Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 4, 2015 · 45 comments

Birthday cake

  1. We hosted a 65th birthday celebration for my step-father last night at the house. I served oven barbecued chicken thighs, rice and broccoli as the main dish, brie with crackers as an appetizer and a big homemade chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting as dessert. It was very frugal and very delicious. I served ice water and no one wanted tea or coffee. I got the broccoli, cream cheese, brie and crackers at The Grocery Outlet which helped keep the expenses under control. Entertaining doesn’t need to be expensive.
  2. I was gifted two $25 Goodwill gift cards completely out of the blue yesterday. I plan on making them last for as long as humanly possible.
  3. I clipped branches from my forsythia bush to make a couple of cheerful yellow flower arrangements. I was inspired to do this after getting a PR blurb from Whole Foods about how their tulips bunches will be 3/$10 this Friday, and I briefly considered buying some to cheer up the house. However, using what I already have is always going to be a better option.
  4. I gave my bathroom a good scrub down and used rags to wipe things down rather than any disposable products. This is a disgusting job, but I figure that the washer and dryer will kill anything nasty. Also, I only used a vinegar-water mixture and baking soda as cleaning products.
  5. I just finished listening to a downloadable library audiobook of Meet Me at The Cupcake Cafe, which was thoroughly and completely enjoyable. I checked to see if the author had any other audiobooks available, but sadly she didn’t. However, I did put three of her non-virtual books on hold at the library, and I’m looking forward to some deliciously serious couch-and-book time.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen March 4, 2015 at 10:19 am

Your cake looks great, Katy!


Katy March 4, 2015 at 10:33 am

Thanks, my younger son decorated it, although he was unhappy with how uncentered the lettering was.


Christine March 5, 2015 at 7:36 am

Tell him that though he might have been unhappy, whoever got the piece with the M on it was OVERJOYED!!! He can count that as a random act of kindness! 😉


Katy March 5, 2015 at 10:15 am

It’s funny that you wrote that, as the pieces were comically uneven.


Kelly in MA March 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

Just a tip for your son. When I decorate cakes that require writing I write out (with a tooth pick, a metal cake tester or sometimes I use a tine of a fork)what I want the cake to say in the frosting (before adding any decoration). That way i can erase (read as smooth back over with a spatula) any mistakes I made. Also if you start in the center with the middle letter or word and work out from there in both directions that helps too.

Btw, tell your son that we can tell the time and attention that he put into the cake and frankly the time spent and dedication he showed (read as LOVE) are worth a lot more then perfect lettering any day.


Katy March 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

Great tips and lovely words. Thank you!


Sabrina | Frugal Italian Family March 4, 2015 at 11:02 am

I really love your cake! Can I make use of your decoration for my niece’s birthday cake next week?


Katy March 4, 2015 at 11:04 am

Sorry, it’s copyrighted. 😉


ann March 4, 2015 at 11:09 am

I’ve read a couple of books by the author mentioned including the audio book title and I really enjoyed them too.


Katy March 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

Lovely characters, well written and they do not introduce stressful themes. Sometimes that’s just the ticket! And narrated in a British accent? Ahh . . .


Carolyn March 4, 2015 at 11:47 am

Is your forsythia blooming already in Oregon?

Or are you forcing them to bloom?

We have a nice forsythia hedge with over a foot of snow underneath. I wonder if I could force them?

After reading a book about paperwhites with my young kids, I found some after Christmas cheap bulbs that we are watching grow. We hope they bloom. If not, we can compost them and it was a cheap science project for my kids.


Katy March 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

They are full-on blooming!


Kelly in MA March 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I’m snowy white with Envy! Please post a picture, I’m afraid that in New England this year we may not see them at all!

I was joking around with my fiance the other day saying that if we want to get married in the beginning of July we may end up serving snow cones instead of cake! My argument it that it will make our frugal wedding even more frugal!!!!

No I just have to start working on my dress!


