Monday, May 31, 2010

Learning to Like Housework

Housekeeping is not a skill that comes easily to me. In fact, it is only since I married my husband, a pretty tidy person, that I stopped putting housework on the back burner and have been buckling down on getting the place cleaned up on a regular basis.
I've written before that in order to get your children to enjoy housework, you've first got to show them that you enjoy it. While housework is still not my favorite activity, I've started to enjoy it more and more lately. Here's how.

Learning to Like Housework

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sad Solar Cooking Saga

Solar Cooking Soup
I tearfully parted with my solar cooker, built from an old refrigerator, when I moved to my new apartment. I loved being able to bake without paying a cent, as running an oven uses quite a bit of electricity, and I'm always looking for ways to use less electricity.
I was sure I'd be up and running with a new solar cooker in my new yard-less place, had my plans all figured out, and then I moved in.

Well, I am have been was wish I would be am on hiatus from solar cooking.

Here's my sorry tale.

Solar cooking bread

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Don't Iron

I strongly dislike ironing. It is time consuming, pointless, and a hassle to boot. I'm definitely not in the minority feeling this way.  Of course, being me, I'll decide that ironing is a waste of money as well and should be avoided.

Ironing Wastes Money

  • Outsourcing the work. People who don't enjoy ironing often send their clothes to the cleaners to get out of doing it. At one dollar a shirt, 30 days a month, thats already 30 dollars per person per month. That's a lot of money. Alternatively, people pay cleaning help to iron their clothes. More wasted money.
  • Ruining Clothing. If you don't read labels correctly, you can easily ruin your clothes via ironing. Or, if you're simply easily distracted (like myself) you can also easily burn a hole right through your favorite shirt.
  • Burn Cream is Expensive. Enough said.
  • Wasting Electricity. Using electricity for something unnecessary is a waste of money.

Ironing is a Waste

  • Nothing stays wrinkle free- ironing clothing is like shoveling a drive way in the middle of a snow storm.
  • What's the point in wrinkle free if you're covered in spit up?
  • Who sees those ironed underwear anyhow?

Alternatives to Ironing

  • Wear it wrinkled. Make a statement. (Just kidding.)
  • Line dry on a hanger. Remove your wet clothing from the machine as soon as the load finishes, shake out the clothing, and hang on a hanger to dry. This will cause your clothing to dry without any wrinkles.
  • Spray clothes with water, then shake out. Wrinkles form in clothing when they dry with creases. By rewetting your clothes, even with a fine mist, you allow it to dry again, wrinkle free.
  • Buy wrinkle resistant clothing. Most synthetics are not easily creased. Stay away from crisp cottons and linen- those need most ironing. Stick with softer, more wrinkle resistant clothing. Polyester is my favorite. (And it usually is stain resistant to boot!)
My simple solution this Saturday? Don't iron! Simple solution, or rationalizing laziness? You decide. It still saves me money. :-D

Don't throw out your iron just yet. Put it aside for those special occasions when your mother in law is coming and you want to impress her with perfectly smooth bed sheets. But no need to use it on a regular basis, as far as I'm concerned.

Do you iron your clothes? Do you enjoy it or do you also consider it a waste of time?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Watermelon Rind Seitan Curry

Pickled watermelon rind was an invention of the Great Depression, where they used what was available and cheap to make delicious food. After receiving a watermelon as a gift from someone and wanting to make the most of it, I chanced upon, a great website with many recipes using watermelon rind.
Watermelon rind is very nutritious and delicious, and is actually in the squash family. It is no wonder watermelon rind resembles squash in taste and can be used similarly in recipes.

Watermelon Rind Seitan Curry

watermelon rind seitan curry

Watermelon rind- from half a watermelon
1.5 cups pumpkin
1 large onion
1.5 tsp turmeric
3 tsp curry powder
3 tsp garam masala spice mix (I made my own using this recipe)
Water to cover
Oil for sauteing

1. Remove as much of the red as possible from the watermelon. Its ok if a bit remains.
2. Use a peeler to remove the green outer part of the rind.
3. Chop up the watermelon rind into little cubes.
4. Dice an onion, and cube the pumpkin.
5. Fry the garam masala, curry powder and turmeric until it starts getting aromatic. Add onions and sauté until translucent. 
6. Add watermelon and sauté for 5 minutes.
7. Add pumpkin and sauté a few more minutes.
8. Add salt and enough water to cover. 
9. Adjust the heat to low and simmer until soft.

10. Take cooked seitan and cube it. (I recently discovered new tricks on making phenomenal seitan and will share them with you shortly.)

11. When the watermelon rind and pumpkin are soft, add the seitan, mix, and serve over rice.


Would you ever cook with watermelon rind, or does that sound too daring to you?

This is part of my "Don't Throw That Out Yet" series. 
If you liked this post, you might also like these other posts in this series:
Wilted Cucumber Salad

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sew to Save Your Clothes

Clothes are an inevitable expense that everyone comes across at some point or another. While cutting this expenditure completely is not usually feasible, by using smart money sense, you can minimize this expense greatly. 
This post is Part 3 in my Cutting Clothing Costs series.

