Fun and frugal things to see and do in the Seattle/Tacoma area

Pike Place Market in Seattle

As I finished up my previous posts about sightseeing in the Seattle area, I wanted to get some reader input on more fun and frugal things to do in the Seattle/Tacoma area!

Peggy asked:

I was wondering if you could make some recommendations on things to do and sites to see while in Seattle. Can you recommend places to shop as well? I enjoy flea markets and farmers markets. We all enjoy Living History museums so we will probably go to Ft. Nisqually.

I loved Pike Place Market in Seattle, which is somewhat like a farmer's market, live musicians, and lots of little shops (used bookstores, tea, musical instruments, spices, and probably a hundred more things we didn't have time to see!). After paying for parking, you can basically explore all over. :) I've bought bananas and some wonderful huge apples for snacking while there... and if you love tea be sure to check out the Vital Leaf tea shop there! :) (Read more here)

The Columbia Center in Seattle was another favorite, with a beautiful view (plus the fun of being transported to the top of a skyscraper!).

The Farmer's Market in Ballard (a north Seattle neighborhood) is well-loved by many but we haven't been there yet.

I've also heard that the Museum of Flight (on the south side of Seattle) is a great one!

We enjoy riding on a ferry (since it's something we have only done a couple times!) and after touring the battleship in Bremerton, we took the Bremerton ferry across to Seattle. (The ferry is cheaper that direction.) You can find all the ferry schedules and fares here. :)

There are lots of nice parks and hiking trails, though we've only explored ones north of Seattle for the most part. :)

So, dear local readers, what do you recommend for the Seattle area? :)

How to figure ingredient costs for from-scratch recipes

After reading my price breakdown for homemade pizza, a reader asked if I'd be willing to share more about how to figure out the cost of food.

Really, it's all in the math. (Why does one of my least favorite things have to be such a part of everyday life?) ;)

1. Figure out the price per ounce/pound/cup/etc.

This is done by dividing the cost of the item by the units in the package/item.

Example: Package of 3 romaine lettuce hearts costs $1.99. Divide by 3 to figure the unit cost of one romaine heart, which would be $0.66.

2. Figure out the price of the amount used in your recipe.

This is done by multiplying the unit cost by the number of units your recipe calls for.

Example: If your recipe calls for one romaine heart, then the cost of the lettuce in your recipe will be $0.66.

Let's do another example:

If an 8-ounce block of cheddar cheese costs $1.99, then I am paying about 25 cents per ounce or $3.98 per pound. (For per-ounce price, divide $1.99 by 8. For per-pound price, multiply $1.99 by 2.)

Most recipes will give an ounce amount when calling for cheese. Some recipes call for "cups" "shredded" in which case it is helpful to know that  1 cup of shredded cheese is equal to about 4 ounces of cheese.

So, using my formula of multiplying each ounce by 25 cents, if a recipe calls for:

16 oz. cheese = $3.98
8 oz. cheese = $1.99
2 cups shredded cheese (8 oz.) = $1.99
1 cup shredded cheese (4 oz.) = $1.00
1/2 cup shredded cheese (2 oz.) = $0.50

As you can see already, it's helpful to know how many ounces are in a cup (it varies depending on the item), how many ounces are in a pound, and so forth. You can usually find info about most things online, but one of my keys is:

Read food packages. :)

Often, the Nutrition Facts label will give clues as to how many cups of something are in the bag, without you having to measure.

Let's say you bought a 32-ounce bag of dry pinto beans. If you paid $0.99 for the bag, it's easy enough to figure out that the beans are $0.50 per pound (2 pounds for a dollar). But how many cups of dry beans are IN that pound? Your bag's label might say something like this:

Serving size: 1/4 cup dry
Servings per container: 25

In which case you can multiply 25 by 1/4 (.25) and know that in 2 pounds of dry pinto beans there are about 6.25 cups. If you divide the price of the bag ($0.99) by the number of cups (6.25) the price per cup is about $0.16. A cup of dry beans makes about 2 cups of cooked beans (in my experience), which would make the price of cooked beans about $0.08 per cup.

Does this make sense, or am I just confusing you?! :)

I'll do one more example, and then you can leave comments if you have more questions. :)

I bought a 5-pound bag of sugar for $1.66. (Yes, it was a really good sale!)

I wanted to find out how much it cost to use 1 cup of sugar.

I looked at the Nutrition Facts and saw that the serving size was 1 teaspoon, and that there were 567 servings (teaspoons) in the bag.

To find out how much each teaspoon cost, I divided $1.66 by 567. That's .002928 cents per teaspoon.

A cup contains 16 tablespoons, and each tablespoon contains 3 teaspoons. Therefore, a cup contains 48 teaspoons (16 multiplied by 3).

I multiplied the price per teaspoon (.002928) by 48, and came up with the price of $0.140524 per cup, which rounds to 14 cents per cup.

To figure the price of an entire recipe from scratch, you'll need to figure out each ingredient and then add them all up. (Now you know why so few of my recipes include price breakdowns!)

The good news is that if you keep a list of your ingredient prices per unit as you figure them out, you won't have to start with a 5-pound bag of sugar every time. You'll already know how much a teaspoon, tablespoon, or cup of sugar costs you! :)

This same principle applies to figuring out the calories in from-scratch meals.

Questions? Comments? Tips on how to make this process easier for me and others? ;)


Other posts that might be of interest:

Measuring pasta, cheese, etc. when bought in bulk

Price breakdown of our favorite Italian Cheese Bread

Homemade fruity oatmeal with calorie breakdown

For the math lovers: Kitchen Stewardship has a great post about the electricity use for kitchen appliances.

Also, be sure to head over to Jessica's blog for lots of Frugal Fridays posts! :)


Weekly homemade pizza (with price breakdown)

Homemade pizza... yum!

Like many families, we eat pizza every week, usually on Fridays. :) I almost always make our own pizza, unless we have a coupon for free pizza. (Sounds odd, but we've gotten two free Papa John's pizzas since we moved here 6 months ago!)

After making pizza so many times, I've pretty much got it just how we like it. Ordering pizza isn't much of a temptation when my homemade is better and MUCH cheaper!

We like a fluffier crust with a crispy bottom. I liberally butter the pan before spreading the dough. When all the toppings are on, I let the pizza rest for 20-40 minutes and the crust does it's rising before I bake it. This requires a little more time but not any more work. :)

Homemade pizza, served with a salad!

I serve my homemade pizza with a salad or some kind of vegetable on the side.

Simple pizza crust price breakdown:

2-1/2 cups bread flour = $0.28*
1 teaspoon sugar $0.01
1 tablespoon active dry yeast = $0.12*
1 cup filtered water = $0.01
2 tablespoons butter = $0.10*

Pizza toppings price breakdown:

8 ounces (1 cup) sauce = $0.47*
16 ounces (1 lb.) shredded mozzarella cheese = $1.60*
2 ounces turkey pepperoni = $0.66

Total cost for 16-inch turkey pepperoni pizza with extra cheese: $3.25

Add an additional few cents for chopped veggies and Parmesan cheese (if using) and oven usage.

*Denotes items purchased in bulk from Costco. Other items are also purchased in bulk or on sale.

How did I ever cook without Costco?! :) While I am not usually saving a lot compared to Aldi's food prices, the quality is a huge step up!

Prepare for Baby Frugally: Money-Saving and Space-Saving Tips

Baby crib and dresser...

After reading my other post about preparing for a new baby, a number of people have asked for more information about what I would consider to be necessary baby things to own.

So get ready for a photo tutorial of our baby stuff! :) We're currently a family of 5 living in a 900-sq.ft. apartment. Even though I didn't consider myself a packrat, I pared down even more when we moved here 6 months ago.

In complete honesty, I did get rid of some stuff when we moved (my baby swing and some toys are the things that come to mind). However, I obviously didn't consider them to be completely necessary! ;) But more on that in a minute.

When we had our first child 5 years ago, we were living in a smaller apartment and didn't have much. Some clothes, diapers, a car seat, stroller, and a small dresser for the clothes. As our baby grew, we were able to find things second-hand.

As our family grew, keeping the "stuff" under control became a growing challenge as well. Here's where we're at right now!

The changing area
(More photos of the children's bedroom
can be viewed in our house photo tour!)

My changing table has always been a dresser top with a waterproof pad/mat of some sort. It started out as a tiny dresser top. Now I have this big huge dresser top (hand-me-down furniture is the best!). :)

I like having a raised changing surface of some sort since it's so much easier on my back, especially just after giving birth. :) Other drawers store clothes for the children, extra blankets, sheets, etc. (our last house didn't have a closet, so everything was kept in these drawers!).

Yehoshua and Eliyahu, in front of their dressers
(More photos of the children's bedroom
can be viewed in our house photo tour!)

