Sunday, November 30, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

It's that time again where I share with you all the fabulously frugal things I've done this past week- hopefully to inspire you and show you ideas where money can potentially be saved.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Menu and Recipe Roundup- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Low Cost and Healthy

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I haven't shared my menu yet! Can't have that happening!

I'm not making everything myself- my mom and I are splitting the work, but we've discussed the menu together and here's what we came up with. Everything on the menu is gluten free, egg free, and refined sugar free (with one exception).

Gluten Free Rolls. I'm making this recipe, which everyone seems to love.

Orange Soup. Not actually made with oranges, but rather, with all those yummy orange veggies- sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, a little zucchini and/or potatoes, and seasoned with nutmeg. Mom is making this.

Delicious Turkey Loaf- Whole turkeys are very hard to come by where I live (out of the US), not to mention expensive, but ground turkey is one of the cheaper types of meat, so my mom will be making my awesome turkey loaf recipe- though when I make it I usually spiral wild greens into it, but she'll be leaving that out.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free

 photo IMG_2308_zpsdddaa956.jpgI just made the most unbelievable pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was unbelievable in many ways- firstly, it was just really awesome- it's the reason why I am making the same exact recipe for pumpkin pie as I did last Thanksgiving- if something ain't broke, don't change it.
Secondly, it's unbelievable because it breaks the conventional rules of pumpkin pie- it doesn't have any white sugar or eggs or cream- and unlike most vegan pumpkin pies, it isn't tofu based either- it is soy free as well. So you have an allergy friendly, totally healthy pumpkin pie- one I can eat without any guilt or feeling ill afterward. Not that it is low carb- it definitely isn't- but it's the healthiest pumpkin pie recipe I've ever heard of.
I make mine crust free because I can't be bothered to cook up a pie crust, but if you're not lazy, feel free to make your favorite/healthiest pie crust with it. This is the gluten free vegan pie crust I made it with last year.

As for sweetener, that is versatile, and really is dependent on how sweet your squash is. This year, my squash was really not sweet at all (to the extent that I had my husband taste test it to make sure it was edible enough to make into a pumpkin pie), so I used a lot of sweetener. If you have a more sweet squash, feel free to use much less. If you're trying to cut costs/amount of added sweeteners, I'd suggest first using the squash mixed with the date paste, and then taste test it to see if it is sweet enough. If it isn't, add the sweeter (white sugar or coconut sugar) in small increments until it reaches the desired sweetness. If you have a good sweet squash there's a good chance you wouldn't need any additional sweetener after using the dates.

P.S. If you're wondering why I use butternut squash for pumpkin pie- that is what "traditional" pumpkin pie is made from- if you look in canned pumpkin pie filling, its nearly always made with butternut squash.

Gluten Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Pressure Cooker Saga

 photo pressurecookers_zps6a8b0a73.jpgOr- Why you should always use your brain in the kitchen.

Ever do something without thinking, for a split second, and then end up regretting that thoughtlessness for a long time after that?
Welcome to my morning.

I wanted to make some lentil soup for lunch, and the recipe called for chicken broth. I had some water left over from steaming pumpkins, and I figured if I steamed chicken wings (my new favorite way of eating them- steamed, then fried), the liquid would make an amazing broth to use as the base of my soup.-
Easy as pie.

I loaded the chicken wings into the steamer basket of my pressure cooker, and tried putting the cover in. It didn't go in so easily- I assumed because the pressure cooker was a little too full- but I pushed hard and got it in anyhow. When I went to seal the pressure cooker to start the cooking process, I was unable to, and that's when it hit me- I used the wrong cover!
I have two pressure cookers- one taller than the other, but both with approximately the same diameter. Approximately, but not exact.
And I managed to take the slightly bigger pressure cooker cover, and shove it in to the slightly smaller pressure cooker.
And it was stuck.

