ASK GABY!"Stretch A Dollar TIll It HOLLERS!"


Dear Gaby,
Within the last 2 months, I lost my job and my husband left me. I have 4 kids ages 3-11 to feed. 2 months ago my food budget was $500 a month. I am now receiving less than half of that in food stamps. I have resorted to starving myself just so that I can feed my kids. I feel so alone and hopeless.
Irvine, CA

Dear Sarah,
I am so saddened by your predicament. No one in our country should have to starve themselves in order to feed their kids. Although this is a very noble sacrifice on your part, your children need you to be in good health. Without a caring, loving mother your children would be a lot worse off. I am so grateful that you thought to write to me, as your story is sadly not un-common in this country.

Here are a list of foods I want you to buy in the bulk section of your grocery store: brown rice, beans, garbanzo beans, oatmeal, popping corn, the least expensive whole grain pasta and whole wheat flour. Then I want you to buy a big bag of potatoes. With the rest of your food stamp allotment buy milk, olive oil, butter, eggs and fresh veggies and fruits (buy whatever is the cheapest.)

The list of hot fresh meals you can make with these basic bulk ingredients goes on and on. You can make fried rice, tacos, baked potato night, soups, hummus, fresh flat-bread, pizza. There are so many great recipes available for free online. Head over to your local Library. They have story-telling, crafts, you can rent DVDs and borrow books. This will lift your spirits!

From now on, every morning I want you to cook up a nice pot of hot oatmeal for those babies. And every evening pop up some fresh popcorn for them. Love those babies. You are all that they have right now, and you’re all that they need.

You will find, like I have in recent years that you do not need money to be happy. You don’t need material possessions or a husband to be validated. All you need is self-respect and the love of your true friends and loving family. With the loss of your prior status and success in the world you will find out who your real friends are. I personally would prefer to have no friends than fake ones. The only things I now make time for in my life are my children, my career and my true friends. I no longer spend my time shopping for clothes or out “lunching”. I have change for the better. My life is fulfilling and has purpose...and I believe everything happens for a good reason!

Since our economy is forcing many us to adapt to a depression era way of life.  I decided to create an INTERACTIVE Q&A Column designed to help you SAVE MONEY! Attention tightwads, cheapskates, frugalistas and people that just need to save some $$$...THIS is the column for you! 


Dear Gaby,
I have a seriously difficult time getting my son to eat vegetables. He is so picky. I am so frustrated. I want him to receive the health benefit of eating fresh vegetables without having to force feed him. Do you have any recommendations? Please help!
Samantha from NY City

Dear Samantha,
The very best way to successfully get your kids to eat and enjoy their veggies is to introduce them to fresh produce at the youngest possible age. That way veggies don’t have to become an acquired taste. It is also pertinent to reinforce an enjoyment for fresh ingredients by leading by example. If your children see you enjoying fresh veggies it might encourage them to have a more open mind towards new tastes and textures.

Also keep in mind there are so many alternatives to the standard boring steamed vegetable. How about roasted vegetables!? Simply rustically chop, toss with extra virgin olive oil salt and pepper, spread out on a cookie sheet and bake on 350 for 30 minutes and your golden...the veggies caramelize when roasted..bringing out the delectable natural sugars of the vegetables.

You can also hide veggies in home made tomato sauce. Just finely dice zucchinis, squash, beans and add them to the sauce. Sauce you can freeze in plastic baggies and defrost as needed to to make spaghetti, home made pizzas etc.

I also highly recommend having your kids grow vegetables in their very own Mini Chef's Garden! Once the veggies are ready to pick have your child help you cook them AND make their own salads! Children beam with pride as they eat the fresh organic goodies they grew themselves.

Not to mention growing just a little bit of your own food is a great way to save money on your food budget... Don't have the time or space for a traditional garden? No worries! Growing your own mini chefs garden is so easy. It requires no weeding. You wont have to dig up part of your yard. And no matter where you live you can grow food all year long which means this project will actually pay for itself over and over again!

Potagers, roof top gardens and Kitchen gardens are sprouting up all over the country. The trend of enjoying simple organic home grown vegetables is growing so rapidly. The small upfront monetary and time investments required to grow vegetables is more than justified when you create simple, organic seasonal home made dishes from the fruits of your labor. No matter where you live, there is always something you can grow and harvest year round. A Potager is the french version of the Kitchen Garden...what sets the Potager apart is that it produces year round as apposed to the typical American garden which generally harvests in the fall. Forcing the gardener to can, jar and freeze the harvest in order to enjoy year round home grown goodies. With a little research you can discover what will grow in your neck of the woods year round. Simply go online and visit your local garden centers for valuable regional advice. Make a habit of growing only Heirloom vegetables and whenever possible support organic seed companies.

Your Child's Mini Chef's Garden should consist of 3 big planters. These can be terracotta or plastic. You will also need: Several small culinary herbs. Look for small, healthy, hardy plants. Some great cooking herbs are thyme, sage, basil, oregano, mint, and chives.

4 packets of heirloom vegetable seeds. When planting the seeds read and follow instructions on the seed packet. I recommend heirloom seeds because you can save the seeds from the vegetables you grow and then replant them again! This saves you money. And it is a great lesson for children. It teaches your child the life-cycle of plants!

Planter One: Culinary herbs! Herbs are a great way to motivate your child to help you cook in the kitchen. It is so easy for them to snip off a branch, wash it and then toss it into a pot of soup. If you can get your child to feel as though they contributed to dinner they are more likely to eat more of what you want them too. Not to mention you save yourself up to $3 every time you use your own organic cooking herbs.

1. Simply fill the pot 2/3rds of the way to the top with good soil.
2. Transplant herbs into the planter.
3. Gently water until soil is moist.

