DIY: From milk to yogurt… mmm!

posted Feb 2, 2011, 11:08 AM by Kindra Dalach

As some of you know, I have a list of things to never buy again.  One of these includes bread.  Why?  Because it’s cheap and healthy and there are no ingredients in it we can’t pronounce.

Also on the list?  Yogurt. And ice cream.  (We make our own frozen yogurt instead. Add fruit, vanilla, & milk = delish.)

How do you make your own yogurt?  Watch the three videos on  www.makeyourownyogurt.com or read this pdf and you’ll be set.    Here are some of the basic steps I put together.  (But if you are really serious about making your own, refer back to the aforementioned links.)

Step one:  Boil water in a large pot.

Step two: Place your thermometer & stirring spoon in the boiling water to sterilize.

Step three: Place second pot inside first pot of boiling water and pour in desired amount of milk. (We usually do one gallon’s worth.)

Step three: Let the milk raise to 185 stirring frequently but not constantly.

Step four: Cool the milk pot in an ice bath until it reaches 110. (We just put cold water & ice in the sink and put the pot of milk in that.)

Step five: Gently wisk in 1-2 tablespoons of existing plain yogurt for every quart of milk. (4 quarts = 1 gallon) If you are making a gallon’s worth, use 4-5 tablespoons worth.

Step six: Put the milk  pot over a hot pad on medium setting for 7 hours maintaining the 110 degree temperature.

*We bought this heating pad off of Amazon for $13.06. (Okay, we actually got it free by doing Swagbuck searches.)  The nice part about this pad is that it does not turn off after 50 minutes like most heating pads do.

Step seven: After seven hours, remove the lid and stir your contents.  You will notice a green liquid on the surface.  This is exactly what you want.  Place the yogurt in containers.

(If you want a thick Greek yogurt, you can strain the yogurt with a coffee filter.  The longer you strain, the thicker it will be.)

Step eight: Refrigerate overnight.  In the morning you will have fresh homemade yogurt.

OpinionGrub: “In Defense of Food” Book Review

posted Feb 2, 2011, 11:07 AM by Kindra Dalach

Thanks to my guest columnist (self named OpinionGrub) for this post!

My lovely Pennybug Wife thought it would be cool for me to do a short book review for Bugsville of a work we are both reading:  In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I’ll shoot for a “short” review.  We’ll see.  Not likely.

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”     These few words are the sum total of the advice given by Michael Pollan.

I approached this book from my own somewhat unique perspective:  As a  fairly thin (used to be VERY thin pre-marriage!) male with a taste for red meat ( Veggies? What are those!?) and a penchant of gorging,  the “Not too much.  Mostly plants” part was/is not very welcome. I’m also a  scientist, physics by trade.  I’m not typically very sympathetic to journalists marching into the scientific realm claiming superior knowledge. Further, I am somewhat suspicious of the seemingly neo-liberal “whole foods” movement.  In fact, the store Whole Foods kind of creeps me out.  (Still does.  But hey…keep reading…give me a chance!)

In Defense of Food, in the vein of video documentaries like Food, Inc. and Supe Size Me, seeks to expose aspects of Western industrialized food production and its negative effects on us as consumers.   In particular, Michael Pollan goes for the jugular of the Western, pseudo-scientific ideology called “Nutrionalism”.  This ideology says that the foods we eat are merely carriers of the nutrients we need to survive. (For example: Eat 100% of the daily vitamins, proteins, fiber etc and you’ll be fine.)    In Defense of Food tries to show that real food is more than a sum of its nutritional parts but works together as a single system.  That it is, for example, the fibers in a pineapple that slow the digestion of the sugars, helping regulate our metabolism. More, the book ominously suggests that scientists, industrial producers, medical professionals, and journalists all have a vested interest in keeping you ignorant about the food you eat.

Okay, so I’m not someone who is readily interested in hearing from another prophet of dietary doom.  I don’t like conspiracy theorists.  I did little more than shake my head politely when our taxi driver yawed on about how the government controls our weather.  And I am predisposed against anything that tries to get me to eat more things that DON’T have faces.

