Monday, December 30, 2013

Treating Conjunctivitis- Pink Eye Naturally and Cheaply With Olive Leaf Tea

 photo IMG_1409_zps8a5713d9.jpgI hate pink eye. It's gross looking, uncomfortable, and highly contagious. If you've never had the "privilege" of having pink eye (officially known as conjunctivitis), it's when your eyes start oozing yellowish pus and the eye looks blood shot, and usually under the eye is either puffy or discolored or both. (If you want to see some nasty pictures of what pink eye looks like, if you're still not sure what I'm talking about, click here.) If you have pink eye, you may find your eyes glued/crusted shut from all the pus. And worst of all, if you touch one eye that has pink eye, and don't wash your hands very well after, and then touch another eye after, that new eye will likely get infected as well. Pink eye passes from one eye to the other and from person to person easily. Even when treating pink eye, you need to treat each eye separately so as to not potentially pass the infection back and forth...
(I am pretty sure kids are more likely to get pink eye than adults, but I don't know this for certain.)

Anyhow, now after that long, icky introduction, I just had to say that my little Anneliese developed a case of pink eye. So gross to look at, made her look so pitiful.
Some people rush to the doctor to get medicine for pink eye immediately, because it is highly contagious, but I never do that. I don't think, in my 6+ years of parenting, and more than one case of pink eye, that I've ever treated pink eye with medicine from the doctor. And that's because natural remedies simply work so well, and are safer and much cheaper to boot.

If you're nursing and have breastmilk, breastmilk treats pink eye very well. It has antibacterial and antiviral and other healing properties- when my babies had pink eye that was all I ever used and it went away.
Couldn't do that for Anneliese, though, because though I am still nursing her, I don't really have any milk left, can't use it for healing things. So I had to figure out an alternative.
I had heard of using black tea bags to treat conjunctivitis, but I had no personal experience with it, and I decided I wanted to try something else, something cheaper that would probably be more effective- olive leaf tea.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Getting Kids to Be Happy With Less

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The birthday girl! Happy Birthday!
Today, as the day after Christmas, as well as my daughter, Anneliese's second birthday, is the perfect time to blog about how to help your kids be content with less, and not fall into the trap of the "Gimme gimme" mindset that is altogether too common in our and our kids' generations.

First off, I wanted to say that I am by no means a parenting expert, and my oldest kid is 6... I can only speak of my experience with my kids...

Ok, so firstly, how did we celebrate Anneliese's birthday?
She is two years old today, and until now, never had a birthday party. To be honest, I see no point in making one. Firstly, a first birthday is not done for the kid- the kid has no idea what a birthday is, what a party is, doesn't expect anything- and it's just a waste of money, in my opinion. The only purpose of that would be for the parents. But the kid doesn't need it.
A second birthday, also the kid has no idea what a birthday is, and that they should expect a party. But even so, since Anneliese's birthday falls out during the holiday season, I thought it would be a perfect way to hit two birds with one stone- get together with family for the holidays, and celebrate her birthday as well. I still wasn't going to make a big party- just some supper and some homemade desserts, but at the last minute, Mike told me that he really wasn't up to hosting a whole bunch of people, and didn't think I should push myself to do so either, so we called people in the morning and canceled. Instead, we just had Grandma come over, sang Anneliese happy birthday, and gave her her presents. She was very happy to see Grandma, and then on top of that, everyone singing her a song, and then getting her a present made it memorable for her. Lee made her a paper crown which made it even more exciting! I honestly don't think she would have enjoyed it any more with more people.

Now speaking of presents...
I have two conflicting thoughts about presents.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gluten Free Mushroom "Barley" Soup Recipe- With Buckwheat. Vegan Option

 photo IMG_1387_zps30c869ac.jpgI grew up on mushroom barley soup. That is one of those foods that I consider to be a comfort food, evoking special warm feelings inside, of satiation, comfort, and love. I know- weird how something like certain foods affect us emotionally, but they do.
The thing is- I haven't been able to have mushroom barley soup for a good few years, since barley is gluten, and I've been off gluten over two years already. So I haven't been able to have one of my favorite foods.
Recently I discovered that raw buckwheat works as a replacement for so many different types of grains, and in this case- it works terrifically as a replacement for barley. As I said, it's been years since I had real mushroom barley soup, so I can't promise you that this tastes identical, but it's close enough that it really did the trick. If you aren't concerned about the gluten, feel free to replace the buckwheat in this recipe with pearl barley.
This soup was loved by everyone who ate it.

Gluten Free Mushroom "Barley" Soup Recipe- Made from Buckwheat, With Vegan Option

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Apple Raisin Cookies Recipe- Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

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It's official. White sugar definitely gets me nauseous- I eat just a little square of chocolate, and I'll feel queasy for hours after, if not the whole day. It's not worth it for me to cheat even for a little bite, because I end up paying for it and suffering from it for so much longer after that the momentary pleasure simply isn't worth it...
So I bake desserts for my family, sometimes with white sugar... Yes, I know its unhealthy, but right now I need to lower our grocery bills, so this is one thing I am letting slide... but I am not having any.
But I do like having some special treats for myself here and there, and that means making them for myself- without sugar. I make treats sometimes with jaggery, since that is one of the cheapest natural sugars available locally, but try not to make treats with honey since it is super expensive in my area.
However, I discovered, thanks to a friend of mine, that you can use apple juice concentrate as a sweetener in baking, and apple juice concentrate locally is cheaper than honey, possibly cheaper than jaggery (I haven't done an exact price comparison). Our apple juice concentrate comes in syrup form, not frozen, but I am pretty sure you can make this with the frozen apple juice concentrate- though you might need to water it down a drop, because I think it might be more concentrated than the syrup we have locally. I recommend that you try this recipe out with the frozen concentrate- adding less at first, and then more as needed, until it's perfect. (You can taste the dough raw.)
Yesterday, when trying to come up with a sugar free dessert for my family, I threw together this recipe for raisin cookies, sweetened by apple juice only- and they were a big hit. I loved them, my kids love them, and for a sugar free cookie, they were pretty cheap to make. I'll certainly be making this again. I used some (apple juice sweetened) craisins and raisins in this recipe, but feel free to use only one or only the other, as long as you use 3/4 cup total.
I am 95% certain you can make this recipe with wheat flour or whole wheat flour or spelt, but I haven't tried it out- if you aren't gluten free, try replacing the first 4 ingredients with 2 3/4 cup of a flour of your choice, and then let me know how it comes out so I can update this recipe.

Apple Raisin Cookies Recipe- Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Homemade Fruit Juice from Scraps

 photo IMG_1309_zps1380439f.jpgFor a while now, I've known about the food waste reduction technique of saving veggie scraps and bones and using them to make broth. Other than homemade vinegar, or compost, I didn't know what you could do with fruit scraps.
Then my friend told me that she saves her fruit scraps and uses them to make fruit juice! What a revelation! I'd never thought of doing that. Never even crossed my mind. My kids drink water and kombucha, but sometimes we want something else as a treat, and this way we can have fruit juice without having to pay anything!

What you need for this is any fruit scraps that you can't use in other ways. If you have apple peels or half eaten apples- it's a waste to use it for this- might as well chuck it in the freezer until the next time you make applesauce.
Examples of what you can use is apple cores, pear cores, prickly pear peels, strawberry tops (including leaves), pineapple peels, cherry pits, peach pits,  kiwi peels, date pits, quince cores, etc... I would not use orange or other citrus peels for this, since they'd just make the drink bitter. However, if you have the inside of a squeezed orange or lemon, minus the pith and peel, you can use that as well. (Use the citrus peels to make a great citrus cleaner or candied citrus peels.)

Since most people won't have a lot of these available at one time, each time you eat fruit scraps and have some left over, chuck them into a bag or container in the freezer, and when you have enough saved up, then it's time to make your juice.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Past Month's Grocery Expenses and Analysis

 photo IMG_1378_zpsb442c8ce.jpgTwo months ago I began a challenge in which I tracked every single cent my husband and I spent on groceries, broken down into different categories, so we could firstly get a better picture how much our family is actually spending (and not just guesstimates), and then to see in which categories we are spending the most, and what our problem areas are, where we could/should cut back on.

At first I thought I'd just challenge myself for a month, but I decided to keep this going, at least for a few months. Number one because I don't buy everything every month- I stockpile, so one month I'll spend more in one area and less in another, and the next month it could be reversed. But now that I know what some potential problem areas are, I want to keep track to see if we're improving in those things, or picking up some other expensive shopping habits that we should drop.

So this month, not only did I track where we were spending our money, I also averaged it out with last month to see how much, on average, so far, we spent in each category. And also I calculated percent change to see where we spent more this month and where we spent less.
And finally, my husband and I discussed what we planned on doing to keep our bills next month lower.

Last month, we spent $431.50 on groceries and I really wanted to lower our grocery expenses this month, but it didn't happen. In fact, we spent $479.50, 11.1% more than last month. The average monthly grocery bill was $455.50.

