DIY Modular Bookshelf

I think one of the hardest things about apartment living is finding enough space to store your things. At least in the apartments I've lived in (and the ones my friends have lived in), it seems like there's just never enough closet space or shelving to hold the things that get collected over a year or two or three of just living. Someone gives you something, and it's great, but where on earth are you going to put it? Bookshelves are surprisingly expensive and it's tough to find the time to actually make something.

But I did find a project on that looks like it would be a doable weekend project for not too much money--and you get a great bookshelf at the end!

This set of modular shelves was made from a salvaged pile of mismatched drawers that were painted, papered, and affixed to the wall with screws. Depending on where you find the drawers (you might even get lucky and pick something up on Freecycle), you can get pretty varied results, I think--all the same size, or, as in this photo from the Craftynest project, various sizes and shapes that are joined together by color.

As soon as I find some drawers, I'm definitely giving this a shot. We have an entire room worth of stuff that is simply sitting in boxes because we don't have shelves to put it on.

Link to the full project instructions is here.


tex-tile. [teks-tahyl]
1.  any cloth or goods produced by weaving, knitting, or felting.
2. a material, as a fiber or yarn, used in or suitable for weaving

I love textiles. I love to sew, knit, crochet, spin--even weave, although I haven't done it in years and years and years.

When I first learned how to knit and crochet, pretty much the only thing I could do was make, well, useless things. I was really good at crochetig long chains, and knitting mysterious lumpy triangles that never achieved the shape I wanted them to. Over time, I graduated to scarves and the occasional hat (once I learned how to crochet in a circle). I can follow patterns.. mostly.

I can crochet like the wind. Sadly, I can't knit that way, and so I rarely do any knitting because it takes so long to make any progress, especially with the kinds of projects that interest me. My goal this year is to knit a sweater, but I feel like there's a pretty good chance it won't happen.

Still, there are lovely things out there that you can make by knitting or crocheting, and I do occasionally get some knitting done. I have made many halves of socks, and a couple of fingerless gloves, and a scarfy-shruggy thing that I never wear because I was just making it for practice.

I was going to post a pattern for a really cute crocheted scarf that I found on, but then I realized--you know, there are probably a lot of people out there on the Internet who can't knit or crochet. And that's a shame, because in this day of do-it-yourself, reusing, upcycling, and movement away from blatant consumerism, it's a skill that should be cultivated.

So instead, I'm going to suggest that those of you who don't know how to knit or crochet learn how to do one or the other. The starting materials are cheap--even Wal-Mart sells knitting needles, crochet hooks, and cheap acrylic yarn. It's not an expensive hobby to learn. You don't even need to buy a book! The internet is full of instructions on how to do all sorts of crafty things, and these two skills are no exception.

Lion Brand Yarns has an entire website of crochet instructions, which will teach you everything you need to know to get going. (NB: Lion Brand also recently put ALL of their patterns up on their website for free. That's right, free. What better time to learn how to use them?)

Then there is the fabulous website, Knitting How To, which has instructional videos for both knitting and crochet, as well as small projects to get started with.

If you are a visual learner and not happy with the videos you find there, YouTube is full of them, and google would probably turn up more.

I've taught myself all sorts of things using internet tutorials like this--most recently, how to cable knit, which I thought was going to be really difficult, but which turned out in fact to be fabulously easy.

And once you've learned, or if you are already proficient and yawning over this blog post, you can go become a member at Here you can create a profile, find patterns written by other members or published by companies, post updates on your progress, read reviews of patterns, and more.

(Photo Credit: Lion Brand website)


Before we got married, Mr. Scrimp and I talked a lot about our philosophies on pretty much everything--from small things like haircare to big ones like food, religion, housekeeping, and life itself. We talked about these things because we were getting married, but also because we like to think and we like to talk. We are always refining and considering the ways in which we want to define ourselves.

When it comes to keeping a home--and I think the philosophy can be extended to the way I live life in general--I've long been inspired by William Morris's advice to "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

A defining tenet of the Arts & Crafts movement, this guideline is what I keep in mind before I purchase, reorganize, make, or otherwise do anything that is going to impact our home. I don't always do the best job of following it, but I try.

As we get ready for the new year, I look around our little house and feel pretty satisfied with the job I've done of filling it with things that are either useful or beautiful--preferably both. I think it's good to remember the philosophies you want to live by as you quiet your mind after the holidays in preparation for the new beginning that we all get a chance at on January 1.

It's time for Mr. Scrimp and I to pack up and put away the cares of this past year and begin to think about the year that's coming, and how we want to live it.

How about you? I'd love to hear what you're thinking of as you prepare for 2010.

Recipe: Butter

Yep... butter. We mostly cook with oil, but sometimes you just gotta have butter, and there's nothing like really fresh butter. It's incredibly easy to make.

For best results, I recommend using low-heat pasteurized, non-homogenized cream, if you can get it in your area. The flavor is excellent.

Butter (makes about 1 cup)

  • 1/2 quart cream
  • Salt, to taste
Let cream warm to about 60 degrees. Pour into a mixer or food processor. (If using a mixer, I start with the whisk attachment and once the cream has whipped, I switch to the paddle).

Mix or process, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl. After about 12-15 minutes, cream will grow yellowish and then separate (fairly quickly) into large clumps of butter and thin buttermilk. Watch for this so you don't end up splashing your whole kitchen with buttermilk.

Pour buttermilk off into a storage container to drink or use for baking. It's not cultured, so it won't be that thick, lumpy stuff you get at the store, but it definitely has a bit of sourness to it. Some people really like to drink it--Mr. Scrimp thinks it's disgusting.

Rinse butter in cold water until it's chilled and buttermilk is washed away. Turn onto a cutting board or countertop and knead/squeeze it to remove as much buttermilk and water as possible. Knead in salt, if desired. Pack into a glass container and store, covered, in the fridge.

Five Dollar Decor - Organizing

Organizing is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite thing. I love to sit down and organize things. I hate and am terrible at keeping them that way.

I'm often struck by the huge change that can be made in a space by doing very little. This week, I'm going to continue with the getting ready for the new year theme by talking about some quick and inexpensive ways to make dramatic changes in cluttered spaces around the house.

1. Use a Hanging Shoe Organizer

...and I don't mean for shoes. We have a shoe rack in our front closet that my mother-in-law gave us. Because we tend not to buy shoes unless we have a repeating need which none of our current pairs can fill, all the shoes we wear can fit on that one rack with a couple of spots left over.

We also have a hanging shoe organizer in our bedroom closet. After months of being frustrated by overstuffed dresser drawers, socks on the floor, and sweaters taking up most of the hanger space we had, I hung an organizer in our closet. Ours has several sizes of compartment, some larger and some smaller. In half the smaller compartments, I tuck all of Mr. Scrimp's clean, matched socks, and in the other half I put all of his folded undershirts. The larger compartments are big enough to hold sweaters, either rolled or folded.

Organizers run the gamut in both price and quality. Ours was from Bed Bath & Beyond and cost about $15 (I already had it on hand, it was a gift), but I've used the cheap ones in the past in the same way and had no problems. You could try using this one from, which is only $4.99.

2. Sort Your Mail

Mr. Scrimp and I throw our mail into a basket on a small table,and it inevitably ends up in a pile that needs to be sorted through before bills can be paid or letters can be read and replied to. Apartment Therapy suggests buying a small plate rack/organizer and sticking it on your desk or front table to hold letters. Because it's designed to hold plates, it will hold larger, sturdier envelopes just as well as small ones.

The photo at Apartment Therapy uses a $10 rack from the Container Store, but you can get a similar one from Ace Hardware for $4.58.

3. Bottle Things Up

I spent four hours today deep-cleaning our house. I scrubbed floors, sorted papers, reorganized things, and wound up, like I always do, with little piles of things that don't really have a specific place to go--pins, thumbtacks, twist-ties, spare buttons, and the like.

I also have, in my medicine cabinet, a fairly large assortment of accumulated pill bottles, most of which have one pill left over from treatments finished or forgotten, painkillers unneeded, or cough medicine gone bad. I'm heading to the craft store tomorrow or Monday to pick up a couple of sheets of scrapbook paper and put into practice this fabulous idea over on Curbly, which involves covering prescription bottles with scrapbook paper and nice labels, and using them to hold all those little odds and ends that don't have any other home.

Even if they just end up back in a junk drawer or stowed on a shelf, I'll know where to find those things the next time I need them, and where to put them the next time I go on a cleaning jag that turns up half a pound of doodads that I have no home for but can't throw away.

And, as an added bonus, all those prescription bottles that I never throw away will also get sorted and dealt with!

4. Boxes in Kitchen Cupboards

I will admit, there is one exception that I allow when it comes to our rule about never storing food in plastic. We have a very small closet/pantry space for our dry goods, and for quite some time it was a horrific mess. Things were sorted more or less by category of food (baking, canned goods, spices, etc.) but the shelves, while narrow, are deep, and every time we cooked we ended up making a mess of things that, more often than not, never got cleaned up. After a while we were just tossing things on top of other things and it was a disaster.

Then I remembered that I had a couple of plastic shoebox-sized totes from my dorm room days that were sitting unused in our guest room. I recruited them for kitchen duty, spent 45 minutes reorganizing, and ended up with a closet that was unrecognizably different from its former self.

This is a great way to bring an immediate visual change to a small pantry space while also organizing it for easy access to whatever it is you need at the moment. With all your spice jars in one box, all your teas in another, a third holding bags of flour and sugar, and so on and so forth, you'll not only be able to locate all your food, but you'll be able to fit even more inside.

My boxes are Rubbermaid that I think I picked up at CVS a few years ago. I also recommend these ones from The Container Store, at $1.29 apiece.

5. Creative Shelving

Our lack of shelf space isn't just a problem in the pantry. With the exception of our kitchen, which has far more shelving than it ought to have given its tiny size, Mr. Scrimp and I can never seem to find enough shelves to hold all of our books and knicknacks. The next time I find a guitar case at a thrift store, I'd really like to have Mr. Scrimp bolt it to the wall in our guest room so that I can turn it into a bookshelf like the one pictured here, which was a project featured on RecyclArt. Seriously, how completely cool is that? (Come to think of it, I might have mentioned this on the blog before. I just continue to think it's an incredible idea.)

If nothing else, I feel like this should inspire you to look at objects around your home as having new potential to become an organizational aid, and you'll end up with a house that is clean, decluttered, organized, and ready for a new year to begin.

Bedroom Sign Project

So, although I rarely end up posting them here on Scrimpalicious for some reason, I do a fair amount of crafting and sewing projects--which is one of the reasons I started the blog in the first place.

Today, I decided to put together a Christmas present for my six-year-old nephew. "Homemade" has sort of been our gift theme this year, so I really wanted to come up with something that was designed especially for him, and ended up with this chalkboard sign for his bedroom door--sorry the picture's so terrible. I can't find my camera and had to use my cellphone.

It took about 30 minutes to make. I picked up a chalkboard in the wood crafts section at JoAnn fabrics, along with a small painted wooden bomb, comic book "pow" explosion graphic, and the stars you see in the upper right hand corner, and some red Mickey Mouse alphabet stickers.

I painted the chalkboard in a comic book yellow with acrylic paint, hot-glued the wood shapes on (I glued the "pow" on top of the bomb to add a little bit of comic-book action to the sign), and spelled his name out with the stickers. I didn't worry too too much about lining the letters up perfectly, to give them a slightly more comic-booky feel.

I varnished the whole thing (except the chalkboard part, of course) with three coats of satin varnish, and hot-glued a string to the back for hanging. I also picked up some chalk and a chalkboard eraser to go with it.

This was a lot of fun and turned out looking great. I think it would also be a super project to do with a kid for their own room.

Joy the world.. and the Scrimps!

Well, Internet, I hope you had as lovely a Christmas as I did. I was apprehensive about spending my first Christmas away from my family, but Mr. Scrimp's family all did a lovely job of making me feel welcomed and part of their family, so even though I missed my family all day, I listened to them open their gifts from us over the phone, called them before Mr. Scrimp and I opened ours from them, and was able to be satisfied and happy with that.

I'm really thankful for the wonderful friends and family that I have. All of them together--and Mr. Scrimp most of all--make me feel loved and at home wherever I go. We had a wonderful first Christmas together and are looking forward to the new year.

And, I managed to completely surprise Mr. Scrimp with a wonderful gift from my parents--a KitchenAid artisan stand mixer! We've gone the last six months without even a hand mixer, and both grew up with KitchenAids, so you can imagine our glee upon opening it yesterday morning.

I hope that all of you out there had holidays that were equally peaceful and filled with love and joy.

I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor this evening to make up for not posting it yesterday (I know it was Friday, but it was Christmas!), but for right now I'm going to make the most of my vacation time and mop the floors while it's still daylight out.

Recipe: Dutch Babies

So, it's Christmas Eve. This will be mine and Mr. Scrimp's first married Christmas, and my first Christmas ever away from my parents and multitude of siblings.

We are trying to start a couple of our own Christmas traditions this year, as well as incorporating individual traditions that we grew up with and aren't ready to let go of. We'll visit Mr. Scrimp's parents tonight (mine live too far away), come back home, exchange gifts in the morning, and then make the 45-minute trek back out to their house again tomorrow to spend Christmas day.

One tradition that I will probably never give up, and that Mr. Scrimp is happy to continue with me, is eating Dutch Babies on Christmas morning.

I have no idea where they got the name. I don't know what about them could possibly be called either Dutch or baby-like. But Dutch Babies they are, and I can't remember a Christmas when I didn't stuff myself full of them.

In my family, we only eat these once a year. This is because it keeps them, and the day we eat them, just a little more special. Also, they are covered in so much butter that if you ate them more than once a year you would die a lot younger.

Still, it's Christmas. I've eaten a grand total of two Christmas cookies this year, had not a single sip of eggnog, and have kept my alcohol intake down to a single bottle of hard cider with my sister in law a few days ago. I won't feel guilty about eating these, although I'll probably use less butter.

Dutch Babies (serves 2)


  • 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour (don't substitute whole wheat--it's gross)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk or fork. Add flour and milk and beat until combined.

Melt butter in a 9-inch pie tin, cast iron skillet, or similarly sized oven-safe pan or pot. Pour egg mixture into pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve immediately, with apple sauce and powdered sugar.

Hectic Weekend

There was no post yesterday, because Mr. Scrimp and I leapt out of bed late, threw some clothes on, and drove 3 1/2 hours up to Buffalo to celebrate early Christmas with his extended family. We also drove 3 1/2 hours back and didn't get home until around 1 in the morning when all was said and done.

So, I didn't have a chance to be on the computer really at all.

I will have some links and things tonight for you all to peruse, but in the meantime, I have a question. Have you ever sewed pajama pants or shorts? I have, but only from a pattern, and I was thinking that it would be silly to go spend money on a pattern if it's fairly easy to, say, make a pattern from an existing pair.

What do you think, Internet-land? Help me out here.

