Wedding Wednesday: Finding a Caterer

This week’s “Tying the Knot without Breaking the Bank ” post is a piggyback onto last week’s post where I offered money saving tips when picking a wedding venue.

I recommend checking out the previous posts first, before deciding on anything food related.  It’s key to first know the date and what time of day your wedding will be — this can help you make some food decisions right off the bat. 

So, you’ve picked a date and hopefully a venue at this point (or venues: ceremony and reception).  Now it’s time to focus on that whole feeding-your-wedding guests thing — reception food!  Depending on the limitations of your venue, you may be forced to use one of their preferred vendors.  Such was the case with Josh and I when using the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta.  And this fact almost made me walk away from this venue.

However, I was super honest with the representative at the Foundry, and that made all the difference.  I asked her right up front which of her preferred caterers she thought would be the most reasonable, price-wise.  She gave me two recommendations, one of which I ended up using (Carole Parks Catering — and they did an excellent job).

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

Faced with a morning wedding, we decided on 11:00.  Not too early, but not so late that we were getting married in the middle of lunch time.  Our ceremony was about 45 minutes long, so by the time the chair/table transition happened, everyone was enjoying brunch around 12:00.  Ok, so maybe that’s more of a lunch hour, but I didn’t notice anyone complaining — in fact, we got enough food for about 300 people, about 250 showed up, and there were no leftovers.  So, lots of food that everyone seemed to love and still extremely affordable — because I explained up front that price was one of the most important factors and if they couldn’t work with me, I could work with someone else.  I wasn’t rude about it, but honest.  This polite honesty helped me get an even better price than I anticipated (though I never let on), and it also helped lay the groundwork for a positive rapport between the account executive and I (and this rapport helped us get a few freebies along the way!)

Fortunately, the catering company had an in-house bakery that we were able to take advantage of in the form of a delicious wedding cake with a small price tag (comparatively).

(Picture Time, Part 3!)

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

photo by jk Dallas Photography

However, some catering companies don’t have an in-house bakery or they charge a cake cutting fee or some other such nonsense.  Make sure when making an honest and reasonable budget for food that you consider the cost of a cake and any other dessert you may want (a groom’s cake, for example).

Ok, so aside from getting married on a Sunday morning in January, having a brunch (arguably the lest expensive meal), and using pluck, kindess, and honesty with the caterer, there are additional ways to save money with a wedding:

