Monday, January 30, 2017

Sweet Potato and Greens Cakes Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, with Foraged Ingredients

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A few years back, if you asked me what was the best way to serve bitter greens (as a large percentage of wild greens are), I would have told you with fried onions, lemon and garlic. Don't get me wrong- it tastes delicious that way, but I've since come up with an even more winning combination- sweet potatoes with bitter greens. And if it is creamy, even better!

I made this dish with wild mustard greens and cream sauce with sweet potatoes a bit back, and since then have tried to combine the flavors whenever possible, since it tastes so good. Recently I made a dish for my family with potatoes and sow thistle (recipe to come soon), but since I can't eat white potatoes, decided to make these sweet potato cakes for myself. They were so delicious, quite possibly my favorite way I've ever eaten wild greens, and if not that, then way up there. Everyone in the family loved these, including my kids who generally make a fuss over eating cooked greens.

These sweet potato and greens cakes are vegan, paleo, allergy friendly (unless you're allergic to all nuts and seeds), gluten free, and not too hard to make. I made mine with foraged greens- wild mustard and a bit of sow thistle, but you can use any greens you want for this, whether foraged or store bought, and bitter greens or mild ones.

Everything about these sweet potato and greens cakes is perfection. Saying I highly recommend this recipe would be an understatement.

Sweet Potato and Greens Cakes Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, with Foraged Ingredients

Five Tips for Making Your Home More Energy Efficient

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Our energy efficient LED lights
During peak seasons, the middle of the winter and middle of the summer, most of our utilities bills skyrocket, especially because of our extra energy use to get our home comfortable enough. Here are some tips, a collaboration between myself and reader Nancy Evans, on how you can hopefully make your home more energy and cost efficient without breaking the bank to do large scale and costly home renovations. 

It’s tough to stick to a tight household budget when your monthly energy bills always seem to be higher than they should be. Sure, there are things you can do to use less energy. You can turn off lights whenever you leave a room or close your curtains and blinds to prevent heat loss through the windows. However, there’s only so much you can do if your home just isn’t energy efficient.

Luckily, there are budget-conscious renovations and home improvements that you can use to improve the efficiency and sustainability of your home. Just like it’s possible to stay frugal while giving your home a much-needed makeover, it’s also possible to boost the energy efficiency of a home without breaking the bank. Best of all, these minor improvements will result in major savings on your future energy bills. They most likely will very quickly pay for themselves!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Indian Style Tomato Soup Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Easy

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I don't know what it's like where you live right now, but over here in my neck of the woods it is currently freezing, making it perfect soup weather! I am making an Indian themed meal and was looking for the perfect soup to complement the meal, but didn't want something curry like since I had so many other curried dishes, so I did some googling for recipes and this soup is based on a bunch of different Indian soup recipes, which I've now made my own. It's pretty easy to make, and is suitable for a variety of diets, and everyone who's tasted it so far agrees with me that it is delicious.

Indian Style Tomato Soup Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Easy

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Homemade Dehydrated Sweet Potato Chips Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, and Grain Free

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The other day I was at my friend, M's house, and she gave us some really yummy sweet potato chips to taste. I asked her how she did it, and it was so easy and simple that I knew I had to try it, since grain free healthy snacks are one of the hardest things for me to find and make. Additionally, most paleo snacks tend to be high in fat, so when you snack on them, you might inadvertently end up eating too many calories overall, which can make one gain weight, even if they were on a lower carbohydrate Paleo diet. It's hard to find a balance between not too many carbs and not too much fat and yet still satiating and feeling like you got a treat.

These sweet potato chips are completely non fat and vegan and Paleo and gluten free, and the only thing they are not is low carbohydrate. 

