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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Frugal Party Foods



Today's the big day- I'm throwing a big birthday bash in honor of my son and doing it all on a very tight budget. This is part 3 of my Parties on a Budget series.

Part of the spread. Taco shells and fillings, for the most part.
When you think about party food, you probably either picture package after package of of calorie and chemically saturated junk or you picture high end, fancy shmancy hors d'oeuvre catered by waiters in black outfits and white aprons.
For my son's party, I am out to prove that you can serve delicious and mostly nutritious food without having to spend so much money. I barely spent more than my usual grocery budget this month, even though I'm having a party for 30 plus people. I strove to make food as nutritious as possible, but I did make a few concessions because of my budget. Even with my concessions (like using lots of sugar, some white flour, a little bit of corn syrup in one recipe, and serving a few things with soy and canola), I still ended up with a much healthier party than I would have if I had bought ready made party food. And yes, I remained true to my convictions about fake sugars, artificial colorings and flavorings, and hydrogenated oils and will be serving none of that at this party.
Note that everything on this list is homemade.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Frugal Party Decorations

This is part two of my “Parties on a Budget” series, in honor of the big birthday bash I am making for my son on Tuesday without breaking our very tight budget.

When money is tight, extras usually go out the window, as they should. Decorations can't exactly be classified as needs, so having them may seem like a foolish decision, especially for something as transient as a party, as their costs are both extraneous and high.

Decorations, however, really change the mood of a place. They change rooms from bleak hospital like rooms into comfortable and homey places. Atmosphere gets altered to a more welcoming and enjoyable place by adding some well placed d├ęcor.
When having a party, decorations are what makes it feel like you're celebrating instead of having an ordinary and boring day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Frugal Parties

My big boy is nearly 3 and in our culture, this is a big deal. On the 31st of August, we're going to be having a birthday party with friends and family. Skipping the party or making it a tiny little get together would offend too many people, so a big party it is. (I'm expecting between 20 and 30 guests, including children.) With the big day just two days away, party preparations are well under way.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Curried Kumquat Cabbage Stir Fry

Sometimes, out of the most bizarre combinations come the most divine concoctions. This recipe, made first when I had an overabundance of kumquats in my house that were going to spoil if they weren't eaten quickly, is no exception. I'd been sitting on this recipe for a while now, its pictures only rediscovered when I was decluttering my camera of its thousands of files yesterday.
The inspiration for this recipe was a curried carrot sauerkraut I had made before and tasted delightful with chicken. Until then, I had never thought to combine sweet and sour with curry. It is quite a superb combination.
This recipe is my favorite of all my foods I've ever concocted. Its worth a try. And if you've got no kumquats- see the variations at the end.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Salvaging Accidentally Frozen Foods

Technology is a fickle thing; refrigerators are no exception. Sometimes when trying to keep all the food in the fridge chilled, the temperature doesn't get dispersed evenly and then you might be in for trouble.
More than once, my fridge has managed to freeze foods that I hadn't intended to freeze, leading me to shake my head in disbelief at all the potentially ruined good. Once foods have been frozen, they will rarely be the same again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Importance of an Emergency Fund

I'd be a liar to deny that I nearly had a full blown panic attack when I saw the status of our bank account this morning. Its not that I'd been completely oblivious to our financial situation. I know money is tight, I usually don't know exactly how tight though, because it doesn't make much of a difference to me. I just always try to save as much money as I can, in every way I can think of, so the exact status of our bank account doesn't really change how I conduct my life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Penniless Parenting- The Book?

I've been hounded the past few days by some friends of mine who are trying to convince me to write a book- a paper and ink one. I'm still trying to decide if this is something worth pursuing, worth my time and worth the effort.
So, I'd like to hear from you, everyone.

Results of Get To Know You Survey and Giveaway

Last week, I made a giveaway in the hopes of getting to know my readers a bit better.
I loved learning so much about you. Now I feel like you're just that much more real to me than just numbers on my stat counter.

I especially enjoyed finding out those interesting factoids about you, definitely getting a chuckle out of some and enlightened by others.

If I would go by the responses I got alone, I'd think all my readers were female, but I'll wager its just that many males who read this were just intimidated by all the women answering that they were too shy to speak up. I also confirmed my theory that most readers are moms and married, but I did enjoy seeing that quite a few of you are married or not yet moms but still find my blog relevant enough to be readers.

I definitely appreciated those of you who shared details about their finances- their annual income range and frugality rating, as it helped me understand the socio-economic backgrounds of my readers just that much more.

