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...)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Homemade Vegan Omelet Recipe From Red Lentils and How to Make a Sneaky Cheap Omelet

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Vegan zucchini omelet. I'm a terribly impatient
 omelet flipper, vegan omelet or not.
Ever since posting why it's generally cheaper to use egg replacements, even for egg heavy dishes like quiches, I was hoping we'd lower our egg usage in our house, but to be honest, our egg usage didn't go down tremendously. Last month alone, we spent $29 just on eggs, but mostly just for omelets. Reason being- omelets are a quick meal for when I haven't gotten anything ready, and it's something my kids will agree to eat without a fuss. But I'm usually in a lurch then, because I don't feel like cooking up another protein just for me, but I don't do well with eggs....

I played around with making vegan omelets with chickpea flour, but I wasn't in love with the results, mostly because of how they made me feel afterwards. Just using plain old chickpea flour gave me a stomach ache after- because, like all beans, chickpeas should be soaked before using to reduce stomach discomfort. I mean, if I soak the chickpea flour with water and something lightly acidic for 12 hours before using, I don't get the same stomach ache... but that takes advanced preparation, and the whole reason for omelets is because I hadn't thought in advance about supper and need something I can get on the stove and out to the family in less than 10 minutes...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

People I'm Thankful For on Thanksgiving

PhotobucketIn honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to post something to show my gratitude towards the people in my life that have been most effective in helping me live the frugal lifestyle I do, which allows our family the ability to survive on our really small income, in addition to being able to blog about it on this site.

First off, I have to thank my husband Mike. My husband and I certainly have our disagreements when it comes to money and how we spend it, like any couple, but on a whole, he is the person I really have to thank the most. Not only is he on board with cutting back our expenses, he even goes without some things he really likes, because he understands how important it is to live within our means, and is a good sport about it. He is willing to try new and frugal foods, doesn't make demands about what I need to serve, what we need to buy, etc...
In addition to that, Mike is very handy and inventive, so he is always coming up with new money and time and space saving solutions around the house, as well as being able to fix anything that breaks.

Renting or Buying? Which is More Frugal?

Have you ever wondered whether home ownership is for you? Perhaps renting is better? What makes most sense from a financial perspective? The answer to all those questions is not simple, as there are many factors that it entails, and it'll differ from person to person and in each situation.
In some locations and circumstances, renting is a financially sound option, better even than buying. In other locations and circumstances, buying will be the better bet.

Here are some factors that you must consider:

Pricing. Compare the cost of renting and buying in the area where you want to live. Compare the monthly fee for mortgage payments versus the monthly rental payments. Consider also the cumulative cost of renting versus buying- after 30 years, how much will you have paid in rent? How much in mortgage, including all purchasing fees? Consider that after a mortgage is paid off, there will be no more monthly housing fees, but when renting, you never finish paying for housing. In some cases, rental prices are much higher monthly than mortgage payments. In other places, rental fees are much cheaper than mortgage payments would be.

Thanksgiving Menu for 2013

PhotobucketI wasn't going to do a Thanksgiving dinner this year, as my husband is not American, and we don't live in the US... but after deciding that, I realized that I actually had everything in the house that I would need to make a Thanksgiving dinner, so I figured- why on earth not?

Here's my menu, attempting to make our Thanksgiving dinner as frugal as possible:

Ground turkey and wild greens roll up. I made this last year for our Thanksgiving dinner and it was such a hit that I will be making it again, and this time, actually writing down the recipe so I can share it. I am cooking with ground turkey instead of making a whole turkey since whole turkeys are very difficult to get here, and ground turkey is not expensive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dutch Style Meatballs Recipe- Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Bitterballen

Dutch meatballs, mustard, gluten free pasta, and veggie salad with
homemade sweet and sour dressing
I don't know about you, but when I see pictures of food on the internet, it often inspires me to want to make it and have it at home, even if I've never tasted it before, and have no idea what it would taste like.
I saw this "quiz", saying "How many different Dutch foods have you eaten?" and one of the foods listed was bitterballen. Until that point, I had never heard of bitterballen, let alone eaten them, but the picture made me do some googling, and I discovered that bitterballen are meatballs made out of either lamb or beef, seasoned with nutmeg, and breaded, then eaten with mustard.
They usually are made with a roux, which contains gluten and dairy, both of which I don't eat... so I decided to make mock bitterballen, just plain meatballs inspired by the bitterballen, but not quite that. I used ground turkey for mine, but you can also use ground beef for them. I baked mine instead of deep frying them... They were quite good, even if they aren't exactly bitterballen.
These are kind of similar in taste to Swedish meatballs, but are different and unique. I really liked them... I used homemade gluten free breadcrumbs made out of stale homemade gluten free flat bread, but you can make them out of any stale bread, gluten or not, flat or not.
These are good for people that are nightshade free, so long as you make sure that your gluten free breadcrumbs are made without any nightshades.

Registered Education Savings Plan

As someone who'd like her children to get the degree she and her husband never got, I am painfully aware if the high price of college, even when choosing to forgo the more expensive universities and opting for cheaper state colleges. Even the cheaper tuition can eat up a big chunk of a family's budget, let alone the more expensive, prestigious, and higher quality schools.
Because tuition is so expensive, most people cannot afford to pay it monthly on top of all their other expenses, so they end up taking out big loans with high interest, which increases the cost of education tremendously, and then they or their children end up paying it off for the next many years.
There are, however, alternatives to going into debt to pay for education, even without a sky high monthly salary.
How is this? By saying up for the education costs even before they're relevant, using Registered Education Savings Plan, or an RESP. This allows you to set aside money tax free, and even accrue interest, as the government provides grants to help increase people's savings in an RESP.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Practically Free Soup- And a Zero Waste Kitchen

 photo IMG_1212_zps92675637.jpgSo last month I did a grocery shopping challenge, tracking every cent I spent, and breaking it down into different categories, and seeing how much we were spending in each area. After that, I challenged myself to do the same this month, only this time, to try to lower our bill by about 100 dollars, to get it down to $340 dollars from last month's $433.
Only... this month of keeping track started on the 17th, its only 10 days into the 30 day month, and we already spent nearly 275 dollars, bringing me way too close for comfort to that $340 goal, and making me concerned that we'll be spending more than last month's $433... I mean, this is partially because we stocked up on meat and chicken we found on sale, and bought a ton of produce, that should last us at least another week, if not more.... But still, it's more than I wanted to have spent only 1/3 of the way into the month.

Mike and I decided to do as little shopping as humanly possible for the next while. To just live off what is in our pantry and freezer and fridge. And while that is totally doable when it comes to carbs and proteins (we are very well stocked there), with produce, it's just that much more of a challenge... Because how long can we stretch a fridge worth of produce anyhow?

One of the things that I noticed tends to cause us to spend more on produce than necessary is that, despite my trying to not waste any food, to try to use up things before they go bad, I do tend to throw out too much produce. This tends to be cucumbers and tomatoes and greens most often- as they have a tendency to spoil quickly, but it's not only that. I often discover shriveled up and neglected produce at the back of my fridge that is so far gone that it is unusable... And sometimes it's some leftover veggie dish that is prepared (either salad or a cooked side dish).
And on top of that, despite my having written before about cooking with veggie scraps, I don't often actually do so. Pure laziness, pretty much. (Though not always. When I buy reduced rack veggies, sometimes the scraps like peels, etc... come already nasty- like brown/black and maybe moldy, or just ucky looking parts that I cut off. I will not reuse those scraps.) And when you don't use the scraps, you end up throwing out a lot of usable food.

So to try to keep my grocery bills down this month, and to avoid shopping as much as physically possible, I am going super duper frugal and smart with my veggies, trying to avoid waste as much as humanly possible.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fun Times For Free

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Lee as a knight.
When parents want to do something nice for their kids, or when couples want something enjoyable for themselves, buying something is often what comes to mind. More and more people, though, are deciding that instead of accumulating stuff, they'd rather build memories and give the gift of beautiful experiences instead.
Too often, though, people are under the mistaken assumption that in order for something to be worthwhile, it has to cost a lot of money. People take their family on expensive trips, go on expensive dates, etc... all because they want to have an enjoyable time.

Fortunately, it is possible to have a terrific time even without spending a cent, other than maybe transportation. There are so many free things to do in most places, very often offered by the municipality. Tax dollars at work, and all that...

There are those free public places, open to everyone, on a regular basis, which can be great for entertainment purposes. This includes beaches, parks with nature trails, playgrounds, etc...
Then there are those places which may be free only on certain days and between certain hours, or they may be free always. In many cities, there are museums that are free, either every day or on some days, play areas, nature centers in various metro parks, etc...

While I do enjoy going to various places there are free, there is something nice about going to shows, concerts, and events that aren't there always- because they are entertaining on their own- you don't need to come prepared with ideas how to entertain yourselves, and they're special since they're not something you can go to just any day.

How To Throw a Kids Christmas Party On a Budget

With the holiday season on the horizon, you may have mentally started preparing for your family get togethers and parties. I hope you enjoy this guest post on throwing a kids' Christmas party on a budget.

Do you want to cut down on your Christmas spending this year? There are lots of ways to make Christmas totally magical without breaking the bank, and we have tonnes of ideas that are low cost or completely free, because at FreebiesWorld we believe the best things in life are free.

We’ve covered everything including entertainment, invitations and food so read on to get some ideas and inspiration.

It’s great to get children involved in making the invitations. Allowing them to add a personal touch will make them extra special so head to your local craft store to pick up some inexpensive supplies and create something amazing together! 

Here are a few tips:

  • Make stockings from felt and stitch the initial letter of the child’s name on the front. Fill them with a handful of sweets and a piece of paper with all the party details on it.
  • Make each invitation completely unique – just take some card, ribbon and stickers and let the kids go to town on each one.  Print out photos from last year’s Christmas party or nativity play on the computer. Write the details of the party next to the photo or cut it out and stick it on the front of a homemade card.
  • E-invitations are efficient, completely free and require no posting, so you’ll save money on stamps or petrol if you were planning on delivering them by car.

