The Shocking Truth about Wheat

Photo by griggsdakota.com

Photo by griggsdakota.com

Have you gone gluten-free?  Have you heard people say they feel so much better without gluten in their diet?  What counts as “gluten-free?”

Many of us have questions like this as we make progress to a healthier diet and a healthier body.  I LOVE this article that talks about the truth about our wheat today, and why “gluten-free” is not really the answer we think it is.

Mother Nature knows best, so we should eat what she provides: plants!  Keep making those good decisions, folks, and when in doubt, look to nature.  God gave us JUST what we needed!

Let’s be smart about what we’re fueling our bodies with: fresh, whole grain, not the imitation processed stuff that is so convenient.  Good luck as you make progress toward your healthy goals!

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6 Weeks of Beans

I love the month of December because it means the holidays are here. Holidays mean time with family and that always means good food! I love baking cookies with my mom and enjoying almond tea punch with my mother-in-law.

The only thing I don’t like about the month of December is the fact our paycheck comes the week before Christmas. That’s not such a bad thing, in and of itself…it’s just that it stretches the pay period into nearly 6 weeks! In fact, there are 6 weekends in this pay period – from December 19 until January 27. Yikes!

Since I’m taking a break from eMeals for a bit, my job as SAHM is to determine how to eat comfortably for six weeks on our seemingly shoe-string food budget. The easiest solution? Beans!

Rice and beans have been endorsed by Dave Ramsey for a long time as the go-to food of choice while you are working to beat debt, and there’s a good reason: cost. They are both the cheapest thing per ounce in the entire grocery store!

I thought I’d present a few recipes we’ll be eating during this pay period. The first one is a recipe from some folks we knew in Minnesota about 15 years ago. It’s called “hot dish” up there; you may know it as a “casserole.” I think my family has shortened the recipe title to “Bean Hot Dish.”

Bean Hot Dish Recipe
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and chopped
1 lb hamburger, cooked
1 onion, chopped
1/2 Cup ketchup
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons mustard
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 15-oz. can each kidney beans, butter beans, pork and beans, and chili hot beans

Directions:
Cook the meats; combine all ingredients in a 9×13 pan. Simmer for 2 hours or more (on low in the oven).  Yield: A LOT!  Enjoy for a week (ok, I might be exaggerating a little).

My spin on this recipe:
I made it in the crockpot on high for 2 hours and it turned out great! Since I don’t like raw onions, I sautéed mine in a little bit of EVOO before I added them to the crockpot; I eliminated the hamburger meat altogether; and I also used apple cider vinegar for a sweeter flavor. Hubby liked the end result!

So that’s it. Happy eating! Let all we do be done for God, who has blessed us exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined. ~Eph. 3:20-21

Ways to Save, Part IV

This is the fourth and final part of a series of posts about saving money for Christmas.

Part IV: Cleaning

1.) Stop buying commercial cleaners. The ads on tv have convinced us we need a specific cleaner for each specific room/item/floor/surface of our house. NOT TRUE! Vinegar, baking soda, and Borax – these are pretty much all the things you need. I clean toilets, sinks, mirrors, floors, upholstery, and lots more surfaces with those items. Here’s a list of things you can clean with vinegar: http://www.diynatural.com/white-vinegar-cleaning-laundry-more/. It’s also healthier for you – no toxic fumes or worries about mixing harmful ingredients!

2.) Make your own baby/cleaning wipes. We do this on a regular basis (maybe twice a month). I love that I know what’s touching my baby’s sensitive areas. (PS – You can switch out the baby shampoo with a mix of vinegar water to make cleaning wipes for countertops, etc.) Here’s the recipe: http://www.homemademamas.net/2010/07/homemade-baby-wipes.html.

3.) Try cloth diapers. On paper, the savings were tremendous. Unfortunately, practicality just wasn’t on our side. We can’t afford to purchase a whole lot of the “new-fangled” diapers at once. I did try the old-fashioned safety pin and rubber pants method…for all of one week. I don’t know about babies in the 1950s, but mine is a SQUIRMER! She always tries to flip onto her tummy on the changing table, leaving me with horrible nightmares of eyes getting poked out by the safety pin. No thanks!

4.) Stop buying disposable Swiffer-type pads. You’re just filling up landfills with more trash! Just use a damp rag (or I’ve even seen a burp rag or receiving blanket you don’t use anymore cut to fit). You may even look into buying a robot vacuum to keep things clean when you don’t have time.

