Homemade Brown Sugar for an Apple Crisp

by Katy on September 27, 2023 · 37 comments

My neighbor’s apple tree continues to drop apples that are somewhat okay. Mostly just a mater of bruising from falling onto the sidewalk. They ain’t pretty, but I’ve never been ruled by aesthetics. Plus, the price is right!


I brought home a bag of apples, carved out the icky bits and chopped them up for an apple crisp. Then I remembered that I was out of brown sugar. Luckily I knew that you can make brown sugar from scratch and looked up the recipe, which is a ratio of:

One cup of granulated sugar + one tablespoon of molasses.


I first attempted to mix it together using a fork, which was a fail as the molasses wouldn’t incorporate. I then tried an electric hand mixer, which spun out the sugar out of the bowl. I finally grabbed my pastry cutter which was just right!

I’m not sure how much of a savings hack this was, as a jar of molasses isn’t cheap. Luckily I had one on hand, which saved me a trip to the store.

Look how fluffy and pretty my brown sugar turned out!

I should have photographed the apple crisp when it was all steamy and fresh from the oven, but sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Instead I present the very last serving, which was oh so very delicious!

I think that the homemade brown sugar gave the crisp an extra depth of flavor. Mmm . . . I think it’s time for the neighbor’s tree to drop a few more apples!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 26, 2023 · 33 comments

I know it’s only been a day since my last “Five Frugal Things” blog post, but yesterday leaned heavily into impressively frugal which warrants a bonus blog post!

  1. I took two wrinkly apples and an assortment of bruised windfall apples from a neighbor’s tree and assembled an impromptu oatmeal apple crisp. I topped it with Haagen Dazs ice cream, ($1.97 from Safeway) and served a delicious weeknight dessert for my family.

  2. Dinner was black bean burgers, which I served on the brioche hamburger buns I picked up at the Franz Bakery Outlet a couple weeks ago. I was out of onions, but these kinds of recipes lend themselves well to a bit of experimentation, and we all agreed that they were actually better this way.

    I included:
    • Chopped yellow peppers from the freezer. I picked these up from Fred Meyer’s clearance shelf awhile back when they were $1 per bag of four.
    • Frozen corn.
    • The last of a bunch of cilantro that my friend and I shared since it was so ginormous.
    • Bread crumbs, garlic powder, seasoned salt, paprika, pepper flakes and an egg.

    Topped with sliced pickles, (Dollar Tree, baby!) cheese and barbecue sauce, the burgers were a hit!

  3. I recently recommended the British TV show The Detectorists to someone and discovered there was an additional “movie” that came out in 2022. I couldn’t find a free version through any of my streaming services, so I checked out my library’s website to see if there was a DVD I could put on hold. Instead I found a link to a free Hoopla version that my husband and I were able to immediately watch on our TV!

    Libraries for the win!

  4. • I went to cancel our Paramount+ streaming subscription and was offered an additional two months for free. I then added a reminder (with an alert) to “cancel Paramount+” into our calendar.
    • I shopped the loss leaders at Safeway and scored two gallons of milk, a pint of ice cream, five yogurts, four 8-ounce packets of parmesan, 18 eggs, six sausages and six bananas for $17.48. I’ll freeze half the milk.
    • I found a dime and a penny on the floor at Safeway.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 25, 2023 · 80 comments

I had a pretty low key week as I’m still absolutely exhausted from what I can only assume is the dreaded Long Covid. As a result, my “frugal things” are mostly passive. Think “I stayed home and leafed through library books” rather than “I got this amazing deal on a flight and free museum tickets!” So buckle up for a slow and dull ride!

  1. I read an article about a woman’s vintage-style remodeled kitchen that really resonated with me. The article mentioned that she found inspiration in the book Bungalow Kitchens, by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen, which was sadly not available through my library. Instead I found it on eBay for $6.17 with free shipping and didn’t hesitate to buy myself a little treat.*

    The library did have two other of the author’s other books, (Bungalow Bathrooms and Bungalow Details: Interiors) so I get to leaf through these books to find inspiration for my own 1914 bungalow.

    Mind you, I’m not looking to remodel anything, I just like looking at pretty pictures of pretty old houses.

  2. I’m continuing our Recalibrate Our Food Spending month and frankly I’m sick to death of it. (But that might just be the Long Covid talking.) Yes, I’ll keep on it until we hit September 30th, but I don’t like having hard and fast rules, even when I’m the person to set them. Then again, I doubt anyone attempting to stretch a grocery dollar would classify it as “joyous.”