Forget spending a fortune on expensive shop-bought decorations! Get crafty with the kids and make your own. Pop some Christmas tunes on, make a hot chocolate and enjoy transforming your home into a cosy grotto.

  • You can never go wrong with paper chains and they look really effective when hung up around a room. Get the kids to make pretty patterns on sheets of paper first and then simply cut them into strips and use sticky tape to attach them together.
  • Make a flying reindeer window display! You can buy window stickers very cheaply online or you could make your own with white paper and spray glue. It will help set the scene for your party.
  • Window film will give your windows a frosty winter look without the mess and fuss of spraying them with fake snow. You can pick this up online or in craft shops for a small cost.
  • Make your own edible decorations with homemade cookies. Hang them with some red and green ribbon and place them around the home and on the tree.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a few carols and favourite songs. Here are a few ideas to have fun with the party music:

  • Ask each child to name their favourite Christmas song before the party. You can then make a bespoke playlist of tunes that every child will love.
  • Ask each parent if they have an instrument (real or homemade) to bring to the party and create a Christmas band. Pop a carol on or a pop song and get them to play along. This will be very noisy but lots of fun.
  • Play musical chairs with festive songs. You can give out Christmas prizes such as Santa hats and reindeer ears.

You can be really inventive with kids’ Christmas drinks. We’ve thought of some great ideas that are sure to go down a treat with children and parents.

  • Ice Cream Sodas are really popular at a party, especially if they are served in an extra tall glass with a straw and a spoon. Simply put a scoop or two of ice cream in the bottom of the glass, and pour fizzy drink over the top. The fizz expands really quickly, so pour it slowly to avoid an overflow.
  • Mulled apple juice is great for kids and parents alike. Just simmer the apple juice with strips of orange peel, cinnamon stick and cloves for about 5-10 mins until all the flavours have infused. Sweeten with sugar or honey and serve in mugs. Delicious!
  • Make a fruit punch with pineapple juice, orange juice, frozen limeade and lemonade concentrate, ginger ale and orange, lemon and lime sherbet. It will look great served in a punch bowl and the sherbet will create a delicious foamy top.

Here’s the recipe:
1 can (46 ounces) pineapple juice, chilled
1 can (46 ounces) orange juice, chilled
1 can (12 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
1 can (12 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 litres of chilled ginger ale
1 pint each of orange, lemon and lime sherbet
Method: In a large punch bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Stir in ginger ale. Add scoops of sherbet. Serve immediately.

  • Chocolate snowball truffles are delicious and great for parties. Simply pour 200ml of double cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Chop 200 grams of dark chocolate into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Pour over the boiling cream, then stir until the chocolate and cream are well blended and smooth. Cool, then set aside in the fridge until the mixture is solid, about 2 hrs. Then pour some desiccated coconut into a bowl, and roll teaspoon-sized balls of the mixture in it. Chill them in the fridge and serve at party time. 
  • Make a batch of plain cookies in different shapes such as Christmas trees or Santas before the party. Leave some icing kits on the table so each child can decorate their cookie how they like. You could make this into a competition if you like and give a prize to the best one.
  • Popcorn is always popular and making your own is so cheap and easy. Pop a few corn kernels in a covered pan with some oil, allow to cool and top with caramel, honey or chocolate. Savoury flavours are also great for older kids. 

Hopefully you've discovered some great and easy ideas to try this Christmas. Be creative, be inventive and most of all have lots of fun. Happy Christmas from the team at!

See my disclaimer.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Indian Spiced Radish Greens Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

I love finding recipes for often discarded food items that other people don't realize are edible and healthy. I make recipes with cauliflower leaves, have cooked banana peels into chutney, turn watermelon rinds into side dishes, and make delicious dishes from fish scraps and chicken skins.
So when I was in the farmer's market, and saw a huge, beautiful bundle of radishes being sold with their greens attached, for not very expensive, I knew I could get twice my money's worth- because in addition to getting the radishes, I knew I'd be able to cook the radish leaves into some delicious dish.
Radish leaves I knew were edible, because radishes are in the mustard family, and everything in the mustard family is edible- the entire plant, top to bottom- the leaves could be cooked the same way as any mustard greens, or like broccoli rabe.
Of course I bought them, and I really enjoyed this Indian spiced radish green dish that I made, served over rice. It was a drop on the bitter end- if you prefer less bitter, I've included instructions for making it less bitter.
If you don't have wild radishes, try making this dish with any mustard greens, from broccoli raab to wild black or white mustard leaves or turnip greens. You can also make this with spinach or most greens, but the flavors will be more different, so adjust the spices to taste.

Indian Spiced Radish Greens Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can't Get Life Insurance? You Have Options

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans.

You probably know the importance of having insurance. This is why you have auto insurance, homeowners insurance and health insurance. And if you’re a renter, you may have a renter’s insurance policy. These policies are undoubtedly a priority. But they aren’t the only priorities when it comes to insurance.

