Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Frugal Race Car Birthday Party for my Boys

 photo IMG_1513Medium_zpsd42c72f1.jpgMy eldest son, Lee (now 7), and second son, Ike (now 5), have birthday's 4 days apart. Every year I debate whether I should make them a joint birthday party, especially since they basically have the same friends, and it would take the work load off my shoulders to be able to knock out two birds with one stone... However, I also want the kids to feel special, that they get their own special day and celebration, that they're valued for themselves, and not just as part of a whole... so I vacillate. Three birthdays ago I made them separate parties, two years ago I made them a joint party, last year I made them separate parties, and then this year I was planning on making them separate parties, but then...
My extended family has lots of birthdays in September, and the family was planning on getting together to celebrate two birthdays that were on the same day, and when they realized that my sons' birthdays (as well as another person) were also within a couple of days, we decided to have a joint family celebration for all 5 birthday boys... That clinched it- if there was going to be a joint family party, I wasn't also going to make two birthday parties for my boys in addition- I'd do joint for them as well (and they were cool with it).

So, I asked them what theme they wanted for the birthday party, and they both agreed to a race car themed party.
I've written previously about why I like doing themed parties, but in short, I find we can have more fun and make the party cheaper as long as it fits a theme.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

 photo fatw_zpsab97fa7b.png

Hi there every one! It's time for the weekly round up, where I tell you just what I did to save money this week. As you can see, it was a rather skimpy one- I didn't really do so many frugal things, or rather, at least not as many as I typically do. But didn't do much spending either, so that's the other side of the same coin.

Here's what I did to save money this week (not broken down by day of the week or category, sorry!):

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Beef Maqlooba Recipe- (Upside Down Middle Eastern Rice) Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

My family isn't the biggest eggplant fans. This is annoying, because eggplant is a veggie that I can get relatively cheaply most of the time, and I very often get eggplant for free. And of course, most of the time I cook up that eggplant, my kids refuse to eat it. Which is a bummer.
This recipe, maqlooba, is a Middle Eastern dish, meaning "upside down", which is how it is generally served- by flipping the ready dish upside down... though I never bother flipping it upside down, and just serve it straight from the pot. Maqlooba is also made with eggplant... and my family enjoys it, despite the eggplant.
I've made maqlooba twice already, and both times it was polished off before I could take a picture (right now I just have a little bit left in the pot, so I can't photograph it). It really is delicious.
Best part is that this recipe can be made with cheapo cuts of beef, but it is still super soft and delicious.

Maqlooba is slightly complex to make, and takes a few hours, but in my opinion, it's worth every minute of prep time.
(Next time I make it, I'll try to get a pic and update this post to include the photograph.)

Beef Maqlooba Recipe- (Upside Down Middle Eastern Rice) Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Frugal Anniversary Celebration- and Our Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

 photo IMG_1621_zps723df8bb.jpg
Our frugal anniversary celebration- across the street from our hotel
I've been just a wee bit exhausted lately, so pardon me for slacking a bit on the blog posting... I know my "frugal round up" for the week shoulda been posted 2 days ago already.. and I also wanted to tell you about my frugal wedding anniversary celebration last week...
I'll admit- other than our wedding anniversary celebration, not sure I remember exactly what I did that was frugal- as I said, I had a long tiring week... so... here's how we had a terrific frugal but special eighth anniversary.

I mentioned how I got a free voucher from TravelPony.com to any hotel around the world, and I wasn't sure at first where to use it.
There's a city a little further away from us that is very touristy and special, with unique features that I really wanted to see and have never been there yet, but couldn't afford to go to, and the voucher would have covered one night's hotel stay there, and I might have been able to get another free night's stay at another place there, through a family member. The thing is, though, that upon research, I found out that nearly everything in that city is extremely expensive and overpriced because of it being a tourist trap, and in addition to that, it's not very friendly to people coming without a car. To top it off, the bus ride there is many hours and pretty expensive.
On the other hand, there is a city that is somewhat near me- only an hour or so by bus- that I've been to more than once, but never as a tourist, only running errands, so I never really got to see the touristy side of that city. I'd be able to get a two night's stay there with my voucher. People suggested to me to save the trip to that other city for when I have some extra money to spend there, since I wouldn't really enjoy the trip so much if I weren't able to go to all the overpriced attractions, and save the bus fare there, and use the money I would have spent on the bus fare to treat ourselves to a restaurant in the closer city...
I decided to do just that. Because as much as I wanted to do something special, and going to the further city would have been special, just being able to go away with my husband and no kids (ok, baby came with us, but that's close enough) for the first time ever in 8 years of marriage, so we decided to keep the costs of the trip down.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

