When we were first married, every Saturday morning we made pancakes.   I love Saturday morning pancakes.  We tried several different recipes but found that Bisquick worked just fine. 

When our children were old enough to eat people food, I started cooking scrambled eggs (usually just for them) and the occassional frozen waffle or a bowl of low-sugar cereal.   Pancakes are still a Saturday morning treat. 

When my husband went through a season of unemployment, he got me hooked on hot breakfast.   For a first month we ate scrambled eggs, and scrambled eggs with sausage, and scrambled eggs with cream cheese, and scrambled eggs with sausage AND cream cheese.  Needless to say, I grew weary of… scrambled eggs. 

We did eat some pancakes even during the week, but I always felt like there was a nutritional deficit with my Bisquick mix.   I have hypoglycemia so I have to be very careful… white flour (and sugar) make me cranky.   If items have whole wheat, I don’t get the crash afterwards. 

So I figured, I’m a smart mommy, surely there’s a homemade biscuit mix recipe!  What do you know, I found one!  Now I know that most of you, dear readers, are quite Google (and Swagbucks) savvy, and you can look up these recipes yourself.  But before I post them, I test them.  If it’s a bad recipe, I don’t post it. 

I did make some modifications to the online recipe I found…

  • Even though I’m a Southern girl, I just don’t care for Crisco.  For me, it’s not a health thing, it’s a texture thing.  I used Canola Oil instead.  It was a great substitute, but you don’t need as much oil as hydrogenated fat so I accounted for that in the recipe.  Butter would work great also.


  • My biggest change was that I use whole wheat pastry flour.  It has a much lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour and you can use it in all of your baking as a 1:1 substitute for all purpose flour.  If you can’t get your hands on whole wheat pastry flour or it’s more than you’re willing to pay for it, you can use a 1:1 mix of whole wheat flour and cake flour.  In my Baking Mix, I used a mix of regular flour and the whole wheat pastry flour to save a little bit more dough (he he).

I hope you like it:  Whole Wheat Baking Mix.   You can use it just the way that you used Bisquick for all these years: topping pot pies, pancakes, biscuits, etc…

Now, I make pancakes more often.  They’re good for me and the kids gobble them up.

According to my math, this cost me around $0.75/lb.  At Safeway, Bisquick is $1.20/lb.  If you buy the ingredients at your local grocery store, you may not get the savings I do.   But if you have access to bulk goods,  you’ll have a good time saving beaucoups bucks. 

And… no pancake is complete without SYRUP.  But syrup can seriously break the bank!  I like the real deal as much as anyone, but I draw the line somewhere!  $17/pint!  Are you serious?  So I made the Hillbilly Housewife’s homemade syrup .

  • I will use less molasses next time.  You don’t have to use it at all according to the Mapleine recipe. 


  • As a self-respecting Southerner, I cannot condone the use of imitation butter anything.  Instead, I make my mom’s Seleta Syrup… sweet memories.


Have fun saving money! 

Coming soon: homemade laundry detergent and more about how I shop.


Parties on a Budget – Part II

Many of us have children at home, and we like to celebrate their birthdays because it’s one more year we survived parenthood.  We don’t mind footing the bill because watching a bunch of children on a sugar high is really entertaining.  But since a lot of us are trying to cut back, here are a few suggestions on how to save on your next birthday bash. 

House Party.  Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars for someone else to host your party, consider a party at home.  The giant mouse serving pizza and the inflatables place are a ton of fun.  But having a party at home is significantly less expensive.   

“But CnC, I’m afraid of pre-schoolers.  How do I entertain little people at my house?”  Fear not, dear reader, I have some ideas.

Set a time limit.  Parents understand that children under the age of 23 have a very short attention span.  In your invitation, tell your guests that the party is only two hours: “Time: 2-4pm”.  If you were hosting your party elsewhere, they would set a time limit so the same goes for your house. 

Limit Your Guest List.  Keep it to kids in your children’s age bracket and not necessarily the whole neighborhood.  The more folks you choose to entertain, the more expensive your party will be.  People that you don’t spend much time with will understand that they may not be invited to your party.  But don’t leave out your regular associations. 

Choose Your Focus.  If your child wants to invite the whole class, make sure that the entertainment is the focus, not the food.  You’ll get bigger bang for your buck if you spend your money facilitating a good time than on food.  Most people (adults included) don’t get as excited about good food as I do.

Entertainment Stations.  Set up an entertainment circuit so that children can be entertained longer (an idea from Amy H.).

  • Indoors: play doh, blocks, balloon keep it up, coloring, video games, etc…
  • Outdoors: anything with water, bubbles, golf, bean bag toss

Plan Ahead.  You can gather items for your party when they’re on sale (yes, this goes for all parties).  Last year, my daughter’s first birthday was in August so I bought ice cream in April… seriously!  QFC had single serve Hagen Dasz for $0.50!  So I bought 40 of them.  If you’re planning on serving something specific for a party and you have a place to store it, stock up now and spread out the expense over several months! 

