Monday, November 30, 2015

My Latest Very Frugal Shopping Trip

In today's edition of "What did Penny buy"....

Today I went to the open air market. I was nearly out of produce and wanted to restock, and I am trying to keep down my costs. I'm still essentially doing a pantry challenge, but not the standard one- my goal simply is to use up as much of the dry goods in my pantry as possible, focus on using them up before they get buggy, but I still need to be buying produce because I don't have that already in my pantry.
I was trying to see how low I could actually get today's shop to be- I drew 60 dollars and said I'd try to keep my shop under that... and it certainly was! I spent $33.08 on my entire shop!

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What I got was 72.3 lbs of produce, so that averaged to 46 cents per pound on my produce. Not bad at all, considering people have been discussing lately on local frugal forums how all produce locally is extremely overpriced, and also considering the fact that the two stalls I frequent at the market for the most reduced rack type stuff were actually closed by the time I got there...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Corn Flake Covered Baked Tuna Balls Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free

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Once upon a time, before I had Pinterest, I would clip recipes from magazines and use them to get great ideas of dishes to serve to my family. I had a little bag where I would keep these clippings, and when I moved to my new apartment, I think that bag of recipe clippings didn't make it.
There had been this one recipe that I'd had from a local magazine that I made over and over and over again- corn flake covered baked tuna balls. The ingredients were simple but their taste was great- and it was a nice way to make a fancier appetizer from something as commonplace as a can of tuna.
I have not made it in years, but doing my pantry challenge and having surprise guests, I was looking for ideas of what I could make with proteins I already had in the house, and remembered these baked tuna balls.
Somehow, someone on one of these cooking forums I am part of had a clipping that recipe, and once I got it, I was able to tweak it to make it egg and gluten free. I'm really excited about this, and I am sure this will be a regular in our house now.
This makes a large amount- feel free to halve the recipe if you're feeding a smaller crowd.

I want to try making these with my super cheap salmon heads as well.

Corn Flake Covered Baked Tuna Balls Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Latest Super Frugal Shopping Trip- And Why Salmon Heads Are Worth It

I know everyone is in Thanksgiving mode over there in America-land, and if I were there I probably would be as well... but being married to a non American living out of the US, tomorrow is a regular day here, so, my head isn't so much in the Thanksgiving mindset, so you'll have to forgive me for the lack of Turkey day themed posts...

However, in sharing this post with you, I realized that this actually is sort of Thanksgiving themed, because I am super grateful about all these wonderful deals I got, and my ability to buy groceries at low cost, especially groceries that are healthy.

So, as I said in my last post, I am sort of doing a pantry challenge. Meaning, I am trying to put a focus on finishing up as much of the stuff in my stockpile as possible, especially the things I haven't been getting around to making lately so they just end up sitting there. There are a few exceptions I am making to my pantry challenge, among them produce, minimal animal products, and some basic staples that I need to be able to use up the things in my pantry (such as tomato paste, spices that I run out of, etc). However, even if I do need to buy these things, I wanted to get them as cheaply as possible, so for the first time in a long while I went to the open air market to see what deals I could get.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Homemade Quinoa Pizza Crust Recipe- Gluten Free, Vegan, No Flour Needed

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My family is doing a bit of a pantry challenge right now, since I realized that my stockpile was really full of some stuff that I just wasn't getting around to using, so now I'm trying to use those up.
I had a bunch of quinoa that I bought at a terrific price on sale, but, to be honest, my kids aren't exactly fans of quinoa- they'll eat it grudgingly smothered in lots of ketchup...
So I'd heard of making a vegan quinoa pizza crust, using whole quinoa (not quinoa flour) and decided to give it a try, since I might as well see if the kids like that method of quinoa preparation better than the others, and it was a huge hit.
My older son, Lee, who loves gluten pizza but hasn't been the hugest fan of gluten free pizzas, absolutely adored this quinoa pizza crust, said that it was the best gluten free pizza crust I ever made (6 year old Ike agreed), and Lee even said that the quinoa pizza crust was almost as good as gluten pizza.
I'll take this as a winner.
As for myself, I'm still trying to figure out if this pizza crust agrees with my body, but if the kids love it, that's what matters most.

