head on over to your nearest supermarket or other local store and I’m willing to bet they will carry an assortment of canning jars for you to purchase.

In a pinch, you can also adapt some of these ideas to other cute or pretty containers you may have or find. (For example, here are some colorful, practical, plastic containers and these organza bags are nice too (and not just for a wedding, as suggested).

empty colored mason and other jars

Once you’ve assembled your gift-giving jars or containers, next you need the gift contents.

In this post, I am presenting any and all ideas I can think of that would make a nice and/or useful gift. I would choose items that you love, especially that you know would suit the one to whom you’re giving the gift, and/or items that you have purchased, received or collected for this purpose.

(I will provide several links to ideas on Amazon, but you may find suitable gift items from just about anywhere: dollar stores, online stores, supermarkets, gift stores, drug stores, big chain stores, warehouse/club stores. Ideally, you may wish to be collecting these items as you go along as well; you never know when you will see a great sale or clearance price on items that can become part of a lovely gift. You’ll stretch your precious dollars most when you can prepare in advance.)

The ideas I’m including here are simple, quick and economical. (Yes, you could fill a jar with precious jewels, money and/or a collection of gift cards if that works for you, but most of us need more affordable ideas.)

Assorted goodies to fill gift jars

Ideas for filling your gift jars:

  1. Hot cocoa mix: layered cocoa (I wrote a whole post about this last year), homemade mix (using a recipe such as this), or even store-bought cocoa mix topped with mini-marshmallows and/or crushed candy canes (crush your own or purchase pre-crushed candy canes.)
  2. Assortment of holiday and/or other tea-bags: maybe you have some at your home already or you can buy some to share
  3. Hot chocolate packets: add marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and/or candy canes to mix in
  4. Votive or tealight candles: fill up the jar with different colors and scents and perhaps some match sticks
  5. Small toiletry items, nail polishes, and/or make-up items:you can include such items as small nail files, individual eye-shadows, bath salts/bubbles, travel size shampoo or hand lotions, cute socks (rolled up)
  6. Christmas candy and/or nice chocolates: my absolute favorites are Lindor truffles; any individually wrapped candy or chocolates would be nice
  7. Combination or theme jars: combine some of the above ideas that work together (tealights, bath crystals, and a shower pouf; tea, hot cocoa packs and truffles; Christmas tea, candy and a small ornament)
  8. Homemade trail mix, granola, or snack mix: make up your own mix with dried fruits and nuts or follow a recipe idea (This Pinterest page has many interesting Christmas recipes for both trail and snack mixes, while this looks like a nice recipe for healthy, homemade granola.)
  9. Small arts and craft supplies: beads and jewelry making supplies; stickers or craft supplies for a child; small crayons and/or drawing supplies; assorted mini gel pens, small colored pencils, markers or crayons and tape or glue sticks
  10. Decorative office supplies: colorful and/or decorative paper clips, pens/markers/pencils, mini stapler and staples, small tape dispenser, shaped or designed erasers, sticky notes or flags

Hopefully this list will provide you with a starting point for designing gift jars that are fun, meaningful and low-stress gifts for friends and loved ones.

Now all you need to do is decorate your jars with ribbon, tags or labels (here are some cool chalkboard labels), or simply top with a bow and enjoy giving them away!

mason jars filled with items for quick gifts

layered cocoa gift jars 2

*****

Have you ever given a gift in a jar? Do you have any ideas to add to my list?

 

grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

A Simple Method to Drain and Freeze Grated Zucchini

 

grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

Do you have an abundance of zucchini from your garden, an ambitious neighbor, or a farm CSA program like we have? Once you are tiring of cooking and eating all that green squash, what are you to do with the rest?

Most of us enjoy a good loaf of zucchini bread or another baked good made with zucchini.

