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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Selling Clothing: Tradesy Experience

A reader asked for a report on Tradesy selling. Tradesy is a site through which you sell clothing, shoes, accessories. You send a picture, set the price, and cross your fingers. As with Ebay, you keep the item till it sells. Unlike Ebay, your listing remains indefinitely. Listing is free.

Tradesy is a pure middleman. They take 10% of your selling price and charge a fee if you choose Paypal rather than credit. The buyer's price INCLUDES shipping and the 10% fee, so there is a spread between what you get and what the buyer pays.

I hate selling on Ebay, way too stressful in many ways.

Miss Em and I listed about 30 items, mostly shoes. We set the prices lower than suggested. So far we have sold 14. The lowest price was for some Susana Monaco stretchy stuff. The highest prices were for some Frye boots and some Uggs. We've netted about $350, for Miss Em's return to USA clothing fund.

Luckily, all items except the Uggs were thrifted--and even the Uggs were vastly on sale--so we haven't lost any money.

Tradesy is EASY. You get an email when your item sells; a few days later you get your selling kit, which consists of a pre-addressed Tyvek envelope. You stuff the stuff in and that's it. EASY.

More tips to follow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stretch Cooking: Tortilla Soup

An obvious stretch from Ina Garten's chicken chili (see previous post).

Tortilla Soup

a few blobs of chicken chili
some stock made from the rotisserie carcass
another small can of tomatoes
some of the kidney beans I made by accident

Voila: soup!

I also added a can of hominy (or try corn), some crumbled chips.

Top with cheddar

Hot sauce to taste

Time: 5 minutes????

I got another idea after I made this. Luckily, I had a bit of chicken chili left. Can you think of something else?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stretching Your Food: Chicken Chili

I am convinced that getting your food budget under control is the key to financial well-being. Everyone has to eat. I pointed out to Miss Em's friend that he $1500 plane ticket to Serbia (soooo expensive for someone in med school) can be "paid for" by spending $30/week less on food than his classmates. To that end, I email him the good deals from Publix every week.

Another way to save money on food is to stretch it: turn something into something else. This is not a dreary endeavor, based in necessity. It's actually fun and saves a ton of time.

To wit: I had a rotisserie chicken that I ate with the couscous recipe I posted a few days ago. There was a ton of chicken left. So I made Ina Garten's chicken chili.

Chicken Chili
Recipe courtesy Barefoot Contessa Parties!, 2001, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:15 minInactive Prep Time: -- Cook Time:1 hr 45 min
6 servings

4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving:

Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream
Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Well, of course, mine was easier. Not only did I have the chicken all set, but I threw in chunks of those frozen caramelized onions and bell peppers I'm always haranguing you about. So all I had to do was open canned tomatoes, throw in frozen chunks, add a few spices (omitted basil), and throw in some meat. 10 minutes?

I forgot that this chili was meatless, so I cooked a pound of kidney beans. Oops! Well, there was my side dish.

We've had this twice and there's a fair amount left over. What would you do with it?
P.S. I can't believe how cheap this book is if you buy it used.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scoff If You Will: Chico's Code $25 off $50

Chico's elicits scoffs even MORE than Eileen Fisher: middle-aged women in beaded polyester prints screaming cheeeeeeep. I even scoff at most of it. Nonetheless, I like their ponte pants, leggings, and long tanks. I sort by color so I only look at items available in black and red and a few other colors. They have super sales and also send codes to the lucky few that you can use ON TOP of sales. The current code gives you $25 off $50! That's the best. 11232. Not sure how long it's good for. Scoff away.

P.S. 22 year old Miss Em, very tall and very thin, ALSO wears the leggings, ponte pants, and long tanks. Scoff if you dare!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If Eileen Fisher is What You Want; If 25% Off Retail is Good Enough

Eileen Fisher is on the radar once more. There was a New Yorker article, which I am going to read one of these days. Duchesse wrote an interesting post on why the line doesn't suit her, and got many passionate comments. As my students say, "Why all the hatin'" I remember reading an article years ago called Good-bye ???, Hello Eileen Fisher. Can't remember the identity of ???, but the point was good-bye sexy clothing, admiring glances, hello middle age. From an essay in a British paper: One off-Broadway show even had a character sighing: “When you start wearing Eileen Fisher, you might as well say, ‘I give up’.” Duchesse did not say these things, by the way. But comments included words like crone, aging hippie and so on.

