Cooking Lunch in a Solar Oven

solar lunch finishedWhen I first purchased our solar oven, my husband was a tad frustrated. “What will you cook in it?” he asked. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it at the time. I just knew I had to try solar cooking for myself.

We started slowly, cooking single items, such as rice or eggs. Gradually as we became more comfortable with the solar oven, we relaxed and just started cooking. Although cooking in a solar oven does take a bit of adjustment and more watching than a regular oven, it’s not difficult to do. And once you get comfy-cozy with solar, then the sky’s the limit!

This morning I decided to go ahead and put us some lunch in the solar cooker. One nice thing is that you can use a solar oven pretty much like a slow cooker, allowing you to “set it and forget it.” I put our lunch in this morning, turning the oven once or twice during cooking time, and our lunch was hot and ready for us by noon.

solar oven SaturdaySo what did I put in the pot? All leftover stuff that we needed to use up! It was a frugal meal that didn’t heat up the house. Here are the ingredients:

  1. Progresso Fire-Roasted Tomato Recipe Starter
  2. Simply Balanced Sausage (2 hot dogs)
  3. 1/2 Bag of Fingerling Potatoes
  4. 1 can of black beans

I first poured a bit of olive oil in the pot and then came the tomato soup. We like things spicy, and so I next added assorted spices. Everything else got thrown in the pot and stirred around. And that’s it!

Keep in mind that cooking times will vary, and so I can’t give you an exact time for cooking. However, we allowed it to cook several hours, which resulted in a nice, thick chili. Also, don’t feel confined by my ingredient list. If you’ve got something else on hand, then that’s fine! This is more to give you an idea of what’s possible than a strict guideline.

Do you solar cook or want to learn more about solar cooking? Let me know! And feel free to share your own tips and tricks for cooking in a solar oven.

Lighting Your Home with LED Holiday Lights

lightingyourhomeSeveral years ago, my husband decided that we would purchase holiday LED lights and use them for general lighting purposes in our house. He knew that it would be a cheap way to utilize the efficiency of LEDs without purchasing what were then extremely expensive LED bulbs.

I was less than enthusiastic about the idea. “What?” I asked. “Holiday lights for every day? Isn’t that a bit too festive?”

Still, we proceeded with his plan. He hooked up some lights in our bathroom and elsewhere in our house. I admit that I was immediately impressed. Although you could not read by the light of the LEDs, you could easily maneuver through the house and do most tasks. Too, one thing that I particularly appreciated was that they did not destroy your night vision, and so nightly trips to the bathroom were made much easier by LED light.

LED light strings might utilize as little as 4 watts of electricity. This is about as much energy as would take to power an old incandescent night-light and yet still provide significantly more light. Additionally, solar-charged, battery-powered lights could be used if there is an available window nearby, thus providing light even in an emergency when the power is out. Those holiday light strings are therefore much more useful and efficient than you might have thought.ledsolarlights

With the fall and winter holidays coming up, this is a perfect time to begin looking for LED holiday lights in the stores. By purchasing them on sale, you can be frugal, green, and smart. I will caution, though, that we have found it difficult to buy them after each holiday as the stores often remove them from the shelves the next morning. Too, they are becoming more popular and so harder to buy in quantity. Still, if you are eager for some LED lighting, you can almost always find them in stores during this time of year.

ledglassblockAlthough they may be a bit unconventional—at least for old fogies like myself—LED holiday lights can be a positive way to light your home year round. They provide good general lighting while consuming far less electricity than other bulbs. Too, if they are bought on sale, then they can be a frugal purchase with long-lasting benefits.

How to Make Recycled Candles in a Solar Oven

How to Make Recycled Candles in a Solar Oven

Click on the above link to learn more about using up all of those candle stubs that you have lying around the house. And by using a solar oven, you can do it all without heating up your home. Now that’s green and frugal!

Weird Ways to Save Money

Weird Ways to Save Money

Click on the link above to access an article that I wrote; it includes some tips on saving money in ways that are also environmentally friendly. I will most likely go into these more in depth on this blog, but this will provide you with some initial information on some additional methods of living frugally.

Homemade Coffee Syrup

homemadecoffeesyrupIn our home, coffee is more than a drink. It’s a ritual. We love everything about the process of making our cup of coffee, including grinding the coffee beans, preparing the coffee maker, heating the milk, and adding our favorite flavored syrups. Homemade specialty coffee can be rewarding in its own right and is certainly much cheaper than purchasing a drink at your favorite coffee place.

However, we have found that coffee syrup can be quite expensive, especially when you’re drinking multiple cups of coffee per day. Although we enjoyed the convenience, we couldn’t justify the expense. But do without it? Not unless the end really is near. Living frugally doesn’t mean that we have to do without all of life’s little pleasures.

And that is when my husband decided that he would make our coffee syrups. I thought it was a bit of a wacky idea at first, but then many of our best frugal endeavors have started out in the same fashion. He found a couple of basic recipes, including one from Paula Deen and a selection of recipes from Food & Family. These became starting points for our own syrups.

While the flavorings and spices may vary among the recipes, the same basic ratio of water to sugar seems to apply to all. Once you have discovered this, you realize that you can easily alter the recipes based on your own needs or tastes. Too making the syrups isn’t very difficult, just mix together and cook for a while. Although making these syrups at home takes a bit of effort, it really is much more frugal to do so.

vanillacoffeesyrup

One green idea of my husband’s was to heat the syrup in our solar oven. While the syrup didn’t thicken as much as it might have on the stove, it actually made the process of making it that much easier. We didn’t need to worry about it boiling over in the pot; we simply set it in the oven and forgot about it for a few hours. As with any solar cooking endeavor, though, always be aware of the outside temperature and your oven’s capabilities so that you don’t have a solar oven mishap.

Whether you’re making the coffee syrups for yourself or as a gift, it’s worth the little effort needed for the preparation. It is much easier on the budget and allows you to make your homemade specialty coffee especially for you.

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