Monday, March 31, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week With a New Baby

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As I predicted last week, this past week was one in which I can't claim to have had lots of frugal accomplishments. I mean, I barely spent any money at all... but that's in large part due to the goodness and warmth and generosity of my wonderful community and less because of any specific frugal accomplishments. Yes, I didn't pay a cent for my suppers this past week, but is receiving meals from friends and neighbors in the community after having a baby isn't exactly a frugal accomplishment. In our community, we take care of each other, and while right now I'm on the receiving end, I try my best to also pitch in when I can, making meals for friends and neighbors when they could use them, whether they're sick, just moved, had a baby, etc...
In terms of actual frugality, I am actually prouder of myself for deciding NOT to do specific frugal things I was tempted to do, because I know myself and that I tend to push myself further than I should in general, and especially after birth, I need to recover faster, and pushing myself too far too quickly would make me take longer to recover. For example, when I was in the city because I needed to register my birth, I passed by a large patch of nettles and I had to use a lot of self control to NOT pick those nettles. Because even though picking them wouldn't have been hard work, washing and cleaning and cooking them would. So I didn't. And I didn't make all these great recipes I saw for "from scratch" stuff. I sat tight and did nearly nothing...

Here's what I and my family did do this week to save money. (Rule of thumb- if it takes extra energy, in almost all cases, I avoided it.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rose's Birth Story- A Beautiful and Easy Homebirth

 photo IMG_1923_zps30b8fab2.jpgOn Friday night, my little girl, Rose, was born at home in a very beautiful and empowering and relatively easy home birth.

I like sharing my birth stories with people- I've written up every single one so far, and shared Anneliese's birth story on my blog, because I find there are too many "scare stories" on the internet about how painful and scary and difficult and dangerous birth is, and I truly believe (based on my research and personal experience) that birth is what you make of it- and that if you decide you will have a natural birth and positive birth experience, you will have that, and if you go into birth scared of the birthing process, thinking that it will be an awful and super painful experience, it will be, and you most likely will feel you can't manage without pain killers like epidurals.

There is a birth culture in the US and around the "modern" world, that is very fearful- whenever birth is portrayed on TV, in movies, in books, it is hyper medicalized, involving lots of screaming and panicking, and I want to be part of the movement to change people's attitude towards birth- to help women see that birth doesn't have to be scary and painful- that birth pain can be definitely manageable- that it doesn't have to be "the most painful thing you'll ever experience" like many people describe birth. (There is a grassroots movement called the Positive Birth Movement which aims to do exactly that.) This last birth of mine was with minimal pain, completely manageable, and I didn't even for a second think "Oh, I wish I had an epidural to take away this pain".
Before my first birth, with my now 6.5 year old Lee, I decided that I'd have a natural birth, and make it into a positive, empowering, uplifting experience. When I shared that with others, they scoffed at my plans, telling me that I've never experienced labor, and that once I do, I'll be screaming like a banshee, begging for painkillers. Pregnant women being told that is so harmful- many women get convinced to have medical interventions because of the inherently negative message being spread about birth, that they aren't capable of doing it without the doctors' help... and when women like myself try to have a good attitude about birth, people try so hard to destroy that and instill fear. As I said above- birth is what you make of it, and even though in general I have a very low pain tolerance (for example, I scream and/or moan in pain from mild burns), I had 4 very empowering, fully natural, epidural free births, and in 3 of them I didn't even understand why someone would be tempted to take an epidural (for Ike's birth, inane hospital policies made my birth so much more stressful and painful and difficult that, though I still didn't consider an epidural, I at least understood why others would).

That said, I am hesitant to share my birth story, because when I do, people tell me "Oh, you could have natural births because you have easy births- if my births were as easy as yours, maybe I'd also have mine naturally", completely dismissing that the reason I have "easier" births is because of my attitude- I decide that I'll have an easy birth, don't stress about it, and it happens that way. Conversely, when someone stresses out about it, freaks out, panics, etc... their body releases adrenaline and their muscles tense up, and these make contractions more painful, can stall labor, and in general lead to a more difficult birth. My births haven't all been "easy"- Lees and Ike's labors were 18 and 19 hours each, with contractions 2 or 3 minutes apart for nearly 15 hours. They were intense births. This birth of mine was my easiest, but it didn't just "happen that way". I made the decision before birth how my labor would be, and took active steps to ensure that it would happen smoothly, and that is why, I am sure, it was an easier labor than my previous 3.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Make Sprouted Wheat/Spelt/Anything Flour--Picture Tutorial!

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Grinding sprouted flour
I will be trying to force myself to take it easy for the next few weeks now that I gave birth, because I know I have a tendency to push myself, but I do need to take it easy if I want to be back to 100% normal faster. But I don't want to let you blog readers down, and I want to keep the good information flowing from this blog. I've asked some friends of mine who are on the same page as I am in some way, to write guest posts on topics that I like for this blog which I'll be sharing with you readers over the next little while.

First up is this post by my friend, Sarah. She's a really cool mama who is famous in my circles for her sprouted flour that she makes for her family, as well as provides for others. When Sarah told me she'd write up this post about how she makes her sprouted flour, I was very excited, since sprouting grains for flour is something that I'd been interested in learning about and maybe encorporating into my life, but hadn't yet. Sprouting makes things more digestible and healthy, and since I have my own grinder and dehydrator, why not? Sarah tends to grind sprouted gluten grains, but this post is good for anyone, gluten free or not, since you can sprout nearly anything you can grind into flour. When I am fully recovered from birth, the first two types of sprouted flours I plan on making are chickpea and buckwheat flours.

Hope you find this post as informative and enjoyable as I did!

Properly prepared grains and legumes are a key component to a healthy diet. The main issue with regular spelt/wheat/legume flour is the phytic acid they contain in their unsoaked form. Soaking them gets rid of this issue. Sprouting the grains/legumes after soaking adds additional nutritional benefits: it slightly lowers gluten in glutenous grains, increases the protein quality, and significantly increases vitamins A, C, D, E, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, all amino acids, and protein to all grains/legumes. Sprouted flour is actually a bit sweeter from the sprouting process and much more delicious and nourishing than its unsprouted counterparts.

This process can be done with any grain or legume that you can sprout such as wheat, spelt, rye, quinoa, green buckwheat, chickpeas, mung beans, etc. Buy organic if you can to assure good sprouting outcomes.

For things that don't sprout so well, like brown rice, oat, and some beans, you can follow these instructions just skipping step 4 (sprouting) and going straight to step 5 (spreading out onto dehydrator trays). Doing a long soak (24 hours) makes grains and especially legumes much more digestible and gets rid of the phytic acid. Only soaking yields a flour that is wonderful and healthy without the extra added benefits of sprouting. Both ways are delicious-tasting and great for your body!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

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This post was written over the last week, and as you can see, towards the end of the week, I had less and less to write about as I was just involved in getting the baby to come already, and then dealing with a newborn, so... I'm not elaborating on the notes I jotted down as the week went on, as I usually do. This'll have to suffice. Not sure if I'll be keeping track of frugal accomplishments for this current week, because I'm taking it easy after birth, using disposables, and getting meals from community members, so not doing cooking or meal prep... and if I am, its super easy stuff that aren't necessarily so cheap. Being the recipient of communal help doesn't cost me money, but I don't think I can honestly call that a "frugal accomplishment". It just means that what goes around comes around, and we take turns helping each other out after we have babies, etc... and now it's my turn to be on the receiving end. But we'll see. Maybe I will keep track of this current week's frugal accomplishments, if there are any.
Anyhow, here it is.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gluten Free Dairy Free Meals that Everyone Can Make

When I was in the US in January, I stayed at my sister in law, Michelle's house. She wanted me to write a post about how it was when I stayed there, that the biggest lesson for her was that, though it sounds scary for her at first to make food for me that I'd be able to eat, being on a gluten free, dairy free diet, in the end she realized it wasn't so difficult at all, and she even served me food that she would regularly serve her family. It was enlightening, she said, to see that anyone could make gluten free dairy free meals without going crazy, without needing to buy expensive, special ingredients, etc...

And then quite a few people told me recently that they want to go on gluten free dairy free diets, but they don't know what they'd be able to eat, what they'd be able to cook and feed their families...

I've also had many people ask me "I'm having guests that are gluten free/dairy free- what can I serve them?"

And then to top it off, someone told me that she wanted to make me a meal for after birth, but is scared that she'll accidentally give me something I'm not allowed to eat and make me sick.

So, I figured, why not to a short sum up of what is gluten free dairy free, and what is not, and some "normal foods" that people know how to make that are naturally gluten free and dairy free.

Hopefully, this post will be helpful to anyone who wants to cook for someone gluten free and dairy free, but doesn't want to chance getting them sick.

How New Generation Heating Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Loosen the Strain on your Wallet...

This is a guest post. Hopefully you'll enjoy learning about these green, energy efficient and frugal ways to heat your home.

