We, like many people, went through a tough time when the economy tanked in 2008. Since changes in the stock market can affect our income, I’m sure you can imagine just how tight things became around here! We sought out all sorts of ways to cut costs and a funny thing happened in the process… we really had a lot of fun doing it as a family, and dare I say, we grew even closer as a team! It makes you really start to think of all the mindless dollars that go out the door each month. Times were tough, but we wanted to make lemonade out of lemons and still try to enjoy the things we loved, just in a new way!
I began my “homemade odyssey” making my own body scrubs and soaps to give as gifts for the 2008 holiday season. I did not know how to give “nothing.” At first, I was really embarrassed to give my “piddly” little homemade gifts (if you recall yesterday’s post when I mentioned that the words ‘frugal’ and ‘Heidi’ never appeared in the same sentence, I wasn’t joking. I love to give gifts and make people happy, but I had a tendency to go overboard in that department!).
I was floored at how well my homemade gifts were received. It seems as though people liked them BETTER than the high priced body scrubs I used to give my gal pals as gifts! I had so much fun that first year, that I did it again in 2009, even though I really didn’t have to. My friends also made me handmade gifts and it felt so good to know that someone cared enough to spend the time making something, just for me. It has made me really think about how disconnected we have become as a society, in our pursuit of bigger, better, more. I have been slowly edging myself toward jumping off that runaway train ever since and I cannot say that I have ever been happier, nor my kids for that matter. I have been guilty in the past of giving them all the latest “it” toys and they never reacted to them (outside of the first 30 minutes before something inevitably broke or disappeared) nearly the way they have reacted when I invite them into the kitchen with me or Mike shows them how to use a drill!
Change is not easy, and I am by no means the “perfect” mother (besides, perfect is boring in my opinion 😀 ), who spends all her time making crafts, doing science experiments, coming up with crazy lunchbox ideas, cooking from scratch… no sirree Bob (so please don’t think I am some “Martha Stewart-Wanna Be” because of a few of the posts I have made, that is just one small slice of my pie, and most of these things I only started doing recently because I was trying to come up with good blog material!). 😉
One small successful change for me, led to another and yet another. I began my gluten-free journey with an obsession for GF copycat recipes of mainstream processed foods that I grew up on and now I am eating raw Swiss Chard and I even had Broccolini last night! I went from a shopaholic to a frugal homemade gal. I went from being a very wasteful person to being a re-user and recyclyer. I went from putting my kids in 20 different activities and buying them all the name brand clothes and “cool toys,” to spending real time with them. I went from feeling very empty, sad and angry, to being happier than I have ever been in my life, and lost 50 lbs. in the process. I feel like I finally “get it.” Had someone told me that even 2 years ago, I would have LAUGHED at them! 😀
So on to the coffee creamer!
This is a recipe that I have been making for about a year now and have received a lot of, “You made that?” comments from unsuspecting guests at my house. My father-in-law, who loves coffee creamer was stunned at how good it was. While I personally like my coffee black, there are times, like after a dinner party, when a flavored coffee hits the spot. Or during the autumn when I live at Starbucks during Pumpkin Spice Latte season!
I found a recipe on the Frugal Village Forum, posted by “Yankee Mom.” for homemade creamer. I will post a portion of her recipe here so I can give you my side by side tweaks in red, as usual. (I do this because I am NOT an intuitive cook and I need recipes to start with, then I can modify as needed. So if I can do it, ANYONE can do it! One just needs to know how.).
Delicious Coffee Creamer
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (I make my own, see below. You can easily make this dairy-free too!).
1 1/2 cups Skim Milk (or dairy substitute).
- Measure all ingredients into a 32 ounce container (with a cover), seal container and shake vigorously. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
“Yankee Mom” has a few flavoring combination’s on the Frugal Village Forum that you might be interested in, so click on the above link!
Last night, I tried something new to flavor my coffee creamer with… Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia! I added about 5 drops then also added 1/4 tsp. of Cinnamon Extract (see photos below)… yum! Want to know where I first learned about the flavored Liquid Stevia? From Kelly over at The Spunky Coconut, if you haven’t visited her website… you absolutely must! You also need to check out Kelly’s post from yesterday (hint: healthy coffee cake!) over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang, as part of the “30 Days to a Food Revolution” series. I am beyond THRILLED that Diane is doing this series, it is so much fun!! I encourage you to check it out and get on board for a chance to win some fabulous prizes!
Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk (I found this recipe on Recipezaar)
1/2 cup Cold Water
1 1/3 cups Nonfat Dry Milk Powder (I have also made this using Vance’s Darifree Milk Powder and Better Than Milk Vanilla Rice Milk Powder, since these are sweet milk powders, I reduced or omitted the added sugar below, adjust to your personal taste).
3/4 cup Sugar (I used 10 packets of Truvia for a natural sugar-free version. Technically, I think the conversion from 3/4 cup of sugar to Truvia is 18 packets, but 10 was sweet enough for me).
1 tsp. Vanilla (I omitted the vanilla since I was going to add it to add the flavoring to the coffee creamer)
1 Tbs. Butter, Earth Balance or Smart Balance (optional, but I added this to round out the taste of the Truvia; this is a new product for me so I am adjusting to it).
- In a saucepan, combine powdered milk and sugar (or sugar substitute).
- Slowly add water, while stirring, into the milk powder/sugar mixture. Continue stirring occasionally over medium-low heat (Click here for microwave directions).
- Add in optional butter or butter substitute, and vanilla if you choose to use it.
- Heat through for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly (so it doesn’t scorch) until mixture is thickened.
- Use this in place of the canned Sweetened Condensed Milk in the above Homemade Coffee Creamer recipe!
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy