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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Homeschooling Get Together... and a Barbecue

Forgive me if my post may seem a bit rambling. I'm not at home. We had an impromptu sleepover at my sister's house, after a family barbecue, and instead of going home on two buses, knowing that my kids would obviously fall asleep on both legs of the journey, and not be happy making the trek from one bus to the next, we decided to hunker down for the night here instead. So I could only get started working on this post after my kids went to sleep for the night, and my nephew and niece went to sleep for the night, etc...
You know why we had a barbecue?
Well, my uncle flew in from the US for the first time in a few years to visit our family. He chose the perfect time- he arrived on Thursday, and was supposed to fly home Monday morning.
Guess who's flight never took off because of the lovely "post tropical cyclone Sandy" or whatever it is that they're calling the Frankenstorm these days... Despite needing to be back at work- he directs an emergency room, so of all people, he's needed at work yesterday and today- there was no way for him to fly home, as all the airports in the NY area are underwater, not to mention the bad winds, etc...
So, instead of heading home, he is stuck here. At least he's not stranded in an airport, nor does he have to pay extra hotel fees. More time with family.
So we're making the best of it and enjoying our extra time with our uncle. So, barbecue tonight at my sister's place with the whole family. I took pictures to share with you... only I don't have a way of getting the pictures off my memory card and on to my computer. Oh well.

But part of the reason for this barbecue was because my kids and I were going to be in the area anyhow for a homeschooling get together, my fourth ever.
Now, homeschooling get togethers are an interesting thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Reader Question- Ethics, Legality, and Frugality

Before I get to today's post, I just wanted to tell all my readers on the East Coast of the United States, in the path of Hurricane Sandy, that my thoughts are with you. I can't imagine what you might be going through, especially with trees falling down left and right, being without power, etc... I hope that you and your loved ones and your property all are able to escape unscathed, and if your property does get affected by the hurricane, that it won't cause too much of a financial loss.
Please, everyone, stay safe. I know it looks like a once in a lifetime thing to experience such a Frankenstorm, but please, stay inside and watch broadcasts over the internet or something, but don't go out in the storm...

And now on to today's scheduled post.

So, there's something I've been wondering about for a while already, when ethics, legality, and frugality clash, and since I actually don't have a full answer for this myself, certainly not enough to write a post about, I actually wanted to ask you what you thought, perhaps so that we can start a discussion in the comments section.

So, you are looking for a certain product.

Mr A sells it.

He is selling it off the books, and isn't paying taxes on it.

Would you still buy from him?

Now, lets add more details to the situation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Looking for a Scholarship? - Research Every Possible Venue

Going to college and getting a degree can often help out financially, because with a degree, career options open for you, along with the possibility of a higher salary. The thing is, many people graduate college, and despite their higher salary (if they managed to snag a job in a well paying field via their degree), end up struggling financially because of their student loan payments. Some people do manage to get academic scholarships based on grades alone, but that isn't so easy. Others manage to work their way through college, which is a great option, but also very difficult. 
This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, about how you can maximize your scholarship potential so that you don't end up financially strapped by those student loan payments when you graduate.

Most graduate students fall into the school “financially needy” category because they don’t earn very much when they work and they are faced with high tuition bills. But even so, very little financial aid is awarded to grad students based solely on financial need. Undergraduate finances are no longer available, so students have to find other alternatives.
Grad schools offering law degrees often tell students to borrow through student loan options based on the theory that their final degree will get them a better paying job, thereby giving them repayment capacity. However, this also results in a large debt by the time the student graduates.

A better solution is to look for any and all available scholarship options you may qualify for. Still, most charities and large schools only offer scholarships to the neediest students, those similar to a Chinese American Hero, who have great financial need but also must demonstrate incredible scholastic abilities. Even so, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of getting a scholarship or need-based aid:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Homemade Yemenite Hawaij Spice Mix Recipe