And if you really have a lot of zucchini (or access to it), I highly recommend freezing some for later use. How nice would it be to be able to bake up something fresh with zucchini any time of the year?

close-up shot of grated zucchini

Most recipes or kitchen tips involving shredded zucchini instruct you to squeeze out the excess moisture, usually with a paper towel, a clean tea-towel, or even cheese-cloth. While this process is usually necessary, I find it to be a bit tedious and a little messy. It becomes even more of a chore when you have a lot of zucchini to process.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that this summer, I think I found a better way!

I love it when I can learn how to do something better. Working “smarter, but not harder” is a goal for most of us as busy homemakers (and bakers). So why do a step to prepare food when you can simply rely on nature to do it for you?

grated zucchini in metal bowl top view

I entitled my blog “Simply Flourishing Home” because one of my passions is to share tips or ideas that I’ve learned with other busy homemakers, in order to make life just a little simpler.

So here’s what I’ve been trying this summer. I think you’ll agree that this method really does simplify the process of draining the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

First, wash and grate your zucchini into a big bowl or other suitable container.

grated zucchini with hand grater

If you have a food processor to make this step easier I’m jealous please enjoy using that, but right now I’m without one, so my zucchini are currently being grated by hand. That means I either beg or hire my sons to help me, or I just do it myself and call it an arm workout.

Using a fresh container (or remove the shredded zucchini from your original dish and wipe), place a couple layers of paper towel into the bottom of the dish. Next layer an inch or so of grated zucchini over the paper towel. Now continue in this fashion, repeating with layers of paper towel and zucchini until you run out of zucchini (or room in your dish). Make sure to end by topping off the chosen container with another paper tower before sealing on the lid.

bowl of grated zucchini with paper towel on top

preparing grated zucchini

Place your filled dish into the refrigerator and wait several hours or overnight.

Almost miraculously (but not really, because it’s just science), the paper towels will absorb much of the excess zucchini liquid. Remove and discard the saturated paper towel and your shredded squash is now ready to use or freeze.

If you are freezing for later use, simply remove whatever portion you’d like to freeze, and place it in a plastic freezer bag or other freezer container. I usually measure mine out with my adjustable measuring cup (similar to this one), and freeze in increments of around 2 cups in a one-quart freezer bag. If I have a particular recipe in mind, I freeze the exact amount needed for the recipe (or often for a double batch), in each bag.

freezing grated zucchini

 

shredded zucchini prepared for the freezer i

Prepared zucchini – two containers for baking soon and several bags to freeze.

One important note from my experience so far is to not allow the zucchini to stay for too long in your fridge, without either using or freezing it. I admit I may have gotten busy and left some for several days, and then regretfully had to chuck it (into the trash). Another time I left it a couple of days thinking it would be too long, but found it to be just fine. It’s just not worth the risk though, and of course it’s always best to work with fresh ingredients. So my personal recommendations for optimal results (based on my unscientific observations and slightly wild guesses), is to use or freeze it by the next day.

Also, you can experiment with the size and shape of container and how much paper towel to layer to see what works best for you. In one case, I actually found the paper towel had absorbed too much liquid. The zucchini shreds were actually a little on the dry side. Having a refrigerator full of the required vegetable, I simply grated in a little fresh zucchini and mixed it all together. Problem solved. So too much paper towel is also not advisable.

I hope this method of draining the excess liquid from your shredded zucchini works as well for you as it does for me. I’m quite happy to do a little less work with the same results. And I’m looking forward to all the future baked goods I can produce with my prepared and frozen zucchini.

Now if I could just find a natural way to get the zucchini to grate itself.

*****

Have you tried baking with zucchini? Do you freeze some for later use? What’s your favorite recipe featuring grated zucchini? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

foaming hand soap dispenser in use

How To Refill A Foaming Hand Soap Dispenser With Regular Liquid Hand Soap

foaming hand soap dispenser on sink beside paper drinking cups

 

Don’t you just love those foaming hand soap dispensers?

I do.