May the God of all grace bless you immeasurably more than you could have asked or imagine! ~Eph. 3:20-21

Ways to Save, Part III

This is part III of a series on how to save money for Christmas.

Part III: In the Kitchen

1.) Stop eating out so often. It’s healthier to eat at home, it’s cheaper to eat at home, and it’s more fulfilling to make it/bake it/cook it yourself.

2.) Get started on eMeals right away! Emeals is a program Dave Ramsey endorses that sends you a weekly shopping list and menu based on what’s on sale at the grocery stores this week. You can choose where you shop – Wal-Mart or Kroger, for instance – and other options, like Clean Eating or Low-Carb, etc. It tries to get your grocery budget (for 7 dinner-type meals) for that week at or around $60. Go to www.emeals.com to sign up now! They have a free trial offer.

3.) Make as much as you can from scratch. I have the time (what a valuable resource, I’m discovering!) to make things like breads and home-cooked meals, so that is one way I can decrease our living expenses. Stay away from convenient, pre-packaged foods, which are often full of sodium and saturated fats. Also, there are lots of accessible homemade seasonings recipes on the Internet these days. I make my own dry Ranch dressing mix, taco seasoning, and Italian seasoning. (Plus, it’s a lot healthier for you since you can control the amount of salt you put in.)

4.) Buy in bulk as you can. I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at the beginning of this month, which was like paying under $1.00 per dozen. If you buy each dozen separately, you spend as much as $3 per carton! Sam’s Club is a good resource for us.

5.) Use your freezer. Instead of throwing away leftovers, freeze what is freezable for later in the month. Here’s a list of freezable foods: http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/.

6.) Do the couponing thing, if that’s what you love to do. I don’t love the goose-chase of it all, and plus, I don’t buy a lot of brand name stuff because the store brand is often cheaper.

7.) Make your own dishwasher detergent. Yep – it’s super easy and only uses 4 ingredients. Recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent-soap/.

8.) Stop buying cokes, candy, ice cream, and other things that eat up your food money and aren’t good for you anyway. Just because Dr. Pepper is 3 for $10 at Albertsons doesn’t mean it’s any better for your body. Water is free!

9.) Do your oven cooking in the coolest parts of the day so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your house cool.

10.) Keep a log of all the food you throw away. This will give you an idea of what you need to cut back on next trip to the store. One news special kept a hidden camera on the trash can to see the amount of food one family threw away. I think in a month’s time, approximately $1500 of food was wasted.

11.) Designate a day or a week for “Eating Whatever Is In The Pantry/Freezer/Fridge.” It may not look like much, but once you start pulling it out and putting ingredients next to each other, you may actually come up with a masterpiece! I love the option from Kraft Foods where you input the ingredients on hand and it finds recipes for you with those ingredients. I remember one time, when my cousin and family were moving from one house to another, she posted on her facebook wall that she was pulling everything out of the freezer, throwing it into a pot, and calling it “soup.” (She also included her apologies to her family.) So what’s in your freezer right now? Could you live off of that for a week? A couple of days? How about the pantry? College kids, Ramen noodles can be done lots of different ways! Just get creative!

12.) Use just your “tried and true” recipes, the ones that are easy to make and use few ingredients. Sure, I love this Chocolate Harvest Fruit-Topped Cake, but look at that ingredients list! It’s time consuming to make, it’s expensive to make, and, I know from experience, that it doesn’t last very long before spoiling.

13.) Skip those hard-to-find (read: expensive) ingredients, substituting them with something else. One time, I even substituted almond extract for vanilla in my husband’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I thought I was going to be in trouble…but he loved it!

Ways to Save, Part II

This is a continuation of a series on how to save/find money to alleviate the pressures that Christmastime spending usually brings to the average household in America.  Find the first installment, Ways to Save: Part I, here.

Part II: In the Laundry Room

1.) Combine loads of laundry in the dryer.  You may have to wash darks and lights separately, but if the loads are small enough to fit in the dryer together, dry them at the same time.  1 dryer cycle vs. 2 = 40 mins of electricity pull vs. 80 mins. = SAVINGS!

