Monday, August 31, 2009

MIYM: Hummus

This is so flipping easy that The Frugal Hostess ought to be ashamed of herself. She's not even gonna dignify this post with a picture.

1 16oz can of garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic (roasted is also good)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Directions (Should this say "direction?" Singular?  Get it?)
1.  Blend together all ingredients in food processor or blender.

Of course, TFH is pretty well-known for wanting to complicate the uncomplicated, so she has started making her own tahini instead of buying it.

1 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
(This ratio works up to at least five cups of sesame seeds.  TFH has never made nor plans to make five full cups of tahini, but she thought you'd like to know.)

1.  Toast the sesame seeds 5-10 minutes in a 350 degree over, shaking often with spatula.
2.  Cool for 20 minutes.
3.  Blend with oil in food processor.
4.  Store in an airtight container FOREVER.  Seriously, this stuff lasts a loooooong time.

Eat with carrot sticks and pita chips.  Scrumptious!

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mad Men Dinner Party

Is it weird if The Frugal Hostess calls having dinner with her husband a party?  Probably, huh?  Oh well.  The Frugals have been watching Season Two of Mad Men on DVD this past week.  THAT SHOW RULES!!!  Ahem.  The clothes, the hairstyles, and especially the hats, gloves, and handbags galore make TFH weak in the knees.  And the all-day drinking and smoking festivals are awesome.  (In fact, The Frugal Hostess was once a very dedicated smoker, as a result of watching too many old movies and thinking they were real life.  She has since reformed.)

To celebrate being almost caught up to the current season, The Frugal Hostess suggested that last night's dinner be a la Mad Men.  The Frugal Husband agreed, and out he went to round up some supplies.  Thus, the following menu.

Mad Men Dinner
Martinis/Gin and Tonics
Chilled Shrimp Cocktail
Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon
Grilled Strip Steaks with Garlic Green Beans
Chocolate Ice Cream with Reddi-Whip and Maraschino Cherries

Delicious!  On to Season Three!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fall Things to Think About

OK, she knows it's still summer and hot and buggy, but The Frugal Hostess has been giving a lot of thought to fall parties and holidays. It's probably because of all the back to school sales. There are so many cool things to celebrate in the fall.  Here's a quick list of things you might want to do/think about/plan.

1.  End of Summer Party: The weekend before the fall equinox (Sept. 22) is the perfect time for this.  Serve really summery foods like watermelon and tomatoes; make fruity drinks; and invite your guests to wear their bathing suits.  Depending on who you're friends with.

2.  Free/Cheap Fall Decorations: Save jars and scrub off the labels (or use glass vases).  Fill with fallen acorns, those prickly sweet gum balls (what are those things called?), and/or little pine cones.  Look for fallen sticks and branches, and bunch them together in pots.  Bonus points if they have pretty leaves.  Tie a fall-colored ribbon around a smaller arrangement of sticks and either position on its side on a shelf or stand up on a table.

3.  Halloween: Lots more coming about Halloween, but for now think about your Halloween costume.  Look through your closet first.  The Frugal Hostess has been a cowgirl, a biker (in much skinnier, leather pant-wearing days), and a hippie using her own clothes.  You could also maybe pull off Holly Golightly in a Little Black Dress, a hobo with a flannel shirt, or a man/woman (whatever you're not) with some makeup.  Now's also a good time to look for costume components at the thrift store, before everyone in the world is doing the same thing.

A Note to Ho-Bags at Halloween: You know who you are.  That girl.  The one who dresses up as Slutty Nurse, Hooker Pirate Wench, Sexy Cop, or Naughty Librarian.  You are an asshole, and you make all other women feel like they are Grimace from McDonaldland. 

4.  Calendar:  There are usually three times more parties and events in the fall than in the summer, so you will need to be a little more organized if you want to enjoy the season to the fullest.  Be sure that you include things like football games - The Frugal Hostess is sometimes held hostage by her husband's football needs.  Also, look up the various fall festivals near you; that's a good way to entertain yourself and feel like you're living in season without spending a ton of dough.

