Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Things I've Learned from The Tasty Cheapskate

Hello friends!

This post was supposed to be written in January. I'm a wee bit behind.

I've been crazy busy with writing and life which is why The Tasty Cheapskate will be slowing down. From here on out, I may post an amazing recipe, or a group of favorites for you, but I won't be posting regularly. With any luck, I will have a Kindle version of my favorite recipes for you to purchase sometime next year.

For now, I wanted to share with you what I've learned from writing this blog. When I started, it was our goal as a (young) family of six to eat on $6/day. We came pretty close! The second half of the year, that figure moved up to $10/day. We could do that pretty handily. Now I sometimes spend more than that a day (closer to $13/day), trying to keep our food budget at around $400/month. Below you'll find a few of the things that I still cling to to keep our food life cheap while still eating as naturally and healthfully and deliciously as possible. Cheers!

1. Cook most of your own food. I mean, somebody shut the door, right?  Earth-shattering advice happening right here. But, seriously, it's the biggest and best tip I can give you. Food will almost always taste better, be better for you, and be CHEAPER if you make it at home. You don't have to go crazy (unless you want to). You don't have to make your own yogurt or kimchi or grow your own tomatoes for sauce or bake all your own bread (unless, again, you want to). But make dinner at home and life will be cheaper. Take a sack lunch and life will be cheaper. Skip the drive-thru for breakfast and life will be cheaper. No guarantees here but your waist might get smaller too.If you have to cheat, cheat. Buy a bagged salad (cheaper than even a fast food salad). Buy applesauce in the little cup things for your kids. Buy breakfast cereal for heaven's sake if you want to. But don't go out all the time (do go out sometimes if you're exhausted or want to--just not all the time). Even expensive food is cheaper and usually tastes better if you make it at home (hello triple layer chocolate cake). There are so many resources these days from food blogs to allrecipes to pinterest to everywhere. You're not stuck with grandma's cookbook. You can find a million and three good recipes with a million and three reviews to boot.

2. Don't eat more than your body wants or needs. I just can't stop with the earth-shattering revelations here. But one of the most expensive things we can do is eat (and cook) more than we need. Yeah, I know it's easier said than done. I feel you, people. Just don't cook and eat like it's a holiday every weekday. Keep your portions small.

3. Don't waste food. Try not to over-buy food (especially perishables). Try not to overcook and end up with things people won't eat for leftovers. This takes a little trial and error, but if you care about it, you'll get it and it will save you TONS of money. Americans waste 50% of their food every month (that's not all home waste; it's grocery stores and farms too). But we easily throw away a good 10-20% of our food budgets every month. You do the math. That's a lot of money that just went into the bin. It's a carbon footprint. It's a budget slap in the face. Sometimes I'm a little crazy about this and I am trying to be more moderate so we don't wind up with a fridge full of odd little bites of leftovers all the time. But if it's a serving-size leftover, I keep it. And then I try to remember to eat it.

4. Speaking of... Eat your leftovers. I try to have leftover nights and bring out all the stuff we've got to eat. I eat leftovers for lunch. And it is AMAZING. Why would anyone NOT want to eat leftovers for lunch??? They're delicious and cheap and take NO time to prepare. If you're not doing this, you are missing out on one of life's great delights, time-savers, and indulgences. Yeah, I just called leftovers an indulgence. I'll do it again if I have to. You're leftovers are better than most restaurant food. Eat them.

5. Along these lines...Keep the refrigerator clean. Because if you really don't eat all your leftovers, it's okay. You're sill human. I know sometimes we have good intentions, but just don't get to those leftovers. It's okay. Clean them out of the fridge, make adjustments to your cooking or shopping, and try again. Keeping a messy fridge (or freezer) with rotten food won't reduce your food budget. It'll just make your crazy and maybe sick if your weird kids go and eat that rotten food.

6. Eat less meat. If you don't eat less meat, eat it with cheap side dishes like rice or potatoes. We're not writing about diet ideas here, so if you just can't stomach potatoes, or you're on a keto diet, so be it. But meat is cheaper if you pair it with something inexpensive.

7. Breakfast for dinner. We did this back in our cheapest days. And we still do it. It's fun, it's easy, it's time-saving. Your kids will probably eat it.

8. Quick foods. Have some quick foods on hand, even if they're cheats. Pull out the pasta, the croissant rolls (to wrap meat or cheese into), the bagged salads, the tortillas, the beans and rice if that's your jam. Easy things to make when you're about to order a pizza. Try not to eat these every night or you'll grow hopelessly bored, but they're really nice in a pinch. And the truth is that every time I almost order food and then drag my butt into the kitchen and whip something up, I end up relaxing and feeling better about life and the night. Try it.

9. Have a plan (ish). Even if it's just a sloppy Pinterest board. Kind of knowing what you'd like to make for the week saves you money and makes cooking more fun and makes life less crazy.

10. Clean up together. When your kids are old enough, cook together. This isn't cheap necessarily, but it keeps you from slavery, which is nice. It makes it more fun to cook and eat together if you are not the family servant.

BONUS! Have fun and give yourself a break sometimes. Eating cheap is a great way to slim your budget (and maybe your waistline), but don't let it become an unhealthy obsession. Let it be fun. Let it be freeing.

Long live cheapskatery!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ten Best Christmas Cookies


I'm having a cookie-baking party on Saturday. We'll be making some of these. Because they're the best.

1. Chocolate Sugar Cookies (that hold their shape). If you, like me, really want to like sugar cookies because they're so pretty and festive and traditional, but you just can't because they always taste like dry sugary lumps of flour coal, this recipe might be for you. Flavorful, beautiful, chocolate. Need I say more. (pictured above)

2. Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies. So so good. If you don't like Marciano cherries, no worries. You can top these with other delights.

3. Molasses Curls. Pretty (this picture is NOT doing them justice), delicious, and not very difficult, these are Christmas in a crisp. Not interested in rolling a cookie and filling it with billows of whipped cream (have you no soul?), you can make their flat sisters, Cinnamon Oat Crispies (which has a simple GF adaptation).

(Molasses Curls)

(Cinnamon Oat Crispies)

4. Chocolate Cookies with Orange Sugar Edges. Sophisticated and amazing. These are one of my all-time favorite cookies.

5. Seven Layer Cookies (Magic Cookie Bars, Dolly Bars). The best. Easy enough for an 8-year-old to make. (Also, why have these not gotten a photo re-do. Seriously. I make them EVERY year. We must eat them too fast.)

6. Molasses Crinkles. My favorite ginger/molasses cookie. And I've made quite a few.

7. Dutch Almond Bars. These remind me of The Netherlands and Christmas all wrapped up in a pretty box together. Also, SO easy. You mix, like, five ingredients with a spoon, pour in a pan, and bake. Done.

8. Katie's Chocolate Sandwich Cookies. These will melt you into a puddle of sweet agreement and holiday love. If you'd like, you can roll the edges in peppermint.

9. Speculaas/Speculoos. A traditional Dutch/German cookie. All the spice cookie goodness with the soft chewiness of an American cookie. Right here.

10. Easy Double Chocolate Cookies. And in case you crack under the cookie pressure. (Don't. It's gonna be alright), just make your favorite Chocolate Chip or Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip recipe and throw in some holiday M & M's.

Well, folks, you can definitely see how my photography skills have evolved over the years...

My daughter might be manning a teen/tween table making the easiest ever cheater gingerbread houses.

Merry Christmas!!!

(My favorite salad recipes coming January...)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ten Best Pies


So, uh, I noticed something as I was picking the "best of" pies on The Tasty Cheapskate. At least 50% of them are chocolate. I don't know what to say, except that we are people of weak moral values. Why don't we eat more fruit pies? What about nut pies? How can you eat this many of the same pie type of pie and feel good about yourself? What is wrong with getting to know pies that are different from you, huh? I'm sorry, friends, I truly am. We should have a delicious strawberry pie, an amazing cooked peach pie. We should have lemon. And berry. And chess. They are delicious and I love those types of pies.

But I will say this. What we do, we do well. Each and every chocolate pie featured here will make you want to lick the plate. Clean.

But since it's almost Thanksgiving, we'll start today with pumpkin.

1. Pumpkin Pie. This is the best one I know. Pumpkin pie is lovely because it's so much easier than most people think. May you never buy overly-bright-orange pumpkin pie from the Wallymart again.


2. Vegan Pumpkin Pie. In the event that you are a vegan, or want to feel good eating pie for breakfast because it's healthy. This is for you, baby. Also, I think the post is kinda funny. I mean, kinda. In a me, kind of way.

3. Chocolate Pie with Latticed Cookie Crust. This is my favorite chocolate pie for Thanksgiving. It's basically like a big cookie with a chocolate filling. Yeeesss, we have pumpkin and chocolate pies for Thanksgiving. I think we've established that we have issues, okay.

4. Chocolate Orange Mascapone Cheesecake Pie. And this is my favorite pie for Christmas. Yeesss, I have enough chocolate pies on my blog to designate them for different holidays. We've established that a problem exists. Would you please stop harping on it? I'm sure I'll get help for it soon.

5. Peanut Butter Pie. Oh look, a non-chocolate pie. That may or may not have a chocolate crust with chocolate garnish. But, come on, we're branching out, right?

6. Classic Apple Pie. Okay, fine, you win. Here is a classic fruit pie for you. Oh so classic. And oh so amazing. Also, completely gorgeous. And if you make it for the holidays, you're kids can go nuts doing cute little seasonally appropriate dough cut outs. Fun for the whole family!

7. Easy chocolate Pie. Hey, look, we're back to chocolate. What d'ya know? This one was my first chocolate pie love. Simple, rich, delicious. And SO EASY. Three ingredient filling! If you're looking to save time and still be amazing for Thanksgiving, pick this one.

8. Raw Peach Pie. This one is seasonally inappropriate. But it's so good, it needed to make the list. Plus, I needed it to diversify. It's like the one ethnic character on that TV show you like.

9. No Cook Chocolate Mousse Pie. Are you in love? This is the pie for lovers. (Or addicts, I suppose.) So, yes, I it's our Valentine's chocolate pie. So rich. Surprisingly easy. Potentially gorgeous.

10. Chocolate Chunk Chocolate Pie. And I saved the best for last. Yes, it does have the word 'chocolate' twice in its title. (You know, it's rude to keep pointing out my weakness publicly like this.) Creamy chocolate-chess-pie filling with chunks of chocolate throughout. I love this pie. The end.

If you happen to eat things BESIDES pie on Thanksgiving, I've got some tips for baking, brining, and other stuff HERE and HERE.

I hope to get to a cranberry post next week, but just in case I don't, check out some of the recipes in THIS POST.


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