Weekend frugality & homemade vodka

January 24, 2010 at 9:14 am (Being Frugal, cooking) (, )

I always find it hardest to not spend on weekends. That’s when I have more time, when I’m not working, and when I’m planning either big activities, errands, or things to do. It can be hard for me to stay on budget when out and about buying things that I don’t have time to get during the week, due to a full-time job.

What is especially difficult is my habit of not making breakfast, having my morning coffee, then dragging myself out of the house to Do Something. Once I’m in the thick of it, I get really really hungry. That is one of my biggest budget busters of all – going out for lunch on the weekend. It chips away at my restaurant spending allocation, more than I’d like. It may only be $10-$14, but multiply that by several weekends per month and you begin to see the problem.

Yesterday, luckily, played out just fine. We made an effort to go food shopping early, in an effort to stock up on some staples that were very much on sale for this week. With some frozen food that would have melted had it remained in the car, we *had* to take groceries home, and that was an opportunity to have lunch (Mmmm, $2.99 safeway frozen pizza! Plus a little salad on the side for something healthy).

My will power has been good this month. I’m buying staples and necessaries. I stopped myself 3 times from buying that interesting bottle of eau de vie made with douglas fir tips (I’m so curious about it) from the liquor store. At $55/bottle, I’ll just have to stay curious about it. Maybe I can just get a sample at a local bar, next time I go out (which isn’t very often). Part of the problem is my interest in getting an ice cream maker later this year. (Trust me, this story will make sense soon). I’ve been listing to J talk about all the flavors of ice cream he used to make when he was a private chef for this couple many years ago. I’ve decided that we’re going to get one later this year. As part of the anticipation, I’ve been reading up on various recipes and such that people have been making. I came across this one recipe blog that was talking about the eau de vie in question. The blog mentioned several restaurants that use that as a flavoring agent in their home-made ice creams. You can see the problem, I hope? Not only am I curious about the eau de vie, but someone else corroborates that it makes fabulous ice cream. I want to make ice cream too. That doubles the strength of my desire for that $55 bottle. But I’ve been virtuous and have declined.

Well last night, an old neighbor (from the art studio) invited us over for dinner and movie night. The aperitif of the evening was his homemade vodka – he distills it himself. It was one of the things I missed about living in that building, tasting his yummy vodka. After talking to him about it, I’ve decided that I’m going to make my own as well. It’s basically a $600 investment. It involves a heater for $200 and a still, which is between $300-$400. Once you have that, all you need is 25 lbs of sugar, water, tomato paste (for the nitrogen), and yeast. It’s very inexpensive. Apparently, a bottle ends up costing $3. I figure that within 2 years it will pay for itself. If J goes in for half, and he is a much heavier drinker than I am, it won’t be so bad either.

We’ve been talking about making our own infused vodkas for a while now (Mmm, pineapple/habanero!). We’re already trying our first batch of vanilla extract (made with vodka of course). And I just came across a recipe for homemade limoncello (a very tasty and interesting digestif if you’ve never had it!). This would also be handy for making lots of homemade xmas gifts – who wouldn’t want a ginormous bottle of homemade distilled/infused vodka for xmas (and trust me, it tastes incredible!). 

So now it’s Sunday morning. I’m sitting down and enjoying my extra-large coffee (steaming hot inside an insulated mug, the only way to go!). I have a dose of irish cream liquor in it and I keep thinking about this recipe for making your own. I’m sure it is much cheaper and I’ve been meaning to try it. Maybe this is the month that I do.

So enjoy the rest of your weekend, get enough sleep, plan healthy and tasty food for the week (I’m making a big pot roast tonight with the sale roast and free potatoes and carrots I got on Friday). Get some projects done, and recharge your batteries for the rest of the week! I’ll leave you with some scrumptious alcohol-based recipes I’ve recently collected. Take care everyone!

Homemade limoncello
Homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream
Homemade vanilla extract

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A creative day, cooking at home

January 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm (cooking) (, )

Nothing special happening today. J and I are spending the day unchristmasing the house (bye bye tree, thank you!), reorganizing our basement to make enough room to walk into it (we haven’t done this since moving in with all the boxes and crap we each have), cleaning up the pantry area (half of the first coat of paint is up and drying) so that we can unpack all our foods and canned goods we made last summer, and hanging out at home.

We’re finishing up making bitter orange/tangerine marmalade and will can that later tonight. Right now J is making this yummy onion balsalmic confit recipe that I found online that we are going to try and can later (we may have to break out the pressure canner for that one). We cleared out some of our garden space (removing all the big rocks we tilled up). We’re also dreaming about having an underground supper later this year, out on our outdoor back porch. J is busy planning his menu: his killer creme brulee, my infused habanero pineapple vodka, homemade ice cream (I plan on getting an expensive ice cream  maker by summer) with maybe cognac/cardamon/pepper flavor, crispy crostini baguettes with chevre/goat cheese with some kind of savory or sweet home made jam and herb sprigs, and who knows for the main course. J wants to do a french/american bistro theme. Mmmmm. I’m getting really hungry!

We stopped ourselves from going out for sushi ($50-$60 savings, easy), and are staying home being creative, listening to The Swing Years (best music all week) on our local public radio station, and planning all the yummy things we are going to cook, can, and grow.

I didn’t drive anywhere, didn’t spend any money, and am having a blast. Pierogies and carmelized onions for dinner with salad and homemade balsamic dressing. Yum. Now if only I can force myself to make scones (never have) so we can have the marmalade on them tomorrow for breakfast!

My most difficult decision – should I open a bottle of red wine or make myself a cosmo (I made my first one last weekend and have been on a tear making them almost every night since), or a dirty martini???

Enjoy the rest of your week!

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