A Very DIY Thanksgiving

TdayDecor

My random Tday decor. Yes that is a tank piston.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It’s been a very DIY Thanksgiving here at the Frugalwoods, which I’m sure comes as a surprise to zero people. We’re hosting family and in preparation, last weekend Mr. Frugalwoods and I: cleaned the entire house, laundered all the guest bedding (and ours too for good measure), baked 4 pies and 1 pumpkin cake, did prep work on the Thanksgiving feast (made artisan bread dough, prepared fresh homemade cranberry sauce, and whipped together a compound herb butter to massage onto the turkey bird).

BathHound

The tragedy of Frugal Hound in the bath

Plus, we cleaned and vacuumed our car (no small feat when living in the city sans a driveway), I gave Mr. FW a haircut, and as Frugal Hound shared on Monday, she was bathed (amidst much protest and general pitifulness).

If this isn’t enough, Mr. Frugalwoods finished drywalling and painting a wall in our kitchen and completely removed and replaced the shower mixer valve spindle assembly, which decided Sunday morning would be the perfect time to break.

Check out that sweet wall!

Check out Mr. FW’s sweet wall!

And you know what? We had a great time doing it all. There were a few moments of poor decision-making as far as foul language is concerned and I may or may not have dropped a bottle of windex on the sidewalk as I bundled the car mats into the house for a vacuuming (seriously, the absence of a driveway yields a whole new level of car care), but, we had fun!

I talked about the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from honestly exerting yourself towards tangible goals in The Zen Of Vacuuming and I had more than a few zen-like moments amidst this flurry of work. I also nearly ruined the traditional family pie (Shoo Fly) by forgetting to add the topping before it fully baked, but Mr. FW stepped in with a genius strategy to stick ’em under the  broiler, which worked.

Pies! And a pumpkin crisp cake!

Pies! And a pumpkin crisp cake!

We didn’t reflect on this until after we’d done all the work, but, we realized that the majority of people who have a dual income household would pay other people to do some (if not all) of this work for them. Most folks we know would’ve dropped their car off to be cleaned, taken their houndlet to the hound spa, gone to the barber for their haircut, called a plumber for their shower valve, purchased their pies, and brought in a drywall crew for their kitchen wall.

Mr. FW the impromptu plumber

Mr. FW the impromptu plumber

But by doing all of this ourselves, we not only saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, we learned new skills. We expanded the repertoire of things we, as humans, know how to do! That’s pretty cool when you think about it. Once we’re on the homestead, we’ll HAVE to flex these DIY muscles and figure our own stuff out, so why not start now.

Butter compound in progress!

Compound herb butter in progress!

For the record–the pies taste swell, the hound smells delightful, the wall is plumb and perfect, the shower works, Mr. FW’s hair is stylin’, the car is detritus free, the haus is the cleanest it’s ever been (UNDER the beds, people, I vacuumed UNDER there!), and the food is cooked.

Oh and hosting family for a week and feeding everyone? No big deal with frugal chieftain chef Mr. FW at the helm. He managed to purchase the entire retinue of foodstuffs for a cool $177.50 for the entire week (averages out to $3.22/person per meal). This total includes: the feast, the roast beast (actually a turkey), the wine, the lunches, the breakfasts, the coffee, the cranberries, and all the fixins’. Bam.

Pies in the oven (and I now see that I forgot the topping...)

Pies in the oven (and I now see that I forgot the topping…)

And now, we’re enjoying a delightful holiday with our family here at our home. It really is possible to be frugal in all things. You don’t need to avoid a holiday or shy away from hosting–you can make it happen thrifty-style.

I wish you all a wonderful, warm, and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving! Thank you for reading Frugalwoods. I’m glad you’re here.

What do you do yourself that others pay for? How’s the Thanksgiving week going for you?

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82 Responses

  1. Mrs. PoP says:

    Mr PoP fixed a shower this weekend too! (Broken valve causing a leaky shower head in one of our rental units.) He was very proud that he was able to figure out how to do it and get the job done without calling a plumber even when the problem turned out to be “the hard version” of the problem instead of “the easy version”. The way we figure it, we have 6 of these showers that we are responsible for (10 if you include those locally belonging to the in-laws since we look after their places sometimes) and the rest will break someday too. So the time to learn the fix should be well worth it the next time(s) one breaks.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Definitely. With ours, it was actually cheaper to buy the entire valve assembly rather than just the replacement worn out parts. So now I have a bag of parts in the basement for when the other shower breaks too!

