Friday, March 11, 2011

Food Day Friday: When Frugal is Top Dog

(spare me the examination of my dishpan hands. Also, I already knew that I had blue pen on my fingers. Thanks for keeping me in the light!)

I recently got an email from a friend (you know who you are!) who said, "I need to be inspired again to live frugally and also how to keep living in a smaller home... I would love to get together and see how you're doing."

She stole the words right out of my mouth! Also, two follow-up comments:

1. Aren't we all trying to have it all on a budget that can't afford it all?!?

2. Even those who live in modest homes come to our house and magically feel like they own a mansion. And we're happy (sort of) to provide that service to any of you!

I was actually thinking about frugality in the kitchen this week, so here's one small way that I am pinching pennies: Cake mixes. And not just any cake mixes, the Holiday Funfetti cake mixes that were $.11 each after Christmas. I also grabbed several cans of premixed frosting (retro 70's green) for $.17 each. I thought to myself that I must, must, must (!) be able to find something to do with these for that price.

Now, I have to suspend my cake mix excitement for just a moment and offer this disclaimer. It is abnormal for us to eat boxed food. I don't recommend it. I don't like it. I'll go so far as to say, I loathe it. But, how many times have you been asked to bring a dessert or bars or cookies to some event? More than likely, you will bring your offering and never see it's ugly mug again. More than likely, you are feeding hoards of starving pubescent boys that don't care one bit about the ingredient list. They're the ones who hover around the potluck table and take several pieces of dessert in each hand, inhaling them before you can say, "Artificial food coloring" three times fast. This is the cake mix's moment to shine!

Personally, I'm saving my meager grocery budget to be spent on real food for more intimate hospitality or my own family's consumption. I'm not trying to be selfish or set a double standard here, it's just that age old balancing act- quality vs. cost. Let's face it, dessert ingredients can be quite expensive: real cream, butter, chocolate, berries, nuts, cream cheese... not the most frugal of characters. Sure, I love to splurge on them for a birthday party or a special night with friends, but not. the. potluck.

And, as it turns out the cake mixes have come in handy often! The whole "funfetti" thing has not been a hindrance since I just omit those little red and green Christmas trees. Without the funfetti, I'm left with a white cake mix that has become many things: Superbowl party cupcakes (frosted in the retro green with piped white goal posts), baby shower cupcakes (I dyed them blue and pink with contrasting frosting... gender confusion), peach dump cake, and tonight cake balls. The cake balls were especially satisfying to me because I used both the cake mix and the premixed frosting in one sitting- the green frosting easily translated to St. Patrick's day. Apparently people really like cake balls, and Eva and Hope really like to help make them. But here's my dirty little secret- I think they're kinda gross. Personal preferences aside, refreshments for Arts Night at church were something out of the ordinary and really easy on the budget.
So, that's my frugal dessert tip, friends! Watch for cheap cake mixes (couponing or after Easter) and be a little creative.


becca said...

People totally devoured them tonight! There weren't any left when I cleaned up. And I didn't get any... maybe next time. Thanx for bringing them!

rob said...

I am still coming over:)

Love, Katie

Luke and Jen said...

I have never heard of cake balls. I think you made that up. And I was just about to be shocked about the boxed food when you launched into the disclaimer :)