  • If you’re hosting a backyard wedding (or one at the home of a friend or family member), there’s no reason in the world why you can’t take care of the food yourself!  Go to a warehouse club like Sam’s or Costco (borrow someone’s card if you don’t have your own) and buy whatever you’re wanting in bulk.  The Petersiks over at Young House Love hosted their own backyard barbecue to much success and spent less than $1,000 on food, drinks, and cake (check out their wedding post here).
  • If you’re looking for even bigger savings, perhaps enlist the help of friends and family, potluck style.  Figure out a menu, then approach each individual requesting their help in lieu of a gift.  It’s definitely non-traditional, but it would certainly make for a unique reception, and if you’re clear with your request (“Please make 1 tray of macaroni and cheese?”), then it can still have the finished feel that other catered  receptions have.  However, bear in mind that without a caterer, you also are without a waitstaff, so consider seeking volunteers for this as well (or hire your own) — this is definitely not something you or your parents (and future in-laws) should have to worry about on the big day.
  • It really should go without saying, but a sit down dinner will always cost more than a buffet.  Of course.  And if you’re really seeking to save money, this couldn’t be a more obvious first step to make.  I understand that it’s a regional thing (buffet style is more prevalent in the South, sit down dinners are more prevalent in the North), but I honestly don’t see the harm (or tacky-ness) in allowing people to get food for themselves.  (In fact, I prefer it as a wedding guest.)  This way the guests actually get what they want, and a buffet encourages a more relaxed and social environment (versus sitting in chairs at tables that have been assigned to them).  And if you didn’t want to socialize with friends and family on your wedding day, you would’ve just done the justice of the peace thing, right?
  • It’s a common misconception that hors d’oevres are cheaper than an actual meal (and I mean buffet style, in this instance).  Sometimes hors d’oevres are cheaper, however in the ever evolving foodie world, hors d’oevres are becoming less about tapas/appetizer/small bites o’ food and more about works of art  (those mini grilled cheeses probably took twice as much time to make as that tray of macaroni cheese and probably feed half as many people).  This added labor can up the price quickly… and we don’t like that.  Again, this is not a black and white thing, but don’t assume that hors d’oevres are always the thriftiest option; explore various options with your caterer until you get the price you want.  Which leads me to my next point:
  • Most caterers will do a free estimate for you, which means a sample menu of what you can expect if you choose them (along with a personalized price list based on the size of your event, i.e., the number of guests you expect).  Until you’ve given them a deposit, don’t feel you have some sort of allegiance to anyone, and if they cannot meet your needs in the price range that works for you, don’t feel guilty about walking away.  Be realistic, but be thorough in your search for a good product at a good price.
  • Negotiate.  Don’t be scared.  I didn’t settle with the first estimate I received, however delicious it sounded.  I went through the menu and realized there were some unnecessary things (or foods that most people would probably pass on, therefore potential waste).  I responded with specific suggestions and requests, until we figured out an affordable menu that I thought would actually be enjoyed (much less, eaten).  These little tweaks also helped bring the price down a wee bit… which is always good.
  • Be true to who you are as a couple.  Do you actually like the food you’re serving?  If you were going to celebrate a major accomplishment, would you go out for steak or order a pizza?  I’m not saying call Domino’s to cater your wedding (though that would be undeniably fun), but be honest with your own personal style (and budget limitations) and make food choices that actually make sense with you as a couple.  You will enjoy the day more, and it will be a celebration that’s authentically you. Not to mention your guests will appreciate this and enjoy themselves more.  (Except for Aunt Frances who won’t be able to stop clutching her pearls over… something scandalous.  Who knows what.)
  • Have a tea!  Scones, finger sandwiches, pastries… and tea, of course.  This would be inexpensive, and you wouldn’t have to apologize for it as long as you pick a time of day that’s appropriate to this type of food (so a reception some time between 1:00 and 4:00).  And of course, it’s even better if you give your guests a heads up on the invitation (“Tea reception to follow”), that way they know exactly what to expect and are prepared.
  • Chicken is cheaper than steak or seafood.  And pasta is cheaper than most anything, not to mention it can stretch more.
  • Skip the cocktail hour.  Yes, as the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom), you may want a minute to yourselves to relax, take pictures, bask in newly-wed-ness, but your guests will be perfectly fine without the passed plates and martinis.  They can wait.  And in the mean time, you can provide them with something to do until the food comes out.  We had a wish jar where everyone could write “wishes” for us to read after the wedding (and these “wishes” proved both lovely and humorous).  You could also do a photo booth or an interactive guest book (a videographer interviews your guests).  There are endless possibilities to occupy your guests, so don’t worry about a little extra food that they probably won’t notice anyway (not to mention a cocktail hour requires more waitstaff, i.e., hundreds of more dollars).
  • Consider what foods will be in season when you are getting married, especially certain fruits, which may cost more at different times of the year (as well as flowers — more on that in a few weeks).
  • We had a dry wedding.  Gasp!  Was this our first choice?  Not exactly, but it was the most cost-effective choice (we’re talking the difference of a few thousand dollars with our particular venue), and with a lot of Baptists in the family (I say this with love), paired with the fact that we were getting married on a Sunday morning… yeah, a dry wedding just made the most sense.  If Josh and I had to do it over again, the only thing we would have done differently was celebrated with some of our closest friends at a bar or something afterwards, but this was hardly a thing that ruined the wedding (or so I believe when I look at pictures of my friends dancing like crazy people at the reception).  Again, this being a Sunday morning wedding, this omission was a lot more justifiable than if it was an evening wedding.  My money saving point in all of this is:  a dry wedding is the cheapest, but if you want alcohol at your wedding (beyond a champagne toast), you need to make sure your venue doesn’t make this impossible.  A cash bar is sometimes an option, however there are many sides to this and many people have strong opinions, and in general, a lot of folks out there think a cash bar is… tacky. You know your friends and family, and you can make the final ruling on this, but I knew it wasn’t something I was interested in.
  • Also, venues vary, but be careful of the “we’ll charge per drink”/tally system that some venues do. Limit the alcohol to just the first 2 hours, or just wine and beer, or just a signature (pre-mixed) cocktail.  And if you have a little more freedom, then providing your own alcohol would definitely be more cost-effective (a few kegs and 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe’s — you can’t beat it!).