Usually what happens when things get dehydrated is that you end up concentrating the nutrition and calories into a small space. For that reason, people don't notice how much they are consuming in one go, and end up eating much more of the dehydrated food than they would of it fresh (compare how many dried apples you could eat to fresh apples) and end up eating more calories (and fat) overall. With these chips, however, I noticed that because they are a little bit harder than standard potato chips they are harder to eat so quickly, and it ends up taking longer to eat them than the equivalent amount of cooked sweet potatoes. I could eat 2-3 medium sized sweet potatoes in the space of five minutes, yet I made an entire batch of sweet potato chips out of one and a half large sweet potatoes, and they made enough chips for a few people to snack on for an entire day, so I'd say in that sense they're probably even more dietetic than regular sweet potatoes, as you eat them slower. 

You can eat these sweet potato chips as is, or dipped in your favorite dipping sauce. This time I had them plain. Nest time- salsa!

Homemade Dehydrated Sweet Potato Chips Recipe- Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, and Grain Free

Money Saving Tips for Shopping Locally & Online

I hope you find this post, written by a reader, useful.

We all need to shop for necessities and whether you chose to shop your local brick and mortar stores or you enjoy the convenience of shopping online, each method has its ways in which they can be frugal.
Here are a few tips that you can utilize to cut costs where you can either while shopping online or at your favorite local shops.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back to Paleo and Hopefully Back to Myself

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Today's Paleo lunch.
From the beginning of November, pretty much, possibly a bit earlier (October perhaps), my life has been a little crazy. First there was the moving date that we had up in the air, not knowing when our new home would be ready. Then simultaneously I was working to finish up my book. Once that was finished, it was back to the packing yet not knowing exactly when we were moving. Then moving, unpacking, and putting our house together, then doing construction on our rental unit and then trying to rent it out, then preparations for my brother's wedding, and now we're dealing with major damage and leaks in our new apartment, and between all that, my family has been sick three times.

If you can imagine, things have been going a little nuts around here and my stress levels have been increased to the point where I'm constantly snapping at people, and I'm beyond exhausted. Between the crazy times I've had lulls where nothing is going on for a few days, and even then, I'm just really not myself, extremely wiped out, even though there is nothing going on in my life and the only thing keeping me "busy" is watching movies. It doesn't make sense that I'm so exhausted (the last time I felt like this was when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, and I'm not pregnant), so I've been trying to figure out the cause of this all, because I need to have some sense of normalcy back, and to be fully functioning, and not this zombie like existance that I've been feeling like for the past few months, for my sanity and for the sake of my family. Yes, it started out because things were genuinely hectic, but I've had hectic in my life before and it didn't get to this extreme level, where I feel on the verge of collapse.

I was doing a lot of thinking, and I think I may have figured out it out.

The last time I genuinely felt this awful was 5 years ago when I was pregnant with Anneliese and all I was eating was dairy and gluten- I barely functioned. When I cut dairy and gluten out, I finally was back to myself. I know diet can have an extreme affect on me physically and emotionally as well.

For the past many months, because of all the craziness in my life, I've been trying to find shortcuts to make things easier, and the biggest shortcuts I took were in the kitchen. I've not only completely ditched the Paleo diet that I was doing so well on- nearly every meal was rice based, and I know rice makes me tired- I've also been eating pure junk when I've had a hankering for treats (no, Skittles and chemical filled non dairy ice cream and msg filled flavored Doritos and soda are not acceptable treats, no matter what diet you're on). I'm also not eating enough vegetables, etc... I started this because I was exhausted, but because of that, I kept on being even more exhausted and couldn't seem to be getting out of this rut- it was a bad cycle...

But on Friday I decided to take the bull by the horns and say that no matter how exhausted I am, I need to fix my diet, and make more of an effort to eat in a way that strengthens my body instead of hurting it. (Forget the scale- I have no idea what I weigh now- I know I gained, but that is the least of my concerns. My health is.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

My Tiny, Beautiful, and Romantic and Frugal Master Bedroom- Sneak Peek

I wanted to be able to share pictures of my master bedroom in my new house already, but it's been a work in progress, and still isn't finished yet.

But it's getting there, and today my new sheets just arrived in the mail, and as I made the bed with the brand new sheets I loved how it looked so much that I decided to take a picture and share with you, despite the fact that it isn't done yet, and we've even had to take some steps back.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our Frugal Family Wedding Attire

My family with my brother Dan, the groom. Funny expression, I know- we were trying to make the girls smile.
A week ago, my little brother Dan got married to a wonderful woman named Margaret, and it was great fun, such a happy wedding! The thing about weddings is they can get very pricey- not just for the ones paying for the wedding, but for the wedding party as well.

When my brother Josh got married last February, I was really proud of how frugally and nicely I dressed the family for the event. All the clothing was from either or, and for what we got, it was pretty cheap. However, even cheap clothing and accessories add up when you're buying for a family of six.

Having moved recently into a new house and doing construction, things were going a little haywire over here, and I missed my window to order clothing online for the wedding. In a way I was happy about that, because it forced me to look for other options, maybe that would save me money.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Amazing Back to Basics Living Bundle is Live Now!

The sale of the Back to Basics bundle has begun! The following ebooks and e-courses are valued at $814.94, but for the next week (and not a second more!) you can buy all of these for only $29.97, including my brand new book, Penniless Foodie in the Wild- an adaptable cookbook whose delicious international recipes can be made with foraged plants or store bought plants, whatever you have in your house, and adaptable to many different specialty diets, all on a strict budget.

Here's a list of the amazing ebooks and courses you get as part of this bundle. Additionally, there are some great coupons and discounts you get on a bunch of natural living and homesteading related products when you get your bundle.

The books I am most excited about are:
Easy Paleo Instant Pot Recipes- because I love my pressure cooker!
The Broke Bladesmith- because knife making seems really cool!
30 Essential Oil Recipes for DIY Beauty and Skin Care- because I have essential oils in the house but often I'm not sure what to use and for what and how.
The Swiss Hills Guide To Cheesemaking- because it has a recipe for Brie in it!!! and I'm addicted to that stuff, and it costs a fortune here, and I've long been looking for how to make my own Brie!
A Cabin Full Of Food- because nearly 1000 recipes???
Get Growing- because I'm not experienced with  gardening and want to start a garden soon.
Natural Beauty From Head To Toe- because homemade perfume and makeup? Bring it on!
One Second After the Lights Go Out- because I am curious about the topic- would I have what it takes to manage if the power went out long term?
The Organized And Efficient House Spouse and How to Get Organized- because I'm anything but, and really need to learn these skills.

These are all ebooks, because it is not possible to give print books this low of a price.

And here is the complete list:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Frugal Self Catered Family Weekend

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My brother Dan got married on Tuesday, and in our culture we have post wedding celebrations. To do so, we spent a day and a half together this weekend in another town, and my family managed to pull it off pretty frugally, so I wanted to share with you what we did and how. (I say we, but, unfortunately my family was ill much of the past week, so I didn't do much by way of contributing; it was mainly my mom, sister Violet, my dad, and my sister Lizzy.)

We were 35 people spending the weekend together, eating all our meals together, and you can imagine that the largest expense for that would probably have been catering for that crowd. My mother, at a different event, hosted a weekend for a smaller crowd, 25 people only, and using a caterer who was a friend and therefore gave a discount, she paid $2000, plus more for alcohol and disposables.

This weekend, the entire cost of the food was approximately $425 (including alcohol), $140 for the disposables, and $285 for the hall.
Correction: Violet informed me that the food cost $1000, not $425. When she told me the cost of her shopping trip, I didnt know that there were three others. Either way, still a frugal weekend.

And it could have been even cheaper. Since a lot of things were bought ready made (my mom, sister, and father all work full time, so there is a limit to how much time they had to cook it all), and there were a lot of splurges to make it nice (and not just keep it as cheap as possible, but also tasteful and special). After the weekend, there were lots of leftovers which were taken home and split, so that money covered far more than just the meals at the event.

So, how were the costs kept down?

