Monday, June 30, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

We had a terrific frugal week. Anneliese is more potty trained than ever- even sometimes for #2... so we are rarely using diapers for her. Rose is exclusively in cloth diapers. It was a very got week and despite the heat, we didn't turn on fans much, let alone air conditioning and managed just fine. I also tried to keep the windows open for light instead of turning on the lightbulbs all the time.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Healthy Homemade Butterfingers Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

 photo IMG_0714_zpsd4e39e06.jpgSome foods are pure evil. Because you can't not eat the whole thing in one go. They are just so super delicious and addictive that your self control immediately flies out the window...
This is one of those foods.
And yes, they're homemade Butterfingers. And yes, they're healthy. As in no weird chemicals, no transfats, no refined sugar, and high in protein. But you still don't want to be downing the whole thing in one sitting... so only make it when you have guests or some other way to ensure that you won't finish the whole thing yourself.
I blame my friend Cori for introducing me to this recipe. I first made it the way it is listed on Chocolate Covered Katie's site, and it was super awesome... But I still felt guilty about making it, since it had white sugar, and because the honey it used was super expensive. I have this thing- I use non refined sugar in my foods most of the time. And sometimes I will use refined sugar, but rarely. But I feel like it's a waste of money to use an expensive non refined sugar, like honey, together with processed food- it feels like it cancels each other out. ;) So yea, I stopped making this recipe.
And then I decided to tweak it, to make it refined sugar free. And to find a cheaper alternative to honey for the recipe.
So I replaced the honey and the molasses with date syrup/date honey, since date syrup/honey has a sort of molasses like taste anyhow, and replaced the sugar with coconut sugar. It came out awesomely. Now I have less guilt, both financially and health-wise about making this.
I use gluten free corn flakes for this- to keep this entirely refined sugar free, make sure to use a sugar free version of corn flakes. And to keep this refined sugar free, either use refined sugar free chocolate chips, or use homemade chocolate.
Of course, if you want to, you can make the recipe like the original, but my version is vegan and refined sugar free and costs me half the price it would cost me to make it with honey.
If you want to make this grain free, I suspect that it would work with these homemade grain free coconut flake "corn flakes", minus the stevia, but I haven't tried it myself, so if you want to try it, let me know how it comes out.

Healthy Homemade Butterfingers Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

Friday, June 27, 2014

Constructively Dealing With Negativity

 photo IMG_0708_zpsd2ce7173.jpg
My burner, cleaned as good as it can get,
drying in the sun on my porch.
Yesterday, my husband and I spent hours cleaning up my house, especially my kitchen. We cleaned the counters, washed the dishes, put away the dishes, swept and mopped the floor, etc...
So, when I woke up this morning to this comment on my post from yesterday...

"Maybe you should take the hint and CLEAN YOUR KITCHEN. It is filthy. Ewwww that burner is making my skin crawl. So much for health of your family, how can they live with burners and walls covered in muck?!?"

I found it just a tad ironic and somewhat amusing. I do clean my kitchen. We just cleaned it! We clean it every day or two, at most.

If I were someone else, maybe that post would have gotten me upset. Maybe it would have made me cry.

But it didn't.

And it's not just because I have a thick skin, but rather, because I have a certain life policy about how I view and react to negative comments (both on my blog and in real life).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fixing My Pressure Cooker

 photo IMG_0706_zpsc7e1a45f.jpg
And of course, once I got the pressure cooker fixed, we ran out of gas.
And the gas company won't deliver until Sunday or Monday.
Fortunately, we have these two spare electric burners...
To say that I really rely on my pressure cooker... would be an understatement.
If you'd send me to a dessert island and would only send 3 kitchen items along with me, I'd definitely pick my pressure cooker as one of the items, along with my cast iron skillet and a metal spatula. Those are probably my three most commonly used kitchen tools.

I use my pressure cooker for many reasons. Firstly, because it takes less time to cook things in the pressure cooker, so I can get more done, since I don't have to wait as long for the food to get cooked. Additionally, it heats my house less because it means the fire isn't on as long, and it also lets off less steam into the air, so the steam doesn't make my kitchen even hotter on hot days. There's also the added benefit that it uses less gas, and therefore saves money. And because it shortens the cooking time on legumes and gizzards and other slow cooking cheap foods, it makes me more encouraged to use cheaper ingredients since I am not worried about needing to be tied down to the kitchen for hours. And when I am really short on time and didn't have supper already made, the pressure cooker helps me have a meal ready, start to finish, in very little time, so I don't feel the need for expensive and unhealthy convenience foods.

Today I had a lot of cooking that I needed to get done. I needed to make veggie scrap broth, cook chicken soup, cook up chicken gizzards, make rice, and boil potatoes. And for each of those items, I intended to use my pressure cooker.

I had already mentally prepared an assembly line. First the gizzards, then the broth, etc... I washed my gizzards, cleaned them off, put them in the pressure cooker, and then after a few minutes of it cooking, I hear a hissing noise, see water spraying out of the top of my pressure cooker, pooling on the cover and dripping over, putting out the flame on the stove.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Busy Frugal Day

 photo IMG_0701_zps11b914af.jpg
Photo from my Grandma's house, now hanging in mine
Yesterday I pretty much spent all day on the computer, making calculations and writing blog posts.
Today, I stepped back from the computer and actually got stuff done, and had a pretty good day. Exhausting, but good.

First, I made homemade pancakes from scratch for the kids for breakfast.
Then, once my boys were in school, it was time to clean up.
I had a sink load of dishes to wash, and since I am trying to cut back our water bill (since water is expensive here), I decided to try to wash the "super frugal way" with 2 basins, one filled with water for soaking and rinsing off after soaping, and the other filled with water to rinse with after rinsing in the first basin. My husband is often the one who washes the dishes, and when he does it, I don't interfere in how he does it, but I wanted to try doing it this way, and it worked very nicely and used much less water.
When I finished washing the dishes, I took the water from the second basin and used it to mop the floor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breakdown and Analysis of Total Grocery Expenses this Month

 photo IMG_0579_zps32b16672.jpg
Some of the produce I got this month, about half free,
and the other half very cheaply
It seemed like ever since I started tracking my grocery expenses down to the last cent (I did it a few months already, with a few month break in the middle), they just kept going higher and higher and higher, despite my trying to bring them down. The first month I tracked our grocery expenses, we spent $431.50 on groceries, the next month $479.50... Last month our total grocery expenditure was $619 and I decided that we absolutely have to reverse this upward trend, and start getting it back down, at least under $500, and if I could get it down to $430, that would be awesome. But I wasn't sure it would be possible. Roughly 2 weeks ago, my husband and I agreed to challenge ourselves to see if we could keep our total grocery expenditure down to $514, but weren't sure if we would be able to do it.

Well, let me get right down to brass tacks- we didn't manage. While we did manage to get a lower total bill than last month, our entire grocery bill for this past month was $606.20, well over the goal of $514.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Ok, I had a long day today, but don't want to go to bed without first posting my frugal accomplishments of the past week. This past week I spent money, but did it for frugal reasons. Among them- bulk buying, and thrift store shopping.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Pudding Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