That’s all the wisdom I have for today (if you can call it that).  Hope these tips help!  And as always, if you’re reading this from a “been there, done that” standpoint and you feel you have a few tips to offer, please do so in the comments section below (or click on the permalink above to be directed to the comments section).  Thanks!

Check out the previous Wedding Wednesday posts:


Setting a Date

Finding a Venue


Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 8: DIY Personalized Dry Erase Boards

***To check out the previous parts in the “Twelve Weeks of Christmas” series, go HERE.

A I mentioned earlier this week in my –LINK–postcard post (ha), I recently realized that I am behind on my twelve weeks of Christmas.  Oops.

That’s why you’ll see this post says “Week 8,” but that’s not exactly true.  However, bear with me, pretend we’re using Hermione’s time turner from Harry Potter, and all will be well.

Today, I have a DIY tutorial for those who are still looking for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  It’s SUPER easy, takes almost no time, and can be personalized in any way you want.  DIY Dry Erase Boards!

I’ve recently become very interested in this idea when I saw a few inspirational ideas on Pinterest:

Source: Little Birdies

Source: The Aesthetic Writer

(I loooove the dry erase calendar idea and this is definitely my next project!)

Pinned Image

Source: Supercalifragilisricexpialadocious

Basically, it’s just a piece of paper in a glass frame, and you use dry erase markers on the glass.  EASY!

So, with one particular gift recipient in mind, one unused frame, and a little bit of word processor magic, I made one!

DIY to do list dry erase board

I used the “Angelic War” font found here (free for personal use) and made the “To Do” list using a white 8 1/2″ X 11″ sheet of paper.

Here’s the step by step:

1. I started with a picture frame that had a motivational message on it.  It was a gift at some point, but we’ve never found a place for it, so we kept the message but used the frame.  I figured it was time for the frame to get a promotion.

2.  I removed the hardware in the back so I could remove the original picture:

3.  Next I printed out the page to be inserted into the frame.  I now the inspirational images used colored or patterned paper, however I know this is going to a room that has colored/textured walls, so I thought something simpler would be more appropriate.  The dry erase markers can provide the color.

Here’s a close-up:

4.  Because my frame is 8″ X 10″, but the paper is 81/2″ X 11,” I traced around the frame insert so that it fit perfectly:

5.  Next, I framed the page and re-attached the hardware.

Here’s what happened when I was allowed to play with the dry erase markers:

diy dry erase board to do list


And here’s the document, if you want to copy it yourself (and perhaps use more exciting paper):

To Do List template

Obviously, the personalization possibilities are endless!  Here are a few more ideas that I’ve come up using the same method:

  • framing scrapbook or wrapping paper
  • using old newspaper (like the stocks or classifieds section)
  • making the header a monogram
  • printing a watermark on the page
  • making a border out of comics or pretty paper, in lieu of a matte
  • attaching flowers, medallions, ribbon, or other small details to the frame
  • making a frame for “Inspirational Quotes”
  • making a frame for the letter, number, or word of the day for children learning to read and write
  • various kinds of to do lists including “To Buy” or “Future Projects”
  • for kids: frame a simple outline of a body and let kids draw on the clothes, hair, and background scene (like dry erase paper dolls)
  • homework list
  • weekly and monthly calendar
  • daily workout/nutrition plan, i.e., number of reps, servings of vegetables, et al.
Those are just a few ideas that come to mind — hopefully you found them helpful!

You might also like:

a nap

Happy Birthday to Teresa!

It’s my mom’s birthday, y’all!

For those of you who may have missed previous posts, my mom is a) awesome, b) a ginger penny pincher (well, more an auburn penny pincher), and c) SUPER crafty (she’s an artist and art educator).  Aside from being a wonderful and nurturing mother, wife, and citizen, she is involved in 4,000 clubs/organizations/foundations all with philanthropic goals.

(Ok, not 4,000, but it sure seems like it.)

Furthermore, when it comes to causes she is passionate about, she is a warrior, especially in regards to the opportunities and education of my brother, Derek, who has autism.

