Pancakes are a frugal breakfast. They can be made ahead and frozen for the upcoming week. Instead of making them on a griddle, you can use baking pans as this reader does.
Cake for breakfast: Make your pancake batter and put about 2 cups of batter into a greased 9-inch cake pan. Pop it into a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top will not be golden brown, but the bottom will. Turn it out onto a plate. You can put a light butter "frosting" and drizzle syrup on it, or let it cool and put a whipped cream "frosting" on top. You can even make a layer cake and do two together with fruit in the middle. So much better than trying to make pancakes on a hectic morning. My kids loved it!
Versatile scoop: I put my ice-cream scoop (a spring-loaded model) to good use for faster pancakes and muffins in the morning. I spray the muffin tins with Pam and then, using the scoop, I portion out a drip-free glob of muffin batter, perfectly sized for a standard muffin cup. This makes filling the muffin tins about a minute per pan versus a lot of fiddling around, which adds up to a lot more minutes prepping a pan of batter.
I have also been using it to make the most perfectly proportioned little circles of buttermilk pancakes. There are no drips, and everything is measured precisely so the pancakes don't run over the edge of my electric nonstick griddle; nor do they run into one another and meld themselves into blown-up distortions. I already use my small mini scoop for cookie dough and meatballs, too.
Reuse wine bottles: I use wine bottles to save money. The openings and necks are so small that you can't fill them with change. Dimes yes, but other than that it's all bills. I have two bottles going right now. One is labeled vacation fund, and the other is Christmas 2010. They are dark green so I can't see inside them, which means I can't "guess" how much I have going (which is part of the fun). I keep putting any extra money I find (refunds, returns, survey checks, birthday presents and any other "surprise money") into the bottles. I distribute it evenly.
Then, when we have our next vacation, we will break the bottle. The Christmas bottle is designed to have enough to buy all presents for others, and then, with whatever's left over, my husband and I will buy something for our house, for us, or something that we want but wouldn't normally buy. You could have other categories that you want to save for, instead. When we break them and count out what we have, it creates another element of fun and surprise to go along with the occasion, and we can't shake any money out of them beforehand. They have to be broken to get to the money.
• Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.