Remember how I mentioned that I like healthy baked goods for breakfast that taste yummy, are low cost, and are filled with nutrition? This pumpkin muffin fits the bill, with its veggies, protein, non refined sweeteners, in addition to it being gluten free and vegan.
I based it off of this recipe.
I used the first 6 flours listed in the recipe to make my all purpose gluten free flour mix without xanthan gum. If you have a mix you prefer, or if you don't necessarily want it to be gluten free, you can replace the first 6 flours with another all purpose flour mix or wheat flour or spelt.

Pumpkin Muffins Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What To Do With An Entire Freezer Full of Defrosted Meat and Fish

 photo 10582748_10154569663275580_7395215824806364919_oMedium_zpsbe63f213.jpg
Part of Mount Protein
My husband and I just came back from a 2 day vacation, and, having made sure to clean the house thoroughly before we left, were looking forward to relaxing in our spotless home as soon as we arrived.
Already at the front door, we could tell something was wrong, as our lights wouldn't turn on...
Turns out the circuit breaker tripped. And why? Because somehow, our freezer door wasn't fully closed, and everything in the freezer melted, dripped down onto the circuitry, and shorted it out, as well as dripping into our fridge and all over the floor...

In addition to all the huge mess on the floor, the biggest headache was that my freezer was packed to the brim with fish, chicken, and meat that I bought on sale... and all defrosted. Fortunately, it was still all cold, so nothing spoiled...
But since that meat couldn't be refrozen unless it was cooked first... I had the monumental task of cooking it all up tonight and refreezing it. (Once a month cooking style.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

 photo fatw_zpsab97fa7b.png

Hi y'all! I hope you have had a great and frugal week this past week! This week in our hours involved lots of cooking and making messes in the kitchen... but all for good things, as we had a few birthday related get togethers...
And another plus- its been cool enough that we didn't use the AC even one time, and we barely used the fans either. So that's cool.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Golden Rice with Raisins, Peas, and Walnuts Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Sugar Free

 photo IMG_1583_zpsdd12b483.jpgLast night I went to a get together for the ladies in my community, a meet and greet type of event. As part of the "get to know you" event, people were asked to bring in a food that had something to do with their favorite color. I love blue the most of all colors, but since I couldn't think of any foods (other than blueberries, which I don't have) that had to do with blue, I decided to go with my second favorite color- gold. After all, I had a pack of golden raisins in my cupboard that I bought on sale, and I knew I'd be able to cook up something yummy with those raisins.
Golden rice with golden raisins seemed like the perfect combination, so I made up this recipe based on another one that I found, hoping that people would like it, but not counting on it. Luckily, people were raving about it; it was all finished up, and a few people asked me for the recipe, asked me if it was on my blog. Not only was it not on my blog, I didn't 100% remember the changes I made to it... so I decided to try it out and make another batch again today, this time recording the recipe. My family loved it, didn't stop eating it all day.
And the lucky part of it- it's all vegan, a full protein, and relatively low cost.