Do it yourself.  A large cake from Costco is about $18.  Two cake mixes on sale and homemade frosting is less than $5… think of all of the party food you can make for $13! (or maybe you can’t, but keep reading.)  Obviously it’s easier to buy a cake and serve it, but I find frosting a cake relaxing.  It can be done a day ahead of time!  If you can make all of the food items for your party and limit the convenience items, you’ll save a bundle. 

Party Favors.  If you plan ahead, you can get toys at steep discounts the day after a major holiday including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, etc…  Just because it’s red doesn’t mean that everyone will know you bought it after Valentine’s day.  Hide them in your party box and save it for the next kid party at your house.  They have bubbles, Play-Doh, trinkets, and candy for pennies on the dollar.  From what I can tell, Halloween is your best bet. Thanks for the idea, Marcy!

 Homemade Favors.  If you didn’t stock up after the last major holiday, make something.  Put together a sugar cookie mix for kids to make at home.  Make new crayons from old ones.  Put together an age appropriate dance mix.  Make homemade play-doh with your birthday boy or girl.  Be creative!  The parents will be grateful for your inventiveness… it adds to the charm!

 Beverages.  One of your biggest party expenditures is beverages.  Individual juice boxes or sodas are spendy.  Get reusable cups and send kids home with that as part of their goody bag.  They’re available on your baby gear aisle at the store or on Oriental Trading Company’s website.  Serve watered down juice to toddlers (their mommies do at home) and serve Kool-Aid instead of soda to older children.  At our house, we usually serve water. 

 Food.  Schedule your party for a non-meal time and you’re not expected to serve a meal.  If you think cake and ice cream aren’t enough, a big bowl of homemade popcorn and a cheese platter you sliced yourself will please a crowd.  If you are going to serve a meal, make a big sandwich instead of ordering it (right, Amanda?), have the kids make their own mini pizzas (you already have my crust recipe), or grill up some on-sale hot dogs.  Junk food is allowed!  Nutritional value is important for your daily diet but not essential for a party. 

Don’t Forget the Adults.  You may be so excited about having 30 – 4 year olds that you forgot that their mommies and daddies will be there as well.  Have some grown-up (and probably more expensive) snacks available in an undisclosed location.  My first post about parties may give you some ideas.  The parents will appreciate a chance to get away from the noise and chaos that surrounds a “kid party”. 

It’s your party!  These are my ideas for saving money on a party because I love to enertain, but I choose what is important to me to spend my money on .   You may decide on a “green” party with little or no waste or gourmet food to showcase your very own test kitchen.  Then again, you may just want to send all the kids outside to rented bouncy house.  If you focus on your guests’ good time, you can’t go wrong!

Foamy Soap

While I’m working on my next long post (I’ve got two in the works), I thought I’d share this little tidbit…

I love foaming hand soap.  I love that it is now available in most public restrooms.  I love it because it doesn’t leave behind a residue or too much soap smell.  I feel like my hands are really clean. 

As you probably know, you can buy foaming hand soap at the store now.  But did you know that you don’t have to buy the manufacturer refills? 

“But CnC, how do you get foam without paying for it?”  Fear not, dear reader, I’ll tell you my secret.

Foaming hand soap is made from a specialized dispenser and diluted soap.  You will have to buy the dispenser.  I like Dial’s.  On sale, it’s around $1.25.

Once you’ve bought one for each of the sinks in your house, you can refill them with your own diluted soap.  I mix mine in the soap dispenser.  I put around 1/2 inch of soap on the bottom and fill the rest up with water.  There is usually a fill line on your soap dispenser.  Replace the lid and shake shake shake.  You’re done shaking when you can no longer see the difference between soap and water.   

Soap is less expensive when bought in  large containers.  But if you have a favorite scent, buy it in the smaller containers (on sale, with a coupon) and use that for your refill bottle.  It’s still less expensive than full-strength soap.  I’ve been using the same gallon-sized soap refill for almost 6 years now… and we wash our hands A LOT. 

May you save more so you can give more away!!!

Parties on a Budget – Part I

Summer has begun.  Well, not officially until the 21st, but we’ve had unseasonably BEAUTIFUL summer-like weather in the Pacific Northwest.  It makes me want to entertain!  My husband re-landscaped our yard last year, and it’s so much fun to share it with others.  Then again, entertaining can be spendy.  Some of us may hold off because we can’t throw the epic parties that we’ve thrown in the past.  However, I don’t want anyone to think is that they can’t throw a party… on a budget. 

“But CnC, how can I throw a party without breaking the bank?”  Fear not, dear readers, I can help.

Plan Ahead.  You can gather items for your party when they’re on sale. I saw a pack of 50 black napkins for $1.50 on clearance the other day… that’s cheaper than the dollar store (20 for $1).  You can use black for almost any occasion. 