I'm really glad I made that "Get to Know You" survey and one of you readers will be especially glad because you won $25 in Amazon.com gift cards (that didn't cost me a cent, as I earned them via Swagbucks).

And the winner is...



Commenter number 107- Becky_Polniak!

Since this was all about getting to know you, I'll tell you a little bit about Becky.
She says:

"Female
Married
Yes, I have kids
Your Age Range? 21-29. I am 29
How many kids do you have? I have 2 kids
My kids are nearly 3 and 5
What Is Your Annual Combined Income? $50,001-75,000
How frugal are you? 39
Mrs. Frugal 31-43 Points
You've probably more frugal than most of your peers. Your friends probably wonder how you manage to keep your expenses so low. Even so, don't risk complacency. You're halfway there to being a Frugalista Extraordinaire. You've come far already, and if you keep at it, you'll probably get your finances in order in no time.
I think this fits me pretty well
Random fact about me Is I have two huge dogs in my tiny 986 sq ft house. 120+ lb Saint Bernard and another Great Pyr mix. 2 kids and 2 adults. Very crowded.
Random fact 2 is that I canned peaches for the first time yesterday and loved it and can't wait to do it again. Saving money and buying local.


And the winning comment: Random fact 3 is I love to take the kids hiking but I am so out of shape and I'm scared of heights so it takes a lot of work but I do it.


Use the money in good health, Becky! Becky will have 48 hours to respond to my email or I will be choosing a new winner.

So reader, what did you think about that getting to know you survey? Do you think that you fit into the typical reader from my blog?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spices- The Frugal Cook's Stealth Bomber

I've decided to officially launch the start of my "Frugal Cook's Arsenal", a series I've wanted to do for so long. In it, I'll let you in on all my secrets for making my grocery budget so low, serve my family varied, delicious foods, and keeping the healthy foods in and the unhealthy man-made nasties out.

The first and foremost weapon in the Frugalista's kitchen- the spice rack.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Musings on the Hottest Day in History

We just completed the 3 hottest days of this summer, which quite possibly were the hottest days I've ever experienced in my 22 years thus far.
It was a wretchedly miserable experience, not one I care to repeat ever in my whole life. Allow me to describe.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Day In The Life Of Penny

"How does she get everything done?" you've probably wondered at one time or another. I have both kids home with me, make everything from scratch, have no cleaning help (unless you count my husband), write a daily blog post, and have a few cleaning jobs each week.
While I don't know how to answer that question in detail, I figured that giving you a detailed account of my day might explain to you better than anything else.
And what better day to pick to do "a day in the life of" than today, when I'm quite pleased at my productivity.
I can't give you an exact time for certain things, just an approximation of when I did what.

Homemade Mama Cloth (Menstrual Pads)

It seems like almost every time I'm all set to write a Needs vs Wants post, something comes up and ruins my plans, like a power outage that stops  me from using my computer. Today, we had the strangest thing. All over my village, there were no telephone lines and no internet, so my post went unwritten. Instead, I buckled down and sewed myself a bunch more Mama Cloths, so I can make a little tutorial to show you how to make your own.
Mama cloth (washable menstrual pads) is a great alternative to disposable maxi pads. They're greener, more comfortable, less likely to cause you irritation and chafing, and if you make your own, they're loads cheaper! It is said that when using mama cloth instead of absorbency chemical filled disposable pads, you get shorter, lighter, less painful periods, but I can't vouch for that 100%. I do know that it certainly felt that way, but it could  have been a placebo effect.

Homemade Mama Cloth

Making your own reusable pads is very simple and easy. Even  the novice sewer can do this, as can someone with no sewing machine. When I first switched to cloth, I had no use of a machine, so sewed all mine by hand. It was a little bit more time consuming, but those pads work well till this day.

This is my first time making a tutorial that doesn't involve food, so please bear with me if I make any mistakes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Parenting and Frugality- A Fine Balance

Mommying is a balancing act. On one hand, we want to give our kids enough things that they feel loved and well taken care of, that they'll know they'll always be able to rely on us. On the other hand, we don't want to be that Mommy who ends up with a spoiled brat because we let them be the boss of the house, don't set limits on them, and succumb to the trap of trying to fulfill their every desire. Add frugality to the mix and you're left all discombobulated, trying to juggle all these tasks and find the middle path so you don't ruin your child's life yet also manage to keep afloat financially.