Kelly in MA March 4, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I’m snowy white with Envy! Please post a picture, I’m afraid that in New England this year we may not see them at all!

I was joking around with my fiance the other day saying that if we want to get married in the beginning of July we may end up serving snow cones instead of cake! My argument it that it will make our frugal wedding even more frugal!!!!

Now I just have to start working on my dress!


K D March 4, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Frugal Things:

1. Reading your blog and your Facebook posts just about every day.

2. I bought bags of red delicious apples today. While we don’t like them for eating, I think they will make decent applesauce. At $1.69 per 3# bag (Aldi special this week) they were a real bargain.

3. We are expecting snow tonight and tomorrow. It will be nice for my husband if he has a snow day. I will try to attend a yoga class this afternoon that I have not been to before. I am afraid classes will be cancelled tomorrow and possibly Friday morning. I like to get my moneys worth from my monthly membership (besides loving how I feel after a yoga class).

4. I used up cheese slices that I cut a few mold spots from last week. I am still alive and well.

5. I finished an e-book borrowed from the library and am on CD 10/10 of a book on CD in the car. I started the new Anne Tyler book but just did not find it interesting, it will go back to the library for others to enjoy.


Kelly in MA March 4, 2015 at 1:22 pm

They do make good apple sauce but I usually have to add a pinch of sugar as I find them to not be as sweet as some other apples. (I add no sugar to my regular applesauce. )


K D March 4, 2015 at 12:10 pm

I love the birthday dinner/cake. It’s the being with people that love you and care about you that matters, not whether the food is gourmet.

There was an article in the newspaper this morning about a couple that hired a personal chef to cook them a Valentine’s Day meal, at their home. They paid $300 for the four-course meal, for the two of them. Unbelievable! I’d rather eat at your house.


Katy March 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm

And I’d serve you a delicious meal for the low, low price of only $295!


Lynn D. March 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I’ve been doing a lot of decluttering and when I drop things off at the thrift shop I force myself not to go in and pick up anything else. Lots out, nothing in is my motto for now. By the way I asked the attendant at my local thrift store drop of site about torn and worn fabric. He said they recycle it and get paid for it. Basically they’ll take anything that isn’t contaminated with oil or feces. I imagine this is true of any large thrift store. It’s nice not to have to go all over town to get rid of torn fabric. (And by the way, they were very tolerant and welcoming to at least one homeless transgender member of our community.)


Nadya March 4, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I have read your blog for a long time and am really pushing myself hard to buy less and make do with what I have. You are very inspiring. I am a new mom and I work full time so it is a challenge. I had a question for you: how did you emotionally train yourself to be less of a consumer? Any mental tricks to talk yourself away from the consumer cliff. I find that when I feel stressed or down (mostly overwhelmed), I have a harder time resisting stuff.

My frugal accomplishments:
1) I sold some consigned clothing pieces thru an online store, made about $20.
2) I used up a birthday gift card and got lunch out this week without spending a dime.
3) I remembered my klean kanteen everyday and didn’t buy drinks out- just water and homemade tea.
4) I used up all my fridge and pantry bits and made a lentil/veggie/chicken Indian stew.
5) managed to pack lunches for my husband and I everyday so far.


Kelly in MA March 4, 2015 at 1:29 pm

My best advice to you is to re-read this post every time you want to go hit the store. Also what helps me (yes it is an ongoing process) is thinking that the main reason I’m not at home enjoying my space is because it is too cluttered and overwhelming. Suddenly bringing more stuff into my space seems self defeating. Then I usually pick a small space at home (like one kitchen cabinet) and go through it completely (empty, wipe down shelves, really think about what goes back in and what you don’t use.) I put anything I don’t use in 2 piles. The first is defiantly donate and the second is the “I’m not sure” pile. I have a box in the basement that I donate every 6 months, anything in the I’m not sure pile that is still there goes. In all the time I’ve been doing this (almost 5 years) I have only regretted donating one item, a plant stand that I still swear got mixed up in that pile during my last move and was donated by accident. I still haven’t replaced it so it wasn’t that big of a regret.


