Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Hi there everyone! I hope you had a really awesome week this past week! Our week was pretty terrific, very full of wonderful things, but to be honest, not so full of frugal things...

But even so, I do have some frugal stuff to share with you that I and my family members did to save money this past week.

Here's what we did:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mock Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Oat Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

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Ever since discovering that not just gluten, but also oats (even gluten free oats) give me stomach issues, there were certain things I missed, like oatmeal, granola bars and granola. But I figured out how to make gluten free, oat free versions of them, using green buckwheat (see here to learn the difference between green and regular buckwheat), which is a pretty terrific and versatile pseudograin. (See my buckwheat porridge, buckwheat granola bars, and granola recipes.)
The one thing I missed was oatmeal raisin cookies, since I wasn't able to figure out how to make them without oats.
Well, today I made something that, while they aren't exactly oatmeal raisin cookies, since they don't have any oats in them, taste pretty much the same way- and they're delicious. They're made, of course, with my go-to oat substitute- green buckwheat. Healthy too, since they are made with only wholesome ingredients- no refined sugar, and they're vegan too- I used flax instead of egg and coconut oil instead of butter.
I can't tell you how to substitute other ingredients for those- but feel free to play around, and try putting 3 eggs in instead of the flax seeds and boiling water- I can't see why it wouldn't work, even though I haven't tried it myself.

Mock Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Oat Free, Refined Sugar Free, Vegan

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Really Exciting News To Share!

You might have noticed lately that my blog hasn't been as... I dunno... engaging as it usually is? At least it felt that way to me. The biggest reason being that my mind was just elsewhere- there was so much that was on my mind, almost taking over my whole life, that I couldn't post yet on my blog, and since that topic was off limits on my blog, there was a limit to how much I could write about.

But today, finally, I can share the news!

No- I'm not pregnant.
I bet that's what you thought when you read the post title and the first paragraph.

And no, I didn't get this amazing book deal for my cookbooks- still planning on self publishing those.

My big news is probably totally unexpected to most of you readers. And to be honest, it came as a big shock to Mike and myself as well. A little over one month ago, this was something that Mike and I only dreamed about, but never thought it could become a reality. Just destined to become an unrequited dream.

And then, somehow, within the space of just over a month, everything fell into place, and what I thought never would be possible, today became a reality.

Mike and I bought a house!

For those who are in similar Facebook groups as me, this probably will come as a bit less of a shock to you than to others, since I have recently been asking questions about home buying, and some people said that they can't wait to see my post about how to buy a home with a really low salary in my country.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Sorry this is a day late, but I've been so overtired and overworked lately that I didn't get around to posting this yesterday.

This past week I was so proud of myself. I managed to do some super cool frugal things, despite lots going on here. For example- I cloth diapered- for 2.5 days straight! Actually, it happened because I ran out of disposable diapers, and I was simply too busy to go run to the grocery store to get more, so I used the cloth diapers we already had at home, and was able to do so since I finally caught up with laundry. And then even once I went out and bought disposable diapers, I still kept on using cloth for another day- so that is something I feel proud of.

So, here's what else my family did to save money this past week:

Money Saving Advice for Parents

I hope you enjoy this post written by freelance writer Indre. 

Parents- save money with these money saving tips tailored for you!

While shopping for your baby, you might feel that you are overspending and would want to control your expenses. Easier said than done. To save money, you need to be tactical with your purchases. So, here are some tips that will help you save money while shopping for your baby.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sesame Noodles Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

I always loved sesame noodles growing up- my mom used to make them often in the summer- they taste amazing cold.
Now that I'm gluten free, I don't make mine like hers- I don't use regular spaghetti, but rice vermicelli. Rice vermicelli is the cheapest gluten free pasta I can get around here, but the problem is it is pretty bland tasting, so doesn't work well in most pasta dishes. But anything soy sauce based, and it is amazing.
This version of sesame spaghetti is quick to prepare, and is perfect as a side dish for those lazy summer afternoons.

Sesame Noodles Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Latest Bulk Buy

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I have to say- I'm just a little spoiled by my bulk buying habits. I am able to get what I buy in bulk for such ridiculously low prices, that when I run out of them and need to buy them at a normal place, even a normal "cheap place" I have such a hard time paying the regular prices, since I am so used to the super cheap prices I generally buy them for.
Then there's the convenience aspect. I love having the food available in my house all the time, and to not need to run out to the store to buy again and again, especially if it is something I use often, like certain spices...

