Monday, December 31, 2018

My Amazing Scratch and Dent Store Deals!

Nearly all the extremely frugal groceries I got today. Not shown, 3 kilograms of rice.
I am beyond excited by today's grocery shopping trip at the scratch and dent store. I happened to have 34 dollars left in my December grocery budget but when I saw the prices I decided to go over budget and use some of my January grocery budget to cover this, because as a very busy person it would have been ridiculous to not buy the things when I was in the area one day before my next budgeted month begins and instead wait for when I'm in the area. The deals were so good they couldn't be missed!

Additionally, as I hadn't originally been planning on grocery shopping today, I didn't have my collapsible shopping carts with me and ended up buying two new cheap ones. Even with that extra cost, I know this trip was that worthwhile that it was worth paying that extra money.

So just how worthwhile was it, how much did I spend, what did I buy, and how much would it have cost me purchased in a regular 'cheap grocery store' as opposed to a scratch and dent store? Let's do the math.

Friday, December 28, 2018

How IVA or Individual Voluntary Agreements Can Ease Your Financial Load

Any frugality or finance expert will tell you that debt is bad. You shouldn't have debt. Debt is something to be avoided at all costs.

But sometimes debt is unavoidable. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. Or sometimes the debt is from the past, and while you are avoiding making any new debt, the debt load that you have is still there.

The worst part about debt is not the debt itself, but the amount of the payments each month can be enough to make you struggle financially. The monthly payments can make it even more likely to go into even more debt, if the amount of money you have left after paying all your loan and credit card payments each month isn't enough to cover your expenses. And while you can cut back on so many different areas, you can't really cut down on loan payments, which can be staggering. When someone is in such a difficult financial situation because of extreme debt and all their payments, they may be at a loss of how to improve their finances and their life. Sometimes even paying the minimum monthly payments are too difficult, and by only paying the minimum, the debt never gets paid off. People in such situations may think that their only choice is to declare bankruptcy, which has many negative ramifications.

Why Senior Centers Are Great For the Golden Years

This post on Senior Centers by Nancy Evans make the golden years sound so fun!

Growing old shouldn't be something to dread, but instead, it should be a time that you look forward to. When you retire, you will have so much more free time to do the things that you want to do. You'll have even more time if you have a plan before you retire. Have different options for your homes as there are many options such as memory care homes, assisted living facilities, and senior centers. The kids are out of the house, and now you have so much free time on your hands to pick up a new hobby or to continue an old favorite. You could even start doing things on your bucket list. If you haven't started one yet, create one and start doing those "crazy" fun things that you never had the time to do because of work or other obligations.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Easy Onion Fish Recipe -- Allergy Friendly, Paleo, Gluten Free

I'm feeling under the weather. Thank you cold and wet winter.
But even if you're not feeling good, the family (and you) still needs to eat.
Not everything yummy takes a lot of effort; this fish recipe is one of my go to recipes, even when I'm not sick, and is quite delicious and just about the easiest thing to make. I included this in my prep ahead meals because of its versatility; it goes with just about anything.
(The other food I've been making again and again since getting sick is this wild greens ramen. It's soothing for my throat, ultra delicious, and super easy to make. So why not?)

It's so simple I'm almost embarrassed to call it a recipe, but there's nothing wrong with simple foods especially if they taste great.

Easy Onion Fish Recipe -- Allergy Friendly, Paleo, Gluten Free

Enhancing Your Skills And Bank Balance With A Cyber Security Course

For a while I was living pretty much paycheck to paycheck, and even then, struggling, so I did what I could to lower our expenses as much as I possibly could. At some point I realized that it was much more productive to see what I could do to increase my revenue. If you're looking for ways to bring in more money, consider going into cyber security. It is probably even something adaptable to a stay at home job. Here's some more about it, from a reader.

If there is one service that is in high demand at the moment it is IT security. More and more companies are recognising how vital it is to invest in cyber security. After all, breaches are becoming more common and businesses are more susceptible to the threat. This is certainly a good industry to get involved in, as the demand is only going to increase. For job hunters, you can enter a lucrative market. For bloggers, you can enhance the security of your website to make sure you don’t suffer any embarrassing leaks, which can cost money.

To achieve this, you are going to need to take a cyber security course. So, how do you find the best one? Read on for some tips...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fixing My Winter Coat For Free

I really love my coat. After years and years of wearing first whatever my mother bought me, and then whatever fit me in the store, or hand me downs from others. I decided that I was sick of wearing a coat that wasn't my taste. I didn't want to wear a coat that made me look like a fluffy marshmallow. Or a men's coat. So I bought myself a coat online that looked great... only it wasn't warm enough; from the pictures you couldn't tell just how thin it was. It's pretty, but still only a light jacket.

Last year, though, I was in the store and I found a coat that I absolutely adored. A red wool looking coat. With two sets of gold buttons going down the front. And a fluffy faux fur hood. When I saw it, I was sure it wouldn't fit me, but it fit me beautifully, and was very warm, and wasn't too much money.

I've enjoyed wearing it since; I love how it looks in pictures.

Tips for Running a Business from Your Home

As a home based entrepreneur, it's definitely not easy to work from home. Here's some tips and suggestions from a reader.

In today’s economic climate, it’s tough for one parent to stay at home with the kids, relying upon just one income. However, thanks to technology there is an alternative. It’s easier than ever before to set up a home-based business; giving parents the opportunity to stay at home with the kids without losing an income.

Here, you’ll discover some of the best tips for running a business from your home and making it a success.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Easy Wild Greens Ramen Soup Recipe -- Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly Options

Yummy ramen that got rave reviews

When most people think "ramen" they think cheap instant soups that are not so nutritious, but are delicious. However, ramen really is a style of noodle soup originating from Japan, usually served with many toppings, with as many variations to it as stars in the sky. They even have entire restaurants dedicated to this type of soup.

I created this ramen soup recipe when it was a cold and wintry day and I had to make lunch, serve it, and pack up the family to leave for a trip all within less than an hour, and I had nothing ready. Within that time I was able to prepare this delicious soup that got rave reviews from the entire family, and we devoured it and made it out the door on time. 

It was so delicious that I recreated it so I could write down the recipe to share with you.

While I didn't use official ramen noodles for this, if you eat gluten and want to be more traditional, feel free to use real ramen noodles but if not, rice noodles or other cellophane noodles are wonderful in this recipe.