All I have to say is: I like pants with wide elastic waistbands. And I need items that will keep my students paying attention to what I'm saying. None of the comments on Rate My Professor refer to me as a crone.

I do hate the prices and have not found Ebay a good source, even though it's often recommended. I usually wait till Nordstrom has a good sale. In fact, they have a lot marked down right now.

Another idea: go to Garnet Hill Facebook. Click through and you can get 25% off anything full-price. Full disclosure: I am way too cheap to buy EF at 25% off. You can get anything, not just EF, but Garnet Hill has a good selection.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vegetable Couscous: Easy, Fast, Frugal

A friend of Miss Em's who started med school this fall asked what recipes he should have. I said, Forget the recipes. Start by buying 10 cans of beans, 10 cans of tomatoes, and some grains. He listened too!

So I would similarly say to Pseu, seeking a more vegcentric diet, Lucky you in SoCal. Get to Trader Joe's and buy the above. In particular, you can get some canned chickpeas and some couscous. (Not having a TJ's, Miss Em's friend got his from Amazon.)

And this is what you can make. Being lazy I copied this from another blog. She in turn copied it from Jeanne Lemlin's book. The blogger eliminated the little bit of sauteeing oil Lemlin recommends. It adds so much flavor! I say, saute in oil.

Vegetable Couscous

Serves 3 to 4

If couscous is not available, this easy dish can be served over whole grains, such as millet, quinoa, or brown rice.

2 Tbs. water
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 medium Onion, diced
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
½ tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Paprika
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 medium Zucchini, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 15-oz. can Chick-peas, rinsed and drained
1 16-oz can Tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juice
½ cup Raisins
1 ½ cups Vegetable stock (or water, with broth powder added after it boils)
½ tsp Salt
1 cup Couscous

Heat the 2 tbsp. water in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne and cook 2 minutes more, stirring often.

Stir in the zucchini, chick-peas, tomatoes, and raisins. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the couscous. Bring the vegetable stock or water to a boil and stir in the salt and the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes, or for up to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Serve the couscous with the vegetable mixture mounded in the center.

Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures: More than 175 Fast, Delicious, and Healthy Meatless Recipesby Jeanne Lemlin.

If you have some meat eaters, buy a rotisserie chicken for them. DONE!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pork and Potato Hash and Some Snippets from Serbia

I want to write about some easy veggie-centric recipes for the busy Pseu, but I MUST GET RID OF THIS PORK. I am sick of it. Here's what I'm having, from another favorite cookbook: Jacque Pepin's Cuisine Economique. Isn't that a great title? This is copied from an appearance in the New York Times.

TOTAL TIME50 minutes
COOK TIME 30 minutes PREP TIME 20 minutes


1 3/4 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices and washed in cold water
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 pound onions (about 2 medium-size onions), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
A few tablespoons of juice left over from the pork roast, if any remains (see recipe)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/3 cup minced scallion (3 to 4 scallions)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
10 to 12 ounces leftover pork roast (see recipe), cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 fried egg, for garnish (optional)

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet (or 2 smaller nonstick skillets), place the sliced potatoes with the water, onion and juice from the pork roast. Bring to a boil, cover and boil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, scallion, olive oil, Tabasco, salt, Worcestershire sauce and the leftover pork roast. Mix well and cook, uncovered, stirring over high heat for about 5 minutes.
Most of the moisture will have evaporated by now and the mixture should start to sizzle. Since the hash will begin to stick at this point, use a flat wooden spatula to scrape up the crusty bits sticking in the bottom of the pan and stir them into the uncooked mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes. The mixture will brown faster in the last 10 minutes of cooking and should then be stirred every 2 or 3 minutes.
At the end of the cooking time, the mixture will stop sticking to the pan. Press on the mixture to make it hold together and fold the solid mass into an oval omelet shape. Invert onto a large platter. Serve immediately as is or with one fried egg on top.
YIELD 6 servings

The book is neat: Pepin explains that his classical French training has been jazzed up by the influence of his Puerto-Rican born wife. Yay Gloria! Love the hot sauce. Another book that can be had for a penny plus shipping.

