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.