Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Latest Shopping Trip to the Farmer's Market and Salvage Store

On Sunday, I needed to make a bunch of gluten free bread mix to bring to some friends in the city that evening, and to do that, I needed a whole bunch of risotto rice so that I could grind it into flour. I thought that I'd need to drag all the kids with me to the grocery store (a short bus ride away) to buy the risotto rice, since I was sure I didn't have any, but I was very reluctant to do so because that would just add a lot of stress to my day and I wasn't in the mood for that. Before I headed out with the gang to the bus stop, I quickly checked my stockpile to see if maybe, just maybe I had some risotto rice in there and I could save myself a trip.
At first, I thought I had none and then I looked more closely and discovered not 1 or 2, but 4 packages of the rice that I was sure I didn't have, and nearly made the trip to the store to get.
Which made me realize- I need to organize my stockpile.
It doesn't help to have a stockpile if I end up buying repeats of things I have in my stockpile because I don't realize I already have them there.

So that evening, I went into the city, and while I was there, I first went to the farmer's market where I stocked up on some past prime (and not past prime) produce at super awesome prices.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fixing My Frugal Failings... Via Accountability

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Some of my cloth diapers... including a cute lacy cloth diaper
cover my neighbor just gave me as a hand me down
I've spoken to some friends who are frequent readers about this blog, what I post on it, and asked them their input, what they'd like more of, what they enjoy reading most about, etc... and they said they wanted me to show more of my human side, more of my failings, the reality of living frugally day to day, not just what I accomplish but also where I fail and fall short...

So I figured that I'd write a post about certain things and bad habits I've fallen into, often out of laziness, that aren't exactly frugal, and how I'm going to try to work to change that.

Ok, so number one, the thing that inspired this post is my baby's diapers.

I officially cloth diaper to save money, am all about the benefits of cloth diapering... And, uhm, err.... I think that in the last few months, at least, I've been cloth diapering maybe 10% of the time, if even.

First it was because my baby outgrew her newborn sized cloth diaper covers. I had been using the newborn sized Bummi's Super Whisper Wraps (BSWW) together with my Econobum one size cloth diaper covers, together with prefold diapers. When Rose got too big for the size small diapers, I couldn't find my size small and medium BSWW covers... In large part because of the mess in my house and that my storage space was very disorganized. (More on that later.)
So I was left with just my Econobum covers- 6 of them that I could find on a good day- 4 when I had misplaced one or two- and then I'd use those 4, they'd get dirty, and I'd run out of covers because of falling behind with my laundry (more on that later as well), so...  So basically I was using maybe 6-10 cloth diapers every week, if even.
So I started buying disposable diapers regularly.
And then when I was reorganizing our storage, I did find the larger sized diaper covers. I have more than enough now in the size that fits Rose. However....
Once I had the disposable diapers in my house, its hard to not fall back and use them, because yes, it is easier. While cloth diapering is a big money saver, it is definitely more work. And yes, laziness is a weak point of mine.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Frugal Pink Birthday Party for Anneliese

 photo 20141222_134245_zps73295ec7.jpgWhen I was a teenager, if anyone had told me that one day I'd have a little girl like Anneliese, I'd be shocked. Because as a teenager I was miss tomboy, involved in all sorts of sports, sciencey stuff, and just about as un-girly as they come. My favorite color was blue and I don't think I was ever into "princessy things" in my life.
Now Anneliese... my little three year old is about as girly as they come. I don't think I've ever met any girl more obsessed with pink (and purple), glittery sparkly things, princesses, rainbows, hearts, flowers, butterflies, fairies, jewelry, etc... This super girliness definitely didn't come from me, that's for sure.
In some ways, her being obsessed with all things girly makes my life harder (she is sooo picky to dress, and changes her clothes a million times a day), and in some ways it makes it easier (it is very easy to make her happy- just make it pink!)...

But the one thing I knew- for Anneliese's birthday, I wanted to make her a party that was "all about pink".

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Hey there! It's that time of week where I share the latest frugal goings on in my house. Maybe I should start a "unfrugal blunders this past week" for those weeks where frugality doesn't happen so much? Haha...
Ok, so it was a bit of a crazy week, so I don't really have it broken down by day (I only even managed to write down what I remembered last night.... and now I'm running on three hours of sleep, sooooo....)

