Total Pageviews

Monday, April 25, 2011

Come brunch with us

We love this time of year.  Spring is here and we just spent the past few days celebrating Easter with our friends and family.  Is there anything better than spending a long weekend eating, drinking and being merry?  Regardless of whether you just celebrated Passover, Easter,  your favorite hockey team's win during the playoffs or a sunny afternoon, there is just something about this time of year that is happy.

So, with all of this happy visiting and being visited, we started to think about entertaining, and how much we love it.  For us,  preparing a meal for people we care about is a real pleasure.  It also tends to come with a pretty hefty price tag.  A dinner party for 8 - 10 adults (typical for these Tightwads) has been known to cost...well...a lot.  Now, although we certainly don't have large parties every week, it is not uncommon for us to entertain a large crown every couple of months.  So, how can a couple of social butterflies (note: Frugal Freddie objects to being referred to as a butterfly of any sort) continue to do what they love without spending so much money.  Well, here are a few things we've thought about:

1. Potluck.  We know that many people love potlucks, and we do other people's homes.  But part of the reason we love having people over is that we like to plan everything out...from the china and napkins, to the seating, to the menu.  Potlucks just relinquish too much control.

2. Entertain less often.  Well, yes...that could work...but the whole point of this experiment of frugal living is to continue to live well....and for us, living well includes entertaining our family and friends.  So, this is really not an option.

3. Entertain smaller.  Certainly, feeding 2 extra mouths is cheaper than feeding 8 extra mouths and we often have smaller company over.  This is great fun, but entertaining a large crowd is a different experience - and one we enjoy too much to give up.

4. Entertain cheaply.  This is definitely do-able.  Economia Nia is convinced (pretty convinced, at least)  that we could serve a group of 10 adults a three course dinner, including hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine each, for less than 75$ (eeeekk).  It's going to require some careful planning and imagination... but definitely do-able. Hmmm....come to think of it...this just might become a Tightwad experiment.

5. Set the alarm and wake up early.  Last summer Economia Nia picked up a beautiful, antique, hand-painted breakfast set (at a great price!).  Of course, the next logical thing to do was to have a brunch party to use the newly acquired china.  So we invited five early risers one Sunday morning and served breakfast.  Baked french toast, a crust-less quiche, hash browns, breakfast potatoes, bacon, sausage, a couple of fruit platters, a selection of cheeses, freshly baked muffins, toast, homemade jam, juice and of course, lots and lots of coffee.

The weather was particularly beautiful that day so we sat on the patio and lounged over breakfast for hours.  It was such a lovely, relaxed morning that at some point during the meal we each proclaimed that "we should do this every weekend!".  Well, of course, we have not done this every weekend, but we have hosted several breakfast / brunch parties since (we have the dishes after all).  It is great to be able to prepare a delicious, wholesome breakfast for people who would, like us, normally only have a bowl of cereal in the morning.

There are so many reasons why you too should consider entertaining in the am:  Oh look, we've listed them for you :)

a) Breakfast food is incredibly inexpensive.  No other meal will give you as much bang for your buck.  You could easily provide a feast for ten people for about 20$ (even with organic eggs and fancy coffee).  That's 2$ a person !

b) Breakfast food can be incredibly easy.  Depending on what you choose to make, you could prepare most items the day before.  Baked french toast for example is assembled the night before, kept in the refrigerator over night and simply popped into the oven the next morning. 

c) Breakfast allows you to spend time with busy family and friends.  Between children's activities, work, studying, and other people's dinner parties, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to see the people you want to see...but our experience is that most people start to get busy in the afternoon.

d) Breakfast is a great meal for kids.  If you are entertaining families with children (or if you have kids of your own), breakfast can be your best friend.  Most kids like breakfast fare and breakfast is early enough to ensure that there is enough time between the meal and their first meltdown of the day.

In case we've convinced you to give a breakfast party a try, here's a super easy recipe to get you started.

Spinach and cheese crust-less quiche (serves 8)

8 large organic eggs
1 cup grated cheese (any kind - maybe something on sale?)
1 1/2 cups chopped spinach
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C

Beat eggs with a fork in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the eggs and when well mixed pour into an 8 inch pie plate.
Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes.  The quiche will be set in the center and will have puffed up.
Let cool, cut into wedges and serve.