5.  Fall Food:  The Frugal Household tries to be careful about eating in season and saving things for certain times of year, so TFH is getting really excited about the return of sweet potatoes and butternut squash to her plate.  Whatever your fall food traditions, it's fun to start thinking of them and building the anticipation.

photo by Micky
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Birds and Cherries!

The Frugal Hostess is not one of those girls who say they would rather forget their birthdays. She believes her own birthday (June 6, in case you’re making a calendar) is the second-most important day of the year, beaten out only by Christmas because of the greater volume of merry-making the latter entails. The Frugal Hostess will meet you at a restaurant, and, when you go to the bathroom, enter her birthday on your cell phone calendar with a loud alarm to remind you. She will helpfully give you a countdown of shopping days. And she will most definitely celebrate every year, no matter how old she becomes.

Birthdays rule!
TFH recently held a small birthday dinner for her friend, Birds and Cherries. Due to travel, TFH had missed BAC’s party, so the dinner was the substitution. This is a birthday gesture that anyone can make, because it is very easy (but not so easy, BAC, that you still shouldn’t think it was awesome) and yet very lovely. If you are feeling financial pressure about joining someone’s party at an expensive restaurant, say, just beg off and do this instead.

Happy Birthday, Birds and Cherries!

Hors d’ Oeuvres: TFH stuck with her tried and true favorites, which you’ve heard about before. These are the glorious trifecta of cheese and crackers, olives, and nuts. She also threw in some extras to make it more special – homemade dried cherry tomatoes, homemade pickled okra, and some gigantor caper berries. Everyone had fun making little canap├ęs of baby-sized Breton cracker (bought on accident but darn good), goat cheese schmear, and dried tomato half. Delish. The boys had martinis and the girls had highballs (sounds like maybe that should have been reversed, no?).

Dinner: This was a simple meal that didn’t take a lot of hands-on time while the guests were here. The Frugal Hostess finds herself extremely challenged when it comes to chatting, drinking a gin and tonic, getting her share of her favorite food group whores hors d’ oeuvres, and cooking something. She just can’t do it, and it’s much more important to make sure you and your guests have fun than it is to whip up some complicated nonsense that keeps you in the kitchen all night. That’s what The Frugal Husband restaurants are for.
Roast Chicken – The Frugal Husband makes this, and he uses Alice Waters’ recipe. Then he makes stock with the giblets and carcass. He is really awesome, and you should definitely be jealous.
Miniature Twice-Baked Potatoes – TFH likes this because they look so cute and can be made ahead. Recipe to follow.
Tomato Salad – TFH just happened to have bought four of the most beautiful and delicious heirloom tomatoes – the only good ones she’s had this summer, BTW – and mixed these with a chiffonade of fresh basil from the garden, smoked mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper. Because she is occasionally a dumb ass, The Frugal Hostess cut the tomatoes and the cheese into chunks; what she should’ve done is present the salad as stacked sliced tomatoes interspersed with cheese. Oh well.
Also, TFH found out at the last minute that a guest hated was allergic to tomatoes! Oh no! Thankfully, there were a couple of options for him in the fridge. There was a ramekin of eggplant casserole that TFH heated up, but she could have just as easily given him two mini-potatoes or told him to enjoy scurvy if he wasn’t going to eat his vegetables. If this happens to you, do your best to offer something else, but don’t worry about it if you can’t. Nothing wrong with not liking a course, and nothing wrong with not having an alternative.

Dessert: The Frugal Hostess may not have ever told you this, but she has serious (SERIOUS!) guilt about wasting food, and fruit in particular. If you buy [expensive] local and organic produce, it feels like such a sin to throw it in the compost. She may not have ever mentioned this one either, but she freaking loves to pick wild berries. Ergo, this dessert was possible from ingredients that were on hand. TFH does not recommend you buy the absurd amount of fruit it takes to make this, because it’s only a frugal dessert if you do it the way she did. So she’s not giving you the recipe. Instead, she would encourage you to make a dessert with ingredients you already have – a cake, or pie, or something. (OK, if you really, really want to know, leave a comment or email frugalhostess AT gmail DOT com).
So, for dessert, TFH made two types of sorbet. The first was vanilla pear, using a vanilla bean left over from the vanilla-making a few weeks ago, sugar, and a big container of frozen pears. Those pears had been on sale when they were fresh, but The Frugal Household was being abandoned for greener pastures (aka, vacation), so TFH peeled and froze them to assuage her crazy Fruit Guilt. The second sorbet was blackberry lime, made with lime juice stolen from the gin and tonic stash of limes, sugar, and a ton of blackberries picked and frozen earlier in the summer and saved for just such an opportunity. These were made the day before and frozen. You know, being a frozen dessert and all. The vanilla pear was very mellow, and the blackberry lime was very tart, so they made a good combination. But TFH kind of freaked out at the last minute and added some store-bought cookies to the plate. They were tasty but superfluous, and TFH does NOT recommend you do that.

