FRUGALITY- "Prudence in avoiding waste." (

Why This Blog?

I am on a pretty strict food budget; I also pray that my family and I will never go hungry, so after so many years of being creative with limited food supplies and money (including a three-pound whole chicken turned into 13 meals for the 5 of us), P-R-A-Y-S became a food and household budget philosophy. It can be anything that keep you in line with your budget. Like PORTION, ROTATE, ANTICIPATE, YELL (from joy of having money left over) and SAVE. Each post will show how this philosophy was broken down with every dish and budgeting I share. So hold on to your wallets and stay tuned!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spice up your Holidays!

You know Thanksgiving and Christmas is all about the spices and smells! Well... here's some tips on making sure your senses are filled with the holiday spirit!

SPICES like cumin, vanilla, nutmeg, sage, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, etc. are known holiday staples. So to save time and money, hunt them down in September! Buy 2-3 different ones on sale that you need to change out so by November, you'll be set with fresh spices!

a) should not be holiday specific; it becomes expensive quick that way. Rather, invest in inexpensive scented votives and combine the smells! For example: Hazelnut and Cinnamon or Vanilla and Apple Spice or Cranberry & Apple Pie smells that you can find at your local Dollar Tree or Walmart.

b) Invest in inexpensive votive holders; clear ones are often the best, you see the flame and all of a sudden, your home is filled with warmth and cozy memories...

c) use last year's gift of apple cider packet and cinnamon sticks as a potpourri. Boil in an open pot and soon your home will be holiday ready!

Here are more Holiday shopping tips:

EGGS & MILK should be bought fresh so try to stock up 3-4 days before the party so the inventory is not picked over and the due date is way beyond the holidays they will be used for. Stores will have them on sale every week, way in advance so no need to invest in another deep freezer just so you can be sure to have enough milk for that cake or soup you'll be making.

DRINKS should be stocked up on months or weeks in advance and keep them in a cool, dry place. Then on the night of the party, pull out the summer cooler box from the garage, fill it with ice and keep the drinks in there to cool them without crowding the fridge!

FLOUR, SUGAR, YEAST, CHOCOLATE & BUTTER- all can be bought weeks in advance and stored properly to maintain freshness.


Berries- fresh 2-3 days before, frozen 7-14 days before

Apples/Pears- 3-5 days before

Canned or frozen (fruits & veggies)- up to months before

Roots- carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic- buy 7-14 days before and store properly to keep fresh.

Squash- 7 days before

Leaves- 2-3 days before (if frozen, 7-14 days before)

If you plan your menu, have a and stick to the budget and prepare the necessities of the holidays like those mentioned above, you will save time, gas and money!

Ok, let see... we want to:

PURCHASE items in your shopping list during a great sale.

REPLACE old spices and scents.

ARRANGE storage for the extra items you will buy before you buy

YANK out dishes from your menu that didn't quite make the cut from previous holidays.

START planning the menu & theme well in advance and finalize until 2 weeks before.

Me, I plan my holiday menus and themes in September (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve), then I tweak it up to 2 weeks before the holiday so I can fine tune my shopping list and get my proper coupons.

Happy Shopping!

Saving on Holiday Menus

Hello all! I know it's been a while, but things have been hectic!

Anyway, now that Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is definitely on its way and that means the good china's gonna get washed and used (after 364 days of being ignored... You know you're guilty! I am!)

It also means... parties, food and extra money to spend! So how do you deal with all that and still have a great Thanksgiving? Simple!

PLAN your menu and theme- don't go overboard! Stick with what you know to make with maybe a quick new dish to add/replace or update last year's choice. Simplify your theme, for example, every year, I choose one holiday element to represent like autumn leaves. I put all kinds of leaves everywhere, just like when you step outside a crisp, windy, Autumn day...

RENDER a sitting chart/food location- if you don't know it yet, render is a considered plan often shown thru drawing. To make sure that you know how many people can fit in what table or where the table should be that way you can plan for any additional table and/or chairs to purchase.

ASSUME that everyone can come- when you make your list, revisit it twice and finalize then plan your shopping and menu as if all will come plus a few unplanned guests. For example, if you decide you can fit in 12 people and have chosen which 12, make enough food and space for 15. No surprises, better evening!

YOU are the host, you are in charge- do not let all the guests just come; allow them to help beef up either the dessert or appetizer table, but make sure that they don't bring too many extras or you'll end up with too much food, not much fridge space and wasted budget. A very full fridge is not an efficient fridge. Food will go bad faster!

STICK to your budget!!!- I can't emphasize this enough. Thanksgiving is about food, but with all the sales, you can easily be blinded into buying more than you need, much less will eat!

Ok, if you follow these steps, you are off to a great Thanksgiving. I know I am! Now go do yours! Go on!

Til next time!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reinventing Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we've all managed to be filled with gratitude, it's time to focus on Christmas. Ask yourself these questions:


2. Am I ready to change themes or just add?

3. Will I be hosting a party- sit down or buffet?

With most of us, hanging on to what's in our pockets, how do we make Christmas look fancy without spending the gift money? Easy!

