Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Today's Frugal Produce Shopping Trip

After yesterday's post about my shopping trip, I have to say that despite my reassurance that we do have produce at home and we will manage in that department, I was feeling guilty about the lack of fruit and variety of produce, and I'm sure some people reading the post were thinking that it didn't seem like enough produce...

So today there was a local sale that often had good prices for produce, so I went to check them out.
I spent $14.80 and got all this, which, to be honest, is not as much produce as I'd get for the amount in the open air market, but I'm working with my limitations here and this is much less than I would have paid for the same produce at the cheap grocery store that I shopped at yesterday.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Latest Frugal Grocery Shoppping Trip

The past few weeks I've had a hard time doing grocery shopping frugally- I've been very busy with a lot of things, so have done lots of short cuts that save me time but cost me more money, and that continued onto our family's vacation this past week, where I didn't want to be spending so much time in the kitchen cooking. On top of that, the fact that my arm is in pain means that I can't go to the open air market and bring back my super cheap produce, because even with my super strong wagon I need two arms to be able to take it all home. In short, our grocery bills this month have already been higher than I'd like them to be for the month ($570 is what I prefer to be my upper limit), and there are still 9 days left this month... so I decided to do a challenge and do as minimal grocery shopping as possible to keep it under $715 for the month. My house is set up relatively well enough to do that, there are just certain groceries I still need, but the rest I can probably make do with what's at home and what I forage.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Our Frugal Summer Beach Trip (and What We Foraged) and an Update on My Arm

My daughter, Rose, enjoying herself at the beach
I'm sorry I didn't post recently, or update on what's going on in my life...

From this past Monday until yesterday, Sunday, my family and I went on a trip to a beach town, a (long) bus ride away from where we lived. It is an annual tradition by now, and we've figured out how to do it frugally.

We stay at an apartment belonging to a relative and within a few minute's walk from the beach, and try to hit up the beach as often as we can- frugal entertainment at its finest.

In addition to the beach, we try to take the kids to the splash pad, also a short walk away from where we stay, not to mention free and fun.

While I had to run an errand one day, my husband took the kids to Ikea, where they window shopped, and he bought them super cheap ice cream.

We looked at the city's municipality's website and heard about a free clown festival happening one of the evenings we were there, so we took our kids and got to enjoy so many different performances, all sorts of different clowns, some jugglers, some mimes, some tightrope walkers, and some comedians. The kids and I all enjoyed ourselves. Even better was the fact that a good friend was vacationing in the same place and we got our families together at the clown festival, in addition to my getting together with her another evening.

I also enjoyed a walk on the beach and the promenade with yet another friend in the area- along the walk we foraged some plants together, and identified some others.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Delicious Italian Style Antipasti Stir-Fry Recipe - Gluten Free, Paleo, and Vegan

Recently I was in a restaurant and had a delicious meal of fish, salad, and cooked vegetables. The cooked vegetables were called antipasti but honestly looked more stir fry like to me. It was really amazing and once home looked for a way to recreate it. I knew it had onions, green beans, mushrooms, red peppers and sweet potatoes but beyond that I didn't know. I asked my Facebook contacts for suggestions on how to combine those ingredients to make a terrific dish and my friend Beth suggested I go with oregano, garlic and balsamic vinegar. I tried it out and it was so delicious. As much as I enjoy eating out its so nice to be able to recreate a meal at home so that occasionally you can enjoy the taste without the price tag.
Because this recipe has to be made in two parts its not the easiest recipe ever but it is simple enough that I was able to make most of it myself despite a hand in a cast (Mike chopped the sweet potatoes, I did the rest.) it's also not the cheapest dish in the world but it's relatively frugal and fancy enough to serve to guests in addition to it being both Paleo and vegan. Highly highly recommended.

Just note this makes a relatively large amount so you'll need a large pan.

Delicious Italian Style Antipasti Stir-Fry Recipe - Gluten Free, Paleo, and Vegan

Three Essential Home Upgrades for New Parents

This post was written by a reader.

First of all, everyone understands that when you have a new addition to the family, money is tight. For something so small, they sure know how to consume, and by the time you have stocked up on all the essentials to keep them clean, clothed, safe and fed, the chances are, the last subject on your mind is home upgrades.

But there are some things that you really should consider, and they need not cost a fortune. Here are my top three suggestions.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

In a Cast Now...

This post is taking a while to write because...
My left hand is currently in a half cast from above my elbow to my fingers... Hard to type quickly when using just one hand...

Planning for Your Child's Future Education

As a parent, it’s only natural that you’d want your child to have the best education possible so that they can have a great start in life and reach their potential. For a great many parents, that means setting money aside to be able to support their son or daughter – with HSBC finding that 91 per cent of parents plan to provide financial support when it comes to the fees and costs associated with further education.

The sums involved in paying for your child’s education aren’t insignificant so it pays, literally, to have a plan in place to be able to do your parental duty in this regard.

Here are some things to bear in mind…

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Make Money From Home as a Pet-Sitter

This post was written by Nat Smith, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation's largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

What if you discovered that you could make money from home, doing work that’s engaging and rewarding for the whole family? Pet-sitting is an amazing way to earn money and teach your children valuable skills in the comfort of your own home.

Dogs need individual attention and loving care to thrive. Owners turn to Rover.com to find reliable, friendly sitters to look after their pets while they’re traveling or at work. Whether you board dogs in your home overnight or offer doggy daycare, you can build a successful and flexible business in a few simple steps.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Our New Free Bathroom Cabinet -- Homemade From Pallet Wood

When I went to pick out the tiles for my new house about 2 years ago, the day that I went to pick them out I was feeling really really strange, my head was not in the right place... and I came down with some awful bug where I didn't get out of bed for a week after that. Needless to say, I didn't have the right head space for making decisions about our house, and when I finally saw some of my choices once they were installed, I kind of freaked. The bathroom especially upset me, because it was this pale yellowish brown, and I couldn't understand why I'd picked such a weird color for the bathroom...

My friend Michelle, the one who helped me with my clothes makeover, and in general is good with design things, actually pointed out to me how that color isn't so bad, its actually nice- it's the color of sand. And if I wanted to pair it with other colors, I should go in the beach direction, for a beach themed bathroom- blues like the ocean, driftwood color (light woods), and the sand colored tiles... Once I looked at it that way, I started seeing the potential, and honestly, now the room that I thought I'd hate most is one of my favorite rooms in the house- the en suite bathroom in the master bedroom.