Decorations: Being herself, The Frugal Hostess didn’t have money time for decorations but did have a lot of crap craft supplies on hand. She set the table using her best china and silver, and then set about trying to come up with something festive to add. She looked in the basement for an old Happy Birthday banner that she’s sure she hoarded stored, but it was no where to be found. After some searching, though, she discovered these really cool skinny birthday candles. She had three different colors and thought about trying to make a big birthday menorah. However, since that made little sense, she kept searching. As she arranged her nicest crystal bowl in the center of the table and filled it with used wine corks, inspiration struck! Champagne corks and candles! Brilliant!
Each person got a champagne cork stuffed with a candle (use a screwdriver to make the hole), a card stamped with Happy Birthday in silver ink, and a single match. When the guests were seated, each person lit their match off the candles in the middle of the table and used it to light their personal birthday candle. Festive! Fun! Pretty! Free!
In all, the party was super fun, and The Frugal Hostess was delighted to spend time with BAC and her paramour. You should do it too!

Recipe for Miniature Twice-Baked Potatoes
(makes six)

Six fist-sized red potatoes
Cheese (about a cup)
Butter (like, half a stick)
Sour cream or plain yogurt (2-3 tablespoons)
Five pieces of bacon
Salt & pepper

1. Stab the potatoes with a fork all over, then microwave on high for four minutes. Check them out. If they seem soft enough, move on to step two. If not, turn and continue to microwave in 2-3 minute increments until they are an edible degree of hardness. Also take the butter out to soften while you’re cooking the potatoes.
2. Let them cool. Don’t be a hero.
3. Once cool, take a sharp knife and cut off the top and the bottom. You’re cutting the top so you can dig in there and get out all the potato, so that cut may need to be deeper. You’re cutting the bottom just enough that it will stand up straight, so you’ll just be cutting off a little bit.
4. Use a melon baller to scoop out the cooked potato into a bowl. Be careful; The Frugal Hostess has accidentally scooped through the bottom and the side of one before, and that you do not want. You could probably use a teaspoon or other small spoon, but a melon baller is extremely satisfying to use because the potato comes out in cute little balls.
5. Simultaneously, microwave five pieces of bacon. The secret trick to this dish is in this step. If you can, use a glass baking dish (like a casserole dish) to microwave the bacon. Once done, take out the bacon slices and let them drain on a paper towel. Pour off the melted bacon fat into a jar (seriously, if you don’t save that stuff, you are insane). DO NOT clean the dish; set it and its bacon-covered goodness aside. Feel free to eat one piece of bacon at this point (you really only need three or four), and chop up the rest.
6. Now, add the butter, sour cream or plain yogurt, salt and pepper, bacon, and cheese. On the cheese, TFH likes either shredded cheddar or crumbled blue cheese, but any cheese will do. In any case, buy the big blocks and do it yourself rather than paying double for pre-shredded or pre-crumbled cheese. You could also add some chopped green onions or scallions. Mix all that up. If you need to, use a masher or fork to combine everything. Also, if you need to, eat a little more bacon; no one will mind.
7. Stuff the mixture back into your little potato shells. You will have enough left for a few good bites for yourself. Arrange the stuffed potatoes in the dish that is coated with bacon fat. Yes, it is genius. This can be refrigerated overnight or popped into the oven. Since the ingredients are fully cooked, you’ll just need to warm and brown them before serving, so try 350 for 15 minutes or so. TFH usually makes these ahead and puts them in with whatever’s cooking to heat up, so she knows that they are fine cooked at pretty much any temperature.
(Thanks to The Frugal Mother for this rocking recipe!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday FREAKOUT: Too Many Thank-You Notes

