March 25, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 22 - March 25

Well, I spent time yesterday and today priming the walls in my living room. I was ready to get back to reading in the Tightwad Gazette.

Today we will be discussing parties, weddings and saving money on baking supplies.  Let’s get started with a Pirate themed Birthday party.

PAGE 193 – The Pirate Birthday

Amy goes into detail to explain how she put on a frugal pirate birthday party for her son.

She looked at what she had on hand and advised that you need to be prepared to abandon ideas that do not work or cost too much.

1. She had a treasure hunt around their property.

2. She baked a sheet cake and frosted it off white and brown to look like a pirate ship map. It also had her son’s name on it with candles.

3. She was going to make pirate hats out of newspaper and spray painted black. But Amy was out of black spray paint, so she abandoned the idea.

4. Party Decorations – They constructed a “pirate ship” made out of materials they had on hand. The ship was located in the open area of their barn and that is where they ate their cake and ice cream.

5. The take home gift was chocolate gold coins.

6. The party cost under $10. They spent $6 on the chocolate gold coins, and the remainder on ice cream, store brand soda, and confectionary sugar. Amy has put together other parties for $25 including presents.

This is an example of birthday parties in my mind the way they should be. Some of the best birthdays our kids ever had were ones where we made the pizzas and the cake. We decorated the dining room with crepe paper and homemade decorations. Then if the weather was warm we played games in our backyard. Our youngest son has a birthday in January so we took the kids sled riding on a hill here in our town one birthday.

While other parents go out and spent a lot of money on parties to be held in restaurants or other venues, you can put on a fabulous, fun party at your house. And since it is for kids, you don’t have to do a lot of cleaning before the party.


Amy was getting a lot of questions from new tightwads as to what to do with the egg cartons, Styrofoam meat trays, juice can lids and other things they were saving. Amy makes a comment that I think is really interesting “It’s easy to get the basics of hoarding turned around. We don’t save things for the purpose of throwing away less. We save things so that we buy less.”

You can take a juice lid and paste a child’s picture on one side and a magnet on the other. These are perfect for the fridge and better yet, for grandma’s fridge.

Other uses for juice lids: poke holes in a juice lid and put it in the bottom of a flower pot to keep pebbles in. As it rusts, the iron nourishes the plant.

School teachers can use some of the things that are saved and you can always call an elementary school to see if they could use any items.

If you do have quite a stash, you should develop the habit of looking to it first for a solution. If you have a wobbly table, you could put three or four juice lids underneath the table leg. Also, if you are short on space, limit yourself to a certain amount of what you save. For example, the maximum amount of glass jars you will keep is 5, juice lids you will save no more than 25 at a time.

I keep all of the glass jars that I can. I find them so useful in storing some dry goods such as rice, storing leftover soups, using to shake up a batch of salad dressings, as drinking glasses (this is quite trendy to re-use spaghetti sauce jars for drinking) and one of my favorites is to use chili sauce bottles for a vase. I also save margarine cups to use to pour fudge into to give as a gift at Christmas and I also use margarine cups to pour paint into when I am painting. It is the perfect size to hold in my hand.

Here is a picture of what I save. Note that the plastic tray underneath the dish soap and the hand soap held some Roma tomatoes. It is perfect for my sink. Also I store all of my baking chips in coffee canisters, the green berry baskets are used at Christmas to put homemade candies in to give away.

I don’t re-use any meat trays, but I reuse the trays that vegetables such as fresh broccoli come in. These are perfect for craft projects and also as cookie trays for giveaways. I keep the parmesan containers to store dry bread crumbs and to put baking soda in for cleaning. The lid has holes on one side and is open on the other side so it makes it perfect for these two items.

And of course, there is the chili sauce bottle that I save to use to put a few flowers in. I have several of these and I plan to set these around different tables with a flower in them for our son’s graduation party. I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t rain that day as the party will be in our backyard.

If you haven’t ever saved items like the above, start saving a few and see how you can reuse them. I’m always amazed when I am in need of some kind of storage item that I can go to my basement shelf that holds these items and I can usually find a solution.


Before we get into this article, I am going to express my opinion on weddings today. They are out of hand as far as the cost. It is almost sad at the money that is spent on weddings. When I got married 30 years ago we had a nice ceremony and then it was the custom to go to the reception hall of the church for cake and punch. Now it is the custom to have a big party after the wedding, which has more than 5 or 6 attendants, to which the guests are invited to a sit down dinner, dance and alcohol. But, it is their choice to have what they want to have and I shouldn’t judge. It’s just that with the cost of these weddings, one could easily have used the money for a down payment on a house or to pay off debt. Oh and I almost forgot, most of these couples are putting the expense of their dream wedding on credit cards.