    We’re at $327.28 with a week to go. I spent $74.24 at Winco this week, which is higher than normal, but included stocking up on a few pricier items like cheese, sugar, and cooking oil.

  3. I walked to the library and took a different route home, which resulted in me coming across a box of free bay leaf branches. This was an amazing coincidence as “bay leaves” was the only item on my grocery list! (I make a lot of soup this time of year.) I’m drying them out over a heat register in the kitchen and look forward to enjoying lovely flavorful meals.

  4. • I made a big batch of Broccoli Parmesan Soup, motivated by some broccoli that I bought over a week ago. It also used up the last of a bag of orzo and it turned out perfectly! P.S. I used bottled lemon juice and the world stayed on its axis. Also, I didn’t add the parmesan to the soup as it cooked and instead just sprinkled it on top when serving.
    • I accepted a bag of random bag of high end canned cat food from someone in my Buy Nothing Group.
    • A friend came in from out of town and treated me to breakfast.
    • I picked up some windfall apples from a neighborhood tree.
    • I washed and scrubbed my mildewy shower curtain liner. I refuse to replace what can be cleaned, even when it’s a pain in the tuchus.
    • I drove through McDonald’s for a 50¢ double cheeseburger on National Cheeseburger Day.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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* The eBay links are referral links.


Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 18, 2023 · 72 comments

  1. We’ve passed the September halfway point to Recalibrate Our Food Spending, which means it’s time to share my numbers. (Mind you, I didn’t set a specific numerical goal as I didn’t want to set myself up for failure.) I’m shopping pretty normally, which means stocking up on sale items, shopping for the pantry instead of specific meals, hitting different stores for different items and making sure I have a general plan for meals so we don’t succumb to impulsivity.

    It would be easy to cook increasingly odd meals from my pantry, but I’m not interested in a stunt. I know I could succeed at one of those “$100 grocery challenges,” but it would be cruel to not take my husband’s quality of life into consideration.

    We spent $165.87 by September 15th, which didn’t include cleaning supplies, toilet paper, shampoo or other random grocery store items. Here are a few highlights:

    • I made jam from the 6 pounds of strawberries that bought for 50¢/pound, which meant I used up all our granulated sugar. I’ve been putting powdered sugar in my tea, which isn’t that noticeably different. (I’ve held off on replacing the sugar until I could get back to Winco which is the cheapest option for staples.) I gave away a couple jars to neighbors and friends.
    • My husband and I dined at IKEA for lunch, which meant a $1.15 veggie hotdog for me, a $8.49 plate of meatballs/mashed potatoes with gravy/peas and free coffees for the two of us.
    • One trip to Winco when I did buy a grocery cart of staples such as fruit and veggies, grains, chicken, dairy, tortillas, canned goods, spices and treats.
    • A couple forays into Trader Joe’s for their 19¢ bananas.
    • My father gifted me a loaf of his sourdough bread.
    • I had my daughter pick up four jars of assorted jams from her schwanky grocery store, as her 30% employee discount on top of the 50%-off sale made for a mighty fine deal! This may seem odd since I’m flush with homemade blackberry and strawberry jam, but I can now add lemon curd, blood orange marmalade, blueberry jam and mango preserves to my arsenal.
    • I swung by Safeway since their 18-packs of eggs were priced at $1.47 apiece.

    This may sound insane to shop at so many different stores, but I’m lucky enough to live in a “grocery oasis” with multiple stores within a mile or so from the house. The inflationary prices on standard grocery store goods are insane right now, so it’s very satisfying (and necessary) to work my magic.

  2. I’m making a concerted effort to up my reading game. I love reading, but fall too easily into screen time hypnotism. (Those Instagram reels are physically addictive!) So I’ve invented a “chain reading” rule for myself.

    Think of “chain reading” like chain smoking, but instead of using the end of one cigarette to light another, you read just the tiniest bit of a new book as soon as you finish the last. Maybe just part of the first chapter or the prologue. Enough to pique your interest in the next book to avoid losing momentum.

    Here are the library books that I chain read this week:

    Pineapple Street, by Jenny Jackson.
    Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld.