The Frugal Hostess once made the mistake of agreeing to write all of the thank-you notes for her wedding gifts, because The Frugal Husband’s handwriting is hard to read. Little did she know that he was totally faking her out and could pull out perfectly legible script whenever he wanted. She was sure that she would stay on top of them, writing a note each time she opened a gift, so that she would never get behind. Ah, such are the futile dreams of brides-to-be, drunk with power and crazed by marriage classes.

It is so easy to find yourself staring down a pile of unwritten thank-you notes. It happens to TFH every year, at least once or twice. Here’s the formula for facing up to your stack of stationery.

Step 1: Pour a glass of wine (or beer, or milkshake, or loose-leaf tea – whatever beverage makes you feel like something fun is happening).

Step 2: Commandeer the remotes. If you are writing the thank-you notes for your family, you get to watch whatever you want. Or listen to any music you choose.

Step 3: Make a quick list of the notes you have to write, listing the recipient’s name and the gift/deed for which s/he is being thanked.

Step 4: Write out all of the envelopes and put stamps on them. That way, you’re committed. You’ve already invested your money in these notes, so you might as well send them.

Step 5: Pick your three favorite people or gifts, and write to them first. Vary an adjective here and there – it really is tacky to write a form letter of thanks – and be sure to mention the gift/deed specifically. Here’s a sample:

Dear The Frugal Mother,

I absolutely love/adore/can’t live without the beautiful/hilarious/life-saving item you gave me for President’s Day [Getting that hint, The Frugal Mother? Let’s start a new tradition where you buy gifts for TFH on President's Day. Dig?] It looks/feels/smells great. Thank you so much for thinking of me/your kindness/your generosity. It was fun hanging out/skydiving/doing tequila shots, and I hope to see you again soon!


The Frugal Hostess

Please note: It is considered bad form (by whom? Not sure. Maybe just The Frugal Hostess?) to use the words “thank you” in the first sentence of a thank you note. Your note should read as though you are so overcome with the glory of the gift that you have to go on about it before you can get down to the business of saying thanks.

Step 6. OK, so you’ve written the first three notes. Since they were to the people you like the best, they were the easiest to write, right? So, don’t put them in their envelopes yet. Use them as guides for the rest of your notes.

Step 7. Pour another glass of wine, eggnog, motor oil, et al.

Step 8. Finish your notes, you lazy sloth.

Photo by scottfeldstein

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homemade Shampoo Follow-Up

The Frugal Hostess feels that it is her duty to inform you of something. You know how she made that homemade shampoo a while back? And remember how she gave the blog version of a speech about chemicals and nature and all that?

Yeah, well, scratch that. The homemade shampoo, that is. The Frugal Hostess totally loved it at first. Her hair was clean, shiny, and great-smelling. It only needed to be washed every other day. And she was doing her urban pioneer woman thing, you know, mixing up a batch of shampoo in between pickling okra and making cheese.

However, of late, The Frugal Hostess has noticed that her head is falling off. Without grossing you out, TFH will just say that the homemade shampoo seems to be causing snow flurries to the North, verging on blizzard conditions. If you know what she means.

At first she tried that famous cure-all, tea tree oil. Nope. She also read that thyme has antiseptic properties and has some growing right outside, so thyme shampoo may be coming soon. But for now, dear friends, TFH has purchased a family-sized bottle of Head and Shoulders, and she's not itching to be disloyal to it any time soon. (Itching. Ha!)

Here's hoping no one else had the same issue with this dreadful concoction!

photo by SAN DRINO

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Concert Pre-Game Party

The Frugal Husband is freaking obsessed with going to concerts. Like, he thinks that it is his secret job, as though he's a member of an underground musical police force who must see all live performances to defeat an evil force in the world. If it were possible, The Frugal Husband would see a show every night. Well, if he could watch football on his iPhone at the same time. Ergo, The Frugal Hostess always knows that, should she want to attend a concert, even a really expensive one, he will be game. As it were. Thus, the Concert Pre-Game* Party.