Do It Yourself.  Any prepared food you buy will cost you significantly more than if you do it yourself.  Make meatballs ahead of time and freeze them.  Make a cheese ball instead of buying it.  That will save you a bundle in the end. 

Downgrade.  Maybe you want to serve steaks and burgers; but if money is tight, hot dogs and brats are great!  People don’t expect gourmet at your backyard barbeque.  And homemade potato salad will go a long way!

Clean for a week.  Don’t put yourself through the stress of food and cleaning on the day of.  You can scrub the toilet a day or two ahead of time… how dirty can it get in two days?  If you dust the house top to bottom three or four days beforehand, you’re only touching up on party day.   I work systematically room by room and make sure the whole room is clean top to bottom.  Then, after each room is clean, the house is clean.  Trust me, someone will notice the dust on the china hutch, the scuff marks on the wall, and the clutter on the counter.  A clean house is a welcoming house.

Paper and Plastic and Glass.  We had an indoor gathering at our house a while ago.  I opted to serve beverages in my glasses instead of expensive plastic cups.  It didn’t matter that the glasses didn’t match because people were drinking different things.  I have 4 pilsner glasses that I picked up at an Estate sale for $0.50 each, 4 white wine and 4 red wine glasses that were wedding presents, and then I have 4 beer mugs too.  Some of the guys drank beer out of bottles so there were plenty to go around. 

Since I don’t have enough small plates, I got a pack of 20 paper plates at the dollar  store for – you guessed it –  $1.  If I had enough “real” plates for the number of people coming, I would definitely have used those instead.  And since I entertain regularly,  I will buy a set of 20 plain small plates for $0.50 (or less) each when I see them at an Estate Sale.  You should too!  Think of it as an investment in future fun!  I would never pay more than $1 for a plate because the Dollar Store has some really cute ones (right, Laura?).

Then, I used paper napkins leftover from my last party.  They didn’t match so I didn’t put them next to each other on the buffet.   If your friends judge you for mis-matched napkins, maybe they aren’t your friends.  I do usually buy solid colored napkins to limit the distraction.   I prefer paper napkins because I don’t want to wash cloth ones.

Dinner not included.  Dinner parties are great for a small group but usually way too spendy for a large gathering.   Schedule the party later in the evening or in the middle of the afternoon to avoid the expectation of a sit-down meal.  Most people only expect munchies not a whole meal when they come to your house for a party anyway, but specify what you’re serving in the invitation if you think there may be confusion.

BYO… whatever.  If you don’t want to spend all of your money, have others contribute to the spread.  There are people out there who want to show off their culinary talent even at your house.  Personally, I like it when my food is the feature at my house, and my guests can bring beverages (they’re usually the biggest expenditure).   Whatever your preference is, specify it in the invitation. 

Have Backup.  I learned this one the hard way.  Even if you specify for others to contribute to the party, they may not know how to read.  It happened to me … no one brought beverages!  I didn’t have enough beer to share.  I didn’t have enough soda to go around.  And the liquor store was closed.  Eeek!  Thank goodness I had half of a bottle of Rum and some juice to mix up some Rum Punch.   One of my personal favorites is Sangria.  And my friend, Amanda, serves a pretty mean Cosmo Punch.

I also suggest food for back up.  Your guests may come hungrier than you planned for.   That same night no one brought beverages, I’m glad I had an extra bag of chips to share and some frozen cookie dough to pop in the oven.  Popcorn would’ve been the next trick out of the hat. 

Cheap and Plentiful.  While it would be great to have enough prosciutto wrapped pears for everyone to have 3 or 4 servings each, prosciutto is expensive!  Serve cheap, hearty, tasty food… like potato skins and stuffed mushroomsChex Mix is inexpensive when you plan ahead and pair up sales and coupons… oh, leave out the nuts and substitute goldfish crackers for the bagel chips to save cash.

Entertainment.  Most of your guests are just looking for a chance to get out of the house and are probably not expecting live entertainment.  If you’re afraid that there won’t be anything for your guests to “do”, or if there’s a lull in conversation because people don’t know one another, there are a few crowd pleasers that I’ve used in the past.  Apples to Apples is a fun word game that doesn’t require a table to play at.  Cranium is also quite entertaining for a group because you can split up into teams (we set up the board in the middle of the room on a TV tray).   But if everyone is having a great time, leave the games in the game closet.  If your game closet doesn’t have group games, you can sometimes find them at thrift stores and garage sales for 90% off retail price.

Share the fun (and the expense).  If you and someone else want to entertain a group of mutual friends together, share the expense.   She’ll clean her house and you cook up a storm… or whatever!  People like entertaining, but don’t always like the nitty gritty (I do, but I’m strange that way).  So be creative and have fun. 

Have fun.  A clean and welcoming house is what your guests will remember!!! 


Do you have any great party recipes to share?