Psst, I make money on some of the links in this post at no cost to you. It keeps the lights on around here.

Ho-ly cow, what a weekend! I don’t think I’ve done this much in 48 hours … ever? I kinda had FOMO since I was at FinCon last weekend. I felt like I had to catch up on cooking, cleaning, and all the other things that come with keeping a house from becoming shambles.

Check out all the money-saving frugal activities we did this weekend! Add yours in the comments.

Pssst! You can also join the Picky Pinchers Facebook group to share your frugal wins any time you want. Just request to join! I can usually approve requests within 10 minutes if something shiny doesn’t distract me.

The cat door

In the rush and panic and excitement of FinCon, I didn’t have time to write a proper Frugal Weekend post a few weeks ago. I wanted to mention that Mr. Picky Pincher and his dad crafted a very smart solution to an annoying kitty problem.

Zap loves to go outside as he pleases throughout the day. Each morning he begs and begs to go outside to stalk squirrels and bifurcate butterflies. Ahhh, nature.

Given that his kitty whims guide him, this means Zap comes in and out every two minutes. I work from home andΒ I can’t get work done this way, obviously, so I started leaving a window open for him.

It seemed like the perfect solution! I could work while the cat was entertained. Unfortunately an open window brings a host of problems like hot/cold weather (oh hey there, Texas) and BUGS. Mosquitoes, to be exact.

We found a compromise between Zap’s love for the outdoors and my mosquito-prone skin.

Introducing, the cat-door-window-thing! We wanted to buy something to fix our problem, but we couldn’t find anything online.

a shot of the cat door in the window

It’s like a cat door but it fits in our window. Zap was freaked out by it at first, but now he loves it. It’s been great for us, too, since it lets in less bugs. I admit we wouldn’t have been able to make it if Mr. Picky Pincher’s dad weren’t a master carpenter! Thanks guys!

zap looking out his cat door

Just look at that little rumpus.

Frugal fail with a new planner

Oh, y’all. You know how much I love my paper planner. Since it’s nearly the end of 2017, I went ahead and ordered a 2018 planner.

I’ve learned a hard lesson about reading product descriptions very carefully on Amazon. I got a June-to-June academic planner instead of an annual planner. Imagine my surprise when I happily open my planner to find that I paid for six months of planning that have already happened!

Dammit.

It’s not a big deal and I’ll use the planner, but it might mean permanently switching to June-to-June planners or ordering an on-sale 2018 planner in the middle of next summer.

If you’re in the market for a weird June-to-June planner, here’s the link to the one I bought on Amazon.

Cold brew coffee

Mr. Picky Pincher likes hot coffee 98% of the time. For the other 2% of the time, he loves cold brew coffee. He was inspired after I bought a jug of Chameleon coffee from the store for a whopping $10 (it was for FinCon and was cheaper than buying coffee every day). He said, “Woah, $10? We can just make cold coffee concentrate at home for way less.”

And he’s right! The hubs made some cold brew coffee and it was mighty tasty. It was a touch weak, though. Next time we’ll use more beans and let them soak for 48 hours. Here’s how we make cold brew coffee.Β 

cold brew coffee equipment



Cooking

Pheeeeew. I bit off more than I could chew on the cooking front this weekend. Once we got back from grocery shopping on Saturday at 9 am, I cooked until 3 pm that day. The nice upside is that I stood for 90% of the day. πŸ˜‰ I really felt like I needed to play catch up with the cooking, since that’s my main responsibility / contribution to the home (aside from earning money, of course).

And, after two weekends of not cooking, I did miss it. πŸ™‚ Without further ado, here’s what we cooked this weekend!

Marinara

Last week we bought marinara sauce from the store. That marinara is okay, but it’s not super-healthy with all the added salt and preservatives. Our homemade marinara sauce (recipe here) is much healthier and tastes ~amazing~.