I'm working today and tomorrow and then Christmas vacation commences! I will finally have time to thoroughly clean my house and finish wrapping presents, and blog to my heart's content.

Five Dollar Decor - Winterize

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project? 

Christmas is in a week. If you haven't got your decorating done, well, I can't look too much askance at you, because we haven't even put ornaments on our tree yet (I know, I know.)

But I do feel like at this point, even if you haven't actually put them up, you know what your holiday decorations are going to be. So, I'm not going to write about Christmas decor.

Instead, I'm going to write about that awful time after the holidays. You know what I'm talking about. Christmas decorations come down, the New Year is over, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, it's still winter. And if you live in the North, like Mr. Scrimp and I do, it will still be winter for up to five more months. It's time to settle in for more cold, some breathtakingly beautiful weather, and a lot of dreariness.

So, once Christmas is over, why not get ready for January by freshening up your home with these touches? My favorite thing to do in January is to celebrate the new year by doing all I can to create a clean and fresh feeling at home. It's a good time to clean and organize things, and if you're going to be redecorating, I suggest using a lot of white, light blue, or yellow accents. Those colors just scream "clean and new" to me, and bring a little bit of winter inside without any of the grayness or chill.

1. Forced Paperwhites

These are a January-February staple for me. Delicate, sweet-smelling, and ridiculously easy to grow, you can find bulbs for cheap at most grocery, hardware, and Wal-Mart type stores, and plant them in any spare bowl, planter, or dish that you have lying around. This article at has step-by-step instructions for how to do it.

(Photo from Holland Acres)

2. Window Covers

Rather than keeping blinds and heavy curtains up that block out the scant sunlight, why not take them down and instead cover your window glass with clear contact paper or light fabric applied with starch? These will allow light to come through while still preserving your privacy.

Clear contact paper can be purchased at most drug stores, Wal-Mart, and places of that ilk. It is removable without much hassle, and you can decorate it at will. Design*Sponge suggests drawing on it with a white paint pen, as in this photo.

If you live near an Ikea, you can also get frosted paper specifically designed to be applied to windows without adhesive, for $4.99.

3. Candles

The dollar store sells bags of small votive candles. While they generally come in nondescript tin holders, they pop right out and can go in any assortment into whatever clear glass holders you have if you don't like the tin. Group as many as you can fit onto a thrifted or on-hand silver tray or gilt-framed mirror and light them all at once.

This is great on a dining table, kitchen table, coffee table, bureau, desk, mantel, or, well, pretty much anywhere with enough room to safely display candles. The clean white and silver are lovely during the short days, and the extra, soft light will make the long nights a little more pleasant.

(Photo from Better Homes and Gardens)

4. Reconsider Christmas

Look at your Christmas decorations. Have you got any that could be tweaked and de-Christmasized a bit to hang around and be plain winter decorations? A green garland, a string of white lights, or an arrangement of silver glass balls in a clear jar or bowl don't necessarily need to be strictly for Christmas. When you take down your Christmas things, reserve one or two of the least explicitly Christmassy ones and try putting them in a new spot or adding a new element or two to increase their longevity. Best part? It's free!

5. Outerwear as Decor

You're wearing scarves, gloves, boots, and hats anyway. Rather than tossing them in a closet, why not make them into a design element? Install a row of Command hooks (or nails, or pegs, or anything that you can hang something on) in a hallway. Hang an assortment of brightly colored scarves (or bags, or hats, or mittens on strings) on the hooks.

You can change the items on the hooks out once a week for a fresh look, rearrange the colors, hang a mix of knit and cotton scarves to play with texture--the possibilities are pretty much endless and make use of things that you already own to bring some colors into your hallway or entrance room.

(Photo from


So after I got home yesterday, I somehow managed to forget that it was Friday. Don't ask me how. It's ludicrous, I know.

I'm working on a day-late Five Dollar Decor post now. In the meantime, check out the Bargainist's list of ten last-minute stocking stuffers under ten dollars.

Recipe: Bacon - Special Guest Post by Mr. Scrimp!

Mr. Scrimp here. Let’s take a moment to talk about meat. 

Specifically, bacon.

I feel, unfortunately, that bacon has sort of jumped the shark as of late.
Bacon ice-cream, bacon vodka, and the accompanying bacontini. I’m not saying any of these things are bad. On the contrary, there is a certain appeal to the idea of a salty/meaty vodka concoction. This doesn’t change the fact that while a lot of people are talking about a lot of bacon, very few people are talking about the quality of the bacon that they eat.
I’ll go out on a limb and guess that you’ve never eaten good bacon. Ask yourself this question; “Did I buy the bacon in a supermarket?” If you answered yes, then the bacon was almost definitely bad. OK, let’s be honest, even bad bacon is still pretty tasty. However, good bacon is one of the greatest things you will ever eat and it is astonishingly easy to make, and I promise that you’ll have problems going back to the watery strips that people try to tell you is bacon.

Michael Ruhlman, a native of my own hometown, wrote an excellent book on charcuterie (called, appropriately, Charcuterie), which I highly recommend you purchase. At the most basic level, bacon requires two things: pork belly and salt. Pork belly can be purchased at a good butcher near you, or can be ordered online if you lack a butcher. At a butcher, pork belly should run you around 2.50$ to 3.50$ a pound. Ordering online will probably cost you a bit more, so make the effort to find a local butcher.
The other element is a basic dry-cure, which can be made in bulk and saved for multiple bacony applications in the future. The ingredients are as follows:

1 pound kosher salt
8 ounces sugar
2 ounces pink salt (pink salt is regular salt that has been mixed with sodium nitrate to prevent botulism and can be obtained here).

Sealed and refrigerated, the dry cure will last forever. Having made your dry-cure and obtained your pork belly, bacon is a scant week away. These are the directions for preparation:

Step 1: Dredge pork belly in dry cure until thoroughly and evenly coated.
Step 2: Refrigerate for 7-9 days in a non-reactive, sealed container (Pyrex or a Zip-loc bag will work just fine. Bacon should be rather firm (think medium well steak).
Step 3: Rinse clean, pat dry.

That’s it. If you order everything tonight, you are less than two weeks away from the best bacon you’ve ever eaten. Here’s the glorious thing though: that’s just the start. The dry cure is so simple and pork is so magical that you could throw in all sorts of flavors! Garlic and black pepper, orange zest, cumin and cayenne, maple syrup and brown sugar, ad infinitum!

You, my friends, can help rescue bacon from its supermarket purgatory. 

(Photo credit to this awesome blog entry about homemade bacon by Menu in Progress

Product Review: Pomona's Universal Pectin

Partly because it's fun, and partly because we eat very little sugar and low-sugar alternatives are all full of gross chemicals, I've started (occasionally) canning jelly.

If this sounds impossibly daunting, I am there with you! Jellymaking is one of those things that I've always viewed with a kind of embarrassed terror otherwise reserved for driving in downtown New York City and those dreams where you show up at school or work and don't realize until way too late that you're naked.

That being said, do yourself a favor and try making jelly sometime. Regardless of the fact that I have now set my stove on fire twice while  making jelly, I view it as one of the most rewarding projects I've ever completed.

Now, because we are solidly in the bleak midwinter and fresh fruit can be hard to come by (to say nothing of all the work involved), I recommend you start with an easy, no-fuss recipe like this one for grape jelly from store bought juice.

They say they're optional, but when you're just getting started I really can't recommend enough that you buy or obtain the pieces from a starter canning kit--tongs for removing jars from water, a funnel, etc. You can find jars and lids at Ace Hardware.

Which only leaves the question of the pectin.