Life insurance is just as important. You may skip coverage because you think it’s too expensive, or maybe you feel you’re too young to think about this type of insurance.

But you are never too young to prepare for the future, and if you’re the head of a household or have dependents, you need a policy more than any other group. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breakdown of Money Spent For the Month

 photo IMG_1028_zpsf9d12bad.jpgA month ago I announced that I would be diligently tracking my grocery expenses, down to the last cent, so I could see exactly how much our family was spending in a month, and then break it down into different categories, so we could see how much we spent in different categories. I had a rough guesstimate that altogether my family spent 425 dollars a month on groceries, but since I never tracked things down to the last cent, I wasn't 100% sure.

Turns out my guess was very close- we spent $433 dollars in the past month.

Two years ago, with 4 people in our family instead of 5, when we ate less healthily, when we used more processed foods, ate gluten and white sugar and less healthy oils, and before prices in our area were raised tremendously, we were able to get our grocery bills as low 250 dollars a month... but that simply isn't doable now, both because our family is larger, our kids are older (and pickier), and because we have health issues that we are taking care of via our diet.
However, most people with families our size and gluten free/sugar free, etc... end up spending a lot more than what we spend each month, so I'm pretty happy with what we're spending. Even so, there definitely are things I would like to cut back on, and would like to lower our grocery bills further.

So, what are we spending in each of the areas?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Fix and Teach Your Kids About Credit

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer who enjoys writing about frugality and parenting.

How to Fix and Teach Your Kids About Credit

It’s natural to want to hide your money mistakes from your kids. You don’t want them to worry about things that are your responsibility and, if you’re honest with yourself: you probably want your kids to see you as an infallible force. It’s better, though—especially if they are older—to be honest with them. And remember, every moment is a teaching moment.

Nowhere is this more important than with money. You obviously know how important it is to teach your kids the value of money. It’s also important to teach your kids how to recover if money gets the better of them for a while. Here are some things that you can do to both fix your credit and teach your kids about credit repair (and their rights if creditors come calling) at the same time:

Ground Beef Kebabs Recipe- Greek Style- Egg Free, Gluten/Grain Free, Soy Free, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_1148_zps71590ada.jpgMy kids haven't been the easiest to feed lately. Every single thing I make for them, they seem to complain about. Even foods that they previously were in love with, they now complain about. It drives me bonkers. I tried making them foods that I thought would entice them, like spaghetti and meatballs (plain meatballs, not with lentils mixed in), ground beef fried rice, and spaghetti and meat sauce, and they refused it all, saying "the meat is too hard". (It wasn't.) 
But I haven't been in the mood for legumes lately, feeling the need for animal proteins, and there's only so much egg I want to make for my family, especially since I suspect that Ike is sensitive to eggs, as I am, and I got a good source of cheap ground beef, so I really wanted to find a way to make ground beef that my kids would enjoy.
Someone suggested I try making ground beef kebabs on a stick- you know kids, and how food being on a stick makes it so much yummier and appealing...
I found some recipes online, and played around with them until I got this recipe, which ended up being perfect. Unlike beef kebabs that are sold in the store near here and are filled with lots of soy, these are "straight meat", which increases the price, yes, but also the health. These are egg free, and are Greek style, which is my favorite kind of kebabs. Their texture is pretty wonderful because of the ingredients in it- moist and soft enough. (Though it might possibly be a bit too moist. They are soft, not solid like a rock, so if you care about these being very firm, I'd add an extra tablespoon of ground flax seeds to the mix.)
I cooked these in my skillet/griddle, with low sides, which allowed me to cook it with the sticks. You can also cook these on a grill, or in the oven, or you can cook them without the sticks in a frying pan on the stove.
A classic Middle Eastern meal to make with this would be serving this together with couscous and a tomato and cucumber salad, but since I wanted this to be gluten free, I served it with quinoa that I cooked with some turmeric, to make it couscous like. 
The meal was an absolute hit with every single family member, and I will definitely be making this again.

Ground Beef Kebabs Recipe- Greek Style- Egg Free, Gluten/Grain Free, Soy Free, GAPS Legal

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mustard Thyme Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free

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I had a bunch of chicken that I wanted to cook up, but wanted something different than my usual random spices that I just throw on. I wanted something flavorful, but without any added sweeteners or processed sauces, etc...
I remembered having artichoke once with mustard and thyme, and remembered that mustard with thyme was a winning combination. An internet search revealed that mustard thyme chicken is an "official thing", though many of those recipes had honey in it, and I'm nearly out of honey and didn't want to use it up on chicken that could also be tasty without the honey.
I made up this recipe, played around and made a delicious sauce for the chicken, adjusting it to taste until it was just right. I then smeared it on the chicken parts and baked it until fully cooked. Perfection!
This is the perfect recipe for people on a low carb/sugar free diet, GAPS (so long as you use a GAPS legal mustard) or even if you're just looking for something delicious to serve for supper.
Hope you like it as much as I do!
P.S. The drippings from this chicken tastes superb on rice!

