Sunday, July 31, 2016

So Long To Nursing

The closest I could get Rose to posing for a picture
I know many moms that, when they wean their children from nursing, find that last nursing session bittersweet. Brutally honest confession here: I feel/felt nothing of the sort. The last time I nursed my daughter was one week ago, and there's nothing bittersweet there at all, just relief. But my journey isn't over yet.

Let me backtrack and share a little about my nursing history/story.

I have 4 children, and nursed all of them. Not one of them ever had a bottle of formula. Also for health reasons, also for financial reasons, and also because once they started nursing, they weren't content with any substitute for me- not a pacifier, not a bottle of pumped milk, just me, me, me.

I grew up in a home where my mother nursed all of us children, but never until a later age. She told me afterwards that the oldest she nursed anyone was a year, but I was only nursed for three months, and the majority of my siblings for nine months. This is not for lack of trying- we all had undiagnosed tongue ties which caused our latches to be bad, and her milk dried up. I remember my little brothers and sisters, 9 and 11 years younger than I, especially had a hard time nursing, but mom didn't give up. She pumped round the clock and used a supplemental nursing system called an SNS to allow them to both nurse and get expressed milk at the same time. She worked hard at nursing.

So for me, nursing was a given. It was what I expected to do with my kids, and it was something I would put effort info, make it work, even if it was hard. Because of mom's example.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Scuba Diving, an Emotional and Psychological Experience

I didn't mention it in my blog posts about our family trip two weeks ago, and I didn't think it was a big deal or would affect my life in any way... But two weeks ago when I was at the beach, I stupidly went into the water with a floating device and the waves swept me away and I couldn't swim against the waves towards shore. It was really scary and I was using all my energy to try to make it to safety but I couldn't on my own. Some surfers near me came out to me and rescued me and I hung on to the surf board until my lungs no longer hurt, and when I got to shore I just sat there and chilled out.

 I didn't feel so shaken up, per se, but certainly was very cognizant of the fact that I, as a trained lifeguard, needed to be rescued... I took from that a lesson that I need to get more in shape and build up my stamina. And maybe also, I thought, I needed to stop being such a thrill seeker, learn to be happy with the simple and safe, and not push myself to do new and different adventures and test my limits.

Maybe I should take it as a sign to cancel our planned scuba diving on our couple's vacation to celebrate our tenth anniversary. This being despite the fact that the whole trip was built around my desire to try out scuba diving, a dream I've had for years.

My husband and friends convinced me not to cancel my planned dive, that it wasn't unsafe or dangerously thrill seeking, and so today Mike and I, on the second day of our vacation,  went to scuba dive.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Making Homemade Beef Jerky, Take Two

Two years ago, for the first time, I tried making jerky. I was going on an overseas trip and wasn't sure what the situation with gluten free food would be on the flight or in general and I wanted to make sure that I had protein to eat that was shelf stable, so I tried out my hand at making jerky. To keep costs down, I used ground beef instead of beef pieces, and got inspired by a bunch of different recipes and kind of made up my own one based on what I saw.
But I flopped it. It was very salty and very spicy and the flavors in general were ones that I wasn't such a fan of. I hadn't taken into account that when I dehydrated the meat, any flavorings would be intensified.
On the trip I forced myself to eat a bit when I had nothing else, but I returned home with most uneaten. Because I didn't want to waste that meat, I added it, a little at a time, to soups and stews and eventually I finished it all.

For our tenth anniversary trip next week I had been trying to figure out what to do regarding food, since I am trying to eat paleo, but most paleo food isn't so travel friendly, especially on days that we have hikes planned, where bringing containers of cooked paleo meals isn't so user friendly. Add to that the fact that my husband not only wants to travel as lightly as possible, he doesn't want me to be spending our vacation cooking (and neither do I) so I figured that jerky probably would be a good idea.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Growing Sweet Potatoes in a Bag- An Experiment

I think one of the most common kitchen science gardening experiments, after growing avocado pits, is growing sweet potatoes. I've done it in the past before, at least the first stage of the experiment, but never actually did what is necessary to grow sweet potatoes.

Two weeks ago, however, I was going through my vegetable bin and discovered that my sweet potatoes had sprouted, and not just little tiny sprouts, but bigger ones, which made me decide to try and see if I could grow sweet potatoes in a "container garden". 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wrap Up of Our Frugal Vacation with the Family

Cute picture of the kids on our hike along the river.

We're home. At last. A week ago Sunday, we packed up the family, loaded them up on the bus and headed off to our yearly family trip to stay with a relative who lives right off the beach in a resort town. We got home two days ago and I am still a little exhausted from the journey home, and maybe the trip in general, but figured now would be a good time to wrap up and summarize our vacation, how we did it and had a wonderful time without spending a lot of money at all.

Our journey there and back by bus cost us $38.60 dollars for our family of 6, which is pretty reasonable. If we drove there, if we had a car, its possible it would have been cheaper, but since we don't have the expense of having a car year round, etc... we do end up paying more occasionally for things like this, but that's a trade off we make.