The thing is, we have a tiny space in our bathroom. Our bedroom is also extremely small, and the bathroom is rather tiny, specifically to make more room in our dining room/living room/kitchen, and I'm totally OK with that, but it did mean we needed to come up with some creative solutions to work around it.

6 Popular Passive Investments to Build Wealth and Financial Security

This post is written by Nancy Evans, a mom who loves being able to invest the money she saves by living frugally.

There is a common misconception that holds most people back from being able to become financially independent and secure. It's the myth that you need to come from a wealthy family in order to make money. This simply isn't true, as there are plenty of examples the world over of billionaires who were once dirt poor.

Money Myths that Prevent Financial Security

It is falsehoods like this that prevent folks from taking the one simple step that is necessary to build wealth: investing. Another myth that holds people back from investing is the mistaken belief that they can't afford to begin investing now.

While you will need at least some capital to begin investing, most of us can cut back on spending and put our savings towards investment goals.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Homemade Toasted Sesame Flavored Oil Recipe- Frugal and Easy Hack

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Asian food, specifically Korean food. I am able to combine a variety of frugal and super frugal ingredients, whatever I have on hand, either foraged or purchased from the reduced rack, and create gorgeous and delicious healthy dishes with them. However, there is one ingredient that is required in a lot of Korean dishes that is not quite so cheap- toasted sesame oil, but a little bit packs a big punch, so I am willing to splurge on that.
However, even if there's something that I'm willing to splurge on, if I can get the equivalent for far cheaper, then why not, as long as I'm not compromising on taste (at least not too much).

My friend Charmane told me a few years ago that she makes an imitation toasted sesame oil to use to give flavor to dishes. It's not sesame free, so it's not a good alternative for people with sesame allergies. However, what she does is toast sesame seeds and use them to infuse bland oils with that toasted sesame flavor. While Charmane doesn't do it specifically for money saving purposes, but just in a pinch if she doesn't have a chance to go out and buy toasted sesame oil. If you live in a place that toasted sesame oil is hard to come by, it also is a great solution.
I decided to give it a try and see how it works. While I was at it, I wanted to compare- does it really save money, and if so, how much?

KidGuard- Keeping Your Children Safe Online

As a mom with kids who are getting older, the debate in my head about whether or not to allow my children to get cell phones and other tech devices of their own rages in my head. We finally decided to get my 9 year old a smart phone for his birthday in September, with a data plan, but it stresses me out somewhat. Is it safe? Is it a good idea? Then my mind starts wondering- is it safe for him to not have a cell phone of his own, especially as he gets more independent, and I allow him to go places without me unsupervised?

KidGuard, a company whose aim is to protect children using technology, contacted me and asked me to tell my readers about their service. What they do is reassuring for parents like myself, who debate about smart phones and tech for kids- who want to get it for their kids, but at the same time, don't want to compromise on safety.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Futility of Mommy Wars

Babywearing. The subject of many Mommy wars.
11 years ago I was the perfect mother. Of course that was before I was even pregnant with my first. I remember writing a list of all the things I'd do as a parent, like never co sleeping with my baby, all the things I'd insist on with my kids, how they'd be, how I'd discipline them, etc. The list was actually a couple of pages long if I recall correctly and I was so proud of myself for having written it out, for going into motherhood prepared with a plan instead of just winging it and probably flubbing it as I was sure a parent without a clearly defined direction would be doing.

Well, then I gave birth. And boy was I in for a rude awakening. It doesn't matter how much I read, how much I researched, how much I planned ahead, motherhood was so different from what I expected. That list ended up in the trash because nearly none of it was relevant. My kids were themselves and not anything that my master list could have predicted.

But even so, once my kids were born I developed a very rigid idea of what the proper way to mother was... And at first I stuck with it religiously, even when it was hurting me, even when it wasn't working for me, because the guilt was so bad if I didn't.
And all around me the Mommy wars raged.

Monday, July 31, 2017

DIY Pallet Wine and Liquor Rack

I was so excited to share my husband's last pallet wood project with you... only... it no longer is his latest project! He's since built something even more awesome than this, but you'll have to wait for me to post about it, but let's just say I'm amazed by his skills and ability to transform simple wooden pallets into masterpieces.

So for now, I'm going to gush about this project of his- a pallet wine rack. Though I'll admit, we do store other things on there, not just wine. Like vodka, and whiskey, and other distilled beverages. I guess that makes it a wine and liquor rack. Why not? Yes, it only holds wine glasses, not glasses meant for other types of alcohol, but in our home we don't stand on ceremony, we'll drink anything from a wine glass.

Managing Finances While Unemployed

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I am very happy that my husband works in a very much needed, if underpaid, profession round these parts. He'll hopefully never be unemployed, and that hasn't been an issue of ours since we married. However, those in other professions often do face layoffs or end up unemployed for whatever reasons, and I really appreciate this post by reader, Amy, about how to manage your finances in such a situation.

There are lots of reasons for being unemployed. A majority of people are unemployed abruptly. They may have been let go or laid off with no warning. This is why it’s recommended you have an emergency fund equal to three months of expenses saved up. That way if the unavoidable happens, you have a backup plan. Plenty of folks don’t always have those expenses saved up and if they do, they could very well find themselves unemployed longer than those 3 months. Or even experience more hardship that depletes their funds quickly. This changes how we need to manage our finances when we become unemployed. Here are our top tricks on what you can do to help you manage your money and hopefully stay afloat.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Easy Healthy Eating Menu Plan for Weight Loss- With Recipes

Sauted mushrooms and kale, seasoned with curry powder,
and seared curry spiced tuna
Someone I care about was told that they need to lose weight desperately, go on a diet, because otherwise they have a very, very high risk of having medical complications.
This person currently does not eat healthily at all, is not much of a cook, but wants to, and doesn't have a lot of time or energy to be spending all day in the kitchen. I was asked to make this person a menu plan, to help them lose weight, and fast.