Mustard Thyme Chicken Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Flourless Chickpea Blondies Recipe- Egg Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

 photo IMG_1098_zps0ff098d2.jpgBean desserts, cakes and cookies made from black beans, navy beans, and chickpeas have taken over the healthy eating bloggosphere. The problem with most of those recipes is that, while they are gluten free and grain free, they tend to be with eggs, and as someone who gets sick from eating eggs, they simply don't work for me.
I've found a few recipes without eggs, but they often have white sugar in them. And white sugar is another thing I avoid- also for health reasons, and also because lately I've discovered that it makes me nauseous. So it's not worth it to even think about cheating.
But then I found this recipe for chickpea blondies which I adapted a drop to suit my tastes, and was very excited about it. It tasted awesome! It was best fresh, but even a day or two later, it was still delicious! My kids devoured it, not knowing how healthy they really were, how much protein was in it, and that it was refined sugar free.
If you're gluten free but don't want to spend lots of money on gluten free flours for dessert, this is a good option, especially if you cook your own chickpeas instead of using canned stuff. It's also great if you're hosting a gluten free family and don't want to need to stock up on gluten free staples.
The original recipe called for chocolate chips, but I don't eat them because I haven't found sugar free ones, so I ended up dividing the batch into two, and mixing chocolate chips into only one of them, which my kids ate. (Sorry, pic is without the choc chips.)
This makes two 8x8 pans of blondies.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sweet and Sour Pickled Beets Recipe- Refined Sugar Free

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I wanted to apologize for not being so on top of posting on the blog lately. Life has been a little crazy. Last week a few members of my family were sick with a stomach bug, and I ended up bringing Anneliese to the ER, only to be able to avoid getting an IV last minute... and then more craziness with some other stuff, and then for the past few days, we've been sick again. We as in me and one kid...
When Mama is sick, no one is happy. I am exhausted, cranky, lightheaded, without a voice, and with absolutely no energy to do ANYTHING. And on top of that, Ike is super clingy because he's sick and not letting me sleep at night...
It got so bad, Ike so miserable at night and keeping us all awake all night, and none of the natural treatments seemed to be helping, that I finally took him to the doctor today, willing to give him antibiotics, even though antibiotics cause lots of gut issues and Ike is my kid with the most gut issues... anything, so long as he feels better and I have my happy, healthy Ike back instead of miserable crankypants who is making me feel even more cranky because on top of not feeling well, he's depriving me of sleep. But bad news/good news- what Ike has isn't bacterial, and antibiotics won't help him feel better... just more of what we've been doing unsuccessfully until now... and waiting it out...
So we're back to that, and when Ike cries to me that he's in pain, I just have to comfort him, but not much I can actually do for him that will really help him... And that makes me feel really guilty as a mama...

So yes, beyond exhausted, and housework is piling up and I have no energy to take care of it... and my washing machine is leaking but I don't have any energy to get around to figuring out what is wrong with it so we can fix it... so laundry is piling up... and I have to make supper soon and I have absolutely no clue what to serve....

Just needed to vent a little bit, my way of explaining why I've been slacking in the blog front.

But the least I can do is leave you with a yummy pickled beets recipe that I made a few days ago and was a hit... I made mine with no refined sugar, but to keep down the costs, feel free to switch to cheaper sweeteners...

Sweet and Sour Pickled Beets Recipe- Refined Sugar Free

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Taking Care of Yourself While Pregnant

 photo IMG_1067_zps57f8fd16.jpgI'm sitting here, more than halfway through my second trimester of my fourth pregnancy, and, quite frankly, I feel terrible. I feel nauseous and gross, as if I haven't left my first trimester.
But for all my frustrations with my body when pregnant, that I get to experience 9 months of throwing up and nausea, I am happy that I do not have hyperemesis gravidarum like my sister does, and that I am not losing weight nor in need of hospitalization from dehydration and malnutrition from the constant puking that people with HG get.
But I am assuming that there is something genetic related to HG, which is why I get more nausea and for longer than average.
However, since adjusting my diet (I went off gluten and dairy when I was 10 weeks along in my last pregnancy) I've found that I am able to function much better than I did in previous pregnancies. I may have nausea and feel icky, but it isn't generally so debilitating that I can't function (as happened with my first three pregnancies).

This pregnancy I am nursing my nearly 2 year old, in addition to nourishing the baby inside and myself, and because of that, it is extra important that I nourish my body well. Since going off of gluten and dairy, I noticed that while I may have nausea a lot, it doesn't tend to be triggered by specific foods or smells- it's just an all around nausea that doesn't stop me from being able to eat well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Italian Herbed Zucchini Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free

I had the pleasure of being gifted with a huge amount of zucchinis the other day, and wanted to figure out a good dish to make with them. Then I remembered the time when, as a guest in someone's house, I was served a delicious herbed zucchini soup. I have no idea what the recipe was- I only knew it had zucchini and oregano in it, but with that in mind, I made up this recipe, which was quite delicious. It can either be eaten as is, or it can be blended to make a delicious creamy soup.
The soup is vegan, GAPS/Paleo/Primal legal, is gluten free, grain free, sugar free, and just perfect.

