5 Christmas Gifts For $15 or Less

It's that time of year again--when every woman's magazine in the country publishes lists of "Christmas Gifts under ____ Dollars." Usually that number is between $25-50, which I still feel is pretty high. Plus, most of those gifts are things that just wouldn't work for anyone I know.

So I decided to make my own list of gifts--for $15 or less.

Bananagrams, $14.95 - Kind of a cross between Scrabble and Boggle, this is a high-speed crossword game that's played on the tabletop instead of on a board. You can buy it online by following the link, but if you don't want to pay shipping they also sell it at Barnes & Noble and other stores.

Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter, $11.99 - I'm not usually a big advocate of the "As Seen on TV" line of products, but I'll give the thumbs up to anything that provides a way to grow fresh, organic produce at home year-round. From Collections Etc.

Butter Soft Acrylic Muffler, $14.95 - Scarves have come into their own in the last few years. Not only are they warm, they're a stylish and easy way to dress up an outfit, hide a slightly too-low-cut neckline, or add color to a bland clothing choice. These scarves from Wrapables come in some beautiful colors, but there are a ton of stores that carry these in every color and pattern imaginable, from five to a hundred dollars.

Scrabble Tile Pendant, $4.95 - Made from a recycled Scrabble tile decorated with an image and coated in resin. These are a beautiful piece of recycled art and can be found on Etsy in any design imaginable. I'm a fan of this one from Etsy seller wickedlymodpendants.

I Am Not a Paper Cup, $15.19 - The worst thing about travel mugs is that they're almost impossible to drink from without spilling, and they just don't have the je  ne sais quoi of the paper coffeeshop to-go mug. This mug is made of ceramic with a silicone lid. It looks like a disposable cup, but it's permanent, insulated, and dishwasher safe. Currently on sale at Target.

Gift Wrapping

I love gift-wrapping. To me, half the fun in getting ready for Christmas giving is making sure that gift have a great presentation.

This tutorial from Jessica Jones at How About Orange is for a homemade gift bow made from a magazine page or other piece of scrap paper. I am madly in love with the version pictured here, which she made from a map of Chicago.


Be sure to check out the rest of her blog, too. It's great. (via The Butterworth)

Nine Dollar Couch

When Mr. Scrimp and I got married, we got a living room furniture set that had belonged to Mr. Scrimp's grandparents. It's really great furniture--sturdy, well-made, and well taken care of. And, though it's definitely retro, it really fits with our style.

The thing is, the couch is covered with a fabric that can be really hard to match. It's white, orange, and green. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and show you a photo of our living room so you can see what I'm talking about.

See what I mean? It's a great couch, but it's unique. I was looking at it the other day and realized that it's going to be really, really hard to decorate for Christmas when the central piece of furniture in our living room will clash so badly with pretty much every Christmas decoration out there.

Mr. Scrimp is really opposed to putting a permanent slipcover on the couch, mainly for reasons of nostalgia. Plus, slipcovers are expensive to buy and time-consuming to make. So I decided to see if I could do anything to cover it temporarily without spending too much or investing too much time.

After sleeping in on Black Friday, I had to run to Penzey's to pick up some spices for a cooking project of Mr. Scrimp's. While I was out, I decided to stop in at JoAnn Fabrics to see what kind of sales had lasted into the afternoon.

Annnnnnd.. bingo! JoAnn's was running a weekend sale on fleece for a paltry $2.99/yard. I dug through the massive pile of bolts of fleece and found one in a burgundy that I knew would look great with our living room rug, which has purple and red in its pattern. I originally guessed it would take 3 1/2 yards to cover our couch, but when I saw how long that would be, I had them cut it down to just 3, on the promise that if I didn't cut or wash the fabric I had 90 days to return it (score for JoAnn's on allowing the return of cut fabric!).

I took it home, unfolded it, and tucked it tightly around and underneath the couch cushions. 3 yards was just enough to tightly cover the couch with a few inches of fabric all around to tuck in. Because of the style of the fabric on the couch, the fleece doesn't slip at all.

I covered the whole thing with a white throw we got as a wedding present and that was it! For $9, we essentially got a new couch. I'm going to see if I can find a few white or green throw pillows to toss on it to make up for not having fabric to cover the bolsters with. And when Christmas is over, I can pull the fabric off, wash it, and either save it for next year or use it for sewing projects in the interim. Right now, I'm thinking it'll be time for a new pair of fleece pajama pants in January.

What are you doing to get your house ready for Christmas?

Neat Link

I came across this link on Facebook today, and it looks like a great resource. If you try to be pretty assiduous about keeping track of your calories, it can be really frustrating when you make the switch away from processed foods. The only thing I really miss about them is being able to get an exact calorie count per serving off the back of the box.

That's where SparkRecipes comes in. It's got a free recipe calorie counter, where all you need to do is enter the ingredients in your recipe and the number of servings it makes and it will give you a full (if somewhat approximate) breakdown of nutritional information.

Like AllRecipes, it also has many recipes submitted by users of the site, and if you register you'll be able to save recipes of your own in your "cookbook." Definitely worth checking out.

Recipe: Apple Pie

Well, I've posted recipes for an entree and a soup so far. Seems like now would be a good time to give you a recipe for dessert.

Mr. Scrimp and I are currently enjoying the last leftovers of an apple pie that I made for Thanksgiving. However, don't let the fact that Thanksgiving is over stop you from making this. It's too delicious to only eat once a year!

Apple Pie (6-8 servings)

  • 4-7 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced medium-thin
  • 3/4 cup sugar (for a more tart pie, use slightly less)
  •  2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 unbaked 8-inch pie shells
  • Butter
Prepare or buy pie crust. If you prepare your pie crust at home, place it in an 8-inch pie tin and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Working in small batches, dredge apple slices in the dry mixture and arrange in pie tin until a single layer of apples covers the bottom. Cut four or five small slivers of butter and lay on top of apples. Repeat, alternating layers of apple slices and butter until pie shell is full or apples are gone. End with a layer of butter.

Roll out the second pie crust. If you wish, use cookie or fondant cutters to cut a shape out of its center and place it on top of the pie, wetting outside edges and crimping to seal.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, and then turn heat down to 350 and bake until pie crust is golden brown.

