Summertime Activities for the Family

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the blog so I wanted to give an update on our family and what we’ve been up to this summer. My hope is that this could also serve as a list of summertime activity ideas for you and your family. Let me know in the comments how your summer has been going and if you have any fun ideas for things to do. Without further ado:

We Checked Out the Waterfalls

We are SO lucky to live in Oregon. If you live in the area, you may want to read a post Tim previously wrote regarding the waterfalls we frequently visit about a half hour from Cottage Grove: The Waterfalls of Laying Creek Road

This is Spirit Falls:


P will throw rocks in the water for hours if we let her:


There are fossil beds on the way to the waterfalls:


We headed to the Coast

Speaking of bodies of water. Oh Oregon Coast, how I love thee. This summer we headed from Florence, OR (where we always stop at the Fred Meyer to pick up junk food, beer and sand toys) up the coast to Seal
Rock (it’s between Newport and Waldport), where Tim’s brother had rented a house for the weekend right on the beach. It was so much fun. We spent a day in Newport and visited the aquarium as well as the Historic Bayfront, where we ate at Local Ocean, saw a street performer who swallowed a sword and lay on a bed of nails and we finished off the day eating ice cream and salt water taffy. On the way home we stopped at Bob’s Creek Beach (near Yachats), which is a prime spot to hunt for agates.

The beach in Seal Rock:


The aquarium:


Bob’s Creek Beach:


Speaking Yet Again of Bodies of Water, There are Lakes in Cottage Grove

My Mom took P to Cottage Grove Lake and they painted pictures of it. Adorbs.


The Smallest Body of Water aka the Kiddie Pool

Ah the classic Kiddie paddlin’ pool. (and the hose, and water guns, and water balloons….) Just remember, hose beats water gun every time.


We signed P Up For Stuff and It Was Less Expensive Than We Thought

P did theater camp at a tiny local theater here in Cottage Grove and my Mom paid (thanks Mom!) but I believe the cost was $50. We also signed her up for swimming lessons which I believe were about $45.

We Baked

P and I love to bake. So does Tim for that matter.

We made a lemon curd and blueberry tart:


The Recipe was from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

The Pie and Pastry Bible
By Rose Levy Beranbaum

We Color as a Family


Our favorite coloring books:

Secret London: Color Your Way to Calm
By Rosie Goodwin, Alice Chadwick

The pens we use:


We’ve been doing other things too, of course. For one, Tim and I have gotten really into board games but I’m thinking I’ll make an entirely separate post for that as well as a post on what P likes to do during her play time. Thank you for tuning in and send me good blog writing vibes as I hope to write more regularly on ye ol blog. xo

Twelve Days of Christmas Movies, Day 2: “Broadcasting Christmas” and Special “We Just couldn't finish it” Mini Post: “Angels and Ornaments”

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Today’s Christmas masterpiece is “Broadcasting Christmas”, an 84 minute romp (my Christmas movie rule is they should always be 90 minutes or less so this is perfect) starring seasoned TV and TV movie stars Dean Cain and Melissa Joan Hart. The pair play ex-lovers and current local news hosts who find themselves thrust into a competition to become the new co-host on a national morning TV show.

Synopsis: Hart and Cain split ways six years ago when Cain got the posh NYC news anchor job the two were competing for, leaving Hart stuck in local news purgatory in Stamford (City motto: Say it fast and it sounds like Stanford). The two are thrust back together when the co-host of the august morning show “Rise and Shine” retires as the competition to replace her starts up. Cain is in the running to replace her because of his NYC anchor job and connections, infuriating Hart. Hart, for her part, lands the audition by losing her shit on the 1100 Stamford local news and making an impassioned plea for the job. As these meltdowns tend to do, it goes viral and infects the nation with Hart fever. Or something. Anyway, she finds herself in the running.

There’s some heated competition as the two guest host, along with two other competitors, on the venerable Rise and Shine. A five year old piano player is trotted out. Dean Cain dances along with a jazzy rendition of Deck the Halls. Cain and Hart rekindle their old flame, at least for a while. A camel is promised but doesn’t make it on screen in one of the film’s most disappointing moments. A magical 100 year old fruitcake proves to be pivotal in the final stretch. Or maybe it’s not magical. But it should be. The ending is, as ever, predictable and sweet.