I really have to thank my friend Marion for getting me into bulk buying, who originally clued me in as to where I could buy bulk items locally, when she introduced me to the bulk baking supply store. This store is still my main bulk supply place.
In the past, in order to buy bulk, someone would have to travel to the not so near city, to this store's warehouse, to pick up a bulk order, but Marion figured that if a few people pooled their bulk orders together, they would reach the minimum order amount for this company to make a delivery for free, so that is what we've been doing lately.
I partook in the order that Marion placed, and today went to pick up what arrived at her house.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Amazing Haul From The Farmer's Market Today!

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I had to go to the city today to take my kids to the dentist, and my refrigerator was getting pretty empty, since the last time I bought produce (other than a bag of carrots and a few onions) was 2 weeks ago at the farmer's market, so I decided to take all the kids with me to the market again, and hopefully buy enough produce to last another 2 weeks...

When I first got to the farmer's market, I stopped by my favorite stall, run by a man named Gideon. His business model is buying the seconds and less desirable produce from a nearby stall, then selling it super cheaply. When the merchandise finishes, it finishes, and he goes home. So when buying from him, the trick is to come to him as early in the day as possible, since there is more available then. Gideon's stall is generally the cheapest in the area- he tends to have a large selection of produce for 13 cents a pound- so that is my first stop, and once I see what he has and pick out what I want, then I fill in the blanks and buy what he doesn't have at the other stalls.

Today, Rose was sleeping in the stroller when I got to Gideon's stall, and since I usually put my groceries in the seat where Rose was sleeping, and wear her, or let her walk, I picked out my produce- all 13 cents a pound- some gigantic beets, some terrific cucumbers, some brown bananas- perfect for smoothie making- for a total of 33 lbs and $4.28. Gideon was trying to get me to take some clementines as well, said he'd give me 15.5 lbs for $5.71, working out to 36 cents a pound, so I agreed. I set aside my paid for produce at his stall, and promised him I'd be back once I did the rest of my shopping and Rose woke up.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Howdy! I know, a little belated- I was out yesterday, so didn't have the change to get this up... Here's where I share frugality in action.

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Date Nut Roll Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Easy

 photo IMG_0078_zpssxcai359.jpgEvery Tuesday, the kids and I go to a Mommy and Me type learning session at my friend Debbie's house, where we talk, discussing books on self improvement while the kids play. Debbie usually prepares a little something for us to eat while we talk, usually some baked goods. It is very sweet, but it's hard for my kids, because they see the food and want to eat something, but 3 out of 4 kids of mine can't usually eat it because it is gluten and they, like I, don't eat gluten. So I try to bring along something for my kids to eat while there, so they don't feel they're missing out on something.
This past Monday evening, it was late and the kids were all asleep, and I realized that I didn't have anything gluten free already prepared to bring to Debbie's house. I didn't want to make a big mess in the kitchen, so baking was out, I didn't want to do something that would make a lot of noise which would wake up the kids, so homemade Larabars were out, and I wanted something quick to prepare so I could still go to bed early-ish so I could be well rested in the morning.
Then I remembered something I've seen at a friend's house a while back- a date nut roll, only hers had gluten in it- the dates were mixed with flour or something.
But it inspired me.
I had date paste in the cabinet, and some nuts and seeds as well. I decided to put them together and make a date nut roll. Apparently it is both a Southern American treat, as well as an Indian treat, but the Indian version, khajoor katri, is made with ghee, and therefore dairy, and the American version made with dairy and added sugar. I left out all that, and went with a pure date nut roll.

It was super easy. A bit of date paste (pure pureed pitted dates, no additives- if you don't have that available, just process your whole dates (minus the seeds) until you get a paste- but then it won't be as quiet to prepare), a bit of of nuts, a bit of craisins, and a big of seeds, and voila- date nut roll. Took less than 5 minutes to prepare at night, and a few minutes in the morning to cut it as well.

It was a huge hit. My kids asked me to please make it again and again.
And though it uses nuts, it uses very few, so this recipe is pretty cheap. And can be made with only seeds, no nuts (use sunflower seeds instead of almonds and you're set), so better for allergies and cheaper to boot.
And of course, it is vegan, GAPS legal, Paleo legal, etc... so just an all around perfect treat. Unless you're diabetic or allergic to nuts.

Date Nut Roll Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, Easy

Lower Your Grocery Bills By Changing Where You Shop

I hope you enjoy this guest post, about buying both the things you want and the things you need for prices that won’t break the bank.

