Ah, the nip in the air, the leaves turning brilliant shades of lush crimson, burnished gold and tawny browns…yes, fall is right around the corner and with it, a ton of ways to spend too much money. Notice that the big guns are out spending millions to try and entice you to buy their giant pumpkin coffee drinks? And now pumpkin doughnuts? the coffee drinks cost more than $5 and doughnuts are at least a dollar each (and nobody buys just one, trust me on this). So, what’s a frugal friend to do?
Fight back. You can enjoy all the sights, smells, flavors and fun of fall without spending a fortune. Some ideas below:
1. Make your own coffee drink. It costs pennies and literally takes two minutes to make. Quick frugal recipe: Take one cup strong hot coffee and mix in a cup of milk, two tablespoons of pumpkin puree, a splash of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice (recipe follows). Use the blender if you are in a rush or can be made the night before and heated up. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with more pumpkin spice. Cheap and actually tastes as good as the store bought variety. Shortcut: Freeze tablespoon quantities of pureed pumpkin in ice cube trays and quickly defrost in the microwave what I need to use.
2. Pumpkin spice recipe: I use a lot of pumpkin spice mix in the fall and winter months. A lot. I’ve also seen those mixes for upwards of $6 and more. No thanks. From my own spice pantry, I can whisk together pumpkin spice mix while making dinner. Whisk together: 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon each: ground nutmeg, allspice, ground ginger and some ground cloves to taste. I adore the strong, distinctive of cloves so I usually add a couple of teaspoons but this is one spice that some people find off putting. Not me, I adore cloves. Store the mix in a clean glass jar (mason jars are perfect for storing your own spice blends) and use freely. Hello fall.
3. Pumpkin doughnuts. Honestly, why would you spend an arm and a leg on store bought doughnuts when you can bake (yes, bake not fry) your own in minutes?
Ingredients: 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice mix, tablespoon baking power, 1 teaspoon fine grain salt. Whisk dry ingredients together.
2 cups pumpkin puree blended with 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3 large eggs.
Mix dry and wet ingredients together to form a smooth batter. Spoon into doughnut pans, greased, and bake at 350-F in a preheated oven for 15 minutes until done.
Invert pans to allow doughnuts to be removed from the pans. When still warm, brush with melted butter (you will need about a 1/3 cup melted) and dip in 1/2 sugar mixed with another tablespoon of pumpkin spice mix.
Pumpkin Muffins: Riffing on my The Possibilities Are Endless Muffins, you can make your own pumpkin muffins easily.
The Possibilities Are Endless Muffins
Base Recipe Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs a room temperature
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice mix
Method: Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside. Whip the butter and sugar together, adding in one egg at a time until incorporated. Milk wet with dry ingredients, leaving the milk and then flavor options for last. Spoon into 15 to 18 greased muffin tins (making sure not to fill more than 2/3’s full) and bake for 22 minutes in a 350-F deg preheated oven. Best served warm with butter mixed with a bit of cinnamon.