Yet I couldn’t escape the logic in Pollan’s claim that the food industry makes most of its money on processed foods…potatoes and radishes simply won’t make a corporate executive rich.  And I couldn’t forget (nor forgive!) the crushing betrayal I felt when I learned turkey “bacon” was considered worse to eat than properly cooked real bacon largely due to the high sodium content in turkey bacon (yes ladies, you have to tell the truth to your husband on this one).

From this, I have to consider that the world is not on my health’s side.  Some points Pollan forcefully makes you consider:

1)      How much of the press focuses on “health segments” or the latest dietary study?  It’s ridiculous…how much “news” would evaporate if we didn’t have the latest study on dietary fiber and saturated fat to obsess about?

2)      And are we really sure that the government officials we elect will do their job? Or maybe they are doing their “jobs” as, practically speaking, it is the special interest groups who provide most of their funding.

3)      And guess who funds the nutritional scientists…very often the same people who fund the government officials.  Bet you didn’t know Fritos are labeled a health food product now…they are, “scientists” have proven it.

4)      Most cynical of all, (more inferred than stated) is it really in the best interest of the medical community that we’re all healthy?

There is too much to cover in depth, so read the book.  The book was an entertaining read and, surprisingly from my perspective as a scientist, his critiques of the science community valid.  Gratefully, his revised healthy food guide includes a little bit of fats and evil carbohydrates.  So I can forgive him for encouraging me to drink less pop and pop more carrots.

So I’ve been pretty much converted (Whole Foods crowd rejoice!  The store still creeps me out).  Of course I say that while eating a cheapo brownie from a box.  But my big take-away isn’t food related at all.  I’m more convinced than ever that we need to dissect the assumptions we have preached to us (what else do you call a TV commercial but a sermon?  “Eat this food to be cool and happy…”).   It turns out many maladies I’ve just accepted as “common” were once rare.  Did you know that crooked teeth, strokes, heart disease, and cancer weren’t nearly so much “just part of life” before?   I didn’t.  I might have linked these issues to smoking, but not to the bread we eat and the pop we drink.

So that leads me to my BIG-big question: what non-food beliefs do we have that are merely assumptions or “hope so’s”?   Questions of purpose, relationships, and spirituality?  Are we blindly accepting our beliefs from the hand of a general consensus, given to us by “experts” who created their recommendations solely to profit from our poor decisions?

I wonder if our food isn’t a great analogy for how we often live life.  We often blindly consume products that are sweet to the taste and both cheap and easy to obtain (anyone want a Coke?), but it leads to unhealthiness.  Do we just as readily believe things that are sweet to our philosophical tongues and fit cheaply and easily into our comfortable lives, but ultimately lead to disease and death?

My Six Favorites at The Dollar Tree

posted Feb 2, 2011, 11:06 AM by Kindra Dalach

I remember shopping at this store when I was a kid, amazed that everything was just a dollar.  Now I am amazed that these prices are still a dollar, despite inflation.  Here is a list of my Dollar Tree favs:

  1. Pregnancy Tests: Yup.  These are ranked high in accuracy.  Go to another store and pay $12 each.  We used these when we found out we were prego with our little guys… they worked great.
  2. Neosporin (generic brand):  I can’t tell a difference between the generic and name brand here.  The cheapest I’ve ever seen for this stuff.
  3. Cleaning products:  I’ve tried ‘em and think they are pretty good.  Even their dishwasher detergent was a keeper I thought.
  4. Cards: Okay, these cards don’t have Hallmark written on the back, but you won’t pay $3.99 for something that usually isn’t kept too long.  My Dollar Tree has cards 2/$1… saves a lot in the long run.
  5. Frozen Fruit:  Not all Dollar Tree’s have a freezer section, but if yours does, check it out.  Mine has 10 oz frozen blueberries, 12 oz frozen strawberries, and 16 oz frozen peaches.  I don’t even think it is possible to find frozen fruit cheaper at another store.
  6. Sunday Newspaper:  The Chicago Tribune normally costs $1.99.  You can get it half price, and these are sold in stores starting on Saturday.