If you don't feel up to making a whole pie, make a single crust and half the filling. Roll the crust into a circle, fill it with apples/spice mixture, and fold in half, crimping edges to seal and forming a semicircle. Bake at 400 until crust is just browned--voila, turnover!

Coming Attractions

Soon to come on Scrimpalicious...

- Ornament craft how-tos
- Pictures of our "couch remodel"
- A mystery photo
- A discussion of classic Christmas movies and songs
- The best (and easiest!) apple pie recipe
- Gingerbread houses
- A guest post for Dollar Store Crafts
- A hair flower / flower necklace how-to
- New blog layout and http://www.scrimpalicious.com domain name!

Stay tuned!

Five Dollar Decor - Kitchen

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

After spending a solid fifteen and a half thousand hours in my kitchen yesterday preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I thought that today would be a perfect day to highlight some quick, cheap, and easy ways to make over a kitchen.

1. Kitchen Rugs

Replacing kitchen floors is costly, difficult, and generally not allowed for renters. A much easier way to deal with an unsightly or tired kitchen floor is to cover it with a sturdy and durable rug.

I personally am a huge fan of Ikea's Signe flatwoven rug, which can be purchased for a mere $2.99. Unfortunately, it's not available online, so if you want that specific one you'll have to make a pilgrimage for it (our nearest Ikea is in Pittsburgh, 2 hours away).

2. Painted Furniture

Even if you can't paint your walls or floor, it's quick, easy, and cheap to paint furniture. This is a great trick for getting a completely mismatched collection of chairs to look intentionally matched, as in this photo from Apartment Therapy. Of course, a kitchen table could be painted to match or coordinate.

If your kitchen, like ours, is too small for that much furniture, you could still add a fresh splash of color by painting a stepladder, stool, or narrow shelf and finding a home for it in a corner.

3. Kitchen Tools as Art

The painted bundt pans used as decor in this photo from PointClickHome actually almost made the cut to be in last week's Five Dollar Decor post, but I think they fit better here, in a kichen-specific post. 

Other things that would make an excellent decorative display include antique utensils (potato mashers, spatulas, etc.), wooden spoons, thrifted mugs, trivets, and potholders. For a more modern look, choose items all of the same color, or paint items a single color so that all match. For a more eclectic or antique style, mix and match as much as you like.

4. Tea Towels

Tea towels and dish towels are available in abundance everywhere from the Dollar Tree to Bed, Bath & Beyond. For $5 at the dollar store you can locate five dish towels or tea towels in a variety of surprisingly stylish designs and colors.

Hang them off the stove, on the wall as decoration, or over the windows as makeshift curtains, as in this photo from Xochi Santa Fe. Cover a cabinet or the panels on a door with them. If your kitchen, like mine, is bland-looking and colorless, this can make a huge difference.

5. Chalkboards

Whether unfinished and rustic, mounted inside of a modern and stylish frame, or painted directly onto the wall, a chalkboard in a kitchen is a happy thing. Shopping lists, notes, phone messages, recipes, reminders, and doodles--whatever it is that ends up there, it will reflect your home and family, which is what a good kitchen ought to do.

For those of us living in apartments where painting isn't an option, cheap chalkboards are available for a few dollars at craft stores and can be removed from their frames and mounted any way you like. For a custom size or shape, find a piece of plywood that takes your fancy and paint it with chalkboard paint. Or, take it into another room and paint the side of a bookshelf, the top of a table, or a flat mirror frame.

If you own or are allowed to paint, consider covering a door panel, a cupboard, or even an entire wall with chalkboard paint. I love this photo from Design*Sponge for inspiration.

If you don't like black or chalkboard green, RowHouse blog has a recipe for homemade chalkboar paint in the color of your choosing using nothing but a cup of latex paint and some dry unsanded tile grout mix.

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Five Dollar Decor!

Food Waste

Mr. Scrimp and I hosted our own Thanksgiving dinner this year, which was a first for both of us. It went incredibly well--the house was clean, the guests were happy, the food was delicious and abundant, and we'll be living on the leftovers for several days. I'll try and get some pictures up later today.

I was saddened this morning to see this article, which discusses a new study that finds that Americans throw away forty percent of all food produced in this country. On average, we throw away 1400 calories of food per person, per day.

I can absolutely believe this. I know Mr. Scrimp and I have been culpable in the past when it comes to buying more food than we need, which of course then spoiled and went bad.

I will emphasize again how valuable it is to plan meals and cut grocery spending, which will also cut down on grocery waste. If you have the extra food in your house, you'll either eat more than you should, or throw away entire meals' worth.

For crying out loud, people, eat your vegetables. There are starving people in China.


Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

Well, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. We're hosting dinner this year, and it is my first time ever hosting a Thanksgiving meal, so that's pretty exciting. I feel like I have a lot to be thankful about this year, including the way that Mr. Scrimp and I have been blessed with an abundance of all our basic needs. In spite of unexpected expenses, car problems, student loans, and more, our rent is paid, our bills are paid, and we have always had enough to eat.

Most people serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I'm also going to serve pumpkin pie, because Mr. Scrimp's family likes it, but it's not my favorite. I actualy much prefer pumpkin in a sweet bread or in a savory form as pumpkin soup. In fact, pumpkin soup is one of my favorite things to eat. It's creamy and delicious and so easy to make.

What's your favorite autumn-flavored recipe?

Pumpkin Soup (serves 3-6)

  • 1 large can of pumpkin, or 14 oz of baked/roasted pumpkin, pureed
  • Milk, 1/2 & 1/2, or a combination, to preference
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Begin by dicing your onions. Get them fairly small, because this soup doesn't get blended at the end (although I guess there's nothing stopping you).

In a dutch oven or soup pot, heat up some oil and cook the onions and minced garlic until soft. Add pumpkin and mix, breaking up any lumps. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the pumpkin from burning. When the pumpkin has absorbed the cooking oil, add milk (I use 2%), half and half, or a combination of the two, stirring with a spatula or whisk until pumpkin mixture has reached desired consistency.

At this point, your soup is pretty much ready to eat. However, because canned pumpkin tends to taste, well, canned, and prolonged cooking helps remove this taste, I usually let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes before serving.

This is particularly delicious served with grated romano cheese or a small dollop of sour cream on top.