(Who, by the way, was diagnosed with autism in 1979, wayyyy before the government “declared war” on it and it was such a trendy “-ism” to have.  At that time, it was not uncommon to mis-diagnose someone with autism as being schizophrenic or having mental retardation, so my parents had a serious battle ahead of them.)

Yeah, she’s pretty swell (by the way, my dad is amazing too, but his birthday is not until March 26th:) ).

And like I mentioned, she’s CRAZY-crafty. Here is a list of just a few of her skills:

  • painting
  • drawing
  • stained glass
  • ceramics
  • pottery
  • sewing
  • needlepoint
  • embroidery
  • calligraphy
  • print-making
  • quilting
  • knitting
  • thrifting
  • couponing
  • antiquing
  • upholstering
  • and everything crafty in between…
My skill set is abysmally shorter.  My mother attempted to teach me her many skills but I was always too lazy, stubborn, or snippety (or a combination of the three).  Sigh…

Not only is my mother (half) responsible for my existence, she is also responsible for a lot of the fabulous things in my home.  So… today I’m gonna do a little show-and-tell with some things from previous posts (and some new things as well).  Enjoy!

First, we have the Mr. and Mrs. pillows:

Mr. and Mrs. pillows

Mr. and Mrs. pillows

I had the idea after seeing a similar thing at Ballard Backroom when I lived in Atlanta.  (Which, by the way, if you live in the Atlanta area you should totally check out!  They carry items that have been discontinued as well as floor samples for sale.  Amazing.  And guess who first told me about this store?  You got it: Teresa Foster.)

The inspiration looked like this:

I like these, but not so much the burlap thing (ow!) and I definitely didn’t like the price.  Even though Ballard Backroom has some amazing deals, these particular pillows were like $40 each.  And you can hardly get a Mrs. without a Mr., so I passed on these (but not without snapping a sneaky-snake picture on my camera phone).

I’d mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make these, and she immediately began to brainstorm with me on the best (and thriftiest) options.  We used a Joann’s coupon (thanks to my mom) and bought some white duck cloth (super cheap!).  I talked about using stencils, but my other scoffed at such an idea and decided to free hand it herself with some lime green fabric paint.  Employing her fabulous sewing skills, she made the duckcloth into a pillow cover and ta da!

Let’s look at it one more time:

Mr. and Mrs. throw pillows

Mr. and Mrs. throw pillows

And then there’s the Statue of Liberty pillow that was a total surprise (yeah, I cried upon receipt of this gift):

Statue of Liberty throw pillow

Statue of Liberty throw pillow

Using some of the leftover duckcloth, she made another pillow cover and again… free handed the entire picture.  Stencil free is Teresa’s way to be!

Another fun pillow, commissioned by me, has an old timey movie camera on it:

movie camera throw pillow

movie camera throw pillow`

Margeaux is partially obstructing the view, but that’s because she loves her grandma.

My wedding, which is a DIY effort I’m particularly proud of, was made possible largely because of my mother’s help.  She helped me out with MANY (read: most) aspects of it, but my favorite project was the marigold topiaries we collaborated on.

We had the idea for mum topiaries, but we knew this would be suuuper expensive (and then would die as flowers tend to do).  Fake flowers were just as expensive as real ones, so we knew we needed an even cheaper option to achieve the effect.


We wanted these to frame the altar area and be two-tiered, so lots of flowers!  She had the idea for tissue paper flowers, but a slightly different shape.  After buying two foam balls, a wooden dowel,  using a planter that she already owned, and many hours spent making the tissue paper flowers — by the way, I was banished from this project early on because I didn’t “fluff them right” — we ended up with this:


Last Christmas, my mother painted (from a photograph) Preservation Hall, Josh’s and my favorite part of our honeymoon (it’s an amazing jazz club on Bourbon Street).  This is perhaps my favorite thing my mother has ever made me:

Preservation Hall painting

Preservation Hall painting

I wish I had a close-up, because it really is beautiful and the detail is wonderful.  You’ll just have to trust me on this (I cried my face off).

And of course… there’s the Singer sewing machine dining table (oft-mentioned):

Singer sewing machine dining table

Singer sewing machine dining table

The entire construction of the table was a joint Foster-Donahue effort, i.e., my mom, dad, brother, Josh and me, however the original idea was 100% my mom’s (and she owned the original Singer sewing machine, so it’s also a credit to her thrifty/antiquing skills).