We have one more dresser; this smaller dresser holds Yehoshua's things. The top is perfect for the picture Bible we use, a small lamp, and a cd player/clock. We love music and reading at our house! :)

Baby toys!

The top drawer of the tallest dresser is also home to a few baby toys (I have about 10 small baby toys), Ruth's hair stuff, and other miscellaneous necessities (stroller pump, piggy banks, Bibles).

Our children each have their own bed right now, since we have a crib and bunk beds. I like co-sleeping, but a crib is still nice for nap time. :) We didn't have any sort of baby bed until our first child was a few months old. I got second-hand crib sheets and we just use any appropriately-sized blankets/throws as needed. :)

I especially enjoyed Kim's posts about how they fit many children into their bedrooms. Sometimes our idea of how much space we need per person can be challenged -- in a good way -- when we read about how others have worked around the difficulties!

Baby bath rest...

Here is Eliyahu's favorite Doggie, modeling the infant bath support (similar to this) I used for Ruth. I got this at a garage sale for 10 cents and it replaced my large hard plastic infant tub. It worked great, and a huge plus is that it can be stored in with outgrown clothes and takes up hardly any space when not in use! :)

An infant tub isn't a necessity in my opinion, but it is a nice little luxury. :) I originally had a hard plastic infant tub from a garage sale, but it spent more time in storage than anywhere else!

The diaper bag my mom made for me

I had a baby shower when I was expecting my first child, and was blessed with a good supply of gender-neutral clothes and supplies (including cloth diapers!). My mom made a diaper bag for me! Here it is after 3 babies, still going strong. ;) The outside pockets are perfect for holding water bottles.

Mei tai
My mei tai

We have one stroller (an older model of this one; I like it because I can go as fast as I want with it), which is definitely useful at times.

However, what I really use the most is my mei tai. (What is a mei tai? It's a baby carrier. You can see some pictures of me using it from a few years ago here.)

Folded mei tai
The mei tai folds up small!

I take the mei tai everywhere and use it more than the stroller or anything else. It's comfy and can be worn by me or by Joshua.

Folded up and in the diaper bag!

One of the best things about a baby carrier like the mei tai is that it folds up small enough to easily fit in a diaper bag or drawer when not in use! And there's really not room in our car to take the stroller everywhere, anyway. :)

Every baby is different, and I think often it's ideal to try to borrow various things (such as a swing, bouncy seat, various carriers and slings, strollers, johnny jump-up, bassinet, etc...) if you feel you may need them.

We got a swing from a garage sale when Yehoshua was about 5 months old, and he LOVED it!! Eliyahu and Ruth only used it a couple times each. (I gave it away when we moved.)

I borrowed a bouncy seat when my oldest child was born, but he never cared much for it. I have used the infant car seat in the house to rock tired newborns at times though! For me, the car seat was versatile enough to not need a bouncy seat, bassinet, or (later) swing. Others will tell you that the bouncy seat saved their sanity!

So if you want to try out lots of "stuff" and you have friends with babies or toddlers, borrowing a few items for a few weeks or months (and later purchasing only what you will really use a lot!) could be much easier. :)

If you're short on space, it might not be worth the expense, headache and hassle to try to store numerous large baby items when they may or may not get used more than a handful of times. I've found that borrowed items can be returned at your convenience -- whether that's a few days or a few weeks (or a few months if your friend is in no hurry!).

An old-fashioned high chair :)

A high chair isn't really a necessity in my opinion, and I have eaten many meals while feeding a toddler who was sitting on my lap. :) However, having a chair for toddlers is really really convenient!

We got this small older-style metal high chair (which someone had refinished!) for $5. I love that it doesn't take up nearly so much space as many of the newer plastic designs.

The closet... toy storage!

The children's room has a closet, where I store outgrown clothes and all their toys, games, school books, etc. We even recently moved their bookshelf from the living room into their closet!

We get out one kind of toy at a time. Ruth's infant car seat is stored in here too, along with winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves. :)

Closet shelf full of toys and stuff...

The closet shelf has "big kid toys" like Legos, race cars, and puzzles. Many garage sale treasures and hand-me-downs up there! :) The boys each have a tricycle, and they share a large plastic Little Tikes car (these things completely fill up our small outdoor storage area!).

