Sunday, January 31, 2010

Showcase Sunday- My Hallway

Living in a small apartment as I do, especially one without built in storage spaces (as in, no built in closets), one needs to take advantage of all possible space there is to store things. One might not think that my hallway qualifies as a room, but it is one of my most space efficient rooms, and hence I'll show you what we did to it, transforming an empty hallway into a great storage solution. 


This is the view of the hallway from the far end. As I take this picture, behind me is our little bathroom. To my right, but unshown in this picture is a sink. Behind the curtain on the right is our living room, seen last week over here.
At the far end of the hallway is the door to the master bedroom.

Here is the little sink. The mirror is a hand me down from my mother. Under the sink we store our potty. used only in emergencies when both bathrooms are in use and 2 year old Lee can't wait any longer. The towel to the left of the sink is hung on a nail in the wall.

You see the part of the wall jutting out to the left? Right to the left of that, high up, is a homemade shelf.

It is resting on the doorjam and strong nails. See? We keep our dress up clothes (tied up in a satchel) and a spare blanket up there. As we have high ceilings and little storage space, we try to utilize the space above our heads as storage, keeping things out of eye sight but within reach.
The play purses hang from a hanger stuck in the wicker of this shelf.

This shelf is where we keep our toys. Running a playgroup from my home requires owning a lot of toys. I don't particularly enjoy having my toys on constant display, so this homemade curtain hung on a cheap wooden rod and attached to the shelf with cable ties was a genius idea. My husband's work. This wicker shelf was bought at a moving sale for 15 dollars.  

Behind the curtain you'll see lots of different toys. They're sorted by type and kept in dollar store baskets as well as shoe boxes.
To the right of the toy shelf from a wire loop, we hang a toy stroller. This stroller takes up loads of room, even when folded, so it hangs up so as to not take up the room on the shelf. Its held together with a ribbon.

On top of our wicker shelf we added an extra shelf from a recycled board (dumpster find). The board is attached to the shelves securely and we store various odds and ends up there, from stuffed animals to my baby wrap.

I have many shoes. Many is an understatement. Having already used too much space to store our shoes, the rest of my shoes get hung on nails from the wall, to the right of the curtain leading to the living room.
We have a hose used for changing the water in our fish tank. When not in use, the hose gets rolled up and stored on this makeshift hook.
We also keep our spare baby gate (hand me down) and baby gym (hand me down) in this corner of the hallway. The door nearby is usually open and it hides these big bulky items.

The curtains were quite simple and cheap to pull up. No special equipment, no drilling  necessary. The curtain "rod" is a wooden broomstick bought for a dollar. It is held up via nails and wire.

The curtains are shower curtains that we got for free.

Here is the view of  our hallway from the opposite direction. I apologize- even with the door closed, there is still a glare.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of my hallway.
Next week, the master bedroom.

Do you utilize your hallway, or is it merely a way to get from one living space to another?

Homemade dehydrator

Way back when, I had read some posts extolling the virtues of dehydrators. They were good to make fruit leather, jerky, dried/candied fruits, yogurt, etc. They also were great at extending the shelf life of many foods without needing to keep them in the freezer and spend electricity on that. (I wrote more about that here.)
However, when I looked at the price of a dehydrator, the prices scared me away. The cheapest one I could find was 50 dollars, and while it would save me more than that in the long run, I had a hard time justifying that expense. I thought a dehydrator was out of the budget for me.

Then I stumbled across a post on a message board. A lady was sharing that her son built a dehydrator in Home Ec class in high school. Said I, if her son could build one as a teenager, surely I could build one myself and fulfill my dream of having a dehydrator without needing to fork over 50 dollars.

I googled a little bit and discovered that making a homemade dehydrator was quite simple. All that was needed was a container that could withstand some heat, some shelving units, and a heat source. A thermometer and a little fan would improve it even more but were unnecessary. .

To make a dehydrator I saw so many different types of equipment used. The simplest container I saw was a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil. I also saw a dehydrator made out of an old filing cabinet. The easiest shelving units were cookie sheets. Nearly all the dehydrators called for a lightbulb.

Once I made up my mind to build myself a dehydrator I kept a lookout for things in the dumpster that would be of use to me for my project. I chose not to use a cardboard box because that dehydrator didn't seem like it would withstand constant use; it was something a guy built for a one time thing to prepare jerky for a camping trip. As I wanted to have dehydrator that would have a bit more use than just a one time thing, I decided to look for a sturdier container to house my unit.
I also opted for shelving that would allow more air to flow than cookie sheets would. More airflow ensures a more even distribution of heat, which would help ensure that all the food dehydrated at a similar pace and would not need constant mixing.

I found a wooden night stand in the dumpster near my house. I paid a boy 2 dollars to climb in (it was just filled with furniture, no actual gross garbage), take out the night stand, and lug it to my home. On that same trip I also found an old wooden crib railing with bars an inch wide and half an inch thick. I decided that these would make the perfect frames for my dehydrator's shelves.
My husband also randomly collects scraps from the dumpster that he assumes we may need, so we had already some boards of wood and some old screens.

I took out the drawers from the night stand and was left with an empty frame with two tracks for drawers.
We flipped over the nightstand and as there was no bottom, nailed down a thin board for a cover, leaving some air holes on the side of the cover to allow moisture to escape.

Using a saw, we cut the rails from the crib into short bars and used a staple-gun to attach four pieces together  to make a frame. We made 4 of these and then cut up the old screens and staple-gunned them on to the wooden frames. We now had our shelves that would allow air flow.

As there were only 2 sets of tracks in the old nightstand, we nailed some short nails into the sides to hold the other two frames in place.

My husband had a piece of wood (found from a previous forage in the dumpster) that fit perfectly over the front of the nightstand as a door.

All that was missing was a heat source. A trip to the hardware store provided me with a 60 watt light bulb, light socket, and extension cord.
We made a hole in the back wall of the dehydrator for the electric cord and then used electricians' tape to hold the light bulb in the exact place we desired it to be.

This is the inside view of the dehydrator with the light bulb lit. 

Here is the view with the door closed, as it would look while dehydrating.

The dehydrator is simple to use. You put cut up vegetables or fruit or otherwise on the shelves, put them inside the dehydrator, close the door and turn it on.
It takes 12 - 24 hours to dehydrate most foods. Because I do not have any fan to help the airflow, I need to occasionally change the shelves around, moving the lower shelves higher and higher shelves lower.

Total cost for this dehydrator? 2 dollars for the delivery fee for the night stand, and 10 dollars for the electrical equipment. 12 dollars instead of the 50 dollars it would be otherwise. If you have a spare electric cord or socket in your home and are willing to dive into the dumpster yourself, it could be free. (I didn't dive into the dumpster myself as I was 9 months pregnant at the time and it was hard for me to do such athletic feats as that.)

Total time expenditure? Once I had all the equipment, it took my husband and me less than an hour to make the whole thing.

Tips on dehydrating foods in a future post.

This post is part of Craft Schooling Sunday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Warming your insides

I'm sitting here drinking a cup of tea. Its cold out, but I'm warm inside.

Drinking tea and other hot drinks are good ways to keep warm on cold days. My house is cold, my heat is off, but I do not feel chilled as I have warmth inside me.

The easiest way to have a hot drink on a cold day is to pop over to a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, pick up a latte and head on your way. While this may be simple, these dollars add up very quickly. Though you probably all know this already, it pays to make your own coffee, tea, or hot cocoa.
But I'm out of the house. I need a hot drink when I'm not home and have no facilities to make a hot drink.

A thermos is a great investment. With a good thermos, you can prepare yourself a nice brew at home and have a piping hot drink hours later. My thermos was not so cheap but it was a frugal investment. Even when I'm at home, I can boil a large quantity of water one time and keep it steamy without paying the cost of electricity to run a hot water urn.

I'll admit, I'm no coffee maven- I only drink it when my eyes are threatening to shut from being extremely overtired. However, I have heard from my coffee lover frugal friend that buying your own coffee beans, roasting them, grinding them and then brewing your own coffee is quite cheap and delicious. I'll stick with my instant coffee on occasions like that.

I drink tea more often than I do coffee. Until a few days ago I was using an electric kettle to heat my water for tea, but then I found out just how expensive it is to run that electric kettle. Now I'm boiling water in a covered pot on my stove until I get a chance to invest in a stove top kettle.

How do you drink tea? From those little packets of tea that come from the store? They can be costly if you're an avid tea drinker. Reusing those tea bags is the way to go. Did you know that you can get two to four strong cups of tea from just one tea bag?

Even cheaper than tea bags are buying tea mixes from a spice store and making your own tea, either straight or making mixes from the teas that you buy. From a spice store I've bought: chamomile, hibiscus, rose hips, lavender, red raspberry leaf, mint, sage, lemon grass, jasmine, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, chai masala mix. There are so many types of teas out there in spice stores and it is much cheaper to make yours from scratch rather than buying the little packets.
To make your tea from herbs and spices requires a drop of special equipment. A tea infuser that fits in a cup is one option. The other option is a teapot with a built in strainer. I've had both and largely prefer the tea strainer as I find it much easier to clean.

Homemade teas take very little herb to make strong tea, and they too can be reused a few times.

The cheapest way of all to make your own tea is to grow your own herbs. Think about what type of tea you like best. Peppermint? Sage? Lavender? Lemongrass? Most herbal teas are very simple to grow, even indoors on your windowsill if there is no room for an outdoor garden.
Even if you don't grow these herbs yourself, many are so proliferous that those who grow them are glad to share.

Hot cocoa is another drink that is great. I have used chocolate powder (nestle quick style) with only 3 ingredients (sugar, cocoa, vanilla- no additives, artificial flavorings or colorings) that was cheap and has lasted for months. I add a bit of the powder to a moderate amount of hot water and then add some milk to top it off. You can add it directly to warm milk if you would like. You can also make your own chocolate powder mix, but I haven't bothered to do so yet. Powdered hot cocoa mixes are truly a waste of money.

What is your favorite hot drink? Do you make it at home or buy it from a coffee shop? If you make it yourself, is it from scratch or ready made?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Make It Fluffy

They call me “The Bread Killer”.
When I was first married, my husband and I went to visit my mother in law for the weekend. Trying to impress her, I made a large and beautiful loaf of bread for the family dinner. In front of all the guests, the bread broke apart into a million pieces as it was being cut.
Another time I tried making a loaf of bread but accidentally killed the yeast. It was a hard, unappetizing lump that broke the bread knife when my husband was trying to slice it.
After one too many mishaps in the kitchen, my husband kindly requested that I no longer make bread.

A several month hiatus passed and I discovered a recipe for the most fluffy, airy bread I ever had. My husband was appeased and no longer had hesitations about my baking bread. I loved the recipe but it became stale too quickly.
I found a new recipe for bread; this recipe used honey and 6 eggs. It was too costly to make long term.

After making bread on a regular basis I finally figured out how to make bread without following an exact recipe. Now I am able to throw a few stuff together, eyeball the measurements, and make delicious bread.

Then I switched to whole wheat. Whole wheat is a completely different story from white flour. While my bread tasted fine and was not breaking any knives, it still was very heavy. The same proportions that made light and fluffy white bread made heavy thick whole wheat bread. I was in a dilemma what to do.

Last night I decided to make whole wheat bread, determined that this time it would become fluffy. I read online that kneading and kneading the dough makes it fluffier, so I was pounding away at it, working on that dough for about 10 minutes.
I let the dough rise overnight in my warmed but off oven.
I remembered being a guest at someone's house who's bread was heavenly, light, and fluffy. She revealed that her trick was rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, rolling it up, and then using those rolled ropes to make her bread. I tried her method in the hopes of airing out my dough. It seemed counter productive to roll out dough that had spent the night rising, but did so anyhow.

I made ropes of dough the length I wanted and rolled those ropes out width wise. I now had a wide rectangle to work with.
I loosely rolled up the dough like a jelly roll into a snake, making sure to keep air pockets in the dough while doing so. I squeezed the ends of the roll shut and smoothed down the edges along the side.
I used this method to make many ropes and then formed the ropes into various shapes, like knots for rolls and braids for loaves.

Conclusion? This was the fluffiest whole wheat bread I've ever tasted. It rose like no other bread I've ever made, was more delicious than store bought whole wheat bread. Best of all, it is so light and airy that you don't feel weighed down after eating.

I plan on doing this again and again and again. Rolling ropes out with a rolling pin then rolling them up like a jelly roll was key. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

Do you make whole wheat bread at home? How do you ensure that it doesn't stay heavy but becomes light and fluffy?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Crock Pot Breadmaker

If you're headed over here from Pennywise Platter Thursday, welcome to my blog and take a look around. This whole blog is based on being Pennywise, hence the name Penniless Parenting. If you're a regular reader, welcome back.

Breamakers always had a certain appeal to me. I love fresh bread, especially with my breakfast. When the bread is no longer fresh, I don't like it so much anymore.
However, waking up early enough to mix the bread and let it rise and then bake it is not doable for me. I love the fact that with a breadmaker you can dump the ingredients into the machine at night, let it rise in there, and you can set a timer so you have fresh bread waiting for you in the morning.

Being that I live in a really small apartment (965 square feet) with absolutely no built in closets, we have very little storage space and try to have the bare minimum necessary, especially in terms of kitchen appliances as my kitchen is small and I already have too many things in my kitchen, a breadmaker is not something I plan on buying. A breadmaker has one function, and unless that one function is absolutely amazing, I prefer to buy things that are multi-functional.
That's where my crock pot comes in.