So… those are just a few of her creations and inspirations.  Yep, she’s pretty stellar… and can basically do… oh… anything.

And… because I know she actually reads this blog post (or will at some point in the week):

Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!! I love you!

(aww…… :)

Making crazy faces :)

Twelve Weeks of Christmas: Vinyl Record Bowl ADDENDUM

(This is not to serve as this week’s installment of the Twelve Weeks of Christmas series.  Expect that later this week!)

Due to the surprisingly enthusiastic response to the vinyl record bowl tutorial, I started racking my brain for more ways to re-invent these tired turntable treasures (I hope you appreciated that, alliteration lovers).  I started doing the Google image search thing — of which I have attained expert level — and found a few ideas, some of which I wanted to share with you, especially because I know so many of you told me you planned on making these for Christmas presents!  Well, here are a few more ideas:

Paint them!  When I mentioned this to Josh and showed him a few pictures I found online, we both turned to each other and said “Duh.”  No really, this happened.  (A rather mundane response, but we didn’t say our home life was particularly exciting: one of many less-than-exciting conversations shared with my husband).  “Duh” specifically, because we’ve always liked the idea of vinyl record bowls, but were (secretly) only half-way sold on the look of them.  I mean, yeah, if you’re looking for black accessories: “Ding! Ding! Ding!”  However, because  a lot of our furniture is black, additional black things are not really wanted (I dare you to read that as racist comment).  We’re more in the market for “pops of color,” or at least that’s what Josh says  (For real!  He says “pops of color.”  Makes me so proud. . .).  So, “Duh.”  I recommend spray painting your already made bowl — that has been allowed to cool, of course — and after it has “cured” for 24 hours, i.e., don’t touch it for a day, add a coat or two of a spray varnish/poly/thing to protect the surface so it doesn’t scratch or wear off.  All the cool kids are doing it.

Here is a before and after of my own personal vinyl record bowl with a coat of Tiffany Blue spray paint:



Everyone say “ahhh…….”

Here’s the process slowed down:

Just the bottom

Here's a bird's eye view

And one more time….

BEFORE: Perfectly fine for some...

AFTER: Vinyl Record Bowl 2.0, the Tiffany Blue Edition

I’m a fan of the upgrade.  But wait!  There’s more…

Recycled Spray Painted Record Bowl Dish

I found this one (above) at an Etsy store called Goblin Hut.  I like this particular approach because it reminds me of a glaze you would see on pottery.  My guess is that this look could be achieved with two light coats of spray paint (from quite a distance) off two different colors.  It possibly even looks like there’s splatter paint action going on.  Super creative!

You could also hand-paint them, if you’re feeling fancy times.  Here’s a particularly lovely example:

Oooh.. pretty.  This one — along with many other repurposed record ideas — can be found at Eye Pop Art‘s Etsy store.  That girl’s got skills.

If you take the bowl and attach it to a candlestick or some other base, you can turn the bowl into a Pedestal Dish.  Records already have a hole in the center, so no drilling would be required.

Etsy example from Button Sushi:

RECORD BOWL Pedestal Dish - Judy Collins - Recycled Album

Of course, bowls are not the only things that can be made from a vinyl record.  Here’s a pen holder I saw on Vinyl Everything (an Etsy shop… notice a trend?).

Repurposed Vinyl Record Pen Holder

Hope you enjoyed this addendum!   Anyone else have any other ideas out there?  I am always taking suggestions and submissions, so if you have a DIY gift project, especially one in the penny pinching and/or repurposing/upcycling vein, please feel free to share via comment link or e-mail!

If this is your first time stopping by, you can read all of this ongoing series here.

***Also, check back in the next couple of weeks as I will be posting the second half of my shoebox NYC apartment reveal, bedroom style.  The Living Room Edition can be found here!


Blind Taste Test: Cheap “Champagne”

(The Ginger Penny Pincher wants readers to know that no “champagne” was wasted and no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)

September 16th, 2011 marked the seven year anniversary of my first date with my husband, and we thought:  “What better what to celebrate than with . . . ‘champagne’?”

Three champagnes, one winner.