I tried and tried and tried to remove the pressure cooker's cover, but I had no success whatsoever.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Falling into Sales Traps on Black Friday (and in General)

Thanksgiving is coming up. And what does that mean? Talking about what you appreciate in your life? Talking about the history of the holiday? Perhaps... but on the blogosphere, especially in the frugal blogosphere, the thanksgiving aspect of the holiday is severely overshadowed by the countless discussions about Black Friday, pre-Black Friday, and pre-pre Black Friday sales. What is on sale, what has the best sales, what is the best way to make the most of these amazing sales...
And you know what that does? 
It makes you think about all the things you want in your life, all the things your life would be better with, if only you had them. It makes your head in the mentality of "what I'm lacking" instead of "what I appreciate".

Why do you think stores make Black Friday sales? (And pre-Black Friday sales, etc... For the sake of this post and simplicity, from now on, all these sales at this time of year will just be entitled Black Friday sales.) Are they doing it because they really, truly want to help you out, want to help you save money?
They're doing it because it makes them money! You think they're doing it as a service to you, but stores are not having your best interest in mind when they have these sales- they're having theirs. These sales aren't a charity- they're a business decision.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

It's that time again where I share with you all the fabulously frugal things I've done this past week- hopefully to inspire you and show you ideas where money can potentially be saved.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Make Homemade Ghee- From Cow Butter and Goat Butter

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And if you're wondering why this container says gluten on it...
lol... its from back in the day when I bought straight
gluten to make seitan, and we stored it in this container.
Have you ever heard of ghee before? I hadn't heard of it until I started getting into eating traditional foods, and ghee was brought up as a good fat to be used.
What is ghee? Also known as clarified butter, ghee's what you get when you take butter and remove the milk solids from it. This post will teach you how to do that.

But why remove milk solids from butter? What's wrong with butter in it's natural form?

Nothing. Butter is great. Especially if it's from grass fed cows.
But ghee is better for many things.
Because it's higher smoke point, so you can use it for more things than butter since you don't have to worry about it burning.
Additionally, it is more shelf stable than butter.
And last but not least, it's got the milk solids removed from it, so often people who are sensitive to casein and/or lactose are able to have ghee even if they aren't able to have butter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Latest Shopping Trip

Sunday evening I went to the grocery store and I had an amazing shopping trip- for more reasons than one- and I just really wanted to share my scores with you. Since I've been trying to lose weight and have changed my diet up a bit (very minimal grains, lower carbs, and more animal proteins), my grocery bills have understandably gone up somewhat, especially since the prices of produce lately have gone up and I can no longer shop at many of the places I used to buy... so when I am able to get great prices for the foods I am eating, I just get really excited.
On top of that, I was able to pay for this shopping trip exclusively with money I earned doing something extra, so it didn't even come out of our regular budget, so that was awesome.

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Here's what I bought- at 2 shops on Sunday night- the local large chain grocery store and the local health food store. I paid a total of $139.46 for this shop.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Homemade Apple Pie Filling Recipe- Sugar Free, Starch Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_2176_zps58e79c34.jpgI wanted to make a dessert for my family, but a healthy one. I wanted no added sweeteners, healthy or not, and no grains or starches, healthy or not. I had a bunch of apples in my fridge, and my first thought was apple pie, but again, no grains. So I thought to just serve apple pie filling without the crust, and figured I'd use chia seeds as a thickener instead of the usual flour or starch, and let this apple pie filling be sweetened just from their own juices.
I experimented and this recipe came out so great I had to share it with you.
This recipe is vegan, sugar free, GAPS legal, Paleo/Primal diet friendly, allergy friendly, and much else. Feel free to use this to fill your standard pie crust or in any other recipe that calls for pie filling. Or just eat it plain- it's great all ways!

Homemade Apple Pie Filling Recipe- Sugar Free, Starch Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

It's that time of the week where, once again, I do some reflection on the past week, and see whether or not I was spendy or frugal, and then share the frugal things with everyone. (Maybe once in a while I should have a "my frugal flops this past week". Hahaha.)