  3. My son finally brought his kitten home from her foster family, so we’re temporarily a two cat family. (He’s moving into a new apartment in January and will take the kitten with him at that point.) We turned his old bedroom into a kitten friendly space and are keeping the two cats apart while they get used to each other. She’s a tortoiseshell kitty and almost impossible to photograph as she’s either asleep in a dark spot or in constant motion.

    The expenses are all his.

  4. • I brought home a free homegrown tomato from someone’s free box.
    • Both the books I read were from the library.
    • I took my next door neighbor out to lunch to thank her for watching over our cat while we were in New York for two weeks. She would never accept payment, but was happy to accept a meal.
    • I brought home the leftovers from my $15 lunch, (I’m not including her lunch as part of our monthly food spending) and added extra rice noodles which expanded it into two more meals.
    • The mylar helium balloons appear to have driven away the pigeons and my neighbors are having the same success since adding balloons to their own house.
    • I’m bringing packages off a different neighbor’s porch while they’re out of town.
    • I made a couple small sales on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. A ladybug costume through Facebook; plus my son’s old toy and some University of Oregon football stickers through eBay. I haven’t been thrifting or listing lately, which is reflected in my sales.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet, even though they were on sale.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on September 14, 2023 · 43 comments

  1. My husband and I paired gassing up at Costco, (the least expensive choice) with treating ourselves to a meal at IKEA. Me being me, (the cheapest lady in Cheaptown) I chose a $1.15 veggie hotdog and my husband ordered a plate of their $8.49 meatballs. We also enjoyed a cup of their free coffee and called it good. There isn’t an option to tip, which keeps the bill under control.

  2. Our bread stores had gotten low, so I stopped by the Franz Bakery Outlet store and picked out $10 of bread items. Why ten dollars? Because you get to choose an extra free item when you hit that amount, plus you get your card punched towards future free bread.

    I bought:
    • A 10-pack of English muffins.
    • A dozen brioche hamburger buns.
    • A loaf of thick cut bread for French toast.
    • A loaf of Seattle sourdough round sandwich bread.
    • Two sleeves of bagels.
    • A loaf of Seattle garlic French bread.
    • A package of peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies.

    We have a basement freezer, so these bread items will last us for a couple of months.

  3. My son’s been complaining about his 2018 iPhone’s battery and overall slowness lately. I told him he could either buy himself a new/used phone or I would pay to get the battery replaced. He chose to at least try getting the battery replaced.

    The locally owned shop replaced the battery, threw in a free screen protector and then suggested a couple of ideas (update the settings, etc.) to deal with the phone’s sluggishness. Total cost was $45.

    The constant replacing of perfectly good electronics, specifically cell phones is an environmental travesty and I’m happy to shell out a few bucks to keep my family’s phones in operation.

  4. I took the cheap frozen chopped strawberries from last week and cooked up a batch of jam. The strawberries were just 50¢/pound, the clearance priced pectin was 25¢, the lemon juice was maybe another 25¢ and the sugar was . . . however much sugar costs at Winco. I chose to not bother with a water bath and official canning jars as I had room in the refrigerator to store the jam and would likely be gifting a couple of the jars anyway.

    Easy, cheap, yum!

  5. • My friend Lise and I went to our neighborhood movie theater to see the Barbie movie. We paid full price, but stayed away from concessions and walked from home. We live in an extremely walkable neighborhood, which saves us both countless hours of driving.
    • My husband and son went to The Pixies at an outdoor concert space and borrowed a pair of low folding chairs from our next door neighbors. They placed them on beach towels to keep them clean and then returned them the next day along with a jar of jam.
    • My neighbors down the block put three Bonne Maman jars in their recyling bin, which I brought home, washed and then filled with fresh jam.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 11, 2023 · 78 comments

  1. I calculated our food spending for the month of September and we’re up to $135.82 so far. I don’t have an official number that I’m trying to stay under, but secretly I’m trying to spend less than $400. Super secretly I’d like to have it be much less, but we’ll see how the month goes.

    Although on paper our household is just me and my husband, our son does stop by for dinner most nights. I know he’ll get further into his adult life and we’ll have to schedule these meals, so they’re special for now.

  2. My husband had fallen into the habit of drinking flavored canned seltzers. He started with La Croix, which morphed into the gateway drug that is Spindrift sparkling water. These pseudo-sodas are expensive, especially when you start taking them for granted and mindlessly down multiples of them per day.

    I’ve put a stop to this canned water addiction. So if you run into my husband, please be kind to him as he’s going through the painful process of enjoying tap water all over again. He’s also probably dehydrated.

