Homemade instant lunches 2.0


cost: varies
Success: 5/5

A couple years ago I started making my own instant lunches with mixed success. I gave up after a while.

My issues:

  • Flavour really didn’t have oomph
  • Noodles were starchy and gross
  • Freeze-dried vegetables are lame
  • No proteins – not filling

The good thing about the Internet is that there is always someone who’s found a solution to any problem I may have. A few months ago a friend shared a link to Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles which was inspired by a method found in this cookbook. At first I didn’t like the idea of my vegetables touching my noodles in the fridge because I have a thing with flavour seepage, but I got over myself.

I’ve used the Serious Eats method for two weeks now, and I’ve had success every time.

First, it’s important to use a good base, and Better than Boullion Bullion Bouillon really gives a robust flavour that I haven’t come across in any other flavour bases [I’ve given up on spelling the b-word].

Real vegetables also make a huge difference, and frozen vegetables are super cheap. Much less than freeze-dried ones.

The noodle choice is also a big deal. I’ve tried vermicelli and pre-cooked noodles. Pre-cooked chow mein noodles work well, but they expire quickly.  Vermicelli is great, but not as hearty.

And the meat! I’ve tried beef jerky and cooked shrimp so far. Both have been delicious. This is the most expensive part, so in the future I may try chickpeas as a protein.

Some carry-overs from my previous method:

  • Bean flakes are great for flavour and protein
  • I prefer coconut milk powder to coconut milk because it’s dry
  • My mom’s dried herbs make things extra-tasty and extra fresh
  • Cheeses – especially Parmesan – keep well and add a lot of flavour

No photo today, but there are some very pretty if you follow the link above.


Hey look, I’m still around!


I’m still around, still being pretty thrifty.

Today is exactly 3 years since I started my mortgage. Buying my townhouse is still one of my proudest accomplishments.

After the first few months of my mortgage, I got a better idea of what I could handle financially and I was no longer freaking out. In May of 2012 when I was about to turn 30, I decided to upgrade my camera and get my first professional-quality lens. It was a big “screw this!” to turning 30, but also a protest against letting money control me to the extent it had. Since then I’ve gotten even more into photography. It’s definitely not a hobby ‘on the cheap’, but maybe one day I’ll earn money with it.

I also adopted a cat! I started fostering cats two years ago. At the time I was still getting over the death of my cat, Schnurri. It was a perfect solution for me – cat love without cat commitment or expenses. I’ll write more about that another day.

Here is Teddy, hepped up on catnip.


Lately my car is the reason I can’t have nice things. I had a big scare just before Christmas when my battery light went on once again. The battery had already been replaced and the alternator had been repaired, so the meant it was an issue (i$$ue?) with the car’s computer. I snapped right back into Cheapass mode and started looking at things in the same way I had just after I bought my townhouse – carefully evaluating every purchase and expense. I forgot how oddly empowering it was.

Thankfully my mechanic found a much less expensive fix that bypasses the computer, so I’m not in the same state of financial crisis. Still, being thriftier again is probably a good idea.

Adventure on the cheap – Vancouver and the Lower Mainland by public transit part I


I’ve been lazy. I haven’t updated in ages. I’m back with pretty pictures, so I hope you’ll forgive me. 😉

With the longer days and springier weather lately, I’ve spent more time exploring. I wanted to write a post about six of the most awesome places I’ve visited by bus in the last three and a half years. I’ll bring it to you in two parts.

1) Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay is in the far northwest corner of Metro Vancouver, but it only takes one bus to get there from downtown. There is a ferry terminal and a little town with ice cream, restaurants and tourist shops, as well as docks that are accessible to the public. It’s a serene place, and it has great views of the islands and mountains of Howe Sound.

The ferries take foot passengers, you can go as far as Nanaimo on Vancouver Island without needing a car.

2) Grouse Mountain

This one takes a lot of hiking, or something like $40 (or whatever they are charging these days) for a gondola ticket, but oh is it worth it.  I’m still pretty  blown away that I live in a place where you can take public transit to the base of a mountain, spend the day hiking, then catch the bus back home.

The bus goes to the base of Grouse Mountain, where there’s a Starbucks and the start of the gondola. There is also the option to hike the Grouse Grind. Since I’m so cheap, I choose the Grouse Grind because two and a half hours of physical torture is still more appealing to me than buying a ticket for the gondola. The sign at the base says that the average hiker will take an hour and a half, but I’m way above average apparently.

I’ve done the Grouse Grind three times, and I always spend the first half cursing myself. There is a point where it gets easier, or at least when my body has gotten into the rhythm and I feel so pleased with myself that I decide I don’t need to do any more exercise for the next month. After lots of climbing and stomping and heaving (over 3000 stairs),  the trail ends at the foot of the restaurant and gift shop complex. This is when I get to turn around, look at Vancouver and the Island, and realize it was definitely worth it.

