Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Latest Foraging and Frugal Escapades

Life has been pretty busy lately, doing lots of things, many of them money saving or money making (or both), but I have been so tired that I didn't have the energy to post about them as they happened!

So, here's a rundown of some of my latest frugal escapades!

Do You Know Your Rights On Returning Back To Work Post Maternity?

Hopefully this post by a reader can help some of you when you return from maternity leave, to make sure you get everything you deserve.

It can be a strange and difficult time when your maternity leave comes to an end. After spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for perhaps a whole year, with your new baby – you now have to leave him or her for around nine hours a day, five days a week.

Among dirty nappies and sleepless nights, work has probably been the last thing on your mind. However, as the final weeks start to disappear far too quickly, concerns about leaving your baby and going back to work have no doubt moved to the forefront.

As much as you are longing for adult conversation, waving goodbye to your baby as you set off for a day of emails and admin, rather than nursery rhymes and baby talk, will be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do. Particularly that first day, when you will no doubt struggle to do any work as you mind wanders off to thoughts of your little bundle of joy.

OK, so you know going back to work will be hard but do you know your rights?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Buying New Clothes For My Kids and Not Breaking The Bank

My kids are getting bigger and that's amazing to see them grow up so fast, but wow, when you look at all the clothing they grow out of, and how often you need to replace their wardrobe, that isn't so easy, especially from a financial perspective. When my kids were younger, I got a lot of hand me downs for them, not needing to buy much for them, if anything, but as they get bigger, hand me downs don't work nearly as well. I can't find anything for my boys in the second hand clothing store nearest to me, and even once I buy things for Lee, 9, I can't pass them down to Ike who is two years younger, since they are practically the same size. (They wear the same sized shoes, for example, and maybe an inch difference in height.)
So instead of buying a wardrobe for my oldest son and passing it down to my second, I simply need to purchase a wardrobe that is twice the size, and then both boys pretty much outgrow them at the same time. (It isn't that Lee is short even- he's actually a tall string bean, but that Ike is gigantic for his age.)

For my girls, I do manage to pass on some clothing from one to the other. Anneliese, nearly 5, is still bigger than Rose, but just by a smidgen, despite being over two years apart, so as soon as Anneliese outgrows some clothing, instead of putting it away, I just move it to Rose's shelf. But of course, Rose, who wants to be so big already just helps herself to the clothing on Anneliese's shelf, despite it being a little big on her.

Clothing. It gets expensive, when you need to buy a wardrobe for three kids at a time, and aren't getting hand me downs or second hand clothes. (Add the fact that our local thrift shop seems to be closed lately. I do have plans to check on one a little further away in the next little bit.)
So I realize it is money that I have to spend, so I try to make the money stretch as far as it can, getting the most for my money, the best quality clothing for the least amount of money.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Frugal and Enjoyable Poetry Slam Anniversary Date

In September Mike and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary which felt like a huge deal- ten years married! I was so torn about doing something to mark the occasion since Mike and I went on a 5 day vacation without the kids in July in honor of our anniversary, 3 months before the date, since that is when it worked for our babysitters and Mike's work schedule. Even though we did our vacation in honor of our special occasion, I didn't want the actual date to pass by unmarked, but, understandably after the large expense of the vacation I didn't want to be spending a lot of money to celebrate on the day of. So I was trying to figure out a very low budget date idea that didn't involve food, as I also have gained about 5 lbs back of what I lost and am trying to stick more to paleo/lower carb and eating out paleo is definitely not budget friendly.

Then a friend of mine posted about a poetry slam she was organizing that evening and it only cost $7 per person to attend and my interest was piqued. As teenager I wrote a lot of poetry and was in creative writing workshops and even performed in and won a poetry slam. So even though I haven't written poetry in 10 years, I thought it sounded like a fun and different idea for a date. The slam was in a local comedy club that also had a bar with discounted drinks included in the cover charge.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Exciting and Stressful News!

I've been sitting on this news until I found the right time to share it with you...

I went to visit our house, the construction site, with a carpenter, who'll be building some things for the apartment (more on that in a little bit). and on the way out, I passed the contractor and asked him if he had any estimated moving date, because the apartment pretty much looked ready (the streets aren't paved, faucets haven't been installed, and the kitchen cabinets aren't fully in yet), and the contractor said he'd be emailing us later that day...

