November 22, 2010

New Blog Address

My Year Without Spending has moved!

Please bookmark the new address if you haven't yet.

Click here to go to the new site.

September 29, 2010

The new website is ready!

I'm unveiling the new website today. Come on over!

I'm migrating from blogger to wordpress and I hope it will be a smooth transition. The blog will be the same as ever, with a more updated design and platform.

I hope you like it! Please let me know your thoughts with a comment or an email. And I apologize in advance for any kinks and ask for your patience. Hopefully there won't be many, but please contact me with any issues.

Click here to go to My Year Without Spending.

September 28, 2010

Frugal, At-Home Beauty Treatments

Gorgeous! Here I am testing out one of the Frugal Beauty Treatments I want to share with you. Because just because you don't want to spend spa-level money doesn't mean you can't have a spa-level experience. I'm also showing off the evidence of my recent shoulder surgery -- bandages and rashes across my collarbone. Sexy!

You can have beautiful skin and hair using ingredients you already have, without buying expensive products. The bonus is that this stuff is natural and organic, so in the long run it may be better for you, and it's definitely better for the environment. No packaging!

These are some great ones I've collected from magazines and around the Internet:

FIG FACIAL SCRUB/MASK: Mix together 1 cup brown sugar, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup oatmeal, 1/4 cup mashed figs, 1 oz. vanilla and rub into face and neck. Rinse thoroughly or leave on until it dries into a mask and rinse. This is the mask I'm wearing in the photo. It left my skin very soft and smooth looking, and there was plenty left for a body scrub. Figs are loaded with antioxidants, but I would use this one without the figs when they're out of season. It smells good enough to eat!

LAVENDER BATH: Grind the following ingredients into a smooth, fine powder in a food processor or blender: 1 cup dried lavender, 2 cups oatmeal, 1/2 cup baking soda. Store in a clean, airtight container. To use, pour 1/2 cup as you run a warm bath. Baths are one of the cheapest, easiest ways to wind down at the end of a hard day. On top of being relaxing, this one will leave your skin silky soft.

BODY SCRUB: Combine 1/2 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup sunflower oil and store in a clean glass jar. Sloughs off dead skin and gives you a rosy glow all over. Sunset magazine recommends this as part of a DIY gift basket that also includes slippers, an eye mask, and a homemade lavender sachet.

HAIR CONDITIONER: In a small glass bowl, mash 1/2 avocado, 2 Tbsp. honey, 2 Tbsp. vodka, and 1 egg yolk with a fork to make a creamy mixture. Apply to freshly-shampooed, towel-dried hair. Leave on for 30 minutes. Rinse well in warm water and shampoo and style as usual. This recipe is recommended for healthy, shiny hair by celebrity hairstylist Robert Hallowell.

HAND AND FOOT SCRUB: Mix 2 Tbsp. light olive oil or grapeseed oil and 2 Tbsp. sugar and rub onto hands and feet, focusing on calloused areas. Rinse under warm water and pat dry for silky-smooth skin.

FOOT SOAK: Fill a bowl with warm water and add a few teaspoons of almond oil and a couple of drops of essential oil. Soak for 15 minutes to relax and soothe tired feet. For a healing as well as relaxing experience, after drying feet, apply lotion or oil and wear socks to allow the treatment to penetrate dry skin.

My own DIY hair moisturizer that I've been using since I was a teenager is to rub olive oil into dry hair, leave on up to 30 minutes, and then shampoo. It might take a couple of shampoos to rinse out, but it takes out the frizz and leaves your hair shiny and manageable.

Whether it's relaxing or beautifying you're looking for, or both, these recipes fit everyone's budget.

What are your favorite frugal, at-home beauty treatments? Please share them in the Comments section.

September 23, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, craigslist, ebay, or anywhere else you find used clothing.

Today's model is Amber, who bought this beautiful wedding dress at a local consignment shop where she lives in northwest Tennessee for just $125. Her mom Karen made her bouquet from flowers they bought at a wholesale store, and Amber wore a pair of her mom's white slipper house shoes with the dress. Except for the $10 rental for the arch, the family used items already available at their church for their beautiful, frugal wedding.

Karen says their family has always been Goodwill, consignment, secondhand, and yard sale shoppers. Congratulations Amber, on your marriage (even though it was back in 2008), and for inheriting your mother's wisdom about secondhand shopping. That is a gorgeous dress, and you managed to have a beautiful wedding without going into debt.

Thanks Karen, for sending in those lovely photos, and thanks Amber, for letting me post them on Thrifty Threads. What a marvelous example to anyone who's thinking about getting married - you can buy a used wedding dress! And chances are, it's only been worn once! Have it cleaned, and get yourself a 90 percent off bargain!

Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton (dot) angela (at) gmail (dot) com. I love to see what you're finding out there, it's so much fun, and such an inspiration. And if you shop secondhand, tell us your best tips in the Comments section. And click here if you want to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

September 20, 2010

Meatless Monday recipes

It's about time for some Meatless Monday recipe ideas!

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative aimed at encouraging people to cut out meat one day a week for the sake of their health and the environment. Click here to find out all about it. My husband and I have been going meatless several times a week for awhile now, and it's no sacrifice whatsoever. The key to eating meatless is fresh produce and delicious recipes.

These two simple recipes have become staples in our household lately. They're both super-satisfying as a side dish or a main course, and they also go well together.


Leafy greens of any kind - we like arugula or spinach best (does that make us elitists?)
one small chopped tomato or several cherry tomatoes sliced in half
one half chopped cucumber
one half small red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
crumbled feta
10 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian (you can use any Italian dressing or mix your own)
ground pepper

Mix and toss lightly with dressing. Go easy with the feta and kalamata olives in relation to the rest of the ingredients.


One 16-oz can or 2 cups dried cooked kidney beans
One 16-oz can or 2 cups dried cooked garbanzo beans
2 cups cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
chopped fresh or dried thyme
ground pepper

Mix first four ingredients in bowl, then mix dressing in separate bowl and toss well with beans and onion. Let sit in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Last night my husband made the Greek Salad himself in about 5 minutes. He says it's the only way he likes cucumbers. If you're not convinced that eating more fruit and vegetables is good for your health, check out this article about how a low-carb diet might help you lose weight but is bad for you in the long run. Apparently we can't hear it too often, because according to this article, most Americans still don't eat nearly enough fresh produce.

Do you have any easy meatless recipes you'd like to share? Please let us know in the Comments section and I'll include them in the next Meatless Monday recipes post. And click here if you want to look through previous Meatless Monday recipes.

September 15, 2010

What's next...

Thank you for all your comments and emails responding to my question about what you like best about this blog. Luckily you seem to be in sync with me about the direction I'd like to take things.

Here's what won't change:

I'll still be bringing you posts about living a non-consumer lifestyle, including thoughts and insights about purchasing decisions, getting rid of STUFF, and what makes us happy. I will continue with Thrifty Threads as long as I keep receiving your photographs. The feature is a reader favorite, and I love writing it. It is so inspiring to see how creative you all are in the area of buying secondhand while still being stylish. I'll also continue with Meatless Mondays and CSA deliveries, although probably less often. And the blog will continue to be ad-free.

What will change:

I'm working on a new design for the blog. I have finally caved in to the reality that wordpress is simply a more widely-used platform that offers more options and will make it easier for me to deliver timely posts. Also, I wanted to create a professional website and have the blog be connected to it, and that made wordpress the clear choice. I'm excited about the new blog, and the features it will allow me to bring to you. But I'm putting it together with great care so that you won't miss anything about the old blog.

