Monday, March 30, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

So this week I don't have so many frugal accomplishments to share, since not much got done in my household. I mean, that's not entirely true- I did a lot of spring cleaning, and that ended up yielding some frugal results, but this week my sharing is rather sparse...

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Frugally and Naturally Dealing With Eczema

A bad case of eczema
This is a guest post by my friend Naomi. In the summer before 8th grade, Naomi and I were in the same bunk at sleep away camp for a month, and we fell out of touch after that. Through Facebook (miracles of technology) we reconnected recently. She is in her late 20s and now lives in Europe, originally from the US.
After my post yesterday about my personal hygiene products, and what I use and why, Naomi contacted me, telling me a little bit about homemade natural products and how they can either help or hurt eczema. We started talking a little bit, and then she offered to write a guest post for you about frugally and naturally dealing with eczema. I hope it's as useful to you as it was to me. Fortunately, though two of my kids were diagnosed with eczema, Ike's eczema went away after cutting out gluten, and Lee's recent diagnosis of eczema went away after a few weeks, and we discovered that it was actually an allergic reaction to bandaids.
So, here it is. Enjoy!

I've had eczema flare-ups since infancy and have tried multitudes of management strategies to manage this skin issue. Dealing with eczema can be pricey, but there are frugal, skin-healthy and psychologically more effective ways to combat it than you might imagine!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Does Penny Really Use For Health and Hygiene Products-- Real Life in Penny's Household

I thought this post might be a little fun. I've written a lot about various frugal and healthy alternatives to various household goods. However, the thing is- in practicality, I don't always do them all, or if I actually start off doing them, I often chance what I do but don't necessarily write an update on the blog.

So I figured- why not do a "real life" post, and share what I actually use for various household needs. Since this list is pretty extensive, I'm going to start off with health and hygiene products, and get to cleaning products, etc... in another post.

So, in no particular order, here's what my family and I do for health and hygiene products:

Spring is in the Air: How to Get Your Home Ready for Spring this Year

This post was written by Kelly Martin, stay at home mother of two. When Kelly is not tending to her family, she can be found curled up on the couch with her nose in a good book.

Spring is always welcome after cold nights and wintry weather. The icy temperatures can be rough on your lawn as well as your plants and flowers, making the start of spring a time to spruce things up and welcome warmer days. Even if you can’t work on the outside of your home right away, you can start preparing the interior as the seasons change.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Homemade Grain Free Crackers Recipe- Seed or Nut Based- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

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Almond based crackers, with onion topping
I must admit, I'm not the most "professional" food blogger. While I really like many recipes that I share here, some of them being staples in my house... some of my recipes aren't things I make all the time- some of them I've only ever made once. I share them because people ask me for the recipes even after the first time, and since I know that unless I write it down to immortalize it, there is a high likelihood that I'll never remember to make that dish again, let alone how I made it exactly... so I write it down as I am making it, and if it comes out great I share it, and if not, I either make notes for the next time, how to adjust it, or I just trash the recipe.

Then there's recipes like this. Recipes that I haven't just made once, but actually have made many, many times, trying endless variations to see what works best, what the different possible ways to make it are, etc...  
And then when I share it at long last, I feel like I'm sharing a masterpiece, because I know this recipe is absolutely ah-may-zing!

I made these crackers for an event where I needed to make for the masses- so many many people have a chance to sample these, and I got rave reviews. Quite a few people told me I should sell them, and I'm trying to decide if my arms are strong enough to make these in large enough quantities to sell (last time I made a quadruple batch, my arms were sore for the next few days from all the rolling).

So... now what exactly are these?

Grain free crackers.

Well, they can be grain free but don't have to be- I've made these with endless variations, and one of the alternatives is with buckwheat flour, and I'm sure it would work with wheat flour as well...
I based mine off this recipe that I found, but as you can see, I changed it a lot.

So, before I get to the specifics of the recipe, let me explain the various ways I made this:
You start off with 1 cup of ground nut or seed meal. I made it first a few times with ground sunflower seeds, then made it once with almond meal and once with peanut meal. Why all these variations? Because as much as sunflower seeds are the cheapest "nut" round these parts, too many of them give me a stomach ache so I won't be making them much with sunflower seeds. Almond meal is more expensive than sunflower seeds, but the taste of the crackers is pretty much identical... almost cheesy, to be honest.
Peanuts are another cheap option for "nuts" here, and they work well in this recipe, but the taste isn't as good as the sunflower or almond meal- they don't have that cheesiness. Don't get me wrong- they aren't bad at all with peanuts- just if I had to choose between the three for taste reasons alone, I'd chose the other, but peanuts are a great option for this recipe. I haven't tried with cashews or other nuts, but I'm pretty sure they'd work well as well.
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Sunflower seed crackers with poppy seed,
sesame seed, onion, and garlic toppings

Ok, so you start off with the nut/seed meal, then according to the original recipe you're supposed to add chia seeds. But chia seeds are expensive round these parts, and I knew that chia seeds' mucilaginous property allows them to work as an egg replacement, the same way flax seeds work as an egg replacement, so I decided to make these with ground flax seeds instead of the chia- and they worked beautifully. But you can use chia seeds if you don't want to use flax.
The last time I made these crackers, I accidentally left out the ground flax seeds. Whoops! Well, I actually chanced upon a cool discovery- they work fine without the flax seeds or the chia seeds! They just ended up a bit wetter so I used more flour, but hey- if you can't use either seeds, there's no problem- just add more flour!

Now, on to the flour. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup tapioca starch, but potato starch is cheaper round these parts, so I decided to use that instead of tapioca starch- works just as well. You can also use corn starch.
However, since these starches are pretty much empty calories, I decided to see if I could make it with a mix of green buckwheat flour and potato starch instead of pure starch- and yes, that also worked well- I just used 1/3 cup of each, not just the 1/2 cup that I'd used if I were using only starch. I haven't tried it with other gluten free flour mixes but I'm sure they'd work as well, and if gluten isn't an issue for you, I'm sure you can use 1/2-2/3 cup wheat flour in this recipe.
Just note- remember where I said above that I left out the flax seeds by accident? When I did that, I used 2/3 cup potato starch, not just 1/2.

Basically- the rule is this- add your liquid and flax/chia if using to the nut meal, then add your flours/starches/whatever, a little bit at a time until perfect. If its too wet, add more flour, and if you end up adding too much flour and it's too dry- add a bit more water, no problem.

And then toppings!

Passover is coming up, and if you celebrate the holiday, this recipe is a great Passover friendly recipe.

Homemade Grain Free Crackers Recipe- Seed or Nut Based- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

Homemade Lachmagine Recipe- Syrian Mini Meat Pizzas- With Gluten Free and Vegan Options

 photo lachmagine_zps1d1ipcjc.jpgI first heard of lachmagine, Syrian mini meat pizzas, quite a few years ago, but didn't make them often, because, quite frankly, meat is expensive round these parts. However, the few times I did make them, I really enjoyed them.
Of course, now we're gluten free in our household, so the standard recipe wouldn't work for us anyhow, so I decided to play around with it. And while deciding how to make it, I wanted to see if there was an extremely frugal way to make my lachmagine- maybe make it vegan? I use red lentils in many recipes as a substitute for meat, like in vegan bolognese or chili, so why not try lachmagine?
The results? Amazing!
For any Syrians reading this, I'm sure you'll think this is sacrilege- how can you make mini meat pizzas without the meat, but... these may not be authentic, but they're a very yummy meal and are very budget friendly as well.
The original recipe calls for tamarind, which is expensive. I used pureed dates and lemon juice instead of tamarind, and it works well that way, while saving money.
Of course, if you want to make this more authentic, feel free to use some ground beef (about half a pound or so) in place of the first two ingredients (just saute the ground beef first and then move on to step 2 of the recipe).

Homemade Lachmagine Recipe- Syrian Mini Meat Pizzas- With Gluten Free and Vegan Options

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week and Accountability

This past week wasn't the easiest week in which to be frugal.
Rose was teething.
Which meant she got a low grade fever for a couple of days, and was super cranky.
She only wanted to be held.
Even while she was sleeping, she insisted on being held. The second I tried to put her down while sleeping, she'd wake up, and we'd be back to square one.
So frugality wasn't the easiest this week, because I was very short on free time in which to actually do anything.
But even so, it was a pretty decent week in terms of frugality.