Until very recently, we were having heat waves, and when all my American freinds were busy posting online about their snow falls and autumn festivals, I was thinking to myself "What fall? This is mid-summer weather." But finally, finally, it looks like the cooler weather season is finally catching up with us.
This morning, though, was different. I dressed the kids in long sleeves, long pants, and sweaters for the first time this season. (Ok, some evenings were cooler so I also put on sweaters, but not getting them dressed in the morning in warm clothes.) Blessed cooler temperatures, inspiring me to want to make nothing other than split pea soup for supper tonight.
I don't make my split pea soup the "typical" way. No ham hock in mine, nor any meat at all typically. My split pea soup is vegan. While I generally make a bare bones split pea soup, using minimal ingredients, I learned a trick from my step dad in kicking it up a notch, with the addition of Hawaij, a curry like spice mix from Yemen.
Only I had but a teaspoon left of my store bought hawaij mix, so decided to make my own. Fortunately, I had all the required ingredients at home, and it was a breeze to make my own. It was a bit spicier than I tend to like my hawaij, so next time plan on decreasing the amount of pepper used.

Hawaij can be used to season chicken, fish, beef, or in chicken soup, vegetable soups, stews, etc...

Homemade Hawaij Recipe

Clothes Swaps- Perfect Way to Get Free Clothes and Declutter

Would you believe me if I told you that not only did I declutter and get rid of 4 giant garbage bags filled with clothes that were never used and just took up room in our house, but I also got all this clothes for the family, absolutely free?


How's that?
A clothes swap!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keeping Your Home And Family Safe - Tips Everyone Should Know

This is a guest post.

Everyone agrees that home safety is the top priority for any head of household. However, if the family has children, the need for protection is even higher. Children are less able to recognize danger and depend solely on their parents or guardian to keep them safe. Luckily, there are many steps a homeowner can take to protect their family and home.

Figuring Out the True Price of Fruit- Exotic Fruit Edition

Pitaya, also known as a dragon fruit.
I like being able to price compare to find the best deals on things, whether its clothing, electronics, or food, but the thing is, all too often, when people are price comparing foods, they're not making an accurate comparison, because they're comparing apples and oranges. 
Seriously. 
Apples and oranges, each are a dollar a pound- which is more worthwhile to get, assuming you liked both equally, and just needed some fruit? Can you say that they're equally worthwhile, or do you have to take into consideration that once you peel the orange you're not exactly paying one dollar per pound, nor are you paying a dollar per pound once you core that apple. 
The way to figure out how much you're actually paying per pound for the fruit itself is to weigh the fruit before and after peeling/coring/removing the inedible parts, figuring out the percent change, and using that number to help figure out the true cost of what you're paying for fruit. (In other words, multiplying the listed price by the inverse (one divided by the number) of the decimal of the percent change.)


Using this technique, I've made already handy charts to help you figure out what cut of chicken is most worthwhile to buy, whether its more worthwhile to buy dried beans or canned, what starches are most cost effective to buy, what the true price of vegetables are, and what the true price of fruit are. Only I had so many fruit on that list that I decided to divide it up into two- the standard fruit, and the more "exotic" fruit. Sorry, I couldn't put every exotic fruit on this list- I couldn't get my hands on cherimoya and rambutan and papaya and a whole bunch of other fruit- if I want to buy any of those and figure out the numbers, I'm happy to edit this chart to include those.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Homemade Crocheted Flower Necklace

Lately, if you looked into my closet, you'd see far too much black. I reckon at least one third of the clothes I own are black, and I wear black clothes more often than not.
The monochromatic uniformity of my wardrobe isn't by happenstance- it was a calculated decision made to suit  myself and my lifestyle at this point in time.
  • Black stains far less eagerly than do white and other light colors. I've discovered that at this stage in my life, any white clothes must be considered "one time use" clothes, as that's about how long they last before they're irreparably stained, either by my kids, or by myself.
  • Black is slimming. Not that even that manages to hide a nine month post baby bump... but I digress.
  • Black matches everything, or nearly. This means I can mix and match clothing, creating more ensembles from a few basic pieces, than I would be able to if my clothing were colorful and with patterns.

Black can be elegant, certainly. But it is also has the tendency to look dull and drab, especially after having gone through the wash multiple times and getting bleached by the sun.
My mostly black, boring outfits have been shouting out "Accessorize me!"