So, what was spent in each area?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I Am Not Weaning My Two Year Old Child, Plan on Nursing Two Kids

Yes, I'm nursing a toddler
Not me, just an example of a toddler nursing.
Image credit: Amanda Westmont.
One of the most surprising things that people hear is that I am still nursing my daughter Anneliese at 2 years old, despite the fact that I am more than halfway through my second trimester of pregnancy, and have no intention of weaning her any time soon. In fact, I fully plan on nursing both her and the little one who is on its way, simultaneously. This practice is called tandem nursing.
People find it very surprising, because this is something not really done.
But in some ways, I think the person who is most surprised sometimes is myself.

Before I had my first child, when I saw people nursing older kids, I was thoroughly weirded out. "Breastfeeding is for babies, not kids," I thought to myself. I had a nephew that nursed until past age 2 and I honestly was uncomfortable seeing him being nursed or even knowing that he was nursed. Something seemed "off" about it in my eyes, and I decided that when I had a kid, I would stop nursing when the kid was old enough to ask verbally to nurse, because that meant he was a kid and no longer a baby. This, already, was going farther than what I grew up with- no one in my immediate family nursed longer than 9 months, so even agreeing to nurse a year or longer was a "big deal" and "super crunchy".
It was a happy medium for me- because I had read about the health and emotional benefits of "extended nursing", and in my mind, nursing past the first birthday was doing more than what I was used to, but didn't get me into the realm of "creepy parent who doesn't know when to say enough is enough, even when it is no longer appropriate."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chicken Potato Vegetable Stew Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free

 photo IMG_1363_zpsfdc99fdb.jpgWith this cold weather, and not venturing out of the house much, I am doing a lot of cooking, and a lot of trying out new recipes using what we have in the house... and so many of them came out so wonderfully that I wanted to share them with you. And now I have a huge back log of recipes to post, and I want to try to post them all as quickly as possible, before I have even more recipes to post. So I'll try to do a few recipe posts in a row, sans introduction- just short and too the point, so you can actually use them instead of them sitting in my draft folder for forever.

This chicken potato veggie stew was developed after I was really hoping for a hearty beef stew, but discovered that I didn't have the beef in the freezer that I thought I did, but I had plenty of chicken. Chicken stew it was, and it was a hit.

This stew is great for people on a gluten free, grain free, dairy free, egg free, and/or sugar free diet. It also doesn't use much chicken, and uses a cheaper cut, keeping the cost down even more, and uses winter veggies for the most part, which keeps the cost even lower. Feel free to replace some of the veggies using whatever you have in the house, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I am sure you can make this vegan if you replace the chicken with a vegan protein like white beans, but I haven't tried it myself to tell you for sure if it tastes good, but I suspect it would.

Chicken Potato Vegetable Stew Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blackout on a Snow Day

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Our snowman. A family effort.
Our area generally gets a little bit of snow every year or two. The snow often is at most a few inches, and melts within a day, maximum two. It's a "big deal" because its a once every year or two event, but in actuality, it's never really a big deal.
But this year, it was.
But since we rarely get anything significant, I take all snow warnings with a huge grain of salt, not believing anything until I see it.
I had an even harder time believing that it would snow because up until 2 weeks ago, my kids were wearing nearly summery clothing- long sleeve t-shirts and that's it....
So Thursday morning, hearing that it was supposed to snow, my husband woke up early and called his boss, where he was told that the school that he works at has school, and he needs to come to work. He took the bus into the city and got to the school, as did some of the students... and less than an hour later, it was snowing enough that the school was closed, and the bus lines to our community were shut down. A kindhearted individual gave him a ride home.... and he was home before 8:30 am, when I woke up.
A "snow day".
It was raining, and occasionally the rain looked more like snow... It snowed for maybe an hour or less, not sticking to the ground. Our house was cold, but other than that... This "snow day" was super lame... Not an inch of snow on the ground, and my boys were getting disappointed.
Just to be on the safe side, I trudged through the "snow" in a bunch of layers, to go get some provisions from the grocery store, and I wasn't even cold.
I was seeing people from neighboring cities posting pictures of their snow, but nada here. It actually was sunny much of the time, not even raining.
And then as night was coming, I started seeing actual snow falling from the sky, and eventually, it started sticking.
And then piling up.
Around midnight, Mike and I went to the front door to see how much snow actually fell... and the second I opened the front door, our electricity and all the electricity in the region went out. My husband joked that if I hadn't HAD to see the snow up close, we wouldn't have lost the electricity... :-D

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fennel and Lemon Risotto Recipe- Dairy Free, with Vegan Option

It is FREEZING here today. As in "wear a gajjilion layers and don't even think about leaving the house" kind of day. The kind of day that I didn't send my kids to school because there's no way on earth I wanted my kids going outside in such cold and icky weather.

