Archive | November, 2009

Gift Ideas for the Natural Mama

Welcome to the first in my series of posts on gift ideas for the family with a focus on natural, nourishing, and green. Today, I would like to share some recommended picks for the nourishing mama – simple kitchen and household accessories that will help you provide good healthy cooking for your family, but at the same time not adding additional clutter. I avoid gadgets at all costs, but I love receiving gifts that are very practical and multi-purpose.


Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 2.07.36 PMAdjustable Measuring Spoons – I don’t know about you, but I love having only two spoons in my kitchen drawer for all my baking needs! Pampered Chefs sells this wonderful set (Tablespoon & teaspoon collection) for only $8. Easy to clean, and easy to use!

Wooden/Bamboo Kitchen Utensils – Wooden or bamboo kitchen utensils are simply wonderful for natural home cooking. You will find wooden tools work so much better and no fear of plastics or scratches! Amazon sells a great variety of wooden utensils for your kitchen. The pasta tool is on my wishlist this Christmas! These bamboo salad tongs are awesome! Check out this cool maple soup ladle! Wooden utensils are usually cheaper than their plastic competition, $4-7 each!

Wooden Cutting Boards – I absolutely love wooden cutting boards! They are long-lasting, durable, and wonderfully useful for all your cutting needs! Check out Totally Bamboo for great quality and sustainability in various sizes and prices.

Stoneware – Since receiving a few items of stoneware from Pampered Chef after hosting a show this summer, I cannot say enough as to how wonderful they work in the kitchen. Completely natural cooking surfices that provide well balanced heat distribution. No chemical linings or glazes, and always produces beautiful results! I have the pizza stone, muffin tin, and square baker and they are used all the time now in my kitchen! Check out the Pampered Chef stoneware.

Cuisinart Safe Non-Stick Pan – I received this pan last year for Christmas and highly recommend it! Safe non-stick surface that works perfectly for crepes, omelets, eggs, and many other uses.

Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 3.13.08 PMBlendtec Total Blender – This machine does it all! A great way to get quality but simplicity in your kitchen. The Blendtec Blender is a commercial-quality 1,560-watt countertop blender with 3 HP direct-drive motorcan that can grind grain, make ice cream, knead dough, function as a basic food processor, and most importantly a very high powered blender. Vitamix is in the same line as the Blendtec and another great alternative, but I choice the Blendtec because it fits under your counter top cupboards, shuts off automatically, and has easy digital touchpad controls, making it easier to use while juggling other kitchen tasks! This a true multi-purposing kitchen item that will last! At $400 it is spendy but worth every penny, especially if you are wanting a mixer, grinder, food processor and cannot afford each of these items individually. I use it several times a day making homemade raw apple sauce, peanut butter, salsa, protein bars, muffins, green smoothies (yes, it blends those greens so smoothly you never know they are there!), and numerous other uses.


Bare Minerals Get Started Make-Up Kit – This basic set of natural mineral makeup has lasted me for two years now! ;) Screen shot 2009-11-24 at 2.40.06 PMBeyond buying another container of warmth (their variety of blush) I still have plenty of all the other items in this well-rounded make up collection set. I highly recommend it! For my full review, visit here.

Make some homemade deodorant or homemade perfume for some nice natural skin care!

Vegetable/Soy Wax or Beeswax Candles - Candles made from beeswax are very natural and safe for your home. Paraffin is a substance that is rather toxic and is the standard ingredient in most candles. I love candles! Look for 100% beeswax or soy wax…they like to combine them with paraffin to trick you! ;)


Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials – Do you like sewing? Check out this fun book with lots of ideas for repurposing items around your home into fun, new, inventive clothing and household items.

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses – want to learn how to make cheese? Check out this fun book! Also check out the Mozzarella/Ricotta cheese making kit from Cultures for Health.

Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski- my favorite read this year on Biblical womanhood. Highly recommended!

From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out by Nancy Twigg – my favorite read this year on simplifying! I love it!

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity – my favorite book on seeing mothering as a mission from God!

The Kindle Wireless Reading Device is an amazing gift idea. It’s on my wishlist (maybe someday -for now I am happy with the free Kindle edition for the I-phone)! ;) Books require a lot of paper and energy to make. Reading digitally saves on resources and saves us money. It is a portable reading device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Kindle is also easy on the fingertips. With Whispernet, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. I love the idea of having a book with me at all times without wasting paper and is also easy on the eyes! Not too bad at $259.

What is on your wishlist? Have any good natural gift ideas for her that you might recommend?

Comments { 45 }

Homemade Vanilla Extract

IMG_6748I absolutely love vanilla extract! Talk about a fun, easy and delicious homemade gift idea! Organic vanilla extract can be quite spendy at the store, and with these cute jars you cannot go wrong in blessing family and friends and your own kitchen cupboard. I made 6 (4 oz bottles) this last weekend and they are steeping away nicely in my cupboard ready for Christmas baskets. Here’s how I did it:


6 Vanilla Beans
6 (4 oz jars)
24 oz. vodka

I purchased the vanilla beans and recycled glass cork top bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs. The vanilla beans are sold by the 1 oz (which is 6-9 beans) for $9.00, making it about $1-1.50 per bean. The jars were $1.60 each. I purchased the vodka at my local liquor store for $10 for 750 ml (which I figured out is about 26 oz). So you are looking at less than $5 per 4 oz jar, compared to easily double that amount at your local health food store. And with reusable glass jars, you can save even more with future batches (if you are making it for yourself, that is). The beans smelled fabulous! I cut them down the center with scissors and then into 2 inch pieces and put them in the jars. I then filled each jar with vodka and put the top on! That’s it! You must steep them for 8 weeks. Once you have used half the jar, you can refill the jar to the top with more vodka to stretch it even more! Make sure to make a note of this when you send it for gifts. You can also save room to sweeten with a 3/4 tsp of rum per bottle after it has steeped.

