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.