Lately, we've all been feeling the squeeze when it comes to heating our homes and keeping the lights on. Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the news or obsesses over their energy bills will be fully aware of the so-called ‘energy crisis’ that’s gripped the UK in the past few months, and while policy makers and legislators are busy striking deals to save us money here and cut back costs there, the bottom line is that we’re going to need a new solution, and soon.

Most homes these days have a gas central heating system, and while gas is still marginally cheaper than electricity it’s price is also fluctuating rapidly in what is an incredibly volatile and vulnerable international market. Those with an eye for home improvement and some savings in the bank have already taken matters into their own hands and invested in solar panels to power their homes. They can even use ‘feed-in’ tariff schemes to effectively sell their surplus energy back to the energy companies and back into the national grid - good news all around both for saving money and reducing your carbon footprint. This is all good and well, but what if you can’t afford solar panels, what then? There are options available to you other than kneeling at the mercy of power companies and getting that gas boiler repaired for the third time this year… There are ways to save money on your utilities bills with energy saving tips.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


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Introducing the newest member of the Penniless family, a little girl, born Friday night at 10:45 pm, in the most beautiful, easiest home birth ever.

Ike wanted to know why we didn't name her Rose...
So... That is how she will be known on this blog.

I'll write up the birth story as soon as I get a chance, but for now, just wanted to update y'all with the good news.

But yes, she's perfectly healthy, I am as well, thankfully... My biggest complaint is my extremely sore calves from all the walking up and down steep hills I did this past week to try and start labor, and once I was in labor...

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PS- I have no interest in debating homebirth in the comments of this post. I have a few posts on my blog on homebirth- if you want to read about safety, etc... feel free to read there and comment there on that aspect, not here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Homemade Gravlax Recipe- Cured Salmon, Sugar Free

I definitely wasn't planning on posting or sharing this recipe originally. This blog is about money saving, and when I splurge and make something expensive for myself, I don't necessarily want to announce that to the world that I just spent so much money on something...
For my birthday, I really wanted to make some gravlax. It's Nordic cured salmon, meaning that it is eaten raw, but it undergoes a process that changes it from plain old raw salmon into something special, and akin to lox. This pregnancy, I've been very nauseous from so many foods, and therefore when it comes to protein, been stuck pretty much with just legumes, meat, and chicken, and I really wanted to change things up. Plain cooked fish makes me nauseous, but raw fish, for some strange reason, does not.

I saw a friend posted a picture of her homemade gravlax, and it made me salivate, so I said I just "have" to make that. And since I am not in the habit of just buying and making expensive things "just because", I decided to wait until my birthday to have that, a little birthday present of sorts to myself.
So, I made it once, and it was delicious, and I posted pictures of it on facebook. And everyone wanted to know the recipe, if it was on my blog, etc... And I said "No way! This isn't frugal!" but they told me to compare the cost of the gravlax to its store bought similar counterpart- smoked salmon, aka lox, and see if it is still "unfrugal".

Well, making it from high quality, sushi grade salmon, it works out a little more expensive than store bought lox. But then I learned that because of the curing process that the salmon goes through when making gravlax, it is perfectly safe to use non sushi grade salmon for this, making it even cheaper, and therefore cheaper than lox. It still isn't a cheap dish, but if you're craving a lox type dish, this is definitely cheaper, not to mention healthier.

But still, I didn't have the recipe- just guestimated amounts the first time I made it, and wasn't planning on making it again just to share the recipe with you, since, even though it is cheaper than lox, it is still more expensive than not making it at all...
Then my friend who was craving gravlax after seeing the pics that I posted, asked me to make some for her that she'd buy off me... and so I had another excuse to make gravlax, and this time I measured everything so I could share the recipe with you.

It seriously was delicious! The taste of gravlax is a cross between lox and sashimi. I didn't make mine so salty, but if you like things salty, you can increase the salt in this recipe by adding another tablespoon or two. I also made mine with coconut sugar to keep it healthier, but feel free to replace that coconut sugar with sucanat or white sugar or xylitol or any other granulated sweetener, whatever floats your boat in terms of health or cost.

Homemade Gravlax Recipe- Cured Salmon, Sugar Free

Nifty Ways to Save on 2014 Taxes

With tax season almost upon us, I thought you'd enjoy this guest post on ways to help you save more money on your taxes.

Tax season can be nerve wracking regardless of which tax bracket you fall into. Between collecting receipts, filling out the forms and poring through the tax codes it’s enough to make your head spin. Fortunately, there are a few easy-to-implement methods to receive a slightly higher refund this year.

