Friday, February 27, 2015

Honey Mustard Roasted Fennel Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal Options

 photo IMG_0196_zpsxf4qllfn.jpgYesterday when I was at the farmer's market, I wasn't able to find such a large selection of cheap, reduced rack produce. The one thing I did manage to find a lot of was fennel bulbs- I came home with a huge shopping bag full, at only 25 cents a pound.

Fennel, also called anise, has one of those flavors that you either love or you hate. I am in the love-it category.
I generally eat fennel raw in salads, but it tastes phenomenal cooked- its licorice type flavor is a bit more mild when it is cooked, and its texture is almost creamy.

Honey and mustard are the perfect flavor accompaniment for fennel's licorice like taste. This is my go-to cooked fennel recipe, and it is what I'm serving for supper. Absolutely delicious.

P.S. The fennel bulbs bought in the store are similar but different from wild fennels, which are all fronds, no bulbs.

Honey Mustard Roasted Fennel Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan, GAPS Legal Options

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Easy Homemade Pirate Costume

Ike asked me to make him a pirate costume.


I love making costumes.

I could always buy costumes for my kids for dress up and the like, but I have never done that.

Because as much as I love experimenting and creating in the kitchen, I also have so much fun coming up with costume ideas for my kids, putting their ideas into tangible form.

And I knew that a pirate costume would be super easy to do, not to mention super cheap.

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Ike in his costume. Sorry for the terrible editing job...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Sugar Cookies and Hamentaschen Recipe

The other night I was in the mood of eating something, but wasn't sure what. All I knew is that nothing that I had in the house appealed to me. Not the fruit, not proteins, not carbs... and then it hit me! I want junk! (The funniest thing happened, actually. I went over to Mike and told him "I want junk" and his phone happened to be on a setting where it heard what I said, and loaded a page that said "The effect that junk food has on your brain." Hahaha!)
But anyhow, I wanted junk, yet it's not something I keep in stock in my house regularly.
What to do, what to do.
Maybe I'd make cake or cookies?
But most of my cake and cookie recipes are cocoa based, and I was out of cocoa powder. A problem of epic proportions, I tell you!

And then my friend posted a link to this sugar cookie recipe, and I was so excited, since even though I was running low on ingredients (I'm going shopping just as soon as I finish this post- haven't really been shopping in nearly 2 weeks), I had everything needed for that recipe.
Well, not quite.
I wouldn't be making that recipe as is- I do things gluten free, refined sugar free, and dairy free, and ideally egg free. I decided I'd attempt to convert that recipe to suit my dietary needs and preferences- and while I was at it, decided to turn them into hamentaschen, traditional Jewish triangle shaped filled cookies.

They were amazing.

I sent them with my husband to work the next day, and he was sure they were store bought, they looked so perfect.

And they were easy too, not finicky like hamentaschen recipes (especially gluten free) I've tried in the past.

But of course, you can just make these as regular sugar cookies, as originally intended, rolling them out and using cookie cutters to shape them.

After making a half batch the first time, I ended up doubling the recipe and making it again today, this time without eggs either. Again, perfection. This recipe below is the doubled recipe. Feel free to halve it or even quarter it depending on your needs.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this recipe.

Oh- and in case you were wondering- yes- they filled that craving for junk. And they were definitely not junky!

P.S.- Nope, not pregnant. Just was craving junk. It happens.

Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Sugar Cookies and Hamentaschen Recipe

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Amazing Deals and Steals That I Got Today

I left my house today with an empty stroller, and came home with one packed to the gills. Since everything that I came home with was frugally obtained, and purchased with thought, I figured I'd share a little about what I got, and why.

The reason I went out today was to go to the thrift store- I have a great thrift store a short walk away, with terrific prices and a decently large selection. I needed some outfits for Rose, and at 28 cents per article of baby clothing, I figured it was the first place I should look.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Making Mallow Mayonnaise- Wild Mayonnaise From Foraged Ingredients

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I love making things from scratch. For many reasons, top among them that they're cheaper and healthier. But I also get a kick out of knowing how to do things that others don't, like I'm part of this club that knows all these secrets that used to be a way of life, but now people forgot.
And as much as I love making things from scratch, I like even more when I'm able to make something completely, completely from scratch, without needing to buy anything (or almost anything) from the grocery store- I like being self reliant, and I just find it very enjoyable and amusing to try these things out.
Making my wild sushi is one such example of things that I do, not just as a money saver, but because I just thought it was a neat thing to do.

