Monday, December 26, 2016

We Signed With Tenants!

I wanted to apologize for being a little absent from the blog the past few days. There was a lot going on here what with the holidays, construction, and unfortunately most of the family having a virus of some sort or another. I'm still recovering and a few of my kids still are as well...

However, that said, we have some great news! We found renters for our rental unit upstairs from our apartment, and signed today.

I knew there'd be a large demand for this apartment, since there is a shortage of apartments, especially three bedroom ones, where we live. Two weeks ago I posted one short blurb in a local whatsapp group about the apartment, and despite it being under construction we got non stop calls and visits and people interested in the apartment, but we were looking for specific types of renters, and I am happy to say that I think we found a family exactly like what we were looking for. And that is just with posting a short blurb, no pictures, while the place was under construction.

I'd love to write more in depth, but as I said I'm still under the weather. And we still have more to do. Today they installed the granite counter-tops in the rental unit's kitchen, and only recently they finally installed a front door. Between now and the 31 of December we still have more to do- attach the plumbing in the sink, install the cabinet doors, and hang the upper kitchen cabinets. But that is totally doable in a day's work.

But for now, I just wanted to share the good news!

Since January isn't a popular time locally to move, we had the contract end one year from this July, so that it ends at a more reasonable month to find renters.

Any landlords out there? Any tips to give to new landlords so that we can be the ideal landlords? We have experience with bad landlords and we want to be as good landlords as we can possibly be. Or any tips, coming from the perspective of tenants, of things we should make sure not to do as landlords?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How To Overcome An Unexpected Financial Crisis

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at
A reader, Heather, reached out to me, and mentioned how she had cancer and she went from being financially stable to in a big financial crisis, because of all the expenses involved in the treatments and being unable to work, and more. She asked me if I'd be able to write a post about how people can overcome an unexpected financial crisis, and I said that I'd be happy to.

In my adult life, I certainly did have an unexpected financial crisis, but I can't say that it was following a period of financial comfort.
Rather, about a year after we got married, some financial mistakes of one of our pasts' caught up with us and gave us a huge jolt, causing us to feel like we were drowning financially, instead of the just barely making it through the month that we'd been doing until that point.

This post will hopefully address people in both circumstances- people who started off financially comfortable and then found themselves in financial hell, as well as people who weren't doing well beforehand and then found themselves in an even worse situation.

Steps to Overcome An Unexpected Financial Crisis

Monday, December 19, 2016

Our Kids' Free Upcycled Quadruple Bunk Bed

I had all sorts of plans for beds for my kids in our new home. We specifically designed the outlets and doors in the bedroom with the plan that we'd have a set type of beds that would be able to sleep all four of our kids. We were going to have 4 beds, in the shape of an L, with the ends overlapping each other- a four tiered bunk bed with two beds along each wall. 

We got to the new home, and for a few days, my kids slept on mattresses on the floor while we brought over the furniture and slowly got it put together. However, when we went to put it together, my kids didn't want what we'd planned, and I wasn't sure it would work so well either.

Instead, we ended up making beds for four (or even five if you want to get technical) all on top of each other, which saved even more room. The kids are loving it, and I'm loving how space efficient it is, but the biggest perk was the cost.

We spent nothing.

Healthy Girl: 5 Small Lifestyle Changes to Lose Weight

This post is written by a blog reader.

Losing at least a couple pounds is something that’s on just about everybody’s minds in some capacity. Beginning a weight-loss journey doesn’t have to begin with moving in to your local gym or eating crackers for every meal. Instead, imagine more realistic and sustainable changes that you can make in your daily routine. Often times, a small and simple adjustment in your day-to-day can produce the biggest successes.

Consider the following changes to make to your lifestyle and you’ll find your losing weight without working too hard!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Our New Beautiful and Frugal Small Living and Dining Room

In the past few days a few different people asked me questions about living situations that brought to mind some things that were at the back of my mind for much of the duration of my marriage, and especially in the last 5 years where we lived in 484 square feet, with a family of 6 the last two years...

Namely, how hard it was, and not just physically, but also emotionally. Because by nature I want to be able to host people, have guests over, invite friends and family to chill out at our house... but our last home was simply too cramped. And for the first few years there, we didn't even have a couch since we couldn't find any room for it. When we finally got a couch, it was a tiny little Ikea Solsta couch, which made me very happy at the time, and was the best we could do then, and it did allow us to have guests over a little bit more, since they had where to sit down that wasn't just around the table, but it wasn't really enough.
I wanted to be able to have an area of my home designated for lounging around. Even though I probably wouldn't ever have enough space for an entire room dedicated for that, I wanted to have room to comfortably have at least a small crowd hanging out together. On couches.

And I wanted prettiness. I have had such a hard time with feeling like I'm just living with somebody else's cast offs, never really being able to make my home mine since everything in it wasn't too my taste, but rather it was whatever we could get cheapest or free.

About a year ago, I decided to give our current home an interim makeover, to at least have the colors in my home, as much as possible, be ones that I liked, and I got rid of all the things whose colors bothered me, and replaced them with things more to my taste, just by making pillow covers and couch covers and replacing the tablecloths. You can read more about my super frugal home makeover here. It really made such a huge difference to my overall happiness, that my home at least somewhat felt more me, with colors I liked and in styles I liked.

But in our new house, I felt that wasn't enough. Now that we finally had the space, I wanted to have a real living room. Real couches in colors I liked. A rug. Pillows. And not with covers, but the actual thing. And we splurged. But not too much.

The only new things we purchased for the living room were these two couches, on sale at a Black Friday sale. A two seater and a three seater in the colors I liked.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Foraging and Homemade Miso

My dad makes homemade miso. When I was a kid, I think he made miso once or twice, but since moving abroad with the family, he has made miso pretty regularly for a few years now. I have been asking and asking him to write me a post on miso making, but that hasn't happened yet. I am trying to get it to share with you though!

The other day my dad brought over a bottle of miso for me- a liter and a half of solid miso. I was really excited about that. He then instructed me to make it into soup with onions, carrots, and foraged greens.

Rental Kitchen Mostly Installed Ourselves!

So yesterday I posted that we installed our Ikea kitchen cabinets (upper) ourselves, first time doing cabinets, and it was much easier than we expected. Putting the cabinets together was a cinch, and installing them was not super simple, but easy enough.