For more, see WalletPop’s list of worst Dollar Tree buys.

How to Subscribe to Craigslist Posts via Email or RSS

posted Feb 2, 2011, 11:04 AM by Kindra Dalach

Gotta love a huge online garage sale, with a-lotta great steals.  Today, we are going to learn how to save time and money by subscribing to Craigslist listings by RSS and email.

1. Go to Craigslist.org and select your state or city.

2. Enter your search in the box.  Then Press Enter.  Let’s pretend we are looking for something Star Wars for that Jedi lover in your life.  (This works for apartment/parking space listings too).

3. You will see your list of items.  Whoa.  We have Star Wars Bobble Heads and Star Wars Pez Dispensers.  Perfect.

4. Scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the page.   Find in the right hand corner an orange rectangle that says RSS.  (If you wish to subscribe via email do not click on this box.)

To subscribe via RSS/in your Reader/Add it to your Google Homepage:

6. Click on the orange RSS box.

7.  Subscribe via Google or other reader.

To subscribe via Email:

6.  Right click on the orange RSS box.  Click on Copy Link Location.

7. Go to FeedMyInbox.com.

8. In the Website or Feed URL, hold the ctrl key down and press V (paste).

9. Enter your email address in the Your Email Address box.

10.  Check your email and confirm your subscription by clicking on the link.

11.  That’s it!  You’re done!

Cloth Diapers, Not Just Something Our Mothers Did

posted Feb 2, 2011, 11:01 AM by Kindra Dalach

My mom used to talk about putting me in plastic pants, diaper covers, and pins.  These things sound plain foreign to me.  When I heard of some friends using cloth diapers, I thought, “Wow, they are brave.”  After seeing me how these “work”,  I realized that the process was much simpler than I thought!

I am writing a three part series featuring Cloth Diapers 101, thanks to one of my reader’s suggestions!

How in the world?

Many cloth diapers have two parts: the diapers and the inserts.  The diapers have a slit in back to slide the inserts into.  I usually put two inserts in as my little boys drink a lot of milk!

Velcro & Snaps

Most brands offer both velcro and snaps.

  • Velcro
    -Pros: Easy to fit the diaper to the size of the baby
    -Cons: Velcro tends to wear out over time and not stick
    -Cons: If you have a toddler, he may have an easy time undoing the velcro and taking off his diaper (I’ve had this happen before!)
  • Snaps
    - Pros: Do not wear out over time
  • -Cons: Do not adjust quite as nicely to the baby


  • You can buy a small, medium or large size cloth diaper.
  • Or, you can buy a one-size-adjusts-to-all (good from and 8 pound newborn to a 35 pound toddler) size.  These diapers have little snaps down the front to adjust to the baby’s size.  Of course this option is usually more expensive, but will get more use.


There are hundreds of cloth diaper brands.  I am going to mention the three that I have tested and tried.

For each diaper listed, I have read countless reviews and found people who said that these diapers were their “perfect” and “their favorite.”  But again for all three I also read that the diapers caused rashes, leaks, and red marks around their babies legs. (This is similar with reviews about brands of disposable diapers.  Some people are very loyal to a certain brand, while others can’t stand them.)

1) Bum Genius

Bum Genius is probably one of the most popular brands. Each cloth diaper usually costs around $17.95 – $49.99 each.  The part that I do not like about BumGenius is that their velcro tabs are quite small and easily fray over time.

2) Happy Heiny’s

Happy Heiny’s diapers cost around $17.85 – $18.95.  I really like the BIG velcro tab that these diapers have.

3) FuzziBunz

These usually run around $19.95 each.  FuzziBunz traditionally come in snaps only.

Have you tried cloth diapers?  Do you like a certain brand over another?  Be sure to stay tuned for parts two and three!

Cloth Diapers Part 2: Yes, It’s Time to Clean

posted Feb 2, 2011, 10:56 AM by Kindra Dalach

Here, I share the most effective way I know to wash cloth diapers.  Just be sure to read your cloth diaper brand’s instructions as the ultimate reference.