Pick a concert. Buy tickets for it. To be frugal, please note this MOST AMAZING FACT: you can use your American Express points to buy tickets from Ticketmaster! (!!!) Yep. That's right, folks; even in times of financial woe, you too can see a show. Convince some friends to do the same. It will be easier if you tell them the Amex/Ticketmaster secret. (And, seriously, not interested in your anti-Ticketmaster rants. Get it, they suck, go on about your business.)

The Frugal Household decided to use Amex points for Paul McCartney's recent visit to Piedmont Park in Atlanta. So did friends the Restaurafarians and the Lotta Francas. Or, you know, who knows what form of currency they used, but they got tickets, and everyone converged on The Frugal Household for a pre-concert extravaganza.

Tickets (Optional. You can pre-game a show you're not going to; it's just not as good.)
Music of Artist Giving Concert
Somewhat Clean House
Folded Blankets by Door
Assorted Hors d' Oeuvres (As an aside, may The Frugal Hostess just say that she only ever refers to hors d' oeuvres as "whores" in her own mind?)
Make-Your-Own Entree (hotdogs, burgers, sandwiches, bowls of chili with toppings)
Two to Four Composed Salads
Etc. (Optional....)

Directions and Notes:
1. Play CDs or MP3s of the artist incessantly leading up to the show. It will help build excitement and remind people what songs they hope to hear. In the case of The Frugal Hostess's trip to see Paul McCartney, playing Beatles CDs helped her remember all the words to their songs so she could sing at top volume.

2. The "somewhat" in the Somewhat Clean House just means that you shouldn't stop yourself from having this party if you don't have time to deep clean. You should still pick up, you slob.

3. Place folded blankets by the door only if the concert you are attending will take place outside. Presumably, you will not need them inside a venue. However, if you pre-game appropriately, you will forget to bring blankets unless you literally trip over them on your way out.

4. Assorted Hors D' Oeuvres typically consists of at least two and preferably all of the following: cheese and crackers, nuts, cherry or grape tomatoes, crudite of carrots and celery (and whatever else), chips and salsa, and olives.

5. Make-Your-Own-Entrees are best when you plan to, uh, consume with your guests. Surely you'll be able to grill hotdogs or hamburgers - that's easy - or at least throw out some cold cuts. You may want to get the condiments ready the night before. The Frugal Hostess served exceedingly delicious Zweigel's hotdogs imported by the Lotta Francas from Rochester, NY. The available condiments were: ketchup; ketchup mixed with Sriracha (asian hot sauce); mustard; sauerkraut (SO much better than you think - try it! Plus it's easy to make and lasts forever.); pickle spears; celery seeds; tomato slices; relish; diced onion; and pickled peppers. [De-frickin-lish. Chicago dogs rule.]
For burgers, try blue cheese crumbles, bacon, cheddar, tomato slices, pickle chips, onion, or fried eggs if you have time.
For sandwiches, use any of the above. Duh. You obviously know how to make a sandwich. Right?
For chili, get out Fritos, sour cream, shredded cheddar, sliced avocado, chopped onions and tomatoes, and hot sauce.

6. Composed Salads. That may be a Southern thing. Is it? Composed salads are salads composed of assorted ingredients - arranged rather than tossed. These are like pasta salad, broccoli salad, jello salad (so gross! never eat that!), potato salad, or fruit salad. You know, like picnic salads. A tossed green salad would also not be out of place.

7. Beeeeeer, Booooooooze, Wiiiiiiiiiiiine, Etc. Dude, really? No comment.

Rock on!

*Pre-game is a term (both noun and verb) purportedly coined by sorority girls/frat boys to describe pre-partying before the real party. Don't let its lineage discourage you from using it. It's a great word!

photo by Rich007

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday FREAKOUT: Pantry

The Frugal Hostess knows what it's like to freak out. She once found a spider in her bra. Need she say more? Thus, Friday FREAK OUT! On Fridays, The Frugal Hostess will provide you with tips on how to deal with last-minute nonsense without freaking out.