Today, my 9 year old son and I put together the rest of the kitchen cabinets, this time the ones for the rental unit upstairs from us. Mostly it was as simple as doing the rest of the cabinets, other than the corner unit that was harder but still doable (I just needed to look much more closely at the instructions and follow them very well, since unlike the rest of the cabinets we installed, this was not symmetrical so directions made a huge difference.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

We Finished Installing Our Ikea Kitchen

We did it! My kitchen is now complete! After 9 year old Lee and I built all of our Ikea kitchen cabinets, yesterday Mike and I installed them into our kitchen.  If I want to be honest about who did what, I went to the hardware store to get advice about what type of screws were best for securing cabinets and bought them, then I measured how long the rails upon which Ikea cabinets sit should be, and then marked them, then Mike cut the rails while I held them in place. I then measured and marked on the wall where the rails should go, and marked all the places to drill. After that, Mike drilled into the wall, and added the screws. The screws went in properly onto one wall, the one with the taller cabinets, however, the wall wasn't deep enough for the screws on side with the fridge, so Mike needed to problem solve and figure out different ways to secure the rails onto the wall, which he accomplished very well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Building Our Own Ikea Kitchen- Because We Can!

The kitchen, as it arrived...

Yesterday in Ikea I placed an order for a complete kitchen, and as I paid for the delivery they assumed they also were charging me for assembly. When I told them that we were assembling it ourselves, they said "Oh, your builders are putting it together for you?" I told them no, my husband and I would be doing it ourselves.
Then when I was walking around the bedding section I was talking to someone there, and mentioned that my husband and I built our own beds; this person asked "Oh, you designed it together and then had it built?" I insisted that no, I didn't "have it built", that I did more than just draw designs on paper but actually did 50% of the physical work on top of doing all the planning and sketching.

Today the kitchens arrived and there were boxes and boxes and packages of materials and the deliverers again asked the same question, who was building it, and then not believing me really when I said we'll do it ourselves. The contractor who is doing the finishing touches to the upstairs apartment asked me the same and was downright incredulous when I said that I planned on doing it myself.

Now let me admit something. I've never built a kitchen before. And today when it arrived and I saw just how much of a huge project there was ahead of me, without any assembly instructions for the kitchen as a whole I kind of balked. I wasn't sure I knew what I was getting myself into...

So why build it ourselves?
Well, a few reasons.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Homemade DIY Pallet Nightstand or End Table

I went to Ikea today to pick up some more things for our home and to place an order for the kitchen, and when I got home, I saw that Mike had started working on another DIY project out of pallets we collected- a nightstand for me. I had mentioned that in our room I didn't yet have a place to put down books or my glasses or phone, so Mike decided to build me one.

Since he was just at the very beginning of the project, I helped him build the rest, and gave design input, and held the wood while he sawed and drilled and sanded.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Feeling A Bit Like A Fraud

For the past little bit I've been having this thought running through my head- that I'm not being the Penny I've always been. Since I started packing and preparing for our move, and since we've moved in, in many ways I feel like an impostor, a fraud, and just not myself.


Two months ago, if you asked me to describe myself using fewer than ten descriptors, they would probably include:

Frugal (and extremely frugal)
Healthy Eater (mainly Paleo)
Tiny House Liver
and a few other things.

But now, I'm finding a hard time finding me since most of those words don't seem to be describing me or my life anymore...

Monday, December 5, 2016

PSA: Watch What You're Dissing

As someone who has lived a frugal life by necessity pretty much since I got married at 18 years old 10 years ago, I've gotten my fair share of remarks from people about how we live our life. Many people don't necessarily understand why I do things the way that I do, and I have a relatively tough skin, but I'll admit, certain things can sting, and even if they don't hurt me, they certainly have the potential to be hurtful to others.
Now that we moved into our new house, these types of remarks have increased, and I am writing this post as a public service announcement, because I'm sure many people don't even realize how certain things they say can be hurtful, and I wanted to point out to people about the power of their words.

First of all, I think it is important to realize that you can never really understand why someone else does things the way that they do. Things may seem silly or strange to you, but if you aren't aware of someone else's life circumstances, you may be missing a big part of the picture of why people are doing things a certain way.

For example, and totally not connected to the comments that inspired this post, I've had people assume that the reason why I am on a strict diet is because I am orthorexic, that I have mental issues that cause me to desire to restrict myself and take away all enjoyment from food, when the truth is that it is because I had physical health issues for years that finally were eliminated by removing trigger foods. Simply because they weren't privy to the details of my health situation, they assumed very incorrect things about me.
Similarly, when people make comments about why I am doing things a certain way, or telling me that I should be doing things in a way I'm not, they aren't knowledgeable about my financial circumstances that are influencing the way I spend or don't spend money. I happen to be more open about my finances than most people (being as I run a blog called Penniless Parenting), but even so, I don't share the details of how much money we bring in each month, various expenses we have, and how much money is left over after all that. Therefore, people may not understand why I make the frugal or extremely frugal choices I make, why I won't spend on certain things that would be givens to other people, and why I do sometimes spend money on things people may consider frivolous.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Almost All Moved In!

I want to apologize for my long absence from my blog! We got our keys to the brand new apartment that we bought while in the building stages on Monday morning, and by Monday evening we started moving in... Yes, started...
I was hoping to have a great post to share with you about how we frugally moved, but we ended up paying too much for movers, and they ended up doing a terrible job, and not even finishing the job. I'm not interested in getting into all the reasons of the whys and the hows, but lets just say on Sunday my mom and I brought over two car loads worth of things and put them in the yard, on Monday she and I brought over another load or two, on Monday night movers brought over much of our stuff but not all, on Tuesday relatives helped bring two more car loads of things, Tuesday night movers brought over most of the rest of our things and most of the rest of our furniture but refused to do any more, Wednesday we brought another car load or two over, Thursday another car load, and finally Friday, with two last car loads we brought the last of the stuff to the apartment.
It was horrible to do it like that, having the move spread over so long, but it wasn't by choice, and we specifically paid movers to move things so that we could get it all done at once instead of bit by bit and even so it didn't work out... but at the same time, in a way it was good because I ended up being able to put things away a bit at a time, so by the time we got the last things on Friday, most of the other things were already put away, so we were able to do it in smaller chunks. I certainly wouldn't recommend what we did, but... we aren't moving for a long long time again, if not ever, so at least we don't have to worry about this again!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Moving Day!!

After a whole bunch of snafus, and lots of bureaucracies and technical issues... today I signed the final paperwork, and got handed the keys to our apartment!

We are moving in today! Originally we were going to move in on Wednesday, but for a few reasons we decided to move today instead, so I'm finishing up with the last bits of packing before the movers arrive.

I still have to get my phone line moved to our new place, and then the internet up and running, so I may have more sporadic internet access until I do, so I wanted to update you before the moving truck arrived.

And yes, we found a way to move frugally. Very frugally!

But more on that in another post...

For now, let me go freak out a bit!!!! AHHHHHH!!!! We're finally moving!!! Who ever thought this day would arrive?!?!?!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Taking Advantage of Black Friday Sales

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As an expat American married to a non American, I haven't been doing much celebrating Thanksgiving, since it isn't often done here, but some years I do go to Thanksgiving dinners with friends and family. This year I was invited to one, but wasn't able to go because we're busy packing up our house since we found out this past Tuesday that we are officially getting the keys to the place Monday morning!
We set a moving date for Wednesday and the house is crazy!

