Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Frugal Fun Birthday Party for My Boys

I like making my children birthday parties, to show them that we celebrate their presence in our lives, and I always have fun coming up with ideas of how to do it frugally but not sacrifice on the fun. Often I have themes for birthday parties, but this time I didn't stick with a theme- my only "theme" was trying to keep down the cost as much as possible, and without too much of a headache for me to make it or run it.
I think I did a successful job- all the kids that came to the party really enjoyed themselves and my boys said that it ranked as one of their top days this summer. My boys have birthdays September 4 and 8, with my boys Lee turning 10 and Ike turning 8. I would make them separate parties, in theory, but I know myself and my limits, and if I tried doing it perfectly I knew it would end up not happening at all (I never ended up making birthday parties for any of my kids last year, because I was too overwhelmed with everything going on) so I made it together and the boys were fine with that, because they share friends anyhow. I crowd sourced for ideas for their birthday party and ran a lot of ideas by them, and settled on this in the end.

The entire party ended up costing me only $30, and that included a full supper for the 12 kids who were there (including my 4), and everyone had a blast.

When should you be opening a savings account for your child?

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This post was written by reader, Ben, and reminds me- maybe I should open a bank account for my children, because they're saving up quite a bit of money and they currently keep it all in cash...

There is no right or wrong time for you to open a savings account on your child’s behalf. For some families, it will be when the child is an infant. For others, it could mean waiting until they’re in school or earning small amounts of money of their own. It is essentially when the time is right for you but sooner is usually better, as you will accumulate more money over time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Creamy Zucchini Soup Recipe- Hot or Chilled, Paleo, Vegan, and Delicious

If I had to pick my two all time favorite ingredients to use in cooking, they'd probably be zucchini and cashews. I find the two of them are so versatile and can be used in so many different types of recipes and in so many different ways; how not to fall in love with them?
This soup, not surprisingly, based on those two ingredients is one of my favorite soups of all times, if not the favorite- it is absolutely divine, even though it is relatively simple.
Vegan and paleo, gluten free and just all around healthy, not to mention relatively low carb, this soup is creamy, delicious, goes down smoothly, and my son, a self professed zucchini hater, absolutely loves this soup and devours it.
Oh, and did I mention that it is awesome both hot and chilled?
Cashews aren't the cheapest ingredient, but I've gotten them relatively cheaply by buying them already broken, and end up paying around $2 for the cashews in this recipe, but I've also made it with around half the amount of cashews, and it was also great, so if you're looking to cut costs, feel free to play around and adjust the other ingredients as needed.

Lastly, while the ingredients in here are simple, it is not super easy if you want to make it perfect. This soup really is best when pressed through a food mill, or if you're like me and don't have a food mill, a large holed mesh strainer. You can eat it without pushing it through, but doing so makes it creamier and smoother and lifts it up to a whole new level, so I'd highly recommend not skipping that step.

Creamy Zucchini Soup Recipe- Hot or Chilled, Paleo, Vegan, and Delicious

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cantaloupe Salsa Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Frugal

The last time I was at the market, one of the vendors who sells past prime produce had a melon very similar to cantaloupe on sale for 13 cents a pound, and though I only wanted one or two, he gave them to me for much less than 13 cents a pound, and I ended up going home with about 10 melons. Now 10 melons is a lot for me on a regular day, but these melons weren't the yummiest in the world. 
They weren't bad, but they were rather bland and not very sweet, which meant that just eating them plain didn't appeal to me. (My kids, on the other hand, appreciated the melon, even not so sweet.)
But it got me wanting to be creative with the melon, finding different ways to use it- perhaps in savory dishes instead of sweet. I made a chilled cantaloupe based gazpacho (much like this recipe) and then decided to see how it would work in salsa.
Cantaloupe salsa was so delicious and enjoyed by the whole family that I've already made a second batch. You've got to try out this recipe!
I've tried it with cantaloupe mixed with cucumbers, and have seen cantaloupe mixed with tomatoes, but this recipe is without either. Feel free to add one or another or maybe even bell peppers to this recipe, adjusting seasonings to taste. This recipe works just as well with sweeter cantaloupes, and probably would work just as well with honeydew melon.

