Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments on Vacation This Past Week

Last week, my family went on a great, frugal vacation to the seaside. We're lucky to have a family member who owns a place we are able to stay in by the sea, so we are able to keep the cost of our vacation down to just the food for the trip as well as transportation there and back (fortunately not too expensive).
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My three oldest, having fun on the beach
This is a trip we do every summer, and it's one my kids really look forward to all year, as do I. It's exhausting (who knew going out to the beach and playing in the and and water all day could be so tiring?) but worth every second of it. You can see from the pics just how much they enjoyed themselves...

One thing I like best about beach/seaside vacations is that the water is free; its fun and we don't need to pay for entertainment or to do other touristy things- the beach is more than enough...

Here's what we did frugally this past week while on vacation- we left on our trip Sunday afternoon and arrived home Saturday night. We spent Friday and Saturday at my dad's house, mid way between the seaside and my home.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Guilt Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free

You know what I love? When I'm able to pass off nutritious and healthy food as candy or cake or other treats to my kids or others.
Take these chocolate zucchini muffins. I made them to serve my family for breakfast in place of cereal. I wanted them to be refined sugar free, filled with protein and whole grains, and vegetables. Oh, and I wanted them to be super awesome.
I based these off of this recipe, transforming it to make it gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free, etc... and the results were amazing.
My only regrets is that I need to order more coconut sugar from iherb before I can make these again...

I loved serving these for breakfast. My kids loved them and I had absolutely no guilt about serving them this "treat".

If you want to keep these gluten full, feel free to replace the first 6 ingredients with 2 cups of gluten flour. You can also use any other gluten free all purpose flour mix- you don't need to use these exact measurements like I did- just follow these rules if you want to mix up your own gluten free flour mix.

And of course, if you want to keep the costs down, you can replace the coconut sugar with white sugar.

This makes 24 muffins.

While my husband was very skeptical at first about zucchini with chocolate, in baked goods... these won him over and he approved.

Guilt Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free

Friday, August 29, 2014

Amazingly Fluffy Gluten Free Rolls Recipe- Vegan, Allergy Friendly, Refined Sugar Free Option

 photo IMG_1040_zps4f6b347c.jpgIf there is one recipe I am currently in love with, it is this recipe...
For those of you who have been reading my blog for years, even before I went gluten free, you'll remember that making bread was never my strong point; I flopped more loaves of bread than I can count.
And then once I started making gluten free foods, I had to learn from scratch how to make bread again. I've had many flops and many successes when it comes to making gluten free bread.
The biggest problem I've had, though, is that gluten free bread nearly always comes out better with eggs; the ones that I've found that are egg free are good, but the texture isn't perfect. And another recipe uses a whole bunch of different flours, which I don't always have in the house. And they're also not the most nutritious flours either...
But even the most perfect gluten free bread recipe, I've found, tends to not taste so great when it isn't fresh out of the oven.
I pretty much thought I'd be stuck with mixing a bunch of different flours and needing to bake bread fresh from scratch whenever I wanted it... until I went to my friend, Susie's, house.
Susie is an awesome baker, and a family member was recently diagnosed with celiac, so she's switched to baking gluten free. She asked me for tips on how to cook gluten free, and one of the things I told her is that I like the combination of untoasted buckwheat flour and short grain rice flour, since they both have nice textures and hold together nicely. (My pizza recipe made with untoasted buckwheat flour and short grain rice flour is amazing!) With that, Susie figured out this recipe for gluten free rolls, based on her gluten standard bread recipe, and when she gave me two rolls to taste... my kids didn't let me eat them myself- they gobbled them down, absolutely loving them.
Susie told me makes these rolls and freezes them, defrosting them as needed. I begged her for her recipe since it was so awesome...
And then, knowing me, I can't leave well enough a lone... I tweaked her recipe, so that I can make it refined sugar free, with less xanthan gum, etc...
It works well with half the amount of xanthan gum Susie put in hers, and since xanthan gum is the most expensive part of the recipe, I am happy to cut back on that since it greatly reduces the cost. I haven't been able to tell much of a difference, if at all, from the batches with more xanthan gum vs less.
The yield is a fluffy, moist bread, that works best as rolls. I have made it in loaf pans, and it does work well as bread loaves, which I slice into bread for sandwiches, but it just doesn't get as fluffy or rise as much that way (its close, but not exact). These rolls, as I said, can be frozen, but they also stay good for a few days fresh.
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You can see it didn't rise perfectly this time, that the middle of the
loaf was more sunken in than the sides. I've discovered that leaving it to
rise longer, the second time, prevents this, and the bread is fine.