While this isn't the most frugal recipe, since quinoa isn't super cheap, I bet it would work just as well with green buckwheat, millet, or other gluten free grains as well as gluten grains. I'll be experimenting with this recipe and let you know which other grains it works with. Additionally, since it doesn't use any gluten free flours, which gets expensive if you don't have a grinder like I do, and since it doesn't use any xanthan gum, compared to other gluten free pizza crusts, it actually is relatively cheap.

This recipe makes one pizza crust the size of a large baking sheet. My family devours that in no time and is still hungry, so I prefer to double this recipe.

This crust is so tasty that I want to try it out as the basis for other dishes, such as my vegan mini "meat pizzas", and to try making it as the base for pissaladieres- French anchovy and onion tarts. I can see so many ideas in my head forming- just need to make them all!

(P.S. I usually give credit to any author who inspired me to make a certain recipe, but there are just soooo many versions of this quinoa crust recipe out there that I can't find who specifically was the originator of the idea, so instead I'll thank my friend Jenni who clued me in to the idea that this was even possible.)

Homemade Quinoa Pizza Crust Recipe- Vegan, No Flour Needed

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Benefits of Frustration (For Kids and Everyone)

Frustration- the true mother of invention

I was having a discussion the other day with someone about unschooling my kids, and how I try not to push them to learn things that they aren't interested in learning yet (yet being the key word), but rather, wait until they show an interest in learning that subject, and then we tend to learn it rather intensely and quickly.
This person, not a big fan of unschooling, was especially concerned about this approach when it comes to learning our local language. That actually is a subject that I do push to some extent and don't completely unschool it, but even that, I try not to make a fight about it or really pressurize my kids with it, because when I do, and especially when others try to push it (said person decides to school my kids in the local language every time they see them), my kids get very annoyed and it makes them disinterested in learning it, and very upset. And then, instead of my being able to teach them the language at a moderate pace, they don't want to learn it at all.
But I am seeing that they are picking up the language, and I see just how much their grasp has improved in the last year and a half or two since we started working on it, and I realize that it'll take time for them to become fully fluent, but they'll get there.
This concerned person was saying that right now they need the local language, to be able to function in society, to make friends, to be able to interact with people at the grocery store and playground, and if they don't speak the local language, they'd become frustrated.
My answer- becoming frustrated that they don't speak the language well enough is a good thing, not the bad thing this person was making it out to be.

And that, readers, is the point of this post.

Not every seemingly negative circumstance actually is negative. Sometimes they are actually beneficial.

I think frustration is a terrific thing, and very beneficial in certain circumstances.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Homemade Dairy Free Thumbprint Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

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I have an important guest coming tomorrow, and after cleaning the house spic and span (and way beyond that) I realized that I'd wanted to have a baked good to serve when she arrived. Only it wasn't the time to go making a mess with a complicated recipe, so I just threw this together and it was easy to make, used ingredients I already had in the house, and managed to not make a mess- just the mixing bowl, measuring cup, measuring spoon and mixing spoon, so very easy to do with minimal clean up.
I have to apologize for the picture- I used a sugar free jelly which kind of leaked into the cookie, so the color was less beautiful than I hoped it would be- if you use a regular jam or one with fruit solids in it, it probably will be better looking and won't absorb the juices into the cookie, staining it like it did mine.

Homemade Dairy Free Thumb Print Cookies Recipe- Gluten Free, Egg Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free Options

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Really Fun and Frugal Double Birthday Party In A Teeny Tiny House

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A Minecraft cake birthday cake for my  Minecraft loving boys
I totally believe in the mantra "better late than never", which is why, despite my boys having birthdays in September, I made them both a joint birthday party today. I wasn't able to make their party around their birthdays, because it was a crazy hectic time for us where I was barely managing to keep afloat, but things have started calming down a bit lately, so I finally had the time and energy to make them a birthday party, but no, I didn't have the time or energy for two separate ones.

Usually I have a theme for my kids' birthday parties, which allows me to figure out low cost party games, which don't end up having a cheapskate feel to them because they all go together with the theme. These themed parties usually take place outdoors due to our 484 square home being small for a family of 6, let alone an entire party. However, today's party couldn't take place outdoors because, unlike September, when it gets dark later on, by 4:30 pm, it's already getting dark here and we can't have a birthday party in the dark. Add to that that it was supposed to rain and results are that the party had to be indoors.
So then I had to come up with some fun party ideas that would be able to be done around a table- since we'd be able to just fit all the guests around our dining room table plus a folding table, but there wouldn't be room to run around. So essentially the theme was- sedentary activities that would still be enjoyable and frugal.

What I came up with was this- and while not the lowest cost birthday party ever, it cost $40 total (and could have been cheaper had I had the energy to do some bargain hunting... but I didn't), and that included supper, crafts, games, etc...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Paleo Chicken Mole Recipe- Vegan Option, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

I had another recipe that I'd planned on sharing with you today, but then I made chicken mole (pronounced "moe lay") and it was just so finger licking good that I couldn't wait to share it with you, so I bumped it to the head of the line.
Mole is a Mexican dish that literally means mix, and mix it is- the randomest mix you'll ever find, things that you think could never possibly taste good together, but somehow they do. I've looked up many different recipes for mole, and all of them have variations, but this is the variation I fell in love with- a combination of a few others I've seen.
If you're weirded out by the combination, my mom and siblings were too, when I made this for a family get together, but I made everyone taste it before they wrote it off, and they all agreed it was delicious. Last night I was literally eating the sauce from the bottom of the pan with a spoon, it was that addicting.
While this recipe, as is, is obviously not vegan, it first and foremost is a sauce, which can be used in a variety of ways. I used it over chicken then baked it, but you can also grill chicken slathered with it, add some broth to it and cook chicken in it in the crock pot. And if you're a vegan, you can just serve it over veggies- I had some over swiss chard and green beans last night, as a rub on seitan or tofu or other mock meat, or just serve it over cooked beans. It's very versatile.

Paleo Chicken Mole Recipe- Vegan Option, Refined Sugar Free, GAPS Legal

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Still Paleo- How My Family and I Are Eating Now- The 80-20 Rule

Back in July I shared with y'all that despite originally being somewhat opposed to the whole concept of the Paleo diet, because I don't buy the dogma about "eating like hunter gatherers" (especially since I am pretty sure, as a forager, that hunter gatherers/foragers DID eat grains), I did get convinced by Chris Kresser's book, the Paleo cure, to try the Paleo diet for thirty days, specifically because he didn't try to sell the diet based on "this is how cavemen ate" but rather based on solid and sound science, as the diet is high in nutrient dense food and low in inflammation causing foods, so if you have health issues you may find that you feel better without grains, dairy, added sweeteners, legumes, and processed food in general, and that many people find they lose weight when going Paleo.

After 30 days, I updated on how I felt on the diet and after reintroducing these foods, as well as how my family did both on and off the diet. To recap, I felt better physically on the diet, almost all my stomach issues gone, but I didn't lose much weight, if at all, which was frustrating for me. And that I noticed after the thirty days, I was reacting to certain foods that I hadn't realized I'd reacted to before, such as rice, buckwheat, potatoes, and aged cheeses. I also mentioned that I thought my family was reacting to rice, corn, and sugar, but I wasn't sure.
Anyhow, after that, a few months have passed, and I wanted to share how our family is eating now, how those 30 days of Paleo affected our family's eating habits in general, etc...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Raw Carrot Salad With Creamy Lemon Ginger Dressing Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Allergy Friendly, Sugar Free

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Have I mentioned I'm a big fan of salads? Ok, only probably a million and a half times, but it's worth repeating, nay?
I was trying to come up with a salad idea that was using frugal seasonal ingredients- specifically carrots- that was a bit different than the standard salad that I make, and so therefore I didn't want to make my Moroccan carrot salad, neither regular or fermented, nor my Russian carrot salad...
No, I wanted something creamy and Asian inspired, and so I whipped up this batch based off of this recipe I found, only I paleo-fied it, yet at the same time I made it as cheap as I could, and it came terrific. I actually made it for the same meal at which I made my multicolored Thai style veggie salad, and though the ingredients are similar, they actually had two different, but super delicious flavors.
I love this salad. I'll be honest with you, though, that when I had them side by side, I liked the Thai style salad more, but when I had this just on it's own, it was absolutely the bomb. I've included in the recipe both how I made it, as well as alternatives you can use to make it cheaper if you aren't as restricted in diet, and are just looking to make something delicious and cheap.
Oh, and it is super simple to make, very few steps!