The other day, I saw a post on a wild edibles group, by forager Leda Meredith, in which she used the gel from mallow seeds to make a meringue like dessert. I thought that was super cool! I'd seen her use mallow and mucilaginous mushrooms as an egg replacement in a vegan recipe, and the two things together clicked in my mind, and I thought- why not mallow mayonnaise?

Even though mayonnaise is usually made from egg, I've been successful at making a vegan mayo using flax seeds instead of egg- it's my go to mayo around here- so I figured- if mallow is mucilaginous like flax seeds, maybe it would also work for mayonnaise?

And then, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I'd try to make a mayonnaise completely from wild plants, no store bought ingredients whatsoever (other than salt- still haven't foraged salt). I started listing off ingredients in my head that I thought I'd use for my mayo- mallow seed gel as the base instead of flax seeds, olive oil made from my mother's olive trees, black mustard seeds I'd foraged in the summer and were sitting in my cabinet, foraged sumac instead of lemon juice or vinegar, and pink peppercorns for an extra kick. I was so psyched up, sure it would work, even though I was taking a gamble!

Well, I am happy to say that my intuition paid off- it worked and tastes pretty good!
The texture isn't exactly like mayo- it's a drop runnier- but it really does the job and tastes good as well! I've since used it for coleslaw, salad dressing, and in tuna fish.

Totally wild mayo- who woulda thought it possible?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week and Accountability For My Struggles

To be honest, I'm a little exhausted- went to bed a little too late a few too many nights in a row, so its hard for me to keep my eyes open long enough to even write this introduction to my post...
But I didn't want to leave you without this week's post, so... about this week and frugality:

We had a snow storm and lots of rain this past week, so I don't think I line dried anything- only used my dryer. However, on the up side. I didn't end up washing any loads of laundry twice because I left it too long...
Also because of the storm, I didn't use any cloth diapers..

And as for throwing out food... I think this was a pretty good week, not much ending up in the trash...

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Delicious Carob Muffins Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free Options- Allergy Friendly

 photo carobmuffins_zpsaa6794d2.jpgWe're in the middle of a snow day here, and while a big part of what I want to do is just huddle under a blanket and watch a movie, another big part of me is in the mood of baking, since eating delicious baked goods right out of the oven, while amazing any time, is even more of a treat on a chilly wintry day.
So I'm going to leave you with this awesome recipe for carob muffins that I made the other day. I made mine gluten free and refined sugar free, but you can make yours with gluten and white sugar to keep down the costs if you don't have nay food restrictions. It is naturally vegan- no need for any egg replacements. It is allergy friendly- top 8 free.
Carob is said to taste similarly to chocolate, but to be honest, it doesn't taste exactly the same, just similar. But it also tastes kind of like spice cake somehow, so ends up being really tasty combined with cinnamon.
This is now my go-to recipe for carob powder, and since I have a lot of carob growing nearby, can't wait to make some more carob powder (soon as the snow melts) so that I can make these muffins again.

This makes 18 muffins.

Delicious Carob Muffins Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free Options- Allergy Friendly

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Ikea Family Get Together and Birthday Celebration... and Talking About My Cookbook Plans

My sister in law, Michelle, and her kids, who live far away, are currently visiting, and my husband's family wanted to have a get together. Originally we had planned on having a BBQ tomorrow in a park (in a city far from my house), but snow is predicted tomorrow and there is concern that roads will be closed and we were worried that we'd all be stranded if the get together were tomorrow, so we rescheduled it for today, Mike and my birthday.
However, it was rainy today and the BBQ in the park plans needed to be scrapped, and a new venue found.
Tough call, because we were 19 people, and didn't want to spend a lot of money, but needed to find something to do indoors for a bunch of hours...

Eventually we decided upon Ikea!

I had never been to Ikea before in my life. I'd heard about it plenty, heard that it had a cheap restaurant and a soft play area in addition to its store, so I was really excited. They had great gluten free options, and googling the menu beforehand showed me just how cheap the meals were, for good quality meals!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Total Expenses on Groceries this Past Month- Breakdown and Analysis

One of my grocery shops this past month
This is the second month straight, and probably the 6th month total, in which I've tracked our family's groceries down to the last cent. The purpose of this is to get a better picture of where our money is going, and to be able to decide if it is what I would like to continue doing.

Today I was talking to my mother's helper, who asked me if I ever spent money on things, or if I liked to save money whenever and where ever possible. I explained to her my motto when it comes to frugality- not to spend as little money as possible, but rather, that all the money that I spent should be on things that I want to spend them on, that our spending reflects our values. I am very happy to spend money on something that is important to me (including my 2 home births that I paid over $1000 cash for instead of hospital births completely covered by insurance); I don't want to fritter money away on things that I'd regret after the fact.

