Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hearty Peasant Soup

This soup has been a hit every time I've made it. It's convinced a friend of mine to give foraging a chance, simply because she wanted to make this soup because it came out so tasty. Paired with a some pieces of freshly baked whole wheat bread or toast, it is a filling, delicious and nutritious meal that is easy on the pocketbook.
It's been named Peasant Soup because it contains only ingredients that would have been available to Italian peasants back in the days of yore. As I sit down to eat a bowl of this soup made with my very own foraged wild mustard, I can't help but think that it's very possible that some Italian peasant woman sent out her children to collect these greens and then lovingly created the exact same dish to serve her family back in the 1700's.

Hearty Peasant Soup

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Frugal Birth Control and Basic Fertility Treatment/Diagnoses

Taking Charge of Your Fertility- Book Review

Fertility and all that surrounds it can add up to quite a pretty penny. Whether you're trying to avoid pregnancy, or trying to get pregnant when it doesn't come easily, at some point you may get annoyed at all the money spent each month on things connected to your reproductive ability or lack thereof.

I had heard of the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” quite a while ago, but with English books both hard and expensive to get in my country, I hadn't had any chance to read it until I came across it at my friend's house a little bit ago. In reading it, the book entirely lived up to the glowing reports I heard about it, and I was so impressed by it that I felt I needed to share the basic ideas shared in the book, as they're right up my alley, both from a financial standpoint, and from a health/green related standpoint.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility teaches you all about the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), a pain free, chemical free, hassle free, and practically money free way to prevent pregnancy, and to get started with dealing with infertility issues if you want to achieve pregnancy. (No, FAM is not the rhythm method, as the book explains very clearly.)
How do you do it? What exactly is this book about?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Non Toxic House Cleaners

Spring cleaning is either underway or about to being in homes across the globe. All the cleaning solutions being used can add up to a hefty sum. Here's a few useful homemade cleaning solutions, with the added benefit that they're all made with non toxic materials, so you don't have to worry about keeping them out of reach of small children or being careful not to breathe them in. (Some of them have been previously shared; I compiled them now into a more thorough list.)
Most of these homemade cleaners can be made from the following products that can be found either around the house or at the local grocery store, but usually will be significantly cheaper if bought in bulk. The only less common ingredient, borax, can be found either in the cleaning aisle next to the laundry soaps or at the hardware store.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Easy Vegan Mock Chopped Liver Pate

This is real chopped liver, not my fake stuff,
but it looks and tastes the same, so why not?
I first at this dish at my friend's house and fell in love with it. Imagine my utter surprise when I found out that it has but 4 simple ingredients and is so easy and frugal to make! This tastes like chopped liver pate, if you've ever had it, and unlike most mock chopped liver recipes, is completely vegan and frugal.

Mock Chopped Liver Pate

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cloth Diapering For Penniless Parents- No Sew Tee Shirt Diapers

When considering cloth diapering, you might have been interested, but the initial cost outlay might deter you if you're especially hard on cash. Though cloth diapering definitely can save lots of money over the course of your diapering period, coming up with the spare 200 dollars or so necessary to buy basic cloth diapering supplies (prefolds and covers) might be too difficult to do.
Fortunately, cloth diapering is possible even without that monetary outlay. How do you do it?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Frugality- Can It Go Too Far?

To say that I am very frugal would be a gross understatement. I live in the smallest apartment with a family my size of anyone I know to keep our rent costs very low. My grocery bills are a fraction of those of even the frugal people I know. I spend virtually nothing on entertainment, transportation, or any thing not 100% necessary. I am the most frugal person I know... and I'm always looking to be even more frugal, always looking for more ways to cut expenses even more.
Recently a friend of mine was wondering if she was too obsessed with frugality, and if she was going overboard. She said that they had extra money, built up a decent savings, but still was always looking for more ways to make money so that they could put more and more into savings each month. Just in case.
Last time I was in the grocery store, I was eying something on the shelf, wondering if I should get it. Our grocery bills have been insanely low, we have a nice cushion in the bank, why on earth not get that thing, even if it is a little more expensive than I would like. Of course, a little internal debate ensued. Should I spend that money, or should I continue looking for more and more ways to save money?

Which brings up the heady question. Frugality- can it go too far?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Versatile Quiche Recipe

Quiche made with rice crust, tomatoes, eggplant,
onion, wild mustard, and Italian spices.
In many homes, leftovers get shoved to the back of the fridge until they start to grow fuzz. Even if a dish was yummy the first day, by the second or fifth time you're serving it, your family is probably rolling their eyes, sick of eating the same food over and over again.