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Here's what we did this past week to save money... That I remember.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wild Greens (And Cheese) Patties Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dirt Cheap, Paleo Option

 photo IMG_2518_zps531dc96f.jpgSorry for the decreased posting frequency lately. I've had a bit of a crazy week, as you probably can understand, what with my daughter's birthday and holiday season, etc! Hopefully this next week I will be back to posting with a vengeance- I have many amazing post ideas in the back of my brain just waiting to be written...

For now though- here's a great frugal recipe I've made recently- with foraged wild greens. It can be made with pretty much any wild greens you pick (I used a mix of sow thistle and mallow, but I've made with with a variety of other greens as well). It can also be made with greens that come attached to purchased root vegetables, like turnips, beets, radishes, etc... (And if you don't buy the greens, some stores or stalls in farmers markets will even give you these tops free). Alternatively, you can also make this with store bought greens, like spinach or swiss chard or kale or mustard greens... it just won't be as cheap.

I've made this a few times recently and this last time added some goat cheese (roquefort- my daughter can handle me eating aged goat and sheep cheeses, but not other dairy) into mine which added a terrific kick to it... though I'll admit it increased the cost. You can use any other cheese in it- not just expensive stuff- or you can leave the cheese out entirely to make it vegan/allergy friendly.

Oh- and did I mention that this recipe is naturally gluten free and egg free? Though, of course, you can make it with gluten or eggs if you  want to make it cheaper or with what you have available. Another bonus- these are relatively low carb as well, so they're great diet food. (If you want to make it super low carb, try replacing both the flour and the flax seeds with two eggs- I haven't tried it that way, though I'm sure it'll be great.)

Hope you liked it as much as I did!

Wild Greens (And Cheese) Patties Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Dirt Cheap, Paleo Option

Monday, December 22, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Sorry this was a little delayed! We went out on a family trip yesterday and didn't get back until late, so didn't have a chance to post this yet!

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Here's what we did to save money this past week in the Penniless household.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

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My kid has thrown me into a loop by deciding he doesn't want to eat cereal for breakfast anymore. While cereal and milk for the kids isn't so nutritious (even though I try to stick to the less processed stuff) I don't always have the energy to be cooking up complex breakfasts in the morning, don't always feel like standing over the waffle iron or skillet making pancakes... and I don't always have the fresh produce needed to be able to make smoothies.
So then the question is- what do I serve for breakfast that my kids will eat, that doesn't cost too much money, is relatively healthy, and doesn't take too much work?

Enter this yummy concoction. (I based it off this recipe.) I call it "Chocolate Buckwheat Bread" simply because I'm not creative enough to think of a cooler name, but it has been a staple in my home as of late. Everyone in my family loves it, there's minimal prep work involved, its pretty healthy considering its a sweet baked good, its refined sugar free, it's low cost and vegan and gluten free, it doesn't have any xanthan gum in it (which some people are sensitive to, and it also is expensive), and if you want to soak your grains first to make it more digestible, it works very nicely with that.

My biggest issue with this is the bananas required, because I don't always have bananas in stock. You don't really taste the bananas so much in it; I want to try this out replacing the bananas with another pureed fruit, like applesauce, or maybe mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash.

I use my green buckwheat flour for this recipe- if you don't have green buckwheat flour, see if you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder (green buckwheat is soft enough to grind in a coffee grinder, unlike most grains). If the green buckwheat flour isn't an option for you, you can replace it with any gluten free flour mix (though it would probably have xanthan gum in it then), and if your family can eat gluten, feel free to replace the green buckwheat flour with any gluten flour, from whole wheat flour to regular wheat flour to spelt, etc...

Chocolate Buckwheat Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Xanthan Gum Free, Soaked Grain Option

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Coins Tutorial

 photo IMG_2483_zps52d55fae.jpgMy kids love chocolate coins. They love chocolate in general, but if they had the choice of a square of chocolate or chocolate coins, chocolate coins would win, hands down.
The thing is- chocolate coins are expensive. Chocolate is expensive, yes, but chocolate coins are even more expensive per pound... We do buy chocolate coins occasionally as a real treat.... but I wanted to see if I could make chocolate coins at home. Both for cost reasons, and for the fun of it.

At first I wasn't sure if I'd need specialized molds or specialized equipment, and if my kids would be as satisfied from our homemade chocolate coins as they are from the store bought stuff... but I decided to give it a shot and see how it went. Google showed me that you could simply use mini muffin tins instead of official coin molds, so I went with that.