That is why I like to analyze my grocery expenses.
Because I get to see precisely where my money is going, and I can decide if this is where I want it to go, or if I feel that the money I spent in each category was money well spent.
Analyzing my grocery expenses certainly has been enlightening.

And the more I do this, the more I get reminded that as much as each month's grocery breakdown is helpful to look at, I have to remember that there is a general picture as well, and that one month's grocery bill may be higher, and another one lower, but the average is more important.

Take this month's grocery tally.

It may just be the lowest since I've started tracking my groceries to the letter- $424.48 total spent this month, and $490.28 if I include in the amount of my bulk purchases (of coconut sugar and green buckwheat) that I used this month.

Seattle, Washington - Can you really Visit on a Budget?

I love being able to have a great life without spending a lot of money. Though traveling isn't really in the budget for our family right now, I love reading about all the various frugal travel options out there... as a maybe, for the back of my mind. I especially loved this guest post about visiting Seattle on a budget, because Seattle is someplace that I have been to before a few times- my dad used to live there- and I've been to some of the places mentioned in this article... so it just brings a smile to my face, as it is nostalgia evoking.

The author of this piece, Linda Manning lives in trendy Newport, Rhode Island, with her husband, Paul, and young English springer spaniel Brooklynn.  She is a licensed boat captain and certified diver who loves to travel. She is a freelance writer for travel sites such as At home, Linda loves gardening, cooking, entertaining, art, museums, and all Newport has to offer.

Doing your homework before traveling can save you a bit of money. Having your travel plans tied up beforehand is monumental. Yes, it's all about price for some people and finding an inexpensive hotel is easy when you use Hipmunk, a destination travel website for the tech savvy person. Let me guide you to a number of Seattle hotels that won't cost that much and the best time to catch a cheap flight. The latter is a bit tricky if you have to travel during a certain time frame. If you don't, I would travel on the fringe seasons for lower fares.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Latest Super Frugal Grocery Shopping Trip!

I had a post already partially written up, that I'd planned on posting today, but I just came back from my shopping trip and it was such a successful and frugal trip that it made me really excited, and I felt I just had to share it with you instead of what I'd originally planned.

The original plan was for me to go pick up my bulk order of coconut sugar- 44 lbs- that I'm splitting with friends- 17.6 lbs of which I am keeping for myself.

However, when I went to cook up supper for the family to be eating while I was gone, I realized that I had no vegetables left in the house, pretty much (the frozen corn, peas, and okra don't count in my book)... The only fresh produce I had were some oranges, clementines, and lemons. I needed to go shopping pronto, so I decided that after I picked up the coconut sugar, if I felt it was manageable, I'd go to the farmer's market.

(In case you were wondering what I did for food since I had no veggies- I foraged a bunch of mallow, and used up my last three carrots, and sauted the carrots with the mallow, and served them as the veggie for supper, along with the rest of the meal.)

But Mike didn't get home from work so early, so by the time I got to the store that had my bulk order, it was already late, and even later once I got to the farmer's market- almost everything was closed.

This had benefits and drawbacks.

The variety of stalls I had to choose from was very, very minimal- just finding a stand that was open was hard enough, let alone enough to do some price comparing and shopping around.

However, since it was the end of the day, some of the stalls were in a rush to get rid of what they had, so were selling things for dirt cheap!

And I also got free produce left behind from stalls that were closing up and didn't bother keeping those past prime products, etc...

So, here's what I got:

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week and Accountability For My Struggles

Welcome to the weekly post where you get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly... and what "real life frugality" actually looks like in my case.

This week wasn't the best week in terms of frugality, but it certainly wasn't the worst either. Part of the "non frugality" was actually a conscious effort on my part, not something that "just happened."

We knew in advance that it would be a very cold, rainy week. And I already had a backlog of laundry. So I decided that I wouldn't be using cloth diapers because I knew it would be hard enough to keep up with laundry; I didn't want any more laundry created than necessary. And so, even though it was freezing cold, I still did a few loads of laundry that I hung outside.... And only rewashed one load of laundry that sat too long before... it went in the dryer, since it was still too wet outside.

And unfortunately, quite a bit of produce did get thrown out... I haven't been shopping all week so some of the produce was getting a bit too old. Or maybe just that I cleaned out my fridge for the first time in too long. (So does last week's "not too much got thrown out" count if it was hiding in my fridge until this time?)
Speaking of not going shopping- the one big thing that saved money that I didn't do this week was not buy any groceries! My month in which I tally my groceries ended yesterday, and I was happy what my monthly total was at the beginning of the week, and decided to see if I could challenge myself to keep it at that! So, I didn't step foot in the grocery store all week! When I needed something, I sent my husband and he picked up a few things, but that's it! So I managed to keep it down- gonna post my monthly grocery tally hopefully sometime this next week.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hungarian Noodles and Cabbage Recipe- Kraut Pletzel, Haluski, Kaposztas Kocka- Gluten Free, Vegan Options

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Ever have a recipe whose name gets lost in translation?

My (great) Grandma Betty was Hungarian, and she used to cook a lot of traditional Hungarian dishes. My dad learned a lot of his recipes from her, which he made for us growing up (in addition to his General Tso, seitan, sake, and other very non Hungarian recipes). One of the dishes, cabbage with noodles, he called kropretzlach, and he still calls it that to this day.

Except when I was trying to find more information about this dish, I couldn't find it anywhere.

Turns out there was some broken telephone going on, and the name kraut pletzel, or kraut pletzlach, got misheard as kropretzlach... (We actually have a similar story with my brother's name, who ended up being named after what people thought my (great) Grampa Al's name really was, but wasn't actually his name...)

This dish has many names- kraut pletzel, haluski, kaposztas kocka, among other names... but in my mind, it'll always be kropretzlach, mis-translation and all...

This food isn't fancy food, nor is it very photogenic. It is, however, very simple and quick to make, and the ingredients are pretty cheap as well. This food to me is quintessential comfort food, with all the warm feelings and nostalgia and family history it evokes.

Hungarian Noodles and Cabbage Recipe- Kraut Pletzel, Haluski, Kaposztas Kocka- Gluten Free, Vegan Options

Friday, February 13, 2015

Homemade French Dressing Recipe- Entirely From Scratch- Refined Sugar Free, Vegan, and Delicious!

I feel like such a food nerd sometimes, when getting a recipe right gets me so giddy I feel like doing a little dance. But I must admit, that's how I felt after making this recipe today. I have a guest coming for supper who likes "normal" food, so I'd decided to make a simple salad to serve with the meal,,, But the guest told me she doesn't really like lemon, and my basic salad dressing as of late has been olive oil and lemon juice... so I was at a loss what to make. Then I figured- why not French dressing- it's very "normal" and doesn't have lemon juice.
I went to make it, opened up my French dressing recipe and realized that I didn't have two of the ingredients- ketchup or worcestershire sauce- not store bought and not my homemade versions...
But that wouldn't stop me- I decided to make it with the "base ingredients" for ketchup, and make an entirely from scratch recipe- and wow. It's perfect! Tastes like store bought French dressing, but better. And lots healthier!

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(And isn't that salad just so tempting? Foraged some chickweed and sow thistle for this one!)

Homemade French Dressing Recipe- Entirely From Scratch- Refined Sugar Free, Vegan, and Delicious!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How to Eat Super Healthily on a Super Tight Budget

When I was in the US last year, I met and stayed with a really awesome lady, Daniella Silver, a holistic health coach. While I was there, we went shopping together at Whole Foods, and after seeing the prices there, Daniella inspired me to write this post... Life kinda got in the way, and I sort of forgot about it... until a picture of Daniella popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, and I realized that I never wrote this post that I really wanted to write about, because I think it would be helpful for a lot of people!

So, the question posed was:
Most people know that if you want to buy cheapo processed foods and don't really care much about nutrition, you can get a lot of stuff free or super cheap via couponing, etc...
But what do you do to save money if you actually care about nutrition? Is it even possible to have a low grocery budget if your first priority is health?

So, I must say that if I wanted to have as cheap of a diet as possible, I'd have to sacrifice nutritionally. A healthier diet, bought as frugally as possible, will cost more money than a processed food diet bought as frugally as possible. Sad as it may be, and counter-intuitively as well, the more processed a food item is, the farther it is from nature, the more cheap it'll often be. "Health items" are viewed as a luxury, and you have to pay more for that- even if it takes less work to make/undergoes less processing. Whole wheat vs bleached white flour, and brown rice vs white rice anyone?

Since switching to a gluten free and refined sugar free diet, my grocery bills have certainly gone up. Healthier diets will generally cost more money.

(Those who claim that healthy diets are cheaper are only correct if they're comparing expensive unhealthy grocery shopping- think Pop Tarts, fish sticks, and soda- to healthy from scratch grocery shopping, but if you're going to compare cheaply bought processed foods or from scratch less healthy items to from scratch healthy foods, healthy food is 100% more expensive. I hate all those posts that talk about how the Paleo diet will save you money since it's from scratch- if you're already cooking everything from scratch with white sugar, white flour, canola oil, etc... and serving white rice and beans, switching to Paleo is SUPER expensive and literally unmanageable for many.)

