Recession Mama

by Katy

Thanks again for all the comments on the two wedding locations my fiance and I have picked out. We’re very excited about this process, and we’re also happy to share our burdens. Believe me, we will make the final decision based on what is best for us (what we like the best and what we can afford the most), but it is really great to hear what ya’ll are saying. For some strange reason, it makes it easier, and it seems to relieve the stress for us a bit. Before I delve into location #3, I just want to quickly give a shout-out to my friend Vicky. She just got married this weekend, and it was spectacular! I don’t know what kind of budget she was working with, but I know she did have one. (She has mentioned it on Recession Mama.) I felt like she really did the most with her money, and it showed. It was the perfect example of having a 5 star wedding on a 3 star budget (Again, I have no idea what her budget was for the wedding, so this is just a guess.) And I hope I can do the same! Maybe she’ll feel comfortable sharing in the comments or in a future guest post. Well, here is wedding location #3! Enjoy…

House in Malibu

House in Malibu

Third choice for us is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) wedding. We’d rent a house/property in Malibu or on the beach somewhere in Orange County, bring in tables, chairs, linens, heat lamps, silverware, plates, glasses, caterer, etc, etc, etc. And if this sounds like a lot of work, well…you’re right! It is. But it could be the way we save money. So here goes…

A blank canvas or a logistical nightmare?I

A blank canvas or a logistical nightmare?

First, we have the location fee – $6500 for the above house/property in Malibu, and the huge sum of money is for…well, nothing. You get to use the grounds of the property for your ceremony and reception. But that’s it. On top of the $6500 you’re forking over, you have to find and put together everything else. So here’s what else we need – caterer – we’d go with a green/organic caterer, and that ranges from $45/person to $85/person (hopefully this includes plates, silverware, and glassware. We would be able to buy and bring our own alcohol (this could save us a lot!), but we’d also have to hire bartenders…so let’s say it’s $5000 total. Next. tables, chairs, linens, and napkins – $1600. In addition, $500 for about 6 heat lamps (it can be cool in southern california), and these locations generally just want you to stay outside on the property. $500 for a dance floor, and most of these places REQUIRE valet service and security – let’s say $2000 (on the cheaper side). So, before florist, photographer, clothes, etc…we’re looking at…$27,773 (if we’re going with the $45/person number).

what the reception could look like

what the reception could look like

Here are my pros and cons:

PROS = We could get exactly what we want – location, food, and decor. This could be cheaper than the other two options, if we’re good at negotiating and putting together iron-clad contracts.

CONS = This DIY location #3 is obviously a LOT more work. A lot could go wrong because there are sooo many vendors to coordinate that day. One late delivery for tables/chairs/linens could create a timeline disaster! This could also end up costing us more money than we can anticipate, at this time, since we don’t truly know what the prices are going to be until we’ve put the deposit on the location and then started negotiating with the rest of the vendors. Also, the $6500 feels like a big waste of money since it’s not for anything but the location. And again, these beach locations are very far away from our rehearsal dinner, the night before. (But this one isn’t as far as Dana Point.)

There you have it! 3 locations — Dana Point restaurant, downtown L.A. restaurant, or this DIY beach property rental. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


{May 17, 2009}   GUEST POST: Saving Greens

Katy sez: My friend Jennifer is a comedian/writer in Los Angeles. This is how she describes herself:

Jennifer Eolin started being creative at the tender age of 6 months. A victim of nepotism, her Dad cast her in a local grocery store commercial. Her part was easy. Just ride in the shopping cart and look ordinary. Jennifer instead made the choice to fall out of her seat and hit her head, thus halting production and pulling focus from the lead actress (who happened to be her mother). A diva was born.

Speaking of grocery stores…Jennifer wrote about a product that would help all of us save some green on her blog, The New Old Biddy.

I asked her to re-purpose it for us here.