It’s been a while since our last Friday Freak-Out. That doesn’t mean The Frugal Hostess hasn’t been freaking out; she’s just been keeping quiet about it. There are plenty of things to freak out about: wrinkled napkins and no time to iron (napkin rings to the rescue, darlings); house guests and nothing to serve for breakfast (uh, eat out, or just ignore the problem); or a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear out (white shirt with jeans and very, very high heels).

Today, The Frugal Hostess offers a short list of things you should keep in your kitchen so that you are never caught by surprise by a food occasion. These are all long-lasting supplies that should stand you in good stead for quite some time. By themselves, they’ll combine to make something decent to eat, and, with the addition of one or two fresh ingredients, you’ll have a feast. (You could make a checklist of these staples to review as you make your grocery list, so you’re sure to always have them.)

Here they are:


Dijon mustard

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Tabasco sauce

Balsamic or red wine vinegar



Canned tomatoes

Canned or frozen corn kernels



Jar of roasted peppers

Cans of beans (black, navy, and garbanzo)

Frozen spinach

Pantry food equations:


1. Capers + olive oil + parmesan cheese + S&P = good, if boring, flavors for pasta

Add anchovies or olives or tomatoes or spinach or roasted peppers (or any combination thereof) for something a little more exciting.

Add fresh shrimp or chicken or tofu and onions or garlic when you have it.

Voila – at least ten options for a pasta dinner.

2. Beans + rice + roasted peppers + Tabasco = perfect meatless Monday meal.

Add canned corn, tomatoes, and olives for a bit more flavor.

Add chopped fresh onions and tomatoes on top; or put into a tortilla; or shred in some leftover chicken; or add some stock to make soup.

Presto – at least eight versions of beans and rice.

Hors d’ Oeuvres

Olives + bowl = item 1

Parmesan cheese + slicer = item 2 (add bread, crackers, or ham/prosciutto slices if you have them)

Toothpick + anchovy + roasted pepper + caper = item 3

Canned corn + can of black beans + half can tomatoes (all drained) + Tabasco + roasted red peppers = item 4, salsa (add chips).

Salad Dressing

Olive oil + vinegar + Dijon mustard + salt & pepper

Add finely minced garlic or shallot; or fresh or dried herbs; or egg yolk to replace mustard; or honey and Tabasco

Side dishes

Spinach + roasted red peppers

Canned corn + parmesan cheese

Canned tomatoes + capers

And behold – a minimum of seven more things to eat, plus several ways to dress a salad. The Frugal Hostess does not ever want to hear you freak out again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paper Fetish

Like many a lady, The Frugal Hostess admits to a certain fetish for paper. Stationery and art supplies knock her socks off, and she knows the difference between an A2 and an A4 envelope. Please don’t show her any embellished file folders or odd-shaped paper clips, or she’ll be forced to purchase them. In fact, TFH is one of the few people on earth who enjoys wrapping Christmas presents. All of this paper is expensive, though, and not just financially. The production of paper causes air pollution, solid waste, water and energy consumption, and all manner of unnecessary trouble. Check here and here and here and here for details. So what is a frugal fetishist to do? Well, in the case of The Frugal Hostess, she has decided to try to make some compromises that allow her to indulge her paper fantasies while positively impacting the environmental realities. First, here are the easy ones.
1. Change from regular to recycled toilet paper. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. Keep in mind that all brands are most decidedly not created equal, and TFH does not want you to suffer. She recommends Seventh Generation, which is softer than most and 100% recycled (80% post-consumer).
2. Limit yourself to one or two rolls of recycled paper towels per month
(yes, you heard correctly). Take all of your stained bath towels and cut them into rags. Do the same with old tee-shirts. And buy a stack of matching dish towels that are attractive enough to hang in plain site but cheap enough that staining them will not break your heart. Get out the cloth napkins you have, and/or buy some that meet the above attractive but cheap qualifications. Then, when you spill something, wipe it up with a washable rag. When you eat dinner (or lunch, or breakfast), wipe your mouth with a cloth napkin. Clean your furniture with tee-shirt rags. You get it. You might need paper towels for a few things, like soaking up bacon grease or killing a roach, but most things that you use paper towels for are better accomplished using their washable siblings.