Review: Treacly. Predictable. The stars have decent chemistry but Dean Cain, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, can out act MJH any day of the week. She plays broad, with excessive hand gestures and copious full-body eye rolls. It’s almost like she honed her acting skills on a cheesy teen drama opposite a cat puppet. The rekindling of the romance is hurried, has minimal conflict, and doesn’t feel earned, but that’s to be expected. My favorite moment came when Cain made a throwback to his Superman days, explaining to his harried producer that MJH has been in the metaphorical local news wilderness honing her skills like a superhero who has retreated from society (“It’s very much a thing!”, he insists.). All in all it’s decently watchable as far as the Christmas movie genre goes. 3.786 out of 5 Candy Canes.

Is it Christmassy?: Quite. It takes place in the three weeks before Christmas and all of the Rise and Shine segments are about Christmas. Mrs Claus, Christmas music, lighting ceremonies, and the mystical fruitcake all add to the Christmasness. It lacks scenes on actual Christmas or more personal Christmas moments so it gets a ding for that. 4 out of 5 Stockings for Christmasness.

Drinking Game Suggestions: Drink when MJH rolls her eyes, Rise and Shine is mentioned, either of the two stars cohost, the fruitcake is mentioned, or a story is stolen.

And now for our very special “We Couldn’t Finish It” mini post…

angels and ornaments.jpg

Sometimes we just can’t finish a Christmas movie. Maybe it’s because it’s bad, or boring, or we’re tired, but they aren’t all winners. In this special segment we’ll be exploring those films that just didn’t make the grade. Today we’ll be talking about Angels and Ornaments.

Angels and Ornaments is about Corrine, a music store clerk, music teacher, and Christmas aficionado who has recently broken up with her boyfriend. This leads her to ask a family heirloom ornament of a group of carolers the question: “Why can’t I find my true love?”. This, in turn, prompts an angel to show up in the guise of a caroler, an angel who can’t get his wings until Corinne finds her true love. Obviously this means her long time friend and boss, I want to say Dave?, a sensitive soul with a taste for the classics. The caroling angel, Harold (don’t worry, the film addresses this on-the-nose naming in a moment of self awareness) gets a job at Dave’s music shop in an effort to complete his mission. The angels have kind of a Good Place thing going on, but imagine if the Good Place wasn’t that great of a show. Harold also has a pretty spiffy watch that tells him how long until Christmas happens, and thus how long he has to complete his mission. And that’s about where we left off. I imagine that it ends with the angel condemning everyone to eternal damnation, or maybe Corinne and Dave get together and Harold gets his wings. Either seems likely. It wasn’t terrible, we did make it halfway through, but it just didn’t grab us in either the “Hey, this is okay” way or the “Oh my good this is wonderfully awful” kind of way either. Two out of five half eaten gingerbread men for quality, and I’ll give it a solid 5 out of 5 mistletoes for Christmasiness. I mean, it’s centered around an ornament, after all.

Favorite Quote: “Stop and sip the eggnog.”

Drinking Game Suggestions: Drink any time the caroler ornament is shown, Corrine sings, a seasonal drink is drunk, “true love”’ is said, whenever you see Harold’s star scarf, Harold’s watch is shown or mentioned, and any time the story of her grandfather and grandmother is mentioned. This will fill you with holiday cheer in no time at all, I reckon.

Twelve Days of Christmas Movies: Christmas in the Clouds

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by Tim

Special Blog feature: Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. We’ll be watching Hallmark, Lifetime, and other Christmas masterpieces and reporting back to you on how they were. Movies will be graded on a Christmas curve. It’s just not fair to judge Christmas movies on the same standard as big budget, or medium budget, films. It’s also not very Christmassy to be so judgemental of such earnest pieces of art. We’ll be offering a brief synopsis, a quick review, and a rating as to just how Christmassy the films are. We hope you enjoy this feature, and we hope you enjoy your Christmas.