Assess Your Status

Depending on your marital status and qualifying dependents, you may be able to adjust your filing status. The five main categories are single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and widow/widower with a dependent. If you've recently gotten married or separated for that matter, take the time to confirm your status. Those who are still unsure which category they fall into can take a quick quiz made available by the IRS.

 Save Green by Going Green

It’s no secret that going green greatly benefits the environment, but did you know it can also equate to big refunds? The IRS grants six main energy tax credits.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stocking Up On Sales- When Is It Worth It?

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A view of my currently half empty stockpile...
why I don't mind stocking up on more things.
(Pic taken before shelving today's shop.)
My husband, Mike, and I, have a disagreement when it comes to a certain frugal strategy, and I know that both his opinion and mine are valid. I decided to share both perspectives with you, share the rationale behind them both, and hear what you think about it.

Lets say you go to a store and see that a certain (consumable) item is on sale. Do you buy it? Do you stock up? If so, how much do you buy?

Today, I went grocery shopping, and I saw that the gluten free pasta that I buy on a semi regular basis is on sale. Usually it costs $2.80 per bag, and for the first time ever, I saw it on sale- for $2.14. My kids love pasta, I like it because it is a variation from our all too frequently eaten rice as a starch... and though I do know how to make my own pasta, that is just not happening at this point in time- pasta is my lazy supper. But I feel guilty about serving it because it is so expensive. But I do serve it anyhow. I just try not to do it so frequently because of the price.

Recently, when I went to the "scratch and dent" store, they were selling gluten free corn flakes (without lots of crazy ingredients) for only $1.42 per box, instead of $5.71 a box (or more) that it usually is.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

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This week, I think I did ok in terms of frugality, etc... Nothing super spectacular in my opinion, certain things I did regularly the past few weeks, in terms of cloth diapering and potty training, etc... lay by the wayside. It was very rainy and icky weather this past week, so I felt it curtailed my frugality options. But all in all, I think I did pretty well in terms of keeping our expenses and waste down this week.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

High Protein Chocolate Pancakes Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Soaked, Refined Sugar Free, Gum Free

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When I am being lazy, or didn't prepare in advance, my kids get cereal and milk for breakfast, and I scrounge around in the fridge for leftovers to eat since I can't eat the cereal and milk... But I vastly prefer to have a yummy breakfast food that is "breakfasty" and is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free, healthy, full of protein, cheap, and easily digestible. Tough to come up with that, though. These chocolate pancakes fit the bill, though. I've made them many times, just threw things together, but finally the last time I made them, I measured out the ingredients so I could share the recipe here with you. The biggest issue with these pancakes is that for them to be more easily digestible, because they are made with chickpea flour, they need to be soaked overnight, either with a fermented medium, or with something acidic, to help break down the phytic acid. I use kombucha to soak it, but you could also use water kefir, or 3 additional cups water and 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar instead of the kombucha.
If you don't want to soak your pancakes, feel free to leave out that step entirely.

I use minimal sweetener in this, also because coconut sugar isn't so cheap, but also because I'm trying to get myself and my kids used to having less sweet things, breaking the "sugar craving" overload that most people have in their life. I find these pleasantly sweet as it is, and don't eat them with any syrup, and neither do my kids, but you can either increase the amount of sweetener in the recipe if you want, or eat them with syrup or any other sweetener.

High Protein Chocolate Pancakes Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Soaked, Refined Sugar Free

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cleaning and Decluttering For Baby's Arrival

Anneliese, a few hours old. NOT the new baby
(who hasn't been born yet)! This is just illustrative.
My husband and I have been cleaning the house, and especially our bedroom the past few days. Reason being? Nesting instinct, I guess, because it definitely needs to be done before the baby is born.
Our home is small and has no built in closets or storage spaces whatsoever (other than kitchen cupboards). Because of that, our room has sort of become the "storage room" of our small home, with bags of clothing that we aren't currently using being stored high up, above the shelves that house our clothes, under the bed, in the corners under cupboards, etc... It's crazy, I know, and if we actually had the means of storing clothes somewhere else instead of our bedroom, I'd vastly prefer that, but unfortunately it is what it is, and our room is the de-facto storage facility...