Sewing to Save Money

Too many times I've seen people chuck a piece of clothing because of minor damage that can easily be corrected with a needle and thread.
Learn to Sew. It behooves one to learn how to sew, as this simple skill can save you lots of money, even without owning a sewing machine. I've included some links to instructional videos so that you can learn to repair your clothes without needing to pay for sewing lessons. For other instructions, see this youtube beginner's sewing channel.
Seamstress. Even if learning isn't an option, even paying a seamstress to mend your clothes will save you money, as repairing clothes is cheaper than buying new.


Buttons. Save buttons when they fall off and simply sew them back on. (How-to video here.) If you lost the button, note that most clothes have a spare button sewn onto the bottom or an inside tag precisely for this reason.
If there are no spare buttons, consider taking the top button off the shirt and use it where the button is missing, and use a different coordinating button on the top. This can be a fashion statement. Alternatively, you can replace all the buttons on the outfit (or all of a similar type- like all the collar buttons or the ones going down the middle of a shirt) for cheaper than replacing the whole outfit. Thrift stores and discarded clothes are good sources of buttons.

Opened Seams. This is the simplest type of mending that saves so many clothes. You merely need to sew a simple stitch across where the seam used to be, either by hand or with a machine. Instructions here.

Ripped Fabric. There are a few options for repairing clothing that tore the actual fabric and not only the seam. If pants have torn at the knee, consider cutting legs off at the height of the hole to make shorts.
Alternatively, you can patch the fabric. This can be done either unobtrusively or boldly, depending on where the clothing was torn. There are pretty patches available to be sewn on tastefully, decoratively. If pants have torn or worn out at the knee, you can simply sew identical contrasting squares of fabric on the knee as a fashion statement. They're so cute that pants are even sold that way sometimes.
If you don't want the patch to stand out, you can sew patches onto the inside of the clothing so that only the smallest hint of the patch is seen, if even. See instructions for sewing on patches here for more detail.
Iron on patches are available for greater ease, but they are more expensive. Pins and recycled materials should do the trick if you're handy with a needle and thread.

Broken Zippers. Buying a new zipper is so cheap; what a pity to throw out expensive clothing because of broken zippers. I'll admit that I don't really know how to replace zippers yet, but paying a seamstress to replace that nonfunctional zipper is still infinitely cheaper than buying a new winter coat. (Yes, the zippers on both my expensive winter coats broke.) When replacing zippers, consider recycling working zippers from clothing that has become irreparably damaged and is heading towards the trash can.

Replacing Elastic. This can be extremely simple or plain old simple. No need to throw out clothing when elastic has been stretched beyond repair. Simply replace the elastic with new, working elastic. (Video here.) Occasionally no sewing whatsoever is required!

Lengthening Clothing Life by Sewing.

While mending plays a huge part in using needle and thread to save your clothes, sometimes sewing can bring new life to clothes that would be otherwise case aside.

Adjusting Hems. Kids shoot up like weeds. To avoid buying clothes, only to have them be too short on your children in just a few weeks, buy skirts, pants, and dresses too long. Fold up the bottom and hem the clothes to the length that currently suits your child. When your children outgrow that, let down the hem you sewed, and you'll have proper length clothing again.
Sometimes the factory sewn hem can be quite large, and with a bit of dexterity, you can let down the hem even more, sewing your own minuscule hem, adding even more inches on to the bottom.
These both can be done without a machine. Video Instructions.
When there is no more seam to let down, you can add length by adding ruffles on to the bottom. Dresses and skirts only, please!

Adjusting Waists. I'm a mother. I know all about fluctuations in waist sizes, especially due to pregnancy and stubborn baby weight. Buying a new wardrobe because nothing fits seriously stinks! (Though it is a nice feeling when your clothing is too big on you, you still don't always have the money to buy so many more clothes in your new size.) Consider taking in a waist by adding darts, or enlarging a waist when that skirt simply won't fit anymore. Alternatively, you can buy larger skirts and sew in elastic, making sure that your clothes will fit you throughout all your bodily fluctuations.

Converting Clothes. Skirts and pants can be converted to maternity wear. Pants can be made into skirts. Regular bras can be made into nursing bras. (You may just need a seamstress for that.) The options are limitless! Don't assume that your old clothes can never be worn again. Bring your old clothes to a new stage in life.

~ ~ ~ ~

Go grab your needle and thread before tossing those clothes. With a little loving, your old clothes will see the light of day again very soon.

How have you lengthened the life of your clothes via sewing? Do you know how to sew?

This is part of the Cutting Clothing Costs series.
Part 1- Stain Fighting
Part 2- Launder Correctly to Save Your Wardrobe
Part 3- Sew to Save Your Clothes
Part 4- Forget Ironing (Coming soon!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When Being "Frugal" Costs

There comes a time in every thrifty person's life where it strikes you that something you've done in the name of frugality has backfired and should be discontinued. I've discussed saving money with friends who shared the consensus that being frugal, especially being frugal to the extreme and making everything from scratch, simply is not worth it. I strongly disagree with this stance and plan to challenge the assumption that frugality doesn't pay in a future post.
Today I'll be sharing some thoughts on frugal measures that become counter productive and realizing when you've got to shake things up a bit.

It's Not as Frugal as it Sounds!

Convinced that baby wipes were a waste of money, I started rinsing my baby's bum under the tap during each diaper change. I was quite taken aback when, as a result of this change, our monthly water bill increased by more money than I'd ever spent on baby wipes. Oops. I've since switched to cloth wipes, sure that now I'll really be saving money.

