Weekend Links

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4 Simple Habits

4 Simple Habits

Are you looking for ways to use natural remedies but not sure where to begin? What about getting started on meal planning to make cooking easier and more convenient? How about understanding how caring for yourself and getting rest can actually help you to be more productive? Or even uncomplicated options for getting a little exercise into your daily routine? If you answered yes to any of these, be sure to check out this FREE ECOURSE that Stephanie put together with simple but powerful ways you can start living a healthier life, naturally!

Links for this week:

A Kind Word @ (in)courage

Make a true connection (IRL) @ The Art of Simple

Creamy Pineapple Coconut Popsicles @ The Humbled Homemaker

When People Let You Down @ Heavenly Homemakers

when your summer was a bit of a bust — and not at all what you hoped @ A Holy Experience

Fermented Fruit Leather with Protein Punch @ The Nourishing Gourmet

Can We Please Stop Saying THIS To Each Other? @ Smartter Each Day

Influence. You Already Have It. @ Becoming Minimalist

Where do you go to be alone with the heavens, nature, and God?

Get Fit, Eat Better, Have More Energy & Heal Naturally with this FREE eCourse!

Get fit, eat better, have more energy & heal naturally with the FREE mini audio eCourse "The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families"
Boy, have I had fun making this free mini eCourse for you!

I know that SO many of you are working hard at making healthy changes for yourself and your family. Here at KOTH, we just love getting to encourage you and provide you with resources that will help along the way.

That’s why when I sat down to create this course, I decided to focus on helping families to take more steps towards putting healthy habits into place.

Because even if you feel like you still have a long ways to go, when you’re making progress in these four essential areas, you’ll get serious traction in taking you, your husband and your kids further on your healthy living journey.

I decided to interview four popular bloggers on topics they’re especially knowledgable about. Each of them really knows their stuff and they shared some seriously helpful tips, starting places, resources and so much more.

This mini eCourse is 4 lessons, and each one contains a 25 minute audio file, so that you can listen while you do the laundry or dishes, drive or do errands, go for a run, or whatever works for you.

I wanted it to be super convenient and easy for you to fit in to your busy schedule.

We also made a companion PDF for each lesson, with all of the take-away points from the interview (so you don’t have to take notes!), a one-page worksheet to help you apply what you learned, and a full transcript to refer to (or even to read instead, if audio isn’t your thing).

Here’s what this free course includes:

  • Essential Habit #1: “Nurturing your Best Self” (with Heather from Mommypotamus)
  • Essential Habit #2: “Staying Fit as a Family (Gym Membership Not Required)” (with Crystal from Money Saving Mom)
  • Essential Habit #3: “From Scratch Meal-Making” (with Katie from Kitchen Stewardship)
  • Essential Habit #4: “Using Natural Remedies” (with Katie from Wellness Mama)

Aren’t those ladies amazing? If you’ve never checked out their blogs, you definitely should. They’re some of my favorites.

Actually, even though I created the course and made up all the interview questions, I still felt like I learned a TON by talking to each of them and I walked away freshly inspired! So I know you’re going to get so much from what they had to say.

Get fit, eat better, have more energy & heal naturally with the FREE mini audio eCourse "The 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families"

Go HERE to sign up for the FREE 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families eCourse!

I will give you a heads up that this eCourse was made in preparation for this year’s Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, which is seriously the most awesome one we’ve ever pulled together (can you believe it’s our 4th one already?). It’s coming up soon so watch for the announcement on the blog or by email!

There’s over $2000 worth of resources to fuel your natural lifestyle, which is a new record for us (and almost all of which are completely new, for those of you who’ve ever bought one of our bundles before).

Plus, 11 natural living bonuses, most of which are physical products!! I’m telling you, you do not want to miss this one.

But I digress… the free eCourse! Hurry and sign up now because this mini course is only available until Sunday, September 6th.