I will add at this point that I am not a dietician nor a doctor nor do I profess to be one. The whole point of this post is just to share some tips that worked for me, some easy menu ideas that are weight loss friendly and aren't too time consuming to prepare. If you're unsure of what you should be eating for weight loss reasons, run this by a doctor or dietician before starting. I don't think I shared anything controversial at all, though, just well rounded healthy meals.

I have personal experience with losing weight by going on a Paleo diet, especially one with lower amounts of carbohydrates, but I think that that change might be a bit too big for someone who currently doesn't eat healthily. So I would not suggest that this person go completely Paleo, just a gluten free, clean eating, low carb, moderate fat, diet, and if that doesn't seem to be working, then I'd suggest she tweak it to be different, as needed.

The basis of the diet will be three square meals a day, carbohydrates strictly limited, lean proteins, unlimited amounts of lower carbohydrate vegetables, and fats moderated but not limited as strictly as carbohydrates. I read a post on ChrisKresser.com a while back (but can't find the link anymore) about why many people who go on lower carb diets lose weight at first and then start gaining it back, and part of what he said is that it is not just carbohydrate intake that affects weight loss, but overall calories as well. Usually when people first start going lower carb, they eat fewer calories as well, since they can't stomach the higher fat content of a diet in which fat replaces carbohydrates. However, gradually they start eating more and more fatty foods and this causes them to gain weight because they end up eating just as many calories, if not more, than where they started out, replacing carbs with high fat foods like nuts and cheeses. Because of this, I think its important that people trying to lose weight don't overdo the fats. I'm not saying avoid them entirely, but be cognizant of how many fats you are eating. Don't snack on nuts, for example.

Investing for the Average Joe

If, like myself, you're not a maven in investing, but want to know more, thankfully Nancy Evans wrote this informative post to help teach us more about investing money.

Where and how you invest your money is a decision that is critical. That being said, being able to fully understand the different types of investments you can make might just require you to take a crash course in just the terminology. Here is a quick look at a few of the terms and investment types that might help you gain a bit of an understanding of the process of investing while allowing you to make better, more informed decisions.

A cryptocurrency is a digital type of asset that has been developed and designed in such a way that they function as a type of exchange (just as with money) online. Cryptocurrency is managed and maintained by the use of cryptography, and this acts as a measure of security. You can invest in this asset by either purchasing it outright or by mining for it with a company such as Genesis Mining. There are quite a few types of this currency, but Bitcoin is the most well – known. There are also Litecoin, Ripple, MintChip, and Ethereum.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Homemade Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix Recipe--Vegan, Paleo, and Allergy Friendly

Growing up, my family didn't have lots of ranch dressing (French and Italian and Thousand Island were more common), but we did periodically buy it.
And we used it as a salad dressing, period.

As an adult, I learned how versatile ranch dressing is. How it can be used as a sauce on nearly anything from pizza to chicken to fish to french fries and so many other ways. But you don't even need to have the dressing to get the yummy flavor- ranch dressing seasoning mix can also be used in a variety of ways to add deliciousness to a variety of dishes.
My friend Kerryann uses ranch seasoning mix on brussel sprouts. I find it is absolutely out of this world on zucchini. Popcorn also tastes great with it. So does chicken and fish and rice and potatoes and roasted carrots... You name it, its good with ranch dressing seasoning mix.

I made my own after seeing ideas on plenty of different sites. I added nutritional yeast to give it a cheesiness, but if you don't like nutritional yeast or don't have it, you can leave it out. If leaving out the nutritional yeast, make sure to use the smaller amount of salt listed, or it'll be too salty.

If you want ranch dressing or dip instead of just the seasoning mix, you have a few options. You can take mayonnaise and buttermilk or regular milk or non dairy milk or sour cream or non dairy sour cream and mix two or more of them together with the seasoning mix, added to taste, until you have it just right.
If you want to keep it vegan, you can mix it with cashew cream (soaked cashews blended up with lemon and salt) or vegan mayo (like my flax seed mayo) or a mix of the two.

Everyone in my family adores my ranch dressing and seasoning mix- I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does.

Homemade Vegan Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix Recipe

1/4 cup dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried dill
1/4 cup onion flakes
1/2-1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. If you have a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder grind until a little more fine. It doesn't need to be powdery- some chunks are fine.

3. Store in a dry place until using.


Are you a fan of ranch? Do you tend to use the seasoning mix or the dressing? What is your favorite use for the seasoning mix or dressing? Do you tend to make it from scratch and if so, how? Or do you buy it ready made?
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Diversified Investments: Examples to Help You Gauge Your Future

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I literally know nothing about investing, but it is an important stage in taking care of your finances- save money and then once you have it saved, invest to grow. That is why I appreciate this post by reader Nancy Evans about how to invest better. 

Investment diversification is a hard topic to grasp if you’ve mostly relied on autopilot investment strategies like a company 401K. A recent story in Bloomberg highlights why more people are taking an active interest in their future finances: employers are rapidly slashing benefits. From 2001 to 2015, there’s evidence that workers lost a collective quarter of the value of previous generations in benefits. Simply put, retirement is expensive and companies are scaling back to cut costs.

That puts the lion’s share of work on you to figure out where and how to invest. If you’re a beginner, and you’re wondering what a healthy diversified portfolio looks like, here are some examples and thoughts to stimulate your mind.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Frugality When Dating

When you meet people in person, especially when it's through friends, you often know something about them already based on how you met them. If you met them through frugal mutual friends, or doing a frugal activity, you'd have an idea (though maybe not complete) about how they live, that they may be frugal oriented. But if you meet them through dating websites such as Yes Dates you can't make any assumptions about whether or not they'd be on the same page as you vis-a-vis frugality, and therefore, it should be discussed on dates early on in a relationship to make sure you're compatible in terms of lifestyle and financially.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Story of My Redbud Flower Wine and Its Transformations

When I read Pascal Bauder's book "The New Wildcrafted Cuisine" I got so inspired by his taking wild plants- fruits and flowers- and turning them into alcoholic beverages. He has a whole section about that in his book, including how to make these beverages without any added yeast, just using the wild ones in the area.

Mid March I took a bunch of foraged redbud flowers and mixed them with sugar and water and let them sit, to see what would happen to them. I don't remember the exact proportion of sugar to water...