When we got there the first thing I did was go grocery shopping at the semi near relatively frugal grocery store and stocked up on cheaper groceries than I would have if I'd be forced to shop at the nearby super overpriced tourist trap mom and pops store. Because of my limited cooking facilities and the fact that we were on vacation and I didn't want to be spending so many hours in the kitchen, and the fact that I was cooking for additional people as well, my grocery total was $185 for the week which ended up needing to be supplemented with a few more things during the week from the mom and pops store. I bought a bunch of overpriced gluten free buns and deli, cheeses, and other easy to prepare (not to mention not optimally healthy) travel foods for lunches, cereal and milk for breakfast and things to make one pot meals for suppers.

Once back from the grocery store, already on the first day, we went to the beach with the kids. That was completely free, since we walked to and from the beach, but my kids enjoyed every second of it. Beach days remind me that sometimes the best fun is free.

A view from our hike
Day two, we took a bus to a nature reserve with free entry, where we hiked a good 7 mile hike with the kids in a beautiful area that had some really unique wildlife nearby that we were able to observe, in addition to some historic sites along the way. We ended our hike at the train station where we bought ice cream for the kids then took the train back along a large part of the hiking trail. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Our Visit To The Garden Center and Some Free Food and Plants

One of my missions this trip to the resort city where we're currently staying was to diversify what we do when we come on our yearly trip, as I get bored of just the beach and the splash pad. The other day we changed things up by going on a great hike we'd never done before, then today I had planned on going on this trip with a local friend to a "something" center.

I knew it was something having to do with gardening and plants and not exactly sure, but I figured that since it was free and accessible by public transportation, and since I was sure it would be something different, I decided to give it a shot.

I must admit, though, that my kids were a little overtired by the time that we came, so I had to deal with a few too many meltdowns, which made it a bit hard for me to enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Despite that, the older kids did enjoy themselves, but I think I enjoyed the place more than they did, since we were in a bit of a rush and weren't able to get a full tour of the place because the manager was a little pressed for time. Here's what I learned about this place.

It is officially a farm for agricultural education, and it is paid for by the ministry of education and ministry of agriculture, with the express purpose of teaching children about gardening and the environment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Our Mostly Frugal Vacation So Far

Hiking along a river on vacation

Once a year my family and I travel to a relative who lives in a resort town, and we stay at their house for a week, and go on as much of a vacation as you can with 4 kids in tow.
Every year our week ends up looking exactly the same: go to the beach, go to the splash pads, go to the beach, go to the splash pads, and then end it off with a barbecue.

I realized that as much as that is fun, I've been feeling a lack of adventure in my life, and that I wanted to spice things up and not just do the same exact things we've always done, because that gets boring... So I did some research and tried to come up with new things to do in the same place we've been coming regularly for the past ten years.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Figuring Out Which Meals Really Are Cheapest For Our Family

Most people have all these misconceptions about what kinds of meals are cheapest and what kind are not, and I've discovered sometimes that what people thought was cheap wasn't actually that cheap, and what people thought was expensive wasn't actually expensive, either.

Before I get into anything further, I need to mention that nearly always, vegan proteins are cheaper than animal proteins, and if you're looking to prepare meals as frugally as possible, vegan proteins are your best bet. I do make quite a few vegan protein based meals for my family. However, with my very sensitive stomach I can't eat vegan proteins, and stick to only animal proteins, which definitely can get expensive. Additionally, my family does eat animal proteins as well, so I wanted to figure out, when I serve them animal proteins, which type of meal actually is cheaper.

A few years back I did some intense calculations about how much meat you're actually getting, when you factor in bones and weight lost when cooking, and consequently how to figure out exactly how much actual meat you're getting per pound. It was very enlightening to me and has since changed how I shop- I went from seeing chicken wings as a waste of money because it's all bones, and thighs and drumsticks being my staple, to rarely ever buying thighs and drumsticks, as they are the same percentage bones as wings, more or less, but twice the price. 
And I've discovered that the common thought that chicken breast was the cheapest meat out there because it has no bones is not 100% true but has its basis in truth- that it is more expensive than chicken wings even once you factor in the bones, but when it comes to comparing chicken breast to thighs, as long as chicken breasts aren't more than $1.55 more per pound than chicken thighs are, they still are cheaper. I've even been able to convince friends who thought chicken wings were a waste of money because of all the bones to give them a shot, once I showed them how the cost really compares.

But as I mentioned in another post not so long ago, when it comes to figuring out cost of meals and figuring out what is cheaper, it isn't necessarily what is cheaper per pound of meat, but which meal ends up being cheaper. And a lot more goes into how much a meal will cost than just how many grams of meat you're eating, because eating is not just something physical, it is psychological as well.

Many different factors go into how satiating a meal is, and for everyone, that will vary per person or per family.

Things I've noticed:

Monday, July 4, 2016

Super Frugal Grocery Shopping Challenge And How I Managed!