  3. I looped a smattering of errands to minimize my driving.

    • I returned an Amazon.com remote control that I’d bought for my sister’s air conditioner unit. It turned out to be the wrong model, so I initiated a return on the app and dropped it off at the UPS store for free.
    • I returned an armload of overdue library books and checked out two new ones.
    • I bought two more helium balloons at Dollar Tree to deepen my anti-pigeon campaign.
    • I walked the couple blocks from Dollar Tree to Trader Joe’s to buy two bunches of 19¢ bananas and nothing else. Of course I nabbed a Mandarin Orange Chicken sample.

  4. • I scrubbed out my daughter’s Mr. Coffee coffee maker left behind by her old roommate. It was revoltingly filthy and I actually considered binning it at a couple points. Instead, I ran it with vinegar a couple times over, twice with soapy water and then probably a dozen times over with plain water.
    • My neighbor across the street gave us two pieces of her homemade lemon blueberry cheesecake.
    • I stopped at Safeway for milk and eggs and glanced over at the yogurt aisle and noticed that some of the 37¢ ones were an additional 50% off! I bought six and then checked my Ibotta app (referral link) and uploaded my receipt to get an additional 50¢ rebate. The math worked out to be 9.6¢ per yogurt.

  5. I didn’t buy a sparkling Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on September 7, 2023 · 55 comments

  1. I made a point of scoping out Fred Meyer’s clearance shelf and lucked out on three two-pound bins of strawberries for a buck apiece. A few were too far gone to salvage, but the rest just super ripe but otherwise fine. I didn’t have the bandwidth to make jam, so I sliced and froze them on cookie sheets for now.

  2. My slumlord neighbor actively ignores the pigeons that gleefully reproduce in his broken down eaves, so now we have a pigeon that sits and poops off the tallest corbel in front of our house. (I know his tenants and other neighbors have complained, so he’s fully aware of the issue.) We’ve lived in this house since 1996 and never had issues until now. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve added “clean off pigeon feces” to my daily to-do list.

    The problem is that that top corbel is inaccessible without risk of death, so I did a little Googling and came up with the idea to draw scary eyes on a helium balloon from Dollar Tree and just fly it out our bedroom window. I see there are products that serve the same purpose, but I’ll always start with the cheap/simple route. I know it’s not a permanent solution, but it is a $1.50 solution.

    I only set up the deterrent balloon a few hours ago, but so far it seems to be working. The pigeon flew away when I set it up and then acted super freaked out when it tried to return, which I consider to be worth at least a buck-fifty! Hopefully it’ll stay away and my porch steps can return to normal. Sans feces.

    * Update — It’s been 24 hours and the pigeon has yet to return!

  3. My daughter brought me a bouquet of flowers that her schwanky grocery store was throwing away. I snipped off any browning leaves and trimmed the bottoms of the stems and they look fantastic!

  4. • I got another free Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell using the app and a “Taco Tuesday” promo code.
    • I made sure to return a couple items to Goodwill before it was too late and/or I lost the receipt.

  5. I didn’t grab the $1 Lear Jet from the clearance shelf.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Month to Recalibrate Our Food Spending

by Katy on September 5, 2023 · 29 comments

August was a discombobulated month. Due both to our two week trip to the East coast, but also thanks to that damned Covid! Our trip was both more and less expensive than we’d planned, but mostly it was a bit of a bummer. Yes, it was great to spend extra time visiting with my sister, but I kinda wish we weren’t responsible for her first case of Covid.

We splurged on takeout, groceries and restaurant meals and picked up the tab whenever possible, which had been our plan all along. I don’t need to run the numbers to know that it wasn’t a sustainable amount.

September is a fresh start. I’m still post-Covid, which means I lose steam easily and have to pace myself. However I still have goals and am setting September to be a month to recalibrate our food spending.

My main goal is to mostly cook from scratch and see if I can reign the grocery budget back in. Food prices are all over the place, but I have almost endless tricks up my sleeve. Simple meals, buying in season, using what we already have — you know . . . the basics! Doesn’t mean we’ll be slopping our plates with unseasoned gruel, as cheap food can be amazingly delicious. I made that blackberry Dutch baby pancake using free almost expired milk from my daughter’s schwanky grocery store and a handful of foraged blackberries. Hardly a sacrifice.