Someone who cared about me once took me aside for a little heart to heart. "Penny," she said, "Don't ruin your kids' lives in the name of frugality. Let your kids be kids and don't deprive them of enjoyment just so you can have a few extra dollars in the bank or it'll bite come back to haunt you one day."

Back To School Deals

As someone planning to homeschool my kids, for now, my life is the same as it will be for the next little while. Life goes on as usual. I do housework with the kids, we cook, clean and play games and go on trips around the community and further out. Our "school year" doesn't stop come summer; we still have plenty of learning opportunities in our every day life. For me, September means nothing more than my children's birthdays and my wedding anniversary, not much extra financial stress (we keep birthdays low key).

For other moms, this is not quite the case. The entire mom bloggosphere, it seems, is abuzz with the back to school frenzy. People shopping to get all their school supplies for their children, from notebooks to uniforms, lunch boxes to glue sticks. Rare is the mom that isn't going shopping for the back to school season, and many are worried just how they will finance this big expenditure.
I'm glad that this is not one of my worries now, and wasn't planning a whole post on the topic.

However, I was contacted from Deals.com and they let me know about an offer they have that can help you save money on your back to school shopping and at the same time, enter to win a large cash prize.
The way it works is this:
Go to http://www.deals.com/backtoschool . You then pick the age range of your children, and relevant back to school deals for that age range will pop up. You click what interests you, see how much potential savings you can get. You then share that information on twitter, facebook or email with one easy click, and then you enter your email address for a chance to win 10,000 dollars. There are 10 runner ups who will have a chance to win 100 dollars each.

I think this is a great way to get all your back to school deals in one place, save you lots of money and hopefully also win one of you readers that 10,000 dollars, or at least those 100 dollar runner up prizes

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blog Celebration Giveaway- Free Money- Closed

I've waited so long for this day to arrive! The moment I had hit 50,000 visitors I was all pumped up to celebrate with you, but I was in the middle of a giveaway then, so decided to hold off until the giveaway was finished. (We're past 52,000 already!)

To celebrate with you, I am going to give you the opportunity to get free money. By now, you probably already know all about Swagbucks, the way to make free money by doing your searches on Swagbucks.com, but if you don't, go check out my previous post all about Swagbucks so you can learn all about the many ways you can get free money doing minimal work.



But no, my celebrating with you isn't just telling you about Swagbucks, because that would be kind of lame, even if Swagbucks is so totally rock my socks off terrific.
No, my celebration giveaway is sponsored by me, courtesy of Swagbucks. I don't have so much extra money to be buying something to give you as a party favor, but Swagbucks, I do have.

I will be giving away $25 in Amazon.com giftcards that I earned via Swagbucks to one lucky winner!

Winner of BumGenius 4.0

We have a winner of the BumGenius 4.0
Via random.org, a completely random number between 1 and 382 was chosen.

Comment number 194 was chosen.

ComputerMama, you are our winner!
ComputerMama said "My DD is cloth diapered - in a zinnia BG 3.0 right now."

ComputerMama has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Congrats ComputerMama.

The rest of you- best of luck in our new giveaway, starting today!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homemade Glue

Most people know that a flour and water mixture is used to make paper mache, but are completely unaware that you can make even regular "Elmer's" glue using three everyday kitchen ingredients.
I discovered this recipe on a solar cooking site, used it successfully in my new and improved solar cooker (plans and pictures coming very soon!) and also in place of regular school glue for crafts and projects.  In scientific tests, this glue has proven to be just as strong as regular white glue, so you don't have to be concerned about its holding power.
This glue is a much cheaper alternative to regular glue. Why not give it a try today?

Project made with homemade glue.

Homemade Glue Recipe

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Perfect Brownies Recipe- Gluten Free or Regular

I love brownies. Delicious, chewy, chocolatey heaven. It took me a good long while to find a recipe that is the perfect texture- not too dry, not to fluffy, just gooey decadent chocolate. Once I found this recipe, I knew it was a keeper.
This recipe works very well both with gluten flour or with an all purpose gluten free flour mix. It's a hit every time.

Chewy Delicious Brownies


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Window Box Gardening


My dream is to live a self sustainable lifestyle on a homestead one day, growing all my own food and being self sufficient and maybe even completely "off the grid". One factor that might put a damper in my plans is that I have a horribly brown thumb. I've killed more plants than you can imagine. I'm a very forgetful person (tied to my ADD type nature) and watering plants never was high enough up on my to-do list for me to actually remember.
I've decided to conquer my brown thumb one vegetable at a time.
What a better time to do so than right after we moved from a home with a yard to a home with only a tiny shared porch. Not.
But not to worry- I've got my heart set on becoming a master gardener, even without a yard, and even with all my forgetfulness.