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Chinese Five Spice Powder

I don't generally buy my spices from the grocery store. I have so many different exotic spices in my cabinet- most of the spices I use I can't even find in the standard grocery store. On top of that, I find that grocery stores generally overprice spices so much.
Where I go spice shopping, its a full experience. Spices, herbs, grains, and legumes are set out in large bowls on display for everyone to see and get enticed. Some of the spices there are ones everyone knows, like cinnamon, paprika, and garlic, and some are far more exotic, like frankincense. The smells wafting over to me from the various bowls, the colors, the differentness- these all entice me to want to try them out, even if I'd never heard of them before.
Star anise was one of those. Its six pointed star, smelling of black licorice, made me so curious about its uses, made me want to try it out. I'd heard that it was used in something called "Chinese Five Spice Powder", but having no idea how to use that seasoning, I just left it. That is, until I read a recipe using Chinese five spice powder on a blog I read- wild boar with char siu- Chinese barbecue sauce. This BBQ sauce recipe sounded so delicious that it made me salivate and try it out. I researched other ways of making char siu, because I didn't have all those ingredients in Hank Shaw's recipe. But I did have the necessary ingredients to make something very similar. Other than the Chinese five spice powder.

I went to the store, picked out the ingredients with which to make my Chinese 5 spice powder, made char siu and served it with chicken gizzards. No question about it- the yummiest chicken gizzards I've eaten in my life. And my husband agrees with me.

So, how do you make Chinese five spice powder?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Socca Recipe- Chickpea Flour Flatbread- Gluten Free

Socca is a gluten free, high protein, vegan flatbread type thing that works as a decent starch for means instead of bread. It's made out of chickpea flour, which you can buy cheapest in Indian stores, where it is called Besan, or you can buy it in health food stores or other places that sell gluten free flour, or you can grind it in your own grain grinder. This is one of those things though that you can't grind in your coffee grinder- it won't work and can easily burn out your machine.
The first time I ever made socca, something happened to it and it started getting all bubbly and foamy, and then I watered it down further, and its texture was perfect- flexible, and crepe like, very delicious. Since then I discovered that what had happened then was a fluke, and it really is supposed to have a crispy pancake like texture, or thick cracker texture, but I'll admit, I am still trying to figure out what I did "wrong" that first time so that I can repeat it...

Other than chickpea flour, socca has no weird, specialty ingredients like xathan gum or whatever, and it has no eggs, making it very allergy friendly.

Socca is a food originally from Nice, France, and traditionally was made in a stone oven with a cast iron skillet, but can also be done in the oven or on the stovetop if desired, and can be done without cast iron.

Socca Recipe- Chickpea Flour Flatbread

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Upcycled 5 Door Closet

I'm a dumpster diver and find no shame in that. I rescue food from the trash, get toys from the trash, get clothing from the trash, get schoolbooks from the trash. In fact, I rarely actually reach in to the trash as people here are generally mindful that other people may want their cast offs, so generally just place their things next to the dumpster instead of inside.

My most recent dumpster dive probably was my biggest one yet- a neighbor was throwing out a 5 door closet, and I "rescued it", lugging it back from the dumpster myself, because I had an idea of what I wanted to do with it- build with it instead of with bought wood! There were 5 door panels, and 3 much larger panels as well.

I'd rather not share the specifics of exactly what my husband built, because it's not something that would be applicable to most readers, but I just wanted to show you some of the creativity involved in how my husband did it.

He built two walls by connecting the boards with each other with small wooden pieces and metal brackets screwed into the door. But the smartest part was how he attached the corners-


Can you tell what he used to attach the two sides to make a corner? 
The metal tracks from the drawers that were part of this closet!
My husband just took off the tracks, bent them in an L shape, and then screwed them into place. They did the job perfectly.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why I Bought a Grain Grinder- Does it Save Money?


My family is gluten free and has been, pretty much, for the past year and a half. Gluten free in general isn't so expensive per se, after all, how much cheaper is wheat (and the rest of the glutinous grains) than other grains?
The most staggering price differences between gluten free and regular cooking is that of prepared/processed foods- locally a loaf of wheat bread costs 1 dollar, and gluten free bread costs 7- followed by the crazy difference in price between gluten free flour and wheat flour. 
Locally, white flour costs 45 cents a pound, but gluten free flours cost anywhere between $1.70 and $2.25 per pound- a difference of $1.25-$1.80 per pound! Seriously crazy.
Now rice, on the other hand, I can get for 45 cents a pound or less and millet for 79 cents a pound. Why exactly do gluten free flours cost so much more than regular wheat flour, when those grains aren't so expensive?

