Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best of Penniless Parenting From 2015

Wow, 2015 has been a whirlwind of a year. So many things happening in my life, things that, if you'd asked me about them in the beginning of 2015, I would have been sure that they would never have happened, and yet, they did.

It's interesting- I was looking back over my blog stats of this past year, and my posts almost seem like a representation of the highlights in my life, the biggest of which being that we bought a house, and the second biggest that I went paleo and the ensuing health effects it has had on my body in addition to finally being able to lose that stubborn weight and helping me feel so much better about my body.

So in the spirit of the new year, I thought I'd share a list with you of the 20 most popular posts on my blog of the last year, with the most popular ones first.

The Best of Penniless Parenting From 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Paleo When Short On Time and On A Budget- Plus Sample Weekly Menu

My paleo supper tonight- chickweed and sow thistle greens, ground chicken crumbles,
sauted grated carrots, and walnuts, topped with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Ever since I went paleo and wrote about it, how it makes me feel better and also made me finally be able to get down to closer to my ideal weight many people have turned to me and asked me how they can do the same, to please teach them what they can do, walk them through it step by step. There are so many paleo recipes out there, but many are intricate and time costuming to prepare, not to mention expensive. Friends and family have asked me to please write out for them a sample paleo menu for a week, breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks, with a focus on easy and relatively cheap paleo meals. Something that busy parents and/or with full time jobs and/or little energy can easily do.

I've wanted to do that for a while yet at the same time something was holding me back and made me keep pushing it off. Probably because of my spontaneity and hating the constricts of a strict menu to follow (because what if I'm not in the mood for something on the menu) and because I cook based on what is cheap and in season and what I have in the house... However you asked for it and you'll get it. But this is just a sample and when I suggest a certain vegetable or protein, feel free to replace it with another vegetable or protein depending on your likes, what you have available, and local pricing.

What Is Paleo:

A Happy Birthday AND a Happy Wallet

I hope you enjoy this guest post by Daniel Bailey.

A child’s birthday is a very special day. These parties, depending on the age, are events that your children will remember for the rest of their lives. As such, as a parent, you naturally want to give your child the very best birthday party they could dream up. Achieving this task however, can be a financial bear. A party in the wealthiest circles can run up into the thousands of dollars in costs,with a kids party hire for clowns, facility rentals, and expensive decorations. It does not have to be this way in order to provide a great time for your child. There are lots of great, creative ways to cut costs for your next birthday, which we will discuss in further detail below.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Gizzard Manifesto- The Everything Gizzard Post

Cajun dirty rice with gizzards

Brazilian coconut milk chicken with gizzards, my all time favorite gizzard recipe

It  seems every time I tell someone about preparing gizzards, people want to know what they are, how you use them, etc... And one day, half jokingly, I said I'd write my gizzard manifesto, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it would actually be a good idea for me to write out a whole post about gizzards, what they are, why I like them, and the ways to make them.
And so, here it is.

What are gizzards?
They are part of what is considered giblets, aka offal, aka organ meats. Though we have teeth which we use to chew our foods, as the first step of breaking down our food and digesting it, birds don't, and so they have an extra organ, the gizzard, which is like an additional stomach whose job is to contract and break down the food that the bird eats. Many birds also swallow pebbles which then stay in the gizzard and assist in breaking up the food.
Because of the task that it does, gizzards are very muscular, and their texture and taste is quite different from other organ meats. (While other organ meats taste "bloody", iron rich, gizzards taste more muscular, more like dark meat.

Gizzards are probably my favorite frugal animal protein to prepare because they are just so cheap and versatile, and it doesn't hurt that, as with many organ meats, they are very nutritious- a terrific source of iron, the B vitamins (especially B2, B3, and B12), iron, selenium, phosphorous, zinc and a bunch of other things, including collagen.

Of course, not only are they cheap per pound (I can typically get them for $1.29 per pound at their regular price, and sometimes even cheaper at specialty stores or on sale), since there is no bones involved, they are just pure meat; they work out cheaper than all the bone-in chicken I can get, per pound.

