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The Frugal Activity That’s Boosting My Energy & Confidence This Summer

I’ve never been a fan of summer. It’s something that has been well documented on TFD so far, but for those who haven’t heard, it’s simply my least favorite season. I recently did a little amateur research to see if summertime seasonal affective disorder is a thing, and it actually is, but for way fewer people (about 1/10th the amount that experience SAD from lack of sunlight during winter months). I don’t necessarily think my aversion to hot weather and humidity is as serious as seasonal depression (and I wouldn’t want to diminish the experiences of people who actually suffer from depression by likening it to my simple dislike of summer), but it is interesting to read that there might be a medical reason behind why different people react strongly to extreme weather and temperatures, whichever way that swings.

I do feel a general lack of energy in the summer. But part of that, I know, is because I spend so much of my time wishing it was cooler outside — which is pretty useless, considering the weather is far beyond my individual control. So this summer, I decided to start doing a few things to make my days more palatable and distract myself while waiting for autumn to get here. There are a few small, daily habits that I’ve been implementing, like exercising most days and regularly journaling. Beyond those, I’ve found that giving myself things to look forward to is the biggest mood- and energy-booster for the summer months I dread so much.

One of these things has been making pie. My college roommate gifted me a pie recipe book about five years ago called A Year of Pies by Ashley English. I had always liked it and I’d made a few of the recipes, but it’s pretty much sat untouched in my apartment, along with the rest of my cookbooks. Mostly I’d just refer to it for a killer butternut squash galette recipe that I make a few times every year (another reason fall is the best tbh). But it had been a while since I’d thought to make a pie, and I’m embarrassed to say that I actually found the book hiding under my couch when I was packing up to move a few months ago. (I could wonder How did it get there? but I fully know it was a group non-effort between me and my equally laissez-faire-towards-clutter former roommates.)

I’m grateful to have re-discovered it, though, because I made my first pie of the summer just a few days later. And since then, I’ve been making about one pie a week (if not more). The book features 12-ish recipes for each season, and I’ve made an informal promise to myself that I’m going to bake my way through all of the summer ones.

Moody pie for a moody evening ✨☁️

A post shared by Holly Trantham (@hollyadairtrantham) on

That first pie was a triple-berry lattice crust, and I was super proud of it (despite the just-slightly underdone crust, which you can kind of see in the above picture). It’s a testament to the quality of the recipe and the in-season berries — blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries — that the filling came out jammy and sweet in the best possible way. I almost never share the food I make on Instagram, because as much as I like cooking and baking, I typically don’t try too hard to make things look pretty. I was surprised that a pie I made actually came out well enough that I was excited to share it with people.

Of course, none of the pies are perfect. I’m quick to tell the people eating them that the crust should be flakier, or oops, sorry, I slightly burned the tomatoes. Some of them I’ve declined sharing on Instagram at all because I wasn’t happy with the way they looked — though the caramelized onion-blue cheese galette *was* quite the crowd pleaser and, granted, being wine-tipsy is not the best way to take photos. (And, of course, some were great, but I simply forgot to take pictures.) Both of those actions stem from my own insecurities about a) baking and b) simply being proud of something I made. But you know what’s made me more confident? Making more pies. In fact, I’m already starting to understand how I can make up my own recipes, which has always terrified me a bit when it comes to baking. For example, I can already imagine how the fried green tomato tart (below!) recipe would be great with a ricotta and fried eggplant combo subbed in, and I fully plan to test that out once I’ve worked my way through the rest of the book’s summer pies.

Beyond being more confident with my baking skills, I’ve also gained a lot from sharing the pies I make, both in person and through social media. Chelsea has written about how sharing photos of meals on Instagram motivates her to become better at home-cooking and recipe-making, and since I’ve turned pie-baking into a bona fide hobby, I totally get it. It’s an amazing thing to make something lovely — whether that’s a meal or an entire DIY project — just to enjoy by yourself, but sharing it with other people puts the seemingly-small experience on a whole different level. I made that first pie just for Peter and me, but since then, pie has turned into a downright Event. I’ve made pies for Bachelorette viewing parties, a game night, some visiting family members, a TFD gathering, and even just the express purpose of having friends over to eat some pie.

