Easy Jam Recipe: No Canning Needed!

Screen Shot 2019-09-12 at 10.53.44 PM.pngOn Wednesday, I found myself with a bunch of very ripe berries.

2 cups of strawberries

2 cups of blackberries

1 cup of raspberries

1/2 cup of blueberries

Ok, so that’s a weird amount of berries, and seeing as how there were dead ripe, the only thing I could do besides freeze them is to cook them up and make jam!

Making “freezer jam” as it’s usually known is pretty easy. No pectin needed, no jars, no canning. It’s dead simple.

Ready?

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Ingredients

Equal parts chopped ripe fruit and white sugar (or you can use Splenda for baking)

Directions

  1. In a large pot (like this one) coot fruit over medium/low heat, stirring frequently, until the fruit breaks down, about 20-ish minutes
  2. Add sugar/sweetener, and stir until it has melted and the mixture is glossy and thick.
  3. Pour into a refrigerator safe container with a lid. Once the mixture is room temp, store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
  4. Spread the jam on anything!
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After it cooked down, it made about 2 1/2 cups of jam

And for those who are wondering, this is easy enough that kids can help make this, but I don’t recommend that kids do it alone. Molten fruit and sugar can cause a very painful burn on the skin.

Is Summer Snacking Wrecking your Grocery Budget?

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Chatting with a friend via Insta yesterday, we were lamenting the “OMG DO THEY EVER STOP EATING!!” of summer vacation.

I’ve never begrudged my kids snackies when they are hungry, but seriously, on days when we are at home, building Legos and watching movies- THEY EAT ALL DAY.  I can’t let them rummage through the cupboard and eat whatever, so I started the snack box (for the pantry) and snack drawer (in the fridge).

We’ve had “The snack box” and the “snack drawer” in our kitchen for about 2 years now.

In the cupboard, I’ve got a basket like this one. It’s full of various types of treats and snacks. Instead of buying individually bagged treats, I often buy a box of whatever (in the photo below it’s animal crackers) and divide the large box into snack-sized Ziploc bags).  It just depends on what is available at Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only on my weekly shopping trip. Those are my go-to snack stores.

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The Snack Drawer in the Fridge
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Pantry Snack Box- Refilled weekly

The Pantry Snack Box contains shelf-stable stuff: Juice boxes, crackers, chips, dried fruit, fruit snacks, individual Peanut/nut butter cups. I usually tuck a couple bags of microwave popcorn too. Sadly, we have none left. I was informed that I *must* rectify that matter tomorrow.

The Fridge Snack Drawer contains some of the following: Cheese sticks, yogurt, Ziploc bags of fruit or veggies (watermelon wedges, strawberries, grapes, carrots, celery, and jicama are just a few favorites), little cups of hummus, guac, ranch dip (homemade with greek yogurt and ranch dip mix).

The snacks vary by week, and I took these pics today- It’s midweek and they are pretty picked over- I did refill the Pantry Snack Box with stuff from the cupboard. That’s my secret- don’t put it all out at once. I stash the extras in the back of the pantry, where tiny arms can’t reach.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know that my weekly family grocery budget is $80. I spend about $25 of my weekly budget on stuff for the snack box/drawer. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the school year, the function of these becomes for packing lunches in the morning. The Big Kid doesn’t really like sandwiches, and as he’s a vegetarian he gets most of his protein from nuts/seed butter and dairy sources.

I also keep Go-gurt style tube yogurts in the freezer- Those are mostly for Bitty, Big Kid doesn’t care for yogurt too often.

For the grown-ups, there is a basket in the pantry full of protein and fiber snack bars (Along with other more “grownup” snacks- which are sometimes new snacks that the kids veto after sampling). I get those at Grocery Outlet or 99 Cents Only. Grocery Outlet locations in my area always have a great variety of protein bars, snack bars, and protein cookie (Like these, which are also a hit with the Big Kid, so I have to dole them out) for a lot less than grocery or club stores.

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Close-up of the Pantry Snack Box. There is a little bit of something for everyone!

This is how my family keeps everyone fed at home and on budget. I’d love to hear about your family’s ideas to solve this issue.

Gardening: Fun for the whole Family!

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watering and talking to the bell pepper plant.

Henry loves to garden. He loves planting seeds, watering, talking to the plants , and harvesting the fruits and veggies (even if he isn’t too hip on eating them all-yet!)

I think that it’s because of our heritage. My Maternal Great-Grandfather was a farmer in Minnesota.

Since we live upstairs in a condo, we don’t have 40 acres to plow and sow. So, like many urban farmers, we turn to container gardening. I have a growing Pinterest Board dedicated to container gardening, and I encourage you to join it!

Here are a few ways that we were able to start our garden on a budget:

  • I kept my eyes peeled on Craigslist free section for pots, I also put feelers out on social media for anyone getting rid of pots. That’s how we scored an awesome clay pot for our wild flowers!
  • We purchased heavy duty plastic pots at 99 Cents Only. They have a great selection of basic gardening tools, pots, planters, and tomatoes cages- all for $1.49 or less!
  • I found a great deal on seeds at Dollar Tree. I was able to pick up this box of seeds for only $1.00!  I only used part of the box, since we don’t have a lot of room for our flowers. In addition to American Seed brand, they also had some Burpee brand seeds!
  • Most gardening stores are having sales right now- check out your local shop and see what kind of plants are on sale! We picked up a huge bag of soil, organic tomatoes (complete and in a planter with a cage), Green Bell Pepper, a 6 pack of strawberries, and a lavender bush for less than $50.  We opted to purchase some plants in addition to seeds, just so Henry doesn’t lose interest in our garden (waiting for a tomato seed to grow into a bush is mind-numbing).

We are saving money on water too! Whenever it rains, we get out our rain buckets and collect as much as we can. It usually is only a few gallons, but we are able to use that water and not turn on the tap.

If you are new to gardening and aren’t sure what to plant or where to plant, check out Sunset Magazine’s Climate Guide. It will give you the ins and outs of when and what to plant. Luckily here in San Diego, it’s pretty temperate all year, so we can plant a lot of different plants.

Some of you may be wondering why we are growing wild flowers and lavender, since neither will produce any food. Well, no food for us, but food for bees! Without bees to pollinate the flowers on our fruit and veggies plants, there would be no food for us to harvest and enjoy! I try to plant flowers each year to entice the bees to visit our garden!

Our Garden Stones!
Our Garden Stones!

Last year we hand garden stakes with the names of our crops written on them. The sun faded them in no time. This year, we opted to do garden stones. I found a great project on pinterest and changed it up based on our needs.

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IMG_3957We were recently gifted with two HUGE boxes of craft supplies and they contained these really cool wooden Whirligig/spinners (kinda like these). All we had to do was paint them! We quickly painted them up and added them to our planters!

I think gardening is a wonderful project for any family. It can be as small as a tomato plant on your patio, or as big as renovating your backyard to have a mini-farm! Gardening teaches kids about the life cycle of plants, and how to care for something else. I think it’s important that everyone know where food comes from, and how hard it can be at times (especially when you are waiting for it to ripen), so that we don’t take for granted our food.

Talk Back: I’d love to see your gardens too! Please comment with a photo, or let me know what you are growing!