I love pudding. My kids really love pudding as well. Who doesn't love pudding?
My kids would love if I would give them pudding every day, but buying pudding can get pretty expensive, and I don't even want to think about all the junk in the pudding from the store.
So I just make my own pudding. I have included 2 different alternative recipes for vanilla pudding- one is refined sugar free, but it's more expensive. The other is with regular sugar, though I bet it would work just as great with coconut sugar or other non refined granulated sugars, though again, that ups the price.
One thing I like about making pudding is that you can use it to make a fancy dish, like this parfait shown, by layering your homemade pudding, crumbled cookies or cakes, and homemade jam. In fact, the cookies in that picture were an experimental batch of cookies that I made that ended up being too crumbly but tasted great- so into a parfait they went! I've also made parfait with cakes that were too crumbly. I layered them with the pudding and homemade plum jam that I made with free plums that I picked myself.
Both recipes for pudding that I am posting are egg free, and both can be made vegan easily by using dairy free milk in place of the dairy milk.
Of course, I use homemade dairy free milks to keep down the price, but if you don't have the time to make them yourself and/or don't mind the price increase, you can certainly use store bought non dairy milks. I have not tried making these with other non dairy milks, such as rice or oat or soy milk, but feel free to experiment with them.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

Step Into My (Low-Cost) Office

This is a guest post.

Step Into My (Low-Cost) Office

Running a home office has many advantages: it’s easier to get to work and to focus, and work is completed more quickly and creatively. The downside to running a home office is that all expenses relating to your office are yours and yours alone. For this reason, it’s a good idea to cut costs wherever possible.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Homemade All Purpose Spice Mix Recipe- Ideal for Roasting and Grilling

 photo IMG_0620_zps9126a356.jpgI've discovered my new favorite spice mix. I use it on everything. It works well with chicken or fish, or on any roasted or grilled veggies. I first ever made this with cauliflower, but it tasted so great that I decided to try it out on roasted chicken and it was terrific. Since then I've put it on pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes, fish, broccoli, etc... It is a hit. You can leave out the sugar if you want. I'll be honest that I don't generally measure it out- I just sprinkle each spice on until it "looks right" but for people who want a more exact measurement, here it is. And because I actually measured it out for y'all... I now have it in a container to use whenever I want. :-D

Homemade All Purpose Spice Mix Recipe

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How To Take Apart Wooden Pallets To Use For Building

 photo IMG_0600_zpsa5591e91.jpg
Yesterday morning, as I left my house to take the boys to school, I saw two large wooden pallets sitting in the dumpster. There are so many things you can do with wooden pallets, including making it into furniture, so I really wanted those wooden pallets.
Only they're big and bulky, and we live in a teeny tiny house with no yard of our own, nor even a porch of our own, so if we'd bring in those pallets, they'd take up a lot of room in our house. And I wouldn't bring them in without first speaking to Mike.
I called him up, told him I saw something that I wanted to dumpster drive. He said "Oh, you mean the wooden pallets? I wanted to take them when I saw them, but I was in a rush waiting for the bus- please take them!" He also saw the value in having them to use for upcycling projects.

Before we could make any project with them, we first needed to take them apart so we would have access to the wood.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Lower Your Travel Costs- From the Basics to the Very Extreme

Today, I was doing some thinking about the trip I took to the US in January for 2 weeks, and remembered that I had a post I wanted to write about cheap traveling that I just... never got around to writing. Until today. (You know how that works, life gets in the way.) So, at long last, here it is.

Fortunately, the money to pay for my trip didn't come out of my pocket, but even so, I don't like to be wasteful with other people's money, so I tried to make the trip be as cheap as possible. This post will cover a lot of frugal traveling strategies, many of them lessons I learned about frugal travel when planning and on my trip.

Transportation mode- plane, train, or bus- which is cheapest? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

We had a good, frugal week in our household. Rose is still fully cloth diapered and exclusively nursed, and we're still working on potty training with Anneliese so not using so many diapers for her. I was trying to make a big emphasis on serving more legumes this week so as to bring down our overall grocery costs. I ended up going away for the weekend, to spend it with my family, after my grandma passed away on Thursday, so that ended up in my not needing to cook for the weekend (other than gluten free desserts), which definitely saved money.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Tribute to My Grandma

Even though today is Father's Day, I won't be posting about my dad, but rather, about my grandmother, Grandma Ruth, who passed away Thursday evening, one month shy of her 81st birthday.

 photo grandma2_zps2479b15b.jpg
My Grandma Ruth and me, on May 29, 2014.