I won't be doing regular Food Waste Friday posts any longer, although I'll still be watching our food waste. I still strongly believe in the cause so I'll probably mention it once in awhile, but I'm not going to be photographing and posting our waste and writing about it any longer.

I'll be posting less often, so that I can dig deeper into some topics, like I wrote about in this post last week. I'll still be posting regularly, not sporadically, but probably 2 or 3 times a week rather than nearly every day. Here are some of the topics I've been wanting to explore:
  • Our nontraditional, frugal wedding.
  • Birthday freebies.
  • Frugal, drought-tolerant landscaping.
  • Green drycleaning.
  • Frugal, at-home body treatments.
  • More giveaways.
  • Organic cosmetics update.
  • More non-consumer gift ideas.
  • Roadblocks, both interior and exterior, to simple living.

Those are just a few of the ideas for posts in the works...

I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you'll continue to stop by. Thanks again for your input!

September 13, 2010

Delicious and Nutritious Free Food

This is what I got from our neighborhood produce swap last week. My contribution was a freshly baked batch of peanut butter cookies, and I was thrilled with what I received in return.

A woman in my neighborhood had this great idea for the swap and she turned it into a reality. Once a month participants drop off whatever they've got to offer and get back a bag of goodies. It's called The Hillside Produce Cooperative and Hynden Welch is the organizer. It's been so successful that Hynden has been teaching people how to start a swap in their own neighborhood. You can read all about it in this post that I wrote last year.

On top of getting a free bag of fresh, local produce, what I love about this idea is how it eliminates waste. If you've ever grown zucchini or had a fruit tree that produces a lot of fruit, you know that it's nearly impossible to give away all that you can't use. And it feels terrible to let delicious, nutritious food go to waste. This is a great solution. It's also a fun community-building event.

What we got (roughly clockwise from the back): burning sage, zapote, avocado, butternut squash, lemon, a type of banana called saba, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, strawberry guava, banana bread, figs, and tons of fresh herbs including rosemary, basil, bay leaves, and chives.

Not only was I thrilled about the figs and the tomatoes and fresh herbs, there were three items I've never even tasted, which is incredible for someone who has lived in Southern California most of her life. My husband and I shared the zapote that very night, a delicious banana-like fruit, and both became immediate fans. The next morning my husband left me me a note: "I (heart) zapote!" The strawberry guava I grabbed for myself, and it tasted exactly like the name suggests, like a blend of those two fruits. And the small bananas are like plantains in that they're not supposed to be eaten raw, so I steamed them and we ate it with black beans and again, it was delicious. A much more subtle flavor than a commercial banana, and a more pleasant consistency.

An added bonus was that when I sent out a thank you to the group in which I mentioned that I was over the moon about the figs, the woman with the fig tree responded that I was welcome to come by and take more anytime I wanted because the tree would be producing for another two weeks and most of it was going to the squirrels. I took her up on it a few days later when we had a small party because I wanted to make this simple appetizer that my husband and I had loved so much. It takes about five minutes and looks beautiful on a plate, and it tastes incredible!

I highly recommend joining a produce coop or starting one yourself if you don't already have one in your own neighborhood. I couldn't be happier about ours, and feel so lucky to be part of it even though I don't have any produce to offer. I'm always happy to put my baking skills to use.

Do you have a coop or produce swap in your neighborhood? Tell us about it if you do. And click here to find out more about Hillside Produce Cooperative and how you can bring the idea to your own community.

September 9, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, craigslist, ebay, a yard sale, a clothing swap, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Amy, who put together this adorable look for a formal occasion for less than five dollars, and that includes the shoes and jewelry!

Here's how she did it... The dress is from the Salvation Army, originally $6, but Amy got it on half-price day for $3. All of the jewelry came from the Goodwill "bargain room" outlet store, for a whopping 25 cents per piece! The earrings were new in the package, and the necklace looked new. I love the strappy sandals that set her back just 75 cents, also from Goodwill. And Amy says you can't see them in the picture, but her hair is being held up by antique hair clips that she picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents. I think that comes out to a total of $4.75. That's incredible.

Amy seems to have a particular talent for thrift store shopping, but she says she's blessed to live near super awesome stores in south central Pennsylvania, particularly the Goodwill outlet where nothing is over $2. This photo was taken in a friend's studio apartment, and even though Amy looks like a teenager, she's actually a 24-year-old mom of two little girls. You can learn her frugal secrets on her blog With Duck & Goose, where Amy posts recipes, ideas for frugal weddings, craft projects, and delves into issues like learning to appreciate her post-partum body (for the sake of her daughters as well as herself). I particularly enjoyed this post about how she went from an Eeyore to a Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) and became an optimistic person. It's called Positively Positive (most of the time), and it's an insightful rumination on learning the difference between what we can control and what we can't.

These days Amy describes herself as a "happy-go-lucky ball of energy, in love with life and trying her best to make the most of what she has while she's here." Amy, we're glad you had the energy to send in that cute photo. You look great! How I wish I had known your secrets for dressing with style on a budget when I was your age. Thanks Amy!

Readers, send a photo of your favorite thrift store score to barton (dot) angela (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll post it on Thrifty Threads. Make sure you put Thrifty Threads in the subject line. And if you've sent me a photo and never heard back from me, I didn't receive it. I always respond within a few days, even if it takes several weeks for your submission to post.

Do you shop secondhand? Please share your best tips, plus compliments for Amy, in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

September 7, 2010

Happy to be Back

Hello readers! I'm so happy to be back after a much-needed break. I've missed you. And if you're reading this, thank you for sticking with me. I hope everyone enjoyed their summer.

Lest you think I was lolling about in a hammock eating bon bons the entirety of August, let me tell you that was not the case. I still had a lot of work and other things to take care of, but my husband and I did manage to take a break in Northern California visiting friends, hiking in the redwoods and biking along the ocean cliffs. It was gorgeous, relaxing, and just what I needed. The photo above was taken beside the largest coast live oak tree I've ever seen.

I don't know if I had any earth-shattering insights during that time, but I did realize that keeping up with a daily blog was a self-imposed activity that had started to become a chore, another item on my to-do list. And since this blog has been so valuable to me and I want to keep writing it, I knew that had to change. So I've got a few ideas and I would love your input.

First of all, I'll be blogging less often, and without a regular schedule. That way I'll be able to delve into some of the posts I've been putting aside for lack of time. I think in the long run, I'll be able to write better and more interesting posts this way, by going more in depth. (This whole concept was explored brilliantly in this post by Betsy over at Married With Luggage. She talks about how the term peanut buttering, which refers to spreading your resources too thin, is not only ineffective, it actually kills creativity.)

With that in mind, I'll be posting less often, but I hope more enthusiastically. My intention is to kick-start this blog so that my best posts are still ahead, not buried in the archives. At this point, my best guess is that I'll be posting an average of 2 or 3 posts per week instead of 5 or 6. What still interests me the most is how to live a nonconsumer lifestyle in a consumer society, and raising questions about what guides our purchasing decisions, what we can do without, and what we really need to be happy. I'd love your input on which features and types of posts you like best, and what keeps you coming back to this blog. You can either leave me a comment or email me directly, but please let me know what you think. Which post made you visit the blog a second time after stumbling upon it? Do you remember some of your favorite posts? Do you want to see more or less of anything?

I'll add your ideas to what I've been thinking about the direction to take the blog and the types of posts I most enjoy writing. So leave me a comment, or send me an email at barton (dot)angela(at) gmail (dot) com. I look forward to hearing from you! And I greatly appreciate your time. On Thursday I'll have a brand-new Thrifty Threads post, and I've got some ideas in the works for next week.