Cantaloupe Salsa Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Frugal

Friday, September 29, 2017

Frugal Kitchen Things I've Made Lately

Chicken fat, chicken broth, and deboned chicken, all free.
Though I haven't updated this blog so much lately, that doesn't mean that I haven't been up to my usual frugal self lately.
I'm a little busy and have a lot on my plate lately but I've made a bunch of things lately that save us money and/or help my family keep healthy that I wanted to share with you.

I finally made it back to the market where I stocked up on blocks of jaggery, and boiled three down in one go to make jaggery syrup, the cheapest non refined sweetener I can get my hands on.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Our Brand New Pergola

Mike has been working crazy hours lately at his new job and in his few hours of down-time he managed to build this pergola in our front yard. All for under $80- and this is despite buying the wood from an overpriced local place since we don't have a car to use to transport wood from cheaper places.

Mike wanted to do a pergola for the entire yard, front and back, but it wasn't something that particularly appealed to me (since I didn't really grow up with them the way he did), until I saw what the one in the front looks like and it makes me really happy.

Eventually (when Mike has a few minutes breathing room) he'll be building another one in the backyard, probably even bigger than this one.

Cheap and Compact Hydroponic Garden Options

I found hydroponics to be fascinating from the first time I heard about it. As someone interested in DIY and self-sufficiency, I have wanted to grow my own food for a long time but until recently lived in a place with no yard. Hydroponic gardening would have been very helpful to me in my previous apartment, and hopefully this post by M, a mother of 3 from the  Philippines will help those of you who would like to garden but don't have the space.

Gone are the days of only being able to grow things if you have the right resources, such as space and access to good soil. Today, hydroponics gardening has made home growing a veritable reality for every one of us, whether for commercial purposes or for our own hobbies. So if you have always wanted to prove to yourself that you can grow something - even if you have never had a green thumb - now is your chance to do so.

What is Hydroponics
In the simplest terms, hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. What it instead uses is mineral nutrient solutions, which are fed to the plants along with water. As a result, you can grow anything in virtually any medium, even on sand or gravel.

There are different forms of hydroponic gardening, and these are:

  • Aeroponic System. One of the most advanced forms of hydroponics gardening, the aeroponic system uses air as the primary growing medium. In this system, the roots of the plants hang in the air - which are misted with a nutrient solution every few seconds.
  • Drip System. In a drip system, a timer will control a pump which will deliver water and the Growth Technology nutrient solution to the plants by virtue of a network of elevated water jets. And then a recovery system will collect the excess solution back to the reservoir. The pH level of this reservoir should be constantly monitored to ensure that it is right for the healthy growth of the plants.
  • Ebb and Flow System. Also called flood and drain, an ebb and flow system temporarily floods the grow tray with the nutrient solution before draining it back. A water pump that is run by a timer controls these mechanisms.
  • NFT System. This is the first thing that comes to people’s mind when hydroponics is mentioned. The Nutrient Film Technique system continually pumps the Growth Technology nutrient solution into the growing tray, where the roots are suspended. The excess solution travels back down the system to the reservoir. What makes this amazing is that there is no timer that automates the process, but it requires constant maintenance of the pump and the electrical system to ensure constant operation.
  • Water Culture. In a water culture, the roots of the plants are immersed in the water, which contains the nutrient solution that is necessary for growth. It comes with an air pump that helps facilitate oxygenation of the water, which will allow the plants to breathe. It is necessary to note that it does not work well for most plants, except for lettuce.
  • Wicks System. The Wicks system is the simplest hydroponics gardening system. By virtue of its name, the nutrient solution is taken to the growing tray through wicks. There are various growing mediums for this type of hydroponics, including coco and perlite.

Whichever particular form appeals more to you, hydroponics gardening is considered to be more advantageous than growing on ordinary soil. First, you do not need a lot of space to be able to make it work. So if you live in a residential building that does not have a backyard, you can get away with growing some vegetables along, say, your windowsill. Even closets are used for this purpose!

