Category Archives: Frugal food

Urban Gardening Wish List

I am a firm believer that “to grow your own food is to print your own money.” Imagine the amount of money that would immediately open up to you if your grocery budget was significantly decreased! Thanks to the Urban Gardening movement, it is now completely possible to grow your own food, even in small spaces.

I’ve been combing through Amazon, putting together my wish list of urban gardening supplies. We are renting, so even though we have a small front yard (no back yard), I doubt my landlord would be too thrilled if I tore up the grass to plant a garden. Some precious friends with a huge farm have graciously offered to let us use a portion of their land for a garden, and I am equal parts humbled and thrilled, which is a very difficult mix of emotions to convey through words. Picture me jumping up and down squealing but also flabbergasted, and that would probably be pretty accurate.

I know many people are in the same sort of renting living situation, so I wanted to share this list and show you how possible it is to have a garden in small spaces, or without the whole plowing and tilling process. Here are some great products that will help you create the urban farm of your dreams:

1. Envirocycle compact compost bin

These are created with small spaces in mind. It comes in two sizes, the 35-gallon (pictured) and the 16-gallon. They sit on the ground and spin easily. Every garden should have at least two (since you need one to fill while the other one “brews” for 6 weeks or so). These guys are even BPA-free! I think they look like snails.

2. Tower Garden

I can’t say enough about these powerhouse growing systems. They are aeroponic growing systems, self-watering, and grow tons of food in 5 weeks or less. No weeding. It’s planting and harvesting, and that’s about it. You can purchase one at a time or a family pack in sets of 3. These can even be brought inside and continue your harvest year-round! To grow in here: lettuce, kale, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, strawberries, and possibly a melon or two.

3. 20 gallon fabric growing pots

Sometimes, you just need dirt. These pots are made of a sturdy fabric to allow for better drainage and easier air flow to the roots. To grow in these: sweet potatoes (check out this post on growing sweet potatoes in buckets), beets, garlic, and raspberries.

Other items on my wish list for our garden:

Urban apple trees (they are a hybrid that can stay planted in pots!)

Kitchen compost bin.This particular bin is great for under the counter storage. I used to have a countertop storage system and even though I kept up with it, it had an odor. With this, I can lock the  container closed and keep it under a cabinet. Less odor = happier family.

Harvesting Bushel Tote bag – to bring in all your delicious fresh produce!

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden – Absolutely, positively cramped for space? This little guy can even fit anywhere!

I am so excited to get my garden this year!

Want even more tips for gardening and DIY? Get access to ebooks, webinars, printables, and more with the  Ultimate Herbs and Essential Oils

Thank you for reading! If this post has helped you, please share and download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!

How to Feed a Hippie

Feeding a family on a budget is difficult enough. But add in specialty diets and it can be pretty impossible depending on where you live. We are pretty lucky because we live in a rather ritzy college town (which seems so silly, a ritzy college smack dab in the middle of Iowa, but whatever, I’ll go with it), so there is a small family-owned grocery store that carries more organic and otherwise healthy options. Apparently the college has a lot of vegetarians and vegans, so they have a good place to shop.

But food deserts are a reality and many people don’t have the access to quality foods that we have. So for you (and in case you were curious about good places to shop), here’s a run-down of some places that I have personally shopped at and recommend:

Thrive Market

I posted about them last week. Thrive Market is the online convenience of Amazon, featuring Whole Foods products at Aldi prices with a Costco membership. Make sense? I love that I can order hemp hearts and sprouted quinoa, as well as the basic healthier foods and good dark chocolate. Plus, my membership fee pays for two memberships: on for me, and one for a qualifying low-income family. Shipping is always free with orders of $50 or more. Oh, and did I mention they almost always have a free gift with purchase?

Zaycon Fresh

This is basically a co-op for farm-fresh meat products. The meats are sold in bulk by the case, so either go in with a friend or enjoy stocking up on meats for up to 25% off grocery store prices. Since the meat comes straight from the processor, the taste is amazing compared to store-bough meat.