Boost Your Home’s Resale Value on the Cheap

I am so grateful to have been able to buy a house in a community I love that I have no plans on moving away from this place any time in the near future, if ever. But I do know, though, that many people are trying to sell their home, and in order to increase its resale value often invest lots of money into their property first. This post was sent by a reader, and hopefully it'll be useful for those of you in need of some ideas on how to boost your home's resale value without needing to spend too much money on the process.

Moving is never easy, both from the aspect of logistics and emotionally. Leaving your home for a new place you may not know much about can be stressful. However, if you are able to get a good price for your home, you can be more content with the whole situation. Prepping your home for the sale doesn’t have to cost a whole lot of money if you do it smartly.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our Family's Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

My husband's frugal project this week.

It's been some time since I did a weekly frugal accomplishment round up, but I've been missing those. For those new here, it's when throughout the week I tally up the various frugal things I did, and then share them with you at the end of the week. Sometimes I do more frugal things, and sometimes less. Sometimes I look back and say "Wow, I really had a very unfrugal week"- that happened this week, I'll admit- and then when I write up the post I get reminded that, despite thinking I flubbed frugally (and I'm not saying that never happens, or that I didn't do anything unfrugal this week), I still did things to save money that are worthy of acknowledgment, even if they are small.

So here they are- the various frugal things my husband and I did that saved money over the past week.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Biking, Exploring, and Cooking- My Polish Vacation, Day 2

Sorry I didn't get this post the day it happened, about 2 week ago. I wrote most of it then but was too tired to post it, and then decided to save writing and posting about my trip until after I came home.

If I had to sum up my first official day on Poland (because the day I was traveling there can't officially be counted, for real), it would be with the words biking, exploring, foraging, and cooking. My Airbnb hosts Piotr and Karolina are really wonderful people, first of all. They speak decent english, are very helpful and kind, and I believe I just made some new friends.

Piotr and Karolina gave me a bike to use for while I was there, and though as a child and teen I bike rode a lot and enjoyed it, I haden't ridden a bike in 15 years. My goal was to explore the countryside and bike to a park 12 kilometers away, possibly, or stay more local.

My day started out seeing this gorgeous view from my balcony window, at my AirBnB in Jastkow, Poland, a village not far outside Lublin:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Give Your Bathroom a Facelift on a Budget

I am really excited to share this post with you. Fortunately, living in a brand new house, our bathroom is quite beautiful (if I may say so myself), and hopefully soon I plan on sharing pics with you. But I know what it's like to live in an older home especially with a bathroom that is far from ideal, so this post filled with lots of affordable ways to give your bathroom a makeover, from the most basic to the more extreme, depending on your skills level and budget. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Have you been through this motion? However often you clean your bathroom, it always seems just a bit too tired and never quite shines as you would want it to? Maybe it is time to remodel it. Companies such as Plumbing Plus of San Diego offer a wide variety of choices. However, remodeling can be a costly endeavor and not everyone can afford it. Yet, there might be an easier, more affordable solution. Give your bathroom a facelift where it counts. This article contains several ideas for refreshing your bathroom without much investment.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Authenticity and its Pitfalls

Some of you might have wondered about my post last month, and about the relatively infrequent posting on my blog since then...

I'm authentic on this blog when it comes to sharing my lifestyle choices with you, even lifestyle choices that may be very different from the norm. This is an extreme frugality blog, and I do other extreme things, so yes, I'm daring to be authentic here...

But I get pushback. Sometimes I get criticism, and that I can usually take, because I'm confident enough in what we do and that our lifestyle is the right one for our family. But sometimes I get such cruel responses, attacking me and my character and my morals and everything else I hold dear... and that's when it makes me do a double take and question sharing so much.

I was reading a book by Brene Brown (awesome speaker, writer, etc... look her up on Youtube to see her Ted talks if you haven't yet) called "The Gifts of Imperfection; Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" and came across this segment that spoke to me so much, you have no idea, especially as it relates to this blog, and inspired me to keep on being me and authentic, despite the kickback I inevitably will get. Because that is the price for connecting, and I've connected to so many of you readers via this blog, and I wouldn't want to give that up for the world.

And now here's what Brene said.

Friday, July 14, 2017

BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic Recipe- Inspired by Trader Joe's

My sister in law visited from the United States, and brought me along some gifts that I really appreciated- some spice mixes from Trader Joe's. One of them was this delicious coffee and garlic spice rub that I loved to put on nearly everything, though baked chicken was my favorite... but as with these types of things, I eventually ran out of it...
I decided to try to mimic the recipe, and reading the back gave me a good idea of what was in it. However, I found this link to a copy cat recipe for it, and then modified it to use what I had in the house. I left out the orange/clementine peel, but you know what? I think it's just fine without it. Can I say it tastes exactly the same? I don't know, but it's great, and my kids just wanted to sit there eating the spice mix plain, its that good.
Feel free to use this spice mix on pretty much anything you want, such as roasted veggies, chicken, fish, beef, etc... It doesn't need to be barbecued- just baked is fine, or even sprinkled onto your food right before eating.
This is a vegan and gluten free recipe, and depending on how you make it, it can also be paleo (if you use coconut sugar).

BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic Recipe- Inspired by Trader Joe's

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Foraging Wild Edibles in Poland- With Lots of Pictures!

Having never stepped foot in Poland before, I assumed that going there, I might recognize one or two different edible plants, and maybe do a drop of foraging. I was not expecting to recognize most of the plants there, with them being things I regularly forage locally, or plants I'm familiar with even if I didn't forage them myself.

Here's just some of the many, many, many edible plants I saw in Poland. I saw the vast majority of them the the first day in Poland, in the Jastkow village in the countryside outside Lublin, but saw very many wild edibles in the city of Lublin, proper, as well as in Warsaw.

When I first was being driven from the airport to the rural airbnb where I was staying at, at around 3 in the morning, I saw these giant leaves growing all along the sides of the country road. I couldn't identify them 100% because it was dark and the speed in which we were driving, but I saw that it was absolutely the most common plant I could find in the countryside. I suspected it was a type of dock/sorrel/rumex species, but decided to check it out better in the morning.