Tonight’s Christmas masterpiece and our inaugural review is “Christmas in the Clouds”, available on Amazon Prime’s Hallmark Movie channel. Christmas in the Clouds features a Native American cast and that classic Christmas movie trope: The Mistaken Identity. It also has a recurring appearance by a painted mouse (take a look at the top of the poster), which was my favorite part.

Brief Synopsis: Retired Chief Joe Clouds on Fire has been exchanging letters with the widow Tina Littlehawk. He assumes she’s old, she assumes he’s young. When she takes a surprise trip to Joe’s family’s ski resort she finds Ray Clouds on Fire, Joe’s son who runs the troubled lodge. Confusion ensues. Also a small girl glues a feather to the head of a mouse and paints it. The mouse escapes. Tina thinks Ray is Joe. Ray thinks Tina is a reviewer from a prestigious travel guide (Spoiler Alert: the reviewer is actually a whiskey soaked old white man who gets taught the spirit of Christmas. Also, the mouse hides in his pocket. Hijinks ensue.). Joe is obsessed with winning a Jeep Cherokee in a bingo game. Romance ensues. Confusion leads to a well placed slap on Ray’s face. A Navajo version of Amazing Grace is sung and the painted mouse comes back to the girl who painted it in the first place. Other things happen and the ending is probably predictable to any seasoned Christmas film viewer.

Review: Surprisingly solid. The cast is good (the most famous name being Graham Greene) as the lodge’s chef), the story is typical but well done, and the scenery is nice. Five out of Five Christmas trees.

Is it Christmassy?: Not a lot. It takes place during Christmas and there is the aforementioned Navajo Amazing Grace, but Christmas doesn’t take a real role in the plot. One out of five Santa’s for Christmas relatability

Honolulu, Hawaii with the Locals

Little P and I (Jamie) just took a pretty amazing budget vacation (Tim had to work because he needs to rack up some vacation hours- you know how it goes- we missed him a ton).  Anywho, it helps to know the right people ;-) (aka people who live in tropical places) and P and I are lucky enough to have my Dad and Stepmom who live for part of the year in Honolulu, Hawaii! They were wonderful hosts and I thought it would be interesting to share what people who actually live in Honolulu recommend to do on a vacation there as my Dad and Stepmom took us to do lots of fun things.

The Beach the Locals go to:  Ala Moana Beach Park

Waikiki Beach, where all of the tourists go, is an experience that you may want to have on your trip but it is hectic! We wanted a nice calm beach where we could spread out and relax. My Dad and Stepmom took us to Ala Moana Beach Park and it was perfect! Chill enough for the adults but there were still other families and kids for little P to play with.  I swear she would have stayed there making sand castles for 24 hours if we let her.


Adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park is Magic Island, a little peninsula where everyone on the island of Oahu seems to be taking their wedding pictures because the views from Magic Island are amazing. My Dad pointed out that this would be the perfect place to take photos for my Instagram :-) 

Here's the view of Magic Island from the beach:


And my Insta worthy photos ;-) taken from Magic Island (photo credit of the pic of me goes to mi padre) :



Ala Moana Center

Across the street from Ala Moana Beach Park is Ala Moana Center, the "largest shopping center in Hawaii". There are several worthwhile reasons to visit this mall. 

- They have a Hula show at the central stage every day but Sunday at 1:00

Big Island Candies My Stepmother introduced me to this store as the perfect spot for souvenirs. It's not cheap but their candies, cookies (especially the macadamia nut shortbread) and brownies are SO GOOD.  Like, so so good. Like I may have bought some to give to someone else and then ate them.  They are also all packaged in adorable little boxes and containers. Perfect for gifts or your next KonMari project.

- Shirokiya Japan Village Walk: Ala Moana Center has a Japanese food court! Lots of fun and you can get beer there for $1!

If You're Plus Sized

There are a few Forever 21s (that's right, I said Forever 21) in Honolulu, but the best one by far is the one "on Waikiki". Specifically : 2301 Kalakaua Ave #209, Honolulu, HI 96815. Why am I telling you about Forever 21 when you have one in your home town? Because this is a three story shop with an entire floor dedicated to plus sizes, something that you unfortunately don't see in most cities.  