Supply and demand. The less of a demand there is for something, the more it becomes a "specialty item", which get sold at a much higher price. And what the market will bear. Because there is less demand for it, there are fewer companies producing it, which makes there be less competition, and everyone knows that competition is what brings down prices.

There is, however, more demand for gluten free grains than there is for gluten free flours, which is why the cheapest way to live gluten free is to just avoid using gluten free flour. While it is a nice idea and cheaper to just avoid things needing flour, and just use grains instead, life gets awfully boring just having rice and potatoes and rice and potatoes and rice and potatoes, with no noodle type thing, no pizza type thing, no bread type thing, no pie type thing, no cookies, no cakes, etc... And you can bet that if you have kids, they won't be content without those things either. 
So, the question is- do you buy those things ready made gluten free, do you buy gluten free flour with which to make them, or do you make your own?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cactus Paddle Gumbo Recipe


I'm an okra fan and always have been, ever since I was a kid. The thing is, though my mom would make okra lots of times, she almost always would make it cooked in tomato sauce, and she never, ever, ever made the traditional dish made out of okra- gumbo- "because it's slimy".
I've never tasted "real" gumbo before made with okra, but my friend Butter from Hunger and Thirst for Life Blog had the terrific idea of using cactus paddles, also known as nopales, in place of okra in gumbo.
You see, the sliminess in okra isn't a bad thing when it comes to gumbo. Because it's actually what thickens it and makes it taste good.
Butter's idea to use nopales in place of the okra stemmed from the fact that nopales are mucilaginous like okra, and that their slime probably would also be able to be used as a thickener. While this recipe calls for cactus paddles, feel free to use okra in this recipe instead; just replace the nopales with the okra, and add a little bit of lemon juice to compensate for the the acidity the nopales would add.
I based this recipe off of Butter's nopale cactus paddle gumbo, increasing the amounts and using the ingredients I had available.
I'm really glad I tried out this recipe; it was a hit with my family. When I asked my husband, Mike, if I should make it again, he didn't want to say that I should "because when I tell you that you should make something again you never make it again, and I want you to make this again so I won't say anything."

Cactus Paddle Gumbo Recipe

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dilly Beet and Carrot Salad Recipe

As winter approaches, the price of most vegetables go up; root vegetables, usually harvested in the fall, and with a pretty long shelf life, are some of the few veggies that you can actually find at reasonable prices. This salad uses two root vegetables, making it a perfect accompaniment to fall and winter meals. 

It's kind of inspired by my friend Bianca, as its sort of a conglomeration of two of her recipes- Russian carrot salad, and Easy Beet Salad, only minus the eggs and mayo, since in addition to gluten and dairy free, as of late we're also egg free. Allergy friendly, cheap not to mention suitable for vegetarians or vegans. 

I haven't written exact amounts as it's a pretty flexible recipe. Just try to keep the amounts of carrots and beets roughly the same.

Dilly Beet and Carrot Salad

How to Make Homemade Fermented Soda with a Ginger Bug

I think most kids like soda and other fizzy drinks. Mine do, at least, but we're an "as unprocessed as possible" home, not to mention pretty frugal home, so soda is something I don't generally buy. For the past while, kombucha has been our replacement soda. But the thing is, in order to make kombucha, you have to have access either to a kombucha mother or some ready kombucha with which to grow your own kombucha mother. What if you don't have a source for kombucha making equipment? Can you still make lacto-fermented drinks and get also the taste benefit, and also the health benefits?
By making lacto-fermented soda.

Lacto-fermented soda is made by adding a probiotic culture to juice or any other sweetened drink, and letting it ferment. This transforms the drink into a fizzy, sweet and sour, nutritionally beneficial drink that tastes good.
You can make lacto-fermented soda with whey strained from homemade kefir or homemade yogurt (just stick them in a cheesecloth, and use the liquid that drips out), but we're a dairy free home, so dairy based lacto-fermented sodas don't work here.

Fortunately, you can make your own vegan probiotic starter culture- a ginger bug- with just 2 easy to get ingredients.

How to Make a Ginger Bug

How to Save Money on Your Winter Wonderland

This is a guest post.