My Foraging Book- Available to Buy

Many people have asked me where they can buy my adaptable foraging cookbook, Penniless Foodie in the Wild, filled with 65 delicious recipes, that I've been talking about and describing for many months already. Unfortunately, though I tried to get it up on Amazon in time for Christmas, I had technical issues with Amazon, and it now all needs to be reformatted before it can be purchased from Amazon.

However, fret not, because in a few hours, from precisely 12:01am CST, January 16, for a complete week, you can purchase my book, Penniless Foodie in the Wild, and 72 other books, all related to frugal and natural living, and more, as part of the Back to Basics book bundle!
Yes, 73 total, valued at $814.94!

But I am excited because I like saving my readers money, and for one week only, you can purchase the entire thing at more than 96% off, for $29.97! That's pretty insane and impressive savings, and since the books are all such good resources, they will be well worth your money and will end up saving you money in the long run with your newfound knowledge. I stand behind this book bundle as a frugal woman and consider it a frugal purchase and money well spent.

This is how many books there are in each category:
Simple Living: 8
Cooking From Scratch: 9
DIY: 9
Frugal Living: 5
Gardening: 7
Homesteading: 7
Natural Remedies: 6
Natural Parenting: 8
Food Storage: 9
Preparedness: 5

Tomorrow I will share information with you about each book, but for now, here's the description of my book:
Update: Here's a full list of all the books and a description of each. 

Learn how to make sumptuous meals from your available ingredients, foraged or inexpensively purchased. Enjoy 65 deliciously frugal recipes from around the world, appetizers to desserts, written with adaptability in mind.
Real food and kosher, and free of most of the top 8 allergens, most recipes can be made without the other top 8 allergens, and to suit Halal, vegetarian, vegan, low carb, low fat, and Paleo diets.

I'm so excited to be able to finally share this with you!
But remember, after this next week, you'll have to wait until my book gets reformatted before you'll be able to purchase it.

Only 11 hours to go!

Friday, January 13, 2017

DIY Easy Fancy Wedding or Prom Hairdo Tutorial

For the past week different family members had a stomach bug, which was far from perfect timing (ok, not sure there ever is a perfect time for a stomach bug) since my little brother Dan got married Tuesday night. (Second brother's wedding- my brother Josh got married this past February.) Next post will be about how I dressed the family frugally but beautifully, but for now I wanted to share how I, who is not super talented with hairdos (I have a hard time with a french braid, even), managed to make my 5 year old daughter Anneliese a beautiful, fancy hairstyle for her uncle's wedding quite easily, and without it taking so long. I didn't use fancy tools other than a curling iron (that I've had for years), and the only thing I bought for this hairstyle were the two flower clips that matched her dress, which cost me $1 for the set. I forgot my hairspray at home, so that would have been an extra cost, and it would have made the hairstyle last longer, but it was fine without it.

If you aren't super talented with hairstyles, you probably can still make this easily enough. Anneliese's hair is a little past her shoulders, and I'd say that this hairdo would work with medium to long hair, and with either straight or wavy hair (Anneliese's is wavy). If your child already has curly hair, you probably can do this too, just skipping the part with the curling iron.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Easy Pressure Cooker Congee Recipe- Chinese Rice Porridge

Unfortunately my family is dealing with an unpleasant stomach bug at the moment (fortunately I am feeling fine, and am hoping it stays that way!). I was trying to come up with something good to serve them that would be easy to make and would help heal them, and thought at first- chicken soup with rice.
And then it hit me- why not make congee, a Chinese rice based porridge, often made with chicken. That way it has the nourishing properties of chicken soup, as well as the binding properties of rice to help settle their upset stomachs. Congee is like risotto, but more watery, and doesn't need to be made with short grain rice.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Making Homemade Frugal Healthy Baby Food

Baby eating baby foodA reader contacted me and asked me if I had any tips about how to feed babies healthy and nutritious meals without breaking the bank. Though many people think that to feed babies you need to purchase expensive jarred baby food, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) homemade baby food, especially jarred food, is quite hard to find locally, and when you find it, it is generally so overpriced that it puts people off. Making homemade baby food is the norm here, and is quite easy as long as you start by getting the right equipment if you don't already have the few necessary tools at home. If you don't have any special tools, that is OK as well! There are so many options and ways to feed your little one and and keep your baby happy and healthy.