And . . . being the over-achieving penny pinchers that we are, we thought:  “What better way to celebrate than with a blind taste test to determine the best cheap ‘champagne’?!”

(In reality, the taste test had been planned well before we realized this day was our date-versary, but we thought it was a lovely coincidence, so . . . just pretend you didn’t read this parenthetical aside.)

Now, you may be wondering “what’s up with all the quotation marks around the word ‘champagne’?”  Well, for those of who don’t know, the word “champagne” refers to one very specific thing:  a sparkling wine made from grapes found in the Champagne region of France.  Fin.  The end.  Nothing else.  You may see the word “champagne” on various bottles in the U.S., but the majority of these are nothing more than sparkling wines.

The word “champagne” is so sacred, in fact, that its use has been protected by law since 1891.  Furthermore, this law was reaffirmed in 1919 in the Treaty of Versailles.   (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?  It helped to end World War I – it was kind of a big deal.)

However, while it may be law in Europe, this law has never applied to the United States because the U.S. never ratified the Treaty of Versailles!  (This choice obviously had nothing to do with champagne.)  Therefore, the word “champagne” can be used for . . . well, anything:  sparkling wine…grape juice…my dog’s middle name.  Whatever.

Not surprisingly, American vineyards took advantage of this for a little while, labeling most sparkling wines as “champagne.”  However, this practice has died down quite a bit in recent decades and most sparkling wines are now called exactly that:  sparkling wine.

The Taste Test Task Force!

OK, so history lessons aside, I used only sparkling wines in the “champagne” taste test seeing as how REAL champagne is not Ginger Penny Pincher-friendly.   Our neighborhood has only ONE liquor store, and it just so happened to be closed on Saturday, but our friend Maria came through by bringing two different types of (cheap) champagne, one low-cheap and one medium-cheap. Josh and I already had one bottle of champagne that was on the higher priced end (for cheap champagne, that is), so we felt we had a good range.

Now, this was not a perfect experiment because we tasted two Bruts and one extra dry, but this was all we really had available to us, and we thought the findings were still useful enough for them to be blog-worthy, so here goes.

We sampled:

  1.   Andre, Extra Dry, $5.99 (however, out of NYC this champagne may be as low as $3.99)
  2. Jaume Serra Cristalino, $7.99  (though the internet tells me it usually retails for $6.99, but that’s NYC prices for you)
  3. Freixenet Cordon Negro, Brut, $20.99

We uncorked all three, or in the case of Andre, removed the screw-top lid.  Classy, right?  Then, we filled three glasses with a little from each, and Josh and I left the room while Maria labeled each class with a folded up piece of paper that had the identity of the contents on the inside.  We were really high-tech about this.

Maria is responsible for the drawing of the blind person. Those who are offended can direct their outrage to

The original plan was to actually blindfold Maria and hand her the glasses to sample, but she did such a great job at scrambling their order that she had already forgotten what was what by the time Josh and I returned (thus the lack of zany blindfolded pictures).  We sampled each, and in a super-sneaky-snake-post-it note ballot, we cast our votes for favorite, second favorite, and least favorite.

The results were unanimous!    Wanna find out which cheap champagne prevailed?

SUBSCRIBE and find out!

(How do you subscribe? Look to the far right and enter your e-mail address.  You do NOT need a WordPress account!)

FREE DONUTS! Or Penny-Pinching Practice and Pastry Perks (a play in one act)


Or Penny-Pinching Practice and Pastry Perks

A play in one act

By Courtney Foster-Donahue


Courtney:  Protagonist, mid 20’s, redhead, cunning, clever, capitalizes on the bored vulnerability of Dunkin Donuts cashiers by employing her slight Southern accent.  Note: Actress only uses accent out of necessity, i.e., the acquisition of free food. Otherwise, she has virtually no dialect.  Also possesses acumen for alliteration, but employs this skill only when typing.

Josh:  Slightly goofy sidekick and husband to Courtney, mid-20’s, strangely tall, dashing, has a newly found fondness for his Fedora hat.  Quite adept at letting Courtney take the lead in all thrifty endeavors, especially those involving free food, particularly sweets.

Armand: Dunkin Donuts cashier, early 20’s, of nebulous ethnicity.  Easily susceptible to the Southern wiles of Courtney; worlds like “y’all” are a particular weakness.