The cool thing about this is that once I figured out the basics of making chocolate coins, I am now able to play around with it and make specialty chocolate coins, like using my 85% cocoa chocolate bars, or turn my plain chocolate into cool chocolate, like mint chocolate, mocha, etc.

To be honest, I first did this project... and only after that did a price comparison. Locally, the cheapest you can get chocolate coins is $2 per 100 grams. I got decent quality chocolate bars on sale for $1.14 per 100 grams, and saw cheapo quality chocolate for $0.94 per 100 grams. If I'd bought the chocolate in bulk (like I've been considering, to be honest, at the rate my family eats chocolate), I could buy it for $0.76 per 100 grams. So, definitely cost effective to make your own.

And its a fun activity for the kids as well.

So why not make your own?

Here's how you do it. (Super simple, I promise.)

Homemade Chocolate Coins Recipe and Tutorial

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

 photo IMG_2492_zpsec748903.jpgI first heard of white clay from a friend on a local frugal forum, and now that the holiday season is here, I decided to try it out. If you've ever heard of salt dough, it's a homemade, solidly drying craft medium, completely non toxic, that can be used as an alternative to store bought air drying or oven drying clay, and while I've had good experiences in the past with it, as someone whose house is completely gluten free and doesn't want to have to worry about gluten contamination in her kitchen, salt dough isn't an option for us anymore.
Therefore, I was excited about this white clay recipe, which essentially is the same basic idea- a "clay" (more like play dough, actually) that air or oven dries into something hard, which can then be pained, which can then be used for all sorts of beneficial purposes.
Or it can just be done as a fun, creative craft, as an outlet. It doesn't actually need to be practical... but I like the permanence of this, and that it easily can be practical.

If you're still unsure of what to give your loved ones for the holidays, and are open to the idea of hand crafted gifts, you can use this white clay (or salt dough) to make some great gifts. Examples are picture frames, pendants, necklaces, magnets, decorative bowls and plates, sculptures, or hand prints. You can also make ornaments or candle holders, whether for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Diwali, Solstice celebrations, etc...
I am sure creative people can come up with even more amazing ideas to do with white clay and dough- the options are limitless.

Here's how to make your homemade white clay- with only three ingredients- water, baking soda, and corn starch or potato starch. I buy my baking soda in bulk super cheap so this really keeps down the cost of this tremendously. I did find my white clay to be a drop wetter than I wanted, so I ended up mixing it with a lot of baking soda to make it less sticky, so I suggest using less water instead of more, to hopefully make it less sticky. But again, if it is sticky, just mix it with as much baking soda as necessary to get it perfect.

Crafting With Homemade White Clay- Recipe- Gluten Free Alternative to Salt Dough

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Went Back to Homeschooling Our Kids- Again

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A homeschooling lesson- real life learning.
Baking, following instructions, reading, math, etc..
Those of you who've been following my blog for a long time already might remember some details about my kids' schooling journey, how originally we were homeschooling, unschooling inspired, and then last year we decided to send our kids to school, and now we're back at homeschooling, again unschooling inspired.

People were surprised at my choice- many at my choice to send them to school in the first place (how can an unschooler not only stop unschooling, but actually send to a regular school?), but probably even more people were surprised that we went back to homeschooling after this year- despite the fact that we said from the start that our goal was to send them to school just for a year anyhow. Many said that the second we put them in school, we'd see how much better school was than homeschooling, and I wouldn't want to go back to homeschooling (because I'd miss the free time I had), and it wouldn't be fair to my kids to make them go back to homeschooling, since they wouldn't want it after being in school.

So, hence, this post. Why we're back to homeschooling this year.
But in order to address that question, I'd first have to review the reasons we sent them to school last year in the first place.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Its that time of the week where I share with my wonderful readers all the ways in which I saved money in the last week, hopefully some of which would be ideas that you could use as well.

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This week was really a great one in the Penniless household! Lots of frugal stuff going on, lots of things I'm excited about and happy to share with you. Top on the list? Foraging! Yay! Got lots of that done, and the weather was perfect for it!

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Experiences as Gifts, Appreciating What You Have, and What We're Getting Our Kids

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Photo credit: Naito8-
With the holiday season upon us, people around the world are stressing out about gifting- what they should give each loved one, and many are going into debt to pay for these extravagances. Forums I'm in are filled with discussions about how much to spend on each child ("Is $200 dollars reasonable per kid if we're short on cash- I don't know if I can swing $500 per child?"), feeling guilty about not spending enough on each child, or showing off how much they're showering their kids with all sorts of extravagances.