Since this is a personal finance blog, I would be remiss not to mention the cost of pie-baking as a hobby. I’ve pretty much stopped keeping track of how much butter I buy, and just stock up every other time I go grocery shopping or so (I go about twice a week since I don’t have a car). It’s usually about $6 for a pack of four sticks, with most pies using one or two sticks. Berry pies have around four or five pints of berries, which can definitely add up, but when they’re in season, my grocery store sells them for around $3 a pint. I typically have all the spices on hand already, and I’ve only had to buy a big bag of flour once since I started baking more regularly, which was about $6. And then there will likely be a miscellaneous ingredient or two, like cheese or cornmeal or lemon. Overall, I typically spend about $20-25 per pie — which really isn’t bad, considering most of the pies yield about 8-10 servings. (Slightly important note: none of the savory summer pies have meat in them, which typically ups the cost. But I’ve made Ashley’s chicken pot pie and spiced meat pie recipes before and they are so worth it.)

I’ve also made a couple of recent pie-related purchases, like finally getting a tart pan and a plastic pie carrier from Amazon. Slight investments, sure, but they widen the scope of pies/tarts I’m able to bake, and make transporting them that much easier!

I won’t lie and say I don’t care about people’s reactions when I make a pie. It’s incredibly validating when your friend tells you they like the thing you baked, even if that’s simply commenting that it’s pretty on Instagram. But if other people aren’t enjoying the things I’m baking, I personally don’t see as much of a point. (Also, if I ever want to make a dessert just for myself, it’s usually something like this mug sugar cookie — a lot less effort, but still delicious.) Besides, eating an entire pie by myself would be Not Great for my health. My favorite hobbies have always been ones that are somewhat solitary, but are shared with others eventually — baking, knitting, even reading, followed by a post-book discussion with a friend who read the same book.

Baking pie has given me so much to look forward to this summer — so much so that dreading the heat and humidity seems a lot further back in my mind than usual. I’m learning more about myself and what’s important to me, and how having things to look forward to makes mundane tasks (or even things I’m straight-up dreading) a little easier to get through. Maybe pies won’t be my “thing” forever, but I now know how important it is for me to have some sort of thing. It brings me joy, gives me something to share with people I care about, and makes other parts of my life a little bit brighter.

Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at holly@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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  • Ella

    Beautiful pies and words Holly! I love the idea of doing something seasonal in summer that is a less typical summer activity. Summer on social media can feel really inaccessible if you don’t have the vacation time or money to spend as much of the summer at a beach or a cabin as it feels like the people you follow do. Plus, like you, the summer heat can be too much for me. This article is a great reminder that embracing a season is something that can be done on whatever terms make sense to you! Thanks Holly!

    • Holly Trantham

      Thank you so much, Ella!

  • TnT

    Such a beautiful summer project 🙂

  • Yes! Cooking at home has been such a huge source of peace and stress relief lately, and those pictures of pie make a compelling argument for starting to bake as well. Even better, your idea of baking + super-indulgent tv on a quiet night in…

  • Stef

    Holly, I love all your articles. Hands down the best and without a doubt most likeable writer on this site.

  • SN

    Whoa, these looks PHENOMENAL! I have had aspirations to make a pie for a while but can somehow never work up the nerve because making a crust seems scary. I have been looking for some sort of activity like this – frugal, energy boosting – so I may finally take the plunge.

    • Holly Trantham

      Thank you!! And tbh people make a big deal out of making pie crust, but I think it’s a lot easier than it’s made out to be — the only tricky part to me is making sure I don’t add too much water. (Also I just use my hands and don’t bother with a fancy pastry blender or anything.) And also there is no shame in a pre-made crust. They always come out well!