This would make Grandma very proud…by Jennifer Eolin:

My grandmother was a whiz-bang at memorizing produce prices. She’d read the newspaper and then you could quiz her about the price of any given vegetable or fruit at the different grocery stores in the area and she would answer with 99.9% accuracy. And to compound this, if lettuce was 5 cents cheaper a head in the next town over, she’d make Grandpa drive their Cadillac over there so she could buy it there. Even if it was the only thing she had to get there, “Broccoli is 2 cents cheaper at Wegman’s!” (We dared not tell them that they probably lost their savings in gas… It was quieter that way.) So while my grandmother would plan her whole day around her produce purchases, I avoided it like Fox News avoids the truth (HEY-OO!). Not because of taste (except for cauliflower – blech!), but because I live alone and the stuff goes bad within 2 days of purchase. And I constantly fall into the trap of, “Wow, tomatoes look great in the store!” So I buy them. Then the next day I’m all, “Wow, I don’t feel like tomatoes today.” So they stay in the fridge instead of coming to work with me for lunch. Then a few days later I’ll say, “I could go for tomatoes—EWWWW! GA-ROSSS! WHY DOES IT HAVE TWO HEADS?!” And into the trash they go. Along with the money they cost me. Phooey. While I avoid buying produce, I DO buy every As Seen on TV product I can get my hands on. So imagine my happy fists when I saw this little item beckoning me at my local CVS:

Green bagsOH HAPPY DAY!

However, I was wary and kept my happy fists to only two shakes instead of their usual fit. After all, I’d been duped before. I’ve renamed the Sham-Wow the Sham-Bullshit. It doesn’t soak up anything other than my dignity and remaining self esteem. And $19.99. (Stupid hooker beater dude is also a liar. Go figure.) But in a quest to not throw my blueberries away constantly (why does that sound dirty?!), I bought Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags (and why does that sound even dirtier??). And low and behold…. THEY WORK. Honestly, they do. I have tomatoes that are over a week old from Trader Joe’s (you know, the kind that you buy and they are already half rotten by the time you get them home). I have week old blueberries that haven’t shriveled up like Papa Smurf’s man-junk yet. I have bell peppers and grapes that are still edible and don’t look like biology experiments! IT’S A MODERN MIRACLE!!! These bags WORK! So in honor of my grandma, I’m passing along my good find in hopes that Debbie Meyer’s Green bags will help keep your produce happy and non-mulchy. But if you drive to the next town to save five cents, I’m sorry, but you’re on your own as I don’t know an As Seen on TV product that will help you there. I’ll just send you the five cents, how ’bout that?

{April 19, 2009}   We Can Make Our Own, Thank You

By Carla

Just a couple of days ago I talked about how I had started to see the connection between saving money and saving the environment. After all, there’s no plastic tub to throw away when you mash you own potatoes and stop buying the packaged stuff. A little later that day I read a post from my friend Connie, who just started her fabu blog called Join the Green Side

Connie is the original Super Mom. She has 3 gorgeous girls, ranging in age from 3mo to 5yr, plus she’s a full time student. (Connie, you’re makin’ the rest of us look bad…)  She actually made her own laundry soap recently and documented it, taking pictures along the way. You’ll need to go to her blog to see the amazing pics. I’ll let her share her story for us here. 


Okay, this is by far the neatest thing I’ve done in a while! I found a recipe for homemade laundry soap online and thought I’d give it a whirl! I did it today, and took pictures as I went.

hot water
1/2 bar of Ivory soap

1/2 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax

Step 1: Grate the soap. I used our cheese grater 🙂

Step 2: Put the soap into a large pan or pot, add 6 cups of water. Turn heat to medium.

Step 3: Put 6 more cups of water to boil in a kettle or pot.

Step 4: Bring grated flakes and water to a simmer, until flakes are dissolved.

Step 5: Add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 borax, stir until mixed well.

Step 6: Pour this mixture into a large bucket. I used a 10-quart bucket.

Step 7: Pour in the 6 cups of boiling water (from step 3) into bucket. Add 1 gallon +6 cups of warm water. Stir until mixed well.

Step 8: Let mixture set for 24 hours. This allows it enough time to cool off and gel. You will notice that the soap begins to separate from the water, and that is normal. You will have to stir it (or shake if you use a container with a lid) before using it. Use about 1/2 cup for each load of laundry.
Because I just made this today, I haven’t used it yet. I tell ya this, though, my kitchen smelled very nice and clean today! I’ll update on how it works later this week.
Here is the cost analysis: I estimate that a container of laundry soap from the store costs around $13-$15. These are the ones that hold around 150oz (like Tide) to 170oz (like Costco’s). I may be off a little on price for name brands, but we usually buy Costco at about $13.
The homemade batch made a 10-quart bucket full. There are 320 ounces in that 10-quart bucket! Nearly 200 more ounces than Costco’s! And, the price for making a 10-quart batch of homemade soap? Approximately $11. So, you can either pay $13 for 170oz, or $11 for 320. Hello!!