And it doesn't hurt that it is friendly to all diets, first and foremost to the "pocketbook friendly diet" but also to people on gluten free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, GAPS, and other similar diets.

Raw Carrot Salad With Creamy Lemon Ginger Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Allergy Friendly, Sugar Free

Friday, November 6, 2015

Wild Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes with Cashew Cream Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, and Super Frugal

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The picture doesn't do the dish justice! Sometimes the dishes that are the
most delicious are the ones that look the funniest. Oh well.
I'll be honest with ya, I haven't been doing much foraging lately, for a variety of reasons. Number one because it was a long and dry summer here and not much growing to forage- the plants I usually find here in the summer- purslane and lambsquarters- were no where to be found locally, and I haven't had the time or energy to go to other locations to forage.
But recently, it rained a great deal locally, which means that all those plants that are dormant until the rainy season start popping up- I've been seeing a bunch of mallow and wild mustard starting to grow. This morning when I was heading back from picking up the mail, I saw such huge mallow and mustard plants; I was so excited that I picked a huge armful (getting mud on myself) and when I came home, I knew I just had to cook it up for my brunch.
Wild mustard is also known as broccoli rabe or rapini, and you can actually buy it in the grocery store if you don't pick it yourself (here's how to identify and forage wild mustard). It has a somewhat bitter taste to it, which I usually balance out with some lemon juice, but this time I thought it would be perfect to balance it out with some sweet and some creamy aspect (see, I told you I was on a "creamy" kick) and I had some stubs of sweet potato left from spiralizing sweet potatoes last night, so I decided to carmelize some onions and add chopped sweet potatoes to it along with cashew butter (that I made from the cheapo cashews I found the other day)...
And I have to say that I never had any dish made from wild plants that was more delicious. I am so excited to pick more and more wild mustard just so I can make this dish again.
If you don't have wild mustard, feel free to use any greens for this, especially bitter greens. This would work with kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, radish greens, dandelion greens, sow thistle greens or any other wild greens (which tend to be on the more bitter side than store bought greens) or store bought greens.
I am sure you can make this with almond butter or peanut butter or sunbutter instead of the cashew butter, but the taste will be somewhat different, but still delicious.

Wild Mustard Greens and Sweet Potatoes with Cashew Cream Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, and Super Frugal

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Paleo Thai Style Multicolor Raw Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS Legal

Winter is here finally, but you know what? Though most of the time I crave hot and thick soups and stews once it is cold, this time, what I'm really craving is creamy vegetables, ideally raw vegetables with something on them that makes them creamy. I was looking for ideas of what to make with my almond butter together with raw veggies when I came across this recipe, which looked delicious, only I was missing quite a bunch of the ingredients, many of which are too expensive for me to keep in stock in my house, and other ones are unobtainable where I live, so, using that as inspiration, I came up with this absolutely delicious creamy vegetable salad which truly hits the spot.
This recipe is both Paleo and Vegan, and is GAPS legal and could be allergy friendly if you use sunbutter in place of the almond butter.
I highly suggest you try it!
And if you don't have the vegetables I mentioned- feel free to switch it up a bit. Use any hard veggies that will slice thinly or will spiralize, whether raw zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, kohlrabi, beets, celery, fennel, carrots, or whatever- you just want the equivalent amount of vegetables so there will be enough to use up all the sauce.
Alternatively, feel free to simply use this sauce on a greens salad, or on rice noodles or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or whatever- the sauce is delicious and can be used so many different ways- your imagination is the limit.

