Welcome to Festival of Frugality #307

The “Why Does Everything Always Break at Once?”Edition.

First thing – an apology. This Festival of Frugality post should have been up yesterday morning, but as always seems to be the way, things went wrong at the worst possible moment. (Although my boychild reminds me, there’s never a good moment for things to break or go wrong.)

My computer decided that Monday evening was a great time to come down with the flu. Or in this case, a nasty virus that had my computer locked up tight for a while. Several hours, and a brand new install of Windows later all seemed to be fine. Back on track I could get the post completed and up by end of day yesterday. Or so I thought. Again, Murphy’s Law laughed at my puny attempts and decided that it was a great time to knock out the cable for nearly 24 hours so that I had no internet. Ok, so I don’t know that it was Murphy – it might have been the construction guys that happen to be replacing the elevators in my building and fixing the roof after the heavy rain this week. And maybe one of those guys is named Murphy. Either way… here we are with a late, but packed-to-the-brim with great stuff, Festival of Frugality #307.





Home Sweet Home

Everything Else

Thanks again to Ryan at Festival of Frugality for giving me the honour of hosting this week!
~ Merlene
photo “Broken Computer” by Tara Hunt used under Creative Commons license.

Frugal Food: How Long Will Food Keep in the Freezer?

This is post #3 in the Frugal Food: Freezer series. Be sure to check out post #1 “Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze” and post #2 “Frugal Foods: How to Package Food for the Freezer“.

Frozen vegetables

While storing food longer than the times listed in the guide below won’t affect food safety it will affect taste, nutrients and texture of the foods so it’s recommended that you label all foods in your freezer with the name of the item and the date it was placed into the freezer.

I personally prefer and upright style freezer as it’s easier to organize and find things and there’s less chance that items will get buried at the bottom of the freezer never to been seen for years. Remember, it’s not frugal to freeze food if you leave it in there so long that’s inedible!

Fruits and Vegetables 1 year
Butter, salted 1 year
Butter, unsalted 3 months
Cheese 3months
Milk up to 6 weeks
Margarine 6 months
Egg, whites 3 months
Egg, yolks mixed with 1/2tsp salt per yolk 3 months
Fish, uncooked 2 months
Shellfish 2 to 4 months
Beef, uncooked, roast 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, steak 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, ground 3 months
Lamb, uncooked 6 to 9 months
Pork, uncooked, roast or chops 3 to 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, pieces 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, whole 1 year
Beans, Lentils or Rice, cooked 3 to 6 months
Casseroles 3 months
Cooked meats 2 months
Soups and Stews 4 months
Breads, yeast, baked or unbaked 8 months
Cakes, Cookies, Sweet Breads, Muffins 4 months
Pastry Crust, unbaked 2 months

Frugal, Green & Clean: Cleaning Your Oven Without Chemical Cleaners

A quick and dirty (ha!) post on oven cleaning. Why? Because I’ve been avoiding cleaning mine for the last week and I decided writing about it was a great way to procrastinate yet feel like I’m being productive at the same time 😉

Frugal, green and easy oven cleaning recipe: Mix 2 tablespoons liquid dish detergent, 2 teaspoons borax into 4 cups warm water. Apply the mixture to the inside of the oven – cover walls, ceiling, back, etc. Let sit for 30 minutes then scrub with a scrubbing brush or plastic scouring pad and a paste of baking soda and water. Sponge clean with damp sponge  to remove residue.

All little patience and elbow grease is all it takes!

(Note: while borax is a natural substance it is considered a poison if ingested. Please read this to ensure you use borax safely.)

Earth Day Coupons & Freebies

Happy Earth Day! I’ve gathered together some great coupons and freebies from around the web. Some are valid today only, others are offered for several days. Enjoy!

In Canada:


How Green Are You?



Earth Day is April 22 and I’ll be featuring some ideas on how to live a more frugal, more environmentally friendly life. Sometimes it’s the small actions that can make the biggest difference.

  • Turn if off. Is your TV turned off? Guess again. Even when turned off most electronics use power. To save energy (and money!) unplug electronics when not in use or plug into a power bar and turn the bar off.
  • Adust the temperature on your thermostat. Adjusting the temperature just 4 degrees will save you money and reduce wasted energy. Adjust as you leave the house for the day or better yet install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically based on the time of day.
  • Recycle aluminum cans. Recycling cans only uses 5% of the energy needed to manufacture an aluminum can from scratch!
  • Wash clothing with cold water. About 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating the water. Look for laundry detergents designed for cold water washes.
  • Hang your clothes to dry. For those of you, like me, who can’t hang laundry on a line to dry (I live in an apartment building) you can still use drying racks or hang clothes on hangers on the shower rod. I take most of our clothing out of the washer, hang on hangers and hang them on the shower rod and the clothes are dry within hours. Just be careful not to overcrowd them. Works like a charm :)
  • Say No! to bottled water. Invest $30 and buy a Brita filter water pitcher. Not only will you save money on bottled water purchases but you’ll stop hundreds of plastic bottles from hitting landfills and reduce the energy used recycling plastic – not to mention the toxis released.

These are just a few of the quick and easy small ways we can reduce our environmental impact while saving some money along the way. Makes cents to me.

What small actions have you taken to be a little greener?

Frugal Holiday: 8 Frugal Yet Fun Holiday Entertaining Ideas

The holiday season is in full swing, money’s tight but you want to get together with your friends and family. After all that’s what the holidays are all about – good times with the people you love. I’ve come up with a list of ideas for parties and get togethers that won’t break the bank.