Nadya March 5, 2015 at 4:53 am

I like the start small idea of picking one small space! Thank you.


Kelly in MA March 5, 2015 at 11:10 am

Your welcome. Like I said I’ve been doing this for a while and I still have my moments. Right now we are in a de-cluttering phase so I am doing no shopping, I do have really neat cabinets though!


Lindsey March 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

I ask myself, “How many hours of my life will I be exchanging for this item?” Almost always, it is not worth having to work X number of hours to pay for something…except books. I have a hard time resisting buying new hardbacks by my favorite authors.


Nadya March 5, 2015 at 4:54 am

Yes, that is a very good point. I have realized that getting rid of stuff in an ethical manner (not just dumping it in the trash) takes so much time too. Thats another good way for me to think about not buying stuff since I will have to get rid off it too.


Isabelle March 6, 2015 at 7:02 am

I do the same sometimes, it’s a good trick. Taking my hourly pay after taxes and figuring out if this dress is really worth working 3 hours for it puts it in perspective.


Kim from Philadelphia March 4, 2015 at 12:58 pm

I’ve been making from scratch dinners almost every night as I’m not working right now. Even making some new recipe homemade soups.

Using pretax dollars from my health savings account to pay for a chunk of my dental implant 😁
Expensive things should NOT be painful- haha!

Went to the bookstore with a friend for a cheap night out. Instead of buying books I take screen shots of the covers and take them out of the library.


A. Marie March 4, 2015 at 1:08 pm

(1) Constructing/inventing soup from some French lentils a friend gave me for Xmas 2013, the clarified juices from a recent pork roast, a can of tomato sauce, and the usual vegetables and herbs.

(2) Rejoicing in the first thaw we’ve had in weeks by taking a short stroll around the ‘hood and plucking a few NY State deposit cans and bottles from snowdrifts.

(3) Cheering myself up by thinking about all the cans and bottles I’m going to find once we get a real thaw.

(4) Toasting tootsies by woodstove after walk and soup construction. Hubby recently scored some very burnable pallets from the back of a local 84 Lumber.

(5) Continuing to enjoy our new cat (an adoptee from the local Humane Association). She’s an absolute doll.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary March 4, 2015 at 2:11 pm

We also entertain quite frequently without breaking the bank. We like hanging out with friends and family in the evenings or on weekends. I just make… whatever we would normally be making, but more of it. Also, I keep some things in the freezer to help round out a meal if I don’t have enough ingredients on hand for an unplanned get-together. I think that our guests enjoy our no-stress style of entertaining. The joy is in hanging out together and sharing our lives/stories/fun.


Diane March 4, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Thanks for introducing me to a new “non stressful theme” author. These are just the kinds of novels I need to be reading right now.


Vickie March 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Cute cake!

1) I’m saving gas today. We are having a snow storm with sleet and freezing rain to start off with, so the the University called off classes – as did most of the school districts. Plus, I get a whole day at home.
2) Dealing with tax stuff. Hopefully we won’t have to pay in. I loathe tax time, but it has to be done. I do my best to come up with as many deductions as is legally possible.
3) I bought a big bag of chicken leg quarters last weekend and split them into several bags. I’m baking some for dinner. Going to make mashed potatoes, peas and salad to go with it.
4) I found a very cute Minnie Mouse coat for my youngest granddaughter at the Goodwill store yesterday. They are selling their Winter clothes and coats for 1/2 off, since Spring is approaching. I paid a whole $2.50! It will fit her next Winter. She loves Minnie Mouse.
5) I’m going to read one of the books I bought at the Library sale a few months back. Erma Bombeck will keep me entertained this evening!


Isabelle March 6, 2015 at 7:04 am

Erma is so funny!!😄


Nathalie March 4, 2015 at 3:57 pm

I like the simple, frugal and colorful cake!