September 2, 2010

Thrifty Threads: Celebrity Edition

Hello readers! In preparation for my return to blogging next week, I just had to share this tidbit I saw in the news: "Drew Barrymore's $25 Red Carpet Hit."

Drew Barrymore shops secondhand!

Here's the blurb that goes along with the photo:

Talk about mixing high and low fashion! What did the adorable Drew Barrymore choose to wear to host the Nylon magazine/Express party this week in Los Angeles?

This gorgeous $25 metallic-printed 3/4-sleeve shift dress from a thrift store paired with $760 Yves Saint Laurent "Tribute" pumps, of course! I love the 1960's vibe she's got going on; the psychedelic print, the cut, and the pumped-up voluminous feel of her hair is a total win.

It's so refreshing to see someone mix it up and have fun with fashion. Just last month she made an appearance in an Oscar de la Renta runway dress--a far cry, financially, from an Austin, TX thrift-store find.

Don't you love it when vintage Drew -- the irreverent, quirky, girl power praising, throw-a-daisy-in-her-hair Drew that we all idolized in the 90's--steps out on the red carpet?

How reminiscent of a Thrifty Threads post. Well, aside from the red carpet and the $760 YSL pumps, of course. There's no doubt that secondhand fashion is all the rage.

I'll be back to blogging next week, see you on Tuesday!

August 2, 2010

A Blogging Break

Hello reader friends.

Due to a combination of circumstances involving work, finances, health, and a much-needed vacation, I’ve decided to act like France and take a holiday from blogging for the entire month of August. I need to rest and take care of some personal issues so that I can continue writing this blog with the energy and enthusiasm I started with. It’s too important to me to give up entirely, so I hope I won’t lose any readers, but I need to rethink the direction and come back to it with a fresh perspective.

Look for me right after the Labor Day holiday, when I’ll be back from hiatus refreshed and rejuvenated, with more Thrifty Threads, Meatless Monday, CSA delivery, and Food Waste Friday posts, along with some new twists on the topics of non-consumerism and simple living. I've got so many posts in the works that I'm anxious to delve into. I’ll miss you, and I look forward to getting back to the conversation next month, when we’re all in more of a back-to-school mood.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. Don’t forget to take a nap in a hammock, eat an ice cream cone, sleep under the stars, play in the sprinklers, or stay outside until the sun goes down.

See you in September…

July 29, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, craigslist, ebay, a yard sale, a clothing swap, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Jennifer, shown here with her mother in the maternity outfit she's put together with non-maternity pieces from consignment shops. Jennifer says she an avid thrift shopper, and she thinks it's awfully non-thrifty to purchase new maternity clothes. She also tries to buy regular women's clothing that can transition from pregnancy to post-natal easily.

Jennifer's outfit consists entirely of secondhand non-maternity clothing from the Funky Trunk Consignment Boutique and Goodwill in Newnan, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. Here's the breakdown:
1) Bisou Bisou brand stretchy top was purchased at a consignment shop for $4.99 with the tags still on (originally priced $20)
2) Blue Old Navy tank top for $1.
3) Blue Banana Republic chino shorts for $10 at the same consignment shop (with tags, msrp $35)
4) Bella Band, which is a pregnancy band that lets you wear pre-pregnancy pants with the buttons down or maternity pants/shorts/skirts that are too loose after pregnancy. Jennifer purchased a fancy one with lace trim for $15 on craigslist.
5) Anne Taylor platform wedge sandals bought at Goodwill for just $3.99 (priced at $48 on still-attached tags).

Jennifer's mom is also wearing a secondhand top she got from her sister and Jennifer's pants from the 90s. I love the cute mother/daughter picture, happy and expectant.

Thanks Jennifer for that fabulous photo! No one would ever know you didn't pay full price for your stylish maternity look. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton (dot) angela @ gmail (dot) com. Don't be shy, we all love to see the great clothes available secondhand for a fraction of the price of retail.

Are you a thrift store shopper? Please leave your best tips, plus compliments for Jennifer in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

July 27, 2010

CSA Delivery

My skills as a food photographer will never be in demand, but the contents of this week's CSA delivery are still beautiful. We'll be eating a lot of caprese and greek salads, with all those tomatoes, cucumber, and the basil I just realized I forgot to put in the photo.

This week's delivery includes a lot of fancy names I've never heard, like kay pearl white nectarines (reminiscent of Mary Kay cosmetics), and honey royale yellow nectarines and straight eight zucchini, with a definite casino vibe.

Roughly clockwise from the back, we received: sugar queen melon, all blue potatoes, mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, the aforementioned straight eight zucchini, honey royale yellow nectarines and kay pearl white nectarines, large heirloom tomatoes, peaches, owen t. plums, blue lake green beans, strawberries, baby salad greens, baby spinach, elephant garlic, market moore cucumbers, and purple basil (not shown).

Please leave recipe ideas for anything you see in this photo, especially the elephant garlic, which stumps me. And click here if you want to learn more about CSA delivery and find one in your area.

July 24, 2010

Drought tolerance

These flowers were planted just two years ago. This one is my favorite, the Matilija poppy.


And this one's called lion's tail. I love it, but it only bloomed like this for about two weeks in June.

All of these plants are drought tolerant, and we didn't need to water them all winter.

What are some of your favorite drought tolerant plants?

July 15, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Thrifty Threads is all about shopping and wearing secondhand clothes with style. These are just a few photos from previous installments... Kristen...


...and Anita...

All of them looking fabulous in secondhand clothes. Unfortunately, I don't have a new installment today because I've run out of photos! So please, readers, put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton(dot)angela@gmail (dot)com. Put Thrifty Threads in the subject line, and wait to hear from me that you received it.

I'm expecting some photos of sundresses from a few of my regular readers- now's the time, you know who you are! Anyone is welcome to submit to Thrifty Threads, I can't wait to see your photos and continue the series next Thursday. In the meantime, click here to check out all previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

July 13, 2010

Baby Steps Challenge update: composting

The baby steps challenge I set for myself a year ago last July was to start composting. It had become more necessary when we started receiving a CSA delivery and there were a lot more food scraps.

I'm happy to report that this challenge has become such a habit that I can't imagine throwing things like potato peels, tea bags, or eggshells in the trash anymore. I've even managed to get my husband to go along with the program most of the time, although he still sometimes gets confused about what can be composted. He found a container that we put right outside the back door to throw scraps on their way to the bin, which is very helpful. And it took me almost a year, but I finally put the Pillsbury doughboy to rest (sold for $5!) and purchased a beautiful crock on ebay that sits on the counter.

One of the unintentional byproducts of composting that I love is that we're producing much less trash, and it's much less smelly. My husband likes this too, since he's now only taking the trash out to the curb once every three weeks or so. It's hard to imagine we ever took it out nearly every week. We used to have to plan who would take it out for us if we were out of town, what a waste of effort.

So I give myself high marks for tackling something that initially seemed very foreign to me, not to mention having a high "ick" factor (worms), and making it a habit. And if you're thinking about composting, if I can do it, so can you.

However, having done so well with throwing all that stuff in bins, I've now got two bins the size of the one in the picture and one twice that size filled to the brim with various stages of compost. I didn't do as well with turning it, and in fact hardly ever did it. So now I'm not sure what's the best way to go about turning this into compost that can actually be used. And I'm not a big gardener, so I don't know when/if I'll use it, but I can give it away.

Incidentally, I didn't need to buy any worms. They did indeed find their way into my bins, even in the hard dry soil of Southern California.