Some of the wild greens I used for my recipe

I used a mixture of different wild greens for my recipe. The first time I used just sea beet (the wild ancestor of swiss chard) but the second time I used a mix of sea beet, mallow, lambsquarters, and amaranth greens, and it was just as perfect. Feel free to use any non bitter greens that you have available (including but not limited to dethorned milk thistle, nettles, hollyhocks, salsify greens, etc...) 
If you're not a forager, spinach, bok choy, swiss chard, kale, or collard greens would be perfect here.

No, this isn't "instant ramen" but it is so quick to make, not to mention frugal, that it might as well be!

Easy Wild Greens Ramen Soup Recipe -- Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly Options

Keeping Costs Down As A College Student

I haven't gone to too much college, but I did attend one year while still in high school, and then lived on my own while going to a religious post high school program. I know how difficult it can be financially as a college student, when you have lots of expenses, not much income, and not much time because you're busy studying. There's a reason why college students have a reputation for living off of ramen.
This post is a collaboration between myself and my friend Rosie, the one who clued me in about the local clothes and houseware share, just finished getting her degree, and has these ideas to share with you on how to keep costs down as a college student.

How to Clean a Chimney and How Often – Safety Matter

I love my home, but one of the things I wish it had was a fireplace. I grew up with one and they are so nostalgic and romantic and beautiful to me. I never gave much thought about cleaning the chimney of the fireplace though, other than maybe the chimney sweep song from Mary Poppins. I was sent this post about the importance of cleaning your chimney and how to do it, and hopefully you'll learn from it as much as I did.

One of the best things when you live in a house is to gaze at your fireplace during cold winter days, while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. There's nothing more soothing and pleasant than staring into those orange flames while outside is a snowy paradise.
But after a cozy afternoon spent before the fireplace, the cleaning work awaits. With a fireplace comes a chimney, and with a chimney comes a potential threat. While it is not that difficult to clean up the chimney by yourself, it is better to ask for professional help if you wish to be on the safe side.

Chimney problems

While cleaning your chimney is, apparently, an easy task, once you decide to do it and start it, you might be surprised to see it is not that simple. The fireplace is more complex than you might think, and some are constructed in such a way that maneuvering inside without the proper equipment is completely impossible. If your chimney is not cleaned correctly it might lead to future disasters. By igniting the creosote that remains on the chimney walls, a chimney fire can damage your house entirely.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Easy and Delicious Spice Cake in a Mug Recipe -- Gluten Free and Vegan Options, Allergy Friendly

Gluten free spice cake in a mug on left, gluten full on right

This recipe wins absolutely no prizes for beauty, but it is deserving of nearly every other prize. 
This morning I was heading out to a get together with friends, where coffee and cake are usually served, and since I don't eat gluten (or drink coffee) I usually eat nothing or try to bring along my own thing. After sending my kids off to school this morning, I had a little extra time so decided to make myself something gluten free, egg free, and dairy free to bring along. I have a recipe for such a chocolate cake in a mug (that I haven't shared yet, since I'm still tweaking it) but I couldn't find my cocoa powder, so decided to go with spice cake instead.

It came out amazing, absolutely unbelievable.

Super easy too, no mess, and ready in just a few minutes.

You cook this in the microwave and it's exactly one serving.

After I made mine, I made a gluten full version for Lee to have. He also loved it.

I shared mine with someone who came to this get together whose kid is allergic to so many things but this recipe doesn't have most of the common allergens, so it's super exciting.

While I didn't make mine vegan, since I used honey, it can just as easily be vegan if you use maple syrup or jaggery syrup as the sweetener.

Basically, if you like spice cake, try this one out. It's worth it! And takes less than 10 minutes from when you even had the idea to be able to eat this.

Easy and Delicious Spice Cake in a Mug Recipe -- Gluten Free and Vegan Options, Allergy Friendly

Teach Them Well: 9 Socially Responsible Kids’ Clothing Brands Making a Difference

I was recently involved in a discussion about the difference between frugal and cheap, and I said that cheap comes across and stingy, whereas frugality is living within your means but in a way that aligns with your values, cutting back on things that aren't important to you so that you have money for things that are.
For many people, buying ethically sourced products is very important, but it can often be pricier. By being frugal in specific ways that are less important to you, you can have extra cash available to spend it on ethically sourced items. Here's a post from a reader about some clothing companies that are ethically run and socially responsible, so you can spend money on companies whose values match your own. 

As parents, it’s our mission in life to lay a good ethical foundation for our children, and we can’t do that to the best of our ability if we’re supporting brands that don’t contribute to the world in a positive way. We must teach our little ones that everything we do impacts the world, from the way we get to work to the places we buy our clothes. If you’d like to start your kids off right, be sure you’re dressing them in socially responsible apparel made by companies that care about more than their bottom line. Here are some of the best children’s wear companies that give back in some way!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Practicing Self Love as a Parent

Brene Brown, one of my role models and heroes when it comes to mental health, emotional well-being, and just being a effective and healthy person in general (check her out if you're not already familiar with her) talks about wholehearted living in her books, and specifically talks about how in order to live wholeheartedly you need to practice doing it. It doesn't come automatically, but is something tangible you actually have to practice to get good at.

And that's why I titled this post practicing self love. Because it's something I and many others definitely need to practice.

What is self love?

It really has so many different explanations, so there's no one right answer. But in short I'd say self love is believing you are a worthwhile and worthy individual, and, at the very least, to treat yourself at least as well as you treat others. I know the maxim is treat others the way you want to be treated, but often it is ourselves we put lowest on the totem pole, and treat ourselves and speak to ourselves in ways in which we'd be abhorred if we heard anyone else spoken to or treated that way.

Don't be mean to yourself. That's step one. And it's a really hard step, especially for people like myself who have been conditioned to speak nastily to ourselves, to be that horrid mean voice telling ourselves things we'd never dream of telling others.

Step two in practicing self love is engaging in self care. Don't neglect yourself and what is important to you, because if you do constantly neglect yourself, there are negative repercussions.

Understanding Why Children Need Foster Care

I know of at least two friends of mine that currently foster children, both with special needs, and both on the way to adoption. I'm not an expert on the topic of fostering, and must admit most of what I know about it is from what I've seen in movies or read in books. Hopefully you'll find this piece on foster care, sent to me by a reader, to be as informative as I have.

Shockingly, there are in excess of 72,000 children in England who are ‘in care’. The vast majority of these children are cared for within foster care, and are most suited to foster care placements.