The Perfect Day Trip

One of my favorite things to do in Oahu was drive to the other side of the island. Our first stop was at Waialua Bakery in Haleiwa. It was so charming and so delicious. I had a turkey sandwich with hand carved turkey that they roasted on site. The bread was amazing.  The cookies were amazing. The banana bread...was LIFE CHANGING. Best banana bread I have ever had. 

Next, we headed to Mokuleia Beach Park, a few miles West of Haleiwa along Farrington Highway. We were four of about seven people there and I think this was my favorite beach because of it. P highly recommends playing in the tide pools and looking for sea turtles. Additionally, the beach is right by an air field with sky diving and you can watch groups of people sailing through the sky as you relax in the sand.   Another cool little tidbit, according to my Dad, is "We were a few hundred yards away from a place owned by one of President Obama's high-school friends, where Obama often visits when he's here on Oahu. "

We took the slow, breathtakingly beautiful, coastal route clockwise around the island from Mokuleia back to Waikiki, passing all of the famous big-wave beaches--Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. We also drove past Turtle Bay Resort, where "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was filmed. As we headed south along the east shore, we went by Kualoa Ranch, where "Jurassic Park" and "50 First Dates" were shot.


On Your Way to the Airport

La Mariana Sailing Club

This place! I think I had originally seen it on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows. Founded in 1957, La Mariana's tiki bar is the real deal and it's just a few minutes away from the airport. There's often music and impromptu hula dancing. We sang along to "Sweet Caroline" as little P enjoyed some of the best fruit punch I had ever tasted and we had some grown up drinks and a yummy dinner (I had macadamia nut pesto pasta and chicken).

And then we headed home.  Sigh. Truly a vacation to remember. It was especially wonderful because of my Dad and Stepmother and their tips for enjoying Honolulu to it's fullest.  Thank you, guys!  







Rocksbox (Sponsored)

*Get a Month of Rocksbox for free by clicking the Ad banner below (or going to and entering my code jamiehayes83xoxo  at checkout.

I've been given the opportunity to try Rocksbox and I think I'm in LOVE! Rocksbox is a jewelry subscription box containing a set of three designer pieces. I've gotten my set and I wear my jewelry constantly. Once I'm done rocking my current Rocksbox I can either purchase the jewelry (the monthly subscription fee can be applied to your purchase) or send it back for my next set. Getting my Rocksbox in the mail was SO fun and it was a blast to browse their site and create my wishlist. Once the wishlist was complete, a stylist curated the perfect set to be sent to my home.

And let's talk Holidays. What a great way to borrow jewelry for that special Holiday party (act fast and consider turnaround time)! Plus, a Rocksbox subscription would make the perfect gift!

I am very pleased with the jewelry in my first Rocksbox set:


and my favorite:


To get a free month of Rocksbox, click the ad below (or go to and enter jamiehayes83xoxo at checkout.

Fall and Halloween Decor

I had a fun weekend of poking around the Dollar Tree store and decorating the house, so I thought I'd share it with you all. I love looking at "fall decor" on Pinterest and if there's one thing I've realized, it's that I'm more of a minimalist than I thought. I'm not one to make an epic tablescape nor do I have a mantle that looks like a Pottery Barn ad (I don't even have a mantle). Instead, I like to find little things to place throughout the house. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found at Dollar Tree and I think that by not putting all of the cheap stuff in one place, I made it look less cheap. In addition to the Dollar Tree, I got flowers, gourds, pumpkins and smelly (in a good way) pine cones from the grocery store. So without further ado, here is a tour of our Fall and Halloween decorations:

Window stickies for the kiddo are a must for every season. Her placement of the stickies was on point.


My favorite: Sunflowers in a mason jar. Swoon.


We've had this really amazing Fall leaves painting from my Dad and Stepmom's neighbor, who is a super talented artist. I had a heck of a time taking a picture of it so please forgive the reflection and odd angle. 


The painting is in the corner of the living room so here is a zoomed out picture. The glitter pumpkin with a flickering LED light is from Dollar Tree.