September 2011, late evening.   New York City, “the City that Never Sleeps,” in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood that goes to bed at around 8:57 p.m. EST.

Lights come up on a Brooklyn street , a pleasant evening at the end of summer; the kind of evening that makes  lovers yearn wistfully for the days of their youth… and other, overly poetic things Eugene O’Neill would have said in his stage directions.  Our hero and her husband roam Cortelyou Road in search of sustenance.  (A recent cooking malfunction has rendered their oven useless for the time being and with no microwaveable food, they have taken to the streets for their evening nourishment.) 


Scene 1

Less than interesting dialogue ensues as the couple walks along:

Josh:  How about this place?  They look open.

Courtney:  They just closed.

Josh:  (a few steps down the road) Ooh, this one!  There are people sitting down inside.  Oh, but their “closed” light is on.

Courtney:  Schmehhh…..

Josh:  What about Superior Deli?  I really liked that sandwich that one time… Yeah, let’s go there.

Courtney:  Don’t they have a debit slash credit minimum?

Josh:  Oh… yeah.

Courtney:  Do you have any cash?

Josh:  I’ve got a dollar.  (Non-Pinterian pause.)    Do you have any cash with you?

Courtney:  Never.


Courtney:  I think the only place on this street that takes debit cards with no minimum is Dunkin Donuts.

(Sound cue:  Unnecessary honking of car horn on street.)

Josh:  (disinterested)  Hm… How about this place?

Courtney:  That’s a bar…I don’t want to drink my dinner…  (smiles)  This time.  I think Dunkin Donuts is gonna be our best bet.  They have a totally decent chicken salad croissant.

Josh:  (quasi-ignoring Courtney, per usual)  What about here? (realizing)  Oh… they’re closed.

Courtney:  Yeah… (repeating verbatim for effectiveness):  I think Dunkin Donuts is gonna be our best bet.  I mean really, the chicken salad croissant is pretty good.

Josh:  Let’s just go to Dunkin Donuts.

Courtney:  (slightly peeved) Uh huh.


Scene 2

(Fluorescent lights up on a local Dunkin Donuts, shiny, clean, recently opened to the great joy of the Monday-through-Friday-A.M.commuter in the area.)

(Armand, DD cashier of nebulous origin and accent, waits for the ever- approaching closing time.  He is slightly depressed that he will have to throw out the baked goods that were not sold or eaten at the end of the night…  Slightly depressed, but mostly bored.  Note:  He is  unusually polite for a New Yorker.)

(Enter our hero, and her husband.  They have a spring in their step as they approach the counter.  They are hungry and, after all, Dunkin Donuts is the only eating establishment on their street that does not have a debit card minimum.)

Courtney:  What are you gonna get, sweetie?

Josh:  I don’t know.

Courtney:  I’m gonna get the chicken salad croissant.  It really is pretty good, did I tell you I got it one time?

Josh:  Uh huh.

Courtney:  (spies newly hung pumpkin donut sign)  Ooh, pumpkin!

Josh:  Yeah, that sounds good.

Courtney:  Yeah!

Armand:  Welcome to Dunkeen Donu’s, How-are-jou-dis-eveneeng-may-I-take-you-order? (with curiously rolled “r”)

Courtney:  Uh…yeah.  I want the chicken salad croissant and a Diet Pepsi. (Beat.)   Since you don’t have Diet Coke.

Josh:  I want the same.

Courtney: (aside to Josh)  I really think you’ll like it.

(The couple pays and proceeds to sit down, waiting for their order.  Increasingly less interesting dialogue ensues:)

Courtney:  I wonder what they do with their leftover donuts at the end of the night?

Josh:  What do you mean?

Courtney:  Well, you know, most bakeries have to throw away their baked goods at the end of the night if they weren’t all sold or eaten.

Josh:  Oh, because they might get stale or something.  (recalls:)  Like when we were at Shorter and we would go to Panera at closing time and get all those bags of bagels for rehearsal.

Courtney:  Yeah.  I should totally go ask that guy what they do with their left-over donuts.  You know, in the name of research… for the blog.

Josh:  You should!  But I’m not gonna get in the way of your Courtney/woman magic.  If I was up there when you asked he’d be like “Nooo….”  (Beat.)  But if you do ask, I want a chocolate cake donut.