The Tightwads

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Not To Buy

Have you ever watched the show called What Not To Wear?  It's all about kind, sweet people without a fashion clue.  Their well-meaning friends decide that it would be a good idea to secretly nominate them for a makeover.  Hidden cameras follow them around for a while, capturing unflattering footage of these poor souls going about their daily business.  Then, in front of family and friends (and millions of viewers) they meet the hosts, view the film, get really embarassed, cry and agree to get rid of all of their clothes in order to be given a 5,000$ shopping spree and find the happiness they hadn't realized they were lacking.  At the end of the show they usually cry some more, tend to look a lot better and make comments like "I can't believe I used to wear that flourescent yellow jumper" or "I'm so happy that I now know that high ponytails with ribbons are not really appropriate for a 45 year old lawyer".  How could you not love this stuff?

So, we've decided to pay hommage to this show by playing a little What Not To Buy !   No, we will not be secretly filming anyone and we most certainly will not be handing out 5,000$ prizes.  This is just a simple straightforward post about saving money by not buying flourescent yellow jumpers (and other random and silly things).

1.  Do Not Buy Bottled Water.  (see our previous post on bottled water titled "The best things in life are (relatively) free". ) We know that this is a LONG post.  We got really carried away on that one, so if you don't want to read the whole thing...just skip to the part where we say "don't buy bottled water"

2. Do Not Buy Baby Food.  Now of course we are not implying that baby should not be fed, just that you should really consider making your own baby food.  Some of our most precious memories are of cooking, mashing and freezing our babies' meals.  Knowing exactly what you're putting into your baby's mouth is priceless, and frankly, a lot cheaper than buying jars of baby food.  You can find dozens of recipe ideas in cookbooks or on the internet, but really, once you know what is age appropriate food for your munchkin, it's pretty simple.  Boil, mash or blend, serve and freeze the excess in ice cube trays for another day.  Of course, you may have to buy baby cereal - we never figured out how to make that.

3. Do Not Buy Lazy Vegetables.  It's actually not the veggies that are lazy, but the person buying them.  A few months ago, at a very dear friend's house, EN noticed a little container of celery in the friend's fridge.  Of course, the next thing EN noticed was the price tag - $3.50.....WHAT !!??  $3.50 for a few measly sticks of celery??? Yes, they were rinsed and cut up and possibly had the stringy stuff removed (or not), but you can usually get a whole stalk of celery for less than $1.50.  Now, to her defense, this friend realized she had made a spending faux-pas, but as she was going out of town a few days later she figured that she wouldn't be able to get through a whole stalk of celery and it would end up rotting.  Hmmmm....okay - but personally, we just wouldn't have bought celery.

4. Do Not Buy Baby Carrots.  We know, we know, many of you have forgotten that carrots actually come in sizes other than "baby".  And guess what, sometimes they even come with the green frilly stuff still attached to the tops.  We don't understand the fascination with baby carrots.  They cost a lot (compared to regular carrots), they don't usually taste as good, and they're often wet and, if they stay in the bag too long, can get slimy...gross. Good news : it actually takes less than 1 minute (trust us - we timed it) to peel and chop up a real life carrot. 

5. Do Not Buy Clothes That Don't Fit Because They Will When You Lose "X"  (enter appropriate number) Pounds.  If you feel that you need to lose some weight, then by all means, go ahead.  But believe me (that would be EN), if you think that having a skirt a few sizes too small in your closet is going to help motivate're wrong !  It will only depress you.  Focus on losing whatever weight you feel you need to lose, and when you achieve your goal, celebrate by buying some new (smaller) clothes.

6. Do Not Buy Junk Food.  This includes soda, potato chips (sigh), chocolate, cookies, get the picture.  None of these things are good for you and although it is perfectly fine to splurge once in a while, these items should certainly not make it onto your weekly grocery list.  If you do find them there, cross them off and replace them with some grown-up carrots.

7. Do Not Buy Food In Boxes.  Most frozen convenience foods can be made fresh at home with a little effort, time, and willingness.  They will definately taste better and will be healthier.  We know, we know, you all don't have time to cook, or you don't know how to cook, or you just don't like cooking.  Sorry, but none of those excuses fly.  You may think that you don't have the time, but many meals can be made in less than 30 minutes.  Don't like to cook...probably because you don't know how.  So, if you don't know how, learn.  There are some fantastic websites with recipes for free (so you don't actually have to buy cookbooks and cooking magazines).  Some of our favorites are:

Well, we could likely go on and on...but that's probably enough nagging for one post.  We're going to find our kids and nag them now :)

Have a great day
The Tightwads