I like that I get just enough soap without having an extra ton to rinse off, but most of all, I really like that because they dispense less actual soap with each pump, my family and I can save money and still get our hands clean!

May I just say something here?

One thing that I really don’t like is paying for water. No; not my water bill, silly (although that can be a little frustrating as well). What I mean is I don’t like paying for watered down products, at the same price (or more?) than the regular liquid product. You’re actually paying for less product and more water.

Examples include “light” salad dressing (just put less on your salad if you’re trying to cut calories or add your own water!), cheap shampoo (I’m actually washing my hair in water, so please just give me shampoo!), and then according to my husband, there’s antifreeze too. Apparently you used to have to add water, but now they provide the “convenience” of the premixed product…..at close to the same price for the watered down product. I’m sure there’s something else I’ve forgotten, but you get my point.

There. End of rant.

So what was I saying? Oh, yes. I do not like paying for water, but I really like my foaming hand soap dispensers.

So what’s a girl to do?

By the way, before I tell you what to do, I wanted to mention that I got this wonderful idea from a foaming hand soap dispenser that I purchased years ago from one of my favorite direct marketing companies. The dispenser came with directions to refill it using regular soap, and lines to guide you on the side of the container.

One day I had the amazing realization that this concept could simply be applied to any foaming soap container!

I purposely went out and bought some foaming soaps, just so I’d have the dispensers. Then I refilled them using this simple method.

One more note: If you wish to purchase a fancy, nicer-looking foaming hand soap dispenser, I found a bunch on Amazon. This is a nice option.

But since we’re discussing saving money, you have the choice to reuse an empty store-bought foaming hand soap container. Either way, you’ll still save money on the refill.

Mrs. Meyer's hand soap refill

Use any liquid hand soap (refill packages are usually more economical).

Here’s the scoop on what to do:

1. First, remove the lid from your empty foaming hand soap dispenser.

empty Dial foaming hand soap dispenser

Any brand will do.

2. Pour in approximately one inch (or less) of regular liquid hand soap

pouring liquid hand soap into foaming dispenser

Add soap to empty dispenser.

 

liquid soap in dispenser

Fill to about one inch (or one quarter of the dispenser). A little less usually works just fine.

3. Next, add water to the dispenser, stopping about one inch from the top (since they need air to operate).

add water to foaming soap dispenser

Simply add tap water.

 

Stop adding water at line (if provided), or about one inch from top of hand soap dispenser.

Stop adding water at line (if provided), or about one inch from top of hand soap dispenser.

4. Screw the pump back on to your dispenser.

5. Gently shake or move the dispenser back and forth to mix the soap and water.

6. Press the spout and enjoy economical, foaming hand soap!

foaming hand soap dispenser in use

I have recently noticed that on one of the brands of soap I use there are instructions on how to refill their dispenser with regular soap refill (and I must say, I’m impressed!). However, their suggested amount of soap to use in the dispenser is one half! I tried my usual, smaller amount and it works just fine!

liquid hand soap in dispenser 2

Experiment with the amount if you wish.

Beware of moisturizing hand soaps, as many foaming-type dispensers will clog with this variety.

So…..you probably have a foaming soap dispenser somewhere in your house. You very likely have some regular soap (or better yet, an economical refill size).

I know that you can hardly wait to try this tip for yourself!

Kudos to those of you who figured this out on your own. If that is the case, you probably didn’t make it much past the title of this post, but if you did read this far, thank you for sticking with me! If you have any further points to add, please feel free to share!

*****

Do you prefer foaming hand soap to full strength? Have you ever refilled your dispensers using this method? Am I the only one who dislikes paying extra for water?

vinegar, water, spray bottle, essential oil

Simple D-I-Y Natural Wrinkle Releaser

vinegar, water, spray bottle, essential oil

Recently I demonstrated how to easily and cheaply make a simple but versatile vinegar-water spray cleaner.

I also told you that with the addition of just one more ingredient you can make another useful and money-saving household product.