      It wasn’t as difficult as I feared, but it was pretty gnarly. I was concerned that I would break something off inside the wall with how hard I needed to torque.

  2. Mrs. Bug says:

    I actually attempted to bake my own pumpkin cheesecake last night rather than order it like I have in previous years. Saved $40. Fingers crossed it turned out okay because I am NOT a baker. That’s awesome that you were able to purchase food for an entire week for less than $200. Congrats!

  3. Kirsten says:

    i have totally given up on keeping our truck clean. With two kids and a bunch of ice and snow 6 months a year, it’s just not possible. When we get gas, I throw out trash. That’s that’s best it gets. There is food my oldest has tossed all over the back floorboard, but it’s frozen in place. So. Yeah.

    We would have joined you in fixing the shower ourselves, but as Biscuit explained in his interview, he does go to a “spa”. It was either that or give him away. But we’ve been DIY dog groomers prior to our experience with him. I cut my girls’ hair but not hubby’s. And u bake my pies since I’m vegan and don’t have much opportunity to purchase my holiday meal 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh Biscuit you lucky dog :)! And, I think throwing out trash at the gas station sounds like a good strategy. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Kirsten 🙂

  4. Alicia says:

    Whenever I am in the Boston area, or when you’re out on the homestead, you’re making me pie! Those are drool-worthy 🙂

    We do a lot of those things as well: D cuts his own hair, I bathe the cats and trim their claws, I fix small DIY stuff, we clean out the car (but we splurge and spend $2 on the heavy-duty vacuum at a DIY car cleaning place), etc. I can’t imagine calling someone in all the time for every little thing – but I think my ideal Christmas gift would be a heavy-duty, deep cleaning of the apartment… I don’t want to do it over the holidays, but I know I will end up doing myself rather than relaxing 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I would LOVE to bake you some pies! As long as you make me those Reese’s cupcakes…. mmm. Oh I’m with you on the cleaning–I always try to scrub everything beforehand, otherwise I’ll be trying to clean the whole time!

  5. Sandi says:

    Y’all are amazing – Happy Thanksgiving to all the Frugalwoods!!

  6. thegoblinchief says:

    I do pretty much everything myself, or with the help of my BIL, who’s handier (and older, so more experienced) than myself. About the only thing I’ve full-on admitted defeat with is vehicle suspensions.

    I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write about Thanksgiving on my blog yet, even though it’s my favorite holiday, but the week is going well. Biked 18 miles RT to the cheap grocery store, wondered why it was so crowded, then went “oooh, that’s right, it’s crazy week.” Still was in and out with food and booze in 20 minutes tops. Stick to the list people!

    Today is pepitas and pie day for me. I bought booze to start a few more batches of vanilla extract to be ready by Christmas-time, so I’ll need to get on that as well, since it takes a good month to be ready.

    • thegoblinchief says:

      Forgot to add that the pumpkins for the pie were home grown for another level of DIY-ness 🙂

      • Nice work with the mixer valve. We had to repalce ours recently too, but it took us months of cold showers before we got around to it.

        Turned out we had some brand no one had ever seen before so we had to replace the whole thing. Which resulted in a leak right before we went to the cottage, which meant that we turned the AC on for the first time that summer to dehumidify the house the week we weren’t even there.

        Now we have a big hole in the closet behind the shower and the hot water come on first instead of the cold. But we’re not really motivated to touch it again, haha. So ya, we do DIY but we’re not the best at it…

        • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

          Yeah, we lucked out by having a very common model Symmons shower valve. I don’t have access to the back side of that wall, so if I needed to replace the entire valve I would be tearing out tile. Not something I was jazzed to do right before thanksgiving!

      • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

        Whoah. Homemade pumpkin homemade pie. That’s seriously awesome! My neighbor was telling me the other day that she tried making pies with fresh roasted pumpkin and had a hard time getting enough moisture out of them. Did you just roast them for long enough that they weren’t soupy?