Azure Standard

The only thing I don’t like about Azure Standard is the minimum of $50 order. They are a bulk co-op in several cities, and you have to coordinate with a drop manager to know when your order will be delivered. When we lived in St. Louis, our drop was a K-Mart parking lot, and there were a good 50 families participating. This was where I first bought a gallon of coconut oil, and another time I purchased a 22 pound bag of sea salt (I’m pretty sure we will be using that salt for the next 10 years. It’s been two years already and it looks like we’ve barely touched it). Azure Standard is awesome for bulk purchases, especially for harder-to-find things like organic wheat berries for my friends who have enough time to grind their own wheat for their homemade bread. You can’t see prices unless you’re a member, but it’s free to join.

Tropical Traditions

Known for being the best coconut oil in the world (and truly, it’s delicious), this stuff is worth the investment. It goes on sale pretty regularly and there are deals for buying multiples, so go halvsies with a friend or two for the best savings. Or do what I did and buy a 5 gallon bucket.

Amazon

Not everyone knows about the best (in my opinion) feature of having an Amazon Prime membership: the Prime Pantry. Basically, you fill a box with whatever food/household items your little heart desires for the flat shipping rate of $5.99/box. These are BIG boxes, friends. One time we got a $50 gift card for participating in a survey and we were able to stock up on groceries and a 24-count package of toilet paper. Not only do they have plenty of organic or health-conscious items, and if you happen to like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, I would recommend using this feature (sign up for Amazon Prime here if you don’t have an account yet).

I do a lot of our shopping online. Now that we have a more flexible food budget (and I have found creative ways to supplement it), I’ve been able to slowly transition. One of my goals for 2016 is to make about 95% of our non-perishable purchases online with money I’ve earned through writing articles or swagbucks gift cards and getting to use our grocery money on fresh produce. The more I can provide quality nutrition for myself and my men, the happier I am!

Have you ever shopped at any of these places? What do you think?

For more tips on how to eat a healthy diet on a budget, grab my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for free!

 

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Allergy-Friendly Vegan Peanut Butter Smoothie

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We are out of chocolate and I’ve really been trying to tame my incredible sweet tooth recently, and I’m a bit obsessed with my new favorite peanut butter smoothie!

I have tried making this smoothie with several tweaks, and it is a very versatile recipe. To make it allergy-friendly for those who can’t have peanuts or almonds, swapping out the nut butter for sunflower butter is an easy solution. For those allergic to almond or cashew milk, I recommend either hemp or oat milk. d

Peanut Butter Smoothie

3 ice cubes

1 large banana

1/8 cup (give or take) cashew milk (my new favorite nut milk!)

2 scoops vanilla protein powder of choice (can be vegan – I prefer this brand or this, or may add a few scoops of collagen powder for a non-vegan option)

2 big scoops peanut butter (probably around 1/4 cup) – can also use almond butter or sunflower butter for a nut-free option.

Blend until smooth. I have never had a more delicious peanut butter treat in all my years of loving peanut butter. If you like your smoothies on the thicker size, you can freeze the banana prior to blending and it will have a milkshake thickness.

Enjoy!!

How Much can you Earn with Swagbucks?

Can you earn free gift cards with Swagbucks?

Each month I will recap my progress with earning Swagbucks and using them to supplement our food budget.

I will admit that in January I really wasn’t very proactive in earning bucks. I know, bad me! It’s only the first of the year and I’m already slacking. Anyway…

I ended January with 2,061 Swagbucks and another 518 pending. This was earned almost entirely by using the “shop and earn” feature. Any time I needed to order something online (and I need to order lots of supplies for work frequently) I log into swagbucks first and use that link to go to the Amazon account. It costs absolutely nothing and I can earn points! The pending 518 is because I purchased a Groupon to get an eye exam and some contacts (after two years in glasses, I’m finally starting to feel like myself again!). Those will be deposited in 30 days or so.