I tried making jelly once with Sure-Jell. It was the pectin that the store was selling with the canning jars I bought. Why not? I thought to myself. Surely one pectin is like another. Right?

Wrong, past self. Oh, how wrong you were.

To make jelly with Sure-Jell and most other types of pectin, your recipe needs to have at least 50-60% sugar added to it. Otherwise the pectin won't activate and your jelly will be a very viscous and not very tasty or useful syrup. I found this out the hard way and ended up throwing out probably two gallons of potential jelly, and a full pound of sugar.

I also had a box of Pomona's Universal Pectin that I'd picked up at Whole Foods, so I girded up my loins and gave it a try.

Pomona's is activated by calcium powder (included in the package) instead of sugar. As a result, you can use it to make jelly with very little added sugar. You can even use it to make jelly with artificial sweeteners, honey, or just the natural sugars in concentrated fruit juice. That's right--no added sugar. I like things tart, so this is right up my alley.

Each box of Pomona's also comes with a handy dandy little insert that has recipes for multiple kinds of jam and jelly, both canned and frozen, from fresh fruit or from juice. It is very easy to use, works like a charm, and did I mention that you don't need to drown your fruit in sugar in order to get it to jell?

If you're ever going to give jelly a try, or already like to make jelly and want to cut sugar out of your recipe, get ahold of Pomona's. It's worth ordering online and waiting for if there are no local stores that carry it in your area (our Whole Foods only has it in stock during the late summer and early fall).

Remember, before you start canning or preserving things, to read up on proper hygiene and food safety. It's very easy to preserve food of all kinds at home (Mr. Scrimp will be writing an entry on charcuterie soon), but it's of huge importance to do it safely.

And now I think my stove has cooled down enough that I can scrape the charred, caramelized apple juice off the burner. Sigh.

Car and Website Link

So, I have a new favorite-ish website. That is, it would be my favorite if I were doing much shopping these days, but I'm not. Mr. Scrimp and I are doing a good job of making ends meet, but we still don't have a lot of extra money, especially because we just bought a car!

That's right, the Scrimps are now a two-car family. We were borrowing a car from my fabulous in-laws for a few months, and when the time came near to give it back we initially discussed just sharing Mr. Scrimp's car. The problem is, his work schedule is totally unpredictable, and generally involves late nights. My schedule is exactly the same all the time and involves early mornings.

We hopped on Craigslist and managed to find a 93 Plymouth Laser (google it--I had to) for $700. It didn't need any work, and although the interior is sportscar tiny and the visibility is a little weird on the driver's side sometimes, I really like it. It's easy to drive, it gets fab gas mileage, and it gets me where I need to go.

Anyway, the point is, with big expenses always looming on the horizon (and they always are), I don't do a lot of frivolous shopping, even at Christmas. We're making most of the Christmas presents we're giving to other people this year, and our shopping budget for each other was sharply limited.

And the whole point of this story is to tell you about The Bargainist, a website I found a day or two ago that I love to read just because it's a pleasure to know that someone out there can probably take advantage of it, even if I can't right now.

The Bargainist lists online coupons, sales, and other deals at retailers both online and off. For instance, did you know that right now, Aeropostale is having a 50-70% off sale on its entire online store? I sure didn't.

Check it out, my friends. How about a code that will get you 70% off your entire online order--including gift cards--at The Bargainist has it.


Dear Mr. Scrimp,

I will concede, before you even start to argue the point, that this is the coolest Christmas tree ever, and that not so random was super rad to make it for her kids.

However, I still refuse to copy it in our living room, and no matter how much you argue or cajole, it won't happen.

This year.

Love and Kisses,

Please take Optimus Prime off the mantel, as he is not a Christmas decoration.

Food for Thought, addendum

I've got some work to do this evening, but then it's blog, blog, blog until bed--I'll finally get caught up! I'm not entirely over being sick, but I went back to my job today after two miserable days at home and a weekend of sleeping and moping.

I grabbed lunch at work today--Jif peanut butter on processed potato bread and a slice of American cheese, because that's what was there. Then I spent the whole afternoon trying to figure out why I suddenly felt so sick to my stomach, and it didn't hit me until this afternoon that it's been long enough now since we started trying to eat organic/nonprocessed et cetera that maybe I just don't tolerate processed foods very well anymore. Is it possible that I used to feel like this all the time? What a horrifying thought.


Well, between one thing and another, I'm two days behind on posting, which is terrible. Poor little blog--I haven't abandoned you, I just have been too sick to be very creative.

But a lot of sleep and an intense antibiotic regimen have done their work. Mr. Scrimp and I are on our way out to hear an Advent sermon at our church, but when we get home, I will have time to post.

Food for Thought

Well, I'm happy to announce that after 24 hours of intense antibiotics and a day in bed being tended by the saintly Mr. Scrimp, I'm starting to feel human again. The blog will be moving to a new domain this weekend so posting may (or may not) still be fairly light.

It's been a week or two since I talked much about the Scrimp household's food choices. We try very hard to eat as little processed food as possible. This saves money in the long run, and it is far, far healthier.

Found this article yesterday. Even if you still eat processed food, this is worth considering. Small changes in your eating habits can lead to big differences. It's been about six months since Mr. Scrimp and I started making a real effort to avoid processed food and we both feel much, much healthier and generally all-around better.

News articles about things like this are often sensationalized, so take it with a grain of salt--but it's very true that food is less nutritious than it used to be, and modern farming and food storage practices are part of that. My doctor long ago recommended against storing food in plastic, or in aluminum cans, which are lined with soft plastics to keep the aluminum taste out of the food, because of chemicals that can leach from the plastic into the food. 

The 7 Foods Experts Won't Eat - Yahoo News (via Fark)


Scrimpalicious will be taking a break for a day or two while I cope with being so sick that I am almost physically incapable of getting out of bed without Mr. Scrimp's help. I've been meaning to post this all day, but making the effort to sit up and pick the laptop up long enough to get it where I could reach it just felt like too much.

Pathetic? Yes, I guess it is, but I am sick with two things at once, am running a fever that Advil isn't bringing down, and know I'm dehydrated but feel sick and dizzy every time I try to drink anything. I'll blog again tomorrow. Or the next day.

Celebrating Ingenuity

More than just about anything else craft-related in this world, I covet a dress form. I'm not kidding--I lie around and daydream about the far-off day when I have the $300 to spend on one. On that day, every sewing project I undertake will be different. I will be able to fit things--fit things, I tell you--that I am making for myself. I will be able to drape fabrics. The possibilities for what I will be able to do will be endless.

Sadly, it is going to be a long, long time before I have that kind of discretionary spending.

If you're like me, you've been nodding your head in sad acknowledgment as you read this. Well, nod sadly no more, my friends. Blogger MJ over at Making Do with the Not So New has come up with a solution. When she wanted a dress form in order to fit clothes for a squirmy toddler, she didn't throw up her hands and whimper about the cost. Oh no, she did something about it, and made a dress form out of duct tape and scrap fabric!

Now, if you're going to do this for yourself, you are going to need someone to help you, because it involves close wrapping of the body with duct tape. Happily, Mr. Scrimp is the type who will think this is hilarious and I shouldn't have too much trouble talking him into swathing me in duct tape from the neck down, especially if it means I no longer drag him into the sewing section at our local JoAnn Fabrics to sigh over dressmaker's dummies.

You can find the tutorial here. If you do it before I get it finished and posted about, please comment or email me and let me know. I'm intensely curious to know if this is really as easy as it looks.

Snips and Sniffles

I am indeed staying home sick today. The problem with staying home sick from work is that if you're sick enough to stay home, you don't really feel up to doing all the things around the house that you ought to do.

