20141030_205257It’s Halloween tomorrow! As always every year I try to carve a pumpkin to be able to light it up. It’s a messy job but it’s pretty fun to do. I usually start out with some ambitious plan to carve the most intricate pumpkin but abandon that after the top is finally carved out. One thing I’ve always regretted is throwing out all the insides of the pumpkin. There are a ton of slimy guts and seeds that just get tossed away each year! Well this is the year I’m going to do something about that!

Eat it
Of course this is the first thing that comes to my mind! I’ve already taken the pumpkin seeds and roasted those. Next up I have to figure out what to do with the slimy stuff. For now I’m thinking I can puree it and then whip up some baked goods. I can also make vegetable stock, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie, pumpkin butter and etc etc. Lots of options there!

Here’s what I did to roast the pumpkin seeds.
1. Separate the slimy stuff from the seeds. The best way to do this is to put it all into a bowl of water and reach in with your hands and pull it apart. Rinse the seeds.
2. Boil the seeds in salty water for 10 minutes.
3. Drain and pat dry.
4. Set the oven to 325 degrees. Place the seeds on a shallow pan without as much overlapping as possible. Sprinkle with some olive oil and then dust with paprika.
5. Roast for 10 minutes.
6. Take it out of the oven and stir it up. Put back in for another ten minutes. The last 5 minutes check the seeds by taking a few and cooling them down to eat them. The inside seeds will cook and burn a lot faster than the shells so be careful! When finished the shells will be nice and crisp and the seeds still green.
7. Eat!

Make spa treatments
The other thing I think I’ll try is a facial scrub and a body scrub! My hands felt pretty soft after I was finished scraping out the inside. There are tons of nutrients in the slimy pumpkin parts that are good for skin.

Facial Scrub
1. Puree the pumpkin slime.
2. Add brown sugar to the pumpkin puree. Recipe didn’t say how much so use your best judgement.
3. Add a splash of milk.
4. Apply and wash off after 20 minutes.
5. Keep scrub in the fridge for up to a week.

Body Scrub
1. Puree the pumpkin slime.
2. Mix 2 cups pumpkin, a cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup of honey.
3. Apply in the shower and gentle scrub. Rinse.
4. Keep scrub in the fridge for up to a week.

Compost it
Last option is to compost it all. This includes the pumpkin after it gets all nasty and such. One suggestion I found while Googling is to use it as a planter and then just stick it straight into the ground to decompose and provide nutrients. I won’t be using it as a planter most likely but I can still bury it in some corner of my backyard.

 

It’s a lot better to make use of as much of everything as possible! Pretty cool to see what you can do with things I thought were just trash before.

Happy carving time!

What were you able to do with the leftover pumpkin insides after carving a pumpkin?


Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

I’ve traipsed my way through a good 7 different cities in the past 2 weeks and while I’m out some money, I’m also well rested and my legs got some good toning up. As vacations do it flew by extremely fast and before I knew it I was on the plane flying back home. We flew out to Rome, Italy 2.5 weeks ago, hopped on the cruise ship and went to 6 different places. Crete, Mykonos, Ephesus, Athens, Santorini, and Katakolon! It was a big whirlwind and each day was a bit crazy but it was a nice way to see a lot without too much hassle.
This was actually the second cruise I’ve been on and there are things I learned the first time around to save money this time. I love cruises because they are all inclusive room and board, but at the same time I dislike how almost everything but the basics is an additional fee. We didn’t bother with modern niceties like internet because it was $25 a day! Yep, that’s a day. Not the entire trip. My internet bill for a month is about that much. That’s just one example. It’s the worst part about being on a cruise when they are trying to sell you things every single minute you’re on there, but if you know how to avoid it then the cruise experience is still pretty wonderful. We also made sure to stay a few extra days at our end port of Rome so that we can enjoy vacation sans cruise ship too!
Here’s a quick general cost breakdown of the entire trip to see how much we spent for both of us
$2600 for the 9 day Mediterranean cruise (for the third option up room-wise)
$2600 for round trip airfare plus 4 nights of hotel in Rome (we bundled this through Expedia to get cashback and basically the hotels were free after the bundling)
$1400 for spending money for food, gifts, fees and transportation

We also had $175 of onboard credit to use which we put toward an excursions we wanted. That’s a total of about $6600 that we spent on a two week honeymoon! There are certainly areas we could have spent less, and many many areas we saved money on.

Spending a little more for our honeymoon
We definitely could have spent less on the cruise itself with a lower cost room. The lowest priced room is small without any windows in the interior of the ship. We decided for our honeymoon to get one on the outside with a large round window to enjoy the view. Cost more but we figure for our honeymoon we could do it once.

Beware of buying extras on the ship
Going on a cruise with the mindset that nothing is free will help keep your money in your wallet. Everything costs something even if you “win” a prize. We didn’t spend any extra money on anything on the ship except for what was already included in the overall price. This means internet, drinks like alcohol and soda, special dining restaurants, bingo, casino, algae detoxifying cleanse, fitness classes, photos and more and more. The first day I had actually won a body composition test to tell me my body fat percentage and what I could do to work it off. After a long session I was told I needed to also detoxify my body and was presented with a special $300 algae cleanse. On sale of course at a special price only available on the ship.

Excursions can be a double-edged sword
We did book 2 excursions on the ship to use our on board credit. If we wanted to really save money we should’ve booked it off the ship with other companies. We chose the two that would’ve been more complicated to do so because of multiple destinations and far locations to the port. They are easy to take but what ends up happening is that you get taken to special shopping areas where prices are jacked up just for tourists. In Turkey we were even taken to a carpet presentation to buy hand-made Turkish carpets for thousands of dollars. Luckily we look young and were not approached by any salespeople.

Look straight ahead and walk quickly
While I loved being able to to visit so many places in a short span of time, it also meant I ended up in very touristy areas. The locals are used to this and will spend all their time trying to sell you their wares. They’re pretty aggressive and will be yelling at you to come in and some will even touch you. If you don’t want to buy anything then don’t even look around because that’s an invitation for several people to converge on you. If you wanna spend money them let them fight over you! Otherwise it can be a nuisance to have people trying to sell you things all the time.

Taking advantage of public transportation and other alternatives
The easiest thing to do of course is to hail a cab and pay obscene amounts of money for them to shuttle us around for half an hour. In LA cabbies are the best option if you don’t have a nice friend to bring you to the airport. Luckily in Europe they have great public transportation and we took full advantage of that to save some mula. We took the trains a lot to get from the airport and to ports. One thing I did wish I spent more money on was to get on the express train so we wouldn’t have to deal with our luggage and a lot of people.

In Santorini there were two options to get from the port to the main city. 5 euros for a donkey ride or a cable car. As much as I wanted to try the donkey ride I didn’t want to burn my clothes afterwards. I took the cable car.

 

This was most likely our last big trip for a while and we certainly tried out best to enjoy it while not spending all of our money! We had a wonderful time with what we had already paid for. The ships already have a ton of free activities that we took full advantage of. The first day we walked round and poked in every nook and cranny. There was mini-golf, rock climbing wall, billiards, shuffleboard, jacuzzis, pools, soccer, basketball, shows, a gym, buffets and nice dinnertime dining. There’s more but I won’t bother listing it all out. Our few days in Rome after the cruise was also amazing and it was great do things on our own schedule too.

What’s the biggest vacation trip you’ve ever done and how did you save money on it?


Photo Credit: I Believe I Can Fry via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: I Believe I Can Fry via Compfight cc

Just another day in LA with accidents backing up traffic on the highway in the morning and even in the evening! Usually traffic is already pretty bad but whenever there is an accident it gets even worse. Somehow one accident also sets off more in a chain reaction as rubbernecks slow down to see what happened and instead cause another crash. Traffic is pretty common in LA and so are accidents. I always have a back-up plan just in case it’s one of those days when I don’t need to get home right away and can do something else to wait it out. Definitely helps with my stress level and blood pressure!

That back-up plan? Of course since it’s me it involves food most of the time! Sometimes if I have errands to run I figure I might as well but for the most part I decide that i might as well enjoy a good meal. This worked out really well tonight as my husband took me to a Mexican place to try it out. We saw a line out the door and didn’t know why. When we got closer we saw the big sign advertising the Tuesday special of $5 for a burrito, quesadilla, salad, or a taco plate. Score! We would’ve paid the normal price and been happy but finding an unexpected deal was even better.

Weeknight dining means nightly specials
It’s always the weekdays and nights that have the best deals on food! During lunch there are always specials that are usually under ten dollars or so. During the weeknights there are also usually great dining deals. A common one around here is taco night where you can nab a taco between $1-$2. Whole Foods has specials also every weeknight. One night they offer any pizza for $10, another night it’s $2 off their hot/cold bar.

Not as many go out to eat on weeknights and restaurants have to find some way to lure people in. Some specials aren’t so great of course but tonight dinner for my husband and I was only $10.90! It would’ve been $18 without the Tuesday night special. It’s also a great pick me up to occasionally go out to eat on a weeknight after a long day at work. Otherwise I can be inclined to sink into my couch and turn into a lump.

Online or call ahead ordering
Great specials mean that it can be pretty crowded and busy. It took us a long time to finally get to the front of the line to order. Many restaurants have online ordering or call ahead pickup that can cut down on your wait time. Next time we might try that before we leave. The guys behind us actually did try calling to beat the line but I think they ended up waiting just as long. We saw them exit after we were seated and munching away.

Don’t get so excited you leave your purse (murse) behind
It can be a great special but don’t leave your stuff behind! We saw that someone had left their purse on a seat. I can only assume that they were so excited to only pay $5 for a great meal that they then ran off afterwards forgetting all their important worldly possessions. We left it with one of the cashiers so hopefully she/he gets it back!

 

The hardest part about having a frugal lifestyle is cutting out dining out as much as I did before. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of dining out once a month like super frugal people. Well until I have kids that is. I hear that you’re forced to when that happens! I’ve cut out a lot of fancy dining options and have definitely tried to cut back to a few times a week only. For someone like me who loves food so much it’s a pretty big deal.

Do you have a favorite restaurant you go to that has a great weeknight deal?


 Photo Credit: guillermogg via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: guillermogg via Compfight cc

When is the last time you actually paid attention to the tag sewn to the inside of a shirt? Usually when I go shopping the tag I look at is the price tag to see if it’s affordable or not. It’s not until recently that I started being more aware of what materials go into making all our clothes.

Most of the clothing sold in the USA is made of synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon. Stuff that is cheap to produce and thus means a cheaper price tag. It confirms to the American demand for cheap and plentiful products. Those materials aren’t great for you though and can be smelly and pretty hot on a warm day. Even though those clothes might be cheap initially they also don’t last very long. I’ve been being more careful to always check the type of fabric before I buy anything. 100% cotton is much harder to find that I thought! Organic and recycled fabrics are even harder to find.

Pricier but lasts longer
This isn’t always the case but overall I’ve found that brands with higher price points tend to have better quality items. The upfront cost will be more but then the clothes will last much longer. I used to shop at places like Forever 21 where everything inevitable gets a hole or a few holes in it. Everything is pretty inexpensive there but they don’t bother making the clothes well because they figure most people change their wardrobes every season.

Better for my health
I have sensitive skin and a lot of things can set off some irritations. Breathable fabrics like cotton are much better and feel more comfortable. It doesn’t stick to me as much and as I wear it gets softer over time.

Earth-friendly
Synthetic fabrics are made using petroleum and chemical processes. Organic cotton and alternatives like bamboo and hemp uses process with less chemicals and no bleaching. It’s definitely more expensive to buy but if it’s better for the environment I’m for it!

 

Slowly my wardrobe is turning over from cheap synthetic fabrics to ones that will last much longer. A lot of my tees and tanks actually have holes in it but I’m trying to be frugal and use it til it falls off. Haha the life of someone trying to save money!

Do you ever look at the tags when shopping for clothing?


vanillaextractSometimes it’s pretty fun trying to make your own ingredients. My sister made a big batch of homemade vanilla extract and used it for Christmas gifts! Pretty smart and saved a ton of money. She saved some of the leftover beans she had and gave them to me to try it out myself. The beans were pretty dried out but I decided to try making it anyway. It’s pretty simple and fun and I’m hoping it will turn out even though the beans are a bit old.

Costs involved
Vodka – $5.99
Vanilla Beans – FREE! Though I would’ve spent about $6.30 for the amount I used.

Potential Uses
Not only would I have a lifetime of vanilla extract but I can also use this for gifting too. All I need to do is buy some small bottles and then gift it away. Hehe, not an original idea of course because my sister did do it before me. Doesn’t mean I can’t do the same thing too! With homemade vanilla extract I can also keep adding more vodka as I use it up. The extract intensifies for 6 months until I’m supposed to strain out the beans.

Here’s the recipe so you can try it yourself.

Vanilla Extract

Ingredients
-1/4 lb of beans for every quart of vodka you have
-vodka
-clean bottle with cap, green or brown work best if you have it to block light

Instructions
1. Chop beans into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Place vodka and beans into bottle.
3. Keep bottle in a cool dark place.
4. Shake bottle daily for one month. May use at this point but leaving the beans in longer will allow it to intensify.
5. After 6 months strain out the beans.

If this ends up working then I’ll have 24oz of vanilla extract. Guaranteed without any preservatives and additives. If it doesn’t then I’ll have some vanilla flavored vodka. It’ll be fun to see what happens!