March 26, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 23 - March 26

I have been busy today priming the walls in my living room and getting ready for a coat of the base color. I worked for as long as my back would allow. The entire time I was painting I was looking forward to settling down and reading the Tightwad Gazette. We’re beginning the last section of the book and soon we will be finished.

Have you learned anything new that you are incorporating into your life? I hope so.

Well, let’s start our reading today with gardening.

Page 206 - Container Gardening

If you don’t have the space that Amy has in the country, she advises that you can do container gardening on a rooftop, fire escape, balcony or patio that is sheltered and sunny.

Containers can be moved. Most gardens need a minimum of 6 hours per day. Amy stated that you can plant most any kind of vegetable in a container.

“Containers can include redwood tubs, stone planters, terracotta pots and half barrels. However, since this is the Tightwad Gazette I encourage you to look for less expensive alternatives, such as apple boxes, bushel baskets or laundry baskets with trash bag liner. The best inexpensive solution is the 5 gallon bucket. Plastic containers will heat up more and tend to dry out the soil so extra care must be taken.

Container gardens need more drainage than regular gardens.

I know very little about gardening and although we have a regular sized backyard and I could put in a small garden, it would be futile since we own a black lab that likes to dig.

But last summer I did grow some herbs and such in a window box on my deck. I grew basil, chives, thyme, marjoram and garlic chives. When I needed basil, I just walked outside and snipped some leaves. I am definitely going to do this again this year.


Amy has taken a lot of abuse about using dry milk and she is ready for the abuse to end. This article examines the attributes of milk.

Before we get to the article, my parents used dry milk all the time. My dad would mix up 1/2 gallon of the dry milk and then he would mix it with 1/2 gallon of regular milk. Back then we drank whole milk so I wonder if the reason we didn’t notice the difference is due to the fact that whole milk has more fat and is creamier. Or perhaps the reason is that we were always served milk this way so there was no way to compare. It did save my parents a lot of money. We were given government surplus dry milk when my dad was laid off from his job.

So here is how Amy examines dry milk.

1. Taste – She would lose if she tried to tell you that you wouldn’t be able to taste the difference. It is an acquired taste. Many foods such as coffee or diet cola were an acquired taste. You probably didn’t like them the first time that you tried them.

Dry milk tastes best when chilled overnight and consumed with a meal. Amy said that they used to mix dry milk with store milk, but they ran out one time. They served dry milk for dinner and their kids didn’t notice the difference at all, so that was when they changed totally. In fact, there children made the comment that they love milk.

2. Economy – At the time Amy said that one gallon of store bought milk ranged between $2.19 and $2.59 a gallon. Dry milk costs them $1.40 per gallon. They consumed about a gallon of milk per day, saving them $30 a month.

3. Health – Dry milk is 100% fat free. Whole milk has 4% fat so when mixed half and half, you will end up with 2% Milk.

4. Versatility – By mixing with half the amount of water you can make a mock cream that can be substituted for expensive creams in pies, quiches and sauces. When a soup recipe calls for cream or milk, mix the dry milk with saved vegetable broth. You can make your own hot cocoa mix.

5. Convenience – Think of dry milk as a staple as it does not go bad. They never have to make last minute trips when they run out of milk as they always have this on hand.

Amy does say that this is one of those tips that she leaves up to each family. It’s not for everyone, BUT, you should at least use dry milk in cooking.

I totally agree about everyone must decide. I really believe the reason my mom and dad were using dry milk, was due to the fact that they were given a lot of dry milk when my dad was out of work. Anything that they were given from the government surplus food program, they used.

My family would not drink reconstituted dry milk but I do use dry milk in baking and that saves money.


Readers were always writing to Amy for inexpensive recipes. She said that you just have to choose recipes with inexpensive ingredients, but you can also take an expensive recipe and make it less expensive.

Here is a recipe for a Seafood Casserole that Amy took and made it with less expensive ingredients. The original recipe at the time cost about $8.00 to make. Amy’s version costs $1.81. Prepared without white wine would save another 40 cents.

Seafood Casserole

4 to 5 oz. pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup milk or dry white wine
1 can condensed cream soup (mushroom or celery)
1 cup shredded American Cheese (4 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or dill
6 to 8 oz. drained canned seafood (shrimp, crab, tuna or salmon)
1 recipe crunchy topping

Cook pasta or noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Combine mayonnaise with milk or white wine. Stir in soup, cheese and seasonings. Gently stir in cooked pasta or noodles and drained fish or seafood. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with Crunch Topping. Bake 5 minutes more. Makes 6 servings

Crunchy Topping: Combine 1 cup soft bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter or use 1 cup of either crushed potato chips, chow mein noodles or French-fried onions or ½ cup slivered almonds.

Remember – these are 1992 prices.

Pasta – Amy is able to get pasta for 33 cents a lb. She increases the amount by 2 oz. as the casserole was a little too saucy.

Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing – Buy store brand @ 99 cents per quart.

Milk or Dry Wine – Wine is more expensive, but Amy likes the flavor.