2.) If you use dryer sheets, cut them in half or reuse them 2 or 3 times before throwing them out.  Don’t use them on towels, btw – they coat the towels with stuff that prevents them from absorbing as much water as possible.

3.) Stop buying dryer sheets and commercial detergent.  We have started making our own detergent – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-laundry-detergent-soap/ – and will make the fabric softener recipe as soon as we run out of the dryer sheets we have – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-fabric-softener-dryer-sheets/.

4.) Use the clothesline (or drying rack) whenever possible.  The point is to keep the dryer from running as often.

5.) Do only full loads of laundry.  Be smart about your clothes – wear pants a couple of times before throwing them in the hamper.

6.) Wash in cold water more frequently.  There are some items which MUST be washed in warm or hot water, I understand – baby clothes with food stains, for one!  But I saw this advertised recently: Tide Coldwater Liquid Laundry Detergent.  Here’s the description: “Tide Coldwater is specially formulated for cold water conditions so you can save energy and money when you switch loads to cold.”  Brilliant!

7.) Don’t have multiple appliances running at the same time as your washer/dryer.

8.) Also, consider the time of day you run your major appliances.  Don’t run the dryer between 2-7 pm in the summertime, when your A/C unit is struggling to keep up, anyway.  Your dryer pulls lots of electricity that your A/C unit needs, cranking that meter up into high gear.

9.) Use Borax.  I add a few shakes into loads that have been sitting for a few days or that contain clothes with stains.  You use less detergent and don’t have to buy special stain-fighting sticks and gels.

Ways to Save, Part I

(For my facebook friends, I wrote a note about this last October.  Most of this information is repeated.)

You all know I LOVE Christmas.  I love the baking, the music, the lights, the festivities, the smells in the air, and the time with family and feeling like nothing matters – it’s Christmas!

But in order to get to this utopian mindset, I’ve discovered I must take care of my finances first.  As Dave Ramsey mentions in his FPU class on budgeting, we women have a gland related to money.  When money is short, or when there are money problems of any kind, the gland starts acting up and makes our faces squish up, making us look like we ate a lemon!  And then, what it does to our rhetoric to our husbands???  Oh wait, I’m not speaking theoretically anymore… :/

So I want to share with you, in a series of several posts, ways we save money to prepare to celebrate this wonderful season (that is less than 4 months away now) with no worries of money issues invading our happiness.

Part I: Around the House

1.) Put your tv/entertainment system and Internet power supplies on power strips.  TURN THEM OFF when not in use (including overnight).  We saw nearly a $50 savings in one month from this alone.

2.) UNPLUG YOUR CELL PHONE/COMPUTER/NOTEBOOK CHARGERS and other device chargers when not charging the device.  They draw power even if nothing is plugged in.

3.) Open the windows as much as possible to save on heating/cooling bills.  Again, we saw huge savings.

4.) If you must use the heater or A/C, use a programmable thermostat, and turn it up/down when there’s no one home.

5.) Instead of reaching for the thermostat, change your clothes or turn on a fan.  In warmer weather, keep the A/C at or above 74*, turn on fans, and keep the kids from running in and out.  In the cooler weather, put on sweats, socks, or even a stocking cap to keep warm and keep the heater down (like 68*).  Plus, you can cuddle under blankets on the couch with your sweetie or a mug of hot chocolate to stay warm!

6.) Unplug fans, Scentsy warmers, and anything else drawing power while not in use.

7.) Drop the expensive Smart Phone plan for your 10-year-old.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but smart phones are literally causing some families to go hungry because of poor money management.  Read the article here: http://theweek.com/article/index/233979/are-smartphones-wrecking-family-budgets.

8.) Sell old clothes to a consignment store or use an auction site, like eBay.

9.) Have a garage sale (weather-permitting).  Literally pull stuff off the walls and get rid of things you don’t need.  If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it!

10.) Clean out closets and the attic.  Use whatever you have for gift wrap, foregoing the wasteful, expensive bags and paper that are all going to get thrown away!  We were given some baskets by someone else who was cleaning out closets.  You can bet those will make an appearance at our Christmas gatherings!

Try doing just one of these and see how much money you can find to spend on Christmas.  Remember, no credit cards!  Christmas IS coming, and it’s on the same day as it was last year, so don’t get surprised by it!  Plan your work and work your plan.

More to come.  Until, then, glory to Him who is able to bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine! ~Ephesians 3:20-21

Why I Will Never Buy Store-Bought Bread Again

As I mentioned in my post, My (Mostly) Gluten-Free Habits, I am not eating bread/grain products right now.

Ok, ok, if you want to be technical about it, I do usually find myself gravitating to the chocolate chip cookies around 8:00 p.m.

Anyway, so I am trying really hard not to include breads in my diet right now.  Which is all great and wonderful, until I go over to my friend’s house.  My friend, let’s call her The Breadmaker, just found this “awesome” book at the library: The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum.  (Awesome was her word, not mine, just to be clear!  Although I WOULD think it is awesome if I were still a carbitarian like I was in college!)

So my friend, The Breadmaker, tries out all these recipes.  They had us over for dinner, where she made homemade pizza, using a pizza dough recipe she found in the holy canon of bread literature.  It was very, very tasty!  (When I am in situations where the only thing to eat is made from grain, I eat because I am hungry!  So I’m not perfect, Dr. Fuhrman.)

I gave my daughter a piece of her homemade Honey Buttermilk Bread, and snuck a piece for myself.  YUMMM!  I think I must have asked for the recipe because this week, guess what I made that hubby loves?!  Yep, Honey Buttermilk Bread.

Before this recipe entered my life, when I went to the grocery store, I would make sure to get a loaf of bread on account of the sheer number of PB&J sandwiches hubby eats.  Not to mention the piece of bread with peanut butter I send him with for breakfast.  So bread is a necessity for him.  He has told me, ever since my fledgling attempts at homemade bread-making, how much he prefers the taste of homemade bread to store-bought.

Long story short, now that Honey Buttermilk and I are living under the same roof, I can honestly say I will never buy a loaf of bread from the store again.  (Right hand is raised in an oath-like fashion.)

Happy trails to you in YOUR food journey.  God can do AMAZING things with food!  Remember the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish feeding 5000+ people??

Be blessed.  ~Eph. 3:20-21

Homemade Baby Wipes

Let me tell you about one of the easiest things in the world: homemade baby wipes.  It sounds really complicated, but it’s not.  I recently read an article (can’t even remember where I saw it) about all the things store-bought baby wipes contain, and it scared me.  I don’t know if the author of that article had credible research or not, but still, I was bothered by what the article said.  Next time you are in the store, look at the ingredient list on a package of wipes…it’s quite lengthy.

Beyond that, I hate the thought of forking over $12.00+ of my grocery money every week just for things I’m going to throw away.  For a while, when Pride&Joy had a bad diaper rash, we quit using the store-bought wipes and used a warm, wet washcloth.  Sure enough, it helped her diaper rash heal more quickly, and we realized how we DIDN’T need the wipes from the store.

So here’s what we’ve started doing:

Buy 1 roll of Kleenex brand Viva! paper towels (they are softer when wet than other brands, yet still get the job done).  Cut it in half with a big knife.  (You’re going to use one half of the roll at a time.)  Remove the cardboard tube from the center of the roll.

Boil 2 cups of water on the stove.  You’re sanitizing it to keep the wipes fresh for longer.

While the water is coming to a boil, get your container ready.  It needs to be something with good lid that doesn’t leak liquids.  You will be turning it upside down, so do a quick test before you get all your stuff in there.

In the container, add 2 Tablespoons of your favorite baby shampoo/soap.  I have started using the yellow Johnson and Johnson’s baby shampoo.  Also, add 1 Tablespoon of EVOO, sunflower, safflower, or even baby oil.  I had some leftover safflower oil from some Christmas projects, so I’ve been using that up.

After your water boils, remove it from the heating element and let it cool (so it doesn’t melt your plastic container).  After it has cooled, add it to the oil and shampoo in the container.  Sit your half roll of paper towels in the container, put the lid on tight, and let the liquid absorb into the towels.  Once that has happened, flip the entire container upside down and let sit for 10 minutes. Wipes are ready to use after all the liquid has absorbed into the towels.

So how has this blessed my life?

I no longer have to worry about what is touching my baby’s skin.

I am not creating the same amount of trash I would be if I were using store-bought wipes.

I am spending a fraction of what I would be if I were buying store-bought wipes.  I think a roll of paper towels is around $2.00, and I had all the other items on hand already.

I enjoy the satisfaction of making something with my hands that is beneficial to my family.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)