And I think that's it! (Am I forgetting anything?!) :)

So, to recap:

The baby stuff I feel is necessary:

A basic wardrobe (gender-neutral for newborns)
Car seat (if you have a car)
Diapers (I use cloth)
Diaper bag (or substitute)

The baby stuff we also have (luxuries!):

Mei tai
High chair
Dresser (for clothing and changing)
Baby wash, towels, and wash cloths (homemade "upcycled")
Toys and books!
Swing (used to have)

Baby/kid stuff we DON'T have:

Lots of clothes/shoes/etc. We have plenty! But when space is limited, you have to be practical too. :) And to save money, nearly everything is second hand. :)

Bouncy seat
Infant tub
Potty chair (use smaller toilet insert, or just help child)
Baby monitors
Baby food supplies
Large toys or any toys that don't help children be creative and thoughtful in some way! :)

More worthwhile reading on the topic of what a baby really needs:

My friend Crystal had a great series of posts about Having a baby Without Breaking the Bank! :)

So, there is my long, graphic-oriented answer to a very simple question! ;) Now it's your turn! Do you have any great money-saving or space-saving tips for parents or soon-to-be-parents? :)

Visit Jessica's blog for more frugal posts! :)

Salvaging Denim Skirts or Jeans


This week's frugal tip is one I've been relying on for years, whenever I happen to get a little bleach on my denim skirts or even when I'm repairing a small hole in jeans. 

I seem to have the most difficult time not getting bleach on my clothes. I very rarely use bleach (like, once a month or less frequently) but somehow I manage to get little bits on my clothes whenever I do.

I also sometimes have small holes or tears in my denim skirts or in jeans, and I sew them up with a dark (of course) thread. But often times, the fabric is almost white "inside" where it has frayed, and the repaired rip is easy to spot. (This happens to my skirts that have slits in the backs, if they rip and I mend them.)

So, my solution is: a dark blue permanent marker. (Or black for black jeans.) Just color in the little white drop of bleach to match the rest of your denim! Or, color the frayed white threads that are left sticking out after you've mended the tear.

Okay, so maybe everyone already knows about this... I've been doing it for years and have salvaged some nice skirts and been able to put them back in the suitable-for-public-appearance pile! :)

Originally published in October 2006.

Check out Jessica's blog for more frugal tips and ideas! :)

Repurposing paper 50-pound grain bags

Grain bag

We use lots of grain (especially wheat!) at our house. When I purchase grain, I store it in buckets rather than leaving it in the 50-pound paper bags.

The empty brown paper grain bags can easily be torn and composted, if you do composting.

For a long time now, we have stored the childrens' building blocks in an empty grain bag. It's the perfect size and I love that it's a soft, comfy paper rather than plastic. :) (When the blocks are not in use, I store the bag upright in the bedroom closet.)

What are some more good uses for empty paper grain bags?

A few of my ideas:

Flatten a bag and use it as a shoe mat/rug near the door, to catch mud or dirt.

Tear and crumple to use as padding in packages.

For large gifts, place in grain bag, staple top shut and affix a bow.

Let children play in/with empty bag until it's torn to bits (then compost!) ;)

Cut bag down the side and across the bottom and give children huge pieces of drawing paper!

Use as a trash can liner.

bag from wheat

What do you do with empty grain bags? I'm sure there are more things I'm not thinking of!

For more frugal tips and ideas, visit Jessica's blog today! :)

Repurposing cheap shampoo

(Ruth discovers Puget Sound...)

Last week I wrote about how we get free shampoo and conditioner from Rite-Aid.

Well, in the process of moving 2300 miles and getting re-situated, we finished off our shampoo stash. (I am not able to stockpile huge amounts of free stuff like the CVSers, unfortunately!) :)

To hold us over until the next free-after-rebate deal on higher-quality shampoo, we bought a bottle of Suave shampoo. I try not to be too picky about most things in life but all that free Fructis and other more pricey brands had us spoiled! (I also had very long, thick, fine hair.) We couldn't stand the Suave shampoo! Very shortly it was replaced with the next Rite Aid freebie. ;)

But now I had a partially-used bottle of Suave shampoo. I was excited when I read somewhere (can't recall where though!) that old shampoo and a stiff brush works great for scrubbing the shower!

I tried it and it worked great! I'm so happy to now have a good use for the rest of the cheap shampoo! :)

Visit Jessica's blog today for more frugal tips and ideas! :)

Simple and easy free stuff from Rite Aid stores

One of the handful of stores in our former hometown was a Rite Aid store. Over the years, we have been blessed to get many items there for only the cost of sales tax, through their Single Check Rebates program.