Introducing D-I-Y Natural Wrinkle Releaser!

BEFORE:

wrinkled Champion tee shirt

AFTER:

Champion tee shirt after wrinkle releaser treatmen

I’ve occasionally used store-bought wrinkle releaser spray, but never loved the price tag or the fact that I probably didn’t even know what most of the ingredients were. Since finding this useful recipe on this website, and trying it out on our own clothes, I have not and NEVER WILL BUY COMMERCIAL WRINKLE RELEASER AGAIN!

It is comprised of the same simple ingredients as the vinegar-water spray cleaner with the addition of a few drops of clear essential oil for a pleasing fragrance.

essential oils in circle

All you need for this recipe is:

  1. water (tap water is OK, but if you’re concerned about any stray minerals or other funky stuff in yours, feel free to use distilled or filtered water to be safe),
  2. vinegar (white),
  3. an  empty spray bottle, and
  4. a few drops of clear essential oils (such as peppermint or lavender).

Simply fill your clean spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar. Then add about 6-8 drops of essential oil for every two cups of liquid. It’s important to note (and I thank Matt & Betsy of DIY Natural for this wise suggestion), that you’ll want to chose an essential oil with a pleasing scent, but also one that is clear, so as not to stain your precious clothing. Peppermint and lavender were suggested, and I’ve tried both. I think that peppermint is my favorite.

To use, simply:

  1. Lightly spray releaser on your wrinkled clothing (hanging on a hanger).
  2. Gently pull and stretch the garment, in order to smooth out wrinkles.
  3. Allow to air dry.
  4. It’s now ready to wear!

I’ve included several “before” and “after” photos for your comparison.

BEFORE:

wrinkled purple tee shirt

AFTER:

purple tee shirt after wrinkle releaser treatment

This is one homemade household product that I have been thrilled with from the first time I tried it. I don’t think I even looked for any more sites for comparison. Not only is it cheap and natural, but quick and easy as well, with a light, pleasant aroma.

BEFORE:

wrinkled grey tee shirt

AFTER:

grey tee shirt after wrinkle realeaser treatment

You may notice a slight vinegar smell along with your essential oil scent. It seems to mostly dissipate after the garment dries. I have not noticed (nor been told by my guys), that there is any noticeable remaining smell when we wear the treated clothes.

BEFORE:

wrinkled collared shirt

AFTER:

collared shirt after wrinkle releaser treatment

I would also note that this works best for “casual” clothes; that being said, it works fairly well on any type of clothing, but if you are looking for a fussy, crisp, smooth surface for a dressier occasion, you may want to resort to ironing. I must admit, I iron as little as possible (which is not very often at all!).

I hope you enjoy this wonderful D-I-Y wrinkle releaser recipe and find it as useful and pleasant as I have.

*****

Please let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried making your own homemade wrinkle-releaser. Do you use a similar recipe? I’d love to hear how it works for you.

 

 

vinegar, water, spray bottle

The Easiest, Cheapest Natural Cleaner You’ll Ever Make

vinegar, water, spray bottle

Have you ever cleaned with vinegar? It’s one of the cheapest yet safest ways to clean that I know of. Not only that, but it’s simple, too.

Vinegar has been used for many years as a cleaning product, and is still widely used today. It is obviously a versatile food product, is a primary ingredient used to preserve food by canning, and can even be used for several health purposes. This page shares many interesting and useful facts about the history and uses of vinegar, while this one nicely summarizes why vinegar’s “acetic quality” makes it an effective, yet safe choice for cleaning.

Today I want to share a super simple “recipe” for a vinegar cleaning solution to use around your home.

You will only need:

  • vinegar (preferably white)
  • water (from the tap is fine), and
  • a spray bottle for storing and application.

vinegar, water spray bottle (up close)

I first heard this simple yet useful tip from my sister. When she came with her family to visit quite a few years ago, she told me how simple and effective (not to mention cheap!), it was to make your own mixture of water and vinegar for cleaning. Then they promptly bought me an empty spray bottle from the dollar store, mixed some up and away we went! I’ve been using it ever since!

