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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Big screen, small price

We love the movies.  Our first date was a movie (The Untouchables) and there was a time (pre-marriage and definitely pre-children) when we would go to the movie theater almost every day.  There were times when we couldn't go to the movies...because we had seen everything that was playing.  From small budget B movies, to foreign films, to animated kid flicks, we would watch it all.  Ahh... those were the days.  Those of you who have lived in Montreal may remember - those were the days of the Palace, the Leows, the Imperial, and the Egyptian.  Charming theaters, each with it's own personality, and all easily accessible in the heart of downtown.  We certainly saw our share of duds (a horror movie called Popcorn comes to mind) but only walked out of one movie (one of the Batman movies if you can believe it...the one with George Clooney and Uma Thurman - sucked !). 

As we grew up and our time became filled with things like full time jobs and diaper changes, the number of movies we went to necessarily diminished.  When on maternity leave however, Economia Nia would pack up baby and baby essentials every Tuesday at 10am to go to "Movies for Mommies".  A unique movie-going experience for sure.  Mommies (and some Daddies) and their babies watching films with the volume turned down (to protect infant ears), lights dimmed, but not off (to prevent Mommies from tripping as they walked up and down the steps to quiet screaming babies), and a diaper changing station off to the side.  For a stir-crazy new mom, it was a gift from heaven.  It's really too bad that as we searched for the link to Movies for Mommies, we realize that the big gun theater that offered this service in Montreal when EN was on her maternity leaves, is no longer doing so.  Luckily some smaller theaters offer the event though.


These days movies are still a big part of our lives, but with the current cost of going to the theater and our commitment to tight living, it is a "special event" instead of an automatic "something to do".  A family of four will easily spend in the vicinity of 35$ for admission tickets alone (and usually more).  Of course, no movie going experience would be complete without "the snacks".  Remember when the "snacks" were basically your choice of popcorn, chocolate and licorice?  You would take your seat (which was utilitarian and not meant to be plush and reclining) and the only thing you would smell would be the butter on the popcorn and maybe the guy behind you who needed a shower.  Now,  you take your seat and are assaulted with the smells of french fries, pizza and hamburgers.  When in the world did movie-going turn into a complete dining opportunity?  You can get anything at the movies now.  Forget nachos, you can practically order a roast chicken to munch on. Of course, no matter what your fancy, all this snacking is gonna cost you - figure a minimum of 20$ for a family of four (and that minimum is only achieved by having your children feeling deprived).  What is a tightwad family to do?

Aha !  We actually know what to do.  Yes, we can rent movies through our cable subscriber or a DVD rental place, but nothing beats going to the movies.  Solution:  The Dollar Cinema.  Now, we realize that this is only a solution if you live in Montreal (although there may be similar places in other cities - there must be! ... and if they're aren't, then this is an excellent business opportunity!). 

The Dollar Cinema used to be a regular kind of cinema, but instead of closing when the big franchises monopolized the industry, it was reinvented into what it is today.  And what it is, is a place where a family of four can watch a recently shown (but now out of the mainstream cinemas) movie, for less than 15$ ...and that includes admission tickets and snacks. Today Economia Nia took the girls to see Gulliver's Travels for a grand total of 12$ and change.

Admission to the Dollar Cinema is 2$ for everyone, any day of the week, and any time of day. All snacks and drinks are 1$ (plus tax).  Yes, the popcorn bags are not huge (hmmmm, saving money and calories...this keeps getting better), and the candy selection may be more limited than what you have gotten used to (you know, the way things used to be), but who cares. The seats are comfortable and were recently changed so they have that convenient cup holder thing, which is great for keeping your 1$ drink.  And, the staff is really friendly. At the movie today, EN accidentally knocked her popcorn on the counter after paying for it.  The employee (who may have actually been the owner) smiled and immediately passed over another full bag of popcorn.  We have a feeling that the 16 year old kid at the Mega-Plex wouldn't have done that. 