Anyhow, people have talked about the sorry state of affairs in my country, that Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here as a country, but this country has imported the so called "worst part" of Thanksgiving- Black Friday. People have issues with Black Friday since they feel it encourages consumerism, but I don't think so...
Or at least it doesn't have to.

Stores in general like to entice people to shop there by making sales, and Black Friday is no exception in this. Impulse shoppers can really hurt their finances if they see things on sale and all of a sudden realize that they "need it" when they would never have purchased it had it not been on sale.
When grocery shopping, if there are things you anyhow would be purchasing and then find them on sale and stock up, you saved money in the long run. But if you buy things that you never would have purchased had they not been on sale, it doesn't matter how good the sale is, that still is extra money that you wouldn't have spent otherwise, so it isn't saving money.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Making a Potty Seat Out of Pallets

I mentioned in a previous post that I suspect that my littlest one, Rose, has high functioning autism like her big brother Ike. Part of what makes me suspect that is her dedication to certain routines, and her refusal to change them.
Rose has been potty trained for at least a year, if not more, but she has this way that she insists on doing things. She usually refuses to use the toilet and insists on using the potty, with a whole routine to go along with it.
She's had her potty for a long time, a pink Hello Kitty one with an insert.
And then she cracked the leg of it, but since I had no interest in buying a new one when she's already potty trained and there's no little ones after her who will be using it in the next little while... so Mike repaired it by adding a wooden leg to it out of scrap wood. But then it broke all the way- another leg completely came off of it, and I figured- why keep on repairing something that is so broken, lets just make her a new one.
Out of pallet wood.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Quick Update On Our New House's Kitchen

Our kitchen that came with the apartment,
before it was finished being installed
In the end we decided to not take the carpenter who came, for a variety of reasons, mostly technical ones, but costs factored in as well. Second hand kitchens won't end up working for our specific space either.

I don't have much time to write now, but I just came back from an Ikea trip with my friend Michelle, the one who is very good with design and beauty. We planned our kitchen and got a price quote, and I'm really excited about what we designed.

The biggest reason I'm glad I went with Michelle is because I have a specific taste when it comes to aesthetics, but I am not always aware of what I want and like, I just know when I don't like something, and then I just start resenting what I have, and not enjoying being around it or wearing it. It happened with my clothing wardrobe, and while that was frustrating, getting a new wardrobe wasn't such a big deal and could be done bit by bit, and without spending too much money. However, buying furniture and choosing fixtures that I don't like is much more costly and problematic to replace.

Michelle came with me and was able to give her professional input on its beauty as well as functionality, and the kitchen is really awesome.

The problem is that the kitchen that came with our apartment doesn't have enough cabinet space to store all my things, but because it is cherry color, we weren't able to find an exact match for it at Ikea. So we decided that instead of trying to match it, we'd pick another color as an accent, and went with a charcoal grey color, similar to the floor tiling

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Homeschooling and Schooling My Children, and Bureaucracy

I realized that as someone who was pretty vocal about my homeschooling and unschooling my children, I've been pretty quiet about our current schooling situation, and wanted to rectify that. For a while, to be honest, I was a bit afraid to say anything because everything seemed very turbulent and up in the air, and I honestly had no idea if our schooling situation would be forced to change.

Where I live, homeschooling is legal. With a caveat.

The law officially is that there is compulsory schooling from the age of 3 until the age of 18 in my country. (Which is something I find problematic for too many reasons to list.) In order to homeschool, you need to request a special exemption from the board of education in your district. Many people do not request this exemption and simply homeschool their children without getting governmental approval. That is what is commonly done here, and what those "in the know" recommend, as by asking for permission to homeschool, you're essentially telling the board of education that you're putting the decision in their hands, but if you show via your actions that you'll homeschool no matter what, they're more likely to approve of your homeschooling and give you an exemption.
So from the time my oldest was born, he and the rest of my kids were home with me, other than when Lee was six and Ike was 4, when I sent them to a semi private school for a year to learn the local language. I never requested an exemption for homeschooling from the board of education.

Roughly a year ago, I got a call from our local truant officer, who informed us that she knows we are homeschooling, and that we need to get approval for that from the board of education, and asked why we didn't get one yet. She informed us of the process to get approval for homeschooling, and tasked us to do that.

Getting Legal Permission to Homeschool

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ajvar -- Serbian Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread -- Vegan and Paleo

The other day I got a bunch of vegetables free and was trying to come up with space efficient ways to prepare them, which could then be preserved, since I was short on refrigerator space and needed ways to store them.
A friend suggested ajvar, a Serbian red pepper and eggplant based condiment, what some would call a salsa. I'd never heard of it before, but since I love foods from around the world, I had a feeling I'd like this food. I had hopes that my kids, who don't like cooked peppers or eggplant (a sensory thing, I'm sure, because of it's texture) would enjoy it because blending it probably makes the texture more palatable to them. And I was right! Everyone in my family loved ajvar, which is why I'm glad this recipe made enough to put into a few small containers to freeze, in addition to the one we ate right away.
Ajvar is the perfect balance between sweet, sour, salty and spicy, and works great to add a lot of flavor to anything you're eating, whether by spreading it on bread or crackers, as a dip for crudites or chips, or any place you'd use ketchup or salsa, such as on meat or fish, grains, etc...

This condiment is allergy friendly and is great for nearly any diet, including vegan, gluten free, paleo, low carb, etc...

Ajvar -- Serbian Red Pepper and Eggplant Spread -- Vegan and Paleo

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Homemade Wooden Pallet Spice Rack DIY

I grew up in a home that used a large variety of spices. I get surprised when I am in people's homes, and go to cook something and realize that they're missing what I consider to be basic spices. I have to remind myself, though, that everyone's cooking style is different, and I use so many more spices than the average person, so even my "basics" are not something most people have.

Since I've been running my own household, I've never been satisfied with where I've been keeping my spices. In our first apartment, they were on two small shelves in an upper cupboard, and it was hard to see what I needed and hard to access it. Since we moved to our current home, my spices have been stored in a deep drawer, and there isn't enough room for all my spices. its hard to tell what is where, and it's just one royal mess. Some spices came in plastic containers- when they finished, I refilled them, and sometimes filled them with different spices or homemade mixes, and it is all a jumble, with no way to really tell what spice is what, other than by taste and smell...
I decided that in our new apartment, I didn't want to use up a drawer for my spices, nor did I want them in a cabinet. And I definitely didn't want to be using recycled plastic spice bottles.
Growing up, all my mom's spices were kept easily accessible in glass screw top jars on a wooden spice rack on our counter, and I've wanted something like that for a long time, and figured our new house would be the perfect place to switch my spice storage to that system.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Preserving and Preparing Loads of Produce

On Sunday I went to the grocery store and market and got a large amount of produce, much of it free. I had nearly everything I needed (I was a little short on fruit), and my fridge was mostly full. I had plans on going back to the market on Wednesday, since I was teaching a class there on how to shop cheaply, so was planning on filling in whatever was missing.

