Bakery Fakery with The Thrifty Peach

sweet3I’m very excited to feature a guest post today from my girl, Robin! Robin was one of my very first blog friends, and we quickly bonded over having daughters named Brynn, frugal lifestyles, and probes (inside joke). 

Thank you to Kara for letting me post on The Daily Whisk today! I love this space because it combines two of my favorite things– finances and baking.

I love baking and anything to do with sugar. I have a serious problem with sweets, and with buying too many sweets, which is a problem for me since I’m all about saving money and living a frugal life.

I can’t stand to walk past a bakery, cupcakery, candy store, or even a cafe that has a dessert case without dropping in to check out the goods.

And don’t even get me started on a fudgery (they exist!)

Somehow in my rural town of 3,000 people, we manage to keep not one, but two bakeries in business.

Seriously– we don’t have a Walmart, but we can support two bakeries??!  I can’t figure that one out.

The cost of a few baked goods may not seem like a big deal, but it basically became a habit, like some people have a coffee shop habit. A couple of cupcakes, a half pound of fudge, and a dozen thumbprint cookies can get pricey!

It became my latte factor, so it had to go.

In my quest to frugalize my entire life, I set about giving up sweets altogether  figuring out how to create my own pastry goodness with zero skills and no fancy tools. I am definitely not a master baker, chef, or cooker (as my 3 year old says) by any means.  It’s merely my insatiable desire for baked goods that has lead me to take matters into my own thrifty hands.

My partner in crime, Brynn

My partner in crime, Brynn

I was blowing too much dough (get it?) on pricey bakery goods, so I set out to find recipes that match what bakeries sell so I could continue to indulge my sweet tooth while saving money.  (Win, win!)

These days, whenever I find something delectable at a bakery, I go home and scour my recipe books and the interwebs to figure out how to make it on my own without buying any fancy ingredients.

That last part is key, because I don’t want to have to buy a bunch of odd ingredients that I might not ever use again. My favorite dessert recipes use ingredients that I regularly have available in my pantry or are items that I can purchase to use with multiple recipes.

It’s a hard job taste testing so many different sugary concoctions to get the right recipe, but someone’s gotta do it. ;)

In the spirit of thriftiness, I wanted to share with you two of my favorite recipes. The best part is that these recipes are easy (I wouldn’t make them if they weren’t easy– I’m admittedly lazy), and there are no funky ingredients- just fresh, good for you ingredients like cream, butter, and sugar. Using the real stuff really does make a difference in the finished product. I’ve also learned a few tricks along the way to make my baked goods seem like they truly came from a bakery.

Tricks of the trade

  • For uniform cookies, use a cookie scoop. The one I use makes the perfect 3 bite cookies, which are great for toddler hands.
  • A cupcake scoop is not necessary– you can make uniformly sized cupcakes by using a small measuring cup to divide the batter into your muffin tin.
  • Using a pastry bag and tip to pipe on your cupcake frosting makes them look really fancy and gourmet. Don’t have any tips? Just cut the corner out of a sandwich Ziploc. It’s just as easy as frosting them with a knife, but people will think you bought them at a bakery.
  • Use cake flour for your cupcakes and cakes for great bakery texture.
  • When baking cookies, pull them out of the oven just before they look done. The cookies will continue to bake once you pull them out. Pulling them out early results in a deliciously soft, bakery-style cookie.

Bakery Fakery

Now on to the recipes!

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a tiny little cafe (the name of the cafe had “chocolate” in it– it was bound to happen), where I had the most delicious chocolate cobbler. I had never had chocolate cobbler before, so I found it to be a very delectable and exotic dish. (Turns out, it’s not exotic.) When I searched for a recipe, I only found one that gave me the same chocolate syrupy goodness that I was looking for, and I think what takes the cake (ha!) is the fresh whipped cream plopped on top. You could also put ice cream on it to make a delicious hot fudge sundae. Yum!

Easy Peasy Chocolate Cobbler* via AllRecipes.com

*This recipe seems a little odd with the hot water, but it works!