It can be tempting to shop every day. Spending is so easy to do on a daily basis, even if it is just grabbing a pack of gum in the checkout line, or buying a coffee or two every day. Because it is so easy for us to spend money on things we don’t need, it is even easier to justify spending money on things we do need, and even spending a little extra for the brands we love.  For your everyday necessities, something as simple as a grocery store run can add up. Finding the right places to shop can keep your budget on point and a little extra cash in your wallet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Figuring Out The Price of Homemade Vegan Milks and Comparing Them To Store Bought- A Chart

Left to right- peanut, pistachio, walnut milk, pecan milk, almond milk.

Hi there, Penny is my name and procrastination is my claim to fame. I started working on this blog post already 2 years ago and for one reason or another never got around to finishing it until today.
If you've been a long time reader of my site you'd know that my real claim to fame is to make these incredibly intricate charts calculating the exact cost of the foods you're eating to find out what is cheapest, whether it is figuring out exactly how much you're paying for your meat once you subtract the cost of the bone, or how much cheaper it is to make dried beans than buy canned, and comparing between the prices of the dried beans. Some people think those charts prove my genius, others say it proves just how crazy I am. I say it's a little bit of both. Haha.

I've missed making those charts and calculations.
I lied.
I miss finding out the information I figured out via those charts... But making them? No. They made my brain hurt and made me feel so silly. I, who used to tutor math as a teen and took college math at 15 was having a hard time remembering how to do things like percent change.... Just looking at the chart of numbers gave me a headache... Mommy brain, I guess you'd call it.
But finally a few nights I did something rare- I went to sleep at 10:30 pm instead of my usual midnight to 1:30 bedtime, and consequently woke up this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, with a fully functioning brain (for the first time in who knows how long) ready to tackle this math and numerous calculations.

So what exactly is it?

Well, I don't eat dairy, but my kids do. Dairy is expensive where I live. Non dairy milks are even more expensive.
I make my own non dairy milks, but honestly, I was wondering if it was even worth the cost, since nuts and such, the usual raw ingredients for making non dairy milks are super expensive as well. But then again, you use relatively small amounts of the raw ingredients to make large amounts of milk... so who knows.
To be honest, lately my kids have been eating lots of cereal and milk (I buy they cereal on sale and it's relatively decent with only 3 ingredients) and I always wonder whether it's cheaper for them to be having it with dairy milk or with a homemade vegan milk alternative. And then sometimes when I'm being lazy I buy store bought vegan milks when they're on sale... And then I wonder how much money I could have saved with some advance preparation and making my own.

So that was the goal of this project.
To figure out how much I am paying for each type of non dairy milk that I know how to make, and compare them to each other and with the types of milk I can buy.

And so I did that. I even looked up how to make all sorts of milks that I'd never even heard of before, and then made them.

Chilled Avocado Cucumber Soup Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Left to right- peanut, pistachio, walnut milk, pecan milk, almond milk.
When I went to the farmer's market this past week I got a bunch of really cheap produce, including a bunch of avocados from the "past prime" store. Of the bunch, there were quite a few that, frankly, needed to be used up pretty quickly (especially the ones that got smashed on the way home). While I absolutely love guacamole, with the insane heat I wanted something else, something cool and refreshing.
I love chilled soups on hot days, and I figured that my avocados would work perfectly with my (past prime and therefore super cheap) cucumbers in a blended chilled soup, so I came up with this recipe.
It was a hit. Very, very addicting. Everyone in my family loved it, and had many many bowls of it, and were disappointed when it was all finished. Best part of all- it was very easy to make.

Just note- the flavor tastes different when it's chilled than when it is first made. Chilling is very important.

Best thing- since this recipe is very simple and with minimal ingredients, it is good for most diets, whether gluten free, Paleo, vegan, GAPS, etc....

Chilled Avocado Cucumber Soup Recipe- Vegan, Sugar Free, GAPS and Paleo Legal

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Some days my meals come out ok, some days they come out great. And sometimes they come out so amazingly well that they'd be what I'd want to order if I'd go out to a restaurant. (Of course, often restaurant food isn't as good as homemade food, but you catch my drift.)

The other day I made an amazing chicken vegetable stir fry that not only came out phenomenally, it was quite photogenic as well.

Best part was that it was pretty cheap, since I used chicken breast that I bought on sale, and vegetables that I had around the house that I bought on sale.
The type of vegetables you use for this stir fry really don't matter, as long as you cook them all just until they are al dente- you want your stir fried veggies to be crisp, not soggy.

Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry Recipe- Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Hello again dear readers and welcome back to another edition of "How Frugal Are You Really", with Penny Penniless and the rest of the Penniless gang.
Find out whether Penny actually practices what she preaches, or if she's all talk and not frugal. :-D
Just kidding.