 I don’t know if I’ll be making my own soap anytime soon, since I should work on actually making food for now, but it really is pretty cool to know that it can be done…easily.

{April 17, 2009}   Save Green, Go Green

–By Carla

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not a tree hugger.


Ok so I did hug this ONE tree. Fine. But there was a perfectly good reason for it. It was a really beautiful day in downtown Dallas and my sweet Grandmother and I wanted to give this tree a great big hug, so we did. I mean seriously, look at that thing…it’s a monster. Gorgeous. Just to be clear here, actually wrapping your arms around a tree does not make one a radical “tree hugger”. I don’t go around keying Hummers and burning down new home developments like those crazed ding dongs. I’ve just always felt I had a duty to do my part, small as it may be, to not junk up my little patch of Earth.

Oh and happy Day!

My big brother and I were raised to “think green” even before being “green” was anything other than a queasy physical state. Best example: Mom made us bring our lunch bags home from school each day (do kids even use those anymore?)…and it really drove the nuns  at St. Pius crazy. After lunch in the school cafeteria, the nuns would go around to make sure we all threw our trash away properly but noooooooo, Carla had to neatly fold up her little brown bag and bring it back home. Drove the nuns insane. But that’s how Mom wanted it. And to this day I still cannot see Mom as an environmentalist. She’s not, I don’t think… I don’t really know what possessed her. But anyway, the seeds were planted years ago.

Using canvas bags at the grocery store is second nature for me these days. And because of  the loss of my income, I’m at the grocery store more than ever…picking out things that I actually cook now (and occasionally torch by mistake).

We used to buy packages of everything. If we wanted mashed potatoes, we picked up those plastic tubs of potatoes you stick in the microwave. (SO wrong on SO many levels, but that’s another story) If we wanted lemon or lime juice, we snagged those cute little plastic bottles of juice. Our orange juice came in gigantic plastic jugs. Soap Shower gel bottles clogged up our shower. We bought bagged lettuce and so on and so forth. We both worked crazy hours and figured this was the only way to go.  

Talk about change. Since my layoff…we do things quite differently when it comes to our groceries, mainly out of a need to save money. Then I started noticing the environmental impact of those changes. For instance,  if I’m going to whip up mashed potatoes, I now actually MASH potatoes. What a concept! That means no more plastic tub. We try to buy fewer of those shower gel products. A couple of bars of soap do just fine. That means no more plastic bottles. We now buy cans of frozen orange juice. Again, no more gigantic plastic bottles. And sure, most of those plastics CAN be recycled, but I think about it like this:  it took petroleum to make (some of) the plastics in the first place and it will take energy to recycle that jug or bottle into whatever it’s going to turn into. So we just skip it now, when possible.

Even though we are trying to save money, we do still buy quite a few organic products mainly for the boys, since they’re so little now. But you don’t have to buy EVERYthing organic…and that’s where you can cut corners.

As for beef and poultry, I actually buy raw beef and poultry now and (attempt to) cook it myself. Again, what a concept, right!? We used to buy meats that were prepared and packaged in their plastic tubs…the ones that you toss into the microwave. We’d also buy chicken that was pre-marinated. Now, mama’s doing all the marinating. I’m a marinating fool and I love it. I won’t lie, it was a HUGE adjustment for me to start cooking beef and chicken on my own. For the record, I honestly do not know one other girl my age who knows as little about cooking as me. No one. (I’m rollin’ out the bus…here we go) Up until just a few months ago, I, RecessionMama Carla, had a totally irrational fear of raw chicken. Just couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Not unless I was fully protected against our evil friends, Sal, Moe and Nella….


…but since buying a Hazmat suit was totally not in the trimmed down budget, I had to put on my big girl britches, ask Mom to step aside (yes, she was helping me cook chicken for a few weeks..I’ll admit it. Thanks Ma!) and just grope that chicken while trying to keep from fainting. But it got easier. Now I’m an old pro at it. I was tested recently however, when…covered in chicken juice…I discovered hundreds of millions of ants had invaded my pantry. The old me would have passed out, come to, then called 911, but RecessionMama stood firm, rinsed off, grabbed some ammo and opened a can on those pantry ants.  

Who knew that cutting corners would actually lead to 1) good things for our planet and 2) repeated examples of britch hitchin’.  

(Maybe I am a tree hugger after all…..)


et cetera