Sunday, July 31, 2011

Homemade Gluten Free Flours- With No Grain Grinder!

Homemade brown rice flour (left) and millet flour (rice)
Ever since beginning a gluten free diet, I've noticed one thing. Gluten free flour is prohibitively expensive! I usually would buy wheat flour in 2.5 lb packages for approximately a dollar per package for white flour and whole wheat flour for $1.25 for that same package (roughly 40 and 50 cents a pound respectively). Lucky me, gluten free flour comes in 1 lb packages and starts off somewhere around $2.25 for the little package, more than 4 times the price of wheat flour. Quite frustrating when you want to keep things as low cost as possible.

Fortunately, gluten free grains like millet, buckwheat, rice, and corn can be purchased for locally for between 50 and 1.30 per pound, which while more expensive than wheat flour, are still significantly cheaper than those gluten free flours. For the most part, I make do just using the grains and not the flour, but sometimes flour is necessary, like when you want to make a gluten free bread, cake, crackers, cookies, pancakes, muffins, or even as a binder or thickener for other foods.

I've thought long and hard about purchasing a grain grinder so that I can make my own gluten free flours, weighing out the fact that a decent grain grinder will cost at least a hundred dollars, and cheap grain grinders are not worth the money. (I got a cheap grain grinder from the US from a company that wanted me to write a review, but it did such a terrible job that I've had a hard time bringing myself to actually write the review, as I don't know how I can write anything positive about that hunk of scrap metal. At best, when I was trying to make rice flour, it managed to break the rice grains into two pieces, in addition to spraying rice bits all over my kitchen. Do NOT make the mistake of getting a cheap grain grinder- huge waste of money, in my opinion!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sun Tea- Iced Tea in the Sun

I'm not a Southern Belle. I think aside for a trip to Disney World and a trip to the Grand Canyon as a kid, I've never as much stepped foot in the southern part of the US. (Oh wait- does a road trip to West Virginia count?)
Southern things are foreign to me, things I read about online, but never really experience them myself. Southern foods are foreign foods to me, not the comfort foods with which I grew up. (Then again, in my home in the American Midwest, we didn't eat standard "Northern US foods either. Our standard fare was either Eastern European, Chinese, Italian, or Middle Eastern.)
So, all the Southerners may feel free to disregard this post, as it's about something so standard in the South, but a new concept to me, a born and bred Northerner.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pregnancy is NOT Frugal!

I don't find babies to be very expensive at all. I mean, I stick to the bare basics with baby needs. I cosleep, nurse, cloth diaper, and baby wear, and dress my kiddos all in hand me down and second hand clothing, none of which are large expenses.
Surprisingly, I find that the most expensive part of having a child, for me, is the pregnancy that precedes the arrival of the child.

For me, the main aspects of pregnancy that affect frugality for me are food aversions, food cravings, and a general exhaustion.
Here's how those things affected my ability to be frugal to the extent that I usually am.

  • Usually, my method of acquiring food and feeding my family involves most of all the the following:
  • Shopping as infrequently as possible, and by doing that, avoiding impulse buys.
  • Buying and using what is on sale/is cheapest and pretty much only that.
  • Making everything from scratch, and only relying on convenience things on the rarest of occasions.
  • Supplementing the food I buy with food I forage.
  • Using parts of food that otherwise would go to waste, aka taking advantage of every ounce of nutrition in everything I buy.
  • Doing my darnedest to avoid food spoilage, because food in the garbage is money in the garbage.

Wow. Nearly all of those were impossible for me to do in my first trimester of pregnancy, and some even beyond that.
I've had just about the worst morning sickness I ever remember. (I'm nearly halfway through with my pregnancy now and still throwing up nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day!) Because of that, and my insane food aversions, my usual money saving methods were totally not doable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Malls, Advertising, Window Shopping, and Sales

I think malls should be banned. Ok, not exactly, but did you ever think about it- a very good possible reason that so many people are drowning in debt is because of the whole "mall culture"?
Growing up, the girls in my class would hang out at the mall together. Doing what? Nothing specific, just wandering around, window shopping, and things of the sort... for hours. My mom would never let me join them. "What for?" she'd say. "What is the point of hanging out specifically at a mall? To tempt you to spend money on things you don't need that only came to your attention once you hung out in the mall and saw them selling them?"