When I had a chance to walk and bike through the country side, I took a better look at this plant and saw that it was not dock, but rather horseradish!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Poland Trip- Day One, Sorta

It is currently 3:15 am Polish time, and I'm tired. I just decided that I want to write a blog post every day of my trip (or nearly) so I'll keep this short and head straight to bed, so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow for my bike trip through the country side.

This morning I wrote a menu for the family for while I'm gone, all easy to make foods, and then finished packing the last of my stuff and headed out the door. I specifically went to a change place in town instead of converting money in Poland or at the airport to get better rates. 

After that, I headed to the airport bus that goes straight from the city center to the departure terminal. It was very cheap, only $4.50.

I got to the airport really, really early. I mean super early. As in instead of getting to the airport 3 hours before my flight as they recommend, I arrived 6 hours early... Ok, plenty of time to relax and get things done (pick up my travel health insurance card, my sim card, etc...), but the flight ended up being delayed by 2 hours, so turns out I arrived to the airport 8 hours before my flight took off!

Once I finally got onto the plane, I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite my paying only 47 dollars round trip for my flight, the airplane was decent. It was a Boeing 737, I specifically asked as my son Lee is obsessed with airplanes.

The flight was decent. I talked with some of the people on the plane, made a few friends, including some that want me to stay in touch.

I took this picture of the plane so that Lee, who will be reading this blog post to follow along with my travels, can see what the airplane looked like.

Passport control was literally a cinch. Someone on the plane from Belarus, neighboring Poland, was telling me how much his visa cost, and I was wondering how much I'd have to pay for mine. 
They literally looked at my passport, didn't say a word to me, just scanned it and stamped it and that's it.

The arrivals hall was not what I expected. I don't know what I expected, but not this. Then again, after 2 am so....

Interesting and amusing and comforting and weird to see those rental car services I'm familiar with from the US, Avis and Hertz, in Lublin too...

One thing I've noticed so far- Poland has lots and lots and lots of doors. Every hallway has a door at the beginning and end of it. I was told by my airbnb host that it is to keep out the cold. But it's just weird to see so many doors...

Pleasantly surprised to see this nursing room in the airport right near the bathrooms.

My airbnb host picked me up from the airport- even nicer as it was at 2:30 am, and brought me to the place.

The room where I'm staying for $13 a night is large, comfortable, etc... even if its not necessarily my style decor. 

In the morning I'll explore more.

The bathroom is gorgeous but no pic of it yet...

So far spent today on this trip?  $4.50 on the airport bus, $23.14 on my airfare, $45 on my cell phone service plan, $13 on my airbnb, $11.34 towards my host for the ride from the airport, and $4 for orange juice and vodka as a treat for myself on the flight. $100.98 so far. I plan on keeping a running tally for the duration of the trip.

 And now, time for bed.


Hopefully will update tomorrow... (Or rather... today.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Getting Ready for My Trip

Sorry I haven't been so talkative lately, still trying to figure out certain things about this blog... but in addition to that, I've been pretty busy lately doing all sorts of stuff, including teaching various foraging and shopping classes around and more importantly, getting ready for my trip!

I leave tomorrow for Lublin, Poland, and I'm really excited. My itinerary changed from what I'd originally planned- instead of just staying in the Lublin area, I'm taking a double decker bus to Warsaw where I'll be spending two days, before coming back to Lublin by train. I already found out details about the public transportation and purchased tickets.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Importance of Taking Care of You, and My Latest Frugal Shop

I remember one time I took my kids out for ice cream, and someone tsked me for it, saying "Aren't you supposed to be frugal?" When I think about misconceptions regarding frugality, that is always the first story that comes to mind. Many assume that to be truly frugal, it means never spending money on anything that isn't absolutely necessary. But here's the thing- I don't believe in that kind of frugality. In fact, I am loathe to even call it frugality, because my definition of frugality is far different. It's living within your means, not spending more than necessarily on things (getting the best deals you can on them, if possible), and cutting back on things not important to you so that you have the money to spend on things that are.

There's a lot of discussion about wants vs needs when it comes to frugality, and where money should be spent, but I think its fallacious to ignore the fact that wants can be emotional needs, and we can't dismiss our mental health state, and how being in a good place mentally is not only very important, but also gives you the headspace to be more frugal, or make more money (or both).

A friend of mine recently bumped into me on the street and was saying that she feels guilty when she sees me because she is spending a lot more than I am on many things, and she had an expense that she was pushing off because it wasn't frugal, and because of that, was increasing the stress load in her life tremendously every single day. I reassured this friend that she didn't need to feel bad about spending the money, even a large amount of money, on something that would significantly affect her life for the positive- frugality is not stinginess, and there's no point in being frugal if you don't use the money you save to improve your quality of life. (That is a big part of my thought process behind why I'm spending money- frugally, but still spending money- on a vacation abroad next week that I feel is necessary for my mental health and to improve my qualify of life.)

Frugal dating: how to have a perfect date almost without money

My husband and I have been making an effort to go on more dates lately, and not just the twice a year type thing that we'd been doing until now. The thing is regular dates can be expensive and if you're trying to regularly go on dates, either the price tag can get pretty hefty, or you might decide to push off the dates because of the cost. If you can date without spending much money if at all, you'll hopefully get the benefits without the drawbacks. A friend from Planetofbrides.com kindly shared with me some interesting ideas about frugal dating for everyone. These scenarios are suitable for first dates, anniversaries, and for married couples that look for ways of brighten their everyday life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I'm still here

For those of you wondering why I haven't posted anything in the past while... I'm still here. I just have been doing a lot of thinking. As a result of various things going on in my life, thinking about how I run this blog and why, and if I plan on making any changes to it for the future. I don't have an answer yet and hopefully will go back to my regular scheduled programming soon, I just can't tell you exactly how soon.
Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Planning an Exciting and Frugal Vacation Abroad

Destination: Lublin. Photo credit Lukaszprzy
I recently learned about a site called SkyScanner.com, which allows you to find cheap flights around the world. Unlike many price comparison websites where you need to put in a specific location and specific dates, SkyScanner lets you put in your departure location, and then from there on, it's flexible. You can pick a specific location or choose "Everywhere". You can choose specific dates, or you can ask it to show you the cheapest dates.
So of course I plugged in my location, and since I didn't have a specific location in mind, or a specific date, I just left those open... and found something that astounded me. Flights from my closest airport to Lublin, Poland, for 23 dollars each way. Yes. That is including taxes and fees and all that. Its a no frills airline, and it is only on specific dates, but I said that that is too amazing of a deal to pass up.
So I booked it.