I used this tutorial from The Frugal Girl to get started. If you're ready to start composting, I encourage you to read it and you'll see how easy it is to save food scraps from the landfill and create your own compost to grow plants and flowers. All you need is a container, a drill, and about fifteen minutes of your time.

Composting experts, I still have a few questions. How do you know when you have the right combination of green and brown materials? I think I might have used too many leaves in an effort to make sure the food didn't smell or attract bugs, and the little bit I tried to use seemed too dry. But maybe that was because I didn't turn it enough. How often do you turn it, and if it hasn't been turned for many months, is it too late to start? Can you ruin compost? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

Do you compost? Give us your best tips! Thanks again to all my readers who helped me through the process last summer with your excellent advice. Check out my original post on the subject and this update to read all the helpful user comments.

July 12, 2010

Meatless Monday meets CSA

Mondays are all about food on this blog. I either post a photo of our CSA delivery, or I share meatless recipes suggested by readers.

Due to my work schedule, we're not receiving a CSA delivery this week. But I did an interview last November with the owner of our CSA, and it was published on the Meatless Monday site. I thought I'd run it again in case you missed it.

Click here to read the interview with Terri Wahl, owner of Auntie Em's restaurant in Eagle Rock and creator of the most fabulous CSA I can imagine. The interview is all about how it's easy to go meatless when you have fresh, local, and organic produce to make delicious meals.

If you're a member of a CSA, please tell us about it in the Comments section. It's so interesting how different it can be depending on where you live. One of my readers got a delivery that included chicken and milk recently, along with fresh blueberries and greens. Another reader joined a CSA that includes a nice touch at harvest time: a ride to a pumpkin patch to pick their own pumpkins plus spiced apple cider back at the farm. I'd love to hear about more of your delivery experiences. It's so nice to know that we're all learning more about where our food is coming from! And check out Local Harvest if you want to find a CSA near you.

July 9, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Favorite Blog Post of the Week

This post could alternately be called "How to write a post in 5 minutes," because that's about how much time I have today, but I really wanted to share my favorite blog post of the week with you.

First, the food waste. It's embarrassing. It was chocolate, believe it or not. I buy chocolate at Trader Joe's, and some of it is better than others. If I don't like it that well and I've already bought some I like better, it tends to get left in the pantry. My intention is to use that inferior chocolate at a later date, for something like chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Cut to: my husband found some chocolate bars in the pantry with suspicious-looking flakes on them that he thought were bug eggs. I didn't think so, but we weren't willing to take a chance so we threw about 4 half-eaten bars of chocolate away. Oh, so sad. I was convinced I needed to toss them when I saw that the expiration date was in 2008. Oh dear.

As far as I know, chocolate can NOT be composted, so that was landfill trash. Why do I blog about this? Because wasting food wastes money, and it's bad for the environment as well. You can read more about it at Wasted Food and you can visit The Frugal Girl for her weekly roundup of bloggers who are watching their food waste.

FAVORITE BLOG POST OF THE WEEK: I'm really excited about this post from Penny at Penniless Parenting called "The Protein Myth." It's well-researched and packed with the facts about how you can get all the protein you need from non-meat sources. As anyone who is a vegan or vegetarian knows, the knee-jerk question you always hear is "but what about protein?" In my opinion, people should worry a lot less about getting enough protein and a lot more about eating fresh produce. It doesn't look like many Americans are lacking protein to me, but a lot of them do have diabetes. But enough of my rant! Check out the post, it's informative and inspiring! Thanks to Alea at Premeditated Leftovers for introducing me to Penny's blog.

Please leave your thoughts about wasting food or getting enough protein in the Comments section.

July 8, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, ebay, craigslist, a clothing swap, or anywhere else you find used clothing.

Today's model is Haylie from Memphis, Tennessee. I asked for sundresses, and Haylie came through with this super-cute photo. An outfit equally suitable for watering a patio garden or attending a barbecue. And you're going to love this: she found the dress at a garage sale and traded a toy for it! That's a nice price.

Haylie and her husband recently moved into a 900 sq ft house, so they're making terrific use of their deck to grow tomatoes, oregano, leeks, cilantro, jalapeno, bell pepper, thai basil, and mint. They've got all the ingredients to serve mojitos and Latin-flavored side dishes at an outdoor party. Congratulations Haylie for living the fun, fabulous, frugal lifestyle, and looking great while doing it.

And thanks for sending that photo and being such an inspiration. It's good to have a reminder that you don't need to spend lots of time or money to throw a party. It's summer, and all you really need is a deck or yard and some friends to invite over. Fresh food and drink ingredients and a cute sundress are icing on the cake.

Readers, it's your turn. I am very low on photos, so please put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton (dot) angela(at)gmail (dot) com. I'm hoping that writing out my email address like that will attract less spam and make it easier for me to find your submissions. I recently realized some of them were being sent to my spam folder and lost, so if you sent in a photo and I didn't post it, please send it again. Please put "Thrifty Threads" in the subject line, and if you don't hear back from me in a few days, I never got it.

Every photo I receive convinces me even more that you don't need to shop retail to be stylish. Please leave your best secondhand shopping tips and compliments for Haylie in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

July 6, 2010

Frugal Vacations

The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

That's a photo of me taken last summer in London. Yes, it's freezing. It's cold in London in the summer. But it was a fantastic trip! We went there for the theater, the museums, the Indian food, the history, and walking the streets. We didn't go there for the weather. You probably wouldn't expect to see London in a discussion about frugal vacations, but this one was very affordable. How could an extended holiday of 5 weeks in London be frugal, you ask? Because we did a house swap. And it was one of the best travel experiences we've ever had.

HOUSE SWAP: We're hooked on this type of travel now. As long as you're planning a destination vacation, and not touring an entire region, it's a great way to get to know a place. I originally considered it because of the cost savings, but it turned out to be so much more than an affordable way to travel.

We've become friends with the couple we exchanged homes with, and we feel like we've lived in London. We got to know the neighbors, the ethnic neighborhood markets, the Tube (underground) lines, and adopted a local pub, as well as our favorite Indian restaurant within walking distance. Instead of having to rush out the door in the morning, stay out all day, and pay for three meals out, we'd eat breakfast at "home," and then relax and go out for an afternoon of adventure and an evening play and dinner. A few nights we stayed in and cooked and then went to the pub for a nightcap. Our schedule was completely flexible, which was much more fun and relaxing. If we didn't make it to a museum one day, we'd go the next. Sometimes we'd like one so well (they have absolutely fabulous museums in London, and they're free!) we'd visit two or three days in a row.

A lot of Europeans do want to swap for a month or even more, but since most Americans don't have that option, you can arrange your holiday for whatever length of time suits your schedule. You just have to come to an agreement with someone who wants to visit your town. The whole concept works best if you live in a big city that's a tourist attraction, but it's not mandatory. There are home swapping opportunities listed for all over the U.S., you just have to focus on what your home and neighborhood have to offer to a visitor. And maybe that's just getting away from it all and enjoying a little peace and quiet.

If you're interested in a Home Swap holiday, I recommend both Home Exchange and Homelink. We ultimately did our exchange through Homelink, but we had many interactions with people on both sites. The cost is less than $100 for a year, and you'll list your home with photos and a description. Then you sit back and wait for the offers or start making inquiries about places you're interested in visiting. The websites answer all your questions and lead you through the steps of setting up your listing.