However, despite the fact that healthy diets are invariably going to cost you more money, that doesn't mean that frugality has to go out the window. Here are some tips that hopefully will hope you super healthy eaters save money on your shopping.

When I say "super healthy" I am kind of generalizing, and lumping all sorts of different diets together, including organic eaters, people on Paleo or Primal diets, those who stay away from processed foods like refined sweeteners and refined flours, etc... In short- this is a post written for the average "Whole Foods" shopper, no matter the specifics of your diet. Not every tip will work for every diet, but hopefully you'll get some good tips here

How to Eat Super Healthily on a Super Tight Budget

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Foraging Wild Chamomile

When I open my front door, I see a sea of green, at the moment, interspersed with yellow flowers. If I look a little more carefully, I can see little white and yellow flowers hidden among all the yellow. Those little flowers that everyone around me sees every day but doesn't pay attention to, because "it's just a weed". And yet... I would assume most people in my area have those very same flowers dried up and packaged in their cupboards to be used for tea.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Technological Upgrades... Vs Being Happy With What You Have

 photo IMG_0011_zps6a561474.jpgI think this post can be summed up in three sentences.
Marketers are brilliant strategists.
Depression and lack of appreciating what you have makes you the perfect target for marketers.
People who appreciate what they have end up saving the most money.

And now, let me elaborate.

When you see an advertisement for some product marketers want you to buy, what are the advertisements like? Usually they're rosy colored depictions of gorgeous smiling people, often having the time of their lives, and using their products.
Subliminal (or not so subliminal) messaging going on here. Your life isn't perfect now (whose is?), but if you buy our product, your life will be perfect, you'll be happy and in love and rich. We all know this isn't true (at least I hope so), but some part of us deep down buys it, and we become convinced that if only, if only... our lives would be better.

But if you feel content with your life, and not lacking- why would you want to buy their products? There'd be no need to chase after that elusive perfect life if your life is already perfect.
Malcontent is exactly what they want, because it is the only way to convince you that spending money on their product is what will make you happy.

Great Ways To Save Money On Energy Bills This Winter

Hope you enjoy this guest post by Bob Gorman.

During the cooler months of the year, energy bills can skyrocket, and homeowners can easily feel the financial pinch.

Everything from increased heating costs to the need to have indoor lights on for longer periods of time can result in escalating energy bills. This can difficult or even impossible for some homeowners to contend with, and you may be wondering how you can keep your energy costs lower.

The good news is that there are a few quick and easy steps that you can take to help you save energy during the upcoming months and beyond.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Homemade Carob Powder and Carob Syrup from Foraged Carobs

Once upon a time I thought cocoa was bad for you. I know many still think that, but I'm not in that camp anymore. However, when I thought cocoa was bad for you, I learned that carob powder works to make a decent replacement for cocoa powder. Well, when I say replacement, I don't mean it tastes exactly like cocoa (and if you're expecting it to, you may be disappointed), but carob has a similar "flavor profile", and can be used similarly, the same way carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash have a similar flavor profile and can be used similarly...

So, back then I would buy carob powder and use it to make an awesome carob cake recipe- using this crazy cake recipe, just with carob in place of the cocoa. It was, hands down, my husband's favorite dessert.
People also use carob to make chocolate chip replacements (I'm sure it would work well in my homemade chocolate), to make ice cream, to make drinks, spreads, in cookies and cakes, and even in mole.

Carob is a decent source of nutrition and are beneficial for you. They are a decent source of polyphenols, which lower cholesterol and are powerful antioxidants. They're rich in calcium, selenium, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, various B vitamins, etc... It is used medicinally to cure diarrhea, as well as to treat coughs and flu symptoms.

Foraging Carob

Tips and Tricks for Enjoying Santa Clara On a Budget

This is a guest post by Whitney Cann, a blogger who loves sharing about her budget friendly family vacation getaways.  

No matter your reason for traveling to the West Coast, you can rest assured that a good time awaits you in Santa Clara. If you happen to be visiting this lovely area with your family, you'll definitely want to stretch your vacation dollars by staying in a budget-friendly hotel. You can find more information on cheap hotels in the city by checking out this helpful guide on cheap hotels in Santa Clara on the Hipmunk site. As for now, let's take a quick look at a few tips and tricks you can follow to have a great time in Santa Clara without emptying your bank account. From museums to restaurants to attractions, you'll never run out of things to do.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week and Accountability For My Struggles

Welcome to the weekly post in which I reveal all... my deep dark secrets... haha...