Golden Rice with Raisins, Peas, and Walnuts Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Sugar Free

Friday, September 12, 2014

Super Healing Curried Fish Broth Recipe- Tasty Too! Gluten Free, GAPS Legal, Dairy Free and Egg Free

 photo IMG_1570_zps6262fcea.jpgThe seasons are changing, and it seems that along with that come colds. Oh well. Since more than one person in my family is feeling under the weather (including myself) I decided to whip up a super healing soup to aid in the healing. I made this soup because it was pretty simple to make, is comprised purely of healing ingredients, and it had the added bonus of actually tasting good enough that I'd make it again, even when not sick. Another plus- it was super cheap to make as well.
Bone broth is very healing, and fish broth is the most nutritious of them all, especially when made with fish heads. Even better is that fish bones and heads are either super cheap or free from the fish monger- I get mine free from the fish monger at the farmer's market. These were sitting in my freezer, so I had them on hand and didn't need to go out and get some.
Ginger is antibacterial and antiviral, helps fight both the cold and the flu, and in general boosts the immune system, and it tastes terrific with fish, so that was a given in my broth.
Garlic and onion are one of the most effective antiviral and antibacterial things out there, especially when raw, so I decided to add them to the individual bowls of soup, not into the cooking broth.
Coconut is also very healing for the body, is immune boosting, and is an antiviral. Perfect for a cold- so I used homemade coconut milk in my soup. Coconut milk takes less than 5 minutes of work to make and is super simple, something I didn't mind making even when under the weather. Also, it tastes great in broth, especially fish broth, and with the other ingredients I was planning on putting in. (You can use canned coconut milk if you must, but it's less healthy.)
Cinnamon, turmeric, and hot pepper all are cold fighting as well, so of course, I threw those in. And they're amazing together.
Lemon juice (use fresh if at all possible) is high in vitamin C and is antimicrobial. And makes things taste better...

So, now that you have the reason for each of these ingredients, here's the recipe:

Super Healing Curried Fish Broth Recipe- Tasty Too! Gluten Free, GAPS Legal, Dairy Free and Egg Free

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Great Hotel Deals on TravelPony

 photo travelpony_zps50541e75.pngI have to say I am super excited about next week. Mike and I have our 8th wedding anniversary, and while we generally do celebrate it in a frugal but nice way, you have no idea how much I was hoping to be able to go away, just the two of us (plus baby), but unfortunately hotels here are very overpriced and it simply wasn't in the budget. (I've wanted to go away together since I was pregnant with Rose, on a "baby moon", but prices for hotels here are just so expensive...)

Then something amazing happened- I was contacted by a representative from TravelPony.com asking them to review their hotel discount website, and in exchange, they'd give me site credit and I'd be able to use that towards a cheap or free vacation.

Clothes Swaps Are Worth It

 photo IMG_1507Medium_zps2c067913.jpgI must admit, I've been going out at night an awful lot lately. In some weeks, I've left all the kids at home but Rose and gone out for hours, at least 3-4 times in one week.
Last night I told Mike that I was going to a clothes swap- he looks at me and says "Do you really need to be going out every night? Relax, take it easy... And anyhow, we have too many things already at home- do we need to be filling up the house with more stuff?"
But of course, you know me- I can't resist a deal... and since the cost of this swap was only the $2 that was collected from everyone and donated to charity, plus the transportation there and back, I decided it was worth it.
I made a deal with Mike though- I donated a backpack full worth of clothes (mostly things that weren't fitting me anymore) and promised that I wouldn't bring back more than I could fit in the backpack, so I wasn't filling the house with clutter, but getting rid of stuff and replacing it with other things.

I had a great time at the swap, and came home with quite a haul. But true to my word, I managed to fit everything into my backpack and didn't take a stitch more.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Since people liked this format last time I did it, and since I didn't manage to keep track of what we did each day to save money, here's what we did this last week to be frugal, broken down by categories.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Asian Kohlrabi Slaw Recipe- Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Vegan

 photo IMG_1460_zps2899df5c.jpgI got a huge amount of kohlrabi at the farmer's market the other day- after I paid at the "reduced rack" stand, the owner pretty much threw two gigantic bags of kohlrabi and eggplant at me for free- more than I could possibly use- I even gave a portion away and still have too much, and need to figure out what to do with it.
Kohlrabi is cabbage's cousin, but it is sort of a root veggie (it grows half in the ground, half out) that tastes like a crisp cabbage... and I was trying to figure out something other than my standard (slice, oil, lemon, salt, pepper) to do with the kohlrabi.
I came across this recipe, and was inspired by the seasonings to make a kohlrabi slaw, which was then devoured by my family so quickly that I already whipped up another batch.
I hope you like it as much as my family did!
And if you can't get kohlrabi as easily as I can, I am 99% positive that you can replace the kohlrabi in this recipe with shredded cabbage and it'll be perfect.