From July 5-July 10 I will be on vacation in and around the general Lublin, Poland area.

Dom mansjonarski w Lublinie (2009-06-12)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chicken Yakisoba Recipe- Gluten Free, Paleo Option, Vegan Option, Allergy Friendly

Yakisoba made with the vegetables listed below, plus with the addition of swiss chard

In my house growing up, my mom, despite being a very adventurous cook in general, and teaching me to love foods from cuisines around the world, had very specific ideas about what flavors and foods could and couldn't get together. Fruit did not go with vegetables, and onions with fruit were an anathema to her. (When people gave us fruit chutney with onions, you wouldn't believe her incredulous reaction.)
One of those combinations that my mom considered a strict no-no were tomatoes and soy sauce- tomatoes were something Italian, soy sauce Asian, and never the twain shall meet... For the longest time, even after I rid myself of most of my mom's particular cooking ideas, and even after I began to embrace fusion cooking, I still couldn't wrap my head around the concept of tomatoes or tomato based anything with soy sauce, as tomatoes 'had no place in Asian cooking' (which isn't entirely accurate anyhow).
Imagine my surprise, therefore, to learn about yakisoba, an authentic (if relatively modern) Japanese recipe, that was made with tomato based ketchup, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce! I've been trying to find out the history of the sauce, how the fusion dish came about (and am in the middle of reading a book about the end of the shogunate in Japan and the beginning of western influence on Japanese society in the middle of the 1800s), but I am not finding a definitive answer, though I suspect it has something to do with the "westernization" of Japan, and then adapted post World War Two (but would appreciate further clarification)...

15 Summer Nature Activities for Kids

This post was written by Joe, an outdoor enthusiast and lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.

What are your kids doing this Summer? For many of us summer time with the kids is a time to enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine and if you're lucky the ocean.

As much as kids love summer holidays, keeping them busy can be a real chore! If you've not got the luxury of a summer camp then it's up to you as parent to find things for the youngsters to keep busy with.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Insanely Frugal Shopping Guru- Interview with Penny's Dad

Hello there everyone. Today I decided to do something a little bit different. I've talked about my parents before, and how I grew up, and shared various things my dad and mom have taught me about saving money and cooking... Recently, though, my dad has been talking to me about his monthly grocery budget and I'll tell you something- if you think I'm nuts and crazy frugal, he outshines me by a mile.
My dad cooks mainly for himself, 3 meals a day, seven days a week, and has guests (2-4 at a time) over for about 7 or 8 meals a month.
His grocery bills on average are about $43 dollars a month for all that.
Yes, you read that right. This is not a typo. 4. 3. dollars.
And I thought my 428 dollars-575 dollars a month (ok, for a family of 6, granted) was frugal. The biggest difference is that my dad is cooking for one (mainly) and I'm cooking for 6, and my dad and I have very different diets. My diet is very vegetable heavy, gluten free, processed food free, pretty much paleo, and my kids eat gluten free. My dad on the other hand doesn't avoid processed foods in theory, but overall does simply to save money, and he eats a lot of gluten and refined carbohydrates and white sugar, etc... I wouldn't necessarily recommend someone follow my dad's shopping and dietary habits, but since I know there are many out there that don't see the need to eat the way I do, gluten free and practically paleo and a "traditional foods diet" but just want to eat decent meals on a low budget, I figured that it would be a nice idea to share how he shops and cooks. Maybe it'll inspire those of you who eat a diet more similarly to his than mine.

Here's the thing. I wanted to tell you about how he shops and how he keeps his grocery bills so low, but I knew many people wouldn't be likely to believe me, so for a month I asked him to keep tally to the nearest dollar, and for the month of May he spent $75.50. With half of that being food that he stocked up for a few months in the future. He predicts that he'll probably spend under $30 this month, but I'll follow up with him next month to see.

My dad is here right now, visiting, and I decided to write this post interview style, so he can tell you about how he shops the way he does, where he shops, what he eats, why he does it, and all that.

Meet my dad, Cardiologist Colonel Edward of the US Army, currently on inactive duty and living abroad not so far from where I do.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Marinated Artichoke Hearts Recipe- Canning Option Included

I love artichokes in so many ways. Marinated artichokes have got to be some of the most delicious methods of artichoke preparation, but they cost a ridiculous amount where I live- roughly $7 for a small jar. Making it yourself, though, especially when artichokes are bought frugally in season, or even more so, when bought from the reduced rack, they are a fraction of the cost. I made each jar for under $1, probably under 50 cents. I use pint sized jars for my recipe.

Once you have your artichokes prepared, it is very simple to marinate them. You can marinate them and then keep them in the refrigerator, or you can water bath can them, and then not need to store them in the fridge. 
Just note that when I water bath canned my artichokes, they ended up turning a brownish/purplish color, so if you want your artichoke to stay a pretty light green color, it's best to make them into refrigerator pickles. (Perhaps there is a way to make it maintain its color even when water bath canned, I just haven't managed to figure it out yet.)

You can do this with as many artichokes as you want, as my recipe is per jar. Double, triple, or increase as desired.

On top of being a low cost recipe, these marinated artichokes are delicious and suitable for a variety of special diets, whether gluten free and paleo to vegan and allergy friendly. If you love artichokes, give it a try- you won't regret it.
While I used oregano and thyme in my marinated artichoke hearts, feel free to mix up the herbs, using whatever flavors you like best paired with your artichoke hearts.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Allergy Friendly

Making Realistic Recipes from Cookbooks

A cookbook suitable for any kitchen
When you open a cookbook, sometimes the perfectly styled dishes there can seem very intimidating, something that people without time, money, or energy can’t recreate precisely with their cooking.