Then Tuesday night I was gifted with a whole lot of produce. A huge amount of potatoes and carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplant, red and green peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, radishes, and some citrus fruit. Which was amazing, and I knew it would be enough to last me a while.

Only I got home, and realized that it was too much to fit into my fridge. And it started to stress me out. Because as much as I love a full fridge, too much to fit into my fridge actually stresses me out, because I don't want any of it to be wasted, and I feel an insane amount of pressure to do something with it as soon as physically possible, whether or not I have the time, energy, or inclination, so it doesn't spoil.
And then the next day at the market, though I said I wouldn't bring anything home, I saw them throwing out large amounts of fennel parts and celeriac stems and leaves, and two avocados... so despite my brain shouting "NO!!!" I brought them home.
And then freaked out at all the work ahead of me.

But, over the last few days I took care of the food and cooked and preserved it and did what I could to make sure that the food doesn't spoil before it gets used up. Here's what I did with the food:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cauliflower Leaf Chips Recipe - Vegan, Paleo, and Delicious

I mentioned the other day that I was in the market and got a huge amount of free cauliflower stems and leaves, as they simply toss the lower part of the cauliflowers since people aren't interested in buying them. In fact, half of my upper shelf in my fridge right now is filled with cauliflower parts, and that is after already cooking up a lot of them in various ways. I had a lot of produce that I needed to deal with, so I was looking for some cheap and easy ways to use up my cauliflower leaves.
I decided upon cauliflower leaf chips and they came out deliciously, while being very easy and cheap to prepare.

Like kale chips, these are cauliflower leaves baked until crispy, so that the leaves crunch like potato chips. The difference between these and kale chips (other than price, of course) is that these have a thick midrib in the middle, which, in my opinion, is the tastiest part!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Homemade Prickly Pear Scrap Wine Recipe- DIY Foraged Alcoholic Beverages

I've written before about how I enjoy my alcoholic beverages, but have a problem with the price tag. My first recent experiment with making my own hooch, after a break of a few years, was simply using the only fruit I had available in the house at the time- tangerines and a lemon, and it tasted good and was super- easy to make. However, after I made that, I had an even better idea.

Prickly pear season is winding down where I live. We can buy them cheaply in the grocery store in season, but even better- we can forage them, because the prickly pear cacti are very prolific. (They can be foraged in many parts of the world, even more temperate regions.) Quite a few neighbors of mine have them growing in their yard and invite me to come pick as many as I want, since they are scared to go near them, as they are afraid of their tiny near invisible thorns, called glochids, that cover them.

So I forage as many as I can, but, I'll admit, the glochids are off-putting to me too, since I am pretty good at avoiding them but am not 100% perfect that way. But because of the glochids, every prickly pear fruit I pick is precious to me, because it took a lot of effort.

The way I handle prickly pear fruit so I don't get glochids in my hands is by poking it with a fork and then using a sharp knife to cut off both ends. I then use the knife to score the skin from end to end, and then pull apart the outer layer using two forks, exposing the delicious soft and glochid free flesh inside. While this is a very effective way of ensuring that I don't get near invisible thorns stuck inside my flesh, it pains me to see just how much of the prickly pear ends up in the trash or compost, especially after the hard work to forage them. I've heard of people who remove all the glochids and dry the peel into a leather of sorts but I'm not daring enough since I don't trust myself to have removed all the glochids..
But one day it hit me- use the scraps to make my own tasty and cheap hooch! Lo and behold my prickly pear scrap wine was born. Not to worry, it is glochid free!

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Latest Super Frugal Shopping Trip

And... I'M BACK!!!
I feel like shouting from the rooftops, because I am officially back in the game! After about a month of frugal slacking, since I've been so busy finishing up my cookbook so I can get it out already that I haven't been able to do my usual frugal and extreme-frugality things, I'm ready to kick back into gear!

The past few weeks, friends have been posting pictures of their latest frugal shops from the market where I often go to get my super cheap and sometimes even free produce, and each time I saw those pictures, I'll admit, I got envious, since I missed the open air market, not just the hustle and bustle and experience of shopping there, but also the amazing deals I got there, allowing me to get produce that otherwise would be above my price range.
Yesterday, I finally went back and oh boy, was it a good shop.

But first, I went to a grocery store that has some cheap gluten free breads and such, where I like to go to stock up. Since it is far, I try to do a big shopping trip each time and hope that it lasts a month. After that, I went to the open air market.

Here is what I bought:

Total for my entire shop?

For the record, that includes over 3.5 lbs of two types of cheese, 4 packs of not so unhealthy hot dogs, 32 cans of tuna, tomato paste, 2 bottles of olive oil, ~4.5 lbs of jaggery, and ~56 lbs of produce... among other things, so just over $90 for all that is amazing even me!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Frugality, Winter, Moving, Planning, My Book, and More

Packing has started!
As I mentioned in my last post, on the 31st of October, my book was due for submission to the Back to Basics bundle. I was working crazy hours on it, staying up and out of my house working with my layout and graphics person, until the wee hours of the morning... but I did it! I finished my book and submitted it on time!
Since then, I'll be honest, I've just been in recovery mode. Cleaning the house that fell apart during that time... somewhat. But mostly just trying to catch up on sleep, and vegging out, and decompressing. Trying to pretend like I have no responsibilities once I have no looming book deadline. However, that isn't quite true since I will be moving soon, but more on that in a minute. A decent chunk of my time that isn't being spent on cleaning and cooking has just been spent on hanging out on Facebook, watching movies, and Pinterest. I needed that after the stress of the last few weeks.

So... moving. We had our second to last inspection of the house, and the last inspection next week. We still don't know yet when we're getting the key- originally we were told by the 15th, but now we were told that perhaps later, on the 21st... I'm really hoping that it won't be that long, since I'd like to be able to find people to take over our lease starting December, and people like to move in on the first of the month.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Working Hard on my Cookbook

I want to apologize for neglecting to post on the blog lately... I've literally been eating, sleeping and dreaming my foraging cookbook whose deadline is at the end of this month. I've been running on 4-6 hours of sleep a night so I can get this done... Of course I knew a while ago when this was due but I'm such a procrastinator that I was still writing some new text until 2 am last night. Hopefully I'll learn my lesson not to procrastinate next time. But to be honest, knowing myself, that isn't likely.