It is true, that if you're used to the modern day cinemas with their glitz and bright lights, you may be initially turned off by Dollar Cinema's more austere decor (and the fact that it is located in a mall that has really seen better days). But instead of focusing on what it is not, focus on what it is - a charming, low key, super affordable movie going experience.

Happy viewing:)

The Tightwads

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our love ain't cheap.

Valentine's Day! Sigh.  A day of marketing genius.  It's difficult to remember (or to even care) about the origin of this holiday amid all the roses, heart shaped chocolates and red wrapping, but St. Valentine's Day did start out as a religious holiday.  It appears that Valentine was a common name for Christian martyrs and  two in particular are honored on the 14th of February:  Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.  St. Valentine's Day was established as a special day by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD (way before Hallmark), yet the day first became associated with romance when Chaucer wrote the poem Parlement of Foules in 1382.  Translated into modern English he wrote :

For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate

Awwww.....Chaucer wrote this poem to honour the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, who eventually married when they were each 15 years old !

In 1969 Pope Paul VI, perhaps disheartened by the way the holiday had morphed into what we see today, deleted it from the Roman calendar of saints holidays, although still allowing for its religious observance. (We know what you're thinking...what religious observance???)

Anyhow, as we all know, today Valentine's Day is a day in which people express their love for each other by offering flowers, sweets, cards, and hopefully something sparkling.  This gift exchange used to be reserved for lovers, but the great marketing geniuses of the world realized that not everyone has a lover.  No worries, because they also realized that most everyone has a parent, a sister, a child, a cousin, a friend, a classmate, a teacher, a boss, a mailman, a dry cleaner.  And if you don't...don't still have yourself ! That's right ladies and gents, there are now Valentine's Day cards and gifts designed for everyone on your Facebook friend list. 

It's no wonder then that a lot of cash gets spent on this day, with some reports stating that on average, a person will spend about 170$ on gifts.  Men typically spend more than women, probably because they have more to make up for, but the difference really ain't that big.  So, before you go and open your wallets, we thought it would be a good idea to question some of the more common Valentine's Day offerings.

1. Roses, generally long stemmed and red, and a small fortune.  Interesting symbol to represent and celebrate what one hopes to be a long and healthy relationship don't you think? Dying flowers (that's right...their fate was sealed the moment they were cut) which will wither and dry out and that have the potential to draw blood with one of their thorns. Nice.  How about a potted plant instead?  Cheaper, and it will last your love...awwww....

2. Valentine Chocolate.  Sweet, smooth, rich, fattening, and, unfortunately, easily obtained at a drugstore (yuck).  This latter fact makes cheap chocolate the perfect "Oh no I forgot today is Valentine's day, and I have exactly 5 minutes to go shopping" gift - so obvious.  To complicate matters even more, chocolate of any quality should not be given to those who are diabetic, trying to lose weight, simply watching their weight, breastfeeding, lactose-intolerent, bulemic, or to chocolate dis-likers. Should also not be given to anyone who has children (they will eat all the chocolate). 

3. Valentine's Day Cards.  They are written by people who get paid a lot of money ("a lot" being a relative term, seeing as how we are writing this blog for nothing), who are able to eloquently, beautifully, and sappily express exactly what you yourself are feeling.  Unless you are a modern day Chaucer, chances are you won't feel that you can add anymore to what is already in the card you so thoughfully chose.  So, to the heartfelt printed prose, you add simply ...your name (and if you are feeling inspired, maybe an "I love you").  The recipient of this card will likely wonder why they aren't in a relationship with the actual person who wrote the card, but they'll say that they love it, and stick it in the recycling bin within a week.  Instead, try making your own card  (you know, like you did when you were a kid).  Make up a poem (words that rhyme with love : glove, shove, dove, above), and it will be remembered forever - even if it really sucks.