And our house is really not winter friendly. Our walls have no insulation- breezes blow in from around our windows, and the walls themselves are icy, not to mention the floor, and the gap under our front door that lets in an ice breeze.

We haven't turned on our heating yet. We've considered it, but didn't yet. It's still manageable if we do things the right way, and part of that is having warm foods that fill your body with heat that radiates outward. On the menu for today- risotto and split pea soup. I wasn't sure what type of risotto to make, but seeing as I had a lot of fennel, decided to go that direction.

My fennel lemon risotto came out really amazingly well, and really hit the spot on this cold cold today. It's a terrific food for any time, but especially when it's cold. It can easily be made vegan- just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth- and is gluten free, cheap, etc... (At least locally. I know in some locations fennel can be expensive, but it's a winter veggie in my area and cheap now.)

Fennel Risotto with Lemon Recipe- Dairy Free, with Vegan Option

Monday, December 9, 2013

Getting Pickier Eaters to Eat Legumes and Cheaper Foods

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Lentil beef bolognese
I used to be able to say that my kids were not picky and would eat anything I put in front of them. That really helped financially, because I could make what my finances allowed, and all would be well and good.
Well, yea. All good things come to an end. My kids definitely developed their food preferences and let me know, sometimes quite vocally, that they "hate that food" and "never ever make that again, Mommy!"
Too many times, supper was a battle, my making a food and the kids flat out refusing to eat it, and my getting frustrated, and sometimes making a second supper, one they'd be willing to actually eat... 
Endless frustration.

My older son, Lee, drew me a picture the other day of the foods he was "always willing to eat" and "whenever you don't know what to serve us, just make us that, Mommy!" It was mashed potatoes, hot dogs, and scrambled eggs.
I don't know about the prices where you live, but I can't afford to feed my family mashed potatoes, hot dogs, and scrambled eggs daily, or even every other day. Eggs and hot dogs are expensive here... and hot dogs not exactly prime nutrition. I buy hot dogs that aren't filled with all sorts of garbage, but they still are far from a health food.
I want my kids to be healthy. I want them to have good nutrition. And I don't want our grocery bills to be sky high because of their being picky.

So- how do you balance frugality, healthy eating, and kids who are picky about what they want to eat and what they won't?
Keep in mind that my kids are now just garden variety picky, not super picky eaters who would rather starve than eat anything other than the 10 foods they are willing to eat. And its not sensory issues with them, just a matter of personal preference... This won't apply to kids who have real eating issues, just the average kid who "doesn't like that"....

Free Educational Material Download

I am totally not into sharing deals and such on my blog, because these deals usually cost money, and even cheap stuff is more expensive than free. And on top of that, even when an item is free, just the thought of chasing after deals to get more and more "free stuff" is still buying into the whole consumerism culture that is so prevalent today, the whole "you need STUFF to make you happy" mindset that I so strongly am opposed to. (And that is why I don't have post after post on Christmas deals, Christmas presents on a budget, etc.... as I wrote about before.)

However, every once in a while, I will share a deal because it isn't encouraging consumerism and the lust for stuff, but because it's things that people do need, or will help them save money. (I shared a deal where you could get a free crock pot on my Facebook page, for example.)

I saw this posted online on another frugal homeschooling blog and wanted to share the "wealth" with you-

Whether you're a homeschooling parent, or just like to supplement your child's education at home, you may spend money on educational material for your kids.

Until December 20, 2013, you can download an early math and early reading program for your kids to use on the computer. I haven't finished downloading it yet, and my kids are currently in school, so they haven't tried it out yet, so I can't tell you their reaction or what I think of it. However, since it's free, it's worth downloading it and seeing how you and your kids like it. This is appropriate for ages 4-7.

Here's the link.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, Cheap

Time is short, but I wanted to leave you this recipe for Russian vinegret. It sounds like it should be a salad dressing, like a vinaigrette, but it is something completely different- it is a salad made with cooked potatoes, beets, carrots, mayonnaise and often pickles. I had heard about it for a while but made it for the first time today. Delicious. It's vegan if you use a vegan mayonnaise, and pretty cheap and easy to make in the winter/fall when all these root veggies are in season.