Tis the season to be materialistic and wasteful, it seems.

Not in our family.

Forget the fact that money is tight around here and cash doesn't flow like water into our bank accounts.

Even if I were rich, I still don't want to be teaching my kids to live their life in pursuit of material possessions, equating acquisition of paraphernalia with happiness. In fact, it is often the opposite- lottery winners are often miserable, and poor people can be very happy.

I mentioned it before Black Friday, and I'll say it again- the best way to be happy is to decide to be happy, to decide to appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don't have.
Even if there is a lot you're lacking in your life- just by virtue of reading this post, you automatically are lucky and have more than many people in the world do- you have the ability to read, eyesight, access to technology such as computers, cell phones, and internet. And that isn't mentioning the food in people's refrigerators, the roof over their heads, the clothes on their back, and the clean bill of health that I hope most blog readers have. (And if you don't have all 4 of the above, I really wish you success in getting those soon, and my heart goes out to you.)

We're trying to raise our kids to focus on what they have instead of what they don't have. To realize how much abundance they have in their lives.

Save Money With A Reliable Sewing Machine And Some Sewing Skills

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Photo Credit: foto76
I love my sewing machine and use it regularly, and it certainly saves me money. I hope you enjoy this guest post on saving money with a sewing machine!

It won’t have escaped your attention the amount of money you can avoid spending if you skill up to make things for yourself instead of having to buy them. Sewing machines are practical home appliances that come with great gains. Even if you are a dab hand at sewing with needle and thread, there can be a terrific advantage in speed from using the said commodity, meaning that you can afford to take on bigger projects like new curtains or reupholstering your furniture! If you're new to sewing with a machine, try looking for the best starter sewing machine; no need for something more complex.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pressure Cooking To Save Money

After my recent post about my drama with my pressure cooker, my friend Becky sent me a message, wanting to know if pressure cookers actually save enough money by shortening cooking time to be worth the expense. It's a good question, because while pressure cookers take less time to cook, and therefore use less money by way of utilities, pressure cookers aren't the cheapest piece of kitchen equipment, especially locally, where they cost upward of $140 dollars for a cheap one.
Becky, knowing my love of doing all sorts of crazy calculations regarding money savings wanted to know if I did the calculations, figuring out how much money was being saved and over how long, by minimizing cooking time using a pressure cooker, and if I compared that to the cost of a pressure cooker to decide if it was worth it.
To be honest, I've tried calculating how much I spend on each minute of cooking time with my gas stove, but I haven't managed to figure out how much money it costs per minute or even how to start figuring it out (we have large and small tanks of gas delivered here, but I have no idea how many whatevers it is gas is measured in, in each of those tanks), so no, I haven't compared the money saving with utilities by using a pressure cooker with the expense of the pressure cooker.
However, I do know for a fact that having a pressure cooker saves me money. Big time. Enough that I don't need the utilities calculation to find out if it was a justifiable expenditure. I even recently bought a second pressure cooker!

Here's how I use a pressure cooker to save money:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal

With winter upon us, most of the primary salad vegetables are out of season, and therefore either hard to get or expensive. The cheaper, more available veggies are root vegetables, which most people tend to make into hot dishes, like roasted veggies and stews and soups. And while those are absolutely awesome and what many people crave in the winter, sometimes you just want a salad. A fresh salad, with raw veggies, crisp and delicious.
This is a salad that I invented recently when I had some turnips to use up. I'm not the biggest fan of turnips (I don't hate them but I don't love them), so I don't want them to be the star of the show when making a dish. This combination of turnips, beets, and carrots, with a mustardy vinaigrette worked terrifically so that you can barely taste the turnip- it certainly doesn't taste overwhelming- and it is diet friendly as well.
I loved this recipe so much that I've made it a few times since- sometimes with turnips, but also with kohlrabi in place of the turnip. Feel free to adjust the quantities- it's a forgiving salad- use what you have, then play around with it until it suits your taste.
My kids also really loved this salad. There's just something about raw beets in salads that is superb.
This salad tastes good fresh, but also tastes terrific up to a few days later, so it's a great salad to make in advance if you like to do meal prep.