In the doting mom department: take a look at Miss Em's snippets from Serbia. I think they are charming, but then, I'm biased.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mr FS's Onion Hack: No Tears!

One of Frugal Son's pals from high school is now in medical school. We seldom see him because he's so busy. He graced us with his presence last year. He told me that he learned a lot from me. I said What's the main thing?

Answer: If it's on sale, buy a lot.

In the 80/20 Pareto Principle of food frugality, that's probably most of the 80% right there.

I recently bought 12 pounds of onions for $4.00. I've already written about my main onion hack. (Now that I've used the word hack for the first time, it is probably no longer au courant. Oh well.) My hack: cook the onions with a little oil in your slow cooker, creating a facsimile of caramelized onions, which you freeze and use--in broken-off pieces--in many recipes. What a time saver! P.S. We slow cook onions on our front porch because they SMELL terrible.

Now Mr FS has a hack of his own. On a recent walk, Mr FS picked up a box fan. He said: I bet I can chop the onions on the porch and set the fan to blow AWAY from me, thereby minimizing tears. Reader: it worked. He chopped SIX POUNDS with nary a tear!

Now the onions are cooking away outside and I probably won't have to chop an onion for a month--maybe more.

Do you have an onion hack?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quick Vegetarian Pleasures: Fast, Easy, Good, FRUGAL

Pseu of the wonderful blog wants a more plant-based diet. What to cook? Her readers are suggesting wonderful things, but, of course, I think my suggestion is the best: a book by Jeanne Lemlin, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. I have more than 200 cookbooks (ummmmm...what's my excuse? I like to read them....) and this is one of my most used. In fact, I have backups for my children.

Lemlin should be better known than she is. Her recipes are indeed QUICK. They generally can be made with stuff you have around, so cheap. They always come out (not true of many cookbooks--nothing is more enraging to the frugal heart than wasting food).

The book just happened to be open on my desk. That is because I made a sauce a few days ago. It's for tortellini, but I used ravioli (beef-filled, actually. Sorry Jeanne). Here's the sauce: saute 4-6 scallions in a little butter. Add 2 chopped tomatoes (Jeanne says fresh, but I used diced, canned). Stir for a bit. Turn off. Add 2/3 cup sour cream, 2 TBS parmesan. Serve on pasta.

See what I mean? This recipe was first made by my daughter, Miss Em, in the dreary days post-Hurricane Katrina. We had no power. Our place of employ did, so we went back to work. Miss Em's friends had fled to nicer places. Her school was closed. She came to work with us each day. To mark time--and to get her mind off the Red Cross food we ate--she went through cookbooks and marked her favorite recipes. The next summer, she visited her beloved grandfather and cooked for him!

Here another with a sticky Miss Em note: polenta with spicy eggplant sauce. Here are some I've made: fettuccine margherita, rice, broccoli and feta cheese saute, Mexican red beans and rice.

The author lives in Great Barrington, MA, a wonderful town that I visit every summer. It has good, but not great grocery shopping. So you really can make most of these from supermarket ingredients. And the book can be had for a mere penny plus shipping. How crazy is that?

All her books are good, nay, great.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More Alice Munro Love: The Beggar Maid

I've read everything by Alice Munro--newest Nobel laureate--but probably the first story I read that simply blew me away was Royal Beatings. This was in the New Yorker. I stole some time from my graduate studies (not much time for recreational reading in grad school) and read it over and over and over. Later, I discovered the story in a book of interlocking stories called The Beggar Maid. I was at my first year in a "real" job and the book rep let me pick 5 books FOR FREE! I was so excited.

I still have my yellowing copy of that book. Somewhere. As the subtitle indicates, the stories center on Rose and her stepmother Flo. But the character of Royal Beatings who is most poignant is Rose's father, a poor working man, taciturn, abusive, and yet with a beautiful sensibility. Rose hears him recite lines of poetry as he works. One--the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces--is from Shakespeare's Tempest. This is easily findable nowadays with Google. But when I read it in grad school, I was thrilled to be able to identify it myself. I was such a serious student.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Love Alice Munro

Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature! You can read about her in lots of places. You can--as of this writing--get some of her books from You can--again, this may change--get her books used for supercheap on Amazon (as of this writing, the book pictured below can be had for a mere penny plus shipping). Or frugal fans: go to the library.