        • Thegoblinchief says:

          My recipe involves cooking the pumpkin over medium-high heat to carmelize the sugars and dry it out slightly. Store pumpkin in the can takes 10 minutes. Homemade purée from fresh roasted takes about 15 minutes. I also slightly reduced the amount of dairy added to the final mixture, but otherwise it’s the same pie.

          Another way I use pumpkin is the pan-fried pumpkin pancake recipe on my blog, and there the homemade purée with no modification is vastly superior to the canned stuff. Better flavor and a much better texture, which makes sense since I originally got the recipe from a homesteading book, which would have used homemade purée too 😉

        • Katherine says:

          We make pie (and pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin butter) from fresh (but not homegrown) pumpkin. We just drain out the mashed roasted pumpkin before measuring it for the pie. My husband wraps it in cheesecloth and ties it to a kitchen cabinet handle so it can drain out over a bowl.

  7. I’ve learned to replace the lights on our cars. I’m embarrassed that I paid people in the past to do it. I can’t do electrical work. I do all our yard stuff since I’ve learned that for years. I’ll usually try everything myself first, but I don’t want to royally mess things up. Sometimes you just have to admit it would be better for others to do things. Have a great Thanksgiving.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Happy Thanksgiving to you! I definitely agree that everyone needs to find their level of comfort with DIY. We don’t do much car stuff since it would be a pain in the butt to work on the car while it is parked on the street (no driveways!)

  8. This is our first year roasting a turkey! We are not, however, making a pie, because they are on sale for $3 at Sprouts and we’re not martyrs!

    Mr. FP cuts our boys’ hair, but we get ours cut. He is EXTREMELY particular about his (way too much responsibility) and I favor a chin-length blunt cut, which looks awful if cut without sufficient expertise. (I’ve tried growing it out. It wasn’t pretty!)

    We are still just learning to flex our DIY muscles, but I did install my own studded bike tire this week! And I de-greased the chain and am in the process of trying to diagnose a slipping problem.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job of getting your DIY muscles in shape! Good luck with your turkey bird today, I’m sure it’ll be scrumptious 🙂

  9. The Pies look awesome. I applaud you for all the cleaning, before a holiday it can get hectic but hosting always lights a fire under your frugalbum. Thanks for making me hungry for pie, its only 920 in the morning.

  10. I want to eat those pies for you! They are tough to look at at 7:30 in the morning while contemplating oatmeal.

  11. Mrs. Maroon says:

    Out of curiosity… what does your menu look like to achieve such an incredible grocery bill for the week? Also, do you travel with your mad cleaning skills??

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Our menu is pretty traditional:

      10lb turkey, dry brined and rubbed with a herb compound butter
      Turkey stock for gravy made from giblets
      Sage and brown butter mashed potatoes
      Shaved brussel sprout salad
      Sausage stuffing
      Homemade yeast rolls
      Homemade cranberry sauce

      Pretty simple, but darned delicious!

  12. Can you email me the recipe for the pumpkin crisp cake? That sounds and looks delicious!! And I am super impressed with you that your prep is already underway. I have people coming over tomorrow and I am hoping to start about 2pm today. I hope you all have a wonderful day tomorrow!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      The pumpkin pie cake recipe I used is roughly this one.

      It’s super simple and really tasty! Good luck with your prep and happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  13. I cut my husband’s hair, but I feel grateful that I am in a position that I can pick and choose what to save money on and what I prefer others to do for me–such as cleaning the house.