Italian Herbed Zucchini Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free

The Cost of Living Abroad in Bahrain

This is a guest post.

For many of us, living abroad, even for a short time, giving our families the opportunity to enjoy a new culture and, of course, the learning experiences that result from this, is a dream we feel is just too unobtainable. Reasons cited tend to be finances, the complicated upheaval, leaving family behind and of course finding a job in another country. However there are many countries, especially those in the Middle East, such as Bahrain, that offer an array of job opportunities with high demands for talented individuals in specific sectors such as finance and media.

When it comes to finances, beyond the initial move costs, you may find that, especially in Bahrain, the lower cost of living will result in a higher quality of life, especially for those of us who have mastered the art of living frugally. You may be surprised at just how far your money will go with very little effort.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homemade Krypto the Superdog Costume (For a Baby) Instructions

My time is short now, but I realized I had a homemade costume idea that I never shared with you, and thought the timing was right. When Anneliese was a baby, we dressed her up as Krypto the Superdog, a character in a show my boys liked to watch. It was a very easy costume to make, but I think it came out cutely. It wasn't perfect, but I think it did the job.

This costume is very simple. Krypto is an all white dog, wearing a red cape, and a yellow collar with a Superman S logo hanging from it.

I made Anneliese's costume for about 75 cents or less, with a few pieces of clothing from a thrift store (some of which were scraps from other costumes I made with the same thrifted clothing).

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Not a perfect replica, and definitely not a perfect picture, but.... its the best pic I had, and I think the costume is close enough to the "real deal" to get the same feel.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

(Extremely) Frugally Furnishing a Home From Scratch - Bare Basics

After posting my recent post on how to have a frugal wedding, a super traditional friend of mine said "Ok, Penny, you covered the actual wedding itself, but what about all the expenses entailed in setting up a household for after the wedding?" In some traditional circles, setting up a household is part and parcel of a wedding, because that is often when the couple first moves out of their parents' homes and into their own home, but that is not how the whole world works, I told this friend of mine. Getting married often is followed by moving into your first home, but not nearly all of the time, and hence it is two separate posts.
So, whether you're furnishing a home for a newlywed couple, or just moving out of your parents' home and into your own place, or even moving abroad and starting from scratch, here's how to furnish a place without breaking the bank.

First, I have to admit that this post will probably irk some, as many extreme frugality posts do, because I question the notion of what is a need and what is a want, and some people find that upsetting, because they assume I am making a value judgement on them and their lifestyle. So let me preface this by saying that I know that some of what I'm writing here is very extreme- I am offering it as an option for those that are seriously tight on money, and if they spent more money on furnishings it would mean less food on their table, etc...
I am also offering some less extreme ideas, so if the very extremely frugal option doesn't speak to you, there should still be some stuff here that can work for you.
But if you have the money, and spending money on nice furniture is important to you, then do so- I won't judge- everyone has to make their own value judgments about what is important to them, and while brand spankin' new furniture isn't high on my list of priorities, I understand that for some other people, it is, and that is ok.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Big Reveal...

I have wanted to make this post for so long, but have been sitting on it until I felt the timing was right... But I felt bad not posting it earlier, because I felt you long time loyal readers might think either that I lost interest in my blog, and it was dying... or that something was wrong in my life...

Fortunately, the reason for the slower rate of posting lately is not because of anything bad, like my losing ideas for post or losing interest in this blog, nor because anything is wrong...

In fact, the reason why posting rate has been slow has been because....

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Yes, that is a pregnant belly you're seeing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lentil Chicken Meatballs Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free

My kids have pretty much told me that they will not eat lentils. They might eat them occasionally in a soup, or when I surreptitiously put them in another recipe, and on a rare occasion will eat something with obvious lentils in it, if all the rest of the ingredients combine to form something delicious, but... on the whole, my kids have nixed lentils.

But I haven't. They're easy and quick to cook, and one of the cheapest forms of protein I can get my hands on. And I don't want to write off something cheap just because my kids are being picky.

The solution to that, I've discovered, is sneaking the lentils in together with meat. I did it with my sneaky spaghetti bolognese- half lentil and they didn't even realize, and now I did it again with my lentil chicken balls.

At first, I was looking for a recipe today that made vegan lentil "meatballs" but all the recipes contain walnuts, some other nuts, and/or mushrooms, to help the lentils taste more meaty.
Now I don't know about the prices where you live, but in my neck of the woods, walnuts ain't cheap. Mixing lentils with walnuts to make something meaty tasting might work, but is it really frugal? Wouldn't it be cheaper simply to mix ground chicken with the lentils to stretch them, and make them taste more meaty, giving the nutritional benefits meat instead of walnuts, and cheaper to boot? Because, yes, chicken (not on sale) is about 1/3 the price of walnuts per pound locally, so it's actually cheaper to make it this way. (Especially because I got my chicken on sale, so its even cheaper than how much it usually would cost.) I just take de-boned chicken (chicken breast in this case) and grind it up in my food processor instead of buying ground chicken, since it works out to be cheaper than buying it pre-ground and the texture works just fine.