Russian Vinegret Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, Cheap

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vegan Tomato Cobbler Recipe- With Gluten Free Option

 photo IMG_1266_zpsf7e0ebbf.jpgAll day I've been trying to write a blog post. But so many things came up, requiring my attention, so that I couldn't even sit down to type up a hand written blog post, or even a more complex recipe requiring a long introduction.
On top of that, my 2 year old daughter, Anneliese, has decided that her bed time is after midnight... and 3 out of the past 4 nights has actually gone to sleep after I do! I am not sure how she's functioning on so little sleep, but she is- and seems to have more energy than I do! So right now, though it's really late,  she's playing with blocks near my feet, making it quite difficult to write a post that requires any concentration. Actually, she just climbed on my lap and is begging me to sing "Waa waa waa" (The Wheels on the Bus) and doesn't understand that I'm trying to write....
But at the same time, I've been trying hard to keep up the posting rate on the blog, and it's quite hard to do with all that's going on...
However, I have managed to do some cooking lately, great recipes that aren't hard to make, and taste terrific- so I can share those recipes.
This recipe came about because a friend posted on facebook that she was making tomato cobbler. I had never heard of such a thing before, but it sounded intriguing, especially since I had just bought a bunch of cheap tomatoes from the reduced rack. So I googled it, and found some recipes for tomato cobbler- basically tomatoes and spices, topped by biscuit dough. Though most biscuit dough is with gluten and eggs and dairy, I found a biscuit dough recipe that wasn't with those, and ended up mashing up these two recipes, plus making even more changes, to make this great tomato cobbler.
I had one issue with it- I think the ratio of tomatoes to topping wasn't high enough- so next time I make it, I'll probably double the tomato part.
You can make this either with gluten or without- it works both ways.
If you're grain free, you can replace the biscuit topping with a recipe for gluten free biscuits, such as this.
If you have a favorite biscuit recipe, feel free to use that, also, instead of the topping recipe I included.

Vegan Tomato Cobbler Recipe- With Gluten Free Option

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Homemade Applesauce Recipe- How to Make it Frugally and Healthy

 photo IMG_1270_zps95ea7262.jpgSomeone asked on a cooking group I'm in for a recipe to make applesauce. I never thought applesauce really needed a recipe, but assumed I had one on my site anyhow. I didn't.
There really are two ways to make applesauce- one is raw and one is cooked, but since most people associate applesauce with the cooked variety, that's what I'm posting. The raw stuff is just apples processed in the food processor until you have a sauce, perhaps with a dash of cinnamon. That's even less of a recipe than this...

There are two basic types of applesauce- sweetened, and unsweetened. Sweetened is made just like the unsweetened, with the addition of sweetener added at the very end. This recipe is acidic enough to be able to be canned via water bath canning, which is a good idea if you like to serve applesauce for your family when they have stomach bugs, and you want to avoid paying a lot for store bought applesauce, like I did last month.
To keep down the cost of my homemade applesauce, I buy apples from the reduced rack at a fraction of the price of regular apples. I don't toss the cores- I freeze them for use in another recipe which I'll share at another point.
Because applesauce will be cooked and blended, I don't remove any bruised areas from the apple- I just cut out spoiled or rotten parts (it happens when apples are on the reduced rack) but bruises and apple skin are fair game. (You can remove skin if you want to, but I don't since I don't need a fully smooth applesauce- I don't mind tiny pieces of skin in mine.)

My Instructions for Applesauce Making

Monday, December 2, 2013

Making Homemade Soap From Scratch- Cold Process and Hot Process in the Crockpot Options

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My homemade, all natural, and cheap soap!
On Thanksgiving weekend, my husband had off, and I decided to take advantage of his being home to finally make homemade soap, which I had put off for a while. This is the third time I've made soap, but only the first time I made hot process soap, and I think I'll be making hot process soap (in the crockpot) from now on.

The reason my husband needed to be home when I was making soap is because soap making involves lye, which is very caustic and can be dangerous if any spills or splashes, and for a few minutes, it lets off toxic fumes. Adults, with caution, can make homemade soap with lye easily, but kids around are a distraction, and can cause you to splash yourself or them, and they may breath in the toxic fumes, which is why I will only make soap when my kids are out of the house. I wanted to make soap now, enough to last a while, because once I have a baby, I won't feel comfortable making soap until my kid is old enough to leave the house for an hour without me, something that doesn't usually happen until my kids are over a year old. So now was my chance to make the soap.

Before I get into the instructions for soap making, I wanted to explain a little bit of the science behind it- why it's perfectly safe to use homemade soap, despite it being made with a dangerous chemical such as caustic soda/lye, and how exactly soap making works. (In laymen's terms. I'm not a scientist...)