Well, the email arrived, and it said pretty much (approximate translation):
"Regarding Building Project X, Building Number Y, Announcement In Advance Of Handing Over Apartments:
1. The apartment will be ready to be handed over at the beginning of November, 2016, and no later than November 15, 2016.
2. Get ready to move in, including taking care of last monetary issues.
3. A further notice about the exact date you will get your keys will be given to you at a later date."

Can I have a little freak out moment here?!?!

This is so exciting for so many reasons, but also stressful for an equal amount of reasons.

Number one, its exciting for the obvious reasons, that we'll be doubling the amount of living space we'll have in less than one and a half months, and possibly in just one month!! And our own place!
Originally they had said the apartment would be ready no later than this coming July, then they said perhaps by last August... And now a move in window that is very shortly!!
So many things to look forward to about this new apartment!

But the stresses especially are because it means we have so many things to do in the next month and a half, which include finalizing with a carpenter who will build a kitchen for our rental unit upstairs, finding a contractor to do the other changes we need to turn it into two separate apartments (not a big deal, but enough), and pack up all our stuff, and pay to fix the things we broke in this apartment (two cracked windows that we've dealt with but need to fix before moving) and painting the apartment we live in now, not to mention paying for the movers....
And we also have to furnish the apartment, and either buy new furniture or build new furniture... It's not bad stresses, good stresses, but still a lot to do now.

Lastly, we need to find renters for our rental unit we'll be renting out, and renters for our current apartment, otherwise we'll be paying rent and a full mortgage, and that isn't really something we could handle...

All these are good stresses, just a lot of things to do now.

Part of my stress is figuring out what to do regarding carpentry.

The carpenter we're going with is a relatively close (but not too close) relative who we trust and does a good job, and that makes it a little less scary, because we've heard so many stories of people hiring someone who came highly recommended, and ended up doing a bad job, because the people recommending him had vested interest in us hiring them, and weren't necessarily having our best interest in mind. This relative is the same carpenter who built my mother's kitchen, so I saw what a decent job he does, and trust him that when he says he's giving us a good price, he is.

At the very least, we need a kitchen installed in the rental unit we'll be having upstairs. Our goal is to make the apartment the best value, and therefore easiest to find renters for, without spending too much money, and also having it last the longest time, so we don't need to pay for repairs or to replace the kitchen soon after.

One Bad Week

I was contacted recently by PayPlan, a company who wants to promote awareness of how important it is to manage your finances and how easily it can be to get into debt if you aren't prepared. They challenged me to write about how just one bad week can get you into such a spiral downward and cause you to go into debt if you don't have a backup plan. Like what happened when I was asked by YouNeedABudget to write a post about budgeting, I wasn't prepared for how emotional writing this post would get me. Because I had a really, really bad week a few years ago, and the repercussions of that sucky week lasted a long, long time. Years even.

You see, before we lived in this current apartment, we lived in a terrible apartment. It was big and more spacious than our current one, twice the size, in fact... but the rent was too high- we couldn't afford it anymore and we were drowning in bills.
The apartment came with not just one, but three methods of heating up hot water. A solar hot water heater, an electric boiler, and a gas boiler. Well, the solar hot water heater didn't work for years and the electric boiler never worked. We relied on that single gas boiler, and it broke. We went a few weeks in the winter with no hot water, literally taking sponge baths with water heated up on the stove. It was horrible.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Preparing and Preserving Cheap and Free Past Prime Foods

Yesterday I wrote about how I went to the market and came home with an insane amount of produce, most of it that I got free, and a lot of it past prime. 154 lbs of food that needed to be dealt with when I came home yesterday and all today. The past two days were a marathon of food preparation and preservation, because there's no point in bringing home so much free and nearly free foods if it all spoils because you didn't take care of it.

So, here's what I actually did with what I brought home from the market yesterday, and other things that I did to be able to accommodate all that I needed to now store.

The first thing that I did was divide up the chicken parts into bones and skin. The bones went into the freezer to use for soup at a later date, and the skin went into my cast iron pots to become rendered chicken fat, which I use for delicious cooking, and crackling, also known as fried chicken skin.

Once the skin was all crispy, I poured it into a strainer so the fat could drip down so the skin would stay crispy instead of becoming oil-logged.