I say save the money, have a beautiful wedding without all the bells and whistles and invest some of that money into good pre-marital counseling. That is money better spent.

Okay, so I will get off my soap box and now let’s turn to Amy Dacyczyn and budget weddings.

Obviously the cheapest way to get married is to go to the Justice of the Peace or in our area a Judge or Magistrate. The objective of a wedding is to not spend as little as possible or enough to impress royalty. “Rather it is to spend enough to satisfy your reasonable expectations while not going into debt.”

Now you can print beautiful invitations on your computer complete with the picture of the couple on it. The same is true of programs. For my son’s rehearsal dinner, I made the food. It was a very good turkey casserole, coleslaw, fruit salad, assorted quick breads such as pumpkin, banana and applesauce. For dessert I baked my DIL’s favorite sugar cookies and my son’s favorite oatmeal scotchie cookies. The cookies were served with ice cream.

I had help making the food and the casseroles were made ahead of time and frozen. I provided the supplies and gave the recipes to several ladies who had volunteered so I had quite a lot of help. The rehearsal dinner was held at our church and it was enjoyable as we didn’t have to worry about getting to a restaurant too early or too late and it was quite conducive to conversation.

1. The Contribution Gift. Different family members contribute different items toward the wedding. Amy gave the example that at her Uncle’s wedding a friend donated a vintage car for transportation, Amy made the invitations, a relative made a professional wedding cake and friends played music at the wedding and during the reception. Now an IPod and speakers with a great play list is all you need.

Other weddings have had centerpieces made of winter greens and table linens and dishes lent out. If people know you are on a limited budget, they will rise to the occasion to help you out.

The Potluck Reception: Amy said that “before you gasp at this tacky suggestion, let me make a case.” Most catered meals tend to be poor. The potluck food can be superior. Pot luck does not mean tuna casserole or Jell-o in Tupperware. Guests will bring their specialty. Also the potluck dish is done in lieu of a gift. Amy suggested that on the RSVP card you can print “We are planning a potluck reception. If you would like to bring a contribution as your wedding gift, please specify.” Include a place for them to write in something. Also include a blank next to “I will call for a suggestion.” Provide your phone number.

Other Receptions: Summer outdoor receptions, at home receptions and church hall receptions are other possibilities. Hey, isn’t this what people did years ago? Why not go retro and have your reception at home?

The Attire: Consider buying a wedding dress at a reduced price from a store when they are selling discontinued dresses or borrow a dress. For the guys, suits can be worn and for the bridesmaids, be sure to consider a dress they can wear again.

The Rings: Shop around but true Tightwads would buy rings at a pawn shop. With the price of gold today, shopping around is a definite. If you can’t afford a huge diamond ring for an engagement ring, then buy what you can afford, but do shop around. My husband bought me anniversary rings over the years – 10th and 25th. My 25th anniversary ring is more expensive and bigger than my wedding and engagement ring set so I wear this now as my primary ring. It is the ring that he would have bought me when we were engaged, but he couldn’t afford at the time.

Don’t go into a lot of debt for the rings. I think there is this growing trend to purchase these huge diamond engagement rings that cost thousands and then the couple finances the rings and ends up paying for them for a few years. That is ridiculous especially when they may be going into a lot of debt for the wedding. Just my opinion.

The invitations: Make your own.

Flowers: Choose fresh flowers in season. Do simple corsages and bouquets or have the attendants carry 1 single rose. I was invited to December wedding one time. The colors were deep green and plum. The attendants carried evergreens that had colorful gold accents. It was very elegant and since this couple got married at Christmastime, the church was already decorated.

The cake: Have a smaller bridal cake to cut and then have sheet cakes.

Photography: You can choose a professional or an amateur. If you go with an amateur, make sure they take plenty of pictures for you to choose from. I would never go with an amateur for myself as these pictures are the ones that will be in your photo album to look at for a very long time. Instead I would work with a professional photographer and also have an “amateur” take pictures of what the professional photographer doesn’t take. For example the amateur can take a lot of candid pictures. But, you need to let the professional photographer know ahead of time about the friend that will be taking the candid pictures. Also you can have another friend record the ceremony for you.


“As a general rule home-baked foods cost 1/4 to 1/3 of the store bought price.

Flour – At the time, Amy was able to buy 25 lb. bags of flour for $2.88 or 57 cents for 5 lbs. When staples go on sale, they stocked up. I do the same thing. In the fall as it gets closer to the holidays, baking supplies go on sale. It is at that time that I do my best to purchase as much flour as I will need to get me through to the next holiday season.

