March 16, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 13 - March 16

Well, I got some rest last night, got my son all packed for his trip to Chicago and he is already there now. I needed an evening free from posting to spend time with my family.

But, in saying that, I was equally glad to get back to reading the Tightwad Gazette tonight. I am going through some extreme saving right now by having a $20 a week budget for groceries for the next 5 weeks. If I need advice or encouragement, I can open one of the three volumes of the Tightwad Gazette and I will find what I need.

Let’s get started with Page 127 and homemade presents.


Amy starts out with this comment “Unless your children have been brainwashed extremely well, they will not appreciate receiving only homemade presents for Christmas, but I like to give each child at least one.”

I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there that are surprised that Amy only gives her kids one homemade present at Christmas. I do like the idea of giving one homemade gift to each child or adult for that matter. Years ago that was about the only gifts given at Christmas. I have a child’s size wooden ironing board that my grandfather made for my mother when she was a little girl. I have a few more of his homemade gifts that he gave her years ago.

Here are some ideas that Amy gave for homemade gifts for children. I won’t be listing all 25.

1. Bean bags. How many times have you been at a Carnival at your child’s school and you have stood in line at the bean bag toss. It seems that while the kids are waiting a few of them are always tossing bean bags in the air.

2. A Scrapbook with pictures and such already compiled.

3. A dress up box filled with dress up clothes from yard sales.

4. Play Food – save all small food containers like spice cans and plastic containers. Look at yard sales for any play plastic food or take pudding or cake boxes, cut Styrofoam to fit and then cover with clear contact paper.

5. A Lady’s pocketbook – Fill a thrift shop purse with a ring of old keys, wallet with play paper money, pictures, old credit cards, an empty compact.

6. Homemade Play dough –

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 cups cool water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Food coloring

Mix the dry ingredients together in a big cooking pot. Blend all the liquids together in a bowl. Combine with the dry ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when dough pulls away from the sides of the pot and can be pinched without sticking (about 5 minutes). Turn onto board or counter and knead until smooth and play dough consistency. I recommend doing this between plastic wrap. Store in airtight container.

I can tell you that this is a great recipe that I used when my kids were little. I made a lot of it and gave it away in those good ole margarine tubs.

7. Sew a doll blanket and pillow – made from an old blanket of course.

8. An apron with pockets for tools or play kitchen utensils.

9. Large floor pillow for watching t.v.

10. Make a bulletin board for their room.

Most of the items that she suggested were made from scraps of wood or fabric that she had on hand or the materials can be purchased quite inexpensively.

Page 130 – BREAD CRUMB COOKIES (A Genuine Tightwad Recipe)

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup melted shortening
2 cups bread crumbs

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry mixture. Add melted shortening and bread crumbs. Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.

You can substitute a heaping tablespoon of soy flour and one tablespoon of water for the egg. Also she had good success with substituting 1/3 cup applesauce for 1/3 cup of the shortening.

I have never tried this recipe nor have I used soy flour to replace an egg in a recipe. However I have always wanted to try the recipe and the egg substitution. With the price of eggs these days, it would save quite a bit of money in baking to use this substitution for eggs.

I will price soy flour when I am at the grocery store and compare it to eggs to see about the savings. Then I will have to test this one.


Amy has a rule in her house that all leftovers go into the freezer otherwise they will sit in the fridge and may become forgotten. On leftover day, she removes the leftovers from the freezer in the morning.

All tightwads, Amy says, fall into 7 basic categories:

1. The Menu Management Method – There are no leftovers.

2. The Leftover Lunch – Always eat supper leftovers for lunch.

3. The Perpetual Soup Container – Leftover remnants, like sauces, bits of meat and vegetables, soups, go into a large container kept in the freezer. When the container is full, make homemade soup.

Another version of this is to save the vegetables from a meal and meat in separate containers in the freezer. Then she makes a pie crust and pours the vegetables and meat into the crust, tops with a thickened broth and the top crust for a pot pie.

4. Smorgasbord Night. Thaw a variety of leftovers, warm them up and set them out on the counter for everyone to have their choice or a little of each.