This past week was ok. Can't say it was the most frugal ever, but it wasn't spendy. I didn't do a ton of spendy things, but didn't do a ton of money saving things either. I've had better weeks and I've certainly had worse weeks...

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Here's what I did to save money this past week, broken down by categories:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

 photo IMG_2126Medium_zps8499f986.jpgI'll be honest- the concept of breakfast sausage was foreign to me- it wasn't something I'd grown up with. I'd never eaten meat for breakfast until maybe last year on a camping trip. It just isn't how I was raised. And I thought sausage meant hot dog....
But a couple of years ago I learned about breakfast sausages, and that they sell them in stores, that they look like hamburgers, but they're often sweet, and served for breakfast.
Now that I'm trying to lose weight, I'm trying to cut back on my carbs (not cut them out entirely, just scale back somewhat), and to do that means I'm eating more animal proteins, and trying to eat a bigger breakfast to jump start my metabolism. Because of this, I've been more open to the idea of eating meat for breakfast, so when I found ground chicken on sale at a great price, I stocked up and decided to make breakfast sausage for myself with some of the ground chicken. It came out delicious.
I highly recommend you try it. If you're not a "meat for breakfast" type person, feel free to serve this for lunch or supper.
They freeze well, either raw or cooked, so even though this makes a large batch, you don't have to eat it all at once.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Make a Homemade Weighted Blanket- Step By Step Instructions

 photo IMG_1958_zps0975ee55.jpgI think everyone in my family has sensory issues. My kids have sensory issues and my husband and I also have. In fact, as I speak to more and more people, I think kids without sensory issues are a rarity- some just have it to more extremes than others.

I've read that with kids with sensory issues, often deep pressure massages and similar things can produce a calming affect, especially when they're tantrumming. I'd read that there are weighted vests and blankets that are supposed to help give this deep pressure to kids; these are especially used in kids with autism, but not only for them- anyone with sensory issues can benefit.
How does it work? Supposedly the "added weight causes the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that improve moods and induce a calming effect." Lots of people have found weighted blankets also help their kids sleep better.

Once I had a cold, and I was told to put some salt with a little rice in a pillow case, and lay my head on it; it was supposed to help dry up my congestion. I am not sure it actually worked; however, once I had my pillow case filled with salt (2.2 lbs), I decided to try it out, see if it could help calm down a hyper kid or a kid who is tantrumming, by putting some weight on them. I simply plopped the filled pillow case on my child, and saw that it had an almost instantaneous effect, and my kid really loved it. I said if just one little pillow case filled with 2.2 lbs of salt was that great- imagine what an entire blanket filled with salt could do.

And so I decided to make a weighted blanket for my kids.

The project was very easy, and cost very little. I think it was $5.40 total. (Much cheaper than the hundreds of dollars store bought ones cost.)

The kids love it. My husband loves it. I love it.

And yes, when a kid of mine has a melt down (fortunately not too often, especially once I took Ike off gluten), I just have them lie down and place the blanket on them- instant calming effect.

So here's the thing- I will first tell you how I made mine.
Mine works.
But it could be better.
So first I'll tell you how mine is, and then I'll tell you how to make it even better should you choose to make one yourself.

How to Make a Homemade Weighted Blanket- Step By Step Instructions

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Easy Green Buckwheat Porridge Recipe- Crockpot Option, Vegan, Gluten Free

One of the hardest things about being frugal and gluten free is figuring out good, cheap, healthy breakfasts. Porridge is an easy, cheap breakfast, but the standard porridge recipes are based on semolina wheat or oatmeal, both no nos for our family. I've made rice pudding before, but I find it annoying, because you first have to cook the rice, then re-cook it to make the pudding, mixing it well to make sure it doesn't burn. I've made corn meal porridge but it's not so nutritious. I was looking for something, and then it hit me- buckwheat!
But not just any kind of buckwheat- the green kind specifically. I've used it in so many recipes in place of oats, like in granola and granola bars- so why not as a mock oatmeal?
I've played around with this recipe a lot, and find the best way to make it is in the crock pot. I put it on low overnight and we wake up in the morning to a nice healthy meal. You can also make it not in the crock pot, but it's more work and finicky that way.