Wednesday is my grocery shopping day and I try to run all my errands only or mostly on that day.

1)Visited 2 thriftstores today. I went to Goodwill to find a dress shirt for my teenage son to wear at my brother’s wedding this summer. I asked a nearby worker which color tag was on sale (I always forget to do that and until today I hadn’t realized there was a sign hanging from the ceiling right at the entrance telling us which color tag was on sale!) and after she told me, I found a shirt with the appropriate tag… paid less than $2 for the shirt. Also found 3 more bins to transform into self-watering bins for my garden ($4.99 for the 3) and a crockpot insert with its lid that I will use as a fermenting crock to make tepache, a fermented drink made with pineapple peels ($2). I also created a thrift store wishlist on my phone so I don’t forget to look for additional items that I didn’t find today.

2) Got air in my tires for free at Wawa.

3) Went to Dunkin’ Donuts with my travel mug, redeemed a DD Perks drink freebie coupon to get a large coffee, which qualified me to get a free donut with the survey reward code from my last receipt, and purchased 2 more donuts for $0.99 with a mobile coupon. My total was $1.05 and I got double points (well, I might have to call them about it, I just realized I didn’t get the double points I should have gotten, which would have entitled me to another free drink). They gave me another receipt on which there was a survey so I took it and earned another code for a free donut with the “purchase” of a medium or larger drink.

4) Stuck to my grocery shopping list and came in at about $42 for the week.

5) Redeemed 2 survey reward codes at Racetrac for 2 jumbo chocolate chip muffins. Once home, I froze 2 of the donuts and the 2 muffins and I will dole them out to my teenage son one day at a time.


Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom March 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm

So jealous that you have flowers.

Today I played at home with the little miss. We didn’t spend any money. Made butter chicken for supper but forgot to buy chicken, so I actually made butter peas. Going to read my library book before bed.


Cheryl March 4, 2015 at 6:16 pm

1-I found a set of Pottery Barn Star Wars sheets at the thrift store for $9. My son is overjoyed.
2-I made a casserole from leftovers instead of going out to eat tonight.
3-I’ve been enjoying audiobooks from the library also. I’m on a Janet Evanovich kick at the moment.
4-I’ve started some seeds for the garden and used newspaper pots instead of buying peat pots.
5-I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.


Sandy March 4, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Great way to celebrate!
Your blog inspires me every day, thank you!
Made my version of Taco Soup with left overs. My husband told me he’d eat it again! Good thing I wrote down how I made it! He needs lunch everyday, now that he works from home everyday.
Decided which grocery store, beside Aldi, I’m going to use for the majority of my shopping.
Reconnected with a friend who was a good neighbor when we lived here before. She invited me to her house for lunch next week. They had a home built, which I’ve never seen, so I’m really excited.
Located my box of St Patrick’s Day fabrics, so I can make a table runner a hostess gift for my friend.
Located a cutting mat, but, not a rotary cutter. Have thread, batting in my resource center.
Found a 40%coupon for Michaels to get another rotary cutter. Told my husband, ‘one can never have too many rotary cutters’. He agreed!


Sharon March 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm

As a (used to be) professional baker, I have to say, I prefer homemade cakes over professional ones any day,

5 frugal things:
1) was able to get Dawn dish soap for $.50 with coupon and card at cvs
2) found 3 cans to add to my recycling while walking the dogs this morning. No gym fee and earning money, too!
3) came home to leftover homemade chili and corn bread with reconstituted dry milk to drink
4) recieved a free item coupon from a bath shop that I can redeem next week on my commute
5) packed a lunch so fabulous that I forgot to want food from take out places! I love take out, but never do it… I just always want it… Lol


Katy March 5, 2015 at 5:09 am

1. Made tortilla soup including homemade chicken stock from the freezer, bits of vegetables, and tomato juice and smoky jalapeño salsa that were sitting in the fridge. The soup was fabulous and cleaned out my fridge/freezer.
2. Checked out new books from the library, it’s just as exciting as buying new books!
3. My kids made a cute craft yesterday: little owls made from toilet paper tubes. They painted, cut little wings and glued wiggly eyes on. We had all the supplies on-hand. It was a project idea from a library book.
4. Making a copycat recipe of Jason’s Deli gingerbread mini muffins for breakfast this morning from scratch.
5. Making coffee at home this morning. It’s one of my absolute favorite morning rituals and it will be even more cozy and comforting on a rare, snowy morning here.


Isabelle March 5, 2015 at 6:01 am

* I learned yesterday that I’m being paid for the 2 days of bereavement I had to take off to attend a funeral out of town, yeee!
* I went to Target to check out the closure reductions (they are closing down in Canada), and I found it quite lame. So I ended up leaving with only 2 small bags of frozen peas and corn. 50 cents off… meeeh….
* We’ve doubled our last 3 mortgage payment. Trying to pay it off as fast as possible, so way less interests at the end
* I had to rent a car to go out of town. Took the cheapest option. Why would someone rent a luxury car for 800$/week is beyond me.

Have a great frugal day!


JD March 5, 2015 at 9:37 am

Love the cake. Our mother used to bake all of our cakes for our birthdays, and I have baked almost all of them for my family. They taste better, cost less, and I enjoy baking them, too. Birthday parties don’t have to cost a fortune to be fun.
1.I’m eating lunch left over from last night’s meal using leftover rice, the last two carrots in the frig, the last rib of celery, last half of an onion, and home-grown cabbage for stir fry. It’s delicious and this means I won’t be throwing out half a rotted onion, a limp stalk of celery, slimy carrots, dying cabbage and moldy rice in the next week or two, so I call it a double win.
2.I looked at my co-worker eating her $6 breakfast from Hardees this morning and realized how much I love my routine breakfast at home of oatmeal bought in bulk at the coop and eggs bought from a local retiree who charges just enough for eggs to cover the cost of his chicken-raising hobby. I’m eating healthier and spending a lot less than she is, poor thing, but she just hates “being cheap.”
3. I’m drinking iced tea that I made at home and brought with me to work in my steel bottle. Even using fair-trade and organic tea, it’s much cheaper than the bottled tea and sodas.
4. I’m using the very last scraping of my hand cream before starting a new one. It’s amazing how much can be left at the very bottom of a tube.
5. We used to have a much larger garden and I canned a lot, meaning I have a lot of canning jars. These days, I still can food on a smaller scale, but I’ve been using the unused pint and half pint jars to pack my lunch in. Canning jars are good for storage and more at home, of course, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to pack lunch items in them until recently.


Katy March 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

I think the baking your own cake things might be regional. Everyone when I was growing up had homemade cakes, that’s just how it was. But in NYC where my sister lives is different. People always make a big deal out of the fact that she’s making a cake.


JD March 6, 2015 at 6:54 am

That’s just sad! Many cakes aren’t hard to make, and the birthday honoree can even help make it and decorate it, if he or she wants. A bought cake every birthday? Boo!
Mama bought a lamb form cake pan, so when we were very, very young, our cakes were all little white-frosted lambs. So sweet!


Chris March 6, 2015 at 6:09 pm

#4 Forcing myself to use up all “product” before buying new – cutting open tubes to scrape out the last; my daughter moved and wanted to throw stuff she no longer used but I am not proud so will; I love LUSH products and if you return 5 containers you get a free ($7 value) face mask – asking my daughter to pass hers to me- got 2 Xmas gifts this year via this trade in.


Diane C March 9, 2015 at 10:38 am

We just had my Mom’s memorial service last Friday. It was amazing how many times her birthday cakes were mentioned! She didn’t do anything that looked professional, they just looked like she cared. Funny what is remembered when all is said and done.


Katy March 9, 2015 at 10:54 am

So sorry to hear about your mother, but thank you for sharing about her cakes were remembered by many. She must have been a wonderful and giving person.


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