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Lower Your Grocery Bill with This Money Saving Secret

Lower Your Grocery Bill with This Money Saving Secret

lower your grocery bill with this money saving secret

Lower your grocery bill with this money saving secret. It was handed down to me by my mother. She learned it from her mother during the Great Depression. I passed it along to my daughter and son, and now I am sharing this family secret with you.

Save your bacon grease.

When I saw these tubs of bacon grease on the grocery store shelf next to the lard, I burst out laughing. Then I saw the store was charging $7.99 (which according to an accompanying sign was a price cut) for 14 ounces of bacon grease. That’s when I knew it was time quit guarding our family secret and speak up.

Save your bacon grease.

Whether you fry your bacon in a pan or bake it in the oven, simply let the pan and the grease cool. Then pour it into a container and store it in the fridge. It will harden up and look like this:

As the BaconUp label says, bacon grease can be used to fry, cook, and bake. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • My mom always used it instead of butter when frying eggs.
  • She also used it instead of oil in pancake batter.
  • It is the secret ingredient in her fabulous Franklin Chex Mix.
  • I use it when frying hash browns.
  • My daughter has even used it instead of lard in pie crusts in savory recipes like quiche.

For those of us with dairy allergies, bacon grease can be a life saver and a flavor enhancer. No matter what your dietary needs may be, saving bacon grease really can lower your grocery bill. So can other recipes found on this blog, most notably bone broth. It’s another example of old-fashioned suddenly going vogue.

I am so in vogue!

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Those words were ringing in my ears today as I created a sequencing activity to send to my Wisconsin grandkids, ages 8 and 5. It was precisely the sort of thing I often set out for my country school kindergarten through second grade students in the 1980s.

Because once a teacher, always a teacher is absolutely true, I’ve created virtual version of the activity for Gravel Road readers. Below are 7 pictures of our home addition construction taken on 7 different days. See if you can put the pictures in numerical order from first to last. Each picture has been assigned a letter to make the process easier. Those who leave their answers in the comment box below will be given a virtual smiley face sticker.*

Like I said, once a teacher, always a teacher. And this teacher knows that students of all ages love stickers.

Picture A:

Picture B:

Picture C:

Picture D:

Picture E:

Picture F:

Picture G:

*If any of my former country school students complete this activity by themselves or with their own school-aged children, they receive not just 1, but 2 smiley face stickers.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.


Life with My Heart in Two Places

Life with My Heart in Two Places

Life with my heart in two places was hard for many years. Writing fiction helps me cope, though my homesickness will remain as long as I live.

Life with my heart in two places began in 1978 when Hiram and I moved from the ice cream capitol of the world in Le Mars, Iowa to a remote part of South Dakota. I was homesick for paved roads, orderly green fields of corn and soybean, and living close to the library and stores. And my family. I really missed my family.

Not surprising since I was twenty-two and away from home from the first time.

The surprising bit began seven years later when we moved back to Iowa, and I became homesick for South Dakota. My homesickness continues to this day, even though my morning walks along the lake are filled with beautiful views. I snapped this picture and imagined what fall must be like in Harding County as the cottonwoods drop their leaves against a backdrop of rugged buttes and short grass prairie.

Life with my heart in two places won’t end as long as I’m on this earth.

Writing fiction is the perfect way to cope with homesickness. Every afternoon I sit in our Iowa living room, open my work in progress, which on this day is Hear Jane Sing!, and start writing. Immediately I’m in the town where we once lived, surrounded by the children and families I still love. I can smell the crisp, fall air and almost touch the stars hanging low in a sky untouched by light pollution. When it’s time to fix supper, I return to Iowa where a trip to the grocery store for missing ingredients takes ten minutes or less.

So far as life with my heart in two places goes, this is the best of both worlds.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

When in a Pinch Write about Pie

When in a Pinch Write about Pie

When in a pinch write about pie. That’s my best authorly advice for wannabe writers when unusual life events blast their routines to smithereens.

A plethora of unusual life events also explains why this post features pie instead of an update about See Jane Run! Here’s what made the short list

  1. The Iowa derecho. It did a number on our yard. Everything but the giant cottonwood in the east pasture has been cleaned up. The tree’s our late-summer-into-fall project that we’ll keep chipping away at.
  2. Grieving friends. A text came from friends during the weekend just passed about the unexpected and devastating loss of a family member. To preserve their privacy, I won’t go into details other than to say it wasn’t COVID-related. They’ve been texting updates, and each one leads to fresh tears.
  3. House construction. A crew arrived this past Monday before 7 AM. By noon they had constructed the forms for the foundation walls . At 5:30 they had emptied the contents of 4 cement trucks into the forms. Tuesday morning they were back at 6:30 AM to disassemble the forms. It was great entertainment for the whole family, but not conducive to writing. This modern process for building foundations is also not conducive for the hiding of dead bodies. I’ve rebranded the time lost to writing as research because it makes me feel better.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to pie. My recent Instagram post about taking a pie to neighbors who helped us out during the derecho was pretty popular on Instagram and Facebook. It came to mind when I didn’t have time or energy to blog about what I’d hoped to tell you about See Jane Run! this week.