We haven’t made a batch in a while out of pure laziness. I got sick of buying marinara, so I made a big batch this weekend.

One reason this marinara is so healthy is because of all the roasted veggies in it! We add zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and other vegetables that I would normally never eat. It’s a nice way to trick myself into eating more veggies.

marinara veggies before roasting

Also, I save all of the veggie scraps in a giant freezer bag. Once the bag is full, I boil the scraps for 2 – 3 hours to make veggie stock. Why buy stock when you can make it for nearly free? πŸ™‚

vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock

And here’s the finished product, y’all! You can’t tell, but this bowl is actually gigantic. I don’t even know how many ounces of sauce this made, but it was a lot. We won’t need to buy marinara for probably another 3 – 6 months.

I really liked the texture of this marinara. This was my first time making it with our Vitamix blender (Amazon link here) and I’m very impressed. Our Ninja blender did okay, but it wasn’t able to emulsify the sauce; it was watery and separated and chunky. But the Vitamix makes it nice ‘n’ smooth!

homemade marinara sauce

Once the marinara cooled, Mr. Picky Pincher stored it in Tupperware and froze it for later.

Freezer meal: calzones

I checked our freezer meal backlog earlier this week and realized we were in quite a pickle. Sure, we had a few freezer meals, but there wasn’t enough stock or variety to keep our attention on hungry nights.

I planned next week’s menu earlier this week and included ideas for freezer recipes, too. I made a total of three this weekend and it feels amazing to have a full freezer again. I need to make it a point to cook for the freezer more often.

If you’re curious, here’s a post on how we do freezer cooking and storage.Β 

I thought calzones would be a very easy meal to zap in the microwave and eat in a hurry (and even on the go, if necessary). For the filling, I used pepperoni, cheddar, mozzarella, leftover ground beef from the fridge, leftover marinara sauce, fresh basil, onions, and garlic.

calzone filling

But here’s where you might be aghast. I did not make the dough from scratch. I grabbed two rolls of Pillsbury pizza dough to make this go more quickly. At nearly $3 per roll, it wasn’t the cheapest option, but it was the best sanity-saving option. I cooked so much this weekend that I needed to press the “easy” button here at least once.

So anyway, I wrapped up the calzone filling in my shameful storebought dough. πŸ˜‰ I’d never folded a calzone before, but it was very similar to folding a hand pie. I topped mine with an egg wash to give them that classic calzone browning and shine.Β We eat with our eyes first, after all!

beautiful calzone dough

Here’s the finished product! Looks pretty tasty, eh? πŸ™‚ I was thrilled that they didn’t leak, so my crimping job must have been all right.

golden brown homemade calzones

Mr. Picky Pincher stepped in and packaged these bad boys with our food vac sealer (here’s a link to one that’s similar to ours on Amazon). It really is the best way to preserve food since it prevents freezer burn and the food lasts a lot longer.

calzones for freezing

But now we have eight calzones on hand for easy eating, which is a win.

Yogurt

I have to confess that I’ve had yogurt-making woes, y’all. A few months back, my entire batch of yogurt, including the mother culture, went bad. I didn’t fret too much though. I just went to the store and snagged a new starter.

While this new generation of yogurt has technically been working, it’s acted so much differently. yogurtMy old batch of yogurt would ferment in as little as 8 hours. The current batch takes up to 24 hours, and that’s in a warm room!

I’m going to try to double the amount of yogurt starter I add to these batches, so hopefully that will encourage the bacteria to grow more quickly. It’s just so odd how each generation has its own quirks.

If you aren’t making your own yogurt, it’s super easy and I recommend it! Here’s a guide to making your own yogurt (it’s easy and fast!).

Freezer meal: tomato cream sliders

Another freezer meal we made were these tasty tomato cream sliders. They’re hands-down one of our favorite dinners. When I was planning out our freezer meals, I wanted to make two new meals and one safe meal that I knew we loved. This is the safe meal. πŸ™‚

tomato cream burger sliders

The recipe will be in The Picky Pinchers Cookbook if you want it!