Happy listening and learning! I hope you love it! :)

Real Deals: This Week’s Sales and Discounts on Natural Products You Really Use

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This week’s top deals:

real food

On Sale now through August 31, 2015.  TWO great options for making real food lunches really easy!  MORE Real Lunches, Real Easy! is a follow-up to the uber-popular Real Lunches, Real Easy! school lunch meal plan. Each are all-in-one meal plan eBooks that will give you 6 weeks of packing real food school lunches for your child(ren) aged preschooler through tween.

bear
As Low As $13.31-$14.88 ($2.22-$2.48/pouch) Bear Naked Granola Pouches, Vanilla Almond Fit, 12 Ounce Pouches (Pack of 6) is on sale for $20.88.  Save 25% when you clip the coupon (you must be logged in).  Save an additional 5-15% with Subscribe & Save.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

50% Off Canadian Raw Honey at Tropical Traditions. Only $10.99 for 17.6 oz.  Sale ends Thursday, August 27, 2015

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Buy 1 Get 1 FREE Liquid Soap Pumps and Refills at Tropical Traditions   Sale ends Sunday, August 30, 2015

benefect_hand_sanitizer

50% Off Benefect Botanical Hand Sanitizer at Tropical Traditions.  Only $4.49 for 4 oz pump.  Sale ends Sunday, August 30, 2015.

 

abeslogo_r

Save 15% Off at Abe’s Market until August 26, 2015.  Use coupon code WEMISSYOU15   Combine this with the sale products and you’ll get a really great deal!  Below are just a few of the deals you’ll find under their sales tab (look under the “More” tab)

cashew3packRegular $37.99  On Sale $28.00  Organic Raw Large Cashews 3 pk-8 oz each at Abe’s Market

teaRegular $24.99 On Sale $20.99  Organic Mint Chocolate Chip Tea 2 pack – 50 bags ea at Abe’s Market

kaleRegular $25.99 On Sale $20.79  Sea Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips 3 Pack – 3 oz ea at Abe’s Market

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Check out the monthly specials at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Holy Basil Chai for 15% Off; Lemon Balm 25% off; select Herbal & Essential oils for 15-25% off and more!

organizer

List Price $14.99 On Sale $9.87  Whitmor 6351-1234-JAVA Fashion Color Organizer Collection Hanging Accessory Shelves, Java.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.
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As Low As  $5.27-$6.23 ($2.64-$3.12/tube)  Babyganics Fluoride Free Toothpaste, Strawberry, 4oz Tube (Pack of 2) is on sale for $9.58.  Save 30% when you clip the coupon ( you must be logged in).  Save an additional 5-15% with Subscribe & Save.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

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Reminder!  FREE Heavenly Homemaker’s Guide to Gardening & Preserving with any MadeOn purchase over $10 for the month of August. 

mooseList Price $9.99 On Sale $6.99 Touched by Nature Baby-Boys Organic Moose Romperrosemary

List Price $15.11 On Sale $7.24  Organic Rosemary Essential Oil. 10 ml. 100% Pure, Undiluted, Therapeutic Grade. Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

FREE Kindle eBooks:

(Note: Prices can change without notice so please double check the price before purchasing)

wasteHow to Reduce Food Waste: Especially fruits and vegetables Kindle Edition
schoo;lSMART SCHOOL TIME RECIPES: The Breakfast, Snack, and Lunchbox Cookbook for Healthy Kids and Adults Kindle Edition

Kindle eBooks for Less Than $1:

kidsGet Your Kids Organized in 24 Hours!: 50 Best Strategies to Help Your Kids Stay Focus, Complete the Task, Kindle Edition
time
Time Management for Parents: 10 Time Management Skills As a Parent Guide Kindle Edition

Hat Tip to MoneySavingMom for these eBooks

 

This week’s best coupons:

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Find a deal you love? Share it! Pin this week’s post, tweet it, or share on Facebook.

Want to get these deals in your inbox each week?

Sign up for our once-a-week “real deals” email. It comes out each Tuesday morning.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!
About prices: Though we do our very best to post only current deals and prices and to let you know when offers expire, companies can and do change their prices and offers at their own discretion, and we have no control over this. If you notice that a deal has changed, please let us know and we’ll change the post to alert other readers that something is no longer available. Thanks for understanding!

Getting Rid of Junk Will Make You a Better Homemaker (I Promise!)

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by getting rid of junk and eliminating stuff you don't need or enjoy.

By Elsie Callender, Contributing Writer

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by clearing the clutter and eliminating stuff you don’t need or enjoy.

I had no idea what a difference decluttering would make to my homemaking, but it’s been profound.

A few years ago, I turned “simplifying” from a minor hobby into a serious pursuit. My husband and I examined every item we owned, and decided that there was an awful lot we could live without!