  1. Tree trimming party – gather your friends and family around to help you decorate your tree. Serve hot apple cider and cookies and make sure you load up a bunch of great Christmas Carols on your stereo.
  2. Sledding or skating party – invite the gang to meet you at your favourite sledding hill or ice skating pond for a couple of hours of fun. Have a snowball fight, make snow angels, remember how much fun snow can be.
  3. Tree-cutting party – instead of buying your tree from a tree lot this year head out to the country to a Christmas tree farm and cut your own. Pack thermoses of hot chocolate and sandwiches and have a winter picnic while you’re out. This is especially fun if you have several families rounded up to go.
  4. Board game night – invite a group of friends over to play some of those old favourites like Monopoly, Scattergories or Rumoli. A tray of cookies or sandwiches within easy reach and you’re all set.
  5. Have a neighbourhood potluck – assign each household a course: appetizer, salad, soup, side dish, main dish, dessert.
  6. Craft night – for those of you who love to craft and are trying to make last minute holiday gifts, get together with your like-minded friends to share few hours of crafting while you catch up with your friends.
  7. Cookie exchange – gather up a bunch of friends, assign each a type of cookie (you don’t want everyone to make Snickerdoodles do you…. hmmm… or do you?), everyone makes enough of one type of cookie to swap with the others. This is a great frugal practise. Instead of buying ingredients for several types of cookies you only buy ingredients for lots of one.
  8. Food exchange party- Why limit yourself to just cookies? Why not gather with friends and batch cook cabbage rolls, lasagana, stew, chili and other freezable make-aheads.

Feel free to add any of your own frugal yet fabulous holiday entertaining ideas in the comments below!

8 Ways to Stick to a Frugal Holiday Gift Budget

The holiday season is the time of year when even the most frugalous of the frugal have difficulty sticking to budgets. Here are 8 ways to to stick to a frugal holiday gift budget without losing your marbles:

  1. Always shop with a list of names, spending limit, and ideas. Stick to your list and don’t be dazzled into impulse spending by store displays.
  2. Stick to your budget. If you’ve budgeted $25 for Cousin Joe and you can’t find a sweater under $30, move over to accessories and maybe grab him some gloves. If you go even $5 off your budget per person it will add up quickly!
  3. If you shop early in the season and discover later that an item you bought has been discounted, take it back to the store. As long as you have the receipt, chances are they’ll refund you the difference.
  4. Buy gift cards for the hard to shop for people in your life. Teens, grandparents, and even cranky uncles can always find a way to use the gift card in their favourite stores.
  5. If your budget is really tight this year, give a homemade gift like cookies or a gift of your time, such as volunteering to babysit or mow an elderly neighbour’s lawn.
  6. A family photo album or your family history on dvd is a great and invaluable present for a elderly, housebound or out of town relative
  7. For large or extended families put everyone’s name in a hate and have each family member draw a name and buy a gift for that one person.
  8. Limit your gift list. If you prefer not to exchange gifts with a friend, neighbour, or co-worker this year, just say so. It’s very likely that she’s trying to pare down her Christmas list too!

Frugal Holiday: Chocolate Carrot Cake

Today is day two of Frugal Upstate’s Thanksgiving Mini Series and today’s topic is desserts.

This simple cake is the most requested recipe I’ve ever made. Family and friends rave about it and it’s not only simple to make but frugal as well. Even people who don’t like carrot cake love this moist, luscious cake.

Chocolate Carrot Cake

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of salad oil*
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cocoa
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
4 eggs
2 cups of  shredded carrots
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed walnuts (optional)

*I usually substitute 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil. It significantly reduces the fat but keeps the cake moist.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour Bundt pan. In large bowl, mix 10 ingredients at low speed until well blended, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to high, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Add in carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes; remove cake from pan. Cool completely.

The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Wrap well with cling wrap to keep it moist. It can also be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Drizzle Icing

1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sugar, juice, and vanilla. Stir in enough additional juice to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing from the back of the spoon onto the cake and allow to run down the sides.

You can garnish the cake with a sprinkle of icing sugar on top, or well drained mandarin orange slices.

Frugal Holiday: Beautiful Beet Soup

My friend Jenn over at Frugal Upstate is doing a week long mini-series “Thanksgiving – the Frugal Mini-Series” and while I’m Canadian and my Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago I decided to add a favourite fall soup for today’s topic of Thanksgiving side dishes. Be sure to visit Frugal Upstate every day this week to find more great Thanksgiving recipes, ideas for decorating and more.

This is a gorgeous beet soup. Full of colour and flavour.

It can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated or up to a month ahead and frozen to be reheated in a Crock-Pot or on stove before serving.

6-8 large beets (1.5 lb), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow flesh potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt & pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large, heavy saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Cook beets, potato, onion, celery, and curry for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You might find it easier to work in small batches rather than all at once, returning puree to a clean saucepan.

For a velvety smooth soup you could then take an extra step and pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer but it’s not required.

At this point the soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

To serve, reheat on stove until hot throughout or in a Crock-Pot for 1-2 hrs on low, ladle into soup bowls, top with a spoonful of sour cream.

Makes 8 servings and can easily be doubled.

Frugal Kids – Host a Used Skate Exchange

Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, Canada I learned to skate almost as early as I learned to walk. Skating was a daily activity on local ponds, lakes and the arena in town.

Each year the parents at our school would organize a “used skate exchange” day. Everyone brought in last year’s skates, which were now too small, and found skates just the right size.

Volunteers coordinated tables by size so it was easy to find where to drop off your old skates and find your “new” skates.

At the same time there would usually be a bake sale, hot chocolate or cider to buy and at times even a craft sale.

Not only was it a great way to get new skates without having to buy new it was a great way to raise funds for school projects.

These days we’re often too quick to throw out the old and buy new. This year why not organize a skate exchange instead? This could work great for schools, community centers, churches, etc.

What are you waiting for?