Fat Tuesday 2013 falls on Feb. 12. You could pick whichever “flavor” you wish to enjoy on Fat Tuesday and it’s generally inexpensive family fun.

2011paczki

There are multiple Fat Tuesday traditions known to be observed in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, but paczki pretty much crowds them all out.

Paczki is a filled donut that has its roots in Polish Lenten traditions. The cost of these treats, and this photo is an order I placed in 2011 from Monica’s Baker Boy in Monroe, have ranged from 63 cents to $1.25 per paczki in recent years. Therefore, even one paczki is not all that expensive when you consider the typical paczki sold in southeast Michigan is as big as two regular size donuts.

The tip I have for families on a budget is: Don’t buy more packzi than can be eaten on Fat Tuesday. These very “filling” treats are made with ingredients that are best eaten very fresh. Besides, you’re not supposed to eat the leftover paczki on Ash Wednesday. That’s a meatless and fasting day if you follow the Catholic food customs that inspired this “fattening” fun.

donutsAnother money-saving trick, especially if you have little ones in the house, is to think outside the paczki box and pick up some jelly donut holes instead. These are bite-sized treats!

This is a photo of a box of Tim Hortons jelly donut holes that was served in 2008 to the Sunday School students at my church. The teachers and staff told the children these treats were “baby paczki!” Don’t they look like baby paczki?

By the way, if you are a food stamp family, you can use the Michigan Bridge Card at the grocery store for a carry-out box of paczki. It is comparable to a “bakery cake” allowable purchase. You will not, however, be able to use Michigan Bridge Card at the standalone bakeries and donut shops that are not food stamp purchase sites. Here is my grocery database where the details include which stores accept food stamps.

While paczki pretty much rules the local popular culture, there are two other traditions that are known to take place in the region.

Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners could be a healthier tradition to observe if you want an excuse to ignore the donuts. Here’s why: either pancakes or potato pancakes make a great starting point to a family-friendly and budget-friendly dinner menu. The pantry items needed to make either dish are food stamp friendly. If you want to make potato pancakes from scratch, several fresh potato varieties qualify as WIC-friendly produce.

The other custom that some local residents pick up on Mardi Gras. The popular treat that is affiliated with this custom is King Cake. Although I have seen King Cakes sold locally, do remember that paczki pretty much rules the day on the bakery shelves in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio. Besides, it would be so easy and inexpensive to make such a cake at home with the help of refrigerated biscuit or cinnamon roll dough. Yes, refrigerated dough rolls are food stamp friendly.

If you want to enjoy that day with a family-friendly and budget friendly New Orleans style party in Monroe, then I recommend the Mardi Gras Party at St. Joseph Catholic Church hall, 937 E. Third St. It’s from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 12. Admission is $1 per person. There will be food concessions, a cake walk and games.

Ethnic and religious traditions may seem like an odd topic for a financial blogger to discuss. But I have long encouraged families on a budget to adopt and maintain the cultural traditions that are appropriate to their heritage. I’ve also seen many examples on Pinterest and in the blogosphere of people adapting customs from one culture to theirs – you’ll see some of those links among my Pinterest boards.

You’ll find that many of these “old school” customs, and Fat Tuesday is one, do not require a lot of money to observe while adding some fun to your routine. And if you are a family on a budget, that’s a very welcome idea.

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