25 Ways To Save Money When Eating Out

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut
I really enjoy eating out, but will admit that it is something I rarely do, because it gets pricey quickly. When a reader offered to share with you these ideas about how to save money while eating out, so it becomes more affordable, I was really excited, because hey- who doesn't want to be able to do that? 
Recently I did eat out more than I have in the past, and I found myself using some of these tips which made a big difference, especially 3.

I often find myself asking, what do I want to do for dinner? Sometimes, cooking just isn’t appealing and, especially on the weekends, I want to try something a bit different. I love eating out, I mean, who doesn’t? No cooking, being able to spend quality time with family or chatting away the hours with your closest friends. However, generally it does come with a hefty price tag and is therefore something that’s avoided unless it’s a super special occasion. However, for those occasions when you can’t avoid eating out, there’s no reason to spend a fortune and with these great tips, you’re sure to have a great time safe in the knowledge that your bank balance hasn’t taken a beating.

Upcycling, Reupholstering, and Plastic Covering Our Chairs- A Tutorial

All our newly reupholstered and upcycled chairs
Chairs have been the bane of my existence since we've been married practically...

When we were furnishing our home from scratch ten years ago, our budget was really tight. We ended up buying a set of 4 matching chairs second hand, and another chair from a second hand shop and dumpster dove 1 chair, so we started out with 6 chairs, only 4 of them matching. After about 5 years, the four matching chairs got really yucky looking, so I reupholstered them very easily.
As our family grew we dumpster dove a few more chairs (and tossed one of the original four that ended up breaking entirely), and then bought some second hand Ikea chairs as well (that I ended up hating because they aren't stable...).
By the time we moved into our new home, we had 10 regular chairs and a few folding chairs (plus some stackable outside chairs) which were functional, but they were not only mismatched, but they had really gross seats. It was embarassing. We'd have guests over, and we'd offer them a seat and they'd avoid sitting down since the seats were gross (and make comments about how they heard its healthier to stand). We really wanted to buy new chairs, because in our house with a new, polished, and put together look, these chairs were a big eyesore. And it didn't help that people kept telling us to throw out our chairs.
I looked into pricing for chairs, and each set I saw being sold second hand only had 4 or 6 chairs, so it still wasn't enough chairs to be a matching set to give the place a uniform look, and they weren't in the colors I wanted. I looked into pricing of new chairs, and the cheapest half decent chair (not even in a color that I wanted) was $75 each. I really struggled with this, because my chairs bothered me immensely, but I didn't want to spend a fortune on replacing them. The thought originally crossed my mind to reupholster them, but I didn't take that idea seriously because the chairs were all different colors- some light wood, some dark wood (veneer), some black, some white, not to mention most with different shapes and designs. However, I spoke with a friend who suggested painting them as well as reupholstering them, and I was sold.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Our New DIY Pallet Shoe Rack and Tiny Useful Mudroom

We have a lot of shoes in our family. Six people, each at least with a few pairs of shoes... It adds up quite quickly.
Before we moved to our current home I tried to declutter as much as possible, and in doing so, got rid of all the pairs of shoes that people refused to wear or no longer fit, because we had so many shoes in the old house that we needed a huge amount of space to store them all. And when space is at a premium, it is silly to allot so much of your limited space to shoes.
But even after going through the shoes and getting rid of what no one wore, we still needed a place to store our shoes. We don't have an official mudroom or similar in our current place, but right next to our front door there is a narrow area that is dead space, because it is too small to put any regular furniture there, but it seemed too big to not be used.
Pinterest showed me many ideas of compact and useful mudrooms and I decided to use that as inspiration to design our entrance as a good storage space for shoes, coats, gloves and hats and umbrellas and all other seasonal weather gear that we'd need right near the front door.

I love how this came out so far.
It is still a work in progress, but thus far it is loads better than how it was before.