Enter the revamped leftover solution- quiches.

Quiches are the perfect way to sneak your leftovers into a tasty new dish that is so different than the original that you're family won't know it's the same thing. 

There's a basic formula for quiche, but the variations are endless.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Second Hand Clothing and Bed Bugs

I'm a big promoter of buying things second hand as well as dumpster diving as a means of saving money.
Unfortunately, in some places of the world, rampant bed bugs infestations make doing so problematic. Fortunately, bed bugs are definitely rare in my neck of the woods.

A reader emailed me, asking me what to do about bed bugs when buying things second hand. For the most part, washing things on hot will kill any lingering bed bugs, but some items are too delicate to go on a hot cycle without being ruined.
How can you kill bed bugs without a hot wash cycle, she asked me, so that you can feel safe about using second  hand clothing?

Money Tips for Working Moms

This is a guest post submitted by reader Hannah. Thanks Hannah for your tips on money management for working moms. I know that what I do usually is more time consuming than the average working mom has time to do, so I'm sure these tips will be appreciated.

For so many of us, no matter how hard we work, our money never seems to stretch as far as we'd like it to.

If you regularly find yourself falling short of a dollar or two towards the end of the month, what could you do to make your money go that little bit further?

Well, the obvious answer would be to save money - and that's exactly what we're going to look at here. As a working mom, how could you save some money each month?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beet Kvass Recipe

Beet  kvass, ready for drinking.
Probiotics are very important for keeping your body functioning at an ideal level. Probiotics can be found in many places, most notably in yogurt. For those seeking a non dairy source (either because of allergies, cost, health preferences, etc...) there are other pro-biotic sources such as kombucha and water kefir. However, getting your hands on starter for these can be difficult, if not downright impossible, depending on where you live.
Fortunately, beet kvass is a probiotic drink you can make at home yourself easily enough and calls for only 3 ingredients, none of them hard to come by.
According to Nourishing Traditions, “One four ounce glass in the morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.” (p. 610)
I must admit that the taste isn't what you'd expect. Its like a mildly salty pickle juice. Sounds unappetizing, I know, but chilled, this is really quite delicious and makes you just keep wanting more and more.
So, how do you make beet kvass? Very easily.

Beet Kvass Recipe

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cheater "Almond" Cookies- Like Biscotti

Almond cookies, ready to eat.
It's so interesting how certain foods have the ability to evoke certain memories and feelings in people. For me, these "almond cookies" cause me to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. They were my dad's favorite cookies, and seeing my mom making the effort to make his favorite cookies must have made me feel some love in the air.
These cookies are similar to biscotti, but are a drop heavier. Their official name is almond cookies because they were traditionally made that way, but many almond free variations have evolved. In the spirit of frugality and availability, I usually make almond free "almond cookies", hence the name "cheater 'almond' cookies". 
These cookies are a little more work than your standard cookie, but trust me, they're worth it. Best of all, they call for no special ingredients, making them the perfect thing to whip up when you want something yummy but don't have any "cookie ingredients".

Cheater  "Almond" Cookies

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homemade Soda

Do you like soda?
I know I do.
As someone rather frugal and health conscious, its embarrassing for me to admit it, but it really is so. The problem is that almost  all soda is full of artificial flavorings, colorings, and other chemicals that you probably shouldn't be ingesting. And we're not even talking about the carcinogen filled diet sodas (fake sugar is the one thing I try to stay furthest from)...
Forget the cost... Lots of money for one small little bottle...

I was so excited the other day when I read Butter's blog and came across a recipe for spruce beer. Beer is really a misnomer, as there's nothing alcoholic about it. It's just a sweet carbonated drink.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homemade Liquid Soap

Pre de Provence Verbena Soap, 250g wrapped bar. Imported from France. With shea butter and natural herbs and scents.Every single birthday I have, and any other time people have occasion to give me gifts, people give me bath and body stuff. Creams and lotions, and bars and bars of soap.
Most people I know have little use for bar soap; the vast majority of people I've spoken to prefer to use liquid soap. Even before I stopped using shampoo and switching to all natural soaps, I never touched those bars of soaps I got as presents. They just sat in my drawers. Aging. Taking up room.

Fortunately, there's something you can do to take that bar soap and make it usable!