5. The TV Dinner Method. Take the leftovers and spoon them into individual t.v. trays or microwave plates and freeze for individual servings.

6. Serial Leftovers. You deliberately make too much of something because you have a repertoire of recipes that use this item as an ingredient. You cook a ham and then slice it for sandwiches, chunks for a casserole, the bone and broth for soup. I like to fry up extra hamburger and freeze it so that I have it on hand for a quick meal. When I make up pie crust, I make more than I need and freeze the extra crusts in flattened balls. They thaw quickly and these are perfect to have on hand when we are going to have quiche for dinner.

7. Leftover Wizardry. Once you are skilled at cooking you will see that many ingredients are interchangeable. Leftover hot cereals and fruits can be used in making muffins, pancakes, waffles and cakes.

Quiche is a great leftover dish. Amy uses a rice crust for her quiche. She takes 1 ½ to 2 cups of leftover cooked rice, adds 1egg and 1 oz. of grated cheese for an 8 inch pie plate. Pat this mixture into the pie plate and bake at 425 degrees until firm. She then makes the egg filling as follows: Amy’s basic recipe for a quiche is 2 beaten eggs, 2/3 cup dry milk powder and 2 cup vegetable broth (saved water that the vegetables were cooked in). Add a pinch of salt pepper and nutmeg. Pour into the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or til solid.

My recipe for quiche calls for 3 to 4 eggs and 2 cups milk, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Many times I use leftover meats and cheeses that are getting dried out. When used in a quiche, you would never know that these ingredients were leftovers or that the cheese was dry. Here is what I can add to the egg base:

Option 1: Bacon and shredded Swiss cheese with some minced onion

Option 2: Chopped Ham and shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese with some minced onion and broccoli

Option 3: Leftover taco meat, cheddar cheese, leftover corn, chopped tomato, peppers and onion with a little chili powder.

Option 4: Leftover chicken, ½ teaspoon thyme and cheese

I use a regular pie crust with my quiche. If you think about it, take a meat and cheese and vegetable that would go together in a meal and you will be able to put it into a quiche. This is a wonderful way to use up leftovers.

Amy goes on to say that you can create your own casserole by combining meat and vegetables with a sauce (leftover gravy, white sauce or a canned soup) and a topping like bread crumbs or cheese.

I have one rule about making casseroles from leftovers; I don’t want to end up with more leftovers than I started with. For example, I use leftover chili mixed with cooked macaroni baked in an oven topped with cheese. My goal is to only make enough of us for 1 more meal. If I still have some leftover chili even after I have used it for Chili Mac, I freeze it to use in chili dogs.


In this section, Amy discusses the idea of scaling down Christmas. I think if anything in the past few years many of us have scaled back our spending on Christmas, and we were still able to have a nice Christmas and give our family gifts they enjoyed. It is a matter of planning ahead and being sensible.

Amy has several ideas for scaling back on Christmas.

1. Her first suggestion is to hide all of the advertisements that start to come out during the holidays.

2. Develop inexpensive holiday habits such as attending a church play, drive around to see the Christmas Lights, family decorating of the Christmas tree.

3. Attempt to find out what other relatives are giving to your children, so you don’t duplicate.

4. Make some homemade gifts.

5. Sit down with your family and discuss the budget for Christmas. Perhaps if you are to give gifts to relatives you could give one family gift instead of an individual gift to each family. Offer the idea of spending limits. Last Christmas, my husband and I sat down and discussed a budget for Christmas presents. It was the first time we had ever set a budget. When I worked, and with both our incomes, we were able to buy whatever we wanted to buy for gifts. When we set up a budget, I was diligent about looking for sales and buying early or finding other options in order to stay within our budget. I was amazed that we had no problem in sticking to the budget. We had a beautiful Christmas.

6. Don’t try to put into effect all of the above at once. In other words, it is better to be realistic and not try to scale down too quickly unless you are experiencing dire circumstances. Instead work towards a gentle transition over a period of a few years.

There is fear when you are cutting back.  Fear that no one will understand and people will think you are cheap,  Worse yet, that you don't have the Christmas Spirit.  But you have to start somewhere.  The madness of charging Christmas has to stop.  You may be the first of your friends and family to make a decision to cut back, spend less and even make some gifts.   I say go for it.  Others may feel relieved and follow you.