If you're a Traditionalist,

PURCHASE clearance white string lights and ribbon reels of the traditional colors, but with a modern interpretation.

REPLACE old light strings with newer ones to create more sparkle to those heirloom ornaments.

ALIGN each year's decor to according to how your family lives. Don't go country if you normally contemporary.

YELLOW GOLD decor items are better for more colorful theme. Stick with a matte or sparkly beige silvery gold shade to bring in some real bling to your style.

STAY within your budget. Not all theme is a good theme, so get your ideas and create your own according to what's affordable for you.

For Contemporary or Whimsical tastes,

POUR OVER the different colorful choices from the year before to either add or refresh your theme.

REFRAIN from starting too many ideas. Focus on the tree, wreath & garland first and incorporate the theme to the rest.

ASSESS your inventory. Don't decide on a theme until you are confident about the space and items you have. It'll save too many trips to the craft store.

YOU have to love it. Many contemporary or whimsical themes can be gaudy. Fit it to your own personality and lifestyle.

SUBTLY research the newest trends and incorporate your clearance finds from last year. From a hosting standpoint, you'll be hip while your colors and items are not in every home window!

However you answer the questions and decide on a theme, the worst critic is you, so enlist the whole family's help and ensure everyone's "oohs and aaahhhs"...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fast and Cheap

Sound like a typical movie plot lately? Well, that's not what I meant here.

I am talking about the whole meal I made that only cost me LESS than $3.00! It fed all 4 of us, plus leftovers!


I found the great looking meat on Manager's Special corner in Kroger yesterday. It had a higher MS price tag of $4.63 than the original $2.56 so I inquired at the Butcher Shop and lo and behold, gave it to me for $1.53! Since I don't use a lot of meat, total score!

I needed and bought broccoli, milk, apples, marshmallows and bread. I spent a total of $10.62!

Braised Beef Ribs w/ Root Veggies
1 lb. beef ribs
3 med potatoes, peeled and cut into big bite pieces
1-4 small carrots, peeled and cut same as potatoes
1/4 large onion
Beef Broth- 1 can
Basil, Oregano, Garlic powder, Paprika- 1 tsp. each
2 cups water
1 T veg. oil
1/2 lime juice
Worstershire sauce- 2 tsp

In a deep pan or dutch oven, brown ribs on both sides. Then set aside.
Assemble ingredients for broth. Do not add nutmeg, potatoes and carrots yet.
Put ribs back in and braise for 45 minutes on Med High.
Adjust salt then add in the root veggies and nutmeg.
Braise for another 15 minutes until sauce is reduced.

Garlic Couscous
2 cups of water
Garlic powder, turmeric- 1 tsp
Butter or margarine- 1 tbsp.
2 cups of couscous

Boil water and spices. Add in couscous, mix in well.
Put lid and kill heat. Wait 5-8 mins and fluff.

So let's see how PRAYS played its part in this wonderful meal.
I only PURCHASED what I needed and can afford.
By REPURPOSING the existing veggies I have, I was able to create a dish I didn't have to fuss over.
ASKING the kids for input helped round out the meal. Kids love to give ideas on food.
In saying YES to their input, we put together a great meal that's already in our kitchen.
SUGGESTING and hinting that you need help with dinner often makes for a better meal plan.

Can you find a great meal in your pantry?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clear Out Your Pantry Challenge!

Ok, for about 1 1/2 weeks now, I have not bought a single thing and decided to just use whatever I had on hand.

I first PREPARED myself that I may not be able to do much.

Then the REAPING began. Whatever's in the pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer-fair game!

I didn't tell my family what I was doing, so ANTICIPATING their reactions to what I made was part of the fun.

I was so glad when no one YAWNED at what I made. Woot!

SCOPING out all that I have allowed me to be creative and create more of my own recipes. Score!

Let's see what I made, shall we?

Smoothies-Berry, Fusion, Pina Colada

Sorbet-Berry & Pineapple

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Tinola (chicken broth with ginger)

Chicken with Root Veggies in Tomato Sauce

Crab Cakes

Lime Garlic Couscous

Steamed Veggies


Palabok (Filipino noodle mix) with boiled eggs

Ganache for & with Cream Puffs

Omelette (Spinach, Eggplant & Tomato)

Steamed & Fried Rice

Spaghetti & Homemade Sauce


Nesquick & Hot Chocolate

Wow! Can you imagine all of that food just lurking around in my kitchen?

I challenge you to do the same; just take a good look everywhere, start pairing ingredients and see how many you can deliciously create!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's For Dinner?

Isn't this the age-old question of every household?

Well, it is mine and my friend Heather's as well. She has MS (and a spokesperson for Chronic Disease Fund), and is currently in a wheelchair which makes cooking very tiring and overwhelming; but her spunky and loveable nature have not been touched by this awful immune system attacker at all. LOVE HER!

Well, it was an honor to be asked again to help her put together a dinner menu using ONLY what she has in her pantry and fridge. It has to last a while and has to be varied enough for her picky son, Chase.