So, I had a pretty busy week, and I must say, there were things that I did that weren't so frugal. But people have been telling me not to feel bad about that, to instead focus on the positive- what I did do frugal as well. So I'll just ignore the 2 loads of wash that I ended up washing two (or even three times) each because I forgot them in the machine and they started stinking. K?
And I'll focus on the 5 or 6 cloth diapers that I used this week instead of writing about all the disposables that I used. Though, to be honest, I don't really think there was a problem with my using disposables- it was a pretty conscious decision, since we were out of the house many hours at a time for quite a few days this week, and therefore I didn't want to be lugging around stinky diapers. And I was doing my babysitter (who watched the kids during my foraging classes) a favor by not giving her cloth diapers to deal with- only disposables. So, we pretty much did only disposables this past week, other than a few notable exceptions... and I used up my entire stash of disposable diapers. So... now I'm back to cloth until Mike picks up another package of diapers from the grocery store in a few hours.
I was doing a lot of thinking about where I should be putting my focus on, in terms of frugality, especially since many of the places I was buying stuff frugally either no longer has the same prices... or, for example, they're selling the "same item" for the same low price, but now its of inferior quality- goodbye  $3.25 a pound ground beef and $2.46 a pound ground chicken and turkey that I used to get without soy TVP mixed in- it still is soy free but now has MSG and other garbage mixed in to it... I ended up putting it back at the register once I spotted the change. Guess if I want ground chicken I'll have to pay the $3.25-$3.89 it usually goes for and $5.19 per pound  for the ground beef that is garbage free. Or I'll just use lentils in its place... I have to say to say I'm bummed out, and looking for a new source of ground meat...
I was pretty good about not tossing food this week- though I'll admit I did chuck out a few moldy clementines...

So, on to what I and my family did frugally this past week:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Raw Chocolate Sprouted Buckwheat Granola Recipe- Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option, Gluten Free, Oat Free

 photo granola_zps94e4f6dc.jpgI've written before about my issue with breakfast- I don't necessarily have energy to be cooking in the morning (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't), so often I just end up relying on bought cereal- generally rice crispies- and milk or non dairy milk for our breakfast. The thing is- bought cereal isn't so cheap, and its pretty non nutritious and/or full of junk.
I've tried some recipes for homemade gluten free cereal, but they were pretty "meh". The healthy homemade cereals most common out there tend to be granola, but as someone who can't eat oats, those don't work for me... and the grain free granolas tend to be heavily based on coconut (which gives me stomach aches) and nuts (super expensive)
. I'd seen some recipes for homemade buckwheat granola, made with green buckwheat, and decided to come up with my own recipe. I've made it also with sprouted buckwheat and also not- so whichever it is that you want to do, it works both ways. I also have made it with a variety of natural sweeteners- I don't make mine super sweet- I usually serve mine with chopped fruit and/or homemade jam so it doesn't need to be super sweet, but you can make yours sweeter if you want to.
The benefit of sprouting buckwheat (as well as everything else) is it makes it more digestible and releases more nutrients into your body that way, but this works fine for non sprouted buckwheat as well.
If you want a non chocolate variety, you can also try out this recipe for buckwheat granola.

Raw Chocolate Sprouted Buckwheat Granola Recipe- Nut Free, Refined Sugar Free, Gluten Free, Oat Free

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Monthly Grocery Breakdown and Analysis for December and January

So I stopped tracking our monthly grocery expenses like I had been doing, because it wasn't working well- it ended up feeling like I was micromanaging my husband's spending, and that wasn't the best idea for our relationship. So I decided to start tracking our monthly grocery expenses, but leaving out my husband's spending. He has a set amount he tends to spend for lunch at work every day- he spends $14 a week on lunches from his work, so that's an extra 60 dollars a month on that, plus a few other odds and ends here and there. But for the most part, this monthly breakdown is what covers 3 meals a day plus snacks for 1 adult and 4 kids, plus 2 meals a day plus snacks for another adult.

I must admit, as enlightening as it is for me to look at the breakdown of our monthly expenses, it's really annoying to tally it up afterwards and analyze it, which is why the month that was from December 14th until January 13th is only being written up and posted today- when the next month is nearly over...