Decluttering was a practical necessity for us because we were downsizing into a small cabin with no closets. But as we worked away at our piles of clutter and stored stuff, we realized there were more benefits to simplifying than just fitting in to 600 square feet.

I believe that simplifying has permanently changed my homemaking for the better, and it can change yours, too! Here’s how:

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by getting rid of junk and eliminating stuff you don't need or enjoy.

1. A simple home is easier to keep neat

I don’t mind cleaning, but there are so many other things that call for my attention, too! Having less items significantly cuts down on the number of hours you spend cleaning over the course of a year. Think about it: with fewer knickknacks, you have less to dust, and less furniture means less to move around when you’re sweeping or vacuuming. It’s also much easier to deep clean your home when you don’t have piles of clutter to work around.

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by getting rid of junk and eliminating stuff you don't need or enjoy.

2. A simple home gives you more TIME!

I doubt there’s a single homemaker who would turn down more “time” in her schedule if it was offered to her! If you put the initial time investment into simplifying your home, you will gain more time in the long run. Here’s how simplifying your home gives you more time:

More time for family

Over the course of the year, you’ll notice that instead of spending time organizing stuff, sorting piles, searching for lost items, or cleaning, you get the option to enjoy more downtime with your family, or more hands-on time helping your children with school projects.

More time for yourself

You’ll notice that decluttering contributes to de-stressing, too! I don’t know about you, but my mood is often tied to the state of the house. If the house is messy and I have to weave around junk to walk anywhere, I get on edge and I don’t feel like I can truly rest. But if everything is neat and things are in their place, I feel peaceful and I appreciate my home more. I breathe when my space breathes. Simplify your home, and suddenly you’ll find that you have more time to invest in self-care. You can relax with a book, paint your toenails, or take a nap with your baby, and you won’t feel on edge while doing it!

More time for other aspects of homemaking

Once you get your clutter under control, you will find that you can devote more energy to other things, like menu planning or pursuing a real food diet. You can pick up a sewing project, work in the garden, or do home improvements. A simple, breathable living space is the perfect baseline for crafting the ideal home you envision.

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by getting rid of junk and eliminating stuff you don't need or enjoy.

3. A simple home is better able to receive guests

What do you prioritize in your home? Stuff? Or people? I’m sure every homemaker would say an emphatic “people!!” But is this desire reflected in your home? For every box you store, there’s less space for people to live. The items you’ve chosen to keep should contribute to people living in and enjoying the space, rather than crowding them out.

There are so many people who need our hospitality, and as homemakers, we can craft a space that’s open and welcoming to anyone who steps inside.

Picture this for your home:

The furniture in the dining room is minimal, to allow more people to sit around the table. Extra bedrooms have been turned from junk rooms into guest rooms, and the closets contain only what would make an overnight guest’s stay more comfortable. The living room is open and airy, with places for people to sit and gather, coffee tables and end tables free of knickknacks so that guests have a place to set their drinks.

Simplify your home with others in mind!

How to get started

The start of a new season is the perfect time to begin simplifying your home. Sometimes a change in the air outside is just the second wind you need to transform your home and help it breathe.

Your Simple Home Handbook

If you want practical, actionable steps and inspiration for simplifying your home, I wrote a book for you! Your Simple Home Handbook has 30 projects that you can work through to bring breathing space to every corner of your house. Through September 30th, you can use the code KOTH20 at checkout to get 20% off the PDF version.

Do you want to be a better homemaker? Help your living space to breathe by getting rid of junk and eliminating stuff you don't need or enjoy.

How have you found that getting rid of junk simplifies your home?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!

Weekend Links

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Links for this week:

A Letter to My Younger, Pre-New Orleans Love Story Self @ SheLoves Magazine

When Back to School is Scary @ Lisa-Jo Baker

Probiotic Peaches ‘N Cream Soda @ Natural Fertility and Wellness

The Table of God’s Love @ Grace Table

I Will Be Afraid @ Micah J. Murray

49 Nourishing No-Bake Cookies and Bars @ Traditional Cooking School

In praise of the slow processors @ The Art of Simple

Simple isn’t always frugal @ Shalom Mama

What’s going on in your world right now?

Mediterranean Summer Salad

Even though summer is winding down, you can still enjoy late summer seasonal veggies in this healthy mediterranean salad!Guest Post by Kristen Smith

Though summer is winding down to a close, many of my garden plants are still in high gear. Even if you don’t garden, chances are the farmer’s markets and gardeners around you also have an abundance of some fresh, delicious homegrown vegetables!

I love taking all of the fresh vegetables I grow or buy and making simple meals during the warm months. Especially now as our family is getting back into the swing of homeschooling, simplicity in the kitchen is a real blessing!

This Mediterranean Summer Salad is truly one of my favorites. It’s an all-in-one meal that doesn’t heat up my small kitchen and uses some of my favorite garden vegetables and herbs. Whole grain rice and protein from convenient canned tuna and fresh mozzarella round out the salad.

This Mediterranean Summer Salad is an all-in-one meal that doesn't heat up my small kitchen and uses some of my favorite garden vegetables and herbs. Whole grain rice and protein from convenient canned tuna and fresh mozzarella round out the salad.

It’s also a very frugal meal. The vegetables grow well in my garden, so it doesn’t cost our family much at all. But even if you have to buy them, tomatoes and cucumbers are inexpensive this time of the year.

5 from 1 reviews
Mediterranean Summer Salad
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups cooked and cooled whole grain rice (I use a combination of brown and wild rice, typically leftover from meals like my Salmon & Rice Cakes)
  • 2 slicing cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced (peeled if the skin is bitter)
  • 2 medium slicing tomatoes, cored and cubed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs, loosely packed (I use a scant ½ cup of mixed basils and chopped parsley each, plus a few sprigs of thyme, stripping the leaves)
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 cans tuna in olive oil
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon quality sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine vegetables, rice, herbs, tuna, and cheese in a large bowl and gently combine thoroughly.
  2. Drizzle oil and vinegar over top, then sprinkle on salt and pepper. Mix and combine again.
  3. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. This can also be mixed up the night before serving.

I actually prefer to mix this up a few hours before serving. I think it tastes better. But it’s also really delicious and refreshing served up right away!

This Mediterranean Summer Salad is an all-in-one meal that doesn't heat up my small kitchen and uses some of my favorite garden vegetables and herbs. Whole grain rice and protein from convenient canned tuna and fresh mozzarella round out the salad.

Easy Variations

Another great thing about a dish like this is how easy it is to customize it to your family’s preferences. Try some of these ideas!

  • Make half the recipe for a smaller family. For our large family and to take to potlucks, I make the full amount.
  • Substitute some or all of the cucumbers with summer squash or broccoli, or red peppers for tomatoes, or switch out some of the herbs for others like chives, cilantro, or even mint.
  • Use chopped, cooked chicken or steak instead of canned tuna, or use cooked beans.
  • Try a different vinegar, like apple cider.
  • Add extra vegetables, like shredded carrots or thinly sliced spinach.
  • Kick it up a notch with a generous pinch of cayenne pepper.

Seasonal, frugal, simple, and quick… that’s a hard combination to beat!

This Mediterranean Summer Salad is an all-in-one meal that doesn't heat up my small kitchen and uses some of my favorite garden vegetables and herbs. Whole grain rice and protein from convenient canned tuna and fresh mozzarella round out the salad.

How do you like to use up seasonal vegetables?

2014-HeadshotKristen Smith is a Christian, wife to her high school sweetheart, and homeschooling mom to some sweet little people. She’s an herbalist, real food enthusiast, and coffee­loving optimist. Join her at Smithspirations, where you can find encouragement for your heart and inspiration for your family’s wellness. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

Real Deals: This Week’s Sales and Discounts on Natural Products You Really Use

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This week’s top deals:

Dr_Bronners_Castile_600x400

FREE Dr. Bronner’s 32 oz. Liquid Castile Soap & Free Shipping for first-time orders with ePantry.  Today, August 18, 2015, is the last day this offer is available.  (See this Keeper of the Home post to understand how this offer works)

wipesAs Low As $30.58-$34.18  Earth’s Best Chlorine-Free Wipes, Refill Pack, 864 Count is on sale for $35.98.  Save 5-15% with Subscribe & Save.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

7th genAs Low As $12.25 ($2.04/25 oz)  Seventh Generation Dish Liquid, Free & Clear, 25-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 6) is on sale for $17.94.  Save $3 when you clip the coupon (you must be logged in).  Save an additional 5-15% with Subscribe & Save.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

lids

Just $3.14  Ball Regular Mouth Lids and Bands – 12 pack. Get FREE shipping with qualifying order

logsList Price $40.00 On Sale $27.17  Panacea 15209 40-Inch Tubular Steel Log Hoop.  FREE shipping with qualifying order.

bagsList Price $21.89  On Sale $12.41  Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags, 100 Count.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

coco chips

40% Off Dried Coconut Chips at Tropical Traditions.  Just $3.60 for 1 lb bag.  Offer ends Sunday, August 23, 2015

Palm Shortening 112 oz

45% Off Palm Shortening Trans fat free at Tropical Traditions.  Just $26.89 for a gallon container.  Offer ends Sunday, August 23, 2015. 