Decorating your home for the Christmas season can hurt your wallet. However, creating your own winter wonderland does not have to use up your entire Christmas budget. If you can shop smart and use your own creative abilities, you can decorate for the holidays and still have money left for gifts and other holiday fun.

Shop Early If you wait until a day or two before Christmas to buy your decorations, you may find steep prices at every store you visit. In addition, you will probably find a limited selection of Christmas decorations at these stores. If you've been browsing a store's inventory of artificial Christmas trees and found a favorite, don't delay your purchase. Your favorite tree might be gone the next time you come back.

You can also save money by trying to shop at multiple stores. Many stores carry similar products and offer different discounts. Although it will take you more time to shop around, you may walk out of a store with an excellent deal in hand.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Homemade Set Game Instructions

My mom is very into "education" at all times, even when having fun and trying to relax. As a kid, she'd let us watch a movie or TV show if it was educational, and she'd try to get us games and other activities that were "brain building". I wasn't so into the concept, thought it was a bit embarrassing that she'd rather we watch "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and "Magic School Bus" instead of WB programming, and that our toy shelf included games like "Mastermind".
That all changed when she got us the game of Set.
Invented by Marsha Falco, a geneticist, in 1974, the game Set is a card game which not only is lots of fun to play, it also develops your right brain and whole brain thinking skills, which is why my Mom loved it. But that's ok- I love to play it too.

Recently I've seen Set at my friends and family when going to visit, and I got reminded how much I used to love the game. But at over 20 dollars for a set locally, I decided that I wouldn't be spending our money on that.

At our recent family get together, my niece and I were playing Set, and Lee walked up to me and asked me how to play. I told him that it was a game for big people, that it would be too hard for him to understand. He persisted and I explained to him that the game is about finding sets. He caught on immediately and spotted a whole bunch of sets that even I hadn't spotted. Then Ike wandered over and found some sets as well!

That finalized it. If both my older kids were able to play Set, and they wanted to play Set, we'd have our own game of Set. And it didn't matter that the game is expensive- I knew it couldn't be too hard to make our own version of the game of Set, and that it would only cost a fraction of the cost of buying the game new.

And so we made our own Set game.

Even if you've never heard of the game of Set, don't worry. I've included instructions as to how to play this game.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Make the Perfect Salad From Just About Anything- Gourmet and Frugal Too!

For much of my childhood, I thought that the definition of salad was iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, perhaps a few radish slices, and a bottled salad dressing, like French or Italian dressing.
I had no clue that 10-15 years later, making up intricate and varied delicious salads would be one of my favorite hobbies. In fact, my salads are my foods that tend to get the biggest compliments when served to guests, and its not rare that you'll find at least 4 or 5 different salads at my dinner table- I've even served a meal where there were 14 different salads on the menu!

With my love of salads, you might find it strange that out of the 900 some posts on my blog, and nearly 300 recipe posts, I've only included recipes for 10 different salads on my blog. Well, the main reason for this is because I rarely use an actual recipe to make salad, and only rarely make the same salad twice; my salads are usually "fly by the seat of my pants" recipes, using whatever I have in the house, but always coming out perfectly.
How is it that my salads come out terrific despite never following a recipe? Why am I now in love with salads when as a child I didn't really care much for eating salads?

Because I've discovered a master technique to making the perfect salad from just about anything available.

Why is this technique being featured on my frugal site? What does the perfect salad making technique have to do with frugality?

Lots, in fact.

See, the reason I generally don't use cookbooks for making salad (or really for most things, in fact) is because when you read a recipe and want to replicate it, it often means going out to the store and buying all the ingredients listed. (This is especially true for salads, as they usually are made with highly perishable produce, not things people can stock long term in their stockpile.)
When you buy something for a specific recipe, it usually isn't the most frugal move, as you aren't buying it because it's on sale or in season, and often you make a special, additional trip to the grocery store to get it (a bad frugal move).
The most frugal recipes, the most frugal salad recipes, are the ones made with whatever it is you already have in the house, that you purchased because it was in season and on sale, or better yet, that you grew or foraged yourself.
The thing is- you aren't likely to find a recipe to make a salad using exactly whatever it is that you have in the house, but with the proper technique, you too can make the perfect salad that is ultra frugal.