Exhausted as I am, I am also really excited about this. You see, for years and years I've dreamed of publishing a book. I started writing my first official book when I was 16, and shared it bit by bit with friends as I wrote it, and got rave reviews, but shelved the idea for various reasons. And then ever since starting this blog, I considered writing a book with it. And at least for the past 3 years, I narrowed down the idea to that of a cookbook... worked on that idea for the last while, compiling my recipes, and then realized I had enough for many different cookbooks.

And then I decided to write a foraging identification book.

And then went back to the cookbook idea, this time a foraging one.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Latest Foraging and Frugal Escapades

Life has been pretty busy lately, doing lots of things, many of them money saving or money making (or both), but I have been so tired that I didn't have the energy to post about them as they happened!

So, here's a rundown of some of my latest frugal escapades!

Do You Know Your Rights On Returning Back To Work Post Maternity?

Hopefully this post by a reader can help some of you when you return from maternity leave, to make sure you get everything you deserve.

It can be a strange and difficult time when your maternity leave comes to an end. After spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for perhaps a whole year, with your new baby – you now have to leave him or her for around nine hours a day, five days a week.

Among dirty nappies and sleepless nights, work has probably been the last thing on your mind. However, as the final weeks start to disappear far too quickly, concerns about leaving your baby and going back to work have no doubt moved to the forefront.

As much as you are longing for adult conversation, waving goodbye to your baby as you set off for a day of emails and admin, rather than nursery rhymes and baby talk, will be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do. Particularly that first day, when you will no doubt struggle to do any work as you mind wanders off to thoughts of your little bundle of joy.

OK, so you know going back to work will be hard but do you know your rights?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Buying New Clothes For My Kids and Not Breaking The Bank

My kids are getting bigger and that's amazing to see them grow up so fast, but wow, when you look at all the clothing they grow out of, and how often you need to replace their wardrobe, that isn't so easy, especially from a financial perspective. When my kids were younger, I got a lot of hand me downs for them, not needing to buy much for them, if anything, but as they get bigger, hand me downs don't work nearly as well. I can't find anything for my boys in the second hand clothing store nearest to me, and even once I buy things for Lee, 9, I can't pass them down to Ike who is two years younger, since they are practically the same size. (They wear the same sized shoes, for example, and maybe an inch difference in height.)
So instead of buying a wardrobe for my oldest son and passing it down to my second, I simply need to purchase a wardrobe that is twice the size, and then both boys pretty much outgrow them at the same time. (It isn't that Lee is short even- he's actually a tall string bean, but that Ike is gigantic for his age.)

For my girls, I do manage to pass on some clothing from one to the other. Anneliese, nearly 5, is still bigger than Rose, but just by a smidgen, despite being over two years apart, so as soon as Anneliese outgrows some clothing, instead of putting it away, I just move it to Rose's shelf. But of course, Rose, who wants to be so big already just helps herself to the clothing on Anneliese's shelf, despite it being a little big on her.

Clothing. It gets expensive, when you need to buy a wardrobe for three kids at a time, and aren't getting hand me downs or second hand clothes. (Add the fact that our local thrift shop seems to be closed lately. I do have plans to check on one a little further away in the next little bit.)
So I realize it is money that I have to spend, so I try to make the money stretch as far as it can, getting the most for my money, the best quality clothing for the least amount of money.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Frugal and Enjoyable Poetry Slam Anniversary Date

In September Mike and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary which felt like a huge deal- ten years married! I was so torn about doing something to mark the occasion since Mike and I went on a 5 day vacation without the kids in July in honor of our anniversary, 3 months before the date, since that is when it worked for our babysitters and Mike's work schedule. Even though we did our vacation in honor of our special occasion, I didn't want the actual date to pass by unmarked, but, understandably after the large expense of the vacation I didn't want to be spending a lot of money to celebrate on the day of. So I was trying to figure out a very low budget date idea that didn't involve food, as I also have gained about 5 lbs back of what I lost and am trying to stick more to paleo/lower carb and eating out paleo is definitely not budget friendly.

Then a friend of mine posted about a poetry slam she was organizing that evening and it only cost $7 per person to attend and my interest was piqued. As teenager I wrote a lot of poetry and was in creative writing workshops and even performed in and won a poetry slam. So even though I haven't written poetry in 10 years, I thought it sounded like a fun and different idea for a date. The slam was in a local comedy club that also had a bar with discounted drinks included in the cover charge.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Exciting and Stressful News!

I've been sitting on this news until I found the right time to share it with you...

I went to visit our house, the construction site, with a carpenter, who'll be building some things for the apartment (more on that in a little bit). and on the way out, I passed the contractor and asked him if he had any estimated moving date, because the apartment pretty much looked ready (the streets aren't paved, faucets haven't been installed, and the kitchen cabinets aren't fully in yet), and the contractor said he'd be emailing us later that day...

Well, the email arrived, and it said pretty much (approximate translation):
"Regarding Building Project X, Building Number Y, Announcement In Advance Of Handing Over Apartments:
1. The apartment will be ready to be handed over at the beginning of November, 2016, and no later than November 15, 2016.
2. Get ready to move in, including taking care of last monetary issues.
3. A further notice about the exact date you will get your keys will be given to you at a later date."

Can I have a little freak out moment here?!?!

This is so exciting for so many reasons, but also stressful for an equal amount of reasons.

Number one, its exciting for the obvious reasons, that we'll be doubling the amount of living space we'll have in less than one and a half months, and possibly in just one month!! And our own place!
Originally they had said the apartment would be ready no later than this coming July, then they said perhaps by last August... And now a move in window that is very shortly!!
So many things to look forward to about this new apartment!

But the stresses especially are because it means we have so many things to do in the next month and a half, which include finalizing with a carpenter who will build a kitchen for our rental unit upstairs, finding a contractor to do the other changes we need to turn it into two separate apartments (not a big deal, but enough), and pack up all our stuff, and pay to fix the things we broke in this apartment (two cracked windows that we've dealt with but need to fix before moving) and painting the apartment we live in now, not to mention paying for the movers....
And we also have to furnish the apartment, and either buy new furniture or build new furniture... It's not bad stresses, good stresses, but still a lot to do now.

Lastly, we need to find renters for our rental unit we'll be renting out, and renters for our current apartment, otherwise we'll be paying rent and a full mortgage, and that isn't really something we could handle...

All these are good stresses, just a lot of things to do now.

Part of my stress is figuring out what to do regarding carpentry.

The carpenter we're going with is a relatively close (but not too close) relative who we trust and does a good job, and that makes it a little less scary, because we've heard so many stories of people hiring someone who came highly recommended, and ended up doing a bad job, because the people recommending him had vested interest in us hiring them, and weren't necessarily having our best interest in mind. This relative is the same carpenter who built my mother's kitchen, so I saw what a decent job he does, and trust him that when he says he's giving us a good price, he is.