Project Green Thumb is officially underway.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Regretting Purchases

There's wise purchases and frivolous purchases, but one type of purchase stands out among the rest- the stupid purchase.

Forget the amount of money you actually spent on something; when you pay money for something which afterward you wish you hadn't, it leaves a stinky feeling in your tummy, an irritating blip in your mind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quiz: How Frugal Are You?

I decided to do a bit of a fun post for today. You know those quizes in girly girl magazines like Cosmo where you have to pick a letter answer for each question, with corresponding points for each letter? At the end of each quiz, you add up all the points earned, and each range of points corresponds to a description. (Yes, I did used to read those types of magazine back in the day; they were my guilty pleasure once upon a time.)

Today I have a quiz just for you. Exactly how frugal are you?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meet Our Sponsor and Giveaway- Closed

I am and have already for a while been both a cloth diaper user and a cloth diapering advocate, both for frugal and green reasons, in addition to a multitude of other benefits.
I am proud to say that we have our first official site sponsor, a company I can fully support and stand behind, being as it is a cloth diapering company. This company not only doesn't clash with the frugal and non consumerism values of Penniless Parenting, it also espouses many things I hold dear.
(Scroll down for the Giveaway.)

Meet Sew Crafty Baby!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sneak Peak Into My Home- The Kitchen

Ever since moving into my 575 square foot home, I'm sure many of you were wondering how we function in a place so small, and what our home might possibly look like. I'd wanted to show you pictures as soon as we got settled in, but as luck would have it, one thing after another happened and my home has not been perfect yet. My home is a work in progress and there are always projects going on.
I'd been embarrassed of the fact that my home is not up to my standards yet, and hence hadn't posted pictures yet.

Finally, I've come to terms with the fact that as a frugal person without much money, projects will remain on the back burner until there is money to fund them and time to do them, as we won't be hiring others to do these tasks for us.
I've chosen to give you a tour of my home, one room at a time, even if it is not yet perfect. You can be proud of your home even if it has not yet reached completion, even if your home is a work in progress. A smart and well taken care of home, filled with life and happiness is a home to share with others, even if it was furnished cheaply and simply. I'm pleased with my home and how it looks, and would like to invite you in for a cup of tea and a tour.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Sincere Apology

After the events of the last few days, I feel I owe my readers an apology. I underestimated and somewhat took my readers for granted, and didn't show the appreciation and consideration you deserved.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frugal, Income Potential, and Morals

It appears that I got more than one person annoyed when I included a paid post on my site, an advertisement for a "high end" store.
Before I explain the morals behind that move, I wanted to talk a little about frugality and how it really hinders potential income.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homemade French Dressing

I'm on a salad kick, especially since I currently am stove and oven free, at least for a couple of days. This dressing is absolutely divine and tastes delicious on any salad. I just served it on my lettuce, pepper, tomato, cucumber, and lentil sprout salad. Yum!
This recipe takes a total of 2 minutes to make and will make sure that you'll never want to buy store bought French dressing ever again.

P.S. I've now figured out a recipe for homemade French dressing, entirely from scratch- no ketchup, no worcestershire sauce, no refined sugar- and it tastes out of this world! Check it out as well!

Homemade French Dressing

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Stove- Preparing Food

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you no stove, write a post about food preparation without the aid of a stove, while still trying to conserve electricity.


So, without further ado-

Preparing Food With No Stove

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Fatigue

Sometimes you're living your life, only beginning once you're in the middle of it all that you've fallen into a rut from where it is hard to climb out.
Some of you might have noticed that my blog posts aren't the same as they've always been, and to be honest, I think I agree with that assessment.

Right now, I've got a lot on my plate, and a lot of factors weighing in, making it challenging for me to churn out quality posts every day.

Not Spike
The Baby

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cheap Beauty Care

Over the course of her lifetime, the average woman spends 1 million dollars on beauty care.
Ok, that statistic was completely made up, but I wouldn't be surprised if that number wasn't too far off. Women want to look good. Beauty care is expensive, but ladies often spend more money than necessary on their looks.
Most things can be done at home instead of paying others to do it, and in many cases, with homemade beauty products.

DIY Beauty Care






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