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Easy Peasy Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe

Sometimes a recipe is so simple and easy it's almost embarassing to share. Almost, but not quite. Because sometimes those very easy recipes are extra delicious and become family staples. Like my easy peasy homemade chocolate syrup.

Lately tomatoes haven't been so cheap around here. In fact, none of the vegetables seem to be decently priced but tomatoes are the most outrageous. Fortunately, my grocery store has a reduced rack, where I am able to get past prime veggies for a fraction of the price, and tomatoes are one of those vegetables I am able to always find at reduced prices. I've also gotten my hands on a lot of free past prime tomatoes for free lately.
The thing about past prime veggies is that they're past prime. Less than ideal for eating fresh. Not exactly what you want to be using in a fresh salad, as they can be limp and less appetizing. Blending it up and serving it as gazpacho is one of my solutions to this, but I'll admit, I'd rather not do it with certain types of tomatoes. Those ones that are really past prime. I'm talking about the ones that aren't just soft, but, you know, have rotten parts that need to be cut out... or had a little mold growing on the outside that you were able to cut or wash off... For the most part, I'm ok with eating veggies like that, as long as I'm able to clean that tomato off very well and nothing fishy looking or smelling remains, but I'd still rather not eat produce at that stage of "past prime-ness" raw. I cook that produce before eating, both to pasteurize it in case there is potentially any bad microbes still there, and because if I don't, the dish that I make with that will be spoiled very, very quickly- cooking gives them a new lease at life.

This roasted tomato soup is one of those things I like to do with past prime tomatoes. Its very easy to make, has only a few ingredients, yet its taste is very rich and delicious. It's also cheap, naturally allergy friendly, and special diet friendly (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, low carb, low fat).

Easy Peasy Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Juice Frugally

Some juice pulp, ready to go into the freezer
People drink juice for all sorts of reasons.

Some go on a juice fast in an attempt to heal themselves- either to detox, to cure stomach ailments, or to cure cancer.
Some go on juice fasts in an attempt to lose weight.
Some drink freshly made juice because they believe that that's the best way to absorb the nutrients and enzymes from fruits and veggies.
And some just drink juice because they like the taste.

One thing nearly everyone agrees about juice- it's expensive!
If you buy store bought juice (I mean the real thing, not diluted and sweetened with sugar and other stuff), it's expensive.
If you make your own juice, it's also often expensive.
You know why?
Because it takes a LOT of fruit or vegetables to make a very minimal amount of juice! 
Think about it- juice is just the liquid that has been extracted from a fruit or vegetable, and most fruits and vegetables have a really large percent pulp, not just juice (aside from some noticeable exceptions like watermelon). So in order to make just one cup of juice, you often need 10-20 times the amount of fruit/veggies.

So, is it possible to actually juice frugally?

Yes.

Here's how.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Penniless Parenting in a Crisis

Rachel's baby in the ICU, 5 days post open heart surgery
This is a guest post by my friend Rachel. She's a mother of 5 and pretty frugal minded. We've shared ideas for money saving things back and forth already for years. Recently, her family went through a crisis, and she wanted to write a blog post on how a very frugal family manages in a crisis. I hope no one here ever has to go through a crisis, but unfortunately that's not always doable, so hopefully this post will help you out, should a crisis arise.

So you have been living frugally for a while. When regular life hits, you are ready. You have even learned to roll with the punches, to prepare for the little crises in life; sick kids, unexpected car repairs, and an extra $20 for Junior’s class trip no longer throw you for a loop. You are even prepared for bigger surprises; you are having a baby, you teenager “needs” a weekend away with friends, or your mother really wants you to fly in for Thanksgiving. But what about when something hits you just can’t prepare for in advance? How do you keep your finances in check, let alone your emotions?

Last month, we were prepared for one of these regular bumps, eagerly awaiting the arrival of what we thought was a perfectly healthy baby boy. I was prepared for regular baby expenses, and few extra surprises that always come up. I was not prepared for a baby born with a 1 in 20,000 heart defect which required open heart surgery at 5 days old and an almost 3 week hospital stay.

