These past few weeks, Kyle and I have been trying to cut back a bit on expenses to save for our fast-approaching weekend in Vegas (I’ve never been to Vegas but my understanding is that it’s like entering a black hole/alternate universe where all better judgment, especially that which causes you to keep track of money, evaporates). Now, I’ll be the first to admit we’re hardly deprived, but we are trying to be more conscious—and I’m discovering that this is actually quite fun. Yes, shopping at Whole Foods is lovely, but getting massive amounts of veggies and canned food at Costco is gratifying in a different sort of way. When it comes to my most essential needs, I’d have to break it down to: food, fitness (which is free when you can run outside, but the gym membership is non-negotiable, even if it primarily functions as a pool pass), and of course, fabric (not necessarily in that order).
Being frugal hasn’t meant giving up any of these; in fact, frugality doesn’t result in scarcity as much as simplicity, and we could all use a bit more of that in our lives.
For instance, the rest of my V-day was lovely and low-key. Kyle and I lounged in our flannel PJ bottoms and he made the most delicious meal. We split pesto shrimp to start, followed by ginger miso salmon, baked sweet potatoes, and artichokes.
Turns out, the boy can cook! This was a delicious, satisfying meal—and I’m going to encourage him to cultivate his culinary skills. We ended the night with homemade whole wheat waffle cones made with my Chef’s Choice waffle cone maker (plus passion fruit ice cream, but when you’re eating a freshly made cone, the ice cream could be grass-flavored and it wouldn’t really matter).
The next day, I had the most delightful brunch with my sisters. Charlie brought champagne and cranberry juice plus homemade chocolate macaroons, Z brought a fruit salad, and I made scrambled eggs (from my mother’s hens), bacon, and heart-shaped waffles (made with my Chef’s Choice waffle maker):
All easy—and all cheap. Plus, when you’re eating in celebration—even if it’s only to celebrate the fact that you’re sisters—the food isn’t the most important part. We ate for 20 minutes, but we talked for about 2 hours.
As for fabrics, I’m blessed to live approximately 8 minutes away from one of the most delightful discount fabric stores: Sewfisticated. OK, I’ll be the first to admit that the place is a tad grungy, massively disorganized, and hardly reliable—but that’s part of the fun. You can’t conjure up your dream quilt and walk in expecting to find the exact right fabrics, but you can enter with a vague plan—or better yet no plan at all—and let the fabrics be your guide. Having finished my Onion Quilt, I decided to take this approach and walked away with yards and yards of fabrics that came to about $20:
Basically, I’m turning these into another Onion-like quilt (appliqué, reverse appliqué, lots of hand stitching) but I decided to start this one with a patchwork base. Blue and red is my go-to favorite color combination—but I soon realized that this is rather like the American flag, so without meaning to I’m making a very patriotic-looking quilt (Z, who has “Made in the USA” tattooed across the side of her upper ribcage, was delighted).
Even while working with limited materials (incidentally, my last Onion Quilt was made entirely from leftovers in my stash; I only purchased the backing fabric), I’ve stumbled upon an aesthetic that feels very natural to me. There’s something I love about the freedom of appliqué (still combined with a bit of patchwork, of course), the added visual texture of embroidery floss, and the relaxation of slow hand stitching. Sometimes I feel like I’m always coming up with the next idea, but I think I’ll be taking this approach for quite a while.
I also inherited some free fabrics the other day. I come from a family of savers—but we’re also cleansers. Fortunately, my Mom recently decided to do some cleaning and came across a big plastic bag of random fabrics. They needed a serious washing, but I’ve picked through and discovered some pretty fun patterns:
What I love about inheriting fabrics is you end up with something you wouldn’t normally select, but unexpectedly love—and limited means always sparks true creativity. Who knows what I’ll conjure up with these.
This is turning into a rather lengthy blog post but I feel like sharing one of my favorite, super-easy and cheap recipes: baked acorn squash stuffed with baked beans. This is an extremely simplified version of baked beans but, you know what, it tastes delicious and it’s low maintenance, staple qualities of the frugal life 😉
Acorn Squash and Baked Beans
- 1 acorn squash
- 2 T butter
- Chili pepper
- 1 cup red beans
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 T ketchup
- 2 strips of bacon, broken into little bits (optional)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Carefully cut the acorn squash in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy buts with a spoon. Rub the inside of each half with 1 T of butter and sprinkle with salt and chili pepper. Place the halves flesh-side up in a baking dish filled with a ¼ inch of water. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the molasses and ketchup in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir for about 3-5 minutes. Add the beans and continue to stir for another 5 minutes. Ad this point, you can add the bacon bits if you are including them.
Divide the beans evenly and add to the cavities of the acorn squash. Bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork—but you’ll want to eat this dish with a spoon.
I find this to be a seriously satisfying meal—plus beans are a bargain as well as a nutritional powerhouse.
Of course, sometimes you still feel like going out for dinner and enjoying some fresh air while wandering around Davis Square—but who says a night on the town can’t involve burritos from Blue Shirt Café and JP Licks ice cream?
Sometimes that’s just as good as a super-fancy 5-course meal. That being said, I was delighted to receive a phone call from EVOO last night inviting Kyle and I to attend their final dinner this evening. This is both delightful and sad since you’ve probably noticed I have a disproportionate fondness for this restaurant—it’s the perfect balance of class, casualness, and comfortingly delicious food. In fact, I’m sure we got the invite because the wonderful folks who work there know the serious withdrawal that I’m in for while they switch locations. Where else can you get “Turf in Surf” (soft-shell crab stuffed with chicken sausage) or cornmeal fried oysters with goat cheese dipping sauce—where else will the waitress sit and chat with you at the table for 15 minutes while you wait for your perpetually late boyfriend?
I’m thankful they’re not closing altogether, but I’ll always have a special affection for their little nook on Beacon St. Then again, less easy access to EVOO could be good news for my bank account.