  14. I love Thanksgiving! It’s fun to get the house and food ready the night before. And yes, I agree–there’s something to be gained in DIY aside from the money.
    Also, can I just say, your pies (and kitchen) look spectacular. How often do you use your Kitchenaid mixer?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you for your kind words!! We use the Kitchenaid mixer quite frequently–Mr. FW makes all of our bread and uses it for that. Plus, anytime we bake a dessert or similar item. It’s pretty fun to use, I must say :). Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. Tawcan says:

    We had our Thanksgiving last month and had a great time cooking and baking ourselves. It’s more fun doing things yourself than buying them. DIY is totally the way to go. Your pies look great, when are we readers getting invited over for dessert? 😀

  16. Looks like you guys really put some work and effort into your Thanksgiving prep! My wife and I try to DIY whenever possible. We do all the “basic” stuff that is a bit easier to DIY – landscaping, painting, etc., but I also have dabbled in all the “basic electrical” work like swapping in new outlets, fixtures, etc. as well as some basic plumbing. If I wasn’t constrained by time I’d probably attempt to do just about every project possible. Hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      The basic trades stuff is a great way to save money. Swapping outlets or light fixtures is really easy, but an electrician will happily charge you $125/hr to do the same work. It’s a pretty great ROI to do it yourself.

      Even more complicated trades stuff can be made much cheaper if you do all the prep work and easy stuff before the tradesman arrives. Ideally you don’t want your expensive plumber spending time disconnecting your toilet or busting concrete. Make him work only on the hard stuff 🙂

  17. Sarah says:

    Your pies look amazing!!! I made a pumpkin cheesecake yesterday and sampled a piece 🙂 It turned out delicious!!

    Wow – $177 on food for the week is amazing! We spent $80 on food just for Thanksgiving (and there are only four of us, two of which are babies lol). We should have enough leftovers to last us til next week, though!

    Let’s see – as far as doing things ourselves – I got lucky in that I married a handyman. He fixes everything and we try to be as frugal as possible. The one thing we did pay for, though, when living in AZ was landscaping. It’s 115 in the summers and we figured it was worth it for us to pay someone to do it rather than be outside sweating all day. Here in NC when we buy a house we plan on doing it ourselves.

    Hope you are having a blast with your family and wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving!!

    • Andrew says:

      I live in AZ now… Everyone pays for their gardening out here. Back east it’s totally different.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Mmm pumpkin cheesecake–one of my faves! Leftovers are a wonderful thing 🙂 And, way to go on your husband being handy! It’s a true blessing! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  18. Way to go learning to do all those things yourselves! You’re definitely saving a pretty penny. I’m making my very own vegetable tray for Thanksgiving … does that count?! Lol! I also clean my own house, we started mowing our own lawn, I even iron, yep! The hubster puts the Christmas lights up on the house but after falling off the ladder the other day, ahem, I’m wondering if we’ll be paying for that service some day.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Falling off the ladder–oh no!! Hope he’s OK! We actually solve that problem by not putting lights on the top of our house. I really don’t want Mr. FW up there on the roof, I’m terrified! Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving 🙂

  19. We had to do everything for ourselves for so long that now we don’t see the point of paying others to do just about anything except things we seriously have no clue about, like reducing our 3 car garage to a 2 car garage so that we’d have more driveway space (too long of a story to explain). You guys are so far ahead of most people!

    Happy Thanksgiving Frugal Woodses, one and all! 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a great point Kay–when you know you have to do it yourself, by gosh, you’re going to figure it out! Your garage/driveway situation sounds intriguing… I’m curious now :)! Hope you and Jay have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  20. Andrew says:

    So when the Windex was pouring out onto the sidewalk were you yelling “NOOOOOOOOOOO” while you heard a cash register ringing in your head?

    Did you try to dry up the drained Windex w/a sponge and then squeeze the sponge pickup back into the bottle?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      HAH! It actually didn’t spill, which was fortunate. The bottle flew out of my hands and landed on our relatively busy sidewalk. I couldn’t pick it up in the moment because I was carrying so much stuff and had to return later to collect it. I was afraid someone was going to pull a Frugalwoods and think it was a Great Trash Find :)!