My favorite Dollar Tree find:


A Grocery Outlet skull (came in a big bag o skulls) and a purple glitter LED flickering skull from Dollar Tree:


Now, let's talk decorative gourds. Instead of hand picking my gourds, I bought a big (green mesh that I couldn't see through) bag of them because it was cheaper. I won't do that again. I ended up with a rather weenie-esque gourd that I couldn't make look un-weenie like for the life of me. Then several of the other gourds wouldn't stand on their own.  So I put the non standing gourds and the weenie one in a bowl and called it a day.  This beautiful fall glitter globe is borrowed from my Mom's place. Pay no attention to the scratch on my wall that I'm just now noticing.


Fall candles and stands from Dollar Tree. Another one of my favorite finds.


Candles, more gourds, and a bowl from Goodwill filled with pine cones:

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Here is the overall zoomed out view of our dining room. Hi Blue kitty!

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and here are the doodads on our built-ins leading into the living room. The little lantern flickers and is from the Dollar Tree as well.


One last thing: We had so much fun painting pumpkins this year. I displayed them in P's playroom.


10 Things That Entertain My 4 1/2 Year Old

I've always kept a mental list of Little P's interests as she grows up. For one reason, relevant to a budget blog, it reminds me that the things she's interested in aren't necessarily more toys or better toys or a bigger collection of toys.  It helps me, when I'm shopping for treats or gifts to think about what would get the most use and actually, a lot of the things featured here were gifts from friends and family (thanks guys! you know her well!) So, for those of you who want to know how a 4 year old spends her day, here's what P is currently in love with doing and playing:

1. Ponies, dinosaurs and zoo animals get together and throw a raging birthday party.  This is generally a game P plays with Tim or I and she instructs us on what to do.  It almost always goes like this:  we set up the party by putting a group of my little ponies together and then one by one a potential party guest comes up, usually via a Rescuebots boat and asks to join the party.  They then introduce themselves and show off their special skill.  T-rex roars and stomps around a bunch, flying ponies fly and flip, sometimes the guests get together and do a spontaneous obstacle course.  

While this game does requires toys, any existing toy can participate in this wonderous imaginary party world. 



2.  Drawing, coloring, painting, crafting

This is what P spends a large amount of her time doing.  If a world existed in which the only thing she owned to play with was arts and crafts supplies, she would be content.

She loves this book by Ed Emberly:


Here is P making pen holders for Father's day:



3.  Books

P has started to memorize some of her favorite books. I've been told this is a big step in pre-reading.  Her all time favorite book:

The Book with No Pictures
By B. J. Novak
Her favorite page from her favorite book

Her favorite page from her favorite book


4. Puzzles

Her favorite ballerina puzzle from her Aunt and Uncle:




5. Doing chores!

Did you know little kids love to do chores?!  P ASKED us to make her a chore chart.  I think possibly because it involves a prize once it's filled up but I was still so proud.  Her chores are to put away silverware, clean off the dining room table, clean her room and playroom, sweep, make her bed, feed the cat, fold towels, yard work, and clean up the living room.


6.  Legos!  What four year old doesn't like legos.  Here's P with allll the legos at the library lego club.  She ended up making a "Dinosaur Castle House" which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of.  



7. Hunting for fossils

A friend of ours got P this "dinosaur egg" where you can scrape and carve away at the (I think clay) egg to find tiny little plastic dinosaur bones....she was obsessed with this!


Here's some similar ones:

Additionally, P and Tim went to a local fossil bed and found some actual fossils embedded in rocks.  P likes scraping and scraping to free the little leaf fossils from the bigger rocks.  She'll sit there scraping for a good half hour which, in kid time is a very long time.



8. Cooking with Dad:


Pretty much the cutest thing on Earth.  P LOVES to cook with her Dad.  For Easter, we bought her these kids knives which I highly recommend:


9. Blanket Forts

Cozying up in a blanket fort?  Pretty much the best thing ever for all ages.  We take our forts seriously in this family.  Tim has a whole ropes and clothes pin system.



10, Bubbles

Bubbles bubbles bubbles.  Check out this dinosaur bubble gun.  It even roars.  Loudly. Our neighbors love us.