AT&T Access

By Jeff777BC - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
When my son learns something cool on his own, as an unschooler, I like to share what he learned with my friends. Recently, after my son decided to learn some coding on his own from KhanAcademy.com, and I shared what he was coding with my Facebook friends, someone asked me if they thought I'd be able to unschool my children as well if I didn't have the amazing educational internet sites available. I've done some thinking on the topic, and have come to the conclusion that having the internet available makes my ability to educate my children vastly easier, especially given the fact that we don't have a decent public library system locally.

But it isn't just about educating my children cheaply. I've discovered that having internet at home has made such an overall difference in terms of my ability to readily find information that ends up saving my family large amounts of money regularly.
For example, a friend of mine doesn't have internet in her house, and often calls me asking for advice, to look up recipes for her for low cost made from scratch foods, instead of needing to pay much more for ready made versions of the same.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An Insane Amount of Food... For Insanely Little

My arms hurt. My whole body is tired... I think a big part of that is because of how much food I carried home from the market today in my cart...
I'm doing the math to figure out just how much the entire thing weighed... 156.5 lbs of food- 145 lbs of it produce, and 11.5 lbs animal products.
Just thinking about how much that would generally cost in a grocery store or even a cheap one would definitely not even remotely give a clue as to how much my shop cost me...
You see, for my 156.5 lbs of food I paid... get this- $20!!! Ok, and 70 cents.

Just part of today's shop. Not counting all the things I got free.
I hadn't planned on going shopping for produce this week, since we still had a decent amount. Though we were nearly out of fruit, so could use with a topping off over there. But I would need some produce next week, and I wouldn't have a chance to go to the market next week, so I figured that I might as well go this week. A few people had been asking me when I'd be teaching a class on frugal shopping at the market, and today worked out for the most people. So I went, intending to top off my produce as needed, and instead came home with 145 lbs of produce!

How did that happen?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

The other night I wanted a treat. I had to go out to a fancy dinner event where I knew there was likely not going to be any food that I could eat, because of my restrictive gluten free, egg free, predominantly paleo diet, and I didn't want to be sitting there eating boring, simple food while everyone else ate their special food. 
However, I was relatively pressed for time and couldn't be spending hours in the kitchen trying to come up with an equivalent of what they'd be serving, and price, obviously, was a factor as well.
Trying to come up with a simple but delicious and frugal meal for myself, I went with baked spicy sweet potato fries (made with sweet potatoes I was gifted with), honey mustard pan seared tuna steak (frozen section of the supermarket), and garlicky (from frozen) green beans, with a (free) mango for dessert, and my homemade alcohol on the side. It was quite the perfect meal- I didn't feel like I was missing out at all, and it was easy on the budget and made very quickly too.
The sweet potato fries were so amazing that I've made them a few times since- here's the recipe so that you, too, can have this delicious and easy to make dish. And once you've made it a few times, you can make it even more easily, because the ingredients can be eyeballed instead of measured and it will sill come out great.

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

2 trays of sweet potato wedges (about 6-8 sweet potatoes)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, hot paprika, or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons oil of choice

1. Chop your sweet potatoes into wedges or fries. If your sweet potato is really large, your wedges may be enormous, which will affect the texture of your fries. The smaller they are cut, the crispier they will be. For a medium sized sweet potatoes, I cut them into wedges 1/8 the circumference of the sweet potato (in other words, I quartered them, and then halved each quarter.) For very fat sweet potatoes, after doing this, I cut then in half again lengthwise so each piece wasn't too big, but it really doesn't matter so much. The most important aspect is that your fries are a uniform size, so they finish cooking at the same time, and you don't have some burnt while others aren't fully cooked.

2. Mix the spices and salt together until uniform. If you like quite spicy, add a full teaspoon of hot pepper, or even more- 1/2 teaspoon will keep these mildly spicy.

3. Pour oil over the fries, and then add the spice mixture.

4. Use your hands to spread the oil and spices all over the entire batch of sweet potatoes, so that the flavor is all over each fry equally, and you don't have some extra spicy and some mostly flavorless.

5. Spread out the fries on a lined baking tray so that each fry touches the tray and doesn't overlap another.

6. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until fully cooked and starting to get crispy, checking periodically. If you want, flip them over midway, but I don't bother.


You can make this with white potatoes or carrots the same way, for a delicious but different dish.

Are you a fan of spicy? What would you make if you wanted to make a nice meal for yourself without expending a lot of time or energy? 
Does this look like a dish you'd enjoy?

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