You can also use this recipe and steep them altogether, but since I was in a rush getting them ready for Christmas, I chose to steep them individually, so I could send them on their way.

Aren’t they adorable? I just have to make a cute little label tag to go with them! That’s more natural living on a budget for you!


Comments { 95 }

Christ-Centered CD’s for Kids & Giveaway!

My daughter loves to sing! A dear friend prayed over her an infant that she might be a singer and worshiper of Jesus, and I believe the Lord is answering that prayer! Recently, I set out on a mission to find some good solid CD’s of music, especially Scripture verses set to music that we could fill our home with. I decided this was going to be her Christmas present: a Portable CD Player(one that she could carry around the house with her) and a few good CD’s for her enjoyment. Here are some great finds and a fun giveaway!

Screen shot 2009-11-19 at 3.17.15 PMSongs for Saplings - Songs for Saplings is a ministry of a home school mother (who actually lives in my area), Dana Dirkson. Her vision is to supply families with solid Christian music that would teach children about God. Thus far she has released four CD’s that are simply wonderful! The Songs for Saplings ABC’s puts Scripture verses to music that can be used while you teach your children their ABC’s. It includes a Scripture verse song for every letter of the alphabet, in addition to verses that can be used throughout the year for all the holidays. Very simple verses so great for toddler and preschoolers especially. I did give this CD to Karis already and she absolutely loves it! She can sing many of the songs already and it fills my heart with such delight as she learns simple Bible verses. It is never too early to plant God’s Word in their little hearts. Her other CD’s are a series titled Question & Answers that go through God & Creation, the Fall & Salvation, Christ and His Work, teaching basic doctrine to children in a catechism of sorts. Dana also offers chord charts that are free to download from her site. Highly recommended!

Steve Green’s Hide Em in Your Heart- I loved these CD’s as a child! Steve Green sets Bible verses to music in a fun, entertaining way. I can still sing many of the songs from these CD’s from my childhood. Music is so powerful! This set includes the DVD video that are enjoyable to watch and teach the verses and character qualities more visually. Check out Hide Em in Your Heart Vol 01 & Hide’em in Your Heart Vol. 2.

Screen shot 2009-11-19 at 3.42.24 PMTo Be Like Jesus - by Sovereign Grace Ministries. A fabulous solid collection of worship songs for children. To Be Like Jesus contains twelve worship songs that teach the fruit of the Spirit in a creative and memorable way. Through these songs kids will learn that Jesus is our perfect example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They are theologically sound and engaging. We use alot of Sovereign Grace worship music at our church and always enjoy their albums. You can also purchase this album directly from Sovereign Grace here.

Hymns for A Kid’s Heart – by Bobbie Wolgemuth – An excellent series of books and CD’s that will help teach your children the beauty of hymns. Hymns are packed full of solid gospel truth and are such a tool to be used in teaching your children the Word of God. Each book in this series includes a story about the history behind each hymn, lyrics, verses to be discussed and prayers. We recently purchased the Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart to be included in our preparations for Christmas. I want my little ones to hear and understand the wonderful gospel truths that are proclaimed in some of the traditional carols and the history behind them. Also, check out Passion Hymns for a Kid’s Heart.

Seeds Family Worship - I just stumbled upon these CD’s through recommendations by the readers and after listening the samples, I just had to add these CD’s to the list! Wonderful Scripture based songs for all – adults and children alike! There is a lot of variety in style and voices, including voices of children and adults. I can definitely see myself really enjoying this music as well and learn Scripture together with my little ones. Series includes: Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Faith, Seeds of Purpose, and Seeds of Praise.

Now, for the giveaway!

Dana Dirkson has graciously donated one copy of Songs for Saplings: ABC’s for us to giveaway! You can have the chance to add this awesome CD to your family collection.


1. Simply add a comment below and share your favorite resource for teaching your children. It could be your favorite music CD, book, or resource.

Giveaway closed.

Comments are closed

Our Jesse Tree: A Focused Advent Celebration

IMG_4923 Last year, I was introduced to the idea of a Jesse Tree as a purposeful way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and our family loves it!

The name “Jesse Tree” comes from Isaiah 11:1-2: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”

The Jesse Tree idea centers around Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophesy being the “stump of Jesse”. I had a blast beginning to assemble my own homemade ornaments to add to our tree throughout the Advent season. Each ornament represents a different story, starting at the beginning of Creation and working all the way to the coming of Christ Jesus. Each reading shows how all the Old Testament points towards the coming of Christ as the Messiah. The Jesse Tree gives such a beautiful picture into seeing how each story of the Bible speaks about God. Each story is a little whisper of His name and a glimpse into character, plan and purpose. The Jesse Tree is a form of Advent, in which you read one story each day from November 30-December 25. It is a fun and purposeful opportunity to sit down as a family and read more about His coming, but also have a visual representation througScreen shot 2009-11-15 at 12.28.57 PMh each ornament.

