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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Now: Twenty Years Later

Books directed to messy people like me caution against the For Now habit. Oh, I'll just leave this box on the table for now. And then, of course, the box attracts a lot of other clutter, as in the Broken Window Theory.

As I look around my house preparing to figure out what to bring from the California home of my late in-laws (at great expense), I see many For Nows of another sort. For instance, when Mr FS and I first came to Louisiana, it was unclear if I would be employed. We lived in a very cheap rental house with our new baby and almost no furniture.

I bought some on sale chairs at Pier One: they were WAY on sale, knock-offs of Parisian cafe chairs. I was in love. Sadly, they were of typical Pier One quality and one chair broke within a week, necessitating the return of all (no, I explained to Mr FS, one cannot have a set of three chairs).

On a walk with little Frugal Son, I passed a used furniture store where I saw 4 sturdy (key word after the flimsy Pier Ones) restaurant-ish wooden chairs for $12 each. They are actually nice looking, in a utilitarian way. I bought them FOR NOW.

Twenty-odd years later, I still have them. It occurs to me that if any nicer chairs wend my way, it should be easy enough to send the still sturdy chairs to a new home.

Looking at my stuff with a critical eye is the only bright spot in this dreadful process. I am sorry that I did not schedule regular inspections over the years.

Do you have any For Nows in your home?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rice Cooker Meals for Everyone, Even Me

Now that I'm back in school, I'm more frazzled than usual. Out comes the trusty rice cooker. I used a recipe in a regionally published cookbook as a base.

Like many regional cookbooks, this one has recipes that are all kind of the same, calling for Rotel tomatoes and Cajun seasoning in almost every dish. I put together something based on Cabbage Casserole, which involved throwing into the rice cooker some cooked ground beef (I had this frozen), some onions, bell peppers, green onions, 1 cup rice, 1 cup or so of water, a few handfuls of preshredded cabbage and OF COURSE a small can of Rotel tomatoes. Turn on the rice cooker. It will know when to stop. If you need to add more liquid, do so.

Serve with hot sauce, also OF COURSE.

My hero Roger Ebert is right: the pot knows. I left out several things, including a pound of sausage, that I didn't have. It was still good.

The author says that this tastes like stuffed cabbage. Well, I wish. My grandma (from Poland) was a terrible cook, but she made wonderful stuffed cabbage. They didn't have Cajun seasonings or Rotel in Poland--or Brooklyn--though they probably do now. This tastes like what your Cajun grandma would have made.

After a long day at work, I must say I enjoy throwing a bunch of stuff into a single pot, letting the pot do the work, and then having enough to eat the next day. At which point, you will have to wash a single pot.

Next time, I'll add some cooked red beans.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dismantling a Household: Advice Needed

Though I wrote a bit on the happy event of Frugal Son getting a job and setting up a mini-household in a tiny New Orleans apartment, I did not write about a sad event. The death--not unexpected, but devastating nonetheless--of my much-loved and esteemed father-in-law.

He lived in northern California, near his daughter, in a house full of memories and mementoes of 45 years in a big house in Pasadena. Now, in addition to the emotional issues, we have to face the issues both emotional and pragmatic of what we will take. The other children--in the same town and in Seattle--have already taken their chosen objects.

Nothing is valuable in a monetary sense. But my in-laws were great makers and collectors of objects: handmade crafts of my mother-in-law (some of whose sweaters I posted in the early days of this blog), furniture built by my father-in-law, plus collections of bells, glassware, etc etc.

And the books! My father-in-law, an English professor, had, I would say, one of the most beautiful minds I have ever encountered. He also had a house full of books: poetry, music theory, and Roman history make up the bulk of it. Do I need to mention that Mr FS shares his father's profession and love of the first two categories.

Mr FS will have to go through the process of deciding what to take and what to leave behind. Does anyone have any advice--even a reference to some good books on the topic--of how to deal with the pragmatics of moving many small and a few largish objects?

Any words of experience would be much appreciated.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We are all College Cooks

What is a College Cook? Someone with limited time, space, know how, and facilities. In truth, I have only one genuine College Cook in my immediate circle: Miss Em, who is heading into her last year of dorm life.

Frugal Son just moved to an apartment in New Orleans: he packed his beloved rice cooker. Mr C--an affiliate of our family, though not officially a member--just moved into his post-grad apartment and received his first rice cooker (courtesy of me and Goodwill) and a copy of the little guide Frugal Son and I put together:

This is not just a collection of easy recipes: we recommend 20 easy to buy and store products; we then offer 2 weeks of recipes that can be put together quickly, with little mess, in rice cooker or microwave, two college approved appliances. Oh, and did I mention that you or your cook will save a ton of money--not to mention time?

We priced it as low as Amazon can go for our program: $2.99. For the same price, you can order it from us and receive an ebook.

Even though I like to cook, I am as lazy as the next person (lazier, probably). I cook with my rice cooker most nights.

Check out our college Cooking blog for occasional posts and suggestions too.

Any other suggestions for the College Cook--even if the College Cook is long out of college?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Remember: Return the Duds

I am a big believer in saving little bits of money; over time, they add up. Lately there has been a lot of cleaning up and out in our frugal home, both for happy reasons and sad ones. Many transitions.

Miss Em is getting ready to return to school soon. As the neatest and most organized member of our household, she gets it done. Today, she got together stuff that needs to be returned.

I am always recommending sticking to shops with unconditional guarantees. To wit:

Garnet Hill: two sweaters (she's keeping the shoes)
Nordstrom: some shoes that, alas, did not fit well
LL Bean: her backpack ripped at the seams

These guarantees are great, but only if you make use of them. I am always quoting my late frugal dad: You're paying a lot of money for that guarantee, so use it.

Additionally, she is returning items to two stores that you may not know stand behind their merchandise: Sephora and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Yes, if the eyeshadow doesn't please, bring it back.

Being a good consumer can yield more than a few dollars back. The total for the above is going to be SOMETHING, even though everything was bought on sale.

Have you been a good consumer lately?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tiny Frugal Tip for Air Travelers, with PG Tips

Miss Em came home yesterday from her four weeks at Oxford, where she took two classes and visited London, Edinburgh, and Wales. She was VERY careful about money because, even with a gig as assistant to one of the profs, the trip was expensive.

One of her frugal moments came about by accident. She had many types of tea, including the famous PG Tips. She went to a fancy coffee spot in the airport and asked if she could buy some hot water. She could. It was 50 cents. She got a big cup and a top. She repeated this several times during her airport time. EAch time, she saved about $2.00.

I am always annoyed by the high prices and generally low quality of airport food. We generally bring emergency provisions. Now we can also enjoy tea.

Good job, Frugal Girl.

Any other tips for the airport?