There's our top ten.  If you have a kid, would love to know in the comments how old they are and what their favorite thing to do/play is.

GIVE THE KIDS BOOKS! (my holiday shopping thoughts)

-by Jamie

(*probably obvious disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon Associates program)

It is time to purchase your holiday gifts now.  Did no one tell you this?!  :-)  My favorite thing to give for Christmas or any holiday is a great book. 

The first thing I always do every year, is go check some lists and suggestions from Amazon.  Oh look!  You can get to Amazon from the banner on top of my page!  Anyhow, I usually take a look at what's new in cookbooks and art books.  Then I browse the kids books.  Amazon has awesome suggestions almost always and they also have my favorite thing which is a list of the best 100 books ever (or some such title) and also the top 100 children's books (sorted by age!...for those of us who only know a kid of one specific age this is hugely helpful to know what books kids of other ages want to read).

plus a suggestion from yours truly:

Cheechako by Jonathan Thomas Stratman

Where do I begin?  I have always been fascinated and SO interested in learning more about people who live in these really rural locations and/ or natural settings, where they have to live off the land, so to speak; like Alaska, or that place in Patagonia where that fancy chef guy builds lots of amazing fires....random reference, I know.  

Stories of survival and homesteading are my favorite.  I'm a bit obsessed with the show "Alaska, the last Frontier" and as a kid I loved the books White Fang and A Call of the Wild.  I recently read a newer book, that I think is right up there with them called Cheechako, which is the first book in the series of the same name, by Jonathan Thomas Stratman.  (who I believe lives near Eugene, OR!) I would say the series is for 9 year olds ish and up.  Like way up, like an almost 34 year old, for example.

Cheechako is about a young man named Will who lives in (and then later in the book farther away from) a tiny town in Alaska called Nenana.  He is from Boston and feels like a foreigner in the town full of people who have always lived there.  In the beginning of the book he is an introvert who spends most of his time at home reading or dreaming of Boston, saying to himself "this can't be all there is" of the tiny tiny (and I do mean tiny) town.  After a very exciting day indeed, Will gets a new best friend (a dog) and also befriends an Alaskan native named Elias and snowy adventures ensue! Their survival skills are tested and Will transforms from someone who feels like an outsider, to a young man who is confident in emergencies and comfortable in his own skin.  I am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series!  You can purchase the set for $30 on Amazon Prime or you can order the series in ebook format or I think on the kindle thingey.   You can download the ebooks on Jonathan's website as well!  He gives details on how to download for free!! (on Smashwords.)  Or again for the Holidays or a Birthday or any day, this is truly a great gift!

Kids and Crafts: Make an Afternoon of It

-by Jamie

Here's the way I see it:  If you're making a mess then go ahead and really make a mess :-)  Yup! A new way of arting and crafting has emerged from the Hayes household.  On a particularly rainy day I received a package from Amazon.  Lil' P gets particularly excited about packages from Amazon...ever since a huge box (who recalls what was in it...that is not important) arrived for her last year and transformed itself into a spaceship.   Anyhow, the package that arrived on this particular day was quite a bit smaller but an idea emerged.  I put the box along with some crafty things I had collected from my closet on the table, blasted some music, and let lil P go for it!  Out emerged the coolest lil dollhouse I have ever seen (and yes I am biased).

The minute P said "dollhouse" I realized we needed some "dolls".  Clothes pins worked perfect for that.  P drew little faces on about 10 different pins and then had me draw some.  We drew on little outfits for the dolls as well and named each one after one of P's friends and family members, so that they could have a doll to play with when they come over. (her idea)

Pretty much the only other thing I did to help was cut some holes in the box with an exacto knife for windows and the door.

Next P made the carpet:


And decorated with "stickaws" and pipe cleaners (which she wrapped around the windows):


Now lets talk about all of the high tech modular furniture that P made for her little house.  You see, according to her, these tissue tubes can be seats for a rocket ship, tables, or a bed.  (the house is a normal house but it can also fly in space duh)

(the pillows are not nipple pads although nipple pads would work)

(the pillows are not nipple pads although nipple pads would work)


So there we have it.  My kid was entertained for hours which is very much worthy of a blog post if I do say so myself.  :-)



My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 3

-by Jamie

Part 3!  Here we go!