No, it's not vegan, but I am not vegan (and have no qualms about my eating meat), I just like cheap food. And this is much cheaper than regular meatballs. So I'll probably take this over a lentil walnut mock meatball any day.

My husband and baby both tried it and loved it- my husband couldn't taste the lentils in it, and said they tasted just like regular meatballs to him, and my baby enjoyed it too. I really liked it as well, and as soon as my kids come back from the park (thank you Mike for taking them!) we'll see how well they like them. But I'm sure the answer will be "Mommy, this is delicious! Make it all the time!" knowing how they've reacted in the past.
If you're not a chicken fan, or for whatever reason you want to use a different type of meat, you can use ground beef, turkey, pork, lamb, venison or whatever else instead of the chicken, just keep in mind that it will change the price and taste somewhat.
This recipe is egg free, grain free, paleo/primal, allergy friendly, and GAPS diet friendly.

And unlike most of the lentil balls I've seen, these are cooked on the stove top, inside a pot of tomato sauce, which I like much better in terms of ease, efficiency, texture, and flavor.

Lentil Chicken Meatballs Recipe- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free

Prepping for 2014: 3 Finance Tips for the New Year

This is a guest post by Nancy Evans, a freelance writer who enjoys living well on a minimal budget.

It may seem as if summer has just ended, but a single look out the window is proof enough that fall is in full swing. Winter is right around the corner, which means we're heading into a new year in the very near future. Many people come up with a host of resolutions in order to guide their behavior once January 1st rolls around, but sticking to these changes can be easier said than done - especially when it comes to finances.

The thing is, you can use the onset of the new year as a motivator for making changes to better your financial situation. Whether you stick to these principles or not is up to you, but it's certainly worth a shot.

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

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I almost feel silly posting this recipe, because cantaloupe is a summer fruit, and we're definitely in autumn right now, nearing winter, but... I was looking through my draft posts and saw this recipe saved but never published, and knew that if I didn't post it now, I probably never would get around to posting it, which would be a shame...
This soup came about by accident- I had a cantaloupe in my fridge that was getting a little old, and on top of that, it wasn't the tastiest cantaloupe ever, so it didn't tempt me to eat it plain.
I knew you could make a chilled gazpacho with watermelon, and assumed that you probably could make a delicious similar style soup with cantaloupe, but wasn't sure.
I experimented with it, and not only did it come out decent and edible, it came out so super awesome that my kids were begging me to make it again and again, and were so disappointed that the recipe didn't yield so much. They called it "candy soup" which says a lot. Not that it's very sweet- it's actually not- it's just delicious.
So even if you don't have cantaloupe available for cheap now, I suggest you bookmark this recipe for when they come back into season, because this is one recipe you definitely should try.

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Super Easy, Quick, and Delicious Chicken Recipe

 photo IMG_1051_zps2c9c3ac7.jpgLegumes are cheaper to make than all other proteins, but they aren't so quick to make, and some people really dislike the taste of legumes, or are sensitive to them, etc...
This chicken recipe is the basis of my super quick, super easy, super tasty, super healthy, and super frugal supper that I make on those days that I have no energy to cook but know that I need to be feeding my family healthy food that they'll actually enjoy. (Ok, fine, some might argue that mashed potatoes aren't super healthy, but compare it to any fast food or most prepacked foods, and it wins by a long shot.)
My favorite thing about this recipe is that it cooks so quickly that I can put it on stove and whip up some quick side dishes, like instant mashed potatoes and a chopped salad, and by the time those are ready (less than 4 minutes), the chicken is also ready.
I've found that chicken breast recipes either require being baked in the oven, which means you have to factor in oven heating time into the cooking time, or they are time consuming on the stove top (like shnitzel) or they are bland and flavorless, or they have a weird texture (I hate boiled chicken breast, and chicken breast cooked in sauce tends to get that texture). But this has the perfect texture, is super quick, and still is full of flavor.
And best of all- it's made from a homemade spice mixture, made from ingredients that you'll otherwise throw in the garbage- tomato skins- so its green and frugal to boot.

Super Easy, Quick, and Delicious Chicken Recipe

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tips for Tiny House Living

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Cara's tiny kitchen/laundry room before
her husband built more shelves to make it more
space efficient
You might remember when I posted about when I visited a friend who lived in an even tinier house than mine? That friend, Cara, shared this lovely guest post with her reasons behind living in a tiny house, and how she and her husband make it work. Though most people don't live in a house as small as hers, and wouldn't even consider it, these tips are worthwhile for anyone who is interested in downsizing their home, and how to make the best use of less space.

My husband and I have been married for two years and three months. We've never lived in a big house—nor do we want to, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, we are both slightly nervous in wide-open spaces and prefer the comfort of walls around us. Kind of the opposite of claustrophobia, although I wouldn't say it's even that bad. Also, I'm a terrible housewife, so the less space I have to clean, the better.