Organic Freeze Dried Blueberries

30% Off Freeze Dried Blueberries at Tropical Traditions.  Just $4.89/ 1.2 oz bag  Offer end Sunday, August 23, 2015.

foodsaverAs Low As $7.25-$8.10  FoodSaver 11″ Roll is on sale for $8.53  Save 5-15% with Subscribe & Save.  Get FREE shipping with qualifying order.

shirt

Just $1.99 each District Women’s Organic Perfect Weight Crewneck T-Shirt.  Available in natural, snow white, go green, earth brown, fire red and sun yellow
long shirtList Price $60.00 On Sale $24.00  Alternative Women’s Organic Pima Stripe Long-Sleeve Henley Top.  FREE shipping with qualifying order.  Available in heather grey or eggplant.

mionsList Price $39.99 On Sale $23.99  ZHUYOUDAO Girl Personalized Despicable Me Minions 100% Cotton T Shirt.  Available in ten different colors.

FREE Kindle eBooks:

(Note: Prices can chance without notice so please double check the price before purchasing)

lunch
31 Deliciously Easy Lunchbox Recipes & Ideas (Crabby Morning Mommy Series) Kindle Edition

play
Homemade Play: Creative Ways to Be With Your Baby Kindle Edition

50
50+ Questions to Ask While at the Dinner Table: Questions to Share, Connect, and Grow Kindle Edition

This week’s best coupons:

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Find a deal you love? Share it! Pin this week’s post, tweet it, or share on Facebook.

Want to get these deals in your inbox each week?

Sign up for our once-a-week “real deals” email. It comes out each Tuesday morning.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that we can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!
About prices: Though we do our very best to post only current deals and prices and to let you know when offers expire, companies can and do change their prices and offers at their own discretion, and we have no control over this. If you notice that a deal has changed, please let us know and we’ll change the post to alert other readers that something is no longer available. Thanks for understanding!

How to Transform Leftovers into Healthy Lunches Kids LOVE!

It’s time to break out the lunch boxes … back-to-school season is here! Having a plan for what to serve (or pack) for lunch makes getting ready for the busy school year a whole lot easier! Here's how to make it even more easy, and frugal – use leftovers!

By Kelly Smith, Contributing Writer

It’s time to break out the lunch boxes … back-to-school season is here! And whether you homeschool, or your children attend school outside of the home, having a plan for what to serve (or pack) for lunch makes getting ready for the busy school year a whole lot easier!

When it comes to quick and easy school lunches, leftovers are one of my favorite ways to save time and money! In fact, I’m such a big fan of repurposing dinner leftovers into lunch, you’ll often find lots of ideas in my weekly whole food meal plans.

But rather than just mentioning it in my meal plans, I thought it would be a lot more helpful to share a few of my family’s favorite ways to transform dinner leftovers into healthy, delicious and FUN “lunchables” that kids {and adults} love!

P.S. The adorable bento-style lunchbox shown in the photos below comes from Laptop Lunches. For a helpful review of some of the most popular lunchbox systems, be sure to check out “Which Lunchbox Food Storage System is Right for Your Family?”

When it comes to quick and easy school lunches, one of my favorite ways to save time and money is to transform leftovers,

Rainbow Bean Dip “Lunchable”

For example, if you’ve got leftovers from burrito or taco night, use them to make a savory layered bean dip that will have everyone saying olé to lunch!

Better yet, plan for leftovers, so everyone can enjoy this tasty lunch that only takes minutes to assemble. The great thing about bean dip is it tastes great cold, so no need to warm it. We like to make our own refried beans using either Crockpot cooked black beans or slow cooker pinto beans. (Also shown in photo, Homemade Nut-Free “Kind” Bars.)