I read on Emily's blog about making bread in a crock pot and how it saves money because crock pots use much less electricity (and hence cost less money) than a regular oven. I already used my brand new crock pot to make beans, turkey broth, and stuffed peppers and was eager to find more ways to use the slow cooker.

Last night I decided to give a try to turn my crock pot into a bread machine.

I threw together a whole wheat bread recipe (made differently than usual as I was missing some of my ingredients but am trying my darnedest not to spend any money between my last shopping trip and my next- I will post my usual recipe next time I make bread my usual way. I usually eyeball recipes but will need to measure exactly for my readers) and kneaded it for a few minutes. Ok, that part is something that a bread machine would do for me, but it is not so hard to knead bread. While I was kneading, I turned the crock pot on low for a few minutes to warm it up and make it ideal for letting the bread rise. (If kneading is an issue for you, you can always try out a no knead recipe like this one and sub the milk with water if you need to.)

Once the dough was ready, I placed it in a greased loaf pan (so that it comes out easily).
I turned the crock pot on to the high setting, pulled the plug out of the wall and plugged it into an appliance timer like this. I set the timer to turn on my crock pot 2 hour before we woke up in the morning and then plugged the timer into the outlet. The bread rose in the crockpot overnight and was ready for my husband to take it to work in the morning. Homemade bread makes excellent sandwiches and if combined with a legume like humus or peanutbutter, is a complete protein and is an easy, on the go meal. (My husband took the whole loaf with him, so I made another one this morning so I could take pictures.)

Here is the dough in the middle of rising in the crock pot. No, the crock pot does not need to be lined with aluminum foil to work- I just line it to keep it clean.

Here is my ready bread. It smelled divine and looks beautiful if I may say so myself. (I cut an inch deep cut along its length before I let it rise so it looks more beautiful when ready.)

It tasted as good as it looks. I love fresh bread, did I say that already?

One thing though- the bottom of my bread was a bit toasty. I didn't mind that but was wondering if there was any way to prevent it from happening. Any suggestions?

Have you ever baked bread in a crock pot, solar cooker, wood stove, or any other energy efficient cooker? How did it come out? Same as your usual bread, better, or worse?

This is part of my "On the go meals" series.
Other posts in this series:

Extending the shelf life of vegetables

I mentioned in a previous post about which vegetables stay fresh longest and the order in which vegetables should be finished to reduce spoilage and wastage.

Sometimes, though, food gets stuck in the back of the fridge and you only notice it when it is on its last leg. Other times you may want foods to be able to last longer because you want more of a variety in produce even after that type of produce would usually spoil.

I've written on my blog before about lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a great way to preserve your food and it even extends the shelf life of the produce when it is on the brink of spoilage. I wrote here about making pickles from wilty cucumbers. Lacto-fermented salsa is a great way to use tomatoes and peppers past their prime. Sauerkraut preserves cabbage and is a good way to get it to last long term. In the olden days, people would keep sauerkraut over the whole winter (and it remain unspoiled) and it would be their only source of vitamin C because all the other fruits and vegetables were unable to stay good over the long snowy season. You can also preserve vegetables by means of vinegar based marinades.

Cooking vegetables that are about to turn is also a good way to give them a new lease at life. Tomatoes getting soft or even ones with gross spots (cutting out the spoiled parts, of course) can be cooked to make homemade tomato sauce, ketchup, or in any other cooked dish calling for tomatoes. Zucchini can be added to soups and sauces. A note about zucchinis- when they are about to spoil, their peel becomes bitter so the vegetable should be peeled before cooking. Wilty celery and carrots are great in soups and other cooked dishes. Wilty cabbage makes great stuffed cabbage, soups, and other things. Wilty lettuce and other greens can be cooked (yes, cooked lettuce) and used as a replacement for spinach in recipes. The taste is similar, even if not exactly the same.

The freezer is also a good way to keep your vegetables fresh for future use. Carrots, onions, zucchini, celery and leek can be shopped to make a base for future soups. Eggplant and mushrooms are great even after freezing, as are any vegetables you would usually find in the frozen section, like peas, green beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower. Again, greens can be frozen for future use as a spinach replacement.
Fresh herbs can be chopped and stored in a container in the freezer if your herbs usually spoil before you have a chance to finish them.
The freezer can be used to freeze vegetables in season and bought for cheap- this way you can buy large quantities on sale and then when the vegetables are no longer in season or the sale is over, you still have access to those specialty fruits and vegetables.
Even once a vegetable is cooked, it can last a while by putting it in the freezer. When I made eggplant salad, I put half in the freezer for future use. (In fact, we had a party in our home after the birth of our youngest. While pregnant I made large quantities of 10 different types of cooked salads, dips, etc... and for the party only had to defrost these foods. I saved loads on catering fees as I bought all the foods for the salads/dips on extreme sale.)

While freezers are a great way to preserve foods, most people have limited freezer space; buying and running a spare freezer can be a burden financially. Dehydrators are a good alternative to the freezer. You can dehydrate unlimited quanities of food, they shrink and take up less space, and you can keep them in any air-tight container. A dehydrator has many advantages lacking in a freezer. I had wanted a dehydrator for a while, but the cost of one was daunting. I read up on how to build my own dehydrator and built one with minimal work and only a few dollars. (Instructions on how to make one will be in a future post.)
I love my dehydrator and have used it to dehydrate excess vegetables. Now my animals are eating up my vegetables so I don't have excess to dehydrate, so I don't put it in use nearly so much anymore. I'm still learning more about dehydrating foods and then reconstituting them. From what I've figured out, dehydrated foods are great in cooked dishes, as they need to be cooked in water first to regain the moisture they lost via the dehydrating. The foods i've reconstituted didn't have the same exact texture as cooked fresh vegetables, but they were close enough. When in a sauce or blended in a soup or in patties, the difference was completely unnoticeable. If anyone has tips on how to reconstitute more successfully I'll be glad to hear.

Canning foods is a good way to keep them fresh. I don't have canning equipment as the canners and jars are a large investment, but you can read up more about canning here.

What is your favorite way to preserve food? Which method do you utilize most? Do you generally preserve or just buy fresh all the time?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Resources for free and used things

For those readers who may not know about these websites, I figured I'd point you in the direction of a few websites where you can get free or second hand things.

For those that like free things, FreeCycle.Org is a network of different yahoogroups across the globe. Freecycle is dedicated to people giving away things and people claiming things. There is no money exchanged. If you need something, you post to the yahoo group that you're looking for it and people may respond to you and tell you that they have just what you're looking for.
If you want to get rid of some things from your home, even if you think no one might have any use for it, post it to your local freecycle chapter- you'd be surprised who wants a bag of fabric scraps or old toilet paper rolls, or a broken washing machine. I got my refrigerator (working) from freecycle- I just needed to pay someone to transport it.
Go to, type in your location, find the yahoo group for your area and sign up for their emails. You'll only benefit.