The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria

I remember when I was just discovering my foodieness and I asked someone who the best chef in the world was.  Their answer was Ferran Adria of El Bulli.  So here we go with that theme again:  I just love knowing what a chef eats when they're actually cooking for themselves.  Chefs at El Bulli eat a "family meal" together every day and that's what this book is about.  They use purposefully inexpensive ingredients as they're feeding a crowd.  There is a back up of stocks, broths, and sauces in the freezer.  The family meals are well organized and coordinated with step by step instructions and timelines.  

Each family meal at el Bulli includes bread, a first course, a second course and desert. The coolest part is they really mix together foods from all different cultures, as the chefs come from all over the world.  In one night they'll eat burgers and ceasar salad and the next night its farfalle with pesto, Japanese style bream fish and Mandarin oranges in Cointreau.  This book is a great way to adventure out and try new foods on the cheap, plus I promise you will become best friends with your local fishmonger.


The Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando

The title for this one says it all.  After the free PDF in part 1, this is my favorite budget cookbook.  Each meal in this book costs under $8 per person and it's really great stuff: risotto, all kinds of soups, shrimp n grits (yum!), pasta from scratch....  Lando also has great recipes for cheaper cuts of meat and explains how to get the best deals/ most bang for your buck.  There are recipes for lamb shanks, chicken wings, short ribs, various cuts of pork and the like.

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

While the first key to cooking on a budget is knowing which foods cost the least (see book above) the second equally important key is to simply have cooking skills.  As Lopez-Alt explains, once you know all of the ways to cook an egg, the basics of soups and stocks, meat preparation etc. then you can make something from pretty much anything.  Instead of always following recipes you can think on the spot about what you'd like to cook with what you see in your fridge or whats on sale at the market.  If there's one book that will make you the best cook you can possibly be, it's this one.  It is the literal science of cooking, in a nutshell and Kenji Lopez-Alt does an awesome job of teaching.  (he even took all of the pics in the book)

For example, here is a display of eggs boiled at 30 second intervals so you can decide exactly what consistency you'd like:



Thus concludes my list of favorite cookbooks for the cook on a budget.  I'd love to know if you have a favorite budget cookbook.  Let me know in the comments :-)



My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 2

-by Jamie

Woohoo!  Time for part 2!  Up next on my list of favorite cookbooks for people on a budget:

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

The day I discovered that I wanted to be Christina Tosi's best friend (not that she has any idea who I am) was actually the same day I knew that Tim was most definitely the man I should marry.  Tim made me the "Birthday Cake" from Tosi's first book, the Momofuku Milk Bar.  There are no words to describe how amazing that cake is but I shall try:  Imagine the best boxed confetti cake you've ever had but imagine it was three tiers and made from scratch and was twenty times as good and had chunks of cookies in it and and and

So yeah.  Ya'll may know Tosi as a judge on Masterchef but I've dribbled on photos of her baked goods for years prior to her TV debut.  #imjustsayin  :-)  For example, here's the Inside cover of Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I've made the above cookies countless times and it has taken me all of five minutes not including the time in the oven.  I suppose there's an ongoing theme in the budget cookbooks I've chosen- most are these sort of simplified or "at home" versions of fancier/ less budget friendly books by the same chefs.  This one's title explains exactly the point: This is how Christina Tosi lives.  This is the stuff she actually cooks when she's at home and exhausted after work, when she wants to entertain, on a weekend off, for a bbq, etc.  She has an entire section devoted to what she does for an ideal "girls night".  I tend to be the girls night host amongst my friends as well so this was of course my favorite part.

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session  photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I take that back.  My favorite part is actually the recipe for "Kimcheez-its" and dip

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

Recipe from  Milk Bar Life  by Christina Tosi

Recipe from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

In a nutshell:  Get you this book! 

Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories
By Christina Tosi



More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

I mean, look at that cover.  You want to eat that food?  I don't blame you.  

