Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pizza and Syrup

Sounds good, right?

Luckily, I'm not talking about putting these together! Last night we had our weekly homemade pizza night. This morning we had waffles and syrup. So why put them together, even in a blog title? It  comes down to making the best use of what you've got. My younger son, who often cooks with me, puts it this way. "If you think you don't have the ingredients, just find something to substitute." He's a very wise and flexible cook!

So let's look at the pizza first. We certainly have enjoyed great pizza restaurants, especially those with the fabulous variety of toppings. Unfortunately, by the time each family member ordered the pizza they wanted, we had spent a week's worth of groceries! For a while we tried substituting pizza from those inexpensive pizza places. Sure, it was food, but not very good food. I started looking at what it takes to make a pizza.

Starting with the dough, I was appalled to see the prices of premade pizza dough at the grocery store -- it was almost as much as those cheap pizzas just for the dough! I was starting to think maybe this wasn't the right solution. Then I found more reasonable priced pizza dough, including a wheat dough, at Trader Joe's. Now we were ready to experiment. Early in the process, I also purchased pizza sauce. After we'd been making bread for a while, we started making our own dough. Also, this past summer, with a bounty of tomatoes, I used the fresh sauce to make pizza sauce. This is not hard at all and takes practically no time, whether you have tomato sauce either homemade, jarred, or canned. I'll never buy special "pizza" sauce again!

For toppings, it all comes down to what we have. Often we have leftover chicken in the freezer, which makes a great topping with sliced red onions. When we got some pineapple on sale, we added chunks of that. Pepperoni, now bought in bulk, is a favorite. This week, we had turkey with onions with barbecue sauce. While it wasn't the prettiest pizza we've ever made, the kids loved it!

On to the syrup. Often on the weekends, in the past we used to go out for a big breakfast. It was often way too much food and much would go to waste. Almost 20 years ago, we received a waffle maker as a wedding present. Although it had been used occasionally, one day a couple years ago, even before unemployment was visited upon us, we made a tradition of making waffles or pancakes on the weekends. Until a couple months ago, this involved real maple syrup, and a bag or box mix of pancake mix.

As we now stock whole wheat flour in our pantry, it seemed natural to find a way to use this in our weekend breakfasts. We're still experimenting with recipes, and having fun figuring out what tastes good and also everyone likes. The other key ingredient is the syrup. Real maple syrup, which we all love, is just getting too pricey! So this morning, with just a couple tablespoons left in our last syrup bottle, we contemplated the possibilities. Could we have our traditonal waffle breakfast without maple syrup???

My answer was, sure we can! I set to looking at some recipes sites to get some ideas. As it turns out, we had apple juice and orange juice in the refrigerator. Using a recipe I found as a jumping off point, I mixed some of each with the remainder of the maple syrup, some water, a little sugar. These simmered for a few minutes to combine all the flavors. While it might have eventually thickened on it's own, the waffles were almost ready, so I added some cornstarch to thicken it to a nice, thick syrup consistency. The family was a bit skeptical, but overall this fruity syrup was met with approval!

It's pretty satisfying when this works out well. Of course, sometimes the experiments aren't so successful, but I'm happy to say we'll definitely be trying many more new recipes along these lines. With each success AND failure, we learn. Happily, these successes were quite delicious!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Frugal Journey Told in a Slice of Bread

Our frugal journey these past nine months is best told in a simple slice of bread. How could that be?

We started by looking where our money was going. With two growing young boys, one significant part of our budget is food. I'd always tried to be frugal at the grocery store, but some things just were what they were. Sometimes I could get a loaf of bread for $2, but often, if there wasn't a sale, we'd pay $4 a loaf. Ouch, that was expensive!

Thus commenced the first stage of our frugal bread journey. Our family supported a monthly rummage sale by the Auxiliary from the local Children's Hospital by assisting in sorting items, setting up, taking down, and working during the sale. At most of the sales, donations of day-old items from a local grocery bakery were sold for $0.25 to $1. With an extra freezer, often we were able to buy a month's worth of bread for not much money. Weekend breakfast often included french toast casserole which my husband lovingly perfected over several months. Sometimes there were donuts. Overall, the boys were never at a loss for cinnamon toast, a favorite snack.

Sadly, the rummage sale lost it's location and we were no longer able to buy our inexpensive bread. What would we do??? I scanned the ads every week, snapping up the best deals I could. Sometimes it would work out. I hesitated to buy a lot at any one time, as there never seemed to be any GREAT deals. This didn't last very long, as after a month or so, I had a revelation.