Delicious Tri-Color Root Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Monday, December 8, 2014

Having a Frugal Homeschooling Adventure

 photo 20141207_112643_zps67f315a6.jpgYesterday morning, right after waking up, I turned to my 5 year old, Ike, and asked him "If you could do anything at all, what would you want to do today?" His answer? "I want to go exploring in the jungle."
Unfortunately, we don't have a jungle near our house, but we do have a small forest, and I presented that option to him. "Want to go exploring in the forest together today?" "Yea!" Lee and Anneliese were also excited about the idea of the expedition, and I decided to use it to turn it into a fun learning experience.

Because we're back at homeschooling this year (yes, I will be writing a blog post, hopefully soon, about why we're back at homeschooling), I am leaning more towards unschooling. (I wouldn't call myself unschooling 100%, but definitely my "teaching method" is inspired by the unschooling perspective.) I want life to be full of learning opportunities, but with these learning opportunities more "hidden" so the kids feel more the fun and don't realize how much they're learning. By keeping the learning fun, it'll hopefully help my kids retain their love of learning and not turn it into a battle of wills, and their eventual starting to hate learning as happens with many kids throughout their schooling career.

I didn't tell my kids: Ok, today we're going to be learning about map skills, safety, history, nature, photography. But I did open the door to these opportunities so that they would learn these skills and have a great time while doing it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

We have had a really beautiful last week locally, which made me want to do one thing- get outdoors! The kids and I went out a lot because of this, and we made sure to bring along frugal food for ourselves on all our trips so we didn't need to buy while out. And while out, we did a lot of frugal fun things that ended up saving us money.
To be honest, I didn't as many frugal things in the kitchen as I usually do- didn't make so much from scratch and barely made any legumes... but even so, I kept down costs in the kitchen by using only sale or reduced rack items.
For better or for worse, Ike decided he doesn't like cereal and milk anymore- he says milk "tastes like pineapple" and that if he has milk more, he won't like chicken anymore... Go figure. I have no idea what that means... but either way, he's not eating cereal and milk for breakfast, which means my lazy breakfast option isn't really doable anymore, which is pushing me to actually make healthier, cheaper breakfasts for everyone if I have to be cooking for Ike anyhow.

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So, here's what we did to save money this past week:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Homemade Healthy Chocolate Bars Recipe, Chocolate Chips, Etc... Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

 photo IMG_1849Medium_zps1ec1886a.jpgEver have a recipe that you were really excited about, really wanted to do something special with it, but you ended up getting disappointed? This recipe is one of  those. You have no idea how much I fell in love with it... but I sat on it so long because it simply didn't work for me.
Why am I sharing it then?
Because it still is beyond amazing.
Just not for me.

I've got a sweet tooth. I love chocolate most of all sweet things, but I end up feeling guilty about the chocolate I eat because it's filled with all sorts of bad ingredients, from white sugar to soy lecitin and a whole bunch of other not good for you things.

On my trip to the US, I went to Whole Foods, and for the first time saw a chocolate I didn't feel guilty about eating- only 3 or 4 wholesome ingredients... but the price tag... oh boy...

I'd wanted to make my own chocolate for a long time, and had tried so many different recipes with all sorts of different ingredients, but they all flopped for me, separating into unappetizing layers of oil and sweeteners, or becoming more taffy like than bar like..
But finally I figured it out.
Using coconut sugar- a dry sweetener- and coconut oil.

And it came out perfectly! I made a few batches of this chocolate. I loved it, my kids loved it, my husband loved it.

And then I got horrible stomach aches and nausea from me.

Apparently my sensitive stomach doesn't like too much coconut oil. Or even a little bit. Just having a small piece of this chocolate caused me stomach upset.

But I have a sensitive stomach, and specifically am sensitive to coconut, so... just because it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it wouldn't work for you.
Just don't go overboard in your chocolate eating and making until you know that you don't react badly to coconut oil...

That said, I'm hanging on to this recipe, and as soon as I'm able to get my hands on cheap cocoa butter, I will be making my own homemade chocolate bars, using this exact recipe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Amazing Red Lentil Soup Recipe- GAPS Legal, Vegan

Lentil soup is one of those things that I've made many times, with so many different variations. Sometimes lentil soup can come out ok, and sometimes it can come across so amazing that you have a hard time resisting eating more and more of it. This recipe is one of those simply divine lentil soup recipes, turning this humble legume into something worthy of serving in a restaurant.
I based it off a recipe from the New York Times but played around with it to make it even cheaper, and it is no less amazing. I highly recommend this lentil soup recipe!
It is GAPS legal, and can easily be vegan. Additionally, it is super easy to make.

Amazing Red Lentil Soup Recipe- GAPS Legal, Vegan