You probably all know about and to purchase things second hand. I felt they deserved a post here anyhow. is also a great website when looking to purchase second hand things. Look under your location, type what you're looking for into the search engine and you'll find many people selling the item you need. By keeping an eye out, you can get really great deals this way. is a great resource for those among us who need books for longer periods of time than the 2 or 3 weeks you can keep things when borrowing  them from the library. I haven't tried it yet, but from what I hear, you only need to pay for shipping for the books you are swapping but don't need to pay a cent to purchase the book.

Last but not least, on yahoo groups there are many groups geared towards your hometown. I know that the last 4 places I lived had a yahoo group dedicated to the goings on in the community and it is a great resource for people to find out about free events, advertise things for sale, buy things second hand or borrow things. Search in yahoo groups to see if there is a usergroup for your home.

Do you know of any other worthwhile websites for free or second hand things?

Healthy fats, losing weight, and making bean meals more filling

Hello, My name is Penny and I'm an overeater. I've always been one, even when I was a little kid. I was aptly nicknamed “Bottomless Pitt” because I would just eat and eat and eat and rarely ever be satiated.

I tried diets, I tried OA groups. Nothing helped, because I didn't want to just go hungry. Its very hard to have the self control to tell yourself “Stop eating!” when your stomach is still rumbling.
At my high point I weighed 195 pounds (at 5'9.5) and it was embarrassing. None of my clothes fit, I looked fat and I just felt heavy. All the diets I tried lasted no more than one day. Dieting on a tight budget is hard because my wallet doesn't allow me to buy whatever the diet book says. Because money is tight, I need to buy what is cheap, and that isn't always conducive to dieting.

I currently weigh 160 pounds and have a BMI in the normal range for the first time since I was 15. No, this won't be a post about the amazing diet I did and how you could do it too, because frankly, I hate those soppy types of posts about how “I did the Sarah Smithy diet and lost 150 pounds” or “I did 5000 sit ups and crunches and 2 hours on the treadmill daily and lost 60 pounds and 20 inches from my waist”. Who gives a darn if you starved yourself and survived on 500 calories a day or spent half your waking hours in the gym? That is definitely not realistic, not sustainable, and the average person would definitely not be able to do this “revolutionary weight loss scheme.” How I lost weight took no extra effort, was frugal, and left me satiated for pretty much the first time in my life.

The inspiration for this post was actually a comment on my blog “We tried having legume based meals but are never full if the meal isn't chicken or fish based.” I've discovered the way to make legume based meals more filling, with the added bonus of losing weight at the same time.

I had first read on Oceans of Joy's blogabout the effect fat has on your appetite. Bruce Fife, N.D. explains it better than I could on's article.

”Research has shown that those who get an adequate amount of fat in their diets generally eat less than those to try to reduce fat intake. The less you eat the fewer calories you consume. Getting an adequate amount of fat in the diet is essential for effective and permanent weight loss. When people get hungry soon after a meal they tend to overeat at the next. One of the reasons why fat is necessary for successful weight loss is that it satisfies hunger, thus reducing appetite and lowering total food consumption. Fat slows down the emptying of the stomach so that you feel full longer. When you are less hungry during the day you will cut down on snacks and eat less at mealtime. As a result, you consume fewer calories. Even though fat contains more calories than either protein or carbohydrate, its effect on curbing appetite more than makes up for the extra calories it contains.”

This explained to me why I was always hungry. In trying to lose weight, I was cutting down on fat. Because of this, I could eat and eat and eat and eat non stop but never actually feel full. Since fat is what gives the “full” signal to the brain, by avoiding fat I was never feeling satiated and was just fressing to curb my hunger but it did not work.

On I read that
"The notion that [healthy fats] cause weight gain is a sad misconception. The short and medium chain fatty acids in [healthy fats] are not stored in the adipose tissue, but are used for quick energy. Fat tissue in humans is composed mainly of longer chain fatty acids.

Bruce Fife said the same thing, in other words:

"The body uses [healthy fats] as an immediate source of fuel rather than pack them away in storage inside our fat cells. [Healthy fats] are used to produce energy much like carbohydrates and, therefore, they do not circulate in the bloodstream like other fats. For this reason, they do not supply fat to fat cells or contribute to weight gain.

The Shangri La Diet (a diet in which participants had a spoonful of olive oil daily) and a study in the Journal of Nutrition both discovered that "diets containing [healthy fats] result in an increase in energy, a rise in metabolism, increase burning of calories, decrease in food consumption, lower body fat mass, and reduce body weight.”
Reading this information and similar information all over the web convinced me to try to incorporate more healthy fats into my diet. Healthy fats are not so cheap on a frugal diet. Olive oil is a rare treat for us as it is 10 dollars for a small bottle locally. I read that the cheapest of the healthy fats are nuts and seeds. Nuts can be cheap. Whole grain sesame seeds, peanuts and sunflower seeds are the cheapest healthy fats.
Ever since reading that information about healthy fats 2 months ago, I've been trying to add more fats into my eating. I add sesame, either in seeds or in paste to many dishes, add sunflower seeds and add peanuts and peanut butter to many foods. Avocado is a new staple in our house.
In those 2 months since I've been adding fat to my diet, I've become less fat. Two months ago I was 175 pounds. Now I weigh 160. Not by dieting. Not by cutting out fat. But by adding healthy fats. (This is not merely because of being 4 months post partum and nursing. After my older son was born, I did not lose a single pound while nursing. In fact, before becoming pregnant with my first, one week after giving birth to my first, up until I got pregnant with my second, and one week after I gave birth to my second I weighed 175 pounds. I thought 175 was the weight my body wanted to be at. I couldn't get it to budge from that no matter how hard I tried. Even while nursing my older son for 19 months I did not drop a single pound.)
The added bonus is that I am no longer an overeater. 2 months ago my breakfast would consist of a full bowl of oatmeal, an apple, some milk at 8 am and I'd be hungry again 2 hours later and end up snacking. Now my breakfast consists of less than half a bowl of oatmeal and a large dollop of peanut butter and it satiates me enough that I have no interest in snacking and am barely even hungry come lunch time.
To top it all off, I don't think I've looked this great ever in my life. I look great, feel great, and fit into my old clothing (even though I still have a belly pouch from being pregnant 2 times . If even with my belly I fit into smaller clothes than I have in years, I can just imagine how my skirt size would shrink if I actually got down to it and started working on some abdominal toning like my physical therapist mother told me to do).

What's the way to make a legume meal more filling? Add some healthy fats to the meal. Add some avocado, nuts or sesame seeds or whichever other healthy fats you like.

Has anyone ever experienced losing weight by adding fat to their diet? Anyone read the book “Eat fat, lose fat? Is it a worthwhile read?