I'm trying to decide which projects I'm going to attempt today. I've got to sort through some clothes, and if I find any appropriate t-shirts, I might try to make this re-usable shopping bag from Cut Out & Keep, which is made from a t-shirt sewn into the shape of a plastic grocery bag.

(Found via a five-page list of t-shirt mods at HideYourArms. Go read all of them.)

Another Delay

It's sleeting outside and the Scrimpalicious household is under siege from some sort of flu-like ailment... again. Instead of crafting, I've put on my favorite flannel pajamas and settled into bed with Mr. Scrimp, some seedless green grapes, a dose of elderberry extract and ginger ale every four hours, and Season 3 of Survivorman. I sense hot chocolate in my immediate future.

The downside is, I feel pretty miserable and I might have to miss work tomorrow. The upside is, if I have to miss work tomorrow I'll have a whole day to putter around my house, take photos, and do crafty things.

What are your favorite things to do when you're sick?

Tonight's Project

I have a new craft project I'm going to be starting/documenting tonight, but in the meantime, if you're looking for something to do today or a gift to give, why not make one of these microwaveable heat packs from blogger Homebody Holly?

If I need a heat pack in a hurry (at least, back when I still had a microwave), it was easiest just to dump a few cups of rice into a pillowcase, tie the open end, and nuke it for a few minutes. The moisture in the grain (barley and wheat berries work well too) heats up quickly and stays warm for a long time--it's great. Anyway, I would never have spent money to buy myself a microwaveable heat pack when I could just throw one together as needed from household objects, but I would have been thrilled to get one as a gift so I didn't have to have rice-scented pillowcases.


My mother in law pointed out to me the other day that comments were only open to registered users. Whoops! Comments are now open to all, including anonymous posters. Knock yourselves out.

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

I love bread, especially the homemade kind, but I can't ever seem to knead it right and so when I make it, it's always too crumbly and lacks elasticity. I'd try using a dough hook, but I haven't got any sort of electric mixer.

So, when I want fresh bread at home, I make no-knead bread, based on the recipe in the New York Times. It couldn't be easier, and it turns out a delicious loaf every time.

No-Knead Bread (makes 1 loaf)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I found bread flour did not result in as good a texture)
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 5/8 cups water
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 12-18 hours. 12 is probably still a little too short, because in the absence of kneading the gluten in the bread is being broken down by yeast alone and that takes a fair amount of time.

When the dough is dotted all over with many small bubbles, it's ready. Coat the dough with flour and fold it in half once or twice and let it rest for another 15 minutes or so.

Shape the dough into a ball, seam side down, and put it in a dutch oven or other heavy, oven-safe pot that has a lid. Dust with flour again if necessary and let rise for another 2-3 hours.

Bake at 450 degrees--30 minutes with cover and another 15-20 minutes uncovered to brown. You will want to check this frequently because cooking time will differ slightly depending on the pot you cook it in. Finished bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Well, we had an even busier day than I thought we would. Mr. Scrimp got the tree up and it is standing in the living room and settling its branches as I write this. I had a couple of hours of work to get done, and a couple of hours of wrestling with my computer and trying to get it to turn on.

So, I'm sorry to say, I still haven't got that bonus five dollar decor post done. That will teach me to promise to deliver blog entries I haven't finished writing yet. But it will come in the next day or two!

In the meantime, how about digging through your scrap fabric and making a couple of these Christmas stockings with this free pattern from Craft Leftovers? This would be a great use for fabric from a loved blanket or article of clothing that's too tattered to use but of too much sentimental value to throw away.


I had a couple posts I was intending to write yesterday and it didn't happen. Those will go up this afternoon or evening, towards the tail end of Mr. Scrimp's and my busy day. There's church to go to, in-laws to visit, Christmas trees to get and put up, and actual work to do in addition to blogging.

Here's a question for you in the meantime, though--Mr. Scrimp won a $25 gift card to the Melting Pot through his work yesterday. Can anybody tell me anything about this place? I've never eaten there.

To come:

- The results of my attempt to make and fray that plaid scarf I posted a link to on Friday
- Photos of our newly bedecked Christmas wreath
- A bonus Five Dollar Decor post


Sometimes I think the best type of bargain is the one you stumble across unintentionally. I was at Marc's yesterday (a local discount type grocery and odds-and-ends store, for those of you not in Ohio) and found a king size "down alternative" comforter for $19.99.

It's not the highest quality thing ever, but it's definitely warm and not an eyesore. Mr. Scrimp and I live in an old house with steam heat, and the radiators are fab except in our bedroom, where they are non-functional. This makes blanket number four to go on the pile we sleep under.

This winter, experiment with keeping your heat a little lower than you might like. It's a lot cheaper in the long run to wear a second layer, buy some house slippers, and sleep with an extra blanket than it is to burn all that energy keeping your house at 70 degrees all the time.

And remember, kids--always keep your eyes open for a good deal.

Plaid Scarf Tutorial

Remember how I mentioned the other day in my Christmas Gift post that scarves are extremely very the best thing ever? Well, blogger Cluck Cluck Sew saw a cute frayed plaid scarf at the Gap the other day and decided to make her own. I actually like her version even better than the one at the Gap, and not just because it only cost $3.

You can go here for the full tutorial. All it takes is a little fabric and a washing machine to fray the edges, and, if you want to get really fancy, a sewing machine (but that's optional).

Via CraftGossip.

Five Dollar Decor - Christmas Ornament Extravaganza!

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

I'm going to be doing something a little different this week. Rather than featuring whole-room decor, I'd like to focus on Christmas ornaments. Also, I'll be doing multiple posts over the weekend, highlighting a different style of Christmas decoration in each.

Mr. Scrimp works near a very high-end, expensive mall, and I will occasionally wander around it to get ideas. I noticed that the emphasis at the big pricey home goods stores this year seems to be on things that look homemade--lots of felt, lots of yarn, lots of natural materials. Well, why pay $5 an ornament for faux-homemade when you can get the real thing for less?

For a very traditional, old-American Christmas look, stick with reds and whites and avoid glitter. Shades of red and cream with a lot of greenery and hints of silver will make a sophisticated statement without giving up any of the jump-out-at-you color that makes Christmas so distinctive.

These aren't the grade-school-craft felt ornaments of your childhood. These are beautiful, stylish, and charmingly old-fashioned. They have a type of Depression-era chic to them that I can't help but love.

1. Fabric Balls

These, of course, come from the perpetually perfect Martha. She made hers with taffeta, satin, and velvet, and all sorts of fancy-schmancy trims. I think they're very pretty that way (who am I to quibble when Martha says something must be so?) but I saw something similar over at Crate & Barrel that were covered with felt and yarn and looked much simpler, and I honestly liked them better.

2. Peppermint Garland

This project from Good Housekeeping is so simple they don't even have a tutorial. Just buy a couple of bags of individually wrapped peppermint lozenges and glue them together end-to-end with a hot glue gun. I love the look of striped peppermints but can never finish eating one, so this is a great way to keep them around withoutbeing tempted to actually pop one in my mouth.

3. Popsicle Stick Sled

The year I was born, a family friend gave my parents one handmade popsicle stick sled ornament for each of us, painted Radio Flyer red and embellished with our names and the year in silver paint. Well, that was 25 years ago, and now mine is the only one that is still intact.

In keeping with the retro Christmas theme of this post, I'm including this craft, and not just because of my sudden wave of 80's nostalgia, but because that bright, cheery wooden sled is a classic emblem of American Christmas Past. This tutorial from Family Fun suggests using pre-colored popsicle sticks from the craft store to save painting time. (I'm horrified that they made it yellow. Everyone knows the best sleds are red, especially at Christmas.)

