Monthly Archives: October 2011

My Crazy Love for Halloween

Yes, I know, everyone loves Christmas. I live with a Christmas lover….he starts singing carols in July. During the recent freak October snow he’s been humming Winter Wonderland. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit Grinch-y, but I’m ok with it.

Here are all the reasons Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday:

1) You get to dress up. I love anything that gives me a reason to dress up. I will do it every year until I’m dead.

2) Pure gluttony. You are expected to eat candy until you are ill. You get to indulge in all those horrible treats you try to avoid the rest of the year.

3) No gifts! There’s no stress over getting gifts for anyone or worrying if you spent enough/too much, or if the person will even like what you got them. All people want is candy and booze (for the grownups) and that’s a beautiful thing.

4) Fright! I love scary stuff, unless you’re talking about real spiders in my home. I love creepy, deranged, evil, spooky stuff.

5) I love the history of it. I love folklore and Celtic/Pagan traditions. One of these years I’ll actually carve some turnips instead of just pumpkins. I love that it signifies the end of the living year and a thinning between worlds. Especially now it very much signifies to me the end of the harvest. There’s a stark contrast at the market now (and in my garden) that reflects this greatly.

My tattoo of a sugar skull, drawn my my amazingly talented brother. Yep, that's how much I love this stuff.

6) Its close proximity to another favorite of mine: Dia de los Muertos. Again, on the topic of spirits, I like the notion that your loved ones who have passed can come back again in spirit for just a brief time. Then, the world sleeps until spring.

7) It’s fun. There’s no stress of cooking a big meal, or shopping, or travel. Just whip up a costume and get on with it.

It will always and forever be my favorite. Stay tuned because I’m going to have a whole post on the costume I made this year!

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My Recipe Binder

The cover of my recipe binder.

Part of pinching pennies is eating at home. So in my quest to be more frugal, I made up a fresh, organized recipe binder for myself. Having interesting meals planned out will prevent me from saying, “Hey let’s go out for dinner,” or “Let’s order pizza.” As fun as that is, it’s not the wisest use of our money right now.

I should tell you I already had a few recipe binders. One was super small so it ended up being a catch-all for folded up recipes. It was a freaking mess. The next one was a larger binder that had pocket folders in it. It held the recipes better, but since they were piled up on top of each other in the pockets, I couldn’t flip through them easily.

I took a basic 3-ring-binder (get a bigger one than you’d expect, trust) and made a cute cover for myself with some food-related pictures I’d taken. Before I filled out the tabs on the dividers I sorted the recipes to see what I was working with.

My "Breakfast" section. My apologies for the blurriness.

Since we eat seasonally I figured I should separate the veg-dominant recipes by seasonal group. So one tab is “Spring/Summer” and the other is “Fall/Winter.” Then I realized I had a bunch of breakfast recipes, so I grouped them together. We don’t eat tons of meat so rather than having a tab for each type of meat, all the meat centered recipes have their own tab. The others are “Ethnic,” “Soups, Salads, Dips,” “Desserts,” and “Easy Peasy.” The easy ones consist mostly of pasta dishes, sandwiches, and other things that come together in less than 30 minutes.

I would really suggest making your own tabs like this instead of going with classic recipe binder categories. You’ll probably be pretty surprised at your balance of recipes. For instance, I think in the future I may make subcategories for my “Dessert” tab because it’s much more full than I ever thought it would be. I could easily break it down into “cookies,” “cakes,” “quickbreads,” and more.

Most of my recipes are from magazines so I got a 100 pack of clear slip covers for super cheap at Target to put them all in. This way I can flip through easily and if I have it out while cooking, I don’t have to worry about the recipe getting stuff spilled on it.

Now I just need to make sure to look through it on a weekly basis and pick new dishes. I have been meal planning and although there are a billion templates you can use online, I just jot notes to myself in my planner, and continually change it during the week.

Coming up I think I will make some classic sausage and peppers because I need to yank out all my bell pepper plants. I also need to figure out more stuff to do with my swiss chard.

So there you have it. Do you have a recipe binder or have you been meaning to make one? Do you regularly plan out meals to stay sane and save money?

And around we go!

It seems a lot of the time things work in cycles. Or it seems that way to me at least. Recently we realized (much to our chagrin) that a bonus payment for Chris’ job we thought was coming….didn’t. The whole thing reminded me a lot of Jenna’s “dangerous money” post where a slightly similar thing happened.

So I did like I usually do when I’m blindsided and that is have a private hissy fit and then put my big girl panties on and deal. (It’s a good thing I get to stage 2 because otherwise I don’t think I’d have too many friends.)

A few years ago, when I got back to my DIY roots, a lot of it was inspired by being on the edge of broke just after our move to NY. Since then things have gotten a bit more comfortable and although I will always love a good deal, I’ve been lax with being frugal.

This whole debacle lit a fire under me to do things I’d simply been putting off. I got out a binder and plastic slip covers and organized all of my recipes. I should’ve done this ages ago and it helped me remember all sorts of great recipes I wanted to try.

This leads me to the next part of my plan which is planning our meals using mostly what we already have. I have lots and lots of food in this house. I get a CSA share each week and many of our staples are purchased from local farms or can be made at home.

Which is where we arrive at the third leg of this plan. Way back in the winter of ’08-’09 I started to make my own bread. Then it was onward to yogurt, tortillas, and lots of other staples. As with coupon clipping, setting a food budget, creating a meal plan, and bargain shopping, I’d begun to get lazy with this too.

It’s very easy when I’m at the farmers’ market twice a week to procure items from the other vendors. I feel like my money is going somewhere good, and a lot of times I get a discount or get free stuff altogether. I’m ok with all of this, but it meant I was using my moola instead of elbow grease, and I should know better.

I just spent a few minutes organizing my little coupon holder. I have already figured out my meals for the week. I am fully prepared to be a smarter consumer and to find other ways to payoff the fence (that’s where the bonus was going to go). I just hope that 2 years from now I’m not telling the same tale all over again.

Let’s hope I’m smarter than that.