Simply fill your spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. That’s all there is to it!

To use it, just spritz and wipe!

vinegar water cleaner and paper towels

I love it because it’s so safe to use, especially on my kitchen counters. There is no concern about dangerous residue to contaminate our food areas.

There is one small issue that some find annoying, although it doesn’t bother me. Not surprisingly, it smells … like vinegar! My husband used to say that it made him want to eat salt & vinegar chips, although I don’t recall him saying that lately (either because he’s gotten used to it, or because there’s no use commenting, as we usually don’t have salt & vinegar flavored chips in the house). So there’s that.

But to me it smells clean, and the scent goes away quickly as it dries.

I use this solution on my kitchen counters most of all, spray it to spot clean the inside of my refrigerator, and squirt a little on small spills on the floor.

One quality I find very useful is that this vinegar spray cuts the strong odor left from cutting onions. After dicing or chopping onions, I spray a little on my hands (then rinse), sometimes on the cutting board (before I put it in the dishwasher, or let it sit a few minutes before hand-washing), and on the kitchen counter where any stray onions have left their odor.

Last, but not least, I use this vinegar-water mixture on fruits and veggies in place of expensive, store-bought fruit and vegetable wash, in order to clean them and to help safely remove pesticides and chemical residues.

This simple cleaning solution can be used in other areas throughout your home, but here’s a brief word of caution to consider when using vinegar to clean around the home.

 

In summary, these are the reasons I recommend making and using this vinegar-water solution:

  1. It’s really cheap! (A gallon or more of vinegar is well under five dollars; you can use a dollar store spray bottle if you wish.)
  2. It’s extremely easy. (Fill with equal parts vinegar and water and you’re done.)
  3. It is effective. (Vinegar cuts grease, kills many germs, and combats odors.)
  4. It is safe to use. (Vinegar is gentle on humans, pets and the environment.)

 

If you wish to learn more about how effective vinegar is for killing household germs, you can read this article, which suggests that it kills many germs, but will not effect certain viruses or bacteria. It also explains that we often “overuse chemicals”, and that very often that is not necessary. It states:

“Rather than concentrating on disinfecting or killing the bugs, we should focus on cleaning with hot soapy water and good old-fashioned elbow grease to physically scrub away organic material.”

This vinegar solution fits the bill.

If you’d like to try making a more pleasant-scented vinegar spray cleaner, here’s an interesting idea from The Yummy Life. I haven’t tried it yet, as it’s a bit of a process, but it seems like a nice alternative to the plain vinegar smell. Let me know how you like it, if you go that route!

So what have you got to lose (except a few cents worth of vinegar and an empty spray bottle)? Why not give vinegar cleaning a try?

For further interest, here are a some other articles that list these, plus many more uses for vinegar:

I hope this gives you a little useful information about cleaning with vinegar and how you can easily make a versatile household cleaning spray. I know that many of you already enjoy this wonderful cleaning tool!

Next time I’ll share how with one additional ingredient you can make another useful household product that I no longer have to purchase.

*****

So tell me, have you used vinegar to clean in your home? Do you find it convenient and effective? Does the smell of vinegar cause you to want to break out the salt & vinegar chips?

 

 

 

 

bracelet

Interesting D-I-Y Bracelet “Hack”

bracelet

Since one of the purposes of this blog is to help you flourish by simplifying tasks in your life, today I’m coming to you with a quick little trick to help you dress yourselves without help.

Let me explain.

Have you ever had trouble fastening a bracelet onto your wrist without help? I know I have, and I’ll bet you have, too. Unless I’m alone in the house (which is rare), I usually end up calling for help from one of my guys.

Well, here’s a nice little trick that’s been circulating around Facebook and hit my timeline the other day. Watch this video for a great “hack” for fastening a bracelet all by yourself.

bracelet and paper clip

All you need is your bracelet and a paper clip.