Make Liquid Soap

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Vice- Books

I don't consider myself to be an impulsive shopper. I carefully calculate the costs of different items, deciding whether the things I want to buy are absolutely necessary, and if they're not, I usually will pass them by. I make do with as little as possible, don't make any rash purchases I will regret, and borrow whatever I can instead of buying.
Except for books. Especially books about wild plants. Edible wild plants especially.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Patties

In my mind, the ultimate combination of flavors is chocolate and mint. My own personal heaven would be made entirely of mint and chocolate. I love peppermint patties. (As well as mint chocolate chip ice cream, mint frosting on brownies, and any other combination of those two exquisite flavors.) Unfortunately, it seems that the locals have not yet discovered this divine flavor (though they have discovered bubble gum flavored ice cream). Peppermint patties, therefore, have to be imported from other countries, upping their prices and environmental impact, and even with that, they're not so easy to find.  
In addition to all that, like nearly all processed foods, the ingredient list usually contains all sorts of chemicals that I wouldn't want to be feeding my family.  Fortunately, I've learned how to make my own peppermint patties, that, while not the epitome of health, are still a far cry from the insane amount of chemicals that are listed among the ingredients of the store bought goodies, and are loads cheaper to boot. Don't worry- they still taste just as good!

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Injera- Ethiopian Flatbread

An Ethiopian Feast
I love ethnic foods, because they're so varied and unique, and best of all, they usually are so robustly flavorful without needing to resort to unhealthy artificial ingredients. Best of all, they're usually cheap, and, if you chose a style of cooking that has a similar climate to where you live, you're usually able to get all the needed ingredients easily because they're locally grown.
I'm making an Ethiopian style feast for my family. The basis for every Ethiopian meal, pretty much, is a spongy fermented flatbread made with fermented teff, an Ethiopian grain. The food is served directly onto this injera. You tear off pieces of the flatbread, roll up the food inside it, and pop it in your mouth- no utensils needed!
For our feast, I'm serving a chicken dish called Doro Wat. It has 33 ingredients, 28 of them being spices. (That is the red stuff on the left in the picture above.) I'm also serving foraged wild mustard with nitter kibbeh style spices (bottom), aleecha vegetable stew (right), and Ethiopian ful medames (mashed spiced broad beans). The food is absolutely delicious, as well as fun to eat.
I wanted to share this recipe with you for making your own injera. Its mock injera, really, because teff is more expensive than wheat, and because I didn't feel like letting it ferment as is usually done. The end result resembles lahooh (alternatively spelled laxoox or lahoh), a Yemenite/Somalian flatbread whose recipe I've shared in the past, but this is yeast free and lighter than lahooh. I suggest doubling this recipe because it'll be devoured in no time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Broad Bean Soup- Sicilian Style- Maccu

 Growing up, I had a distinct dislike for broad beans, or as my parents used to call it, fava beans. These beans are strongly flavored, and I used to close my eyes and swallowed them whole, I disliked them that much.
Recently, though, I was a guest at someone's house and she served such a delicious dish with broad beans that I decided to give them a second chance. I used frozen immature green broad beans and it was delicious. Only they were a tad on the expensive side.

I discovered a little while back that where I live, dry mature broad beans are absolutely the cheapest type of bean that there is, and I've been trying to incorporate them into our diet.
Only my first attempt reminded me just why I always hated broad beans. Broad beans have a powerful flavor, stronger than any other bean, in my opinion. A not so pleasant taste, actually. They also have a rather tough skin, making their texture also unappealing.
I was rather bummed out. Here's someone who doesn't mind eating foods made with banana peels, watermelon rinds, and spoiled milk, but she has a problem with the cheapest type of bean available? I felt like a hypocrite, like there was something wrong with me. Broad beans are a staple in so many places all over the world, including Italy, China, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria, Latin America, and are the favorite foods of many. They couldn't be bad... I just must not have hit up on the proper preparation method.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wild Mustard- Foraged Food

Wild mustard is my favorite vegetable. It grows everywhere around me and from what I've been reading, it grows all over the world, in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, etc. Wild mustard is easy to identify and has no poisonous look a likes. It's very versatile, flavorful, and uber-nutritious. Best of all, I can get this organic vegetable free of charge, just by taking a few steps out my front door.
I've been cooking wild mustard for my family for a while already, and since I've gone on my no shopping challenge, it has been a staple in my household, finding its way into at least one or two dishes per week. Even so, I was waiting a while to post this post, as I knew that what I was eating was edible and in the brassica family, but the specific species was a mystery. Eventually I discovered the identity of my mystery plant, and only now felt comfortable enough to post about it.