She was a special lady. Growing up, she lived an ocean away from us, but made sure to keep up a relationship with us, either flying across the world once or twice a year to visit, or flying our family in to visit her. About 10 years ago, my family moved to the country in which we currently live, to be able to spend more time with my Grandma, and she became a steady presence in our lives and the lives of our spouses and our kids.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Grocery Shopping Challenge and More Free Produce

 photo IMG_0579_zpsc6f569f9.jpgAfter seeing how high my grocery bill total was last month ($619), I decided to try to do my best to lower our grocery bill this month, and we have been doing pretty well. We now have 10 days more of the month, and I set a cap for the amount I would like to be spending on groceries- $514. As of yesterday, we'd spent $432 on groceries, so that gives us just $82 left if I want to not exceed my goal of $514. So it's a challenge that Mike and I will try to do- see if we can last the next 10 days on just $82. The clincher? As of this morning, my fridge was nearly bare- other than the fruit I picked yesterday, some onions, and a watermelon, we had no produce in the house. And we go through a lot of produce in our family. What makes this harder as well is that part of what we spent so far this month- $75- was spent on a bulk purchase of 50 lbs of green buckwheat.
So, here's my challenge- feed the family gluten free, healthy food, and not get past the $514 mark. And if we fail? Then hopefully we won't go over by a lot, and we'll still be spending less than we did last month.

Today, I really felt like things were going the "right way" for me, that I got so many little "gifts" from the universe/God, to help me with this challenge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How I Got Lots of Free Fruit Today

 photo IMG_0553_zpsee8e7cf7.jpgThis morning, I started out with a pretty empty fridge. I am planning on taking a trip to the farmer's market to stock up on produce, so all I had today in my fridge, practically, was carrots.

Now, hours later, I have an additional 35.5 lbs of fruit that I got entirely free.

Let me explain how:

I got a call from a lady in my community this morning. She has plum trees and her trees are bursting with fruit, she tells me. Would I like some? she asks.
Absolutely, is my reply.
On one condition- she says. I'll give you a ton of plums, but when you can them or preserve them, I want a jar of jam or whatever it is you make.

Of course I took up that deal. Who would turn down such an offer?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How I Fixed My Son's Broken Sandal

I bought my sons sandals in April, since the weather here is good enough by then to wear sandals, which my boys live in until October or so. Unfortunately, despite my not buying the cheapest pairs of sandals I could find, Lee's sandals were very close to breaking to the point of being unwearable. The fabric that holds down the ring through which the velcro strap used to close the sandal feeds through was nearly ripped all the way through. On both sides.

 photo IMG_0538_zpsd8279115.jpg

I am loathe to spend more money on yet another pair of sandals for my son, especially so soon after buying this current pair, but I can't leave my son with no shoes to wear. So, I planned on replacing the leather type fabric holding the ring in place, but currently can't find my leather scraps that I had, so in the meantime, I "hacked" a repair that should work temporarily, and at the very least, stop the shoe from ripping more.

Here's how I did it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hi there! How was your week? We had a decently frugal week, despite having certain occasions that would have been pretty expensive, but even so, we managed to keep the costs down. 
As for the things that are not day specific... Rose is still fully nursing, fully cloth diapered, and Anneliese is still partially diapered, partially potty training. This week I've been pretty good at turning off lights and fans when not in use, and using sunlight when I could as lighting. And we've been on top of laundry so no needing to re-wash a load, and only line dried all the laundry instead of using the dryer.

Here's what I did to save money each day this week:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

3 Thought Provoking Education Videos

I am beyond exhausted, had a long day, and had a post planned...
But I won't get around to posting it today, it seemed.
So instead, here's three videos I really enjoyed, having to do with education, and trying to change the state of education today.

This first video is by a homeschooled teenager, and what he calls "hackschooling", how he uses homeschooling to allow him to pursue his dreams, be happy, and get educated.

 For those that can't watch the video directly, here's a link to it on youtube:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rice with Lentils, Butternut Squash, and Craisins Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free

 photo IMG_0506_zpsec48e107.jpgAs I was planning to cook today, I couldn't figure out what I wanted to make for supper. I was thoroughly uninspired, so opened my cabinets and fridge to stare at what I had, hoping I would figure something yummy out. Fortunately, it didn't take long for inspiration to strike- I had craisins, lentils, butternut squash, and rice, and I somehow knew that they would be the perfect combination. As I usually do before I make up a recipe, I googled the ingredients to see if I'd come up with something similar that someone already made, but couldn't find any recipe using all 4 of the ingredients- at most only 2 or 3 of the ingredients, but I was convinced, regardless, that it would taste great.
Fortunately, my hunch was correct, and my husband and kids all devoured it, as did I.
I highly recommend it. I actually made twice this amount, but it was a huge amount, so I halved it for your benefit. I used honey in mine, but you can just as easily make it with sugar or an alternative sugar like sucanat, depending on whether your goal is to keep this as cheap as possible, vegan, or as healthy as possible. To keep this refined sugar free, I buy craisins that are sweetened by apple juice concentrate.

Rice with Lentils, Butternut Squash, and Craisins Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Homemade Ginger Jello Recipe- Refined Sugar Free- and Homemade Gingerade Recipe

 photo IMG_0504_zps33f30ed4.jpgThis morning, unfortunately, a family member was throwing up. I put up a pot of chicken soup to boil, gave the family member little sips of kombucha and grape juice to hydrate, and decided I wanted to also make some jello since hydration is an issue when one is throwing up, and typically jello is easier to keep down than pure water. I could have made homemade apple jello, but I was thinking that a ginger based jello would probably be best, since ginger is a remedy for nausea and can prevent throwing up. Google gave me a few results for ginger jello, but they were all made from store bought ginger ale, something I didn't have at home, and that anyhow is expensive and difficult to get locally. I decided to make a ginger based drink- also known as gingerade, and turn that into jello.
Fortunately, by the time the ginger jello was ready a few hours later, this family member was fully better and no longer had a need for it, so it will be our dessert. It is certainly tasty enough to have as a dessert, doesn't just need to be made if someone isn't feeling well.
You can use sugar instead of honey to keep down the cost, though it obviously is less healthy that way. And you can just make this as a chilled drink if you want- gingerade- instead of turning it into jello, if that is what you desire.
I used 1.5 oz of ginger root and it was mildly gingery tasting- if you want a stronger ginger taste, use up to 2 oz.
This recipe is GAPS legal if made with honey.

Homemade Ginger Jello Recipe- Refined Sugar Free- and Homemade Gingerade Recipe

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sesame Encrusted Seared Tuna Steaks Recipe- Easy, Sugar Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free

 photo IMG_0490_zpsb006e61c.jpgI have a special event coming up where I wanted to serve a special dish- a fish dish. I saw tuna steaks being sold in the grocery store for not too expensive, but I was a little wary of buying them, because the one time I ate them before, they were so dry and sawdust like that they were a huge waste of money- it tasted like canned tuna fish, but even dryer!
I decided to buy it anyhow, and research how to make perfect tuna steaks that are moist, and learned that the trick is to just sear it on the outside, and do not let it overcook at all, and in fact, it should ideally be rare on the inside.
Today I tried out making the fish- broke off a small piece from the steaks, and cooked it up, and it was phenomenal. I loved it, my husband loved it, my kids, even my fish hater (Ike) loved it, because it tasted like the one type of fish he likes- tuna. Definitely not dry this way.
I encrusted my tuna steaks with sesame seeds- I wasn't sure they'd actually stick without any binder like egg or whatnot, but it worked out perfectly.
I'll be serving these along some Asian dishes including a cucumber wakame salad, Korean style swiss chard. I may also top the fish with avocado slices and sprinkle it with some wasabe, but that is still to be determined.
This recipe is naturally gluten free, allergy friendly (unless you happen to be allergic to fish or sesame seeds), grain free, Paleo and GAPS legal, sugar free, etc...