Anyhow, so this past week was a pretty decently productive week, that left me pretty exhausted, to be honest, since it involved lots of traveling from place to place, with 4 kids in tow, etc...

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

My Shopping Trip at the Farmer's Market

I haven't really been going to the farmer's market lately. Mike has been working longer hours many days, and then many things have come up in the evening, so I don't have time to go to the farmer's market in the evening, leaving all the kids but Rose with Mike. So I've been shopping at the local grocery store.
Which, to be honest... I used to consider the "cheap" store, but lately, no so much.
I mean, the vegetables- some of them are decent prices- a few will occasionally be between 17 and 45 cents a pound, but nothing amazing. And the fruit? Really not good prices- the lowest I see is 60 cents a pound, but often more than $1.20 a pound. Though these were their standard prices for a while already, I was usually able to get a lot from their reduced rack, but for the past 5 or 6 weeks when I went there, there was absolutely nothing in the reduced rack, or if there was, it wasn't something we eat.
So my grocery bills have been much higher than I want them to be, especially since I'm trying to do a little more produce heavy now, and less grain heavy...

I decided to go to the farmer's market today- and yes, with all the kids.
I'll admit it- it was exhausting. However, I got so much stuff, at such great prices, that it was worth every drop of the exhaustion. And if I can't time it so that Mike is home with the older ones while I go the the farmer's market... well then, I'll just have to go with them all again.

Anyhow, I am so glad I went to the farmer's market, because I got so much there for so little money!

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All this, plus a little more not shown- for $62.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Great Loot at a Book Swap!

 photo IMG_0057_zpslvgrdocb.jpgI am a reader. Big time. It is in my blood.
Tonight, I described it to my friend Debbie, as such- I need books nearly the same way I need air.
Ever since I was young, I simply devoured books. On the rare occasion that I'm in a home without books, I feel lost. Books are just an important part of who I am.
I am always looking for reading material. If there's "nothing" to read, I will read the writing on boxes of cereal. When I pack to go away, I make sure to have a book with me, because what if the place that I'm going has no books? That's almost as bad as having no food I can eat!
Just kidding.
But only slightly.

I was a big fan of the library from when I was very young. The librarians at our local library branch and I were on a first name basis, friends even. As a teenager, I even volunteered at the library, shelving books in the Young Adult section.

I need books.

And I read books.

But in English.

The library system locally is nothing like the library system I grew up with. No interlibrary loans. No reserving books. Just pay for a yearly membership, browse, and take out a limited number of books that you find on the shelf that appeal to you. (You're allowed only a set amount per family per week. And a rather small amount at that.)

And of course, the books are nearly all in the local language. A few books in English, but not many.

For someone like myself who devours books, I really miss the libraries we had growing up.

Especially since books locally cost a fortune!

When I first came here, I would shop at the second hand book store. Which was hit and miss. But even those shopping trips ended up being pretty pricy, and then my house would fill up with these books that I didn't want anymore- other than a few rare books/authors, I read books once, then have no interest in rereading, so I don't want my shelves being filled up with these books that won't be read again.
So the bookstores buy back books, but for a fraction of the price that they sold it to you for. It ends up being like the "service" of a library, but paying a lot for that "service".

Which is why the fact that we have local book swaps is pretty awesome for me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lentil Vegetable Salad with Vinaigrette Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, GAPS Legal

 photo IMG_0040_zpsala1j5sv.jpgI haven't been eating the type of diet I would like to be eating lately. First I was eating too many grains and carbs and not enough vegetables. Then I decided to try to eating more veggie heavy, and lower carb/grain, which meant that I ended up eating animal protein heavy- animal proteins two or three times a day, which I try to avoid both for cost reasons and for morality reasons. (I'm not opposed to eating meat, but overeating meat is something I don't support.)
I wanted to include some vegan meals into my diet, but I felt like all vegan meals either were grain heavy and super carby, or cause stomach issues.

Then I thought about a lentil salad. The weather lately has been hot here, which makes light meals appealing to me. On top of that, I could leave out the grains, and make it vegetable heavy, so that it would be lower in carbohydrates and still somewhat diet friendly. (Yes, I've fallen off the bandwagon with that, but I'm trying to get back on it.)
I couldn't figure out what precisely to put in my salad, but then just decided to go with what was in my fridge.

It was amazing.

Really hit the spot, and seemed like something you'd order in a nice restaurant. In fact, I think I've gotten very similar to this, only with the addition of feta cheese, in the past at a restaurant.

While I used these specific veggies, the exact veggies make less of a difference- use what you have in the house. I think the only veggies that need to stay the same are the carrots and tomatoes, but the rest you can simply use what you have- zucchini, cucumbers, roasted eggplant, peppers, lettuce- whatever floats your boat!