A little voice in my head said when you’re in a pinch blog about pie because people love pie. So here’s what I have to tell you about pie.

  1. The crumb top apple pies I made, one for our neighbor and one for our family, were delicious.
  2. You can pulverize rolled oats into flour in the blender and use it instead of regular flour in the crumb topping to make gluten free apple crisp that’s almost as good as pie.
  3. To make the pie dairy free and soy free, replace butter with half Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks and half lard.
  4. Homemade pie crust made from Grandma Conrad’s Never Fail Pie Crust recipe is the absolute best. If you want to go vegan, you can use Crisco, but it’s not the same. Sorry about that.

Finally, here’s the connection between a post about pie to a cozy mystery blog. In one of the final chapters of See Jane Run!, Jane makes an apple pie and uses Grandma Conrad’s recipe for the crust. Because as Jane and I both know, it’s worth writing about when we’re in a pinch and when we’re not.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

Notebook Neurosis

Notebook Neurosis

Writers have their quirks, and Anne Fleck is here to confess hers...and reveal a few of her mother's, too.Today’s post comes from a fellow resident of our dusty gravel road. It’s a pleasure to turn the keyboard over to Anne Fleck who happens to be my daughter. Once you read what she has to say, you may see a family resemblance. And you’ll understand the significance of the yellow legal pad graphic, too.

Notebook Neurosis

I don’t usually think of myself as a neurotic writer. Disorganized, eccentric, prone to edit my work until the second coming of Christ, yes, but neurotic? Definitely not. I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and it was like reading a field guide to a foreign country: informative, but hardly familiar. When I sit down to write, there are not voices to ignore, no thoughts about success or failure or other people’s opinions. Just me, my pen, the page and the call of adventure.

The page is the fly in the ointment. When it comes to the physical paper I write on I am cagier than a zoo. I’m not alone. I seem to remember there being something about it in Bird by Bird. I’m not really that sure, I read it a while ago. In my own life my mother also displays a paper-related psychosis. She will only write her books on a yellow legal pad.

Clearly she’s a sick, sick woman. The very thought of it makes me shudder. That terrible yellow burning its way into my eyeballs, the red line a knife in the consciousness. The subtle horror of the lines–are they grey or blue? Blue–printed on yellow–looking grey? Or green? Let’s not even start on flipping the page up instead of over.

If there were nothing but yellow legal pads in the world I would write my novels on napkins and bed sheets before succumbing to their canary-colored tyranny. The correct thing to write on is a spiral bound, five subject notebook with a blue cardboard cover.

To read the rest of this article visit Anne’s blog,


When Your To Do List Doesn’t Get Too Done

When Your To Do List Doesn’t Get Too Done

What to do when the too do list doesn't get too done? The past week was an exercise in answering that question.Last week was one of those weeks. The kind where I looked at my goals on Sunday and thought, “Piece of cake. I can blaze through this list by Wednesday. Thursday at the latest. Just in time for company.”

Monday reinforced that forecast. I finished a week’s worth of Different Dream posts by noon and spent the afternoon revising See Jane Run! I didn’t get quite as far as I’d hoped, though I worked steadily, but it was only Monday. Not to worry.

Tuesday was when I remembered what I’d forgotten to put on the week’s to do list:

  • The 10:30 AM Tuesday appointment to look at a property.
  • CSA pick up at 4:00 PM the same day.
  • A stop at the Heartland AEA to drop off worksheets for an upcoming Educator’s Guide to PTSD class before visiting Mom on Wednesday.
  • Wednesday grocery stops after visiting Mom at Costco, Baker’s Pantry, and possibly Trader Joe’s if Costco didn’t have their amazing dairy free chocolate chips in stock. (They didn’t.)
  • A Friday afternoon date at the State Fair with our son and a friend.
  • Saturday lunch with the fam at Hickory Park to celebrate my 60th birthday. It was last month but this was when we could all get together.

At which point the mystery novel became the top priority, with peach pie and muffin baking close behind (because food is always high on my list), and cleaning the bathroom in third place. Only because it was getting too fuzzy to be ignored.

The next four days went like this:

  • Wednesday morning at the AEA, followed by being trounced by Mom at Uno, and grocery shopping at Costco, Baker’s Pantry, and Trader Joe’s.
  • Thursday morning working on novel revisions and the afternoon getting ready for and enjoying company.
  • Friday morning novel revisions and a sweltering afternoon at the State Fair.
  • Saturday morning muffin-making, lunch at Hickory Park, and final mystery revisions in the afternoon. Yes, they are done. Happy Dance, Happy Dance, Happy Dance!
  • Peach pie making before church on Sunday, and the new week’s goals already plumped up and in place because last week’s to do list didn’t get too done.

The new to do list? It’s a cinch. Because other than Connection Group, CSA pick up, and a party on Saturday (for which I volunteered to make three pies), absolutely nothing is going on around here this week. Nothing at all.