However, cooking doesn’t have to be a stressful experience- you can take recipes from cookbooks and make them your own, in a way that suits your lifestyle. Reading a cookbook doesn’t have hard and fast rules- you can use the pictures and recipes there as inspiration (who doesn’t enjoy flipping through cookbooks with beautiful pictures, and then get inspired to want to make similar?) and then adapt them as needed. Don’t like a certain ingredient? One of the items listed in a recipe is unaffordable? Substitute! Consider using frugal ingredient substitutions, as I listed here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to Clean and Prepare Artichokes for Pickling and Stuffing

I absolutely adore artichokes. Growing up, we had them on special occasions with my family, and because of that, I have really positive associations with that vegetable. I love artichoke any way I can get it, baked, boiled, stuffed, marinated, in soups, salads, you name it...
I felt like I hit the jackpot when I got 30 lbs of artichoke for 25 cents a pound, but I will admit, I was just a little bit overwhelmed. Much as I love artichoke, the only way I'd ever made it before was boiled or baked, whole; when I'd had it other ways, I'd always started with frozen or canned. I didn't want to just boil or bake all my 30 lbs of artichoke whole, but didn't even begin to know where to start if I wanted to turn my whole artichokes into hearts or to be able to can them.

I did a lot of googling to try to figure that out, and I'll admit, even that wasn't so helpful, since most of the instructions were vague or called for baby artichokes, which I didn't have.

However, I managed to figure it out and turn my artichokes into artichoke hearts for stuffing, canned them, made them into soup, and it's a game changer. I feel worlds of options opening up for me in the kitchen now because of this.

To help explain how to clean and prepare artichokes for pickling and stuffing, I made a video of my sister Lizzy, demonstrating how to do this. If it looks hard, I literally showed Lizzy how to do this only one minute before making this video- it's easy to learn. As that was her first time doing so, note that the more often you do this, the more practice you get, the faster you can get it done.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tuna Tartare with Capers on Beet Carpaccio Recipe- Paleo and Delicious

The other day I was looking for a fancy dish to make for a nice meal, but didn't want to spend too much money on it, saw some beets in my fridge and capers I'd just foraged, and got inspired to make this dish, tuna tartare with foraged capers and sow thistle capers on beet carpaccio. I first saw my friend Ben make a dish similar to this; his plating was an inspiration for mine.
Carpaccio is a dish invented in the 1950s and originally made with paper thin slices of beef topped with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt, and more recently people have started making meatless versions of it out of beets.
Tartare is typically made from raw meat or fish, onions, capers, and seasonings, and is similar to the raw fish ceviche.

When I made this dish, my entire family was in love, and the dish itself, despite its fancy appearance, was relatively easy to make and quite frugal. Tuna steaks, I'm sure you're thinking, are not remotely frugal, but if you compare the price per pound with canned tuna, tuna steaks typically work out to be significantly cheaper. I used just one tuna steak for this recipe and stretched it with lots of capers and onions and it was enough to serve as an appetizer for our entire family. The fish in this recipe cost me about a dollar, the beets about 35 cents, the onion was free, and the rest of the ingredients were so insignificant in terms of cost- a fancy appetizer like this for under $1.50, approximately the price of a can of chunk light tuna locally, definitely a frugal dish, even factoring in the tuna steak.
If you want to do a more fish heavy dish, and not have such a high onion to tuna ratio, you're welcome to do so, it will just increase the cost, and it tasted fishy and delicious enough like this, so I wouldn't change anything.

In terms of safety and raw fish, I'd suggest you do your own research about what types of tuna that you can locally buy are safe to eat raw. Sushi grade tuna would work, for example.

I used a combination of homemade foraged pickled capers and sow thistle capers (recipe in my book Penniless Foodie in the Wild, now available in Kindle version as well as print, on Amazon) in my recipe, but you can use store bought pickled capers or any mock capers, or a combination thereof in this recipe.

If you want to keep this vegan and/or lower the costs, you can simply make the beet carpaccio, thinly slice a raw onion and scatter it on the beets along with capers, before adding the rest of the toppings, and it tastes delicious and looks beautiful, albeit a little less so, that way as well.

Tuna Tartare with Capers on Beet Carpaccio Recipe- Paleo and Delicious

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Tale of Our Bedroom Vanity

Our new house, while nearly double the amount of living space of our old place, is still quite small for our family of six. Other than the bathrooms, the smallest room in the house is my bedroom. We did design the layout of the apartment, putting the walls and doors where we wanted, more or less, since we bought the place before internal walls were built, and we could have possibly made our bedroom bigger. However, any additional space we added to our bedroom would either make our kitchen/living room/dining room smaller, which we didn't want to do, or getting rid of our second bathroom, not either something we were keen to do. We made the choice to sacrifice bedroom space for the sake of the rest of the house.

Out bedroom is 8.5 feet by 10.3 feet, or 2.6 meters by 3.1 meters. 87.5 square feet or 8 square meters to be exact. Add to this the fact that there are two doors in the room (one from the hallway, and one to the bathroom) and no built in closet space, we needed to figure out how to store everything two people need in the bedroom. This was not an easy thing to do by a long shot.

But we figured it out, by building our own beds and night stands, used some Ikea "hacks" and repurposed some furniture from our old apartment, and we mostly figured it out...
Other than a place to store my makeup, jewelry, hair things, etc... I needed a vanity...

Getting Fit Doesn’t Require An Expensive Fitness Club

This post was written by Sandra Adams, a reader who loves staying fit on a budget.

Being fit has several different aspects. For one, it makes us more healthy. Bodies that are fit and strong have better immune systems, develop diseases less frequently, and are often healthier later in life than. Another aspect is the way being healthy makes us feel. When our bodies are healthy, it means they are working in good order, which has the result of a feeling of stability and well-being. Finally, being fit has a good outcome for our appearances as well. Looking our best has positive benefits for our social lives, and we also feel better about ourselves when we look and feel our best.

However, many people think that to get fit you must pay. Whether through expensive gym memberships, personal training, pricey fitness clothing and gear, or a handful of hot yoga classes, the industry of fitness certainly makes it appear than fitness goes to only those who can afford it. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether you’re trying to lose a little extra weight or attempting to get rid of male breast tissue, the tools you need are already at hand. Here are the best ways to get fit, without spending a lot of money.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Paleo Fish Cakes Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free

I recently got my hands on a large amount of free fish (in the form of fish heads and fish bones that I cooked and then separated the meat from the bones), and have been looking for different ways to use it. My dad used to make tuna croquettes when I was a kid, and I really enjoyed them, and I thought to make similar with my fish. 
This recipe for fish cakes is flavorful enough that it doesn't even need any dipping sauce or topping, but feel free to use whatever types of toppings you enjoy on fish croquettes, from tahini dressing as I used to aioli to Russian dressing to tartar sauce. They also would work well as burgers in a bun with fixings.