Note: This is a cream soup, which means it is not anywhere near as healthy as soup ought to be. Because pumpkin is naturally fairly creamy when pureed, you can substitute low-fat homemade or boxed chicken or vegetable stock for most of the dairy. It will taste slightly less rich, but still very good. For another variation, add curry powder to taste for curried pumpkin soup.

I am preparing to try this recipe out with roasted squash, as well. I think it will translate well with very few, if any, other changes.


We recently put a new grocery shopping strategy into practice. I sat down and planned out seven days of meals, wrote up an ingredients list, and only bought exactly what we need to make it through a week.

I think I can safely call this the single biggest change we've made to reduce our spending and food waste. I've bought groceries for less than $40 for three weeks running now. This past week, because we're shopping light on the promise of Thanksgiving leftovers, we got our week's worth of groceries for a whopping $28, and all the food we bought was fresh and unprocessed. I feel pretty good about it.

I was amazed to realize how much food we were buying that was simply extra. We ate most of it, but a fair amount was getting thrown away, because it was being bought without a real plan.

I definitely recommend giving this method a try if you don't do it already. You might be surprised.

Christmas Post the First

It's that time of year--the time of year when the weather gets cold, the lights go up at shopping centers, we eat ridiculous amounts of food, and people start spending more money than they ought to spend because they love each other, or feel guilty, or feel obligated.

I buy lots of Christmas presents strictly for the first reason. Christmas is my favorite, and I love giving gifts.

The problem is, how do you do that on a strict budget? Because Mr. Scrimp and I are on a strict budget, which runs contrary to both of our sensibilities, but what can you do? If we only shop for our respective immediate families and each other, we've got at least twelve Christmas presents to buy, and if you aren't careful that kind of shopping leads to suddenly realizing that after you paid your December rent and went wild with your remaining money, you won't make rent in January, or pay for your heat, or be able to buy groceries.

The holidays are a dangerous time for people with generous tendencies and little money. If it were only up to me with no consideration for anything else, I could spend hundreds on gifts for Mr. Scrimp without a second thought, to say nothing of siblings, nieces, and nephews. And if we shop on a strict budget, how will we find things that are nice instead of low-quality, less meaningful gifts that we're buying simply because we had to buy something and can't afford more? If we give people junk that will break or be useless almost immediately, what was the point of spending the money at all?

Here are some of the things that we are trying to do in order to allow us to give meaningful, non-junky gifts to our loved ones this year.

  1. Shop early. If you have more time to look for deals, you are more likely to find them. If you shop in a panicked rush four days before Christmas, you're going to spend more money, or you're going to end up buying far less than the perfect present for someone because you can't find anything really perfect in your price range.
  2. Make a list. Sure, spend some time browsing at the mall, but don't take your wallet with you. Browse for ideas, make a plan, and try to find a way to fit it into your budget. Which leads me to...
  3. Make a budget. We are doing this by deciding how much money overall we're able to afford on Christmas gifts. We could divide that money up perfectly evenly between each person, which is what seems like the fair thing to do. But perhaps I might spend twice as much on one as on the other if I can find gifts that will be equally meaningful and pleasing to each at different prices. 
  4. Buy secondhand. This may be the hardest bit on this list. I'm not saying you should buy things that are broken or damaged or otherwise in less than "like new" condition. I'm just saying that you should expand your horizons to consider "like new" rather than dismissing it out of hand. If I find a beautiful piece of clothing at a thrift store that has clearly only been worn once (if that), is in Mr. Scrimp's size, is worth $75 new, and only costs $2.50, why I should I feel guilty about giving it to him? 
  5. Shop online. You are much more likely to find good deals at sites like half.com, eBay, bidz.com, or (although this is less likely) Amazon.com. Amazon actually runs an online Black Friday sale for online shoppers. Doorbuster sales in your pajamas!
  6. Shop sales. Yes... do it. But only do it once you've already made your list. If you run headlong into a sale, you will almost assuredly end up buying something because it's a great deal even though it's out of your budget, because surely someone on your list will like it. That's a terrible idea. 
  7. Make things. Everyone says this. I will also say it. Homemade gifts have the benefit of carrying a message that you care about someone enough to spend time making something for them that you know they will enjoy. Don't, however, fall into the easy trap of giving junk just because it's homemade junk. Come up with an idea, or search on google for inspiration, but don't let making something for someone stand in for being thoughtful about what would make them happy. A mason jar full of powdered hot cocoa mix that you made yourself is a great gift for the right person, but other people will look at it and feel like you didn't really try.
 I am working on several posts about gifts, ornaments, and decor for Christmas that you can make yourself or buy for very little. What can I say? I've already warned Mr. Scrimp that the Christmas carols are being turned on the day after Thanksgiving, and they aren't turning off again until Boxing Day.

Five Dollar Decor - Unexpected Wall Coverings

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

If you live in an apartment or other rental property, there's a fair chance that you're going to be limited in your decorating options. Wallpaper, for instance, is right out. Occasionally you might get a landlord who will let you paint, but those tend to be few and far between. In general, if you rent an apartment, your walls are probably white or beige and, while you might be allowed to put nail holes in them, you can't paint.

So, what can you do to cover up the expanse of blank wall that you're inevitably stuck with? You can hang artwork, sure, but although posters and prints aren't always pricey, frames are.

In the spirit of recycling and innovation, I have collected five ideas for room-changing wall treatments that are rental-friendly, inexpensive, and unique. The best advice I can offer you for how to use them is to create BIG pieces. I lived in an apartment once where we didn't plan out our artwork well and ended up with a bunch of too-small frames and shelves scattered around the walls, and all they did was emphasize the negative space instead of filling it.

1. Hanging Carpet

This is the most common and therefore the least unexpected of these suggestions, but it is still probably not your go-to idea for when you are trying to come up with a way to hide the vast blank beigeness of your living room. Carpets go on the floor, after all--or DO they? If you're lucky, you might own a small carpet or rug that is pretty enough to go up on your wall, which will make this a free project. If not, a little dedication and time will probably lead you to a cheap one at a thrift store or yard sale. Surprisingly, I wasn't able to find a picture of this, and I have no carpets hanging in my home at this time (mainly for lack of carpets to hang), so you'll have to use your imagination.