Plans for my gift cards:

I’ve decided I’m going to save up to $50 in either a paypal or a Visa gift card this time and make my first purchase from Thrive Market. Your first order doesn’t require a membership, you get free shipping if your order is over $49, and I’ve just really been anxious to try them out because I’ve heard wonderful things. I want olive oil, cacao nibs, coconut, collagen….all the things to improve pieces of our diet that are usually pretty expensive are so cheap on Thrive Market I had a hard time finding what ELSE we would want to get that would get us to free shipping! Yes, I have my cart filled, I’m just waiting for 2,500 more points first so it can truly be a budget supplement instead of an excuse to buy extra health food because it’s “discounted.”

Things to keep in mind:
  1.  When doing the shop and earn rewards and it says Amazon is up to 7 Swagbucks per $1 spent, the “up to” is important. I was a little disappointed after all the things I ordered when what I purchased didn’t actually qualify for the full 7 Swagbucks/$1 special. Just keep that in mind. I didn’t have any trouble with my groupon converting easily though.
  2. Sometimes it takes forever for the points to show up as pending. And when that happens, the customer support team is ready and happy to help you, you just have to email them.

In Februrary I’m going to be better about answering the daily polls and the “No Obligation Special Offers” and setting up my phone to play the videos to earn more points at a faster rate. I don’t really have time to play the games for possible points that I used to, and they got rid of mahjong so I don’t really care for the games anymore anyway. However, if I am consistent with the videos, NOSOs, and the polls each day I will be adding a daily 39 points, plus a few bonuses here and there. That’s more than enough points for a $10 gift card every month! Add your online orders to that and it adds up!

Do you use Swagbucks? What gift card would you want if you were to consistently earn $10 a month just by searching and answering questions?

3 Habits of Healthy Millennials

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I am a millennial, and I’m fairly stereotypical. We are fun creatures, at least I like to think so. We’re basically the same as everybody else, but we do things a little differently most of the time. If you happen to visit the house of one, here are three things you might expect to experience:

You can smell their diffuser going before you even open the door.

Millennials tend to be more naturally-minded, and avoid the toxic chemicals found in most commercial air fresheners. The maintenance man at our apartment complex told us once that he enjoyed walking past our door because it always smelled good. We almost always have an essential oil diffuser going! Essential oils play a huge role in our home from our homemade cleaning solutions to our hygiene products to our air freshener.

They don’t wear their shoes inside the house.

Studies show that not wearing shoes in the house helps with overall cleanliness. I would prefer no shoes at all, but  we wear house shoes to keep our feet from getting dirty. Tristan hates shoes in general so he wanders around in just socks, and I am jealous (my socks wear out too quickly if I do that).

Their kitchen looks like a laboratory.

Millennials are more health-conscious, but heaps of student loans and other bills have forced us to save money whenever possible. One of the ways we do this is DIY-ing our favorite health foods.

Fermented foods and drinks are so nutritious, but they take up so much counter space! Once you get going with one ferment it’s hard to stop. Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, sourdough, and even salsa and ketsup are all popular homemade ferments that you might find on a hippie’s counter top. And don’t forget the bone broth in the crockpot or Instant Pot!

What else would you add to this list?

Cheap and Healthy: Zucchini

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Next on the list of cheap and healthy foods, it’s my favorite vegetable. That’s right, it’s zucchini day!

See also:

Lentils

Bananas

Do you like zucchini? Unfortunately it usually doesn’t get much attention unless people can make it into a sugar-laden bread. Just throwing it into bread hurts my heart because as a vegetable it is so delicious and versatile. This delightful summer squash contains plenty of nutrients, including folate. Folate is super important for women of childbearing age, as studies have shown a diet low in folate during pregnancy puts a child at risk for spinal conditions. The flavor ranges from sweet to savory, depending on the size (the smaller the size, the sweeter it is). The blossoms are considered a delicacy when stuffed with cheese and herbs.

Growing up, I always had zucchini sliced and steamed, or in bread (okay I do really like the bread, but the sugar content is usually really high).

Zucchini has recently been rediscovered as a low-carb star, especially in paleo and gluten-free diets. Popular dishes include “zoodles” (made by either shredding or running it through a spiralizer), or by cutting lengthwise, scooping out the seeds, and filling with meats, cheese, and sauce for either a lasagna or pizza boat. It has a mild flavor so it can pick up the flavors of the spices you use with it.

Last summer a friend gave us a large harvest of zucchini and instead of baking it into bread, I looked up new recipe ideas and found that it can be an apple alternative in pie and cobbler. Zucchini cobbler is delicious, ya’ll.

What is your favorite way to eat zucchini? Post your recipes in the comments!

Want to learn how to slash your grocery budget and still eat healthy? Download my free ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!

Cheap and Healthy: Bananas

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See also:

Lentils

Zucchini

It’s banana day! This is particularly good timing since they are on sale at Aldi for $0.29/pound, and no that was not planned.

Bananas are technically a berry. The high amount of vitamin B6 in one banana makes them a great source of quick energy.

Growing up, I thought they had a weird texture and I went through a phase where I really didn’t like them. Tristan has the same texture issue so he just squishes it around his place at the table and doesn’t actually eat them yet. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate this odd fruit.

Everyone knows  you can either eat them plain or let them “go bad” to make banana bread, but they are actually quite the versatile fruit. Did you know you can use them as egg replacements? Use one ripe and mashed banana to replace an egg in a recipe. This is especially helpful if anyone is trying to “vegan-ize” old favorite recipes.

Mix a banana and an egg together for gluten-free pancakes and top with a berry compote or real maple syrup. For extra protein, add a scoop of protein powder to the pancake mix. Some of my friends use Juice Plus’ Complete protein (with nutrition from 24 different plants!) in their mix and they call them “plantcakes.”

Peel and freeze bananas and blend them with some berries and/or cacao/chocolate powder (or more protein mix) for some healthy ice cream, or add to your smoothies for added thickening, chill, and creaminess. My favorite smoothie is frozen banana, chocolate protein powder, a scoop of peanut or almond butter, and a splash of almond milk.

What are your favorite ways to eat bananas?

For more money-saving ideas, download my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for free!

Cheap and Healthy: Lentils

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For the next few Mondays I will be sharing some of my favorite healthy basics and a few ways to eat them. Enjoy! 

Lentils

Lentils are technically a legume, and they are a very common ingredient in middle eastern dishes, mostly curry or stew, or served over rice. High in zinc, iron, and phosphorus, with a solid 26g protein per 100g raw, they are an excellent addition to anyone’s diet, but especially pregnant women and people with anemia.

There are many different colors of lentils. The yellow and red hold together during the cooking process better and are good for stews. The brown tends to turn mushy and is used as a thickener for soups. Personally, I use brown most often and serve it over rice.

Related: Download my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for free!

The lentil is particularly appealing because it cooks very quickly, somewhere between 10-45 mintues. However, to maximize the nutrition value it is recommended that you soak lentils for a prolonged period of 8 hours. Sprouting the lentils is another way to get rid of the enzymes that inhibit digestion and release all those minerals and delicious protein.

My all time favorite recipe is to cook them with wild rice in a mushroom broth with onions and garlic. Back when I was especially strict with my diet, this meal was a staple both for price point and nutrition. Lentils tend to take on the taste of whatever they are cooked with, so they are wonderful used to extend meat in chili or tacos. A local restaurant here in town is known for their lentil burgers. It’s an extremely versatile food and definitely a staple in healthy frugal eating!

Do you eat lentils? What is your favorite recipe? If you leave a recipe in the comments I might just try it and feature it in a future post!

 

How to Get Healthy Food for Cheap – Without Coupons!

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Yes, it’s true. I used to be an extreme couponer. I spent hours each week clipping, organizing, planning, and executing my multiple-transaction purchases. I had enough deodorant, shampoo, hair dye, toothpaste, and non-perishable food products to last me a good 3 years.

And then I went hippie.

Related: Download my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for free! 