I take the 5 lb. bags of flour and put them in the freezer for 24 hours. This prevents bugs. Then I store these bags in big Rubbermaid bins into which I have sprinkled a lot of bay leaves to also prevent bugs.

Whole Grains – Whole grain flour, oatmeal and cornmeal cost more than white flour. But because whole grains combine with other foods to make a protein, they are a good value.

Wheat flour Substitute – Add 1 tablespoon of wheat germ to a cup of white flour as a substitute for wheat flour.

Milk – Use powdered milk in baking. When a recipe calls for cream or condensed milk, mix powdered milk with half the water. You can also buy buttermilk in powdered form. A reader sent in the following recipe for Sweetened Condensed Milk:

1 cup instant nonfat dry milk solids
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons melted margarine

Combine all ingredients in the container of an electric blender (or pour in a bowl and use electric mixer). Process until smooth. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Yields: about 1 ¼ cups.

The price of powdered milk goes up and down just like regular milk, so watch the prices. I try to use powdered milk in my baking as it is a convenience. Just like everything I price it and if it is cheaper than regular milk, I buy it. If it is the same price, I still buy it for the convenience.

Eggs and Oil: Here is an egg substitute for baking. Take 1 tablespoon of soy flour (or powder) and 1 tablespoon water for an egg in baking. This is cheaper than eggs and is cholesterol free. If you are going to make your own convenience mixes you could use powdered milk along with the soy flour concoction and you would only need to add water to your mixes. I have never tried this but since the egg scare last year and with the price of eggs, I may have to give this a try,

If you are doubling or tripling a recipe in baking (such as muffins), you can eliminate one egg.

You can cut back on eggs and oil in a recipe without significantly changing the final product. I have done this with oil in that if a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, I will take out 1 tablespoon. BTW – 4 tablespoons equals ¼ cup. So for ½ cup you will need 8 tablespoons of oil, so decreasing it by 1 tablespoon is still a good amount to decrease and if you continue to do this, you will save money on oil.

You can substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in some baking recipes. “Substituting applesauce for fat works well when the taste might not compete with other flavors (such as cocoa) or where the fat content might not be critical.”

Sugars – You can make brown sugar by taking 1 cup of sugar and adding 1 tablespoon molasses. You would need to do the pricing to see if this would be cheaper, but it is good in a pinch if you are out of brown sugar. You can cut back on sugar in a recipe. I have cut back on sugar but not by a whole lot. It depends on the recipe. If a cookie recipe calls for ¾ cup granulated sugar, then I will take out 1 tablespoon.

Here’s an interesting tip that a Reader sent to Amy:

“When shopping for sugar be sure to purchase baking soda. One can save half or more on sugar usage and cost when making pies, cobblers, fruit cakes and fruit salads by using baking soda to neutralize the acid content in these types of dishes. For instance, if one used 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a fruit pie, only about half the usual amount of sugar is needed to get the desired sweetness.” Hmmm – I am going to try this the next time I bake a blueberry pie.

Nuts – Amy rarely bought them because of the expense. At Christmas last year I was able to get 1 lb. of Fisher pecans for $3.00. They went on sale for $4.00 and I had a $1.00 coupon. They are stored in my freezer.

Yeast – Find a source of bulk yeast. If you use the envelopes of yeast or the little jars, you may not be saving as much as you think by baking your own bread. I recently purchased a 2 lb. container of Red Star yeast for $4.99. I consider this a really, really good deal. I keep the yeast stored in two spaghetti sauce jars in my freezer. When I am ready to bake, I take out the amount of yeast I need for the recipe and I let it come to room temperature before using.

Years ago (about 20) I was able to purchase 1 lb. of cake yeast from a local bakery. I would cut it and measure out 1 tablespoon portions, wrap them in little pieces of plastic wrap, put in a container and freeze until I was ready to use them. I just thawed the yeast to room temperature. Each portion was equal to an envelope of yeast.

Herbs and Spices – Buy in bulk at a Natural food store. You can also look for the Spice Time label (still being produced) that are sold at discount stores. I am able to get a large container of cinnamon at a really good price. Everything else I buy on sale with a coupon. I am limited in my community to where I can purchase bulk herbs and spices. If I am near a larger town that has a big grocery store, I will stop by to see if they sell herbs and spices in bulk.

Baking Powder- Make your own by mixing 1 part baking soda and 2 parts cream of tartar. This eliminates the aluminum found in commercial brands. Now you can purchase aluminum free baking powder for about the same price as the regular baking powder. Do not make up this recipe ahead of time as the homemade version doesn’t have a long shelf life.

For March 26th, let’s read page 207 through page 215. Amy gives advice on taking a casserole recipe and changing it so that it is cheaper. There are also numerous ideas of how to reuse certain items and she even talks about dog food.

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