Penny Pinchers

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I escaped Target for less than $100!

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'm heading out of town in a few days, back to Georgia and the land of humidity and bugs.  As I started to pack I thought, "I have no travel clothes..." I have work clothes. I have gardening/cleaning/lounging clothes.  I have sports gear clothes. I even have the "good" jeans for going out to dinner...but clothes for actually visiting another place? I do not have those.  

To some of you that might sound ridiculous, but I don't want to spend the next 5 days ironing or trying to find the right outfit for the right event at the right time of day. So I hopped in the car on my lunch break and headed to Target.  Why Target? Well I also needed a desk organizer and a MicroSD card and Target has those and cute clothes!

I ended up with 2 of these skirts and some solid colored tank/short sleeved tops. The skirts were only $20 a piece and I'll be able to wear them for work, dinners, vacations...they can be dressed up or dressed down! I consider them the perfect skirt (at the moment).  They'll also be cool enough for Georgia and suitable for both lounging at home and visiting old friends. 

photo from

SO I think I did a good job.  I got clothes, the SD card and the desk organizer stuff and spent less than $100.  For a Target trip, that's pretty good!


Gardening on the cheap

By Julie Norman
Monday, May 11, 2015

As I was updating the HBA's Pinterest page today I came across this post: Start a Vegetable Garden for $25.  

Her post actually includes building a raised bed, which you may or may not need.  In any case, it's an interesting read and a great way to get started gardening for not a lot of money. People always ask me, "What do you do with all that food?" We freeze it.  Freezing is a great and EASY way to preserve all that garden goodness.  Keep track of what you've got and by the time May rolls around your freezer will look like mine: bare :( 

Last night I used my last bag of peaches from last year (no, I didn't grow those).  I made a peach upside down cake and it was delicious! It's great to be eating yummy local peaches knowing that soon we'll be buying fresh ones again.

Get out there and plant some seeds!


5 tips for avoiding food waste plus what to do with stale cookies

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 27, 2015

I know I blog about food waste often, but let's face it: FOOD is something we all buy.  It's something we all use and something we all waste.  You know how it have good intentions of using up that kale, but then it just doesn't happen.  So here are some things that I did this weekend and 5 tips for avoiding food waste.

This weekend I needed to use up some peanut butter cookies.  We'd been eating on them for almost 2 weeks (friends were supposed to come to town but cancelled, so that's how we ended up with excess cookies).  What do you do with old cookies? I was determined not to throw them out.  Instead, I pulled the ice cream maker out of the cabinet (thank you Cuisinart for awesome little electric ice cream makers!) and mixed up a batch of maple vanilla ice cream. When it was ready I beat up the cookies into bits and stirred them in. It's SO GOOD!  The ice cream recipe is included at the bottom of this post.

Also this weekend I found a great way to use up some freezer burned old hot dog buns that I found in the freezer: croutons! I chopped them into pieces, added olive oil and garlic powder, and baked them for 10 minutes at 450. Perfect salad toppings!

Here are 5 other ways you can avoid food waste.

1. Freeze it. I've frozen raw bell pepper, leftover red beans and rice, sauerkraut, all sorts of sauces, ginger root (peel it and then grate it from frozen when you need it).  You can freeze lots of things.

2. Take the leftovers for lunch. Leftovers are our lunches 75% of the time. Unless we've had really smelly fish, we create lunches from our leftovers.  Sometimes we end up with odd lunches like a bunless brat and a side of strawberries, but we don't end up with wasted food.

3. Repurpose it.  If I've got leftover rice from a Mexican night I make an Asian fried rice dish.  If I've got extra grilled veggies I might make a frittata or a vegetarian fajita.  You can throw all sorts of vegetables into soups and in fact I have one friend whose mom will take bits of leftovers - green beans, okra, corn - and freeze them just to use in soups!

4. Take it to work. If you know you aren't going to finish that cake or those cookies, take them to work. People will eat them, I promise!

5. Keep an eye on what's in your fridge at all times and make a list.  Right now I have a list that says, "Things to use next week: bacon, Thai red curry paste (which actually I can freeze), and there's something else on this list..."

Can you, right now, name 5 items in your fridge that need to get used up? Here goes: 2 leftover grilled brats, 1 serving baked beans, some anchovies in olive oil, sauerkraut, and cauliflower. The cauliflower is a dinner side dish tonight.

Here's the ice cream recipe:

3 cups milk

1 cup white sugar or 1/2 cup maple syrup

1-2 tsp vanilla

Whisk until the suger or syrup is combined well with the milk - 3 minutes or so. Then pour into your running ice cream maker. Wait 15 minutes. Enjoy! Oh, stir in cookies if you want!


Make Your Own Take-Out and just BE YOU

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 20, 2015

I ran across this post from the Frugal Girl this morning about how to just "be you." I get that guilty feeling sometimes when I think someone else is doing something that I "should" be doing...and then I remember that I'm me. That there are things I like to do that others don't and vice versa.  In the end, it's all okay! It's okay that we don't have a compost bin.  I use quite a few vegetable scraps to make broth and I find egg shells are great at cleaning and sharpening my garbage disposal blades :) So there; go out and be you and don't be ashamed of what that is.

In other news, in an attempt to use up the last of the butternut squash from last year's garden, I decided to make butternut squash soup last night. I'm not a huge fan of it, so I'm always looking for a new and different recipe to try. Last night's was a Thai Butternut squash soup. I had most of the ingredients (not the garnishes, which would have added a nice touch).  I didn't have red curry paste though.  So I started Googling for a substitute and ran across a recipe for making your own red curry paste.  Since I had almost all of the ingredients for this recipe I decided to go for it.  I left out the shrimp paste and the "dark soy" and used some lime juice instead of kaffir limes, but I had all the spices right in my spice rack.  I thought the paste turned out great! It could be a little spicier and maybe a little more tomato-y, but it's definitely going to get used quite a bit around here.  I can see myself making quite a few more curries because of it. Hello shrimp curry! Hello ooooh, Tuesday was supposed to be stir fry night...maybe now it'll be curry!

So now I've not only not wasted my butternut squash, I've saved myself from wasting the last of some sundried tomatoes (which I used instead of tomato paste in the recipe). 

What's your latest way to stop the food waste?


Food Waste

By Julie Norman
Monday, April 13, 2015

For the past two weeks I've been home alone. When you're used to cooking for 2 and having leftovers for lunches, cooking for one is nearly impossible. I did my best to avoid wasting food.  I froze lasagna after eating on it for about 3 days.  I avoided going out to eat for lunch and instead used lunch time to work on other leftovers as they appeared: frittatas, pizza, etc. Still, in the end I did end up throwing out some rice and some pasta salad.  I'd made the salad for a picnic but, even using just half a box of pasta, there was still quite a bit left. After 2 or 3 days the veggies get soggy and it's just not any good any more. So out it went. I tried not to feel too bad about it, but knowing I'd just wasted artichokes and feta made me cringe!

The next time I'm left alone that long (I hope there never is a next time) I'm going to work much harder to avoid cooking large meals.  It may mean I'll have to eat sandwiches for lunch, but that will be better than wasting leftovers.

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