The thing is, though, many people are scared of gizzards or grossed out by them or just plain have no idea what to do with them.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Our Family's Latest Frugal Accomplishments

Sorry about the lack of posting this last week- on top of everything else that was going on that kept me busy, we had a stomach bug that made the week zip by in a blur, so I didn't manage to get around to posting.
And so, this week's and last week's frugal accomplishments have gotten combined... Unfortunately the list isn't so long, because with all that was going on, I wasn't able to put a heavy emphasis on frugality.

Here's what I did to save money these last two weeks:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Paleo Pasta Puttanesca Recipe- With Paleo and Non Paleo Options

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As I mentioned earlier, I am doing a pantry challenge of sorts and I have a ton of anchovies in my cupboard that I want to use up. I figured out some really yummy recipes using them including pissaladieres but the thing is, I really am trying to stick predominantly to a paleo diet, which means I shouldn't be eating too many of those pissaladieres (and the problem with those is they are so delicious that I want to down the whole batch in one go when I do make them).
So, a friend of mine recommended what she calls "slutty pasta", or what is officially called "pasta puttanesca" (which truly does mean pasta in the style of prostitutes) for reasons that I am not 100% sure (it appears there is a debate about the origin of the name), but whatever the reason, the fact that it is easy and delicious is a big draw to this recipe.
I knew that I could easily make this recipe paleo friendly, just by using spiralized zucchini instead of pasta- and it really tastes amazing. It is super easy to make, other than the spiralizing the zucchini, which also is easy to do if you have a spiralizer- assuming you don't need to fight with your toddler over who actually turns the handle, as happens in my house regularly, which makes this a touch harder to make. But even when the spiralizing trouble, this still has become my go-to recipe when I need something easy and delicious to eat, assuming I'm not out of zucchini.
If you don't have a spiralizer, you can use grated zucchini for this, though it is less "fun" since it doesn't look like spaghetti. Still tastes great though.
And if you're not paleo, you can just use regular pasta or gluten free pasta or whatever other type of pasta alternative you'd like in place of the spiralized zucchini.

I used my foraged capers the first time I made this, but quickly ran out of my own homemade foraged pickled capers, so from then on I used store bought. (It tasted better when made with mine.) If you have a lot of homemade capers, though, you can use them in place of olives (add them to taste). And if you don't have capers, just increase the amount of olives.
To be honest, as much as I wrote a precise recipe here, it is flexible- you can adjust most of the ingredients, more or less to taste, and it'll still be terrific.
I have used a variety of fish types with this recipe to up the protein content, the cheapest of them all being meat from my super cheap salmon heads, along with tuna fish, sardines, etc... but to keep the cost down you can leave those out. Or to add protein (but it won't be paleo anymore) you can also add cooked lentils or chickpeas to the sauce.

Have fun with this. Imagine it more as a base for greatness than an exact science.

Paleo Pasta Puttanesca Recipe- With Paleo and Non Paleo Options

Thursday, December 17, 2015

All About My Latest Frugal Grocery Shopping Trips

It's funny how sometimes I manage to go a while without any grocery shopping and then I do a heavy shopping day- yesterday, after not having done a real grocery shop for about 2 weeks, I went to not just one place to grocery shop, but 3!

In our community we have these weekly sales where they sell groceries supposedly cheaply, but I haven't been to one for a while, since the timing never seemed to work out right, but yesterday I considered going to one sale, asked on my local Facebook ground about it, and found out that they had salmon on sale really cheaply, so decided to make the trek, and then found out that there was another sale about a 15 minute walk uphill from the first sale, so figured why not check it out as well.

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What I got at the first two places I shopped.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

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I'm a sucker for dessert- I sometimes really crave something sweet and yummy, and not just a fruit. The problem is that desserts usually fall in one of two categories- cheap and unhealthy, or healthy and expensive. (Ok, three- there are also expensive unhealthy desserts.) So when I'm trying to save money, I make desserts that are cheap, even if not so healthy, if that's what the people I'm making it for will enjoy. So that's what I did the other day- I made chocolate chip cookies, not so healthy ones, but... then I knew that having them in the house would tempt me, and I knew that I didn't want to be eating those, so I decided to mix up a little batch of an alternative to "do the trick" and satisfy my craving for junk. I made these paleo chocolate chip cookie bites and they were really terrific. I used my cacao nibs that had just arrived from iherb, as well as broken cashews that I bought on sale at a super cheap price, as well as pre-pitted pureed dates which are the cheapest types of dates I can get here and also work out terrifically for desserts like this.
These were really enjoyable- can I say they taste exactly like chocolate chip cookies? No. But they certainly hit the spot and made me not the least bit jealous of the chocolate chip cookie eaters.

If you don't have cacao nibs, feel free to use whatever chocolate you have, whether homemade refined sugar free chocolates, some other healthy type of chocolate chips, or even non healthy chocolate chips, they just won't be paleo.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites Recipe- Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Option

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

I haven't shared my weekly frugal accomplishments with you in quite a while. To be honest, a big part of it was me feeling like I wasn't living up to the frugal standards I held for myself, so I felt a bit like a fraud sharing my "frugal accomplishments" which didn't feel like big accomplishments at all.
But lately, as in the past 2 or 3 weeks, I have been putting in a bigger effort to be more frugal, and not just that, but also to track what frugal things I did, so that I can look back over the past week and feel encouraged by what I managed to do, and not discouraged by the times that I wasn't as frugal as I should.

And so, maybe not the most frugal week ever, but I think I did a decent amount of frugal things.

Frugal Accomplishments This Week

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Musings On Life Without A Car

We are a family of 6 and we have no car. Never had a car, have no plans on getting a car in the foreseeable future. People often ask me how I manage without a car, especially since all 4 kids of mine are home with me every day. So many people tell me that they can't possibly manage without a car, they absolutely need one, and sometimes even two, so how does my family survive without a car?

I've given this a lot of thought, to be honest, and I think that whether or not someone feels a car is a necessity is a matter of choice and lifestyle and expectations.

Because my husband and I never had a car as adults, we have gotten used to not having a car, and in many ways, we built our life around that fact. There are two ways of looking at it- either that not having a car controls our lives, day in and day out... or that we simply decide that having a car is not a priority for us and structure our lives around that fact.

Toddler Proofing Your Home

As the mother of four kids, especially one rambunctious toddler, I am aware of how important it is to toddler proof your home. I hope you appreciate this guest post on how to do that.

Especially for new parents, it can be absolutely astounding to see what accidents and messes young, newly-mobile toddlers can get into. And many of the everyday objects which can fill a home can prove to be astoundingly dangerous to the inventive mind of a toddler. So for all parents, here's a great guide on toddler proofing a home, room by room, to create a safe environment which is more safe and resists stains and other spills.

What to do in the Living Room
The first thing to do is start with the electrical outlets! Use inserts to cover them and protect them from prodding fingers, and use tape or tie-downs to secure electrical cords in-place against the ground. Secure cords to lamps and other lighting against the wall or table legs so that they can't easily be pulled down. Have a floor lamp? Hide it behind heavy furniture, like end tables or sofas, so that they can't be knocked down… or better yet, remove them all together and find an alternative! Small rechargable lamps on a high shelf can often provide as much light.

End tables and coffee tables often have sharp corners, which should be cushioned. You can DIY some options, but there are products to take care of this for you! Move plants out-of-doors or onto high shelves, and put any breakable decor objects high or set them into storage… alongside any books in the lower shelves. Toddlers really love tearing pages. And these newly empty spaces make great spaces to store toys in soft bins!

Roll away the nice cowhide rug and instead replace it with a cheap and soft alternative with an interesting, warm-colored pattern: this can help hide stains. You may also want to invest now in a cover for the sofa, which can be taken off when guests are over.

What to do in the Dining Room

Toddlers love to climb, so ensure that chairs are always pushed in. If you keep a sidebar, make certain that latches are installed so that drawers and doors can't be opened. And while you might love beautiful centerpieces, you may want to set them away if they can easily be reached or pushed aside. Tablecloths and runners should also be removed when not in use, because toddlers love to reach up and tug on dangling fabric.

What to do in the Bathroom

Ideally, the bathroom door should always be shut with a toddler around; but just in case, it's always best to prepare. Use a bathroom bin with a lid to ensure your little one doesn't rifle through the trash, and ensure that under-sink cabinets are always latched. Keep the toilet seat down and latched too, and use a plush, nonskid rug on the floor to help protect against falls. Use a nonskid mat in the tub to help protect from any falls into it, and pad the faucet when not in use. Using a tieback for the shower curtain if you have one can also discourage yanking, and all soap, razors, and bathroom errata should always be kept either locked away or well above waist height.

What to do in the Kitchen

The biggest thing in the kitchen is to ensure that all the cabinets have latches… but also the pantry, the fridge, and the oven! Unplug and store small appliances or wind the cords so that they can't be reached or dangle. Sweep often, and use mats in the kitchen to protect against falls, and move anything which might help a toddler climb up onto a kitchen counter.

Store breakables up and out of reach, but just in case, you may want to invest in unbreakable dishware. You can purchase clever covers for stove controls and stove burners, and always remember to place dishwashing errata out of reach.

And when you're cooking? Use the back burners, and turn pan handles in and away from the ledge. Ensure knives are always stored in drawers, rather than in a block, and do a routine run-through of the kitchen to ensure that nothing edible is out on the counters. This means there isn't anything to eat or accidentally choke on, but can serve the purpose of helping keep mice out of the house!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Homemade Gluten Free Donut Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free Options

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My kids have been asking me to make them donuts, and, though I haven't made them in a while, the other day I finally got around to making them again. The thing is, though, that I needed to find a recipe that would work for us- I had one recipe using chickpea flour which I haven't been using chickpeas since they bother our stomachs, and another one called for sweet potatoes which have been a fortune lately. I was aiming to take my terrific recipe using chickpea flour and tweak it to make it with the types of flours I have available in my house on a regular basis, and the donuts simply were terrific, and I've since made a few more batches.
What I like about this recipe especially is how versatile it is, you can make it with pretty much any sweetener you like (though I haven't tried with stevia), you can make it with or without eggs, etc... and now I discover that yes, you can make it with whatever gluten free all purpose flour mixture you prefer- I made it with a mix of green buckwheat, short grain and brown rices, and potato starch, but you can just as easily make it with store bought gluten free all purpose flour mix or homemade gluten free all purpose flour mix- it'll be great either way!

I thought these donuts were sweet enough on their own, but as an extra treat, we coated some with powdered sugar (put some in a bag, inserted one donut at a time, then shook around to coat) and made them even more delicious.

Homemade Gluten Free Donut Recipe- Vegan and Refined Sugar Free Options

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Curried Carrots and Radishes Recipe- Vegan, Paleo

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For the most part I'd say my kids aren't picky eaters, but one of my kids refuses to eat any zucchini and most refuse to eat the following veggies cooked: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, greens, mushrooms, etc... so when I am trying to come up with ideas of cooked veggie dishes, I'm somewhat limited. I was trying to figure out a recipe for a curried vegetable dish that my kids would agree to eat and that was made with things I actually had in the house, and I had carrots and radishes, so decided to come up with a curry recipe based on them. I made this twice so far and really enjoyed it. The first time I made it my kids really enjoyed it, but the second time I made it too spicy, so they didn't. If you don't have radishes at home, feel free to just substitute in more carrots.

Curried Carrots and Radishes Recipe- Vegan, Paleo

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What Is a Pantry Challenge- And Why Do It?

I've been posting recently on my blog about this pantry challenge that I'm currently doing, and a few people have asked me what exactly a pantry challenge is, why someone would want to do it, and how exactly one goes about doing it.

To be honest, there is no one answer for this question, because everyone that does a pantry challenge does it for different reasons and in different ways, however there is a general idea of what it means.

Essentially, a pantry challenge is when you try to use up the food that you have in your house instead of going out to buy more. You shop your pantry instead of shopping in the grocery store.

My husband and I have a point of contention in our frugal lifestyle- he thinks it is smarter to just shop for what you need when you need it; I am big into the idea of stockpiling. I buy things when they're cheap and then store them at home for when I need them, at which point in time I take them from my stockpile and have them at that cheap price instead of buying them as needed at a higher price.

A friend who heard I was doing a pantry challenge didn't understand the purpose of it- if I work hard to build up my stockpile, what is the point to try and decimate it- how is that frugal?

Homemade Gluten Free Naan Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

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Gluten free naan, persimmon chutney, radish and carrot curry, and curried chicken.

The kids and I are watching a series called "Big Crazy Family Adventure", a documentary about a family who travels from Canada to a remote town in India without taking a single plane, stopping in many countries and having many adventures and exploring the sites along the way. In the episode we watched today, the family finally, finally reached India, and they were showing the food that the family was eating- naan bread, chicken, and veggies. Exactly as we were watching that and the boys were saying how yummy it looked, they said they were hungry and asked what I was making. I got inspired and said why not make similar to what they're having- Indian chicken, and gluten free vegan naan bread and veggies- the kids thought it was a terrific idea.
The thing about naan bread, a yeasty pan fried flatbread- in addition to typically being made with gluten, it usually is made with dairy, yogurt and butter- something I can't eat, so I said I'd try to make our naan without dairy or gluten.
Is it authentic? No. Real naan is much more fluffy.
Is it delicious? Absolutely! Does it replace naan in an Indian meal? Certainly.
My kids said the entire meal was absolutely delicious- they couldn't pick their favorite part, because they enjoyed every single bit of it.

If you aren't able to eat dairy or gluten, this naan recipe is the perfect one for you.

Homemade Gluten Free Naan Bread Recipe- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pissaladieres Recipe- French Onion and Anchovy Pizzas, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Option

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A while back I got a huge amount of cans of anchovies for free, and to be honest, I haven't had much of an idea what to do with them, since growing up, I only ever ate anchovies on pizza. Yet doing this pantry challenge, these cans of anchovies have just been staring me in the face, shouting out at me to use them up already. My friend Allison suggested I look into pissaladieres, French onion and anchovy "pizzas" (though pizza is the wrong name, in my opinion, as they have neither tomato nor cheese, but I digress).
They seemed totally up my alley, and something I could easily make gluten free and dairy free, and so I got to work.
There are so many recipes out there for pissaladieres, but every one seemed to have some basic components- sauted onions, anchovies, thyme, and olives. Some had some vinegar and sugar added to it, so I decided to use that as well.
For my pizza crust I used my quinoa pizza crust, but this works with any pizza crust, so I am going to try making it next time with this Paleo pizza crust recipe (and going to try to use flax egg in place of the egg there), but feel free to use your favorite pizza crust recipe for it, whether a paleo pizza crust, gluten free pizza crust, or glutinous pizza crust.

I made mine into mini bite sized pizzas, which was really delicious and perfect. I really enjoyed them as did my husband and oldest son (my younger son hates fish with a passion, so there was no way he'd eat anything anchovy).

I can't wait to make these again- I just need more olives and then this'll go right back on the menu.

The biggest issue with them? They are absolutely addicting. I had a hard time not eating the whole batch when I made them. (Ok, I lied- other than giving one mini pizza each to my husband and son, I did eat the entire batch. True story.)

Go ahead and make them! That is if you can get your hands on anchovies without breaking the bank...

Pissaladieres Recipe- French Onion and Anchovy Pizzas, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Option

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...

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