When I was doing this tally, I was realizing how much I spent during the month, and it shocked me... and then I took a closer look, and saw that a large percentage of it was actually spent on money making things- like the ingredients of a cake I made for pay for a friend, and on buckwheat which I bought in bulk, and used to make my gluten free bread mixes which I sell, as well as the coconut sugar I bought in bulk...
And then there's also the expenses I spent on my daughter's birthday party. So then once I subtracted that, I realized I wasn't doing too bad.
Because business expenses. And nice things like birthday parties...
And also some things that just make life easier, like canned fish, purchased gluten free bread, treats, etc... all bought on sale but not the cheapest options out there....
 I am not opposed to having nice things if I can afford them... and fortunately our financial situation is in a position where we can do more than just the bare bones basics. So this past month's expenses are a drop higher than I'd like to, but in part as business expenses, but in other part just because it improves our quality of life...
So not going to eat myself up for it. I will, however, try to keep my expenses down in future months. And if I manage, I manage. And if not, then not. I do know where I can trim my expenses should I want to...

I'll admit here- I'm kinda nervous to post this breakdown, cuz I feel some of my readers my judge me for it... but, in the spirit of honesty, this is it 100%, splurges, excess and all...

Top Ways to Get the Most out of Technology as a Parent on a Budget

My kids are of the new millennium, and as such, have such an awareness of technology and how it can be used. They don't even understand the concept that when Mommy was a little kid, we didn't even have a computer at home, and then when we did, at first it was without internet, and then later it was dial up, and I certainly didn't have a smart phone, tablets, and computers with high speed internet. So this guest post on technology vis a vis kids was especially interesting for me. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Let’s set the scene. A busy mom preparing dinner, cutting and chopping as her kindergartener plays peacefully in the next room. Just then, the phone rings and Grandma wants an update on school activities and to schedule the next get-together. With the phone to her ear and a skillet in hand, Mom is juggling it all when her little one enters the kitchen, tablet extended, and asks her to approve the purchase of a new app - $9.99 for a game about letters.

She’s torn. Surely there is a benefit to encouraging learning in this way, and there is certainly a benefit to anything that keeps him occupied while she finishes cooking. But… $10? Is that really necessary for a young child’s tech use?

The simple answer is: no. There are plenty of ways to get the most out of technology for your kids without ever spending a dime.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Can Urban Foraging Actually Feed Poor People? A Response

Mallow, one of the most time/energy
efficient plants to forage
My friend Kelly sent me a link to an article, talking about whether or not urban foraging can actually be used to help working poor not starve; she thought I might have a good answer to that. I certainly do.

I not only enjoy foraging and extol the virtues of foraging on my blog, I also recommend foraging to others and teach classes on foraging, specifically with a focus on how it saves you money.

Can Urban Foraging Actually Feed Poor People? Yes and No

The questions the article poses are as follow:
  • Yes, you can forage if you have lots of extra time on your hands (and I'll admit as a stay at home- homeschooling mom of four I do have a decent amount of spare time on my hands), but if you're working full time, possibly at two or three jobs even, is foraging a viable option even if you can't dedicate lots of time to it?
  • Can foraging even fill your belly to stop you from starving? How viable is it as a food source, especially if you can't dedicate lots of time to it?
  • And can foraged food taste good or do you have to like bitter food for foraging to be worth it?

These are questions I deal with a lot. And to be honest, they apply to me too- since I don't care much for bitter and having 4 kids at home with me every day means that I am not going out to forage every day for hours on end- I have other things to do than dedicate all my hours/life to foraging- and my kids don't necessarily want to be going out foraging all the time.

So to answer those questions in short- yes, foraging is doable for everyone, even those short on time and not fans of bitter. No, it's not doable as a sole source of sustenance, but it is a great way of adding important nutrients to your diet without increasing your grocery costs, and if you're currently spending a lot of money on produce, of lowering your grocery bills.

Plants Worth Foraging When Short on Time

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Fun and Frugal Food Decorating Event

 photo IMG_0075_zps3e15e45f.jpgIt gets really amusing sometimes when you have a blog like this one, and many of your friends read your blog. Take last night, for example. We had an event that I organized and ran, and when the event was finished, my friend, Debbie, a regular reader, who attended, asked "So, Penny, will you write about this on your blog?" I told her I hadn't planned on it, I don't see why I should, and she said "No, Penny, you totally have to write about this on your blog. It would be really cool to read about it."
So Debbie, I know you're reading this. This is for you!

One of the greatest things about my local community is that it is very cohesive, communal, and close knit. One of the biggest reasons this is so is because one of the amazing ladies in the community has taken it upon herself to organize monthly events for the women of the community where we can get together, do something fun, and just spend time away from the house and the family, and pamper ourselves with a little night out.

Another great thing about our community is that there is an awareness that most of the people are often on tight budgets, so people don't necessarily have the money to do something expensive. So resourceful community organizer has figured out a way that we can have fun without spending a lot of money.