What is more worrying is that the number of children in need of foster care placements has been gradually increasing in recent years. Whilst we are, as a society, opening up more placements to children, this isn’t at a fast enough rate. This is because whilst work is happening to create more foster places the rate at which places are becoming unavailable is rising even faster.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Gluten Free Vegan Potato Latkes Recipe or Kartoffelpuffer, German Potato Pancakes

Happy Hanukkah for those celebrating!

Traditionally on Hanukkah Jewish people eat fried foods to remember a miracle involving oil, and one of these traditional foods are potato latkes, or fried potato pancakes. German potato pancakes, called kartoffelpuffer are essentially the same exact thing.

Potato latkes and kartoffelpuffer generally contain both eggs and wheat flour, making them off limits for me and my family, so I figured out this recipe for potato pancakes that is gluten free and vegan and still tastes just as delicious.

These potato pancakes are often eaten with applesauce, but others eat them with sour cream, and yet others eat them with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Applesauce is my favorite and my go to.
As it is annoying to fry things since it usually takes a long time, I like to fry these on my cast iron griddle that fits over two burners, which makes it much quicker.

Gluten Free Vegan Potato Latkes Recipe or Kartoffelpuffer, German Potato Pancakes

How to Grow Your Brand While on a Budget

As a business owner, branding is something I often think about. What I want to brand, how I want to brand, etc. (I actually have quite a few different brands!) Branding is difficult and often people think it's really pricey, but there are ways to do it without investing too much capital. Here's some ideas from a reader on how to do that.

Too often, burgeoning businesses underestimate the power of branding. Creating a recognizable identity for your company is a crucial step when it comes to improving your bottom line, helping you to attract and retain loyal customers.

Best of all, branding isn’t necessarily as cost prohibitive as you might think. These days, even small businesses and startups can take the following steps to grow their brand even on a shoestring budget.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Three Ways to Bring in More Money

When I first started this blog, my family's income was tremendously low, and I did as much as I possibly could to lower our expenses, but at some point it just wasn't enough. There's only so far you can stretch a dollar; you eventually may find that you need to raise your income. And that's what we did, and it made a huge difference in our family's quality of life. Here's my friend Adi to give you some great in depth suggestions on how to increase your income and ease up the burden on your life financially.

As anyone who has been in debt will tell you, living within your means gives you so much peace of mind. But there are two sides to living within your means: there’s tightening the “living” part, and there’s expanding the “means” part.

My name is Adi, and I’m head of This Irresistible, a company that helps budding businesses with product, marketing, and business strategy. I’m honored and excited to contribute to Penny's incredible resource of a blog.

Today I want to talk about ways you can expand your means -- ways to make that “income” total higher, so that you can have more flexibility with your “expenses” total.

Even if you don’t change your lifestyle one iota, simply knowing you have some extra cash coming in every month will do wonders for your peace mind.

There are 2 ways to get more money (excluding illegal activity such as casino robbing and money laundering, which I do not recommend): increase the money you make from your current activities, or start engaging in new money-making activities.

For our purposes, and to keep things simple, we’ll explore three different options:
1. Starting a side business (if you already have a day job),
2. Getting a raise (if you are working for someone), and
3. Optimizing the income of a business you already own (if you work for yourself).

Details to Look for When Buying Ride-On Cars for Kids

When my husband was a kid, his absolute favorite toy was a ride on car, and many times he talked about purchasing one for our kids because of all the fond memories he had. If you're considering getting one for your child, perhaps for Christmas, here's some things to look for, that a reader sent me.

Ride-on cars are popular because they’re fun and can help in various aspects of a child’s development. There are even ride-on cars that are modified to be used as power mobility devices for children of different abilities and ages.

Monday, December 3, 2018

My Recent Frugal Accomplishments While Super Busy

My life has been quite busy lately. That means that I can't necessarily do all the frugal things that I used to do. But fortunately being busy doesn't mean that frugality needs to go out the window. Here's some frugal and very frugal things I did recently.

Free guavas!

Frugal Shopping

The Dangers of Using Winter Coats in an Infant Car Seat

Car seat safety is something that many parents didn't used to know, but fortunately over time there's more and more information about how to properly strap your child into a car seat to prevent them from getting injured. If you're a new parent, or even a seasoned parent, it might be worthwhile to look over these tips from a reader to make sure you're keeping your babies as safe as possible in the car.

What not to do. This infant is improperly
buckled in- there's too much slack. 
(Couldn't find a stock photo that was safe!)

It's getting cold outside, and the temperature is starting to drop. As a parent, our main priority is to keep our baby warm and cozy all the time, especially when hitting the road. Cars tend to be very cold even with the heater turned on.

The majority of parents tend to bundle their kids in thick snowsuits and winter coats to help them brave the cold weather. However, combining bulky winter coats with an infant car seat can put your baby's life at risk in case of an accident. Leaving it on your child can create a gap between your precious angel and his safety harness. Also, no matter how much you tighten its straps, your little one will not be able to get much air from these clothes.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Curried Carrot Soup Recipe - - Gluten Free, Vegan, Paleo, and Allergy Friendly

Juli is an awesome friend of mine filled with a tremendous amount of great ideas, and I am so glad we met each other online by chance one day. I've learned so many great recipes with her, and one thing we have in common is our love of "traveling the world" through our cooking. Here's a terrific and easy recipe from her for curried carrot soup, one of many posts coming from this terrific lady.

Penny and I first met through an ethnic cooking group, which probably wont come as a surprise to anyone that knows either of us. I've been blogging for a few years at Pandemonium Noshery about international cooking and we both have a habit of joining Facebook groups dedicated to various types of regional cooking.

One thing I always look for when traveling is trying something(s) unique to wherever I am. Except when I first got to London I was tired, cold, it was late at night, and I missed the bus to where I was staying. As everything was shutting down for the night there was one little grab-and-go type place just about to close that had a few things left. I wasn't even in the mood for anything interesting, I just wanted some soup. Which happened to be a curried carrot soup. Even in my glum mood I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it. So much in fact when I got home I knew I had to recreate the recipe.

I love that making a large pot at home cost about the same as two small containers at the shop did. I make it the day after roasting a chicken for dinner sometimes. I boil the frame down for broth and pick of the shred of meat leftover to throw in the soup. Or sometimes I use bouillon and leave the meat out, whatever works that day.

I used some lemongrass I had leftover in the freezer but it's totally optional. If you leave it out as I do sometimes just add a little extra lemon juice instead.