And if the idea of having strangers in your home worries you, let me reassure you that by the time you do the swap, they're not strangers anymore. You've exchanged many emails and had lots of phone conversations, and you have come to know them. Our exchange partners even picked us up at the airport, brought us to their home to help us settle in, and took us on a motor tour of the countryside the following day. They bought us a pub lunch and showed us the 12th century church their daughter had been married in. They slept at another daughter's home down the street before flying to Los Angeles the next day. Even if this extra attention might not be the norm, if you're nervous about the "strangers" in your house, remember that you're in their house as well. So really everyone has an incentive to treat their surroundings with respect.

I consider it a marvelous bonus that we have new friends who live in London. They are fascinating people who've travelled all over the world on two teacher's salaries by doing home swaps. And they've assured us that we always have a place to stay whenever we pass through their city.

A few other frugal vacation ideas:

COUNTRIES WHERE THE DOLLAR IS STRONG: Right now, that list includes Argentina, Costa Rica, Morocco, Vietnam, and Panama. Most of your budget will go to the flight, and once you're there food and lodging will be very cheap. Another one of our favorite vacations was to the Mexican Riviera, where we spent two weeks several years ago. I'm almost embarrassed to quote the budget of our trip, but we spent $700 on two plane tickets to Cancun, and then less than $600 for accommodation, food, and all other expenses. That's what I call a budget vacation. We left Cancun immediately, and headed for more off-the-beaten-path destinations, and stayed in simple but clean motels. We went snorkeling, saw Mayan ruins, and ate plenty of seafood and Mexican food and drank margaritas. We didn't feel like we were penny-pinching. Click here to read an article about places where the dollar is strong right now.

STATE DEPARTMENT LIST COUNTRIES: I might lose a few of you here, but hear me out. Even when a country makes this list, the odds that you'll come into danger are usually very low. For example, my brother enjoyed a holiday in Bali a few years back while it was on the list after being the site of a terrorist attack. And there was even another attack while he was there. But he wasn't anywhere near the discotheque where it took place. The odds of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are small, and could really happen anywhere. So consider traveling to a country like Bali, which has natural beauty, marvelous culture, and warm, friendly people. Their economy relies on tourism, and it's so sad that these isolated incidents keep travelers away for years.

POST-CRISIS AREAS: Along those same lines, you'll probably have a lot of luck visiting a city or region that's recently been hit by tragedy. You'll be warmly welcomed, and will most likely enjoy great deals. Places like Bali after the terrorist attack, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and New York City after 9/11. Your trip may even take on a significance and poignance as you make your journey into an area that needs assistance. You could almost consider your vacation a form of charity, especially if you do some post-crisis volunteering while you're there. Habitat for Humanity works all over the world to rebuild homes for families who've been struck by disaster.

Finally, STAYCATIONS. This is a marvelous option, especially for families who can't spend a lot of money on plane flights or gassing up the car. Instead of waiting for out-of-town guests to enjoy the attractions of your own city, visit them on your own. Have each family member pick an outing of their choice, and then order pizza and watch a movie at night. Or if you have young children, camp out in the backyard! The options are endless, but the key is to do things you don't normally do in your everyday life, spend a lot of time together, and make it special.

What are your vacation plans this summer? What's your best frugal vacation idea? Please leave your thoughts, tips and questions in the Comments section.

July 5, 2010

Meatless Monday recipes

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative aimed at encouraging people to give up meat one day a week. Going meatless, even just on Mondays, is better for your health and better for the environment. If you need inspiration, go to the Meatless Monday website for all kinds of great recipes.

I also like to bring you my readers' suggestions whenever I can. Here are two ideas for easy meatless meals:

First, Alea at Premeditated Leftovers suggested Swiss Chard and Garbanzo Bean Soup from the blog Dandelionheart. Alea says it's her favorite kind of recipe because it's flexible and it comes together fast. That's my favorite kind too, plus it sounds delicious. As a matter of fact, I've got some swiss chard I need to use up and this is a healthier recipe than the Guadalajaran Swiss Chard Quesadillas I was planning on. I'll let you know if I try it tonight.

Coupon Challenged says that even though her kids are true carnivores, they've been eating meatless meals at least once a week for years. Some of their favorites are guacamole or potato tacos, and veggie lasagna and veggie soups in the winter. I'm a big fan of vegetarian tacos, and when you have delicious ingredients like guacamole or potatoes, or beans, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa, why would you even want the meat?

Thanks for those great ideas! Readers, what are your favorite easy meatless meals? Please leave your recipes in the Comments section and I'll include them in the next Meatless Monday recipes post.

July 2, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Free Museums

Who doesn't like French toast? My husband, apparently.

I made this last Sunday, from some less-than-fresh sourdough bread. I ate more than this myself, and then told my husband he could eat the rest whenever he wanted, since he wasn't ready for breakfast yet.

Yesterday I found it, still uneaten, but apparently with one bite taken out, hidden in the refrigerator. I had no idea my husband had never eaten it. When I mentioned it, he said that he had told me he didn't want any French toast the day I made it.

I wish I'd heard that, because I would have eaten the rest myself! It was delicious. But not that appetizing four days later.

Why am I rambling about two slices of stale, soggy bread? Because I've been inspired by Kristen at The Frugal Girl and her Food Waste Friday posts to waste less food. It's better for the environment and it's better for your wallet, and both of those things are good.

FREE STUFF ALERT: Don't forget about Bank of America's Museums on Us program, which takes place the first weekend of every month. That's this weekend, so if you're a B of A customer, all you have to do is show your debit or credit card to get in free to tons of museums across the country. Click here to find participating museums near you.

Please leave your thoughts about food waste, free museums, or anything else remotely related to nonconsumerism in the Comments section.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I'll be back on Monday, July 5th, with a Meatless Monday post.

July 1, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find used clothing.

Today's model is David, and you know I'm absolutely thrilled to have a man participate in Thrifty Threads for only the second time ever. David is from the UK, and his wife Lin sent this photo and said she thought I might like to see a Compact-y outfit from the other side of the pond. Well, I certainly do, because not only do I love England, this is a fantastic suit and David looks very suave. In fact, it fits perfectly, like it was tailored especially for him. Don't really well-dressed men have their suits made in London?

This suit is a keeper, and David's been wearing it since 2002 when he found it in a charity shop in Salisbury for just 20 British pounds. The suit has traveled to the US in 2004 and all over the world. The tie was purchased at a charity shop in Belgium for one euro. That's an incredible deal because it's pure silk and Italian made. Lin says David is always on the lookout for a bargain. But you'd never know it by his picture, because he looks like quite the distinguished gentleman and anyone would guess the suit costs several hundred dollars.

Thanks David for modeling for that fabulous photo, and thanks Lin for sending it in to Thrifty Threads. David is a perfect example of how you can often dress nicer if you buy secondhand clothing, because you can buy brands and quality you might not be able to afford if they were new.

Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at We all love to see your thrift store scores. Please put "Thrifty Threads" in the subject line and if you don't hear from me in a few days, I probably didn't get it. I keep finding submissions in my spam folder, and I'm so sad at how many people might have sent in photos that I never received. If you've sent me a photo and you never heard from me and never saw yourself on Thrifty Threads, please send it again.

Please leave your tips for secondhand shopping and compliments for David in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

June 30, 2010

Results of June challenge #2: Walk every day

Okay, it's time to walk the walk.

I was amused when I reread this morning's post about how I did (not so great) with the June Food Stamp Challenge, and saw that I said I would write about my other June challenge, to "talk a walk every single day" in a later post. I didn't have time to proofread that post, and obviously meant "take a walk every single day."

But it was an interesting slip. It's easy to "talk the talk," whether the discussion is about non-consumerism, green living, cutting the grocery budget to what you would get on food stamps, taking a walk every day, or just about anything you can think of. The question is: can you walk the walk?

I challenged myself to walk every single day for 30 days, not because I'm normally a couch potato or because I want to lose weight. I did it as an experiment to see how it would make me feel. I love to walk, for so many reasons it would comprise an entire post, and need no excuse to get out there and get my feet moving.

Naturally, as soon as I posted the challenge on my blog, I was called to a job for three weeks, making it much harder to successfully complete the challenge. If I have to walk after work, it's less likely to happen than if I'm working from home and schedule it into my day. I might be too tired to walk, or get home so late that it's already dark and my husband doesn't want to go with me, or I might have plans right after work that leave me no time for a walk. Those three things did in fact happen, but I'm happy to report I still managed to take a walk the other 27 days.

So how do I feel? I don't notice any difference in how I feel, probably because I normally walk almost every day anyway. But I did learn something very important. I learned that when you put your focus on something, and plan your schedule around making sure that it happens, it does happen. Because you make sure of it. Because you care about it. Because it's a commitment you make to yourself.

So even though I didn't walk 3 days out of the month, if I hadn't made the commitment to walk every single day, there would have been many more evenings when I wouldn't have walked because I was too tired or I didn't feel like it. Some nights I might have thought I'd rather have a glass of wine instead. But every time I took a walk this month, sometimes just because I'd said I would, I was glad I did.

And THAT proves to me that whatever it is that you focus on, you'll make sure it happens. That's how people run marathons, write books, start businesses. Anything that you don't feel like doing some days, or that overwhelms you on others, or that you think maybe you were crazy to think you wanted, you can do if you make a commitment to do it every single day. It's about caring about your commitment more than your day-to-day feelings and moods. It's about making it a habit, a routine that you incorporate into your everyday life.

Of course your goal must have some basis in reality. You can assume I'm not talking about wanting to be an Olympic medalist in your 40s (wait, didn't Dara Torres do that?) Let me think of a better example: it might not be realistic to think you can still graduate from college if you've been around since the invention of radio (okay, Nola Ochs did it at 95). But unless you're Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin, they're not going to let you host SNL when you're almost 90, are they? Ladies and gentleman, let's hear it for the rockin' Ms. Betty White.... I think you get my point.

Look for more "every day" challenges coming up: meditation, yoga, writing. But I think I'll give myself a break for July. It's summer after all, and I can hear my husband making margaritas in the other room. He's already got the guacamole ready, so I'd better go now.

Did you join the June Food Stamp Challenge or my "Take a Walk Every Day" challenge? Did you take another challenge, or maybe you challenged yourself to give yourself a break? Please tell us about it in the Comments section.

The Day of Reckoning: Results of the June Food Stamp Challenge

It's the last day of the June Food Stamp Challenge, issued by Katy at the Non-Consumer Advocate, and it couldn't have come one day sooner! Boy, am I sick of thinking about food and prices and grocery shopping. I haven't been so focused on it since I was literally almost starving 20 years ago in Manhattan, when I earned $1200 and paid $650 for rent. And that was part of the point, to illustrate how difficult it is to eat well on a very tight budget. It's easy to make poor and/or inconsistent choices.

The challenge was to try to feed your family on the amount you would receive in food stamps if you were eligible. My husband and I have been doing fine with a monthly budget of $323, which I set for myself over a year ago when I read this post at The Crunchy Chicken. Her Sustainable Food Budget Challenge was to try to eat local and organic on the monthly household maximum allotment, and we haven't usually had much trouble doing it. The problem is, the rules vary by state, and depending on your income (or lack thereof), it's difficult to calculate the exact amount you would receive. Katy used what she determined to be an average of $101 per person, and so our challenge was to stick to a budget of $202 for the month.

I knew it would be difficult with our CSA delivery knocking $92 off the budget right off the bat ($46 per biweekly delivery). That left $110 for the entire rest of the month. I'm actually amazed we got anywhere close to that. Our total grocery bill for June was... drumroll, please...$235!! And let me be clear, that amount is for food, from the CSA, a grocery store, etc. It doesn't include toiletries, paper products, or alcohol. And it doesn't include eating out.

In normal times, I would be ecstatic with that amount. I didn't really even entertain the idea that we would be able to come in under $202. But amazingly, many people who took the challenge are on target to succeed. A lot of them have blogged more regularly, and more provocatively than I have this month. Click here to check out Julia's consistently relevant posts about the issue all through the month, at her blog The Modern Muse.

I could write about all the reasons we failed, namely because I was working away from home practically the entire month, so had much less time to plan and cook than I might have. What's interesting to me is that we could even come close, while receiving a CSA delivery and buying organic milk and yogurt, and even organic chicken a couple of times. What I noticed is that the first thing cut from the budget is snacks. I don't mind baking more, but I'll be glad to get back to our regular $323 budget next month. Now it sounds like a lot to me!

Incidentally, my husband didn't even know we were doing this challenge, because he's already a little impatient with my food waste/composting schemes, and so I was afraid he would be skeptical and feel deprived no matter what I bought or cooked. And truth be told, he did run out for his beloved Trader Joe's snacks a couple of times, so our $235 total is probably closer to about $265. Or maybe even higher. Big fat failure. Oh well. The biggest thing I've learned is that I'm glad I'm not still almost starving in New York, and really glad we're not on Food Stamps. The next time you see someone in line using food stamps, don't judge them. Give them a break and assume they're going through a hard time and even with the stamps are still hungry. Because they probably are. And be grateful if you don't need them.

Did you take the Food Stamp Challenge? How did you do? Tell us about it in the Comments section. And feel free to weigh in with your thoughts even if you didn't take the challenge.

I'll let you know how I did with my other challenge for June - take a walk every single day - later today.

June 28, 2010

CSA Delivery: Can you say tomatoes?

What a sight for sore eyes for my tomato-starved, tomato-loving husband, who just yesterday wrote "tomatoes!!!" on our shopping list.

The abundance of fruit is incredible. Summer has arrived!

This delivery makes me very happy. Here's what we got, roughly clockwise from the back: red lettuce, elephant garlic, rainbow swiss chard, yellow beans, Tuscany melon, strawberries, summer squash, ronde nice squash, heirloom tomatoes, carrots, rich lady yellow peaches, sweet fire apricots, yellow donut peaches, majestic pearl white nectarines, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, and burgundy spring onions. There was also the customary treat, this time two bars of delicious-looking chocolate-dipped shortbread. I'm trying to save that for dessert.

The way our delivery service, Auntie Em's, works is like this: the owner has developed relationships with the local farmers at the farmer's markets in the area from years of running a restaurant. Every weekend she visits five different markets and picks out the best of the best from what they've got to offer. I'm thrilled with our CSA, but they're all set up a little different, so if you want to find out about one near you, check out Local Harvest to get the details.

Tonight we'll enjoy the heavenly Heirloom Tomato Tart in Parmesan Crust with a simple green salad. My husband will be satisfying his tomato cravings for the next few days. And as for me, I'll spend a good part of the week with peach juice dripping down my chin.

Happy Monday! Do you shop at Farmer's Markets? Do you have CSA in your area? Please leave your tips and ideas for shopping and recipes for anything you see in the photo in the Comments.

June 25, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Favorite Blog Post of the Week

Okay, first things first. The reason there's no food waste photo isn't because we had a zero waste week, and it's not because I didn't take a photo or even because I didn't feel like posting a photo of rotten food. It's because I didn't even have time to clean out the refrigerator or figure out what our food waste was.