When it comes to quick and easy school lunches, one of my favorite ways to save time and money is to transform leftovers,

Chicken & Veggie Bowls

Another “leftovers-to-lunch” favorite are these flavorful chicken & veggie bowls. Simply dice up leftover Grilled FajitasChimichurri Kebabs, or Pineapple Chicken Skewers and mix with leftover cilantro rice. Or if you’re grain-free you’ve got to try my tasty seasoned cauliflower rice. Again, by planning for leftovers, you can toss this delicious lunch together in seconds. (Also shown in photo, Raw Cookie Dough Bites.)

When it comes to quick and easy school lunches, one of my favorite ways to save time and money is to transform leftovers,

Apricot-Apple Chicken Salad

It’s amazing how just a few simple ingredients can transform a mainstay like chicken into a scrumptious lunch in just minutes. This easy-to-make chicken salad works great with leftover grilled chicken, roast chicken or even canned chicken in a pinch. It’s great served alone, with your favorite crackers, over a bed of fresh mesclun greens, or rolled-up in a wrap with some lettuce. (Also shown in photo, Homemade Cherry-Chocolate Chip “Kind” Bars.)

Even more delicious ideas…

There are so many ways to transform dinner leftovers into super quick and tasty lunches. Here are a few more favorites to get you started.

• Combine leftover BBQ Chicken meat with lettuce and avocado slices to create flavorful BBQ Chicken Wraps. (Pack extra BBQ sauce for dipping!)
• Transform leftover Grilled Steak Fajitas into amazing Philly Cheese Steak Subs by thinly slicing the steak and piling it onto rolls with provolone and leftover grilled peppers.
• Use leftover rotisserie chicken (or roasted chicken) to create tasty Ranch Chicken Wraps.
• Pack leftover Turkey-Veggie Meatballs and spaghetti sauce with a side of shredded mozzarella for a hearty make-it-yourself meatball sub.

It’s time to break out the lunch boxes … back-to-school season is here! Having a plan for what to serve (or pack) for lunch makes getting ready for the busy school year a whole lot easier! Here's how to make it even more easy, and frugal – use leftovers!

What are your favorite ways to transform leftovers into lunch?

Weekend Links

150815

Links for this week:

The alternative to controlling my children @ The Art of Simple

Our Real Problem @ We are THAT Family

Smoky Cucumber Soup @ Traditional Cooking School

how quiet marriages may be the most exciting marriages of all @ A Holy Experience

When Practicing Hospitality is Practically Impossible @ Grace Table

How to Make Healthy Smoothie Bowls @ The Greenbacks Gal

This One Is for All Us Expert Worriers @ (in)courage

Understanding the Diderot Effect (and How To Overcome It) @ Becoming Minimalist

What books have you read this summer?

How to Build the Perfect Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is frugal, and real food pasta salad is a great way to use up almost any leftover ingredient in the fridge (which helps save money by reducing our food waste).

By Tiffany Terczak, Contributing Writer

Pasta salad has always been my go-to meal for potlucks. They’re easy to make, easy to transport and often don’t require refrigeration (which is great for picnics during the hot summer months). Besides, who doesn’t love a great pasta salad?!

These are also the same reasons why we include pasta salads in our meal plans almost every week. They’re frugal, and a great way to use up almost any leftover ingredient in the fridge (which helps save money by reducing our food waste).

Back in my pre- real food days, my favorite pasta salad was the boxed kind where you “just add oil and water” to the seasoning packet. (Classic flavor, if I’m brutally honest.) But that box got tossed out with the other processed foods when my husband said our kitchen was filled with boxes, instead of food.

Now we make the whole thing from scratch. It isn’t any more difficult that the “just add this” method, and since we can use whatever we happen to have in the kitchen at the time, it’s a whole lot more convenient!

Pasta

A great pasta salad starts with great noodles. Pasta is one of the real food staples we always have on hand, and having a few different varieties in the pantry is handy. No noodle is off-limits, and the type of noodle you use should fit with the flavor of your salad, but there are two basic guidelines:

  1. Smaller noodles tend to work better than bigger ones. For a heavy salad that could be a main dish, try noodles where the sauce can hide (like shells). For lighter, side dish salads, use shaped noodles or noodles that don’t have nooks and crannies (like bow-ties).
  2. Cook the noodles appropriately. For serving a cool pasta salad (chilled in the fridge and then brought to the party), cook the noodles 1-2 minutes beyond al dente stage (check the package for the exact time on the al dente stage for the noodle you chose). This makes the noodles soft but not mushy, and prevents the noodles from getting hard after they’ve cooled. For serving warm pasta salads immediately, cook the noodles al dente according to package directions.