Asian Kohlrabi Slaw Recipe- Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Vegan

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Fun and Frugal Workout Sessions- Freestyle Dancing With My Kiddos

My awesome baby carrier, which I use for my
 workouts. I put Rose on my front, and I pull up
 the strap over the leg, until it reaches and supports
 Rose's back and head for while I exercise.
My calves are sore; my muscles all over my body are aching.
You know why?
Not because I've been to the gym recently...
In fact, I don't think I've ever been "to the gym".
But I have recently had a few amazing workouts, at home in my very tiny home, with all my kids at home with me, including a baby who was wide awake. I had such fun with my workouts!
I wanted to share with you what I did for my workouts... since it's a trend I would like to continue.

First off, for my workout I chose a time that my baby would want to be heading to sleep in the near future. My baby likes to go to sleep while I'm wearing her in my carrier, so I decided to make my workout more intense by "weight lifting" while exercising- I wore her in my baby carrier during my work out! For this, obviously you need a good, supportive baby carrier, and fortunately I have one...

My goal in my workout sessions is less to focus on specific muscles, less to muscle build, and more to get my heart pumping, get sweating, speed up my metabolism, and burn calories.
To do that, what you need to do is to get moving. Fast.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Giving Presents To Kids- Smart or Foolish?

 photo IMG_1421_zps79ff676d.jpg
Presents bought and waiting for my
kids' birthday in the next few days
Tomorrow my older son, Lee, turns 7, and 4 days later, my second son, Ike, turns 5. I just went birthday present shopping for them, and then called up an extremely frugal person I know, to discuss the logistics about gift giving with them (being as I found a large amount of homeschooling books for the kids at the used book store, in addition to the birthday presents I got them, and wasn't sure how and when I should give the books...

The person I had called to discuss it with (who I know who reads my blog- if he/she wants to out him/herself, he/she can) was saying they don't give birthday gifts in their families-"What's the point," he/she says? "If someone needs something, we buy it for them, if we don't need it, we don't buy it."
"What about toys for the kids, where do you get them stuff?"
"I get them things from swaps and go to as many as I can."
"So you swap gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc... between spouses, but not for your kids?"
"Nope, we don't swap gifts between spouses either. Again, if we need something, we buy it, but don't buy things 'just because'."
"So you do nothing to celebrate your kids' birthdays?"
"We have the required party in pre-school, and then last year, since my kids' birthday and their friend's birthday are around the same time, we made a party- invited a few more kids over to our house, and made pita pizzas together."
"Don't you want to make your kids feel special on their birthday?"
"The pita pizza party makes them feel special."

I was a bit mind blown.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments on Vacation This Past Week

Last week, my family went on a great, frugal vacation to the seaside. We're lucky to have a family member who owns a place we are able to stay in by the sea, so we are able to keep the cost of our vacation down to just the food for the trip as well as transportation there and back (fortunately not too expensive).
 photo IMG_1279Medium_zps5df1cc07.jpg
My three oldest, having fun on the beach
This is a trip we do every summer, and it's one my kids really look forward to all year, as do I. It's exhausting (who knew going out to the beach and playing in the and and water all day could be so tiring?) but worth every second of it. You can see from the pics just how much they enjoyed themselves...

One thing I like best about beach/seaside vacations is that the water is free; its fun and we don't need to pay for entertainment or to do other touristy things- the beach is more than enough...

Here's what we did frugally this past week while on vacation- we left on our trip Sunday afternoon and arrived home Saturday night. We spent Friday and Saturday at my dad's house, mid way between the seaside and my home.

 photo IMG_1259Medium_zps3449de70.jpg