Courtney:  Ok.

Courtney crosses down stage center (where else?) and moves with confidence.  For reasons unbeknownst to her, she suddenly takes on the speech patterns of a Southern Belle.

Courtney:  (to Armand)  Hiiiii……

Armand:  Jase?

Courtney:  Hey, whaddy’all do with yer leftover donuts at the end of the niiight?

Armand: (unable to stifle a smile)  Oho!  Heard jou talkeeng about duh pumpkeen ones!  Here!  A pumpkeen one for you!

Courtney:  (surprised)  Oh!  Thanks!  Uh… can he have one?  (points to well-concealed husband, sitting in a booth)

Armand:  (As if noticing him for the first time)  Oh… jase.

Courtney:  Great! I think he wanted a choc—-

Armand:  (interrupting)  A pumpkeen one for him, too!

Courtney:  (slightly disappointed) Oh… (Always the gracious penny-pincher:)  Thanks!!!  (testing the waters:)  Hey, do you always give away the leftover donuts at the end of the ni—-

Armand:  (interrupting, while abruptly exiting to the backroom:)  Enjoy it!  G’night!

Josh:  (after a bewildered moment:) Sweet! A free donut!

Courtney:  (while taking a bite:) And it’s really good.  (decides:)  Yay!

Josh:  And it was free:  yay!


(Playwright’s Note:  Any resemblance to actual historical events is entirely intentional and accurate, with the exception of the Dunkin Donuts’ cashier’s name, which remains a mystery.  Josh totally made the “Armand” part up.  Like his name, the DD guy’s ethnicity also remains a mystery. 

The playwright encourages the reader to go out and take advantage of these opportunities, like the one described in this play.  Many bakeries and cafes follow this same policy, either greatly discounting their unused food prior to closing, or giving it away all together. Become familiar with the closing hours of your local bakeries, whether they are chains OR mom-and-pops.

 The playwright also would like to remind readers that IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK.  Who knows? Perhaps you’ll end up with an “Armand.”  And… maybe even a spontaneously generated, yet surprisingly useful Southern accent.)

Okay, but seriously folks, all playwrighting attempts aside, do YOU know of a bakery, cafe, somewhere that doles out their leftovers???  Please comment and let us know! (The “leave a comment” link is below after the tags and it is very small.  Click on it. Then comment.  Then rest assured).)

If you mention a mom-and-pop store, don’t forget to mention the city/state… And of course, SUBSCRIBE! It’s that widget in the upper-right hand corner!

“Welcome frugal friends and bargain hunting brethren!”

I am Courtney Foster-Donahue, the “Ginger Penny Pincher” and as the self-appointed title indicates, I am a thrift thrill seeker and redhead extraordinaire (the red hair having little to nothing to do with frugality, unless you think redheads are magically adept at finding good deals– in the way that leprechauns are magically adept at finding pots of gold — in which case I might agree with you . . .  more on that in a future blog, I’m sure).

I’m a Gulf Coast native, hailing from Atlanta, and having recently relocated to the beautiful borough of Brooklyn, New York City, NY.  When I’m not blogging, I work as an actress, singer, dancer, and choreographer on the stage and screen.

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<——–Check me out!  Website:

Fueled by a frugal fashion-finding fervor, a deftly driven desire for deals, and an all-around excellent handle of alliteration — I mean did you read that sentence? — I started this blog as a way of providing info and tips for those hoping to save money, but not dramatically alter their lifestyle – champagne taste on a beer budget, realized!

In addition to saving money, I will also explore ways to save non-monetary resources through various outlets, including up-cycling, antiquing, re-purposing, and energy saving — Caring: Mandatory; Tree-Hugging: Optional.

Armed only with a starving artist’s wallet and an acumen for savings and style, I look forward to blogging about my penny-pinching adventures while living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation in the midst of a recession!

PLEASE check back as I get this thing off the ground – Bookmark me now!

Upcoming categories:

  • Frugal Fashion
  • A Cheap Date
  • Tightwad Travel
  • Thrifty Thoughts
  • The Re-Purpose Driven Life
  • Courtney’s Kitchen: The Recession Edition
  • Doggie Deals
  • Champagne Taste, Beer Budget – featuring articles on wedding planning, home décor, and more—on the cheap!

. . . And more!

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