You also get to save on water, as well as time. In terms of resource management alone, this is great news. Furthermore, there is no weeding to be done, especially if you are keeping your plants away from the worst of the environmental conditions. There are also less chances for pests. And finally, everything can be under your control, provided that necessary maintenance is carried out when it needs to be carried out.

Some of these forms of hydroponics, however, fetch quite a pretty penny. Aeroponics, in particular, can get very, very expensive. Even the simplest of these forms, if they incorporate a lot of accessories and technologies, can get cumbersome on the pockets.

So if you do not have a lot of budget but you still have a lot of hopes in growing your own plants, what can you do? Consider these cheap and compact hydroponic garden options that are all less than a hundred dollars each.

Hydroponic Garden Options For Less Than $100
Home Aquaponics Garden. This hydroponics kit is perfect for those who want to combine two hobbies: growing plants and having a pet fish! In this model, a fish tank comes equipped with a small hydroponics system, where waste from the fish is converted into fertilizer for the plants. Back to the Roots offers one of these for only $60.

Water Farm. The Water Farm from General Hydroponics comes with a two-gallon planter that is filled with clay pebbles, a four-gallon reservoir and an air pump. The pump transports water and the nutrient solution in this drip hydroponics system. It can also be customized to fit your needs. The WaterFarm Module, for example, allows you to create a multiple unit system with the right accessories. The kit is available for around $50.

Click & Grow. If you are looking for something even more space-smart and a tad techie, Click&Grow is perfect for you. Known as an “electronic smartpot”, this kit is designed with Smart Soil, which reportedly releases nutrients in sync with the life cycle of the plant, provides breathing room even when it is wet, and self-manages its pH balance. In addition, it has specialized sensors that monitor garden vitals like light and water to keep the plants in optimal health. This kit is priced at $80, including the starter plant cartridge.

What about DIY hydroponics systems?
If you want to create your own hydroponics system, there are a variety of ways that you can do so - and they can range from basic to complex. Similarly, going DIY does not automatically mean that you will save up on money and time. In fact, certain systems require daily (and frequent!) monitoring and management so that the plants are ensured to be in good condition.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Sending (Most of) My Kids to School... Again

Happy Rose after her second day of school
I talk about homeschooling a lot. In person but especially here on my blog. I've written about why I homeschool, how I homeschool, what unschooling is, how it works, corrected misconceptions about unschooling and homeschooling. In short, other than frugality and gluten free, homeschooling is one of those things I'm most well known for...
So imagine people's surprise when they heard that starting September 1 of this school year, I only have one kid being homeschooled - my other three are in school. I've gotten a lot of shocked reactions and questions from friends in person and on Facebook about my decision to send kids to school, and while others are telling me I don't owe anyone explanations, as someone who is pretty vocal about the unconventional schooling choices I've made I can understand people wanting to know what made me change my mind so I don't mind sharing.

6 Ways to Save on Household Expenses

This blog post was written by a reader.

Having your own home and paying for the utilities can be super expensive. Paying bills every month can be a daunting task, plus sometimes it just gets too difficult on the budget. However though, there are things that you can do at home to lessen your expenses. We are giving you six tips, so read on if you want to find out what we have got up our sleeves.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Recent Frugal Accomplishments

First off, I wanted to send out warm thoughts to everyone who lost loved ones on 9/11, as well as everyone who has been affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Additionally, I wanted to apologize for not having posted here recently- lots of things going on in my life that have made it feel very insane and hectic and different- more on that in another post... but unfortunately blogging had to go on the back burner... And instead of just being one week's worth of frugality, this is 2 weeks' worth of frugal accomplishments (as I'd meant to post it yesterday)...

So here's what frugal things our family has done recently:

Frugal Food:
Free Food, Foraging and Gardening:
I foraged a bunch of passion fruit.
Just one of my many harvests- swiss chard, sea beet, beet leaves, amaranth, squash blossoms, purslane, and cherry tomatoes

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