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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wanting to go out for ice cream one hot evening . . .

If the 5 of us went to Menchie's (self-serve frozen yogurt), we would spend about $35. Yikes! That's a whole lotta cash for a bowl of frozen yogurt, each.

Every month, we set aside a small amount (I mean small, about $5-10 depending on what's leftover after the budget is made out), for doing fun things with the family. We don't always use this money, so it builds for a couple of months. But we try to use this money wisely.

We could save for several months, and go to the movies. Or, we could spend $1 and rent a recent release from Redbox. Or, what we most often do, we can hang on to the money and borrow dvds from the library.

We could save for many months, and go out for dinner. Or, we could save for one or two months and get fast food for 1 night. Or, we could buy some special foods to have at home or take to the beach, for a nice dinner or special treat, with far less expense.

In June and July, we made plans to use some of this "family-fun" money to enjoy time together, with special treats.

Last Saturday, my daughters came with me on an errand in the AM, and we were talking about how it would be the perfect day to go to Menchie's as a family. It had been hot for a few days, and Saturday's forecasted high was to be the hottest day of the week. So, a bowl of frozen yogurt or ice cream sounded especially appealing.

We talked about our various options. We could all go to McDonalds after dinner for their sundaes, at a cost of about $6, total. Okay, but as it's ice cream made with milk, it wouldn't be the best for me. Then we talked about Menchie's. A better option for me, as I can get non-dairy fro-yo there. And everyone gets to customize their own dessert. But at a price of about $6 or $7 each, for a whopping $35 for 5 of us. That's when the thought of going to Fred Meyer and picking out ice cream (and sorbet for me), plus toppings was thrown about.

The more we discussed this, the better a home sundae bar sounded. We talked about a price limit on how much we should spend, out of our "family-fun" savings. $15 sounded about right, for a special treat for 5 people.

So, after a lot of walking about the store, checking out our options, we chose some slivered almonds, from the bulk bins, a few gummy worms and chocolate caramel peanut clusters from the Brach's bulk bins, a snack-size package of Pepperidge Farms Mini-Chessmen shortbread cookies, a bag of dark chocolate-covered pretzels, a bottle of dark chocolate Magic Shell (chocolate sauce that hardens on the ice cream, something my kids had once at a cousin's house but never since), and a 1-gallon pail of Neapolitan ice cream, (plus that pint of raspberry sorbet for me). At home, I had strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the garden to add to our sundae bar. In total, we spent $11.39. And, we had enough of all of the supplies to have sundaes both Saturday and Sunday after dinner. Plus, there's half a pail of ice cream and almost half a pint of sorbet remaining for future family-fun nights. None of this had to come out of the regular grocery budget.

Later this month, our family will be doing our annual fish and chips, beach-front dinner. We do this once per summer, and have a fun fish dinner together, at the beach. Waterfront dining at it's best!

In previous years, we bought our fish and chips from the Ivar's seafood bar at the beach (the beach which now charges for parking). We had been talking about going to a different Ivar's and bringing our fish and chips to one of the free-parking beaches in the area.

As good fortune would have it, frozen cod fillets are on sale at Cash & Carry this week, for about $18 for a 5-lb box of 2-oz fillets (a good size for fried fish strips). In previous years, we have spent about $30 on fish and chips for the whole family at Ivar's. A 5-lb box of cod fillets is enough fish for the 5 of us, for 4 nights of fish and chips, at a cost of $4.50 for a family dinner of the fish. Add in the batter and oil for frying and some potatoes for chips, and we're up to about $6 for our annual fish and chips at the beach dinner. I'll make the fish and chips at home just before we leave, then take the dinner to the nearest beach (5 minutes away).

I know that we could have fun without any expense. But sometimes, a little expense is worth it. And this is a way that fits within our budget -- and that makes me happy! (And the treats made my family very happy!!)


  1. Good morning, Lili!

    I like your family's ideas of fun! :) We are much the same!

    When our son just graduated from university, both my husband and our best friend (who lives nearby and attended the event with us) offered to take us out to dinner to celebrate after the ceremony. Unbeknownst to them, our son and I had already planned dinner we could make quickly in our little RV in the parking lot immediately after commencement.

    We avoided the traffic jam leaving campus, we didn't have to stand around waiting for a table at a local restaurant (and the city was JUMPIN'! with everyone there for the ceremonies), we saved a bundle, and we still had a very festive meal.

    I made our favorite hamburgers, with some mashed potatoes, home-canned fruit cocktail, a few fancy cream sodas and ginger beers as a splurge, and then we had chocolate eclairs I'd made at home for our dessert.

    The five of us got in out of the rain in our little rig and basically "tailgated" the commencement! We had a festive time, and didn't miss dinner "out" at all! :)

    Have a great day! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      your commencement dinner sounds yummy, but more importantly it sounds true to who your family is, doing something that your family has done for years, for fun, entertainment and togetherness. Bravo! I think that in itself marked this momentous occasion, far better than any restaurant meal could have.

      I am guessing that the eclairs were kept frozen? The other advantage to tailgating your commencement celebration is that you could prepare foods according to your own family's dietary needs and likes. I have a real trying time, eating in a restaurant, myself, due to my own dietary restrictions/intolerances. So I see a huge benefit to being able to cater your own event!

      Congrats to your son on his degree!

      Have a lovely day, yourself, Sara!

    2. Thanks, Lili!

      Yes, I actually did end up freezing the eclairs. If your fridge is nice and cold, you can keep home-made eclairs for 3-4 days; and they're best if they've not been frozen. So, I'd hoped that I could make them late enough to just leave them in the fridge.

      Unfortunately, some last minute travel itinerary changes made it a wiser choice to make them a day earlier than I was comfortable with leaving them unfrozen.

      The added bonus to this (and this is a matter of frugality of time and being able to really savor your efforts) was that we were able to eat half the batch for commencement, and save the other half for when we reunited again with our other son in his city two weeks later! We enjoyed our dessert again together, and I opted out of eating mine, so we left the last eclair with him to enjoy the hot weekend after we left. (He loves eclairs the most of anyone in the family!) It really worked out wonderfully, all in all! :)

      I hear you about the problems of eating in restaurants. I have the same issues, and so it ends up being a lot of money spent for not a lot of things I really ought to be eating! We have really only one place we go out to eat, for our anniversary and birthdays. Other than that, there aren't many places that serve much that we figure we couldn't do just as well at home, if not better (and ooodles cheaper, of course, too!)

      We feel the same way about the movies, actually. We find it's much more fun to stay home, cuddle in our own living room, make our own good snacks and other food, use our own bathrooms (and be able to stop the feature for those comfort breaks! ), and save ourselves the gas money, ticket price, and hassles.

      We don't see a lot of new movies, of course; but DVDs are a favorite family gift for movies we know and like. Also, we have a family member who spends a lot on DVDs, and they are happy to be a lending library for us to test out the newer titles. :) But most of the time, we enjoy seeing our favorites over and over, and have certain movies we tend to watch for certain occasions (just like they always played some of the big movies on TV every holiday when we were kids.) Of course, we're easily amused! LOL


    3. Hi, again, Sara!
      Your eclairs sound yummy. And wonderful to have had some with your other son, as well! I imagine that you are a terrific planner and organizer.

      We have a relative, as well, that indulges in all the latest dvds. We'll borrow a large bag for a few weeks/months, and work our way through them. It's a lot of fun, at no cost!

      I think a lot of frugal people might describe themselves in the same way -- that they're easily amused! Perhaps that's part of the secret to our success.

      Have a great evening!

    4. Yes, Lili, I think being easily amused probably IS a secret to our success! :) I hadn't thought of it that way! LOL

      Glad you have a source of free DVDs to borrow, too. It's really a lot of fun to see something new without paying. We refuse to pay for broadcast TV/cable (and can't get anything on even a huge modern antenna), so all we watch is on DVD. A little variety is nice, though we also enjoy our sets of Columbo and Rockford Files and such, too. :)

      Actually, we were blessed that our other son was able to fly in for two nights for his brother's commencement. He had to rush back to work, but we visited him on our way home from camping, so we got to see him twice-- and he got eclairs three times! Even better! :)

      I find eclairs are actually a very good make-ahead dessert. The eggs, cream, sugar, and chocolate aren't cheap, of course; but for a special occasion dessert, I find eclairs "hit above their weight" as our sports-fan son would say. They aren't hard to make, but people tend to get REALLY excited when you bring them out! A real crowd pleaser, and you don't have to juggle them in the middle of a complicated meal or a busy family holiday day, because you can make them a couple of days before. :)


    5. Hi Sara,
      How wonderful to have been able to spend so much time with both sons! I am sure you all had such a great time together. It does get more difficult as kids get older, to pull everyone together for events. I think that makes these times all the more special.

  2. has a free points program called REWARDS FOR GOOD, where one can earn points by reading articles and taking quizzes and redeem for dining/entertainment/shopping coupons. I have the site ( on my toolbar but still forget to go there to earn/redeem points for coupons and other discounts. The Menchies coupon for our local area costs 500 points:

    Enjoy 50% off the regular price of any FROZEN YOGURT ORDER - Up to $5 Maximum Discount
    Enjoy 10% off the regular price of any YOGURT ORDER

    The points program takes very little effort to accumulate enough points for a redemption (I don't know how I got 10,000 points). 500 points is easy and very doable in the first few minutes of signing up. If you are already an AARP member, you can earn 50% more points. I believe both you and your husband can sign up for this points program, and that would be double savings equal to the price of one yogurt (2 x 50% discount).

    There are other similar points programs offering the same identical coupon discounts as AARP (which I am quessing are offered on the Entertainment Book online site as well). I vaguely recall Verizon Wireless has or had a similar points program. If you have purchased the hard copy Entertainment Book, you can get these online coupons free since you have purchased the book.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Oh thank you for the link! I'll look into it.

  3. I like the comment that frugal people are easily entertained. I think there is some truth to that. I don't feel deprived if I eat ice cream at home instead of at the shop or if I watch a movie from the library instead of at the theater, etc. Of course, there are some things I am willing to spend money on (like eating out), but many of the common things that eat up people's budget, I am happy without. And luckily, my husband and I agree on most of these things.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      There are some things we're willing to spend for, too. And that we find value in those expenditures. But overall, I think we're pretty satisfied with some of the simpler pleasures in life. That is wonderful -- to have a husband with whom you agree so readily on many financial things!


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