I've been working away from home more than usual and have had little time to cook or keep track of leftovers. My husband has been largely on his own and mostly doing fine, but I know for certain there is at the very least some much-less-than-crisp lettuce in the crisper that he has complained to me about. I haven't even had time to move it to the compost bin, which is solely my job, because my husband will put up with my food waste/compost bin shenanigans only so far, which has been indicated to me by raised eyebrows and veiled complaints in his questions about the food scraps that seem to perpetually litter our counters and back deck on their way to the compost bin. I can't throw any of that in the trash anymore! But asking him to take the step of actually putting stuff in the bin might be the straw that breaks my patient husband's back. So I continue with my possibly whimsical hobbies at my own peril. They do sometimes seem whimsical when I witness neighbors who fill entire dumpsters with the excess debris of their lives and workplaces that waste in one day what I couldn't begin to go through in a lifetime. But we food waste soldiers continue the fight...

So, we have waste, but I'm not sure what or how much it is. I'll be back in the swing by next Friday. Check out The Frugal Girl to see how she and other bloggers did with the challenge of wasting less food this week.

FAVORITE BLOG POST OF THE WEEK: I couldn't decide between two different posts this week, both from the same blog! Alea at Premeditated Leftovers is on a roll, and this post about why they rent rather than own is not only practical and useful, it's hysterical. While you're there, check out this post with a recipe for what she calls Mother Hubbard Cookies, because they're what she bakes when the cupboard is bare. I can't wait to try the 3-ingredient recipe for Peanut Butter cookies, which look delicious and take just minutes to whip up. Thanks Alea!

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Please leave your questions, tips, and advice in the Comments section.

June 24, 2010

Thrifty Threads Redux

I just found another Thrifty Threads submission in my spam folder, after finding three last month. I don't regularly check my spam, so it makes me heartsick to think of all the submissions that may have been lost.

If you sent me a photo for Thrifty Threads and I didn't use it, please send it again. I will use any submission that isn't obscene or illegible, and I can't remember not using any so far.

I would hate for anyone to think I rejected their photo, and I hope that hasn't happened.

If you send in a Thrifty Threads submission, please put Thrifty Threads in the subject line, and I'll let you know within a week that I received your email. Otherwise, I never got it.

Thanks so much.

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, a friend's closet, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Stephanie, a friend of mine who's been featured many times on Thrifty Threads. This entire outfit is thrifted: the dress was just $4.98, the purse was $1.99, and the belt was just 99 cents! Wow.

Stephanie's blog Those Tricks is all about thrifty fashion. She's beome quite the secondhand fashionista since I knew her several years back in her jeans-and-Tshirt incarnation. Each post highlights a new secondhand outfit with details and price, so it's kind of like Thrifty Threads every day with the same model. She finds really cute clothes at the Dallas and Austin thrift stores she visits.

Stephanie has been resale shopping so much, in fact, that she's set up an online store with some of her excess thrifty fashion. You can check it out at My Trick Your Trick. I just looked at her "merchandise" and saw a really gorgeous purse. I have a weakness for purses and own a bit of a collection, but at the same time I'm the type of person who uses one purse all summer and one all winter, only occasionally grabbing a different choice for a special occasion. So I really don't need any more purses! But you should check it out if you're in the market for a purse and don't want to pay Prada prices.

Stephanie is always up to something interesting, and she recently joined the online creative team at Neiman Marcus as a Web Producer. Congratulations Stephanie! Since Neiman Marcus has always been on the cutting edge of fashion, she'll be in her element working with all those gorgeous clothes. It will be interesting to see if she keeps up her thrifty ways while working at the high-end department store. Hmmm, that sounds like a good premise for a blog... the double life of Stephanie: high-end department store employee by day, thrift store shopper by night.

Thanks Stephanie for being such an inspiration with your thrifty fashion finds. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at Don't be shy, we all love to see your thrift store scores, and I always need more photographs. I'm still waiting for a male model and I'd love to get more cute sundresses because we're all ready for the lazy days of summer.

Please leave your best tips for secondhand shopping and compliments for Stephanie in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

June 22, 2010

Tale of Two Water Bottles

I finally broke down and bought a brand-new Klean Kanteen water bottle, replacing the giveaway bottle I'd been putting up with for far too long.

I know some Compacters are so cool they manage to find stuff like pristine-with-the-tags-still-on Sigg water bottles at Goodwill for like 2 cents, but I am not that cool. And I was determined it was past time to be both green and healthy by using a stainless steel water bottle.

After carrying that bottle on the right around for about a year, my husband finally convinced me to fork out the $22 (!!) to buy the pretty green bottle from REI. He was sick and tired of seeing me deal with the various eccentricities of the giveaway bottle, namely that it leaked and spilled out large amounts of water every time I used it. It's amazing what I'll adapt to if necessary. But clearly this wasn't necessary.

The question now is: what to do with the old bottle? I was going to give it to Goodwill but my husband says I shouldn't subject anyone else to dealing with it. I hate to send it to a landfill, and hold out hope that maybe someone will be able to fix it or use it in some way. Is it tacky to give what most people would consider trash to Goodwill? Or is it possible that someone will get some use out of this thing?

Readers, what do you think? There are some things I wouldn't give to the Goodwill, like used slippers or undergarments or permanently stained clothing. But what about a less-than-functional water bottle? I need your advice. Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section.

June 21, 2010

Meatless Monday recipes: Puttanesca sauce

It's been over a year since we've been going meatless on Monday, and I have barely made a dent in the delicious meatless recipes I've gotten on the Meatless Monday website and from my readers. Going meatless just one day a week is great for your health and the environment. And as an added bonus, it will probably save you money as well.

This week, I thought I'd tell you about one of our favorite staples. It's easy and uses only a few ingredients that you can keep in the pantry. My husband loves this dish, and often cooks it himself.


olive oil (optional)
1 large can tomatoes
pitted and chopped kalamata olives
3 or 4 cloves of garlic

In a large pan, saute tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil in their own juice. You can use chopped tomatoes, or if they're whole you'll want to chop them so they don't take as long to cook down. The olive oil is good for you, but optional. Cook on medium heat for 15-2o minutes, stirring occasionally. Put garlic through a presser and add to the tomatoes and continue cooking. When the sauce starts to thicken, add about 1/3 of a small jar of capers and about half a can or jar of pitted and chopped kalamata olives and cook another 10 minutes or so. Trader Joe's sells pitted kalamata olives, which saves a lot of time. Although you can also be pitting them while the sauce is cooking.

The key is to cook long enough for the sauce to thicken and get flavorful. You have to keep an eye on it to stir occasionally, but there isn't much danger of it burning if you keep the heat on medium.

Serve over any kind of pasta or polenta and a side salad. Our favorite with this sauce is angel hair pasta.

The name "puttanesca" comes from the root "puta" which is Italian for prostitute. The dish got it's name because it's cheap and easy. It traditionally includes anchovies, but this is my vegetarian version I've been cooking for almost 20 years.

Do you go meatless on Mondays? Please share your favorite simple meatless meals and I'll include them as part of the next Meatless Mondays post. Click here to check out all the previous meatless monday recipe posts.

June 19, 2010

Goodbye to lim(b)

My friend Danielle, creator of the excellent blog Less is More Balanced, is hanging up her blogging hat to focus on other writing projects, but the blog link will remain active indefinitely. I'm leaving it up on my sidebar because it's one of my favorite resources for organic and green issues, projects, and inspiration.

So if you have a question like:

1) Where can I recycle my cosmetics containers?

2) Is it possible to go car-free in Los Angeles? or

3) Where can I find sustainable seeds?