2. Coffee Filter Art
Yes, that's right, I said coffee filter.  Try painting or coffee-staining these, cutting them into various sizes, and thumbtacking them to your wall in a large, swirling design. If you plan it out a little bit before you start tacking things up, you can end up with something that looks like a gigantic swirl of dandelion seeds flying across your wall , and you can cover a huge amount of space with a single packet of filters. (Photo and concept from the haystack needle via Daily Danny)

3. Scrapbook Paper

A sheet of 12x12" scrapbook paper runs between 25 and 50 cents at Joann's and Michaels, depending on  sales. The DIY Maven over at Curbly.com mounted hers on 12x12" squares of styrofoam and covered the edges with ribbon, which she said should run about $50 for all materials.

$50? Really? I'm planning to do this, and the way I plan to do it is to mount my scrapbook paper on foam display board, which should run me about $2 at the Dollar Tree, or $4 if I want to double up my squares of foam display board to get a similar thickness as the styrofoam.

Make at least four of these and hang them in a tightly clustered group. Remember, the goal this week is to cover as much space as possible for as little money as possible.

4. Tin Cans

Now we're getting into the crazy and fun stuff. I hate throwing away cans because I always imagine that someday I will come up with a use for them. Well, now I have.  Peel off the labels, wash everything up, and then group them on your wall for a piece of functional modern decor.

Obviously this isn't going to work with every decorating style--sadly, I don't think it would look right in my house at all--but this would look fabulous with utra-modern, industrial, or 50's and 60's retro decor. If you painted the cans instead of leaving them silver, that would probably also make a fair amount of difference and would make this a more versatile look. (Photo and instructions from GreenUpgrader)

5. Mystery Object

Ok, this isn't really a mystery, but I think it's so clever and has such a huge visual impact, that I'm going to show you the picture first and let you figure it out.

Are you ready? Here's the picture:

Can you tell what it is that's looking so cool up there on that wall?

Ok, ok, I'll tell you--it's leftover styrofoam trays from grocery store-purchased fruits, meats, and vegetables, stuck to the wall with silver pushpins.

I can't even find words to express how cool I think this is, taking useless garbage and turning it, with a minimum of work, into a fantastic piece of decor. I'm going to have to start saving styrofoam.

I passed up a bunch of really fun and unique ideas for this post, including wall art made of cutlery, hanging collections of painted bundt pans or colorful colanders, and ConTact paper stripes and polka dots. Try thinking outside the box--anything can become art if you hang it on the wall and arrange it thoughtfully.

If you rent your home: Always be sure of the rules before you start decorating. Our landlord is ok with nail holes, but not all of them are. Be sure you know what you're doing before you begin.

Recipe: Pot Pie

We eat this at least once a month. It's great to serve to company, it's fabulous in cold weather, and it makes enough for us to have leftovers for several days. It's also a fairly healthy and well-balanced one-pot meal, although it can be more or less healthy depending on the type of crust you use.

If I plan it right, it takes about 20 minutes of work in the kitchen to put this all together, and another 20-30 to bake. If I get started making it as soon as I get home from work, I have just enough time to change my clothes, wash my hands, and get settled in to being home and then dinner is ready.

Pot Pie Recipe (6-8 servings)

  • 1 chicken or turkey thigh, or 1/2 lb cut of beef
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 bag frozen organic mixed vegetables
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
  • 2 frozen organic pie crusts
  • Seasoning (salt, pepper, thyme, sage, etc.) to taste

In the morning, put the meat (I usually use chicken, but have done beef once and turkey once) in a slow cooker with the garlic, onion, and other seasonings. I don't turn it on when I leave in the morning, because it would be mush by the time I got home, but Mr. Scrimp leaves for work later than I do so I have him turn it on before he goes.

When meat is done cooking, remove it from the slow cooker with a fork or a straining spoon (depending on the type of meat and how well-cooked it is). Strain out onions and garlic from broth, put broth in jars, and refrigerate or freeze for use later. If there is skin on the meat, remove the skin. Pull meat off the bone and chop into cubes.

Put cubed meat into a saucepan or small pot with the bag of mixed vegetables. If you want, you can also add the onions and garlic back in. Add some water--I usually use about half a cup, but you can vary this depending on how much broth/gravy you want in your pie. Stir in the flour or cornstarch and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

When about half the water has boiled down, fill one frozen pie shell. Place the other on top and crimp edges together. Cut slits in the top for ventilation.

Because the meat is already cooked when it goes in, I just follow the directions on the packaging for how long to cook the pie crust. It generally takes about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

I imagine it would be fairly easy to modify this to a vegetarian recipe as well. If I were to do that, I would probably add chunks of squash or cauliflower in place of the meat, and I wouldn't pre-cook them to keep them from turning into mush.

Bear with me

We've been having some problems with the computer, so I'm a little behind on my blog post writing. It's working again for the moment, though, so I'll be catching up. Watch for new posts tonight and tomorrow!

Cookbooks 101

I've mentioned before, I think, that Mr. Scrimp and I were both English majors. Being a book collector sort of comes with that territory, and when you throw in our mutual love of cooking, it only makes sense that we'd have a pretty extensive cookbook collection.

Some of our cookbooks, as viewed through a cell phone 
because my camera is in Mr. Scrimp's car

But, if you haven't had the time that we have to figure out what cookbooks you want or need, to accumulate things secondhand or pick them up in wanderings around the bookstore--if you aren't the kind of person who already hoards cookbooks and loves to try out new recipes just for fun, I'd like to make some recommendations. These are fab if you are just starting out with learning how to cook, or if you, like us, have been cooking for years. I consider them essential.

I considered linking to these on Amazon, but if you're like me, you'd probably go look at the Amazon page and then just try and buy these from Half.com instead, so I leave that all up to you.

1. The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

No kitchen is complete without this book. If you live on your own and don't own it, get it. Buy it used if you must. Buy an ancient copy. Steal your mom's (if you think you can get away with it).

I will warn you, it's not a modern-style cookbook. There are no photos, only a handful of antiquated line drawings, and page after page after page of recipes, packed in as tightly as can be. Just sit down and read through it sometime, though. Skim the index. Acquaint yourself with the way their recipes are worded. I can't even count the number of times I've referred to this book over the years since I first began to learn how to cook.

2. How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

Like The Joy of Cooking, this is indispensable. Consider it essentially as a recipe encyclopedia, full of delicious things waiting to be discovered. This was a Christmas gift to us last year and I love it. If you made the hummus recipe I posted a few days ago, you may be interested to know that it is a modified version of the recipe in this cookbook.

For those of you who don't eat meat, Bittman also has published How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I don't own that one, but it comes very highly recommended from several friends of mine who love to cook as much as I do.

3. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, by Harold McGee

Although this has recipes in it, it's not strictly a cookbook. Rather than simply cataloging hundreds of recipes for you to try, admirable as that is, Harold McGee sat down and wrote a book about what it is that makes those recipes work. This has everything from a discussion of the chemical composition of eggs to the genus of the mold that makes blue cheeses delicious (it's a strain of penicillin. Who knew?), to quick and easy ways to make creme fraiche at home.

Anybody can follow a recipe. If you're going to become truly comfortable in the kitchen, though, you're going to have to go beyond just following a cookbook. McGee's book will empower you to be more bold and creative in your cooking because you will know why certain things work in cooking and baking, and why other things never can, no matter how good they sound in theory. If you've ever had a question about why a cookbook tells you to do something nonsensical, this book will probably answer it.

4. Allrecipes.com

Allrecipes.com is, of course, not a printed cookbook. It's essentially a giant recipe swap. It is also my go-to place for finding new recipes when I'm bored, in a hurry, or trying to come up with something to make with specific ingredients that I already have on hand.

You can search by ingredients, type of meal, or other keywords. Many recipes are submitted with photos, and are rated by other users of the site. People leave comments with suggestions for tweaks to the recipes, or warnings about common pitfalls. I try to stick to four or five star rated recipes and always check the comments first, and I've never had it fail me yet.

Of course, there are so many cookbooks that you can find and enjoy beyond these. I haven't even mentioned my beloved Julia Child or Madhur Jaffrey, or the battered copies of Escoffier and Larousse Gastronomique on our shelves. I've often even had luck finding great recipes (and wonderful food for the gastronomic imagination) in the richly illustrated and photo-heavy cookbooks that they sell in the bargain section of stores like Borders.

But these four (well, three books and a website) are the ones I turn to most often for my day-to-day cooking needs. Now go, go obtain them. Read them, savor the ideas in them. Turn the recipes over in your mind. And then start cooking!

Learn to COOK

For just about as long as I can remember, I've wanted to live more simply. It didn't/doesn't matter how simple my life already is or was; I've always wanted to simplify it even more. More sleep, less stuff, more time, less stress, more space, less clutter. I used to want to be a nun. That being said, I'm a packrat and don't find severe aesthetic asceticism in a house.

Still, the simple life is attractive. Happily, simplifying and scrimpaliciousness in general have a lot of factors in common, so the one tends to feed nicely into the other.

It may not seem like a step toward simplifying your life, but the first best thing that anybody ought to do if they want to live more simply and/or more cheaply is to learn how to cook, and cook well.

Restaurant food, unless you're specifically going to a restaurant that serves explicitly healthy food, is not good for you. It's not meant to be eaten every day, or even every week. If you wouldn't eat fast food every week, check the nutrition facts at your favorite dinner spot and ask yourself whether you should really be eating that every week either. Mr. Scrimp has worked in restaurants for years, and you should hear what he has to say about the gallons of cream and pounds upon pounds of butter that restaurants put in everything. Everything.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to cut costs in your budget is to stop buying pre-prepared food and make your own. There is no aspect of this that isn't a good plan, believe me. Your food will be healthier, cheaper, and, once you've had some practice, just as delicious, though usually in a different way.

Mr. Scrimp and I are fortunately matched in that we both already loved to cook before we got married. Without ever having the energy or interest to put into being pretentious or really crazy about it, we're both foodies. So it's been fairly easy for us to not eat out in favor of cooking at home.

Even if all you know how to do right now is boil pasta and make sandwiches, start thinking about eating more pasta and sandwiches while you learn how to cook food that's good enough to be worth staying home for. Once you learn how to do it you may find you're surprised about how much people charge in restaurants for food ingredients that you know from experience are very cheap. It isn't that restaurants gouge their prices, necessarily, but if you go out, you pay not only for the food itself, but for the handful of prep and line cooks who got it ready, the chefs who cooked it, the hostess who seated you, the waiter who took your order, the server who carried it out, and the busser who cleaned it up.

I kid you not, because we're both willing and able to cook for ourselves and each other, Mr. Scrimp and I are eating this week (that's 7 days) on less than $40, which we spent exclusively at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is hardly a cheap grocery store, and before we started really scrutinizing what we spent, we could easily drop $70 a week there. None of what we bought was processed or pre-cooked or microwaveable. To tell the truth, we don't even own a microwave.

My point is, if you're willing to do a little extra work, you can spend much less money, spend more time with your significant other (if you have one), and eat better food.

All of the above not only applies to restaurant food but to convenience food--pre-cooked dinners, chips, ramen, whatever it is. Those things are cheaper, yes, but if you rely on them to eat frugally, you're on the way to destroying your health in the name of saving money, and the truth is, that's just not worth it.

It goes once again back to the gap between broke and poor. Poor is a mindset that gives up and takes the lowest common denominator without being ambitious for more. Poor lives on ramen. Merely broke says "well, I don't have much money, but I'm going to use what I've got to get not only the best value but the best quality."

I'm formulating an entry on a few of the most basic cookbooks that every adult ought to own. If you can read and have basic hand-eye coordination, you can cook from a cookbook.

Electronic Media

When I was growing up, one of my two best friends wasn't allowed to watch TV. At all. Her family just didn't own one. They were ok with movies, but felt that TV just wasn't something they wanted or needed in their lives, I guess. We had cable but our watching of it was strictly limited.

When I got married, my husband and I decided to live on the frugal side (mostly by necessity, but somewhat by inclination). We also decided that if we had TV, we would do nothing but watch TV all the time, so it would be better not to spend $50-80 on monthly cable.

That isn't to say that we totally avoid electronic entertainment. My brother and sister-in-law gave us a fabulous, fabulous TV when we got married. We have an XBox 360 from my husband's pre-married days.

To make up for not having cable, we do the following:

1. We play video games. Occasionally we play together, but more often we take turns or play when one of us isn't home. Video games are expensive, but we're very careful about which ones we buy. We tend toward games with a high re-playability factor, so we stretch our entertainment dollar as much as possible. For instance, we both favor RPG-style games. These have 40-90 hours of gameplay for the first time you play through it, to say nothing of the fact that they can usually be replayed with enough changes to keep it fun. For a game that costs $60 without any coupons or trade-ins, that means you're still averaging only about a dollar an hour for engrossing entertainment. If you spent that little on the movies, you could pay about $2.50  to see the newest Blockbuster. This of course is even less if you only rent a game.

2. We have Netflix. Because we didn't refuse cable for ideological reasons, we saw no problem in going with a cheaper alternative (just a few bucks a month) in order to get movies and seasons of tv shows that we like. Because we have the XBox, we're able to play Netflix movies on our rad TV. In fact, we don't even bother with the DVDs. There are so many movies available for "Instant Viewing" that we've never, ever been without something to watch when we felt like it. The difference I've found between Netflix and cable is that when I had access to Cable, I would watch anything, even junk, rather than watching nothing. I'm sure not everyone has this problem, but it's a failing of mine. I get sucked into trashy TV and then I feel guilty but I don't stop.

With Netflix, because it's all movies or full seasons of TV shows, I'm more likely to wait until Mr. Scrimp is home and watch something with him. If I'm going to sit down to watch a full-on movie, it's always more fun if he's watching it too. If I'm going to start watching a TV series, I wait to watch it with him because neither of us will want to be out of sync with which episodes the other one has seen.

Note: Netflix is only worthwhile if you are sure you're going to watch enough movies to "pay" for the monthly plan you select. If you only watch one movie or so a month and have no desire to watch more, it probably isn't for you, because you can probably rent for less.

3. We have the internet. This is a necessity for us, for various reasons, including family, friends, blogging, and work. This does cost us, and I'm not entirely proud of it, but it doesn't cost us a lot, and I do believe it's not really something we can do without.

There are also one or two cable shows that I got really into long before we got married, when I still had cable TV access. Most of these I can find on hulu.com and watch on the computer.

Because we don't have a straight-up ideological opposition to TV/games/what-have-you, we haven't really tried to get them completely out of our life, but we have taken good steps to regulate what place they have there. We're careful about how we spend money on digital entertainment without turning ourselves into some kind of luddites. We have a good time together, and we do exactly what our Scrimpalicious goal is--to have nice things, for less. We cut out about $100 of monthly spending that most, if not all, of our married friends indulge in, by opting for no cable, almost no trips to the movie theater, and very frugal spending on video games.

And the best part? We don't feel like we're missing anything.

Five Dollar Decor - Celebrating Nature

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

Well, another week is gone, and it's time for the weekend. If you're like me and someone who loves you gave you a subscription to Martha Stewart Living at some point, you have seen the ridiculous amounts of greenery that litter her home(s). Well, I have plants in my house, but I can't afford two dozen houseplants to put in my Indoor Garden Corner Nook Thing, or whatever she calls it.

That being said, I am a huge nature lover, and I would love to theme a room around the things I find most beautiful in the natural world.

1. Framed Faux Foliage

Ok, I'll cop to getting a little carried away with the alliteration there. This idea comes from The Red Chair Blog via Dollar Store Crafts. Once again, you may need to dig around to find a frame that keeps this project under $5 for you--but then again, you may not. It depends on the scale you're going for.
I recommend tea-staining the paper you mount the foliage on in order to get the antiqued look that is so popular over at Design*Sponge. Or, you could borrow a page from their book and try more creative backgrounds--why not brown paper, from the back of a grocery bag, or leftover scrapbook paper, or wallpaper? The sky's the limit. If you live in an area where location and weather aren't conspiring against you, you can of course make the project even cheaper (but less instantly gratifying) by using real foliage.

Alternatively, you could splurge on some paint and antique the silk flowers, or paint them some color other than green, or use them as stencils. When you're done, hang them in groups, as in this photo from TheNest.com.

2. Laboratory Garden

Your $5 here is going to be spent at the dollar store or the thrift store, where a little digging will pretty easily find you five glass vases--narrow and cylindrical, or, if you can find them, the stranger and more bulbous shapes that are reminiscent of a steampunk mad scientist's lab.

Head outside--even if you live in the city, you should be able to pull this off. Right now it's November, and I live in the land of the Lake Effect, so greenery is getting sparse, but it would be just as lovely to fill these with tall, stripped branches or boughs of berries. In the winter, you could change it up and stick some evergreens in there or something. In the spring, early flowers and greenery could take over, and in the summer you could do anything that grows, of course.

Cluster the vases on a side table, or spread them out along a larger table or mantel.

3. Branch Hooks

I'm going to be getting together with my husband and seeing about putting together a photo tutorial for this, because we want some for our house. You can purchase these for about $40 a pop from Live Wire Farm, or you can make your own with some carefully chosen branches, a power drill, and a couple of screws. (via Haute Nature)

4. Stones

This article in Country Living, of all places, suggests filling two large glass jars--one with stones, and one with blown eggs. I'm not sure I would do the eggs, because country living isn't exactly the aesthetic I go for when it comes to decorating, but you can go pretty crazy with stones. Fill a jar with small rocks from your front yard. Take a day trip out to the country and dig up a giant flat stone to put on your coffee table. Make a centerpiece of river rocks (which you can buy by the bag at some dollar stores). It's quick, it's simple, and it's beautiful.

A google image search revealed some beautiful photos by people who have done something along these lines. I'm sharing my favorite, which came from EcoSalon.

5. Leaf Mobile

By and large, I associate mobiles with babies. You know, they hang over a crib. That's where they go.

Well, yeah, if they're made of felt and have clowns on them, they do.

I'm using the term "mobile" here loosely. I'm not suggesting you sit down and spend your weekend going crazy making something that spins around in the wind or anything like that. My aunt once made a much simpler version (and I wish I had a photo) by stringing fall leaves on fishing line and attaching each line individually to the ceiling with a thumbtack. The leaves were staggered so that as you walk into the room it looks as though, hovering above the table, someone had frozen autumn leaves in time as they were in the process of falling.

You could do it that way, over a dining room or coffee table. You could string them up against a wall as an art piece. You could get crazy and cover an entire wall with strings of leaves.

