Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deal Alert: Free 20 Page PhotoBook

Mixbook is offering a free 20 page 11 x 8.5 inch photobook. Just enter the code FREEBK at checkout. This includes free shipping!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Deal Alert: 2$ Free MP3 Credit From Amazon

Amazon is giving away 2$ of credit for MP3 downloads. Click this link and enter the code CLOUDMP3

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frugal Food: Rice Pudding

Throwing out food is like throwing out money. If you utilize every item of food in your house, the savings can really add up. But we all know the challenges: picky eaters, spouses who refuse to consume leftovers, and worst of all food that goes bad when saved. A prime example of this latter problem is rice.  

Rice is a great low cost starch that really adds substance to a meal and is the foundation of many middle eastern and asian diets. Yet once it is cooked it must be consumed quickly, and is almost impossible to gauge exactly how much rice to make. I invariably either make too little, and have to cook up some more - which results in some leftover- or too much which obviously results in some leftovers. A day or two in the fridge and that once fluffy rice turns hard and gritty. This refrigerator shelf life can be extended slightly by adding some water to the storage container, but this trick still only gives that rice a little more staying power. Inevitably some of that leftover rice is going to end up in the trash bin. Heartbreaking. The answer is rice pudding.
Rice pudding is simple to make, transforms the rice into a completely new dish and tastes wonderful. Kids and adults will love this simple breakfast and dessert. To jazz things up, you may want to serve it in wine glasses, like I have in the photograph. Or serve chilled with melon slices.

Rice Pudding:
3 cups of cooked rice
5 cups of milk
2/3 cup sugar

Optional flavorings: vanilla, cinnamon, cinnamon stick etc.

Mix the rice milk and sugar together in a pot. Bring the mix to a simmer then reduce the heat to maintain the simmer. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken, usually around 30 minutes. Stir frequently, otherwise a thick skin will form on top of the pudding and you may scorch some of the rice. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for another 15 minutes with frequent stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in optional flavorings.

Store rice pudding in the fridge. If you really love cinnamon and have the spare cash to waste you can thrown in a cinnamon stick during the cooking process to provide a real cinnamon punch to the pudding.

For a non-dairy version, you can use soymilk, almond milk or coconut milk. I have tried them all. They all work.

For a richer, less healthy pudding, use 2 1/2 cups whole milk and 2 1/2 cups half and half instead of regular milk.

If you want to try this pudding but don't have leftover cooked rice on hand, don't worry. Just cook 1 cup of rice as you normally would and then proceed with the recipe. One cup of uncooked rice will generally yield 3 cups of cooked rice.

Free Fun: Shakespeare In The Park

I am always looking for fun things to do, and there is a plethora of them in NY. They just usually cost a lot of money. But there are also many great free events, especially in the summer. For three years in a row my family has been enjoying the free performances of Shakespeare plays at central park. Last night we enjoyed "Measure for Measure" amid a crowd of about 1,000 other NYers on a balmy summer evening. And it was and has always been completely free of charge.

Shakespeare in the Park has been a NY summer tradition since 1954. Every year for 8 weeks, thousands of NYers get to enjoy two of Shakespeare's plays free of charge. This year "Measure for Measure" and "Alls Well That Ends Well" are playing in repetoire, which means that the same company of actors alternates between perforimng the plays on different nights of the week.

To obtain tickets you have two options: The first is to get on the first come first serve line. Tickets are distributed starting at 1 pm at the Delacorte Theater but the line begins to form much earlier. Some years people line up before sunrise! Other years you can get tickets when you arrive at 8 or 9 am. Each person waiting on the line can receive two tickets and you are not allowed to hold places or trade off waiting with another person. If you chose to line up before 6 am you have to do so at Central park West at 81st street. A line monitor form the theater will escort the line over to the theater at 6 to complete the waiting there.

Your second option is to take your chances on the virtual line. People interested in this process first create an online account with The Public. Then they log on anytime between midnight and 1pm on the day they want to see the show to enter themsleves in the ticket drawing. At 1 pm there is a random drawing from among the entrants and you can log on to see if you have won the tickets. If you were one of the lucky ones you pick up your tickets at the theater between 5pm-7pm. The show starts at 8. There are fewer tickets given out this way but it sure is convenient.

For more on obtaining tickets check out the official website.

I would recommend leaving the kiddos at home. Shakespeare is probably a little over their heads and some of the scenes are not child appropriate. In addition, a screaming child will not be appreciated at one of NY's most famous cultural events. Plus showtime is way past their bedtime.

Free Kindle Games

Amazon currently has 9 free games available for your Kindle. Great for those who have a kindle and use it during travel and commuting.

Video Poker, Black Jack, Thread Words, Shuffled Row, Number Slide, Mine Sweeper, Jumble, Every Word, and Dots and Boxes


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Organic on a Dime

Let me preface this post by saying that I actualy do not care if my produce is organic or not in terms of health reasons. I rinse everything thoroughly and I don't think I end up consuming any pesticide residue in harmful quantities. I buy whatever is cheapest. I know a lot of people disagree. And I am OK with that. We each have to make our own choices. What I do love about organic produce is that I feel it is better for the environment and often you end up with better tasting produce. The difference between an heirloom tomato and a regular old shelf tomato is outrageous. They don't taste like the same species. However, both of these benefits are often lost when you start buying organic from the same giant company that also produces non-organic produce. They plant the same terrible tasting, often genetically modified, seeds and use the same mono crop policies that are often harmful to the land. So when I buy organic I try to do it from local producers, and I try to do it in an afordable way. Here are the things that I have found that work for me:

Community Shared Agriculture: Also known as CSA, in this system you pay upfront at the beginning of the season for a share in a farms harvest. You get a delivery of vegetable and sometimes also fruit once a week during the growing season, which typically lasts 6 months of the year (June-November). You will have to pay 400-600 upfront but when you do the math this boils down to about $20 a week. In my area that is a lot cheaper than buying non-organic at the store. You can also split a share with someone else and each pay half. Not every CSA is organic but most are. Since you are eating from the harvest this means some adjustments to cooking - early season I get tons of lettuce and then POOF! no more lettuce but squashes and tomatoes and potatoes roll in. You also are subject to the vagaries of farming. One year there was blight and so we did not receive any tomatoes. We develop a relationship with the farmers - my CSA is family run and twice a year members can visit the farm, as well as with other CSA members. To learn more or find a CSA in your area, visit

Food Co-op: Think of socialism in produce distribution, but in a good way. These groups are member-owned businesses that provide groceries at a discount. Since this is a user motivated group the produce is often organic. You sign up and in most cases pay modest membership fees for the privilege of shopping at the co-op. Some co-ops require volunteering, and they are strict about this! You cannot pay someone to do your volunteering for you.  To learn more check out the Co-op Directory.

Think Inside the Box: Many frozen or canned products are actually certified organic. This allows you to purchase them year round, instead of just during the harvest season.

Look for Online Options: These days there are several online retailers that offer organic products at prices that are better than the local supermarket. Even Amazon has some organic items. Or check out delivery services like Door to Door Organics. Scour the net for deals, Door to Door was recently on Groupon and websites like Mambosprouts specialize in coupons for organic items.

Make Friends with the Neghbours: By teaming up with others you can often buy in bulk from wholesalers getting a large discount. These groups are called 'buying groups' and you might be able to find one in your area by visiting United Buying Clubs.

Visit the Greenmarket: At green markets local farmers come in to display their wares and sell them. You can find everything from organic carrots to homemade organic jams and honey. You can pick and buy just what you need and meet the farmers. My favorite is the one in union square open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm. Come early to get the best picks! To find a green market in your area try Grow NYC or Local Harvest.

Always remember that when buying organic vegetables are not all you get - they come with plenty of dirt and critters! So make sure to wash thoroughly before consumption!

Deal Alert: Free $10 on

The website Save More works like Groupon, there is a daily deal that you can purchase that gives anywhere from 20-75% off goods and services. They are currently giving a 10$ credit just for signing up and giving them an email. Since many of their deals run for $8 or so this means you can get one free. For instance today's deal is a 20 page photo book from Photobin that is usually valued at $35 but can now be had for $8.50 by purchasing the deal. It's basically a free thing so I encourage people to do it.

Click here to sign up!