I thought this was clever and practical, and immediately shared it…..and got the same reaction from others.

Today when I considered writing a short post about this, I figured I should try it out myself (since I do NOT want to recommend ideas, products, or companies, etc., that I do not personally find beneficial).

I asked my wonderful husband to take a few photos (and then one son, too), as I’ve yet to find a video illustrating how to take photographs while fastening a bracelet onto your wrist. 😉

I will describe briefly what the above video suggests in my photo captions, and how it worked out for me.

bracelet and bent paper clip

First, bend the paper clip so as to “unfold” it.

 

bracelet "hack" with paper clip

Insert one end of the clip into the loop on the (non-fastener) end of your bracelet. Hold the other end with the bent fingers of the same hand, against your palm.

 

bracelet paper-clip hack 2

Carefully wrap the bracelet around your arm …..

 

bracelet paper clip hack 3

(Please ignore the vitamins and salad we were eating in the background.)

 

bracelet paper clip hack 4

…..until you can clip the fastener into the loop.

 

bracelet 3 paper clip hack

I tried three different bracelets with three slightly different fasteners.

 

bracelet clasp

Slide out the paper clip, and voila!

First of all, I must admit it was not at all as easy for me as it was for the “star” of the above video. In fact, my husband chimed in with something like, “Are you sure you want to write a post about this?” (To be fair, he is usually my biggest fan and encourages me greatly; in fact, I’m usually the one to quickly add “reality” to many of his ideas and cause them to deflate.)

But after some trying, I was able to get it to work. I still won’t be making my own video any time soon, but in the end, after attempting this method with three different types of bracelets, I conclude that it does indeed work. I may prefer to call for help if there’s any willing body nearby, but in a pinch, this will do the trick.
two bracelets on arm

 

One tip I will offer that helped this fastening method work for me is to grasp and open the fastener with one hand (preferably your dominant hand, unless you insist on wearing your bracelet on that arm, in which case, you will have a more difficult task), before you proceed to wrap the bracelet (attached to the clip), around your wrist. The difficulty I was struggling with was manipulating the fastener and opening it with only one hand, so this tip solved the problem. 🙂

 

In attempting to copy the bracelet-fastening guru in this video, I came up with the following six observations:

 

  1.  Don’t just believe everything you see or read on Facebook, or social media in general, or the internet for that matter! Try some things for yourself, and/or do your own research. This obviously applies to more serious topics than jewelry-wearing “hacks”, but is true regardless.
  2.  Some ideas may work better for one person than for another. We are all different. You may also need a little practice to get an idea to work for you.
  3.  Don’t feel badly asking for help from those around you. In many cases, I will take asking a family member for help over trying to complete a frustrating task on my own. (I don’t have that much to prove.)
  4.  Consider buying jewelry that’s easy to get on and off without help, such as those bracelets that are constructed with an elastic sort of cord that stretches over your hand. (Or be simple and don’t wear jewelry at all.)
  5. It’s best to do your nails and put on hand lotion before taking close-up photos of your hands (especially if you’re plastering them on a blog).
  6.  The Crawley ladies (on the ever-popular British television series, Downton Abbey), really did have it “maid”! (My Dad would love my pun!) Having your own ladies’ maid would certainly solve a whole lot of these silly problems encountered when attempting to dress yourself.

*****

Are you a “struggle-to-do-this-on-your-own” type gal, or one to call for help, like me? Did anyone else try this tip after seeing the video on Facebook?

 

homemade croutons

Making Something Delicious Out of Nothing (How to Make Your Own Croutons From Random Bread Scraps)

homemade croutons

Lately I’ve been inspired to do some serious decluttering. That topic, in itself, could be another whole series of blog posts (of which I am not yet the expert).

But for today, I am going to share with you an easy little recipe that will help you to declutter your freezer.

