Frugal Three Course Company Menu

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Frugal Three Course Company Menu 

Frugal moms like to entertain occasionally, and enjoy the company of close friends, family and colleagues. But sometimes entertaining can be difficult and expensive, especially if you’re expected to provide a three-course meal. Here’s a simple three course menu of easy-to-make recipes that’s as nice on your pocketbook as it is good to eat.

First Course: Clear Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped fine
2 T. butter or margarine
2 c. tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 t. cloves
dash of basil
1 t. parsley
2 t. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
4 T. fresh cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter in a saucepan for about 7 minutes on low heat so they don’t brown. Add tomato juice. Add cloves, basil, bay leaf, sugar and parsley. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Strain. Return soup to pan, add lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit until ready to serve then reheat. Ladle into warm bowls. Add 1 tablespoon cream on top of each.

One of the best things about this soup is that it can be prepared well in advance of the meal then takes only a few minutes to reheat. This frees up your time to prepare the other dishes.

Main Course: Spaghetti Bolognese

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine or 1/8 t. garlic powder
2 T. olive oil
2 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 can tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. pepper
12 oz. spaghetti
1 T. butter or margarine
Parmesan cheese

Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add mushrooms, cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until blended and meat is well done. Chop tomatoes and add to meat, then add tomato paste and pepper. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water for 10-15 minutes or until done. When tender, drain spaghetti, return to pan, adding butter and sprinkling with a dash of pepper. Toss to mix and keep warm over low heat.

Place spaghetti on a large serving dish, top with meat sauce and cheese.

Dessert: Raspberry Coulis

1 pint raspberries
1/4 c. sugar (or Splenda)
Ice Cream

Strain raspberries to remove seeds. Add sugar or sweetener. Mix well. Serve over two scoops of ice cream.

Vacation Solutions for the Budget-Impaired

July 16, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Vacation Solutions for the Budget-Impaired 

Summer is the time our thoughts turn to getting away… lounging on a beach, sipping a long, cool drink, enjoying the surf and the sun. But then reality rears its ugly head and we have to go back to work just to make the mortgage payment.

Don’t despair!

There are frugal vacation solutions available. And while you may not be able to go exactly where you would like, stay as long as you want, or spend as much as you choose, you can use some of these ideas to save enough money to help you take that needed vacation this year.

Your vacation budget will, of course, include lodging, meals, transportation and entertainment costs, with the first three being the most costly. To cut vacation expenses, minimize what you pay in as many areas as you can.

Lodging:

• Stay with a friend or family member.

• Camp out or go RVing. Borrow equipment if you can since the costs to rent an RV, in particular, can be prohibitive.

• If you choose to go camping or RVing, try boondocking (staying in a campsite with few amenities) or opt for a state park which is always a cheaper alternative than the KOA-type campgrounds.

• Swap houses with a family in the area you plan to visit.

• Borrow a timeshare.

• Stay in a convent, monastery, or hostel.

• If you do stay in a motel, choose a mid-week visit rather than a weekend. It can cut your lodging bill by up to 50 percent.

• Book your room online and in advance for additional savings.

• Take a variety of day trips rather than staying overnight. This can be especially fun if you live near a beach, a large lake, or another attraction.

• Stay home! Commonly called “Staycations” because you never leave home, you can create a relaxing, enjoyable week of leisure for yourself and your family without ever leaving the house.

Visit local attractions, go on picnics, play in the park, swim in a nearby lake or go for a hike. Vacations are about having fun and relaxing.

Transportation:

• If you plan to drive, go somewhere nearby to minimize gasoline expenses.

• Travel with another family and split the costs.

• When flying, choose evening and weekday flights to get the best deal on airfare.

• Travel by train or bus to save money and enjoy seeing the country without the hassle of driving yourself.

Meals:

• Eat lighter meals, especially at dinner. Save your largest meals for lunch when you can usually find specials and discounts.

• Drink water rather than soda, and avoid alcoholic beverages.

• Choose restaurants where the kids can eat free. Take advantage of senior discounts if they apply.