I considered setting a monetary goal for the month, but instead I’m going to just track our food spending with an eye to keeping it as low as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 4, 2023 · 64 comments

  1. I had to take the Prius into Costco tire this week as the passenger side rear tire had a gouge on it and was slowly leaking air. Taking it in was a pain in the tuchus, as my son drives this car to his office outside of Portland but isn’t able to slip away long enough to run errands.

    I was concerned that the car wasn’t safe to drive, so I drove our minivan down to his office and swapped out the cars and still made it to Costco by my 10 A.M. appointment. (He’s nervous about driving an unfamiliar car on the freeway, so I offered up this solution.) I came prepared with a library book and a plan to park myself on whatever couch was up for sale that day. It ended up taking at least an hour and although I did get up to stretch my legs at one point, I didn’t succumb to any impulse purchases, unless you count cat litter as impulsive. I ate two samples.

    The transaction took a weird turn when I received a phone call from the tire center manager scolding me about how I was essentially abusing the “road hazard warranty” and that they weren’t going to be able to continue replacing our tires after this one. However, it felt more bizarro world than upsetting as I’m a competent 55-year-old woman and can’t remember the last time someone scolded me. Not in the workplace, not from a family member and definitely not from a retail interaction.  Maybe . . . high school?

    I left the store wondering if he thought I was deliberately damaging my tires as some kind of warped Munchausen by Proxy syndrome? That I enjoy the attention I get from tire center employees? Whatever it was, I’m glad to be done with it. Weird.

  2. That library book I brought with me to Costco? I finished it by the end of the day, which is very much not usual for me. The book was Romantic Comedy, by Curtis Sittenfeld and don’t let the schmaltzy title fool you, it was whip smart and full of amazing details and perfectly fleshed out characters.

    I don’t want to give too much away, but it follows a woman who’s a TV writer for a fictional SNL-like show who bucks the trend of dorky writers marrying rich and famous women. (Think Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson.) The author fully did her research on how a weekly late night sketch comedy show is produced, which is almost as good as the plot itself. I’ve probably given away too much, so just suffice it to say that I’m giving it an A+.

  3. I’m still tired from Covid and get wiped out pretty easily, so I’ve been trying to pace myself and keep my days pretty simple. Staying close to home is frugal.

  4. • Our daughter gave us an angel food cake and a loaf of artisan French bread from her schwanky grocery store.
    • My husband was able to fix the Prius when the power steering suddenly went out. Yeah, when it rains it pours . . .
    • My neighbor handed me a can of Dr. Brown’s cream soda when she heard about our Covid-tastic dud of a vacation.
    • I used a coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Fred Meyer.
    • We continue to enjoy blackberry everything from my foraging last month. As jam, on yogurt and added to pancakes. I might swing by my secret spot one last time and see if they’re still ripe. Free food is my favorite food!

  5. I didn’t scam Costco for a replacement Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Tiny Frugal Things

by Katy on August 30, 2023 · 69 comments

I’m finally testing negative for Covid and am slowing regaining my normal level of energy. Not a lot, but enough to run a couple errands and look at something besides the four walls of my house. It’s not impressive, but it’s certainly frugal.

Here are my “tiny frugal things:”

  1. I got a free Doritos Locos Taco through the Taco Bell app on Tuesday and I even have some leftover hot sauce packets to use at a later date. There’s one last free Taco Tuesday deal next week and the promo code will be 04TACOTUESDAY.

  2. I ate my free taco while sitting in the Goodwill parking lot. I thrifted a new in package 2004 Ozzy Osbourne Halloween costume, (wig and glasses) for $2, as well as a dress and some earrings that I’m actually going to return later in the week. I’ve already listed the costume on eBay for $75, although who knows if it’ll find a buyer at that price. Can’t hurt to try!

  3. I stopped by Trader Joes on my way home from Goodwill and picked up five 19¢ bananas and nothing else. No snacks, no dessert, no frozen meals, no booze. The store was on my route and required no extra driving. A total frugal win!

  4. • I sold a garbage picked box of World of Warcraft trading cards through Facebook Marketplace for $20.
    • I polished the headlight covers on both of our cars with a microfiber cloth and some extraordinarily spicy toothpaste that no one in my family liked. The mildly abrasive quality of toothpaste does an A-Okay job on foggy headlights and the price is right.
    • Someone on our flight back from NYC gave me his public transportation Metro Card as it still had $6+ on it. I’ll mail it to my sister.

  5. I didn’t pick up a 19¢ Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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