4. Add Some Silver

Well listen, I didn't say this was going to be a post made up exclusively of handmade ornaments. A Christmas tree isn't really decorated till it's got a little sparkle going. For a modern-vintage look, stick with thinner tinsel garlands, tinsel icicles (used sparingly, or silver glass ball ornaments, and go for silver, because originally, tinsel was actually made out of metal. Check Goodwill and the Salvation Army, too--a lot of times around this season you can find boxes of antique tinsel. You can also almost always find boxes of antique ornaments.

I'm planning to swing by the dollar store this weekend and pick up a pack of silver ornaments and experiment with antiquing them with glaze as in this post at Dollar Store Crafts. I'm hoping it will make those lackluster, cheap ornaments look somewhat similar to mercury glass. If it works out, I'll let you know and post a tutorial!

5. Ice Skate Ornaments

Like most little girls, I had fond dreams at one point of becoming a figure skater. My mom duly enrolled me in figure skating lessons and dropped me off at the rink, trusting my older brothers to see me safely to figure skating before they went to their hockey practice.

She should have known better. As soon as she was gone, my brothers cornered me and impressed on me the solemn knowledge that hockey is way cooler than figure skating, and that if I wanted to be cool, I could only do it by playing hockey. I worked my six-year-old wiles on the hockey coach and got him to let me on the pee-wee team in lieu of figure skating lessons.

And so my dreams of being a figure skater were squashed under the weight of fifty million pounds of hockey gear. But they came back to me when I saw these.

Modeled after vintage handmade ornaments, these ice skates from Not Quite Vintage  might be the most adorable homemade ornament I've seen on the Internets to date. I am definitely going to be making at least one set of these, and possibly more. Look at the pom-poms! And the sequins! Look!

I'm going to run away from home and be a figure skater.

10% Reader Discount: Onyx and Silk at Etsy

Hey there, Scrimpalicious readers! Have you ever heard of furoshiki? They have a long, long tradition of use in Japan for anything from gift wrap to decor to a handy reusable shopping bag. Easy-to-use, incredibly versatile, beautiful, and, of course, eco-friendly, these would make a great accessory or gift this Christmas.
Etsy seller Alix with Onyx and Silk sells unique, handmade bags inspired by both furoshiki and Victorian design. I'm a particular fan of the neoshiki bag, a design based on the furoshiki that transforms into multiple types of bag depending on how you tie and arrange the fabric.

And because she's an old friend of mine, if you mention Scrimpalicious in the seller's notes on Etsy, Alix will give you a 10% discount. Go have a look!

Dollar Store Crafts

Good morning, Scrimpalicious readers! It's a balmy 43 degrees this morning in Ohio, and it's hard to believe that we're already in December.

I have a guest post up today at Dollar Store Crafts, which I'm sure you're all going to check out. While you're there, be sure to read the rest of Heather's great blog. It's full of ideas for crafts of all kinds on about as limited as a crafting budget can get.

And while I'm at it, hi to all the Dollar Store Crafts readers who check out Scrimpalicious today. Leave a comment and say hello!


Note: Posting is going to be a little lighter this week due to some computer trouble over the weekend that made it impossible to write a lot of posts in advance, extra work hours this week, and preoccupation with getting the blog ready to move to a new domain name. I'll still try to post at least one item a day though, so keep checking!


Advent is upon us, and that means it's past time to think about getting an Advent calendar.

Of course, you could just buy one at the store, but why do that when you could make one yourself? has a host of homemade Advent calendar ideas and tutorials that span the entire spectrum of cost, difficulty, and style possibilities. Go check it out!

What have you done so far to get ready for the holidays? Leave a comment and let me know!

(Image from this tutorial by Craftster user neverseenblue)

Christmas Music

I think we can all agree that the fastest way to set a mood is with music. So, what better way to get yourself motivated to prepare for the holidays than with Christmas (or Hanukkah! I celebrate both) music?

Most of us already have extensive collections of CDs. Some of use even still have collections of cassettes. Some of us even still listen to those cassettes.

But if you don't have those, or if you want to supplement them, here are some ways to get into that holiday groove without spending extra money at the store or on iTunes:

Pandora - If you don't already use Pandora, you should. When you tell it a single song that you like, Pandora uses magic--or possibly some crazy computer algorithm--to create an entire personalized radio station around that song. I'd say it usually hits the mark about 95% of the time and there's an option to skip songs you don't like. They do have pre-made "holiday music" streams as well, if you can't think of a single Christmas song you'd like to tailor your next couple of hours of humming to. - Similar to Pandora, although I find it to be less user-friendly. This actually lets you download a player and use it on your computer (as long as you're logged in to the Internet) without tying up a browser window.

YouTube - Mr. Scrimp is a big fan of simply searching YouTube for music videos of the specific song he's in the mood to hear. Unlike the first two, which make it difficult to choose exactly what song you listen to at what time, this is, of course, pretty much endlessly customizable. On the other hand, this isn't a radio station, of course, and is questionable when it comes to copyright law.

Everyone has a few songs that really do it for them--they hear that music, and Christmas happens in their head all at once. For me, it's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by Barenaked Ladies. For Mr. Scrimp, I think it's anything involving Bing Crosby. We're both also big fans of Medieval carols, and I sing Hanukkah songs under my breath all day at work.

What is your favorite music to listen to this time of year? Post a comment and share!

5 Christmas Gifts For $15 or Less

It's that time of year again--when every woman's magazine in the country publishes lists of "Christmas Gifts under ____ Dollars." Usually that number is between $25-50, which I still feel is pretty high. Plus, most of those gifts are things that just wouldn't work for anyone I know.

So I decided to make my own list of gifts--for $15 or less.

Bananagrams, $14.95 - Kind of a cross between Scrabble and Boggle, this is a high-speed crossword game that's played on the tabletop instead of on a board. You can buy it online by following the link, but if you don't want to pay shipping they also sell it at Barnes & Noble and other stores.

Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter, $11.99 - I'm not usually a big advocate of the "As Seen on TV" line of products, but I'll give the thumbs up to anything that provides a way to grow fresh, organic produce at home year-round. From Collections Etc.

Butter Soft Acrylic Muffler, $14.95 - Scarves have come into their own in the last few years. Not only are they warm, they're a stylish and easy way to dress up an outfit, hide a slightly too-low-cut neckline, or add color to a bland clothing choice. These scarves from Wrapables come in some beautiful colors, but there are a ton of stores that carry these in every color and pattern imaginable, from five to a hundred dollars.

Scrabble Tile Pendant, $4.95 - Made from a recycled Scrabble tile decorated with an image and coated in resin. These are a beautiful piece of recycled art and can be found on Etsy in any design imaginable. I'm a fan of this one from Etsy seller wickedlymodpendants.

I Am Not a Paper Cup, $15.19 - The worst thing about travel mugs is that they're almost impossible to drink from without spilling, and they just don't have the je  ne sais quoi of the paper coffeeshop to-go mug. This mug is made of ceramic with a silicone lid. It looks like a disposable cup, but it's permanent, insulated, and dishwasher safe. Currently on sale at Target.

Gift Wrapping

I love gift-wrapping. To me, half the fun in getting ready for Christmas giving is making sure that gift have a great presentation.

This tutorial from Jessica Jones at How About Orange is for a homemade gift bow made from a magazine page or other piece of scrap paper. I am madly in love with the version pictured here, which she made from a map of Chicago.