Paleo Thai Style Multicolor Raw Vegetable Salad Recipe- Vegan, GAPS Legal

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The "Weird" Way I Shop To Save Money

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My insanely large amounts of turkey gizzards, about to be cooked. A 5 liter and 9 liter pressure cooker filled with them!

At the grocery store yesterday, I highly amused one of the workers behind the meat counter with my request. I literally had him cracking up with what I asked for, because, honestly, it isn't a "normal" thing to ask for.
Most people don't get how I shop. Not even my husband.
It is typical to look at my grocery cart and think that I'm probably some sort of nut job based on what I buy, because it certainly doesn't look like a normal shop.
But that's why I share summaries of my shopping lists on here, to show that there is a method to my madness, a method that works for us pretty well and helps us keep down our grocery bills, despite being on a restricted diet and not having all the time in the world lately to be cooking all sorts of intricate made from scratch things all the time.

That said, I was going to share the exact details of today's grocery shop, and then before I could lay out all the groceries on the table to be photographed, the kids ate a bunch of it, so... it wouldn't be an accurate picture anyhow.
And, to be honest, most of my shop wasn't particularly noteworthy- veggies and fruit were all overpriced in addition to my being limited in availability, so I just got what I needed, tried to not overbuy so they wouldn't spoil before we used them up. The only noteworthy part of my produce shopping is that last time I bought lettuce and Swiss chard, and only noticed when writing up the receipt that Swiss chard was $1.40 per package while lettuce was $1.85 per package. This time, therefore, I skipped the lettuce and just bought a few packages of chard, since I find it more versatile- I use it raw in salads in place of lettuce, but it also cooks nicely, and being cheaper too made that my go-to.
Other than that I got carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, fennel, mushrooms, bean sprouts, apples, oranges, avocado, cilantro, none of which were particularly cheap unfortunately, but then again, nothing was, not even the butternut squash like it was last time. I spent a total of $55 on fresh produce, and we'll see how long that lasts.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Homemade Aquafaba Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe With No Ice Cream Maker- Dairy and Egg Free, Allergy Friendly, Vegan Option

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Have you ever heard of aquafaba? I hadn't until recently. It's all the rage in vegan circles, and essentially, what it is is bean water, as in the water used to boil beans. I have no idea who figured it out in the first place, but if you take the water in which your beans were boiled- the standard to use is the water from cooking chickpeas or white beans though kidney beans and other beans also work- you can use it as an egg replacer. It is even able to be whipped up to make vegan meringues!

I don't have a mixer, so even though I'd wanted to try out aquafaba recipes when I first heard about it, I only tried it out for the first time a few days ago, when I went to my friend's house to borrow her mixer. I'd said that if it worked nicely, I'd want to buy my own mixer, and she was shocked- why just for this? Well, it isn't just for this, but even if it were, there are just sooo many desserts you can make with aquafaba, from ice creams to meringues to marshmallow fluff to nougat to mousse... and since we're a gluten free household and I can't either eat eggs or dairy, it limits my dessert making capabilities, but aquafaba widens them.

And so, here's how I made my aquafaba strawberry ice cream. It isn't vegan, but can easily be if you replace the honey with a vegan sweetener. It is allergy friendly, and if you buy your strawberries in season it can be super cheap as well. And just like with my other dairy free strawberry ice cream recipe, you can make this with whatever fruit you like and can get cheaply and/or in season, such as pineapple, mango, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, etc...

I used the water that I used to cook my dried chickpeas in, but you can also strain a can of chickpeas and use that liquid.
If you want to keep this GAPS diet legal, use the water from cooking navy beans for this.
This is not Paleo, so if you're 100% off all legumes, you can't use this recipe. But I found that even though most legumes give me stomach issues, I don't really get stomach issues from aquafaba ice cream. I wouldn't overdo it, but some here and there isn't a problem for me.

And if you're wondering about the taste... Well, my friend (who's house I made this at) and her kids aren't into weird tasting things, and her verdict was that it smelled funny but tasted great, and her kids who were raised on pretty junky food thought it was delicious. So I'll take that as success. You don't taste the bean at all.

Homemade Aquafaba Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe- Dairy and Egg Free, Allergy Friendly, Vegan Option