This post is part of Real Foods Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Line drying, conservation of energy, and hopefully saving some money

This afternoon I was sitting with my neighbor as she sorted her wash.
My neighbor is not particularly frugal but having grown up in my generally warm country, she has always hung her laundry and doesn't even own a dryer. Spoiled me, growing up in Middle Class, USA was raised in a home where a dryer was a given, even if it was not used for everything.
I asked my neighbor how much her electric bill was, sure that non-frugal woman's bill would be more than mine as I try to conserve resources, but was astonished to find that her electric bill was a fraction of what I was paying. (Between one third and one half of what I'm paying on a regular month.)

This neighbor's heat runs by gas and not electricity, she doesn't make all her food from scratch, and is away from her home most of the day. She also does fewer loads of laundry as she does not cloth diaper. Even so, I decided that my new goal is to lower my electric bill to what she is paying.
I will be chronicling on my blog what I am doing to conserve electricity. I already brought a crock pot and have put it to use a few times already in the hope of conserving electricity in my food preparation. Once it starts getting warmer, I would like to try using a solar cooker. (Right now a rain and wind powered cooker would have more use.)
I already have my heaters on a timer and even so, try not to use them. I'll try to get my husband more on board regarding abstaining from electric heaters unless absolutely necessary.

The biggest thing that is probably making my electric bill high is my use of a dryer. I was told that each load in the dryer costs 50-75 cents. It takes a spin and a half for my laundry to get dry in my dryer. At approximately 10 laundry loads a week and 15 cycles of the dryer, that's $32.50 a month with the dryer alone, assuming that it only costs 50 cents a load, or 48 dollars a month if its 75 cents a load.

Why am I paying so much money to dry my laundry if I can just line dry them?

I have a good excuse, but it's not good enough.

Its been pouring lately. Windy too. As in, almost hurricane weather here. We're flooding with water and the wind is blowing things around our muddy yard. Our yard is definitely not the place to be hanging laundry at the moment.
Before that, our rabbits and chickens escaped their home and were tracking mud and animal manure all over our yard. I definitely didn't want that on our freshly cleaned laundry.

Honestly, I could hang my laundry inside. I have a portable laundry rack. Even though I live in a pretty small, cramped apartment, I can always fit a laundry rack in one of the bedrooms and let my clothes dry there. I've been using the excuse that there isn't any room to maneuver in the room when a laundry rack is there, but I'll admit it, that is just an excuse. I really hate dealing with any aspect of laundry, hanging it especially and was looking for an excuse to do less laundry related work.

There is one (or two, maybe) problems with my line drying indoors.
I have two portable laundry racks but only have room for one in my 965 square foot home. (Ok, I probably would be able to hang another laundry rack in my living room/dining room, but its not conducive to running a playgroup from my home.)
I can fit a load and a half to two loads of wash on my drying rack. Each load takes 2 days to dry in the winter in my home as we don't have any heaters running to hasten the process. At 10 loads of laundry a week and 1.5 loads per rack, I'd have to hang wash 6 times each week to keep up with all our laundry. If laundry takes 2 days to dry, that would be 12 days to dry 7 days of laundry. Imagine getting very behind on laundry very quickly.
To top it all off, I cloth diaper. Line drying cloth diapers in my home on racks in the winter takes 2-3 days usually to dry. I have enough cloth diapers to last me 3-4 days. I do a cycle of cloth diapers whenever I have two full buckets (a whole load) and that usually is every day and a half to two days. Washing diapers every 2 days and then 2-3 days to line dry would make me run out of cloth diapers very quickly. Not to mention that they'd take up the line so I wouldn't be able to line dry anything else.

I made a resolution to only dry my cloth diapers in the dryer, and only that until it gets warm enough outside to line dry them in the wind and sun (a powerful drying combination that we usually have three quarters of the year).
I put my resolution into play already. I cleared a space in my son's room, set up the laundry rack and managed to squeeze 2 loads of wet laundry onto the rack.

Additional ways in which I have been trying to conserve energy with laundry (but haven't yet seen the monetary difference as we're in the middle of a two month billing period) is by not washing my cloth diapers on 190 degree washes. I've been washing them either on 105 degree washes or using my hot water tap (heated by gas and cheaper than my electricity heated washing machine water).
I am also thinking twice before throwing something in the wash. If I can spot clean something, I will. If it is clean and non smelly, I will put it back on the shelf for a future use. Sloppy me is also trying to (albeit unsuccessfully) be a little neater and not dirty my clothes quite so quickly.

My husband and I went over our budget today and decided that we absolutely need to cut back on something. Our two biggest expenses are rent and food. Rent we're considering cutting back on by moving to a cheaper place, and I'm already trying hard to cut back on food expenses- this blog is testimony to that. The next biggest expense after those is utilities, and electricity in particular. The utility bills are some expenses that are possible for us to reduce without too much of a change in quality of life. I am also trying to cut back on water usage and have posted a few posts on that subject and plan on posting more in that vein in the future.

Do you use a dryer or do you line dry? Why did you chose your laundry drying method? If you line dry, how much do you assume you save each month?
Have you successfully significantly cut back your utilities bills? How did you do it, and was it worth the effort?

Keeping Fruit Fresh

Fruits and vegetables have distinct rules about freshness. I hope that using this guide, you can ensure that your fruit don't spoil and you don't waste money because of wasted food.

Fruits spoil quicker based on their high water content.
Melons have a really high water content. Of all melons, watermelon spoils the quickest. I've experienced watermelon spoiling within one day of opening it one summer. Cantelope and honeydew last a little longer but definitely do not have a long shelf life.
Another fruit that has a short shelf life because of its high water content is grapes. Grapes spoil quickly, but if you're like me and you only like grapes when they're hard, you'll want to finish them up even quicker. Strawberries last a bit longer than grapes do, but still should be finished up quickly.

Citrus fruits have a high water content but don't spoil so quickly. Acid works as a preservative so I assume that the citric acid in citrus fruits helps them last longer.
Citrus fruit can get soft and wilty looking after a bit of time (more than 2 weeks usually), but even once they start looking a bit funny they work fine for freshly squeezed juices. I assume that my readers know what is a citrus fruit and what is not, but even so I'll write the list:
Lemons, oranges, tangerines, tangelos, pomelos, ugly fruit/sweeties, grape fruit, clementines, kumquats. These all have a long shelf life.

The harder a fruit, the longer it lasts. Often you can buy unripe fruit and they will ripen in your refrigerator. The countdown to spoilage only starts once they are ripe.
Melons can be bought unripe. They will be hard and not smell like anything. When a melon smells like melon, it means it is ripe. If you want it to last longer, buy it before it has a strong melon smell.
Bananas can be bought green. Mangos can be bought hard. Plums, nectarines, peaches, persimmons and pears can all be bought hard.

Apples, in my experience, last the longest of all fruit. I usually buy a big bag of apple and don't even keep it in my refrigerator and it stays fresh over 2 weeks.