Now let me say, before I move on, that of course you can’t be prepared for every possibility. It’s not irresponsible to not prepare for the possibility your baby is born with a 1 in 20,000 defect that wasn’t seen on the ultrasound. The point of this post is, sometimes life throws you a bigger loop than you are prepared for, and ready or not you just have to deal.

Crisis Parenting 101

Rule #1- This is Not Your Fault

5 Tips to Buying Cheap but Trendy Kids Fashions

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a writer who enjoys talking about frugality and families.

Kids fashions always seem to be so expensive, even more so, because you just know, whatever you buy is not going to fit them for long; at most, a year, or two if you’re really lucky. As a mom, it just seems a little silly to purchase a pair of shoes or a cool t-shirt, pants or jacket for $100 or more, when you know your child will soon grow out of it.

Buying out-of-fashion clothes, or finding second-hand, ill-fitting, and worn clothing isn’t the answer either; after all you don’t want your kids to look unfashionable or uncool. No! the solution is to find those hot new styles at the right price (well, within your budget). The key is to find those cheap Jordans, that cool inexpensive Abercrombie & Fitch or the latest in Aeropostale at a fraction of its going price. This way you won’t feel so bad when your kids quickly grow out of the latest and greatest fashion trend.

You can just go out and pick-up some more great new kids fashion styles. So, just how do you go about finding these trendy inexpensive fashions? The following are a few shopping tips that can get you the quality fashion brands you want at the price you can afford.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

5 Minute DIY Easy Layered Haircut- A Review

In my entire 24 years of life, I've been to a hairdresser twice.
Every other time I got my hair cut and styled, it was by my mom or myself or a friend.
So I know that you don't need to spend a lot of money to have decent looking hair.
(Of course, it helps that my hair is pretty low maintenance.)

Most people who have been around the frugal/DIY bloggosphere long enough have probably heard about the "Easy, 5 minute, Do-it-yourself layered haircut" in which you just have to "make a high ponytail and chop it off to get a choppy, layered look".
I'd heard so many rave reviews about that haircut, that when I discovered that my kids had lice and I decided that I needed a haircut, because checking my own hair for lice was very difficult with long hair, I decided to try it out.

So, here's a video showing how to do it.


Hearth and Soul Blog Hop


Hearth & Soul Hop

Welcome back to yet another edition of the Hearth and Soul blog hop.
This is where you get the chance each week to share your favorite food related posts with the other visitors to the hop, and you get to check out theirs as well. The Hearth and Soul Hop is about food that not only nourishes our body, but also nourishes our souls.

Here's a recap of some of the rules for participating:

Recipes should include healthy ingredients and can be old or new recipes or posts. Articles on real food, slow food, foraging, herbal remedies, local food, sustainable food, organics, gardening or any healthy eating information written in a positive and loving light are also welcome.
As much as many of us are interested in frugality and green/natural living, this is a food blog hop; there are many other blog hops where you can share those posts of yours. Please keep your non food related blog posts off the hop.

All the hosts at Hearth and Soul care very deeply about this blog hop, and make an group effort to be sure that every post is commented on. We also Pin and Tweet many of the entries. You don’t find this with every blog hop, and in exchange for our efforts, we respectfully request that you include a link in the actual blog post you are sharing back to one of the hosts, either by worded link or using our badge. It is not enough to link using a communal blog party page. People rarely click on these links and it is unlikely they will find the Hearth and Soul hop using these sort of pages.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Menu Plan Monday- Family Get Together and Guests

We had our annual family get together yesterday and today, and I'd been cooking up a storm. We're a large crowd, what with all the children and grand children, so lots of food had to be made. We split the food preparation work, and even so, I spent a LOT of time in the kitchen cooking everything that I was supposed to bring along.
I made everything gluten free, and tried to make it as frugal as possible by buying all my produce from the reduced rack as well as foraging other ingredients. 
The food was a huge hit, and even family members who are not such adventurous eaters loved the food, even the experimental wild foods recipes.


This is just SOME of the food I made and brought with me!

Here's the menu plan, what we served, as well as everything else I'll be serving for the rest of the week, to hopefully give you some frugal cooking inspiration.
Only the main meal of the day is being shared... because the rest isn't preplanned, and often is just leftovers.
Things may be changed up a bit, because depending on if/what I forage, and if I get some free past prime produce (which I have been getting more and more lately), I may change the menu to include those things as well.

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