At the very least, we need a kitchen installed in the rental unit we'll be having upstairs. Our goal is to make the apartment the best value, and therefore easiest to find renters for, without spending too much money, and also having it last the longest time, so we don't need to pay for repairs or to replace the kitchen soon after.

One Bad Week

I was contacted recently by PayPlan, a company who wants to promote awareness of how important it is to manage your finances and how easily it can be to get into debt if you aren't prepared. They challenged me to write about how just one bad week can get you into such a spiral downward and cause you to go into debt if you don't have a backup plan. Like what happened when I was asked by YouNeedABudget to write a post about budgeting, I wasn't prepared for how emotional writing this post would get me. Because I had a really, really bad week a few years ago, and the repercussions of that sucky week lasted a long, long time. Years even.

You see, before we lived in this current apartment, we lived in a terrible apartment. It was big and more spacious than our current one, twice the size, in fact... but the rent was too high- we couldn't afford it anymore and we were drowning in bills.
The apartment came with not just one, but three methods of heating up hot water. A solar hot water heater, an electric boiler, and a gas boiler. Well, the solar hot water heater didn't work for years and the electric boiler never worked. We relied on that single gas boiler, and it broke. We went a few weeks in the winter with no hot water, literally taking sponge baths with water heated up on the stove. It was horrible.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Preparing and Preserving Cheap and Free Past Prime Foods

Yesterday I wrote about how I went to the market and came home with an insane amount of produce, most of it that I got free, and a lot of it past prime. 154 lbs of food that needed to be dealt with when I came home yesterday and all today. The past two days were a marathon of food preparation and preservation, because there's no point in bringing home so much free and nearly free foods if it all spoils because you didn't take care of it.

So, here's what I actually did with what I brought home from the market yesterday, and other things that I did to be able to accommodate all that I needed to now store.

The first thing that I did was divide up the chicken parts into bones and skin. The bones went into the freezer to use for soup at a later date, and the skin went into my cast iron pots to become rendered chicken fat, which I use for delicious cooking, and crackling, also known as fried chicken skin.

Once the skin was all crispy, I poured it into a strainer so the fat could drip down so the skin would stay crispy instead of becoming oil-logged.

AT&T Access

By Jeff777BC - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
When my son learns something cool on his own, as an unschooler, I like to share what he learned with my friends. Recently, after my son decided to learn some coding on his own from, and I shared what he was coding with my Facebook friends, someone asked me if they thought I'd be able to unschool my children as well if I didn't have the amazing educational internet sites available. I've done some thinking on the topic, and have come to the conclusion that having the internet available makes my ability to educate my children vastly easier, especially given the fact that we don't have a decent public library system locally.

But it isn't just about educating my children cheaply. I've discovered that having internet at home has made such an overall difference in terms of my ability to readily find information that ends up saving my family large amounts of money regularly.
For example, a friend of mine doesn't have internet in her house, and often calls me asking for advice, to look up recipes for her for low cost made from scratch foods, instead of needing to pay much more for ready made versions of the same.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An Insane Amount of Food... For Insanely Little

My arms hurt. My whole body is tired... I think a big part of that is because of how much food I carried home from the market today in my cart...
I'm doing the math to figure out just how much the entire thing weighed... 156.5 lbs of food- 145 lbs of it produce, and 11.5 lbs animal products.
Just thinking about how much that would generally cost in a grocery store or even a cheap one would definitely not even remotely give a clue as to how much my shop cost me...
You see, for my 156.5 lbs of food I paid... get this- $20!!! Ok, and 70 cents.

Just part of today's shop. Not counting all the things I got free.
I hadn't planned on going shopping for produce this week, since we still had a decent amount. Though we were nearly out of fruit, so could use with a topping off over there. But I would need some produce next week, and I wouldn't have a chance to go to the market next week, so I figured that I might as well go this week. A few people had been asking me when I'd be teaching a class on frugal shopping at the market, and today worked out for the most people. So I went, intending to top off my produce as needed, and instead came home with 145 lbs of produce!

How did that happen?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

The other night I wanted a treat. I had to go out to a fancy dinner event where I knew there was likely not going to be any food that I could eat, because of my restrictive gluten free, egg free, predominantly paleo diet, and I didn't want to be sitting there eating boring, simple food while everyone else ate their special food. 
However, I was relatively pressed for time and couldn't be spending hours in the kitchen trying to come up with an equivalent of what they'd be serving, and price, obviously, was a factor as well.
Trying to come up with a simple but delicious and frugal meal for myself, I went with baked spicy sweet potato fries (made with sweet potatoes I was gifted with), honey mustard pan seared tuna steak (frozen section of the supermarket), and garlicky (from frozen) green beans, with a (free) mango for dessert, and my homemade alcohol on the side. It was quite the perfect meal- I didn't feel like I was missing out at all, and it was easy on the budget and made very quickly too.
The sweet potato fries were so amazing that I've made them a few times since- here's the recipe so that you, too, can have this delicious and easy to make dish. And once you've made it a few times, you can make it even more easily, because the ingredients can be eyeballed instead of measured and it will sill come out great.

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Easy

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reflecting On My Spending Recently

Something I've been doing right now-
 to correct an unnecessary and expensive splurge-
making my own alcohol.
I want to be frugal, to budget well, to save money where I can, but I realize that, often, even to the most frugal minded of us, money sometimes can slip through our fingers in a slow trickle, so that, over time, the little pennies add up and you spend so much more than you'd intended to spend, and your expenses are way too high.

Then again, "too high" is relative; what would be frugal for someone would be overspending for someone else, depending on how much income they are bringing in, and how much money they have left to budget once the non negotiables are budgeted in.

For example, for our family, I decided that our regular budget of $570 per month on groceries is too much. Though it is hard, I am trying to lower it, and to see just how low I can get it to be. The thing is, though, that I'm not doing enough.

I've been keeping track of my grocery expenses every single month, writing down how much I spent on each shop, where it was, and approximately what I bought every time. Looking over my chart of my August expenses, where my total was $509 for the month, already an improvement but not as much as it could have been, I realized something.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Larb Gai- Laotian Meat Salad Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, and Vegan Options

I really appreciate traditional recipes from around the world, especially when they use healthy, cheap ingredients that I can get easily.
I mentioned to someone how much I love gizzards, that I even wrote a whole manifesto about them, and a friend mentioned to me that if I want a great gizzards recipe, I should try out Laotian chicken larb (also called laab), a delicious meat salad, that is a wonderful way to use gizzards.
For someone who eats food from around the world, and has a special affinity for all different types of Asian cuisine, I had never eaten any dish from Laos before, but certainly was not let down.