This fish cake recipe can with with any cooked flaked deboned or boneless fish, or even canned fish, such as tuna or salmon. 
Mine are completely paleo and egg free, and manage to hold together nicely even without using any flour. If you don't eat a paleo diet, feel free to replace both the chestnuts and almond flour with either gluten free flour or gluten flour of choice, adding enough so that it has a decent texture that holds together into patty form.
As these don't have flour or egg, these are softer fish cakes and need to be handled gently.

I used fennel and carrots in my fish cakes, but feel free to replace them with whatever other vegetables are cheap where you live.

Paleo Fish Cakes Recipe- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Flour Free

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cheater Fast Sushi and Paleo Sushi Techniques

I've been a fan of sushi since I was a kid and have passed on that love of sushi to my kids.

The first time I ever had sushi was on a trip to New York when I was in elementary school. We stopped at a restaurant just as we were about to come home, had a variety of different types of sushi, and quickly became hooked.

Once home, we saw that it wasn't so easy to find sushi in my home town, and what there was cost a lot of money, so my parents, do-it-yourself-type people decided to learn how to make their own. Because we couldn't get sushi grade fish easily, our sushi was always made either with only vegetables or with the addition of lox or surimi (fake crab) strips.

I quickly mastered the art of rolling sushi (it's really not difficult, and becomes much easier and faster with practice), including the more complex inside out rolls. Sushi making, overall, was no big deal for me....

...Alright. Other than the rice.

Making sushi rice was always the most annoying part of making sushi for me. 

Tips to Staying on a Tight Budget Without Driving Yourself Crazy

This blog post was written by James Daniels, a freelance writer, tech geek, and avid reader. I especially find it useful because these are tips that take very little time to implement and can pay off quickly.

If you feel like you are constantly stretching your pennies until they scream, take heed: with a few adjustments and tricks, you can make living on a tight budget less of a burden. Check out the following ideas that should give you more money left at the end of the month:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Do Chua - Vietnamese Style Pickled Carrots and Radishes Recipe - Paleo and Cheap

When I got my hands on a lot of free carrots and radishes a couple of months ago, I wanted to figure out something amazing to do with them. I'd remembered reading about a Vietnamese carrot and daikon pickle on VietWorldKitchen.com and decided to try to make my own take off from them, using regular radishes instead of daikon, and using non refined sweeteners instead of the white sugar often found in recipes.
Vietnamese carrot and radish pickles are an essential component of the famous Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, a baguette filled with mayonnaise, chili pepper, cilantro, sliced cucumbers, soy sauce, a cooked protein of choice (from fish to meat to chicken to tofu) as well as these carrot and radish pickles. While not Paleo, I do want to try to make a banh mi inspired wrap, with those fillings and Vietnamese spicy sardines, a common component in banh mi sandwiches.  

I started off with this authentic do chua recipe and played around with the ingredients and proportions until they were to my liking, so I won't say my recipe is authentic anymore, but it is close enough that I think it still can be called do chua. 

Since that original time, I've often been able to get cheap or even free carrots and radishes and I've made them many times since. They are so delicious that my daughter will try to sneak fistfuls out of the refrigerator when I'm not looking. Every single person I've served these pickles to enjoyed them.

Best part about them? They are a great way to make past prime veggies last longer- the vinegar and salt preserves the vegetables, and these can easily last a few months in the fridge. I have not tried canning them, but I don't see why that wouldn't work (although it probably will take away from the crunch factor).

The way I make these pickles, they come out full of flavor, nice and tangy, with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Feel free to adjust the ratio of vinegar to sweetener to suit your taste preferences- I use more vinegar and sweetener than in the original recipe. I've used date syrup, jaggery syrup, and honey as the sweetener in mine- white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar all will work as well, depending on your dietary needs/preferences and budget. Do chua doesn't typically have onions in it, but I find them a welcome addition.

If you aren't a big fan of the flavor of radishes, note that they don't taste radishy here, and even non radish lovers generally like them here. But if you want to leave them out, feel free and just increase the amount of carrots.

Do Chua - Vietnamese Style Pickled Carrots and Radishes Recipe - Paleo and Cheap

A Happy Garden Update!

You have no idea how long I've waited to write this post!
Growing up in Cleveland, my family had a decent sized house with a relatively large yard. While most of it was grassy, wonderful for playing, and we had a grape arbor/swingset and club house we built, we had many different distinct areas for gardening. A vegetable garden in the very back, where we grew all sorts of things like asparagus, rhubarb, corn, chives, snow peas, zucchini, and tomatoes. A garden along the side with blueberry bushes, gooseberries. A garden along the other side with raspberries and wineberries. Various fruit trees like apricots and peaches. Another little area with mint and horseradish. And in the front a flower garden with strawberries, and on our tree lawn, around our tree, we grew Jerusalem artichokes.

My mother has a green thumb and loves gardening. I've wanted to be like her and garden, growing my own food as much as possible, instead of buying it from the grocery store. But we lived in a rental apartment the first five years we were married, and we never knew how long we'd be staying there, so were loathe to invest in a garden that we would have to leave behind.
Eventually, though, after we'd been there for 4.5 years we said that if we'd been there that long already, we'd probably be there another while too, so why not just make a garden already. We planted tomatoes and swiss chard... and then decided (and rather suddenly, at that) to move, because we'd had it up to there with our hellacious landlord. We gave away our chickens and rabbits, packed up our house, and moved to an apartment that not only was half the size of our previous one, but also had no yard whatsoever.
For the next 5 years we were in that apartment, having no idea when we'd be able to afford to move to a bigger place. I got more and more into frugality and self sufficiency, really wanted to garden, but had very little success. Any gardening I could do had to be in pots and planters.
Most plants that I attempted to grow from seed never actually grew. The ones that did start to grow, overall, did not do well in the planters. We had a few moderate successes, but my experiences made me think I was just a plant killer. The few plants that I had growing that I managed to not kill, and even could harvest from occasionally, were aloe vera and purslane.

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