Here's what I love about Alice Munro, whom I discovered in a borrowed New Yorker as a college freshman: she is a wonderful, wonderful writer, but not at all difficult to read. And because she writes short stories, anyone can find a bit of time to read her.

I am someone who reads the Brothers Karamazov for fun. I even wrote about it. But it is a huge time investment, not to mention an emotional one. Same for another group of favorites: the late novels of Henry James.

I often say that the hardest type of literature to find is something that is good--very good, excellent--but not too intellectually or emotionally draining. I loved the title story in this collection. I read somewhere that a movie is in the works.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Don't Like to Spend A Lot on Clothing: A True But Not Tragic Story from Serbia

While I was conflicted about wanting/not wanting half-price Eileen Fisher, an opportunity that appeared in my inbox one day, I got this little piece in a chat. Miss Em is in Serbia. Before she left, we took a load of clothing to the Buffalo Exchange. We mostly took cash, but she took a bit in credit to get one of those Eileen Fisher silk tees that is always touted as travel clothing par excellence. This new with tags shirt was only $12 at the Buf and it had been there a while. Perhaps it was too staid for their hipster clientele.

Not only did the shirt get damaged, but Miss Em was a bit disillusioned about its travelworthiness. This came under the title of Tragedy: Mini. Please excuse the no-caps style in which Miss Em and I--English majors both--conduct our rushed chats on-line.

i ruined my purple eileen fisher shirt :(
thank god i paid $12 for it and not $117
because i thought the container of bleach was laundry detergent--because it was on top of the washing machine
i can still wear it--but the fabric feels horrible and stretched out
no more of that great fall to it--though honestly it was not so good anyway because it was always wrinkled! even though it claims to resist wrinkles
i blame it on CYRILLIC

To me, having expensive clothing is stressful! For good reason.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Always Do the Math: Saying No to Bargains

I generally feature all my little frugalities as I wend my way through Big Lots, Goodwill, and similar venues. Nevertheless, I am full of material desires. Usually frugality wins out. That's good, because I have too much. Like many women of my age (middle) and class (middle), I yearn for Eileen Fisher clothes. But--and here's the frugal side--I don't find them a good value (your call may be different) and--sorry--I can't spend so much on a rayon tee shirt. It just bothers me.

Out of the blue, two weeks ago, I got an offer from the tempting catalog Garnet Hill--spend $100 on full-priced items and you would receive a $100 gift card to buy whatever by the end of October. Miss Em--who received the same offer and one with only a $50 gift card--urged me to do it. She said "Get some of the stuff you've been mooning over."

I didn't do it, however. I figured that--at best--unless something great was put on sale, I would be getting two items for half off--and that didn't count the shipping costs. Naturally, on Friday a new offer popped up: 40% off knit shirts, including two desired Eileen Fishers!! The perfect use for the gift card! Oh I felt sorry for myself. Miss Em emailed from Serbia, "I can't believe you turned down free money!"

So I did the math and now I feel better. To start, I would have bought an Eileen Fisher tee shirt dress for $100. With my gift card, I would have bought two EF shirts at 40% off, totaling around $130. With shipping, I would spend around $260 minus $100, for a total of $160.

Is that a great deal? The retail on the three items is around $320. So, really, even with the sale on the second set, I would have saved 50%. Good, but not great. I also would have bought 3 items, instead of the one (a long top) I really wanted.

Miss Em has the Eileen Fisher tee shirt dress and I've worn it a few times in her absence. She got it for $10.00 at Twice as Nice, a much-missed resale store in Alabama. I can wear it, but it's a little small (it's XS). When I showed Miss Em the math on the offer, she said the deal wasn't as good as it first seemed. And then she said, "You can have the tee shirt dress. I've got other black dresses."

I still kind of yearn for the EF pieces, but doing the math made me feel better. Also, I really don't need the items. I always do the math. Do you?

And, dear Miss Em, thanks for the beautiful dress. I love it.

P.S. No links. To keep you from temptation.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cooking in the 'hood

From Serbia, Miss Em sends a link, "Mama, you could cook in the 'hood." Great advice for everyone on saving time and money, while eating for health.