It occurred to me. What is bread? Flour, water, oil, sugar, salt, yeast. What was making those loaves cost so much? And, didn't we have a breadmaker, long unused, languishing in our basement? We dug it out, dusted it off, and I set to looking for recipes. Once I had found one I liked, I shopped for the ingredients. All seemed to go well until I got to the yeast. At our local grocery store, a three .25oz packets of yeast run $1.69 -- considering that most of the recipes call for one packet per loaf, that's 56 cents per loaf, or $6.76 per ounce! This was not sounding too frugal to me. Luckily, in one store I found a four ounce jar for around $7. Much better than the packets, and good enough for our breadmaking experiment.

We were ready. I had settled on a recipe that was half whole wheat and half bread flour. As we made that first loaf, there was a lot of excitement. We used the baking cycle and extracted our first loaf. Success! This first success propelled us forward with great enthusiasm. We tried different recipes, and I shopped around some more.

Now, we buy bread flour at Costco for around $13 for 50lb. Yeast is purchased at Costco as well. We buy whole wheat flour at Trader Joe's. We've settled on a recipe that we like, though I add a couple tablespoons of flax meal or wheat germ to each batch. I'm still shopping for the best deal on these items. We don't cook the bread in the breadmaker anymore -- we use it for the dough cycle, then put the dough in a loaf pan to rise and bake. This gives us a more traditional shaped loaf. The kids actually prefer the odd-shaped loaf made by the breadmaker, but my husband and I like the softer crust we get by baking in our oven.

Making dough for bread gave us the confidence to branch out to other bread or dough items. We now have a weekly pizza night, where we make a wheat crust. We don't buy french bread anymore, we make it! I've even made hamburger buns.

The possibilities are endless. It's such an easy thing for us now, but I never would have guessed how much fun we would have experimenting, or how satisfying it would be to provide such a simple thing for my family. We still have room for growth, and I'm looking forward to expanding this skill. Who knows what breads lie in our future? Overall, the breadmaking is a symbol of our "frugal growth". We've learned to be frugal in other areas as well, but the principles are the same as we learned with the bread. If people were to ask me what my favorite frugal living tip was, I would certainly mention what we've learned in making bread! You can't always toast up a slice of your other frugal endeavors, so breadmaking is a particularly enjoyable part of our journey.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Resistance

While I've never been one to brave any of the all-night lines for Black Friday sales, I do peruse the ads to see what I might be "missing out" on. This year, with very little cash for such discretionary purchases, I found it much easier to resist even looking at the ads. Ok, I admit I looked a little! I wondered how the companies would be enticing reluctant spending consumers to participate in the "biggest shopping day of the year". Even so, with that little bit of looking, I noticed that there just weren't any stupendous deals out there worth my few-and-far-between discretionary dollars. Of the items I am most familiar with, most of the "deals" weren't any better than what prices have been for weeks.

More importantly, I pondered the following -- did we really need any of that stuff? This is the kind of thinking we apply every day to potential purchases. We got the same answer we get almost every single day, as we are all constantly bombarded with pressure to buy things which will "help us" or that we "need". And, usually, that answer is NO. It just wasn't very hard to make that good choice and "just say no".

Now if only it was that easy to resist a slice of that leftover pie!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Today I had a mini-Thanksgiving celebration with just my immediate family. My husband helped muscle the large turkey, rubbed down with wonderfully fragrant fresh herbs from our neighbor's garden, into the oven this morning. I made some stuffing (using left-over french bread I made for yesterday's spaghetti dinner); some smashed potatoes and parsnips; and some glazed carrots, parsnips, and turnips -- the last of the veggies from our CSA , and some homemade cranberry sauce.

There was nothing fancy -- just good food, all seasonal which kept the prices low. The turkey will provide many wonder leftovers in the form of sandwiches, soup, and probably a turkey pot pie. As we sat down to our private Thanksgiving, looking over my wonderful family all gathered, I couldn't help but feel blessed that, even in lean times, we can all come together and enjoy the fruits of the earth and our labor. I was also proud that I could provide this wonderful meal for my family without feeling guilty that we'd overspent. No one has claimed a chance to pull a side of the wish bone yet, but I think we were all winners today!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Day Cometh!

It's just 3 days to Thanksgiving. If you haven't already planned your holiday meal, here are a few ideas to keep you from overshooting your budget.

1. Plan, plan, plan! Start with your budget, and plan your meal (or dish if you're attending a potluck). I know this can be the boring part, but here's where you can catch overspending temptations. Make a list and stick to it at the grocery store. Check out your grocery store's specials this week to get the most for your money. You can also look for coupons to save more (check out the links on the left side of the page for, SmartSource, CoolSavings, and RedPlum). Keeping your menu simple will also tame the total.