It tried adjusting the ratio of rice to buckwheat flour (1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour and 2 cups rice flour instead of 2 cups buckwheat flour and 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour) and while they both tasted good, on a side by side comparison taste test, the batch with the higher ratio of buckwheat to rice flour tasted better- higher rice flour gave it a slight slight aftertaste, for some reason. So I go with the higher buckwheat version, but if you want more rice than buckwheat, go ahead, it works as well.

The best thing about this, though, is that I am able to make an easily portable bread mix- I bought along a few batches on vacation- and it was perfect. I made a bag of (dry) sweetener and yeast, and put it inside a bigger bag filled with flours, xanthan gum, sweetener, and salt. To cook, I took out the little bag, dumped it into a bowl with 1/2 cup warm water, then after 5 minutes of proofing added the big bag and 2 1/4 cups water and 1/4 cup oil, mixed it well and let it rise for 30 mins. Scooped it into rolls, and baked it for 20-30 minutes. Perfection. Great sliced and filled with sandwich fillings- the kids got regular yellow cheese and ketchup, I got sheep gouda and lettuce. Amazing sandwiches....
I'm still experimenting, to see if I can just mix all the ingredients together and not need to proof the yeast separately...

But as I said, I am in love with this recipe. It works perfectly for me, the bread flopper... And its easy and gluten free, and naturally egg free. You have no idea how appreciative I am of my friend Susie for this. My kids love it, my husband loves it, I've gotten lots of compliments on it from other people (gluten eaters).
In other words... if there's any recipe of mine I recommend, it's this one.

Just a note- make sure that the buckwheat flour you're using in this recipe is untoasted buckwheat flour. I have no idea if it would work with toasted buckwheat flour, but I suspect not, since they have different textures and tastes...

P.S. If you're not gluten free and want a perfect homemade bread recipe- try these two out, they're amazing. 

Buckwheat Rolls- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Option

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How To Make Your Own All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix- With No Xanthan Gum- Including Whole Grain Mix

Gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free, high protein,
zucchini chocolate breakfast muffins- recipe coming soon-
made with my own all purpose gluten free flour mix
When new to gluten free cooking, one of the biggest adjustments you have to make is the mindset of thinking that you can just replace wheat flour with some other gluten free flour. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way- wheat and gluten have special properties that allow stuff made with them to stick together, rise nicely, have a mild taste, etc... which you can't get if you just substitute a 1:1 gluten free flour for regular flour.
However, there are some gluten free all purpose flour mixes that I do find useful in replacing wheat flour, and have successfully used them in many, many recipes.
The thing about those recipes is that they're with xanthan gum, which, aside for being pretty expensive and ups the cost of the baked goods tremendously, it also gives many people stomach issues. On top of that, they're not the most nutritionally packed.
So, I was excited to read about how to make your own all purpose gluten free flour mix that doesn't require xanthan gum on GlutenFreeGirl.com. There's her regular all purpose flour mix, and there's her whole grain all purpose flour mix. She says they work with all gluten free flours, as long as you follow her specific instructions, however... I don't use eggs in my baking, and eggs stop things from falling apart/crumbling, so... I've been nervous about trying all the variations she mentions- since I'm afraid that they will crumble.
However, here's the rule:
You need a scale.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How To Save Money On Your Holiday in Spain

This post is brought to you by Sandy Cretz.

Spain remains one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, attracting visitors from across the globe, and it’s little surprise that over 50 million of us each year head to the country. Spain holidays are perfect if you want to unwind and enjoy beach vacations that combine tranquil sunbathing and fun-filled island hopping. It is a country that boasts a rich culture, unique cuisine and breath-taking heritage. But if the cost of a holiday to Spain seems to be out of reach then a number of money-saving options exist to make travelling with the family more affordable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spending No Money On Kids, For A Year- My Thoughts

A homemade Reversi game
Over the past few months, a few times I had read about an extreme frugality blog, and was contemplating posting my thoughts on it, but was hesitant to do so. I don't like being overly critical of people and the choices they make in life, and especially when their lifestyle is similar to mine. But after a few people contacted me asking me what my thoughts were on that blog, I decided to write a post about it.

