Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Frugal Zealot" Economy

The Tightwad Gazette : Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative LifestyleAuthor: Amy Dacyczyn

Some of you may remember this book.  Amy Dacyczyn was interviewed on many television talk shows in the 1990's for her sometimes wise, sometimes absurd frugal ways.  I list a few here for you that I find practical for my own home economy.

PICKLE JUICE  Yes, we do actually save pickle juice.  Have done for years!  My kids, in fact, think this is normal.  My husband and kids are very fond of "Virgin Marys" and often have contests between them to see who makes the best-tasting.  You may, of course, use yours for a "Bloody Mary," if you're able to keep it on-hand long enough.  You'll find pickle juice to be indispensable for salad dressings, marinades, and pickled eggs, which are the best for tuna salad.  Just be sure to boil them first.

TOILET PAPER TUBES  These are a good way to organize your electrical cords.  They even give you a nice surface on which to record the length of cord.

DRIED-OUT BREAD  Don't ya just hate to find that half-gone bag of bread tucked way back behind the cutting boards?  How long has it been there?  The kids won't eat it now.  You don't want it.  But with all those preservatives it hasn't turned green.  Well therein lies your blessing, friend!  Lay it out on the counter for a few hours, both sides, then make crumbs out of it in your food processor or blender.  You know how perfect this will be for meatloaf and meatballs, but think of mixing with a bit of butter or bacon fat then with cheese or seasoning and tossing atop your next casserole before baking. 

CARROT PEELS, ONION SKINS, & CELERY LEAVES  If you've ever watched the cooking shows on PBS, you may know who the Frugal Gourmet is.  His name is Jeff Smith and I, for one, miss his shows.  Amy includes his advise in her book (much like my previous blog post about trimmed veg) about using these when cooking up turkey or chicken bones for soup stock.  I include it here as it is more detailed about giving examples of "Trimmed Veg."

FISH CAN COOKIE CUTTER  At first I thought this was one of her "absurd" ideas, but then I realized 1. How sturdy these would be compared to many store-bought cutters, and 2. How many shapes one is unable to find in the store.  I think it worth a mention.

HOT COCOA  Here, Amy has included a handy comparison:
Consider Swiss Miss and Carnation provide 4% of the USDA of calcium, as well as being remarkably more expensive.  Amy's "Tightwad Hot Cocoa Mix" provides 22% of the USDA of calcium at a fraction of the cost.  Try it and see for yourself!

1/3 cup dry milk
1 tsp. cocoa
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup hot water

Create your own mix packets for ease.  Make them pretty for gifts.  Go ahead, mommies, be impressed with your good prudence!

1/2 cup ammonia
1/3 cup vinegar
2 Tbsp baking soda
1 gal. water

Keep stored in a clean gallon jug, ready to refill your squirt bottle.  Write the recipe on the jug with Sharpie.

3 cups sugar
3 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp butter flavoring
1 tsp maple extract

Bring it all to a rolling boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Turn the burner off, leaving the pot on until the bubbling stops.

AQUARIUM WATER  This is something in which I was particularly interested because I keep houseplants and a garden.  I'm learning that this is a natural plant fertilizer.  Fish waste is a natural organic compound.  Many of the same compounds being dumped are precisely what we purchase in-store to fertilize our plants.  Mind, however , not to use it when medicating your fish.

ONION BAGS  Yup, pretty cheap.  But then who needs to know?  You don't ever need to buy a box of Brillo again.  Tie'em up and scrub away.  You'll always get a new one before this gets too worn.

HOMEMADE SHAKE'N BAKE  This recipe equal 20 store packets at 25% the cost.
4 cups flour
4 cups cracker meal
4 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
3 Tbsp paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix and store in tightly covered container indefinitely in refrigerator.

STAIN RECIPE  Amy tells us this is from a woman who owned a used children's clothing store.  Need she say more?

1 cup powdered Cascade
1 cup powdered Clorox II
5 gallons HOT water

Soak overnight.  Launder as usual.  This is not for delicate or non-colorfast fabrics.  This works best for food stains.

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As long as I'm on this journey, rambling through life's exhilarating highs and trudging heavily amongst it's incapacitating lows, I might as well share whatever may be gleaned from my little bits of wisdom and my many missteps. No room for judgment from this broken mama. I'm writing from my heart: raw, open, messy, but saved. And I'm still thanking God!