They’ve found a way to capitalize the heck out of that mountain, because along with the multiple gift shops and multiple restaurants, there is also a grizzly bear enclosure, wolf enclosure, lumberjack shows, windmill tour, helicopter tours and probably some other stuff that I’m missing. The bears, wolves and lumberjacks are free.

Hiking back down is actually not permitted. I’m not sure if that’s a way to capitalize off  of the moochy hikers who took a free peek at the grizzlies, or if ‘s is a safety issue (the Grouse Grind can get pretty competitive). The ticket down was $10 last time I was there, but after the hike up I’m always more than eager to take the easy way down.

3. Burnaby Mountain

‘Another mountain,’ you say? That’s right, and this one is much less of a pain in the ass.

The eastern part of Burnaby Mountain is taken up by SFU, and the much smaller western part is a restaurant and park. Getting to the western part takes about 15 minutes from the nearest bus stop, but there is a fair amount of incline. You will probably be sweaty by the time you get to the top, so if you’re going to the restaurant it may be better to drive.

For a place that is so beautiful and relatively accessible, Burnaby Mountain is not too busy. The park on top has totem poles, flower beds and views facing west (towards Vancouver), north (towards Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver and Belcarra) and south (towards Burnaby and the ocean).

In case you’re a map nerd like me:



Cost:  under 50 cents (for a teabag and sugar) plus some almost-expired yogurt
Success: 5/5

My Mom visited last weekend, and I had some Greek Yogurt in the fridge for her. She wasn’t able to eat it all before she left, and I forgot about it until the day it was set to expire.

I thought I might make a curry with it, but there was just so much left. Then I had a brainwave – I’d make frozen yogurt! That would also take care of the strawberries we got while she was here.

I jumped a little when I saw how mouldy the strawberries were. Blech. So I threw those out and searched around my place for something else fruitlike or fruit-esque. There were some oranges and an apple, but I figured there was good reason I had never heard of apple or orange yogurt. I spent some time weighing the pros and cons of using a fruit-flavoured tea bag, then decided to go wild and give it a try.

I brewed a small amount of tea, about equal to the amount of yogurt that was left. I added maybe 1/3 as much sugar as yogurt. I’m not really one to measure things when I’m cooking. Sometimes my free-spirited cooking philosophy leads to exciting new culinary flavours, and sometimes it just doesn’t.

This recipe was loosely based on a frozen yogurt popsicle recipe I made last year.

I mixed everything together in the chopper attachment for my kitchen wand. I LOVE that kitchen wand. (Sponsor me Cuisinart?) I stuck it in a Saskatchewan tupperware and into the freezer.

Some hours later, I sampled some. It was awesome! The tea flavour was mild but very nice, and it had a flavour and texture not to wildly different from store-bought frozen yogurt. In the photo above it looks pretty runny, but it was not all frozen at that point.

Toilet paper the old-fashioned way


Cost: Free!
Success: 5/5

Toilet paper is kind of a waste if you think about it. With its bleached brightness and quilted layers of softness, it comes across as pretty pompous for the crappy* job it has. If toilet paper were a person, it would wear a sequined gown to the bottle depot, or a diamond-necklace to McDonalds. It only makes sense to kick toilet paper off of its high horse by using a more frugal alternative.

From what I have read, wiping one’s butt with catalogues used to be a luxury. And what’s good enough for my dad and grandparents on the farm in Saskatchewan is good enough for me!

I get four free papers a week, and that makes more toilet paper than I can possibly go through.

To make the rolls, I started ripping the newspapers sideways. As long as you rip with the grain, they should tear into neat strips. I used my toilet paper roll to measure the width.  I taped each new length of newspaper down so the roll wouldn’t unravel.

The result is something practical and also fun to read, in case you get bored.

*Hehe! Pun!

PS: April Fool’s!!

Making cheese!


Cost: $1.70
Success:  3/5

Making my own butter got me pretty excited about the other things I could make on my own. The next thing on my list was cheese! I followed this article on Wikihow, which produces a cheese that looks absolutely nothing like the one in their photo.

What excited me most is that I could make the cheese using things I had around the house anyway; whole milk, butter, sugar, salt and lemon juice. The process was simple. I boiled the milk with some butter and sugar. Once it was bubbling, I put in a bit of lemon juice, then let it sit on the burner contemplating its fate. The acid in the lemon juice separates the curds from the whey, so when I poured it through the dish towel above a strainer, I had little clumps of cheese!

It smells very good at this point.

I let the water drain…

And was left with a miniscule amount of cheese! For scale, this is a teaspoon.

I mixed in a bunch of salt to give it some character, then put it in the fridge.

It was similar to feta, but softer. It was not as smooth as cream cheese or as disgusting as goat cheese. It mostly tastes like lemon. I could have also used vinegar to separate the curds from the whey. I imagine that would have been disgusting!

I made myself some potatoes with onions and garden herbs, and put the cheese on top with liberal amounts of salt. It was not really that exciting or tasty.

I’m curious what would happen if I used heavy cream instead…