The last time we did this, she only had a 3-lb roaster chicken and whatever she had lying around. Well, I know I can meet this challenge since I did it before, but at her place...
We made 19 meals! Yes, 19! Including chicken noodle soup and fried rice!

Today, I brought some stuff for her to have on hand, and--

Today, we wanted her to focus on nutrition so in under 6 hours, we made...

Power Smoothie- no ice, no sugar (4 servings)

Berry Sorbet- frozen fruits, no sugar (3 servings)

Roast Beef with veggies (6-8 servings)

Beef Stew a la CAM (4-6 servings)

Creamy Potato Soup with Ham (4-6 servings)

Health-ier Meatloaf (ground beef & breakfast sausage) (4-6 servings)

Spaghetti Sauce (6-8 servings)

Baked Tilapia with Lime Butter Sauce (4 servings)

Green Beans & Tomatoes (3-4 servings)

We PLANNED the cooking day (not the menu), RAIDED her pantry, ASSEMBLED each meal according to cook time, YAMMERED happily about life and nutrition while we cooked, and SUCCESSFULLY made meals big enough to feed 3-4 people though there's only her and her son!

My angle, make meat the side dish, not the main item. You focus on the nutritious sides, and meat suddenly just becomes the flavoring!/


1 C frozen blackberries

1/4 C POM Pomegranate blueberry juice

1/4 C frozen pineapples

1/2 fresh orange juice

1/4 fresh lime

Put all the frozen fruits at the bottom

Add the other ingredients and blend.

Put in a freezable lidded container and mix every 15 minutes to "fluff" the sorbet to keep it from freezing solid.

Til next time!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Learn to Grow...

... plants I mean! What, you thought I was gonna attack the topic of immaturity? Nah...

Now that we have a house, its care, beauty and updated look falls on just four shoulders, mine and my hubby's. Sure, our kids help, but the grunt work and maintenance, all ours...

Well, gardening, (as if it's not obvious) fell on my "Honey To-Do" list. Only one problem. I don't really do landscape gardening! I've had success with messing with petunia cross-pollination (Genetics 101) for color variety and hardiness and indoor potting adventures, but not a full on, permanent-until-I-pull-it-out gardening! Never! So yeah, I was nervous...

But I had a PLAN: Find dying plants, clean it up of its energy-sapping dead limbs and foliage and bring it home.

By getting dying plants, often deeply discounted, I have a REALISTIC view that if I can't maintain it, I'm only out a few dollars!

Once at home, I let them ACCLIMATE to their new environment by letting them sit in their pot for about 3 days with daily, almost drowning type of watering-it energizes them and roots starts to breathe again. I learned that in Biology and BHG!

Then, the YO-YO effect commences. Do I pot it or in ground? If pot, do I want it to "shoot up or bush out?" If in ground, will it fit with the growing needs of others, or will it be strangled by the other roots? (Hello, it's a process, people! That's why we have a whole science "branch" on just plants! LOL I made a pun!) :-)

So I sit and SURF the web for ideas and care tips so I don't have to be a practicing "Dr. Kavorkian" of the fauna world (poor orchid, ivy (all I tried), and diffenbecchias... I hope they're not too mad at me...). It's difficult on the ego more than you know! (Admit it, you agree! lol)

Indoors, I've taken on, FERNS, DIFFENBECCHIA, POTHOS, AND NOW, ORCHIDS, plural! (Yeah, me, orchids! Yep, must be a glutton for self-destruction. Ok, you can stop laughing!)
You've heard it before and it's true... NASA discovered that live plants indoors refresh oxygen you vitally need to stay healthy when you're home. Why? Here's a quick Botany 101-Plants use carbon dioxide for growth and development. When they are done, oxygen is the byproduct that gets released in the air! Ergo... (drum roll, please...) oxygen is replaced in its immediate area! But did you know that a small plant (6-8") can replenish the oxygen in a 100 sq. ft. of space? How much is that $5-7? And if you put in the time, you can grow a beautiful specimen for only pennies since you rescued it from the clearance prison!

Many of these plants, I bought in super tiny pots to save money and sanity.
I also learned not to give up on my plants that are struggling, this one above, moved with me from AZ!
My clearance and transplant finds... Even the pots, are deeply discounted.

Being Asian and having grown up in a Subtropical climate, this info is "duh!"-we use plants indoors as part of everyone's cheap decor! Plus, part of our cleaning routine, unless it's storming or during a heavy rainfall? Is to open windows, all of them! It's funny, many of us, admire tropical places because of their display of lush foliage, even indoors. Just think about it, you invite the sun in the morning & afternoon, and refresh the air thru windows and doors and you'll probably grow a lot of plants indoors, too!

Though I'm a bundle of nerves in tackling our "Operation Tropical Paradise" on the front yard, I know that if I arm myself with great information, I not only save countless lives of those surely doomed plants (wishful thinking), but I also learn, at the least, a new skill I can perfect each time I dig up that dirt...

So grab those trowels, gloves and watering cans (or hoses, your choice)! You have a lawn to beautify and plant lives to save!