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Whipping cream (For delicious homemade whipped cream, which is much better than the bought kind, just whip it– whip it good.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in an 8×8 inch baking dish while the oven preheats.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Stir in milk and vanilla until smooth. Spoon this batter over the melted butter in the baking dish.
  3. Stir together the remaining cup of sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. Sprinkle over the batter. Slowly pour boiling water over the top of the mixture.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Serve warm with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Who doesn’t love the fudge that you can buy at a fudgery? The problem is it always seems to cost $164 a pound! Ugh. This recipe uses real cream and butter, and that makes all the difference. You do need to use a thermometer for this to make sure you reach the correct heat for your sugar to fully melt.

Fudgery-Style Fudge from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup half and half or light cream
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut up
  • 1 tsp corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Line a loaf pan with buttered foil. Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan and combine sugar, cream, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue boiling at a steady rate, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reads 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool to 110 degrees (about an hour.) Beat mixture vigorously with a clean wooden spoon until fudge starts to lose its gloss.  Spread fudge into prepared pan and cool.

Save some for me!

So Long, Black Yoga Pants

black yoga pants

I had to say goodbye to an old friend yesterday. A trusty friend that got me through two pregnancies, and their accompanying postpartum bodies. A companion to me at the grocery store almost every week, and the first thing I couldn’t wait to change into as soon as I’d get home at night. My black yoga pants.

They weren’t very expensive to begin with, but they were very soft. They had faded over the years, but I didn’t mind. I still wore them. They were well traveled.

A few months ago I noticed the inseam on one side was starting to come apart, but since it was only evident when I would squat (and really how often does that happen?) I kept on wearing them. Then, a hole appeared in the crotch so I stopped wearing them in public. Mostly. The other day I noticed that in addition to the hole, the other inseam was giving up as well. It was time.

Although I describe myself as a minimalist there are certain things that are just hard to let go sometimes. I’ll miss you black yoga pants, you’ll be hard to replace (because this means I’ll actually have to go to a store and buy new ones). You’ll be glad to know my old yoga pants aren’t sitting in a trash can in vain. They are going to “a farm” to live with other clothing, and eventually will be recycled into something new.

If you entertained this post this far, thank you! I recognize the ridiculousness of this post. My schedule and work load has been a bit much lately and I haven’t been able to write or read and comment as much as I’d like. This is just a silly attempt to get back on the blogging train.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing? Tell me about it!

How I Saved Money on My Cell Phone Bill

Hi! I’m here! Feeling a little Febru-weary! Anyone else? Work has been busy and side hustles don’t quit!

Moving on, let’s talk about cell phone bills. Ours is pretty obnoxious! We have four lines on our account. Two lines have 2GB of data each, and the other two are lines we added on so my parents could join the 21st century and have their own cell phones (they pay us monthly for their share). After taxes and fees our bill is just shy of $200/month. Excuse me while I dry heave after typing that.

You might be thinking..do you really need a data plan? Good question. No, we don’t. I’ve battled the idea of dropping at least my data plan plenty of times, but you know what? It’s a convenience I’m just not willing to give up right now. Also, since I’m the Grinch who stole cable, I need to balance out the give and take. You could also be wondering why I don’t shop a different provider, and that’s simply because in Vermont there aren’t many to choose from therefore prices are pretty comparable.

Once I heard Verizon had restructured their data plans I was ALL OVER getting the new discounted rate ($10/month). So, I  hopped on my computer to have a little e-chat with a Verizon rep. Imagine my eye roll when I discovered the program eligible for the discount wasn’t the same program in which I’m enrolled. The rep nicely explained I could switch to the eligible program, and quoted me a new rate a whopping $8 lower than I’m paying right now.

I almost took it. I figured $8 is better than nothing, right? But then I did something that’s pretty simple and effortless, but that I don’t do enough.

I asked if there was anything else they could do for me. 

Pretty obvious, right? Then, my new internet friend, “Daisy” took a few moments to hunt down a new deal for me…or just take a bite of her BLT because it’s all just big game of haggling and bluffing, and I’m just another sucker. Long story short, she offered me a new rate that is about $20 lower per month. She also told me that I was awesome and thanked me for my loyalty.