I made a double batch of this so Mr. Picky Pincher and I could customize the sides with the burger patties. I like to eat mine with broccoli while he prefers his with cabbage.

We packaged these suckers in Tupperware and they should last months. Win!

Pumpkin

With the end of Halloween came the end of our porch-pumpkin’s life. HEB gave me a coupon months ago for a buy-one-get-one deal on pumpkins. I bought two of their largest pumpkins and processed the first one. The second one became a decorative porch-pumpkin.

I purposely didn’t carve this pumpkin so it would still be food-safe at the end of Halloween.

I followed reader suggestions (thanks guys!) and simply quartered the pumpkin and roasted it, instead of peeling, cubing, and then roasting it. I gotta say this new method is a lot less work. πŸ˜‰

prepping pumpkin for roasting

Once the pumpkin cooled, I scooped it out of the skin and discarded the innards. Mr. Picky Pincher helped me package it in Ziplocs. I’ll use the pumpkin to make pumpkin rolls and maybe even pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.Β Pumpkin puree is also a popular ingredient for DIY homemade cat and dog treats.

Freezer meal: Weird buffalo chicken sweet potatoes

Eep, this was the one freezer meal I sort of regret. I wanted to try two new recipes for our freezer meals to keep things interesting. The only downside to that plan is that there’s a chance you’ll make something gross, and then have a lot of it on your hands.Β 

I found a recipe for buffalo chicken-topped sweet potatoes and it sounded good in my head.

I defrosted white chicken meat from the freezer and mixed it with wing sauce. I microwaved the sweet potatoes until they were tender, about 20 minutes, and mashed them on the bottom. I sprinkled a little bleu cheese on there for flavor.

I tried to eat this for dinner on Saturday. It wasn’t nasty, but it was … weird. I’ll hang onto the other servings for now and see if I’m in a mood to eat them later.

I’m still trying to decide if this is gross or not…?Β 

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

buffalo chicken-topped sweet potatoes for freezing

Granola

We were low on our butter pecan granola supply, so I made a fresh batch. This time I omitted the homemade raisins from the mixture. I store our granola in the fridge so it stays fresh longer. I hate the texture of cold grapes in my granola; it sticks to your teeth like taffy.

We’ll just top our yogurt or whatever with the homemade raisins after the fact instead of mixing them with the granola directly.

homemade butter pecan granola

Cold quinoa chickpea salad

I made this quinoa chickpea salad (recipe here) a few weeks ago as a cold meal I could easily eat while at FinCon. I left Mr. Picky Pincher a few servings so he could eat it while I was gone. As it turns out, this is quite a tasty side dish to roasted salmon or chicken!

We’ll eat this later in the week with some pan-seared honey mustard chicken.

quinoa chickpea bowl

Subway coupons

Since the buffalo chicken sweet potatoes didn’t work out for Saturday dinner, we went by Subway instead. I always check my receipts for coupons, and this receipt had two of ’em!

First, I did an online feedback survey. I gave my local Subway store ten thumbs up and, in return, got a coupon for a free cookie.

Second, I noticed our receipt had a buy-one-get-one coupon for sandwiches. We used this coupon for Sunday lunch and spent only $8 on a healthy-ish lunch for two people, plus a drink (and a free cookie). πŸ™‚

Magnetic advent calendar

I’m actually going to do an in-depth post on this one, but I had to show this off!

Growing up, my mom always made a big deal out of Christmas. We went all-out with decorating the house and dressing the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music. And yes, I am an annoying lover of Christmas music. πŸ˜‰

For all the love of Christmas in our house, we never did do advent calendars. At age 25 I’m still navigating my own traditions and I thought this could be a fun one to start that is just mine.

It cost about $30 to make my advent calendar (deets will be in the post), but we’ll reuse it year after year.