Planter Two: Salad bowl! The flavor of vine ripened tomatoes are so delicious, they are great in salads or sliced thinly they make a great topping for home made mini-pizzas!

1. Fill planter to the top with good soil, press down on the soil gently packing it.
2. Have your child plant a few tomato seeds in the center of the pot.
3. Then have your child plant lettuce seeds in a circle around the outer edge of the planter.

Planter Three: Veggie bowl!
Cucumbers, and carrots. When cucumber seeds sprout they have really big leaves so its easy for kids to see the progress their cucumbers are making! Carrots are really fun for kids to plant..they really love digging them up!

1. Fill planter with soil to the top gently packing it down.
2. Have your child plant 2 or 3 cucumber seeds in the middle of the planter.
3. Then have your child plant the carrot seeds around the cucumber seeds.

When you are done planting all of the seeds I highly recommend using a gentle spray bottle for watering your seedlings. All of these veggies are really easy to grow from seed. This is a great project ongoing family project. It is compact so you can do it on a porch or balcony.

Gabrielle Sunheart is a Laguna Beach resident and Author of the book; "Feed A Family On $25- A Week! (no coupons)" Her book is available for purchase at and Latitude 33 Bookshop in Laguna Beach. Email Gabrielle:

       "Healthy Kids Snacks...On the Cheap!"

Dear Gaby,
I am so tired and cash strapped from buying snacks for my children. I want my kids to be healthy, and I find that the snacks at the grocery stores are pricey, many containing high fructose corn syrup, and I just don’t have the time it takes to clip coupons in order to make these snacks affordable. Please help!
Margo from Laguna Beach

Dear Margo,
A great question! I’m also fed up with overpriced packaged snacks laden with preservatives, food coloring, artificial sugars, cheap oils and little to no nutritional value.

How about homemade Granola bars? So easy and inexpensive, and packed with fiber! Here is a super quick, yummy, hearty and best of all, affordable recipe you can make with the help of your youngsters. Your little guys are going to enjoy making them! My boys LOVE to do the spices and all of the measuring and pouring!

When you get your kids in the kitchen to help you cook they are far more likely to eat the foods you create. I highly recommend regularly enlisting the help of your children. Amongst the everyday skills necessary to live a well-rounded life, the ability to cook and bake are skills that we should teach our children. When some one knows how to cook, they enjoy health benefits as well as significant cost savings in their food budget. Children at just about every age are capable of lending a hand in the kitchen. Often times they contribute good ideas as well! So wash their little hands, get them their own apron and turn off the TV. Cooking is fun!

homemade granola bars

Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
Optional 3/4 cup chopped nuts (peanuts, cashews or pecans)
3/4 cup dried fruit (dried cherries, raisins, dates)
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
2 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 325. liberally oil a 9×13 metal pan with extra virgin olive oil.
2. In a glass pie plate spread out your oats. Toast your oats in the oven on 350 for about 5-7 minutes or until golden and toasted. Let them cool to room temperature.
3. In large bowl, combine oats, wheat germ, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and salt. Stir in honey, maple syrup, oil and egg whites until well-mixed.
4. Pour mixture into your prepared pan and press it into an even layer with your hands. Bake for 30-32 minutes.
5. Let pan cool. Once cooled use a pizza cutter to cut them into bars.

Store them in an airtight container for a week. (up to a month if you freeze them).
Home made granola bars have the perfect texture. A little crunch and not too gooey like the store bought ones.  Enjoy!

"Holiday Gift giving on a shoe-string budget!”

Dear Gaby,
The past couple of years have been economically difficult for my family.  We have been living on a really thin budget.  However although our budget is super tight I would still like to give gifts to my friends and family.  Is there anything you could recommend I make as gifts?
Leilani from Kaneohe Oahu

Dear Leilani,
Thank you for your thoughtful, practical and timely question.  Here is a yummy frugal idea that is versatile and easy!  How about a set of two jars of homemade chutney?  Chutney is exotic and delicious.  For the gift recipient it makes a simple and quick dinner when paired with steaming hot freshly cooked brown rice. And during the holidays some one who needs a break from the rich holiday meals will welcome a light yet flavorful meal option.

Best of all, your only costs are the jars, the seasonal ingredients and your time.  Also instead of wrapping in costly (wasteful) gift wrap, try tying some thick hemp twine or a ribbon around the jar.  Affix a homemade tag to the cord/ribbon.  You could write on the tag “Homemade Chutney serve with brown rice.”  You can also include the recipe.  That way the recipient can make themselves a health conscious frugal meal in the future.

Here are two of my fabulous chutney recipes.
Each recipe makes about 20, 8oz jars of chutney.

Pumpkin Spice Chutney
3lb pumpkin or squash
3lb apple
1lb onion
¾lb sultanas [optional]
1½ pints vinegar
1lb sugar
2tsb ground ginger
1tsp pepper
1tsp ground clove
1tsp cayenne
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1. Rustically chop or mince together all ingredients.
2. Put all into a large saucepan with vinegar and spices and cook until softened and slightly reduced, then add sugar.
3. Continue cooking until thickened.
4. Ladle into hot, clean, sterilized jars, cover and seal.
5. Label when fully cool.

Fruit Chutney
1 lb onions
6 lb mixed fruit – apples, pears, plums, damsons etc.
4 oz dried dates
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 lb brown sugar
1 pint white vinegar
1tsp ground clove
1tsp cayenne
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1. Chop onions and braise in a little water until they are soft.
2. Wash, and chop fruit into pieces. Chop the dates.
3. Add fruit, ingredients and spices into a large pan, bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently until the chutney is thick. (an applesauce consistency.)
4. Ladle into hot, clean, sterilized jars, cover and seal.
5. Label when fully cool.

Email me your questions! OR just leave a comment below!