We bought chickens and rabbits with the hopes of saving money. We mistakenly assumed that the chickens would provide us with eggs and the rabbits would breed, allowing us to sell the babies to pet shops. Unfortunately the eggs never arrived and most of the babies died; in the meantime we spent too much money feeding these animals (even if it was just cheap vegetables and grains). We've since downsized to a 515 square foot apartment with no yard; the animals are gone and we're saving money.

Sometimes we do things because we think it'll save us money. We have to make sure not to get stuck in a rut and assume that what we're doing truly is cost effective. Do the math. Keep track of your spending carefully. Don't assume that frugality is one size fits all; just because something is saving someone money doesn't mean that it will be worthwhile for you. Everyone's situation is different; what is cheap one one place can be expensive in another.
If you have no laundry facilities at home, it may not be cost effective for you to cloth diaper. If you raise livestock, it may not make sense for you to rely on vegetarian sources of protein. If, like myself, you are the type to forget to water plants, it may not make sense for you to buy seedlings to grow your own vegetables. If the raw ingredients for certain foods cost more than the prepared store bought product, it may not pay for you to make your own tomato paste or peanut butter.

Use an spreadsheet (Open Office has a free alternative to Microsoft's Excel) to track your expenses. (I'll elaborate on this in another post.) See if your changes have truly helped you save, or if they've merely rerouted your spending.

If you notice that your "frugal habits" are costing you more money, don't stubbornly insist on repeating your mistake- find a different way that actually saves you money.

Increased Income with Increased Spending

I'm a stay at home mom, not looking to work outside the home, as minimal as our income currently remains. When I had just one child, I worked many hours in the hopes of bringing in more income, but was exhausted from my 60 hour work week and 2.5 hour daily commute that I ended up spending nearly all the extra income on convenience items and babysitters. I vowed to never again do something that extreme, and came to the conclusion that making money doesn't always pay.

Increased Income but Collapsing

Recently I was offered a translation job at 25% above minimum wage. Always looking to earn an extra buck or two, I accepted and planned on translating the documents in my spare time. The employers were in a rush to get the project done, but I had so much on my plate already.

I was already watching children in my at home daycare, taking care of my children full time, nursing a needy baby round the clock, working 2 cleaning jobs, cooking for my family from scratch, trying to keep up with housework like laundry and dish washing, and writing daily blog posts for you readers. (Whew, I get tired just writing all that.)
My sons are not good sleepers and my husband was getting home from work near midnight, so I was only able to actually work on my translation job once 2.5 year old Lee would go to sleep at 11 pm. I was working until 2 am, waking up at 6:30 am with the baby, and I was on the verge of collapsing. A woman cannot survive on 4.5 hours of interrupted sleep indefinitely.
This second foray into making extra cash proved as disastrous as the first. I didn't spend any more money this time, but my sanity was paying the price.
If you're trying to increase your income in the name of frugality, but you're wiped out from all the extra work, that frugality is backfiring. A little extra money is not worth your happiness and sanity. You and your family will be paying the price.

Deprivation is Detrimental

I was once in a very tough position financially, much tougher than my usual. I did not have money to buy even the bare minimum, nor to pay for a bus ride to go to a free fun activity. I had not a cent to spare.
I learned to make do during that time, to survive on truly the bare minimum. I "shopped from my pantry", mooched a bit off friends and family, and spent a grand total of 5 dollars on food during those weeks to restock on beans and buy cucumbers, the lowest cost vegetables I could find.
I did it. We survived.
But it was no fun. 
It backfired.
The second we had a bit of money in the account, the deprivation got to me and I went on a shopping binge. I was feeling so deprived from those weeks of beans and rice, and beans and noodles, and homemade bread with bean "Sloppy Joe"s that I went to the store and loaded up my cart with pure nonsense. Junk of the purest sort. Fruit roll ups and pretzel chips and all sorts of imported, unhealthy, exorbitantly priced garbage.
I'm not really sure I understand the depths of my psyche enough to give an articulate answer, but it probably was akin to my giving the finger to deprivation, my way of proving to myself and the world that I was going to eat what I want, when I want, no matte how expensive, and that no one (not even I) could stop me.
A bit immature, perhaps, but I was having it really rough (and was just a few weeks after having given birth, so hormones probably played a big part in this).

The point of this embarrassing story is to show that deprivation backfires. People need enjoyment and happiness in their life, need to feel pampered once in a while. 
I usually write a post on Needs vs Wants every Wednesday, and here is where this post ties in to that theme.
You can cut back on everything so you are subsiding on just the bare minimum. You can stretch yourself to your limits, depriving yourself of sleep for a few extra dollars, or depriving yourself of every nice thing, because there is no money to spare on any frivolities. 
You physically can do all that, but at what price? You'll snap. I'm proof of that.

In my opinion, I think a little enjoyment in life is definitely a need. Physical need, no, but it is definitely an emotional need. Life without enjoyment is not worth living. Its drudgery, it's Hell, and it can easily lead people to suicide. Deprivation is no good.
This is why I spend extra time and effort to make fancy deserts and varied meals. Tasty and varied food is important to me so I don't feel deprived; other things are further down my list of priorities. Others might put more value on going out with friends; neglecting that would make them feel deprived. Do what you need to do to make sure you don't feel deprived.

People shouldn't feel so entitled that cutting back on anything will lead them to cries of "Deprivation!"  The average person has a long ways to go before he can claim that this lack is leading him to the nut house. 
People have to do some soul searching, focus on all the little luxuries they have in life, and make any frugal changes slowly. Eliminating too much at once will make you feel deprived and is counter productive. Slow and steady wins the race.

The Goal of Frugality

The point of frugality is to improve your life. To give you some extra money in the bank so you have money for what truly matters. To stop having money worries.
If your frugality is ruining your life, stop right there, right now.
Frugality is to improve your life. If you're having an emotional breakdown, if you're not ending up with any extra money in the bank, or if you're collapsing from tiredness, something has got to change. You've got to seriously reevaluate what you're doing.
Frugality is meant to better your life, not ruin it. Got that? Feel free to email me- pennilessparenting at yahoo dot com if you feel frugality is ruining your life. I'm here for you and I'll help you out.

Has your frugality ever causing problems, whether financially, physically, or emotionally? What happened? What did you do to change things?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Laundering Correctly Saves a Wardrobe

Clothing is a basic need that even the most minimalistic person cannot deny. Even for those unaccustomed to recreational shopping, the average person spends a hefty sum on maintaining a wardrobe. While money spent on clothing is an unavoidable expense, I've put together some tips to lengthen the life of your clothing so you can at least stretch the time between shopping excursions. 
This post is Part 2 in my Cutting Clothing Costs series.

Launder Clothes Properly

On an itchy tag inside most garments, is a message full of hidden meaning. Most clothing tags have esoteric symbols; understanding the meaning of these and following the proper laundering instructions for your clothing will lengthen the life of your clothing drastically. Head over to this site to understand what the different laundry symbols mean, then read on to see how laundering correctly (or even going beyond what the tag requires) will help your clothing last longer.

Proper Washing Saves Your Clothing.

  • Regular Wash. Wash on cold. If your clothing doesn't require specialized care, stick it in the machine, ideally on cold.  Doing cold washes allows you to launder whites, lights, and darks together without fear of the colors running. By combining colors, you're able to have full loads more frequently; you don't waste utilities on running partial loads. Cold washes also save the cost of heating the water. Cold water is easier on the clothing, causing less wear and tear, thus lengthening the life of your clothes.
  • Delicate Cycle. Just wash by hand. You're not likely to have a full load of delicates, and partial loads are wasted money. If the label is calling for a delicate cycle, it means that your garment is fragile and it behooves you to be extra careful with it; hand washing is more gentle on clothes than even a delicate cycle. Hand wash with cold water.
  • Dry Clean Only. Wash these by hand unless they're lined suits or jackets. Hand washing is easier on the clothes than the harsh chemicals used in dry cleaning, and is much more reasonable financially.

    Dry Clothes Correctly

    Avoid using a dryer. Dryers put a lot of wear and tear on clothing and damage most types. Especially do not stick anything delicate in the dryer, like lacy negligees, bras, slips, or stockings. You've decreased their life by 75% by doing just that. If you cannot line dry anything else, at least line dry the aforementioned expensive undergarments, as these aren't usually bought second hand, so you'll want to make them last as long as you can. (Soon there will be an entire post dedicated to getting the most money out of your undergarments.)

    Beware of Fading. Be aware that the same property that helps the sun remove stains from clothes will also result in your clothes fading if left long enough in the sun. I don't mind my clothes fading so I don't always take all these precautions, but if you would like your colors to remain vibrant, keep these points in mind.

    • Dry in Shade. Drying will take a little longer, but you'll be saving those clothes.
    • Dry Overnight. This results in softer clothes to boot.
    • Don't Dry Too Long. Bring clothes inside as soon as they're dry.
    • Hang Inside Out. The inside of your clothes might fade, but the outside will stay color true.
    • Line Dry Inside. This takes the longest and adds dampness to the air, but is a viable alternative when there is no available hanging space in the shade.
    By following these tips for washing and drying, you'll ensure that you aren't damaging your clothes accidentally by improper laundering, and making sure that your clothes will stick around a very long time.

    Tune in to the next edition of my Cutting Clothes Costs series next Thursday, when we'll be talking about how you can lengthen your clothes' lives by using a needle and thread.
    Posts in this Series
    Fight Stains to Reduce Clothing Costs.
    Laundering Correctly Saves a Wardrobe.
    Sew to Save Your Clothes
    Forget Ironing (Coming Soon).

    What are your laundry tips to lengthen the life of your clothes?

    This post is part of the Penny Pinching Party and Works for Me Wednesday


    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Snobby Palates

    I have a discriminating palate. I like good food, which is why I bother making fancy dishes like crepes or lemon orange meringue pie when I could get away with serving  no desert, or opting for something simple like a plain chocolate cake. I understand someone wanting good food.

    What I don't understand are people with snobby palates, people who discriminate against perfectly good food simply because its "poor man's food".

    A friend of mine once asked me what I feed my family if I don't serve meat frequently, because she can't subside on merely rice and beans. I don't make rice and beans often enough, honestly, and shared a sample of my weekly menu with her.
    "Colcannon?!" she said. "Why would you want to serve your family a food that food which was the staple of the Irish poor?"

    Colcannon is a mashed potato dish that contains both various greens and dairy. Why would I want to serve it to my family?

    • Its delicious.
    • Its filling.
    • Its cheap.
    • Its nutritious.
    • Its a one pot meal.

    Why would I not want to serve this delightful dinner to my family?
    The only reason not to eat this food is because of palate snobbery, pompous pickiness, having an issue with food merely because of its origin and nothing else.

    I am not a food snob.
    I look for foods that are staples of the poor. Porridges like oatmeal, mealie pap, semolina and polenta. Potato and cabbage based meals, as well as bean meals from around the world. I'm always on the hunt for recipes using cheap cuts of meat, like haggis or sausage, because when I do buy meat, I want to get the most for my money. I try to get recipes from the Great Depression Era, Civil War era, and traditional recipes from 18th century hamlets and before.
    Poor people once upon a time knew what they were doing. They knew how to feed their family nutritious meals with the little money they had and the resources that were around them. They salvaged what would otherwise go to waste (not so different from my "Don't Throw That Out Yet" series), and they made pretty tasty food, if you ask me.
    The poor today don't eat nearly as healthfully as they did once upon a time and are more likely to be obese from their poor nutrition, because prepackaged unhealthy food is much cheaper than prepackaged health food, but when you cook from scratch, you are able to save lots of money while still eating healthy food. (Who votes that the government subsidizes low-cost-cooking classes for low income areas? I'll volunteer to teach!)

    I'm not snobby when it comes to food. I want good food. I want variety. I want my food to look appetizing. But I don't discriminate against foods merely because its "poor man's food".

    That's all for now- I've got to go back to the kitchen to tend to my watermelon rind and seitan curry currently simmering away on my stove.

    Are you a food snob? What are your thoughts on foods originating in poverty stricken areas?

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Frugal Sick Days

    Mike and I have caught a bug. Exactly which one, we don't know, but we're both feeling pretty miserable and out of it. In light of current situation, I've decided to speak about thriftiness and being sick.

    Cost of Being Sick
    • Unpaid sick days for hourly workers
    • Copays for doctor, or cost price for checkup if you cannot afford insurance
    • Highly priced medicine
    With these sometimes prohibitive costs involved in feeling under the weather, here are some ways to reduce costs when sick.

    Frugal Sick Days

    • Work When Ill. If you take off work for every little sniffle, your paycheck will certainly show it. If you can work while sick, consider doing so, unless working while under the weather will cause you to get sicker, requiring you to take off even more days to recuperate. If you can nip your illness in the bud by taking one day off at the start of your illness versus 3 or 4 days further along, take that one day off. You know your body best.
    • Don't Rush to the Doctor. Many a time I've gone to the doctor and been told "That's a virus. Rest well, and you should feel better in a few days." Wait 24-48 hours once sick to see if you're on the road to recovery so you don't waste time and money at the doctor so he can tell you to rest. (Don't ignore warning signals like very high fevers or trouble breathing; it pays to be vigilant with those.)
    • Drink Up. When sick, people often don't like to drink, but dehydration will just make an illness worse in addition to necessitating an IV (more costs). 
    • Natural Remedies. While you may not be "into" alternative medicine, there are some natural remedies that even the most die hard anti-natural doctor (like my dad) will suggest, as they've been proven to work. If you can avoid the cost of a doctor's visit by using these remedies, you'll save your pocketbook the expense of the visit and medicine, and likely spare your body the havoc over-medication can cause.

    Frugal Home Remedies

    Chicken Soup. Grandma was  right; chicken soup has many healing benefits. This hot liquid fights dehydration, is chock full of nutrients, soothes sore throats, and even has special anti-inflammatory agents. The steam coming from your hot bowl helps sooth congestion and relieves sinus headaches. Make your frugal chicken soup by combining chicken scrap soup and vegetable scrap soup recipes.
    Garlic. Proven by studies, garlic, especially when raw, is a very potent wonder "drug". When sick, try to eat as much raw garlic as you can handle. I eat toast with butter and slivers of raw garlic when sick, or eat crackers with my homemade garlic dip. Recipe below.
    Onions. Powerful like garlic, this is also best eaten raw. Or throw lots of onion and garlic into your chicken soup. Onion chopped up and mixed with honey works well as cough medicine.
    Vitamin C. Make freshly squeezed orange juice or grape fruit juice, preferably with fruit from the reduced rack. The acidity is soothing to the throat. Alternatively, you can use powdered ascorbic acid, or vitamin C in pill form. This vitamin is a known immune system booster.
    Lemon and Honey. A delicious balm for sore throats.
    BRAT Diet. When sick with stomach ailments, instead of using immodium or other drugs, stick to a diet of white rice, boiled carrots, apples, bananas, and toast. When starting to feel a bit better, you can add yogurt, low fat chicken, and chicken soup. Avoid other dairy, and fibrous foods like whole grains and most fruit.
    Anti-Fungals. Lacto-bacillus rich foods such as homemade pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt help restore the body's yeast/bacteria imbalance. This imbalance causes stomach issues, thrush, and yeast infections. In addition to eating these foods, you can also slather your lacto-bacillus rich yogurt onto the affected areas.
    Coke. Generic brand is fine; coke syrup works as a natural anti-emetic (stops you from throwing up). If you can't keep food down, instead of opting for over the counter or prescription drugs, first try a bit of Coca Cola (or whichever brand is cheapest).

    Raw Garlic Spread

    1 green apple
    5-10 cloves of garlic (depending on how strong you can handle. The more garlic, the more potent.)
    2 tsp mayonnaise
    1 tsp salt

    Blend until smooth. Serve on toast, crackers, or bread.
    Enjoy the burn and feel better soon!

    What are your frugal methods of dealing with illness? Do you rush to the doctor when sick, or do you first try some of these, or other home remedies?

    This is part of the Festival of Frugality at Remodeling This Life

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Homemade Baby Powder

    Often we buy things by rote, heading down the same aisles in the grocery store to pick up the same purchases, simply because that is what we've always done.
    While diapering a baby once using his mom's paraphernalia, I was a bit baffled at part of the ensemble. A bottle of baby powder, labeled "Pure Cornstarch". Why this mom chose to spend money on cornstarch designated for baby's bottoms when it was clearly nothing more than pure cornstarch was beyond me for a point, until I realized that she simply was picking up baby equipment in the aisle she had always frequented, even though there was a cheaper, simple alternative.

    Corn starch is a great replacement for baby powder. Simply take this common kitchen ingredient, put it in an empty spice shaker (a great way to recycle that "unrecyclable" plastic), and use in place of baby powder.

    Uses for Cornstarch "Baby Powder":

    • Absorbing sweat
      • to prevent embarrassing spots
      • to prevent chafing
    • On humid days instead of biker shorts
    • On heat rash
    • Rub all over baby after a bath to absorb leftover moisture
    • On a baby's bottom to keep it dryer
    • Rub on skin before and after a shave

      Warning: Don't use cornstarch on areas suspected of having fungal issues; the cornstarch will feed the yeast, worsening the issue.

      Thursday, May 20, 2010

      Homemade Crepes


      [krey-puh-ree, krep-uh-; Fr. krepuh-ree]
      –noun,pluralcrêp·er·ies[krey-puh-reez, krep-uh-; Fr.krepuh-ree]
      a restaurant where you're charged an arm and a leg for an eggy pancake with toppings that can easily and cheaply be made at home.

      Yesterday I wanted to serve a special desert, one that would wow the socks off my husband and guests. Crepes it was; festive, flavorful, and beautiful, this was a feast for the eyes as well as being tantalizing to the taste buds.


      Crepe Ingredients
      2 eggs
      1 cup milk
      .75 cup flour
      1.5 tablespoons sugar
      1.5 tablespoons oil
      .5 tsp salt

      Filling Ingredients
      Homemade caramel sauce (recipe coming soon)
      Homemade whipped cream
      Canned peaches
      Homemade ice cream (recipe coming soon)

      Making Crepes- Instructions
      1. Mix crepe ingredients together in a bowl. Use a whisk to remove as many clumps as possible.
      2. Wipe a very small amount of oil onto a non stick frying pan, then heat on a medium heat.
      3. Pour approximately a ladle full of crepe batter into the hot frying pan, swirling it around in the pan until you have a circular thin layer covering the bottom of the pan. It should look something like this.
      4. When the crepe looks almost fully cooked (after approximately one minute), pry the edges of the crepe away from the bottom of the pan, either with a spatula or with a knife or your fingernails. Slide a spatula underneath the crepe, and very carefully and quickly, flip it over. 
      5. Let the crepe cook on its second side for about 5 seconds, then flip the pan over on to a plate to hold the finished crepe.
      6. Repeat with the rest of the batter until you have a mound like this.

      Filling the Crepe
      1. Lay one crepe flat on a plate.
      2. Put a line of whipped cream down the middle of the crepe. Top this whipped cream with soft fruit of your choice. I used canned peaches. Any canned fruit will do, as will raw strawberries, bananas and mangoes.
      3. Fold over the edges of the crepe to cover the whipped cream.
      4. Drizzle homemade chocolate sauce over the crepe with a fork, leaving thin lines of chocolate sauce.
      5. Repeat with homemade caramel sauce.
      6. Top with a scoop of homemade ice cream.
      7. Admire your masterpiece, dig in, and enjoy!

      Have you ever had or made crepes? What fillings do you suggest using?

      Part of Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap and Vegetarian Foodie Friday.

      Wednesday, May 19, 2010

      Homemade Lasagna is Cheap!

      I've heard said that it is not worth making lasagna as it is such an expensive meal, what with all its specialty items. I beg to differ. When I make lasagna, the cost is pretty cheap- less than 3 dollars for the whole meal, and there are usually leftovers.

      Cheap Lasagna

      Homemade noodle dough (made from 1.5 cups flour)
      Homemade pasta sauce (half recipe)
      Homemade ricotta cheese (recipe coming soon)
      1/4 cup milk
      1 tbsp sugar
      1/4 cup homemade breadcrumbs
      1 onion
      1 zucchini, eggplant, tomato or some spinach (whatever is in season)
      3 slices hard cheese (American, meunster, mozzerella, etc.)

      1. Make your noodle dough, then roll it out in flat sheets. No need to cut it up; lay out the whole sheet on the bottom of the baking dish. Cut the excess dough and use it to fill in gaps where the pan shows through.

      2. Cover the first layer of dough with a layer of tomato sauce and layer onion rings on that.

      3. Add another layer of dough on top of the onions and sauce.
      4. Mix homemade ricotta cheese with milk, sugar and breadcrumbs. Grate zucchini into the mixture and spread on top of the dough layer. If using tomatoes or eggplant, slice thinly. If using spinach, mix into the ricotta cheese mixture.

      5. Add another layer of noodle dough, and then another thick layer of sauce. Top this with cheese. I usually break mine up so that 3 slices can cover the whole layer.

      6. Bake for an hour or more, at least until the cheese on top is all melted and bubbly.


      Variations- You can add a layer of mashed beans into the lasagna for extra protein. You can use a milk based   "cream" sauce instead of the tomato sauce and omit all the cheeses.

      What do you put in your lasagna? How much does it usually cost you?
      This is part of Make it Monday

      Tuesday, May 18, 2010

      The Forethought Edition- Festival of Frugality #280

      Last minute people like myself often get caught off guard when once again, surprise expenses sneak up on them, expenses that could have been avoided, or at least reduced with just a bit of forethought.
      I'm Penny and I'm hosting this week's edition of the Festival of Frugality, where the best of the frugal blogger get together to share their ideas with others, and I get to pick who gets featured. I've chosen the posts that are inspiring, posts that dare you to rethink what you've always thought, look at life in a different way, and get saving.
      If you're new and on the lookout for simple money saving solutions, go no further. If you're looking for something a bit more radical, we've got extreme frugality ideas for you as well. We've got plenty of frugal strategies dealing with everything from thrifty grocery shopping and recipes, children, adjusting your mindset, recycled and cheap crafts, and much else. My regular readers- hope you enjoy this inspiration!

      My Top Picks

      Frugal Babe shares her 6 favorite ways to keep expenses to a minimum. This Frugal Babe definitely knows what she's talking about- after all, she has the same basic ideas as I do. :-D
      Paul at Provident Plan compares food to a stage performance in a witty analogy, giving very good information about how prevalent different items should be on our menus.
      PT Money shares timely advice on how to fight the urge to spend money, helping you keep those few extra dollars for what really matters to you.

      Foodie Thrifty

      Last minute in the kitchen often means first on line at the fast food place. Avoid this temptation and other  expensive time savers with a bit of forethought. Here's some suggestions on how you can save money in your kitchen.
      Donna at Surviving and Thriving talks about her "second hand bread" store, something timely after my post on buying from the reduced rack.
      Silicon Valley Blogger over at The Digerati Life shares a similar idea- shopping later on in the day when prices are getting reduced.
      Free Money Finance talks about what things to not buy in bulk.
      Kyle at the Suburban Dollar used a bit of forethought and planted his own garden to grow his own food- even though he lives in suburbia. Inspirational for those of us not living rurally.
      Squirrelers talks about the lengths to which people will go for free food.
      Having a Barbecue? David at Personal Finance Analyst discusses how to have a low cost BBQ. (Sound familiar? I gave similar suggestions here.)

      Frugal Parents

      How will you afford college for your kids? Tara at Prairie Cothrifter talks about ways to pay for your child's education. 
      Mrs Not Made of Money gives some ideas for graduation gifts that won't break the bank.
      Christian Personal Finance shares what he feels are the only 5 things you need for a newborn. It pains me to share this post because I think you can usually manage just fine without all of them (aside for maybe a car seat, but if you have no car and use buses instead, you can do without a car seat as well), as I've written in my Babies with Little Expense series. I chose to include this link anyhow because it challenges the consumerism mentality when it comes to baby purchases, so even if people aren't willing to go to the extremes I suggest, they'll still have ideas of what is more essential than the nonsense  advertisers try to get you to buy.


      Super Saver at My Wealth Builder talks about how spending less earlier will get you out of buying more later.
      Conversely, Jeff at Good Financial Cents challenges if paying off your mortgage early is the wisest course.
      Wealth Pilgrim talks about how the get the cheapest life insurance policy.
      Have you thought about where to retire? Lean Life Coach at Eliminate the Muda contemplates Detroit.
      What will penny pinching accomplish? Read about one woman's saga at Budgets are Sexy.

      Save Your Money

      Don't use Garbage Bags. What? See the alternative at Fire Finance.
      Need to upgrade your car? Ryan at Cash Money Life explains your options regarding your old car.  
      Planning a Road trip? Should you take your own car or rent? Craig at Help Me Travel Cheap shares his thoughts on the matter.
      Can you cut your cable bill but still watch your favorite programs? Craig at Money Help For Christians explains how you can.

      Everything Else
      Madeline Kane shares some really cute and funny limerics about miserliness.
      But are you really a miser? Or just frugal? Learn Save Invest describes the difference.
      2 Cents at Balance Junkie shares a book review on Your Money or Your Life
      Consumer Boomer talks about credit scores
      Tim at Nerd Wallet shares some astonishing credit cards.  
      Adam at the Magical Penny talks about savings accounts.

      Hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do!

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      Willing to Change

      "Who will achieve change? He who truly desires it and is willing to do something to make it happen."

      Ok, I haven't actually heard of a quote like that; I made up that "proverb". But I've heard plenty regarding desiring a long life, true strength, true wealth, true wisdom, so figured I could and should devise one on actualizing change.