This advent calendar is a little different because the “treats” inside are slips of paper with financial wellness activities. For example, one day might tell us to donate to the USO, while another day might tell us to put $20 extra into our retirement account.

Dorky? Most definitely.

Awesome? Oh yeah.

homemade diy advent calendar

Fall decorating

I removed our ~spooky~ Halloween wreath and replaced it with our bright Thanksgiving wreath on our front door. It’s not much in the way of decoration, but it’s a little festive and we can reuse it for several years, so why not?Β 

a halloween wreath and a thanksgiving wreath

Growing green onions

I used these store bought green onions for the quinoa chickpea salad. Instead of tossing them, I put them in water to let the roots grow a bit. We’ll plant these in our raised beds and have green onions again. πŸ™‚

Mr. Picky Pincher removed the green onions from the raised beds and I thought we had to start all over.

But apparently not! The determined green onions took root in a corner of the yard where he tossed them. We’ll plant them again (and apologize profusely) along with these new green onions.

re-growing green onions

Organization

I’m trying to be better about mentioning when I clean or purge around here. On Sunday morning I went through my office on a mission to organize, clean, and donate items. Since I work in this room daily, it’s priority numero-uno as far as cleaning and organizing goes.Β 

What’s insane to me is the amount of great possessions we had hiding in this room! We had my mom’s point and shoot camera in there, which I’m charging right now. I’m going to see if it takes better pictures that my phone, although I doubt it, since the camera is from 2010 and phone cameras have come a long way since then.

I also found a baggie full of flash drives and SD cards. This week I’ll go through all of them to see what we can consolidate or otherwise store.

Lesson learned though, y’all: go through your stuff! You’ll be surprised at what you find. πŸ™‚ Hell, it might even save you money.

New videos!

As I promised last week, I made two new videos for my YouTube channel!Β If you aren’t following us on YouTube already, I recommend it so you’ll know the second a new video comes out. Subscribe here!

I filmed these videos while attending FinCon. They generously provided a professional video booth with pro lighting, cameras, and a setting. The background noise is a little loud for my taste, but it still came out great!

The first video is titled “Is Frugality A Sacrifice?” and it’s based on a conversation I had with Mr. Picky Pincher a few weeks ago about the nature of frugality.

The second video is my favorite and it’s titled “The Value of Doing Things That Scare Us.” FinCon was a big growing opportunity for me. I don’t like talking to strangers and making small talk. I hate crowds. I hate not being at home. It was really scary for me, but I’m so, so glad that I went.

So, naturally, I did a video on the importance of doing things that scare you.

This has inspired me to want to make more videos! But, gee whiz, is it a lot of work to edit and upload them. I don’t know how YouTubers do it!

Zap’s Adventures

Poor Zap had to go to the vet on Friday for his annual checkup and shots. We had to jam him into his kitty carrier, which no one liked. We did toss some treats and Penny the Penguin into the carrier to make him feel a bit better.

He did great at the vet! She mentioned that he’s one of her favorite patients. πŸ™‚ He does have to go back in three weeks for a booster shot on his feline leukemia vaccine, but after that he should be good for another year.

We did shell out $175 for the visit. That’s just the cost of responsible pet ownership y’all!Β 

zap at the vet

“Me hates you.”

He had bloodwork and got several shots, so he was sore and tired all day Saturday. He slept for most of the day in our closet, but joined us that night to binge watch Stranger Things.

zap resting after the vet

Earlier in the week it rained and I forgot how much Zap ~LOVES~ mud. He tracked mud all over the desk and house. Sigh.

zap leaving muddy paw prints EVERYWHERE

Just look at this little fuzzy angel. πŸ™‚ He was laying on my legs and I put a blanket on myself because I was cold. That would usually ruffle Zap’s feathers, but this time he snuggled up in the blanket like a widdle baby.

zap being snuggly

We want to know: How did you spend or save this weekend?Β 


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