Be sure to check out the rest of her blog, too. It's great. (via The Butterworth)

Nine Dollar Couch

When Mr. Scrimp and I got married, we got a living room furniture set that had belonged to Mr. Scrimp's grandparents. It's really great furniture--sturdy, well-made, and well taken care of. And, though it's definitely retro, it really fits with our style.

The thing is, the couch is covered with a fabric that can be really hard to match. It's white, orange, and green. In fact, I'm just going to go ahead and show you a photo of our living room so you can see what I'm talking about.

See what I mean? It's a great couch, but it's unique. I was looking at it the other day and realized that it's going to be really, really hard to decorate for Christmas when the central piece of furniture in our living room will clash so badly with pretty much every Christmas decoration out there.

Mr. Scrimp is really opposed to putting a permanent slipcover on the couch, mainly for reasons of nostalgia. Plus, slipcovers are expensive to buy and time-consuming to make. So I decided to see if I could do anything to cover it temporarily without spending too much or investing too much time.

After sleeping in on Black Friday, I had to run to Penzey's to pick up some spices for a cooking project of Mr. Scrimp's. While I was out, I decided to stop in at JoAnn Fabrics to see what kind of sales had lasted into the afternoon.

Annnnnnd.. bingo! JoAnn's was running a weekend sale on fleece for a paltry $2.99/yard. I dug through the massive pile of bolts of fleece and found one in a burgundy that I knew would look great with our living room rug, which has purple and red in its pattern. I originally guessed it would take 3 1/2 yards to cover our couch, but when I saw how long that would be, I had them cut it down to just 3, on the promise that if I didn't cut or wash the fabric I had 90 days to return it (score for JoAnn's on allowing the return of cut fabric!).

I took it home, unfolded it, and tucked it tightly around and underneath the couch cushions. 3 yards was just enough to tightly cover the couch with a few inches of fabric all around to tuck in. Because of the style of the fabric on the couch, the fleece doesn't slip at all.

I covered the whole thing with a white throw we got as a wedding present and that was it! For $9, we essentially got a new couch. I'm going to see if I can find a few white or green throw pillows to toss on it to make up for not having fabric to cover the bolsters with. And when Christmas is over, I can pull the fabric off, wash it, and either save it for next year or use it for sewing projects in the interim. Right now, I'm thinking it'll be time for a new pair of fleece pajama pants in January.

What are you doing to get your house ready for Christmas?

Neat Link

I came across this link on Facebook today, and it looks like a great resource. If you try to be pretty assiduous about keeping track of your calories, it can be really frustrating when you make the switch away from processed foods. The only thing I really miss about them is being able to get an exact calorie count per serving off the back of the box.

That's where SparkRecipes comes in. It's got a free recipe calorie counter, where all you need to do is enter the ingredients in your recipe and the number of servings it makes and it will give you a full (if somewhat approximate) breakdown of nutritional information.

Like AllRecipes, it also has many recipes submitted by users of the site, and if you register you'll be able to save recipes of your own in your "cookbook." Definitely worth checking out.

Recipe: Apple Pie

Well, I've posted recipes for an entree and a soup so far. Seems like now would be a good time to give you a recipe for dessert.

Mr. Scrimp and I are currently enjoying the last leftovers of an apple pie that I made for Thanksgiving. However, don't let the fact that Thanksgiving is over stop you from making this. It's too delicious to only eat once a year!

Apple Pie (6-8 servings)

  • 4-7 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced medium-thin
  • 3/4 cup sugar (for a more tart pie, use slightly less)
  •  2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 unbaked 8-inch pie shells
  • Butter
Prepare or buy pie crust. If you prepare your pie crust at home, place it in an 8-inch pie tin and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Working in small batches, dredge apple slices in the dry mixture and arrange in pie tin until a single layer of apples covers the bottom. Cut four or five small slivers of butter and lay on top of apples. Repeat, alternating layers of apple slices and butter until pie shell is full or apples are gone. End with a layer of butter.

Roll out the second pie crust. If you wish, use cookie or fondant cutters to cut a shape out of its center and place it on top of the pie, wetting outside edges and crimping to seal.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, and then turn heat down to 350 and bake until pie crust is golden brown.

If you don't feel up to making a whole pie, make a single crust and half the filling. Roll the crust into a circle, fill it with apples/spice mixture, and fold in half, crimping edges to seal and forming a semicircle. Bake at 400 until crust is just browned--voila, turnover!

Coming Attractions

Soon to come on Scrimpalicious...

- Ornament craft how-tos
- Pictures of our "couch remodel"
- A mystery photo
- A discussion of classic Christmas movies and songs
- The best (and easiest!) apple pie recipe
- Gingerbread houses
- A guest post for Dollar Store Crafts
- A hair flower / flower necklace how-to
- New blog layout and domain name!

Stay tuned!

Five Dollar Decor - Kitchen

Every Friday, I'll be posting Five Dollar Decor--five ideas for interior decorating that can be achieved by spending only five dollars. For five dollars, you can add one new element to your in-home design. For twenty-five, you can revamp an entire room around a new theme. Hmm... a trip to Starbucks, or a weekend redecorating project?

After spending a solid fifteen and a half thousand hours in my kitchen yesterday preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I thought that today would be a perfect day to highlight some quick, cheap, and easy ways to make over a kitchen.

1. Kitchen Rugs

Replacing kitchen floors is costly, difficult, and generally not allowed for renters. A much easier way to deal with an unsightly or tired kitchen floor is to cover it with a sturdy and durable rug.

I personally am a huge fan of Ikea's Signe flatwoven rug, which can be purchased for a mere $2.99. Unfortunately, it's not available online, so if you want that specific one you'll have to make a pilgrimage for it (our nearest Ikea is in Pittsburgh, 2 hours away).

2. Painted Furniture

Even if you can't paint your walls or floor, it's quick, easy, and cheap to paint furniture. This is a great trick for getting a completely mismatched collection of chairs to look intentionally matched, as in this photo from Apartment Therapy. Of course, a kitchen table could be painted to match or coordinate.

If your kitchen, like ours, is too small for that much furniture, you could still add a fresh splash of color by painting a stepladder, stool, or narrow shelf and finding a home for it in a corner.

3. Kitchen Tools as Art

The painted bundt pans used as decor in this photo from PointClickHome actually almost made the cut to be in last week's Five Dollar Decor post, but I think they fit better here, in a kichen-specific post. 

Other things that would make an excellent decorative display include antique utensils (potato mashers, spatulas, etc.), wooden spoons, thrifted mugs, trivets, and potholders. For a more modern look, choose items all of the same color, or paint items a single color so that all match. For a more eclectic or antique style, mix and match as much as you like.

4. Tea Towels

Tea towels and dish towels are available in abundance everywhere from the Dollar Tree to Bed, Bath & Beyond. For $5 at the dollar store you can locate five dish towels or tea towels in a variety of surprisingly stylish designs and colors.

Hang them off the stove, on the wall as decoration, or over the windows as makeshift curtains, as in this photo from Xochi Santa Fe. Cover a cabinet or the panels on a door with them. If your kitchen, like mine, is bland-looking and colorless, this can make a huge difference.

5. Chalkboards

Whether unfinished and rustic, mounted inside of a modern and stylish frame, or painted directly onto the wall, a chalkboard in a kitchen is a happy thing. Shopping lists, notes, phone messages, recipes, reminders, and doodles--whatever it is that ends up there, it will reflect your home and family, which is what a good kitchen ought to do.

For those of us living in apartments where painting isn't an option, cheap chalkboards are available for a few dollars at craft stores and can be removed from their frames and mounted any way you like. For a custom size or shape, find a piece of plywood that takes your fancy and paint it with chalkboard paint. Or, take it into another room and paint the side of a bookshelf, the top of a table, or a flat mirror frame.

