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?


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?


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!


Photo Credit: fiftynightshades via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fiftynightshades via Compfight cc

After a long Saturday spent doing some proper painting of the bathroom to a light gray, my husband and I were pretty relieved to be finished. It was a three day weekend but we had essentially planned on the worst case scenario and not planned anything for the entire weekend in case things went wrong with painting. We even primed and did two coats of paint and were able to finish it all in less than a day. With the exception of a big splotch of paint in my hair from trying to get the area behind the toilet we were pretty fine. Along came Sunday and we realized we still had Monday off.

The conversation pretty much went along the lines of something like this:

Husband: It’s labor day tomorrow.
Me: Yay and we both have tomorrow off.
Husband: We should do something.
Me: Yes we should.
Both: Invite some people over and bbq?

After this we made a few calls to some friends to see if anyone didn’t have plans for the next day. Lo and behold some people didn’t! Then we realized that we needed to get a ton of food and it had to be somewhat easy and ready to cook already. A trip to a crazy packed Costco was the solution to our problems. We went through and tried to find the easiest items possible for a last minute dinner. Certainly not what we would usually do, and we definitely paid more money to get some pre-made items!

Saving mula by cooking from scratch
Whenever we throw a party, no matter how small or large it is, we generally like to plan two weeks ahead of time to make sure people have enough notice and to be able to make a lot of the food ourselves. We both like to cook and we’re pretty decent at it so it’s a fun time to flex our muscles to see what we can come up with. This usually involves marinating items a day before at least, homemade baked goods, and of course freshly made dishes. Making a ton of food from scratch saves us a ton of money and then we don’t feel like we’ve just thrown a bunch of money away. Pre-made items tend to cost more because it’s been prepped and/or cooked already. It also allows us to have more parties without feeling too guilty. Most of our friends also like to contribute and bring a dish or two. We do end up doing the majority of food but it helps.

Not being able to control the quality and taste
We ended up grabbing some pre-marinated pork ribs and a veggie tray from Costco to minimize how much work we had to do. Price-wise it wasn’t really too bad at all but we weren’t sure how the ribs were going to taste. Luckily it ended up being pretty good and we were pretty happy. Other pre-marinated ribs we’ve tried have ended up having a store bought generic taste that we don’t want to eat and wouldn’t want to serve to guests.

With our habits we ended up still not spending a ton of money, but I’m sure we could have planned it better if we had planned ahead! We also could have saved ourselves some headache by not having to go to Costco at one of it’s busiest times. It was a pretty good labor day for us and the “bbq” went off without a hitch. We didn’t end up bbq’ing anything at all and just used the oven to slow cook the ribs til they fell off the bone.

How was your labor day weekend?


Photo Credit: The JD Collection via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: The JD Collection via Compfight cc

For those of you who haven’t heard about In-n-out it’s a fast food burger joint mainly in California. It started with one place and now has ballooned to be all over California and in other states also. It’s a must have here and visitors who come request it! If you know what Shake Shack in NY is then this is the exact equivalent with one big difference, price! In-n-out prides itself on using fresh quality ingredients and on keeping the price point low. I know that it’s been said time and time again but in this case it’s absolutely true!

I have to admit that I’m a bit spoiled to be living in California with so many In-n-outs for me to choose from. I don’t usually eat fast food because it’s unhealthy but I make an exception for In-n-out. Prices are calculated based on the nickel instead of raising the prices to be almost dollar amounts. Everything is made fresh here and the menu is simple and easy. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes is all that you will find here.

Quality with fresh ingredients
All their burgers and fries are made fresh to order. Nothing is previously frozen and everything is sliced or hand torn the day of. That means fresh beef, hand torn lettuce, newly sliced tomatoes, freshly chopped onions, and potatoes peeled and sliced right before going into the fryer! They even have their own warehouses to be able to butcher their own meat and keep the quality the same across all their locations.

Low price point
With all this emphasis on quality you would think that the price of a burger here would be at least $10. Try $2.05! For a cheeseburger you would play a whopping $2.35. Fries are $1.60 and shakes are $2.10. Pretty crazy low prices here. You can also add additional items to your burger without incurring extra costs unless you go for animal style. Animal style means that you get some thousand island dressing with grilled onions with your burger. It’s absolutely delicious and you can even do it for your fries. Other fast food places are feeling the pinch of the recession and have raised their prices. No longer is fast food dirt cheap. In-n-out has kept their prices low as much as possible.

How do they do it???
Unwavering commitment to quality and low prices has made In-n-out a favorite of everyone who’s ever eaten there. Okay, maybe not everyone, but I only know one person who doesn’t like it! Each burger is created using an assembly line format where one person does one thing and moves it down the line. They’ve definitely got that down pat and are doing it right. Never had a bad burger from there. They’ve created a cult following because of their quality, price, and ability to deliver perfect burgers each and every time. It’s amazing!

I could go to In-n-out often and I would still be saving money over going to other restaurants. Slap down $5 at the counter and I could walk away with a burger and fries with change to spare. Of course I would just ask for a free cup of water to wash down my deliciously frugal meal. I don’t know how exactly they pull this all off, but I just hope they continue.

I confess that I just ate at In-n-out tonight for dinner. I have a guest in town visiting and she requested it for dinner! I don’t go very often though even if it is a meal under $5.

Have you ever eaten at In-n-out before?