I won't say that this is an authentic larb recipe, as I did make a few changes to the recipe to make it more frugal, using the ingredients I can easily get locally (fresh lemongrass is nearly impossible to obtain where I live, and limes are very expensive, not to mention only available for a short period of time each year), and to make it Paleo.
The traditional version is made with khaa khua- toasted ground sticky rice to thicken it, but I left that out, also because it isn't Paleo, but also because it isn't an ingredient that is easy to get locally. Apparently this toasted ground sticky rice is a very important ingredient in the recipe- all recipes emphasize not to skip this... but I did. It was so delicious without it that I can say it isn't necessary for it to taste great, however if you have access to this ingredient, or want to make your own, and aren't on a diet that forbids rice, then by all means, add a tablespoon of it to your recipe.
Fish sauce is traditionally used, but I used coconut aminos instead. Feel free to use soy sauce or coconut aminos or fish sauce, whatever works for you.

I used dried herbs in mine, but fresh is even better if you have them available.

Larb often is eaten over lettuce or other greens--I ate mine with foraged wild greens, but it can also be served over rice, generally short grained and/or with chopped raw vegetables.

It is unlike anything I ever tasted before, as soy sauce/coconut aminos, mint, cilantro, ginger, and lemon juice are not ingredients I generally think to combine in my house, but it was amazing, and I've made it many times since.

You can make this with any cooked meat, pretty much. Ground chicken or beef crumbles, gizzards (chicken or turkey), cooked chicken breast, meat removed from chicken frames after boiling them for soup, deboned whole chicken, etc... Pork is often used as well.
For a vegan version, you can use any types of chopped sauted mushrooms in place of the meat.

Larb Gai- Laotian Meat Salad Recipe- Frugal, Paleo, and Vegan Options

What to Expect when Living on Your Own for the First Time

I moved out of the house and became fully self supporting, other than health insurance, when I was 17. It was a rough transition, and though I was managing well at first, I made a lot of mistakes, and there were lots of things that I just got lucky with, so I didn't get into too much trouble, but even so, I ended up needing to be bailed out by my dad once during that first year. For those frugal minded folk who are considering moving out and being self supporting for the first time, who want to make a budget, here's a post written by one of this blog's readers, about expenses to consider and check out when building a budget for your new home.

The prospect of moving out and beginning life on your own can be exciting. It can also be daunting if you think of all the expenses you’ll have to face once you sign that lease agreement.

A 2015 report by the US Census Bureau indicated that the median annual income for households in the US fell by 1.5 percent in 2014. While it may not seem like much, it does indicate that the cost of living is going up while household income isn’t. Chances are that you may struggle to keep up with the expenses of living on your own if you’re not careful about your finances.

Understanding the different expenses one encounters when renting is important if you’re planning to go out on your own. This guide will give you a better understanding of expenses to expect and where you can cut costs and save money.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Most Frugal Shopping Trip Ever

Today my fridge looked scarily empty. As someone who tries to stick to a paleo diet as closely as possible, my diet is very produce heavy. My kids also prefer to snack on produce, ideally fruit. Having a mostly empty fridge is stressful for me because then I don't really have anything to eat or anything easy and healthy to give my kids when they tell me they're hungry.
But I was tired today and going to the city to the market to buy my cheap produce sounded too exhausting. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just go to the corner store and buy produce there, or at least to the nearby supermarket instead of traveling to the city. But that thought was fleeting as I'm still trying to really lower my grocery monthly total and know that produce is exponentially cheaper in the market and I'd be paying a high price for that convenience. I decided it wasn't worth it.
So instead, when my husband came home from work, I went into the city to go produce shopping at the market, exhaustion and all. I feel my efforts really were rewarded, because I don't think I ever got more produce for less money without foraging.

Just some of what I brought home today

On  my way home, pushing my heavy shopping wagon, filled to the brim with produce, knowing that it was certainly enough to fill my fridge, I reminded myself that this is why I did it, why it was worth the exhaustion. Because that produce they weighed so many pounds that I had to strain to push it all, cost only $14.14!!!
When I get that much produce for twice that, I'm amazed by that low cost, so you can imagine how exciting this was...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What Unschooling Is Not... and What It Is

My unschooled, not uneducated kids love learning
KhanAcademy math. This is a screen shot of what my 9
year old recently covered in KhanAcademy.
I never require him to learn math. He asks for it.
As someone who tends to be, not only the token homeschooler in most circles I travel, but also the token unschooler, I end up being an ambassador of sorts for homeschooling, and specifically unschooling, with so many people wanting to know what it is and how it works, and I've written a few posts on the topic in the past, including this relatively detailed one about what exactly unschooling is. (If you haven't read that, I recommend reading that before reading this.)
Yet despite that, the questions keep coming. Recently, a friend also wrote this whole long message to me about why unschooling is bad, but it was full of all sorts of misconceptions, none of what she said actually was unschooling.  And today someone mentioned that she unschools her kids after school, and by a few other people, I was asked to elaborate what unschooling is.
However, since I already wrote what unschooling is, I figured I would also attempt to explain it by addressing what unschooling is not.

Unschooling is not...

Are You “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”?

This is a post by reader, Nancy Evans.

Saving money sounds easy on paper. Avoid overpaying, take advantage of discounts, get creative, and the retained cash starts to build. Anyone who has actually tried their hand at saving money knows this perception is an illusion. Seemingly simple ways to save are in actuality more complex and slippery than they appear on the surface.

There’s a saying which applies here: “Penny wise and pound foolish.” It’s a phrase used to describe folks who relentlessly strive to cut costs on a small scale, but neglect to think about the bigger picture. Sometimes the short-term savings don’t lead to long-term benefits. In fact in many situations, penny-pinching only makes spending increase with time:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Easy and Quick DIY Homemade Orange, Clementine or Tangerine Alcohol

My homemade alcohol, after I already drank a bunch.

I grew up in a house where alcohol was a fact of life. It was never a taboo thing, nor was it abused. I had alcohol from when I was a young age, a sip here and there, and my father drank alcohol a few times a week. (My mother hates the taste of alcohol.) I have never seen anyone in my family get drunk. My father would drink a shot or a glass, depending on what it was, and then go to bed. That's it. Of my five siblings, I think none of us have ever rebelled with alcohol or gotten drunk or remotely abused it, and I think a big part of it was because of how we were raised, with it being neither taboo nor abused.
A big part of the reason for the attitude towards alcohol in my house was the fact that my father was a brewer (masterbrewer is his nickname for himself). Having loved chemistry in college, he transferred his love to biochemistry in the house, and we regularly had at least a few different things brewing and fermenting at once. From when we were children, I remember a room in our basement, dubbed "the beer room" where our homemade alcohols were stored until use. My father made, predominantly, stouts, meads, and wines, but he also made sake one time, as well as miso (multiple times), and more.