I know that a lot of these ideas might not be up your alley. It's really, really, really easy to overdo decor in this theme and end up with some sort of messy, cluttered, "rustic" look, and I hate that. So while I might not implement all five of these ideas in one room, I would happily scatter all five throughout my home.

Flu Season

The holidays are almost upon us, and with them come aches, pains, headaches, and upset stomachs. And, in addition to that, you might get the flu.

Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays, but in the Scrimpalicious household this year, they are kicking off with something that I'm watching anxiously in case it becomes the flu. My husband is pathetically sick in bed with a fever and all the above mentioned aches and pains, although so far he's only got a mild cough and moderate congestion.

But it struck me that now would be an apropos moment for mentioning my favorite health discovery of this year: Elderberry extract!

For those of you who don't know, there was a study done in the 90's that showed that elderberry flavonoids compare favorably (yes, that means they're better) to Tamiflu in the treatment of Influenza. Now, I would never say not to take Tamiflu if you're diagnosed with the flu, especially H1N1, but you can take them together with no ill effect, and there's evidence that regular doses of elderberry every four hours will actually shorten the duration of your illness more than Tamiflu will.

Because my beloved is sick, I stopped by Whole Foods to inspect their selection and I was fairly shocked, to be honest, even though I'm aware that there are certain areas in which Whole Foods is prone to price gouging. (I checked CVS too, but they had nothing.)

The actual extract, as in a liquid with a dropper, came in at about a dollar a dose, and there were only 11 doses in the bottle. I kid you not. Being that we are into the saving of money, I kept combing the shelves until I found (and this is worth digging for) a bottle of elderberry extract supplements. These were $8-ish for a bottle of 100, and it's a standardized dosage of elderberry, which I feel like is preferable anyway because it means no messing around with droppers.

Recommendation is that once you start to show symptoms of being ill, take a dose every four hours. If you're not ill but have been exposed, take it three times a day. I have family members who have done this with good results.

What you're looking for is black elderberry extract, or sambucol.  It may be labeled differently depending on where you buy it.

And here, because you should never take the Internet's word for things, and I want to give you some more statistically significant evidence than "it worked for my family", is a link to the PubMed abstract of the study I mentioned.


Well, it's Monday. The weekend always ends too soon. We had a party over the weekend for the husband's birthday, so this week's recipe will be for the hummus that I made.

I have a lot of goals for my life. One of those goals is to stop eating processed food, if not completely, then at least no more than once or twice a week. Obviously, "processed food" is a pretty big catch-all term, so I check food labels and don't (as a rule) buy things that have ingredients I can't pronounce or find at the grocery store.

Eating this way often costs us a little extra, but not always. This hummus is a good example of when it isn't--grocery store hummus is unreasonably expensive, given how cheap and easy it is to make.

Hummus Recipe (makes approximately 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup tahini*
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Garlic cloves to taste (guideline: 2-4 cloves)
  • Lemon juice to taste (guideline: juice from 1 lemon)
  • Salt to taste
  Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Taste, and tweak seasonings to your preference. Voila! Delicious hummus in ten minutes or less. I keep it in a small pyrex bowl with a lid and it lasts for about 6 hours before it mysteriously disappears (longer if my husband isn't home).

Drizzle with olive oil before serving for an extra bit of tastiness.

*If you can't find or can't afford tahini, try substituting smooth peanut butter. There will be a slight peanut taste to the hummus, but it will still be delicious. Sometimes I even prefer it that way.


So, this message is really only relevant to those of you in the Ohio area, but the spirit of it extends beyond that.

Husband and I were at Whole Foods doing a grocery run this afternoon. We're big milk drinkers, so we'd put a gallon of the Whole Foods brand into our cart and were leaving the dairy aisle when we were stopped by a guy at a display table with samples of organic milk. I was thirsty, and I am always up for organic milk, so we chatted with him and got a sample of the 2% milk.

That was about half an hour ago and I can still taste the delicious milky aftertaste in my mouth. I kid you not, this stuff was the best non-raw milk I've ever tasted. It comes from a place called Snowville Creamery, which is down by Columbus. They don't ultra-pasteurize; they only heat it to the minimum allowed temperature, which retains a much better flavor in the milk, although it keeps the shelf life at only (only!) 14 days or so. I was sort of shocked to learn that the milk we were buying, because it was ultra-pasteurized, had an expected shelf life of up to 60 days! That just seems.. wrong.

The milk is also non-homogenized, which means that when it's been sitting in your fridge, you need to take it out and shake it before you drink it, because the cream separates out. I used to spend my summer vacations on a working dairy farm, so that brings back happy memories for me.

We put our gallon of 1% milk back and picked up a half-gallon of Snowville Creamery 2% instead. It's $2.99 for a half-gallon, so it's almost double what we usually pay for milk, which is a problem, because we drink milk everyday in fairly copious amounts. We're in the process of deciding whether this is a special-occasion milk, or if we're willing to cut spending somewhere else in order to be able to afford to drink this stuff all the time.

If you live in the Cleveland or Columbus area, you've got to try this stuff out. I haven't even told you everything about their rad sustainability practices or natural milk philosophy yet.

Product Review: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

One of the things I find easiest to forget when I'm broke is how important it is to be proud of the things I do have. That means stomping clutter, keeping things clean, and taking care of what I've got. If you don't, you have the problem of the Broken Window Theory--if one thing gets broken and you don't fix it, you won't fix the next broken thing either and eventually you're stuck with a filthy house and a bunch of broken stuff.

I love to have things clean, but I don't like cleaning, and I hate the smell of the vast majority of standard cleaning products out there. Most of them give me headaches and I don't like the idea of coating the surfaces of my home with harsh chemicals.

Enter Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. We bought it without any idea of what it was or how well it would work, because we wanted to test out something that was environmentally safe and people-friendly. We started out with the countertop spray, figuring that if we didn't like it, it was only $4 lost and we could go buy something new.

We now have the countertop spray, the dish soap, and the surface scrub. This stuff picks up almost everything. I was able to take scuffs off a matte wall in about 30 seconds. It gets our dishes sparkling clean and rinses off with no residue. The surface scrub is good on everything from the subway tile in our bathroom to stuck-on food in my dutch oven. Best of all, it's non-toxic, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly, and smells fabulous.