Easy Green Buckwheat Porridge Recipe- Crock Pot Option

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting a Mother's Helper- Life Changing

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Image Credit: AKARAKINGDOMS- FreeDigitalPhotos
If I had to name my biggest character defects, high on the list would probably be my messiness as well as my constant procrastination. This means that my house ends up usually getting very messy, and I have a hard time getting around to cleaning it up- something always comes up and gets in the way of my tidying up. My husband, on the other hand, needs neatness to be able to function. This has been a considerable source of tension in our marriage- that my husband was working full time, then coming home and cleaning up the mess that I made throughout the day.
For some time, we had discussed bringing in a cleaning lady, but constantly rejected the idea, since cleaning ladies are very expensive round these parts (they nearly make twice as much per hour as my husband does) and we would only be able to afford to take a cleaning lady maximum once a week for an hour or two. That felt pointless, since our house anyhow was getting totally clean once a week- it was maintenance that was the problem- by the end of every day, my place would be a mess, and it would just get messier and messier unless my husband cleaned it.
When I tried to be on top of cleaning it, things always came up. The kids need me, and I can't just ignore them to clean, because then they often end up messing another part of the house while I'm cleaning the first part. And even if my older kids didn't do that, Rose, the baby, often needs to be held.
It wasn't like I was being lazy. I was doing stuff a lot of the day. Taking care of the kids. Homeschooling them. Cooking up delicious, healthy, frugal meals. But cleaning always ended up on the back burner.
So in order for the place to not look like a bomb hit it, my husband would often stay up late at night cleaning, only to wake up just a few short hours later to head out to work. It was really hard on him, and understandably he would resent it, and would stress out.

Then my husband was given the option to increase his hours at work- and since he gets paid hourly, that meant a bigger income.
However, Mike was ambivalent about accepting the offer. While we could use the extra money, Mike wasn't sure he could handle the stress of the longer hours in addition to all the cleaning up he was already doing on a regular basis. He told me that he'd only agree to the longer hours if I could do the cleaning that he was currently doing, because he felt that cleaning up after me and the kids was already a part time job...
However, I wasn't sure what to do. I knew myself. I knew I could try to get the place cleaner, but I have a hard time with consistency. I start projects and then stop them after a short time. Its hard for me to stick to the task, especially on a long term basis, and I knew that that was exactly what Mike needed. I knew that even if I promised that I'd keep the place cleaner on a regular basis, despite my best intentions, it wouldn't happen.
I needed intervention.
And then I thought- what about a mother's helper?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hey all, now's that time of week where I share with you the various frugal things I and my family members did to save money over the past week. Starting today, hopefully I'll be getting this post up on Sunday, and not Monday like I've been doing.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Healthy Butternut Squash Pudding Recipe- GAPS Legal, Lower Carb, Vegan

 photo IMG_1963Medium_zps887d2881.jpgI've been pretty good about this whole eating well to try to lose weight and get in shape, but I'll be honest, the hardest part for me is the social aspect, since so much of the socialization in our culture revolves around food. I regularly go to this mom's get together at brunch time, and there typically are baked goods and other sweets (sometimes on the healthier end) for us to nibble on while we chat. I've been bringing along my own gluten free treat (for myself and sometimes for everyone else as well) but this past time I didn't want to eat junk, and I didn't even want to bring along a gluten free baked good, since I'm trying to be a little less reliant on grains for now. Yet at the same time, I wanted to have something "treat like" so I wouldn't feel too different.
This was what I came up with.
Pretty much pure butternut squash and spices- it only needed to be sweetened because this was a less sweet butternut squash, but if you have a good butternut squash, no need for any sweetener at all.
It was great and really hit the spot.
And it's GAPS legal. And vegan. Perfection.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Making Plaster Cast Footprints- A Fun and Educational Kids Activity

 photo IMG_2079Medium_zps44c471a3.jpgIt rained heavily the other day, and after the deluge stopped, I went outside with my children to enjoy the fresh air. Everything was wet; there was mud everywhere. In a patch of mud near our house, the kids and I spotted many prints made by various things- some animal prints, a bike tire tread, and shoe prints.