Did you know that you can make your own tasty, inexpensive and not-filled-with-gunk croutons? These taste so good, you’ll probably have to do as I do, and politely ask your family members NOT to consume them all before you get to enjoy the croutons on your salads.

The original recipe came from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1989). This is the one basic recipe book I chose and purchased when I was newly married (yes, we were married in 1989).  I have used their recipe as a guide. A modern rendition of their recipe can be found here, along with some more options for you to try.

I will now demonstrate how to make delicious croutons from your leftover scraps of old bread.

It should be noted that the way to make this recipe out of “nothing”, is to create a habit of keeping any scraps of bread you don’t use in your freezer.  I don’t know about you, but I seriously hate to throw away food. Part of this is likely because of how I was raised. My parents were frugal and taught me not to waste, but I especially learned from my grandparents, who told us stories of surviving The Great Depression. Not only that, but wasting food is too much like throwing hard-earned money out of the window.

The next best option would be to take advantage of your local supermarket’s “day old” bread rack. Most markets offer at least 30% off of day old bread, and often much more savings can be found. (Again, a topic for another post!)

So either find some fish or ducks to eat your stale bread, or make croutons (but I recommend the latter).

You could make these with fresh bread and they’d be just as yummy, but I love creating something delicious to eat out of stuff that cost me nothing, since it could easily have been thrown away.

I toss any of the following into the bottom section of my freezer, usually right in their original bags:

  • any variety of slightly stale store-bought bread (but especially good are artisan or bakery breads)
  • extra unused rolls from hot-dogs and such (even the cheap white-bread kind)
  • heels from your bread (the part that no-one really wants to eat)
  • leftover homemade bread that is no longer of optimal freshness (mine are usually leftovers from the bread-maker after two or three days).
stale bread

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I usually triple or quadruple this crouton recipe, depending upon how much stale bread I have accumulated and/or how many croutons I wish to make. I also really like to mix several different varieties of bread for more flavor and visual appeal.

 

Homemade Croutons

Here’s the ingredient list (for a single recipe):

  • about 2 cups cubed bread
  • 1/4 butter or less (the real stuff; no margarine!)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (alternately you may use other seasonings such as 1 tsp dill or 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; my favorite combination is to use both garlic and dill)

 

  1. The first step is to assemble your bread. If it is frozen, you either need to take it out of the freezer at least a half hour before you want to use it (preferred), or “cheat” and use your microwave on a low setting (being careful not to overheat the bread and make it mushy).

white bread cubes

dark bread cubes

2. Next, you need to cut the bread into whatever size cubes you’d like. Some recipes suggest tearing the bread, which is also an easy option if you don’t prefer cubes (like some of us “neat-freaks”).

mixed bread cubes

3. Melt the butter and stir in your seasonings.

melted butter and seasonings

pouring butter and seasonings

4. Toss the butter/seasoning mixture and bread cubes thoroughly. (Start stirring quickly before the liquid starts absorbing into just one section of your bread.)

mixing bread and seasonings

5. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. (I love to use my Pampered Chef stoneware, but any cookie sheet will do.)

unbaked croutons on sheet

6. Bake at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake at least another 5 to 10 minutes. You will need to take out your pans often to see if they are done. Always stir the cubes if returning them to the oven.

croutons in oven

7. The croutons are done when the edges are lightly browned and they are slightly crisp. Be careful not to overcook them; they will “harden up” a little when they cool. Cool on pan until they can be stored (if you can refrain from gobbling them all up right away!)

finished croutons

8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in your fridge. Enjoy!

 

Besides being delicious on salads, homemade croutons make a delicious snack (just ask my sons). There are a variety of other uses for croutons, including as a topping for baked fish or chicken.

crouton topping for baked fish

 

baked fish with crouton topping

*****

So tell me, do you love croutons? Have you ever made your own? I’d also love to hear of any other delicious ideas for using your homemade croutons in the comments below.