The way these events work is that we have different themes each month, and someone in the community is chosen to lead an event, usually somewhat connected to the theme of the month. Usually if someone has a particular talent that would be fun for others to learn, she will teach people how to do that.
For example, we've had sushi rolling, chocolate making, and crocheting lessons instructed by locals- usually everyone chips in $2.50 or so to cover costs of equipment, and snacks are potluck. We also have "meet and greet" type of events every year or so, when a new batch of people move into the community (we have a lot of new people moving in all the time- its a great, growing community!), gift exchanges around the holidays, and one time we even brought in a friend of mine who gave everyone makeup lessons! That was a lot of fun!

So this month's topic was nature related, ideally connected to fruit- so I thought- why not food decorating?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Simple Bread- Gluten Free and Wheat Flour Recipes- Vegan and Sugar Free

 photo bread_zpsb0e87832.jpgI had another one of those long days today. Great, but long. I was out of the house and on my feet from early this morning, and only came back after dark. I almost left you without a post for today, but then decided to maybe just post something simple.
And what better than this super simple bread recipe that I'm about to throw together for the fourth time in less than 5 days?
I learned about this recipe on a facebook cooking group I'm on- and it is super frugal, super easy, super simple to make... so if you're either short on cash, time, or ingredients, this is the recipe for you.
Originally this recipe was intended to be used with white flour, but people in the group used this recipe to make whole wheat and spelt bread, so I decided to try it out and see if I could use it to make gluten free bread. I tweaked it a drop, and used my favorite gluten free flour combo- green buckwheat flour, short grain rice flour, and xanthan gum, upped the yeast a drop... and voila- terrific gluten free bread, super cheap, and super easy.
The kids and I ate it, warm, dipped in olive oil made from my mother's olive trees, and it was quite a treat. My kids pronounced it as the best bread I've ever made, and one of the best foods I've ever made ("But not the best, Mommy, because your pizza is yummier than this bread"), which was a really nice compliment. I don't know if I agree- I do like some of my other bread recipes a lot, but for simplicity and costs' sakes, this recipe wins, hands down.
I've used this recipe so far to eat plain, make cheesesteaks, and to make tuna melts...
I can't tell you how this recipe would work with other gluten free flour mixes, but why not give it a try? Just note that I think xanthan gum is necessary in this recipe- don't try it without it, or it won't rise and the texture will be off.

Super Simple Bread- Gluten Free and Wheat Flour Recipes- Vegan and Sugar Free

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Chili Cornbread Skillet Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, and Refined Sugar Free Options

 photo cor_zps6d27eeb6.jpgSometimes my husband looks at the mess in the kitchen, and he says "Where'd all these dishes come from? You just made a one pot meal!" Well, sometimes those one pot meals can use a lot of dishes, even if in the end you have just one dish to serve on the table...
This is one of those recipes.
One skillet, filled with all sorts of goodness.
Deceptively delicious.
Looks deceptively easy, but does make quite a few dishes, I'll admit.
But worth every dish, since it is both super yummy and super frugal.
What is it?
Chili cornbread skillet.
Which essentially is- chili on the bottom, then a layer of cheese or vegan cheese sauce, then a layer of cornbread baked on the top. (If you have leftover chili and prepared vegan cheese sauce/cheese, then the mess is much more minimal. If you have to prepare each component separately, then the dishes add up...)
The resulting combination is heavenly!
And can be super cheap!

 photo corn_zps554d3779.jpg

Chili Cornbread Skillet Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, and Refined Sugar Free Options

Frugal Accomplishments This Week and Accountability For My Struggles

Thank you for joining me once again where I have my little accountability session- tell you what I have been struggling with this week in a frugal sense, and share what accomplishments I'm proud of.

So, I'll admit, I really wasn't good with laundry and cloth diapering this week....
I had a lot of things going on, and certain things fell by the wayside. Like laundry. I think there were two loads I ended up needing to rewash since they sat in the machine too long, not hung up. Yea, that's not good...
On top of that, I went to the city a bunch, used babysitters who I wouldn't expect to cloth diaper, etc... and then we ran out of laundry detergent, and I didn't have any homemade bars of soap to use to make my own laundry detergent, so laundry piled up... which meant that I didn't want to use cloth diapers and add to the laundry load. So I'll have to say we probably used cloth about half the time this week, the rest disposables... But half is still loads better than none at all...

However, on a positive note- no food was thrown out this week! :-D Keeping that food waste down, so that's exciting!

In terms of frugal things we did this week....