Sesame Encrusted Seared Tuna Steaks Recipe- Easy, Sugar Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Super Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipe- With Almond Milk or Sunflower Milk

Moussaka with Vegan Cheese Sauce
I love cheese. I really, really do. My heaven will be made out of cheese. Or something like that. Unfortunately, cheese doesn't really agree with my stomach. I can have it in small quantities and not react too badly, so I would do that more often, however, I recently discovered that my baby daughter, Rose, is sensitive when I eat dairy, any dairy, and my eating small amounts of dairy is enough to turn her from sweet and happy baby into super cranky pie who doesn't want to be put down, doesn't sleep well, and is very fussy and miserable. Anneliese was the same way. So I won't, because my desire for cheese and other dairy stuff does not trump that, and I am willing to go without things I love for the sake of someone I love.
But even though I can't have dairy, I still want that cheesy taste. I have tried plenty of dairy free vegan cheese sauces, some made with nutritional yeast, some made with non dairy milks, etc... This one is made with a combination of the two- I've made it with both homemade sunflower milk and homemade almond milk and it is simply divine.
You can use this vegan cheese sauce any way you'd usually use cheese. It works as a white sauce for things like ravioli, you can drizzle it over dairy free pizza in place of cheese, you can use it as a cheese topping for moussaka, lasagna, etc... Today I mixed it with my wild greens stuffed baked potatoes. Or, like my husband, who proclaims this sauce is absolutely delicious... you can just eat it by the spoonful out of the pan.
Does it taste exactly like cheese? No. But it definitely has a cheesy taste and fulfills my cravings for cheese.

Super Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipe- With Almond Milk or Sunflower Milk

Monday, June 2, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

This week, fortunately, has been pretty frugal. After my adding up my grocery expenses for this last month, I got very motivated to do things to lower our bills in general. I am going to try to make my groceries last 2 weeks, so I can lower our grocery bill by going shopping less frequently. The frugal things that we did all week this week was cloth diaper Rose exclusively, and breastfeed her exclusively, and work on potty training Anneliese so we used fewer diapers for her. We also only hung up the laundry to dry, no using the dryer.
And we've been more on top of turning off lights and fans, etc... when not in use.

Here's what else we did to save money this week:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homemade Mustardy Potato Salad- Mayonnaise Free and Vegan

 photo IMG_0404_zps53744978.jpgYesterday, we had a potluck picnic in the park with other families in the neighborhood. One of the (many) things I brought along was this potato salad, which was a hit the last time I was at a picnic (with my family), so I decided to make it again. While I can make potato salad with mayonnaise that comes out great, I didn't feel like making homemade mayonnaise, so decided to make a mustard based one, which, while different than the standard, is just as delicious, and in my opinion, a lot more delicious.
I tend to make this a day in advance, and let it soak the flavors in, but it can also be made and eaten immediately.
It's automatically gluten free, egg free, vegan, sugar free, etc... I'm sure if you wanted to, you could use fresh garlic and onions in this instead, but I didn't do it that way, so I can't tell you exactly how to do so.

Homemade Mustardy Potato Salad- Mayonnaise Free and Vegan

Prepaid Credit Cards

This is a guest post.

Getting the Most From Your Money

A prepaid debit card can be an easy and convenient tool for those looking to get a grip on their spending. If you are trying to stick to a budget or are trying to keep your kids to a budget, a prepaid card is worth having because you can only spend what is on the card. This limits your ability to make impulse purchases and put yourself even further in debt.