2. Stay away from anything premade. Whether it's bread crumbs, stuffing, gravy, pies - all these things can be made cheaper by YOU! Yes, you can do it! Check out great recipes sites like, and, which all include reviews by readers. Whip up a family favorite or create a new one!

3. Get your decorating influence from nature. Gourds, squash, and pumpkins are available in a variety of colors and shapes, and make great accents to your table. Buy those that you can cook up after the holiday and they'll be doing double duty!

You don't need to give up your wonderful family traditions this holiday. Be smart and you'll be thankful for the time you spent in keeping this Thanksgiving holiday within your budget. You may even start some new traditions that you'll enjoy for years to come.

$3 credit for MP3 Music FREE From Amazon

Feeling the need for a little holiday music? Amazon is offering a $3 credit for FREE for use in purchasing MP3's. Use the following link, and enter the code MP34FREE. You must use the code by Sunday, November 30th.
$3 MP3 Credit for Free from Amazon
Use the code on one of the over 500 albums Amazon is selling for only $5. Check out their Black Friday offerings here:
500 MP3 Albums for $5


Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Great Frugal Holiday Gift Idea for Your Sports Fan!

Check out Amazon's price for one year of ESPN Magazine - just $5! This sale will expire this Saturday November 29th at 11:59pm. Great gift for your sports lover, or yourself!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Good “F” word

What do you think of when people say "frugal"? Are you picturing tasteless meals, threadbare clothes, and overall going without?

Luckily, being frugal is not any of those things. Being frugal means you make the best choices that fit your personal finances. Your guidelines are these:

  1. Do I really need this?

    This is big one. No matter if it's a pair of shoes, a new car, or that cup of coffee that costs almost as much as a pound of beans. Making the choice to purchase or put energy into something you need, will use, and enrich your life is the first step in cutting your costs.

  2. Is this a good value?

    Know what things cost, on average. For groceries, cars, whatever you plan to purchase. Knowing the average cost of things will help you here. Remember, sometimes you will spend more to get a good value? How can that be? Quality plays a big part here. Think about the life cycle of the item in question. Will this be something you use for a long time? It may be worth the investment of a higher quality vs. lowest price, keeping in mind your budget, of course! Once you've made the decision, know how to get the best deal. There are many coupon and deal sites out there that can help you with this. For things you use often and store well, stocking up when there is a great price will save you over the long run.

  3. Could I do or make this myself?

    Remember that cup of coffee I mentioned earlier? How about that birthday card you bought last week? Whether it's cooking, crafts, something for your home, or writing a resume, you can do it! Need help? Don't forget the library and classes at your community center or local college. There are inexpensive resources out there to help you do pretty much anything!

My goal is to help you live a rich life, without spending a fortune. You can do it, if you keep these guidelines in mind every day. It's not about what you give up, it's all about the choices you make for yourself and your family, to make your lives wonderful yet simple.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cooking Light Magazine - $5 for one year from Amazon

I love this magazine! Great recipes including classic makeovers, kid friendly, and budget friendly. Well organized, too! Snap up a year's subscription up here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Updated 11/7/09 Wow! If you're thinking Xbox for Christmas... check this out!

Thanks to for the heads up!

Walmart is having a "Pre-Black Friday Sale" tomorrow, November 6th. Of note, are an Xbox 360 Arcade console WITH a $100 gift card for $199, a Sony Blu-Ray Player for $148, and an HP laptop for $298.

Sale starts at 8am, and there will be 10 of each item per store. Good luck getting a deal!


Found out that this deal was online also. Amazon matched this deal online at 6am PST Lightning Deal. Free shipping and no tax made this the winning choice! Currently Walmart is Out of Stock online.

If you're looking at snagging this deal at Amazon, they will repeat the Lightning Deal at 12pm PST TODAY. This will include an XBox 360 Arcade version with a $100 Amazon Gift Certificate (expires 12/31/09) for $199.98. If you go this route be quick -- the 6am batch sold out in less than a minute. You must use the Lightning deal link, the item cannot be in your cart. No one-click ordering either. Good luck!

Gobble, gobble!

Two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving, and for those of you who live near a Safeway, get ready to gobble up a great deal! Safeway is running the following sale from November 4th through the 10th:

Safeway Turkey up to 16lbs (frozen)  -- $6.77 each, limit 2 with a minimum $20 purchase
Safeway Turkey 16lbs and above (frozen)  -- $8.77 each, limit 2 with a minimum $20 purchase

They also have Honeysuckle Turkeys for slightly more. Great deal, enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Welcome to my new blog, Frugal Frolic! Being frugal isn't all about drudgery -- it's fun! Join me while I explore our family's fun AND frugal life.
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