Page. 135 – The Spendthrift Christmas Debt Chart

Amy has a chart in the book that you could easily replicate. She lists possible amounts that a person could spend for Christmas and charge on a credit card, and then she lists months. Basically she shows how long it would take to pay those amounts if you only make the minimum payment.

You can find several charts on line in which you can insert an amount, with your credit card interest along with the minimum payment and it will show you how long it will take for you to pay off. It is a good exercise to do so that you are kept on track by not putting purchases on a credit card.

Page 135 – Bread Dough Recipes

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water

Mix this together and form into different shapes in order to make Christmas ornaments. You can use cookie cutters or you can actually shape the dough into a snowman or whatever you choose to do. Bake your completed item in a 350 degree oven for at least 1 hour. Paint and when dry dip in polyurethane, shellac or clear nail polish.

I like the recipe for cinnamon and applesauce dough that you roll out and cut with a cookie cutter for decorations. I am not an artist so I have trouble shaping things from scratch, but I can cut out ornaments with a cookie cutter and it will turn out grand. These smell wonderful too.

Here is my recipe:

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

1 cup cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup applesauce
2 tablespoons white glue

Mix the spices. Add the applesauce and glue, stirring until well blended. Work the mixture into a dough until it is smooth and thoroughly mixed. Divide into 4 portions and roll each portion between 2 pieces of waxed paper. Roll to ¼ inch thickness. Cut dough with cookie cutters. Using a straw or toothpick, make a small hole at the top of each ornament so that you can put a ribbon through this when the ornaments are done. Place on wire racks and allow to dry at room temperature for several days. When dry, put a ribbon through the hole so the ornament can be hung on a tree.


Amy gives her husband’s recipe for candy that they use for gift giving

Fruit and Nut Candy Bars

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup light cream
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 – 3 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup chopped mixed dried fruits
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 lbs. white dipping chocolate

Line an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Butter the foil and set the pan aside.

In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, light cream, and the 1/4 cup butter or margarine. Cook over medium heat to boiling, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. This should take about 8 minutes.

Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Mixture should boil at a moderate, steady rate over the entire surface. Remove pan from heat. Add cream cheese; stir until smooth. Add powdered sugar, dried fruits, nuts and vanilla; stir until well combined. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Chill about 1 hour or until firm. When firm, lift foil to remove candy from pan; cut candy into 2 inch by 1 inch rectangles.

Melt the dipping chocolate. Carefully dip the rectangles, one at a time, into the melted chocolate. Let excess coating drip off rectangles. Place dipped rectangles on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper until dry. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Makes 32 candy bars.

Well it here is March and we are talking about Christmas. Honestly I think that each month we need to think about Christmas and get a plan together and set aside some money for gifts. Christmas always seems to creep up on us, and we always think we have plenty of time. Better yet, look for some possible gifts as they go on sale right now. How about scarves and gloves? Just keep it in mind and now is the time to also consider making any homemade gifts. Get out your sewing machine now and do a little bit at a time so you don’t have to pull a couple of all nighters come December.

Tomorrow’s reading will begin with Debts and Down Payments – hmmm. As always, Amy gives us something to think about. So, read page 137 through 148. There will be several tips. The reading ends with The Snowball Principle which is a great article. There is always something we can glean from Amy Dacyczyn.


Maureen said...

Thanks Martha, more great tipa and ideas.

Maureen said...

Looking forward to tomorrows debts and downpayments.
thanks Martha.

Audry said...

It's NOT to early to start thinking about homemade Christmas gifts! I always wait until November. :-) But...this year I've already made 2 batches of wine jelly, and today I'm making apple butter. House smells great! Thanks for the wonderful post. I love Amy!

Anonymous said...

I start making my homemade gifts in January and do them all year. Right now in the van I two scarves and hats I am working on for the new babys we are getting this year, in the livingroom are the two blankets I am making for my daughters best friends(who are always at my house) and upstairs I have washcloths and some leg warmers. I find it I spread it out it all gets done and I can work on it wherever I am.

great job by the way