Skinny Papers

Statistically, this is not a hard one to comprehend: the less you drive, the less likely you are to be involved in a life-threatening automobile accident. Now take that concept and multiple it by a nation full of people facing sky-high gas prices during the peak of summer travel. The result is a significant drop in traffic-related deaths in 2008.

USA Today reported 40 states and DC saw a reduction in traffic deaths during 2008, mostly as a result of the rising gas prices and economic turmoil. It has been reported that many Americans changed their driving habits to decrease their gasoline consumption, and even though gas prices have since dropped and appear to be stable (for the time being), most people are sticking to their new style of driving.

Economic driving consists of habits such as gradual exceration, reducing speed, and regular car maintenance to improve milage. All of those things also increase safety and attentiveness, leading to fewer accidents. Also factor in that people are driving less often and for shorter distances, thus causing a decline in motor vehicle accidents and accident-related deaths.

High gas prices also lead more people to purchase and drive motorcycles last year, so one question yet to be answered is if there was a corresponding increase in motorcycle-related accidents and deaths. The articles I have reviewed did not address this issue.

Chicken w/ Blood Orange Sauce

February 9th, 2009

From Sunset magazine, this recipe for Blood Orange Sauce is simple and flavorful. Blood oranges, named for their ruby-colored flesh, taste very similar to regular oranges, but with a hint of raspberry. Regular oranges or orange juice can be substituted, but blood oranges are currently in season so now is a good time to take advantage. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days.


  • Above: Blood oranges add interesting color to the plate.

Chicken w/ Blood Orange Sauce
adapted from Sunset

1 1/2 cups  blood orange juice or regular orange juice (about 6-8 oranges)
1/3 cup  sugar 
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
4 cups dry egg noodles
1 blood orange, halved

Preheat oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet.

In a 10- to 12-inch skillet over high heat, mix orange juice, sugar, garlic, ginger, salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes; stirring often.

Arrange chicken breasts in a single layer on wire rack. Brush both sides of chicken with prepared sauce. Cook 10 minutes. Brush another coat of sauce on both sides of chicken. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, bring a large stock pot of salted water to boil. Add egg noodles and cook 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook 5 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender and noodles are tender. Drain and return to pan. Squeeze one half of reserved blood orange over noodles and broccoli. Cut remaining blood orange half into slices.

To serve: divide noodles and broccoli among four plates. Slice chicken breasts and place over noodles. Place orange slices on plates.



  •  The blood orange season is relatively short, so take advantage!

Frugal Breakdown: 
10 blood oranges: $4.00
sugar: negligible
garlic: negligable
salt: negligible
crushed red pepper flakes: negligible
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts: $3.20
1 head broccoli: 1.67
egg noodles: $0.89
TOTAL: $9.76

Verdict: Success, but pretty darn close. The major expense was blood oranges, and the lot I bought were rather small so it took more to get 1 1/2 cups of juice (even though it was 5/$2 regardless of size).

With the chicken breasts, I found an excellent deal. I bought a family size package of 9 boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb. Most of the chicken breasts still had good sized tenderloins, so I trimmed each piece and placed in freezer safe bags, then trimmed and cut up the tenderloins, which yielded about half a pound. Overall, I got 10 servings out of that one package.

Frugal News (You Can Use)

February 5th, 2009

"Skinny Papers"

As part of Frugal Nation, I will be posting Frugal News: up-to-date information and news on frugality and practical ideas anyone can use. Frugal News posts will be marked with “skinny paper” logo.

To start, let’s take a look at what got us all to this point in the first place: the economic crisis. This outstanding yet grim article by CNN offers the best explanation of what happened to cause the financial system in American to come to a grinding halt.

Understanding the how and why of the economic crisis may or may not help us better deal with the long road of recovery, but it is important for all consumers to be well-informed.

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Soup

February 3rd, 2009

soupified-large-thumbTo celebrate the beginning of Frugal Nation and the end of Soupified, I bring you a bowl of tasty soup made with some basic ingredients from the pantry and vegetable drawer. These simple ingredients create a delicious and satisfying soup for a small amount of money. The earthy flavor of parsnips balances the sweetness of the potatoes, along with fresh ginger for a subtle warmth to the soup.

I purchased canned chicken broth, but homemade would certainly work just as well. With making soup, I find butter and chicken stock add a richness that olive oil and vegetable broth cannot. This does not mean you could not make this a vegetarian soup, but it changes the flavor. Vegetable stock, if not homemade, can also be much more expensive than chicken broth.

This soup could also be blended, but I personally do not prefer pureed soups. If you want to puree the soup, place in a blender in batches after the final step below. Be sure to remove the center cap of the top to allow steam to escape (hot liquids will expand).

Sweet Potato & Parsnip Soup

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 tsp dried basil
6 cups chicken broth or stock
fresh ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large stockpot. Add onions and a small amount of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add ginger and saute for 30 seconds or until very fragrant. Add parsnips, sweet potatoes, and basil. Cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables begin to turn golden brown.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced by a fork, about 25 minutes. Add peppper to taste.


Frugal Breakdown:
butter: negligible
onion: $0.50
fresh ginger: $0.19
3 large sweet potatoes: $2.98
3 parsnips: $1.50
dried basil: negligible
6 cups chicken broth or stock: $2.09
fresh ground black pepper: negligible

TOTAL: $7.26

Servings: 6
Price per Serving: $1.21

Verdict: Success! With some money leftover for some nice bread on the side.

While the cost is specific to the ingredients I used, you could also substitute other vegetables in this soup. Celery would be a good replacement for parsnips, or another root vegetable such as turnips. Carrots might be a little too sweet along with the sweet potatoes, but a hardy winter squash could substitute for sweet potatoes (such as butternut or acorn).


Frugality has recently become a trend, even a buzzword, in this brave new world of economic hardship. Many people are feeling the burden of bills piling up with little relief in sight. When times get tough, we start stripping down to the bare essentials: heat, shelter, clothing, food.

Or do we? Some Americans are claiming to be tightening their belts, but the constant lines at Starbucks and the mall beg to differ. In some circles, frugality is a dirty word. Synonymous with cheap, the word can make some people’s skin crawl. Folks want to save money, but they do not want to be seen as poor (probably because of the harsh and unfair stereotypes associated with poverty: stupid, lazy, filthy, etc).


Above: Savvy penny-saver or tightwad penny-scrimper? You decide.

Some of us, however, have no problem with the words cheap or frugal. Some view frugality as a lifestyle, a creative challenge, even a form of art. Let’s be honest, there is no bad time to be frugal, only good times and better times. Now would be one of the better times.

Which leads me to my latest project: Frugal Nation. For this (mis)adventure, I am searching for ways to create meals for under $10 (to see how I picked this amount, see my post on Bitter/Sweet). The point of this project is not just to save money, though that is one of the key objectives. The goal is to maintain a diverse diet at a reasonable price, to enjoy cooking and food while cutting back on costs, and to find innovative ways to use pantry items, leftovers, and inexpensive items to produce quality meals.

For each recipe, I will breakdown the cost per meal (or per serving, if applicable).  I will use the price sticker, if available, or make a best estimate for those items I already own. Here are a few price guidelines:

  • Items where a small amount of a large package is used, such as salt, pepper, olive oil, or garlic, will be listed as a “negligible” cost unless a large quantity is required for the recipe.
  • Spices and dried herbs will also be listed as “negligible” cost, unless a large quantity is used (more than 1 tbsp). After being a home cook for over two years, I found that I already have most herbs and spices on hand, and I am going to assume most other home cooks have a similarly stocked pantry.
  • Prices will be listed in a “per use” quantity, not the price of the total package unless the entire package is required.
  • Sale and markdown items will be marked as such, with the original price if available.

This special project will include recipes, lessons or quickies, and my personal narratives. I hope to explore various global cuisines as well as popular American dishes. Not every meal will be a success, so in that case I will try to determine what went wrong and how to adjust the recipe to make it follow the project guidelines. 

Please join me on this journey into the land of Frugal Nation!