Curried Carrot Soup Recipe - - Gluten Free, Vegan, Paleo, and Allergy Friendly

Five Day Tours to Take When in Phuket

I adore traveling, and have made myself a bucket list of places I want to visit. Thailand is one of those places; so much about it fascinates me. This write up by a reader on Phuket (pronounced Poo Ket, get your head out of the gutter) makes me want to visit it more then ever!

Phuket qualifies for one of the world’s most beguiling landscape. When it comes to Phuket day tours, you can actually dig into and around Phuket and reach many places on your own. However, some of the day tours will require you to take a minibus or a boat and some planning. We have listed here five famous day tours in Phuket that you definitely need to visit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Frugality by Veganism and a Recipe for Spicy Marinated Tofu

My life has gotten extremely busy and complicated due to divorce proceedings, working, and other things, which gives me less time to write blog posts. For that reason, I've asked some friends of mine to contribute some guest posts, which I'll be including interspersed with mine. This one is from my friend Carly, hailing from Philadelphia. While I can't go vegan to save money because of my health issues (my stomach does not tolerate most vegan proteins), in the past I've incorporated many vegan dishes into my diet for precisely that reason, and found it a very useful tool. 

Adulting = Frugal Living

Frugal was not a word that I grew up understanding. I really never thought I would have to enter the word into my personal vernacular. Instead, I frequented coffee shops, ate out 2-3 times per week, and I only rarely had to think about spending (as long as it wasn’t frivolous).

Then I grew up.

Now, we live on a budget, and our budgeting needs keep getting greater. First there was the kids. Then there was the house. Then something breaks. Then something else breaks. Tuition. Taxes. Grad school. Adulting.

Most recently, my husband left his long-term full-time job working as a personal chef to start a food business. This is great, but it means that until he’s making enough money to support both our family and the business, our bootstraps are tighter than they’ve ever been. So, we’re living frugally. This means no extras: no spending money on babysitters, no going out to restaurants, and definitely no coffee shops. In fact, there’s even one more no that we’ve added to the list, with hopes to eat healthier and save money at the same time: we’ve gone vegan.

Yes, you heard me right – The Nerdy Dad, who competes in barbeque competitions and sells spice rubs and sauces for meats, is married to someone who’s forced veganism on him, at least during the week. Now, don’t get me wrong, I admire vegans. I think that their dedication to the environment is praiseworthy. But I’m a meat and sweet-potatoes kind of girl, and my husband, well, he’s a really, really talented chef and food scientist. So, instead of seeing veganism as some sort of environmental calling, we’re seeing it as a challenge. A big one.

These are the rules:

Carbs can only be 20% of our diets (therefore, no excuses to eat pasta 3 times a day)
Legumes count as proteins, not carbs
The main course of each meal has to be vegetable based (with the exception of breakfast, because that’s just difficult).
Weekends are off – which makes them a free-for-all of meat.

Are we saving money? Yes! It’s basically slashed our food budget in half to eat this way – prior to our vegan experiment we were spending at least $250 on our groceries. Last week, we managed to spend just $75, by focusing on dried legumes and tofu for protein and vegetables from the produce stand. We even were able to “splurge” a little bit on vegan cheese and soy beef crumbles (which made really delicious tacos)!

In terms of what we’ve been eating, we’ve made a lot of soups, including a really delicious pumpkin soup that we ate for an entire week. I even tried my hand at vegan mac and cheese, using vegetables for the base of the cheese sauce, which was a great success. But by-and-large, one meal has stolen the show: my husband’s tofu, which could fool even the most avid meat-eater. It requires a little bit of forethought, which we’ve learned all plant-based eating needs, but the reward is oh so tasty.

Marinated Tofu Recipe

2 lbs tofu (firm or extra firm)
4-6 cloves garlic
3 seeded jalepeno peppers (you can leave the seeds in if you want it extra spicy)
1 medium onion
1 cup soy sauce (use gluten free soy sauce to keep this recipe gluten free)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Squirt of honey, date syrup, jaggery syrup, etc.. (this is important for browning)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup oil of choice
1 cup water


1. Drain and press tofu in between clean dish towels for 20 minutes-1 hour.

2. Rough chop the garlic, jalepenos, and onion. Combine the chopped vegetables with the rest of the ingredients (minus the tofu) in a large container and blend. You can do this in a blender, a food processor, or my favorite way, with an immersion blender.

3. Cube the pressed tofu into small bite-size pieces and fully submerge into the delicious marinade you just prepared. Let the tofu absorb this in place of all of the liquid you removed by pressing.
4. Let the tofu bathe in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, but with this — the longer, the better. You can leave it in there for up to 2 days.

5. After marinating, place tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet with the marinade, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. It will be very soft and spongy as soon as it comes out, but as it cools it will firm up more.

6. Try not to eat it all as soon as it comes out, and enjoy tricking all of your meat-eating friends.

Will we continue this vegan experiment forever? Probably not, but I think that we will incorporate more plant-based eating into our repertoire.

Have you ever gone vegan or incorporated vegan recipes into your diet to save money? How have you found it affected your diet? Favorite vegan recipes to impress meat eaters?
I found my favorite vegan recipe to impress meat eaters is homemade falafel balls, and it isn't too difficult to make either.

How to Give Your Home a Luxurious Look on a Small Budget

As someone who is a dyed in the wool DIYer, I moved into a brand new house and made it fit my taste exactly by decorating it and furnishing it on my own, and frugally. Here's some tips from a reader on how you can do the same to your home.

Whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool DIY’er or someone who hires professionals for home improvement projects, two things are for sure: 1. You have a laundry list of upgrades you want to make to your house, and 2. You did not just win the lottery.
In other words, you are going to have to find ways to give your home that more expensive and upgraded look you desire without breaking the bank. Fortunately, it’s quite possible to do just that — check out the following four ideas.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Making Black Friday Work For You

Black Friday and Cyber Monday some of those things that most frugal bloggers write about, and not just somewhat, but with a lot of emphasis, especially advertising deals as the days get nearer.
You might have noticed that I have not done anything of the sort. Unlike many other frugal blogs, my emphasis is not on sharing deals; I rarely do that. Instead I talk about how to live a frugal lifestyle, and the tips and tricks I do to make that possible. Additionally, I share my experiences, what I did, after the fact, so people who want to get ideas and inspiration can.

Some people use Black Friday deals as an excuse to make a lot of purchases they wouldn't have had otherwise, but convince themselves that it was a frugal purchase because it was on sale. Something that you purchased just because it was on sale but you wouldn't have purchased otherwise isn't frugal; it's still more money than not buying at all.