Check out lim(b). And those are just a few examples from an archive jampacked with useful information.

Some of my personal favorites:

Life on a scooter

Groovy green goings on in my community

Demanding Organic

lim(b) Project #22: Keepsake Box

lim(b) Project #19: Healthy, Healing Eco-Bedroom

Buy Something Beautiful, Build a Nest

Alternative Gift Ideas for Simple Greenies

Heirloom Design

So if you've got a green project in mind, are trying to simplify your life, switch to organic, or looking for sustainable options, check out lim(b) and you might just find exactly what you're looking for. It's happened to me more than once.

What are your favorite simple living/green blogs? Please tell us in the Comments section.

June 18, 2010

Food Waste Friday Plus Favorite Blog Post of the Week

I took a picture of our food waste, but I just don't have the heart to post it. I simply can't make myself replace those gorgeous wedding photos with pictures of rotten food. I'm still down with the cause of watching our food waste (it would be hard to go back), but I'm losing the energy to report on it and post photos.

This week we had about half a portion of some delicious saurkraut that we took home from a party. I ate three helpings in two days before deciding I needed to stop in order to watch my waistline, and then my husband ate a lot before he got sick for a few days. And by that time it was too old to risk eating. We also had a handful of almonds from a snack pak that I bought literally a couple of years ago and don't know why I never opened. I'm okay with my decision not to eat something really fattening just so it won't go to waste. That happened once before with some so-so baked goods. Not worth the calories.

Wasting food is bad for the environment, and not so great for your bank account either. Go to The Frugal Girl for the blogger roundup of participants who are committed to wasting less.

FAVORITE BLOG POST OF THE WEEK: This post on Married With Luggage that peeks into the journal of a couple who embarked on an eight month honeymoon trip in 1837 is creative, whimsical, and well-written. It perfectly captures the spirit of long-term travel, and the romance and the lure of hitting the road. And the lessons gleaned from it are just as relevant in 2010. I know I mention Betsy from MWL all the time, but this post was written by her husband Warren. While you're there, you might as well stay and read Betsy's latest post as well. I highly recommend a dose of MWL with your coffee in the morning. It never fails to get me revved up to tackle a project. A trip around the world? Sounds great! A marathon? No problem! Living out your wildest dreams? Why not? Betsy and Warren will show you the road map.

And finally, in keeping with the wedding theme this week, I'd like to point out two posts from The Frugal Girl. This one includes irresistible photos of her darling daughters, and this one is a Q & A that shares some frugal wedding tips. I love Kristen's advice about what's important: "And lastly, I’d add that what matters most is not the amount of effort you put into your wedding, but the amount of effort you put into your marriage. It seems like a lot of people get those two things flip-flopped."

Are you watching your food waste? Share your trials and successes in the Comments section.

June 17, 2010

Thrifty Threads: Wedding Edition

Welcome to Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, ebay, craigslist, a yard sale, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Melanie, with this beautiful photo of her wedding dress from her wedding last December in New Zealand. Not only is it lovely, it's about as Compact-y as you can get, because it's both thrifted and handmade. The fabric is a secondhand Broderie anglais duvet cover and net curtains. The total fabric cost was NZ$60 and she paid NZ$180 to have it made, for a total of NZ$240. That's just $160 in US dollars! Amazing. Just the sort of creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity we love on Thrifty Threads.

Melanie and her husband Anu had a lovely frugal wedding, recycling wherever possible, and with 50 guests their total cost was about $2100. She says it was the most wonderful day of her life, there was no stress, and it was just perfect! A New Zealand magazine is even doing a story about their "recycled wedding." There was no charge for the photos because her sister-in-law was the official wedding photographer.

I think one of my favorite things about this wedding is that the groom is barefoot! It must be my hippie roots: every one of the weddings I loved as a kid back in the 1970s was outdoors.

What a stunning photo of her father walking her down the "aisle."

Melanie is a full time student of Naturopathy and herbal medicine in New Zealand. Her blog Lavender Loveliness shows the things she makes out of old items to save the environment and save money, for example a cushion cover made out of an old jersey and a t-shirt, herbs and their medicinal uses, and lots of baking. I can't wait to try some of her recipes, the only problem is deciding which one to try first. Will it be chocolate peanut butter delectables or peanut butter chocolate crunch? She even makes her own peanut butter! And bagels! Today's post includes photos of an absolutely beautiful "Hummingbird Cake" she has baked for their flatmate. I think Melanie is my new idol!

And one more photo of Melanie, just because it's so gorgeous...

Thanks Melanie for those fabulous photographs! Your wedding looks perfect, and the dress is lovely. And what an inspiration that it was all done for a fraction of the cost of the average wedding.

Readers, it's your turn. I always need more photos, so put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at We all want to see your thrift store scores! Please leave your thrifting tips and compliments for Melanie in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

June 16, 2010

How To Plan A Frugal Wedding Without the Stress Factor

The following is a guest post by Timothy, a personal finance writer and blogger for Balance Transfer Card. I'll continue the wedding theme tomorrow on Thrifty Threads, with a bride whose wedding dress was thrifted.

Frugal weddings are all the rage now. More and more brides and grooms are subscribing to the idea that their biggest day in life should be one to enjoy - and not remember with remorse because the in-laws were arguing about something insignificant.

Common problem - major stress and tears

Weddings need not be a stressful affair. A wedding is about commitment and love, and it should be enjoyed by the bride and groom. Sadly, too many weddings turn sour because they become blown-out-of-proportion events for hundreds of people, leaving the lovebirds in tears by the end of the day. This isn’t exactly how you'd imagine your wedding day to turn out, is it?

Solution - go frugal

A frugal wedding can be a lot more fun than the traditional affair because it is usually more intimate and toned down, therefore more enjoyable by those who attend. Frugal doesn't necessarily mean you have to skimp on every luxury; you could decide to invite fewer people but make it an event to remember by spoiling everyone to your heart's content.

On the contrary, wedding vows can also be exchanged if you are budget-conscious while still keeping the fun factor high. Below are some tips and suggestions to help you do just that.

The venue

The venue is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a successful wedding. If the venue is too flash, your budget could take a brutal nose dive. If you don't want to eat bread and butter for the next 12 months you might want to consider a somewhat more affordable venue to celebrate with your guests. Don’t overlook friends or family with homes or backyards they might be willing to share.

The dress

Who needs an Armani wedding dress that is only ever worn once? If you want to go frugal, think vintage dress. They are easily repurposed by a whiz with a sewing machine and can save you hundreds of dollars in the process.

Wedding invitation

A great way to go frugal is right from the start - make your own affordable wedding invitations. Think scrapbooking mementos, homemade cards, etc. There is so much one can do with a bit of paper, pen and imagination. Try it!


Instead of having your guests pig out on a sumptuous buffet that only goes to waste, why not consider a sit-down dinner instead? You'd be surprised how many food is wasted on buffet style dinners.Sit-down dinner menus are much nicer anyway because you get to enjoy your guests one-on-one without them having to fetch food from the buffet every 15 minutes.


Cut down on the cost of hiring a photographer by booking one for a couple of hours only instead of the whole day. Present your wedding attendees with disposable cameras to grab some more fun moments while keeping the cost low. You will most likely end up with some wonderful pictures seen through the eyes of your guests.

If all else fails - elope

Eloping is a common trend for frugal couples. You can save thousands by eloping to a tropical island paradise with a couple of your closest friends. Then upon returning as a married couple, you simply throw a party for the family and start the celebration.

It's your day - make the most of it!

Readers, feel free to leave YOUR best frugal wedding ideas in the Comments section.