3. Switch sides.
Of your printer paper, that is. Use a box or tray to collect paper that’s blank on one side. Cut some into quarters that you staple together to make notepads, and use the rest for scratch sheets and coloring canvasses.

Now, slightly harder:
One of the more difficult projects The Frugal Hostess undertook last Christmas was to use only recycled wrapping supplies for her gifts (that may be why she talks about that so much on this blog, now that she thinks about it). In addition to reusing gift bags and tissue, TFH collected brown paper grocery bags on days when she forgot her cloth ones (they still have them, many with convenient handles). When the time came to wrap gifts, she carefully unglued the seams of the paper bags to make the biggest pieces possible, then cut them to size for her gifts. Using a snowflake stamp and some silver ink, TFH dotted each gift with a random dusting of snowflakes, and she tied them each with a piece of shiny, real ribbon. These were pretty cute, and they accomplished the no new wrapping paper goal.

However, this year, TFH has started collecting the bags early, and she’s planning to try out some more complicated techniques. She’s thought about sponge painting – not the faux finish kind popular in the 1990s. TFH plans to dilute paint with water, dip a sponge in it, and make wide stripes of color on the bags. If she does this far enough in advance, the paper will have plenty of time to dry. She’s also thought about using punches to cut out shapes, which she will back with recycled tissue paper. This should give the gift some texture and visual interest.

What other things could The Frugal Hostess do to brown paper bags to make them more exciting as gift wrap? Leave your ideas in the comments, and look for a post about this project in the next few weeks.

photo by Lara604

Monday, August 10, 2009

MIYMonday - Flea Fighting Dog Biscuits

The Frugal Homestead was recently infested with fleas. Boy, was it ever horrible. The Frugal Hostess and Husband started out trying not to use chemicals, researching home remedies and natural products that were supposed to rid the house of fleas. Well, friends, the fact of the matter is that, once the situation is advanced enough to qualify as a full-on infestation, the home remedies are just about useless. Bomb the crap out of the little buggers with chemicals, get rid of them, and then start your all-natural flea prevention campaign.

There are a number of different things you can do to prevent fleas from taking over your home. One of the most effective for TFH was to sprinkle Borax all over the carpet and big rug. Borax is a non-toxic, uh, thing – not sure if one would say non-toxic chemical? It’s a powder, kind of like baking soda, and it has a multitude of applications around the house. It is also very inexpensive. Anyway, if you sprinkle that around the house, leave it over night, and then vacuum it up the next day, it will kill/maim/destroy flea eggs without doing the same to your pets and yourself.

Another suggestion is to put a small amount of apple cider vinegar in your pets’ water each day; this is supposed to keep fleas away over time. Who knows how – probably something all sciency and boring. The Frugal Hostess made a solution of half water and half apple cider vinegar, then added to that a few drops of castile soap, a few drops of citronella oil, and a few drops of peppermint oil to mask the smell of the citronella (which is totally gross). If you don’t have cats, you could use tea tree oil instead of citronella oil (cats are opposed to the oil of the tea tree and will scratch your eyes out of you put it on them). TFH put all of that in a spray bottle and uses it as an all-purpose cleaner which has the added bonus of repelling bugs.

A final, and universally agreed-upon, natural solution is garlic. Apparently, fleas and other pests hate garlic and will stay off of your garlic-eating dog. Obviously, it might be a little awkward to feed your dog cloves of garlic, so here’s a recipe for garlicky dog treats. These have the added (subtracted?) bonus of having no gross chemicals or fillers, and you can even make them organic by choosing organic ingredients.


2 teaspoons yeast

Half cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons parsley (optional)

3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons honey

1 egg

5 cups of whole wheat flour


1. Dissolve yeast in water.

2. Stir in all ingredients except flour.

3. Gradually blend in flour, adding enough to form a stiff dough.

4. Transfer to floured surface and knead 3-5 minutes or until smooth.

5. Roll and cut with cookie cutters (dog bone shape is best, but anything rather small will do).

6. Bake 30 minutes. Turn over and bake an additional 15 minutes.

7. Let cool overnight.

These last forever and freeze well. Enjoy! Woof!

Photo by Ashnikov