Since moving to our current country, my dad no longer has a beer room, nor access to the special ingredients that are available in homebrew stores, but that hasn't stopped him from figuring out how to make his own homemade alcohol with what is available to him.

As for me? I like alcohol, I won't deny that. But as I said, I don't abuse it, and I've never been more than tipsy in my life. (I do have a moderately high alcohol tolerance, which means that I can have more than the average woman I know still without getting drunk.) I enjoy having a glass of wine for special occasions, or winding down from a long day with a drink or two. My favorite drinks, actually, are either cocktails or store bought mixed drinks like Bacardi Breezers or Smirnoff ice, hard lemonade, or sweet wines, though I do enjoy non sweet drinks and even bitter ones on occasion, even though my preference is for sweet.
The biggest issue I have about alcohol, though, is the expense. Because of various things that happened locally, to discourage too much alcohol consumption, high taxes were placed on alcohol locally, so a bottle of vodka or other hard alcohol can be very expensive. Wines and mixed drinks are cheaper, but since you drink more in one go, I'm not sure what actually works out to be more inexpensive per drink. I sometimes make my own mixed drinks, with homemade tomato juice and worcestershire sauce and vodka, or with a non dairy milk, sweetener, coffee, and vodka, or homemade mojitos with sweetener and lemon juice and mint and either rum or vodka or tequila, or just whatever other fruit juices I have with whatever hard alcohol I have. However, most times I have a drink, I feel like I'm wasting money because the cost of each drink adds up quite quickly, and think that maybe I should be spending money on more important things.

My dad, as I mentioned, makes alcohol now with cheap ingredients he could find locally, so I thought I'd make one of his current brews- alcoholic iced tea, using all cheap, local, easy to find ingredients. But the other day, when I went to make some, I realized I was all out of tea, so even that wasn't an option.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Crafting With Nature

The kids and I recently went to an event that had as its activity green crafting, which was a great frugal activity that I wanted to share with you, as it was really fun, not to mention can be done entirely for free.

All the crafting base materials were items found in nature, or things that would have otherwise gone in the trash. There were all sorts of dried out seed pods, shells, acorns, various sticks, wood, corn husks, stems, pine needles, pine cones and so many other types of forageable items, as well as bits and bobs of plastic that were saved from the trash, milk cartons, etc...

The only items that cost any money were the glue (hot glue, in this case) and paint.

There was a table with sample items, mainly different critters made from these materials, glued together, some painted and some unpainted.

Here's what our family members made at this crafting activity, so you, too, can get some ideas of things you and your kids can craft together from free materials. Of course, no need to what we're doing, just showing some possibilities.

A made up creature, inspired by elephants, hedgehogs, and who knows what.

8 Free Gallons of Expiring Milk- Cheese Making and Beyond

In my community we sometimes get deliveries of free past prime fruits and veggies, dry goods near or past their expiration date, and the occasional dairy product.
On Wednesday, among the deliveries were 1 liter cartons of milk, and initially they told everyone they can take 4 per family. But barely anyone took. Why? Because the expiration date was September 8, the day after. Why would people want milk that was about to expire? The milk was just sitting there, and the organizer made an announcement that people can take as much milk as they want. Still no one budged.
I went and took some more milk, and then when I saw the milk just sitting there, realizing it was going to go to the trash if people didn't take it, I took even more.
People saw me taking it, and said "Why are you taking it? What can you do with milk that is expiring tomorrow?" I explained to a friend that once you cook milk, you are extending its shelf life so it will last much longer than just one more day.
This friend asked me what I'm going to cook with the milk, so I told her my first plan is to make cottage cheese. "How do you do that?" she wanted to know. I explained to her simply how to make it- you heat the milk and add enough lemon juice or vinegar until it starts curdling, then strain it through a cheesecloth. Once strained you add salt and milk and you have cottage cheese. She was amazed.
Another person overheard me talking to her, said she heard me talking about making my own cheese, and asked how I did it... So I explained to her as well. Then two more people came over and said they heard something about cheese making, and this time I explained about making cottage, paneer, yogurt, and yogurt cheese. Every single person was fascinated- they had no idea that you could make your own cheese, let alone so simply!
Fortunately, my explanation about the cheese making encouraged some people to take milk that otherwise wouldn't have, but there still was a lot left over. I took as much as I could carry, but unfortunately, a lot did end up in the trash.

When I got home, only then did I count how many liters of milk I bought.
30 liters of milk!
That's 8 gallons, for you non metric folk.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here's how I dealt with my 30 free liters of milk.

Eight essential checks to make before you borrow money

I am really opposed to taking out loans. Debt is bad and can cause a bad financial situation to get from bad to worse. Dave Ramsey and his followers talk tremendously about how much debt causes problems in life, and people work so hard to pay off debt that they've accumulated. I rarely ever think that taking out a loan is a good idea- if you can't afford something, don't buy it, don't spend money on it. Save up for things instead of borrowing money to pay for them. And if your income does not meet your expenses, either raise your income or lower your expenses or both, don't take out loans to cover your expenses because then it will just be a cycle of more and more financial issues...
But, if you have decided that you have no other options but to take out a loan, please consider these issues brought up in this post by a reader, Ben. 

The internet has allowed people who need to borrow money to do it easily, either for a treat such as a holiday or new conservatory or for more pressing concerns such as bills and debts. But before wading straight into a borrowing agreement that could be crippling it is worth carrying out a few simple checks and asking responsible questions, such as these:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Beginner's Guide to Going Gluten Free- Part 1: What is Gluten and How to Avoid it

As one who is known among my friends and in my wider social circles as being off gluten, when friends get told that they or their kid needs to go off gluten, they often turn to me asking for help. It's a scary thing, overwhelming at first, and people don't know what to do. I've long wanted to write a beginner's guide to going off gluten; as much as I want to help each time, I'm not always available to give as thorough of an answer as I'd like, so having a prewitten post with a link to share would prove useful. The other day, my friend, Dani, post her child's Celiac diagnosis asked for some advice on how to weather the transition most smoothly. This post is dedicated to you Dani, with the hopes that this required change not be too difficult.

So, you've been told to go off gluten, and/or been given a Celiac diagnosis. Now what?
The most frequent question I get from people who know I'm off gluten (5.5 years already) is 'What do you eat? If you can't eat bread what do you fill up on?' I'll be honest, I find this question question quite amusing since even before going off gluten I never cared much for bread, and my diet was never based on it (could be I subconsciously realized it didn't make me feel good and hence avoided); however, when someone's diet does revolve around bread gluten free diets are far more daunting.

Before I can get into the details of what you can eat, we need to cover what you cannot.

What is Gluten?