Seeing all those prints in the mud reminded me of an activity I'd read about in a book when I was a kid- making plaster casts of footprints. I already had all the necessary equipment, so decided to do this little project with my kids.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gluten Free Vegan French Toast Recipe

 photo IMG_1805Medium_zps1a25e61f.jpgIts funny that, though my mom did most of the cooking in my house when I was a kid, most of my food memories involve my dad and the various things he cooked. Sunday mornings we would all sit around the kitchen table while my dad made something delicious- either pancakes from the New Settlement Cookbook or homemade waffles. But more often than not, he'd make us french toast.
Leftover bread, dipped in an eggy milky batter with a touch of cinnamon, and fried to perfection.
If there's any childhood breakfast foods I'd been missing lately, it was french toast.
But as someone who doesn't eat gluten, eggs, or dairy... I thought french toast was an impossibility.

Recently, though, my neighbor has been giving her kids french toast on a regular basis, and my kids see them eating french toast and asked me if I could make some for them as well.
Since they asked.... I decided to see how I could make french toast.
First I took some gluten free bread that I had left over, and made them french toast with egg and milk, etc... and my kids loved it! Only I couldn't eat it, and I'll admit, I was getting a little jealous.
So I tried to see if there was a way for me to make my own egg and dairy free French toast, so I could also partake in the awesomeness that is French toast.
Google helped me discover that you can make vegan French toast- with banana. But since I had no bananas at the time, since bananas weren't in season, I tried figuring out a way to make it with no bananas. I had great experiences using ground flax as an egg replacement- even for making mayonnaise, so I decided to try that for making my French toast- with tahini in it to make it more nutritious, higher in protein and calcium, etc...
It was amazing.
My kids said it was their favorite food ever.
Asked me to make it again and again.
French toast is typically made from leftover, stale bread (if you don't want to make homemade bread crumbs, bread crumb cookies, bread pudding, stuffing, or a whole bunch of other stuff with it), but my kids like this French toast so much that I've made fresh gluten free bread just to be able to make French toast with it... Though feel free to use whatever leftover bread you have.

While this recipe is gluten free, if you aren't gluten free and are just looking for a vegan, dairy free, or egg free French toast recipe, feel free to use regular gluten bread for this. It works just as well.

Gluten Free Vegan French Toast Recipe

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hello y'all! It's that awesome time of the week, where I, once again, share what frugal things I did this week, hopefully to inspire and give ideas, as well as to share things that I do in my day to day life that don't necessarily need a whole post to write about each one.

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I decided that I'll be moving the frugal accomplishments of the week to Sunday instead of Monday as it's been, starting next week, so see you then!

Meanwhile, here's what we did frugally this past week in our home:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alicha Recipe- Ethiopian Vegetable Stew- Vegan, Paleo, GAPS Option

 photo IMG_1880_zps1a93df8c.jpgLast week I made a wonderful Ethiopian feast. In addition to the flat bread and doro wot (chicken stew) and misir wot (red lentil stew) that I made spiced with my homemade spicy berbere spice mix, I also made this delicious vegetable stew, not spicy at all, which everyone in my family loved- from the oldest to the youngest. I highly recommend it, especially if you're new to Ethiopian cooking and want to "ease into it", and not serve something too exotic that your family may not like.
Alicha often has potatoes in it, but I decided to leave it out an use sweet potatoes and butternut squash instead. If you don't have these exact veggies, feel free to mix and match it up and use whatever vegetables you do have- just keep the spices and tomato paste the same.
This recipe is vegan, paleo legal, and if you leave out the sweet potatoes, is GAPS legal as well.

Alicha Recipe- Ethiopian Vegetable Stew- Vegan, Paleo, GAPS Option