Mike and I spent our entire Sunday finding every bag, going through them, sorting them out, and finding what was in each bag. Silly me, when I put them away, I didn't label them clearly as to what was in them, nor did I put them away in any sort of order, so it was definitely difficult to figure out where the newborn clothes were. But eventually, we did find them. And found lots of clothes that I am going to pass on to my sister for her kids.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

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How was your week? My week was pretty good, pretty frugal. I am proud of myself and my frugal accomplishments this week. Some of them were easy, but some definitely took a lot of self control, and that's where I am most proud of myself.

Acquired some kitchen utensils (soup tureen, a metal tea kettle, a few trays) and a small cupboard for free from a neighbor who moved away and didn't want to take them with her.

I felt really nauseous and the only food that appealed to me, that I was craving, was super expensive- either steak, beef with broccoli, or cashew chicken. Chinese restaurant food, mainly. I nearly sent someone to go buy the stuff for me to make them, expensive as they are... but in the end, scratched that, and made my own "Chinese takeout" style meal with cheap stuff I had in the house already- chicken hearts and broccoli from the reduced rack stall.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stocking Up At An Incredible Sale

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My groceries. I had no energy to lay them out
pretty for a picture- so here are the filled bags!
Anneliese REFUSED to leave the picture's frame..
A few days ago, when I was waiting for the bus, I saw this poster announcing this sale on groceries by a certain local organization that tries to provide cheap food and groceries to the area. In memory of someone that passed away, they said that today they'd be having a sale with even better prices than usual, and I took a photo of the sign, to study and see if it was really worth it to shop there. We're tighter on cash at the moment, so even if its cheap stuff, unless it is incredible pricing, I can't just stock up on things and use up our cash on that.
At the same time, I am due relatively soon, and I'm honest with myself that I need to take it easy after I give birth, that I need to be able to feed myself and my family without too much stress, and reduce the amount of housework I have to do... even if it means spending more money on groceries than I would usually. Since this sale was selling things that would make my life easier after birth, at amazingly low prices compared to their typical prices, even compared to the incredible prices that they usually offer, I decided that I would stock up on certain things, all the while trying to be frugal about it.

I hadn't particularly planned on blogging about my shop, but I bumped into a local blog reader who was also at the sale, and she said she looked forward to reading about what I bought and why. So Ruth, here it is. In your honor! And I hope other people appreciate this post as well.

Carrot Soup with Crunchy Chickpeas and Tahini Recipe

 photo IMG_1449_zpsd306ab16.jpgHave you ever had a ton of carrots and wondered what delicious foods you can make with them? Wonder no more. I bought close to 10 pounds of carrots when I saw them at a ridiculously low price, and then I was wondering what to do with them.

This carrot soup recipe was the perfect solution for using up large quantities of carrots, didn't require buying other veggies that I may or may not have had in the house (because it was carrots that were on sale, not other stuff), and didn't require any expensive ingredients.

I have another terrific carrot soup I like to make, but it's chilled, calls for orange juice, etc... and orange juice/oranges isn't something I always have on stock in my house, but all the ingredients for this recipe are things I keep on stock in my house and aren't expensive ingredients. And I wanted a hot soup- I like cold soups in the summer, but in the winter, I like thicker, heartier soups....

This soup was a hit in my house- hope everyone likes it as much as my family did! I based it on this recipe, but made changes to make it perfect for my tastes.

It is perfect for many diets, including grain free, vegan, gluten free, paleo, etc... in addition to being super frugal! And yes, carrots are one of the cheapest veggies you can get in the winter, so hurry up and make some today!
(Yes, it is a few steps to make it- but it's worth it, trust me on that!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Save and Live

 photo Depositphotos_11829358_xs_zpsec57e362.jpgThis is a guest post.

Things have changed and frugality is not just a way to live with fewer dollars per month anymore, it also represents a lifestyle in harmony with nature, less invasive and more environmentally friendly. The era of mass consumption has left us with a planet in trouble: climate change, impoverished populations... but more than anything else a dangerous loss of contact with reality, not to mention the immense waste problem we are facing.

Problems With no Solutions?

The only way to save the natural world is to choose a series progressive actions: in other words, we need to find answers that help us preserve our real wealth, and not only the money we have in the bank, and ensure the sustainability of our way of life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

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You have no idea how frustrated I am! All week long I was tracking my frugal accomplishments this week, and I was in the middle of editing my post when the whole thing got deleted, and no amount of CTRL Zing would get it back... So now I have to rewrite the post, filling it in from memory... So it won't be as good/complete as it would have been. And now it can't be divided by day of the week....

Oh well...

I was a little less frugal this week than last, simply because I was feeling nauseous so much this week and simply didn't have much energy to do too many extras....