As I said in my vegetable post if a fruit is cut or opened, their shelf life decreases exponentially. Don't buy pre-cut fruit if you want your fruit to last a while and use up the fruit soon after you cut it.

When planning your menus, keep in mind which fruit last longest, which need to be finished quickly, to ensure that your food doesn't spoil before you ave a chance to eat it.

If you liked this post, you may like:
Keeping Vegetables Fresh
Extending Vegetable Shelf Life
Homemade Dehydrators

Monday, January 25, 2010

Meals on the go- Stuffed Tortillas I

(This is part of my "Meals-on-the-go" series.)

This morning I awoke to the delicious smell of beans cooking. I had sprouted beans a few days ago and last night put them in my crock pot and then went to sleep.

Today I made tortillas, stuffed and rolled up like an eggroll. This is the perfect food to take along on a trip as it requires no fork and knife.

First I made homemade tortillas.

I tried first dry frying them but they fell apart when I tried to roll them, so I decided to leave them raw and cook them only once stuffed.

I cut up a chicken breast into bite sized chunks and then sauted them in a frying pan with chili powder.

I then sauted some onions in the frying pan, then added the beans that had cooked all night long in the crock pot. Usually you need to mash the beans up a drop when preparing the beans and onions to make refried beans, but I accidentally overcooked my beans in the crock pot as it was my first time trying to cook beans in my crock pot. Add some salt to the bean and onion mixture and you're done.

Slice up an avocado and wash some lettuce, and take out your salsa that you made already.

Put your rolled tortilla on a plate and put in its center: a few lettuce leaves, refried beans, chicken peices, salsa, and a few slices of avocado.

Roll up the tortilla the way that you would roll an eggroll. If you don't know how to do that, the way you do that is by folding the sides on to the filling and then rolling from the bottom up to the top.

Once rolled, put it in a dry frying pan on a high heat. You want it high enough to cook the outside but keep the inside uncooked, as you have avocado and lettuce inside that you want raw.
Keep the tortilla on the heat until the side touching the frying pan is golden brown. Turn it over a quarter turn and fry until it is golden brown on that side. Repeat on all four sides. When all the sides are golden, stand it upright on the uncooked end on the skillet. You may need a hot mitt to do this. When that side is cooked, flip it over and cook it on the other end.

When the tortilla is fully cooked, wrap it in either  aluminum foil or wax paper. You want it to hold the tortilla together because you will be eating this on the go. You don't want anything dripping.
The way I wrapped the tortillas was in two parts- first leaving one end uncovered but covering everything else. This will be left on even while eating to stop drips. On top of that, put another piece of aluminum foil or wax paper to cover the whole thing to keep it clean while traveling.

Bon apetit!

Do you ever make tortillas? Do you wrap them before or after cooking the tortillas? What do you put in your tortillas?

Other post in this series:
On the Go Patties
Stuffed Tortillas-II (coming soon!)

Keeping Vegetables Fresh

A few weeks ago I bought some corn on the cob. Before I had a chance to prepare it, the corn was already spoiled. As someone who is very careful with her money (and an over eater as well), nothing (ok, maybe a few things) aggravates me more than food spoiling before it can be used.
Now that I am shopping once every 2 weeks for everything including produce, its important to keep a few rules in mind regarding food freshness and spoilage so that all the food can get eaten before the end of  its shelf life.

In my experience, the bigger and more solid a vegetable is, the longer it lasts. The higher the water content of the produce, the quicker it will spoil.
Greens spoil quickly. Lettuce and spinach and  other greens usually spoil quite quickly. When I go shopping, these are the items I try to use up first.

When a vegetable is cut, it doesn't last as long. When it is whole, it stays fresh for more time.
Gourds with a hard peel usually last a long time. Pumpkins and butternut squashes can last a long time without spoiling. However, my local store doesn't sell whole pumpkins. They chunks of pumpkin; these chunks spoil very quickly. Once you cut a vegetable, you shorten its shelf life dramatically. My father used to tell me that if you need to cut a vegetable, tear it rather than cut it with a knife. This way, it tears along its natural seams and lasts longer than if you cut it with a knife.

Certain foods are sold unripe or partially ripe. Our local store sells tomatoes that are orange and partially green. If you buy produce that is still unripe, usually it will take a decent amount of time to ripen and then only then does it start the countdown to spoilage. When buying tomatoes, get them green or orange and hard to ensure they last the longest. Avocados can also be bought unripe as well.

Root vegetables usually stay fresh longer than the fruit of a plant. Potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, turnip and parsnip will generally stay fresh longer than cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes (bought ripe), peppers, etc.

Kole crops, bought as a whole head and not in parts, last a while usually.  Kole crops include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

When I buy vegetables the order in which I try to use up the veggies is this:
First eat the green leafy veggies and pre-cut vegetables. Next eat the fruit of the plant- zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers. After this eat the kole crops. Next eat the gourds and the root vegetables. When planning your menu, keep these rules in mind and try to schedule your vegetables in recipes accordingly.

In the near future, I will be posting more posts in the "Keeping Food Fresh" series:
The rules of buying fruit and the order in which the should be finished.
How to extend the shelf life of produce.
Keeping dairy and meats fresh.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Showcase Sunday- My Living Room/Dining Room

I decided to hop on the bandwagon of the other bloggers showing off their homes. Though I can't invite y'all to my house because of privacy reasons, I do enjoy visitors and showing people my home. From now on Sundays will be Showcase Sunday in  which I clean up my house very well and show you a different  part of my house.
I'll admit that I am not the neatest person.  By showcasing my home once a week, I will be forcing myself to tidy up the place really well so that I don't embarrass myself by showing a messy house. This house tour will get me to clean parts of my house that usually don't get touched during my weekly cleaning. Spring is coming up soon and I am getting a head start on my spring cleaning this way.

Come with me once a week and take a peek into my life, catch a glimpse of my house, and see how you too can make yourself a homey home without needing to spend too much money to spif up your house.

The first stop on my house tour will be my living room/dining room. It is one decently sized  room, perhaps a little too packed for some, but I enjoy it. There are lots of pictures on the wall, however they, and any other too personal items will be blurred because, while I don't mind sharing a lot of my life on my blog, there are  some things that are too personal to go on  the internet.

Here is my upholstered set. Though we bought a second hand couch, we opted to get rid of it and decided to replace it with this dumpster treasure that was a matching set as well as being in better condition. The couch and arm chair have  not remained in as good condition as they were when we first adopted them as we have kids; that is part of the reason we decided it foolhardy to furnish our home meant for kids with pristinely beautiful furniture.
Above the arm chair is a mirror that grew up with me in my childhood home. My parents have since moved and this looking glass no longer is welcome in their home; I took it in and gave this regal mirror a place befitting of something of its splendor- directly across from my front door.
Bedecking the walls are numerous photographs, both of relatives and of our heroes. All are pixelated, regretfully.
At the far end of the wall,  you see our fish tank.

You're probably wondering how and why a person who prides herself in her extreme frugality has a fish tank in her home. Fortunately our fish tank is quite cheap to run and adds a great sense of relaxation to our home. I will write a future post or two on how to run a fish tank on a tight budget.
Perched on the fish tank is a board of wood salvaged from the dumpster. This shelf holds fish tank related paraphernalia. Hiding behind a photograph is a painting, made by me.
On the corner shelf, also a dumpster find, are my candlesticks.
Also there are some fake flowers, a present I received last birthday, in a dollar store vase.

Between this picture and the next there is a dining room table, seen in both pictures but without a head on picture. Such a picture would be boring, as who wants to see a plain table anyhow? The table was  a  hand me down from  someone who was redecorating her house and got a new table. The chairs were bought second hand. The dining room  table is where I keep my lap top when it is in use.

This corner bookcase was a hand me down from my sister. It is the home to my breakable nice dishes, CDs, computer various electronics and wires, bird food, and some baskets. Above it is a plant, bought from a nursery a few years ago.While some might  not consider the purchase of a plant to be a frugal one, I appreciate having greenery in my home as I feel it promotes a calming atmosphere.

The wicker and metal flower shaped basket holds various odds and ends such as potpourri. It is not so sturdy and will be moved as soon as baby Spike knows how to crawl. Two and a half year old son Lee knows  that it is not a toy and doesn't touch it.

Above a breakfront filled with knickknacks and personal memorabilia, Buddy the budgy tweets and cheeps. Buddy especially enjoys singing  along to music. The house is a  happier place thanks to Buddy's songs. Buddy was given to us  as a present after our old budgy, Trevor, died of teflon gas poisoning.

The painting  above the breakfront was not an especially frugal purchase. It was bought from a traveling  artist who came to our door. He was a poor  man and I felt happy giving him charity of sorts and getting a beautiful painting in return. I like the painting and the serenity and romanticism this painting  gives off.

These two floor to ceiling book cases were the only two pieces of  furniture that were purchased new from  a store. We hunted around until  we found the best price, which included delivery and assembly.
This swing was a dumpster find and has seen better days, but it does its job. The arm chair was also a dumpster find.
The red pillow that you see is a Boppy nursing pillow, a hand me  down from my sister in law. I love it! The Boppy makes it  much easier to nurse as it allows you to be hands free while nursing. Unfortunately its a bit bulky so has no permanent home; it wanders from place to place.

I feel that children's projects hanging give a home a more lived in feel. I hang projects that Lee makes on our front door.

Baby gates and curtains block off the kitchen and hallway. When we have guests over, we like to keep the focus on the clean living room/dining room and not on  the hallway or kitchen that may or may not be dirty.
Both curtains are old shower curtains that we received for cheap and they are hung on rods that did not require any installation.
Lacking a built  in closet, our coats and diaper bag hang from hooks on  the wall.

The  mural on the  wall was drawn by my husband. When our landlord moved out, he left a wall covered by scribbles. My husband drew the mural on top of that. (With permission, of course.)

The carpet is an area rug that be bought for very cheap from a traveling salesman. We put it down on the floor and pick it up as necessary. We generally keep it on the floor in the winter to warm up the place and roll it up in the summer to keep the place cool and make the place look more spacious.

Join me next Sunday as I give you a tour of our hallway and toy shelves.

Marinated cucumber salad

(This is part of the “No, wait! Don't throw that out yet” series.)

I posted a recipe not too long ago for making pickles out of cucumbers that have gone soft. That recipe uses lacto-fermentation and tastes quite delicious.
For people who must avoid salt for whatever reason or have a bit more of a sweet tooth, here is another recipe in which you can use cucumbers that have gone soft. Once made, even with wilted cucumbers, this concoction will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad
This is an adaptation of my father's recipe for cucumber salad and tastes quite delicious.

6 cucumbers
2-3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 onion
Basil to taste (optional)

Cut the cucumbers into thin slices and put them in a bowl. Cut onions into really thin rings and add them to the bowl as well.
In another container mix the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the cucumber slices.
Add enough water to cover the cucumbers.
Taste. Adjust as necessary, adding more sugar, salt, or vinegar according to how you enjoy your cucumber salad.
My father adds basil at this point. I find it completely unnecessary but if you so desire, it tastes great as well.

Adaptation: You can use cabbage or green peppers in place of or in addition to cucumbers in this salad.

Other posts in this series:
Sour milk pancakes
Vegetable scrap soup
Chicken scrap soup

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Babies- how cute!

My husband's dream would be to live on a farm and raise animals. As living on one is not in budget right now, we've tried to make our little apartment and tiny yard reminiscent of a farm to satiates my husband's appetite for animals and crops.
At the start of the summer we bought two rabbits, male and female, coined Dusty and Heather. As I have a playgroup in my house, I figured that rabbits would entertain the children in addition to amusing my husband. I figured that one day the rabbits would have babies and we'd sell the bunnies to pet stores or neighboring children to make a profit off of these animals.

Summer turned to winter, winter turned to spring. No bunnies. To top it off, our rabbits gnawed through their cage and escaped and ate up whatever plants we were trying to grow in our garden (swiss chard, tomatoes, passion fruit) and burrowed under what was to be the start of a square foot garden. This killed our hopes of gardening as the seedlings we had in our kitchen would not survive the attack of the rabbits.
I implored my husband to get rid of the rabbits, as they were just more and more work and costing us money yet not giving us anything in return.

Today we were looking out our window and saw a surprise. A little light brown bunny chilling with mama bunny. As we were so excited about our little rabbit, we saw a black rabbit dart across the yard. My husband and I turned to each other and smiled. Two bunny rabbits! Then we saw a flash of white. And another streak of black.  And another streak of white!
Five little bunny rabbits!
We plan on contacting pet stores and putting up advertisements to sell our new rabbits.
They are too cute!

By the time I got around to snapping a picture, it was already dark outside.

Here is one rabbit, peeking out of the burrow under the square foot garden.

We named him/her/it (we still have to sex the rabbits) Lightning.

I'll try to get more pictures of our new rabbits tomorrow. Hopefully we'll be able to start making money from these rabbits soon!

In the near future, I'll write up a post about raising rabbits cheaply.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vegan tortillas

I like tortillas. They are a versatile food and improve many a frugal meal. Tortillas are great stuffed with leftovers and baked or fried. They also make great tacos or quesadilas. Tortillas paired with a bean meal are a complete protein, delicious and the start of most Mexican dishes.

Buying tortillas is not so frugal move where I live, nor is it a healthy one as they're filled with many unpronounceable ingredients. Most homemade recipes called for margarine, shortening or butter and I wanted something healthy but occasionally need them to be non dairy. 
This recipe is vegan, healthy, easy and delicious.

Vegan Tortillas

Mix 4 cups of flour with 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3 tablespoons any oil of your choice, and 1 cup of luke-warm water. It will be quite crumbly. Add extra water (less than half a cup) until the dough becomes a non sticky uniform mass.

Let the dough sit for 20 minutes for the gluten strands to form so the dough becomes more stretchy.

Take golf ball size clumps, flour them, and roll them out with a rolling pin to form tortillas.

You can use these tortillas as is, stuff them, and bake them. Alternatively you can fry them with no oil and use them to make tacos, wraps or whatever suits your fancy.

Yield: 8 tortillas
Variations: You can use whole wheat or white wheat for this recipe. You can also use half whole wheat, half corn meal.


How do you enjoy your tortillas?'

This post is a part of the Make it from Scratch Carnival

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On my counter

Two views of what is taking place on my counter now.

Back row, left to right:
Saeurkraut, in the middle of fermenting
Lacto-fermented salsa
Lacto-fermented pickles
Beans in the process of sprouting
Hyssop infusing in oil for a chest rub to help deal with coughs
Rose and lavender bath oil, in the process of being infused
Alfalfa sprouts, ready

3 colonies of lacto-bacillus bacteria and probiotics growing on my counter, 2 plants growing on my counter, and 2 oils seeping the goodness out of some plant matter.

I truly love glass jars. Mason jars are the best, but old honey and pickle jars are also really great.

I plan on doing a kitchen tour for you to see all the wonderful ways in which I use these glass jars. I bought them all in one day. Imagine pushing a stroller with a kid in it for 2 miles, while carrying about 10 of these large mason jars. Fun times.

Do you use any glass jars? What are in yours?
And more importantly, any processes going on on your counter right now?

Mama's milk- the cheap baby feeding choice

(This is part of my “Raising a Baby with Minimal Cost” series.)

I am an avid nurser and nursing advocate.
I nursed my older son until he was 19 months old and I was 5 months pregnant with my current baby. I am currently nursing my 4 month old baby. Both kids have never had a taste of formula in their life.

When I was pregnant with my first, I decided that I wanted to be a nurser. For one reason alone. Money.

Do you know how much the average person spends on formula for their babies? I'll admit, an exact guestimate is quite difficult for me to do because I am not 100% positive how quickly people go through containers of formula. (***ETA Someone corrected my about how frequently people go through formula, so I'm basing this on her frequency of use.) But assuming that each container of formula costs 20 dollars (based on Similac prices from and assuming you go through 2 per week until the baby is six months old, and 1 per week from 1 year to 1.5 years old (because when on solids babies don't drink as much formula), thats ~2000 dollars on formula alone until the kid is 1.5 years old. (Then again, I know someone who's 3 year old is still drinking formula at night. It can cost lots more than 2000 dollars in that case.)
By nursing, you're saving a lot of money. Nursing is free. Mothers are created being able to nurse their babies, their bodies make milk. To be spending ~2000 dollars on something that is produced naturally by a mother's own body was something that was unfathomable to me, so nursing was the natural choice for me.

Once I decided that nursing would be the method with which I would feed my child, I learned more and more about nursing, from how to correctly position the babe to the numerous other benefits of nursing aside for mere cost.

Benefits of nursing over formula:
1) Mama's milk was created for babies. Formula companies are just trying to mimic mama's milk as only Mama's milk has all the nutrition a baby would need. Formulas just come close, but not perfectly.
2) Mama's milk is always readily available, in the middle of the night or on trips. No sleep-walks to the kitchen to prepare a bottle. No hunting around for boiled water, fiddling with powder and heating equipment while out and about. No preparation before feeding and no clean up afterward.
3) When no sterile equipment and water are available, Mama's milk is still sterile.
4) Mama's milk is easily digestible. Much easier on babies' tummies than milk or soy based formulas.
5) Its free!
6) Mama's milk boosts brain development.
7) Mama's milk contains Mama's antibodies to help boost the little baby's immune system.
8) Lots more!

Unfortunately, not every baby is able to be fed by Mama's milk. Some mothers are unable to nurse for whatever reason, be it health, build or the unavailability of the mother. However, if nursing is an option and you are on the fence about it, the monetary reason is a big draw towards nursing and can save you lots of money.

I won't lie and say that nursing didn't cost me a cent. I spent money on a one time lactation consultant visitation, paying a doctor who snipped my first child's tongue tie, and about 50 dollars on the Avent Isis hand pump and bought an expensive Tommee Tippee bottle to help ensure a smooth transition from nursing to pumped milk when I needed to be away from my baby for whatever reason. All those expenses are negligible in comparison to the price of formula.

I am all for nursing and have learned enough about it to help any mother who needs assistance with nursing. Email me at or comment below if you need any help with nursing your baby.

This post is part of the Festival of Frugality

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the Go Meals: Patties

When out and about, it is really tempting to buy something from a takeout place. Without a table and chair, its not so comfortable always to open up a boxed lunch and eat something like a chicken thigh and salad, something messy that requires both fork and knife to eat.

My husband works in a job where he doesn't get time to sit down for a meal; he often has to eat in bites while standing. Food that requires a fork and knife and is not suitable for my husband's lunch habits. I've had to come up with creative solutions for a fork free meal for my husband's lunches. I will be making a series of posts called "On the Go Meals".

My favorite on-the-go food is patties. These patties are very versatile, can be either baked or fried, and require no utensils with which to eat them. I serve patties as a meal on their own; they fulfill all the nutritional requirements of a meal.

To make patties I combine a protein, starch, and vegetable. Ideas of proteins are tuna fish, other ground fish, mashed beans, chicken, chop meat. For a vegetable, any will do. Grated carrots, grated zucchini, corn, chopped broccoli, sauted greens are just some of the many ideas.
Mix equal amounts protein and vegetable in a big bowl. Add an egg or two to bind, and then add some starch. Starches that work well in patties are grated potatoes, steel cut oats, corn meal, flour, bread crumbs, etc.
You'll want the consistency to be that of a thick cookie dough. If the starch added is not binding the patty together well enough, add some extra flour or bread crumbs.
Add seasoning. Salt, ketchup, garlic, onion, herbs, mustard, soy sauce. The choice is endless.
I prefer to fry the patties in oil, but baking then also works.
Heat up a skillet and add whichever oil you prefer to use for frying. Form patties in your hands, making sure that they are not crumbly. Fry them on a medium high heat until medium brown, then flip until both sides are cooked.
Tip: Try first frying one or two patties. If you find that those patties are falling apart while frying, add an extra egg and/or a binder like flour or breadcrumbs.

The patties I made for my husband's lunch yesterday were made from hake and onion ground in my food processor. I added chopped corriander, shredded zucchini, rolled oats, bread crumbs, whole grain sesame seeds, salt, pepper, and eggs.
They tasted delicious!

Do you ever make patties? What do you put in your patties?