I didn't cloth diaper at all, but I also didn't rewash any loads of laundry. I didn't throw out much from my fridge either. And I didn't use the dryer.

As for what I actually did to save money this past week, here it is:

Savoring New Orleans Like a Po-Boy

I hope you enjoy this guest post, with a little taste of New Orleans and how you can see it on a budget.

Vacationing, especially when you plan the right way, doesn't have to be expensive. New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the finest cities in the U.S. to enjoy on the cheap. Walking down the street in the Crescent City is a show. Art, music, architecture, food and culture are everywhere and not expensive if you know where to look.

Image by Luvadish via Trover.com
Hit The Big Easy When It's Hot
The summer is the best time to stay in New Orleans economy style. Sure, it's hot and humid, but you're on vacation. Bring your skimpy clothes and stop hurrying. You'll come to understand why Southerners take it so slow.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pressure Cooker Herbed Potato Risotto Recipe- Vegan, Easy, Gluten Free

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We've had some beautiful weather for the past little while, but now the temperature has started dropping again and the next week we're predicted to have wintry weather again (just in time for spring, I know!). When it's cold out, I want warm comfort foods, among them tea, soups, stews, and porridge. Risotto is another one of those, but one I haven't made it so often because I don't always have the necessary ingredients. Risotto, an Italian rice based dish, is generally made by stirring chicken broth into short grain rice, one cup at a time, until it is all absorbed and the rice is soft, sticky, and perfect. Then cheese is added to it, as well as a bunch of other additives.
I wanted a quick to make risotto dish yesterday, and I didn't have ready chicken broth or specialty ingredients to add to it. But potato risotto sounded divine, and I decided to try to make it with no specialty ingredients. Other than the white wine. Which really, really makes a difference in this recipe.
I was just telling Mike that I am really glad I found the local scratch and dent store, because before I did, I never cooked with wine because it was too expensive to waste on cooking... But now that I buy my wine cheaply simply because the label was a bit damaged, I can make these delicious easy dishes without spending a lot of money.
If you don't have white wine, you can just use 1/2 cup water instead. It won't be as flavorful, but it'll still taste good. So feel free to do that if you don't have any wine that you can use for this.
I made this twice already in the space of 2 days it was so good. One time I used sage hyssop, one time I used rosemary. Any herbs you have on hand and enjoy will be good in this recipe.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, I've included a variation below on how to do this in a regular pot.

Pressure Cooker Herbed Potato Risotto Recipe- Vegan, Easy, Gluten Free

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Sprouted Hummus Recipe- Probiotic and More Digestible! (Non Dairy)

 photo IMG_0139 Medium_zpstty69zya.jpgYou know the ditty "beans, beans, they're good for your heart?" Well... There are many reasons why beans are known to cause flatulence, in large part because they're not so digestible due to their phytic acid, among other things.
However, I like serving legumes because they're cheap proteins, and my family enjoys hummus... so I wanted to figure out how to make hummus that would taste good, be easy on the budget, and... wouldn't come with the standard side effects. To do that, I decided to combine two different methods that I learned reduce the amount of phytic acid in things and therefore increase their digestibility- sprouting, and fermenting.
So this is what I came up with. Sprouted, fermented hummus.
Mmmm, it's delicious.
Yup, no side effects. A hit with my kids. And yes, frugal too!

Added bonus? Fermentation has two main benefits- not only does it make the food more digestible, but it also adds a healthy dose of probiotics, beneficial bacterias and yeasts, into your body.
And sprouting legumes increases their amount, so you get a larger quantity of food for the same amount of money.

Drawbacks? These things take time and a few days advanced preparations, so no making it on the spot to eat immediately.

It's a worthwhile trade off, in my opinion. Especially since the lacto-fermentation helps preserve the hummus and it will therefore last a longer time in the refrigerator than regular homemade hummus, even without any added preservatives. So make it, and enjoy at your convenience.

I find lacto-fermented condiments often are lacto-fermented with the assistance of whey, which is dairy and makes the condiment no good for vegans or dairy free people, so this recipe is completely vegan, and doable even with no special ingredients.

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Sprouted Hummus Recipe- Probiotic and More Digestible! (Non Dairy)

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