Tim made Bayless' pork chili verde and it was insanely good.  This is a budget cookbook review so here's the cost breakdown:  He bought a pork loin for $8 but only used half, bought tomatillos, serano and poblano from the Mexican Market for about $3 plus some garlic and onions for maybe $4.  This fed us for literally days.  

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

There are tons of recipes for legit Mexican food in Bayless' book and almost all of them are inexpensive and healthy.  You could easily eat Mexican food every day with this book.

Stay tuned for part three of this Budget cookbook review :-)





My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 1

A Three Part Series by Jamie Hayes

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown


My husband Tim and I met five years ago on  okcupid (A website which I highly recommend). We both took the website rather seriously, answering all of the voluntary 'about me' questions.  Like, I'm talking hundreds of questions. This is my very long way of saying that it is our theory that this okcupid algorithm matched us, in a nutshell, because of our love for food.  Another thing the algorithm seemed to grasp is that neither of us care about money and therefore we studied liberal arts and therefore we live, you guessed it dear readers, on A BUDGET.

Tim is an avid cookbook collector.  When he was younger, before he had any responsibilities, he would buy books like these:

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
By Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet

Flash forward a decade or so to us being parents on a budget and our go-to cookbook is a completely free PDF (more on that below) but we do budget cooking foodie style (although, to quote my bff Katie, I like the word gourmand better than foodie...maybe I shall say we are gourmands on a budget).  We pay great attention to the ingredients and where they come from. Sometimes that location is our own backyard.

We've managed to obtain quite the collection of cookbooks throughout the years and below are some of our favorites.  We hope you find your new favorite cookbook among them.


MODERNIST CUISINE at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet. Photography by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuta and The Cooking Lab Photography Team. Published by The Cooking Lab. 

Modernist Cuisine at Home
By Nathan Myhrvold, Maxime Bilet

Back in the day, Tim purchased for himself the original masterpiece in all of its glory: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Its five volumes include: History and Fundamentals, Techniques and Equipment, Animals and Plants, Ingredients and Preparation and Plated Dish Recipes.  Also included was a spiral bound Kitchen Manual.

But a few years ago after Modernist Cuisine was so successful, its creators made a shortened version of their original multi-volume series, this time geared towards the home cook interested in incorporating more modern techniques into their cooking.  Their new project became Modernist Cuisine at Home. This newer book is just one volume with an additional spiral bound kitchen manual.

Much like its predecessor, Modernist Cuisine at Home has the worlds most beautiful food photographs by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuts and the Cooking Lab photography team:

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

The reason I chose this book specifically for cooking on a budget is it can teach the aspiring modernist home cook all of the basic recipes they need, such as the worlds best pizza dough recipe (we swear by it) and Mac and Cheese that will possibly make you cry with happiness if you like cheese as much as I do and did I mention- the photos alone are worth every penny.

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home



The Free One: 

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

 To quote Brown's blog: 

Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. The PDF is free and has been downloaded more than 1,000,000 times.

After the PDF went viral online, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund a print run, using a "get one, give one" system (like TOMS Shoes) so that people who bought a book for themselves could give another copy to a family in need.

The campaign was tremendously successful — I asked for $10,000 to print a small batch, but I ended up with 5,636 supporters who raised $144,681! That made it the #1 cookbook ever on Kickstarter.

To Download The FREE PDF:

Good and Cheap is my favorite!  This, I would say, is the book I think of and use the most day to day.  Its recipes are also the least expensive as they were designed specifically for people on SNAP/ Food Stamp benefits. Brown created the pdf with the budget of $4 a day in mind. (holy cheapness!) Good and Cheap is a great overall lesson on how to eat well even if one is on food stamps (or would like to spend much less money on food in general). Take note, Gwyneth Paltrow.  If I were to sum up Leann Brown's suggested lifestyle philosophy when it comes to eating on a budget, it would be to concentrate the most on plant foods, using meat sparingly.  She also has some great from scratch recipes for things like roti, tortillas, pizza dough, pasta, etc. but the best thing about this book is that you don't feel like you're eating cheaply. Instead you're thinking like a true cook- taking great care with everything you make at your kitchen counter.

*stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my series on cookbooks for the cook on a budget