  21. Cindy says:

    Did you make the pie dough using the KitchenAid? Some people told me that they didn’t get good results when they tried it… When I did it looked fine enough to me, but I’m not too picky as long as the food taste good, especially if it saves me time.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I actually 100% cheat and buy cheap frozen pre-made pie crusts! They taste pretty good though! Everything else is made from scratch, but those pie crusts sure are easy to buy frozen 🙂

  22. Kassandra says:

    My husband took care of our drafty front door today while I cut his hair with the razor we bought years ago. He hasn’t visited a barber since he met me so at $15 a pop…that’s a heck of a lot of money saved. The major thing we don’t handle is engine/transmission repairs on the cars but DH will research his heart out to identify any car sounds or issues and deal with it himself. We will always consider trying to handle something on our own before spending for assistance. Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s some nice DIY action! We love to do the math on Mr. FW’s haircuts too. He needs them about twice a month (since it’s a short buzz cut) and his barber charges $18!! He went to the barber a total of one time before we realized we could do them in house 🙂 Hope you and DH have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  23. I wish I could come to your house for Thanksgiving. I’d keep the dog entertained (or maybe it’s the other way around). I love your kitchen BTW. Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I wish you could come too! You’re invited for next year :)! Thanks for the kitchen compliment–we’re pretty happy with how it has turned out. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  24. I keep meaning to tell you, whenever you share pictures of the house, that it looks so nice and cozy! I’m sure you’ll have no problem renting it when the time comes. Four pies and a cake, on top of all the other food?! Whew. I am so not a chef, and very thankful we’ll probably never host Thanksgiving, as reading all the work you did left me tired. =) Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much!! You’re too kind! We were definitely a little tired on Sunday night, but all worth it in the end. Hope you have a lovely engaged Thanksgiving 😉

  25. Mr. 1500 says:

    How did you guys come across a friggin’ tank piston? That is awesome! I want one.

    Happy Thanksgiving to the Frugalwoods family! It has been a pleasure getting to know you over the past year.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I gave Mr. FW the tank piston (from a flea market) for Christmas back when we were dating and it has since become an integral part of our decor :).

      Been wonderful getting to know you too! Hope you and the Mrs, your girls, and Frugalsaurus all have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

  26. Two questions: 1) Where did you find a tank piston? 2) Do you want to send me one for Christmas?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahah! It’s from a flea market–not sure I could ever find another one, but go for it! It’s a Soviet T72 tank piston that was used in Eastern Europe 🙂

  27. Trista says:

    I’m a little late… Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you had a great one!

  28. Even Steven says:

    Sounds like you guys had a very frugalwoods thanksgiving, sounds great. DIY a phrase that get’s missed out on so many times, from laundry to a dog walker, we try to go the DIY route, working at getting better at some of the handyman type stuff each day.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It was pretty great! DIY is definitely the way to go and, you’re right, a lot of folks don’t even bother trying to do stuff themselves. Best of luck with the handyman stuff–YouTube is really our saving grace.

  29. Happy Thanksgiving, Frugalwoods! We are like you guys in that we do almost everything ourselves, and by ourselves I mean my husband does everything handy and I clean like a mad women!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awesome! A division of labor is key in running a household–enables people to specialize in their respective tasks.

  30. Happy Thanksgiving, Frugalwoods! I have to say your house is just gorgeous!! It sounds like you’ve been super productive, which is always wonderful. I hope you have a great weekend!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! We love our house and so far, all the improvements we’ve done have worked and not broken anything 🙂

  31. Your kitchen looks so beautiful and clean. The dish looks so yummy! Happy Thanksgiving Frugalwoods! I hope you maintain your kitchen after the occasion. 😀

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you!! We do keep a clean kitchen since we’re both neat freaks. Mr. FW is the tidiest cook I’ve ever seen… it’s pretty great!

  32. ooooo KitchenAid! and pumpkin pies… omg so rare to find here in the UK, YUM!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love pumpkin! Too bad they’re not common for you–they’re ubiquitous at this time of year over here. Thanks for stopping by!

  33. My husband is a carpenter so he does pretty much all of the trades work around the house (that he can actually do, so no electrical work that is complicated). It is a wonderful money saver. We also maintain our own cars and I go for just a really long time between haircuts which saves. DIY is the best!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      It saves money, but it’s also really satisfying to complete a job and know it was done right! Must be really nice to have a pro in the house… I spend about 30% of a project’s time watching youtube to figure out how not to screw it up! 🙂

  34. Amazin’! We had the same deal here, and you can’t beat the money savings you get by doing it yourself. And, it usually tastes better too. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Absolutely! The other great thing about homemade food is that you know what all of the ingredients are–a plus in my book!

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