I don’t like the awkwardness that comes along with asking for things (maybe I’m weird like that), but as I step outside my comfort zone this year, I’m realizing that small steps can really add up…even save me money!

Do you ever feel awkward asking for a better deal or price?

Could you live without a smart phone?

January Side Hustle Income

Thanks to everyone who weighed in last month on whether or not I should continue to share my monthly side hustle income earnings. I’ve decided, for now at least, to continue to over share my personal financial details. You’re welcome!

January was my highest side hustle income earning month yet! It was also the busiest month I’ve had in a long time, and I sacrificed many a weekend days. You see in addition to writing for dollars, I’m also a gymnastics judge. Right now we’re in peak season, and I judged at least one meet every single weekend in January. So while it was a little tiring, and I got so sick of my navy judging jacket that I wanted to chuck it across the room a few times, I’m happy to make extra money by essentially watching my favorite sport.

As always, please think of me for your staff writing and balance beam judging needs.

So, let’s get to it! January’s pre-tax side hustle income total was… $756.50! It was a big month for me, and I’m very excited to see a side income total this high! Lest you think I’m going to run out and spend this money on shoes and Mike & Ike’s, I’ve very diligently funneled all side hustle earnings to my student loans.

Have a nice weekend!

 

January Budget: The Good, The Bad, and The Grocery Bill

I started 2015 off with a renewed motivation to budget and track our spending. That led to the idea to share the “good” and the “bad” with you each month as the year progresses. Fun! Budget-wise January was pretty low key for us. We didn’t have any major unexpected expenses, nor were we gifted with any bags of money.

The Good

The good is that I actually tracked our spending for the month. I’ve been known to start strong and then fade as the month goes on, so I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Some other wins for the month included lower than predicted utilities. I’m sorry. That may have been one of the most boring sentences I’ve ever written.

The Bad

Gasoline! I completely underestimated how much we spend on gas for our cars. I guess that’s because I’ve never tracked it… Luckily the price of gas has been dropping across the country. Unlucky for us, the state of Vermont is still seeing some of the highest gas prices in the nation. That said, I did a lot of traveling as a gymnastics judging machine, and my mileage is yet to be reimbursed.

The Grocery Bill – $508

I set our January food budget at $500. “Food” includes groceries, take out (rare), dining out (super rare), and weak moments in convenience stores involving a box of Mike and Ikes. I, somewhat smugly, thought we’d spend much less than $500 on food in January. Oh, how wrong I was! Sure, we didn’t exceed $500 by much, but since I assumed it would be much lower, I was a little disappointed.

I’ve turned that disappointment into determination to spend even less on food moving forward. My initial thought was to slash our food budget and just make everyone deal with it. However, after thinking about it, I decided I need more information. So, my fun little experiment for February is to break down our most popular meals and figure out cost per person. From there I’ll determine how to adjust our overall monthly spending on food.

Tell me a good, bad, or anything else about your budget! Also, what is your favorite meal to cook at home?

3 Things Even This Minimalist Hoards

3 Items I Hoard

I used to think I was a little weird because I never had as much stuff as my friends – by choice. Their bathrooms were full of multiple bottles of shampoos, conditioners, and lotions. They always had three times the amount of shoes I had, twice the amount of kitchen utensils, and can we talk about winter coats? Everyone I know has an incredible amount of winter coats! I have two. Three if you count the one that’s not really warm enough for winter, but that I wear anyway.

I started to think that maybe I wasn’t measuring up, and maybe I needed more stuff. The problem is that the idea of collecting more stuff has never felt very natural to me. I could buy five different types of lotion, but I’d only use one. I could own three pairs of black heels, but I’d wear the same ones over and over.

Over the years I realized I’m not weird at all; I’m just a little more minimalist than others. I have one type of shampoo and conditioner in our bathroom. I use one type of lotion. I’m happy with one pair of black heels. I think about buying another winter jacket, but I probably won’t. I don’t like excess stuff, and I’m quick to get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose. I don’t even keep all my son’s artwork from school. I know, I’m a monster!

Given I’m so particular and simple it might surprise you to hear that I do actually hoard certain things. I’m not sure what it is about these items that makes me feel the need to stock up, but feel free to analyze my behavior in the comments.

Food

A few days ago I cleaned out and organized our pantry. I humbly realized that as much as I think I don’t stock up on unnecessary items, I sort of do. I pride myself on meal planning based on pantry inventory, but I found at least five items in our pantry I didn’t even know we had! I like to buy food in bulk, and Costco is my happy place. What can I say?!

Office Supplies

I’ve got a thing for office supplies, people. It’s at its worst at work where I have an entire drawer full of office supplies I’m hoarding. Sheet protectors, post-its, one inch binders, tab dividers, you name it! I don’t like running out of these valuables so I keep them close by and only share with worthy parties. My home supply consists of blank greeting cards, pens, and small pads of paper.

Greeting Cards

I save just about every greeting card (Birthday, Christmas, etc.) anyone in our family receives. I even have a huge box of wedding cards hanging around that have moved with us three times. I bought an organizer specifically for greeting cards so I could organize the most special ones, but I haven’t made much progress in the stacks that overtake our home office.

Pez Dispensers

Talk about timing! Just as I started to think about the different things that I hoard, my Mom finds my Pez dispenser collection. To say I was excited was an understatement! I collected Pez dispensers in my teen years and displayed them proudly in my bedroom. At some point I packed them away, and kind of forgot about them. Now they are home with me!

Pez

Oh, here’s a few of them….there are more…don’t worry about it!

 

Do you hoard certain things? How many winter coats do you own??

How I’m Overcoming Home Improvement Temptation

Home Improvement Temptation

It started out innocently enough. I was cleaning out and reorganizing our bathroom closet, and started in on some mental upgrades. Paint, new shelving, and trim. Plus, a door organizer. Maybe a new door. While we’re in the bathroom we might as well paint it, and buy a new shower curtain. A ruffly one. Oh, look I’m on Pinterest looking at bathroom colors, and wall mounted medicine cabinets. Before I know it, I’m standing in the kitchen telling Matt I want to repaint the entry way, dining room, and hallway. Somebody stop me!

Why yes, that is two tone contact paper...

Why yes, that is two tone contact paper…

As easy as it is to get jazzed up about upgrades, it’s just as important that I stay grounded and focused. So, I had a little chat with myself to snap out of it, and here is how I’m stifling my home improvement cravings.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude

There’s nothing a little gratitude can’t shake into perspective. It wasn’t that long ago we were desperate to sell our t00-small townhouse in an undesirable neighborhood. Once we moved into our current house I promised myself to always be grateful for this house and this neighborhood. Anything I want to change in this house is a good problem to have.

Goals First 

While we do have some home improvements planned for the year, we also have some financial goals I’m not willing to sacrifice in the name of renovations.  Thinking about those goals helped bring me back down to earth.

What’s the Rush?

We’ve lived here less than two years, and we’ll be here for a long long time. There’s no rush. We’ll get to everything eventually. Then, it will be out of style and we’ll do it again! ha…

Reality Check!

Hello! We have two toddlers and three selectively incontinent dogs. We are not out of the pee, poop, vomit, food and finger print stain phase. To make certain upgrades at this time would be futile.

How do you talk yourself out of impulsive wants? If you could upgrade anything in your home right now, what would it be?

Comfort Zone Compromise + December Side Hustle Income

2015. The year I decided to push myself outside my comfort zone on a monthly basis. Here we are mid-January, and it’s on! Besides being uncomfortably cold whenever I step outside, I have taken on my comfort zone challenge resolution with vigor!

Exciting News!

I’ve been accepted as a contributor with the Burlington Vermont Moms Blog. I applied on a ballsy whim, and to my delight (and slight terror) was accepted! This is a very exciting opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to joining a team of incredible Mom writers. However, this venture is definitely pushing me outside my comfort zone. When my sister in law sent me a message congratulating me because she saw my picture on the BTVMB Facebook feed, I got all sorts of bashful and anxious. But, everyone has been so positive and supportive, so I’m just rolling with it!

December Side Hustle Income – $410

If you are new here (as I suspect some of you are), I started to document my monthly (pre-tax) side income earnings when I busted into the freelance writing world last summer. Each month I share the income I make through freelance writing and any other side hustle I have going on.

I started to share my side hustle income because I wanted to track my progress, however lately I feel like my monthly income reports have become boring, and I’m not sure I want to continue.

Readers, what do you think? Do you like seeing my monthly side hustle income updates? Vote in the comments!

 

 

 

New Year, New Idea!

New Year New Idea

Happy New Year! I just wrapped up an almost two week vacation, and I feel like I’ve been on a different planet – in a good way! We spent a lot of quality time at home with our kids and had a bunch of fun get togethers with family. We slept in, watched more Netflix than I’m comfortable admitting, and I’ve gone through every pair of sweatpants and yoga pants that I own. That is what I call a vacation!

Now, that we’re back to reality and I’m in regular pants (sigh) let’s talk 2015 business! I have been enjoying reading about everyone’s resolutions and goals for 2015. I’m all about resolutions, goals, and challenges! That said, I had a bit of trouble coming up with a resolution for 2015. There are hundreds of things  I hope to accomplish, but I was having a hard time coming up with one focus for 2015 that would be both challenging and meaningful.

Then, a few days ago I was thinking about the things I’ve left behind in 2014, and how I need to become a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I did a handful of things in 2014 that pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and I think they impacted me for the better. And just like that my 2015 resolution was born.

I’m going to do at least one thing every month that pushes me outside of my comfort zone.

Let me be honest. This idea scares me. I’m someone who thrives on routine and control. I’m not big on change, and I don’t like doing things that make me feel uncomfortable or awkward (who does?!) However, I figure as much as there is opportunity for awkwardness, there is the opportunity for growth and improvement as well. So, here we go! Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to share every detail!

When was the last time you did something outside of your comfort zone? What was it and how did it go?

3 Things I’m Leaving Behind in 2014

Color me excited! I have just one day left of work before an almost two week vacation!

I will spend the next several days staycationing with my husband and our kids, and we’ll be celebrating Christmas and ringing in the new year with family. Fun times ahead!

I also plan on cleaning and organizing the bananas out of my house, and if I’m a smart little cookie, I will get ahead on some writing assignments.

But, back to the reason I sat down to write this post…

A few days ago I was thinking about my goals/resolutions for 2015, and what it would take for me to accomplish them. This lead to me to reflect on some of my own personal vulnerabilities, which in turn lead me to a bit of an “ah-ha” moment. Ditch the insecurities! I mean, it seemed really simple. Let go of the thoughts, feelings, and doubts that stand in my way. After all, I’m 90% sure they aren’t real. So, I sat in reflection for a moment and came up with a list.

Expiring 12/31/2014:

Fear of Judgment

I’ve struggled with a fear of judgment for years. In fact, I don’t share my blog on my Facebook account. Not because I’m anonymous, but because I am afraid of judgment. You know, what if a person I knew in high school reads my blog and thinks it’s stupid? That thought paralyzes me. However, I don’t have room for paralyzation by fear in 2015, so it needs to go. I can’t control judgment. I can only control my actions and I come from a good place. That will just have to be enough.

Student Loan Debt Shame

For some reason, I’ve felt an overwhelming amount of shame regarding my student loan debt this year. I received my graduate degree in 2010 and I’ve been paying for it ever since, so I don’t know why this year it really came to head. It could be because there’s a lot of student loan debt chat in the PF blog community, it could be because I haven’t felt like I’ve utilized my degree to its capacity. Who knows, but you know what? I can’t lose sleep over it and I certainly can’t return my degree for a refund. I’ll pay it off. I’ll grow my career. I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. We’ll be fine!

Self Doubt

I have a tendency to doubt my capabilities. That, combined with a personality type that isn’t crazy about change and prefers tasks very black and white, and you have a bit of struggle with progression. I have to often remind myself how far I’ve come and how well I’ve done. I mean, I used to think giving birth would be impossible, and here I’ve gone and done it twice. I can do anything! Not to be confused with everything…

So, that’s my plan. I’m leaving those three things behind in 2014. It won’t always be that simple or easy, but just think about all the extra time and space I’ll have for more positive and important things!

What about you? Are you leaving anything behind in 2014?