Note: Options for allergy-friendly noodles are endless. We’re fortunate to not have allergies in the family, but I know some families use alternative options (including rice and even zucchini noodles) in lieu of wheat noodles!

Pasta salad is frugal, and real food pasta salad is a great way to use up almost any leftover ingredient in the fridge (which helps save money by reducing our food waste).

Dressing

The key to dressing a pasta salad is using ingredients that won’t go weird on you if it the weather starts to change.

That means avoiding butter-based dressings or heavy meat-based ragus. Buy the best olive oil you can afford, choose an olive oil-based sauce and go minimal on the vinegar (if you add any at all) since the vinegar can cause an unpleasant aftertaste.

Tang

Pasta salads usually have a signature tang, and we think it comes from vinegar. Instead, the best pasta salads get their tang from a little bit of pickled ingredients.

Vegetables like pickled carrots, pickles themselves and kalamata olives from a tangy brine bring that bright, tart flavor to the salad without overpowering everything else.

You can also “quickly pickle” a vegetable for pasta salad by letting it sit in vinegar for about 15 minutes. Choose a mild cooking vinegar like sherry, rice or homemade apple cider vinegar for the best flavor.

Using vinegar for tang isn’t completely off limits, and works fine if you’re in a pinch. Go light though, and remember that a little bit goes a long way in flavor.

Pasta salad is frugal, and real food pasta salad is a great way to use up almost any leftover ingredient in the fridge (which helps save money by reducing our food waste).

Add-ins

Three is key.

A combination of three items added in with the pasta is the perfect amount of “stuff” in the pasta salad. Less than three can be boring and more than three can make the pasta salad too complicated to enjoy.

Another key to success in pasta salads is using only one bold add-in (like kalamata olives). Two bold add-ins creates competition in flavor, which also makes the pasta salad complicated. Think of the bold flavor as the main character, and the other two playing supporting roles.

Tip: Save leftover vegetables from each meal separately. Then at the end of the week, you can mix/match the vegetables to create a specific flavor for pasta salad!

Cheese

Cheese is totally optional, but it can add a huge punch of flavor. Fresh cheese (i.e. mozzarella or feta) and hard cheese (i.e. Parmesan) are great options for big flavor and great performance in the salad.

If you add cheese, avoid the ones that are super soft (i.e. Brie) and even semi-soft (i.e. cheddar) because they have a tendency to get a bit “sweaty” as it co-mingles with the other pasta ingredients.

Pasta salad is frugal, and real food pasta salad is a great way to use up almost any leftover ingredient in the fridge (which helps save money by reducing our food waste).

Common Flavor Combinations

Ready to get cooking? Choose your pasta and start opening the cupboards to take stock of what you have. Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations to get you started!

  • Tex-mex: black beans + corn kernels + tomatoes + homemade salsa. Mix it up by using homemade chili verde salsa or pureed mango salsa in place of a traditional red salsa.
  • Cobb: garbanzo beans + avocado + tomatoes + gorgonzola + homemade ranch dressing. (Gorgonzola is very similar to blue cheese, but it’s more affordable.)
  • Caprese: tomatoes + fresh basil + mozzarella cheese + olive oil + balsamic vinegar.
  • Greek: kalamata olives + sundried tomatoes + cucumbers + feta cheese + Greek dressing. Feel free to substitute black olives and/or fresh tomatoes in a pinch.
  • Steakhouse: cubed chicken + bacon crumbles + tomatoes + gorgonzola
  • Italian:  black olives + cucumber + tomato + Parmesan cheese + Italian dressing

Make Your Own!

This is my favorite because as I mentioned earlier, we include it in our meal plans weekly to help use up every last bit of leftovers in the fridge and save money by reducing our food waste.

Start by making enough pasta for everyone in the family. Put each leftover in its own bowl and put all of the bowls along with olive oil, fresh herbs and spices on the table. Let each person top their pasta however they want!

The next time you’re invited to a potluck or BBQ or any other social function, offer to bring a pasta salad and skip the box. Use this guide to build the perfect pasta salad with what you already have on hand and your dish will be the highlight of the table!

What is your favorite flavor of pasta salad?

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