It comes in five scents and also unscented. Our favorite is lemon verbena. Each scent is aromatheraputic, so it cheers you up and relaxes you as you clean. What's not to love?

Five Dollar Decor - Books

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

My husband and I both majored in English, and have a soft spot in our hearts for books. Generally we're both pretty opposed to any sort of decorating that involves destroying a book, but these are so gorgeous that I decided to link to them anyway. Depending on the project, you could use a cheap copy of your favorite book (I've been able to find most of mine for less than $1.50 at Half.com), a dollar store romance novel, a comic book, or something else you have just lying around.

1. Wall Covering

We live in an apartment and can't paint or paper our walls, but you could cover an accent wall with individual pages of a book for a beautiful and unique look using nothing but sticky-tack.(Photo and inspiration from Frolic)

There are several ways to mix this idea up. Instead of covering an entire wall, you could just put up blocks of pages instead of framed artwork. If you have some ink and rubber stamps, you could stamp a page here and there. Or you could do a light watercolor or acrylic wash over some of the pages to scatter in some pops of color.

2. Floating Shelf

This one appeals to me, because as many books as I might use up for decorating, I will still have more left over and we never have enough shelf space. This creates a shelf out of a book, creating an illusion of floating books on your wall.

Design from Instructables 

3. Flying Book Art

The photo here comes from an in-store display at Anthropologie, and was taken by Casasugar. Here, covers were removed from old books, they were glued together, individual pages were folded down in a repeating design, and the books were hung by the ceiling by the holes in the centers.

You could do this, or, if you didn't want to remove the cover, you could simply fit the opened book over a length of rope or ribbon and fold or roll the pages to keep it open as it hangs. Great for an office, reading nook, or kid's bedroom.

4. Framed Books

Want some nice artwork for your walls, but too broke to purchase any and unwilling to actually destroy a whole book to make your own? Why not borrow an idea from Good Housekeeping and put your book in a shadow box? Craft stores regularly run huge sales on frames, and you can also check thrift stores for nice frames that you can salvage (usually the art is appalling; try to visualize the frame without that awful oil painting of the Easter Bunny). 

If you can't find a shadow box and book together within the $5 budget, and don't want to bump your spending up by a few dollars, you could imitate the aesthetic this project by simply attaching the book to the wall (although this will involve damaging it a little) and hanging an open frame around it.

5. Book Wreath

The fifth and last Five Dollar Decor idea for this week  is actually a wreath made of book pages, with photos and instructions by Living With Lindsay. I'm not actually a big wreath person myself, but if you are, I think you'll dig this one.

This could be made in multiple sizes, and even multiple shapes. If you already have a room decorated in a books-and-paper theme, this could be a great finishing touch.

And that's all for this week's Five Dollar Decor. Happy weekend!

Another why

So, there are a lot of links on the sidebar of this blog. Probably about half of them go to crafting sites or blogs. Why is that?

I like to differentiate between poor and broke. My husband and I are broke. Poor people are poor. We aren't always going to have no money, we just don't have any right now. Poor is a state of mind. Broke is a state of being--a temporary one.

But in a practical sense, they're pretty much the same thing. Thing is, I don't want to look poor just because I'm broke and can't afford to buy nice things. The answer? I'll make 'em.

Even if you aren't artistic or particularly creative, there are so many things out there that are ridiculously easy to make or alter. See something you like at Anthropologie? (it's in my link list because I love to browse it for ideas). You can probably find someone who has made a cheaper copy using things they picked up at Goodwill. If they have a blog, they probably left directions for how you can do the same thing. Want to wear high fashion? You don't have to be fabulous at sewing to embellish or alter clothes you already have, and if you can't sew at al, it's worth it to learn.

You can have nice things and a nice life without looking like a bumpkin and without breaking your bank... if you're willing to be a little creative.

Food Storage

My husband and I decided when we got engaged that getting married would provide the perfect opportunity to change some bad food habits. Neither of us lived in our apartment before the wedding, so getting married involved not only a big wedding but a big move and a big adjustment. What better time to change a habit than when you're already in the middle of a huge upheaval?

One of the simplest and biggest decisions we made was to stop using plastic for our food storage. That meant no tupperware, no plastic wrap, no zip-loc bags--but also no plastic water bottles or milk jugs, or anything like that.

We had several reasons for this. The biggest one is that we just don't believe plastic is healthy (see this link or consult Google for some of our reasons why). Anyone who's stored food in plastic for a few days knows that it eventually starts to taste like plastic. Have you ever wondered why? What chemicals are getting into your food to make that happen?

I also don't like to use disposable products more than I have to. It feels wasteful to me, which I have a problem with both for environmental and for financial reasons. If I'm going to pay something, I want it to last.

So, we decided to store our food in glass. We even try to pour our milk into a glass pitcher when we bring it home from the grocery store (we can't afford to buy the milk that comes in glass jars, delicious though it looks).

To make this easier, we decided to get several sets of Pyrex storage containers. These come in all sorts of sizes and have rubber lids. Target, Wal-Mart, and several other stores sell box sets of various shapes and sizes of storage ware.

The glass cleans off very easily and keeps food just as fresh if not fresher than food stored in plastic. And they're permanent! I can't even imagine how much we've saved by not buying zip loc bags, sandwich bags, plastic wrap, gladware, and all those sorts of things, and how much we're going to continue saving over the years.


Ok, listen. Regardless of your politics or personality, at this point you've probably realized that whatever the future might hold, the present is not doing you quite as many favors as you hoped it would. Money is tight across the country, gas is expensive, and nothing is quite as easy as you thought it would be before you struck out on your own.

A lot of the websites on frugal living out there seem to be run by or geared toward people who are already long married, settled down, and raising five kids. For those of us out there who are newly married, living together, or single in an apartment with no children, a lot of that advice doesn't seem to make sense or fit in with the lifestyle we're after. Hand-crocheted doilies make a great cheap gift for someone, but the chances are it isn't you or your friends, and a lot of the advice out there doesn't fit so well for people who want to eat fresh, organic foods, live sustainably, keep up with what's trendy, and still save money.

So here's a blog for younger people who still want to save money, to live on the cheap, and be healthy and happy doing what they believe is right for themselves and world.


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