Some people, like my friend Michelle, manage to get the best of Black Friday by making shopping lists of things they and their family needs, and waiting until Black Friday to buy them. In order to do this, you need to be well prepared and not desperate because when you're desperate you end up needing to spend more money to get things now.

How to Look After Your Child’s Mental Health (Even on a Budget)

Mental health isn't something to be ignored. Especially when it is your children's mental health. Here's some ideas from a reader on how to look after your children's mental health.

As a parent, you will have a million and one things on your plate. From getting the kids ready for school every day, going to work, keeping on top of household chores, all the way to finally sitting down with a cup of coffee and doing the weekly budget, you have one of the busiest jobs in the world. So, while it may not initially be welcome news that there is one more thing you need to be thinking about when taking care of your kids, it is something your children will thank you for in the future: looking after their mental health.

Recognizing exceptions needs to be made

Monday, November 19, 2018

Our Family's Second Autism Diagnosis

My daughter Rose is the light of my life. I can also say that, at the very same time, without a doubt, she is one of the biggest challenges in my life. Ever since she was born, I've felt that my life has been unraveling, and I've been slowly falling apart.

Rose's smiles are bright enough to be seen half a mile away. Her tantrums are at the exact decibel to feel like they're shattering your eardrums, and if not that, your sanity. And they're frequent.
She is extremely intelligent and uses her smarts to see just how much trouble she can make.
She has no sense of danger. No sense of safety. No sense of personal space.
I've been known to call her an Energizer Bunny on steroids.

I thought I was a good mother and knew what I was doing.
Until she was born, that is. I realized I had no clue what to do with her.
So many times I turned to people asking for advice on how to parent her. So many times the advice I got was so simplistic that I knew it wouldn't work with her.
I asked on forums of gifted kids. I hoped that maybe the reason everything I tried didn't work with her because she was too smart and strong willed for the advice being given (distracting never ever ever worked with her, for example) but even then very little worked.
It came down to this: none of the parenting advice I got actually worked with her because none was tailored to her. The standard model didn't work with her.

And though in theory I strongly believed in homeschooling, I was counting down the days until she was old enough to go to preschool paid for by the state, because I needed her out for a couple of hours a day so she wouldn't destroy my house and my sanity.

I didn't know why Rose was so hard to deal with, so hard to parent, so hard to teach. Being her mom made me doubt myself. Made me think I'm this horrible and incompetent mother. Because why else wasn't I able to make headway with this incredibly headstrong girl? Why were none of the things I tried with her working? Why was being her mom making me fall apart?

I suspected autism, honestly.

6 Health Old Wives Tales Exposed

There are many theories about health that are passed down from mother to child. Are they true? Here's some more info on the veracity of six common ones, sent in by a reader.

There are more than a dozen health tales told by old wives which have been exposed more often than not over time. These health tales have been passed across generations and are still being peddled in a 21st generation such as the one we are in at the moment. The first of these old wives tales is that:

Paleo Vegan Potato Kugel Recipe -- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Potato Casserole

European Jews have developed a whole repertoire of dishes called "kugel", a baked pudding or casserole, and of them all, potato kugel and noodle kugel are the most common. I've always loved potato kugel; it's like this giant baked hash browns, and tastes delicious.

However, most kugels are out for me since they use lots of eggs to hold the other ingredients together, and my body can't tolerate eggs. There are egg free versions of kugel too, but they nearly all use flour or some other gluten or grain to bind it.

I decided to try to make my own gluten free, Paleo, and egg free version of potato kugel, and it was a smashing success. If you're a fan of potato kugel but haven't had it in a while because of your special dietary needs, you've gotta try this recipe out.

And if you've never tasted potato kugel before, especially if you're a fan of anything potatoes (as I am) try this out and let me know what you think!

Paleo Vegan Potato Kugel Recipe -- Egg Free, Gluten Free, Potato Casserole

The Difference between Cold Press Juicers vs. Centrifugal Juice Extractors

I am a fan of juice, for taste reasons more than health, but I know some people swear by juicing to heal all sorts of ailments. I have a juicer but it never worked so well. Reading this post submitted by a reader, I am realizing now that it is because of the type of juicer that it is. I learned something new!

Drinking juice extracted from fruits and vegetables is a healthy option that every individual should consider. The liquid extract is important for health benefits because it contains most of the minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients found in the fruit and vegetables. Moreover, juice works as a detox by keeping the body's digestive tract and colon free of obstructions. The juice is extracted by various devices including cold press juicers and centrifugal juice extractors. These applicators work differently, and it is advisable for a client to read reviews of both types of juicers before purchasing.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thoughts on a Money Management Podcast with Amanda Steinberg

I've been working regularly doing cleaning jobs, and at first, I was listening to music while I was cleaning. But then I decided I wanted to start being doing more, and decided to listen to various self growth related podcasts while cleaning, and I've been loving it.

Today I was listening to a podcast on Marie Forleo's channel (I discovered her through talks she did with Brene Brown, an author, speaker, and researcher I highly admire) and it was with a woman named Amanda Steinberg, who has been named one of the top people on finances, and I was curious to hear what she had to say. The topic of her talk was "Manage Your Money in a Way That Feels Good", and as I've heard and read a lot from more than one money expert, I was interested in seeing whether their advice and and perspective would be similar to what I've previously heard.

3 Ways Grass-Fed Beef Can Help You Improve Your Diet

I enjoy beef as well as chicken and turkey; these are the main proteins in my diet as I don't eat eggs and don't really eat dairy. I wish I could afford to buy grass fed beef. Here's a post sent in by a reader about the benefits of grass fed beef.

For years, a common item of popular wisdom in dietary science has been that red meat should only be eaten in very small amounts. Healthcare professionals cited concerns around fat levels and number of calories, and suggested that too much red meat could lead to heart disease.

While there is no question that red meat, like many other things, is best enjoyed in moderation, it is also true that many of the less salutary side effects associated with red meat are seriously exacerbated by the industrial farming methods used to raise most beef cattle.

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what their food eats, but a good diet is just as important for livestock as it is for humans. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cattle raised in North America are fed a diet that is meant to add pounds quickly, rather than produce nutritious beef.

Friday, November 9, 2018

My Latest Super Frugal Grocery Shop

Being busy working a lot lately, it's been hard to find time to do frugal shopping like buying reduced rack produce from the open air market, or going to the scratch and dent store. But earlier this week I was able to arrange a play date for my kids after school and used that time to do my bargain shopping.

My first stop was at the store that sells collapsible shopping carts. The last one I bought, from an expensive place that I thought would be good quality actually was such terrible quality that it broke the first time using it. Sometimes just because something is expensive doesn't mean it'll be good quality. This store, on the other hand, is the store where I've bought all my other wagons and they have replacement parts so I don't need to replace the entire thing in one shot if something breaks. I've come to terms with the fact that I need to fix or buy a new one a couple of times a year, because I'm very heavy on my carts, and I don't plan on changing how I use them, and take them as a price of how I shop and the price for not having a car. I just make sure to include the price of carts into my budget with a sinking fund (under the category of 'things for the house').

Delightful Dishes For A Special Holiday Gathering

Some people really love having guests and entertaining, but have a difficult time coming up with a menu. For this reason, even though they know how to cook, they go out to restaurants when they would like to have a fancy dinner. Here's some suggestions from a reader as to how to make a fancy dinner for your holiday gathering.

Soon your relatives and close friends will be coming through your front door with gifts tucked under their arms, waiting to stuff their faces with delicious food. This type of reunion doesn’t happen every weekend, so you want to pick dishes that will impress them until the very last bite. These are a few meal suggestions that you should follow if you want people to leave the gathering with full stomachs and wonderful memories.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Make Ahead Freezer Meals For Work -- Low Carb, Paleo, Budget Friendly, Allergy Friendly

Since I started working out of the house on a regular basis, I realized I was having trouble with everything regarding eating. My eating habits or not eating habits were hurting me. I'd be in a rush in the morning and not have time to make food to bring with me, so I'd either end up eating nothing all day, or going out to the store and buying something to eat while I was out, or I'd get cheap takeout. Or if I really was on top of things and ready early enough, I'd pack a lunch, usually a few gluten free sandwiches and a fruit or two.
This meant that I was either unnourished, which wasn't good for my energy levels, let alone mental well being, or spending too much (because even cheap takeout, or ready made food from the grocery store is pricier than homemade food).
And in addition to all that, I really noticed how many carbs I was eating, how much of my meals were based on gluten free grains or other starches, and that I was definitely not eating enough vegetables. My weight has been creeping up, in part because of the meds I've been on, but I'm sure my less than stellar eating habits have not helped.

So I decided that I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make meals in advance that were healthy, vegetable rich, and low in carbohydrates. Add to that the fact that I wanted things that were freezer friendly, because I didn't want to have to worry about them spoiling in my fridge.
I was trying to come up with ideas, but I was really thrown for a loop because in addition to trying to not eat grains, I also don't eat eggs, most dairy, or cruciferous vegetables, which means that the standard "freeze ahead meals" were mostly out for me, because they tended to rely heavily on broccoli and cauliflower which I don't eat, or egg based things like mini quiches.

Can a Prepaid Debit Card Help With Your Finances?

I am pretty firmly anti credit cards, because I see how much trouble they can get you into financially. However, a reader sent me this post about how prepaid debit cards can actually be helpful with your finances, and I'll admit it got me thinking. 

In a nutshell, a prepaid debit card is a financial instrument that makes your life easier. You can look at it as plastic money. The card requires you to load it with a certain amount of money that you can use to make purchases, pay your bills, and pretty much anything that plastic money can do. It comes with a number of incredible benefits, including limiting your spending, helping with budgeting, avoiding high banking fees, saving time, and avoiding the risks of carrying cash, among others. But really, can a prepaid debit card help with your finances? And if so, in what ways can it do so?

Well, if you guessed right, the right answer is YES! Here are a few ways how a prepaid debit card can help with your finances.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Visiting London on a Shoestring Budget

No, I'm not heading to London. (Yet, though this post really makes me want to go.) However, my best friend, Michelle, recently was in London, and she amazed me not only by how many things she saw in her short amount of time there, but also little she spent doing so. As she knows how much I love travel, and especially frugal travel, she offered to write this amazing and informative post on how you, too, can visit London, have a great time, and pay nearly nothing. I'm really psyched about this, and I wish I could be in London now (though I will see what kind of Black Friday deals I can find...)

Hi! So I just came back from four days in London, and I realized that London itself, although there are some parts of it that can be expensive, is an extremely frugal city to tour if you can navigate the 2 hot-spots. I thought that I would give some ideas, especially for those interested in touring this major historical metropolis, that might help those who are interested in getting there!

I'm also a huge history geek, so for me, London is a hotbed of amazing historical and cultural places that really added to the experience.

Brilliant Gifts For The Obsessed Foodie In Your Life

I'm a foodie. Anyone who knows me well (or even semi well) knows that about me. Don't get me baskets of lotions and creams as a gift, those will go unused in my house. Get me something food related and I'm sure to love it. Here's some tips from a reader about what types of gifts work well for a foodie like myself. (Not that I'm hinting or anything... haha.)

You know someone who passionately believes that breakfast, lunch and dinner are much more than necessities. They go to restaurants to try the newest trends, explore adventurous menus and test out unique recipes in their own kitchen. If you need to get this culinary connoisseur a thoughtful gift, read these fantastic ideas for inspiration.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Taco Night! Delicious, Frugal, Easy, and Healthy

My kids, somehow, despite never having had tacos before, heard about the concept of Taco Tuesday. (I don't even know the source of Taco Tuesday!) They asked me if we can please have a Taco Tuesday at our house. I kept the idea at the back of my mind, and when I saw taco shells being sold in a grocery store I was visiting, I decided that we'd have a Taco Tuesday night.

Boy was it a success!

I wanted to share with you how we did it, and relatively frugally as well, not to mention pretty healthily. Oh, and can I mention that it was pretty easy and quick to make, and enjoyed by every last family member, including a guest?

Friday, November 2, 2018

Parenting and Earning: How to Do Both at the Same Time

I've pretty much only been a work at home mom since my kids were little. Only recently, since deciding to get divorced, did I start working out of the house more regularly. Some people want to be able to work from home but don't know how to do it. Here's some great ideas from a reader on what type of jobs you can easily do from home; I learned something new from this post, and I thought I knew all about being a work at home mom!

Between dealing with temper tantrums, breastfeeding, diapers, wiping runny noses and completing other chores at home, being a stay at home mom is a full-time job. Also, it is tiring and expensive.

Yes, having kids is one of the best feelings and experiences for moms and dads too but the responsibility of raising them and juggling other chores is a pain. The good news is that stay at home moms can hire a housemaid to complete other chores and leave them with the responsibility of raising kids. The problem is this costs money.

To earn some cash in order to pay the housemaid and even cater for other in and out of the house expenses, one needs to work. Thanks to the internet and the gig economy, stay at home moms have the opportunity of earning up to six-figure sums from the comfort of their homes.

Want to know how?

Here are the top 5 money making online opportunities for stay at home moms.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Shoe Shopping That Finally Makes Me Excited!

I have something embarrassing but important (I feel, anyhow) to share. I'm not one that is brought to tears easily. I watch emotional movies and don't cry. I hear sad news and while it affects me, I don't cry. But one thing pretty much guaranteed to make me cry has been something else that brings people much joy.
Shoe shopping.
Yes, shoe shopping consistently makes me cry. Trying to find the best sneakers for women in my size was tricky. Even writing this post, my eyes are tearing up. Shoe shopping is a very emotional topic for me.

Growing up, I had larger shoes than my older sister by first grade. By fourth or fifth I already surpassed my mother in size. They jokingly called me Big Foot, because my feet are... well, huge. Size 12.

I knew my feet were large but I never realized how 'strange' or problematic that would be, because I grew up in a predominantly African American area, who on average have larger feet, and we shopped for shoes in Payless shoes who always had a very large selection of shoes in my size. I never minded shoe shopping, in fact, I loved it, until I moved abroad.

And since then, shoe shopping had made me cry.

How Can Check Payment Be a Smart Financial Move?

I haven't used checks in a long time. I recently got a new bank account and didn't even bother ordering checks with that account. However, someone sent me this post on how using checks can be beneficial financially, which gives me some food for thought. Hopefully you'll also be more enlightened on the topic.

Making payments is always a burden on finances. For businesses and individuals, payment options are plenty. You can swipe your card, transact online or issue a check. With so many payment options available you need to find the payment option that is both easy as well as widely accepted. On top of finding a widely accepted and easy payment method, what if your payment method helped your finances?

Businesses buy overnight checks and keep them in stock to make payments. When you buy overnight checks, you are settling for a widely accepted payment method that helps you plan your finances and saves you money. Here are how check payments can help you out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Public Service Announcement on How to React When You Hear People are Divorcing

After I let people know that I was getting divorced, I have to say that I really appreciated how many people just reached out to me and told me that they were there for me. I appreciated (most of ) the comments that people left on my last post, telling me they believed in me, were praying for me, etc...

But I also realized something. Some people don't react the same way. Some people act in ways that I would rather they not act. (Like the person who left a comment saying that I obviously don't respect the sanctity of marriage, and I'm making the biggest mistake of my life, and the only reason I'm getting divorced is because my therapist puffed up my ego too much, and the only valid reason for divorce is if you're beaten senseless.)

Because of how some people reacted when they found out I was getting divorced, I wrote this PSA and I wanted to share it here as well.

When someone tells you they're getting divorced:

Decluttering Tips - Why Storage Containers Make For Great Space-Saving Solutions

I've been working to help people organizer their homes, and one of the biggest things that I tell my clients is that they need containers, because it makes it so much easier to have your house in order if you keep things in containers of similar sizes and dimensions. Here's what a reader has to say about using storage containers.

Storage solutions are the two magical words for anyone looking to declutter their living space. You need to make some hard decisions when you decide to declutter, and take a hardline approach to storage solutions. Fortunately storage containers make doing so incredibly easy, and they can be applied to all rooms and circumstances. Find out what you’re missing out on, and how these containers can add value to your living space.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Excited About All These Free Things

Lately I've been working regularly as a household cleaner part time, and then I'm doing one off organizing jobs for different families as well. In addition to this being a rather well paying job in my area (it makes more per hour than many jobs requiring degrees) I've also discovered that there's one huge perk of this job.

The free things.

Because I'm in people's houses on a regular basis, when they have something they no longer need, instead of posting it on local giveaway groups or bringing it to thrift shops or swaps, I often seem to be given first dibs. Additionally, many times I'm helping people organize things, and as we organize things, they realize they have things that they never use and decide to give them away... and again, guess who gets first dibs? Also, lastly, as someone who is known for being frugal and minimizing waste when I can, there are times that people offer me things that they'd otherwise throw away, like being past the expiration date (which I don't believe in for most things), which definitely ends up to my benefit.

My issue isn't not having enough things, but rather, thinking well about whether or not our family actually needs those things and will use them, or if they'll just become useless clutter in our house. Fortunately everything that we've brought home has been put to use and enjoyed. Many of the things I got free replaced stuff that I would have otherwise needed to buy, so they saved me money.

I took the above picture of things that I came home with in one day, but it's only a small fraction of the free things I've gotten because of my work.

Things I've gotten:

  • A leather rolling office chair (that the family was gifted with and had no room for in their house; my old office chair completely broke so this was very handy)
  • Hand me down clothes for my girls
  • Dress up clothes for my girls
  • A bread box
  • A container for storing cereal
  • A collapsible metal steamer (my old one broke but I didn't know where to get a new one)
  • A mandolin
  • A flour sifter
  • A pie cutter
  • Microwave safe containers
  • A cookie jar
  • Gluten free cereal
  • Pure fruit jam
  • Wine
  • Taco sauce
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread
  • Butterscotch flavoring
  • Bailey's Irish Cream
  • A giant package of plastic wrap
  • 2 giant packages of aluminum foil
  • Cooking bags
And much else...

I'm so glad to be getting all these free things, and I'm appreciative of these perks of my job in addition to the salary I get.

But, why am I posting this? Well, in addition to just being excited to share this bounty with you, I wanted to reiterate things I've written before. Let it be known that you're the type of person that enjoys and appreciates getting free things, and to let you know about things they intend on passing on, and hopefully then too you'll be blessed.

P.S. Don't just be a taker. While I am glad to get free things, I definitely pass on and give away the things in my house that I no longer need. I truly believe what goes around comes around.

Do you often get hand me downs from people, or things that other people are giving away? What types of stuff have you gotten?

Solidifying Your Startup - Encouraging Team Collaboration

Many friends of mine work in start ups, and I hear what wonderful environments they can be to work in. I've been envious of their working conditions because many do wonderful things to encourage team collaboration. While I don't work at a startup, I've worked with many start ups, making fun foraging and cooking events, that are fun days to help promote team cohesiveness. Here's some other ideas from a reader that are great ones to implement in your workplace, even if it isn't a start up.

Startups move quicker than your average business. In fact, sometimes a whole strategy can be created, implemented and then changed in one business day. This sort of environment is fueled by creativity and innovation, but success is dependent on how the machine works together. Don’t let a lack of collaboration cost you the goal of the business, and work to build a team that will act as a unit. Here’s how you solidify your startup by encouraging team collaboration.

My Super Frugal Grocery Shop at "Happy Hour"

Lately my fridge has been remarkably empty. I hurt my foot over a week ago, and even before that I've been very busy with work, so I haven't managed to make it to the open air market for produce, and the stores closer to home have been so incredibly overpriced for produce so I haven't found anything worthy of stocking up on, and just been buying the bare minimum, and I've found it annoying, since an empty fridge stresses me out.

My local discount grocery store is open only Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and lately, a few hours before they close on Friday, they announce a "happy hour" with incredible sales.
I went a different week to "Happy hour" there and got chicken wings for 25 cents a pound! This time, there wasn't that deal, but all produce was 39 cents a pound. Since lately I haven't been able to find anything cheaper than 65 cents a pound, but most closer to 90 cents a pound, I jumped on it.

You see all this produce? That's 90 lbs of it!

It cost me only $35.17!

That's ridiculously little. Especially since most of it was "specialty" produce that usually goes for much more. Kiwis are generally $1.50 a pound and peppers can be up to $1 a pound, so to get all that for 39 cents a pound is amazing.

So what I got, if it isn't clear from the picture, is lots of fennel. 2 full shopping bags of it. Lots of apples. 3 shopping bags full, one of red and two of green. 2 bags filled with persimmons, which was really exciting since I love that fruit and it just now came into season so it's been pricey and I haven't bought it until now. 2 bags of red peppers, my kids' favorite vegetable (as long as its raw). A few large bunches of bananas. 4 boxes of kiwis. 3 packages of corn on the cob. And a bunch of pomegranates.

And the best part about it is these are all in perfect condition, not reduced rack quality.

I feel like I have a cornucopia in my fridge, so overflowing now with produce.

I'm not sure yet if I'm going to preserve any of it, since most of what I got will last a decent amount of time and the stuff that don't last as long, my kids are devouring.

Have you gotten any amazing deals for groceries lately? What is the price point you try to set for yourself when buying produce?

Frugal Ways to Find Unique Games for Your Kids

"Mommy, I'm bored!" is probably a constant refrain in most homes that have kids. Especially if you try to limit the amount of screen time your children have, it's hard to come up with ideas of ways for the children to be entertained, and games can get pricey. Here's some good ideas sent to me by a reader on how to entertain your children with a low price tag.

Play is an important part of growing up, and games give families a unique chance to bond. Unfortunately, however, games can get expensive quick, especially when kids are always looking to refresh their options.

In 2016, the average American household spent $2,913 on entertainment. This total looks small compared to the amount of income spent on bigger items like housing and transportation, but it's a significant amount of money nonetheless.

Even if some families don't spend as much as the national average, it's possible that many still spend more than they would like on entertainment. At the very least, they could probably be getting better deals.

Most households can't afford to spend oodles of money on games and entertainment. But that doesn't mean they can't still have fun. Here are a few simple ways parents can find great games for their kids without emptying their wallets.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Homemade Spiced Sangria Recipe -- Easy, Paleo, All Natural Ingredients

A little while back, I arranged a meet and greet barbecue for the new and old ladies in my community, and I wanted to make some delicious things to serve there, including an alcoholic beverage, while still keeping down the costs. Sangria was what came to mind, a drink made with red wine and fruit, originating in Spain.

There are so many different recipes for sangria, but as long as they have the red wine and fruit they're authentic. While I made my recipe exactly as is written, feel free to play around with your sangria and make it to taste, using what you have available in the house. I made this while summer fruit were still very much in season, but if you don't have summer fruit available, use what you have, or even use canned fruit. Fruits you can use are any berries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, pineapple, mango, oranges, grapefruit, persimmons, cranberries, pomegranate, you name it.

I will note that while I used oranges in mine, if you want to let yours sit in the fridge and be able to also eat leftovers, note that fresh oranges or grapefruits will make it more bitter, the longer it sits, so leave out the citrus fruit if you don't like bitter or if you plan on having leftovers.

I added a large variety of spices to mine because I enjoy things that way, but feel free to play around with them or leave them out.

Additionally, I sweetened mine with jaggery syrup; feel free to use honey, coconut sugar, or sugar if you want to. The important thing is that it is sweet enough, not which sweetener you use.

I happened to use brandy since I had some in my house and many recipes for sangria call for brandy, but if you don't have that available, or simply to keep down the costs, feel free to leave that out.

In short, while this recipe was delicious as is, and I got many requests for recipes, this is totally a flexible recipe. Play around with it and make it with what you have available.

To serve this I like to put it in a large bowl with a ladle (punch bowl style) but you can also put it in a pitcher, ideally in a wide mouth, so that the fruit will come out together with the sangria.

Homemade Spiced Sangria Recipe -- Easy, Paleo, All Natural Ingredients

Community Connections - Building Relationships in a New Area

When I first got married and moved to a new community, you have no idea how lonely I was. Not only was I starting off in a place where I didn't know anyone, the fact that I was living in an area with predominantly non English speakers made it even worse. I remember telling my husband then that I wanted to move back to the USA, or at least to a city with a higher percentage of English speakers, since I was so miserable and lonely.
Slowly, I started breaking my way into the community, and then eventually moved to the community next door, where I'd already known people because of my time in the first community. I love my community and I know how hard it is to be a newbie somewhere, and I love that my community has regular get togethers, especially when we hear a lot of new English speakers just moved in. In fact, one of these get togethers is where I served the sangria whose recipe I am sharing in my next post. Additionally, when we bought a house as part of a building project, we moved in around the holidays together with another large group of people. One of the great neighbors brought holiday treats over and knocked on each of the families' doors offering baked goods and to introduce themselves and foster a sense of community
If you aren't as lucky as the people in my community, if you don't have a built in way to meet new people the way we have in ours, here's some ideas from reader Lauren on how to meet people and create friendships when you're new to an area.

So, you have just moved or are about to move house? Not only will this likely be quite a busy endeavour (booking removalists, packing boxes, redirecting mail etc.) but, it will also mean acclimatising to a brand new environment, far removed from what you are so familiar with.

However, whether you are moving internationally, interstate, or even just to the next suburb… there are some easy ways to get you established in your ‘new hood’ and build some key community connections. Here’s a guide to building relationships in a new area.