We used the The Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration by Ann Voskamp. It includes all the daily reading plus paper ornaments that you can print and cut out for your tree. Ann’s readings are excellent and very thought provoking and suitable for all age levels. Discussion questions included. She recently updated to include black and white versions of the paper ornaments so you have the option of decorating them yourself and larger editions that can be used as coloring pages for the kids while you are reading the Advent devotions. I wanted to make my own ornaments, so we assembled our own ornaments and will be gradually adding a few more each year until we have a complete collection. I did not want to attempt to put it all together at once. 26 ornaments takes time. Why rush? Making your own is a fun way to include your children in the process. It can be very frugal, as most of our ornaments are simply made with felt and twine. I purchased a little 2 foot tree at my local Goodwill for $5 for which to hang our ornaments. But, the ideas here are endless!

I have included below the pictures of our current collection, in no particular order…

Continue Reading →

Comments { 54 }

Nourishing Crockpot Carnival

Screen shot 2009-11-16 at 1.20.02 PMWelcome to the Nourishing Crockpot Carnival! So glad you could join me today! This is a place where we are all uniting together to share crockpot recipes that will help busy wives and moms prepare nutritious meals for your families. Are you in a busy season of life? Do you want to serve nutritious whole foods for your family but overwhelmed by the time and effort it may take? Do you have those full scheduled days running errands, here and there, and then come home and become stressed trying to throw dinner together? I personally have been there and love simple meals for busy moms! There are so many days that I have a bit of energy in the morning, but as the day wears on, it goes out the window and who feels like making dinner? Crockpots are simple and very useful tools for helping simplify and maximize your time and energy! Make the meal together in the morning, clean up the mess, and let it cook away. Dinner comes and there is no mess or extra stress. Yah! I am totally there!

So, let’s begin!

Nourishing Crockpot Recipes

1. Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot
2. Fresh Stock in the Crockpot (Nourishing Days)
3. Crockpot Ragout (a simple easy meal for a busy day!)
4. Crockpot Chicken or Beef Enchiladas (this is a family favorite at our house!)
5. Crockpot Sloppy Lentils (a frugal meatless dinner)
6. Crockpot Chili (did you know you can throw pretty much any soup into the crockpot for the day?)
7. Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew (Staci @ International Mama)
8. Slow Cooker Recipes (Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship)
9. Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats (Sonja @ Granola Girl at Heart)
10. Cheesy Potato Soup (Jodi @ One Blessed Mama of Boys)
11. Index of Crockpot Recipes (Kelly @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop)
12. Multi-Grain Cereal w/Applesauce (The Monkey’s Mama)
13. Rotisserie Chicken in the Crockpot (Amy @ New Nostalgia)
14. Coconut Curry (Hannah @ Mulberry Spot)
15. Crockpot Ideas -Roast with Applesauce (Emily @ Life in Cincinnati)
16. Crockpot BBQ (Danielle @ Naturally Knocked Up)
17. Spiced Apple Cider (Sarah @ Sarah’s Musings)
18. Double Chocolate Cake w/Hot Fudge Sauce (Sarah @ Sarah’s Musings)
19. Boeuf Bourguignon (Sarah @ Sarah’s Musings)
20. Carmalized Onion Marmalade (Sarah @ Sarah’s Musings)
21. Savory Bean & Spinach Soup (Shaina @ ShainaChristine)
22. Southern Bacon & Beans, Potato Soup (Randi @ TheraFoodics)
23. Tuscan White Bean Soup (Joy @ Graceful Words)
24. Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes (At Home Momma)
25. Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken (Katie @ Mexican Wild Flower)
26. Taco Soup Recipe (A Virtuous Woman)
27. Crockpot Recipes & Tips (Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home)
28. Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken (Amanda @ The Rural Bohemian)
29. Amish Pot Roast (Amy @ River Rock Cottage)
30. Refried Black Bean & Pinto Dip (Hallie the Homemaker)
31. Chicken and White Bean Stew (Kari @ Eating Simply)
32. Roast Mushroom Sauce (Jennifer @ MrsBic)
33. Slow Cooker Pinto Beans (Shannon @ Nourishing Days)
34. Chicken Crockpot Pie (Tawnya @ This Great Life)
35. Swiss Steak (Julie)
36.Chicken Cacciatore (Meghan @ Unintended Housewife)
37. Split Pea Soup (Tammy @ Simply Healthy Tasty)
38. Yummy Chicken and Rice Soup (Marsha @ Taste and See)
39. Crockpot Recipes (SnoWhite @Joy in My Kitchen)
40. Corn Chowder & Squash Soup (Allison @Hospitality Haven)
41. Pot Roast & Enchiladas (Shelley @ Make A Home Mom)
42. Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce (Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet)
43. Braised Beef Short Ribs (Alexis @ Happy 2 Be Homekeeper)
44. Moroccan Red Lentil Soup (Sherrin)
45. White Chicken Chili (Amy)
46. Pork Roast & Sauerkraut (Jacqualine)
47. Pot Roast (Sheena & Sheanna)
48. 6 Favorites: Granola to Chili (Kari @ Home with Purpose)
49. BBQ Chicken in the Crockpot (Felicia)
50. Chili Con Carne w/Cornbread topping (Chaya @ Comfy Cook)
51. Grilled Thai Beef Salad (Chaya @ Comfy Cook)
52. Crockpot Spinach Sausage Soup (Chaya @ Comfy Cook)
53. Chicken Cacciatore (Chaya @ Sweet & Savory)
54. Chulet – Jewish Recipes (Chaya @ Sweet & Savory)
55. Crockpot Pepper Steak (Chaya @ Sweet & Savory)
56. Chicken Tortilla Soup (Amy)
57. Crockpot Pork Chops (Denise @ Mommy Musings)
58. Spicy White Chicken Chili (Jessica @ Kohler Created)
59. Beef Stew with Chilies (Life as A Symphony)

Plus…check out all the yummy recipes in the comments! Thanks everyone for participating!

Further Resources:

How to Use A Crockpot – 101
A Year of Slow Cooking – one families adventure to cook using a crockpot for 365 days. Find a wealth of recipes!

How to Participate:

1. Share your recipes in a post on your personal blog. Come back and add the link below in the comments. I will then compile them and add them to this post. Feel free to add as many recipes as you would like. You can also add previously posted recipes. Please be sure to add a link back to this post so your readers can find other nourishing recipes.

2. If you do not have a blog, feel free to submit your recipes in the comments of this post.

If possible, please submit recipes that are made from whole food ingredients, or include homemade varieties of any processed food it might include, that way we can give people the option to adjust. If you don’t know where to begin in adapting your favorite crockpot recipes to be more nourishing, go ahead and submit them and we will offer tips and suggestions for you! We want this to be helpful for one and all, whether you are an old-timer in the nourishing foods camp, or whether you are new and eager to learn.

D0 you have any resources or tips to share when using the crockpot? Feel free to share!

Comments { 83 }

A Peek at Our Real Food Budget

Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 3.07.12 PMPhoto by fivedotdesign

What does our food budget look like while trying to eat a real food diet on a budget? Today, I welcome you to take a peak into our food budget. We keep to the basics in our eating habits, nothing fancy. I have come to realize that although real foods can cost more up front, the value is worth every penny. We feel better, we are satisfied longer, and we rarely need the doctor. Truth be told…I have realized you can always afford what you prioritize. When we first started out pursuing a more whole foods diet, Aaron and I sat down to evaluate our overall budget. We concluded that if we wanted to spend more on food, other things would have to go. One of the main reasons I chose to cloth diaper, for example, was so that we could eliminate that monthly expense and use the money for food. Other expenses that we chose to eliminate: we own no television, no magazine subscriptions, own one vehicle, eat out less, etc. I have found that if you have the vision and passion to eat naturally, you can make it work!

Our food budget is $400 per month for four of us. Yes, Titus eats his share! ;) Whole foods definitely seem to be more expensive here in the Portland area of Oregon, probably because there is more demand for it. This includes all our food and household products (bath, cleaning, and general household items). Where does it get spent? I have listed out the stores I buy my food from below. These are typically the best sources that we have access to that I have found the best price. As you can see below, I keep pretty much the same list monthly and keep it organized in the Shopper application on my I-phone (which has been very helpful, by the way!). All these ingredients are also based upon my monthly menu plans. This works for our family, but there is always room for flexibility as to the season of life.

Trader Joe’s - I make a monthly grocery trip to TJ’s to pick up various staples. I found they have some of the best prices on good, organic, and preservative free items.

Here is what I buy monthly or as needed, spending around $125 per month:

All Beef, Nitrate Free Hot Dogs – 1 pack
Nitrate Free Ham (lunchmeat) – 1 lb
Chicken Italian Sausage (2 lbs)
Organic Spinach (for smoothies) – 3 bags
Bananas (about 20 – freeze for smoothies)
Avacados (2 packs – mainly for Titus)
Raw Parmesan Cheese (in the bulk form)
Canned Wild Salmon
Organic Ketchup
Organic Mustard
Mayonnaise (sometimes I buy, sometimes I make my own)
Kerrygold Butter (2 pounds)
Olives (2 cans)
Organic Sour Cream (1 container)
Peanut Butter (2 jars)
Brown Rice Pasta (1 pack of spaghetti, 1 pack penne, as needed)
Chicken Breasts (1 bag)
Frozen Organic Peas (1 pack)
Frozen Organic Corn (1 pack)
Frozen Wild Salmon (2 lb = 2 packs)
Olive Oil (32 oz container -every two months)
Pure Maple Syrup (every two months)
Organic Quinoa
Organic Raisins
Toothpaste (every two months)
Shampoo (every two months)
Soap Bars
Toilet Paper
Coffee & Beer (for the hubby)

Occasionally, we will get a few treats…such as Jo-Jo’s, (yes, those yummy oreo alternatives), raw bleu cheese, feta cheese, etc.

Azure Standard (whole foods co-op) – $50 per month – most of these items are purchased on an as needed basis

Raw Cheddar (5 lbs) – every two months – grate and freeze it
Mozzarella (5 lbs – every 2 months – also grate and freeze)
Organic Whole Grains, Legumes: Wheat, Kamut, Spelt, Oats, Millet, Lentils, Brown Rice, Black Beans (purchased in 5 lb quantities, oats and wheat in 25 lb bags)
Organic Coconut Milk
Chia Seeds
Cocoa Powder
Leavenings -baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot powder, sea salt
Goat’s Milk Powder (for baby)
Produce on occasion – Organic Apples, Pears (20 lb box)

Milk & Eggs – local source = $75.00 per month
2 dozen eggs weekly – $3.75 per dozen
1 1/2 gallons of milk weekly- $7.50 per gallon – from which I make kefir, yogurt, and some butter, and occasional ice cream

Vegetables/Fruit- local farms- $15-20 per week – $80 per month
I stick with the frugal vegetables and fruits and whats in season for better prices. I rarely if ever buy cherries, peppers, pineapple, etc. We eat a lot of greens, apples, pears, carrots, broccoli, onions, garlic, squash, potatoes, etc. We typically serve raw veggies and fruit with lunch and dinner includes a fresh salad (even if its just greens sometimes), and usually a steamed or baked veggie.

Beef – annual local purchase of 1/4 cow – $375 - $31.25 per month
We typically eat beef twice a week, chicken once, fish once, vegetarian once and pizza and leftovers on the weekends.

Chickens – annual local purchase of 12 chickens (one per month) – $180$15 per month – I cook up one chicken per month from which we make chicken stock.

Produce stocked up on in the summer for freezer- Strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes (canned all my own tomatoes for sauce), pickling cucumbers for pickles, berries for homemade jam – I usually set aside $200 for such purchases, but I don’t really include this in our food budget. I just set money aside early in the summer from other earnings.

Other items from different sources:

Organic EV Coconut oil – order from Mountain Rose Herbs (we consume about 1 gallon every 2 months) – buy in quantity and split with friends
Cod liver oil – purchase through Vitacost
Pepperoni – I buy Applegate Farms nitrate free pepperoni from Fred Meyer’s
Bread – I currently buy sprouted bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns from Dave’s Killer Bread OutletI can buy one loaf of sprouted 100% organic bread for $2.10 a loaf in bulk quantities (it’s been one of those seasons when making it from scratch has been a real challenge!)
Raw Honey -from a local farm – Honey House Farms (1/2 gallon every two months)
Vinegar, club soda, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen bleach and a few other cleaning supplies – infrequent purchases at wal-mart or Fred Meyers
Soap nuts – for laundry from NaturOli

What happens when we really need to cut corners? As my husband is self-employed, income is never quite consistent, so there have been times when we really had to cut back. In order to make it work, we cut the following out of our grocery list, and can usually get by with $300 per month:

limit to 1 gallon of milk
1 dozen eggs
no salmon
no lunchmeat
no snacks
make my own ketchup
make my own bread

What products do I make myself?

chicken broth
breakfasts (smoothies, pancakes, oatmeal – meaning that we don’t use packaged products, just use our own homemade recipes)
muffins and other breakfast pastries
salad dressings
ice cream and other desserts
protein bars for snacks
canned tomato sauce – homemade chili, spaghetti sauce, etc

I may have overlooked something…

What products do we avoid? As you can see, we do really strive to keep to the basics with the ocassional splurge on a special dessert or snack. I try to avoid mixes, cereal, soda, packaged snacks…

You can make it work! You just sometimes have to cut out some of those convenience foods. Alas!

Other Real Food Budgets:

Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home – How My Grocery Budget Works
Laura @ Heavenly Homemakers – Breaking Down the Budget

What does your food budget look like? Do you have any tips to share on how to make it work on a budget?

Comments { 183 }

Baby Steps to Nutritious Eating: 12 Steps to a Real Foods Diet

Screen shot 2009-11-10 at 3.39.12 PMPam asked: I have started to look at some of the stuff you have on your blog in order to change the way that my family eats, I am just so overwhelmed, can you offer any advice about where I should start.  I am not happy with how my family is eating.  And as the wife and mother, it is my responsibility to make sure I am providing the best possible foods for them.

This is one of many similar emails I regularly receive asking: “where do I start?” Yes, entering the whole/real foods camp can definitely be overwhelming and intimidating. Soaking grains? Grass-fed meat? What does it all mean? I want to begin by encouraging you to see it as a work in progress. You will not be able to change your whole diet at one time. Take baby steps. I hope this will be a practical baby steps guide to eating better. This is basically an overview of where we started as a family and from top down in the priority list. You may decide to re-arrange the steps in the order that you feel is a priority. Whatever works for you…just take one step at a time. Start by adopting one change in a month’s time, or whatever time period is suitable without being overwhelming. And just have fun with it! It takes practice and experimenting. It won’t always turn out the first time! But try and try again and you will succeed.

1. Use real butter instead of margarine.

Real butter is not only far superior is flavor, but it is also very good for you. The best choice I have found here includes Organic Pastures Raw Butter (for CA residents). US Wellness Meats sells organic grass-fed cultured butter. Trader Joe’s and other health stores carry Kerrygold Butter that has been made from entirely grass-fed cows milk and cultured, although pasteurized. Tillamook Butter is a good back-up, as it is made from cow’s that are mostly grass-fed, but it has the disadvantage of having being pasteurized. Otherwise, look for rBST free butter (you can learn what it means later ;) . Why Butter is Better? for further reading.

2. Limit beverage choices to filtered water.

Drinking more water is probably the best step towards better health. Get a good stainless steel water bottle and start drinking! Removing pop and other highly sweetened beverages from your diet is huge! You just really don’t want to go near HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). There are no HFCS varieties available at health food stores if you cannot drop the habit…but it is definitely worth it for the cost savings alone. Tea and coffee are good beverages if you choice fair trade versions. Kombucha and water kefir soda are also good nutritiously dense drinks. If you can, purchase a good water filter. Berkey is reasonably priced option. Otherwise, a Brita is better than nothing.

3. Eliminate white flour and white sugar. Throw out the refined!

I began by slowly weeding out white flour and white sugar usage in our house and replacing it with more nourishing alternatives. White flour has been refined and processed, eliminating all nutritious content in the grain. Start by gradually adapting your recipes, cup by cup (equal in replacement with most flours), and replacing with whole grains and wholesome sweeteners. You may want to start out by doing half white and half whole wheat and slowly pumping up the whole wheat to help gradually adapt your family to the change. Look for 100% whole grains on your labels and watch out for the sneaky high fructose corn syrup on your store bought bread products. Sprouted grains and bread products are some of the most digestible options.

4. Use brown rice and brown rice pastas instead of white.

The only difference here is you have to use more water to rice in your measurements and cook it longer. I use 1 cup brown rice to 2 1/4 cup water. Cook for about 45 minutes. If you have a rice cooker, it will it it for you! Use brown rice pastas for their easier digestibility than other whole grain pastas. Tinkyada is a good brand of brown rice pastas.

5. Buy grass-fed and pastured beef, chicken and eggs.

Nina Planck recommends to start at the top of the food chain! This is where the most damage is caused by feeding animals corn and dead chicken carcasses, resulting in poor quality of meat. Feeding corn also results in health issues (e-coli for one) for which they will pump animals full of antibiotics and chemicals which collect in the fat. Find a local farmer that raises them right. You want chickens that have seen the light of day and have freedom to roam. You want grass-fed meat that is fed grass and allowed to roam pastures resulting in a superior product for your health. You want free range eggs from pastured chickens. U.S Wellness Meats is a good online source for grass-fed meats. Trader Joes and other whole food stores offer grass-fed alternatives. Stay away from nitrates as well – sodium nitrate is a harmful preservative, most commonly found in pork products. If you cannot find grass fed, go for an organic version. At least this is free of the chemicals!

6. Use healthy fats in your cooking.

I stick with coconut oil, olive oil and butter for everything in my kitchen! Avoid the processed or genetically modified products such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. Learn more about healthy fats here. Coconut oil is mainly for all my baking, and some sauteing. Olive oil is for salad dressings and some cooking. Butter is for everything in between! ;)

7. Find a raw milk source.

Raw milk is incredibly delicious! It’s the real thing! If you can, seek out a local farm that offers raw milk. Real Milk has a detailed list, state by state. Or order online through Organic Pastures Dairy, offering raw milk, butter, cheese and other products shipped directly to your door. If not possible, check out the good milk alternatives: goat’s milk, organic milk, hemp milk and coconut milk.

8. Learn how to make kefir and yogurt.

Make kefir with kefir grains. Homemade yogurt can be made with a countertop culture or in the crockpot.

9. Pick one product on your grocery list that you can begin making from scratch.

Breads, tortillas, muffins, dressings, condiments – just a few ideas to get you going. Homemade beans in the crockpot is easy and a great way to safe on canned beans. Make spaghetti sauce and chili from tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Returning to the whole product and making it yourself is so beneficial! Canned products are highly processed, contain high sodium content and often have BPA (a harmful plastic) in the lining of the jar. You can find lots of homemade recipes here. Just take one item per month and have fun learning! Homemade versions will be free of preservatives and other loads of additives that are added to extend shelf life. Start moving away from processed, packaged foods, and make the real thing at home.

10. Buy organic or spray free vegetables and fruits – and eat lots!

If you cannot afford organic produce, ask farmers in your area if they use sprays (pesticides and herbicides). Try to avoid the sprays if possible. If not, then still eat lots of fruits and vegetables because they are so nourishing to your body. Studies show that  your health is much superior for eating more vegetables and fruits, whether they be organic or not. Check out the Dirty Dozen list for a helpful guide to what produce contains more sprays and chemicals.

11. Buy wild fish.

While not strictly organic, it is important to buy wild fish and avoid most farmed fish, which can contain high levels of contaminants. Look for “grown in the wild” labeling when you buy salmon especially!

12. Begin soaking your grains.

I put this on the bottom of the list because it can be the most intimidating and complicated step. Take your time with this one. This step is the first to go out the window in busy seasons of life at our home. Soaking brown rice and whole grains help make them more digestible for the body.

Again, take one step at a time and have fun with it! Read, learn and explore the world of whole real foods! Here are some other excellent resources to get you going. Above all, start looking for real foods. If the label has tons of unpronounceable words, then it probably is not real food. If it is fortified, refined, or tweaked in some way, it is probably not real food. Unfortunately, it will cost more to eat real food. But I believe you can always afford what you prioritize in your budget!

A few helpful resources:

Baby Steps to Better Health – this is a wonderful e-book by Shari Graham of Graham Family Ministries. This is the best and most simple guide I have found to help the newbies. She start by encouraging you to drink fresh filtered water and lots of it! Then she follows this by encouraging you to start by replacing one store bought thing with a homemade variety. One by one, have fun with learning to make things yourself. She offers recipes, meal planning tips, bread making tips (including her own soaked bread recipe), using healthy fats, making yogurt, etc. She also covers briefly natural cleaning and body care recipes and tips. I highly recommend this guide! She also offers the contents of this book free on her blog, The Nourishing Cookbook, but the ebook includes helpful printable checklist charts, forms and recipes.

Resources for Beginning a Healthy Lifestyle – a few of my favorite book recommendations

Nutritional Eating: What is Most Important?

Getting Real with Food series (from Heavenly Homemakers) – where to start?

The Real Food Revival: Aisle by Aisle, Morsel by Morsel by Sherri Vinton – a helpful beginners guide to learning all the terms and finding the real whole foods in the supermarket.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck – a step up from the Real Food Revival in providing further history, science and knowledge into defining real foods. She details meats, dairy, fats, and vegetables and what to look for. I loved this book!

Natural Living 101 – my compiled list of food sources, article and more on natural living!

Do you have any steps you would add to the list? How do you prioritize real food eating?

Stay tuned…Next we will be taking a closer look at my own food budget, and letting you see what exactly we buy!

Photo above is the cover photo of Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays.
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Nourishing Protein Bars – A Great Whole Foods Snack

IMG_6688I am thankful for all the input that I received on my recent twitter request for yummy and nutritious larabar and granola bar recipes. Thanks for all the recipes! I wanted to share a collection of the recipes received here today with you all. My purpose in finding a good recipe was to have a good snack bar to have on hand. The hubby in particular was requesting something to give him a little boost occasionally during his long work hours. Here is my version of a good protein bar that we totally love thanks to Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship for her tweaked almond bar! Let me say that again…it is awesome! A great source of protein and a fun way to get those nutritious nuts, seeds and dried fruit into your diet. Great for pregnant mommies too! I simply threw all the ingredients into my Blendtec Blender (my favorite kitchen appliance and functioning food processor at our home) and pulsed it for a few seconds and it turned out beautifully, but you can also use a food processor as described below.

2 cups almonds
1/4 cup flax seeds, chia seeds or pumpkin seeds (ground in a coffee grinder or blender)
1/2 cup dried prunes, dates or raisins (we used prunes!)
½ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup peanut or almond butter
½ cup coconut oil or butter (melted)
1/4 cup honey
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
a few squares dark chocolate, less than half a bar needed for thin layer (optional) – I melted about 1/4 bag of chocolate chips in a small saucepan for the topping

Place almonds, flax meal/seeds, dried fruit, shredded coconut, almond/peanut butter in a food processor. Pulse briefly for about 10 seconds.In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil over very low heat. Remove coconut oil from stove, stir sweeteners and vanilla into oil. Add coconut oil mixture to food processor and pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, until mixture hardens. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat, stirring continuously. Spread melted chocolate over bars; return to refrigerator for 30 minutes, until chocolate hardens. Remove from refrigerator, cut into bars and serve. Makes about 12-15 bars. Store in refrigerator or freeze for later enjoyment!

Other Snack Bar Recipes

Granola Bars – (Danielle @ Naturally Knocked Up)
Larabar Recipe – (Clean Eating Online)
Granola Bars (Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship)

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From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out

Nancy Twigg’s From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out is most definitely the best book on simplifying your life from a Christian perspective that I have read. It is an easy read that really helped clarify my perspective in all aspects of my life.

I feel the description on the back cover truly encapsulates the book well, “Is your schedule so full you can barely breathe, much less volunteer for a good cause? Do you spend each day worrying about things you can’t control? Are you tired of facing endless mounds of junk? Cluttered homes, overbooked schedules, and maxed-out credit cards are only symptoms of what’s happening on the inside. As you follow God’s directive to clear out the clutter that complicates your life, you’ll discover the clarity you desire. Isn’t it time?”

I love how she keeps the focus on simplifying first and foremost by addressing the core of our hearts, the root problem. Are we trying to find satisfaction in things? Or through maintaining a busy schedule that we don’t have time to think about our discontentment? It starts with your mind and heart! Simplifying is more than just cleaning out closets, drawers, and boxes of receipts.

The book begins by offering a new definition of clutter: “Anything that complicates your life and prevents you from living in peace as you live out your purpose.” She then follows this up by dissecting Hebrews 12:1-2, and addressing it’s application to inner clarity (simplicity of mind-set, getting rid of counterproductive thoughts that clutter your mind), outer clarity (simplicity of daily life – how you use your time and how you relate to your possessions), and finally financial clarity (simplicity of spending – how you relate to your money).

Hebrews 12:1-2 states, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…”

This book is a call to acknowledge honestly what is really holding us back. “Throw it off” as Hebrews describes. Get it out of your lives and thoughts, for even good things can lead to sin, if we become consumed with it and turn it into an idol. Nancy shares, “Even noble pursuits become clutter when they endanger our sanity and leave us with no time to connect with God.” You will encounter struggles in the battle (it is hard to say “no”), but remember to keep fixing your eyes on Jesus! He is our Source! He provides the ability to lay aside the clutter in our life and be set free through Christ Jesus. “Through the toughest times in our spiritual lives, it’s our God-empowered persistence that keeps us moving forward.”

“Our suitcases are filled with all kinds of dead weight: habits we need to give up, attitudes we’ve long since outgrown, and activities and possessions that no longer serve a reasonable purpose.” Are you ready to clean out those suitcases? Then, I strongly encourage you to find a copy of this book, and prayerfully read and journal through it. Nancy provides very thoughtful clutter buster questions at the end of each chapter that will provide you with strategic tools for destroying the clutter in your life. She also provides a wealth of practical tips for diagnosing and attacking the clutter in the inner, outer, and financial areas of life.

I personally have grown a lot in understanding how to simplify my life in the outer realm, but while reading this book, I realized how much I had yet to grow in simplifying my life in the inner realm. The Lord has graciously used this book to help provide so much more inner clarity and purpose that I have ever experienced!

I’m eager to read her other book: Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions! It’s the perfect time of year!

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Homemade Goat’s Milk Formula: Natural Supplementation for Baby

Do you need a good natural milk supplementation for your nursing baby? I have struggled with maintaining a sufficient milk supply for all three of my little munchkins and I have definitely tried my best at boosting my supply as well. The evenings have always been my struggle…meeting the demand when my body was weary and the breast empty. My babies have always wanted an extra portion to fill up the tummy to sleep through the night. I wanted to find a good natural milk alternative that I could give them in a bottle to top them off for the night. We wanted to avoid commercial formulas due to the soy contents. After doing a lot of research, we have found a great supplement. I also confirmed this recommendation with my naturopath and she affirmed my findings.

Enter…Meyenberg powdered goat’s milk. (Use the subscribe and save and its only $22.90 for 3 cartons).

Goat’s milk, I believe, is the best alternative because it most closely resembles the mother’s breastmilk. It is easy to digest, and completely natural. Goat’s milk contains around ten grams of fat per eight ounces compared to 8 to 9 grams in whole cow’s milk. According to Dr. Sears’, goat’s milk contains only trace amounts of an allergenic casein protein, alpa-S1, found in cow’s milk, making it less allergenic. He adds:

“Although the mineral content of goat’s milk and cow’s milk is generally similar, goat’s milk contains 13 percent more calcium, 25 percent more vitamin B-6, 47 percent more vitamin A, 134 percent more potassium, and three times more niacin. It is also four times higher in copper. Goat’s milk also contains 27 percent more of the antioxidant selenium than cow’s milk. Cow’s milk contains five times as much vitamin B-12 as goat’s milk and ten times as much folic acid (12 mcg. in cow’s milk versus 1 mcg. for goat’s milk per eight ounces with an RDA of 75-100 mcg. for children). The fact that goat’s milk contains less than ten percent of the amount of folic acid contained in cow’s milk means that it must be supplemented with folic acid in order to be adequate as a formula or milk substitute for infants and toddlers.”

Meyenberg goat’s milk is fortified with folic acid and vitamin D, free of pesticides, chemicals, or hormones. At my naturopath’s recommendation, we added cod liver oil (for omega-3′s and vitamin A & D) and a natural liquid multi-vitamin for the nutritional benefits. Amazon is definitely the best price I have found on this product, but is also available at your local Fred Meyer Nutrition or through Azure Standard.

My babies have always taken this goat’s milk just fine. Ideally, raw goat’s milk would be the best option, since the powdered version is pasteurized. But due to the fact that goat’s milk spoils quickly, powdered is a great option. Find raw goats milk sources through Local Harvest.

Goat’s Milk Formula:

Yield: 36 ounces

4 cups goats milk (or 8 scoops Meyenburg goats milk powder & 4 cups filtered water – dilute further with water when you first start supplementing with this recipe, watch stools, and gradually increase if baby is digesting just fine)
1/4 cup liquid whey from yogurt or kefir (contains probiotics, strain from yogurt, or kefir- we start feeding our babies yogurt when they are around 7-8 months, so I stop adding it after that point)
1 -2 tsp organic blackstrap molasses (This provides B-vitamins, iron, trace minerals, and helps relieve constipation. Decrease amount if stools are too loose.)
2 tsp organic maple syrup (for carbohydrates)
1/4 tsp of bifodobacterium infantis (we use Natren Life Start for priobiotics, calcium, and other nutrients)
1/2-1 teaspoon high-vitamin cod liver oil (we use Childlife Cod Liver Oil for nutrition and to support healthy brain function, 1/2 tsp is the recommended daily allowance, so adjust as necessary.)
1 tsp unrefined sunflower oil (for vitamin E)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
2 tsp virgin coconut oil (contains lauric acid that is important for anti-viral, antifungal properties as found in breast milk)(B Vitamins & folic acid – 1 tsp per day is the recommended daily allowance for infants, so adjust as necessary. Since they are getting many vitamins through the other nutrients here, you could just use a b vitamin liquid supplement or use a smaller amount. You can use 2 tsp of nutritional yeast as the best option, but we always had stomach issues with this, so we have stayed with the multi-vitamin. We are currently using Nature’s Plus Baby Plex.)
1/4 teaspoon acerola powder (we use Now Acerola Powder for vitamin C)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Pour into individual glass bottles or one large. To warm, place in a pan of simmering water. Never use a microwave. This formula is best made daily for optimal nutritional retention. It is recommended that you only use 1 tsp multi-vitamin and 1/2 tsp cod liver oil daily for infants, so you may need to adjust the recipe as needed. This recipe lasts approximately two days for my current baby, Eden, who drinks a 4 oz bottle before every nap and an 8 oz bottle at bedtime.

Note: If you are just beginning to supplement with this, it is recommended to start with a smaller portion of goat’s milk to water (9 oz water to 1.5 scoops as described by Dr. Sears) and work up to the 1 scoop recommendation above.

See Dr. Sears’ Goat Milk Formula recipe here or Organic Thrifty has done a thorough recipe that I adapted from here.

We have used this recipe for all three of our little ones, and they usually took two to four 4-8 oz bottles per day, depending upon the child and age. We use it till they are about 1 year old before switching over to raw cow’s milk.

Lastly, we like to avoid plastic baby bottles and have found Evenflo’s glass bottles to be a wonderful alternative! They are very frugal as well.

Please note: I am not a medical professional. I am just a wife and mother who cares for the health of her family. Please use your careful discernment and double check with your naturopath before using this formula, especially if desiring to use it full time.

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