• Stop by a grocery store and pick up sandwich items, snacks and breakfast bars so you only have to eat one restaurant meal a day.

Entertainment:

• Opt for as many free attractions as you can find. Consider museums, antique shops, local factories, etc. You can find them in almost every region of the country.

• Avoid resort areas and “tourist traps” where prices are usually much higher.

• When you visit local attractions, ask for resident discounts. Many of the businesses in resort areas such as Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, offer 10 to 20 percent discounts to county residents.

• Minimize your souvenir shopping. Send a postcard instead and save your money to enjoy the trip.

• While you want – and probably need – to save money on your vacation, be careful that you’re not so concerned about the costs that you can’t enjoy yourself. Save your money in advance and have enough to do the things that really matter to you. After all… you deserve a break this summer… enjoy it!

Frugal Parties: Lots of Fun for Little Cash

June 16, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Frugal Parties: Lots of Fun for Little Cash 

If you love to entertain and get together with friends, but feel you can’t afford it with the economic downturn, take heart. Here are eight ideas to create low-cost gatherings that will help you have fun without spending a fortune.

1. Organize a Progressive Dinner

Get together with a few of your friends and plan a progressive dinner where each hostess provides one aspect of the meal at her home. Consider appetizers, soup and salad, main course, dessert, and coffee. This will involve five homes and require five hostesses. You can adapt this as needed, but the idea is that each hostess prepares only her portion of the meal.

Guests gather at the “appetizers” home. They enjoy the food, fellowship for a few minutes, then move to the “soup and salad” home where they do the same. The dinner progresses around the circuit, ending at the “coffee” home from which everyone departs. Both the cost and the hostess work is minimal, but this is a very enjoyable party for everyone involved.

2. Throw a Potluck

While there was a time when the hostess was required by etiquette to provide everything, and that may still be true for certain settings, having guests bring a dish is a totally acceptable option for entertaining. You can set a menu or take true potluck, whichever you choose. The focus is on friends and fellowship, after all, not on elaborate meals.

3. Keep it Simple

Want to do it all yourself? Then opt for something inexpensive such as grilled hot dogs and chili, tacos, homemade pizza, spaghetti and salad, etc. Add a dessert and coffee, and you’ve got it made.

4. Host a Morning Brunch or an Afternoon Tea

Who says a party has to be held in the evening? A Saturday morning brunch or afternoon tea may better suit your needs and either one can be less expensive than an evening meal.

Opt for nut breads, fruits and a simple quiche if you’re doing a brunch; or cookies and a variety of flavored teas for the afternoon. Either of these options work especially well for women’s groups. Decorate with romantic lace and vintage tea cups. You can even ask everyone to wear white gloves.

5. Play Dress Up

IWho says costume parties are only for Halloween? Almost everyone loves to dress up, so host a costume party any time of the year! Make it even more fun by choosing a theme centered around a holiday or special event. For instance, have everyone dress in patriotic costumes for the Fourth of the July, or only in green for St. Patrick’s Day.

6. Have a Come Exactly as You Are Party

Have fun and share some laughs by hosting a “Come Exactly as You Are Party.” Send out invitations that include the date for your party, but don’t tell anyone the time. When the day arrives, call your guests and say “It’s Time to Party!” Guests have to come exactly as they are right then. They can’t change clothes, add make-up or even comb their hair!

7. Split the Costs

You can go beyond a simple potluck by splitting all party costs with another family, or even two or more families. Everyone can pitch in and share all expenses involved and you can throw a really nice shindig without breaking anyone’s piggybank. This is especially nice for sports teams, clubs, and similar groups, though it’s a great idea for friends or family as well.

8. Ask for a Carry-In Dish Instead of Gifts

When a friend and her husband who were going through some tough financial times wanted to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary recently, they invited everyone they knew to bring a dish for the reception rather than a gift. After 25 years of marriage, they certainly didn’t need the gifts, and the food made for a great party with very little expense.

There are a lot of ways you can celebrate without it costing you a lot. Use some of these ideas or get creative and come up with your own. But don’t let a small budget stop you from entertaining and having a party!

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