Lentil Vegetable Salad with Vinaigrette Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, GAPS Legal

Monday, June 1, 2015

Making Homemade Potato Starch, Tapioca Starch, Sweet Potato Starch, and Wheat Starch- And Homemade Seitan

Homemade potato starch
I've talked many times on my blog about how I stay away from processed foods, only using whole foods, that I don't want to eat food that needs to be made in a lab, but rather only wholesome foods that I can make myself at home.
And then you probably wonder why I regularly use something like potato starch or tapioca starch in my recipes, such as my gluten free flour mixes- doesn't that completely go against my food philosophy to eat something as processed as that?

Well, actually, no. Though potato starch and tapioca starch and the like seem like overly processed ingredients, they are easily made at home, no bleaching or chemicals required (unless you're one of those who snarkily refers to water as a "chemical"- everyone knows what someone means when they say "chemical free"). So no, I don't feel bad at all using the store bought version, since it is something I am able to make easily at home.
To prove that- I did make my own potato starch at home, and it wasn't complicated at all- just a little time consuming. I don't plan on doing this regularly because I can get potato starch easily enough. However, if I would go on a paleo diet, or nightshade free diet, I would consider making my own sweet potato or tapioca starch instead of buying potato starch. (Actually scratch that- just sweet potato starch, since I can't get the raw ingredients for tapioca starch locally.) And if I were on a deserted island and unable to buy my potato starch ready made and had a large supply of potatoes- you know what I'd make! Or if I had my own garden and grew large quantities of potatoes, maybe I'd make my own potato starch as well.
However, that is in large part because potatoes and sweet potatoes especially are not so cheap here per pound, even when on sale, and yuca isn't available at all... If I were able to get my hands on them cheaply, there's a good chance that I'd be making this regularly.

As for frugality- people keep on asking me if making my own potato starch is frugal, if it works out cheaper than buying it. Well, there's a few things to consider- first of all, are we just looking at how much potato starch you're getting, and figuring out the cost that way? Or are you factoring in the fact that you're left with hash browns, so essentially you made hash browns for however much the potatoes cost per pound, and the potato starch was just a free bonus?
Either way- the main reason I did this was more to have the knowledge of how, you know, for that dessert island scenario, but also to reassure myself that potato starch, tapioca starch, etc... are real foods, and not an uber-processed unhealthy foods that I should avoid.

So what is starch used for anyhow?

Well, starch is a carbohydrate. And it is gluey/sticky. It can be used to thicken things, like puddings, gravies, and sauces. And it can be used to bind things, like in my grain free cracker recipe. And it is used in homemade powdered sugar to offer stability and keep it from clumping. And I use it in my gluten free flour mixes, because otherwise recipes made with them tend to get crumbly. And you can even use it to make homemade glue. Or homemade spray starch. Or white clay, a crafting material.

The standard starch that people think of is corn starch- however that is one of those things that I do try to avoid, as it can't be made at home yourself and does involve a lot of refining processes, etc...

But at home you can turn:
Potatoes into potato starch
Sweet potatoes/yams into sweet potato starch
Cassava/yuca/manioc (multiple names for the same plant) into tapioca starch
Wheat flour into wheat starch

The same process would be used for the first three, and another somewhat different process for the last, which also will yield seitan, a vegan, gluten based meat substitute.

Homemade Potato/Tapioca/Sweet Potato Starch Recipe

Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

Hello there and welcome to another episode of "What frugal things does Penny actually do in real life?"
This week was one of the hottest I can remember here in a long time. When explaining to my kids what the temperature meant, I said that the air outside was about as hot if not hotter than someone's body when they have a high fever.
Yea, that hot- over 100 degrees.
I felt like I was walking in an oven when I tried going outside.
When it's really hot, my productivity level goes way down, to the extent that even the thought of lounging around and wasting time seems like too much work. While we have air conditioning- it is in one room only- the bedroom- and being in the bedroom makes me not productive, so I actually rarely put on the AC, just a big fan. So that was another frugal thing, I guess.
And so, understandably, my list of what I actually got done this past week frugality-wise is pretty small.
I taught a class on foraging wild plants at a rehabilitation center for people post stroke- for the first time I taught about foraging in the local language instead of in English, and that was a big deal for me and exciting- and the day before that I gave a private foraging walk to a few friends to first practice teaching in the local language- so I ended up going foraging twice, for a lot of things, in the absolutely crazy heat.

So specifics- here's what I did to save money this past week: