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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Homemade Hibiscus Jello with Pomegranates or Berries Recipe- Paleo, Refined Sugar Free, Sugar Free Option

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I love jello and fortunately my family does as well. I've written before that the jello that I grew up with was full of sugar and artificial colorings and flavorings, etc... all things that I didn't want to be ingesting, so for the longest time we did without jello, until I learned that I could make jello using only nourishing ingredients, so that jello would go from junk to a delicious food that is actually healing for the body.
At first I made jello from apple juice concentrate, but I've stopped buying it, since I find that merely having it in the house tempts us to only want to drink that instead of water, which isn't good either for the budget or my waist.
I've been experimenting with other flavors of jello that I could make, such as ginger jello. I thought to make jello with hibiscus tea, since I had it in the house already and it is a fun color and it can be sweetened as much as you want, and with whatever sweeteners you prefer- sugar to keep it cheapest, or honey or coconut sugar to keep it more nourishing, or stevia (leaf or homemade extract) if you want it lower carb.
To make it even more fancy, I threw in the seeds of two pomegranates, though it would be terrific with fresh berries as well in place of the pomegranate seeds. You can always leave out the fruit to make plain hibiscus jello.

Homemade Hibiscus Jello with Pomegranates or Berries Recipe- Paleo, Refined Sugar Free, Sugar Free Option

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homemade Paleo Mint Chocolate Bites Recipe- GAPS Legal, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free

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I have a thing for chocolate. I am able to eat a totally healthy diet all the time, but then the thing that tempts me, the thing that makes me break my diet is chocolate. Especially because its everywhere, in all the stores, especially at this time of year. And because white sugar in smaller amounts doesn't make me feel ill after eating it (in smaller amounts, like in dark chocolate) its where I cheat and eat not paleo, and sometimes, instead of eating just a square or two I'll scarf down a half bar or even a whole bar in one day.
Not exactly friendly to my waist.

But I would like to be able to enjoy my chocolate without having all the unhealthy ingredients in them. Especially mint chocolate.
In the past, I made chocolate with coconut oil, coconut sugar, and cocoa powder, and while it tasted good, it melted far too quickly because coconut oil has a lower melting point than chocolate, and too much coconut oil at once gave me a stomach ache, so I couldn't have too many of them at once. (Which I suppose is good...)
But either way, I wanted to make myself some homemade chocolates today, and decided to make it cashew based, since cashews would provide thickness that wouldn't melt as quickly as coconut oil would, and they have a pretty neutral flavor which I thought would work wonderfully in chocolate.
These came out terrifically and my kids and I really enjoyed them. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I did.

These are paleo, GAPS legal, refined sugar free, dairy free, etc.... so hopefully friendly for most diets. While they're not vegan since I used honey, if you want to use a different sweetener, feel free to do that to make it vegan. If using a granulated sweetener, I suggest powdering it first with a coffee grinder.

Paleo Mint Chocolate Bites Recipe- GAPS Legal, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Latest Frugal Shopping Trip- What I Bought and Why

Sometimes when you set yourself a really high (or in this case, low) goal, even if you don't make it exactly as you'd planned, your coming close puts you in a better place than you would have been had you not attempted to reach that difficult goal.
Two weeks ago I had a good shopping trip, and then another. So while each shopping trip was a good trip, buying things at decent prices, overall for the week they were higher than I wanted them to be, so I went the entire week last week without buying groceries (hubby picked up some milk for cereal), and I managed even without buying any new veggies and still eating only paleo and therefore veggie heavy for myself... So Sunday was the first time I was going shopping in almost 2 weeks, and though not going shopping the week before brought down our "monthly average" I still wanted to try to keep my grocery bill low, so I set a goal to only spend $85 on groceries- no big stocking up on anything since we had most of what we needed other than produce and a few other things. I said $85 would be what I was aiming for, but if I needed to spend as much as $115 that was also cool with me.

Well, I'll give a little spoiler here now. I didn't make my goal of $85 or even $115, but since those were the numbers I was aiming for, my total was $124, pretty close to my upward end up my goal. So setting that goal was a good exercise and did keep down my spending. (I almost bought 12 bars of dark chocolate on sale, but didn't because it would put me over my goal. And my waist will thank me for that!)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Stuffed Butternut Squash Recipe- Paleo, Grain Free, Sugar Free

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I haven't been grocery shopping in about a week and a half, and have no plans on going shopping until at least Sunday or Monday. I also am eating Paleo, which is very vegetable heavy and there is a limit to how much produce I can buy at once, so you can imagine our stock of produce is slowly dwindling to next to nothing.
I was trying to come up with a nice meal idea that would use the produce I had at home,  and that didn't take much work to make at all. My friend Vera suggested stuffed butternut squash, so with that idea in mind, I threw together something that I thought would taste good- I loosely based it off of my homemade breakfast sausage recipe, and while my breakfast sausage is delicious, this combination is even more delicious and the meat is even more moist.
I will be making it again, that's for sure!
While I thought these looked super fancy when I was making them, I realize that the photograph doesn't do it justice... Oh well.
These are Paleo, grain free, and just simply delicious.
You can make it with ground turkey in place of ground chicken.
If you're a vegan, my friend Raquel suggested trying this with tempeh in place of the ground chicken.
While I hasn't originally intended this as a Thanksgiving dish, it would actually be a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving dinner table.

Stuffed Butternut Squash Recipe- Paleo, Grain Free, Sugar Free

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Low Carb Vegan Zucchini Cheese Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Allergy Friendly, GAPS Legal

I was trying to make my family a quick supper because I didn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen- I finally had a mother's helper come again after not coming the entire summer, etc... and I wanted to get the place cleaned up instead of dirtying up the kitchen. So I cooked up some gluten free pasta, dumped in a can of tuna and a container of cottage cheese, a bit of dehydrated onion flakes, threw in some frozen peas... and started salivating. I love combinations of pasta, cheese, and tuna, and that dish tempted me so much that I nearly ate some, despite knowing that it would make me feel icky.
Instead, I decided to make my own vegan cheese sauce, based on a recipe that I'd seen a few times for zucchini "cheese", since I had zucchini in my house already. I then mixed the sauce with some green beans, spiralized sweet potatoes, tuna, and onion flakes, and the result really hit the spot- and doesn't hurt my body. (And no, it wasn't the quickest meal to make, and did add a bit to the kitchen mess, but fortunately it wasn't too bad.)
I plan on making this cheese sauce again since it was pretty quick to make, and it is low carb. I do often thicken sauces with tapioca starch but since the local stores were out last time I went, it was nice to be able to have a thicker sauce that is vegetable heavy and nutritious, especially since it isn't carby. This recipe is also paleo, GAPS legal, allergy friendly, etc...
As with all vegan cheeses, you can't expect it to taste exactly like regular cheese, because it simply isn't. But this combination works to give you the cheesiness that you were craving, and does a decent job replacing it in most recipes (like chicken or eggplant "Parmesan" for example).

Low Carb Vegan Zucchini Cheese Sauce Recipe- Paleo, Allergy Friendly, GAPS Legal

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sekanjabin Recipe- Refreshing Persian Minty Drink- Refined Sugar Free Options

 photo IMG_0120_zpsayoz6lek.jpgI'm not exactly sure the first time I heard about the Persian drink called sekanjabin, but it intrigued me. I like making and enjoying foods from around the world, but I'll admit, Persian food is something I'm not very familiar with, and the recipes that I'd tried didn't appeal to me so much.
However, sekanjabin just sounded really interesting. It's kind of a minty lemonade, though in place of lemon you use vinegar.
Traditionally it is made with honey- which works perfectly for people who want to avoid refined sugar, though if you want to keep it cheaper you can use white sugar to taste instead, and if you want to make it vegan and still refined sugar free, I've made it successfully with coconut sugar (though you'll need more to make it sweet enough).
This recipe usually calls for fresh mint, but alas, I have none growing nearby me fresh, and buying fresh herbs from the grocery store gets expensive, so I just make this the cheater way- with mint extract. Note about that- the first few times I made it, it was with a mint extract that was oil based, which actually made the sekanjabin somewhat unappealing to drink because you saw little droplets of oil floating on the top. So if you want to make this with extract, use something alcohol based, not oil based. K?
Of course, if you do want to use fresh mint, you can, but then it's a more complicated process and involves boiling it up together, etc... so I suggest using extract.

My family and I like our sekanjabin strong and tart and not too sweet, so feel free to adjust this to taste, adding more or less water, more or less sweetener, more or less vinegar, or more or less mint extract. Hey- by the time you finish fiddling with this recipe and make it to taste, I might as well not have given you any exact recipe, but haha, oh well.

If you want to know how popular this is with my family- my kids saw me making it to snap this picture just as they were heading to bed, and it was a big battle to get them to actually go to sleep and not have this first- the only way I was able to get them to agree to sleep without the sekanjabin was to promise that it would be waiting for them first thing in the morning. Yup, it's that popular.

Sekanjabin Recipe- Refreshing Persian Minty Drink- Refined Sugar Free Options

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Paleo Chicken Pot Pie Recipe- Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free

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When I went shopping last, I bought a bunch of chicken necks, and as I was looking at the packages, I was wondering to myself what kind of delicious dishes I could make with it, and started thinking which recipes work well with deboned chicken. Chicken pot pie came to mind immediately, and then the more I thought about it, the more I craved it, so I decided to mix up a batch, despite it being more work than the average dish I've been cooking lately.
I made my recipe Paleo and dairy free, but feel free to play around with this recipe. If you're vegan, feel free to sub in chickpeas in place of the meat. If you aren't gluten free, feel free to use any pie crust recipe that you like. If you aren't dairy free, feel free to use whatever milk you want, whether dairy or almond milk, soy milk, etc...  If you don't eat peas (and some might say that peas aren't Paleo, but they don't bother me and according to this some say they're fine in moderate amounts on a Paleo diet) feel free to replace it with another vegetable in this recipe, like zucchini or green beans or potatoes, etc...
It was terrific! Really hit the spot, and my kids all enjoyed it. They asked me to please make it again! I plan on it, since it was a good cheap and tasty meal. Maybe next time I'll just make the filling, no crust, and then it'll be even easier!

Paleo Chicken Pot Pie Recipe- Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Finding My New Normal- Taking Shortcuts and Not Feeling Guilty

Anyone who's been a long time reader of my blog, and has been keeping up with it recently has probably noticed a change. Less frequent posting, a lot of talk about not having the energy to deal with xyz, a lot of short cuts that I'm trying to do
I sometimes wonder what type of lifestyle takes more out of you, being a full time working mom with kids in daycare from a young age, or spending all day taking care of your four kids. Because to be quite frank, I'm wiped out. Exhausted. Mentally mostly, but physically as well. I honestly felt I had my hands somewhat full but manageable with 3 kids and then I was pregnant with my youngest, Rose, and I don't function very well when pregnant. I was hoping that after I gave birth and recovered postpartum, I'd be back to my previous lifestyle, pretty productive and creative, etc... And at first, the first few months of Rose's life, it seemed like that would happen, that I'd go back to normal.
But then I got to know Rose, and began to realize that my life will never be fully normal again.

I love her to pieces, but Rose is the definition of handful. We joke that Trouble is not her middle name... it's her first name. Super smart, very advanced developmentally, and using that genius to get up to all sorts of trouble. She seems to thrive on destruction and has limitless energy. I think I spend more energy looking after her and keeping up with her and fixing up after her and keeping her out of trouble than I did with my previous three kids combined. I kept on thinking "when she gets older, she'll be easier" but so far, as her skills have improved, she's used them to ramp up the level of destruction she gets up to. As I try to fix up one bit of trouble she caused, clean up one portion of the mess, and my back is turned, she is destroying another part of the house.

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Rose climbing up my kitchen draws, hanging upside down in public transportation, and doing pull ups on our pull up car. To give you an idea of what parenting her is like. I left out pictures of destruction she causes... because, you know, its the internet. And people on the internet can be nasty about things like that.
It gets exhausting. Mentally mostly, but physically as well, since my kids don't really sleep much at night so I end up getting very little sleep.
So I don't really have the mental or emotional energy to be doing more than absolutely necessary most of the time. Being creative in the kitchen, keeping up with housework, doing ultra frugal things? Honestly, it feels like much of that is simply beyond me at this point in time. At least if I want to keep my sanity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Latest Shopping Trips- What I Bought and Why

Yesterday I had to go to town, and while I was there, decided to go to a cheap grocery store, the same one where I bought my chicken necks before. This store, actually, is the same store I wrote about before, disparagingly, because of their claiming to be free of gimmicks and tricks, but are actually really full of sly tricks to get you to spend more. That said, it still does have many items being sold at great prices, so as long as you shop carefully you can get your money' worth there, and it is worth the trip there. As long as you're careful.
I noticed that meat prices there, for the most part, are far from what I'd like to be paying, however, they do have chicken necks, which are now one of my new favorite meats, now that I've actually seen how dirt cheap they area and how many different ways they can be cooked, so I headed there with the intention to buy necks, plus a few other things that we needed.

Just an aside- I got comments on my last shopping trip roundup post, about how I "spend a lot of money on nuts for myself, but make my kids eat necks", which, while I addressed in a comment, thought merited a response in a post itself.
When it comes to frugality, I try to save money where I can so that I can have more wiggle room and cash to spend on the things that are important to me. Regarding food, this means making do with cheaper animal proteins (chicken necks, gizzards, wings, etc...) instead of more expensive ones, so that I can have more grocery money available to spend on healthier sweeteners, healthier oils, nuts, etc... It may not be the type of thing everyone would do- maybe some people would rather serve more expensive cuts of meat and cheaper oils/sweeteners, and would skip the nuts, but that's cool- everyone is free to do with their money what they want, but this is the choice we've made for our family.
And as for things for me vs things for my kids, for the most part my family and I eat the same food, other than when they're eating things that I can't, or that I avoid for health reasons. There are the very rare times that I actually buy treats only for myself (like super rare)- most treats that I buy go for the kids. I don't believe that as a parent I should get the good things and my kids not- my kids get what they like and that we can afford, and I get what I like that we can afford. No one feels lacking.
Regarding the specifics- my kids aren't the hugest fans of necks because they don't like the bones, but most meat that I make, whether thighs or drumsticks or wings, my kids ask me to remove the meat from the bones, so I just do the same for them with the necks, and then they'll happily eat it. But for the most part, I am the one eating the necks (together with veggies), while they are eating dairy including cereal and milk, cheese, hot dogs, etc... And nuts end up being mainly for the sweets that I make for the family, usually once a week, so its not lots of money on me vs a little on the kid. We're a family and I buy what each person will like and eat and can tolerate, everyone getting nice things as much as we can allow, no one being forced to eat foods they dislike.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

When Less is More- Getting Rid of Things and Saving Money

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I have said it before and I'll say it again- neatness, being organized, etc... is one of my hardest things. Its probably one of my bigger character flaws, and it sometimes hurts me a lot in the frugal department.

Lately I've been feeling like I had no clothing. And that my kids had no clothing to wear.
I knew intellectually that we probably did have what to wear, but the problem was that our clothing shelves were so stuffed and disorganized and messy that we couldn't actually find the clothes that we did have.

To be honest, my problem was in part that I had too much clothing, most of which I wasn't wearing since it didn't look good on my body shape or the color wasn't flattering, and I have decided that unless it is super comfortable or I have another reason to wear it, not to wear any clothing that I didn't feel good about myself or my body when I wore it. Because there was so much and there was barely any room to store it, lets just say my shelves were a disaster zone, and I could never find anything I wanted to wear. And the boys had so many clothes on their shelves that they'd outgrown that it made it hard to find the things that actually fit.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Middle Eastern Style Braised Chicken Necks Recipe- Super Frugal, Paleo, Easy

 photo necks_zpsnyhsdqwr.jpgIn my last post, about my recent grocery shopping trip, I'd mentioned that I was looking to buy meat, and saw that the cheapest meat to buy was chicken necks at 50 cents a pound, and the next cheapest meat was chicken wings at $1.94 per pound, so I stocked up on a bunch of chicken necks, which I plan on using as our protein for quite a few meals, especially since it is so cheap.

However, when I posted about that, I got some interesting reactions. Among them was someone insisting that it doesn't matter how cheap chicken necks are, they aren't actually cheap if you consider how much meat is on them, which this person was insisting was barely anything, that they're mostly bone.
Now don't get me wrong, I know there is a lot of bones in chicken necks. But I also know that there is a lot of bones in every single type of poultry out there, other than breast meat or organ meat, and that people have these misconceptions about what is "all bones" and what is not. Like people think that chicken wings are "all bones" but thighs and drumsticks are not, etc... but I put that to the test already 5 years ago, when I did my breakdown and calculated the true price of meat per pound once you factored in the bones. And I discovered, shockingly, that chicken wings were 49% meat, drumsticks 51% meat, and thighs 53%, really negligible differences.
But that isn't what this post is about.
It's about chicken necks.
Which are 37.5% meat. 11.5% less than wings, which is a difference, yes, but not significantly so. Especially if you consider the fact that some people don't eat chicken skin (I do, and even have some great chicken skin recipes), in which case they're 35.5% meat, which is less meat than chicken necks.

But lets assume that you do eat the skin. Because we do.
Let's compare how much I'd be paying per pound of meat for wings vs necks.

According to my calculations, to figure out the true price of wings, you multiply the price per pound by 2.03 to get the price per pound of meat. Based on the prices I saw in the store, the $1.94 per pound wings are really $3.94 per pound.
And to figure out the true price of necks, you multiply the price per pound by 2.66 to get the price per pound of meat. In which case, it would be $1.33, which means that even discounting the bones, you're paying 2.96 times the price for wings vs necks.

Ok, but sometimes I find wings cheaper. The average decent price I find for wings are $1.28 per pound, which means that their true price is $2.61, still much higher than the price of necks.
When I find wings on tremendous sale, sometimes I can find them for $1.03 and I think once I saw them for $0.77 per pound. Respectively, for the meat those are $2.09 and $1.57 per pound of meat.
So, even at the rock bottom prices for wings, they still are more expensive than chicken neck meat.

The cheapest "straight meat" I can get, with no bones, is chicken gizzards, at $1.29 per pound. When I can actually find them. Once cooked though, they lose a lot of their weight, and to find out their true price per pound you have to multiply that by 1.49, which works out to be $1.93 per pound of cooked meat.

In short, chicken necks at the price I bought them are the absolutely cheapest type of meat per pound, by a long shot.
Well worth it.
I gotta go back to the store and stock up- the 20 lbs of chicken necks I got aren't enough, now that I realized just how dirt cheap they are, via writing up this post!

Ok, so, on to the recipe!
Or rather, almost.

I was trying to figure out what to do with the chicken necks. It is just starting to be a bit cooler here now, so just the start of soup weather, but I live diversifying my meals, and didn't only want to serve chicken neck soup meal after meal after meal, since soup is the standard thing to do with chicken necks.
Then, of course there's stews, and I made some really delicious chicken neck and watermelon rind stew this past summer which was the bomb!
However, sometimes you just want something that doesn't require a bowl to eat it. I wanted to know if it was possible to make some chicken necks that could be eaten on a plate together with the rest of your meal, and googling helped me come across a recipe for braised chicken necks, Indian style, but the problem was that the recipe that kept on coming up was in video format, without an ingredient list written out, and from what I could piece together, the recipe called for jeera seeds and dhania seeds, which I had no idea what they were, so I couldn't do that recipe. (Well, then I found out that jeera is cumin, and dhania is coriander, so mystery solved.)
So I decided to use a similar cooking method, braising, but making my own spice mix for it. I tried figuring out whether this spice mix is better labeled as curried or simply Middle Eastern style, but decided that the flavor reminded me most of Middle Eastern cooking (it tastes similar to baharat, but not exactly).

It truly came out delicious.

I made 3.25 lbs worth of chicken necks- feel free to use less if you don't want to make a large amount, and then just reduce the spices accordingly.

Middle Eastern Style Braised Chicken Necks Recipe- Super Frugal, Paleo, Easy

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

You know me- I'm all about eating healthy, on a minimal budget. So this guest post by Mark was totally up my alley!

If you’ve ever tried to eat healthily, you may have noticed how expensive it can get. If you plan and strategize, though, you can absolutely maintain a high-quality, nutritious diet and also stick with your budget. Here are five strategies you can use to save some money while also eating well.

One tried-and-true way to save money on all groceries is to buy packaged items in bulk. This strategy is something people often think of in terms of snacks and things like that, but it absolutely works for healthful food items as well. Packaged foods like pasta, quinoa and protein bars can be bought in bulk for great discounts. You can use this strategy at normal grocery stores, but to save even more, you may want to consider shopping at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco. To make sure you’re saving money, compare the cost per ounce of the larger package to the cost per ounce of the smaller package. It’s often possible to get a significantly lower cost per ounce when you’re buying larger packages.