Their weekly sales flyer highlights any items that are free-after-rebate for the week, and the info can be submitted online and the next thing you know you're getting a check in the mail for the price you paid, minus sales tax.

The sales tax is important if it's a high-dollar item that you and everyone you know really has no use for! The "free" 3-ounce tube of hair gel that normally costs $6.99 is going to still cost you over 50 cents in tax!

It's not usually a lot of items, but my purchases probably average out to 3 items per month; some months more, some months none. I usually skip all the medicines and things we don't need since I'd still be paying tax, and end up with things like shampoo, conditioner, tooth brushes, hair gel, and the random box of cereal, Soy Joy bars, deodorant, etc.

If you're interested in free stuff from Rite Aid, here are the simple steps:

1. Look through their weekly ad for free-after-rebate items, or subscribe to the Money Saving Mom blog for alerts on good deals (not posted every week though, so you may miss something).

2. Go to the store and buy exactly what's advertised as free after rebate. 

3. Go to and follow their simple instructions for submitting Single Check Rebates. It seriously only takes a couple minutes and is SO easy!!

4. At the end of the month, request your rebate check online. You will get emails letting you know that your receipts were accepted, and they give you plenty of time to request the check and submit rebates (longer than a month I think).

If you have a Rite Aid nearby, this could very well be worth your effort, as it has been to us! :)

When we lived in Ohio, my mom and I had a system worked out where she would stop and pick up the items for both of us (I'd pay her back; gotta get separate receipts for that, of course!) and then since I had internet access and she did/does not, I submitted both her receipts and mine. If there was an item one of us didn't want, the other could end up with both! Yay! :)

For more frugal tips, be sure to visit Jessica's blog! :)

Frugal potluck choices: Italian Cheese Bread

Italian Cheese Bread, served with Easy Lasagna

When we first moved here and started attending a church which has a potluck every week (which I love!!) I experimented with making a variety of different foods to take. We ended up deciding to take this cheesy bread every week since:

It's easy.
It's affordable.
Everyone loves it!
It tastes great cold (can be made ahead).

Price breakdown for the Italian Cheese Bread:

2-1/2 cups bread flour = $0.28*
1 teaspoon salt = $0.01
1 teaspoon sugar $0.01
1 tablespoon active dry yeast = $0.12*
1 cup filtered water = $0.01
1 tablespoon vegetable oil = $0.03*

1/4 cup prepared Italian salad dressing = $0.25
1/8 tsp salt = 0
1/4 tsp garlic powder = $0.01
1/4 tsp ground oregano = $0.01
1/4 tsp dried thyme = $0.01
Dash pepper = $0.01
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese = $0.09
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese  = $0.40*

Total price for one 16-inch pan of cheesy bread, minus energy for baking: $1.24

*Denotes items purchased in bulk from Costco. Other items are also purchased in bulk or on sale.

Now, add that price to the fact that every week I take two 16-inch pans of this bread to church and it's usually completely devoured, and you'll know why this has become our potluck food of choice! :)

What are your favorite potluck foods? Do you like to make/take the same thing every time, or do you go for variety?

Be sure to visit Jessica's blog for lots of frugal ideas and tips today! :)

P.S. If you like price break-downs, I wrote about our (staple) homemade wheat bread costs here! 

Breakfasts from my childhood: Panhas/Scrapple!

Here's another favorite breakfast from my childhood! Panhas, also called Scrapple, is similar to fried cornmeal mush, but has some extra flavor and can even contain meat scraps for additional flavor and protein!

This recipe is the recipe my mom made during my childhood, with one exception: she used pork broth (and scraps) rather than chicken broth. Since we don't eat pork, I use chicken broth and it works great! My mom always served panhas with her homemade brown sugar syrup.

My parents' ancestors were from Germany and this is a common ethnic food eaten by German descendants in Pennsylvania, Ohio (where I grew up) and elsewhere.

My parents always called it Panhas (pronounced "pawn hoss") but as I was researching the origins of the recipe online, I discovered that the name "Scrapple" is a more common name for this food.

Panhas/Scrapple is usually a family recipe and it seems like most people who have heard of it or make it, use a recipe that was handed down from family members. I'm sure there are many ways to make scrapple; this is my mom's recipe and it's delicious! :)

Have any of you heard of or eaten Panhas/Scrapple? If so, do you like it? :)

If you've missed the other two posts in this series, you can read about Milk Toast here and Popcorn Cereal here! :)


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