Condensed Soup РShe makes a mock cream of celery soup Рmelt 2 tablespoons of margarine in a saucepan. Saut̩ 2 tablespoons chopped celery. Blend in 2 tablespoons flour. Add 1/3 cup dry milk powder and 2/3 cup vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until smooth.

Cheese – Use any mild cheese that is purchased on sale. Shreds are usually more expensive than block cheese, so you can shred your own. I think you could probably cut back on the amount of cheese you sprinkle on the casserole. Try 3/4 of a cup to see if this will be enough.

Seafood – Tuna is the obvious choice. They stock up when it goes on sale.

I love tuna casserole. However, my family hates it. I like my tuna casserole made from a homemade white sauce that has about 1 slice of American cheese melted into it. Then I stir in cooked pasta, drained tuna and some frozen peas. Pour into a casserole dish and top with seasoned bread crumbs. When Weight Watchers entrees are on sale at a low price, I will buy a couple of the tuna casserole kind so that I can have my tuna casserole fix.


Amy interviewed a doctor of veterinary medicine and a board certified veterinary internist. She also received input from two licensed animal health technicians. Here is what she came up with.

1. Major pet food companies have done a great deal of research into animal nutrition. It would be very hard to come up with a home pet food that duplicates the combination of protein, fats and nutrients found in commercial pet food. Amy went on to say “While your pet might seem to do well, in the long run it might suffer from a nutrition deficiency, obesity, and/or have a shortened life span.

Remember the pet food poisonings of a few years ago? Several pets died from bad pet food and at the time there were numerous internet sites showing you how to make your own pet food. If this is of a concern to you, I would say that you definitely need to talk to your veterinarian about making your own pet food. Veterinarians are your best friend when it comes to caring for your pet. It may not be cheaper to make your own pet food, but if you are worried about the quality of commercial pet food or the safety of feeding your pet commercial pet food, talk to your veterinarian first.

2. The veterinarian that she interviewed said that you didn’t need to buy a super-premium dog food. “Some of the companies that have put a long term effort into developing good food are Purina, Pedigree Expert, Alpo and Ken-L Ration.”

We feed our dog Iam’s dry dog food and our cat is fed Royal Canin cat food that we purchase at the Vet. I am able to get the Iam’s on sale for $16.00 for a 17.5 lb. bag of food. It generally lasts us 3 weeks. The cat food costs $13.00 for a 4 lb. bag and it lasts us for 1 month. Our dog is 11 years old and our cat is 14 years old so we feed them the food that the vet recommends for older pets. We take them for checkups once a year and the vet always tells us that they are very healthy, especially for their ages.

3. Stick with name brands. Generics or store brands may contain hooves and tails as a protein source which is hard for dogs to digest.

4. Don’t over feed your pet. Follow the directions on the bag.

5. A good dry food is generally nutritionally equivalent to a good canned food. Dry food is cheaper.

6. Don’t buy more pet food than your pet can eat in a month. Once opened, the vitamins in the food start to degrade. Also, store it in a cool dark place such as a garbage can. When I open the bag of cat food, I pour out half of it and put it in the freezer to keep it fresh. If you do this, make sure you tell your family members that there is cat food in the freezer and that it is not a new snack.

7. Pets do not need variety in their diet so don’t switch their food unless it is necessary.

8. Dogs can tolerate an occasional homemade snack. I make homemade dog biscuits for our dog.

PAGE 212 – WHAT TO DO WITH . . . .

Broccoli Rubber Bands – cut in half to make two usable rubber bands.

Watermelon Seeds – dry and save to mix with bird seed.

Cereal Boxes – Make magazine holders for the publications you save.

Bread Bags – Cut in half and use the bottom half as an alternative to expensive sandwich bags. Use the original tie to close.

Mesh Onion Bags – Make into scouring pads. Just twist and secure with a rubber band.

Butter Wrappers – Save and store in the butter compartment in your fridge. Use when buttering the tops of hot homemade bread fresh from the oven.


Amy and her husband both brought a library load of books to their marriage. She has made a list of the books that she recommends for your library.

1. A Dictionary and Thesaurus

2. A Family Medical Guide

3. Cookbooks containing basic recipes

4. A basic home maintenance book

5. Books covering your special area of interest.

Take advantage of borrowing books from the library. Well, numbers 1 through 4 can be found on the internet, so you don’t need to buy or borrow these books. As to number 5, if you want to own these books, you can easily purchase these half price or less online.

Last year my in laws bought me a Kindle. I love books and over the years I have purchased many. I haven’t been able to read a lot lately, but I am hoping that come this summer I will have the time. I do love owning a Kindle as I am able to get free books or books for 99 cents. Also, when we were driving to New York last year to visit my mom, I would read a book on my Kindle and when it was done, I could simply download another and would be able to start reading it within two minutes.

As to whether a Kindle is a Tightwad gadget, it is if it is a gift – that’s for sure.

For tomorrow, read page 219 through 229. Discussion tomorrow will be on thrift and the environment, tightwad ethics , a frugal meal and homemade salad dressings.

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