When you make your own toothpaste and deodorant because you are concerned about toxic chemical overload, $0.25 toothpaste isn’t a draw anymore. And unfortunately, most places don’t have extreme coupon scenarios for their coconut oil.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned since transitioning to the bright side:

  1. Occasionally, there are coupons for organic produce. I have found coupons for organic salad greens, nuts, peppers, and more. I have also written to companies and they have sent me coupons for free products as well as $ off coupons. Target’s Cartwheel app also frequently has deals on produce.
  2. Organic is becoming more widespread, so places like WalMart and Aldi now carry organic produce, organic/gluten-free boxed food, and even organic coconut oil! At my last trip to Aldi I noticed they have a bag of organic quinoa for less than $3. Brilliance, I tell you.
  3. It is much more convenient to make your own care products than to spend hours searching for free toothpaste. Because after so many hours of clipping/planning/driving/shopping, was it really free? I discovered a couple one-time investments in ingredients made it possible for me to mix up toothpaste for myself and my husband for two years! Plus when you realize at 11pm that you’re out of toothpaste, it’s much faster to mix up a quick batch than to get dressed, run to the store, pick out the toothpaste, drive back from the store, brush your teeth, and get back in your pajamas. Just sayin.
  4. I can use the creativity and problem solving skills I learned while planning my coupon trips to find creative ways to save on organic food. For example, I learned to buy organic for free.
  5. Use coupons for other things. I still use coupons for clothes, books, toys, and everything else. Just not to the extreme, because I do not need 10 bath towels.

How do you save money on healthy items?

How to eat organic for FREE

Happy Monday friends!

The biggest argument I hear to healthy eating (that honestly, I’ve given myself) is “it’s too expensive!” So today I wanted to show you how you can actually eat organic food for free.

Yes, free.

When we first got married, I brought my amazon prime account into our marriage. Which was super awesome because not only did we get free shipping on basically anything, but we had access to the Prime movies – yay free entertainment! Right after we got married, Amazon introduced the most awesome thing EVER – Amazon Pantry.

The general idea is you order however much of whatever pantry-ish item you want for a flat shipping fee of $5.99. Oh, and they give you a running total of how big your box is (and they can get pretty big). One time Peter did a one hour phone survey about going to college and earned a $50 amazon gift card, and so we headed right on over to Amazon Pantry and ordered a HUGE order of food and toilet paper. I think we paid $0.28 in total out of pocket.

{Click here to get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, and get access to the Amazon Pantry!}

This was so awesome we wanted to take advantage of this goodness again, so I started earning Swagbucks and trading them in for amazon gift cards.

I’ve been diligently earning Swagbucks again recently, so I took a look at the Amazon pantry. They now have TONS of organic options! I saw everything from granola to broth to pasta. Obviously you can’t get your perishables there, but if you can earn Swagbucks, turn them into gift cards, and get all of your nonperishables organic, how much of your grocery budget would that free up to get the rest organic?

So, how do you earn Swagbucks? 

  1. Join for free! {Earn a $3 gift card when you sign up through this link!}
  2. Install the Swagbucks search bar as your main search site. Anytime you search, you have the chance to earn Swagbucks!
  3. Earn 40+ points every day just by adding the swagbucks tv app on your phone and letting it run for an hour or so while you do other things, answer the daily poll, complete the NOSO (just click “skip” the whole time till the end), and enter a swag code, which is usually sent daily.
  4. Refer friends (you earn 10% of all of their earnings for life!)
  5. Use the “shop and earn” feature. This is my favorite! Anytime you order anything online, check Swagbucks first to see if they have a partnership. Chances are they do, so you first log in to your swagbucks account, click “shop and earn,” then click the store you want to go to. This creates a unique code that tracks how much you actually spend, and you earn so many Swagbucks per $1 spent! Right now Amazon is giving 5 SB/$1. Christmas shopping = FREE GIFT CARDS! They also have partnerships with Walmart, Target, Vitacost, and even Groupon and Living Social!

One of my goals for 2016 was originally to pay for all of Christmas just with Swagbucks gift cards. However, now that I see this I’m thinking of all the organic things I can purchase for free that I can use to benefit my family’s health.

Swagbucks are a great way to earn a little extra spending money, especially when on a tight budget. I hope this will encourage you that with a little ingenuity, organic healthy living IS possible!

Ready for more tips to stretch your dollars and still eat healthy? Download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!