Toilet Dunking?  (cringe)

If you, like me, flinch at the thought of dunking a soiled diaper in the toilet, I have good news for you!  You can just shake off the remains in the toilet, spray the diaper with a water bottle, and then put the diaper in a pail.  If you have a newborn who is still on breastmilk, you will not have much shaking to do.

If this thought is still to much for you, you can purchase flushable diaper liners.  These are great at capturing solids and can be used with any cloth diaper brand.

Wet pail vs the Dry pail

You will want to keep your diapers somewhere until you wash them.  There are traditionally two methods:

  • Wet pail: Put the diapers in a bucket/pail/garbage bin, sprinkle them with baking soda*, then  cover them in water.  Since this can creates messes, cause a potential drowning hazard, and start to stagnate, the more popular method is…
  • Dry pail:  Put the diapers in a bucket, sprinkle baking soda* over them, and cover with a lid or cloth.  *Baking soda is not strictly necessary, but helpful for managing with odors.
  • Keeping them in the machine: Forget the pail all together and place the diapers directly into the washing machine.  Then, run the diapers on a short cycle.  A great way to keep diapers odor free since they are frequently rinsed.


Choose a detergent that is without these additives in order to prevent a residue or build up which makes diapers less absorbent.  Note that sometimes, more expensive is not always better!  Aldi’s Astra detergent only has one additive as compared to Dreft or Tide which have quite a few and are not recommend for cloth diapers.

If possible, stay free of these additives:

  • Brightener – You can tell this is added if the detergents says, “Brightens color.”
  • Dyes
  • Enzymes
  • Fragrance
  • Fabric Softeners

Zany Zebra has one of the best laundry detergent/cloth diapering charts I know of which you can find here.   It lists Charlie’s Soap, which is a very reputable detergent, great for cloth diapers.  (Don’t let the name fool you… it is actually a detergent.)  Planet also has good reviews and is available at Whole Foods or Amazon.

Do Not Use:

Clorox Bleach:  Clorox is much too harsh and eats away at the diapers and can cause holes. Use baking soda or a little hydrogen peroxide instead as a good way to remove odor.

Diaper Rash Cream:  Cream can also cause a waxy build up.  You will want to use some sort of barrier between the baby and diaper in this case.  You can use a diaper liner.  I’ve also used cut up t-shirt squares… a great idea from friend of mine.  (If you child has a severe diaper rash, you may want to consider switching to a disposable diaper until the rash clears.  You may also consider switching laundry detergents.)

Fabric Softener: Both liquid and sheet fabric softeners leave a water repelling residue.  We do not want a diaper that does not absorb liquid!

Free & Clear: Just because a detergent has this label does not mean that it is clear of additives.  These products are usually geared toward a person with allergies.   The fungicide and/or bacteriocide ingredients in some of these products (All Free & Clear and Purex Free & Clear) leave a build up.

Soap: Just as we see soap scum in our showers, soap also leaves a waxy build up on diapers as well.  Stay clear of soap.  Keep in mind that laundry detergent is different from laundry soap.

Too Late?

If you have already used a bad detergent or a “do not use” item, try stripping the diapers.  You can do this by running them in HOT water two to three times to get rid of any residue.

Machine Washing Day

  • Wash all of your cloth diapers together, do not wash these with your other cloths.  Also most machines cannot handle more than two dozen diapers.
  • Fasten all of the velcro tabs.  (You don’t want a train of diapers to come out and the velcro frayed.)
  • To avoid build-up, plan on using 1/4 to 1/2 of the normal amount of detergent that you use per load.
  • First do a COLD cycle.  This will prevent stains.  Second, do a HOT cycle.  If you do the hot cycle first, you will bake in stains!


  • Drying/heat is important to sanitize the diapers.  If you can smell an odor, bacteria  is probably lurking.  Just run it through the wash/dry cycle again.
  • If you would like to save on your electric bill, consider line–drying your diapers.  You could also put them in the dryer for several minutes to get them hot and sanitized, then pull them out to line-dry.

Washing By hand

Two reasons why I chose hand-washing:

  • Our condo does not have a built in washer & dryer.
  • Since cloth diapers cannot be washed with other laundry, it did not seem time or cost effective for me to machine wash a small load.