If you own or are allowed to paint, consider covering a door panel, a cupboard, or even an entire wall with chalkboard paint. I love this photo from Design*Sponge for inspiration.

If you don't like black or chalkboard green, RowHouse blog has a recipe for homemade chalkboar paint in the color of your choosing using nothing but a cup of latex paint and some dry unsanded tile grout mix.

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Five Dollar Decor!

Food Waste

Mr. Scrimp and I hosted our own Thanksgiving dinner this year, which was a first for both of us. It went incredibly well--the house was clean, the guests were happy, the food was delicious and abundant, and we'll be living on the leftovers for several days. I'll try and get some pictures up later today.

I was saddened this morning to see this article, which discusses a new study that finds that Americans throw away forty percent of all food produced in this country. On average, we throw away 1400 calories of food per person, per day.

I can absolutely believe this. I know Mr. Scrimp and I have been culpable in the past when it comes to buying more food than we need, which of course then spoiled and went bad.

I will emphasize again how valuable it is to plan meals and cut grocery spending, which will also cut down on grocery waste. If you have the extra food in your house, you'll either eat more than you should, or throw away entire meals' worth.

For crying out loud, people, eat your vegetables. There are starving people in China.


Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

Well, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. We're hosting dinner this year, and it is my first time ever hosting a Thanksgiving meal, so that's pretty exciting. I feel like I have a lot to be thankful about this year, including the way that Mr. Scrimp and I have been blessed with an abundance of all our basic needs. In spite of unexpected expenses, car problems, student loans, and more, our rent is paid, our bills are paid, and we have always had enough to eat.

Most people serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I'm also going to serve pumpkin pie, because Mr. Scrimp's family likes it, but it's not my favorite. I actualy much prefer pumpkin in a sweet bread or in a savory form as pumpkin soup. In fact, pumpkin soup is one of my favorite things to eat. It's creamy and delicious and so easy to make.

What's your favorite autumn-flavored recipe?

Pumpkin Soup (serves 3-6)

  • 1 large can of pumpkin, or 14 oz of baked/roasted pumpkin, pureed
  • Milk, 1/2 & 1/2, or a combination, to preference
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Begin by dicing your onions. Get them fairly small, because this soup doesn't get blended at the end (although I guess there's nothing stopping you).

In a dutch oven or soup pot, heat up some oil and cook the onions and minced garlic until soft. Add pumpkin and mix, breaking up any lumps. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the pumpkin from burning. When the pumpkin has absorbed the cooking oil, add milk (I use 2%), half and half, or a combination of the two, stirring with a spatula or whisk until pumpkin mixture has reached desired consistency.

At this point, your soup is pretty much ready to eat. However, because canned pumpkin tends to taste, well, canned, and prolonged cooking helps remove this taste, I usually let the soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes before serving.

This is particularly delicious served with grated romano cheese or a small dollop of sour cream on top.

Note: This is a cream soup, which means it is not anywhere near as healthy as soup ought to be. Because pumpkin is naturally fairly creamy when pureed, you can substitute low-fat homemade or boxed chicken or vegetable stock for most of the dairy. It will taste slightly less rich, but still very good. For another variation, add curry powder to taste for curried pumpkin soup.

I am preparing to try this recipe out with roasted squash, as well. I think it will translate well with very few, if any, other changes.


We recently put a new grocery shopping strategy into practice. I sat down and planned out seven days of meals, wrote up an ingredients list, and only bought exactly what we need to make it through a week.

I think I can safely call this the single biggest change we've made to reduce our spending and food waste. I've bought groceries for less than $40 for three weeks running now. This past week, because we're shopping light on the promise of Thanksgiving leftovers, we got our week's worth of groceries for a whopping $28, and all the food we bought was fresh and unprocessed. I feel pretty good about it.

I was amazed to realize how much food we were buying that was simply extra. We ate most of it, but a fair amount was getting thrown away, because it was being bought without a real plan.

I definitely recommend giving this method a try if you don't do it already. You might be surprised.

Christmas Post the First

It's that time of year--the time of year when the weather gets cold, the lights go up at shopping centers, we eat ridiculous amounts of food, and people start spending more money than they ought to spend because they love each other, or feel guilty, or feel obligated.

I buy lots of Christmas presents strictly for the first reason. Christmas is my favorite, and I love giving gifts.

The problem is, how do you do that on a strict budget? Because Mr. Scrimp and I are on a strict budget, which runs contrary to both of our sensibilities, but what can you do? If we only shop for our respective immediate families and each other, we've got at least twelve Christmas presents to buy, and if you aren't careful that kind of shopping leads to suddenly realizing that after you paid your December rent and went wild with your remaining money, you won't make rent in January, or pay for your heat, or be able to buy groceries.

The holidays are a dangerous time for people with generous tendencies and little money. If it were only up to me with no consideration for anything else, I could spend hundreds on gifts for Mr. Scrimp without a second thought, to say nothing of siblings, nieces, and nephews. And if we shop on a strict budget, how will we find things that are nice instead of low-quality, less meaningful gifts that we're buying simply because we had to buy something and can't afford more? If we give people junk that will break or be useless almost immediately, what was the point of spending the money at all?

Here are some of the things that we are trying to do in order to allow us to give meaningful, non-junky gifts to our loved ones this year.

  1. Shop early. If you have more time to look for deals, you are more likely to find them. If you shop in a panicked rush four days before Christmas, you're going to spend more money, or you're going to end up buying far less than the perfect present for someone because you can't find anything really perfect in your price range.
  2. Make a list. Sure, spend some time browsing at the mall, but don't take your wallet with you. Browse for ideas, make a plan, and try to find a way to fit it into your budget. Which leads me to...
  3. Make a budget. We are doing this by deciding how much money overall we're able to afford on Christmas gifts. We could divide that money up perfectly evenly between each person, which is what seems like the fair thing to do. But perhaps I might spend twice as much on one as on the other if I can find gifts that will be equally meaningful and pleasing to each at different prices. 
  4. Buy secondhand. This may be the hardest bit on this list. I'm not saying you should buy things that are broken or damaged or otherwise in less than "like new" condition. I'm just saying that you should expand your horizons to consider "like new" rather than dismissing it out of hand. If I find a beautiful piece of clothing at a thrift store that has clearly only been worn once (if that), is in Mr. Scrimp's size, is worth $75 new, and only costs $2.50, why I should I feel guilty about giving it to him? 
  5. Shop online. You are much more likely to find good deals at sites like, eBay,, or (although this is less likely) Amazon actually runs an online Black Friday sale for online shoppers. Doorbuster sales in your pajamas!
  6. Shop sales. Yes... do it. But only do it once you've already made your list. If you run headlong into a sale, you will almost assuredly end up buying something because it's a great deal even though it's out of your budget, because surely someone on your list will like it. That's a terrible idea. 
  7. Make things. Everyone says this. I will also say it. Homemade gifts have the benefit of carrying a message that you care about someone enough to spend time making something for them that you know they will enjoy. Don't, however, fall into the easy trap of giving junk just because it's homemade junk. Come up with an idea, or search on google for inspiration, but don't let making something for someone stand in for being thoughtful about what would make them happy. A mason jar full of powdered hot cocoa mix that you made yourself is a great gift for the right person, but other people will look at it and feel like you didn't really try.
 I am working on several posts about gifts, ornaments, and decor for Christmas that you can make yourself or buy for very little. What can I say? I've already warned Mr. Scrimp that the Christmas carols are being turned on the day after Thanksgiving, and they aren't turning off again until Boxing Day.


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