      People like to complain. They claim their life is miserable, they have no money, they have no friends, their marriage is lacking much. The list of possible complaints is endless.
      Yet, many are the people who complain about an issue, but when you offer them a solution, they have one excuse after another about why those solutions wouldn't work.

      I've spoken to many people about saving money; friends have approached me on the street asking me to help them because their money is slipping out of their hands and they need solutions and they know I've got them. Too often I've given suggestions, and not even absurd or extremely frugal ones, just plain old basic moderately frugal strategies, and these idea are all shot down with a "Give me a break!" and rolled eyes.

      One person I know is constantly getting handouts from many different charities and friends, and even so is having a hard time making ends meet. Yet all my suggestions to her are for naught. She goes as far as to tell me "I go nuts over electricity; I leave all the lights burning in my house, even when no one is home", and even chastised me for shutting off a closet light after fetching something.
      Others tell me just how much of their income goes to pay the grocery bill, but at the slightest suggestion of modifying their diet or mode of food preparations, they balk.

      Oh, don't worry, I get where these people are coming from. Change is hard. Wanting change is easy, but being willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new is quite difficult. Too challenging for many people to wrap their mind around and actualize.
      There's also the aspect of having your priorities. Everyone choses something that is invaluable to them, about which they will not compromise. For me, I hold steadfast in my desire to stay home and raise my children myself instead of them being with child minders from morning till night so that I can earn a few extra dollars. For others, their non negotiable is organic food, even if that makes their grocery budget be higher. Other lack the energy to make things from scratch, so they stick to more convenience style foods.

      Even when you have things about which you will not compromise, you need to be willing to budge about others if you want to achieve any change. My dad used to say "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". If you plan on living exactly as you have been until this point, barring a miracle, you will be getting the same results you have been until now. If you want to save money, you need to be willing to compromise and actually change things. If you want to just continue everything you've been doing till now, go right ahead, but don't complain if you're not willing to change.

      If you've come to the realization that some things truly need to change in your life and have discovered that you're the biggest impediment standing in the way of the required change, perhaps its time to do a bit of soul searching and figure out where your values lie.
      Is it ease and comfort in following your routine but dealing with monetary stress? Or would you prefer to have less money stresses but spend more time preparing things yourself, or expanding your pallet, or going out to work?
      Are you willing to compromise on anything so you can stick to your guns on the important issues? Even one compromise can make a big difference. Because it is important to me to be raising my kids myself and even though it means a limited earning potential, I am willing to go the extra mile and cut back on almost everything, even the little things.
      If organics and food ethics is important to you, perhaps try growing your own organic veggies, or eat more legume based meals instead of animal products, as legumes are exponentially cheaper than animal products, especially when it comes to free range, hormone free, and organic meat, poultry, milk and eggs.
      If ease is important to you, start making crock pot meals, one pot meals, pressure cooker meals, and freezer meals (double food when cooking and stick the second half in the freezer for a later date).

      Do what you need to make things work, compromising on the little things, yet not yielding when it comes to your values. Or don't, but stop complaining.

      Do you think you're open to change, or do you also sometimes complain about monetary difficulties then shoot down suggestions given to you? What compromises have you made for the sake of frugality yet keeping your values intact?

      (P.S. Tomorrow I am hosting the Festival of Frugality on my blog, so be sure to check out all the great ideas I'll be sharing. This festival will be throwing my usual schedule off kilter, so I'll be saving my Wednesday post for another week and will be sharing many recipes instead, by request of the readership.)

      Sunday, May 16, 2010

      Buying from the Reduced Rack

      These are some pretty sorry looking bananas, aren't they?
      You might then be surprised to know that I purposely bought these bananas already in this condition. Why?
      They were 1/4 of their original price because they were mushy, bruised, and brown. Overripe bananas are sweeter and tastier, much better for making banana ice cream, banana bread, and banana based breakfast shakes.
      I simply took the bananas, cut them up, froze them on a cookie tray, and removed as needed to make my shakes.

      While its appealing to buy fruit and other foods that are in pristine condition, it often pays to buy foods from the reduced price or day old rack.
      If your plan is to make homemade tomato sauce, buying reduced price tomatoes works better than buying the fresh, firm tomatoes. The softer, overripe tomatoes yield a sweeter, tastier sauce, and are usually a fraction of the price.
      If you're intending on making pickles, you can buy the limp cucumbers.
      If you're planning on making virtually any cooked fruit or veggie that doesn't result in crisp veggies, the reduced price, sorry looking veggies will work fine.
      Butchers often have a "seconds" rack, where their day old chicken and meat is sold at great discount. I routinely would buy this as it tasted just as good but didn't hurt my pocketbook as much.
      Bakeries also have day old racks, where their cakes, breads, and cookies are sold at a reduced price. The difference in freshness is negligible, and if you haven't yet started baking your own baked goods (you should, as it is much cheaper!), it pays to buy these day old baked goods.
      Keep in mind though that these either need to be eaten up, cooked, or frozen immediately, otherwise they'll go off, and you will have wasted that money by buying things that spoil before being eaten.

      Do you ever buy things from the reduced rack? What do you buy at lower prices? Do you find these purchases to be worthwhile?