As a kid, I'd often get frustrated with my mom for not being allowed to do what all the "cool girls" did, but in retrospect, she was correct.

Friday, July 22, 2011

True Traits of a Tightwad- Tenacity

Yea, a little bit of alliteration going on there in the title, but I guess its a funky way to announce a new series on my blog.
So many times recently, when I haven't had the physical energy or mental capacity to write out a whole blog post, I got an idea for a blog post, something that hopefully can help you readers be more frugal. And surprisingly, most of these ideas fit into one specific category- character traits that help people be as frugal as possible. I've decided to make a series highlighting these traits, in the hopes that if you possess these traits, you'll be able to focus them towards frugality, and if you don't have these traits, you can do a little soul work and try to acquire these, because they're very beneficial for life in general, not just for those wishing to live a frugal lifestyle.
Originally this series was gonna be Traits of a Tightwad Tuesday, but since I know that at this stage in my life I can't count on my being able to blog consistently every Tuesday, I'm just going to write more posts in this series whenever the muse strikes me.

The trait I wanted to focus on today is tenacity. Of course, I could always call this trait "Not giving up", but it's always better to phrase things in a positive way, as opposed to just a whole bunch of rules of "Don't"s.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Delicious Baked Lentils Recipe

Woohoo! So glad I announced already that I'm pregnant, because now when I have a two day period like I just had, I can actually explain myself instead of keeping mum.
Yesterday I went into the city on a trip with the kids. Throughout the day, we must have walked over 2.5 miles in the scorching sun, stopping along the way to forage at some beautiful parks, and to chase pigeons. (Ok, Lee and Ike did that. I abstained.) I got a drop sunburned on my lower arms (first time getting any sunburn in a good 3 or 4 years), and that, combined with all that walking (pushing a stroller with a toddler in it that distance is not easy on any day, let alone a really hot day) tired me out so much that I just came home from our trip and collapsed into bed. (Did I mention that on Monday I also was in town and walked a good 2 miles as well, in the heat, pushing the stroller? No wonder I'm exhausted!!)
Today I was still wiped out, and on top of that, feeling quite nauseated the whole day. I got a lot of housework done, but my post on the affect pregnancy has on frugality just didn't get written.
So I leave you with something else to chew on today (haha, pun intended)- the great recipe I found and adapted and served my family for supper today. Its easy, it's delicious, it's frugal, it's healthy, it's gluten free. Its absolutely a winner!

Delicious Baked Lentils Recipe

Monday, July 18, 2011

Big News to Share

Those of you who have been loyal, longtime readers of Penniless Parenting may have been plagued with various questions lately, among them:

Why has the posting frequency slowed down? It used to be that there were new posts daily, or at least 5 days a week, but now there are only 3 or 4 on a good week. What's happening, you may be wondering?

There used to be posts detailing grocery shopping trips and menu plans on a regular basis, but there haven't been any of those in a long time- why?

Why did the Penniless family start an extreme elimination diet to deal with Ike's eczema and then stop within a very short time, and then start back again on a gluten free diet?

To all those questions, there really is one big answer.
An answer I'll give via a story.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bulk Purchase- 7/14/11

Our bulk foods. Objects are larger than they appear.
Each sack is 50 lbs and approx 2.5 feet tall.
If you took a peek into my kitchen right now, you'd probably be just a wee bit overwhelmed. In addition to my large stockpile of foods in my cupboards and freezer, I currently have 5 large sacks, 2 large boxes, and 1 bag of food I bought yesterday... Coming to a grand total of approximately 350 lbs of dried goods that need to be put away to feed my family.
One nice thing about buying large quantities of food like this is that come what may, whether the zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, or doomsday, or whatever, we'll have enough food. In more real terms, our financial situation is definitely improved from what it was 1, 2, and 4 years ago, but we still live on a very tight budget and are not rolling in dough. Not only that, but our income isn't consistent and neither are our expenses. We've had really tight months financially in the past and I wouldn't rule out ever having a tight month in the future, so its nice to know that even if one month we really don't have any extra cash left over after bare basics, we won't be anywhere even remotely near starving because of all the food we keep in stock in our house.

Being that buying bulk is on my mind, I thought I'd share with you details about the how's, the why's, and the making it as frugal as possible aspects of this purchase.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Korean Cold Cucumber Soup Recipe- Oi Naengguk

I'm definitely a soup person. Year round, fill me up a bowl of delicious soup and you'll find one happy girl.It doesn't matter what time of year it is; I love it no matter what.
But no, I'm not the type who can sit down to a bowl of steaming chicken soup when sweat is dripping down my face. When I prepare and eat soup, I keep the weather in mind and choose the type of soup accordingly. My love affair with soup can partly be attributed to the fact that via soups cheap foods and seasonal produce can easily be put together to make the most delectable, palate pleasing combinations. Not only that, if prepared correctly, soup can not only made to complement the weather, but can also be used to effectively combat uncomfortable temperatures. Hot heavy soups warm tummies in the winter, but most people don't think about the terrific cooling properties of chilled light soups during the warmer months.
I try to serve cold soups as often as possible during the summer. Not only does adding this extra course automatically turn any meal into a fancy meal, but I feel so refreshed after imbibing that chilled dish, despite the weather.

Here is a really awesome chilled cucumber soup I discovered recently and have since fallen in love with it. Its refreshing, delicious, crisp, simple to make, and ultra frugal. Best of all, as with everything on my blog recently, it is also gluten free!

Korean Cold Cucumber Soup Recipe- Oi Naengguk

Monday, July 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday in Retrospect- July 11, 2011

I haven't been sharing so many weekly menus lately because they've been rather... uninspired, to say the least. I'll admit that adjusting to a gluten free diet is taking some getting used to, and I've relied a little too much on convenience foods like gluten free cereal and rice cakes while I was still getting my bearings. But now that I seem to have things a little more under control, I wanted to share with you readers what we've eaten this past week. 
What does make this a drop harder is-
I'm trying to cut back on the use of tomatoes, eggs, and dairy in the house in addition to gluten. Aside for gluten, nothing is an absolute here... I'm a little too overwhelmed at the moment to do as much of an elimination diet as I attempted to do approximately 2 months ago, and will hold off on eliminating anything 100% until I take Ike for allergy testing, but I have noticed that his eczema is a lot better when we limit tomatoes and eggs and I've recently discovered that too much dairy is cause for stomach ache in this house...
In addition to all that, I desperately need to go shopping. My cupboards are pretty bare at the moment, as is my refrigerator. Very little is available out there for foraging where I live right now (the greens season over and fruit season hasn't yet begun), and being gluten free I'm relying a lot less on grains and more on produce... so now that I have to go shopping, my refrigerator is very very empty, making meal planning much harder.
Not only that, my bulk foods are pretty much gone and I have to go shopping at the bulk food store to restock. (Trip planned on Wednesday.)
So I'm working with very little here, unfortunately.

With all that preamble, what are we actually eating?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Vegan Pepperoni Recipe- Made From Beets

I've had such a strong desire for pizza lately. Everywhere I go, it seems, people are eating pizza. My best friend is serving it to her kids when I'm there. The heavenly aroma
wafts out of the apartment next door, enticing me to come eat.
But I can't, because gluten is off limits to me.
But, but, but... I really wanted pizza badly, so I made myself a delicious, frugal, gluten free pizza to satisfy that irresistible craving.
And I topped it with this cheap, gluten free, vegan pepperoni that I based on a recipe I found on this really awesome gluten free blog that I found,, which I am incredibly in love with because it is vegan as well. Its not that I am a proponent of a vegan diet, its just that I'm trying to minimize the usage of dairy and eggs in my home because I think some family members are sensitive to those ingredients, in addition to the fact that their price keeps rising and rising, making them not so affordable. Most gluten free websites call for so many eggs as binders and other ingredients that are either expensive or not readily available round these parts, but this website, Diet Desert and Dogs, has simple and relatively frugal ingredients, and best of all, gives suggestions for substitutions if you can't eat what she suggests for whatever reason!

Anyhow, so back to the topic at hand, this is an awesome recipe for pepperoni made out of beets and spices. It looks pretty much like pepperoni, tastes pretty darn good, (doesn't taste like beets) and is mighty frugal. This recipe is good for people who are vegan/vegetarian or for people who are just looking to lower costs but still have the same yummy foods. To be honest, I've never had real pepperoni pizza (only with fake pepperoni) so I can't tell you 100% if this is a terrific imitation- I'll have to leave that to someone else. All I can assure you is that it tastes good. (And according to my husband, it tastes salami like.)

Beet Pepperoni Recipe

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Thoughts on Gluten and Traditional Foods

Vegetarian sloppy Joes, made from wheat gluten
Just want to mention before I get into this that I'm not talking about scientific facts nor do I have research to back up what I am saying, this is just about my personal feelings regarding gluten.

I've come to the realization that the world revolves around gluten. The other day I was in town and I saw cafe after cafe, eatery after eatery, and all I saw was gluten.

Whole wheat bread loaves.
Phyllo dough stuffed pastries.
Fettuccine Alfredo.
Onion soup with croutons.
Breaded chicken cutlets.
And even more innocuous looking, but still gluten filled dishes like those containing soy sauce, bread crumbs, and flour as a thickener... which is impossible to know just from seeing the foods.
When entering the grocery store, you see beer, pretzels, cereals, cookies, wafers, crackers, breads, and even chocolate which contain gluten.

Gluten is everywhere! I wonder why our societies eating habits are so firmly entrenched in eating gluten that its so difficult to find prepared gluten free foods unless you look really hard or go to specialty gluten free stores and/or restaurants.

I've shared many gluten filled recipes and some specifically gluten based recipes on my site and have even gone as far as recommending using gluten as a low cost replacement for meat in recipes.
Because of this, I've had bloggers write about my blog that "She has great recipes that are pretty healthy, but I can't get past the fact that she recommends serving gluten as a replacement for meat, as gluten is bad for you."

Is it? Is gluten bad? Is gluten unhealthy? Is recommending gluten as a meat substitute a terrible idea and an antithesis to what I stand for (in addition to frugality)- healthy, natural, traditional foods?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Shopping at the Farmer's Market

Growing up in the American Midwest, one of my fond childhood memories is going with my mom on a trip to the open air market. Seeing all the ethnic vendors at their stalls, each extolling the virtues of the products they're selling, and seeing the vast array of products available for sale... Its an experience that can't be beaten. For someone who thrives on sensory input, for someone in love with all the colors and smells and sounds you can find in such a market... Wow, words can't even begin to describe the experience.

For the purpose of this post, I'm going to refer to all these markets as outdoor markets. These include farmers markets where you buy directly from the farmer, and open air markets where they sell all sorts of things, usually food but also many other things. Open air markets were around long before supermarkets, corner groceries, or much else. They're still found in the US, especially in the summer, and in more exotic locations, they're open year round, sometimes in the most interesting places (like along a train track)! Check out this site I found with pictures and links to descriptions of colorful markets around the world.  

Outdoor markets are a very frugal alternative to supermarket for buying all sorts of things. Supermarkets have a high overhead; they have to pay the warehouse managers, shelf stockers, cashiers, cleaners, sales managers, and much else. They also tend to buy from middlemen instead of directly from the farmers, which raises their prices so they can make a profit on top of the profit that the middlemen already made. 
Outdoor markets, however, tend to be no frills affairs. Without the wide open aisles and fancy labels, many workers, and often without even a middleman, the prices are able to be kept to a minimum. Best of all, all the competition in one area tends to bring down the prices everywhere in obvious price wars. 

Today I was in the city and went to the open air market, something I don't often get a chance to do because of its distance from my home. Based on my past experiences at the open air market, I wanted to share some of the best (in my opinion) money saving tips so that when you shop at your local farmer's market or open air market, you too can get the most bang for your buck.

Saving Money at the Farmers Market