My Step by Step Method:

  • For a soiled diaper, shake the remains in the toilet.  Spray water over the soiled area. Then run COLD water over the soiled area and put diaper in a pail.
  • For a wet diaper, run COLD water over the diaper.  Then place in a pail until you are ready to do a load of hand washing.
  1. Place diapers in the sink or tub.
  2. Add two to four tablespoons of detergent.
  3. Add HOT water until all of the diapers are covered.  (You can let the diapers soak for several hours or overnight if you wish.)
  4. Knead the diapers as you would bread dough.   You can wear rubber gloves if you like.
  5. Drain the water out of the sink/tub.
  6. Rinse the diapers under hot water until you do not have any more foam in the water.
  7. Squeeze the water out of the diapers.
  8. Hang the diapers to dry.  You can do this on a wooden drying rack or over the shower curtain rod.
  9. When dry, the diapers may be stiff.  If possible try to expose them to the sunlight for heat and to reduce the stiffness.

What did I miss?  What diaper washing methods do you find helpful?  Do you have a favorite brand of detergent that you use?

Sources: Diaper Jungle, Green Mountain Diapers, and Zany Zebra.

Whole Grain Whole Wheat Bread

posted Feb 5, 2010, 8:39 PM by Kindra Dalach   [ updated Feb 2, 2011, 10:49 AM ]

We have added bread on our list of things to never buy again!

Since we grind our own flour, we have tried dozens of times to get just the right bread recipe. I’ll share the one that works for us… if you have a different type of wheat kernel or wheat flour, you may need to tweak the recipe a bit.  It takes about 5-10 minutes of prep time… and then we leave the bread machine to do the rest! (We found a bread machine on Craigslist.)

Whole Wheat Bread (makes a two pound loaf)

4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Brown Sugar/ Honey
2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Oil
4 Tbl Gluten Flour (can be purchased at Dominicks, Whole Foods, Amazon)
1 Tbl Quick Rise/Bread Machine Yeast  (or 4 tsp Active Dry Yeast)
1 Egg
1 & 1/3 cup Water (80 degrees F) (I usually guess on the temperature… just make sure it is above room temperature)

We set this on the Whole Wheat setting on our bread machine and usually delay the timer for about 30 minutes. (I’m not sure why, but for some reason delaying the start time seems to help!)

Selling on Ebay & Craiglist

posted Jan 13, 2010, 5:41 PM by Kindra Dalach   [ updated Jan 13, 2010, 8:44 PM ]

Today my husband took my baby boy on some errands and I had the rare occasion of having the house all to myself! So what did I do?  I cleaned a little bit, and posted about a dozen things on Craigslist and Ebay.

I wanted to share a couple of tips I have learned from putting items on Ebay:
  • Start your credit rating by buying items! Sellers will leave postitive or negative feedback for the person who is doing the buying. On items I bought, I paid right away and then received positive feedback, which helps my rating score.
  • You can put up to 5 items FREE month when you choose the Auction Style option. Since it's free, take advantage of this!
  • Before you list an item, type it into the search bar. Then look at the Completed Listings tab on the left hand side of the screen to see what similar/same items have or have not been selling for. (You must be logged in to see this.)
  • Read Ebay Secrets! It is full of great selling tips! One of the most important tips I have learned is to chose your wording carefully. Make it fun & memorable! If you do nothing else, look at this example: A wedding dress that cost $1200 sold for $3,850!!

Pop Tarts VIP

posted Jan 5, 2010, 4:53 PM by Kindra Dalach   [ updated Jan 5, 2010, 7:52 PM ]

I just got a sample of a Pop Tart new flavor, Wild Grape in the mail! Sign up here to become a VIP of
Pop Tarts for samples and coupons.

Free Food on your Birthday

posted Dec 30, 2009, 11:54 AM by Kindra Dalach

Free 2.5 oz scoop from Baskin Robin when you sign up here.

Free "creation" from Coldstone when you sign up here.

Free burger at Ruby Tuesday's when you sign up here.

See Frugal Mom's list here for more birthday freebies!

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