There are many plants in the brassica family, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, rape (canola), turnip, and mustard. To my knowledge, there are no poisonous brassicas, though some may proclaim broccoli and turnips inedible.
The mustard branch of the family is so expansive and with so many varieties that it would be impossible to name them all. Each subspecies varies from the next in minutest amounts, but knowing which specific type you have isn't necessary, as they're all used and prepared the same way. The varieties of which I am aware are broccoli raab (also known as rapini, cime di rapa, and wild rape), shortpod mustard, black mustard, and white mustard (among others), and for the longest time I had been picking the first 3 types, not knowing that they were all different species, the differences were so minute.

From what I've learned, wild mustard has been feeding the poor in my region for centuries, and according to the locals here, eating wild mustard on a regular basis will ensure that you never get sick. No, it's not just folk-lore; wild mustard has cancer fighting agents, as well as being a good source of Vitamins A, C, D, and K, folate, potassium, calcium, iron, fiber, phosphorous, and even iron. A real power food!

How do you identify wild mustard?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Refilling Your Printer Ink Cartridges

In most marriages, spouses have different ways in which they are willing to save money, and other things that they're not willing to do without, even if it means spending more money. In my marriage, I'm the one coming up with most of the money saving methods that involve food prep and housework, but I need my varied and tasty food, and occasional entertainment (which is why I recently spent some money at the used book store- no big libraries here). My husband, on the other hand, is willing to go without a lot; he's willing to eat the same boring food over and over (so long as he has ketchup to spice it up) and to spend nothing on entertainment, but does like his occasional electronic gadgets. He's also got lots of ideas up his sleeve as to how to save money in all sorts of ways.

This tip is credited to my dearest husband, Mike, who researched and figured it out all on his own and has taken on the roll of ink-filler-upper.

Back in June I shared an extensive list with many ideas on how to cut back on how much ink you're using, and while it has many useful tips, all those tips do is lengthen the time between ink purchases, but don't allow you to spend less money on the ink itself. As a homeschooler, I find lots of free schooling materials online. Printing workbooks can definitely eat up lots of ink, so this tip is especially appreciated in my home.
With all the printing that we do, we haven't purchased new printer cartridges in a long time.
How do we do it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Figuring Out Hourly Wages- Part 2

I often put up pictures of my family's meals on Facebook. One time, after doing so, I got a little finger wag when a friend noticed that I was using store bought noodles instead of homemade. I don't bother making homemade noodles in most cases. It's not worth my time.

I gathered a bunch of pine nuts from some trees on a trip one day. It took a long while to gather and shell them, but as they're sold for lots of money in the store, I feel it was worth it. 

I once made a whole bunch of fancy stuffed crepes, and when talking about it to my friend and told her how much money I saved by making my own instead of buying from a creperie, she rolled her eyes and said "Honey, that wasn't saving money. Saving money would have been not making them in the first place."

When it comes to figuring out how much money you actually are saving when doing certain tasks, it's not as simple as it seems.
You first need to ask yourself some important questions.

How much time does it take me to do this money saving task? How much money am I saving during that time?
Is there an alternative?
And, could I be doing anything else during the time I was doing that money saving activity?

I'll expand on these three concepts in a moment, but its important to know that criteria will be different for everyone. Different people have different priorities, which would make some tasks worthwhile for them and other tasks not worthwhile at all, but for other people, it can be the exact opposite.

Part I- How much money does it save me? How much time does it take? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Figuring Out Your Hourly Wage- Part 1

Image credit
I would say that I spend a good chunk of my day is spent on money saving activities. According  to some of my  friends, too much time. "Come on," Penny, they chide, "is all that work really worth saving a few pennies? Your time is worth more than that. Instead of wasting your time on that nonsense, spend your time on something productive that actually makes money."
Are they correct? Am I really spending my time inefficiently? To figure  that out, I'd have to calculate how much money I could potentially make via working versus how much money I could be saving in the same duration of time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

SAHM or Working Mom?

Sorry, no article today. I'm in the middle of working on a lengthly article for you that hopefully will be posted tomorrow, but in the meantime, I'd like to ask you a question (or two or three) relevant to my article for tomorrow.

If you're a mom, are you a stay at home mom, work from home mom, part time working mom, full time working mom?
If you don't mind sharing- what is your approximate income? (You don't need to write this under your usual sign in name if you feel uncomfortable linking that info to you specifically.)
What percentage of your income do you pay in tax, including state, city, federal, and Social Security?

I know that when I was growing up, because my dad worked in a different city than where we lived, he ended up paying city tax twice, and was paying 45% of his total income in tax.

How about you?