Working hard... for this. What's keeping me motivated.
Happy Fourth of July to all my American readers! Living out of the US already for 10 years now, and being married to a non American, 4th of July is kind of a non story here... No fireworks, no BBQ, no nothing... But all of you celebrating, hope you have fun without breaking the bank!

~ ~ ~

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I wanted to go on a vacation with Mike for our 10th anniversary in September, and mentioned that in order to feel better about the splurge, wanted to save up specifically for the trip by spending less on groceries in the three months until then, and whatever I generally spent on groceries each month but didn't, would go into the vacation fund instead.
Well, one thing led to another, and at first we were going to go on our trip in late August instead of September, and then again things came up, and turns out that we are going on our trip in late July, 2 months earlier than we'd expected, which means taking things to an even more extreme level and see just how little we could spend on groceries because there is less time for me to do this challenge. No, I wasn't able to "save by spending less" for the entire cost of our trip, but we did have the money to pay for this, it just was for my own frugal conscience that I wanted to do it this way, so I do plan on continuing this challenge even after we come back from our trip to pay ourselves back...

So, here's how it ended up going:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Greek Style Grape Leaf Soup Recipe -- Paleo, Allergy Friendly, Easy

I sometimes give up when it comes to food photography; certain foods seem impossible to photograph in a way that makes people seeing those pictures want to eat them. This, I guess, is one of them. But trust me, despite the picture, it is delicious.

I had this idea to make a soup that was inspired by Greek avgolemono, egg lemon soup, using grape leaves to add to the acidity instead of only using lemon juice. Grape leaves grow all around me in the summer, and it's very easy for me to forage them. But, to be honest, I haven't done much experimenting with them as an ingredient. I've stuffed them plenty of times before, but sometimes I'm not looking for something as time consuming as stuffing them, so I've been trying to figure out other ways to use them. I made them in chimichurri sauce and they were delicious, but, again, that was just as a condiment. I want to figure out how to use grape leaves as a vegetable.

So, this idea came from there. I wanted to use the lemony aspect of the grape leaves to enrich this soup, and I think it came out well. I would have used more grape leaves in the soup if not for the fact that my kids only picked a few when I asked them for forage some for me and I was feeling a bit too lazy to go out and pick more, so I just used what I had. Next time I plan on making this with more grape leaves and less lemon juice, but it was very delicious as is.
Since I don't eat eggs, I didn't thicken this soup with egg as is generally done with avgolemono, but instead I used potato starch, and it hit the spot. After making it that way, my Greek friend Vera actually told me that when fasting from animal products for Lent, avgolemono is thickened with flour instead of eggs, so I wasn't even that far from the traditional by doing it this way.

Grape Leaf Soup Recipe -- Paleo, Allergy Friendly, Easy

Get Great Deals With GiveMeDeals

If you're a fan of online shopping as I am, and if you love getting the best deals while shopping, as frugal people like ourselves do, I've got a great site to recommend to you. 

GiveMeDeals is exactly as the name describes- its a great site to give you deals. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Homemade Lahoh Recipe- Yemenite Flatbread, Lahoh- Gluten Free Option, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Easy

My oven decided to conk out on me the other day, and I've been trying to figure out what I want to do, if I should invest in it and pay a repair person to try and fix it, to buy a new oven, or to manage without it (after I wrote this post, I got informed that a neighbor is giving away an oven and we're probably going to get it), and I was first leaning towards trying to manage without the oven as long as we can, see how long we can handle just cooking on the stove top. Yes, an oven is convenient, but is it really necessary? Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it isn't as simple as that, that while I can manage using only my gas burners, a lot of the frugal, made from scratch things that I like to prepare for my family to eat require an oven. Desserts and other baked goods are very hard without an oven, as well as bread. Basically, I decided that until we get a new oven, it looked like I wouldn't be able to make any more homemade bread for my family...

And then I remembered this old recipe that I had for lahoh, a yemenite flatbread made entirely on the stove top. Bendable like a good taboon bread, this spongy bread is wonderful for eating with dips, or for wrapping around various foods like shawarma, I used to make it fairly regularly, as it was cheap and easy to make and very tasty, but since going gluten free, that fell out of rotation; when my friend Judy recently wrote about how it's her family's favorite bread, I had played around with it and finally figured out how to make it gluten free and delicious. The gluten free version isn't exactly like the glutenous one- the one made with wheat flour is more bubbly and fluffy, but this one is still very delicious. If you haven't had a chance to make my gluten version one yet and you're gluten eaters, I suggest you try it out. It works with whole wheat and spelt as well as white flour.

For my gluten free version, I used green buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, and potato starch, corn starch or tapioca starch, but feel free to use whatever gluten free flour mix you prefer, just make sure to include extra xantham gum to allow it to be flexible, as well as holding in the yeast bubbles.

Gluten Free Yemenite Flatbread, Lahoh- Vegan, Refined Sugar Free, Easy