There are so many lovely, inexpensive ways to celebrate Valentine's Day. Making a romantic supper, going for a walk holding hands, renting the movie you saw on your first date, decorating the house with red balloons...the list is long. So, use your imagination, save a few bucks, and remember to spread the feeling to the rest of the year.

Happy Valentine's Day
The Tightwads

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beans, beans, they're good for your....

...wallet !  What did you think we were going to say?

Ahh....beans.  We love them!  Well, actually Economia Nia loves them, Frugal Freddie simply likes them.  But, whether you love them, like them, or don't really eat them, one thing is sure...they are cheap !  Not sort of cheap, but really cheap !  So cheap in fact, that it doesn't even matter if they are on sale - how can anyone not love that!

So, how many of you out there eat beans on a regular basis (and by regular we mean at least every other day)?  Come on, you in the back...don't be shy.  Well, we know why you may be reluctant to fess up.  For some reason (okay, for a very good reason), eating beans is often equated with...farting ! (note to readers: Economia Nia really wanted to put in a polite euphemism, but Frugal Freddie beat me to the keyboard).  Well, polite or not, it's true that bean eating can lead to gas leaking, in some more than others.  But, you want to know a secret?  Despite what that little children's song says, the more you eat...the LESS you fart !  That's right, your meat-eating, processed-food-loving body actually gets used to digesting wholesome, healthy beans !  It's miraculous !

Now there are products out there that claim to help you digest beans and eliminate their noxious side effects.  We've actually never tried them, but some bean-eating friends say that they do work.  Check out the website for's a riot (particularly the link to the "University of gas").

Gas aside, you really can't beat the benefits of eating beans.  They are cheap (so cheap), healthy (so healthy!), delicious (really really, really delicious), and they look pretty in glass jars (so pretty).

There are basically two ways to purchase beans at the market: in cans and in bags.  For a long time we were can buyers, mainly because of the convenience.  Recently however we have turned to the dried variety.  They are tastier and a much better value for your buck (which is not really that important since the cans are pretty cheap too), but they are also healthier, since canned beans tend to be loaded in sodium and sometimes other preservatives.  Plus, we are trying to move away from cans for a couple of other reasons. The first is environmental (it takes a lot more energy to produce and recycle a can than it does to produce and recycle a small plastic or paper bag). Second, we're just not sure what they line those cans with.  Maybe nothing worrisome, but we seem to remember reading "something" about "something bad" being used to line cans.  So, better safe than sorry.

Using dried beans is really not all that inconvenient.  It takes time to soak them and then cook the beans, but it's not like you have to do anything during the soaking and cooking time.  Soaking can be done overnight  and cooking can be a breeze with the right recipe and the right method (think slow cooker or pressure cooker).

If you would like to become proficient in bean soaking methodology, then there are a plethora of resources available on-line and in most vegetarian cookbooks which describe in detail how long to soak every kind of bean imaginable.  We're going to go ahead and assume that you're too busy for that (heck, you're already wasting enough of your time reading this blog), so here are a few simple rules.

1. Most beans can be soaked overnight (about 8 hours).
2. Some beans (namely lentils...which actually may not be officially classified as beans...but who cares), require little to no soaking (we tend to soak them for about 30 minutes, but it's probably not necessary).
3. If you want to increase your chances of not passing gas all night after eating your beans, do not cook them in the same water in which they soaked.
4. Beans should not be soaked or cooked in salted water.  This will toughen the bean...add salt after they are cooked.
5. Cook the beans until they are tender...the bigger the bean, the longer the cooking time. 

Below you'll find a link which actually lists the recommended soaking and cooking times for some popular beans.
 So, beans !  They're healthy, cheap, delicious and kinder to your body and to the environment than eating meat is.  But there's more!  Dried beans can be used as weights for blind baking pie crusts. They can be used to fill home-made maracas,  for arts and crafts and to replace game tokens that invariably get lost.  You can also sprout beans by placing them in a humid environment. Try doing any of that with a steak.

:) Love,
The Tightwads