Too Thrifty Chicks

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1500+ miles, unpacking, and grocery shopping (or, my first week in Memphis)

So….I left D.C. just over a week ago. since then, I’ve unpacked about 20 boxes, assembled bookshelves, shopped at three grocery stores (only one of which I like), made far too many trips to Target, and took a weekend trip to St. Louis to participate in my friend’s beautiful wedding. And somewhere in there, I had time to breathe and realize I might like this city.

Let me be real: I had no expectations. None. Not good. Not bad. Just neutral. I was excited about the job opportunity but since I had only visited Memphis once (and that was for the job interview), I had no idea if I would like the city….and coming from the D.C. area (which I love), I was a little nervous.

So far, so good.image_7

I live in a part of town called Midtown that is going through a lot of changes. I bet once I read up on the city and it’s history, I may find that it is undergoing gentrification like many neighborhoods I’m familiar with in D.C. But from what I know so far, I love it. Bike lanes, good restaurants, Overton Park, and cool little shops like the Square Olive, a store that sells amazing variations of olive oil. It’s also close to a couple yoga and pilates studios that I plan to try.

I am pleasantly surprised with how at home I feel. My godparents stopped by for a visit yesterday on their way back to Texas, and I was so happy to show them my place (which I am happy to show you more of soon) and try a neighborhood restaurant. Maybe more than any other place I’ve lived, I feel like I am more likely to become part of the neighborhood…..which, as someone who does neighborhood research for a living, is an interesting process.

Memphis isn’t a pretty city and who knows if I will love it or hate it long term?  I’m not concerned about that, though. The city has some nice quirks that I am interested in exploring…and I plan to enjoy the process. So, for now, I’m super duper excited about my storage bed being delivered tomorrow and my sofa being delivered on Friday! So far, three DIY projects are pending. I bet you’re ready to see them….I hope so. I’m ready to play in paint! 😉 For now, here are a few snapshots of my apartment as a nearly blank canvas.

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Before I go, big shout out to Ricks, my person-in-crime. She’s here with me helping me get settled and explore the city. I know this process would have been much different without her.

Until next time,

-Reesey


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Tidbit Tuesday: The Power of Pesto

It’s time for another installment in the Thrifty Cooking Series and today’s topic is pesto. Yes that deliciously flavored green slurry that makes certain Italian dishes taste so yummy — pesto. For a long time, when the Thrifty Chicks thought “pesto” we immediately thought “pasta”. But we are here to help you change how you think about this flavor-filled rock star and how it can bring more than your pasta dishes to life.

Around the same time we started cooking nearly every meal we’ve eaten since we started Operation Do Better, we began making our own pesto. Don’t get us wrong, the jarred stuff is delicious and convenient. But for the size, usually less than 7 ounces, and our money, pesto is pricey. When we read the ingredients on a jar, we were surprised at how simple the ingredients were.

Aside from the preservative ingredients that give jarred pesto its shelf-life, pesto is nothing more than parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, basil, or some other kind of green herb, garlic and some kind of nut, usually pine nuts. Blend them in a food processor and Presto! Pesto! There also are tons of other ingredients you can use to make pesto and plenty of recipes on the Internet to help you do it.IMG_3951

For our recipe we substituted pine nuts with walnuts because they were cheaper. We bought a rather large bag of walnuts from Trader Joe’s and it’s lasted us about six months. We keep the walnuts in the refrigerator so that the oil in the nuts doesn’t get rancid. We usually buy the biggest container of basil we can find and make a rather big batch.  We preserve our pesto, without preservatives, by freezing it in an ice tray with a layer of olive oil on top. The stuff keeps in the freezer, without getting freezer burned, for a pretty long time. We never leave it in the freezer longer than a month because we use the stuff in so many of our dishes.

When in doubt, add pesto

Pasta: Of course we use pesto very traditionally in pasta dishes, but the way we use it is probably a little different. We occasionally use it as a stand alone sauce, but often times we use it to add flavor to store bought white and red pasta sauce. We’ll soon be making our own pasta sauces, but we’ll likely still add pesto because we really love the flavor.

Fish/Shrimp: We discovered this summer that pesto is great on fish and shrimp. Slather it on skewered pieces of shrimp and salmon, grill or bake.  Not only is it delicious, but it keeps seafood from drying out in that cooking process. What you’ll have is succulent morsels of seafood that will disappear from plates.

Mayo replacement: During a recent tubbing adventure, our girl Sunny S. whipped out these mini-sandwiches with pesto, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. All served on mini-whole wheat bagels.  And she blew our entire minds! They were that good. The pesto was the delicious glue that held these bad boys together. And when you think about it, pesto would make a pretty awesome replacement in many of the salads and sandwiches that call for mayo. A new twist on potato and macaroni salad, you say? Why certainly!

Pizza: We like making homemade pizza more than we like ordering it out. The act of flavoring IMG_3771our dough and deciding what kinds of toppings we want to add to our pizza really is an ever-evolving thing at our house. We have put pesto in our dough and we certainly have made it the primary sauce on top of our pizza and mixed it in store-bought sauce.  It is delicious. Period.

If you’re bored with what’s on your plate and what it taste like, give pesto a chance. We don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

— R & R


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Tidbit Tuesday: Homemade Laundry Detergent

We are always looking for ways to save money. Always. So when our friend Bridget M. told us about making her own dishwashing detergent we immediately wanted to give it a try. When we went looking for a recipe for dishwasher detergent we stumbled upon a blog post from happymoneysaver.com that had a recipe for laundry detergent.

We were big fans of the new Tide detergent pods that look like dishwasher pods, but not fans of the price, especially since we kept forgetting to take a coupon to the store and were running out of detergent when it was not on sale.

IMG_5325When the post for the homemade detergent promised that the recipe, which could be made with about $20 in ingredients, would last for about a year, we were sold. Most of the ingredients for homemade detergent can be found at your local supermarket or Walmart. Just look on the lowest shelf in the cleaning supply or laundry detergent aisle.

You can get some of the supplies at Target, but we were unable to find all of them there. If you are one-stop shopper, Walmart likely is your best bet for finding all the ingredients you need in one place.

IMG_5323When we initially attempted the recipe we used Ivory soap, because we couldn’t find the soap recommended in the post, or flaked-soap. It was an EPIC FAIL. Putting soap in your food processor is not the business, and in fact, is not what the instructions call for doing. Reading is clearly fundamental.  We encourage you to not waste your time with trying to grind up Ivory soap and hunt down some flaked-soap like Zote.  It will be so much easier to mix. Trust us,

We have been using our homemade laundry detergent for about four months and all of our clothes look and smell fresh and clean. And by all, we mean our stinky running clothes (not that we’ve been running so much this year) too.

IMG_5348But we do have a confession: Our first batch of detergent has not lasted a year and it is totally our fault. See what had happened was…we use more than the recommended amount of per load. The recommended amount is just a couple of tablespoons per load. We use a scoop that came with the Oxi-Clean and sometime, Ricks even uses two scoops. ::Kanye shrug:: Looking at our pictures and happymoneysaver.com’s photos, it didn’t seem that we’d made 18 lbs. of detergent. We could be wrong, since we didn’t weigh it. Again…::Kanye shrug::

IMG_5311The ingredients are inexpensive enough that even if we made it three or four times a year, we would still come out ahead in the laundry game.  When we consider the time and effort it would cost us to clip coupons, diligently wait for sales and then not forget the coupons at the house on sale day and have to turn around and  drive back home to get them? Nawl. Just…nawl.

This project is Too Thrifty Chicks approved. It’s easy, cheap and works. Try it.

– R&R


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Thrifty Travels: Traveling Light

The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind of travel that has taken me from the stark terrain of Afghanistan to the tall buildings and lights of Toronto. And the one thing that unifies those trips and all the places I’ve traveled in between those two trips is packing. IMG_7513

Packing is not my favorite past time, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that my friend Andria G. asked me, during our recent trip to Las Vegas, how I managed to get everything into the small tote that I brought. She asked me this while gazing at luggage that was hardly carry-on size.

There are a few simple rules that I live by and they haven’t failed me yet, even when I showed up for a business trip in Florida woefully underprepared for cold weather and had to make a few mad dashes to local Goodwills and a Walmart to get warmer clothes.

Rule #1: Checking bags is not an option. Real talk, airlines stay trippin’ with these bag fees. Some of them are now going so far as to charge for carry-on bags over a certain size. (I’m looking at you Spirit Airlines.)

Rule #2: Take only what you need. If you’re driving, this doesn’t matter as much, but I really hate over packing. Do you really need five pairs of shoes, or will two work? Why take up valuable real estate in your bag, or worse risk having to check a bag, because you think you’ll wear those shoes. Don’t do it. I’ve been known to overpack my make up supplies thinking I’m going to want to do a special face for a night out, I’ve learned this is a trap and have seriously streamlined the make-up I take.

Rule #3: Travel size everything. That clear, quart sandwich bag can hold a lot if you have nothing but travel size IMG_7535products. Even if you use fancy face and hair products, higher-end retailers like Sephora and Ulta typically sell what you need. Taxicab confession: I almost always take the travel size bath products that hotels provide and bring them home to stock my travel size products drawer. My dentist also always gives travel size toothpaste, so I’ve been stockpiling that for years.

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Rule #4: Mix and match. When it comes to packing I usually lay out outfits that go together and then I make sure that if I’m in the mood, I can mix every thing up and create entirely different outfits. Jeans can go from day to night by changing the top. A dress can be dressed up or down as long as it has a flattering shape and doesn’t require ironing. Jazz up an outfit with accessories, which you can bring a lot of without taking up too much space.

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Rule #5: Bring a cardigan or jacket. Airports and planes are notorious for being chilly. Bring a jacket. And if you don’t actually need to wear it, it makes a good travel pillow.IMG_7449

Bonus Tip: Get through security quick. I usually wear a jersey dress or leggings and a tank top to the airport because you usually have to get nearly naked to go through security these days.  Take off your jacket or cardigan before going through the scanner. Don’t wear any kind of metal jewelry or a belt because this is an automatic repeat trip through the scanner. Keep your plastic baggy full of travel size goodies in your hand so you don’t waste time taking them out of your bag.  And if you’re bringing your laptop go ahead and slip it out of its case too. I prefer slip-on shoes and toe socks because I want to take my shoes off quickly and I don’t really care for my bare feet touching the floor. Eww.

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Last but not least: Pack strategically. For me, packing is like playing Tetris. Every piece has its place and the more things fit together, the less likely you are to end up with footprints from shoes, or worse, hair product and toothpaste on your clothes. I prefer shoes in first, soles down or touching other shoes. Layer with make up bag, accessories bag, and night clothes. Layer everyday, walking around clothes and then follow with going out wear on top of the makeup/accessory bag layer, and just like that you’re packed and ready to go!

Hope this helps you lighten your load on your next trip!

— Ricks


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Tidbit Tuesday: Dumpster Chair Makeover

I spent a large chunk of last weekend eating IKEA cinnamon rolls (which happen to be 6 for $4), sniffing candles, and picking out fabric with my good friend Keila H. Keila is my ‘I like to do crafts but I’m not always very crafty’ friend. She is an amazing bargain hunter and usually has great ideas for how she wants to transform new pieces. So when she came to me and said, “I want to re-do this chair I found near a dumpster,” I paused and waited for the inevitable…

“…and by I, I really mean us.” BAM! There it was. And of course I said, “Let’s do it!”

Exhibit A: The God Awful Chair from the Dumpster

IMG_4724Keila saw potential in this chair and rescued it. When she got it, she knew she wanted the chair to have lot of life and a lot of color, so she perused fabrics at IKEA online. She found one she loved….

…except she didn’t choose that one. When we finally went to IKEA to get the fabric, something else caught her eye.

EXHIBIT B: The Ridiculously Awesome Fabric20130810_152503

…so we left with this. We bought two yards at 4.99/yard along with white paint and primer to round out the things we needed.

EXHIBIT C: The Staple Gun

If you want to quickly re-do a chair, the staple gun is your very best friend. We unscrewed the chair seat and back, measured out the amount of fabric we needed to cover the seat and the back of the chair, and went to work with the staple gun. The tricky part of covering a chair like this is making sure you fold the corners or edges in a way that looks nice and neat. For the seat bottom, that didn’t matter so much because no one will see it. The seat back was a little trickier. We arranged the seams in such a way that the chair frame would cover them.

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After stapling the fabric to the cushions, Keila primed and painted the chair frame white and let it dry before screwing the seat back and cushion back on.

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EXHIBIT D:  The Finished Product

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For less than $16 and an hour of time, Keila left with a chair that got a fabulous second chance. If she wants to give it additional pizzazz, she can add upholstery tacks/nails like these along the seams to camoflauge them even more.

Next time you need a new piece of furniture, check to see if your neighbor’s have thrown out something that has potential.  It worked for Keila. Maybe it will work for you too!

-Reese


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Too Thrifty Cooks: A thrifty cooking series

Photo Dec 17, 11 10 21 AM

As you all know the Too Thrifty Chicks cook almost everything as part of Operation Do Better. I’m qualifying that “everything” with “almost” because the summer months have us all off kilter. The weather is warmer and we’re often away from home and under prepared to NOT eat out. Sad but true.

We’re trying to pull ourselves back from the eating-out brink by cooking for the week on Sunday because really it’s too hot to fire up the stove more than once or twice during the week. So we’re starting this cooking series to force ourselves to plan what we’re going to eat each week and to hold ourselves accountable for one of the most important things we do — EAT!

The goal is to cook enough food to last through at least three or four meals that we are willing to eat multiple times during the course of the week.

To kick off the first week we’re focusing on a few staple recipes that are not only tasty enough to eat multiple times.

On the menu and our plates this week:

Fish  and Shrimp Tacos: This is a favorite at the thrifty palace. Saute  your fave white fish and shrimp with some creole seasoning until fish flakes and shrimp has that pink/orange hue. I take a package of broccoli slaw (we added some fresh fennel and cilantro) and dress it with whatever concoction I come up with because I never make the dressing the same twice. This last time it was honey, rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and some left over Asian dressing from the fridge that likely had ginger and soy sauce in it. Trust me. It works.

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Vegetarian Tamales: We posted this recipe here before, but we found the masa to be tasty, but a little bit bland for our tastebuds. I found this amazing recipe posted by Natalie over at Tasty Kitchen Blog, and decided to pump it up in a few ways. One, I added cumin, chili and garlic powder until I could smell it wafting from the masa. We like things spicy, so if you don’t, you might want to stick to the recipe. Two, I chopped up some frozen corn kernels and added it to the mix. We had corn in our masa last time and really liked it. Three, I added some pepper jack cheese to the mixture too. We really like cheese. Four, I chopped up a bunch of greens we had on hand and actually added that to the masa too. We have a lot of greens from the CSA where we get fresh veggies and needed to use them before they go bad. And five, we used the veggies we had on hand for our filling, which included a lot more greens and jalapenos.

Crock pot Black Beans: We eat so many black beans that we now buy them dry and cook them in our crock pot. We quick boil them and then toss them in the crock pot with a little salt, cumin, garlic and chili powder.

Classic Israeli Salad: This is a new one on us. We love tabbouleh, but when I saw this recipe in my inbox from Vegetarian Times I knew it was right up our alley. We already had the ingredients on hand because we intended to make tabbouleh, but the bulgur wheat we purchased this time came out looking scary, and neither of us wanted to touch the stuff when it was ready.

So that’s what’s on tap for the rest of this week. If we need a quick meal like we did Monday, black beans plus rice is quick enough and if we run out of that there’s always pasta or homemade pizza. What are you eating this week? Got recipe’s we should try? Let us know down in the comments section and maybe we’ll give it a whirl. Better yet, we take dinner invites too. 🙂

Until next time…

— R&R


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Tidbit Tuesday: Turning Tables

Not Right side up Table

So when is a random coffee table from Ikea and Kmart, more than just a table? When you turn it into art.

Exhibit A: Black rectangular tables.

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Randomly enough, we had these nearly identical coffee tables when we moved in together. Reese was considering sending hers to the trash heap because, seriously, why would we need two tables? But in the spirit of our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, we decided to keep both tables and try to do something with them.

Now, often times when either one of us says this, stuff just gets dusty in a corner. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? We considered painting them, but we were pretty sick of painting from our previous thrifty DIY furniture projects. Plus, the weather had turned cold and drying time would be forever. But luckily the Ikea catalog had a ready solution: cover it with fabric. Duh.

Exhibit B: The fabric

This fabric should look familiar. It’s the same one  Ricks used on her headboard. Because it was 99 cents a freaking yard, she couldn’t resist (way before her pre-Operation Do Better days) buying the fabric in the off white color and the black. She bought four yards of each, so clearly we still have enough for lots of projects. Pillows anyone?

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All you need is some kind of all purpose adhesive and/or a staple gun, which cost about $10. We used a spray adhesive and a staple gun since we had both. Because of the table shapes it’s easy to get crisp corners and wrap the fabric around the table like a Christmas present.

The legs of the tables screw in to the bottom and we left them bare for contrast. Reese’s table had a wobbly leg so we ultimately ditched all of her legs — saving them for another upcoming project of course — and added the table top to our television stand.

About 30 to 45 minutes of work and less than $20 netted us two cool tables that bring color and pattern into our space without paint.  A quick DIY is a done DIY. Git ‘er done.

— R&R20121205_215504