This blog is called "Free Our Kids" with the subtitle "The toddler and me and our year for free". I have to say, firstly, that I think it's a great read, with so many wonderful money saving ideas, and I think the mom is incredibly creative and there is a lot to learn from her.

In summary, this blog is on its second year. The first year was an experiment a mom in England, named Hattie Garlick, decided to do- for a year spend absolutely NOTHING on her kids other than medical care, etc... This included clothing, diapers, kid specific foods, activities, etc. Instead, she would barter, make from scratch, accept hand me downs, dumpster dive, etc... The reason for this experiment was twofold- also because they lost a large chunk of their income, and as a way of reacting to the tremendous pressure in the whole "baby/kid industry" where people are encouraged to spend insanely large amounts of money on their kids to get them "everything a kid should have".
The second year, she decided to revamp the rules a bit, and included a "once a month 'get out of jail free'" pass. 12 purchases allowed for the kids for the year- and of those only 6 can be new, the other 6 need to be second hand purchases.
I read on the site (but can't find the page where it was written) that these rules apply only to their kids, not to themselves, the parents. The reason she said for this rule was that she already was pretty frugal with herself, and only spent on what was needed, but was more tempted to spend on her kids than she was on herself. I hear that, but....

So, back to what I said at the beginning- I was reluctant to post this, because I think that Hattie, the mom who writes the blog, is an incredible woman and I like her attitude towards life in general- her non preachy attitude, her love for thrift and living within her means, etc... I certainly don't want her to feel attacked by this post, and if you're reading this, Hattie, I want to apologize, since that isn't the intent.
But at the same time, I do have some critique for her and her blog, and I don't think her experiment is a good idea.

Instead of criticizing her specifically, I think I'll try to focus on why I would never do such an experiment, and how I think my kids, etc... would react should I try to do such a thing...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

This week was a super busy, great and frugal week. Unfortunately, since it was so busy, I didn't keep track day by day what was done to save money, but here's what we did.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Make Beef Dishes For a Fraction of the Cost

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Beef stir fry, made with super cheap meat
I like the flavor of beef, and like to vary up our diet, and not have chicken be the only animal flesh our family eats. Because of this, I do try to make beef here and there, even though it is more expensive than chicken. Fortunately, I am able to get ground beef for not too much money, but sometimes I want actual beef pieces, for things like steak salad, stir fries, pepper steak, or similar.
The problem is that with beef, you either get cheap beef that is tough and chewy unless you cook it for a long time, or you can get super expensive meat that cooks up softly. In terms of price different, the cheap, slow cooking meat, can typically be found for 1/3 the price of the more expensive, softer, quicker cooking meat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Get Himalayan Pink Salt Cheaper Than Stores- Turning a Salt Hunk into Usable Salt

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In general, in life, I try to have things in as natural a form as possible, non refined, without man made chemicals added to it in the production process. This is why I try to make as much from scratch as possible, and try to stick to the non refined form of something, such as non refined sweeteners.
Salt is one of those other things that are generally consumed in the refined form, so that the salt you eat is stripped of all its nutritional benefits, pretty much, and then has chemicals added to it, like free flowing, anti caking agents, etc...
I have heard about the benefits of Himalayan pink salt, how it includes in it over 84 different minerals and trace elements, but unfortunately, the cost of it is daunting. At Iherb, Himalayan Pink Salt usually costs a couple of dollars for less than half a pound - the cheapest I've seen is $5.93 per pound, plus shipping.
So I bought it just a few times and used it sparingly, though would like to use it more often.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hi y'all! It's that time of the week where I am excited to share about all the different ways my family managed to save money over the course of the past week!
This week I have some super exciting news to share, which saves money and time... and I've been waiting so long to be able to post it! Anneliese, now 2 years and 8 months, is fully potty trained! She's been potty training on and off for the past few months, and for a while now was just wearing diapers at night and to poop, but now she is 100% of the time in diapers, is dry at night and poops on the toilet, so good bye diapers for Anneliese! Now its just little 5 month old Rose in diapers, and she is cloth diapered!
Unfortunately I discovered that the place where I was going shopping to buy cheap meat and chicken, etc... is currently closed until the end of the summer, so I've needed to spend a little more when I need to buy that.... But at least I've managed to find other stuff cheaply, even if not the meat/chicken.
I also am happy to share that, though it is summer, typically a time when people are tempted to spend a lot of money on summer activities for the kids, I've been good about that and have been keeping our summer activities super cheap, if not free.

So, here's what we did to save money this week:


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