Our first apartment—which was in the suburbs, actually in the same little town where Penny's husband grew up—was 183 square feet. One bedroom and a tiny little kitchenette that I could barely find space to cook in. It was a basement apartment with only one window and barely any furnishing. Naturally, guests were out of the question—we managed to squeeze a girlfriend of mine in for dinner once and another time my sister came over for lunch, but that was all.

Fortunately, we moved out of there and back into the city around six months later. Our second—and current—apartment is 225 square feet. It feels like a palace compared to our old place. The rent nearly doubled, unfortunately, from 340 dollars to 565 dollars, but we nearly made up with that what with not having to take the 3-dollar-each-way bus into the city for work every day. From here, my husband is able to bike everywhere (see this guest post Cara wrote about their uber cool bike) and I'm able to walk most places, so our transportation costs are nearly zero. And now we are not so isolated out of town, and can even have guests, including the Penniless family. (Having guests over for meals is a big part of our culture; people are much more likely to invite their friends over for dinner than to get together outside for a movie or whatever.)

We are happy living in the city, despite the increase in price, and plan to stay here long-term. I'm American, living in a country where I don't speak the native language very well, so jobs are limited. In our tiny place in the suburbs, I was always on the run (or more accurately, the bus), from this to that to the other low-paying part-time job, usually babysitting. Right now, that's not an option—for medical reasons I need to be in the city and I also need a flexible schedule, ideally working from home—which means it is essential that we live in the smallest, cheapest apartment we can find.

Here's how we make it work:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Frugal Weddings- Tips and Advice

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Me at my wedding
I was so convinced that I had already written a post on my blog about frugal weddings that recently, when a friend of mine asked me if I had any advice for her as to how to make a wedding cheaply, I directed her to a non existent post on my blog. Haha, guess I didn't write it yet, and it's about time.
I realize that every culture has different types of weddings with different expectations, so what might work in one place won't fly somewhere else, so these are just general guidelines, which you can then work with to fit your needs.

In my culture, men and women tend to get married on the younger end (I was 18.5 when I got married (somewhat young even in my circles, but not unheard of), my husband was 20, and my older sister was 20 when she married), so parents pay for the wedding because the couple doesn't usually have the finances to pay for their own wedding. In many families, there are fights about what one set of parents think it is worth paying money for, and the other may or may not disagree, and the couple's needs and desires get distanced, and the money ends up being money not well spent, and the wedding expenses end up being a big source of stress. My sister, Violet, and I got married 4 weeks apart, and my parents didn't want to deal with the headache of wedding planning two weddings at once, and they wanted to teach us some financial responsibility with which to start our married lives. What they decided to do was figure out how much they could afford to pay for our weddings, and then give myself and my sister the same exact amount of money, and it was ours to do with what we wanted- with no input from them unless we wanted. Whatever money was left after wedding expenses would be ours to keep.
I highly recommend this method of wedding planning. It allowed myself and my sister to make the types of weddings that we wanted to make, and get the most out of our money, and not spend money on things we thought were frivolous or wouldn't enhance our wedding.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Keeping Track of Grocery Expenses, Down to the Last Cent, and My Latest Shopping Trip

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My fridge, at the moment, with most of the produce I bought today inside.
On this local "money smart" board I am on, there was a discussion about how much is a normal amount of money to spend on groceries per family, and a financial consultant gave a really high number that many people were shocked to read. A bunch of extra frugal minded and just relatively frugal minded friends were surprised by the number, and all claimed to be spending much less each month on groceries than that. The financial consultant wanted to know what exactly we were buying that we were spending that little...

One of those friends and I decided that for the next month, we'd keep track of every single grocery (and food/eating out) expense we have for the next month- yes, even when we go to the store and just pick up one thing, so we can see exactly how much we're spending, and what percent of our money is getting spent on what. I've decided to scan my receipts daily, and when there isn't a receipt, just write down what was spent and on what. At the end of the month, I'll tally up every expense, and see how much we're spending total, how much on different categories, etc...
This will also be beneficial for us to help us decide if we want to be spending the way that we are, or if there's anything we want to change. And it'll help us know for sure if the estimates we have on how much we spend monthly is accurate or off.
And yes, those nonsensical waste splurges will be tallied up as well....
For those of you who are local and know the name of my other neglected frugality blog... I'm posting my receipts and expenses there each time we spend, and at the end of the month, I'll do a summary on this blog... (If you're local and don't know the name if my other blog, email me at pennilessparenting at yahoo dot com and I'll give you the address. If you don't know if you're local to me... you're not.)

Because of this project I'm undertaking, I'll try to post here more often about my shopping trips, what I bought, and why.

Today I went to the farmer's market to produce shop. A few days ago I went to the grocery store and was very disappointed by what I saw in the produce department. All the produce was much more expensive than it was in the past. The cheapest veggies were 40 cents a pound, but most were closer to $1 per pound or more... I know that most American readers will probably think those prices are amazing, but in my country salaries are much lower, so $1 per pound veggies are pretty expensive for most...